Saturday, September 17, 2011

Racing in Wilmington

This week marks the start of the half marathon training plan I created months ago, when I was still daydreaming out my office window andcounting down the minutes until my last day at work. Through the glory of theInternet I found the website for the Wilmington Road Runners, a thrillinglyactive running club with a great calendar of races and events in and aroundtown. I immediately set my sights on the Battleship Half Marathon on November6, which I’ve decided will be my big fall race.

Since my last race back in May running has been less aboutpushing myself and more about rationalizing my generous portion sizes. Acalendar clear of upcoming races plus the oppressive heat and humidity ofsummer in East Texas meant I was running about three times a week, for about three miles a pop, at a leisurely pace (ten minute miles, which is comfortablefor me). To be honest, I haven’t really pushed myself since the Houston Marathon way back in January. Apparently, PRing by 23 minutes was where my motivation and ambition found their limits.

Now things are different. I’m in a new city, in a slightly more forgiving climate and my drive to work harder and run faster has returned.Yesterday I ran a total of four miles, but the middle part of that run involved speed work. Yes, speed work! I decided to kick off half marathon with a bang. I started by running a one mile warm up, which took me to Empie Park (where the dog park is located). There is a loop around the parkthat is about ¾ of a mile long, which seemed perfect for speed work. My training plan called for 5 sets of 400 meters, run at a 5K pace. I set my Garmin to lap every .25 miles and planned to run fast for one lap and recover for one lap, repeating this five times. (Is that enough numbers and fractions for you? I hope so.)

Since my 5K pace is just over an 8 minute mile, my goal was to run the speedy sections in two minutes or less. Here is how it went:

1st lap: Damn, my legs are really working. I feel strong! It must be because I went to that hot power yoga class yesterday. My hips are loose and flexible. I am a warrior! A fast and speedy warrior! Time: 1:49

2nd lap: Okay. Still going pretty fast. Oh, people are starting to show up to the dog park. I like looking at dogs while I run. Whoa, the Garmin beeped already. That was fast! Time: 1:49

3rd lap: Ouch. My calves are getting sore. I think I’m slowing down but I can’t tell. Maybe I should pick it up until I get to that shady section of the trail. Ah, that’s better. Except for the whole legs thing. My legs feel like they’re going to fall off. Time: 1:47

4th lap: Just this lap and then one more and I’m done. I can jog home as slowly as I want. Just two more laps. Oh, man. I’ve only gone .06 miles since the last time I looked at my Garmin. Must stop looking at Garmin. Time: 1:53

5th lap: Last lap! I will run this one in the opposite direction, as a reward. Wait, did I just say reward? Speed work is starting to affect my brain. Just one more minute of running. I can do this! Time: 2:02

Not bad for my first speed session in months! And even though I felt like I was going to die on a few of those laps (I’m looking at you, four and five) when I was done I felt positively euphoric and accomplished, which is a pretty awesome way to start your day.

Training: I love you! It’s good to be back.