My last couple training runs I've switched up a little. Last Wednesday night I was really looking forward to running in the morning. When the alarm went off on Thursday morning, I just could not get out of bed and opted for a run on Friday instead. I love the fact that my training program allows for little changes like this that do nothing to affect the big picture. This run was to be a five-mile tempo run. My usual route is a loop that I always do going in one direction. Usually because of this one hill.
While huge in both directions, my usual way (seen above) is more gradual and not as steep. When driving on the road, this section doesn't really register as a hill. However, when driving in the other direction (or right to left on the elevation) it is definitely a monster and I'd rather run down than up it. But I decided to be adventurous and run the loop in the opposite direction. Holy hard. I walked for a little bit right before that itsy-bitsy, tiny little reprieve on the monster. I was sucking wind hard-core. I was cursing myself for taking so much time off after the half marathon, even though I was also taking it easy for two weeks because I did something weird to my foot (which is still NOT bothering me - YAY). But guess what - when I was done and entering my run data into my log I went back to compare my previous times on the route (even though it was all from running in the other direction and IMO easier), I posted the second fastest time ever! Okay, so maybe I didn't lose as much fitness as I thought. I was just running harder on a route that is more difficult. On a side note, this is something I can't wrap my head around. This is a loop from my house that ends at my house. How is it possible to have a difference in ascent and decent? Shouldn't it be equal in the end?
Today, I had planned to go to the track for the first time in months and do a speed workout. Well, it was supposed to be three sets of 2 x 1200 meters - I still think of speed work as 400m max distance - the perspective of an ex-sprinter. I woke up with enough time. I was actually wide-awake nearly an hour before I had to get up...like four-something in the morning, and wondered why I was so wide awake when I was only on 5 hours sleep. Maybe because it was a solid 5 hours. I still go to bed thinking I'll be woken up at least three times a night, even though Finn has been pretty much a rockstar sleeping pretty much through the night for nearly two weeks now. Anyway, by the time I got around to doing my "business" (TMI?), I wasn't going to get in the full workout. I should have just gotten up at four, but it was still dark and I was looking forward to running in the light. But with the flexible training schedule, I just switched my track workout to Thursday and did Thursday's six-mile tempo run today. Perfect.
My six-mile route is usually an out and back and is pretty boring since I used to run it a lot. But it's been awhile and I didn't have time to come up with an alternative. I didn't feel like I was killing myself, but felt like I was still pushing myself. To be honest, I had to really talk myself out of walking for just a second when I was nearing the three mile turnaround point. But the out is harder than the back.
You'd think I would choose less hilly routes for my tempo runs, but this is as flat as it gets unless I want to run on the track or treadmill. It does make staying at a steady pace next to impossible, but I think running hills are one of the major reasons I have improved so quickly over the last year. Again, when I was done I thought that I had a fairly hard run. Again, I thought I was trying to rebuild my fitness from my break. Again, I was pleasantly surprised when I posted my all-time fastest time running this route - by over half a minute! Though not entirely consistent, my mile splits were half-way decent - 8:33, 8:54, 8:30, 8:09, 8:17, 8:25. Technically, they were supposed to be all 8:15, but given the terrain and the fact that I was constantly jumping off the road to avoid morning commuters, I consider it a success.
It's all how you look at things. I seriously thought I was out of shape because it didn't feel like I was running very fast during these runs. I thought I was out of shape because I felt like I was breathing harder than I normally do during training. But it just turned out I was breathing harder because I was running faster.