Thursday, September 1, 2011

Tempo, Tempo, Tempo, Tempo

Today's workout called for tempo runs of 18, 13.5, 9, and 4.5 minutes, separated by easy runs of 4, 3, and 2 minutes. My tempo pace is around 7:00 per mile, so I knew this would be a tough one. Between the tempo runs, rest intervals, and warm-up/cool-down, it adds up to over 12 miles. Normally I'd carry water and perhaps a couple gels on a run this long, but I didn't want to be burdened, so I set up a route that would bring me past my house after the warm-up and 18-minute tempo.

My left hamstring is still feeling a bit sore, but massaging the hamstring and my calf seems to help a lot, so I felt like I could complete this run okay. My warm-up was downhill and I didn't feel great. When I got to the point where I was supposed to start my first tempo run I was at the bottom of a steep hill: Patrick Johnson Lane, where I was running in the opposite direction yesterday when I fell. That didn't bother me so much as the thought of running a 7-minute pace up a steep hill, so I decided to continue my warm-up run to the top of the hill. Even so, I was winded when I reached the top, and now I'd have to start my 18-minute tempo, on what was actually still a slight incline. I managed a 7:19 pace for the first mile. I was determined to do better on the next mile, even though I'd be heading up the notorious South Street incline, a hundred vertical feet in 2/3 of a mile. I completed the mile, on Main Street, in 7:04. Relieved, I slowed down and was ready to hit "lap" on my timer, when I realized I still had another 4 minutes of tempo-pace running to do. Somehow I found some more gas in the tank and completed another 0.54 miles at a 6:56 pace. Then I slowed down for the easy rest jog home.

My planning wasn't perfect, so instead of a 4-minute cool-down, I got about 7 minutes, plus the time it took to head inside and take a sip of water. I headed back out on the road and warmed up for a block before picking up the pace for my 13.5-minute tempo run. This time, Mile 1 started with a slight uphill, then finished with a nice, long downhill. I had picked some inspiring music to run by and turned up the pace: 6:45. Mile 2 was a slight uphill, but the music kept me going, and I completed it in 6:46.

My 3-minute break took me up a hill and back down, so I wasn't sure how I'd do on the 9-minute tempo that was scheduled next. I was running the first mile at a solid 7-minute pace when, 5:19 in, I found myself back at the bottom of Patrick Johnson lane. I decided to hit the "lap" button right then and charge up the hill, to see what pace I could manage on the hill. It's a short but steep stretch, and I made it to the top in just 1 minute, at an 8:00 pace. I had 2:40 left in my 9-minute tempo, so I decided to see how much time I could make up. As I ran, I monitored my average pace for the lap, within a minute it was down to 7:30. Then it hit 7:20, then 7:15. I only needed to run at tempo pace until the lap time read 3:40, and at 3:20, my pace was 7:10 for the lap. Surely there was no way to get the average pace down to 7:00, was there? I picked a driveway about 50 meters ahead and ran for it at full speed, figuring I'd arrive right at 3:40. I was right, and when I pressed "lap" I was stunned to see that my average pace for the lap was indeed 7:00!

I walked for about 30 seconds to catch my breath, then jogged for another 1:30 before starting on my final 4.5-minute tempo run. I was running downhill, so even though I had barely recovered from the last tempo, I was holding steady at a 6:45 pace. Then I hit a greenway with rolling hills. I only let myself look at the timer every 60 seconds or so, focusing on good form and a consistent stride. I kept up the pace all the way to the end of the run, a 6:45 for my final tempo leg. I let myself walk for 60 seconds, then started back up South Street at my 9:00 "easy" pace, which seemed anything but easy after the workout I had just put in.

I've often found that the cool-down run is the toughest part of these hard workouts, and today was no different. It was all I could do to avoid stopping and walking on the two-mile run home. I did stop for about 20 seconds to say hi to my wife, who was walking in to work, but that doesn't count, does it?

Details of today's workout are below.

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