Notes on my Olympic training for this week
As I look back over my Olympic Training Log for this week, I’m amazed at the workout load I could handle 24 years ago. I ran a 3,000m race and followed it up immediately with two days of grueling running, cycling and leg weights. Over three hours of cycling (half an hour of it all-out) and an hour of leg weights on the same day! The following day, an intense running workout and 54 minutes of quad-busting stationary cycling! My middle-aged body shudders at the thought of this punishment. It would be impossible for me now. But then, I knew I had to push myself through the maximum workload my body could handle. My competitors in the Olympic 10,000m were probably doing 60 to 100 miles or more a week of running, while I was limited to 20 miles a week.
I was making progress, though. Racing is an excellent way to push your body to the next level. My strategy was to race shorter distances than the 10,000m. There is less pressure to perform when you’re not racing your best distance, and the 3,000m was relatively easy to recover from—as this week demonstrates. My first race performance was a mediocre 9:25, but I was pleased to run 9:09 six days later. This was only seven seconds off my PB of 9:02 (set in 1986), and was done with very little track training. It certainly proved I was fit.
My Training Log also notes that I ran that time “in spite of being sick with flu”. Diarrhea and an upset stomach continued to bother me throughout the summer; I attributed these symptoms to my hard workouts and the miserable heat. However, I finally had tests done in late August and discovered I had a bacterial infection. It was a good thing I was able to clear it up with antibiotics before the Olympics.
In addition to my cross-training, I was trying to maximize the value of every running mile by running as fast as I could without aggravating my left heel bursitis and a recurring problem with my right Achilles tendon. I did some of my speedwork on the perfect turf of a local golf course. I also discovered a running location we called “the Belt Line”.
The Belt Line was a smooth, hard-packed dirt trail that ran through one of Toronto’s ravines in the Forest Hill section of the city. It used to have railway tracks; in the 1890s the Belt Line commuter steam railway circled the City of Toronto. But now this section of the former railway line was an ideal place for me to run. It was softer than a track or pavement, so it was gentle on my injured feet; it was also almost flat and straight, so I could run fast. My Belt Line workouts, which I often did with my husband Paul and friends Dave Reed and Joseph Kibur, became an essential part of that summer’s training. We typically ran all-out repeats of the full length of the trail, a distance of about 1,800m. Sometimes we did shorter sprints. There was a 400m track nearby, so occasionally we would mix longer intervals on the Belt Line with short sprints on the track.
Below, I’ve summarized some of the things I learned in the summer of 1988 (and more recently) about training while injured.
Tips for running (and racing) fast with very low running mileage
- When you run, run fast
- Run on soft surfaces that won’t aggravate your injuries as much as pavement or a track
- Maintain aerobic fitness with lots of cross-training
- Do types of cross-training most beneficial to running (i.e. water-running, training on machines that are somewhat similar to running, such as an elliptical or an Arc trainer)
- Mimic running’s intensity and speed in cross-training with intense interval workouts
Olympic Training Log
July 16, 1988
PM: Raced 3,000m at York. Led most of way—time 9:25.10. Pushed hard, increased pace throughout race. Just felt heel a bit on corners, not too bad after. Raced in spikes. 4 miles counting warmup.
July 17, 1988
AM: Did bike time trial. 28:36! Didn’t even push as hard as last time—George far behind. Then rode to Kettleby, took 10 min break, rode home at good pace—about 3hr10 total cycling.
PM: Weights—did leg workout plus rowing machine and a couple of “pull” exercises. Worked hard 58 min.
July 18, 1988
AM: Ran on Belt Line—30 min at good pace, excellent surface. Had to start slowly because quads sore and tired from yesterday. Then did 4 x 400m on track with ˜90 sec rest. Times 71, 71.5 (flats), 70, 70.5 (spikes). No pain in heel after warmup. Short jog. About 5½ miles.
PM: Rode bike to gym, did 30 min continuous on stationary bike, then Lifecycle 24 min, levels 9, 7 and 6. Really dying on hills. Exhausted later.
July 19, 1988
AM: Did weights—“pull-strength-endurance”. Really tired from yesterday. 62 min.
PM: Swim workout at Fitness Institute with Beth. 600m warmup. 8 x 50m going every 1:15. 4 sets of 200m (30 sec rest), 100m (20 sec rest), 50m (1 min rest). Very tough.
July 20, 1988
AM: Ran at Belt Line with Paul and Dave. 1 time up and down for warmup—13 min. 4 times (2 in each direction), times 5:50, 6:15, 5:49, 6:20 with 1 min rest between. Jogged to track and did 4 x 100m relaxed with spikes. Heel warmed up well today—OK after 5 min and pain not bad even in warmup. Right achilles has been a bit sore for a few days. Good workout though feeling bad from insomnia and diarrhea. 6½ miles.
July 21, 1988
AM: Did 1,800m continuous swim at Fitness Institute.
July 22, 1988
PM: Raced 3,000m at Quebec Championships. Time 9:09, in spite of being sick with flu! Perfect conditions, ran behind Carole Rouillard (9:00) and Christine McMiken (9:04). Injuries not bad at all except calves very stiff after. 4 miles counting warmup.
This week: 20 miles running, 1 long bike ride with time trial, 54 min stationary cycling, 2 swim workouts, 2 weight workouts.