Week 18 recover and Thornley Hall XC

I had mixed emotions about the 10km race at Dalton Park.

On the one hand I had to be happy with a PB and on the other I was sure I was in better shape.

I considered whether I had given my all. Or whether I had made a mistake in relying on my Garmin too much.

I have already learnt enough about myself to know that I race best unhindered by the computer on my wrist. I ran my 5k PB without a watch at all. I’ve also run my best cross country races without a watch.

But I tried to use it to my advantage on Sunday. Truth be told it gave me nothing but stress because I simply couldn’t get on target pace in the first 5 miles.

Was it the course or was it me in protection mode?

I’ll never know but I can try to take the positives in the PB, the fact that I finished strongly and the fact that I am determined to do better at the next opportunity.

Ultimately miles 4 and 5 put any chance of a sub 35 to bed, the issue in mile 5 being the u-turn back up into a headwind and slight incline which admittedly was a mental low point where I lost any momentum and felt like taking the foot off the gas altogether. Again, positives in the fact I dug in… UPDATE – course 10KNAD so no PB!!!

Time to move on and the goal this week was to recover from the race and try to go into the 5th North East Harrier League cross country race in better shape and mindset than the 4th which was run in early January.

I’d noticed some shin pain in my right lower leg on my warm down after the 10km and I noticed both legs were sore on my Monday recovery run.

It was only 30 minutes and I deliberately slowed it right down keeping my heart rate in the low 140s. I ran 4.1 miles in the time.

On Tuesday the shins still felt sore and the weather was very cold with snow during the day. So I decided to get in the gym and completed another 30 minute recovery run. Again I deliberately kept the heart rate low.

In other news my club transfer from Elswick Harriers to Tyne Bridge Harriers has gone much more quickly than I expected. Having resigned on 24th January the move was approved meaning I can’t run for Elswick from now on. So the plan will be to try to run for TBH at Thornley Hall. It looks like I’ll run in the TBH vest as a non-counter with a view to competing from the 1st March. This was as per plan except I expected to run for Elswick at Thornley.

On Wednesday I felt quite good both mentally and physically. I’d decided on a lie in and get an extra 1.5hrs in bed which I think I needed and did me good. So instead of the planned 40mins recovery I pushed into steady with my HR in the range 160-166bpm. I imagine this would be around marathon intensity if I was to ever try one (not convinced I ever will!).

I felt strong. Having started to read “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle (recommended by Coach Tune) and also taken note of Elite running Instagram accounts such as Jake Robertson, Julien Wanders and Hudson Elite (Parker Stinson, Trevor Dunbar & Sid Vaughn Jnr) I’ve come to the realisation that I am probably going through the motions a little in my training. I am not focussing on “deep practice” and I’m not trying to consciously improve what I am doing. Increasing mileage will only lead to so much progress. I will need to focus deeply on what I am doing and how to do it better – to improve my skill.

Through this I feel like I’m not using my arms enough. I’m not focussing on posture. And I’m not getting my stride rate where it needs to be.

So I went out and focussed on those 3 key things and got into a steady pace. It felt great! I was working the arms, I was running tall, I felt like the feet were flicking close to my bottom, the cadence was improved. I felt like a runner. This I believe is more like what Coyle is talking about with the term Deep Practice. This will be critical for me now.

And so I was able to run 5.6 miles in 35 minutes which is around 6:10/mile pace. And my cadence was much better at 175spm although still more room for improvement!

On Thursday the plan was a 30min recovery with strides. I decided to run off-road and just kept it very easy. I also completed the strides on the grass. Felt fine, the right leg was still a bit sore though.

On Friday the plan was a 20 minute recovery in preparation for Saturdays race. But I wasn’t happy with my legs so I had a full rest day instead. I think it was the right call.

Arriving at Thornley Hall it seemed the course was in better condition than the previous year. It’s a tough course and the organisers had decided to run it in the opposite direction. I had mixed feelings about it but ultimately, being the exact same course, the net elevation gain would be the same in theory.

I met with some of my new TBH teammates and picked up a vest. I decided to complete my warm up on the nearby road. It felt quite chilly on arrival but I quickly warmed up and the jog down to the start line was greeted with some sun and it actually felt very mild.

I noticed on the jog down that the mud quickly clagged on my trail shoes and I knew it was a day for spikes.

This was definitely a factor but I think the stickiness of the mud was such that everyone had to deal with it. But it has made me realise that I need to buy some spikes so that I can make a decision on best option based on the conditions.

I was keen to have a better run than at Herrington last month but in the final analysis I’m not sure I did.

The first mile was OK and I was probably there or thereabouts with where I expect to be but I struggled for the next few miles. On coming up the steep hill on lap two I developed a stitch that I couldn’t shift until the last mile.

Indeed I felt like I got some rthyhm and flow back only towards the end of the race. There were some particularly tough parts of the course but also some decent downhill stretches.

I think it was another tough day at the XC office and the only victory was in completing the course. I’ve now completed all 5 races so far and aim to make it a full suite at Alnwick early March.

I haven’t had chance to review the details of the results but I’m hopeful my Grand Prix points are improved versus Herrington and I can now focus on a final effort at Alnwick to better my 4th race qualifying points total and finish as high as possible.

In honesty I’m thinking more now about the spring road season and trying to keep faith that, despite not performing as well on the country since returning from injury, I can better my key PBs.

On Sunday I got out early. The plan was a 75 minute long run. I ended up running 60 minutes around 6:30ish miling and finished with a slow jog back up to home.

So overall this week I completed around 45 miles in just over 5 and a half hours of training. I suppose at the moment I feel a little tired and also a little unsure of where I’m at. I was probably wishing for more clarity from the 10k and XC race but I need to focus on the present and keep things in perspective.

I think the key now is to get some more quality training in. I don’t have any races planned until Alnwick. This week is school half term in the UK so I am going to have a few days up in Scotland. I plan to take the running shoes so hopefully get a few runs in new surroundings and reflect on things from a higher level and out of the weeds.

Thanks for reading.


Week 17 another sesh and the Dalton Park 10km

The threshold run at Newcastle parkrun was a confidence boost and I looked forward to my first road race of 2018 at the Dalton Park 10km on Sunday 4th February.

It would be my 4th 10km race and my PB still stood at 35:37 from Blyth in April 2015. So my main goal was to beat that.

On Monday I got in the gym for a simple 40 minute easy run on the Treadmill. I’d felt a little twinge in my right hip which was a little like an old injury I’d picked up back end of 2016.

I’d noticed it on the 2x 8mins on Saturday (after parkrun) and also on the Sunday long run. So I was keen not to aggravate that further. I did some strengthening work on the appropriate gym machines as well.

I was happier on Tuesday as it had settled and the plan was to attend another Tyne Bridge Harriers session.

The advertised plan was 10x long hills but the Group 1 lads had another session in mind so I joined in with them. There was about 8 of us getting stuck into 4x1min, 1x10min twice and 3 of the faster lads were doing an extra 4x1min to finish.

Conditions were very similar to a week previous with a strong wind against heading out along the Tyne river.

I handled the first set of 4x1min quite well and the key challenge was the 10 minutes into a strong breeze. I decided not to wear my heart rate monitor expecting a hill sesh so the effort had to be judged carefully.

Three or four of the lads were away and three of us worked together in a group probably around 6 minute miling or slightly quicker.

It felt like longer than ten minutes but we were able to reel one of the lads back in who hadn’t stayed with the front pack.

It was a bit of a relief turning back with the wind favouring and I was able to run the second set of 4×1 at low 5 minute miling.

There was a little bit of confusion on the last 10 minutes as I was left with the fast lads knowing I wouldn’t be able to stay with them as their threshold was probably 20s per mile faster than mine. I also had one eye on Sunday’s race and didn’t want to kill myself.

I felt I could run around target 10k pace with the wind at my back but again I didn’t have the heart rate monitor to validate whether I was staying around lactate threshold. I also hadn’t timed the session so I had to guesstimate the ten minutes of effort.

I’d say the first half was fairly controlled but as I passed the millennium bridge and the pitcher & piano I was having to work.

Looking at the Garmin I was able to see I was approaching around 7 miles total and felt that that was enough for the session. I’d been running for around 45mins.

I completed a recovery run back up to the club meeting point.

Truth be told my runs on Wednesday and Thursday were pretty tired and my legs were sore.

Both were 40 minutes easy.

On Friday my run reduced to 30 minutes and overall felt a bit more spritely. I was starting to think a lot more about the race on Sunday…

Having run parkrun at no harder an effort than threshold made me feel confident that I could run well but as the week went on the usual doubts re-surfaced.

The key point is I want a PB. Having ran things by Coach Tune the key is to be realistic and execute a good race and not blowing up too early.

My PB at Blyth was a case in point as I recall going through the first mile in a low 5:20 mile which was close to suicidal and I spent the rest of the race holding on.

At the Clive Cookson 10k in May 2016 I felt like I paced the first mile much better (5:37) but then ran the second in 5:23ish and struggled badly in humid conditions in the 2nd half.

So the key will be to play a bit of patience. I’d like to go through the first half around PB pace and then build to around 35 minute pace until the last mile where I just need to give everything I have left in the tank.

I would be pleased with anything 34:**.

On Saturday I got out in the damp and wet conditions. The plan was just an easy 20 minutes. My main concern was to let the legs recover so I decided on a very light jog on the grass. Everything felt fine.

I spent some time reading some instructional running books to ensure I could go into the race with a good mindset and get things planned out. I find Alberto Salazar’s very good for this.

The race was due to start at 10am and I had a 30-40 minute drive to get across.

Everything went to plan on the morning of the race except I ruined the porridge in the microwave. I was up at 6am for that and then back on the sofa for an extra hours nap.

The drive from Newcastle to Seaham was enjoyable as the roads were quiet and the race HQ being in a shopping centre car park meant everything was nice and relaxed with loads of parking available and portaloo facilities etc. I got some stretching done at 9.15 and then a 15min jog warm up and a few strides. I wanted to feel what target pace felt like (approx 5:37ish).

Before long it was time to get on the start line which was a short walk. A little annoyingly the race organisers decided to narrow the start funnel to about 3 or 4 wide. So it was impossible to get on the front. I thought about a Craig Mottram documentary I’d watched the night before – everyone gets anxious at the start, a necessary evil.

Having said that my deliberate plan was to run very easy the first 400m at least. Indeed the usual stampede was off and I was looking down at 5:30 miling feeling like a jog so I was content to let them go. I was probably top 20 at best.

The front pack was already away. I was determined to stay with my game plan of focussing on a PB.

About 1km in we had a decent incline of a 1/2km to tackle and I was able to go passed a group of maybe 5 who had gone off too hard and couldn’t maintain pace. One lad had peeled off the front and I focussed on his heels as we went right handed onto a trail type path with a fair amount of standing water and mud. Initially it was downhill and I was able to get onto the lads shoulder. I could tell he was making efforts to not let me by and I noticed he was breathing heavily. I was able to go by. At this stage I was probably 10th with another lad a little further ahead and then a large gap to the top 8.

This path was now proving difficult to maintain a rhythm. It was very much off-road mud and puddles and I was struggling to maintain sub 6 minute miling. This wasn’t the plan.

We then went left handed onto a rocky uphill section and back onto the pavement. I was able to close the gap on 8th and pass by on the way down to a roundabout. I didn’t get round the island very well and then came onto a slight incline into the breeze. I was to be alone for the rest of the race – detached from 8th place by 50-100m.

Checking the watch through 5km it looked like 17:30 but I couldn’t believe it and I knew I was sitting on more like 5:44 pace. I was struggling to settle into 5:37 pace as the course became a long road section which was ideal but into a slight headwind.

Completely alone I tried to dig in. I started to realise what “the road to nowhere” meant…

A slight incline brought me to a complete u-turn and a run back all the way and this was where I had to capitalise on favourable wind and gradient.

I was finally able to get on target pace but it wasn’t enough to get me ahead of PB schedule. And another u-turn took us back up the same road into the headwind and slight incline again.

This was a low point in the race for me. The u-turn had meant I’d completely lost my rhythm and trying to pick up again was all the more difficult as fatigue was setting in.

Part of me wanted to take the foot off the gas and another was determined to keep going. I wondered if anyone was behind who might take me.

I was glad that my determined side was the dominant and I felt like I wasn’t necessarily losing any time.

I tried to look ahead and envisage the last couple of kms. I could see the leaders bearing left onto the downhill which was the incline we had gone up between 1 and 1.5km.

That gave me hope that I could make up some time. It gave me fresh impetus to dig in harder. I let a young boy annoy me by standing in the middle of the path. Although stupid it made me concentrate and push on. Afterwards I had to relax.

On getting onto the downhill I focussed on both increasing stride length and cadence. I was able to pick up decent pace here and I was pleased to get through 9k.

I knew it was well under 4 minutes of running to go.

I was running quite strong here and was actually enjoying the race for the first time. I was back into the shopping centre area and despite some tight cornering I’d manage to pull back into a PB position.

Coming into the last straight the clock was counting past 35 mins and I was able to get over the line in around 35:23.

It was a tough race and I was well shy of a sub 35 clocking. That said I was pleased overall as for this stage in the season I feel in good shape with a good platform to build from here.

I know I’ve got more in me and I need more race experience. Attention now turns to the next Harrier League fixture at Thornley Hall next Saturday.

Onwards and upwards.

Thanks for reading.

Week 16 moving on and Newcastle parkrun

The week started with a standard 40 minute easy run. It was nice to get back out on the paths and roads although a few little areas near my home were still icy and slushy.

All in all I felt strong and ended with around 5.8 miles averaging 6:49/mile and 152bpm.

On Tuesday I met with Tyne Bridge Harriers for a session. Over the past few months I’ve been considering a possibility to move to TBH with a particular view to challenging myself more, aiming to get in a good group of senior men who will push me on.

I’ve spent a lot of time training alone. I appreciate that ultimately that has been my own choice. Also, overall I feel I am capable of pushing myself alone. But I don’t think I will reach my goals training alone.

TBH appealed as there is a large group training and competing together. My plan is that if I can become a strong B team player I can get a better understanding of what I need to do to earn a place on an A team.

I think this fits well with my goal of the sub 16 5k. I am sure there are lads at Tyne Bridge with similar goals. Not only can I seek to train with them but also talk through what’s required.

I’d also seen how much my mate Michael Hedley had improved since joining the club. It seemed the right time.

The session quickly made my mind up. For the first time ever I was running a solid 30 minute threshold with runners of similar ability. Small details like doing some running drills after the warm up made a difference. I am weak in this area and it can only do good.

Davey Wright led a progression run along the quayside starting out around 6:10 pace and working down to sub 5:40 pace.

The first 15 minutes out were into a challenging wind and I was working the heart rate in the mid 170s to stay in the group. That was perfect and there was enjoyment to be had running with 4 or 5 others and exchanging small talk and encouragement.

By the time of the turnaround the group had broken down to 3 including me and Davey was doing a great job keeping the run honest.

Turning back was undoubtedly a relief but the pace had to quicken. I was really enjoying the challenge.

I must admit that towards the final mile I was having to work quite hard. The pace had picked up to 5:30ish. My heart rate was now pretty much bang on the 180-181 level which is bang on LT.

I lost a few yards on Davey and Alex Black but overall I got the session done averaging around 5:50-5:55/mile.

I knew in my mind I wouldn’t have been able to pick up and work like that on a threshold alone. And my mind was pretty much made up that I would make the move.

I have some regrets about my time at Elswick Harriers although I have enjoyed it and I have always felt proud to wear the vest. In hindsight I would have attended more training and ran more races but it is what it is. I’d like to thank everyone at the club who has made me feel so welcome – especially Frank Watson, Lee Bennett, Harry and Kim Matthews, Stephen Robertson, Iain Hardy, Ben Hall, Mary Lisle, Richard Houghton, Scott Brady and Catherine Lee. Sorry to anyone I missed!

I do look forward to wearing the Elswick vest a few more times including at the Dalton Park 10k next week (where I hope to PB) and the penultimate NEHL fixture at Thornley Hall. And I want to leave a friend of the club.

After that the plan is to start competing for Tyne Bridge from 1st March if all goes well with the transfer process.

On Wednesday the plan was for 50 minutes easy and truth be told I felt tired from the Tuesday session. Having said that I still managed 7.3 miles averaging 6:50/mile but the Garmin pointed to some needed recovery.

This was my 7th day of running on the trot so on Thursday I decided to pull the Friday rest day forward and I think it was the right thing to do.

On Friday I had a short chat with Coach Dave Tune. Was good to catch up and confirm things are going to plan since the rib injury. We decided on the next two weeks plans and also a slight alteration to the planned Saturday session whereby I would incorporate a parkrun on my suggestion.

On Friday night I went to the gym for a very easy treadmill run for 30 minutes and some strides at 18kph.

As I said the plan for Saturday was altered from 4×8 minutes threshold with 3 minutes rest to 1x parkrun with 2x 8 minutes threshold to be done afterwards.

It had been some time since I’d ran a parkrun and on waking up the conditions looked pretty good.

I completed a ten minute warm up and (remembering Coach Tunes advice) a 3 minute run to get some lactic acid starting to flow. This is to avoid the shock in the first 5 minutes of the run.

The plan was to quickly get into my threshold zone (169bpm-181bpm) and just hold it there the first couple of miles and then try to push on at 180-181bpm the last mile.

On setting off my heart rate monitor decided to play up. I deliberately wasn’t paying any attention to pace and I was just trying to focus on the process of running by heart rate.

But I think with the Garmin playing up I went off a bit hard. I found myself in first about half way through the first km and 2nd through 2km.

I was then passed into 3rd at around 2.5km.

I’d gone through mile 1 in 5:23/mile.

Fortunately the HRM kicked into life after mile 1 and I could see I was operating exactly where I wanted at around 175-178bpm.

I wasn’t losing any ground on 1st and 2nd and was feeling comfy. I wasn’t to know that I had settled into more like 5:30-5:35 miling.

The second mile was ticked off in 5:36 and pleasingly I wasn’t dreading the last mile as I usually do. I felt strong.

First place had put in a surge and was away and I was keeping about 5 yards gap with 2nd.

Going through 4km I felt like 2nd place was still possible and my pace was being kept constant. As per plan my HR had increased to 180-181bpm.

Coming round the last corner (see pic) I still had around 5 yards to make up on 2nd place. I stuck to task and the 3rd mile went through in 5:37.

On the last straight I was able to pick it up and go passed 2nd place and finish off in 17:15.

I was pleased with this as my Newcastle parkrun PB is 17:05.

I knew I still had another session to do so I quickly moved across to the nearby lake and got stuck into the 2x 8mins. I noticed that I was struggling to get my HR >170bpm but I was still operating at 5:50-5:55/mile. It was simply tiredness setting in but I knew this was the perfect 10km session for my next race.

So although it was tough getting this extra session done on my own I was pleased that I did.

I was then able to have a slow jog cool down.

On Sunday the weather was quite wet and windy. I got out around 9am for another 75 minute long run. I felt OK in terms of fatigue. I just wanted to get out and run so I went without the HRM for this one. I decided to have a quick espresso to sharpen me up and I was glad I did as the 2nd half back uphill to home and into a blustery wind was tough.

The legs switched off a bit in the last 20 minutes and I just had to dig in. In the end I finished with 10.7 miles in the time allotted.

So overall another good week with just short of 50 miles of training in 5hrs 45mins.

Thoughts now turn to the next few weeks which both include races which I am hopeful of performing well in.

Onwards and upwards!

Thanks for reading.

Week 15 back to Barca

I was back on my work travels this week and keen to not allow that disrupt my training.

It feels like an important few weeks to keep the momentum going and to really make sure I get the most out of the rest of my winter training and cross country season.

I am still in two minds whether to make the trip to the North East Masters race early February but I will be taking in the remaining two Harrier League fixtures with a view to 100% attendance and a good stab at a healthy individual grand prix standing.

As I said in the last blog, my training is starting to come together not least because I’m back on the threshold running which is key to get back close to race shape.

Looking further ahead I want to feel ready to PB both over 5 and 10k and to do that I’ll need to cement some solid weeks and also get stuck into some more specific race pace running which for me will be sub 5:45ish for 10k and sub 5:25ish for 5k.

I believe I’m a runner that needs to run pace in training to go out and do it racing.

And so I found myself with another trip to Barcelona as week 15 arrived.

Overall the plan for the week was very similar to week 14 and so I was keen to complete Monday’s easy 40mins before departing for Newcastle airport.

I decided to get the off road shoes on and ditch the HRM and just run on feel.

After a 5 minute warm up I slipped straight into sub 6:50/mile pace without really trying. It felt easy.

Part of me was wondering what sort of heart rate reading I would be operating on but I knew the breathing was easy and in control so no worries.

Time was a little tight so I only ran 35 minutes and finished with a very gentle 5 minute cool down. I was comfortable making up the time later in the week.

On Tuesday morning the alarm went off at 5.45am (4.45am UK time). On arriving at the hotel Monday evening I had asked about the gym and running options. Frustratingly the gym only opened at 7am which was too late but luckily there was a nice little park round the back of the hotel that was pretty perfect for my needs.

I’d only packed shorts and t-shirts and I was caught a little unawares by the cold in Barcelona. Having completed a short warm up I embarked on a 40 minute easy run. I noticed my heart rate staying very low and pace gradually dipped under 7 minute miles and ended up at 6:45s whilst my average heart rate was a low 150bpm. My Garmin indicated my VO2 Max was back up to 65 which is a good sign things are moving back on track.

Things did not go to plan on Wednesday.

Time was very tight early and the weather was poor with strong winds. I decided to try to get my run done after work but that wasn’t possible as I also had meetings in the evening.

A quick re-work of the plan meant Wednesdays run would be put back to Friday and the rest day pulled forward.

On Thursday I was able to get out for a 30 minute recovery after work and again more signs of improved fitness around my new favourite park in Barcelona. This time my pace averaged 6:37/mile without effort and VO2 Max moved to 66.

On Friday I was hoping to complete Wednesdays 50 minute run but only managed 35mins around the same park. It was a squeeze before breakfast and check out of the hotel and get to the airport for my flight home. The plan was to maybe run again in the evening, perhaps 20 – 30mins jogging.

However, when I arrived back in Newcastle around Friday teatime I was greeted by the remnants of snow and ice. Indeed the roads and paths were still unsafe to run on so I decided on a rest until a main session planned for Saturday.

I slept very well and woke up energised. I decided to put the trail shoes on and have a 20 minute plod in the snow before breakfast. Then, later in the day, I went to the local gym to complete 3 times 10 minutes at threshold with 3 minutes rest.

After a 5 minute warm up I set the treadmill at 15kph and let my heart rate hover around the high 160s/low 170s for the first two reps.

For the 3rd rep I pushed the pace slightly to 15.5kph and my heart rate hit a peak of 179bpm and just a few beats short of my real threshold (181bpm).

The 3rd rep did start to get challenging but ultimately this is only my 2nd threshold effort of this training block since my injury in November.

Overall I was happy with the effort and was able to look forward to another long run on Sunday.

Unfortunately the weather in the North East remained freezing and therefore again not worth the risk of running on the paths and roads.

Part of me wasn’t so keen on a Treadmill long run but needs must and I actually like the chance to listen to some music and not have to worry about cars and pedestrians etc.!

After a 5 minute warm up I set about a slow build through the 75 minutes main run – starting at a low of 11kph and building up to 13.5kph the last 15 minutes or so. When it comes to treadmill running I’m not so concerned about the speed of the conveyor and more about my heart rate.

So at the low end I was operating at around 140-145bpm and building to low 160s by the end. My lactate tests reveal that my body produces approximately 3mmols of lactate acid at ~161bpm and that is an important intensity. Indeed Charlie Speeding specifically comments on this in his book, stating that it was pivotal in his Olympic marathon success and backed up by studies in Italy.

Although time did drag at times I felt in control overall and sweated it out and got it done.

And so despite the overseas work travel, inclement weather in the UK and some necessary juggling around of the schedule I was able to pretty much execute the plan and I ended the week with 5hrs 30 mins of running and 46.4 miles.

I’ll be looking to further build on this next week.

Thanks for reading.

Week 14 definitely getting over the hump!

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed with last weeks cross country race at Herrington Park.

And of course I couldn’t resist a study of the results and a high level of analysis and indeed introspection.

To put it in perspective, at Aykley Heads in November I finished 31st fastest in the field and 5th V35 compared to 69th overall and 18th V35 at Herrington. Quite a long way to fall…

That said I’m currently 5th in the overall standings of the Individual Grand Prix.

Although I know this is a false position as many of the faster lads haven’t yet completed the qualifying four races it gives me hope that if I can get back on form in the final two races I can have my best ever finish.

So I know I’ve been too hard on myself having come back from injury.

At the end of the day, the disruption was enough to mean that I just wasn’t mentally in the right place to compete at the same intensity. And I wasn’t mentally prepared to deal with the tough conditions on the day.

So I went into this week feeling a little under pressure, totally self imposed.

I want things to happen more quickly than they are.

That said things are back moving in the right direction.

I started the week on Monday with a treadmill run as the roads were icy in my area and I didn’t want to risk a fall. Nothing major to report, I settled in at around 12.5kph and got it done.

On Tuesday and Wednesday I was back out on the roads completing a 40 minute and 50 minute easy run respectively.

Overall Wednesday felt much better than Tuesday. On Tuesday the heart rate still felt a little out of whack, spiking all too easily at the hint of an incline whereas as on the longer run I felt like I could push it a bit more and stay in control – a lot smoother. I seemed to be getting back into the flow.

I was keen to get my running week back the way it was pre injury which meant moving my rest day from Thursday to Friday and pulling my Friday run forward. The legs were feeling a little battered so it was good to have a short recovery run with some strides to finish.

Again I felt decent and like I had put the tiredness of the race on Saturday and longer run on Sunday behind me. The strides also felt good and I was able to get my legs turning over quite nicely.

This week I’ve reintroduced some morning exercises and thats all I did on Friday, taking the evening off to prepare myself for my first threshold workout since my last Elswick club training session in November.

I was a little bit nervous as I wasn’t sure how the body would react and I also couldn’t decide where to do the run.

The session was 2x 15 minutes Threshold with 3 minutes recovery. For me that means pushing the heart rate between 170-180bpm.

I set my watch to just focus on time and heart rate. I decided to just run my normal route.

The first 15 minutes felt OK. I felt like I had to push quite hard to get the heart rate >170bpm. Quite often it would fall more like 165-170. I didn’t really have any concept of pace until after the first rep and during the 3 minute jog where I could see I was running around 6 minute miles.

The 2nd interval was always going to be harder back up for home and the legs started to tire as I fought to keep the cadence decent.

That said the 15 minutes didn’t drag too much and on review afterwards I was pleased to see I’d ran both reps pretty much identical at 5:55/mile pace.

Overall my heart rate averaged below 170bpm.

On Sunday the plan was to increase my long run to 70 minutes.

I didn’t get out until around 2pm as I was trying to find a live stream of the Houston half marathon. I was sure Jake Robertson would have a good showing. I’ve been following him (and Julien Wanders the young Belgian superstar) on Instagram and I’ve been amazed at the dedication to training at altitude in Kenya…

Getting out in the cold windy conditions my plan was to take the first 30 minutes or so easily, downhill into Jesmond Dene and then work harder back up onto Armstrong Bridge and through Jesmond, the Town Moor and Fenham to home.

As it turned out the last 40 minutes were made all the harder by the strong wind which was direct into my face for long stretches, especially on the Town Moor.

I was thinking to myself that you are only as fit as the average of your weekly long run. For me long runs are not my forte and I found this one tough.

I know they will get smoother (note not easier) and next week the plan will be to increase to 75 minutes with the ultimate aim of building up to a regular 90 minute long run.

For now I was content with finishing if off with around 9.9 miles in the 70 minutes. I’d certainly worked hard enough towards the end and set off for a cool down back to home.

On arriving home I saw that Jake Robertson had won the Houston half marathon in just over 60 minutes.

Proof if proof was needed that hard work and dedication does pay off.

For me this week another 5hrs 40mins of running in the bank and just under 48 miles.

Onwards and upwards.

Thanks for reading.

Week 13 trying to get back on the uptick and NEHL XC race #4

I’d call this the 2nd “proper” week of training since the beginning of December when I was forced to take downtime due to the well documented rib injury.

I was delighted to have a good chat to my coach Dave Tune this week to say finally “the rib thing is behind me”.

I figure it will be the end of January or perhaps even early February until I will be back up to where I left off at the end of November. And there will be challenges to overcome on the way, this week was no exception.

The only running I have been doing is “recovery/easy/aerobic” and I feel like I have some hard runs ahead, where the stats seem slide to a bottom before they can come back up again…

I’m OK with that (at least I try not to panic). As I’ve said before, the key to running is patience and consistency. The body responds to careful application and persuasion. You can’t just jump back into the same dose as you were before you stepped off the wagon!

That said I feel like I’m getting out and running OK in my current training. I can obviously feel that the cardio system is having to work harder and I also still have the remnants of a heavy cold clearing out (particularly feeling a bit throaty still) but otherwise I think it will be a matter of a few more weeks (probably up to 4) before I’ll be firing on all cylinders again.

I always knew that the 4th North East Harrier League (NEHL) cross country (XC) fixture at Herrington Park on 6th January would come too soon but in many ways it’s an ideal opportunity to have a hard run again and just enjoy competing and maintaining my 100% attendance this season.

In the back of my mind I felt I would struggle to maintain form from my previous outings and certainly I knew this would be the toughest fixture of the season firstly because I had never ran the course before and secondly because conditions were sure to be very testing due to the extensive rain in the area the week leading up to it.

And the course didn’t disappoint.

The build up wasn’t great as the parking situation was challenging with no option but to put the car away from the course and walk across. I took the wellies as the course was soaked and very muddy.

Mentally I wasn’t fired up for the race and I didn’t prepare in my normal way. I wanted to get round in one piece. That was the main goal. But it’s tough when you are stood on the start line in the Fast Pack, with the whole field out in front of you, and you want to perform like you did, and you don’t want to fall down the rankings from last time.

So it was difficult to feel as I did about 3 minutes in thinking “fuck how do I get round here”. The runners I’d usually be competing with were already away and I was tempted to look round and see if I was dead last.

And so it was a little bit of a relief to pass the first slow pack runner. But the main thought was how am I going to get back to the start line and do two more laps?

The first slightly uplifting moment was realising at the end of the first lap that we didn’t go back through the start and that settled me as I could envisage the run through to the end now.

But I really struggled to work out the best racing line. The quagmire was by now so wide that it was hard to tell whether to take the low road or the high road.

The only part of the course where you could establish any running rhythm was the section leading up to the forest and inside the forest itself. However, you knew that the majority of the lap after the forest was pure mud and drag and wind…

In honesty I felt like I was going backwards at times.

I resolved to just get it done and live to get out for a long run on Sunday.

Part of me didn’t want to check the results. Compared to Aykley Heads I knew it was terrible. But its important not to get down on myself and take the positives. I showed a bit of character just turning up and getting it done. As my coach said afterwards- the “old Kev” would have sat this one out (or DNF I might add).

And so I’m keen to crack on. I think I’m a runner who needs some hard running “in me” in training to go out and perform in a race. I just didn’t have the guts to slog myself on this occasion. I’m sure with some proper training under my belt the confidence will return.

On Sunday I knew I’d have another tough run as I felt pretty tired for the effort on Saturday. The plan was 60 minutes and I got it done. Struggled second half but it is in the bag. As I alluded to earlier my training stats are going the wrong way at the moment as I step the training back up. For example my Garmin VO2 Max (not something to read too closely but still an indicator of trend) has dropped from 67 end of November to 63.

My “recovery advisor” is sensing an issue and telling me I need 39hrs recovery after today’s run. I’ve been here before and it’s as much mental as physical.

That said, it will be important for me to ensure I rest and recover well and focus on my sleep, diet and hydration and make sure I let the body get back to where I was over the coming weeks.

Overall this week I completed just over 5hrs of running and just over 42 miles.

Thanks for reading and happy running to all.

Week 12 a decent festive week

I enjoy running over the festive period.

Typically I take the time off work over Christmas and New Year so overall it’s a good opportunity to get some decent running done.

Like most normal people the period also means eating and drinking more than usual and also probably some later nights and long lie ins.

So not every run feels great but it’s good to blow away the festive cobwebs with a run out.

I’ve deliberately ditched the heart rate monitor and sought to “run on feel” and to simply “time on feet” to avoid any unnecessary anxiety about variability that is par for the course at this time of year.

I was happy that this period coincided with my rib injury being pretty much healed. So the plan was to get back to a schedule of 6 days of running.

On Christmas Day and Boxing Day I was back in my home town of Chester le Street.

In 2016 I’d gone out for a long run on Christmas Day and ended up in bed ill later that day and missed the Boxing Day trip down to Hexham to see my girlfriends family. I was keen to avoid that this year.

The plan for both days this year was a simple 40 minute recovery run. I decided on a slightly new route which ended up perfect – from my parents house up towards Waldridge, onto the “new road” and down the A167 into Chester le Street, down the back of the front street and all the way back up to Waldridge Park Estate.

Both days ended up with 45 mins total and around 6.3-6.5 miles. The route was easy first half and challenging back up the hill second half so ideal to ease in to the run and then work to the end.

On Wednesday the plan was a 50 minute recovery run. Being down Hexham I decided on my usual route passing the rowing club and along the river and the railway track. It was approximately 25 minutes out and back. Like my runs in Chester le Street the first half was slightly easier gradient wise than second meaning a natural increase in effort back home.

Thursday was an easy 30 minute recovery run plus strides. Not much to report as I ran the usual Kenton route heading down to the Town Moor and back up.

Didn’t feel that good but the strides felt fine which was pleasing since it was the first time I’d opened myself up a little for a long time.

Friday was a rest day.

In truth I didn’t really feel like I needed it but stuck to plan to make sure the legs were given a chance to catch up if required. Also, it snowed quite heavily meaning an outdoor run would have been tricky. The local school gym I use is shut until the New Year.

On Saturday the weather had improved although the pavements remained treacherous. The plan was another 50 minute recovery. I decided to get the innov8 trail shoes back out and run laps round the local Kenton dene. This was the first time I had put the trail shoes back on since the fall on the 19th of November that had led to the cracked rib… So it was mixed emotions.

Running for 50mins on the local dene is more a mental challenge than physical as each lap is only just over 3 minutes so it becomes quite monotonous. However I enjoyed it especially since I found myself getting stronger as the run went on.

Going into it I felt like 7:30/mile would be sufficient taking things into account – especially the conditions underfoot with snow and ice still present. However, I settled into just over 7 minute mile pace quite easily and was able to pick up nicely the last few miles. Overall I completed well over 7 miles and felt refreshed for it.

On Sunday I was looking to complete a full hour of running. This was calculated as a pre requisite for my upcoming cross country race next week. The eagle eyed will note that all my runs have been easy recoveries and the key has been to build a bit of an endurance base following my time out injured. So it was felt if I could build a long run back up to approx 1hr that would be enough to warrant an outing in a race that could be used as a hard training run.

I was pleased with the plan as I’m very keen to achieve 100% attendance in the Harrier League this season and to defend my current standing in the Individual Grand Prix.

The run itself was solid with 8.8 miles completed in the hour at times against a strong wind.

So in total for the festive week I completed 4hrs 51m of running and 41.5 miles. Very pleasing and bodes well for the start of 2018.

In total for 2017 I ran over 1,500 miles which was well up on 2016 but well below the target of 2,000. The key for me next year is to build on some of the positives from 2017 namely continuing the good disciplines and realisation that consistency is king.

No one magic training session exists. Succeeding in running comes from solid and consistent training, allowing the body to positively adapt to the stresses placed upon it and having the mindset to perform confidently on race day.

I feel 2017 has been a solid year where I achieved the key breakthrough in the 5k and established a line in the sand for the half marathon. I performed as good as ever in the early part of the XC season and although I had an unfortunate end to the year I feel like I have shown more maturity in dealing with the setback.

I now have a very strong base from which to build. I have a coach that believes in me and I just need to get out and do what I know I can. And in doing so I am very confident I can achieve my goal of new PBs over 5 and 10k and the HM and have a very good go at selection for a Masters England vest.

Thanks for reading and Happy New Year to all. I look forward to continuing this blog in what I believe will be an exciting year for me personally!!!