I haven't had a chance to do a full-out tempo run for several weeks--either I wasn't feeling good, I was saving my energy for another workout later in the week, or my training plan simply didn't include a tempo workout. After a while, it began to wear on me: Can I still run fast? Or are all these long runs just slowing me down?
Finally today the stars aligned and I was ready to do a nice, fast 6-miler. It was a Tuesday DART run, and I was hoping for at least a 7:30 pace. I ran an easy 1.3 miles to the meeting place at CVS, where Chad, Jeremy, and Chris were waiting. I knew Chad and Chris would probably not be interested in a fast pace, but I thought Jeremy might want to run with me. As it turned out, Jeremy wasn't feeling good, so I ended up doing the whole run on my own.
The first mile is mostly downhill, and I wanted to get going quickly. I took off at a strong pace, but kept it under control. I was actually a little surprised to see my first split: 7:34. I thought I was doing a little better than that. The next mile included a 50-foot vertical gain, and I focused on keeping good form and not letting up. It paid off: 7:23. Mile 3 had lots of downhill, and also included a small spur that took us around a small block and back along the same road. As I finished rounding the block I could see Chad, Jeremy, and Chris just starting it -- I was at least two minutes ahead of them. I finished Mile 3 in 7:07. Mile 4 included a downhill stretch on a greenway, then a long, grueling uphill, 62 feet of vertical. If I could keep up the pace here I'd have a chance at a really strong run. I was hoping for better than a 7:40, and so was very pleasantly surprised to see a 7:26 split. Mile 5 continues uphill for another half mile before offering a slight downhill section (which actually didn't register on my Garmin as a decline at all). I was able to keep the pace on the uphill and coast a bit heading back down. I saw one of my old soccer buddies running the other way, which inspired me to try to maintain good form as I ran a 7:28.
Finally, Mile 6. Once again, this leg starts with an uphill section, 56 vertical feet. As I neared the top of the hill, a woman who had been running towards me turned around and headed back into town, about 50 meters ahead of me. I was feeling tired, but decided to try to catch her. As it turned out, she was running at a good pace, and it was all I could do to keep up. I gained perhaps 20 meters, following her for almost a mile. As my Garmin alerted me to a 7:21 split, she turned off onto Baker Drive. I was headed into town, so my race-within-a-workout was over. I was still feeling pretty good, but not good enough to start an all-out sprint to the finish. I completed the final .38 miles at a 7:05 pace. I had run 6.38 miles in 47 minutes flat, a 7:22 pace--significantly faster than my 7:30 goal!
Since I knew I'd be sitting down for coffee in a few minutes, I decided to do a bit of a cool-down run, and headed back up Concord to meet the other runners. They were about 5 minutes behind me at this point, so that gave me about a half-mile to bring my heart rate back to normal.
It was quite satisfying to see that all the miles I've been logging at relatively slow pace haven't precluded me putting in a nice, fast run when I need to. This was the fastest I'd ever run the DART loop--my previous best was a 7:34 pace. I've got a 10K coming up in just under two weeks, and I'm thinking I just might be able to run it in under a 7-minute pace. Full details of today's run are below.