A Cutdown Run
I think I first heard about cutdown runs while perusing the workout videos on Flotrack (of which there are many more if you sign up for a Flotrack Pro membership — kinda pricey, but kinda awesome too). Here is an example cutdown run featuring the men of Hansons-Brooks, though the one that inspired me to try a cutdown run was a winter workout, also with the men of Hansons-Brooks. In that workout, the men ran something like 6:30 for the first two miles, 6:15 for the third and fourth miles, 6:00 for the fifth and sixth, and so on. So I modeled today’s workout on that.
I think the biggest benefit of this workout, besides adding some variety to ye old weekly tempo run and teaching you to save speed for the end of a race, is that it gets your body to learn what different paces feel like. Pyramid workouts on the track can do this too, but you’re never at one pace for long enough.
My first cutdown run … didn’t exactly go according to plan. I’d impulsively decided to run the Kenneth Dolan Memorial 5K, a great community affair now in its 24th year, in Prospect Park, Brooklyn on Sunday. That race was my seventh consecutive day of running during a difficult and very hot and humid week. I’d upped my mileage to the mid-50 range after being sick and only running three times the week before. And then the unrelenting heat came. But what the heck. I wanted to get myself out there in the heat to acclimate, and it was only a 5K. Oh, and there was prize money! I ended up placing 4th for the women and 1st in my age group. I was disappointed that I didn’t come third (I was outkicked by a promising 16-year-old track star!), but under the circumstances (a heat wave), I really shouldn’t be that disappointed.
After taking yesterday off, I jumped into the cutdown run. So my lungs felt great, and my legs felt a combination of great and…sore. As a consequence, I just couldn’t get a handle on the pacing. To save my life. I felt so fresh, but my legs felt wobbly. I ended up going out too fast.
My intended splits were:
…with a mile or two cooldown after it was all over.
The actual splits were:
With a mile of cooldown after that. The final two miles plus cooldown were done on the East River Track. My legs were going by mile 7, and I just needed the consistency of scenery and wind direction that the track provides. Plus, the East River track after dark is one of the most peaceful places in the city. You can hear the hum of the nearby (very nearby) FDR, and the soccer players under the floodlights in the center of the track occasionally yelling at each other. But the track is mostly in the dark, so you can drown everything out and just have a blissful, meditative cooldown. (Not necessarily a blissful, meditative workout; the soccer players routinely stand in the first lane of the track, and yelling “Track” does not have the same cachet as it did in high school!)
So this was a good workout! I guess I was too modest in my goals. But it was not a cutdown run! It was a glorified tempo run, plain and simple. So I’m going to keep at this cutdown thing, possibly next week or the week after. I’m planning to run the Xterra/Earth Conservancy Trail Half-Marathon in Mocanaqua, PA on June 15 (part of the Xterra trail series that culminates in the National Championships in Utah in September) so I’m upping my tempo distances and getting back to the hills after a couple of weeks of scant elevation gain. Another cutdown attempt before that race would probably be valuable, and I’ll throw some elevation in there just to prepare me for the course.
What I like about the cutdown is that I felt I was concentrating much harder than I normally do in a tempo. I wasn’t looking at passersby, I wasn’t daydreaming or retracing the same thoughts. I was looking six feet ahead of me at all times and just trying to feel the target pace. I was crying on the inside by that last mile on the track, but the rest of the time, I was totally at peace and focused. That doesn’t happen every day, but it’s the reason I run — the number one reason!