Intervals at altitude

Intervals at altitude
West Shewa, Ethiopia

West Shewa, Ethiopia


After an excess of sleep during the day yesterday I had trouble dropping off last night, but was still up in reasonable time – with all day to do as I choose, I can always go back to bed. Tuesday is intervals day and, just in time, I’d read some advice on altitude training last night. The suggestion was that where you might run and rest at a 2:1 ratio at sea level, for instance running hard for 2 mins and resting for 1, here the ratio should be 1:1 or even 1:2. I figured I wouldn’t need much convincing once I was moving. I again headed for the field I’d run through yesterday, aiming for at least a two mile warm up. Towards the end of that I spotted a path heading off and up through trees that needs further investigation, perhaps on tomorrow’s longer, slower run. For now, though, I turned back and did the first 800m (half mile) at some sort of pace. It wasn’t too bad, possibly slightly downhill but felt okay. But crikey, the feeling of tiredness afterwards! 1:1 was the least needed, but I stuck to that. There are different theories of interval training, some suggesting that as you get fitter you can have short gaps in between each period of hard running, making for a cumulative tiredness as you work whilst trying to keep the efforts similar. Others suggest a period of fuller or even full recovery between each effort. That way you may have fairly long rests, but you have to put full effort into each effort. Up here, something closer to the latter is more or less mandatory. I only wanted to complete 4 lots of half a mile, but after each I was panting as if I’d just dug into my reserves at the end of a race. That said, they were reasonably consistent, and not too shabby, if the wrong side of 3mins each.

With a long rest between each effort and a decent cool down jog, this was a fairly long time out without so much mileage covered, but I was pleased to finally do some ‘work’ up here. I also nipped into the gym afterwards, for a little bit of upper body work and a lot of stretching. I’ve not banged on about ailments, but as a record for myself, my left knee feels okay, the right one is improving and the left calf is sore but holding up. Some of the advice on altitude training was encouraging, suggesting slower running than sea level remains the norm, and some less so, as it seems I’ve not really drunk enough and should possibly be eating more. A further exploration of the gym revealed the sauna and steam room hiding in the men’s changing rooms, along with scales. I had just run, so should have been light but was still encouraged to be just under 70kg with my kit on.

Food was again good today, and I was properly hungry by the evening, so very pleased that the portions were generous and pudding was a chocolate mousse. Chocolate! I wasn’t aiming for Martin Yelling style “no chocolate for a year” anyway. I particularly appreciate the fact that after being asked twice on the first day, none of the staff has had to ask for my room number again, and even if I pop in for a bottle of water in the morning and don’t sign for it, it’s always there on the receipt later. Two of them have asked my name, whether so that I can become “Mr John” to them as I did to the first staff member who served me or for some other reason I’m not sure. I’ve still not changed any money yet, perhaps tomorrow I’ll do that and see if I can load up on drink supplies outside the camp, but it seems churlish when a beer in the restaurant is about 75p, water slightly less. The beer, incidentally, is St George beer, replete with charging knight logo and flag. I’m not sure how many Palestinians explored Ethiopia, or whether this is some odd English export which has endured. The beer is cold and wet, at least, and I’ve allowed myself one a night since the first few days, reasoning that if it’s good enough for the Canadian, it’s good enough for me. It can be hard to get a second drink, mind, so one is often the limit – it was a nice surprise today to be brought a bottle of water along with my beer without having to confuse the waiting staff by asking for two drinks. I don’t know why it seems to confuse them but with luck, like the room number, my Johnny Two Drink status is on the way to being remembered.

Tomorrow, a longer run, and a little more time in the gym. It’s tempting to try and get in two workouts a day, and while two runs more often than occasionally is likely to hurt, there are bikes in the gym and perhaps I can manage a stab at those for my second effort.

Stats: 57:44, 9.67km, 4x800m 3:06, 3:24, 3:21, 3:17. Snacks 0, stomach rumblings 8.

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