The other day I was invited to participate in a track workout by a friend that is a member of the Craft Concept Racing (CCR) club team. If you haven’t heard of this group of competitive ladies, it’s likely you’ll see them at a local road race (or here: http://www.craftconceptracing.com/). Like many of us, these ladies balance family, a full time job, and running. The difference being that they are throwing down some incredible times! I wasn’t about to miss the chance to see the intensity these women bring to the track.
Wednesday morning I hopped in the car and headed into Salem to meet up with the group. After joining my friend Meagan and her friend Kaitlin, we began on a loop that would lead us to Salem High School’s track. As we warmed up and chatted, I found out what the workout today really would entail. Because my training has increased recently, longer runs aren’t too much of a problem. I’m usually fine with just about whatever distance, but this surprised me a bit. So here is goes:
Just listening to this madness made me want to sit on the curb and cry. I’ve never run a half marathon on a track, and there has never been any aspiration to do so, but we were about to get pretty darn close to doing just that. What’s interesting is that I was also likely to set a new half-marathon PR if I was to hit all these times. The odds kept mounting against me and as we approached the school, I got a bit nervous that I’d be able to keep up with these ladies.
Already at the track, CCR and Altra Elite team member Sarah was warming up. She is preparing to represent the USA at the 2015 IAU 100km World Championships in the Netherlands in a few weeks so her workout would be different than ours. Though she was going to be alone in her workout, having more people at the track always makes it all easier. Possibly prolonging the start of this lengthy and (from my perspective) frightening workout, we debated where to put out water bottles and moved a bench to make accessing them on the run much easier. Whelp, there’s nothing else I can do to delay us further. So 1, 2, 3… GO!
I’m terrible at holding a pace. For whatever reason, I have a very hard time sinking into a predetermined speed. There is usually a very inconsistent rhythm to my pace. That being said, I just hung behind Meagan and Kaitlin relying on the fact that they knew what they were doing. I dreaded the fact of having to do a 5k on the track- and then doing two more! The whole first two miles I was dragging mentally and the body in turn felt the negative influence. Other than some residual chafing spots from my long run a few days prior, I was well rested and had no reason to be feeling sluggish. After a brief pep talk, I got my head right and started to focus on really being present in the moment. I was too caught up in the daunting number circling my mind too just let the laps disappear.
It took a little while but I was able to let the mind wander. I thought about my weekend plans, my Vermont 50 race outfit, and how unfortunate it was that even though I was ducked in behind these two ladies circling the track, I was still taking the full force of the wind on each turn because I’m nearly 6-inches taller than both. Through the repetitions we found ourselves swapping positions in our little runner triangle, each sharing the responsibility of keeping the pace.
It was shocking that after the second 5k I still felt somewhat intact. As we did a recovery, Meagan jokingly asked if we thought the humidity was closer 99.7% or 99.8%. My soaked shirt, which was now laying on the track, agreed with her observation. Even though we had remembered to take water through the laps, the weather really beat everybody down. It was a group decision to forego the final 5k and hop in with the end of Sarah’s workout to help her crush the final sets and still get the benefit of shorter, faster repetitions. There was concern that this group of ladies was going to run me into the ground.
There was a point in the final couple miles that I thought about the condition of my legs. I hadn’t really run what I like to call a “systems check” yet today to really see how I’m feeling or if I have enough juice left in the muscles to handle the workload. As I began to lengthen my stride just after the half-mile mark of one of the final repeats, I noticed that my legs were starting to get a little tingly. Usually in a race or on a track, I’ll start to feel my quads fatiguing or my calves not wanting to let me toe off and powerfully. On this day I had none of those sensations. I felt that my form was still fine; knee drive was strong, foot strike was efficient, arms were pumping forward and back (sometimes my hands swing in circles when I’m desperately trying to hold it all together). “Hmm… This is weird… This is GREAT!” I powered through the final half-mile and then the next 1-mile repeat with confidence and finished the morning on a high note.
Now all that was left to do was run a cool down to prevent immediate tightening up, have some chocolate milk (the sweetest post-run nectar), and you know- just go to work on my feet all day. I went to bed really tired and woke up absolutely exhausted. That, to me, is the sign of a really solid workout. It’s been a while since a workout beat me up like that. Everyone did a really solid job at the workout and I bet they all got up to run this morning, too. Definitely keep an eye out for those light blue singlets at races this fall. Those ladies are good people, great friends, and really, REALLY hard workers.