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  • Writer's picturecoachmk

Surges, and what "5k pace" actually means

"Surges" are sudden bursts of speed mixed into a longer run.  These are usually performed at half a mile (800m) long and are proceeded by a prescribed recovery interval that may be either time or distance-based.  When performing multiple surges in a single run, a runner may jog for the recovery interval.  Advanced runners who have been training by heart rate for more than a year need to return to their baseline pace during the recovery interval.  Newcomers to pace ranges may need to walk for a few seconds after each surge for the first 2-3 weeks and this is totally fine.  After 3 weeks though you need to train your brain to avoid walking, a slow jog will suffice and is actually better for your joints.

I mis-spoke in my last email- the new pickup method is prepping you for fartleks, 'Surges" are prepping you for interval training.  Many of you will see surges added into your Monday or Wednesday runs in the coming weeks and I wanted to make sure you got a heads-up about what they are.  We have a LOT to unpack here so please pay attention.

"5k pace" - This is a generic term that means 'the fastest pace I would ask you to run for 3.1 miles".  Think of it like a speed limit, it has NOTHING to do with past performance in any race (I also don't care what you've done in previous races.  I operate on the assumption that none of you really know how to race.  NO SHADE here, you don't.  It's ok, you can't be expected to know how to race, I haven't taught you yet.).  When you train with 'paces', you should train with a WIDE RANGE of paces.  No one in their right mind would expect you to run the same speed for 1 mile as for 26.2.  The longer the distance, the slower your pace should be.  Remember, only coachless, unloved amateurs have one pace to rule them all. The over-arching point of training at paces faster than your goal race pace is to make that goal race pace feel easy, to have you chomping at the bit for that point in the race when your coach says 'no more speed or heart rate cap just GO."   

When you perform your pace test next week, I will use all that delicious data to generate a list of paces that will look like that attached file.  These are guidelines for the paces you will use for the upcoming training cycle ONLY.  Once you have that sheet, look for the "800m" figure and THAT will be your target surge pace.  It will also be the pace you shoot for when you come to the track and hear that we are doing 800s. You are going to get into the habit of chasing YOUR target pace (trust me, they won't be easy) around that track consistently rather than giving all your gas chasing Dove on lap 1 then limping through the next 5 sets.

When you receive your pace sheet, I will expect you to save it on your smartphone, write it down and keep it in your car, do WHATEVER you have to to to have that handy for every workout. If this is too much for you to keep up with, I'll print out your pace sheet and put it in a binder that will live in my car but you in turn have to be ok with other people knowing your paces.  I will not put your paces in the binder in my car unless you specifically ask me to.  My paces are personal information and I'm more likely to tell you which race I'm running.  You could figure out what I'm training for if you knew my paces at anything other than heart rate, and we all know how I feel about that. (click here for a refresher:!topic/fitness-protection-program-winter-2015/DOByR_jqWBY)

Finally, those of you who see 'surges' in your TP will see that they are set at 3k pace. Your 3k pace is faster than your 5k pace, the fastest pace I would ask you to run for 1.6 miles. 

"OMG MK WHAAAAT?  That is FAST!  That is faster than my 20-second pickups!!!!"  hahaha, yes but it is WAY SLOWER than your 800s will be on a track! (3k is longer than 800m, right?  you're welcome!)  Please don't worry, you don't know it yet because you haven't tried, but you absolutely can sustain that 5k pace much longer than you think.  3k pace is just a few seconds per mile faster.  So, if your pace at heart rate is 10 minutes per mile and you don't have a pace sheet so you've been following the instruction to go 2 minutes per mile faster on your pickups (8:00/mile) and consider that figure to be your 5k pace, then your 3k pace is 7:45.

Final note: faster isn't better.  You do NOT want to try to beat the paces.  You'll just get hurt.  We will discuss this in greater depth once you have paces in your hand, I want you to understand what they are and how to use them.  Mainly because you are going to see them and FREAK OUT.  This is the point you are going to have to embrace the mantra, "My coach is NEVER WRONG.  She believes in me, so I will believe in me."  It won't happen overnight and that's ok.  I have enough faith and enthusiasm for all of us, it's my superpower.  


Coach Fleming

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