The first week was hard. My body didn't quite know what had hit it. The workout that week was 400m repeats with 400m recovery in between. I'm most definitely not a sprinter, but to come in at our target time, I felt like I was all out sprinting and I hated every second of it. I wasn't sure how I would keep it up for the entire marathon training plan.
Fast forward several weeks and I'm actually starting to enjoy speed work - which is good because the reason I run is that I love to run, and even though I have a new marathon goal I'm aiming for, I don't want it to suck all of the fun out of running.
Today was 4x1200m with 400m recovery in between. I think I prefer the longer intervals because even though I have to sustain a harder pace for longer it's a much more manageable pace than it was for 400m or 800m. Plus only having to do 4 intervals instead of 8 or 12 makes it feel more manageable, even though I end up covering the same distance.
I have also come up with a few mental tricks that are working for me to not see speed work as such a torturous piece of marathon training.
1. Take it one lap at a time. Today when I was doing 1200m intervals (3 laps on the track), focusing on each lap at a time was much easier to wrap my head around the how many laps I had to do total and what was still left to do.
2. Take the recovery laps nice and easy. It's easy for me to want to run my normal happy pace - which is somewhere in the 8:20-8:30 range - for recovery laps, but then I find I'm not quite recovered enough. I want to take advantage of the training benefits of cumulative fatigue, but not so much that I can't complete the workouts. Slowing it down a bit for recovery laps helps.
3. Bring a friend. I can't quit when Melanie is right beside me. Plus she's fast! Trying to keep up with her keeps me on pace and accountable.
4. Keep in mind that the harder the workout, the greater the benefit. Those few minutes aren't just going to fall off of my marathon time. I have to make it happen. I will only get out of this training session and training plan as a whole what I put into it.
5. Envision something great. When I'm running the fast intervals I like to pretend that I'm in the last .2 miles of the marathon and am barreling toward the finish. I pretend all of the excitement of race day is surrounding me.
6. Smile. Smiling makes everything better.
Each week the speed work is getting better and better for me. It's not necessarily getting easier, but I'm adapting to it better and feeling stronger. It's getting to where instead of being something I dread, it's a challenge I'm starting to embrace. Plus there's a huge satisfaction that comes from completing the workout each week.