Gone To Pot… But Not In A Bad Way

My training plan seems to have gone to pot over the last week or so, but as I made the whole thing up myself, I’m not too worried. One of the problems is that I find it hard to not treat every run like a race, which means that I generally need more time to recover; and the other problem is that I’m still getting to grips with the whole nutrition thing, which also affects my recovery. The result is that I end up doing fewer sessions than planned because I’m just too tired.

However, it’s not all bad. In fact, despite skipping over a week’s worth of runs in the first three weeks of the plan, I am making some good progress. Last weekend I ran 12 kilometres, which is further than I have ever run before. Even though it left me feeling exhausted for the rest of the week, the psychological difference is huge. If I managed to run 12K, then I can definitely run 10K, right?

With four weeks to go until my next 10K race, I decided that even though I was still feeling pretty tired, I had to get back out and run this weekend. The training plan said I had to do 12K today, but as I did that last week, I figured I’d just do 10K and see how it felt.

My goal for the Brighton Marathon 10K, apart from just being able to complete the course, is to try to beat my PB of 1:08:00. So in order to do this, I would need some kind of race plan. I know from my training that I can easily sustain a pace of 6:45 mins per kilometre over a 5K course, so I reckoned that this would be a good benchmark for the first half of the 10K, hopefully leaving me with enough energy to complete the second half at a similar (and hopefully slightly faster) pace.

But it’s the last part that is the key here. Would I have enough energy left to sustain me for the final stretch? I had no idea, so I decided to use this morning’s run to try it out.

The aim was to keep the pace as close as possible to 6:45 for the first 5 kilometres, and for a while it seemed to be working. I was feeling pretty good. The sun was shining, there was a nice breeze in the air and I was feeling relaxed. So much so, however, that I forgot to keep an eye on my pace and ended up running negative splits.

When I realised this, I eased off again for the 6th kilometre. But it was too little too¬†late. I was already starting to feel tired. The sun was getting hot. I was wearing too many layers. I needed a drink. My legs were hurting. And my pace dropped back to around 6:50. It wasn’t what I had hoped for, but I knew that I was learning an important lesson about pacing. I had chosen 6:45 because I knew I could sustain it; but then I went too fast and couldn’t. I’d proved myself right. That was all.

But then something interesting happened. When my Garmin beeped to tell me that I was on my final kilometre, I looked at my time and realised that I had only been running for a little bit over an hour. That meant that if I could keep my pace just a bit faster than 7:00, I had a good chance of beating my PB of 1:08:00.

I knew that I didn’t have much left in me so it I wasn’t going to push it. There wasn’t going to be a final kick and a sprint to the finish line. But there didn’t need to be. As long as I focused on the breathing, kept the legs turning over and let the momentum carry me on, I could get close.

So I focussed on the breathing: breathe in for three steps, out for two; in for three steps, out for two; in for three steps, out for two… It wasn’t easy and I had to keep glancing at my watch to see how much longer I had, trying to reassure myself that all I had to do was keep moving and I’d get a PB. So I kept at it, breathing, counting, moving forward. And then I finished.

Somehow, despite the poor pacing and lack of training this week, the plan had worked and I managed to get my PB down to 1:07:22. But the weirdest thing about it was that, in the end, my pace averaged out at 6:44, which was pretty much what I had been aiming for all along!

10K Splits_09-03-14

So, I guess this run has taught me some important lessons: firstly, the training is working, even if (or perhaps because) I skipped some sessions; secondly, I need to stick to what I know is sustainable during the first half of the race; and thirdly, if I can just hold back for that first 5K and preserve some energy, I might have some kick left in me for a good strong finish!

Next week, with the right nutrition and more attention to pacing, I’m hoping that I can get my training back on track. After all, running days are so much more enjoyable than rest days.

How’s your training going? Have you got a race lined up? Do you have a race plan or do you wait and see how you feel on the day? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Ups and Downs

It’s the end of Week 2 of my new training plan and, somewhat predictably, I’ve already missed two sessions. On Thursday, I was supposed to be practising my target 10K pace on a 5K run, but I just wasn’t feeling right.

I hadn’t been feeling great for most of the week, so much so that on Wednesday morning, I decided to book Thursday and Friday off work. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if I missed training on Thursday and would probably do me some good to have a bit of a rest before Saturday’s Parkrun.

However, by Saturday morning, I still wasn’t feeling great. I really wanted to do my scheduled Parkrun, but my body was telling me that something wasn’t right. So I skipped that one too and had a fairly easy day.

I know that my main problem here is nutrition. Although I don’t really eat much junk food, I am pretty lazy when it comes to cooking, so I think that a big part of it is that I’m just not getting enough calories. This is something that I really need to sort out if I’m going to up my distance and take part in longer races.

Which brings me on to this morning’s run.

After getting plenty of rest and making sure that I ate a bit more than usual over the last few days, I woke up this morning feeling pretty good about my long run. According to the plan, I was due to run 11K, but as I’d already run 11K last week, I decided to make up for my lost days of training and go for 12K – my longest distance to date.

It was a nice morning, sunny if a little bit windy, so I decided to try out a new route. Instead of doing my usual run back and forward between Hove Lawns and The Lagoon, I choose to run down past the pier and towards Brighton Marina. I hadn’t checked the exact distance on the map, so I thought I would just run until I hit 6K and then turn around and run back again to my starting point.

It was still nice and quiet at 9 am as I ran along the seafront, past the old West Pier and towards the Palace Pier. I wasn’t paying much attention to my pace as I went, just the occasional glance to make sure that I was staying somewhere between 6:45 and 7:00 mins per kilometre.

There was a slight incline just before the Palace Pier, as I moved up to the road, but after that it was flat again until I reached the Marina. In my head, I had imagined that I would hit 6K round about the Marina, but unfortunately I had imagined wrong! I still had another kilometre or so to go and the road that climbs high along the cliffs was looming.

Still, I was taking it nice and easy so I figured that a bit of hill work would do me some good. And besides, it would mean a nice gentle run on the way back down.

2014-03-02-Elevation

As it turned out, the climb wasn’t too bad as the path from The Marina zig-zagged nicely up to the road. Of course, once I was on the road, I was still climbing, but the view of the white cliffs in the distance was absolutely stunning against the clear blue sky.

In a way, I felt a bit sorry that I had to turn round as it really was quite beautiful running high above the sea, but being 6K from home already, I knew that I didn’t have much choice if I didn’t want to end up walking home.

So, I turned around and headed for home, passing various packs of runners coming in the opposite direction, as I made my way back down to the Marina and on towards the pier.

As I passed the Palace Pier, I was still feeling pretty good and was surprised that I only had 2.5K to go. For a moment, I considered picking up the pace to see if I could beat my 10K time, but only for a moment. I was doing well to be out running after feeling so bad all week, so I wasn’t going to risk it.

In the end, I completed the 12K in 1:22:13, with fairly consistent splits and an average pace of 6:51. The best part, though, was that when I got home and checked on my Garmin stats, I discovered that I was only 36 seconds away from my PB at the 10K mark.

2014-03-02-Summary

I figure that’s not bad going with 2 kilometres still to run and, even with missing two sessions this week, I feel like I’m pretty much on target so far for the BM10K in 5 Weeks time.

I guess today’s training is a reminder of what I already know – that I tend to progress more when I listen to my body and make time for rest and recovery.

How’s your training going? How often do you take rest days? How do you feel about skipping training sessions? Please share your thoughts in the comments.