Day 2 of marathon training starts early. I couldn’t sleep. I woke up a 4 am in a nervous panic. My son’s lacrosse team is in a playoff with a team from Burnaby, a neighboring town and the league commissioner was suppose to give me a ruling on when and where we play. In turn I would have to notify the waiting parents and the team to ensure we could field a team. His last email said ‘I will let you know tonight’. How ominous those words were. I checked my email before I went to bed at 10:30, nothing. At 4 am I check again and he had notified us just before midnight that the game would be played today. It’s less than 15 hours before game time. I put the email out.
I make myself a cup of coffee in the hotel room. Hotel coffee is bad but at 4 am standing around in my underwear, it’ll do. I gather my running clothes together, lay out my work clothes for the day and pack the rest of my stuff into my suitcase and then head down to the car. As the alarm on my watch beeps telling me it’s 5 am I pull into the parking lot of Mill Wood Rec Centre, a local track that I find through Google Maps.
The Hanson brothers marathon program says that Tuesdays are for speed work. Unlike Higdon that says do this many intervals at this pace for this many sets, the Hansons are little more forgiving. There is a little more left to interpretation so long as the end result is a cumulative amount of miles. I like that!
I walk out to the track with my Ultimate Direction Access hydration belt which I dump off to the side. I shuffle into a warm up jog and as I round the backstretch I see kids in the adjacent skateboard park. It’s 5 am?! They are dressed very warmly and are riding around the park on their bikes. I get a bad feeling. I complete the first lap and stop to pick up my belt. On the second lap it seems I have attracted their attention. Two of them ride over and do wheelies and fish tale their bikes in my path. I am mildly irritated but don’t break stride. They can’t be more than 15 years old. I have a son that age.
They ride back to the skate park and start shouting and jeering. ‘Run Jackie Chan run!’ How original! Rednecks in the making! There are three of them. The one that didn’t come out for the ride along looks like he might be sleeping. Did they sleep out here? This is a residential area there is no malls, no restaurants, not even a gas station nearby. Were they street kids or just kids with no limitation parents?
I break out into interval pace. Without a steady training regime and mostly heart I soon find a comfortable groove. I am reluctant to glance down at the Garmin to see what my pace is or even my split at the 400 mark. Eyes straight ahead, focus. The first 800 is done in 3:35.
The kids have now attracted some attention from a city worker who looks after the park. A pick up truck with the City of Edmonton logo parks itself on the grass near the skate park. I feel a bit of relief as I know I’m not alone out here. My shoulders relax and my pace smoothes out. Second 800 done in 3:34.
I can’t hear anything but the kids occasional shouts of profanity. They keep circling the bowl of the skate park like sharks in the tank. The city worker drives away and I am alone once more. I remain focused on the task 4 x 800. Yasso 800s they are called. Named after Bart Yasso who discovered that training your speed in consistent 800 meter intervals equates to your finishing time in the marathon except minutes become hours and seconds become minutes. Third 800 in 3:31.
I used these 800s in my last training program, quite successfully I might add. I consistently trained at 3:30 for 800 meters and I ended up with a 3 hour and 29 minute PR. The guide I read said not to exceed 3 miles of intervals which would have been 6 repetitions but because of my recent lack of training I shoot for 4. I still feel good but at this point why should I push I’m still building not refining my pace. Defining not refining! The final 800 is complete in 3:29.
As I warm down I take notice of what is happening over at the skate park. The city worker has returned and a shouting match ensues. I casually walk back to my car as the kids mount their bikes and head off towards me. They ride right by and behind the Rec Center. A police cruiser pulls in. Show’s over!
I drive back to the hotel in a slight euphoria. I finished my speed workout unscathed. It’s just after 6 am and I have the whole day ahead of me. As I get in the elevator and the door is backed open by an older man. He’s dripping with sweat as he towels off, fresh from a few miles on the treadmill. “Great morning!” he says as the door closes.
“Yes, The best!”