Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Beverly High School Benchmark

AM: 10k easy
PM: 5k w/u + strides
Target: 6-8 x3 mins. @3:20-3:25/k pace (5:20-5:30/mile) w/2 mins. rest
Actual: 8x3 mins.@3:23-3:25 pace
1 mile c/d
Total: 8 miles
Daily total: 14+ miles

Is it weird that one of my favorite workout venues is a high school parking lot?

Perhaps, but the legs want what the legs want.

Earlier this spring, Jordan and I discovered that a perfect interval loop was awaiting us just steps away from our office in the Beverly High parking lot. We frequently use their adjacent track for workouts (home to last week's 400s and countless other sessions) but somehow one of us got the idea to utilize the surrounding parking lot for some short strength-based intervals. Besides the obvious benefits--low traffic, no street crossings--its topography also presents a unique set of challenges. From our arbitrary start line, the interval opens with a gradual 45-second uphill that gets the quads firing. Just when it almost becomes too much, you hang a 90-degree left turn and then enjoy a long, floating downhill which allows you to regroup all the way to the halfway point. Another sharp left turn precedes 30-40 seconds of flat terrain where you can really crank up the effort, then a few zigs and zags (the least convenient part) take you around the final turn and on a subtle uphill grind to the finish. It's an action-packed three minutes, one that always proves challenging, and today was no exception.

Fortunately, my queenmaker was present to take over his assigned pacing duties. Before the workout began he said we were shooting for eight intervals, but in my head I was set on six. That would be plenty for where I'm at right now, and I had no doubt my quads would be quivering by then. In the meantime, however, all I had to do was fall in step and trust him to set the pace. I'd told him in advance that a solid performance would earn him his new favorite meal (Pork Three Ways) at our new favorite local restaurant (Naumkeag Ordinary), and with a battle cry of "Do it for the pork!" he led me out for the first interval. 

Overall, I felt good but never great. As Jordan commented later, I seemed to do a fine job of hanging on at the prescribed pace range, but never really had the wheels to go faster. I was consistently able to hang right on his shoulder until the zig-zag turns about two minutes in. Maybe Jordan is particularly adept at turns, because no matter what I did I would find myself instantly gapped by several strides after this section, at which point I had to spend the final 30 seconds struggling to catch back up. This doesn't surprise me, given where I'm at in the training cycle right now, but I wouldn't have minded feeling a bit more pop in my legs. That said, when I told him I was done after the sixth interval he coaxed/demanded I continue for two more, and I was able to rally and finish strong despite my accumulated fatigue.

What I really like about this workout is that it's a concise, easily replicated benchmark that can be done several times throughout the course of training. I also think its benefits translate well across different race distances no matter your ultimate goal. I look forward to coming back at the beginning of October, then at the beginning of November and even in early December before CIM to chart my progress.

Oh, and by the way, Naumkeag changed their menu for the season. No more Pork Three Ways. I now have the saddest queenmaker in all the land.