Week 8 Review: Officially Fit

Week 8 Review: Officially Fit

I’m happy with a good week that ended with me successfully passing my refereeing fitness test for another season.

Weight change: LOST 0.8 kg (Remaining: 4.3 kg)
Training: Tempo 11k, Speed Training, Recovery 5k, Tempo 8.5k, parkrun 5k, Fitness Test
Total Training Distance: 40.1 km

Weight loss

Down, down, down, down….

Training

This was a varied week that ticked the boxes that I am aiming for at the moment. These are:

  • Feature hills as standard where possible (so I don’t get lazy on the flat)
  • Ensure easy / recovery days (Don’t just do Tempo pace all the time)
  • Include a Speed Training session (Hill Training also suitable)

I also had my ‘eye on the prize’ of my refereeing fitness test that was scheduled for the Sunday. It was important I didn’t destroy myself during the week, as failing to take the test for whatever reason would mean I would not be given any appointments in August.

I put in several Tempo runs, with appropriate recovery runs on ‘off’ days, and also a decent speed training session. My intention on the Saturday was always to run a really easy 5k (maybe around 25 minute pace or slower), but the stars aligned and my ‘run at a constant pace’ turned into running 21:48. Oops.

The ‘taking it easy’ parkrun. Oops.

What was interesting is that I didn’t feel particularly destroyed after that, and was fresh for the fitness test the next day, which I passed comfortably. Again, I felt strong both during and afterwards. This is another good sign that my fitness is coming back and a great baseline for me to build on!

What’s next?

I have my first pre-season game on Saturday, which will be a good test of match fitness (which is different from general running fitness!). I’m really looking forward to that.

I need to keep up the variety of training (keeping hills featuring as standard where possible) including weekly speed training. That may be a bit challenging in the next week due to a trip abroad, but I will do my best!

Fitness Test: All Good for the New Season!

Fitness Test: All Good for the New Season!

As soon as you start refereeing semi-professional football, or higher, in England there is a compulsory fitness test. I’ve been doing this ever since having to do a version to qualify for the promotion scheme, and despite over five years of them now, the nerves never go away.

The bulk of the test is a rendition of the Cooper Test. It’s very simple to do:

  • Stick a load of people on the track.
  • Get them to run for 12 minutes (must be a continuous run; no breaks)
  • Decide if the distance travelled is a pass or a fail!

For my level of refereeing (‘Level 3’, or ‘Contributory League Referee‘), the minimum distance is 2700 metres.

Leading up to this, I had been very happy with my training. As this blog attests to, I have been losing weight, training more regularly and bashing out the speed sessions. In my most recent race, I hit the pass distance after 12 minutes, and then kept running for another 12!

The day before, I ran my local parkrun. Although I had been intending to make this nice and easy, on the day I decided to run a decent controlled pace. This controlled pace resulted in a sub-22 minute time, which also equated to a pass for the Cooper Test. Perhaps not the wisest decision considering the fitness test the next day, but I felt strong at the time, and not wrecked afterwards!

parkrun POWER!

Test Day!

The weather was a little awry on the morning of the test. It started off with rain, then was pretty mild (ideal!) and then the sun started peeking through at different points. Boo!

It was good to catch up with my fellow officials (including an usher from my wedding!) — it was a good turnout.

I set my Garmin for a Target of 2800 metres in 12 minutes. This is one reason I love the watch: It lets you set targets like this, and it will tell you throughout how far ahead or behind you are in order to hit your goal.

As is typical with a lot of my running, I went off pretty fast and slowed down as the test progressed. The Cooper Test is a weird one as it is more of a test of mental strength than anything else, in my opinion. My thought process was like this:

  • Here we go!
  • Hmm, this feels a bit fast.
  • *glances at pace on watch* Ooh, yes, that is a bit fast.
  • OK, settle into a rhythm, this feels good.
  • Have we only done one lap?!!!
  • There’s six of these?!
  • Yay, six minutes — half done!
  • *Hearing breathing behind me* Right, determined not to let anyone overtake now.

… and so on!

I hit an official distance of 3000 metres, which was the same as last year. That was great from my viewpoint, as even a few weeks ago I was not confident I was going to do that at all. That said, within the last week everything just seems to be taken a jump forward in terms of fitness. I’ll take it!

What now?

RUN FASTER!

I have a few games lined up for my pre-season, as general running fitness is one thing: Match fitness is another. It will be purely ‘in the middle’ refereeing for me now too, as I had to choose a pathway for this coming season, and elected to drop waving a flag as an Assistant Referee.

Other than that, there is still some weight to lose, and I want to get faster! After all, this blog is all about getting that elusive (for me) sub-20 minute 5k, and I’m not there yet!

Staple Speed: 4 x 1200m

Staple Speed: 4 x 1200m

Tuesday night is speed training night with the wonderful folks of Waverley Harriers! This time around it was very much a staple workout in the form of four 1200m repeats.

Runner’s World has a good summary regarding this distance:

Even if you have no intention of ever racing a mile, repeat 1200s offer some unique training benefits. Like mile repeats, 1200s are long enough to push you above lactate threshold and near your VO2 max, which improves your ability to buffer lactic acid and increases your aerobic capacity. But because you can run 1200s at a slightly faster pace than miles, you get even closer to VO2 max and reap even more cardiovascular gains. 

https://www.runnersworld.com/training/a20788303/try-some-1200s/

The protocol was:

  • 4 x 1200m
  • 90 second rest between each repeat

Nice and simple!

Given my trend to go off too fast and suffer later on, I deliberately worked on pacing myself better. Given my target pace was ‘fast 5k’ I stuck to that rather than ‘go even faster 5k’ !

Splits ended up as follows:

  1. 4:56
  2. 4:53
  3. 4:55
  4. 5:05

So, nearly achieved the consistency I was after.

Overall, it felt like a strong workout, which is just as well, considering it is my last speed session before my refereeing fitness test on Sunday!

Week 7 Review: Onwards and Downwards

Week 7 Review: Onwards and Downwards

Another good week! The weight continues to come off, and the fitness is notably improving. I am feeling generally stronger when out running now. Another way I would put it is ‘less wobbly’ !

Weight change: LOST 0.8 kg (Remaining: 4.3 kg)
Training: Tempo 11k, Recovery 5.45k, Race 5.6k, Recovery 5.6k, Speed Training, Walking parkrun 5k
Total Training Distance: 39.7 km

Weight loss

In a phrase: Steady as she goes…

Training

I got a decent amount of training in the bag this week, alternating ‘hard’ sessions with Recovery runs between them. It has been pretty warm out there as well which has added its own challenging dimension to some of the training.

With the recovery runs, I’m now ensuring hills feature wherever possible. Not in a major way, of course, as they are meant to be easy runs. Instead, it’s a way to keep my body ‘hill aware’ as it is way too easy for me to slip into the habit of going out for a flat runs.

Team StepStone UK at the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge

I have covered the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge in an earlier post. I was happy to hit both sub-22 minute 5k pace and a ‘pass’ pace for my upcoming football refereeing fitness test ‘in situ’. I could really feel the benefit of the recent speed training and hills in recent weeks — the flat course of Battersea Park, complete with lots of shade from the trees, made it very fast!

I moved my speed training session to later in the week to accommodate the race. This week it was:

  • 4 x 400m
  • 4 x 200m
  • 4 x 400m
  • Rest periods: 1 minute between reps. 2 minutes between sets.

Unlike some previous sessions, I was able to maintain my pace (‘Fast 5k’) throughout.

What’s next?

This week the main focus is my refereeing fitness test, which will be on Sunday. The key element is the Cooper Test, run on the track. For my level, the requirement is 2700m in 12 minutes. I’m confident of hitting this. My PB is 3000m, set last year. I’m less sure whether I will hit that this year, and will make a decision on the day whether to go for it based on the temperature.

Cooper Test statistics

I will still mix in the usual runs where possible. However, Saturday’s parkrun will definitely be gentle!

J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge: Flying round Battersea Park

J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge: Flying round Battersea Park

I was happy that my employer put together a team for the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge this year. This is a 3.5 mile / 5.6 km that has been going for many years, and now has thirteen events across seven different countries. For us, it was going to be Battersea Park in London.

I entered a while back, putting my finishing time at an optimistic 21 minutes. That was an error, as I thought it was a straight 5k race, rather than the 5.6 km reality! Oops. As a result, I was a bit nervous when this resulted in me being placed in the Red Wave, who would be heading off first.

No! Not the RED WAVE!

To put that into context, the winners are typically beasting out times of seventeen and a half minutes to do the whole distance.

Based on recent performances, I set a personal goal of getting round in 24:30. I based that on a 22 minute 5k (my next milestone) and an appropriate amount added on for the remaining 600 metres. I was also determined not to disgrace myself given that I felt I was in the ‘wrong’ wave.

Team StepStone UK!

We all met up and got the train over to the event. It became very apparent just how popular this event was (over SIXTEEN THOUSAND runners each night!).

These were the crowds for just the baggage areas

The organisation was excellent though. Although there were so many people around, it never felt too crowded and there were plenty of Events Staff on-hand to help point us in the right direction.

It was soon time to line up in the starting pens. I went all the way to the back of the Red pen, and could see all the other Waves stretching out behind me.

The PROPER FAST runners ahead of me
Many, many runners behind me

Then we were off, via a staggered start.

The course was very fast and flat. Perhaps due to the more undulating training that I have been doing recently, this had the weird effect where it felt like I was going downhill most of the time. I am happy that I managed to hold my own in the Red wave, keeping a strong pace and lots of overtaking.

I came in with an official time of 24:40. That is a bit slower than I was hoping (remember my goal was 24:30) but my GPS reported I ran an extra 40 metres, so I’ll take it!

NOT LAST IN THE WAVE!

The important bits to remember with this time:

  1. Strava reports that I ran the first 5k in 21:58, thus successfully hitting my ‘Run 5k in 22 minutes milestone’.
  2. I ran the first 2.7k in 11:32. My upcoming refereeing fitness test requires me to run 2.7k in 12 minutes, so this race has served as a good practice run.

And, of course, I kept running after hitting both of the above targets.

A really enjoyable and successful race in a beautiful environment. Now I just need to plan the next one!

Time to cool off?
Week 6 Review: Stay On Target

Week 6 Review: Stay On Target

Following on from last week’s blip, I am happy to report that this week has gone pretty well, even if I ended it with a bit of a disappointing parkrun performance.

Weight change: LOST 1.4 kg (Remaining: 5.1 kg)
Training: Easy 5.5 km, Speed Training, Easy 10k, Tempo 11k, parkrun 5k
Total Training Distance: 39.1 km

Weight loss

A week away on holiday, plus some fluctuation, led to an increase in weight last week. This graph tells the story, plotting just the Monday results where they are available:

Spot the holiday!

Thankfully, the line is moving in the right direction again!

Training

A decent amount of training this week.

The big plus was setting new PBs at the speed training session, although it was also indicative that I was going waaaaaay too fast at the beginning of the session.

And that segues nicely to the negative: My pacing is still awry overall. It hasn’t helped that when I went to do sessions to concentrate on just this aspect (going nice and easy!) I was either suffering a little from overtraining effects (Wednesday), or it was horrifically humid (Friday).

I am working hills in more now as a general routine which should help with stamina overall.

I’ll be covering the overtraining aspect in a separate posting later this week.

My Garmin 735xt‘s strap decided to protest as well, so has been replaced…

Oh snap.

parkrun Time Trial!

OK, OK, parkrun is not a race but it is a great opportunity to assess 5k performance. I got to run sans-running buggy at the weekend. How did it go?

Well, it was perishingly hot, and I failed at pacing again. I recorded a disappointing 22:37. I won’t be too disheartened at that due to the conditions, but it still feels like there is an awful lot of work for me to be doing!

The Week Ahead….

Representing!

I’m racing in the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge this week, so a focus of my training has to be to stay fresh for that. This will mean shifting things around a bit, as I can’t really do a full-on speed training session the night before!

There is also the opportunity for me to do an updated Time Trial with my running club (done monthly over the lighter part of the year) — that one I will play by ear depending on how I feel post-race.

Onwards!

Achievement Unlocked: 80 kg

Achievement Unlocked: 80 kg

The scales were kind this morning, with my weigh-in hitting 80 kg exactly — one of my Achievements along the road towards hitting a sub-twenty 5k.

I weigh myself every morning as part of keeping the focus, although I stick to Monday mornings being the ‘weekly update’ day.

It’s steady progress. I hit 82.5 kg back on 29th May, so essentially 2.5 kg in a month (including a week’s holiday in that time).

My target weight is 75 kg. I’ve hit that weight before and it has been a good one for me. After that…. I’m not sure yet!

Strategy remains a fixed 2000 kcal per day, with any exercise calories earned eaten back. That’s always a good incentive to get out running: 10k works out to be around 800 kcal…. Enough for a pizza 😉

10k run = one of these!

Speed training: 1000m repeats and new PBs!

Speed training: 1000m repeats and new PBs!

My weekly speed training session was courtesy of the lovely Waverley Harriers. There was a strong turnout on a lovely Tuesday evening, and I am very pleased with how the session went.

Following a warm-up, the protocol was:

  • 5 x 1000m
  • 2 minute rest period between each run

This meant shorter runs with a shorter rest period compared to the previous week’s 1200m session.

Interestingly, most people seemed to cut the rest periods short, starting the next interval once they had completed walking to the start point again. I was taking the line of sticking to the protocol pretty rigorously, as I feel it is the best fit for my ‘get faster at 5k’ goal.

It was good to see first-timer Monica visiting us from the local FitStuff running group, with her goal being to get faster at parkrun. The more the merrier!

I felt strong during this session, and clearly went off waaaaaay too fast, as my splits show:

  • Split 1: 3:28 km/h
  • Split 2: 3:43 km/h
  • Split 3: 3:54 km/h
  • Split 4: 4:07 km/h
  • Split 5: 3:55 km/h

Ideally, each split should be run at a consistent pace, and this did not happen. You can also see where I deliberately dialled it back on Split 4 to save energy for the end.

That said, I felt strong, and I set new half mile and 1 km PBs during that first split! That’s a great feeling.

BOOM!

Plenty of work still to do, especially around pacing, but my confidence on getting my 5k times down has certainly grown.

Week 5 Review: Blip on a Break

Week 5 Review: Blip on a Break

A ‘blip’ of a week in terms of the weight, although expected due to being on holiday. However, consistent training continues…

Weight change: GAIN 0.9 kg (Remaining: 6.5 kg)
Training: Tempo 10k, Speed Training, Exploring 5.5k, Walking parkrun 5k, Buggy Run 7k
Total Training Distance: 33.9 km

Weight loss

I have been away for a week on holiday with the family. This has meant not eating particularly well, although not particularly excessively all the time! My honest opinion is that some of that 0.9 kg gain is also fluctuation / temporary and that it is going to be come down again pretty sharpish.

I have been ‘back on the wagon’ since Sunday and so the right habits are back in play.

Training

While the diet might not have been great, I did manage to keep up the training.

It was great to get in some speed training at a local track, and to explore the other running routes on offer.

In terms of ‘running feel’, I do feel that my running form is returning, and that was particularly evident in the track session and also when out on a buggy run session last night. My overall speed seems to be picking up and my movement feels more fluid.

In terms of the coming week, the speed training will continue to be essential, backing it up with getting the miles in. It’s really important to keep things balanced so that I am improving performance without breaking myself!

Conclusion

I am disappointed in myself in the weight gain, even with the ‘I was on holiday!’ excuse. I’m confident it will come down again though.

This coming week is about ensuring I am properly back on track, and building up the training so that I can start thinking about a 5k time trial to assess my progress. Whether that is at a parkrun or just done solo I’m not sure yet…

parkrun at Lanhydrock, the Clay Trail and the beautiful coast of Cornwall

parkrun at Lanhydrock, the Clay Trail and the beautiful coast of Cornwall

A family holiday in Cornwall gave the perfect opportunity to check out some of the local places to get running!

Naturally, parkrun needed to feature, by way of a visit to National Trust property Lanhydrock. It was a beautiful day and the grounds there are stunning. Although I have now done 38 unique parkrun events, this is the first one where cows have been present at the briefing!

Cows moo-ving in
Cows marking the back of the running field…

It was my turn to walk this one (toddler in running buggy, baby in carrier!), and even that was a challenge given the elevation on offer. According to the unofficial stats over at parkrun Elevation Rankings UK, Lanhydrock is the 2nd most challenging out of 519 events! The particularly punishing uphills are near the end, although there is a beautiful descent right before the finish. It is also a one lap course which is how I prefer things, and the scenery throughout is excellent, featuring open views, forest views, running water, bridges and more.

It took me 50:36 to walk round. I can do my ‘standard parkrun’ in about 40 minutes with the same child load!

Bugle and the Clay Trails

As well as some speed training during the week I wanted to do some ‘normal’ running as well. Research revealed the Clay Trails. The most local one for me was the Eden Project / Bugle route, so I did that one, albeit starting at Bugle.

Clay Trail: Starting at Bugle

Running to the Eden Project and back again added up to just over 10 km. The route was a little weird though. Only about half of it was actually what I would call a trail run. The other half directed me onto roads which you stayed on until hooking up with the next bit of the real bit of trail. Somewhat bizarre. The local roads are quiet but also do not have the best visibility so I did feel a bit exposed at times.

The lake that is mentioned (‘Great view of the lake!’) is a little over-egged, as it was surrounded by heavy amounts of metal fencing, which made it feel more like a military installation than a tourist attraction. There were some other natural views though:

Why the long face?

The coast at Perranporth

Finally, to the beach! Perranporth was perfect for this (very family friendly) with the added bonus of coastal trails being readily available.

Family commitments meant I could only fit in just over 5 km, but the terrain made this great fun and the views were outstanding:

Straight out of one of those old Dr Who episodes that always seemed to be set in quarries?
Getting as high as possible…

This was heading along the south west path. Very well sign-posted, with the option of going slightly ‘off piste’ for variation or extra challenge.

Overall, I’m happy that I did a variety of activities during the week to explore as well as enjoying the holiday. The coastal running has inspired me to try and find similar beautiful and challenging routes nearer to home. I’m pretty sure the Surrey Hills have all sorts of options here – I just need to get familiar with them!