I've had some great workouts recently, primarily the ones with my team-- Capital Area Runners. Given how warm it was this winter and earlier in the season, I've been pleasantly surprised by the perfect running weather we've had over the past few weeks. I'm still having to wear gloves and long sleeves on some of my runs, and I love that!
I'll focus on my three "quality" workouts over the past week.
Sunday, April 22: 10-mile Progression Run
I was registered for the GW Parkway Classic 10-miler. My coach suggested that instead of racing it, that I make it into a quality workout. The race course is on a concrete surface (not as much "give" as asphalt) with a lot of rolling hills so it can really trash the legs. Since I already had a solid 10-mile PR for the season, I was totally fine with not racing this one all out. Greg didn't want to race it at full effort either, so we ran together.
My coach's suggestion was to run the first 3 miles as an easy warmup, the next 3 at marathon pace, and the last 4 at half marathon/10-mile race pace. I was more than happy to comply and Greg ran it with me at these paces.
We got to the race, it was drizzling and in the mid 50's. We ran a 15-minute warmup just to get some extra mileage in, since this race was in place of a long run.
Mile 1: 8:16
Mile 2: 8:25
Mile 3: 8:35
It looks like I went out too fast here, but the first mile is entirely downhill and I always run based on effort. If it was an uphill mile, it probably would have been 9:16.
Mile 4: 8:19
Mile 5: 8:14
Mile 6: 7:47
Mile 6 was another completely downhill mile, so even though it looks to be much faster than MP, the effort was consistent with miles 4 and 5.
Mile 7: 7:42
Mile 8: 7:47
Mile 9: 7:55
Mile 10: 7:33
Mile 9 sucked. It was mainly uphill and there was a noticeable headwind. I was actually pretty discouraged that I wasn't running any faster here. After all, my 10-mile PR pace is 7:34, and I couldn't even do 4 miles at that pace?! But I eventually came to my senses and realized that tempo pace is tempo pace. It's going to be hard even if you haven't just come off 7 previous miles at that pace. Especially up a hill.
My finish time was 1:20:48 at an average pace of 8:05. I was disappointed in my last few miles, but when I woke up the next morning and my legs didn't feel even a hint of soreness, I realized that I definitely could have run harder, and it was good that I didn't overexert myself. My coach also pointed out that my first mile of the "easy warmup" section was faster than the first mile of the MP section, which wasn't according to the plan. Of course I retorted that it was a downhill, but I probably should have saved up more juice.
Tuesday, April 24: Track Intervals
I had such a great workout just two days after the 10-miler, that I was even more satisfied with my decision to not race the 10-miler. I was happy to have peppy legs and plenty of energy left to crank out some fast intervals. The workout was a ladder: 400m, 800m, 1200m, 1200m, 800m, 400m, with 1/2 distance recovery jogs.
Interestingly, the 1200m intervals were close in pace to the 800's. One thing I've noticed about my running is that I am able to maintain a challenging pace for a good distance, but it's hard for me to speed up. I've run quite a few races where I felt like I could have continued on for another mile or so at my pace, but I just couldn't push it any faster. This summer, I am hoping to push more for speed with shorter track intervals and short races.
Even though lately I've been excelling more at shorter distances, I think my body is built more for endurance than speed. When I had a VO2 max test, the exercise physiologist said that I was in the 10% of runners who actually do better in longer races. This is because my body works aerobically at a higher percentage of my max heart rate. Ironically, I have yet to prove this with the marathon, but a few years back, my longer races were always "faster" than my shorter ones, according to the various calculators. I've often set shorter distance PRs within longer races.
Ultimately, it's hard to truly figure it out because so much depends on what your body is capable of on that particular day. There's really a lack of research and studies on many things regarding running performance because you can never replicate racing conditions 100%. Okay, enough of that tangent. Point is, I want to be able to push harder in shorter races.
Friday, April 27: Tempo Run
My coach had most of us run a 5K tempo on the track. I really like the idea of a 5K tempo versus just 3 miles, because then you can really practice hammering that last 0.1. My target tempo pace for a 5K is around 7:11, but lately I haven't been paying much attention to targets (all of the above paces were faster than target) and running based on feel.
Mile 1: 7:11
Mile 2: 7:10
Mile 3: 7:03
0.1: (6:35 pace)
My time was 22:03, which was a bit surprising to me given the effort level. I didn't feel like I was really pushing until the last two laps, and my heart rate stayed at the lower end of my tempo range. It certainly wasn't easy-- tempo runs never are. I practiced staying focused and relaxed and that helped the laps fly by.
This morning I woke up and my legs felt like new, which further validated that even though I ran my fastest tempo ever, I didn't overdo it. I went out for 11 miles at a moderate pace and it felt fantastic. I can't emphasize enough how much I love this cool weather!