Monday beckons. We all know how it feels. "Morning has a golden mouth", we say back in the flatlands. Most cynics, such as my mum, though, would reply: "And lead in the bum" or for the truly bitter: "It should have minded it's teeth better."
I don't greet all mornings with equal enthusiasm, and after a harrowing four training days in a row, pinnacled by the 800m ascent in my legs from Sunday (apparently a resting day for Christians, does anyone take this seriously????), this Monday morning smiled at me most indifferently.
Staggering out, though, I had a plan in my head: I need to go check out the Crusaders track sessions today. Madness, of course. But then again, we are runners, why expect reason...
1993. Tønder Athletics Stadium. Last year of Danish secondary school. Cooper test.
I remember it too well, my last experience with tracks. I skinny lad with long blonde hair and his mate where forced to undertake the dreaded "Cooper Test", designed by Kenneth H. Cooper for the US Military in '68 as a test of physical fitness.
It's a simple test: Go on a track and run your heart out for 12 minutes. Check your accummulated "kilometerage" and get a basic reading of your fitness. Foolishly, me and my mate, Jan I think his name was, decided to just jog around for ten minutes and then do a two minute sprint. Hopelessly inefficient but we did rack up 2800m, enough to put us borderline in the "Very Good" category for young runners. (if you're interested, as an adult runner, between 2800-3000 or above is considered "Very Good", for experienced runners 3700+ is the lofty aim).
My memory of the day has been long blurred by countless pints, endless long nights, shots galore, and other debauchery, but I know that I considered it a fond memory.
Now 14 years later, I would again step out on an athletics field. Better for shape certainly (apart from the liver), wiser hopefully (but what is wisdom but knowledge of one's own ignorance), but also considerably worse for wear than the 63 kilo lad of summer past: My legs where killing me, and my gait that of a 70-year-old (your average, not your 70-year old mountain runner!).
The Crusaders Family
My good colleague Sharlene had been convinced off the merits of club training by Aoife the previous Wednesday (good recruiting there!), and we drove off from work, just beating the worst traffic and arriving early enough to have a pre-training chat with Crusaders coach Lindie Naughton (read all about Lindie here: http://www.lindienaughton.com/)
Soon plenty of familiar IMRA faces started popping in: Paul Kelly, still nursing the injury that kept him out of the final LL races, Aoife, Orla, Niamh, Eileen, and Bronagh.
I managed to catch a lightning quick summary of what was going to happen, overheard people talking about 6xSixes and 1200s! Once Sharlene and I got to grasps with the simple fact that the track is 400m in circumference, a clearer picture started to emerge, but before nose-diving into the program, we had time for a leisurely warm-up around the pitch. The pain was instant!
The Long Program
I asked Lindie if she'd recommend the long program, given my overall decayed state on the day: "You'll surive it," she said. You always know these old-schools trainers. Bless them for whipping the weakness out of us!
While Sharlene was bracing herself for her first track run ever, the 6 times 600m runs, I lined up with some speed-cannon of a Mile Runner, Orla, Aoife, Bronagh, Niamh, and some other Crusaders women.
Off we went in good speed, the track runner splintering away from the rest of us, while I tried to find a suitable pace for the distance that would cause me a minimum of pain! I found this lying just behind Aoife, with Orla a little bit further up front. The surface was perfect, I now understand how those amazing times are achieved, all the speed of tarmac, but none of the resounding bluntness hammering up your leg.
After two successful laps, 800m, I decided to up the pace a bit, and sprinted past first Aoife and then Orla, but finished miles behind the Crusaders track runner. Truly impressive pace. I knew my legs were worn, but even fresh legs would have availed little against such speed.
Between the sets there was a two minute rest, and off we went again, the trackster, Orla, Aoife, me, and the remaining field. Again I sped up at the start of the final lap, and finished as the first time, second, but miles behind your man. In the third race, Orla set a heavier pace from the outset, broke a hole of some 50m, and kept that to the finish. Interesting to see how different running strategies can be used with varying results on a track.
The 1200m were tough enough (and I don't remember if we did 3 or 4 somehow!), but next up was a minimum of 3x400m sprints. This was completely new territory for me, my only sprinting experience coming from the football and floorball I've played with the lads, and my competition with my old man: We'd finish any fun run by sprinting each other to the door of my old house.
TO BE CONTINUED...