Project Sub 1:16:47 – Training Weeks 1-3 (ish)

Following the new 5 mile and 5K PBs at the end of July, the target soon switched to Nottingham and the Robin Hood Half Marathon on September 28th. As someone pointed out, I’ve broken my old bests over all distances save the half marathon in the last year. I’ve peppered the half marathon best, standing at 1:16:47 three times since last September – I’m fairly determined I’m capable of going quicker. 

Paradoxically training for the upcoming race coincided with two weeks of a significant drop in training volume – the first week deliberate, the second down to illness. A couple of days after the Lincoln 5k I headed down with the kids to see my family in Minehead. I managed three runs during the five day stay.

The first was a fairly gentle affair up to Dunster Castle and down to the beach back to Minehead as the legs slowly recovered from the long drive. The next day I headed to my personal nemesis when down in Minehead – the Greenaleigh Lower Road Climb which takes you out of Minehead and towards North Hill along the coastal path.

With an opening 0.4 mile ramp of 18% average and then shortly after 0.3 mile at 19% average, I’ve never made it all the way to the top without stopping at some point for a breather – sometimes in my lower moments I’ve walked much of the way up. It was one of those Rocky moments as sometimes slowly, but determinedly, I made it all the way to the top of these Strava segments and beyond all the way from sea level to 800ft above it without stopping, except for a few necessary seconds to negotiate a gate. I was rewarded with a stunning view of the surrounding moors and coastline, a KOM on Strava for my efforts and a pleasant run back down into Minehead as the heavens opened – marking what has effectively become the end of the pleasant summer weather we had in June and July.

I took a couple of days off before taking on one last run on the final day before heading back home. I returned to Dunster forest – where I’d enjoyed a pleasant run back at Xmas. The weather was shocking – torrential rain – the forest was a good place to be offering some shelter. It rained so much my heart rate monitor got a little frazzled and gave some truly erratic readings. I enjoyed my little adventure to Carhampton and back though, taking on over 1800 ft of climbing in just over ten miles along good quality trails.

Back home in Grantham there was a short run on the Wednesday before a routine club run of 14 miles on the Thursday evening, albeit with a couple of quick miles near the start of the run when I caught up the lead pack after a stop at the bowling alley (No time for a quick game, alas). Friday saw no running as it was time to attend the wedding of a good friend. My wife and I had a blast, my head didn’t thank me and the four miles run early on the Saturday morning were painful on the head until the adrenaline did a good job of blasting the hangover out of me.

There was no time to rest though as we were straight off on our family holiday to the Yorkshire Dales. I managed a run on the Sunday morning – this time completing it just before the heavens opened for the day. Heading to Ingleton and back on fairly narrow country lanes, it was an enjoyable if sometimes hair-raising run as the constant undulations and blind bends made it a challenge to safely avoid the traffic. I also had annoyingly forgotten my Garmin ANT communicator, which meant I couldn’t create or follow any pre-planned routes, which would mean it was going to be mostly out-and-back affairs.

That run also featured the first tickles of a sore throat, which by Monday had developed into a full blown cold. By Tuesday I was feeling decidedly unwell, if I wake declaring no intention of entertaining a run at any part of the day, I know I’m feeling decidedly sub-par. This continued through to Friday, when the cold relented just enough to head out on a run with the camera.

Mostly enjoying the scenery but allowing as much effort as the tight chest would allow on the hills, it was a sometimes groggy affair, but a relief to have at least got one good run in during the holiday week and one where I took my camera with me to capture a few images.

Houses typical of where we stayed.
Houses typical of where we stayed.
The River Greta
The River Greta
Plenty of hills like this to be found
Plenty of hills like this to be found
A fishing lake
A fishing lake
The busy road marked the point to return home.
The busy road marked the point to return home.
The busy road marked the point to return home.
The busy road marked the point to return home.
Yorkshire cannot help but be scenic.
Yorkshire cannot help but be scenic.
The hill I had to tackle twice...
The hill I had to tackle twice…

The last shot is of a fairly steep hill (The photo doesn’t do it justice) I stupidly decided to run it twice near the end as I’d stopped to take the photo, ran off to the bottom and beyond, then realised I’d not started the Garmin. I somewhat weirdly decided to run back to where I’d took the photo to recommence the run…

The following morning saw a short 4 mile run before driving home. Painfully low on mileage for the week I opted on the Sunday morning to join some club members from GRC on a long run which turned into a 21 mile two lap affair, where I used and abused three training partners on different parts of the run. It was here that the Turquoise Nike Air Pegasus’ finally destroyed themselves mid-run, making the last 8 miles or so quite a sore affair.

The first week proper of training for the half marathon began the following day with an easy 6 miles breaking a new pair of Pegasus’. Club intervals on the Tuesday saw a welcome visit from Britain’s #99 marathon runner from 2013 Alastair Pickburn. Running hill repeats, we had a good, fairly evenly matched session together, which saw me take another second off the Strava segment for a rep and overall a much better performance than when we ran the same session a couple of months earlier.

Wednesday saw an easy paced run just shy of ten miles; Thursday was a little more complicated. First was a run to the train station to get a train to Nottingham to run to the hospital to pick up the wife, which was all done with a rucksack and laptop in tow. Once I’d driven us back home, caught up on about three hours of work in an hour, I hot footed it to the running club for a most enjoyable off-road run which came in at exactly half marathon distance. Not quick at any point and something of a struggle on tired legs, it was a welcome antidote to the stresses of the real world. I was shattered by the end though with eighteen miles completed on very little food – the protein shakes came out for the first time since Sub 1:16:47 began, and plenty more were consumed over the weekend.

Friday was a mere four miles of recovery in the evening. Saturday should have been an early morning run but I woke too late – it was almost planned as I’d really fancied a little quick run in the evening. This turned out to be a swift 6 mile affair with the pace wound up in the final stages to sub six minute miles – still a rarity for me in training.

Sunday should have been a 13 mile long run, but with work I decided to break it into two 10KM efforts. The morning run was fairly pleasing, averaging 6:41 pace only just after getting up. After a busy day behind the computer desk, I headed out in the evening for a second 10KM. The legs felt decidedly shaky at times, the head a little woozy as I was clearly tired, but pleasingly I was able to knock out a forty minute ten km effort, with the second five km run in just over 19 minutes. I’m not sure what this training weekend will bring, but I’d like to think that the repeated miles at a pace I don’t run that often will see me in good stead.

Monday was a Bank Holiday so felt like the weekend. The weather was rubbish, feeling like a cold day in October rather than late summer. The legs were a little weak for most of the run, but I managed 11 1/2 miles comfortably inside my Jack Daniels prescribed easy run pace.

So the opening three weeks or so of training done, one good solid week behind me. Some aches and niggles, but hopefully nothing that cannot be contained. The next few weeks are key, the plan to continue hopefully with the reps and to mix up the runs so some are run reasonably quick. It’s a fairly sketchy plan, so expect it all to change without warning….


Pre-Race Thoughts

It has been a month since I last raced; a month since I last posted. It was sunny on that night, but the mind was very clouded. The sun shines even brighter this evening, I’m sure that has partly helped to burn away some of the mental haze. My thoughts are mostly positive. They are, for the first time in a long time, not solely focused on one dark thing. That in itself I am sure will help with everything in the short to mid to long term.

Shortly after that last race I, somewhat hastily, it transpires, announced my sabbatical from racing. For tomorrow, all things going well, I will once again don the race vest, pin the number to my chest, put on the racing flats and do battle against myself and others. The distance of choice is five miles and the lure of a PB is the main driving force behind the late decision to enter. The allowance of the sabbatical to be broken is that there is absolutely no reason for me not to be out racing tomorrow. So I will. (For the record I’ve also entered the London Marathon on the Good For Age scheme – whether I’ll run that is totally out of my control at the moment).

Since the last race the focus has very much been on trying to get out and run as much as possible. With no real training goals or targets, instead I’ve allowed the clarity of mind that running can attain arguably more than any other activity to work its magic on me. In any circumstance, the summer months of running are an opportunity to enjoy the sun, when it shines, and the countryside. We have been fortunate thus far to have had plenty of sunshine and also fortunate that where we now live that there is plenty of countryside, much of it scenic and running friendly. There has been a fair amount of exploring and a little getting lost, but, as they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Somewhere in the last couple of weeks I finished the initial cycle of eight weeks of my Quick Strength For Runners book. By then end the twenty minute programs had nearly tripled in length but there can be no doubt that my balance has improved, and the perennial problems in the back and hips have lessened in recent weeks. It may be coincidence but I’d like to think not. I’m now back repeating the cycle at week two and the exercises feel much easier than when I first began – a sign of progress. It won’t be long before I’m brave enough to balance on the Bosu Ball for advanced forms of the exercises – the ball that has been a fun trampoline for my daughter, but has seen little use from myself as yet.

Most of the running has been in the easy pace zone 7-7:20 minute miles. I did one 10 mile run at something around marathon heart rate, which went very well considering it was done on the spur of the moment and it was 25C or so. There has been a little bit of Stravalek thrown in, but mainly it has been easy or steady paced running.  Mileage peaked at 65 miles in the final week of June – sitting at 50-56 miles through July, mostly because I’ve not had chance to complete a weekend long run.

I’ve done just two intervals session in the past month – one a set of 800 meter reps with the club, which still felt a little too pointless (Back and forth, back and forth…) to be worthwhile (Enjoy the countryside whilst you can…). The other was just this Saturday gone, when I tested myself three times over a 2km loop which climbed for the opening km or so. Despite being tired and pretty dehydrated (It’s been hot and sunny recently) I was pleased with how the session went and so go into tomorrow’s race with, I reckon, a 50/50 chance of coming home with a new PB.

The five mile PB stands at 28:19, set at the Coventry Autumnal 5 back in 2012, which beat my previous PB, set in June 2000, by one whole second. The Summer Solstice time suggests that this is beatable if I have a solid run. A lot will do with how warm it is tomorrow (It is looking like another scorcher) and whether I can get in a good group of runners. Last year’s race suggests that what it lacks in numbers it more than makes up for in quality. I’ll take that if I can be towed around to something half decent.

Whatever happens I want to go out, race, and enjoy racing again. If I come away with a good placing or a PB – great. If not, well at least I was out there giving it a go.

Day 43–Well That Was Quite Quick…

The day was long covering the opening day of F1 Testing at Jerez, at the computer for 6:30am and not able to leave until exactly 12 hours later. I put on my running gear in double quick time and headed out with barely a stretch to try and catch the, club, who were set to leave for their intervals session in around 6 minutes, when it normally takes me 11 to get to HQ…. As it was I just caught them leaving, I needed to visit the bathroom so I said I’d meet them in a minute. It took a 6:10 mile, after a 6:27 to catch them just as they stopped outside the pub.

The session hadn’t been finalised but it was decided to do 6 x 1 mile with a 2-3 minute recovery. I let the others have a 40 second or so head start for the first interval, I needed to stretch. The first mile felt really quick as I caught and passed all my club mates. Normally the mile in this direction is a fair bit slower than the return leg as it climbs 10 or so metres, but when I finished the mile the Garmin clocked 5:25, nigh on as fast as anything I’d done in the other direction and around 30 seconds quicker than normal. I felt though like I’d over-exerted myself somewhat, although I quickly recovered.

Then I turned around and realised why the mile was so quick. There was quite a stiff wind blowing, in the opposite direction to the usual prevailing wind, which had aided us significantly on the upward stretch and would hinder us on our return. And so it proved on the second rep, which turned out to be the equal slowest of the night at 5:30. Reps three and four were hard work clocking 5:30 and 5:29 respectively. At the end of the fourth rep I even felt a little nauseous, as well as feeling the right abductor.

Knowing that I had only two reps left I put aside any tired thoughts and worked hard on the fifth rep, clawing back time after a sluggish opening 800 meters to clock 5:27. The same happened on the sixth rep – I was averaging 5:38 at the halfway point before I put in a sustained effort to finish with a 5:29 rep. On this rep the right abductor and possibly right hamstring began to tighten significantly. Once everyone came back from their final rep and we began to jog back I decided to say my goodbyes, one because I still had a little work to do at home, and secondly because I felt the abductor was sorer if I ran slower.

I came home with at an average of 6:45, finishing the 10.5 mile run in a barely believable 5:59 per mile average. I don’t think I’ve ever run a training session that quickly. Hopefully the right leg will respond to a little massage and stretching, and another day in front of the computer tomorrow.