Tag Archives: intervals

Oops…So That’s How You Do Those

Strides And Drills
The other day, Adam alerted me to a video on Diagonals.  I asked him what was so special about them, it looked like strides to me and he replied “It’s strides, basically, but with continual running.”  To which I responded, “Isn’t that how you’re supposed to do strides?”  Um…no.

Apparently, I’ve been doing strides wrong from the get-go.  What I understood as “full recovery between” I always thought meant easy running till your heart settles down so I’d start them a couple miles from the end of my run, doing them in a string as I made my way home, with normal easy pace between.  But in reality, you’re supposed to walk or shuffle between them, as in FULL full recovery.  I’d been making them somewhat aerobic and they shouldn’t be.  Not a major loss, since the Diagonals workout is good enough for Kenyans, it’s good enough for me, but I’m going to do them properly from this point on.

Aside from that, today was pretty interesting as I did something I’ve avoided for 3 years…drills.  It’s another thing Coach Adam/A Muse has been trying to get me to do but I’d been resisting.  I knew full well I could benefit from them but the things that kept me from doing them were:
1. Back in 2008 I tried some when I had a bad ankle and stupid me didn’t realize all that bouncing (they’re pretty much all ankle-centric) would make it worse so I ended up with a long-term ankle hurty thing.  Kinda scared me about doing them again.
2. Being a late-starter with nobody ever showing me what “real” runners do, I didn’t trust myself to do them correctly
3. I was not thrilled with looking like a crazy idiot in the park

#1 is not a useable excuse anymore and for #2, I watched a few videos several times and practiced in my apartment to get the idea of them and for #3, I finally figured out an excellent place to do them, not in the midst of the park and only .5mi from home (and once I move, it’ll be only a block away) on a flat patch of grass.  No more excuses.

So as today’s 17-miler came to a close, I reached the place I’d chosen, paused the Garmin and did 2 skipping, 2 high knees and 2 butt kicks plus 3 strides.  I felt quite accomplished afterwards and plan on doing them a couple times a week, eventually expanding my repertoire, as well.  Here are a few videos if you’re interested: Lauren Fleshman, Pete Magill, Jabari Pride and there are tons more on YouTube besides these.

A Strange Speed Workout
I almost published an entire post on yesterday’s workout, complete with dark, depressing thoughts of how much I suck.  But I’m totally over it.  I’m great.  Life is good.

It was my first real speed session in many, many months, so I wasn’t expecting a lot and it probably didn’t help that the previous day was a miserably-humid 15-miler that ended with me counting down the final miles home.  I was nervous about the session (6x½ miles w/2min rec’s) but still, I figured I’d come close to a 5k pace target.  But no.  Much to my chagrin, I was stuck around 10k pace and could not go faster!  After 4 reps, I switched over to 4 x ¼mi with 1min rec’s in hopes the shorter distance would help me speed up but alas, it did not.

It was 76 degrees, so that would have been a slowdown factor, and maybe the previous day’s 15-miler didn’t help, but excuses aside, it was supremely disappointing.  Only a few weeks previously, before the achilles/knee interruption, my speed had dropped on those on/offs to where I was hitting 5k pace and faster, and now once again I seemed to be missing the 5K gear.

But here’s the good news: Yesterday afternoon, while feeling loserish and weirded out about it, I went back in my logs and realized that even if “fast” is eluding me right now, my heart rate improvement is kind of astounding…but weird.

In all the 800s I used to do, (including 2 sessions I did a year ago in similar conditions at the same pace as yesterday) I always averaged a heart rate around 181 and maxed around 191 – that’s my usual interval HR range.  Yesterday? I averaged 169 and maxed at 177.  We’re talking a 12-14bpm difference.  In fact, the highest I’ve been able to get my HR this whole season is 181 and that was once.  So I’m simultaneously appreciative and weirded out, because it’s just plain strange.

So while it’s hugely aggravating that I’m unable to break through to that higher HR zone (I mean really, isn’t it weird?) instead of worrying about it as I did yesterday and wondering if I somehow ruined the way my heart works because of all that easy running, today I’m sane again and think that all I need are a couple more weeks of intervals and tempos and that missing 5k gear will be mine.  If nothing else, this is certainly an interesting situation.

Time To Believe

Writing a blog is such a narcissistic endeavor, a constant collection of me me me and this blog is probably worse than most (see? I just made myself even more special by calling myself more irritating).

Sometimes I embarrass myself with what I write but enough of you come back that I like to think it strikes a chord or two beyond the me-ness.  I always hope that whatever I jabber on about has some value to someone somewhere, whether applicable to your own experiences or for a “well at least I’m not as crazy as she is.”

I’ve written a lot of posts on the emotional side of running, though many never get as far as the Publish button because sometimes I think I’m just rehashing the same worries and wonders.  If this post seems like that to you, I’m sorry, it probably is.  But I’m putting it online anyway because it feels as though something new is happening and I want to document what I’m going through.

It actually came from a really fun day, yesterday, where I spent hours on the internet reading articles and forum archives on mileage-building success stories to threads about training without interval work (a fantastic thread, btw!) to all kinds of testimonials proving how different our training needs might be while at the same time, noting the universal threads that tie us together.  And what struck me over and over again is how people keep getting faster for years, even decades into the sport – that it’s a given, really.  It was extremely motivating.

So here’s the deal…
Something is happening to me in the improvement department. I’ve alluded to it in a few posts and even though I’ve only just sidled up to the gate of higher mileage, I’m pretty sure what I’m seeing is not a figment of my imagination.

But while I have quicker paces and heart rate data to back it up, I’m so used to thinking I suck that it’s requiring a real mental shift to accommodate the idea of becoming faster. I mean, it’s exciting to imagine and brings to mind those first couple years when I kept printouts of McMillan’s calculations by my bedside, dreaming of working my way down to who knows where.  But it also makes me sad that I’m having to convince myself of hope.  Negating is easier than believing.

Because over the past year and a half, I’ve seen tons of Facebook and forum friends get faster, many in a seemingly endless straight line.  It’s like everyone was zooming into new territory while I’ve been standing there, feet glued to the ground, sucking in the fumes of everyone else’s motion trail.

I think it’s safe to say that with my negative incidences within the sport, both medical and the long plateau, I’ve had something akin to depression when it comes to the racing side of running, and it’s lasted a good year and a half.  Through it all, I kept asking myself “is this about my age?” and “why am I so different from everyone else?” and “what am I doing wrong or is this even within my power to change?”.  It never made sense to me that in the relatively short time I’ve been a runner, I could have already sucked the well dry, yet I was 3/4 of the way resigned to that being the truth.

I’m sure this sounds overly-dramatic and slightly insane to some of you who might not be as mentally invested but I bet a lot of you probably get it.  Even though most of us aren’t even high-end amateurs, within our various levels of skill, so many of us share a genuine passion to see what we can accomplish in the sport, how far we can go.  There aren’t many things in life so simple, that test you as a person and offer so much experimentation to get right…or better, at least.  So it matters.  That’s part of the joy of it: the mattering.

Anyway, here I am – the data says I’m getting faster, my legs and lungs say I’m getting faster, I’m on the cusp of building a sturdier aerobic engine than I’ve ever had, yet I still manage to find myself smothered in reasons why I’m fooling myself:  it’s because I’m not racing so it doesn’t count, it’s because I haven’t been doing quality work so my legs are unnaturally fresh, it’s because the weather is good, it’s because…  STOP!

It’s time.  It’s time to start believing that what I’m experiencing is positive and real, to have confidence and trust that I’m not different from anybody else, it’s just taken me some time to find that elusive key, is all.  The key we each require to become our best.  To think otherwise is bullshit.  It’s time to believe.

Hurry Up, Break!

Now that the idea is in my head, I can tell how badly I need it.  I’m seriously tired, tired of huffing and puffing through tempo runs and interval sessions and working the effort envelope.

Today was a troublesome speed session on the heels of two subpar 6mi tempos within the last couple weeks.  The speed session was supposed to be 5xmi@15k pace w/1min recoveries.  Halfway through the 2nd rep, I was thinking “I have a tempo run in just 2 days but this feels like I’m in the midst of one already and I just did one the other day…too much, I don’t wanna!”  It wasn’t good.

I was shooting for 7:00s, but couldn’t get past 7:05s  and the idea of continuing on for 3 more reps seemed a hellish prospect, so after the 2nd mile, I ditched the long intervals and switched it to 8 x .25miles w/1min rec’s.  In the end, I got 4 miles of fast out of it (total run was 9.75 mi) which is certainly worthwhile, but I feel ragged.  In response, Adam has kindly rejiggered this week’s tempo into 12×200 for which I am eternally grateful.

It’s crazy how without an injury to say “you must stop now” we really don’t have a clue when it comes to limits.  Sure, there are solid symptoms for overtraining, they concern sleep patterns, weight loss, not wanting to run among other things, but when it comes to the phase before that, overreaching, it’s your best guess.  And it’s frustratingly like that for so many areas of this sport.

Tapering, for instance: what’s the best taper for you?  How can you tell?  Even if you have a great race, could have been one thing during the taper period that made it that way, etc.  The only way to truly know what works for you is by many trials, errors and successes to reach that final “Aha!”  Or you can simply keep wearing your lucky red sports bra and say that was it.

Anyway, it continues to be a revealing learning process and despite the number of times I’ve thrown my hands up in the air out of utter frustration, I’m happy that there are still doors to unlock and secrets yet to uncover.  So I bitch, moan, whine and want to lay down to take a month-long nap, but in the end, I remain positive.

That said, Carlsbad may be more “fun run” than race for me.  We’ll see.

With the holiday season, I relaxed a bit and had a little junk, but also, on the good front, I pulled out the long-ignored crockpot.  I love my crockpot but always thought of it as a two-or-more-to-feed appliance.  Well, in an effort to be a better mommy to myself, I’ve started making some wonderful cozy stews and mish-mashes of things that feed me for a few days or I freeze portions.  Today I made this Provençale Chicken: super duper easy – because cooking ain’t my thang – really healthy and yummy, too.  Shove the stuff in the pot, turn it on and go away.  That’s my kind of cooking.

(used 3 skinless breasts though, as per the reviews)

Went off ibuprofen on Saturday night, had a 17miler on Sunday (started sleeting and I wasn’t dressed for it, so a progression), a 6miler on Mon and an 8 yesterday.  My big toe knuckle was back to smarting on Monday and full-fledged hurting yesterday.  This was freaking me out, however, I think I found the cure!  I’d been using moleskin padding but it wasn’t that thick.   So I cut out a couple pieces from my foam yoga mat (one of those purple jobbers) and taped that around the bad spot…wow! it was like having a cushy pillow on the top of my foot.  That knuckle didn’t bark at all today!  I couldn’t believe it.  It’s been a downer to deal with all this last month, how lovely if it finally gets the boot.

Looking For Sense Where There Is None

If you had asked me a week ago how my training was going, I’d have said, “Great!  I’m getting faster and feeling confident about the future.”  Then I did the 5K on Saturday which did a big number on my head and heart.

The worse thing about that race was that 5k effort ended up pretty much what I’d assume my 10k pace to be.  That’s a HUGE difference in perception and doesn’t make any sense considering my latest workouts. Even if the cold weather gave me a hit, it would only have been about 5 sec/mi.  Needless to say, I’ve been feeling confounded and confused.

Fast forward to today, one of the hardest workout this cycle, approx. 10k at 10k pace.  To be specific: 4 strides, then 4x ¾mi with 2 min. rec, 3x1000m with 90 sec rec, 2 x ½mi with 1 min rec.  Plus warmup cooldown, it came out to 11 miles total, 7:40 avg. for the entire she-bang.

I did not want to do this workout.  Beyond the fact that it’s a lot of fast running, what the hell is my 10k pace now, anyway?  Is it what I called 15k pace in the last tempo run?  Do I need to dumb down everything now?  I’m not a control freak but I do like some logic and sense to what I’m doing and it seems there is none.

My heart was just not into it and I was thinking of blowing off all my workouts this week under the excuse of holiday crap, which would be a total lie because I don’t give a crap about holiday crap.

So I got dressed and messed around the apartment, wasting time to put off the inevitable suckfest.  I went outside on the stoop ready to go, decided I didn’t need gloves or fleece headband and came back in, messed around some more, till finally biting the bullet.  I even mentally  prepared for not finishing the workout – that’s how negative I was.  I figured I’d get about halfway through and call it a day.

As things go in my topsy-turvy running experience, the session ended up being fine from beginning to end, with no reason to cut it short and paces that were very consistent.  I took a long warmup to get out of the windiest area, so 2.75 mi before hitting it.

Average interval pace was 6:47 which included a few splits into gusting headwind.  Saturday’s 5k averaged 6:45/mi.  Wish I knew what the hell that means but all I can come up with is WTF?  Just one more race to put behind me.  So many of those this year.  Boo.

I suppose I can go back to feeling good about my progress.  I guess.  Eh, who knows?

Speed, A Goal and Pace Talk

Speedwork today.  6x.5 miles w/2min rec’s, chosen because it’d been 4 months since I’d done a 5k pace workout and I was really curious to see where I stood.  Fully prepared for a rusty one, I was hopeful that my speedier paces of late might account for something.  That, they did.

Splits were 3:16, 3:17, 3:15, 3:17, 3:13, 3:16, avg pace 6:30.  The fastest set of those I’ve ever done.  Total for the run with wu/cd was 7.5 mi @ 7:48.

So, what does this mean? It means I am officially back on the PR prowl again.  Finally.

My Goal For Carlsbad
I’m going to go ahead and say it now, because it’s the magic number for the next few weeks…7:05 pace, which comes out to 1:32:47.  Now, I need to also say that if it’s a warm day (because it is California and it could happen) then I’ll have to dumb it down on race day, but all my quality for the next couple months will have that race pace in mind.

I actually picked the goal a couple days after the Philly Half, thanks those final 7:05s feeling like they did.  But I still need to grow more – the course is supposedly more rolling than Philly and I want to keep the effort dial on 9.5, not go anywhere near 11, so I think that with 8 weeks of steady work, I’ll be in a good position to do it.

Owning New Paces
OK, I find the whole “owning” terminology a little psychobabbely, New Agey, but it’s really the best way I can think of to describe accepting new paces as mine and that I deserve to run them.

I’ve talked about this before, that I envision paces and pace ranges as hands on a clock face, which is pretty funny considering I haven’t owned anything but digital clocks for years. But anyway, I can “understand” the paces I personally come in contact with but anything faster, it’s like that great New Yorker cover, only instead of empty geography, time is the blank.  Anything faster than 6:30, I could not, or would not bother to comprehend.  Why would I?  My clock’s been stuck for so long.

That’s not to say I haven’t touched the 5:xx’s a few times, I have, but that was in strides and Billats.  And I’m not talking about 30 seconds of fast, I’m talking about intervals with some meat on them and 5K race paces that land in the 2nd quadrant of 6 o’clock.  I’ve held off on going there in my mind because what if I never got to have it?  That would suck.

But now I can see some movement ahead.  Like the excitement I felt when I was in the 7:xx’s peering at 6:xx’s till they became real and normal, it’s not ridiculous for me to start envisioning paces between 6:15 and 6:30 – a new area of the clock I can call home, that I can possibly get to own.  It blows my mind.

My Own Worst Enemy

Sometimes I really wish I knew what the fuck is wrong with me.  I mean, aside from the fact that I’m an obvious mental case who spends way too much time in my own head.

The Great
The great was Sunday’s long run.  It ranks up there as one of my two favorite runs ever.  The other one was an 18-miler @ MP+10% (it averaged 8:06s) back in September 2009 while training for Philly – a run so surprisingly effortless, it sticks out brightly in the memory banks.

Sunday was a 17-miler I took into the trails.  I had to purposely keep the brakes on for the first half,  my legs itching to hit low 8s but I was afraid I’d be pooped on the way back if I did.  The first half averaged 8:30s, 2nd half I let loose with all sub8s, averaging 8:14 for the run.  And this was my longest of the cycle.  Once I got home, I felt as if I’d just gone 13 or so and I’m usually tired the last 3 miles of a 17.  It was weird and wonderful.

Yesterday was a 5mi recovery run @8:43.

The Suck
The suck of the suck is that today didn’t actually suck!  But I started it sucking a day early.  I knew I had a pretty dense speed session (4.5mi of fast) so yesterday I was getting anxious about it as well as the race this weekend.  I even opened up that mental happy running book “Running Within” before I left the house today, looking for some straws to grasp to make me feel better about the bad performance I was sure I was going to have.

The irony of ironies is that if I’d used the watch part of my Garmin instead of average lap pace (you all know I use the park markers to keep myself honest), I might not have been so bummed.  Usually, the Garmin shows too much distance which makes you think you’re doing better, but today, it did the opposite, though my first mile did genuinely suck.

Target paces are in brackets.

Workout was 2 warmup, then 3xmi@10k pace (6:48) w/ 2 min rec’s, 2x.5mi@5k pace (6:27) 2/ 2min rec’s, 4x200m@ mi pace (whatever the fuck I could manage) w/ full recoveries. 10 miles total.

Splits for the miles started badly but got better 6:58, 6:49, 6:46.  I thought I was doing much worse for the 5k part (thought I was doing 6:40 pace) so I decided to cut those to .25mi instead.  Funny enough, when I got home and saw the actual times, I was right on it, both coming out to 6:28 pace.  The 200s are whatever since I don’t have a way to measure 1/8 of a mile out there, and the Garmin went wonky in the middle of those but by that point, I was totally beaten down mentally.

And I was debating whether I should share this because I really do hate that I’m such a whiner, but I figure it’s best to be honest, especially when the feelings are as strong as this.  And for the record, none of these are made up, it’s a portion of what was going through my head.

A list of what I thought out there

  1. Maybe I should stop racing for a year
  2. Maybe I should race a lot more
  3. Maybe I should stop being honest on my blog about the way I feel
  4. I need to ask Adam again if I should dumb down my training paces
  5. I’m going to dumb down my training paces
  6. If I weigh the same as when I was racing so well, why am I not racing well?
  7. Where has my fitness gone?????
  8. I don’t want to do the race this weekend
  9. How can I get out of the race this weekend?
  10. I know why I don’t race well, I suck under pressure
  11. Why do I put myself through this when the thing I love is training, not racing?
  12. If I hear “run without a watch” I’ll scream, the fun for me is the time element.
  13. Maybe these faster paces are biting me in the ass
  14. I should just be happy to be ok for my age
  15. I hate that everyone around me is getting better and I’m trying but it’s not happening
  16. I’m a weird person and need to get out in the world more
  17. Good thing I’m single because if there was anyone at home, they’d want to leave me
  18. I don’t want to do this for 1 mile, how am I going to do this for 6?
  19. I hate the way this feels, it feels too hard
  20. My heart rate isn’t even that high, WTF?
  21. How can I learn to love racing again and not be afraid of myself?
  22. What do I say I’m shooting for for this stupid race?
  23. I hate that whatever goal pace I say will not happen.
  24. I should ask people on the blog what they would do if they were me but I’m not sure I want to know

I’m sure if I spent a little more time, I could remember even more, but these were just on the top of my head.  Sucks, don’t it?