It is not too often that I think about a single workout in such a way that it warrants its very own post here on the blog. If that were the case, that is pretty much all we would ever be thinking about or talking about here at Run for Dom. In the last 12 months we’ve had 332 workouts spread over those 365 days. That is a lot of running, swimming and cycling.
But every once in awhile there is a workout that sticks with you.
The kind of effort that when I am slowing to a walk after my cool down and I lean against the lamp post a few houses down from ours to stretch my calves and hamstrings I think to myself, “you got faster today.”
Well Monday’s One Off – One On Workout was one of those days.
To narrow the focus even more it was not even the entire workout that was remarkable – but the final final “On” mile that made a great workout a special one.
It was 76 degrees on Monday morning with a stiff breeze blowing from the South, Southeast. The way the route is laid out for this 8-mile run, I would be running the first two “On” miles with very little help. The wind would be blowing into our face for the majority of miles two and four of the session. Only helping ever so slightly over the final 400 meters of mile 4.
But on Mile 6 and Mile 8, my final two “On” miles, the wind would be neutral – blowing across the course as I ramped up my pace and dropped down approaching 5K Race pace. It is tough to create the feeling of “race pace” when you are running alone in the early morning on a training run. This is one of the drawbacks to training yourself and not part of a traditional workout group or running club. You have to create your own intensity and push yourself to those limits without anyone alongside of you or running out in front to pull you along.
It makes for tough training, but in a way, I think it helps me late in smaller races when there is nobody to chase and nobody on my heels. It is those moments where backing off just a hair starts to enter into your mind. The difference between 6:05 pace and 6:15 pace can be measured in pain much easier than pace. Those :10 can feel so much easier on the legs, lungs, heart and mind. It is difficult to continue to summon maximum effort when you are your own pacer.
Running and training alone helps in those cases, but it does make workouts a challenge.
As I was running mile 5 or my third of four “Off” miles, I started to entertain the thought of a sub 6:00 minute final mile. I knew that I was well ahead of the pace I set last Tuesday for this workout – where I ran my “On” miles in 6:52, 6:39, 6:30 amd 6:13.
I had opened things up on Monday morning with “On” miles of 6:28 and 6:14. Pretty darn fast. But would I have enough left on that final “On” mile to push to sub 6:00 min./mile pace? I pressed the thought back down into the recesses of my mind and focused on the next “On” mile that was just about to start on the beep of my watch.
As I made the turn underneath the street lamp and glanced down at my watch, the mileage read 4.99. I took four strides and at the sound of the beep marking the start of mile 6 I dropped back into my up-tempo pace. My legs were firing and my breathing was back on rhythm. A deep inhale followed by an exhale as my third stride landed on the ground. 5K cadence.
I navigated the two left turns that lead to a small incline before making the final right hand turn that puts me right back on our street. Mile 6 finishes just a few houses before you reach our driveway. I kept pushing through to the end of the neighbors yard and listened for the beep. As it sounded I held my hand out under the street light and saw my split – 6:06. I was really going to have to dig deep on the last one.
I slowed back to my recovery pace as I passed our house and picked my way to the end of the street and started the final “Off” mile that featured a slow climb out of our neighborhood. I made the left on Avery Ranch Road and stayed on the sidewalk as the morning commuters were starting to fill the road. My breathing had returned to normal and I braced for the final “On” mile. Time to go to work.
At the beep I tucked my hips up underneath me and lengthened out my stride. Landing my footstrike on the balls of my feet – you could barely hear my Adidas Aegis shoes hitting the road. This was the first time I had worn the shoes since the Boston Marathon.
I powered through the first 1/4 mile and felt strong and solid. The last 1/4 would run itself. It was the middle half-mile where the battle to hold pace was going to take place on a lonely dark street at 6:00 a.m.
I climbed the last short hill, made the left hand turn past the barking dog that always greets me on my way to the jogging trail. Just past his house I turned left for the final time and glanced down at my watch, 7.74 miles – I was ready to start the final quarter.
Breathing was starting to get ragged, but I kept the same rhythm, exhaling on every third footstrike. I passed a woman walking her dog on the sidewalk and I could hear the sweat starting to squish in my running shoes with every footfall.
I jumped the curb to the entrance to the jogging trail, make a sharp right turn and after 7 or 8 strides I heard the final beep marking the end of mile 8.
I waited a few strides before I glanced down at my watch. Hoping to see a sub 6:00 minute mile – but knowing it was going to be awfully close.
I slowly jogged the final .50 miles to the house along the trail enjoying every bit of the end of the workout. An outlandish goal I had set after last week’s workout – I thought that if I stuck with this session I might have a shot to break through in 4 or 5 weeks.
Instead, I dropped a 5:57.4 mile at the end of a tough workout on my first “real” attempt. Whether or not we are ready to run a course PR at Holland on Saturday or if we can muster a sub 19 minute 5K on that course we are going to find out. Race day weather, health, nutrition and “having” or “not having” it on race day will of course all come into play as they always do.
But for this one morning in June. We were faster than we’ve ever been, and that’s something.