If you live in Brooklyn and you’re a runner, then you run in Prospect Park. Period. Prospect Park is the smaller, less famous park (and more beautiful, and we’re not being biased, the designers of both parks, Olmsted and Vaux, thought so too) in New York City. This means that pretty much no matter what time of day I go, there are plenty of people using the pedestrian paths that make up the loops of Prospect Park. Fortunately though, aside from races, the park never feels crowded or congested.
There’s a full spectrum of runners on the outer loop of Prospect Park – fast, young speedy runners, fast speedy masters runners, runners who are just starting out, chill joggers, and plenty of people like me, loping lap after lap in the park in a quest to shave some more time off the next race. I like running in the park because after two years, I know the route like the back of my hand. When I close my eyes, I can visualize every bend, every water fountain, and every landmark. I know exactly where my Garmin will beep depending upon where I start (from home or at the park). I know the different variations I can take (lower loop, the lower lower loop, upper loop, figure 8, reverse figure 8, outer edge sidewalk of the park, etc) and how long each of those distances are. Doing endless loops in the park can be boring, but it’s a good place to go when I need to focus on completing a hard workout and don’t want to worry about stopping for lights and cars, getting lost, or getting stranded far from home.
If I need to do a long run and decide to stay in the park, I like doing broken tempo runs in order to keep the run interesting. With a warm-up, broken tempo workout, and a cool down, this gets me anywhere from 10-17 miles. A broken tempo, also known as a tempo interval, is a workout that I discovered earlier this year and something that I quite enjoy. In the past, when I did a tempo run, it was basically 20-45 min (3-5 miles) of hard running.
Despite the fact that I like tempo runs (my favorite kind of workout), I often am disgruntled afterward because the workout wouldn’t go as well as I would have liked. Usually I didn’t go as fast as planned or I had to cut the mileage shorter because it was too hot and/or humid.
This past summer, I discovered that I could bypass the problems I had with summer tempo workouts by doing broken tempo/tempo intervals instead. After a warm-up (1-3 miles depending upon the total mileage I needed for the day), I would launch myself into the first set. Again, depending upon my need, each set consisted of 2-3 miles. If I wanted to do a faster tempo pace, I did 2 miles and if I wanted to do a longer tempo, then I did 3 miles at a slightly slower pace. The recovery period between the sets can also be varied (.5 – 2 miles) depending upon how hard of a workout I wanted and/or how many miles I needed to cover. I would do 2 – 4 sets/intervals, depending on what I needed, and finish off with a cool down.
The beauty of the broken tempo is that I could complete the entire tempo workout at desired pace and distance during the hot sweaty summer months, instead of prematurely ending it or needing to slow down in order to complete the mileage. The other great thing about this style of workout was that it made long runs fly by. It’s no secret that I am not a fan of long runs, so anything more than 8 or 10 miles on a training run, I mentally groan. However, with a broken tempo workout, a 15-mile long run is suddenly way more palatable. A 15-mile broken tempo might look like this: 2-mile warm-up, 3×3-mile tempo with 1-mile recovery, and 2-mile cool-down (there are many variations, I’m just picking one). Now rather than facing with 15 miles and counting down from the start, I mentally focus on the particular section that I’m in. While I’m in the warm-up, I focus solely on two miles. Then when I’m in the first tempo interval, I’m simply thinking of the 3 miles that I need to complete at a particular pace. And so forth! The next thing I know, I’m cooling down and that long run is complete with nary an anguished tortured groan that “I have so many miles left!”
I call this a heart attack broken tempo workout because of a certain type of runner that I run across when I do this in Prospect Park. I’ve noticed that runners who are clearly faster or slower than me pretty much ignore me when I run. Meaning, it doesn’t matter what I do, they continue doing their own thing. That’s cool. BUT . . . certain types of runners, generally older middle-aged men (late 40s, 50s, and early 60s) who are desperately clinging onto their youth and women who are around my age, who see me running by and inevitably insist upon running “with me” or faster than me. I suppose theoretically this would be fine, except I’m generally faster than them. When they try to run with me or pass me, they lapse into a loud gasping breathing.
I suffer from a touch of misophonia and prolonged heavy wheezing gasps of air and breathing DRIVE ME CRAZY. Rhythmic controlled heavy breathing is fine. The asynchronic heavy noisy gasps of breath and wheezes coming from someone who is clearly running waaaayyyyy tooooo fast irritate me as much as the sounds of slurping (**shudder**).
Now I have a problem. I want to lose them so I don’t have to listen to them anymore. I can’t run slower (and pray that they run ahead of me so I don’t have to listen to them anymore) because I’m faster than them, so even if they are (temporarily) ahead, I’ll catch up to them and we’ll play this game all over again. Running faster sometimes work. If I’m significantly faster than them, then I just need to outsprint them for 30 seconds or so and that’s enough to lose them. But the problem is when they’re a tad slower than me. I’m moving faster than they can comfortably run, but I’m not fast enough to lose them by sprinting because they’ll just sprint with even louder, more ragged breathing.
I remember one egregious runner. I caught up to him during my warm up and right after I passed him, I started my first tempo interval. Well, he stuck right behind me, breathing loudly, letting me know that he was hanging on right behind me. I ignored him figuring that I would lose him within a mile. Nope! He clung on for dear life. I decided to sprint in order to lose him, but you guessed it, he hung around me like a pesky gnat. I couldn’t sprint the entire interval and ruin my workout, so I begrudgingly slowed down to the correct pace. I told myself to be patient and that I’ll lose him when I go into the recovery period because he’ll continue at the faster pace and he’ll then be ahead of me. Sure enough, at the recovery period, he triumphantly ran in front of me (much to my relief), but much to my dismay, because I was moving slower, so did he. He wasn’t ahead of me by much. I prayed that I exhausted him during the first set so he wouldn’t try or couldn’t keep up with me for the second set. No such luck. He stubbornly ran with me like his life depended upon it.
Which I thought was ironic because from his horrid loud gasping breathing, I thought he was going to suffer from a heart attack at any moment. I wondered if he was going to drop dead and I would be forced to stop and call for an ambulance. Finally in order to lose him for good, I just stopped and walked for the recovery period because I couldn’t handle his behavior (and breathing) anymore. So if you ever hear of a middle-aged man who suffered a heart attack during a run in Prospect Park, it’s probably because of me.