Vitality London 10,000 2016: Race Report

I’d booked this race many months ago, as I had such a great time in the 2014 staging of the event. It’s a popular 10k held in London, with the race assembly area on the Mall right in front of Buckingham Palace and the finish on “Spur road” – the last corner of the London Marathon – taking in many popular landmarks along the route.

Waking up on Monday morning, I quite frankly couldn’t have been in a fouler mood. I’d had a few bad runs in the week leading up to the race, my legs weren’t playing ball and I thought I’d actually run slower than my PB – a time I had since beaten as part of both Bramley 10m and the Cardiff World Half Marathon!

We arrived late, the weather was overcast and I needed the loo. And the queue was predictably enormous. It all felt like a bit of a waste of time and money. Not only for the entry, but the fuel, the parking and the train.

With all that in mind though, there we were, Jodie and I, plus Imogen, Lauren’s friend who was running her first 10k. Jodie was planning to run with Imogen all the way,  which given that she’s 7 and a half months pregnant was probably a wise choice!

We went our separate ways before I went to the toilet stop as I was in a different wave and needed to check my bag. The toilet queue made me stress even more but actually moved quite quickly, and I made it into the start pen with about 10 minutes to spare.

Before long, and without too much fanfare, we were off.

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My strategy was to target about 6.45 pace which would have been sub-42, a 45 second PB. I didn’t think I’d get it, but I figured at the worst I’d still fall inside the PB even if I slowed up.

The course itself differed this year from when I ran it in 2014. There was more running through buildings and no running on the Embankment, which was a bit of a shame as that was one of my favorite parts of the course as it took in basically the last 2 miles of the London Marathon.

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2014 Course
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2016 Course

The course is advertised as predominantly flat, though I found the profile actually quite odd. I had no feeling like I was really running uphill at all at any point of the race, but there were certainly some fast downhill sections. Looking at the course profile it looks like there was a lot of climbing in the first mile – thankfully I didn’t notice it! According to Strava, there was 161ft elevation gain in total.

london10kprofile

During that race we ran through Trafalgar square, the theatre district, past St Paul’s Cathedral… not that I saw any of them. I DO remember passing Downing Street, the Houses of Parliament and Birdcage Walk though.

Aside from my personal preference of the “sights en-route” being better on the old course, the biggest problem with the ne course was the narrowness of the course after Trafalgar Square. Running down the Strand was VERY congested right up until we got to Aldwych were it seemed to open up, but until then it was almost impossible to find a comfortable stride and space to run unimpeded.

The support through the race was excellent and I can’t think of anywhere en route that was sparsely cheered.

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My first mile was a little slower than I would have liked, but I didn’t realise it was net uphill. I managed to bring the pace down a bit for mile 2 but it went up again for 3. Strangely however, I crossed the 5k mats in 20.55. This was encouraging for 2 reasons. Firstly, this was the time I ran Yeovilton 5k in a couple of weeks ago – where I died on my arse – and was still feeling pretty comfortable. Secondly, My watch didn’t register that it was 5k yet and was coming up short, which meant my pace was actually OK.

With this in mind, I pushed on for the second half and ran a very creditable second half in about 20.35(ish). With the last 1.2 miles at a decent pace I really didn’t expect to have at all, yet alone in the final stages. This resulted in a tidy negative split too, which I was very pleased about!

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So in spite of my foul mood trying its hardest, I actually came away with a PB. Now don’t get me wrong I still don’t feel in great shape. I still think back when I was in Marathon peak form pre-Manchester I think i could have managed a sub-40. If I hadn’t had such a shocking post-Manchester recovery, and I’d been able to kick on I think I could have managed it too. But c’est la vie. It’s still great for the confidence that it’s somewhere in the right direction, better than Yeovilton last month.

The finishing funnel was excellently managed, people kept getting moved on and the tag was removed on a funky bridge – saving the volunteers backs – which was a great idea.

Then to top this off, the goody bag was absolutely first class. An Adidas “Response” technical tee, cracking medal, loads of food and drink too. Probably the best goody bag I’ve ever had.

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Considering the price of this race was only £28, I felt that this was EXCELLENT value for a city center race with such a good atmosphere and goody bag.

The only down side was the queue for the baggage. By no means as bad as the Manchester Marathon fiasco, but still quite a wait.

After I finished my race I went to find Lauren who was supporting and cheered in Jodie and Imogen at the 150m to go point. They looked really strong, Imogen ran really well and I think she actually enjoyed it too.

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All in all, a fabulous race and we will certainly be back – a highly recommended race.

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Bournemouth Marathon 2016: An Experiment In Heart Rate Training

Introduction

My target marathon for this autumn is Bournemouth. It’s an event that I’ve had my eye on for quite a while. It’s relatively local to me and some club mates ran some of the races last year (it is a full festival of running with 5k, 10k and a Half Marathon all over the same weekend). I’ve heard nothing but good feedback about it. This will be my fourth marathon, and the first time I’ve run one in the autumn.

As I have previously blogged about, this is my next step towards my long term goal of achieving a London “Good For Age” time. I’ve never run London before, and I’ve been rejected by the ballot 5 times already. This seems to be the only way to get a place unless I wanted to raise an inordinate amount of money!

Those familiar with my journey will know I’ve lost a significant amount of weight over the years, bringing it down from 22 stone to 14 stone and it’s only really been running which has helped keep the weight off. My marathon times have come down with it, going from 3.59 in Paris 2014, to 3.20 in Manchester 2015 (Albeit a short course!) and this spring I ran Manchester again, this time in 3.13.

My target for Bournemouth is 3.09 as a springboard to a 3.04 in April, and the intention is to run the same Pfitzinger & Douglas Advanced Marathoning 18 week, up to 55 miles schedule, which I have slightly modified, as I used in my previous 2 marathon campaigns.

But this time, with a twist.

Previously I’ve always trained to Pace Zones. I use the McMillan Calculator to work out what paces to run at and roughly translated them to the P&D prescribed training intensities based upon target marathon pace. This time I am going to use the technique they actually prescribe in the book – training to effort and heart rate.

Why train to Heart Rate?

Heart rate training is always something I’ve wanted to experiment with.

The theory behind it is simple- by running at a given heart rate over a period of time, your body should adapt to running at that level of effort for the pace you are running and therefore as time goes on you will be able to run faster whilst maintaining the same heart rate.

hrchart

Obviously, it is a bit more complex than that. Mix in to that basic principle a balanced training plan over a range of scientifically established intensities int he way that P&D have put together, and in theory I should find that as time goes on I get progressively faster for the same reward. More bang for my buck.

But why now?

I’ve been hearing a lot of good things and listening to sound advice from a wide range of sources that may explain some of my recent and previous training troubles.

One of the topics I heard on a recent Marathon Talk episode was about how when the Brownlees are training “Easy” they really do train easy. Tom recalled an anecdote from when he went out for an easy cycle with the world champion triathletes and came back feeling reasonably fresh, whereas if he went out for a cycle with a local club they’d be forever pushing the pace. I am certainly a victim of this trap. I am always trying to run faster and faster and end up feeling totally fatigued.

One of our club members, local legend Fred Fox, told me recently how he has been trying to run to heart rate for the last few months, trying to stay in the aerobic zone. He found on recent marathons that he was finding it easy to negative split, and he even ended up running too fast now as his body has increased in base fitness!

From my personal experience and reflecting on my previous training, I can see that in some sessions I just didn’t have enough juice in the tank to do them justice. Interval training is a good example. I can’t remember ever reaching anywhere near the VO2 Max that the book recommends – I was always too tired.

Last Summer I ended up injured, jaded, and chronically over-trained for trying to push the envelope too far. This year, it has taken a good 5 weeks post-Manchester to feel back to “normal” and return to a level of fitness near where I was just before the race. It’s not been quite as bad but for a while I did worry I would push myself over the line again.

All of this suggests, to me, that I’m trying too hard. By slowing down and training to effort levels more suitable to the programme as it is designed, I should be able to execute it with a better degree of focus on the quality, and reap the rewarded improvements. As I get progressively fitter, my training pace should naturally increase, rather than my old methodology of training at a stale pace until I run another race to adjust my pace zones.

Fears

This switch in training is quite a scary step for me. I’m changing my entire training paradigm for 18 weeks. That’s a long time to commit to anything, so it’s scary to think that the potential rewards are complete unknowns, if rewards at all! Especially as I am so desperate to get that GFA time. It’s really quite daunting.

What if after 18 weeks its a disaster and I end up actually running slower? That would be very tough to take, as that next step to GFA in spring will be too far away – which means it would be another year before any potential GFA time would count. It would be a total waste of 18 weeks training.

I’ve tried allaying these fears a bit by reviewing the last campaign and reviewing some key stats. For example, in Manchester 2016 I can see that my heart rate was within the zone that the book advocates as “Marathon Pace”. If anything it tells me that actually, I could have a little bit more in me. My “Marathon Pace” zone is 149-165bpm.

mphr

Yes, all my eggs are in the one basket, but if I am going to do this I am going to do it to the letter. Train easy, race hard.

Desired Outcomes

It’s all very well trying this experiment but what would constitute it being a success?

  • Completing all (or at least, more) sessions – On previous campaigns I’ve had to abort LT sessions, cut long runs short and haven’t performed well in the intervals – the 3 x 1mi session always beats me. being able to complete all sessions would be a big indicator of success as it means I will be recovering better.
  • A Marathon PB – I’m in significantly better shape as I write this today than I was the week before I started training last time around. If training this way results in a slower performance it can only be deemed a failure.
  • Faster Post-Marathon Recovery – Last time round it took a long time to recovery. I felt absolutely battered. Whilst this is much less measurable, I will know if I feel better in the weeks after the race.

It would be impossible to accurately quantify if this method would be MORE successful than training to pace zones. However, the increase  in finish time for Manchester 2015 to 2016, with an injury plagued second half of the year between races, was 10 minutes (Adjusted to compensate for the short course). So in 2016 I was 5% faster. 5% faster again would be a 3.03 marathon!

Just writing that makes me question my maths. The law of diminishing returns does dictate that it won’t be that simple, but still – you never know how the training will go. Ultimately, a 4 minute improvement (Which is what I’m actually targeting) is a mere 2% improvement in performance! I’m all for “marginal gains” but I’d like to think that if this were to be a success I could take more time out of the race than that.

Time will tell!

Training Plan

The plan itself is taken from the Advanced Marathoning book.

Its the “Up to 55 miles per week/18 week” plan, with my  own added modifications, however it is essentially the same (A couple of tune up races aside) as the one I used for Manchester 2016. This should provide a good metric of comparison and make my final result a bit more of a trustworthy and robust answer to the question “was it worth it?”.

As I tend to respond better to volume (thanks to my yo-yo dieting) I usually accelerate the ramp up in my long runs, and I like to do 6 x 20 + milers. Whilst this doesn’t fit with the book, it does fit with what I did previously, so would still make my experiments results valid.

First up, my training zones, for clarity. My Resting Heart Rate (RHR) is 38, and my Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) is about 188.

MHR% (Book) My Equivilent BPM
Long/Medium-Long 74-84 139-158
Marathon Pace 79-88 149-165
General Aerobic 70-81 132-152
Recovery < 76 < 143
Lactate Threshold 82-91 154-171
VO2 Max 93-95 175-179

The book explains that less experienced marathoners should go for the lower end of the range, and elites should go for the higher end of the range. As my pace/effort control is so abysmal, I’ll just try and stay somewhere between the two!

The hardest part of training to heart rate would normally be having to keep an eye on an HR monitor whilst running, which is especially difficult when the sessions are a bit more complex. However, with most modern Garmin’s you can pre-program all workouts in a training calendar and sync it to your watch. That way, the watch will tell you when you are training too heard or too easy.

So yes, I painstakingly put all my sessions into Garmin Connect. it will be worth it in the long run!

Mesocycle 1 – Endurance

This is all about building endurance, increasing training volume and building a solid base to start from. Its during this phase that historically I have been most prone to overdoing it – which is stupid when you think about it. What happens to a building if you mess up the foundations? Hopefully training to heart rate will prevent this.

mesocycle1

There is a 5k race I may participate in here, and if I do I will adjust the training plan accordingly. In the purposes of integrity for the experiment I will likely not run this race. The same is true of the club track session that is planned. I may assist instead of participating.

Mesocycle 2

This phase focuses on “Lactate Threshold” running. This is the stage I always struggle with. Running “comfortably hard” is something I don’t enjoy too much. I’m hoping by having the previous phase a little easier, and running my LT sessions to heart rate it will make these a bit more beneficial and I won’t have the same dread going into them.

mesocycle2

Again, I will likely not participate in the track session or race but have them in my calendar so I can support the club either way!

Mesocycle 3 – Race Preparation

Usually by this point I am feeling pretty good, and actually feel that I peak at the end of this phase – about 3 weeks too early! Hopefully the new training intensities will prevent this. Also, as I previously mentioned, I always struggle to get my heart rate up in my VO2 Max sessions, so it will be interesting to see if I manage it this time round with “easier” training.

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This is also where the Tune Up races mess up the plans a bit. The books asks for tune up races on alternating Saturdays ranging from 8-15k. No chance of finding anything around here! I like to run a tune up Half though, so I balance this by running a hard parkrun and a hard half marathon instead. Again, this is inline with previous campaigns.

Mesocycle 4 – Taper and Race

Last time by the point I reached the taper I really was feeling pretty exhausted – as I probably should have to some degree. but I also ran my “tune up” half 3 weeks pre-marathon. That can’t have helped. I shan’t make the same mistake this year. I already mentioned that I feel like I “Peak” during phase 3 – hopefully I can time that right and hit the race well.

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Mesocycle 5 – Recovery

Having learned my lesson Post-Manchester, all I’m planning here is 2 complete weeks off, followed by 3 weeks of nothing more than running at a “recovery” effort.

Meanwhile I’ll either be licking my wounds from a failed experiment or anxiously planning the final phase of my “Mission: GFA”.

And as this falls in the first week of October, you never know, I might actually get in through the ballot! (Ha! Fat chance!)

Execution

With all that said, its nearly time to execute the plan. My mind is back in the game and I’m feeling pretty focussed. I’ll post my usual weekly updates and of course you can folow my progress on Strava.

Wish me luck!

Mission: Good For Age – Progress Update

It’s been 6 weeks since the amazing Greater Manchester Marathon 2016, and I’ve yet to write a single word about what I’v been up to. This is mainly because I haven’t felt inspired enough by my running to post. I’ve spent the last few weeks feeling pretty drained, both physically and mentally. Thankfully, I seem to be coming out of both now, thanks to a busy work period getting completed and the stress of house buying hopefully starting to reach its climax. I can now take the opportunity to reflect on whats been, to be honest, a fairly mediocre few weeks running.

Marathon Aftermath

Immediately after Manchester I was on a mega high. Naturally, I was extremely pleased with my PB – the training had worked fantastically well, PB-ing in every distance I raced in the build up. I should have had two weeks off running completely really, but after a week of no running I thought better. This was Mistake #1…

I thought the best way to check how well recovered I was, was to try 7 miles at marathon pace. This was Mistake #2.

Later that week I ran a 7 mile recovery run, wrote on Strava that I would have a rest day after, then ignored my own advice and went to Intervals. This was Mistake #3.

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Mistakes 4-9 were quite literally each run I went out to do. Every single painful, uninspired, draining mile – flogging myself trying to get back into the groove. Looking back of course this was absolutely absurd – I know better than that, so why did I do it? Here in lies the root of the problem.

Race Targets

As i was progressing through my training for Manchester, I already had one eye on what to do next. As has always been the plan, I knew I’d be doing an autumn Marathon, but what could I do in the meantime to stay motivated? My solution was to line up a couple of races. The problem with this was, I felt like I should train hard to perform in them, when in reality I should have been resting and recovering.

Firstly, we had the opportunity to run in the North Dorset Village Marathon Relays, and we had put together a team that we thought was capable of competing. As team captain, I naturally put myself down for the glory leg! I wanted to really do well, for both myself and for the team. So I kept training to try and give us the best possible chance of coming away with a prize.

During the race, the team had done really well, and as my leg came along, I was about 2 minutes down on 1st place. I thought to myself “If I run well I can catch her”, and sped up the hill at a pace which, had it not been so soon after the marathon, should have been fine. The pace got progressively worse as the realization set in that I was no-where near as well recovered as I needed/wanted to be.

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I managed to cut the gap by a bit, but I can’t help but think that if I’d have been more sensible and taken my recovery seriously I may have done better and gotten us the win.

relayresults

This again was meant to be a stepping stone to get me used to being in somewhere near 10k shape, as I want to race the Vitality London 10,000 at the end of May. It’s a race I’ve done before, and the course and wave start mean it is very fast – and as it’s the only distance I hadn’t PBed on in my Manchester build up, I really wanted to target it. Looking at that decision now, I think this was a mistake. By having this in my calendar I tried to hurry my recovery and its had a detrimental effect on my running. I still plan to race it, and I probably will still PB but I will target sub-41 rather than sub-40 as originally intended. Again, another lesson learned here is that I’m not going to set a post-marathon target race.

Most recently, I had a go at the Yeovilton 5k Summer Series. It’s a local race I’ve not had a great deal of success with recently. Last time I ran it was in September, after we returned from honeymoon. It revealed I was hideously out of shape but did spur me on to train hard for Manchester. I had a similar problem at Yeovilton this time around. I went out with sub 19:30 in mind, ran the first mile faster than that pace, then struggled for the last 2 miles.

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It was not my idea of fun! Thankfully though, this was the kick up the backside I needed to reflect on the last few weeks and start thinking properly about my recovery, and I know if i really want to take a serious stab at 3.04.xx in the spring, I’ll need to recover well this Autumn. This is why, the weeks following my Autumn Marathon have these giant notes on them!

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OK, I do have the Great South Run penciled in, but I shouldn’t think I’ll race it – I’ll take part because I love the race though.

Autumn Marathon: Bournemouth

With all this talk of my Autumn Marathon I thought I’d better mention where it is! When I ran Manchester, one of my targets was to run a Chicago Marathon qualifying time, which I achieved (Sub 3.15), with a view to running that. However with all we have going on this year with a new baby and a new house I thought an international marathon may be a little too much to ask! There’s always next year, and I have the qualification standard time banked for 2 years – though with any luck I’ll be sub-3.05 by then!

Bournemouth is a local race (Well, an hour away) and growing in stature as a festival of running.. It’s been on my bucket list so glad to get the opportunity to run it this year. Jodie is going to do the half as her first post-baby race.

Its not quite as flat as I’d like, but you’ve got to do some hills somewhere along the way! It’ll be good for the legs (Though I reserve the right to retract that statement when I get to mile 22).

The target time  3.09.xx – the next logical stepping stone in my quest for GFA in the spring. If I use a pace calculator this equates to 7.14 minute miling – but given that GPS is a bit inaccurate, and there will inevitably be some weaving around I thought it prudent to assume the GPS would measure 26.4 miles and calculate based upon that. This works out to be 7.11m/m, so 7.10s would be a nice target.

In training for Manchester, I wasn’t a million miles away from this, so I think this is more than achievable with another solid block of training.

Just like last year, I’ll be using P&D 18/155 – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it right?! The plan has worked well for me and I’ll keep using it until it stops being effective. It’ll be a challenge training over the summer – I’ve not run an autumn marathon before and the training starts in the first week of June! Still, I hope the conditioning I’ve given myself over the winter puts me in good stead for a good campaign.

The next step after that will be a good long recovery and a base build before starting training for the Spring, and my GFA target race. I’ve signed up for Brighton, so when I inevitably get my London rejection magazine I still have a good race to target.

Ultimately, if I look at my shape in September and the performances I had this week

In The Meantime

In the meantime, time to enjoy a couple of weeks of target free running! We visited the lovely Chippenham parkrun this weekend and it was great to get touring again. We plan to tour over the next few weeks too, and there is nothing like a bit of parkrun tourism to reinvigorate the mojo.

Speaking of Chippenham, it was a great event. The course was 2 laps around a small park, then 2 laps around a field, all by the river with the first 2 laps having a bit of an incline. The volunteer team were fantastic as ever and the weather was beautiful. It was first class event and a great course with variety. We loved it!

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We are holding a track session at the club this week which I am going to have a go at, as I am starting to feel a bit better, and we’ll be visiting Barnstaple parkrun  on Saturday.

It’s good to be back, hopefully the mojo sticks around!