Remember: you are most likely the one putting limits on yourself!

Realise you are likely your own worst critic, the person who tells yourself you can’t do something.

Running is a journey.

The traditional goal setting structure, i.e. run x time over y distance by z date, is probably not serving you as well as you may think.

Even a wild scary goal may not truly begin to estimate your potential. And it may feed the fear of not knowing what you can or can’t do.

Much better to not focus on the outcome at all.

Focus on the process and the practice.

The best goals are a commitment to a process and to the training.

Let the outcome be what the outcome will be when you go out there and fully express yourself.

Allow yourself to be surprised.


Deal with first priorities first

It might seem obvious but:

Deal with first priorities first!

In running first priorities can be wide ranging…

Running fitness is a pyramid. First priority is to build an aerobic engine. No good overdoing race pace practice until the first priority of aerobic engine build is well on its way.

First priority may be to sort out a persistent niggle. You can’t safely build the aerobic engine if your hip or knee or [insert body part] is niggling you.

First priority may be to do some more walking. Not really sensible trying to jog for 30 minutes straight when you can’t remember the last time you walked for half an hour without stopping!

Or first priority may be to shift the persistent cold. Training the body hard is sub optimal when it is simply crying out for rest.

As I said, the concept of dealing with first priorities first may seem obvious and it most certainly is. However it is so easy not to follow.

So the next time you seek to plan your training approach, remember to ask yourself: am I dealing with first priorities first? Be honest in your self-assessment. If you skip first priorities you are likely to come unstuck some point down the line.

Overcoming setbacks

No training plan will be free of setbacks whether mental or physical.

The key is to almost expect them. That’s not to say you shouldn’t guard against them. But even if you do everything in your power to avoid setbacks it’s very possible they will still come along.

So try not to be shocked or surprised. Don’t dwell on it, don’t sulk on it.

Depending on the type of setback, immediately plan on dealing with it.

Often the main course of action is the very thing no runner ever wants to really consider – the “R” word – REST.

Case in point – I’ve just had another mini set back this week. I keep getting a recurring sore throat which this week became a cough which became a day in bed.

The only course of action is rest. The training plan has to be put on hold.

A key thing is to not panic about lost fitness. The key thing is to do the right thing, to minimise time on the sidelines.

Taking my example, its a case of listening to what the body is telling you and not fighting it. Give it what it needs and come back stronger.

But the key message here is that setbacks invariably happen, invariably aren’t as bad as you may think, provided you don’t act in denial – listen to what you know to be true and act accordingly.

Town Moor parkrun, 20th May 2023

Having raced the NEMAA relays, Les Allcorn multi terrain 10km and Gordon Smith relays in quick succession, I was keen to establish a solid training plan to get me on the start line at the Great North 10km road race in early July in the best possible shape.

I came out of the 3 races feeling like something was missing and I’m pretty sure it’s related to my strength endurance. As such I’m looking to establish a more regular diet of consistent threshold training, in particular running at marathon to half marathon type effort. I also need to practice running at or around 10km intensity.

To do this I can reference the following things:

For Threshold running:

  • My predicted marathon and half marathon race power recommendations, currently 339 watts and 362 watts respectively;
  • My Stryd threshold training zone, currently 340-377 watts.

For 10km Race Pace running:

  • My Stryd Critical Power (CP) which is currently 378 watts;
  • My predicted power for the 10km race distance, currently slightly higher than my CP at 381 watts.

A rough structure to my training would be to run at least 5 days per week but ideally 6 days out of 7. I’d then look to do some faster running on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. A Saturday will always be the day I look for a higher daily volume than average but not necessarily always in “Long Run” format. This is something I did to good effect in 2021: approx. 16-20km total but broken up into a warm up, parkrun and cool down.

So a Tuesday might be some threshold running, Thursday some 10km race pace practice and potentially (if all feels well) a longer volume day on Saturday incorporating a parkrun with some clear “process goals”.

With this in mind I decided to visit Town Moor parkrun on Saturday 20th May with the goal of running the first 5 minutes at around half marathon effort (362 watts) and then push on for 10 minutes at 10km effort (381 watts). I would then finish off the parkrun “to feel”.

Pleasingly the weather and conditions seemed perfect. The sun was shining but not too warm. There didn’t seem to be any wind. I also learned that a path on the course had been re-paved which should help with faster running as it was pretty uneven.

I set off at 8.15am and started really easily and built into the warm up culminating in 3x 1 minute efforts building up to around 381 watts – the effort level I’d hope to be running the 10 minute segment in.

I felt pretty good overall and also felt assured that my plan was sensible. Come July I’d be looking to run almost 35mins at this type of intensity so aiming for a 10 minute portion today felt like a good place to start. I could also use the quite competitive nature of parkrun to simulate “race conditions” to some extent.

It had been a while since I’d been on the start line of a parkrun. It felt extremely busy. This was to be my 84th parkrun and 68th at Town Moor. I’d never finished first at Town Moor and had no ambition to do so today. Town Moor is always pretty competitive and you would never expect to finish first with a time slower than 16:30. Even then it would be all about who didn’t show up. My PB was 16:41 and I wasn’t planning to get near it with my approach.

It’s often a touchy subject but I’ve always felt the Town Moor course to be slightly long. The course has had quite a few variations over the years but the most recent always measures at least 5.1km on my Stryd. It really is by the by and my typical goal with parkrun is training, trying to get something like a race like situation in the midst of a race build up.

The run started and I was keen to stick to plan whilst keeping a fairly handy position. There are always a few that go off much harder than they can maintain but after a minute or so things settle down.

I was probably in the top 10 or maybe just outside but I was already averaging >370 watts. I didn’t want to make a big adjustment but also knew I needed to try to relax if I was to manage the harder 10 minute effort.

Passing the 1km marker I glanced at my timer to see maybe 3:24 or 3:25 which is faster than half marathon PB pace. I was in danger of failing on plan.

Rather annoyingly the first 5 minutes ticked by right on a sharp left hand switch back so I decided to navigate that before clicking the lap button on my Garmin and picking up. My increase in effort level felt very pronounced and I quickly passed two runners and also felt like I was making ground on a fair few up ahead who were somewhat strung out.

I was already looking down on 385 watts and working hard. It felt harder than anything I could hold for 10km but I tried to stick to task. Getting off the gravel track and back onto tarmac was welcome but overall the going was tough. Perhaps there was more of a headwind. Whatever was going on my power kept edging below 380 watts and I needed fresh impetus to get it back to 381. That was fine for now and I was succeeding but I was working hard.

I’d gone by at least one or maybe two runners. I wouldn’t manage to catch anymore which was disappointing but I was staying on one paced and couldn’t hold onto the planned power wattage for the 10 minutes, I ended up averaging maybe 372 or 373 watts.

I maybe had 300-500 metres to go. My cadence had dropped quite drastically and I felt like I was desparately holding onto my form. I had a sense of wading through treacle and someone was on my shoulder coming onto the long home straight. They went by me one paced and my initial thought was to let them go. But I managed to plug on and maintain quite close behind.

Not wanting a repeat of the Les Allcorn where I’d capitulated I managed to summon a little late surge and went back by and managed to hold on, crossing the line in 8th place and a time of 17:35.

Although I hadn’t achieved my process goal, running the first 5 minutes harder than plan and the 10 minutes below where I wanted to be, I think the overall result was fairly similar. That said I now have the question of how I confidently go about running a full 10km at 381 watts. At this point it seems over optimistic but I have 4 to 6 weeks to dial in and seek to build the confidence in training that I need.

I am fairly sure what I need in training is more lactate threshold work in the zone of 340-362 watts, to build that strength bubbling under threshold. I will then have more strength to maintain running at critical power/10km race pace. To help with this I’ll also need to complement my threshold training with some decent running at 378-381 watts.

One session structure I am considering is Yasso 800s which is more regarded as a marathon prediction session but I could potentially start at something like 5 or 6x 800 at around Critical Power and try to build to 10x 800. Rest between reps is taken about equal to the efforts so if you are running the 800s in say 2:45 you’d take about that as recovery. I think this could be a fairly useful session to get some training as close to 10km effort as possible. It’s important to note that the 800 efforts will be harder than marathon, especially if you want to use it as a predictor. In other words, 3:00 for 800m does not equal 3hr marathon pace!

I’ll also plan at least 1 or 2 more parkruns with variations on the theme – potentially next time I will try a fartlek type effort where 400s are run alternating between half marathon and 10km power levels.

A key reflection on this parkrun was my position in my age group where I finished 4th. It shows the strength in depth in the local running scene in the male 40-44 bracket and provides the motivation I need to try to get back at least to where I was in 2021.

Thanks for reading!

Race report: Gordon Smith Memorial Relays

Race report: Gordon Smith Memorial Relays

I wasn’t sure how I’d come out of the Les Allcorn 10km with a quick follow up race in the Gordon Smith Relays 2 miler a day after.

I’d been elevated to the Tyne Bridge Harriers A team as each 3 man team needs a Vet 40 and we had a drop out. I felt like I had to challenge myself.

On waking I didn’t feel too bad, slightly tired with a bit of muscle soreness but nothing unexpected. That said I wasn’t convinced I could run my very best 2 miles.

I felt I could at least aim to hold a similar effort to the NEMAA relay the week previous and hopefully benefit from the faster course. I still felt like something around 10:30 could be possible if I could hold 393 watts. However, the suspicion is that the NEMAA is slightly short of 2 miles and I’d ran 10:30 there.

As the day wore on I did feel the fear somewhat.

It’s a strange feeling racing two days in a row. I can’t remember ever doint it. It’s weird having to wash the club race vest so quickly – usually it resides in the wash basket a little while…

I was down to run the second leg and the mens race wasn’t off until 7.45pm. With the drive being much shorter I had plenty of time and decided to try to nap after work and before setting off back down the A1.

I like the Gordon Smiths course. This would be my 4th running of the race and I still have great memories of running this race for Elswick in 2016, picking up second leg in first place from Tadele and holding onto it, definitely a running highlight! We picked up 2nd place that night. I wrote a blog on that here.

I also had a great race last time out in 2019, running my fastest registered time on the course of 10:21 for Tyne Bridge Harriers B Team that year.

But I also remembered the “all out” effort levels required to achieve a 10:20-10:30 clocking and felt I wasn’t there yet – both mentally (and now physically after the 10km the previous day).

I’m still feeling my way on low mileage this year (I’ve averaged 26 miles/42km in the last 12 weeks). And, truth be told, I am having the usual doubts about the calibration of the Stryd power meter, especially now it measured the Les Allcorn as 250 metres long which is difficult to believe!

What it means is I need to plan my races with a +1 – 2.5% variance on distance to work out what I really need to push out power wise for a specific time goal. I also need to factor in what Stryd calls “air power”, i.e. wind resistance. The Stryd race time predictor assumes near perfect conditions…

As I said in a previous blog, I had these same doubts back in 2021 and it all came good in the end. I decided to plan on aiming for 393w again which for 2 miles should be around 10:30 in good conditions.

As the race got closer I toyed with the idea of not referring to my watch at all and just race to feel. In the end I lacked the confidence to do so which, with the benefit of hindsight I regret. But that approach will return at a future “A” race.

I completed a short jog warm up which didn’t feel great. But warm ups rarely do. I was nervous but not in a getting pumped up to run hard kind of way. Nervous about doing myself justice and getting round respectably.

And so it was time to get in the busy start pen for leg 2. I wasn’t sure when leg 1 would arrive. As it happened our A and B team runners (Connor and Zak) were battling to the line, running fast legs of just over 10 minutes. Only my race number had been called and so our B team second leg (Paul) was late to join me on the start line. If anything Zak finished ahead of Connor and so it felt like a messy start to the race.

I was immediately a few yards down on Paul as I tried to get into a rhythm. Overall I felt a bit race “dead” – there wasn’t much adrenaline to speak of. I hadn’t had pre race caffeine (again save that for an A race) and so I felt like I just needed to get round solidly.

Getting into a rhythm early on…

Paul was stealing a decent lead and going round the first left hand bend my first aim was to not let the lead grow too far. I couldn’t hear anyone behind me and pleasingly nobody ever passed me by in the race.

Paul had overtaken a Heaton Harrier and a Sunderland Harrier. The Heaton Harrier seemed to be travelling slowest and so became my main target. I seemed to be travelling OK. So far things had started similar to the NEMAA relay power wise – I was averaging over 400 watts. Stryd believes I’m capable of that for 2 miles, unfortunately I felt like I just needed to keep steady and let it ease off just a tad to leave something for mile 2. In a better mood my approach should have been to battle for 400w for at least 10mins and use the will of God to finish whatever was left…

But despite the cautious approach I was past the Heaton lad and closing on Paul and the Sunderland Harrier.

We were on to the toughest part of the course. A slight incline to the highest point although nothing like the Les Allcorn hills. But you invariably slow a little at constant effort. There is also undoubtedly a head wind although I don’t recall feeling it as such. I was shocked after the race to see Stryd recording 3% air power across the whole race which is significant…

My power had ticked down to 399 and then 398. The Sunderland Harrier had regained the lead from Paul who seemed to be slowing, probably taking the brunt of whatever headwind there was.

After the incline we were onto my favourite part of the course, the downhill approaching the sharp left hander back onto the gravel to the finish. I felt quite good here considering and part of me felt like I could not only pass Paul but target the Sunderland Harrier as well. I had an urge to try to change gears but never did. It was more a gradual effort and I was making ground.

Turning onto the sharp left hander I was probably 10 maybe 20 yards behind the Sunderland Harrier. I felt like I navigated this final stretch on slightly muddy ground really well, potentially not a million miles away from my 2016 and 2019 efforts if the Strava segment is to be believed.

Finishing off my 4th Gordon Smiths

That said, onto the home straight the Sunderland Harrier had gotten away and I stayed on one paced.

Clicking the watch and seeing 10:47 was initially disappointing. I will save detailed thoughts on where I think I’m at and where I’m going for a later blog.

For now all I’ll say is my Stryd measured the course approx. 60m long with 3% adverse air power.

I managed to hold 395 watts for 10 minutes (393w as planned for the whole race) which was just slightly higher than the NEMAA relay. Although I think it’s very difficult to compare as these two courses are so different – especially the sharp turns at Bedewell Park.

As a result my Stryd Critical Power has increased to 378 watts and predicts 16:08 for 5km! Spookily this is identical to where I was in early August 2021 prior to running 16:01 in the Quayside 5km…

It’s on me now to not question and try to believe what it is telling me, and not forget how closely this mirrors what happened in 2021. I’ve got a lot more work to do though.

So my job now is to work out how I can best prepare for the Great North 10km in early July.

The published results showed Tyne Bridge A team finished in 5th place. My time was recorded as 10:38 which looked incorrect. Race organisers were contacted as I’m a stickler for detail and I’d prefer my time to be correct in the “annals of time”… I also think our 3rd leg Tim deserves the time he ran on the day to be recorded correctly.

Well done to our new Mens club captain who took over duties and this race was his first at the helm. And also all of our other teams – especially the ladies who came second.

Thanks for reading!

Race Report: Les Allcorn Trail 10km

On the day of the race I was asked to take the A Team leg at the Gordon Smith relays so I felt like I needed to at least take this into account for my final race plans for the Les Allcorn.

As I mentioned in my race preview blog this more than anything was to be a solid training run and I didn’t want to miss the relay, especially now I was upgraded to A team.

I’d also found a better course profile picture which showed the majority of the climbing should be completed in the first 2 to 2.5 miles of the race. With that in mind I decided the best approach would be to keep average power below 369 watts in the first 4km. I’d then click the lap button and seek to keep average power above 370 watts in the final 6km and see how it felt.

The race kicked off at 7pm near Alnwick Castle so I had to set off at a decent time for the 40 minute drive from Newcastle.

I’ve got a Vespa scooter and hammering down the A1 is always interesting and this ride was all the more interesting for the biblical downpour that ensued for about 15 to 20 minutes. I couldn’t see a thing and got absolutely drenched. Not an ideal start. Then I chose to ignore the big neon sign for the race and instead ended up at a concrete factory!!!

I got there in the end and still had time to pick up my number and have a jog around the beautiful location.

Before I knew it I was on the start line. I started wondering what the hills would be like and, more importantly how the effort was going to feel.

The starting whistle went and we were quickly away. A pack of maybe 4 or 5 runners were away up front but I just tried to focus to settle in at target wattage which I did at around 359-361 watts on the flats.

The first hill was fairly tame but wattage spiked to 367-368 so I tried to just keep it smooth and not push too hard. It then felt like every hill got a little steeper. The steepest had us doing a sharp right hander onto another long gradual climb. My wattage had landed on 370 watts and I was a little isolated with a couple of runners still in sight up ahead meaning I could gauge what was coming next.

I wondered whether 370w was too high already but when it became obvious the worst of the climbing was done I just focussed on stride and trying to take advantage of the more favourable descents, keeping my steps as light as possible.

It was at this point I felt like I was pulling in closer to an Alnwick Harrier who became my immediate target. I was able to pass on quite a steep decline and by doing so was immediately getting closer to another runner in the process. Much further ahead were two Morpeth Harriers. At that stage I thought they were 1st and 2nd but I was mistaken as another Morpeth Harrier must have been further clear.

So in my head I was aiming to catch third which I did not far past 5km. I’d obviously descended much better than I’d climbed. I’d pushed quite hard to get power as close to 369 watts downhill and I’d clicked my lap button at 4km to help with this but I noticed the best I was managing was maybe 365 or 366 watts.

I caught the runner I thought was in 4th and followed for a while trying to suss out how I felt and what to do. At some point he invited me to take over and I decided to speak as I felt we could work together to catch the Morpeth Harrier up ahead. Eventually the lad took over the headwind at which point I noticed the Morpeth lad stop just after a cattle crossing. This was our chance to give it a go.

I took the initiative again but alas it wasn’t to be. I was starting to feel laboured. I’d allowed myself to become a bit disenchanted as I was sure I’d seen and passed the 7km marker only to notice it some minutes later. That demoralised me as was the farmers track which reminded me of Town Moor parkrun. There were puddles to avoid and large stones to be wary of.

I noticed I was struggling to keep power in the high 350s. That spurred me on a little. Focus on effort and nothing else. Push.

Unfortunately at around 8km a decent stitch appeared just under the right rib cage. I can usually deal with them but this one stuck with me until the end.

I started wondering who was coming from behind. I was still in third (or so I thought) and in with a shout of a prize. But I was slowing and gave up my place again never to be regained.

For the first time I started looking at distance on my Garmin. Watch was saying 9.65km. Only 350m to go! I was thinking to myself I could just go now and finish it off. But it never came. By now I knew someone was coming. I looked over my shoulder and saw the Alnwick Harrier who I’d passed before 5km. He was already approaching a sprint.

It was onto the grass finish. I did pick up but not enough. Once he was by I slowed down to a jog, a walk. Over the line…

There isn’t time to write more. It’s onto the Gordon Smith relays.

Thanks for reading!

Race Preview: Les Allcorn Trail 10km

Race Preview: Les Allcorn Trail 10km

Coming out of my season opener at the NEMAA Open Relays I was forced to take a couple of unplanned rest days.

As I covered in my race report, I’d gone into the race with a sore throat and felt worse on waking the next day.

Although I don’t think it negatively impacted my performance, I didn’t feel well enough to train and took two days off.

This was a bit of a concern as I approach my next assignment at the Les Allcorn Trail 10km in Alnwick on Tuesday 9th May.

I’ve never tried this race before and, from what I can tell, it is a mixed terrain and hilly 10km. With that in mind I’m not necessarily looking to run a PB in this race (note: current 10km road PB is 34:49 from 2018).

A quick check on my power of 10 reminded me that I’ve only raced two 10kms on the road and two “Not Official Distance” (NAD). I suspect this race could be registered as NAD as well.

That’s fine as my main goal will be to get in a hard training run with one eye on following up with another 2 mile relay at the Gordon Smiths a day later!

But we will have to see if that plan is possible given how my body reacted to the 2 miler.

I’ll then look to use the data from all 3 races to create a short 6-7 week training plan taking me all of the way to the Great North 10km in early July where I will be aiming to set a new 10km personal best.

Race predictions and planning

Following the NEMAA Open Relay my Stryd running app is suggesting I can hold an average of 377 watts for 10km with a predicted finishing time of around 34 minutes +/- 41 seconds.

New Stryd race predictions

I’d managed to track down a Strava GPX file of the Les Allcorn course profile which can be uploaded to Stryd. If the race calculator is to be trusted the course shouldn’t present major issues, i.e. the uphills must be cancelled out by subsequent downhills.

From what I can see there is a decent portion of uphill at the start and end of the race and a decent downhill section in the middle portion.

The key therefore will be to maintain equal power output both uphill and downhill. That is harder than it sounds as you typically need to ease right off uphill and really push downhill – the exact opposite of what most runners do naturally. Most seek to maintain pace uphill by working harder and use gravity to help them downhill whilst trying to recover from the efforts expended uphill. Running hard downhill is a very specific skill not often practiced – it is inherently risky and can easily cause injury.

But as I said earlier, I’m looking for a hard training run so the rough plan will be to average around 360-370 watts in the first 5km, check the split, see how I feel and then decide whether to push on and average as close as possible to 377 watts in the second half.

The unknown will be the ground conditions. I’d found a race report from some years ago that mentioned muddy conditions early on. Given the recent wet weather that could make shoe selection tricky and it may be best to go with a pair of training shoes. I don’t think supershoes would be wise. Nor trail shoes.

With that plan in mind I was looking to complete one final training session on the Saturday before the race. I would usually long run on a Saturday but I felt like something around 15-16km easy with a 3km portion in the middle approaching something like 369-377 watts would suffice.

Overall volume for the week was going to be low (~50km/30mi) given the forced two days rest. That is well down on the 70km/44mi completed last week but in many ways I suspect that was a factor leading to my slight lethargy and sore throat this week as I’d (deliberately) spiked my training which I accepted as a risk worth taking for this set of “B” races.

But there’s not much I can do to move the fitness dial now, so this session was more designed to get a feeling for what something approaching 377 watts felt like in the legs more than anything else. Then tick over Sunday/Monday as I feel able.

I was still keeping an open mind to the possibility of pulling back the race plan even further, for example aiming for 355-365 watts overall for the race and a potential race finishing time of around 35:15 or even 36mins plus, i.e. still a very useful training run. For reference, I ran 77:46 at the Great North Run in 2021 averaging 355 watts on a challenging and energy sapping revised undulating course – the first 10km was done in 36:42.

Great North Run 2021 result

Alternatively, a target power average of ~369 watts (which is what I held for half marathon at Manchester in 2021 in a race time of 73:34, first 10km sub 34mins) and see where it lands time wise. Stryd is currently predicting a finishing time of sub 35 minutes at that effort level.

Final training…

Waking up on Saturday 6th May I felt a little better but still fatigued and snotty. I knew a hard long run was a terrible idea. And now even risking any portion of running at close to 10km intensity seemed potentially the wrong thing to do.

I’m a big believer in listening to the body and I’ve learnt the hard way that pushing a tired body too hard is counter productive. But I’ve also been using the Oura ring to track “readiness”, heart rate and Heart Rate Variability (HRV) since late 2019. Oura was much more positive than I felt within myself. Indeed Oura hadn’t really registered anything as being amiss all week, suggesting I could train as normal.

All things considered I decided to run at least 10km easy. First 5km keeping power below 245 watts and the second 5km around 270-275 watts. I’d then decide whether to stop the run there or add in some portions of faster running or strides.

In the end it didn’t take me too long to decide to keep the run really easy. I did an initial portion of 9km (5.6 miles) keeping average power around 250 watts which translated to 5:09/km (8:20/mi) pace. Average heart rate was 133bpm.

I then completed three 200m strides on a slight uphill gradient, just trying to visualise myself starting a 10km race. I was interested to see where that would land in terms of average power.

All three strides came out >380 watts and closer to the effort level at the NEMAA relay. I take this as a good sign as the strides felt very solid and controlled. I now just need to let my brain take over when it comes to the race on Tuesday. I know I can run quite comfortable, at least in the first half of the race, and still achieve my race aims.

Measuring Aerobic Efficiency: Beats per Mile

A useful metric I like to track is Beats per Mile (bpmi) which “does what it says on the tin”, i.e. calculates how many times your heart beats per mile on a run as an average. It’s very easy to calculate and once you have enough data it’s easy to spot trends in your training cycle and assess whether you are aerobically fit enough to start considering faster running.

So for this 9km easy run completed 3 days prior to Les Allcorn, my bpmi is average pace per mile multiplied by average heart rate, so 8.33 x 133 = 1,108bpmi.

To give some context, when I am detrained or something is not quite right my bpmi on easy aerobic runs could be 1,200+ whereas when I am pretty fit my bpmi can be <1,050,

I think this run felt about right and I am happy now to tick over with easy runs on Sunday and Monday.

Thanks a lot for reading and stay tuned for the race report!

Race Report: NEMAA Open Relays 2023

As I mentioned in my race preview, I wanted to use this short relay race as a test of where I’m at with the aim of averaging around 388w power output for the almost 2 mile, 2 lap course.

I can then use the data to dial in training between now and early July where I’m (hopefully) entered in the Great North 10km.

The Stryd race time prediction was around 10:10 which I kind of knew was a tall ask given the training I’ve completed this year. That said short races are potentially my forte and I always feel somewhat confident I can find some speed in my legs from somewhere.

The big unknown was the course distance  measurement as I was using my Strava GPS data from 2019 which measured at 1.91 miles. The race is advertised as two miles.

Anyhow, one of the benefits of running to power is that it is an unemotional metric and you can just focus on pumping out an effort level without emotional attachment to pace or other metrics like heart rate.

As is always the case with weekday races the key challenge is navigating the life stresses of the day and trying to get on the start line feeling in the right mood to race. Without going into detail my day went pretty poorly, starting with waking up with (another) slight sore throat and generally nothing going to plan. But I did feel up for racing still and, despite arriving late at Monkton, got a decent warm up done.

I was down to run 3rd (last) leg for the mens age 35-44 B team and so had plenty of time to decide on shoe selection. Part of me was tempted to wear a battered old pair of Nike Streakfly but ended up wearing the Next% that I last raced in at the Manc Half in 2021. I wasn’t sure how they’d handle the sharp turns but noticed others had gone for “super shoes” and so went with that.

The race got away late but before I knew it Chris Stockdale had finished first leg handily and Paul Turnbull handed over in maybe 4th or 5th but very isolated. I knew this could be a solo run with not much to hunt down other than lapped runners. Sunderland Harriers had a team fairly close behind us.

The first few hundred metres always feel remarkably easy. So easy that my original plan was blown out the water. Going into the first left bend my average power was >400 watts – well above where I wanted to be. I decided to commit to it and the aforementioned sharp bends naturally pulled avg. power down to high 380s through the first half of the first lap.

The first lap felt pretty good but reminded me of how challenging maintaining effort/pace can be second lap. Indeed it’s a well known fact that effort needs to increase to maintain pace when tiring as form inefficiency exacerbates slow down, made even worse by the course twists and turns. The slow down to get round corners becomes more pronounced and the acceleration out gets harder and harder.

I also ditched my initial plan of clicking off the first lap on my Garmin as I was right on the money around 390w power average on starting the second lap – I just needed to focus and hold it about there.

At about half way round the second lap I started to hear faster steps behind suggesting someone was coming to challenge for our position. This was my biggest disappointment of the night – I didn’t have any race craft or any ability to decide to put the hammer down to at least ask a question or, once they got alongside/past me, hang on in there for a later counter attack.

The fact is I felt a bit one paced and was starting to just look for the finish. The lack of race sharpness/awareness told here and I accepted defeat without too much of a fight.

Fortunately there were still plenty of lapped runners to go at and I feel like I did pick up a little the last 300-400m, perhaps finishing as strongly as I’d started.

I crossed the finish line, not overly winded which suggests I had a little more to offer overall. My clocking of 10:30 was disappointing initially as it’s the slowest time I’ve ever recorded at this event. However, deep down I was satisfied and the process goal of holding 388w was exceeded as I managed to hold 392w. This is almost identical to the average power I held for my 16:01 5km PB from 2021 (on a much faster out and back course). The rest is down to the vagaries of course distance – Stryd clocking it at 1.97 miles this time.

Now I’ve been here before, wondering about course measurements and the like and whether Stryd is over egging distance. But I do trust Stryd 100% based on my experience from 2021.

By managing to hold 392w for 10m 30s my Stryd is now predicting I can run 16:18 for 5km, in effect proposing that I could hold the effort level I achieved here for another mile. I think on the right course that sounds reasonable, especially if I got specific in training for 5km. But my attention now turns to dialling in for the 10km in July.

This is a step in the right direction. The data from this effort translates to a Functional Threshold Power (FTP or the power I can hold for 1hr) of 347w. I can now use that data to train properly and I will write more on this in upcoming blogs.

Unfortunately I did have an adverse reaction after the race in terms of the sore throat and I woke up feeling like I had a slight cold. It is possible that this affected my performance on the night but overall minimal given the power data.

So I’m going to monitor the recovery and try to plan how to approach training between now and the Les Allcorn 10km next Tuesday which overall will be a hard training run with the potential to follow up with another 2 mile relay at the Gordon Smiths the day after.

But that will all depend on how I feel following this decent if not spectacular season opener.

The official results from the NEMAA Relays had the Tyne Bridge Harriers 35-44 A team in 2nd overall and the B team, of which I was a part, came 6th. My time of 10:30 was 23rd fastest overall in the race and 7th in the 40 category. Summary: can do better but better for the trying.

Thanks for reading.

Race Preview: NEMAA Open Relays 2023

My first race of 2023 is the North East Masters Athletics Association (NEMAA) Open Relays.

This is a race I’ve done 3 times before in 2016, 2017 and 2019. The race is approx. 2 miles and my best time was in 2019 where I ran 10m 07s.

Last time out at the NEMAA Relays in 2019

My Stryd app is currently predicting a time of 10m 09s based on a power output of 388 watts. I think this is the best I can hope to achieve as the course is quite challenging due to the number of quite hard twists and turns which really ask questions of your ability to firstly get round the corner efficiently but also accelerate hard out of them.

Current race predictions in Stryd

It’s a 2 lap course which means the hard 90 degree corners need to be navigated twice and all in all I’d say it’s not a really fast course.

My running club Tyne Bridge Harriers will have a strong A team who should be in a very good shout for gold. We may also have a pretty decent B team in the 35 to 44 age category and I’d hope to at least sneak into that.

My race strategy will be to start the race “tall and strong” and probably check my overall average power heading towards the first left hand turn which may be approx. 300 to 400m into the first lap. I don’t want to over cook the first lap and hang on.

So if I can enter the second lap around 375-380 watts I’d be looking to click the lap on my watch heading past the time keepers and then aim to nail a very hard second lap of at least avg. 388 watts. Looking at my run data from the Quayside 5km in August 2021 I was able to hold 393 watts for that race, so I’d like to think I can have 388-390 watts as a target for a hard effort in lap two of this relay race.

Something I will be analysing post race will be my 10 minute average power as I can use that to calculate my Functional Threshold Power (FTP) which is basically the power I could hold for 1 hour. I can then use that information to dial in my training zones and also get a clear indication of what I can hope to run at next week’s Les Allcorn 10km. But more on that later.

I’ll hope to come out of this race well and target another decent long run at the weekend before easing off for the Les Allcorn 10km on Tuesday 9th May.

Thanks for reading.

2023/24 plans

2023/24 plans

So far I’ve just been chipping away in 2023.

Nothing major. I’ve managed to just “stay in the game” and, although mileage is still relatively low, I feel ready to try a few races.

Behind modest mileage target so far this year…

My main immediate aims with racing are to basically see where I’m at and push my fitness on towards a good go at bettering my 10km PB in July as I’ve entered the Great North 10km.

Before that I’ll be lining up at the NEMAA Relays (approx. 2 miles) this week, the Les Allcorn 10km and (if everything is Ok) the Gordon Smith Relays (approx. 2 miles).

That’s quite a lot of racing in a short space of time for me but it’s deliberate. The short relays should give VO2 max a little boost while the Les Allcorn is more of a hard training run as it’s a mixed terrain course with some hills.

To give some perspective on my current fitness level, when I ran 16:01 for 5km and 73:34 for the half marathon in 2021 my Stryd Critical Power (the power I can hold for 30-40mins) was 383 watts. As it stands today it is currently 360 watts. I’m hoping following this bout of races that my CP will edge closer to where I was in 2021 which would give me some confidence that I could certainly run something sub 34 minutes at the Great North 10km.

But we will have to see. My CP of 360w is predicting approx. 17 minutes for 5km which feels about right.

Current Stryd race predictions based on CP @ 360w

Some recent positive training runs have given me cause for optimism but also lead me to believe that my current CP of 360w is still quite challenging, and I’ll need these little race tests to confirm or deny where I’m at.

I completed a 30 minute threshold run at right around my predicted half marathon target power of 345w (1:19 predicted time). Note: I managed to hold 369w at the Manchester Half where I finished in 73:34.

I ran it as a 15 minute out and back with the first half feeling great. The second half was much more challenging as I ran it solo back into a headwind. But overall a good workout although I was left wondering how I could hold it for another 50mins.

And then on Saturday just gone I ran a full half marathon at around 3hr marathon pace. Again I ran to power (avg. approx. 306w) on an undulating course with the first half net downhill and the second net uphill (point to point course). Aerobically I felt very good although at an average heart rate of 157bpm I feel I have scope to improve around 10-12bpm. In addition my legs went quite badly at around 18-19km, mainly around the hips. I put both the heart rate and leg issues down to a lack of long runs generally.

Overall this week’s training was quite risky as I vastly increased both volume and intensity which isn’t recommended but I feel it was a calculated risk which gets me ready to race hard and see how things come out the other side.

I haven’t yet thought too far beyond the Great North 10km in July but I was inspired by the London Marathon and I can’t help but feel the full marathon is something I need to try. I’m also keen to have another go at earning a Masters England vest. One option may be to see how things stand after the Great North 10km and potentially aim to have a go qualifying at that distance before deciding on any approach to the full marathon in 2024.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more updates on the upcoming races.