parkruns and training

I haven’t been as “on it” with my blog latey so I thought I’d do a little recap of things going on over here.

Unsurprisingly to many and disappointingly to myself, speed training has not been happening. The intention and motivation is definitely there but a few things have gotten in the way.

I did actually turn up at a speed training session with my club, Hedge End RC. The problem was I did a few miles beforehand as I arrived early and my legs were just not playing ball. It was a tough grind just to run easy. I thought after the first mile they might loosen up and things might feel better but it was such an effort to keep going.

I know what the issue was. I did my killer stair machine workout that morning (my personal trainer recommended adding this in to increase hip and glute strength). FOOLISH. Very foolish to try doing this the morning of a potential speed training day.

I saw some of my friends who tried to persuade me to stay but I knew it would be a mistake. I would either just flop in the session or I would push too hard, motivated by everyone around me, and then burn out during the week. So I canned it and went home. Weak willed? Or smart? I’m not sure.

Then the Southampton Half happened and that rinsed me…and then this week I wasn’t well yesterday (female problems I won’t bore you with) so settled for a gentle 6 miles at home instead.

Despite all this, I do feel like I’m making gains at parkrun – the marker that I test my fitness on. A couple of weeks ago, Kyle and I went to Southsea parkrun. The real reason was because we wanted to go to the Parade Tearooms afterwards (that GIANT salad… I live for it), but also because it would be nice to do a flat parkrun rather than the godawful Havant parkrun close to Kyle’s where we were staying.

Whereas Kyle was a bit more sensible and decided to have more of a gentle parkrun the day before the Southampton Half I decided to just go for it.

I started and my legs were a bit “meh”. It was tough to get going but I pushed on. There was no real wind so that was something. I managed to push the pace and was VERY chuffed with my final mile.

I got 20:22 which I was buzzing about. I’d hoped to be around 20:30! I’m nowhere near my PB (19:40) but it’s a good sign going forward and good motivation to DO SOME SPEEDWORK.

Last weekend we were at Netley Abbey and coincidentally it was the cricket pitch course. Known as the “Marmite course” because it’s five laps round a field… dull but flat.

Photo credit: Benji Vee

I was ready to give it another blast. My legs, however, were not. I started running – going out fast – and quickly realise woooahhh no this is not going to happen. I cannot maintain this.

Photo credit: Benji Vee

I pulled it a little bit and tried to just maintain a tempo style speed. It was a total grind though.

Photo credit: Benji Vee

Kyle wasn’t far behind me and that helped motivate me forward. Not that I mind Kyle being faster than me or overtaking, but it’s nice to use that as something to keep me pushing on.

Photo credit: Benji Vee

My friend Mike, who was out due to a hamstring issue, kept cheering us both – telling me where Kyle was and then telling Kyle to get a move on. It helped us both for definite! It boosted a bit of friendly competition.

I feel a bit bad as I told Kyle it was five laps, but it’s actually 5.5 laps so when we got to the fifth lap Kyle had already begun his sprint finish… and then realised actually he still had a chunk to go.

Photo credit: Benji Vee

He’d have probably caught me at the end. He’s far more powerful at sprinting than I am.

Photo credit: Benji Vee

I scraped 21:13 and it felt very much a tough grind, but hey ho I will take it! Had a little pose next to the INCREDIBLE castle and dragon carved in to a tree chunk in the new “fairy garden”. Wowza.

I was very pleased to enjoy some EXTREMELY tasty rocky road at the end made by the lovely Alana. I had two pieces and then some chocolate cake in the cafe. All before 10.30am – that my friends is a winning Saturday!

So there we have it, my speedwork update… or lack thereof. I will endeavor to do better!

How do you do with consistent speed training?

What determines if you’re going to push at a parkrun or not?

What’s your favourite rocky road additions? I love a bit of biscuit in there.

Marathon Talk Run Camp 2019 – part 1

This weekend gone was my 5th Marathon Talk Run Camp.

Now usually it’s set in the New Forest in the Sandy Balls camp, which handily for me is just down the road. However, this year it was in the beautiful, but distant, Peak District.

At first I wasn’t going to go. It was just so far for me to travel – by train or car. However, I was persuaded when one of my fellow Austria Run Camp buddies (and fellow Southampton AC runner), Dave, offered to give me a lift up. This meant making it a lot more cost effective and less boring of a trip up and down.

I took a half day on Friday, Dave picked me up and off we went. It was a rather lengthy 4.5 hour journey, but chatting away to Dave the time flew by. We arrived in Matlock, checked in to the Mount Cook Adventure Centre (our home for the weekend) and headed to a local pub to meet the rest of the Run Campers that we were familiar with.

Though the food took forever to come out and there was a worrying moment of “cash only” until a card machine was found, we enjoyed good company and a solid meal. I had the steak and chips with a blue cheese sauce.

It was so lovely to see all the familiar faces (though we’d been keeping in touch through social media and WhatsApp of course). Then we headed back to the centre to sort ourselves out.

There was a large area where we could sit and get drinks in the same building as our rooms

The rooms ehhh… were rather basic. I mean, Sandy Balls was never luxury but these were truly dorm-like standards, with bunk beds and basic amenities. However you’re hardly going for the Ritz and I can sleep anywhere so really it was fine. My two roommates were lovely and friendly and I had a solid night’s sleep.

The next morning we got up fairly early to head down to Bakewell parkrun, which was about 30 minutes away. We’d been warned beforehand to pre-order anything we’d want from the Hassop Station Café so the staff could be prepared, so there was a giant queue building up already before the run.

Despite it all looking very nice, I was glad when a few others decided to avoid the queue and just go into Bakewell proper afterwards to find a cafe there. I knew I’d be hungry for breakfast post-run and it would be lovely to have a mosey about Bakewell while we were there.

I wore some arm warmers as it was slightly chilly

Bakewell parkrun was located on the Monsal Trail and runs along a former railway line. As all the local area was, it was beautiful. It was a straight out and back, pretty much flat (though we were told it was slightly inclined on the way out).

I think usual attendance numbers for Bakewell parkrun was around 200, but with the Marathon Talkers descending it pushed the numbers to 400 (they had been pre-warned).

I wasn’t sure what I was fancying but with the surge at the start and the thoughts of “hmmm it would be nice to make the most of the flat-ish course” I decided to see what my legs could do.

I started running around 7 minute miles and it felt comfortably difficult. It was literally just straight out running, a few bridges going over a road but no major change in elevation at all. However in the back of my mind was the “gentle incline out” that the run director had warned us about. I’m sure I wouldn’t have noticed it had she not said anything!

Liz Yelling (Martin Yelling’s wife and Olympic athlete extraordinaire) overtook me just after a mile and disappeared into the distance (I think she had started with her kids, and then they’d given up). And as we got closer to the turnaround we started seeing the faster runners zooming back towards us. So fast. My friend, Dave, was also amongst the front runners and I cheered him on as he flew past. He always looks very happy when he runs.

My friend John caught up to me before the turnaround which was nice, though it suddenly added on a pressure to remain at that speed. I quite like an out and back as you get to focus on other runners going the other way and because I knew quite a few people from the camp I was constantly cheering people on and smiling away, which took my mind off the pain of running fast.

Photo Credit: Steve Morgan

Eventually we got to the finish and I was pooped! I’d hung on to John just about and finished behind him. My time was 20:54 – back in the 20s, whoop!

Dave managed the eye watering time of 17:24 which is INSANE – and he’s a 50-54 category! And the 1st three runners were 15:xx. SERIOUSLY.

After finishing up and cheering others on, a group of us headed into Bakewell. The town was beautiful. I was so pleased that we made the decision to not go to the parkrun cafe as we heard it was packed. Instead we found the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop which had a restaurant above the bakery.

I subsequently spent £15 on two Bakewell tarts (one iced, one not), a Bakewell pudding and a white chocolate rocky road! I didn’t eat them all there and then though – I wanted to take them home to share with my family and Kyle.

I then ordered myself a large English breakfast with all the trimmings… eggs, sausages, bacon, black pudding, beans (contamination!!), mushrooms, hashbrowns, toast and a Derbyshire oatcake underneath.

Now I’ve had Staffordshire oatcakes so I was very excited about this addition. It was delicious (they’re basically savoury crepe-like pancakes).

Then we moseyed about Bakewell for a little bit in the beautiful sunshine. It got very busy quite quickly though – it seemed like it was a very hot tourist spot. We eventually headed back to the centre for a freshen up and lunch (though I would not be needing food for a bit!).

After lunch, we had a really interesting talk from Liz Yelling and Holly Rush, both exceptional athletes in their own right (from Olympic medals to UTMB and Comrades amazingness). They were very inspiring but also quite funny. For example, Liz mentioned that her peak maranoia before a big race extended so far to take her daughter out of playschool and quarantine her in the house. And friends were asked beforehand if they had colds before hugs were exchanged. I mean wow.

Tom Williams explaining the session

We then headed out for the session. We ran up a GIANT hill and separated into groups (self-selected by our parkrun times). Perhaps foolishly I selected the 23 minute group and I don’t think this was possibly the best idea as it wasn’t challenging at all.

I was in a group led by Holly Rush. The session was 3 x 4 minute tempo efforts, following by 1 minute hill sprint. I felt a little frustrated because the 4 minute efforts weren’t really a tempo speed for me (7.30min/mile) so I was struggling not to run ahead. Holly was very vocal and strong in her views that we should stick as a group so I just gave up on thinking it was a session and enjoyed it as a leg stretcher. Hey ho!

Photo Credit: Tanya Raab

We then ran back. I showered (luckily I got hot water – there was a limited supply and a lot of people had cold showers) then it was time for dinner. The food isn’t always that great at these things. Bulk catering and making things cost-effective means it leaves a lot to be desired. However I had a solid meal of a jacket potato with chicken curry and salad (I also added cheese because…).

Then we had a REALLY inspiring and interesting talk from the legend that is Dave Moorcroft, the previous 5k record holder (13 minutes!!) amongst many other accolades. He was such a lovely guy with so many fascinating stories. Really one of the highlights.

Dave Moorcroft being interviewed by Tom

And then it was time for the annual MarathonTalk Run Camp Quiz, hosted by none other than the amazing Tony Audenshaw.

I managed to grab a selfie with him earlier in the day

Honestly, he is one of the nicest people. He’s also hilarious.

The quiz was good fun, though my team (“Anna’s Apples” – yes really) didn’t win. We did however know the winning team so I was able to snag myself a slice of the chocolate cake prize 😉

Group shot outside

I’ll leave it there for my recap… the next day includes more fun and games and the Carsington Water Half Marathon.

Have you ever been to a run camp?

Do you enjoy hearing talks from other runners?

Have you been to the Peak District before?

Back to speed work

Down South we are having some gorgeous weather lately.

Crisp and cold in the morning and then beautiful sunshine later in the day. The temperatures are still chilly but this only means perfect running conditions for me! I love it. It puts a spring (ha!) in my step.

Do you remember that time I briefly went to track for a bit? Yeah neither do I. A distant memory. It was never going to last due to the amount of faff it took for me to get there. I had to leave work later, drive to Southampton, park 3 miles away and wait for about 15 minutes before running there. My entire evening disappeared. Totally not worth any of the speed gains in my opinion. Yes I did enjoy doing regular speed work in such a controlled way but realistically it just didn’t fit into my routine or make me particularly happy over all.

But anyway, I do know I need to do some speed work. Doing it regularly makes me happy. It breaks up all the samey runs I do and makes me feel strong. At the moment I plan to do them once every two weeks to keep an eye on stressing my body too much and avoiding injuries but I’m quite excited about it.

Kyle and I actually did a speed session last week together round the lake at work. It’s a perfect area to do it as it’s fairly soft underfoot (so less stress on the body), there are no cars, no traffic lights, it’s flat and one loop is about 1.5 miles.

I thought we should test out some mile reps. We started with a one mile warm-up and then the reps would begin. We weren’t going to run together but just run at our own speeds. Incidentally these paces were very similar and actually having Kyle ahead or behind me really helped motivate me to keep up or keep him from catching me. After the rep we’d do a cool down jog for 0.5 miles until we got to the start point again. And then we were off once more.

The reps were hard (to be expected!). I felt it in my lungs and legs. It look a lot of concentration to hold on (but also not to blow myself to pieces too soon).

But I’m really proud of myself for reaching the paces I did. I’ve never done mile repeats this quickly. Genuinely think it helped doing it with someone else. Hugely more motivating than doing it solo.

Speaking of Kyle, we had a lovely Valentine’s Day together. We had a very relaxed evening not doing too much.

He cooked my chicken wings and ribs, which of course are some of my favourite foods. And then we chilled watching Sex Education – which is hilarious by the way (tho a weird blend of British and American-ness).

He bought me some lovely gifts, which included some of my favourite chocolate.

I adore Hotel Chocolat! I was very chuffed. Of course they didn’t last long…

Did you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Do you do speed work?

What’s your favourite speed session?

Running Lately

I thought I’d do a little update on how my running has been going lately… 

Since returning from the Austria Run Camp at the beginning of July, my running has been a bit unfocused. I’ve been in a weird period where I didn’t have any marathons or races pending so I’ve just been enjoying some relaxed and unfocused running. I think it’s important to have some of this kind of running from time to time. I also had a minor blip where my calf/shin started to niggle a little so I backed off and gave it some space and then gently ramped up again.I’ve been hovering around 30ish miles a week for around a number of weeks which is generally my sweet spot. I’d like to get back to 40 miles a week as I didn’t find that too stressful on my delicate injury-prone body previously but I want to do this slowly. I also want to run five times a week when it fits in so these two will go nicely together.

My next big main goal is the New York Marathon. I say “goal” only because I want to run the race uninjured and for me that’s a goal in itself. It’s never guaranteed. I don’t have a time in mind for it at all. I’ve heard it’s the toughest of the Majors so I’m trying not to let that intimidate me. But I still want to enjoy it. For me this means running round comfortably, with a smile on my face, probably take a few selfies and finish happy. Therefore time is irrelevant.

New York is the beginning of November, so about 11 weeks away. It’s been a long time since my last marathon though and I’m getting the itch. My friend Mike mentioned the Goodwood Motor Circuit Marathon September 16th which sounded quite good.Eight laps of the 5k track. Maybe this sounds dull but to me this sounds cool. I can pace myself in chunks. Maybe I’ll see what I can do closer to the time in terms of time but realistically I don’t want to risk New York (which will be six weeks after). We shall see.

So with being a bit gentler with my calf/shin I laid back off the speedwork (any excuse eh…). But I’m trying to get back into it again. Over the past few weeks I’ve felt a bit out of shape in terms of my paces, which I don’t really mind too much. For me consistent healthy running will always win over sporadic high speed but niggle-risk running.

However, I had a run planned at lunch the other week and without my usual running buddy (damn injuries) I wasn’t feeling very enthusiastic. So I decided just to blitz through it to get it done. I’d run the night before with my friend Ant and my legs had felt a bit pants. We’d been running around 9-9.30min/miles for 8 miles and it just didn’t feel very smooth or strong. This is a slower pace for me but it shouldn’t have felt like the grind it was. I therefore had no expectations for a good run the day after.

Yet as soon as I started I felt like my legs were ready to go. And my first mile was the slowest… I just seemed to get faster and faster. I have a great 10k route at work that’s nice and flat (it’s basically an out and back) with few turns and minimal traffic annoyance. I just felt myself gliding along. Yes it was tough going but I didn’t find myself feeling like it was the worst thing in the world. It didn’t remind me of those horrific 10k races I’ve done in the past that have felt like I’ve left everything on the road.

So when I came to a stop at 6.2 miles and checked my watch I actually couldn’t believe that I’d surpassed my 10k PB time by 15 seconds. My original PB was 42:50 but I’d just done 42:36. Now I know this is an unofficial PB really because I PB’s only count if you get them in race (official course, chip-timing and all that good stuff) but I’m over the moon. And what’s even better is that I was getting faster and stronger as it continued.I did manage to scare a man as I came to a holt at the end because I was gasping for air and pretty spent. It was around lunchtime when people were just casually grabbing their lunch or chilling out outside. In fairness, the weather was perfect, the route was super flat and it just seemed to come together, for whatever reason. I will take it!Going forward I’ll be cracking on back to track once a week or every two weeks depending how I feel and growing my longer runs. I’m currently up to 16 miles and I’m hoping to peak at 18 miles just before the marathon and then drop down again the week before (a one week taper special due to lack of time – though personally I always prefer a shorter taper). Fingers crossed I continue to run injury-free!

How’s your running going?

What’s your next race?

Cheating on my running club…

When it comes to running, I tend not to have much of a plan. I have a rough idea of what I want to do in a week and if I have a marathon on the horizon I’ll have my long runs marked out, gradually building up the distance.

Otherwise I work out my runs in general with who else is running when in the week and what parkrun I want to do. I’m really relaxed about it. Previously I’d run all my runs around the same kind of pace as well, usually around 8 minute miles. So really no real structure. I enjoy running this way because, as you probably know, I’m not a PB-hunter. I love getting PB’s of course but realistically I’m not running every race for a time. It kills the fun for me. I find enjoyment in other ways, like collecting different parkruns, doing different marathons and basically just having a doss about.

Part of that is down to me genuinely loving this and part of it is down to not wanting to be too serious or do too much hard training because I’m terrified of injury. I love running and all the benefits I get from it (physical and mental health but also a large social element), and losing that sucks. I do believe I’m injury prone and when I increase my load (higher mileage or harder mileage) I suspect I’m dicing with getting injured. So I’m always reluctant to go too hard or put a lot of hard training into my weeks. I’d rather run slow consistently then run fast sporadically.

That said, I feel like I’m in a good position to think about jazzing things up. While I have more “fun” goals of doing the parkrun Alphabet Challenge, the Marathon Majors and things like that, I would like to get a few times under my (Flip)belt. I’ve now been injury-free for a good number of months and I haven’t had any sort of niggle even slightly raise its head. It’s given me some confidence.

I go to go the gym 3-4 times a week. I work hard to keep my legs, core and glutes strong. I definitely feel the benefits of this when I run, how fast I can recover and just my general mental wellbeing. I enjoy the gym, I enjoy the routine I have and if I did get injured I know the gym is there to tide me over.

So the title of this post… I’ve recently joined Southampton Athletics Club as second claim. This is actually a huge step for me. Southampton Athletics Club is a Serious Club. They do Serious Running. We’re talking track races. Race distances I wouldn’t get out of bed for let alone train for. 800m? Are you kidding me? As a second claim member however I can’t run for Southampton AC. I don’t see this as a bad thing at all. This year I have a number of different races I want to focus on (or at least just do for a bit of fun), and the idea of doing a lot of league races (10ks, cross country, track) just isn’t my bag of fish. Kettle of fish? Bag of…? Whatever, it isn’t my idea of fun. Despite the head coach trying to hard sell the first claim to me, I held firm (he’s a nice guy and though he didn’t quite understand my rationale, he did accept it and was super nice).

I went to a trial speed session down the track last week. DOWN THE TRACK. An actual track. This is literally Out of My Comfort Zone territory (capitals required for full emphasis).

We (thankfully) didn’t train on the track, but stayed on an area of grass near to it. When I arrived after running a 1.5 mile warm-up there, everyone was super friendly. But all fairly young and with lean, mean racing snake physiques. I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Proper drills. People in warm-up gear and then stripping off to teeny tiny shorts and vests. Then putting on a different pair of trainers.

I’m literally stood there with my FlipBelt that contained just my phone and car keys. I felt woefully underprepared. The coach asked if I was going to change my shoes… into what? These were all I had! But everyone else was switching into barely there weightless shoes and I was stood there in my adidas Boosts that, in comparison, looked like giant bricks on my feet.

But I didn’t let is phase me. I was there to add a bit of structure and speed into my training. I wasn’t there to change my entire way of running. And you know what? I held my own. Yes I was at the back of the reps but I wasn’t being totally dropped and I felt strong. I mean, it was tough. Physically tougher than had I gone out on my own as I was pushing myself to stay within a distance of the main pack, but mentally easier because of the pack. It was weird.

My first speed session: 5 mins tempo (1min), then 4x 90 secs (1min) then 4x 75 secs (1min), then another 5mins tempo

The coach said afterwards I didn’t look like I was trying hard enough (in a nice way, he wasn’t having a go). I honestly thought I was trying, but he said I should be absolutely spent by the end of the session and I guess I wasn’t. I mean I was tired, but I wasn’t rinsed like everyone else seemed to be. I think this comes with having a good understanding of speedwork and an understanding of your body and the pain barriers you need to push through. I’m a long distance runner by heart so I’m used to plodding miles upon miles in a semi-comfortable state. I’m not used to pushing my body for short bursts to efforts of pain. Not injury pain but lung-busting, muscle burning pain. I’ve shied away from that for a good while.

I came away from the session feeling really happy and motivated. It’s reinforced my mindset of how I currently want to run. Keeping my other running nice and easy (two gentle runs 4-6 miles, and a longer run 10+ miles), and then one speed session and an occasional tough parkrun when I’m feeling fruity. That’s the plan. Who knows how long it will last. It’ll only be my body giving up on me that’ll stop it right now. Fingers crossed, eh.

Do you do speedwork?

Are you a member of a running club?

What motivates you with your running?