Training

A Week of Training During COVID-19: Lauren Paquette’s Virtual 5k

Lauren Paquette, NAZ Elite pro and 2016 Olympic Trials qualifier, details every mile of her training during coronavirus including the NYRR Virtual 5K.

Lauren Paquette, a professional runner for NAZ Elite who qualified for the 2016 Olympic Trials in the 5,000 meters, is training for some virtual races after her original racing plans got derailed by the coronavirus pandemic. Paquette detailed her training for us from April 27-May 1, which included competing in the NYRR Virtual 5K.

I signed with NAZ Elite in December and road-tripped out to Flagstaff the day before New Year’s Eve. These past few months I have been getting used to the new training, new coach Ben Rosario, new location and training partners, while healing up from some minor injuries. It’s been a pretty smooth transition and as the weeks of workouts, long runs and doubles have continued to stack on top of each other I have been feeling strong! 

Just like about every other event across the planet, all of the races Ben and I had put on our schedule have been canceled due to the global pandemic. Despite this, we’ve still been training very hard with the knowledge that though the work may not pay off immediately in results due to lack of races, they will eventually pay big dividends when we do get to race. I’m getting used to these different and longer workouts now in 2020 and will get to do them all again and improve upon them leading into the 2021 Olympic year. 

Although we have no legitimate races on the calendar, NAZ Elite will be breaking up our training and providing some entertainment by participating in some virtual racing and inter-squad head-to-head competition in the following months, and I am up first!

On Wednesday, my teammate Rory Linkletter and I took part in the NYRR Virtual 5k, going head to head on Lake Mary Road in Flagstaff! I got a 2-minute handicap; so, for me to win I had to run within 2 minutes of Rory’s time. For Rory to win he had to run more than 2 minutes faster than my time! Even though this week is not a true race week in the traditional sense, we mirrored what an actual race week would look like while training. I basically had a hard effort sandwiched by a bunch of lighter training days on the schedule.

Monday, April 27

AM: Easy Run – 6 miles (45 minutes, HOKA Clifton 6) + Strength (45 minutes)

PM: Sleep Meditation (6 minutes)

Coming off of yesterday’s 10 x 1 minute hill workout and double run, and with the race simulation this Wednesday, these next two days are a bit less intense than the recent norm. It’s so great to have one of the nicest running roads in Flagstaff, in my opinion, right outside my front door: Woody Mountain Road. Woody is a wide forest road of undulating hills and great footing – really nice soft-packed dirt that’s great for recovery. Sometimes I run straight from my house on pavement for about a mile to get there, but today I wanted all soft terrain to help my legs recover better from the big block of training we just put in. On these easy runs I don’t think too much about a pace and tend to let the body dictate the run by effort. It’s heating up some in Flagstaff this time of year, so I enjoyed a nice and relaxing jog, 3 miles out and back, on the dirt. Bonus was that I ran into my training partner, Danielle Shanahan, who I can’t wait to reunite with once we can! The week is off to a great start! 

After getting home and getting some fuel in (veggie and halloumi tacos to be exact – AND COFFEE), I went straight into a strength session provided by AJ and Wes Gregg at Hypo2 Chiropractic. In normal times, NAZ meets as a team every Monday and Thursday for a strength session, but until we can meet as a group again, AJ and Wes have been sending us a biweekly strength workout to do at home. Much like the run, today’s session wasn’t as long or as detailed as it normally is to enhance recovery and simulate an upcoming race effort. I feel so strong after working with Wes and AJ twice a week since January. I’ve really enjoyed those meetings as a team and it’s one of the many things I look forward to getting back to, hopefully soon! Today the session included spine mobility, explosive squats, bird dogs and side planks, and lots of band work focused on hip and ankle mobility. 

Many times per week I do some sort of meditation practice. Our team has been meeting once a week for a group focus session on Thursdays with Shannon Thompson, out of Hypo2. Pre-COVID, this was in person up at the Hypo2 facility and we still meet once a week now in isolation through Zoom Meetings. I love that we still “meet” as a team at least once a week, it’s helped to keep some sense of normalcy! I’ve found the meditations we’ve been learning to be very useful to my training as of late — I have been focusing on different kinds of relaxation meditations that I use before bed, and meditations directed toward controlling thought patterns, being focused, and race visualization. 

Photo: Lauren Paquette

 Tuesday, April 28

AM: Easy Run – 4 miles (30 minutes, HOKA Carbon X) + drills/strides

PM: Mobility (30 minutes) + Thought Meditation (6 minutes)

Pretty light day on the schedule! My husband, Max, and I went out to a route in Flagstaff called Mailboxes for an easy 4 miles this morning. Like most of the runs here, this one is also wide rolling dirt roads that passes lots of pretty farmsteads and campsites. We’re just shaking the legs out today and doing some drills and easy strides afterward to keep the body primed for tomorrow’s hard 5k effort! It’s starting to heat up in Flagstaff — literally and metaphorically. 

This afternoon I went through my mobility routine. It takes about 30 minutes and really helps to loosen my body up from the pounding I give it through running — and helps me recover better from run to run. My routine consists of lots of ankle and foot flexibility and mobilization, and lots of hip and back stretches. This is something that I wish I had done more of when I was younger, and I truly believe it’s helping to prolong my time in this sport. It’s not sexy, but well worth every second it adds to my running career! After this, I spent a couple of minutes meditating before dinner (lemon-basil pasta with cherry tomatoes and skillet chicken). 

Photo: Lauren Paquette

Wednesday, April 29

AM: 3-mile warmup, drills/strides, NYRR Virtual solo 5k/inter-squad competition with Rory Linkletter, 3-mile cool-down (1 hour, HOKA Rincon + Rocket X)

It’s RACE DAY! Or, at least, the closest thing to it we’ll have anytime soon!

I woke up to a super sunny and windy Flagstaff day. I warmed up for 3 miles at the same place I ran yesterday – the start line of where we are running our 5ks is right across the road from Mailboxes. I did a few drills and short strides like I do before every race and workout to get my body primed and loose. Right before the proverbial “gun” went off, Ben came by to give us final instructions. Today turned out to be a brutally windy one so he suggested scaling back the pace to respect the elements a bit more.

I came through the first mile at about 5:20, right on pace — but then slowly started to lose steam as I got further along into the time trial into a headwind. I came through the second mile in 5:30 and then a 5:40 for the last one and finishing in 17:09 for 5k – definitely off the mark we had set today!

Just like you can’t choose your weather on race day, we can’t choose our weather for every workout either! I fought hard in the conditions and am looking forward to another go at a 5k time trial in about a month’s time.

Rory battled the Flagstaff springtime conditions as well but finished in 15:04, which means he won the battle for the day. We were both disappointed with the end times on the day, but today wasn’t necessarily all about us—it was more about providing some entertainment and giving people who follow along with the athletes’ journeys on NAZ Elite something to get excited about! Judging from the positive feedback we both received after this challenge, it was a good day at the office after all. If nothing else, it was great to see a few of our teammates from safe distances out there doing their own workouts and cheering each of us on. Hopefully we’ll be reunited soon!

Photo: Lauren Paquette

Thursday, April 30

Rest Day

I had an off day today where I did nothing running related! Sometimes on my rest days from training I will do a little bit of mobility and meditation, but today I took completely off. That doesn’t mean I sit in the house all day though – typically on my rest days I still get outside and get moving – usually by going on a hike with my husband and the dogs (I have a miniature Australian Shepherd named Baylor, and Nimbus, a German shepherd/husky mix) on one of Flagstaff’s or Sedona’s many gorgeous hiking trails. This morning Max and I got out early with the pups and did a short hike up on Campbell Mesa.

I find that on off days where I don’t do anything active at all, I tend to feel groggy and kind of like I’m underwater. Even if it’s just a short plod around the neighborhood with the pups, I prefer to engage in this type of active recovery — plus, I’ve just gotta be outside because it makes me happy. I enjoy the much-needed rest and recovery these off days give my body and mind, but by the end of the day, I’m always itching to lace up the running shoes and get back to work. 

Friday, May 1

AM: Easy Run – 8 miles (57 minutes, HOKA Clifton 6)

PM: Mobility (15 minutes) + Progressive Muscle Relaxation (1 minute)

Max and I decided to run a neighborhood route out by Walnut Canyon today. I felt great after essentially 48 hours off from training. Nothing too fancy for today, but glad to have Max biking with me for company on his last day in Flagstaff. We’ve been doing long-distance for a bit since January, but since the shutdown he got to come and be with me in Flagstaff for the past month. My husband is a professor at the University of Memphis and all of his classes have been online, so it didn’t make a difference whether he was here or there — a small silver lining through all of this! 

This afternoon I had a Zoom meeting with Ben to talk training and the tentative outline for the next few months and I am stoked! Before I joined the team, Steph Bruce told me it would most likely be the hardest training I’ve ever done and, so far, she’s been right. May through August looks no different!

Before dinner I did a bit of mobility and spent some time engaging in PMR (Progressive Muscle Relaxation) — a relaxation method that helps you relieve tension. It was kind of hard to relieve too much tension tonight because I was so excited to hear what Ben has in store for us!

Dirt trail with mountain in backdrop.
Photo: Lauren Paquette

Saturday, May 2

AM: Long Run – 16 miles (1 hour 54 minutes, HOKA Mach 3)

PM: Strength (40 minutes) + Thought Meditation (6 minutes)

After saying goodbye to Max this morning, I headed out to yet another one of Flagstaff’s many dirt forest roads; A1 Mountain Road. I have only made it out 4 miles and back on this road as of yet, so I was excited to have a new section of the trail to explore. I went out 8 and came back 8 — the first 7 miles out on this run is mostly uphill, with mile 8 being a steep downhill. The downhills are nice — but then you have to come back up! Once I was past mile 9’s uphill climb, I was home free for 7 miles of net downhill.

In my opinion, of the routes I’ve gone long on so far in Flagstaff (Bellemont, Woody Mountain, Mailboxes, Mountainaire, A1, Hart Prairie), A1 Mountain is second in difficulty only to Hart Prairie (a super steep hilly run starting at 8,000 feet in elevation). I’m happy that today’s long run felt pretty good after the 5k on Wednesday and the last several weeks of stacked training. I definitely took an epic nap after I got home and got some fuel in me (leftover chorizo beet hash with eggs and potatoes from Tourist Home take-out). I take a nap almost every day, but this one was money.

I woke up to a new strength program from AJ with a bunch of new exercises on it — like single-leg hamstring eccentric sliders — OUCH. I did some meditation after this and called it a day in the training log.

Sunday, May 3

AM: Easy Run – 8.5 miles (66 minutes, HOKA Clifton 6) + Mobility (23 minutes) + Breath Meditation (6 minutes)

I went out to the base of Elden Mountain and did some trail-running today! When I run trails, I could care less what my pace is — I’m more just happy to be outside and moving! My legs were assuredly beat up from the A1 long run/strength combo; even more reason for me to take it easy today and go soft surface. The wind is pretty unavoidable this time of year in Flag, which made for a pretty dusty run as well. Like most days, after my run I did some meditation and some of my mobility routine. Tomorrow we are back to a normal week’s training schedule with two workouts, a long run, some doubles, strength sessions and all the easy runs mixed in as well. Happy training!

Week Summary

Total miles for the week: 52 miles

Highlights:

  • 1 HARD effort: NYRR Virtual 5k and inter-squad competition with teammate Rory Linkletter
  • 2 hours 45 minutes Strength/Mobility
  • 45 minutes meditation
  • 45 minutes hiking