Monday, July 6, 2009

First FIRST Workout

[Distances in kilometers. Click on graphic for full-size version.]

I thought I liked to run hard. I thought I liked to hurt. I had no idea what that really meant.

Today was the first day of training for Berlin, kicking off with track repeats. I'd never really done anything like this. Yeah, once in a while on a run I'd find my way to a track and there I might unwind a few hard miles or 800s at an undefined pace with a flexible interval. It's a different story when the workout is firm—and a bit of a reach.

With FIRST, the training paces are supposed to be based on "current fitness and not goal race times." Not having done a 5K recently, I used my half-marathon time from Race for the Roses in April to peg a 5K equivalent of 19:20, which is 21 seconds faster than what I did at my most recent 5K, last fall at Blue Lake. So it's slightly aggressive pacing. It falls in line with a marathon goal of just under 3:10.

So here's what the boys from Furman instructed me to do:
  • 2x1200 in 4:22 with a 2-minute rest interval (walking mostly, a little jogging).
  • Then after another 2-minute rest, 4x800 in 2:51 with 2-minute intervals.
One thing that ratcheted up the difficulty factor: I tended to go out too fast. You're supposed to run at an even pace throughout each repeat, and you're also supposed to hit the pace time, not beat it. I got better at that as I went along. (The distances on the chart above are from my Garmin and are a little long because I was running on a 400m track but had to go in Lane 2 often due to kids on bikes, aimless walkers and high school football players being badass tough guys by standing on the track in front of the old runner dude.)

Using the track distances, not the Garmin, it was 5.6 kilometers of hard running—without the rest, that's 20:14 going like a fool, a 5:49/mile pace. That's 30 seconds/mile under my best 5k pace. Well, that's the idea behind intervals, isn't it? The rest periods allow you to do more hard running than you'd be able to do otherwise. The hard running improves VO2 max. It's making the engine bigger, boosting the horsepower. Rrrn, rrrn.

You can see my heart rate got into the 170s (my max is 180 or so) on the first of the 1200s, peaking at 176 on each of the final two 800s. What you can't see is that my guts tied into knots on the third lap of each 1200 and I didn't think I would make it, and that on the second of the 800s I actually feared I'd need to flee to the trackside toilet before finishing the thing. Actually, I did run over to the can, after the 800 was done, but by the time I got there things had calmed down, it was a false alarm, just my insides rebelling against running pretty much as hard as I can for several minutes. Again and again. On the second lap of the final 800 I felt as though I was barely moving but weirdly, the clock showed I maintained my pace. I walked the whole two miles home, not because I couldn't have jogged some of it but because I didn't want to. I didn't want to leave all that pure pain and effort behind so quickly for the vague sorta sucky pain of a post-track jog. So I walked and savored.

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