It’s not my fault I haven’t been training, or eating sensibly over the last couple of months.
It’s my wife’s fault for also wanting to go out training, so it is my turn to have fun with the children.
It’s the weather’s fault, for being far too cold or raining too much, so that the idea of training is not a good one.
It’s the weather’s fault again, for causing football matches to be postponed at short notice, so I lose that training opportunity when refereeing.
It’s my job’s fault for meetings or travel getting in the way of ‘runch’, and clearly there is no other time that I could go out for a run.
It’s my baby’s fault for not sleeping through the night, causing me to have disrupted sleep, and just not wanting to get out there and get it done.
It’s parkrun’s fault for getting cancelled on a Saturday morning, and of course that means I am banned from any other running that day.
It’s the fault of being invited out for meals, and that absolutely meaning I have to eat far too much at every possibility.
It’s any shop’s fault for selling chocolate, or any generally ‘bad’ stuff, which means I have to buy it and subsequently eat it all.
None of it is my fault at all.
2020 needs to be better than this.
Re-establish a training baseline.
Healthy eating and associated weight loss as a result. I’m at about 85 kg right now. My goal weight is 75 kg. So, 1.5 stone in old money.
Both of these are achievable and under way. I am quite frankly embarrassed by the results of my last couple of training runs.
And I have felt incredibly awkward recently when any friends have asked, “How’s the sub 20 5k going?”. As the honest answer is, “Absolute f*cking terribly”. Don’t get me wrong: I really appreciate people asking. It’s just hard.
Ironically, my recent refereeing Observation marks have been the highest all season, so make of that what you will!
2019 was the year that this blog came into being, although I have been running ‘properly’ for ten years or so. I covered the decade as a whole in a previous post. Now it’s time to look back on 2019, which is when I started the ‘Run 5k in 20 minutes’ challenge in earnest.
In short, it’s a real mixed bag. This has been a hard post to write.
The Positive Things!
I set a new 10 mile PB, without really training for it
Leading up to the Great South Run, I had been training a decent amount, but I never had a 10 mile race in mind for it. I entered pretty late too, inspired by loads of people from Waverley Harriers heading down together.
Everything came together on the day. I felt strong, set a new PB, and didn’t break myself in the process. That made it a good day. I wrote up the whole experience.
I had a good training and diet focus
… to start with, at least! I had a great mix of ‘normal’ running and track sessions. I made sure I incorporated hills in my training as a standard feature (a previous weak point of my training was running on flat routes pretty much all the time).
I combined this with eating well which resulted in a decent amount of weight loss, which of course only helps when trying to run faster (and more healthily!)
I had fun in races, including cross country!
I really enjoyed the races that I did in 2019. I didn’t do a huge number, but they gave me strong motivation to get better. Cross-country in particular is always really enjoyable due to the social aspects and the challenge of the terrain.
A particular highlight was ‘pushing for three’ by taking the double running buggy round the Guildford 10k with a baby and toddler in it! Naturally, that is never going to be a PB experience but just plain fun and good for building up the upper body!
I gained my Leadership in Running Fitness qualification!
Inspired by the various Leaders at my running club, I obtained my Leadership in Running Fitness (LiRF) qualification. It was good to learn the basic techniques of coaching in this area, and I’m looking forward to now putting the skills into practice in helping others!
The Not So Positive Things
I ‘fell off the wagon’ after the Great South Run
It’s strange. I trained so well (both in terms of running and diet!) leading up to the Great South Run, but afterwards did really badly with it.
My training volume dropped and I didn’t eat well, so regained some of the excess weight I had lost.
I don’t really have a good reason for this. Yes, baby sleeping patterns (or lack of them!) have not helped, but that’s an excuse. Nothing was really stopping me from getting out there and running other than me.
I think another reason is the weather. Getting out there when it is all a bit dark and cold is a lot harder for me than in Spring and Summer when the sun is out and it is gorgeous! I love the challenge of running when it is hot too. That was lacking a lot as 2019 was drawing to a close!
I failed to set a new 5k PB
I was never expecting to get sub-20 minutes in the 5k in 2019 (I started this challenge part-way during the year). However, I would have liked to have set a new PB at least. My best time was 21:16 against a PB (set in 2018) of 20:52.
I failed to hit a training distance of 1000 miles
I have a general target of hitting 1000 miles (approximately 1600 km) during the year. This includes football refereeing which helps! I (just) hit this in 2018 but only managed 1,361 km last year. That highlights to an extent my previous falling off the wagon comments!
However, I want to be careful when setting goals for next year that I don’t fixate on distance at the expense of quality training. For example: A hill session will always be a lower distance than a long run, but it is still very important training! Also, gym work won’t count towards this goal but has its own value.
I am a little bemused by 2019. I did so well at points (although not quite as well as I would have liked…) but now feel I am back where I started, to a degree.
I’m already training regularly again in terms of repairing the damage, and this time I suppose I have all of 2020 to do something wonderful!
That means I now need to set actual goals for 2020! They are forming in my head as I type. I’ll write up exactly what they are in my next post!
A Running Decade In Review: From Cake to Deadpool!
How can you possibly link cake and Deadpool? By reading my thoughts on my running over the last decade. This works out nicely as I think it’s roughly the amount of time that I have been running ‘properly’ as well. LET’S DO THIS!
I Changed How I Run
At the beginning of 2012, I tweaked something in my knee. There is no fancy story behind this: I was on a treadmill and just felt something give. It felt weird. I finished my session without thinking too much of it, but the burning sensation grew and it niggled at me pretty severely.
…. To the point where I was wearing a knee brace for some relief. I even found a picture:
Through some training in CrossFit, I found out a bit about minimalist running. This was advocated by the ‘shoes of choice’ at the time: inov-8. I was very much a heel-striking runner, and very heavy with it as well. Now, the whole running gait thing is very much up for debate, but for me personally I could feel how my knees were getting a battering.
So I changed.
I started working on the ‘natural’ style of landing more on the forefoot. No pun intended, but this felt much more natural to me, and the issues with my knee cleared up very quickly. I did do the classic mistake of ‘Too Much Too Soon’ by not easing into it gently, and my calf muscles were exceptionally sore for a few days, but all good after that!
I Got Faster
Running is enjoyable in its own right, thanks to those lovely chemicals that get released.
Hitting goals, such as getting faster, are the icing on the cake. (Note: It’s pretty much the Law that runners have to love cake).
When I first started out in parkrun in 2010, my time was 24:10. That was doing my best at the time. In 2018, I hit a PB of 20:52. Still 52 seconds to go for my fabled ‘Sub Twenty’ target, but I will get there!
I ran the Great South Run seven times over the decade. I started off at 1:24:18 in 2012. The times varied a bit after that, but I set a PB in 2019 of 1:15:24. The stars aligned a bit on that one. I have written an extensive account about what happened there, should you want to know more!
I’ve confident that I can built on all of this over the next year or so, provided I keep the right focus. Improvement is going to need hard work.
I Met Great People
The running community is full of wonderful, positive people.
Joining a running club was one of the best decisions I ever made. Training with like-minded people brought immediate and sustained improvements, let alone the social aspects!
Cross-country running is the best running. I need to do more of it. It’s challenging but the conditions just make it FUN. Plus as the events are club-focused, they are very social as well. Which adds to the FUN. You should do more cross-country too!
I did really enjoy the event, but it highlighted just how bad I am at swimming nowadays. I have total respect for those that do triathlon regularly due to just how much training is required to be good at all three of the disciplines. I don’t think it is for me though: Ultimately, I enjoy running to the extent that I struggle to find the motivation to cross-train.
I did some standalone cycling too. The Ride 100 was really enjoyable (despite doing precious little training). I also did the London to Brighton a few times, but the most gruelling was the Farnham Bike Ride… I did the 75 mile version, as a warm-up for the Ride 100, but… the hill profile was insane. Not an enjoyable experience near the end!
I Got Somewhere In Refereeing
I started football refereeing in 2009. That meant youth football and the lowest possible adult leagues, including Sunday mornings.
I did something right, as I was able to progress to referee on the Contributory Leagues, and act as an Assistant Referee and 4th official on the National League.
Refereeing is challenging, that’s for sure! I’ve learned a lot about myself in experiences of taking charge of so many games over the last decade.
I Embraced The Running Tech
I think the pictures alone help show how things have evolved:
Key ways that devices have evolved that I have enjoyed:
They aren’t bricks on your wrist.
GPS acquisition doesn’t take about four years.
They look good enough to wear in non-running situations.
Performance analysis tools (I like statistical eye candy)
How will these tools evolve over the next decade?!
I Learned That Running = Cake
Running and cake goes hand in hand, it seems. So much so, we had a cake ‘bake off’ at our wedding…. BEST WEDDING EVER.
I Started Running For Three
The wonders of running buggies (thanks Out’N’About !) has meant being able to share the joy of running with a (current) 10 month old and nearly three year old!
Buggy running is a challenge in its own right, but it has solidified my desire to want to set a good fitness example to my children as they continue to grow up….. OK, maybe I should cut down on the cake then…
I went into this race with having not done any decent distance training: My training runs are typically between 8-12 km, intermixed with football refereeing and speed training. Nothing that was leading me to think, “I’m going to nail 10 miles!”, for sure.
Whenever anyone asked about what my plans were, my response was always the same: I’d target the last time I ran the race (in 2016) where my notes said I treated it as a ‘long run’. Sensible.
I’ve done this a few times before…
This was the 6th time I have done this event. That has really crept up on me!
What’s the story behind the graph?
2012 was my first stab at it, and before I was doing much running in its own right. So that’s the benchmark. I then suffered an annoying achilles injury afterwards, more of a niggle than anything else, but it really impacted any form of training. Hence 2013 was significantly slower.
2014 was a bit of a return to form.
I then lost a fair amount of weight and trained more seriously, going out regularly with Farnham Runners. This had a significant impact on my running: The routes typically involved a mixture of hills and off-road, which was a far cry from my lazily selected routes which were very flat (Especially down on the south coast where I was working).
This was shown in 2015 where I set a PB, by 8 minutes or so! Needless to say, I was very happy with that.
I entered in 2016 as well, but as I hadn’t done any particular distance training in preparation, I decided to treat it as a long run. Still, a decent enough time, and only 1 minute away from my PB the previous year.
By this point, to be frank, I had got bored of the route that the race uses. The beginning is pretty cool: The atmosphere of the seafront, the streets, and the Historic Dockyard. However, after mile 6, it becomes running in a straight line east, before turning round and coming back the other way. It’s just not interesting.
I needed a break. So I took two years off and didn’t really miss taking part.
Inspired by my running club (Waverley Harriers) having a contingent going to the race, I entered again. It was also the 30th Anniversary of the event.
I didn’t do a great deal of distance-specific training but hills were now a regular feature of my training runs, and my local ones were around 12k or thereabouts. As a result, I felt pretty confident about the whole thing, but as I said right at the beginning, my feeling was to aim for my ‘long run’ 2016 time and just enjoy it.
We got the train down there. This meant I did a lot of walking before the race: Down to the train station, and then from the Portsmouth station to the starting area. I think I did around 30,000 steps during the day in total. Suffice to say, I was warmed up before the race started.
We got there in good time, and thanks to Gary from the club, we had Club Zone bands which gave us our own little semi-VIP area! Own toilets, a hut for changing and security. That was pretty cool, and not something I have had on previous occasions. Nice one, Gary!
Thankful for the nice weather, I slipped into the Orange wave starting zone, and was somewhere towards the back. It was not long before the race started, but I reckon about 5 minutes before I got to cross the Start line.
I had set my watch to pace for my 2016 time of 1:17. By the time I had got to the end of the seafront, it was already showing I was 15 seconds or so ahead of that pace. Obviously this was very early on, and I just decided to keep going steady. I was still enjoying it, although having to weave around a lot of people due to starting so far back – my fault!
As the race progressed, I was clearly putting more time into the bank. The ‘ahead of pace’ display clocked up to 30 seconds, then a minute, and by about the six mile mark had stabilised at 1:30. Now, as mentioned above, the six mile mark is around when I start to get bored on this race, and also my legs were starting to complaining a little bit as I edged towards seven miles.
However, I knew that being this far ahead put me in line for a PB… so I could be lazy and slow down (and still get last year’s time…) or sustain my current pace and PB it!
I kept going.
It did feel like a slog, for sure, especially as the 6-8 mile part of this race felt really tedious. However, it was then the turn back onto the seafront and time to get home! It’s at this point I realise I was now somehow 2 minutes ahead of pace, so no idea how that has suddenly happened!
However, this was tempered by the fact that my watch thought I was 150m further into the race than reality: It was always flashing up progress for each km before I hit the markers. This meant I had to be really careful not to be complacent.
This proved to be accurate. As my watch beeped to congratulate me on completing the 10 miles, the Finish line was still 150 tantalising metres away. I put in a sprint (in reality, ‘I ran slightly faster’) to get over the line.
1:15:24. Compared to my PB of 1:16:06.
I was really happy with that. In no way was I expecting a PB, but everything aligned on the day:
I had been doing a decent amount of speed and hill training, and this course is very flat! (So the lack of pure distance training didn’t hinder me too much).
I did a good amount of warming up before the race.
Great conditions! Wind was down — otherwise, the final couple of miles can be a real killer.
Despite the gloomy nature of yesterday’s post, things were not so bad after all in my usual Monday weigh-in. I say ‘usual’, but that’s stretching it a bit considering I have been neglecting doing it for a while! Insert the usual work / routine / children / lame excuses here, of course…
Weight change: + 1.2 kg (Remaining: 3 kg) Training: Speed training (6 x 400m), Easy cycling 10k, Tempo 12k, Buggy parkrun 5k Total Training Distance: 25 km running, 10k cycling
Just an increase of 1.2 kg after all that! Not bad considering this is after a return from holiday as well (including an obligatory blow-out at an American-themed diner, oops). At the end of the day, this leaves me with 3 kg to lose. The overall trend is very much downwards.
This was relatively low key due to being away. The speed training was cut short due to hungry children – good to blow out the cobwebs though! Plenty of walking and gentle cycling during the week, and one tempo run to explore the local forest.
My current thoughts on training:
I need to do another 5k benchmark soon. I’m hovering at around 21:45 on my local parkrun but that is somewhat undulating. Can I hit 21 minutes on a flat course, or the track?
I need to include more low intensity work so that the balance is right.
I’m thinking ahead a bit to the upcoming Great South Run (10 miles) – what should I be doing for that?
The upcoming week is really about maintaining focus now that I’m back on the fitness wagon.
If I’m honest, I can trace where things went a bit awry: the refereeing came back into play. The intensity of the games can mean it is far too easy to eat excessively afterwards, and that’s not a good habit to be in!
With two games this week (albeit one as 4th official…), this week is a good opportunity to kick that one into touch.
My last blog post was right at the end of August, which is a good indication of how I have been neglecting this recently. So what’s going on?
While I have been keeping up the training pretty well (including weekly speed training and the ongoing football refereeing season), my discipline has not been so great in terms of diet.
I’ll do the usual official weigh-in tomorrow, but I’m hovering just under 80 kg at the moment. That’s a gain of 2 kg since August. OK, hardly horrific (given I’m still very much lower than my starting weight…) but the whole idea is to get down to 75 kg to support my goals!
What else has been happening?
I’ve now done my Leadership in Running Fitness (LIRF) course via England Athletics. I’m pending the formal qualification coming through now, and am looking forward to helping out with my local running club. This will mainly be track speed sessions. It’s been a really interesting course to do, especially the parts on structuring sessions in the right way.
After quite a few years, I’ve upgraded my running watch to the Fenix 6. I’m very happy with it so far. It’s helped shine a bit of a light on my training generally being too high-intensity focused – i.e. not enough easy runs or equivalent exercise. Ideally, this should be better balanced. More on that to come!
Finally, I joined a gym. This is really to support the last point and give myself options for easier forms of exercise when in recovery. For example: Stationary bike or cross-trainer. I should really factor in some weight training as well — when I’ve had a full-on induction I’ll post more on this topic!
In conclusion, I’ve slipped a bit, but overall the improvements are still there. I’m lower than my starting weight. My 5k times are still good. However, both of these would have been even better had I remained disciplined throughout.
I’ll keep going!
Speed training: 200m repeats and we steal your recovery time AGAIN
It seems that speed training sessions with evil decreasing recovery periods are like buses. You wait for a while, and then two come at once…
Following on from last week’s recovery time stealer, it was a similar protocol at Waverley Harriers this time. As I did not have a mid-week appointment in the world of refereeing, I was able to go to the actual session (thanks Gary!) and take part. It was a strong turnout of around thirty other runners.
This one was really interesting as the session was dynamic, with the recovery period changing over time.
The 25 minute session started like this:
Run 200m FAST.
However, over time a yellow cone was moved round the track, splitting the 200m recovery zone into walk / jog areas. Initially, mostly walking (e.g. 190m) but by the end of the session, you were having to jog pretty much all of it.
Now, this sort of training is right up my street, due to it matching the ebb and flow of football matches when refereeing (bursts of activity followed by calm). It was still a strong effort to keep up the fast runs by the end of the 25 minutes.
Let’s take a look at the ‘fast’ split times:
You can see how the reduction in recovery took its toll….
One of the more enjoyable and challenging speed sessions I’ve done, for sure. Not only that, I set a 200m PB (according to Strava) in the process!
parkrun is a wonderful institution. Runners can run it. Walkers can walk it. Dogs can come along for the fun. Children can participate. And, for those children that still need to be in a buggy to get round the 5k course, they get to enjoy it too!
parkrun etiquette with a buggy is to start at the back, which I always do, and then the challenge is to see how many people I can overtake!
In the early days, at Guildford parkrun, I was hitting times of about 28 minutes. Just taking it easy and not really pushing it. Guildford is also an undulating course, with a fair amount of grass, which can be really punishing if there has been a lot of rain and it has become muddy. If it turns into the wrong sort of mud (claggy) it starts jamming up the front wheel of the Nipper Sport, and increases the effort required to keep moving!
About a year later, also at Guildford, I set a PB of 24:08. Considering the todder had obviously grown in size over this time, I was very happy with that!
Then, not much progress. A combination of tending to take it easier with the buggy (recovery run-style) and losing some fitness.
With the recent return to working on fitness again, this has given potential to the buggy running again. However, offset by two factors:
Continued toddler growing in size.
A new addition to the family!
Yes, with the baby on the scene, we needed to pick up the Nipper Sport Double! I thought this would be a unwieldy prior to getting it, but it is surprisingly agile and it never really feels much different to the Single when I am running with it. It also feels a little bit more planted.
As with the toddler, we needed to wait until the six months point until it was safe for the baby to join in. Then, the first couple of runs were very tentative to ensure both children remained safe and happy throughout.
We visited Brooklands parkrun at the weekend. This is pretty flat, and handily for buggy running, has a significant straight down a disused runway which allows for overtaking (This is naturally difficult with the buggy when narrow paths are involved). As a result, it was engage the afterburners time!
It’s wonderful to be able to keep enjoying parkrun with the two children involved. I’ll enjoy it while it lasts: We are in a bit of a sweet spot with their enjoyment of it, I’m sure. Perhaps Junior parkrun after that?
Speed training: 6 x 3 minutes – and we steal your recovery time…
Typically, the amount of recovery time you have during a speed training session is fixed between reps. Not the case for this particularly evil protocol (thanks Waverley Harriers!)
Due to my midweek game, I did not get the chance to go along to my running club to do the session with everyone else. I picked up the details from Strava, and did it on Thursday lunchtime instead.
It’s very simple:
6 x 3 minute runs (‘fast’ pace, e.g. target 5k)
Recovery varies each time:
After 1st rep: 02:30
After 2nd rep: 02:00
After 3rd rep: 01:30
After 4th rep: 01:00
After 5th rep: 00:30 (!)
For me, 3 minutes is roughly 800m (2 laps) so I set myself the target of doing that for each rep. As the rest periods shortened, this obviously got a lot harder to achieve!
Here’s how my distance and pacing worked out (Remember that 4:00 km/h is the target pace for me to hit a 20 minute 5k).
800m (3:44 km/h)
830m (3:37 km/h)
790m (3:48 km/h)
760m (3:56 km/h)
720m (4:09 km/h)
730m (4:05 km/h)
The collapse is pretty obvious! I also felt a little tired right from the beginning (not ideal sleep this week!). I shook this out of my legs for the 2nd rep, but I couldn’t win against the rest periods decreasing. NOT THIS TIME anyway.
Definitely a challenging session, although I would class it as more of a speed endurance one. Certainly one for strengthening the mind and keeping pushing on as well…
With the sickness bug from last week banished, the week started strongly with a really good bit of refereeing. However, annual leave and family visiting over the second half of the week meant this was more of a ‘holding pattern’ week.
Weight change: * NOT RECORDED * Training: Refereeing 10k, Recovery 5k, parkrun 5k, Refereeing 10k Total Training Distance: 29.3 km
Due to this being a bit of a holding week, I didn’t record my weight on the Monday. I know, two ‘dead’ weeks in a row! This wasn’t helped by my Withings scales falling off my wireless network at home (I upgraded the set-up here due to the woeful wireless performance of the plus.net router). That’s all resolved now though.
So, although no progress on continued weight loss, some cursory checks during the week show that I haven’t put it back on again either!
I had two games this week. When refereeing, I will typically knock out around 10k in distance. This will be a combination of running speeds, including quite a lot of direction changes and stop/start.
This means recovery takes longer than your average bit of running about, and I am still working on getting that balance right. I’ve certainly felt signs of over-training in previous weeks due to this, so having the family over and a bit of a break was welcome.
The positive takeaway I am having in the games is that in terms of fitness, the games are not testing me. My heart rate is always lower than in any of my training sessions. Of course, this is nothing to be complacent over, and I will keep up the training throughout the season — I just need to consider the recovery aspects more.
As a result of all of the above, there was no dedicated speed training session during the week. This was deliberate. With two games featuring, it was going to be a big ask to shoehorn that in and for it to be worthwhile (i.e. no point during a speed training session if absolutely broken!)
However, I did record my fastest time at my local parkrun this year (21:45). It’s not the flattest parkrun in the world, so I was happy with that!
‘Just the one’ game this week, so my intention for this week is for it to be a strong training week. This should entail:
Tempo run (including hills in it)
The game itself
parkrun (with the running buggy)
Oh, and I should actually weight myself at the end of it this time…