Seven weeks in and things are beginning to get serious: Sunday runs are getting up into the longest distances, good recovery between sessions is key in order to get the most from each one, and tweaks to my nutrition are required to support the bigger calorie burn and make sure I maintain sufficient energy to train well. In addition, my head is filled with running and thoughts of Paris, so much so that I could merrily chat about either for hours, yet I spend the majority of each day surrounded by
non-runners people who just don’t get it, so I tend to keep those thoughts to myself. Thank goodness I have my blog so I can share all my running-related ramblings!
As week seven (and the second half of Jantastic) began, I was determined to keep up the good work I’ve done so far. It has become increasingly clear what is working for me in my training programme, so the shape of my week is not changing at all:
Monday – swim/sauna
Tuesday – 6 miles hilly
Wednesday – conditioning
Thursday – cadence drills
Friday – Metafit
Saturday – Parkrun
Sunday – 16 miles
After missing my swim last week due to a parents’ evening, I was glad to get back to my Monday night pool time this week. Even though I’m not spending a great deal of time in the pool, it’s amazing the impact it has on my recovery, something I hadn’t really noticed until I was forced to miss a session. This meant that when I headed out for my run on Tuesday, I performed much better than last week, despite the fact that I’d completed a longer run on the Sunday (and it was blowing a gale which, of course, had me running into a headwind on the uphill sections – typical!). I know that in the coming weeks of higher mileage Sundays, my Tuesday runs may become more challenging, so it’s crucial that I get my recovery right in order to get a quality run and avoid “junk miles”. For me, my Monday swim is a key part of that recovery.
On Wednesday, however, I encountered a bit of a hurdle – hunger! Yes, my old friend from training cycles past decided to pay me a visit. In general, I’m pretty good when it comes to my nutrition during training – I know what will fuel me for a run, I know what foods I need to help me recover and I know that the more miles I run, the more I need to eat during the day to ensure I’m not using up more energy than I’m taking in. So as the weeks go on I need to increase portions, particularly my porridge at breakfast time, and add in further snacks such as nuts and malt loaf to top up my energy during the day. I’ve found that I really only need this when my long runs are 16+ miles, which of course is what I ran last Sunday. But thanks to feeling tired on Tuesday evening so not finishing my dinner and not then not having an extra snack with me on Wednesday as I’d not needed one so far, I fell foul of a massive dip in my energy which saw me feeling like the plug had been pulled out. This was easily rectified with some extra food and since then I’ve been sure to eat enough during the day to support the level of training I have reached. Luckily, Wednesday is a fairly light day training-wise so it didn’t cause too much of a problem.
By Thursday, I felt back on form after a good sleep (and a good thing too as it was time to increase the cadence of my drills and cut back the number of reps). Last week I was conscious that I was needing to move on to the next level of my cadence training, but could also remember that the last time I increased the cadence of my drills I did find the slight increase noticeable. Not impossible, but a subtle enough change to push me a bit. This time a similar increase, while noticeable, did not feel quite so big a challenge and I did enjoy the shorter workout I was rewarded with!
After my drills, it was time to help Steve with his Go Faster running group, who were also working on cadence drills. I was working with some more experienced runners (who are working at a slightly higher cadence than those who have just joined the group) so their session this week combined the cadence training with some hill reps – a great way to build strength and speed. Over the last few weeks I have been working on maintaining my cadence during hill climbs in my runs and it is definitely making a difference to my performance so I hope they notice the benefit too.
Friday was not only Metafit day, but it was also my first time trying the latest workout, worryingly titled Shredder! I have to say, I did feel pretty shredded, although I think that’s partly due to not drinking enough before the class as I was dashing around sorting out a few errands that couldn’t wait. After the class I made sure to drink plenty of water and even had a power nap before eating, which made me feel much better.
However since I’d felt a bit below par on Friday night and had probably not had the greatest pre-run meal (a heavy Chinese accompanied by a couple of beers) I headed off to Parkrun on Saturday fully expecting to have a tough time. It had been cold overnight so I thought there might be some frost on the paths and wasn’t sure what sort of state the grass would be in. Not ideal conditions to run a good time. Knowing that we can’t expect to be at our best every single time and that all sots of factors can affect performance, I set out with no other intention than to run as well as I could.
There were a couple of frosty patches on the paths, but I still ran a pretty fast first mile, probably too fast to be honest. By the time I reached halfway and joined the grass section I was feeling the pace a bit but knew I could hold on for a little longer. The grass, however, was pretty tough to run on as it hadn’t frozen right through so the surface was soft, muddy in places, and had a covering of slippy frost on the top so I could feel my feet sliding underneath me. Of course that affected everybody and I wasn’t losing any place with the runners around me so I was happy with that. Rejoining the path with a mile to go, I was tired but just had to dig in. By the time I could see the finish, my legs were turning to jelly and every fibre of my being wanted me to stop, but with the end in sight I gritted my teeth and kept going, knowing I could finish with a PB. Once across the line I was relieved to stop and gulp in some air as I waited to have my barcode scanned.
It’s funny how sometimes the runs where we expect to perform the worst, are the very ones where we do our best. I expected a tough run and I got one, but not in the way I had thought – it was tough because I ran hard, not because I was badly prepared or in poor form. 5k may not seem much when compared to 16 miles, but it’s fast and you have to run hard from the start. A 5k is never comfortable, and it’s not a distance I have much experience with (although Parkrun is certainly teaching me a lot about how to race it). 5k should not be underestimated.
Once home, I waited impatiently for my results to come in, hoping for confirmation of a PB (anything faster than 24:11). I knew what my watch said when I stopped it, but I also know that my official time is usually up to 4 seconds more, depending on how accurate I am with starting and stopping my watch.
And then this happened:
Not only a PB, but just a fortnight after unexpectedly smashing my sub-25 minute goal, I (narrowly) achieved my new goal of sub-24 minutes. I now have a 23:XX 5k PB. I couldn’t believe it and am probably still on cloud nine as I type this. Now, my goal needs to be to take my time more convincingly below the 24 minute barrier. Given the progress I’ve made over the last few weeks, who knows what could happen in the future if I continue to train well.
Upon studying my stats from my watch, I also discovered that my average cadence for this run was 172, the same as the speed of the cadence drills I started off with back in October. Back then, I found it tough to run at that cadence for a minute, now I’m racing 5k with that as an average. Yet more evidence, if it were needed, of the huge gains to be made from consistent training and working on these kinds of drills, and yet more encouragement to keep working on them and improving my running further.
The remainder of Saturday was spent making sure I was better fuelled and hydrated for my Sunday run than I was last week. I drank water like it was the day before the marathon and made sure I had a good dinner of salmon, vegetables and noodles. Delicious!
These steps meant that I set out on Sunday morning feeling much better prepared. With a repeat of the previous week’s mileage, I opted to run the same route to see how much better it would feel with better pre-run fuelling.
From the outset things felt much improved. I was moving faster, yet it felt easier. Everything that I had control over was working well, the only variable causing any issue was something over which I had no control – the weather! What started off as an overcast and cool day quickly changed. Drizzle turned to sleet, sleet intermittently turned to snow and a fierce wind joined the party so that much of the precipitation was coming at me horizontally. When I passed close to home around two thirds of the way in, I gave serious consideration to nipping home to change some of my clothes and add some extra layers, but suspected that if I did that I’d never get out the door again so gritted my teeth and soldiered on.
By the time I finished my run I was soaked, my fingers were freezing and fine motor skills like putting the key in the front door were a bit of a challenge! Not ideal, but I knew to make sure I acted quickly to warm up by removing my sodden clothes, getting in a warm shower as soon as possible and having a hot meal. Careful not to omit any crucial part of my post-run strategy, I ended up going through my stretching routine in my dressing gown and taking my sports bottle with my recovery shake into the shower with me. Multi-tasking at its best! A bowl of hot soup post-shower and I felt much more human again and ready to reflect on my run.
Overall, I ran better than last week. Despite the weather, I was faster and felt stronger (apart from the last mile and a half when I really couldn’t see past all the sleet/snow in my face and was struggling to open up my bottle to take a drink!). My cadence was good, my pace was well within my goal marathon pace and I coped with the challenging conditions as well as I could. I’ll take the positives from that. Hopefully the weather will be much more favourable on race day, but if it’s blowing a gale and snowing, I’m all set!
The next few weeks will see me hitting my highest mileage with 18 and 20 mile runs on the cards, so it’s more important than ever to make sure I’m getting my nutrition and recovery right. I’ll be keeping hydrated, aiming to eat the foods that fuel me best and trying to get enough sleep. Sounds easy, yet sometimes it can still be tricky to get it right. But now, it’s time for a nice hot bath to treat myself after my cold run and help boost my recovery!
How is your training going
What are your strategies for running in bad weather?