This hasn’t been a great week for me, due to a host of mishaps. A bout with food poisoning, a fall down a flight of stairs, and some bug bites on my face that caused so much swelling that it was messing with my vision in my eye. As a result of that last one, my team made me leave the office and go to urgent care on my way to the airport today. Not good! This morning started out similarly poorly, with my next door neighbor at the hotel where I was staying blasting the TV at 4:45am. Okay, okay – I’m up! (PS – not staying at this hotel again now that I see how thin the walls are :P)
I decided to just get my day started earlier than planned, and headed to the 5:30am Orangetheory class. On the way there, I checked the Orangetheory Reddit, hoping someone from overseas might have posted the workout already – and I was in luck. Today was Endurance Day, and we were going to be doing a 22.5 minute (coached) run for distance.
Immediately my wheels started turning. Lately, my base has been 8.7mph (6:53/mile pace) and my push has been 9.7mph (6:11/mile pace). If the time spent at each speed was close to even, that would mean I’d be averaging a 6:32/mile pace… which would mean I’d be on target for about a 20:20 5K. And usually, we spend more time at push/all-out than at a base, so it seemed feasible to go sub-20 for the 5K. I decided to go for it!
I usually try to do the weight floor first, because I think it helps get me fully warmed up to run. Today, though, I didn’t want to waste any energy on weights, so I started on the treadmills. For the warmup, I did a two minute walk followed by 60 second base pace / 60 second walk, and 45 second base pace / 45 second walk. (I find that 1:1 ratio of run / walk helps my legs get up to speed without feeling like I’ve already started my “workout” In the warmup, so it’s usually how I start class, though the actual duration of each interval varies based on my mood.) And then I carefully zeroed out my treadmill, so I’d be ready for the challenge.
The workout was pretty straightforward: alternating push and base pace with similar durations at each. And at the very end, a quick 30 second all-out to cap things off!
Of course, as with any Orangetheory workout, I didn’t know what intervals were ahead of me… but I spent the first few rounds feeling pretty comfortable, and noticed that I hit the one mile mark in 6:35. So far, so good! I figured that the second half might include some longer pushes and faster speeds, and I was right – clocking into mile 2 at almost exactly 13:00. So far I hadn’t gotten any time in the orange zone, and I was still feeling good – could I hang onto this for just 1.1 more miles?
The third mile still felt really good – so that when Coach Morgan announced the three minute push, I wasn’t even the least bit fazed. No problem! When the three minute push ended (16 minutes done) and she announced the two minute push, I decided I didn’t want to spend two whole minutes at an easy base pace. (Also: since when did 6:53 become an easy pace?! I love Orangetheory.) Instead, I did a 45 second base, a 45 second push, and then a 30 second base to catch me back up with the now-recovered class. That change felt totally fine, and I was glad I did it… because next was just one final two minute push that took me to 3.1 miles in 19:57!!
When I crossed the 5K mark, I actually cheered out loud because I was so excited. I had finally broken 20 minutes in the 5K… and furthermore, it really hadn’t been that hard! I was struggling a little bit to talk to Coach Morgan in the last few minutes, but at no point did I feel like I was gasping for breath, or even wonder when I was going to get a break to slow down. That used to be all I did in Orangetheory (count down the time till the next break), but here I was just cruising along at breakneck speed! I couldn’t believe it.
I know that a lot of runners hate the treadmill, but I love it. Running on a treadmill makes it so easy to set a pace and forget it, and I think that helps you get used to speeds you wouldn’t try to maintain outside. You don’t have to keep checking your watch and worrying about whether you’re going too fast or too slow at any given point; you just punch in the numbers and then keep up with the belt.
Judging by how much energy I still had after reaching the 5K mark (um, not so when I ran a 21:12 at Run for the Roses this summer), I had possibly even set my treadmill speeds too low. But the workout wasn’t over yet! I still had 2.5 minutes to go in. For the final one minute push, I took the pace up to 10.0mph (still felt comfortable), and then did my 30 second all-out at 11.0mph (more of a challenge but not really bad, especially for such a short interval). When the clock ran out, I had covered 3.52 miles in 22.5 minutes, well above the 3 mile goal our coach suggested that advanced runners could aim for! I was thrilled.
I am so thankful to Orangetheory (specifically, the awesome Palm Beach Gardens West location) for how blazingly fast I have gotten since I started doing their workouts regularly. I only go to Orangetheory twice a week, but even that has been enough to dramatically improve my max speed and my comfort going fast. When I first started doing Orangetheory, 8.5mph was my all-out pace that I only did for 30-60 second sprints; now, 8.7mph is my base pace that feels comfortable and relaxing, and I can talk to fellow students / the coach while running a push of 9.7mph. How awesome is that?!
Of course I know that an Orangetheory treadmill class isn’t the same as running a race. But I also know I won’t have any more weekends this year to travel to sea level for a 5K, and I don’t think I have any hope of running sub-20 in my town’s hilly Superior Stocking 5K in two weeks (especially at altitude). So I am counting this as a partial win for my 2017 goal to PR in the 5K (B goal) and go sub-20 (A goal). I now know I am fully capable of not only running sub-20, but doing it comfortably, and I am looking forward to the opportunity to do it for real in a 2018 race.
And who knows?? Maybe I will break 21:00 and PR in the Stocking 5K. I’ll let you know in a few weeks!