Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Six Mile Cutdowns

Had a great workout today.

We woke up to 50 degrees and a light rain.  (A day not unlike workout days back in New Jersey that I remember fondly)  Nothing and no one out there but the red wet track and twenty guys nervously jogging and stretching.  The Texas state capital and Austin skyline are just visible through the mist.  As I do strides during the warmup, I can see myself in long puddles of water that have filled the lanes.

I'm wearing a team issued baseball cap.  Usually I wear it backwards, but today it's forward to keep the rain out of my eyes.  The sound of my footfalls change as my Nike streak flats gradually saturate with water.  They eventually make a deep, mushy, squelching sound.

The workout is six mile repetitions, each run faster than the one before it by eight seconds.  Each mile is run starting every eight minutes, and everyone has a prescribed start time depending on their fitness.  The session is team oriented.  On several of the reps, all twenty of us run in a pack at once, as  many as four or five seconds separating the leader and the end of the line.

The 5:20 mile begins exactly at noon.  As I watch this and the next two groups, I'm anxious to begin.  I know this workout will be a game of anticipation: relatively manageable for the first three to four reps and quickly getting tough near the end.

Craig, Pat, and I on the fifth mile.
I come in with Pat McGregor on the 4:56 rep.  We use this one just to get the blood flowing.  Going on eight minutes yields just over three minutes of rest, a gratuitous amount at threshold pace.  I cross the line at 4:55.

By the end of the 4:48 rep my flats are properly soaked.  I'm glad I've worn half tights in these moist conditions: less chafing.  Looking down, little bits of track are stuck to my slicked down leg hairs.  They've been kicked up from runners ahead of me.  For the early reps I've chosen to hang quietly in the back, letting others practice leading and pack running.  I've run 4:47 for this mile.

Several guys begin their final mile on the 4:40 rep.  Mid way through, coach yells for them to move to the front, shaking up the pace a bit as others are tempted to follow.  I'm having fun encouraging the younger guys around me as they surge ahead to finish their workout.  I run this one in 4:39.

The fourth lap of the 4:32 rep brings the first signs of fatigue.  My hands and thighs are cold, but this doesn't seem to be affecting my running.  I've run 4:31.  During the recovery period, which by this point has increased to about three and a half minutes, I work on focusing up.  I'll feel the two second per lap decrease from 68 to 66 seconds much more than any of the others before.  66 seconds is familiar territory for me: for the past year it's been a staple interval pace.  Today I want to begin pushing my comfort zone faster than 66 seconds.  65 seconds per lap gets a 13:32 5k, good enough to qualify for the US Championships.  Just under 64 seconds per lap is knocking on the World Championships A standard of 13:15.

The group on the fifth rep is McGregor, Craig Lutz, Rory Tunningly and I.  I sense a slight slack in the pace on the second lap, and coming through 800 in 2:14, we'll need to negative split a little to make the time.  It's Craig's last rep, and that helps as he closes hard to finish.  I follow him around and cross the line in 4:23.  I keep running, going straight inside the field house for my spikes.  Lacing them up on the bench outside, I clear my mind and get ready for the sixth mile.  I've never broken 4:20 in practice before.

It's just McGregor and I now.  We come through 400 in 64, right on pace.  Pat speeds up, having decided to stop halfway.  Through 800 we're at 2:09, and even though I'm working harder and harder, I know the pace is slowing.  The third lap is the toughest part of this workout.  I focus on my breathing and form, trying to relax.  These are the moments that hone mid race instincts: the natural impulse to stay on pace, to close gaps.  At 1200 I see 3:15.  I'm three seconds slow but feel that I have some power left in my legs.  I don't want to race the final lap, but I'm prepared to build the final 300 to make up that time.  After taking a lap off, Pat comes back in ahead of me.  I'm grateful for the help.  The final 200 is tough but I make sure not to strain.  Guys cooling down on the infield are reminding me to pick my knees up, to get to the line.  I cross it, stopping my watch in 4:17.9 .
Pat and I finishing the final mile in 4:17
Workouts like today's mean big things for where I am and where I'm going.  It's only January 8th and most runners don't want to be in super shape right now.  But I feel strong.  Base strong.  This fitness isn't derived from a bunch of intervals I've done in the past three weeks.  It's the fitness accumulated over years of nearly uninterrupted training.  I believe I can only go up from here.

Friday is a mile at the Arkansas(#1) vs. Texas (#3) Duel.  It'll be a fun one.

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