For a long time, I have been toying with the idea of writing more about my training sessions with elite runners. By some stroke of luck, I ended up married to a very smart and hard working woman who got a job as a college professor in one of the best places to train in the country. For me, this means that my training venues overlap with ZAP Fitness-Reebok, a training center for some of the top American distance runners. While I am by no means an elite runner, I can jump in some workouts here and there and hang on for a glorious few reps before I am unceremoniously dropped. I've been joking with the guys over the years that I should start a blog called "Off the Back" to talk about being a solidly NON-elite runner who tries to hang with elites from time to time. So here we are. I'll try to keep this a regular thing so I can share a little bit about their world and why I try to be a part of it now and then, and also share some lessons for the rest of us "regular" people who want to get as much as we can out of our somewhat-less-genetically-favorable bodies. Maybe I'll get to the point where I run enough workouts that I won't be Off the Back just once or twice. Only hard work and time will tell.
My training schedule from my coach and training partner, Peyton Hoyal, called for 12 x 1k at a HMP-ish rhythm this weekend. I have been feeling pretty solid this week and my legs are starting to turn over nicely after racing the Blue Ridge Relay a couple weeks ago. So, when I saw the ZAP training email last night mention a "moderate" stimulus for the guys, I knew it was a good chance to jump in a workout. I'd always rather run with a group and hit things a bit harder than do a long session by myself.
Side note: When an elite coach mentions a "moderate" stimulus, this is a trap. It's a hard stimulus for you and me. The plan was to open at a controlled 5:00-ish pace, and shortly after the 1k mark of each rep (where I was peeling off for a recovery piece), the rest of the guys were picking it up to complete full 1500s for each rep. Not moderate, at least not for me.
Here's the fun part, though. I hung tough for 6 reps, I didn't get in the way of them having a good session, and I got to feel a handful of fleeting moments of what it must feel like to be at their level. I always make sure to take a spot in the back of the group for every interval so I don't mess up their session, but I really felt relaxed and a part of the group for most of the workout. My hope was to average about 3:10 per k, and I hit splits of 3:08, 3:07, 3:10, 3:08, 3:05, 3:10, 3:16, 3:16, 3:15. I was generally able to tuck in and keep right on track until I had just a few reps left, at which point I just focused on staying relaxed and finishing out a quality session. For those last 3-4 reps, I definitely wasn't a part of the pack for the entire interval, but I was right there for the most part. I'm slowly learning to switch off my doubting brain and just run with the guys.
Here's the part where all the other running coaches out there are screaming at me because I broke rule #1 of pacing an interval session. I ran "too fast" for the first half of the workout and didn't finish with my fastest reps. But I think of these sessions this way: How else am I going to take my 36-year old body with an arthritic knee and 2/3 of a hamstring on one side to the next level? Sometimes, you just have to lean forward and see how long you can hang on to build fitness and mental toughness. A couple of years ago, I'd be cooked after the opening interval. If you want to run faster, the best solution is to run faster. I'm going to keep hanging on as long as I can, and I'm going to keep going off the back. I'll never be an elite runner, but it's fun to feel like one even for those fleeting moments on days like today.
Full workout details (for me) at the link below!
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