Last night, after work, I got my mid-week run done. During this Crossfit experience, I’ve been taking it mighty easy on those 2 mile maintenance runs, 13 and 14 minute miles, not pushing the pace very much. But last night I thought about my desire to run faster. And I thought that if lifting more weights was making me stronger (with Crossfit), then surely running faster, would make me run faster.

I know, it’s pretty simple. And it’s advice that I’d run into before (pun intended). But last night was the first time that I tried to implement it for myself in a structured sort of way. At the track at my gym, 11 laps is a mile. So I run 22 laps for my 2 miles. I ran the first 2 laps at my slow, easy pace. Then I ran three quarters of a lap slow, and one quarter at a fast pace. The next lap was half slow, half fast. Then one quarter slow, followed by three quarters fast and 1 whole fast. Finally, I got 1 slow lap before repeating the whole process. I ended up with 3 sets of my speed progression. And, for the very last lap, I did an extra fast lap instead of finishing on a slow.

I didn’t finish the 2 miles particularly fast – it ended up being somewhere between 23 and 24 minutes – but I did work on my speed, and made myself run at points where I felt uncomfortable. I think that’s important, that I ran even when I felt like I was going to puke (I didn’t). After the run, I did my walking lunges with the 10 pound plate over my head, and then I rewarded myself with some hot tub time before riding my bike home at last.

After all that, I was in bed by 8pm, which made waking up at 5am moderately easier. Or I’m getting used to it just in time to stop. Either way, up by 5 and I liked the look of the WOD:

AMRAP 12 mins:
– 5 HSPU
– 10 Pull Ups
– 100m Run

This time I knew what the running would entail. I wore a long sleeve shirt and socks I could pull half way up my calves. Not ideal, but better than last time. According to the internet, the temperature was a balmy 19 degrees Fahrenheit (21 by the time I got home). But its only 100 meters, right? Easy…

After warm ups, we did strict presses for the skill portion. 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps, trying to increase weight on each set. We had to rest 3 minutes between sets, so there was plenty of time to add on weight (and/or take a pee break). I started with 25 pounds, went up to 30 pound, and then 35 pounds. I did that for the last 2 sets, and I had to work hard not to turn it into a push press. So I felt good about the skill.

I was looking for a way to increase the difficulty of the hand stand push up modification without actually doing hand stand push ups. I’m not there yet, but putting my hips on a box and doing hand stand push ups from there was not challenging enough. So I got to learn about the next step in the progression, which involves putting your feet on the box, pushing your hips up, and having your hands on the ground in the hand stand push up position, making sure you are facing the box (even if your eyes are closed). I got out an ab mat for that one, so I could shorten the range of motion enough that the move was challenging, but not impossible (the mat goes under your head).

I got out a green band and a blue band for my pull ups. I did start with just the green band, but it was too difficult so I ignored my internal judge and worked at a level that was sustainable and difficult, for me, today.

I’m not an athlete. I’ve never considered myself an athlete. I played on sports teams in grade school because my school was so small that if they didn’t let everyone play who wanted to, there wouldn’t be enough people to make up a team. Once I reached high school, I didn’t play anything but the flute. Okay, I did like 9 months of Tae-Kwon-Do my senior year, but I still never felt like, or trained like, an athlete. And when I started running about 5 years ago, I was slow. I’m still slow, which is why my run last night was about building speed.

But today was not about the long haul, where I would need to conserve my energy for the miles ahead like I usually do. Today was about sprinting as fast as I could to get my freezing butt back into the warmth of the gym. Today, I ran those 100 meters, and I not only kept up with everyone else, I actually went faster than some. I have to say, I’m inordinately proud of passing one person in particular, not once, but twice – and I started from behind. I actually told that person that it was the highlight of my day, and I hope that they accepted it as good-natured ribbing from someone who never thought they’d be able to pass anyone while running.

The hand stand push up modification was hard, and the pull ups were harder. I know I started off slowly with those, but with each run I just let myself go, as fast as I felt safe on the frosty ground. And I would run back in and right back to my station, mark a tick on my chalkboard and start again. Some of the pull ups went really slowly as I struggled to just complete the set of 10. Others went better, especially when I had enough breath to yell through them.

It was hard to breathe, hard to catch my breath, but I pushed through it. I pushed and pushed, and in the last 4 minutes, I pushed harder, trying to get just 1 more round, and then 1 more.

I finished 7 rounds and 14 reps.

Usually, I collapse when I’m done.

But not today.

Today, I was in the midst of doing band-assisted pull ups. I got one foot down on the box that I used to get up to the height of the bar, but I was too tired to figure out how to pull my other foot free of the bands. I just stood there, one leg on the box, one hooked on the bands and out at a perpendicular angle to my body, while I rested my wrists on the bar and my head on my forearms, remembering how to breathe.

It was a great workout. I could not stop smiling afterwards.

The cold didn’t hit until I got home. Instead of going directly into the shower, I sat down to eat so my body could start fueling up. My apartment is well-heated, but I sat there in fleece-lined pants, a down jacket, scarf and hat while I ate breakfast. And I was still cold, my midsection chill to the touch. It felt like I couldn’t make myself warm there, even though other parts of my body were radiating heat.

The shower helped a lot, but I didn’t really feel warm until about half an hour ago when I started eating lunch – and I’ve had my heater on at work, wearing long underwear under my pants, a turtleneck and a fleece vest (the bike ride to work in the cold probably didn’t help…).

Running in the cold for those short spurts certainly is incentive to run fast.

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