Need for Speed in Nebraska

It was a perfect, sunny day in Omaha, NE. From my starting point at the Hilton Hotel, I laced up my bright cobalt running shoes and reveled in the fact that I had an entire afternoon to run wherever I wanted for as long as I pleased.

In the past two weeks I had logged 135 miles of running and played in ten rock concerts in ten different states and one Canadian province. Two days before, I completed my longest ever training run of 24 miles on the lake shore path of Chicago. I had been feeling good to a point, but I could feel my body beginning to revolt. My recent easy runs had been slower than usual by 10-20 seconds per mile. In the previously mentioned long run, I felt ready to stop at mile ten. Eight hours of sleep per night was no longer enough.

As I set out to run around the city, I told myself that I wouldn’t look at my watch, I wouldn’t worry about pace, and I wouldn’t even worry about where I went. It would be a run purely for the joy of running. I explored downtown, ran along a river canal, and looped around a pond. The sky was clear, the temperature was right around 50º Fahrenheit, and I had all the time in the world.

While I was enjoying running for the bliss and fun, I couldn’t help but think how perfect the weather would be for a speed workout. I had planned on waiting another day or two to give my legs a break, but it seemed silly to not take advantage of the day and the weather.

The workout was 8 x 1K repeats @ 10K pace with a 400m jog between each. Since the units of measurement on my watch aren’t set to the metric system and I couldn’t find an open track, I decided to do 0.6 miles on; 0.25 mile off. I found a long enough stretch of bike path by the Missouri RIver to run the intervals back and forth on. My goal pace would be 3:44.6.

The first rep flew by in 3:42.9. It felt effortless.

I turned to face the other direction for the second rep and got smacked by a blast of wind. So THAT’S why the first rep felt so easy… I had 12mph wind to my back the whole time! The next rep was head-on into the wind. It did not feel effortless. 3:44.9.

Third rep, 3:42.5. Right on.

Fourth rep, I battled with the wind again, finishing in 3:45.7.  I began to feel sorry for myself for having to face such windy conditions, and told myself it was okay that I missed my goal and that if things kept going that way, I could still easily average out in the end to my goal pace.

Fifth rep, 3:43.5. My slowest wind-aided effort yet. Was I really already slowing down? It was then that I told myself to snap out of it. Wind or no wind, 6:13 for six tenths of a mile should not feel hard. 6:13 is the pace required for a woman to run an entire marathon in order to qualify for the US Olympic Trials. I also thought that if this was the hardest part of my day, I have a really freaking good life. Perspective is everything.

I snapped out of whatever funk I was in, took a deep breath, and ran directly into the wind with my fastest split yet- 3:39.9. Take that, wind! You don’t own me!

7th (wind-aided) rep, 3:39.8. Easy peasy. I thought of how amazing and wonderful it would be to run an entire marathon at that pace. 6:06 per mile. That’s a 2:40 marathon. Some day?

8th and final split, with what I swear were the strongest wind gusts yet and yet nothing for me to lose. I pumped my arms and focused on taking short, choppy strides and light steps. Wind? What wind? 3:37.7.

Running for fun is great and all, but this little impromptu challenge came at a perfect time. I may be a little tired, but I feel confident in my fitness. My taper for the Philly Marathon has started. My legs are awake and ready for what’s to come.

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