On Tuesday evening, I met up with Courtney from Eat Pray Run DC and Julie from Diving into the Gene Pool at a local high school in my neighborhood for 800 repeats. Both Courtney and Julie have successfully tackled the marathon already and are now training for the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon in September, looking to PR, whereas I am just trying to up my overall pace a bit so I’m not spending six hours running the marathon and get so bored to tears I never want to run again by the end. (Plus I still want that sub-30 5K.)
When we arrived the track was fairly empty, but as our workout wore on some girls I assumed were from the high school’s track team showed up, another group of kids working with an amazing golden dragon puppet (seen in my last post) provided us with a cool sight to run by, and even a little girl on a sparkly trike wound her way around the track a few times.
But 800 repeats are no trike stroll. Courtney’s goal for each 800 repeat was 4:10. Which is a good pace for me for a 400 – doing it for 800 is hard y’all. And Courtney wanted to do 6 of them.
(For my non-running friends who like to read my blog, an 800 means 800 meters, aka twice around the track. Repeats mean sprinting that in intervals with short moving recovery in between each 800. For distance runners like half-marathoners and marathoners who are used to practicing endurance over speed, this is tough.)
Lucky for me my marathon training plan only had me doing 3 miles this day, so I didn’t want to push too hard and go over what my plan called for. 6×800’s would be 3 miles exactly, without a warm up or cool down. So I planned on doing a half mile warm up, 3×800’s, and a 1-mile cool down. I warmed up with Courtney and Julie for a half mile, then we got down to business.
We wound up doing our first 800 at 3:56, and I felt it. It was fast. I drank so much of the ice water I’d filled up and brought with me I worried I wouldn’t have any left by the third repeat.
For me, the second 800 was only okay because I knew I only had one left. I had so much admiration for Courtney and Julie planning to do not one but four more.
During the last 800, as we pushed through to the end, I definitely felt my threshold about to scream STOP but I kept telling myself you’re a serious athlete and serious athletes don’t dick out about these things. Push it. Work hard. This isn’t supposed to be easy. The hard is what makes you better.
So I pushed it. And I did it. 3×800’s at about 4:11 pace? I wasn’t keeping track as closely as Courtney was, I was just trying to keep up with them.
Luckily I did indeed have some water left to chug. Courtney and Julie took a halfway break and I stretched out and hydrated for a moment before setting off on my easy-paced one mile cooldown, which I tried to just enjoy. It was the first mile in a long time I ran with neither music or a buddy, as Courtney and Julie were back at their repeats, so I distracted myself with the sights and sounds of the track. One man was walking his happy, dopey looking pit bull and knowing me, you know I was tempted to stop and play. When I passed the track team girls I imagined how different my life in high school would have been had I been an athlete instead of a theatre kid. I don’t regret choosing that extracurricular over others for the world; those friends I made are still my friends today and I would be a very different person without them. I just sometimes wish there was time to live a second life where you could see what it’d be like if you had time to do other things, too.
A mile passed before I knew it and I settled in on the benches to watch Courtney and Julie finish their repeats. They set up at the start line for their last one:
and busted their asses for their sixth and final 800-meter sprint:
And we all breathed a huge sigh of relief at our hard work.
Our plan is to do track workouts every Tuesday through the summer. Which I am so excited for! I can hang by myself mileage-wise, but when it comes to pushing it through speed workouts, having another friend or two there, even when they’re not telling me what to do or whether to work harder, keeps me accountable and keeps me from slacking off and saying “eh, this is okay for today.” Next week I plan to do a 4th 800 and work my way up as my Tuesday mileage builds. I’ll be hitting that sub-30 5K and sub-1 hour 10K before you can say “Marine Corps!”