Friday, 26 March 2010

Sunday Long (yes on Friday)

A week into the training schedule and its already gone Dolly Parton/Pete Tong.

Wednesday should have been "4-6 miles slow". However, I got tied up with stuff at work and didn't get out at all. Yesterday I did the scheduled out and back tempo. However, today is down as a rest day. Which given I had the unscheduled rest only two days ago isn't on.

So taking into account I had the day off work and the clocks go forward on Sunday I decided to move Sunday's "8-9 miles easy" to today. As to what to do on Sunday... well we'll see.

Today's route was for the most part made up on the fly. The general plan was to start out heading south in the direction of St Albans (and into the wind) before turning for home with the wind on my back. So I left the house and immediately started running north before looping back through the town centre and heading over to West Common via Rothamsted Park.

From West Common I decided to try picking up the footpath across the fields to Beeson End Lane - which I managed at the second attempt. But once on the track forked right towards Redbourn. At some point during the subsequent couple of miles I lost the official path and eventually found myself up by the rugby club overflow car park. Note quite what I'd been aiming for but no harm done (and no shots fired by angry farmers).

And then much to my surprise I found the missing a link - a footpath running parallel to Redbourn Lane. This road has no pavement or runnable verge and is far too busy to risk running in the road. Quite a result I'd say.

Turning right at the bottom of the hill took me on to the Nickey Line. At the top of the incline I threw in a quick skirt round the perimeter of Rothamsted Park before making for home.

Ten miles covered at average pace 7:46. Not quite as quick as last Sunday with Simon but still more than good enough for an easy long.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Step-Up Out and Back Run

Out and back run: 15-18 mins out; faster back

And there in lies the problem with this training schedule: it doesn't specify target pace.

So I decided I'd target running out two and a half miles at seven minute mile and head back fifteen seconds a mile faster. The chosen route was Wobbly Bridge north side to Albert Embankment via way of Westminster Bridge and avoiding steps by going round the back of St Thomas hospital.

The wind was generally against me out to the turn but nowhere near as strong as last Saturday. Hitting target pace on the way out wasn't a problem while on the way back I averaged nearer 6:30. So if the wind was giving me say ten seconds per mile that gives me 6:50 out and 6:40 back.

I guess that's OK.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010


Nearly getting dropped on a warm-up is never a good sign. And true to form today's Rocket's session didn't go well. You could say I was running in a class of my own. Unfortunately the class was well off the back.

I blame Martin - he wasn't there and so I was left to languish in isolation.

The session was four minutes off 90 seconds recovery. The fit and able did six reps. The weak and feeble four.

Oh well no one said it would be easy...

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Sunday With Simon

After yesterday's day-long drizzle it was a relief to see this morning break bright and sunny. And cold... So I was back in longs, gloves and hat as I headed down to The George to meet Simon.

The plan was to do about eight miles and with the wind blowing from the north I suggested we head over to Swan Walk and head towards Luton. The JCBs have been at work behind the sewage works which I hope means the missing link will be paved by summer. However, in the meantime the path is a mud bath and running single file to the side was the only safe way to traverse.

When we got to New Mill End I think Simon was slightly surprised that I wanted to go left up The Hill instead of sticking in the valley. However, he was more than happy to oblige and I'm sure must have secretly enjoyed watching me struggle to maintain the conversation as we ran up-hill.

Once up top we dipped into Luton Hoo to see how the idle rich spend their weekends before heading home via what is now becoming a standard route: Kinsbourne Green Lane, Roundwood Lane, Falconers Field and Roundwood Park back to the Nickey Line.

Simon was running to a deadline and made sure the pace stayed healthy and I didn't slack. In the end we covered just over nine miles at an average pace of 7:39. Not bad give there were a few bumps. Nice one - thanks Simon.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Saturday Sprint

Speed work on a Saturday morning - who'd have though it? Well the person who put together my 10K training schedule did. Hence this morning I was down for "warm up, then 20 mins fast tempo run, but not flat out". Fast tempo but not flat out - so how fast is that? Hmm, well the nice people at FIRST have mid-tempo as 6:41 and short tempo as 6:26 so I guess I should be aiming for the later. 6:26 does sound a bit punchy though - let's see how it goes.

So with target pace numbers swirling round my head I headed out this morning just after eight although it felt much later (possibly because it was already 11 degrees). The master plan was to warm-up down to Harpenden and then run a three-mile route out through Rothampsted Park, over to West Common, and back.

There was drizzle in the air and the wind was dead against me as I headed up through the park. It was hard work and the first mile to Hatching Green took 6:56. Yikes - that's not very good! However, with the elements switching to work in my favour I was then able to cover the second mile in 6:23 for the third in 6:16.

So 6:32 average for the three miles. On the one hand not bad. But on the other probably not quite good enough. And it hurt! I can see this schedule is either going to give me a PB or kill me. I do hope it's the former.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

5 (Five) Runs, 8 Miles

Not to be out done by 1K Kenny's 4 (Four) Runs, 15.2miles today I completed five runs. Okay so they comprised 1.4-mile warm-up, 2-miles hard, 1-mile recovery, 2-miles hard, and 1.6-mile warm-down. Impressive eh? OK maybe not...

Anyway, having achieved my long-term goal of a sub 1:30 half I've been thinking about what to aim for next. 10K is the obvious target and with an 18-month old PB of 41:24 I think there's scope for improvement. 40 minutes is the time everyone aims for but I'm going to be a bit more realistic and target 40:30. This is nearly 10 seconds per mile faster than my PB and last year the best I could manage was 41:54 so I think I've got my work cut-out.

And then I had to find a race. The first one to spring to mind was the 10K round Whipsnade Animal Park in early June. I was all set to send off my entry when a last-minute check revealed it's the weekend at the end of half-term. I've nothing planned but it's probably best I keep it clear. After a bit more searching through the events section on the Runners World web site I came across The Dorney Dash 10K on Saturday (yes Saturday) 8th May. Flat, fast and boring by all accounts. I can live with 40-odd minutes of boredom in return for a PB.

And to get this PB I'm going to follow the Runners World 8-Week 10K Schedule, 6-7 Days Per Week schedule. So in theory I should have run 35-40 mins light fartlek today. However, I'd already set my heart on doing the two times two-mile session (a favourite in the FIRST training schedules) and didn't fancy changing. I'll substitute the Tuesday speed session with Rockets, but other than that will try to more or less follow the schedule. And the best thing of all us tomorrow is a rest day - hurrah!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Spring has sprung

The sun is out, the sky is blue, there ain't a cloud to spoil the view......

Yes - spring has allegedly sprung. Two digits are required to display the lunchtime temperature and the tube drivers are well advanced with their plans for a summer strike (OK so I made that last bit up but it's probably true).

Fresh from having missed two weeks of Rockets I was looking forward to today's session. So eager, in fact, that I got to the meet point nearly a minute before the 12:35 off. Richard arrived just after and Steve was apparently at the front mixing with the uber elites.

Up at the canal there was much discussion about the session. Martin arrived mid-debate with a huffing and puffing Colin not far behind (not that this seemed to slow him down). Four 1,200s with two-minute recovery seemed to be winning and then just as we set off it changed to four five-minute efforts. My optimistic assumption we'd be sticking with two-minute recoveries proved to be wrong. And Richard's hopes of an extra minute at the turn were cruelly dashed too.

I'd like to think I ran a B minus session today with a still unfit Martin carrying the flag for C runners to the rear. Surprisingly Sarah seemed to be slower than me although she may well be recovering from a weekend race. Richard put in a superb B plus performance - well at least for the first two reps. And Steve - well he was here there and everywhere (especially when I tried to overtake).

Ian made a classic schoolboy error when his work pass slipped from his hand straight into the canal. Really - I'd expect better from a man of his calibre. And apparently he was too much of a pussy to fish it out - call yourself elite?

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Saturday Sandridge and Nomansland

Following Sunday's race, last week's running comprised just easy five-mile runs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Having then taken Friday as a bonus rest day, and knowing I won't be able to get out tomorrow, the pressure was on today to get some quality miles under the belt.

Luckily I was joined for my run by Lee, a man who finished over three minutes ahead of me at the Fred Hughes 10 and clearly a chap unfamiliar with the concept of nine-minute mile pace.

I had in mind a 10-mile(ish) loop taking us out in the direction of St Albans before bearing left opposite the pick you own farm. The plan then was to follow the path over the railway, skirt round Heartwood, and down to Sandridge. From there we would continue the loop round hopefully coming out towards the east of Wheathampstead. I’d done a similar run a few months ago with Niall and so although only vaguely familiar with the section between Sandridge and Wheathampstead thought I’d be able to pick it up OK.

Needless to say I didn't. Close but no cigar. We came to a road crossing. I should have gone right. We stuck to the trail. Next thing I know we're at Nomansland. Oh well not what I intended but not a disaster by any means.

Up until now the route had been reasonably flat - a few ups but all very gradual and hardly noticeable. So it was only after six and a half miles that Lee played his trump card: he doesn't slow for hills. Oh no - quite the opposite. He accelerates. Apparently this is something he picked up off Simon (thanks mate). So that made the last few miles fun with noticeable less talking (well from me at least).

Back to Harpenden via Southdown (Lee's idea - I think he was keen to run up Crabtree Lane) and home gave me just over 11 miles on the watch. Average pace was 7:48 although the uphills were run much quicker. Day off tomorrow and then back to speedwork next week. And, at last, maybe some warmer weather...

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Milton Keynes Half Marathon

So today was the day: Milton Keynes Half Marathon 2010 (incorporated into the all new Milton Keynes Festival of Running).

Race routine: sort gear out night before, get up an hour and half before need to leave, porridge with honey for breakfast, Strong coffee, pack banana for eating an hour before race start and we're done. Oh yes and sunglasses.

This year the MK Half start moved from the Open University to the city centre outside Xscape. There was also a new course, although eight miles mid race follow the old route up round Willen Lake. That meant we now benefited from a downhill mile at the start. However what goes down tends to come up again (and I'm not just talking about your tenth pint) so the last mile was up (more about that later).

At the start I made my way down the side to almost the front, jumped the barrier and started looking for Dave from work. Instead I found Aro Runners Lee and Hannah which was a nice surprise.

Just after 10am a rather pathetic hooter was sounded and we were off. Lee and Hannah disappeared into the distance, not to be seen again until the finish, and I was left to set my own pace while avoiding the runners dressed as smurfs.

The run turned out to be hard. The wind was forever changing direction (or maybe we were changing direction) and it seemed we were always on either a slight incline or decline. Almost every time I glanced at my watch it told me I'd slowed to seven minute mile pace and so I had to make a conscious effort to push and get back to something nearer my 6:52 target. And that final mile - it was murder. And it wasn't just me. My split for the mile was 7:20 and it wasn't as if anyone overtook me. Everyone was dead. A couple of guys were walking - you can't believe how tempting it was to stop and join them. Finally, with the finishing announcers voice getting louder we got to the top and about 200m of flat to the finish.

And my time: Gun to finish 1:29:34. Chip time 1:24. Phew - done it!

And hat's off to Hannah (1:28:04) and Lee (1:28:31) too. Top running guys -well done.

But back to me. Delighted with my results I couldn't resist sending text to all my running buddies past and present. I've been trying to break 1:30 for two years so I wasn't in the mood to keep it to myself!

Mile split times for those interested were 06:33, 06:44 (average over miles 2 and 3 as missed 2nd mile marker), 6:37, 7:05 (wake-up call!), 6:43, 06:53, 06:49 (again average over 2 miles), 6:42, 6:40, 6:59, and finally 07:20. See I told you that last miled was hard!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Last One

So today was the last training session before Sunday's race. Both the FIRST and Runners World schedules agreed on 400m (make that 90 seconds) reps. OK so perhaps it's a little late in the day to start following a training schedule but as Tesco say "Every Little Helps".

It was sunny with little wind so the Victoria Embankment was the only place to go. And not only me - it seemed every lunchtime runner in London had decided on the same.

Eight reps with full minute recoveries (easy for me to keep track) were the order of the day. Lots of dodging in and out of tourists and other runners kept it all fun while trying not to twist or turn anything that shouldn't twist or turn.

Given my current form I think I'll struggle to beat Kenny in the Berkhamsted Half Marathon on Sunday as he is both stronger and has greater endurance. And beside that I'll be 25 miles away at the time running the Milton Keynes half!