In the last few weeks I've had a number of objectives in my running. First and foremost, of course, was to get out of my winter slump and pick up the pace, both generally speaking and in whatever future races I might enter. I think I definitely have managed the first of those; the second remains to be seen. Soon.
Upon rereading that paragraph, I realize I've condensed all my running objectives into one, actually. Run faster and better. I guess what I meant to say was that I've gone about working on that objective in a number of ways. I've made a concentrated effort to keep my average pace as close to, or below, ten minute miles as often as possible. I've reintroduced simple speedwork into my running, including interval/pickups, progression/negative split runs, and tempo runs. This weekend I started bumping up my mileage, in anticipation of the longer Bloomsday run coming up.
Yesterday I was going into another moderately long run for the second consecutive day, and my legs were already a little tired, so I didn't make myself any big speed goals or expectations. Instead I decided to see how I would do if I ran at a comfortable pace, not pushing myself but also not sinking into plodding. The results were quite acceptable, though not stellar. As I said yesterday, my average pace was about 9:45—actually 9:44—and my splits were 10:16, 9:50, 9:18, 9:31,9:41, 9:42, 9:40, 9:57. (Would you call that a degression run? A regression run? A run in which the sun was becoming progressively warmer?)
This method of "run without pushing" worked really well for me in one of my favorite races last year, the Fairhaven Waterfront 15K. My goal for that race was to see what kind of time I would get if I ran without trying too hard, hoping to conserve energy for the Maine Coast Half Marathon the following weekend. My 15K efforts then yielded an average pace under nine minutes, not a 15K PR but close to my other 15K times, all of which seemed to fall in the same general area. (Of course, since this race occurred within a month after my 10K and 5K PR races, I was obviously still riding my peak before heading rapidly downhill.)
What I would like to do this week is keep all my runs up there in mileage at 7½ miles or more. This may be totally impractical, even impossible. It was easy enough to do eight mile runs on Sunday and Monday when I could start whatever time I wanted and my timelines were minimally invasive. But tomorrow, Wednesday, I have to be to work at the usual time, and adding more than a mile and a quarter to my typical distance* would require at least twelve extra minutes that I usually just can't spare on a weekday. Get up earlier, you say? Please! (Things might be a little looser on Friday morning, we shall see.)
On Sunday I may do a long run of nine or ten miles, if I can manage it. I'll be in Winthrop for a conference, and there's a great route from Sun Mountain Lodge to town—largely downhill—if I can work in a couple of hours for a run.
After that, it's mini-tapering to the weekend. (The race is on Sunday.) On Monday and Wednesday I'll plan on a normal five to six mile run. I'm in the air about what to do on Friday. I'm strongly tempted to take Friday off from running, or any leg-straining exercise, as well as Saturday of course, to ensure fresh, non-achy legs for Sunday. Maybe, depending on the weather, I could do a short, easy run on Thursday instead of Friday. Maybe, in fact, I should schedule a massage for Friday to coddle my legs further!** Now that's a thought. A really good thought! I think I'll make the appointment call right now....
*And these 6.25 mile runs have been pushing the limit on getting ready for work and to work on time as it is!
**This is not simply a self-indulgence, sports massage is a well-known technique which may enhance performance, help prevent injury, and improve circulation, muscle tone, and flexibility. So there.