The Anatomy of a Training PR

For those of you who don't know me well, let me start this out with a few factoids:
- I am pretty consistent with my pace.  I *heart* 11:00 min/mile.
- I rarely talk about pace, especially in training, because my focus is on miles.
- I hate speedwork.
- I am a prime example of train slow, race fast (well, relatively).

When I hit my PR of 2:09 (9:50 min/mile) at the Rock n Roll Dallas Half Marathon back in March, I had spent the majority of my training at 11:00 min/mile, and my long runs were closer to 11:30 min/mile.  Yes, I still manage to pull out faster paces on race days.  I'm very competitive - with myself.  I had never actually ran a 9:50 mile ever in training... ever (although I had run that pace in a 10k and below that in a 5k, but never in training).

Training, in my mind, is not when I PR... until I met this guy:

You might recognize him from The Boring Runner.  Not boring at all - running an 18:50 5k and a 1:29 half marathon... but pure evil.

He sent me my plan for this week's run... now let me break into a side note and say that my base mileage is already up, so when I started adding speedwork a few weeks ago, I didn't start with just a couple miles of speedwork, I was already at 7-8 miles mid-week, so my speedwork portions were 5-6 miles... a real challenge.  Anyhow... the plan for this week was a Progression Tempo...

Warm up 11/mi
9:00 (for as long as you can hold it)
Cool down 1 @ 11/mi

OK, let's look at that plan a little further... I've never run sub-10 in training prior to hiring Adam 4 weeks ago.  OK, one point against Adam.  The center 6 tempo miles average out to a 9:25 min/mile pace.  My 10k PR is at a pace of 9:37 and I almost puked afterwards.  Are you seeing where this is going?  Adam wanted me to hit a 10k PR in the middle of an 8 mile training run.  Even with the warm-up and cool-down mile, my pace would average below my half-marathon PR pace... for 8 miles... in training. 

All this build-up, right?  My run:
11:14 - Warm-up.
10:00 - Tempo Mile 1 - Feeling fine.
9:50 - Tempo Mile 2 - Still feeling great and chit-chatting with Emily on the tread next to me.
9:31 - Tempo Mile 3 - Hmmmm... why is this ok?  I'm still trucking along, but I'm not even halfway.
9:14 - Tempo Mile 4 - Lungs. Are. Burning.  My legs are ok.  Come on, you know you want to tell Adam that you kicked this run in the butt.
9:05 - Tempo Mile 5 - Ok, this is the last mile you *have* to do.  He said the last one was just as long as I could handle.  Still talking to Emily, but the lungs were seriously burning.  My legs were fatigued, but I felt extremely  focused and in the zone, despite my conversing (which really was serving as a good distraction)... the last 0.25 of this mile was really really tough, but as it clicked over, I still hit the "increase speed" one more notch.
8:57 - Tempo Mile 6 - My lungs were starting a fire Boy Scout style.  I was certain my heart was going to beat out of my chest.  If I had a HRM on, it would've been sounding numerous alarms.  I felt like I was on Everest gasping for air.  But my legs were still trucking.  I wasn't so sure they were attached to the rest of me.  I told Emily to please talk to me, distract me, anything.  But I really wanted to call this FULL mile a success... counting down every little bitty hundredth.  And I did.  DONE.
10:54 - Cool-down mile - Yeah!!!

The moral of the story:  Sometimes you have to trust that your coach knows what he/she is doing.  There is a reason I hired him to help with my speedwork (I still do my own schedules, etc... but he assigns my weekly speedwork).  I hired him because I know that I would not believe that I could do that.  There is no way I would've given myself such a challenge.  NO WAY.  I was convinced that wasn't in me during a training run, even though I know I've gotten stronger since I set some of those PRs.

I often give speedwork to the ladies I coach, and it's funny that I now give Adam the same reaction that they often give me... Are you trying to kill me?  No... What doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger.  Right? Riiiiiight???

What challenge have you knocked out lately that you didn't think you could do?