Ladder Runs – Attempt #1

Well, on the good advice of Men’s Health Magazine contributor Matt Fitzgerald, I should try some intervals. Advice I give to my clients. I should follow my own advice. And I promised my next run would be a ladder interval. So, here’s what I’m supposed to do:

The Ladder
Do this workout at a running track.

1. Warm up with 5 to 10 minutes of easy jogging, followed by stretches for the hamstrings and calves.
2. Run one lap hard, then jog one lap.
3. Run two laps hard and jog one.
4. Run three laps hard and jog one.
5. Optional: Run four laps hard.
6. Cool down with 5 to 10 minutes of easy jogging.

So, I have a 1km horse track right next to my house! How convenient! And I think, well, a 1km sprint is pretty unrealistic, so I will do 500m; most running tracks are, on average, over 400m, and I can find the half-way mark on the track pretty easily.
So I figure I can get to step 4 and with the cool down, I’m looking at about a 7-8km run: 1km warm up, 500m hard, 500m easy, 1km hard, 1km easy, 1.5km hard (figure that might be out of reach, but will try), 1.5km easy, 1km cool down.
Great, so out I go, do my warm up lap, my stretches, all is well.
And then I start to burn rubber, heading out for my first 500m all-out sprint. By the end of the first corner I am hearing this odd noise, something between a wheeze and a grunt, and it’s coming from ME! My lungs are heaving, my heart is pounding, and I’ve only just made the straight! That’s maybe 250m! And I’m thinking I’m pretty near death, I am sure of it! But I power on, pushing hard hard and make the 500m mark and slow down to a near walk. I’m pretty sure you can’t call this a jog. My chest has never expanded so much, I feel like my ribs are going to burst through the skin! But I recover and have a nice easy jog in to the 1km mark.
I stopped, I drank some water, caught my breath and decided, “yeah, okay, I can try that again!” So I did!! Clearly I wasn’t as near death as I thought I was!
And so I blast out of there with a little less vigour than the first sprint effort, but still good, and the wheeze comes on right into the first corner. That didn’t take long! I was thinking, “This is probably what an asthma attack sounds like.” And I kept thinking, “just keep pushing, push, push” and I got around the corner and into the straight. I’m slowing down, I’m struggling to breathe, I am hoping to make that 500m mark, but I’m not so convinced any more. Finally, in a cough and a sputter I have to concede and end up walking the last 90-100m to the half-way point. Yup, right down to a walk.
I was gulping for air. I was shaking. This was as close as I can recall ever being to a 10 (throwing up) effort in a run. I managed to pick up a jog again, and tried (as I had been in all my easy runs) to concentrate on maximising my stride by pushing back when my foot hit the ground. It does help, but I’d forget what I was doing and go back to plodding. This was a very slow lap in the end.
But the effort of running with awareness, of trying to run fast and efficiently, reminded me of when my friend Keri and I had a short-lived track running season back in the day – we were still in high school I think. We were pretty into it for a few months. We even went to competitions. And I was thinking of the drills and stuff we did. I used to run the 400 and 800m pretty well, and also did okay in the 4x100m relay race. I don’t think I’m doing as well now as I was then… maybe I need to do more drills. It was a nice distraction to let the mind wander like that for a few minutes… then I concentrate on the work again.
I ran one more steady lap, at my usual pace and was surprised to find that I came in at an alright speed/time overall, despite the walking/gasping/dying. Well within my averages. But only 4km! I couldn’t have gone any further. Well, maybe another easy 1km, but I just felt like I had done enough! I was TIRED! I felt finished, and I felt like I had a good workout! So I stopped!
It would have been pretty neat to be able to carry on at that first 500m speed. I would have made a 4 minute 20 second kilometre! Hard to believe there are people who just run that fast, and can maintain that pace over a marathon distance, and for me that’s a flat out sprint effort that results in a massive crash!
All in good time, right?
I’m sure I’ll have better results next time!

One response to “Ladder Runs – Attempt #1

  1. Oh, ha, I experience this every time I try a new activity. You know how they say that you're in shape for the activities that you do? It's so true. On the first run, I couldn't run for longer than 4 minutes, and the limit was cardio, which seems crazy for someone that can jump around and shout out loud for 50 minutes at a time.But hey, that's what challenges are about!!

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