In my attempt to not think too much about Sunday, I thought I would talk a bit about how I have accomplished getting speedier over the summer. My bloggy buddy Amanda over at Runto TheFinish asked me for my thoughts on how I have gotten my speed up over the summer. I right away thought this would be a great blog post seeing how I have some new ideas of how this has come to be for me. I am not a professional by any means, and I am only going to talk about what has worked for me. But I have to say that it has worked, and I have gained tremendous confidence over the summer that has given me the ability to finally feel like I am ready for that BQ!
I started running about 4 years ago and I have always used a training plan. Until this year, I always used the Smart Coach program offered over at RunnersWorld.com. It had worked quite well for me, but I realized I needed to step up my game this year and so I decided to do some research and I found the Pete Pfitzinger plan. Both have the ability for you to pick your own amount of miles per week and to figure out a pace and goal time that works well for you. Pfitz worked well for me until about June. In June I realized that I just wasn't getting much out of my long runs. Each program has you run your long runs at a speed that is quite a bit slower than your marathon pace. I understand that the thinking behind these runs is that it is to get you used to being on your feet for those many miles. I found though, that while my medium and short runs were being run at a lot faster pace, that during my long runs I would run out of gas very quickly as I was trying to keep the pace slow. It was hard for me. My medium and short runs were being run at around 7:50 to 8:30/mi pace. And both plans for my long run had me running around a 9:15-9:23 pace. If you have been running a while, you will know that your gate, kick and feet placement is a lot different when you run at these two different paces.
In my long runs I wasn't getting anything out of my kick and I was having to expend more energy just to keep my pace down. I know this sounds a little off, but my natural kick and form was really in the 8:00/ mile pace and slowing down just threw everything off. By the time a race would come, I would run out of gas trying to run at MP for longer distances. This was frustrating to me. So after some discussion with my hubbs, aka my coach, he realized that I was much more efficient at my 8:00/mile pace. I decided to start doing all my runs at a pace that was comfortable to me, regardless of what the plan was saying. I know that this probably went against most marathon training programs and thinking, but I just wasn't getting anywhere on my long runs. And we all know, the marathon is a long run and we have a pace that we need to hit to meet certain goals. I decided to stop being a slave to the pace that was calculated for me and go with what my legs felt. If I had five miles on the books or a 20 mile long run, I would run at an effort that was comfortable to me.
After a few runs like this, I was seeing that without much effort most of my training runs were in the 8:20-8:30 range. I wasn't even trying to be a slave to the Garmin. With this information, I started to increase my cadence and strides during every run. My form got better, my kick was more powerful and I was gradually moving my pace faster. If you see my half marathons on the side bar, for the most part, began to get faster or stay within a pretty consistent pace range. This was quite different from all my races in previous years where my race times would be all over the map! I just couldn't see the thinking anymore of running sooo slow! If you want to run a marathon with an average 8:23/mile pace, why would you practice at 9:15? It didn't make sense for me anymore.
I did get a bit burned out during the months of August and September, but instead of slowing down, I just scaled my miles back a bit. I gave myself better rest days and continued to try to run at a faster pace. I still incorporated tempo runs with runs that had me running 5-10 miles in the 7:30 range. I was finally feeling comfortable with running faster. I wasn't holding back. The real test came when I ran the Jungle Run and the SF Half Marathon. Both had times that were way ahead of where I was last year. And each race after that got better or stayed around the same range.
I am running most, if not all my training runs, at around a 7:45-8:00/mile pace. And I finally don't feel like crap after them. That has become my comfort zone. When I have to go slower, up a hill or down a hill, I actually start to get tired! It takes more energy for me to go that slow. My only advice is, if you want to run faster, you have to train faster. But you also have to be smart about your miles and take adequate rest days. Your legs do get a bit more beat up when you begin to run faster, but they eventually begin to get used to those paces and the effort begins to feel so much easier.
My last two half's have been great. At the end of each of them I have felt I could keep going. All the hard work and hard runs are beginning to pay off. I really shouldn't run 6 days a week right now as I increase my pace, and on days where my legs are feeling tired from a run the day before, I hit up the treadmill and scale back a bit. If you want to run faster, you have to train faster, at least that is what I have found has worked for me. Yes, there are times where the pace is painful, where I am just wanting to puke and am feeling like there is nothing left in the tank, but I have been trying to visualize how I will feel during miles 18-22 of the marathon and use that as motivation. I want my BQ so bad I can taste it. I know it's in me. I have been working really hard lately and I just need to be able to tap into it on race day. If it doesn't happen Sunday, it will on December 6th, and I know this.
This is what has worked for me. It may not work for everyone, but I do believe if you want to go faster and longer, then you have to train faster and longer. It is hard in the beginning and you may not get the miles checked off that you want, but it's in you. My cardio has gotten so much better. My form and kick has become more efficient, and I think it's due to the fact that I have trained for these runs for a while now.
Hope this is helpful to you, and if it's not, I know there is something out there for everyone. You have to get to the point in your running or training where you are ready to switch it up. I really wanted to move forward with my training, instead of just ticking the miles off. I will say though, that with this faster running, for the first time in my training, I have missed days or miles because I am just spent or mentally drained. Running harder and faster takes a toll physically and mentally, and I have to be ready to allow myself to have a rest day and know that it isn't the end of the world (something sooo hard for this girl!)
I haven't been dwelling on Sunday which I think is a big help. Usually the week before a big race or a marathon every dream I have at night is about the race. This week not so much. I am going to keep plugging away at my crazy job and hopefully the weekend will come sooner or later 'cuz this chic is ready to run!