Saturday, September 5, 2009

Tempo time

Yesterday, Friday, I had a certain tempo/pace plan in mind and, like Wednesday, I ended up changing it to something which seemed more doable at the time, but in actuality was a more difficult run.

I made plans with my mother to go down to Green Lake in Seattle so I could run, she could walk, and afterward we could swing by a couple of Seattle stores.

Green Lake is 2.8 miles around on the inner walking/running/biking path, but there is also an outer path which is longer, about 3.2 miles. My original idea was to do a progressive tempo/pace run by going around three times, with the first three miles at 10 minute pace, the next three at 9.5, then three at 9 minute pace.

The nice thing about Green Lake is that the distance makes it a good option for a short, medium or long run, to your liking. It's also a change of scenery for me, which is nice. And I've always done well in the 5K races I've done there.

However—and I tend to forget this—my non-race runs at Green Lake have always been a little rough. Partly I imagine it is because the outer path is, literally, quite rough. It's mostly a dirt path, partly a roadside shoulder, and strewn with gravel, bumps, and roots in various spots.

When I was first getting dressed on Friday morning I put on the long-sleeved shirt I've been wearing for morning runs recently. It's a pretty thick, stretchy Nike top. I am quite fond of it, but when I looked out at the sun already shining brightly at 7 a.m. (and I wouldn't be running for at least a couple more hours), I had second thoughts about the long sleeves and changed into a sleeveless shirt. (Then had to change my pants to match...useless vanity!)

We left my house by 8:30 but still had to stop at QFC to buy on-sale salmon, get lattes from Starbucks, and then take the salmon back to keep in my fridge. By the time we got to Starbucks I was pretty hungry and the Quaker Chewy Granola bar (with protein) and half banana I had intended to eat for "breakfast" seemed completely inadequate! So I bought a Starbucks oatmeal and stirred in half the fruit and nuts, my banana, and a little of the brown sugar. Better!

The traffic to Seattle was pretty slow and it was probably around 10 a.m. when we got there. By that time my enthusiasm for running was pretty low. That's the problem with driving somewhere to run. If it takes too long to get there, the effort of the trip saps your energy for running! Plus, after my ravenous hunger earlier, now the oatmeal was sitting heavy in my stomach. I felt a little less than excited about running.

The first thing I encountered as I made my way to the running path was a group of women with strollers doing deep knee lunges. I must admit I did not feel to charitable as I veered around them to get to the path! I was just thankful that they were not actually running with the strollers, because I don't think I could have coped with maneuvering around that mob.

The difficulty of the dirt path became clear to me as I struggled to find, and hold, a 10-minute pace for my first mile. The Garmin satellites weren't cooperating, either, as my pace flipped around between 12 minutes and 7 minutes, neither of which were an accurate representation of how fast I was actually going. Because of that I pushed a little harder than I needed to, and finished the first mile in 9:44.

That was actually pretty close to what I intended, but clearly it was going to be hard to monitor my pace closely, and graduating it seemed like a lot of effort. My second mile was 9:04, so I decided to change to a tempo run and try to keep as many of the miles as I could close to a 9 minute pace.

That worked a lot better than I thought it would! My next six miles were all pretty close in the 9-minute range. By that time, in addition to counting the minutes until I was done, I started to think about what my average pace would be for the run. I realized that I would have to make up for that first 9:44 mile if I wanted my average to be anywhere close to nine minutes. (That wasn't an original goal, it developed along the way.)

I picked up the pace in mile 9 (8:45) and really tried to pour it on in the final mile, especially as I passed my starting point at 9.6 miles and headed to the lake path for the final stretch. Think of it as the end of a race, I told myself as I pounded along.

When the 10-mile beep sounded, I stopped the Garmin immediately. Final mile pace—8:33. Even better (maybe), was my average pace—exactly 9 minutes per mile. Exactly 10 miles, exactly 90 minutes. I don't think I could have done that if I planned it!

My final splits—9:44, 9:04, 9:05, 9:05, 9:00, 8:51, 8:56, 8:59, 8:45, 8:33.

Afterward I thought I would jog and walk a little bit more to cool down and recover. But when I contemplated breaking into a jog, my legs said "no, thanks!" so I walked instead, about two miles total.

Along the way I saw this bird on the lake, which at first looked just like another log...
Upon closer view....

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