photo by Steve Penland

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

Well, today's "hellacious interval workout" was, indeed, hellacious--but in a awesomely, fantastically good way.  And, since this was my first "hellaciously good" workout since, um, last winter, I'm going to do something different.  Today's blog post will not feature the usual Carefully Crafted Prose (What?  You couldn't tell it was Carefully Crafted Prose?  Dang).  Instead, the rest of today's post will be me shamelessly wallowing in the glory of finally, at last, being able to skate until I almost puke. If you're not into athletes reveling in their latest workouts in agonizing second-by-second detail, you may want to hop on over to I Can Has Cheezeburger and check out some LOLCats or something...I won't be offended (heck, I plan to go there myself after I finish typing).  If, however, you'd like to celebrate with me my Return to Skating Like I'm Supposed to, then come along for the ride!

This morning's intervals, courtesy of Coach TieGuy's somewhat sadistic but extremely clever workout planning, were to go like this: 4x400/200-600/400-800/400-1k/8' @70%.  What does all that mean?  Four sets of 400 meters hard/200 meters rest, 600 hard/400 rest, 800 hard/400 rest, 1000 hard, 8 minutes rest.  70% would be based on perceived exertion and previous lap times.  Last year, 70% was about 43-44 second laps.  This year, 70% looks more like "start with a couple 44's and, by the end, try not to hit 50's."  (Used to be, when I recorded my workouts, I only had to type the "ones" digit--the "tens" was always a 4, unless it was, on a few glorious occasions, a 3.  Now I have to specify whether that "3.2" is a "43.2" or a "53.2.")  But today, based on yesterday's Pretty Decent But Not Quite All The Way Better workout, I was going to go for it. To heck with 70%--I wanted to see if I could hold the 43-44 second laps even if it took 100%. (Not that my sluggish laps this season were only 70%; although slow, they really were all that I was capable of at that point).

Melissa and I planned our strategy carefully--be skating by 7:30 so we could complete the workout before 9, when the first Skateboard Camp kids would begin scampering across the track (tomorrow is, thankfully, the last day of Skateboard Camp). For me, this meant setting my alarm for 6 am (on a non-working day!).  It also meant that I'd need to take my faster-acting thyroid med at 4:30 in the morning.  Unfortunately, when I spontaneously awoke at 3:40 I decided, in a sleep-induced dyslexia moment, that this was the correct time and so I got up and took my meds.  Usually 3 hours prior to a workout seems to be the optimal timing, but today I was a little off.

After getting up at 6 and walking the (still tired from the dog park) dog, I set off for the Oval, eating my Cookies and Cream PowerBar as I drove, and listening to my usual pre-skating iPod playlist (which, of course, includes "Digging Deep.")  Turns out I should have eaten first and then walked the dog, but who knew?  I haven't been able to skate hard enough lately to risk seeing breakfast again (or, since I've never actually puked from skating, to risk having to slow down to keep breakfast where it was supposed to be), so I've gotten a bit complacent about what I eat before a workout, and when.  That will have to change, I can see.

So I finished my PowerBar and ate a 100mg caffeine Clif Shot as I pulled into the Oval parking lot.  (Side note: I've noticed, in the triathlete blogs that I've been reading lately, that triathletes and other endurance athletes do not "eat" or "drink" during workouts or races; they "take in." As in "I took in a strawberry banana Power Gel at mile 84."  I think, given the amount of time some of them spend in detailing their various eliminatory bodily functions--both "pre" and "during" exertion--that they should come up with similar terminology for how they get rid of what they "took in."  Like, "at mile 65 I launched back the Power Gel, and then I dribbled out the GatorAde at mile 73." Seriously, though, I'm in awe of the amount of working out these folks are capable of; I can't imagine having that much mental toughness.  They'll bike or run for hours, while I need to mentally prep myself for a 2x10k or 5x6k workout.)  Anyway, there I was at the Oval, ready to go--the heat wave had broken, the Skateboard Camp wouldn't start for almost 2 hours, things were looking perfect.

Until the kid on the skateboard showed up and started riding his board the wrong way around the track.

Mel and I quickly assessed him as a relative newbie who would likely respond without fuss to our yells of "skateboards need to be in the park" as we cruised by, and so it turned out.  Back to perfection.

I told Mel my plan to go as hard as I could in the first set, just to see what I had.  To this end, I planned not to look at my stopwatch during the rest laps; I didn't want a slower-than-I-expected time to mess with my head and cause the rest of the laps to be even slower (yes, I'm capable of messing myself up with headgames like that).  So off we went.

The 400 is, of course, the easiest lap in some ways--it's the first one, and the shortest one.  But even though I know the 400 would be faster if I started "winding it up" 100 meters early, I always tend to wait until the last second and so I have to use more energy starting quickly.  The 600 is hard because of the short rest; 200 meters goes by awfully fast!  The 800 is a bit better, because the rest is longer, but it tends to require a quicker build-up of speed, which is hard on a body.  The 1000 really isn't that bad because, since I don't time the half lap, only the two full laps, I can use the first half-lap to get up to speed (I do this on the 600 too.  I know, cheater. Don't tell TieGuy.)

And that's the way the first set went--but it felt good.  I was skating hard, and I guessed the laps would be 43's or 44's.  So I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the laps...half were 42's, and the rest 43's and a 44.  

Despite the fact that the Cookies and Cream PowerBar was getting restless, I was happy.  Last time I did this workout, in late June, the lap times had been 45's and 46's in the first set, with one lonely 44.  Things were looking up!

I told Mel I wanted to go hard the next set, and then probably drop to 70% effort (trying to stay at 44's or less) for the last 2 sets; I didn't think I could keep up the 42's.  And the second set went well; again, half 42's, but this time with two 44's--and a 41!  I haven''t seen a 41 in an interval workout since last summer!  The PowerBar was now partying with the Clif Shot and the two were debating whether to make a break for it, but   even that couldn't put a damper on the day.  A 41!

In deference to the PowerBar/Clif Shot threatened "uprising," I decided to take a longer rest break this time, and reiterated to Mel my plan to throttle it back a bit in these last two sets.  In truth, I hadn't been able to skate with intensity in so long that I was a little afraid of trying to keep pushing for two more sets.  I can see that I need to get my mental game back in shape, as well.

So we went out for the last two sets.  Surprisingly, although I did get tired (and didn't see another 41), the last 2 sets went well...mostly 43's and 44's, a couple 42's, and the PowerBar and Clif Shot finally decided to give up and stay put.  And, for probably the first time this season, I could focus on some technical aspects of skating, rather than putting all my energy into putting one foot in front of the other.  Mel reminded me of my need to think about my transition from crossover strokes to straightaway strokes; TieGuy had focused on that quite a bit last winter, but I had totally forgotten about it.  And twice per lap I was reminded of another technical aspect; Mel was skating outside of me again, which meant I would usually get ahead of her on the corners and then she'd come flying (effortlessly) by on the straightaways. And every time she'd cruise past I would notice that, although she's several inches taller than I am, she is several inches lower when she skates.  TieGuy has spent just as much time yelling "shoulders down" as he has "lose the chicken wing," but with less effect.  I need to start working on that again.

So...a good morning on the track.  Followed by a good afternoon at a friend's pool, hanging with friends from work.  And a good evening looking at skate data, looking at upcoming workouts, and thinking about how fast I'll skate them...

Life is good.

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