March 08, 2012

Running 800m repeats on the track

Yesterday's session called for a 14K run with 6 800-metre repeats at 5K race pace. Plugging my recent PB of 87:27 from the First Half Marathon in February into Merv's Running Calculator provided a nice flat number of 3:00 for the goal pace.

Tim had agreed to do the session with me, and we drove to the track in late afternoon where we first warmed up with a 6.5K trail run around the Ray Peters Trail that is also used for the Squamish Triathlon, held every July.

When we got to the track, Volker had already started his session—he was aiming for 10 repeats and his dog, Jessie, was pacing him. Volker is a talented athlete who ran a 2:56 marathon in 2006. He spent this winter cross-country skiing, ran the First Half in 87:23 and promptly signed up for the Vancouver Marathon. In 2011, he finished in 3:02 and he's eyeing another sub-3 finish this year.

We set out together on the first lap, for Tim and I—it was Volker's fourth. I immediately found a good rhythm, though that first repeat is always a little shocking to the system, and finished the two laps in 3:01.

We recovered by jogging a lap around the track. With different times for rest and repeats, the three of us did our own thing, all glad that the other two were there for company. Even if you're not running the same pace or workout, there's a sense of accountability and strength from sharing a session with others.

While the pace was challenging I also felt there was something left in the tank—which is of course exactly how you should feel if doing 800-metre repeats at 5K race pace. Unlike the previous time we ran on the Don Ross track, doing a 10K at half marathon pace in slushy snow, the conditions yesterday were perfect; dry, cool though not cold, without any noticeable wind.

I ran the second one a bit fast, finishing in 2:56, so I eased off a touch for the next. I ran the others in 2:59, 2:58, 2:59 and, again, 2:59. My recovery consisted of an easy 400-metre jog which took between 2:23 and 2:39.  

It's the fastest I have done these 800m repeats, ever; a year ago, in late March with five weeks to go until the 2011 Vancouver Marathon (which I ran in 3:07), I ran 10 800s on the same track, finishing them in 3:10, 3:11, 3:05, 3:10, 3:06, 3:04, 3:04, 3:04, 3:02 and 2:54. Recovery was a little longer than I took yesterday, taking the same amount of time of rest as it took to run the 800m.

In July 2011, I did the same session as yesterday and ran 3:06, 3:01, 2:59, 3:01, 3:01 and 3:01. 

Improvement is what it's all about. Overall, I have sped up by a total of 15 seconds over these 6 repeats from July 2011; that works out to 2-1/2 seconds on average for each 800 metres. I'll take that.

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