Training update, 25th-31st January

Coach Tom Schwartz (Tinman Elite) podcastkey takeaways (available here)

• Remember 80% rule, i.e if you can do 10 reps then 8 is probably enough in training;

• Seek to avoid “instant gratification”, i.e. try not to let the ego win. The ego wants instant gratification but gratification must be delayed in training;

• Respect your current fitness level;

• It takes a long time to improve running economy (reducing the amount of oxygen consumed at a given running speed);

• Self discipline is more important than motivation. Motivation wanes, self discipline at all times is key.

Mon, 25 Jan: run on golf course

Managed to get out for a lunch time run on Newcastle United Golf course on the Town Moor in Newcastle.

I wouldn’t usually run on the golf course but the conditions were still freezing and so the ground was hard underfoot, almost like concrete.

It was pretty windy (Strava said >20mph). I was planning to run around 50-55 minutes total. I jogged up the hill over Town Moor and onto the golf course and did 3 full laps. I used to play golf here when I lived in Fenham. It was pretty cool. I’d walk up Wingrove Road with my clubs after work. I had an agreement with the green keeper. I’d just play the front nine. He would meet me on the 4th or 5th and I’d just give him a fiver. Brought back some memories…

I had deliberately tinkered with the settings on my Garmin as follows – auto lap turned off, pace and distance measured by my Stryd power meter foot pod instead of GPS (I think it’s more accurate). I changed the display so I was only looking at a timer. This made the run much more pleasurable and I just ensured to run within myself.

Ended up with just over 10km in just under 52mins. Average heart rate was 144bpm. Felt like I’d judged it about right. You can tell by how you feel after a run. If you feel tired you’ve overcooked an easy run.

Tue, 26 Jan: baseline tempo run

Prior to my second physio appointment I got out for a little line in the sand tempo run of 5x a loop of St. Andrews.

You may be wondering what the St. Andrews loop is. Well it’s named after a nearby church on the housing estate where I do pretty much all of my uptempo running.

The loop I run measures out at 1,090m (based on my Stryd footpod). So today I was doing 5x about a 1km tempo which for me is usually an effort at around 10-11 mile effort, sometimes even HM. I usually work it to my current Stryd power metrics. So I’m looking to push out 315-320W which is approx 4.3 to 4.4 watts per kilo for me.

On this day the conditions were pretty good with little wind and I was ticking the laps off just over 4mins which translated to around 3:41 – 3.45 per km. This is approx 6 min miles or just under. I am conscious that this is quite a bit slower than my current 10 mile (avg. pace of 3:27/km) and HM (avg. pace 3.38/km) PBs. However, I am training at a lower HR (typically <170bpm) than I raced those distances (approx 173bpm for HM and 178bpm for 10 miles) so I think it’s fair to say I am slightly undertraining versus race pace which is fine.

I’ve only had the Stryd foot pod since the back end of November so in many ways it is still calibrating and I believe it is underestimating my real ability at the moment. However, current fitness and ability are two completely different things. The power meter wants to know what I am capable of but my current training is not feeding it such data. The main thing on this session was that everything felt in order and in control. If you can’t manage a smile then you are probably going too hard.

At physio that evening, I had my foot re strapped as I felt like it had helped my shin. I agreed with the physio to come back in 2 weeks. I had some Hoka One One Arahi 4 stability running shoes ordered to try to see if they could also help.

Wed, 27 Jan: another easy run

My new Hoke One One Arahi 4s arrived so I wore them for the first time.

The right shoe felt a bit tight but I put that down to the strapping I had on the foot. Overall I liked them. For a stability shoe they felt very light and also the sound on the pavement was nice and quiet.

I continued with the approach of just referring to time and no other metrics. The plan was another 50 to 55 minutes.

This time I ran down to the Town Moor which is mostly downhill and then looped back up which is back uphill.

Just ran well within myself. Ended up with 6.8 miles in 54 minutes averaging 143bpm. I enjoyed running on without the metrics but still feel I am not as aerobically fit as I need to be…

Thu, 28 Jan: unplanned rest day

For whatever reason I woke up on Thursday not fully recovered and ready to do a planned session.

I use the Oura ring to track metrics such as resting HR, Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and respiratory rate. From this data the Oura app is able to produce a “Readiness” score.

On this day the score came out low and my resting HR higher / HRV lower than normal.

So I decided to take complete rest and see if tomorrow was a better day.

Fri, 29 Jan: replanned tempo session

My Oura stats had returned to normal so I got out for my session.

I reduced the total volume from the original plan just to be on the safe side given that I was still returning from injury and the recent unplanned rest day.

The session was 3x 3 loops of St. Andrews (i.e. 3x 3km+). I ended up with 2x 3 loops plus 1 extra loop. The plan was 2 minutes jogging between the reps but I’d mis read it as 90 seconds which made it harder than plan.

The laps times were pretty much identical to those 1 loop efforts completed on Tuesday (just over 4mins per lap or 6mins per mile pace).

Unbeknownst to me my chest strap Heart Rate monitor had ran out of battery so my watch had reverted to the wrist strap which was typically inaccurate. Again, I hadn’t referred to it during the run but it would have been nice to have been able to do some meaningful post session analysis.

Overall, although it felt hard, it was a decent session.

Sometimes it’s important to remember training sessions alone are hard. It callouses the mind ready for racing. Wanting things to feel easier and faster is unrealistic…

Sat, 30 Jan: 10 mile run with pickup

I usually wouldn’t do two sessions back to back but needs must. If at all possible I prefer to run my longer runs on a Saturday when Jasmine is working so we can better enjoy a day off on Sundays.

Runners seem obsessed with “church of Sunday long run” but to me it’s important to have a plan that suits your life and Sunday long runs rarely suit mine.

So it was a case of shoe horning this run in somewhat. My Oura stats were OK, not ideal but on balance I thought it was alright to run 6 miles easy followed by 4 miles pick up then warm down home.

I ran the 6 miles averaging low 140bpm heart rate and around 5 mins per km. I then picked up to approx. 4:05/km.

I still hadn’t had chance to replace the battery on my heart rate monitor so, again, the wrist HR was well off and not reliable. But the pickup felt pretty good.

Overall including warm down I ran 11.8 miles in 1hr 29. Nothing special and still not feeling amazing but I felt much better than I did after last weeks 10 miles where I felt totally wiped afterwards.

Sun, 31st Jan: another rest day

Again, the Oura stats didn’t make for good reading so I felt it was prudent to take another rest day.

For whatever reason I am not quite getting and absorbing the training like I was before I got the shin injury.

I’m trying not to worry about it but I’m also trying to work out why. I’ve tried to reduce my coffee intake this week for example.

Despite the two rest days I was able to run 39.7 miles total for the week which represents a decent stepping stone from the week previous. And it invites me to shoot for somewhere between 40 to 45 miles next week which seems sensible given where I am at.

Thanks for reading.


Training update, 18th-24th January

Injury Update…

Of course it is always frustrating to succumb to injury but it’s always important to remember that running is a high impact sport.

Risk of injury is high but niggles and injury are normally preventable. I have had my fair share of injuries but I blame them all on one person and one person only – myself.

I strongly believe all of my injuries were preventable. Even the unfortunate injuries that could be put down to accident, I still blame myself ultimately.

Self accountability is important but it is also useless if you keep making the same mistakes. And with my latest shin problem I have to hold my hands up and say it should have been prevented.

But I won’t dwell on the past. I am where I am (again). So the focus this week is to get to the physio on Tuesday 19th and work out what is wrong and what can be done to fix it.

I’ll keep an open mind on cause of problem and solution. It may be my shoes. It may be my running form (I have struggled more than usual with cadence these last few months). It may be that I need to consider custom orthotics. We will see.

Thoughts on cross training…

As mentioned in last week’s blog, I took complete rest from running and ended up with 15.5 miles total for the week which were the runs completed on Monday and Tuesday. I decided on complete rest but options are very limited for cross training in the UK given the current lockdown and inclement weather. I would usually get out on the road bike but with the snow and ice it isn’t worth it.

I’ve actually come to believe that obsessive cross training isn’t always the healthiest thing to do. Ultimately you are injured because your body has been unable to handle the load you have given it. If you keep your cardiovascular fitness too high whilst injured you run the risk of almost being too fit cardio wise when you do return to running. In my case that could mean immediately asking too much of my body (in particular my lower legs). It would require extreme discipline to not go out expecting the legs to pick up where you left off. You need a slow and steady rebuild. My point being that it may not be such a bad thing being slightly unfit cardio wise.

On this point I would observe that runners are generally far too paranoid about losing fitness. Of course fitness gained can be quite quickly lost. However, fitness gained is easier to re gain and I’ve come to the conclusion that the paranoia of losing fitness is a mental issue and that the physical body is better helped if the mind is more positive about the recuperation process.

If runners were a bit kinder to themselves they may find their bodies haven’t lost that much really.

Another way of looking at it – approach returning from injury like you would preparation for a race, the race being that first injury free run. Everything leading up to that can be approached like the challenge of training for a race. Put as much into it in a positive manner as you would preparing for a race. Easier said than done but worth trying…

Tue, 19 Jan: Physio appointment

The physio appointment went well and I was pleased that we were able to rule out any potential boney stress reaction (a runners worst nightmare). He also felt there was no neural or nervy type issues. He was able to determine that there were no significant gait issues by observing me running both barefoot and with my shoes.

There is a question mark around the strength of my right calf versus left. I need to work on strengthening the right calf more in line with the left.

I also need to consider shoe selection. It seems like the toe box on the Nike Zoomfly 3 that I use mostly is too narrow and I need to look for something with a wider toe box. Hoka may be a brand I take a closer look at.

For now my right foot has been strapped pretty firmly with tape to try to give more support and to see whether this helps take some load and pressure off the shin. The physio has asked me to try as close to normal training as possible to see how I get on.

So I was able to manage an easy 35 minutes run that night after the physio. I must admit the feeling of the tape was weird but strangely it had me thinking more about form and trying to improve cadence. I didn’t feel any shin issues. I also wore my new Nike Vomero 15s for the first time. These seem to have a wider toe box and so fit the bill for the time being.

Wed, 20 Jan: more easy running

On Wednesday I went out for a bit longer but still keeping it easy. The weather this week has been non stop rain. So I got fully kitted up in the waterproofs. I try not to get stressed about hitting paces or heart rates in these situations, just try to focus on breathing and keeping it relaxed. I ran my usual route around the estate near Newcastle Town Moor. Ended up with about 6.5 miles in not much over 50 odd minutes. I felt a bit sluggish but that’s to be expected with a bit of lost fitness and sharpness.

Thu, 21 Jan: re intro to “session”

On Thursday I was keen to try some slightly faster running without taxing the body too much. I made up a session of 5km at 4min per km, 2 min jog followed by 2x 1km at approx 3.41 per km off 1 minute. I was hoping for the 5km to feel very relaxed. Unfortunately it didn’t but there was quite a strong wind (Strava said 20.4mph!) against for most of the loop including the slight incline at the end of each lap. So my heart rate was getting up to 168bpm towards the end of the 5km. My breathing felt off, all in my throat.

I decided to aid the 1kms by running the loop in reverse and starting at the end of the long straight with the wind assisting. I didn’t refer to my watch. The first rep came in bang on 3.41 and the 2nd was done a little harder coming in at 3.36. My heart rate peaked at 177bpm on the second rep.

Overall I wasn’t displeased considering the conditions and having a little bit of rust from the missed training. I had hoped I would feel fresher given that I’ve effectively had a taper but I am where I am and I need to gradually return to full training whilst ensuring the shin doesn’t relapse. On that front things felt pretty good and I am coming to the conclusion that the foot strapping and / or new trainers are helping.

Fri, 22 Jan: rest day

I took Friday off as rest as per normal and actually my resting HR and other recovery stats suggested I needed it. So that was welcome with the plan to do a re-intro to long run on Saturday. I have been considering moving rest days to a Sunday but I need to work out how to do that safely.

Sat, 23 Jan: re intro to Long Run

Looking at my training diary, my last long run was 21km or 13 miles on Sunday 13th January. So it was important to be careful with this re introduction to a longer run.

I decided on 10 miles in total with the first 5 miles easy and then a 5km pickup around 4min per km pace. Then finish off easy to make up to 10 miles in total.

I had finally taken delivery of my GoPro so I was hoping to get a bit of footage during the run, especially given that conditions were freezing with perfect sunlight to get some nice shots.

I was also going to use my Stryd power meter to gauge effort. So first 5 miles would keep power below 260 watts and the 5km effort would be around 295-300W (approx. marathon effort). These are based on my current zones given to me by the app.

So, although I was wearing my heart rate monitor I wasn’t referring to it at all. Nor was I referring to any pace readings except the odd 1km lap split.

In all honesty the 5 mile easy felt fine (kms averaging around 4.40) and my legs felt good as well. The 5km effort was completed around the frozen lake in Exhibition Park next to Wylam Brewery in Newcastle.

Underfoot conditions weren’t ideal with some icy sections. There were also a lot of walkers out. But overall I felt fine, perhaps working a bit harder than I would like in the 4th and 5th kms. But I would say long runs are my least favourite of the week and I do find them challenging, especially with these harder portions.

I was shocked, however, to see that I had averaged 159bpm for the 10 miles averaging 7m 21s per mile. My heart rate had peaked at 175bpm on the 5km efforts which hit the target 4min per km (6m 27s per mile).

The effort hadn’t felt that taxing but on the jog for home my HR was elevated at approx. 150bpm (5min kms).

So I just need to monitor my recovery with the option of taking Sunday as rest.

To add “insult to injury”, all of the GoPro footage I had taken had not saved to the camera for reasons unbeknownst to me. I guess I should read the instruction manual!

Sun, 24 Jan: recovery walk on Town Moor

Waking up on Sunday I felt pretty well recovered but on balance decided to take rest. It means I ended this week with a total of 34.6 miles (Strava stats below). I felt that was enough and still represented a big jump from the 15.5 miles done last week. It was also higher than the week prior to that (just under 31 miles).

Keeping it sensible this week, returning from injury…

Instead of a run I took a nice walk on Town Moor with Jasmine. We walked across Newcastle United Golf Course which was completely frozen.

Given the complete GoPro fail of yesterday, I decided to give it another go so that next time I actually have some footage to make a YouTube video out of. Things seemed to be working following a complete re formatting of the SD card.

A still from one of my trial GoPro videos

Plans for next week

Next week I will be looking to get back to a decent week of training, aiming for around 45 miles in total. I’ll also be re visiting the physio just to check in on how things are going. I’m hoping to get a pair of Hoka running shoes to try as well. These will provide a bit more stability and a wider toe box.

And hopefully I’ll have a video update on YouTube once I get my head around this GoPro!

Thanks for reading!

Training update, 11th-17th January

Training to run competitively doesn’t always go smoothly and even the best laid plans can come unstuck and so it was this week that I succumbed to shin pain in my right leg.

I’d had some niggle back in late November but I’d managed it via icing and ibuprofen gel. I’d also effectively moved all mileage to grass surfaces to avoid the non stop jarring of road running. No training was missed and I never felt like my running was compromised.

I felt like I’d put the issue to bed, one of those growing pains that comes and goes as you progress volume. A right of passage so to speak.

I (perhaps too soon) resumed most of my training back on the roads. This also became some what of a necessity as we got deeper into the winter here in the UK.

Looking at my Strava run mileage summary (see below) you can see that I had built up steadily to just over 50 miles per week through November and into December.

Steady build in training Oct-20 to Jan-21

This progression was deliberate and very considered. It also included two “down” recovery weeks of approx 30 miles, the first the 7th to the 13th December and the second only last week. This week I’ve only managed 15 miles or so.

All my recent training has been completed with 6 days of running out of 7 per week and one day of rest on a Friday.

Harder running has been Tuesdays and Thursdays with a progressively longer run building up at the weekend (flexibility on whether to run on a Saturday or a Sunday). The long runs featured a faster portion of running towards the end.

All other runs (Mon, Wed, Sat or Sun) were easy/recovery with a guide to keep HR below 140-142bpm.

Things were developing really well…

The stronger running on Tuesdays and Thursdays hasn’t involved anything harder than sub threshold pace, say around 11-13 mile pace (sometimes as slow as marathon pace on opening reps to ease in to the session or if I felt tired or conditions weren’t ideal). It’s quite hard to judge these efforts but I was improving, just focusing on keeping the heart rate under 170bpm (Note of reference: I held approx avg. 178bpm for my 10 mile PB of 55.37, about 5.30 miling) . Example sessions were 5x 1 mile and 4x 2km with 90s recovery. I’d typically run approx 3m 45s per km on these efforts.

So although I didn’t feel in the type of shape I was in to run my 10 mile PB in November 2019 I was certainly getting there. And the consistency was all to see in the Strava chart. In fact, I don’t think I’ve achieved such consistency (and motivation) since I started running again in 2012.

But unfortunately the shin pain in the right leg has returned and I took the decision on Wednesday to stop running.

It was very frustrating to succumb to this on essentially what was a down week of mostly easy running with greatly reduced volume and intensity. Bizarrely the shin got worse in these circumstances.

So I’m now on a heavy ice and ibuprofen recovery protocol.

I feel like the injury has settled a bit. I had suspected this was a “nervy” issue. However, I had become concerned merely pushing through could exacerbate the issue into something more serious. So the wise move was to rest. It could be nervy, it could be the dreaded shin splints (whatever that is) or it could be the oft feared “stress reaction” AKA the onset of a “stressy” (fracture). The problem with running injuries is you just never know…

I have a physio appointment booked for next Tuesday 19th January. I’m also hoping to get a gait analysis to see if there is anything going on with my trainers etc. I predominantly train in Nike Zoom Fly 3 but I’ve also been using Tempo Next% for the sessions. I had noticed more issues after sessions in the Next% but I don’t know. Maybe I need to downgrade to a less flashy shoe that gives me more support?

The main reason for my concern actually is that the pain this time is on the front of my shin. Usually it is lower down and to the side and manageable. I’ve never experienced shin pain in this front area before.

Looking at the bigger picture, the announcement this week that the Blaydon Race (scheduled June) has been cancelled indicates that there won’t be much in the way of meaningful racing opportunities in the immediate future. So it will be important to get this fixed rather than ploughing on with no real race targets to speak of.

This weekend I will try some easy jogging on grass to see how the shin reacts prior to the physio appointment next week.

I hope all is well in your running world and don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel here.

I may or may not have some new videos uploaded soon although my GoPro is still stuck in the Netherlands such are the massive opportunities that leaving the EU have given us! But the less about politics we mention on this running blog the better!


Return to blogging in 2021!

This will just be a short blog to say that I hope to get back to more blogging (and vlogging) in 2021!

This year hasn’t started the way we hoped. We had been promised that 2021 would be a much better year than 2020. However, I can’t remember January 2020 being as bad as this!

But we must be positive. And we must hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

In many many ways this lockdown is harder than March 2020, not least because we are in the deep mid winter.

We all need to find someway of keeping sane. For me, the things that are keeping me sane are Jasmine, Jesse the cat 🐈 and running…

Although there have been no races to speak of, and I haven’t really competed since November 2019, I do live in hope that my Great North Run entry for September 2020 (that has now been carried over to September 2021) might come to fruition.

I’ve started training with more purpose again since November and I’d like to start documenting things more.

So I’ll be posting more on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

But this WordPress blog was always my way of getting my thoughts down on what it’s like to be trying to run fairly competitively. And I hope to get back to it with some consistency.

I’m also an aspiring YouTuber. Check out my channel here.

I subscribe to many running YouTube channels and I’ve always admired what must go into running a good channel.

I must admit its not easy. Its actually bloody hard work!

But I’d like to improve and I live in hope that I can get better and maybe someone out there may get something out of my videos.

I’m hoping the content will improve, not least because I have a GoPro ordered. Unfortunately its stuck in the EU somewhere and can’t get into the UK.

Who said Brexit brought new opportunity?

Well that’s it for now…

As I said, I will be posting more regularly.

Potential schedule could be a weekly WordPress training update, a weekly YouTube video covering one of my runs and also some videos on running shoes or other running related stuff. For example I’ve just bought recently an Oura ring which is great to track rest and recovery so hoping to review that.

I’ve also been using a Stryd running power meter which is pretty cool. Again, hoping to do a video on that.

Anyway, I hope you are keeping mentally well and sane in these crazy times. I’d love to hear from you wherever you may be.

P.S. don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel – if you could like and subscribe that would be cool!

Til next time, happy running!