A terrible workout

My speed session was ugly today. This came as a surprise, as I went into it feeling ready mentally and physically. The day called for 11 miles with 5 x 1K at 6:34 pace (that’s 4:05 for each 1K repeat) and jog rests of 2:45.

I did my little two mile warmup and things seemed to be going well. My HR was impressively low and I didn’t feel bad when I picked it up to 85% in the last little bit before launching into 6:30 pace on the treadmill. Since my treadmill doesn’t have a 6:35 pace, I went for 6:30 with a plan to slow to 6:40 if I needed to. Quite honestly, I have no idea what pace that thing is really going at. I swear it feels more like 6:15 or 6:20 than 6:30. Maybe it is.

I handled the first 1K repeat okay. The second one was harder, but still alright. The third one felt like an entirely different pace. I felt in control for the first minute and then things rapidly went downhill. It was just hard. Too hard. Way too hard.

I have stupid things I say to myself when this is happening. Things like:

“It’s supposed to be very uncomfortable.”

“You’ll never have to run this hard in a race.”

“This is how you get faster.”

I wasn’t buying it today. I bumped the pace to 6:40 about three quarters of the way through that third try, but even that didn’t help. I finally couldn’t take it anymore and bailed 30 seconds early.

Then I spent the next five minutes berating myself. I can globalize a bad workout — even just a bad interval — so everything I’m doing is called into question. I wonder if I’ll ever get faster or if my best days, however modestly successful those were, are behind me. I wonder if I’ll always be carrying an extra 10 pounds around. I wonder why I’m pouring so much energy into something that is, on the face of it, completely meaningless. Something that will only get harder as I get older.

Then I went into the next room to talk to Jonathan. He suggested I either slow down the remaining intervals or just call it day. I went for the second option, since I knew I’d end up just feeling worse if I kept trying to bludgeon my way through what was obviously a workout gone bad. I ended up running 5.5 miles easy to bring the total up to 10. That at least gives me some permission to have a beer this evening.

While it’s possible to overanalyze why something like this happens, it can’t hurt to look at the big picture.  First, the physical: This is my second big mileage week, still fairly early on in my buildup. I ran three days of doubles this week (including nine miles last night, after which I was tired) plus a fairly hard 12 mile aerobic run on Tuesday. Next, the mental: I haven’t run outside in nine days. Because my flat path and track are covered in snow, if I want to run outside then I have to run hills in the street. This isn’t exactly conducive to recovery between harder runs — because all of the runs end up being hard.

So all of my runs have been inside on the treadmill. By last night, I was beginning to feel the mental effects of doing two runs a day in that tiny room, like two oppressive bookends to — another mental stress — work days that were not exactly carefree. Get up and run. Work for 8-9 hours. Run again. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Day after day. A mental fatigue, or even dread, sets in eventually.

I was reminded of Jaymee’s post this week, in which she related some obvious reasons for why she underperformed in her most recent race. That woman works harder than I ever will at this ridiculous hobby. You’d think that with her Calvinist training regimen, combined with having a real job and a life, the reasons behind a bad race wouldn’t be gleaned only in hindsight. But I suppose we all get used to being able to “handle” the work, perhaps not seeing how close to the edge we are at times. For many of us, that edge only reveals itself suddenly, in the form of a bad race, or an injury, or a crappy workout.

So maybe all those mental and physical apples were legitimate reasons for the upsetting of the apple cart this evening. Or maybe I was just having an off day. Either way, I’ll write it off and move on. What else can I do?

I need to get out of that room this weekend. Tomorrow I’ll drive north and do my recovery miles on a flat street in Scarsdale. It’s just four stupid miles, but I think I’ll go insane if I have to run inside again. Sunday I’ll also run in the street and do my two fast miles on Pipeline again. Fuck it. I’m running a five mile race tomorrow. Why not?