I'm linking up with the Weekly Run Down, please head over to Kim and Deborah to check it out.
Monday: weights and 4.25 miles easy with strides.
Tuesday: 6.5 miles total, 1.25 miles warmup then 4 x 1200 with 400 recover and 1.25 miles cool down. After a few weeks of trial and error with this workout I've come up with the goal of the first 3 repeats at 10:30 and the last as fast as I want. Net result: 10:28, 10:26, 10:26, and 10:17. But don't let the fast finish fool you, I came >>this close<< to bailing on the final quarter mile of the last repeat.
Wednesday: worst rest day ever. My father-in-law passed away. He was 91 and had been in poor health for many years, so this was not unexpected, just unwelcome. His assisted living facility has been on lock down since early March, but now protecting him from COVID-19 was no longer a concern and we were allowed to be with him on his final day.
Thursday: I woke up feeling the weight of a ton of bricks and knew that my planned 6-ish miles with a 'lil speed was not in the cards. 3.25 miles easy gave me the reboot that I needed.
Friday: weights and by rights I should have done hills, but I was still a bit tired so I took a flatter route and got my mojo back. 4.5 miles.
Saturday: good things and bad things to say about this 8 miler. I went to my favorite park on earth and included the trail in this run. I hadn't run the trail since before my 2nd half marathon last fall, and I'd forgotten how hard it is. Miles 4-6 are the same as miles 3-5 of this race, I hit 11:03, 11:56, and 12:04 for them in the race and 11:06, 12:03, and 13:10 yesterday. I completely blew up in mile 6 which in retrospect is no worse than I've run it in the past but in the moment I lost my runner's mojo. My body said "dude, I'm done" and my head said "you are incompetent as a runner, just give up".
It wouldn't have been the worst thing to just walk the remaining two miles home, but was there another option? My brain did a quick scan of every running blog I've ever read and gave me a solution for How To Keep Running When You Don't Feel Like Running: 4:1 intervals, which I'm crediting to Wendy (I don't have a specific post, just go there and you'll find something good). My lizard brain accepted that I was capable of running for 4 minutes and then treating myself to a minute of walking and we were off and rolling.
Speed has been an elusive beast. I started running 10 years ago, and have been pretty serious about it for the past two years. When I started, I was hitting a 12 minute pace and up until this winter, I was hitting....a 12 minute pace. Just run more they said, just do speed work they said...it's not for lack of trying but I've felt very stuck for a long time. If I had a dime for every time I've googled "how to go from a 12 minute mile to an 8 minute mile" I would be a very wealthy woman.
But something's been different this year. Overall I feel stronger and I've had a few months of "fast for me" runs. But how can I quantify that? Oh hey Smashrun. What we're looking at is April 2019 compared to April 2020. The two April's are both 100% road running (I'm faster on the treadmill so that would skew the numbers) and both months had similar mileage, so I think it's a fair apples-to-apples comparison. I've gone from a 12:08 average pace to a 11:40 average pace.
10k and a 10 mile race, both at an 11 minute pace. Other notable runs were a 10 mile long run in a headwind (ugh I remember it like it was yesterday, that one was tough) and a 12 mile long run. I was starting to experiment with off-treadmill speed work, nothing remarkable, just a few surges and "one minute fast-one minute slow" stuff. I remember the weather as being a bit nicer, neither very cold nor very warm. Overall it was an excellent running month.
What I did in April 2020: ran a virtual 10k and half, long runs were two 10 milers. I had to change out a few speed workouts for easier runs to taper and then recover from the races, but I do surges and much more difficult speed workouts than I did a year ago. I feel like the weather has been a bit harsher this April but overall it was an excellent running month.
Things That I Think Are Making A Difference
[Disclaimer: I am a Stranger on the Internet, so please regard my ramblings in that light. I am an expert in what I think is happening to me, I don't have a clue about what is going on with you. My primary reason for writing this is to document where I am now. I am not a doctor, I am not a physical therapist, and I am most certainly not a running coach. If you disagree with everything that I say, there is a good chance that you are correct.]
- Complete disregard for the 80/20 rule. The principle of running 80% of your mileage at an easy pace and 20% at a harder effort is a great theory but it just hasn't done anything for me. Last fall after my 3rd half marathon I cut my mileage back, and I think that's when I started pushing my pace because I was "only" running 3-4 miles. To be clear, I'm not busting a gut with every workout but I'm also not taking it easy (another way to say it is that I do things that are hard and uncomfortable, I do not do things that hurt.)
- I started doing speed work "my way". While I've been stagnant in my outdoor running speed, I have gotten faster on the treadmill over time. Last fall I started to mimic my treadmill approach in my long runs: the 10 mile workout that worked really well for me was: 4 miles easy, then 0.1 miles fast/0.1 miles slow x 10 (a.k.a. 2 miles), 2 miles easy, repeat 0.1 miles fast/0.1 miles slow x 10 for the final 2 miles. I didn't put any pressure on myself to hit a particular speed with "fast", and doing that would always net me a sub 12 minute paced mile. Let's compare that with traditional speed work, say 8 x 400 at 5k pace. That's a really common workout AND IT IS NOT RIGHT FOR MY BODY. I can't count the number of times that doing something like that has either discouraged me or hurt me. Last summer I followed a structured speed plan, and while it delivered the promised result of a 30 second improvement in my mile time, it didn't make my overall speed any faster.
- Um, you know, fueling for my runs. 4 out of 5 of my weekly runs last April were done with no food and no coffee. If you look back in the archives you'll see me say (and totally believe) stuff like "no food no problem" and "I run first thing in the morning so I just don't have time to eat first but it absolutely doesn't cause any issues". I'm at a complete 180 from that now. Back in February I decided to start having a banana before easy runs and UCAN before hard runs. Now in these more relaxed days of shelter in place I have coffee and breakfast before running and am absolutely miserable when I don't.
- I think the cumulative effect of following some pretty common running advice has also helped:
- Running more. No doubt about it, running got "easier" once I started doing it 5 days a week instead of 3 days a week and I've got about two years of that under my belt now. Though, ahem, running is really my only form of cardio, and you'll encounter plenty of great runners who run way less than I do but make up for it in the cross training department.
- Throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall to see what sticks: this kind of goes along with the "disregard for the 80/20 rule" but nearly every run that I do has a workout element to it, whether that's speed or hills.
- Strength training. It's no secret that strength isn't my first love and I had gotten pretty slack with it. It's taken a long time to come back, and there have been many episodes of just going through the motions because I'm "supposed to" but I'm in a good place now and seeing improvements.
- Stuff that I haven't tried:
- Running with a group. So many runners credit their improvements to running with people who are faster than them. I looked into joining a training group this spring, but I knew that committing to being at a given place at a given time was going to add a lot of stress to an already crowded schedule. And oh right, group running is on the no-no list right now so it's probably for the best. But that's where I came up with the idea of pushing myself in my long runs, I guess you could say that I run with an imaginary running group.
- Working with a coach. Tons of success stories on the internet in this department, and I've also seen some fails. While a professional would probably structure my workouts differently, I'm not sure what they would tell me to do besides what I'm doing. I haven't ruled this out for the future, but right now I feel like I'm in a good place on my own.
- Running slower. It's pretty hard to run slower than a 12 minute pace without walking. I'll certainly slow down if I'm having a tough day, but other than that I run how I wanna run. Now that my average speed is in the 11's, I have a new "gear" that wasn't there before, so it's possible that I may pursue slow stuff in the future now that I have a fast to balance it out with.
- Heart Rate Training. Just no. I got enough stuff to control in my life, I don't have the bandwidth to fret about how fast my heart is beating. Some running experts strongly advocate heart rate training, and others strongly advocate not bothering with it. When I did the speed program last summer I started to see my heart rate drop on easy runs, and I continue to see it drop. Never say never, but at this time I don't see heart rate training becoming a part of my running journey.