Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Long, Slow Road To Short And Fast

Something has happened to me since last Winter. Well, really since I started running again over 3 years ago. I've found another gear and can now run at a moderately quick pace for several miles. I'm not fast, but I'm no longer just slow either. I'm in the strange land of mediocre speed. Still totally impressed by the truly fast guys, and still completely at home with my back of the pack friends, but somehow able to jump into the nether regions between.

All of my new found middling speed suddenly appeared this Spring. I took a good chunk of time off after finishing my 50K ultra (following 2 trail marathons and a 40 mile ultra in the Fall and Winter). I felt exhausted, both mentally and physically. That seems to be my pattern every Spring after I totally overdo the Fall and Winter racing, but this year the tiredness went deep. My bones felt tired.

After a few weeks of beer, biking, and some really slow running (like 13 minutes per mile sort of slow), I started feeling better. I struggled to acclimate to the Summer heat for a few weeks, but once I adjusted, I noticed that my normal training run pace had fallen into the 8:30 pace range, 30 seconds per mile faster than my normal training pace. I started seeing some personal records fall on routes I had been running at the same pace for years. I got within 30 seconds of my 5K PR on an indoor track while running barefoot (actually was a barefoot 5K PR).

And then, parkrun happened.

Two weeks ago, I ran my first parkrun event (go here to read all about the coolness that is parkrun!) and totally destroyed my 5K PR, knocking 30 seconds off and finally recording a time below 22 minutes. I thought it had to be my awesome new Merrell Vapor Gloves that allowed me to put such a vicious beat down on my old PR (I won't be reviewing the Vapor Gloves, because Josh and Ash have already written everything you would ever need to know about them), but then I ran my hilly 10K training route the following week at 8:14 pace without the Vapors and knew something about me had definitely changed.

Today, for my second parkrun, I again chopped off 30 seconds from last week's PR, finishing in 21:22. I'm stunned. Gobsmacked. Flabbergasted.

My best and only guess as to how this has happened is that all the long, slow, distance running (low heart rate, MAF style running) I've been doing over the past few years, and especially the past Winter, have finally paid off. I've gotten faster without speed work. Which is great, because I hate speed work. Speed work hurts and I'm lazy, so screw speed work. Viva la long, slow, distance!