Last spring as we were all getting faster and faster, regularly doing the loop under an 8-minute pace, we began to wonder what it would take to do the loop at a sub-7-minute pace. Obviously someone could do it, but no one we ran with regularly ever seemed to manage it. The fastest I completed the loop in the spring was about a 7:22 pace. This fall I had occasionally run a little faster than that, but still I never actually completed the loop in a sub-7:00 pace. I knew I could do it; after all I had completed a half-marathon at that pace, but somehow my workout plans and the DART loop never matched up.
So this week I decided to modify my plans: Instead of doing a tempo workout Thursday (4 X 10 minutes at tempo pace), I'd run the DART loop as hard as I could on Wednesday. Since I'll be doing an 8K race on Saturday, this will also give me extra time to recover from my hard workout before the race.
I jogged into town, met up with the group, and asked if anyone wanted to take the loop fast. No one spoke up, but as we took off, Tommy caught up with me and said he'd be doing an abbreviated loop of 4.5 miles, and although he had done a hard tempo run yesterday, he'd see how long he could keep up with me.
As it turned out, we stayed together until our routes diverged, about 3 miles in. To this point, I had managed around a 6:45 pace. But the toughest part of the DART loop is the finish. At Mile 3.6, you start a mile-long, 150-foot climb. I made it to Mile 4 with a 6:51 pace and continued up the hill, laboring heavily. Somehow I completed Mile 5 with a 6:56 pace. Now I was quite tired, and still had one more hill left, about 50 feet of climbing. I told myself if I could hold my pace around 7:10 to the top of the hill, I could cruise into town and keep the final mile under a 7:00 pace. When the timer beeped, once again I had run a 6:56 mile. All that was left was a third of a mile, but I had almost nothing left. Somehow I held steady and completed this bit in a 6:41 pace, for an overall average of 6:49 per mile.
I had finally cracked the 7:00 barrier on the DART loop. I waited for the others to finish so I could gloat over my accomplishment. Post-workout coffee never tasted so good!
Details of today's workout are below.