Boston Can’t Handle This!

By: Asia Shah

Last weekend marked the first real race-prep workout in our ever-shortening lead-up to Boston 2013! Anyone who as been a part of Team Rogue probably has very salient memories of their own experiences gutting it out during these super-sized workouts and may even feel a bit anxious at the mention of it. However, I find that when the race-preps go well, and let’s be real, sometimes they just don’t, they are some of the most exhilarating and empowering workouts of my life. For this installment of pain there were a grand total of four of us athletes doing the workout.  This small group was the result of multiple goal races within our team, several people using the Austin Marathon as their workout context the week before, etc. In my case, I was running with my hubs while the other two athletes were at different paces than us. Fortunately, I know him well.

The workout consisted of 3×5 miles wherein we were to increase our pace slightly each set. This was followed by a 3-mile progression. With a 2-mile warm-up and ½ mile recovery jogs between sets the grand total for this effort would be around 22 miles. As race-preps go, not terribly long but boy was it hilly!! For those local to Austin, here are a few street names to give you an idea of the rolling (hellish) nature of this route: Pecos, Scenic, Bonnie, Exposition, Northwood…

We started out with a steep uphill in the first 800m and then were able to ride the downhill portion of scenic for a bit. Somehow, we still managed to reach the first mile “too fast” in each rep, which was not too concerning considering it was mostly due to our mad downhill skills. Plus, we would inevitably give up some time during the hills to even out the overall pace of the sets, oh goody! The most difficult aspect of this run was keeping it under control early on so that our paces could continue to get faster towards the end. Patience is key, which is exactly like the marathon itself.  It is oh so tempting to go where those early feelings of pop in the legs lead, which is too fast, too soon. Sometimes the only way to learn this is the hard, painful, gut-wrenching way. Fortunately for me, I have already taken that course (Madison Marathon) and have graduated to a more mature approach to early race pacing.  Still, it is important to keep that lesson in the back of my mind in these situations because emotions, good and bad, can get the best of anyone regardless of experience and “knowing better”. We were fortunate during this workout to be in good enough shape that even with faster than prescribed paces beeping across my watch we were in a comfortable (relatively) zone throughout the first three sets.

We made it through the three sets of five miles mostly unscathed and I felt an immediate wave of relief and dread in the face of what awaited. I tend to break things up into easily digested chunks so that I can focus solely on the task in the present moment, one rep, mile, hill, loop, etc. at a time. Entering the workout I told myself that all I had to focus on was the 3×5 miles, and that once that was over any remaining reps would take care of themselves because the bread and butter had been eaten. This works quite well until the moment when you admit to yourself that there is indeed more to come. We felt ourselves lucky when our coach mentioned a last minute course alteration in order to avoid the ridiculous incline and amount of hills that dotted the 3-mile course he had previously plotted. No joke, the entire 3 miles was almost all straight uphill. The point of this segment was to take our beaten, battered bodies and churned-up tortured brains and turn up the heat for THREE. MORE. MILES. WITH. HILLS. During the marathon we can expect to feel this way with as many as six miles remaining (or more, yikes!), yet we will need to keep our wits about us and KEEP. ON. GOING. Similarly, our biggest struggle at this point in the workout was to overcome our mental fatigue and finish strong. With a “nothing to lose now” attitude and a shot of water we took off running for the last time. This last section consisted of two 1.5 mile loops that included Pecos, Northill, and Exposition. Our instructions were to start out around marathon goal pace or a little faster and progress from there. It did not matter by how much, just as long as we pressed the pace each mile. Unknown to us at the time was that we had traded a very nasty course for a nasty one. Northill (I think that was the name) was a surprising combination of heavenly downhill into lactic acid uphill torture chamber. Kam kept saying, “just survive the uphill!” and that was an accurate description of what happened. Twice we had to slog up that thing and attempt to slingshot a hard left onto exposition. Sadly, it was more like we tossed a pebble onto expo, as we did not get rewarded for our heroic effort with an immediate downhill.  Damn. It is my opinion that in running, and in life, the uphills sting so much less if you get to cruise down immediately after. I’m learning that this is unrealistic to expect this. Damn again.

Ending the run with a half-mile pitter-patter back to the start gave us 22 miles for the day. Certainly not the longest one of these monsters we have survived, but definitely one of the best. Even though there were just four of us doing this workout, it felt far less lonely and isolating due to the attention, encouragement, and support of our coach, Jeff. We were able to get water, GU, and input after each rep with several pace-checks and cheers throughout. It’s amazing what someone else’s confidence in you can do for your own waning sense of what is possible. Typically I gain a lot of confidence (or lose it) through the tough workouts that I do leading up to a race. Once in a while I surprise myself by performing above what I feel that my training indicates, but not as often as I would like. I consider this an area that I could stand to improve upon in order to let myself race with fewer limits and expectations. It is upsetting to think that performances come down to a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby my actual potential and fitness are hindered by what my mind thinks it should be, could be, or is not. It is mostly a byproduct of my personality that causes this pattern of thinking along with conditioning from past races and training segments. I train with several people who are markedly different than I am in this regard. They amaze me with how open and optimistic to success they are even when faced with recent sub par training or results that do not logically validate their expectations. Yet somehow, they show up, do their best, and it takes care of itself. I think this mentality is rubbing off on me, slowly but surely. It would serve me well to remember that just because things are not perfect on paper, does not mean that today cannot be perfect (or close) on the roads. As they say, “we don’t run on paper,” which is a hell of a good thing.

In the end, all four of us Boston-bound race-preppers made good use of the perfect 40-degree weather and coaching support to have a very successful workout. Of course, it is just one workout so there is really no use harping on it good or bad.  However, I have come to realize that if I fail to give myself credit and don’t allow those great workouts to echo in my mind for a while, then I run the risk of only noticing and remembering those that went sour. Never being satisfied is not the greatest way to live because it leaves no room for feelings of resolution or content.  Other than an arbitrary personal time goal my biggest hope for Boston 2013 is to leave the course exhausted, satisfied, and hungry for more.

See yah on the roads, my Rogues!

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