A special kind of awful

No matter how often I remind myself that tempo runs are supposed to be uncomfortable and challenging, I am always struck by the same particular brand of awfulness that defines every tempo effort.

Today I had a 4.5 mile tempo run tacked onto the end of a 9.5 general aerobic run. My legs were tired today and all day I had tinitus in the form of a little, whiny voice muttering less-than-encouraging warnings: “You’re too tired. You’re too slow. You won’t be able to do it. Wait until tomorrow…”

The fact is, it’s never the right time for a tempo run, just as there’s never the right time for getting a mammogram. It’s extremely unpleasant, but if you want to become a faster runner (or obtain a reasonable sense of certainty that your breasts aren’t diseased), you’ve gotta schedule that sucker.

Long story short: I ran my 9.5 at a respectable 8:30ish pace, got to the track and tried to get my head in order. I ran 2 miles at 10-12 seconds slower than assigned pace and went through what I’d been trying to avoid — a litany of internal recriminations and the temptation to call this one a failure and stop. I took 30 seconds to collect myself, then ran another mile — even worse at 15 seconds off pace. Then another minute of pep talk, followed by a commitment to run the last 1.5 without stopping and putting up with any of my own shit, with the added bargain that I would work as hard as I could and accept whatever that yielded. In other words, don’t look at pace. Just run.

In the end, I was an average of 13 seconds per mile off pace. I need to remember that running a new, faster pace is hard and takes some people (or at least me) a few tries to adapt to it. I will eventually be able to run at 6:53 for 4.5 (and more) miles. Just not today.

10 Responses

  1. Some days it just sucks a little, all you can do is wait for the next one which will undoubtedly be easier. The hard part is figuring out how to quell the stupid voices. It’s tough enough to run hard even without someone bitching at you the whole time. :-)

  2. I forgot to say, I was cleaning off my desk today and started flipping through the Steamtown pamphlet they’d recently sent. It was a cool giggle to look at the AG winners and see your name there. Glad to “know” you.

  3. I wouldn’t worry too much about the pace as long as the effort was there. Hard tempo runs often need to be coaxed along. Often it’s like trying to do a marathon-pace long run when it’s just not your day – running a little slower is still good training.

    Was the 9.5 miles just warming up, or part of the workout? Running this part easier than ‘respectable’ would help the tempo part. How hard was the effort of the tempo? Did you go at it like a 4.5 mile race? If it was just slower than expected (but still felt hard), it’s probably an indication of tiredness more than anything.

    At least it wasn’t an awful race!

  4. Flo and Ewen, thanks for responding to my thinly veiled cry for help.

    My general aerobic runs are typically at 8:10-8:20, so I was going easy on the first part of the run. And, at this point, I have no idea what it’s like to run a 4.5 mile race since I swore off anything shorter than a 10K because I hate running that hard. See why I’m not a middle distancer? I’d rather be very uncomfortable for 3+ hours than extremely uncomfortable for 30+ minutes.

    I suspect there was some residual tireness from a hard 17 (with two miles at 7:00 at the end) on Sunday. But who knows? I’ve got 800m repeats on Friday, so we shall see.

    Flo, when I got the Steamtown pamphlet, I felt like Steve Martin in The Jerk: “The new phone book’s out! I’m famous! I’m famous!”

  5. Well, I had a crap one today too. My 1K intervals were 5 seconds slow, which I can blame on a cold, plus a late night out,. But at least I don’t hear voices like Flo does ;)

  6. Wouldn’t running fast at the end of a marathon be hard? For example, 4:12 kilometres for the last 10k to break 3 hours, and maybe having to run sub-4 for the last km so you didn’t run 3:00:15?

    It’s worth practising (like you are) types of training you don’t like or aren’t naturally good at. Eventually “extremely uncomfortable” for 30 minutes will be no more than “uncomfortable”.

    I hope Friday’s good. Have fun.

  7. Ewen: I know, I know. Oh, how I know.

    Actually, I like fast finish long runs for this very reason. I tend to naturally speed up as a long run progresses anyway. But there’s fast finish Mpace and then there’s fast finish Tempo pace (Tuesday’s run). I don’t think I’m ever going to be finishing a marathon at Tempo pace, unless someone’s chasing me with a machete.

    But we could talk about angels on heads of pins all night…

  8. [...] A special kind of awful [...]

  9. [...] that I’ve introduced very recently. I’ve had a couple of experiences lately in which the voices in my head successfully cajoled me into stopping, after which I felt terrible about the run and myself. In thinking about those times when [...]

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