Quality, not quantity…


Week Two is upon us, and all three of the main ‘key’ sessions have been completed; id est: Bike with 2 x 20 minute intervals built in, a swim of 4 x 300s (a warm up of 100, then the sets, then a warm down; 1.4kms in all), then a 65 minute run with a warm up and then 40 mins of tempo. Three more to go. Plus some gym work. I’m tired thinking about it!

In between I managed to pop down to my good mate TC (who is not my coach, though he does coach professional cyclists). His advice is always excellent, to the point, and reasonably scary. TC’s general opinion is that most endurance athletes are insane, and certainly not just running, but running away from something. I guess in my case it’s less an issue of escape and more about being able to say that you did at least one Iron Man in your life. For others, that goal could be something entirely different.

Anyway, Coach TC (who isn’t my coach)* has run the slide rule over my chosen programme and given me some advice. And he does this in a clever way; by asking questions. What are you doing that session for? What is it going to do for your fitness? How are you gauging your effort? Do you understand lactate threshold, and so on. In the heel of the reel, it became obvious I need a heart rate monitor. Now, let’s not forget we are doing this whole project with an eye on budgets. We are not fans here at unironedman of unnecessary gadgetry. But as Coach TC has pointed out (he’s not my… sorry, yes, we know), without some way of gauging your effort, or what ‘zone’ you are in, you have no way of knowing if you are training too hard, or not hard enough. Either means you are not getting the best out of your time. And let’s assume we all have lives to lead that don’t involve endless hours on the bike or in the pool, then we need to be clever about the amount of time we spend training (and blogging, come to think of it!).

So I will endeavour to get my hands on a heart rate monitor. One of my mates has one, so hopefully I can beg or borrow (rather than buy, or in fact, steal). Then it’s back to TC so we can work out resting heart rate, and max heart rate, which I gather will involve a very short burst of speed hooked up to the monitor whilst sitting on the bike on rollers. Well, I reckon it will be something like that. Once you have those two figures, you can work out your own zones, and where you should be at if the programme asks you for an 85-90% max heart rate effort. I will of course update you on progress.

Gratuitous and totally unnecessary picture of the Pyramids at Giza, just in case you were unsure of the general shape of a pyramid. Nope, didn't think so...
Gratuitous and totally unnecessary picture of the Pyramids at Giza, just in case you were unsure of the general shape of a pyramid. Nope, didn’t think so…

The other good piece of advice that TC pointed out was that all this pyramidal training where you start with endurance and build in quality speed work is irrelevant if you haven’t put the groundwork in first. I see what he means. Think of a pyramid. And then assume you are trying to build your fitness halfway up. Without that solid foundation on which to base your efforts, your training will not pay off. You may acquire some good speed. You may improve your overall aerobic fitness. And it’s not that the training will go to waste entirely. But on the long events, when you need to push yourself a wee bit, and get out past your comfort zone and really dig… well, if your pyramid ain’t built right from the bottom up, you’ll sink into the sand. Just ask any Irish builder over the last ten years. If you can find one. And don’t mention pyrite…

As regards quality not quantity, I can see where TC is coming from. Having only chipped away at the programme, I can see already that there is an emphasis on quality training over ‘junk miles’ – a phrase I discovered when I last trained for a marathon. And I know it will pay off. When S and I were young and fancy-free, we used to frequent a café in our local town. That may not seem so outrageous, but there really was nothing else like it back then, plus it stayed open AFTER closing time! So, broke as we were, we could just about scrape up enough change for egg and chips, but rarely for the wine (which may have been the main reason we were there). But the owner, being an old romantic, would always sort us out with a bottle or two, and we would scoff the lot and then spend the rest of the week paying off the debt. Wine and training. Not great bedfellows. But we were always fond of the grape. These days, it’s more likely to be grape juice in a smoothie. But back then it was the fermented variety. And our motto then, if we had one, was ‘quantity, not quality!’ The opposite of multum, non multa. As we grow older, we tend to flip that around.

Welcome to Fairyland!
Welcome to Fairyland!

The run today was tough enough, but there was a moment of levity. The section of the Park along by the river is one of my favourites. The local authority have ‘themed’ it this week into a Fairy Wood, using some nicely designed timber signage. Tiny wooden doors appear high up in oak trees. Timber toadstools nestle in the grass. A wishing chair has been carved from a tree stump. It’s all wonderful and aimed squarely at youngsters.

Today, all the installation was taking place, and the place was jammed with heavy set men, decked out in hi-viz jackets which fail to hide beer bellies and builders’ bums. JCBs were digging holes for signs, and sweaty confused foremen were on mobile phones asking for directions on where to stick the ‘this way to Fairy Wood’ sign.

The epitome of incongruity!

*Ok, we get it. Don’t labour the point…

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