Archive | August, 2016

Halfway (Chicago Build up week 6 aka 6 weeks to go)

28 Aug

Just to prove that, like every creature of habit I occasionally throw caution to the wind, I started this week with a 6 mile recovery run instead of a 5 mile recovery run. Although I made the change because I was following my schedule assiduously, so perhaps not so rock and roll after all…

Tuesday was my club session again, but the kind of session an endurance specialist loathes: 500m fast, bit of a rest, 300m notionally even faster, bit of a rest, and repeat another 5 times. Bleurgh. Still, it’s the first time a session has averaged under 5.45m/m in ages, so a confidence boost of sorts. Just a really painful one!

Wednesday I took as a rest day because after a long day in court I was tired and dehydrated. If you can avoid training in that state, you should.  However, this meant I did my 15 mile run Thursday evening followed by 10 miles Friday morning before a sports massage (verdict: still slightly wonky, but improving).

And then a really lovely weekend: off to Cambridge for the wedding of one of my best friends from uni. Naturally I still trained, with 11 miles on Saturday including park run in 19.25 (half marathon pace: sort of tempo run, I guess!). The course is rather twisty, which seems a waste of somewhere so flat, but I guess getting paths straightened for parkrun is pretty unlikely!

This morning saw my longest run so far in this training block: 21 miles. After a bit too much booze and a late night it was tough work. 8m/m on the nose, despite the flat terrain. I even ran out of water, which is a bit of a rookie error, but the mild hangover was making me thirsty. Oops! Which is why you should never run when tired and dehydrated…

So I’ll end with some gratuitous non-running shots of me with the beautiful bride (just to prove I don’t live in lycra!) and my 3rd year student room: right at the top of the tower, with its own spiral staircase and stunning views over King’s College Chapel. I was probably only fit enough to start running post graduation because I’d spent a year going up and down all those stairs, so that room deserves pride of place in the blog today!


Don’t Stop Me Now: Chicago Build Up Week 5

21 Aug

I’ve mentioned before that for me something around 60 miles per week seems to be my ‘sweet spot’: if I have a block of weeks of about 60-70 miles pw then I get a real lift in my fitness.  Well, this was my 4th week of 60 or more miles, and I’m definitely starting to feel stronger.

Monday was a predictable 5 miles easy and then on Tuesday I again managed to get to my club session.  Just over 3.4 miles of running around a field at about 5.49m/m.  The efforts were either 1 minute, 2 minutes or 4 minutes and as always there were people who I could stick with for the 2 minute efforts, but they would beat me on the 1 minute efforts and I would beat them on the 4 minute efforts.  Long distance specialist ahoy!

Wednesday I had to go to Plymouth but was just about able to get out of the door at 6.15am to get my 7 mile run in, albeit rather bleary eyed.  Just to ensure I had plenty of work miles under my belt as well as running miles I was in London on Thursday and there definitely wasn’t time to do my 15 mile run before getting the 6.33am train to the Big Smoke!  It’s fair to say that I was pretty tired by Thursday evening and so the 15 miles were pretty steady, down to a combination of early starts and the fact that Thursday-Thursday (8 days) I had run 90 miles.

Friday was a very much needed rest day and I also had a sports massage to check on my back and neck (with a quick prod of my calves and quads as well, which were very tight and sore).  The sports masseuse confirmed that my back and neck are much improved, although some of the tightness had returned, so I need to be a bit careful.

This meant it was the perfect decision to do parkrun on Saturday morning.  I felt a bit sluggish (probably a combination of the sports massage, which always leaves the legs a bit heavy, and staying up to watch some of the athletics) and had to settle for 20.11, which is slow even for the Ashton Court course, but my legs felt pretty ok afterwards, which is reassuring. I don’t look like I was enjoying parkrun very much, but they are fun, I promise!


Today my long run was 18 miles and the pace was the best of any of my long runs in this build up.  Now, this still means it was very steady for most people (7.53m/m: I do my steady, aerobic runs sloooowly!), but once my long runs are back under 8m/m I know I’m starting to get into shape.  7 weeks to go, so only 4 or 5 more big weeks.


The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Chicago Marathon Build-Up: Week 4)

14 Aug

On Monday I was a bit worried that if my neck was made worse by running, I had to be in court for 9am, so didn’t do my recovery run until the evening. The run didn’t seem to make things worse, so I went to my club session on Tuesday and did just under 3.5 miles of efforts (varying from about 1,200m to horribly painful 300m efforts: although I know they are good for me, really, because I’d never manage to run as fast as I do in those short sections if I was by myself). Unfortunately, that faster running, driving more with my arms, did seem to make my back and neck worse again, as I had trouble sleeping Tuesday night due to the pain. Humph.

Wednesday therefore saw me having a sports massage, which did seem to help, both in identifying what was wrong and the stretches and gentle exercises I could do to try and help things improve. However, having had everything loosened off nicely it didn’t make sense to run that evening.

Thursday I did my second longest run of the week: 15 miles. I treated myself to an out and back along the Bristol-Bath bike path, which is on a disused railway and so is relatively flat (by Bristol standards it’s pancake flat!). Even better, the very slight incline is on the way out (if you’re a Bristolian) and the very slight decline is on the way back, so it’s very easy to do a progressive run, i.e. start slowly and run each mile just a bit faster than the previous one. It’s fair to say that even on Thursday I could still feel in my legs that I’d had a very “big weekend” and then done that fast session on Tuesday.

Friday was a long day in Worcester and so I had to do my 5 mile recovery run in the evening, rather tired and rather dehydrated: 8.38m/m was all the legs had on offer!

Yesterday I was racing in London at one of my favourite races, the Pride 10k. Although it’s mostly a LGBT Pride event, because the course is flat and fast it also attracts a few club runners chasing a fast time. The final main attraction is that one my best friends lives a few miles away and usually rustles up a lovely lunch for afterwards (as was the case yesterday). The only downside of the race is that it is a 3-lap course and given the varying abilities of the runners the 3rd lap is very, very congested and I had to do a fair bit of dodging and weaving, just at the point that the legs were at their most tired. My legs still felt pretty heavy and a bit sore as I warmed up, but I managed to improve on my 10km time from 2 weeks ago by 29s, despite the weaving and winding (and a rather annoying headwind), so my target of improving by 2-3s/mile/week is on course. This week: just under 6.18m/m after the session at 5.50m/m.

Today, 20M on *very* tired legs. I didn’t help myself by staying up last night to watch the athletics from the Rio Olympics (although to be fair I was semi-dozing in front of the TV rather than wide awake) so it was a bit of a late start. Still, it was good to get my first 20M under the belt (psychologically that’s really important: once you’ve raced the first 20M of a marathon it’s only 10km until the finish, plus there’s a bit of marathon training folklore that your longest 5 training runs should add up to 100M, so getting 5 runs in of about 20M is a good idea).  I think that volume of training (68M: so a cutback week for Mo Farah ;)) definitely marks the metamorphosis from egg to caterpillar.  Pupa awaits, to be followed by butterfly.

Finally, I got some marathon admin done this week: ESTA so that I can get into the USA, and my travel guide to plan my sightseeing:


Survival Of The Fittest (ish)

11 Aug

Hurrah! Bristol & West survived in Division 1, finishing 4th out of 6 teams. Just to prove how tight things were, had we scored 4 more points (out of about 300) we would have finished 2nd overall. Feeling a bit guilty that my lack of a sprint finish meant I got overtaken in the home straight, now: that was a point gone…

Pottering Around (Chicago Build-up: Week 3)

8 Aug

So, after a 60 mile week, it was a case of another Monday, another 5 mile recovery run. It was fair to say that my legs were pretty tired, and that tiredness was still a little evident on Tuesday, when I ran my 9 miles into work with a rucksack. I don’t find run/commuting ideal, but in busy weeks it can be the only way of getting the miles in, so needs must. Thankfully we have a shower to use!

The week went slightly awry on Wednesday, as I’d hoped to get my 14 mile run in that day, but for various (not very exciting) reasons ended up having to take a rest day. Things were little better on Thursday and I only had time for a 5 mile run that evening. This meant only one thing: my 3 longest runs of the week were going to be on consecutive days, which is never ideal. Still, for a marathon runner it is (generally) more important to get the miles in than to overstress the odd unbalanced week (with the caveat that this is only ok if your body can take it – if I’d tried what I did on Friday/Saturday/Sunday 10 years ago it would have broken me!).

Anyway, Friday morning saw 14 miles. Funnily enough, having had 4 easy days, I found my legs felt pretty springy as I bounded up and down the hills, trying to keep a lid on things and not push too hard. After all, I had my long run (17 miles) to do on Saturday!

Saturday was a beautiful morning to be out, and so I made the most of it to go off road through Leigh Woods and along what is called the Towpath, which runs alongside the Avon. I treated myself to a climb back up the Avon Gorge through Ashton Court just to round things off. It was a lovely run, except that about halfway through my right shoulder/upper back began to feel quite tight and sore.

Unfortunately, the neck/shoulder/back tightened up over the course of the afternoon (I guess that sitting at my desk working won’t have helped) and actually woke me in the middle of the night because the pain was so intense. This was a real problem, because Sunday was the final match in the Midland League up in Stoke, I was on the team sheet, and the team coach was leaving at 7.30am. This meant that I resorted to something I would rarely do: painkillers. It was that or let the club down, and as out of the 6 clubs in the league only 1 was safe from relegation (not us), I didn’t want to do that. It feels a bit like this week’s blogpost is more about what not to do, however! So, dosed up, I set off. Things were still pretty sore on arrival, but after my lunchtime dose of painkillers the pain began to ease, and I got through the 3,000m pretty ok, albeit the windy conditions meant that superfast times were off the cards. That and the fact that my legs were properly tired probably accounts for a below par 11.02. At the time of going to press our fate in the league is not known, but fingers crossed we did enough…