finding my interval

As you all know, I am a pretty dedicated interval runner, ascribing to the Jeff Galloway Method of Run Walk Run.

The basic premise is that runners go through their miles in set intervals, running for a select time and then walking for a select time. To choose those intervals, runners are encouraged to calculate their Magic Mile, via running several straight miles and comparing the pace of the “hard run” mile to a handy dandy interval chart.

I adopted the Galloway Method after I returned to running from my tonsillectomy. Due to the surgery, the shape of my throat and the way I both breathed and swallowed had changed, and made things much more difficult for me when running. I was very discouraged and disheartened, but a few friends had been mentioning interval running to me and I figured it was worth a shot.

In the interest of full disclosure, I never did officially calculate my Magic Mile. At that point, there was no way I could run a straight mile, hard or otherwise, so I kind of decided on what I (reasonably) thought my pace should be based on how I was running pre-surgery (11ish minute miles) and opted to run for two minutes and walk for one.

This served me pretty well for a while. I wasn’t blowing up the timing clocks at any races, but I was holding my own and completed my first half marathon in November of 2013 (Space Coast), feeling pretty good about life.

Of course, with running, goals change and targets move around, and I was getting restless. I wasn’t seeing any dramatic increases in my speed, and after recovering from a nasty bout of plantar fasciitis, it was time to get to work again.

I adjusted my intervals to two minutes and thirty seconds of running and one minute of walking, with the thought that more running would lead to an improvement in my pace. It was a comfortable interval for me, and I was able to maintain it through the very hot summer, my third and fourth half marathons (the former being a Personal Worst and the latter a PR), and marathon training.

Misery.

 

I also scored a 5K PR of 33:10 at the Divas Half Marathon & 5K St. Augustine.

After I ran my marathon in January and could stand the sight of running shoes again, it was time for me to find a new focus. I had been talking about improving my 5K time (I wanted to see a sub30 5K) and I decided that I needed to start taking steps to making that happen.

In February, I reflected a bit on where I was going “wrong” and what I could do to meet the challenges I had set for myself. Obviously, I had stalled out with the 2:30/1 method, and it was time to see what I could do when tested. I increased my runs to three minutes and left the recovery walk at one minute, and I was seeing a bit of improvement. However, with summer coming, I wasn’t confident that any gains I had made would continue.

I kept pushing and was very excited by the results I was seeing.

But the problem was I just couldn’t go any faster.

At the March to Get Screened Walk/Run 5K a few weeks ago, my running buddies Kristin and Sharon dropped a bit of information on me: I was going out hard and fast. Neither of those are terms that I would normally think applied to me, and I kind of blew them off, but it also got me thinking.

Maybe. Just maybe.

Maybe I was going too fast for too long. Maybe I was pushing too hard and wasn’t able to sustain my speed. And maybe, the sixty seconds of walking in each interval was too long, giving me time to slow down, consequently dragging my entire pace down with it.

Hmmm.

I did some reading. I calculated some things in my head. I wondered if a shorter walk break would bring me some kind of success in reducing my overall pace. According to what I saw on Galloway’s website, in conjunction with information I was reading in some Facebook running groups, it seemed like this might be the case.

On the morning after Easter, I decided it was time to try changing things up. I didn’t want to “waste” a run, but I wasn’t going to find out by not trying.

I kept a similar ratio: instead of setting my Forerunner 220 for three minutes of running and one minute of walking, I settled on one minute of running and fifteen seconds of walking. Ideally, I would have kept the same ratio as I had been doing previously (one minute running, twenty seconds walking), but the 220 only allows for fifteen-second increments, so I went for it.

For some reason, I was under the impression that shorter intervals were going to be easier in terms of running and harder in terms of stops and starts. I was wrong. I pushed super hard during my running intervals, and the fifteen seconds of walking were just enough for me to gulp in a big lungful of air before starting up again. At no point did my walking ever really slow down my overall pace by much, which was a huge difference from what I was doing before.

The end result?

My first-ever, sub30 5K.

Holy. Moly.

I was in shock. Those were numbers I never thought I would see. Ever. But there they were.

This was the huge boost I needed. Knowing it was possible for me to reduce my pace enough to hit my goal on a training run sent my confidence soaring and made me excited about training.

Of course, ever cautious, I wanted to see if it was a fluke. You just never know.

Nope.

Less than a week later, I had a chance to test myself in a race situation. With a gun start, impossibly high temperatures for 7:30 in the morning and a necessary water stop, I scored a 30:25, my new PR.

I don’t know if my smile could be any bigger.

So here we are. A few weeks and two races later. Things didn’t go as well my next 5K (report to come), but it was my second fastest time ever, so it wasn’t a complete loss. They can’t all be PRs.

I am thrilled that I have found a combination that seems to be bringing me closer to my goals.

I have some things to consider going forward. This interval pattern is definitely sustainable for the 5K distance. I also think I can maintain it through five miles. However, I’m not sure how much more I can go, reasonably, with summer setting in. With half marathon training about to start, I’ve got to figure out the best plan to make my long runs productive. I guess we will just have to see how things go.

In the meantime, I’m feeling pretty revitalized, which is making it much easier to put myself out there in both training and races. I’m hopeful that I can hold to this!

What’s something you changed up in training that yielded huge results?

If you use Galloway’s intervals, what ratio has worked best for you?

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