Saturday, 29 November 2014

Winter Sessions

So the marathon season is coming to an end.  My two marathons this year seem a distant memory and the Dash is done.  What now?   
I suppose a reflection on the last few races is a good place to start this blog.   In the build up to Chester whilst my focus was on the long runs needed to complete the marathon I also had an eye on the Abbey Dash as an end of season blast to keep the speed in the legs.     So much of the “speed work” I was doing in the build up to the Dash had a 10km focus.  Typically sessions like 3 x 10 minutes at 10km speed or 800 repeats at 10km speed with minimal recovery were a regular feature.   It’s good to see progress being made and most sessions there was a glimmer of progress but while the marathon was looming my focus was always on the long runs so the speed sessions were a means to an end.  Once the recovery from Chester was done the focus turned more to the 10km sessions and there was a good few weeks of repeating key sessions, tweaking recoveries and increasing time at 10km pace to get me to the Dash in the best possible shape for an attempt at Sub 34.   
I had a decent (solid) if unspectacular race at the Maltby 7 mile race.  It was my fourth Maltby in five years and my 2014 time of 39.50 was my fastest since 2011 (39.49) and 18 seconds quicker than my last run in 2012 where I clocked 40.08 and went onto run 33.56 at the Dash.     Maltby is one of those races that I like with a tough first half with a few climbs then a fast winding route to finish.   

A rare racing smile!

In the weeks leading up to the Abbey Dash I saw some measurable improvements in sessions and felt like I was coming into form at the right time.   In the end a 34.01 10km to end the season shouldn’t be a disappointment but In all honesty I was gutted not to break 34 minutes.  I could spend time looking back at sessions,  looking back at the race and over analysing but to be honest I don’t think it was anything to with my training leading up to it.  I think the difference is simply how much I wanted to do well in that race.  I have never had a problem in the past with getting myself up for the big races but the more I concentrate on the marathon the less I feel “up” for other races.  It’s like there is something in my head that is telling me that this is just a means to an end and not as important to me as a marathon.   It could also be a result of increased mileage and less focus on speed.   I’ve also developed this “cautious” first mile approach which is most suitable for a marathon but possibly leaves me with a lot to do over the shorter distances.  There were a lot of bodies to get past at Leeds!  Partly the reason for the cautious start these days is the old body needs a bit of getting going so its not all about choosing to start easy!
So I am unlikely to race much for the remainder of 2014 (except possibly the North East Cross Country Champs for a bit of fun!) and concentrate on building a good base for the 2015 season. 
I’ve entered the Brass Monkey Half to give me a bit of focus over the winter and so speed sessions are focusing on 10km work and half marathon pace tempos.   I’ve got the long runs back on track with a decent 16 mile effort at the weekend and a base mileage of around 65 miles per week settling in as “the norm”.  I’m using a schedule for the half that is focussing on the 10km speed work over the long runs as the relationship between the half marathon and the 10km is closer than the relationship between the marathon and the half marathon.  If nothing else that makes sense given the closeness of the distances (11km difference vs 21km difference).  One of the key sessions is the planned half marathon pace runs which so far are around the 4 and 5 mile mark but build up to the 9/10 mile region by the end of the programme.
For me its about what fits in to the week and what works.  That means back to back sessions on Wednesday (10km based session) and the half marathon paced tempo (Thursday).  That does make the Thursday session a bit tougher but so far i’m hitting targets and am on track.  It does mean the Friday is a very very easy recovery run to put the body back together after two hard sessions.  
Marathon wise I’ve entered Manchester Marathon in April and following this up with the Potteries Marathon in July.  That gives me the option of a third marathon in October and I would look no further than Chester for another outing along the Cheshire/North Wales border.   

Other races in 2015 will be the Locke Park 20 in March and a few 5km and 10kms mixed into the year.   It’s going to be a real focussed year for me in 2015 as I attempt to lower my marathon time further.   The extra marathon in July will be something new and it may not suit me but sometimes it’s good to experiment.   

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Where has all the speed gone....

So its four weeks since Chester and I'm making good progress again on the training front.  I ran just 31 miles in the week following Chester but since then picked up the mileage again with a 60, 55 and a 65 mile week.  Today was the first long run with a 16 mile steady run with an enforced "easy" start due to the wind but picked up the pace in the second half to finish the run closer to 6:30 miling than I expected when I set off.

As I did Chester last year its easy to make comparisons with how I felt then and how I feel now but to be honest I feel different mentally this year.  Last year I came straight out of marathon training determined to bag a decent 10km at the Abbey Dash (finished in 33.58) but this year my focus has been more of a longer term plan with the aim over the winter to simply "Winter well".  What does that mean?

For me it means putting myself in the best possible position to build a solid base of miles to start marathon training on.   Last year I ignored the long runs until December but did manage to get three decent long runs in before being dealt a massive blow withe the onset of an unexpected bout of sciatica which meant January was a write off.  Although on paper the Manchester Marathon build up went ok and the race went very well (a four minute pb) I did feel that the build up became rushed and ended up with long runs being crammed in last minute and tune up races being used as long runs instead of sharpeners.

So the plan for the winter will be to do the odd race here and there starting with the Maltby 7 next week and then the Abbey Dash the following week but other than those two it will be a case of getting some base miles in over December and January before the more specific marathon training in February and March.  As Manchester is slightly later this year I am going to have a serious attempt at lowering my 20 mile pb as I feel that this is a race distance that suits me.

So the Abbey Dash will be a case of pushing as hard as I can and getting as close to the sub 34 goal again.  I've enjoyed a few decent 10k specific workouts in the last few weeks including 3 x 10 minutes @ 10km pace and earlier this week a session that was a 2 mile effort @ 10km pace followed by 4 x 1 mile.  Recovery was a very slow jog of the track.  Although I was probably a second a lap off the kind of 10km pace needed for a Sub 34 it was enough to convince me that the Dash would be worth a crack at.  I had done a session of 800s the night before so doing a back to back session was never going to be easy.  

Saturday I had the latest attempt at the elusive Sub 17 Locke Park run.  My 17.16 effort on my own making my way past the ghosts, ghouls and witches of the Halloween run was a valiant effort but it wasn't to be.  Then again it probably reflects where I am at the moment.  Plenty of strength just lacking the speed.
Running scared!

Last week was the inaugural Locke Park 10 mile race.  It's always nice to support a new race on your doorstep so I decided to give it a go.   I felt good before hand but on a windy day it was never going to be a race that would be my fastest of the year and I finished 5th overall in 58.36. The  Locke Park 10 was a multi lap race so there were plenty of opportunities to see people.  My attention soon turned from being competitive at the front end to "best make sure I keep running hard so I don't get lapped!".  In the end my fifth place was enough to get me promoted to 4th place on the age graded prizes so came away with a decent voucher to get some solid mileage shoes for the winter miles.  Well done to Graham Hall and New Marske Harriers for yet another superbly organised event.

On the world marathon front it was inspiring today to watch the New York Marathon on TV and despite the wind affecting times the quality of Wilson Kipsang (2.10.59) and Mary Keitani (2.25.07) shone through at the finish as they timed their finishes to perfection to take home the prizes.   Whilst Kipsang's time may be slower than the usual finish time in a marathon major it still represents 5 minute miling which in the windy conditions that the race was run in was a phenomenal effort.   I think the marathon record will once again be lowered next year if he regains the form that brought him the world record at Berlin last year.  I think the mouth watering contest between Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto should be very interesting to say the least!   There is an interview with Kipsang on the IAAF website which makes for some interesting reading.   In particular the fact that he loves the long easy runs and hates speed work!  That is something we both have in common!