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January 21, 2009

Speedwork For Losers

Having more or less embraced the rigors of consistent training again this month, it seemed only fitting that I should stop by the track for some speed work. However, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the experience.

And had I known that I’d get teased by two overweight ladies in the process, I would have dreaded it even more.

First, some background: like most distance runners, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with track workouts. Even when my fitness is at its peak, I’ve never known them to be a pleasurable experience.

After all, the very point is to push beyond your comfort zone, running specific distances at the fastest speed you can consistently maintain. Such an effort stimulates your body into producing necessary adaptations that make your next attempt at the same speed incrementally easier. And when those adaptations happen, you push beyond them again, and again, and over and over as many times as you can tolerate over the course of a training cycle.

In other words, the workout’s not for sissies. And occasionally, I suppose I’m guilty of wearing my effort on my sleeve.

That was the case on Monday, as I did a set of 8 x 400m intervals with a one-lap rest between them. The first few were a controlled effort, but as my legs grew heavier and my lungs burned hotter with each passing interval, my breathing became deeper and more audible, and my laboring became more noticeable to other people around the track.

In particular, my efforts caught the attention of a pair of ladies sitting in the first row of bleachers directly in front of my start/finish line. I had briefly noticed them while I was warming up – a pair of “heavy but not yet obese” walkers in their mid-twenties, wearing cotton sweats and chatting their way through a few laps before sitting down to continue their conversation at the end of the home straight.

They remained there as I finished lap after lap, looking and sounding worse with each passing interval. Finally, after my final 400m, I let out a loud gasp and staggered a few steps onto the infield. It was shortly after I leaned onto a tall fence to hold me upright while I kept panting that I heard one of my spectators say this to the other:

“He sounds like one of those people on The Biggest Loser.”

And then they both giggled.

Now … before you think this is turning into an insult-fest between me and two chubby antagonists, I’ll say this: I took the high road. I caught my breath for a few more seconds before glancing in their direction and shuffling into some cool-down laps. At first I took the comment as a simple amusement – but then I was reminded of my favorite TBL moment thus far this season, and I thought there might actually be some truth to their remark.

That moment is in the video clip that follows – it’s trainer Bob’s meltdown with slacker Joelle, as he implores her to, essentially, harden the F up and push through a simple workout. If you don’t like bleeped-out F-bombs, you might want to skip this video. If, on the other hand, you love them like I do, feel free to indulge here (click to play):

That may be the coolest four minutes of TV I’ve seen this year (at least until tonight’s Lost premiere – but that’s a separate post). And you know what? Those ladies at the track were right: I am like one of those people on The Biggest Loser. But it’s not Joelle – it’s Bob.

At least, I’m leaning towards Bob more and more lately. Sure – during the off season, my inner Joelle breaks loose and invades the cookie jar and devours anything in sight while simultaneously hogtying my body to the mattress each morning – but both she and I know that it’s only a temporary reign. And now is the time when I traditionally run her down into submission, and tuck her back into the tiny box in the far recesses of my mind that she’ll occupy for the next seven months or so.

Finally, speaking of time, and so I can paraphrase Bob from the above video … guess how long most of my 400m intervals took!

EIGHTY F**KING SECONDS!! (Clapping my hands slowly now) EIGHTY! F**KING! SECONDS!!

Not that that’s particularly fast or slow – I just like to *almost* swear every now and then. It’s one more little thing that helps me to feel tough. At this point, I'll use whatever motivation I can get.


don 1/20/09, 10:30 PM  

FYI. That video cannot be viewed outside the U.S.

Legs and Wings 1/21/09, 2:24 AM  

Same as Don. I"ll find it on YouTube or somewhere else.

I haaate speed work too because it near kills me...over and over again.

mindy 1/21/09, 3:08 AM  

I love Bob and I love TBL. What a great clip to remind us that we all have that inner-Joelle/Bob conflict. Lost tonight!!

Curly Su 1/21/09, 5:32 AM  

80 seconds IS fast... and had I been Joelle, I would have cried way before she did. But I guess the point is that I'm not Joelle, so it doesn't matter much...

Mark 1/21/09, 6:02 AM  

Man, I can identify! I love it when people wonder "why is he doing that to himself?" when I'm wheezing and gasping for air during track work-outs-

Annette 1/21/09, 7:15 AM  

I literally did laugh out loud at the ladies commentary on you. Too funny! And, Bob's meltdown - classic! Seriously, I don't know if anyone can get through to Joelle. What is her deal? Anyway, glad to hear that training is back on track. And, good for you for doing speedwork. I so dread speedwork. I haven't gotten back to that one yet. (I'll use the excuse that it's too cold.) ;) Happy training, Bob! :)

jen 1/21/09, 9:35 AM  

Ouch, the Biggest Loser comment was way off base. I guess it makes sense because that's probably the only place they've ever witnessed real exercise. So insead of "he sounds like one of those elite sprinters"...

Anyway, I also Love BL and Bob and that segment of him freaking out. Awesome!!

Yay for LOST tonight!

Anne 1/21/09, 1:46 PM  

I don't know that I would have been able to take the high road. I'd have have laughed and then asked them if they were ever contestants because they certainly could be.

robtherunner 1/21/09, 5:27 PM  

Ouch, Anne! I used to grunt when I played baseball. I think the noises let you know that you're giving it all you got. That's a good thing! I have that love/hate relationship as well with track work.

Rainmaker 1/21/09, 5:58 PM  

Nice - I loved that moment as well. Funny, I've seen similiar folks at the track, and had similiar thoughts.

However, tomorrow night I'll be thinking the same as you, the only difference is 800's instead of 400's. Booo!

Paul 1/21/09, 7:01 PM  

It's early in the year for speed work.. what you got going on?

Spokane Al 1/22/09, 8:14 AM  

That video brought tears to my eyes.

I guess Bob Dylan said it best; "Either I'm too sensitive or else I'm getting soft."

Thomas 1/22/09, 12:31 PM  

Couldn't watch the video, but found it on youtube in no time. Great stuff, but I really don't think you're ever anything like Joelle, not even in deepest off season.

I can imagine you as Bob, though.

Deene 1/22/09, 2:27 PM  

i watched TBL a few times but i missed Bob's meltdown. i'm all joelle when it comes to speedwork.

Rick Gaston 1/23/09, 3:59 PM  

Wow that video was friggin hilarious. I've only seen this show once. You can do it Joelle, you can do it! Oh nevermind.... Gut wrenching. I'll remember this show when track for our club starts again in February. By the way I've never hit EIGHTY F**KING SECONDS in 400m. I've hit 124 though. Maybe this is the year I hit 120 and then I'll yell EIGHT F**KING SECONDS just for you Big D.

AKA Alice 1/24/09, 9:25 AM  

I've never watched BL...but I'm maybe I'll start because I think I may love Bob now :-)

I have the same love/hate relationship with track/speed workouts.

My Life & Running 1/28/09, 11:21 AM  

You are a *much* better person than I am. I don't think, especially at exhaustion level, I would have been able to reign in a "well at least I don't look like I belong on TBL" retort. Good man.

And seriously, if Joelle had that much air left in her lungs to give grief to Bob like that she definitely wasn't working hard enough.

And for some reason this post/video is bringing up some scary memories of doing hill repeats back when I was 15. Coach would make the slowest person run up in front, with everyone staying on her tail. It was enough motivation for me to never be dead last.

Darrell 1/31/09, 7:01 PM  

I can't see you as Bob. Maybe you have an inner Bob that pushes Donald. I need a Bob every once in a while. We probably all do.

I don't watch TBL, what ever happened to Joelle?

A GIRL RUNNING 2/2/09, 7:58 AM  

I love Bob too but being in Spain I can't view the video either..pity

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