Friday, 15 August 2014

Back Training for October Delights (Part 1)

Ladies and Gentlemen...

Boys and Girls...
Aliens and Martians...
Fellow Runners...

...I'm back training!!!!

As you've probably gathered from reading my latest posts, I'm now running two events in October - both at ultramarathon distance. The first is the 100km Bath to Newbury run on the 4 October and the second is the Stort30 on the 26 October. So with two ultras within the same month and my foot injury seeming to be at a "manageable" state (can't guarantee it will last though)  I've decided that it's about time I put in the miles and get back training.

Training for the Stort30 is not something on my immediate radar. I figure if I can train and run the Bath to Newbury run then the Stort30 shouldn't be a problem as long as I don't treat it like a standard marathon. So the Stort30 I will deal with later. My main priority (and concern) is that lovely 100km, unsupported run along the canal tow paths.

My training will fall into two stages: the first stage will be a 5-week programme mainly focusing on base fitness before then taking a week off to go on holiday; the second stage will be a 4-week programme primarily focusing on distance running and running on tired legs, before then tapering for a couple of weeks prior to the first race.

I've just completed the first stage and, if I'm honest, it's gone better than expected. For me it's all about mileage - the more mileage I can do the better. I even managed to complete a training distance as part of one of my long runs - something I never thought possible. 

This report will focus on Stage 1 training only; a second report will following mid-September on how I got on with Stage 2.

Week 1
My first week was designed to get me back into running slightly longer distances and over some different terrain. I also threw in some hills and speed work. I ran some local routes around Wash Common both on and off road. These were average pace runs intermixed with a speedy (yet very hilly)  lunchtime run at work. I also started to run twice on a Wednesday: once early morning and the second with the Newbury Runners in the evening. On this particular week the run with the Newbury Runners was a joint one with the Hermitage Joggers, and we covered a pleasant 10km trail route. Towards the end of the week I ran a very hot and humid (30+ degrees hit), but extremely difficult hill run between Wash Common and Ashmanworths (21.6km in total with an ascent of 268m). It was some workout!

By the end of the first week I'd covered:

  • 6 runs
  • Ran for 7 hrs 26 mins
  • Covered 73.97 km
  • Ran up 643 m of hills
  • Average HR was 162 bpm
  • Burnt 5,829 calories

Week 2
Newbury Runners Breakfast Club Run
Feeling much better after having done a week of training I continued to pump in the miles on the second week. The week started with the Newbury Runners Breakfast Club Run. This was a fairly speedy 10km route around Thatcham. I met with Greg, Stouty, Jo, Brian and Matt and headed off. I seemed to lead on the pace for the majority of the run. In the end we did the run in 52 mins 40 secs and averaged 5:33 min/km. Not a bad workout for an early Monday morning run. 

Jo (left) and Tamsin (right)
Tamsin and Jo
Tuesday and Wednesday runs consisted of a 14km, 12km and 9.10km run. It was nice to start getting some back-to-back runs in. I also managed to get a new PB on my work lunch run on the Friday. Covered the 8.21km hilly run in 43 mins; which given it was over 30 degrees and mid-day, was a surprise. I felt like dying at the end of it though! I have to admit though, despite not liking the feeling of running fast, the course I run at work is a good one as it mixes a bit of flat with some seriously steep hills. The more I do them the more I am seeing my times tumble. I use the run as substitute parkrun, as I don't get time to go to parkrun these days. On a Saturday I prefer to spend the time going for longer runs.

Tamsin and me
The end of the week was topped off with a lovely run with Jo Amor and Tamsin Hirst. We set off from Wash Common and headed to the top of Combe Gibbet and back. We wanted it to be a slow pace (chat pace) and we walked some of the steeper (unrunable) sections. We set off at 5:15am and the weather was perfect for the run. We got the top we had some fun and games with the camera before then heading back. Total distance was 24.82 km and I averaged a HR of 148 bpm.

By the end of the second week I'd covered:
  • 7 runs
  • Ran for 8 hrs
  • Covered 77.75 km
  • Ran up 738 m of hills
  • Average HR was 153 bpm
  • Burnt 5,306 calories
  • 1 Swim

Week 3
Early morning sun
The week started pretty sluggish with a very lethargic run around the infamous Tesco-Garden Loop (a hilly 17.3km route). This is usually a route I try to run fast around but not so this time.I felt a little tired and really wasn't in the mood.

The slow running continued the following morning when I deliberately set off on a lovely 9km country route. I stopped many times to take photos.

Early morning sun
It was a lovely morning and the sun was just coming up. I've started to get used to the summer early morning runs; although as each week goes by I'm starting to notice it getting darker and darker in the morning. Won't be long before I wake up to darkness. Still not so much an issue now but when the weather starts to turn it will make getting out of bed that little harder.

Early morning Newbury Runners Route
On the Wednesday night I led my first Newbury Runners run. I really enjoyed it. I'd created and ran the route a while back and it was a good mixture of terrain, road, fields, tracks and hills. It was slightly further (at 12.3km) than the usual 10km we run but everyone enjoyed it and the pace I made them run at. We did the route in a comfortable 1hr 11 mins and averaged around 5:50 min/km. On the whole a good experience and I certainly plan on leading the group again.

Early morning Newbury Runners Route
The weekend brought my first attempt at two back-to-back long runs, both of a similar distance and time. The first of these I would run on my own and the second I would run with someone. However both required an early start to ensure the runs are completed by 8:30am. This will become a common thread for my long runs runs until the end of October: I need to get them completed by 8:30am (9am at the lastest). It's not ideal (especially as the runs get longer) but I need to limit the impact on family time, especially at the weekend.

Early morning Newbury Runners Route
The first of these runs was a 31km loop starting from Wash Common and heading out over Greenham Common through Brompton, pass Waising Park (Endure24 venue!) and into Aldermaston Village. The route then heads out of Aldermaston and joins the Kennet & Avon Canal which then takes you back to Newbury before then weaving up to Andover Hill and the finish back at Wash Common. A good mixture of country lanes and canal towpaths.

Aldermaston Loop 
Hungerford Loop
I have to admit it's not the most exciting route. The initial country roads and long and, if later in the morning, would be busy. However I'd started the run 5:11am and they were dead. It was just me and the road. I'd set higher expectations for the journey back along the canal but was a little disappointed. The initial sections were fine (lovely tracks and beautiful scenery) but as I ran along it turned all rather industrial in comparison as it passed a quarry. The main train line also passed along side the canal and I would occasionally hear (and see) the high-speed trains heading out towards London. Not quite the peaceful run I was hoping for.  

I managed to complete the run 3hrs 17 mins and averaged 6:18 min/km (although I will admit the latter half of the run did reduce the pace somewhat). Total distance was 31.2km and my average HR was 156 bpm. It was good to get a long run in.

The following morning I ran in the opposite direction. I ran with Stouty and we headed out along the country lanes to Hungerford and then back along the canal to Newbury and up to the start in Wash Common. We set off at 5am and it was actually nice to run with someone for a change. We chatted and kept up a reasonable pace of 5:35 min/km for the 14km it took to get to Hungerford. Pace was comfortable. We then dropped onto the canal and had no option but to reduce the pace due to the narrow towpaths and overgrown hedgerow. 

It was a far more pleasant run than the Aldermaston route and it was great seeing the sun come up over the mist that hovered just above the water on the canal. As we got towards Newbury the thought of having to finish the run by hauling my butt up Andover Hill got to me, and so I decided to head in a slightly different direction to Stouty. I would pull off the towpath just prior to hitting Newbury town centre and cut up across a field that would take me back to the start in Wash Common; whilst Stouty would continue into Newbury and then head up Andover Hill (the plan was to meet at the finish). This completely back-fired on me as running through a muddy field up a long steep hill was actually harder than running up Andover Hill. I arrived at the start having covered the same distance than if I'd run into town and up Andover Hill. I waited a couple of minutes then saw Stouty arrive. It was a great morning run and we'd completed the 30km in just on 3 hours, which meant we were done and dusted by 8am. Result! 

By the end of the third week I'd covered:

  • 7 runs
  • Ran for 10 hrs 36 mins
  • Covered 104.3 km
  • Ran up 654 m of hills
  • Average HR was 153 bpm
  • Burnt 6,906 calories

Week 4
Tesco-Garden Loop
Having completed two back-to-back long runs and with no real aftermath I had it in my head that I needed to increase the distance of the long run. The intention was to get up very early on the Saturday morning and run 43km (i.e. a marathon). I therefore planned my week carefully to ensure I had enough rest days whilst also reducing the number times of ran.

The week got off to a really positive start as I ran the infamous Tesco-Garden Loop on the Tuesday morning and managed to get a PB of 1:32:57 and averaged 5:24 min/km with an average HR of 157 bpm. Ironically I wasn't pushing myself hard; the run just felt comfortable. 

The table below show the pace stats for the run:


ActivityDurationHeart rateDistanceSpeedPaceAscentDescentCadence
10:05'50.3128 (80-140)1.0110.4 (1.1-11.5)5'46 (55'33-5'12)0386 (59-89)
20:05'29.0143 (139-148)0.9910.9 (9.7-11.5)5'31 (6'10-5'12)0087 (84-89)
30:05'27.0144 (140-149)1.0011.1 (10.4-11.5)5'25 (5'44-5'12)71286 (83-88)
40:05'16.0137 (125-148)0.9911.3 (10.4-12.2)5'18 (5'44-4'54)04085 (81-91)
50:05'21.0150 (146-154)1.0111.3 (10.8-11.9)5'19 (5'33-5'03)0086 (83-88)
60:05'22.0153 (150-158)1.0011.1 (10.4-11.5)5'23 (5'44-5'12)3386 (83-88)
70:05'20.0159 (152-165)1.0011.2 (10.4-12.6)5'21 (5'44-4'45)6385 (80-87)
80:05'16.0163 (160-166)1.0111.5 (11.2-11.9)5'13 (5'22-5'03)3085 (82-87)
90:05'18.0164 (155-170)1.0011.3 (10.8-12.2)5'18 (5'33-4'54)121584 (81-87)
100:05'22.0165 (159-170)0.9911.1 (9.7-11.9)5'24 (6'10-5'03)9384 (82-87)
110:05'32.0164 (156-171)1.0111.0 (4.0-12.2)5'28 (15'09-4'54)121384 (71-87)
120:05'26.0162 (157-168)0.9911.0 (5.8-12.2)5'28 (10'25-4'54)9085 (56-88)
130:05'45.0164 (156-173)1.0110.5 (3.6-13.0)5'42 (16'40-4'37)15382 (40-124)
140:05'02.0166 (160-169)1.0011.9 (11.5-12.6)5'01 (5'12-4'45)01185 (82-87)
150:04'47.0169 (163-173)0.9912.4 (11.5-13.7)4'50 (5'12-4'23)0985 (80-87)
160:05'41.0169 (150-175)1.0010.6 (5.0-12.2)5'40 (11'54-4'54)12081 (52-87)
170:05'45.0172 (164-178)1.0010.5 (5.4-12.2)5'44 (11'06-4'54)33081 (50-88)
180:00'57.3173 (171-176)0.1912.1 (11.9-12.6)4'58 (5'03-4'45)7384 (83-89)

Having quite a bit of late and pumped in a PB on the Tesco-Garden Loop, I felt it was only right to through in a very gentle run that would allow the legs to rest a little whilst also adding miles to bank. On the Wednesday morning decided to run a very gentle sub-130 bpm route that would have me averaging only 6:50 min/km over a 12.28km route. These runs are good as they put very little strain in the body and although it took 1hr 24 mins to complete, it was lovely little run and I need to start doing more of them.

In the evening of the same day I elected not to join the Newbury Runners for their weekly run as they were doing intervals, and instead ran around Greenham Common with Andy Woodman. Andy is coming back from injury and didn't want to run fast. I kept the pace gentle in total I ran (if you take into account running to and back from the Common) 14km at average pace of 6:05 min/km. It was nice run as we chatted throughout.

That was the last run I did that week which allowed a couple of days rest before taking on the marathon on the Saturday morning. I know the marathon training route would take me approximately four and half hours (depending on pace and how I felt) and with that in mind, and knowing I needed to complete the run early, I set my alarm for 3.30am and was out the door by 3:45am! Now that is early - even for me!!!

Marathon Distance Route - 43km
I'd originally planned to run the first 31km along the Aldermaston Loop (see above) but it had been raining the day and night before and I didn't want to risk running along a slippy towpath along the canal. I therefore ran to Aldermaston Village and then cut back down on the A4 and ran towards Thatcham. I did a small diversion down to the train station and then back up into Thatcham before then heading over to Newbury and eventually Wash Common. I reached Wash Common at the 32km mark. I refilled my water bottles and then proceeded to run the Wash Water-Wash Common Loop twice which took me to 43km (just over marathon distance). 

Waising Park at 5:15am - Home of Endure24!
Near Aldermaston Village - 5:15am
I realised after I'd hit Thatcham that my pace was a little too fast so I slowed it down, and on the last 10km I REALLY slowed it down. It was a training run after all! The run felt fine and I'd completed it in 4 hours 41 mins with an average pace of 6:32 min/km. That's not a true reflection of my pace though as I ran a lot faster in the first half and a lot slower towards the end. Next time round I'll just sit on the 6:10 min/km pace and gently plod around; slightly slower pace when I increase the distance to 50km.

This was my first attempt at a marathon-distance training run and I'm happy to have completed it. I just need to reduce the pace a little the next time to make it feel even more comfortable.

The next day my right foot had swollen a little (so not back-to-back run on Sunday) but on the whole there was no damage as a result of the run. This gave me huge confidence!

By the end of the fourth week I'd covered:

  • 4 runs
  • Ran for 9 hrs 3 mins
  • Covered 86.49 km
  • Ran up 492 m of hills
  • Average HR was 148 bpm
  • Burnt 5,356 calories

Week 5
My final week of Stage 1 training, and the final set of runs before I take a 9-day break from running as I relax on Holiday, as a little disappointing. I was hoping to cover more mileage than I actually did. I'd hoped that because there would be no long runs (as I going on holiday on the Saturday) that I could get a bulk of mileage in during the week days (approx. 80 km). However it didn't go quite according to plan, and I think the writing was on the wall from the outset.

My first run of the week was the Tesco-Garden Loop on the Tuesday morning. I was hoping to run a good time and for the first 5km I felt okay and was averaging a good fast pace. However I then started to feel tired and the legs felt a little heavy; this wasn't helped by the route itself, which I have to say is not the most uninspiring (second only to hauling my are around Greenham Common!). With that in mind I decided there was no point in continuing with the 17km route and that I'd cut it short; which is what I did. I ended back at the start having covered 11.39km in just over an hour. Not a good start to the week!

Work Lunch 5km Route
Determined to prove to myself that I could still run I went out for a lunchtime run at work on the same day; this time a simple 5km loop involving a little hill. This was more like it: I made sure I kept a fast-ish pace and completed the 5.23km loop in 25:15. My heart rate exploded at 171 bpm, but that was intentional and I averaged 4.49 min/km pace (okay not my parkrun pace but still reasonably fast for me!). It was a good workout and the legs felt better than they had done earlier that morning.

Feeling happy about myself I then attempted it a second time the following day, but with less success. My legs started to feel heavy again. It was a slightly shorter route as I was not heading back to the office straight after the run, and so I completed the 5km route in 24:54 and averaged 4:58 min/km with again a 171 bpm. Having a little time before I needed to get back to the office I then proceeded to do a gentle 3km cool down run. That afternoon I was starting to get the feeling that my body is already preparing itself for a break. 

That night (Wednesday night) I headed out with the Newbury Runners for an off-road lap through the woods around the common before then heading back along the common itself. I set off from the Wash Common with the intention just to plod - and that's exactly what I did for the whole run. The wooded bit was a little twisty and I could feel my left knee twinge a little (I didn't tell anyone at the time). I completed the 15km before then chilling out that evening. The next morning my left knee started to hurt a little. I suspect it was running through the woods. There and then I decide to pack the running for the rest of the week. I needed to think bigger picture, and the bigger picture is Stage 2 of my training. 

By the end of the fifth week I'd covered:

  • 5 runs
  • Ran for 3hrs 44 mins
  • Covered 40 km
  • Ran up 219 m of hills
  • Average HR was 164 bpm
  • Burnt 3,048 calories

Conclusion, Next Steps & Stage 2
Given all my injuries of late I'm pretty happy with the amount of training I've done this past 5 weeks. In the final week I was a little tired and managed to pick up a niggle in the knee (which has now gone thankfully) but on the whole I ran a mixed-bag of runs: slow, fast, hilly, flat, road, woodland, towpaths, short distance, long distance, back-to-back runs to name a few. I feel my base fitness is at least starting to come back.

The intention is to take the next 9 days off and then return to Stage 2 fully refreshed. Stage 2 will hopefully look like this (measured in km):

Sun 24 Aug30
Weekly Total30
Mon 2550
Wed 2721
Sat 3043
Sun 3130
Weekly Total144
Wed 325
Sat 650
Sun 743
Weekly Total118
Wed 1025
Sat 1350
Sun 1450
Weekly Total125
Wed 1725
Sat 2060
Sun 2143
Weekly Total128

I'm not saying the above will necessarily happen but it is at least a plan that I think will prepare me for the 100km between Bath and Newbury.

In the meantime I shall now take some time off and try and not put too much weight on. However I do envisage some cider and wine being drunk, seafood and meat being eaten, and a fair few BBQs. Now you can see why I've snuck in a cheeky little 30km run on the 24 August (the day after I return from holiday). It'll be my little tester to see just how much fitness I've managed to retain... :)

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