…then you have to run faster! Lord knows I wish there were a more enjoyable way to do it. If you know of one, please tell me so I can stop all this nonsense with speed drills!
As most of you know, I love running. I love running the way Anthony Weiner loves phone sex. And the more I do it, the more I love it…with one exception – speed drills!
It’s like taking your medicine or eating your vegetables – if you want to get better/healthier there’s just no way around it. When I first started running I didn’t know a lot about them, which is a very fond and distant memory. When a runner does speed work or drills they basically run as fast as they can for a measured distance. The pace and distance are set by whatever your goal race is. The longer the race, the longer the distance you run fast. They are running torture. And, like torture, very effective in getting results.
In the winter of 2006 I got it into my head to try and qualify to run the Boston marathon. I decided this after running only one marathon the previous fall. I ran said marathon in 3:57. I needed a 3:40 to qualify for Boston and I thought that was totally do-able. Ok, so I didn’t know much about anything (let alone speed drills!) which worked to my advantage. I simply went out, hired a running coach and started training. What is that saying about the bumblebee? It’s scientificlly impossible for the bumblebee to fly; but the bumblebee, being unaware of these scientific facts, flies anyway? Yay, it was like that. Ignorance is bliss.
When I told my new coach of my plans, it was my first glimpse of reality. He was all “You need to knock 17 min off your time?… Huh, ok wow.” And, after a thoughtful pause, “You’ve only ever run one marathon?” Me (doe eyed): “Um, yep.” I guess that was enough chit chat because then we got to work. It didn’t dawn on me that people train for years to qualify for Boston and that 17 minutes in running is equivalent to the amount of time it takes to work your way through a port-o-potty line before a race start – forever!
It was this coach who instilled in me speed work and rest days – two things my training was severely lacking in. He took me to the track and we did the standard speed work (4×1 mile, 6×800, 8×400, mile test) but it was all new to me and it was horrible! Then, one fine afternoon, instead of the track drills, he decided we would race a 5k . And by “we” he meant me!
On the way to the race I was all “So, what am I shooting for, 7:30 min miles?” He almost got into an accident. “Seven and a half minute miles? We should just turn around and go home! You need to finish this in under 21 minutes.” Um, is that a bleeping joke? I had only ever run a handful of 5Ks and they were all around 28 minutes. I wanted to open the door and jump out of the car…and we were on a highway. Somehow I held it together.
Pre-race he actually brought me over to the awards table and showed me the first place trophy for my age group. I cannot make this shit up! He also made me stand in front of the pack at the race start. This was all unchartered territory for me and I was freaking out! I started doing a warm-up run (first time also doing this!) but it made me loosen up. By the time the gun went off I was pooping my pants! I took off like a shot and my adrenaline was through the roof! I remember thinking that I had to calm down or I was going to have a heart attack…and then I thought – if I have a heart attack I can stop running!!!
The race was in two loops so coach was waiting on the sidelines as I made the first pass. I will never forget what he shouted to me as I passed by “I want to see blood coming out of your eyes!” I shit you not. I started to think the old man was completely insane! Couldn’t he see there was blood coming out of my eyes? I was breathing like a maniac, pounding my legs as fast as they would go and praying for a heart attack – what the hell else could I give?
I crossed the finish line completely depleted. I didn’t know weather to punch my coach in the face or hug him. It was the hardest I had ever run in my life and, really, my first race. And you bet your sweet ass I won that trophy!
Four months later, I qualified for Boston in 3:30 – ten minutes to spare and 27 gigantic minutes off my first marathon time. Holy hell!
The moral of the story? Speed drills suck ass but they work! They motivate me to push harder then I think I can and past what my legs and lungs say I’m capable of. You can do them in groups at the track or on treadmills so that everyone can share in the misery and later, the joyful exhaustion that can only come when you know you’ve run your hardest…and you know this because you just barely held in your vomit during the cool down.
That baptism into speed work was six years ago and I still do drills religiously. I’ve developed a healthy love/hate relationship with them. I hope to someday run Boston again. Maybe a 10 year anniversary in 2017 Hmmmmmm….
Do you do speed drills? Love them or hate them?
What’s your favorite race story?