Tuesday, April 29, 2014

When interval repetitions go well....

Okay, I'm nowhere near as fast as a cheetah (at least, for short distances - I don't think they run for more than 1/4 mile or so), but interval training is as close as I come to that feeling of pure speed, even more than races, since I run interval repetitions at faster than 5K pace.

Today would've been a good day to run at the track since the schedule called for speed work (hence, no TV), but after yesterday's near half marathon (12.2 miles on hilly roads), I figured I could benefit from the softer surface of the treadmill.

After a short warm up of a mile at an 8:35 pace, I got to work on 1/4 mile repetitions. The advantage of the treadmill is that you can set the pace precisely and consistently, and I alternated between 1/4 miles at 6:18 pace (the repetition) and 10:00 pace (the recovery) ten times, and than upped the repetition pace to 6:00 for the last two.

As Ms. 2Cups'NRun notes, running interval repetitions on the treadmill is easier in some ways than outside, because all you have to do is keep up. Of course, it's easier to say "keep up" than it is actually to do it, but it's even harder to force yourself to maintain a given pace. Thus, she writes:
I don’t know if this is an issue only I have, but my Garmin is not great at giving me the exact instant pace I’m running. The splits are perfect it seems, but if I look at my watch at any given time, especially if I recently changed my speed, the display of instant pace is quite off. I tried to go by feel, and for fear of running slower than I had planned, I ended up not only running faster, but each interval is not even similar to the previous one.
Her intervals were on the road, every 500 meters by a Garmin stopwatch. Maybe the track makes for easier interval training, because you can see exactly how much distance you have left to go. On the track, all I use is a digital watch with a timer/split function. It doesn't have GPS and thus can't give my pace, but I can do the math pretty easily in my head about elapsed time at the 1/8 and 3/8 mile marks.

Having an idea about pace is one thing; keeping it up on your own internal motivation is another. This is where the track is much harder than the treadmill. If you slow down a little - and when it comes to 1/4 mile, even a small slowdown is going to reflect in the ultimate pace (after all, just 5 seconds slower on a 1/4 mile translates to a full 20 seconds for a mile) - nothing is going to make you speed up except your own willpower.

With that in mind, it seems to me that speed workouts on the treadmill aren't just about keeping up with the pace that you input into the machine. They're about working on form, cadence, breathing, and the general feeling of being in control (as opposed to staggering to the end of the repetition). By that measure, today's speed workout was a success. Even though the last half of each repetition was hard, I never felt like I was struggling to complete the lap, and my form during the recovery intervals felt good. (Kind of weird to think that when I started running, a 10 minute/mile pace was exhausting, and now it's the pace that let's me recover for another ~6:00 pace 1/4 mile....)

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