September 11, 2012

Training Tuesday: So, speedwork actually WORKS. (or, Reflections on training)

Remember when last week I posted about how freaking hard speedwork is?  Well, I haven't come to like it any more since then, and I am NOT looking forward to the late night 400s on my schedule for after class this evening, but I am now living proof that the following statement I shared last week is true:
After just a couple of weeks of speedwork and tempo runs, last Thursday night I ran the fastest three miles of my life and never once felt like I wanted to quit or was going to die.

I set out for my run around 6pm Thursday with the plan to work on speed and keep my average pace as close to 10min/mi as possible, but definitely under 10:30/mi.  To give you a little context, a comfortable pace for me is about 11min/mi, or more like 11:30 if it's a longer distance.  But with my hopes resting on a sub-30 5K this fall and my race dates getting closer every day, I know that "comfortable runs" are not going to be enough to get me there.  When I started my run, though, and was realized I was averaging a 9:40/mi pace, I worried that I wasn't going to be able to maintain this for three miles.  I tried to slow down, but literally couldn't make myself do it.  After a mile, then two, my watch was actually showing my average pace decreasing, hovering in the 9:20s at one point, and I was still feeling great.  After 2 miles I started to feel a little tired and let that average pace creep back up a little bit, but I finished strong in 28:28 with a 9:30/mi average pace.
Tears actually came to my eyes as I slowed to a walk afterwards, realizing what I had accomplished and that my hard work at the track is actually paying off.  To be honest, part of me wondered if maybe my garmin was messing with me.  I have NEVER seen an average pace so fast, and I definitely haven't seen a 9:30 mile since high school presidential fitness testing, and back then it was ONE mile and I gave it EVERY OUNCE I had.  After this run, for the first time ever I feel like sub-30 really can be a reality for me, especially if I finished these 3 miles feeling so strong!  Can't wait for my first 5K of the fall season Saturday evening.  Bring. It. On.
Saw this article in this month's Runner's World--If you want a PR, you better embrace the inevitable pain.  
Consider it embraced!

While training for a speedy fall 5K, I am also training for my third half-marathon, the Space Coast Half in Cocoa, Florida.  The race is in November, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and was the perfect excuse for a Thanksgiving getaway to visit Older Brother, Sister-in-law, and Adorable Niece for a few days this fall.  As babies tend to do, Adorable Niece is growing like CRAZY!  Case in point:
Us this summer...
Olivia a couple of weeks ago, standing up!
After my length history of injuries in just the past few short years (stress fracture, shin splints, random hip flexor issues, and ITBS...), I currently feel the strongest I have ever felt during a training cycle.  It's like I've finally figured out EXACTLY what I need to do to get my body through a training plan, to the start, and eventually to the finish line strong and uninjured.  For the first time ever, my lingering IT band syndrome is LESSENING with my training, not getting worse.  Yesterday morning I set out for a 7 miler in beautiful 60 degree temperatures on an old favorite running loop.  I KT taped my IT bands, stretched, and hit the road...
I am still struggling a little bit with KT tape.  Even though I put the tape on the day before, I'm finding that in this particular spot, the long strip stays on great, but the smaller Xs just aren't in enough contact with actual skin to get a good grip.  They peeled off my left leg in just 2 miles and my right in about 4.  I still like it, though, because it DOES work (when it stays on...) and is way more comfortable than my ITB straps.  Even so, I was able to run 7 without any pain, just a tiny bit of discomfort at one point which disappeared with a quick stretch.  When I first developed ITBS over a year and a half ago, I couldn't make it ONE mile without pain.  Success.

Also, I try to keep my long runs molasses slow to avoid any unnecessary stress on my body and keep injuries at bay, usually around 12:00/mi.  Yeah, I know, I'm S L O W.  After my first mile, I was averaging about 11:30/mi, which I knew was too fast, so I tried really hard to slow down.  I swear I did.  I even got the pace down to 11:40 at one point, but my legs just wouldn't let me keep it there.  They had other plans, and by the end of the seven miles, my average was 11:23/mi and I felt STRONG.  The only time I felt tired was that last mile, which makes perfect sense as 7mi was a new distance in this training cycle.  WIN.
Once again, I can tell that the speedwork is working!
Last summer (or "The Summer of Injury" as I like to remember it), I remember talking to the PT I was seeing at the time about my training and the reasons I'd probably been injured so much.  (Seriously, I think I posted nothing but ice-pack pictures ALL SUMMER LONG...)
Oh 2011, you were a rough year on my legs...

Looking back through my training log, I'd realized that I'd jumped into training for Half-Marathon #1 after taking months off for a stress fracture and jumped into training for what was supposed to be Half-Marathon #2 but ended up a DNS (did not start) after taking months off with ITBS.  Obviously, training for both of these left me injured and miserable (and out 80 bucks in the one case).  What's different this year?  Here's what I think...
  • Tri Training/Cross training: A spring and summer of non-stop triathlon training left me with a body that is STRONG, and not just the running muscles.  Tri training = amazing cross training and overall fitness.  Plus, it kept my workouts interesting so that when I started the distance running again, I wasn't burned out and was HUNGRY for it.
  • Building a solid running base: This was the mistake I made twice last year and vowed to never make again.  This summer I kept a solid running base in the midst of tri training, putting in a 4-6 mile run one day a week in addition to my tri workouts.  It kept me in the running game and made it easy for me to pick up half-marathon training.
  • 5K training: Like I just said, speedwork and tempo runs are actually working for me, and while I'm using them to hopefully nail a new 5K PR this fall, I plan to keep them in my weekly run rotation even after the 5Ks to hopefully help me nail my second half-marathon PR of the year.  
Just PRed!
  • Understanding what works for my body: After my DNS last summer, I realized that part of my problem was running too many miles per week.  Even though I've always been an every-other-day runner, running just 3 days/week most of the time, I realized that the 5 milers I was putting in on Tuesdays and Thursdays in addition to my weekend long run were just too much for my body.  For the Kentucky Derby Half-Marathon, in addition to making a training plan that increased distances hella slowly, I also kept my weekday runs to just 3 miles for the entire training cycle.  I know it may sound like I'm not putting in enough miles to be really prepared for a half marathon, but truly, this made all the difference for me in that training.  Not only was I ready for the race in Kentucky, but I finished strong.  I'm keeping to this plan for my Space Coast training, knowing that it's part of what I need to do to stay strong and uninjured.
Anyways, that was a lot.  I'm dying to know, though...

What have you learned through your training about what works for YOU?


  1. This is the first in three years entering fall I haven't been injured and I have wondered how much tri training has to do with it.

  2. ahhh! i have the same relationship with speed work. i think its so hard and mentally i never want to do it but i also KNOW that it helps and will pay off! you have been rockin the runs!!! love that everything is paying off for you!! such a good feeling:)

  3. First congrats on getting faster!! And I think cross training/triathlon training has definitely helped me fend off injuries better. I think it has a lot to do with strengthening other muscles. And for me, less running is better.
    I wonder if your faster pace is also helping you stay injury-free. Maybe your form has changed a little bit as you are running faster and it's helping? I have no idea if this is true or not, but some food for thought.
    Anyways, I've learned that not every workout needs to be hard and all out. The "easy" or recovery workouts have great benefits as well!

  4. I'm a slow runner, too, and don't know if I'll ever become faster. So far it hasn't been my goal. I do want to run longer. In fact, I really need to go ahead and pick out a half marathon and probably register for it to make sure I train. I'm just scared that I'll register and then life will get in the way and I won't get prepared in time! :)

    My brother started training to run a sub 30 5k this summer. He was doing a 5k anywhere from 32 to 34 minutes. He started his speedwork and tempo runs and got to a 28 something 5k in just several weeks. But then he got injured-knee. He misses running so much right now, but is sticking to bike until his knee heals.

    Maybe I'll do a sub 30 5k one day-maybe not. But I'm really starting to think about the half!



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