Category Archives: Training

Let there be exercise

Starting out exercising is never an easy task. You need to find energy you aren’t used to spending. You need to find time you normally fill in other ways. And, for the vast majority of us, you need to accept that you won’t be very good at it to start with.

I’d made various comments about doing stretches or looking at post-natal exercise videos, but nothing was actually happening. Earmarking time and energy for yourself is not something that comes naturally to many mums with young children. The only thing for it, therefore, was to book myself onto a class where the time was committed and it would be harder to back out at the last minute.

Next decision – what sort of class to go for? Specific post-natal classes have the benefit of everything being tailored to what I currently need, and with specialist knowledge of potential issues. On the other hand, the buggy fitness class I’d done last time round no longer exists, and I also needed something in my week to be about me and not about being a mum. The ideal situation would be if the instructor at my favourite friendly exercise studio had completed her pre- and post-natal exercise instruction course. Which she has. Love it when a plan comes together.

And so it was that I found myself returning to Studio 22. I say returning – the Studio had actually moved location since I’d been last. The first thing I was asked was about my post-natal check (which I’d had just a few days before) and anything that might impact the exercises I was able to do. If you’re joining any exercise class post-natally and you aren’t asked about birth complications or how many weeks it’s been then you may want to consider going elsewhere until later in your recovery.

My chosen class of Ballet Fit has been a brilliant way back into exercise. It’s low impact, so I haven’t been worried about my joints. It helps with toning and strength. And it’s helping to re-build my virtually non-existent core. But most importantly it’s fun, which makes me want to exercise more.

There has been a fair bit of adjustment to make it work. Eating and drinking enough during the day is pretty crucial, as I’m less in control of my energy levels lately. There’s also the impact afterwards of tiredness and sore muscles. More than once, my leg aches have started while sat on the floor at a baby group the following morning, and getting up is just a little more tricky.

So exercise successfully started, but the big cloud of running was still looming over me. When people asked me I talked about my body not being ready, about possible joint pain, and about wanting to ease myself back in. But as I got closer to 12 weeks post-natal a bigger factor started to show. I was scared.

Scared of injuring myself. Scared of accidentally pushing too hard. Scared of how difficult it would be. Scared of the challenge of starting again. Even, weirdly, scared that I wouldn’t like it anymore.

With anything that you’re putting off for the wrong reasons, it’s handy to have a motivational deadline. In my case, an upcoming opportunity for child-free parkrun tourism. And so my Garmin was switched back on, my running shoes were dusted off, and Ben kicked me out the door. 1 mile of 1 minute running 1 minute walking. Not a lot really, but wow it felt good.

There’s a long way to go in my journey of post-natal recovery, but I’m really happy that I’ve made a start.

Laying the Foundations

It’s fair to say that I didn’t enjoy the end of pregnancy. The exhaustion, aches and uncertainty really got to me. Still, everyone assured me that I looked like I would give birth early… Or at least earlier than the first time (2 days over)… You can imagine how grumpy I was for the 7 days after the due date before things kicked off. Many apologies and thanks to those who had to put up with me in that time.

Still, at least things managed to start off by themselves the night before I was booked in for a stretch and sweep (if you don’t know what that is, retain your ignorance and just know I was pleased to skip it). The next morning, after much hysteria and entonox, we had a healthy baby boy. And my body felt completely and utterly drained.

So my road to physical recovery started with plenty of food and drink, and grabbing bits of sleep whenever I could. The sleep part being significantly harder when you live with a newborn baby. Structured exercise felt like a lifetime away.

One of the best decisions I made near the end of pregnancy was to buy a stretchy wrap. This has proved invaluable in being able to get stuff done, and look after a small child, while a baby is happily asleep. His love for being tucked up in the wrap has also meant getting out for a walk is really easy. Making the effort to walk places, or to just go for a wander along the river or canal, has been a big boost both physically and mentally.

And, yes, I do always look tired.

In terms of formal exercise, the only thing I’ve made an effort with so far is pelvic floor exercises. If I don’t get that right then I can say goodbye to any high impact exercise in future. I’m also starting to do some gentle postnatal core exercises. Because it currently feels like I have zero core muscles.

And the plan for the future? Well I’m starting to get a little more sleep now (I hope that doesn’t jinx it) which should make it easier to go for longer and more purposeful walks. I also want to set some time aside for postnatal yoga to help me strengthen up. While part of me would love to try running already, I know that I’m not strong enough yet and it just wouldn’t be worth it. I can’t expect my body to get back to racing PBs if I don’t get the foundations right first.

Easing back up to distance again

After my recent bouts of cold bugs, my mileage took something of a hit. I set myself a target of running 1,200 miles this year, and I was really hoping that I could actually manage 100 miles each and every month. (Possibly an optimistic target with baby #2 on the way in March/April.) Unfortunately, I failed at the first hurdle, only accruing 63 miles in January, and not running at all for the final 10 days of the month. I’ve only missed the first 3 days of February, but to avoid injury after a spell off, I’m easing back into my mileage.

First, a parkrun and a 6.5 mile Sunday run. Then a 17-mile week in which my furthest single run was 7.1 miles. This last week, I’ve been away from home with a work training course, which is always a little difficult. I was easily able to find somewhere to run – I was staying in a hotel just off the seafront in Worthing, and as far as I can tell, the road runs beside the sea for miles and miles in each direction. In fact, I’d been tempted to run to (or back from) Brighton one day, getting the train in the other direction, but my training ran quite late each day, and so it was never convenient unfortunately. Still, I managed 14 miles during the week, and another 11 miles at the weekend took me up to 25. I’d have preferred a longer ‘long run’ than 8 miles, but I was constrained by both my weekly mileage target of 25, and a twinge in my knee that had bothered me towards the end of the working week. It disappeared over the weekend though, so I assume it was either the old trainers I’d worn in Worthing for my runs, or just the different forces on my knee during the training.

In two weeks time, I’ve got the Big Cheese race, a 15-mile mostly trail course, which I’m a bit concerned about. I’ve only run beyond ten miles once since Christmas, and haven’t been out on the trails much either. And unfortunately, I can’t do much to improve that next Sunday, when I’m also racing; at the Babcary 7.5 mile road race. Still, I’m hoping for a 30 mile week, and I’ll see how I’m doing after that.

Stopping and starting again

Traditionally, at this time of year, I’m not running much. In January 2015, I only managed 18 miles after somehow contriving to injure my knee during a gentle 10 mile run with my running club. In January 2016, I hit the heady heights of 38 miles, after falling on the coastal path and contriving to convert a dead leg into a knee injury.

In actual fact, both injuries were more or less caused by the same thing: in 2015, I was trying to come back and stack too many miles back in too soon after a lay-off due to a cold. I’d barely ran in two weeks, and then ran 13 miles in two days. It was a bad idea. In 2016, I probably ran too much too soon after getting a dead leg, and put undue stress on my knee. So, yeah, I have something of a history of impatience. In 2015, I didn’t get running properly until around May, while in 2016, it was April.

Which has left me a little nervous at the moment: after running 122 miles in December, January was pretty stop-start. Twenty miles the first week, then a cold limited me to 6 the week after. Then I was right back up to 30, before another cold put me out for the better part of two weeks.

Rocking my cow cowl through the puddles at parkrun

I started running again yesterday, at parkrun, and managed a reasonably sedate pace through the puddles. Normally, I try to run-commute to parkrun, but this week I wanted to keep the mileage down, so drove. Today, I headed out for a gentle six miles around the route of one of our club’s race routes (next weekend; sign up here!)

I always find it difficult coming back from an injury or illness. All the advice says to drop your mileage and then gradually build it back up again. But there is very little guidance on how much to drop your mileage – if I normally run 30 miles a week, it would be pretty unreasonable to come back with just 10 miles per week, but clearly coming straight back at 30 isn’t a good idea either. In consultation with my physio, we reckon 20 miles should be about right this coming week, and then build sensibly from there.

Hopefully this year I can manage to avoid serious injury…

Training update (or How I changed my mind and my target)

My plans were pretty set for this spring. After my successful half marathon training for Bristol last autumn, I was going to try and push on and see what improvements I could make this spring at the Bideford Half Marathon. The race was carefully chosen to be about a month before Lolly’s pop date, so hopefully my training and her pregnancy wouldn’t clash too badly.

Which was great, in theory. But pregnancies don’t happen in theory, and nor do training plans. In order to follow a similar training plan to last time, I had to start on 12 December, the week after the Bovington Half Marathon. Even though I took a bit of a shortcut in that race, I’d still pushed myself pretty hard (harder than I’d realised, in fact) and my body was pretty broken. That week was also the week that I was meant to be running my 100th parkrun, which didn’t really fit with the plan. In the end, rather than the 31 miles called for by my training plan, I did 8.7.

Bovington was a good race, but it didn’t leave me in great shape to start a training plan.

The next couple of weeks went better: 32.6 and 34.6 miles. But if you scratch below the surface, things weren’t so rosy. These were the two weeks around Christmas, and between work and the celebrations, my running wasn’t too strong. I abandoned a lactate threshold run halfway through, my long run the first week was split into pieces because 1) it was Christmas Day and 2) there was a parkrun. The second week, I had the Chard Flyer instead, and with the foul weather, I didn’t add any extra miles in.

At this point, I decided that with the Stoke Stampede coming up, that although my training hadn’t been ideal, I would treat it as base training for eight weeks of proper training after. Except that I got a cold. So what would have been the first of those eight weeks involved two runs, totalling 6.1 miles.

Not how an ideal training period would look.

Alongside all of this was Lolly’s developing parasite pregnancy. Unsurprisingly, she has been getting more and more tired, and after her Christmas Eve parkrun, she really struggled for the rest of the day. It became apparent to me that a heavy training plan that would leave me tired at times would not combine well with a pregnancy that was clearing leaving Lolly pretty tired.

And so, plans have changed. I’m not going to run Bideford at all, but instead do Cheddar RC’s ‘The Big Cheese’, a 15-mile trail race. Admittedly, switching from a reasonably flat, road, half marathon, to a hilly, muddy, 15-mile race does not at first glance appear like taking a step down. But in reality, the long runs will probably be around the same distance, and I’m not so concerned about the pace. Sure, I want to do well, but there isn’t the pressure to be pushing myself up to and over my limit. As a consequence, there isn’t the pressure to push myself so hard while I’m training. I still want to do a good variety of sessions; intervals, long runs, tempo runs and some recovery stuff too. But I will be more able to tone them down and keep a better balance with home life. Which given I have two rooms to redecorate (amongst other things) can only be a good thing…

Lack-of-Training Update

I haven’t been posting enough recently.  I’ve been trying to persuade myself that it’s ok, because Ben has had a lot more running to write about than normal.  But then looking at the last 10 blog posts only 1 has been from me.  Oops.

In part, this has been because there’s been little to write about.  My running lately has consisted of parkrun.  Even then, other commitments have meant I haven’t managed every week.  My times have been less than stellar:  36:29, 37:15, 37:07, 35:46 and (today) 38:52.  It hasn’t bothered me too much though.

My packed-out training schedule

My packed-out training schedule

So to re-cap:  I’ve got no races planned for the rest of the year, my training is virtually non-existent, and I’ve been taking the few runs I have been doing as easy as possible.

Kind of screams “surviving first trimester of pregnancy” right?

Actually, I’m pretty proud of myself for the little running I’ve managed.  Last time round I ran precisely zero miles during the whole 9 months, so every time I set off it sort of feels like a new PB.  And now that I’m through with the “feeling crappy” months I can get moving a little bit more for a while.  You know, until the “exhausted” months arrive.

Bristol Half Marathon Training: Weeks 10 and 11

I’ve been more than a little bit lax in keeping my training blog up to date over the past
couple of weeks, but that sort of sums up what a time it has been. In many ways, I’ve been
more fed up of running than ever before. While in other ways, I’m more excited about it than
ever before. At least in terms of my 5km pace, this training cycle has seen huge
improvements. I started the summer with a PB of 20:15, set at Longrun Meadow parkrun last
August. At Yeovilton, I drove this down as the summer wore on: 19:50 in July, 19:32 in August
and 19:13 this month. The Yeovilton course is definitely quicker than Longrun, but I set a
new PB there too, 19:48 in wet conditions.

I’ve not had the opportunity to run a representative 10km race to judge my improvement there,
but my result at the Ash Excellent Eight early this month gave me some encouragement,
particularly how I coped with the hill at the end. Some of my training runs have similarly
shown me my improvement – hilly routes that would have been a struggle before have been
dispatched relatively easily, and I’ve hit my target paces in all of my speed sessions.

Here’s a brief summary of the past couple of weeks; nothing so detailed as normal:

Book plan:
Monday: Rest day
Tuesday: 8 miles general aerobic + speed
Wednesday: 7 miles general aerobic
Thursday: Rest day
Friday: 3 miles recovery
Saturday: 10 miles, inc 10k tune-up race
Sunday: 10 miles endurance

Monday: Rest day
Tuesday: 7 miles general aerobic
Wednesday: 4 miles recovery
Thursday: Rest day
Friday: 9 miles VO2 max
Saturday: 3 miles recovery
Sunday: 10 miles endurance

Tuesday:
After Sunday’s race (and extra mileage) and Monday’s rest day, I was off out along the
extended river and canal route that I’ve become fond of. Nothing special, but to run a gentle
8:39 min/mile for 8.3 miles on this is another indication of my progress.

Wednesday:
Leading a group for my running club again, so we had a slightly elongated route to take in
the most of the Taunton 10k route as a sighter for those doing it (the same day as the Great
Bristol Half). Good group, decent pace. (7.7 miles, 8:33 min/mile)

Friday:
I was meant to head out for a recovery run, but completely forgot about it until I was
halfway through making dinner, so it was skipped.

Saturday:
This was meant to be another 10km tune-up race. But as before, there wasn’t one that was
convenient, so I chose to do parkrun instead. The conditions weren’t great, with a lot of
puddles on the course, but as I mentioned above, I managed a new best of 19:48. Annoyingly,
that’s still one second behind my brother’s time on the course, so I’m going to have to have
another fast session here when the conditions are a bit better! I headed out in the early
evening for a recovery run to keep my weekly mileage up.

Sunday:
Went out for a run with my running club’s ‘Sunday All-Stars’. It was a lovely route that
headed down to Pitminster, where we climbed an almighty hill through some pretty tough
terrain. I really enjoyed it, particularly as something different to all the flat road
running I’ve been doing lately. Probably better practice for the Red Bull Steeplechase which
is coming up two weeks after Bristol, but still good!

Tuesday:
Felt like crap, so skipped my planned run and lay in bed instead.

Wednesday:
Rather than the book’s planned 4 miles recovery, I headed back to Yeovilton for the last race
of the series. I collected my mug for completing the series, and then headed off with the aim
of another PB. I had a slim, crazy, hope of running sub-19, but after keeping that pace for
the first half of the race, I feel off towards the end to finish in 19:13, which I was still
really happy with. Obviously. I also dragged my brother along for his first proper race, as
he happened to be staying with us because of his work.

Friday:
After work on Friday, I really couldn’t face more miles on the road (you might have mentioned
a theme – I’m getting sick of road running), so I got changed, got in the car and headed out
to scout out some of the Herepath route that I’d be racing at the end of October. Annoyingly,
this run had 985 ft of climb – had I realised I’d have found another 15 to top out 1,000, but
nevermind! Unsurprisingly, my pace took a hit given the terrain and elevation, but I loved
this run. Perhaps next year I should be aiming to get off-road more, rather than go faster on
road. Hmmm – Matt does keep trying to get me to do Seaview 17…

Saturday:
Went up to Minehead parkrun with Lolly and ran with the buggy. Nice easy course, and I
managed to take it relatively easy, until the last few hundred metres at least! Not the most
inspiring course ever, but had a nice day afterwards on the steam train.

Sunday:
Headed out for an ‘even more extended than usual’ river and canal run. Except that I got a
bit lost and confused, and ended up continuing along the river. It was meant to be a 10 mile
roundtrip, but after travelling ‘out’ for 6 miles, I rang Lolly up and she came and picked me
up a couple of miles further up the river. Interesting route along the river, though it did
start to get a bit overgrown. Perhaps not the most relevant for Bristol, though it was flat,
at least.

Summary:
The toll of the training has really shown this past couple of weeks. I’ve missed more runs than in the rest of the plan together, and got proper fed up of road running. I’m really looking forward to having the race done and being able to get out on the trails a bit more. This plan has involved more flat road running than it needed to, but I felt I had to do that so that I could work out what the session was asking for. If I follow this plan again for a spring half marathon (which is likely), I feel that I’ll be able to mix things up a bit more, as I now have a better understanding of each session, and what I can do with it.

Bristol Half Marathon Training: Week 9

After some relatively disrupted training last week, I was hoping that I could have a pretty solid week, although that was always going to be pretty unlikely with a busy weekend planned.

Book plan:
Monday: Rest day
Tuesday: 8 miles general aerobic
Wednesday: 11 miles endurance
Thursday: Rest day
Friday: 10 miles VO2 max
Saturday: 4 miles recovery
Sunday: 14 miles endurance

My plan:
Pretty much the same as the book – though I had an eight-mile race planned on Sunday, so the only slight alteration was:
Sunday: 14 miles (8 mile race + 6 miles)

Monday:
Rest day.

Tuesday:
A gentle eight-miler to start the week, and I trotted along the river and canal to complete this one. My quads were still struggling slightly from my Sunday run, but overall, this was a pretty nondescript run, averaging about 8:50 per mile.

Wednesday:
Eleven miles is the peak of my midweek mileage. In fact, this week is a peak for everything: midweek mileage, Sunday mileage, overall mileage. I opted again to run this with the club, and I was aided in that slightly by the fact that one of the group leaders was missing, so I led the group. This meant that I planned the route, which made it much easier to plan how much mileage I had to add one either side! So, a 3 mile run to club, a 7 mile run with the club, and a mile run home. Lovely. The paces were all reasonably good – I opted to sit at the back of the group during the club run section, to run with a new runner to the club who was struggling slightly with the pace. Even so, we were well within the pace guideline for the group. Overall, 11 miles at a pace of around 8:30. Possibly slightly slower than an ideal ‘endurance’ paced run, but on a heavy week, I’m happy with it.

Thursday:
Rest day.

Friday:
Ah, Friday. The day that the wheels started to come off slightly. Work, eh? I spent Thursday night in Cornwall, ahead of a busy day on Friday, which meant that I didn’t get home until about 18:30. Amazingly, I managed to persuade myself to get changed straight away, and head up to the running track for my VO2 max session: two sets of 2 x 1,200 m, 1 x 800 m. I put a few numbers into some running calculators, and worked out that I wanted a similar pace to my 1,000 m repeats a few weeks before. So I was aiming for 4:36 per 1,200 and 3:04 per 800. Roughly 6:10 per mile pace. And basically, I breezed it. (4:33, 4:33, 3:01, 4:23, 4:26, 2:58.)

W9reps

Pretty consistent pacing

I have one more VO2 max session in this training plan, and I may well stick to a similar pace band for that, but it’s worth me bearing in mind that after this, for my track repeats, I probably need to work on quicker reps. (I calculated them based on a 19:30 5k.) While I completed the interval session absolutely fine, I was short on overall mileage, as the plan had called for my daily mileage to be 10 miles, and I only managed 8.5. Nothing tragic, but…

Saturday:
… on Saturday I was doing some Wedding photography for a friend. And given how tired I was generally, and the fact that I didn’t want to be too worn down by the end of the day, I decided to skip the planned recovery run. Given that in the end I was out of the house from 9:30 to 23:00, I didn’t really regret this decision…

Sunday:
… but it did mean that there was a bit more pressure on me to make sure that I didn’t end up too short on mileage on Sunday. I don’t mind being a bit behind, but if I didn’t manage anything more than the race and a warm-up, I would be about 10 miles behind on the planned weekly mileage, which seemed a bit too much to me. I contemplated a few ways of doing it: three miles before the race and another three after? A normal one mile warm-up, a couple of miles cool down, and then a three mile jog later in the afternoon? Maybe even all six extra miles before the race, making the race good ‘tired legs’ training. In the end, I barely had time for my one mile warm-up before the race, and couldn’t be bothered with a cool down. The race itself went really well. I’d set myself the target of an hour, which I missed… by 5 seconds. That said, looking at the people around me, and recognising them from other races, I finished a bit further up the field than I would have expected. As probably predicted, I didn’t do any miles immediately after the race, opting instead for a bacon bap and some chocolate cake.

2016-09-04 12.30.03

Post-race father and daughter posing.

So, a few hours later, I was back out again. Wearing my new top (that was a surprise by the way – £12 on the day entry, and I got a medal and a t-shirt) I headed off for five miles around town to top me up to 14 miles. The first mile of the run was really, really tough on my legs. After that it got easier, but I developed a stitch about halfway through which never really disappeared. It was very much run at a recovery pace, and it probably did the job: the last mile was the quickest and most comfortable of the lot.

Summary:
I had a solid start to the week, but it got pretty tough at the weekend. Not only did I struggle to fit my runs in, but with everything that I was doing, I was pretty tired. Being honest, I’m getting a little bit fed up of my training plan now – I’m still enjoying running, but it’s getting a bit constrictive. Still, pretty much just taper fever to cope with, then the race. And after that… a lot more fun races too!

Bristol Half Marathon Training: Week 8

This week was another lighter week. Although not specifically described in the book as a recovery week, it involved lower mileages and gentler runs. Possibly the only reason that it wasn’t described as recovery was the presence of a 10k tune-up race. When I first started this plan, that tune-up race was ideal, as it coincided with one of my favourite 10k races, the Battle of Sedgemoor. (Mostly my favourite because I’ve got a PB at it both years that I’ve raced it!) Unfortunately, I later realised that we were going to be out of the county at a family barbecue, so I would need to change my plans.

At first, I settled on a 10k race that was on the way home from Shrewsbury, but wouldn’t involve leaving too early. But then I read a few reviews of the company putting it on, and decided against it. Long courses, late changes to their courses, off-road sections on advertised ‘road-races’: all these put me off. I contemplated trying to run a hard 5k before parkrun, and then parkrun itself, to replicate a 10k effort. But the distances, roads and course didn’t really suit themselves to this, and so I opted to just run a hard parkrun. I didn’t really mind about losing a bit of mileage: I needed the recovery this week.

Book plan:
Monday: Rest day
Tuesday: 8 miles general aerobic + speed
Wednesday: 7 miles general aerobic
Thursday: Rest day
Friday: 3 miles recovery
Saturday: 10 miles, inc 10k tune-up race
Sunday: 10 miles endurance

My plan:
Monday: Rest day
Tuesday: 8 miles general aerobic + speed
Wednesday: 7 miles general aerobic
Thursday: Rest day
Friday: 3 miles recovery
Saturday: 6 miles, inc tune-up parkrun
Sunday: 10 miles endurance

Monday:
Rest day.

Tuesday:
The plan called for an eight mile general aerobic run, with two sets of 4 x 150 metre sprints. I decided against doing my sprints on the canal, or at the track, and instead headed over to Longrun Meadow for them. I did some mental arithmetic to work out how much I needed to add-on to make eight miles, and planned a route accordingly.

Things could have gone better. I got to Longrun Meadow and did my first set of intervals, all okay. A four minute recovery jog in the middle, fine. Second set of four intervals… or, was it three? Yeah – schoolboy error, I lost count. I had, in fact, completed the four reps as I was supposed to, but being unsure I added on another. Still, better to do too many than too few I guess! I then got to the edge of the park, knowing that it was a mile to get home, and glanced at my watch: 6 miles completed. Bugger – somehow I added 3.5, 2.5 and 1 together to make 8. Sigh, looks like it’s the long route home then…

math

BSc (Hons) Mathematics and Physics from Warwick, I’ll have you know…

Wednesday:
The week didn’t really improve. On Wednesday I had to travel down to Cornwall for work, and as Lolly had a work meal in the evening, I would a) not be able to run in the evening, and b) have to leave home early for work. Meaning c) if I wanted to get my scheduled 7 mile run in, I’d have to do it super-early. I didn’t.

Thursday:
Rest day. Had a sports massage before work, focusing on my calves and quads, which was much needed, and should hopefully set me up for the next few weeks. That said, I need to make sure I keep up with my own stretches and foam roller routine. Or more realistically, introduce such a routine.

Friday:
Planned as a three mile recovery run, I added a mile onto this to recoup a little bit of the lost mileage from Wednesday. Four miles is also the distance of my short river and canal loop, so I was happy to trot around this on Friday evening while I waited for the traffic to clear on the M5.

Saturday:
After a late evening drive up to Shrewsbury, we didn’t get to bed until after midnight, and then I ended up sleeping on a pretty uncomfortable single bed, as Lani decided that she preferred the king-sized bed with Mummy. With this in mind, I wasn’t expecting the best time ever at Shrewsbury parkrun – particularly once I saw the hill that we’d have to climb twice. Sure, it was nothing stupid, but gone were my thoughts of a possible 5k PB, and instead I decided to just focus on sneaking sub-20, which would be a parkrun PB at least.

The hotel was located about two miles away from the park, so I opted to jog in as a warm-up. On arrival, after noticing the hill, we also worked out that it was a ‘downhill’ course: although we had to climb the hill twice, we actually went down it three times. I found the whole run a real struggle, right from the downhill start. My pacing, in the end, was pretty consistent, within a few seconds for each kilometre. My watch told me that I was running around 3:55 per km, which would equate to about 19:35. So it was something of a surprise when I crossed the line, stopped my watch, and saw 19:21! My first thought, particularly as it also said ‘3.07’ for the distance, was that the course was short. But it had lots of tight corners and an out and back, which tends to mess with GPS a bit. Who knows – either way I’m pretty happy with my time. After some water, I jogged around with Lolly for her last lap, acting as a 1 mile cool down run for me.

We grabbed some breakfast at Wetherspoons, headed back to the hotel room for a rest, and then I headed out for another run to bring myself up close to the 10 miles that the book had planned. Although I didn’t mind dropping some mileage in a lighter week, I wasn’t keen on missing 7 miles midweek AND 4 miles at the weekend. I trotted around another 5k in the lanes to the south of Shrewsbury at a pretty gentle pace, and declared myself happy with the situation.

20160828_175215.jpg

Turns out I wasn’t meant to go down this path…

Sunday:
For some reason, I decided that a normal 10 mile run would be too boring, and so I planned a slightly insensible route back from a car park in the Quantock Hills that I’ve used a couple of times. I jokingly commented to Lolly that it was “9.9 miles, so by the time I get lost, I guess I’ll do 11.” Indeed.

Despite a drastic shortage of sleep over the previous couple of nights, Lolly drove me up to the car park, a round-trip of just over an hour for her, for which I’m very very grateful. I headed out of the car park… and immediately went wrong. Thankfully, a path cut across from the track I was on to the one I was meant to be on, meaning that I didn’t have to retrace my steps all the way back to the car park once I noticed about three-quarters of a mile in. Shortly thereafter, I went wrong again. This wasn’t going particularly well. Unfortunately, this time I had to climb back up quite a steep path that I’d been following. Again, it wasn’t much distance, but the climb was quite significant! By this stage, I was still less than two miles into my route, and in the bit that I had thought I’d known reasonably well. This was seeming like a very bad idea: after this, most of the route was relatively unknown to me. Thankfully, I had my phone with me, Google maps, and amazingly good phone signal. Otherwise, I might still be running around the Quantock Hills today!

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It’s hard to say no to a run through places like this!

Typically, the rest of the run actually went pretty well. As I’d been unsure about most of it, I’d studied it much more closely on the maps, and even used Street View to reccy some of the junctions I’d be using. My research paid off, and the only point at which I had to turn back again was when one of the paths I wanted to use was far too overgrown with nettles. The road didn’t add on much distance anyway.

The run ended up being almost exactly 11 miles, as predicted, and included 571 feet of elevation gain, and 1,583 feet of elevation loss – which was nice, but tough on the quads! I described this on Facebook as one of my toughest ever runs: physically it was fine, but mentally self-navigating through an area I only had a vague knowledge of was pretty tough. Although I knew that if I went wrong I could just phone Lolly to get me, that wasn’t the point. This definitely took me out of my comfort zone, and I’d love to do more ‘exploratory running’ like this. But maybe once I’ve finished with this plan. And maybe when I recruit someone else to come with me!

Summary:
This ended up being a bit of a hodgepodge week. I missed my second run of the training plan, with both of them coming during lighter weeks – which probably isn’t a complete coincidence, though seemingly both have been due to me being pretty busy in work/life. The book had planned 38 miles for this week, which I adjusted to 34 in my plan (dropping the 10k to a 5k). In actual fact, I ended up doing 32.7 miles after missing one of the runs, which I’m still more than happy with. If I’d been following my own plan, rather than this book, I probably wouldn’t be running much more than that even in my heavy weeks!

This coming week is theoretically the heaviest of my plan, totalling 47 miles, including a long run of 14 miles on the Sunday. But – I have an 8 mile race planned for Sunday, so that’s going to throw something of a spanner in the works, and I still haven’t really worked out what I’m going to do about it.

Bristol Half Marathon Training: Week 7

Now that I’ve got into the second half of my training plan, I’ve been contemplating why I signed up for Bristol specifically. Over the past couple of years, I’ve run mostly small, local races – either Glastonbury, Taunton or the Battle of Sedgemoor 10k have been the biggest, and none of them can have much more than 500 runners, if that. So what am I thinking, entering a race with over 10,000 entrants?!

Well, part of it is exactly that. I want to experience the ‘big race’ atmosphere again, for the first time since my first half marathon at Silverstone in spring 2014. I want to be able to use the hoards of other runners, and the crowds, to drag me along. The last few miles of the Burnham half last year were lonely – that certainly won’t be the case in Bristol. I also have some unfinished business with the Bristol half: my brother and I signed up for the race as far back as 2010, but I suffered badly from shin splints and didn’t do enough training, so registered a DNS (did not start). In 2012, after running the Bristol 10k, I decided that I’d do the half marathon as well. But I got injured again, and didn’t end up doing it. So it would get the monkey off my back, as they say.

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I want a medal that looks a bit like this. But different. Hopefully it won’t say Birmingham. Or 10k.

Also, I’d like a shiny ‘Great Run’ medal.

Book plan:
Monday: Rest day
Tuesday: 9 miles lactate threshold
Wednesday: 10 miles endurance
Thursday: Rest day
Friday: 8 miles general aerobic + speed
Saturday: 5 miles recovery
Sunday: 13 miles progression

My plan:
Just the same.

Monday:
Rest day.

Tuesday:
One of my only concerns with this training cycle is how many lactate threshold sessions I have skipped due to races. (I might have mentioned this once or twice…) This is the last one scheduled, as the training starts to wind down towards the race a bit after this week, at least with regards to tough sessions such as this one. The run was pretty simple: head out for a warm-up, then 38 minutes at lactate threshold (or tempo) pace, and then a cool down. As in the past, I opted to run this along the canal, with the flat path giving me the best chance of good pacing. I figured that I wanted to run my tempo section at about 7 min/miles, which meant that I would cover around 5.5 miles during it, with the other 3.5 miles either side.

Mentally, I found it easier to split the run into four parts: the warm-up (about 1.8 miles of easy running), then the ‘outward’ 19 minutes of my tempo run, the ‘return’ 19 minutes, and the cool down. Although I was aiming for 7 min/mile for the tempo section, I had expected to slip to somewhere between 7:05 and 7:10. Instead, I was pretty bang on my target, and if anything, was slightly quicker. Reminding myself as I approached the 19 minute ‘turnaround’ point that I wasn’t actually having a break was a bit tough, and the next bit was the toughest, and slowest, bit of the tempo section, but I still held my pace pretty consistent. I was very happy to nail this run – though it was a slightly sobering thought that a 90 minute half marathon would involve running a quicker pace for more than twice as long!

Wednesday:
For my midweek ‘medium long’ run, I opted to run with my club. The route was around 7.5 miles, so I just had to add a little bit on either side to make up the distance. As usual, it was nice to run with the group, both for the social aspect, and to mix things up in terms of routes – this week’s was certainly not one I would have ever run on my own! (I’d have got very, very lost.) It was also good to chat to someone else (Emma) doing Bristol, about our individual targets, and getting a bit of course knowledge from her.

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It’s starting to get quite steep… (credit: Veloviewer)

Thursday:
Rest day (and gosh, was I happy about that!)

Friday:
This was planned as a 8 mile general aerobic run, with ten 100 metre sprints towards the end. Fatigue was really starting to set in by this stage of my training though; my distance curve was starting to look like an exponential graph on Veloviewer, and I was feeling the effects of such a steep increase. With that in mind, I cut the sprints from the run, and just headed out for a gentle 8 mile run along the extended river and canal route that I’d done the previous week. On very tired legs, 8:40 min/mile felt tough enough, and I was starting to look ahead to my Sunday 13 mile progression run with dread.

160820 Exeter Riverside (Small)

Disclaimer: I didn’t actually run with Lolly. (credit: Emma Rigby)

Saturday:
We had made plans to visit some friends who live near Exeter, and so it seemed an excellent opportunity to finally visit Exeter Riverside parkrun. At around 45 minutes away, this has been one of the closest parkruns to us ever since it started. Which I was amazed to notice was over two years ago! A write-up of our experience will be detailed in another blog, but in terms of my training, let’s say it’s hard to do a recovery run at parkrun! Even running with the buggy, I kept straying quicker than intended. Still, overall I ran 5 miles at about 9:15 min/mile, which I guess counts as recovery. (Let’s ignore mile three, at 8:36…)

Sunday:
Perhaps because my recovery run included some miles that were a bit too fast, or perhaps because of my tough threshold run earlier in the week, or perhaps because in the past four weeks I’d run over 150 miles, I could not face my planned 13 miles progression run. Instead, I opted to run a normal 13 mile run, and if I was feeling up to it, I would run the last two or three miles a bit quicker to make it a ‘fast finish’ run.

In the end, this was actually a pretty hard effort run. After spending the first few miles warming up into the run, I ran a pretty steady pace of around 8:00 min/mile for the middle miles, and then pushed on towards the end, dipping down to between 7:30 and 7:00 min/mile. This was the first time that I’d run half marathon distance (or further) outside of a race, and a time of 1:46:07 is one that I’m pretty happy with for a training run!

Summary:
The week started well, but towards the end I think the efforts of the past few weeks began to have an impact. Next week is a lighter week – less mileage and easier workouts, so hopefully I can use that to recover, and then there’s only one more heavy week before the mileage starts to taper back. I’m still feeling pretty happy with my progress, but I need to start focusing a bit more on continual recovery – by adding stretching and foam-roller sessions most days. Hopefully that can help to keep my body together and strong as I close in on race day. (Only just over a month to go now!)