Finding a Place to do Terrible Tempo Training

I’ve not been looking forward to the start of September. Because on my training calendar, September marks the start of my tempo training runs. After 4 months of lovely long slow runs, all of sudden, I’m meant to add some speed to the fat cushion of endurance I’ve gradually built up all this time. Speed means going fast. And that in my experience means that it’ll hurt.

Do I really need to do speed training to run a 24 hour Rogaine?

So I tried to get out of the tempo training sessions listed on my plan. Seeing that I’m training for the 24 hour Rogaine World Championships in New Zealand, I tried to convince myself and my team mate that speed is not required in such a race. 24 hours of rogaining means physical endurance and mental agility through cunning route choice, not brute speed on the ground. However, even as I said it, I knew that was a fatally flawed rational.

So, if I was going to do this tempo training, running just below my Anaerobic Threshold, then I needed to find somewhere appropriate to do it.

Back in Dublin, I used to do tempo runs in the Phoenix Park, with its expansive grassy areas that allowed me to reach full speed. But now that I’m in Kathmandu, there are no such luxurious parks where I can run until my heart’s content.

I needed a place or a road where I could run without bumps or barriers. So I went looking. I went down to the Bagmati river side where I heard there was a 2 kilometre loop around a pond. But when I reached it, I found it churned up from the maddening daily monsoon rains that Kathmandu is currently being pelted with. To make it worse, one side of the loop went through a village front yard, which was full of cow, chicken, and people shit underfoot, forcing me to backtrack.

No pavement, flood waters, traffic everywhere - Obviously not the best place to do tempo training.

With no parks or dry paths in the valley, I had no option but to find a tarmac road to do my speed training on. But there was another problem. Most tarmac roads in Kathmandu have houses beside them. And outside those houses are stationed grumpy old dogs that have nothing better to do with their time than chase unusual objects – like tempo training runners – that happen to pass by. I didn’t want to spend my time reaching the right heart rate, only to have to stop and fend off a dog, or to have no choice buy accelerate to too high a speed to get away from a rabid Nepali canine.

But it wasn’t just the dogs that I had a problem with. The other issue with tarmac roads in Kathmandu is that they usually don’t have pedestrian paths alongside them. So you end up teetering on the side of the tarmac for your run. Its fine when you’re running slowly to spend your time dodging the taxis, tractors, trucks, and other pedestrians also using the road. But when you’re trying to get somewhere quickly, such slaloming can have disastrous effects (like inadvertently getting run over). And Kathmandu trucks in particular have a nasty habit of spewing out thick black exhaust fumes as they go. I didn’t want to get lung cancer in addition to lactate-filled legs just because of a tempo training run.

So with all the tracks reduced to mud sludge, and the tarmac roads having rabies infected dogs and carcinogenic trucks, I was left with no other option but to find a treadmill in a gym. I hate treadmills. And I hate gyms. The idea of having to pay someone to run on the spot is simply wrong. But what choice did I have? Fortunately I found a gym a few hundred metres from my home. And for the price of a beer, I could run on their treadmill and inflict the necessary tempo torture that I was looking for.

In the end, the session didn’t go too badly. I rigged up the BBC world news on my mobile earphones to deaden the monotony of treadmill trudging (the only English non-Bollywood singing station in Kathmandu). I even checked when the electricity cuts would happen (from the power cuts timetable that is distributed each month) to make sure my treadmill wouldn’t die mid-session.

There were only 2 treadmills in the gym so I had to stick to my guns when other Nepali guys came in and wanted to have a walk on one. Sorry lads, but I had a 90 minute session to do and I had nowhere else to do it.

My treadmill also had an interesting quirk in that, if you ran in the middle, the belt sagged a little and gave the momentary impression of my foot sliding forward or being suspended in mid-air. After some experimentation, I worked out that running right on the edge meant that the belt actually kept going, such are the quirks of poorly maintained developing world gyms.

So that’s where I’m going to end up now, once a week for the next 2 months… inside a gym, on a wonky treadmill, just so my heart can have the workout it needs. Hopefully it will all be worth it when we finally get to the Rogaine.

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