Sunday, November 24, 2013

Winter Weather Workout(s): Part One

AM: 2 mile w/u + strides
Target: 10k tempo @ 35:45-36:30
Actual: 36:21 (5:51 pace); 18:18/18:03
1 mile c/d
Total: 9 miles

Last year, two and a half weeks out from Philly, I executed arguably my most difficult (and most impressive) workout(s) ever, consisting of a morning 10k tempo followed by an evening 10-miler at MP. Jordan, fresh off an injury, joined me for both efforts--and I dropped him on both. Having never outrun Jordan once in my life, much less twice in one day, this workout served as a huge confidence booster and solidified my fitness for what would be a breakthrough marathon performance a few weeks later.

With only 14 days separating me from my next 26.2 endeavor, it was time to attempt this workout again. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans.

Picture perfect conditions on tap for Sunday morning

I saw this abysmal forecast less than 24 hours before the first part of this workout was to begin and promptly started freaking out. I called Jordan, who was on the road, and we started running through our options. Unfortunately, delaying the workout wasn't one of them, as we'd be flying out for Thanksgiving on Monday evening, and anything after that would be much too close to the race. Could we try a treadmill? Certainly more favorable, but I unequivocally suck at treadmills and highly doubted I could run sub-6 pace for more than three consecutive minutes. I floated the scenario by Carly and Terry, who came up with the perfect solution (at least for Part One): the Harvard indoor track! Why didn't I think of that?? Oh wait, maybe because it meant I would be running 50 laps?!? But still, it was by far my best option. The next step was trying to recruit someone crazy enough to do this with me. I put out some feelers to the BAA with no success, and by Saturday night I'd all but tucked myself in on Sarah's futon (she lives so close to Harvard!) and resigned myself to doing this solo. Then, around 9:30pm, I received an email from a GBTC member named Charly Allan who'd heard of my plight and offered to help as part of his long run. Needless to say, I jumped at the offer and prayed he would actually show up the next morning.

Sure enough, just before 8am, my new BFF arrived as I was in the midst of my warmup jog counterclockwise along the perimeter of the eerily quiet facility. The weather prediction had been spot on, and as the gusts of wind howled around the outside of the building I knew I'd made the right decision. Before long, Charly and I were toeing the imaginary start line. The plan was simply to take it out conservatively, tuck in behind him and gradually crank the pace down during the second half--all without losing count of our laps. I was just as intimidated by the mental challenge as I was the physical one, and was beyond relieved that someone else was there to do the heavy lifting for me. I just needed to relax, zone out, fall into a rhythm behind Charly and trust that the pace would come naturally.

The first few laps felt clunky and awkward, both of us adjusting as strangers in a strange land. After the first mile or so I settled in, feeling comfortable and eager and trying not to clip his heels. The pace seemed slow, a little too easy, and I was unsurprised when we came through 5k a touch off the target. "Let's hold this until four, then gradually pick it up for the last two miles," I requested. He was happy to oblige, and before I knew it the invisible lap counter was down to single digits. We dug deeper (or at least I did) for the final mile, and I felt like I was working for the first time in 30 minutes. As we crossed the finish line to the applause of exactly no one, I was ecstatic--not just that the workout had felt relatively easy, but that I hadn't allowed the adverse weather conditions to thwart my carefully laid plans.

Actual weather at go time. Meanwhile, inside was pleasant and wind-free!
 At least, not yet. There was still an afternoon tempo to contend with, and the frigid winds showed no signs of abating. Time to go home, recover, and plot my next move...