After doing my second tempo training run, I've decided that I officially like intervals better than tempo work. Wait... before I go off on that, here's some definitions for those who have no idea what I'm talking about;
My training consists (right now, at least) of three weekly runs:
1.) "Easy/Recovery" Runs - which range from 2-4 miles, depending on how much total mileage I'm doing that week. Higher mileage = longer easy runs. They happen the day after a long run + a day of no running. I guess it's a way to get my legs back with the program - getting the blood moving and such - without worrying about speed or distance. I like these little guys because I get the same satisfaction of crossing something off my list that I get from crossing any other run off the list, but it takes less effort. Haha. They're like little "treats" amidst the "hard work" runs.
2.) Speedwork Runs - comes in two forms in my current training plan.
Tempo runs are those in which you run at a speed slightly out of your comfort zone and maintain that pace for the number of miles you're supposed to do for that run. This week that meant three miles. The tempo runs build to 6 miles near the end of the training. By pushing yourself just outside your comfort zone and maintaining that pace you are basically forcing your body to confront it's limits, panic, endure, and break through walls. I don't know all the physiology behind the physical part of it - something about lactic acid thresholds and whatnot. But the emotional part of it is sure a doozy.
Interval Runs are just what they sound like; intervals. Last week my interval run included doing just two repeats of one mile at a fast pace (faster than the tempo) followed by a half mile at a recovery pace. The longest interval runs total ten miles at the end of it all, including time to warm up and cool down.
3.) Long Runs are the most important ones. They happen once a week and are the runs where you slowly start building mileage. My first two long runs of this training season were both 6 miles. This week I'll do 7, and the longest of my long runs before the race will be 10 miles. Long runs give your body a chance to slowly build up the strength. By gradually adding miles you give your tendons and joints a chance to "get with the program." From what I've read, the cardio and muscle endurance stuff is easier for your body to adapt to, but it's the joints and stuff that take a little longer to get strong. I imagine it's because they're the shock absorbers. Long runs are also a crucial mental training ground as well. With each added mile you challenge pre-existing barriers and assumptions you've had about your body's ability to perform. And they make for some pretty funny blogging. :)
So there ya' have it. A pretty long explanation for me to just say, "I like intervals more than tempo runs... because intervals are more fun." Haha. Actually, I like having the mileage broken up into little bite-sized pieces, and there's something refreshing about knowing you only have to maintain your faster pace for "just a mile" before you get a break. Funny how my "breaks" now while running (a 15 minute mile jog... 4mph on treadmill) were this earth-shattering pace back when I was training for the 5k. :) It's really cool to see how far I've come, and it gives me some hope that I'll continue to get stronger.
In fact - today when I was cooling off by walking on the treadmill, I slowed it "way down" to just 2.8mph. That's the pace I use to use when I'd hop on back in April of this year when we first joined the gym. That pace use to put me right into the "fat burning zone" on the little heart rate thing, and now it's what I use to bring myself back down into a resting rate. Crazy!