2016 over and out

2016 and as per most running years it was a mix of highs and lows.

The lows were the several injuries I’ve had, which led me to wonder if i have become injury prone. But then I realised that I have had 2 ankle sprains, one caused by a treadmill mishap a week before Boston and one picked up just the other week caused by another running mishap with a rock, one calf muscle tear caused by trying to push off on a sloped ridge and one shin splint injury. So three of these injuries are in fact self-inflicted, caused by moments of madness/stupidity which makes me think that in 2016 I become accident prone. I am training smart but running a like mad man. So mission 1 for 2017, run sensible and don’t take any unnecessary risks.

Misssion 2, continue to train smart, run off-road regularly and keep with the five S’s.

As for 2016 well i set PBs in the 4 mile (23:26), 5 mile (31:30), 10k (38:17), 10 mile (1:02:18), the half marathon (1:23:04), the 20 mile (2:10:41) and finally the marathon (2:57:31). Meaning the only distance I didn’t run a race in and set PB was the 5K, although I did do a Harriers only track 5k in around 18:33 minutes I have decided not to count it. So a good sweep of all running distances and those who are quick at maths will see that pacing wise those results do not exactly line up which hints at possible future improvement.

I completed enough races of the Lancashire Interclub series to receive a placing despite that fact one of the races I ran was cancelled, one was run the day after I had done a relay training session on the track and therefore with heavy legs and one was done during a return from injury. However, one race was the race I earned my fastest average pace of the year in, the Blackpool interclub 4 mile (5:51 per mile) so that was a good moment. In the races, i did complete I finished 19th, 29th, 51st and 35th giving me a surprising 30th place finish overall in the series, out of the 212 runners who completed at least four races.

As well as road running, I took part in my first ever Cross Country series completing all four races of the Red Rose Championships finishing 67th, 62nd, 47th and 33rd to earn a series finish of 31st out of 146. Not bad for a road runner!

Overall in 2016 I ran a total 2,037 miles, which is my second highest milage ever recorded despite the seemly stop start year that i have had, which added to all PBs and ventures off-road, make me think that actually i had a pretty good year of running.

miles-run-2016

My average training pace was 7:43 which is the fastest average I have recorded, but it should be said that 2016 was my first full year of being a club runner, so I recorded a lot of very short and fast track runs, which would of no doubt brought the average down. This also explains why my average run distance was just 3.6 miles in 2016, competed to 6.4 in 2015 and 9 miles in 2014. At full overview of my 2016 runs can be seen here

So on to 2017…..and currently my plan is to train for and run the Brighton Marathon, which hopefully will go as well as previous marathons (Fingers crossed the ankle heels up soon). Then I want to complete enough races to record a series finish the road race interclub, the rell run interclub and again the Red Rose XC. It will be hard to do all of those things and I need to study the race listings and plan things out, but if it all goes well and I achieve my goals, will be a great year of running covering three main disciplines which would be quite pleasing and a venture into new territory. Also, I must update my 5k PB!!

At full overview of my 2016 runs can be seen here

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Taking to the Fells

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Fell running is type of running which originates in the North of England and is particaully popular in Cumrbia, Lancashire and Yorkshire. It basically means running over hills, valleys and moorlands.

For years ive looked at hills and thought wouldnt it be great to run that.  Well today (Dcember 24th 2016), i finally got my first taste of felling running. As I joined up with a host of runners from verious clubs including of course Preston Harriers, to take part in their annual Christmas eve fell run up White Coppice, a small place just outside Chorley, Lancashire, home to 1,000 ft of hill climb and synonymous with a fell runner known as Joe Whitter (Nice chap it seems) who has his own memorial up on these moors.

joe-whitter

Annoyingly, i have recently missed a week of running due to sprained ankle but i had healed up another to decide that i didnt want to miss out on this trip and although it was tough going on the old ankle it was well worth it. There were some great views on offer, some chllegning terrian to naviage over and of course a tough hill climb. Being new to the run and to fell running i ensured i that i always stayed behind someone so that A) i didnt get lost and B) so that i would watch how they move across the terrian, a sort deomstration in fell running if you will. That said, with all the stopping to let the slower runners catch up i had enough energy to surge up to the summate to be the first one at the top, the competive runner in me couldnt resist.

One major learning point and this is something my lunch time runnign partner Rob Hope  has pointed out to me, is when you run up hills you need to avoid using your heels , you want to be up on your toes and sure enough plenty of these experienced fell runners were doing just that. Something i will have to pratice until it becomes second nature.

I think my misson to run at least one near or completly off road run a week and the cross  country races have done is paying off for this run, as the terrain wasnt too bad, mostly being the kind of stuff I have faced in cross country, wet muddy grassland. Although there were a couple of very narrow ridges and some rocky sections, which will take a lof practice on before i become confirdent of running.

So learing wise, I need to practice hill climbs, running on rocky terrian and picking a good path across a boggy moor….thats another key thing to learn for this kind of running (There will be mud!!). It was a great introduction to fell running and i am looking forward to returning to this kind of running latter on in 2017.

Here’s a bunch of pictures from the run, none of which are of me as i took the snaps……

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Rossendale XC

rossendale-xc-me

It could be said that Rossendale was fairly muddy. Yes that is me in the swamp.

A week behind….but hey ho….So last Saturday (03/12/16), i ran the last of the Red Rose Cross Country , completing the full series and my introduction to cross country, completing with by far the hardest of the four races. With the series getting harder with each race, i am thinking the order of the races is intentional….

Learning from the previous three XC races, i set off on a fast start aiming to get as far up the field as I could before we hit any narrow sections which I was sure we would do, based on the other XC races i have done and sure enough we did. After a steep hill climb (see below) we reached several sections, most of which also involved going uphill, that very narrow making it difficult to go past other runners.

Rossendale XC.jpg

None of these people are me.

There were three laps of this mud and hills, but there was one section of open flat grass and it is this section where I worked my hardest, saving myself on the hardest hill climbs as the energy spent there would have resulted in me becoming fatigued later in the race, as I did in my first cross country outing. It was a tactic that worked and despite almost slipping over several times and having to use the odd tree to prevent myself running off course on the woodland hill descents. Rossendale ended up being my best performance of the series, finishing in 33rd place.

This meant that despite finishing in the mid-sixties in my first two races, this finish combined with my 47th place finish in the last race, meant i finished the series in 31st, which isn’t great but given it was my first go at cross country i am quite pleased with myself and a couple of places higher up and i would have broken the top 30.

Rossendale is a tough course, with my people comparing it to a fell race. But it is a great one to do, it’s very challenging but it’s set in a fantastic landscape and completing it is quite rewarding.

rossendale-xc

Marathon training begins

In other news, last week, i began my marathon training program, which as ever starts with the endurance phase. So far i have completed all but one run, a 10 miler which i dropped as i was feeling exhausted and i decided running it would do more harm than good. As always, i have started training two weeks early to take some of the stress of any potential injuries away and should i manage to go injury free, it will give me the option of tapering for one or two of my practice races.

In terms of what training i am doing, i didn’t manage to build up my mileage enough to move up to the 85+ a week training program as planned. So instead for the third year running, i will be running the 70-85 miles per week training program from the Advanced Marathoning book. Its got me two sub3 mararthons so far, so why not…

In regards to what i will be doing that is new….well last year was the introduction of regular speed work, which took 2 minutes from my PB and this year, i guess will be the test of what difference following the five S’s and introducing at least one off road run a week will make, as well as all the XC races i hope to do. They say that off-road running makes you better runner well…..time to find out.

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The Preston 10 Mile

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 Crazy gloves for a crazy guy : Heading to the finish line

Sunday November 20th and my first road race since August, a 10 mile road race that I have wanted to do for a number of years but for one reason or another I have never had the chance. The Preston 10 mile.

Ahead of the race, things didn’t look good heavy rain was forecast, my Friday run had felt a little sluggish and on my Saturday run I was unable to hit my training target. However, come race day, the sun was out and I felt well rested. Aided in part by my traditional long lie-in on the day before the race, something I started doing because I would often struggle to sleep the day before a race.

The next thing that went my way, was when standing at the crowed start line, a runner stood to my side on the pavement told me how he had a clear run and I pointed out how he would have if it wasn’t for the group of spectators down the road. To which, he replied don’t worry I know them, I’ll clear them, I know them. So I followed him and sure enough the crowd did move and for change I was able to run unrestricted right from the start. However, noting my pace was coming up as 5:40 I decided to slow right down to my pre-planned pace of 6:20, a plan based on my 10 mile PB.

Last time I ran a 10 mile race, I tried to hit 6:15 the whole way around with the aim of going sub 63 minutes, that didn’t work. So this time I had returned to my tried and tasted strategy of using my PB pace as my guide. However early on I was finding it hard to hit that time, with my watch often reading 6:10 or 6:15. One reason for this was that unlike in Elswick, I was surrounded by other runners who I could pace off. Although things were going too well as I completed the first mile in 6:09. So I gradually slowed, until I could find some runners, running at the pace I wanted to hit. I was then able to hit the next two miles in 6:19 followed by the next two in 6:20 pace. Pretty much perfect pacing.

The plan was to run mile six at the same pace, before using the next three miles of the race to gradually speed up before hitting a fast final mile. However, mile six came in at 6:15 pace, so I decided that the plan was already in action and I completed the next two miles in 6:08 and 6:09. Then came mile 8 and I was well ahead of where I wanted to be and feeling confident. However despite trying to increase the pace, I found this mile hard going and completed it in 6:21.

Worried that the wheels may be about to fall off, I put in one last effort, there was one mile left and I was going to give it everything, I had left to achieve my goal. Passing a number of runners along the way confidence returned and seeing one more runner up ahead who was struggling, I made it my goal to catch him and pass him. Something I did with perhaps 400 metres to go and then it was a matter of trying to hold on, completing the final 322 metres in 5:08 pace and the final mile in 5:58 pace, to complete the race in 01:02:18 a huge PB of over one minute!

So the return to road racing was a success, this was a course that helped me, being fairly flat and including several long straight section. The weather on the day of the race was perfect for me and training smart, I had dropped my mileage right down on the week of the race. I also felt stronger and fitter than when I ran my last 10 mile, it’s clear that the training I have been doing, aiming for the five S’s, is working and there could be more to come.

SmashRun provide you with estimated finish times for selected distances based on your run time and from this race they estimate I could run 5K in 17:50 (A PB), 10K in 37:30 (A PB), HM in 1:23:20 (Slower than my PB) and a marathon in 2:55:49 (A PB). So plenty of room for improvement and more PB’s to follow…….maybe…….hopefully……fingers crossed.

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Bolton XC

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So on to Bolton and race three of the Red Rose Cross Country League (12/11/16) and whilst this race had no large hill climb to battle up (4 times as it was in Blackburn), I felt this three lap course was far more challenging as there were  multiple hill climbs & descents of various sizes, there were twists & turns and there was a wide mix of terrain. An opinion slightly backed up by Smashrun, who gave this course exactly the same hill difficulty level it gave to Blackburn with its (4 out of 6).

Again my pace was slower than the previous two races, but I again I feel that this was yet another improvement in my cross country running. Like Blackburn, I approached the race more tactically than I did Leigh, but unlike like Blackburn I didn’t finish the race feeling like I could have given a lot more. Although I did still finish strong, passing a number of runners on the final lap and achieving my highest placing yet 47th. Which isn’t the slightest bit impressive, however it is almost 20 places above where I finished the last two times out.

So it’s a marked improvement, despite it being a tougher course, suggesting that my strength work is going to plan.  I also managed to get spiked in the race, around the knee and quad area. I remember it happening……..well I remember thinking it had happened, it was only after the race that I noticed it had happened. I took a hill descent in my normal kamikaze style, ending up right behind a group of three runners. I then felt one of their feet come right up right up against my leg and I thought I am a bit close here, thank goodness he wasn’t wearing spikes, before nipping around the three of them and pushing on. Afterwards, I spotted a small amount of blood on my leg and in the car home I noticed two more marks and then today I spotted a fourth mark. So the lesson here is, do not run too close to someone in cross country or you will get spiked.

In other news, I am continuing to fit in at least one off-road training run a week and I have continued with my gym workouts. Covering the strength part of the five S’s.

I have also upped my mileage and this week I reached 60 miles, covering the stamina S.

I have continued to make to the track training sessions and I completed my new Thursday cycle by running my first tempo running since….well who knows….I can’t remember when I last did one of those. But i am glad i went out i did one, even if still felt slightly sore on the morning of Bolton. Something i think was due to me running the tempo faster than I should have. With Runners World, recommending i should aim for 6:10 pace and me hitting 5:55 pace at one point. So that’s not training smart and neither was the decision to run 18 miles, the day after race…….hopefully that won’t come back to bite me. So that covers Speed and I am continuing with my morning and evening stretching, ticking off suppleness.

Leaving just one of the five S’s, skill….and this more to do with running technique and I am consciously working on/thinking about that. So I would now say that I have successfully managed to incorporate the five S’s into my weekly training. How I will continue to do this as I increase my mileage, I am not sure. But I will try and that’s the main thing.

Next up my first road race since the summer, 10 miles and fingers crossed I will finally go under 1:03:00, something I think done in a half marathon but for whatever reason haven’t done it in a 10 miler. Annoying.

So unlike the cross country races, I will treat myself to an easy week, bringing the mileage right back down, putting the gym work on hold, step out of the three week Thursday cycle (hill reps, mile repeats, tempo) and hoping for the best come Sunday.

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Blackburn XC

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So on Saturday (29/10/16) I ran my second cross country race of the Red Rose League not being fully fit and still getting to grips with this sort of running, I took the advice of championship winning fell runner Rob Hope who recently told me that I rely on my watch too much, so I turned off the virtual pacer on my Garmin Forerunner and ran the course rather than the pace.

The result of this tactic change was, unlike in Leigh two weeks ago I didn’t finish the race dead on my legs struggling to hit a decent pace. Instead, I completed the final lap of the four lap race by passing a large number of runners as I picked up the pace. That didn’t stop me finishing well down that rankings, but I did finish what was a much tougher race, feeling a lot happy with my performance. So running the course, is certainly the way to go with off road running. I just need to work on picking up the pace on the easier / flatter sections. As you can tell iI am still finding this kind of running a huge learning curve and Ii have to admit it took me until the fourth lap to find what was, in my opinion, the best route around the course.

The course itself was very challenging, 5.46 miles in length (for me) with a 128 meter mill climb, i completed it in 37:52, which works out at 6:56 pace. [see here]

And the post picture….that’s GB athlete Jess Judd who turned up, out of the blue and won the women’s race. Well done her!!

So progress is made but there is still a lot of remove for improvement, next up Bolton in two weeks time.

In other training news, i have completed 8 gym sessions based on the gym program I had created for me, two full track sessions with Preston Harriers, a hill rep session and last week i did 52 miles for the week. SO things are moving along as i edge towards my new marathon training program in December.

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Running Origins : Cross Country

MBR

Cross country running, a phrase that strikes fear in some and in others it brings back terrible childhood memories of mud, rain and cold weather. Like me, for most people, this sport is their first introduction to running. In my case, I have fond memories of being told I was the first junior year 3 pupil to ever make the cross country team at primary school and being part of numerous successful primary and high school cross country championships. But like a lot of people, once I left high school not only did I stop running cross country, but I stopped running altogether. A regret, but we move on. Well this week, after an absence of, what must be 20 years, I returned to where it all began.

Representing the Preston Harriers in the Red Rose Cross Country Championship , something that is part of my long-term plan to run yet another marathon PB next year. I think, I could be wrong it was Seb Coe who once said that medals are won in winter, and by that he (or whoever said it….) was referring to runners going off-road in the winter and building up some leg strength, key for running faster.

So that’s my thinking and today (15/10/2016), I ran in race one of the 2016 season, over in Leigh, a place near Wigan. It was a great course for someone like me, as it was fairly flat, all be it a winding twisty turning flat route. Also if like me, you had only completed five weeks of training after some time off, then you very much appreciated the flat nature of the course. I certainly wasnt ready to race 10k, although in true cross country style it turned out the race was 6.7 miles in length in the end, so my splits do show an obvious decline in pace. Had it been a 5k race, I might have got away with my lack of training, but over almost sevens, my lack of preparation hit home and I was very much hanging on it at the end, to finish the race in just over 44 minutes.

That said, I enjoyed the race, it’s very different to road running and you can find other runners either pulling away from you or being closed in on by you, just due to nature of the course. So it was very interesting and quite technical in places. I am already feeling it in my legs, so who knows how I will feel tomorrow. But it is my first race in quite a while and it’s nice to return to grass routes running after 20 years away (pun intended haha). Next up, is Blackburn in two weeks time, for what I am told will be a very hill race…….so more strength training I guess.  And that’s the going to be a great thing about these races, I want to do well. But my focus is still the roads, so I do not need to stress too much over my performance.

Cross Country is very much in, this winter.

Onwards and upwards…..

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A 12 month plan…..

making-a-plan

Following the advice of the book “The art of running faster” I have finally come up with a year long training plan….of sorts…its more of a guide but I think it will work. I will stick with using the book “Advanced Marathoning” for my marathon training plans, but will be guided by this second book for the rest of the year.

The book recommends set out your year over six phases as follows :

Phase Intensity Mileage Duration
Active rest Very low Low-medium 4 weeks
Basic conditioning Low-medium Medium-high 4-6 weeks
Endurance base Medium-high High-very high 8-10 weeks
Quality training High-very high Medium-high 6-8 weeks
Race preparation Medium-high Medium-high 4-6 weeks
Competition phase Medium-high Low-medium 10-14 weeks

I am thinking, as I am planning a spring marathon and as i usual take my holidays in September, that September will be my active rest period, which allowed me to build up into my marathon training programme. Which means now, i need to be in the basic conditioning phase. The book refers to this phase, as a period to spend time working on your weaknesses. Including increasing your gym work, core work and speed work.

So I will be working on trying to get stronger and faster. To achieve this, i have had my gym draw up a training programme for me and being a runner they have set me up a twice a week programme. One short session, which i can do in an evening and one longer session, that i will tackle at a weekend. Currently, i am thinking of doing the longer session on a Saturday, after all if anything will ensure i run my long slow run, at a sensible pace. Then running it with heavy legs will do just that.

I have also come up with a plan to improve my speed, on top of the weekly Harriers meetings, I plan to use Thursday, for a second speed work session, but with a difference. This session, will involve a tempo run, mile splits and hill repeats. So for example one week i will do a tempo run and the next i will do mile splits and then the third week will be hill repeats. With the latter two sessions, combining with either a lunch or morning run, depending on what i can fit in.

So that’s the plan, two speed sessions and two gym sessions a week……So by the second week of November I should be moving on to endurance base phase and ideally, i should be fast and stronger…..time will tell.

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The Art of Running Faster

art of running faster

The Art of Running Faster book review

Written by Julian Goater and Don Melvin

Words that sum it up : Training smarter, the five S’s : Speed, suppleness, strength, stamina and skill. Psychology

 What’s it all about : I have long praised the book “Advanced Marathon” for changing the way i train for, plan and run marathons. It is a book, that for me, changed everything and made me the runner i am today. This book, i feel, having read it, will take me up another step. It will improve the training I do, outside of marathon preparation. It will give me, what i have lacked outside of my traditional focused 18 weeks of the week, it will give me structure, guidance and i suspect results. I think this book will, without doubt change my training habits and actually it already has.

Following the books advice i am stretching twice a day, in addition to any stretches i do before and after a workout. I am also planning on developing a year long plan, split up into six distinct phases as per the books advice. As the authors say, it’s not just about the milage, it’s about everything. Its early days but i just have a good feeling about this book and what i will gain by following it as closely as i followed “Advanced Marathoning”.

Now i realise, i am going on a bit about how great this book was for me, rather that listing what its about…..basically it is a guide on, how to adapt your training, to improve your pace as a runner and there is a lot in it, that i am not doing. So you can’t fail but learn something new and ultimately improve your training after reading this book.

For : Runners like me, who want to running faster paces, runners who want to improve their training methods and runners who are seeking that next PB.

Best bits : Without a doubt, the five S’s a simple system, easy to follow.  Also the bits were they use Lance Armstrong as a good example…….tut tut tut come on publisher, let’s get that guy out of this book.

For more book reviews see here [click this folks…..]

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Helena Tipping 10k

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Sunday July 31st and having taken the advice of the coaches at Harriers, i found myself down in North Wales,the country of PBs……well I have done three races in Wales prior to this one and all of them have ended in PBs…..so PB country it is!

Arriving with 30 minutes to go, I was in unusually good time. But having driven an 1 hour 30 to get here, i needed plenty of time to warm up and stretch out ahead of the race, so it was an early start for me and i arrived with enough time to do those things, collect my number, make two bathroom trips and jog the 800 metres or so to the start.

This race promises to be flat and fast….with the course route [race route] having a maximum elevation of just 35 metres. However, whilst the race is relatively flat although it does feature a one mile section of gradual incline which will be a tough section to maintain a fast pace over.

I set myself the task of running 6:05, which would see me sneak a sub 38 minute PB, however having not run a 10K for two years i was confident I would obtain some sort of PB but I wasn’t sure what it would be. My training isn’t currently at the level it was prior to Boston but my mileage and gym trips are slowly increasing.

Mile one; as usual I had set off far too fast and despite slowing down a little i completed the first mile in 5:53 pace. The slight downhill nature of this part of the course and the wide open road helping the faster runners get away and those like me who were running two fast.

Mile two; was much better 6:00 pace, almost on target, helped by finding runners who were running at the pace I wanted to hit and sitting just behind them.

Then over the following three miles I got increasingly slower, the first two miles (miles 3 and 4) i wasn’t too concerned about as I had time in the bank from miles 1 & 2, completing them in 6:13 and 6:18.  Mile five, however, did go completely wrong, I don’t know if it was the effects of the gradual incline or the fact that I was unaccustomed to running the shorter distances but I fell back to what would be a half marathon pace for me. Completing this mile in 6:26 pace. I could still make my sub 38 target, but I would have to work hard for it!!

And work hard I did!! Picking up the pace over mile six I passed a runner of runners who earlier in the race had dropped me off as I tried to pace of them. I was on a section of the race, very familiar to me, a section from the Village Bakery Half Marathon. I knew what to expect, I knew how long there was to go and what it felt like to run this section hard on the back of 12 miles. A big advantage and I think I used it well, covering this mile in 6:09. Fast but not fast enough to get my target time.

Slightly disheartened, I congratulated runner who went past me over the last few hundred metres, but then as he got a metre or so ahead of me and I looked up and saw the finish. I thought you know what, I won’t get my target time, but I could get very close to it and so I picked up to a sprint, in fact, one of the best sprint finish I have ever had. Covering the final 0.2 of the race in 5:23 pace and the final 160 metres in 4:18 pace!! Not only did I easily pass that runner I had congratulated, but I also passed a female runner was heading towards the finish, way ahead of me. This slightly shocked me and I went to slow, but then I heard the commentator say “Come on, all the way to the finish”  he could have been talking to either of us, but I switched back to sprint mode and beat her to the finish and that is what is happening in the picture attached to this post. A picture, which no less appeared in Athletics Weekly and as blurry as I might be in it, its a great honour and pretty cool to have featured in the magazine.

Finishing chip time : 38:17, a new PB by 58 seconds! a great days work!! a fast course and really well organised race. If you can make, i recommend doing this 10k next year.

Race information page here

Race results here

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