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Entries in Speed work (5)


Cross Training

That’s my New years resolution (although I did start it before Xmas)

What’s he talking about?

Over the past two years I have been struggling with numerous injuries, including acute tendonitis in my left achillies, and I have basically pushed myself too much on each of my come backs and aggravated the injuries, I took a couple of months off to totally rest my body, I have used this time to think about why I keep on failing at comeback into running and came to the conclusion that constant pounding would expose the weaknesses in my ankle. So I looked into different forms of cross training and there are numerous areas of cross training that can compliment a runners training schedule. But for me its all about fitting in another activity into my already hectic day to day life. SO for Xmas my wife didn’t know what to get me so I suggest she bought me a bike. That’s exactly what she did. I used to race road and mountain bikes so getting back in the saddle was not an issue although I did forget about the joys of breaking in a new saddle!!!

I have done a few weeks of just cycling in and out of work, mainly to get used to it again, now that I am content that my fitness has gone up a couple of extra notches last week I decided to add in my lunch running sessions.

Monday - I drove to work but this enabled me to just go for a run and test my running, and managed a sub 20 min 5k.

Tuesday - I cycled in, then joined Phil Parry for a speed session (2 x 6 mins, 2 x 4 mins and finally 2 x 2 mins with 2 mins recovery between each effort) then a cycle home.

Wednesday - was a cycle in, 3 mile run and cycle home.

Thursday - was a cycle in and out no running

Friday - was a day of rest

Although they say it takes time to feel the benefits but I already feel so much fitter, and best of all no twinges in my ankle. So now for the push towards the Bristol 10k in May and some other races in between!!!


Totally startled ... but in a good way

Where did that come from?

I’m guessing we’ve all had runs when, for no apparent reason, everything clicks. You pull out a performance that surprises you, let alone other people. The clearest example I have was my 10k PB, recorded in Cardiff way back in 2003. I managed to run 50s faster than I’d ever done before, with no idea why. I was getting to within touching distance of 40mins that year, but then succumbed to a chronic achilles injury.

Anyway, enough nostalgia. It happened again yesterday. I was doing an out and back 5.5 miler along Swansea promenade, covering a good chunk of the 10k route (great race for a PB by the way). I’m in Swansea now and then and I’ve done the run regularly, but not frequently, over the last ten years. I managed to get there and back a minute a mile quicker than at any time I’ve recorded in the last three years. I couldn’t believe it.

I just can’t work out how it happened. I got the kit all wrong - long sleeves when a vest was required. I had no sunglasses - so running into the low autumn sun I couldn’t actually see where I was going for a mile or so. My legs clearly hadn’t recovered from the fast(ish!) 5k I’d run on the treadmill the other night. And, more than that, I’d struggled all day to get up the enthusiasm to run at all. The battle of mind over matter wasn’t won until 5pm, when I finally headed out.

My agreement with myself was a bit of a slow one, maybe only 5k - after all, I was a little tired. But from the off the legs had other ideas. I don’t know whether you’ve spent more than 30mins surprised at what your legs (or any other part of your anatomy for that matter) are doing, but it’s a weird feeling.

The time I recorded was probably in the top half dozen I’ve ever managed. Although my record keeping is, I have to admit, pretty much non-existent.

It was, however, still at least 1m50s slower than my lifetime best for the route. But hang on a minute. I’m at least 10kg heavier than 5 years ago :( and each kg is worth about 2s per mile. So there’s 100s right there. Plus I’m now a veteran: that’s worth a bit of an adjustment on the time for sure. So, technically speaking, that was my best relative performance ever!

That might be overdoing it a bit, but there’s clearly a ray of hope. It’s not inevitable that I’ll be trundling around at the back of the pack, living off former glories (and I use that term very loosely). Things are definitely improving. Yay!

I’m almost looking forward to that next run …


Speed at Coombe Dingle

I think it was last November when I kind of hit the wall. Sore shins, then a cold, then flu, then a bad back, then a bad neck - which made my back worse. I was all revved up for world domination (read, another sub 18 minute 5k) when I found myself taking a 6 month break.

So, after baby steps, and having just returned from Connecticut where running is like doing something really tiring (like running) in a sauna, leaving my family behind, I found myself able to finally contemplate a return to Chris Elson’s “intermediate group” up at Coombe Dingle. Chris is one of the Bristol & West AC crew. I don’t think he runs now, but he does lots of coaching, and he’s a jolly nice guy.

What is interval training? Is this the same as speed work? Don’t ask me. But as far as I can tell, it involves doing shorter, faster periods of running with little rests in between.

You should try it. It’s pretty good fun, if you are sick in the head or want to get faster - probably both.

In the past, I’ve found doing these sessions quickly makes a BIG difference to my race times - be that a 5k or a half marathon. I think the theory is you are training your muscles to work more efficiently at speed, without making it a ball-ache for your heart and lungs. I would also say it makes me MUCH more confident to go faster - one becomes more blase about the fear, the slightly panicky, “oh jesus I might die if I carry on like this” thing, which isn’t really a helpful attitude if you want to go a bit faster.

Well, that’s how it is for me. But I don’t mean to make it sound like a big deal. I would recommend it for anyone who is thinking things like, “I hope I can do the Bristol Half Marathon a bit faster this year. Honestly - you’d be surprised. I know you are out there. I see your tweets.

So, tonight we did longer “reps” (as we say) than I’ve been familiar with. We did: 800m, 1600m, 800m, 1600m, with a fair bit of gentle jogging (that’s walking but going up and down more) before, during, and after.

This was all a short jog from Coombe Dingle, at Coombe Lodge. Never been there before - peaceful, lots of lush grass, and about a mile in circumference. Nice people too.

I went with the slower group, took it easy to start and as my confidence grew, went faster.

The point is, it felt really good. Warm summer’s evening, that tired feeling in the legs - different to a normal long run. Sweating. Breathing. I love it.


Time for spikes?

I managed to drag myself up to Coombe Dingle tonight - 2nd time in 6 weeks - whoop de doo! And I nearly bailed out again due to a mild headache.

Sadly (read: thankfully) I got the time wrong and missed the first two of the intended six 750m reps. Thus, I felt quite good compared to everyone else, allowing for my poor fitness.

But my, once you’re going, don’t it feel good? That slightly foggy spritzer was most refreshing, and being close to young springy people gives an old man a slightly bird-in-flight illusion for a short while.

Good to see Dave T up there again, and chat to a few other people too. I hope I can start getting there a little more often than every six weeks …

Oh, I nearly forgot: Spikes. I’ve never had any but tonight I felt in danger of slipping on the grass. So, I’m thinking, maybe I’m allowed to indulge.

Keep getting cramp though. What’s that all about?


Speed work at Coombe Dingle

Despite my very stiff and sore neck I just forced myself to go up to the sports complex and playing fields of Coombe Dingle to do some speed work, led by Chris Elson of Bristol & West AC.

Chris is running a group for the “not the fastest” runners, who fly round the track at alarming speeds. I think he’s aiming for the 17 - 20 minute 5k speed bracket with us.

Anyway, it was my first time at Coombe Dingle, which is essentially flat grass running - very nice.

There were lots of runners up there in different groups, including lots of youngsters doing a good job of a longer run, as far as I could tell. It was nice to hear the encouragement and advie they were getting from the coaches as we ran past.

It was the first time I’ve done a speed session for a long long time, and doing these sessions makes a huge difference to speed (obviously) and confidence, which I’ve lost a lot of. We ran 350m x5 and 540 x5 alternately, with short jogging rests in between.

The 540m rep at Coombe Dingle playing fieldsIt was OK. It felt good. I tended to be at the back, but on the last 350m, I pushed harder and stayed much nearer the front. The fastest pace for one of those reps was 3:17 mins/km

All I have to do now is keep turning up, and everything will get better.

Trouble is, work is going to keep me out of Bristol for the next 2 weeks. I’m also going to miss the Bridge Inn 5k, and when I come back, I will be 45 years old!