TRAINING: End of a Cycle

Ten weeks of preseason training finally finished yesterday. Yesterday I put the jewel in the crown with the longest and hardest training run of these ten weeks focusing on aerobic conditioning and strength development. Circuit of Avonbeg proved exactly the instrument to totally tire out all layers of muscle fibres stimulating endurance development across the full spectrum of fibres (except my sprint fibres which can’t be conditioned this way). Secondary objective for the run was to use it as a strength exercise through the running and walking on steep climbs but keeping the heart, as always in this phase, strictly in the aerobic zone. The day accomplished both very well and I may use Dublin Peaks to similar effect later in the year before the cross-country season.

A New Superb Training Run, New Superb Training Facilities

My voluntary (and eminently pleasurable) ordeal concluded with a 30-minute morning jog over the hills followed by a recce of Wicklow Way Leg 5 (13.4km, 465m ascent) in the evening. Not only did I feel the old uphill power (not just strength) return for the first time since 2008 I noted just how perfect a training run this will be once I complete my move to Glendalough later this Summer. Once you cross the saddle between Mullacor and Lugduff, you can run either way and add another 150-200m ascent for a continuous climb of 8.5-9km. Hopefully this new location will allow me to immerse myself even more in the mountains.

GarminConnect also allowed me to count the damage of getting lost in the woods. It had taken me about 45 minutes to get from the top of Mullacor back to the car park!

This run was a perfect end to another memorable week which yielded 134km. Six short of my absolute record two weeks earlier but still a marked improvement on old standards. Once I broke the 100km barrier, I never went under it again in the six weeks that followed and part of me now feels very uncomfortable doing it but focus moves now more than ever towards quality (see below).

Aerobic Crucible

I’m reading “Arthur Lydiard – Master Coach” at the moment; it’s a fantastic book full of funny stories and golden insights into the mind that shaped the world’s winning training program. It again reminded me just how modern my mindset had become and how a return to the “old ways” saved me from years of frustration.

Lydiardism yielded some return: 630 miles run over mountains, through tropical heat and with gruelling hill circuits and regular morning jogs. Double what I managed in the injury-stricken and eventually useless first ten weeks of the year which shows the degree of my folly, laziness, and misfortune during that period. As Lydiard memorable says in the book, however, I must still remember the key ingredient of the system patience. His is not a system of fast results but building for the future.

No need to rest on the laurels too much and consider a chapter closed. I have to get used to this sort of training regularly for another decade to come if I truly want to see what my aerobic capacity is capable of achieving. It’s never the work of the last few months that show during your season, it’s the accumulated work of the years before as you can see on several competitors on the IMRA season who are now reaping the just rewards of years of consistency.

Then for some criticism, while this has been a really good phase several things could have gone better and must be improved for the second aerobic and hill phase in August:

1. I started too low (40 miles) due to injury worries

2. Runs over 90 minutes needs to be increased (I did 20 in 10 weeks, 30 would have been optimal)

3. Runs over 120 minutes need to be increased (I did 8, whereas 10 would have been perfect. Two runs were 1:54, however, so I came close).

4. I only did 5 dedicated Hill Circuits whereas 12 would have been optimal. Three were replaced by races (Cooley Half, Prince Willie’s, Circuit of Avonbeg) and the others by sprints sessions, hilly fartleks or steep uphill runs (Camaderry/Brockaghs)

This is playing devil’s advocate; however, I can be very happy with the training done and the flexible approach which steered me around potential injuries when the threat arose. For the next aerobic cycle I will start at 100km and build towards 100 miles. All signs suggest I am now able to handle this higher mileage.

Anaerobic Phase

The blog will now turn its eyes to the anaerobic phase which I am starting this week. Depending on how quickly my tendons and muscles are fully recovered after the previous phase, it’ll be Tuesday or Wednesday.

As Arthur said this phase is really “eye-wash” and certainly the least important of all the training phases, but it’s also the easiest to mess up and potentially the most difficult to master, so I’ll spend a good bit of time on it here.

Among the answers that will be dealt with is the interesting “why do I blow up early in hill races”…