Friday, February 22, 2008

Slowest pace, hardest run

As you can see by the nifty Training Plan up at the top of the page, I have decided to give the Cherry Blossom run an actual sustained effort. Whether I can sustain that effort in the long run is debatable, and, frankly, unlikely if history is any guide. But this is the first time I have ever signed up for an actual race, so I am hoping that, like in my work and academic lives, the deadline will make all the difference.

So in order for the Runner's World SmartCoach program to calculate my suggested pace, I had to tell it how fast I can run a mile. That is, if there were an actual race and I was all pumped up and my friends were cheering me on, how fast could I run a mile?

I entered in "10 minutes." I think that is fairly reasonable, as back when I was in great shape a few years ago, I could do it in less than 8. And I could probably keep up 6 mph for 10 minutes...

Okay, it's a stretch. Anyway, the training program came back and told me that I should do my easy runs at a pace of 13:37 per mile. That is equivalent to 4.4 miles per hour. A slow jog. A fast walk.

"You gotta be kidding me!" I shouted aloud to no one in particular. "I can go much faster than that!"

But I decided to give it a try. Yesterday I stepped on the treadmill, set it to 1% incline, and set it for 30 minutes. GO.

The first couple minutes were easy as cake. I looked around, worried that the athletes around me would start snickering when they saw how slow I was going, while they were all at 6mph or above.

Then 2 minutes turned into 3. And 4. And 8. And that slow ass pace became HARD. I wasn't taking any walking breaks yet, and I guess I wasn't used to moving that fast for that long. I walked for one minute once I hit 10 minutes in, but then kept jogging until I had traversed a mile.

My time? 13:50.

I know this is pathetic. I know that it's 30% slower than I used to train at, and almost 50% slower than my best mile ever.

But it is also a beginning, and it was less than 14 minutes, which is good because 14 minutes is the slowest pace they allow in the Cherry Blossom run, as you have to complete the 10 mile course in 2 hours and 20 minutes. Any slower, and you have to jump on the Stragglers Bus.

It's not like I wasn't trying either. By the time I hit the 1 mile mark, my pulse was up to 170 and I was not able to carry on a conversation, as is the recommended effort level on Easy days.

I stretched for 30 seconds and then walked for the next couple minutes, before jogging again. I hit the second mile mark at 28:44, which means that second mile took me 14:54, including 3-4 minutes of walking.

At about 27 minutes, I had pushed the speed up to 5.0 mph and set the incline to zero, because I had wanted to try to break 15 minutes for that second mile. 5 mph, normally very easy at the beginning of a run, was brutal now. I was at an intensity of 9 or 9.5, and when I hit 2 miles, my pulse was up to 180.

I walked for a couple more minutes and then got off the treadmill, having gone about 2.1 miles in 31 minutes. I know, I have a long way to go. But even a journey of 10 miles begins with a single step. (Sorry for the cliche but it is true.)

An hour after my run, I felt great. I was relaxed and refreshed and full of energy. I felt renewed. And while I still don't like running, and doubt I ever will, I love the idea of challenging myself. And this is sure to be one hell of a challenge.

1 comment:

  1. Try to hold onto that feeling an hour after you're finished. USE IT! You are strong and lean and powerful! Work through the pain! The reward is great!