I have written previously about a more relaxed attitude toward speed workouts, to avoid both injury and burnout. Recently, I felt I had consolidated my stamina at the 8 – 12 mile range such that introducing a more dedicated speed interval workout might be safely done. Still, it was with some trepidation that I embarked on the planned speed interval, 6 mile run on Kingfisher Trail. (click on any photo to enlarge)
This trail borders one side of Lake Lowell, a man-made reservoir in my home town of Nampa, Idaho. The trail is really more of a gravel road, with expanses of farmer’s fields along one edge and lakeside scrub brush and gnarly trees on the other. But, most importantly in this case, it has reliable markers every tenth of a mile. If you know what to look for.
Fortunately, my husband/coach does know what to look for. He also came up with our overall speed interval plan, which was:
- warm up 2 miles
- fast .2 miles
- recover .4 miles
- repeat intervals for a total of 5 intervals
- cool down 1 mile
I wore my Luna sandals, which still gave me plenty of feedback from the sharp and unpredictable road gravel. My goal was to combine increasing speed with maintaining a smooth, floating form. Being able to feel the gravel helped remind me to stay light on my feet, minimizing impact.
My husband reminded me that one goal of the intervals was to find a speed that felt somewhat hard, but could be maintained until the end of each segment. Also, it is best if the intervals are all about the same speed, which concentrates the effect to a level that can later be used for longer distances. For this first speed interval workout in quite a while, I decided to err on the side of a bit too slow, to make sure I wouldn’t pull any muscles.
The .10 mile markers begin at the Kingfisher Trail trail head, which is just below a large, dirt parking lot. There is a wide spot in the road right at the sign, too, that is suitable for parking. If you are facing the road, Kingfisher Trail goes off to the left.
The road is basically continuous around that side of Lake Lowell, but is designated as 3 separate trails. The one we ran on is the middle section. We began on its more western end, which can be found at the terminal end of Greenhurst Road. The trail/road is blocked off to normal traffic, however an Idaho Fish and Game truck needed to pass us during this run. They were very polite about it, and asked how far we were running so they could adjust their weed spraying to our convenience!
One reason we started at this particular end of Kingfisher Trail is that the other end tends to have more issues with overspray from field sprinklers that time of morning. That other end of the trail/road begins at a paved parking area at the end of Tio Lane, a side street further east off of Locust Lane, which is a mile south of Greenhurst. The first portion of the trail there is also not immediately alongside the lake. All of it is considered Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge.
So, there we were, our Strava apps all synced and the sun shining. I was given a head start, as I am relatively slower than my husband. He was also just warming up at a relaxed pace, but soon caught up with me and began pointing out the mileage markers. Some were quite easy to see, sticking up far enough out of the bordering tall grass. Other markers were partially surrounded and shaded by thickets of shrubs. Once I learned how they looked different from the ubiquitous metal fence post, and got a feel for what a tenth of a mile felt like, I was able to find most of them on my own.
I prefer doing speed workouts with distance rather than time. It is more motivating for me. I can get inspired to push myself just a tad more if I know the end of the interval is in sight. There is more of a sense of reward. Having the real-life markers meant not trying to listen for specific beeps on a gadget and added an element of gaming to it, since I had to scan the horizon for the goal.
There is one benefit to not being the one in front. My husband always found the interval mileage marker first, then jogged back to meet me and cheered me on to the end. Of course, that also meant he got longer recovery times. This is a fact of life if I want to run with him sometimes, because he is just stronger and faster. Did I mention he always measures off the chart for maximum VO₂, for those of you who know about that?
He wore his Garmin for timing his intervals. I did not. I really needed to go just by feel this first time, but I think I will try to use it next time, if I can do it without interfering with my effort. I can just see myself struggling to push the correct button and not getting any useful information, but ending up frustrated in no useful way.
We turned around at the 3 mile point, which was conveniently at the end of a speed interval. The weed spraying was going on off in the distance, and I thought about trying to wave more thanks, but just got back to the workout instead. Something about catching my breath.
The cool down last mile, also the first mile, was more hilly than the rest of the trail, but not so much as to cause burning thighs or painful gasping. I slowed down somewhat, but didn’t feel stressed by the rolling terrain. At least none of them were terribly long uphills or downhills. Just having moderate variation made it easier. (I saw a wild bunny rabbit along there, who sat in the trail a while as I approached.)
It was encouraging to note that at the end of the 6 miles, I felt like I could have kept going at my moderate, comfortable pace. I took that as a good sign that I didn’t over do it. I was curious to know what my legs would feel like the next two days, though, and that thought helped hold me in check from being cavalier about extending the total mileage.
The next day, I ran about 2 miles. The day after that I ran 14 miles. The last run of the week, on Saturday morning, was also 2 miles. All of these runs were at an easy pace. I was tired, but nothing was strained or achy. We even went out for a bit of dancing on Saturday evening. Full disclosure is that I ended up needing a lot of sleep over the weekend, including a couple good naps.
The real surprise came when I ran my first run the following week. For reasons that I won’t go into now, I was a bit on the agitated side for that Monday’s run. I knew I was going out a bit fast, but I also knew I was within a pace that my legs could handle for a little while. So I proceeded.
As it turns out, I ran all 8.1 miles about 45 seconds per mile faster than I had been regularly doing for this distance. I did not feel like I was straining to breath while running, nor did I feel wiped out after the run. I definitely felt like I was trying, and I don’t think I will be maintaining that level of effort for every run, however, it was inspiring to see what I was capable of while still not having any sore muscles the next day. I’m going to say the speed workout was at least part of the reason this happened.
The plan is to use Kingfisher Trail for regular speed interval workouts for a while. We are signed up for the FitOne half marathon in mid September, in Boise. We might as well put our best foot forward. I plan on running the race barefoot and having fun at the best speed I can. My husband’s main goal is always to try to beat all the women. I think we both have a good shot at meeting our goals.