Strange Days

Yesterday I had a 30 minute tempo run on the plan. I took Tuesday off because I was tired, and figured I’d come roaring back on Wednesday. No.

I’ve never experienced dead legs before, but I did from the get-go. I thought my sluggishness would work itself out, but it really did feel like I was running without feeling my legs. I had planned on running a mile warm-up, running 1.25 miles at tempo, turning around and continuing at tempo for another 1.25 miles back, and then cooling down the remaining distance, which would be slightly less than a mile as I was planning to run my tempo at incrementally faster paces.

Even though my legs were dead, I managed my first tempo mile at 12:37, my second at 12:00 (via my watch, Strava says 11:50, weird), and then who knows for that last quarter mile or so at tempo, maybe 11:15. It wasn’t hard to run fast, but I felt like I was running with someone else’s legs and like I was looking through someone else’s eyes, almost. Or maybe like I was sleep-running. I ended up walking my cooldown because I felt so strange, and of course I was scaring myself into thinking something else was wrong and drove home petrified I’d throw up all over myself (even though I wasn’t nauseated) and get into an accident.

I ate some Nerds when I got home so maybe I was just bonking, but that would be humiliating. Who bonks on a run of less than an hour? I don’t usually eat before runs during the week, as I eat plenty for lunch. I suppose maybe my lunch was less calorie-rich than normal, but I doubt it. I really don’t know.

I felt sort of tired and weird this morning, too, even after I went to bed a bit earlier than normal last night, and it took me awhile to shake that funny feeling. Again, it felt like I was sleep walking. So I shut myself down from running today (it’s raining anyway) and will just do a little yoga, and I don’t plan on running again until I can shake this funny feeling. It’s annoying, but something’s clearly off with me, so I am not going to push until I’m sick or injured and sidelined for weeks or months.

Another Tempo Attempt

Well, I tried another tempo run.

I thought overall it went more smoothly. During my warm-up jog, I mentally calculated the paces I wanted to hit and the distances I’d cover at each pace. I know the tempo run is supposed to be this smooth progression, but I’m not quite there yet. I figured I’d just plot a best-fit line between those paces and see what happened.

I started my run on UMD’s campus, and it was misting out, but as I got to the bottom of the hill on St. Marie and Woodland, the mist became dense and difficult to see through, and I had to change my route. I didn’t feel comfortable crossing Woodland or Arrowhead Road in the mist, even with traffic lights. One right turner not paying attention could take me out. I ended up turning around on Woodland once I reached Arrowhead and heading back to campus, and I finished the tempo run on the paths and sidewalks around campus.

I felt pretty terrible during the run. The moisture content of the air was a factor, certainly, but the big problem was my legs. They just didn’t want to run faster. I assume this is my own fault for not taking it easier on Tuesday’s trail run. A longer warmup might have helped, but my calves felt like they were going to either stop working or start cramping for almost the entire run, including the warm-up and cool-down.

I can’t decide if I’ve actually improved or not.

Here’s my first attempt at a tempo run:

And here’s this week’s attempt:

I definitely made a more gradual progression this week, but I also started at a faster pace. (There’s a weird spike where I was speeding up but my watch hadn’t caught up yet, so I overshot on the pace.) I figured it would take me about 1.5 miles to do a 20 minute progression, and I figured I’d shoot for five 0.3 mile intervals at 13:00, 12:40, 12:20, 12:00, and 11:40 paces, or thereabouts. I tried and I did a so-so job, overshooting and then undershooting the pace. (I also forgot to use the lap feature on my watch to separate the warm-up and cool-down from the tempo portion of the run, so I didn’t get the split information I wanted.)

I really don’t think I’m going to get very good at this unless I do these runs on completely flat ground, and I see little value in that when I look at my long-term goals. I don’t plan on running solely on flat ground. I think there’s still value in this form of speedwork (though I prefer intervals and hill repeats) and I’ll stick to the program, but it’s going to take me a long time to be able to settle into an exact pace that I want.

I Got Rhythm

I used to play the violin (and probably will in the future), and the second biggest struggle I had with performing was keeping a consistent tempo. (The biggest problem I had was playing in tune.) I was always rushing, or lagging, or both in the same piece.

I had the same issue during my tempo run. My “coach” (aka Hal Higdon) says that in a tempo run, “the pace buildup should be gradual, not sudden, with peak speed coming about two-thirds into the workout and only for a few minutes.” He also says peak speed should be near, not at or above, race pace.

I failed at basically every part of what he prescribes for a tempo run. Sigh.

I am getting better at warming up. With shorter runs, adding a mile or so to my distance hasn’t been a big deal, and I’m getting more relaxed about my training times. For example, I warmed up for about half a mile on Thursday, and then stopped to do a little bit of stretching without pausing my watch. So it looks like I ran half a mile in 12 minutes when I download my stats, but I didn’t. (The only problem with not pausing my watch is it messes with my average heart rate stats, since my heart rate obviously decreases when I’m stopping to stretch.) Instead of worrying about what my “real” pace was during that half mile, I’m just shrugging it off.

After my warm-up, I did about 10 minutes of “easy” running at a 16:55 pace. I know this because I used the “lap” feature on my watch, which is something I need to do more. I’ve been letting it do auto-laps and just looked at the mile splits, but for speedwork I should be using it to gauge my real paces during pickups or hills or whatever. My average heart rate for the “easy” running section was 133 bpm, which was lower than I wanted it to be, but my legs felt like sandbags. I couldn’t get them to move faster. I suppose spending hours on my feet during my “rest day” Wednesday might be to blame.

I reached the 20 minute “tempo” portion, but I could seem to speed up at first. I was going uphill, which I realize was dumb, but I kept slowing down, then going too fast, then slowing down. There was no gradual increase in tempo. Whoops. I also went too fast toward the end, and ended up running sub-5k pace for about 0.2 miles, which won’t kill me or anything, but is yet another sign that I don’t have any idea how to regulate my pace.

I did another mile of “easy” running, which doubled as my cooldown, I guess. I don’t see much of a difference between easy running and cooling down. Since I am using my heart rate to dictate what an easy pace is (below my aerobic threshold), there might not be much difference.

I have to figure out a couple things before next week’s attempt at a tempo run. I need to find a flatter spot to run these things (I have an idea on that), and I need to plan out what kind of paces I’m thinking of striving for along the way. Do I want to start at 14:30, then progress to 14:00 over a few minutes, then 13:30, etc? I had a pretty good idea that I wanted to top out at 12:00 since right now I’m thinking my goal pace for this race will be 11:30 (I don’t know if that’s realistic or not, but I think since that’s right around my 5K pace right now, and I’ll have 2 months more training under my belt, it’s doable), but then I couldn’t stay there as I would either overshoot it or back off too far. With a better idea of the paces I want to progress through, more even terrain, and legs that aren’t dead, I think I can have a better tempo run next week.