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February 8, 2007

Clear Eyes, Dead Legs

I’ve never been crazy about running 1-mile repeats. It’s too bad it’s such an ideal marathon workout.

If it weren’t, I wouldn’t hesitate to blow off the once-weekly session of mile repeats that our training group does during the months leading up to the Big Sur Marathon. But over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the value of this particular workout, and how well it simulates the stress your body experiences when racing 26.2 miles. It’s one of my least favorite workouts, but it’s absolutely necessary if I want to run a strong marathon in the spring.

So despite my relative ambivalence about marathon training this year (the subject of my next post, most likely), I’ve managed to make it to nearly every Thursday morning workout of 1-mile repeats.

Today’s workout called for 8 x 1-mile, a thought that filled me with dread for most of yesterday and last evening. I’ve felt kind of worn out lately, thanks to several difficult swim and running workouts (and I haven’t even started serious bike workouts yet – have I mentioned before that triathlon training can be exhausting?), and for the past few days I’ve started each run with that heavy-legged feeling telling me there isn’t a lot of fuel left in the tank. So I wasn’t exactly doing cartwheels at the thought of all those mile intervals.

Sure enough, as soon as we started, I knew it would be a difficult day. My first few intervals were all slower than the last time I did this workout. By the time the sixth mile was finished, the energy tank was officially on empty.

Then just as I considered packing it in and taking an easy jog back to the car, I had an unlikely source of inspiration from one of my running partners.

As I stood in place with my hands on my hips, gathering my breath, gazing blankly at the road ahead, and trying to figure out why I was doing this to myself, he walked in front of me and caught my gaze.

Then he tilted his head up slightly, and said: “Hey D - Clear eyes, full hearts.”

To which I smirked, and immediately replied: “Can’t lose!”

It was a random reference to the show Friday Night Lights, and the motto the team yells and chants to fire itself up before workouts or games. During one episode, they yelled it over and over while running wind sprints in the rain. The players typically start shouting it right around the time that the show cues up some overly-orchestrated music for complete effect – just like a predictable drama is supposed to do.

(And since I’m on the subject: FNL is an excellent TV show based on a very good movie, which is a film adaptation of an outstanding book. Has there been any other story told with such high quality across all three mediums? I honestly can’t think of any – unless there’s a Harry Potter TV series in Britain that I’m not aware of.)

The funny part was that neither of us had ever talked about the show before – this exchange was the first time either one had ever mentioned it. The gimmick was completely unexpected, totally corny … and exactly what I needed.

It’s not that the motto itself is particularly inspirational – for that matter, I’m not exactly sure that it even makes any sense. But hearing it spoken between two grown men during the middle of a killer workout, it took on a comedic element that effectively defused the anxiety of the situation. I still had the smile on my face as I took the first strides of my seventh interval.

Now, this isn’t a fairly tale story – because my last two intervals still felt terrible. They were still slower than usual. By the end of the workout, my legs were dead, and it was all I could do to shuffle out a single cool-down mile. (And I’m supposed to be in the pool in about four hours. On a related note, I’m praying for an electrical storm to blow through the area this morning.) But the important thing is that I got the workout finished, even after I felt like quitting.

And that goofy high-school football battle cry was just the nudge I needed to keep going. Sometimes, the things I grasp at for motivation are simply ridiculous.


Updated: a couple of people have asked, so here are details from the workouts:

8x 1-mile: 6:05, 6:00, 6:00, 5:59, 6:01, 6:00, 6:02, 6:00 with 2 minutes 30 sec rest in between.

And since my electrical storm never showed up: 2500m swim in 43:15, later the same day.


teacherwoman 2/8/07, 7:53 PM  

So, with those 1-mile repeats....do you take breaks between each mile?? I guess this is something new to me...I haven't heard of it!

angie's pink fuzzy 2/8/07, 8:22 PM  

but all that matters is that they work

(and one-mile repeats? yuck!)

Katie 2/9/07, 11:10 AM  

I love the FNL reference. I have a friend that is one of the asst. directors for the show and she's always asking us to watch it or leave tv on when not home to keep it on the air.

Good luck with those mile repeats!

Downhillnut 2/9/07, 11:10 AM  

Hey - whatever WORKS! Good on ya for getting all 8 done.

So... if I train for say 10ks, which is 1/4 the M distance, does that mean I can stick to 400m repeats instead of 1 milers?


olga 2/9/07, 12:52 PM  

I try to escape every speedwork and bag it every workout half-way in. But yes, they work, so I stick with it, and after finishing I am so happy and proud I did, even if the workout itself sucked bit time (not just hard, but when I had norrible times/pains/legs/whatelse).
1M are brutal. 8 of them sounds just a torture!

Annette 2/9/07, 8:37 PM  

8 1-mile repeats? That sounds brutal! As for finding motivation, I think runners are masters at finding it in the strange, mundane, or just plan crazy. :)

Mike 2/10/07, 11:52 AM  

Donald- What' up!?!
I probably shouldn't ask because I'm sure the answer will be waay south of were I'd like to be but what pace are you sub 3 guys running your mile repeats at?

Mike 2/11/07, 10:30 AM  

Rain the pain D!
6 flat pace and this was "slower than the last time I did this workout"?
Solid stuff! Thanks for the update

robtherunner 2/12/07, 10:08 PM  

Not a surprise that you're hitting the workouts hard, Donald. There's nothing like a good sports show reference to get you motivated.

Robin 2/12/07, 11:09 PM  

Wow, that sounds like a tough workout, but good on you for sticking it out. If the Good Running Fairy ever waves her magic wand and I manage one 6 minute mile in this life, I would be jumping for joy. Dude, that is fast!

BTW, I'll have to say that M*A*S*H* was also a great book/movie/TV show...

Tara 11/10/08, 11:30 PM  

Keep up the good work.

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