Monday, April 30, 2012

Group Training Is Awesome!

The rain held off this afternoon so I hurried up to University City High School after work for the first night of Missouri Running Company's track sessions. I haven't been to these sessions before and U City is about 40 minutes from my office so I was hoping it would be worth the trip.

When I got to the school's track, there were about 30 little kids running around and only a few adults who weren't dressed like they were there to run. For a minute, I thought I had misinterpreted the purpose of the sessions and that they were actually for kids. But it ended up being some kind of after-school program and the runners started arriving for the track sessions a few minutes later. Soon, the kids were escorted off to a soccer field and the track was ours.

As people arrived, we were told to do an active warm-up. One of the coaches on hand said that stretching before a workout is a thing of the past. Everyone is now encouraged to do an active warm-up before running and then stretch after the workout. So we were told to jog an easy mile. Then run two laps of jogging the curves and running the straightaways at about 85% speed. Then run two more laps jogging half a lap and running the other half at 85% speed. Apparently, this will be the weekly warm-up.

Then we were told that the track sessions are intended to improve speed, improve form, and improve cardiovascular fitness. The times we would be running are based on our goal 5K time for the end of the 10-week session. We were split into a few different groups based on our goal times and then each group was assigned a coach and given goal times for our intervals.

Tonight's workout was repeat 400's (one lap around the track). Beginners were encouraged to do 8 intervals and more experienced runners were encouraged to do 12 intervals. But the coaches were great about letting people know not to push it too much (especially on the first night) and to stop whenever they felt uncomfortable continuing.

I was in a group with three other guys and then there were two larger groups set up by their goal times. Our coach suggested we aim for each interval in 85 seconds based on a goal 5K time of 18-19 minutes. The groups staggered their starts so we mostly stayed out of each other's way and we got started.

When I've run repeat 400's by myself, I've aimed for 75 seconds each and started to struggle after 5 or 6 intervals, even with 2 minutes of rest between intervals. At the most, I would do 8 intervals and that took weeks to work up to. Today, I ran 12 intervals at 81-83 seconds each with only 1 minute of rest between intervals and I felt great! It's amazing how much it helps having people to run with and having a coach calling out your times!

By the third interval, one of the guys and I were trading the lead every-other interval. It was an unspoken agreement that we just fell into so neither one of us had to lead the whole time. The other two guys in our group settled into a slightly slower pace and were staggered behind us. One of the guys seemed to be struggling by number 6 or 7, but he hung in there and stuck close to his pace. I thought he might stop when we finished the 8th interval but he hung in and ran another one or two before taking a break and then ran the last couple with us. I still felt good on the last interval so I went ahead and squeezed the trigger a little. I didn't want to go all-out because I was afraid I would injure myself after so many intervals, but I was surprised how comfortable I was running a 1:16 after 11 intervals.

I Loved how supportive everyone was. When a group would start crossing the finish line, they would turn and encourage the rest of their runners through the final straightaway. The coaches did a great job of helping everyone with timing splits cheering people on. I've always felt that runners tend to be friendly and welcoming people and tonight's workout was a perfect example.

When we finished, I chatted with the guys in my group and ran a half-mile cool-down before heading home. I had a great time and it was an awesome workout, but I still haven't decided if I'll be making the trip up every week. I would like to do as many of the 10 sessions as I can, but the cost of gas and the evening away from home might convince me to do something else. I guess I have a week to think about next Monday.

Goal For The Day: Speedwork.
Distance: 5.00 Miles.
Time: 12 x 400m (1:23, 1:22, 1:23, 1:22, 1:23, 1:21, 1:22, 1:21, 1:21, 1:21, 1:22, 1:16).
Course: U City H.S. Track.
Conditions: 73 degrees. 6:30PM.

Notes: It wasn't a hot night, but it was warm and humid. I can only imagine how hot it's going to be for these workouts a month from now. Summer is almost here. At one point, I considered a goal of 2,012 miles in 2012... I'm 1/3 of the way through the year and on pace for 930 miles. I know that will pick up when I start marathon training and I wasn't running as much for the first 2-3 months, but I'm pretty sure 2,012 isn't happening this year. Maybe that's a good goal for next year.

Daily Miles: 5.00 Miles.
2012 Totals:
  Run - 309.20 Miles.
  Bike - 0.00 Miles.
  Swim - 7,450 meters.

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