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.

Sub 17 5k – Week 12 training diary

Two weeks until the next cross country fixture and I’m hopeful of putting the finishing touches together to run a big race.

The next fixture is at Jarrow, it’s a course that suits me as its a little shorter (just under 6 miles) and fairly benign with no real hills. The only thing that defends it is the mud.

So I’m hoping to get sharp.

Training diary

Monday
Plan – 45min recovery

The only thing I don’t like about heart rate training is how temperamental the damn things are! I’ve been having a lot of issues with mine of late and its just a bit annoying. I suppose I am a bit addicted. I like stats and I like them to be right.

Anyway, felt strong tonight despite the HRM issues. I ran 6.50 miling for 48 mins averaging about 156bpm (when it finally kicked in). Felt like I was flying with little effort.

Tuesday
Plan – 45min threshold

Decided to go to the gym. Time was tight so I decided to cut this down to a 20minute harder threshold. I ran 20mins at 5.45/mile. It felt tough but more due to the heat in the gym. Did a 10 minute warm up and warm down making it 40mins total running.

Wednesday
Plan – 50 min recovery

Felt tired tonight and had one eye on the threshold tomorrow. At about 30mins felt drained but got it done.

Thursday
Plan – 45 min threshold

Bit of a strange one tonight. Struggled to keep the heart rate above 165bpm but still managed 7.4 miles @ 6.16/mile which I think is the strongest 45min threshold I’ve done. Still felt a bit disappointed but I think I’ve just lost a bit of perspective. When you start increasing the amount of running you do it’s quite easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. That’s where having a coach helps a lot.

Friday
Plan – rest

Was glad of the rest. I was worried about the tempo run tomorrow. Tempo running for me means getting my HR >183bpm and I haven’t run that hard in a long time. I looked for a 10k race to help me but there was nothing. So I planned a parkrun and decided I’d run that hard in tempo and add an extra 20mins after. An early night for an earlyish drive to the Riverside.

Saturday
Plan – 45min tempo

Got up at 7.30am and had my usual glass of water and a few dates. I had some beetroot juice in the fridge so had a bit of that as well. Enjoyed the drive over as the roads were quiet.

Although this was just a training run I did wonder whether I might have a chance to finish first, what with the Northerns being on in Pontefract.

Those hopes were slightly knocked when I pulled up and saw Terry Scott and Marc Fenwick. I had a quick warm up (it was very cold) and noticed that the pavements were fairly icy. Not to worry. Luckily the HRM seemed in good working order during the warm up. Important because I needed that to get the HR up over 183 and to help keep it there – if I got lazy I would push on.

3,2,1 and off. I started strongly and ran straight into first. This was the first time this has ever happened. About a quarter way into the first lap I glanced at the watch – heart rate 120bpm! Fuck! The HRM isn’t working!

It felt weird. Here I was running hard in first. I couldn’t hear anyone behind me. I didn’t look round. But what to do?

I pushed on, prodded the hrm but it wasn’t working. I forgot about it and focussed on running. But mentally I wasn’t there. I hadn’t really prepared. I’d prepared to run >183bpm and because I didn’t have the data (and because it’d been December since my last hard 5k) I was not in tune with how hard I was working.

I went through the first mile in 5.36. That was about what I wanted. But I didn’t feel great about it. And the icy pavements were starting to take their toll. Coming into the second lap I was aware of a long shadow of the second placed runner. I knew it would be Terry, I know him from Newcastle parkrun. I knew he is capable of 16.– 5ks. I wasn’t intimidated but I knew I’d struggle to stay in front, and I wasn’t up for trying. That said I pushed on and kept in front until about 3/4 round the second lap.

We came to lap some runners and Terry showed me a clean pair of heels. I was alone in second. A chance to glance at the watch. The HRM had come to life – 178bpm! I was still in threshold but felt like I had not much left to give…

I kind of kept on one paced for the last lap. Terry was away and I was spending my time slipping around and struggling at every corner, almost stopping to avoid falling over.

Only other thing to report was Terry taking a wrong turn at the end and having to run back down the finish straight and back again. He was so far in front it didn’t matter. I’d like to think I would have done the gentlemanly thing had it meant I’d caught up.

Coming over the finish line I’d finished in 17.57. I wasn’t that tired and I was confused as to why I couldn’t give more out on the course. Why can’t I get my heart rate above 180? My max HR is estimated at 204. I feel like I’ve got at least 10bpm I’m not utilising in a 5k. Maybe it’s tiredness, or maybe a little bit over training. Maybe running my easy runs too hard and threshold runs too easy.

Whatever the reason, again, I was a little bit disappointed despite knocking 52 seconds off my Riverside Parkrun pb. Again I think I’m losing perspective. Conditions were poor and I’m running well. Need to take the positives.

I was coughing like a dog after a 2 mile warm down. I’d decided against more hard running.

Sunday
Plan – 80min recovery

Had at least 9.5hrs sleep and woke about 9.30. Wasn’t in the mood for a run but was really lucky to have a supportive girlfriend telling me “go and do it”.

Enjoyed the run and the conditions were much better underfoot, the sun was shining brightly.

Ran 10.5 miles in 75mins. The quads were burning towards the end but a strong longer run.

Weekly Totals

Running ~42 miles

Without realising my highest ever mileage week. Mentally not appreciating what I’m doing. My training paces are improving all of the time and just need to keep perspective. Just need to be positive.

Mentally I need to get stronger and learn how to channel my fitness into a performance in a race. I don’t want to leave it all I training.

Sub 17 5k – Week 8 training diary

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

Coming into Christmas week I was looking forward to getting my last few days at work finished so I could re focus on some running as I was starting to feel like coming back from a “mental holiday” following the North Eastern Cross Country Championships.

On Monday I was too busy with work and pre Christmas planning so cancelled my recovery run until Tuesday which I completed on my lunch break. I’m never too keen to run on my lunch break because logistically it takes up too much time but enjoyed it. Maybe it was the rain beating down. I like to feel different and the quizzical looks from colleagues on the way out made me chuckle.

Christmas eve and I had a 45 minute recovery planned. Did the usual loop around onto the Town Moor. Nothing spectacular as planned.

Going home for Christmas is always nice for my running as it allows me a chance to run some different routes.

On Christmas day I ran up to Edmondsley and almost to Sacriston. It’s a decent uphill climb to there from Chester le Street and it was nice to turn back round for the easier descent home. A few cars on the road and some dog walkers but not any other runners. I felt like a hardy soul and I enjoyed my first ever Christmas day run.

On Boxing day I had 40mins threshold planned. I fancied finding a flattish stretch of road to see what pace I could run in my threshold zone. After a 5 minute warm up I got started. The course I ended up on was a stretch of new road going up to Chester Moor. It was about 5 mins down, 5 mins back up times 4 to complete the session. I was running quite hard and yet the heart rate was operating around 165-174 max. I find this interesting, especially since I was knocking out 6.06 average miles for the duration. My threshold heart rate at the last test was 183bpm / 6.14 miling. I’m getting stronger.

I left Chester le Street and headed down to Hexham to see my girlfriends family. I’d never ran whilst down there before but was aware of some good routes. So I got out around 9.30am for a 45min recovery. I followed a route along the river and railway track. Its a great place for running. I decided to do an out and back, turning round after 22 and a half minutes.

It felt like you could go for miles along that route. It would be great for a long run. As it happened I’d been running for about 21 minutes when I came to a road with water crossing it, gushing across like a mini stream. Aware that I was close to turning back I was caught in two minds whether to run through it or stop. In the end I did neither and ended up slipping over onto my behind and into the freezing water!

My shorts, gloves and hands were absolutely soaking and freezing! And I was about 3 or 4 miles from home. That said I was straight back up and heading back. I chuckled, shook my head and got on with it. It’s not the first time I’ve fallen over and it’s character building if nothing else! In the end I enjoyed another run on a new route and certainly one I’ll use again when I’m in Hexham.

I was starting to feel like a strong week was being notched up but I still had a 60min recovery in the diary for Sunday. That said, with it being the Christmas and New year period I was starting to feel fatigued with all the running, eating and socialising. And when I woke up and got out the door I realised it was absolutely treacherous with ice underfoot. So I quickly changed tact and did a XC run. The ground was fairly frozen with some muddy bits and I completed 40mins. It felt quite tough to be running off road again so I cut it short and ensured not to overdo it.

All in all a good weeks training with about 37 miles completed.

Next week I will be back to work and then down London for New Years festivities so I expect a reduced week and will be looking to come back in January 2015, raring to go to start sharpening for the sub 17 5k in Spring.

Hope you are enjoying the holidays!

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.

image

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.

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.

Week 1 training diary

As I explained in my last blog my goals for this block of training (taking me to Christmas) are –

1. Sub 18min 5k (more specifically 17.45 – 17.59)
2. NEHL XC – qualify for medium pack
3. NE XC Champs – goal TBC

Coming into this week I’d done very little running since the 5k pb on 18th July and then had a complete rest for holidays the first two weeks of August. So Week 1 coming back was always going to be light but also knowing I only have two weeks to sharpen for the Great North 5k on 6th September. I also have the Jesmond Joggers Club Championships 4 mile race on 1st September which I’ll treat as a good tempo session.

It’s so important for me to stay healthy this winter. I would much rather undertrain and stay healthy and energetic than push too far the other way. I know my body better now and I have the knowledge that I can run better undertrained (and fresh) than I can overtrained and tired. I want to achieve my goals on as little mileage as possible.

Week 1 diary

Monday
Plan – 35 minutes easy (grass)

Notes – The first run back after a break is always rusty and so it proved. My easy runs before the break were around 8min miling at 150-155 bpm. I deliberately ran this session on grass and will seek to do the majority this way (with XC in mind) in this training block. It was difficult to keep my heart rate below 156 and I ended logging just over 3.8 miles in 35 mins averaging just over 9min miles. I know these runs will quicken with less effort.

Tuesday
Plan – 2 mile lactate threshold

Notes – This is a “test run” on an 800m loop in Kenton. I did this very same run on 14th June, just after the Lactate Threshold test I had in Doncaster. So I wanted to repeat as a “see where I’m at” type session. In June I averaged 6.45 miling which was bang on what the LT Test had shown on the treadmill (6.49 @ 185bpm) a few days earlier. So that’s the line in the sand so to speak.

As it happened I pushed on a little harder than plan and I ended up averaging 6.08 over the 2 miles with an average HR of 187. The course has a small incline of maybe 100-150m and I was aware I was pushing into the 190s but kept with it.

Felt ok. Enjoyed the initial burn in the lungs. Too early to take anything from it.

Wednesday
Plan – cycle to work

Notes – Good chance to spin the legs over and an hours easy workout for the day. I usually try to not work up a sweat but I always do, especially driving my way up the few final hills on my trusty single speed bike. Way back is harder uphill so try to minimise extra time it takes to complete. These little internal competitions keep things interesting…

Friday
Plan – 35 minutes easy (grass)

Notes – the weather was good so decided to cycle to work. The run is a repeat from Monday but decided to reduce it to ~3 miles. Tried to keep it even easier as I planned Newcastle Parkrun in the morning, but listened to some African music which always makes me want to up the tempo. I didn’t though and finished with 3miles in 27 minutes averaging 155bpm.

Got athletes foot on both feet which is mildly annoying!

Saturday
Plan – 3 mile lactate threshold (or parkrun at LT)

Decided to try Newcastle Parkrun. As it turned out there was some disruption on the moor so it was a revised course. The plan was to keep it lactate threshold but my HRM was playing up the first mile so I tried to run on feel. As always though I got in a rhythm and wanted to go with it. I was undoubtedly working harder than LT from mile 2 onwards. I went through 1 mile in 5.56. The second mile was perfect with not a breath of wind. I felt good and clocked a 5.40. For the GN 5k I’ll be looking to run 5.45s even so that’s a good sign so early. The 3rd mile was much tougher and I felt myself slow. My split was 6.13. By this point I was in a little dual with an Elswick Harrier. All felt good so I pushed home in 18.37 for 3.2 miles. Strava has me at 18.14 for 5k. Happy with that.

After the run I went for breakfast with Glen and chewed the fat. Luckily we finished before the heavens opened. This was a storm close to biblical proportions and I had to cycle home. I think I was the only sucker mad enough to cycle in it and I got some quizzical looks! But I loved it. It was sunshine again on the moor. I felt slightly less mad seeing the legend Kev Lister still out running with Roberto Marzo.

Unfortunately with a mile and a half from home I had a rear tyre puncture. So, dripping wet, I had to push the bike home. Still good fun. Decided to have a hot bath, watch the brownlees then bed for a nap…

Good to be back and hopeful of exciting weeks ahead…

Weekly Totals

Running ~14 miles
Cycling ~34 miles

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.

Training load, illness and Heart Rate Variabilty – my 2014 experience

Most regular readers of my running blog will know that 2014 hasn’t been a good year for me. I came out of the New Year a little run down (nothing new as I always go to London for NYE and invariably pick something up in the smog) and I have since had two further illnesses – a bug in February from which I probably didn’t fully recover and then a heavy head cold in March. The remnants of the head cold still remain as I have a problem with my right inner ear which I think was picked up on an aeroplane coming into land in Cyprus at the back end of March, probably due to the head cold and cabin pressure. I don’t want to make excuses, just merely understand whether the running could be a contributing factor to my having had more than the average incidents of illness this year. Throughout my life I have rarely been ill more than once per year and to be honest if my new running regime is a factor then it is that which would need to change rather than the various other stressors that can lead to illness such as work, having an actual life outside of training etc. Running will never pay my bills and therefore has “hobby” status. Me being me I may have become a little engrossed in it admittedly. I don’t think this blog will help to rubbish that sentiment. Running is important to me. The fact that I have even contemplated giving up completely on more than one occasion this year upsets me. I do not want to give up. I want to be as good as I possibly can be. But I want to enjoy the process, not fear it. I haven’t enjoyed running in 2014. And I have feared it, especially lining up at XC, just knowing I didn’t feel “there”. I do wonder how much of this is physical and how much is mental… Anyway, I digress.

The reason running could be a factor in my increased illness is I have completed more training mileage (all be it much of it at a slower pace than previously – Long Slow Distance or LSD) January through March 2014 than the same period in 2013. In Jan-Mar ’13 my training diary shows 153 miles logged versus 265 Jan-Mar ’14. That’s a 73% increase. In 2013 I had the same slight cold/sore throat issues coming out of new year following the trip to London but was able to recover by the back end of January and get stuck into some decent training and XC performances and run a 5k pb of 18m 53s by the end of March (bettered in May ’13 with a 18m 23s pb). This year, as I have blogged about before, my XC performances literally went down the toilet and at the end of March I was only able to put a 5k marker down of 19m 33s, 40s slower than a year previous. I don’t deny that I may be to blame this year for not listening to my body and taking rest time to fully recover.

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Training volume – red bar = miles, blue line = 3mth average

To try to help with this aspect of training I invested a little bit of money in the ithlete heart rate variability (HRV) monitoring app. Usually this is considered a tool for elites and I’d probably agree as it requires daily monitoring (if only for a minute or two when you awake). However, it tells the story of 2014 quite nicely –

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HRV – red line = HRV, blue line = HR, black lines = 7 day avg., green bars = training load (1-5, 5 being hard or race)

I only started monitoring in February so unfortunately I don’t have a good baseline but from what I know now my “normal” morning resting heart rate is around 53-60 and HRV around 90-95 when I am rested, fit and feeling healthy. So you can see the “double dip” where I fell ill ~20-26th February and my HRV was predicting this well in advance of me actually having to go to bed and ring in work sick. My HRV was down to the mid 60s. The black 7 day average line shows that I didn’t really fully recover until early April, the second dip back end of March depicting the head cold. Bearing in mind my Wrekenton XC pull out was 8th February (before I started HRV, in fact the deciding factor that I wanted to start monitoring) and poor Alnwick (1st March) and Wrekenton #2 (22nd March) performances I think it’s clear that I haven’t been in the best shape health wise to perform at the peak of my ability.

Apart from the health issues, I’ve been looking in further detail at my training diary and Garmin records to try to understand more what has changed this year versus last. Here is a list –

  • Training intensity or pace has reduced this year versus last (LSD) to accommodate the increased mileage. For example, last year I would class 7.15-8min miling easy (for right or wrong) and this year I have been running more like 8.30-12min miling. Note all my lower leg issues disappeared this year (which is a positive) but what impact has it had on my health and fitness levels? In other words, spending more hours trudging around slowly in the winter cold rather than just nipping out for a swifter 6k in <30mins etc…
  • This year I have tried to train more closely to heart rate, using the Phil Maffetone formula. Perhaps I have struggled to adopt or understand the approach but I think I have regressed as a result. In fact, you spend more time worrying about trying to train to 148bpm than anything else…
  • I have completed less cross training sessions this year versus last, again to accommodate the increase in running mileage (supposed specificity).
  • I have completed less strength and conditioning sessions this year versus last.

One particular 4 week block of training that has really caught my interest from last year was September 2013. I had returned from my two week summer vacation in Morocco (no training of any description for two weeks) and pretty much set about building back up to ~20 miles per week before starting a 12 week training plan with Luke Adams (which led to some of my best performances in the XC fixtures Oct / Nov / Dec 2013). During that month I trained only 60-65 miles (av. 16 miles / week). Around 70% of that mileage was what I deemed to be easy, say 7.15 – 8min miling (a pace I decided was too fast for easy later in the year). Other than that in Week 1 I did a 10*100m session in 20s each. In week 2 I did a 5*200m session in 40s each. I did one Cow Hill session in Week 4 which was a tough 3k circuit incorporating about 6 hills. Other than that I did 3 runs at more like marathon pace, say 6.40 – 7.20min miling. Week 3 was pretty much all easy as I had a work trip in Greece. Finally, at the end of the month (end of Week 4) I did a Newcastle Parkrun effort to put a marker down for Luke before we started the 12 week plan in October. Result was a fairly carefree 18m 36s time, 5.54min miling…my second fastest 5k ever.

The plan is to get back to this simplicity in my approach…