Blog Main 700×394 Harmbee Project V2 1.jpgwidth700height394ext

The Harambee Project: Analyzing a Pyramid Workout

BY Ryan Bolton

Project Harambee athlete Simegn Abnet will be running the L.A. Marathon on March 15th. Take a look at a key workout she performed along with analysis from her coach, Ryan Bolton.

This late base/early build phase workout is intended to start introducing athletes to race pace tempo work while also continuing to build base and strength. I start implementing this workout after an athlete has built up a good base and is now getting ready for higher intensity tempo and speed work. Aside from the athlete’s “long run” of the week, this would be the second longest, usually ran on a Tuesday or Wednesday. For Project Harmabee athlete Simegn Abnet, this workout will help her as she builds toward the L.A. Marathon.

The Workout: Mid-Distance Pyramid with 20 minute segments

Done on January 6th, this workout was written in Training Peaks as: Pyramid Mid-Distance (1:40): 20 minutes warm up. Then, 20 minutes at 6:15 pace, 20 minutes at 5:30 to 5:40 pace, 20 minutes at 6:15, 20 minutes cool down (7:00 or so pace).

Pacing for this workout is calculated as follows: The first 20 minutes are easy and for warming up. The second and fourth 20 minutes are at 85 percent of goal race pace, or zone 3 heart rate. The third 20 minutes is at 95 percent of goal race pace, or up to high zone 4 heart rate. The final minutes is cool down.

These pacing percentages are based on a person training for a marathon and as written this is a pretty long workout at 1:40 total time. However, this workout can be amended based on an athlete’s race distance and current fitness level. For example, 15 minute segments can be done making it a 1:15 run (great for Half marathon training) and 10 minute segments can be done making it a 50 minute run (great for 10k training). As the distance is shortened, the intensity can be higher. That’s why the 50 minute run (10 minute segments) is applicable to a 10k race pace.


This workout was performed in early January, which was the late Base phase of Abnet’s training for the Los Angeles marathon on March 15th. At this point her fitness was starting to come around, but higher intensity speed work had not been introduced and we were just getting into a phase of working on tempo and strength. The goal paces for Abnet were based on goal race pace in Los Angeles; 2:26:00.

This workout is best incorporated into the training cycle in a late Base period and into Build 1. The main goal of this workout is to build up to near race pace (1st and 2nd segments), hold strong and steady and start “learning” race pace (middle segment), come off race pace and continue to hold strong (4th segment) and then cool down (5th segment). It allows for some good 2 to 4 zone heart rate work and some solid base training. I believe that the most important segment of this run is the 4th. If an athlete has realistic goal paces set, getting up to and holding near race pace through the 3rd segment is very doable. It’s one hour into the workout and after a good 40 minutes of decent pace work that the body starts getting fatigued. Therefore, it’s important to monitor pacing very closely in the 4th segment to make sure the athlete is holding a good pace (85% of goal race pace). This is where the bigger work comes in.


Abnet, an Ethiopian woman, ran this workout with three other athletes; two Kenyan women and one American male. Everyone had similar goal times to hit, and, thus, all ran together for most of the workout.

The workout was ran at Cochiti Reservoir, just outside of Santa Fe, NM at approximately 6000 feet in altitude. This is an out and back course that is generally flat. For tempo type runs like this where very specific paces are observed, I prefer flat terrain. We ran in the morning around 8:30 a.m. with an air temp of around 40 degrees and calm. Heart rate was not monitored. Goal times were discussed prior to the start of the workout and I was on my bike monitoring pace and effort.

Results of the Workout

See Abnet’s full run file for additional specifics.

1st 20 minute segment: (20 minutes of warm up followed by 5 minutes of standing/stretching/prepping for the main segments). 7:44 per mile average pace; 2.59 miles. A nice and easy warm up. You can see that Abnet built the pace gradually over the warm up and ended around 7:00 pace.

2nd 20 minute segment: 6:10 per mile average pace; 3.19 miles. The prescribed pace was 6:15, so she was just a bit under here. Still, steady and in control. This is the emphasis of this segment. Keep it light, in control, but fast. Looking great at this point of the workout.

3rd 20 minute segment: 5:37 per mile average pace; 3.56 miles. Steady, smooth and fast. This was a very evenly split segment. Exactly as planned and executed perfectly.

4th 20 minute segment: 6:13 per mile average pace; 3.23 miles. As mentioned above, this is the hardest and most significant segment of this run. If you break the TrainingPeaks file down more specifically, you’ll notice that the first mile of this section was also right at 6:13 pace. This shows good discipline from the athlete. The first part of this segment is often the hardest due to coming off the harder pace and getting back in control. As a coach, this is the most important part of the workout to watch and ensure that the athletes get right back on pace.

This segment was at a slightly slower (3 seconds per mile pace) than the 2nd 20 minute segment (which was prescribed to be the same speed). This difference is insignificant and I would say the athlete accomplished their goal here. However, if pacing is off by 10 or more seconds per mile in this segment over the 2nd segment that means that goal pace times were too fast or the athlete ran their 3rd segment too hard.

5th 20 minute segment: 7:29 per mile average pace; 2.52 miles. A good cool down home.

Overall time and distance: 1:38:41 and 15.09 miles.


This is a pretty basic workout and the results showed that. We weren’t overly aggressive with goal times, so Abnet was able to hold the paces prescribed without having to reach. Overall, a good solid mid-distance run with some near race pace work. This was the beginning of laying down a good race pace foundation that would be built upon in later workouts.

Post Script

Abnet is running the L.A. Marathon on March 15th. She has been very healthy since this workout and has now put in some very solid additional training. Look for her to be with the leaders throughout the race and contending for a top three finish.

Avatar1501791502 7
About Ryan Bolton

Ryan Bolton is the Founder/Director/Head Coach of Bolton Endurance Sports Training (B.E.S.T.) and The Harmabee Project based in Santa Fe, NM. He is also an elite level coach with Training Bible Coaching. After a successful college running career that included All-American and Academic All-American honors, Bolton became a professional triathlete with a sole focus of competing in the Olympic Games. In 2000, Ryan represented the United States in the Sydney Olympics and then went on to compete at a top level in long course triathlon racing. In 2004, Bolton received an MS in Human Nutrition, with an emphasis on stress metabolism in 2006. Combined with his BA in Exercise physiology and long term background in endurance sports, this education provided Ryan with a perfect background for top level coaching. To contact Ryan, email him at, and follow him on Twitter @CoachRyanBolton.