Pacing myself

I was pushing back the puke factor after the warmup. Not because the warmup was hard or because the weather conditions were brutal or because of illness. Nope. The puke factor was rearing its head early on because I was scared. Scared of the track. I could not remember my last visit to the track and this workout was not one that eased me back into the oval. It was a series of 800 meter repeats which, while not at a killer pace were substantially fast enough to make me cringe in fear.

A beautiful morning for a brutal track workout.

This was going to hurt. I just knew it. So why was I out there? Good question. It’s a love-hate relationship with the track. Speed workouts are painful. My body starts to feel weird. My legs feel a consistency that is akin to jello, my arms ache and my breathing becomes so loud that it’s a wonder I don’t scare off animals and small children in a five-mile radius. But there is something oddly pleasing about all of this. The pain is temporary. The recovery is sweet. The feeling of accomplishment and confidence grows with the completion of each interval. It’s not that I exactly enjoy the pain, but rather, I find a little bit of joy in proving something to myself, in demonstrating that I’m a bit stronger than I thought I was. Yep, track workouts make me feel bad ass. And there’s something to be said for starting the day with that kind of attitude.

In this particular workout, something different happened, though. Oh for sure, I felt the same pain. My quads were shot after interval No. 2. On interval No. 5, my left leg started to feel as if it were no longer attached to my body. My exhales were so loud, I thought Sue might turn to me and politely ask me to shut up. Yes, the work was hard. But I kept an even pace. There was no mad dash in the final 100 meters to make my time, no panic about running too fast or too slow for any particular portion of the interval. My splits were consistent. No need to start out fast only to fade or start out too slow only to panic. And for the first time ever in a track workout, interval No. 1 was my slowest. The next five were faster and all at the same pace.

Pretty cool.

And this? Right here? Is why I love the track. From a technical running standpoint track workouts will help me improve my speed which in turn will make me faster at races. That’s all fine and well. But these somewhat torturous sessions teach me lessons that extend beyond running. In my quest to “single task” this week, the track reminded me the value of pacing myself. Today, I actually ran faster than my prescribed time not because I went out to kill it, but because I paid attention to my pace and strove for consistency rather than speed. Much to my surprise, I got both. Yet another confirmation of my “do more by slowing down” theory that I’m experimenting with. Welcome to my world of contradictions. I’m finding it a rather fun and wise place to live.

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