Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Week 16/17: A rough tempo, Yasso 800s and gratitude for great running buddies!

Last Wednesday was my last speed work training session with our Running Room clinic before packing my bags and heading to Toronto and Port Hope, Ontario, to spend some time with family and friends before running in the Toronto GoodLife Marathon.

After dropping the car off at hubby's work, I met our group at the Running Room. It was a bit of a drizzly grey day, but not quite as cold as the previous week, when I'd had to wear my headband, gloves, a long-sleeved sweater and my jacket.

I was a little trepidatious about speedwork on that night, because the day before I'd done a tempo run with the group (three times around the North Commons) and my legs were feeling a little tender. I can always tell when my legs are tired (especially my calves and shins) when I start slapping my feet on the pavement like some kind of crazed penguin. Not gazelle-like at all!

I knew part of my fatigue on Tuesday had been largely due to Sunday's 32k run, so I chose not to worry. Also, despite our efforts to slow our pace on our tempo run, every time Carol looked at her Garmin (mine had died...again...) it seemed we kept speeding up. Andrea had told me that her 12-year-old son Luke had been reading my blog and said, "She needs to slow down." But sorry Luke, I failed at that again, until the pain in my legs forced me to slow down and walk for a bit.

Hence why I felt a little nervous about speedwork on Wednesday. But before we left the Running Room, Andrea handed me a card signed by her, Carol and Wendy - wishing me good luck for my marathon. I was sincerely touched that they'd done this for me, and I held on to my card as we headed down South Park Street to the SMU track at the Tower for speed/interval training.

Some of you may wonder, why start speedwork when we're three to four weeks away from race day? As Bruce explained it to us, we've spent close to 12 weeks building the base of our house - we developed a foundation with tempos and the walls with hills, and now we're putting on the roof of the house with speed/interval training.

From Bruce's email to us: "Up to this point the runs have been done at 1:30 below race pace for long runs to 20 seconds below for tempo. On the program the intervals are done at faster than race pace to prepare you for running at your race pace." 

For me, that means that while I've been doing my long runs at around 6:30-6:50 (for a four-hour finish) and my tempos at 5:30 to 5:45, my tempo should be around 5:26.

Number crunching aside, the point of interval training is to develop your VO2 max and get your body used to running at your maximum aerobic threshold.

Bruce had taught us a few speedwork drills last week, and we started off with them again: lunges for 10 metres, running with knees high for another 10, then running and kicking your butt for 10, then a short 10-metre sprint. I'd watched elite runners do all kinds of drills at the York University track way back in the day when all I could run was a few kilometres, and always wondered what they were doing. Cliff (a well-known Halifax running coach) and his runners were at the track too, and while I'll never be as fast as they are, it's still pretty cool to be eating their dust while we do our training. 

Following our drill, we did six reps of Yasso 800s. According to this, you can predict your marathon time based on how long it takes you to do 800 metres. So if I'm looking to do a four-hour marathon, I should be able to complete the 800 metres in four minutes.

The week before, I was a little sore, so I hadn't pushed myself on the track, but my pace had still been faster than what I'm trying to accomplish. Also, instead of doing 800s I had done 1,600s with a longer break in between. This time, I decided to give 'er on the Yassos, crank the tunes, and just see what happened.

Overall, my pace averaged about 4:47, which works out to 3:47 for 800 metres -- which according to Bruce Yasso translates to a  3h 47min marathon.

Based on that, I should be more than able to achieve my four-hour goal, but if you've read my first marathon story, you'll know that it's not all about the physical abilities. So much of it (I'd say 95% for me) is mental. Really, what matters is that I was feeling good. I may not have looked fast, but I felt it.

As I sprinted around the track on one of my laps, this time feeling a little more like a gazelle and less like a penguin (though a gazelle that was huffing and puffing...and when have you ever seen wildlife look like they're struggling on a run?), I looked up, only to see that Wendy was standing on the sidelines. She had told us that she would not be joining us as she was still recovering from Boston, so I was surprised to see her there. Then out of the corner of my eye, I spotted something neon green from across the track.

As I neared Wendy, I saw that she was holding up a sign. I figured she'd come out to cheer on our group. But as I came closer, I read the words:

My pre-departure surprise from my fabulous running friends
As I rounded the corner on the track for my second lap of the 800 metres, I felt lighter -- as though little wings had sprouted on my shoes. I was Halifax Runner Girl, and I was going to rock this marathon! No matter that the speedsters in our group and Cliff's athletes were still running circles around me. I felt like the world's greatest runner.

It's amazing how knowing that there are folks who believe in you and care about you makes such a difference -- it can give you a boost more powerful than any gel or sport bean ever can. So if you're ever at a race standing on the sidelines, know that your presence there and your cheers do help make our feet lighter and the race easier.

Speedwork complete, I headed home to pack. Among the luggage I carried next morning, as I got into a taxi at an ungodly 4:45 am to take me to Toronto, were the two posters that Wendy had made for me so that my family can hold them up on race day (the other one says "Christine you rock!" :) ).

Although I may not actually catch a glimpse of them on the sidelines, I'll know they'll be there holding up those signs, and I'll also know that there will be a group of friends and my hubby cheering me on from Halifax. No matter how I finish, I'm so thankful for everyone's support and encouragement over these last 17 weeks. I'm grateful to have met a group of amazing friends and runners, and am ever thankful for their support.



1 comment:

  1. And since I may not get another chance to say this, good luck on the 15th! We can swap stories once I'm back. ;)