Thursday, August 6, 2009

This treadmill goes to -11!

I'm close to the end of a very hectic week performing military duty out at Travis AFB, running 95 miles and practicing for a musical gig this weekend. I tried to make my life a bit easier by staying on base Monday night because I had to run 21 miles Tuesday with 16 in the morning. I was lucky the Dissin' Genius was available to watch the zoo for me so I could do this.

I got up at 5 a.m. Tuesday to start my 16-mile workout which consisted of:

  • a short warm up
  • 5 minutes at goal marathon pace
  • 12 x 3 minute hills @ 10k effort, with 3 minute jog rests
  • 10 strides
Of course, the hills required a treadmill. I felt a little guilty about cheating on Tready until I walked into the base gym and saw the diversity of treadmills I had to choose from. I swear I heard angels' voices call out as a little Jesus light shone from the corner of the gym on them all. I carefully walked around and inspected all of the features before hopping on the one that had a television built in, big buttons for incline and speed and a heart rate monitor. This was my machine.

Within the first minute of running on this machine, I realized that it felt a heck of a lot different than Tready. It felt like I was running harder than I would on Tready at any given pace. I also noticed within the first few minutes sweat pouring off of my forehead. As I started into the marathon pace work, my scalp became a shower head spewing sweat everywhere. I knew then that this was going to be one hell of a workout. I can safely say I have never sweat more during a workout than this one. I literally wrung out my shirt at the end and could have filled a combat boot with the sweat. Ewwww.

The funny thing is that, when I started my training for Twin Cities, my coach really wanted me to try to simulate the hot and humid conditions that may greet me in Minneapolis. The heat I decided I could cover, but the humidity would be hard to replicate during California's dry Central Valley summer. I eyed the rubber suits that I saw Deena Kastor wear to train for similar conditions at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. I decided that would be pretty extreme. So, I proposed running on a treadmill in a gym filled with people as an alternative strategy and my coach agreed that this might work.

I was happy to be right about how well this plan would simulate hot and humid running conditions, but I was not excited about completing 12 miles in it including 10 miles of hill repeats. As I was coming down from one of the uphills, I accidentally pressed the incline button one too many times and it displayed a -0.5%! I had heard about this technology, but I had never encountered a treadmill that did both up and downhills! I was excited about this for about 2 seconds as I tested out running extreme down hill grades. The novelty wore off on the next uphill.

I completed the hill workout, but I didn't feel like I was able to max out my performance running at 4.5% grade between 8.6-8.8 mph. I had done that workout back in January at a steeper incline at about the same paces, so I was disappointed that I didn't replicate that performance. I was very happy to head outside to the slightly-skewed-Sponge-Bob-Square-Pants-shaped track for my final 4 miles and strides.

This track is worth mentioning just because it is so ridiculous. This is where I have to run my timed 1.5 mile fitness test every year. The layout of this track is so effed up that you have to pay attention to running SPR (shortest possible route) after you swing through the near 180-degree turn at the southeast corner. Most runners don't realize that you can cut some distance off of it if you cut the tangents, but this little trick was not lost on me. The track measures 3/8 mile, a standard distance for tracks. This requires you to run an equally standard 4 laps and 454 feet to complete the 1.5 miles. Fubar in action. Plus, there's some topographic relief to this beauty. You run slightly uphill on the east side just before heading into the constant 30 mph winds at the north end and downhill on the shorter western edge. Wow. At least the surface is halfway decent--standard rubber track material with lanes delineated and everything!

I completed my 21 miles on Tuesday night with a 5-miler along the Parkway. I decided to run my easy 8 Wednesday during my lunch hour on base. There's a nice little decomposed granite trail around the base duck pond at the north end of the base that has some great little hills. It's only 1.25 miles long, but it's better than that crazy track. I noticed that it is illegal to run on base with headphones in your ears. Of course, I noticed the signs posted on every major street forbidding this unsafe behavior after I had run 8 miles with my headphones in. Luckily, I didn't get pulled over by the iPod police. That would have led to a court martial and bad chicken dinner for me for sure.

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