In my five short years as a runner, I've had some very emotional running experiences. There was the time I finished my first 5k, and the time I finished my first half-marathon, and probably the most emotional one - the time I finished my first marathon. Yes, the firsts are always emotional. But so too are setting new PR's and meeting huge goals. There was the time I achieved (rather unexpectedly, I might add) my super-stretch marathon goal at the Flying Pig - I cried wee wee wee all the way to the finish line. And I got a little misty-eyed at the Icebreaker when I finally broke 5 hours.
But never before have I had an emotional training run.
One of the things I love most about FAST is the element of surprise. We never know what the workout is going to be until we get there. So there isn't any chance for us to get anxious or nervous or calculate target splits or anything like that. The coaches tell us what to do and then we have to go right out and do it. And last night they gave us a doozy of a workout that I am especially glad we didn't know about in advance.
*cue dramatic music* The three-mile time trial.
It's not the first time we've done this workout. You may recall that this was actually the very first workout of this Winter FAST season. And you may also recall that I ran that time trial in 25:37. Not bad. Not a record by any means, but not terrible. That time trial allowed the coaches to establish a baseline for each FASTie. So it's not surprising that they would have us do it again, near the end of the winter season, in order to measure improvements.
Let's take a moment to review terminology, shall we? The time trial is basically a race (against yourself). An as-fast-as-you-can-go, balls-to-the-wall, run-til-you-puke timed distance. No two ways about it - it is painful. If I had known about it in advance, I may have been tempted to skip it.
But I was not forewarned. So I had no choice but to run it.
I figured since I still only a couple weeks off my marathon, and I haven't done any sort of speedwork in 4 weeks, and I'm still getting back up to my normal weekly mileage, that there was no way I would improve over my baseline time from December. I decided I'd just run the best I could and try not to be disappointed if my time was significantly slower.
And so after a 1 mile warm-up, I began my 3 mile journey. I didn't even bother to reset my Garmin after my warm-up, because I just didn't think it was that important - I wasn't going to be tracking my time during the run, and it's too complicated to figure out how lap splits correlate to pace anyway. The track is 7 1/3 laps per mile - that kind of math is way too advanced for an oxygen-starved brain, and I have demonstrated many times in the past that I am not good at math while running. Fellow FASTie, Kristi, can attest to this.
And so I simply ran. And every lap, I clicked my lap button - I knew I needed to get through 22 laps to make exactly 3 miles. But I only looked down at my Garmin occasionally to check my lap count. I had no idea what kind of lap splits I was running, or what my time was. It got really intense really fast, but I expected that. I tried not to back down in my effort.
Before I knew it, I was coming into the last lap. I dropped the hammer and gave it everything I had left (which wasn't much). Fortunately for everyone involved, I didn't puke. They really do frown upon people puking on the indoor track.
After I caught my breath, I looked at my Garmin time. 35:03. I thought my warm-up time had been 11:33 (but I wasn't positive), so I just needed to do some quick math to figure out my three-mile time. At first glance, it looked like maybe I did improve over my December time, but my brain was still oxygen-deprived and I needed to do the math on paper.
Huh. That didn't seem right. I rubbed my eyes and put pencil to paper again and came up with the same result. I still didn't believe it. I found Coach Brad and showed him my math and asked him to please check my work because I didn't trust it. He verified my math was correct.
"But that's a 7:50 pace!!!!", I yelled, incredulous.
"So? Why do you seem so surprised?" he asked.
I just stared back at him, mouth agape, still not believing my time.
"Hey Maggie, I think she's gonna cry!" he joked. We all got a laugh out of that, but I really did feel emotional about the whole thing. I had never run at a sub-8:00 pace for more than a mile. To run three miles at a sub-8:00 pace was a huge accomplishment for me.
Still, I doubted myself. I thought "Well, maybe I accidentally ran 1 lap short. Or maybe I didn't remember my warm-up time correctly." I was anxious to get home and analyze my Garmin data so I could uncover the truth!
Well, as it turns out, the truth is I didn't run a 7:50 pace for three miles. I ran a 7:46 pace. *jaw drop* *faint*
Yep, my time trial time was actually 23:19, not 23:30. I ran the numbers over and over again in Excel and got the same result each time. I ran the correct number of laps, and that was really how fast I ran them. And that is more than a two minute improvement over my December time trial.
Not only that, I ran negative splits. My mile splits were 7:49, 7:47 and 7:42. And my final lap was my fastest, at a blazing (for me) 7:20 pace. It truly boggles my mind.
And as if we needed further proof of how hard I was actually working, my heart rate graph is really a sight to behold.
My actual maximum heart rate is 194. It takes a lot for me to actually hit it. Even in most races, I rarely get that high. But I hit it last night. And then I died.
But I got better!
And as you all know, there's really only one way to celebrate a victory like this: with cookies. And so I enjoyed some very tasty home-baked chocolate chip cookies - one for every mile I ran under 8:00.
*munch munch munch... burp*
Peace. Love. Train.