Finding the flow…..

As anyone who reads this blog will know, competitive sports has been a big part of my life. After 10 years of cycle racing, I transitioned to running in 2017, but the way we approach training for both sports is similar.

Most people will follow what’s called a periodised training programme. At a macro level, this typically involves training ‘hard’ for 3 weeks, followed by a lighter ‘recovery’ week. It’s a rhythm that you fall into; it becomes the natural flow of your life.

At a micro level, those training weeks are also a mix of ‘on’ and ‘off’ time, which allows the body to recover from hard sessions. Here’s how my typical training week looks:

  • Monday – Rest day. This allows me to recover from the weekend’s efforts
  • Tuesday – Intervals. This will be a hard session that stresses the body. The specific content will depend upon what ‘period’ of training we’re in. My coach will lay down what the session entails and what physiological system we’re training.
  • Wednesday – Easy run, usually around 30-40 minutes followed by 15-30 minutes strength & conditioning gym work
  • Thursday – Intervals (as Tuesday)
  • Friday – Easy 30 minute shakeout. I used to quite often skip this day, but I’ve found that doing a really easy shakeout helps my body recover from the efforts on Tuesday & Thursday
  • Saturday – Easy run plus strength & conditioning work (as Wednesday)
  • Sunday – Long run or race. The Long Run is a staple of the runner’s programme, and will typically be anywhere from 90 minutes up to 3 hours depending on the events you’re training for. The long run is usually done at an easy pace, however there may be sections where you’ll do a specific training effort. For instance, this morning I ran 45 mins at an easy pace (around 8:50/mile), then the next 45 at 30 seconds faster.

By Monday I need my rest day! Also, because my weekday training is typically done before work, which means getting up around 5am, Monday is a chance for a lie in – well, if 6.30am counts as a lie in! It’s also the day where I try to avoid carbs and eat mainly fats & protein, so it’s a chance to eat something different for breakfast other than porridge….

This is the rhythm that my life follows, week after week; month after month; season after season. It stops being a thing you do, and just becomes you.

Do you follow any kind of training plan? At a macro & micro level? What does your training look like? Let me know!

Pushing onwards….

A lot has happened since I last posted back in February!

First of all, I raced the Garioch 10k on 25th March. It was a new route compared to when I last raced in 2017, and no longer went past our old house in Inverurie. I do wonder if they’ve kept the original Johanna Basford wallpaper we had in the sitting room – it would be worth a fortune now!

I finished in 46:35, so not a PB, but a good effort early in the season. Reflecting on the race, I took it too easy on the early miles, where I was trying to run within myself, knowing that I had some pretty big hills ahead of me. However my last 2 miles were both much faster, so I had it in me to dig deeper – a case of what could have been, and a useful learning experience.

I was pretty good at putting myself in the pain cave back in my cycling days, and it’s fair to say that I’ve yet to develop that skill as a runner. I’ve since spoken to my coach about this, and we’re going to experiment with a few races to see if we can work on my ability to push into the red zone and hit those faster times.

Speaking of coaches, not long after Garioch I decided to get back in touch with Richard Coates, the London-based coach that I worked with back in 2015. Until then I’d been using an online coaching service, but I was missing the personal interaction with a coach – something I’ve been used to and enjoyed in both my competitive golfing & cycling days.

Fortunately Richard had capacity to take me back on, and so in mid-April we started working together again. It feels like we never stopped and it’s great having a coach that I can speak to and bounce stuff off again, as I mentioned earlier.

Race Schedule

Looking ahead, there are a couple of races on the horizon. First up, on Sunday 20th May, is the BHGE 10k in Aberdeen. Having lived and worked in Aberdeenshire for almost a decade, it’s always fun to go back up there and this should be a good race. It’s going to be pretty flat, a nice change from Garioch, so it’s definitely a chance to run a PB.

The following weekend I’ll be running the Edinburgh Half Marathon, a race that In first ran back in 2015. However this time around I’ll be running it with my daughter Rebecca and I can’t tell you how excited I am to run with Becs!

In between these two races I’ll be spending a week in London, where I’m attending an Accounting Conference. I’ve got a nice wee AirBnb booked in Balham, so I’ll be running around Clapham and Tooting Commons and making sure the legs are ready for my big day with Rebecca.

This week’s training

Here’s what’s on the cards this week coming….

  • Monday – Rest day
  • Tuesday – 6 x 5 mins tempo intervals, with 75 seconds recovery
  • Wednesday – 30 mins easy, 30 mins strength & conditioning. Massage in the evening
  • Thursday – 2 x (5 x 60 second hill reps @ tempo effort). This is a bugger of a workout
  • Friday – 40 mins easy
  • Saturday – Rest day (will probably do a core workout)
  • Sunday – 60 mins progression run

Have a great week!

 

Training Update

I’ve not blogged much lately, at least not on here. Business has been busy and I’ve been working on building a solid base for a full season of racing. There’s not been a great deal to say to be honest!

Today was the last day of my stamina training phase, and it’s been the toughest week since the marathon back in September. That was mainly down to Thursday’s session, which consisted of 5 x 2000m of tempo intervals. I was doing these at a pace of just under 7:20/mile, and on the track at Aberdeen Sports Village.

The hardest thing about a session like this on the track is the sheer repetition. Each interval was 5 laps of the track. The night before I’d been at the University of Dundee to hear a talk by round-the world cyclist Mark Beaumont, who told the story of his epic world record where he cycled round the world in 80 days back in 2017. To do this, Mark would have to cycle an average of 240 miles a day, and he told us how he broke each day down into 4 hour segments.

So on Thursday evening I channelled Mark’s advice, and broke each interval into 5 laps, just focusing on the current lap and not thinking any further ahead. I’d been slightly nervous about this workout, but before I knew it I’d done 2 intervals, then 3. Once you’ve done 3, you know you’ll manage 4 & 5, and so it turned out. I finished off with 3 x 200m strides, then a cool down, making a total of 11.5 miles on the track. This was a beast of a session!

The winter has progressed steadily without any major issues. I did a base period of 8 weeks, followed by 6 weeks of hills and then the stamina phase. Now it’s time to turn my attention to a race specific plan, and for the Spring this year my focus is going to be on 5k & 10k races. I’m hoping to nudge below 21 minutes for the 5k and 43 for the 10km. Time will tell.

My first race is next Sunday, a 5km race in Edinburgh’s Meadows, where I’ll be racing in my new Brooks Hyperion racing flats for the first time. I don’t have any expectations for this race, it’s more about just getting back into the rhythm of racing. Next up after that is the Garioch 10k on 25th March, the place where I set my current 10k PB back in 2015. The race is held in the town of Inverurie where we lived for almost 10 years, so it’s always nice to go back. It’s a new course this year, but I’ll be confident of dipping under my old PB.

That’s about it for now.

How’s your training going? Any races in the next few weeks?

A quick running update

I’m halfway through the base training plan – 4 more weeks to go.

My body feels fully recovered from the marathon now. In my runs on Thursday and the long run yesterday, I’ve written in my training log that it felt ‘effortless’, and yet I’m doing these easy runs almost one minute per mile faster than I was back in March when I started running again.

This next block of training will continue the long steady runs, but with a sprinkling of faster workouts beginning on Thursday with a steady state (just below threshold) effort. I’m excited and looking forward to it.

I’ll also be ramping up the core strength work over the next 4 weeks before I move onto the next block of training, which will focus on hills and building strength.

This is my first winter of proper running training and I’m excited to see what difference it makes once I start racing in the Spring.

What do you do for training over the winter? Do you have challenges with the weather? Let me know in the comments below!

Getting on with it

As some of you know, I’m a member of the McMillan Run Team, which means I get my training plans from them and have access to coach Greg McMillan. Greg’s one of the best know running coaches in the world, and I’ve learned a huge amount from him in the past few months.

It’s now 7 weeks since I became a marathoner. I’ve been pretty quiet on here since. There’s only so much you can write about the recovery process, however I’ve been following Greg’s advice and slowly allowing my body to recover from the stress of the marathon.

For the first four weeks I followed Greg’s Marathon Recovery Plan. That was a great way to help me ease back into running and by the end of the plan I was feeling recovered and ready to move on.

Next, Greg suggested I do a base training plan – an 8 week program made up mainly of easy runs & long runs that will build a strong aerobic base for the training that follows. As Greg says, we need to do the training to do the training to do the training. Alongside the base work, I’m also doing core strength work three times a week and already I can feel the benefit.

Week two of the plan coincided with us jetting off to Lanzarote for a late autumn week in the sun. Rebecca flew in from London to join us, and as she’s training for a half marathon in March, we agreed to get some runs in. What a difference it made to run in 20c and sunshine!

Bex ran four days, I ended up running every day. The toughest run was my long run last Saturday, 11 miles in the morning sunshine. By the time I reached mile 10 the temperature was well into the 20s and I was struggling with the heat – we’re not used to that in Scotland!

Sunday was supposed to be a rest day, but having looked at the forecast for when we got home I decided to do an easy 5 miles on the Sunday morning – it’s going to be a long, cold & dark winter, so I was keen for one last run in the sun.

This week coming is a recovery week, then we start to add some steady state & leg speed workouts. I’m looking forward to increasing the pace and testing myself a little.

Back in 2015 I did a full season of running but then got back on the bike at Christmas, so I’ve never had the benefit of a winter of training to take into a race season. I’m really excited to do that properly this time around.

Recovery & reflection

It’s been a week now since the marathon last Sunday. A time for rest and reflection.

I knew that my body would be sore on Monday, the day after the race, but I hadn’t been prepared for quite how sore I would be! I had set the alarm for 6am as I was due to have a meeting in Perth at 8am. I tried to get up and see how I felt – the answer was quickly revealed! So I sent an email, cancelled that meeting, and went back to bed.

As the week went on the soreness eased. I had a massage on Tuesday evening, which helped ease the pain. By Wednesday morning I was heading back out for a short run – just 15 minutes, part of Greg McMillan’s marathon recovery plan. I hobbled around the village, but I was delighted to get out for a run!

By Friday much of the soreness had gone and I did another 15 minute run, this time after work – a great way to end the working week. There was still a bit of soreness in my ITBs, but other than that I felt fine and the pace was pretty decent.

It’s Sunday today and I’ve just done an easy 30 minute run, 2 laps of the village. No ITB pain this time. It’s good to get back out running, even these short easy runs, they’re part of who I am.

With a lot less volume this week, I’ve had time to reflect on the race and on the training I did beforehand. I only started running seriously again in late March, so taking on a marathon 6 months later was always going to be a big ask. I had the endurance for around 18 miles, but beyond that I was always going to struggle.

Thinking back to my training, and now knowing what the last 10k of a marathon feels like, I realise that I didn’t fully commit on those long training runs (beyond 18 Miles). Those were the runs where I found myself having to stop, to rest, to take a picture of ‘that great view’. What I really needed to be doing at that point, in hindsight, was gritting my teeth and pushing on. But I guess you only realise that after you experience the marathon for the first time…..

I also need to train more on hills. We live in a valley, and most of my long runs had been on the flat valley roads. That’s fine if you’re going to be doing a marathon in Berlin, but Loch Ness was anything but flat. So more hill work will be on the agenda this winter.

Finally, I’ve had a chance to chat with Coach Greg McMillan after the race and look ahead to 2018. He’s keen for me to focus on shorter races next year, to work on my speed, which we can then take into a Spring 2019 Marathon. So it looks like I’ll be focusing on 5k & 10k races in Spring 2018, and then moving onto half marathons next Autumn.

I’m excited about this, as I like the variety of training for different distances, and the one thing I’ve missed this year has been running fast. I then know that I’ll be going into the 2019 marathon properly prepared, and a PB will be on the cards.

For now though, the next few weeks are about continuing the slow recovery, then we’ll move onto building a solid base. Joanna, Rebecca & I are in Lanzarote for a week early November, so it will be good to get some longer runs in the heat and sunshine.

For those of you that have raced a marathon, what were the biggest learnings you took from your first race?

New shoes arrived on Friday!

Loch Ness Marathon – Race Report

A year earlier than I’d originally planned, yesterday I toe’d the line in my first marathon. I’d heard great things about the Loch Ness Marathon, and Inverness is a lovely town, so where better to start my marathon journey?

My training had been consistent – I’d done every workout on the plan, every gym session, stretched daily. I’d even gone teetotal the final few months, searching for every little performance improvement I could find.

All the way through this running journey there’s been one nagging thought at the back of my mind – this time last year I was still bike racing. Indeed, the winter of 2016/17 was one of the best pre-seasons I’d ever had and in February I was looking forward to another season racing my bike. Then in March I changed my mind and started running again. We were travelling a lot in the Spring, and taking my shoes let’s me see a City in a different way – one of my favourite things. So running became my sporting focus once more.

I knew I could run a half marathon – I did two back in 2015 – but could I run a marathon? I was going to find out.

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The start at Loch Ness is 25 Miles up the side of the Loch. All 4000 runners are bused there from Inverness, an hour’s journey over twisty roads. By the time we got to the start I was feeling very travel sick. Fortunately the cold usually snaps me out of it, so when we got off the bus and felt the icy blast (and rain), I soon forgot my travel sickness. We had around 90 minutes until the start and they were spent queuing for the portaloos and trying to keep warm.

At 10am we set off to the sound of pipes & drums, a very special way to start my first marathon. Within the first mile I’d warmed up, and was quickly into my rhythm. All of my training was based on running 3:45, realistically I was just hoping to get round in under 4 hours. The early miles were smooth, I felt on top of the pace and was able to enjoy the scenery. The first challenge came at mile 5, the first real hills of the race, and I felt comfortable as we climbed.

Soon we were through 8.5 Miles, a third of the race done. There were water stops every few miles, so I was keeping well hydrated. I was also taking a gel every 45 mins, plus an electrolyte drink at each electrolyte station (I think there were 3?). I was continuing to stay on pace, aiming for a first half of around 1:55.

I actually made it through half way in 1:54, a little ahead of schedule but I was feeling good. Miles 14, 15 & 16 all went by without any trouble, however at mile 17 I started to feel it for the first time. I took a gel, along with a Cliff Shot, and pushed on. Mile 18 took us through the village of Dores, and I knew that we weren’t far away from the fabled hill.

I didn’t expect it to be so steep, or so long! The fact that you could also see it snaking away up in the distance didn’t help either, and it was here that I had my first real problems of the day. Like many others I found myself walk / running up the hill. I was tying hard to keep on running, but my hip flexors had other ideas, so at times I was reduced to fast walking pace. These 2 Miles, 19 & 20, saw me lose a lot of time. Mile 21 was downhill, so I got back into my rhythm, but then we hit another hill which saw me struggling again.

By now I knew that I was losing time – my average pace had crept up from 8:42 and was getting ever closer to 9:00. I knew that if I wanted to break 4 hours, I had to keep it below 9:07, but I also knew now that there was very little left in the tank.

So much of this is mental, and I was keeping myself going by counting (up to 8), and saying my new mantra, which was to say the names of my family, the people I love dearly, over & over again in rhythmical fashion. That got me to mile 23 and the outskirts of Inverness. At this point I knew that all I had left to run was a Parkrun, how hard could that be? However I was now in a new territory – I’d never run farther than 22 miles.

I won’t lie, these last few miles were slow and tortuous. I tried to lift the pace a couple of times, but my legs refused. By now we were in the centre of Inverness, crossing the bridge and turning down the last mile of the race, where I knew Joanna would be waiting for me near the finish. Again I tried to lift the pace. I knew that I wasn’t going to break 4 hours now, but I could still finish strong. My running form still felt good, which was a good sign.

I heard the announcer calling my name as I bared down on the finish line, then heard Joanna shout from the side. It was lovely to see and hear her. I crossed the line in 4:01:59, tantalisingly close to breaking 4 hours. That lack of running endurance that I’d been worried about had ended up costing me, but there was nothing I could do about it.

I was so happy to finish. Crossing that line was both a relief and a celebration. I’d just completed a marathon, in a time that many people would be delighted with. Yes, it wasn’t as fast as I’d hoped, but I’d done it and learned a lot along the way.

It was great having Joanna there with me for the weekend. We stayed in a lovely Airbnb near the Castle, enjoyed a delicious meal on Saturday evening (more pasta for me! 😬), and then Joanna looked after me post-race, driving us home in torrential rain – a journey that took over 3 hours!

I had no idea how sore my body would be today. I’m still incredibly stiff – I’m going for another ice bath when I’ve finished writing this. I’m also going to sleep in my skins (compression leggings) again tonight – anything I can do to aid recovery.

I’ve enjoyed the marathon journey, and am proud of myself for what I’ve accomplished. Of course, a time of 4:01 means only one thing – I’ll have to do another, I’ve got to get under 4 hours!

I might wait until 2019 though…..

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