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.