I ran a local club 10K race this weekend. It is a nice hilly road race at Clopper Lake in Montgomery County called the Piece of Cake 10K. I ran this race two years ago as my first 10K ever. I finished that race in a little over 48 minutes and could barely walk the rest of the day. I guess I've come a long way in two years.
I really have not done much speed work at all this year; primarily focused on longer distances as I prepare for a string of 100 milers. Nevertheless, it is fun to go out and push hard for several miles and I was pleasantly surprised that even without specific training my speed has improved. I ended up coming in 3rd place overall in a little under 36 minutes (yeah 12 minutes faster than I did two years ago). There is a certain type of pain that is distinctly different in short races than the pain involved in running Ultras, but the mentality to keep moving through the discomfort is the same. While it is definitely not my race distance of choice - I commented to my wife on our way to the race that I wished it was a marathon, as I would have been more comfortable with that distance - I will continue to through these races in my schedule to "mix things up" and add some variation.
I am not sure of the value of speed work when your primary focus is Ultras. For marathons, 50Ks and even road 50 Milers I am sure it has some value, but for 50 miles + on trails I would argue that long slow distance and higher mileage is much more important. Personally, with the exception of occasional tempo runs I do very little "fast" running, but my times in these shorter distance races has continued to improve. Could I be even faster if I focused more on speed? Probably, but will that help me at MMT? I am not so sure. Overall, for me it comes down to doing what you enjoy and what works for you.
Next up, I'll be driving down a few hours to Southern Virginia for the Bel Monte 50 Miler. I signed up for this race last second, and I am not sure how my legs will feel about all the climbing. I have been running a lot so far this year. I'll probably take it easy for the rest of the week and hopefully I'll be rested enough for the race. While I hope to do well, I don't intend on pushing too hard, especially since I have the Potawatomi 100 coming up only two weeks later. I really am just looking forward having some fun and spending a day out in the mountains.