Sunday, November 24, 2013

Winter Weather Workout(s): Part Two

See Part One here
PM: 1/2 mile w/u
Target: 10 miles @6-6:10 pace
Actual: 15k @58:30 (6:15 pace)
My route
1/2 mile c/d
Total: 11 miles
Daily total: 20 miles

When I last left you, I was eating a donut and drinking chocolate milk in bed with my cat whilst wearing compression socks, all in an effort to recover from Part One of today's workout. Part Two, a 10-mile steady tempo, would take place later in the afternoon...but where? It was still sub-freezing with ridiculous gusting winds outside and no improvement on the horizon. Upon returning home from his road trip in the early afternoon, Jordan once again floated the idea of hitting the YMCA treadmill...but I just couldn't do it. I was already convinced I wouldn't be able to maintain the pace, which meant the workout would be doomed before it even began. My next strategy was to gauge the direction of the wind (WSW) and try to devise a point-to-point course which would allow me to run more or less with the wind at my back on easily navigable roads...all before the ridiculous 4:30pm sunset would plunge everything into total darkness. Simple enough, right?

Coach Jordan was skeptical, but agreed to let me give it a try. We settled on a route that would start in Danvers, run past our office complex, through downtown Beverly and into Salem, through downtown Salem and past Salem State, down the long hill to the Marblehead Rail Trail, then finish up with ~3 miles on the soft surface path before being dumped out near my boss's house on Seaview Ave just over the Marblehead/Swampscott line. If all went to plan, I would pass through a total of five towns in an hour's time. There were a few sections where the streets might be busy and a couple questionable intersections where I would almost surely have to stop, but once I made it through Salem the second half would likely be free of interruption. If only the weather would cooperate, this just might work.

The ride into Danvers was a solemn one, as I tried to ignore the wind whipping tree branches and debris across the road. I kept trying to reassure myself with the reminder that the wind would actually be helping me for most of the run, which worked until I almost couldn't force Jordan's car door open due to a particularly strong blast. He instructed me on the use of his Garmin, promised to pop in at a few spots along the course, and then sent me on my way. I jogged a few minutes easy and navigated a tricky intersection before launching into the uptempo portion. I actually couldn't remember where my exact starting location was supposed to be based on our prior Google mapping--as it turns out, I didn't start out far enough, which explains why the end result was closer to 9.5 miles instead of 10--so at some arbitrary point I just clicked the watch and started rolling.

The pace was difficult to gauge, unsurprisingly. I wanted to run by feel instead of looking at the Garmin every five minutes, but I found it increasingly difficult to establish a consistent rhythm. My legs were a little fatigued from the morning's effort but felt fairly decent, so I was confident they wouldn't hinder my completion of the workout. The one true variable was the wind, which seemed to swirl at random. During the course of running several minutes in a straight line, it might be aggressively pushing me forward one second and then slapping me in the face shortly after. Somewhere on Rantoul Street in Beverly, just before I would see Jordan for the first time, I actually had to stop for a moment when a wayward tree branch made a beeline in the direction of my face. The worst of it came on the Beverly Bridge, when the violent crosswinds literally had me scared that I might get blown over into the harbor. In hindsight, crossing the bridge might not have been the safest or smartest move--not to mention my pace (and form!) slowed to a veritable crawl--but I had honestly underestimated how tough and exposed it would be.

Understandably, the pace fluctuated. But overall I knew I should be averaging well under 3:50 per kilometer, and instead I was hovering in the 3:58-4:00 range. I was growing flustered and frustrated, and biding my time until I thought it would be acceptable to drop out. I suspected I would see Jordan again at the bottom of Lafayette Street, just over halfway and just before entering the rail trail, and I made up my mind that I would call it a day there. What was the point?! Sure enough, I spotted him, stopped my watch, slowed to a stop and commenced whining. "I'm not even close to the pace!" I moaned despairingly, hoping he would tell me to stop. "Just keep pushing," he responded. "Settle in on the trail." 

But darkness was falling, and quickly. The trail is exceptionally well groomed, so footing wasn't an issue, but I still wanted to make it through to the other side before the lighting completely waned. Once I rounded the turn by the middle school I found myself running directly into the wind, but inexplicably the average pace was finally inching down into the low 3:50s. Perhaps I wasn't completely screwing this up after all.

Once I popped out on Seaview, I knew the course would be short. I was just under 14k and now running in complete darkness. Jordan was waiting in his car near my boss's house, and he started driving just ahead to light my way. I decided then that finishing out 15k would be respectable enough. It was cold and dark and seemed rather pointless to continue. My breathing was controlled and my legs felt as though they could continue at that pace and effort level indefinitely, but I was just incapable of going any faster. Whatever the ultimate objective was, the conditions simply weren't going to allow for a different outcome. I've never been happier to jump in a warm car at the conclusion of a run!

Overall, I'm disappointed that I wasn't able to execute this workout as well as I did last year, but in spite of that it actually does provide a boost of confidence. More than the result itself, I'm proud of myself for staying mentally tough--did I mention I ran 50 laps indoors this morning?!--and troubleshooting the conditions instead of writing this off before even giving myself a chance. If I can do the same in two weeks' time, I just might have a shot at pulling off a respectable marathon.