Thursday, August 20, 2009

I thought I was done with hills

I managed to complete two 95-mile weeks chock-full of hill workouts while on my annual military tour these past two weeks. I breathed a sigh of relief over the weekend until I realized that I had an equally busy work schedule when I returned to my regular job and was facing my toughest training week to date for this training cycle.

While this week’s mileage remains the same as the last two (95 miles), my coach squeezed in an extra hard workout on Friday. This week has 50 minutes of hills scheduled for Tuesday but I did them on Wednesday, 10 x Yasso 800s on Friday and a marathon on Sunday. While I thought I was done with the hills last week, this week is actually the last week of hard hill training, though the hills never completely disappear.

Tuesday and Wednesday I was scheduled to visit a couple of properties with conservation possibilities in the Merced area. Tuesday’s meeting was at 8:00 a.m. in Mariposa County. My colleague and I decided to drive up that morning. I had a double scheduled for Tuesday and an easy run scheduled for Wednesday. To get my two runs in Tuesday, I had to start my short run at 4:00 a.m. and then do the long workout in the afternoon in Merced.

When the alarm went off at 3:45 Tuesday morning, 4.5 hours after I had gone to bed, I began reformulating my running plan. While dozing on and off, I tried to figure out alternative run options and decided I would hope for a good treadmill in Merced at my hotel. I lucked out and found a nice little facility with 2 treadmills, an elliptical trainer and weight bench that overlooked the pool and Hwy 99--very scenic.

After our morning tour, I ran 7 miles on the treadmill Tuesday afternoon and did two rounds of my weight training circuit before meeting my colleague for dinner. It was good to get the weight workout in earlier in the week even though I knew I would feel it in my hill workout the next morning. This is a constant challenge for me: trying to schedule these weight workouts on days where I'm not dead tired and where I won't negatively impact a hard workout. I have found it to be impossible to achieve both of these goals consistently and generally end up going into a hard run with tired legs rather than compromise a recovery day.

I got a good night’s sleep Tuesday night, maybe a little too good. I slept in a longer than I should have before hopping on the treadmill again for what ended up being a 12 mile workout. My schedule prescribed 12-14 miles with 10 x 5 minute hills at half marathon effort with 1 minute jog rest in between the hills. I was supposed to finish this with 10 strides.

The treadmills were high tech in that they had TV built in including closed caption, but they were quite wobbly. It was a challenge to stay on the thing while running up a hill with sweat running into my eyes as I tried to read about Michael Jackson’s doctor’s latest video release and Michelle Obama’s fashion faux pas wearing shorts out in public. It was a big news day!

For the hills, I started the incline at 5% with the speed at 8 mph. This was steeper and faster than I did last week's 45-minute uphill workout even though this workout was supposed to be at an easier effort. I monitored my heart rate (HR) and found that it stayed well below my lactate threshold HR range, so I went with it.

After about 5 repeats, my little fitness cubby started to fill up. A man jumped on the elliptical trainer to my right and started gutting out his workout. Then, a very orange woman I would guess to be in her 50s showed up at the door wearing nothing but a spray on tan, a turquoise bikini and tennis shoes. She first went to get some water at the special water cooler in the corner but surprised me when she hopped on the treadmill next to me. She was in pretty good physical shape and began her jog/walk workout speeding up and slowing down erratically on the machine while it was set at a constant speed. Throughout the workout the machine would make these loud clunking noises, which caused elliptical guy and me to look over with alarm. She sort of shrugged her shoulders and looked confused, but kept on going. Eventually, she finished her 10-minute workout and headed for the pool.

I started to panic a little as I was running out of time and still needed to get in a couple more miles. I did a quick recovery jog after the last hill repeat and then started cranking up the treadmill. I found myself pushing 6:40 pace and feeling good, so I decided to run the last mile at goal marathon pace (6:18) so I could watch my HR. I started with the incline at 0 and my HR stayed steady at around 155. I decided that this wasn’t a true test so I set the incline to 1% to make up for the lack of wind resistance of running on a treadmill vice outdoors. My HR got up to 158, but went no higher. I don’t know what this means, but it made me feel good that my HR was relatively low (85% of max) at goal marathon pace after a hard workout.

By the time I finished, I had 30 minutes to get back to my room, shower, pack and check out. I became seriously panicky about getting breakfast when I got down to the lobby and one of my coworkers was already there waiting there for me. I grabbed my 8-cup plastic container that I had used for my yogurt, granola and fruit breakfast the day before (rinsed out, of course) and started piling heaps of oatmeal, mini donuts and muffins into it. I must have looked homeless to the people in the restaurant, but I got plenty of food!

We had a lovely day in the field followed by a long ride home where I finished off 19 miles for the day running 7 miles with 10 strides.

I also found out this week that my little scheme for getting an automatic appointment to the US Military Marathon Team for 2010 based on my medal at the last championship race in Belgrade wasn’t approved by the governing board. So, I will have to compete for a spot on the team at the Marine Corps Marathon on October 25th, 3 weeks after Twin Cities. I am anxious about doing this, but it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, right?

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