Monthly Review: July 2014

One of my reasons for blogging is so I can keep track of the running I’ve done, how its gone, and see if I’ve been improving. Much like a training diary. This is the first monthly review I hope to post at the end of each calendar month.july

Garmin Connect makes this really easy to analyse with the “Progress Summary” report!julystats

Total mileage for the month was 175.96mi! (Yes, I am cursing that 0.04 miles!!) A new record for “Most miles in a month” for me – even more so than my “Peak” month when I was marathon training. This increased volume has mainly come from having an additional run per week, but I have also had a slight increase on my average run distance (Excluding long runs, where there is much more mileage from the Mara training). So a good, sensible increase in volume.

I’ve also set a new “PB” for meters of elevation gained in a month. Running hills is the best way to build leg strength so I am now using this stat to actively ensure I go up more hills. I’m planning to try and increase the “Average Elevation Gain” in August.

Average speed has increased which is good, but I should be wary of May and June’s numbers there. It’s only been in July that I’ve been carefully sticking to my training zones. The previous two months I spent a lot of time running with Jodie – Her times are improving immensely though so thats good coaching on my part!!

I’m doubly pleased as April and May was spent doing specific speed training, so to see an improvement comparing July with that period is quite satisfying.

One interesting stat I can see if that my average heart rate is reduced! When you compare that with the spring months (Another comparable period where I was doing hard training) my speed has increased and my heart rate has decreased – which is a clear improvement of fitness! Very happy with that.

Goals for August

  • Further increase in Month-on-Month Mileage to > 200mi
  • Increase the Average Elevation Gain

 

 

The downside to weight loss…

unnamed (1)One thing I need to remember… I don’t have the body weight to support the alcohol I was previously able to comfortably consume. Look at the state of me!! (Photo taken from my desk at work the morning after). Don’t worry folks, I feel just as bad as I look!

 

Drivers – Use Your Indicators!

I am absolutely sick of drivers who refuse to use their indicators.

As a pedestrian/runner, I am a conscientious person. When I run I always allow plenty of room for people sharing a path or pavement. I say “Hello”, “Excuse Me” and “Thank You”. So why do other road users (Drivers) not feel it necessary for them to be polite abide by the highway code?

So, when I try and cross the road and you are not indicating to come down it, or not indicating that you are coming off of the roundabout, I do NOT expect a car to come hurtling towards me, nor the abuse that follows for being on the road!

If YOU had indicated I WOULDN’T have thought it was safe to cross, AVOIDING the issue!

It’s not all drivers, I’d say 60% are good indicators! But the rest of you, next time I’m going to let myself get clipped and prosecute!!

Drive responsibly.

Morning Running

I’ve never been a morning person. Traditionally I’d be late to bed, watching some shite on TV or a film i’ve seen a million times before, and when the alarm goes off I squeeze out every possible second from the snooze button. Then at weekends I’d stay up even later, largely due to socialising and drinking, then inevitably sleep til noon and wake up with a raging hangover.

Recently though, life, through a natural process, has caused this routine to change. A life changingly happy relationship has curbed my appetite for weekend boozing, and my recent addiction to running has also contributed. With the amount of mileage I have been putting in (and Jodie too) I’ve been finding myself tiring much more naturally in the evenings. This has naturally led me to be a little more spritely in the mornings. At the weekends, I’m now committed to parkrun on Saturdays, and Sunday’s are usually consumed by the traditional long slow run.

I love running, but I also love my fiancee and I love spending time with her. Sometimes I don’t get the balance right between running and my fiancee and I’m trying to correct that. Recently, thats been by running in the mornings!

Shock horror!

On parkrunday I am often found volunteering instead of running parkrun. By the time we’ve finished there, I still need to squeeze in my own run, usually an hour long. But by the time you’ve got ready and showered down afterwards and you are ready to do your next task/activity thats 2 hours. It basically writes off Saturday morning! So I’ve started running TO parkrun instead, as an alternative. It ticks all the boxes.

During marathon training last year I’d often not start my long run til after lunch, which meant that Saturday afternoon was a write off. Even half-marathon training I’m often out for a couple of hours and can have a big impact on what you do on a sunday. This week in order to juggle family commitments I went out with Simon at 7.30am! On a sunday! Unthinkable for me.

I’m finding myself much more inclined to run in the morning if I have something to do the following evening. Like I did today. I think in the long term, this strategy could be a real benefit.

In my limited experience with early running, I’ve found the following points quite interesting.

  • It takes me a loooong time to get warmed up Normally in the evening I’ve found my pace after the first half a mile. I’ve found it takes up to 2 miles for me to find a good rhythm on an early run.
  • Its so much cooler! The weather here recently has been HOT, and running in the mornings removes this discomfort. Not only is it cool on the run, but its also cooler when you get home and easier to feel more human after a good workout.
  • I can’t run at a pace outside of my “Easy” zone in the mornings. For some reason, I just can’t inspire myself to turn my legs over quick enough. I think its a laziness thing.
  • I’m wide awake when I get to work, or if its the weekend I’m ready to take on the day. The time it frees up is amazing, andI think it will give me way more time to spend with the missus.
  • There is way less traffic, less need to slow or stop and ruin your rhythm/cadence.
  • But there are a lot more cyclists. I guess they are commuters.
  • I’m hoping getting used to morning running will help with morning races – but time will tell!

What do you think of early running? Do you love or hate it?

Blandford parkrun

On Saturday I attended my second ever parkrun “Inaugural” – my first being “Home”. At Blandford Forum in Dorset, it is very different to Yeovil Montacute.

The course is an out and back on the Jubilee Way – essentially a cycle path running out of Blandford. The Start/Finish was under a road bridge and one of the downsides for me was that the starting area was very narrow. So narrow in fact that other path users had some real problems getting past. At one point a chap had to carry his dog through the throngs of people!

Blandford parkrun SF area

The problem was exacerbated by some degree that we had to start late. 165 runners were all crowded on this narrow path for the 9am start (Which is standard for every parkrun in England) only to find out that we had to wait for the local triathlon club to finish their swim session in the local pool and come across. This meant we didn’t start til 9.15.

It was a bit frustrating – I mean, surely if the club really wanted to come they should have finished their swim session early? It wasn’t very fair on all the runners that did make it on time.

Speaking of runners making it on time, here’s the Yeovil Montacute contingent, all bright and early! Photo by Nikkii Small.

10432978_10152159131901556_1804920190063157815_n

Anyway, I wasn’t sure whether or not to have a tilt at a PB or not. I’d checked out the route beforehand to see how flat it was and it wasn’t too hilly. However, I had run a tough 6 x 1km Interval session on Friday night, so with only 14 hours recovery in my legs a PB was always going to be ambitious! I set out at Sub 21 pace anyway to see if I thought I could do it. I knew after the first KM that it wasn’t going to happen.

The first 1.5km was quite enclosed, with little room for manoeuvre. Overtaking in the early stages was tricky. This section was not the most interesting parkrun I had been on, but after that the route took a short sharp downhill to go under the main road and then opened out onto a path through some lovely open countryside running parallel (By about 40 meters) to the same A road. Another KM out, make the turn and run back.

When face with that hill on the way back, knowing the PB had gone I thought I’d save my legs a bit and walked up it. Then my lace untied!

The last KM was a fairly flat stretch and crossed the line in 22.44, so 45s outside my PB.

The finish funnel was very confusing, largely because of how narrow it was. There were so many people going back and forward I wasn’t sure how the time keepers were keeping track of everything! Must have been quite a challenge.

They did have water at the end though which was quite nice!

I enjoyed my run, but I have to say it was all a bit confusing. I must remember that it is a brand new event. I’m sure they will find their feet and things like this smooth out, after all we had our issues in the early days too!

I had to shoot off early (On wedding duty) so didn’t get the opportunity to meet the ED or have coffee OR cake! But in summary, for me, there really is no place like home – though I would like to revisit in 6 months and see how things change.

The following photos are taken from the Blandford parkrun Flickr Group.

14754114154_11f471c04a_o

14746920991_78d332c848_o

14569848898_00730e780c_o

14733456286_205578f9cd_o

14744587671_e55dcbb64c_o

Training: W/C 28th July 2014

So first a review of last weeks activities. Here is what I had planned and how the sessions went.

Last Week

Monday: 5m Easy – This will be more of a recovery run after yesterday’s efforts. Running with Simon and Josh and going to go the uphill way! Was a good run, Josh did well with the climbing though it was hot hot hot! [Garmin Activity]

Tuesday: Club Run – Will probably do 6ish miles at a steadyish pace. I had to attend a late work meeting so I missed the club run and didn’t run at all so ran Thursday instead.

Wednesday: 10/10/5 min Tempo10 minutes threshold running with 5 min jog recoveries x 2 followed by a 5 minute threshold interval. Adding a bit more on from last week. It was hot, but I nailed all the splits I needed to. As it was hot though I couldn’t maintain my cadence during the recoveries and had to walk a bit during them. But the threshold running was the most important so still a good session. [Garmin Activity]

Thursday: Rest. As I missed the Club Run I opted for an “Easy” run – but it was less than easy! It was about 28 degrees and after 4 miles it felt horrible. I’ll be glad when this heatwave passes. [Garmin Activity]

Friday: 6 x 1km Intervals – With 2 minute recoveries. After Thursday, I thought I would really struggle with this. But I absolutely smashed it! Average of 4.08 minute KMs, just where I wanted them. [Garmin Activity]

Saturday: 5m Steady – I have no idea when I am going to fit this in as I’m off to Blandford for their inaugural parkrun then off on Wedding duty for the rest of the day. Seems most likely that i’ll be up with the sunrise! Well durr, I was running the Blandford parkrun!! That was a good enough of a session for me. I ran it fairly comfortably at around threshold pace. I “Ummed and aahed” about trying for a PB, but after the first 2k I realised my legs didn’t have it after friday’s intervals. I had to stop to tie the laces up and had a brief walk up the hill and was 45s outside of PB pace, which I was still very pleased with. [Garmin Activity]

Sunday: 12m LSR – REALLY MUST try and remember my camera, have a lovely route planned. Ha. No camera, but a great run. Arranged with Simon to run together (He was due 9 and me 12) so planned a route where we could run the first 9 miles together. Missed the planned turn so he ended up doing 10! I was pleased with the consistency of my spliets, especially up the Mudford Road climb at 10 miles. Good solid run. [Garmin Activity]

28thjuly

This Week

Monday: 5m Easy – The usual 5miles with Josh and Simon, will be doing a flatter route though after a tough last 5 days running.

Tuesday: Club Run – Probably the 6ish mile option. This will probably get shelved to to an early run or a thursday run as am probably going to the seaside with Jodie and family!

Wednesday: 15/10/5mins Tempo – My threshold intervals increase again. These are really tough but I think they are giving me the most benefit. its good to ramp these up a bit at a time!

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 8 x 2mins Hill Repeats – Usual Hendford Hill repeats in all likelihood, but may have to change it up as I’ll be going to Basingstoke either Friday or Saturday so will need to fit this in somewhere.

Saturday: 5m Easy – If I’m in Yeovil, I’ll run this super early. If I’m in Basingstoke, I’ll run Basingstoke parkrun instead.

Sunday: 13m LSR – Most likely a leisurely early one in Basingstoke to avoid the heat.

Setting Yourself Goals

At Christmas I set myself what I thought would be an ambitious target of running 1000 miles in 2014*. In 2013 I ran 900 miles without really thinking about it, so i figured an extra 100 miles would be achievable. It seems to be a good week for me, as I crossed that threshold in last nights easy run!

goalacheived

But it made me think about how important it is to set yourself goals. For me personally, having a goal keeps me motivated. And a goal could be anything running related and will entirely depend on where you are in your running “career”.

For some, completing your first 5k parkrun without walking may be your goal. For others, it may be to finish their first half marathon, by hook or by crook. They are all entirely personal, and with that goal you do a training plan which trains you for the objective at hand and keeps you focussed on it.

But once you’ve achieved that goal, what do you do next? Many people, myself included in the past, have not set a new goal and stopped running. For some, they may not WANT to run again. For me, it was just because I didn’t have anything to aim for. I’d go out for a few runs, not really try, end up walking a bit, and the frequency dropped off, and off and off until I was doing no running at all.

Generally speaking, beginners will want to do one of two things.

  • Go further – If they’ve run a 5k, they may want to run a 10k next, then a Half, then maybe even a full marathon.
  • Go faster – They may want to stick at that distance but get faster at it. For many, their weekly parkrun is all they want to get faster at!

I still follow this regime. I’ve worked my way up through the distances, and now I focus a specific training plan on a specific distance to make me faster at that distance. Beginners will find though, that by training for longer distances their shorter runs will naturally become faster just by doing more running.

The key word in that above paragraph is Specific. And it forms part of a goal setting methodology I found out about in my MBA studies known as SMART objectives. These are goals which are

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

By having a specific goal (For example, a 25minute 5k) you know that this can be measured (By your official race times, or your stopwatch over a course). Being Achievable and Realistic is important, as setting a goal which is too far in advance or too difficult from where you are/your current running condition may demotivate you, so set smaller goals and then renew those goals again once completed. By time binding it (A specific race) then it instills a sense of urgency and purpose to keep you motivated.

To help with this, you can back it up by promising yourself a reward or treat when you acheive your goal.

Here’s an example of my running goals that I posted over on Runners World back in January. (OK it’s two posts because the RW forum software is a bit shit)

rw1 rw2

 

I used SMART objectives to come up with these. You can see they were specific and measurable, and they were achievable and realistic based upon my condition at the beginning of the year, and I had given myself the target of doing so by the end of 2014.

Thankfully, I smashed them all one by one by the end of May – except the weight loss, which was yesterday! And every goal I smashed, felt amazing. After each PB goal I set a new, revised goal and I am still motivated to acheive them all – and I firmly believe I can by the end of the year. Just as soon as this hot weather lets up a bit!

rw3

 

Set yourselves some SMART goals and feel great every time you do them. Don’t forget for every running goal you acheive you will also be healthier and fitter from it – a nice side effect!

* I realised early on that I was going to make the 1000mi quite easily, so i revised it to 1252mi – 2014km

Weigh In: Plateau Smashed, Goal Achieved!

If you read last weeks weigh in report you’ll know that I’ve bee struggling with somewhat of a plateau in recent weeks, my body simply has not wanted to shift any weight at all. This has been tough to swallow as I was so close to my goal.

My primary goal has always been, ever since that fateful first day at Weight Watchers, to have a healthy BMI of under 25. BMI isn’t for everyone. I understand that if you are a body builder, or a rugby player then your BMI is not going to be an appropriate way to measure your health based upon weight. But for an average guy like me, not interested in bulking up, its as close to an accurate barometer as I am likely to find.

After following most of the advice in the article (I didn’t change up my workout routine, but I have changed my weigh day to non-running day) the results have been a staggering success. I weighed in at 14st7lbs. Thats a shift of 5lbs week on week.

Now, thats a huge amount and extremely unlikely to have been achieved in a week. I would say that last weeks was an anomalous result to some extent. But nonetheless I am absolutely chuffed as nuts. Thats a 10 year old goal, finally achieved.

I don’t have accurate records of my weight loss until I started using Garmin Connect in November. But since then alone the graph looks pretty cool.

weightchart

“Back in the day” I though reaching this goal would be some kind of watershed moment, that I’d be overcome with emotion, or want to throw some sort of party for my achievement. But it doesn’t really feel like that. Its taken me so long to do it, and there were so many false starts I’d feel a bit of a fraud for celebrating this. After all, the real challenge is learning to keep the weight off.

I still feel happy, but it’s not the life changing moment I thought it would be. Its more a sense of quiet satisfaction. Unless you’ve struggled with your weight you won’t understand I guess.

I want to thank the following people from the bottom of my heart for helping me acheive this personal goal. I quite literally couldn’t have done it without them.

  • Mum – without you I wouldn’t have gone to weight watchers and set me off on this journey
  • Jodie – You put up with the miserable weeks when I don’t lose weight, and the hours I’m out running. I hope the good times outweigh the bad! I love you

A New Goal

Since I’ve started running though and I’ve gotten closer to my goal I’ve realised that even a healthy BMI was still going to leave me with a bit of a wobbly belly and wobbly inner thighs. So it isn’t quite “Job Done” yet, and I’ve known for a while I’d need a secondary goal to shoot for. Much like with Races, its always best to have a target!

Trying to work out what that should be is a tough question. On the one hand, I’d like to have a certain body fat %, and on the other hand I’d like a mid-range healthy BMI. So I’ve gotten to work in excel and come up with some numbers.

  • According to the NHS, a healthy BMI ranges between 18.5 and 25. The midpoint of that is 22. At my height, I would need a weight of 12st13lbs (181lbs) to be this BMI.
  • The generally accepted body fat percentage for “Fitness” is between 14% and 17%. The midpoint for this is 15.5%
  • My current Body Fat % is 22.3%. If I were to take 7% off of my current bodyweight it would give me a weight of 13st 7lbs (189lbs)

Therefore, my newly amended target is 13st 7lbs (189lbs). Once I reach this target I’ll use the same methodology so see where my Body Fat is vs my Weight/BMI to see if I can find a way to reconcile those two numbers. But, for now at least, only 14lbs to go!

 

My Training Strategy

So I wanted to put in the blog about how I train, and the reasons I do it the way I do. I’m not saying my way is right or wrong, simply that this strategy has had fantastic results for me.

1. Target a Race

When you read all of the literature you can get bogged down in tons of information about training cycles, mesocycles and get bogged down in all sorts of minute detail. For us mere mortals, is that really going to benefit us? No. All we want to know is how can we train best for the race we are preparing for.

And I always, ALWAYS have a race targeted. This helps me remain focussed on a long term goal, rather than focus on one particularly good or bad training run. I usually find a target race every 12 weeks or so works best for me and I have found myself having my next 3 big target races lined up at any given time!

My target races are usually Half Marathons, though I have completed 1 marathon so far and plan to do another in the spring and these will be 16 week targets. But at the same time, I may pick a 10k as a target race which is only 8 weeks away.

2. Get a Plan

There are literally thousands of plans out there available. Just search “Half Marathon Training Plan” and your mind will be suitably boggled. You can add to that search words like “Beginner”, “Intermediate” or “Advanced” and even the number of weeks you have until your target race.

You’ll go snow blind looking through them all. But here’s some things I look for when assessing a plan for suitability.

  • Is it from a reputable source? I tend to stick with Bupa training plans as they are used by thousands of people, and I had success the first time I tried one. If you are not sure how good it is, try posting on the Runners World Forum and see if anyone else has tried it.
  • How many days running is it? Forget about what day of the week the runs fall on, but make sure the quantity of runs per week fits with your life. The plans are normally designed to balance quantity of runs with amount of mileage of various paces. It doesn’t matter what days you do them but you should try and do the sessions in order with the prescribed rest in between.
  • Whats the weekly mileage like? The weekly mileage on every training plan will typically build up over a number of weeks, so make sure your first week on the plan is around the same as you are doing at the moment. Too big a jump and you risk injury.

Ultimately, most plans are designed by professionals. Its normally safer to use a predesigned plan than try to cobble together one of your own, but don’t be afraid to tweak it a bit.

3. Pick Some Practise Races

I always have at least one practise race before a target race. When I ran the Paris Marathon, I did the Fleet Half a few weeks before, and the Longleat 10k a few weeks before that.

Practise races are great for two main reasons.

  • Test your fitness – I always use my times from a practise race to adjust my training paces (See point 4) and work out my targetted Race Pace.
  • Breaks the monotony of training – Sure, Long Runs are fun sometimes… (er….) But getting out racing, to me is way more fun.

I try and have a race every 4-5 weeks.

4. Identify Training Paces

So your plan tells you how many miles you have to do on a certain day and at a certain pace – but how do you know what pace to run at? Enter the McMillan Running Calculator.

I should qualify this by saying that other calculators are available to tell you your estimated training and race paces, all using different formulas and calculations. I started using McMillan and again, have good results so I am sticking with it. Also, but using the same every time it keeps all my training relative.

So, at McMillan Running, you enter a recent race time (Make sure it is a recent race time that you went “balls out” for under good conditions) and tell it the distance you ran. I don’t usually enter a target time, I’ve not found it makes a difference.

mcmillan1

 

Don’t have a recent race time? Get yourself down to your local parkrun and give it a good blast.

Once you press “Calculate My Paces” it tells you the equivalent race times for different distances (Provided you’ve trained for it! Just because it tells you you CAN run a 4 hour marathon doesn’t mean you should go out and try it tomorrow without doing all the training!)

mcmillan2

 

Then on the left hand side you can click “Training Paces” and see those.

mcmillan3

 

What you should notice is that the terms here refer to similar terms on a training plan. So if I was to due to do a 5 mile tempo run according to my plan, I’d run it at a pace of 7.12 – 7.30m/m.

These paces are designed in conjunction with your training plan to make sure you don’t over train and risk injury. Running faster than them isn’t going to bring a significant benefit – these plans are designed by professionals after all!

5. Adjust Your Plan

OK, so in step 3 I talked about how plans are designed by professionals and here I am moving the goalposts again. Well the thing with plans is that they are designed around perfect conditions. And life ain’t perfect! It could be you have to go for a wedding for the weekend, or you are away on business… foreseeable reasons why you can’t run a particular session can be catered for now! Including your planned practise races!

Some general rules of thumb I follow when tweaking my plan to make it fit around me.

  • Never break the 10% rule – I make sure my total mileage never increases by more than 10% when compared with the previous. This ensures I don;t do too much and overtrain
  • Always have about 80% easy mileage – Most plans and common schools of thought say that 80% of your overall mileage should be at easy pace to keep you fresh and ready for your “Quality” sessions.
  • Never run 2 quality sessions back to back – A quality session is an interval Session, or a Tempo Run, or Hill Repeats. Anything which falls outside of that 80% rule. Between these sessions you should ideally rest, or at least have a short easy/recovery run.
  • Don’t increase your Long Run by more than 2 miles per week – When training for a Half or a Marathon, the long run is the most important run. If you need to drop it for a trainign race, which is quite common, adjust the following week’s long run accordingly. You don’t want it to be too big a jump up from the previous one.

So don’t be afraid to move things around a bit, the important thing is getting the mileage in at the right paces.

6. Follow Your Plan

This sounds stupid, but follow the plan! If the plan says run X miles at Y pace, then don’t run it at Z pace! As I’ve repeatedly said, these plans have worked for me so far and are designed with structure and method in mind.

Many articles and studies say that you should always understand the purpose of a session. And thats fine, but as a relative beginner, all you need to do is show faith (Blindly in my case!) that the plan will work. Like I said, most of us aren’t professionals, we just want to now how to improve and not necessarily the why and hows!

There are many smartphone apps that you can use to help you keep an eye on your paces (Such as Endomondo), and the chances are you already use one. But looking at your smartphone all the time can be a bit cumbersome, though very cost effective! You can make use of some cool features on GPS watches to help you out with this though.

  • Pace Alerts – Most GPS watches have the ability to beep at you when you fall outside of certain pace ranges. You need to set your watch up in advance with the desired zone and it will tell you when you need to work harder (Or less likely, work less hard!)
  • Garmin Pre-Programmed Workouts – Some Garmin devices let you set up your workouts on Garmin Connect and load them into the watch. It tells you at each stage of the workout how far to run and at what paces. if you fall outside of that pace, it beeps at you and tells you to work your ass harder! I use this along with the Garmin Forerunner 220.

    gcworkout

7. Recalculate Paces

If you have several practise races, don’t forget to recalculate training paces after setting a new PB, so you make the most of your training!

After your last practise race work out the equivalent race time for the target race distance. You won’t improve much fitness in the last 3 weeks of a training plan, you just need to set your target time based upon those new times.

8. Execute Your Race

Race strategy is a whole other ball game, but my usual plan is to take my target time and use an average pace calculator to work out my minute per mile pace. Then I keep an eye on the watch all the way round and go for that PB!

 

Paris Marathon 2014: The Video

After the marathon, I bought the official photos and videos from the event and edited them down to produce my own personal memory. I posted it on Facebook originally, but thought it would be good here too. I hope you enjoy it.

Make sure you watch it in HD!