I used to only run half marathons and marathons because I had one speed, slow and steady. I just didn't want to "waste" money on shorter distances, especially if there wasn't a medal at the end. But much like my pace, I slowly came around and changed my mind. Living in an urban area means that there are 5k's and 10k's nearly every weekend, many of them with a unique concept or a great course that made appealing. So I started incorporating races short than 13.1 miles into my schedule, but I never trained any differently (when I was actually training rather than winging it) and I had no goal time. I just wasn't fast and I told myself that I just wanted to finish. The funny thing is, I kind of used to be fast (or at least faster) and I didn't even realize it.
According to my Athlinks results, my 2nd race ever back in 2009 was a 5K. I had just run the George Washington Parkway 10 Miler the two weeks prior and then I decided to run the Pacers Running Festival 5K. My time was 28:51 but that was back when I lived on Capitol Hill and my running route was so amazing that I ran 3 - 5 times per week. I can't even imaging that pace now.
Fast Forward (or in my case, slowly progress in a forward motion) 7 years and my last 5k was over 42 minutes. I had one of the moments when you realize that you just have to do something other than reminisce about what used to be. I did this to myself. I let myself get stuck in this rut that I have been in ever since I moved from DC back to the Midwest. I love St. Louis and I love being closer to my family again, but the scenery just isn't as awe-inspiring here. That doesn't mean that I should completely lack motivation to run until race day though. I love traveling for races and I love completing races, so the missing piece (or basically the entire puzzle) is just getting that love of the typical daily run back. Terms like "speedwork" and "tempo runs" had become a foreign language to me and it was time to relearn everything I had forgotten as I sunk deeper into my rut.
My solution arrived one day in my inbox and I convinced a co-worker to also join in my quest. We both signed up for Big River Running Company's Summer Speedwork program and May 25th was our 1st night. When you registered, you selected your group according to you pace goal. Even with my 2009 PR of 28:51, I still would have been on the border between Group 4 (8:22 - 9:00 pace) and Group 5 (9:20 and above pace). But my more recent 5k times definitely landed me in Group 5, but luckily my co-worker was in Group 5 with me.
This was our workout for the 1st week:
May 24-25 (Week 1)
Group 1-3: 3-5 x 1200m @ A/T*(60 sec jog recovery)
Group 4-5: 3-5 x 800m @ A/T*(60 sec walk recovery)
We are going to start with a stamina-building workout intended to increase lactate
threshold. Raising lactate threshold enables one to race faster/further before fatigue
sets in. This is a workout you can “add” to your training program (in addition to
the Tuesday/Wednesday night track workouts). They are called cruise-intervals
(popularized by running coach Jack Daniels). Benefits are similar to tempo runs. Don't
turn your threshold-pace workouts into competitive efforts; *threshold-pace should feel
"comfortably hard" (10K pace + 15-20 seconds).
Again, I don't yet have a fast pace so I just ran each lap at a pace that I would normally run at which meant that each 800 meter round took over 6 minutes to complete. We were the last finishers of the slowest group with each 800 meter repeat. It was an eye-opener/ego crusher/turning point. What is nice about track workouts is that even when you are the slowest, you don't feel like you are last because there are always other runners around you. There were always other runners and the group coaches encouraging us, so finishing each round felt like this:
We had the option to run up to five rounds of the 800 meters, but we decided to stop at three and stretch. That experience made us both realize that we need to get serious about our training and not just completely quit running after our goal race, only to have to start at the very beginning again when the next training session comes around. I take total responsibility for my slowness and I needed to be last to realize how far I had let myself slide. I have a lot of work to do, but this was hopefully the first step towards a faster finishing time.
I will keep you posted as training continues. Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!