[\ˌper-ə-pə-ˈte-tik\]: wandering from place to place
Today was my second to last speed session before I start focusing more on my weekly mileage (right now I’m at around 35-40 mi.). The total run ended up being 7.9 miles––1+ mile warm-up, 11 x 400 meter intervals @ 5:40 min/mi pace, and a 1+ mile run back home. When all was said and done and I was nearing that last stretch back to the house, I started thinking, “You know, this has to be the worst part of the run. My legs are completely shot, I’m dehydrated, and I truly feel like just walking back.” But I pushed through and kept my “relaxed” 8:20 pace all the way to the end.
It’s at times like these when I wonder whether it isn’t the cool down that is actually the most important part of the workout. That is the place, at least for me, where the true psychological battle happens; where I feel like cutting a corner, but force myself to stay the course. It is the place where it is easiest to sell myself short, to call a battle “won” when it is still being fought.
When I first returned to running, I found that I really only had, at most, three different paces: “very slow”, “comfortably difficult”, and “very hard”. I seldom made use of my “slow” and “hard” paces, seeing as to how the former was an uncomfortably (or, even, unnaturally) slow speed and the latter was so fast as to be unmaintainable for distances greater than 400 meters. Put them together and they are ideal for a good interval workout, but they remained entirely unhelpful for a basic training regiment. So for all practicable purposes, my training speed was primarily limited to one moderately difficult pace––a pace at which I not only ran every workout, but also, as it happens, served as my first “race pace”.
I have found this experience to be quite common among both beginner and intermediate runners. Every day one heads out the door for, say, a 4 mile run and attempts to either tie or beat one’s previous time. For beginners, this tactic often has immediate results. One notices that one’s times actually do start getting faster and after a few months, a few minutes may have even been shaved off a 5k or 10k time. But what ends up happening is that one suddenly hits a training plateau and one just can’t seem to get any faster.