Friday, March 23, 2012

The Track is Back, Jack!

I believe we all have those friends who we seldom see yet when life brings us back together, we slip into the old routine as if no time has passed. I have this same relationship with trails long since run and that perfectly measured oval known as: the track.

With roughly seven months until the Marine Corps Marathon and no big goal races on the calendar for the foreseeable future, it’s time to have some fun. Because readers, this runner has reached his limit of long tempo runs, 2K and 3K intervals, and 14-18mi training runs. Of course we're defining fun as lung searing, lactic acid storm repeats, the kind where you can feel your stomach getting ready to heave but don’t quite let it, or your hamstrings feel like they might seize after a particularly punishing 400.
No more ogling workouts online or in running magazines only to have to turn the page and sigh knowing that that 10K workout isn’t going to do much good for a marathoner.

It was with this in mind yesterday that I laced up my new Nike Elite Zoom kicks and drove to the nearby track. I slung my backpack off my shoulder, moved to the starting line, and started a slow trot around the oval. The sun had begun its descent into the tree line, which did little to shield it from my eyes on the back stretch since not all of the leaves have filled in yet. I felt clunky and out of synch during that four lap warm up, but as the pace quickened on that final lap, I hit the last 100m and felt my canter increase. I caught myself, There’ll be plenty of time for that, I thought.

Remembering my hockey days, a shoddy warm up always meant I had a spectacular performance in store, and for some reason that holds true for my running as well.

Breaking in the new kicks
I moved over to the goal post, went through some dynamic stretches, and then back on the track for some drills. After the last butt kick, I sipped on my water bottle, traded my Elites for my Asics Racers, and there was nothing left to do…except the workout.

I saw this one back in Running Times a few months ago. It’s a Greg McMillan in and out workout where you run 10 laps, using the straightaways to push the pace and the curves to recover. It’s supposed to help increase your turnover, make your stride more efficient, and as the warning said, not be as easy as it might sound.

I set off on my first lap, having already decided to break the workout into five sets of two for mental sanity. I started to sling shot myself around the first turn down the backstretch. When I shut things down heading into turn two, my breath turned raspy, my heart rate thudding. Shit, I thought. This could suck. But before I could ponder it further, it was time to start the second strider.

I barreled down the final 100 and lifted a finger on my left hand to denote number one, set one was indeed in the books.

The workout continued that way. My body settled in after that initial shock, when all signs pointed to STOP!, but the override switch is nearby. And I spent those surges on the straightaways letting the whispers of races past speak to me and perk that adrenaline up some.

When I lifted the final finger, I jogged a mile cool down and finished with some more dynamic stretching. The school was desolate as I walked back to my car. A satisfying ache lingered in my quads and hamstrings that I knew would still be there this morning. A track workout beats you up in ways a marathon workout could never touch.

More fun to come in the next few weeks. I’m just happy to see my old my friend again.

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