Thursday, September 11, 2008

Speedy thoughts

What does it take to be fast? How do you get faster?

These are questions I have been asking myself lately. I've spent the year building miles - safely and injury free. I've also been thrilled this year that I haven't puked once, either in training or racing. I've come close, but I haven't crossed the line this year, so I'm getting the nutrition and hydration issues under control.

My mind wanders to the next challenge... getting faster. I've been scouring websites reading all about speed workouts, most of which boggle my mind. I've never done any workout with the numbers "400s" or "800s" in it. I monitor my stats on my Garmin, but I wouldn't have the foggiest idea how (or where?) to go run 400s. Is that even important for an aspiring marathoner?

Is it mental? Bio-mechanical? Genetic? All of the above?

What percentage of time can you expect to shave off a race with speed work (once you figure out how to do it)?

So many questions... Very little in the way of answers.

Let's be clear though... It's not that I think faster runners are better. It's that I am a challenge junkie and this is my next challenge. For now.

Sigh. If only I'd been born Jamaican. Ya, mon.


ipm said...

dude! I had to giggle... :)))

Backofpack said...

I have to say, from my perspective, being faster would be good, but I'm not interested enough in it to work at it! I got faster two ways: one, lots and lots of miles and two, weight loss. During the last two years of marathon frenzy I have improved my speed (in shorter distances) by about 30 sec per mile. After losing some pounds this spring, I've seen another 15-20 second improvement. Yee hah! That puts me at about 11:10 per mile, including 1 min walk breaks.

Also, you can run 400s or 800s at the local track. You can also pick up speed by doing intervals on your regular runs - pick a spot, run hard to it, slow back down, repeat. Give your self a mile on either end for warm-up/cool-down.

And finally, I'm not even close to a speed expert (as you can tell) I'm just repeating what I've been told (by both Rob and Steve).

Journey to a Centum said...


I am a speedwork success story. I went from a consistent 8:00/mile pace to a 6:00/mile pace using a very simple speed workout.

Before I drone on about the details I'll say that I knew I was capable of running faster for very short distances at at 4:40 pace or so.

I simply went to the track and spent an hour two times a week running the 100 meter straights and walking the corners. I tested the limits of my speed with some sprints and then kicked it down to about 80% for my workouts.

You will occasionally feel like you are going to hurl up your lungs. That should be considered progress! Keep a water bottle handy just in case it happens so you can wash them off and swallow them again. I've never heard of it happening but it certainly feels possible at the time.

I think I got more out of these workouts than the 800's and 400's. At least it's a start without having to do those longer distances.

After building up my aerobic threshold I found that my pace started to pick up. I was also able to endure the hack a lung feeling longer during a 5K or 10K race. I PR'ed in the half marathon with a 1:20 after this training as well as 5k and 10 PR's.

Good luck! YOU CAN DO IT, YOU ARE A DEATH RACER! Go Death Racer!

Holly said...

Oh my! I found you off Leslie's blog.

Speed comes in so many forms, and I honestly think that genetics play a huge part. There are some things you can do to expedite the process, but ultimately, some people are just built for speed.

I am also lousy at dealing with measuring distance on the track, and I prefer to run fartleks, one minute increasing intervals, and hills. Hills are definitely my torture of choice, especially since I prefer to run on trails. It's all about finding a workout that you enjoy that works for you that doesn't leave you vomiting...But like Eric said, sometimes that barf up your lungs feeling really means that you're making progress.

Good luck becoming a speedster!

Downhillnut said...

You've got a good base now - you can definitely reach toward that next goal.

Hang out with the Roadrunners on Tuesdays and carefully manage your recoveries to avoid injuries for the next 6-7 months. Even 2 Tuesdays a month and the occasional Thursday (club night comes to mind) will do. Work for the same amount of TIME as them, not the same amount of intervals. If they do 8 x 400s and you get 5-6 done, great. They do the measuring and planning, so you don't have to.

Then run St. Patrick's Day or the Spring Trio and whip my butt. Or not... ;)

robtherunner said...

Speed kills!

I enjoy mile repeats at a 5k pace. Good times...good times...