Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Rock Creek Park Fartlek

3 mile w/u
Target (in mins.): 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
w/rest jog equal to half of the preceding interval
Actual: Above
1.5 mile c/d
Total: 13+ miles

After two aborted workouts attempts last weekend, I would be lying if I said my self-esteem wasn't suffering just a tad. With one of my summer goal races less than a week away, feeling overwhelmed with fatigue on lethargy on every single run isn't exactly ideal. With that in mind, I wanted Jordan to write me a workout for Tuesday that could be based off of time and feel rather than pace and distance. I also knew that I would most likely be running on the bike path in Rock Creek Park, which, while a great place to put in some miles, is not marked (as far as I know). So Jordan came up with the above, giving me the weenie option of omitting the 6 and the second 5 if I wasn't feeling it.

I spent the majority of Monday afternoon and evening making the 7-hour trek up to DC before finally stopping at my friend Owen's pad for the evening. I stayed up for a bit socializing and going on a late-night roommate grocery shopping trip, which meant I was in bed later than I'd planned and thus slept in until 7:30 this morning. Normally a 8:00+ workout start would be a suicide mission in the oppressive summer heat, but lucky for me--and I wouldn't realize just how lucky until later in the workout--a welcomed cool front blew into DC yesterday. This meant that when I stepped outside it was 65 degrees and what felt like zero percent humidity, more like a crisp autumn day than the dregs of summer. In a word, it was heavenly.

Despite the auspicious conditions, I started off tentatively, wary of the leaden tiredness I expected to descend upon my legs at any moment. When that feeling never came, I began to open up my stride and really challenge the pace. The sun was shining brightly overhead and the trees were buffeted by a cooling breeze, making for the most enjoyable workout weather I can remember in some months. Of course, the amazing scenery of Rock Creek didn't exactly hurt either. I've traveled far and wide and will contend that DC has the best urban running environment of any city in the US. As I passed through the foliage of Rock Creek toward the heart of the District, with the Potomac River and Virginia to my right and the National Mall and all its monuments to my left, I found myself thinking about the times this winter I'd trudged past these sights on frigid solo runs in the snow or wind. Today the trails were flooded with other runners, cyclists and pedestrians, some using the path as a via point and others simply out enjoying the day. As the workout progressed I found myself feeling stronger and stronger, at some moments focusing on my form or pace and at other moments enjoying the beauty of my surroundings. I have no idea how fast I was going, but I do know I finished up quicker than when I began.

Another way I mentally "tricked" myself into doing this workout was resolving not to focus at all on the distance covered. I didn't even add up the segments in my head beforehand or try to approximate how far the entire run would take me. If you'd asked me to guess ahead of time, I would've probably put my estimate somewhere in the 10-mile range. Imagine my surprise, then, to read 1:17 on my watch as I clicked off the final interval. I was over 11 miles in before even beginning the cooldown! Given the spectacular weather I wouldn't have minded meandering around for a bit, but since I have a fun run scheduled at Pacers tonight I knew I needed to take the most direct route back to Owen's. This is the first time in a long time I've actually been sad to see a workout end, a testament to the powerful effect the weather can have on performance (and confidence!). On the mostly uphill cooldown my legs felt bouncy and fresh, my body energized and invigorated as opposed to fatigued and depleted. Whether this translates to Saturday's race remains to be seen, but I am incredibly grateful for this experience out on the trails today.