Workout of the Day

Alan Webb pushing himself only as he can at the 2013 USATF Oregon State XC Championships, his final victory as a professional runner.

Alan Webb pushing himself only as he can at the 2013 USATF Oregon State XC Championships, his final victory as a professional runner.

6.79 Mile Tempo w/ Last 1.79 Mile Uphill

Splits: 5:05, 5:03, 5:04, 5:04, 5:05, 8:30(!) = 33:57

Recovery: n/a

Alan Webb  — Oct. 14th, 2013


Context & Details 

It was late 2013 and the final fall season of Alan's career. He wanted to run some cross country as a way to say goodbye to the sport he loved so dear before jumping 100% into the triathlon world. His target races were 1) USATF Oregon State XC Championships and 2) USATF Club XC Championships. Of course, he wanted to win both. 

As his coach during this time, I was tasked with readying him for those races off only three days of running per week. The days he ran were running workout days, the other four days per week he was in the pool for 60 - 120 minutes and/or on the bike for 2 - 3 hours. We counted those as his "easy days." It was an odd calculus, and I am sure incorrect. But we made it work as best we could.

This session began his last week of taxing running workouts before a running regeneration phase to ready him for those target races. He was 26 days out from target race #1. The start of this training week was a hard 35-minute tempo with the final 10 minutes all uphill. 

This session is 100% aerobic focused. Mentally, it tests one's steel in ways other work cannot. It is a pure blood and guts effort. 

The design was to run a steady aerobic threshold rhythm for 5 miles at 5:05/mile pace on the rolling hills of Portland's most famous trail in Forest Park, Leif Erickson Drive. This would take him to a fork in the road where Leif intersected with the uphill path. Saltzman Rd. is an old dirt logging path which goes straight uphill to the top of the Tualatin mountains. The ascent from the intersection to the top is 1.79 miles and 500+ feet in elevation gain, resulting in an average grade of 3%. It is a tough booger of a hill. 

Alan was charged with running that final 1.79 miles stretch up Saltzman as fast as he could. I thought he could do in about 10 minutes or roughly 5:40/mile race. My personal best for the hill was 10:47, 6:02/mile pace when I was in 30:30/10K and 14:20/5K form. "This Alan Webb," I thought. "Surely, he can do it a little better than I in personal best shape."

I rode on a bike next to him. He clicked through the 5-mile tempo like a pro, running 25:17 with ease. He turned the corner up Saltzman Rd and took off. I got dropped, on a bike. Even after downshifting to the lowest gear, I still couldn't catch him. 

Alan beat me to the top, but I had him in my sights. He stormed past the gate marking the end of the road. I clicked my watch. I still remember the time to this day, it is burned into my retina. It read, 8"30'21. That is 4:45/mile pace, uphill. It's worth repeating: he ran12.6 mph. All uphill. 

I shook my head. Even though he was in the twilight of his career, he was still Alan Webb — a man capable of remarkable feats. 


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Jonathan Marcus