Training for Sarasota

John Ringling Bridge, Sarasota

Above is a photo of the John Ringling Bridge, in Sarasota, Florida. In exactly 38 days, I’ll run across that bridge. It’s part of the course of the Sarasota Half Marathon, my first spring race of 2013. It’ll be the second time I’ve run Sarasota, having done it last year in the company of my barefoot amigos Chris G. and Marcus C.

I’m now nearing the end of week 11 of my 16-week training program for this race. It’s been an easy week. With a couple of weeks of interval and tempo runs behind me, and a week of interval sets coming up, I’m OK with that. The speedwork is balanced by longer runs on Sundays. I’m looking at a 75 minute run this Sunday, with 90 and 105 minute runs on the following two Sundays. (All on my trusty treadmill, unless there’s a remarkable break in the current wintry weather.)

The time structure (rather than the distance regime I’ve followed in the past), is part of this particular training program. It’s one I’ve selected from Roy Benson and Declan Connolly’s book Heart Rate Training, which I’ve mentioned previously. The authors’ thesis, based on their experience as coaches and exercise scientists, is that heart rate training’s reliance on an individual’s cardio-vascular system provides immediate and ongoing feedback about stress levels, intensity levels, and rates of adaptation as they relate tooverall fitness. Therefore, they argue, it’s the best way for an athlete, whether recreational or elite, to increase endurance, raise lactate threshold, and boost power. The book first looks at the science behind the theory, then offers training plans based on the science.

It’s working well. Rather than simply increasing distance week by week, I’ve run easy, moderate, interval, and tempo runs at one of my heart rate zone levels. (Before beginning the program, I had determined my maximum heart rate with a treadmill test suggested in the book.) As I’ve progressed through the weeks, I’ve been able to see my pace (and therefore distance) increasing for the heart rate zone I’m in. It’s pushed me beyond what I’ve been able to do before, while giving me the confidence to keep going and to feel stronger with each passing week. In fact, one of the unexpected outcomes of this training program has been what I can only describe as an increase in my mental toughness – I can follow through on runs in a way I’ve not been able to do before.

So I’m looking for a good results at Sarasota on March 17. Not necessarily a PB, because I’ll be dealing with the consequences of travel, unfamiliar high temperatures, and some particularly gnarly asphalt on part of the route. But I do anticipate being quick, strong, and happy in the race.

And that’s not all. I’ll get to run again with Chris and Marcus. There’ll be palm trees. There’ll be sunshine. And, if I can squeeze it in, there’ll be some time spent on beautiful Siesta Key Beach.

Siesta Key Beach

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