Winter has arrived in Central Illinois. Not in the astronomical sense, of course (because it's not technically winter until December 21), but definitely in the meteorological sense. As I type this, there is a blizzard outside. I'm not even exaggerating. We are under an actual Blizzard Warning. It is so windy that the blowing snow is creating white-out conditions, and it is bitterly cold (current wind chill 4º). Doesn't that sound awesome?
Nobody? Well thank goodness, because I don't want to go out there either. I HATE the cold, and I HATE winter. December has been brutal already... I don't even want to think about how awful January is going to be. And have I mentioned that I HATE winter?
At least there is one good thing about winter: Winter FAST. Without it, I would be lost. Sadly, Winter FAST only meets once a week. But the winter running season is typically more about base-building and working on strength, form, and endurance. So having just one tough group workout per week is okay.
Our first group run was this past Wednesday, and it was great to see all of the veteran FASTies as well as the many new faces. It looks like we're going to have a really big group this winter - probably well over 30 people!
Winter FAST meets at the Riverplex, a local health club that has a large indoor track. This allows us to do speedwork and time trials and the like. There's also plenty of room for Coach Maggie to inflict her unique forms of torture on us. She calls it the "dynamic warm-up", which makes it sound all scientific (e.g, "9 out of 10 exercise physiologists recommend a dynamic warm-up"). But us veteran FASTies know the truth. She just wants us to look ridiculous in public. Take, for example, the "Crocodile Walk". It involves getting into a low lunge position and then swinging the back leg forward while staying in the low lunge position so that you end up lunging on the other leg, repeated several times. While the lunge itself isn't hard to do, it is quite difficult to walk in a low lunge position. Coach Maggie says this move is designed to warm up and stretch the hips. I think it's designed to make people point and laugh at us. I mean, just look at us:
Have you ever seen a crocodile walk like that? Me either. So don't ask me why this move is called the Crocodile Walk. Maybe it makes you easier prey for crocodiles, because let's face it, if you're doing this, you can't run away very well. In which case, I'm glad there aren't any crocodiles at the Riverplex.
After our "dynamic warm-up", we headed up to the track where the coaches told us we would be doing a time trial for our first workout of the season. We were given the option of doing either a 1, 2 or 3-mile time trial, depending on current level of running fitness. The coaches wanted to get a gauge of our current ability. Of course I went with the 3 mile option. After a 1 mile warm-up, I took off for my 3 miles. It was tough, no doubt about it. Time trials are always difficult. But I ran negative splits and managed to avoid hurling, so I consider it a success.
My time was 25:37, which is certainly not a personal record, but I was still proud of it. Why? Because I knew it was an improvement over the last 3-mile time trial I did, which was way back in January (also at Winter FAST). After I got home, I looked up my results from that old time trial so I could compare, and indeed, I ran the 3 miles almost 2 minutes faster this time. In January, I ran it in 27:26, a 9:21 pace. This time, I ran it at an 8:44 pace. That is a marked improvement. Yay me!
And yay FAST! I would not have seen that improvement without the help of FAST. I am very fortunate to have such enthusiastic, knowledgeable and fun coaches. Without them (and without my fellow FASTies) I would almost certainly not push myself as hard.
Of course, without them, I would also not look like a fool doing "crocodile walks" all around the gym. But perhaps becoming a better runner is worth a little embarrassment. And maybe my hips do feel a little looser...
Peace. Love. Train.