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Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Miles You Love To Hate

There's a fine line between love and hate.

At least when it comes to running.

During my high school days, it was always a big deal to have an awesome team t-shirt. It was a way for everyone to warm up in unity without resorting to the five square inches of fabric allotted to our actual uniforms. More importantly, it was a way to show the individuality and wit of your school by displaying an awesome slogan. Or, in our case, to find a pre-made shirt that wasn't too overdone to still be a little bit funny.

One slogan that always amused me (though we never had it) was, "Our sport is your sport's punishment." The message, of course, was that even though sports like football and basketball got all the money and attention from the high school, we were the true athletes competing in the simplest form of conflict - first one to the finish wins.

Looking back now, I wonder at the wisdom of the slogan. The appropriate response from one of those other sports would have been something like, "Yeah. That's why I play football." Perhaps we should stick to motivating ourselves instead of calling out others. For example, from Runner's World:

Why is there honor in pain? I've sat with groups of runners, and when discussing their history in the sport, they always go to the most painful, insane things that they've done, bragging about their agony. I ran a marathon. I ran four. I once fell on a track and bloodied up my arm. I'm missing seven toe nails. There's something about the runner's mind that takes the abuse and pins it on your shirt as a badge of honor for all to see. Is it masochism? No. Well, yes, but it's deeper than that. It's not that I enjoy the pain. It's that I enjoy overcoming the pain.

Today was my first day of actual "speed work" in, well, years. I recently learned that the block in the middle of my neighborhood is exactly 1/4 mile around, essentially making it a track on a hill. This is great news, since the nearest actual track to me is almost 2 miles away, and it's at a high school, so I'm not sure how they'd feel about me being out there first thing in the morning. Instead, I have a track right outside my door, and I can really start to work on speed.

The problem is, I don't entirely remember how to do that. I'm fairly certain the last time I did track repeats was in high school, and even then I didn't care that much about them. Now, though, I recognize that I cannot simply beat my legs into the ground time and time again to develop speed. If I'm going to break my 10K record this year, I'm going to have to build muscle and increase velocity, and that means speed work.

For today's workout, I did 400s (or one lap around the track) at top speed. I'd run one, rest for 90 seconds, and then do the next. After I'd completed one mile (four repeats), I rested for 3 minutes, and did the whole thing again. I bookended this with a warm up and cool down of half a mile each. I was extremely happy with my times, if not a little suspicious of MapMyRun's accuracy in measurement.

The love/hate situation really kicked in after the first lap of the second set. My legs and lungs burned with the effort. It was surprisingly cold, so my hands were nearly numb as I tried to write down my splits. With each lap, the time got harder to hit, which made the rest interval feel shorter. And yet, I felt great at the same time. Burning, exhausted, frozen, yes, but I was flying, and for the first time in a while, really felt like I was building muscle and not just logging miles. I cursed every lap as it started, and praised it once I was done.

I can't tell if speed work and I are going to be friends yet. We might end up being those rivals who need each other's help and begrudgingly share a handshake at the end of the movie. Or, it might just beat me into submission. Time will tell. For today, though, I felt great. And tomorrow I'll run again.

I should put that on a shirt.

Thursday's Run:
2x(4x400, 1:30 rest between)
1:08     1:10
1:08     1:11
1:10     1:11
1:09     1:13

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