Update on my 800m training – March 2021

Things are coming together at last. I’m in the final two weeks of the plan and tapering towards a couple of 800m time trials in April to see whether the training has paid off. I already know it has and it’ll be good to see it quantified in my time trial, but that’s for next month’s update!!

Although I began following Jack Daniels’ 800m training plan at the start of December, I actually consider training started back on 21st September when I went back to a steady diet of gentle runs at ten minute mile pace, subsequently introducing strides and a faster session midweek.

So really this has been six months of consistent training. I wanted to write “hard work” but apart from putting in big efforts during the twice weekly workouts, and a difficult spell around the start of February when my body was struggling to adapt, compounded by atrocious weather, I don’t believe it’s been hard work. I’ve looked forward to the training, enjoyed it and it’s not felt like a burden at all.

I realised over this past month my body has begun to feel fit and strong again. I hadn’t appreciated a lack of regular fast running over the past 3-4 years has allowed muscles to weaken. That translated in my day-to-day living as minor aches or pains walking up the stairs, or pushing with my hands to get up off the sofa. Nothing drastic, just minor little things that most people put down to the effects of ageing. In some ways they are the effects of ageing but not irreversibly as those people would have you believe. The takeaway is if you stop using it, you lose it. I actually now feel as strong and fit as I did ten years ago, and would like to believe I’m as fit as I was in my twenties although I know that’s not quantifiably true. My running still isn’t as fast it was when I started parkrunning at forty but I can see it’s getting back there and I believe it’s going to surpass that because of what I’ve learned since then.

March’s training has been focusing on what Jack calls T- and FR- pace running which stand for Tempo and Fast Rep. After adjusting for the expected improvement in fitness, these have been mile repeats at 7:12/mile and short intervals (200-600m) at 5:38/mile respectively. To put this into perspective when I began in December the Fast Reps were 44½ secs per 200m, now they’re at 42secs. Training has been going well enough that I’ve been overcooking these with some coming in at sub-40! I even managed a 37.45s effort (5:01/mile).

One of the problems I faced for T-paced sessions is ideally needing somewhere flat where I could keep pace and effort consistent. In other years, I would have gone to the beach or Poole Park, but with lockdown ongoing, as well as the possibility of sand on the prom or people out for a walk; I decided to look closer to home. The roads right outside my front door are fairly flat and quiet, but I’ve always resisted doing intervals on them for no explicable reason other than I always think of warm-up as taking me away from home. Circumstances led me to conclude this would be the best place for the training. Maximising the area available to me, I created a loop measuring 900m which had no sharp turns and only minor ups and downs. On some sessions, it meant I ended up doing a good 10+ laps of the same roads which, I suspect many people would find boring, but I hardly noticed as I was focused on my breathing, pace and sometimes trying to reach the end without completely falling apart! This ‘track’ worked well apart from, where I run in the road my early morning sessions brought me into conflict with people driving off to work.

Around mid-month, my legs began to feel strong and, the walking up the stairs with ease I talked about, came into my awareness. I could tell a step change in my fitness was about to come through and when it arrived my easy running pace improved by 20 secs/mile. It felt wonderful and that improvement then fed into the next session of T-pace running coming in at sub-7 min/mile rather than 7:10. In turn it made the fastest intervals feel a lot easier although not necessarily faster!

I’m not going to do my usual breakdown of successful / failed repeats until next month’s post but my attention was drawn to a bizarre set of times on last week’s 200s. I run these back and forth along a road which I’ve come to realise, has slight undulations to it, and these result in one direction being marginally faster than the other. The four efforts in the slower direction were 41.66 / 41.66 / 42.20 / 41.66 secs. I’m sure you can see the bizarreness of the fastest three being exactly the same time to one-hundredth of a second, it simply cannot be a coincidence. And if I then tell you the first effort on the previous session was … yes, you’ve guessed it … 41.66secs; there’s some kind of limitation going on somewhere in all of this! I’m not sure what it is, my legs were fatigued that day but in the other direction I ran 41.77 / 40.05 / 39.33 / 37.45 secs so it was possible to go faster under the right conditions. Bizarre numbers aside, it’s been a good month’s training.

I’ve got two more workouts to do in April, then the time trials begin. I’m only intending to do two mid-month but this will be weather dependent. If I feel I’ve underperformed I may slot in a third. Analysing my training times, I’m hopeful I can break 2min40 but I’ll report back whatever the fruits of my harvest are!

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