Posts Tagged ‘nike speed workouts’

Tempo Two-Point-Five

Tempo runs are the bugaboo workout for me. They never feel right, they never give me confidence, they hurt like hell. If I attempt them on my own I can never settle into a pace, and if I run them with a group I am always annoyed and shamed by the stronger runners who pass me, or who have more kick/less gasping the final half a mile. I hate the way tempo runs make my lungs burn and my heart pound so hard I can feel it pulsing in my chest. Theoretically, tempo runs should be tough enough to wear me down, but not so hard that I am humiliated, and yet, I always feel like a schmoe at the end of a tempo.

Take Matt. He loves tempo runs because he gets out there and lets ‘er rip, running hard and fast while enjoying the zipzipzip. Then there are runners like EG who are so talented at locking into a rhythm  that others call them a “pace master.” I want to enjoy the zip, I want to lock in, but I am starting to suspect it won’t ever happen for me.

Oh and: did I mention that Coach Kate had us scheduled for a tempo run along the West Side Highway this evening at Nike Speed? Did I also mention that my buddy DT who pulls me along on these workouts thought he was being clever and went straight to the track on the Lower East Side, leaving me with no fellow tempo schmoe? (He ended up fartleking around by himself.) Oh and did I mention that I had to pee so badly that I left Paragon Sports after the rest of the group, so I actually got in a 1.5 mile faux tempo (do you like how I’ve found a few rhymes with the “oh” in tempo for this post?) as I trotted across West 20th Street with one of the pacers to catch up with the rest of the group?

All things considered–including the fact that I didn’t always get in three runs a week in March as I’d been planning so my base fitness is, shall we say, shallow–I am satisfied with my effort in tonight’s speed workout. There is, however, a big difference between satisfied and elated.

Coach Kate paced the 8-minute-5k-race-pace group tonight, and since Mile 1 was the only full one I ran under her guidance, I give her the credit for the nice 8:13 pace. That felt “comfortably hard.” After 1.5 miles, I peeled off from the rest of the pack, which was planning on a 4-mile tempo, and headed back on my own. So I was partially responsible for the pace of Mile 2, which was 8 minutes flat. By the time I started the third mile, I had cramps in both sides (is that even possible??), was hacking wetly, my heart felt like someone was squeezing it in a fist, and my lower back and shoulders were so tense and malformed I could hear my Pilates instructor’s voice scolding me. “Shoulders down! Tailbone tucked!”

Dudes and dudettes, this is what’s called “I Haven’t Done a Fucking Tempo Run Since October.”

The only thing I remember about the last half mile was the clamorous noise in my head as I tried to psych myself up to complete the entire mile. At 42nd Street I got real, and promised myself that if I continued to give it my all through 36th Street (completing the half-mile) I could walk a little then trot it in. Hi, yes, I feel humble. Hi, yes, I have a lot of work to do. Hi, yes, I am up for the challenge (7-minute pace group, I’m gonna get you!). The last 0.52 miles of the tempo were run at a 7:51 pace, which makes the workout more of a progression run than a true tempo. Yeah, progression THIS, suckers!

Related: I have officially put these speed workouts in the No-Go Zone, which means I skip them only for some other running-related event, or a death in the family. I backed out of a work obligation next Wednesday because I didn’t want to miss my speed workout. NB: this work obligation involves a cookbook, a cookbook author, preparation of recipes in said book by said author, all while surrounded by elegant and esteemed foodies–normally I’d cancel a date with Daniel Craig* to be in such esteemed culinary company. The intractable prioritizing of my training has begun its slow, merciless takeover of my life. Bring it!

*Not that he’s asking. I mean, it’s likely that if he met me he’d so totally want to date me. But, we haven’t met. Yet.

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It’s just midnight on a school night and I am only now starting to feel like maybe soon I’ll be ready for bed. This from the woman who is normally in bed by 10 PM and wishing she’d gotten there half an hour earlier. Why, why, why such energy at such a belated hour? Two words:

Downward ladders.

Nooo, not a downward spiral. [Begin Valley Girl accent.] I’m like soo totally past that stage of my life. I said, “Downward ladders!” It’s a speeeed workout, like on the track? (Du-uh!) [End that accent, god that was awful.]

This is one of my all-time favorite track workouts, second only to Pyramids. You start long and slow….and you end up short and fast. That’s basically it, except it’s not naughty like it sounds. Though, at the end of the workout you feel so good you could perhaps forget for a moment that you weren’t naughty. At least, for me, the afterglow is kind of the same. Um….!

It was 48 degrees when I left the office to head down to Paragon Sports for my first Nike Speed of the year (the first session was a week ago, but I was a little busy). By the time we made it to the Lower East Side track, the chill evening had won me over and I was ready to wax poetical about what a perfect night it was. On our first loop around that perfect orange oval, DT rightly pointed out that the usual wind that hits us head on off the river was mercifully absent. I hadn’t noticed the wind (or lack thereof) because I was too distracted by the gorgeous slate gray striations of the clouds and sky that hung lightly over the East River. This is the sort of thing my senses pick up in the seconds I allow them to focus elsewhere during speedwork.

I aligned myself with the 8-minute pace group (this is based on an estimated 5k race time, taken from my Cherry Tree Relay results). Our pacer kept us honest. I definitely felt challenged, though without that searing, gasping, tense exertion I recall from my hardest efforts in past summers. There is time enough for such suffering; indeed, if I come regularly to these speed workouts, I’ll have six months of weekly interval training under my belt before my goal race. That will be my longest stretch of regular speedwork ever.

The splits were like this: 1200-1000-800-600-400, with 200 meter recoveries except after the first 1200 interval when we ran a whole lap recovery. The times were like this: 5:55-4:56-3:50-2:52-1:43. The paces were like this: 7:47-7:47-7:40-7:30-6:38. Talk about a confidence booster! Even though on the 1.75-mile trot back to Paragon Sports I was a little tapped out, putting my hands on my knees at one red light, I still felt elated about the whole thing. We ran nearly 7 miles total–I can’t remember the last time I’ve run further than 6 miles, so it’s no shocker I was pooped.

Here is something I can carry with me through the season: Shoulders back and down. Abs up. Eyes straight ahead. Knees high. My mind has hooked into my body, and I can feel the interior flow that only comes with that connection. There it is again: recognition. With any luck, soon I’ll hit the trifecta and when my mind and body connect up, so will my spirit. Together, we will run forward, slingshot around the outside curve and cut it loose until we’re flying up the straightaway.

Here I come.

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It Just Gets Harder

At the Nike Speed Series workout on Wednesday, Coach Kate once again treated us to mile repeats. Except this time, I stepped forward with the 7:30 pace group, 30 seconds faster than last time.  I couldn’t in good conscience run with a slower group, since I wasn’t going to deny the pace from my recent PR in Greenpoint. The funny little lesson here, which is easy to forget when comparing ourselves to faster runners, is that faster does not mean easier. If anything, things get harder because a bite of improvement gets us craving for a whole meal of it.

This small truth proves itself time and again in my life. I get promoted at work, and the new responsibility means longer hours, extra head-scratching, and acting as-if until I actually get up to speed. I deal with a thorny issue in my personal life, and in cutting through the vines to clear a path towards happiness and resolution, I get plenty scratched up and end up licking wounds I didn’t even have at the outset. I get faster as a runner, and in order to maintain and improve up on that speed and strength I have to enter a whole new realm of pain and concentration on form and training. Life isn’t easy; in fact it just gets harder. This is why we have laughter, chocolate, sex and wine: if there weren’t visceral pleasures, we’d balk at the hardships more often than we already do. At least, that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

So, about the running. DT again joined me; it’s so nice to have him in my pace group. He’s all set to retire in two months; I marvel at what pace he’d be doing these mile repeats if we were the same age! I can’t remember the name of our pacer but he’s the tall guy with the great legs, he reminds me of a greyhound. Anyway, he did a great job, chatting us up and explaining the benefit of keeping a relaxed and open upper body while racing. Understanding it didn’t necessarily help me maintain it, especially during the third repeat when I had to disassociate to make it through the four laps without doing that internal whining thing in my brain. We did 400 meter recoveries (thank god). Little G gave me splits like this: 7:20-7:47-7:38 but I don’t think that is correct because like an idiot I always hit the stop button instead of the lap button. I can tell you this: I had to apply mental faculties in order to successfully climb the steps out of the subway after this workout since my legs were a little rubbery. All told, I ran 7.35 miles that night, and was grateful to have Thursday morning off.

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At My Threshold

During the middle 2 miles of our 4-mile tempo run up the West Side Highway with the Nike Pacers, I thought Now this is a quick pace I can maintain. This feels good. I was relaxed, but I was moving at a clip. My breathing was accelerated but not labored, and if I needed to pick it up a little, I would be able to do that. It was the sweet spot, where I was light on my feet yet still working up a good sweat. I was, as DT’s chirping Garmin told us, at the perfect speed and effort for a threshold workout.

Often, in running, there is a reason why certain miles feel harder than others. It isn’t just that we are tired and slowing down. Sometimes there is a hill, or there is heat. Tonight, Mile 4 felt harder because  the pace picked up by 17 seconds. Of course, I didn’t know this until Little G flashed the split. In the moment, I had to do an awful lot of concentrating on form, breathing and motivation to not fall too far off the rest of the pace group.

These were my splits: 8:21, 8:10, 7:59, 7:42. I don’t know if the goal of this workout was to get progressively faster, or if the pacer just sucked at his job. (I thought tempo runs were supposed to have more even splits. I was with the 8 minute per mile pace group.)  All I know is that last mile had me feeling like a woosie up until the moment I realized how fast we were going.

But isn’t it always the way? In running as in life, it’s never clear how hard we’ll have to work to get through any given moment until we’re actually in it. Understanding of what exactly we just pushed through doesn’t come until we are in fact through. In a little bitter twist, understanding doesn’t necessarily make the struggle easier.

In any case, I lived to tell the tale of tonight’s speed workout. There was the black ribbon of the West Side Greenway. There was the crescent moon on our way back. There was the silence of the pack as we trotted beneath the West Side Highway, traffic rumbling overhead like a coming storm. It wasn’t so dramatic after all.

6.85 miles run in 61:24. Average pace 8:57; fastest mile 7:42; slowest mile 10:45.

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Mile Repeats

In a sense, every run we go on is a mile repeat, we just vary the number of reps and the amount of effort put into each mile. Tuesday morning I ran again with MP, this is turning into a reliable meet-up for us. I for one am grateful for it because I am still struggling with motivation some days, and now that it’s dark in the mornings I have to do even more self-coersion to get myself out the door for a run. But meeting MP for an out and back along the West Side HIghway Greenway is a great way to ensure I’ll show up–for her and for myself. I forgot Little G so I am unsure of my mileage (I can’t remember where we turned around, some place south of Chelsea Piers) — probably around 5 or 6. It was a nice easy run spent catching up on our weeks and musing about the days ahead.

Tonight I met LW at Paragon Sports for the Nike Pacers speed workout. I was really looking forward to this all day long. Once again, my mood was such that I was unsure if I’d have shown up at the workout just for myself–but I couldn’t let her down, and I couldn’t wait to see my dear friend. Coach Kate gave us a tough workout (she always does) of 3 x 1 mile with 200 meter recoveries for the 8-minute pace group (again, based on 5k pace). My splits were 7:56, 7:56 and 7:53; in total I ran more than 6.5 miles tonight. I wasn’t nearly as tired as I thought I would be at the end of the workout–I don’t know if that means I did it properly (stayed relaxed, locked into the pace) or if I should have jumped down to the 7:30 group. We’ll see how I do in the Get to the ‘Point 5k in Greenpoint, Brooklyn this weekend; if I PR again, maybe I’ll give myself a test at the faster pace. (My 5k PR from August was run at a 7:55 pace, but my 3.5 mile PR from August was run at a 7:35 pace.)

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At first glance, Downward Ladders seems like one of the easier track workouts Coach Kate could throw out to us. After all, the first repeat is the longest. We start at 1200 meters and run our way down to 400 meters, just once around the track, with 200 meter recoveries. But the evil twist in the project, the thing that really makes your legs and lungs burn, is that each interval is done at an ever-faster speed. So not only is your distance dropping, but so is your pace, as your body moves toward exhaustion. What a tease! If ever you were looking for a workout that would clear your mind of everything but the will to push forward just so it would all be over, Downward Ladders is it.

I have mentioned before, but not in a long while, how much I love that track on the East River. The symmetry of the orange oval is pleasing enough. Combine the scenic views of the river, turf and other runners with the attentive presence of New York City on the other side of the bleachers, ready to welcome us back to its mean streets once we’re done testing our limits –well, then it’s nearly as good as it can get.

Running still has the power to awe me. By that I mean: my own ability to gain fitness and speed while enduring pain never ceases to surprise me. Perhaps this is why I enjoy Wednesday night speed sessions so much–track workouts are further proof that I am a real runner. I get to use words like “intervals” and “splits” in proper context. I get to do the thing I love best in its most traditional setting, even though I never ran track as a student. Track workouts are purifying. It takes all of my mind’s concentration and body’s effort to maintain a proper pace, right on the edge between all-out and just-a-little-more. No matter what else I have going on in my life–good or bad–it all gets set aside for the half hour that I am hauling ass around that track.  And let’s not forget that track workouts are galvanizing. When I am done, I feel tougher, more confident in my ability to meet the challenge of my next race, and more committed to continuing on with my training.  Add in a little poetic fairy dust (running on the track in the dark feels like flying because I can’t really see where my feet are landing; I get so breathless that the laps begin to swirl together; every now and then I reel in someone from my pace group, grin) and a track workout can turn around a bad day, a bad week, a bad month and set it back on the right, well, track!

I queued up with the 8-minute-per-mile pace group (based on 5k pace), and quickly appreciated the carefully calibrated speeds the pacer was taking us through. Elemental, involuntary functions like my breathing, the beating of my heart, and even the blinking of my eyes become keenly felt and monitored. The arch of my back, tuck of my chin, swing of my arms, cast of my shoulders, and strike of my soles are considered, adjusted, and adjusted again. I imagine myself in my mind’s eye; I imagine other runners (elites and friends alike) keeping pace next to me.

My splits end up like this (with 200m recoveries, not listed):
Distance / Pace
1200 / 8:02
1000 / 8:00
800 / 7:58
600 / 7:10
400 / 6:49

When I looked at these times afterwards, I understood why the last two intervals hurt so damn much. (Plus, I had just put myself through a similarly punishing speed “workout” at the Continental Fifth Avenue Mile just 3 days before.) But, as John Mellencamp says, it hurt so good: I wasn’t complaining. Total mileage for the evening, including the roundtrip trot between Paragon Sports and the track: 6.38.

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Proper motivation, in this case being: Sour Cream Fudge drop cookies. These cookies bake up moist, fluffy and chocolaty, and they are not overly sweet. They are small, so you can eat a few and not feel like you need to immediately head out for another speed workout. (Anyone who wants the recipe just post a comment and I will share.)

Earlier this week I’d emailed all my New York City-based running friends (those who weren’t on the DL, or devoted to their own training regimes) inviting them to join me tonight at Nike Speed. Obviously, EN was in, as was AG (from Run Ansky Run). But much to my pleasure, SA showed up, as did DT (f.k.a. the bachelorette DR). I got there early enough to hand over the two plasticware containers full of Sour Cream Fudge drop cookies to the Nike coordinators, so they could put them out once everyone started trickling in after our speed workout. It was cool the way the rumor spread throughout the coaches and runners that there would be cookies after the run. We would all have a treat awaiting us in exchange for a hard workout.

Remember when you were in elementary school and your mom would bake cupcakes for the whole classroom, and bring them to school for a midday snack? I was working on that premise, except I’m 36, not nine. Cookies are an all-ages dessert, don’t you agree?

I dropped back a pace group this evening, as I was not feeling like I could sustain 7:30’s over three miles (Coach Kate said her group would run 7:45’s but she always pushes us faster). My hamstrings are tender, and I was concerned about injury, to be honest. EN went on ahead, and I tucked in behind the 8-minute per mile pacer as we headed up the West Side Highway Rec Path, the wind at our backs. Little G chirped our first split at 7:52, just where I wanted to be. Mile 2, which included the turnaround, took us 8:14, yikes! That was a bummer, and I couldn’t feel us slowing down because as soon as we turned around (which surely costs us a few seconds) we were running smack into a headwind that I don’t think the pacer adjusted for right away. Oh well. Mile 3 was more on track, at 8:02. I was glad once we were done and back at 27th Street, where I could chat with EN and DT on the way back to Paragon Sports. I felt strong, after the first mile my hamstrings felt suitably warm and loose, but not enough for me to kick it into the next gear. I worked the hardest during Mile 3, as we muscled against the headwind. I’m looking forward to starting my “microtaper” tomorrow with an easy run home from work.

The coaches commended me on showing up for a speed workout on my birthday (they kept saying “Today is your actual birthday?!”), but it didn’t feel like a big deal to me. I didn’t say it then, because I would have seemed like a total dork, but actually there are very few places I’d rather be on my birthday than out running with my friends.

Oh and the cookies? Yeah, all gone!

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Miss You

Who among you has your Cake, and gets to eat it, too?

Anyone have any running songs to suggest? I have some iTunes credits I need to use up.

New York City readers, come meet me at Nike Speed Wednesday at 6:30 at Paragon Sports. I need people around me this week.

I’m also tweeting on Twitter these days. Follow me. My handle is pigtailsflying, of course.

New blog on the blogroll, over there to the right (Team Fox, for whom I am fundraising. Parkinson’s Disease sucks).

I got a haircut. It’s short.

A t least one real post, full of PF‘s trademark verve and sentimentality, will in fact be posted before the month of March is over.  After all, I turn 36 on March 25th. I’ve got to commemorate that somehow.

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Track Therapy

Wednesday night’s Nike Speed workout, led by stand-in and chipper Coach Yves-Mark (cool name, right?), was “more of a fitness test:” we ran 3 x 1200. So, three times around the track, at our mile pace, repeated three times.

That’s right, kids: I said track. Finally we hit the oval and it was truly a beautiful thing.

I arrived late, feeling trampled from two days of negativity, disappointment, and helplessness. Folks, my mood has been grim, no point in dressing it up. So I was grateful to see EN’s friendly face in that crowd when I got to the basement of Paragon Sports.

The whole jog over to the track, he let me just spill it, dump the whole litany of sadness, fear, anger, hurt, everything. Tuesday night I was too stunned to talk at all; when Husband asked me what happened I couldn’t even go there, I just started crying (and I still have a job!), but Wednesday I was ready to purge. The whole kit and kaboodle, all in a rush: work, friendships, Nana, training, all the crazy awful shit. By the time we made it to the Sixth Street Track fifteen minutes later, EN affirmed, “Honey, it really has sucked for you!” With that, I was done. Time to run fast, and see if I couldn’t insert myself back into normalcy.

The workout was pretty straightforward, we did only 200 meters for recovery but Yves-Mark did it  just the way I like it: nice and slow. The point of the workout wasn’t to charge hard, but rather to maintain just enough effort so that your breathing and form were relaxed even while you were working. I like these kinds of workouts because they pull my mind completely into my body, forcing me to turn away from any other concern or musing. This is what I needed above all else.

I missed recording the first split because I forgot to hit the lap button, but my second and third splits were good at 5:31 and 5:32. Then, when we were done, YM told us we were doing one more lap, as close to 6-minute-mile pace as possible! Okay, for just 400 meters? I was game; I still had fuel in the tank and frankly I was itching to zooooom out of the corner.  In actuality it ended up a little bit ragged, we bunched up and it was hard to pass without losing speed. No matter, I finished the lap in 1:30, a 6:07 pace, and it felt awesome to just open it up.

EN and I shared a subway part of the way uptown, and he was a good sport as I cracked up at the flasher chic look he had going on. He even let me take photos. I appreciate the way he was willing to be slightly ridiculous in public to keep me smiling a little while longer.

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Tonight at Nike Speed we ran a pyramid workout, which kicked me on my ass. And I like pyramids. Last season, we ran them by increasing then decreasing our laps around the track. But this weather has turned the track into an “ice skating rink” (Coach Kate’s words), so we run pyramids with speed intervals based on time rather than distance. 

We ran a mile and a half warm-up over to the West Side highway, then ran surges of 1, 2, 3, and 4 minutes with 2 minutes recoveries before sliding back down through 3, 2 and 1 minute surges. 

I think I lost the group during the recovery between the 3 and 4-minute intervals–I needed to jog slower than the rest of them to get my heart rate down, and fell behind. My surges with the group at just over 7-minute mile pace, but the ones I ran on my own were around 7:40’s. Bummer. I used Little G to time myself and most definitely did complete the workout–just 40 seconds slower than everyone else. All told, we ran about 7 miles tonight. Back home, I’m feeling a little beat up, to tell the truth. 

A semi-expected perk of tonight’s workout: I met a fellow running blogger, Ansky from Run Ansky Run. He had tipped me off he would be at the workout, and I told him to just look for the pigtails. (It worked.) He is tall and skinny guy with a friendly face, who runs in his glasses; my heart went out to him when he blogged a few months ago about feeling the tug between his conflicting desires to run and to be present for his wife and daughter. (He’s since sorted it out.)One of the first things Ansky asked me tonight was if I’d done laundry since my last blog post. (I haven’t. I just went shopping at Vicky’s Sunday afternoon.) And to give props where props are due: Ansky killed tonight’s workout (we were in the same pace group although clearly he belonged there while I was just an arrogant interloper). Looking forward to seeing him at future Nike Speed workouts!

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