I Feel the Need…

Happy Halloween! If you are at work, I hope you are in costume and/or have a piece of candy in your hand. If you aren’t at work, I hope you’re doing something equally festive.

While there will be some pumpkin carving and (hopefully!) trick-or-treater action later on today, I already told you about  my primary Halloween activities.

So today, I want to talk about something else, something involving less candy corn and more wheezing.

Even before I was done training for Chicago, there was one thing I knew I wanted to do before I ran another marathon:

Get faster.

Of course, this is something that most runners are always hoping for—what with the never-ending emphasis on PRs and splits and all that. But for me, the desire to improve my speed has become something more than wishful thinking.

It has become the goal. The goal that I’m planning on devoting the next three months to, in fact.

Toward the end of my Chicago training (with the exception of my 2-week running hiatus), I realized the only workouts I was really looking forward to were my speed workouts. Which threw my off at first—because I have always been all about the long run. But I got to a point where I was a little—dare I say—bored with a steady state pace for miles and miles and miles. All of a sudden, instead of pining for the fatigue of a 20 miler, I was pining for a 7 mile run with 4 miles much faster than my normal pacing.

And while I will always love the long run, and probably always will, it’s time to switch gears for a bit.

This winter, my plan is to focus on quality over quantity.  For the past year, I’ve been so focused on packing on miles and miles, week after week, and consequently, I also experienced three (minor) injuries. While I was running all those miles, I kept getting frustrated that my speed seemed to stay at a plateau of sorts. Of course, I was wasting all the energy I could have been devoting to strength and speed into endurance and mileage. Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that—but I’m starting to realize that you can’t emphasize mileage and speed at the same time.

Nevertheless, I don’t think marathon training is a good time to try and get significantly faster. Sure, speed workouts and intervals are good during marathon training, but I also think that if speed is the main goal—it needs to be prioritized.

Which is why Winter 2012 is hereby being dedicated to the Robyn Gets Faster project.

I know the rain/snow/wind season isn’t ideal for track parties, but it’s the perfect between-marathon season time period to buckle down and crank up the speed. I also have my eyes on a particular spring marathon, and I want to go into that training cycle with a great deal of confidence in my speed. My hope is that by improving my overall speed, I’ll be less concerned with it during my next marathon training round, and therefore less susceptible to injury-inflicting mistakes.

So what will this speed process look like?

Well, to start off with, it will include more shorter races. Not to completely degrade myself, but I think there was a bit of luck involved with my times in recent 5ks. I tend to consider them a fluke, because the pace I held during those races is so very much faster than I normally feel I am capable of. I want to have a bit more confidence in those paces, and that will involve not only racing more—but training more at paces closer to those times. Ideally, those times will go down—but more than anything I want to gain a little bit of confidence in my ability to run those times.

On that note, those times also help me think that I haven’t lost all of my natural sprinting abilities. I was a short-distance runner for almost 6 years before I turned to distance, and I think that if I can try and tap back into that mindset, I might be able to dig up and dust off some of my fast twitch muscles.

Which also means…I’m going to get back to the track. For real this time. I’ve said it before, but because I was always more interested in mileage, the track never called to me. As a former sprinter, I know first hand the benefits of track workouts, and while there’s a lot that can be done on the road and the treadmill—both the surface and technicality of a track make it the ideal spot for speed workouts.

There’s a track exactly one mile from my house, I get emailed a speed workout every week by a local community couch, I have no excuse. You may have to drag me out there kicking and screaming, but I’ll be going. I even still have my old spikes tucked away in the closet…

The last thing I’m going to be doing is probably one treadmill run a week. Admittedly, one reason for this is so I have an option for when the rain gets really bad. However the other reason is that there is more accountability, in my opinion, when running on a treadmill. You don’t have to think as much, and in certain ways you can force yourself to run a specific speed. There’s something more tangible about pushing a button than simply making yourself run faster—and I appreciate that kind of assistance. Also, the treadmill is a softer surface than the road—which again helps prevent impact injuries.

The one final thing I’m going to {continue to} emphasize is leg strength. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all the sports I’ve ever played, it’s that strength can make some of the biggest improvements. I spent years as a runner avoiding any kind of leg strengthening or balance—two things that can greatly impact both speed and recovery. So, the weights classes are here to stay—no matter how much I may hate single leg lunges. And yes, this includes hills. Many, many hills.

So there you have it. Along with probably one long(ish) run a week, my energy for the time being is going to be on getting these little legs of mine to move quicker and stride further. It’s going to be a very different focus for me—but I like the feeling that I’m revamping my running to a different level, and ideally preventing injuries and gaining a little more confidence along the way.

Have you ever changed your running focus?

What kind of things do you do to get faster?

Love the track? Hate the track?

Favorite Halloween candy?

4 thoughts on “I Feel the Need…

  1. Allison Raines (@AllisonRaines)

    Love the new blog look! I think the speed plan sounds like a good one for you. I agree it’s best to either throw your heart into speed or distance training and when one tries to do both, those injuries start popping up. Can I please come join you or a track workout sometime? I’m so bad at working on speed by myself!

  2. Pingback: Tangent Tuesday | Run Birdie Run

  3. Pingback: Purposeful Running | Run Birdie Run

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