Exactly a year ago today I traveled to Palo Alto, California for a 10,000m race at Stanford University. My pr from the year before at the same race was 29:48. There were two goals for this race: qualify for the NCAA 1st Round and earn a spot on the Penn State All-Time Top 10 List. I was feeling good going into the race and felt I could hang on and hit my two goals. The race turned out slower than I had anticipated, and I ended up taking the lead with about 3200m to go and taking the pace from 72s to 69s. I was passed a few laps later, but I made another charge to try and win with less than two laps to go. I held on until the last 200m and faded to 5th, but ran 29:22.35 – a NCAA Regional Qualifying, 6th All-Time at Penn State, and a massive personal best with a negative split (first 5k – 14:47, second 5k 14:35). I believe I narrowly missed mile and 3k personal best times at the end as well.
In the last year I haven’t had a “bad” race. I’ve had a few races where I’ve narrowly missed expectations or were used as workouts in a very hard training block (example: Philadelphia Rothman Institute 8k). In fact, I really have not had a “bad” workout. If a workout did not go as well as expected I took the positives from it, whether it was the recent training, simply an off-day, fighting a cold, neuromuscular fitness lagging, etc etc. The point of this blog post is simple: when you get momentum – ride it! Newton’s first law states, “An object in motion tends to remain in uniform motion unless an external force is applied to it.” The weatherman in me has applied Newton’s 1st law to my training and racing. If I am doing well and my fitness is improving, why turn negative? If you were studying the forces on a ball rolling down a hill, there are going to be minor bumps that temporarily slow it down or make it jump vertically in the air for a bit, but the ball continues down the hill (converting potential energy to kinetic energy!).
Today I ran 5 miles up Lefthand Canyon at a “moderate” effort. Note that any hill at altitude becomes a “hard” effort but this was kept in “moderate mountain” effort. The run started at 5600ft and climbed to 6300ft. I ended up averaging this run almost 20 seconds per mile faster than 5 weeks ago when I did a 3.7 mile “hard” effort up the same road. I also did a Fartlek this week that averaged over ten seconds faster than a Fartlek I did two weeks before the California International Marathon – and this Fartlek was longer, easier, and I had to deal with 20-30mph winds.
If you are an athlete or a coach, quit worrying about specifics. I hate when people get frustrated and “apply an external force” to their momentum when a workout is a few seconds slower than they wanted. When your training is going well, build on the momentum and continue to improve. Do not stop that ball from rolling down the hill! Look for various improvements, like I did with my hill climb and Fartlek runs. Take confidence in the positive momentum and roll with it!