testing: where am I?

So, after a week or so of sensible running with the ‘40 sessions‘, it was time to get back on the horse again. While I had hoped to start rebuilding my cardio base there was nothing testing about the runs I have completed over the past 2 weeks. Some intervals on the treadmill, runs slightly above comfortable pace (which wasn’t exactly that fast), and general plodding – a mix of good running but far from exciting.

fitness test

Having completed a couple of lightweight progression runs on the treadmill recently I decided it was time to take the same idea to the road. A progression run is a great way to find out how much you can suffer rather than just endure a set level of punishment. In the context of testing my fitness, it stood to find a point of failure much quicker than a steady pace run over distance.

I set off on Wednesday, the road still feeling somewhat alien to me, and set aside the idea of a warm-up mile. Instead, I decided to turn over a sub-8 (7m 43s) that would serve as the baseline, to start the progression. The next mile had a bit of a downhill stretch and being honest, I’ve quickly lost touch with pacing myself, so it dropped perhaps too much to a 7m 29s split. That was bad news as the next mile had lots of climbing awaiting me.

Somehow I got through that next mile with a 5s improvement. Similarly for the next mile, another 5s improvement. That was more like it. No crazy 15s drops between splits. Of course that sensible manner no sooner arrived than jumped out the window again. The next and final mile (albeit with some downhill fun) dropped another 15s or so. It was good to know that with everything else going wrong for me, I had somehow managed to hold onto my complete lack of discipline!

splits from the progression run testing my current level of fitness
splits from the progression run testing my current level of fitness

It was great to do this though. The feeling of pushing myself again (just not possible on the treadmill) is a big help to tackling the doubts of how much has actually been lost over the weeks gone by. My heart rate crept high into Zone 4 but the lack of fitness meant that nothing else could have happened.

long run at pace

With fitness testing completed midweek, my thoughts turned to the weekend long run. Notions of getting back to 20+ miles were no further from my thoughts – this was all about finding out if I could still string a good number of sub-pace miles together, like I had in all my earlier experiments this year (#1 #2 #3 #4 #5).

Running buddies unite. A couple of friends had a nice 16-mile route picked out and it included more than a couple of testing climbs too. A perfect challenge for the body. Their aim was to get this route down to a 2-hour run, while including warm-up and cool down sections at the start and finish of the run. Basically a really spicy 10-mile stretch in the middle. Not normally nervous about a training run but this came pretty close.

I went out expecting a 3-10-3 breakdown – I didn’t expect the call at 2.5 miles in that we were off! Perhaps it was better that way, the adrenaline shot from the sudden announcement certainly helped the first mile at pace. Great pace-making from the guys and we settled into what felt steady but, given my current state, not comfortable running. The splits fell one by one and I felt every one of them. I was a long way from enjoying this but didn’t want to give in either.

always get it done

I will always finish the run. I will always get it done. It’s the one mantra you have as a distance runner. Unless something is seriously wrong, never let miles beat you. Even if the pace has to drop a little to get there, always finish. Testing your resolve to battle through tough training runs is what frequently makes the difference during races. When things get tough you know you can push on.

splits from a testing 16 miles with 10 miles sub-pace
splits from a testing 16 miles with 10 miles sub-pace

While I may have felt under serious pressure at times yesterday, I didn’t want to quit. I knew my body was under stress. I dared not look at my heart rate during the run. More than anything else, I had to get those 10 sub-pace miles done. If nothing more than to prove to myself that I was as stubborn as ever. We kept the pace just under 7:25/mile average – it hurt, especially in the last 3 miles. The cool down miles should have been an easy jog home. At least as part of normal business they should have. However, I crawled for the first 2 miles, unable to persuade my legs to move any quicker. Job done, first weekend long run completed with a testing sub-pace 10-mile stretch in the middle (view Garmin data). The Oregano Project is back in action!

that's almost race-level heart rate data rather than a training run!
that’s almost race-level heart rate data rather than a training run!

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