Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Quarters, Cramps, and Cross Country

This season’s focus has been on Clubs Cross Country, which is a 6k race, i.e. way too short for me. As the season has progressed, the workouts and races have gotten more and more out of my comfort zone. As you’ll see below, my stomach and mind have been protesting.

A few weeks ago, we did a quarters workout. Doing a billion quarter repeats is the classic toughening workout. Run one lap fast, jog for a short rest, run another lap fast, short rest. Repeat, repeat, repeat. At some point, take a longer rest (between “sets”) and then get back to cranking out 400s. In high school, I remember doing ten quarters on the second day of practice, to weed out any slackers not willing to put in the work. But looking back on it, that workout seems way too hard for day two of high school track (at least on my team), so maybe my mind has warped it. In the book Once a Runner the protagonist does (spoiler alert!) 60 quarters, which leads to all sorts of post-workout unpleasantries, not to mention complete wonderment and awe from all the readers.

Our workout called for 16 quarters (not 60, but still.) We got one minute between each, and after four, we got four minutes until the next set. Needless to say, this was not in my wheelhouse. As per usual, I lined up towards the back, but this backfired when we decided to go one by one down the line for pacing duties; being at the back had me pacing one of the faster quarters. Whoops. So for the first ten quarters, I worried if I’d be able to lead this group at a pace that is the fastest I’ve run 400s since I was 16. When my turn came, I managed it alright, and just like that the pressure was off and I was back to my place at the end of the line. On the very next quarter, I died. Cramped up and fell completely back. I’m not sure if it was because I had just been hanging on for dear life until I did my duty, but after that I bombed. We got another long break before the last set, which helped quell my cramps and I was back with the pack on the 13th, but then again cramped and fell way back on the 14th. With my stomach revolting, my legs refused to go any faster (and my stomach, not my legs, would be sore for 2 days after.) Coach said it was fine to call it at 14; after all, it was a pretty good showing for someone who’s better known for a marathoner’s shuffle.

I was really bummed/embarrassed/frustrated I didn’t finish the workout, but I had at least kept up with them for a significant portion. A few days later, we had a “cross country” workout on a grass field. I had only been to one of these so far, and it was pretty low key. But Clubs is looming, so this one was kicking it up a notch. The loop is about 2k, and we had to do three repeats of the loop, getting faster with each repeat. I think I got dropped halfway through the first, and almost immediately on the second and third. It was not pretty. I realize these girls are some freaking rock stars, but it’s frustrating to get gapped so early. Am I just throwing in the towel? Shouldn't I be able to push myself to stay with them longer? It was a frustrating day.

Back at the track the next Wednesday, I actually did hang with them for the entirety of a workout. (That’s not completely true, I got dropped at the end of the one of the earlier intervals, but then recovered and stayed with them for the rest. Hey, let me have my small victories.) I took it as an encouraging sign, because (to me, at least) it was a tough workout, and I needed to have one of those moments where it totally sucks and you think you’ll never make it but then you hang on and surprise yourself. 

Sunday was the Veteran’s Day 10k. I’ve been looking forward to it since Philly; I knew Army 10 was too close to get over whatever was ailing me, but the Vets Day 10k seemed far enough in the distance that I’d be back to business. Since the beginning of the season, Coach has said I can run a 37 minute 10k, which sounds great (PR!) to me, so now was the time to go for it. The goal was 6 minute pace, as in “do not go out with the other girls” (who are way too fast) but start easy with the hope that I’d have something left to kick it in at the end. This meant running alone, but whatever, remember the old days when I always raced alone? I latched onto two people in the first mile or so, and was feeling good, right on pace. Then one of them sped up, and one dropped back, and I was alone again. No worries, I’m cruising along on pace and everything is peachy. Might even get a 5k PR out of this.

Feeling good around 5k.
In reality, although the first mile was on pace, the next two were a few seconds slow, and there’s not much time to fix that in a 10k. After the turn around, one of my teammates struggling with a hamstring issue (but determined not to drop out!) decided to run back with me. Company again! I certainly felt like her presence was willing me to go faster, but when our splits came, it wasn’t the case. With two miles to go, I knew this was the time to pick it up and find that other gear, but instead my stomach twisted up again and I relived the cramps I felt in the 400 workout. Except I had two miles to go, not half a lap. My teammate was trying to push me to go, but I couldn’t pick it up. Even with the finish in sight, I had no kick. I finished in just over 38 minutes. (A PR, yes, but way off my goal.)

It’s been a frustrating few weeks (as evidenced by the frequency of that word in this post.) Certainly there are excuses to be made (work’s been rough, sleep’s been little, stomach’s been cramping) but I hate making those excuses. I have another 10k coming up on Thanksgiving (my first ever Turkey Trot!), and although it’s a much tougher course I’m hoping for some sort of redemption. Even if it’s not faster, I’d like to at least make it through a race without dying in the latter miles. Get back to the old negative splitting Teals of yesteryear. Of course, it’s much harder to do that as my expectations keep growing...

Dream big,

1 comment :

  1. Big dreams, big challenges
    Small dreams, small challenges

    You go, girl!