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Half-Mile Intervals at (Snort) 5K Pace

July 2, 2009

That was the goal. My PR 5K pace is 7:34. But that was set back in December, in decidedly better atmospheric conditions. So the goal was to run 5 reps of a half mile, with quarter-mile recoveries, at about 7:45 pace, which is what I’d love to run my next 5K at.

Set out with a mile’s warm-up. I generally run mile repeats at 5K pace, so I figured half-miles would feel easy.

Ha! It was 78 degrees when I set out, with 93% humidity. The first half was appropriately tough, and I ran it at 7:57–far from goal pace. I walked for almost the full recovery and when Garmie told me it was time to bear down again I focused on controlling my stride and quickening my pace for another half mile–a long half mile. Better this time: 7:38. Another quarter-mile walk and then repeat the torture. I managed to lower my pace again, by four seconds: 7:34.

This time, as I’m walking my recovery, I’m feeling incredibly tired. Not only am I sweaty and feeling the run, but my legs are tired. I can feel how I’m really using my upper legs to lift and drive my stride, and they’re feeling the work. But Garmie’s beeping again, and it’s go time for the next repeat. Down the straightaway I go, thinking control: it’s not a sprint, but a half-mile race, so it must be run at a pace I can hold for that distance, and at this point, 7:30 doesn’t feel like a pace I can hold that long.

Running this, I remember an article in my last Runner’s World, about an older runner who was trying to improve his 5K times by running with some high school track teams. In conversation, they discussed how the hardest interval isn’t the last, but the next-to-last. In the last interval, you can cut loose and run your fastest: you know you can be dead for your cooldown. But in that penultimate interval, you have to hold back some energy for the last one. I knew intimately what they meant on that fourth half-mile repeat. I was exhausted and spent, and I knew I had enough in me for one last 7:25 or so. But I didn’t know if I had enough in me for two 7:40s. It’s not quite the same thing, and I’m not sure if that makes sense.

Fourth interval came in at 7:32, and when it was over, I dragged myself over to the coolest water fountains in our neighborhood and had two long drags before starting to jog again. Last interval starting soon: now there was no need to save energy.

However, it was the longest half-mile I’d ever known. For this repeat I checked neither distance nor pace, but just ran as controlled as I could until Garmie beeped. In spite of this, I was tired, and barely hanging on when Garmie began his slow beep, beep, beep . . . telling me it was almost time to stop. Time for that last rep: 7:30.

So, things I’m pleased about: that the reps were run progressively faster, and that I didn’t quit, even in the face of my dogged tiredness, and the unbelievably unfriendly conditions. I’m discouraged by what the workout proves, which is that I’m so far behind from where I was six months ago. I couldn’t run a 23:28 5K today even on the flattest, straightest course–and the race in two weeks is on a decidedly un-flat, un-straight course.

There will be no PR at the Dreher Park Run.

As for the rest of my racing calendar this year, it’s shaping up to be busy, as long as the finances are available: I may run the Women’s Half Marathon in St. Petersburg, and then the most convenient Florida marathon in December, either Palm Beach on December 6 or Jacksonville on December 20. In February, I’d like to run the Tallahassee Half and the Sunrise to Sunset Relay in March. Though it seems like a faraway dream, it is still a fantasy of mine to one March complete the Bud Lite Challenge at Gasparilla by running the 5K and 15K Saturday and the Half Marathon on Sunday.

All these winter and spring races make it unlikely that I will get a winter 5 or 10K to PR in, unless I can find a way to get faster in 90º, 90% humidity. It’s too bad, because I think my legs are still a sprinter’s legs at heart.

*The advantage of the Palm Beach race is that it’s local and flat, but it’s not a very scenic course and tends to be hot, and, of course, it’s only two weeks post-half; the Jacksonville race, meanwhile, would require a hotel stay, but it gives me more recovery time post-half.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 2, 2009 3:16 pm

    That’s some humidity!!!! Wow. But the temp sounds heavenly! 🙂

    I am darn impressed with your splits. WOW!

  2. the Ringmaster permalink*
    July 3, 2009 3:00 pm

    Thanks, Susan. I’m discouraged because not long ago I could hold that pace for so much longer. But I suppose I de-trained from speed during my marathon training, so I shouldn’t be surprised. And my long-term focus, really, is to PR at the half and the marathon, so . . . one step at a time!

  3. July 10, 2009 5:36 pm

    Hmmmm. I must have read something wrong. In the first paragraph, you said, …the goal was to run 5 reps of a half mile, with quarter-mile recoveries, at about 7:45 pace….. Your split pacess were:

    7:57
    7:38
    7:34
    7:32
    7:30

    First, those are negative splits which a really good thing. Second, your average pace was 7:37 which is 8 seconds faster than what you stated as your goal. Third, there is a HUGE difference in running in winter weather and running in 78° and 93% humidity. That’s a great temp for just sitting around outside but it’s hot and humid and energy-sapping for running.

    Looks to me like you did extremely well.

  4. the Ringmaster permalink*
    July 12, 2009 7:45 pm

    Bob, I needed your sound words. You’re right. I set a goal and then I met it. Though it wasn’t at the speed I’d have run the intervals in cooler weather, I did adjust my expectations, and I need to be happy when I meet my goals instead of constantly finding fault with my performance. Thanks for your encouragement–you worded it just right. I’d missed you around here, and you picked the perfect time to come back! 🙂

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