The good, bad and the evaluation

Well...this week seems to have flown by and despite not taking any time off during half term it feels like I have seen the kids more than ever. One thing for sure I seem to have been eating more crap than I usually do probably because we had trick or treat happening and my wife usually has more sweets in the cupboard than usual due to this combined with making more cookies, cakes etc than per normal as she is on holiday from work. The results of which is something I can definitely see around my waistline despite not putting on a single pound (I weigh myself daily). This should remove itself though after this week.

Luckily then as my wife was at home more than normal it has made getting out the door easier at different times of the day so perhaps finally this was the week where I would finally get over the 50+ weekly miles I am vying for. At the moment I am not running more than 1.5-2hrs for a long run mainly because there is a lot of stuff going on at the weekend (poor excuse of course). However one run doesn't define training and with 6 other runs during the week it's been key to get out as much as I can.

For the past 4-6 weeks I have been averaging around 40-45 miles and my average pace has come down to around 8-8:15 min/miles average pace for an easy daily run. I have been using my heart rate monitor in each session so that post run I can track the effort I am exerting based on the pace. Most of my runs are around 140-155 HR and mostly less than 150 but as I have been running consistently again now for the past couple of months it was about time I did an "Evaluation" run to see how my aerobic fitness was and how fast I recover.

I picked this up from a great runner I know (you check out his great blog Thomas I hope you don't mind the plug :-) ). After a good 2 mile warm up I picked out the flattest piece of road I could find locally. The wind was going to be a factor as it was blowing quite strongly so an out and back 0.5 miles was what I chose to do this. The target HR was 161 (my max being around 190) so this around 85% of max (threshold pace'ish).

The miles went as follows

Mile 1 - 7:12 pace, HR 161
Mile 2 - 7:25 pace, HR 161
Mile 3 - 7:31 pace, HR 161
Mile 4 - 7:37 pace, HR 161

Then I came to a complete standstill to see how long it took for my HR to come down to 130. I couldn't believe it took 84 seconds to do this! Whether that is good or bad I really don't know however ideally I want the recovery time to come down a lot quicker than this. After which I then ran easy back home to complete the run. The next day I was expecting to be a little sore but to my surprise I actually felt really good. So good in fact that I was hitting sub 8 min/mile pace with a HR under 150!!

I am not sure what to make of this however I am taking things as they are as a baseline to compare to when I next do an evaluation run which will be in 2 weeks time. Was a good week overall but perhaps having averaged 40-45 miles a week I need to bump things up a little bit and I desperately need to get some goals sorted as I don't have anything to look forward to at the moment and it is beginning to affect how I feel after each run.

One highlight of this week though that was great fun was jogging on a beautiful sunny day while my 8 year old daughter rode her bike around the local roads. Some proper dad and daughter time. We both really enjoyed it and it will be something we want to make more regular as she wants to keep beating her longest ride distance. 10km is obviously not enough now!

28 Oct
          10 miles , 1:20:34, 8:04 pace, HR 146
29 Oct
          5.4 miles (Fartlek), 45:09, 8:22 pace, HR 152
31 Oct
           8.15 miles , 1:06:27, 8:10 pace, HR 154
              4 miles evaluation
               7:12 (HR 161)
               7:25 (HR 161)
               7:31 (HR 161)
               7:37 (HR 161), 84 seconds to HR 130
              2.15 miles easy
1 Nov
          7.26 miles , 58:36 , 8:05 pace, HR 144
2 Nov
          6.28 miles, 1:00:23, 9:38 pace, HR 133 (Daughter on bike)
3 Nov
          7.9 miles, 1:04:45, 8:12 pace, HR 148

Words of Widsom from Arthur

"Your schedules are only for guidance.Study your reactions to training from day to day and if you feel jaded or suffer from any soreness allow time for recovery.

Never do speed training when your muscles are sore or you are feeling very tired.Just jog easily,irrespective of what is on the schedule for that day's training.

You can never do yourself any harm by jogging and it will usually help to overcome the soreness or tiredness.

Control your training so that you are not racing it,except when full efforts are called for in the schedules.Run strongly and easily in effort,always keeping something in reserve.As you feel improvement,gradually increase your training tempo but never use that reserve." 

Quote by Arthur Lydiard.

Scores on the Board

Last week marked the Oh well I didn't get into the London Marathon ballot for the 5th year running but I kind of knew that was going to happen and for that reason I am not disappointed. It's not meant to be at this moment of my running life.

Training wise things have been going very much in the direction I wanted to go. The last 4 weeks have been really effective and I am really seeing the benefits of running consistently. I am running 7 times a week more or less, the average pace has come down from 8:50 to 8:20 minute miles yet my HR is always between 140-155.

On the flip side I am probably not getting enough sleep (going to bed far too late), not quite averaging the minimum 7 hours of running I had targeted each week yet but that will come I'm sure plus the majority of my runs have to be before I go to work. So that's these are areas to focus on for the next few weeks / months.

This weeks goal is to get to an average of 1 hour per day running and to continue to build on the consistency I am getting into. Yesterday delivered another boost as I checked my stats coming back off a 6 mile run and was surprised to see that my HR was averaging 145 bpm (excluding the warm up mile) and yet the last 4 miles were all sub 8 min/miles. I knew I felt good all run but not that good. 

I'm feeling really good about things as you can see and I am now thinking about what goals I want to have in the spring. Should I go for a marathon, ultras I really don't know but by the time I decide i know I am going to be in fantastic shape.

Mon 8
         6 miles, 48:17, 8:03 pace, HR 145
Tue 9
         4.75 miles. 39:22. 8:18 pace, HR 151

Frustrating week

Well today marked the 24th consecutive day of running.

Wow..I just had to read that back. I haven't been this consistent since September last year. It's has been going really well with weeks of 33, 43 and 47 miles yet things tailed off this past week due to the fact I was out of the country on business and the best I could do for 2-3 days was 15-20 minutes of jogging.

Still I managed to clock in at just under 38 miles with a 2hr+ run on Sunday but I know that from this week there is every chance I could hit 50+ miles simply by continuing to build fitness and aim for a 2 hour run, couple of 75-90 minute run days and the rest nice and easy. It's odd that only a few weeks ago I would have looked at this and thought "There is no way I can get there" but now I have begun to think very differently.

So far this period of running has taught me to be patient, run within myself, let the pace come to me and focus on recovering from each run. I am not looking to take rest days at this point mainly due to the fact the runs are focused on recovery and building fitness and a aerobic base for the months ahead.

Now there is the small details of what races I want to do next year.

28 Sep  - 15 miles, 2:10:51, 8:49 pace, avg HR 143
29 Sep  - 7+ miles, 58:26, 8:20 pace, avg HR 142
30 Sep -  4.8 miles, 40:20, 8:26 pace, avg HR 140

Off and running

For the first time in months if not a year I am finally feeling good about building my fitness and it's progressing in the right way. Given the fact I had 6 weeks off doing absolutely nothing back in July / early August. What has astounded me the most is my attitude and commitment to the getting the running shoes on and shooting out the door. I am hungrier to do this than ever before.

The pivotal moment happened during a 2 hour run on Sunday 8th Sept. I was apprehensive at first about going out for 2 hours as I hadn't been out for a longish run for some 5 months and given the fact a 10 mile run a couple weeks earlier had felt like a slog for the past  I didn't much like the thought of slogging things out and coming home in a bad mood. However on the contrary the long run turned out to be most enjoyable, the pace reasonable for a fat slow runner (avg 9:03 min/miles) but I had felt in control and the legs felt good. This was the most enjoyable run I'd had since getting back onto the roads.

Since that day things have been getting better and better. Weekly mileage and number of days running have been trending upwards (see table below). I am mixing things up on the trails and roads although I am preferring the roads for the majority of runs (I am a secretly closet road runner)

9/9/2013 – 9/15/2013:43.0 mi6:20:258:51 / mi
9/2/2013 – 9/8/2013:33.4 mi4:54:008:49 / mi
8/26/2013 – 9/1/2013:23.5 mi3:30:539:00 / mi
8/19/2013 – 8/25/2013:27.7 mi4:04:138:49 / mi
8/12/2013 – 8/18/2013:24.3 mi3:35:498:53 / m

One big difference that appears to be helping is simply running more and not making excuses to skip running. I ran every day last week and for the past 11 days I haven't needed a rest day. This period of training was always going to be about building base, recovery and getting the miles in. So far so good and I don't intend to take a rest day for the foreseeable future.

Humble Pie

The past 2 weeks or so has all been about getting back to regular running and although there is not much to tell it's been interesting to see how much fitness I have lost, what impact the additional weight (8 pounds) will have and critically how quickly I can get back to some sort of fitness.

The first week back I had real problems getting back into a rhythm which was to be expected and to minimise any injury risk I decided that it was probably not a good idea to go out and run everyday although that was probably the best thing to do in hindsight.

The first couple of runs went ok, kept them to 35-40 mins in duration and pace wise just went with how I felt as I had little idea what shape I was in. After both runs of 4.5 and 3.5 miles I felt good enough to push the Saturday run out to 90 minutes...RED ALERT. What was I thinking..

I felt fine for the first 60 mins or so but the last 20 minutes were not nice I have to admit. I didn't hit any walls as such but I was not enjoying this whatsoever. I persevered and ended up with 87 mins of running with 9.3 miles on the Garmin. I cannot remember the last time I had a training run of that duration and distance in many a years. My half marathon PB is 1:32.

My pace was real easy in fact ridiculously slow and psychologically I felt heavy, tired and started thinking what the hell am I doing here. All negative stuff of course but I closed the run down, finished what I started and felt humbled that the journey back to fitness is going to be way tougher than I first thought it would be.

I ended up running 22.5 miles for the week and this week I again got out for 4 runs with a total of 24.4 miles. These stats are not important of course but with each run I am beginning to feel a little bit more like a runner again and obviously there is still a long way to go but for the first time on today's run I felt a surge of energy for the last 15 minutes of my run. Last mile and 0.7 miles was 8:15 pace and

Not sure where it came from but I believe the humble pie I ate earlier last week has just been absorbed by the runners body that is itching to come back.

16 Aug
               6.7 miles, 1:00:03, 8:59 pace,  avg HR 149
18 Aug
               4.7 miles, 40:18, 8:35 pace, avg HR 150

Back to the start again.

Huffing...Puffing..breathing and legs felt heavy..what the hell has happened to me.

These words only describe partly as to how I felt after going out on my first run in almost 6 long weeks of no running.

It all stems back to when I decided to spend more time in the gym and zero time running as I had pretty much lost all desire to run..I knew at the time out at the time it was the right decision to pull away from running but upon reflection I have been away to long from something that I had for the last 5 years to my daily living.

So..I decided last week that it was time to come back..the first question how much fitness had I lost and how long will it take to get it back. I had put on 8 pounds of weight (although much stronger as I have been doing 3-4 strength training sessions).

I chose a running loop around the country park that I generally run with a 141-151 avg Heart Rate with an average pace of 8:25 min/miles (based on previous runs). The same loop results were quite shocking..average HR was 148 and average pace of 9:26 min/miles!!! and boy did I feel it.

Having read several sources on the web regarding the effect several weeks has on aerobic capacity I found a great resource that laid bare some of the answers I wanted

The interesting points I pulled from this are:

  • The bad news is that declines in fitness appear fairly rapidly: In less than two weeks, there are measurable declines in fitness, and enzyme levels associated with performance have dropped by half.
  • While the study did not detect any statistically significant change in VO2 max, the subjects’ ability to cycle at 75% of VO2 max dropped from about 80min to just over 60min—a 20% decrease.
    This is more relevant to runners in training, as it’s a closer approximation to race fitness. It appeared that peripheral factors in the muscles, like calcium and magnesium concentrations and muscle glycogen storage, affected the body’s ability to exercise more than the core cardiovascular “engine.” Nevertheless, a 20% change in a ride to exhaustion is fairly significant, so the effects of a month off from training are substantial.
However it's not all doom and gloom:

  • The results from Ready and Quinnely also suggest that it won’t take nearly as long to get back to your initial fitness. Remember that over nine weeks of training, the subjects in that study increased their anaerobic threshold by 70%, but after nine weeks of inactivity, they had retained 40% of the initial increase. It’s reasonable to expect it wouldn’t take them another nine weeks to claw their way back to their peak fitness level.So if you are taking some time away from running, realize that you will lose a significant portion of your fitness, and you will lose it fairly quickly, but your losses will taper off after several weeks, and you retain a portion of your starting shape for a long, long time.
Of course we are all individuals so I cannot take everything here to my personal situation however I am not panicked nor worried about the time off as much I was midweek. The fun part will be the journey back to fitness and making sure I learn to recover properly after all that what building base is all about.

So the goals are:

  1. Rebuild up my running base over the next 10-12 weeks (Lydiard fashion). 
  2. Focus on consistency, frequency and running based on feel i.e. adding in some fartlek when feeling good. 
  3. Have fun along the way.

Couldn't be simpler could it?

Halstead Marathon Report - You cannot fake it

Today was all about running in the Halstead marathon today. Technically my first 26.2 experience.

After torrential rain the night before it was sunshine, blue sky and time to get a solid long run in. So I gobbled down a Muffin, couple bananas with black coffee before leaving the house for a 50 mile drive to the event.

I arrived around 30 mins before the start of the race, registered and collected race number before commencing with final preparations i.e. empty stomach out before saying a quick hello to a running buddy who was going for 2 loops of the marathon course today.

The sun was shining albeit there was a very strong breeze blowing and I was looking forward to getting out there on the country lanes. All the runners made their way to the Start line and a minutes silence was held just before the gun went off which was a very poignant moment and brought it home to me that days like this should be treasured.

The gun went off and I started very easy as planned and within the first 5 minutes we had to go up a nice hill and this actually helped keep things real easy. I hadn't brought a GPS device today as I switched bags at the last minute and forgot to take it out but my stopwatch would do the trick of knowing how long I had been running and to be honest I only looked at it every so often to get a feel of pace.

After the first 3 miles or so I glanced at my watch and calculated that I was running as at approx 8.10 min/mile pace and this surprised me as I felt good with easy breathing. The course was certainly not flat and there was plenty of up and down hills. I did restrain a little bit on the down hills because I didn't want to hit things to hard to early but things were flowing nicely. I didn't kick up the pace too much (maybe just a tad) and soon settled into a good rhythm. 

During the next 10 miles I made sure I drank enough plain water (walking for a couple seconds so as not to choke on the drinks). There was plenty of beautiful fields, meadows as we meandered down the country lanes hitting the down hills strongly and jogging the up hills.

I reached the half way point in pretty good shape (1hr 46mins) which I was very happy with given the undulation and strong cross wind blowing. Still wasn't feeling laboured breathing wise and the legs felt good. I eased off ever so slightly though as we all know the marathon doesn't take prisoners in the last 10km of the event.

It must of been around mile 17 that I felt some aching and then pain in the back of my neck and shoulders. It was very uncomfortable to say the least so I tried stretching things out but that didn't really work. It went away within 10-15 minutes or so after a took on board some more drink at the stations ahead.

Then at mile 19 I started to feel cramping on the inside of my right leg (similar problem to last year when I ran the 35 mile overnight run). My pace then went went southwards so I conserved energy and tried to stretch / walk things off which did the trick after a couple minutes. Every time that it didn't like me and went into spaz mode and the wheels fell off. Every time I wanted to up the pace it said "No I don't think so pal" and my breathing was a little laboured so mentally I had to play a different game to what I wanted to do ideally.

It wasn't until reaching mile 25 that I had had enough of this so I gritted my teeth and pushed on with the pace. I concentrated on the few runners still ahead and passed about 6 runners during the last mile. I saw the finish line coming up fast and mustered a sprint finish despite the fact I could feel my thigh and calves cramping and but came home with a big smile on my face in 3:53 and change.

Collected my medal, goody bag and downed 3 cans of full sugar coke and a banana while walking back to the car. I didn't hang around long and drove 50 miles home before soaking in a much needed cold bath for half an hour or so while eating more bananas and a whey protein shake made with Almond milk. Have hardly sat down since coming in and feeling pretty good for it 

Looking to soak the legs again before bed and have some chinese food in as a treat. Days like this should be remembered and treasured regardless of how poor you perform. 

Was a great course though with great support and I am sure to be back soon.

Definitely felt a lack of training mileage wise and long runs contributed to a poor day performance but also my pacing was off and I must of gone out far to quickly. A good experience and rest assured that it has re-focused me to get my ass in gear.

Roll on the running bandwagon :) 

Brentwood 1/2 marathon race report 2013

Last week I had the pleasure of join 2000+ at the Brentwood 1/2 marathon in what can only be described as Siberian weather like conditions.

This was my fourth time racing at the event and by far the most coldest conditions I have raced in, it was 0C at a high. I wasn't sure until that morning how I was going to approach the race as to whether that I go for a new PB or a solid pace run, I didn't know what shape I was in. I decided over my black coffee in the morning that I would go for it!!

Despite the "sub-zero" conditions I decided that I would wear a pair of shorts, base layer with long sleeve, skull cap / gloves and compression socks. I don't do tights for short races. I hitched a lift with friends who were also running in the race and we swiftly arrived around 9.30. It was immediately obvious in the car park that conditions were going to make this day some what fun as there was a sprinkling of snow. The thought of sliding around on this made me think twice about attempting a PB but by the time we arrived at the starting line the roads looked clear and there was only a soft breeze of icy cold air to be concerned with.

Unfortunately this year there was no marching band to lead out the runners to the START line but to be honest I didn't care who did as long as we got there as soon as possible because it was freezing! I lined up alongside the 1:30 pacer with my chest puffed out although I knew this would be a a big push based on where my conditioning is and in the challenging conditions.

I met up with a mate who was also attempting to hit around 1:30 pace and no sooner had we spoken for 30 seconds the gun went off exactly on time. During those first couple of miles its usually a case of dodging runners and keeping track of where the pacer was heading. After the first 3 miles I glanced down at my Garmin and we were averaging 6.47 pace. I knew that I wouldn't be able to keep that up all the way to the finish so I eased back a fraction until I felt a little more comfortable. It turned out that pace was around 7 minute miles.

I had warmed up nicely by the 5 mile marker. It was then that the first of many times that we would be hit by wind that made you feel cold to the bone. I took my mind off it by glancing out into the beautiful fields covered in snow. Fortunately the blast of cold air made me want to keep running hard but surprisingly I felt a sudden thirst so I grabbed a cup of water at the next water station and swigged it back. No surprise it was full of ice!!!!

The next couple of miles went by quickly until we reached a deceiving steep incline and I felt my pace suddenly checked back however I pumped my arms and brought my knees up a little higher to maintain the pace I had set. It turned out this last mile (8 miles) would be my slowest at 7.14. I struggle with the uphills generally but I then motored down the downhills to balance this out somewhat despite heading into the wind for much of the middle miles of the race.

There were few spectators out on the course today but every one of them was encouraging the runners and I in turn either said a polite "thanks" or beamed an enormous smile. As miles 9, 10 and 11 came and went I realised that I was passing more runners regularly now. I began playing the game of zoning in on the next runner ahead and try to pull them back with some imaginary tractor beam despite feeling a the leg heaviness develop.

As I passed the 12 mile marker I knew the toughest point of the course was coming up (at least psychologically). There is a lovely "little" climb in the last 1km and again it was a case of beaming a smile and pump those arms and lifting those knees. As I turned into the finishing straight I attempted a full out sprint for the last 150m or so having seen the clock ticking through 1:31.xx. You feel like your head is exploding and heart is thumping so hard it will burst out of your chest. I love that feeling!

I crossed the line completely shattered with an unofficial time of 1:32:05 (Garmin time). I was very pleased with that as it was a good 2 minutes of my PB yet I had not been putting in good mileage or consistent training for the past 6 months. Above my expectations for sure.

Having stretched out the legs and changed into some much more appropriate clothing I realised I hadn't eaten much at all this morning so grabbed a great smelling cheeseburger and washed it down with an ice cold bottle of water.

I later checked on the official website that I finished 140th out of 2079 runners and a new official PB time of 1:32:03. Job done!

Back to Racing

Where in the world have I been...

Well to be honest with everyone I haven't been anywhere. It's been a busy last 3 months both at work on the home front and it's only been in the last few weeks that I have been able to run properly again.

I had promised myself at the end of last year that I wouldn't leave my calendar blank but until pay day comes I won't be able to flesh out the rest of the year especially as the running fund has pretty much run dry due to other priorities :)

So for now it's time for a bit of local racing with the Brentwood 1/2 marathon tomorrow. I have done this race 3 times previously (2009, 2010 and 2012). I have improved from a 2:00:09 to 1:34:09 last year so is there a chance of going faster than this..well the jury is still out on that.

With the weather taking a turn for the worse the past couple of days it's going to be both very windy and potentially icy on the roads therefore going faster than sub 1:34 is something that will be assessed in the morning.

It's really great to be running in a race environment again as it's been far too long.

2012 result...Not so SMART

"OH DEAR". This was my reaction when I summarised mileage, number of runs and time spent running in 2012 running. However I was not in shock as to what happened here as the last 2-3 months my running has been pretty dire to say the least. In fact it's the worst 3 months that I have logged in the past 3 years and overall I ran less miles than last year.

Highest Month : 206 miles (June)
Lowest Month : 88.1 miles (December)
Overall Mileage: 1698.7 miles (1831.2 miles in 2011)

For October, November and December I didn't even reach 100 miles for each month. Now I am not a high mileage runner but these figures should be at least double especially as the previous 6 months were averaging 190 or so.  
The reason for this is simple to me  

Lack of Measurable Running goals = Lack of Motivation

I am someone who is achievement and results orientated so the fact I didn't even stand on the start line for the North Downs 100 mile race in August was a major blow to my confidence. However I was intent on not letting this get me down and September was quite a good month of running and my fitness was probably at it's best. The mistake made here was that I didn't have any other races lined up to cushion the blow and although I tried to believe that running for the pleasure of the act itself would be enough I was very much mistaken as I had pretty much tried to ignore what drives me at the core of my personality.

It wasn't all doom and gloom in 2012 but I am determined not to let 2013 start off the way 2012 finished. Now of course racing every week isn't the answer (I don't have a bank loan handy) but I need to do some serious thinking time and set out SMART goals in a rapidly fashion for 2013 in order to stop this runner from decomposing slowly.  It's not all going to be about getting PB's but having variety in there will keep me moving forward.

I need to take control of my running this year and the only way to do this is be true to myself and approach this part of my life the same way I would any other thing in my life because that is who I am and that is how I roll..

Happy Trails