Sunday Stroll

This morning I went for a Sunday stroll to introduce some cross training into my training plan and see what kind of impact it would have on my Training Peaks data.

The aim was to walk for one hour at a fairly brisk pace of under 10 minutes per kilometre. This is a bit faster than my normal walking pace and, although not nearly as tiring as running, it did get my heart rate up enough to make it feel like a workout rather than just a long walk.

I managed to keep my pace to an average of 9:47, which was pretty good considering that I had to stop for traffic a couple of times. The roads were still fairly quiet but there was enough activity to make me have to pause a few times. In saying that though, the fact that it started to rain quite heavily towards the end of the walk probably helped me to keep the pace up.

Looking at the Training Peaks data, it seems to suggest that doing this once a week will make the difference that I need to get my general fitness moving in the right direction; and, if it all goes according to plan, hopefully it will help to prepare me for the increase in the number of training days required for half marathon training in the Autumn.

2014-07-13_Chart
Click On The Chart To See A Larger Version

Of course, I still need to make sure that I don’t do so much walking that I’m not able to run the next day, but I don’t think an hour or so on a Sunday morning will interfere too much with the running schedule. Well, we’ll see what happens tomorrow.

How’s your training going? What type of cross training do you do to improve your general fitness? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Trying To Pace Myself

I completed the first week of my Base Training program this morning and, I have to say, I’m feeling pretty good so far.

Today’s run was all about building aerobic endurance, with a 45 minute run at a nice easy pace somewhere between 6:45 and 7:00 minutes per kilometre.

The first two kilometres went according to plan and, on average, I managed to stay within the prescribed pace range. But once I got into the third kilometre, I found it difficult to rein it in and ended up averaging around 6:30 or 6:29 for each of the final four splits.

2014-07-12_Splits

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but I do need to be careful to stay within range as I build up the distance in order to avoid overdoing it.

According to the Training Peaks performance manager, however, at this stage I’m definitely not overdoing it. In fact, I’m not making any measurable progress at all.

2014-07-12_TP-Chart
Click On The Chart To See A Larger Version

Even though my fitness is levelling off now, rather than decreasing, if I continue with the current phase of my Base Training as planned, it doesn’t look like I’m going to make any real progress in terms of fitness. Which leaves me with a dilemma.

Do I ramp things up a bit and run the risk of being too tired to complete some of my workouts later in the week? Or do I continue as planned, ignore the chart and just enjoy getting into the habit of running regularly for the next few weeks?

I know myself that the first option would be a huge risk. Running three times a week every week isn’t easy for me and I need to get better at running more frequently before I start my half marathon training; but I’m also motivated by data. I know the chart doesn’t tell the whole story, but I also know that seeing progress mapped out in this way will help me stay on track. Once that blue line starts to go up, I won’t want to see it go back down again!

So, I’ve come up with a plan that might just help. Instead of adding extra running sessions or trying to run too hard or too far too soon, I’m going to introduce some walking into my training program. Nothing quite as strenuous as my day long hikes in the earlier part of the year, but something a bit more challenging than my daily foot commute to and from work.

I’m not sure how or even if it will help, but I plan to do an hour of brisk walking tomorrow morning to see what difference it makes to the chart as well as its impact on Monday’s training run. I guess time will tell.

What training do you do other than running to help increase your fitness? Do you walk, cycle or swim? What impact does it have on the rest of your training?

Fartlek Freedom

After Monday’s pacing run, I was really looking forward to some farlek fun this evening. According to my self-styled training plan, Wednesday is speed work and my favourite type of speed work is, you guessed it, fartlek training.

The aim of this evening’s session was to spend 30 minutes playing and having fun with running at whatever pace I felt like and, hopefully, getting some good sprints in.

I headed to the seafront after work and decided to start off fairly slowly with some short bursts of speed before dropping back down to a comfortable pace again.

Then, when my Garmin beeped at the end of the first kilometre, I picked my feet up and sprinted to the next lamp post before dropping down again and then, eventually, slowing to a walk.

Usually, I would feel bad about walking, but since farlek training is supposed to be about running by ‘feel’ and I ‘felt’ like walking, I decided to go with it.

The rest of the run followed a similar pattern but with shorter breaks between sprints and, consequently, more frequent walk breaks.

2014-07-09_Chart

I basically decided that every time I passed a lamp post, I would alter my pace by stepping up or down a gear between walk, run and sprint. This worked out quite well and, even though in the end I was doing less sprinting than in the middle section, I still came out of it with an average pace of 6:28, which is pretty good considering how much I walked.

2014-07-09_Splits

So, on the whole, a pretty successful session. I achieved what I set out to do and had a lot of fun in the process.

What’s your favourite type of training run? Are you a speed bunny, an endurance monster, or do you like to mix it up with a bit of both? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Base Training: Phase 1

Now that the Race For Life 10K is done, I don’t have any more races planned until the Brighton Half Marathon in February. This will be my first half marathon and I want to get the training right so, rather than jumping straight into a late summer or autumn 10K (which is very tempting right now), I’ve decided to focus on base training for the summer months.

What Is Base Training?

The idea of base training is to build a strong foundation before the race specific training begins. The main objective is to get into a regular running habit and build up some distance, as well as working on pace and technique.

I’ve planned out my base training in three phases, each with a specific focus: phase one is all about getting out there and running regularly while working on maintaining a steady pace to build up aerobic endurance; phase two will introduce some hill repeats to build up strength; and phase three will include running longer intervals to further improve endurance. Each phase will last for four weeks, with three sessions every week, except for the fourth week where I will reduce the training load to encourage recovery.

It’s all a bit of an experiment really, but with more than six months to go before my next race, now seems like the best time to try something new.

Today’s Run

2014-07-07_OverviewSo, with my new training schedule in place, I headed out this morning for my first run, a 30 minute easy run at a pace of 6:45. As I’ve been doing a lot of run/walk/run recently, I figured that setting myself a fairly easy pace would give me the confidence to keep running and not take walk breaks. And it worked!

I managed to run the whole 30 minutes without any problems. In fact, the only problem was keeping the pace down.

The old me wouldn’t have worried about this and would have changed her mind about the purpose of the run half way through, ditching the 30 minutes to push for 5K and a PB. But today I didn’t do that. Today I stuck to the plan and tried to keep the pace slow and easy.

Why did I do that? Well, I figured that one of my problems with sticking to a training plan is that I tend to push too hard on most of my runs, resulting in fatigue, slow recovery and having to skip a run or two to build my strength back up.

So, although today’s run wasn’t fast, it wasn’t about being fast. It was about laying the first brick to start building a solid foundation and a regular running habit before the hard training begins. Let’s hope it works!

Do you include a base phase in your training? What types of workout do you use in your base training? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Race For Life 10K

Race-For-Life_0Today was the day of Brighton’s Race For Life 10K – a fundraiser in support of Cancer Research UK.

I signed up for it months ago and was originally hoping that by the time race day came around, I would be getting pretty close to the 60 minute mark for my 10K time.

Of course, over the months that followed, my plans changed. I signed up for other events and other priorities took over. I was still training hard, but just not for a 10K race; so by the time I should have been ready to refocus on Race For Life, my body just wasn’t up to it.

Still, I wasn’t going to back out of the chance to run a race, so I adjusted my focus and decided that Race For Life would be a training run, an experience and an opportunity to enjoy a different type of race – and I certainly wasn’t disappointed on that score!

The event was to take place in Stanmer Park, next to Sussex University. Race For Life didn’t publish the route beforehand so, after checking out Google maps and seeing that there weren’t any paths on the map, I figured it might be a good idea to wear my trail shoes, just in case. And I was glad that I did.

2014-07-05_Map

It turned out that the route was all grass and trails, which was a lot of fun, especially on the downhill sections. The uphill, on the other hand, wasn’t so much fun, particularly as the first hill was right at the start. This caused a bottle neck which pretty much brought everyone to a halt and meant that we all had to walk for at least half a kilometre until it thinned out a bit.

The first couple of kilometres were a bit frustrating as, even when things did thin out, a lot of people were blocking the path by walking in the middle of it instead of keeping to the left to allow people to pass. That, and the fact that I forgot to start my Garmin as I crossed the start line, meant that my pacing went completely to pot.

2014-07-05_Pace

After the second kilometre, however, things started to get more interesting. There was a good downhill stretch which enabled me to pick up my pace quite a bit to try to make up for the slow start, which gave my spirits a huge lift.

There was another small hill just before the water stop at the half way point, so I took a walk break and got some water. Again, this slowed things down more than it should have as the water station was basically a table with a load of two litre bottles of water and about a dozen plastic cups which we had to fill ourselves.

After stopping for water though, it was kind of hard to get going again. The course was two laps of 5K which meant climbing the hill again and, after my speedy descent over the last couple of kilometres, my legs were starting to feel it.

2014-07-05_Elevation

Even though I did my best to keep running, I eventually realised that I would have to walk most of the sixth kilometre to preserve some energy for the finish.

I knew it wasn’t going to be a great time, but I didn’t mind. I picked up the pace for the downhill and, with only a couple of short walk breaks after that, I was able to pick it up again for a strong finish and a high five for the guy with the giant hand at the finish line.

Despite the bottle neck at the top of the hill and the poorly organised water station, on the whole it was a lot of fun; and even though I’m rubbish at running uphill, the trails did make it much more fun than running on flat roads and paths.

As for my finish time? Well, the clock said 1:14:00 and my Garmin said 1:12:59, so given the fact that I started the Garmin late then I’d guess that 1:14:00 is probably closer, which isn’t too bad all things considered.

Have you done Race For Life or other events organised by charities? What did you think of the overall organisation? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Experimenting With Gels and Ratios

With all that data stuff yesterday, I nearly forgot to post about yesterday evening’s run.

I considered having a little practice run for Saturday’s 10K. The plan was to run about a 6:10 pace for 0.9 each kilometre and walk for the remaining 0.1. With a walking pace of around 9:30 minutes per kilometre, that would give me an average pace of 6:30, and a PB of 1:05:00 for the 10K. Predictably, however, it didn’t quite work out like that.

Before heading out, I decided to experiment by having an energy gel. I had one in the cupboard that I got for free at the L2B Challenge, but didn’t want to take it at the time as I’ve never tried energy gels before. So, since I was in the mood for experimenting and trying new things generally, I took the gel.

It wasn’t as unpleasant as I’d thought it would be; in fact, it actually tasted quite nice – almost like the citrus flavour promised by the packaging. I was kind of expecting it to have a horrible after taste like some of the energy bars that I’ve tried before, but it didn’t, so that was a good sign.

The temperature was about 20C when I headed out and the breeze on the seafront was a bit warmer than I like would have liked. This, coupled with the smell of barbecues and people smoking spliffs on the lawns (don’t they know it’s illegal to barbecue on Hove Lawns?), made things a little bit uncomfortable, but I was still determined to try out my walk run ratio.

While I did manage to keep a fairly decent pace, I soon realised that there was no way I could keep it going for 10K. So, rather than run the risk of overdoing things before race day, I decided to call it a day at 3 kilometres.

2014-07-01_Splits

I’m not sure what went wrong really. Perhaps it was the heat, or the energy gel, or maybe the pace I’d set for the ratios was just too much, but I know I won’t be doing that on Saturday. Instead, I’m going to just run it as best I can and take walk breaks if needed. However, I do still have a race plan which, even with walk breaks might just work.

The plan is to run kilometres 1-3 at 6:45, which I know I can do; then, I’ll try to pick things up to about 6:30 for kilometres 4-6, which is also achievable. The challenge will be to get to 6:15 for kilometres 7-9 and then try to push as hard as I can for the finish, depending on how much energy I have left in me.

Of course, if it doesn’t work out like that, I won’t really mind. My main objective at the moment is to get my running fitness back, so as long as I get the run in, then it’s all good.

A Bit Sciencey

Why, oh why did I sign up for Training Peaks? For someone like me, who absolutely loves data, this was probably not the best idea in the world. I mean, it’s an incredibly useful tool in explaining why my training has gone the way it has over the last few months, but when it comes to using it as a planning tool… well, that’s when it all starts getting a bit obsessive. And I’ve not even had the thing for 24 hours yet!

What The Heck Is Training Peaks?

Training Peaks is basically an on line program that you can sync with your GPS to analyse and plan your training. Here’s a screenshot from the Training Peaks Performance Manager, showing my Garmin activity since December:

2014-07-01_TP-Year
25/12/2014 – 31 July 2014

Basically, it analyses your workouts to show your fitness, fatigue and recovery over a period of time, as well as enabling you to plan your future training and make sure that you are at your peak for race day.

As you can see from the blue ‘fitness’ line, my training for the first half of this year went really well and, even though I was pretty fatigued about a month before the London to Brighton Challenge, reducing my training over the month before the big day meant that, even though my fitness dropped back down a bit, I had gained enough recovery to get me through the 100K walk.

Of course, since then, my fitness has dropped significantly. Even though, according to the orange line on the chart, I have recovered enough to get back into a regular training routine again, I haven’t really had the energy for the same volume of training that I took on at the beginning of the year, as you can see from the highlighted blue fitness line in the chart below (if you click on the chart, you can see it better!):

25/05/2014 - 31/07/2014
25/05/2014 – 31/07/2014

The red area shows a steady decline in my fitness level, but now that I am starting to get a few more training sessions in, this is beginning to level off in the orange section. The white box shows where I should be in terms of fitness and recovery for Saturday’s race.

The plan, therefore, is to train enough over the next month to prevent that blue fitness line from dropping any further, while at the same time getting myself used to running regularly again. Then, once I’m back into the swing of things, I should be able to start building up the longer runs again, which is what seems to make the biggest difference in getting that blue line moving up the chart again.

have you used Training Peaks? Do you use data to analyse and plan your training? Please share your thoughts in the comments.