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.

Week 11 Review: Slim Fit

Week 11 Review: Slim Fit

I’m back to losing weight again, and pulled in a PB on my main London tempo route – boom!

Weight change: LOST 0.4 kg (Remaining: 2.9 kg)
Training: Tempo 8.5k, Tempo 10k, Speed training, Buggy 6.5k, Buggy parkrun 5k, Referee 10k
Total Training Distance: 45.2 km

Weight loss

Phew – it’s actually coming off again, after getting a bit stuck last week.

That said, it’s worthwhile that I mention that in the day prior to weigh-in day, my weight was 76.8 kg! Damn that fluctuation. Never mind – this will hopefully carry on to the next weigh-in and help things look even better!

A nice aside to mention: I’m having to change out t-shirts now for ‘slim fit’ ones, as the regular sized medium t-shirts are starting to look a bit sack-like. This is a good problem to be having.

Training

The training volume, in terms of mileage, was pretty much the same as last week.

The main plus point was that I felt ‘on fire’ during my London tempo run, pulling in a PB, feeling strong throughout the 10k. I was very happy with that! It is feeling really good to be back at the fitness levels I have had previously. When I first started this blog, my body was by default trying to run at its ‘fit’ speeds, and it was frustrating that my average pace was comparatively so low. That has now changed for the better.

I followed that up the next day with a 300m-oriented speed training session, but in retrospect this wasn’t really the best idea. Where was the easy session?! Exactly. Hence I couldn’t go as hard as a speed training needs. It was still useful from an endurance perspective, however, but I would not have got the full benefit.

Listening to my body, the next day was a toddler / buggy run (although did feature a big hill…). Saturday featured ‘The Beast’ – the running buggy which takes both the toddler and baby! A very enjoyable run at parkrun in under 27 minutes.

‘Choo choo’ sightseeing on a toddler / running buggy adventure!

I had my final pre-season friendly in terms of refereeing on Saturday. A warm day and the fitness checks out. The intention has always been to train hard so that the games are easy…

What’s next?

I need to structure my training this week around a mid-week cross-country race, and refereeing on Saturday. I can take the race as my hard tempo session.

And edge that bit closer towards my goal weight…

Speed training: Enduring 300 metres

Speed training: Enduring 300 metres

Who needs a whole athletics track when just 300m of it will do? Especially when 300m repeats are good enough for Mo Farah

This week’s speed training protocol, courtesy of Waverley Harriers (although I missed the original session so was doing this as homework!), was as follows:

  • Run 20 minutes of 300m fast / 100m jog recovery
  • 3 x 400m (2 minute recoveries)

This translated to 11 reps for me. As my legs were still a bit heavy from the previous day’s tempo run (a ‘hard’ session), I didn’t want to follow this up immediately with another hard one. I skipped the 3 x 400m stage for this reason as I had that feeling I had done enough. This is my overtraining ‘spider sense’ that I have learned to pay attention to!

Given the relatively short recovery periods, and jogging them rather than just stopping, this was more of an endurance training session. That is adding a bit of variety to my training programme, and also useful for the football refereeing part of my fitness.

300m repeats are a staple of Alberto Salazar, who has coached (among many others) Mo Farah, so definitely worth a look!

Week 10 Review: A Mixed Bag

Week 10 Review: A Mixed Bag

Some good training results from the week, including a 21:16 parkrun! Sadly, I can’t report as positively on the continued weight loss!

Weight change: No change (Remaining: 3.3 kg)
Training: Buggy 7k, Referee 10k, Recovery 5k, Tempo 10k, parkrun 5k, Buggy 7.5k
Total Training Distance: 45.5 km

Weight loss

NONE! Well, at least it hasn’t gone up…

What’s going on? Well, I could claim that the loss of fat is being balanced out by STRONG RUNNING MUSCLES building, but realistically I don’t think I can sell that one.

I know that I had a couple of ‘off’ days in terms of food during the week, and perhaps some degree of plateauing (again!). Hmph.

Too much of this? Cake c/o cafe at California Country Park!

Training

THE GOOD…..

  • Overall volume is up, hitting 45 km.
  • I was refereeing on Tuesday on a large pitch, with one of the teams being from Football League level. This meant a fast paced game and I’m happy that I felt very comfortable in terms of fitness. Especially since it had been such a hot day!
  • One of my local training routes has two large hills in it. This was the first time in a while I’ve got up the second hill during the run without needing to walk any of it.
  • Achieved 21:16 when visiting California Country parkrun. That’s my fastest parkrun this year, and only 20 seconds off my PB. Compare this to me struggling to hit 22:30 when starting up this blog 10 weeks ago.
  • Mixed in recovery runs (being sensible!)

THE BAD…..

  • No speed training session!
Not a bad pitch to referee on…

Reflection is an interesting thing. Before I started typing this up, I was feeling a bit disappointed with last week, but looking back at it, I should be pretty happy overall!

What’s next?

‘Business as usual’ in the most part, although of course I should be being a bit more careful with food.

I have my final pre-season game on Saturday. That’s on the same pitch as before so it will be more good experience. I already feel I’m at the point where my fitness won’t be tested on most games, but that’s the whole point: Train hard to make the games easy! At least in terms of fitness….

Week 9 Review: Pre-Season Begins!

Week 9 Review: Pre-Season Begins!

A special week as this featured my first game of pre-season!

Weight change: LOST 0.3 kg (Remaining: 3.3 kg)
Training: Tempo 7k, Speed training, Steady 10k, Referee 10k
Total Training Distance: 34 km

Weight loss

A slower week for weight loss, but I was expecting that…

Firstly, I was away with work to Brussels at the beginning of the week. Although I did fairly well with diet for most of that time, a hellish return journey on the train resulted in me eating too much, to be blunt.

Following my first game of pre-season on the Saturday, I demolished ALL the chips in the local are as part of a takeaway, and then a few drinks at a party later on. It all adds up.

However, as the rest of the week was ‘well behaved’, the trend is still downwards!

There is also a bit of plateauing going on, based on the readings I’ve had on subsequent days – i.e. an immediate significant drop! The proof of that will be in next week’s official weigh-in…

Training

I was hoping to get in a session before jumping on the Eurostar to Brussels on the Monday morning, but this didn’t happen!

I managed to put in a mixture of training sessions for the rest of the week, and it was a good balance:

  • Got in a tempo run, including hills.
  • Got in a Speed Training session.
  • Got in a steady / gentle 10k around London.
  • My first pre-season game in terms of refereeing!

I’ve been working a lot on running fitness, but match fitness is a whole different thing. It always takes a while to adjust, and the hot weather had an impact as well. Hence an ice cream was definitely needed afterwards…

Flake devoured as a priority before the photo…

What’s next?

My focus now is to ensure the variety of training mixed in with any more pre-season games as it happens. In addition, watch my diet on match days as it can be easy to slip into eating too much due (e.g. food after the game, and more food when back home!)

Speed Training: Just 5 Minutes

Speed Training: Just 5 Minutes

Last week’s speed training session, again courtesy of Waverley Harriers (albeit I was playing ‘catch up’ later in the week), was time based.

Here’s the simple protocol:

  • 4 x 5 minute reps
  • 2 minutes rest between reps

For pacing, it was the staple ‘Your target 5k pace’. Because of my current sub-20 5k goal, this meant in practice it was pretty much the same session for me as last week’s 4 x 1200m workout.

My legs were still a little heavy from my longer run the previous day, and I wanted to be consistent with each rep, rather than going out too fast then slowing down later. I think I did okay… (these are my km pacings):

  • 4:03
  • 4:03
  • 4:02
  • 4:04
Session done – RING THAT BELL!

For the rest period, I have typically been doing a walking rest. I’m wondering whether I should switch this to a ‘very gentle jog’ rest instead. This is something I need to do a bit of research on!

I’m still feeling good about all the recent training – no suffering afterwards or the next day, which is something that has changed over the last couple of months of being back at it. For now, I want to continue being consistent — especially with the football season about to start, so I will need to mix in about 4 or games each month as well.

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!