Start slow, finish strong

Tonight I left my caterwauling child and went to the track for a threshold session. I didn’t feel great; my nose was running, I’ve had a succession of stressful days at work and the last time I went to the track was two weeks ago, when my lack of fitness was cruelly exposed. Finally, tonight was my least favourite session: 20 minutes, then a four minute rest, then two sets of five minutes with a minute in between. I find that really tough because I build up so much heat in the twenty minute session that I really wilt, whereas on the shorter intervals there’s a chance to get a bit of air in your lungs between sets. So I set off with little hope.

When I’m not feeling great, I gravitate towards 1:40 laps. If nothing else, doing each quarter of the track in 25 seconds feels like less cognitive load. The first four laps were ok, but the next two got bad so fast that I changed tactic, and abandoned the 20 minute segment in favour of two ten minute ones, with two minute rests after each one. That did at least mean that I started the five minute segments with everyone else.

1:39.7
1:41.5
1:40.8
1:41.5
1:43.3
1:45.0

Sadly, my second ten minutes was much worse than my first. I didn’t even manage to do six full laps of the track, and had to stumble back to the start for the final sets.

1:41.3
1:45.1
1:46.1
1:48.4
1:49.7
1:10.6 (only 270m)

I had been reading a blog advising me to save my best interval for last. It’s not about sandbagging so much as having a high note to end the session on, rather than just leaving in a state of complete exhaustion. So I think I was mentally preparing myself for that. I was still dismayed at the times I put in for the penultimate session:

1:41.1
1:44.2
1:43.7

Then, after only a minute’s rest (not even, as I ran over five minutes to fit in all three of those laps) I took off my shirt and ran three great laps, the fastest I did all night. I never felt earlier in the evening that I was saving anything in reserve; it was just with five minutes to go there was something I managed to dredge up to keep myself going, and that (or losing my shirt) was a big enough difference to help.

1:34.2
1:37.3
1:34.5

So I did end on a high. I swilled down a bottle of ginger beer and then sauntered home, at least some of the stress lifted from my shoulders.

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