Great South Run 2019: A new Personal Best!

Great South Run 2019: A new Personal Best!

“How did that happen?” – Me, post-race.

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!

Great South Run times to date

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.

Mile 6 = BOREDOM MODE

I needed a break. So I took two years off and didn’t really miss taking part.

Hello 2019!

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.

Waverley Harriers – ON A TRAIN!

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!

Crowds slowly building up… Note: Nice weather!

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.

The Aftermath

I was really happy with that. In no way was I expecting a PB, but everything aligned on the day:

  1. 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).
  2. I did a good amount of warming up before the race.
  3. Great conditions! Wind was down — otherwise, the final couple of miles can be a real killer.
  4. Post-race, even more walking, so no evil DOMS.

Lots of success from the rest of the club as well, which was really pleasing to see. Pub lunch afterwards very well earned by all!

Now I just need to decide whether to go for it again next year… and perhaps really train for it, to see if I can throw another PB on top of this one… Decisions, decisions?

As a post-script, the really impressive achievement from the race were these guys:

OPERATION PULLED PORK

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/opp

‘Operation Pulled Pork’ – They pulled a Police Car round the entire course ! They were successful and the above link is their Fundraising page. Help them out!

Week 14 Review: Not That Bad

Week 14 Review: Not That Bad

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

Weight loss

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.

Training

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:

  1. 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?
  2. I need to include more low intensity work so that the balance is right.
  3. I’m thinking ahead a bit to the upcoming Great South Run (10 miles) – what should I be doing for that?

What’s next?

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.

Where’s all the updates at?

Where’s all the updates at?

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.

Shiny!

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!

IT’S A GYM!

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

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.
  • Walk 200m.
  • Repeat!

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.

NEED MORE RECOVERY TIME!

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:

  1. 0:35
  2. 0:33
  3. 0:34
  4. 0:36
  5. 0:35
  6. 0:38
  7. 0:37
  8. 0:38
  9. 0:40
  10. 0:40
  11. 0:43
  12. 0:41

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!

Running for three and a new PB at parkrun

Running for three and a new PB at parkrun

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!

We started pushing our toddler round as soon as he hit six months, which is the typical minimum age (principally to ensure enough neck muscle strength). We’ve been extremely happy with the Out’n’About Nipper Sport which is light, agile and easy to transport. It has proper tyres on it too, which I ‘slimed’ early on to avoid any puncture drama.

BE PREPARED!

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:

  1. Continued toddler growing in size.
  2. A new addition to the family!
Role reversal!

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!

This resulted in a Buggy PB of 23:37 – 30 seconds faster than my previous best. It was a day for success, with fellow blogger Julie hitting a parkrun target and my wife recording her fastest run since the birth of child #2 !

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…

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).

  1. 800m (3:44 km/h)
  2. 830m (3:37 km/h)
  3. 790m (3:48 km/h)
  4. 760m (3:56 km/h)
  5. 720m (4:09 km/h)
  6. 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…

Week 13 Review: Unlucky for Scales

Week 13 Review: Unlucky for Scales

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

Weight loss

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.

Deco M5 – lovely wireless!

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!

Training

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.

First game of the week!

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!

Thanks, parkrun!

What’s next?

‘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
  • Speed training
  • parkrun (with the running buggy)
  • Appropriate recovery!

Oh, and I should actually weight myself at the end of it this time…

Week 12 Review: In Health and Sickness

Week 12 Review: In Health and Sickness

A strong cross-country race performance set the tone for this week, and that was backed up with some speed training as well. However, I didn’t back this up with appropriate easy / recovery runs, and then also got hit with a stomach bug at the end of the week. That has knocked things out of kilter!

Weight change: * NOT RECORDED *
Training: Tempo 10k (Flat), XC Race, Speed training (10 x 400m), Refereeing 10k
Total Training Distance: 32.5 km

Weight loss

I am taking a sabbatical on this one for the week! The sickness bug hit me Saturday evening, so my focus was on getting better and well-rested again. I was not totally in the right frame of mine to be tracking weight 🙂

Training

The sickness bug only impacted Sunday in terms of training (I wasn’t going to go running, even if a recovery run would have been routine).

Despite this, I am a little disappointed in myself in that my training volume dropped from my recent 40 km+ levels. Primarily down to not getting the recovery / easy runs in on days following harder training. While some things have got in the way, it’s still my responsibility and essentially I should do better.

On the positive side, the cross-country race was great fun, and I have already written up how it showed my training is resulting in significant improvements.

Track Time!

The race was backed up with a preceding tempo run (Deliberately kept flat on this occasion, as the cross-country would provide the hills!), and also a standard 10 x 400m speed training session.

The healthy part of the week ended with some refereeing. A typical distance in a game is about 10k. This one was a little lower due to the nature and tempo of the game, and my fitness was not tested. However, the 90 minutes or so of running about and the twists and turns required certainly mean I need decent recovery afterwards.

What’s next?

The beginning of the week is all about recovery and ensuring fitness ahead of a game on the Tuesday night.

After that, it should be training (and diet!) as usual, leading up to another game on the Saturday.

Having two games which are likely to be high intensity means I will prioritise recovery days over speed / hill training this week.

Let’s get it done!

Cross Country: 58 days of training later…

Cross Country: 58 days of training later…

I took part in the MABAC Wimbledon Common cross-country race this week. It was a perfect opportunity to assess how my fitness has improved over the 58 days since the last MABAC event (which was near the start of this blog kicking off).

Cross-country races are great fun and each course has its own challenges. This was my first time doing the Wimbledon course, although I checked it out on Strava beforehand: Straight out, two loops round the woods, then back again. Oh, and with a hill climb in the woods, but ‘nothing too bad’ according to those I spoke to within Waverley Harriers.

Harriers….ASSEMBLE!

I felt strong in this race, although I really worked hard from the second loop onwards. I was determined not to end up walking up the hill (which 58 days ago, I can pretty much guarantee would have happened) and then I was determined not to lose my placing all the way back to the finish. It was evident as I re-entered the large field near the start that there was a large group of runners right behind me, so it was ‘engage afterburners’ at that point and I somehow (SOMEHOW) had a sprint finish right at the end.

Performance analysis

OK, so I felt strong, but how did it rack up in comparison to the last race?

I ran at a pace of 4:33/km, compared to the previous pace of 4:55/km. So, a clear 20 seconds faster per km overall. In addition to that, my heart was less stressed: a Heart Rate Stress Score of 46 – last time, 57. In summary: I ran faster with my body not having to struggle as much as it did when running more slowly 58 days previously.

This is a good confidence booster going forward!

Wombles absent.

However, much as my recent hill training has helped, I still feel that hills are a weak point for me. In this race, I’d typically see people pull ahead on the hill, only for me to catch them on the downhill afterwards. I want to work on this more. Historically, this has been due to my training routes being flat, so I am needing to make a conscious effort to get climbing!

One thing is for sure: I’m looking forward to the next race!

My Race to 1000 Miles

My Race to 1000 Miles

For the last few years, I’ve set myself a target to run 1000 miles each year. I’ve succeeded each time but this year has been a little more challenging…

I generated the above graph by bulk downloading all of my data from Strava and plugging it into Excel. This was partly made easy in that Strava give you a single CSV file with a summary of all your activities, but some fiddling is needed to cope with the date format they use and to plot the ‘ideal target’ line.

(If anyone is interested in the exact method I used, then give me a shout and I’ll write it up!)

You can spot the exact moment that the baby arrived! However, I was definitely lazy in getting back to regular training, and even when I did the effort put in was clearly not enough.

This blog started at the tail-end of May. Now that I’m putting a much better shift in, my progress is picking up speed and I am on target to be aligned again in October.

Training volume is really important in any plan. However, I need to balance this with avoiding injury, plus ensuring it is the right sort of training to both hit my 5k goal and deliver the performances required when refereeing.