I’d say the past six weeks have been the most difficult block of training since I started in December. I knew this was going to be tough because the same block in January-February was tough. But it was tough for different reasons. Last time, it was tough because I got aches, pains and tightness as the training hit ‘new’ muscles and pushed me to my limits. This time, I just found myself struggling to hit target times and paces in many sessions. When I ran well, I ran really well but when it was poor, it was really poor!
There’s a few possible explanations for this. Firstly I came into it recovering from a strained hamstring, so fitness in the first week was below par, but the injury never recurred, and I’ve been strong since. I took the first week carefully and deliberately didn’t do some of the faster work.
Secondly I pushed the paces up to the level I felt I was achieving rather than following Jack’s guidelines. Maybe I expected too much? I don’t think so as when I’ve been on form, I’ve been smashing target times and numbers by a decent margin.
The most likely explanation is simply that I’m under-recovering. As I say, last time around I got tight with aches and pains; this time the body is used to using those muscles but they were still recovering from previous sessions.
The other reason for being under-recovered may be the return of parkrun. I’ve attended each week since it returned on July 24th and while I’ve been careful not to race them, I have been running close to my steady pace. This may just have been taking more out of my legs than I realised especially as it’s an undulating course on uneven paths.
The training itself has been a mix of three sessions – long intervals, short intervals and threshold runs.
Long intervals have been the centrepiece of the work, starting at three minutes in the early weeks and lengthening out to five minutes by the last. I’ve been aiming to run these at 6:30/mile pace and when I’ve been on form, they’ve been fine.
In February I was on target, for 6:50/mile pace, 33 out of 34 times – just one effort too slow. This time it’s been about half. Weeks one, five, six have been complete misses while weeks two, three, four have all been on-target. This all-or-nothing phenomena supports why I believe the legs were under-recovered. At my best in week four I ran 5x1K all at sub 4-min pace (6:17-24/mile) but when I struggled I’ve barely been able to reach 6:35/mile pace.
As ever these have ranged from 200 – 600m aiming for either 6min/mile or 5min30/mile pace. I’ve usually felt confident about achieving the slower of these efforts even when the interval length is longer but the reality is that often I’ve just been a touch slow – closer to 6:10/mile. The faster efforts have generally been daunting, because they usually crop up at the end and you wonder how you’ll ever complete them, yet quite often I’ve found something extra to give to them.
I’ve noted that while Jack gives you three mins jog recovery between these efforts, I’m usually recovering my pace and heart-rate within a minute to ninety seconds. Many years ago, when I was on the way to my first sub-40 10K, I was successfully running these sort of intervals with a 200m jog recovery that equated to 1min10.
Tempo / Marathon pace
The plan had three of the standard Sunday long runs replaced by these sessions. As it happened I only did the two Tempo efforts because I ran an all-out parkrun during the block. The Tempo runs seemed to come in comfortably around 7-min/mile which was what I was aiming for.
As I say, parkrun returned. I’ve been consistently hitting 7:20-25/mile paces without undue effort which seems to fit with my marathon pace prediction. At the end of week five, I ran my all-out parkrun which came in at 21:24. I was expecting quicker – something in the 20:30-45 range – but the time reflected that my legs seem to have been missing something. The first kilometre was slower than my best interval efforts and the last two miles were slower than the pace of my Tempo runs.
To accommodate the Saturday morning effort, I ditched the plan’s 400m intervals on the Thursday and ran for 30-mins at Poole Park. I intended it to be an easy run but it turned out to be around marathon pace. On reflection it was probably too close to the parkrun for my legs to fully recover but it did effectively replace the planned 40-mins at marathon pace scheduled for the Sunday.
Strength and Conditioning
I’m going to write a separate post detailing the strength and conditioning I’ve been doing over the last couple of months. It’s not a massive amount – some corework, press-ups and bicep curls. They seem to have been beneficial in burning off a layer of body fat, which I didn’t know I had. No-one would ever have called me fat. On the heavy weights days I’ve found myself getting tired in the afternoons and I wonder if the energy used for recovering from these sessions has affected my recovery from running.
As I’ve written in previous updates, I’ve been working on sprint drills and techniques during my short interval efforts and strides. I felt like it’s been heading in the right direction and in recent weeks I’ve noticed its effects coming through. I’m beginning to get up on my toes more, my core stabilising my running and best of all, finding myself trampolining down the road with each step. On a couple of occasions I felt the back of my shoulders get very painful towards the end of runs, which I see as a good sign – I’m engaging previously unused muscles that needed to develop the strength and endurance to hold the new running form together.
Writing all that up has given me some good insight as to what’s been going on. Week one, I struggled but was coming off the hamstring problem so accepted my fitness was slightly down. The next three weeks I began to really motor and feel confident about how I was progressing. It felt like I’d filled in a missing link that had stopped me from achieving my best in the time trials. But the combination of sessions, pushing them too hard, extra effort and parkrun may have been too much to run well in the final two weeks.
My mileage remains about the same as previously and the six weeks resulted in 43 / 43 / 44 / 46 / 41 / 48 miles. These have usually required about 6 hours training, but week five was 5hr30 as I tried to freshen my legs up and then week six came in at nearly seven hours!
|Target time||On target||Missed||Efforts||Fastest|
Despite all the missed I-paced targets I feel positive. I’ve run my fastest 300s and 400s and not necessarily in perfect conditions. My very last session of the block was a repeat of one I did at the beginning. It began with three 600m efforts. In January, I ran these at around 2:20-24, in February it was 2:17-18, in July they were 2:15-16 and then this past week they came in at 2:07-08. My fastest in the last block, as I came to my peak, was only 2:05. It’s very gratifying to see some tangible progress and this wasn’t my hardest effort possible. There is more to come!