No Garbage Miles: A Case Study

My last blog post was about running high-quality miles whenever you run. It was verbose and rambling, and probably not very useful to the average user. (Where, "average user," in my case, means "Russian bot." But anyway.) Today, I'd like to provide a case study on "garbage miles," miles that you put in for no good reason, that don't do you very much good. And when I say "you," I mean "me."

Earlier, I ran a workout for which I had great expectations. On paper, it was supposed to be a really good workout. In practice? Garbage miles. Let's take a look.

My goal with this run was to complete increasingly faster-paced laps of a one-mile loop around my neighborhood. Here's a graph of my per-mile pace (grey) compared to my heart rate (red):

You can see that, at least nominally, I achieved my goal. My pace increased steadily throughout the run, and indeed every mile lap was faster than the one before it. This was an eight-mile workout, eight laps, each one faster than the previous. Looks like a good workout. My Strava "relative effort score" was nice and high for this workout, too. All the "data" says it should have been a great workout.

The problem here is that I ran eight miles and only hit my lactate threshold at about mile number six. In effect, I ran two good-quality miles, preceded by six miles of complete garbage. That's about forty-five minutes of running that wasn't really doing me much good at all, followed by about thirteen minutes of tempo-paced running. It's better than nothing, but if I were going to push myself today, why on Earth did I put in 45 minutes of garbage and 13 minutes of decent stuff?

By the time I got home, I knew I had blown it. 

A better way to have run this workout would have been to speed up sooner. Maybe the first mile or two could have been slow, and I could have considered them "warmup miles," but after that, I should have gotten right down to business. My third mile certainly should have been well under 7:00/mile pace and dipping into my lactate threshold, and I should have worked my way to sub-6:00 miles.

Indeed, I started my workout hoping for at least one sub-6:00 mile. The reason I wasn't able to achieve that is because I spent the majority of my running time on slow garbage miles. 

It was an interesting mental exercise to run the workout I ran today, and perhaps it could have been a good workout if I had put in two or three more miles. But I didn't. I quit to early, or I didn't start out fast enough, and ultimately I sacrificed what could have been a great workout. 

The lesson here is that good runners push themselves harder than just what looks good on paper. Good runners push into their lactate thresholds and keep the heat on themselves for longer than they can really stand it. If I want to become a better runner, that's what I have to do, too.

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