February 18, 2010
By Kyle Jones
Last November, a group of Canadian triathletes including two-time Olympic medallist Simon Whitfield, Under-23 National Champion Andrew McCartney and Olympian Lauren Groves took a trip down to Portland, Oregon for a seven-day training camp with American running legend Alberto Salazar. Here’s what they learned, and how you can apply it to your 10K training.
The epicentre of U.S. running, Portland, Oregon is home to Nike’s world headquarters, where some of the best distance runners in the U.S. train under Alberto Salazar, the world-renowned runner turned coach. Salazar has held American track records in 5000m and 10,000m, and won both the New York City and Boston marathons. As a coach, he has helped American athletes like Dathan Ritzenhein and Kara Goucher medal at World Championships events and was instrumental in the creation of the Nike Oregon Project, a high-performance camp for distance runners, aimed at achieving success on the international stage.
Now, Canadians are tapping into some of this knowledge. While most triathletes were either just getting back into training or enjoying a little rest in the early winter, our group decided to take advantage of this opportunity to learn from some of the world’s best runners and coaches. In order to be on the podium in London 2012, the men’s Olympic triathletes will have to run in the 29-minute range off the bike. The focus of the camp was simply to immerse ourselves in a fast running environment, soak it up and learn as much as possible to improve our running speed.
Here’s what we did, and how runners at any level can work on their 10K training:
The Nike campus included a massive grass field the size of two football fields - an ideal spot for doing drills, strides and interval workouts - and a 3K woodchip trail that weaves its way in and around the campus - a perfect loop for warming up or cooling down from a workout.
The Grass Field Workout:
The highlight of the camp was doing an interval workout on the grass field.
The workout: 12×300m focusing entirely on proper running form, and of course staying out of the way of Galen Rupp (27:33 10K) and Dathan Ritzenhein (12:56 5K and bronze medallist in the 2009 World Half-Marathon Championships).
Salazar’s feedback: Getting feedback from Salazar was truly priceless. His passion for the sport shines through when he explains the technical aspects of running.
The Build Run:
Another key workout that stood out was a build run we did with Oregon Project coach Jerry Schumacher and his group of athletes that includes Canadian Simon Bairu, who not long after the camp raced to a dominant victory at the Canadian Cross-Country Championships.
Much like Salazar, Schumacher has a natural and simple way of doing things. After a short warmup we ratcheted up the pace to a moderate intensity level. With impressive smoothness, the runners hit pace times to the second as we knocked off the kilometres on the rolling 5.5K loop. The weather was bad, but no one complained. Simon Bairu, Evan Jager and Tim Nelson put their heads down and shared the lead for one another into the strong headwind as Simon Whitfield and I tucked in and got sucked along in the pouring rain.
Schumacher rode his bike beside the group, giving feedback and cues. Distance running is all about being patient, he told us. The message was clear early on - stay relaxed and “don’t press.” In other words, don’t push until you have to.
Whitfield and I completed 13.6K, while the rest of the guys continued on to run a total of 28K, finishing at under 5:00/mile pace.
Both Salazar and Schumacher’s groups had guys that race anywhere from the mile to the marathon, and although there were individual variations, they all completed a very similar series of key workouts each week.
Below are some of the key workouts that we took away from our camp and will use to improve our 10K run times. These workouts can be used for anyone who is looking to complete a road race ranging from the 5K to the marathon.
Specific Workout Tips:
Build or tempo run: After a 10-20-minute warmup, try to put in at least 30 minutes of work at just under your threshold and slightly slower than your goal race pace. These workouts are key to boosting your fitness and are good race simulations. This is also a good time to test out pre-race meals and the apparel and shoes you’ll use on race day. Finish with a 10-15-minute easy cool-down.
Focus on the footstrike: Most of the tips we got from Salazar and Schumacher related to the footstrike. They spent a lot of time working on decreasing the support time, that is; the time the foot spends in contact with the ground.
Running economy: The group worked on increasing stride frequency while keeping the upper body relaxed, as a way to improve running economy.
Interval run: (800m-2K repeats). This workout can be done on the track, but you can follow the Oregon Project’s lead and use a grass field. Look for a large enough loop of at least one minute of running. The softer surface is easier on the joints compared to running on the roads, which is key to avoiding injury, especially if you’re putting in lots of miles on the road in preparation for your next race. For 10K training a good example of an interval workout would be 8 x 1K with a full recovery rest.
Hill repeats (8-10). Try to find a hill in your neighbourhood, anywhere from 150-200 metres, or about 40 seconds of running. Run each rep at a fairly quick pace, focusing on quick turnover. Walk or jog slowly down to recover for the next rep.
Strength training: Aside from running, the Oregon Project runners also complete 2-4 strength and conditioning sessions each week. Each session consists of anything from plyometrics, to core work, to weights - working the whole body.Go easy: On easy days don’t be afraid to run easy. Take the time to focus on your form.