January Training – Month 1

This blog is an update on what’s been happening in January, training-wise.

Just a brief bit on the training plan itself. My previous route to a plan was to ‘go the distance’; that is, pick a training plan from the many online resources commensurate with the time barrier I wanted to beat. You know the sort of thing – “Your Best Training Plan for under 4 hours!”; “Training Plan for a 3:30 P.B.”. So, I would do the plan based on the idea that, as long as you run at least twice a week, and you always do the long run, you should be okay.  All of these were distance based plans;  you build up your long slow run until you hit about 20-21 miles, however you have managed it – and however long it took. The brief being that another 5-6 miles is doable. It’s one way of doing it.

With the help of Jan Lavis**, a local legend in both running and coaching, I’ve put together a coaching plan based on the following:

  • Long Runs built up by time, not distance.
  • Long runs at specifically Heart Rates and paces.
  • Long runs built up to no more 3 hours.
  • Targeted runs aimed to build strength and endurance
  • Not a weekly program, but a bi-weekly, tri-weekly, or a monthly cycle, based on the phase of the plan.
  • Pace reviewed periodically in accordance with results and VDOT calculators *
  • Cross-training using strengthening exercises and additional pilates-type stretching.

I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow training plan here, as it only applies to me. And that’s the thing – it’s a personal plan, not an identikit thing made for the mass ranks of amateur runners.  Plus, it’s a plan that’s a work in progress, as I learn and understand more. So, what you see now won’t be what you see in a month’s time.

A lot of the information comes from the Burgess Hill Runners training area (of which I am a member) : https://sites.google.com/site/bhrunners/training-area, most of which was researched and written by Jan. It also links to other sites to “back up the science”.

Having read through the info and speaking with Jan it made me realise just how little I know, and how much there is to learn.

As a coach for the might blue army of the Burgess Hill Runners, I acknowledge that it’s one thing to be able to put together a coaching session for an hour or so for 30 runners who may or may not be training for something specific, but it’s a wholly different task to be able to put together a training plan for a specific race for a specific individual.  The years of previously pounding the streets and paths of Sussex, although in some respects enjoyable, are probably responsible for a number of niggles and injuries I suffered.

Hopefully, I can report back in a few weeks time on an improvement in all respects.

In the meantime, I can say that in January, all four of my ‘long runs’ were time-based, and with an eye on my Heart Rate. I’m slowly getting round to building in the non-weekly cycle. I had a base fitness test, which I took on the first Saturday of the month, running 5K on as flat a course as could be found within my village; the result of which suggests that a 3:30 running goal is definitely plausible. A couple of coaching sessions at club were a little bit egocentric; let’s just say they fitted in with my training plan as well as giving the runners who did the session with me a coherent coached run.

In all, I can say training has been a success, although I still have a lot to learn, a lot to encompass, and hopefully some improvements to make in both training and fitness.

I plan to review my February in a month’s time, so until then, happy and purposeful running to you all…

* VDOT Website – http://www.runbayou.com/jackd.htm

** Jan has her own website for her coaching services – https://jelfitness.com


New Year, New Challenges

As we turn a new year, I feel it right to review last year, before putting into writing whatever plans I have for 2016.

I think it fair to say that 2015 was a year of unplanned abject failure. Okay, yes, I did run two ultras, but they were interspersed with injury, sporadic training, and a general feeling of under-achievement.

I can hear what you’re thinking – “if you haven’t planned anything, you haven’t failed”. Yes, you’re correct, but the things I did plan didn’t pan out as expected, in a disappointing way.

So, to go through what I did in 2015:

Dark Star Marathon – 28 miles in January. Ran in just under six hours. Not fast by any means. Unplanned, and un-trained, so that’s a tick!

South Downs Way 50 – April. Bailed at 6 miles, due to calf problem. Injury appeared three weeks before the race.

High Weald Challenge – September. 31 mile race. Completed in a time I wasn’t exactly happy with, but then again I didn’t plan a race time, so it was to finish, so again, I should be happy. Shortly after though, the calf injury returned.

Downslink Relay – 13.3 miles (Legs one and two) in December. Completed in 1:50:00-ish. Tick!

So the pattern of the year after January was: train for a race, get injured, get nervous about upping the training after injury for fear of repeating injury, finally start training again, do a race, get injured shortly afterward.

So, what have I learnt this year? Three things:

  1. Have a Plan. If you want to do something, it’s important to have a plan. The plan needs to be specific, and considered in accordance with the outcome you want to achieve. Running three times a week isn’t a plan, unless the plan is to run three times a week.
  2. Ignorance is Not Bliss. As with above, if you don’t know what you’re running for, it’s potentially junk miles, and potentially damaging to your plan. Know what’s right and wrong. Find out more.
  3. Learn from your Mistakes. You can learn much more about yourself from missed achievements than doing everything correct. But be sure to learn from the mistakes you’ve made.

I could go on, but I think those are the main ones.

So I begin 2016 with a renewed sense of purpose – at the last Club meet of the year, we had our annual ballot for the guaranteed London Marathon places for the club.  Each year VLM provide the club with a number of places which are open to those club members with rejection letters/emails – i.e. you had to be in the ballot to qualify.

This was the first time I’d entered the ballot in ten years. I’d entered after a particularly inspiring view of the 2015 edition of the race, but received the rejection pack from VLM in October, complete with reject running top(!). It was a complete surprise when my name came out of the hat!

So, over Christmas, I got thinking about the task ahead. What’s the plan? What’s the target? What outcome am I searching for?

Going from recent training and races, it got me thinking that, injuries aside, I’d done some pretty fast times – a sub 21 minute 5k in winter, a sub 1:50 off-road half-marathon. Could I beat my Marathon PB, achieved in 2011 in Brighton? If I could do it, it would need better training.

I’ve spent the past week looking through many websites, asking the advice of more learned coaches, and have a training plan which I hope will get me a PB. It seems the Ill Prepared Runner may be learning something…

Beyond April, I’ve pencilled in Beachy Head Marathon again (always a favourite – the runners equivalent of Field Of Dreams in my opinion), a cycling holiday in September, and maybe two other marathons – possibly  in June and December.

Time to make it happen…