Eric Ashe had contacted me back on April 12th, expressing his interest in taking part in this Intervals series. He told me about a steeple workout he was about to do, and I was immediately intrigued. It’s an event that I admittedly know nothing about. What exactly is involved in a steeplechase workout? Do they use even bigger obstacles in practice to make the regular ones seem easy? Are there water-pit specific exercises? Most importantly, how do you avoid this?
I feel for her, I really do. She’s tough as nails though, really. To eat an obstacle like that, then chase it with a whole lot of water, and to then get up and keep going? I tip my cap to that effort! Just another reason why I could never attempt that event.
In all seriousness, I was very curious to see exactly what would be on Eric’s plate for this workout and also what the splits would look like. I was so eager for it, that I had put a teaser for it a while back. After a few weeks, it’s finally here…Eric’s workout, as done on April 12, 2012:
Around noon I set off for a twenty minute warmup run from the Brookline track around Jamaica Pond. I was a little nervous because Coach Kerr said it would be a hard, steeple specific workout. About five minutes into the warmup, it started to sleet. I thought ‘how am I supposed to hammer out a workout in cold, damp, chilly conditions?’ My solution…don’t think, just do. Thankfully, the sleet stopped. After twenty minutes of running, I did some drills and strides. Coach Kerr informed me the workout was two sets of 1600m (including three hurdles per lap), one minute rest, 400m over 3 hurdles, one minute rest, and 400m flat. There was five minutes in between sets. For the 1600m reps I was instructed to alternate ‘smooth’ and ‘hard’ laps without a specific time goal, but to leave something in the tank for the second set (that should be quicker). The reps over hurdles are in ‘Lane 0′ (on the turf just inside the track), which I estimate was about seven meters short per lap (about 1 second).
On the first rep I ran 4:50.4 with lap splits of approximately 75,70,75,70. I was really happy with how this felt, in control the whole way. It was tough to relax mid rep without slowing down too much before having to pick the pace up again, but I had success. One minute rest went by quick. I set off for the lap over the hurdles a bit quicker but was instructed not to kill it until the second set (65.8, feeling good). One minute rest then 400m flat in 64.3; got out quick and was relaxed.
After five minutes rest with some jogging, now it was time to hammer out this second set. Ran the second four lapper in 4:41.8 with lap splits of approximately 72, 68, 73, 67. This was tough! Had some doubts going into the next couple reps but I told myself ‘anyone can do one lap hard’. I set off for my one lap over the hurdles feeling tired but still had some decent pop in my stride. Ran a 63.8 (solid!), but now I was really feeling it. My legs felt dead but I had one more rep left and there weren’t any hurdles involved. I got out quick and held on for a 61.2…a little disappointed because I wanted to break 60. I felt strong the whole way but the limited rest kept me from being able to get the turnover going at 100%. I requested to run another 400 flat with some extra rest, and Coach Kerr said I could do it if I was feeling up to it. I took about three minutes rest and set off with the goal of breaking 60. I Worked really hard and hit 59.4!
This workout was a huge confidence boost. I ran 8:57 two weeks prior without any impressive workouts to my name and on tired legs. This was the first workout where I felt strong the whole way while hitting good times. I’m very happy with this, mostly because of how I felt (not by times). There was a decent wind and conditions were cold and damp as well. Interesting runner’s high on cooldown where my legs felt fine but my head was all out of whack. After this workout, I am confident that I can run around 8:40 by the end of the season. If I can run close to 4:40 speeding up and slowing down, I’m thinking I can come through the same time feeling smooth en route to a full 3k.
Since this workout, I ran 3:52 at Larry Ellis on April 20 and 8:52 at Payton Jordan April 29. Both races I ran poor tactically. I got caught with my eyes closed when it was time to get it in gear. Both were missed opportunities to run fast but left me feeling that I can run a lot faster in both events. Both races were a step in the right direction after a horrible last spring, so I can’t really complain too much. I’m not 100% sure on race plans, will probably do the four New Balance Twilight meets. I’d really like to hit the Trials ‘B’ standard of 8:45. I might have to make the attempt alone…just got to hope for limited wind!
It just wasn’t Eric’s day out there at Payton Jordan, but look at this workout he just did! He’s in pretty damn good shape. I have a feeling he’s going to lower his PR next time out, and quite possibly get that coveted ‘B’ standard. To be about a second off of your PR on an off day (as was the case out at Payton Jordan) tells me that when he’s feeling good the results will be there. Good luck to Eric this summer, and you an be sure that you’ll be seeing his name more and more here.