Tag Archives: Training

Training Diary – w/c 11th September

Seeing as Ben is injured at the moment (again), he hasn’t been writing his usual training log updates. So I thought I would step in instead.

My ‘training’ situation is obviously a little different at the moment, as I’m looking to re-build all-round strength as well as get fitness back. In theory I’ve been working towards being able to run the Taunton 10k, but energy levels and split priorities mean that the base work just hasn’t been there.

In the interests of transparency, I should also point out that this was pretty much the best a week of exercise has ever gone for me.

Monday – Ballet Fit Class
Regular class for me that has been great for building strength. For this week we particularly focused on leg extensions (which I’m, uh, not great at) and back extensions (which, surprisingly, I’m not terrible at).

Tuesday – 1.6 mile run & Pole Class
So there will be a few raised eyebrows at this, but I’ve been doing a beginners’ Pole course for the last few weeks. I’ve never known anything to work every part of your body quite like this. I was pretty wiped and so Ben suggested I should head over early and go for a short run before hand to help me wake up. The wind and the rain (and probably the running) certainly did help and meant that I was at least semi-awake for the class. Notable bits of the class were learning single-climb squats (which I very much felt after) and slipping slightly while trying out a spin (which left a lovely line of bruises down my leg).

Wednesday – Rest Day
By which I mean I left my sofa for about 2 hours total. Considering I have a 5 month old at home with me, this is quite a feat I feel.

Thursday – 1.7 mile buggy run
Or, as I called it on Strava, “Tired buggy run”. Tired was definitely the theme for the week (or year). As I mentioned in my post about buggy running, I’m finding it pretty hard going. But it’s absolutely worth it for being able to get a bit of a run in.

Friday – Rest Day

Saturday – parkrun (2017 best)
We’d talked earlier in the week about me possibly doing parkrun somewhere we could then go out for the day, but when it got to Friday evening we were way too tired (there’s that word again). Waking up on Saturday I had a little strop about not wanting to trudge round Longrun Meadow, but got over myself and decided to go anyway. As I went to get my shoes out I realised it had rained during the week, so put my trail shoes on and crossed absolutely everything that there might be good puddles.
I was not disappointed. Barely a minute into the run I saw runners part in front of me, and a smile hit my face as I splashed right through the middle. Congestion is really not a thing when you’re surrounded by dodgers. Regular puddles gave me lots of little targets to aim for, which really helped with keeping going. I ran the whole thing, and got my fastest parkrun time since before I got pregnant. I really really do love puddles.

Photo Credit: Kevin Dunn

Sunday – Rest Day

I’d hoped to get out for a few miles, but for various reasons it just didn’t happen.

So there you have it, a snapshot of my week. Well, the bits that involve exercise at least. The balance of 2 classes and 3 runs is what I’m aiming for (albeit slightly more targeted runs), and so hopefully there will be more weeks like this in the near future.

Buggy beginnings

One of the things I’ve been asked most since I started back at parkrun is when we’ll be buggy-parkrunning with our son. And every time I’ve given the answer that buggy running is not recommended until the baby is 6 months old.

The observant among you will have spotted that he is not going to be 6 months old for another few weeks, and yet here I am writing about buggies. So let me explain.

Last week, I really wanted to go for a run. My legs just felt in need of a stretch out. It had been over a week since my last outing and, with the way our schedule was looking, it could easily be over a week until I would next get the chance. Ben suggested going out with the buggy while our daughter was at nursery, and although I was initially reluctant it made sense.

Every single health professional that has ever seen our son has commented on how strong he is. Being able to support his own head is really not an issue. We already own a running buggy (ok, we have 2) and so it’s not like I’d be running with him in a lightweight stroller. My pace and distance are hardly record-breaking at the moment, so that would make for a gentle starting point. And I was in complete control of the terrain (aka boring wide paths near my house).

And so it was that I strapped him in and tentatively set off. I’m not going to lie, it was tough. My core and shoulders were still aching from an exercise class earlier in the week, and it had been a really really long time since I last ran with a buggy. But in a way that made it mentally easier. It was always going to be tricky, and so I just had to do what I could.

Any excuse to stop and rest…

I wasn’t sure how our son would react, seeing as he’s hardly been in a pushchair at all, but, true to form, he happily fell asleep. Result! Despite finding it hard going (and going uphill on a bridge near impossible) I enjoyed it. And running downhill with a buggy is great for stride length and pattern.

Like starting anything, it’s great to have something to build on. I went out again this week and got slightly further, and my intention is to make it a regular event to build up my strength. While I certainly wouldn’t consider anything like Mount Edgcumbe with a baby this young (although I’m sure Ben would consider the lighter buggy), a reasonably-surfaced parkrun should be fine in the near future.

For now, though, I’m just enjoying the freedom feeling of being able to get out the house and run.

Confessions of a Run/Walker

I realise it’s not very PC, what with running being all-inclusive and everything, but I’ve always hated run/walkers. More specifically, people that run/walk in organised events. Because what people do in their training doesn’t really impact me.

Mostly, this has stemmed from several very negative experiences during both races and parkrun, at times that I’ve been busting a gut to keep running. There was the Christmas Cracker 10k, when two girls abruptly slowed just in front of me on the narrow pavement. And the most notable experience of it from parkrun was of two people actually using me as a target. So they ran until they overtook me, and then immediately slowed to a walk.

Looking at it like that, what actually annoyed me wasn’t the fact that people were run/walking, it’s that they weren’t very considerate of other runners. And let’s face it, there are inconsiderate runners in all shapes and sizes. I have also had a tendency to look down on people run/walking. But as is often said, don’t judge what you don’t know.

The trick is to time running with going past photographers

There are a few flavours of run/walking, but all consist of intentionally running for a bit, then walking for a bit, and repeating. The duration could be determined by time, distance, or feel. If you’ve followed my return to running so far, you’ll know that run/walking has been a staple for me. I’ve chosen to go with the time option, as it’s simple and easy to moderate. If I ran by feel there would be a definite danger of feeling the need to walk too often, and every time a hill appeared.

Run-walking is a great way of gaining fitness. The shorter spells allow you to run at a faster pace, and the walking gives enough time to recover while keeping everything moving just enough. In fact, if you keep the walking at a decent pace then it’s possible to have a very respectable overall pace. When I first returned to running, I saw it as a necessary evil. A hoop I would have to jump through to start getting some distance in, before quickly moving on to ‘proper’ running. And there was no way on earth I would dream of run/walking at an organised event.

Except, of course, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to run at Moors Valley (and then Mile End and then Longrun Meadow…). Which gave a great opportunity to prove to myself that it IS possible to run/walk considerately. And so, I made sure to stick to the edges of the path to keep out the way. Just as you would in a car, I check behind me before speeding up or slowing down. If there’s someone close by that is likely to be impacted, I let them know that I’m about to change pace. My Garmin gives a 5 second beep warning, which is plenty of time. There was one occasion at Mile End when I was just overtaking someone as the beeps started, so I dropped back a little early. Common sense really.

Run/Walking makes for some pretty cool Pace Analysis charts

And yet I still view run/walking as an inferior activity. There was one evening that I went out for a slightly longer loop than I’d done previously. As I went round, there were mixed emotions. I was pleased to be making progress, but disappointed to be only run/walking. But as I neared the end, I realised what Ben would put in one of his training updates for that run:
Speed work: 10 x 3mins @ target pace with 1 min recovery
Hmm, that sounds a little different.

I’m managing to run a bit further now, but despite my initial intentions I think run/walking might be part of my plans for a little while longer. It won’t be every run, and it won’t be forever, but it still very definitely has a place as I build back up. And I hope that when the days of recovery become a distant memory I still remember that run/walkers aren’t just slacking off, and that it really is a valid way to run.

But if anyone suddenly stops or slows right in front of me, I still reserve the right to grumble.

Training: Weeks 5 & 6

Oh boy, what a couple of weeks. As I mentioned in my last training update, my race addiction can cause quite a few issues for my training, and this was never more evident than in the last fourteen days. When I opted to train to improve my 10k time, rather than my half-marathon time, it was a two-pronged decision. Part of it was the desire to have a really good go at the distance that I just hadn’t focused on last year. The other was the vague idea that 10k training would be less intense, at a time when I had a small baby to look after, and a wife looking to get back into exercise routines herself.

What a clanger.

Had I actually looked at the 10k plan I was aiming to follow, or in fact engaged my brain and thought about things, I’d have realised that 10k training more or less followed the same pattern as the HM training I’d done, but included more speed-work. So in essence, similar mileage, but more hard workouts. So, basically, at least as hard, if not actually slightly harder. Anyway, less about my stupid decisions, and more about… well… my other stupid decisions:

Week 5, coming off the back of a recovery week was meant to start with a general aerobic run with hill sprints and 100m strides on the Tuesday, before the traditional endurance run the next day. And so, we reached the first issue. The Haselbury Trail 10k, a Wednesday night race. As is now traditional, the speed-work was cancelled, and replaced with a seven-mile meander along a route inspired by the Hurtle, one of the races that our club puts on. I hadn’t really felt like running at all, but was happy enough that I’d managed to get a run done, and that it was pretty close to the right distance.

I’ve written plenty about the Haselbury Trail in the race report blog post, but in summary, I was really happy with it. Despite some awful conditions, I ran my quickest time on the course, and even managed to add some distance before and after the run to make the day up to nine miles in total, keeping me on track for my weekly mileage target.

Unfortunately, despite my good start to the week, the tail-end was subject to more disruption – we were heading up to London to watch the athletics on Friday evening, so my Friday speed-work (5 x 1000m) was not going to happen. So, still aching from my race, I headed out early on Friday for a gentle 3.5 mile run around the river and canal, which was a pretty ‘nothing’ run. We then spent the rest of Friday clocking up more and more steps; we had to stand for most of the train journey to London, and then walked from Piccadilly Circus to our hotel in Tower Hill. We then turned out to be in the very back row at the athletics, and so built up even more steps going up and down the stairs to our seats and back a few times. Then, after watching Mo win the 10,000m (Go Mo!) we got back to our hotel room after 11 (late for us).

Just a casual 26:49 10k…

All of this was great preparation for Mile End parkrun – in the absence of my intervals the day before, I decided that it would be a good idea to make this an ‘effort’ parkrun. I clocked 19:44; my second-fastest parkrun time ever, on a slightly undulating course; you can read more about it here. I was really happy with my time, and although it didn’t serve quite the same training purpose as the planned intervals, I felt good about getting a quicker workout in.

Sunday’s long run was an opportunity to run on a few roads that I hadn’t explored before to the east of Taunton – I find solitary long runs pretty tough at times, and so I like to find ways to motivate myself and keep myself distracted – in this case it was expanding my VeloViewer ‘largest square’. Basically, every map grid that you run in is highlighted, so I was exploring some new squares! It’s a bit sad and geeky, but it keeps me interested! The run itself was 11.7 miles at 8:34 min/mi, a decent but not spectacular run.

My VeloViewer square.

Week 5: Target 37 mi, actual 36 mi

Another week, another race to mess with the plan! It was back to the Yeovilton 5k in Week 6. In Week 2, I’d ran 19:46, which had given me a big mental boost, and I was hoping for another this time around. My head wasn’t really in the game to start the week though, and my Tuesday run ended up being a very late evening plod around at 9:19 min/mi. I think the combined efforts of the Haselbury Trail and Mile End parkrun had really worn me out. With that in mind, I was really struggling with whether to go to the Yeovilton race. I was down on my weekly mileage, and doing the 5k race would only make that worse. I ummm-ed and I ahhh-ed, and I made and re-made the decision a few times before ultimately deciding to go.

I’m glad I did. As I knew, my weekly mileage suffered, but I ran 19:17, only four seconds slower than my PB set last September. The race gave me great confidence for how my training is going. I managed to tag on a decent length warm-up and cool down to minimise the damage to my weekly target.

Bizarrely, considering that I was feeling wiped out after so many race efforts, I opted to stick with my lactate threshold run on the Friday – cruise intervals; 12 mins/12 mins/10 mins at 6:40/6:40/6:38 pace. As I did for most of last year, I ran this along the canal, and was really happy with the effort I managed after a tough period of training. A gentle recovery run on Saturday evening was followed the next morning by a 12.3 mile long run with the club. I didn’t feel up for a solitary long run, so took the opportunity to do our club’s regular Sunday run. Although the pace wasn’t quite what I’d have done on my own, I didn’t regret the decision at all – it was lovely to be able to chat to friends all the way around, and made the distance feel like nothing at all.

A decent lactate threshold workout.

Week 6: Target 39 mi, actual 37.2 mi

I was disappointed to be short on mileage both weeks, but given that I had races both weeks, and some other disruptions too, I’m not too bothered in all honesty. My training is clearly heading in the right direction; both the races and the speed sessions show me this. Six weeks marks halfway through the plan, and the second half is much less congested – I’ve got a 10k race on Sunday of week 8, but that coincides with a planned 5k tune-up race, so not too much tweaking should be needed, and then the next Yeovilton race will be in week 10 or 11. I’m hoping to be able to get in a lot more of the planned speed workouts, and hopefully with less alterations, my body will benefit from the planned rest and recovery periods!

Acquiring focus, a training update

After a few races catch-ups, it’s probably time I focused on my training; what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and whether it is working. As I’ve mentioned a few times in my race reports, despite Lolly doing all the hard work, the arrival of our second child had quite a detrimental effect on my running. This wasn’t helped by a sinus infection that I caught around the same time. The two combined meant that after a pretty decent March, in which I ran 100 miles and set competitive times in both The Big Cheese and the Butleigh MT 10k, April was pretty awful: eight runs, for a total distance of 40 miles.

May and June were both huge improvements, with me finishing just short of 100 miles both months, but I was getting a bit demoralised by my slower race times. The 20:48 at Yeovilton in May was particularly difficult to take, despite the fact that I had known I was going to be off the pace. There are excuses I can tag to some of them as well; Wells and the Steeplechase were both on hot days, the Quantock Beast came at the end of a week when I’d been a bit off-colour anyway. Despite this, and the fact that I knew my pace would come back with time and training, I felt I needed some more structure to my running.

So, I turned back to the source of last year’s improvements: Pfitzinger and Latter’s Faster Road Running. After a bit of deliberation, I opted to follow a 10k plan. My 10k PB is serious lagging behind my 5k and HM efforts, and sub-40 is my next major milestone after doing a sub-20 5k and sub-90 HM last year. (A sub-19 5k is also a target, but that’ll come off training for some further.)

After some further deliberation, I set the Taunton 10k as my target race. It isn’t the flattest, and it certainly isn’t the biggest, but it’s all on road, I’ve set a PB there before, and it worked out around the right time. With this in mind, my first week of training (as last year) was meant to be the week after the Quantock Beast. However, my body disagreed! I opted that week to concentrate on getting the distance in, but not worrying too much about pace. To that end, I ran a 5 mile recovery run on the Tuesday, at around 9 minute miles and 6 miles the next day, at 9 and a half minute miles. I went off road towards the end of the week, taking in a lumpy 5 miles along the coast path on Friday, before a 12.5-mile loop of the Herepath on the Sunday.

Week 1: Target 30 mi, actual 29.1 mi

I was feeling pretty good after that week, despite the hilly end to it, and the second week should have provided the perfect opportunity to hit my planned workouts and get going properly. Except for my race addiction. This is (my wife tells me) a problem (she says this with glances at our credit card statement, our busy calendar and our neglected children). I have to admit, it’s hard to disagree: running a race in the middle of a training plan is a pretty surefire way to mess up the training plan. Of course, the fact we were going on holiday on the Friday was also pretty awkward.

Holiday running: pretty, but an organisational nightmare!

As a result: another week of rearranged and mangled training. My 5k race on the Wednesday showed things were heading in the right direction, at least, while a parkrun (in place of a speed session the day before) provided another opportunity to confirm my pace. Despite being in the New Forest, I managed to get out for 11 miles on the morning of my birthday. Although the speed workouts are important for increasing my pace, the longer runs are one of my focuses throughout this plan, as I did very few of them in the first half of the year.

Week 2: Target 32 mi, actual 32.4 mi

All the food! (A dinosaur birthday cake!)

The third week in, and for the first time, I was able to run pretty close to the plan. I found a nice track in the New Forest to do some point-to-point intervals along, and ran a 200m repeat session. Or at least, a “roughly 200m” repeat session. I gauged this off a combination of the number of paces I’d taken and the amount of time it took me to run, and then marked it with a fallen branch. It was tough, as my Wednesday endurance run title suggested: “I’ve eaten too much food this week to run properly…”

We travelled back on the Thursday, but the weather was absolutely awful on the Friday, so despite some initial resolutions to actually do my planned lactate threshold run, I didn’t get out. (Those who followed my training plan for the Bristol Half Marathon last year will recall that lactate threshold runs have a tendency to be… ummm… missed.) I was eager to get something akin to the planned session in though, so went to Longrun Meadow parkrun on the Saturday. The planned session was 10 min / 10 min / 8 min at pace with 3 min jog breaks. I decided that a 21 min parkrun with a 4 min break and then 8 min effort would simulate a similar session. I got the 21 min parkrun pretty much bang on, but then ended up chatting for too long, and so had too long of a break before my second effort. But still, overall my pace was where I wanted it, so no big deal. I finished the week with a relatively speedy 11 mile long run, averaging under 8 min/mile.

Week 3: Target 34 mi, actual 34.3 mi

Unfortunately, the side effect of moving my Friday speed-work to Saturday and running a quick long run on the Sunday was that I started week four feeling pretty knackered. It was advertised as a recovery week (my favourite) but began with another set of 2 x (4 x 200) on the Tuesday. Again, this was estimated distances marked in the gravel, but it went pretty well (which means I probably under-marked the distance!) I ran with the club on Wednesday, stepping down a group for an easier run, though I got a bit carried away towards the end with some hill sprints…

I’d over-egged my overall distance on both Tuesday and Wednesday, so I went for a much shorter than planned run on Friday, taking my daughter in the buggy with me to help control my pace. To be honest, looking back at this week, I probably should have been taking things far easier. The whole point of a recovery week is to give your body a bit of a reset for the training ahead, and I think the hill sprints and extra distance in the first half of the week really prevented that from happening too much. My Friday run, while short, should probably have been slower still, especially given that I had the buggy. My Sunday run was okay, but again, should probably have been slower.

Week 4: Target 30 mi, actual 30.2 mi

Overall I have to be happy with pretty much hitting all my weekly mileage targets. The training was pretty disrupted in terms of the specific workouts, but hopefully that will improve in the second half of the plan. Either way, improvements are obvious, and maybe, just maybe, a sub-40 is possible.

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.

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.

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…

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!