Fartlek. A word that is immediately understood by runners the world over and one that is met with a "Huh!?" by non runners. Fartlek is a Swedish word meaning 'speed play'. It is a fairly unstructured form of training over natural terrain and can include bursts of running at full speed, longer periods of sustained effort, easy running, jogging, and walking. Which basically means you pick your route and let rip at whatever speed suits you. It is a fun method of training and really improves both aerobic fitness and anaerobic fitness. Its a method I don't employ as often as I should but after a week spent in the French countryside, Fartelk will never be viewed through these eyes in the same way ever again.
As previously mentioned my week was to be spent at the mother-in-laws with the kids at her home in the country side. My goal for the week to clock as many kilometres as possible and I wasted no time in lacing up my trainers not long after arrival. Day 1 was a nifty 18k tempo session run at about 90% effort, I was really pleased with my stamina levels and thought to myself "this is going to be a good week". For day 2 I decided to head off in the direction of the path less travelled. I packed my water and some snacks and headed out for a long, steady run. Little did I know that I would, involuntarily, be doing my Fartlek session that very morning. Following these one lane roads my nostrils notified my brain that I was indeed heading into the heart of farmland. And that's where the fun truly began.
My first sprint of the day was away from a dog that decided to run parallel to me for about 200 metres, nothing dividing us but a flimsy fence. Now I'm not talking about a Paris Hilton type dog that fits in a hand bag. No, this was the type of beast put on the earth to devour the carcasses of runners like me. So as I was hammering away he was barking like mad and I started to think to myself "if there is a hole at the end of this fence I am in some bother". By the time my pedigree chum got to the end of his yard he could go no further, much to my relief as the size of his gnashers could have taken a sizable chunk out of my derriere given half the chance. As you can imagine I wasted no time hanging around.
Obstacle number two was a flooded road. It had been raining constantly the week before and the route was definitely not passable. As I approached I saw two guys with their tractors parked nearby, they were discussing the best way to get around this lake in the middle of the road (more a lane really). I decided to hang a right and head up a hill which I was sure would give me a decent vantage point in figuring out the next step. It was muddy, slippy and waterlogged so bad that I was reduced to a mere crawl to reach the top. But it was worth it for the view and after descending the other side I found another road which I was sure would take me back home. I had been out for two and a half hours at this stage and my legs were getting heavy from the sprinting and slight detour I had to take. Just as I was leaving the forest I ran into about twenty five guys with dogs and shotguns who were all looking at me kind of strangely, bizarre considering they had pheasants hanging from their belts. Some of the dogs decided to run after me and I had to stop for five minutes so the owners could call them back and put them on leads. It was quite nice to see as it reminded me of growing up in the beautiful Irish countryside. That happened to be my last odd encounter and before I knew it three hours had passed and I was approaching home. All I can say is that it was definitely a Fartlek session like no other and gladly the rest of my training that week was less intrepid. I managed to cover 91 km's in six days and a cheeky 16 k this morning. Hopefully the legs will stay injury free and the 35k trail race in 4 weeks time will be a good precursor for May.
On another running note I must say well done to Martin Fagan (pictured) from Co. Westmeath who finished 4th in the New Orleans Half Marathon last Sunday week with a time of 1:02:11. This was no mean feat considering that Martin Lel and Sammy Wanjiru were 1st and 2nd respectively and are considered two of the greatest Marathon runners the world has ever seen. Your day will come Martin, you did the Irish proud.
That's it for the moment y'all. I will be writing on Pearls latest activities in the news section of the website later today or tomorrow.
See you round the bend.