February 16, 2006

Footloose and Fancy Free My Ass

Morning Workout
45 minutes
Three 2-kilometer repeats on the track.
Heart Rate Zone: Steady State Threshold (Zone 4) for the 2km repeats with two minutes of easy running between each painfully fun set.

50 minutes
2000-ish yards
Main Set: 4 x 200 yards (about 25 seconds rest between each) + 3 x 150 yards (30 seconds rest between each)

Random Comments: I've never done 2km repeats before. I've run 400m repeats until my legs give out. I've run enough 800m repeats until my insides turned outside and back again. But these 2000m repeats are a different animal. It really starts hurting from the first step. By the 3rd lap of each repeat I was gasping so much I actually entered some altered state of peacefulness which somehow got relayed down to my legs who suddenly found the energy to speed up for the last 2 laps around the track. I'm not taking any responsibility over those actions. I was just an innocent bystander - my body was doing all the work.

I used to be a fast runner. I mean, I was no 4 minute miler or anything, but I could clock in a 5:15 here and there. Even on race day, I could maintain a fairly rapid pace that had me in the upper ranks of finishing times. I definitely could hold a sub-6 minute mile pace for at least 3 miles, if not 6.2. It was because of all those speed workouts that I did at the time. I speed workouted myself to oblivion and back. Basically every run was a speed workout for me back in my 20s. What I'd do everyday is go out and run as far as I could as fast as I could. And when I couldn't go any further, I'd turn around and run back home faster than when I left. I'd make it hurt as much as possible, and then increase it even more. You could say I was a bit like Rambo in that way. (You'd be completely wrong, but you're more than welcome to say it anyway.) I'd like to say all that painful - and stupid - working out built up a lot of character in me. But, nope. Didn't work out that way. Sorry.

I remember those fast years very fondly. But that was many moons ago. I was a younger lad back then. All footloose and fancy free, as they say. Today, well... I'm old. I don't have any feet that are loose, not to mention all the rest of my joints. And I am neither fancy nor free.

All this information really hit home this morning.

As I mentioned, this morning's workout consisted of three 2000m repeats on the track. I vividly remember every step of the first two repeats as if it just happened this morning. Which, coincidentally, it did. The third 2km repeat, on the other hand, is kind of a blur. Rather than focusing on my running, I spent most of the time on that last jaunt working the rusty abacus of my mind to try and figure out how fast I'd been running the mile. Cause I gotta say, it didn't feel like I was going that quickly. 2000 meters is the same as 1.25 miles, so you can probably imagine the calculus I had to pull out of the cobwebs of my mind to fully determine the time it took me to run 4 of those 5 laps. By the time I finished the third 2000 meter repeat, I had it all worked out. I was running 7 minute miles, I figured. Granted, on the first repeat I ran a 6:59 mile, but that's as good as 7 minutes anyway. And granted number two, I was not going at 100% the entire time. In fact, it was more like 94%. Maybe even 93%. Afterall, the workout said I had to keep my heartrate between 163 and 166 beats per minute, and surely that ain't 100% effort.

All this justification didn't really help me though. My legs didn't feel like they could've moved a heckuva lot faster and my body didn't feel like it could've gotten around the track any quicker without the help of, say, a Vespa. On top of that, I seemed to have grown blisters upon my blisters upon my feet. I'm not getting old, I realized, I've already gotten there.

The thing is, I know I'll never see the brighter side of 6 minute miles again, but I still want to dream about it. I still want to think fondly about those years. And I still want to think that if I put the energy into it, if I ran really fast around the track just enough times, maybe once - just once - I can hit that speed again.

But the thing is that I know (and I'm so close to accepting the fact) that I'm a middle of the packer. That's what I am and what I will always be. And I know that somewhere out there are a whole gaggle of young 20-somethings who are spitting out 5 and 6 minute miles right now as if it were child's play. And you know what? It is. It is child's play. And I'll tell you what... I'll see those damn whippersnappers in another 20 years. In fact, I'll stay right here and wait for them - right here firmly and proudly in the middle of the pack.