One day a week I get to do speed work. It is, compared to long run days, a glorious day where I get to go as fast as possible for a shorter distance, rather than just chugging along endlessly. I have been doing most of my running on various loops that I’ve created near my house. The loops are created so that the distance is pre-measured (an idea that came to me after my running app froze mid-run.) and also to be almost exactly half incline and half decline. They also feature sidewalk cracks, bits of nature, skunks (the fact that my neighborhood is known for them did not come up in my research when we were moving here, but has become readily apparent in my evening runs), and even the occasional person walking their dog – none of which prevent doing speed work, but none of which is particularly conducive to it either.
I am lucky to have a really nice public track very near my house, and I have done runs there from time to time. Running at the track is interesting because of the lack of elevation change. My normal loops don’t have huge hills on them (that’s not something I’ll have to deal with on my 70.3 or full IM course) but they are mostly incline and decline with very little that is just flat so it’s a very different feel than running on a completely flat track. It is nice to be able to run without being worried about tripping on random crap, the distances are precise, and there are lights (which is helpful since I often run at night.)
The main downside, at least for me, is the boredom. IT’s not as bad as the treadmill, which is completely mind-numbing (though there’s usually a television or something nearby to distract you from the fact that there is, at least in these moments, very little to distinguish you from the pet hamster that was your third grade class pet.)
The track isn’t quite so bad, but it is very clear that you are absolutely, one hundred percent, running around in circles. Other people do not seem bothered by this, indeed I am often completely baffled at people who seem so damn happy about running around in circles, though I’m very happy for them.
You can also see exactly how far you have to go until you make your distance. On my loops in the neighborhood I know roughly where I am, but I can’t see it with such precision, which I think actually helps me to run faster longer and keeps me from being fixated on constantly doing the math about where I am and how fast I need to cover the distance to make my time goal.
Irritatingly, the track gives people lots of chances to talk to me about what they think that I should do. I have distances to run with time goals to make and then prescribed rest intervals. Several people have taken the opportunity of those rest intervals to give unsolicited unwanted advice – like that I’m making a mistake with running sprints and that going on long runs at slower speeds will result in weight loss. Others let me know that at my size I should constrain myself to walking. I’ve cultivated several canned responses to these inquiries, which I use interchangeably depending upon my mood, how aggressively they’ve approached me, and how much time I have left of my rest interval:
Blank stare: “Why would I want to lose weight?” or “I’m not interested in weight loss at all, I have no idea why you would think I am.”
Smile “I’m not actually soliciting the opinions of random strangers on my workout.”
Every once in a while, just for fun, I’ll take off headphones and say “Sorry, I didn’t hear you – did you say that you want some help with your running? I’m happy to give you some coaching once I’m done with my workout!”
This one is the most fun because they typically really have no idea what to say since it was absolutely the last response they expected to get for their unsolicited, unwelcome coaching advice. They usually just walk away but if they try again I just keep acting confused – so if they say “No, I’m saying that you shouldn’t be sprinting like that” I’ll respond “Sure, I can help you with your sprinting! I just have to finish my workout first.” Then they either walk away or I let them off the hook by saying “Sorry, I’ve got to get back to it but if you’re here when I’m done I’ll be happy to help you.” I don’t care if they think I’m delusional as long as they leave me alone to do my workout in peace.
So despite being completely flat, the track has its ups and downs – but it’s another tool on the road to my IRONMAN so I’ll embrace it all the way to the finish line.
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