Sunday, April 10, 2011

Summer Preview Workout

3.5 mile w/u
Target: 4 mile tempo @5:50 pace, 1 mile jog, 6x1 min. surges
Actual: 5:34, 5:52, 5:58, 3:00 (for .5), 1.5 mile jog, 6x1 min. surges
1 mile c/d
Total: 11.5 miles

Unfortunately the title of this post refers to the unseasonably warm weather that awaited me for this Sunday afternoon workout in Atlanta. Never mind that a week ago I was slogging through 30 degrees and freezing rain in Central Park; when I pulled into the Chattahoochee River parking lot at 1pm today I was greeted with bright sunshine and a muggy 82-degree temperature reading. One could argue that I shouldn't have put this off until the hottest part of the day, but I sort of didn't have a choice. Sort of.

My quick Atlanta trip began around 3pm yesterday afternoon when I trekked down I-85 for my friends Jennie's and Leo's going away party. Leo just finished up chiropractic school so the duo is off to Ohio, their home state, to begin their careers. Our friend and Jennie's now-former employer Genie Beaver from West Stride hosted the soiree, which was filled with laughter and great conversation and the occasional tear-inducing toast. I'd planned all along to crash at Jennie and Leo's because, well, that's what I do--right up until the minute I learned that their U-Haul was literally loaded up and ready for their 7am departure this morning! Fortunately Genie and her husband Todd graciously offered to host me at their home, an offer I readily accepted as I didn't really have a Plan B secured. By the time the party and ensuing cleanup wound down and we were settled in for a few SNL skits, it was almost 1am. 1am?! I didn't even make it to 11pm last weekend and I was in NYC! So, needless to say, after this shockingly uncharacteristic late night none of us were in any hurry to wake up on Sunday. I lounged in the guest bedroom until the indulgent hour of 8:30am before rising to greet kiddos Sylvia and Carlyn...then I drank a cup of coffee...then another cup...then Todd made pancakes...then another cup...aaaand next thing I knew it was past noon and I was still in my PJs. Sigh. Would that the run could've magically completed itself. Instead I reluctantly changed clothes--read: put on a sports bra--and bid my wonderful hosts adieu. So, that's my compelling justification for waiting until the afternoon to run. Take it or leave it.

Once I negotiated my way into a parking spot in the overcrowded lot, the time for procrastination was over. After warming up with one loop around the dirt I came to the sobering realization that the weather was definitely going to factor into my performance. Instead of running another dirt loop for my tempo portion, I opted to branch off onto Columns Drive, a completely flat five mile out-and-back residential street that branches off from the river's other parking lot. With its wide bike lanes and smooth asphalt, I deemed it a better venue for attempting a fast run than the exceptionally crowded river loop. Minus a steady influx of cyclists, it would be relatively free of pedestrians and other obstructions and was also well-marked with reliable mile markers. If this tempo was going to happen, it was going to happen out there.

From the first step I could tell I was running too fast. The wind was at my back and I was unsure of myself, doubting the moderate effort level that my body required to produce a 5:50 mile. I came through the first mile in 5:34 breathing heavily, annoyed at my rookie pacing mistake. I made a conscious effort to back off for mile two but the generous tailwind made moderation difficult even despite my rapidly fatiguing legs. I split 5:52 and knew I would enjoy another half mile with the breeze at my back before making a wide U-turn at the traffic signal and crossing to the opposite side of the road. As soon as I did, the wind and penetrating sunlight hit me like a ton of bricks. Combined with the accumulation of lactic acid from starting out waaaay too fast (current 5k race pace, anyone?), I knew things were going south in a hurry. When I split 3:00 for the first half of the final mile, lungs burning and breath ragged and legs practically sprinting, I knew it was time to shut it down. I jogged the final stretch of Columns and counted down the minutes until I reached the parking lot and its promised water fountains. After several minutes of rest and what felt like several gallons of refreshing agua, I was ready to hit the dirt once again. Spurred on in equal parts by my frustration at the truncated tempo and my overwhelming desire to finish the run, I pushed pretty hard on the surges. By this point I was in no small danger of overheating, but I sought the shaded treeline as much as possible and vowed to rehydrate like crazy as soon as I was done. In the end I should've probably run another mile or two, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I finished off with some drills and stretches and a huge bottle of water in the parking lot before departing for the nearest smoothie purveyor. If these are the conditions I have to look forward to in the coming months, my body better get ready to do a better job of adapting than it did today. Perhaps my system is just shocked and bewildered that the conditions seem to have skipped straight from winter to summer with no refreshing spring grace period. Regardless, it's time to HTFU. If you don't know what it means, just read Jordan's socks.