Friday, June 22, 2012

Back At The Track

Alan Webb Sets American Mile Record
I've said it before, but I'll say it again - the track is where I feel most at home. Growing up running high school track, anytime I step foot on a track, I immediately start get flashbacks to "the good old days". Our Reston =PR= DTP program just kicked off last week and we had our first track workout of the season last night, despite the 100 degree temps. Shockingly, we had a solid group of about 20+ people show up! Must be some hardcore runners we've got this session! And for the next 20 weeks, we'll continue to lay all the sweat and grit of pushing the pace out there and it doesn't get much better than that! Oh, and by the way, did you know that the track we run at is legendary?  South Lakes High School is famous in track circles as being the high school of Alan Webb, who not only holds the American record in the mile (see photo above), but became the 1st high school miler to run a sub-4 minute mile indoors AND shattered Jim Ryun's high school mile record to run 3:53:43!  Oh, and he also will be running in the US Olympic Trials Saturday night in the 5k, so feel free to tune in.

For me, going to the tack is a chance to re-ignite that fire for speed. So now that our new group of DTP has been initiated to the summer heat, its all good from here on out. Last night's workout was one our training programs typically start with as a way of setting a baseline for where your fitness is. We come back about a month or so later and do the same workout to see how much improvement has been made. The workout goes like this:

  • 10-15 min warm up
  • 1600m (@ 10k/10 mile pace)
  • 2 x 800 (@ 5k pace)
  • 4 x 400 (@ 5k pace, descending to faster if still feeling good)
  • 3 min rest between each
Its a great workout that introduces a solid amount of faster running, without overtaxing the system.  If you read here, this workout probably sounds familiar since she just wrote about it as well.  And if run properly, doesn't leave you exhausted by the end.  One of the most common mistakes people make is to run track workouts too hard.  Just because its faster running, doesn't mean it has to be super fast.  Often times, especially for runners training for 1/2 marathon to marathon distances, you shouldn't be running your track workouts faster than 5k/10k pace.  That's not typically the purpose of the workout.  If you do run them too fast, you risk not getting the desired training benefit and/or the inability to adequately recover in time for the next quality session.

So being that it was 100 degrees yesterday, we advised most people to cut the workout a bit shorter to keep things safe.  Most people, including myself, did everything as listed, but cut the last 2 400s.  In that kind of heat, that was more than enough.

  • 1600 - 6:10
  • 800 - 3:02
  • 800 - 3:00
  • 400 - 1:27
  • 400 - 1:23
Now could I have run those faster?  Sure I could!  But you have to remember that these are designed to be run comfortably hard at the prescribed effort, not as fast as you can go to survive.  But the nice thing is that I can look back at this same workout I've done a number of times and compare my times.

             Then (Dec)    Now
1600      6:28               6:11
800        3:09               3:02
800        3:07               3:00
400        1:29               1:27
400        1:25               1:23

What you see is an across the board improvement in every interval, while also working the SAME effort.  That is the key.  You can take a previous time and run faster the next week, month, or year, but if you don't have a benchmark of a consistent effort to put forth, there is no way to measure if you just ran harder or if you are actually more fit.

So despite the heat, I was happy to welcome back the track to my usual weekly workouts.  Can't wait for more!

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