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.


  1. GREAT JOB! I'm struggling with the mental part of speed work as I don't like being out of my comfort zone for too long. So I sympathize with the speed work struggle but it really does pay off and I'm sure you'll see a difference immediately! Good luck on your next race!

  2. I introduced speed work a couple of weeks ago and I really enjoy it. It's hard, of course, but it breaks up the runs and it shows me just how far I can push if I put my mind to something. I definitely agree about having a good base. It's definitely something to build up to. Good luck for continued success with yours!

  3. Hi Frank,

    I found your blog through a Facebook post on WDW for Runners! You are truely an inspiration. I too have a goal to run a Disney race in 2014, but it isn't the FULL Marathon, only the half. Maybe One day I will Run, walk, crawl the full marathon. I share a blog with my sister ( who is the real marathoner, she did the WDW full this year and the Boston) I will certainly be following your progress. Check us out and say Hi at

  4. Great job! I have meaning to incorporate speed work for awhile and I finally decided to pull the trigger this coming week and try it out. Hopefully I don't die =)