Friday, February 02, 2007

Perserverance pays off

Waking up at 5:15 am, stumbling around sleepily, pulling on tights, strapping on the heart rate monitor, donning T-shirt and long sleeve layers, changing the battery in the footpod, doing battle with the shoes, lurching into the elevator, clicking the watch to start, off and running into the dark, cold morning.

Sometimes I embrace this routine like a reunion with an old friend--warmly, welcoming, breathing in each other's very being. Occasionally, when sleep is short and future goals hazy, I dread it like the approach of a cloyingly musty old aunt -- how do I get out of this? You can't! Just grit your teeth and give her a hug. Ugh!

This morning it was a feeling somewhere in between. I am driven by the thought of Tokyo Marathon just over two weeks away, but I am also getting tired and slightly leg-weary from some recent hard workouts and have a building trepidation of overdoing things too close to the marathon. Late yesterday I learn that we have a work function tonight. If I am to run today it is this morning or lunchtime. Lunchtime offers too little time, involves lugging gear to work, and runs the risk of being scuttled by the demands of work. So I choose morning, and thus, with the familiar "pip pip peep" of my Polar alarm at 5:15, the routine swings into action.

Today it was time for some speed. I was tossing up between four progressive paced post office loops (3.3 km per loop) or four 1600-m repeats at Komazawa Park. For reasons I can't well explain, I chose the 1600s. Last time I attempted this workout I pulled up very sore in my left knee. But I have had my Three Good Weeks since then. I still experience some pain in that old left leg, but it is higher in the thigh and and towards the groin...and quite bearable. The knee has actually been very settled.

I run the 4 km to the park and immediately have to have a toilet break. Good. Better than halfway through the repeats. I continue up to the start line in Komazawa Park and click the split button and I'm off. I'm running pretty hard and it feels fairly fast, but not flat out. It shouldn't need to be as it is only the first repeat. I do not look at my watch and try to run by feel. In the last 500 m I am working hard and breathing hard. This should be a reasonably fast effort I think. At least below 6:10.

I click my watch and am dismayed to see a time of 6:23. What!! I've been running so well lately. Fast, strong. Is it only my endurance system I've trained? Has my VO2 and leg speed gone completely? Do I pull out of this workout now and just go into the marathon on aerobic workouts alone? Finally I decide that, no, whatever happens I am not going to quit. I will finish this workout come hell or high water.

The next repeat I grit my teeth and try to push harder. Surely I have more to give than 6:23!! It gets tough over the last 400 m, which is slightly uphill, and finally I am encouraged to see a more respectable 6:07 on the watch. I have done my best here and don't expect to see any more improvement, so despite hoping that they'd all be under 6:05, at least this is getting closer to the territory I want to be in.

I jog back to the start and push hard in the third repeat. I am more warmed up now, my body more familiar with the hard effort. I focus more on my stride and foot strike, looking for ways to squeeze more out. It's been a long time since I've done intervals. Maybe I am just out of practice. And though I suffer again over those last 600 m, I'm even happier to see a flat 6:00 on the watch. Well, that's more like it. The cobwebs are clearing.

On the last repeat, with great prescience I say to myself, hey, this is the last repeat! and somehow, when I search inside, I find there is actually a little more to give. Oh, it hurts though. That rotten uphill over the last 600 m never gets any easier. But I push it right to the end, scaring the other denizens of the dawn, the old ladies and small dogs, with my hard breathing. Final rep: 5:56! Finally I can feel something approaching satisfaction!

This was not a perfect workout. In some respects it was even a bit ugly having such a wide spread of numbers, but at least there was a steady improvement with each rep. The temperature was only 3 degrees today, so I guess that simply getting warmed up was one of the problems. Ultimately though, I was most pleased with the fact that I simply stuck with it after the bad start and completed what I set out to do. I am sure it blew out some cobwebs. Running the 4 km home I was doing about 4:30 pace and it just felt like a stroll, my heart rate was barely getting over 135 (72%) and my cadence was easy.

When I got home, I quickly did some stretches and a few core exercises as it was after 7:00 and there was no time to linger. But as I picked up my heart rate monitor off the ground and walked slowly towards the front door, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief to have this run under my belt. Nothing could take it away from me now. Neither work, nor the mental contortions of mind versus will. And a feeling of satisfaction and warmth spread through my body. Except for my painfully frozen fingers.


2P said...

Sounds like that cloying aunt left you a reasonable inheritance after all :-)

Nice work with the perserverance mate - you will remember this one over the last 8k in a couple of weeks time.

It is seriously time to start freshening up though.

Clairie said...

Great workout and I can totally be at one with you and that feeling of having banked a good session at the start of the day - I love it!

Now, as for you young man, you need to start believing in yourself and following your own good advice. I hope you have sat down and worked out your taper program for the next two weeks because I don't want to hear of you doing speed sessions when you are feeling tired or that your leg is starting to ache more as you hit the tune up stage and drop the endurance.

Come'on you are smarter than that and deserve to give yourselve every chance you can. CLICK YOUR HEELS AND REPEAT 'I BELIEVE IN ME, I BELIEVE IN ME'

So set the plan in stone and stick to it. When it is there in black and white and you can actually count down "15 more sessions before the marathon" you will be able to focus on each of them and focus also on how you are feeling.

NOW is the time to schedule rest days, TO make sure you are making time to do the stretching and core exercises and that you are maintaining your good diet.

I want to hear reports on the news that there is a strange sighting of a man running around Yoyogi Park wrapped in cotton wool.........might help protect those fingers from the cold too!

Ewen said...

I don't get that one... all my aunts are/were nice! Sounds like it was a bit of a grind.

What could contribute to making those sessions difficult would be 'atrophied' fast twitch fibres ;)

Hope the planned long run goes well. Take it easy - have fun!

Ewen said...

Geez, now I have to go back and read 'War and Peace'!

Ingo said...

I am not sure how you're able to do workouts like this. Didn't we just run a hard half marathon last weekend? All I managed to bring in since then was a hard ATS 10k and then my body demanded REST. I haven't had 2 consecutive days off from running in weeks but now they are needed. While I am writing off this week (blaming the Half) you just keep going! Pretty cool! Hope things will hold up. Ingo

Tesso said...

I was about to say how much I love that early morning routine (I truly do!) ... until you mentioned the temp.

Just think, with the latest dire global warming preditiction that 3 degrees will become 6 degrees :-)

Luckylegs said...

Of course you'll do well in the Tokyo Marathon!

With all that training behind you, every muscle, tendon & tissue is perfectly healthy & you will achieve your goal...I say so!

Scott said...

Excellent post Stephen your Aunt and mine must have used the same month balls.

I did a speed work session yesterday that didn't go as well as I expected either. My number nowhere near yours though.

I was doing my best and not going near where I intended and frankly thinking this speedwork shit is bloody hard, can I keep this up?

It might be like you said, the day or the cold, it was snowing here during yesterdays session, or just that I'm also getting tired of waking up in the dark.

But, although we have different goals for Tokyo it has to be a plus that we have been able to keep to our programs and absorb the extra work without blowing out.

Frankly, I still feel underdone but the best we can do now is chill and expect to see the fruits of our respective efforts come race day.

I heard that the average training session will add about 1% of improved perfomance and a good taper maybe 3 to 5%. So no matter what we think we can do in the training sessions remaining it must be safer to err on the side of a easy taper.

Tuggeranong Don said...

A beautifully writte post, Stephen. What I like about it most was the persistence to stick with it and to deal with the mental niggles mid-run It takes good core strength to do that - in the mind that is!

Thank you so much for your wonderful comments on my most recent blog post. I will be doing another shortly to thank everyone. I have been blown away by what everyone, and most particularly you, have said.

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