Put my money where my mouth is tonight and did my first intervals session on foot (I do them on a bike too) tonight - hills even. Ooef. At the hilltops my gasps for breath were somewhere in between a donkey's braying an and ecstatic orgasmic shout. Glad no one was around in the forest (and if they were, they were definitely avoiding me!!).
Suze - persistence is an absolute must in endurance performance. Training is hard, it takes a long time and you need to have the determination to stay the distance, to reach long term goals. But you know all that. I think - and i am being completely honest and uncritical here - HIAHS is not typical. She is blessed. She has the specific kind of DNA that makes her body very receptive to training and her performances improve rpidly, even with less structured stimulus. And i suspect she pushes herself hard when she does train.
In some senses, I am the same. I can turn myself from a slob to a strong athlete in a few weeks, if i have the time to dedicate to training. My body responds quickly. None of us can do anything at all to change this aspect of our physiology. It is a given. HIAHS might become a supreme athlete if she followed a structured programme and I am happy to say, time is still on her side to do that. First female sub3'er on this forum? Could be.
If I were in your shoes Suze, I would just put sub4 out of your mind until end of July. Use the period in between to worry about Lactate Threshold. Two tempo runs each week where you run hard, just below the level of where you feel you have to slow down to get breath back, upto 5 miles at a time with appropriate warm up/ cool down each side. Somewhere in the mile, do intervals/ pyramids/ fartlek, where you just run as hard as you can, forgetting the watch or the HR monitor. Just nail it. Do your best and be courageous. I've never quite puked after intervals but have come close a few times. (It doesn't have to be quite that hard, but you get the drift). You can judge your effort.
And then use your bike for cycling to/ from work as your recovery exercise for the week. If you still have some pepper, you can do a medium legth run on the weekends. If you measure everything you do, you should be able to track progress. I can give some examples of interval/pyramid sessions if you like.
We avoided all awkward conversation like the good Brits we are, and instead I did some laps of the track at 70%/80% and flat out, getting my oxygen level and heart rate measured before and after each one. I did a Cooper test too of 12 minutes' continuous running. TD, my trainer said my oxygen level had increased after that - what does that mean? He seemed quite surprised.
Maybe I can use a car analogy to explain it Suze. A car can be a good performer if it has a large capacity, an ability to produce power when it is really needed. So in theory, a car with a three litre engine is going to be more powerful than one with a one litre engine. But also, a car can be performant if it uses it energy efficiently, if it is economic - it can simply go further on less.
Well, engine size is similar to VO2Max - the total amount of oxygen our body can consume through the mouth, the lungs, into the bloodstream, pumped through the heart and into all the little blood vessels and mitochondria of the muscles. Muscles burn glycogen (blood sugar) but if this is done anaerobically (without oxygen present), it is incredibly inefficient - lie when a sprinter runs 200m and feels exhausted an hour later) - as much as 19x more than someone who simpky jogged those 200m would hardly feel like they have used any energy at all.
Muscles can use glycogen, combined with oxygen, to create the useable energy our muscles need (called ATP). The greater the theoretical maximum of oxygen absorbing ability, the higher the level of aerobic power, the faster/ harder we can run. That's what intervals do - they deepen your oxygen-to-muscle fibre carrying capability.
But it's not the biggest game in town for endurance athletes. For us, we REALLY care about efficiency - turning every last drop of glycogen into as much forward movement as possible. And that's why we do Lactate Threshold runs and worry about our gait and cadence. These actions reduce the energy needed to go forwards. For example, if we bounce up and down a lot, or sway side to side as we run, or we carry to much weight, that uses energy but doesn't result in forward movement. LT runs increase our efficiency, training our body's physiology to do more with less.
So your trainer has told you you have greater oxygen carrying capacity. This is good for races where you have plentiful energy avialble (i.e. distances up to half marathon in length). You can push harder, using more glycogen, without going anaerobic (where you get that overwhlming build up of lactic acid in your blood that forces you to slow down so your body can get back to oxygen balance).
Hope this explanation helps but am willing to answer follow-up questions.
The thing with having very specific times for running intervals is that it ISN'T the paces which really matter. The whole point is that those paces are supposed to get you into specific heart rate zones and that is the thing you should be most concerned with.
HR is impacted by many things - tiredness, ambient temperatures etc. A good approach is to have a fairly accurate idea of your Maximum Heart Rate (there are estimate-yourself approaches and their are science-in-the-lab) approaches, whichever suits you best (both is a good call!).
The using a reliable pace database like the VDOT Calculator, establish what are the relevant paces to HR Zones you should be training in. Then fit those paces into your training programme. At the very least, do it to confirm the accuracy of the programme you already have. Many programmes will set out interval training paces which are very tough, even aspirational, because there is an expectation that you will grow in VO2Max capacity throughout the training.
So at first, you feel like you fail alot. That can either discourage you, or you get to see improvements later by sticking with it. VDOT allows you to fine tune your pacing as you go along. But over all this, have an idea of what HR you are trying to invoke in each training session and reliably hit that. The pacing will sort itself out. If you have worked hard in a session and hit the HR numbers, you can feel pleased and congratulatory.
If you don't hit the HR numbers, then your body is telling you that you are insufficiently rested and you can tweak your programe to do this. It is intelligent training that puts you in control - over your body and over your brain. HTH.
MRI scan in a couple of weeks Weedy. Thanks for asking. It seems the lateral side cartilage damage is not as reactive as it was when I last got this checked out in Dec13, but the medial side meniscal pain is worse. So the surgeon will check out the MRI and then we can make a plan together.
IronRach - I fully get what you mean about running just for the sake of it. Just like you, I love the planning, creating a structure for training, executing that plan. I have always been very goal driven in my running yet I get tremendous pleasure from this - the folk who just turn up to run often suggest that they have the fun and I recognise there is a danger in being too focused and serious, yet achieving a plan is hugely satisfying to me.
I went over and over my planning for my first sub3 attempt some years ago and during the training programme I lowered my goal from 3h05, to 3h03, to 3h02 and my training partner accused me of cowardice just a week or two before the race. So i decided to just go for it, to put just that little bit of incremental pressure on myself, with a backout plan if I couldn't do it. I finisjed in 2h58m42 - 3 seconds slower than what JimBob did yesterday. I fully get his sense of elation.
Am feeling quietly confident Weedy that i might be able to train again properly one day. I would love to do some fast running again, intervals training, hard tempo sessions. I love that stuff. Fingers crossed.