Mile Markers: Hard-Easy Balance

Mile Markers: Hard Easy Balance

The balance of hard days and easy days is essential for improving as a runner – running hard every day will lead to plateauing, burnout, overtraining, and injury, while running at the same easy pace on every run will slow progress. This week was my peak sharpening week for the Snohomish Women’s Run 10K, which is this coming Sunday.

I really want to break 45 minutes in the 10K, so this week’s workouts focused in on running my goal 10K pace or slightly faster. My hard workout days were really hard – in some senses, far harder than the 20 mile long runs of marathon training or the long tempos of half marathon training – so I balanced out the week by keeping my easy days truly easy. 

Mile Markers: Hard Easy Balance

Monday: 6 x 800 meter repeats (8 miles total) & 30 minutes strength training

800-meter repeats are a staple workout for most runners, but it’s been almost two years, back when I did Hansons Marathon Method, since I’ve run 800s – and back then, I did them on the treadmill because I was nervous about pacing. 

Mile Markers: Hard Easy Balance

I warmed up with 2 miles of easy run and some dynamic stretches before running the 800-meter repeats. I’m a firm believer in running no faster than needed to for a particular workout, so I had a firm pace range in mind based on Daniel’s VDOT Calculator – 6:40-6:45/mile, or roughly my VO2max pace

I have a mild aversion to the track (and I also don’t know where the nearest accessible one is), so I ran these on a flat paved trail. I race on the road after all, so I don’t mind dealing with mild changes in terrain. I ran back and forth over the same 1/2 mile stretch. I started out a tad to fast at a 6:38/mile for the first two repeats, but then I settled into 6:40-6:42/mile. 

Those paces still surprise me a little. Just a few years ago, I considered paces in the 6:xx range well beyond my abilities. 

For strength training, I opted for some basic runner-specific exercises: single leg deadlifts, reverse lunges with core rotation, hamstring ball curls, planks on the stability ball, and some upper body work. 

Tuesday: 5 mile easy run

Ollie and I switched up our run and tried a different route. I had almost forgotten about a segment of paved trail near us, so we ran there and explored a bit more. I am always hesitant to explore new routes on my own, but with a fiercely loyal and muscular black dog, I feel a bit more comfortable. 

Mile Markers: Hard Easy Balance

Ollie struggles with pacing – he wants to start out at a sprint – but he is improving a bit. I managed to slow him down enough to maintain the 9:00/mile pace that I needed on that day and we had an enjoyable run together. I love running with my Labraheeler!

Wednesday: 35 minutes Pilates

Nothing remarkable about this workout – I completed one of my favorite magic circle workouts and spend a good amount of time stretching out my hip flexors at the end. I needed both the core work and the stretching! 

Thursday: 9 mile specific endurance run

The workout:
1 mile warm up
5 x 2K (1.24 miles) at goal 10K pace (2 minute recovery jog in between)
1 mile cool down

I had done this workout before, but never at this fast of a pace. My goal was to simulate the race with this workout: start out within a few seconds of goal pace and finish strong. My 2K splits were 8:53, 8:51, 8:50, 8:47, and 8:41. My post-run brain estimated a 7:02-7:10/mile pace, but later I sat down to do the actual math and realized these splits equate to a 7:08 cutting down to 6:59 minute mile (!). After this run, I felt ready for the 10K. Tired and hungry, but physically and mentally prepared. 

Mile Markers: Hard Easy Balance

I decided at the last minute to skip my strength training session that evening and move it to Friday – the idea of doing any more exercise sounded exhausting. The last week of the month is always a busy week for me work-wise and I just felt drained. 

Friday: 4 mile easy run & 30 minutes strength training

April 28th is the anniversary of Charlie’s adoption, so in honor of 4 years of Charlie being part of the family, I took him on a 4 mile run. We kept the effort light and easy on this – I was genuinely surprised when our average pace was an 8:58/mile, which just goes to show the positive impact of having a running buddy, even of the four-legged variety. 

Mile Markers: Hard Easy Balanceu

Since I skipped strength training the previous day, I headed to the gym after work. I wanted something different, so I spontaneously developed this workout. I really enjoyed the new-to-me exercises that I tried with the ball, although I will stay that stability ball pikes are hard!

2 x 20 banded squats
2 x 20 lateral band walks
2 x 10 stability ball pikes 
2 x 15 cable rows
2 x 10 hamstring ball curls
2 x 10 toe touches
2 x 10 stability ball deadbugs
2 x 30 second side plank with leg lifts

Thanks to the warm and rain-free weather, we spent the rest of the evening outside. Post-workout beers are good for recovery, right? (Outside certainly thinks so!).

Mile Markers: Hard Easy Balance

Saturday: 6 mile run 

Just this week, Ryan discovered a connector to a nearby paved trail that started near our apartment complex. This is a big deal to us, because our apartment complex is off of a busy road that doesn’t have sidewalks in some stretches. Our only option for running from our complex was a short hilly and honestly monotonous loop in a nearby neighborhood – but now, this small connector links up with 4 miles of paved trail. 

Mile Markers: Hard Easy Balance

This run was so fun – the trail was quiet and lined with trees. The three of us – Ollie, Ryan, and I – really enjoyed this route, although Ollie may have enjoyed it most for all of the ducks we saw. 

Sunday: 4.8 mile hike

Even though most of the mountains still have snow at the top (and I am not in the mood right now to hike through slushy snow), we decided to get in a full-length hike. We left the dogs at home since training Ollie to behave on hikes slows us down significantly. 

Mile Markers: Hard Easy Balance

We hiked at Little Si, which we had never hiked before because we thought it’s short distance and proximity to Seattle meant mediocre views. The scenery proved us wrong: the entire trail was lined with soaring moss-covered trees and mossy boulders. The hike was short, but with such a long hiatus from hiking, this was good – we got to enjoy time outdoors without accumulating fatigue. Despite the fact that it rained the whole time, we had so much fun just spending time out in the mountains. 

[Tweet “This week’s workouts: 10K peak training and rainy PNW hikes via @thisrunrecipes #running”]

How was your week in running?
How have you surprised yourself in a workout recently?


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18 Responses

  1. Your running workouts sound really challenging! You are going to be so ready for your 10k. Thats really great that you found a connector to a trail around your apartment complex. I really wish there was somewhere around here to run without cars and stoplights!

  2. I thought of you on Saturday when I volunteered at a trail race. There was a 5k Carnicross race too. I could totally see you and Ollie running it. There was even a Dashound running that had to swim in a big puddle. It was only ankle deep but for him it was the ocean. Lol!

  3. I was surprised that I was able to do a longer progression style run on the treadmill the other day without much death–it was a nice surprise! Right now I’m mostly running easy/moderate and not testing my limits, but I’m also not worried about progress, just having fun and staying injury free.

  4. You are so right about striking a balance with hard and easy runs, strength training and rest days! You had some very solid workouts and 6:xx are SO within your reach, but I understand 🙂
    Obviously my favorite part of this post is celebrating Charlie!! Is that a PR for him? LOL!!

    1. Thank you! Charlie’s run up to 6 miles before – his little puggle legs can really go! – but he’s best in the 3-4 mile range. Although if he’s running with Ollie, he’ll push!

  5. You’re totally getting 10-K fit. This is awesome. I started doing side planks too and I tried lifting my leg during one of them and nearly fell over. Definitely need to work on those! Those are TOUGH!

  6. Looks like you had a great week. I really like 800m repeats and used to run them a lot more. When I did a coached program a few years ago, the coach was really into 800s and tempo runs. I guess that’s kind of stuck with me so when I don’t know what interval distance to run, I run 800s. I do think it helps to NOT do all your workouts on the track because most of us don’t race on tracks very often. As long as you have an area of safe, straight road, that is good enough!

  7. Oh, 800s are my least favorite repeat distance. Shorter speed repeats are fun, longer 10K-half pace intervals are tough but doable; but 800s always feel torturous to me for some reason.

  8. Awesome work, Laura! You are stronger than you think. A sub-45 sounds like the perfect goal… good luck!! I’m running a 10k this weekend too but not sure how to pace as my legs will be in recovery mode from yesterday’s half. We’ll see!

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