Friday, 20 November 2009

The story so far (PART 3 - Training progress)

At the time of writing, I've ran a total of 1661.8 miles during the 55 weeks of USA 2011 training. There have been a lot of highs in those miles and I might add a couple of lows.

The original plan was to build the mileage slowly each week. This worked really well during the first 20 weeks and I managed to reach a schedule containing 70 miles per week. Running was just part of the story though and to help build overall strength I added a few other types of workout to my schedule. The most important one, being, the personal training sessions given by Mark Fleming. This not only gave me a chance to get a tough high tempo 90 minute workout in the gym but also to use Mark as a sounding board; to discuss progress and new ideas and to highlight areas that I needed to focus more on. Mark's mentoring has proved extremely valuable to me during the first year of training. It's one of the factors that has without question contributed to my consistently high confidence level. Long may that continue!

I've also managed a fair amount of mountain biking, Spinning and Body Pump classes. These have all helped to keep things varied, interesting and give me a low impact option in my training.

The other important type of session that I take part in is David Fairlamb's Beach Bootcamp. There is usually a very good turnout for the 45 minute session which is made up of various components much like a circuit class. Unlike circuits, however, the surrounding beach environment is used as "apparatus". And I must say that it is used to very good effect indeed. In the early months of training I would often run up the steps in King Edwards Bay following the session. I've also used this time to run to St Mary's Lighthouse and back on the odd occasion.

Meanwhile, back to the running. After 20 intensive weeks of training I lost my appetite for running a little. Easy done I suppose when you're trying to cram in 70 miles a week during the winter months. David Fairlamb, had previously warned me about peaking too soon and it was around this time (March 2009) that I started to appreciate that taking a well timed rest was actually a very good thing to do. So then! It was off to Egypt with the family to recharge the batteries. Of course, I took my trainers with me and managed some very tough runs in the desert. I managed 50 miles in total that week and returned back to the UK full of confidence and ready to get back to the serious training.

My aim was to try and get up to 110 miles per week in training. In the weeks following the Egypt tour my mileage had a consistent increase each week. I went from 70 to 75 to 80 to 85 to 90. I got my training into a good weekly rhythm and this showed in my weight loss too as, by the 1st week of July, my body fat was down to 19%, weight was down to 15 stone 3, lean weight was up, fat weight was down. All of the indicators were just where I'd hoped they would be by that time.

I got the rewards for my efforts with a PB of 00:46:48 in the Blaydon Race. That run was done at an average of 00:07:48 per mile. I hadn't ran as fast as that for 14 years.

July and August were supposed to be key months where I hoped to really push on and take my running to a new level. I certainly did that at the start of July with a successful attempt at the 20 mile Chevy Chase run. It was after this, however, that many things went against me and I found myself in a constant battle to fit all of the required mileage in.

The first obstacle I came across was a chest infection. This happened in August and really knocked my routine out for weeks. Add to this, the fact that I was spending more time in the office than I would have liked and all of a sudden my daily window for running was getting smaller and smaller. Of course, family life is the highest priority and at first, during the Summer, I let this slip down the list. This didn't last long and instead of beating myself up about missing family time I decided to not miss it and beat myself up about missing runs instead.

I reckon I missed out on about half of my intended running between July and October. The bar was raised so high and I seemed to fail week after week. For the first time during this training campaign I started to think quite negatively but by early October I knew I had to put a stop to this. It was time to look at the positives!

I started to think about what I had achieved over the previous 49 weeks. First off, I had ran many more training miles than I had ever done before in the space of almost a year. Within those miles were many PBs for various distances, terrain and elevation. One thing I was pleased with, was the fact that I was able to get out and do a run first thing on a morning. This was something I'd struggled with for years and in terms of my schedule it's too important a slot to miss. In that early morning slot I've managed 11 miles recently with no ill effects. And that is a feature of my running these days. i.e. the ability to knock off a steady half marathon distance or more and not feel as if I've ran it at all. This is particularly useful when you have to do another run that same day or the following day.

I'd also gained the confidence to head out on a run with a view to doing 10, 11 or more miles simply by making up the route as I went along. This is something I always remember Jimmy Bell talking about. Just getting out there and exploring various routes. Who cares if it was a few miles more in the end.

During the Autumn I was very mindful of doing more miles per session. This was one of the reasons why I wasn't getting the full weekly mileage in. Finding the time to fit these distances in was really difficult. I felt it was better to try and find the time to get 10 miles in and perhaps fail than to definitely get 5 miles done.

On reflection, I did do a lot of good long distance running in the Autumn months. Recovery time, as I said before, was very short indeed. The longer the average distance though, the slower I was becoming. I had gone from quick (by my standards) in the first 6 months of the year to a lot more controlled and consistent pace for the most part over the last few months. With any distance from 8 to 20 miles, I had settled into the sort of pace that is just a little faster than what I need to be able to run in the USA in 2011.

In week 52, I decided to test myself with a distance that I'd never attempted before; 37 miles. The original intention was to see how far I could get in 10 hours. However, during the run from Shotley Bridge to Blyth, I had a change of thinking and called it a day at 37 miles in 09:40:28. I attempted this distance just 2 weeks ago in terrible conditions and knocked a good 27 minutes off the previous time. Not only was I pleased with that particular PB but the recovery that followed over the following 7 days was quite remarkable. I managed 90 miles in total that week and after a lot analysis I was of the opinion that my training schedule was probably more or less bang on.

So what can I take from the first 12 months of training? Well, I've hardly had an injury to speak of. My skeleton continues to be able to take everything that is thrown at it. My range has improved vastly. My recovery times have lessened. In a race situation I can put my foot down and get up to the mid 07 minute mile pace. Confidence, of course, is very high. You could say that, with 16 months to go, I'm on track. There is still lots of running to do and lots more to learn.

As an added bonus, 2 weeks ago, I started doing a 10.5 mile course on a Sunday morning across 6 bridges crossing the Tyne. This has attracted a few new running partners both times it has been ran and this Sunday at 9 am should be no different. Watch this space over the coming months to see how the numbers grow.

So that's 55 weeks of training done. Where do I go from here? Tune in on Sunday to find out as I continue this "story so far" series.