I've been running for a few years now, but I still struggle with speedwork. I use an online training plan generator that takes previous race time and distance, target race distance, weekly distance, and schedule duration to generate a running plan that includes easy runs, tempo runs, speedwork, and rest or cross-training days.
My training plan is based on a four week cycle. Monday is an easy run, Tuesday is an easy run on weeks 1-3 and rest/XT on week 4, Wednesday is speedwork on week 1 and 3 or tempo run on week 2 or an easy run on week 4, Thursday is an easy run, Friday is rest or cross train, Saturday is long run, and Sunday is rest or cross train. The plan also builds speed throughout, across all the workouts. Distance also increases. Total weekly distances range from 22 miles/week to 35 miles/week. The plan deviates slightly at the end, close to the race.
When I'm on a treadmill, I tend to adjust the plan paces based on something like this conversion chart to account for the fact it's slightly easier to run on a treadmill than outside.
I rarely take a rest day, opting for strength training and/or some time on an elliptical (usually strength + 15 minutes elliptical but sometimes 30 minutes elliptical or 30 minutes arc trainer). I do tend to take the rest days as rest days early on in the plan (which is usually following a race), very late in the plan (the week or two before a race), or if I'm not feeling well for any reason to avoid pushing myself too hard.
To give an idea of where I stand, my 5k PR is 29:00, my 10k PR is 1:09:51, my 15k PR is 1:57:21, and my half PR is 2:35:07. Unfortunately, last year, I was coming off an injury. I was healed before the spring, but my winter training was almost nonexistent so my times were far worse. Last years times were 32:55 for 5k (April 2016), 1:17:35 for 10k (June 2016), and 2:53:03 for a half (November 2016).
Based on my training, I'm edging close to a 5k PR this coming April. My easy runs on a treadmill are recently around 10:50-11:10/mile. I could probably even push that up a little and be comfortable. I've only had the weather for one good outdoor run, and it was an easy run around 11:30/mile. My tempo runs are around 3-4 miles long and I'm running at around 9:40/mile.
Even though my easy and tempo runs distances and times are projecting a near PR, my speedwork runs are terrible. Today, I was scheduled for a speedwork run that consisted of a warm up, and 5 0.5 mile intervals at 8:20/mile, each followed by a 0.25 mile recovery interval (I used a pace of about 11:30/mile), and a cooldown for a total distance of 6 miles. By the middle of the third speed interval, I was physically worn down.
Am I doing something wrong in my speedwork if I'm able to complete my easy and tempo runs on plan (and sometimes better than plan), yet struggle with my planned speedwork?
What can I do to specifically improve my speedwork without huge deviations from my plan which is tailored to my upcoming 5k race? Are there any modifications I can make on training days that call for speedwork?