Seconds Matter

Last night’s track workout was a thorough test of endurance–physically and emotionally. There is something about the monotony of the track that really turns up the volume on the inner monologue. The thirty or so runners that attend these sessions are athletic, skilled, and dedicated. The intimidation of running with the others is waning, especially as I realize that I am a member of the group and I am getting out there and not letting myself quit.

Yesterday’s workout:

Warm up laps (1 mile)

Karaoke, backward running, high kicks

Two 12 minute tempo runs (a tempo run should be completed at a moderately difficult pace)

A feel-good-400 meter

Cool down laps

Planks, increased by 10 seconds from last week for each position

Knowing that the focus would be longer tempo runs, I thought this week’s workout would be a bit easier for me since I am a distance runner and not a sprinter. Last week’s mile trial was foreign to me (and a bit of a throw back to junior high gym class), but I was pleased with my performance. What I realized is that a 12 minute tempo run is exceedingly more difficult than a mile trial, for several reasons. First, in this setting, you are aware of your time at the end of each lap. That’s a lot of pressure to maintain a pace! Second, there is no variety in scenery, this is a track. Third, no excuses–if you walk, everybody sees it (I’m by no means disparaging walking… I am just saying that you end up walking when you need to, not when you want to). The first tempo run, I think I was a bit nervous. I finished the first three laps in under 6 minutes, which was a bad idea for the rest of the run. Once I hit that mile, I was wiped. And I still had time to burn… So the first tempo run was about 1.5 miles in 12 minutes. But I was winded at the end and dreading the fact that I had to do it all over again (this is where the mental endurance comes in big time!). Before the second tempo run, the coaches reminded us to relax and not start too fast. They also encouraged us to run in packs at a similar pace for two reasons: 1) shelter against a wind tunnel on one side of the field and–more importantly–2) keep each other going steady. I stayed with a group of three other women and we started the tempo run. This time, I was finishing each lap reliably at exactly 2:15. It was amazing what a difference a few extra seconds made! I felt good throughout the 12 minutes–I mean, I was challenged and pushing hard, but I was also sustaining my energy through each lap. I ran a bit under 1.5 miles at the end of the second tempo run, but felt so much more encouraged.

My time for the Feel Good 400 was 1:50. I just cut loose and had fun 🙂

I slept like a kitten last night.

Yesterday I learned that if you are completing a tempo run alongside others, you won’t be telling a story or cracking jokes. There is not much talking. Tempo runs are higher capacity–it’s an attempt to run at your hardest while sustaining energy over time. I also learned that pumping the arms is a really great way to keep the body propelled and the form aligned. I’ve started paying more attention to my upper body during runs, and I can feel the difference. It is shaving off a bit of time.

Finally, the biggest thing I learned is that running is naturally competitive–but as I was reminded by a dear friend–it’s a competition against yourself, not others. I wanted to quit in the middle of my first tempo run last night–so badly. But I pushed myself to keep going, and I am so glad that I did. I feel awesome today and am a better runner for finishing strong.

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2 thoughts on “Seconds Matter

  1. That workout sounds like it was really hard and really fun. Could you remind me… is this a local running group that you run with? It almost felt like I was reading a race-recap! I need to focus on my upper body more, too.

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