Friday, June 27, 2014

6x800m and an Irish setter

In the fall of 2011 I developed a stress fracture. I was a few weeks away from my first marathon and the increased running had finally caught up to me, causing me to take 8 weeks off, miss the marathon entirely, discover swimming and eventually become a triathlete. 

During that marathon training, I was doing regular interval training in an effort to increase my speed a bit. 

Once I returned to running in the early cold days of 2012, I avoided doing anything other than regular running for fear of reinjuring myself. After a while that just became the norm and I no longer did interval training at all. I just ran. Short distances. Long ones. Always at the same pace. 

Yesterday, a full 2 1/2 years after my post-stress fracture return to running, I did interval training. Why? Because I feel like it's time to kick it up a notch and I am sick of running the same pace. 

Guess what happened? 

I remembered!

I remembered how much I used to love intervals. The easy warm up. The tough push to keep running right to the end of the interval even though your lungs are heaving and your legs are screaming. The wonderful, blessed two minutes of recovery and then the challenge of doing it all over again and trying to beat the time before. 

I remembered how much fun that used to be. How I never thought I would get through however many we had to do but I always did and always felt great afterwards. The kind of great when your body feels tight and strong and yet your bones feel soft with fatigue. 

As I prepared for this return to intervals I was happy to discover that once around my block is exactly 800m. Since 800m is my favourite interval distance I decided to start with my favourite workout: 6x800m. 

I circled the block twice to warm up, stopped for a minute to stretch my calves and sip some Nuun, and then I headed off for my first one. 

I started off at a gallop and had no idea how long it would take me to get all the way around. I also didn't know if the pace I started off at was sustainable for the entire distance. I was expecting to work hard. I was expecting to be tired. It was not expecting to have to stop 30 seconds into that first interval. But I did. Why? Because a rather large Irish setter I had never seen before was running straight for me. I stopped and calmly extended my hand for him (her?) to sniff me hoping he (she?) was as friendly as they looked. I was sniffed and then, feeling safe enough, I took off again for the last 750m. Followed by an eager red dog galloping along beside me. 

I stopped back at the start and was pleased to discover that I could make it all the way around going as fast as I could without collapsing in a heap. 

The dog got bored about 30 seconds into my rest and decided to explore my backyard. One minute in, it came back and then took off down the street. 

I did my second loop feeling strong and much more confident. I made it all the way around without mishap. Another rest. Another few gulps of Nuun. Blood sugar holding steady at 5.9. 

My third time around I found a man whistling and hollering in the middle of the street. I sighed and stopped again. "Are you looking for a red dog?" I asked. "Yes" he replied looking frazzled in his pyjamas. If he had hair I would guess it would have been sticking straight up. "He went that way" I pointed and took off again. "Thanks!" he yelled and hopped into his car. 

Once I had finished 3 out of 6 intervals, I was already counting down instead of counting up. I knew I should stop at 6 even though I was having so much fun. I did 4 and 5 feeling pretty good I was tiring. Number 6 was pretty tough. I willed my legs to keep going and willed my lungs to keep pumping. They did but I knew it was time to quit. Intervals are about quality as much as quantity. 

I had no idea what to expect for time since it had been over 2 years since I had last done this. Here is how long each 800m sprint took to run:

1. 4:14
2. 4:18
3. 4:15
4. 4:20
5. 4:14
6. 4:20

Good? Bad? I have no idea anymore but at least I have a baseline to work with for next time. 

Even more exciting. I did a total of 6.68km in 37 minutes. I realize I had breaks in there that allowed me to run that pace but it's still pretty cool to be able to run that fast. Even for a little while. 

Next Thursday should have been hill training (another favourite) but I will be in Orlando for the Friends for Life conference. Not sure how many hills there are in central Florida but I'm guessing the hills will have to wait until I get back. 

I am, however, not dismissing the idea of finding an 800m stretch of road, parking lot or whatever to squeeze in an early morning interval session. I'm definitely bringing my running clothes but I think I'll toss in some NUUN and a water bottle too. 

Any readers out there going to FFL? Let me know if you want me to meet up for some 800m repeats on Thursday before breakfast.

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