Race Report: NEHL Wrekenton

Race Report: NEHL Wrekenton

I often try to remind myself that running is a constant learning process. And it demands respect.

Put another way, beware of ever thinking “I’ve got this cracked”. Also, try to never overplay a good race. On the other hand, never be too hard on yourself if you have a bad race.

As I alluded to in the last blog (the Great North Run race report), I’ve not had things go my way since Sunday 12th September. Although I am trying really hard not to make excuses, I’ve had a few unfortunate mishaps come my way.

Now I’ve had time to fully digest my run at the Great North half marathon, and also have had a good look at my training diary since June, I think I can now conclude that things haven’t really gone well in training since my run at the Quayside 5km in mid August.

That consistency that I had in the 4 weeks leading up to that fast race on the Quayside has gone, replaced by an inconsistent see-saw of training as shown in the pic.

Consistency giving way to inconsistency…

As you can see, that nice consistent straight line has become up and down. I am not going to explain it away here. I just want to make the point that I have now realised that I perhaps succumbed to the “I’ve cracked it” syndrome following the 16.01 5km in August. As a result I changed my training and approach and also slipped up on some crucial elements. Add in the unfortunate mishaps and here I am, nursing a bruised ego following a disappointing outing at Wrekenton, the first North East Harrier League fixture of the 2021/22 season. More on that in a bit.

But I think my performance at the Great North was not helped by my patchy training in the final build up. I think I was struggling. Initially I was blaming the course but I think it was that coupled with a sub optimal training period from mid August onwards that led to 1:17.46 feeling like all I could give on the day. It wasn’t supposed to feel like all I could give. The lack of consistency in training was an element of the overall picture.

The question now becomes whether I can pick things up for Manchester with so little time left. Maybe not following Wrekenton but I will still put in place a consistent plan to get me on the start line, perhaps not fully tapered, but overall emotionally and physically ready to execute a strategy that I believe in.

Back to Wrekenton and my plan was to put in an effort consistent with what I would be doing at Manchester, namely aiming to run a half marathon averaging between 360 and 365 watts based on Power. In hindsight running to Power on Cross Country (perhaps the purest form of running there is) was a terrible idea… And I’m planning to also ditch power as an in-race tool for Manchester. More on that in a future blog post. Suffice to say my key focus now is re-calibrating my running “body clock”, to run more on feel.

As it turned out the Wrekenton course was bone dry on what was a hot and humid day for the North East of England at this time of year. Indeed I was struggling on my warm up, sweating up quite noticeably with a high heart rate. I didn’t feel too good. It was about 20 to 21 degrees with humidity above 70% and so I think it was adverse running conditions overall.

Because the course was bone dry it meant that footing was very important. From a safety point of view turning an ankle was a real risk. So the idea that I was going to be referencing my watch to maintain a constant power was not wise.

In addition the Wrekenton course is very undulating with a couple of decent hills both up and down. Again, it was difficult and distracting to be checking the watch.

I tried to delay footwear choice until after my warm up but in the end I went with the general consensus I was hearing, namely that spikes were not the best way to go. I had decided to take my Nike Vomero 15 training shoes as an alternative to spikes but in hindsight I wish I’d gone spikes as a lighter and faster option. A lot of the ground was heavyish grass and I think the spikes would have been fine. They would not have been ideal on the shale sections but they would have been OK with shortest spike length.

Overall I would say my head and heart weren’t in it. It wasn’t the easiest decision deciding whether to run or not. On balance and with hindsight not running would have been the wisest decision. Not only was risking a turned ankle probably the wrong thing to do but my mild chest infection (picked up after the bad allergic reaction to a sting) was also persisting. Given that road half marathons have been my training priority, I have not been running off road much of late. I think I over looked the shock to the system cross country can cause when you are out of practice on the terrain. It doesn’t take a scientific genius to work out that running economy is greatly hampered off road versus road but I think I’d forgotten how important it is to practice off road running leading up to the Cross Country season. By practicing you will do much to offset the reduction in running economy, not completely but more than not practicing sufficiently.

But what made the decision for me to run was the need to race Wrekenton to stand any chance of racking up the required 4 fixtures out of 6 to register for the veteran men’s Individual Grand Prix (IGP) in the 2021/22 season.

I had been demoted from Fast Pack to Medium Pack for the 2021/22 season and so that meant I started only 2:30 behind the Slow Pack. That should have given me a good chance at a decent finishing position overall (usually Top 50 would secure promotion to Fast Pack).

The gun went to start the Slow Pack and I couldn’t help but notice the dust bowl that was whipping up, underlining the dryness of the course.

It wasn’t long before we were lined up on the start line.

I didn’t fight to get up front and I also shunned the possibility of starting on the fastest racing line which I felt was the left hand side. I was almost furthest right.

I deliberately started pretty conservatively and was a bit miffed at the onset of a stitch coming on before the first real climb. I was able to rid myself of that quite quickly and get into my stride over the first lap. I think I was competing quite well tracking vet Sunderland Harrier Chris Auld for the most part of that circuit and into the second.

But I noticed I was struggling to get power above 360w per plan. I noticed I was settling around the 350-355w, similar to what I had averaged for the GNR. Negative thoughts formed as I already felt I was pushing as hard as I could with over 2 laps to go.

I wasn’t dealing with the downhill sections as well as I normally would either. I feel like I can excel on downhills, using my height and stride length to my advantage. But I was putting the brakes on somewhat, perhaps trying hard to recover from the uphills.

Having said all that I think the first lap ticked off in 11 minutes 30 seconds (1.89 miles according to the Strava segment). This was only 1 second slower than my record Wrekenton lap time as per Strava, recorded in 2017 when I went on to run 34m 30s.

Unfortunately this time I felt done and my mind raced back to 2014 when I had pulled out just after the brow of the hill on the second lap.

I vowed this time to push on but I felt my pace fading away. Chris Auld was away. The feeling of reeling slow pack runners in rapidly had gone, making way for a feeling of just running the same pace as them. I think I’d heard that I was already in the Top 200 well before the end of the first lap. But rather than relish the onward battle I was struggling to see how I would finish the race.

I navigated the big hill on the second lap although a few runners I would normally finish ahead of were dropping me convincingly. I would honestly say that did not enter any of my calculations to quit.

Trying to assess what was wrong I would say it was both breathing and legs. I felt weak. Add to that the hills and the lack of training on off road surfaces – it all meant a shock to the system I couldn’t handle. The overall Dew Point of 15°C was also having an impact. Although I’d trained in this type of weather a lot of the summer, the recent cooler weather had had an impact. My race singlet was drenched already and stuck to my body.

I tried to plough on as I approached the location of my other drop out at Wrekenton. That time, running for Elswick Harriers, I’d gone into the race with a right hip injury and decided to pull out to preserve further damage.

I pulled off the right side of the course hands on hips. I can’t really explain what was going through my head. It was disappointment. Maybe embarrassment as well. Runners streamed by, battling on.

I spotted Tom Charlton going by from the Fast Pack.

I continued to walk throughout. Wiping the sweat from my face. Looking up. Looking around. Was I really throwing the towel in again? About 2 minutes of walking had gone by.

For some reason I decided no. I would finish no matter how long it took. I started jogging, looked around so as not to get in anyone’s way and got back on the course.

I took things very slow at first, especially on the uphill sections. Running within myself I was able to take more notice of the spectators that were lining the course – shouting, clapping, ringing bells. The atmosphere was electric.

I was able to slowly but surely pick things back up. Not back to anywhere near “race pace”. But enough just to finish the thing off. The second lap was completed in 14:31, a full 3 minutes slower than the first.

I was conscious of how hard getting up the hills was, but overall I felt ok running sub maximal. I wasn’t experiencing a chesty cough. I just felt overheated and over tired. But there was now no question I would finish the last lap. I took the opportunity to give encouragement to runners who were walking or maybe struggling.

Cross country is tough and there is no place to hide. Of course it’s a physical battle. But the mental challenge cannot be underestimated. All of the North East Harrier League courses are multi lap affairs. There is something about the Wrekenton course that can demoralise you when you are not on your A game. For me I find the drag towards the first big hill hard and the drag before the mini hill before the second big hill hardest. You feel like they shouldn’t be slowing you down. But they do, more and more as the laps pass.

Refusing to give up this time (Photo: Stuart Whitman)

But I somehow enjoyed that 3rd lap. Perhaps it was the feeling of just not quitting. Of continuing. Finishing it off. Not letting the ego rule. Not worrying about what would go on the Power of 10…

One thing I enjoyed was a few little battles I had with runners I went by on that last lap. It crossed my mind that I never try so hard that I am literally heaving. I’m the type of runner who likes to have my breathing under control. I never let go and make as much noise as I like. Hats off to those runners who were giving it everything they had and unashamedly. I really appreciated seeing people give their all. And I resolved to ensure that I give the same commitment the next opportunity I get.

Finishing off the last lap (Photo: Geoff Fenwick)

The 3rd lap was completed in 12:50 for a total time of 39:17. With the 2:30 medium pack handicap I finished with a time of 41:47 which was 174th overall out of 511 finishers. I was 12th counter for my club (only 6 matter) and I currently sit 37th in the Vet men’s IGP table. In effect the race doesn’t count. To have any chance of competing in the IGP I would need to greatly improve in future outings and get another 4 of the 5 remaining fixtures done. At the moment that seems unlikely as the next fixture at Druridge Bay is 10th October – the same day as the Manchester Half.

In theory that would leave Lambton Castle, Aykley Heads, Thornley Hall and Alnwick Castle but I don’t think I will be able to compete all of those due to personal commitments. At best I can probably do 3.

But let’s see. Overall I feel I understand the poor performance and will take the positives in finishing off. Focus now turns back to the roads and getting on the start line fresh in Manchester.

Thanks for reading!

P.S. Special shout out to clubmates Michael Hedley and Tom Charlton for leading the Tyne Bridge men’s team home with the 1st and 2nd fastest times of the day. Class running and great to see!

Race Report: Great North Run 2021

Race Report: Great North Run 2021

Truth be known the half marathon scares me a little. Or maybe it’s the Great North Run (GNR) that scares me in particular?

As a competitive runner you can mention to anyone (who doesn’t really run) about a race you’ve done and chances are you will get a puzzled, slightly non interested look. Tell them you’ve done the GNR and they’ll ask you what time you ran. Tell them and they’ll instantly form an opinion on your status as a runner…

Quite a few people said to me following my 16.01 5k that it really bodes well for the GNR and Manchester Half but deep down I was fighting an anxiety leading up to the GNR that I simply didn’t feel going into the Quayside 5km.

It could be down to a few things…

1. My mileage is still low, even verging on derogatory for the half marathon. As I explained in the last blog, I have only averaged around 34 miles per week in the 14 weeks leading up to the GNR. Many would argue that is too low to be competitive in the 5k nevermind the half. I am in two minds. Better to do what you can consistently and not get injured. Even in Week 14 I tweaked my left hamstring which worried me until the day before the GNR when it thankfully subsided with ibuprofen and ice. I somewhat accept I am relatively injury prone and try to play the cards I am dealt.

2. The GNR was only my 3rd half and 2nd official half. I’m still inexperienced at this distance. My unofficial HM PB of 1.16.32 in 2019 was done in fine conditions on Newcastle racecourse (7 flat laps) and probably gave me a false sense of what I could do on the tough revised GNR course that still had a large element of the unknown. The Stryd race calculator tool didn’t seem to think the revised undulating course would greatly impact my overall race time, in effect suggesting that the up and downs would cancel each other out. I think all who ran the course would agree there were some particularly tough sections, not least the last few miles when tiredness really kicked in. There was definitely a sting in the tail.

3. I’ve increased my exposure and vulnerability by going more open of late on social media about what I am doing with my running and what I am thinking. Regardless of how few people read my WordPress or watch my YouTube videos I’m out there trumpeting about this and that on the regular. I’m either setting myself up for success or a nasty fall. On balance I enjoy running and writing about it. Doing videos is a new thing and whether I can keep that up remains to be seen but I have to accept it puts me out of my comfort zone. It’s good to have lofty goals and talk about them but if I have widely missed the mark I will call myself out. Manchester will either be a shot over the bow or a sunken ship… Ultimately there are hundreds of very talented Vet 40 male athletes out there who are quietly going about their business waiting for the chance to take the England vest. There are no free dinners in this world and I will have to fight for it and it will depend on how much I really want it, whether I truly have the ability (and a little bit of luck for good measure).

Sunday 12th September

Alarm: 5.45. Up to have 1 banana, 3 slices of soreen and 500ml of water. 2x beetroot shots at 6.15. Purple wee for the rest of the day. Then back for a half hour lie down. Cold shower, ready, more trips to the toilet than I would care to mention. Out of the door at 8am for the 45 minute walk down to Claremont Road…

Bumped into clubmates Sparrow Morley and Chris “Hui” Huitson. Was good to see friendly faces although Sparrow was wearing black leather shoes and I joked, wondering if he was going for some bizarre world record… Luckily he’d packed his running trainers in his bag. He was to be a constant dot on the horizon that was either going too far away or eventually coming back to me. More on that later…

I found the whole walking over the Moor thing to get to the A167 surreal. I felt like I was running late but wasn’t. Just went through with more Orange wavers than fast club runners. Tried very very hard to avoid Alan Robson. Succeeded. Thank Christ.

The warm up was also very surreal. I asked a marshall if there were any toilets on the A167 and he pointed up in the direction of Cowgate. I noticed a handful of people warming up and stretching so I decided to do the same. It was about 9.10. I’d been planning to do my warm up at 9.15 but cracked on. I ended up jogging right up to the fork in the road that leads to Grandstand road. Traffic was still going down there. I can only imagine the drivers were slagging us off… I used to slag Great North Runners off in my partying days.

I got a few little efforts in just trying to get the HR up to the type of intensity I’d be running at the gun. Felt fine. Had a couple of final toilet stops and then headed down to the start. There were a few weird types of number in the pen on the right hand side. Was a bit miffed the Elite men were on the left. Realise now I was stood right next to the Rugby coach who got interviewed on the BBC with Burnham. Dunno what time he ran. Going for a PB apparently.

As always 10 to 20 mins felt longer when you just want to crack on with the run. A lot of nervous energy around.

I’d written my plan on my left inside arm. Basically said “15km @  344-352w / 6.1km @ 356-364w”. Also wrote the word “stoic”. It’s funny I’d seen someone share a piss take on Instagram saying the “Daily Stoic” book by Ryan Holiday is part of the fitness influencers starter kit… I didn’t find it funny on the basis that if more people read the Daily Stoic, understood it and employed the basic ideas the world would 100% be a better place… Just about managed to decide I am definitely not a fitness influencer. Or maybe I am?

Finally the gun went and I struggled to run slow enough whilst seemingly watching 100s of runners (including orange wavers) disappearing off into the distance.

Easy opening miles, me left with Tyne Bridge vest (Official GNR picture)

I will pat myself on the back and say I did a bloody good job holding back. I knew it as I felt like I was jogging and not breathing. Of course down to the Tyne Bridge is very downhill so feels artificially easy. Almost disconcertingly so. Even so my power quickly ticked up to 342, 344, 345, 346w and into my planned target zone sooner than I thought it might…

Was nice to say hello to Patrick Houghton of North Shields Poly. Growing up he lived on the street adjacent to me in Waldridge Park Estate, Chester le Street. Despite our proximity our paths in life didn’t cross that much (mainly because we went to different schools) but still nice to say hello, usually whilst out in a race. We would see-saw back and forth quite a bit in the first 6 miles, mainly because I was deliberately backing off on uphills and slightly working the downhills. This is the essence of trying to maintain constant power. You simply have to slow down on uphills and pick up on the downhills (hitting a power target downhill is very challenging and needs to be practiced cautiously)…

Coming over the Tyne Bridge the support was already amazing. The ramp up after the bridge and my power was already at 354w and higher than plan. I had a choice to make and I couldn’t make it. And so I kept on pretty much at an average of 354 or 355w for the rest of the race…

This intensity had me go through 5km exactly at the sharp end of my plan. I had myself go through 5km in 18.00 or maybe 18.01 (official split 17.59). This was dead on a 1.16 half. Brilliant I thought, this is genius…so comfy.

Suddenly my nerves and anxieties were gone. I was able to just think about getting some water in. I took some sips at the first water station and poured some over my head, arms and legs. I’m not sure why I did the latter. Probably not necessary as it wasn’t warm. I only did this again once. I refused water and also chucked the gel I was carrying at about 7 or 8 miles. The chucking of the gel was over the top. I was almost angry at myself for even considering carrying it. I knew I never had the stomach for it.

Coming to the turn around point at approx 6 miles things started getting very interesting and certainly the race complexion in my mind changed dramatically. This felt like the real start of the race.

I think everyone enjoyed seeing themselves on the big screen here quite a lot. It was my own first loss of concentration and I nearly fluffed the u turn in my desire to big up myself on screen. What a knob…

By this point I was closing on Steven Medd of Gateshead and I was also joined by club mates Tim Kelso and Chris West. Tim said hello and I returned the greeting. It made me think we were both running well within ourselves. I knew I was but, that said, I already noticed more of a head wind going this direction back for Newcastle and we still had 5k to the 15k point where I was due to turn the screws. But unfortunately my 10km split gave me a jolt…

I think I looked down at something like 36m 5xs (official split 36.42)! Dear god, I had ran the 2nd 5k about 50s slower than the first! Although I didn’t panic I started plotting a pick up almost immediately.

The only thing that stopped me was the fact a decent sized group of maybe 5 or 6 or more (including me, Tim and Chris) had formed. I felt a bit of an opportunity to pick up the pace as a group. I perhaps cheekily asked Tim if he had a finishing time in mind. I think he thought I meant what was our current average pace. Chris didn’t know and Tim ventured 5.50s… I didn’t do any mental maths to confirm the 10k split but I knew I was overall down on a 76 minute half marathon. For some reason I didn’t remind myself that a negative split was exactly the original plan! I think I let it get to me. I think I was sensing I was going to struggle to pick up… I had lost trust in the plan because I hadn’t followed it properly!

The course at this point felt generous.

What happened next changed the course of the race for me and maybe others around me too. From what I could gather an Elvet Strider rocketed by our group which seemingly included a club mate of his. He shouted something. That led to his club mate somehow clipping Tim from behind quite badly. I heard the groan but credit to Tim for recovering. The whole thing made me decide I wasn’t hanging around in the group any longer. I immediately took after the Elvet Strider.

Although I think he went onto run sub 76mins (and I didn’t catch him), this move did lead me to a sustained advance through the field to the finish. But critically I had ditched my plan of waiting until 15km for the pick up. Actually, 15km was probably the turning point in terms of course difficulty with what seemed like the toughest of the climbs to get back up to Town Moor.

Strava mile splits

Making the move I could still see clubmate Sparrow down the road and he became the challenge to catch. I picked off some other runners in between (9th mile was quickest of the day in 5:31 but also lost most elevation) but I finally caught Sparrow just after 10 miles (10th mile in 5:56 and probably the hardest of the day. For reference Molly Seidel ran 5:5× this mile). I think the 10 mile split was about 58 or 59 minutes which I was pretty disheartened by. Sparrow seemed to be slowing quite markedly. I probably annoyed him somewhat by demanding he pick up, get on my heels and work together to the finish.

We were now on the fast descent back to the Tyne Bridge. One of the on course entertainment stations was blasting James Brown and it really lifted me as I love James Brown.

The crowds were amazing here.

I knew it was going to get very tough again after the Tyne Bridge. Horribly, coming up the hill I considered giving up, stepping off and throwing in the towel. I don’t know where this came from. I don’t think I’d realised the effort I’d put in that 10th mile before the Tyne Bridge. I’d put in a surge and perhaps it had done me in. I just tried to remind myself that everyone would be feeling very similar at this stage of the race.

Stepping off not an option (Pic: Ben Hall)

Luckily I got through the dooms day scenario of giving up as the crowds in the City Centre were giving amazing encouragement.

Coming up to Earls Grey monument I saw good friend Michael Hedley who gave me a huge cheer.

Pushing up to Earl Grey (Official GNR pic)

I picked up down John Dobson Street and passed the Civic Centre. I passed another couple of runners including a young Jarrow runner. Again I asked them to get on my heels and work together til the end. I should have just focused on myself. Just then the Red Arrows flew across. What a boost.

The Red Arrows were about to go over… (Official GNR pic)

I was approaching the last 800m. My mind wandered back to the 2017 Great North Run. I remembered how long that 800m had felt then. And this felt like one hell of a drag again. But I tried to remind myself that I only had a few minutes of running to go.

I don’t think it helped that I didn’t see the 400m sign as it was on the right as opposed to the left where the 800m sign had been. The 200m sign was approaching. The crowds were great here and I saw the Army line the sides of the road.

Final push to the finish! (Official GNR pic)

I heard the tannoy announcer saying something like “these are the fast club runners, these are elite athletes too, give them a huge cheer!”. That was nice but a quick glance at the watch and I couldn’t help but give a sigh to myself as I knew 1.16.x was now gone…

I just tried to maintain my concentration and work the arms. My main aim now was to not let anyone pass me.

Unfortunately I failed in this endeavour. One runner who I had passed just before Earl Grey had stuck to task and beat me by 1s.

Nothing really else to give! (Official GNR pic)
Official chip finishing position and time

Making my way back to the finishers village I was spent. I’m not sure I had much more to give on the day on that course. Although I’d not strictly speaking stuck to plan, the end result in my view was the same. I’d averaged 355w for the run and finished in 1:17:46. The Stryd prediction based on 355w was 1:16:40 +/- 2mins. So my result was well within that range. I now see that the course undulations led to the slower than expected time.

There is a tinge of disappointment (even though it’s an official PB) which is perhaps unwarranted but it does sow the seed of doubt about Manchester. I find it hard to remember I was practicing a sub maximal plan. And although it felt far from sub maximal I will get stronger for this race.

Coming 12th in the v40 age bracket reminds me how hard the challenge is that I have set. But all I can do now is turn my attention to Manchester and focus.

As I finish this blog a week after the GNR I have had far from a good recovery week, ending up in the Walk in centre on Wednesday with a serious allergic reaction to a sting (head to toe in hives) and a trip to the Covid test centre for a PCR test having developed a sore throat and cough on Friday following a particularly busy work week. With only 12km of training completed this week I am indeed panicky about Manchester now. But I have to remind myself life is life. Running with a chesty cough is simply not worth it. My best chance is to rest and recover and see how things go. But it has been frustrating to miss the Northern 6 stage on Saturday and now the opening fixture of the cross country at Wrekenton is also in question.

I’ll finish with a shout out to the Tyne Bridge Harriers mens team for an excellent 11th place in Redcar, qualifying comfortably for the Nationals. Also, well done to Tim Kelso for sticking to task so well – looking forward to meeting up in Manchester! I’d also like to thank my partner Jasmine for supporting me with my running and being there at the end of the GNR when my mind was somewhat scrambled, when I just needed a pint!

Much love x

Reflections on my build up to the Great North Run 2021 plus race strategy

As I finish Week 13 of 14 in the build up to the GNR it’s a good time to reflect on what I have done and my thought process going into the race.

Some may say it would be better to keep my “eyes on the prize”, i.e. the race to come.

But for me running is a continual learning process and I don’t think self reflection and learning should be paused no matter how close the race is. Capturing my thoughts and mindset pre race will also help me post race as well.

I have been intrigued by the high jumper Nicola McDermott who is meticulous in writing notes after every single jump in competition. It seems very out of the ordinary. But I admire it.

Follow me on Twitter @kevrich1981

Athletes like McDermott are seeking to learn and improve “on the job” and it certainly seems to work for her.

First of all, I am proud that I have got to this point. Even though I’ve only averaged 34 miles per week (442.7 over 13 weeks) in this build up it is still probably one of the best training blocks I have ever done(!). Critically I have stayed healthy and motivated.

Overall running distance in KM since 7th June 2021

I’ve really started to find myself as a runner in this training block. My confidence in my ability has grown and I feel more sure now about what I am capable of than ever before.

I’ve also not shirked races.

I’ve raced 5000m and 3000m on the track (for the very first time) and also two 5km’s on the road.

LGBT+ 5km in July, 2nd place in 17.09

I’m sure that switching to running to Power has helped with that. I don’t want to go into too much detail here but the power meter has helped me execute my training correctly. The benefit of downgrading the importance of heart rate training has been immense.

Having spent the period 2014 to late 2020 believing training to heart rate was the best way, I’ve now come to realise that it is not optimal for me.

For whatever reason I get too emotional about my heart rate, both during and after training. What I mean is, I allow heart rate data to affect me mentally whether monitoring out on the run or in post run analysis.

Don’t get me wrong, I still track heart rate data as accurately as I can as it is powerful information. But now I don’t let it run the show any more. This has been liberating in many ways.

Moving to Power has been the liberation because it has introduced a new metric without the emotional baggage of heart rate, pace etc. And it works really well for me.

I know if I go and run x watts I will get a specific workout and the resultant output of pace and heart rate will be what it is. As it happens the data I am seeing is excellent which helps, but I think that is a result of getting less worked up about heart rates and paces when I am out training.

Training to power provides focused race strategy as well.

For example, going into the Quayside 5km I knew if I put out 397 watts I would run 16.09 +/- 10s. I managed to execute that and ran 16.01. Not only that I pretty much even split the race perfectly (something I have never really been able to do in the past), running 3.12/km pretty much dead on.

This confirmed to me the real power of training to Power.

Running doesn’t need to be a magical and mysterious guessing game if you don’t want it to be. Admittedly I am an analytical person and it suits me to a T. I get that it may not be everyone’s cup of tea but, if like I was, you are a little in the doldrums with your current training I would highly recommend considering trying Power. Full disclaimer: I am not sponsored by Stryd and paid full price for the foot pod and membership of the full features of the app.

I’ve also been able to pinpoint issues in my form, specifically my naturally low cadence. Being 6ft 2in tall (188cm) does mean I have quite long legs and my natural cadence is low (160-170 in normal training). However, I’ve realised this is a strength if deployed correctly. The power meter has allowed me to really focus on cadence, stride length and Leg Spring Stiffness (LSS) so that I can improve and optimise my running dynamics. This is something I am having to try really hard at as my tendency is to revert to type.

I published a YouTube video on my belief in Stryd as a training tool prior to my Quayside 5km race here. This doesn’t cover the running dynamics aspects, more the nuts and bolts of the foot pod, how it calculates Critical Power, training zones and race time predictions. Note: in the video I state that Critical Power as calculated by Stryd is equivalent to Functional Threshold Power (FTP) for 60mins. Unfortunately I have since become aware that this is not correct. Stryd do not disclose the exact formula for Critical Power. At the time of writing my Critical Power is 383w (5.24 watts per kilo) whereas my FTP for 60mins is modelled at 364w (5.0 watts per kilo).

Current Critical Power rating in Stryd

So the build up has been good and the 16.01 5km in early August really points to a potential half marathon below 75mins. However, my approach going into the Great North Run has changed as I am now seeking to run all out at the Manchester Half in October with the aim of finishing top 3 in the V40 Age Group. If able to do so I should qualify to represent England Athletics in the Chester Half in 2022.

So the Great North Run now becomes a test run in preparation for Manchester.

With that in mind I will be targeting a time of around 76 to 77 minutes as a good outcome for the Great North Run.

I will be looking to run a negative split.

My strategy will be to run the first 15km in the range of 344 to 352w (avg. 348w) and the last 6.1km in the range of 356 to 364w (avg. 360w). If executed correctly I would expect to average 355w for the full half marathon and would expect a time in the range 1:16:40 to 1:18:32.

Stryd GNR race prediction based on 355w

My current official PB (1:20ish) was set in the Great North Run in 2017 but I have run an unofficial HM of 1:16:32 in 2019. If honest I would like to get as close to the latter as possible feeling like I had more in the tank. Strictly speaking a sub 79min is the minimum qualifying time for the England Athletics representation. Achieving that would be enough to allow me to fully focus on racing at Manchester.

I am planning to take a time split at both 5km and 15km. It will then be a case of dialling in my pick up to the finish. In an ideal world I will have plenty runners who are perhaps fading to pick up as motivation in this approach.

Another thing I am considering is nutrition. I have never considered nutrition for a half but I did try a gel with a small amount of caffeine today (5th September, 7 days out from the GNR) on my final long run of 18.8km. I must say I wasn’t too keen on it and frankly cannot understand how I could ever ingest a full gel. My thought is I will carry one gel and literally take a enough to coat the mouth at around 40-45mins to gently assist the planned pick up at 15 km.

In terms of footwear, it was a choice between Plan A of the Nike Next% 2 or Plan B of Nike Tempo Next%. For the GNR I will wear the Tempos and save the big guns for Manchester.

On a lighter note, a few people suggested if I had had my hair cut for the Quayside 5km I would have broken the 16 minute barrier. Again, I have taken the decision to keep the hair long for the GNR and save any hair cut for the big day out in Manc! I tried to rock a headband on the long run today but I’m not sure it will be getting an outing as I doubt I want to be caught on camera with it on!

Finally in terms of my training in Week 14 (the week of the GNR), this is the plan –

Mon: rest day (stretching, core)

Tue: easy leg loosener (8km max)

Wed: final HM session – 10km total split between power ranging from 345w to 360w

Thu: 4km easy

Fri: rest day (stretching, foam roller)

Sat: optional leg loosener otherwise rest

Sun: GNR, start time 9.45am behind male elites in fast club runner wave

So all that remains is to get on the start line mentally in the right place and healthy.

Thanks for reading! Good luck to anyone reading who is in the race. Enjoy!

P.S. For those that prefer a video, I’m hoping to get something posted on my YouTube channel “KR Runs” in my GNR training series here. Hopefully during next week. If you haven’t subscribed already it would be cool if you did!