At this time of year a few things all come together to make the track a very crowded place. With the time change and the onset of warmer spring weather, the local dirt track becomes as crowded as a Weight Watchers meeting or the 24 Hour/LA Fitness the first week after New Years. Last week I didn't really enjoy dodging the walkers and weaving back and forth among the joggers (as if I'm some kind of pro runner but anyway, you know what I mean).
This week for my speed work I decided to head over to the bike trail at the Santa Fe Dam my once a week after work run destination. The trail is marked every half mile. I decided to do half mile intervals with an easy half mile in between. That may be a little too long between the speed (I don't really know) but it was the easiest to measure.
After a mile of easy warm up, I start into my first half mile. At first I was thinking this is going to be hard. At least at the track I have a clue as to how far I still have to go. Four straight aways and four corners and time to slow down. Here on the trail I had to keep my eyes peeled for the little 8-inch numbers spray painted in the middle of the trail. Finally I see the first marks, hit the watch and look: 3:19 - Whoa, where did that come from.
I took the next half mile easy, then its off again. At least at this interval I know where the mark is because its just after a big yellow water pipe on the side of the trail. I passed the little guard shake where the man collects the entrance fees to the park and kept my eyes focused on the yellow pipe. I felt like I couldn't keep going. I even closed my eyes for a couple of seconds but opened them up because I didn't want to run one step more than necessary. The second half mile was 3:21 - Fairly consistent but it was still early in the game.
Another half mile easy. I met another runner going the other way, we both waved. I reached the 3 mile turn around point and started back up with the speed. I'm headed back toward the yellow pipe. This half is very slightly uphill and into the breeze. I begin to gain ground on the runner that I had just waved to. He heard me coming and turned around to see what was going on. I got back to the yellow pipe before I completely caught up to him. The third half: 3:25 - This half actually felt the most relaxed and easy.
Another half mile easy and off again for 3:26 - Getting a little slower but not drastically so; at least that's what I tell myself.
Another half mile easy. During this half mile I know that I have the opportunity to do one more speed half and still have a half left to cool down. The mental battle begins: I could just take the whole mile and a half as a cool down. Five halves - 2.5 miles of speed work is more than I've ever done. I know, kind of wimpy in the speed department. Five halves - I never done more than 3 halves with a few 400's thrown in for good measure. I've got a 21 miler this weekend, will this have a negative effect there, blah, blah, blah. I get to the half mile marker and decide to get on with it, suck it up. A real speed guy could run half mile repeats all day without breaking a sweat, at least without thinking about it. The fifth half: 3:38 - Oops slowed down, but I really don't think I could have mustered much more.
In the final analysis, I think I enjoyed this method a whole lot better than the crowded dirt oval. And I'm really glad I pushed on through to the fifth half.
One of the coolest things about this run is that I ran into Abel during my mile warm up. Last summer when Celeste, Brian and I were training for the NYC Marathon we ran a lot on the dam. We would see this guy nearly every day. Finally one day Celeste and I were done with our run, we waited for him and introduced ourselves. As it turns out he was training for NYC, too. How cool is that. With the time change and the resulting early darkness we stopped running the dam trail before the marathon and we lost touch with Abel. This year Abel hadn't been out on the trail. I had seen him at the LA marathon when my son and I volunteered, but I only got to talk to him briefly. He was kind of busy. But today, we stopped and talked for 10 minutes or so. We made tentative plans to meet up on the trail for some runs in the future. That would be very cool indeed.