The Long Run – Are we getting it wrong?

I wanted to post a few thoughts I’ve been having recently on Long Runs.

I’m not saying these are right, or indeed wrong. But they’ve been making more and more sense to me and I wanted to write them down so I don’t forget them. Also I hope I can get a few people’s thoughts on them, let me know if you think I’m onto something, or if I’m missing something completely.

In particular I’m addressing the Long Run which is usually a staple part of a Marathon training plan. Most plans will have you go up to 20 miles, or further, at least once. Its become a magic number, one that must be reached in training regardless of how many times you might run in a week, or your overall mileage.
I’ve been there myself, the 20 milers loom large on that plan stuck to the fridge. They fill you with dread at the start of the cycle, but they’re set in stone. You have to do them if you want to be able to run 26.2 on the day.

And actually, these thoughts apply if you’re not running a marathon too.

My experience with 20+ mile training runs is that they knock me for six. I run them at the right pace, I fuel them right, but they still bugger up my training for the week ahead. And that goes for 18 milers too.

In fact, I’ve found my limit where I can consistently maintain training week in/week out, and its 2 hours. I did a 2 hour Time Trial last week and at current fitness levels thats just over 16 miles for me. As soon as my sessions start going over this threshold, fatigue creeps in to the point where I have to start missing training.

Funnily enough, that coincides with what I’ve been reading in Hansons Marathon Method. The long run in their plans goes up to 16miles, but the whole plan is consistent high mileage. They do suggest taking the long run longer if your overall weekly mileage is up around 80+, but I would guess this correlates roughly with a 2 hour session anyway.

I wonder what the elites do? They’ll be planning to be out on the course for just over 2 hours so why would they want to run training sessions that go way over that, its just not specific to their goals. Its not beyond the realms that they might do a 20 mile run in 2 hours several times in preparation is it?

It strikes me that this golden figure has rolled down from the top performers, back in the 80’s running boom when there were loads of runners out there running 2:40 and quicker, and become a target for everyone.

Interestingly, without me mentioning any of these thoughts, a club-mate approached me with a research paper he’d read that said no positive adaptations occur in the Mitochondria after 2 hours. In fact, the muscles begin to break down at this point, actually causing damage, essentially causing more harm than good. (wish I had a link for this, it sounded really interesting)
He said that the biggest adaptations to the Mitochondria occur when running for shorter periods at higher intensity. For example 15mins at 5k pace will bring about more increased Mitochondria function than a 90 minute run. Of course, this doesn’t solve the issue of specificity if you’re training for a marathon.

The key points for me at the moment:

  • Long Run should equal 20-30% of weekly total
  • Long Run should not exceed 2 hours
  • Long Run should be a staple workout, regardless of distance training for
  • Long Run pace shouldn’t be set in stone: If it feels too fast for a given day, It probably is, dial it back a bit.

We’re all different and what works for me might not work for you, but one thing is certain, consistent, injury free running yields results. And this is my preferred approach at the moment.

In my own context, I’ve managed to maintain high mileage (50-70miles per week), and set a 5k PB within days of a 2hr TT so its working for me.

I haven’t yet gone into a marathon with this method, but I’m planning on it at some point and I’ll be sure to let you know how I get on.

Please remember, these are just my current thoughts on it, pick it apart if you like, tell me why I’m wrong (or tell me why I’m right!) – I’d appreciate any input.

 

Here’s a link to some further reading if you’re interested
http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/0129.htm

 

 

 

Race Report: Splash Point 5k – 18:11

tuffteam
failing to put my arms in the air

Mile 1:
The starter got us underway with an underwhelming “3,2,1…go” and I flew off along the seafront in a desperate bid not to be trampled by all the quicker runners behind me. But where were they all? I had 2 guys in front of me, and my trackmate (wingman) Andy on my right shoulder, matching me stride for stride.
I became aware of another guys footsteps with us, his cadence was quicker and it was putting me off, I zoned out and focussed on my footsteps and breathing.
Split Time: 5:35 (a 1mile PB – Ha! Try holding on to that, muppet)

start
No 384 – centre screen, almost false starting.

Mile 2:
Still feeling very comfortable, the 2 guys in front weren’t going anwhere, Andy and Quickfeet were still on my shoulder. I was still wondering where everyone was. Approaching the turnaround point I nearly got taken out by a radio-controlled car, it stopped me from eyeballing the 2 guys ahead as they came back the other way which was a shame. I came to a standstill as I hit the turnaround and launched into the headwind. I was surprised to see that my group had 30m or so on the next runner. I still didn’t know who Quickfeet was but he was hiding right behind me, and I could hear that Andy was starting to struggle. My pace was starting to drop in the wind and I hit Mile 2 in 5:50.

Mile 3.1:
The reassuring presence of my wingman suddenly disappeared as the wind took its toll. And suddenly, Quickfeet came by me, I slotted in straight behind him and took some shelter. He was really strong into the wind and I lasted about a minute before he dropped me. (In hindsight, I should have stayed with him as he never got further than 30m ahead, once he’d made the gap it was too hard to reel it in). And that was pretty much it, a hard slog into a 16mph headwind with no-one for company.
Split: 6:17 + 0:28s

 

The Verdict

A MASSIVE NEW PB: 18:11 – thats an 82s improvement and 4th place Overall. I’m over the moon but also cursing that wind.

1st place for the both the Mens and Womens Team race too. Result.

running
bringing it home in a solitary 4th place

#Swimrun Training – Week 2

Total Miles: 67.3 Miles + 3k swim
Average Pace:
 7:59min/mile – includes some run walk stuff & half a mile with a 4/yo
Longest Run: 16 Miles (Saturday) = 24% of weekly total
Speedwork: 3 miles = 4% of weekly total

week2
biggest mileage week – ever

Monday: 8 miles – the goal was to maintain a steady pace of 7:30min/mile and to be done in an hour. The route I’d chosen specifically to make this difficult. Twice up to the windmill at High Salvington from 2 different approaches, both involving a mile long climb. I let the downhills take care of themselves as I knew these would be well below target pace.

My Garmin uploads via my work computer so it wasn’t until Tuesday morning that I was rewarded with this on Strava for my efforts. (Always nice to chalk up a Course Record)

crS
Course Record on a tough hill climb

Tuesday: 4 miles recovery at lunchtime, 6 miles steady in the evening.
Wednesday: Track – 8.5 miles including Warmups, cool downs and recoveries
Thursday: Run/Swim/Run – 15.4 miles + 3k
Saturday: Long Run – 16 miles
Sunday: Easy Runs – 7.7 miles + Epsom Salt Recovery Bath!

Track Workout of the Week:

Pyramid Workout
4×200 // 2×400 // 2×800 \\ 2×400 \\ 4×200
Rolling Recoveries: 200m jog after the 200’s, 400 jog all others.
Total: 5.5miles plus warm ups and cool down
Max HR: 177

This one was superb. Cheers to Coach Wardy for suggesting it.  The track session started with a very relaxed atmosphere as we worked our way through the warm up and mobility drills. There were a number of athletes who had just come back from Half and Full marathons in Vienna, a couple of runners who would be racing Brighton Marathon in a few days time and Coach Wardy had just arrived back from a 3 week Road Trip in the USA. Plenty of fun was had picking on Wardy for his newly acquired American accent and we put out a rallying call for the Splash Point 5k next week. (21 Tuffs entered so far I believe – we could be on for a record)

After the long reps of late it was nice knowing the efforts could be run a lot harder. We set off on the first 200m with joyful recklessness, I think Tom hit it in about 33-34 secs although he must have peaked early as he was somewhere behind us for the rest of the session. I kept my 4 reps at a steady 36-37secs (5:00m/m) before we moved on to the 400’s. Two of these both on 1:23 (5:33m/m), so far so good. The dreaded 800’s were next but I actually found these pretty comfortable aerobically. My legs were starting to disagree after the faster work at the beginning of the set, my quads were beginning to feel pretty solid, and my glutes were screaming. Despite this, we went through these in 2:58 each (5:56m/m) and it was onto the faster reps again.
The pace increased as we sailed through the 400’s in 1:25 and 1:23 before we hit the final set of 200’s. My legs didn’t feel like they had anything left in them for hard efforts but I was pleased with 38s, 39s, 34s and 36s.

IMG_20160413_204047
Gococo Compression Socks keeping my calves fresh

This was a fast paced session and I only just about held it together at the end. Those 200’s are pretty much my top end speed, I certainly couldn’t have run those ones at the end any quicker.
I tried to focus on a fast turnover, engaged arms, high hips and really pushing the ground away from me with every stride. It really helps your overall running economy to do quick work like this.

After 10 minutes of chatting I clocked an extra 2 miles to cool down, no-one else stuck around for this but it was a nice evening to idle away some time running round in circles.

A good strong session to go into next weeks 5k race with.

Favourite Session of the Week

Hard to choose actually, I really enjoyed my running, every session felt like I was running well, or at least achieving something. I think the benchmark run for me was my Long Run on Saturday evening.
For a while now I’ve been thinking that my 2 hour pace was about 7:30min/miles and I wanted to go out and test this. I laced up, put some gels in my pocket (one every 6 miles) and off I went to see how long I could hold on. As the miles ticked by I could see I was about 10s quicker per mile, I started having negative thoughts cross my mind and I’d already planned my escape route home if I needed to cut the effort short.
But I remained pretty comfortable throughout, even hitting my quickest split at mile 14. (7:04 if you’re asking) Yes, my glutes were burning but that was to be expected towards the end of a pretty tough week.

My average pace for the run was 7:19 m/m which I’m really happy with. Thats a 16 miler in 1:57. And thats pretty much as long as my longest run is going to get. Anything further than that and I tend to get injuries creeping in. If I can keep up these weeks of high mileage with my longest run only going up to 2 hours then I’m going to be in really good shape come July.

What Else?

My Run/Swim/Run session increased the mileage each way to just over 7.5 miles, and this week it was raining hard. So with the swim in the middle this was a mentally demanding set which I could have backed out of easily at various points.

Finally

3forts
The sensible option!

I made my mind up about the 3 Forts Challenge and decided that the Half Marathon fits into my training much better. If I do the full marathon, I ‘ll get round it, but it’ll wipe my training out for a week with 2 months to go until Breca. So I’ve gone for the half, and I’ll try and race it.

Talking of races, its the Splash Point 5k on Wednesday. I’ll be taking it easy for a couple of days now in the hope of setting a new PB. Bring it on!

 

#Swimrun Training – Week 1

As I mentioned in my previous post, my Swimrun training block has now begun. And its off to a flying start.

WEEK 56.1

56.1 Miles. That’s the highest mileage week I’ve ever done. Even in the build up to previous marathons. What that tells me straight away is that I’m coming into this training block fitter than I’ve ever been.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the figures I’m most interested in.

Average Pace: 8:12min/mile – reflects lots of easy paced running
Longest Run: 10.5 miles (Sunday) = 19% of weekly total
Speedwork: 5.1 Miles = 9% of weekly total

Track Workout of the Week

5 x 1 mile 
Splits: 6:01, 5:47, 5:59, 6:04, 5:59

Analysis: Good session, strong wind on the back straight made it difficult and a too fast 2nd rep which was lots of fun made the last half tough.

Best Session of the Week

Thursday: My first attempt at a Swimrun specific session.

SWIMRUN SESH

So this was almost a 3 hour session – and as tough, if not tougher, than any 20 miler marathon training run I’ve ever done. It wasn’t exactly how Breca Swimrun will go down in July, I wasn’t wearing a wetsuit and the swim was in a pool, however, the swim also included work at much higher intensities than I’ll experience in the race (4x50m all out sprints for example).
I reigned my pace in on the run to the pool as I didn’t know what to expect, I was terrified of bonking at some point during the evening. I was pleased to hit a quicker pace on my run back home whilst still feeling comfortable.
I took a gel after 10 minutes in the pool as my toes were cramping and I had no electrolytes in my drink.  I took another one as I started the run home. I walked the last 800m to try and ease my legs off a bit before stopping which is why the run home was shorter.
When I woke up on Friday morning, EVERY muscle in my body ached. I’m not exaggerating here. I must be mental because I can’t wait to do one of these sessions again!

Any negatives?
I didn’t get any off-road work in, and I could do with getting some more hills in too. On the swim I’d like to try and get an endurance session with a pull buoy in as well as the club swim.
Other than that, I probably broke one of the cardinal rules in training. The one about increasing training load by 10% at a time.

WEEK

My previous week was almost a complete rest though so I can live with that!

N.B: Will endeavour to utilise my Heart Rate Monitor as I’d like to see the trends over the training block.

March Training

I didn’t really have any goals as I kicked off March which was probably a mistake.
I’d set myself an arbitrary figure of 200 miles for the month on Smashrun – a great tool with some really useful insights into your running stats. I’m currently using this alongside Strava to satisfy the inner geek. But this magic figure of 200 was pretty much plucked out of the air, it wasn’t based on a plan, it didn’t take into account my February training. It was just a round number.

I got off to a good start though, and hit almost 4 weeks of good solid running. I’m still pushed for time at the moment so I only managed to get into double figures on a run twice.
Unfortunately, I lost momentum and in the final week, the wheels came off. I dropped down to a ridiculously low 5 mile total for the week. I put this down to not having clearly defined goals for the month.

The Numbers:

Mileage for the month – 150 miles
Biggest week – 41.6 miles
Longest run12 Miles (plus 5 miles – Double run day)

smashrun march

Positives:
My mileage did increase. Up by 21.5% on Feb.
I’m finding Double run days manageable.
My longest run was most of the 3 Forts HM route – in the dark, by headtorch and it was amazing. On reflection, the distance is probably appropriate for my weekly mileage.

The biggest positive for me though is my ability to maintain effort and focus during track sessions. This time last year I’d hit the halfway point during a workout and my thoughts would all be negative

I can’t do this, Its too windy, I’ll sit the next rep out, I’ll call it a day…

But I’m finishing track sessions strongly now, and I’m feeling hyped throughout, no demons on my shoulder whispering at me to stop. And these have been HARD track sessions, 1200’s and mile repeats, you soon know about it if you pace it wrong in one of these sessions.

Unfortunately, swimming hasn’t happened this month. Not even once.

I’m going to chalk the final week of March off and call it a training break as April is where my 3 month block starts for Breca Swimrun.

April goals:
Mileage: 175 miles
Long Run: 16 miles
Swim: Once a week
Race: 5k  – (‘A’ = 18:30, ‘B’ = Sub19, ‘C’ = 5kPB)

I’ve got the 3 Forts Marathon at the start of May and I’m still undecided on what to do. I can run it very easy and enjoy the scenery, the company, and get some miles in my legs. Or drop to the HM and race it. I’ll make a decision closer to the date, and base it on how well my long runs are progressing.

In other running related stuff – the beginners group I coach with ShoreFit Run Club finished their 0-5k course. And my wife and 4 year old son ran the Sport Relief Mile, raising £270 for charity in the process! This was a great opportunity for him to experience running on a running track, and now every time we drive past it he points it out to me as where he did his race.

I also passed my ITEC Level 3 Sports Massage Therapist exams and I’ll be posting more on that soon. I’ve moved on to Level 4 now which I’ll be tested on in April. Lots to learn, but have already picked up so much that I can use to help other runners, especially with regards to maintenance and injury prevention.

 

February training

So how did February look for you? For me it went quite well. Despite not racing at all I’ve managed to get in some quality training.

Mileage for the month – 123.5 miles
Biggest week – 48 miles
Longest run14 miles

That’s starting to pick up nicely, with my biggest week coming in the final week of Feb. And in fact, that’s my biggest week since the same time last year.

biggestweek

My little boy is also training for his first race, the Sport Relief Mile and its been great fun encouraging him to start running. He’s managed a 16:13 mile so far which involved a lot of jumping over drains, walking to cross roads and stopping to point at his school.

me&sonny

I’m hoping to carry through some consistency into March, keeping my mileage at a minimum of 40 per week and adding a 90-120min long run in each week. My track sessions are strong at the moment, sub-6:00min/mile pace in big sessions. We’ve just moved into 1200 reps (5 of them this week) and I’d like to see my splits closer to 5:45min/mile if I can manage it. Although I’m not going to break myself trying.

My limiting training factor is time.  My other half works several evenings a week, often not getting home until 9:30 and that’s not a good time to go out running. So I’m trying to squeeze runs in where I can. For instance, my trip to the launderette gave me £2’s worth of time – which I’ve now learnt translates to a fast 4 miles. I’m running on my lunchbreaks too. In fact, my biggest training week in 12  months came without running further than 8.5 miles in a single session.

My swimming is improving, I’ve managed to get to one session a week which at the moment is focussed on strength. That means lots of climbing in and out the pool to do press-ups, squats, tricep dips and planks, and swimming in T-shirts with pull-buoy and paddles. This is a great session for me as it really addresses my weaknesses. I’m hoping to start doing a weekly distance/endurance session soon, to really work on my pull. I want to be able to use paddles comfortably by the time Breca Swimrun comes around in July as it will make a huge difference in the swim times.

Other training,  I’ve been doing a press-up challenge since the beginning of Feb, starting at one and adding one each day. So today it will be 30 press-ups. A month ago I couldn’t have done 10 without stopping so I’m pleased with my progress here. I don’t think its been an increase in strength, but more a neurological thing. Engaging the right muscles to achieve the goal. Whichever it is, it should help my swimming, and I might even develop a chest that comes out further than my abs.

I think the biggest plus I can take from February is that I’ve come out of it without any niggles. I’ve increased my mileage and I’m injury free. I have to thank Gococo Sportswear for helping me out here, my compression socks are awesome.

 

Training Snapshot

Here’s a little snapshot as to how my own training is going. I’m managing to run in my lunchbreak at the moment which means although my mileage is fairly low compared to lots of runners, the quality is high.

Monday: I ran what I call a “Super-Tempo” effort, this is a mile warm-up followed by 12 minutes at what I would like my current 5k pace to be. Then a mile cool down. Each week, I’ll add a minute on to the length of the effort until I’m either happy to race it or step back to a shorter quicker effort and start again. Splits in the effort were 5:57, 5:58.

Tuesday: 10k (not so) easy. I thought this was going to be a really tough run as the wind had really picked up. The first 5k was straight into it and I put in a good effort, the 5k return along the seafront was much easier and I was able to coast it all the way. I was still able to chat with a guy on a bike during the last 800m so I knew it was still a fairly relaxed effort. I was quite surprised to see my splits as: 6:22, 7:02, 6:55, 6:37, 6:32, 6:27 and finishing up at 6:34. Thats more like a solid threshold pace for me.

Wednesday: Bit of a cold & felt stiff  from the previous day so decided to get to the track 10 minutes early for an extra warm-up mile. So 2 miles warm up for me, followed by 15 minutes of drills and dynamic stretches. The main set was 9x800m on 4mins. The warm up did its magic and I felt really good throughout. Pleased to be able to pick it up in the second half of the set too. 6.8 miles in total, annoying that I couldn’t round it up to 7 but I had no time for a cool-down.

DATA

Thursday: That’s today…I’m struggling a bit with a cold and I had a terrible nights sleep but the weather is glorious so I’ll be doing an easy 5 miles along the seafront at lunchtime, that should blow the cobwebs away. Then it’s Tuff Fitty Swim night and I’ll be heading over with my Breca Team-mate Tom.

Hoping to clock 35 miles this week which I haven’t done since mid Dec and then maintain for a few weeks before targeting some more specific plans. (whatever they might be!)

Enough about me…How’s YOUR training going?

 

Thank you to the bloggers…

I’m getting back into it.

I’ve been massively inspired to get back into my running groove. I’ve recently discovered how to use the reader function properly and how to follow other people’s blogs and its been a revelation. In reading about the exploits of others, even if they’ve been out injured or feeling like they’re not running particularly well themselves, they’ve inspired me to lace up and get out.

I’ve been out 4 times this week so far, 3 easy lunchbreak runs and 1 hard track session (7×800) and should hopefully be looking at about 35 miles for the week come Sunday. Thats after at least a month of averaging a paltry 10 miles a week.

So this post is a thank you in particular to a few bloggers who have given me some motivation at last. (follow these blogs – show them some love too!)

http://fueledbylolz.com/ – this girl writes beautifully, and runs times that I’m striving for. Probably most responsible for my resurgence despite being based in the US.
https://dmrunblog.wordpress.com/ – shares my Initials and his reports are really entertaining. They make you feel like you’re cheering him on from the sidelines!
http://honestlylucy.com/ – Loving following the journey to VLM2016 for this young lady. From complete beginner to marathon runner.
https://imfithove.wordpress.com/ – I’m certain that Isobel inspires more runners than she knows. Entertaining and geeky sessions/stats in equal measures. 🙂
http://mohicanrunner.co.uk/ – Running times I dream of and that I know I can achieve if I work hard enough. Race reports with huge level of detail, don’t know how he remembers it all!

I’d like to know which blogs YOU follow for motivation? 
(help me keep this up!)

 

Night Running with a little help from Nathan – #FireUpYourRun

I’ve been struggling with motivation to get out and train recently. Residual fitness from the Autumn has carried me through the weekly track sessions until now but I’m becoming more aware that my overall fitness is dropping.
Hard efforts are becoming more difficult to sustain, my legs are getting tired towards the end of a 6 mile run. I’ve gone from 50 miles a week down to single figures. This would be fine but its been about 6 weeks of laziness now and I need to start developing my base fitness again.

graph
First week of December – 6.2 miles.

The problem I’ve got is Continue reading “Night Running with a little help from Nathan – #FireUpYourRun”

Why I’m not doing the Marcothon challenge

I’ve seen this running challenge posted around facebook, twitter and on various running forums, and I’ve heard fellow runners talking about doing it, some of them are quite new to running.

The challenge – Marcothon, started by a chap called Marco Consani – is pretty simple. Run 3 miles or 25 minutes minimum everyday in December. Including Christmas Day. If you miss a day, you’re out. Its a way of keeping motivation up at the end of the year for people who need a bit of a kick out the door. Its now in its 6th or 7th year and thousands of runners across the world are doing it.

Marcothon - The Rules
Marcothon – The Rules

The early winter months are a great time to do a bit of base building, preparing the legs and the cardiovascular system for a training program, perhaps for a Spring marathon. Or maybe for a strong triathlon season. The base level that winter training provides lets you build and kick on with faster paced, more specific work as racing season approaches. It gives you the cardio-fitness level required to cope with hard sessions.

Will I be doing it? No I won’t.

The problem I’ve got with it, is that you need to have a certain level of robustness to run every day. Even if its just slow paced easy miles, you need to be ready for it. A lot of the people I see who are keen to do it just aren’t in this position. Lets take the runners who run a couple of times a week, 30mins in the week, an hour at the weekend. We all know plenty of people like that right? Lets imagine that they’re currently clocking around 10 miles in total. Suddenly, they’re jumping up to 21 miles a week spread over 3 hours with NO rest days.

In my eyes, that’s asking for trouble.

Rest is important. It’s time to let the body recover, rebuild and adapt to the training load. If you don’t rest, you continually break down the body. Eventually, the stress might cause injury. Overuse of tired or under-prepared muscle is the biggest cause of injury.

For a lot of runners, 3 miles IS a rest day, and 7 days a week is not much of a step-up from what they’re already doing. If that’s you, and you’re embarking on Marcothon, just be sure to listen to your body and run EASY runs when you need to. Don’t try and beat your 5k PB every day. Like I said near the top, base building is important if you’re planning on racing well but it is supposed to be easy miles, training the heart and getting used to time on feet.

I wanted to put a little bit of context in about Marco Consani somewhere as I think its important.
To start with, he’s a phenomenal runner, take a look at his power of 10 profile below.

Marco Consani Power of 10 profile. Not too shabby!
Marco Consani Power of 10 profile. Not too shabby!

Yep, thats everything from 3k to 24 hour races. And he doesn’t just run them, he often wins them. He’s as nifty over the shorter distances as he is for the marathon. Now for clarification, that number next to his 24hrs performance is 248 Kilometres! Other wise known as 154 miles. He’s conditioned to running big miles so 3 miles every day for a month isn’t much of an ask, and remember, Marco started Marcothon as a way to keep HIMSELF motivated through the winter.

You might be thinking “well, if Marcothon helps him to run like that…..” but I would rather rephrase that as “its running like that that helps him to run Marcothon”

We’re all different, and we all have different ways of training. If Marcothon works for you then that’s great. I salute you for being able to run every day, and good luck with it. And if you’re considering it for the first time, just have a think about how much of a jump it is from your current training, are you conditioned enough to do it, is it worth the risk?
Thousands of runners complete Marcothon, or challenges just like it without problems but it’s not for me.

On the other hand – I AM interested in this… https://www.instagram.com/p/-vXEsMqL0L/ the new 30 day #RunStrongChallenge from Kinetic Revolution which starts today….