I’m 37 years old, and have never run track before. Growing up, I was an overweight orchestra geek, and I spent all of grammar school and high school scamming my way out of gym. I thought the workouts were stupid.
Then, when I first started running at 26, I was training for a marathon and didn’t really work on speed. So I’m actually not sure how fast I can run. But as I began my marathon training with my coach Sid Howard, I realized I would soon know the answer to that.
Speed work on the hill
I met Sid last Tuesday for a training session with New York Road Runners' Team for Kids. Tuesday’s workout lasted about an hour, and the focus was speed work. We jogged from the NYRR offices at 89th and Park over to the Central Park bridle path at West 86th. After doing some warm-up and technique exercises (grapevine, knees, kick your own butt), we were off.
“Okay," Sid said to me. "I want you to run from this bridge to that tree. It should take 10 seconds."
"Sid," I said, “it’s about 50 yards on a hill.”
“Yeah," he replied. "We’re going to do that 10 times. Fast, but don’t go all-out. About 85 percent effort."
I looked at him sideways. ”Aight."
My hamstrings were tight and it was an evening workout (I had already worked out in the morning), and my nutrition for the day had been less than awesome (the day had gotten away from me and I had not eaten anything since about noon; I was working on fumes from a granola bar). Not a great combo to tackle a speed workout.
But we took off anyway, and I reached into the crevices of my brain for inspiring images of track athletes -- how they start out down, gradually come out of it, use their arms and body to power momentum. In the end, my movements were less Flo-Jo and more Phoebe, but it turns out I’m actually kind of fast.
We did one 10-second hill interval. I was hanging with the only guy in the group, and even passed him a few times. After the first one, I clutched my chest, feeling like Fred Sanford coming to meet Esther. I thought, “Holy crap, we have nine more of these to go?”
"You’re gonna feel this tomorrow,” Sid told me.
“Not to worry, Sid," I assured him. "I’m feeling it right now."
Sore and recovering
After we finished the workout, I took Sid's advice to go home and soak in an ice bath for 15 minutes. It was hard, but it did help with the soreness. The next day, my quads were SCREAMING. I did a leisurely indoor cycling session, and then on Thursday and Friday, I opted to swim because my thighs were still on fire.
Getting a Run in While Out of Town
The other order of business in the workout plan was to do an hour-and-a-half long run on Saturday, but to get a 90-minute workout in before my morning flight to Chicago that day, I would have had to get up at 4 a.m. My flight ended up landing early, so I was able to get my run in.
It was a glorious, albeit hot, day in Chicago. The sun was shining and the lake was buzzing with activity. I was supposed to run 90 minutes at an easy pace, such that I could theoretically have a conversation (alas, there was no one to talk to so I was talking to myself, sad). But there were a few Pit Bull, Janet, and Heavy D songs on my iPod that got me excited, so I found myself needing to slow down and pull back at times.
It was kind of awesome to come back to my hometown an active person. I was born and raised in Chicago, and really had no idea people ran and cycled around and swam in the lake. Being active has opened up an entirely new world for me and I have a completely different relationship with the city.
So I did it! I managed to get to Chicago as promised to my family AND stick to my marathon training program. By Sunday, I was feeling pretty good. The soreness was gone and ready to rock. Maybe Sid is on to something.
Can’t wait to meet Sid Tuesday to see what surprises he has in store for us. Probably leaping tall buildings in a single bound. No matter what it is, it should be great material for the next installment of The Marathon Diaries.
Jennifer Turner is a veteran television executive in New York City. A certified group fitness instructor and self-proclaimed "fitness activator," she believes that everyone has ability, with the right tools, social support, and inspiration to be able to connect to fitness in an emotional way. Her mission is to activate that ability and to inspire communities across the country. Jennifer blogs at madcoolfitness.com.