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!

Training update, 1st-7th February

Training update, 1st-7th February

Thoughts of the week...

So last week things weren’t quite “clicking” and I wasn’t able to run my usual 6 days out of 7 with a rest day on Friday.

In many ways that’s fine and it is important not to stick too rigidly to a plan come hell or high water.

You need to be able to make decisions that are the best, depending on how you feel both mentally and physically.

Getting fit and getting good at running is a long game, and consistency always wins out.

Having thought about things I decided to change a few things this week, the main one being trying to reduce the pressure I was feeling on myself, somewhat bizarrely, on my easy days scheduled for Monday and Wednesdays.

Typically on these days I will run 60mins easy around 8 minute miling or no higher than 140-142bpm heart rate.

For whatever reason I was really hating these runs. 60mins trudging around at a slow pace is no fun. I dreaded these runs and found them boring and they would drag really badly.

So I’ve decided, if my diary allows, to break these runs up into double run days. So I’ll do 30 to 35 mins in the morning and the same again in the evening.

This has multiple benefits. A couple here. 1, I get an aerobic run in before breakfast which is good for metabolism. 2, I get to relax on pacing. I typically run the morning run at 9 min miles and the pm run at 8.5 min miling. I can more easily get more time on feet than the single run that I just wanted to end! It relaxes me mentally. And it ultimately makes me feel better.

I also decided to treat myself to a new bit of gear – a bone conduction set of headphones which basically means you can listen to music whilst still being aware of what’s going on around you.

I have to say they are outstanding.

The brand is Aftershockz. I bought the Aeropex version.

Admittedly they are expensive (I paid £149.95) but I think they are well worth it. Initially I was concerned as I wasn’t sure I could use them with a winter hat but they actually grip nicely to the outside of my head (they are supposed to fit round you ears) and work really well.

Mon, 1 Feb: New month, fresh start

This was the first double run day I had done for a while and I enjoyed the process.

For whatever reason I find it easier going through (the not inconsiderable) process of going for two short runs than one longer one.

I was rewarded for my morning efforts with the most beautiful crisp morning. Not too cold, and not a breath of wind. That is very rare in the North East of England.

I enjoyed every minute. Running 9 min miles is so easy you can actually notice the birds singing. I realised this is what I need… 4.4 miles in just under 40mins.

In the evening I quickened it slightly to 8.5 min miling. Still very comfortable. This time just over 4 miles in 35 minutes.

Job done.

I posted a YouTube video here which shows some footage of the evening run and some more of my thought process.

Tue, 2 Feb: very wet threshold sesh

The weather on Tuesday couldn’t have been more different to Monday. Lashing rain welcomed my threshold session of 3x 3km off 90s jog.

Rather than run exactly 3km I decided on 3 full loops of St. Andrews (see Strava map) which is about 1,090m per lap.

It was cold and wet so I had all of the winter gear on. I knew this wasn’t going to be the fastest session I had done but my key goal was to get the volume.

The wind was blustery and blowing in different directions.

It was a tough session in many ways but I got it done. Overall 6.4 miles in 42 minutes. Paces on the reps were nothing to write home about. Heart rate averaged 162bpm and maxed out at 168bpm. In hindsight I could have pushed a little harder on the last rep in particular.

Wed, 3 Feb: another double easy

This double run day couldn’t have been more different to Monday’s…

This time it was torrential rain and wind. So I got wrapped up and kept it easy again. Another jog at 9 minute miling. This time my average heart rate was 6 beats higher than Monday but I think that was explained by the session the evening previous and the weather conditions.

That afternoon I got out for the second jog of the day, this time 4.2 miles. Again the weather was terrible but there is a feeling of satisfaction that comes from double running (no matter how slow). A total of 7.8 miles for the day.

Thu, 4 Feb: faster sesh success

The plan was 3x 1 mile at 5.45 pace and 3x 800m in 2:45 (approx 5.30 per mile pace). There was two minutes rest to be had.

I have to say I was feeling a bit apprehensive. I think it was because I had been doing so much sub threshold type work, I was worried I may have become one paced.

Also, I hadn’t been running to specific paces for so long. I had been working to heart rate or power. So I was worried about how I would feel if I was struggling to hit pace.

In the end I needn’t have worried and I executed the session pretty perfectly. And most pleasing of all: it felt good. Very aerobic and never felt under pressure to run to the paces.

I was also able to run the two minute jog recoveries as more of a purposeful float. That was encouraging as the recoveries were back up a slight incline back to the start of the St. Andrews loop.

The total session ended up as 5.92 miles in 35mins 23s. Part of me wishes I’d finished with another float at the end of the last 800m rep as it may have comfortably closed it out as a decent training 10km. But that is by the by.

So I was effectively running 6 minute miles averaging 167bpm heart rate. My heart rate maxed out at 177bpm.

Heading in the right direction.

Fri, 5 Feb: rest day plus runners S&C class

Fridays are always a planned rest day and this was no different except I signed up for a runners strength and conditioning class at 6pm.

The class is run by Dave and Jenny at Blizard Physio.

The classes are different every week but this week had a dynamic warm up, foot conditioning, resistance band work, plyometrics, some HIIT and then a cool down.

I really enjoyed it and will be trying to do it more regularly to try to strengthen some areas and become a less injury prone runner.

If you are interested in giving it a go here is a link.

Sat, 6 Feb: first hill sesh in ages

In many ways this felt like the main session of the week. Not because of the volume but because of the hills.

Hill sessions are never easy and it had been a long time since I had even done one. In fact I can’t remember the last time I did a hill session.

The plan was 10x 300m off 2:30 jog back recovery. I would then do some drills and 5x 80m hill sprints.

First up was a 15 minute warm up. As soon as I got out the door it started raining and got progressively harder as the warm up went on.

Not to worry. I felt in a pretty good mind space, quite positive about giving it a good go.

The hill I used is very close to my house. Its a path that runs up from Town Moor to the top of Kenton Dene. Overall it has a gradient of 5% with parts probably >7.5%.

I felt I should be covering the 300m reps in between 60 and 70 seconds. And that’s how it turned out.

I probably overcooked the first rep feeling fresh. Covered it in 64-65s. The rest of the reps were averaging 67s.

It was one of those sessions where on rep 4 and 5 you wondered if you were going to fall apart by rep 7 or 8.

But I stuck to task pretty well, the 2:30 recoveries felt generous and allowed me to always feel ready for the next rep.

Overall I was pleased with how the session went and I knew it would make me a stronger runner. It’s both physical and mental.

I did some fast feet uphill which really feel alien to me. Being tall I have a naturally slow cadence and getting the feet to turnover quick is a challenge.

I decided to skip the 1 legged bounds to ensure I didn’t overstress the shin. I completed the 5x 80m sprints. I think they were more like 100m.

On the 15 minute warm down jog I felt good, another good training day ticked off.

I posted some footage of this workout on YouTube here.

Sun, 7 Feb: another unplanned rest day

Waking up on Sunday, total mileage for the week was 42.9 miles which represented an 8.6% increase on last week.

The plan was just to jog easy for 30-35 minutes but on balance I decided on complete rest to both allow full absorption of yesterday’s hill session and also give the shin a chance to rest.

Next week is a down week and I will focus 100% on putting this shin issue to bed and continuing to build consistency as we hopefully move closer to some racing opportunities in the next few months.

Thanks for reading!

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!

Adios!

Rising Sun Parkrun 21st July

Well it’s been over a month since I posted on here. I’m not sure why I haven’t posted as I do enjoy blogging.

I guess I was worn out with the “Gillmore Groins” diary through May and June.

I’m glad to say that all has gone to plan with the operation and I have been gradually getting back to some running. That has been supplemented by a good background of cycling which I must say I’ve been enjoying a lot.

I’m now pretty much commuting to work on the bike everyday which is about a 13-14 mile round trip. And I’ve been doing a longer ride on a weekend. So in total I’ve been been doing about 70-80 miles cycling per week. I remember reading that Frank Horwill suggested 1 mile of running is like 6 miles of cycling. But I’m not so sure.

What I’ve noticed is the cycling is keeping me very lean. Perhaps too lean. So lean that I’m always now around what I regarded “race weight” of approx 73kgs. Indeed a few people have commented that it looks like I have lost weight recently. That despite an obscenely low running mileage.

Once again the key takeaway from my injury and operation issues over the last few months has been to not get sucked back into the running addiction. Perhaps addiction is too strong a word but it is easy to get sucked into a mentality of just running running, running.

Yes I have running goals (I don’t have cycling goals – maybe why I’m enjoying it so much! No pressure etc.) and logic would say to achieve those running goals I need to do as much running as possible. However, I am adamant I need to find my own way. What I do know is my way will never be to run 100 miles a week. It won’t happen and I don’t want it to either.

I have decided to focus solely on 5k, 10k and XC. Any HMs will mainly be for training and fun. I still have no desire to run a marathon although I love watching them.

So I feel I need to find that running sweet spot and maintain the cycling supplementation to the point where I reach a high fitness level without injury or illness setbacks.

I also want to focus on quality. I want to hit some good sessions in training and translate that to racing. At the moment I feel like I train quite well at times but don’t transfer it to racing.

My recovery has been good enough so far to warrant a return to Tyne Bridge for my first club training session since March.

It was good to be back and to be running in a good group again after what felt like an age of walking and going to the gym alone.

Those were lonely days but I also look back on them with fondness. It was a challenge. A challenge I tackled head on. I proved to myself that I have the patience, discipline and determination to get through the programme required. Now I need to continue that discipline as I get fully tuned up for my next challenge.

My key goal now is to have the best ever XC season of my life here in the North East of England. And then translate that into a sub 16 5k.

I was keen to not overdo my first club session but I felt so good. The session was a structured pyramid Fartlek with the shorter efforts at 5k pace and the longer at 10k pace. I was planning on 5:20ish and 5:40ish respectively.

I didn’t get the session up on the Garmin before hand so I can’t really report on my paces but I felt like I was completing the 10k pace sections in more like 5:30-35. I was surprised my “engine” felt powerful. If anything I had to hold myself back, reminding myself to not overdo it.

This weekend was an ideal opportunity to get out for a parkrun. I was keen to find a run with a nice bike ride from my home, similar to my work commute. So Rising Sun in Wallsend suited nicely.

I set off at 8am and the 6 mile ride was enjoyable and I was there a little early. I warmed up for 10mins and it was quite warm when the sun came out.

The course itself is excellent. I had decided to run to heart rate, keeping my effort around threshold of 180-181bpm.

The first section is pretty fast until you hit a wooded section. Strangely there is a fork with an option to go left or right. Having not run the course before I was unsure which would be best so I instinctively opted right. This was undoubtedly a slow section of the course until it wound down back onto the gravel tracks.

Coming out of the woods I was sitting in 3rd place with two guys well ahead although 2nd place seemed to have been dropped.

I tried to focus on working back to 2nd and I did feel like I was making headway. That said my heart rate had increased to 184-186bpm which was pushing into 10k effort.

I had no idea where I was in relation to the finish and I must admit turning a corner to be disappointed to realise I wasn’t as close to the finish as I thought! But that’s understandable given how long it’s been since I’ve tried a decent effort solo.

I did feel like I was slowing. Second place was looking around a lot and obviously slowing too. Had this not been a training run I would like to think I could pick up and take the bait but I kept it controlled into the finish.

In the end I was a significant 10 seconds behind 2nd, crossing the line in 17:53. The Garmin measured the course at 3.16 miles and as a result Training Peaks indicated that 5k was complete in 17:34.

All in all pretty pleasing given the last few months…

On Sunday I got out for a 10 mile long run with Michael Hedley and rounding off the week with approx 31 miles of running and >100 miles of cycling. In total I’ve exercised >10hrs all in and I believe that’s probably a record. Even at the heights of my running (completing approx 50 miles a week) I’d probably only be exercising approx 6hrs per week so I believe this balance of running and cycling could be the key to unlocking some faster running over the next 6-12mths.

Watch this space!

Thanks for reading.

Week 21 snow, rehab and a well timed race cancellation

Coming out of week 20 I was concerned about my shin issues and was feeling pretty tender after the long run on Sunday.

On Monday I was able to complete a treadmill run but it was starting to feel a bit foolish to push through and it was a case of accepting that I needed to rest from running and get it checked out.

Clearly my shins are taking the stresses caused by weaknesses elsewhere and I need to fix the source of the problem.

On Tuesday I completed some cross training in the gym including exercise bike and also a little treadmill walking.

Around this time the snow in the North East was particularly bad which meant outdoor running was tricky. On Wednesday I took a full rest day as the local gym was closed.

The weather conditions were so severe that the last Cross Country fixture at Alnwick was postponed. In many ways I was pleased as I was becoming concerned of the impending decision as to whether I should race with a niggle/injury. I am keen to complete all 6 fixtures and finish the season strongly.

My shins seemed to settle down nicely for the break from running and I was able to get back out on the snow for a run over the Town Moor on Thursday. The snow actually gave some welcome cushion and I felt like it was a good workout in terms of building some core and leg strength.

On Friday I built a little in terms of both duration and distance knowing that I had a physio appointment on Saturday to talk through the problems I was having.

I noticed on the Friday run that my core muscles were really being tested by running on the snow – a sure sign to me that I have some weakness there and certainly something I need to work on.

The physio appointment confirmed that I have some neural nerve issues in my shins probably caused by glute and core weakness. I felt like I had made quite a bit of progress in this area last year but clearly this underlines the fact that core strength is something you must constantly work on. It doesn’t merely get fixed and thats it – you have to work on it to improve and maintain it.

So I’ll be looking to get back on the glute strengthening exercises whilst managing my running based on “pain”. In other words I will continue to train provided the shins don’t worsen and become too sore.

Again I was able to get out on Saturday and build a little more on Friday. The conditions in terms of the snow were still poor and overall difficult to run on. And again I felt first hand how my core was having to work to try to stabilise every step as I was still sore in that area.

On Sunday I had 60 minutes planned as a long run which was less than previous weeks as it had been scheduled as coming the day after the cancelled cross country race. I went with it given the issues ongoing.

The snow conditions were similar in terms of what lay on the ground but the temperatures had increased a little meaning rain.

I decided to drive down to the Town Moor to run controlled laps on part of the Newcastle parkrun course. As I’d been doing most of the week I decided not to wear my HRM and just run on feel given the ground conditions were still testing.

Despite the wind and rain I felt quite good and I had some music to keep me going. I noticed there were very few runners out and about and the conditions were pretty grim. But there’s an enjoyment to be had from the dedication to a pursuit of personal venture.

I’m in it for the long haul. I’ll get stronger and better. I am confident of that.

In summary I completed approx 35 miles running in 4hrs 40.

I’m back on my travels to Italy this week. That means more treadmills which may not be a bad thing as I seek to find continual improvement in these shin niggles. But overall I’m hoping to get the weekly mileage back above 40mpw as attention stays focussed on the results scheduled Alnwick XC race and slightly further ahead the Northern 12 stage relays.

Thanks for reading.

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.