Monday, 18 May 2009

Day 22 - knowing your limits

Type - interval training

Distance - 400 metres x 6

Time - 1.29, 1.34, 1.32, 1.38, 1.34, 1.30

I am a little out of sync with my training sessions with Jarlath this week. I can't make a Thursday evening session owing to wedding duties, and so we shifted to the best time for both of us - Monday evening. It also meant we wouldn't be doing a steady distance run. I had already done a tempo run on Saturday, so it made sense to try something else. And today was the day to learn the last weapon in a training arsenal - interval training.

Interval training is quite simple in concept, and devestating in impact. It involves running at something like full pelt for a defined distance, recovering, and then doing it again. And again. And again. And then perhaps throwing up, and then doing it again. Jarlath had measured out a 400 metre stretch of Constituion Hill, stretching from the side of Buckingham Palace to the top of Hyde Park Corner. We would run that, and then walk/jog back and do it again a total of six times. But first we had to get to Green Park.

We jogged along Embankment, up Northumberland Avenue, across Whitehall and through Horse Guard Parade. It was a very nice route, and much easier than navigating the crowds thronged around Parliament. On the way Jarlath discussed the fact that my progress would not continue at the rate it had been improving. I knew this, but this session was designed to prove it. And, in the nicest possible way, it did - there is still a long way to go! I joke that it would be funny if I did just keep up the pace of improvement, which, as Jarlath calculates, would mean a marathon in well under three hours. Wouldn't it be funny, I say, to beat you, to stand on your defeated, broken body! Words that will come back to bite me!

We stretched off, and then got ready for the first interval. We shot off, sprinting up the hill. I was level with Jarlath for half, maybe two thirds before falling back. I was gulping air, deep, whooping breaths, and a pain quickly spread across my chest and down my arms and legs. I was done. I tried to go forward at the same pace, but I just couldn't sustain that speed. No wonder, as Jarlath finished the 400 metres in 1 minute 24. I limped in 5 seconds later.

"Maybe that was a bit too quick" Jarlath said, and looked barely out of breath. I weakly nod agreement, hands behind my head to try and get more oxygen into my lungs. Five more intervals to go, and I already feel dead. We walk back and then jog the rest. It doesn't take too long to recover (although later it is apparent that we've given ourselves a decent amount of recovery time, and that this is the time I will have to reduce in future training attempts) and as soon as we touch the start line it is off on another interval.

This one is better paced, and I manage to finish it without limping across the finish line or feeling close to death. It still burns, and the last few metres are tangibly slower than the rest, but it no longer seems impossible to complete the session. Two down, and four to go. The rest follow in a similar pattern - a strong start, speeding past the half-way mark and pushing it until it hurts and I limp the last few metres. The times vary between 1.34 to 1.38 until the last run. With no more sprints after this I feel I can put more into this one, and begger the consequences of overdoing it.

I sprint, pumping arms in front of me and sustaining the pace with long strides. By three-quarters it is hurting badly, and I am breathing deeply to try and drag oxygen into my body. Still the pace quickens, and I am feeling slightly numb. I am gasping ragged breaths, making strange noises, yelps between pain and desperation. I really shouldn't carry on, but I do - being yelled at by Jarlath is a strange motivator but it seems to work. The last interval is one of the quickest, and afterwards I feel spent.

Jarlath said that I should hate him by the end of the session. Hate is a strong word, but I do like him a lot less for a few seconds. Especially as he has barely broken a sweat doing the same session faster. Yes, a long, long way to go. Jarlath chooses this moment to remind me of how amusing it would be to beat him. That is clearly never going to happen!

Recovery, jog back to LSE, stretch down, protein shake and relax. I cycle home, and feel strangely exhilerated, and find myself attacking hills with gusto. It seems the promise of interval training, to really force you to raise the bar, is a true promise. I will certainly be doing more of it in the coming months.

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