I needed to almost hate running to start to try to love it again…

I needed to almost hate running to start to try to love it again…

It’s been about 5 months since I ran 73:34 at the Manchester Half Marathon, a race where I had registered my interest to represent England Masters in 2022. To do that I needed to finish in the Top 3 in my age group. I ended up finishing 5th.

I was delighted with my performance.

It represented the culmination of a prolonged period of training and racing from April 2021 to October 2021, taking in a 3k and 5k on the track in early summer, a 5k PB of 16.01 on the road, the Great North Run HM on a tough altered course (1.17.46) and finally the Manchester Half.

Although I felt great and proud in what I had achieved (undoubtedly my most successful year as an amateur athlete) I don’t think I realised how tired I was. When I say tired, with the benefit of hindsight, I realise this was much more mental than physical.

It meant that I was unable to really get back into any kind of rhythm both in terms of my training and racing. I ran one XC fixture shortly after Manchester which didn’t go amazing. I put that down to a lack of off road training (specificity) and also a bit of residual fatigue.

But since October 2021 I have struggled to train and the idea of setting goals and identifying races had become repugnant.

This was very strange for me. Of course, having trained for the last 10yrs, I have had many times where motivation has waned but never a feeling of complete dissatisfaction with the whole thing.

Winning Tyne Bridge Harriers veteran male athlete of the year did briefly serve as a wake up call and a reminder of what I had achieved in 2021, despite not achieving my overall aim of qualifying to represent England Masters.

But that boost of motivation was short lived.

What followed was more stop/start training. The general process was to note down a basic 6 to 8 week plan to get me back into some kind of shape. But invariably desire and motivation would break down again.

Overall since Manchester I have averaged around 17 miles per week with no real useful outings such as threshold. I have run one parkrun in windy conditions where I struggled to hold 75-80% of effort held in Manchester.

But that’s running. It’s honest. If you don’t train you won’t stay fit.

The facts of detraining are quite simple. You hear people say “I’m unfit”. It’s a feeling but simply all that happens is your legs lose conditioning, your resting heart rate slowly but surely increases and ultimately you put on weight. Your ability to clear lactate decreases and overall your VO2 max will decrease as well…

The danger is you lose patience in your training… For me this manifests in training runs ran too fast. Everything I learned in my training from 2018-2021 (about patiently building aerobic base) that led to my successes and PBs is cast aside as I seek to maintain something on nothing.

So here I am in March 2022. I can honestly say in these 5mths that I have gotten close to hating running. I had to stop listening to the podcasts, stop following athletes on Instagram, unsubsribe from the running channels I followed on YouTube. I needed a break, something akin to going cold turkey.

But ultimately I couldn’t stop thinking about running. I know that overall I am capable of more. The 16.01 5k in August 2021 was only my 5th official 5k race ever. My 73:34 HM was only my 3rd official HM ever.

Although in many ways I surpassed my expectations last year I feel like I have much more to offer in the next few years. And so I am determined to fall back in love with running again…

Thanks for reading.

Race report: NEMAA Track and Field Championships 2021 – 5000m

Race report: NEMAA Track and Field Championships  2021 – 5000m

I finally got my 2021 race account opened up with an outing at the North East Masters Athletics Association (NEMAA) Track and Field Championships.

I’ve been a member of the NEMAA since turning 35 back in 2016 but I haven’t really participated (certainly not as much as I would have liked), having only raced a couple of road relays.

So my track debut was very overdue.

As regular readers will know, I haven’t posted a blog since February as I again succumbed to another injury – this time the right knee – mainly through my own over zealous training error.

So it’s been a slow and very patient return to running.

In many ways this race came far too soon in my training return as I have only just begun a 14 week program to take me through to the Great North Run in September 2021. And this race came at the end of week 2(!) and is only my second week of running approx 25 miles per week!

So my running training load is very low. But I was keen to give the track a go and see how things are over a race distance I am familiar with, on the roads at least. I aim to use the information from the race to inform my training going forwards.

I have posted a couple of YouTube videos for those interested in hearing more. The first is here – a general introduction to my Great North Run half marathon training plan.

The second (here) talks about my expectations going into my 5000m track debut. I plan to get more active on YouTube so please watch, like, comment and subscribe!

In summary, I felt I was at best in shape to run 17:30ish. This was based both on my current VO2 max as predicted by Garmin and my Stryd power meter running data, although some extrapolation was required on both fronts.

My current Garmin VO2 Max rating is 58 which predicts 17:43 for 5k.

Now I know a lot of people are sceptical about the VO2 max ratings on Garmin.

However, I’ve now been using Garmin for many years and feel the watch is fairly well calibrated to my own physiology. Critical to this is an accurate maximum heart rate reading. I have mine currently set to 192bpm which I feel is pretty accurate for me.

The only potential issue is that my low training volume means that my aerobic fitness is lower than normal whereas my top end (ability to run a fast 400-1600m) is probably still there or thereabouts. So I have to believe I am fitter than 58 VO2 Max.

Another indicator I am now using is based on power data from the Stryd foot pod which is essentially a running power meter. Power meters are much more prevalent in cycling but Stryd are making strides(!) in this new area for runners.

I like this alternative view as a contrast to Garmin although I feel the pod is still learning about me, given I have been injured and running low mileage recently (the pod needs as much varied running data as possible from the last 90 days to give accurate forecasts).

Going into the race my Critical Power (this is the threshold at which the dominant type of fatigue your body experiences changes) was 332W with a predicted 5k time of 18:58. The prediction was based on a forecast average power for 5k of 342W. You will note that 5k predicted power is 10 watts higher than Critical Power.

Although I’ve never raced a 5k since getting the foot pod in November 2020 I felt confident that I could hold more than 342W for the distance. That said, this race was a chance to wear the foot pod in a competitive situation, give it a good go and see what came out of it.

In preparation for the race I completed some very light workouts (light in terms of volume) on grass wearing my Saucony spikes which I planned to wear on the track.

The key workout was 4x 580m (one lap of Kenton Dene on grass) with rest allowing heart rate to return to 120bpm – Strava link here.

As a general rule this recovery was to last no longer than 90 seconds. If it took longer the workout would cease.

As it happened I completed the workout although the recovery was tight going into the last rep.

The efforts were generally around 3:20/km pace. This was pretty much the pace of my 5km road PB (16:44 ran in 2017).

Usually what this means is I could probably run around that pace for 5km. However, the key to running a good 5km is speed endurance.

That comes from consistent training load, a consistent long run, threshold work and some 5k race pace work to put the cherry on the cake. I didn’t have any of these in my locker really (other than the light session described above) going into this race so in many ways I’d be relying on muscle memory to get anywhere near to 16:44.

I arrived at Monkton Stadium in good time to pick up my race number. The facilities are excellent with a gravel track outside the stadium to warm up.

Conditions were perfect, a little muggy but the sun was starting to show and really nothing to be concerned about.

I jogged about 4 laps of the gravel track, about 2km in 10mins or so. I then ran some 20 second strides (5 in total) with full recovery. Everything felt fine, I didn’t worry about the pace of the strides. It was pretty warm and it didn’t take much to feel ready for the race.

I made my way through to the stadium.

It felt exciting to be running a track race for the first time. I felt nervous which was good. I put the spikes on and waited to be called for the race.

It definitely felt like the sun was coming out stronger just in time for the off. In the end there were only 7 men running the V35-49 race and I didn’t really recognise any of my competitors both in terms of which were in my age category or indeed what they were capable of 5k time wise.

With hindsight this would have been useful to know. That said, my main goal was to experience a track 5000 and find out where I was at with a full effort very early in my training cycle. So I didn’t worry about the competition except for the loose aim to sit in off the front pack.

After some formalities from the officials the gun went and we were underway.

The race gets underway (me second from left)

Quite quickly 3 of the lads were at the front and I sat in behind another lad but we were swiftly a little adrift.

I continued to sit in for a lap or two (maybe 3?) feeling OK until the point I felt like we were losing too much ground too quickly to the front three.

Me tucked in behind #79 Paul Wilson first few laps

I decided to overtake what I now know to have been the 3rd V40 in the race (the front 3 consisted of 1 V35 and 2 V40s). It took a little acceleration down the home straight which was slightly wind assisted. I’m not sure how many laps were to go but I’d guess 8 or 9.

I don’t regret it and I was able to keep a slight advantage over my V40 bronze medal competition for quite a few laps. But I was never able to break away. He was always there and breathing quite heavily. This meant I thought he would drop off if I kept it honest. Meanwhile, my idea of also trying to bridge the gap to the front 3 was all but gone as the distance had grown too great.

Pressing on gamely but not shaking off

I started to notice a slight dread at the number of laps remaining. The officials had a board counting down at the end of each lap. Although the laps were going by quite swiftly I still had 6 laps to go and it didn’t take a mathematician to work out there was still pretty much half way to go.

I managed to maintain my 4th place position and just tried to focus on my breathing and stride rate. I wasn’t referring to my watch at all. I was taking note of the official reading out total race time each lap. He seemed to be positioned at the start line but I didn’t entirely know what the times meant in relation to distance completed.

Indeed it only meant something on the very last lap and aided the push to the end…

Meanwhile my nearest competitor was hanging on gamely and I sensed myself slowing. I couldn’t help but consider I was lacking strength endurance. I didn’t necessarily think I’d gone too hard too soon. But I definitely felt like he was readying to overtake…

The resistance soon became futile…

I did resist this a few times by relaxing a little and just increasing cadence slightly. But I did succumb to the challenge with about 2 or 3 laps remaining.

In being overtaken I allowed myself to reveal the full extent of my tiredness… Letting go of quiet, controlled breathing and letting it be known I was gasping for air!!!

I stayed in touch until the very end but in my heart of hearts I never seriously contemplated getting back in front. I turned my attention to my finishing time and trying to avoid complete capitulation. I knew when I got to the last lap it was in the bag. Yes the last lap would hurt but the risk of completely blowing up would be averted. And I sensed a chance to sneak under 17 minutes based on the times I had heard being read out.

Coming down the home straight I was able to pick up. I simply closed my eyes, holding on, only opening them in the hope that I was closer and closer to the finish.

Getting over the line was a relief and the Garmin watch time of 17.01 was pleasing. I finished 3 seconds behind 3rd place in the V40 race which was a shame and certainly it isn’t inconceivable to think that a bronze medal was possible with a little more fortitude when it came to the crunch in the last third of the race.

I am planning to post a YouTube video with my full post race reflections so I will not go into too much detail here. Suffice it to say that I was correct in my feeling that both the Garmin and Stryd apps were under estimating what I could run.

Very interestingly my Garmin watch kept my VO2 max reading at 58 despite the race registering at 5,080m and an average HR of 161bpm. Unfortunately my heart rate data is unreliable in the early part of the race and only kicked in the second half. But having ran 17 minutes flat for 5km, the VO2 Max rating should be more like 60.

My heart rate topped out at 192bpm at the end of the race meaning I am confident in using that as a reasonable and perhaps conservative figure. This ensures the Garmin VO2 Max reading remains honest and also means any improvement in training should be genuine.

The Stryd data on the other hand has registered the performance with my Critical Power rating jumping from 332W to 371W.

My predicted half marathon time has improved to around 1 hour 18 minutes which is a great step in the right direction this early in my Great North Run training plan.

And with that I move onwards and upwards!

Thanks for reading! If you have any comments or questions I would love to hear from you! Happy running!

XC 2015/16 | Training Diary | Week 5

XC 2015/16 | Training Diary | Week 5

Key aim for the week –

I was pleased with my run on Saturday last week so I come into Week 5 with renewed vigour. Feel like I’m building momentum and I know weeks 5-8 of any plan can see big fitness improvements and gains. I do feel like I’ll start turning something of a corner if I keep this going. All going to plan and feeling good and strong. Lets get stuck into week 5!

In terms of the plan its very similar to Week 4 with Saturdays race replaced by a threshold run.

Weight on Monday morning –

???kgs

Didn’t check again.

General mental state –

9.5 – feeling a boost after the XC race on Saturday and looking to keep the motivation high. I am very keen to get the sub 17 minute 5k put to bed over the coming weeks as well although it will no doubt have to be a parkrun due to the lack of 5k races around.

On a scale of 1-10, 1 being exhausted need a break and 10 being 100% motivated and raring to go

Monday
Plan – Easy run, 45mins

Got out, the weather was good and everything fell into place. 6.6 miles in 45 minutes at an average HR of 153bpm. Afterwards I completed 5 times 20 seconds strides just to get a little bit of 5k race pace in the legs.

All in all feeling strong and interested to see if the improved easy zone pace translates into some improvement at threshold intensity. If I can start to see my threshold pace threatening 6 minutes per mile at the right intensity for 40 minutes then I know I am shape to break 17 minutes for 5k!

Tuesday
Plan – Threshold run, 40mins

The weather was great again so I decided on a change of run route. I have the Newcastle Town Moor on my doorstep and there is a nice loop probably over a mile round. I have completed a threshold run around there before so after a warm up I got stuck in.

I was hoping to threaten 6 minutes per mile and the weather was so good I pretty much did so. I was enjoying the run and giving it some effort.

I only started hurting a little in the last 5-10 minutes and I had to battle a little but I was still ticking off miles in 5.56 on the Garmin.

All in all a great workout. Strava reported that I’d completed 10K in ~37.30 and overall 6.6 miles in 40mins at an average HR of 170bpm. Pleasing.

Wednesday
Plan – Recovery run, 45mins

I felt like I might suffer a bit for yesterday’s effort but instead I put in my strongest “easy” run to date!

It just felt like I could push the pace and the heart rate felt controlled and never threatened to spill into a true threshold.

I take this as a positive sign that my strength and fitness is improving.

6.6 miles were ticked off in the 45mins at an average HR of only 150bpm.

Thursday
Plan – Threshold run, 40mins

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again – Thursday workouts are tough! I’ve always got one eye on the Friday rest day to be honest but actually this was a pleasing run. That said I had to work for at and in many regards it felt like it might never end.

Again my heart rate was generally staying lower than I am used to despite the perceived threshold effort. I was aiming for 6.08s on the Garmin but, after getting into my stride the first two miles, I got miles 4 and 5 slotted in sub 6 minute miling fairly comfortably. As a result I was sitting on 6.02/3s and feeling good for it.

Slowed a little coming home but that is normal and I ended up with 7.3 miles in 45mins and an average HR of only 163bpm which strictly speaking isn’t even threshold! That said it was tough and I felt it. Rest day tomorrow feels well deserved!

Friday
Plan – Rest

Saturday
Plan – Threshold run, 45mins

I would usually run on a Saturday morning but I had some errands to run and also an article to write for my other website RUN 5k FASTER so it was afternoon before I got out.

If honest I wasn’t fully up for another effort like Thursday so I had a half plan of building into it the first half and then pushing on the second half.

The first mile was a lot slower than normal but then I threw in a few efforts and it was becoming more of a fartlek than anything.

First 5k was done sub 20mins comfortably and had a little go pushing on a bit. Wasn’t feeling amazing and maybe huffed and puffed for it a little towards the end.

I wasn’t desperate to run all 45 minutes and ended up clicking the watch just under 42 with 6.6 miles completed at an average HR of 163bpm again. Fair dos.

Sunday
Plan – Long run, 80mins

Got to bed a bit late so didn’t get out in the morning. Watched Callum Hawkins absolutely bossing the Half Marathon in Glasgow. Impressive stuff.

Didn’t get out until the afternoon after a family meal. What an awful run first half.

Was fighting a sickly feeling and dialed everything right back. Was one of those runs where you dreaded being 6 miles from home! Luckily things settled down and I improved on the way home.

Overall wondered whether I was coming down with something but heart rate was under control. Did about 72 minutes which is slightly down on previous weeks and slower average pace of 7.30/mile.

Got it done and hopefully no adverse reactions as was touch and go whether it was sensible to run. That said got a work trip early next week which will put a spanner in the works so was keen to get it done.

Weekly totals and Summary

Duration – 5h 4m

Mileage – 45.2 miles

A strong week ended with a slightly subdued weekend. Attention turns to next week and preparing for the Sherman Cup race at the weekend. Its not an A race as such so I’ll see how this week goes training wise with the work trip. If I need to change race plans I will do.

This week I have been listening to –

Kurt Viles new album “b’lieve I’m going down…”

Some lovely tunes on there and certainly a lot more chilled out than Sleaford Mods but I expect to get back on the agro stuff as my next race is next week!

This week I have been thinking a lot about –

Getting RUN 5k FASTER gaining some traction. Like running the key to succeeding with any blog is consistency. I am trying hard to post a regular weekly article that I believe delivers value and good info to runners who want to improve. I’m keen to give this a good go and also to help others.

I’m working with a couple of runners at the moment and really enjoying it. I’m genuinely interested in this sport and am enthusiastic about keeping involved for the long term. I do hope I can make my plans come to fruition. Check out www.run5kfaster.com and let me know what you think!

Contact me

Follow my training on Strava –
Kev Richardson Strava profile

For free running advice (and loads of other stuff!) check out –
RUN 5k FASTER

XC 2015/16 | Training Diary | Week 4

XC 2015/16 | Training Diary | Week 4

Key aim for the week –

My attention turns to the first Cross Country on Saturday at Tanfield. It’s not a course I have ran before and the key focus this week will be to get another solid week in. I won’t be tapering as such as this is only week 4 and essentially the XC fixture is seen as the first hard effort. As the season develops I’ll want to see my strength and fitness increase.

This will be the first time I have run from the Fast pack. So I will be giving a 5 minutes head start to the main slow pack and 2 and a half minutes to the Medium pack. In that regard it’ll be a fact finding mission to see where I’m at. Excited to get stuck in!

Weight on Monday morning –

???kgs

Didn’t check this week. As I mentioned in Week 2, not something that it essential to measure week in week out and overall I feel like I’m getting into race shape.

General mental state –

9.0 – things never get easier, you just get better. And so I feel coming into this week. Last week was a weekly high for me duration and mileage wise and I’m feeling the effects. I’m also walking the tightrope of training / working / living and trying not to fall off! That said I am focused on what I want to achieve – another improvement on last years cross country season and, of course, the sub 17 minute 5k! Mental strength and its importance cannot be underestimated. Giving up is an easy option.

On a scale of 1-10, 1 being exhausted need a break and 10 being 100% motivated and raring to go

Monday
Plan – Easy run, 45mins

Work was crazy today with an all day meeting that didn’t finish til 8pm. I considered canning the run altogether. For right or wrong I got it in. This is where things get stressful, squeezing runs in and feeling fatigued. It’s here that you start asking yourself questions. Why am I putting myself under this pressure etc?

I completed 6.5 miles in just under 47 minutes and an average HR of 153bpm. Despite my tiredness nothing seemed out of order and a “strong” easy run. First run in the dark which felt odd. There are a lot of those to come this winter!

Tuesday
Plan – Threshold run, 40mins

Planned to hit a threshold pace of maybe 6.08/mile which is equivalent to 60 VDOT with the appropriate adjustment for 40 minutes. I measure pace on my Garmin as the TomTom is unfavourable! Lol.

Pretty much completed the run to plan. Had issues with my heart rate monitor but the average was ~170bpm at most and overall my heart rate is coming down on these runs. They aren’t getting easier though! 6.3 miles completed in 40 minutes.

Wednesday
Plan – Recovery run, 50mins

Slightly longer recovery run. Sometimes I feel the lines between these easy runs and the threshold runs become blurred. Reason being I feel strong pushing to the top of my easy zone (163bpm) and I can run sub 7 minute miles at this intensity. Pretty much all my easy runs are around the 7-7.10mins per mile pace now (lower on the Garmin!). When I run a threshold run I usually average ~170bpm and 6-6.25mins per mile. Often I think I need to run my easy runs a bit easier and my threshold runs harder. That said, when the threshold run duration goes above 30 minutes in duration its hard to contemplate pushing harder than I already do.

Overall on this run 6.9 miles were completed in 50 minutes and an average HR of 153bpm.

Thursday
Plan – Threshold run, 40mins

The last couple of weeks have been XC runs but this time I stayed on concrete. Thursday runs can often be testing because it is the 6th run in a row (Sat-Thu). This was no exception. With one eye on Saturdays race I dialed the intensity back to 58 VDOT and an adjusted pace of 6.16/mile (on the Garmin).

Felt tough from start to finish and also felt a little niggle in the outside of the left knee.

Got it finished and overall felt like the heart wasn’t working as hard (as expected due to lower intensity) but the run did feel hard. In my mind I knew this was more than likely because of the impending race and general fatigue. The culmination of 3.5 weeks of decently hard training and the thought of the season coming a bit too soon = tired run + niggles. I’ve been here before. I know I’ll be fine.

6.3 miles in 40 minutes and an average HR below 170bpm I think overall. I pretty much hit the target pace average on the Garmin.

Friday
Plan – Rest

Saturday
Plan – North East Harrier League: Race #1 – Tanfield

I have a little routine on the Friday night before a XC race to get my kit bag sorted. I decided to have a sort through my running box which has all my kit, race numbers, medals etc. For some reason I had it in my mind that this was my third full North East Harrier League XC season. But sorting through my race numbers I realized it was my fourth!

Can't believe this is my fourth full season!

Can’t believe this is my fourth full season!

So I had a look at my performances over the last 3 seasons. I easily forget the improvement I have made –

2012/13

Average mens field size – 399 | My average finish position – 143 (Power of 10)

2013/14

Average mens field size – 487 | My average finish position – 189 (Po10) Note – 1 DNF and running anaemic negatively impacting performance!

2014/15

Average mens field size – 522 | My average finish position – 69 (Po10) Note – started being Coached by Dave Tune Oct ’14

2015/16

????

My progress last year was very very pleasing and I think I downplayed my achievement of getting into the Fast pack in the last race of last season. This finally hit home as I stood on the start line of the opening race of the season at Tanfield. There were some very talented runners still starting from the Medium pack, here I was watching them go with a 2 and a half minute head start.

Without doing myself a disservice I deliberately held back from the start line here. I’d been researching and reading a lot on XC race strategy and I had decided (especially since I didn’t know the course) that I would use the first lap to settle and not worry about most of the fast lads dropping me. After the first lap I planned to build with the knowledge of where I could attack and dig in.

And so the race got underway and it didn’t take long for me to settle in joint last place! A Crook runner who was by my side actually said “so it’s between me and you for last place!”. I couldn’t help but laugh. But strangely it automatically quickened my stride and away I went.

I didn’t feel out of my depth. I didn’t worry about being embarrassed. I didn’t feel embarrassed. I’d earned my place here and I was going to give it my best shot. That said the first lap was tough. I deliberately didn’t wear my GPS as I race better without the distraction. But the first lap felt well over 2 miles. I’d settled in ok but said to myself – this is going to be tough – dig in.

I felt like I made some good progress on the second lap. We’d already started taking slow pack runners and the crowds were getting bigger. The course overall was quite narrow with the odd muddy spot and so picking the best line and injecting extra pace to overtake was essential. This is what I excel at I think. I like taking a few risks. I like putting a bit of pressure on myself at various points.

It was impossible to really tell how I was doing. I was aware that I was in general running with a Tynedale Harrier and a Saltwell Harrier that had started from the Fast Pack. I think about 3/4 through the 2nd lap I managed to drop them both. However, I felt a bit overcooked as a result coming into the 3rd lap and I think I let them go unfortunately. So it was then just a case of hunting down as many slow pack runners as possible.

Starting to build on the 2nd lap

Starting to build on the 2nd lap

On the 3rd lap I got a definite second wind and felt really strong, especially on the little down hill sections. Wow, some strength and confidence at the business end of a XC race! This was not normal. I like to think I got my tactics right. It was still tough on the inclines but I kept my technique in check and just dug it out, keeping the feet quick.

On each lap there was a water crossing which had proved quite easy on the first two laps but low and behold on the last lap it felt like my feet were weights coming out the third time! Not to worry the end was in sight…

I was fully focused on just keeping moving as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Every part of you is wanting it to end and with that you naturally tighten up and fight. The best thing is to relax and just push from the core.

Coming onto the final straight a few lads were finishing very strongly including a couple of team mates from Elswick. Getting over the line I was spent but overall I was really pleased with the effort.

I finished 171st out of 590 runners from the Fast pack. I was the 38th fastest on the day which is my best finish ever, my previous best being 43rd fastest at Wrekenton at the end of last season. Pleasing and I know I will come on for this run.

Sunday
Plan – Long run, 80mins

On my warm down after XC yesterday the niggle in my left knee was noticeable so I wasn’t overly looking forward to a long run. So I went out a little later and kept it very easy the first half hour. Actually got into it quite nicely after that and was pleased to complete my usual Sunday route pretty much on pace as per previous weeks. 10.8 miles in 1hr 18 at an average HR of only 152bpm. Very pleasing I don’t feel tired.

Hoping this little niggle which wasn’t an issue really today will not feature next week.

Weekly totals and Summary

Duration – 4h 55m

Mileage – 43.1 miles

Reduced duration / mileage versus last week but natural to take account of the first race of the season. Reflecting on the performance I’m pleased and hoping to build as the season progresses.

This week I have been listening to –

SLEAFORD MODS – I owe my run on Saturday to the song Fizzy from the album “Austerity Dogs” which is their first album. This came about by complete chance. I had been conscious of the band but not really aware of how much I like them. I was out on Friday night for a catch up with mates. We were sat in a bar when my mate noticed the two blokes from Sleaford Mods walking past! They had a gig in Newcastle that night. My mate had waxed lyrical about them so when I got home I listened to the first album. Wow! The tune Fizzy stuck out like a sore thumb. I listened to it about 50 times on Saturday morning. It was lodged on my brain and accompanied me all the way round the course. Whenever I got tired I just had “FIZZY” shouting in my brain. Thank you SLEAFORD MODS.

This week I have been thinking a lot about –

Am I cut out for this? Yes, the negative thoughts have come into view this week! What a surprise – it took until the fourth week to start wondering why am I doing this and can I do this? Mental strength is essential here to keep going. I will keep going. Running is my passion, it slept dormant from the ages of 12 to 30. I won’t let it go now. I’ve given up too soon too many times on too many things. Not this time, my opportunity is now.

Contact me

Follow my training on Strava –
Kev Richardson Strava profile

For free running advice (and loads of other stuff!) check out –
RUN 5k FASTER

Sub 17 5k – Week 19 training diary

After the confidence boosting parkrun last week I was fired up for some good final training runs before turning my attention to the last cross country fixture of the season at Wrekenton.

I’ve had my best season yet, this being my 3rd full season. One last good performance would secure my first completed target of 2015 which was a Top 50 finish in the Individual Grand Prix. Going into the last race I was well within the top 30 although it’s always hard to tell how many runners could overtake. Also, Jesmond had a great chance of securing the Division 3 title. Plenty to look forward to.

Training Diary

Monday
Plan – 45min recovery

Problems with the heart rate monitor early on which is always a bit distracting but ended with 6.4 miles in 45 mins averaging 7.10/mile. Not much to report. Maybe a little tired from yesterdays long run but nothing major.

Tuesday
Plan – 45min Threshold

I decided to get back into the gym for a controlled effort on the treadmill. I was keen to make it a little bit more interesting and had the idea to do a 1 mile “on”, 1 mile “off” type session. The idea was to have the mile on at the top end of my threshold HR zone and the mile off at the bottom end.

I think it was a great session. The 1 mile on was averaging around 5.42/mile and the mile off just over 6 min miles. The great thing about the session was the top end miles were tough and therefore 6 min miling subsequently felt like a jog recovery comparatively which of course they weren’t (for me)

But for a confidence boost this session nailed it and there was a sense of achievement afterwards certainly.

7.7 miles were completed in the time at an average HR of 171bpm.

Wednesday
Plan – 50min recovery

This is always a tough run after 4 days of running but I did feel like I handled it better than usual and with much less fatigue towards the end of the run. A good sign then that my stamina is improving and I’m handling the mileage.

Problems with the HRM again but 7.1 miles averaging 7.05/mile.

Thursday
Plan – 40min recovery

Coach switched the usual threshold to recovery to taper for the race on Saturday. Felt strong with 6.2 miles averaging 6.50/mile.

Was looking forward to a rest day and move focus to a good run on Saturday.

Friday
Plan – rest

Did as planned and just got mentally prepared for the race tomorrow.

Saturday
Plan – North East Harrier League race #6

I was really looking forward to this race. I’d never really ran well at Wrekenton but deep down I knew the course suited me.

On the morning I had my usual meal at 10am which is now 100g of white rice and a tin of tomatoes! A tad strange some might say but works well. I was sick of porridge! I also decided to pack a flask with an espresso for 1hr before the race. I’d tried it last week at parkrun and I’d felt it had helped.

I got to the course early. It was still very cold but the course was in great condition with not much mud to speak of. I wanted to run hard and fast so I was pleased.

Walking the course I familiarised myself with the layout. It’s a good course. There are a few hills but plenty of chances to attack as well. I don’t know why but I felt excited and raring to go.

Coming to the start time I was focused. I’d decided to leave the Garmin and HRM at home. I just wanted to run, no distractions. No pre conceived ideas of what was too fast or too slow. Just run and race.

I had a loose plan to try to track the new Spaniard runner from Derwentside who had won the last race at Alnwick from slow pack but actually hadn’t finished with a time much faster than me from medium and I knew I was a little off in my performance. Chasing him would hopefully provide a challenge to perform. This was a plan formed on the line as I was stood next to him and seemed like a decent idea.

The gun went and the Spaniard flew off. He had about 10 yards on me coming to the first hill but I just kept eyes glued to his back. I would say this was my focus for the first 1.5 laps. It wasn’t until about lap 3 that I’d probably let him go. That didn’t concern me. I’d gotten into a decent battle with a Sunderland Harrier and there was a bit of ebb and flow there which was good.

I was conscious that I was making very good progress, working my way through the field. I felt like I never really let up until about half way through the last lap. I wanted to finish strongly and I probably just slowed a little to keep something in the tank for the last incline and then go full throttle to home.

I was really grateful to Dave Appleby of Tyne Bridge Harriers who gave me some great encouragement. I knew it was a good sign getting past Dave and he shouted “cracking run, fast pack run” or something along those lines. It galvanised a strong push for home.

Getting to the last two straight sections before the finish I was in a small group of 3 or 4. I felt like I was in a quality group. The Sunderland Harrier, a Gateshead Harrier and a Morpeth Harrier. They were all running strongly and I was getting pulled along. This is what its all about for me. Feeling like a proper runner. I had no idea what position I was fighting for…

Coming into the home straight I pushed past two of them and went full belt to the line. Weirdly crossing the line I didn’t have my usual struggle, heaving and gasping for air. I felt pretty good!

There was a great atmosphere post race. As a team we felt like we’d done enough to win Division 3. I’d finished first team counter which was nice and the 3rd time of the season I had done so.

I was a bit gutted not to have a beer but I was driving and we went over to the school for the team trophy celebration. It was confirmed that Jesmond had won Division 3. This was great news.

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Getting my hands on the NEHL Division 3 trophy with Scott Armstrong

I also found out that I’d finished 28th in the race and qualified for fast pack for next season. I’m delighted. I have to make another step improvement to compete from fast pack but I’m ready for the challenge and feel like I have more to give. Really excited to get in even better shape to give it a shot.

I also finished the season in 29th place in the Individual Grand Prix which smashed my target of Top 50. Really pleased with that.

And, finally, to top it all off I was given male XC runner of the season for the club!

Sunday
Plan – 45min recovery

Got out in the afternoon and felt really strong. Just enjoyed the run and thought a lot about what I’ve achieved this cross country season. Starting to dream about how much more I could improve and excited to see what I can do on the roads in the next few months.

6.5 miles in 45 minutes with an average HR of 155bpm.

Weekly Totals

Running ~40 miles

Delighted with another great week of training and racing. Off on another work trip next week so will look to tick over and look forward to a trip to see my coach the week after to see where I’m at and plan the road races over the coming months.

Sub 17 5k – Week 5 training diary

Check out http://www.run5kfaster.com for more of my thoughts on running

Overall last week was a bit off target training wise. The motivation wasn’t quite there and the focus was elsewhere in my private life but I ended well at Wallington Hall with a good performance, in the top 70 of >500 so that has galvanised some confidence and put a spring back in my step.

Going into week 5 I’m looking to re focus and I have one eye on a little time trial at the weekend if conditions suit.

Training Diary

Monday
Plan – 45mins recovery

As always seems to be the case on a Monday I went out full of running and bagged 6.4 miles in 45mins averaging 157bpm.

These runs are still hovering around the 7min mile mark and feel like they are energizing rather than tiring which is the purpose here. Pace isn’t really important, sticking to my recovery zone is.

Tuesday
Plan – 45mins threshold

Got out late for this run but felt absolutely full of running. I had one eye on the Norman Woodcock 5 miler at the weekend but as I started ticking off the miles on this run I started to become aware that I might be on for a PB on this training threshold!

Kept on strong and went through 5 miles in 30.45ish which is a pb versus the 31.16 I did in 2012. All in all very happy and only averaging 168-9 bpm.

Wednesday
Plan – 45mins threshold

The weather was very cold so decided to move this indoors to the gym treadmill. I’ve always liked the idea of treadmill running and if it’s good enough for Jack Daniels its good enough for me. The reality in the past though has been that I’ve never really enjoyed it.

It’s been a while and actually I did enjoy this session. I started steady and then put the machine to 15kph and kept banging out the miles. I was tracking pace on my Garmin foot pod which was recording average 6.08 miles and therefore faster than the treadmill speed. Heart Rate got up to a max of 178 although averaged 171. Ran slightly further than yesterday’s 45min threshold, was soaked in sweat and generally felt ace. Things definitely coming together strength wise.

Thursday
Plan – rest

Friday
Plan – 30mins recovery

Just nice and steady and nothing to report really.

Saturday
Plan – 30mins tempo

Having effectively PB’d over 5 miles in training on Tuesday I lost interest in the Norman Woodcock and my mind was made up that I wanted to try a 5k. My coach agreed so got down to Newcastle Parkrun. The only concern was the frost on the ground. Indeed it was hard to get full purchase with the footing but I set off strongly in a group of maybe 4 behind a runaway leader.

Went through the first mile in 5.44ish. Wasn’t aware of the split but felt we weren’t running hard enough so I pushed on into clear second. First place was away so felt I could give a good go for second.

Second mile was done in 5.35. I was aware of one runner right on my heels but still felt like I was pushing on strong. Pace dropped off beginning of third mile which is normal but picked up again before being taken into 3rd a little way past 4km. I was also aware another runner was sniffing around as well. This was all good as I needed the incentive to keep pushing. I settled into 3rd and waited for a chance to go again. About 600m from home I pushed back into second before fading slightly back into third. Again about 250m from home I put it on the line, got a nose in front but didn’t fully commit. The other guy seemed to picked it up without full effort and I didn’t try again for an all out sprint. Still from 3 miles to home I averaged 4.50/mile so a strong finish.

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Finishing off at Newcastle Parkrun

With that I was able to hold onto 3rd and crossed the line in 17.44. Strava is reporting 17.27 for 5k and 5.37/mile average pace overall.

I had planned to average 5.38/mile based on my recent threshold pace of 6.08/mile on the treadmill and it’s incredible how accurate the Jack Daniels VDOT training tables are.

A great result and line in the sand and it’s still early days in my continued progressive training with Dave as coach. Really happy.

Sunday
Plan – 60mins recovery

Was feeling a bit tired and not too keen in the morning so left it til later in the day. Was quite chilly and windy.

Deliberately kept it sensible although turned into a bit of a battle against the elements in the second half up hill into the wind. Just over 8.4 miles in the hour.

Weekly Totals

Running – 36.6 miles
Cycling – zero

Very happy with how this week has gone and moving strongly in the right direction towards my big goal of sub 17 for 5k.

I think this is my highest mileage week and also the quickest in terms of average training pace as well.

All eyes now on the North Eastern counties cross country championships next week. I’m not going to lie, this is going to be a really tough one and more than anything I just want to give it my best shot.

BUPA Great North 5k – race report

I’d put myself under quite a lot of pressure for this one. I’d ran an 18.05 in July and I was happy but a little disappointed I’d missed the opportunity to post the sub 18 5k which was planned for May. I’ll not dwell again on the reasons for missing that target, suffice it to say the BUPA Great North 5k was selected to get it done. The only problem was I had a fortnight away on holiday leaving only 2-3 weeks to get tuned back up.

In terms of this week I had a great run out at the Jesmond Joggers Anniversary Champs (see Week 3 training diary) and it was a great over distance effort for a timely confidence boost. I felt in shape. Problem was I had a nasty reaction in my shins and had to have Tuesday and Wednesday off. On Thursday, still feeling a little discomfort, I put in an easy 35mins. The legs felt better as the run went on but on Friday were really sore again! Not to worry, a bit of foam rollering would loosen off the calves and relieve some of the tension.

Even so it was fueling some doubts. Have I done enough training? Do I feel fit enough? How should I pace it? Should I go off hard? What if I blow up etc? What can I say, I’m an over thinker. I made the decision to leave the Garmin at home and promised myself to just run with the mantra “keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing”.

Alarm was set for 7.30. I was lying awake at 6.30 which is when I get up for work. Felt ok, very nervous. Nerves make you feel bad but you have to tell yourself it’s good. Your ready to try, to really make an effort.

As is my new preferred routine I had a small glass of water, a few sips of beetroot juice and a few bites of a nectarine. This is key! You do not need a proper breakfast for an early 5k. You want to feel pretty empty on the stomach. You will burn yesterdays energy. I made sure to eat very well in the week leading up to the race. That said I still felt a bit sick on the way down. I cycled the 4 miles from home. Again, this is a new routine. It is my preference to the other options which would be jog down (waste of energy in my opinion) or bus (would only fuel the nerves).

As I cycled down I thought to myself what would I do when it gets tough (all 5ks will get tough, to try to not accept or ignore that is to not face up to the challenge of giving your all). Tell yourself “keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing” I thought.

It was quite busy, more busy than I imagined. I deliberately avoided the mass warm up. Its just not my thing. It is the opposite of what I need to get in the mood. I found a quiet side street and jogged backwards and forwards. The sickly feeling subsided which I was somewhat relieved about.

I got on the start line about 3 or 4 rows from the front. I noticed a few people ahead who looked a bit far forward. Politely asked a lady what sort of time she expected. Getting a quizzical look in return I decided a polite excuse me was better and I squeezed past.

The gun went off and I quickly decided on a 100m spurt to get in good position. I quickly found myself next to Danielle Hodgkinson who I knew was capable of sub 17. I had no intention of trying to get anywhere near that sort of time but I decided to go with it, no need to deliberately slow down, just relax. Actually I was running ahead of her at least until 2k, at which point she showed me what strong, controlled running is all about and showed me a clean pair of heels. She went on to win the ladies race.

The great thing about not wearing the Garmin was no distractions. No “oh no, I’m going to fast” or “oh no I’m going to slow”. I was fairly settled. There wasn’t streams of people passing, I was holding my own. The course was a little undulating with a few full turn arounds which disrupt your rhythm.

As always I started feeling it around 3k. I could hear maybe 3 runners on my heels. A Gateshead Harrier past on my right just before a small incline. I took the decision to put in an effort right to the top of that incline. I probably stole 5 metres or so but couldn’t maintain the effort at the top. I was running on grit now and was aware my foot falls were getting heavy, slower and inefficient. The 4k sign was a welcome sight. I got over the section of running track and turned onto the millennium bridge for one last push. At this point the Gateshead Harrier went past me. Coming onto the Newcastle side I gritted my teeth for one last flourish. It wasn’t enough to reel the Harrier in and my focus turned to the ticking clock. I could see 17.32 in the distance. I kept closing my eyes then opening them again. I knew the sub 18 was on, just needed to finish the job.

I had it in my mind throughout this week that I was in shape for a 17.52 or 17.53. Sure enough 17.53 was my time. Who needs a Garmin!

I was pretty spent and not really aware of my position. It wasn’t about that for me. I’d researched the race and knew it wouldn’t be highly competitive as the region’s best runners will be in the HM. But still I’m very happy with 13th place and I can now focus on the cross country.

Thanks for reading! Good luck to those running the “proper race” tomorrow!

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Milestone achieved! Onto the next!

BUPA Great North 5k – Race Preview

This Saturday I’m racing the BUPA Great North 5k which I’m really excited about. It’s the first time I’ll have gotten involved in what is undoubtedly the busiest running weekend in the North East. It’ll make a change to the usual runners envy experienced on the Sunday whilst watching the Half Marathon!

For me this race is an out and out time trial. I want to register a 5k pb before getting stuck properly into cross country training. More specifically I want to get a sub 18 minute clocking which gets me back on schedule for my longer term aim of sub 17.

I feel in shape for it. On Monday I ran the Jesmond Joggers Anniversary Championships (I’ll write more in my week 3 training diary), covering over 3.8 miles in just under 22mins 30s. That gives me confidence that I can run the pace required and this week is all about ticking over and keeping loose for Saturday.

In terms of thought process for the race, this will be an all out effort but I’ll be looking to clock around 5.35 for the first mile. This is a deliberate plan to get ahead of schedule. I know miles 2 and 3 will hurt from there but the over distance run on Monday was a reminder that I can dig in. So I’ll pace myself through the first mile and then just get stuck into running as hard and as controlled as possible and get my breathing in a sustainable rhythm.

So all going to plan I’ll have a new pb to share at the weekend. After this race I’ll put the 5k on the back burner and focus on Farringdon XC relays the week after. I’m really excited about this one having last run the race in 2012 and I love the course. The distance gives a really good opportunity to just let yourself go, but then the sting in the tail with the hill towards the end – a proper XC course. We have high hopes of a strong team this year and hopefully we can show that at Farringdon.

A key focus for me over the coming weeks will be technique as I’m still not getting my stride rate anywhere near high enough leading to overstriding and I’m convinced I need to improve here to advance beyond my current level. Anyway, that’s the subject of another blog.

If you are running the Great North Run – good luck! I’ll be posting my 5k race report and week 3 training diary at some point over the weekend.

Week 2 training diary

The plan for Week 2 was to pretty much repeat week 1 but with slightly increased running mileage. Having zero bike maintenance skills the cycles out of action this week. Hoping to get it back on the road for some light cross training soon.

Week 2 diary

Monday
Plan – 35mins Easy (grass)

Notes – change of plan here what with it being a Bank Holiday. Got out early and hit the pavements. Was feeling the weekend exertions and ended up running over 6 miles in around 50 odd minutes. Took in Cow Hill on the route which got the heart rate up.

Tuesday
Plan – 3 miles threshold

Notes – decided to run 20 minutes threshold on Kenton Dene which is a flat XC type course. I’m looking to see my heart rate controlled at 175-185bpm and for average pace to improve week on week. I was really happy with the session and felt full of running. It turned into an acceleration type session with each mile getting slightly faster from 6.33 in mile 1 to 6.18 mile 3 and although I was working harder towards the end I was at or around lactate threshold throughout.

This will be a key session each week and I’ll be looking to increase time up to around 40mins (average length of XC races). In terms of pace, if I can operate at around 6 – 6.15 minute miles at lactate threshold I’ll feel in shape to really challenge to qualify for the medium pack in the North East Harrier League which is a key objective this season. So I’m really pleased with where I’m at given its only August.

Friday
Plan – 35mins Easy (grass)

Notes – felt like a run on the pavements so just had a look round the streets of Kenton. Annoyingly my HRM has been playing up and I don’t feel like I can trust it so just tried to run on feel, monitoring my breathing. Felt great, as if I didn’t need to breath. Ended up with 4.5 miles in the time allotted, so sub 8 min miling.

Saturday
Plan – 30mins threshold

Notes – got up and pottered around the house. Got a few social things to do so didn’t want to do a full 30min threshold so broke it up into 5min on 5min off, 15mins total at pace. Very windy on Kenton Dene but felt fine, again running on feel and each 5 minute effort got faster from 6.34 average to 6.01 so happy overall with the session.

Weekly totals

Running ~20 miles
Cycling zero

Busy week next week with the Jesmond Joggers club champs on Monday and GN 5k on Saturday. Haven’t quite worked out how I’m going to structure my training between the two but I’ll work it out on feel. I might even restrict my running to the two races and 1 other easy run midweek as I want to feel fresh for the 5k. Looking forward to giving it my all.

Austrian break and update on running targets/plans

Holidays are always a good time to step back and reassess things I think. Admittedly I’m one who struggles to fully switch off. So when I go on holiday as I have in Austria for the past two weeks I spend quite a lot of time thinking about my life and what I want to do and achieve over the short, medium and long term. Running plans are an important part of this.

As far as my running goes, before leaving for Austria I had a breakthrough following only 4 weeks of training an average 18-19 miles per week, running a 5km pb of 18.05. I was delighted obviously. Following that I struggled to get back to it both mentally and physically. I had a very busy period socially lined up and I decided to ease off from the running and I didn’t miss it. To be honest I felt exhausted as well. I still don’t think I’m fully recovered from my recent health problems and the last thing I want to do is dig that hole again. I’m still supplementing iron and vitamin B12. I’m still visiting the doctors for blood tests as my readings are still not “healthy”. So with that backdrop I need to keep it steady.

That said, I’m as ambitious about my running as ever. The subject of this blog has always been sub 17 5k dream. But I’ve decided to put in place a more concrete goal. Following my lactate threshold test at Blizard Physio in June my knowledge about my physiology and potential has improved. I am capable of going sub 17 with the correct application, commitment and training. Critically, I’ve also met someone in Dave Tune who has conveyed this message in the clearest possible way, and in doing so has given me great belief in my ability. This is so important and I’m grateful that I made contact, paid the money (well worth it) and made the trip to Doncaster. People would question why a non professional runner would do this. My answer is I want to be the best I can be.

So my target now is to run a 16.34 5k pb by my 35th birthday which is 10th March 2016. The landmarks to achieve that on the way remain unchanged namely –

Sub 18min in 2014
Sub 17.30 in first half 2015
Sub 17 in second half 2015
Achieve goal by 10th March 2016

I’m under no illusions about how challenging this is but I’m committed to achieving it. I’m aware that I have fallen behind this year due to my health issues and I probably can’t afford to end up in that situation again. So, again, I’m committed to looking after myself and training very smartly.

Key to training smartly is getting the sessions right. In the short term I will be continuing the training plan that preceeded my recent 5k pb which was given to me by Dave Tune. This was very simple. I ran 4 times per week with 2 easy runs and 2 lactate threshold runs based on the test I completed in June. For those that are interested, my easy runs are based on heart rate with an aim to not exceed 156bpm. My lactate threshold is around 185bpm so I run those at or below that level. What I’m wanting to see is the pace at that HR improve over time. The reason I knew I would pb at the LBGT 5k was that I was running at around my old 5k pb pace at approximately my lactate threshold, meaning that I could reasonably expect better with a race effort. Indeed I wore a heart rate monitor for the race and averaged 188bpm. I need to condition myself to push to around 194-195bpm in a 5k to really dig deep into the sub 18 (and eventually 17) area. That’s what I’ll be looking to do but I can’t do that in 4 weeks so I’ll be looking for a good training block starting next week. Note that my estimated maximum HR is 204 based on my lactate threshold test. Incidentally I am an ardent believer in using a heart rate monitor and I plan to write a full post on this later. The eagle eyed amongst you will realise that my estimated HR max of 204 is a good deal higher than an estimated max HR that would be found using the oft referenced “220 less age” formula which is far from accurate in my case, a full 17 beats per minute in fact!

I have entered the Great North 5k on 6th September which could come too soon depending on how I react to getting back to training but I now have the beauty of knowing my heart rate and training paces so I will know with some certainty whether to go for a pb or use it as a decent session. Otherwise I’ll just look to go sub 18 at a parkrun in Oct/Nov.

The Jesmond Joggers 4 mile Club Championship will have to be a threshold session as it comes before the GN 5k race but still a chance to compete before I knuckle down for Cross Country training. My goal here, as it has always been, is to qualify for the medium pack and help my club get promotion. Last season was a tale of two halves with a peak at Wallington Hall before my anaemia wreaked havoc with the pull out at Wrekenton and general poor performance elsewhere. I’ll look to build stamina as the season progresses and take that into a sub 18 attempt but also a debut over 10km. In that regard I’m hopeful of entering the Town Moor Memorial, a race I’ve watched the last two years…

Come December I hope to be in the best possible shape for the North East XC Championships.

So a lot to look forward to, watch this space.

Any questions please let me know. I want to put some more effort into this blog going forwards and I also plan to start writing an ebook about running and specifically my thoughts and experiences on improving 5k times. I would plan to publish it on achievement of my goal.