First of all I'd like to apologize for the awful title. Nothing to add there...
This week was the peak – so to speak – of my training before the Goodlife Toronto Half-Marathon. I have to say it was a success and that I was very pleased with how my workouts went, especially since it was within one of my highest mileage weeks yet (85 miles).
The group after Saturday's workout
Part I - Boooooo Mondays
(I kid, I kid - mondays are fabulous, Nic ;)
Monday night practices are in some ways like Halloween: mysterious, frightening, always full of scary surprises, and you are often tricked (but only sometimes treated). It is the only workout of the week that is not laid out in advance, and instead follows a broad structure of: ‘HILLS. DRILLS. REPEATS.’ Now, this description has the potential for being a very straightforward combination of hill repeats and intervals around Churchill. However, when your coach is as instinctive and dynamic as Ms. Stevenson, it is not so simple. In fact, it is virtually impossible for us to guess what the workout will be. I have tried many times to read a pattern in what we do, but unless it follows some kind of abstract calculus equation that I am unable to catch onto, it is in fact completely random (and is a complete waste of time to try and decipher). So now on Mondays I go to practice ready for anything, and I mean ANYTHING, spanning from straight hills – 30s or a whopping 5min per repeat – to crazy loops, to straight intervals, to people running in all different directions with staggered starts, with the entire workout ranging from 2k to 7k in length.
I went to this Monday’s workout just like any other: prepared for anything, bracing myself for the worst, and hoping for the best. It was cold, rainy and I had had a long day at work. All I thought of was having a bath and eating a warm meal afterwards. Little did I know that this indulgence would be delayed until after 8PM, when I would return home a wet, muddy, crabby, exhausted mess. (I am convinced this is how wild animals feel after they have hunted their prey for hours unsuccessfully, returning to their nest ravenous, drained and empty-handed.) The workout started out with 3x800m around Churchill at medium/hard/medium effort. Beth was back for five days from Ann Arbor, which was great because it gave me someone to chase (not because I actually like her). I was pleased to see that my first 800m at medium effort was 2:44, on par with some harder efforts I had previously put in on this loop. However, I was even more elated with my hard effort – a new PB on the loop – of 2:35, and a subsequent second-best time of 2:40 for the third repeat. After this set we were ordered down the stairs for some hills. This is where Nic’s sanity began to come into question:
“Ummmm....run up pregnant lady. Then down zig-zag. Then up the steep hill to finish on pregnant lady, down pregnant lady, up zig-zag, and down pregnant lady.” I imagined an unassuming passerbyer wondering what the hell Nic was saying. First off, because she had named a hill ‘pregnant lady,’ simply because one day a pregnant woman was walking up it (you’d think it’d be a better story, but unfortunately not). Never in my life had I thought I’d utter the words ‘we’re going up pregnant lady,’ or ‘we’re doing intervals on pregnant lady,’ or ‘I HATE PREGNANT LADY!’ but alas, here I was cursing this poor woman. After Nic gave us such a poignant description of the loop, confusion broke out as to the order of each hill to go up and down. Shortly thereafter Nic admitted she had completely forgotten her own directions:
“What the hell did I just say?”
I repeated the sequence of hills to her and to the group, and was met with a blank stare. “Huh?!” Nic responded. “That doesn’t make sense...”
“Well yes I would agree with that...” I confessed. After a few seconds we decided to ignore her and just start the repeat, following whoever was in front. Unfortunately that was me, and though I tried to follow the right order by the end I really had no idea where I should be going. It ended up an almost 5min long hilly interval, after which we did 3 steep, grassy hill repeats, followed by another long, windy hill all the way back up to Churchill. At this point we all gasped for air and thought the workout was over.
“Okay. Now you are going to do: 800m/2x400m/2x200m.” Nic stated. My heart fell. My legs were wobbly and my lungs burned. I couldn’t believe how much more we had to do. I think the others felt the same since her orders were met with a chorus of groans. The first repeat was 2:42. Not bad on extremely tired legs, I thought. Once we delved into the short-distance 400s and 200s, the rest of the ladies were on fire and all I could do was sprint my hardest to try and keep up with them, running 79s/77s/36s/36s. Finally, it was over. The rain poured, the darkness set in, and Kerry, Meghan and I jogged home slowly and quietly, feeling a combination of fatigue and fearful anticipation of the circuit workout we’d be back for in a mere ten hours – again, in the dark. October is definitely upon us.
(High knees are my specialty)
The oh-so-appropriate Stevenson Tomb at MPC
Part II - Cemetery Execution
I rested up on Wednesday, going for a very easy 11-miler and taking the afternoon off, as Thursday we planned to do my half-marathon ‘execution run’ in the cemetery (somewhat appropriately). The workout was supposed to be 1 loop (6.5k) at 4:00/km, 1 loop at 3:47/km (1:20:00 half-marathon pace) and 2k hard. It seemed to be an ambitious workout to say the least, and on Wednesday night I suddenly became nervous about it, starting to question whether I am really in 1:20:00 shape and wondering if I could do it with all the miles in my legs. I jogged up to the cemetery at 6:40AM, where Nic would do one loop with me and Beth would join in for the 2nd loop and the 2k hard. We set off and immediately the pace felt uncomfortable. 500m in Nic looked at me and said ‘uh-oh’ – I immediately felt relief, as I figured we were going too fast.
“No! TOO SLOW!!!” she exclaimed. This was not a good sign. We went through 1k in 4:08, at which point I tried to pick it up. 2k was 4:03. I began to worry that it would be a struggle for me to even get down to four minute kilometres.
“Just relax, feel tempo effort for this loop and try not to worry about the time,” Nic advised. I was happy to follow her direction, and soon the pace started to feel easier. We picked it up considerably between 2-3k and went through 3k in 12:01, putting us back on 4:00 pace. The next 2k were 3:55s and we ended up finishing the first loop in 25:25 for a 3:58/km average. Beth hopped in at this point and I felt the intensity increase immediately. I tried to be polite and ask Beth how she was, but one sentence into our conversation I realized I had better shut up or I wouldn’t be able to maintain any kind of pace increase. When we passed through 1k in 3:40 I understood why I felt this way, but was relieved that the execution was actually going to plan. We pressed on and saw the k’s click by in 3:47, 3:43, 3:42 and 3:40, hitting 5k in 18:33. The next 1500m was hillier and more challenging, but we maintained sub-3:50s and finished the second loop in 23:56. Nic had told us to do at least 500m hard at the end, but we made it to 1k in 3:39, at which point Beth and I agreed to stop. I couldn't believe how relieved I was that the execution was over. I SURVIVED. Seeing as the first two kilometers felt so uncomfortable, I was shocked at how well it ended up going - and when I updated Nic on the second loop I think she was pretty surprised too (I think her reaction was something like 'HOLY COW! MOLY WOWY SHEESUS You are fit!').
I actually didn’t feel too tired afterwards, and my legs felt surprisingly good on the cooldown and on my run later that evening. Of course, at work I walked around like an old lady, being careful not to exert myself and trying to allow my legs to recover. I know I make people wonder how on earth I am a runner when I insist on taking the elevator up one floor and when I randomly exclaim that I wish I owned a wheelchair. I don’t bother explaining (more wasted energy).
Part III - Capping it off
My last workout of the week was a meat-and-potatoes effort, where I just aimed to get in the volume but not push the intensity too much, given the hard effort on Thursday. I ended up doing it on my own since I was the only long distance gal at practice. It was 3k/1k/2k/1k, in 11:09/3:27/7:11/3:26. I felt really strong and in control, and was happy to see that I could still put forward decent times at the end of an 85 mile week and off of two other difficult workouts.I made sure to celebrate this week with several shots of vodka on Saturday - an excellent recovery tool - which reminds me of a fantastic quote I found somewhere:
"I love the feelings associated with a hard training run. I love feeling empty, dirty, worn out, starving, and sweat-purged. I love the ache in my muscles and fatigue in my legs. I love and relish the heaviness, lethargy and tiredness of my body. But most of all I love how hard a martini hits me afterwards.”
Meghan kicking ass in her last 500m repeat