Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chasing Stevenson

I have several goals for the fall season. Goal number one is to avoid injury. You might wonder why I would list this as a goal, since it doesn’t explicitly involve my running performance. However, achieving this ‘goal’ is a requirement in order to attain any others – and if I want to ramp up my training, I must be smart and deliberate about it to minimize the risk for injury (or burnout) and stay running throughout. So I would say it’s an important goal.

Goal number two is to get very fit. This is obviously a pretty broad goal, but ultimately it means that I want to bring my training to the next level and as a (hopeful) consequence, bring my running to the next level as well. Thankfully, I am in the perfect environment to do this.

We have a great group of girls that train together. There is a big mix in terms of specialties, mileage, speed and talent, as well as ‘purebreds’ versus triathletes (and pentathletes for that matter). Nonetheless, we are all happily united under the same coach, the one-and-only Nicole Stevenson. I started running with her about two years ago, and since then our group as grown and flourished into a fabulous women’s training group that comprises some of the great and promising talent in Toronto. Of course, at all of our workouts Ms. Stevenson, the self-professed ‘retiree,’ kicks all of our asses in any repeat from 200m to 30k. For many of us, this has served as great motivation and inspiration that we could one day keep up with her (even if for only 1k!). Recently, another huge talent, Beth Wightman, has been getting her groove back and has – much to Nic’s joy and excitement – been challenging coach in workouts. Unfortunately, Beth has recently moved away to Ann Arbor for the next two years, leaving coach lonely and desperate for company in the hundreds of lonely meters that gap us in each interval.

I have been chasing Nic and Beth for months, but have never imagined actually running a hard repeat with them. It just doesn’t happen. If we do 1k hard, I’ll go 3:19 and they’ll go 3:10. 3k hard I’m closer, but it’s still 10:30 versus 10:14. So one of my goals this fall is to simply try and close that gap and try to become a better training partner for Nicole. If I could be on par with her for even one repeat, no matter what it is, it would be a step forward. If I could even chase her closely enough that she becomes afraid that I just might go stride-for-stride with her over the finish line, that would be enough (for a little while, of course). Just so that she isn’t totally alone (because really, I’m just looking out for her).

This is where the goal to get fit and ramp up my training comes in. I had 5 years of solid competitive running behind me before I was on/off injured for about a year. Since then and for the past 1.5 years, I have been fit, strong and consistent. I have chosen this time to increase my mileage from what it’s been for the past few years, where I comfortably covered 60-70 miles/week, except for the summer where I deliberately held low mileage (50 miles) to focus on speedwork. I have now increased to 80 miles a week, with the biggest difference in my training being the addition of double runs. This does have me a little nervous about compromising my number one goal of staying healthy, since doubling up on runs can also double the chances of injury.

I do realize that bringing my running to the 'next level' doesn't necessarily mean I have to train twice as hard: consistency is key. But I have raced quite a bit in the last year and wanted to take this season to build a bigger base while sacrificing a bit of the sharpening. This is hard to do in my current workout environment (I can't get too caught up chasing Stevenson *just yet*!), so I'm trying to make sure I take down days and weeks when I need them. But so far, I am feeling good and the aches and pains are minimal.

So, three times a week I am given the opportunity to measure how far I am coming in my second goal as I stare at the back of Nic’s t-shirt during each workout. It’s definitely coming closer to me, to the point where I can read the large print writing. I'm working on the small print...

Recap of this week’s training? It was a big one...

Total mileage: 84 miles
Workouts: 3
Double days: 2

1 – 3k tempo in a 24s PB (on our Russel Hill loop) of 10:31-2 (eeeek), followed by 4 hill sprints, then 4x400m w/ a walk-to-the-start short rest in 77-78s

2 – 2k tempo in a 5s PB of 7:05 on the long-ish MPC loop, then 3x1k in 3:24-3:29, 500 fartlek and 500 hard that I was so tired for I ‘forgot’ to time...

3 – 18k pace run, relaxed effort, first 6k in 4:02 average, 2nd 6k in 3:56 average, last 6k in 3:55 average...pretty tired at the end of that big one though...

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