Week 20 mostly mills and a good Saturday sesh

This week required some careful planning and tinkering (with plan) as I had a work trip to Athens which generally involves a full day travel each way.

I was travelling on Tuesday and back on Friday and I was keen to get back on track after a slightly “down” week last week – only running 5 times and totalling 34ish miles.

That was partly necessary due to a long weekend away and also due to nursing a couple of sore shins that weren’t fully recovering between runs.

On Monday I got in the gym. I’m sure my lower leg niggles are due to a lack of muscular strength wherever that may be.

There are a couple of things I plan to do to address this.

The first is to re-start a program of strength and conditioning. I’m hoping that can start over the next few weeks, more info to follow.

The other aspect is to start to bring more variety into my running. I am prone to repetition through force of habit more than anything else. The same routes, shoes, paces etc.

What I want to do is to mix things up. And I feel like I can do this effectively whilst executing the training Coach Tune is prescribing for me.

When it comes to treadmill running I will start introducing hill programmes. I think that will have a few benefits including increased leg strength. It will also take the pressure off the same parts of my legs and mean pace will need to vary to keep my heart rate in the right area depending on what I am trying to get out of the workout.

I’m also planning to try out calf sleeves and compression running socks full time. I figure I have nothing to lose here. I have tried these on and off over the last year or so but I think there could be benefits of using them as a matter of course.

And so Monday’s treadmill session was an easy hill programme keeping my HR pretty low.

I actually really enjoyed it and noticed the time went by much quicker as I got absorbed in the programme profile on the screen.

On Tuesday the plan was to try to fit another treadmill run on my arrival at the Athens hotel. This is always a slightly risky strategy as you never know whether a flight may be delayed or a hotel gym shut etc. I do know that Athens is not good generally for outdoor running and I was staying in a hotel I’d never been to before.

As it happened both flights were on time and apart from some traffic issues on the taxi trip I got to the hotel at a reasonable time.

Then again there was only a short window to fit my run in which was just a short 30 minute recovery.

Luckily the treadmill wasn’t bad although the room was about 26 degrees and the ceiling very low. Warm weather training…

I decided on another easy hill programme as I felt like my legs were a bit better for doing so on Monday. I’d also worn compression socks on the flight. Again I kept my HR very low. All fine.

The plan for Wednesday was to get up early at 6am and get in the gym again.

This was a bit ambitious and 6am being 4am in the UK meant the brain and body wasn’t willing. I decided to push back until after work.

Again a risk as work life in Greece is hectic. I didn’t get out of the office until after 19:00 and it was straight to a local restaurant for a meal.

We got back to the hotel around 22:00 and for some reason I had the urge to get a run done. I’ve never ran as late as this but I felt compelled to experiment. The meal hadn’t been heavy, I’d avoided alcohol and I liked the idea of getting another 30min recovery done and I knew the gym was open 24hrs.

The only doubt was whether it would make it difficult to sleep.

I actually really enjoyed the run, this time keeping the treadmill at 1% gradient and just running easy at around 12kph. The only downside was the light in the gym kept turning itself off on a timer which was strange!

I was pleased that I could set the alarm for 7:00 though and not worry about an early run!!!

On Thursday I finished work and was back in the hotel at a much more reasonable time and so was able to get the planned 45min run done before dinner.

I reverted back to the hill programme and had the treadmill running a bit quicker for a harder session. It was a random hill session but it noticeably got harder as time went on with a load of 7-7.5% gradient inclines saved until the last 10 minutes. I enjoyed it though and it was a proper sweat fest.

It meant I could take a rest day on Friday and focus on finishing my work assignment and get the travel home done.

Unfortunately my flights were a bit delayed and I got home later than planned. I felt pretty exhausted and got an early night and slept 9hrs which is a rare commodity for me!

I felt good for the sleep on Saturday morning. The plan was for a 2x 15 minute threshold session. I was keen to get a run location that allowed me to focus on pace and effort and not worry about traffic and roads. So I decided to go to the old running track in Heaton. It’s not a proper track but perfectly good for what I needed.

I decided to divide each 15 minutes up into 6mins at around marathon pace, 6mins at half marathon pace and 3mins at 10k pace. I used my recent 35:23 10k to determine pace so something like 6:14 into 5:58 into 5:41.

On starting 6:14 felt far too easy and I quickly settled into more like 6s and my HR was in the very low 160s. Moving into HM pace I had to force myself not to go more like 5:50s.

Overall I felt very strong and the 10k section was done around 5:35-5:45.

Feeling this good I decided I would let my body determine pace on the second rep and consequently I was running around 6min miles into 5:50s into more like 5k pace on the last 3mins. At times my pace at the end was low 5min mining and my HR reached a peak of 177bpm.

All in all a good session and for the first time in what seems like ages I felt good about a session. I wondered whether this was simply because I was able to run much more freely on the track rather than stressing about pavement and street running on my usual routes. I also made a mental note to get involved in track running as I think it could be a strength. I know I have natural speed and that I am more suited to shorter distances rather than longer. Food for thought.

On Sunday I got out just before 9am for a long run. I’d been to Start Fitness a day earlier and had bought some compression running shorts, calf sleeves and compression socks. So I decided to give all their first outing.

I’d been to my brothers 40th birthday the night before so I was probably a little fatigued. But again easy running quickly dialled into sub 7min miling so I went with it.

All felt well. I would say my legs still feel a bit weak and probably a limiting factor at the moment. I’m hoping the S&C work will sort this out.

Apart for some toilet issues which (luckily) occurred right next to my house with only a few minutes of running left to do(!) so I was able to address that and finish off.

So overall a pleasing week where I was able to train just short of 6hrs and just over 46 miles. Considering the work trip that was a result.

Next week I hope to get a similar load in but this time with a session on Tuesday and a XC race at Alnwick to finish off the Harrier League season. Looking further ahead I’m hoping for a debut at the Northern 12 stage relays and to PB over 5k in April.

Thanks for reading.

Week 19 half term hols and a trip to Bonny Scotland

Week 19 half term hols and a trip to Bonny Scotland

My performance at the Thornley Hall XC fixture was slightly improved on the fixture at the turn of the year but still not in line with my performance in Durham late November 2017.

In truth my training hasn’t returned to the level I was operating at pre rib injury.

Looking back at my training logs I was consistently getting a club session on Tuesday, a threshold run on Thursday, another moderate to hard workout on Saturday and a longer run on Sunday.

That regime was paying dividends prior to the accident on the Moor.

That said I don’t necessarily expect to get back to that fully. Talking to my coach we both agree that the key to me and my running form is to get two hard workouts per week plus critically a long run. That means three key workouts a week. The rest of my running can be recovery/easy/moderate (no faster than predicted marathon pace).

Perhaps even more critically I must avoid injury…and in that regard I can’t be rigid to a certain training plan. And I certainly can’t obsess about running X miles per week religiously.

Even at the time of my rib injury I was nursing a right knee issue (gladly now nowhere to be seen) and now I am tentatively watching two sore shins.

I don’t necessarily subscribe to the view that it’s possible to be completely niggle free all of the time.

If you have desires to be highly competitive you must strive to push the boundaries. It is clear to run better you must run farther. But that comes with a caveat that you must not break down.

I have started 2018 well and, although still early doors, I am running more than ever. But clearly there is a risk of breakdown. And I need to ensure these shin niggles don’t worsen.

So this week it was about recovery from the XC exertions. My next race is another XC fixture in early March. The goal therefore is to build a little in terms of aerobic fitness and complete 1 or 2 key workouts to give myself the best possible chance of finishing the season strongly.

My goal is to make sure my final placing in the last harrier League fixture wipes out my scores in the last two fixtures so my overall standing in the individual grand prix (my 4 highest scores out of 6 will count) is as high as possible. At the moment I lie 12th but there is a risk of falling further and outside of the top 20 which is the target. My best ever placing is 29th from the 2014/15 season.

From there I look forward to focussing on getting involved with my new club Tyne Bridge Harriers – potentially a debut in the Northern 12 stage if all goes well with the club transfer which hopefully it will for the 1st of March.

Then I want to really home in on 5k with potential for a couple of races in April. I also want another go at 10k in March as the PB from earlier this month was “not official distance” leading into the main “A” race of the Horwich 5k in June.

So this week was slightly down on previous and plan with only 5 running days and approx 34 miles.

The most notable run was a lovely outing up in Ardrossan on the West coast of Scotland. I was having a few days away for half term and completed a 20 minute out and back with the 2nd half around 6 minute mile pace which felt quite comfortable.

This week I will be travelling to Athens with work so I expect a lot of treadmill running which should help the shins recover before a threshold session on Saturday and a long run on Sunday.

Thanks for reading.

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.