Tag Archives: Training

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.

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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.

run-blog

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.

distance graph

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!)

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.

best

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:

collapsed

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…

Bristol Half Marathon Training: Week 5

Despite coming off a recovery week, I entered this week still pretty tired – though it was less physical tiredness, and more mental fatigue. That wasn’t helped by the fact that I was expecting the next couple of weeks to be pretty tough – not only was it the speed-focused meso-cycle, but I also had races two Wednesdays in a row. Each race has two downsides – the hard effort is more tiring than my training runs, and it also means deviating from the plan, and having to rework things slightly.

Book plan:
Monday: Rest day
Tuesday: 8 miles lactate threshold
Wednesday: 9 miles endurance
Thursday: Rest day
Friday: 7 miles GA + sprint
Saturday: 4 miles recovery
Sunday: 12 miles progression

My plan:
Monday: Rest day
Tuesday: 9 miles endurance
Wednesday: Haselbury Trail 10k race + warm-up
Thursday: Rest day
Friday: 7 miles GA + sprint
Saturday: 4 miles recovery
Sunday: 12 miles progression

Monday:
Rest day.

Tuesday:
While I’m getting a bit worried about the number of lactate threshold sessions that I’m binning off, the simple fact is that I can’t run such a hard session just before or after a race, and so like before I swapped the lactate threshold run out of my plan and replaced it with Wednesday’s endurance run. On Monday morning I was feeling pretty down about running, and contemplated either splitting this run between the morning and evening, or running the whole thing in the evening. I’d got fed up of planning routes, of being out for over an hour, and being tired all the time. But Lolly came to my rescue, and planned me a simple route before we went to bed; basically the Taunton 10k route, plus the run there and back.

The Taunton 10k route is one of my favourites – not necessarily because of the race – it’s just a nice gently undulating route which gets out of Taunton along some quiet lanes. It’s also a route that doesn’t require me to pay much attention, as you can’t really go wrong. Except… I did. Still, it only served to add about half a mile on, so no big problem! I was pleased with my pace on this run, and given how I’d felt the previous evening, it significantly exceeded my expectations.

Wednesday:

SONY DSC

It’s fair to say that I went a bit OTT with my sprint finish… (credit: Dave and Tracy Symes)

The Haselbury Trail 10k. A full race report will follow, but this was inserted into my training plan in order to try to tick off 10 events in the Somerset Series, so that I ‘qualify’ for that series. In many ways, it’s largely irrelevant, as I’ll be lucky to even make the top ten, but it was one of my hopes coming into this year, so I’m going to do what I can to make it happen. Most of the race is reasonably gentle, across fields, but there’s a sharp hill at the end of both laps, and my legs were far too tired to do anything more than plod up it. Overall, I was a few seconds up on my time from last year, which I was a bit disappointed with. In retrospect, I’ve realised that this is far from an ideal part of my training plan to have a race, so hopefully the lack of improvement is more due to that, rather than any actual stagnation. All my other times, both in the Yeovilton 5k races, and on my training runs, point to improvements.

Thursday:
Rest day.

Friday:
Although I had contemplated switching the lactate threshold run to Friday, I was far too tired after my race to do that. As a result, I headed off on some ‘exploring’, extending my Strava heatmap by running along the new stretch of the A38, Taunton’s ‘Eastern Relief Road’. It wasn’t the most exciting place to run, but it’s always nice to run in a new place. The run itself was pretty good, though I unsurprisingly found the ten 100 metre sprints at the end of the run tough! The sprints themselves were relatively consistent: 21, 18, 19, 19, 19, 20, 19, 19, 19, 18, and I mostly managed to keep my recovery jogs consistent at around 40 seconds as well, so I’m pretty happy with that. Despite how hard they felt, I’m enjoying having sprints at the end of another run, as it’s a nice way to incorporate some speed work into the week without having to dedicate a whole session to it.

Saturday:
As the mileage has built up, the plan has added ‘recovery’ miles. The aim of the these runs is to feel better at the end than the start. I’m not totally sure that happened, but it was nice to go out for a shorter run for a change. Four miles made a nice change from the eight milers that I’ve got used to! In order to both keep my pace down, and to divert myself, I spent most of the run playing Pokemon Go, which served both purposes well, although I’m not sure it was the safest combination!

Sunday:
Progression run, round two. Without a doubt, I feared this run even more than I had the first time around. Then, it had come at the end of a meso-cycle, so I knew that I would have a recovery week after it. This time, it came mid-cycle, so I would have to run the following week on tired legs. Not to mention that after my race, I was starting the run on tired legs too! I planned myself another route that explored a new area, linking together the south of Taunton (Trull and Poundisford) with the east of Taunton (Stoke St Mary). Although I ran both areas regularly, I’d never navigated a route between the two.

progw5

Bizarrely, given the format of this run, it mostly got better as I went along. For the first few miles, I struggled to get going at all, and my pace reflected this somewhat, not dropping below 9 minute miles. As I got into the second quarter of the run, something changed, and I started enjoying the run a bit more, and at the same time found the pace easier to manage. That and the third quarter (which was mostly the new section) were both pretty enjoyable, before the run got pretty tough in the final quarter. My pace in each section increased as follows: 8:48, 8:02, 7:48, 7:15. Partly, I find that pretty demoralising: I found the 7:15 section really really tough, but it was only 2.5 miles at the end of a 12.5 mile run. In contrast, my half marathon PB at the moment is a pace of 7:21 for 13.1 miles. On the other hand, I know that I’m still in the middle of my training plan at the moment, and I had tapered and prepared for that race. And it’s always easier to run fast in a race than on a training run.

Summary:
Having a race in the middle of week does make things awkward, and it probably does devalue the training around it slightly too. However, I was glad that I managed to pretty much nail my progression run, even if it felt pretty tough. But, you know, it’s a 12 mile progression run – it’s meant to feel tough! Next week has another race, the fifth of the Yeovilton 5k series, so I go off-plan again, but after that things mostly settle down, I think…

Bristol Half Marathon Training: Week 4

The end of week three involved some pretty tough sessions (a lactate threshold run on the Friday and a 12 mile progression run on the Sunday), and I came into the week glad of the chance at some recovery.

Book plan:
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 8 miles General Aerobic + strides
Wednesday: 7 miles General Aerobic
Thursday: Rest
Friday: 8 miles General Aerobic
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: 9 miles General Aerobic

My plan:
For the second week running, no deviations!

Monday:
Rest day.

Tuesday:
I had an eight mile run scheduled, but life just got in the way, and this became the first run of the training plan that I abandoned completely. If I’m honest, this wasn’t just about other stuff – the amount of running I’ve been doing on this plan far surpasses anything I’ve been doing before, and I’ve been bordering on overtraining. Put that together with work and a toddler that doesn’t want to sleep, and I felt pretty low at the start of this week. I’ve been here before; the first few weeks of a training plan are always hard, and this one even more so. Hopefully, an easier week, and better management of some of the other issues, will help for the rest of the training plan.

child-sleeping

Training this week might have gone better if I’d got out of bed earlier!

Wednesday:
After skipping my run the day before, I then found myself too tired to bring myself to run before work on the Wednesday – not a good place to be! Thankfully, I was able to use my running club to get myself out of the funk. A 7 and a half mile run, sandwiched between half mile runs there and back helped to claw back a little of the lost mileage, and running with other people is always so much easier. I intentionally dropped down a group for the easier pace during my recovery week, and it was good to catch up with some people I hadn’t seen in a while.

Thursday:
Rest day.

Friday:
Again, I didn’t manage to get up and do this run before work, so I had to squeeze it in after. This was a pretty ‘nothing’ run; my pace wandered around a bit, but it was never too hard. I made things a bit more entertaining for myself towards the end, by challenging myself not to cross over my ‘outward’ route. It’s the little things that keep me going sometimes!

Saturday:
Rest day.

Sunday:
For the recovery week, my long run was only 9 miles, dropping from the 12 of the week before. Despite missing some miles earlier in the week, I wasn’t tempted to make any more up on this run: I knew I’d need my energy for the rest of the plan. Lolly and I were marshalling at the Junior parkrun, and the plan had been that I would do my run and meet them there, but continuing the theme of the week, I didn’t get up in time! On this occasion though, it was a rare lie-in for my daughter, so I didn’t regret it much. As it was, we headed out to parkrun, cheered the youngsters around, and then I set off with no route in mind at all. If there is anything worse than doing a ‘long’ run when you’re not feeling up for it, it’s doing a ‘long’ run when you have no route in mind! The whole run was a hodge-podge of other routes that I didn’t really enjoy at all, but I got around it and survived the week. And for once, that was all that mattered.

Summary:
Obviously, this was far from my best week. Mentally and physically, I just felt drained. But… that is part of the reason that these plans have recovery weeks, so I guess it was well timed! To be honest, even at the end of the week, I was still feeling pretty knackered, and I knew that training ramped up in week five to eight, with increased speed work, though both weeks five and six included Wednesday evening races. Onwards and upwards I guess…

Bristol Half Marathon Training: Week 3

After some deviations during Week 2 to fit in the Yeovilton 5k, this week was just about following the book, getting the miles in, and trying to hit all the workouts. A bit of travelling, and the hot weather, meant that I knew things would be a bit difficult to juggle around. Especially as Lolly is coming to the end of a college course, meaning that it’s important I can be free to look after the small child as much as possible in the evenings.

 

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It’s lovely to see, but it does make running HARD!

Book plan:
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 8 miles General Aerobic + hill reps + strides
Wednesday: 9 miles Endurance
Thursday: Rest
Friday: 8 miles Lactate Threshold
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: 12 miles Progression

 

My plan:
Exactly the same, no deviations this week!

Monday:
Rest day.

Tuesday:
This run (8 miles General Aerobic with hill reps and strides) caused some agonising, on two fronts, which combined to make about five different problems! Firstly, I was working in west Cornwall, which meant that if I was to travel from home and back, I’d have something like a twelve hour working day. So get out for a run beforehand, I’d need to leave the house before 5 am. Now, while I’m trying to force myself to run in the mornings – and it’s taking a lot of forcing, because I really am not a morning person – there was no way I was getting up when the clock still started with 04 for a run. So then, I’d have to do the run afterwards. In fact, as my parents live in the exact town that I was travelling to, I planned to run straight after the job I was doing, and then travel back after. Except for the second issue: the temperature. Monday had been pretty warm; in the afternoon the temperature got up to around 28 degrees Celsius. It was lovely – unless you had to run in it. Tuesday was forecast to be even hotter, and it wasn’t due to cool off much in the evening either. So back to Plan A: running in the morning? It would have to be. But I still couldn’t face that pre-5 am wake up call, and so I opted for a third way. I would complete my work on Monday, have dinner at home, and then travel down to my parents’ house in the evening, so I could get up early, but not too early, on Tuesday to run.

The run itself went pretty well. My parents live in a pretty small town, and so getting eight miles in involved a bit of fiddling about. It’s also much hillier than Taunton, but that’s fine – especially for the hill repeats at the end of the run. I completed something in the region of 6.5 miles, and somehow even managed to get a “2nd Overall” on a Strava segment. (Which given this was meant to be a General Aerobic paced run, probably means I was going too fast.) The hill repeats were really tough, and on a much more significant hill than the previous week. The strides were also reasonably tough, and I think I embarrassed a couple of school girls who’d sang “running, running” (Naughty Boy featuring Beyonce) at me as I went past them. Only for me to jog back past them, and then sprint past them, and then jog past them, and then sprint past them as I continued my shuttle sprints. Overall a good session, and done before it got *too* hot.

Wednesday:
I had originally planned to run my midweek medium-long Endurance run with the club in the evening, but once again I looked at the forecast and figured that I’d rather run in the relative cool of the morning. So, I quickly pieced together a route, and then at the last moment, decided to run it the opposite way around! Mostly so that I would get the bits where I was running on the road out of the way early, before there were too many cars, and also so that I could run alongside the river towards the end, when it might be starting to get a bit warm. There’s little to say about the run, it was a reasonably easy effort, and perhaps I should have run it a little harder, but I’m still a little bit awed by the weekly distance, and I knew I had harder runs coming up. I did have to slow down quite significantly towards the end, when a herd of cows were in the gateway that I had to go through, meaning that I had to go straight through the middle of them. To our mutual annoyance.

Thursday:
Rest day.

Friday:
The return of the lactate threshold run. I’d skipped this in week two, as I was doing the Yeovilton 5k, and this time I knew I had to push harder on the threshold intervals. One thing that Faster Road Racing repeats over and over again is that threshold runs are one of the most indicative of race pace, and one of the best ways to improve race pace. So most weeks, the lactate threshold run in the key workout, so I want to be getting it right. In week one, I’d ran to heart-rate, and found that I was doing my intervals at about 7:45 per mile, which after some discussion with club mates (well, Scott) we determined was too slow. So this time, I did some research, both in the book and online, and calculated that I should be running the intervals at just slower than 7:00 per mile. The obvious advantage of running to heart-rate is that you can run hillier routes and know that you’re still putting the right amount of effort in, whereas running to a pace means that on a hilly route, you might push too hard uphill, or too little downhill. With that in mind, I opted to run along the canal, to guarantee a lovely flat route for my pace-based run.

With having skipped the threshold run in week two, I’d jumped straight from week one’s 14 and 12 minute intervals to 18 and 15 minutes. At a much faster pace. Oh boy. It was tough. I know this, because Strava told me so. Still, I managed it: both intervals had a pace of roughly 7:05 per mile. Interestingly, my heart-rate was exactly where the book suggested, and where it had been in week one. So perhaps my body was just particularly stressed in week one, and so the same heart-rate equated to a slower run. Who knows. I may well stick to threshold sessions along the canal for the rest of the training plan though!

Saturday:
Rest day, thank God!

Sunday:
Gulp. If I hadn’t been looking forward to the lactate threshold run, I certainly wasn’t looking forward to the progression run. Twelve miles, which was the furthest of the plan so far, but I also had to run faster as I went along, finishing at my threshold pace. It was back to running based on heart-rate for this run, which meant that I was free to incorporate some hills into the run. Which is pretty vital if I want to avoid doing the whole thing along the canal! I basically split the whole run in six chunks: half a mile warm-up, followed by 2.5 miles at 141 to 150 bpm, 3 miles at 145 to 160 bpm, 3 miles at 150 to 165 bpm, 2.5 miles at 155 to 174 bpm, and then a half mile cool down. Within each chunk, I also aimed to increase my heart-rate and pace, but I was less concerned about that.

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Pretty much nailed it.

So, how did it go? – Surprisingly well, actually. By mentally splitting the run into chunks, it was easier to motivate myself, and it meant that I was focused on achieving my target for that chunk, rather than worrying about how far I had left to run. I managed to increase my pace (and more importantly my grade-adjusted pace) each chunk: from 8:11 min/mile to 8:01, to 7:50, to 7:20. My fastest mile of the run was the eleventh, which was 7:10; faster than my current half marathon PB pace, which is encouraging. Within each chunk, my pace (and heart-rate) didn’t quite progress as linearly as I would like, so that’s definitely something to work on for this session, but overall I’m happy to call it a success.

Summary:
This week I set out to follow the book exactly, and just try and run strong, and I’m pretty happy that that’s what I achieved. The week ended with two particularly tough sessions, and although they felt every bit as difficult as they looked, I’m happy that I ran both hard, and have no regrets. This is the last hard week of the first meso-cycle; Week 4 is a recovery week, before the focus of the training shifts from endurance to speed work. During that cycle, I have two races planned, the Haselbury Trail 10k (which I also raced last year) and the next Yeovilton 5k, so it will be important to get the balance right between training and racing. But for the moment, I’m feeling pretty good, if very tired, with how the training plan is going.

Bristol Half Marathon Training: Week 2

The second week of my training involved making a few changes to fit in the fourth race of the Yeovilton 5k series. I had contemplated dropping the race to allow me to focus on my half marathon training, but achieving a sub-20 5k has been a target for a long time, and I knew that this month I had a good chance of doing it. With that in mind, I made the adjustments below:

Book plan:
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 7 miles General Aerobic + hill reps + strides
Wednesday: 8 miles Endurance
Thursday: Rest
Friday: 8 miles Lactate Threshold
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: 11 miles Endurance

My plan:
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 7 miles General Aerobic + hill reps + strides
Wednesday: 4 miles (Yeovilton 5k race + warm-up)
Thursday: Rest
Friday: 8 miles General Aerobic
Saturday: 4 miles (parkrun + warm-up)
Sunday: 11 miles Endurance

Monday:
Rest day.

Tuesday:
This session was a similar format to last week’s Tuesday run, but slightly further, and with the addition of hill repeats. After my watch crashing during this run last week, I chose not to use the workout I’d programmed, and rather just to manage the run myself. This worked out better than I was expecting to be honest! Again, the morning miles were tough to start with, but I soon settled into the run. The hill that I chose to use for my repeats turned out not to actually be as steep as I’d remembered, which was slightly annoying, but overall I found this session worked pretty well – it seems a good way of including a small amount of speed work in the week, without going crazy.

Wednesday:

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Wooo!

Rather than the eight mile endurance run that the book suggested, I was running the Yeovilton 5k in the evening. Pretty much everything was ideal for the race: I was running well in training, the weather wasn’t too hot, and my day at work hadn’t been too tiring. My nutrition through the day probably wasn’t perfect, but hey, can’t have everything! Last month, I’d ran a perfectly paced first 3k by following a young lady from Tiverton Harriers, but then dropped off the pace over the last couple. Seeing her at the start again this month, I decided to see try to follow her again.

This was a mistake. Unlike last month, when she ran pretty much exactly 20-minute pace for the entire race, she hared off this time. Of course, my tactic meant that I did the same, and completed the first kilometre in 3:45 – well inside the 4:00 needed for my target. After this point, I realised that I should manage my own pace, rather than base my running on someone else, that frankly, I knew nothing about. Long story short, I held a 4 minute kilometre pace for the next couple of kilometres, and although I dropped off a bit towards the end, I finished in 19:50, smashing both my previous 5k time of 20:15 and my target!

Thursday:
Legs felt completely broken after the race the night before. I really need to consider cool down runs after hard races. Thankfully, it was a rest day.

Friday:
The book had a lactate threshold run in on this day, but after a 5k race on Wednesday, and with a parkrun planned on Saturday, I made the decision to change this to an ‘easy’ General Aerobic run. I toyed around with whether to run in the morning or evening, but as I was leaving home early to drive down to Cornwall for work, I decided to run it in the evening. Unfortunately, I had some… bowel issues that afternoon, and all I will say here is thank you to the staff at the Sports Centre 2 miles into my run, who let me use their toilets! Otherwise, this was a pretty nondescript training run: the pace was pretty comfortable, averaging around 8:45.

Saturday:
My birthday! I’d originally hoped to go down and

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Considering that I was ‘taking this easy’, I seem to look pretty rough! (in red)

do some parkrun tourism at Parke parkrun, but both Lolly and I were exhausted from the week, and so in the end we just stayed in Taunton, and I headed over for a pretty easy effort at Longrun Meadow, getting around in just over 23 minutes, with a pretty significant negative split.

Sunday:
After a hard 5k on Wednesday, eight miles on Friday, and another four on Saturday, I wasn’t really feeling up for this run at all. In fact, the title of the run on Strava sums it up: “The ‘maybe 23 miles in three days was a bad idea’ run”.

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t that bad. I maintained a quicker pace than my Friday run, and even incorporated Rumwell hill in towards the end. Mentally, this was a really tough run; it wasn’t until I was around eight miles in that I stopped worrying about how much further I had to run. But physically, it wasn’t actually as bad as it seemed like it was going to be.

Summary:
Overall the inclusion of the race definitely impacted heavily on my training this week: I wasn’t able to include a threshold run, and splitting the Wednesday mileage across 5k events on Wednesday and Saturday was both physically demanding, and skewed the mileage to the end of the week. I’m still planning to race the Yeovilton 5k in both August and September, as well as the Haselbury Trail on the first Wednesday of August, so this is something I’m going to have to bear in mind for each of those. I’m used to running more frequently, but less far than this plan, so the planned runs all being seven miles or more is taking a little bit of getting used to, but I’m hoping that it will have result in a significant improvement in my endurance running, especially the mental aspect, which I struggled with this week.

Bristol Half Marathon Training: Week 1

When I sat down last winter to plan for this year, there was one thing that dominated my thoughts: a sub-90 half marathon. With two training cycles to improve on my 1:36:37 from last year’s Burnham Half, it seemed a realistic, if difficult proposition. Unfortunately a fall on the coastal path scrapped off my entire spring, so I’m now coming into the autumn a little unsure where I should be setting my target. In my heart I’m still aiming for sub-90, but in reality, I think that has become something of a pipe-dream now.

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My current bible.

To give myself the best chance though, I am following a set training plan for the first time. Previously, I’ve always looked at a few and then built myself a plan, loosely based on what I’d seen, and planned around a number of club runs and similar that I did. But, I hadn’t really seen the improvements that I wanted. A couple of people that really inspire me, and have seen massive improvement in their running are Teal, from Miles to the Trials, and Matty, from Running Matters. Both have used the Pete Pfitzinger/Scott Douglas plans from Advanced Marathoning. Clearly, as I’m not doing a marathon, that isn’t any use to me, so I have opted to use a plan from Faster Road Running: 5k to Half Marathon, by Pete Pfitzinger and Philip Latter. (Hopefully all the good stuff doesn’t come from Scott Douglas!)

The plan I am using is the lowest mileage of the half marathon plans; but even this is more than I have typically done in the past. It builds from 31 miles per week up to 47, while I have typically trained from about 20 to 35 miles per week during half marathon training in the past. As a result of this, there is more ‘slow’ running than I have done before, which is a bit of a worry – will I get quicker if I’m running slower? On the other hand, I typically perform relatively better at 5k and 10k than the half marathon, so hopefully getting significantly more distance in my legs will help to counter that. Of course, the plan does have plenty of targeted quicker running as well, particularly in the second meso-cycle, when most weeks have both speed intervals and tempo runs.

So, introduction done, let’s have a look at week one:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 6 miles General Aerobic + strides
Wednesday: 8 miles Endurance
Thursday: Rest
Friday: 7 miles Lactate Threshold
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: 10 miles Endurance

Immediately, by mere consequence of being an ‘impersonal’ training plan, this threw up lots of variations from my typical training – I normally try to run parkrun most Saturdays, but I’ve always accepted that this doesn’t fit in brilliantly with training. I almost never run on Fridays, and the concept of a run with two purposes (general aerobic and strides) has never featured in my training.

Monday:
Rest – Nailed it. After a race on Sunday, I was more than happy to take the day off on Monday. I would have liked to have got a decent stretching and rolling session in, but you can’t have everything!

Tuesday:
This session was a combination of two types of running, and it wasn’t entirely clear how this should be achieved. Reading through a few section of the books, I interpreted that the 6 mile session should be made up of 5 miles ‘General Aerobic’ aka ‘Easy’ running, followed by 1 mile of 100 metre sprint repetitions. Due to work and home commitments, I did this first thing Tuesday morning, an unusual time of day for me to be running. The five miles of easy running went okay, although I always struggle to get going in the morning, but then my watch crashed as it tried to go into the sprint reps. This was less than ideal, and I ended up basically doing a fartlek session of ‘I’ll sprint to that lamp-post’, ‘I’ll jog gently until that tree’, and so on. Distance wise, I ended up very slightly short, but I probably didn’t get full value out of the reps by doing them in such an ad hoc fashion, so that’s something to work on for next week. All in all though, an okay start to the week.

Wednesday:
This session, an 8 mile endurance run, which is repeated most weeks, is one that works out pretty well for me: our club meets on a Wednesday evening, and the groups that I run with do around this sort of distance. This week, it ended up slightly short, about 7.6 miles, which normally I could add on to easily, but as we had a club committee meeting after, I didn’t. Running with a group meant that it was harder to keep my heartrate and pace as consistent as I would like, but overall, a good solid mid-week medium-long run.

Thursday:
Rest day.

Friday:
Although I’ve done some threshold, or tempo, running before, I have to admit that it’s not a session that I’ve done anywhere near as often as I should have, and it’s through this training that I think I’m most likely to make improvements. As such, it’s the session that I’m most keen to get right. Described as a 7 mile LT (lactate threshold) run, most of this run is actually at a gentle pace, with two quicker intervals: 14 minutes and 12 minutes at LT pace, with a four minute jog between them. I ran this session based on heart-rate, and like on Tuesday I ran before work in the morning.

W1LT

The two hard intervals are consistent with each other, but I think they need to be a little bit harder yet.

How did it go? I’m not really sure. My gut feeling is that I didn’t run hard enough – I was at the top-end of the target heart-rate band for the entire LT intervals, but it didn’t feel particularly tough. Looking online, the common consensus seems to be that this should be ‘comfortably hard’, and around 10-20 seconds slower than 10 km pace. My pace was 7:45 in both intervals, compared to my 10 km race pace of 6:53 (from the Round the Tor 10k). Looking at this, and the advice online, I’m going to try running this session to pace next time, and see how that feels, and look at where my heart rate is, and then make a judgement for the rest of my training.

Saturday:
Rest day – no parkrun for me. I’d been tempted to get my volunteering count up, as I’m not far off being able to claim a purple 25 t-shirt, but I didn’t get my act together in time! Mowing the lawn and painting the shed were pretty hard-work, but probably don’t count as ruining a rest day!

Sunday:

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Club running

The last time I ran further than 10 miles was the Exmoor Stagger, last October, and although I did run 9 miles a couple of weeks ago, I decided to run with our club’s ‘Sunday All-Stars’ to help me get over the mental barrier of double-figures. It was a good, friendly group, and I didn’t even really notice the distance. We stopped a few more times than I would like – once I’m out I just want to keep running, rather than stop for photos and the like, but that’s the trade-off for running in a group! My heart-rate was right at the bottom of my target band, but given the step-up in mileage, I was perfectly happy with that. A pretty solid run.

Summary:

I was quite concerned about the mileage, particularly given I’ve had a couple of quieter weeks due to a cold, but my body seems to have coped reasonably well. I need to work on including more stretching and rolling sessions during the week, so that my muscles don’t get too tight. My key ‘takeaway’ from the week is the tweaking that I want to do to the LT session, and maybe, depending on how that goes, a tweak to my general heart-rate bands. This coming week I’ll be going ‘off-plan’ very slightly, to fit in the fourth Yeovilton 5k race of the season, and some parkrun tourism for my birthday on Saturday, and as a result I’ll have to sacrifice the LT session to allow those hard runs to fit in.

 

Early summer speed

Spring is generally considered to be marathon season, while the summer is dedicated to shorter distances. With both marathon and half marathon distances out of the question for me this spring thanks to yet another winter injury, I always knew that my first races back would be quicker, shorter distances.

My ‘training’ started again gently in March, with a number of runs aimed mostly at building some confidence and clocking up some miles. But I struggle to run without definite aims in mind, and there was no way that an autumn half marathon was going to get me going in the short-term. So, I had a look around, considered how far I was running (up to 4 miles) and decided to book the Brean Down 5k on 3 April.

In all honesty, this didn’t end up being a goal, so much as part of the journey. For those that don’t know the area, Brean Down is a headland between Burnham on Sea and Weston-super-Mare in north Somerset. The race starts by the beach and climbs up to the top of the headland, runs along and down to a fort at the end, before climbing back up to the peak and dropping all the way back to the beach. Off-road. It clearly wasn’t a course on which to get a PB, but that’s fine, as I was hardly in any shape to get a PB anyway.

1604 Brean Down 002

Grimace, grimace, smile for camera, grimace.

The day before the race, we travelled up to Kingsway parkrun, where Lolly kindly ran with the buggy to allow me to put down a more realistic benchmark for my training; 21:59. Two minutes off where my next target, and more like three minutes off where I’d like to finish the year. But at least I had an idea.

At Brean Down, I ran pretty well; my legs were tired from the hard effort the day before, and they certainly weren’t prepared for the hills, but I enjoyed pushing myself around, and getting the buzz of the race. It was also pretty nice to get a medal to add to my collection! Time was pretty irrelevant, but I came in quicker than I’d been targeting, finishing in 24:56.

After that race, I built my training up more, putting more structure in place. While I still wasn’t running from an actual training plan, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to be doing. A couple of runs in the evenings, parkrun, and a “long” run. Which was 5.5 miles of hell that first week. No idea why, it was just a bad run.

1604 parkrun 002

“This is so easy, I can do it with my eyes shut.”

Another chance to set down a benchmark followed soon after; the first race of the Yeovilton 5k series. I’d been meaning to race in these for a while, but this year I let myself give it more importance, and I’m planning to use it through the summer to benchmark my progress. I’m going to be pretty pissed off if I don’t go sub-20 at one of them!

I don’t tend to run all that well in evening races, though I do really enjoy them. Still, I managed to prepare relatively well, with a shorter day at work, and a mid-afternoon meal. I didn’t really know what to target, other than quicker than the 21:59 I’d run at Kingsway. With that in mind, I changed the settings on my watch to km pace (I usually use miles) and decided to aim for around 4:20 per km, which would give me a time of somewhere around 21:40, which seemed reasonable.

My pacing was dreadful. Perhaps unsurprising, given that the races are known for having a fast field. I started too far forwards, and found myself drifting back for the first kilometre. After that I steadied myself in the pack, but obviously everyone around me was pacing badly too, and we struggled to maintain our pace. All that said, I was chuffed to come around in 21:07, within a minute of my PB.

After Yeovilton, I had two and a half more weeks of training before my next significant benchmark, the Glastonbury 10k. But I’ll cover that in another post…

Getting into cross training

Look at any running information for long enough and you’re bound to read about the importance of cross training.  Essentially, this is just other exercise that helps with your running, or helps to even up body areas that running doesn’t target.  This has always been a bit of a sticking point for me – I can never seem to get momentum for running and other exercise at the same time.

When we did our Leadership in Running Fitness course at the end of last year, the trainers talked about the need for regular stretching workouts as part of any running training plan.  Secretly, I felt a little bit smug at this, as just a couple of weeks earlier I’d started a new stretching and flexibility class, and this time I was determined to make it stick.

Studio 22 is a dance fitness studio, and was the place I decided to try when looking for a new start.  I was attracted by the range of classes, and the decent class prices.  My desire to stretch out my muscles combined with a wish to stretch out my comfort zone, and so I found myself at X-TND & Flex.  Stretching my comfort zone was putting it mildly.

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Rolling out the tight spots

I was asked about my flexibility goals.  An obvious question, you’d think.  But as someone who has never been associated with the word ‘flexible’, it was difficult to answer.  And with that I entered the world of biomechanical releases, muscle rolling, belly breathing, and the splits.  Yep, the splits.  It is fair to say that I had never been close to doing the splits, and this did not change that evening.

For some reason I persevered, and slowly but surely I started to have a bit more of a clue what I was doing.  You could even start to tell that I was attempting to do the splits.  With the extra confidence it was time to add something else in, this time Ballet Fit.

Ballet is not something I did as a child, but it’s hard to deny the obvious fitness benefits.  For me the biggest challenge was (is) balance.  Oh and grace.  And maybe a bit of flexibility.  Ok, so essentially it’s a class that targets a lot of weak spots for me.  As you’d therefore expect, I was rubbish at it.

Of the many things I’ve learned at Studio 22, a key one is that it’s ok not to be good at something, as long as you try to get better.  There’s no way that you can expect flexibility and balance to magically improve, they are areas that need work just like running.

The burning question is, of course, what impact has all of this had on my running?  Well, I’ve still not cracked the art of balancing exercise effectively.  I’ve certainly been doing a lot less running than I was before, even with my short runs to and from the Studio each week.  But it’s actually good news.

All the leg stretching and strengthening means that I no longer ache after a flat-out parkrun.  And they feel pretty good during the run as well.  I find myself checking my posture against any reflective surface I pass, which has helped my running form and day-to-day aches.  As for my pace, it’s fair to say that there’s no indication I’ve been running less.  In fact, my pace is up there with the best it’s ever been.

For me, the secret to cross training now seems clear.  Find something that you actually enjoy, and stick with it.  Studio 22 is the place that this has worked out for me, and I can feel the difference on the odd occasion I can’t make a class.  Now I just need to get out running more, to really reap the benefits.

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Release!

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In case it wasn’t obvious, I’ve never taken a camera to a class, so Ben took these at home…

I have not been asked, or paid, to write this post, and I pay full-price for all classes at Studio 22.