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 –


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

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!

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.

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.

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.

Plan – Rest

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 –


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


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


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



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.

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.

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