Last Friday morning, I went to Stow Lake to run mile repeats. My original plan had been to do this pre-Thanksgiving dinner, but then our oven caught on fire, and after we put the fire out, we had to reconsider how to finish a turkey and bake rolls and cook stuffing using a stovetop and a toaster oven, and so no, there was no running on Thanksgiving.
But because I’d been planning to run mile repeats on Thanksgiving, I’d decided to go to Stow Lake instead of the closed track, and even though the track was open on Friday, I saw no reason to change the plan. So I jogged over, noticing that between the families out for post-holiday walks, the surprising warmth, and the number of strollers, I might need to lower my expectations. Not that they were high to begin with; Run Less Run Faster wants me to run mile repeats at 8:06, and I thought if I was lucky I’d go somewhere under 8:15. My previous fastest mile that I know of was an 8:17 during the 5K I ran in February, during which my game plan had been “run as fast as you can until you can’t.” So with that strategy in mind, I took off around the lake.
The first mile was 7:40.
My first thought was that my watch must be wrong — but the lake is a mile around, so, no. My second was: Holy hell, I just ran a mile that started with a 7! My third thought was, I have to do that again. Two more times.
The second mile was 7:55, the third 8:10 — clearly the fast start catching up with me. I hadn’t thought to temper my effort, because I hadn’t thought I’d be running a mile in the 7s. Sure, my legs were cement by halfway through that final mile, but my mind was full of happy running thoughts, like “Maybe I’ve been selling myself short!” and “Maybe this plan is working!” and “Maybe I’m faster than I think!”
And then I went to the track last night.
The plan: 5×1000 at 4:56/1000.
The result: Not a single repeat clocked in faster than 5 minutes. Not a single one hit the pace of my fastest mile from last week, despite being a shorter distance. I felt like I was going to crash straight through the track and into the dirt below. I felt like I’d completely forgotten how to run.
So which legs are mine? The ones whose slowest, crappiest mile was a mile that I’m over the moon to have run? Or the ones that felt slow and heavy and like falling into quicksand?
Which ones are going to show up on December 8?
And is this what it feels like to try to get faster? Because that’s what I’m doing, now, really for the first time ever. Some days I’m flying, some days I’m sinking. But it’s worth the sinking, I suppose, if I get those moments of flight.