Fartleks are funny looking, and funny sounding. Also: chafing (ugh)

I was going to use this post to talk about my weekend, but I have something much more pertinent to discuss: fartleks. Fartleks and hills are two workouts you should be doing if you’re race-training or just getting in shape.

Briefly, a fartlek is interval training. You sprint X-amount of distance, like 50-100 meters, then you immediately jog 200-400, depending on your abilities. You definitely want to sprint, or come close to sprinting, on your up-ticks. When you’re jogging, you are free to move much slower than your usual jogging tempo.

The purpose: It helps your aerobic and anaerobic abilities, it gives you practice on picking up your pace for a race even when you’re tired, and it mixes up your workouts so you aren’t running the same tempo all the time.

An advantage: Interval training has been shown to burn fat faster than tempo runs.

The disadvantage: You look like a freaking idiot.

For this workout, I chose to run the levee road/trail/path, because it’s flat and simpler to sprint on. It also has lots of markers for me to use to measure out sprinting vs. jogging distance. However, lots of people run this path, and most of them are doing your run-of-the-mill jog…

And then there’s me.

I’m trotting a few feet ahead of a jogger, listening to my iPod, when I hit a marker that indicates it’s time for me to sprint. From the jogger’s view, there’s some dude just trucking along, and then like a cheetah, BAM!, he takes off in a dead sprint for no apparent reason, only to slow down a 100 meters ahead and jog slowly again. He does this over and over again. “What’s this guy’s effing problem? What a n00b.”

The last thing you want to do is show up a fellow runner, who is only trying to make themselves better by getting out of the house and jogging. But when you’re sprinting past someone at full-speed who is already tired, you look like an asshole. Oh yeah, I was also shirtless. Double asshole.

But I don’t have time to explain to these people I’m not showing them up and that I’m fartlekking! I’m moving, baby! Plus, you typically don’t stop to talk shop with runners you don’t know. Creepy.

I felt bad about them thinking I was showboating. I also was a bit concerned I looked like a complete moron.

You’re guaranteed to look stupid. Get over it. I did.

Fartleks are also a great excuse to go on a shorter run, as they work you much harder than a tempo run. I recommend throwing one of these in once a week, or once every other week. You could alternate weeks between this and hills.

Quick recap of my 5K this last weekend: Attempted the negative split, and sort of did it right. First mile was 6:45, second mile was about the same, last 1.1 miles I ran around 6:30 or under. I didn’t pay that close of attention. What is important is I set my sights on one guy the entire race, and saved up energy for my last mile so I could try to close the 100 meter lead he had on me. I closed in and caught him with about 200-300 meters left in the race, then kicked past him for fifth place. Ran 20:35, which is decent. Got a medal, which was cool. The important thing about this race is I managed to not go out too fast and burnout half way through.

Chafing: I ran 14 miles Sunday under 50 degree overcast skies, with a mighty breeze, and sprinkling half way through. I’ve had some minor chafing incidents in the past, but this was the Perfect Storm for a chafe-pocalypse. By the end of the run, my ankle was bleeding, my nips were hurting (TMI), and my inner-thighs were torn up (more TMI). I was a freaking mess. Everything else felt cool, though. I recommend Body Glide, which I forgot to apply to anywhere that rubs too much while running.

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Even splits better than negative splits?

It hasn’t even been 24 hours since I published my last entry, which included great acclaim for negative splits, and already Runner’s World has me doubting myself. In this story about knowing when to use a surge during a race is this tidbit:

Do you think this guy used negative splits, or even splits? Either way, I cannot stop laughing at this goon. This is some Joe after a marathon.

The fastest races are run with even splits. Indeed, world records reveal that, statistically, fast, steady speed yields the best performances. 

That literally couldn’t be more the opposite of what I quoted Grant as saying. So I ask: What the butt??

I think you’d be hard-pressed to find world records that weren’t beaten with the last leg being the fastest. It could also be that even splits vs. negative splits comes down to taste. I have a feeling I’m a negative split guy, because I hate going out too fast.

This just goes to show you: No one knows what the hell they’re talking about.

Weekend recap: Squirrel chase with Tighe caught on video, 2nd Place, “What the hell’s a negative split?”, and new running gear

This weekend was chalk-full of fitness crap, which is good for a guy who blogs about such crap. I’ma break it down for you:

ZOMG! Hilarious Videos Recorded During My Race: Tighe vs. Squirrel

Synopsis: Tighe messes with a squirrel, the squirrel fights back, then the two make up and become buds. The first video is hilarious, the second one is amazing!

Race Results

I left work and hustled home to get myself ready for my 5K at Haskell at 6 p.m. I made it there no sweat. I even convinced roommates and fellow runners Tighe and Nick to go with me and root me on. I told them they could root against me, or negatively reinforce me if they wanted.

Two minutes in and I’m in second place, Nick: “You’re blowing it.”

I ran a moderate race for me (21:09). I finished second, which is the highest I’ve ever finished in a race. It was windy, surprisingly hilly, and we all agreed the course was longer than 5000 meters.

The excitement of my first race of the season, and ripping my shirt off just before the starting horn, filled me with adrenaline and caused me to jump out to a pace I’m not quite ready for yet. I ran my first mile my somewhere between 6:00 and 6:15, which is too fast. This caused my second and third miles to be progressively slower. I barely had enough in the tank to muster a half-sprint at the finish.

Tighe, who ran in college and is very knowledgeable in this craft, suggested I run “negative splits.”

Negative Splits

Negative splits aren’t anything groundbreaking, and there’s a good chance a lot of us have used them and not known it. Negative splits are when you run the first part of your race much slower than what your average split would be if you ran the same tempo all race long. Then, you pick it up to near your normal pace after X amount of distance, and in theory, have enough in the tank to leg it out and pass people on the final portion. Tighe is a big proponent of this, as is Grant, my other running confidant.

“Every distance world record has been beat by running negative splits,” says Grant. Well, LET’S DO THIS!! “You have to be in really good shape,” he warns. Eeeeh, duly noted.

For example, let’s use a 5K (3.1 miles). At 6:40 a mile (what I averaged Friday), I’d clock in at 6:40, 13:20, 20:00, and then 20:40. Using negative splits and storing up my energy, I would clock in at 7:30, 14:10 (after a 6:40 mile), 20:10 (6:00 mile), and then 20:30-20:40.

But Eric, those times are similar, what’s the point?

Here’s the thing: When running a 6:40 pace, I’m going to run too fast at the beginning to get some space from other runners. Even if I don’t, I’m going to hit a wall half-way through and never recover, progressively slowing. This is because 6:40 is my goal pace, maybe not the pace I can actually keep up every day. Maintaining a fast-ish pace over distance is tough.

By conserving energy and using most of it during the time of the race when everyone else is fading, I’ll make up ground from that first mile and, if I can maintain, beat more opponents as well as beat my post-high school P.R.

See how that works? Progressively get faster rather than slower, and you put yourself in a place to run a faster race than ever. Plus you’ll look B.A. barreling through that last mile. This is my strategy going into my race Saturday morning.

New Shoes and Ish

I buy all my running shoes from Grant, who works at Garry Gribbles Running Sports. You should always buy your shoes from running stores with pros who know how to identify what kind of foot you have, know what kind of races you run, and understand what your goals are. They’ll fit you to a shoe that will put you in the best position to run fast and pain free. My random Nike’s I ran with a few years ago wound up injuring my knees and shins. Grant fitted me for a pair of Nike Triax, and a week later I was running 5K’s a minute faster and had no more pain.

Saturday, I bought these in light gray and red: New Balance’s REVlite. I wish I could run in a more minimalist shoe, but my feet are flat as f*ck. I have to have stability and cushion in my shoe. The REVlite’s are a lot like my old shoe, but they are lighter and have more cushion. Pretty much perfect. The plan is to continue training in my old shoes, but use the new ones for races or speed workouts. This will keep them as fresh as possible.

I also want a third pair: trail runners–a shoe used specifically for running trails, crazy terrain, or even in the snow. I discovered trail running last week, and I’m enamored. This could get expensive…But who cares! On my lunch today, I went to the Top City Gribbles store and bought these, the Mizuno Wave Ascend 5, which is a fancy name for “shoe.” These are a top-notch trail shoe. I have pretty much turned my legs into Jeeps. I can go anywhere now.

I should be set for a long time. I’ll be able to train year-round, and supplement my resistance training in the colder months with a shoe that allows me to navigate crap weather or Kamikaze squirrels.

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