Intervals? Really!?

April 24, 2019

I did an interval training work out today.

IntervalsIt wasn’t as grueling as I expected. I think because I didn’t go fast enough.  I’ve never been able to sprint. I lettered in high school cross country, but I was really bad at track. I swam the 500 yard freestyle event on swim team. I would invariably start out in the bottom half of the field but would reel in my competition one by one because I could keep swimming at the same pace through the whole race. I didn’t often place first – but I consistently placed well enough to be as asset to my team. But on the 50 free, I couldn’t swim any faster than I could for the 500. I can got the distance – but I’ve never been able to sprint.

I was pleased this morning, though, because while I likely didn’t go fast enough for the workout to be as miserable as it was probably supposed to be – I did discover that I’m not too far from a higher gear that I can maintain for a while. I did a pyramid workout – intervals of speed at a minute, 2 minutes, 3… building to 5, and then working back down to 1 minute. By the time I was on the 3 and 4 and 5 minute intervals, I was paddling quite a bit faster than I usually do – and able to maintain it.

So that was pretty cool.

(I couldn’t lift the boat to my shoulder to carry it back up the bank at the end of my paddle though. So that part wasn’t cool…)

The thing is, though – I had absolutely no intentions of getting this serious about training. Well – serious, yes. But not this intense.

I didn’t worry too much about the physical training to start with.  Not because I think the distance will be easy. I feel surprisingly confident about the physical demands of the trip. I paddled on Lake Superior last fall, and one of the things that put my mind at ease was that while I was really tired after 5 days, with 25+ miles each of the last 4, I was confident that an average of 20 miles about 5 days a week was well within my capabilities. That it was an entirely reasonable goal, and would not be overly taxing. I was confident my body would adjust to that mileage relatively easily.

A friend of mine completed an expedition in Scotland, and one of his pieces of advice was that the mental and emotional demands would be more taxing. He suggested that I would adjust to the mileage – but that I should take a shorter “shake-down trip” to see how I handled days without seeing anyone else.  Without talking to anyone else.

So I was confident about the mileage. I was looking at charts, and starting to figure food and menus and ingredients, and worrying about judgment and landing spots.

And then I realized – my paddle on Lake Superior was in September. It was at the end of the season. My base was at its strongest for the year.

I’ll be starting this trip at the beginning of the season. I realized that if I wasn’t careful, I would be starting from as close to nothing as I can.

So I started thinking about training. And I came in from the back door. I started without a lot of structure. I won’t be able to do the kind of mileage I’ll be doing on the expedition – so I started with a simple plan to get on the water 5 days a week. I specifically didn’t worry about the mileage or the speed. I figure just getting on the water with the consistency I’ll need for the trip will do me good.

Then I started to figure I should make sure there are some longer mileage days – and that’s when I started to call it training. I figure I’ll be averaging around 20 miles a day. I may well do more after a few weeks in. But some days I’ll need to paddle 30 or 40 miles. So I want to get in at least one day at 45 miles before the expedition. However long I may need to paddle on a day, my hope is that I will have done it at least once before.

So now I had to start looking at building mileage in a reasonable – and safe – way. Now I had long days and short days; I had increasing mileage with each week. I’m trying not to have a rest day the day after a long day – it seems, intuitively, with no actual knowledge, like it’s a good idea to get in the habit of getting back on the water after paddling some mileage. Because I’m going to be doing that every day this summer… So now I have to pay attention to sequencing – all of a sudden there was a strategy.

And just like that, I was remembering long-ago training plans for triathlons. I haven’t started logging mileage – but I can feel it coming…

And then I got an email from a friend who races. He offered training advice. He talked about intervals training.  Aerobic work-outs, distance. I started looking at words like lactic and cross training.

Couple that with the fact that I’ve been talking with another friend about nutrition. About using fat for energy vs carbs, and a diet that includes lots of fat on off days as opposed to carbo loading and sugary energy drinks. He shared some training plans to build the ability to use fat for energy.

… aaaaand –  I’m down a rabbit hole! I’m looking at training schedules and nutrition spreadsheets. I’m considering short days and long days, easy days and rest days, interval days and distance days. I’m considering fat and protein and carbs, and how to track them, and how my diet changes for on days and off days. And how that all changes when it’s 20 mile days and 35 mile days and wind-bound days instead of intervals days and 4 mile days and 15 mile days…

In the midst of it, I’m trying to stay relaxed. The fact is, averaging 20 miles a day, whatever my training turns out to be over the next 6 weeks, is easily within my capabilities. And if I eat a lot, I’m likely to stay fueled.

So I’m going down the rabbit hole –  but I’m trying not to get lost in it!

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