Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Club XC Nationals Prep Workout

2+ mile w/u
Part 1: 3x6 mins. w/first 90 secs hard, 3 mins. rest
Part 2: 4xhill loop (500m), 1 min. rest
Part 3: 5xlake loop (~600m), 2 mins. rest
Part 1: 3x6 w/mile splits of 5:42, 5:35, 5:33
Part 2: 4xhill @ avg. 1:52
Part 3: 5xlake @2:00, 1:59, 1:59, 1:58, 1:57
1.5 mile c/d
Total: 11 miles

For at least a week, Jordan has been scheming to create a workout for me that would, as he rather gleefully put it, "take me to the well." Another time he boasted it would "make me vomit." The closer we came to the fateful day, the more excited he became. I have to admit, I was starting to get a bit worried. Fortunately I was able to recruit Caitlin to join me on her lunch break for the first 2/3 of this behemoth, which boosted my spirits more than she probably realizes. As many of you know, she and I will be teaming up with a handful of other speedy ladies to represent the Charlotte Running Club at the USATF Club XC Championships hosted here at McAlpine next weekend. To say we are familiar with the course is an understatement, but Jordan wanted us to go over some specific sections and tactics to help us be best prepared for our upcoming race.

Part one of the workout was designed strictly to simulate the chaos of the start. The starting line at McAlpine is not very wide to begin with and proceeds to narrow onto the dirt path almost immediately. Going out hard at the gun will be imperative unless we want to be stuck back in 100th place going into the woods. Thus, for the 3x6 minutes Jordan had us practice going out hard--what felt like a sprint to me--for the first 90 seconds, then settling into a more comfortable, but still pressed, pace for the remainder of the interval. I must admit that this ended up being the toughest part of the workout for me, as I simply haven't sprinted nearly all out in a long time. Fortunately I was able to regain my composure after the first 90 seconds and continue pushing in a more controlled, relaxed manner to come through the mile marker in a respectable time. Caitlin ran incredibly strong for this part of the workout, and I was content to tuck in behind her and Jordan for the duration.

Part two sent us straight to the hill. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the McAlpine course, it boasts one solitary hill, and I can assure you now it will be a doozy on race day. The fact that it's a short, steep uphill followed by a shorter, steeper downhill, all on dirt, means that there is almost guaranteed to be at least one person who goes careening down and tumbling into the pond at the base of the hill. The women's 6k course traverses the hill twice and the men's 10k course three times, which makes those odds even greater. No doubt it will be most challenging on the first pass, which comes just over a mile and a half into the race when people will still be bunched together. Today our pack was only three deep, but even at that I had to force myself not to be overly timid on the descent. There are definitely a few spots where a carelessly placed foot could result in disaster, but fortunately all of us remained bipedal today. After the third interval Caitlin had to call it a day due to time constraints and chest congestion (which seems to be going around), which left me solo save for my coach/pacer for the rest of the workout.

Surprisingly, I began to feel the strongest and most confident at the time when I'd expected the worst. Guess that's the benefit of setting the bar low. After finishing up the final hill repeat we jogged over to the pond, where Jordan wanted me to practice running fast with tired legs. This was the point when I was most grateful for his presence, as a stiff wind gusted against us for the first half of each lap. Every time I stayed tucked behind him for the first 300 meters, then tried to open up the stride and finish hard with the wind at my back. It wasn't until the final two that I truly began to feel the weight of the entire workout descend upon my legs. It was time to wrap things up. I managed to save the best for last and finished with my fastest split of part three, exhausted but thankfully nowhere near the vomiting that Jordan had so hopefully predicted.

During the slowest cooldown on Earth, Jordan and I were able to reflect on the workout. It had gone just as well if not better than either of us had expected and provided me with a much needed confidence boost for Club XC. If anything, it showed me that while I still might not be very fast, I'm stronger than I thought. Certainly the same can be said for Caitlin. I can only hope we will reap the benefits of this during the second half of the race next weekend.