Tag Archives: Track

Wanna Run Faster? Listen Up!

Sleigh Bells / Treats
Sleigh Bells / Treats Album

Song: Straight A’s on the Treats album by Sleigh Bells

I can add music! Very cool! Run to this song and you will feel like a badass!

Treats is a solid album in my book. There are some great songs for running track workouts. The songs are relatively short but super intense. If you’re not on the track, you’ll do a mile lickety-split. There are a few slower songs in there as well, so you won’t burn through all your glycogen straight off.

Track Workout #2

Brandeis Track
Brandeis HS Track

Since my legs were tired from yesterday’s hills, I drove to the track. I didn’t consider biking either because I’d biked to the library earlier. That’s only like 6 miles, but still.

The plan was 10 x 400’s, with a minute thirty rest, sandwiched in between a mile warmup and cool down. Remembering last week’s effort required for 8 x’s, and feeling how tired my legs were, I was seriously dreading the run. The worst part of the evening? Jerome showed up.

When he arrived, Christian told me, “This guy is fast!” Cool, I thought. It helps to have someone push you. I’d met him at a run before, but it was more of a social run, so I had no idea how fast he was. Now we’re running sprints on a track – it’s all business. Jerome was about to serve up an all you can eat dust buffet.

From the get go, he was the leader. And not just by a little, some laps he was waaay in front. I was glad to have Jerome take the lead, it gave me something to strive for: Be as fast – or faster – than that guy. If he can do it, so can you. Go get him!  But after a few laps, it was clear I couldn’t keep up with his pace. It was disheartening. Add to that Christian was working out some post-work stress, so he was running strong, and David was pushing hard as well. I settled into the rear of the pack for a few laps, trying to stay mentally relaxed.

After several laps of trying to keep up with Jerome, watching him glide effortlessly to the finish, I asked him what his method what. And his secrets tumbled out faster than I could absorb them. “Start fast and stay fast, breathe right, and glide at the end, letting your arms do more of the work.” At least that’s what I thought I heard. I didn’t think a guy could talk that fast after running that fast. I wanted to tell him that he was my new arch nemesis, but I kept that to myself. No need to make him think I’m weirder than I am.

The last lap arrived, and I felt good, considering. I told myself, “There’s only one more lap. Don’t save anything. Give it everything you got. Beat Jerome!” I got to the line, and readied the next song on my shuffle. The song that came up: Straight A’s by Sleigh Bells. Talk about a perfect song for the sprint, it’s only 1:32 long! I jacked up the volume and when we took off, I went FAST.

I pulled out front and never looked back. I ran as fast as my tired little legs would carry me, with Jerome, no doubt surprised as hell, hot on my heels. My lungs were burning coming into the last turn. Jerome was right there with me. I dug deep trying to find the extra gear, the juice I had was just fumes. But it was enough to hold off Jerome, and finally take a lap from him.

I was stoked that I was able to run a strong enough lap to beat Jerome. Now I need to run even harder so that I can do it again, because if it takes everything I have to beat him just once

Oh, and the best part of the evening? Jerome showed up.

*  *  *  *

Lessons Learned

-Don’t psyche yourself out. If you are dreading your workout or mileage or event, you’re going to sabotage yourself. Worry only about the pain your are currently in, not about the pain that is coming. You can deal with that when it arrives.

-Competition can be good. It can spur you to push yourself. But don’t let winning turn into the be all end all. It’s okay if someone is faster or stronger than you, and there will always be someone faster or stronger than you.

-Music makes a difference. Seriously, if you have the right music, you might be surprised how much it can boost your running. (And not just in sprints.)

Speedwork… On a Track!

Brandeis Track

I never realized I live so close to a track. It’s a mere mile and half away, so I run there. I get there early, so I keep warming up. I run laps and sprinkle in some sprints. It’s sunny, but also windy and a bit chilly. There are tons of kids on and around the field doing… track stuff. I look for other runners. I fumble with my Garmin, trying to remember if I need to stop or restart, or wait, this thing’s on auto resume… wait. Dammit, I hate this thing! The high school kids slowly filter off the field and 5:30 arrives.

The group materializes and is ready to roll. We begin with the 4 lap warmup. I trail at the back, antisocial. Being on a track again is strange. The last time I found myself on a track was several years ago in Portland. I was running alone and had no idea what I was “supposed to do”. For my first workout, I still have no idea what I am doing, but at least I’m not alone.

The 4 lap warm-up completed, the plan is this: once around the track at your goal pace, rest for a minute thirty, and then repeat for 8 laps total. I have no idea what my goal pace is. I figure I’ll just try and keep up with the group leader, Christian. We find the starting line. Looking at his watch, Christian counts us down. “On your marks….. get set…..GO!” And we all blast off.

Instantly, I feel like a kid again, and I love this. It’s competition at its simplest: who’s fastest? To be fair, I don’t know if the other guys were racing or not, but I sure was. I wanted to be the fastest guy out there. I mean, isn’t that the ultimate speed work, trying to outrun a bunch of other guys? What’s the point of hitting a goal pace if not to be faster than your competitor?

Each lap is fairly identical: Out of the gate, I am at or near the front. Legs churning, I feel strong. I am going to take this all the way. Rounding the first corner, I feel okay. Heading into the second straightaway, I feel like I’m holding my breath and my heart is going to explode; I am definitely not relaxed. My energy flags and my confidence plummets; I cannot sustain the pace. I try to try, but making the final turn into the finish is a real struggle. The finish line can’t come soon enough.

One by one, we all finish. We walk it off, hands on hips or clasped upon our heads, panting. My breathing resumes fairly quickly, but my heart rate continues to race. And before you know it, the minute thirty is up and we go again.

The best part of the workout for me is a competitive moment. I am in the lead (I guess everyone is tired by now) and easing up into the final turn. Out of the corner of my eye, I see/hear Christian pushing to steal the finish. As tired as I am, the split second I realize this, my brain reverts to reptile survival mode and jams on the gas. “Go faster! NOW!” I go Usain, and bolt to the finish.

We high-five afterwards, and I mentally thank him for the challenge.

With each lap, I constantly make adjustments and take mental notes. It was not a terrible first outing, but there is plenty to work on.

Some laps, I have no energy and it is hard keeping up with everyone, including myself. Doing more sprints to become familiar with the distance will help me gauge how much I can exert myself, and still have gas for the next lap. I need to develop a muscle memory of 400 meters. This is probably the main obstacle in speed work.

Occasionally my stride feels crazy long, so I try shortening it up to promote rapid turnover, but that seems even harder. So I go with whatever felt right, which seems to be crazy long strides. My mantra of rapid turnover may not apply to speed work, so I have to be mentally flexible and remember there is a time and place for everything.

During the sprints, I am consistently mouth breathing, though not too heavily. It shouldn’t surprise me; sprints require a ton of oxygen. What does surprise me is that I don’t hear anyone else mouth breathing. Maybe they are, but I can’t tell. I definitely need to work on breathing technique, part of which is feeling a more relaxed. Tension does not promote proper breathing, breath from the belly. That sounds right, right?

All told, we run 4 miles, 2 of them very hard miles. I am surprised how tiring sprints are. The tiredness builds with each lap. But when the last lap arrives, I joke “Aw, last one? Can’t we do another?”

Overall, it was a good outing because it was a new learning experience. It was difficult, but not the good-kind-of-difficult, not yet. After a couple more workouts, I should have a better feel for track speed work and it will become the good-kind-of-difficult. Now that I know how close the track is and how much “fun” sprints can be, I will definitely be adding this to my routine.