The key to a successful workout

After many many years of running, you'd think I'd have figured out how to run a successful workout. Having been an athlete for the better part of 2 decades, one would think I'd know how to pace myself through a tough workout. Yet this past year, I've struggled with tempo workouts, especially when doing the hard efforts solo. Over the past 12 months I've tried to figure out how to have a good workout and push through the pain on my own when the going gets tough. As the saying goes, "What matters most is what you do when no one's watching." (or something like that...)

At any rate, today I finally figured out the key to a successful workout. It's no big secret, there's nothing magical about it - it's really quite simple... wait for it...

Be patient early.

Coach/Dad has been telling me this throughout the past year; it's been his mantra to his high school athletes for the 15 years he's been coaching. Yet on tempo days, in my stubbornness, I would foolishly run the first part too hard. I'd look down at my watch and say, "S*** that was way too fast!"
Anxious and impatient, I'd go out hard and pay dearly for it at the end of the workout. Rookie mistakes, when made by a veteran runner, are really stupid, inexcusable mistakes made by an undisciplined athlete. Time and again I've gone out too hard on tempo days and then struggled home in the final miles. Ironically, on the track I'm like a metronome, hammering out the assigned pace right down to the second. Circling the oval, I'm the epitome of even splitting. But on the roads, where I can only check my splits every mile instead of every 200 meters, I go out hard and pay for it later. Until today.

Today I ran 3 X 2 miles at tempo pace, a standard tempo workout for distance runners. The name of the game was descend - the success of my workout depended on my ability to run the 3rd repeat faster than the 2nd and the 1st. Simple, one would think, but a challenging task for the ever-impatient runner like me.
Foggy day at Lake Merced (surprise surprise!)
Thankfully, I had my handy Garmin to help keep me in check, and the threat of feeling like crap on miles 5 and 6 kept me patient on the first 2-mile repeat. For the first time in a long time, I executed the workout to perfection. Running the first repeat with patience, I felt in control the whole time. On the third and final repeat, I felt strong, powerful, fast! It's been a long time since I felt like that at the end of a workout! As I whizzed around the path along Lake Merced, I thought to myself, "This is what fitness feels like!" What a difference it makes to run the first repeat under control and simply be patient.

Coach/Dad figured out the secret to a successful workout and race a long time ago... silly me to take this long to get it through my head. Lesson of the day: Dad knows best! :)