TRAINING: Transitions

Tonight I'd like to talk about two separate matters both relating to the fine art of "transitioning" or as the official definition goes "the act of passing from one state to another" or, more interestingly, "an event that results in a transformation". The latter term proves particularly apt in the context of running.

On the one hand, this week has shown me two simple personal transitions: First a transition from immature runner to mature runner, from a short-term mindset to a long-term mindset. Second a transition from Racing to Training and then to Racing, or?

Goodbye Trooperstown
During the week, Barry Minnock (of hill running fame) was kind enough to forward me a presentation on general training from Athletics Ireland. The presentation, while low on design, concisely went through the basic ingredients of a proper training plan based on the latest relevant knowledge. It also provided several interesting session suggestions for 5k, 10k and marathon, but neither of these meritorious pickings of material grasped my main attention. Instead this simple line did it: "You will never reach your full potential racing week after week."

All the memories of last season streamed back to me; how I had fought to free myself from injury in time for my beloved Winter League, how I had greedily run the Wicklow Way Trail, shattered myself at the Three-Peaks, thrown myself at the longest leg of the Wicklow Way Trail, fought back time and again from smaller injuries, desperate to do just one more Leinster League race.

And I realised I was now doing it again. Sure, this time my endevours were shrouded in pragmatism: Neatly planned into my new strictly regimented programme, designed to control progress and punishment. But I was dropping in races as "trials", "tests", or "hard exercises" already, and not just a few, but many. I had barely healed the soreness from Annacurra before I was out at the 5k in Ashford. The excuse: A convenient trial to base future training paces no.Only today are most of the minor ligament irritations gone, and my plan was Trooperstown this Saturday.

"Was?" Readers of this Blog may ask. Yes. Trooperstown is out. By sacrificing the race I like most, I seek to prove to myself that I will not blindly walk back into the same trap that laid me low once. Small tingles have appeared in my foot, stiffness in my achilles, and I know where this road is leading.

The Banking System
The AAI presentation talked about Base training as "putting money in the bank" and as ill-chosen as that analogy may be in our current economic climate, it remains a very precise description of what the early stages of training affects on a runner.

Whenever we race or train excessively hard, we take money out of the bank. Last year I withdrew so much so early that I was bordering on over-draft before the season had even commenced. This year I am seemingly about to do the same, so my advice: Don't do it if you have very serious goals. If you're a seasoned runner with years of building strong ligaments and injury-proof legs, you can more easily ignore this advice, especially if you (truly) have the discipline to take your foot of the pedal in races and do them at 90-95%, even then your choice comes not without risk.

So from one day to the other this week I went into my training plan and removed Trooperstown and Crone Wood, after all, they will always be there. A better point in time will arrive for me to test myself on these routes again, for now I will keep putting more cash onto my account, continue rebuilding and fortify for a punishing Summer season.

Transition Training
Fate, this human concept for our inability to deal effectively with probability, seemingly dicates that just as I make my personal transition of mindset, I have also entered the Transition stage of my training. So from what stage, you may ask keeping earlier definitions in mind, are you moving and to where? And what transformation is occuring?

Transition training is any form of training period that does not neatly fit into another category. In my case, I have denominated the 4 weeks between the end of my Base phase and the beginning of my first "Intensity" phase as the "Transition" phase. In this stage, the key workouts I perform become slightly more intense: either in terms of length (longer repetitions for instance), larger volume, or faster pace.

Yet, there is still not heavy presence of heavy anaerobic workouts, and Transition here serves prepare myself for the heaviest transformations in my physiology, those that will happen as the response to punishing anaerobic workouts. The body does not take these well unprepared, so the transition phase serves as a neat middle-man in this negotiation.

My mileage similarly keeps increasing and will move from 66km this week to 76km next week to peak at 86km in week 3 before dropping back to around 60km in the periodisation week (week 4). This rest will be key to absorb the benefits of the first three weeks and set me up strong for the first 4 weeks of Intensity training. Intensity training will build me up towards 96km in a week (and a good bit at higher intensity than previously).

As a sample week, this weeks plan (of which 4 days are now complete) looks like this:

Mon: Rest Day (2.5km easy hill run)
Tue: Track Session (12min warm/cool at base pace, 5min of 30/30 session, and a 6x1000m at marathon pace with 400m floats)
Wed: 56min Base Run (flat)
Thu: Progressive Hill Session (25min warm/cool, Uphill Reps: 3 min at marathon intensity, 5x2min at 5k intensity with 2:30 floats, and 3x30 sec full sprint with 1:30 float. All done on a 15% incline)
Fri: Easy run (20 min)
Sat: Long Slow Run (120min hill run)
Sun: 5 min warmup jog, 26min hill-tempo (endurance/half-marathon intensity) finished with 1x2min at 5k intensity

The week looks a bit more messy than it would have been since I changed plans midweek (cancelled Trooperstown) and followingly had to spread my harder work over multiple days more than intended.

The key session in this phase is the 30/30 session, a VO2 max session, that helps build a higher "roof" as my old coach Emma Cutts used to say. I'll talk in more detail about this in an upcoming article as you owe it to yourself to employ this session in your training.
In the meantime, I shall bide my time and wait for the right time to strike....