What a difference a week makes – Druridge Bay XC

So last week I reached new lows of negativity at Aykley Heads XC.

Strange in many ways but not in others.

I’ve always been a glass half full type of guy. But since I took up running I’ve always deep down known how powerful a positive mental attitude can be. PMA got me a long way in those early days running and competing.

At the end of the day, when I started running in 2012 I wasn’t very fit. But my grit and determination always showed through. I wasn’t afraid of “running ugly”.

As I’ve got fitter and stronger and faster I feel like I’ve lost a bit of that edge. And that came to a new low last week.

Maybe it’s the power of blogging, but I was lucky enough to have someone read my blog and care enough to give their point of view. And I really needed it and appreciated it.

Now, last week’s blog was a true reflection of the demons that had been going through my mind. But perhaps the blog was overly dramatic for effect…

That said the person picked up on a number of points and challenged me to think again about my attitude and approach.

The person shall remain anonymous but, long story short, the exchange really made me realise how negative I had allowed myself to be.

Having spent Sunday to Wednesday in Barcelona on a work trip I had some “me” time to write a daily journal and set about sorting out my bad habits.

At the same time I was reading the self help book “The Compound Effect” and a lot of the advice in there was resonating…

So I put in place a positive morning routine –

– get up 6.30am
– drink a pint of water
– think about 3 things I’m grateful for
– complete a 5-10min strength exercise routine
– run
– shower
– breakfast
– write daily journal

I felt better on Monday having merely set about improving my daily routine.

To be honest, running and training wise this week has been nothing to write home about.

On Wednesday I was looking to complete my only harder running session of the week which was to be 4x 5mins at threshold with 1min rest.

Unfortunately the hotel gym had other ideas and the treadmill kept on cutting out above 16km/h!

So I had to finish the workout short.

Not to worry – PMA. One curtailed session is nothing in the grand scheme of things.

Fast forward to Friday night and the usual pre race demons were surfacing…

What’s the matter with my right hamstring? Probably just the squats I’ve been doing for the first time in over a year!

Why have I got athletes foot appearing the day before the race! Who cares, it won’t stop me running well!

Day of the race and the weather warnings come out! Oh no, wind and rain! Who cares, everyone will have to deal with it, I’ll deal with it better than most!


Start line, Fast Pack gathers. Last week’s attitude – “I’m not worthy, may as well cry and not try!”. This week’s attitude – “I deserve to be here, I have earned my place, I am grateful to these guys for bringing out the best in me”

Gun goes off…

I am running with intent.

Last week’s attitude. Don’t feel great. Hold back. Slow down. This week’s attitude – I’m in the thick of it, I’m in the Pack, I’m loving this!

What a difference a week makes.

I really ran properly this week. Yes it got tough. Yes it got very hard in the really muddy sections, especially the back end of the second and third lap.

But I dug in. I stayed grateful for the Fast Pack guys that I was racing against and everyone giving their all competing.

I concentrated on a few positive self talk ideas. The word “compete” was repeated at times. And I tried to focus on my breathing.

I felt like I ran well. Yes I slowed in miles 5 and 6 but…

I just hope I can keep up my routine, keep with the positive thinking, remain grateful, keep believing in the compound effect of consistent endurance running training and fully realise my potential in racing.

But just don’t mention the fact the Fast Pack had to run further than everyone else! It’s the taking part that counts!

Any frustration that I feel on that will have to be taken out on the Norman Woodcock 5 miler next week where I will be looking to smash my PB of 31.16 from 2012.


Further reflections on Aykley Heads XC…

Last week I set myself up for a “fail” at Aykley Heads cross country.

Mentally I was beaten before I woke up in the morning. I wanted to fail. I had given up on myself for that race, on that day…

The power of the mind, whether positive or negative, cannot be ignored. To be your best you must believe 100% in yourself.

You must never limit yourself or underestimate your true abilities.

What if you’re capable of a lot more than you could ever imagine?

The average person will have a belief about what he or she can realistically achieve.

The mere use of the word realistic suggests that the person does not dream wildly about what they could be capable of.

Last week I displayed the worst of the worst in terms of putting myself down, defeating myself, underestimating my ability and destroying my confidence and belief system.

So destructive was the negativity that the brain was even saying to give up and never try ever again.

But sometimes you need to hit a low to realise that the only way is up.

It’s a chance to right some wrongs, do things differently and rebuild the belief system back up.

And so having licked the wounds and having received some valuable support and reminders about what I am capable of achieving I am ready to truly turn a corner and get back on track. 

I’ve been reading The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy and I need little steps every day to get back on track…

I love running no less for one bad day in the mud and I’ll be back fighting for every yard next time round…Saturday.

Why didn’t I give up at Aykley Heads XC?

Alarm goes off at 8am. Why did I set my alarm at 8am on a Saturday morning? I get up at 6am all week. I know I’m 34 but why can’t I just have a lie in on a weekend? Just one weekend?

Jesus it’s cold. Its freezing in bed. Later I’ll be battling through freezing mud doing something I “love”. But why can’t I just go out all day on the piss like I used to? It would be easier.

Shit, 10am. Better eat something now. 4hrs before race time then nothing til after. Feeling like you’re about to starve is the only way that works. From 10.30 til 14.15 just sip water and urinate.

Get to race venue. Fall into a false sense of security – the course doesn’t look as bad as last year. I hated this course last year. Fucking hated every step. Why am I back here for more misery…

It’s fucking freezing. Better “warm up”. Hate warming up.

Stomach doesn’t feel right on warm up. Doomed.

Need another piss.

Fucks sake the start times delayed. I just want to get it over with. I could just pick my bag up, wander back to the car and drive home…

Stood on start line. Looking around. Pretending to feel in the right crowd. How did I get into the Fast pack? The majority of people here can kick my arse over any distance from 400m to the marathon. I’ve never even done a fucking marathon.

Not in the mood. Brain has nothing in it. Spaced out. Dead behind the eyes. Not up for it.

First bend. Feels bottomless. Got to do this 3 times. Why, why, why?

Most of the Fast pack are already dots in the distance. I’d like to think they’ll suffer on the last lap but I know I’ll never see them again…

Bottom of right lung burning, hurting already. Feels like a stitch. A lung stitch? WTF?

Slipping, sliding. I’m starting to over take slow pack runners. Thinking, was it better when I was slow pack? Hang on a minute – I dreamed of getting in the medium pack. I did that. I dreamed of getting in the fast pack. I did that. Now I’m dreaming of being the slowest of the slow pack.

End of first lap. It feels like someone has deliberately made the worst of the hills the most bottomless muddy sections of the course. I have to do this two more times. There’s no way. I hate hills and I hate mud. Why not just calmly pull out, walk back to the tent, get my bag, get in the car and drive?

I’m not doing very well here. Certainly not as well as last time. Maybe I’ve got a bug. Maybe I’ve taken my foot off the gas. Not training hard enough? Not eating well? Sleeping off? Working too hard. Not committed? Dunno.

Keep going, just keep going.

Pain above the right knee. Not what I need now. More hills to do. Just trying to keep things ticking over.

People are shouting for Kevin but I think it’s someone else. Quite a lot of shouts for Elswick.

Just one lap to go now. Can’t pull out with one lap to go. Just enjoy it now.

Fuck forgot about those hills. But just one more time. Everyone’s going backwards. I’ve just got to try and go forwards.

Done it, felt like a crawl but I done it. Final push to the end.

Loads of people to be taken in final 100m. If only I could muster something.


Over the line.





Not sure I gave my all?

Hands feel like they are going to drop off.

Drive home. Play angry music loud.

Check results. Doesn’t look good. Disappointed. But still better than last year? Dunno. Just don’t know anymore.

Bath. Bed. Destroyed.

Still destroyed after bed.

Will I do it all again next week?


Quick Update

First of all apologies to my regular readers, I can’t believe it’s well over two weeks since I last posted a Training Diary…

Things have been a bit of a blur if I’m honest. I was coming to the end of a pretty intense period in which I was trying to juggle –

– a full time 40-50hr+ management job
– a personal running blog
– a new online running website/blog
– a 5hr running training plan
– a life…

Part of doing the blogging and website stuff is to try to be Mr Positive and try to portray a sense that things are all going to plan, at least most of the time.

But to be honest juggling everything was getting too much both mentally and physically.

The job pays the bills and can be stressful. Especially when I’m travelling.

The other day I tried to work out how many flights I’ve done this year. I’ve struggled to tally them all up but I think I’ve done >70.

The personal blog is something I’ve enjoyed doing for a few years now. This has suffered as its become a formulaic and repetitive training diary which doesn’t really dig deep into my true feelings about training to run my best…

I’d like it to be a more warts and all account of my experiences…

The run5kfaster website is my vehicle for trying to get involved in coaching others to improve. I do believe I have something to offer but I’ve found it very difficult to keep on top of, mainly due to the full time job. I’ll only get out of that what I put in. Strangely enough it’s very much like running – you need to work hard and be consistent. Unfortunately so far it’s been very stop start. I don’t plan to stop, just realise that it needs to be a slower burn…

And then comes the running.

Since I started running in 2012 I’ve improved a lot. I improved my 5k time from 22.39 in Feb 2012 to 18.23 in early 2014.

Then I crashed and burned…

Then I met Dave Tune. Dave was a god send. Through his expert guidance I was able to improve my 5k time from 18.23 to 17.10. Perhaps more significantly I ran 35.37 for 10K and my XC performances have improved considerably.

Dave helped me discover how to train properly, look after myself better in terms of diet and nutrition and also provided the support I needed to believe in myself.

I was coached by Dave from October 2014 until November 2015.

A quick look at my Power of 10 tells the story.

But I’ve decided to move onto the next chapter.

I’m a very compulsive person and I made a very quick decision recently to move back to being self coached.

I’d like to thank Dave so much for his help and support. I couldn’t recommend his lactate threshold testing and coaching enough.

I’m both excited and a little bit scared about going it alone again. But that’s good. My goals remain unchanged and I’m as motivated as ever to achieve my potential and at 34 years old I still have plenty of time to keep getting fitter and stronger.

The first thing I will try to do is re-balance my life. I need to get on top of my general stress levels. So I’ll be a little bit flexible with my running training and see how things pan out. I’ll probably go with something like –

5-6hrs per week total running time. 80-90% predominantly recovery/easy running (70-80% max HR) with no thought about pace. I’ll then do 10-15% faster paced running, a mixture of threshold (80-90% max HR) and maybe some 5k race pace stuff depending on how I feel.

I was doing some reading around and I came across (again) Jack Foster. Jack Foster is a running hero. Forget Mo Farah. Jack Foster sets the bar for what a normal working class bloke can achieve well into his 40s… He said he hated the idea of training. He never had a training plan. If anything he had a running plan. He just loved running. In a way that’s what I want. I believe if I can love running long term I can achieve my goals.

And so now thoughts turn to the next XC race on Saturday. I suspect this is going to be a proper XC race…

Bring it on.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Plan – Rest

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

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.

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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