Sunday, 10 May 2009

Day 14 - upping the tempo

Type - tempo run

Distance - 4 miles

Time - 29 minutes 57 seconds

Today I wanted to do a shorter run, but try and beat the thirty-minute time I had set for the four mile fartlek run on Wednesday. It seemed a perfect time to introduce the concept of tempo training to my expanding repetoire of running techniques. A tempo run is a rate of performance at a steady pace. More technically tempo runs are workouts where you run at a steady pace that is around 70% to 80% of your maximum aerobic capacity. Tempo runs are just past the point where you begin to build up waste product in your legs at a rapid rate during a run - the lactate-threshold velocity. For me this meant running at a steady pace of about 7 minute miles after the much slower initial warm up period, and sustaining this for 25 minutes.

This pace would be necessary to get to the four mile run in under thirty minutes. I had come tantilisingly close to this on Wednesday, and a combination of a slower warm up and faster steady run would hopefully deliver results. I plotted a variation on the Highbury loop, going down Highbury New Park through to Highbury Grove, St Paul's Road and then up Highbury Hill, round Drayton Park and over Blackstock Road (map). A slow warm up down Green Lanes and Highbury New Park, and then steadily shifting up a gear as I moved towards Highbury. The training guides suggest that a properly executed tempo run should feel 'comfortably hard', and that is exactly the result I got. It would have been tough to go much faster, certainly over the distance, but it wasn't impossible to get round the four miles and I still had a tiny bit in reserve for a final sprint.

I ran down Highbury New Park for a bit of variation. I nearly went away from it with a sprained ankle. The road is a peaceful, traffic calmed, tree lined avenue, but the mature chestnuts and elms have smashed through tarmac and paving to create viciously uneven pavements. I was watching my step, but still nearly went over on my ankle a couple of times. I don't think I will use that street again, especially when the parallel Petherton Road is more even and running friendly.

Amazingly I reached the Blackstock Road with over three minutes to spare until the 30 minute deadline. And so, breathing heavily to dispell the stitch building in my chest, I extended jellified legs to attempt a sprint for the last 500 metres. I stormed down Digby Crescent with the intense, agonised look of someone fleeing swift-winged Furies, pounded down the pavement, taking in two paving slabs with each stride, passing the next lamp-post and counting down the door numbers. A few pedestrians scatter, startled at the sight of my hulking body charging down the road. I reach my front door and hit the stop button on my watch. Twenty-nine minutes and fifty seven seconds. Pained gulps of fire charged air, sweat flooding down my forehead splashing down to the floor. I sit on the wall next to the door and smile - it is good to have goals and even better to meet them!

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