I just finished my second speed session on the East River track. I had fully expected to be facing the treadmill, after seeing the track completely covered in snow and slush yesterday. Thankfully, the rain came last night and washed it all away, and today is beautiful and surprisingly warm (well, relatively speaking). I never thought I’d be so excited to hit the track, but after last week’s session, I was very eager to give it another go.

If you’re training for an event right now, particularly if you are a relatively experienced runner, chances are that speedwork plays at least a small part in your weekly running. The question of where to do these runs is sometimes an issue, at least it is for me. Obviously, the track is ideal – it’s more challenging and natural. Most sessions are created with a track in mind (2 x 800m etc). You learn how to handle different weather conditions which may come into play on race day, particularly things like wind resistance. You are forced to practice “feeling” the pace and learn how to achieve consistent splits on your own. Lastly I think it’s also just better for your body – too much treadmill running always leaves my legs (particularly my shins) feeling a bit tight/out of whack.

I used to train on a track once or twice a week WAY back in my high school cross-country days. Ever since I started running on my own, however, I haven’t been back on a track, at least not in recent memory until this past Wednesday. This isn’t because I don’t like the track, but purely because of time and convenience. I’m a morning runner, which cuts out many running clubs that meet after work, often at tracks. More importantly, I have never lived close enough to a track that I could use. Thus, I have always done my speed work on the treadmill. No matter the weather, time or place, I find a treadmill, turn on my iPod, choose my desired speeds and then all that’s left to do is push through the workout. I certainly don’t mean to say it’s easy, because it really isn’t easy to maintain a fast pace for a certain period of time, but it doesn’t require much thought. I don’t have to check my splits or question my pacing – I just run.

In the past, I’ve also done my speedwork on the river, in the park or wherever else outdoors. This has worked fine, but there are often obstacles (people, sharp turns, stairs, bridges, dogs, strollers, whatever) that make it difficult to keep pace plus it’s hard to know my exact pacing without exact marked distances, since I can’t always rely on my Garmin. This is why I usually preferred the treadmill for more structured, shorter runs.

Both options certainly work, and I’m sure I’ll be hitting the treadmill for certain workouts this winter, either for a change of scenery or to escape bad/unsafe weather. It’s good to run on a machine next to a mirror once in awhile to observe your form (better to have a coach watch and/or video record you, but I realize that’s not always possible). Plus, sometimes I really just need to blast my music, run hard and not think about it. I must say though, I am really starting to love the track!

I still haven’t made myself a complete NYC half training plan, partly because I’m not sure what approach to take for this race, so for this week I decided to try out some workouts I saw in an intermediate 9-week RW schedule (the advanced one was a bit hard core in the speedwork department for my current fitness). Today’s workout (from week 2) called for the following: 1M, 1×1200 at goal race pace (for me, 7:24ish), 400 rest, 2×800 at 10k pace (7:13ish), 200 rest, 4×200 at 5k pace (6:55ish), 200 rest, 1M. I calculated my target splits as 1200 at 5:31ish, 800 at 3:35ish, and 200 at 0:51ish – I did this because my Garmin is always a bit off when it comes to average paces. Based on my Garmin details and rounding up/down, my splits were 5:32, 3:32, 3:33, 49, 50, 50, and 50. I was on pace for the 1200, slightly too fast for my 800s and slightly too fast for my first 200. Overall, though, I felt really good about it, particularly with my three 50s for the 200s. Spot on! This workout felt SO easy after the super long ladder workout I did last week.

As I finished up my run, the (undergrad) NYU track team showed up and started their workout. I approached the head coach (there were three) and explained that I was a graduate student in Steinhardt and had just qualified as an RRCA coach. He was busy so we didn’t get to talk for very long, but he said to email him and that I’m welcome to join them anytime to observe from a newbie coach perspective or perhaps even tag along once in awhile as a runner (that would freak me out a bit – would surely get my butt kicked). Pretty cool! I have so much to learn, particularly when it comes to track. Ultimately I want to focus my coaching on longer distances and on slightly older athletes, but learning more about speed work certainly could do me some good.

Post-run lunch included a beautiful, colorful salad with blood oranges, feta (from TJ’s that I mentioned the other day), tons of fresh veg, dried cranberries and various seeds and nuts, with a blood orange vinaigrette (essentially just freshly squeeze juice from the fruit, olive oil, a touch of white balsamic vinegar and agave, and salt and pepper). So refreshing and flavorful! You can find the recipe here.

I also had a huge helping of multigrain pita chips (along with some edamame hummus), which I’m kind of obsessed with right now. Practically went through a whole bag last night…oops! And I just realized I missed a graduate student library tour I had planned to attend…double oops! It started ten minutes ago. Oh well, I’m sure I will have PLENTY of opportunities to tour the library.

Speaking of which, my first two days of school are going very well. I love my classes – I have attended three of five (if you count the lab as a separate class) so far. My professors are great, the material interesting and best of all, I have finally met others in my program. There are three students that are taking practically the same classes that I am this semester. It’s nice to feel like I’m not in this alone, and of course to have study buddies. Apparently there are 29 students starting my program this semester – hopefully I will have a chance to meet them soon. Apparently there will be a welcome reception in the coming weeks at the new department of Nutrition and Food Studies, which I checked out after my class this morning. It recently moved and the new building is really nice.

I’m still feeling a bit overwhelmed and out of place (so many undergrads everywhere!), and I’m having serious time management issues (where do all the hours go?!?!). I finally got myself to do my first assignment but haven’t yet cracked open any of my books. I think I’m still in denial about this whole homework thing! Hopefully I’ll get into a groove soon enough. I just need to keep working on my speed and efficiency, both on and off the track!!