Saturday, September 7, 2013

3x3 Miles on the WSH, or "Sarah is Fit and I am Not"

~4 mile w/u
Target: 3x3 miles; first set @6:05, second @5:50-55; third TBD
Actual: first set @5:53 pace; 5:45 mile + 2 mile jog; 11:50 two-mile + 1 mile jog
3 mile c/d
Total: ~17 miles

I'm in NYC this weekend for a few days of fun, relaxation and US Open spectating with my mom. Of course, having a chance to run with friends someplace other than my standard Salem loops is a huge plus. I enjoyed an easy mid-morning run with Jay and Josh yesterday and was looking forward to (while simultaneously dreading) a beast of a workout with Sarah this morning. Simply put, as this post's title suggests, she is in phenomenal shape right now and I am just beginning to attempt some legitimate marathon-specific training. Plus--and with Sarah being one of my favorite people and a close friend, I think she will respect my honesty here--she can be a bit difficult to workout with. It's not her fault; she's so speedy that it's hard to force herself to slow to the pedestrian-by-comparison pace I'm often striving to hit. So, despite what Terry had written as the suggested paces for the workout, I was expecting her to go much faster and doubting I'd be able to hang on beyond one or two sets. Jordan's take? "Yeah, that's probably a bit much for you right now," he said with an uncharacteristic amount of tact, "but if you feel good, go for it." Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but he wasn't completely counting me out, either.

Stunning morning view of the Queensboro Bridge from our hotel on the East Side.

At 8am sharp, the air crisp and pleasantly mild, I met Sarah and Katie at Columbus Circle for an easy warmup down to Chelsea Piers. We'd chosen the bike path as opposed to Central Park for obvious reasons; it's much flatter and hopefully wouldn't be as crowded (although this part would prove to be wishful thinking a few miles later). After a few easy miles with Katie and a quick bathroom/water stop, we parted ways. Not a small part of me was wishing I could continue on a normal run with her, but at the same time I was excited to see what my legs could do for a longer, marathon-paced effort. "We'll definitely start at 6:05," Sarah assured me as we toed the imaginary starting line.

A few seconds later we were off to the races, or so it seemed. Between dodging cyclists and pedestrians and at one point nearly hurdling a veritable conga line of Asian tourists disembarking one of the cruise ships (thank goodness their suitcases weren't very tall), I found myself out of my comfort zone almost immediately. If this is 6:05 pace, I remember thinking histrionically, I'm never running another step for the rest of my life. So, it was with a mixture of relief and frustration that I received the news of our 5:53 average pace at the end of the first interval; relief because I wasn't trying that hard and still running slower than marathon pace, but frustration because I knew I was more tired than I should be, and much more fatigued than Sarah, and light years away from where I'd been when I crushed a similar 3x5k workout on tired legs before Philly last year. I know it's silly to make comparisons at this stage in the game--to Sarah, or even to my former self--but it's hard not to.

"Just being honest," I told Sarah when I caught my breath as we jogged between intervals, "at that pace I can only do one more set." At the moment, that was a course of action I was fine with. "Well, let's slow this one down," she replied. "I need to practice running marathon pace anyway, so let's just flip the paces and run this one slower since we ran the other one too fast?" Perfect, I thought, but there's no way that will actually happen. Sure enough, from the first few minutes of the second interval I felt like I was sprinting. If this is 6:05 pace, I thought as an eery feeling of deja vu swept over me, I'm never running another step for the rest of my life. Already a few steps behind Sarah, I split 5:45 for the first mile and was spent. I stopped to catch my breath while she trotted briskly into the distance, free to pick up the pace even more now that her dead weight had been jettisoned.

The rest of the "workout" merits no elaboration, at least from my perspective. I jogged along dejectedly until I ran into Sarah, who had simply crushed the remainder of the second set, and then nodded vigorously while not believing a single word as she swore she was going to pump the brakes on the final set. She proceeded to demolish the remaining miles while I flailed around for a bit before stopping to walk for a few minutes (the Ethiopians we'd passed during the first interval looked vaguely less impressed as they blew past me now) and then jogging until I met up with Sarah again.

And then, after all that, there was still the matter of getting home. First we trudged uphill from the WSH back to Columbus Circle, at which point I jokingly-but-seriously threatened to invade Sarah's apartment and force her to give me a few bones so I could catch a taxi back to my hotel. It was less than two miles away, but I was beyond ready to be done. (For the record, I remained bipedal.) If nothing else, this delightful little session showed me I'm still light years away from where I need to be...but I'm determined to put in the work to get there. Watching Sarah hammer this from beginning to end was definitely inspiring (and also slightly soul-crushing), as hackneyed as that sounds. Without a doubt, her effort was just as solid, if not more so, than anything I did before running 2:39 at Philly. I can't wait to see her big PR at Twin Cities next month!