Monday, 29 September 2014

A Wobble and Challenge - Final Training Push (Part 2)

After spending a well-earned week off in Cornwall with the family I decided to try and follow the rather ambitious training plan for the month of September. To be honest however, a week spent on the beach eating lovely food and drinking plenty of Cornish Cider had made me feel a little sluggish; and that's even without putting my trainers on. I had 5 weeks before the big run so needed to get to get back into the route...and fast!

Week 1
We arrived home on the Saturday and at 3.30am on the Sunday morning my alarm went off.
My view at 4am!
It was time to tackle the Hungerford Loop after a week of laziness and indulgence. 

No sooner had I stepped out the door than I realised the dark mornings were upon us. It's amazing how quickly they arrived - within a matter of a couple of weeks we've gone from light mornings to dark, and that just makes it harder to get out of bed. Not as much of an issue now, but give it a month and the temperature will soon drop and the weather turn for the worse. Still I got up and headed out for the run.

It was actually quite a pleasant run and despite a recent lack of exercise my pace was fairly consistent around the 5:45 min/km mark. However I was starting to notice my heart rate increasing...not a good sign.

I hit Hungerford no problems and it was a lovely morning. The sun rise was fantastic to look at and the scenery on Hungerford Common was amazing.

Hungerford Common - 5:10am
I love running along the common so early in the morning; there are no cars and you get to see quite a bit of wildlife.

Hungerford Common - 5:10am
I headed into the town centre and there wasn't a sole about as I ran down the main high street to the canal. I decided on the way back along the canal that I would investigate the water taps and try out the new key had for them. This meant my run would take slightly longer than normal.

I stopped at at the first water tap in Hungerford and there was a lovely sign on it saying the water was not for drinking. I was under the impression that all water taps had drinking water. This got me thinking a little. I did note though that this tap was not located in a secure unit (which I had a key for).

I ran along the canal towards the next water tap at Kintbury. The views along the canal were stunning. It was also very peaceful and a joy to run along, despite HR increasing beyond what it should be (when compared to before the holiday). I was also happy to see that the overgrown hedges had also been trimmed along the whole towpath, which made it somewhat easier to run along.

I eventually hit Kintbury and saw a metal post sticking out of the ground right next to the lock. Hay it was the water tap. I dug out the key to see if it was the right one, and hay presto it opened a little metal door and standing there in all its glory was a water tap! This gave me confidence that my water supply on the Bath to Newbury run would be aplenty! I had the positions of the taps stored on my watch and the distance between them. Hopefully I won't have to carry to too much water when running.

With that sorted I pushed on. I arrived at Newbury a little worse for wear. Not totally knackered but the increased HR was having an adverse affect on my running. I struggled at a slow pace up Andover Hill for a completed run of 30km.

This was a harder run than what it should have been, and the result of a week of over-indulgence was evident to see (and feel). A few hours after the run the thighs started to tighten up and it all felt a little uncomfortable. Not a good start!

My plan was the reduce the number of runs to 3 per week but increase the distance of each run. However that plan soon went to pot, as you'll discover if you keep reading this  blog entry!

As this run was on a Sunday, it was the only one I did that week.

I'd therefore covered by the end of the week:

  • 1 run
  • Ran for 3 hrs 19 mins
  • Covered 30.38 km
  • Ran up 181 m of hills
  • Average HR was 163 bpm
  • Burnt 2,345 calories

Week 2
If I thought the first run after my holiday was bad, then my second week of running was a fucking disaster!

Wednesday Night 20.84 km run
The Monday was a Bank Holiday and I'd hoped to get out for a long run and make the most of having the day off work. However my legs were aching from the Sunday run so I had to scrap that idea. Instead I went out on the Wednesday night.

Wednesday's run was actually quite successful. I managed to run a fairly hilly 20.84 km route without any real problems. My foot and ankle felt fine; the legs felt stong; the only real thing I was noticing was the increase (yet again) in HR and my Respiration Rate (number of times I breath in and out). This was confirmed when I got home and uploaded the run into Movescount. My average HR was 161 bpm (it maxed at 171 bpm) and my Respiration Rate was fluctuated between 32-44 (especially during the latter stages). This meant I was puffing a little towards the end of the run. Despite this it gave me a baseline from which to come back from. I wasn't worried about getting it sorted; I was just a little concerned that I don't have that much time left to get it sorted...

The planned 50km run on the Saturday was a complete and utter disaster. I had a major problem sleeping the night before and only managed 30 mins. I was up at 3.30am and started the run around 3:45am. I was only 10km into the run and I started to feel the affects of not having any sleep. I ran over the common and out towards Brimpton. I'd chosen a long sleve top and this was bad; it wasn't cold and I was over heating. Then the rain started and stopped, so I was constantly putting my lightweight jacket on. I ran through Brimpton and was loosing the will to live. The thought of having to run 50km when I felt so crap was dawning on me, and so I decided to turn around and head back. By the time I got back to the Common I was feeling sick and, half way round I had to stop the run to prevent me from being sick! This was not good and it was purely down to not having any sleep the night before. Unlike Endure24 when I did not sleep either, at least for that event I'd prepared for it. This was an unexpected sleepless night in which I was expected to then run 50km (30 miles) in the early hours of the morning. It was never going to happen...and I learnt the hard way.

I walked off the Common and felt a little better before then running the last couple of km back home.  I was hugely disappointed; not just the fact I didn't complete the run but that I'd also wasted a training week. There was no chance I'd run the following day because my body needed to recover from lost sleep. I had a quick shower then grabbed a couple of hours sleep.

I also realised that only running 3 times per week, especially with my reduced fitness levels, was not going to work. I was would need to be more clever with my runs, but ensuring I did not burn myself out for the weekend long runs. The following week was going to have to be a more positive experience. If not then I risk not starting the Bath run on the 4 October.

By the end of the week I'd covered:

  • 3 runs and 1 walk
  • Ran for 4 hrs 47 mins
  • Covered 42.53 km
  • Ran up 231 m of hills
  • Average HR was 151 bpm
  • Burnt 3,002 calories

Week 3
The third week back after my holiday was a far more positive affair with some varied runs and a decent amount of mileage. It was also the week I was challenged by 2 running buddies: Paul Stout and Nick Silcox. Strava had released their Sept challenge and before I knew it the 3 of us had challenged each other to run the most miles that month, with the minimum  bar being set at 300 miles.

Now 300 miles in a month shouldn't be a problem; however I had planned on spending the last week of September tapering (i.e., reducing significantly the amount of mileage I run). Being told by the guys that tapering was "over-rated" I made the decision to ditch the tapering. My plan therefore is to do any many miles as possible within the first 3 weeks and then anything over that will be a bonus. If I can do 300 miles in 3 weeks then that would a) make me very happy; and b) ensure I am putting in serious miles as part of my training (i.e., no slacking on my part). 

And so let the challenge begin!

24km Hilly Run
The first run was a gentle, if somewhat hilly, 24km run from Wash Common, out towards Thatcham and jump on the Tesco-Garden Loop course back to Wash Common. I kept a steady pace and averaged 6.30 min/km with a total finish time of 2hr 36 mins. A nice little workout to start the week, although my HR could have been a little lowers.

This was followed the following day with a nice sub-150 lunch run. On the Wednesday I decided to run a 10k with pace. I ran from Wash Common and finished part-way round Greenham Common in a time of 53:44 (average 5.22 min/km); only a couple of seconds short of my 10k PB! This was a good stress test of the heart. I immediately followed it with a gentle 8km plod home. I was feeling good and positive and this continued onto Thursday when I ran another sub-150 lunch run.

Crofton Pumping Station - 50km Training Run
I then took a couple of days off before then tackling my longest training - a 50km run from Wash Common to Hungerford (along the country roads); then jump onto the canal and run to Crofton Pumping Station (25km) before then heading back along the canal all the way to the Church in the centre of Newbury. 

Ideally I would like to have run the whole route along the canal, but the mornings are dark I did not fancy running along a canal on my own in the dark. I live in a pretty safe area of the country, but even so. I therefore ran the country lanes (as per my Hungerford Loop). I decided to really take it easy on the hills for two reasons: a) I didn't want to blow up later in the run; b) I wanted to hit Hungerford at first light. So I headed out with my head torch and ran the lonely route to Hungerford. I ran slower that normal but felt good when I got to the canal at first light. The run along the canal was beautiful. It was a warm-ish morning but overcast, so no lovely sunrise (to be honest though I was running west so wouldn't have seen it anyway!). The terrain was smooth in places but also rough in other places, and this was starting to flame up the tendons on my right foot. I decided to take it slowly. 

View from Crofton Pumping Station
I reached Crofton Pumping Station in 2hrs 57 mins. Given I'd complete 30km in 3 hours, to complete 25km in the same time clearly indicated I was running slightly slower. This was fine as I had to cover the whole distance again. I topped up my water bottles at the tap on the canal, munched on a fruit bar and some wine gums, and then headed back. 

The run back was lovely. The barge owners were waking up and I could smell the wood burners, coffee and bacon butties. I wished as many of them as I could a "good morning" - they were all so friendly. My foot was starting to hurt a little but it seemed okay to continue running. My pace started to fall slightly so I adopted a run-walk strategy. I would "walk" through some of the locks and run between then. This strategy seemed to work and one I must remember for my Bath to Newbury run in October. 

I got to Hungerford and took 5 mins to stretch my legs. I was taking my son to a birthday party at 10:40 and I could see that if I continued this pace then I'd be a little late. So I decided on two things: firstly to increase the pace from Huungerford to Newbury; and secondly once I reach Newbury and the 50km mark, to get my wife to pick me up as it meant me not have to waste time running back home. The plan worked! I topped my water up at Kintbury and picked the pace up. This meant a little puffing, panting and stopping to catch my breath a little, but I completed the run just on time. I'd ran 50km in 5 hrs 36 mins, averaged 6:43 min/km (this includes time taken to rest and top water up), and had an average HR of 143 bpm (which I'm pleased about).

This was the first real long run I'd done. It was pretty much a 30 mile run so officially classified as an ultra-distance. However, although I felt fine for the rest of the day and evening (if a little tired), I woke up the following morning with a swollen right foot and unable to put any weight on it. I had this for next 2-3 days. Therefore my planned Sunday run did not happen. I was a little disappointed but also happy to completed such a long run as part of my training. That said this reoccurring injury to the tendons on my foot needs to be factored into my Bath to Newbury run. The tendon issue is not caused by distance or time on feet but more the terrain, and running along the canal tow path meant my foot place was awkward for quite a bit of the route. I just need to bare this in mind, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little worried.

By the end of the week I'd covered:

  • 6 runs
  • Ran for 12 hrs 2 mins
  • Covered 112.2 km
  • Ran up 483 m of hills
  • Average HR was 153 bpm
  • Burnt 7,604 calories

Week 4
Hateful Run - 21km
Given the injury I'd sustained on the long run the previous week, the first half this week was non-existent as regards to running. When I did eventually get back out running I then quickly wished I hadn't bothered. On Wednesday night I ran between Wash Common and Thatcham on a 21.70km loop. However nothing good came from this run apart from the fact that my foot had started to feel better. I hated every moment of the run; my mind wasn't on it; and I kept starting and stopping with no real motivation and I just wanted to get home. Just one of those runs I suppose. Still I covered 21km so that is better than nothing.

The following day I ran 10k at lunch and averaged a reasonable 5:46 min/km. However this was just a warm-up because on the Friday I did the same route (a 2-lap route) in 53:08 (averaging 5.18 min/km) and achieving a new unofficial and unintentional 10km PB! I hadn't planned on it; it just came. Only intended on adding a bit of pace for the first 5k lap and then reduce pace a little on the 2nd lap. Looked at my watch with 500m to go and I was on for an unofficial PB, so decided to kick-in to the finish. A good way to end the week (as I decided to take the weekend off from running)

By the end of the week I'd covered:
  • 3 runs
  • Ran for 4 hrs 12 mins
  • Covered 41.77 km
  • Ran up 167 m of hills
  • Average HR was 160 bpm
  • Burnt 3,112 calories

Week 5
With the training weeks blowing away like tumbleweed in a Spaghetti Western , I was keen to get a solid weeks' training in as I begin my final push. 

The week started well. I worked from home on the Monday and so managed to pump in a 14km loop around Greenham Common with an average pace of 5:41km. It was warm on the common, but it felt comfortable (despite the 166 bpm HR!). I followed this up in the evening with a pleasant 16km sub-150 bpm country run. That was 30km for the day, and I was feeling great. The sub-150 ensured I burn myself by the end of day 1. I repeated the sub-150 routine the following day when I did another 10km lunch time run at work.

5 mile chase route
Wednesday was a day of two halves. I set off first thing in the morning for a very gentle sub-130 run. It took forever to run the 12km at that pace, but it ensured I got the miles bagged without putting any stress on the legs. That evening I joined Sue's group for a mini-chase with the lower group. The group is mainly made up of mid-range runners, but there were a few of us who had joined the group who are quite fast. As we were the quickest we set off last. I was in the group with Stouty, James Clutton, etc. The idea was to catch the packs on an 8km (5 mile loop). It was great running with the guys and I felt very comfortable switching between 5:05 and 5:30 min/km pace as we tried to keep our group together. We controlled the run well and by half way had caught everyone up. With about 1.5km to go our pack split and we ran our own pace to the finish. Stouty and a couple of other flew off; I then followed behind (running a 4.45 min/km for the remainder of the distance), with the rest behind me. It was lung busting stuff towards the end as it was up hill. I finished in 46:03. Not bad and a good workout.

Chase stats
The graphic below shows my HR, Respiration Rate and Pace. It it quite clear to see that the last 1.5km is when I put the real effort. Huge spikes! This was a really good workout and the plan is to do more of them. This was quickly arranged by Sue and for what it was it was good and fun. However I've done these before, and in a more serious and scientific environment, and they can be really challenging. I believe the other Newbury Runners' group (the one I usually run with) are also looking to plan one. That's a more advanced group, and I doubt I'll be in the "chasing pack" for that (which makes it even more fun!).

Hungerford Loop early morning (31km)
After the chase I decided to take a few days off from running. On the Saturday I set off early and ran the Hungerford Loop. This was just bad! After 3 km I just wanted to stop. Hated every bloody step of this run. Given I've run this route in sub-3 hrs indicates how little interest I had today in running it (finishing in 3 hrs 33 mins, with some unnecessary stops). The canal is also not great for my foot....and a big decision needs to be made about the Bath to Newbury run along the canal. This run was my last of the week as the tendons in my right foot flared up and I was unable to run on the Sunday.

By the end of the week I'd covered:
  • 6 runs
  • Ran for 9 hrs 56 mins
  • Covered 92.22 km
  • Ran up 720 m of hills
  • Average HR was 149 bpm
  • Burnt 6,204 calories

Week 6
As so begins the final full-on week of training before the Bath to Newbury run. The intention is not to kill myself during the course of the week but to do some solid (and varied) miles.

The week started positively with a sub-150 Wash Common / Wash Water Loop. Ran this 3 times and covered 15km. What was interesting about this run is that my HR seemed to play ball - that is, it's sky-rocket at the first sign of pace or hills. As a result I ran this route much quicker within the sub-150 bracket than what I usually do. Completed it in 1 hr 31 mins with an average pace of 6:04 min/km and average HR of 147 bpm. Not bad considering I also ran up 161m of ascent!

Tuesday was a rest day as Wednesday was a more manic day for running with a total distance of 26km being covered over a number of sessions of varying degrees of intensity and distance. The morning started with a deliberately slow 10.16km jog - not even a run! I wanted to conserve my legs for the evening. My HR monitor has been playing up recently; recording particularly high beats per minute during the first km or two of a run. Only after disconnecting and reconnecting will it settle down. Need to keep an eye on that one!

Chase 2 Route - 8km (5 Miles)
That evening I slowly jogged to Newbury College for another "Chase" run. Again I was placed in the 'chasing pack' (the 4th and final group to set off), along with Stouty, James Clutton and a few others. The first group set off at 7:30pm; the second group at 7:32pm; the third group at 7:37pm; and finally, after quite a wait, our chasing group at 7:45pm. 

We flew down Newtown Road and across town to Starbucks before then taking a left just prior to Starbucks and heading out towards Northcroft leisure centre. The pace lead switched between James and myself for this first section, but a couple of the runners in the group wanted to push on. We were supposed to be running as a group, and occasionally either myself, James or Stouty would have to call them back. We really needed to stay as a group for the first 6-7km of this 8km run (similar to last week). We weaved through the various housing estate streets and eventually existed into Andover Road (about half way up). I'd been dreading this part. By this point we'd covered 5.5km in 28:50. Not bad time - not sprinting but not plodding. A controlled run with pace. We'd still not seen the earlier groups. By this point last week (all be it on a different route) we'd overtaken everyone. I think setting off later was a good move. Made it more competitive.

Pace Stats
So began the run up Andover Hill. I was determined not to plod but at the same time have some pace but not explode at the top. So head down I ran up the fucker at pace. It seemed easier when you had people with you and you were trying to catch an earlier group. I got to the top 5 mins later and when I looked at my watch I was running at a current pace of around 5 min/km as the hill started to flatten out. Lungs felt okay even if I was puffing a little. Now I had 1.5km flat sprint to the finish. I upped the pace and as I got the Rugby Club along Monk's Lane I so some of the runners from the earlier groups. I kicked in and caught the first few. My watch bleeped to indicate I'd then the last km (part up hill and part on the flat) in 4.54 min/km. Not bad considering I'd just run up Andover Road. I had 1 km to go so pushed on even harder and I started to catch quite a few runners by the time I entered the car park of the college. I pushed and pushed to the finish and clocked a total time of 41.09 for the 8km. The final km was run in 4:35 min/km, which I was very with. My HR was sky-high towards the end with 185 bpm, but averaged out over the run, and given the hills in the second half, a average HR of 167 bpm wasn't too bad.

Chase 2 - Heart Rate, Pace, Altitude, Respiration  Rate (interesting stats!)
I did a gentle jog back to Wash Common then ran a sub-160 (as my heart was already pumping) run down towards Wash Water and back up to Wash Common (5km). A good days' running, with a real mix of runs interspersed with recovery time.
3 Interval Reps - HR Chart

On Saturday I attempted some intervals. I haven't done interval training since January
when it was part of my marathon training programme. Then I could 500m reps no problem (even doing them on Boxing Day last year). So on Saturday I planned to do 1km warm-up, 500m fast; 500m slow (repeat 5 times - so 6 sets in total). I managed to 3 sets and the fast intervals killed me! Too much running slow I think! Nearly had a heart attack as I ran back and forth along Monks Lane. Need more practice! Immediately after I went for a gentle 8km trail run. However on that run I noticed my left hamstring had been twinged. Arrrgg!!!! Not what I needed! Need to see how this goes as I have the big run next week.

By the end of the week I'd covered:

  • 8 runs
  • Ran for 5 hrs 40 mins
  • Covered 54.31 km
  • Ran up 365 m of hills
  • Average HR was 148 bpm
  • Burnt 3,730 calories

Final Thoughts
I must admit that I didn't cover the mileage I'd initially planned nor actually followed the training plan I'd created. This was in main due to the various niggles I got after the long runs, and the fact I'd started to join the Newbury Runners on some of their Chase runs. I end the 6 weeks of training having thrown in some good runs (e.g., the 50km) run, but I've also had some disappointing runs. 

Am I ready to tackle my big run? I'm not sure. Ideally I'd like longer to train with longer training runs, but that's not going to happen now. I can only do my best and see how far I get.

The niggle to the hamstring is now forcing me to relax in the week leading up the big run. Fingers cross that niggle disappears quickly. The next 7 days are going to be interesting....