Saturday, August 8, 2009

How to Shave 12 Minutes Off an 8-Miler in One Day!

I know there are going to be people who come to this post looking for answers on how to run faster.  I wish I could say that I have some brilliant information to share, but I'm afraid that you might be disappointed today.  However, I am indeed going to tell you how I shaved 12 minutes off my 8-miler yesterday.

The training plan called for 8 miles:  I needed to warm up for a mile, run 6 miles with about a 9:15 average pace, and then finish with a cool down mile.  Not so bad, right?

I got started a little before 6pm in hopes that it would cool off as I ran.  Technically, it did.  It was a nice ole 87 degrees when I started and 84 degrees when I finished.  The heat index?  It remained around 90 degrees the whole time. (I am ready for cooler weather. There. I said it.)

I discovered something interesting on this run... My brain and my body are engaged in CONSTANT conversation when I run.  I hadn't ever paid much attention before, but it's true.

For example, it's interesting that when I go for an 8-mile run such as this one, I have a hard time getting my legs to slow down to the appropriate pace for the first mile.  My legs are all like, "Hey!  We feel great!  And we know you're not torturing us as much today as some days so let's run fast! That's what tempo runs are for, right?"

And my brain is all like, "Dude, yes, but get a grip.  We're still running 8 miles. Take it easy."

In comparison, I also think it's interesting that when I go for a 16-mile run I can't seem to get myself to run as fast as I need to for the slow run.  Suddenly my legs are all like, "Um, hello, we're running for HOW long today?" and they just refuse to go faster.

Anyways, I didn't run the first mile quite as slow as I needed to, but it was still slower than the tempo pace I needed to do for the next 6 miles.  I was hot VERY quickly.  My brain is all like, "Ok, I get it that your legs feel good, but do you realize it's so humid that you're practically suffocating? OXYGEN, we need more OXYGEN! Oh look! A BEAVER!"

Yes, I'm indeed easily distracted.  I saw a real live beaver for the first time ever (outside of a zoo).  There's a creek near the path I run on a lot, and I just happened to see this little guy run across the path and toward the creek. SO cool.

I reached the 4-mile turnaround at 37:00 and my brain and my legs were in sync! "Sweet!  We are right on target pace.  Who cares about this heat?  We. are. awesome."

I headed back to run the 4 miles to finish, and within minutes I wasn't feeling so well.  It's like it got hotter even though the sun was setting.  And my legs got sluggish.  And I felt like I was sludging along the path, just a hot drippy mess.

My brain was all like, "We have to keep moving.  We have been doing soooo good.  We have to keep the tempo pace and finish so that we're not angry at ourselves later!"  

In response, my legs were like, "SLOOOOOWWWW DOOOOWWWN! We don't care about the stupid tempo pace.  NOT DYING is really a higher priority here today."

Seriously, there were moments when I really wondered how in the world I had just run 16 miles on Sunday.  I even had to take two very unplanned and undesired (mentally) walk breaks, but I think they did me some physical good and gave me a little relief.

I kept on trucking.  I kept hoping that I wasn't really slowing down as much as it felt.  There were moments when my brain told me, "OK listen, abandon the tempo pace now.  It's not worth it.  Slow down and it won't feel so bad."  

Then the legs would tell me, "Are you kidding me? We have less than 2 miles to go.  We will NOT slow down."

I promise I'm not insane.  But if you ever wondered what's going on in my head when I run, now you know.)

I finally saw the parking lot and did my best to pick it up a bit to get to the end so I could be DONE.

I stopped my watch.  (Ok, here's where we learn how to cut a LOT of time off of a run.)

I looked.


1:27?! Freaking A! Are you kidding me?!  How the hell did I just run 4 miles in 37 minutes and then the 4 miles back in freaking 50 minutes!?  I knew I slowed down, but I didn't realize it was that much!  

I was livid.  I couldn't believe it.  I was cursing the 90 degree heat index.  I was cursing my brain and my legs for not getting in sync and making this a more successful run.  I didn't care that I was totally hardcore for running 8 miles in this ridiculous heat.  I think I was so mad that I made myself lightheaded... or maybe I was just dehydrated.

I drove home, still mad at myself and wondering how in the world this could happen to me.  I suddenly had visions of running my slowest marathon ever.  

When I got home, I sat down to put the run in my log while cursing my watch.  And that's when I noticed it.

My watch is actually a pedometer.  It's not as accurate as a Garmin, but I like it well enough and it suits my purposes.

When it's set on the step counting, it only has room for 5 digits.  Once you hit over 10,000 steps, it changes to 1.whatever.  

Guess who was in the step mode, and guess whose watch showed she ran 12,700 steps with the figure 1.27?  

Yeah, that was me.  

I felt a glimmer of hope.  I pushed the function button.

And there it was.

1:15.  A 9:23 average pace.  I had done it.  I ran the tempo run at the correct tempo.  It means the second 4 miles only took 38 minutes... only ONE MINUTE slower than the first 4 miles.  It's not a negative split, but at least it's super close to being consistent.  And in this heat and humidity? I will take that action.  8 freaking miles is a long time for me to keep that kind of pace these days.

So there you have it.  I went from a 1:27 to a 1:15 for my 8-miler yesterday.

And possibly convinced you all with this post that I'm a schizophrenic or something. 

(I promise I'm not.)


Candice @ I Have Run said...

That had to be a very happy realization! Congrats on a great time, especially in that kind of heat!

Nicole said...

GREAT JOB! I totally had that feeling today-- 12 seemed like forever compared to 17 i ran last week. WTH?

I also remembered i ran 17 when it was 57 degrees out opposed to 90 something it was tonight.

Dear chicago marathon people,
please talk to mother nature and tell her melanie and i NEED it to be cool for the marathon. even 60 degrees is cool compared to this crap. thanks!
love, us

Running and living said...

Great job. When you run in the heat, your "actual" pace is 30 secs/mile faster! I, too, have gotten discouraged when I stopped in the middle of a tempo and long run because literally I felt I was burning up, but in retrospect, I know those runs made me fster and stopping really did not matter that much. Ana-Maria

Niki said...

Haha loved this post! And great job on your tempo run!!

Rachel H. said...

That's awesome!! Wish I could run right now! I'm missing it so much!

Amy said...


Thats funny cause something always happens to make me think that I actually ran faster than I did, instead of slower and I'm all... woo hoo I'm kick ass and then I realize I miscalculated or whatever.

And yeah, I hear ya on the inner dialogue thing... I catch myself doing that too. Too funny!

Chic Runner said...

This is totally the convo I had with myself on my 6 miles this past friday run! I totally agree with you and sometimes it's like, It's more than half over! Just suck it up!!! ha ha ha

Love to Run said...


This has to be the most interesting and entertaining blog post I have ever read. I loved it and found myslef chuckling out loud all alone in my living room.

Laura said...

Congratulations!!! Awesome pace in the heat :)