On December 22, 2006 I completed a 20k marathon targeted alternation session. It was, at the time, the best workout I had ever done. A few weeks later I would do a similar session, though slower because of a very tough wind, and in the final effort I would lose the coordination in my right leg. It was the beginning of the longest hardest injury battle of my life. Yesterday, February 18, 2015 I completed a 20k marathon targeted alternation session without losing coordination in my right leg. It was the first time I had successfully done so since this workout more than 8 years ago.
I thought as a celebration of sorts I would write a blog about that last workout, so to speak.
In December of 2006 I was training with a new fury after meeting Renato Canova and having him explain what I was doing wrong and how some simply changes to my base would lead to big breakthroughs in my marathon performance. So far it was going pretty well. On the 22 the weather was extremely nice for the time of year, temps in the 30's basically no wind and the track at Umass Lowell was clear so I decided to take my second attempt at a 20k alternation session. My first attempt had been a fail in my build up to my first marathon where I lasted only 7k and collapsed exhausted.
After a 3 mile warm up and some strides I set out to try and do 20k on the track alternating between 3:00 fast K's and 3:20 recovery K's.
5k- 3:01.3 (15:43.2)
8k- 3:20.7 (25:25.0)
10k- 3:20.3 (31:43.8)
15k- 2:58.2 (47:23.9)(15:40.1 last 5k)
16k- 3:21.4 (50:45.2)
20k- 3:20.2 (1:03:22)
That is 5:05.9 pace for 12.4 miles, 2:13:40 marathon pace. I was so pumped! I was scared to death of this session because it had killed me just two weeks before I had run a 2:15 marathon. In other words in the best shape of my life this workout had chopped me down like it was nothing. Now I had crushed this workout and I knew I was reaching a new plain of fitness. Looking at the training I was doing leading up to this I was obviously ready. I had done a very windy 6k tempo run at 3:00 per k, 16x400 in 65 seconds and a few 23 mile runs at 5:40 pace in the two weeks before this session. Still alternations are a different beast and to be able to jump into 5:20 recoveries was really quite something.
Two weeks later on January 5th I would do 20k on the track of 2k fast and 1k slow. The effort was the same and with the two weeks improvement I'm guessing without the wind I would have been able to average the same paces which would have made it a crazy fast 20k around 1:02:00 but with the wind I ran 1:04:42. In the final 2k effort I lost control of my right leg. I had no idea what it was. Frankly I was running as hard as I could and I didn't think that much of it. More of a just 'wow I'm going so hard I'm losing control of my legs.' I had no idea the trouble to come!
Yesterday I was on the road, we are not having a nice light winter, like back in late '06 early '07, this year so the track is buried under untold feet of snow. I also haven't done the speed work needed to be ready to really get the speed out of the fast k's. As such my overall time was much slower 1:06:23. I was thrilled. From the beginning I have had far and away the most trouble holding coordination in alternations. This is why they were not included as part of my build up to the Olympic Trials in late 2007.
In fact over the last few years I basically haven't been able to do more than 10k of alternations and really more than 8k has been very unusual. In my notes I wrote in planning back in the fall I put completely 20k of alternations without losing coordination as equal difficulty to completing a full marathon race without losing coordination.
So though the college students standing at the bus stop at the Merrimack college gym had no idea why the crazy guy who just came hammering around the corner was pumping his fist while gasping for air it was a well earned fist pump.