I want to get faster

I am continuing to keep all those affected by Boston in my thoughts. I am sending healing thoughts to those injured and condolences to those that lost a loved one. I’m also sending comforting thoughts to all of the runners who were there that had a day of celebration ripped away from them. I can’t imagine what they may be going through right now, especially if someone who came to watch them run was hurt. I continue to dedicate my runs to Boston.
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After work Barry and I went for a short run, a little over 2 miles. It’s in the mid-70’s outside, but it didn’t feel all that hot. We ran at a 9:52 pace today, which felt comfortably hard.

As I was driving at work today, I was thinking about running (as I often do while driving… since I’d rather be doing that). I was thinking about Boston and I was thinking about my own running. And I got to thinking about how I really want to run Boston someday, which means I have to get a lot faster.

It’s not just the desire to run Boston that makes me want to get faster. In general I want to continue to improve as a runner. I feel like I have proved to myself I can conquer the distance (at least I hope so, after completing eight half marathons), which is what running was initially about for me. Now it’s time to start focusing on getting a bit faster, but I’m not sure exactly how.

I read enough blogs to know about speedwork, tempo runs, etc. I currently incorporate tempo runs and progressive runs into my training but obviously I need to do more.  I use the McMillan calculator to figure out what pace I should be aiming for on my tempo runs and I’m thinking I should also be able to use it to figure out what to aim for on shorter speedwork-type workouts. But I feel a little lost. There is too much information on the internet about how to get faster and how to do speedwork, and a lot of it conflicts.

I’m thinking I need to make friends with the local high school track. However, I just don’t know what to do there. What should my first track workout be? Should I aim for the paces I find on the McMillan calculator using a recent race time, or should I put in a goal race time and use those paces? Also should I run on the inside lane (obviously I won’t if there’s someone faster using the track at the same time)? If I run in a lane thats further out, will I still only hit 400 meters if I run once around and finish at the same spot where I started? The reason I have all of these questions: the extent of my experience with the track is the dreaded “Mile Monday” that we ran for field hockey in high school.

All of that being said, I do not expect to PR at either of the half marathons I have coming up. Blue Ridge goes up a mountain (and it’s on Saturday…. not exaclty enough time to become a speedster) and the Varmint is really hilly and run at elevation. BUT the Varmint is in early June. Maybe that’s enough time to get stronger and aim to beat my time from last year?

By the way, look what my Dad found! Here is some proof that I know how to ride a unicycle, like I said ๐Ÿ™‚ These pictures are from the Cherry Blossom Parade, and I was probably in sixth or seventh grade which would be sometime 2000-2001. I was riding a 7 foot tall unicycle.

Do you use speedwork in your training?

Help me! I need some guidance on how to do speedwork. Any suggestions on speedwork for a beginner?

Aside from befriending the track, how else can I try and build speed?

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  1. I’ve been thinking about getting a little faster too but have no clue where to start! I wasn’t fast in high school/not that motivated so I didn’t really pay attention to how during cross country and track haha. And that unicycle riding is crazy!!! 7 feet?! That’s awesome!

    1. Hopefully some of the comments below will help you out! They’ve definitely given me a great place to start!

  2. How did you learn to ride a unicycle? How far did you go with it that high? Do you still practice?

    Speed. Start gradually. Go to the track and aim to do about 6-8 400s (1 lap) with a slow lap in between. Others will probably say use the MacMillan pace guide, but really, just do it a few times and see how fast you go (knowing, of course, that you do not want to go all out on the first lap and be too tired for your other laps). Record those and it should most likely match up with your most recent race time (a marathon up a mountain is probably not a good measure to judge though). Use those as your base. Then work on building up to a total of 12 400s. Then you can start 800s.

    1. I learned to ride by teaching myself ๐Ÿ™‚ I rode back and forth on our back deck holding onto the railing until I could finally ride it. It took about 2 months of riding 10 feet back and forth. On that 7 foot unicycle I rode how ever long the Cherry Blossom Parade is, plus a little extra because you don’t just start right at the start line and finish right at the finish. It was probably a little over a mile. I don’t still practice, but it’s like riding a bike. I can just hop on a unicycle now and ride, just like how you can hop on a bike after months/years of not riding if you used to know how. I do still have my personal tall unicycle (6 feet), a standard size one, and a mini one that’s about 3 feet tall.

      Thank you for the speed training advice! I am going to start implementing that the week after next!!

  3. OMG that unicycle!! How??? That’s amazing!!

    I agree with the Amy on the track workouts. I also think tempo runs really help. Do more 5k’s, etc. Any time you push yourself will help! And, 400 around the track is in the inside lane.

    1. Thanks, Jan! I will have to hunt down some more 5K’s ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. keep on dedicating those miles to boston!

    to get faster u’ve got to do that speedwork, like u’ve realized. vary the workouts so that once a week is more speed based (200’s or 400’s) and then later in the week do an endurance workout (tempo, mile repeats, two mile repeats, etc.) i’d definitely say going to a track is a good idea, but u can certainly do speedwork anywhere and just to fartleks. the bottom line is, whether u know the exact split/pace or not u want to run for effort…so run faster and push outside the comfort zone. i like fartleks for people just starting speedwork because it’s got less pressure than the track and u can do it anywhere. keep up the great work!

    1. Thank you so much for the suggestions! Although I’m a little intimidated by the track, I think I’ll do my first official speed workout there. I think it’ll help me “get my head in the game” so to speak.

  5. I’ll defer to everyone else on speed work. I just started incorporating it when I used the Hansons Marathon Method and I think it worked extraordinarily! They base everything off of your goal pace for a full or half marathon. We started with 400’s and then progressed all the way to 1600m repeats…all at the same speed..just adding about 200-400m each week (400, 600, 800, 1200, 1600). They were done at about 50 seconds faster than my goal race pace. As for the track, yes, the inner lane is the 400m measurement, but unless you’re running a LOT of intervals, it won’t make a huge difference. Tracks are great for 400-800m, but longer than that I get really bored…even at 800m, sometimes. You can find a stretch of trail that you know is a certain distance and do repeats on that, or if you have a GPS watch like a Garmin (I can’t remember if you do), you can program intervals into there so it will beep at you when you are getting close to your distance and you can program in, say a 1 mile warm up, 6x600m intervals with a 400m recovery jog in between. You can also program in paces, so I would set mine to like a 20 second goal time frame and it beeps at you if you are going too fast or too slow…which I found really helpful because I am awful at pacing.

    Also – you are too cool! I would be terrified to be up that high without anything to hold onto. Plus I generally fall on my BI-cycle, so I probably wouldn’t do much better on a uni.

    1. Thanks, Logan! The idea to gradually add 200-400m each week to the repeats sounds like a great idea. Although 1600m repeats (1 mile repeats!?!?) scare the heck out of me right now!

      When you ride a giraffe unicycle, as they’re called, you learn to fall right. I got really used to unexpected things, like a pothole or one of those old men in those mini cars that are at parades, causing me to fall. The trick is how to get back up in the middle of a parade. Usually to get on we would climb onto something tall (like the bed of a truck) and then climb onto it while someone used their foot to keep the wheel still. In D.C. we actually climbed the traffic light poles that are on the corners of the street to get on. It worked perfectly!

  6. I’m so glad your dad found these pictures! I love them! I can’t imagine riding a unicycle…

    I can send you more detailed track workouts when I get a chance, but the above suggestion for 6-8 x 400’s is a great start, then you could move to 6 x 800’s the next week. We usually did a recovery slow run of a lap between each 800 (half lap between the 400’s) One of my favorite speed workouts are pyramids or ladders. Do a 200, then 400, then 800, then 1600, then 800, then 400, then 200; each with a recovery slow run. I think you’ll really like that workout! Have fun!

    1. I’m glad he found them, too! Since we only had hard copies of them I thought they were lost.

      Detailed track workouts would be great! I appreciate your advice on getting started with the 6-8 x 400’s! I also like the sound of a ladder. Would I aim to do each of those intervals at the same speed?

  7. Late on the train here, but what the heck. There are lots of different approaches (as you’ve already found out), and you just have to find what works for you. The truth is that MOST faster running (done in moderation) will make you faster. Eventually, the trick is to find the best/right/kind of faster running that will make YOU as fast as you can be.

    For longer races (half and full marathons), I actually suggest longer intervals of speedwork (8000-1,6000 meters), done at a slightly slower pace than shorter speedwork. For longer races, you don’t really have to focus on preparing your body to tolerate super fast running; rather, you need to prepare it to output a modest effort over a long period. Personally, I think half to mile repeats are good for this. I also think that incorporating tempo running is super important – both tempo runs on their own (20-30 minutes), and tempo work as part of longer runs, once or twice a month (5 miles warm up, 3 miles tempo, 4 miles cool down). This helps you get used to putting in a harder effort when you’re tired, without breaking down your body to GET yourself a bit tired. [If that makes sense.]

    But do start by incorporating speedwork slowly – once a week for 6 weeks, then gradually increase to twice a week, if your body tolerates that. I’d also suggest finding a plan – with a group, with a coach, online – probably an “Intermediate” level program, which will incorporate some speed/tempo work. When you’re just getting started, it can be helpful to have a direct guide that you can follow. After a few training cycles, you’ll learn what does/doesn’t work, and start to assemble your own ideal plan. But that takes time and experience. Following a plan is a good way to start and, as I said at the beginning – any kind of faster running will help you get faster! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Finally – as an alternative to speedwork, try some hill running. Run a really hilly course at a steady/easy pace, if you can find such a route near where you live. Alternatively, find a long, steady incline and run a few repeats there: Run hard up, then jog slowly down, x4-8 repeats, depending on how long/high the hill is. This will ALWAYS pay off!

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks, Holly!! I am planning on incorporating speed work this spring, but will be training for my first full in the fall. I don’t want to completely cut out speed work when I start training for the marathon, so you suggestion on longer intervals really helps!

      As far as the hills go I run those on every run that I do on the roads around our house (probably about 80% of my runs). So I’m getting the hill running automatically ๐Ÿ™‚ I definitely could specifically incorporate hill repeats, though.

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