Tonight was a track workout at Minnehaha Academy, another go at the Yasso 800's. Basic premise of these is that you do 800 meters (2 laps around the track) at the mm:ss equivalent of your hh:mm marathon goal.
They are apparently a good indicator of how you will finish the marathon. Knock out ten sets before the marathon, and with all of the rest of the training, you should be able to predict your time within a few minutes.
It was stormy tonight. Threatening storms, threatening western skies, and when I arrived about five minutes early, people were already on the track. Everybody started as soon as they could. I'd forgotten my watch. Well, truly, the battery was dead, and I hadn't charged it since the weekend. So when i got up to the track, Jan, our coach, just happened to be finishing up with another teammate. I'd mentioned that I was going to "play it by ear" on my pace.
Asked how one might do that.
So we stood near the starting line and took off running together. Her watch would keep track of the pace for both of us.
My goal marathon time, I told her, was 4 hours and 30 minutes. And earlier today, talking to Bernie about it during our status, I felt that maybe I might finish a bit slower. The real goal for all the conditioning, all of the cross-training and speed work, diet, exercise, isn't about shaving minutes off my time from ten years ago: it's so I can enjoy myself. I want to have fun. I want the last six miles to be a joy. So lucky to still be here, twenty years later, to tackle these sorts of challenges.
Now I'm not so sure that it won't be well under four and a half hours.
Jan ran and we talked and I know we were moving at a good clip. The first couple of laps it wasn't a problem. She told me something she'd mentioned earlier in the season, too, when we were running hills: that I had more in me than I let out. Maybe I was sandbagging it. Whatever the case, I had a runner's body, she said, and she knew I could do much, much more. So she pushed the pace, and I followed along.
First 800 meters was in 4:10. Then we jogged 400 meters, and finished then next 800 in 4:04. Add those two together, and you're looking at some of the fastest mile times I've posted all summer. Easily.
Our third 800 was much faster. I was breathing hard, but not sucking wind. Thank you, spin class, for helping me get my lung capacity up (although I'm thinking I can still get it much higher). On our last lap, Jan talked about visualizing the last bit of the Twin Cities Marathon.
"Keep up with me," she encouraged.
I know we were moving fast, but I didn't have a watch, and I was trying to picture the last section of the marathon, downhill, cathedral to my left, running toward the capital, sunny, clear, people lining the roads. It will be beyond amazing this time, I know. So amazing.
As we crossed the finish line together, Jan looked at her watch. "Three-forty," she said, raising her right hand for a high-five. I started jogging again, working to catch my breath, trying to get at least one more 800 in before the rain really started to come down. Jan caught up with another teammate, to help her through her Yasso's, and I worked to get my lungs back under control.
I tried to match my pace as best as I could for my next 800. As I was jogging around the track after finishing that set, the sky darker and more ominous with every minute, I thought about what the goal was for this workout: get as many sets in before the rain started. Why stop now?
As I made my way back around to the start/finish, I noticed Mick and another woman getting ready to start their last set, too. They both blast past me during the long weekend runs. Mid-week workouts, too. I didn't really plan on it, but I started my last 800 a few seconds before they did. And, surprisingly, they never passed me. I kept breathing, kept running, fat raindrops beginning to drop with increasing frequency on the track. I think I picked it up for the last 200 meters, the last 100. Stride. Pace. Breathing.
They crossed the finish a few seconds behind me, as I moved off to the right to jog my way back around one last time. I heard them call out to each other "3:40." Same time as I'd run earlier with Jan. Nice. Very nice.
Add those two 800's together, and I'd put together a far better mile than I'd imagined was possible when I started all of this last March. A sub 7:30 mile? Are you kidding? Next week I think I'll head to out to a local track and see what I can do for 1600 meters. Anything is possible now. Everything is within reach.
It was a downpour by the time I got back to Kim's car, where we all keep our keys. I'd put on my new Team in Training warmup jacket, a bonus prize for exceeding (by far) my fundraising goals. I was soaked, jacket or no.
But so happy.
What a great night.