I'm awake and out of bed at 3:20 am. It seems like I either sleep in (till the late hour of 5 or so) or wake up well before my 4:00 am alarm as I did today. When this sort of thing happens, the first thought that pops into my head is always something like: "good - now I have more time, and I can get some additional miles in." I decide that my minimum mileage goal for today will be 15, but that 17 or 18 wouldn't be bad either.
I also feel the need for speed. I've been working on this quality thing lately, and I think it's finally beginning to pay off... a little. After achieving this new age a week ago (I won't say how old I am, but here's a hint: the State of Ohio automatically sent me my new Golden Buckeye Card), I decided that I wanted to kick some age-group butt the very next day at the Medina Run-4-Fun 5K. I did manage to beat the new set of geezers, but just barely. And my time, 22:07, was not that great at all - it was just about in the same range as the previous two 5K's. But I still think I'm doing better by just running these 5K's and also by trying to run hard on the mill. That mill is nothing like real life, but it's had to do. Maybe I'll start getting to the track now that the weather's so nice. Today I decide that I'll try to do a tempo run.
Try is the key word. Tempo runs are generally defined as 20 minutes or more of continuous running at about 10-mile to half-marathon pace. For me, this has nearly always been interpreted as at least three miles at sub-seven minute pace. The trouble is that other than on the mill and those races, I haven't been able to get anywhere near seven minute pace. Why not, you ask? My pat answer has always been that I can't run seven minute miles because I can't even run seven-thirty miles.
But the 5K's were around that pace. And I'm losing weight with the Fast Diet thing. So I decide that I WILL DO IT TODAY!.
After the coffee, Powerbar, pushups, crunches, checking of email and Facebook, I don't get started running until a bit after 5:00 am. Now I don't have as much time to run as if I'd started at some reasonable time like 4:30. But it is what it is. I still have time to get 15 in, and finish between 7 and 7:30.
Why is that important, you ask? For a guy who doesn't have many major responsibilities (work has been nearly non-existent these days), it really isn't. But the constraints I put on myself are still out there. The thought is that a) traffic begins to pick up between 6:30 and 7:00, b) I kind of like to catch the news on the Today show at 7:00 am, and c) I can't remember the other reasons.
After three easy miles to the high school, I do the same thing I always do when I arrive: check to see if the track is open. Today it's closed, as it nearly always is these days, except when the football team practices in late summer and fall. So instead of hitting the track, I begin to run loops around the school.
It's 3/4 of a mile around, and I usually do five loops. I finish the first, and then ingest an energy gel and some water. Now it is time to get serious. If I can do four loops in less than 21 minutes, I'll be able to consider it a successful tempo run. And as noted, this hasn't happened for me in a long time.
Twenty-one minutes divided by four gives us a goal of five and a quarter minutes per lap. Can I do it? The first one feels fairly easy at first... until the second half. I stagger back to the start and check my watch: 5:10. Good. As I begin the second one, things feel a little easier. I come back again in 5:10. The third lap feels tougher, and I have to pick it up for the second half of this one. I come across in, you guessed it, 5:10. Now I'm feeling fairly confident as I begin the fourth and final one. I have a little breathing room - I can run as slow as about 5:30 and still beat 21 minutes. But everything will feel better if I can maintain the same pace. That pace, however, has gotten tougher to maintain. Somehow I do manage it, though, and complete the loop in 5:11. Pretty consistent, wouldn't you say?
Well that was exhausting! After I catch my breath, I begin to head home. If I go straight in, I'll wind up with ten miles. Remember, I wanted to do at least fifteen. I could head home and then back out again. Or, I can take a detour up to North Park, do some loops around the lake there, and then back home. This option keeps me from the temptation to quit earlier than planned (this happens to me at times, especially if I'm returning home before I've run as much as I wanted); if I can get up there and do the usual five laps there, and then run home, it'll be just about fifteen miles total.
So of course I opt for the longer way home. I'm running slow miles to get up to the park, but as I begin running around the lake, I manage to get down to eight minute pace. That isn't bad, but by the time I have completed those laps and am ready to head home, I'm pretty tired. How am I going to get through these last four miles?
It isn't pretty, but somehow I do manage to get back home. This turned out to be one of my better training runs in a long while.
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