# Marathon Project 2:34 – thoughts on “Target Pace” and “Comparable Performance Pace”

When I decided that I wanted to debut over the marathon distance I was keen to set myself a challenging target.

There is no doubt that 2:34 is a very challenging target for me but I do not believe it is necessarily “away with the fairies”.

Once the target is set it would be very easy to get obsessed with target race pace. To achieve a 2:34 marathon (for arguments sake 2hr 34m 29s) I would need to run each kilometre at 3:39 pace. I like to use the online tool “Jack Daniels VDOT Calculator” for these types of calculations.

But just as important as target race pace is “comparable performance pace” in my opinion. Again, the VDOT Calculator tool is very useful for this as it gives “equivalent” race times.

To give some examples, below are some comparable performances to a 2:34 marathon over popular distances –

– 1 mile: 4:41 (2:54/km) {PB: 4:49}

– 5km: 16:05 (3:13/km) {PB: 16:44}

– 10km: 33:24 (3:20/km) {PB: 34:49}

– Half Marathon: 1hr 13m 45s (3:30/km) {PB: 1hr 16m 32s}

First and foremost, it is obviously clear that I haven’t achieved any of these performances yet based on official PBs given above. But it’s worth noting that I have ran faster than my official PBs over 5km and 10km in longer races, albeit on fast openings of courses. For example I ran approx 16:30 to go through 5km at the Blaydon race some years ago and 34 low through 10km at the Brampton to Carlisle 10 miler.

The closest performance according to the calculator I have is that 10 miler covered in 55:37 in November 2019.

I can compare the 10 mile in 55:37 closely to the 2:34 marathon by looking at the calculated VDOT ratings (read VO2 max ratings). The 10 mile is rated at 63.6 and the marathon at 64.1.

Crucially I think I am capable of the mile time (I’ve ran a 2:42 1km in February 2019, rated 66.5) and I don’t think I necessarily need to go out and do it as such. However, some speed work at 1 mile pace would be beneficial in my opinion. The ability to run fast is inherent in all human beings to some extent but it is also a skill that needs to be nourished.

I ran a 4:49 mile (rated 61.9) on the road in late 2018. To take 8s off to achieve 4:41 would increase the VDOT rating to 64 and equivalent to the 2:34 marathon.

That said, the 5km, 10km and Half Marathon performances are extremely important if I am to have real confidence in achieving my marathon goal.

Not only do I feel that I need to get comfortable running these paces, I also feel I need to prove myself in racing as well.

Obviously the longer the race distance the better in proving my chances over the marathon and so the half marathon will be key.

In the meantime I will be looking to practice race pace as follows –

– 5k pace: for example 2km @ 3:13/km

– 10k pace: for example 3km @ 3:20/km

– HM pace: for example 4.5 miles @ 3:30/km

In terms of practicing marathon pace itself, I feel the best way is to build progressively. Yesterday I completed 3x 1k at 3:39/km with walking rest allowing HR to settle to 120bpm. My HR topped out at 176bpm on the 2nd rep and recoveries were taking in excess of 2 minutes. I would like to see improvement in both aspects. Although I am still not 100% sure on exactly what my optimum marathon HR is, I am considering ~165bpm (note: I held approx. avg. 179bpm for 10 miles and 174-5bpm for Half Marathon for my PB performances and my Lactate Threshold was last measured at 175bpm) as an average or a range of say 160-170bpm.

As and when I see things improving (e.g. HR maxing out <170bpm and recoveries coming in <2 mins) I will start adding reps aiming for maybe as many as 10-12 1km reps. In addition I will consider continuous runs at target marathon pace starting at say 5 miles and building to 9 or 10. This could be a faster paced segment within a long run. I expect I need to build a regular long run in the range 15 to 20 miles. As racing resumes I could also consider low key half marathons up to 20 milers to practice target marathon race pace to see how the body copes.

This brings me on to 2 key gaps in my historical training…

Both my average total weekly mileage and longest run are nowhere near where they need to be to achieve a good result in the marathon. I believe I need to safely increase my weekly mileage to 60-70 per week. This would allow a long run of 15-17.5 miles based on a rule of 25% of total weekly mileage (a rule I try to follow and believe in). For context, leading up to the 10 miler in November 2019 I was probably averaging 50 miles per week. One slight anomaly was that I ran my longest and fastest ever long run in late October 2019, averaging around 6:30/mile pace for 18 miles feeling good.

In addition to building a real aerobic base, I am a big believer in the idea that “speed can kill”. As I approach 40 years old I am all too familiar with the risk (and indeed increasing risk) of injury.

I belive that access to speed work must be earned. I will define speed work as race pace and faster. So for me, I will say anything faster than 3:50 per km is speed work. That must be earned and earned through easy aerobic running.

Access to speedwork can be earned on a ratio of 1 in 20. So for every 20km of aerobic running 1km of speedwork can be performed. It doesn’t take a mathematician to work out a large base of aerobic running will be needed to access a decent proportion of speedwork. For example, a weekly total of 100km (approx 62 miles) will only “release” 5km of speedwork. That would be enough to practice some race pace reps (say 5x 1k) but it wouldn’t be enough to access the aforementioned 4.5 miles at HM pace or 9 miles continuous at MP.

I acknowledge that this is a conservative approach. I should also add this philosophy comes from Ernst Van Aaken if you wish to learn more. However, I believe in undertraining being better than overtraining especially if the latter means being sidelined with injury and/or illness. It may be possible to increase the ratio to 1 in 10 if things are going well. But this leads me on to the final point I want to make…

The fact of the matter is, a marathon of 2:34 is a big challenge for me. But it is one that excites me. I do not expect to enter a marathon (whenever they become available again) and run 2:34 first time of asking. My aim is to run 3 or 4 marathons in the next few years (as a 40-45 year old). For example, target a sub-3hr marathon in my debut, get a feel for the distance and go from there.

Wish me luck!

I hope this blog has been interesting and would welcome any comments.

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# Why beating the wind and rain will come good in the end

I must admit I’ve battled mixed emotions this week.

As I write this I’ve now ran 6 days in a row in what can only be described as awful conditions here in the North East of England.

Granted I haven’t been unfortunate enough to be personally affected by the floods that the rain has caused.

But I have had minor internal tantrums about having to go out and run in it. Selfish I know but most runners will admit that running is hard enough without battling driving wind and rain!

On Saturday I had a lovely run around Holyrood park in Edinburgh having spent my first New Year up there. I must say it’s a runners paradise so I didn’t really mind the drizzle and wind as I skirted around Arthur’s Seat and climbed close to the top.

I must admit I felt a bit rusty after the Xmas and New Year festivities but sometimes it’s just nice to ditch the heart rate monitor and have a run around an unknown place. I did get lost so the 45mins turned out to be 60 but hey ho it was fun.

The drive back to Newcastle from Edinburgh was brutal and the North Sea was raging. So it was always going to be difficult to start a new Training Regime the same day.

“Half Marathon Fast” was the plan! It looked a bit foolish and I think I was sensible to dial it back to a normal easy run. The decision proved correct as even that was too much the weather was so bad! Sometimes you just know staying out and battling through will give no benefit whatsoever… Still 9.5 miles banked.

Monday and the plan said 35mins recovery. Again felt foolish – recover from what? Again weather dreadful. Did just over 40mins easy.

Tuesday, OK back to it – 3x 2 miles 10K pace with 1m 30s rest. I spent some time working this one out. My 10K pb is 35.37 so I was planning on 5.45-5.50s. Again weather terrible. This time pavements were flooded, roads closed off, wind still howling. Just couldn’t get going. Still managed a couple of miles around 5.55 pace and set on my way for the second rep. Was getting it done but gritting my teeth. Jesus, this is tough. Think I did another 5.55 and then a 6.05 predominantly up hill due to a detour to avoid a flood… Took a decision to sack off the 3rd rep. I think progression to 3x 2 miles is the aim. Anyway I was being hard on myself, a session arguably beyond lactate threshold in brutal conditions was always going to be a tall order and I did my best on the day!

Wednesday… Still raining. Fucks sake – this is beyond the joke! Strangely though I wasn’t feeling the pull of the gym. I wanted to tough it out. I only had another recovery run to get done. No bother.

And on to tonight. Another session in the wind and rain. It would be easy to sack it off and stay indoors. But no, this time I wanted to get out and complete a session. 5x 800m at 3-5K pace with 1m 30s rest. I was looking forward to this one.

I think it confirms I’m what Greg McMillan calls a “speedster”. I hate long runs and I hate the idea of running 100 mile a week. I love short sessions and I love 5k. And as it turned out I found this session quite easy. I wanted it to be a confidence booster as I’d be lying if I said the weather hasn’t dampened my spirits. It’s so hard to keep motivated and hit your numbers in these conditions.

So I set the first couple of reps slightly downhill and coasted those 5.15 miling. The 3rd and 4th reps were a little tougher and completed those more like Target/Current 5k pace. 5th rep let it all fly for a 2.26-2.27 800m which is probably a PB and felt good and strong. I prefer running faster.

And so I’m very optimistic about this new plan I’ve put in place. I’m doing away with the traditional 7 day cycle and doing a quality run every other day with recovery runs in between and 1 rest day per week. Mileage should range from 35-45 per week which is my current sweet spot and the quality will be there with more VO2 max work than previously. I’ll still be getting threshold work on the longer runs and 2 mile sessions and getting more experience running a faster pace which I think is really important for me to improve my economy and develop the essential confidence I need to just get out and run fast.

As a runner training through the long winter’s in the Northern Hemisphere it’s important to have patience, perseverance and determination. Faith as well. Faith that all the hard work will pay off at the precise moment winter turns into spring. It’s then that the “obsession” will pay off and all those “loony” sessions in “Storm Whoever” will finally feel worthwhile…

# XC 2015/16 | Training Diary | Week 9

Key aim for the week –

Following my fourth Lactate Threshold test last week I’m feeling good and raring to go. Not only was it a chance to see where I’m at but also have a good chat with my coach about what we are trying to do and where we are going.

I’ve always been keen to perform over the Cross Country to the best of my ability and my key focus remains the North East Cross Country championships in December. But I also want to keep one eye on the roads, get the sub 17 5k done and also target some other races over the next couple of months as well.

In terms of my overall conditioning I’ll also be paying special attention to getting my iron levels up so I’ll be keeping an eye on that.

General mental state –

9 – feeling very positive after my Lactate Test results and very hopeful of getting some good training in before my next Cross Country race on 21st November. That said, back on my travels with work Monday/Tuesday and also having a few nights away later in the week so need to manage my time to fit my runs in. This isn’t something I’m always very good at so looking to improve.

On a scale of 1-10, 1 being exhausted need a break and 10 being 100% motivated and raring to go

Monday
Plan – Recovery run, 30mins

Had an early couple of flights to Marseilles for a work meeting and managed to get out after 5ish for a run. I was pleased that I still had plenty of daylight as I went for a run from my hotel in Martigues looking for some suitable running paths. As it happened I was staying very close to a river which had a nice stretch of pavement and I found a section that I could run up and down about 8-10 minutes each way. Really enjoyed it and felt very strong. After my Lactate Test last week I have started supplementing iron to try to get my Haemoglobin levels up and I felt better already – breathing much stronger and generally felt great. 5.2 miles in 36 minutes. Average HR 155bpm.

Tuesday
Plan – Recovery run, 40mins

Got up before breakfast and jogged down to the same route. I’d slept well but decided to make this run easier than yesterday. Again felt good and 5.2 miles in ~38 minutes. Average HR only 150bpm.

Wednesday
Plan – Threshold run, 50mins

This was my first chance to implement the slightly different training methods we will be looking to employ following my latest test last week. We will be looking to implement more interval style threshold sessions to ask my body different questions in terms of how it deals with lactate build up. So the plan was to do 8-10 5 minute intervals with 1 minute rest.

I got out on my usual route around Kenton and Town Moor in Newcastle. With the British summer time now over in the UK it was pitch black and winter training is now underway despite the extremely mild temperatures. I used my Garmin 610 to help manage the intervals and rests.

Overall I quite enjoyed the session versus a standard threshold run. It felt more interesting and a welcome change. That was until I got to the 6th interval! It really starting getting tough both mentally and physically. Obviously a standard threshold run gets difficult around that stage (30+ minutes) but this felt different. I can only say that the cumulative lactic acid build up is more pronounced. I was not looking forward to the remaining reps.

That said I toughed it out and completed 8 intervals of 5 minutes each with all averaging sub 6 minute miling except one. Very pleased with the session and can see that this setup allows me to push a bit harder and get used to some faster running.

Thursday
Plan – Threshold run, 30mins

Packed my running gear with the plan of completing the run on my lunch break. Got out as planned and completed 6x 5 minute intervals with 1 minute rest jog. I was still feeling some fatigue from last nights session so took the decision to run these reps more relaxed. The reps averaged between 6-6.10 minute miling and pleasingly the last was the fastest averaging 5.57/mile.

Friday
Plan – Rest

Nice stay in Stamford Bridge near York. Enjoyed a day off running.

Saturday
Plan – Threshold run, 30mins

Was able to fit my run in following a drive up from York back to Newcastle.

The plan was 2x 15 minutes. The first 15 at the top of my threshold zone and the second into tempo (>181bpm) following a 5 minute jog rest.

Given that I’d been away for a couple of nights and felt a little tired I wasn’t sure how it would go. After a short warm up I got into it quite nicely. I settled around 5.50 miling and felt quite good – in control and breathing well. My heart rate was 175-178bpm which felt right. I started working a bit harder towards the end and finished the 15 averaging 5.52/mile.

On my 5 minute jog I decided I’d aim to negative split around 5.45 miling and see where the heart rate went. Got stuck in and was looking at 5.20-5.25 miling for the first 5 to 8 minutes. Again my heart rate was sitting at 178-179bpm and not quite getting into Tempo. The last 7 minutes got tough and I really had to push as my average pace slipped to 5.30 then 5.35 and finally finished 5.39 fighting not to slip to 5.40!

Still a great session and very pleased to effectively run 5.2 miles in 30 minutes which is probably bang on 10k PB pace at Threshold.

Sunday
Plan – Long run, 80mins

Was out for Halloween celebrations on Saturday night and a little late to bed so a little late out for my run. The weather was glorious and felt more like a nice summers morning than 1st November.

I decided to leave my heart rate monitor at home and just worked off the Garmin. As a result I ran harder than normal and completed 12 miles in over 1hr 22. Felt tough towards the end but pleased with it and didn’t feel overly fatigued later so a good sign.

Weekly totals and Summary

Duration – 5h 10m
Mileage – 45.2 miles

Overall really pleased with this week more in terms of how I have been able to keep things going despite a busy week outside of my running. In terms of my key threshold runs I’m feeling strong and the variation on how I complete the runs I think will really benefit my overall fitness. I was especially happy with the 2x 15 minute threshold on Saturday – I felt confident and in control and my overall pace is heading in the right direction. Exciting times.

This week I have been listening to –

I listened to some Hot Chip on my Long Run this week. They are a fairly well known and successful band but still underrated in my view and great to run to as well.

This week I have been thinking a lot about –

Getting in shape for my next Cross Country races at the back end of November and making sure I’m mentally ready to give my all in two back to back races which will take us to half way in the season. The next race is at Aykley Heads in Durham and I’m looking forward to giving the course another go. Its a proper test with some tough hills at the very end of each lap.

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# XC 2015/16 | Training Diary | Wk8

Key aim for the week –

Following the 17.10 parkrun marker last week I was looking ahead to my 4th Lactate Threshold test this Friday.

I feel like the results should underline my fitness progress since March which was the last time I had a test. Hoping to see the hard work paying off and time to plan for the next steps.

General mental state –

8.5 – still feeling highly motivated and keen to put the work in. I have a good few weeks before the next XC race and I want to get in the best possible shape for those. Time management will be key as I see some work trips and other social events in the diary ahead.

On a scale of 1-10, 1 being exhausted need a break and 10 being 100% motivated and raring to go

Monday
Plan – Threshold run, 45mins

HR = 57bpm | HRV = 97

Decided to do a 40min threshold instead and push it quite hard and do the 45min tomorrow. Always a bit daunting to do two threshold runs in a row but was up for this one.

I was able to pretty much tick off miles at or around 6 minute miling on the Garmin and overall 6.5 miles at an average HR of 170bpm. Felt strong. I could push harder but one eye on the next threshold tomorrow.

Tuesday
Plan – Threshold run, 40mins

HR = 62bpm | HRV = 91

Decided to dial this back to around Jack Daniels VDOT 60 marathon pace which for some reason I thought was 6.18/mile. It’s actually 6.14/mile.

I always go harder than a pre planned pace and ended up logging 7.2 miles in 45 minutes which by coincidence was VDOT 60 MP. Felt quite good. Having said that could not run a marathon at this pace! Ha ha. Even with training the thought of a marathon is a scary one!

Didn’t wear a HRM just for a break. Quite liberating.

Wednesday
Plan – Recovery run, 50mins

HR = 60bpm | HRV = 95

Another strong easy run with 6.6 miles in just over 45 minutes. Average HR only 152bpm which is one beat below the bottom of my recovery zone.

Overall felt good.

Thursday
Plan – Recovery run, 30mins

HR = 60bpm | HRV = 91

Drove down the A1(M) and got down to Tickhill near Doncaster and out for a 35 minute jog. Just nice and easy.

Felt quite good and ready for the Lactate Test tomorrow.

Friday
Plan – Lactate Test #4

HR = –bpm | HRV = —

A bit nervous coming into the lactate test. Never quite sure how things will go and to be honest felt a bit fatigued and brain foggy.

My haemoglobin blood test was low (13-14) suggesting I am a bit run down and need to stock up on iron. This will be a key focus over the next few weeks.

That dented my confidence a little bit getting onto the treadmill (oh dear I hope I don’t fall off etc.) and even the warm up felt rough. A few negative thoughts came into mind but just tried to put them to one side.

Felt like I was sweating up a bit too easily on the first few intervals but Dave put me at ease somewhat. I was being asked about perceived exertion, I felt like I was working harder than normal.

Managed to get through it though and despite not feeling anywhere near the top of my game my lactate threshold has improved from 6.01/mile last time to 5.45 this time.

Overall a pleasing result and just need to focus on getting my haemoglobin back up to where it needs to be.

Also had a stint at 4.40 miling for 1m 30s which was tough but enabled Dave to learn more about my lactate response to harder exertion and how long my body takes to flush it out. Turns out I have a pronounced delay in build up and flush out which suggests I am more weighted towards fast twitch muscle make up. Makes sense that I should focus on 5/10K rather than longer distances. Pleased with this finding and have no desire to run a marathon anyway.

Onwards and upwards.

Saturday
Plan – Long Run, 80mins

HR = –bpm | HRV = —

Got out for my Long Run a day early and planned a rare Sunday rest day.

As usual struggled to enjoy the run but got it done and threw in a few harder miles towards the end. Actually felt better putting in an effort into low end threshold than trying to keep in my easy zone which was interesting.

Overall 11.2 miles in 1hr 21m and an average HR of 156bpm.

Sunday
Plan – Rest

HR = –bpm | HRV = —

Weekly totals and Summary

Duration – 5h 13m
Mileage – 43.5 miles

Another week >5hrs/40 miles and a pleasing week overall. Great to get my 4th lactate test completed and provides great insight into what I need to focus on over the next few months. Need to just keep one eye on not getting further run down and will probably get some Iron supplements just to help out.

Looking forward to some good performances over the next few months.

This week I have been listening to –

The debut album from Wolf Alice – My Love is Cool. Briefly caught the band on Jools Holland and was intrigued enough to look them up on Spotify. The album is canny and particularly like the track Swallowtail.

This week I have been thinking a lot about –

My Lactate Threshold test! And how to keep on improving as a runner.

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# XC 2015/16 | Training Diary | Week 6

Key aim for the week –

A really strong week last week was ended feeling like I was coming down with something. I wondered whether the long run on Sunday was wise and it was back on a plane for a work trip to Norway on Monday and Tuesday. Kind of put a spanner in the works as I literally felt like I was flying last week. But that’s running – it’s often like walking a tightrope. As a result this week is a maintenance week and watch how this head cold develops.

Weight on Monday morning –

???kgs

I was on a flight out to Amsterdam so getting on the scales was not high on my priority list!

General mental state –

7.0 – unfortunately every time I get a slight snivel I get negative. I always fret about what it could be, what it could mean etc. I’m a worrier by nature and just need to see how it goes. But I have taken a knock and the mind thinks ahead to the race next Saturday and whether I’ll be mentally in the right place to race.

On a scale of 1-10, 1 being exhausted need a break and 10 being 100% motivated and raring to go

Monday
Plan – Easy run, 30mins

Had a flight to Amsterdam and then onwards to Alesund in Norway. It’s the first time I’ve been to Norway and the views coming into Alesund were absolutely amazing. I got to the hotel around 5pm and the sun was huge in the sky and it looked like it was going to be an amazing sunset.

I had an hour before a meeting and dinner so I put the running shoes on with the intention of having a jog for 30 minutes or so. I wasn’t feeling too bad.

Wow – what an amazing experience! I happened to stumble across a trail which ran along the water and just seemed to go on and on. It took a little while to get into it but then just felt like I could run and run along this trail.

Unfortunately I had a meeting and had to turn back round after 20 minutes but I really enjoyed it and even managed to stop and take some photos which I never do! Was also surprised to see on Strava that I’d done >1000ft of climbing which isn’t far off what I usually do in a week back home! Did 4.9 miles in 36 minutes.

Amazing views on my run in Alesund, Norway!

Tuesday
Plan – Easy run, 30mins

I had every intention of getting out early and having another jog around Alesund but the alarm went off at 6.45, it was pitch black out and I didn’t feel great – switched off the alarm and turned back over. Work travel = routine broken…

Wednesday
Plan – Threshold run, 50mins

I got back from the work trip after 10pm on Tuesday night and I have to say the general head cold and fatigue was still present. So contacted Coach Tune and we reverted to recovery only running. Ran the usual route and actually nothing felt too out of order – 6.6 miles in ~47 minutes at an average HR of 153bpm. Maybe I’m over reacting and the race on Saturday could be a possibility?

Thursday
Plan – Threshold run, 45mins

Decided to keep it easy and run my usual route in reverse and also taking in “Cow Hills” which are a good XC training ground and site of a few brutal training sessions in the past.

Running my usual route in reverse was strange because it’s all easy downhill for the first couple of miles but then just felt killer for the rest. And what a mistake running the Cow Hills! It had pretty much rained all day on Wednesday and I’d decided to put my almost brand new running shoes on! Cue mud splatterings everywhere and general huff / puffing from yours truly. I was thoroughly hacked off and spent the rest of the run lamenting the head cold and life in general, and how it had conspired to muck up my training for the last 5 weeks! The toys were chucked out of the pram despite a fairly tidy 7 miles being completed in 50 minutes with an average HR of 154bpm.

Even more bizarrely I “jogged” up the steepest Cow Hill (The Steep Side) faster (according to Strava) than I raced it in December 2014 in the North East XC Championships! I found that unbelievable given I’d used my Garmin 610 in the NE XC Champs and I was racing! The Garmin always measures pace faster than my TomTom. Anyway, it wasn’t enough to make me feel better about things and I contacted Coach to say the race on Saturday was off.

Friday
Plan – Rest

Planned rest but stubbornly wanted to make up for the missed run on Tuesday. Went out for a 4 mile “MAF” type effort trying to keep heart rate below 150 bpm.

Pace was ~7.30 on the TomTom and probably 7.20-7.30 on the Garmin. Overall feel slightly sluggish but think I’m over reacting to this slight bug. That said I’ll stick to the easy running as a precaution.

Saturday
Plan – Sherman Cup XC Race

Didn’t race and got out for 45 minutes easy. Felt like a struggle again – 6.1 miles in the time allotted and felt like I had to work harder than normal at 154bpm. Just trying to focus on drinking plenty of water, eating well and sleeping well.

Sunday
Plan – Long run, 80mins

Felt much better after a lie in and actually felt like I wanted to get out and run.

Decided to ditch the heart rate monitor and just focus on moving the feet as quick as possible. Really enjoyed it and ended up running for 65 minutes. It felt right to cut short of the full 80mins and was really strong coming in for home. Used the Garmin 610 and completed 9.1 miles.

I’m hoping this is the end of the cold and get back on a positive track next week.

Weekly totals and Summary

Duration – 4h 42m

Mileage – 39.0 miles

Overall one of those bizarre weeks that you are glad to see the back of. To be fair getting 39 miles done was an achievement and I think I’m through the other side. Running will throw you curveballs from time to time and the skill is to dodge and get through them stronger.

I think I’ve done that.

This week I have been listening to –

Bit of a mixture but quite a lot of New Order live at Glastonbury. I saw them play a live gig at Maida Vale for BBC Radio 6 but it wasn’t that impressive. They seem to have lost their edge although hats off they seem to have released a decent album which I will try to listen to at some point.

This week I have been thinking a lot about –

My guest blog with Full Stride (Full Stride running blog). I first started writing about my running on Full Stride back in 2013 and its nice to be back on the team and looking forward to writing some articles aimed at tips for beginners.

Also enjoyed analyzing parkrun data at Newcastle parkrun. Newcastle is my local parkrun and is quite special in that it’s where I got bitten by the running bug. I wrote an article on RUN 5k FASTER which got a good response which was pleasing.

You can read it here – Newcastle parkrun stats

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# XC 2015/16 | Training Diary | Week 5

Key aim for the week –

I was pleased with my run on Saturday last week so I come into Week 5 with renewed vigour. Feel like I’m building momentum and I know weeks 5-8 of any plan can see big fitness improvements and gains. I do feel like I’ll start turning something of a corner if I keep this going. All going to plan and feeling good and strong. Lets get stuck into week 5!

In terms of the plan its very similar to Week 4 with Saturdays race replaced by a threshold run.

Weight on Monday morning –

???kgs

Didn’t check again.

General mental state –

9.5 – feeling a boost after the XC race on Saturday and looking to keep the motivation high. I am very keen to get the sub 17 minute 5k put to bed over the coming weeks as well although it will no doubt have to be a parkrun due to the lack of 5k races around.

On a scale of 1-10, 1 being exhausted need a break and 10 being 100% motivated and raring to go

Monday
Plan – Easy run, 45mins

Got out, the weather was good and everything fell into place. 6.6 miles in 45 minutes at an average HR of 153bpm. Afterwards I completed 5 times 20 seconds strides just to get a little bit of 5k race pace in the legs.

All in all feeling strong and interested to see if the improved easy zone pace translates into some improvement at threshold intensity. If I can start to see my threshold pace threatening 6 minutes per mile at the right intensity for 40 minutes then I know I am shape to break 17 minutes for 5k!

Tuesday
Plan – Threshold run, 40mins

The weather was great again so I decided on a change of run route. I have the Newcastle Town Moor on my doorstep and there is a nice loop probably over a mile round. I have completed a threshold run around there before so after a warm up I got stuck in.

I was hoping to threaten 6 minutes per mile and the weather was so good I pretty much did so. I was enjoying the run and giving it some effort.

I only started hurting a little in the last 5-10 minutes and I had to battle a little but I was still ticking off miles in 5.56 on the Garmin.

All in all a great workout. Strava reported that I’d completed 10K in ~37.30 and overall 6.6 miles in 40mins at an average HR of 170bpm. Pleasing.

Wednesday
Plan – Recovery run, 45mins

I felt like I might suffer a bit for yesterday’s effort but instead I put in my strongest “easy” run to date!

It just felt like I could push the pace and the heart rate felt controlled and never threatened to spill into a true threshold.

I take this as a positive sign that my strength and fitness is improving.

6.6 miles were ticked off in the 45mins at an average HR of only 150bpm.

Thursday
Plan – Threshold run, 40mins

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again – Thursday workouts are tough! I’ve always got one eye on the Friday rest day to be honest but actually this was a pleasing run. That said I had to work for at and in many regards it felt like it might never end.

Again my heart rate was generally staying lower than I am used to despite the perceived threshold effort. I was aiming for 6.08s on the Garmin but, after getting into my stride the first two miles, I got miles 4 and 5 slotted in sub 6 minute miling fairly comfortably. As a result I was sitting on 6.02/3s and feeling good for it.

Slowed a little coming home but that is normal and I ended up with 7.3 miles in 45mins and an average HR of only 163bpm which strictly speaking isn’t even threshold! That said it was tough and I felt it. Rest day tomorrow feels well deserved!

Friday
Plan – Rest

Saturday
Plan – Threshold run, 45mins

I would usually run on a Saturday morning but I had some errands to run and also an article to write for my other website RUN 5k FASTER so it was afternoon before I got out.

If honest I wasn’t fully up for another effort like Thursday so I had a half plan of building into it the first half and then pushing on the second half.

The first mile was a lot slower than normal but then I threw in a few efforts and it was becoming more of a fartlek than anything.

First 5k was done sub 20mins comfortably and had a little go pushing on a bit. Wasn’t feeling amazing and maybe huffed and puffed for it a little towards the end.

I wasn’t desperate to run all 45 minutes and ended up clicking the watch just under 42 with 6.6 miles completed at an average HR of 163bpm again. Fair dos.

Sunday
Plan – Long run, 80mins

Got to bed a bit late so didn’t get out in the morning. Watched Callum Hawkins absolutely bossing the Half Marathon in Glasgow. Impressive stuff.

Didn’t get out until the afternoon after a family meal. What an awful run first half.

Was fighting a sickly feeling and dialed everything right back. Was one of those runs where you dreaded being 6 miles from home! Luckily things settled down and I improved on the way home.

Overall wondered whether I was coming down with something but heart rate was under control. Did about 72 minutes which is slightly down on previous weeks and slower average pace of 7.30/mile.

Got it done and hopefully no adverse reactions as was touch and go whether it was sensible to run. That said got a work trip early next week which will put a spanner in the works so was keen to get it done.

Weekly totals and Summary

Duration – 5h 4m

Mileage – 45.2 miles

A strong week ended with a slightly subdued weekend. Attention turns to next week and preparing for the Sherman Cup race at the weekend. Its not an A race as such so I’ll see how this week goes training wise with the work trip. If I need to change race plans I will do.

This week I have been listening to –

Kurt Viles new album “b’lieve I’m going down…”

Some lovely tunes on there and certainly a lot more chilled out than Sleaford Mods but I expect to get back on the agro stuff as my next race is next week!

This week I have been thinking a lot about –

Getting RUN 5k FASTER gaining some traction. Like running the key to succeeding with any blog is consistency. I am trying hard to post a regular weekly article that I believe delivers value and good info to runners who want to improve. I’m keen to give this a good go and also to help others.

I’m working with a couple of runners at the moment and really enjoying it. I’m genuinely interested in this sport and am enthusiastic about keeping involved for the long term. I do hope I can make my plans come to fruition. Check out www.run5kfaster.com and let me know what you think!

Contact me

Follow my training on Strava –
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RUN 5k FASTER

# XC 2015/16 | Training Diary | Week 4

Key aim for the week –

My attention turns to the first Cross Country on Saturday at Tanfield. It’s not a course I have ran before and the key focus this week will be to get another solid week in. I won’t be tapering as such as this is only week 4 and essentially the XC fixture is seen as the first hard effort. As the season develops I’ll want to see my strength and fitness increase.

This will be the first time I have run from the Fast pack. So I will be giving a 5 minutes head start to the main slow pack and 2 and a half minutes to the Medium pack. In that regard it’ll be a fact finding mission to see where I’m at. Excited to get stuck in!

Weight on Monday morning –

???kgs

Didn’t check this week. As I mentioned in Week 2, not something that it essential to measure week in week out and overall I feel like I’m getting into race shape.

General mental state –

9.0 – things never get easier, you just get better. And so I feel coming into this week. Last week was a weekly high for me duration and mileage wise and I’m feeling the effects. I’m also walking the tightrope of training / working / living and trying not to fall off! That said I am focused on what I want to achieve – another improvement on last years cross country season and, of course, the sub 17 minute 5k! Mental strength and its importance cannot be underestimated. Giving up is an easy option.

On a scale of 1-10, 1 being exhausted need a break and 10 being 100% motivated and raring to go

Monday
Plan – Easy run, 45mins

Work was crazy today with an all day meeting that didn’t finish til 8pm. I considered canning the run altogether. For right or wrong I got it in. This is where things get stressful, squeezing runs in and feeling fatigued. It’s here that you start asking yourself questions. Why am I putting myself under this pressure etc?

I completed 6.5 miles in just under 47 minutes and an average HR of 153bpm. Despite my tiredness nothing seemed out of order and a “strong” easy run. First run in the dark which felt odd. There are a lot of those to come this winter!

Tuesday
Plan – Threshold run, 40mins

Planned to hit a threshold pace of maybe 6.08/mile which is equivalent to 60 VDOT with the appropriate adjustment for 40 minutes. I measure pace on my Garmin as the TomTom is unfavourable! Lol.

Pretty much completed the run to plan. Had issues with my heart rate monitor but the average was ~170bpm at most and overall my heart rate is coming down on these runs. They aren’t getting easier though! 6.3 miles completed in 40 minutes.

Wednesday
Plan – Recovery run, 50mins

Slightly longer recovery run. Sometimes I feel the lines between these easy runs and the threshold runs become blurred. Reason being I feel strong pushing to the top of my easy zone (163bpm) and I can run sub 7 minute miles at this intensity. Pretty much all my easy runs are around the 7-7.10mins per mile pace now (lower on the Garmin!). When I run a threshold run I usually average ~170bpm and 6-6.25mins per mile. Often I think I need to run my easy runs a bit easier and my threshold runs harder. That said, when the threshold run duration goes above 30 minutes in duration its hard to contemplate pushing harder than I already do.

Overall on this run 6.9 miles were completed in 50 minutes and an average HR of 153bpm.

Thursday
Plan – Threshold run, 40mins

The last couple of weeks have been XC runs but this time I stayed on concrete. Thursday runs can often be testing because it is the 6th run in a row (Sat-Thu). This was no exception. With one eye on Saturdays race I dialed the intensity back to 58 VDOT and an adjusted pace of 6.16/mile (on the Garmin).

Felt tough from start to finish and also felt a little niggle in the outside of the left knee.

Got it finished and overall felt like the heart wasn’t working as hard (as expected due to lower intensity) but the run did feel hard. In my mind I knew this was more than likely because of the impending race and general fatigue. The culmination of 3.5 weeks of decently hard training and the thought of the season coming a bit too soon = tired run + niggles. I’ve been here before. I know I’ll be fine.

6.3 miles in 40 minutes and an average HR below 170bpm I think overall. I pretty much hit the target pace average on the Garmin.

Friday
Plan – Rest

Saturday
Plan – North East Harrier League: Race #1 – Tanfield

I have a little routine on the Friday night before a XC race to get my kit bag sorted. I decided to have a sort through my running box which has all my kit, race numbers, medals etc. For some reason I had it in my mind that this was my third full North East Harrier League XC season. But sorting through my race numbers I realized it was my fourth!

Can’t believe this is my fourth full season!

So I had a look at my performances over the last 3 seasons. I easily forget the improvement I have made –

2012/13

Average mens field size – 399 | My average finish position – 143 (Power of 10)

2013/14

Average mens field size – 487 | My average finish position – 189 (Po10) Note – 1 DNF and running anaemic negatively impacting performance!

2014/15

Average mens field size – 522 | My average finish position – 69 (Po10) Note – started being Coached by Dave Tune Oct ’14

2015/16

????

My progress last year was very very pleasing and I think I downplayed my achievement of getting into the Fast pack in the last race of last season. This finally hit home as I stood on the start line of the opening race of the season at Tanfield. There were some very talented runners still starting from the Medium pack, here I was watching them go with a 2 and a half minute head start.

Without doing myself a disservice I deliberately held back from the start line here. I’d been researching and reading a lot on XC race strategy and I had decided (especially since I didn’t know the course) that I would use the first lap to settle and not worry about most of the fast lads dropping me. After the first lap I planned to build with the knowledge of where I could attack and dig in.

And so the race got underway and it didn’t take long for me to settle in joint last place! A Crook runner who was by my side actually said “so it’s between me and you for last place!”. I couldn’t help but laugh. But strangely it automatically quickened my stride and away I went.

I didn’t feel out of my depth. I didn’t worry about being embarrassed. I didn’t feel embarrassed. I’d earned my place here and I was going to give it my best shot. That said the first lap was tough. I deliberately didn’t wear my GPS as I race better without the distraction. But the first lap felt well over 2 miles. I’d settled in ok but said to myself – this is going to be tough – dig in.

I felt like I made some good progress on the second lap. We’d already started taking slow pack runners and the crowds were getting bigger. The course overall was quite narrow with the odd muddy spot and so picking the best line and injecting extra pace to overtake was essential. This is what I excel at I think. I like taking a few risks. I like putting a bit of pressure on myself at various points.

It was impossible to really tell how I was doing. I was aware that I was in general running with a Tynedale Harrier and a Saltwell Harrier that had started from the Fast Pack. I think about 3/4 through the 2nd lap I managed to drop them both. However, I felt a bit overcooked as a result coming into the 3rd lap and I think I let them go unfortunately. So it was then just a case of hunting down as many slow pack runners as possible.

Starting to build on the 2nd lap

On the 3rd lap I got a definite second wind and felt really strong, especially on the little down hill sections. Wow, some strength and confidence at the business end of a XC race! This was not normal. I like to think I got my tactics right. It was still tough on the inclines but I kept my technique in check and just dug it out, keeping the feet quick.

On each lap there was a water crossing which had proved quite easy on the first two laps but low and behold on the last lap it felt like my feet were weights coming out the third time! Not to worry the end was in sight…

I was fully focused on just keeping moving as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Every part of you is wanting it to end and with that you naturally tighten up and fight. The best thing is to relax and just push from the core.

Coming onto the final straight a few lads were finishing very strongly including a couple of team mates from Elswick. Getting over the line I was spent but overall I was really pleased with the effort.

I finished 171st out of 590 runners from the Fast pack. I was the 38th fastest on the day which is my best finish ever, my previous best being 43rd fastest at Wrekenton at the end of last season. Pleasing and I know I will come on for this run.

Sunday
Plan – Long run, 80mins

On my warm down after XC yesterday the niggle in my left knee was noticeable so I wasn’t overly looking forward to a long run. So I went out a little later and kept it very easy the first half hour. Actually got into it quite nicely after that and was pleased to complete my usual Sunday route pretty much on pace as per previous weeks. 10.8 miles in 1hr 18 at an average HR of only 152bpm. Very pleasing I don’t feel tired.

Hoping this little niggle which wasn’t an issue really today will not feature next week.

Weekly totals and Summary

Duration – 4h 55m

Mileage – 43.1 miles

Reduced duration / mileage versus last week but natural to take account of the first race of the season. Reflecting on the performance I’m pleased and hoping to build as the season progresses.

This week I have been listening to –

SLEAFORD MODS – I owe my run on Saturday to the song Fizzy from the album “Austerity Dogs” which is their first album. This came about by complete chance. I had been conscious of the band but not really aware of how much I like them. I was out on Friday night for a catch up with mates. We were sat in a bar when my mate noticed the two blokes from Sleaford Mods walking past! They had a gig in Newcastle that night. My mate had waxed lyrical about them so when I got home I listened to the first album. Wow! The tune Fizzy stuck out like a sore thumb. I listened to it about 50 times on Saturday morning. It was lodged on my brain and accompanied me all the way round the course. Whenever I got tired I just had “FIZZY” shouting in my brain. Thank you SLEAFORD MODS.

This week I have been thinking a lot about –

Am I cut out for this? Yes, the negative thoughts have come into view this week! What a surprise – it took until the fourth week to start wondering why am I doing this and can I do this? Mental strength is essential here to keep going. I will keep going. Running is my passion, it slept dormant from the ages of 12 to 30. I won’t let it go now. I’ve given up too soon too many times on too many things. Not this time, my opportunity is now.

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# XC 2015/16 | Training Diary | Week 3

Key aim for the week –

More of the same and probably an increase in load. Last week I ran 45 miles (5h 9m) total. Actually that’s not far off a weekly record for me so it could be that this week sees me set a record, all depending whether I am able to effectively manage my time given that things are starting to get hectic on the work front.

Really keen to keep everything moving along and ready for the first XC fixture at Tanfield on 26th September. Want to hit the ground running.

For the planned 30 minute tempo run on Saturday (183-189bpm) I might get another parkrun effort somewhere.

Weight on Monday morning –

73.5kgs

Actually I weighed myself after my Monday run and a pint of water and small snack. Getting back towards race weight of 73kgs but need to focus on diet and nutrition to ensure I am getting what I need in terms of vitamins and minerals.

General mental state –

9.5 – a little bit fatigued on my Sunday long run and private matters building up outside of my training and just need to show strong determination and keep these motivation levels high. I feel like I am at the start of a journey now. The last 3 and a bit years (since I started running) have of course been a journey but I feel like I have a platform to step up from. I want to find a big breakthrough in this winter training period.

On a scale of 1-10, 1 being exhausted need a break and 10 being 100% motivated and raring to go

Monday
Plan – Easy run, 45mins

A really hectic day work wise and was pleased to get out for a run to clear the mind. Typically the heavens opened as I got out but I didn’t care.

The run was fairly strong overall apart from a little midway lull. If anything I maybe pushed a bit hard for an easy run but overall completed 6.6 miles in just over 46 minutes and an average HR of 157bpm. Need to sleep well for an earlier than usual 45 minute threshold before work in the morning. Busy day tomorrow.

Tuesday
Plan – Threshold run, 45mins

Wow, this was a tough run. And I got absolutely soaked through again, becoming a bit of a theme.

So what made it tough? To be honest it only got tough in the second half. The second half is uphill and I felt like the elements conspired against as well.

It all made the extra 5 minutes versus last week seem like an extra half hour! In the end I only ended up with 41 minutes. I was aiming for something like 6.13-6.18/mile for the full 45mins but ended up with 6.18/mile for 41.

Not massively concerned. It wasn’t a confidence building run, far from it. It was a reminder of how tough training can be. A lonely slog in a close to torrential downpour. Good for the soul if nothing else. Looking forward to a recovery tomorrow before doing it all again on Thursday.

Wednesday
Plan – Recovery run, 45mins

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday was raining cats and dogs and the wind was a factor. Today was bright and sunny and everything felt good with the world again.

As regular readers will know I like my run stats. Couple of months ago I bought a TomTom runner cardio GPS watch as I was interested in the on the wrist heart rate monitor. As it happens, despite early doubts, I think the heart rate monitor is pretty good. It has a wobble from time to time but overall no worse than a strap. So the benefit of not having to wear a strap is a definite plus point for me. That said the distance measurement (and therefore the pace measurement) is significantly different to my old Garmin 610.

I’ve done a few experiments and I reckon the TomTom is at least 7-10 seconds per mile slower than the Garmin 610. That’s huge. Basically, if I do my usual 6-6.5 mile loop the Garmin reports it as further than the TomTom and thus I run faster with the Garmin than the TomTom.

At first I wasn’t really bothered but I have to admit that over the last couple of weeks it has annoyed me. Reason being I use Strava to log my run history and there is a feature on there that allows you to see your progress and trends over the same routes over time. Also, the segments can be compared each time you run them.

So the problem with moving to a watch that is telling me I am slower is leading to Strava telling me I’m getting slower! I know I shouldn’t be concerned with this but I am tempted to jump ship and buy a new Garmin!

Anyway, enough ranting and raving this was a great run and I completed 6.6 miles in 45mins at an average HR of 155bpm. My pace on the TomTom was 6.52/mile and 6.44 on the Garmin! Just a reminder – an easy run for me is a reference to my expected lactate response to a heart rate of 153-163bpm. Pace has nothing to do with it for me. Of course I want to see pace improve but overall the pace could differ from one easy run to the next. The key point is my average heart rate stays within the range. Strictly speaking these runs are high aerobic runs.

Thursday
Plan – Threshold run, 45mins

This was my weekly XC type run to get me off the concrete and prepare the legs for the impending season. I thought a lot about how to structure the session. I felt I wanted to break it up a bit rather than a straight non-stop threshold.

I’d decided to try running lap intervals at sub 6 minute mile pace. Each lap would be about 4m 30s with a 30s rest in between. I got stuck into it. The first couple of reps averaged around 5.45 miling. Then the 3rd lap was a bit of a disaster where I struggled to keep below 6 minute miles. With hindsight I think I was getting more into a VO2 max type session which wasn’t the plan.

So rather than slog on and become further demoralized I changed tact and completed a 30 minute threshold around 168-170 bpm. The Garmin had me at 6.14 miles and the TomTom 6.26. Restored a bit more confidence overall.

Friday
Plan – Rest

Saturday
Plan – Tempo run, 30mins

I haven’t had a regular tempo run in my schedule so again I thought hard about how I would structure it. I was either going to do 3x 10 minutes with a short rest or maybe a parkrun and then add on the extra at the end.

I decided on Newcastle parkrun because the weather was great and there was an unusually calm day on the Town Moor with little wind to speak of. I knew I’d complete that in 17-18 minutes leaving an extra 12-13 minutes to add on solo at the end.

Tempo running feels for me a tough effort. Its not 5k race effort. More like 10k race effort but it is a great help doing it in a parkrun environment where there are others around you to feed off. My Tempo zone is 183-189bpm so I had a plan to average 176bpm in the first mile, 186 in the second and then just maintain above 186 to the end.

Newcastle parkrun tempo

I was pleased to pretty much nail the plan. I used my TomTom and my first 2 mile splits were bang on 5.38-39. I weakened in the last mile but ended up only 4 seconds off a course PB in 17.35. I was pleased as well because I managed it as a solo run as I was alone in 4th place pretty much all the way around as 3 lads were well ahead running sub 17s and 5th place was over 20s behind me.

Its always sobering seeing how far ahead the sub 17 lads are. I want to be in that company at some point but really I know I need a proper 5k race to nail the sub 17 myself.

Got out again in the afternoon for 12 and a half minutes at 10k pace (5.44) as a top up. Felt tired but completed to plan with a 5 minute warm up and cool down.

Sunday
Plan – Long run, 75mins

I got to bed later than ideal and had a few beverages (not overboard) so I wasn’t feeling amazing for the long run.

This is always the toughest run of the week for me and so it proved again. Not much to report other than I was glad when it was over. Did 10.7 miles in about 77 minutes which was a bit slower than last week but no worries.

Weekly totals and Summary

Duration – 5h 28m

Mileage – 49.2 miles

A record week in terms of duration and distance so I’m hoping I can take the benefits into the first XC race next weekend.

This week I have been listening to –

Strangely haven’t listened to music once while out running this week! I have been listening to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in the car though. The first album “Fever to Tell” is great and I’m a big fan of the track “Maps”. Still makes the hairs on my arms stand up.

This week I have been thinking a lot about –

Keeping a work, life, running balance! Quite hard to do but with proper planning and discipline it can be done! But it’s a never ending process!

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# Training Diary | XC 2015/16 | Wk 1

Key aim for the week –

Looking at my training diary since the Blaydon Race in June its been sporadic and without real focus. That’s symptomatic of not having a clear target. That’s probably being a bit harsh, the summer is always a lull for me race wise and I should just accept it and embrace it.

Now that I’m back from my summer holidays I’m ready to get stuck into proper training again with the aim of improving on last year’s Cross Country season.

That said, given that my mileage has been inconsistent and low since July I need to ease back in and not do anything silly.

So the aim this week is to get some easy mileage back into the legs and start conditioning myself for the long season ahead.

The only exception to this is the XC relay race on Saturday. This will be my debut for Elswick Harriers and, although not fully match fit, I’ll be looking to give it my all and see how I compare to last year.

I’ll be looking also to introduce grass work immediately to get into XC mode mentally and physically.

Weight on Monday morning –

75kgs

Weight should never be an obsession but I’ll be tracking mine on a weekly basis. My racing weight is around 72.5-73kgs.

Obviously a little out of shape following 2 week vacation in New York but expect to see that come down over the coming weeks.

General mental state –

10 – following a break I’m raring to go and, despite slight jet lag from return trip from New York, really keen to get stuck back in to training.

On a scale of 1-10, 1 being exhausted need a break and 10 being 100% motivated and raring to go

Monday
Plan – Easy run, 40mins

Still haven’t fully got back to normal eating and sleeping routines following my holiday. I couldn’t really get to sleep until past 4am and got up at 10am.

Anyway, felt fine so got out the door for a basic easy run around Kenton and the Town Moor. Felt fine and heart rate under control. Not much else to report but just over 6 miles in 43 minutes and an average heart rate of 153bpm. Not worried about pace on these runs.

I haven’t had a lactate threshold test since March so still operating on the following zones –

Recovery/easy – 153-163bpm
Threshold – 164-183bpm
Tempo – 184-189bpm
Intervals – 190+bpm

Tuesday
Plan – Threshold run, 30mins

Since I got back from New York my sleep patterns are still terrible. I’m going to bed and lying until 3-4am and then boom out like a light. Fine on the Bank Holiday weekend but today my alarm was set for 6.30am.

So after work I felt tired.

Anyway, I felt up for a threshold still and decided to aim for 6-6.10/mile and see how the heart rate fared and ensure it stayed in the correct range.

Actually the run felt good and I was pleased to have no real issues keeping in the planned pace range (on my Garmin). Completed just under 5 miles in 30mins at an average HR of 174bpm.

Very encouraging first threshold in Week 1 and suggests I’m fit enough to run a 5k in the range 17-17.30 and I’ll definitely come on from there.

In other news I visited Elswick Harriers to pick up my club vest in the hope of making my debut on Saturday.

But unfortunately England Athletics in Birmingham seem incapable of processing a form so it looks like I may need to wait longer…

Wednesday
Plan – Recovery run, 40mins

Got out for an easy run and was looking to make it more on the recovery end than the max aerobic end. Reason being, although my sleeping patterns are improving I’m still feeling on the tired side.

Not much to report other than about 5.4 miles in 40mins @ an average HR of 153bpm. Felt jaded overall.

Thursday
Plan – Easy run, 45mins

Finally got out for an off-road run on the grass at a local park which is basically a few football pitches. It took me a little while to get in to it but I felt better as the run went on.

It’s an encouraging first run and I was pleased to see the mile splits were very even at an average HR of 156bpm. Overall just over 6 miles in 45mins.

Rest day tomorrow and then get out for a good effort at the XC relays on Saturday. I rang England Athletics and I’m hoping to run as a counter for Elswick Harriers.

Friday
Plan – Rest

Saturday
Plan – Farringdon XC relays, 1.8 miles

In 2012 this was pretty much my first competitive race for Jesmond Joggers so it has a place in my heart. I ran 10.36 that day and was buzzing. Can’t remember why I didn’t run it in 2013. Then last year I got round in 10.10 which is quite a big revision for the distance. Coming into this year I was obviously not in tip top condition, this being my first proper week back training after a 2 week holiday. But despite that I still felt I could run faster than last year.

The fact of the matter is I am a better runner now. It was also my first race for my new club. I was a little nervous on the drive over but that left when I arrived as Frank and everyone else are so friendly and down to earth – good people and very welcoming. I was pleased to be given a place in the A team, running 2nd leg which I like.

The first leg had put us in a good position. I felt like we were maybe top 10 and I was glad to have two or three lads just in front to chase down. I think I passed at least two of those within the first quarter mile and only one lad passed me. I pretty much followed him around the course as closely as possible.

Coming to the famous stream crossing I had already done a recce warm up and had decided a one step in and out would be best as the exit on the other side was muddy and wasn’t worth risking a jump.

The lad in front had the same idea. It always takes you out of your rhythm whatever you do and its a case of knuckling down and getting the job done. Between then and the end of the race I think a couple of lads passed me, including Terry Scott who was gliding along, as I began to tire but I kept on and finished strongly up the last hill and into the finish. Thanks to Luke Adams who gave me some much appreciated support! In general, wearing the Elswick shirt I felt I received more encouragement than normally – it all helps for sure!

Having not worn my GPS watch I was unsure how I had faired but felt like I must have ran faster than last year. Sure enough I ran 9.49 (21s improvement on last year) which I am very pleased with at this stage. I know I can go faster still but the timing after New York wasn’t great but I can only take the result as a positive. At the time of writing unfortunately I don’t have any pics or team results to share but it looks like Elswick A team did ok and hopefully we have a Top 10 or close. We’ll see.

Sunday
Plan – Long run, 60mins

Got to bed a little late but felt fresh for my first longer run for a while. I ran down to Jesmond Dene and back round. I was feeling quite good and maybe just a few little muscle aches here and there. Bumped into Scott Armstrong (Jesmond Joggers Chairman) and was nice to chat. Scott has been really supportive with my move to Elswick and always good crack.

I did start to tire a bit heading back for home but to be expected. I’ll be honest I do not enjoy Long Runs but I have learnt the importance of them in building (and maintaining) strength and stamina. So over the next few weeks I’ll be looking to build back up to 1hr 30 (at least). To be fair, with the target of the North East XC Champs in December I need to build to closer to 15-18 miles but not sure that will happen in this training period!

Weekly totals and Summary

Duration – 4h 30m

Mileage – 36.6 miles

This week I have been listening to –

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away (2013)

I finally got round to watching the Nick Cave documentary “20,000 days on earth” and it got me back onto the album “Push the sky away”.

The title track in particular is a favourite of mine and the lyrical content can be imagined to mean pushing yourself to your limits no matter what. And for me in week 1 of my journey for this new training phase it’s important for me to focus on pushing my self to new levels of performance.

This week I have been thinking a lot about –

My future vocation!

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# Running in Phoenicia

Usually when I go on holiday I leave the running shoes at home. But this year I was keen to pack them for two reasons.

One I want to keep ticking over more than usual so that I’m not starting from scratch when I get back home. Looking at my training diary from 2014 I got home from a two week holiday in Austria and my training was pretty poor in terms of the mileage level I was operating at and it gives me a lot of confidence that this year will be a better xc season again. That’s key as I will be running from Fast pack and need to up my game.

Second, I’m keen to do the obligatory run around Central Park but also I’d seen that Phoenicia, a hamlet in Ulster County New York, would be ideal for running.

And so it turned out.

Phoenicia is surrounded by the Catskill Mountains. The village itself is 250m above sea level. There are amazing relatively traffic free roads to run on and also some extremely challenging trails although I didn’t realise how challenging until I gave one a go!

The Romer Mountain Trail would be challenging to walk let alone run but I found a 1.8 mile segment on Strava that I felt I could nab as the course record was 28 minutes.

So I set out from our cottage and did a 2 mile warm up onto Main Street and then backup to the trail head.

Not for the faint hearted

One of the things that was playing on my mind was the thought of black bears and rattle snakes! That didn’t help as I started to negotiate the first part of the trail.

Almost immediately I realised how technical it was, almost going over an ankle within the first few minutes. Also, the elevation gain was quite rapid and my heart rate was quickly into the 180s and at threshold level. Of course I can maintain that intensity for 30-40 minutes in normal circumstances but the taxing ground and elevation gain meant I was forced to adopt a fell runner walking style to keep from blowing up.

My plan was to run for 2 miles and turn round but as I struggled to ensure I was keeping to the trail (sporadic blue signs on trees) I started doubting myself. The humidity and heat was a factor. Sweat was pouring and I was thinking of turning back.

I kept going a little longer. Running on the flattish spots. Hands on knees on the more difficult climbs. I was painfully aware that I was nowhere near completing the 2 miles.

I decided to throw the towel in and turn back. Heading back down was much more fun! My heart rate got back into the 160s and I got into concentration mode, totally focused on where the next foot was landing, arms out to keep balance. This reminded me about what I love about xc. I was able to smile and enjoy.

Still I was a little relieved to get to the bottom and off the trail. I was dripping with sweat!

Trail fail but still a good little workout

When I got back to check the run out on Strava I realised how lame an attempt at the segment it was! Still, about 400ft of climbing in maybe 10-15 minutes.

I’ve always fancied a go at fell running but runs like this one remind me how tough it must be. I’m not sure whether I could get really competitive as a trail runner but it would surely be great to develop a tougher mental outlook and also good training.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get back onto the trail. Beer and shots led to a hangover on Friday.

I got out for a road run but it was a painful “recovery run”.

Felt much better today but decided a hard trail run would be unwise as we are heading back to the city. Got out for another easy run on the roads.

Next stop Harlem!