Tempo Hill Intervals: Now with Bonus Interval!

On Thursday, I had another round of hills. No, I didn’t skip up them this time.

My training plan (which has changed dramatically since I got injured) called for 3x hills. That didn’t sound so bad.

I had read an article about tempo hill intervals, a variation of short hill intervals that didn’t allow as much recovery. I don’t know why I decided to torture myself, as if just hills aren’t bad enough, but I thought this was a good idea.

The article says to run up a hill just faster than 10k pace for about 50 seconds. Then jog back down, only taking about 5 seconds longer. Repeat 12 times. Um, yeah, maybe on a less steep hill.

If you recall, my goal 10k pace is 10:26. However, that’s probably not my current 10k pace. I have no idea really what that is. So I just aimed for 10:30 pace.

I went to that awful hill I hate. This hill has what I can only describe as runaway bike decks all along the side of it. Like those runaway truck ramps on the side of the interstate on long downhill sections? Except these are wooden and look like small decks and it would probably really suck for you if your breaks went out and you had to use one of them. Anyway, that will probably give you some indication of how steep the hill is. It needs runaway bike decks.

I placed my water bottle at the first one towards the bottom of the hill, so I would know where I was aiming on my way down. I had done about a half mile warmup and forgot to check my watch to time my 50 seconds before I took off on my first interval. So I just basically had to guess when 50 seconds was up. I stopped at the next to last deck thing (which also has a pole with a big orange ring painted around it to make it easy to aim for). My watch said 56 seconds (probably a little less, since I didn’t have my button pressing down to a science yet), 10:28 pace. Okay, not bad.

I jogged back down the hill in 1:04, a little slower than I was supposed to. I also maybe took a quick standing-around-panting break and drank some water at the bottom, even though that defeats the purpose of the tempo intervals, but it wasn’t a long break.

Back up the hill! This one was slower. Much slower. It took 1:02 this time, which is about an 11:23 pace. That won’t do. Back down the hill in 1:05, another quick break.

I told myself for the third one that it was the last one I HAD to do (though I thought I probably had enough for two more in me). 55 seconds, 10:42 pace. A little slower than I wanted, but not bad. I wanted to do one more to prove that I could do a 10:30 pace, even being as exhausted as I was. So back down and a short break.

The fourth interval was done in 54 seconds, 10:31 pace. Close enough! Down the hill, where I grabbed my water bottle for a sip.

Then I decided, what the heck. Bonus interval time! I wanted to go all the way to the top for an extra dose of mental fortitude. I took off from the bottom, but I was so worn out by the middle, I felt like I was just barely running. I wanted to stop so many times. So many times. I finally made it to the top, after what felt like an eternity, but was actually only 1:26. I kinda wished I was wearing my HR monitor because I thought I was going to die at the top; I had to have hit max HR. I managed to average a 10:46 pace over the entire length. Not too shabby!

Then I had a nice half mile cooldown to bring my mileage to an even two miles. So I was supposed to do three intervals, and ended up doing five, with the last one being longer. Feel the burn!

post-running selfie

So happy to be done with hill intervals!

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Week of 2/17/14 – 2/23/14: Country Music Half Training, Week 6

week of 2/17/14 to 2/23/14
Guess what? I finally went running with a group this week! Except it wasn’t the group that I’m supposed to be running with.

Tuesday

Since it was 60 degrees, I decided to meet up with the Mt. Juliet Flyers group to do my easy three miles on the Providence Greenway. Around twenty people showed up. Like I am wont to do in groups, I started my easy miles too fast. This week’s intervals were 12:2, which should be no problem, but I started off at a sub-11 min/mi pace. Nope. The entire interval I was also leapfrogging with a couple of other ladies who were doing 3:1 intervals, so after my first, I decided to join them. Because isn’t that the point of running with a group? I completed the three miles with them effortlessly and within my easy run pace. Yay!

I almost decided to not do my strides, but I stopped on the way home in the neighborhood I like to run in and did them. This was my first time not doing them on a treadmill this training cycle, so I was interested to see how my times would compare. So here’s a comparison for you! Outside is on the left, and what my footpod recorded on the treadmill for my last stride workout is on the right:
stride workout comparison

So pretty close, but looks like I’m slightly speedier outdoors, probably because the treadmill does a ramp up to the speed I enter, whereas I just start out faster when I’m outside. It also (oddly) feels like they take longer outside. Usually the opposite is true! Maybe it’s because I wasn’t listening to music or couldn’t stare at the timer. Or, again, because the treadmill ramps up the speed so the time spent at the fastest pace is shorter.

Thursday

Long hill workout day! Except a storm was en route (the downside of it finally warming up), so the group workout got canceled. I did treadmill hills. The hill the group was supposed to be running is about 0.4 miles with an average grade of 6%. So this is what I replicated on the ‘mill. First, I did an easy 8.5 minute warmup at 4.3 mph with a minute and a half of walking after to shake out my legs. I decided to start at 5.0 mph and see how that felt before possibly increasing my speed on subsequent intervals. For recovery, I walked at 2.5 with zero incline until I felt recovered (usually around 4-5 minutes). Not nearly as fun as jogging back down the hill (literally the only fun part of hill workouts), but it would have to do.

I’m not going to lie. The first interval was HARD. I did it at a steady 5.0, and I was breathing crazy heavy by the middle of it. That said, I figured I was still just warming up, so I did the second one faster. I increased from 5.0 to 5.2 over the course of the interval. Yeah, I wanted to die after that. I didn’t know if I was going to be making it through this workout. So I decided to slow it down on my third and started at 4.5 and increased to 4.8. This was easier and I only needed about 2.5 minutes of recovery for it. So for the fourth, I started at 4.8, increased to 5.0 and back down to 4.8. Finally, for the fifth interval, I started at 4.8 and played my counting game until I was increased to 5.4! Figured I might as well finish it off with death.

My fastest of the intervals was my second one, which I completed in 4:37. My slowest was the third, completed in 5:11. The other three all fell in the middle, around 4:50. This probably would have been easier on an actual hill where I could adjust my speed as needed, instead of being stuck at a speed on the treadmill. This may have been my hardest workout ever.

Saturday

My five miler this week went well. The 12:2 intervals posed no problem, and the weather outside was perfect. The only issue I had is that I started to develop some blisters on my big toes. Also, my knees have been hurting earlier in runs than they used to. I used to not feel them until around 7-8 miles, but lately it’s been around mile four. I hope this isn’t an issue.

Sunday

Ugh, where do I begin with Sunday? I knew my training was going too well, and I was sure to hit a roadblock eventually. I was scheduled to do eight miles easy; this is slightly less than my last couple long runs because I knew the hill workout would be killer. And I was right. That, on top of the five miles from the day before, meant I was going into this run with really, really tired legs. I mean, that’s kind of the point. That’s why I scheduled the long run for the day after a five mile run every week. I’m supposed to be running on fatigued legs because it trains me to do so in races. But this was way more fatigued than normal.

It was also really warm and sunny outside (hi, 67 degrees!) and incredibly windy. And I chose a hilly route. I didn’t feel strong starting out. I didn’t feel strong in the middle. My knees starting aching around mile four again, and by mile six, they were downright HURTING. I pushed on, promising myself I’d do at least seven miles. However, on my sixth running interval, I ended up cutting it two minutes short. I was just in too much pain. The blisters from the day before had gotten way worse, so that, plus my knees, plus the fatigue in my legs, just wouldn’t let me go on. So I turned my two minute walk break into a four minute break before starting my seventh interval. I got to 7.5 miles, but I just couldn’t finish it out. I needed to listen to my body and not push too hard, but I still felt like a failure.

When I got home I discovered that I got to experience the wonderful world of chafing for the first time. The skin on the upper inside of my right arm had been rubbed raw. Remind me not to wear that running shirt again, as that’s the only thing I could think of that would have caused it.

Does anyone have any good advice on what to do for these blisters I keep getting on my big toes? I seem to get them with all socks and all shoes, so I’m not sure that changing any of that will help.

Week of 1/13/14 – 1/19/14: Country Music Half Training, Week 1

week of 1/13/14 to 1/19/14

I’m switching to Strava’s new weekly stats screenshots because I like how they look better than Nike’s.

Monday and Tuesday, we were still in Florida, so all the miles I was putting in was walking around theme parks. My first run of the week was on Thursday, which is speed workout day. I know I said I was going to do these with the group, but I ended up doing this one solo for a couple reasons. First, they were doing a 2 mile warmup, which I know would have exhausted me before I even started the speed workout. Second, I knew Jonathan wanted to go see “Her” so I wanted to go earlier than the group was anyway. I did a short jogging warmup of about a quarter of a mile, then started my first ascent up the hill. Oy. I wish I would have remembered to hit the lap button on my watch at the top of the hill, but I only hit it at the bottom after I jogged back down, so I can’t tell you exactly how fast I went up that thing, but it looks like I was averaging around an 8 min/mi pace. All of the repetitions (including the jog back down) averaged between a 10-10:30 min/mi overall pace, so I think I kept them fairly consistent. I will try to remember this week to hit my lap button at the top AND the bottom. Anyway, I was finished before the group even got there.

I could feel the workout in my quads and glutes on Friday, so I was thankful it was a rest day.

On Saturday, I went out to do five miles easy. I have this whole “Couch to 13.1” plan that I’ll detail out later (if it works, ha), but it basically is run/walk intervals like Couch to 5k where the running intervals increase from week to week. This being the first week of training, all of my easy runs were to be done with intervals of 3 minutes running, 1.5 minutes walking. I felt very strong on this run, despite the 20 mph winds and that I was running on a fairly hilly route (low grade hills, just lots of them). I ended up averaging a 12:33 min/mi pace, which is the best 5 miles I’ve had since October and right on target for my easy run pace. My running interval paces ranged from 10:09 min/mi to 12:15 min/mi, most in the 11-12 min/mi range.

Sunday was long run day, which was only 5.5 miles this week. I did the same intervals as Saturday, but I was noticeably slower starting out (well, except for the first mile, which was faster…oops). Actually, my running portions were about on par with what I had been doing Saturday (ranged from 10:36 min/mi to 12:20 min/mi), but I was walking slower on my walk breaks. I could tell my legs were fatigued, but after the second mile, I began speeding up a little each mile, and finished with an average pace of 12:50 min/mi. I actually did a little over the prescribed mileage because I don’t like ending on a walking interval. Not too shabby, considering I really needed to roll out my IT band on my left side (boy, was that sore for some reason!).

So not a bad first week of Country Music Half training. I’m a little sore, but hoping some yoga early in the week will help.