I’m finally getting back in the swing of things after cross country earlier this month. I took a little bit of time to reset after a weekend that absolutely destroyed my body. Even though the distance was only a 10k, my body ached as if I had run a marathon and I was sore for a full 5 days afterwards.
I used this time to catch up with friends, family, and my coach, and to be a little bit more social than normal. We celebrated my dad’s 70th (!) birthday at Swingbelly’s in Michigan City, Dave and I had date night at Miller Bakery Cafe, and my coach and I planned my next phase of training over beer and fondue chips at Shoreline Brewery. Valentine’s Day was also a wonderful feast filled with plenty of red meat, red wine, and dark chocolate.
In the past couple weeks I backed off on quality work, which seemed to be exactly what my body needed. I have had a lot of time to reflect on the past couple training cycles and think about the future. I think the biggest thing I am lacking right now is speed, or at least the confidence that I have more top-end speed than I normally give myself credit for. I think this has been holding me back a little bit in my recent races.
Even though I didn’t run any structured workouts in the past couple weeks, I did let my body dictate when it wanted to go fast, which has been mostly in the form of progression runs. Two weeks ago when I was in my hometown I was extremely pleased that on a windy day I averaged 7:09 pace for 16 miles, starting with a 7:40 mile and finishing with a 5:25. This past weekend I ran 18 miles and averaged 6:31 pace with the final mile at 5:27. I have never casually finished long runs like this. It also puts into perspective my hesitancy to take races out faster than 5:45 pace when I can finish these long runs so fast.
When chatting with my coach last weekend he outlined for me the workouts he believed would help me get past some of the struggles I have had recently, and I think they are exactly what I need. One component is mile repeats. Now, I have a complicated relationship with mile repeats. I really enjoy them – when they are going well. Unfortunately, I have had a some bad mile repeat workouts recently, which made me not so excited for them. Nevertheless, I knew my coach was absolutely right in recommending them.
Today was the first of the mile repeat workouts, and I was grumpy all day because I was somewhat dreading the workout. I have a tendency to sabotage my training by not setting myself up for 100% success. For instance, the goal of this workout was to be fast. That means the track makes the most sense. For much of the day I tried to talk myself into a favorite road loop of mine, because I am far more comfortable on roads than the track.
The other advantage? It’s easier to blame an off workout on running on roads than it is when you’re on the track. I forced myself to stick with the track, though, and that was making me cranky because I knew it was going to hurt more and I would have nowhere to hide if it didn’t go well. I also knew I had to woman up and face it.
I got to the track and warmed up, visualizing fast times. There really wasn’t a set time to hit, other than to be fast. I am trying to break out of the tendency I have to start very conservatively and then drop a ton of time as the workout progresses out of fear of slowing down or failing midway through. For this workout, I had 8 minute recovery to assist in the goal of fast times. Initially, my coach threw out 5:15 – 5:20 as a goal range, but to not be surprised if I ran faster.
First rep: 5:15. Thoughts: that didn’t feel as bad as I thought it would. Even if I can’t do it again, at least I can say I did it once and we’ll have a starting point.
Second rep: 5:13. Thoughts: that didn’t feel as bad as I thought it would. Even if I can’t do it again, at least I can say I did it twice and we’ll have a starting point.
Third rep: 5:13. Thoughts: These are a lot more fun when they go well. I only have one to go and I am killing this workout.
Fourth rep: 5:10. Thoughts: I am a lot faster than I thought I was.
This is not the type of workout I would ever give myself without a coach. It is clearly out of my marathoner comfort zone, which is to run a lot of miles right around marathon pace, with limited rest. For reference, my outdoor 1600 PR is 5:06, and my indoor mile PR is also 5:06, but I think I might of split faster in a DMR (hardly counts). Also, I haven’t raced a mile in almost 7 years, so those times aren’t exactly accurate of my ability. However, I don’t think I have ever run faster than 5:28 during a mile repeat workout.
During my final repeat, when I was checking my splits at various points, I had a cool reflective moment. It was not long ago that I was struggling to hit 8 x 200 in 38 (May 2016). It was not long ago that I was ecstatic over 12 x 400 in 80 (July 2016). In September 2016 I ran 8 x 600 in 1:57 – 2:00 and was super happy. Today I hit all of my 600 m splits in 1:55. Also in September 2016 I attempted 5 x 1600 on the track in 5:40, and couldn’t break 5:55 to save my life (although that was also heat/humidity related). It has been a long road to get back to a point where I feel like I am in just as good of shape – if not better – as I was prior to the trials, but I think I’m finally there.