Saturday, February 2, 2013

Half-Marathon Boot Camp: Workout #3, or "30k For Emily's 30th"

Target: 30 min. easy, 30 min. tempo, 30 min. steady, 10x30 secs. hard for 30k total
Actual: 35 min. easy, 30 min. tempo @6 min. pace, 30 min. jogging around looking for Terry, 30 min. steady @~6:20 pace, 5 min. easy for 30k total

For her 30th birthday, Emily wanted to do something epic. Or, at minimum, epically symbolic. So after her initial plan of running the entire Boston course was scrapped due to, well, common sense, we enlisted Jordan to come up with something long and challenging but still fun and manageable, all in honor of the milestone of entering one's 30th year of life on this earth. He came up with the target workout above, which looked daunting enough on paper (especially considering it would be my longest run since Philly and my third workout in six days). Fortunately, Emily recruited others to join and help dissipate the suffering, including her former college teammate Christina and a rare joint appearance of Carly and Terry (made possible by Emily's mom, in town for the b-day celebration, virtually leaping at the chance to play surrogate grandmother for a few hours).

The group assembled at Emily's just after 9am, eager to get the run underway and even more eager to finish it up so we could return to a brunch feast that Emily's husband Matt had been slaving away over all morning. In fact, the toughest part of the run was forcing ourselves out the door with the tantalizing scent of fresh coffee and rising frittata wafting down the hallway behind us. Once out the door, however, we fell into a relaxed rhythm on the bike path in the direction of the arboretum. I'd never run there before, and in hindsight I'm glad that was the case, because if I'd known in advance how hilly it was I probably never would've agreed to run the entire tempo portion there. But from a logistical perspective it made perfect sense, since we could all work out at our own appropriate paces and still start and finish together. We prepared to pick it up, agreeing to meet back at our starting point 30 minutes later, and then set off to tackle what would be the toughest part of the run (even more difficult than leaving the kitchen behind, as it turned out). Almost immediately our group split into three natural pairings: myself and Jordan, Emily and Carly, Terry and Christina. As the two most unfamiliar with the territory, Jordan and I made a few wrong turns and came to a few dead ends before settling into a reliable loop, and as a result somehow ended up running the opposite direction as everyone else. This actually ended up being helpful for me, as I knew that every few minutes I would pass Carly and Emily, then Terry and Christina, and no matter how badly I was hurting I couldn't allow myself to get completely dropped at the risk of embarrassing myself in front of them. (That said, my increasingly pained facial expressions couldn't have done much in the way of making a good impression). Our pace fluctuated wildly, dictated by the undulating terrain, and every time we trudged up one particularly grueling hill I felt sure that  mile couldn't be faster than eight minutes. These are the times when I'm glad I don't wear a Garmin. Sometimes it's better not to know.

Somehow, I kept it together for 30 minutes, and shortly after finishing we were rejoined by Carly and Emily. Certain that Terry and Christina were close behind--after all, I'd just seen them less than 10 minutes prior--we dawdled around a bit near our meeting point, finally starting to jog in the direction from which we'd come after standing around became unbearably cold. Fully expecting to see them approaching at any minute, none of us were initially alarmed, but as the minutes ticked by it became clear that they simply weren't there. While I wasn't necessarily worried, I was definitely perplexed. If I know one truth to be constant, it is that Terry never, ever deviates from a plan. If we said to meet back in 30 minutes, he'd be there at 29:55 with a detailed mile-by-mile itinerary for the rest of our run. And yet, inexplicably, he wasn't there.

After another few miles of jogging around the arboretum, we agreed that the only logical explanation was that they'd somehow, for some reason, decided to forego the meeting and head back to Emily's. (Perhaps they were hoping to get a jump on the brunch buffet.) We'd already been on our feet for over 90 minutes and were growing more chilled with each step, so the only logical course of action was for us to do the same. Carly, clearly worried, began to pick up the pace. ("I hope he didn't have a heart attack," she said at one point, only half joking. I resisted the urge to respond with, "Don't worry; we would've heard the ambulance." Somehow I doubted that would provide much comfort.) Before I knew it, we'd crested the two-hour mark and were running uncomfortably close to my previous tempo pace--fortunately on a flat bike path this time, but my legs didn't seem to register much appreciation of this nuance.

Finally, mercifully, the run came to an end, and with it the discovery of nothing but good news: 30k was surpassed, Terry was fine (and somehow hadn't even heard the original "meet back in 30 minutes" plan), none of us received a parking ticket and at long last it was time to eat our collective body weight in brunch. Happy birthday, Emily!