Tag Archives: speed

Getting my running mojo back!

23 Jun

When I first started running, I was fairly speedy (for me), averaging between a 9:30 and 10:00 pace. The first race I ever did, the White Bear Lake Freedom 10 Mile, I ran at a 9:30 pace for 7 miles until I got this weird blister thing under my toe. I ended up finishing right around 1:40.

Then I moved to Colorado and the altitude instantly added a minute to my per-mile pace. But the more I ran, the more I got used to the altitude. I started running shorter runs at a 10:00 pace again. I ran my first half in 2:30:46, an 11:31 pace. A week later, I ran my first and only 10K in 62:36, a 10:03 pace.

The next year, I trained for my first sprint triathlon. As I have mentioned before, I was really gung ho about training. With the weight lifting and cross-training, I was regularly running at a 9:30 or even (gasp!) 9:00 pace.

It was awesome.

But once I stopped training like a mad man, my pace went back to just a little over a 10-minute mile.

And then 2010 happened.

Any speed I had ever had completely disappeared. While I was training for my second half and what I had hoped to be my first full marathon (but ended up being my third half), I was running so slow I was practically walking. No Joke.

It was so bad that I felt good about anything faster than a 12:00/mile pace. A lot of runs, I didn’t even make that goal. My half marathon times slipped to 2:33:50 and then 2:44:44.

What was happening to me?!?!?

Maybe I’m just getting old.

But actually, I’m pretty sure the same thing that caused my IT-band injury while marathon training is the same thing causing my excessive slowness. It’s three-fold:

1. Not enough (or any) weight training.

When I was training for my first sprint triathlon, I did full-body weights 2 times a week. I am almost positive that had a lot to do with how much faster I was running.

2. Not enough (or any) speedwork.

The ladies on The Nest’s Health & Fitness board like to say, “To run faster, you have to run faster.” You’d think that it being such a simple concept, I would have adopted it when I found myself progressively getting slower. Nah. I’d rather just put the miles in and hope the speed comes magically.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from frequenting the H&F board on The Nest, it’s that a lot of speedy runners work for their speed. They aren’t just out doing joy laps. They’re doing sprints, mile repeats, tempo runs, hill workouts. They’re balls to the walls.

3. Not enough stretching.

Not stretching, specifically not stretching my IT band, is definitely what caused my injury last year. I’m pretty sure that not stretching also has an effect on how fast I can go, because it affects hip flexors, hamstrings, calves, and generally makes running more enjoyable. It’s no fun to start a run and realize that your hamstring is as tight as a fiddle string.

To put these realizations into practice, I’ve decided to incorporate one day of upper body strength and one of lower body into my training, as well as at least 2 speed workouts a week (for running), and stretching after every workout (this is still hit or miss). I’m also trying to do drills and speed work for the swim and bike portions, but that looks different.

So far, since adopting my new philosophy, I’ve done several tempo runs, intervals, and some 1/2 mile repeats. So I was super excited this morning when I went on a run and ran the fastest pace I’ve ran for over a mile since training for that first triathlon. After 1.5 miles at a steady pace with the dogs, I went out for 2 more miles alone. I felt like I was pushing it (I was very out of breath) but my legs also started feeling heavy. I’ve been disappointed before when I feel like I’m running fast and I look at my watch, only to see it’s a 11:00 pace. So I wasn’t expecting anything (though secretly hoping for a 10:00 pace). I looked at my watch at the 1 mile point –



I was totally impressed by my little legs and pathetic lungs. Aw, you guys are getting stronger from the speed work – that’s so cute!

That achievement gave me the motivation I needed to push through another mile. I felt like I was slower. A negative split would be nice, but I’d be satisfied with around a 10:10.

My breathing was very labored. I was so ready to be done being out of breath. This was one of those runs where my legs felt amazing but my lungs just couldn’t keep up.

I was about 1/10 of a mile from my house when I looked at my watch. I only had 1 minute left if I was going to break a 10:00 pace.

I punched it and just about died.

But I made it. Split time: 9:36.


That run totally made my day and reassured me: Yes, I can get faster. 

{Update: I took my bike to the bike store last night and they said the rear derailleur hanger was bent. They fixed it and I can go pick it up after work! Bike ride tomorrow, here I come!}

Blowing the whistle on Satan

17 May

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14).

I thought a lot yesterday about my triathlon woes and concluded at the end of the day that my problem was, once again, pride – pure and simple ego. After reading some race recaps by triathletes who are faster than I am but call themselves slow (If they’re slow, what am I?), I felt like a joke. Why am I doing triathlons when I’m absolutely no good at them?

Then I thought about all the other ways I am tempted to feel insufficient and not good enough: body / weight, career, fashion, friends, vacations — the list goes on and on. Satan is always tempting me to seek validation through external things — which also happen to be things I don’t have a ton of control over or things that won’t last. The only reaction to seeking validation from those things is discouragement and despair (and eating lots of ice cream).

Once again, this morning God called me back to the truth — because of Christ, I am good enough. I am exactly the way God created me. The only thing wrong with me is sin.

God made me slow. God made me curvy. God made me quiet and introverted. God gave me the desire to pursue a joy-filled life instead of a high-powered career. God has worked in my heart to create a desire for simplicity, which stands in stark opposite to accumulating material possessions. This is the reality of my life.

Satan takes all of these good things and distorts them. Instead of thanking God that He has given me a joy in exercise and eating right, Satan condemns me for running 3 miles in 34 miles and eating a piece of cake. Instead of being grateful for the clothes and job I do have, Satan conveniently shines a spotlight on women who are more successful and better dressed, quietly suggesting that they’re happier than I am.

Well, I’m blowing the whistle on Satan. Everything he says to me (and you!) is a lie. I find happiness in being God’s chosen one, in knowing that Jesus has gone to prepare a place in heaven for me — not for the lithe, trendy girl down the hall. Jesus is waiting for me. He wants a loving, intimate relationship with me. I am loved by the Most High.

With that knowledge and hope as my foundation, I have decided that I can embrace being velocity-challenged (I decided that is the PC term for slow). I can serve as a role model for all of those other athletes – runners, bikers, swimmers, etc. – who participate in sports not because they’re good at them, but because they enjoy them. I personally have been encouraged by others who don’t have it all together, aren’t living the picture perfect life, or flaunting a taut body with the latest fashions, yet completely embrace and accept who they are. They remind me that being who God created me to be is what glorifies Him. Trying to be someone else is not only an attempt to glorify myself, it’s an insult to God – I’m saying that He messed up; His creation is defective.

I think that this is one of the hardest challenges that humans face – the temptation to define ourselves by things other than Christ. The temptations come in different forms for different people but they’re all from the same source (Satan) and they all have the same solution (Christ). In Christ, we find a lasting, eternal identity: sons and daughters of the Most High God. Isn’t that better than being fast anyway?

Feeling discouraged.

16 May

On Friday, I officially registered for the Boulder Sunrise Triathlon on June 4th. That means I have 3 weeks left and only 2 to really train (the last week will be a taper). I have to admit, I’m feeling kind of discouraged. Even though I’ve been diligent in training 4-5 days a week (missing only 1 workout a week), I am worlds away from where I was 2 years ago. I had expected that getting a real tri bike would make me faster on the bike, but no, I am just as slow or slower than I was on my mountain bike.

On Saturday, I finally bought a bike trainer so that I can ride my tri bike indoors. I tried it out last night for the first time – I decided to do my 15-mile ride while watching the season finale of Desperate Housewives (which was very good, BTW). I realized after I started that I should have done a little research or watched the training video before attempting a ride of that length on a contraption I barely know how to operate but there wasn’t time for that. So I just jumped on and hoped for the best.

It was brutal. I was ready to be done after just ½ mile. I had my bike gears set on the smallest big cog and the middle of the small ones but I was still only going 8.5 mph. I’m pretty sure an 8-year-old on a 1-speed bike can ride faster than that. After 3 miles of torture, I seriously contemplated throwing in the towel. But I really needed to ride 15 because the bike leg of the triathlon only 3 weeks away is 17 miles.

I remembered that the guy who sold the trainer to me said that you could change the resistance on the trainer itself, instead of on your bike. So I got off, grabbed the cable, and started clicking as I rode. That was definitely the main issue. I decreased the resistance to the point where I could shift my bike gears back to the middle big cog and the 3rd or 4th small one. For the rest of the ride, I was comfortably riding at an 11.5 mph pace (still pathetic but I cared about distance more than pace).

Then the issue became how uncomfortable and at times, painful, it was to sit on the bike seat for that long. After 8 long miles of constantly wanting to quit, I started alternating 5 minutes of riding in position with 5 minutes of sitting straight up to give myself a break. I’m not sure if I just need a different seat or if I just need to get used to it. I plan on riding at least 20 minutes every day to see if I can get more used to the seat. If not, I will have to go buy a new one because that is by far the most miserable part about riding the bike.

Regardless of all that, I finished the whole 15 miles in 1:28.

So you can probably see why I’m discouraged about the bike portion. I’m also discouraged about the swimming and running parts. While I am getting better at the swim, I’m still very slow (it takes me about 21:30 to swim 800 yards) and while I “come from a running background” into the sport of triathlon, I’m incredibly slow at that too (running 10:30-11:30 minutes miles on average).

I’ve always said that I do triathlons for fun and the personal challenge, not to win because I know how slow I am. God did not build me for speed. But I’m even slower than I had been! When I was training in 2009, I was biking at a 14 mph pace regularly (on a mountain bike), running 9:00-10:00 minute miles, and was swimming 200 yards in 4:30 instead of 5:00 or 5:15.

I know that a big part of why I was faster then was that I was doing weight training in addition to the cardio endurance sessions. But I’m hesitant to add that in because it made me so tired that I could barely function. I had no energy for anything beside working and sleeping. I stopped grocery shopping, stopped cooking dinner, stopped reading, writing, doing anything except what I needed to do to survive. I felt like my quality of life went down because I didn’t have the energy to do most of the stuff I enjoyed doing. But maybe if I just did 15 minutes a couple times a week…

Despite my discouragement, I’m not going down without a fight. I’m going to focus more on biking and trying to get used to the seat, doing more running intervals to increase my speed, and look into upper body weight workouts that will help me be a faster swimmer.

And come race day, my time will be what it is.