I was too young to really get what Bob Loney was trying to teach us young Upland High School distance runners, but in retrospect it seems like he knew what he was doing.
He didn’t call those pain-in-the-ass quarter mile repeats “interval training” and was more interested in motivational talk than the science of lactate thresholds. But I remember the workouts well, how much I hated them – 10 quarter miles at race pace, run one, rest to catch your breath, then grab onto the next one. We’d run them in groups so we’d get a feel for racing, which was part of his motivation I’m sure. But mostly it was teaching our metabolic systems about where the lactate threshold was, what it felt like to bump up against it. If we really worked them hard (which I rarely did – I was a pretty lazy teenager) we could push that threshold up a little bit, get a little extra speed out of our legs before the lactic acid burn set in.
I’d fogotten those workouts for a long time, but they immediately popped to mind when I started riding intervals. I’m much more rigorous now, using a heart monitor to set peaks and recovery rates and time the results. But it’s amazing how close the basic interval workout matches the rhythms of Bob Loney’s workouts those many fall afternoons on the Upland High School track.
They work. There’s a hill out of Corrales that Jaime and I have been climbing on our Wednesday rides. It comes about an hour into our rides, and it’s not a long hill, but we’re usually flying on the run-up to it, so my heart rate is always near the lactate threshold before we start. Jaime invariably drops me on the first little uphill, which he did three weeks ago. But I kept hammering, and about three-quarters of the way up I caught him. This is unheard of. I never catch Jaime on a hill. My heart rate was near pegged at about 95 percent of max, but rather than blowing up there, I was able to hold it the whole way up the hill.
Blessed be thy intervals, for they will train thy heart.
Bob came to mind this morning as I ran up my heart rate again and again. He used to make us do 10. Today I managed 12.