Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Edge on the Sword

When this adventure started with my dad and uncle right around now in 2008, they laid out where we'd be going training-wise following the National Half Marathon.  My uncle put it like this: "Think of the distance training you've done for that race as fashioning the sword.  Now we're gonna put the edge on it.  It's time to cut someone." 

Little did I know that that edge would come courtesy of many, many intervals, in many forms.  From 400s up to 2000s, step ups, step downs, mile repeats, and everything in between.  The sum of all these sessions equaled a helluva lot of trips around the track, several evenings alone in the cold, in the heat, just me and some curious deer, coming to the brink of throwing up, backing down, then ramping it back up again -- hands on knees, chest heaving, sour saliva emptying into my mouth.

But, in the end, the results are hard to argue with.  I've watched the steady lowering of my PRs in races from 5K to 26.2. 

My latest "sharpening" came this Saturday morning.  Today became the first of three marathon predictor workouts.  On the agenda was the famed Yasso 800 workout.  It was my first go round with these in any marathon training program, so I was interested to see 1) how it would feel and 2) just how my "predictor" time would work out.

Leading into this workout, I wouldn't call myself nervous, but it's been nine weeks since my last race.  For a time (Fall through New Years), I raced steadily and could see almost instant results from my training.  each race was a new measuring stick.  Now, it's been tougher to get that instant gratification, particularly with all the snow on the ground and the monotonous tracing and retracing of only two loops I can run on.  So I've had to put my faith in the program and just hope it was working. 

I released some of that pressure last week with a solid 4x2000m interval workout.  Again, because of the snow, I had to do 1000 out and back...the first 1000 being a net downhill, meaning, the back end is a net uphill.  That back end left my quads stinging and lungs burning, but, as my uncle also said, "You have to run run fast."  I averaged 5:21 miles and sucked in the relief with those raspy breaths.

So, in addition to juggling loops (over and over and over), I had to juggle my schedule this week.  Due to some extended hours at work, the start of our floor hockey title defense, and a testy IT band, I had to push the Yassos to this morning.

Hoping to actually do this one on a track, my plans were foiled again because...snow.  I drove back home and cut down that 1000m route to 800, got a nice 2 mile warm up jog in and...away I went. 

The first couple felt like all interval workouts: miserable -- the body still waking up, trying to come to grips with the initial shock of the speed and sudden intensity.  Whew!  But by my second set, I'd settled in, the stride smoothing out, the arms driving me forward, the seconds in my favor, and God bless negative splits. 

My initial goal coming in to Boston was to go sub-3 hours.  If that didn't happen, I just wanted to requalify.  And, should it not be on my side that day, I just wanted to enjoy the experience (as much as one can enjoy running 26.2).

When I rounded the last turn back to my house, I clicked the watch, sucked in hard, and glanced at my wrist on its way up to rest on my head.  Some quick math to average out the times (uphill vs. downhill for each interval because of the route).  Drum roll:

Yasso 800 prediction: 2:43

How will I celebrate?  18 miler on the National Mall and Mt. Vernon trail tomorrow.  The edge is sharp.

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