Defying the Black Flag

When the Wet Bulb Globe Thermometer (WBGT) temperature exceeds 90 degrees on military installations, a black flag is raised and physical training is suspended.  Today I drove from Baltimore (on another layover with my car – getting spoiled) down to Annapolis to use the Naval Academy track to get in an interval workout.  Seeing as it was 95 degrees with a slight breeze (windchill probably 94) and the usual east coast humidity, the black flag was raised – had the track all to myself.  The price for a private 8-lane mondo track was that I was essentially conducting a workout on the sun, core temperature definitely running a little hot.  Good to run some laps on my old stomping grounds though – ahhh memories…..

Was breaking out another workout from my new guru, something definitely longer than I had ever done before with some variety in distances – another change from the way I had been conducting business.  Workout called 4-mile Breakdown.  I left my sheet at home so I had to text the coach to get the details, turns out a slip of his finger ended up changing things up just a little bit.  He sent back 1×1600, 2×800, 4×400, 2×800 (spoiler alert – last set was supposed to be 8×200).  Times basically all at 70 sec pace – didn’t think a 4:40 mile was as doable as the others, so I took the liberty of tweaking it just a bit.  Things you can do when you are twice as old as your boss….

Warmed up (no pun intended) for 7 laps, got started in order to take advantage of the hottest time of the day.  Mile was surprisingly smooth – set 72.5/4:50 as the target, was able to stay right about on it the whole time.  The mondo track was a treat – don’t know how much better it is results-wise, but I could really tell the difference in the return you got from it.  Ended up coming through in 4:51.27 – not a bad start.  There wasn’t much guidance in the rest, so I went with a 400 walk between mile sets, then 400 jog between intervals.  Since the first one was a mile and a walk would be less than 1x rest, I walked very slowly – with the heat and the unknowns of this workout I didn’t want to blow up 25% of the way through.  800’s were next, again tried to stay right around the 72 sec pace (2:24).  #1 2:24.58, #2 2:23.23 – quarter jog in between, quarter walk afterwards.  Still felt ok – paces were quicker than the 1000’s I’ve been doing, but a little shorter so I guess that was making a difference.  400’s – slower than I would do in a 400 workout, but had 2 miles under my belt going in to them.  #1 69.09, #2 71.80, #3 70.61, #4 69.19.  Seemed to go through the 200m mark fast every time than cruised it in.  Good to know that even though I was trying to run easy and relaxed I kept going through the half-way mark in 33 – I only wish that I could throw around ‘easy’ 66’s all day.  Same rest as above, after the 400 walk on to the last two 800’s (which were supposed to be eight 200’s) – I’m guessing that 200’s would have been easier than 800’s, we’ll never know.  Set out on the 800 with the mindset that I would worry about them one at a time – was definitely feeling the heat and the volume at this point, but didn’t want to throw in the towel.  Focused on hitting 72 and not 70 like I had been with the 4’s, hit each corner about right on.  Through 600 right on pace, started to feel a couple quick shots up the calves that I knew wasn’t a good sign.  Kept going, came in at 2:21.74.  Took about 3 steps past the line and cramp #1 was immediately followed by cramp #2 – calves, not fun.  Waddled to the side, they came and went for the next 5 minutes or so.  Eventually got them under control, sloooow jogged a mile for cooldown.

Definitely lost a couple of pounds – think the whole workout warmup to cooldown took almost 80 minutes.  Tried to stay hydrated but probably fell behind pretty quickly.  Happy to have it done as usual – the new workout was a good thing, hope to try it again (with the proper last set) next week in better conditions and see how it goes.  Like I said last week, getting in a track workout while on a layover is a huge bonus – helps a ton with continuity, especially with the training disruption caused by my travel and race last weekend.

Afterwards I stopped at Chipotle on the way home for the monster burrito.  Got a table outside since I could not stop sweating – a cozy table for two not much bigger than a giant pizza pan.  I am about 3 bites into my burrito when this guy comes out and says “Nice orange ASICS where did you get them I have a pair of blue ones do you mind if I sit down here?”  With my mouth full I nod (what was I supposed to do?), told him I got them in Pennsylvania, then just stared at him wondering what was going on.  I almost expected to see Ashton Kucher come out of the bushes with the crew of ‘Punked’.  He proceeds to ask me if I run more or less than 100 miles a week, because that is how many he used to run when he ran cross-country in the 70’s.  (5’9, 205lbs…)  He then imparts me with the following pearls of wisdom over the next 10 minutes (my new record for speed eating a giant burrito):  1.  He lives in Florida in the winters and likes the Miami Heat.  Lebron  James is so popular down there if he went to Chipotle he wouldn’t even have to pay for his meal.  2.  Michael Jordan was definitely on the juice because how could anyone jump that high.  3.  Chris Bosh (6’11”, 240lbs) is like a girl.  He needs to gain like 70 pounds.  4.  triathletes easily run over 200 miles a week, but when you get right down to it the Ironman is 90% mental.  5. He would still be running 100 miles a week if he hadn’t had 2 massive heart attacks.  “Ohhhh, would you look at the time – I’ve got to get going….”  Split Chipotle for McDonalds for my daily cone, then back to the hotel to get ready for work.  Should be a fun one, guessing hamstring cramps at altitude will be in order….

I hope to use the car tomorrow to go get on a trail for some easy mileage – Baltimore not the best downtown for runners.  I ran a trail marathon a couple of years ago north of the city on a converted rail line, so I should be able to get on that to beat the heat and soften the surface.  I ended up snagging 45 minutes in the pool on Monday after the spin class, so the week is shaping up much better than last week.  Friday is a travel day but getting home via car will afford me a nap that flying home usually doesn’t, so I don’t think that day will end up being a wash – probably some more easy mileage.  If the weekend softball schedule is generous I might jump in a local 5k on Saturday as a tempo run – a little far down the road to firm up so we’ll see…

Fun day back in the old ‘neighborhood’, if it’s not too hot maybe next time the Navy will be allowed to come out and play.  When I was a midshipman the dorms weren’t even air conditioned, so if it was 95 degrees outside you went out for a run to cool off.   The good old days….   Beat Army!


About Nick Berra

I am a 45 year old masters runner from Central Pennsylvania. I have been participating primarily in track events since turning 40 in 2009. This season has produced marks that I have not run in several years, I believe primarily due to starting a strength and flexibility program here at Elite Athletic Performance - I've felt stronger and faster than I have in a long time. That, coupled with lots of underwater running, has kept me healthy and fit - at this age those are things I no longer take for granted... I run USATF events with a team out of Philadelphia, the Greater Philadelphia Track Club. They are a great group who have played a big part in making the sport enjoyable for me again. I also run local races for HydroWorx Track Club, supported by HydroWorx here in Harrisburg PA. Their underwater treadmills and training center has proved to be a crucial part of my training, rehabilitation, and recovery programs. I set personal records in the 800m (1:56.06) in 2010 and in the 1500m (4:02:63) and mile (4:23.48) in 2011. Despite the fact that I am not getting any younger, I nearly PR'ed recently and set the M45 indoor world record in the 800 meters at the New Balance Armory in New York City. I ran 1:56.10, besting the 9 year old record by less than a second. I feel like there are still more big things to come... I am married and have two daughters. I am an assistant XC coach at my alma mater, Cumberland Valley High School here in Mechanicsburg PA. I am also a 1991 graduate of the US Naval Academy, currently working as a pilot for FedEx after serving 10 years on active duty flying in the Navy. Beat Army! Beat Army!
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3 Responses to Defying the Black Flag

  1. Ugh, you’re a better man than I. The “real feel” temps during my daily run have been well over 110 earlier this week, so I retreated to the basement treadmill last night! Luckily, it’s web connected and can auto-adjust the incline/decline based on Google Maps; gives me a semi-realistic road run for my normal, hilly routes! 😉

    BTW: Perkasie Mile registration is filled, so I’ll be watching from the sidelines. Hopefully, it’s not hot and humid!

    • Nick Berra says:

      You scared me so I went straight to the site (I hadn’t entered either). I just registered without any problems on – at least I think I did (they took my money). Try again if you are interested, email me if it still isn’t working….

      • Shoot – I must have found an Active page for last year’s event or something; you’re right, registration is still open until the 7th. *whew* Now I just have to decide to do that or (maybe and?) the 800m at Widener University the next day at the MidAtlantic USATF meet. Think I’ll try to swing both just for kicks. Thx!

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