Thursday, July 14, 2011

The need for speed

It feels so good to be running fast again! I did my first series of above-anaerobic-threshold runs (or simply "series" for short) on Tuesday. They were relatively short (3 minutes) and few in number (7) so it wasn't too tough to maintain the speed that I started off at (16kph) for the whole series. I always do series on the running machine because it forces me to keep up a good speed and I can just focus on getting them done without worrying about stones in the path, crossing roads or avoiding pedestrians and their dogs. It was a little difficult to tell whether I was doing them properly - that is to say, hitting the right heart rate - because my Garmin started going bonkers again, at times registering heart rates in the 200s which, for me, is an impossibility. (Today I switched back to the old clunky heart rate strap that came with my now defunct Garmin Forerunner 310 and the problem seems to have gone away.)

Doing "series" are usually the most dreaded workouts. The idea behind series is that, by breaking the work up into chunks with a short rest between (in this case, of one minute), you are able to tolerate the intensity for longer, thus gaining more of a training effect for the same level of psychological and physical damage. In fact, one of the things that attracted me to the Ironman was precisely that the training would entail much more long, steady running, rather than high intensity torture. Sometimes people say to me, "Oh, it's only a 10K? Well, at least it's easier than a Marathon" and I say that they are both very hard in their own way. In a 10K you suffer at a much higher intensity - your motor is red-lining all the way - but for less time; in a Marathon, much of the time you are not suffering at all. In fact, I fear shorter distance races more than longer ones. Suffice to say, they are both very different, as are doing series and long slow runs. It's not surprising that after having done so much low intensity training, it comes as a welcome change to be able to get a high quality workout done in half an hour. I always feel like I have really trained after doing series, my lungs feel as though someone has reached down into my trachea and tried to pull them out. In this sense they are amongst the most satisfying workouts you can do as however much we tell ourselves otherwise, sometimes it is just simply a case of YES PAIN YES GAIN.

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