The Wind Giveth, the Wind Taketh

It hasn’t been the most eventful week of training that I’ve ever undertaken in my life, but I’m perfectly happy with that. As I have reiterated in previous blogs, my current focus is on building aerobic fitness, and eliminating some of the lower leg niggles that I have been carrying for a while now, so there hasn’t been anything particularly crazy on the schedule. 

There’s been lots of easy miles, lots of rolling, lots of resistance band work, and quite a bit of time on my new balance board, which I’m using to address the imbalances which I believe are the root causes of the niggles which I have mentioned. The most exciting run of the week was when I braved our rather tame taste of Storm Christoph for a 7 mile run, within which I tackled 3.5 miles of tempo. The tempo run is a simple, key bit of training which I have to admit I have often neglected in favour of threshold/Vo2 max intervals, but this is something I intend to change about my training as I build up to racing in the Spring (hopefully! Every time I mention some future event assume that I also mean ‘hopefully’). Tempo pace, roughly, should be about the speed/effort that you believe you could maintain for a 1 hour race. If you don’t know what that is, there are plenty of pace calculators out there (www.runsmartproject.com/calculator) which will estimate a pace for you based on a race time that you do know. Alternatively, if you’re a Strava subscriber, the service will offer up 5 pace zones: active recovery, endurance, tempo, threshold, and Vo2 max. If you’re using Strava those zones are pretty broad, the kind of tempo that I was aiming for in Storm Christoph was towards the faster end of my tempo zone – which is about 6:00 minute miling. 

Having not done a lot of tempo work recently, or any speed work at all really, I thought I might find it difficult to get up and into the right zone but it was actually remarkably easy. Firstly, without a lot of speed work my legs are quite fresh, which can’t really be underestimated. Secondly, I guess I have to admit to myself that I’m actually pretty fit. Not as sharp as I could be, not race ready necessarily, but my long runs have been progressing really nicely and I am starting to see the gains from those lengthy efforts. 

Thirdly, I had a 20 mph wind at my back. I would normally say that the benefits of a tailwind, compared to the detractions of a headwind, aren’t quite equal. A tailwind isn’t going to get you running that much quicker most of the time, you’ve still got to do the same cadence, work your legs just as fast, keep your concentration. With a headwind it is not just physically tougher, like running through mud, but mentally it can be completely exhausting. At least, that is usually my opinion. 20 mph is quite a bit though, and my tempo was certainly quicker and easier than it usually is. I started moving after a 1.5 mile warm up but I only started looking at the splits between miles 2 – 5 which came out at 6:06, 6:00, 5:53.

And then I turned around and tried to run home. That was when I realised what I had behind me the whole time. The steady pace that I wanted to hold felt just awful. The pace itself was fine, but the effort was horrible. Still! I got it done, and was it worth it to feel fast and easy and happy? Yes, I think it probably was. 

Not that I’m hoping for more blustery days any time soon. I’m counting on a calmer weekend, with nary a head, or tail, wind to face up against. 

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