Week 6 niggles & “getting it done”

“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful” – Sigmund Freud

One of the most challenging parts of training to run faster is to keep everything going, get consistent and progressive training completed week after week.

Coming into Week 6 I was riding on the crest of a wave.

Everything was clicking into place.

And so it continued on Monday and Tuesday of Week 6.

A couple of decent runs were completed including a 7 miler with 5 miles at 6.35-6.42/mile. It felt quite nice, dare I say comfy.

Due to personal and work commitments on the Wednesday I had to get my run done in the morning.

I’ve said before I’m not a morning runner. Things just don’t feel the same.

On this occasion I also had to push the boat out a bit – 9 miles at 7.10-7.17 pace with 4x 20s strides to follow. I don’t think I’ve ever ran that many miles before work.

Cardio wise nothing to report, all fine. Body and legs stiff as a board! I rushed it, didn’t warm up properly – just wanted to get it done.

I cracked on regardless but at about halfway I felt a strange twinge on my right hand side. I was about 3-4 miles from home and me being me I completed the run regardless. OK, maybe not that silly. But the strides could have been cancelled? No, did them as well – anxious to stick to plan.

For the rest of the day I felt the niggle on my right side. On doing a bit of research online it seemed like I’d inflamed the outside of the top of my right femur, where the nobbly bit is not too far under the pelvis.

Maybe ITB tightness or just a bit of “too much too soon”. I tried a bit of foam rolling and a bit of Ibuprofen.

Woke up Thursday morning and felt a bit better but still conscious of it when walking.

So the decision was made to pull my rest day forward from Friday. It would have been foolish to go out and run the plan of 2 miles WU followed by 6 miles at 6.35-42.

On Friday my leg felt better. A key measure for me is if I can feel a niggle when walking then it would be foolish to run. But walking was OK.

So I went out and ran a couple of miles warm up. As soon as the pace pushed to the 6.35-42 it didn’t feel so good.

But I pushed on, frustrated at how easy it felt running briskly but feeling discomfort at the same time.

Runners are stubborn and so can I be.

Finishing a run you know you shouldn’t be doing isn’t fulfilling. And it was back to the injury books and online research trying to work out what I need to do to sort it out.

Ice and ibuprofen is helping. As are various stretch and strength exercises.

The key workout of the week was Saturday’s 13 miles with a hilly middle section. I was hoping to get off-road for a bit of XC practice but waking up I knew it would be silly.

So I pulled forward the 4 miles easy (7.40 pace). Again felt uncomfortable.

On Sunday I was debating a rest day or a jog on the grass.

I opted for the latter and actually felt a lot better, at least for the first 3 or 4 miles.

I was ticking off 7.20-7.30 miles despite being off-road and facing a stiff breeze for half of each lap on Little Moor, a lovely grass field near the Town Moor in Newcastle.

After about half an hour I started feeling a bit of discomfort, more a dull ache in the right glute area rather than pain.

I continued running for around an hour. I was keen to run a little extra at pace, pushing the heart rate well into threshold. Just to get a feel of running more at pace off road. Actually it felt much better. The heart rate increased to around 180bpm which is around Lactate Threshold for me. I was running 5.45 pace average off road which was pleasing.

I felt much better about things.

But later in the evening I tightened up again and during the night I was conscious of the injury, especially if I tried to lie on that side.

So writing this (on another plane, another work trip) it remains to be seen how the injury will resolve itself. And I’m not sure whether I will turn out for the first North East Harrier League fixture at Wrekenton on Saturday.

It would be very disappointing to miss it as I feel strong otherwise. That said it is a long winter season ahead and I need to get things right for bigger targets later. 

We’ll see. 

The running shoes are packed for the work trip but some cross training may be more sensible, at least in the early part of the week and see if things calm down.

So, despite running >5hrs and ~42 miles in week 6, it felt a bit forced and you never really know whether some of it has helped or hindered longer term progress. But this is one of the challenges to the sport of running. And that’s why I quote Sigmund Freud.


Week 5 maintenance

Monday – travelling out

Keeping things going when travelling is easier said than done.

Every trip is different and a fair degree of pre planning is required, as well as plenty of discipline whilst away.

My experience is that whilst at home I can really get into a good routine and get the runs done. Of course it’s not just about getting the runs done. Eating well, staying hydrated and sleeping well are also key. 

All of these things become difficult to control working abroad. You have less control over the food available for consumption (especially on flights and at airports). Its always easy to get junk and therein lies the problem. Bottom line is travel is a stress and of course so is work.

So it’s prudent to reduce the number of intense sessions and “keep ticking over”.

I now try to avoid alcohol (as much as possible) whilst away and try to make sure I drink a lot of plain water. 

Some countries are easier than others in terms of getting enough fruit and veg. I usually have most control over my choices at breakfast time. So I try to eat extra healthy then. I also like a hotel that has some fruit to take as I am in less control over diet in the day and at night.

Typically I try to do my runs first thing, as I’m never quite sure when I’ll finish work when I’m away – often it’s late. That opens up another issue – getting up out of bed…

If I’m in Athens (as I am this week) then I’m on +2 GMT. So to go for a run at 6.30am local time I’m effectively waking 4-4.30am UK time.

It isn’t easy. 

As I mentioned last time, I’m not a natural morning runner. So the act of knocking out a decent effort on a hotel treadmill early doors is a challenge.

But I know I can do it. It’s about motivation.

I’m motivated at the present time. I’m motivated by a desire to run like I know I can.

The key is to learn how to maintain this motivation because I know, if it escapes me, I am capable of returning to zero motivation.

Friday – travelling back

Well I just about did it.

The plan was to get 5x 30-45 minute runs in. 3 were even paced with one slightly more recovery on Friday. The other two were progressive.

The gym at the hotel I was staying in was good and open 24hrs a day which helped. The treadmill was decent as well.

The only problem is having absolutely no idea where I’m at. Yes, I was able to set the treadmill at the desired speed in km/h to correspond with the type of pace per mile I was looking for.

However, the indoor running feature on the Garmin 630 is strange. I’ve never quite got my head around it and it never agrees with the treadmill. It seems to register faster pace than the treadmill speed typically.

The key thing is to keep a track of HR and make sure it’s in the right area.

Actually the 2 progressive runs got quite threshold like in the last 15mins.

Threshold running is tough. They are a sweatfest and half the challenge is getting through the monotony.

I always listen to some music but it’s almost impossible to get in the zone and the temptation to look at the clock is hard to resist.

Anyway I managed to get up every morning and get it done which was very pleasing.

A travel week = maintenance week and hopefully on my long run I can enjoy a return to the roads and look forward to a more normal and progressive week 6, as the XC season opener draws ever nearer.

Week 4 progression

I’m a fan of “life motivational quotes” in general. Some great and clever people have said or written some very inspirational things. 

There’s nothing better than a good motivational quote. But I generally hate running related motivational quotes! Except…”running doesn’t get easier, you just get better”. It’s too true.

Having done my 3 week plodding apprenticeship it was important to get things moving a bit in Week 4.

The plan was to run quicker in general and also throw in a parkrun.

It’s Great North Run week. I’ve never done the GNR and I do wonder if I ever will?

Part of me thinks I will and part of me thinks I won’t.

I’m not sure I’m keen on the hullabaloo. If I’m gonna do a half marathon it would be just as well a low key affair. Maybe Redcar? Why not the Town Moor half?

The good thing this week is my fitness has undoubtedly improved and it’s backed up by the stats.

I pushed the envelope a little with the following 4 runs –

  • Monday – 40mins with the first 20 in 7.40-45 and the 2nd 20 in 7.15-25
  • Tuesday – 50mins with the first 10 in 7.15-25 and the next 40 in 6.40-45
  • Wednesday – 60mins in 7.20-25
  • Thursday – repeat of Tuesday

I noticed an improvement on Wednesday. 

Tuesday felt tough and I was working hard in the 40mins @ 6.40-45 section. Me being me I couldn’t stick to plan and I was pushing more into the 6.30-40 range. Silly really.

But on Wednesday I enjoyed the 60mins. I was feeling more in control and so was the heart rate.

Waking up on Thursday I felt tired. I wasn’t quick out of bed which has not been me of late. And I was sure I wasn’t going to enjoy a repeat of the Tuesday brisker run. But sometimes the best runs are when you feel tired.

And overall the run was much more controlled, I was closer to hitting the plan and my effort was steady in comparison to earlier in the week.

So I felt nicely set up for a little 5k effort.

It had been a while since I’d had a go at a 5k. Early June to be exact. And it happened to be a PB – 17.05.

Waking up on Saturday I was still debating where to go. Stick with Newcastle parkrun where I had the PB or venture across to Riverside or elsewhere. The only issue at Newcastle tends to be the wind. On Friday night the winds were howling and I felt like there was no way it would do one for the morning.

But it did.

So Newcastle it was. I decided to ditch the HRM and just have a run. The plan was to run hard and see where I’m at, put a line in the sand.

The jog down was the usual. Not feeling great. I don’t know what it is. I suspect I’m not a morning runner. I run and race better of an afternoon or evening I think. And there is something about Saturday mornings in particular. Maybe it’s the culmination of a hard work week, or maybe I’m just an excuse making moany bugger!

Anyway, I didn’t get down with much time to spare and I wasn’t able to get chance to do any harder running to get revved up.

Eventually we got off and there was some fast lads who went off hard. I settled in nicely to 5.30 miling which felt comfy first mile and was on target. 

I wanted to pick up and I recognised Tony Carter of Tyne Bridge Harriers just ahead and hoped to stay on his heels.

Unfortunately the lack of running at Tempo started to hurt around 1.5 miles in. I was feeling a head wind down the gravel path before 2 miles and letting it get the better of me. After a 5.30 first mile I managed a 5.33 second mile which was probably 7-9s slower than I was looking for.

I was feeling a bit demoralised and not up for the 3rd mile fight. I’m not sure why but the course was changed, adding an out and back section. I struggled to that bit and slowed a lot to make the u-turn back for home.

The third mile was a disappointing 6 minutes something. Although I managed to pick up to the finish the watch said 17.59.

My disappointment was slightly helped by realising the course was maybe 80-100m long. So my 5k time was more like 17.40ish. Not quite so bad and I reminded myself it was only my 4th week back and my first time trying a 5k effort since June. I’ll come on for it.

Afterwards I had 7 miles at 7.30/mile to do. I started it round the nearby lake and it all felt nice and easy, jogging. Then Gosforth Cycling Club looked ominous so I headed back for home after 4 miles. 

The last 2 miles were testing and I started feeling a bit empty, light headed. Obviously running out of steam. Got it done and got some sugar down me.

All in all >12 miles for the day.

On Sunday I got up to watch the GNR. It was great to see the American guy running hard from the off and hats off to him. Disappointing Bett couldn’t keep it a threesome and in the end it was all too easy for Mo. Hats off to him as well, three in a row is an big achievement after Rio. I’ve never liked Mo but I watched that BBC documentary before the Olympics and actually thought he came across quite well.

Afterwards I had 3 miles @ 7.45 pace which was welcome to finish off a solid proper weeks training of around 5hr 20mins and ~44 miles.

Bring on Week 2.

I’m off to sunny Athens with work Monday to Friday so the main challenge will be to keep things going and get in a similar workload although admittedly most will be treadmill, unless I can find a nice outdoor running track nearby my hotel. Athens has never been great for running thus far…

Week 3 thoughts

So 3rd week back and I’m sticking to routine. 

A work trip to Barcelona threatened to stick a spanner in the works but I stuck to task and that was pleasing. Fitting running around 12hr work days isn’t easy!

The routine not only involves running but also now “body fitness”. For me that means getting up a bit earlier every day and doing some body weight exercises. Push ups, sit-ups, squats, planks and the like.

Each week I look to increase the load on each exercise.

I read a good book earlier in the year called “The Compound Effect”. It’s very good and can be applied to most areas of life but typical me I did nothing with it.

Basically it’s premise is that small actions over time (perhaps and ideally daily) add up to a lot eventually. The key is to get started with something and keep going. This can apply to my body fitness exercises and running.

Critically you must never give up. The difference between those who achieve their goals and those that don’t is the people who achieve their goals adhere to the law of compound effect.

Imagine that just as you are about to give up you have progress and success just around the corner.

At the beginning of week 1 I couldn’t do 20 push ups. But I can start with 10 daily in week 1 and then add an extra say 5 weekly. I’ll plan to be able to do 100 after a sensible time period (Note I’m on 20 daily at the mo and the thought of 100 sucks!).

Same with running. 

Build slowly – daily, weekly – both in terms of distance and intensity. But be careful! Remember the compound effect. Don’t give up and don’t get too zealous! 

Setbacks ruin the process. I’m finding that out with the 5 weeks I’ve had off over the summer. But I feel a corner being turned.

The body is stubborn. And so is the mind.

Every morning I have to swipe the chimp off both shoulders. 

I have a negative chimp on both shoulders. The negative chimp that says you can’t do it. The other one simply agreeing. 

The chimp that asks why you are bothering. 

Why can’t you just work and play?

Why do you need to slog out 7 miles in the rain after a 10hr day? Rest my son!

The chimp that says give up now.

But to have goals and dreams is important. 

I dream of running my perfect 5k & 10k race. 

The race where I don’t doubt, push harder and give what I know I have to give.

I’m reading another book at the moment called “Mastery”. It talks about finding a Life Task – something you were born to do.

Running is something I feel I was born to do. 

Yes I shunned it aged 12, all those years ago at Gateshead International stadium. Stan Long saw something in me and I’ll never forget it. 

But I was too young to swipe the negative chimp off my shoulder back then, chronically unconfident. I freaked out at the thought of having a chance, a chance to excel. 

Hard to understand and explain it now but the fun was gone, the innocence lost. The pressure too much.

I feel (one of) my Life Task(s) is to realise the potential I have now, and enjoy every moment of challenging myself and pushing myself forward – even if that is slogging myself to a top 20 in a local 10k road race. But who really knows what I am capable of? Up to me (and only me) to find out. I know it’s more than my original “dream” of a sub 17 5k… On to Week 4. It should see some progress.