speed work pace anxiety

I get really nervous when I have things looming over me.  In the seventh grade, my parents took me to the ER because I wouldn’t stop hyperventilating.  Over a science fair project.  That I wouldn’t let them help me with.  At work, I rush like crazy to get through my 8pm vital signs, assessments, 9pm meds, and charting…I don’t know how nurses don’t rush to get everything done.  My heart beats fast until I’ve checked all the boxes confirming that my patient has an ID band on.

When it comes to workouts, I get a bit of the same anxiety and can’t wait for it to be over.  Also, I’ve been enjoying just running and not having to worry about the time on the clock while being pleasantly surprised with what feels like an easy pace.  Well, as much as you can enjoy 16 degree weather as the cold ever so slowly seeps through my tights and my fingers threaten to lose feeling.  Once it hits around 20-25 degrees I actually find it quite comfortable as long as the wind isn’t blowing, but that’s off topic.

As I mentioned earlier this week, I need to make a return to speed work, as I can’t tell you the last time I purposely ran fast.  Despite being able to easily drop a 6:50 mile last week, I will say that I feel quite out of shape.  I feel sluggish most of the time (hello, night shift life), so that doesn’t do much for my mental well being.  So basically, I wanted to start easy with speed work to ease back into it.  But what does that mean?  What’s “easy” speed work? 

I decided on a three mile tempo run, but “tempo” pace for my goal marathon pace is usually in the 6:40’s, which theoretically should be goal half marathon pace.  (6:50 pace, for the ease of splits, would lead to a 1:29:35 half marathon…leaving cushion for not running tangents, etc.)  Thinking of that as I stood at Engineer’s Gate, doing my usual routine which includes a nervous cough, I got worried.  Should a tempo run be faster than goal race pace?  I really just wanted to try and hold 7:00 miles for the sake of easing into speed work.  Maybe I should aim for 6:45.

I have no idea, let’s just run.

This is Engineers Gate, in case you’re not from NYC.

I took off from 90th St in the park, which includes mostly flat/downhill terrain, and my pace was around 6:35.  “It’s only because it’s downhill,” I told myself, “and the second mile will have the west side hills.”  So I chugged along and thought about that…which was fine until I finished the 102nd transverse (and mile 1, at 6:37 pace) and started to head south along the west side of the park, which is immediately uphill.  The mental ease of downhill running was gone and my legs felt heavy.  I got mad at myself for going out way too fast and now feeling unable to turn over my legs…so I stopped.

“Maybe I’ll turn this into mile repeats,” I thought, “but mile repeats should be at a much faster pace than 6:30’s.”  Fail.  So I took it easy for a mile and then told myself I needed to do another fast mile.  This workout is not in any workout books or on any websites, so don’t do as I do, but my second mile was 6:34 and felt more comfortable than that pace probably should, so that’s nice.

I got a little down on myself for failing at the workout, mainly because I had angst about hitting the paces and getting it over with.  I was also upset that I didn’t stay mentally strong when hitting the second mile and the hills…what kind of competitor does that make me?  I probably should have started out at 7:00 pace and dropped from there if the first mile felt good…which is an ongoing problem in races that I have, as I attempt to bank time for later.  This is not a good strategy, which I think most of us can agree upon, and I don’t know why I have so much trouble sticking to it.  I don’t want to slow my pace if I go out too fast because I think I’ll slow down too much or won’t be able to pick it up later.  I also let the mental barriers of running hills get to me and how that will affect my pace.  (I tried to run on the East River Path because it’s flat, but it was also covered in ice…fail.) 

Does anyone else get workout anxiety?  Or go out faster than prescribed paces?  Or panic about how workout pace reflects race pace?  Tell me your tips, please.  After 17 years of running I still haven’t figured it out…

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  1. says

    I really like to just run. Some days I feel good and run faster and than other days I take it easy. I have to really try hard to talk myself into doing a speed workout or hill repeats during the week. lol. I just have to keep telling myself that it will make me a better runner.

  2. says

    I have so much anxiety about running! Even when I’m not training for anything specific (actually its worse then because I don’t have any “plan” to follow). I spend all day thinking about my next run- especially lately with the weather being so bad. I’m constantly checking the weather, deciding if and where I can run outside or if I should go to the gym, and trying to decide what workout I will do.

  3. says

    I blame Central Park. All of my worst running experiences have happened there! After the last one, I gave up the park entirely and would only run along the west/east running paths.

  4. says

    A good way to ease into speedwork is an organized fartlek, in my opinion! You could do 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1 minutes hard with equivalent rest times, or just 6×2 minutes or something. That way you don’t get hung up on the mile pace. Oh, and re: leaving room for not running tangents – why didn’t I think of that factor in November (missed sub-90 by 19 sec, ran 13.2+ mi)?! Grrr.

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