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.