Re-learning How to Run Fast

Coming off my performance at the Capitol View/Couples Triathlon, my run speed has been on my mind. I’ve never particularly trained for the run, but before my knee injury, I considered it a strength. Part of that is due to grit – that “there’s no way in hell I’m going to stop pushing it” attitude that keeps me going through most workouts and races. But my training consisted of running 3-5 miles a few times a week at about the same speed. Which, shockingly, trains one to be able to run 3-5 miles at about the same speed. Crazy, right?

Since I hurt my knee, I’ve had to re-calibrate my stride after a running evaluation, start wearing orthotics in my shoes, and build up endurance 30 seconds at a time at a ten-minute mile pace. I haven’t run faster than ten-minute miles on purpose since the injury. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that my 5K time at Capitol View was just around 30 minutes.

I’ve been thinking about how to speed up my run again, and the way I’ve learned to swim seems like a decent comparison. Because I didn’t know how to swim, I had to start with a coach, and every practice had a purpose. There was a workout on the board, an interval that I was expected to hit, and something to focus on throughout. A friend of mine who is learning to swim this year was recently advised by his coach to “stop swimming randomly,” meaning stop going through swim practices without a purpose.

Well, I think it’s time that I stop running randomly. I found a few programs online to boost 5K speed, and this afternoon Josh and I went for our first non-random run. The workout consisted of 10 minutes of an easy warm up jog, 2×1000 meters at race pace, with 2 minutes walking after each, and then a 10 minute cool down jog. The 1000 meters were difficult, and there was a part of me that thought I was going to barf, but as soon as we were done I felt awesome. So much of what I practice at Masters Swim is learning how to swim at different speeds, and at least a little bit today we were able to practice running at different speeds. (And no knee pain at all!)

One of the other lessons I’ve learned from swimming is that sometimes you need to try and fail in practice. I’ve written on here before about how I don’t always know how to give it my all in a race. If you go all out from the get go, you run the risk of running out of gas long before the finish. One thing my Master Swim coach made us try from time to time is swimming, say, a 200m sprint where we have to go all out the first 50 meters. As I got more comfortable with swimming in general and simply making it 200 meters didn’t seem unachievable, I started trying to actually do this. Sometimes I would go all out for the first 50 meters and lose all my steam by the 125 mark, finishing out at a limp of a pace. But sometimes I’d find that I could go all-out a lot longer than I gave myself credit for, getting me closer to the race ideal of finishing the race with just enough energy to cross the finish line and not a drop more. Part of this new focus on the run training is an attempt to start to understand those limits in the safe space of training for this discipline as well. We’ll see how long it takes before I start to apply these learnings to the bike. In some ways I’m kind of a slow learner.

My next race is in just a couple of weeks: the Verona Triterium Triathlon. I feel quite confident in a swim, as my open water swim class has been in this quarry several times so far this summer and I know it’s small, flat, and clear. The bike has a reputation for being quite hilly. And although two weeks is not a significant amount of time to make any great progress in the run, I’m hoping our non-random running training at least helps my legs remember that there are other paces beyond 10-minute miles, and remind me what it means to run at different speeds.

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