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Archive for September, 2008

Suicidal interval session

Posted by thepeteplan on September 26, 2008

With the month drawing to a close, and the MAD team sitting behind Team Oarsome on the CTC (, the orders came out this morning for those in the team who hadn’t done the challenge yet to have a go, and those who had to improve their score if they could. This month’s challenge is a 2k restricted to 24spm. My previous time was 6:35.9, and I really wanted to break 6:30. I didn’t want to waste a session just doing a restricted rate 2k though, so decided to do it as part of an interval session, the 4 x 2k that I should have done earlier this week anyway.

I decided the second rep was the best place to do the CTC, and so targetted 1:50 pace for the first as a warm up, 24spm and hopefully 6:30 for the second, 1:50 again for the third to recover, and as fast as I could at free rate for the 4th, hoping to maybe be able to break 1:40 pace. It went like this:

7:19.0 / 1:49.7 / 26

6:32.6 / 1:38.1 / 24

7:19.3 / 1:49.8 / 27

6:36.3 / 1:39.0 / 32

Totals = 27:47.2 / 1:44.2 / 27

The CTC effort on rep 2 although not the sub 6:30 I really wanted was all I could do. With the drag at 130, and being only 5’11, my power and stroke length maxed out at 1:37 at this stroke rate, and so a 1:38 average was pretty good. The third 2k started off pretty tough after the hard 2nd one. I was thinking for most of the first half that the third would be the last, but kept telling myself not to decide that yet. At half way through the third with the average on 1:52.5 I decided to get the average back down to 1:50, as I wanted to average under 1:45 for the 4, and I didn’t want to have too much left to do on the final rep. Then although the final rep was about all I could do, it felt really good. All in all a good session today.

Helen the marathon rower:

I should give a special mention to a lady from my gym, Helen. Up until a couple of months ago Helen hadn’t really used the erg before, but was challenged by the gym instructor to do a 10k once a week for 5 weeks. Helen completed those 5 lots of 10k, getting gradually faster each week, and was then ready for another challenge. The crazy idea was to do a sponsored marathon in mid October (with a little prompting I think from Tom, another gym erger). Helen built up over a couple of weeks to a half marathon, rowed I believe a little faster than she was doing the 10k’s (around 2:25 pace I believe). For most people that would be enough, but Helen wanted to be sure she could complete the marathon, and complete it well, for the charity. So over the last couple of weeks she has continued to build the distance. When I arrived at the gym at 11am this morning she was about 10k into a 33k row, and when I left she had about 8 or 9k to go. After around 2 months of erg training Helen rowed for a longer duration today than I have ever rowed! And she still plans on two longer rows (something like 36k and 39k) before the marathon! It is truely inspirational, and there was no way I was going to do less than the 4 reps today with that sort of effort going on 3 ergs down the line!


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Concept2 4min challenge

Posted by thepeteplan on September 25, 2008

With only a small window of time in which to train at lunchtime I thought I would have my third and final attempt at the concept2 challenge series, a 4min piece. At the beginning of the month I said that my target for this challenge was to go under 1:32.5 pace as the first of three steps, the second being a mile under 1:32.5, and the final being a 2k under 1:32.5.

Only a short (5min) warmup for this one today:

4mins = 1302m / 1:32.1 / 35
30sec splits:
1:29.8 / 38
1:33.1 / 36
1:33.7 / 34
1:33.7 / 34
1:34.3 / 34
1:33.1 / 34
1:32.5 / 36
1:29.2 / 38

I paced it deliberately like this – 5 hard strokes hitting 1:22, then easing off over the first 30seconds. 1:33’s and 1:34’s through the middle, then picking the pace up from 1min to go. I finished strongly, but I think this will be my last challenge attempt. It makes for a very short session, so not ideal training, but it is a good confidence booster.

The next stop is the mile race in Newark in just over a weeks time. 307m further, so well under a minute at this pace. I certainly felt today like I could have done that further minute of rowing, so as long as I feel as good next Saturday the target will be on.

The key for me on that mile race will be attacking the pace from the start. At Evesham I started off gradually only pulling 1:35’s and 1:36’s for the first 2 or 3 minutes, then speeding up towards the end to finish on 1:33.5 average. It felt good, and I felt I had more in the tank, but I didn’t get into a faster rhythm because I didn’t attack from the start. When I race well I race towards the higher end of the ideal stroke rate, and the only way I can get into the groove of that higher stroke rate is by doing the 5 hard strokes at the start to get going fast, then keep the rate up through the middle. I’m looking forward to the next race now, and trying to push close to my limits. My best race mile was done at 1:32.0 pace, how close can I get to that?

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Some middle distance work

Posted by thepeteplan on September 24, 2008

The weekend began with a trip into London to visit David, one of the PP08 group, who was planning to do a 2k test on his own at home. As I couldn’t think of anything worse than doing a 2k test on your own at home, I thought I would go and join him. David went first with a 6:27.9 pb to beat, set in competition. He was always going to beat it because his training has been going well, but needed a confidence boost  rather than going too far into the unknown come BIRC in 5 weeks time. A very well paced 6:24.4 got him a good chunk off his pb, and showed that he is well on target to meet his aim of sub 6:24 at BIRC.

Watching someone row a good pb gives you good motivation to do a good row yourself, so I decided to do a sub maximal 2k. A short (5min) warm up and then set off with the simple aim of beating each 500m split of David’s row:

2k = 6:22.2 / 1:35.5 / 32
1:35.0 / 33
1:36.5 / 32
1:36.6 / 32
1:34.1 / 34

It’s a shame in some ways I didn’t go just a little harder through the middle of the row to break 6:20, as it is quite some time since I’ve done that. However, the row felt good and nicely in control, so it’s still a good confidence booster.

In the afternoon I met some old school friends for a drink for someone’s 30th birthday. Unfortunately a quick drink at 3pm led to getting the very last train back from Waterloo at 1am, and not getting into bed until after 2am. Sunday was then a complete training write off. Monday I made the mistake of trying to stick to the training plan with a 4 x 1k / 4min rest session. The weekend had left me tired and lethargic, so it was always going to be a struggle. One rep at 3:09.9 (1:34.9 pace) and I didn’t even begin the second rep.

Tuesday still feeling a bit run down (am I getting old that it takes so long to recover for a night of moderate drinking?) I decided that a negative splitted 10k was the best session to get back into it:

10k = 35:44.8 / 1:47.2 / 26
2k splits:
1:51.7 / 24
1:49.5 / 24
1:47.4 / 26
1:45.6 / 27
1:41.8 / 29

A pretty solid pace by the end, so a solid session overall. Definitely too fast for an easy distance session though, which meant that today had to be a more moderately paced distance session, which turned out to be:

11k = 40:25 / 1:50.1 / 24spm
10min splits:
1:51.9 / 23
1:50.9 / 24
1:49.7 / 25
1:48.4 / 25

Again negative splits, partly because I don’t warm up before these type of distance rows so feel better as I get into it, and partly because it maintains my interest better with something to concentrate on.

Reponse to comments:

Shirley commented on my last entry that the toughest training session is not any particular session on its own, but rather any session that you try to repeat just a few days after what you considered to be a very good effort. I agree Shirley, repeating a session just a week later when you thought you did well at it the previous attempt is difficult. Most training programmes, mine included, would not have you repeat a hard session more often than about every 3 weeks for this reason. After 3 weeks you both have had chance to improve your fitness, and to forget how hard the session was last time… But what if for some reason you do have to repeat a session for a challenge, or a race? How do you approach that? Analyse both how you rowed the session last time, and how you prepared for it. Look for anything you could do better. Did you sleep well the night before? Did you eat well? Were you fully hydrated? Was the temperature ok? Were you fast at the end of the session, or did you go too fast at the beginning? If nothing comes out as not the perfect preparation and execution of the session then accept that you may not be able to improve on your previous performance, and approach it in the same way as a standalone training session and see how you do.

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The week ahead

Posted by thepeteplan on September 21, 2008


60mins = 16461m / 1:49.4 / 25


Submaximal 2k with just a short warm up (5mins):

2k = 6:22.2 / 1:35.5 / 32
1:35.0 / 33
1:36.5 / 32
1:36.6 / 32
1:34.1 / 34

This felt pretty good and in control.

The week ahead:

I was trying to list the targets for the week before it began a few weeks ago, and I think it helps me keep on track with what needs to be done, so I will try again:

Monday = 4 x 1k / 4min rest – my target for this will be 1:35.0. I think I am around 6:16 for a flat out 2k at the moment, and this session will tell me whether that is the case. Another 5 weeks of speed work to go, so a pb is still there for BIRC if all goes well.

Wednesday = 4 x 2k / 4min rest – I will not be going all out for sub 1:40 again this week. Instead I will take the first 3 reps a little easier so that I’m able to make the final rep the fastest. Sub 1:41 still for the first 3.

Friday = Longer negative split distance, or perhaps another go at the C2 4min challenge, I really want to get this down to 1:32.5 pace, which should be within me.

Harder interval sessions:

Nosmo commented on an entry a few days ago about not finding any hard session any more difficult than another. I think how hard you find a particular session varies from individual to individual, but within each session type I generally find the longer the interval, the harder it is. I agree that physically if done with the same intensity a 100% effort session is a 100% effort session, but when you put in the mental difficulty of having to hold the target pace for longer per interval (even if this target is slower to take into account longer intervals) I still think it is tougher. 4 x 1k I find a lot harder than 8 x 500m, even though I would do it 3 to 4 seconds slower pace, and it is the same overall distance. The 4 x 2k session, as I commented in the entry before, is tough because it is right on a whole number target pace. This always makes a session mentally tougher, until you break that barrier.

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BIRC is approaching fast

Posted by thepeteplan on September 18, 2008

After the speed intervals session on Monday (8 x 500m) I just wasn’t feeling like getting back on the erg on Tuesday for the scheduled easy distance piece. Instead I did a treadmill run for a change but to still get the CV benefit, burn some calories, and more importantly have my normal break in the middle of the day at work.

Treadmill 10k = 46:10 (13km/h)

Wednesday it was time for longer intervals, but down from the 4 x 2k from last week back to 1500m reps this week. Last week, if you remember, I attempted to do the 4 x 2k’s all just under 1:40 pace, but couldn’t hold it on the final rep. Rather than go faster on the 1500m reps from the start I decided to stick to the same pace for the first 3 reps, then try to make the final rep faster.

4 x 1500m / 4min rest:
4:59.7 / 1:39.9 / 30
4:59.8 / 1:39.9 / 31
4:59.5 / 1:39.8 / 31
4:52.2 / 1:37.4 / 32

Totals = 19:51.2 / 1:39.2 / 31 / 6000m

A solid last rep at below 6:30 for 2k pace, which is pretty good after 4.5k under 1:40 pace.

Today then it was back to steady distance work, and I really had to make up for neglecting the erg on Tuesday:

60mins = 16461m / 1:49.4 / 25

With BIRC now about 5 weeks away there isn’t too much time left to keep the motivation and good training going. 2 weeks on Saturday I will race the mile in Newark, then 3 weeks later the 2k at BIRC in Birmingham. Then I can back off for a while and make the decision whether to go to Boston for the Worlds in February.

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Speed intervals still hurt

Posted by thepeteplan on September 15, 2008

Now the third week of pre-birc speed work, though only the second week for me having done the 5 x 750 session last week, but missed the 6 x 500m session the week before. I couldn’t train at lunchtime due to a meeting, so had to go after work. I had a headache before I started so nearly didn’t go at all. I still had a headache after rep 3 and so nearly just called it a day there. Two things stopped me – I didn’t want to do the session again this week, and I decided that every extra rep I did would be a bonus for the training effect. As it was, the headache didn’t get any worse on reps 4 to 8.

8 x 500m / 3:30 rest:
1:32.4 / 34
1:32.3 / 34
1:32.2 / 35
1:32.1 / 35
1:32.0 / 35
1:31.8 / 35
1:31.7 / 36
1:31.4 / 35

Total = 12:15.8 / 1:31.9 / 35

All things considered not a bad session. Nowhere near good enough yet for where I need to be for BIRC though. I have, in the past, done this session with all reps under 1:30 (marginally), but at both a higher stroke rate, and a hugely higher effort level. I’m not sure I have it in me to get back to that kind of effort level. My legs didn’t feel too bad after this today, tired, but not dead. When I did this set at sub 1:30 I literally could not stand up after 5 reps and felt like my quads were going to explode. Today I finished, wrote down the splits, then walked off for a shower. Having a head ache does limit what your body will do though I think.

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Harder distance work – the missing link

Posted by thepeteplan on September 13, 2008

I think the one missing link from my training over the past couple of stages of training has been the harder mid to long distance work. This is the aspect of the training that I think puts that final piece of the puzzle in place in terms of mental preparation. I don’t believe, with the progression we have made through the training, that it is essential physically, but for me personally I think it helps mentally.

So once a week for the next 4 weeks I will try to put in a session in excess of 10k where I push the pace more than on my steady 10ks. I won’t be going time trial type of intensity, but gradual negative splits so that it takes effort to keep the pressure on by the end.

Today’s plan was for a 60min row along this format, but unfortunately I had to cut this short at 45mins due to pretty bad intentinal pain from the 40min point that wouldn’t clear.

45mins = 12481m / 1:48.2 / 25

10min = 1:49.4 / 25
20mins = 1:48.5 / 25
30mins = 1:48.4 / 25
40mins = 1:47.2 / 26
45mins = 1:46.9 / 26

This row felt good, and I was annoyed not to be able to carry on for the full 60mins. I think this is the way to get the longer distance rows in more often, to begin at a comfortable pace, and just aim to make each split faster than the last.

Racing plans:

There are two mile (1609m) races coming up before the British Championships – Grimsby on 21st September, and Newark on 4th October. I’d like to do the first one as it is run by a team mate of mine, but 8 hours of driving to do a 5min race is a little crazy, and I don’t really want to do 2 races in the space of 2 weeks. So my plan is to do the Newark race on 4th October, just 3 weeks before the BIRC. My aim will be simple, do the mile as fast as I can to get an idea what I can expect from the BIRC race. I’m not going to make predictions for either race, or give myself targets that I may or may not be ready for. I’ll just come up with a race plan a few days before, dependant on how the preceeding week’s training has gone. Obviously I’d like to be under 1:32.5 pace for the Newark mile to know I’m in with a chance of the same for the BIRC 2k, but we will see.

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The illusive interval target

Posted by thepeteplan on September 10, 2008

Middle distance, anaerobic threshold, or 5k paced intervals tend to get progressively harder the longer the reps are. Mentally though, the session that is right on (or rather just above) a round number target is always the hardest. Combine the physically hardest and mentally hardest of middle distance interval sessions for me and you get the 4 x 2k.

Throughout the 5k training phase of PP08 (and PP07 last year) we went in a progression from 1350m to 1800m reps, but never made the leap to 2k reps. Why? Because they are just too tough. Well over 6minutes a rep, and for me right above the barrier of 1:40 pace. As a team, the MAD team used this session a few years ago as selection for a team to break the men’s small team marathon record (as the record is done in 2k reps). Doing the session repeatedly trying to get into the team for that record attempt I managed to get down to a 1:40.3 average, but breaking 1:40 for all 4 reps just wouldn’t come. (Being in such a strong rowing team this wasn’t in the top 4, so I didn’t get to row in the men’s marathon team, and had to row a 50k relay instead. At least we set the world record for that!)

So today for the first time in perhaps two years it was time to try to get that illusive target on the 4 x 2k / 4min rest.

4 x 2k / 4min rest:

6:39.7 / 1:39.9 / 30
6:39.8 / 1:39.9 / 30
6:39.8 / 1:39.9 / 30
6:45.4 / 1:41.3 / 30

Totals = 22:44.7 / 1:40.2 / 30 / 8000m

Nearly, but not quite. I’m very happy with the way I rowed the session though. I knew at the half way point of rep 3 that there was little chance I was going to get the final rep on target. In weaker moments that realisation would have been enough to push harder for the next 1k, and call it quits at 3 reps. But you can never quite be sure how much you really have left for that final rep, and the training effect would be better getting the final rep done as well as possible.

I held target only for 500m of the final rep, then it was a struggle to hold onto the pace as much as possible for the remainder. Oh so close, yet oh so far. Still a very good session though.

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Why is slow harder than fast?

Posted by thepeteplan on September 9, 2008

Today was supposed to be a steady distance training day following the tough session yesterday. I was feeling tired though, and unsure how far my motivation would take me on a steady distance session. As I don’t like to ever fail to complete a session, or “handle down”, I have a method for these days that mean whatever you do you can pretend to yourself that it was the intended session. So what I did is set the monitor for 1k reps with 0 rest, therefore the monitor resets every 1k and you start again. Then simply do as many 1k reps as you feel like or have the motivation for. It works both ways, if you can’t face doing your planned 10k you can bail out early, but if you get to 10k and feel like you could do just another 1k, and another, and….. you can carry on.

Today I made it to 5k:

5k = 18:46.5 / 1:52.6 / 23

However, I did justify this stop before I got there by deciding to have a second go at the new concept2 challenge series. For this first month the challenge is a 4min piece. With 7 weeks to go to BIRC, and a possible mile race in a few weeks time, a 4min piece at this stage is actually pretty good practice. Today’s piece went like this:

30sec splits:
1:34.3 / 34
1:34.9 / 30
1:34.3 / 32
1:33.7 / 32
1:33.7 / 33
1:33.7 / 33
1:32.5 / 34
1:30.3 / 36
4mins = 1287m / 1:33.2 / 33

That’s pretty good, I have to say. Yes, the overall pace isn’t overly fast for me, very marginally slower than my 2k pb pace, but the way it was rowed is good. A solid start, a fast middle, and a faster end. My aim for the 4mins is to get it down to 1:32.5, my aim 2k pace, in the next couple of weeks. Then if I race the mile race in Newark, that will be my aim there too, 1:32.5 pace (I have rowed a mile before at 1:32.0 – I was in better shape then than when I set my 2k pb). Then finally into 2k racing season the aim will be a 1:32.5 paced 2k (BIRC, Boston, whenever the time is right).

As I’m not usually one for overly long warm ups, I’m hoping noone notices that I rowed a controlled and well paced, pretty fast, 4min piece, feeling good throughout, after a full 5k warm up. Noone noticed that point right, and won’t comment that perhaps I should warm up longer for other pieces and I might perform better? Good.

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Speed work starts here

Posted by thepeteplan on September 8, 2008

Last week was officially the first week of the pre BIRC phase of the PP08 training programme. I was away for three days working at the beginning of the week, however, so didn’t do the first of the speed work sessions. Unfortunately the 6 x 500m / 2min rest session planned for last week would have given me a good idea of the pace I could expect to achieve for today’s session, and so I went into it a little blind. Those of you who have done interval training to your physical limits on the erg will know that when it comes to 2k paced intervals, as the rep distance increases, the difficulty can become exponentially harder.

Today’s session: 5 x 750m / 3min rest

With no firm idea what pace would be achieveable I picked a target of my 2k pb pace, 1:33.0. For 750m reps this is a tough target, but with 7 weeks to the British Championships there isn’t a lot of time for hanging about on these.

5 x 750m / 3min rest:
2:18.9 / 1:32.6 / 35 <– Hmm, so if 1:33 could be a hard target why did I go this fast?
2:19.2 / 1:32.8 / 34 <– When you’re wondering if you’re even gonna make 3 reps, why don’t you slow?
2:20.0 / 1:33.3 / 34 <– It could be 10mins rest and I’d still not recover for the next one
2:21.8 / 1:34.5 / 34 <– I guess that’s still faster pace than last birc
2:24.9 / 1:36.6 / 34 <– Seemed like it lasted for 10k

Total = 11:44.7 / 1:33.9 / 34 / 3750m

The final average is nearly a second slower than the target I went in with, but much of that was due to the last rep, which was torturous. I think that if I have started off in the low 1:33’s rather than the mid to high 1:32’s the final average would have been at least 0.5 faster.

I have to say that on completing this session at lunchtime today I did not like the thought of trying to row a 2k at the pace of the first 750m in 7 weeks time. However, when you’re not doing this intensity of work year round (as I have done in the past on the standard Pete Plan) the first couple of sessions are very hard, but the improvements come pretty fast for a few weeks, as long as you consistently complete the sessions to realistics targets. So hopefully in 2 weeks time I’ll look back and think “perhaps 6:10 isn’t out of the question”.

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