TRAINING: Lydiard Time Trials provide the answers

One of Lydiard’s main reasons for terming his “Time Trials” as trials rather than “tempos”(which is essentially what these runs are) is that it reflects the output you expect from performing them. A tempo is just running at a set pace for a period of time usually. A time trial has set distance and Lydiard’s had a very important secondary objective with using them: gauging where the athlete’s current weaknesses are.

I decided to conduct my 3k pace session as a 2000m time trial on grass. I did make a few mistakes (testing my new Newton runners was not great as they are so unbalanced that cutting tight corners is difficult) but overall the test was conducted well enough to gather information.

My target pace was 3:26 so on the surface my time of 7:10 for 2k is an abject failure. Running on slightly undulating grass rather than track and considering Tuesday’s session makes this a bit better. The really valuable information came to the fore after studying the 400m splits, however.

My first 400m was much too fast (without me noticing this) and my final split was the second fastest. So why was the overall performance so poor and how does it relate to my Leinster League form (or lack of)?

Simple: Being able to recover and run strong towards the end of a time trial suggest that the aerobic base of the runner is robust and does not need much further development (slowing down towards the end indicates the opposite). What killed me? Tiredness perhaps, but there’s always a degree of that, so it’s more interesting to notice how the fast pace and tiredness combined. Look at these points:

1. I slowed down inexorably after the too quick start. The difference between ideal pace and too hard pace was very narrow (2-4 seconds per 400m)

2. I did not feel the tiredness come on in time

This is exactly the pattern of my poor Leinster League races. This suggests:

1. Up to a certain intensity I’m very well-conditioned, beyond this my decline happens very rapidly

2. My aerobic conditioning is sufficient to recover but it takes time

A similar pattern dogged me in my early days with Emma Cutts and she was quick to suggest 30/30 workouts to build up my resistance to maximal anaerobic intensity. This way I could burn hard for up to 10 minutes in races and still keep a good pace after that without slowing down too much.

When I start the windsprints in a few weeks, this may just about be in time to absorb the positive effects of 30/30s (basically the same workout as windsprints) for Snowdon, but it is a pity that I was delayed first by winter injury and then by the 2 weeks after Brockagh.

Finally, this is a great lesson in starting slow. I should expect to have much less problems in races if I go off much slower and work my way into the race over a few kilometres. As Emma pointed out to me once the line between the “orange” and the “red” zone can be very fine, so you must not cross the precipice (say your intensity is 4 and you tire in 10 minutes. If you are trained a certain way, moving to 4.1 may tire you in 2 minutes. Once you’re fully conditioned only, you would have a less drastic profile). I may come out and test this theory in practice at Trooperstown (my “home ground”) but in any case the average pace at Snowdon is lower than in the Leinster League races (due to the more severe climb and longer distance), so it wil fall more nicely into my strong zones.