Well, I finally made it to one of Rush Running's speed workouts at Agri Park and what fun! I had no idea what to expect other than a great running experience--great running experiences are the only kind Mike Rush and crew know how to put on. It was to take place at 5:30. I got there at 5:38 to see Mike talking to a small group of runners some hundred yards from where I was able to park. By the time I applied sunscreen and gathered my handhelds, Mike and group were disappearing over a hill in the University of Arkansas Agriculture Department's farm. By arriving late, my speed workout would have to start early!
I took off as fast as I have run in a year and soon regained view of some stragglers a few hundred yards down a gravel road. At least I would know which way to go! One by one, I picked them off. By the time we arrived at the mowed grass field containing scattered trees and a finish line arch for the U of A cross-country team, I was in the first half of the group. I was breathing much too hard for a speed workout that hadn't begun yet, but I was thankful for my hours on the Don Tyson. The mid-nineties heat was not a affecting me at all.
We would be doing 800-meter repeats this day. Mike had a cool chart where you could select your race goal, distance and time, and use that to determine your 800-meter target. I had to extrapolate to find my target as the chart did not extend to 50 miles or twelve hours, but I did so without saying a word. The resulting target was so ridiculously slow that I decided to just do my repeats as fast as I could. Experienced runners were to do six repeats and newer runners less than that. Novices could do 400-meter repeats instead. Mike showed us the loop, gave us some great coaching, took questions, and explained the drill:
After the first repeat, we were to immediately do twenty pushups, and then immediately begin our second repeat. After that one, we were to immediately do twenty pushups, but then we could take a break for thirty seconds and drink water before beginnning our third repeat. Third repeat: pushups, GO! Forth repeat: pushups, drink, GO! And so on.
I ran my first repeat much too fast, held my own on the second and third, slowed considerably on the fourth, went into full ultra mode on the fifth, and kicked it again for the sixth and last repeat. I didn't kill myself, but I was definitely tired. It's the fastest I have run in probably a year when I was still running shorter distances. After taking a few minutes to recover, I thanked the guys for a great run and headed back to the car.
Only a few of us finished the full six repeats so most of the group was already walking the mile back to Agri Park. I broke into a medium-slow ultra shuffle and passed the lot of them. Running back to the car made me think that I had perhaps not captured the essence of the speed workout. Should I have had that much energy left? But no, those 800-meter repeats smoked me. I think all my long slow runs have just enabled me to recover quickly. I could have run ten miles back to my car.
Anyway, I'll definitely be back next week. I think Rush Running speed sessions will become a mainstay of my training, no matter how slow my running objective is. I had an absolute blast!