Workout of the Day
1 Mile @ 3K + 5 x 10" Hill Sprints
Splits: 4:35 + 5 x 10"
Recovery: 800m jog to hill after 1M rep / Full rec. after each hill sprint, 3' - 4' walking
Ryan Dohner — Dec. 17th, 2009
Context & Details
Even eight years later, I can still remember agonizing over the construction of this workout.
In 2009, the high school team I was working with had taken a close 2nd at the Texas State XC Championships, a great result. The problem was our number one runner, Ryan Dohner, faded to 10th overall. For someone who was in contention for the win, it was a bitter disappointment. In debriefing after the race, he said he felt flat and had zero "pop" in his legs. He couldn't find a rhythm in the race and felt like he was laboring from the first step.
If his poor performance wasn't bad enough, he had one week to turn it around at the NXN regional meet to qualify for nationals.
As I set out the training for the week ahead, I was faced with a decision. Do I stick to the planned schedule or course correct and see if I could create a new race prep workout to revive his spirits and legs? The critical "data" which influenced this decision was Ryan's real-time feedback. He reported that his legs felt sluggish, zapped, and non-responsive. That colored my choice.
After receiving his feedback and looking back over his training for the previous month, I decided to call the audible. I chose to take what I saw at the time as a risk and try something completely different than outlined. Ryan wasn't burnt out or past his peak, I'd messed up his pre-State meet training. He arrived on race day feeling flat. It was my job to fix that for the following upcoming race.
Instead of sticking with a moderate volume and intensity workout, I concluded he would benefit best from a medium length one-off hard segment that pressed him just enough aerobically and then finish up with a handful of short max speed reps that would restore the "pop" back in his legs he sought. I knew, based on his history, that hill sprints tended to increase the pep in Ryan's step. I threw conventional wisdom out the window and added five hill sprints at 100% effort to the end of the workout.
What resulted was an atypical session: a brisk 1 Mile rep in 4:35 + 5 x Hill Sprints. This isn't your traditional pre-race workout, but it was what I thought Ryan would respond to best. Sure, part of it was guesswork, but part of it was spending four years getting to know how he responded to different workouts. It was a risk, but a calculated one.
To his credit, Ryan bought in, trusting the process and my discernment. And a few days later, he took the win at the NXN South Regional and went on to place 11th at NXN Nationals.