Yesterday was a track session at the Vaughn Center, a public fitness facility that has a 200-meter indoor track. It’s a great place to run on a February afternoon when temperatures are in the mid-teens and the wind chill makes it feel like five degrees outside.
There is also a track upstairs, but it has basically square corners and is typically clogged with folks walking, not running.
Plus it has no tangible connection between the distance around the track, actual interval times and pace per mile. The upstairs track is fine if you’re doing a steady five-mile run to stay out of the cold. But a track of an odd size is meaningless to any trackster worth their weight in 400s.
So I warmed up downstairs where the jumpers from Aurora University were practicing long jump, triple jump, and high jump. As a high school and college kid I did all three events, managing 19’6″ in the long jump, 40’4″ in the triple and 6’1.5″ (in college, both straddle and flop).
I teased one of the jumpers as I jogged past. “45 foot triple!” I called out. He smiled. I talked with the kid and he told me that he jumped 12.7 meters indoors. I asked his coach later how far that was in feet. “About 38 feet,” he replied.
So I felt kind of bad, cause I’d told the kid that I’d jumped 40 feet in high school assuming that he’d probably gone farther than that in college.
There was a trio of kids practicing the high jump. Guys and girls jumping together. I watched her form over the bar at five feet even and recalled how lithe I used to be. These days it would make no sense for me to high jump.
But I can still run decently. Not as fast as I once was, mind you. But not horrible. After the warmup, I did a set of 8 X 400 at 1:36. That’s about 6:25 per mile, my target race pace this year for a 5K. So there’s a lot of work still to do. But at least I know that I can actually run the pace I’m trying to achieve.
Two weeks ago I did 6 X 400 and the starting pace was in the mid-1:40s for the first few. That was the first speed workout of the season. By the time I was on the fourth 400 the times had dropped to 1:36 and the running felt smooth.
All the strength work is helping too. Running on the straights felt strong and fun. The curves cause a little torque in the left knee and the right foot. That’s where I can feel that I’m not as young as I used to be. Other than that, the sensations of doing intervals are fun and familiar.
Even the fatigue on the last rep was familiar. I slogged the last 40 yards and finished in 1:41. Okay, that’s supposed to happen. The workout was probably just the right length for the second time on the track.
That’s incremental progress. Next week if my knee and feet hold up, I’ll add two more 400s to the mix. The goal is to do 12, then drop back down and increase the speed a bit. Add back up, and repeat.
It’s always worked for me. These 400 workouts. Simple to do. Simple to count. Simple to see progress. Incremental progress.