Thursday, August 4, 2011

Shifting the Threshold

This is my last full week in Santa Cruz, which I am sad about. While I am exhausted from overseeing the academic department of my camp for gifted children and am looking forward to resting and seeing my family, I will be sad to go too. I have never lived in such a perfect running place. I wish I had had the time to go to San Francisco and visit there. There is always next year.
I am making sure to go out with a bang, take everything in, and breathe in that California air deeply.
On Monday, I did a boot camp with a colleague of mine who is a personal trainer during the year. This was the second time we did this (last week, I was so sore the next day that it hurt to pull up my shorts), and I definitely felt a lot better this time! Still, it is definitely a humbling experience - it identified some of my weak points. Lots of jumping, planks, bounding, push-ups, squats - it is 45 minutes of drills. I was sweating like crazy, and completely exhausted. But, it was fun to workout with someone here, and to know that the drills are good ones for runners. I hope that after I leave camp, I can continue to do these with some regularity!
I did go out with a bang on the track on Tuesday. Perfect conditions (seriously, I don't even check the weather anymore) and while sleep was limited the night before and I felt tired heading out, I was quickly revitalized when I hit the track. The task: 4 x 1 mile repeats, followed by 2 x 800, all getting progressively faster. Ended up running 6:55, 6:48, 6:43 (after which, a maintenance worker asked what speed I was going at), 6:37! At this point, felt tired, but reassured myself that by the time I would tire during each 800, I would be so close to being finished. 3:17, 3:12 for the 800s. So pumped! I have signed up for a couple of 5ks in DC in September, and hoping to run some fast times. Plus, everything will be so much flatter (although not necessarily cooler), that gunning it won't feel as hard.
Wednesday was weights in the morning, with the hope of cross training in the afternoon. It was tough enough to get up in the morning, but I got the weights done. I was a bit dubious about how the afternoon would go - I had a lot of work to do in my office. And I was moving slow - just dragging the whole day. But, things fell into place in the afternoon, which meant I could afford to head to the gym. I jumped in the pool (it is an outdoor lap pool, which is a lot more fun), and managed to get out my 2000 yard swim. Generally, once I can get past the halfway point, I'm able to convince myself to get through the whole thing.
The task just seems so daunting when you've only covered 300 yards. But I triumphed! And I felt I even got on the bike for 30 minutes (7 miles). Amazing how much exercising revitalized me for the rest of the day - I felt amazing and ready to go.

All of this got me to thinking about the threshold. In running, there are lots of workouts that are about reaching lactate threshold. They are very tough, and certainly uncomfortable. But what does it mean when you shift your threshold?

I remember doing a set of 800s on the track as I was getting ready for the Rochester Marathon last August. It was 10 x 800, and for the life of me, I could not get
past 3:16 for my fastest one. That was it - I was done. I remembered that on Tuesday after my track workout, that just a year later, 3:12 emerged at the end of a tough workout. And being able to get through new workouts at a higher intensity does reflect the ability to shift the threshold.

We are never permanently locked into a limit. We can raise the bar - it may take work, but we can improve our threshold.

And on the days when we are not supposed to push hard, we can just take in the view... (this is where the UC Santa Cruz track is)

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