Category Archives: Bournemouth 2016

Race Report: Bournemouth Marathon 2016

Well, that didn’t exactly go to plan…

Saturday

Coming into the weekend of 1st and 2nd October I was in a bit of a mixed bag as to how I felt about this, my autumn target race. As I mentioned in my previous post, training had been a bit up and down, but I felt I may have just been able to squeeze out a decent performance come race day.

We headed to Bournemouth with a little optimism on Saturday morning, so we could take in Bournemouth parkun. This doubled up a bit of parkrun tourism with a recce of the Race HQ.

bournemouth-parkrun

The weather was a bit rubbish, but the rain just about held off as we completed 2 big and 1 small laps between Kings Park Athletics Stadium and AFC Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium. The course itself is a mix of tarmac, trail path and a bit of grass. There is a room at the stadium you can change/shelter in with toilets on hand there too. Naturally with it being marathon weekend, there were plenty of tourists about and there was an excitable vibe to the event.

bournemouthmapsplits

Though we were taking it easy, it wasn’t as flat as advertised in my opinion – I wouldn’t go there on a PB hunt – but the marshals and volunteers were excellent. Thank you!

We had to hurry off to check into our AirBnB so couldn’t stick around, but there is a cafe onsite for post-parkrun cake, coffee and gossip!

After getting to our digs we headed into town to check out the finish area where most of the activity was going to be over the course of the festival. It was already bustling. I had to pick up a replacement number as mine never arrived. This was a painless process except it was a generic unbranded number which was a little disappointing, as they are souvenirs to me. never mind!

After a bit of shopping, a trip to Starbucks, some playing the amusements and even a cheeky pint, we decided to watch the races. There were a couple of kids fun runs first and then the 10k in the late afternoon. The course for these was fast and flat as it was all along the beachfront, and I was amazed at the size of the field! Saw plenty of folks I knew running and cheered everyone in both directions as good neutral supporters should!

Then we headed back to the AirBnB. In all we did 20,000 steps on Saturday which may be a little high for the day before a Marathon! But never mind eh.

Dinner was pasta from a local JustEat vendor. Good food and the same stuff I had pre-Manchester. We got a reasonably early night as Jodie was off in the Half at 8am which meant a VERY early start!

Prerace

Getting up at 6am wasn’t a great deal of fun, but as we went to sleep early it didn’t feel like too bad a hardship. I feasted on my usual 3 porridge pots and armed myself up with a couple of bananas for before the race and we took the short walk to race HQ. The weather was perfect! Clear skies and no wind at a cool temperature. You couldn’t have picked better marathon weather.

As we were pinning Jodie’s number on for the half, we noticed the foam had gone from her embedded timing chip. We checked at the helpdesk to make sure the chip was fine, but they weren’t sure – so issued her a new number. Which was the same unbranded type as me! So at least we both had crap bibs!

numbers

One thing became clear as the morning went on, and that was that the half seemed significantly better attended than the Marathon.

Jodie was a little nervous about her race at it was her first half since our daughter Ivy was born. I dropped her off in the start pen and headed a bit further on from the start and took this Facebook Live video of the start of the race. Logistics meant I couldn’t see her anywhere else on the course so all I had left to do was wait nervously for the start.

startline

I headed back to the cafe to have a cup of tea and it was a little chilly! I had checked my bag in with Jodie’s number, as she’d need it at the finish first, but was wearing a “disposable” hoody – just my race hear other than that! As the 2 hour wait went on, more and more people arrived, though it was still notably a much smaller affair than the half. I got a bit bored but before long it was time to head to the start.

I was assigned a pen right near the front due to my estimated (ha!) finish time. So I had plenty of loos to use and warmed up at the side of the course. I saw Ben of Marathon 401 fame who was starting the race on the warm up too, but didn’t introduce myself – he seemed busy. Then before long I was in the pen. It was nearly time to go!

startselfie

The Race

My race plan was to go out at 3.10 pace, so that was around 7.14 a mile. I figured if I could get to 20 miles at that pace I’d try and cling on for the rest of it.

For the first few miles I ticked along quite nicely. A little fast, but it was downhill. There was some good support along here. I felt comfortable at the pace I was running, and when it levelled off a few miles later I slowed a little naturally to bring me back into target range.

One of the challenges with this course was the number of “out and backs” you have to contend with. By mile 7 I was already on my way back of the second of these alone – the “out” here was gradually uphill, but I managed to stay on pace before we dropped back down to the seafront for a few more miles, heading towards Boscombe Pier.

Now, I like the seaside, and I like the view of the sea. But that was all there was to see. I found myself getting a little bit bored of trudging along promenade for mile after mile with nothing but beach huts and the english channel to look at.

By mile 12 there was the first of 2 not-insignificant hills. 30 metres of climbing in 400 metres which is 8% incline! And believe me, by the time I got to the top, I knew about it. With the benefit of hindsight, I should have eased off a bit here to save the legs, but my stupidity/pride meant I tried to stay at target pace – which did work…

Once we reached the top it was a mile through to the half marathon split, by which point local parkrunner Miles Caswell caught up with me. This lad is super speedy round Yeovil Montacute parkrun and he was running his first marathon with a similar goal to me. We chatted for a bit but by this point I was starting to flag.

Thankfully, this was when we dropped back down into the finish area (for the first time). The crowds were MAGNIFICENT. I, being the crowd pleasing tart that I am, was pumping my arms in the air to get them going – and it worked. Miles and I appreciated the roar of support echoing around us like a mexican wave. I bet not every runner got that!

Shortly after this I saw Jodie for the first time. She had managed to get a marshal to cheer for me too which was lovely, but then I looked ahead to Boscombe Pier, which we’d already seen once… and yet more promenade running my head started sinking.

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By the time I got to Boscombe I had eased back to my target marathon pace. Running with Miles and the support at half way meant I had increased effort and I was starting to suffer. I encouraged Miles to push on without me. Running the pier and then back toward the finish area (For the 2nd time) I saw Jodie and told her things were not good. I ran Bournemouth pier and got a high 5 from King Danny and then ran THROUGH the finish (3rd time!) before looping around onto some road then running past the finish for a 4th time.

Realisation had struck by this point that this pace was not only unsustainable, but utterly ludicrous – my legs were shot to bits. Ahead of me lay the biggest and longest hill of the course, at which point, my race plan was abandoned. I walked the hill. All of it. At the top of it was a toilet – I stopped in there too at which point I think the bluetooth/internet connection on my phone went, so the LiveTrack i had set up on my phone stopped. This meant Jodie and others thought I’d stopped, or switched it off in a huff. I didn’t! It just stopped working, promise!

bournemouthmap

The next few miles were around some park, some closed roads and were a bit lonely. It was a tough part of the course for me and it was a bit undulating too. I had decided by now that I was run walking for the rest of the race.

We eventually dropped back onto the promenade (for a change) and the last 6 miles were out and back along the beach. I was losing my sense of humour. It felt incredibly patronising for all these beach hut owners to tell me I was doing really well, even though I really wasn’t. I smiled politely and said thank you though. It wasn’t their fault I was having a bad race, and again, with hindsight I can say the support was excellent throughout.

With slightly more running than walking I eventually got back to Bournemouth Pier to see the finish line for the 5th and final time. I crossed the line, a bit emotional, and headed to the funnel to see Jodie. I had a bit of a “moment” with her and I was obviously disappointed but a 3.33 marathon is a time many would be proud of, and a marathon is a marathon.

Jodie had also had a tough day coming in a little slower than she would have liked, but still faster than her lowest target.

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It was a very well organised event, with great support. However we both really bloody hated the course. We also weren’t too impressed that everyone got the same tee shirt. All the 5k and 10k runners got the same T shirt as the half and marathon runners! Either way unfortunately we won’t be back for the half or the marathon, but I do quite fancy the 10k for a speedy time.

Analysis

In the cold light of day, and thanks to Strava, I can see where my race really went wrong.

bournemouth-analysisNot only was I too fast in terms of pace, in effort terms I was far too fast over the first half. In GAP I was running a GAP average of 7.04 a mile (3.05 pace) and if I then extend that to mile 16 it was 7.00 a mile (3.03 pace)! So its hardly any wonder I blew up.

firsthalfsplits

I barely felt like I was in 3.10 pace so to find I was actually running faster than that means that I wasn’t actually far off form wise (I don’t think) but not understanding/using my effort as a gauge is what really cost me.

My spring marathon is much flat, so with this in mind, a strong block of training having gotten through the bulk of life upheaval the last few months, I’m still encouraged that Mission GFA is on.

Strava Activity: https://www.strava.com/activities/731955875/overview

 

Bournemouth Marathon 2016: Update

Well, its been a while since I posted. The small matter of moving house and having a baby smack bang in the middle of training had far more of an affect than I thought it would!

baby

Training took a bit of a wobble. A lack of sleep, a massive change in routine, a change in working circumstances… All contributing factors to me having a bit of a difficult few weeks running wise. I missed some long runs, I realized I hadn’t done a SINGLE ONE of my “Marathon Paced” sessions, and running to heart rate was just doing my absolute head in.

brokentraining

So I ditched the plan. Instead I focused on trying to regain a bit of mojo. I went back to easy running, shorter runs (I kept my weekly long run mileage up though) and doing the odd interval session.

I ran one hard parkrun at Netley Abbey but that wasn’t even sub-20. My interval paces are miles away from what they were pre-Manchester. My weight was well over what  want it to be too. Things just don’t look good.

netleyabbey

That said, I’ve been running shorter runs at MP and finding them comfortable, though my HR is higher than it was for Manchester.

But as I’m writing this my legs feel better than they have done for weeks. I’ve lost about 6lbs (Though I’m still not near race weight) and I’ve got a sliver of confidence.

I’ve had a good year of training overall. I’ve maintained a good aerobic base in spite of my lack of speed work. I’m totally injury and niggle free.

Maybe… just maybe… With a good nights sleep, carbed up, morning start, free from the daily work stress and properly hydrated… maybe I may be able to sneak in a PB.

It won’t be a sub 3.10 that I targeted at the start, but its still progress and would be a confidence booster for my Spring GFA plan.

7.15 ish per mile would do it. Doesn’t that sound easy…

 

Bournemouth Marathon 2016: Week 4 of 18

I came in to week 4 feeling pretty good. Although I’ve been running to heart rate, it’s felt largely like the paces I’ve been running have been similar to those in my last cycle, with the positive note that comparing like for like on pace results in a lower heart rate this time around. This means I am definitely running easier which was an original goal when I started out this journey.

This week saw the following planned.

Day Book Plan My Plan
Monday
Tuesday 8m General Aerobic (8 x 100m Strides) 8m General Aerobic (8 x 100m Strides)
Wednesday 5m Recovery 5m Recovery
Thursday 10m General Aerobic 10m General Aerobic
Friday
Saturday 4m Recovery 4m Recovery
Sunday 15m Medium-Long 18m Long

The only change to book is the longer “long run” to ramp up my volume a bit quicker – the same as I did last year.

Midweek

Following Sunday’s strong run I went out for Tuesdays 8 miler with strides at the upper end of the training zone. I felt strong throughout and came away feeling like it had been a decent run and good value for the low heart rate effort! The strides were excellent too, I think one of them was the fastest I have ever been able to do which I am obviously pleased with. The good thing with the strides is they get my legs turning over faster and seem to really improve my form/economy – just as the book says they should. During the lull between Manchester and starting this cycle I really felt I suffered not doing them so should always try and include a set once a week I think! Average GAP: 7:45, Average HR: 148.

Wednesday was a 5 mile recovery run. For time purposes I ran at lunchtime and it was pretty hot and sticky. Ran a reverse route of the Battle of Sedgemoor 10k. Average GAP: 8:49, Average HR: 130.

I felt pretty tired on Thursday. Not body fatigue or overtraining just sleepiness. As such I made a smart decision and ran at the lower end of the training zone for Thursday’s 10 mile general aerobic run. It was over a route I run regularly and had plenty of climbing. What I was most impressed with is how my handling of hills is improving. HR effort to go up them is remaining relatively consistent compared to the flat/downhill, demonstrated by the chart below. This is a far cry from the early period of the training, where my mile splits were wildly out of alignment!

hillsplits

So all going very positively at the moment. Average GAP: 8:04, Average HR: 142.

parkrunday – Andover parkrun

This week we were unable to visit a new parkrun, but it was unusual in the fact that we were visiting the place which would be our new local parkrun. We are moving to Andover on the 1st July so used the opportunity to scout it out properly.

We have visited Andover parkrun when we did the New Years Day double with Winchester earlier this year, but due to the nature of “doing the double” we had to scarper. This time we wanted to stick around and absorb some of the community aspect of this event. Being new to the area and not knowing it very well it would have been good to get a good handle on the local area!

We were lucky this week that the weather was fine and sunny, so we got a good selfie before we started.

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The event itself attracts about 250 runners or so, so right in that sweet spot for volume and everyone I saw was really friendly. Special thanks to whoever handed in my bank card that I dropped in the car park and to the Run Director for including it in his run briefing, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to go to the cafe afterwards!

The course itself is basically a two lapper with a little extra semicircle at the end. It’s mainly flat and run on a mixture of tarmac cycle path, compact trail but about 50% of it is on grass. The park itself is really lovely and a great place to bring a family, with playing fields, an athletics track, pitch and putt, crazy golf and a boating lake which you run around too. A really picturesque setting which i didn’t expect to find on the edge of Andover. It could be considered fairly fast in firm conditions which they were. The marshals and volunteers were of course excellent!

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I was down to do 4 miles so I did an extra part lap at the end to try and meet Jodie on the way round. I didn’t see her because she was well ahead of where I expected! Despite her being 36 weeks pregnant she smashed in a 33 minute time! I was extremely proud of her! My run was a controlled 4 mile recovery effort. Average HR: 131, Average GAP: 8:52.

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Afterwards we went to the Cafe. it was quite quiet when we got there but this is because we got there early and there were still people out on the course – we had to leave the park by 10.30. The cafe was quite small but had a lovely outdoor area, and the bacon roll was tasty and good value! Bacon roll and 2 drinks for £5.10 which was pretty good value indeed.

Thank you Andover parkrun, we’ll be pleased to call you “home”!

Sunday

Sunday had be down for 18 miles. As this week have fel a little bit rapid and given last Sunday’s success, i decided that i’d run at the lower end of the training zone to give my legs some extra breathing space. i stuck to largely the same route as last week which was my usual Basingstoke loop which has lots of climbing. The last 2 miles were pretty touch as I expected due to the step up in mileage. Came away feeling strong though and writing this post my legs don’t feel too fatigued at all. Average HR: 143, Average GAP: 08:12.

Summary

One thing I am noticing so far looking at the data is that I am getting better with handling hills. That is, my GAP/HR ratios are more in line with those on level ground and downhill compared to the start of the training cycle, which is a clear benefit in controlling effort for the race.

I am also finding thanks to controlling my efforts I am feeling far less fatigued than I was this time during the last cycle. Comparing session to session I am clearly getting more “bang for my buck”, as in either my speeds are the same for a lower HR, or my speeds are better for the same HR. I generally feel like I am training much more effectively.

Next week sees another Lactate Threshold session which I am keen to do well in, along with a marathon paced session – which is my first as I skipped the first one in the programme. It’s a big week to see how I am progressing and if I am on track for my target time.

 

 

Bournemouth Marathon 2016: Week 3 of 18

Week 3 of training and following Sunday’s tougher than it should be effort, I came into this week wanting things to go a bit smoother! Schedule wise I knew that I could actually do the runs on the days they were meant to be run, which is good for me – I’m a bit of a stickler for routine – so I hoped it would be a better training week. here was the plan.

Day Book Plan My Plan
Monday
Tuesday 10m General Aerobic 10m General Aerobic
Wednesday 4m Recovery 4m Recovery
Thursday 8m (4m Lactate Threshold) 8m (4m Lactate Threshold)
Friday
Saturday 4m Recovery 4m Recovery
Sunday 14m Medium-Long 16m Medium-Long

The only difference being the length of the long run on Sunday, as I like to accelerate my long run progression to fit more 20 milers in during the schedule. This is in line with what i did in the last training cycle though.

Midweek

The first run was Tuesday and 10 miles at General Aerobic pace started fantastically. I felt really strong and like I was in a good groove. That was until my guts started playing up and had to do an absolute stop and try and find my way to the nearest conveniences. it came from nowhere! it unsettled me a bit so the second half was a bit trickier but on the whole a positive experience compared to Sunday. Average HR: 144 Average GAP: 8:00.

Next up was a 4 mile recovery run. With these shorter midweeks runs I try and fit them in at lunchtimes where I can. As I left the office the heavens opened and thunder and lightning was abound – it was actually pretty scary! Still, marathon training takes dedication so I just manned up and got on with it.  Average HR 131 Average GAP 08:31.

Thursday was my first Lactate Threshold run. 8 miles with 4 at LT. I made a crucial error here, by relying on the optical heart rate monitor on my Garmin. And, frankly, it produced a whole load of rubbish. As such I had to try and run on feel and think I totally overcooked the first mile which made the next 3 a very difficult affair and had to pause a few times. I shan’t be doing this session again unless I’ve got the HR strap with me. As such, no useful data to report. Feel wise, I felt I struggled, but I haven’t done much hard running recently at all, aside form the London 10,000, so I had to expect this to be a challenge.

parkrunday – Eastleigh parkrun

We took the relatively short jaunt down the M3 to Eastleigh and found a lovely little event. Having not seen the post on Facebook about not parkring in the car park… we parked in the car park. We were good and early and immediately felt like this was a good community parkrun. Lots of people were chatting together and I just got a good sense of community around the place. I was in my brand new Tribesports vest, advertising my home run of course! Note to others – its actually a little big – I’d recommend sizing down when ordering!

vest

The area near the start/finish had all the usual things you need – cafe and toilets – and the courtyard in front of the cafe was full of parkrunners. The first timers briefing was very thorough as was the main run brief covering all the main topics, and before long we were off.

The course is predominantly grass on parkland converted from an old golf course. The route itself was really pretty, and we were warned of a hill we’d have to run up 3 times… but that was not a somerset hill! It barely registers as an incline! I think it would actually be a pretty fast course, if I’d have given it a good go.

One thing I thought was there was plenty of other land around the park they could have used, and could have come up with a 2 lap course rather than a 3 lap – I’m not a fan of laps! The advantage of the course though is there is only 1 marshal point required. I’m sure he got bored of me saying “thank you” 8 times!

There was also a good section of support as you go through the start/finish where there were additional volunteers in good vocal form!

Not only were the volunteers friendly, but the runners were too. Jodie has been struggling to run now so she has been mostly walking rather than running – which is still impressive given she is now 8 months pregnant! So she was run-walking with her Dad. As word got around the course, she received a wealth of supportive cheering from people. It was really lovely for her.

We couldn’t stick around for coffee afterwards, but I would have loved to and I would say we’ll definitely be back. Thanks Eastleigh!

eastleigh

My 4 mile recovery run included Eastleigh parkrun, and my heart rate was kept under control even though I got progressively slower. As long as it recovered my legs I really didn’t mind! Average HR: 137, Average GAP: 8:43.

Sunday

As per the plan, Sunday was 16 miles. The long run effort zone is quite wide, but I wanted to stay somewhere in the middle of it. I also wanted to try and run the second half quicker than the first, as the book says you should try and run these runs progressively. But that harder than you think when running to heart rate! With that in mind I tried to run the first between 140-145bpm, with the second between 145-150bpm. I overdid it on a few occasions, mainly going up hills but on the whole it was pretty evenly efforted. Looking at the splits in a chart it actually looks pretty even!

lrsplits

I was pleased with the result here. Last weeks 14 miler was incredibly difficult so it was good to put that one behind me. 18 next week! Average HR: 146, Average GAP: 7:53.

Summary

Looking through the data, I am certainly seeing that I am getting faster whilst running for the same effort level. This is very encouraging! I did find though that I am suffering when running at that comfortably-hard level. I don;t do enough Tempo running(Or I haven’t done enough) and it showed! This is partially because my HRM played up but I don’t want to lumber all the responsibility there.

I think I need to start running at the harder end of my “General Aerobic” training zone to increase my tolerance for slightly quicker running.

All in all I feel like I am on track and still confident in achieving my target, but the first real test will be the Marathon Pace run in 2 weeks time. That’ll be 6 weeks into training and the perfect “sighter” as to my form.

Bournemouth Marathon 2016: Week 2 of 18

Following week 1’s relative success, I came into this week feeling reasonably fresh. I wanted to carry through 2 key principles I learned last week.

  1. By not looking at my pace during a run, I feel like I am running slower than I actually am. This has a psychological benefit to me.
  2. When tired, use the lower end of the zone. When fresh, use the higher end.

This week’s training was exactly as is prescribed in the book, though I couldn’t run on Thursday due to travel, so ran Friday instead.

Day Book Plan My Plan
Monday
Tuesday 8m General Aerobic (8 x 100m Strides)  8m General Aerobic (8 x 100m Strides)
Wednesday 4m Recovery 4m Recovery
Thursday 10m General Aerobic 10m General Aerobic
Friday
Saturday 4m Recovery 4m Recovery
Sunday 14m Medium-long (8 @ Marathon pace) 14m Medium-long (8 @ Marathon pace)

This is a nice small mileage increment week on week. The key session of the week being the Marathon pace run. I am trying to identify 1 or 2 target sessions per week to make sure I am fully ready for them, by dialling back the effort on other runs (Whilst staying in the right effort zones) and it’ll be interesting to see if this strategy pays off.

Midweek

On Tuesday I had an 8 mile general aerobic run with a set of strides. For whatever reason, I got less than an hours sleep before I had to get up ridiculously early for my Birmingham commute, so I elected to keep this as the lower end of the zone, targeting 140-145 bpm. At this pace i seemed to find a natural rhythm and “groove” i feel like I’ve been lacking in recently. perhaps this is my “Sweet spot”. I felt like my form had sharpened a bit and I found myself mid-foot striking as I was able to keep my stride more balanced and felt more nible – I suspect this is because my legs feel fresher and more trained. This is a good thing! During the strides I had a case of the gingerbread man, so they were a bit broken during the recoveries, but the Average HR of 141 for an Average GAP of 8:15 (First six miles) is a much lower pace-for-HR than last week! Though last weeks route was hillier, by using Strava’s GAP as a performance indicator, this mitigates the effect of elevation for effort. This is clear evidence that something is working.

Wednesday’s 5 mile recovery was a bit of a late one. I had to travel to Manchester for a meeting in the morning so didn’t end up heading out til nearly 8. But it was a really lovely evening for a jog around the Salford Quays. I also took in Old Trafford football ground and cricket ground. Handily I’d walked the area a lot during my 2 marathon trips here which meant I didn’t need to follow a map! Average HR of 131 for an Average GAP of 8:57.

quays

Thursdays run was rescheduled due to travel arrangements, but the 10 mile general aerobic run was actually a bit of a struggle – the second half in particular. I think my travelling may have caught up. It was a relatively hilly route though, as I like to throw some elevation into my GA runs to increase the net gains from the effort. Average HR of 142 for an Average GAP of 8:28.

parkrunday

As Jodie was away I couldn’t in good conscience go and visit a new parkrun, so stayed “home” at Yeovil Montacute. It was great to see everyone again and had a good chat with Jan and Edri talking babies and marathon training! Meanwhile I extended the usual parkrun distance to make it the 5 mile recovery run the plan said I needed to do.

parkrun

Sunday

Sunday didn’t start well. After the disappointment of the football, and with a mild hangover I was up early to help at the Yeovil Marathon, where the club were manning a water station. It was the hangover and early start that were what made the morning start badly though, as I had a brilliant time at the water station! Very rewarding morning and we had some great feedback from the runners. Great for the club!

water

Meanwhile I was struggling to move my legs a bit as I had done some garden maintenance on Saturday morning and I think I’d worked some muscles in ways I hadn’t before, because they were stiff as a board! I only got 1 mile into my 14 miler with 8 at Marathon Pace that I worked out Marathon Pace wasn’t going to happen, so I went for a standard 14 mile “miles in the bank” run. My heart rate was really good, but my pace was dictated my the state of my glutes and hips which were in a world of pain. I did decide to make it a hillier route though to add a bit of spice which I paid for in the last few miles! Average HR was 136 and Average GAP was 08:47.

Summary

Its all heading in the right direction. I’ve started a spreadsheet to record my HR and GAP to see how it tracks over time and it does look to be improving, but theres still too little data to draw any early conclusions to state that its working or not working, but I’m encouraged.

I’m not going to try and “catch up” the marathon paced section I missed, I think I’m better off sticking to the plan and seeing how I get on with the next MP session.

Next week’s is another step up in distance and has a lactate Threshold run chucked in for good measure, so should be an interesting week!

 

Bournemouth Marathon 2016: Week 1 of 18

If I’m honest, I am extremely glad that the time has finally come to start Marathon training again. With my long term goal being a London GFA time, running between plans has felt a little aimless and demotivating. I hope that the next 18 weeks reinvigorates my spark for running.

As I already posted about, this training regime will me primarily heart-rate based. A step away from my usual “pace zone” based training.

The weeks training was scheduled to look like this.

Day Book Plan My Plan
Monday Vitality London 10,000 (Race)
Tuesday 8m general Aerobic (4m Lactate Threshold)
Wednesday 4m Recovery
Thursday 9m General Aerobic 9m General Aerobic
Friday
Saturday 4m Recovery 4m Recovery
Sunday 12m Medium-long 12m Medium-long

I’d already signed up for the Vitality London 10,000 before I knew my training plan would clash with the race, however it fit in quite nicely. As my 10k pace would (roughly) be around threshold heart rate zone I did a simple swap, and as the race was in on the Monday I added a short recovery run in there too, just to make up some miles.

Midweek

Monday’s race went pretty well – better than I thought. I had a couple of days rest before which really helped and I felt reasonably fresh because of this. I have written a race report for it which contains all the details, but from a training point of view, this was classed as Lactate Threshold. Average HR: 167, Average Pace: 6:37 which is actually a pretty decent indicator of current form. An excellent starting point. If I compare this to the first tempo run I did last year, the Average HR was 169 for an average pace of 6:47 – So I am in better shape than pre-Manchester – encouraging!

10kanalysis

Wednesday saw a 4 mile recovery run with Jodie on a common route in Basingstoke we use a lot. She is doing so well considering she is nearly 8 months pregnant, very proud of her! Nice easy pace, just what the legs needed after racing on Monday. Average HR: 125, Average Pace: 10:43

Due to having to coach the club interval session on Thursday, I had to run my 9 mile General Aerobic run on Friday. Really lovely weather and a pleasure to go for a run. My legs really do feel better, but I’m not quite sure how much of that is psychological. Ran a similar route to that I ran the equivalent session last cycle. What I noticed was I felt that I was going very fast early on and then slowed up as the miles ticked over. This makes sense – you’ll always feel fresher early in a  run. What made this run interesting is that I didn’t look at my pace once on my watch, I had it on my HR screen all the way round. It had a noticeable effect on my perceived pace – I thought I was running much slower than I actually was – a very interesting finding. Average HR: 148 bpm, Average Pace: 8:16 compared to last cycles (153 bpm/7:37). This is noticeably slower, and ultimately the whole purpose of using this method. I would hope my pace increases for the same HR as time progresses.

parkrunday

No parkrun! We were meant to have antenatal class all day but when we arrived they cancelled! Very disappointing, not only as we missed the class but because we missed parkrun too!

Anyway, I headed out for an early 4m recovery run. Again, I didn’t look at the pace once and when I came back and looked at my lap times the pace/HR ratio was about where I thought it should be. Once more, by not knowing my pace I just felt like I was running slower than I actually was. Average HR: 133bpm, Average GAP: 9:10.

Sunday

A nice short long run for Sunday, comparatively speaking. Just 12 miles. I used this as a bit of an experiment as according to the book, the Long Run effort zone is pretty wide ranging. Additionally, it recommends finishing faster, progressing up through the zone. So I broke it up into thirds and ran the first 4 at 140-145bpm, then the 5-8 at 145-150bpm, and ran the final third at 150-155bpm (The top end of my zone is 158).

When I look at the GAP chart you can see this progression resulted in relatively even splits that increased in line with the effort I put in.

sundaygap

And when you compare that with the actual pace, its amazing what a range of mile paces the same effort equated to.

sundaypace

It was quite a useful experiment. My General Aerobic zone tops out at 152bpm, and the book says my Long Runs should be slower/less effort than my GA runs. So I think, at least in the short-term, any progression I make will top out at 150, just to stop myself overexerting on the longer distances. Average HR: 148, Average GAP: 8:05.

Summary

So far, I am encouraged with the results. My general aerobic runs have been forced to be slower, as have my recovery runs.

I am noticing that my runs “feel” slower for the efforts, like I’m not working hard enough – again, this is a good thing, save myself for the sessions that matter.

I have found that my pace drops off as the run goes along compared to the effort. So the same effort in the last mile is always slower than the same effort in the first mile. This is naturally because the body is fresher at the start than the end, so this emphasises the importance of progression through the effort zones to ensure there is a strong finish,

Generally speaking I am feeling fresher and more “up for it” before heading out than I have been for the last couple of months.

Next week sees a marathon-paced effort, this will be a real test of current fitness and a good comparison to the last cycle to see if my target marathon time is achievable.

 

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.

mesocycle3

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.

mesocycle4

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.

pmweek2

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.

relaysplits

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.

yeoviltonmay2016

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!

postbournemouth

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!

chippenham

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!