It's a running shoe! It's a cake! It's both! Although I'm pretty sure fondant, buttercream and devil's food cake don't offer much in the way of cushioning or stability. So we'll just skip the run and eat cake instead.
My birthday is also apparently a good time for my coaches to inflict all manner of pain and torture upon me and my teammates.
In all fairness, yesterday's FAST workout was one of my favorites. You all remember "The FAST", right? It's a tough workout, but the combination of hills and speedwork give it nice variety to keep it from getting boring (not that anything we do at FAST is ever boring). We hadn't done this workout since late last summer, so it was a pleasant(???) surprise when the coaches sprang it on us last night. The concept was simple: alternate 800m hills with 800m flats, with very brief recoveries between. As a member of the (unfortunate?) Black group, I had to run four sets of these, which really wasn't too bad. It was a shorter workout than we usually have (remind me to tell you all about last Thursday's 9 mile extravaganza of 800m repeats sometime).
I should've known, though, that a short workout meant the coaches were up to no good. They had a special birthday surprise for me in the form of, you guessed it, a maintenance mile. But this gift wasn't just for me. No, it was for all the FASTies. As Coach Brad put it, "The maintenance mile is a very large cake, and everyone gets a slice!"
That was not the kind of birthday cake I had in mind. *scowl*
The last time I ran a maintenance mile, which I remember quite distinctly because it hurt like hell, was during Winter FAST on the blissfully flat and climate-controlled indoor track (in a time of 7:24). Now I would be running a very hilly, hot and humid mile. Given how sluggish I had felt during the workout, I did not expect anything better than 8:30. And even that might be pushing it.
Coach Maggie wrote down everyone's predictions; whoever ran closest to their predicted time would get a Running Central gift certificate. Oh, and there were no watches allowed during the maintenance mile. I was exhausted and overheated and there was a big hill on the mile route, so I predicted 8:45.
Brad started several of us together, since he was the timekeeper. I tried my darndest to keep up with speedsters Tim and Brian, but I only made it about 10 feet before they took off like rockets and left me in their dust. I settled into a painful-but-not-quite-nauseating pace and tried to remind myself that it would all be over in just a few minutes. Then I got to the big hill and suddenly a few minutes felt like eternity. I was positive my pace had slowed to a crawl and that I would be lucky to finish this mile in under 10:00. I crested the hill and sailed down the other side, taking advantage of the "recovery" to get a little bit of my breath back, and then rounded the final corner to the mostly flat final portion of the route. Before I knew it, I was making my push for the finish and Brad was calling out my time.
Huh. Turns out I had more juice left in me than I thought I did. It wasn't a great mile by any means, but it was a whole lot better than I thought it would be. Needless to say, I didn't win the gift certificate (but big congrats to Brian, who did win it with his super-speedy 6:16 mile that was only 4 seconds off of his prediction. Talk about great pacing!).
So to sum up: For my birthday, my wonderful coaches gave me "The FAST", a maintenance mile, and no cake. There's something seriously wrong with this picture.
But the fact is, it's "gifts" like those that have made me a better runner in the last year. The numbers speak for themselves. In the last year, my average run pace has improved by nearly 1:30 per mile (that's right, a minute and a half... per mile!), my average run distance has increased by over 2 miles, and my weekly and monthly mileage has almost doubled. I am also running more days per week. Just this last month (May), I ran a record 185 miles. Also in the last month, I had a record mileage week of 48 miles. And the strange thing is, I'm not even really training for anything at the moment. I'm just running because I can and I want to.
I definitely wouldn't be where I am today without the pain and torture of FAST. So maybe their birthday gift to me was appropriate, even if it wasn't very much fun. Although I still think that some post-maintenance mile cake would've been nice. I mean, come on guys, we gotta refuel!
Peace. Love. Train.