Saturday, February 28, 2009

Easy, Steady or Recovery- Which is Which?

Commonly when I turn up to a club steady you can hear people, all of similar ability, discussing the upcoming run. "Well I just want an easy run tonight", "Well I raced at the weekend so I really want a recovery run", "hopefully it'll be a good steady pace".

Perhaps more worryingly after the run someone will comment "it was a fairly steady pace today" to which someone else will respond " do you mean too fast or too slow?"

I think there's a huge amount of confusion present as to what exactly is a steady run, what is an easy run and what's a recovery run and I certainly know that in my mind I've been guilty of mashing all three up together mentally. It is only now that I think I'm coming to an understanding of what each three mean.

You can say "well does this really matter all that much?" but to my mind it is one of the key things in the Lydiard approach which thousands of runners across the word follow which is majorly misconstrued.

Okay so looking at each term one by one and I'll put my view with it.

Firstly, recovery running, this is the slowest pace around. For me it is only one step short of walking and is generally from 8:30-10 minute miling. Maybe 8 minute miling on a good day. If you've seen me out on a recovery run then you'll be amazed that I can actually run considerably faster as I'm usually totally wrapped up to stay nice and warm and just generally taking my time. I'll regularly stop for a quick look around and just enjoy myself.

The purpose of recovery running is to loosen up the muscles slightly and get the blood flowing back through the muscles. It seems to get rid of a lot of soreness and just generally make you less prone to injury. It also must have some cappilarization effect and the like and obviously still burns off a fair few calories. In fact if you do need to lose some weight running at this pace is often the most effective as you can generally cover a lot more distance and it burns a higher ratio of fat. Aerobically it probably contributes something but generally not a great deal to my mind.

Easy running for me goes from 7:00-8:00 mm. This run should have an aerobic component but it shouldn't feel too difficult or hard. I think a lot of people run into the trap of using a pace like this for their "steady" runs without understanding that the aerobic and LT benefits that come from a steady run are actually at a faster pace and that currently there is a definitely underused area for development. The purpose of this pace is for limited aerobic development and for the general benefits of getting the "miles in" as it is a convenient pace to work at that stays conversational but I do worry that it isn't the most effective pace to run at. Are we in danger of running at a comfortable pace as opposed to an effective one? For an athlete in good shape whilst these runs do indeed have a use they do seem at times just fillers in a schedule but perhaps the most use they have comes when doing them in large quantities and using them to boost a schedule from a comparatively light 50 miles a week to 70 or more? Certainly even in the athletes who run 100 mile weeks the general sessions seem to be broadly similar in terms of distance covered with the bulk of the difference being more of "these" miles which may have long term cumulative effects.

So now onto the final one. Steady running itself. For me this is a term that seems manifestly misused and for a given athlete can seem to mean anything from sub 6mm to 9mm! Basically anything that isn't "race" pace (well apart from marathon) or walking. To me steady (or at least whichever term you like to use to describe it - part of this piece is I hope to establish (if only for myself!) a more consistent vernacular (is that word made up??? possibly) implies a strong aerobic effort. You shouldn't be wheezing or killing yourself but you should certainly be aware that you're moving at a fair clip. A full blown conversation about life, death and taxes shouldn't be possible but the odd few words should certainly be there! For me steady running mostly comprises of running between 5:45-6:30 minute miling. 6:30-7:00 generally tends to be an easy run where I'm going too fast by mistake. This pace has strong aerobic benefits and starts at literally just a touch slower than tempo running. I've only recently started trying to do a run at this pace more regularly and hope to long-term include a few more of them. They stay relevant as at 800m/1500m they help you with aerobic conditioning which is potentially a weak area whilst as a marathon runner they get you conditioned at close to race pace. This is the strong aerobic pace that I believe Lydiard was talking about.

Interestingly reading pieces by Marius Bakken (which partly inspired me to write this) he claims the Kenyans do a substantial amount of training at just below their LT which pretty much exactly agrees with my 5:45 pace and there are apparently a great deal of benefits to be had from working at this sub-LT pace compared to working at substantially above or below it. The link to the articles is here... Marius Kenyan Principles and I would strongly advise everyone to have a browse through as it is interesting stuff.

I do feel that there is the temptation when putting a training schedule together to include "Tuesday and Thursday rep or tempo sessions, Sunday long run and the rest as just steady or recovery running". This means that whilst you are likely covering very effectively 1500-10 mile race paces with repetition running at a faster pace and a tempo run and you are likely running a great deal at a much slower pace, certainly for me, there is a big gap between 5:30(tempo) and 7:15 (most easy running) where I do little training in and for a distance runner this is perhaps the key area. Relatively long, extended and entirely aerobic efforts. With reps lasting often a maximum of 5 minutes then there is often a real gap where strong protracted aerobic efforts are and I think that may be the reason why some athletes "train" so well, whilst racing poorly. Whilst regular tempo runs close this gap to a great extent, they can often be taxing on the body and equivalent to a "rep" session. Steady running at an appropriate pace is a vital ingredient to training that is often misunderstood and results in a significant pace bracket being ignored.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Training Week Commencing 16/2/2009

Well with the disastrous Sunday run last week this was always going to be a bad weeks running. The aim for me this week was just to "maintain" my endurance hopefully with around a 30 mile week and hopefully add some faster stuff in towards the end of the week. Also I was reading some interesting material on Kenyans and their steady runs (I'll do a longer article on this shortly) and wanted to try running a faster "steady" for once as I currently feel I get bogged down too much in the middle steady/easy pace which isn't really recovery or a good aerobic effort. For me this is about 7-8mm.

Monday: Rest day (was still clearly not well)
Tuesday: Rest day (and again)
Wednesday: 51:54 club run around Oxrad with a slightly faster finish with Alex and Martin. Legs were turning over well but still struggling with the chest.
Thursday: 16 wund Club Track Sess of 4 x 4 x 400 @ 10k/5k/3k/5k [45/lap jog] this session can I think be done all at 3k pace or faster but I tried to stick roughly to the paces. First 3 sets were all roughly 77/74/71/74 with the final set me working a little bit harder and doing 74/69/69/71 (added a sprint 100m finish afterwards). Relaxed session to get me back into it.
Friday: 32 steady. Faster run with the first 5 and last 7 minutes easy but the middle 20 at around or just below 6mm. (see above)
Saturday: 60. Probably around 20 minutes of this run was at 6mm but was much more broken up with slower patches of running as didn't want to tire myself with the race coming up.
Sunday: 20 warm-up, 1500m Indoors at Birmingham 4th 4:22. 47 warm-down/steady. Also managed to get a 15 minute massage for £4 subsidised by midland athletics.

Totals: 270 minutes / 36 miles (ish)

Considering that I entered this week fairly ill and with an annoying hip and quad niggle and am leaving it on the road to recovery (though I think body is still weak from illness) and niggle-free (as much as any runner can be) I'm generally quite pleased. Also the mileage is perhaps slightly deceptive as normally I divide by 7.5 to get a mileage estimate as despite sessions being fast I do a lot of "recovery" and "easy" running at about 8-9mm and the slowest I ran this week was about 7:30 so probably more like 40 miles.

Race report: 1500m was always going to be a stretch having not run anything faster than 68 for 400m and nothing faster than 70/lap for anything longer than 400m. I set of with a target pace of 68/lap or 4:15. I was running reasonably well but unfortunately most people started off too fast and were just dying so no sooner did I catch someone then I had to go round them with no chance for me to draft at all (in retrospect I might have been better going with the lead group and trying to hang on). I wasn't far off at 800m but struggled over the final 700. No problem with breathing, lactic acid build up (surprisingly little in fact!) or tiredness I just couldn't get my legs to move fast enough. Whilst a bit dissappointed this is a second faster than I opened outdoors last year about 2 months down the line and I can tell there is an awful lot more in the tank. I'm hoping the illness is a factor as well.

If I want to run a faster 1500m I need to:-
A) improve my base speed [strides and 150s],
B) Improve my just general work at paces below 70 seconds as right now 68 is about as fast as my body knows how to run [200-800s @ 66-70]
C) Learn to generate some lactate and run hard with it in the system [400-600 HARD]

Will post a longer bit on thgouhts about steadies, easy running and recovery running tomorrow hopefully...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Training With Illness

Okay, I'm officially sick of being sick. I've been diagnosed with sinusitis and as I swallow another antibiotic with my beer (Leffe Blonde is fantastic stuff, not as good as Leffe Brune but still good!) as I finally start to feel better after nearly 3 weeks of feeling like hell I'm left to reflect on what it's been like training whilst ill.

Thankfully I've had nothing serious (only Sinusitis and a mild case at that by some of the accounts I've read!) but even so it's clearly taken a toll on my body. Oddly enough I haven't raced badly at all but this mays imply be a funciton of me being in very good shape and it feeling like I'm racing okay despite actually racing badly because of the shape I'm in. Does that make sense? Possibly.

What it's really hit me on has been the steady running. Those who know me know tha ti am a massive proponent of lots of very slow running and that has been fine on me. Similarly whilst some interval sessions have been poor provided I haven't tried to push myself they actually haven't been too bad as long as I accomodate for an extra second or two a lap. The steady running however has been horrendous with me hobbling around like a drunken imbecile. Going on the club run on Sunday I was falling badly off the pace at something near 7 minute miling having previously raced at close to 5 minute miling the previous day!

Despite symptons being fairly easily masked by vast quantities of Lemsip and later Sudafed and me actually feeling okay over the weekend I could definitely tell that something wasn't right. Running unfortunately reveals all the problems, aches and pains in your body that you'd like to pretend weren't there. In some ways that's what I love about the sport that it strips you bare, but sometimes I really would like to just hide!

Okay. So having run through the sickness more or less (one additional rest day) a few pointers that I think may well help someone else with a bad cold or the like. Not something as minor as a headache or the sniffles but something not quite as bad as the flu!

1. Don't do steady running with groups. Even if it normally feels at an easy pace for you either run with just one other person or on your own. Trying to force your body to run with others (especially if a lot of talking is required!) can cause a lot of problems. Just relax and run your own pace.

2. Interval sessions: temper them down by another second or two a lap if you have to do them. Understand that your body won't be able to take the strain and if you're "fighting" to stay on a pace then drop off. Accept that you won't be able to run withthe people you usually would.

3. Keep runs short and preferrably once a day - even if you usually hit big mileage with double runs you will still maintain fitness and I now believe that illness is something you need to "get through" rather than be trying to improve still within.

4. Think about whatever else you could be imporving right now that isn't aerobic. Whether that's core, balance, drills, light weights etc. Even strides will probably not be too bad. Concentrate on all the subsidiary areas of training that we usually ignore.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Flotrack Work-Out Wednesday - Thoughts

Okay, so this post is based on after just watching the flotrack "Wednesday Workout" (always a great watch) and seeing the session they were doing.

It is definitely worth watching below...

Track and Field Videos on Flotrack

For those who haven't watched it the workout is 12 or 16 x 400 at a target HM pace of 68/69 per lap and a fast 200m jog recovery.

Now unsuprisingly I saw a reasonable degree of similarity between this and my own work-out last week! 10 x 400 with a fast 200m jog av. 69. (for a list of excuses as to why this wasn't faster see below!)

The differences were (aside from my illness, running solo, not in spikes didn't think you'd escape that easy did you!)...
A) They are at a very significant altitude
B) They introduced a "Hammer Interval" for every 4th interval.
C) They were meant to be operating at HM pace whilst I was at mile pace.

All of which I think introduce a very interesting element of training.

The first is the sheer effect of altitude training which I don't intend to dwell on at length here but the simple fact is that altitude and the amount of time you spend at it seem to produce the best runners by far. Whilst to some degree there is a selection bias (all best runners are from Kenya and Ethiopia and they are at altitude which therefore means that people assume altitiude creates great runners and so the best runners go to altitiude, particularly when trying to break into "the best") the evidence does seem to be on the side of altitude training as a very useful tool. Altitude does however slow you down on runs considerably, particularly it appears when trying to operate at anything much above a walk.

The second interesting part is the "hammer interval" which is an interesting device in two ways. In the first it concentrates the athlete on not racing the other reps but keeping them consistent with their competitive juices being allowed to flow on the hammer interval. It also introduces significant levels of lactate to the blood stream (yes I am aware that lactate isn't the direct cause of the "rigging" up you get and that there is a complicated process that leads to it but that is unimportant I think for the purpose of this) and so giving the body an introduction to the high level of lactate concentration in the "off" season keeping the system "maintained". It also then allows the body to get used to running with higher lactate levels at a HM pace and whilst a HM will rarely use the lactate levels being able to switch from HM pace to a faster pace is very important and particularly when looking at covering mid-race surges (partly possible due to lower lactate levels whilst ina flat out 1500m it is near impossible) it could be very useful to get preparation done at experiencing that lactate levle and then settling back into HM pace. Particularly the pace the athletes had on the final rep was very impressive. I still need to think a bit more about exactly the benefit that hitting random(?) intervals hard in the middle of a session has but I'm certainly interested.

The third interesting part was the work-out itself- particularly in reference to my below post about running work-outs slower sometimes. As a fairly respectable work-out they were considering doing 12 x 400 @ HM pace with 200 jog. Altitude and hammer intervals excepted that really isn't a particularly difficult work-out and I'm not saying that as a bad thing at all (even pushing it out to 16x400 it still isn't that difficult as it's roughly the same amount of work @ their tempo pace as a 20 minute tempo run)! It's the sort of work-out that gets the legs turning over a bit whilst not pushing the body amazingly hard aerobically allowing for long-term continued development. They could undoubtedly hit that workout week-in, week-out and come race-day they will be able to race significantly faster. They're training not racing and that is a great thing.

Personally I think incorporating more work-outs like this (maybe at sea-level dropping the pace down to 10k pace?) could well be a very interesting addition to a training program and definitely worth thinking about hammer intervals and their use in keeping speed topped up.

Great video by the flotrack guys and keep up the great work. Same to all the guys with McMillan and especially our own Andrew Lemoncello.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Training Week Commencing 9th Feb 2009

Hey people,

Before this weeks training just to say that if you are reading you can leave a comment below- always interesting to get people's feedback!

Mon: 60 easy. Still had the bad cold so I took the slow group as usual on a Monday night but due to the ice we ended up running with the fast group. Nice relaxed pace with a bit added on the end for those of us who needed more.

Tue: 20 wund 10 x 400 [200 in 60 sec recovery] Av. 69. Rather than do my first speed endurance session outdoors on a cold and icy track I decided to head into London and do it indoors in Lee Valley. Met old training partners Horse and Carlisle doing their warm-down after their session (our minibus trip took forever) and had a good natter with them. Session was generally okay given the cold was pretty bad. 10 x 400 @ PB 1500m pace with the fairly short recoveries is not a bad start.

Wednesday: AM 65 steady/easy - headed out to the golf course on club run and then did some extra felt pretty bad. PM 40 easy with Mike and Sean on Marston Ferry really struggled at points and clearly not well.

Thursday: Rest- was meant to be doing a session today but woke with a splitting headache and could barely move. Went to nurse and she diagnosed me with sinusitis and doctor promptly prescribed nose drops and antibiotics for if it got any worse

Friday: 60 easy with Jan. Lot better than yesterday but still in pain. Did a nice run up to Godstow and through the ruins.

Saturday: Hyde Park Relays 4th leg 16:44 unofficial Started in about 6th place overall I think as 4th leg on the B-team (would have been on A team but for the sinusitis). Breathing still screwed and didn't run particularly well. Didn't help that I was totally isolated apart from lapping runners and overtaking Stuart Brill from UEA who is an awesome 2/4 guy who to his credit always has a go at the longer stuff. Team of Jonny Pearson(-Stuttard?), Jamie Darling, Matt Hawcroft, Me, Anupam Das and Matt Johnson managed to get 4th place overall only being beaten by Ox Uni A team, Filthy Tabs and Bristol and the C team got 6th place! Considering we were missing Tom Samuels, Joe Mercer, Nick Howarth, Chris McGurk, Garrett Ash, Matt Simms (sorry anyone I've missed out!) we could feasibly have managed to put 4 teams in the top 6! Quadricep was sore on warm-up but didn't notice it during race but did during warm down so cut it short at ten minutes

Sunday: AM 80 steady/easy PM 25 easy Went on club run to SHotover in the morning and was really struggling badly despite a fairly pedestrian pace. Nose running like anything and getting dropped up Southparks Hills. Got lose on the way back and 70 minute run turned into 80 minutes. Evening run was much better all round.

Weekly total: 437 minutes/ 58 miles

On the whole a slighty dissappointing week but given the sinusitis I'm amazed I only dropped 13 minutes over the whole week. Could have made it up on the final run but decided that would be stupid. Whilst not particularly pleased with the session or the run at Hyde Park considering the illness which really is making me feel pretty bad, they are both satisfactory if not great. At least I know there's more to come!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Onto the Boards

So. It's cold outside. Cold, wet and miserable. And icy.

With these thoughts in my mind and with my first speed endurance session of the year about to begin (and with a horrendous cold that has since been diagnosed as sinusitis) I opted to travel to London to run my session indoors as opposed to messing around on a cold and icy track.

WIth only sprinters, jumpers and misguided distance runners doing short sessions and Dane being ill I was left to run the session entirely by myself.

Session was 10 x 400 with 60 seconds recovery but covering 200m in that 60 seconds which isn't that slow! Target was around or just under 70 which is my 1500m PB pace. I'm in the shape right now I think to run much faster but this cold is really taking a hell of a lot out of me.

Anyways, running solo, with cold, in flats, indoors (trying to think of more excuses here...) I managed to average 69 seconds which whilst not great definitely hit the necessary areas.

But on a more wider view- it was fantastic to be training in a shorts and vest comfortably in the middle of winter. I really enjoyed training on the indoor track and think that particularly when you're trying to introduce speed work in then doing it indoors drastically reduces the risk of you pulling something. It's just a good idea and makes a really nice mental change.

I'm now hoping to race a bit indoors and hopefully run some PBs and just generally get back into a track mentality. My endurance has always been great so it's the speed that will make progress for me. When I get closer to my target event I will be doing sessions like 5 x k @3k pace or 8 x k @ 5k pace but for right now working on the speed will hopefully bring greater benefits later.

Also great to catch Horse and Carlisle warming down from their session and have a good natter.

No photo this time unfortunately!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Training Log for the Past Few Months

Hey guys - apologies for the delays in posts- I've been busy with postponing academic work but that normally means I feel bad about blogging. Gonna have a more interesting post up tomorrow but for right now just my training diary for the past month and a half or so. In future will do it weekly. Enjoy!

I've been diagnosed with Sinusitis which isn't serious but does explain why I've had some really bad headaches and such a crap cold for the last week and a bit. Hopefully it should clear up soon as I have some nose drops and also prescription for anti-biotics if I need them.

Recent form has been a bit dissappointing. After Herts County I was running really well and at Oxford for first two weeks. Since then seems like I've gone a bit downhill with dissappointing runs at Southerns and to an extent BUCS. Very frustrating to have done a 3 week block of very good training ( e.g. 3 x 70 mile week) and to be running worse. That said Southerns we know why and BUCS I already had the sinusitis. Also I'm sure that the 70 mile weeks will have tired the body and I probably would be reaping the rewards now apart from the sinusitis. Also- both BUCS and Southerns and the poorer "sessions" I've done have been on the country which doesn't appear to suit me. For what it's worth even though the 70 mile weeks probably don't do a huge deal more than 60 mile weeks now stepping back down for a 60 mile week mentally it seems much easier.

I also think that my body does go through natural "peaks" and "troughs", at Herts and first few weeks of the term I was feeling fantastic but now feel horrendous. General trend remains upwards through the hard training but the peaks and troughs do make a difference! For instance I felt incredible going into Varsity IIIrds match but quite badly ill and feeling horrendous Bryn now would still probably kick the ass of feeling great super confident Bryn then. That said if Bryn suddenly gets better in the next week then he will kick the ass of both Bryn right now dosed up on Lemsip and Bryn from last term. Bryn should also stop referring to himself in the third person.

Regarding sinusitis I am cleared to train and to race though my races will probably not be great. Drops should have me cleared up in 3-4 days. Way I felt this morning there was no way on earth I could run (was struggling to walk the headache was so bad) but has gotten much better over the day and right now I feel pretty good and could probably go out and train.

Following is the past training block finally typed up from my calendar...enjoy!

Begins 22/12/2008

2nd Week of Base Block 1
Mon: 100
Tue: 40 AM Session PM 8 x 1000 (60-75 200m jog) av. 3:11/12 comfy
Wed: 70 easy w. Lee
Thu: Rest
Fri: 20 w.u. Witham 5 26:19 PB, 20 w.d.
Sat: 44 easy
Sun: 72 w. 12 strides (one every 5 mins)
Total: 450 / 60 miles

3rd Week of Base Block 1
Mon: 105 mins av. 6:19 - felt relaxed and comfortable - was dropping 6:00s at the end. Perhaps slightly motivated by reading Running with the Buffaloes a few nights beforehand...
Tue: 15 w.u. Sess 3 x 5 x 300 [100 fast jog] [400 slow jog] very cold and kept top on, av. 53s but conciously easing up as target 54s
Wed: 40 easy
Thu: AM 33 easy Hyde Park (just missed Noel), PM 40 steady
Fri: 60 easy
Sat: 80 inc. 12 x strides (o.e.5)
Sun: 20 warm up and down (wund) Harlow XC, got 2nd place, bad fall 800m in and just got narrowly outkicked by John Clarke, should have gone earlier as aerobically stronger I felt but trusted in my kick too much!
Total: 480 minutes / 65 miles

Taper Week:
Mon: Rest
Tue: 42 @ 6:20 (very icy so possibly worth more)
Wed: 15 wund 8 x 700 [75/100 jog] 2:13,7,7,7,6,8,5,1 av. 2:07 (2:25/800 pace!) with Noel
Thu: Rest
Fri: 20/ 10@tempo/ 20
Sat: Rest
Sun: 15 wund Counties 12km, 8th, 39:38- got 8th place beating some awesome athletes such as Neil Miller and being right on the heels of Dom Easter and Paul Adams, clearly a breakthrough race. Annoyed as fell twice and the second time was quite bad as just before that I was feeling fantastic as if I was barely working. After that fell off the pace of the group quite badly and had to work hard to catch up and was still recovering when the break came. Was level with Matt Grant until he did his ankle in pretty badly.
Total: 226 minutes / 30 miles

Week 1 of Base Block 2
Mon: 75:37 easy/steady with Sean Ledger, Martin Bell and Sean Renfer. Quote the next day from Sean when I suggested running at easy pace "Is this the same easy pace that dropped Renfer at halfway?" I totally blame Martin for pushing the pace though.
Tue: AM wund 3 x 3 x 2:30 [60,120]. Ran mostly with Matt Hawcroft, good session as we worked well together with me pushing on towards the end of the reps PM 43 easy
Wed: AM 64:31 easy w. Anupam and Becky, Anupam going completely over in the Nature Reserve and the two of us planning a mini-athlete resort in the centre. PM 40 easy
Thu: 20 wund, 30 tempo, ended up doing this by myself from Uni Parks, out through Mesopotamia and Headington Hill Park to the JR, pace wasn't that fast but was a bit sore and was uphill lots of the first half
Sat: 80 easy
Sun: 105 easy/steady
Total: 543.9 / 72.5 Miles (highest since Portugal Easter 2006)

Week 2 of Base Block 2 (70s)
Mon: AM 60 easy with Ian and Pete. Was going past Christchurch and out pops Ian so run with him for 30 minutes, going back out for the next 30 minutes and at the same place out pops Pete. Boring run was actually good fun! PM 65 easy/steady first section with slow group, second section a bit faster
Tue: AM 15 wund Session 3 sets of 2 minutes, 4 minutes, 2 minutes with relatively short recoveries, kept with Ian which I was really pleased with with Tom, Oz and Chris a bit behind. Last rep Tom came flying through and we finished fast "Jogging with Tom" PM 40 easy w. Jan
Wed: 73 easy/steady did Nature Reserve and then Godstow and ended up being about 10 minutes longer than intended
Thu: Rest
Fri: 37 steady w. Anupam
Sat: 15 wund, Southern 15km, for once in my life I've started getting up earlier and ended up by being "prepared" with "nutrition" totally overeating and ended up with a stitch and wanting to throw up up on the start line (BLT a bad idea...), was going okay the first lap but dropped off badly the second lap, came through well on the third lap with the fourth again okay. Second lap really killed me off as it was veyr slow. Really struggled in the mud and it definitely didn't suit me. 3 months ago would have been very happy with this results but now annoyed as know I can do better. Still beat some very good runners. 94th 59:08 (15km ish)
Sun: 90 easy/steady. Did most of it with a lad called Rob from London Holloway and then Andrew Hennessy, Darren Fowlie and Rob Joy. Really nice run along the Lee and some great banter from the guys I was running with. Nice to run with them as guys like Darren and Rob are clearly better than me, but I hope that with a few more years strength that's the sort of level I can hit. Strength and Conditioning session in the afternoon + Q and A with Paul Evans/Adrian Marriott and yourself!
Total: 524 / 70.5 miles

Week 3 of Base Block 2 (70s)
Mon: 80 easy, hamstrings very sore from the S+C
Tue: AM 15 wund club session- again with Ian but this time Tom stayed with us for most of it. 3 sets of 4,3,2,1 minutes hard with shortish recoveries. Was running very easily on the 4 minute reps and was pulling away well on the 1 minute reps but the 3 and 2 minute reps were definitely hardest for me PM 41:20 easy, hamstrings still sore but slightly better.
Wed:AM 61 easy PM 41 easy inc. 9 x strides
Thu: AM 35 easy felt horrendous as I didn't get any sleep that night and after this conked out for a few hours nap but hamstrings better PM 15 wund, session of 2 x 3 x 800 [200 fast jog, 400 fast jog], with first and last in each set at 5k pace and middle at 3k pace. Track was icy and I was running pretty much alone with garrett just behind to keep me honest, coming down with cold. 2:32 (80 first lap), 2:24,2:29 then 2:26, 2:24, 2:24 and felt I still had one or two more in me so a reasonable session but wasn't that pleased. Last set I think was a good effort though.
Fri: Rest
Sat: 61 inc. 5 at tempo. Did the 5 with the guys at South Parks (only second time made it there whilst at Oxford) I really struggled today, it was only meant to be a very easy almost tempo-lite for about 10 minutes but they were doing a session of 4 x 7 @ tempo with 2:30 rec. and it seemed at more like 10k pace. First session at South Parks and on the country and think I am much stronger on the harder surfaces
Sun: 78 easy/steady.
Total: 525 / 70 miles

Taper Week for BUCS
Mon: Roads completely iced over and hip still nagging- didn't run. During my "block" weeks I'm religious about not missing runs but in a taper week it really doesn't bother me
Tue: 15 wund, session at South Parks, 4 x 2 x 2:00 hard [30,150]. First set felt fantastic and was running with Blackledge comfortably. Second set all energy seemed to have gone and I was running just behind Ian and Brucey. Third set I was dieing on my feet and just sitting in with Oz. Left the last set as something was clearly up with my system and some sort of cold. Hip was twinging before start of reps
Wed: 40 easy
Thu: Rest for hip
Fri: Travel to BUCS- absolute disaster, got diverted to Edinburgh and then huge wait for the coach to take us to Aberdeen during which we found out BUCS had cancelled it way too late. Was planning on doing 30 minute stretch out but by the time we got there it was past 10 and very icy. Cold much worse and sniffing the whole way
Sat:15 wund Not the BUCS Championships 2009, 35th 20:53, had a horrendous nights sleep woke up completely bunged up with an awful headache and feeling horrendous so skipped breakfast for an extra few hours kip (though Charlotte and Claire brought me some toast and yoghurt which was very nice of them!), got to the course and was feeling a bit better so decided to give race a chance. Wore flats instead of spikes. Set off a bit slowly as got caught out at the start. Was running okay but just wasn't able to push myself at all. Also misjudged finish as for some reason I thought it was about a km uphill from where it was so was just about ready to start a surge when two athletes went past and I looked up and realised it was 50m away! Got one (Harvey) but the other stayed clear. Again- 4 months ago would have been amazing- right now just dissappointing.
Sun: Rest and travel home- still felt horrendous.
Total: 185 minutes / 24 miles

Me in the middle of Not the BUCS XC Championships 2009 where I finished 35th. Had a horrendous cold on the day and just didn't feel like I ran very well at all.

Photo was taken by Ian Kimpton's parents so all copyright etc. goes to them I just stole it off facebook.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Stuck in the Mud

I had an interval session today. Usually we go to University Parks and run on the relatively hard dirt path there. Instead due to the ice we went to South Parks an altogether grassy and muddy affair. To put it frankly I sunk.

I tend to have a very heavy and direct footfall which is extremely helpful when running on the roads. My stride is exceptionally short (in the middle of a track rep a training partner once turned to me and asked how I was taking two strides for his one!) and usually creates a very wasteful "slapping" noise but in a lot of ways this seems to help me on the roads. Each step I slam down comes back up with almost as much force which is fantastic and helps push me onto the next stride. The track gives a bit less response but still reasonable. Unfortunately when I then transition onto the grass and the country I end up losing all of that energy as it is directly absorbed into the ground. It is noticeable that in my best XC running this year it has been on courses which were mostly frozen over and often allowing me to run in even my road racing flats! Given a choice I choose my flats every time as can be seen in the picture below in the middle of a XC race.

So what does this tell us? Unfortunately not a great deal that we didn't already know. Some runners will run better on roads, some track and some XC. What it does perhaps suggest is that when training with other runners that sometimes you need to adjust your pacing and take the ego out of the equation a little. Yes when it comes to a road 10k I can beat runner Y by a minute but when it comes to hilly muddy and tough work-outs (Runner Y's speciality. Runner Y is a bit of a monster) then perhaps I need to step back a little and run with Runner Y rather than straining to keep ahead.

It also suggests that before running a succesful XC season, unless you manage to plan all of your races to be on fairly hard courses, you should be doing specific work-outs on the mud and the country rather than just roads, tracks, trails and light grass and that hopefully you will become more adapted to it. On the other-hand whilst I am sure you can improve on the country by training extensively on it the question remains as to whether this will improve your performances on other surfaces or remove some of the "advantage" you had on them.

I'm hopeful that the additional strength I gain by training on the country will pay off in terms of longer stride length and the like and that it will turn out to be very useful in the long run but for the moment I remain depressed that I go rapidly backwards when I start running on anything grass-esque. I am quite willing to accept this however if my main focus (the roads and then track) aren't affected at all but I do intend to keep an eye on this. Provided the gains are in addition rather than instead of I will be veyr happy. All I can hope for is that my XC courses remain frosted over for the forseeable future otherwise!

Racing in the Hertfordshire XC championships in racing flats. Thankfully the course was fairly frozen over and I was able to race to 8th place in my Herts Champs senior debut after taking second the year beforehand. I'm currently running with people in around 20th place. Without noticeably increasing my pace I ended up moving up to 8th within the first mile fairly swiftly as a lot of other runners were already dying but that's a matter for the next post...

Running Slower Makes You Faster

The most common advice given to new runners by the grizzled veterans is "run more, run slower". Whilst this is invaluable it is the next step in the progression that I think there are benefits available. Once you're running more and slower, then go run some intervals.

There is nothing quite like a well run interval session. Whilst a race has it's own feel and experience you always need to keep a little in check for that kick or to cover a move by another athlete with a constantly "forward" goal. An interval session can be relentless in it's intensity. Often covering 8 or 10,000 metres of running at 5,000 metre pace with relatively short recoveries. Unfortunately to many athletes these intervals often become races in themselves. Whether this takes the form of them racing their training partners or just trying to run each rep or the whole session faster than they've ever done before.

When you see people straining flat out and watching their form totally disintegrate you have to ask "how much is this helping"? How often in races do we see someone in this kind of distress (Neilson Hall and Tom Cornthwaite excepted!) and being able to race succesfully? They're taking advantage of being able to generate a level of lactic acid in their body in order to finish reps quickly and use the breaks to let the level go down. Whilst there's certainly room in training for developing lactic tolerance it shouldn't be in long reps in which the primary aim is aerobic development.

Far better instead to take just one second, maybe two per lap which is really not a great deal and all of a sudden instead of straining and overstriding you're running at a relaxed powerful cadence which you can keep up for a entire race. Whilst there is a point available in that you should train at your current 5k pace people train at their "5k pace" were they in a race and fully tapered whilst in the middle of a training week having done a session two days before hand and a large number of miles, that second a lap is probably getting you closer to your actual 5k pace on that day.

Since becoming aware of this and trying to take my ego out of the equation interval sessions are more consistent, relaxed and I can see the effects in my racing.

Train don't strain.

Racing at the South of England XC Championships in an absolute mud-bath. I took 94th place in my senior debut which was a slightly disspapointing run but a very high quality field. Whilsta dissappointing run I beat a fair few runners I had never beaten before and it's a mark of the progress I've made in the last few months that this was a "bad" run for me. 3 months ago I would likely have been delighted!

Just behind me is Dan Thompson of Hillingdon AC who I actually got narrowly outsprinted by in one of my first ever XC races in the Met League U17s. I misjudged the finish, kicked clear and then realised I still had 300m to go!

Bryn Running

Training diary and musings on running in general.