Training Review: Emergency Games

My campaign for the Emergency Games was pretty successful. So while legs still feel like a couple of raw chicken thighs that have been tenderised and maybe left out on the bench too long, it seems like a good time to review the preparation for the races.



Context


To understand any training program, you need to know the context in which it fits. For me, it was a relatively light year in 2010 for racing and training. A few key things overtook the importance of training, namely the birth of my son and moving house. Towards the end of the year my mind switched to thinking about triathlons and I dropped the volume of running and added more work in the water and on two wheels. A number of factors led to not racing any triathlons over the summer, before the Games, I only got a single 10km race down in February. Overall my longer term goal is to race a fast half ironman triathlon next season, hoping to set a personal best.



Base


This year I am attempting to work from a reasonably consistent 8-day-cycle for my training. See High Definition for a description on what that has involved. The program will progress in terms of intensity, speeds, and styles of sessions, but will be based around a standard structure. This will be my default training. It should be doable each week, and provide noticeable improvement. I will race from this platform in less important races without other preparation. For the more important events I aim to have a focus period leading in.


I still stick with my idea of base training:

To develop a well balanced athlete capable of optimally responding to the stress of competition specific training.

My base training had been travelling along quite well for a few weeks. There seemed to be some decent improvement in the swim, some on the bike, and had remained stagnant, I may have even lost some of the pure endurance due to lack of volume. However, I didn't make any change before the focus phase.


Focus


Once into this phase, the thinking switched to doing whatever it took to get fast for the Games. Any concern for developing my triathlon abilities was put on hold during this time. I hoped I had given myself enough time to get what I needed out of my running, but not drop too much from the other disciplines.


The focus phase started 3 weeks from the 10km cross country race. Leading into the first race I completed the following day by day:

  1. 10km steady-state

  2. 6x800m hill repeats

  3. recovery / strength

  4. 8km steady-state over hills

  5. 8km hill & terrain work

  6. 6x1000m @ 10km pace w/45sec rec

  7. 15km steady-state

  8. recovery / strength

  9. 11km hill & terrain work

  10. 11km hill & terrain work

  11. 8km hill & terrain work

  12. recovery

  13. 15km steady-state (Considerably faster, with a lower average HR than day 1)

  14. 6x800m hills repeats

  15. 5km time trial (w/ last 1000m hills) @ 10km race pace intensity

  16. am: 5km steady state, pm: easy w/ relaxed sprints

  17. 10km steady-state

  18. 4km @ 10km race pace

  19. very easy 5km

  20. complete rest

  21. 45min of warm up, and dynamic mobility work

  22. RACE

On paper, there isn't much easy running. The majority of work was at half marathon intensity and above. The volume went from about 40km/week of running (which had cycling and swimming on top), to no cycling/swimming but about 80km/ of running. Passes the don't increase running by more than 10%/week rule. Despite what it looks like, overall it didn't feel particularly difficult. Some initial discussion can be found at The Run Focus.


Pros & Cons


To be able to respond well to the training, there were a few prerequisites that I had. These included not carrying an injury, being reasonably biomechanical sound, having years of running history and having a decent base from the routine training leading in. If prone to injury from higher volume running, or without a few months of consistent training, this could have been a disaster. I responded very well, the main pro from this approach is substantial jump in race performance over a short time frame. The con is that the risk of injury, or just a drop in performance from accumulated fatigue & minor damage.


The difficulty is manipulating the peak in performance. Training hard can drop performance, but inappropriate recovery (in terms of both not enough and too much) can do the same. As a result I attempted to minimise recovery requirements, while at the same time attempting to perform the training that would provide the biggest stimulus. This meant plenty of training around maximal lactate steady-state, but the volume of each individual session was kept short enough, that I felt like I could repeat the session the next day. The higher inensity work (VO2max or a bit above) was mainly performed uphill, and any downhill work was on a soft surface with the intent of avoiding as much as possible excessive eccentric loading that results in 2-3 days of recovery.

By avoiding the very high intensity work of 3000-5000m race pace intervals, or lactate tolerance training I hope to avoid the sudden increase then decrease in performance I tend get with that training. Instead by creating an almost daily mild overload at expected race intensity levels, combined with a strength-endurance style I wanted to develop a steady increase in workload tolerance. This combined with with taking 2-3 days relatively easy should avoid the slump I get with tapers between 4-7 days. So not exactly a traditional peak, more just a moderate increase in performance, with being relatively fresh on race day. This I believed I achieved.

Between Races

The traditional thought is take a few days recovery after the 10km, have a reasonable hit out on Wednesday or Thursday and relax in the last couple of days for the half marathon. This wasn't going to work for me. The risk was similar, creating a performance slump because of the timing of recovery. I needed to keep my body ready for work, and hopefully gain a bit me.

The approach I took was reliant on pulling up with any real soft tissue damage, injury or very excessive soreness. Being a cross country, with a lot of soft surface running, I pulled up well. Therefore, for the three days post race I ran a 15km steady-state (usual intensity, slower due to fatigue), another 5km with climbing finish @ around hoped for race pace and a double run day on the third which was 2 relatively quick 5km jaunts. Then I kept the paces up, but the runs short, aiming to finish feeling primed and ready for a hard set of intervals each day. The result was one of my best half marathons ever.

Repercussions

So far not that many. As expected the recovery requirement has been big. For two days I experienced some of the greatest leg soreness and drop in strength I have experienced. A week later my legs still feel wasted. Over the training and racing, I've had a gradual increase in niggles from weak points I have found in the past. Upper left gastrocnemious, right peroneal and tibilialis posteria problems. Nothing seems a genuine problem. I'll take the recovery as needed, before launching back into the base work proper.








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