Summer training

Last year towards the end of June I put together a training plan for the Summer taking me past Grim 70m, Mablethorpe Marathon and leading up to the Dusk ’til Dawn 50m.  As I am running these three races again this year I had every intention of doing something similar for this time round but in the end there were a few factors which made me decide against it.

I don’t like feeling stuck in a rigid training pattern.  Despite probably being quite good for training, I am very much a social runner and like to enjoy my easy or long runs with friends.  I still work hard on my hard sessions, but when I was training for Operation Ultra and completed all runs on my own so that I could stick to my plan things got very lonely.  I like the flexibility of being able to join in on an impromptu club 15 mile run without feeling guilty when my plan only says 12 miles.

We’re in the middle of moving house!  First it was going to be on May 29th, then it was moved to July 23rd, very close to Grim 70 race day and as of last week we are now moving on Monday afternoon.  Tomorrow!  In fact I am sitting on the floor in my lounge currently writing this post as we loaded the sofas and majority of the boxes onto the van we rented last night.

Moving van - Stable Hire LtdBoth of us worried that we weren’t going to fit everything inside, but we managed to load 60 boxes, a sofa, a corner sofa, all my craft boxes, pillows, duvets and sofa cushions and two bookcases, with half of the van still empty for everything else to be loaded today!

Loading the moving van for our house move

Work has been incredibly busy.  I’ve completed my first Spring and Summer term in a new job.  Specs have changed for the GCSE course we’re offering next year and so this has resulted in a re-write of a lot of our resources over the past few weeks.  I shall also be teaching the Diploma and a year 13 A-Level course I have not taught before from September and this has meant that I have had lots of revision to do and grilling of colleagues ready for the start of the new term.

It’s been super hot just lately.  I’m not a runner that enjoys the heat and at the same time it is impossible for me to get up and run before work when it’s cool.  I get up at 5:30am already, 4:30am is not on the agenda!

I’m vaguely following the Runner’s World Intermediate Marathon plan to help guide me in terms of long run distances in the build up to Mablethorpe Marathon at the start of October.  The plan contains 5-6 runs each week and I have always found that I can train more consistently with this number of sessions each week, although I don’t plan on sticking religiously to the sessions laid out on the plan.

Since finally getting my Strava account working properly the other week I have enjoyed the accountability of knowing other people will be able to see my training.  It was frustrating before as all of my miles and splits would be messed up and inaccurate so at times I wouldn’t upload everything I had completed, whereas now, I like to see my stats!  If you’re on Strava, come follow me and make sure my training is carried out! :)

On Saturday morning I headed out to parkrun again.  Back to Northampton again this time as the Corby course was having a week off due to their town carnival I think.  I hadn’t heard whether or not my friend who I’ve been pacing recently was also going to the Northampton course by the time I arrived so I made the decision to push it for myself to heart rate. I didn’t think I would be capable of a particularly quick time, – it was another very hot morning out there.  I chatted to a couple of club runners at the start and one of them asked me if I was going to be pushing for a PB.  I even said to him ‘Nah, it won’t be a PB today.  It’s too hot out there for me!’

Not aiming for a parkrun pb(Posted earlier this week!)

We began and I knew I was running well from the very beginning.  There were no aches, no pains, I’d had a suitable amount of breakfast beforehand and been to the loo.  Everything seemed to be in my favour.  From glancing at my watch I was quickly up to 168bpm and I hovered around there for the first mile or so as I had been looking to stick to a 170bpm run.  I soon found myself almost at the point where my watch normally beeps for the first mile.  Time seemed to have gone really quickly, so I glanced down at my watch.  I don’t run with my watch showing my pace anymore, but the cumulative time still started with a 7:xx!  When it did beep to signal the mile it was at 8m 12s.  I’ve never run a mile that fast during a race/parkrun before and all of a sudden was aware that a PB could be on the cards if I kept my head straight.  I began to count steps.  Counting steps keeps me focused and stops me thinking about any aches or from slowing down.  I was surprised at how consistent my running remained.  I ran the next mile in 8m 35s with mile three in 8m 36s.  I got a stitch as I was coming up to the final (mini) hill at the start of the third mile.  I really concentrated hard to keep going here.  I never felt like I was overdoing it or shooting off too fast which is positive, but I did feel as though I would have pulled or slowed right down because of the stitch had this been me last year.  The displayed heart rate on my watch gave me the confidence to keep going though and I just kept thinking ‘Only a little over 8 minutes to go…eight minutes is nothing!’  The course at Northampton is one large lap around the whole park followed by a shorter lap which cuts through the middle of the park, joining the outer path so at times you can be lapped/lap people out on the course.  I was still busy counting my steps as I went to lap one of my old coach’s sisters at mile 2.5 who was out on the course.  I felt I needed to shout out a well done to her, but as I passed I shouted out ‘98!’ to her instead as that was where I was up to with my counting in my head!  Haha!  Very special indeed!  I quickly followed it up with a ‘Well done!’ and hoped no-one had noticed!

I knew I was on for a PB but I didn’t check my time as my watch beeped the 3 mile mark, instead increasing my cadence to come down to the finish.  My smile said it all when I crossed the line though and I heard one of the marshals comment on how smiley I was!

5k PB face

Dan also had a great parkrun, crossing the line in 28:11, his fastest time this year.  We were going to celebrate with Malteser Krushems on the way home, but had forgotten any money.  Rubbish!

Garmin time: 26:36
Official time: 26:37
Position: 185/348
Gender position: 27/127
Age category: 2/12

Yesterday was my first parkrun PB, as my overall 5k PB of 26:55 has stood from way back in February of 2013 – my very first parkrun.  I’ve also run at Sheringham parkrun but my PB on that course stands from the first time I ran it also.  The only time I got a course PB at Peterborough was the first time I wasn’t pacing a friend and more recently, my Corby parkrun PB came from the first time I ran it also.

parkrun PB messageFirst time I’ve received the parkrun PB message! :)

Apparently there was also a photographer out on the course (I must have been focused, cos I didn’t spot one!)  Dependent upon my focused face in the photos, I shall add any photos here once they’re posted later today.


Northampton parkrun PB faceApparently this is my parkrun PB face.Northampton parkrun PB face

I don’t care though – it was a PB! :)

How do you devise your training plans?
Were you at parkrun this week?  How did you get on?

Heart rate training bl***y works!

OK, spoiler, because I’m too happy and I can’t stop myself blurting it out.  PB alert!!!  :)

Last night was the Blisworth 5 mile race, part of the East Midlands Grand Prix series made up of several shorter distance races over the Summer months, each starting at 7:45pm.  My running has been going well lately so I was looking forward to a Summer of stronger racing.  Although, as always, wound up way more nervous due to the shorter distance of the race.  There’s no time for error in a 5 mile race!

After a stressful day encountering several house moving issues (post to follow) I ambled over to Blisworth where I met with Steph and Laura for a destress chat.  Steph was running, Laura was supporting and after Steph and I had collected numbers and queued for the loo we still managed to fit in a good 40minutes of chat.  The start line at Blisworth is about a 10 minute walk from the registration desk so we ambled over.  It was nice and relaxed – no time to stress over the distance coming up.

Blisworth 5 start and finish

I had spoken to another runner from club in the week and had told them that I had not run Blisworth before but looking back on race morning through my blog I realised that I had indeed run Blisworth last year, and it was pretty damn hilly out there!  Clearly I’d just blocked it from my mind.

Blisworth 5 elevation

With a few minutes to go before the start, Steph and I both wished each other luck and headed to our separate starting locations.  I started from the left hand side of the road which is very unusual for me.  The right side was so crowded I couldn’t squeeze in!

I had worked out before the race that I needed to stick somewhere around the 165bpm range when racing over 5 miles.  As the course was so hilly, it would mean my splits probably wouldn’t end up being very even but I would be consistently putting in the same amount of effort throughout the race and this meant that I (hopefully!) wouldn’t end up crashing and burning on the way round.

It took me 11 seconds to cross the start line and then the course starts off on an amazing downhill.  I really let my legs go down here.  I leaned forward and let my legs take long strides.

Blisworth 5 mile race start(You can tell this is at the start of the race because my hair is still nice and tidy in this photo!)

My heart rate remained fairly low, under 150bpm so I made use of the downhill because the course is very cruel in that you get to the bottom of the very large hill, have a short uphill which you head back down again almost immediately and then you loop back and run back up the very large uphill, with all your supporters still stood at the top and no chance of getting a sneaky walk in! 😛

My first mile (just before heading back up the large hill) ticked by in 8m 19s.  Super speedy for me, but it had contained a large downhill that I wouldn’t reap the benefits of anywhere else!  As we headed back up the large hill towards the farm where the start/finish line was held the sun was sitting just wrong in the sky and everything was so bright.  I could hear people shouting out my name as I ran past but couldn’t see a thing!

Blisworth 5 mile top of the hillThis was right at the top of the hill.  I just put my head down and pushed on to the very top, trying to keep my effort consistent on this section.  I knew it was the worst part of the course!

We got probably another half mile up the road and a car drove up behind us.  The runners were all still quite clustered and across the road at this point and rather than wait the couple of minutes it would take us to get to the turning, the woman beeped her horn at us for us to move out of the way before speeding a little further up the road.  Fag hanging out of the window in her hand.  I heard a few more beeps as she went up the road and did make a comment to the runners around me at the time.

We turned off and headed round to begin our loop back.  Here, a woman was running in front of me but her stride was shorter than mine, resulting in me having to keep clipping my stride, making me off balance.  I moved out to the right to overtake her, but she moved to the right at the same time as me.  I chopped my stride some more and moved over to the left to undertake her instead.  She moved back over infront of me!  I hadn’t thought it was deliberate the first time, but now I did!  This happened about ten times before another Wellingborough runner pulled up alongside the left of this lady, I saw my chance and gunned it to the right of her.  I didn’t see her again after that.  I was rather annoyed that she had tried to block me from coming past though.  We were only running at about 9mm pace so position in the race meant nothing to us!  There should have been no reason for her to not let me pass.

Miles two and three went by in 9m 45s (heading back up that hill!) and 9m 18s.  It was here that I realised I was in with a good chance of getting a PB.  I desperately wished at this point I had remembered to check what my PB was before setting off that evening.  I knew it was 47 minutes-something, but couldn’t for the life of me remember the something!  I had a feeling it was around 9:30minute miling, and knew it had been set way back in 2012.  (It was 47m 57s – 9:36minute miling.)  I instantly felt nervous as soon as I realised that I was heading towards a PB and ended up having to block the thought from my mind so that it didn’t alter my running.

Mile four went by without issue in 9m 26s and it was here that I knew I would definitely achieve a PB.  All of my miles (other than the hilly one) had come in well under the 9:30 pace I had ingrained in my mind to beat.  I vaguely worked out that I could run the last mile in 10 minutes and still beat my previous record, and I was definitely on target for smashing my previous time set at Blisworth the year before (49m 47s).  Just the one hill to go then!

A little way infront of me I could see a runner flat out on the grass verge.  She had two marshals holding her legs up high, looking to try to bring her back round.  On talking to Steph later, the lady had gone down not far infront of her with very laboured breathing.  The ambulance rushed out as I came through the finish line not long after but I do not know any more.  I hope she was OK.

We came out back onto the stretch of road where the farmyard was.  I only knew this from having run the course last year.  The marshals at this point shouted out “Only 500m to go!” though.  I didn’t kick as I am sure that it was further to go than this.  It actually ended up being half a mile from the finish, so I’m glad all I did was lengthen my stride slightly.  I overtook several people along this stretch of road here.  I kept checking my watch along this point, -my heart rate had crept up to 170bpm since being told that it was only 500m to go and as I passed the 400m to go sign and could see the gantry in the distance I was still feeling good so made the decision to pick up the pace and finish strong, continuing to pass other runners.  I doubted myself slightly on making the PB here.  Why is it impossible to work out simple maths problems in your head whilst running?!

As I reached the turn onto the farm I could hear other runners from my club screaming out to both me and the lady just in front of me who was also a Wellingborough runner.  This was all I needed to pick my pace up even further and I really powered around the corner, skidding on the gravel that was on the surface.

Blisworth 5 mile finishI thought I was going to go down for a second, but somehow managed to use the skid to my advantage and take power from it to pick up the pace even further.

Blisworth 5 mile finishThe finish is about 50m from this point and I managed to power past that Wellingborough lady in front and just pip her to the post.  I immediately turned round and apologised for overtaking right at the end, that I knew I had been so close to a PB and wanted every last second to count.  She seemed OK about it though.

I couldn’t stop grinning when I walked through the tunnel.  Because I had run a smart race effort-wise I had no need to throw myself down onto the ground afterwards either (as so often happens!) so once I had grabbed my water and bourbon biscuit, I headed over to join my club mates and cheer the rest of our club in.  Still grinning ridiculously at achieving a new PB!

Mile 5 went by in 8m 53s and the 0.5 nubbin was run at 6:29 pace!

Super, super happy with the result!

Garmin time: 46:03
Official time:
Finishing position:
Female position:
Category position (senior female):

I found it quite interesting to compare splits to last year as well.

Mile #: 2014 2015
1  9:20  8:19
2  10:04  9:45
3  10:19  9:18
4  10:24  9:26
5  9:19  8:53
Nubbin  (0.04m) 7:29  (0.05m) 6:29

Clearly I’m much fitter this year!  No 10s in sight!  😀Blisworth 5 heart rate

Do you race to heart rate?  Lots of guides seem to advise against it due to the extra stress of race day, which raises your heart rate.

Saying no to races and heart rate training

In my calendar for today I have had the Dukeries 40m trail race marked for ages. The race is part of our club trail league and a bunch of friends from the club had planned to run it.

Entries for the race closed last Sunday. I hadn’t entered by Sunday lunchtime and was still undecided as to what I wanted to do race-wise and goal wise for the rest of 2015. My ‘goal’ for the year had initially been to have a strong marathon at Milton Keynes and to PB at the marathon distance. I achieved the PB but didn’t have quite the race I was hoping for on the day and was left feeling rather deflated and knowing I could do much better.

I am still entered for the Shires and Spires 35m race at the start of next month. Large numbers of our club are running this. I wouldn’t be surprised if we had 50 members running on the day! It seems almost everyone I’ve spoken to lately has entered so it should be a great race atmosphere out there. I would like to beat my time from two years ago, when I first ran it. Several of the first time ultra runners plan on running at the back of the field in a large group but I know from experience that I run better on my own or with just one other person. I’m confident on the course, having entered for two years running now and having completed sections of it on numerous training runs.

My legs felt fine after Milton Keynes which had been the initial reason I held off entering Dukeries (in case I was no longer able to walk!) but with Shires two weeks after Dukeries, combined with a house move the week before Shires, a 4:00am required get up on race morning to get over to Nottingham and my Nephew’s third birthday party moving from the Saturday to the Sunday I eventually made the decision not to run. I immediately felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders and almost immediately afterwards I also made the decision that I should postpone another marathon PB attempt until the Autumn.

Jenson's third birthdayThere’s my nephew, blowing out the candles on his birthday cake earlier on today.
And for all the cake lovers out there, here is the cake my Mother-In-Law made.

Jenson's third birthday cakeApparently it’s some character from a kiddie program.  I don’t know, – I’m not clued up on programs for three-year-olds, but it looked amazing and tasted pretty good too whilst we waited until 3:30pm for our lunch in the restaurant!

Over the coming months I want to make a real focus of the shorter distances and concentrate on running strong to heart rate.  During the week I made the decision to get to as many parkruns as possible this Summer and aim to run measuring at 170bpm on my heart rate monitor so that I can track my progress as I go along.  This website tells me that for a 5k distance I should be running at 95-97% effort.  170bpm is just short of that for me, but means that there is a bit of wiggle room and helps to make me feel confident that I can hit that target.

I kicked off this plan at yesterday’s parkrun in Northampton, and, after several months of no-shows, Dan decided to join me.  (Buying some snazzy new running kit in the week helped him to make his decision.)  The last three times that I have run Northampton parkrun it has been as an easy run or one without pressure so I wasn’t sure how I would get on running for a time again.
After one minute of clapping for a local runner who had recently been killed by a car whilst out on a road, we set off a little after 9am.  I made sure to start off on the far side of the start line, on the grass where I feel happiest and also giving me opportunity to overtake several of the runners that had started too far forward when the run began.

I just let my legs do the work to begin with, trying to slot back onto the track and find my place in the run – not glancing at my watch until we reached the far end of the park and had turned along the bottom end.  146bpm.  That couldn’t be right, surely?!  I was pushing harder than I would have done on feel alone at such an early point in the race and yet my heart rate was displaying so low.  For a few seconds I thought that perhaps my watch was picking up someone else’s heart rate details.  I quickly made the decision to roll with it though and to gradually pick the pace up until my Garmin displayed 170.

The field seemed much more crowded at this faster pace and twice a runner darted infront of me giving me no time to react, catching the back of their heels as they scuttled through.  I glanced up in time to see a non-parkrunner who was heading along the path in the opposite direction to us plough into one of the parkrunners from my club head on and knock him sideways.

Finally, one mile into the run I hit that magic 170bpm on my watch I had been looking for and I stabilised my pace.  The first mile absolutely flew by.  Turns out 8:24 minute miles go much quicker than the 9:30mm I have been running parkrun in just lately.  Who would have thought?!

I still felt good but kept my pace steady as I came into the second mile.  Here, one of the guys who used to run at our club came alongside me.  “Hiya Mary, how you doing?” “Good.” (between gasps!) “There are quite a lot of people here today aren’t there?  I think our club is beating yours this week.” “Yep.”  “How has your running been going?  Are you aiming for a PB?” “I’m on target at the moment.”  (Took me a long while to get those six words out!)  He wished me luck and shot off past me at this point but I headed over to apologise as soon as I saw him at the finish.  I had just been concentrating on my run!
Mile two went by in 8:51 – still on target for a PB.  My current PB stands at 26:55 – 8:40 minute miling.

The third mile was tough, but manageable.  The thing about the 5k distance is it is tough the entire time, unlike the marathon, where your body starts to ache towards the end but you’ve kept pretty steady up until that point.  During a 5k you are going almost full blast from the very beginning.  I hadn’t slowed down though and my watch beeped to display 8:57mm.  I didn’t have the mental capacity at that point to work out if I was still on target for a PB, although thought it would probably be close so really gunned it along the last 0.13m to the finish line with my final nubbin at 8:04 pace, finishing in 27:13.

Not a PB, but the closest I have come since setting my PB back in February 2013.

Position: 189/341
Female position: 32/132
Age cat position: 5/16

Do you have a game plan when you run at parkrun?

Ashridge Boundary trail race

This race was probably one of the quickest ever.

And by that I don’t mean literal time-wise I mean metaphorical time-wise.  Looking back I would never have thought I had been out there for 3 hours, 14 minutes and 44 seconds as it seemed to be over in a flash, with no time to feel tired or bored whilst out on the Ashridge Boundary Run course.

Ashridge Boundary runWe grabbed as many runners from our club as we could for a group photo before hitting the start line just before 10am.  I was too busy talking to realise the race had actually begun and all of a sudden we were off and I hadn’t even stopped to think out any real game plan for the morning.

I had a rough idea in my head that I wanted to trial the race out running on heart rate.  Running to heart rate during training this time round has really worked for me but there is still a lot of things about it that I don’t know or understand and what heart rate to run a race at was one of those things.  As a rough guide I aimed to run at around the 160bpm mark – but was open to adapting this as the race went on.

The first two miles of the race were pretty swift.  Katie had warned me about the final three miles of steep hills, so I wasn’t too concerned about speeding slightly at the beginning when I saw an easy, slightly downhill track through the woods.  There was a good chance I would end up slowed to a walk later on in the race and I would need some of that gained time then.

Ashridge boundary elevation

I kept checking my Garmin – really surprised that the 160bpm target I’d set myself felt so easy.  (As a rough guide for comparison, my long run training has been completed in Zone 2 – 130-143bpm so this race rightfully involved much more effort)

I was still on target at 4.5 miles when Mandy, another runner from my club caught me up.  I explained to her my rough plan and we decided to run together.

The next nine miles flew.  I vaguely remember covering a couple of long stretches of grassland – running through it despite my head getting fed up of the lack of change and seeing no end in sight.  Had I not had Mandy with me here I have no doubt that I would have walked this section.  My head can be pretty stupid at times!

As well as having a few long sections of flat grass to run over, there was also lots and lots of woodland which made for interesting twists and turns and ensuring we were picking our feet up nice and high!  About half way into the race we passed a fallen runner that had tripped over a root.  She was OK so we continued on.

There were three water tables on the course and I stopped only to give me enough time to grab a few jelly babies from each.  I was carrying my trusty water bottle and a bag full of sour cream and chive pretzels to get me round.  (YUM!)

Three miles from the finish and we came out into the open along a stony track before heading up a steep incline to the top of a hill which overlooked all the villages around.  It wasn’t even that clear on Saturday morning as by this point mist had descended upon us, but still we could see a long way out.

The course was very well marked out with tape and large arrows.  I was rather concerned during the drive up when one of the other runners had spoken of the printed course map they had brought with them.  It had been weeks since I had seen that map…I hadn’t thought it was a self-navigation course!  Luckily, there was no need for a map and to my knowledge, no runners were lost during the race.

Towards the end I felt as though I could have picked the pace up in places but by this point was enjoying the casual run/chat as I was going along.
Ashridge Boundary run I think I actually look like some kind of giant next to Mandy in this next photo…Ashridge Boundary run And it looks like my water bottle is balancing in mid-air here…Ashridge Boundary run But I look super happy and you can tell no sprint finish took place!Ashridge Boundary runTotal distance: 16.42 miles
Position: 195/211
Category position: 14/17 (Female Senior)

Once over the line we were handed a bottle of water and a beanie hat (I love it when races give out something other than a race shirt.  My beanie has already been put to work!) and directed to a row of cakes and juice.  I grabbed some orange juice and a cookie to get some energy back post race.

Ashridge Boundary run beanieMandy and I were the last ones over the line for our club so it wasn’t long before the six of us that had arrived together were Wellingborough-bound once more and comparing races.

Twenty minutes into the journey though and I wasn’t feeling so great.  I felt rather sick and I’d started to get a headache.  Another twenty minutes and I was asking to pull the car over in a petrol station.  A quick five minute stop and a bottle of water and I was ready to get home.  All I wanted was bed now.

I managed to make it back to get dropped off where I’d parked my car up in Wellingborough…only to throw up twice on the side of the road.  Not nice.  Pretty embarrassing actually and it spoilt what had otherwise been a lovely day.  I had eaten and drunk properly during the race and hadn’t pushed myself too hard.  I guess I must have just picked up a bug.
I felt much better after being sick and then getting a quick nap in back at home though.  Ready for a lazy day on Sunday and catch up at work/life stuff that Sundays were made for.

What are your favourite race souvenirs?