Posted by: Ingrid | October 8, 2012

Mission Elusive: Run Faster

Does anyone else feel like parenting and running are similar?  Try one thing and if that doesn’t work you can read a new book and try the exact opposite!  Sigh.

I think that sometimes I take for granted that I am running pain free.  When I stop and think about being pregnant this time last year and how I wasn’t running at all, I am incredibly grateful for where I am right now.  I am running consistently, without pain, and putting in decent mileage.  My times have decreased from before I was pregnant and I am looking ahead to a year of not being pregnant and working harder at my running.

That said, I have not gotten any of the subs I want (sub 20, 40, and 1:30 respectively).  Also, the elusive marathon I was training for when I was pregnant with Jonathan has not happened either.  I have been taking the moderate-low running approach (25-35 miles per week) and have basically followed the same tempo/speed work/ long run formula for the past two years.  If I had finished the year with amazing results I might be tempted to stick with it, but I have not.  So I am trying to strategize and tweak my running to see if I can come up with better results.  So far I have come up with 5 things that I am going to do and work on that will (hopefully!) help.

1.  Change up the routine.  I pulled out my copy of Run Faster by Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald, which I received for Christmas a few years ago and which turned me off when I saw that he recommended higher mileage than I was doing.  In the book he talks about changing your routine and not using the same training program every single time.  Since I am still using the plan from spring of 2010 every time I train for a half marathon, I am guilty as charged.

2.  Run hills.  Very easy to do, since Michigan is nicely rolling in most directions.  But I will admit that I am a hill wimp.  When running only 4-5 times per week with workouts at specific speeds I tend to avoid hills.  In fact, this last time around I got so lazy (also it was dark so I didn’t want to run in the country) that I ended up doing all my speed work and a good deal of my tempo runs on the track.  A road race does not mimic a track in the least and I know that.  So I am embracing hills and adding “hill sprints” which Run Faster, recommends.  They are exactly what they sound like, sprinting uphill for 8-12 seconds.  I can do ANYTHING for that period of time.  Supposedly running hills helps cut down on injuries.  That would be a nice plus.

3.  Run more.  I really like the idea of running fewer times per week, but always in the back of my mind is the fact that if I want to get better at something I should probably actually do that specific thing.  I am attempting to run more miles (40-60 per week) and more frequently (6 days a week or 5 days with double runs on some days).  Obviously I have to build up to that.  I am following a 12 week 10K plan from the book that starts at 40 miles and peaks at 62.  I figure that amount of time will show me if running that much is helpful.  If I really hate it all I have to do is run less. 🙂

4.  Hire a trainer.  Ha!  Only if I commandeer the monthly grocery budget and we don’t eat for a month.  But I am doing the next best thing and that is volunteering to be a trainee for a personal training class at the University nearby.  I heard from the instructor that she is pairing me up with a distance runner who has been experimenting with lower mileage and hitting a lot of PRs.  I am excited to work with a runner, to be pushed, and to hopefully learn more.

5.  Lose weight.  Bah.  This is one thing I had hoped to avoid, since in normal people terms I consider myself slim.  Really good runners my height, however, are on average 8-13 pounds less than me.  Does it make a difference?  I will hazard a guess and say yes, to a certain extent.  I have seen more and more articles on running blogs, and now in magazines (even in normal women’s magazines) that a pound lost equals 4 seconds faster per mile (so a 10 pound loss supposedly makes you an extra 40 seconds faster).  Obviously this breaks down somewhere.  Hopefully no one is going to tell a 105 pound runner who is hitting 5:30’s that if she loses ten pounds she will run a 4:50 mile.  I am not sure where it breaks down though, and having recently purchased both flour and chicken in 5 pound packages I can see how that much extra could slow you down.  I think it might be worth a try if I can do it slowly in a way that doesn’t compromise training, but I tend to think that a solid training plan with good mileage will do more for me.  We’ll see.

So those are the five things I am trying in the next twelve weeks to see if they do any good.  If all goes well I would like to try for a late Spring marathon with a few other races along the way.  This should be good prep for winter running and training while helping me get a higher mileage base so that marathon training doesn’t take my body by surprise.  Hopefully there will be a few PRs in it for me as well when Spring rolls around!

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