Wednesday, March 2, 2011

An awesome change of scenery

My three nieces are visiting, so we've been taking them to some of the nearby sights. Last night, we drove up to Asheville to see the Biltmore Estate, a huge mansion and vast grounds in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains.

Thanks to a great off-season discount, we stayed in a very fancy hotel on the estate grounds. This gave me access to a gorgeous running path before the estate even opened to day visitors. Our hotel was about 200 feet above the French Broad River. I found out from the hotel staff that there was an excellent paved path along the river, so I headed out at about 7 a.m. to try it out. For some reason when I'm travelling, my GPS trainer always seems to take longer to locate the satellites than when I'm running from home (I suspect it "assumes" it hasn't moved much, so when it has, it takes a while to defeat that assumption). That meant the first half-mile or so of my warmup didn't get recorded.

No matter, the key to this run was the intervals. I was scheduled to do 6 X 800 meters, at my 5K race pace. My training regimen, based on Pfitzinger's Advanced Marathoning, doesn't place a lot of emphasis on intervals. Pfitzinger feels a tempo run is a better way to simulate marathon conditions because a marathon is, in fact, one steady run. Nonetheless, intervals do help you condition your body to perform at lactate threshold conditions, so there are a few interval workouts on the schedule. This is actually the first one!

After the 2-mile warmup, I took off on the first interval, a half-mile at what turned out to be a 6:46 pace. then I slowed to a jog for two minutes and took off again. The course was flat and drop-dead beautiful. I didn't see a single soul on the path all morning. The sun was just beginning to clear the mountains surrounding this peaceful valley, illuminating a glowing mist over the river. There were geese everywhere, but these seemed like genuine migratory wild animals, not the loafers and beggars that populate the parks nearer to home. The next three intervals were much like the first: 6:48, 6:44, 6:43. During the third interval, I passed a trail that went all the way to the base of the Biltmore house, but decided to stick to the paved road instead. The path was a bit rocky, and I had forgotten my knee brace at home. I'd be seeing the house up close later in the day anyways.

By the last two intervals I was beginning to tire a bit, but kept up the pace: 6:43 and 6:49 on a gradual 30-foot incline. At this point I had covered about 6 miles and I was a mile from home, so I doubled back for a mile and enjoyed the scenery for three more miles, including a steep climb back up to the hotel. Despite the slow warmup and cooldown and the rests between intervals, I still averaged an 8:43 pace for the whole workout. I'd rate this workout among the most enjoyable 9 miles I've ever run.

Details are below.

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