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The 800M Special

Posted Oct 13 2009 10:04pm
Normally, I do not like to post on back-to-back days; but then again, it’s not everyday that I finish a training workout so grueling that it garners commentary from a friend of mine who’s used to seeing me after speedy workouts before. He took one look at me as I limped into the locker room after changing and said, “Geez. You look like you just ran a marathon, what happened?” Well, I got two words for you my friend, Yasso 800s.

Now I know some of you run these as part of your regular speedwork routine for marathon training. If you do, I admire and congratulate you. Me, on the other hand, have never done these before. Yes, you heard right. Never, as in NEVER EVER. In fact, I’ve never done any speedwork on a track before. I remember trying once and got yelled at for not knowing which lane I was supposed to use and inconveniencing the faster college track guys running in the inner lanes while having to weave and dodge the slower runners and walkers in the outer lanes. As a result, I’ve always avoided the shorter distance workouts which necessitates the use of a track and stuck to mile repeats which I could run anywhere I want with my trusty Garmin. For this training cycle however, I decided to experiment a little bit and snug in a 8x800m workout as suggested by the Pfitz 18/55 plan just to mix things up. In retrospect, I think it popped up at a good time for me because as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been struggling big time with my speed game and needed a solid faster workout both to get my legs back on track and to gauge where I’m at physically and mentally heading into the stretch portion of marathon training.

Having never done 800s before, I was so nervous and anxious thinking about this session that barely any real work got done today. Luckily, all my patients canceled or rescheduled on me today so I was free to ponder and anticipate about how the whole thing would go down. I planned out my appropriate pace (2:47-2:54 for 800m according to McMillian), converted the pace to mins/km (so I can gauge my speed on the Garmin as I’m running) and mapped out an appropriate “track” on googlemaps all in the office before leaving work. To escape the multitudes flocking around Central Park, I ran over to the calmer and less traveled East Side Drive to prepare my workout once I signed off at the hospital. After some brief stretching and a couple of warmup laps to identify appropriate landmarks that would serve as the starting and finish lines of my unofficial 800m track, I was ready to roll.

Here’s how it went down for me today:
  • Planned - 8 x 800m at 2:47-2:55 pace
  • Interval 1: 2:45 [ Started off faster than I should, rookie mistake ]
  • Interval 2: 2:48 [ Ouch, okay this is not as easy as I imagined ]
  • Interval 3: 2:54 [ Took this one a bit easy, almost too easy ]
  • Interval 4: 2:49 [ Back on target, but already getting winded ]
  • Interval 5: 2:52 [ A side stitch, dared not to stop, cursing Yasso ]
  • Interval 6: 2:51 [ Gosh, this is hard, fighting mental demons ]
  • Interval 7: 2:52 [ Ouch, the side stitch returns. Must. Battle. On ]
  • Interval 8: 2:50 [ Finishing up, finishing strong. Yay, I survived! ]

To say this was a tough workout is like saying this country has a small problem with healthcare. Um, yeah, it completely drained me and left me cramping and panting like a dog in heat on the side of the road. I must have looked like a complete mess running my 4 mile cooldown at 8:01 min/mi pace, which is slower and seemed to last longer than my 20 miler over the weekend. No wonder my friend gave me a weird eye and feared for my well-being when we met up afterwards (even after I showered and cleaned myself up!)

So what did I take away from this workout? I think my speed is starting to come back, although I am reluctant to extrapolate anything from these 800m times. Although there are some who will look at these numbers and claim that I’ll run a 2:52 or 2:54 marathon, I remain unconvinced that 800 times translate at all to the full 26.2. However, I do think that running 8 x 800s is good preparation for a half marathon, which I’ll run this weekend and then use that time to predict an appropriate finish for my marathon .

Let’s hope my legs can run hard and long as well as they run fast and short. Then and only then will I officially announce to the rest of the running world that I’m finally back.
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