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Bringing Back Speed

January 31, 2011

I’m back on some semblance of a training schedule. With twenty training days until race day, it can’t come too soon. Today’s workout called for three mile repeats at 5k pace. Since I’m just coming back from an injury, I have no idea what my 5k pace is. My PR, which is really old, is 7:34. These days I’m happy to run a 5k at anything close to 8-minute pace. But again, I’m just building back up. So I figured I’d run my repeats closer to 8:15 to 8:30 pace. First of all, I reasoned, I don’t want to get hurt, and also, I don’t to end up discouraged shooting for a pace that’s just unreasonable.

I did a one-mile warmup, and that mile was slow and tiring–10:30 pace. This did not bode well for my dream 8:15 pace. When I started that first repeat I concentrated on my breathing and my form. Run tall, minimize wasted motion. Land on your forefoot, don’t overextend your stride. I always run my repeats on the same stretch of road, so I know where the quarter-mile markers are; and I watched them tick off, knowing when to hold back, when to dial in. When Garmie finally beeped at me: Okay, you can rest for a quarter-mile, I sighed, and heaved, and looked down, prepared for discouragement: I’d run that first repeat at 8:01 pace.

The next two came in faster: 7:54 and 7:55. I was happily exhausted when I got home.  I got even happier when I glanced at the blackboard where I keep my training schedule, which still has my mile repeats from my marathon training cycle. When I started training for Space Coast in August, my first session of mile repeats was slower than today: 8:04, 8:08, and 7:53.

Today, we start a new chart.

The Boss wants me to be cautious: You don’t want to peak too early, he says.* He’s right, of course. But the Florida racing season will work in my favor: after Gasparilla, long races will largely dry up here, and I’ll be unable to race another half marathon until at least September, maybe even October.

I’m starting to dream of speed again . . .


*He means too early in the training season. Runners improve steadily for a period of weeks, but after a while fitness and speed gains will plateau. The key is to time your racing so that you strike while the iron is hot, running your key events when your body is in prime condition. By the time I’d finished running the speed-sharpening phase of my marathon training cycle, eight weeks after that first speed session, my mile times had dropped to 7:50, 7:40, 7:43, 7:41, 7:27–more repeats in faster times. It was one of the reasons dropping out of the marathon was so frustrating: my body felt ready to run 26.2 miles, and to run them relatively fast.

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