Hal Higdon’s Advanced 5K Training Plan: What we’d do differently next time

I wound up having to work Saturday morning and missed the Loon Lake 5.5K. Between the Waterfall 5K flooding cancellation and a strained hamstring now on the mend, I still don’t really know how much Hal Higdon’s Advanced 5K Training Plan may have helped my speed.

loonlakeMy sister Traci reportedly got a PR at Loon Lake, beating her previous best from two years ago by more than a minute – 32:09 (a 9:24 pace) vs. 33:19 (9:45 pace) in 2013. I haven’t got the full report from her yet, but I suspect she wasn’t happy. It sounds like she went out too fast on the hills and then ran out gas. (And Colleen, who had a sore leg, wound up walking most of the way.)

At any rate, it is possible to say what we liked and didn’t like about following this training program – and what we’d do differently in the future:


  • The progression of intervals (alternating between increasing sets of 200 meters one week and 400 the next) was a highlight. It took us a while to figure out how to systematize these, because we don’t really have access to a track. But it was a good yardstick and confidence builder .
  • Running for time instead of distance on long runs was a nice change of pace.
  • This was our first real experience with tempo runs and those seem really helpful, especially once we figure out how to do them better.

Things we’d like to change next time:

  • More distance. The “long runs” didn’t build up to 90 minutes until the last week, and because we took those pretty slow, we never ran more than 8 miles or so.
  • We never really got the hang of the “fast” 4-6 miles runs. We were never sure how to pace ourselves and felt like there wasn’t enough distance elsewhere in the program to improve on those much.
  • We’ll probably keep tinkering with the speed training. My sister would like to do 100s; I’d like to do mile repeats. So we’ll probably add some of both to what we do in the future.
  • This program doesn’t incorporate cross training, and we knew that going in. Given that we both prefer doing some riding and swimming along with running, we should either pick one that does or cobble one together on our own.

Up next: The Swiss Days Race (5K) in just under three weeks, though it’s unclear if I’ll be able to run that one either. My hamstring’s much better, but Colleen has travel softball tournaments every weekend this month. None are too far away, however, so we’ll see.

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A kid’s point of view: New shoes for 4th of July race!

My new Saucony Grid Liberate shoes. They already have one run on them and many more to go.

My new Saucony Grid Liberate shoes. They already have one run on them and many more to go.

By Colleen, age 12

Tomorrow is the annual Loon Lake 4th of July 5.5k race. The course is a hilly loop around Loon Lake. I went up there to train on Thursday, not remembering how many hills there were. I was able to run two full miles before a pain in my leg forced me to start walking. I eventually stopped when Mom and Aunt Traci came to check on me in my cousins’ grandma’s golf cart after their run. My leg still kind of hurts, but I am confident I can complete the race tomorrow.

Before going to Loon Lake, Mom and I went to Dick’s to get me new running shoes. My old cross country shoes had gotten pretty beat up. I forgot what it was like to run in shoes that still had the fabric attached!

Can’t wait til tomorrow!

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Own your serving size

Here’s an idea I’m fooling around with for my next newspaper column:

It’s time for Americans to declare their independence from serving sizes.

That doesn’t mean ignoring food labels, nor am I agitating for a massive pigout.

My sister Traci never eats more than three M&Ms at a time. She doesn't even know what an actual serving size is, but she tries to never let herself have more than nine or 12 total.

My sister Traci never eats more than three M&Ms at a time. She doesn’t even know what an actual serving size is, but she tries to never let herself have more than nine or 12 total.

But instead of waiting for the government to save us from ourselves — with rules demanding increasing transparency from marketing gimmicks that pack multiple servings into a single vending-machine snack bag — it’s time to step up and own your serving size.

Take ice cream, for instance. Every carton in the land comes with an FDA label dictating a half-cup serving.

I happen to know, from a great deal of research, that I need twice that much – a full cup – to feel satisfied.

But because I’ve added up the calories in my own personal serving and make room for it in my daily calorie total, there’s no self-deception involved – and no guilt, either.

Here are three tips to help seize control of serving sizes:

1. Start with more to get to less. A double serving size feels decadent, but in many cases it’s actually a calorie savings compared with the amount of food you’d normally eat. Start with that, and then when you feel confident and in control, gradually cut back.

2. Don’t mistake freedom for ignorance: You might feel like you’re defying the serving-size police every time you pour a seemingly random amount of cereal into your bowl, but just about every mug, bowl or ladle comes out to a specific measurement, if you take the time to check.

Once I discovered our bowls hold two cups of cereal, I switched to eating mine out of a dainty glass punch cup. If I fill it to the rim, that’s half a cup. Sometimes that’s enough; sometimes it’s not. But even if I refill my punch cup two more times, I’m still eating less than a cereal bowl. (In  my fat days I often wound up eating two bowls of Raisin Bran. That’s 4 cups – or a startling 760 calories — even before adding the milk!)

3. Label liberation: Instead of allowing food labels to make you miserable, use the information to  make choices that help you feel more in control. If you’re pining for a jelly donut but feel obligated to order the multigrain bagel, you might be relieved to know that at Dunkin Donuts, at least, the donut would save you 80 calories (270 vs. 350). Knowing the numbers can help you get through a weak moment without feeling like you lost control.

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Too much water dooms Waterfall 5K Trail Run

The good news: My hamstring is recovering better than I could’ve hoped.

The bad news: Sunday’s Waterfall 5K Trail Race was canceled due to flooding.

This photo is from the 2011 Waterfall 5K. I can only imagine what the course looks like right now, given that it's at the base of a dam that's been releasing water.

This photo is from the 2011 Waterfall 5K. I can only imagine what the course looks like right now, given that it’s at the base of a dam that’s been releasing water.

As of Saturday, when another 3 inches fell, June 2015 officially became the wettest month in Fort Wayne history.

Not just the wettest June – that record fell a week or so ago – but the wettest month ever.

It’s disappointing the race didn’t happen, especially after Friday’s test run made me think I wasn’t hurt as bad as initially feared. I doubt I could’ve given the kind of effort I’d been training for, but I could’ve at least participated.

Still, a canceled race is a small thing in a bigger picture that includes failed corn crops with little time left for replanting and flooded basements (or worse) as far as the eye can see.

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Treadmill ‘sprints’ produce a PR — and a muscle pull

Did an impromptu attempt at a 200-meter PR cost me a shot at the 5K I’ve been training for the past eight weeks?

At the time, cranking the treadmill all the way up to its maximum of 12 mph for an automatic 38-second .125 mile burst (that’s actually 220 yards) seemed like a smart move. During our previous session of 200-meter intervals, done on a gravel road two weeks ago, I’d been devastated when my sister blew me away with a 43-second best. Up til then, the best either of us had managed was 46 seconds.

Then last week, amid all the flooding and high heat/humidity, we’d tried doing our 400s on the treadmill — and discovered we could program in a PR every time if we just set up the right mph and then held on for dear life. So naturally we couldn’t wait to try the same thing on our final 200s workout before Sunday’s Waterfall 5K trail race.

For the first two attempts, it seemed like a brilliant strategy. Ten mph yielded a 45-second 220. That was a PR for me, and it wasn’t even that hard.

Eleven mph produced a :41. That beat my sister’s previous best by TWO WHOLE SECONDS. Trouble was, she was going first. So she’d not only been the first to set the new mark, but she was ready to aim even higher on interval No. 3.

Traci got through 38 seconds at 12 mph, but warned me that at one point – for just a couple of seconds – she almost lost her footing.

Naturally I had to try it. The weird thing about running “sprints” on a treadmill is that you start out pretty slow for the first few seconds as the machine gets up to speed. Then you’ve got to be ready to match the machine’s acceleration.

I thought I had it. The clock was at 30 seconds – just 8 more seconds to go. But I wobbled for a just a second, my gait got a bit offkilter, and just that fast I felt an alarming twinge in my hamstring.

My workout was over. Is my race as well?

I’ll probably find out on Friday, when I go out for an easy 3-mile jog to see how my leg does. Last time I pulled a hamstring – just about a year ago – I couldn’t’ leave it alone and kept testing it to see how it was doing, which never gave me a chance to recover until later when I finally took a few weeks off.

I didn’t even try to run on Wednesday, going for a swim instead. The leg seemed to feel a little better just walking around, so we’ll see.

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A reluctant runner conquers his world

How many people who don’t enjoy exercise manage to trick themselves into running 19,000 miles?

To keep himself interested in running, he devised projects such as running every road and street in Wells County and running in all 50 state capitals. (And that's just a fraction of the accomplishments you'll find in his notebook.)

To keep himself interested in running, he devised projects such as running every road and street in Wells County and running in all 50 state capitals. (And that’s just a fraction of the accomplishments you’ll find in his notebook.)

Retired principal Jim Schwarzkopf, the topic of this week’s News-Sentinel column, figured out a way to make his workouts more interesting. And now he’s not only still at it, 34 years later, but at 77 he’s an energetic advocate for creative self-discipline.

The other interesting thing about Schwarzkopf’s project is that he provides a plausible model for  runners who worry about building up too much oxidative stress. I’m still not convinced that’s much of an issue myself, but even if I was worried about the possible effects of overdoing it, I’ve had trouble imagining how running could be as interesting if you took away speed or endurance goals.

Schwarzkopf doesn’t fret about how fast he goes, and he never runs more than 3 miles every other day. But he’s built something tangible with his running, and it’s become somewhat of a passion for him. He’s also way more energetic than you’d expect for a guy his age, which is kind of funny when you think he got into running because he was tired of being tired.

Jim Schwarzkopf adds another 3 miles to his goal of running every road and street in Wells county -- for the second time.

Jim Schwarzkopf adds another 3 miles to his goal of running every road and street in Wells county — for the second time.

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5K race training week 7: Adapting to a flood

Not only was the River Greenway flooded out this week, but you couldn't get down the road, either.

Not only was the River Greenway flooded out this week, but you couldn’t get down the road, either.

I don’t mind running in the rain, but we got such a consistent deluge this past week that our primary running routes were flooded. Heck, even driving was a challenge as several roads in our county were closed. I’m pretty sure running on a treadmill isn’t the best way to train for a trail race — now less than a week away — but that’s what my sister and I found ourselves doing all too often this week.

Here’s what we were supposed to do on Hal Higdon’s Advanced 5K Training Plan, followed by what actually transpired:

Monday: 3 mile run. What I did: Easy 3-mile treadmill run at the Y. (Was hoping to get there in time for a yoga class, but got stuck waiting on a long slow train.)

Tuesday: 8 x 400 at mile pace. Since we have no idea what our “mile pace” is, my sister and I tried to go as fast as we possibly could, programming in treadmill settings that would force us into PRs if we just held on for dear life. It worked. Every one of these was at or below our previous best. For more details on this workout, click here.

Wednesday: Rest or easy run. What we did: Thursday’s 45-minute tempo run, with a 10-minute warmup and cooldown and 25 minutes in the middle at a much faster pace.

Thursday: 45-minute tempo run. Made this my rest day as we had a lot going on.

Friday: Rest. Did Saturday’s “6 miles fast” workout, half on the treadmill at the downtown Fort Wayne Y and half on the indoor track. Followed that up with some easy spinning on a stationary bike.

Saturday: 6 miles fast. We did Sunday’s 90-minute run instead, meandering around Bluffton gawking at all the flooding. Since we were running for time and not distance, we just went wherever our curiosity led us, running as close as we could get to the flooded areas without actually getting our feet wet.

Sunday: 90-minute run. Knowing Sunday’s Waterfall 5K is fairly hilly, we decided to get in one last run on the Vera Cruz hills. This  was the first day in over a week without any rain, and the heat and humidity were brutal. Luckily our sister-in-law Darcy showed up with some Gatorade around the 4-mile mark of what turned out to be a 5-mile run.

Mileage total: 28

Cross-training: Just that easy spinning on the bike at the Y. But I expect to do at least two swim sessions this week as our training plan has us backing off running leading up to the race.

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