Saturday, June 13, 2015

Back to the Oval

Two years ago when I was recovering from Hip-mageddon 1.0, Coach Tom invited me to come do speed work with SF Track Club, which he coaches, once I was healthy again. It made a lot of sense since they worked out at Kezar on Tuesday nights, just as I did, if a bit later. (I usually did my track work 5-7ish whereas they started at 6:30.)

I was super excited about this, but sadly it never panned out. Just as I was getting back to some speed work & starting to feel comfortable on the track again that fall/early winter, I ended up with a stress fracture, so it was another six months before I set foot on a track. And while technically, yes, I was marathon training that summer, I was still having problems with my hip & only did like three track workouts during that training cycle. But lately I've done some faster running out on the roads and felt pretty good, and since I'm officially into my 12-week for-realsies SRM training cycle, I decided to finally go.

I arrived at newly renovated Kezar Stadium a little before 6:30 to marvel at the sharp, new lane lines, plush, bouncy inner lanes, and rehabilitated numerals on the starting line. I hadn't been out there since the city finished fixing it up last fall, and the sight, along with the smell of freshly cut grass, brought a metaphorical tear to this speed-lover's eye.

I hadn't done a track workout with a group since college so I was a little nervous about it. One of the reasons why I do most of my runs alone is because I don't have to worry about keeping up/holding other people back/pushing others too hard/etc.; I can just cruise along & do my own thing. Also despite 2.5 years of internet coaching, Tom had never seen me run before, so there was also maybe a little of that performance anxiety/for-god's-sake-don't-embarrass yourself feeling. Plus this would be my first time testing my right leg (which has been getting much better!) at speed around curves & I didn't want to be the lame-o that pulled up in the first lap like, "Sorry, I broke myself, but nice meeting you all!"

Thankfully, all disasters were averted. Tom put me with a group based on my guesses about my current 5K/10K paces, and instead of my assigned RunCoach speed workout of 6 x 200m / 30:00 GMP / 6 x 200m, he had me run 6 x 1K with them at ~7:25ish. I was relieved to find that this was quite an easy workout for me at this point, and was also reminded of one of the great perks of doing speed work with a group where someone who is not you is assigned to watch the pace, which is that you can pretty much turn your brain off; all you have to do is keep up & not pass anyone.

I know everyone grumbles about speed work & it's supposed to make you cry & want to die & all that, but MAN. Coming around the corner on that first lap was sheer joy for me. After months and months of nothing but base training and really focusing on my long runs and then verrrrry gradually dipping my toe back into the waters of fast running, whipping my body around that oval again after nearly a year away was pretty much bliss.

The one down side to this workout was that together with our ten minute warm-up jog, it only came out to about five miles, as opposed to the 9.5-10ish that my assigned track workout had called for. Tom said this was okay since the 6 x 1K's had really worked out to more like a tempo/threshold workout for me anyway rather than speed work, so I could just do the 200m's on Friday instead of my assigned tempo/threshold.

So, on Friday, back to the oval I went. And MAN, was it hot [SF translation: moderately warm with no clouds]. After a super hard/crappy "easy" run on Thursday, some worse-than-usual pain in my left foot & shin, & then waking up sick in the middle of the night (nothing major, all better now), I was only maybe 60/40 on whether I'd actually be able to do do the longer 200m's workout.

Once I got out there, though, the 200m's felt surprisingly easy:

Last summer I was doing these pretty consistently in the 0:42-0:43 range (5:30-5:40 pace), but given that I'm only just getting back into speed work after many, many months of mostly base training, I'm actually pleasantly surprised to be doing them in the 0:44-0:46 range. If I can get back to those faster times or even a second or two faster by the time I taper for SRM, I'll be happy. If nothing else I was at least pleased to be managing some kind of consistency, which I've always struggled with on shorter intervals (Garmin numbers being pretty much unreliable over that short a distance).

The 30:00 @ marathon pace, though?

Ugh. Uuuuggggghhhh. Pretty much the same as last week's sucky runs, just faster. I mean yes, it was quite warm, but the entire 3.7 miles felt like I was low blood sugar or sleep deprived or both (neither of which was the case). It wasn't that the pace felt hard cardio-wise; just as if the messages from my brain to my legs to like, run & stuff weren't getting through. (Ever had the experience of telling a teenager over & over again to do something super effing easy & they just keep pretending they can't hear you? It was kind of like that.)

I feared this didn't bode well for my second set of 200m's, but for some magical reason I don't understand, busting out half-laps in 45-46 seconds still felt pretty easy (at least until maybe the last 1-2, and even then it wasn't all that terrible.)

I clearly have a ways to go to get my speed back (as expected), and I kind of think maybe my sucky easy runs lately are just my body still adjusting to two harder workouts per week. Still, considering that last August I couldn't even run one hard 200m without feeling like my pelvis was about to snap, no complaints here!



  1. I just tried to leave a comment, but I'm not sure if it worked, and my face is really swollen right now, so forgive me if now I am spamming your blog. But what I want to say is congrats on your triumphant return! And damn girl, those splits look promising!

  2. That's pretty amazing - both how much better you're feeling and how easily you're running those speeds again!
    I haven't been to a track in over a year. Ouch. Not sure if I'll go back with my loser hips, either.

  3. That would have felt great. To get through the session so comfortably with the group. To run on a looks-like-new track. To feel some speed. It's all good!