Running Fiesta

Writing and running in Austin, TX.

Is 10 the New 11?

Lately I’ve been running fast. Not Boston fast, or even Houston fast. (Houston recently announced a 4:00 qualifying standard for guaranteed entry in 2012. Prestige is nice and all, but somehow I still just can’t get excited about making the 3-hour drive to Houston for anything less than a legitimate emergency. I’m pretty sure the city’s still after me for taking one of those “Toll Tag Only” exit ramps.)

But yes, this past week I have been running paces that for me are truly fast. Like a minute faster than normal. Like 10:00/mile.

And this hasn’t been dedicated speedwork. One was a 10-mile long run, one was a 4-mile “recovery run”, and the other two were what I think of as “normal runs”, with no special plans other than to get the mileage done. Nope, this has all been entirely by accident.

First, there was my internal (and external, given the number of opinions I’ve solicited) debate on how to run the Antwerp 10-Miler I’ve signed up for this weekend. My training plan called for a 20-24 mile long run, so I debated between really racing hard or running 10 on Saturday and then doing the race on Sunday as an easy training run. I know 10 + 10 doesn’t exactly equal 20 when it comes to marathon training, but I figured it would get my legs tired.

Everyone I asked, from Coach Kara to my 36-minute 10K running friend who signed up for Antwerp with me, encouraged me to give the 10-miler a full race effort. (Although now that I think about it, those people who will be in Antwerp with me this weekend may just be hoping to hit the bars sooner…)

So it was decided. I would race the 10. But what does that mean? Marathon goal pace, so I get the feel of it? Faster, since 10 miles is not exactly a marathon? Some people encouraged aiming for negative splits after the 5-mile mark, others asked nervous questions like, “Do you think you’ll injure yourself if you try for x minutes per mile?”

So I did what every running book would recommend: I pulled a number out of thin air. (That part about the running books was sarcastic.) I decided to see if I could run 10:00 miles for the 10-miler. It sounded fast, definitely a stretch goal, but it didn’t dip into the scary single digits. Plus, all those 10s just have a nice round feel to them.

The day I set that goal also happened to be the day that I realized the Dusseldorf Marathon Web site has a whole lot more information if you read the German version. (I know, duh. This should have occurred to me earlier. But in my defense, it’s taken me 7 months to have any hope of reading a German Web site.)

It turns out if you can read German, you also can join a pace group for the marathon. But there’s a catch…as I mentioned last week, their slowest group is 4:30. That means 10:18 per mile, which is significantly faster than the 10:45s I was vaguely envisioning. Well, I thought, maybe if I can run 10s in Antwerp, I can semi-seriously entertain the idea of keeping that balloon in sight.

As you can probably tell by now, my careful planning and constant anxiety over how to fit my runs around our travel/visitor schedule has devolved into the Kamikaze Marathon Training Plan. (If I actually die on course in Dusseldorf, at least I won’t notice when the sag wagon picks me up.)

Okay, so I had made my crazy decision. 10 for 10. It was just one day. In the excitement of a race, maybe I could do it.

Unbeknownst to me, I would get a few rehearsals in. Remember how I said I’ve been running fast? In yet another complete failure to follow conventional running wisdom–you certainly don’t start running harder the week before a race–I started pushing harder in runs than I can ever remember doing. (Except for that 5K PR, which was legitimately miserable.) And I steadfastly maintain that this was not my fault.

First, there was this past weekend’s trip to Brussels for my dad’s birthday. He’s training for a half in May, and it turned out we both had 10-mile long runs scheduled. Of course it made sense to run together! After all, we only see each other two or three times a year. Besides, as you may know from my constant whining, I’m a little bit over the long solo runs. I wasn’t sure what kind of pace he was running these days, but we had run together for the first half of Chicago, so I figured it couldn’t be too bad.

I knew I was in trouble when we ran the first mile sub-10:00…uphill.  

Okaaaay, I thought, no biggie. This is only 10, and maybe we’ll ease up a bit later on.

Well, our times did eventually drop down to an overall average somewhere in the 10:20s, but a good portion of that can be attributed to our constantly getting lost and to a particularly spectacular tumble I took tripping over a cobblestone. (No longer just the bane of Tour de France riders…I managed to break skin through a sturdy, long-sleeved North Face shell.)

And of course it made sense to head out together the following day for that “recovery run”. Dad did ask what I wanted to do for the day, and I distinctly remember saying, “Oh, just take it easy. Today is an easy day.”

I think we averaged 9:48s. (I can’t be sure, because after my tumble the previous day, my Garmin spent the last 2 miles of our run beeping every 10 seconds and flashing “Lap Error”. I’ve decided this is a company that is destined to be creamed whenever legitimate competition finally enters the market.)

At the end of the weekend I was exhausted — and coming down with a nasty cold — but I decided not to worry about it. I could train at my normal pace during the week and use our times from the weekend as a confidence boost for Antwerp.

What’s that saying about best laid plans?

On Monday, visitors from corporate arrived at our company’s Aachen office, and one of them was dead set on running. And somehow, I seem to have become known as the running person in the office — despite the fact that I know of at least 5 other co-workers who run regularly.  Of course, by now I’ve suffered far too many of the indignities of getting lost on runs in foreign countries to decline to show someone around. And besides, it would once again be nice to have company.

Yeah, she’s fast too. Two more runs clocking it at exactly 10:00 pace. And that was with a cold. I’m exhausted, but also exhilarated. Is this a sudden new level of potential in my running career. Or…and this is equally possible…will I get burnt out on the effort and go back to my happy waddling? (And yes, I know there are plenty of runners who would use that term for my new “fast” times.)

Right now it’s hard to say. I’ve got some nagging hip pain that just appeared yesterday, but the cold is getting better, and I’m still holding out hope for a solid showing in Antwerp. (In other words, I’m hoping my friend will only make it through one beer before I get to the finish.)

Race report to come. =)

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This entry was posted on April 14, 2011 by in speed, training.
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