Regardless, it's been my Thursday morning for the past few months. Speed work, that is.
So you are probably thinking, "There she goes again, talking about these running terms that I don't understand." I find myself doing this quite frequently these days - I told Brian a whole story about taper madness and fresh legs v. dead legs, and he just sat there looking at me, blank-faced. When I finally got to the punchline, gleefully punctuating various parts of my tale with hearty laughter, he responded in a flat voice, "I have no idea what you just said," and walked away.
Speed work: short, fast intervals with recovery jogs between; increases your leg turnover and maximizes your stamina and race confidence.
Now that we are all on the same page, you may recall I started speed work last fall in preparation for the full marathon. My first attempt was nothing to write home about. Chained to the treadmill, I gasped, wheezed, and clawed my way to the end of seven agonizing miles, walking at various periods and cursing everything about running, myself, my shoes, and the wretched gym that surrounded me.
During that miserable workout, a certain Academy-award winning actor walked past me. We made eye contact and he gave me this face that said, "Aw. Poor chubby girl. Running too fast."
I don't want to name him but let's just say, I don't think he's leaving Las Vegas anytime soon. I mean, if he did, he might have to hop a flight and it just might be Con Air. I know he appreciates his privacy and I'd certainly hate to have a face/off with him. One might argue he's a bit of a national treasure, so let's give the guy some space, okay? He likes to workout and deserves a bit of personal solitude.
(Btw, yes, we were all really excited when we first saw him at the gym. Brian once even stood behind him in line at the cafe and recommended a smoothie to him. [I heard that and was like, "What?! How do you know he likes pineapple?? I don't think you should talk to the famous people!"] It was cool seeing him the second, third, and fourth time, too. And then, after awhile, you realize he's just a person too and probably doesn't like fame all that much. I mean, you can't go anywhere without someone recognizing you or staring. Heavy lies the crown.)
Back to my story. Speed work eventually got easier, I got stronger, and this person - let's just call him Mr. C - was no where to be found throughout the fall months. Glorious. I started speed work again in the winter to prep for the Summerlin half and had no problems. I found my miles growing, my speed accelerating, and at times, it felt like I was flying. Speed work was becoming one of my favorite workouts, ever! I could barely stop smiling as I ran. Weeeeee!
Until two weeks ago.
The plan in front of me told me to warm up for a mile, run 5 miles at a 8:06 mile, and then cool down for a mile. (technically this is a tempo run, but let's not split hairs). 8:06 is fast for me - I'm no cheetah. More of a tenacious mountain goat, really. This was really pushing it, but I was ready. After all, I had just completed 5 miles at 8:13 the week before with zero issues. I was in the zone! I was ready!
I almost passed out on mile 4.
Like, shaking, numb arms, light-headed dizziness. The gym turned into a sauna within seconds and I found myself inexplicably reaching for the STOP button. I never reach for the stop button. A quick self-diagnostic check reveal my legs were fine, my back felt fine, and my feet were okay. The only thing I couldn't do was breath. Just a minor thing. Who really needs oxygen anyways?
I squeaked out the last few miles at a disappointing 8:34 pace, confused and concerned. And then, in a moment of sheer irony, I thought, "It would be really funny if Mr. C was here" just as he walked by.
I actually looked around the room for cameras, thinking I was being punked.
The following week, same story. Struggling to breath on mile 4. Drop my pace slower and slower. Had to hit the stop button twice. And then - AGAIN - he walked by again. Same track suit, same iPhone, same look of pity from so many months ago. He was probably wondering why that chubby girl keeps torturing herself on the same treadmill, week after week.
Whatever, Mr. C. Mind your own business.
By now, this whole situation had become a running joke among my friends. Several people were in the cafe while I was running and managed to snap a picture of him. They sent it to me with the caption, "It's a good thing you left when you did." I replied, "OH I KNOW. STILL HERE. STILL RUNNING. CURSE HIM!!!"
It's not like I'm starstruck and get nervous by him. It's not like he's even talking to me. It just seems that whenever he's in the building, I can't freaking run. It's a bizarre coincidence I'm pinning all on him (not me!) and it's making me CRAZY.
(one could reason that 5 8-minute miles in a row are a bit of a stretch for my level of fitness, but then we would lose the lovely narrative quality of this story, right? So just go with me.)
Today, I changed it up. It was, after all, my last speed workout before the half marathon next week. I had one last chance to get it right and nail those 8 minute miles. I decided to pull a fast one on old Mr. C and go LATER than usual to the gym. See, he's usually there earlier; maybe if I sauntered in around 10:30, I'd avoid another bad workout. I patted myself on the back for my clever thinking.
And two minutes into my warmup, guess who walked by?
Instead of freaking out, I channeled my inner Scott Jurek and remembered what he told me: dig deep. (and by the way, why can't HE workout at our gym? Now that would be inspirational!) I watched Mr. C mosey down the aisle, wearing oversized sunglasses and his black and orange track suit, and told himself, this doesn't matter. His presence doesn't matter. He's nothing but a ghost (rider) to me. I AM BIGGER THAN THIS.
It worked out just dandy. I got my miles in, didn't drop my speed, and never touched that nasty little STOP button. Kim for the win!
While I'm pretty sure this issue has been put to bed, my only concern is next weekend. I can already picture me lining up in the 1:50 corral at the Summerlin half starting line, only to turn around and find myself staring at him.
Then I'm really going to have to kick-ass.