Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Back on Track

Why hello, 6:xx pace! Long time, no see!

For the last two weeks, I've been doing easy runs in the 4-6 mile range in order to rebuild my aerobic base & generally remind my legs what running is like. Now it's week three, though, and I am running a 10K in four and a half weeks, so it's definitely time to get back on out on the oval and work on some speed.

kezar stadium

Gorgeous day at Kezar Stadium - a brisk 47° & sunny.

I can't really explain to you how much I love running on the track. Maybe it goes back to my track & field roots. There's just something about it that's incredibly satisfying, and I've missed it so much.

Plus, I got to lace up these bad boys again. (Yes, the laces do sparkle.)


It's totally okay to be jealous.

For the last few months it's been all marathon all the time, so it's been a while since they've seen the light of day. I love my Brooks Adrenalines, but I can't tell you how good it felt to slip my feet into something light and fast again.

I spent most of last summer working on my 10K as a vehicle for eventually improving my half marathon. During that time, my weekly track workouts alternated between five-minute intervals at 5K pace (usually 5-6) and ten-minute intervals at 10K pace (usually 3-4). If you want to improve your 10K time, I can highly recommend this regimen; in four months, I went from an exhausting 7:24 / mile pace to a fairly comfortable 7:12 / mile pace, on a grand total of about 25 miles a week.

However, I think I made a tactical error during the two and a half months between my last 10K and Clarksburg Half Marathon by trading those workouts for the track workouts dictated by my marathon plan (longer & slower). At the time, I figured that if I was in shape for a full marathon, the half marathon would take care of itself. It was after running the Clarksburg Half that I had the grand epiphany that the 10K and the half marathon are basically the same race, and the only real difference in training for them should probably be somewhat higher mileage & longer long runs for the half. I definitely won't try to train for a marathon and an "A" race half or 10K simultaneously ever again; the preparation is too different.

So I'm definitely going back to my trusty 5K / 10K pace intervals in preparation for the Oakland Half in March. (Until I get my speed back, I'm thinking of them more as 5K & 10K effort intervals instead of pace, but the principle is the same.) The only question about yesterday's track workout was whether it was smarter to start with fewer, longer, slower intervals or more, shorter, faster ones. I decided I'd try to do three 5:00 intervals at 5K effort, just to gauge where I was, and if I felt alright, I'd maybe try four.

And I have to say, I really surprised myself.

First, my "easy" runs lately have been in the 9:00 - 9:30 / mile range and rather unpleasant, so imagine my amazement when I clocked an effortless 8:20 on my first warm-up mile and 7:54 on the second one. Well, this is promising, I thought to myself.

After a few minutes of dynamic stretching, I changed into my flats & set off on my first interval. I wasn't sure what kind of pace I'd be able to maintain, but I tried to think of it the way I do the first mile of a 5K -- basically, run as fast as possible without feeling uncomfortable. (The uncomfortable usually sets in around mile 2.) My pace pendulum-ed embarrassingly between 6:30 and 7:20 on that first interval (out of practice, much?), but I was pleased to see that I was able to average a 7:09 pace and stay strong through the whole thing. After three minutes of rest, I ran the second at a 7:09 pace as well, which was easy enough that I felt like I could push a little harder. I ran the third at a 7:02 pace, and felt so good after that one that not only did I go ahead and run a fourth interval, but I did it at a 6:57 pace. (For comparison, my PR 5K pace is 7:05, and I'd really love to be able to legitimately call it sub-7 by the end of this year.)

I felt good enough that I could have run more after that, but didn't want to push it too much too soon. My intervals netted me 2.83 miles, so I jogged an easy 1.17 to make it a nice, round six for the day.

It's amazing to me how I can sometimes feel totally wrecked after an "easy" 4-6 miles through my neighborhood or the park and completely fine after a track session with the same (or more) total mileage. My podiatrist has suggested that it has to do with how much time my feet spend in contact with the ground with each step (more time with feet touching ground = more force on bones / joints / etc.; faster turnover = less time touching the ground = less force on the body = less achey-ness later). Makes sense to me.

I can't wait to try some 10K effort intervals next week. I'm not expecting to be as fast at my February 10K as I was by the end of last summer, but it seems like I'm definitely on track to be faster than I expected. Maybe a sub-1:40 is in the cards for Oakland after all. :)


  1. Hey, those are some speedy miles!

    I wish I lived closer to Kezar. The few runs I've had on that track were rather high-quality, and I loved people-watching.

  2. Whoa speedy! Great workout. I pretty much only have one pace, so I am always impressed with people who have an actual sense/ability for how to slow down and how to speed up!