Late last week I wrote a blog lamenting how slow I was running in the late September heat. Well, last night I took a turn on the track and it literally felt like I was coming alive again.
Some of you who read this probably hate training on the track. It might symbolize pain and suffering in your run training. Granted, those things are sometimes true. But the reason most of us go to the track is to get faster. Track training offers the empiric feedback you need to know exactly how fast you’re running. So it hurts a little? A price worth paying. There’s simply no fudging it when you’re running repeats of 200, 400, 800 or mile intervals.
That’s exactly what I did. 2 X 200, 2 X 400, 2 X 800 and a full mile. All at 7:00 mile pace (or *nearly so).
That’s not nearly as fast as I once did that workout. Forty years ago the bulk of that workout would have been done at 4:00-mile pace for the intervals up to 400 meters, and a couple 800s at 2:10 to 2:15 pace. Then the mile would be finished off at 4:30 or under. I’m not lying about those times or exaggerating them for effect. That’s what I could do back then. I was young, decently fast and loved running. Probably I’d have turned around and done the ladder in reverse too.
But everything is relative. So is the age-adjusted sensation of what feels “fast” while running. It’s not the same at 60 years old as it was at 22. But I keep trying. soon enough I plan to be running some of those shorter intervals at 6:00 pace. That’s only 45 second 200s and I’m currently traipsing through at 50-51. All good. Could I run a 37.5 second 200 these days, which is 5:00 pace? Hmmmm. That might be stretching it. But I’ll try.
I’ve got a friend and former teammate Dan Johnson that is nearly my age and just ran a 5:26 mile and a Half-marathon in 1:23, an age-group state record for Minnesota. That’s pretty damned fast. I have no illusions of getting that fast ever again. So kudos to Danny. Carrying the Old Guy Torch with pride.
As for me, I love the feeling of “smoothing out” as the intervals build up in my legs. The first two 200s admittedly felt a bit cloddish. It takes a few solid laps of faster running to loosen up aging joints. Those warmup laps loosen the muscles and set the tone for the rest of the workout. By the second 800, I was running efficiently. Everything felt like it was back in place. It was like reversing the aging process.
After the second 800, I jogged a lap and started to get my mind in the right place for keeping that 7:00 pace going. It’s easy to talk yourself out of being able to handle a target pace on a longer interval. So I said it out loud: “You can do this. Run smooth.”
I felt good but also fell a couple seconds behind the first lap. Same with the second lap. Ooops. That meant it was makeup time on lap three.
The pace quickened and my footstrikes felt more purposeful. I even leaned forward a bit to gain speed and hasten my footplant. That third lap went well.
Then it all came down to the final lap. I was breathing harder but not laboriously. My mind touched on the fact that I’m actually recently capable of running a 6:30 mile. Picking up the last lap should not be a problem.
I brought it home in *7:09. A little over the objective but a great starting point for October speed training. Loved the feeling of new shoes on a responsive all-weather track. With my big clunky orthotics in training shoes, it’s not the same as running intervals in featherweight Nike Air Edge racing flats. But I also no longer weight 140 lbs and have 3% body fat. So there are a few compromises one must make.
But it’s all good. It’s all very good. Following the workout, I again said some words out loud. “Good job. It might be hard to race at that pace, but this was a start.”
Then I looked up and noticed that a couple had just walked past me on the track. I laughed while catching up to them on the jog and told them, “You know, a guy has to talk to himself when he’s training alone. The left side of my brain tells the right side how fast to run.”
They laughed and said, “We wondered about that.” Then I walked a couple laps with them to cool down and learned that he’d once played Division I football at Kansas State University. His arms were huge. We talked strength work and aging. “Don’t do the heavy stuff,” he warned me. “We need the medium stuff and high reps.”
Good advice and a good plan for the weight workout I plan to do tomorrow. Weights help speed and keep injuries at bay. It all fits together.
May you find your speed on your own terms as well.