Depending on where you are in the world, the mythological creature goes by a different name. In the Himalayas, the Tibetans refer to it as a Yeti. Right here in North America, over in the Pacific Northwest, it’s more commonly known as a Sasquatch or Bigfoot. Being as far away from those hotbeds of ‘squatch sightings as we are, I was not a believer…until I raced one.
The encounter took place at the Stowe 8 Miler up in Vermont, way back in July of 2011. About six miles into the eight mile race, I felt a presence creeping up on me. I was surprised to see the Sasquatch pull up alongside me and a brief panic set in. I feared the worst as I was feeling quite beat at this point and the Sasquatch looked strong.
We battled fiercely over the last two miles, and I was very impressed not only by how great of a competitor he was, but also by how much he pushed me. That dual was one of the reasons that I ended up joining his team a couple of weeks later. Sasquatch turned out to be just a nickname given to Brandon Newbould by his Whirlaway teammates because of his Pacific Northwest roots. While it may be just a nickname, the guy truly is a beast. Brandon is one tough SOB and here’s an inside look at one of his training sessions.
Workout: 10 x 700m @ 4:50/mile pace with 700m recovery @ 5:50-6:00 pace.
Note: 700m @ 4:50/mi pace comes out to a 2:06. The 2:06-2:09 range he ended up hitting in these (as you’ll see below) works out to a 4:50-57 mile pace.
The 700/700 workout was the second in a series of training sessions to take place over the course of 10-12 weeks leading up to some goal races. The workout is race-specific but directed as a training stimulus toward the lactate-shuttling mechanism. Workouts are spaced about 10 days apart to allow for recovery and supercompensation, which is important, because the workouts become very challenging if adaptations are not taking place.
I’ve been doing these workouts with Dan Hocking, who is pretty much just plain better than I am. It’s a good situation for me, trying to keep up with that guy, and some days it’s a good situation for him as well. The first workout in our series was a good day for me and I ended up pushing him on the last few reps.
The workout series is Dan’s idea and came from some material he gained from a clinic with Renato Canova. I like to train the lactate shuttle with fartleks and hill fartleks anyway so it worked out well for me to join Dan on this series. Dan wanted to make it 10k specific, so that’s the race pace in the workout, and it also determines the progression of distance. The workout is a continuous effort, alternating segments at race pace with segments at a good aerobic clip. There are so many different terms for it, so I’ll avoid all of them and just give it some numbers: Dan and I keep the recovery at 5:50-6:00 mile pace. This is not a tempo pace, but not jogging either. The workout series goes like this: 600m/800m, 700m/700m, 800m/600m, 900m/500m, 1k/400m. By the end, you’re basically running your race at goal pace (10x1k) with 1-lap recoveries in about 85 seconds.
This is one of the bigger workouts on my plate right now and I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to it when I woke up in the morning. I must have jinxed myself on the last session, because I remember Dan and I both remarking how miserable it would have been doing this one alone. Well, Dan wasn’t feeling well so I was looking at a solo effort in the afternoon. I ran on the Phillips Exeter track, which was windy (as always, this time of year), but beggars can’t be choosers and conditions weren’t really going to make it any easier to complete.
This is the second year since I moved out here that I’m trying to train and race through a spring (as opposed to recovering from Boston) and I’ve learned quickly that allergies factor into that. Last year I didn’t know what was happening to me so I just bulled forward and got slower and slower until whatever pollen affects me finished its work and went away. For me, allergies seem to affect my recovery from workouts more than anything else, and I wasn’t sure where I was at for this one. This year I’m determined to be a little more mature about things, which mostly works with the schedule, and I have a baby coming any day now anyway so training will be dialed back one way or another pretty soon.
Coming into this workout, I had about a month of training that was lower-mileage to rest for or recover from the first Grand Prix races. Last week I had come back up to 100 miles, with a long run/workout on Saturday. That was 20M with 3 x 2mi tempo in the second half, and I was a little tired still from that on Tuesday. My first 700m was encouraging, because I had enough pep in my legs to go out a little too fast. I dialed it back and ran 2:08 (looking for 2:06-2:09) without feeling too bad.
During the first workout with Dan I was convinced after the second repeat that I needed to go one more and then stop, it felt so hard. That day, I felt better as we went somehow, and completed the workout in relatively good shape. Still, I didn’t want to start too hard on this one, especially alone. With the nature of the recovery, an excited early pace comes back to bite you pretty quickly.
I came back for the next repeat in 2:09, which was on the slow end. That showed me that this was going to be a tough day, because the splits weren’t coming very easily. At least I had the benefit (and curse) of being on the track. The wind was hitting pretty hard, but at least on the track it was balanced with the tailwind. With Dan we hit the roads and he calibrated his watch to beep when we hit our distances, and we only ran two or three of the reps on the track to start and finish the workout. I lack the technical savvy to calibrate my own watch for 700m, so that meant all track for the workout. I ran the first 5 reps backwards to counter the stress on my legs from 9 miles of turning one direction.
The next repeats went 2:06, 2:07, 2:08, and with that was the last one, I knew wasn’t going to see anything under 2:08 after that. I was barely recovering this time during the 700m at 6:00/mile pace. On the first workout with Dan, we had 800m recovery and I felt like I was clearing the lactate much more quickly than that, and we were keeping it at 5:50/mile pace that day. For some reason things weren’t working out that way for me this time, so the workout was starting to get pretty tough after I hit halfway.
At this point I’d love to serve as an inspiration to my Yankee comrades and say that I pushed through and blazed the final reps in an astonishing negative split. Now, I don’t exactly know what “Keeping It on the Level” means, so I’ll figure that it’s akin to keeping it honest. And the honest fact is, I shut the workout down early. That’s just the damn truth. I’m not a guy to wimp out in a tough situation, and that’s also the damn truth, so “be[ing] smart out there” as Dave (Kazanjian, owner of Whirlaway Sports) likes to say doesn’t come easy for me.
As far as trying to decide if I was really smart or wimped out, well, St. Peter can just fill me in on that one at the Pearly Gates. What I do know is, on the 8th repeat I realized I needed to dig deeper than I like to in training to hit my split, and I was choking down my bacon and eggs while trying to transition into 6:00 pace instead of walking the recovery. I figured I could run the last two, or at least one, under 2:10, but I might have to go to the well to do so, and that would be kind of a dumb move. With my fall marathon ambitions ended by the fifth stress fracture of my career, fresh into my 30th year, I’m strongly motivated to avoid the dumb moves. God knows I’m not getting an Alter-G for Christmas so that means making good decisions on the track.
As a coach I echo Bill Bowerman in telling the athletes to finish a workout “feeling like you’re got another one in the tank.” I was already probably beyond that point and I don’t want to be made a liar, so I’m okay with where I left things. I ended up at 7 miles for the workout, 14 total for the session. The next workout in the series will probably happen this weekend and maybe that will be a better day.
That’s great stuff from Brandon. Lessons are learned and progress can still be made even on a day as tough as this one, and The Level was lucky enough to have Brandon share his insight on it. A lot of people probably would shy away from featuring a workout of theirs that they had to cut short. Brandon has an open-ended invitation to Intervals, so sometime in the near future we’ll hopefully be featuring a monster workout that he crushes. We were also fortunate to get some post-workout thoughts from Dan Hocking: