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You Are Now Entering the Kennel of Death

By July 12, 2006May 28th, 2015No Comments

Yesterday, I was in the kennel of death. In workout terms, that is.

What is the kennel of death and how do you get there? It is a place of pain in the dark and damp basement of your workout soul – a place so painful, so deplorable, so severe that the mere thought of the workout leaves you reeling with a dreadful fear for what lies ahead.

Only certain workouts are capable of sending you to kennel of death, swirling you down into this toiled metal cage of suffering and distress and throwing away the key. 800 repeats on the track will get you there, time trial intervals on the bike, a swim set where you go 100 all out followed by 200 at tempo and repeat 4 times. Workouts characterized by longer intervals but harder intensities that always include the word ‘repeat’.

This is not to say that shorter intervals won’t hurt. Of course 400’s on the track will hurt – but that is just once around and not nearly long enough to make it all the way to the kennel of death. You might open the cage door, but it will not close. Add another lap to that 400 and you add a whole other level of pain. The cage door opens, you crawl painfully in, and the door is slammed behind you when you least expect it, leaving your legs rattling the bars of the cage and barking to get out.

These are workouts that, when performed correctly, will push you to that next level and leave you with a buzzing pain in your head that no amount of coffee, sleep, or ibuprofen will relieve.

It’s mid-season and maybe you’re getting stale or maybe you’re just tired of doing the same workouts over and over. Now is the appropriate time to toss things up a little and find your way back to your own kennel of death. Here are a few workouts that can take you there.


Here’s one from the archives of Saturday morning master’s swim practice. Be sure to put yourself into the ‘slow’ lane because one this workout gets going, it’s a wild and crazy ride with no stopping.

500 warm up
5 x 100 on 3:00
4 x 200 on 4:00
3 x 300 on 5:00
2 x 400 on 6:00
1 x 500 on 7:00
500 cool down

You start the 100’s on a deceptively long rest period. Enough time to chat with your friends and catch up on the week. But just you wait. Cumulative fatigue starts to set in during the 400’s and has you screaming for mercy and fighting the burn on the last 500. After you’re all done, you stand there for a moment, shell-shocked, and unsure of how you went from completely comfortable and fully oxygenated to totally trashed and gasping for air.


Most people don’t work hard enough on the bike, myself included. Last Saturday, I had a 3 hour and 15 minute ride scheduled. I told my husband that I was looking for specific workout that would put the boot in my booty big time. He rode for the Iowa State University cycling team and has years of hurt under his Fuel Belt. I once witnessed Chris’ escape from the kennel of death after a hard cycling workout at which point he dismounted his bike, picked it up, and hurled it into a ditch. We were about 15 miles from home, so this was not his brightest moment,but this is the type of explosive, extinction burst that the kennel of death is capable of coaxing you into at your expense. The cost for Chris – a new set of handlebars in exchange for a whole new level of pain.

30 minutes warm up

3 x 10 minutes building heart rate zones 3 – 4 (Rest 10 minutes in between)

Reverse ladder overgear (push big gears, mash, stomp)

5:00 on, 5:00 off
4:00 on, 4:00 off
3:00 on, 3:00 off
2:00 on, 2:00 off
1:00 on, 1:00 off

Easy 5 minutes, then repeat reverse ladder

Finish up with 20 – 30 minutes of short speed stuff, use any gearing you’d like but stand and spin furiously to the top of a hill, across a bridge, to the next stop sign. These are short intense efforts with long recoveries (1:00 on, 4:00 off). Afterwards, cool down

By the end, your legs should be 100% zone 5 trashed. If not, go back and do it all again. On Saturday, my legs were so beaten and abused that I actually got passed by a man on a tandem, riding the bike into the wind by himself. It was shamefully ugly.


10 miles @ tempo

Warm up 3 miles @ 7:30
Miles 4 – 6 @ 7 – 7:15 pace
Miles 7 – 8 @ 6:30 – 6:45 pace
Mile 9 @ 6:15 pace
Mile 10 @ 6:15 or below
Cool down 2 – 3 miles

12 – 13 miles total run/1:30

Last Sunday in St. Louis, I did this run around Forest Park with Michael – a friend of Sam Yount’s – who at one time ran a 5K in 15:15 and a mile in 4:27 or so – which he called slow. Once we started, we didn’t let up and the burn kept building in my legs. By mile 9, I took it up another notch, and at mile 10 took it up again until I found myself commanding him with craziness to ‘go all out for the last 400’ as he bolted and I did everything I could to chase him despite the fact that my legs were so far trapped in the kennel of death that they felt completely disconnected from my body. We shuffled back to the car, and I pronounced myself dead at about 1:28:54 into the run at which point Sam questioned “how long have you run?” and I repeated the time and he said “sounds like you have another 1:06 to finish up.” Only a true runner would give you that kind of grief! Trust me, the paces look easy – at first – but once you get going there is no stopping and your legs start to burn big time. By the last mile, you should be ready to throw it all out there and then throw up.

Once inside the kennel of death, you will find yourself snarled by the shackles of pain and screaming to get out – but if you go far enough and stay long enough you will find something as you lay there in your own sweat, soreness, or spasms. You will find a gritty strength and a fueled rage that you did not know existed within yourself.

Be strong – find your kennel and find your fury. And if you find yourself foaming at the mouth, back off because you might have just taken it a little too far.