I have been plotting my return to Nike Speed sessions out of Paragon Sports for months now. Seriously people, my summer has been so busy that my first free Wednesday evening was last week, and I won’t have another free Wednesday until September. The last two times I trained with the Nike pacers were nearly a year ago to the day, and then my birthday in 2009. Lots of my Twitter friends attend speed sessions in Central Park with the Speedy Sasquatch, a local running coach, but I love the precision and old school feel of intervals around the orange oval. I can do pace runs and tempo runs on my own, either on the streets or the treadmill (even though I hate them, I do them), but I rely on the Nike Pacers to lead me around the track. Part of it is I like not having to sort out the workouts on my own, the other part of it is I like knowing all I have to concentrate on is speed and form–the coaches will lead with the pace for me. And, there is also the competition aspect. I am spurred on by the stronger runners in my pace group; at the very least, my stubborn pride will keep me from falling too far off pace.
So there I was, back in the basement of Paragon Sports checking my bags and taking deep breaths in preparation for whatever the coaches would lay out for us. I didn’t recognize a single face, except for Coach Kate, Pacer Brad and Pacer Kristel, but that was okay since I wasn’t there to socialize. By now I should be prepared for irony at every turn, but I was caught off-guard tonight. Coach Kate announced the workout–a tempo run along the West Side Highway–and I sighed in resignation. What a tease, I’d have to wait for my track workout until September 8th, my next opportunity to attend.
Nevertheless, I was there to work hard so I stepped in with the 8-minute per mile pace group (based on 5k time) and was delighted to see that Kristel was our pacer. She recognized me right away and welcomed me back. Telie will always be a favorite runner of mine because she is the coach who told me how to zoom around the track the first time I was feeling kicky and confident. So we were going to trot easily over to the WSH, then run up 2 miles and back, for a 4-mile pace run. Goal pace was 8:25 on the way up, and 8:10’s or better on the way back. Okay, I can do that. We were more or less on pace, with my splits hitting at 8:25, 8:24, 8:09 and 8:04 I would be a liar if said I completed this workout handily. The final mile was pure guts, and the aforementioned stubborn pride. When we stopped at 20th Street, regrouping to cross the street for the jog back to Paragon, I had a wave of nausea. I don’t think I could have gone another mile at that pace. Now that’s valuable information to have; it means not only was I with the correct pace group, but that I know how much work I still have to do in my training.
Turns out Telie is moving to Boston in a few weeks to attend B-school at MIT, so I’ll have to find another favorite pacer for September and October. In the meantime, I’m thinking long-term. First, impressive PRs at the 5 and 10k. Second, maintenance of that speed. Third, a comprehensive and challenging marathon training plan. Fourth, a BQ at a Fall 2011 marathon. Finally, racing the Boston Marathon in 2012–where Pacer Telie (among many, many others) has promised to come cheer me on.