DIARY: Striking the right balance

After Tuesday’s very encouraging performance, I wondered how I’d do in the Thursday “rematch”. The problem with the Thursday run is that it is always 10 minutes longer than the Tuesday one, so 103 minutes this week rather than 93 minutes. When my aerobic phase ends in late March, these runs will have increased to 1:53 and 2:05 respectively which I am hoping will not feel as much like a mid-week long run as it looks on paper, but sure the only direction of progress is forward.

Last year, I always felt a bit faster and stronger by Thursday so this “medium-long run” tended to be faster. I put this down to “putting more space” between myself and the Sunday long run. This year, I have begun by running stronger on the Tuesday, perhaps because I have dosed down the Monday run a bit as I found my body needed just that little extra bit of recovery after Sundays.

Play or work?

For our “sausage session” I wanted to demonstrate the classical 75/45 second session which essentially can be turned into a grass version of 400s if you run it hard enough (75 seconds hard, 45 seconds easy). Ideally, in the fartlek version you keep the hard pace around 95% VO2max (5k pace) as it is the easiest to shrug off the effects from and it allows almost full recovery during the recovery interval without having to come to a complete halt.

It didn’t pan out quite like that with some of the lads flying off at 1500m pace and I heard some gasping for air during some recoveries which was a first this year. Thankfully, once we hit the sixth, the pace naturally slowed back towards 5k-10k pace. I finished off almost pulling us back on the wrong course with an interval dipping into 3k pace but with the usual cutting of corners there was some respite for everyone. Despite this, I knew the moment I got into the car that this session had been a bit on the hard side for what it should be.

Coming up the next morning, I still felt it, and needed only take a few steps out the door before I decided “today, no matter what, don’t force the pace, let it come naturally”. There was no point adding injury to insult just to match Tuesday’s session. I’m still rebuilding the body from its travails not trying to break it down with every workout. Once I got going I noticed that my heart rate and legs were ok, but once I hit any type of hill I lost a lot of seconds. My fast-twitch fibres had clearly been exhausted on the Wednesday, so had to rely more on slow-twitch fibres and they were not up to the job of getting up those hills at any pace.

Grass and sandals

I included more grass in the run and ran in my Recolite sandals again to give the feet a rest. It worked out quite fine, some of my splits were very good and I finished the workout in 4:43min/km. Well slower than my Tuesday effort but also longer and on tired legs. In many ways, I felt this one was more valuable. After these three days of reasonable brisk running, I look forward to the easy jog Friday before finishing the week with the fastest run, as always, the “Out and Back”.

Closing in on the hundred again

Tallying up the totals, I could hardly believe the improvement in fortune: five days done and 95km already completed. Hard to believe it has only been 13 weeks since I could begin running regularly again and just seven weeks ago, I still couldn’t even manage 50km. It’s a reminder of how quickly fortunes can change, but also a warning, because it can just as easily go the other way! With that in mind, I felt good about keeping some control and restraint today. Even with that, the run was still only 44 seconds off race pace, which is nothing considering tired legs, low early season fitness and sharpness and the slow route and terrain I run on compared to the average road race.By stepping back just a few percent, I should be ready for another good run in two days. If I don’t, then it’ll start a slow cycle of deterioration in form. This is essentially negative super-compensation, each knock is delivered before “your body can stand up again”.

This is the type of decision-making that you cannot write into a schedule but that has to be taught, either through experience, or by becoming an expert on the principles behind your training and by learning to understand the signals of your body, especially before they become obvious (like, say, a broken leg). I often read that champions have to be “intelligent” and this seems to be the meaning of that old adage: without the ability to read your own signals and intelligently adapt your workouts every day based on what happens, succeeding at the pinnacle of achievement becomes almost impossible.