Wednesday, December 21, 2011

3x20 Minutes in the Dark

2.5 mile w/u + strides
Target: 3x20 minutes w/4-5 mins. rest; first 10 minutes @10k pace, last 10 minutes @marathon pace
Actual: Above (see Jordan's blog for splits)
2 mile c/d
Total: 14.5-15 miles

With only three weeks remaining until the Trials, things are getting pretty serious around here. Jordan wants me to complete three more substantial workouts in the next few weeks, and with several ideas rolling around in his head he put in a call to Jeff "G-Unit" Gaudette to solicit his advice. Together they decided on today's effort, designed to start things off with me pushing pretty hard and then conditioning my body to "buffer the lactic acid" during the second half of each interval. To be honest, I'm not 100% sure what means, but since they both have those big fancy Ivy League degrees I agreed to just go with it.

As has become all too normal these days, my alarm sounded at 5am sharp. I was up immediately to stretch the legs, take in a few sips of coffee and otherwise implore my body to look alive. We were out the door shortly thereafter with our nerd-lamps lighting the way to the Neck. Whether our pace would be affected by the early hour, the prevalent wind or the terrain of the Neck remained to be seen, but as per usual my plan was to let Jordan set the pace and simply hang on for dear life. I knew the ensuing hour wouldn't be much fun, but with his assistance the workout goals should be achievable. Besides, mentally all I had to do was will myself to run hard for 10 minutes and then trust that the remaining 10 minutes would feel like a jog in comparison.

Predictably, the opening meters were quite a shock to the system. If there were any doubt about me being firmly settled into marathon training, the fact that 5:40 pace felt like a sprint definitely solidified this reality. That said, fortunately the first seven minutes of each interval covered almost completely flat terrain. A short, steep uphill in the ninth minute didn't do me any favors, and the fact that more hills were to come in the 11th and 12th minute made the beginning of the "easy" section feel frustratingly difficult. Luckily, Jordan's impromptu decision to turn down a previously uncharted side street shortly thereafter proved wise, as it offered a gentle downhill section and a reprieve for my tired legs and ragged breathing. By the 15th minute I was more or less recovered, and the last five minute of each interval were the most comfortable of the entire segment. If that's how the workout was designed to feel, then I suppose that in itself makes it a success.

And yet, by the final few minutes of the third segment I began to truly feel the weight of the workout descending on my body. I was covering well over 5k on each interval (almost 5.5k on this last one, as it turns out), which meant by this point I was over nine miles into what was more or less an on/off tempo run. I wanted to finish the final 150 meters feeling fit and fast, but instead I found myself sputtering and grinding to earn a respectable split. Overall I wasn't thrilled with the workout, but like I've said before when all is said and done I'm willing to look at it as time on the feet at or below marathon pace. As I told Jordan afterward, I don't think it would've mattered if I'd had three minutes or ten minutes of rest between each interval. My breathing returned to normal almost immediately upon finishing, but there's just no way to force my legs to move faster than they did today. Though not indicative of any blazing speed, it does speak volumes for my strength, and for that I am quite pleased.

Three more weeks. Two more workouts.