Training Update: November-December 2015 (Rocking On After Rockingham)

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Backtracking a bit – here’s a catch-up on my training since the Rockingham 10k in November 2015.

The first thing I did after Rockingham was to take a rest week. I would normally take a rest week every couple of months or so, but I hadn’t had one for twenty-three weeks. Overtraining wasn’t far off.

So I took a week off. No running, no gym work; I even allowed myself a few cheat eat treats. Useful – essential, even – but very frustrating. I’m not very good at resting.

I used the time to ponder my goals for 2016. And what was mainly on my mind was speedwork – adding track sessions and hill repeats – especially since my perennial problem of losing speed and being dropped on hills and inclines had cost me all-important places at Rockingham. Well, there aren’t any hills at Rockingham, it’s almost entirely flat with just a few short inclines, but I still lost speed and places on them.

I also needed to focus on distance ahead of Canalathon 50k (my first ultra) in March 2016. Especially because, after achieving my sub-four hour marathon at Robin Hood in September, the end of 2015 was spent dialling down the distance and dialling up the speed. (I dropped down to half-marathon and set two PBs in two weeks at Oxford and Birmingham, then went on an all-out 10k PB blitz for Rockingham.) Which I thoroughly enjoyed, but which also meant I’d neglected distance work.

Speedwork

Selfie of me outside front door in Team Red top after a run
Post-run

At first I replaced my usual midweek 10k race-pace run with a hill repeats session. I also found a promising looking local running track for some track work. But although I quickly began to feel the benefits of the hill reps, this was offset by the loss of the 10k all-out blast: I was gaining power on hills but losing all-out pace. So I put the 10k back in as well as the reps, and for the first time in my life I was running four times per week.

Until the last couple of years this would have been unthinkable. I used to suffer from ‘runner’s knee’ in both knees so badly that I considered two runs per week my maximum. But switching to a more midfoot strike, reducing/eliminating over-striding, plus specific hips and glutes strength work, cured this completely.

However, I didn’t quite get round to actually going to the running track I’d found. Fitting in a fifth run was problematic, and I deemed each of my weekly intervals, hill reps, 10k blast and long run too important to start alternating them with a track session.

Distance

The distance work went quite well, though.

I ramped up my long runs and only took three weeks to get back up to full marathon distance: going 15 miles one week, 18 (fasted) the next, and the full 26.7 the next (I like to run a little over-distance because races usually come up long). Technically, this last run was a DNF because I was attempting a distance PB, which for me would have been anything over 27 miles. But I just couldn’t go a step further than 26.7.

Of interest in this is the route I used, which I’ve run before. For the first fourteen miles I ran two laps of a fairly hilly seven-mile loop, then gave myself an easier finish by running the final twelve miles or so as an out-and-back on canal towpaths.

Or, at least, this should have been an easier finish. What I found was something I’ve encountered before: as soon as I switched to the flat towpath, the effort of running increased and my mile splits dropped. They dropped even more into a headwind on the back section of the out-and-back. So either running hilly routes is actually easier, since for every uphill section I get to run a downhill too, or maybe the gravelly surface, with less grip and purchase, slowed me down. I’m a road-runner through and through, after all.

I’d also run this route entirely in the rain and cold, in my water-resistant jacket. I don’t like doing this. I much prefer minimal layers so that I feel free and light when I run. By the time I got in the car to drive home I was shaking and shivering wildly. That drive home was one of the most uncomfortable I’ve ever done: freezing cold, in wet clothes (the rain had soaked through my jacket, and I’d sweated too), sitting for about forty minutes in extra-heavy Christmas shopping traffic. But, still.

Back to Speedwork

Then it all became about speed again.

Joanna (UKRunChat running buddy, and also of Teacups & Trainers) and I hit upon the idea of a January 2016 tweetup at her local ParkRun in Milton Keynes. Several other UKRunChat folk quickly joined, and my first event of 2016 quickly fell into place. Of course, ParkRun isn’t a race – we all know that. It’s not the spirit of the thing. But it serves really well as a 5k event, and a fantastic opportunity to race myself and the clock in a PB attempt. Especially since I’ve been chasing a sub-20 5k for what seems like an eternity.

So the block of training that was originally intended to take me up to Christmas became extended to the middle of January, with the aim of peaking for a 5k PB at Milton Keynes ParkRun. And this, in turn, meant running over Christmas. In my next post, I’ll recap the lovely morning we all had in ‘MK’. And what happened with the 5k PB attempt(s).

So, after Rockingham I promised to attack winter training. With a full marathon distance, new additional hill reps session, PB attempt at distance, and a PB attempt at 5k to follow, as well as Christmas running, this was me doing just that.

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