July 12, 2011

Mile repeats: a great way to start the day

After enjoying a day off yesterday, Tim and I teamed up for a set of five 1-mile repeats this morning. We jogged about 2km from our house to a mostly-flat dirt road. Here we took a mark and used my Garmin to measure a mile, alternating striders and walking until we got there.

Tim did the Squamish Triathlon, an Olympic distance event, on Sunday, the same race in which I did the 10km run in a relay team. My legs felt rested following a day off running, more so than Tim's I think after his 2hr 19 effort.

My plan was to aim for mile repeats at 20 seconds faster than my target marathon race pace, targetting 6:40 to 6:45 per mile today. It was great to share the workout with Tim, especially as we run a similar pace.

Finding the right pace on the first repeat of any speed session is always interesting. Today, I felt good and relaxed from the start and was happy to see 6:39 for the first mile. We took 2 minutes rest, and began the next.

This pace, certainly in the first three repeats, allows for a comfortable focused mindset that made me think of the 'pleasant half conscious neutral state' John L. Parker Jr. refers to in his novel Once A Runner, a book I finished last night.

("That morning Denton was not talkative so Cassidy locked into a steady pace, allowing his mind to slip into the pleasant half conscious neutral state that all runners develop; he was soon lost in the cool gray isolation of the fog." - Once A Runner)

I absolutely love these types of workouts, quality efforts that are challenging near the end but in which you feel in complete control. With my goal marathon not until the third week of September, there's plenty of time left for the hard intervals that leave you gasping for air, wondering how you will do the next one without slowing down to ease the discomfort, the ones that hurt plain and simple - mentally almost more than physically - from the start until the end.

It's taken me years of training, guided by expert coaches, to trust that I now know what type of training works best for me, and I'm willing to make adjustments along the way. It's a more relaxed approach to training as I am more serious about it than ever. Enjoyment is key, even though that may sound like a contradiction too as you try to push your body into a place it hasn't been before.

The more you learn, the less you know.

As James Fixx writes in The Complete Book of Running (1977), "Which training scheme is best for you? The only sure way to find out is by experimenting. If you're a highly disciplined person and always accomplish what you set out to do, interval training may work for you. If you like to hang loose, fartlek or LSD [long, slow distance] may suit you best. Some people do one kind of training during part of the year, another kind during the rest. After a while as you learn to read your body, and as you come to trust your readings, you'll come to know what's best for it."

The average pace for my mile repeats this morning was 6:38/mile (4:07/km), which made me happy especially since the workout felt relatively easy. Including warmup, cooldown and the striders, the first 12km of my week are done. Tonight I'll meet up with the local tri group for a trail run of between 60 and 90 minutes.

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