October 22, 2014

Back on "track"

I did something yesterday that I'd been putting off all summer long--speed work. After training so hard for the Chicago Marathon last year, and then continuing on with Hansons' Half Marathon training for the Heartbreak Hill Half in June, I was so burnt out on running. I never wanted to do speed work again. I cut my training days down to 3-5 (usually settling on 4) per week, and I can probably count on one hand the number of double-digit long runs I did over the summer.

I was starting to wonder if I had ruined running forever by training so much last year. I watched as my pace got slower and slower, and my mileage got shorter for the most part. I didn't do many races over the summer, either; and the ones I did do were to run with someone else.

But I gave myself a date to get over it and start training again--the week after the Runner's World Half & Festival, I would start a half-marathon training schedule, including speed work. I set some goals, and the first is to get my half-marathon time back under two hours at the Indy 500 Festival Mini Marathon in May (if this first round of training happens to go REALLY well, then I may aim for a PR in May, which would be sub-1:52:07).

As of right now, I have no idea what my race pace is. I haven't really "raced" in a long time, so my half marathon time could be anywhere from 2:00 to 2:20--and that's a big difference. If I had to make a fairly educated guess, I would say probably around 2:08 (based on my last 10-mile training run).

My first plan of action is to follow Hal Higdon's Intermediate Half Marathon program (slightly modified so I can do my long runs on Fridays). When I was at my fastest, in early 2013, I had followed this plan (again, with a couple of modifications), and my speed went from 10:45-ish long runs to 8:45-ish long runs in a matter of just 3-4 months. I was also at my goal weight then, which probably had a lot to do with it. I've been working hard at Weight Watchers this month to get back to goal, so I am doing what I can in that aspect.

I have speed work scheduled on Mondays, and a short easy run on Tuesdays, but Jeanie asked me to go for a run with her on Monday--I was super tired from the weekend, so it was actually best for me to switch the two workouts anyway. Jeanie and I ran three miles together at the State Park on Monday, and then yesterday was the day I'd been super nervous about... a track workout!

Something about going to the track makes me really nervous--I think it's because I expect the best of myself, almost like when I'm racing. Yesterday, I honestly had no idea what to expect. On the schedule was 5 x 400's with 400 meter jogs (plus a 1600 meter warm-up and cool down). Basically, this means:

Run 1600 meters (four laps) at a very easy pace to warm up.
Run 400 meters (one lap) at a very hard pace (I wasn't sure what pace this would be yet).
Run or walk 400 meters to recover.
Repeat the 400-meter intervals for a total of five hard laps and five recovery laps.
Run 1600 meters at a very easy pace to cool down.

Jeanie went to the track with me, but she was just going to run five easy miles while I did the speed work. I was bummed when I realized I forgot my heart rate monitor, because that would have been good info to have, but I didn't want to go home to get it. My plan was to do the 400's as hard as I was able, and still be able to finish. My hope was to at least do them under 2 minutes each, which would be a sub-8:00 pace (At my fastest, I was able to do them in about 1:40, which is a 6:40-ish pace.)

It was pretty cold and drizzly with rain outside, so I didn't procrastinate once I got to the track. I just started lightly jogging around the track to warm-up. I didn't set my Garmin to do automatic intervals, because I wanted to do true 400-meter laps, as opposed to a quarter-mile. A quarter mile is actually 402.336 meters, so it's a couple of steps longer. Does it make a big difference in training? No, not at all. I just wanted all of my laps to start and stop in the exact same spot, instead of gradually shifting forward.

As soon as I reached the line for the fourth lap, I pressed the lap button my Garmin, and started running hard. About 100 meters in, I knew I was going too fast--there was no way I could hold that. I looked down and saw it was a 7:11 pace, which was better than I'd expected, so I decided that running all my intervals under 2:00 was definitely possible.

Intervals are tough! Usually once I'm about 200 meters in, I start to think about how I went out too fast, and there is no way to sustain it. Then at about 300 meters, I think, "Only 100 meters to go! You can run 1/4 of the way around the track... keep going!" Then I give it my all the last few steps.

Because I was going to be pushing myself so hard on the intervals, I decided to walk (rather than jog) my recovery laps. So as soon as I crossed the 400-meter line, I pushed the lap button on my Garmin and slowed to a walk. I walked about 300 meters, then jogged the last 100 before starting the next interval. And on it went. Every time I do intervals, I always get through one or two before I start thinking there is no way I can do all that I have on the schedule. But somehow, I mentally talk myself into doing "just one more" until I get through them all ;)

That's exactly what happened yesterday--I felt spent after just two, but I kept going. I told myself it was okay to slow if I had to, but I was going to get them done, no matter what. In the end, I was pretty happy with how I did!

My interval splits were: 1:54, 1:55, 1:58, 1:57, 1:56.

I was aiming to keep them under 2:00 each, so I managed to do that, which was great. And hopefully, from here on out, I'll see them improve as I continue to work on speed. I felt really good all day long that I did that workout and met my goal for it. I feel like it's a good start to this round of training.

My legs were pretty tired all day after that, but my sister took Noah to get his own running shoes, and he wanted to go for a run when he got home. He was really excited about getting the shoes, obviously (Brooks Adrenalines), so I told him I'd run with him. We just ran a mile, taking a short detour to my parents' house. Noah was running at a 10:00-ish pace, which seemed to be pretty easy for him, and his dear old mom was struggling to keep up ;)  He even sprinted the last tenth of a mile or so, and I certainly couldn't keep up then!

I love that he still wants to run even though cross country is over now. We are running the Wicked Halloween 5K on Sunday--I'll run with Noah, so he can actually run the entire 5K for the first time, and Jerry is going to stick with Eli, who will likely walk most of it. I'm so curious to see how Noah does, especially compared to his first 5K. I'm sure he's going to have a pretty major PR!


  1. Thanks for the detailed post. I've been wanting to try intervals for awhile now but wasn't quite sure about a few things. Now I know exactly what to do and what to expect-which is both good and bad (ha, ha).

    1. Give it a try! As much as I dread doing the speed workouts, I do love how amazing I feel when I'm done with them. They're tough! But they get good results.

  2. I'm always looking for good speed workouts that aren't hard to remember. This one sounds like one I could use any time I stop by the track - thanks!

    1. Yes, it's probably the most basic and simple speed workout there is! You can gradually increase the number of intervals you do, too. 4-5 is a good place to start.

  3. Oh, I love speedwork! I wish it was still warm enough here to run outside.

    1. I'm loving this weather in the 30-40's! I do speed work on the treadmill when it's too hot to run outside. The treadmill is actually really effective for speed work, because it's so controlled.

  4. Where do you go to have access to a track? I think I'd like to start some speed work even though I'm pretty scared to death!

    1. I just go to the local high school. You may want to call and ask if it's available to the public first, but I've found that most tracks are. Speed work still scares me, too, and I've been doing it for years! But it's very effective :)

  5. When you do speed/interval work, how do you calculate activity points? I always have a really hard time because I know some of the work is a high level intensity while the recovery ones feel low. Would love to hear what you do!

    1. When I jog the recovery laps, I count the entire thing as "high intensity". Since I walked the recovery laps for this particular workout, I just subtracted 15 minutes from the total workout (the workout was 48 minutes from start to finish, so I just subtracted the walking time, which was 15 minutes). That meant I worked out with high intensity for 33 minutes, giving me 6 Activity PP. Then I looked up the 15 minutes of walking separately, which only gave me 1 Activity PP. So I got a grand total of 7. Make sense, I hope? :)

  6. Katie--I had to smile when I read about Noah running a 10-min. pace and "his dear old Mom struggling to keep up," because I remembered what motivated you to start this journey originally. You were unable to teach him to ride his bike, because you couldn't run beside him, and your sister had to take over. Now it's come full circle--you worked hard so you could teach Eli to ride his bike when it was his turn, and then you taught Noah about running and made him a fan and now, he's doing so well, once again, he's hard to keep up with.The circle of life.

  7. Your kids want to be like you and run, such an amazing example you are to your whole family. i started running in April, although I don't do more then a few miles, my kids 4 and 3, always talk about how they want to come run with me. I never realized how much our habits impact our children's view, what is important to you will most likely be important to them. Thanks for all your inspiration.


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