Speed Workout—My First Attempt at “Yasso 800s”

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I am now into the one month countdown to the Calgary Full Marathon. I knew for a while I wanted to do this race, but it wasn’t until after my marathon during the Dopey Challenge that I realized I could maybe have a legitimate shot at getting a Boston Qualifying time. That has now become my focus, and things have been going well…for the most part. The races I have done this spring have gone phenomenal-new half marathon PR (1:38:40) and placed 2nd overall for women in the 10 Mile Road Race (1:14:49). But I have been having some bothersome knee pain. Yes, I am taking care of it and trying to figure out the issue (other than the obvious overuse) but I also know I can’t stop running altogether in order for it to heal completely. I have Calgary. And I have a goal!

After taking six days off of running while in Quebec City during Spring Break, I knew I needed to start tackling some tough workouts. Not just distance, but speed. Oh, the dreaded speed workout. I think back to when I was in Track & Field in High School and how much I loathed speed workouts. I use to run the 800 meter and 1600 meter back then, which is a tiny fraction of what I run now! But see, in high school, I think I got in a rut because I was never “that great” and was always a middle of the pack varsity runner. I helped the team in small ways, but my 2:38-800 meter time was never good enough to place high or advance far in our tough Southeast Conference, and even tougher WIAA Division 1.

Back to track workouts…I avoid them. I make excuses. I don’t have access to our outdoor community track, as it is used for the university or high school sports. You can’t just go jump that fence and use the track as you please. High schools in the area don’t have their own asphalt tracks like they do back in Wisconsin, so there goes that. My only option in town is the red shale track next to the curling club in downtown Lethbridge.
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So that is where I went last Wednesday.

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I decided I needed to switch my interval workout a bit. Usually, when I have a “speed” day, I just mess around with doing Fartleks. That way, I can just be going through neighborhoods minding my own business and surge for short distances whenever I feel like it. Over the past few months, I have been reading about Yasso 800s. It is a speed workout designed by Bart Yasso of Runners World Magazine. You can read about it here in this article:
Yasso 800s

The general premise is that you take what your goal full marathon time is (I need to be under 3:35:00 to make the qualifying time for Boston) and translate that time from hours and minutes, into minutes and seconds. So if I want to aim for a 3:30:00 full marathon, I am going to be running 800 meter repeats in 3 minutes and 30 seconds.

For my first attempt at Yasso 800s, I decided to do an 800 meter warmup, 6×800 meter runs at a 3:30 pace, and then an 800 meter cool down. Wednesday was our first HOT day of the year, as my car thermometer read 79 degrees at 3:30 pm. I was a little nervous how this warm weather would affect me during this workout, but I came armed with a bottle of water and was ready to go.

The reason I wanted to do an 800 meter warmup was so I could figure out where I needed to place myself in order to have a true 800 meter distance around the track. There are not any lanes drawn in on this old school track, so I did my first two laps hugging the curve in my made up Lane 1. It was under the 800 meters (0.5 mile) so I adjusted myself from there on out to be positioned in the middle imaginary lane.

I was nervous for my first 800. I really didn’t know how the pace would feel. I finished my first one in 3:32; just a tad off. Instead of jogging in between each 800, (I had wanted my total distance that afternoon to total 4 miles) I took a 2:30-3:30 minute break where I jogged over to get some water, did some stretches, and got set for the next one. I ran my second 800 pretty much spot on in 3:29! A highlight at the end of my second 800 was witnessing a homeless man peeing by a shed next to the track; oh downtown Lethbridge, you never cease to amaze me.

The third and fourth 800s were 3:30 and 3:22, respectively. Damn, I was feeling good! I was worried when I clocked in that 3:22; had I pushed too hard with two more repeats to go? I was downing water like no bodies business and by this point I was sweating more than normal. This is what I needed though—something new to get my body going.

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The last two 800s were completed in 3:28 and 3:22. I was so happy with those last two times, and was wanting to almost pat my own back with that final lap! I had done my first Yasso 800 workout and it felt fantastic! After my 800 meter cool down, I got artsy in the shale (see below). Later that week, i revamped my training calendar a bit, and have set three more days of intervals. I will be doing the Yasso 800 workout during each, with my next one having 8x800s and the second having 10x800s. I’ll taper down to only 4x800s the week and a half before my big race. All in all, while I was nervously dreading speed workouts, I am now feeling really positive as I head towards the Calgary Full Marathon on June 1st!

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One response »

  1. Pingback: A Mash-Up Thoughts on my Slump…and Climb Back! | Je Me Souviens-To Infinity & Beyond!

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