Never before had my coach warned me about a workout. But on our weekly Monday call, he particularly noted the run intervals he would give me to do this week. “I’m warning you now, it’s going to be hard,” he said.
Seriously, all track workouts are hard. Even the easy ones are supposed to be challenging. But this one came with a warning? You have got to be kidding me.
When I first started doing track workouts, my friend Sue would coach and coax me through the workout. I was a newbie to real speed and interval work back in January and didn’t know where the proper markers were on the track let alone how to pace myself through 200-meter repeats.
Sue had tried to helped me in those early days by breaking down my distances and times. If I was a running a 400, she would try to tell me what time I should be at when I hit the 200 mark.
I vehemently covered my ears.
Thanks, but I don’t want to know.
The pressure of doing something new was enough for me. Pacing concepts were still new and the only thing on my mind was running hard.
Eventually, I started to the knack of it. I started to understand the speed and the recovery and the intervals. I didn’t totally get the physiological science behind how these intervals would help me in a 5K or 70.3 or Ironman. But I knew that I was running faster, more efficiently and I trusted my coach.
So, I added a bit of math to the equation. Comfortable in the milieu of the track, I now can take Sue’s time breakdown as a way to know if I’m going too fast or too slow — as a way to further gauge what I need to do in the next 100 or 200 or 400 meters.
And so comes this week’s track workout — 1000-meter repeats.
I had never done 1000 meters on the track and the two-and-half loops seemed like a lot. And it seemed fast. Coach wanted me to run them in 5:15 to 5:10. (And yes, for good and seasoned runners, that’s not very fast. But it’s fast to me. And to some others it’s lightning pace. So I let go of the judgements of my time in comparison to others.)
Part of me feared the workout. But I tried to clear that thought from my mind. I set a new intention — to run strong, to run smooth, to run fast. My intention this morning was to be an athlete and knock off all five of those 1000-meter repeats, taking each one as it came.
As I stepped to the line, I had no idea what to expect other than it would be hard. Best Boyfriend Mark reminded the night before that it would hurt but it would be over with quickly. I could endure the hurt. That thought would get me through some of those laps.
My breathing was hard but consistent. My mind thought about my form while singing my mantra for the day “I am strong. I am smooth. I am strong and I am smooth.”
First interval done. Watch time: 5:11.
This, I could do.
By the time I got to my third interval, I was pushing back the puke factor. Which was interesting because at that time one of the gym classes from the high school came out to the track for class. They played frisbee football on the turf field while a few others took the option to walk the track. In all honesty, I became slightly tense, wondering if (a) I would get kicked off the track or (b) if I would have to endure anything negative from the high school kids.
But again, I changed my thoughts, let the negativity go and carried on with my workout. The kids on the track were pleasant (though I’m sure I amused them, this 30-something woman in pigtails huffing and puffing around the track) and the teacher warned the others to watch out for the runner.
I actually was glad they were there. They made me smile. I anticipated being self-conscious. But I didn’t let that thought stick. And I kept hitting my times.
Down to the final interval, now alone on the track again, I went about to finish off strong. I checked my time after the first 400. To be on pace, I needed to be right around 2:05. I was at 2:09.
Time to pick it up.
My legs hurt. My arms hurt. My upper core area was hurting. I was sucking in air as fast as I could and hoping I could hold off throwing up until I was near a garbage can.
“I am strong. I am smooth. I am strong and I am smooth.”
“It only has to hurt for three more minutes.”
Final interval done. Watch time: 5:14.
Fear? It was useless.
Numbers? Helpful and motivating today.
Pain? I may have finally understood the notion of it being temporary.