Changing Pace and a Good Hill Workout

I'm familiar with the cycle. A period of good, long training, successful races, goals met, then a plateau, sometimes a long one, months, and then the rut. It's nice to be able to recognize it and know that the world isn't ending, and that I'm not backsliding into a sedentary life. Change is good.

My change doesn't involve picking up a new sport; I still have no desire to get back on the bike or in the pool. The change this time is the type of training. I'm focusing on some shorter races, some 5Ks and 10Ks. I'd really like to run a sub-40 10K before I turn 40 in February. I've come close to that before, hit 40 minutes and change a couple of times, but have never broken the 40 minute barrier. So, I'm switching up my training.

I'm not running less, but I am replacing a couple of the weekly longer runs with more quality runs, mixing in some track work, some tempo runs, and some hill repeats. The mileage still hovers between 40 and 50 miles per week, but the workouts give me more variety, and for now, they are a lot more fun than the long runs. I'm trying to avoid the trap of only increasing distance at the expense of speed. I have found myself not wanting to train for and run shorter races because it almost felt like taking a step backwards from the ever-increasing volume and race distances of ultras.

Early morning track work at Cal State

I've been heading down to the Cal State San Marcos track for some interval training, and that has been fun. It's been awhile since I've run fast and done form drills. Steve Scott (the greatest American miler) is the women's cross country coach down there and I have never felt as self-conscious about my form as I was last week when Steve and his team were stretching and doing core work on the side of the track while I was doing intervals. I also talked to an older woman who holds the American record for the 5K and half marathon in her age group. She was so nice, and we talked for awhile about her races and running. She told me she was 76 and I asked her what her secret was for running so fast that late in life (I can't remember if that's how I put it; I hope I used a little more tact). She told me that she started running 5 years ago. So, there you go. That's the secret.

I'll share today's hill workout because it was simple, and it was fun making it up, and it kicked my ass.

  1. Easy jog for 2 miles.
  2. Find a long (about 1 1/2 mile), moderately steep hill.
  3. Run hard for 3 minutes up the hill.
  4. Turn around and recover for 2 minutes downhill (I walked for a minute, then jogged a minute).
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you reach the top of the hill (for me, this was 5 intervals).
  6. Cool down.

That's it. Let me know if you try the workout and what you think about it.

Thanks for reading.


  1. I can relate to what you wrote. I ran a 5K fast on Thanksgiving morning, and it rekindled thoughts of getting back to shorter distances to see if I could break 40 in the 10K (something I've managed twice, almost 10 years ago when I was in my early 30s). If you're interested, here's my favorite speed workout:
    The key for me is finding people who are faster than I am to run with, especially at the track, so they push me.
    Good luck going sub 40 at 40!

    1. Thanks, Sarah. I checked out your speed workout and it looks like fun. I'll give it a shot.

  2. Good luck with the sub40by40 goal. I missed it, but came pretty close -- 40:48 at the Scripps Ranch 10K this summer, but that was at 40. Planning to have another go before 41 hits me in March, but I've already got sub41by41.

    I found that the FIRST 10K program worked well for me. 12 week cycle, mix of intervals, tempo, and distance appropriate to the 10K. Its about 25 miles per week - if you stick with your 50 per week, then you'll be treating the 2 cross training days as "run days" and move on. I like the program, and have used it several times over the past couple of years to improve the 10k time. (The 7/4/12 10K was a minute and a half faster than the year prior, and I did make a go at success both times.)

    I've not made it to the CSUSM track, but I've thought about it when the track club has intervals there. Maybe if I can't get to sub40 with my current plan, I'll have to hook up with some faster people and the track club at the track seems a good choice.

    Good luck

    1. Tampa Tri Club has a nice PDF of the plan with simple formulas to walk you through getting all your target times:

    2. Thanks Jim. I'll definitely check it out.


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