I usually don’t have much trouble writing blog posts about various workouts and races, but today I find myself at a complete loss for words. Last night’s FAST workout was simply indescribable. But that isn’t going to stop me from trying to describe it anyway, because in my state of post-run exhaustion and pain, I need a little sympathy.
I should have known when I showed up at the park and Coach Brad said “We have a totally new workout for you all tonight” with an evil glint in his eye, that we were doomed.
Gone were the days of predictable and measurable workouts like 800m repeats and timed fartleks. The coaches had cooked up something completely crazy and we were all going to suffer.
"The workout is easy to understand, but not easy to do," he said.
The coaches had marked off a loop that was a little over a mile long. Within said loop, they had marked off intervals of varying length and hilliness. The concept was simple, run the intervals hard and recover between the intervals. This workout wold be difficult enough under normal circumstances. But the loop in question was insanely hilly, with hardly a flat section to be found. And the hard intervals included both steep uphills and steep downhills. My quads were whimpering already and I hadn't even started running yet.
Coach Brad's instructions were to "run as many loops as you can, and when you think you can't run any more, run one more loop."
Well gee, doesn't that sound fun???
We started out with a short warm-up (1/2 mile) and then proceeded right into our loops. In the map below, I have marked the warm-up route and the interval loop. I have also indicated approximately where the hard intervals were by painting shaky red lines over the map. I apologize for my poor mouse-painting skills. As you can see, the intervals varied greatly in length. And the recoveries were all short. Too short!
As soon as I started up the first hill of the first loop, I knew I was in for a rough workout. I wasn't sure I'd be able to manage more than about three of these loops. They were that bad. I ended up slowing down a bit after my first loop just to keep from passing out and/or throwing up and/or dying. Oh, and did I mention it was 82°? That's not exactly hot, but it's a whole lot warmer than what we're used to running in, so it made the workout that much more difficult.
After my third loop, I was pretty sure that death was imminent.
I was also sure that I was not going to be doing more than five loops. I just didn't have it in me. I had just raced a half-marathon five days ago, the weather was warm, and I was tired. Five loops would make for about a 6.5-mile workout. That was plenty!
But then, as I was getting ready to start my fifth loop, fellow FASTie Yvonne said "You're only doing 5? But you're in the Black Group!" (The Black Group being the highest mileage of the FAST sub-groups.) Great. I had just gotten peer-pressured into running more. Thanks a lot, Yvonne!
So I managed to get through six crazy hilly loops without dying. Although my legs were so fried by the end that they were both numb and in pain at the same time. It was easily the single most difficult FAST workout I have ever had the "pleasure" of doing. And that's really saying something, because we have done some real doozies before.
All in all, last night's workout totaled 8 miles, and the average pace wasn't any faster than my usual easy pace. It's almost disappointing to run so hard and feel so exhausted for such a ho-hum pace. But just looking at the elevation plot (the green graph in the plot below) tells you that this workout was anything but ho-hum.
You know, a workout like this really needs a name. Remember "The FAST"? Now that was a workout that deserved a name. But this workout is even worse (better?) than The FAST. It needs an appropriately evil and horrible name. Might I suggest "Satan's Pitchfork"? It's just a suggestion...
Peace. Love. Train.