Saturday, January 13, 2007

Check the Ego

When Mystery Coach accepted my invitation to become an author on this blog I realized I really needed to check my ego in order to get the most out of his advice and out of my training. It became more important than ever for me to be honest and forthcoming about the bad days, which are never very fun to write about, in order to give the coach the feedback he needs to fine-tune the training in an appropriate way.

Another source of pride for me before the coach came along was my ablility to run hard workouts. While following the Lydiard model on my own I often found myself running some tough efforts, then writing afterwards about split times and comparing them to what I saw other runners doing.

After my 7 mile up-tempo run on Thursday the coach came up with a unique way to challenge my ego, which involved running 400 repeats today without looking at the splits. The recovery was to be a jogged 400, and the reps were set at 20 or as many as I could before I felt I’d had enough.

Three things about me and intervals-
1. I like knowing what splits to shoot for
2. I like knowing how fast I’m going
3. I like to know when to stop

This workout plays against all three, and it forces me to make a new list of guidelines for running intervals based on some of Arthur’s principles of speed-work mentioned by Mystery Coach yesterday.

1. Run as fast as I can while staying relaxed
2. Don’t worry about missing splits, worry about holding good form
3. Learn to stop when I’ve had enough

After two miles around the playing fields adjacent to the Catalina Foothills High School track I changed shoes and got ready. I thought for a second about how to approach the beginning of the workout, knowing that blowing up early would doom me to 7 or 8 reps instead of closer to the full amount. I also thought about running too slowly and reporting back a series of 85 second quarters, a distinct possibility since I wouldn't be looking at the watch during any of the efforts. Talk about bruising the ego.

The first few reps felt invigorating in the cool, 40 degree air. A breeze across the track pulled on me for about 150 but gave the same amount back, and I immediately felt like I was running with less "clunk" than I did for the 200's last week. Instead of the 66 Dodge Dart I felt like then, I had become...well, maybe a late-90's Ford Taurus. In other words, better but still far to go. Not having any idea of how fast I was running was annoying, but it did keep me from forcing things in the final straight from rep to rep.

As I racked up the repetitions I listened to both the legs and the lungs, and by number 11 I could feel the breathing getting very heavy just after entering the last turn. With the next rep the lungs started revolting right at 200, and when I finished the interval I felt like walking the first part of the 400 recovery instead of jogging. On number 13 the legs started to give out of the first turn, followed quickly by the lungs. At this point I knew I was close, but not seeing the splits get longer made it a bit tougher to know when to call it. Number 14 was tougher, and mid-way through 15 I knew I was finishing the last rep of the day. The legs were feeling the burn at this point, and they just didn't empty back out on the following recovery lap.

During a one mile cool-down on the grass I wrinkled my brow and skeptically checked the splits, expecting the worst of course.

77, 77, 77, 77, 79, 78, 78, 79, 78, 77, 77, 78, 77, 76, 77
Most of the recoveries were 1:50-2:00.

Spooky, isn't it? I guess I was in more of a rhythm than I thought, and while I would have liked to have made it to 20, while eating breakfast later the legs reminded me that I probably quit at either the right time or one too late. All in all a good day and a fun experiment.

Training: 10.5 miles, w/15x400, 400 recovery
Yesterday, 9.25 miles, 1:06:16, 7:10 pace


Phil said...

I never thought about running intervals without looking at my watch. I find that I'm still very dependent on the darn thing to make sure I haven't slowed down at the 200m marks. You, on the other hand certainly had no trouble. You were amazingly consistent. You're doing a great job running by feel.

Lawrence said...

a nice intuitive workout. my coach had me doing something similar, but of course I wasn't doing 15 reps!

good work.

edinburghrunner said...

Nice workout!

Dusty said...

Very cool. Never thought of that, but a very good strategy!

Laurie said...

Those are amazingly consistent splits. Well done.

Eric said...

Nice workout, Mike. How do you think it would have been different had you looked at the watch? Do you think you would have tried to hit 75s for an even five minute pace?

Thomas said...

Wow. Those splits are breathtaking. Mystery Coach is right, you don't need those damn gadgets.