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The Pete Plan blog

Archive for August, 2008

All the ergs are busy

Posted by thepeteplan on August 8, 2008

Or at least there were all busy at lunchtime today as 4 of us got together for a 10k row at work. Tom, who I used to train with most days a few years ago, went back to his old sport of running. He has realised that he just doesn’t get the same level of overall fitness from running as he used to from the erg though. Helen is using the gym to get fit, and was challenged by the gym manager to row 10k once a week over a 5 week period on the erg. Caroline is a water rower who uses the erg because she knows it is more fun than the river really. I emailed Tom to see if today was Helen’s challenge day, as Tom is rowing the 10k’s with her, and said that I was doing 10k today, either a steady one at 1:52 pace, or a fast one at 1:45. Except to me 1:45 means 1:44.9, and in my email to Tom I rounded this to 1:44. Tom’s reply was that yes he and Helen were rowing the 10k today, and Caroline too was up for a steady 10k. On the comment of deciding between the 1:52 or 1:44 pace plan Tom’s response was “Pete, with all these class rowers round you today, it has to be 1:44’s!” This was the answer I wanted really, as if I did the steady 10k today that would have left the fast 10k to tomorrow.

So that was at 0930 this morning. Over the space of the next two hours, before an 1130 scheduled row time, my 1:44.9 target that I had rounded to 1:44 in my email to Tom became a “well, 1:44 is pretty close to my 1:43.5 seasons best pace, which in turn is pretty close to my 1:43.1 personal best pace”, and somehow I’d decided this was going to be a pb attempt! This is not the best decision to do a spur of the moment pb attempt the day after my hardest session of the week, and probably my best interval session of the past couple of months. But that’s what I had decided on in my mind, so that’s what I set off for. This is how it went:

10k = 34:48.6 / 1:44.4 / 27
1k splits:
1:42.6 / 30 <– even too fast for a pb attempt!
1:43.2 / 29 <– through 2k still under 1:43, seems like a bad idea, but feels ok
1:43.3 / 28 <– rate is dropping each k, never a good sign, and there is a long way to go
1:43.7 / 28 <– through the first third at pb pace, but I would quite like to stop soon, thanks
1:44.2 / 28 <– ok, half way now, can’t stop with the others rowing so aim for initial target
1:45.4 / 27 <– would they notice if I stopped?
1:46.0 / 27 <– I feel like I have stopped
1:46.2 / 27 <– at least I’m sure of sub 1:45, and it actually feels ok again now
1:45.9 / 27 <– into the final 2k, the end is in sight
1:43.7 / 28 <– got there in the end, but I wish I’d just started at 1:44 / 1:45

Really after the hard session yesterday I was pleased to get through the first third of the 10k at pb pace, and then not back off too much to the half way point. From there I knew I “only” needed around 1:46.5 for the second half to make the initial target, and anything under that was a bonus. So for the next 4k the aim was to keep the pace under 1:46.5 to ensure making the original target. As noted above, this reduction in pace was actually enough that I was feeling pretty good again by the final quarter. I could have pushed on harder from there, but the pb was out of reach, and there was no great benefit to be had by pushing right to the limit. All in all a pretty solid 10k row, and now I can afford to have a slow and steady day tomorrow, and hopefully get out on the bike if the weather is ok.

The others all did solid times. Helen, only her second ever 10k on the erg, did an impressive 48:50, around 30seconds faster than her first ever 10k last week.


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Take motivation where you can

Posted by thepeteplan on August 7, 2008

On the erg, with the ‘numbers’ staring you in the face throughout your session, you need to take motivation where you can, and play mind games to get you through the hard sessions. Today’s session was a progression from the 4 x 1500m last week:

4 x 1650m / 4R:

5:29.1 / 1:39.7 / 31
5:28.9 / 1:39.6 / 31
5:28.8 / 1:39.6 / 31
5:25.1 / 1:38.5 / 32

Ave: 6600m = 1:39.3 / 31

The average is exactly on my 5k pb pace, and this is faster than the 1500m reps last week, and the 1350’s the week before. Next week we take a step backwards to 1400m reps, but with a corresponding slight increase in pace.

Where did I draw my extra motivation from today? Other people in the PP08 training group had found this session a struggle yesterday. This is the great thing about training in a group, if other people struggle it gives you extra motivation to meet your targets, and in turn motivate the others. Especially as coach of the group it’s important I lead from the front and make my targets, because if I can’t meet my own targets, doubts could creep into other people’s minds whether they can meet theirs. As it is, the targets for this type of session are always within the physical capabilities of the athletes, but they are close to the limit. A mental doubt, or some unfavorable parameter like high temperature, lack of sleep, inadequate nutrition or water, can be the difference between making the target or not. If you don’t achieve a target it is not a failure, it’s just part of the process. We learn from it, try to analyse why it happened – was it hot, did I not eat breakfast, was I stressed about work, did I have mental doubts before I started, was the target just unrealistic? If you can work out the reason then you can use that next time it happens to have realistic expectations of whether you are likely to fall short of the target, and plan accordingly.

It is easier for me self coaching in many ways than the athletes I coach. I know if I need an extra day off, or need to adjust my targets a little lower. For the others I’m sure they’d feel like it was a failure on their part if they took an unscheduled rest day, or went slower than target deliberately. And if you’re not mentally strong enough you might take it as an excuse for a day off just because you don’t feel like training, and that’s always a slippery slope to get on – the first “I can’t be bothered” missed session is the hardest, after that they get easier. We’ve all been there before. Also we’ve all had those sessions where you think you can’t make the target as your legs are tired, or you feel like you’re lacking energy, but once you warm up into the session you feel great. Until you’ve been training for a good number of years it can be very difficult to assess when you really need that unplanned extra rest day.

The way the people I coach train though, with a full day off once a week, and alternate hard and easier days, it should never get to a point where you’re a long way off making a target, or really need an additional rest day (unless you’re ill), so trust in the targets, and let me know if you’re starting to feel run down.

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The hardest day

Posted by thepeteplan on August 6, 2008

The hardest day in your training schedule when you’re a dedicated athlete is the rest day, especially the mid week rest day, but that’s what I did today. After a handicap 5k race on Monday evening followed the 8 x 750’s at lunchtime, and then yesterday’s steady distance session was replaced by a 500m attempt for the CTC, a rest day was really in order today.


I have also entered the “cross training meets duathlon” race taking place in Reading on 16th August. The event is held at an outdoor athletics track and consists of 800m run, 2k row, 50 press ups, 50 squat thrusts, 2k row, 800m run. I decided that my weak link was the press ups, so have been doing some training for those over the past 4 or 5 days. Today has also been a rest day from those. This event should be very interesting, what type of person will do well at it? As an 800m run will probably vary between 2min30 and 4mins for most competitors, and the 2k row between maybe 6:40 and 7:40, it will probably be pretty balanced between the people who are simply specialist in one or the other. I think the press ups could be key, as if you’re good at them 50 press ups can be done in 50seconds, if you’re bad it can take 3+ minutes. But really the key will be pacing – don’t let your ego get the better of you trying to set an unrealistically fast time in your discipline. I could do the first 2k in 6:30, but that would leave my heart rate too high for the press ups and lactic acid would build much faster, and leave less for the row and run at the end. So, adrenelin allowing, I think going pretty easy in the 800m and 2k at the start, as fast as possible through the press ups and squat thrusts, then going harder on the second 2k row to put yourself in with a chance over the 800m is key.

A lot depends who is in the race. If someone like Hywel Davies is competing then first place is gone, though as he won the UK double ironman last weekend hopefully he might sit this one out. I competed with Hywel before in a supersprint indoor tri – erg, bike, run. As I knew he was so strong on the run I knew my only chance was to get to the run with him, so I went flat out on the bike and got to the treadmill level with him, from where he destroyed me, and I dropped from joint first to probably 6 or 7th over the space of a 1k run! I won’t make that mistake again, of win or die, because the pain of running when you have nothing left to give is not a nice feeling. Therefore realistic pacing is the aim. I don’t expect to be any real competition for any of the regular cross training competitors who will take part, but I don’t think I will be last either, as with 4k of rowing (making up over 50% of the total duration) it will be a pretty strong event for me.

It was a choice between this event and the rowathlon. The rowathlon is something I really want to have a go at, but it will have to wait till next year. I’m just not confident enough yet on my road bike at speed. I know I have the fitness and leg power to do well from the turbo sessions, but I can’t translate this to the road yet, and not around a small cycling velodrome with lots of other people around certainly.

Stroke rate and SPI:

There are been some debate between some of the athletes I coach on desired, and ideal, stroke rates and stroke power index (SPI) for training. SPI for those who don’t know is effectively just a measure of the stroking power. It is a useful measure to track where improvements in time are coming from, but there is no ideal number to aim for in any particular training session. Generally speaking though, the higher the stroke rate, the lower the SPI. You have to reduce the stroking power as you increase the stroke rate otherwise you won’t be able to keep going.

So stroke rate should be proportional to the pace you are rowing at. Take the 2k pace and rate combination as the reference point – if you are training at a faster pace than 2k pace (eg an 8 x 500m workout) the stroke rate should be higher. If you are training at a slower pace than 2k pace (eg a 4 x 2k workout) the stroke rate should be lower. If you’re doing a steady distance session, the stroke rate should be lower still. As a very rough and generalised rule of thumb, a 1spm difference in rate either way should be accompanied by a 2second difference in pace. So for example for me with a 2k pace and rate combination of 1:33.0 and 34spm, at 33spm I would train at 1:35 pace (perhaps a 4 x 1k workout), at 32spm I would train at 1:37 pace (perhaps a 4 x 1500m workout), and at 31spm I would train at 1:39 pace (a 5k pb attempt). This would put me at 29spm coupled with 1:43 pace – my 10k pb rate and pace. It would also put me at 1:53 pace at 24spm, which is probably about the right steady distance combination for me really, although I tend to push them along a little faster at that pace – perhaps to my detriment in terms of the training effect desired from those sessions.

Work out for yourself from your 2k pace and rate what this would give you as pace and rate combinations, and see how they fit with the training sessions you’re doing.

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Nearly half way

Posted by thepeteplan on August 4, 2008

We are now into the third week of six of this third phase of Pete Plan 2008. This phase concludes with a 5k test around 30th August, although one PP08 athlete is doing their 5k this evening.

Monday training:

8 x 750m / 1min rest:
2:28.6 / 1:39.0 / 32
2:28.6 / 1:39.0 / 31
2:28.5 / 1:39.0 / 31
2:28.6 / 1:39.0 / 31
2:28.5 / 1:39.0 / 31
2:28.4 / 1:38.9 / 32
2:28.4 / 1:38.9 / 32
2:27.3 / 1:38.2 / 32

Total: 6k = 19:46.9 / 1:38.9 / 31

Targets for the week:

The rest of the week sees a progression from the 4 x 1500m from last week, and 4 x 1350m of the week before in the shape of a 4 x 1650m. We also have a hard 10k on Friday, and 3 steady distance pieces on the between days. My targets for the week are:

Wednesday: 4 x 1650m / 4min rest, target = 1:39.9

Friday: 10k, target = 1:44.9

In addition to these I am also doing a 5k on rowpro in about 35mins time to join Shirley in her 5k test, where she will be aiming to beat her personal best time, and age group world record – go Shirley! It is a handicap race, and I’m going off last of the 8 people with a 3min22 handicap (from a 16:59 predicted time). This will be a tough row to make the handicap time after the 750’s at lunchtime.

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Should I run?

Posted by thepeteplan on August 3, 2008

I didn’t train yesterday, I’ve been feeling a little under the weather all weekend, just generally tired. Early this afternoon I needed some fresh air so went for a gentle bike ride down to the army athletics track in Aldershot so that when I race at the Reading rowathlon it won’t be the first time I’ve run around a track since I was at school.

I cycled there, ran a 400m warm up, ran an 800m a little faster, than cycled gently home. As I had my garmin heart rate belt on for the bike computer, I ran with that in my hand:

So you can see the 400m and 800m in the middle. 2min51 for a steady 800m run doesn’t sound too bad until you look and see that is 5:38mins / mile, and that is probably a good bit slower than Paula Radcliffe runs a marathon at. Still, she wouldn’t erg a fast 2k, so I don’t need to compete with her on the track.

Thanks for the tips on press up training, and the decision that I should do the cross training event. I’m glad you can do 60press ups straight off Alan, but I’m afraid I can’t. However, in an event like that, how low to the ground do you have to go? I always do press ups just touching my chest on the floor between reps.

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What would you do?

Posted by thepeteplan on August 2, 2008

The title of this post refers to a potential race in 2 weeks time. A reasonably local event (the Reading Rowathlon) offers two different events:

Event 1: 2.5k row, 7k bike, 2.8k run

Event 2: 800m run, 2k row, 50 press ups, 50 squat thrusts, 2k row, 800m run

The event takes place at an outdoor cycling velodrome, so the cycling is around that, the running around a running track just inside that, and the rowing on standard concept2 ergs. These events are generally dominated by the cylists / runners / triathletes, as the row is a pretty small part of the overall event. So I thought event 2 would be one I could do well at, and decided on Thursday just to have a steady run through and see where the weak link might be:

800m treadmill = 3min12 (15kph)

2k row = 6:58.7 / 1:44.6 / 29

50 press ups = 2min30

50 squat thrusts = 1min10

2k row = 7:04.9 / 1:46.2 / 28

800m run = 3min12 (15kph)

I deciced to take the run and row fairly steady at the start (the run would be faster on a track anyway) to leave energy for the press ups. I didn’t think the press ups would be as tough as they were – my tactics were wrong, I did 30 straight off, thinking I could then have a few second rest, do 10, few seconds rest, do 10. But by the final 10 (after doing something like 4, 3, 3) I was down to doubles, and then singles! The squat thrusts were easy, and I think I was doing them too far, so could do those a lot faster. Then the row and run were fairly steady again.

So in order not to humiliate myself if I choose that event I have 2 weeks to improve my press ups ability. As I don’t currently do any (ok, I did 50 on Thursday and 30 yesterday) it should be a rapid improvement. Otherwise I could choose to do the rowathlon, but although I think I would be competitive up to the end of the bike leg, running 2.8k after that would see me a long way behind people who actually run.

Which do you think I should do? I have one further option, and that would be to do the rowathlon race the weekend before (but an hour drive away) so see if I’m any good at that.


Then on Friday a standard PP08 training session, albeit an interesting one. I’ve got to say my abs and intercostal muscles were (and still are) a little tender from Thursday.

2k, 6min rest, 1k, 4min rest, 500m:

2k = 6:21.9 / 1:35.4 / 33
500’s: 1:35.7 / 33, 1:36.0 / 32, 1:35.4 / 33, 1:35.0 / 33

1k = 3:12.7 / 1:36.3 / 32
500’s: 1:36.7 / 33, 1:36.0 / 32

500m = 1:32.9 / 35

I was pretty happy with the 2k. I really want to push it just under 6:20, but I started off a bit slow to do that without completely compromising the 1k. As it was, self preservation kicked in for the 1k, and I didn’t go as hard as I had in the 2k. Solid overall session, and better than “wasting” a session just doing a single 2k.

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