Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mile Repeat Day

Today I ran one of my favorite workouts: mile repeats. It’s my favorite for two reasons. One is the simplicity of the distance. Whenever someone hears you are a runner they always ask “how fast can you run a mile?” It doesn't matter how fast you can run 26 miles or 5 kilometers; that doesn't mean anything to them. The mile is the classic American distance. So much so there is now a campaign to “Bring Back the Mile," attempting to get American high schools to stop focusing on the 1600 m (slightly less than a mile, which is actually ~1609 m), before turning to the internationally accepted distance of 1500 m in college and beyond. I stumble on the mile question. When was the last time I ran one mile, and only one, all out? High school? At least with mile repeats I can get some idea, or at least something to say when I get asked the obvious question.

The second reason I like mile repeat day is because it’s always the last track workout in my marathon training. (I do other track workouts during marathon training, but never mile repeats specifically.) I always do it in week 2 of the taper (~10 days before the race.) My legs are a bit fresher than usual and I only do three, so the workout isn’t overwhelming. With a warmup and cooldown it totals 8-9 miles, which is less than most other track workouts. All this translates to feeling light, fast, and efficient. It acts as a great confidence booster going into the last week, especially if I can see improvements since the last season. In fact, if I beat my projected times in my other track workouts, I start to wonder what this will mean for mile repeat day. 

This morning's workout didn't start off with me feeling fresh and fast like past seasons. The first repeat was right about where I was last season, which was disappointing. It was still dark at this point, making it was hard to see the splits on my watch (you already know my feelings about running in the dark). Second, it was windy. Excuses, Excuses. I knew I needed to pick it up on the second one, and I did, but only slightly. I started thinking about how this wasn't going as well as other seasons and how I wasn't going to get the boost I needed. I even thought about this blog, and how I planned to write about how great this workout is and started thinking I'd have to change the subject. Enough excuses, I needed to finish well to go into this race feeling strong. On my last repeat, I started out too slow but picked it up and killed the last lap, finishing in a new mile PR of 5:45 (average 5:48 for the workout.) I take it as a good sign that I picked it up with each repeat. Usually I start too fast and my times slow as the workouts progresses (last season, my fastest repeat was also my first, a 5:49.) This is a better sign of stamina and better pacing. And just like that, the workout gave me everything I needed. A good strong finish to wrap up the hard workouts for the season. Long live mile repeats!*

*In the spirit of Bring Back the Mile, I feel I need to clarify that these are actually 1600m repeats (4 laps of a track.) The track I run on doesn't even have a marker for 1 mile, which would add ~2 seconds to my times. 
**In the spirit of people asking me how fast I can run 1 mile, I'm sure I'll feel the need to clarify this time with the fact that it was 3x1600m in the middle of a 9 mile workout. So I think I'll just assume this cancels out with the slightly shorter distance, and call myself a 5:45 miler.

Dream big, 

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