Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Question of Distance

I wonder if I will ever learn the basics of this running sport? I have been at it for a year now, and I still amaze myself at the mistakes I can make. The newest one happened as I undertook some speed work on a quarter mile high school track.

My Carmichael coach had made it as simple to understand as it gets: go to the track, warm up for 1.5 miles; run two laps (800) in 4 minutes; recover for one lap; do another 800, same speed; recover for one lap; do a single lap (400) in 2 minutes; recover for a lap; do another 400, same speed; complete a total of six miles.

Now it's not that I haven't done these before. I understand the pace and distance ideas here. However, I usually just do them on the road using my ForeRunner to measure out the distance. The track ideas was to give my legs/feet a nice fast, flat surface to enjoy, and also not have to worry about marking the laps.

The night was perfect. But, the track area was crowded: a lacrosse team practicing on one end of the infield (football field), a football team practicing on the other end; Special Olympic athletes being trained in track events on the track itself; and various recreational runner and walkers using the track too. So, I decided to stay out of everyone's way by running in lane 9 or even slightly off the track. I did my warm up, and then off I went into my first interval.

For me a 08:00 pace is a good challenge, but one I can achieve. However, when I completed my first interval I was disappointed. I had taken too much time. I completed my recovery lap and did my second 800. Same thing. I did the next recovery lap and ran my first 400. Too slow again. The same thing happened in my final 400. I was discouraged. I have been working hard to build endurance and speed. This made no sense.

As I completed my next lap, I looked at the distance as I crossed the starting mark: it was more than a quarter mile. I consistently ran the remainder of my 6 miles using lane 9. Then I downloaded the Garmin file at home and looked at the splits. I was not running quarter miles. I was running .28 miles. When I converted my data, I had made my pace goals! In fact, I might have done even better if I hadn't allowed myself to doubt and become unfocused while doing the intervals.

When I owned up to my question of distance in my conversation with my coach, he mentioned to me simple track etiquette: "On your left." In the future I will claim the inside lane, except for getting in the way of Special Olympic runners.

Another day, another challenge, another learning opportunity in the life of this Boomer Beginner!

Anyone else got a story to tell?

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