Welcome to the Caratunk, Maine track.
I know, it looks like a road to you, but up here in Caratunk, you have to be a little creative. So this is what my track looks like. When I think of intervals, I think of this view of Route 201.
You may be wondering what has me interval-obsessed lately. It all started when I saw an article using the FIRST (Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training) method in Runner's World a few years back (August 2005). The idea of combining cross-training with running to make you a better athlete overall made perfect sense to me. Although I wasn't yet a triathlete, I really wanted to be one someday. Except that swimming thing kind of was freaking me out.
A few years later, I bought the book Run Less, Run Faster. Then I put it on the shelf for a year or so, unopened. Still a wanna be triathlete, still kind of freaked out by the swim. I probably should have bought a swimming book.
Flash forward to December 2009. Now a triathlete, fully slaying my swimming demons, I have decided to run another marathon to really get a strong running base for the 2010 triathlon season. Remembering the book I never opened, I dug around and found it. After reading for a few minutes, I remembered why I loved the idea. The program consists of three running days a week - one interval, one tempo, one long - along with 2 other non-running workouts of fairly high intensity - swim, bike, rowing, etc.
The only downfall I could see was that the interval days were all track workouts. The closest track to me is 40 miles away. These track workouts are a key part of the program, and consist of about a half hour of torture. I mean interval sets of specified distances, really set up for a 400 meter track. Not a chance of me driving almost an hour to get to a track for some self torture, I would much rather do that closer to home.
So I sent the FIRST guys an email, telling them about my challenge, along with my plan to do a Half Ironman in August, lamenting the fact that I didn't have a track, asking for alternatives.
I almost fell out of my chair when I actually received a reply within a day from both Bill Pierce and Scott Murr, two of the authors of the book. They offered excellent advice and encouragement, Scott even sent me a version of his training plan when doing a spring marathon followed by a fall Ironman. Their suggestion for doing the track workouts was to line a flat section of road in 400 meter intervals up to 1600 meters. OK, well that is kind of an obvious solution I should have come up with. This would enable me to do virtually every track workout. So I went out on Route 201 and marked the road.
See, those sneakers rock, you know you are jealous.
Oh yeah, intervals. So I have been doing these things, as specified by the FIRST book and website. I want to say that yes, absolutely, intervals, tempo, and distance running teamed with cross training make you a faster and stronger runner. Seeing an improvement in my long runs as a result of pushing myself harder is so gratifying. I can't wait to see how my marathon in May goes - I hope I smash my PR.
And yes, before you ask. Intervals are hard. Tempo can be kind of uncomfortable at times. Deal with it. Nothing really worth it is ever all that easy.