Tag Archives: tempo run

Inertia – Friend or Foe? Both!


Yesterday was tempo day on my training calendar. One-mile warmup, followed by five miles at a medium-hard effort, ending with a one-mile cooldown. Simple and straightforward.

And a bitch.

Cuz I don’t like it, even at medium-hard effort. What’s that? Depends on how I feel at the time. Last week it was about 7:30 per mile, a pace that shouldn’t be overly challenging for me. But I was struggling and breathing hard. What’s wrong with me? I thought. The next morning I ended up running about the same pace, and it was much easier. Go figure.

Speedwork – intervals, hill repeats, progressions, and tempo runs – is an important part of my goal to improve short race performance. Problem is, that stuff is uncomfortable, and is supposed to be. When it gets easier, you step it up.

And I don’t like being uncomfortable.

So – why???? I’ll let you know as soon as I figure it out myself.

For now, getting out the door for speedwork means overcoming a certain inertia. It requires an active decision and deliberate action instead of a habit.

So yesterday evening featured a classic bout-with-self about the tempo run. Who would prevail – my brain, who wants the body to get faster? Or my body, which was feeling creaky from a recent race and gym workout, and really wanted to put it off? It went along these lines:

  • Brain: Tempo run time. Body: But I’m TIIIII-RED.
  • Come on, let’s get it over with. Let’s do it tomorrow, okay? We’ll feel better tomorrow.
  • It’s a beautiful, cool day! I’m your body. Listen to me. Coach says!

I’m not going to tell you this again…

And so on…until the pivotal moment. My wife called to tell me she’d be home in an hour. “Okay,” I said. “I’m preparing dinner, and then I’ll probably go for a short run.”

There! One way to overcome inertia is to make a public commitment. Having said I was going to run, now I had to do it. So I prepped dinner and then out the door I went.

I also made a compromise with myself. Because I really was feeling creaky and tired, I limited the tempo portion to three miles. Same intensity, lower volume. That self-promise sealed the deal, and I ran hard and with purpose.

But inertia isn’t always an opponent. When an activity becomes a habit, inertia becomes an ally (for good habits, anyway) and will work for you. Every Wednesday morning at 6 a.m. I go on an easy six-mile run with some of my run club. Was I going to show up today, even after a tough tempo and not being a morning person? Yep!

It’s automatic now, after a couple years of doing it. I laid everything out the night before, and this morning I just tossed on the clothes and went to the run. (Coffee and a treat afterward is a bonus.)

And speaking of bonuses, I’m going to hop into my hot tub. Both parts of me think it’s a pretty good idea.

Peak Training and Power Loss

WELL, WHAT A WEEK IT’S BEEN. From fatigue to power outages, to working Zero Waste at a frigid 5K on Sunday, it’s been an eventful March!

Last year’s winter training was the toughest I’d ever been through, as I prepared for a Boston qualifying marathon in April, and my first 100-mile race in June. “This is peak training,” I remember telling a friend while running on the Body Specs treadmill following a workout. “This is as bad as it gets.”

Well, this winter’s training put the lie to that.

Like last year, I’m training for a spring marathon (Boston!) and a June 100-miler. The difference is that this year’s big race (Lighthouse 100) is on pavement instead of trail. The harder surface affects the legs much differently than dirt and grass, as evidenced by how my legs felt after the Martian Marathon last year. The race was on a Saturday, and my quads stopped screaming the following Thursday.

And just think – I had two whole weeks until my next race!

So as my new coach and I agreed, I need to toughen up my legs for a road ultra. And the best way to do that is – surprise – run more miles. So in addition to my stepped-up strength training, I’m running 5-6 days per week instead of 2-3, with distance up from 20-30 miles per week to 40-50 miles.

Damn right I’m always hungry! I’m training!

To my surprise, my body responded well to the extra work. At one point I ran 14 days straight, with legs feeling strong. I was rocking it!

Until last week.

Last Tuesday I went out for an afternoon tempo run. After a warmup jog, I kicked up my pace to 7:00 per mile, a strong but not all-out effort for me. Almost immediately I realized it wasn’t going to work. After just a quarter mile I stopped to catch my breath and reset.

Just get through this, I told myself. Go slower, but don’t stop again until the tempo part is over. I did it at a 7:15 pace, but the next day I hadn’t recovered well and was sluggish at the gym. Then I went home – and found the power was out, thanks to Windstorm of The Century here in southeast Michigan.

Feeling overtrained plus dealing with no electricity at home was an ideal opportunity to take a break and recover. So I rested both Thursday AND Friday. Such luxury!

Saturday, feeling better, I ran with my coach, who’s recovering from an injury and gradually increasing his pace and distance. He was doing “just 12 miles” that day and said he felt bad he wasn’t up to running 20 miles yet.

“You’ve got plenty of 20-milers left in you,” I told him. Then I admitted that I understood his frustration. After all, I felt guilty taking two days off.

I’m sure that sounds crazy to my non-running readers, but that’s life when you’re a committed runner. It’s as another blogger recently put it; you feel guilty when you run too much (at the expense of the rest of your life), and you feel guilty when you run too little. You can’t escape it. So you just acknowledge it and keep on running.

This morning, finally, our power came back on. I’d like to say I felt like Superman at the gym today. Not so much, but it wasn’t bad. And they went easy (relatively) because I have the Pi Run 5K on Tuesday. It promises to be cold and miserable. But hey, it’s good training!

Running Cold and Hot (Chocolate)

IT’S GETTING A BIT NIPPY OUT THERE, as they say. Seems like we went from warm sunny evenings to cold and dark just like that. Even had our first snow on Monday. But that doesn’t stop the PR Fitness club. As we’re fond of saying, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just insufficient gear. Tuesday and Wednesday nights were business as usual.

Wednesday night's group at Lululemon. Zip up the warm tech shirts, put on the headlamps and hit the road!

Wednesday night’s group at Lululemon. 34 degrees and dark? Zip up the warm tech shirts, put on the headlamps and hit the road!

Cold weather running actually has a few advantages; for example, hard training like tempo runs and hillwork can be easier. I did both Tuesday night, and I was in no danger of overheating. But I overdressed a bit and got sweaty – not good, since as soon as I slowed down, I was wet and cold. Nothing for it but to keep up the pace to the end.

Wednesday night, by contrast, was a real pleasure from start to finish. We went out for a steady run at a smooth, casual pace. After a hectic day at work, it felt really good to switch off the mind and put the body into cruise control. During the run I talked with Coach Marie about last weekend’s 10K race at the Ann Arbor Turkey Trot. I’d run a good time – not a PR, but decent – and crossed the finish line feeling I’d given it my best. Knowing a friend was a few minutes behind me, I went to get my camera from the car, and found that I was able to run there and back. This actually bothered me. Had I ‘left something on the course’ after all? Not run as hard as I could?

All right, it's not easy to take this race seriously. But I tried.

All right, it’s not easy to take this race seriously. But I tried.

She told me not to worry. Bouncing back quickly after a short race is normal, as the heart rate gets down. For me to keep improving, I need to train the body to maintain a faster pace. In other words, the only way to run faster is to run faster. She said she’ll get to work on more tempo runs and intervals for me. Me and my big mouth.

Here’s another way to deal with the cold weather:


David Leggett | Wikimedia Commons

Chocolate has a longstanding association with runners, and chocolate milk is often touted as the perfect ‘recovery food’ following a race. If so, then the people at the Kona Chocolate Run this Sunday in Plymouth will be in fabulous condition. Runners will get in some healthy morning exercise and celebrate with hot chocolate during and after the run! Sorry, online registration is closed, but a limited number of new slots will become available on Saturday. See the website for details.

If you can’t make it to Plymouth, then go running anyway. And have some chocolate. For anyone in and around Ann Arbor, I can recommend Zingerman’s hot chocolate, which is sans doute the best chocolate I’ve had outside Paris. Take that, winter!