Daventry Parkrun No.127

So I ran a time which was in line with performances this year, but it felt so much harder. In fact, I’ve run quite a bit faster and not felt so bad at the finish. Although you can sometimes explain this anomaly away as just having low energy levels on the day, I’ve no doubt the cause lies elsewhere.

In recent weeks I’ve increased my training load while trying to maintain the tougher sessions to the same level. I have suffered for that so it was no surprise how Saturday went. To address this I’m going to return to what worked so well for me last year, which looks something like this:

Sunday: Long run

Monday: Rest or bike

Tuesday: Intervals (these are usually 1 minute, 0.25 miles or 0.5 miles)

Wednesday: Easy run [am] and sometimes bike [pm]

Thursday: Tempo run (unless doing parkrun that Saturday then easy)

Friday: Rest or easy run – if not racing following day

Saturday: parkrun or rest

There’s just over 2 weeks till my next parkrun so it will be interesting to see how that one goes. My time on Saturday was 24.16. Taking a positive from this: I’ve never run parkrun faster in March.

Happy Running

Matt

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The Monthly PB

Can your recent race history predict future pb’s? For the past few months I have been running consistently well, so I’ve took a look back to see how my best times compare in previous years for the same month. I was little surprised by the results which are shown below:

Monthly PB 2014 – 2016 TIME Monthly PB 2016-20 17 TIME Difference (Seconds)
05-SEPT-2015 24:36 03-SEPT-2016 24:03 -33
24-OCT-2015 24:10 15-OCT-2016 23:30 -40
29-NOV-2014 25:28 05-NOV-2016 23:43 -105
06-DEC-2014 24:44 31-DEC-2016 23:54 -50
03-JAN-2015 25:57 21-JAN-2017 24:14 -103
13-FEB-2016 25:28 18-FEB-2017 24:19 -69
         

So for the last six months I have run a faster time, each month, than on previous years for the same month. So far so good, but looking at the table a little closer might suggest a worrying trend since last October: month on month, I’ve been getting slower. In part, this could be explained for the following reasons: (1) My pb in October was run at a different course to the other times. It was on a course which I find more suitable for fast running than my local course. (2) My local course is mainly off-road which becomes softer underfoot and even waterlogged in places at this time of year. (3) Training variations from the winter months to the summer may have a bearing as there’s more of an emphasis on quantity and longer intervals.

What I want to know of course is whether or not I can expect to improve on my pb in the coming months? Only time will tell of course. The above data could be taken as contradictory, but I’ve always believed you have to take the positives out of any situation so you know which data I’m going to focus on. My next few weeks will be all about maintaining consistency, avoiding injury and enjoying the training – especially the intervals! Hopefully then I will see the improvement in times I’m looking for.

Happy Running

Matt

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Staying on Purple Ground

So you toil away for months without any sign of improvement and then all of sudden make a breakthrough. Every training session takes on new meaning. Intervals get faster – on tempo runs your feet barely touch the ground – and most importantly of all: race times improve.

So what do you do when your form jumps onto the upward curve? Is this the right time to add some extra miles or repetitions to your intervals in pursuit of even greater improvements? After all, you’re absolutely buzzing with how things are going. Surely, more is more?

Several times in the past I have thought so and took the aforementioned course of action, and it absolutely didn’t work for me. It just resulted in bringing a premature end to my run of good form. Increasing training at a time when things are going well often results in fatigue and the loss of form you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Maybe this relates more to quantity than quality. At the moment I’m flying when it comes to intervals and tempo runs. I have no problem with working harder on these sessions, as long as I resist the temptation to supplement them with extra training, and keep the easy days as they are.

When you’re in the middle of a purple patch, there’s no way of knowing how long it will last. Making the right choices may prolong it, but making the wrong ones will certainly shorten it.

The above was written in November. No pb’s since then but I’m consistently racing faster than usual for the time of year. Looking forward to what’s to come in 2017; hopefully, better race times are ahead!

Happy Running

Matt

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Daventry Parkrun No. 107

A late opportunity to run on Saturday had to be taken. This was my first run at Daventry in two months, having run more recently at the Northampton venue.

I came to the race in good form so decided to attempt a course best time on what was my 50th Daventry run. Although windy, you are protected on three sides of the reservoir by a woodland barrier.

You have to set off at a slightly faster than comfortable pace when chasing a fast time, which got me through the first mile on track. I slowed slightly for the second and third miles which were nearly identical, timewise, and crossed the line in 23.43.

This knocked fourteen seconds off my previous best for this course, and it comes as a relief, as it’s been fifteen months since I last ran a pb at Daventry. Though delighted with my recent form, it’s a good time not to get carried away, which I will touch on in my next article.

Happy Running

Matt

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Northampton Parkrun No. 232

Although the distance is always the same, it’s surprising how differently each parkrun course runs. For example, I know my quickest mile at Daventry is always the second one. At Northampton, it’s the first mile which I think gives a distinct advantage.

This is because I know if a pb is on or not sooner. I’ve run Northampton twice now and improved my best time on each occasion. The pattern [for me] has been the same both times: get off to a quick start, have a slight breather in the second mile and then dig in and throw everything I have left at the third mile.

This tactic may not work long term but I’m definitely sticking with it while it does. It also has to be said that we had perfect weather again for racing. If I’m honest, the course and conditions have probably been the main contributory factors to my recent pb’s, although I would like to think my training has played a part as well.

My next parkrun will be in two to three weeks’ time. My recorded time on Saturday was 23.30.

Happy Running

Matt

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Northampton Parkrun No. 230

After several near misses, I finally managed to get over to the Northampton parkrun last weekend. This event is held at the racecourse in the town. It’s a park which gets its name from once being a racetrack that hosted horse race meetings dating back to the first part of the seventeenth century. These came to an end in 1904, after a fatal accident involving spectators. In isolation, racing may have continued, but this was the latest of a number of accidents which was said to be due to the sharp bends on the course. Two world wars aside, where it was used as an army camp and allotments, this green space has been used as a sport’s recreational ground since 1912.

Conditions couldn’t have been more perfect on Saturday which I would describe as fresh with a very light breeze. I used my warm-up to jog part of the route to get a look and feel for the course. It’s probably the flattest course I’ve run on to date made up entirely of tarmac paths.

This is a very well supported parkrun. There were nearly 400 runners on Saturday which made for a congested start; although to get around this, a lot of runners started on the grass. The field quickly spread out over the first mile, so it’s then just a question of settling into your pace.

I was quite quick over the first mile (for me), which gave me the added incentive to stay focused in pursuit of a good time. The second mile was a little slower but I felt I had enough left to dig in and record a fast time. With just over half a mile left I threw everything I had left at it: no point saving anything at this stage.

I crossed the line in 23.47, which sliced ten seconds off my previous best. Although you should be content with any pb, I felt there had been an opportunity missed to lower my pb even further. As I said, conditions were excellent and this is a very fast course.

The surface was hard and flat so plenty of rebound of shock. This may not be good for your joints but usually translates to faster times. So what do I take from this? I wanted to run faster in the latter stages but just didn’t have the legs. So while continuing with my intervals and tempo runs, I’m going to work harder on improving strength in the gym. For the time being, I’ll be happy with my pb, while I continue to strive for faster times.

Happy Running

Matt

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Upping the Tempo

There are many definitions for this type of training. For me, a tempo run is performed at about 85-90% of maximum effort. I do this training in my lunchbreak so there are time constraints. After warming up for the first mile, I increase my pace for the next three. Tempo pace is often described as comfortably fast and the pace should be as consistent as you can manage. To finish, I run a mile (or a few minutes if time doesn’t allow) to warm down.

Although not at race pace this is a hard training session; especially, as it’s ideally run when you’re not training with others. I say this because it should be run at a pace that suits you, on any given day, and the benefits are lost if run too fast or slow. My pace is dictated by how I feel on the day although the effort is always consistent; my times can vary depending on how I feel and what else I’ve done in training, in the preceding days.

As you know, I’m all about finding ways to run 5k faster, and this type of training assists me in two important ways. The first (and probably most important) is that tempo runs help you develop your lactate threshold (LT). Your LT is the point at which lactate acid (a by-product of glucose metabolism) begins to accumulate in muscles.

You are in real trouble once you have an excess of LT in your muscles. Ever been in a race or hard training session when you’ve suffered from an onset of muscle fatigue or burning? I’ve been in the last mile at the parkrun a few times when this has happened to me. Usually the last mile, when I’m gritting my teeth and summoning my last reserves, but ultimately feel like I’m treading water.

Developing your LT enables you to run faster without suffering muscle fatigue. This is great in theory but I need a few more weeks of this to see if it comes to fruition. I’ve recently dropped an interval session and replaced it with a tempo run, so I will let you know.

Tempo runs are also good for mental conditioning. I’ve previously written about the importance of mental toughness when racing. Well, tempo runs are very good for mental toughness: they teach you to maintain pace while suffering discomfort, and if you can do this training alone, you should have no problem in a race environment.

Finally, if 3 miles sounds too arduous, you can always split it up. An alternative is an interval tempo run. A typical example of this is: 1-2 miles warm up, followed by 2 x 10-15 minutes at tempo pace, then 1-2 miles warm down. I’ve never run this session but I would imagine the recovery between the two tempo efforts is best set by the individual.

Happy Running

Matt

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