When I first started running, I didn't time myself. I didn't run with a phone or a Garmin, as my focus was distance, not speed. Back then, completing the training run was a huge victory. I was covering miles that seemed previously insurmountable. In 2011, finishing a six-miler took almost an hour and fifteen minutes. I felt like an Olympian afterwards, like I had just done something really spectacular. In reality, all I had done was shuffle and sweat for just over an hour. But talk about a cerebral victory. If I could go six, I could go more...
Like most things, the more you do it, better you want to get. Now I can run a 10K in under 50 minutes*, but it has taken a long time to get there. Gaining speed feels like it takes forever, and last summer, by doing the ultra, I really screwed that up. Longer runs dictate slower speeds, and with 20 milers sandwiched between 8's and 10's, I watched everything I had gained from the 2014 Summerlin Half Marathon die a slow death in the hot desert. Good-bye, 8:30 miles. Hello, 9:45s (and beyond).
Since LA and this year's Summerlin Half, my main focus has been shorter distances, faster. If you may remember, my least favorite kind of workout is speed work. Chaining myself to a treadmill, running at an extremely uncomfortable pace for 60-75 minutes (while a certain A-list actor lurked nearby) was misery. But then a friend suggested I get off the treadmill and try a track workout. Track? Like, the oval-shaped rubbery thing with lines? I've never run on a real track in my whole life. I did one year with the track team in seventh grade, but our middle school didn't have a stadium, so we took laps around the school on the concrete sidewalk. Not to mention, I couldn't run a 10-minute mile then, so they only allowed me on the team provided I run hurdles (the least popular event). I won't bore you with the details, but 11-year old Kim's hurdle career was short, unremarkable and rather painful.
36-year old Kim is doing much better. Lo and behold, you know what is really fun? Running on a track! Seriously! The first time I did it, I looked up at the stands and imagined a cheering crowd. How fun would that be? How cool must those athletes feel? Yes, it was 4:30am and I was completely alone, but man, what a rush. Running for me has always been a quick path to feeling like a kid again, and this was the cherry on top.
Over the last six weeks, I practiced 200m -1000m at various paces, trying very hard to hit each split in the time allowed. One week I hit everything perfectly and the next, I missed every single one. Whoops. I will say, running fast not on a treadmill means you are doing all the work; there is no belt pulling you, no button to hit if it doesn't go well. Ultimately, I discovered I could go faster than ever imagined; I would have never set the machine at a 7:26 mile, but left to my own devices, it was suddenly attainable.
The best thing I learned? You can still run fast on tired legs. I had five 1000m repeats on Tuesday that required a 4:42 pace. With a one mile warm-up, the leggies felt good on the first lap. 4:45. Solid effort, three seconds too slow. Second one yielded the exact same result. By the third repeat, I was giving myself permission to slow down since my legs were tiring. But that lap was 4:41. This gave me rush; maybe legs weren't the key here...maybe if I moved my arms more, focused on turnover, and ignored the fatigue...fourth repeat was 4:41 and my last lap yielded a sweet 4:39. Lactic acid, be damned.
Another cool thing about speed work on a track is watching the really fast people. There is much to be said for training up. Yes, you have to check your ego at the door, particularly when their warm-up pace are your intervals, but man, they are incredibly to watch. Legs flying, arms pumping - I tried to mimic what I saw with limited results, but it was very cool to witness.
With all this focus on speed, I splurged new shoes - racing flats, to be exact. I've been in Brooks since Day 1, so this was a major shift. Several stores and much discussion later, I had found a winner. Weighing in at a mere 6.1 ounces per foot, my new Adidas Takumi Sen Boosts are downright magical. Plus, they actually look good too. I honestly don't know if I'm cool enough for these shoes. They fit perfectly, grip the ground, yet feel like there's nothing on my feet. Don't get wrong; I love my Brooks and *kind of* feel like I'm cheating on Scott Jurek (sorry, Scott), but these shoes are awesome. The thinner heel and lighter weight make my turnover faster and more efficient. Which, when running fast, is exactly what you need (amid a whole list of other things, too). ::swoon::
The 5K is tomorrow; this will serve as a time trial for St. George training. Things working in my favor tomorrow: no wine tonight, fancy new shoes. Working against me: the heat and the first mile (all uphill). And for the first time in four years, I'm running without music. My goal is to focus, not distract myself, from the task at hand. This is a complete departure from what I've come to know and love about running. Instead of using it as a stress reliever or a way to rock out, I'm looking inward to concentrate. Who is this person? I barely recognize myself these days.
Personal growth aside, I'm excited! There's nothing better than a little pre-race anticipation. Hope everyone has a great 4th!
*For me, this is great. For others, this may be incredibly slow/fast. Everyone is different and running is relative. Please don't compare times. My only competition is myself.