Bristol Half Marathon Training: Week 6

Halfway there! The end of this week of training marked the halfway point of the plan, and of course means that there are only six weeks left until my half marathon, and only four of those are proper training weeks, with the last two being taper weeks. So, at halfway, I think it’s time to take a look at my progress, and what my target time should be, though I’ll refine it more as time goes on.

At the start of this training cycle, I said that “In my heart I’m still aiming for sub-90, but in reality, I think that has become something of a pipe-dream now.” That was taking into consideration my lack of winter/spring training, my previous HM time (96:37, last autumn), and how my pace was at the time (43:20 10k, in May). How about now? Well, after chatting to one of the coaches at our club, he reckons that the 19:50 I ran at Yeovilton last month sets me up well for a sub-90 half. So at the moment, my Gold target remains 89:59. My Silver target is 91:32, which is equivalent to a pace of 6:59 min/mile – getting under 7:00 minute pace would be a massive step mentally. The Bronze target is 93:59 – still a PB by over two and a half minutes, and a pace of around 7:10. I was contemplating leaving the Bronze target as anything under my current time, but to be honest, I’d be pretty disappointed not to run sub-94, even though it would be a PB.

Book plan:
Monday: Rest day
Tuesday: 8 miles general aerobic + speed
Wednesday: 9 miles endurance
Thursday: Rest day
Friday: 9 miles VO2 max
Saturday: 5 miles recovery
Sunday: 12 miles endurance

My plan:
Monday: Rest day
Tuesday: 8 miles general aerobic
Wednesday: 5 miles general aerobic AM / Yeovilton 5k race + warm-up PM
Thursday: Rest day
Friday: 9 miles VO2 max
Saturday: 5 miles recovery
Sunday: 13 miles endurance

Monday:
Rest day.

Tuesday:
With another midweek race, this week was due to be another disrupted training period. Thankfully, the scheduled Tuesday session wasn’t to be another dropped lactate threshold run, but I did still make a small change, dropping the speed element from the planned general aerobic run. The usual inability to wake up also meant that this was in the evening. The route was a relatively simple one, a slight extension of my normal river and canal loop, with a bit of exploring along some quite overgrown paths at the far end! With a race the next day, I kept my pace and heart-rate pretty gentle.

Wednesday:
I had initially planned to run five miles in the morning and then Yeovilton in the evening, which would take me up to the required mileage without having to add miles later in the week. However, my failure to wake up on Tuesday meant a Tuesday evening run, which meant that my desire to run on Wednesday morning was extremely low. Coupled with the prospect of a hard race in the evening, I decided to drop the morning run, and possibly just add a cool down run in the evening for some extra mileage.

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It was like my own Olympics on Strava!

My aim for the Yeovilton 5k was pretty simple – with tired legs midway through a hard section of training, I would be happy with another sub-20, and happy with any sort of PB. With that in mind, I aimed to head out at 3:50 min/km pace, and see how things developed. (Incidentally, while I train in min/mile, I tend to race in min/km. I know, it’s strange, but it helps me to minimise some of my mental demons. If you told me I was running around 6:15 min/mile, I’d tell you that it was too fast, and I couldn’t do it. If you told me 3:50 min/km, I shrug and say I’d see what I could do.) The first couple of kilometres felt terrible: my calves were sore and tired, and I thought there was a very real chance I’d just have to stop and walk after about 3 kilometres. Of course, that didn’t happen, and with watch splits of 3:49, 3:50, 3:57, 4:00 and 3:57, for an official time of 19:32, I beat last month’s time by 18 seconds to set a new PB. It seems that my training is paying off, for shorter distances at least.

After a drink and a quick natter, I set off on another lap of the course. As well as making up some of my lost mileage, my hope was that a cool down run would also help my legs recover for the runs later that week. The warm-up, race and cool down came to 6.8 miles, meaning that I was only about two miles short on the book’s plan.

Thursday:
Rest day – and a sorely needed one too!

Friday:
I approached Friday with a combination of excitement and trepidation. It was the first V̇O2 max session of the plan – Pfitzinger and Latter’s title for short distance speed intervals. In this case, 6 repeats of 1,000 metres. I love intervals: running fast is my favourite sort of running, and typically these intervals are quicker than I would even race a 5k, so it’s a rare excuse to really push myself. However, in this case, coming just two days after an actual 5k race, I was a bit worried about how I would cope. The plan gave me some guidelines – the intervals were to be part of a 9 mile run overall, and each one should be run between 3k and 5k pace, with a recovery period of roughly 50-90% of the time for each repeat. Got that? I decided that with the race before, I would err on the cautious side, and aimed to complete each repeat in 3:50. For the recovery period, I went for around 80% of the repeat time, 3:05, including a 400 metre jog. With a jog to the track, and back, that would take me up to the required distance.

Right, so all planned. Great.

Oh, I still had to run it. Actually, it went quite well. It was pretty damn tough, and my reps weren’t quite as consistent as I wanted, but I remembered why I enjoy track work. The feeling of being able to push yourself right to the limit, knowing that you can have a break, a drink, and then do it again.

Saturday:
I had a 5 mile recovery run planned on Saturday. I had initially contemplated doing this as a jog to parkrun, a slow jog around, and then a jog home. But, although I was awake in plenty of time, my legs hadn’t really woken up from the workout the day before, and so instead I just walked over and supported Lolly running instead. I ended up not getting out until just after 4 in the afternoon, and ran a slightly erratically paced five miles at an average of 9:20 min/mile. I’d probably have benefited from being even slower, but it’s so tough to manage!

Sunday:
Although I wasn’t too bothered about trying to catch up on the missed mileage, I opted to add a mile to my Sunday long run. After my last couple of half marathons, in which I’ve faded badly at the end, I want to get as many runs in at half marathon distance or above in preparation for this one. Next week is also scheduled for a 13 mile progression run, and I thought it would be nice to do a ‘standard’ 13 mile long run before a harder effort one!

As I’d run a fair number of harder effort runs through the week, I opted to head out with my club’s Sunday ‘All-Stars’ for the run, which for me would be a gentler pace, but also so much needed company on the long run. It was also nice not to have to worry about the route – although some of the paths were a bit… overgrown. Towards the end of the run I peeled off the group to add a little bit of distance (and elevation) onto the route by heading over Cotlake Hill. I really enjoyed having some company, and running a route that I would never have planned myself.

Summary:

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How I felt at the end of a hard week!

How to summarise the week? I set a new 5k PB, ran a tough track session but hit my times on every repeat, and had my longest run of the plan, falling just short of half marathon distance itself. A great week, I’d say! I’m feeling much more confident for Bristol – seeing the positive effect of my training on my Yeovilton times, which have been 20:21 (June), 19:50 (July) and 19:32 (August), has shown me that all the work work is paying off. Some other signs of this have been apparent – after some of my 8/9 mile runs, I’ve been bounding up and down the stairs for my shower still. (This certainly wasn’t the case after my 13 mile run though!) The only slight obstacle to my training at the moment is the hugely successful Team GB, who are enticing me to stay up late watching their successes, rather than getting the sleep I need to help myself recover between sessions. But it’s worth it…

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