Yasso 800s in the Off Season

The Boise Greenbelt offers some phenomenal views as I do my speed sessions  way better than running in circles on a track!

The Boise Greenbelt offers some phenomenal views as I do my speed sessions  that are way better than running in circles on a track!

I woke up this morning and the first words out of my mouth to my still-sleeping husband were, “I’m in the mood to run Yasso 800s!” He opened up one eye at me and groggily said, “Ok, have fun!” And, I did!

I don’t do a lot of speed work and haven’t trained according to an actual plan in about two years – and I love it! I hadn’t done a single workout involving speed work since May when I qualified for Boston.  Once I achieved that I went back to spending the bulk of my miles on the local trails and not being too concerned with speed.  But, this morning I had a hunger to push my legs harder, to feel a little burn in the lungs! I wanted to PLAY a little and see how much of my marathon-specific speed I’d lost over the last few months of ultra running and training mostly in the Boise Foothills.

Thank you, Bart for blessing us with the Yasso 800s workout! It's almost like a crystal ball for runners! Sorta! :)

Thank you, Bart for blessing us with the Yasso 800s workout! It’s almost like a crystal ball for runners! Sorta! 🙂

I decided that since my marathon PR is 3:40, I’d shoot for that as my target time for the 800s. I do hope to aim for a 3:35 at Boston in the Spring, but for now (in the off-season and out of speed shape), I figured it was a good starting place and I’ll have plenty of time to work on improving my paces before the Big Dance on Patriot’s Day! 🙂 I rarely step foot on a track, even for intervals.  Luckily, I run with a Garmin Forerunner 310 xt, which can be easily programmed to help me do an interval workout anywhere.  I set up the watch to allow me to do a warm up, then five 800s, with rest breaks of 3:40 (since the Yasso plan has the runner recover for equal amounts of time as the target time), then cool down.

It was about 28 degrees when I headed out into the sunshine, ready to tackle some faster splits. I wore trail shoes – my Pure Grits, since the first mile out and back are on trail to get to the nearby asphalt greenbelt, which is relatively flat and a great place for these workouts. The bonus is that I don’t even have to spend a cent on gas since I run from my front door! Woo hoo! I did later regret the shoe choice since I could feel every nub on the path as I pushed harder on the paces.  Note to self – next time just wear the road shoes!

Save some sweet moolah and run from your front door!!!

Save some sweet moolah and run from your front door!!!

I was a little bit nervous as I started since it had been so long. I thought the pace (roughly 7:20 would be doable) but I was concerned about it hurting since it had been so long  – especially on the later intervals!)  Luckily, I felt pretty good from the get-go and settled into a pace that felt about right and was happy to glance down at the watch and see I was nailing it.  My first split was a 3:39! I felt wonderful, but reminded myself that this was only the beginning and it was likely going to start hurting more in the later splits. I really enjoyed running alongside the Boise River, which looks like a lot more rocks and sand that river this time of year and listening to the birds under the bright blue sky!  There were several people out enjoying the weather, taking walks and riding bikes, but it wasn’t too crowded, which I was also grateful for.

Split 2 was a 3:39 again! Yes! I still felt great! Split 3 was also a 3:39! I couldn’t believe it! Split for was a… wait for it…. a 3:39 again! I was still feeling pretty strong, but was starting to notice some tightness in my hamstrings from pushing the pace out of my usual comfort zone, but I still felt pretty good overall and actually started to consider really pushing hard in the final half mile split just to see what was left in the tank.  But, then I reminded myself firmly that the point of this type of workout is even pacing and self-control, so I behaved!! Almost too good, in fact! I glanced down at my Garmin more than half way through and saw that the average pace for the lap was 7:18 (one second per mile faster than the other splits), so I tried to slightly ease up to keep things even – and accidentally eased up a hair TOO much! I heard the Garmin beeping indicating the interval was about over and looked down to see a 7:22 pace for the lap! Noooo!!! I started pushing as hard as I could, but probably only got 4 good seconds of push before the lap was over! That one ended up right on target, which was funny at 3:40!!!  So, just a variation of 1 second on the last lap and all laps met or exceeded the target goal!

I finished up feeling flushed but happy and my confidence was bolstered as well. I felt pretty certain I could have continued to do more 800s at the required pace, though how many is hard to say.  I definitely think at least 3 more.  Which, isn’t bad!!

The theory behind Yasso 800s is that if you can bust out 10 of them at splits that have the same numbers as your overall target goal time of a marathon, then you’re on the right track for achieving the same number at the race (so long as you’ve done the proper training and long runs, of course!)  My PR marathon time was 3:40, so my Yasoo 800s were supposed to be about 3 minutes and 40 seconds for each 1/2 mile I ran. I get a rest break of 3 minutes and 40 seconds after each interval before I get to do it all again!  The program suggests starting with 3 or 4 Yassos, then gradually building up to holding them steady for 10 800s in a row.

Some intervals can feel like this!

Some intervals can feel like this!

I think shooting for the time I have already hit this year was a great place to start. I don’t want to push too hard in the off-season, but I think doing some of this now and then will keep me fit enough to pick up the speed work more seriously when I’m closer to 6 weeks out from Boston.  My Yassos will get a bit harder then, since I’ll be aiming for a 3:35 goal time at the race, but based on today’s workout, that just means going about 4 seconds per mile (or 5 on the last split) faster and being able to hold that for twice as many laps.  It sounds like a great challenge and one I look forward to working on as the race gets closer!

Do you, dear readers, use Yassos in your training? Have they proven to be a good prediction of your marathon time later or not? I’d love to hear from you!


5 thoughts on “Yasso 800s in the Off Season

  1. You could start with a warm up easy mile, then half a mile (800 or two laps if you’re on a track) at a pace faster than your half marathon pace (maybe 8 min mile pace for instance), then a recovery jog for 4 min or one loop on the track, then repeat for a total of 4 or 5 “Yassos” as a good prep for a faster half marathon. (If this pace was too easy, then adjust accordingly. If too difficult, pull back until you find a pace you can do consistently for 5 800s. To prep for a faster mile, you could instead do 400s (1 lap around the track) as hard as you can go, with recoveries for a series of 4-5 or run progressive 400s, starting easy and doing a recovery loop (400) after each lap, but progressively getting faster until you are going all out on the final 400. A little bit of speedwork added into your routine can have big pay offs! Good luck!

  2. I just did my first Yasso 800’s today. I’m a lot farther behind my goal than I anticipated but I’m happy to be working toward a specific goal with a specific plan. I’m a lot like you in that I like to just run for run’s sake and let races tell me how I’m doing in conditioning. Trying to Boston Qualify really makes a newbie like me spend more time at the track with a watch.

    I too have a 310XT and I needed to set it up for interval training. Today I just start, stop, reset, over and over. Kind of tedious when I’m trying to track my rest time too. I have it set up now for intervals for the next time and checked both warmup and cool down. I guess next time I just scroll through to ‘Do Workout’ press Enter and then hit Start. Is that correct?

    Thanks for the blog.
    Bryan Montgomery

    • Way to go knocking out Yasso 800s at the track! They help! It’s been quite a while since I’ve done any track work and I switched to a Suunto Ambit Peak 3 watch this year, so I can’t quite remember the exact steps to start my interval workout, but I think what you said is right. I hope your workouts continue to be strong and that you make it to Boston! Running Boston in 2014 was one of the highlights of my life and totally worth all the work to qualify!


      • Thanks for your reply Christie,
        Shortly after I submitted this I tried to figure it out for myself and it was really easy to set up. Unfortunately I strained a calf muscle within a week after this so I haven’t been able to try out the workout on my watch yet. I’ve given it time to heal and have my mileage back up to par so I’m ready to start pushing the pace again later this week. Thank you so much for your post. It’s going to make my 800’s much easier when I’m able to start again.

        I’ll let you know when I BQ.


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