My Experience with Phase III of Jack Daniels 5k-10k Plan

I’m still working my way through my spring training block.

I have two big races on my calendar. The first is a local 10k in early April and the second is a half marathon in Delaware towards the end of the month. I’ve been following the 60-70mpw 5k-10k plan in Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.

I previously wrote about my experience with Phase II of the plan. Today, I’m going to discuss my experience with Phase III.

Stepping Back to Look at the Big Picture

First, I just wanted to take a second to step back and look at the big picture. How does this 5k-10k plan work?

For all the details, check out his book (Running Formula, 4th Edition). But here’s the cliff notes version so you can follow along with what I’ve been doing.

Phase I is six weeks of base building. Before I started this plan, I had just trained for my first marathon. I finished it, took a couple down weeks, and then built my mileage back up to 60mpw. So, as Jack advises, I skipped “Phase I” and jumped into Phase II.

Phase II is a six week phase that focuses on running fast and building a strong foundation. Each week has three quality runs. The focus is a set of “R” paced repetitions – 200m and 400m reps. The secondary workout is “T” paced cruise intervals. The third workout is a long run, which can either be either an easy run or a marathon paced tempo. I definitely got faster and stronger throughout those six weeks, and you can read more about it in this post.

Phase III shifts is another six week phase that shifts towards more specific work. The primary workout is now “I” or “H” paced running – which is approximately 3k-5k pace. In other systems, you might call these “VO2 Max” workouts – things like 6x1k with 2-3 minutes of rest. The secondary workout is still T pace, although the cruise intervals get a bit longer – peaking at 2×3 miles with 3 minutes rest. The third workout is the same rotation of easy and marathon paced long runs.

Once you’re done with Phase III, you go into a competition phase – Phase IV. Here, the intensity drops. In a typical week, you’d have a mid-week workout and a weekend race. But if you don’t have a race, there’s second workout you can do. This can last up to six weeks, but realistically it lasts until your final big race of the season.

How Things Went in Phase III

Phase II went great, and I finished the first six weeks of the plan feeling like I was in amazing shape. I had high hopes for Phase III.

Although I definitely came out of the other side of Phase III ready to race, there were a few more hiccups along the way in this phase.

Dealing with Problems in Phase III

One problem was scheduling.

I had a 5 day, 4 night cruise planned for the middle of this phase. It left on Monday and came back on Friday, so it didn’t impact my long runs. But both of my weekly quality sessions would have to be done on the ship.

There was a sizable fitness center with treadmills on the ship, so I went in with high hopes. But, it was also warm and humid in there. Combine that with the amount of food and alcohol I was consuming on the ship, and I probably wasn’t in the best shape for a real quality workout.

I tried a T workout first (3 miles, 3 min rest; 2 miles, 2 min rest; 1 mile), and started off ok. But about two miles into the first rep I just didn’t feel good. I should have adjusted the pace down a bit to deal with the conditions, and I didn’t. I ended up aborting.

I ditched the other Q workout altogether and shortened my easy runs a bit to about 45 minutes. My weekly mileage took a hit, and I only ran 58 miles that week (target: 66). But considering the fact that I was traveling, I’d say it was a valiant effort. In retrospect, I should have ditched the quality stuff from the get go and just focused on trying to get in some easy miles when I could.

The other issue was that I thought I felt an injury coming on.

During the cruise, my legs were feeling tight. In particular, there was a tightness behind my knee. There wasn’t any pain, and I could still run through it. But the fact that it didn’t really go away bothered me and I thought it might be a sign of something to come.

I spent the next week paying more attention to stretching and doing some strength and mobility work. When I was back on land, I was able to hit my Q sessions like usual, so it wasn’t really a problem. Within a couple weeks, it had faded away and I was feeling good.

But to make sure I wasn’t digging myself into a whole, I ditched the marathon paced long runs. I kept that third “quality” session to 14-16 easy miles, and I picked up the pace a little at the end if I felt good. But I wanted to focus on the other two quality sessions and not risk over-doing it.

Progression of Interval Workouts

The I paced workouts were the primary focus of Phase III. I wish I could say that I made clear, linear progress like I did with the workouts in Phase II, but the truth is it varied a bit. My goal coming in was to hit about 6:30/mi pace, but I hoped to work my way down to something closer to 6:20/mi.

The first workout wasn’t bad. It was 6x1200m with 3 minutes rest. My goal was about 6:30/mile pace, and I hit that for the first few reps. But my pacing was a bit off, and there was a strong headwind on a few reps. I really struggled in the final rep. My paces were 6:29, 6:21, 6:39, 6:30, and 6:44. Not ideal, but still an average pace of 6:33.

The next week was my cruise, so there wasn’t a workout to report. But the following week, I had one of my best workouts to date. It was 6x1000m with 3 minutes recovery. I nailed the pace – 6:21, 6:21, 6:22, 6:21, 6:24, and 6:22. This workout really gave me hope that if things kept going well, I’d be able to break 20 minutes in a 5k no problem.

But the next week wasn’t so good. The workout was 5x1200m again. It didn’t help that it was cold (~40 degrees) and rainy, so I was soaked through by the last rep. The extra water weight might have slowed me down a bit. But I was still disappointed in the pacing – 6:22, 6:31, 6:26, 6:40, and 6:38. I started out strong, but I was really struggling in the last two. The average pace (6:31) doesn’t tell the whole story.

The next workout was pretty good. It was a little different – 7×3 minutes at I pace, 2 minute recovery. The weather was perfect, and my pacing was a lot better. I ran the first one too fast, and I kicked it a bit in the final one. But the other five reps were all 6:20 to 6:26, and my average pace was 6:21. Another positive sign.

I was hoping to finish on a high note with the final workout. It was a mix of intervals – 2×4 minute, 3×3 minute, and 4×2 minute. Overall, my pace was fine (6:21). But I was starting to struggle in the last couple of reps, and I didn’t feel as strong as I had the week before.

Throughout the Phase, I was a little frustrated with my performance in these workouts – with the exception of the second one. But seeing it all written out, I guess it wasn’t too bad. There were a few bumps in the road, but by the end of Phase III I was performing pretty well. Maybe not quite as well as I had hoped, but certainly well enough.

Progression of Threshold Workouts

The T workouts were a mixed bag as well. I had made steady forward progress throughout Phase II, and now it seemed at times like I was moving backwards.

Part of that was that the workouts themselves were getting harder. A couple workouts were 6×1 mile, but one workout was 3×2 mile and another was 2×3 mile. The longer cruise intervals were tough, and it suggested I might have been running the mile repeats just a little too fast.

I was able to hit 6:45/mi in my best workout, but the other four weeks weren’t as good. I averaged 6:52, 6:52, 6:54, and 7:00.

The final workout was really disappointed. I might have pushed too hard in the intervals earlier in the week, but I really struggled with the threshold stuff. The workout was 4×1 mile followed by 2 continuous miles. The repeats weren’t bad (6:55), but I died out and only averaged 7:04 for the last two miles.

Maybe this was a sign of cumulative fatigue, and I just needed to rest up a bit as I moved into the competition Phase. I hoped so. But whereas I was moderately pleased with the Interval workouts, I was disappointed with my lack of progress on the Threshold workouts.

Long Runs and Mileage Throughout Phase III

If I followed the plan as written, I should have done three marathon paced tempos throughout my long runs. But, after my knee started to feel funky on the cruise, I decided against it. I stuck with easy runs for the most part, ranging from 14 miles to 16 miles.

For the most part these felt good, although my easy pace was slowing down a little bit from when I had started the plan. This was another sign that the cumulative fatigue and mileage was getting to me.

The mileage was also a little higher in Phase III. This isn’t actually part of Jack Daniels’ plan. He just suggests that you run between 60 and 70mpw, and he doesn’t specify how much in each week.

I took the mileage figures from Pete Pfitzinger’s 5k plan (Faster Road Racing). His plan ramps up from 60 mpw to hit 70mpw in a few peak weeks. I liked this idea, because I thought it would set me up well for marathon training to peak at 70-75mpw throughout the summer.

So in Phase III, I was supposed to hit 63, 66, 70, 66, 70, and 60 miles per week. I hit every week except the second one – where I only managed to run 58 miles due to the cruise. But this was still an average of 64.5 miles per week, with two peak weeks at 70. Considering my peak mileage going into the plan was 60mpw, that’s a lot.

I knew this part was going to be tough. I dropped back down to 60mpw in the final week, and I plan to maintain 60 mpw throughout the competition Phase. I’m hoping that will help me shed some of this fatigue and move into my races strong and fit. But in retrospect, I wonder if the added mileage had an impact on my workouts.

Final Thoughts on Phase III of Jack Daniels 5k-10k Training Plan

I’m not coming out of Phase III as confident as I did in Phase II. But I’m still coming out confident.

I think the plan certainly got harder at this point. While the repetition workouts were tough, I think I recovered from them more quickly than I did the interval workouts. I think this, combined with the additional mileage, had an impact on my threshold workouts.

I should also note that Daniels schedules the two quality workouts to be back to back in this Phase. I’ve read a lot about this from other people’s experiences, and some like it and some don’t. I followed the plan the first week, and I was surprised how well it went. But in subsequent weeks, I just didn’t feel up to a quality threshold workout the day after an interval workout. So instead I reverted to scheduling an easy day between the two quality workouts.

I’m looking forward to seeing how well this hard work pays off.

I’m running the 10k in a couple weeks, and I’m hoping to finish around 41 to 42 minutes. Three weeks after that, I’ll run the half and my goal is somewhere around 1:30 to 1:32. If I can fit them in, I also want to do a 5k time trial and a mile time trial, just to get some updated times for those distances.

If you’re looking for a 5k or 10k plan to follow, I would definitely recommend Daniels plan. You can find the detailed plan in his book, Jack Daniels Running Formula. There are two versions – one for 40 to 50mpw and one for 60 to 70mpw. As you can see from my experience, it is tough. But it will whip you into shape.

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