Friday, July 24, 2009

Finding my extra gear

Eight days to Anacortes, and only a few more runs left to get myself up to speed. I'm joking, a bit, of course—if I'm not pretty much ready now, I doubt that there's much I can do to change things in a week.

I think I am ready, really, but still I would like to use my last few runs to polish things up, make what is hopefully already pretty good even better. (I'm still on the dregs of an endorphin high from this morning's run, so I'm feeling very self-congratulatory rather than self-critical right now. That could change at any time.)

Today was my last tempo/pace run on the training schedule, so I decided to amp it up by trying a variation on the Brian Sell workout, described on page 34 of the August Runner's World. The idea of this run is to help train yourself to finish strong, put on an extra kick in the last few miles of your long-distance race. The article is about marathons, of course, so the plan is geared to marathon training. The pre-marathon run is simply two six-mile runs at five seconds per mile faster than goal race pace, with a 10-minute jog in between the segments.

Since I am training for a half marathon rather than a marathon, I simply cut everything (except the recovery jog) in half. Brian Sell does this workout two weeks before the marathon; I did mine one week before. Instead of the six mile speed segments, I did three mile segments (actually I modified them to 5K on the fly). This shortening also worked well with my time availability this morning and my route—although thanks to my careless math, I ended up with a total of ten miles this morning (when I added in the warm-up and cool-down jogs), rather than the eight I had planned.

So I started out with my usual slow warm-up, 1.5 to 2 miles at the easy pace-of-the-day, whatever that might turn out to be. My first mile was a little strange, thanks to some weirdness with the satellites which somehow lopped off the first tenth of a mile (or added it?), so that the Garmin registered one mile when I know I had only run .9 mile. (And the pace for that first "mile" was 8:46, which was just not true! My second mile was 9:21, which is much more on track with what I was doing.)

So the warm-up was two miles, or, really, 1.9 miles. Then it was time to pick up the pace to "5 seconds faster than goal race pace." Okay, but what is my goal race pace? I have so many potential goal paces for the half marathon. To finish under two hours, I have to average 9:09 per mile. So maybe that is my goal pace.

On the other hand, I think I can do a little better than that. For the last few weeks I have pretty much been designating 9 minutes as my goal pace; that would bring me solidly under two hours and allow for a little leeway. It would be nice to beat my half marathon PR, of course (1:54:30); that would require a pace of faster than 8:45. Or, if we're talking pie-in-the-sky goals, I could look at the half-marathon time that McMillan predicts based on my most recent 5K race, which would be a total time of 1:52:33 with an average pace of 8:35.

And I go for the pie in the sky. For today's run, I secretly set my goal race pace at 8:35, which meant that my splits for the 3-mile (5K) segments would have to be 8:30.

So how'd I do? GREAT! I actually beat 8:30 soundly. Since I was looking at my watch far too often, I could tell that I was running much faster than I needed to, sometimes even faster than 8:00 pace. But as long as it felt okay, I didn't want to slow down much. There would be a few hills along the way which I knew would slow me down, so I didn't want to give up the advantage of my faster pace on the easier sections. I think I was in mile 3 of the first segment when I decided to add on the extra tenth of a mile to make it a 5K.

Here's how the first 5K came out:
1 - 8:13
2 - 8:15
3 - 8:14
.11 - 49 seconds (7:33 pace - I did pretend I was running for the finish line here)

Then I got to take my recovery jog. While the "plan" calls for a 10-minute jog, I decided to make it an even mile to keep things easy with the Garmin. I wasn't sure, actually, whether that would be more or less than ten minutes, but it would be in the ballpark, anyway. That mile was 9:33.

So soon I was approaching the start of my second 5K. This was going to be more challenging. I had already run six miles, half of it fast, and plus I had that psychological "done" feeling that comes after finishing a "race" of any distance. I felt like I had done my 5K, and amping it up again would be hard! Plus, my legs were feeling tired.

I did have a little bit of a built in benefit with my route, however. By the time I started the second 5K, I only had had a short amount of uphill left, and then I would turn around and make my way back, which was a combination of flat, downhill incline, and out-and-out downhill. I had no qualms about taking advantage of that! At least my legs would get the experience of moving fast, even if it was "easy."

Somehow, I did manage to pull myself out of the recovery jog and launch back into race pace. With some thanks to the elevation profile, my splits for the second 5K were as good or better than the first!

4 - 8:16
5 - 8:11
6 - 8:03 (this was the real downhill, can you tell?)
.1 - 48 seconds (8:11 pace)

Since it took a little more mileage than I had originally anticipated to accomplish this run, I knew in the middle of the second 5K that I was going to run out of route before I finished unless I made a change in the route. Obviously, I would not run out of roads regardless of what I did. But if I stuck to my usual path I would end up at the intersection of Broadway and Everett Avenue with a mile or so left to go. That would be problematic for a couple of reasons. First, there's the psychological thing about reaching the "end" of the run and still having more to go. Second, there's major road and sidewalk work going on there and it is somewhat difficult to maneuver, which could slow me down.

So I decided to stay on Colby until I hit two miles, then turn back, which would hopefully allow me to finish the whole 3.1 without having to add much extra at the end. That worked pretty well, although I still had a quarter of a mile or so left when I hit Broadway, and I had to sprint along Broadway after all to finish my stint.

Coincidentally, that brought me to within a quarter mile of my house! But instead of going home, I did a recovery jog over to Starbucks. I ended up running around the perimeter of the parking lot because I didn't want to stop before I hit 10 miles.* My final lap was .79 miles at 9:21 pace. What I noticed as I was chugging along was how slow and easy it felt; yet my Garmin was showing between 9:15 and 9:30 all the way. For 9:15 to feel slow is a wondrous thing!

I didn't feel like a wreck at all when I stopped at Starbucks. Oh, I looked like a wreck, I'm sure—red face and dripping hair. But I have felt much, much worse after other runs. It helped that it was still cool and cloudy at that point in the morning.** I got my latte and walked home. The walk home is half a mile but I was still in that "add mileage" state of mind and I did an extra lap around the block, for a total of .77 mile.

I enjoyed this as a variation on a tempo run. I had some qualms whether 5K was a long enough distance to really "push" myself (but anything more would have wreaked havoc with my schedule). On the other hand, these 5K's were faster than I had planned on; in fact, they were pretty close to a good pace for a 5K race! Each one was about 25:30, give or take a second or two.

My final overall stats: 10 miles in 1:25:58, 8:35 average pace.***

*I forgot about the tenth of a mile "problem" in the first mile. So technically I guess I ran 9.9 miles total. Bah.
**But now that the running is over, it needs to warm up; I'm going to the beach after work and was supposed to go swimming!
***If it was actually 9.9 miles, the average pace would be about 8:40.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Great job! I like that workout. My running training materials say that a three mile pace run is all you really need to train your legs to run at your race pace. Doing it twice is brilliant! I might just try that next week (my 1/2 marathon is in three weeks)

I think you will DEFINITELY finish under two and that PR is well within your reach. Just run like you have been and have fun!