TRAINING: Careless fartleks

I haven’t begun advertising my informal fartleks widely yet, so it was just the three musketeers of Jeff, Amidou and I huddling under a tree as an almighty shower hit the UCD pitches around 18:15 this evening.

“Champions are made under trees like these,” Jeff said.

“Why did you have to show up,” said Amidou.

We did a few quick squats, hip looseners and bounces and then went off for a good 22 minutes of easy running around the pitches. For the last kilometre of the warm-up with threw in our “Indian/Brazilian” routine once more with the back man always sprinting gently to the front of the other two and then cranking up the sprint pace towards the end.


With that done it was time for another round of OMNIUM fartlek and to avoid pen and paper I asked that everyone keep their own score. “If you forget your points you lose them.” To keep it exciting with three runners, first in an event was 3 points, second 2 and third 1.


Once again, we began with the “Prologue” to settle starting orders: each of us had to go off on our own for a lap (we’d picked a 570m lap with a bit of mud and a small hill in it) at their “10k pace”. After that positions were settled: Amidou 1st, Jeff 2nd and me back in 3rd.


We ran an easy lap then, which we’d do between each change in event, and then everyone had to go off on the “Flying start”, meaning run to a set halfway point on the lap and then your time counts from there to the finish. Amidou clocked 45.42 before Jeff came in a second or so back on that. I was surprised to take the event with a time just under 45 seconds. For the second week running the self-paced 250-260m distance seems to agree with me!


The main menu followed – eight laps with every second lap having points for the first man across the line – so a potential of 15 points to be won. This is were the real tactic practice comes in: Traditionally, I know I can beat many long distance runners in a sprint finish but not the real power runners. Last time I felt the effects of my somewhat eroded cardiovascular fitness, and did not really “try enough options” I felt. So today I was determined to test different strategies of attack.

We all settled in easy on the first lap and just as I prepared to test the guys with a long attack by upping the pace from the start of the second, Jeff decided to do the same and ran off with determination. Coming into the last 250m I felt I could not close the gap and when Amidou whistled past I decided to hold off a bit to save for the next attempt.

By the end of lap 4, I felt the legs were moving well up the hilly part and all of us were toe to toe. Then the long sprint attacks came and once again the reply let me down and I could not close. I hung on into the corner to see if any of the boys would fade but when they didn’t, I felt it was time for another long attack. We took it nice and easy on the intermittent lap but then I decided to up the pace again to gain initiative. This time I knew the attempt would fail the moment we hit the climb as the legs lacked power. I could only watch as the lads sprinted it out: to recover I slowed to a trot and bided my time.

The moment Jeff and Amidou crossed the line, I decided to up the pace to try “a long consistent pace”, which I reckoned was my best chance of getting something out of the “points race”. It took me half a lap to get back in contact but then I went straight past. The chaps let a small gap open but took chase quickly enough. Halfway through the last lap they were almost on my back but this time I felt better up the hill and was determined. Turning the corner quickly, I pulled out a long sprint towards the finish and thought I almost had the lap won. Only at the very last moment did Amidou pip me on the line but at least I’d secured a second. More importantly, I managed to run through several race strategies during the course of the session. The average pace of 4:20 for the 4.3km cross-country is not that fast but while heart rates generally flutter low enough from 140-160, that final hard run 300m pushed mine up to 190bpm.


One on one pursuit races followed around a soccer pitch – Amidou versus Jeff, Amidou versus me and then Jeff versus me. Rankings were confirmed when Amidou won both and Jeff beat me out in our head to head. This left only an easy lap before we did a handicap race of two laps.


Each point advantage the runners had gained meant they had to wait back 3 seconds. This left me 6 seconds to Jeff and 18 to Amidou. Jeff, misjudging the instructions, and thinking we were only doing the small pitch, went off like the clappers and caught me midway through lap 1. At this stage, my legs felt quite tired, and I did not have the spirits to push back. Eventually I decided to stay just close enough to do something if he faded and when I noticed Amidou wasn’t getting too close, I tried to keep a big enough psychological gap for him not to try a sprint. This worked and with a second spot we finished: Amidou 19, Jeff 17 and myself with 14.

When you’ve done a session like this, the bit of acid has to come out as both the lads are still working their endurance, and so am I, so longer runs will be back on the menu for them tomorrow. We felt a big lap of the pitch would suffice and all in all got in ~14km of running during an enjoyable 90 minutes of workout with a few breaks here and there. To me this is what fartlek is all about.

Injury – I fear you not

Even better, because we were running on grass, and in Breathos, it’s possible to get a bit sloppy with technique, especially late on, as the body and mind tires. So I got a bit of tightness in my left ankle. The big chance I’ve noticed is that I couldn’t care less about that because I seem to have lost my conscious fear of “an injury”.

Part of me think that’s perhaps one of the most important steps forward, to have removed those years of inculcated fear and borderline hypochondria that leads to every odd niggle needing to be classified in Latin when it’s just a small warning signal that the movement was a bit sloppy at times and thus the body is giving out. I find now that being completely relaxed about it, doing my drills and “putting good movement back in there” (as Tony says), it clears within a few hours. In the past, I’d have begun to get anxious, done all sorts of weird stretches, put an ice-pack on the joint and probably then tried to go run on it the next day without first reset good movement. Essentially an explosive cocktail of anxiety, counterproductive treatments and bad movement.