TRAINING: Interval Session

I woke up this morning feeling no ills after yesterdays run (and indeed I would have been shocked if much pain had been caused by a 4.5k slow jog).

On the back of that I decided to stay sensible, cancelled the two possible hill runs I could do: A recce of Wicklow Way leg 7 (too long for my current fitness levels) and Ballybraid (too rough and uneven for my sore ankle).

Instead, I wanted to take in the weather in Marlay park, with it's wonderful soft grassy areas, and try and do the session Emma has lined up for me this next month. I knew there'd be a risk doing a speed session in my current condition, but wanted to give it a go, see how I'd react and plan the month around the results.

The Premise: MAC/AnT2 Intervals
I should really be doing MAC intervals at this time of year. Meaning short periods of running were I push myself into my max zone (from 191bpm to 196bpm). Due to my current physical state, however, what I actually ended up doing was AnT/AnT2 intervals which is almost as effective (running in my Anaerobic Zone 1 and 2, or 182-188 and 189-191).

This type of training is basically lactate tolerance training whose purpose is to subject the body to as much lactate production as possible and teach it to operate more comfortably at these levels. It also develops your speed (as you're running very fast) and VO2 max.

The session is simple, you run 30 seconds at max intensity and then you jog 30 seconds. You repeat this 10 times (20 once you're hardcore) or you can train to failure (something I used last year to teach me to survive the steep climbs). When you train to failure make sure you stop once you can't maintain proper running form (it's senseless punishment after that).

The ingenuity of this type of training is that your heart rate will actually remain in the high Anaerobic zones throughout the 10 minutes of the standard work-out, even though you're only running hard half of the time. Your heart rate simply doesn't have time to drop.

Another advantage over track intervals based on distance is that you work a particular heart rate zone for an exact amount of time. The short intervals also allows you to keep going at a very high speed every time (400m or longer intervals sometimes leads runners to run, say 200m blistering pace and 200m fighting for their lives).

The "Track"
Since I'm no track runner, I chose one of the square grass fields in Marlay that has four different sides: 2 flat, one up and one down (depending on what way you run up and down will switch, of course!).

This has an added advantage: The grass is softer than track, also the uphill and downhills spread the stress on multiple muscle groups, you work flat, up and down all during the session.

Even better, the uphill is a great instrument for sending the heart rate straight up while the downhill allows you to extend your stride and get the feel for running at "tremendous speed."

Warming Up
Never start a session like this cold. I did my dynamics warm-ups (from the ChiRunning book): Ankle rolls, knee rolls, hip rolls etc., as well as some quick plyometrics on the spot (buttkicks, high knees, and similar exercises, all for 30 secs) to warm-up. Then I did a 15 min slow jog before lunging into the intervals. I followed this up with a 40 minute slow run and a 15-minute stretching session.

My average heart rate during the session was 182, but this is counting the rest periods. During the hard intervals it was closer to 184, while I managed to push myself all the way up to 188 on a few occasions.

I think I ran the session very well and in good form, especially on the terrain, and while I didn't hit the MAC zone, that's going to be difficult at the moment as my lungs and heart are very efficient and my legs tend to give out long before I can put these three organs, who comprise a runners "engine", under sufficient duress to enter the highest training zone and athlete has.

Running down the grassy slope was wonderful, and I felt little pain. Only negative is my knee bleeding again as I accidentally kneeled on the wound during yesterday's first aid course and a new crust is yet to form. Far as I know I traumatised no children...

During my fastest 30 seconds, I covered 160m, equivalent to 3:08min/km speed (or 5:02min/mile), and in most my other sessions I hovered around 150m. Given this would have been quicker on a track, I'm quite happy with the quality of the session at this stage of my recovery. It's mind-boggling to think that Haile ran a good 18 seconds faster than this per kilometre for more than 2 straight hours!

Thanks goodness he has no interest in the hills...

This speed translates into 19.1kph, however, which makes for interesting ready as I only produce 15-17kph on the treadmill at these heart rate intensities. The Garmin measured me reaching movement speed of as high as 21.6kph as well. Hopefully that is the first signs of Emma's predictions coming through: As my base speed improves, the max speed moves up as well. I certainly always felt I had several "hidden" gears in my arsenal that are only awaiting activation.

If I feel painfree tomorrow, I'll hope to continue my work on this.