Week 3 upping mileage/quality

Go to the Pain rather than avoid it: if you don’t let up on yourself and instead become comfortable always operating with some level of pain, you will evolve at a faster pace. That’s just the way it is. Ray Dalio, author of “PRINCIPLES”

Moving to running 6x per week requires careful planning and execution when you’ve only been running maybe 3-4x per week.

All too often injuries and illness can occur with a large uptick in training.

But it’s also all too easy to tread water and not improve fitness if you train too cautiously. Given that I’ve now set myself a clear target of a sub 16:00 5k in 2018 I’m keen to train with intent and this week saw not only increased quantity but also quality.

I feel like the combination has already started to initiate real change in my body and how I feel.

Monday was an easy run following Sunday’s longer run and nothing to report.

On Tuesday I got back to Elswick for a club session which was 3x 6:30 with only 1 minute rest. The reps felt too long to think about a VO2 Max session and so I tried to run each rep at the top of my lactate threshold zone or around 180-181bpm.

The first rep felt very strong and I was hot on the heels of club mate Lee Bennett who tends to set the pace at these sessions. Annoyingly my Garmin didn’t capture the average pace per rep even though I’d set up the Interval session before setting off.

I noticed that I was having to really push the first rep to get my heart rate into threshold >174bpm. And I was pleasantly surprised to go through the first mile in 5:22.

The rest of 1 minute felt very short and the 2nd rep was challenging as there was a decent drag back to where we started. I noticed that I wasn’t able to keep on the back of Lee this time and my HR was now up above 180 up the hill so I satisfied myself that I was working hard enough and didn’t want to turn it into an unplanned VO2 Max session.

I focussed on running as efficiently as possible and to breath deeply. Pace was definitely a little slower the 2nd rep and I braced myself for the final 3rd.

I felt like I kept the distance from Lee fairly constant 2nd and 3rd rep and felt strong throughout. Overall a pleasing session.

Legs felt a bit battered on the Wednesday so I decided to get in the gym to mix up the terrain and completed a 45min recovery run. Anything over 30mins is monotonous on the treadmill but I got it done and on the plus side I think it allowed my legs to recover.

On Thursday it was back to threshold running with a plan of 40mins. This was the session I felt a real change in my heart rate response as I was pushing low 6 minute miling and I wasn’t getting anywhere near threshold heart rate intensity. That said I felt the work and effort and it wasn’t like I wanted to push much harder, especially as the legs felt a little brittle.

I can say that I feel aerobically very strong at the moment, almost like I’m running with a different heart and lungs. But the legs need to catch up and strengthen and I need to get used to running fast.

In the end I averaged around 6:04 per mile for the 40 minutes and probably one of the best threshold type runs I’ve done even though I only really dipped in to the correct zone on the way home back uphill.

I was ready for a rest day following 6 strong days back to back of running and I was delighted to have a day off work and a nice trip for the weekend down to Kielder Water. The running gear was packed and I knew it was a great place for running having visited before.

On Saturday morning I was up early and out in damp and windy weather. I decided to switch the Sunday long run (75mins planned) to the Saturday to take the pressure off finding a decent place to do a session (2x 15mins threshold).

I ended up running out of the estate I was staying and onto the main road which was fine although I don’t think a couple of cars were expecting to see a lone runner in the mist. I’d also in my wisdom decided to leave my glasses on rather than my contact lens. So my glasses could have done with windscreen wipers!!!

A thoroughly enjoyable undulating run out and turn back. Again I felt the heart rate strong and under control as I ticked off over 9 miles in about 67mins.

The clocks went back early on Sunday morning so I was out earlier time wise for the threshold session. I decided to jog up to the main road again and do 15mins out and back. The road is very undulating so I knew I couldn’t run even pacing. My main goal was to try a bit harder to get into the 174-180bpm range. But again I didn’t really manage it, especially on the downhill sections where I’d be running low 160s. It was only towards the end of the first rep that I pushed maybe high 160s. My legs felt tired on any inclines.

I had 3mins rest and then got back on my way for home. I knew I felt tired and just tried to focus on strong but relaxed running. The good thing about the route is that I was left with a tough uphill to finish which mentally was difficult just to dig in and finish it off. Indeed this was where my HR finally peaked at 174bpm.

Overall I was pleased with my effort and splits.

To finish off I ran hard down a good downhill for a couple of minutes just to work a bit on leg turnover.

Then a short 5 minute cool down to complete the weeks work.

In total for the week I’d trained just over 48 miles which could be a record for me.

I feel good and very motivated to get stuck into another week.

The legs might have some residual pain but that may just be required to “evolve at a faster pace”.

Thanks for reading.


Week 2 ticking over plus Episode 1 of my “TRAINING FOR A SUB 16:00 5KM” VLOG on YouTube

This week started with a work trip to Saint-Nazaire (near Nantes) in France.

I was able to get out for a run on Monday evening and, although the area around the hotel was less than hospitable for runners, I got a good 6 mile run done feeling aerobically strong although a fair few car fumes were inhaled in the process.

Unfortunately I woke up in the middle of the night with suspected food poisoning which laid me low all day on Tuesday.

I was able to get some food down me on Tuesday night and I woke up on Wednesday feeling a lot better.

Consequently I was out for a short jog on Wednesday night and felt OK.

The plan for Thursday was another 40 minute recovery / easy run which was again done with no issues despite strong winds and heavy rain conditions. Actually I enjoyed getting out in the rain and it was an excuse to get the mens running tights out for the first time of the year!

Friday was marked as a full rest day. Usually in my mind I would be looking to make up for the day lost to illness on Tuesday but a key part of running now is patience and not chasing fitness/making rash decisions. For all I knew I could still have the remnants of the bug in my system and therefore no point pushing it at this point in the schedule.

It’s important to get some training on the off-road cross country and Saturday’s are my key opportunity to train on the grass. I use a local park which has a large field with football pitches and provides an excellent loop to train on. Again, the plan was just to keep on with the easy running. Actually no running on the off-road ever feels truly easy and running economy is greatly reduced versus the road. This translated to maybe 10-15s per mile slower and heart rate being pushed maybe 5-10bpm higher. But its enjoyable mixing up terrains and it also ensures a traffic free course – a rare chance to listen to some music whilst training which I enjoy.

Finally for this week Sunday saw a 60min easy run made difficult only by the strong winds that are persisting in the UK. My route is downhill for around 25 to 30 minutes and then quite stiffly back uphill for home. To make it even easier early on the wind was favourable so the first 3 or 4 miles were a breeze before the turn for home went straight back into the teeth of the wind. Pleasingly I felt much stronger this week versus last week as my heart rate pushed above 160bpm and at times in the high 160s. Last week this had led to quite a bit of fatigue beyond 45 minutes whereas this week it felt good and sustainable. These runs will get progressively longer in the coming weeks.

The plan for next week will be to get some faster running back into the plan and I aim to get an Elswick Harriers club session in on Tuesday and some decent threshold running elsewhere during the week.

That’s it for this week in terms of a training update but please also check out my “Training for a sub 16:00 5KM VLOG” on my YouTube channel.

In Episode 1 I discuss a little bit about my reasons for aiming for this target and also talk through the findings of my recent Lactate Threshold test which sets the line in the sand from which I seek to improve. I hope you enjoy it and if so please share and subscribe for further updates!

Thanks for reading and watching!


Week 1 of a new journey – sub 16 dream

This week is what I consider to be Week 1 of my new target – the sub 16 5k.

Someone once said the journey is more important than the end goal and in my case that holds true.

Although in all honesty I didn’t celebrate the sub 17 enough it did not stop me thinking about the “what next”. Having entered the Great North Run already by the time I achieved the sub 17 in May my focus and attention turned to that and any new 5k goal was put on the back burner.

As I’ve said previously I was happy with my performance in the Great North Run but in truth I was really looking for a 1.17 showing based on my 5k PB of 16:44. That didn’t happen mainly due to training not going as well as planned and overall I loved the experience and can’t wait to do it again in future.

In the meantime I have been focussing on my physical and mental health and fitness.

Since the Great North Run I have not been doing a lot of pure running. I gave my body time to heal from the half marathon. So I’ve only been running in the range of 20 to 30 miles per week. That said I have been very pleased with my first two outings in the North East Harrier League cross country.

I have qualified back into the Fast pack and also finished 38th and 37th respectively in the field outright.

I feel I have an excellent platform now. For me 2017 has been an amazing journey in terms of my personal development. Although not perfect I feel on a much more even keel emotionally and mentally. I feel ready to take on more again in my running. Since I feel like I am performing at least as well as I was when I was coached in 2014/15 I feel I can now push on again and surpass my current achievements.

This feeling allows me to set the following goals in the short to medium term –

  1. Run a sub 16 minute 5k;
  2. Run a big 10k PB;
  3. Push into the Top 20 in NEHL XC fixtures;
  4. Strong showing at the North Eastern XC in December 2017;
  5. “A” race aim of Horwich 5k in June 2018 with a view to selection for an England Masters vest.

I cannot do this alone and part of my development this year is to look around me and realise that I need help to achieve my goals.

So this week I finally got down to Elswick Harriers on Tuesday night for a great training session. I need to ensure I attend more sessions as running in a group has nothing but benefits. The session ensures a good warm up and warm down and also ensures I put the required effort into a session, something I would struggle to do alone.

This week it was 5x 4 minutes with 1 minute recovery. To me it should be run as a VO2 max type session, looking to push 5k pace. At the moment I am in a little bit of a grey area and so I am torn between trying to run current 5k type intensity (16:44 say 5:20-25/mile) and an intensity based on my recent half marathon (more like 5:35/mile).

In the end the first 4 reps were ran around 5:30-5:35/mile and felt comfortably hard meaning that I was straining on the leash the last rep. I set off strongly and a quick look at my watch revealed I was cruising at 5:10 pace. Something clicked in my head to push on and I was away from the lads at the front. I felt like I wish I could feel in a race but never have – running hard and strong and breathing well. Granted the last couple of the minutes got tough and I lost a bit of pace finishing the rep averaging 5:17/mile. On analysis I feel like I need to be aiming for at least 5:20-5:25 in this session next time.

Given this “grey zone” I am currently in I felt it was important to get back down Doncaster to meet with Dave Tune of Blizard Physiotherapy who offers an excellent lactate threshold and coaching service. Indeed Dave coached me (as I have mentioned in the Blog) from 2014-2015 – this was my real breakthrough period at the time.

Many amateur runners may think it is a bit serious for a club runner to get Lactate testing, something that may be deemed only for the Elites. Personally I disagree and I feel strongly that the service is completely accessible and can reveal a great deal of vital information for anyone in the pursuit of improvement.

It was great to catch up with Dave as it had been probably a year since I was last down to see him. It was also good to get back on the treadmill and understand how my body was performing. My lactate threshold heart rate was pretty much unchanged at 180-181bpm and a pace of low 6 minute miles. Although I am not in the type of shape I saw in October 2015 that is to be expected because I am simply not running the miles this year following a very quiet 2016. However, as I said earlier I see this as a massive positive and opportunity that I now have the springboard to push on.

We were also able to test my body for a couple of minutes at sub 16 5k tempo. It was tough and I was sweating profusely. It reminds me what I need to do and my heart rate was elevated to 195bpm which is something I am currently seemingly unable to do in a race. The key is to unlock that extra gear that I know I have when pushed in a controlled environment. Dave informed me that my body was producing 6.2mmols of lactate at that intensity which I should be able to handle for 5k with the right preparation and training.

With that in mind I will be following a plan for the next 12 weeks set by Dave which will involve cementing more consistency in my running, particularly my threshold sessions (2 per week) and a regular longer run although no more than 75mins.

My next target will be the 3rd Cross Country fixture at Aykley Heads where I will be trying a slightly different tactic as part of my goal to improve my mental toughness in racing. I need to start being prepared to fail in races to improve. I need to discard the “self preservation” tactic which will only allow me to achieve so much. Unless I can let myself go (like I did on the 5th rep at the Elswick session and on the treadmill down Doncaster) I may not achieve my goals…

In other news I am planning on starting a YouTube VLOG to capture my experiences training for the sub 16 5k and leading up to the Horwich 5k in June 2018 so watch this space!

Thanks for reading.



North East Harrier League 2017/18 – Race #2 Druridge Bay

Two cross country fixtures in two weeks and I was keen to build on a good showing at Wrekenton.

I was able to qualify to Fast pack from Medium at the first time of asking which was pleasing off a relatively small base of training.

Granted I had the Great North Run in the bank (something I’d never had before a cross country season) and was feeling fresh and fit.

The plan for the week leading up to the second race at Druridge Bay was to get another couple of decent thresholds in the bank also. I wanted to have a toughish weekend of training by doubling up with a parkrun on Saturday and the XC race on the Sunday.

The reason for this is to get a bit stronger both physically and mentally. There is only so much wrapping yourself up in cotton wool you can do. Sometimes you have to tire yourself out and build yourself back up.

The thresholds were just OK to be honest. The first was done on the treadmill. Treadmill thresholds are challenging for the monotony more than anything. It’s difficult to know fully where you are at so it pays to just focus on heart rate and get in a rhythm. I built the speed up to 15-15.5kph and held it there, keeping my HR in the high 170s and not passing the 181bpm mark which is my last measured lactate threshold level. I went for a standard 20min effort.

I was pleased when it was over!

Later in the week I went for a second threshold of 30mins this time looking to hold at around 175bpm. I think I averaged around 6-6.05min miling which is OK. Generally I would say I was feeling over tired this week.

Consequently I decided to take it easy on Friday and drove across to Riverside Parkrun on Saturday morning. In planning I was looking for something like a 5:38-5:41 first mile and then try to wind it up for a 5:32ish second mile and then just dig in for the last mile.

As it happened the first mile felt very easy, the second slightly down on schedule and the 3rd mile very tough as I struggled to pick up and got a little hampered by lapped runners on narrow pavements. I finished in 17:33 and no harm done. I turned my attention to the XC.

The weather was very unseasonal for October in the North East of England. The sun was out and no mud to speak of.

The last time I had ran the course it had been a quagmire. Not this time. Again, like at Wrekenton fast times were possible with no real hills to hamper.

My loose plan was to try to track Elswick super vet Lee Bennett who had finished ahead of me a week earlier. I had gone off quicker so my thinking was to try to work off Lee and his superior pacing experience!

Unfortunately that plan only worked maybe the first mile or so. We went off fairly quick and the first few miles were done in 5:43 and 5:54 – if anything still a little quick.

That said there was no need to panic and I still had Tyne Bridge Harrier Tony Carter to work with. I was aware I had beaten him a week earlier but of course he is a quality runner and could easily have come on for the run.

The 2nd lap still felt strong and I was able to throw in a few fartlek type efforts to negotiate through packs of runners. The challenge of getting passed runners, looking for little openings and taking them is what I enjoy most about XC. You don’t get that in road racing.

That said, about half way around the second lap I got a little bit excitable and tried to steal a march over Tony. In hindsight it wasn’t really necessary at that point in the race and I suffered for it a little bit mentally as well as physically.

It reminded me that I still had more than a couple of miles left to race and it was shortly after that I felt I had lost a bit of umph.

This is where I need to improve if I want to be the runner I think I can be. I need to toughen up and improve my “self image”. I need to change from “it doesn’t matter if he beats me cos he’s a good runner” to “there is no way he’s beating me today”. I am capable of a tough mindset but as I’ve gotten better I’ve also gotten quite placid. Something I need to work on. I used to be able to get angry in races quite easy, now I just go quite quiet in my mind…

Unfortunately the quiet side of me won over today and I let Tony get about 10-15 yards on me. To my credit I felt like I did tough it out in the last quarter of the race and overall I finished 137th out of 547 runners from Fast pack. Pleasingly I was 37th fastest overall versus 38th last week. In my mind I felt I’d ran a bit softer but the results tell a better story.

There is a bit of a break in the XC fixtures now as I will be unable to do the scratch race Sherman Cup. So I’ll be focussing on the next phase of my training where I feel I’m ready to up the mileage a little and introduce some slightly faster running.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your running!

North East Harrier League 2017/18 – Race #1 Wrekenton

North East Harrier League 2017/18 – Race #1 Wrekenton

My very first memories of running are Cross Country at school.

When I started running again in 2011/2012 I was very keen to join a running club so that I could remind my self of the pleasure and pain of Cross Country.

The mud, the sweat and the tears.

Unfortunately the last couple of seasons have been disappointing and I’m very keen for the 2017/2018 season to be a good one.

With that in mind I turned my attention to the first race following my debut half marathon in the Great North Run. I was pleased with my outing despite a less than satisfactory build up and it gave me confidence that I could get on the start line at Wrekenton in good shape on Saturday 30th September.

The first couple of fixtures can be quite forgiving weather wise and this one was no exception. The weather theatened rain but it stayed away until after the end of the senior men’s race.

I arrived in good time to get to the Elswick Harriers tent whilst the senior women were out on the course.

I had the pleasure of bumping into Jim Alder, running legend and world record holder and still coach to a few at Morpeth Harriers. I was blessed to experience the ongoing passion of a man who has a marathon Commonwealth games gold medal to his name. Very inspiring.

I felt very calm about race 1. I felt good, well rested and raring to go despite a week away in Cyprus with work. I’d only arrived back home late on the Friday but slept well.

The plan was to bank a good hard training run.

Starting in the Medium pack meant I’d give a 2 minute 30s head start to the Slow pack.

Wrekenton was the venue I had last qualified for the Fast pack a couple of years earlier and I felt like I had it in me to do it again.

My plan was to start sensibly and build. No reference to pace, just run hard and try to pass as many people as possible.

As usual with Cross Country the plan quickly goes out of the window as the other runners fly off.

I was probably sitting in the top 10-15 of the Medium pack a quarter mile in and I noticed we passed the first Slow pack runner at the first proper hill.

Wrekenton has a few hills but overall it is benign and almost defenseless with good footing. Indeed there was no mud to speak of and fast times were on the cards.

Lap 1 and most of 2 felt strong and I had made good progress through the field. There was well over 500 runners in the race and I think I heard none other than Jim Alder himself (who was keeping count of runners) shout high 90s as I passed him towards the end of lap 2.

Finishing in the Top 10% of the field from Medium pack would mean a promotion to Fast pack and it was on.

I was currently 3rd team counter for Elswick and I could see super vet Lee Bennett about 20 yards ahead.

I was running well but needed to dig in as things got tough on lap 3. The hills felt harder and the opportunities to pass runners less and less.

I was pleased overall with my attitude and application although I still felt like I was holding something back. I was reminding myself that I was after a hard training run and not a hard race at this point.

I dug in well and getting onto the final straight I was able to summon a strong finish.

Although hard to compare I ran a course PB in around 34 and a half minutes for 5.6-5.7 miles. Overall in the race I finished 49th and qualified for Fast Pack. Ranked on time I was 38th. Looking at my Power of 10 this is my best Harrier League performance which gives me confidence going into the next fixture at Druridge Bay next Sunday.

The provisional plan is to run a decent effort at a parkrun and go into the race slightly tired for another hard training run from Fast pack.

As Jim Alder told me – standard Cross Country fixtures are for training and can be run #2 of a double run training day – “the North Easterns are another story”.

Thanks for reading.

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