Friday, May 24, 2013

Speed Demon

Excuse me while I regain my breath. I still have not gotten it back to normal.

OK... so yesterday I had my first official go at speed work. Mile repeats to be exact and it was everything I thought it would be. And by that I mean extremely tough.

The premise of speed work is ridiculously simple: You want to run fast? Well then, you have to... um, run fast. That's it. Actually that and repetition. That is the true secret of speed work. You run fast over and over again and by doing that, you teach your body two things: 1) to get used to running fast, and  2) to get used to running fast while tired. You do this enough times and eventually your body develops the equivalent of a new gear.

Now, speed workouts are as varied as they are challenging. They vary extremely in distance and volume. In the plan I am doing right now, speed work means mile repeats. Mile repeats are basically what the name implies. You run a mile, you cool down (800 meters), then you run a mile again. Repeat. Those miles should be run at a faster-than-your-usual pace (you are trying to get faster after all) Because these workouts are hard enough on their own, it is often suggested they be done in a track. You have enough to worry about to add variations in elevation, terrain and traffic to the mix. It also makes it easier to measure the intervals. 

I should also mention that pretty much everyone who has written something about speed work recommends you have a good base running-wise before starting it. After trying them for myself I have to agree. If I would have done this back when I started running, I probably would not be running.

Going to the track is pretty humbling for me. I run by myself most days so my inherent slowness is not really evident but at the track, its another matter. Especially at the one I go to, where there are all these kids and teens being trained right at the same time I go. Everything being relative, speed training for me means running at a pace in the high 11 to low 13 minutes per mile range. Hardly the stuff of legend. Meanwhile, as I'm huffing and puffing and struggling to maintain pace, these kids are passing me as they are warming up. They are not even breaking a sweat. It sure doesn't help that while I'm there, I'm not just the fat guy, but the old fat guy. 

Speaking of which, speeding up really enhances the "Fat Feeling". As I attempt to run past my comfort zone, the stress of carrying 265+ pounds (See how that number is lower than before? he he) becomes painfully obvious.

Not all was negative as it sounds. I did like it (masochist?) and also, I was the last guy out that night. As I was doing the final cool-off mile, everyone had already left. The guy in charge turned the lights off and had to go get me so he could close for the night. How hardcore am I? 

Having said all that, it became pretty obvious while I was doing this workout just how many benefits you can reap from it. It will interesting to compare race results from before starting speed work and after doing it for some time. I don't want to be lightning fast, but it would sure help if I didn't have to worry about being swept every time I sign up for a race.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Back in the Saddle Again...

First off, I hope all you running moms (and non-running moms too) had a wonderful Mother's Day this past weekend.

Second, sorry for the long break from posting but I kind of took a little vacation from running this past two weeks. Nothing major. I did run twice during that time but definitely not the volume I was doing. While running the Half-Marathon did not happen, training for it was the best thing I have done so far in my young running journey. I feel like I got so much better from it. I figured, since I did the beginner's Half-Marathon plan, the next logical step would be to try the intermediate plan. It starts right where the previous one left off. The increase in mileage is not too high, it follows a similar schedule than the previous one and I finally get an introduction to the workouts I have been dying to try out: Speed Work. The plan alternates between tempo runs (like the previous one) and mile repeats. This should be interesting.

But, before starting this new journey, I decided to stop and smell the flowers for a second hence, the aforementioned little vacation. Thought it would be a good idea to let my body recover and take a little time off. 

My timing couldn't have been better. My 8 year wedding anniversary was on April 30 so I took my wife to see a movie (Iron Man 3. I swear it was her idea!) and have a nice dinner (Sushi). Then there was Mother's Day last weekend which we spent with my family. Quite a departure from Tempo and Long runs. I have to admit that, while the time off was nice, I was going a little batty. I missed it. Definitely a good thing and being even more honest, I was getting a little paranoid that I was losing the gains I had made these past months. If my 4 mile run this afternoon is any indication however, I'm doing just fine.

So now we start a new chapter. We will see how I adapt to this new plan and of course, you all know I will throw a race or three if I can in there to keep things interesting.