The Treadmill is a Harsh Mistress

Apologies to Robert Heinlein. The training schedule yesterday said Speed Workout: 7×800. Since I slackered the first speed workout on the schedule two weeks ago with the dual excuses of cold and darkness, I decided to find a more worthy substitute than the elliptical. Again confronted with cold and darkness, my usual outdoor “track” locations weren’t going to cut it. Even if I could see my splits in the dark, temps in the low 20s and 10+mph wind aren’t that conducive to speed. So I decided to hit the ‘mill. First, I set the incline to 1% and got a fan going. After a mile of warming up, slowly cranking up the speed towards 8:00 miles, I was ready. Target pace was a 5K 6:07. This being my first speed workout in a while, I backed it off of 6:07 a touch for the first lap. One brain cramp and 400m later, I was “done” with the first interval. I decided to do 3/10 mile cool downs in between, and then pulled off 5 800m intervals starting at 6:07 and stepping down one increment slower (6s or 7s or so) for each successive lap. My last interval was another shortened 400m due to (1) a developing hot spot on my left sole – thanks, ‘mill! and (2) had to pick up Cole from bb practice. Observations: it is mentally easier to not slack off once you have dialed in a pace for an interval on the ‘mill. When you’re out there on the track, it’s harder to keep a steady fast pace by yourself, even with a Garmin. On the ‘mill, you’d have to really admit defeat by shamefully pressing the “decrease pace” button. It’s like there’s someone cracking a whip behind you as you mentally shout “come on 5.7!” The downside of the ‘mill of course is that it’s really not the same as running on solid ground. Not a bad substitute for every once in a while, but I wouldn’t want it to be the usual. Also, too much friction as evidenced by the almost-blister I was working on. Total mileage: 6.

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2 comments on “The Treadmill is a Harsh Mistress

  1. neltow says:

    I do a lot of my speed work on the treadmill. And of course, I really don’t like speed work that much.

    My treadmill routine is highly prescribed. My interval warm up starts with 1:00 at 7.7 and 0%, then I gradually increase to 8.6 and 1% by 7:00. At 8:00 I do some simulated strides, where I increase to 9.8 mph by 8:15, and run there for 15 seconds, then way down to around 7.0 mph, and then hit 8.6 at 9:00, 9.8 at 9:15, 7.0 at 9:30. On more round of that at 10:00, then rest until 12:00, when I hit my first interval. During the rests (usually 90 seconds to 2:00), I back way down to 7.0 mph until I’ve “recovered”, then up to 8.0, then up to 8.6 for 30 seconds before I hit the next interval. 8.6 mph is some sort of magic place for me. It’s about half marathon pace.

    I used to rest at about 8.0 mph for the entire time. But I found that I was better prepared for the interval if my heartrate was already coming up. Daniels says you need 2 minutes for your body to prepare for a workbout (his word for interval). So, you’re not going to be adjusted to whatever speed your running until you hit 2:00. I figure I might as well give myself an extra 30 seconds. Heck. I’m an endurance athlete – not a sprinter. And more time spent at half-marathon pace can’t hurt me.

    I used to really bang up my toes on the treadmill, because I would let the belt push my feet back. So, I wound up landing with my feet still moving forward and getting jammed into the front of my shoes. Now I imagine pulling the belt back with my feet. I think I realized this when I was reading Born to Run and MacDougall described running as “brushing” the earth.

    Running on the treadmill is about balance and staying in place. It is different from road running, which is about moving forward and getting somewhere. There was a great article in the February Runners World, in which the author (an evoloutionary psychologist I think) talked about how the treadmill is boring from a “survivalist” perspective, but that it is perfect for “mindful” running. You can really pay attention to your body, your breathing, your gait, and cadence on the treadmill. That is… as long as that stuff doesn’t drive you slowly insane.

    I listen to music when I run, and I have a playlist for intervals. For the past couple of weeks, I have been skippig forward to the next song just before I start into the interval. This has been great because the song becomes the theme of the interval (It’s the eye of the Tiger. It’s the thrill of the fight. Rising up to the challenge of our rivals.) instead of just background music.

    I’ve had Yoda in my head this week, saying, “There is do and do not. There is no try.” The treadmill is a harsh mistress. She’ll let you know exactly how you measure up.

  2. Tad says:

    I almost immediately regretted having left my HRM in the car. Would have been nice to keep an eye on that. I rest pretty slow also – around 6.5 to 7.0 depending – but I was going on distance rather than speed. I probably could have handled a shorter rest.

    Forefoot striking is fairly conducive to not stomping on the treadmill. I try to “float” above the belt which shortens my stride and lessens my impact.

    I have been using some headphones on the elliptical, but I just can’t handle all that complication on the treadmill, especially during a speed workout. I find myself paying more attention to the cords etc. than staying on the belt and good form. If I was going to do music it’d have to be a 180bpm playlist.

    Strange coincidence – we did “The Empire Strikes Back” last night so of course I have already been all over that Yoda quote in the last 24 hours. It’s a personal favorite and perhaps the closest thing I have to a mantra.

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