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After running my first track workout in decades, it occurs to me I don’t really know how to run intervals anymore.  Or more specifically, how to understand their measurements.  So writing this is as much thinking out loud as anything and I’ll take feedback.  I’ll reiterate my splits below from my earlier post on timing.

Q1: 1:43 rest 2:15     Q2 1:59 rest 2:20     Q3 1:43 rest 2:29     Q4 1:44 rest 2:26     Q5 1:42 rest 2:26     Q6 1:40 rest 1 mile cool down

These intervals consist of 400 meters each, or what I nostalgically refer to as quarters.  And it was quite nostalgic stepping back out onto the track.  I ran these quarters at Niwot HS – a gorgeous setting with mountain views.  I warmed up with a mile around the track.  I used the default clock app on my iPhone in stopwatch mode to track the splits.  I simply hit the split button so it recorded my rest intervals along with my quarters.  I couldn’t tell how fast I was running and had to wait until I got home to read the times.  It was a bit awkward but not so much given how slow I was running.  I estimate my iPhone weighs about as much as a relay baton.

The first trick was determining how fast to run.  The idea of intervals is to run some fraction of race pace – somewhere between 75% and 90%.  My legs have forgotten how to run fast and so I kept it pretty slow.  Part of what I want from this exercise is to relearn fast running form.  And the last thing I want is to strain a muscle.  I don’t really know but I feel like I was running at 75% race effort – had the race been a single quarter.  Which is to say I believe I could run a quarter in 75 seconds.  I’m sort of curious if I really can.  I’ve no doubt that if I keep up these workouts, perhaps once a week for a month or so, that I could run a 75 second quarter.  Once I’m confident my body has adapted to running fast and I won’t injure myself, I’m going to run one balls out to see what I can do.

What you can’t see in these splits is my form.  I was learning.  The second quarter was a struggle and you see it in the time as it was my slowest.  I think I was tired from the first quarter and didn’t focus on form, perhaps it might be that I ran my first rest interval too fast.  But after that, I paid attention to my arm swing and stride length.  I wish I was a little further along but I really am starting with the basics of track running.  It should pay dividends in the Bolder Boulder.  Per my 2011 roadmap, I am devoting 2 months to developing speed for the year.  After the Bolder Boulder, I’ll return my focus to trail running and distance.

The purpose of running intervals is to see if you can repeat the fast runs consistently after a controlled rest period.  And you want to be less than fully recovered before you start the fast run again.  Even though you start-up again before your heart is back at rest, you feel ok after 50 to 100 yards.  In a quarter that is.  If you’re running mile intervals, it takes longer.  It’s a pretty cool feeling though.  You start running with this heavy feeling and then it’s as if your heart rate catches up with your body’s needs.  I like intervals.  I still remember running mile intervals in cross country at Texas State.  I could run 6 of them in the 4:40s.  That was such a kick.

I don’t know if I should place more emphasis on lowering my rest interval or my quarter pace over the next several weeks.  I feel that since I am trying to work on my form, I should look to lower my quarter pace and keep the rest interval consistent.  Once my legs and gut are strong enough, I can try to reduce the rest interval.  But currently, there isn’t a tremendous variance between the two – only a little over a half minute.  It should be a good minute.  I would like to see my quarter dip below 90 seconds before I try to reduce my rest interval.

I’ve thought about running distances other than the quarter.  I believe I should keep it basic and consistent though before I try to mix things up.  I need to learn my pace before I try a medley interval with quarters, half miles and miles.  I’ll search some running blogs for ideas.  I read Runner’s World and it usually contains some training advice.  But I’d like feedback on my plans.  So please comment.