XC 2015/16 | Training Diary | Week 7

Key aim for the week –

So last week was one of those weeks you want to put to one side. But it ended on a positive note on Sunday – I ditched the heart rate monitor and just got out and ran for an hour or so. Sometimes that’s all you need to blow away the cobwebs both mentally and physically. And so I felt much better at the end of the week versus the start.

OK I missed a race that I would have liked to have competed in but sometimes you have to change plans and think about the longer term. It was the correct decision and it opens up a good few weeks of training window before the next North East Harrier League fixture in November.

Time to get back on track. That said, no need to do anything silly this week and it will be predominantly easy running, keeping total duration overall around the same at 4-5hrs.

Weight on Monday morning –


I think this section of the blog will be getting deleted!

General mental state –

8.5 – feel like I’ve gotten through a rough patch and ready to get back on the uptick. With feeling under the weather last week I decided to get my ithlete HRV tracking back on to ensure that I am paying closer attention to my morning resting heart rate and making sure I don’t train hard on days where my heart rate is elevated or HRV has dipped. Given my day job my stress levels are quite high. So high at the moment that it is very very difficult to ever get a “rest day”. So I will record on here my morning heart rate and HRV readings for those that are interested.

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

Plan – Easy run, 45mins

HR = 52bpm | HRV = 107

Was pleased with the morning heart and HRV data and it confirmed how I was feeling, i.e. over the head cold. The advice from coach was to keep it easy all week. If I felt fully recovered I could maybe get 1 beat into threshold zone later in the week.

Got out and felt really good. I got the Garmin foot pod out. Actually I wore it on yesterdays Long Run as I just felt like I was letting things get lazy on the cadence front. That was confirmed when I let myself get into my natural rhythm of the last few months without the guidance of the foot pod. Its an excellent correctional tool and straight away I could see I’d let myself slip to the low 160s. That’s where I used to be prior to earlier this year where I put a load of effort into improving. I knew it had really helped my running. I know from experience that a quicker cadence helps you glide over the ground more efficiently, keeping your heart rate down and ultimately allowing you to run faster at a lower heart rate.

Anyway, the upshot is I will be wearing the foot pod a lot more to get back on track. On this run I was able to push my cadence up to 170 steps per minute and it paid off in terms of pace. I ran about 6.6 miles in 46 minutes at an average HR of 155bpm. Maybe the heart rate still a little elevated but felt good overall.

Plan – Threshold run, 40mins

HR = 56bpm | HRV = 98

The key thing with measuring HRV is establishing a baseline. Ideally you would do that on a week off but I am trying to do it whilst still getting my runs in. Day two proper and my heart rate has elevated 4bpm and HRV dropped to 98. Still no reason to change anything. But definitely no return to Threshold running yet.

I decided to run the same route as yesterday but throw in 1 mile at Threshold between miles 3 and 4. Again set off and everything felt great. So great in fact that I ticked off the first 3 miles in 6.55, 6.45 and 6.39 – heart rate around 150-155bpm!

Coming to the Threshold mile I increased the effort and felt good. Towards the end of the mile my Heart Rate got to a max of 180bpm and I was pleased to see a 5.43 mile. A good sign.

Padded in quite nicely for home and overall completed 6.6 miles in just over 44 minutes.

Plan – Recovery run, 50mins

HR = 64bpm | HRV = 81

A little bit worrying to see the Heart Rate another 8bpm higher than yesterday and HRV dropping to 81. Need to take heed. Not sleeping great. Plan was to run nice and easy later. That said when I got out it didn’t feel any different and, again, 6.6 miles were completed in ~47 minutes.

Plan – Threshold run, 45mins

HR = 62bpm | HRV = 89

Slight recovery in HR and HRV this morning. Still feeling like I’m not getting a full nights sleep. But feeling better. The plan tonight was to keep it really easy for a shorter duration and then add 5x20s strides with jog recovery to finish up. I decided not to wear the heart rate monitor and just ran really easy. Was probably running 7.30-8.00 minute mile pace. The strides at the end felt strong. No worries.

Plan – Rest

HR = 58bpm | HRV = 100

Good to see further improvement with HR coming down and HRV increasing back to 3 figures. With a rest day today I’m hoping to see further signs of the rest doing me good on Saturday morning and if so I might visit a parkrun for a Threshold and then add further duration afterwards. We will see in the morning.

Plan – Threshold run, 45mins

HR = 54bpm | HRV = 102

I didn’t feel amazing on waking around 8am but that’s the great thing about HRV – all looked in order so I decided to have a look down Newcastle parkrun as the weather looked decent. Had a short jog down and got on the start line.

I had thought a little bit about what I wanted to do. I had thought maybe do 1 mile at HM pace (6ish), 1 mile at 10k pace (5.44ish) and 1 mile at 5k target pace (<5.30ish). But that wasn’t really cemented in my mind as I stood on the start line. I felt very calm and content so I just thought give it a go.

As we set off a couple of exuberant young lads set off with a couple of others. I felt like I started strongly so they stole a few yards. About half a mile in I’d got past the two really young lads and I had two about 5 metres in front. By about 3/4 of a mile I was into second. The lad in front had a Jarrow & Hebburn running vest on. I’d say he was about 5-10 metres ahead and I just worked to see what would happen.

I think around then I glanced down at 5.22 a mile on the Garmin. I have 5.28/mile planted on the brain as I know that’s sub 17 minute 5k pace so I just thought “come on then lets have a go”.

Passing through 1 mile nothing had really changed. The path at this point is very slightly downhill which is great, the only problem is its pretty uneven and you have to focus on your footing. It was around here that I felt like I was starting to lose anyone who may have been chasing me. Coming up to a mile it felt like there was a big group hunting me down but that seemed to subside.

Often coming through the gate just before 2k and back onto the Moor sees a head wind appear but not today. I thought to myself – this is perfect. The guy in front wasn’t getting away and at times I felt like I was getting closer. I was hoping to keep it that way.

My second mile was very strong – later I would see that it was completed in 5.21. The first mile was 5.31 so I was sitting on sub 17 pace.

Putting in a strong 2nd mile at Newcastle parkrun

Putting in a strong 2nd mile at Newcastle parkrun

Mile 3 is always difficult though and today the first quarter was the only point where it felt into a head wind. But I was really pleased with my attitude. There was no real negativity and in fact I did everything right. Consciously tried to quicken the cadence and dig in. Some positive self talk came through and I was able to really tough it out and get back onto better footing and out of the head wind.

At this point I saw one of the young lads walking back – he’d obviously dropped out early. Went off far too hard I imagine.

Although I was pleased with my effort, unfortunately I’d let the guy infront increase his lead. I gritted my teeth and tried to pick up some speed.

I really enjoyed the last 3/4 of a mile. I felt like I was running strong. I completed the 3rd mile in 5.40 which was an obvious dip from miles 1 and 2 but still faster than 10k PB pace and looking at the final push for home I averaged 4.50 miling on the Garmin and so a nice strong finish.

Crossing the line the Garmin read 17.10 which equaled my 5k parkrun PB from the Riverside in April and knocked 21 seconds off my Newcastle parkrun PB! So very pleasing. Personally I regard Newcastle a tougher course than the Riverside so plenty to be pleased about.

I later realised this was my 50th parkrun and so great to get a PB on that landmark!

Actually looking forward to a Long Run tomorrow!

Plan – Long run, 80mins

HR = 58bpm | HRV = 89

Enjoyed a nice steak and a fair few glasses of red last night. Got to bed a bit late and as a result the HRV reading wasn’t great and so the run proved quite tough. I ran my usual route and after about 30 minutes I knew I was working harder than normal. It wasn’t that windy but it felt it. I got through it but was glad when it was over. Not my best long run outing. I do find these runs the hardest of the week and I hope one day I can get stronger on these. I completed 11.2 miles in 1hr 22m at an average HR of 157bpm.

Weekly totals and Summary

Duration – 5h 13m

Mileage – 44.3 miles

Overall a pleasing week, mainly focusing on just getting back into it. But felt good come Saturday and was really pleased to put a strong 5k on the board which is a confidence booster more than anything.

Looking ahead now to my 4th Lactate Threshold test on Friday and hoping to get some results that underline the progress I have made since March. The key for me will be to understand where we go from here and I am really keen to put in a sub 17 minute 5k somewhere between now and the end of 2015 so that I can move on to goals new.

This week I have been listening to –

I have to admit its still Sleaford Mods. As my mate Glen said – the most important band in the UK today. I saw them on Jools Holland this week and it was definitely the best performance I’ve seen on there for some time. Great stuff.

This week I have been thinking a lot about –

Sleep – I have to admit I’m not sleeping great at the moment. I think its more to do with my general stress levels because I’ve got a hell of a lot going on at the moment. Its fine as the extra stress is due to me trying to better myself and start an online business that I am passionate about but, as a result, my head is spinning when I go to bed… Just need to manage it a bit better.

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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.


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 –


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…