Training: Sunday Long(ish) Run

After getting my Parkrun PB on Saturday, my legs were unusually stiff on the Sunday morning – I must have put my all into the Parkrun! It was a nice warm day, around 22 degrees by lunchtime as I kitted up in my running gear but with aching legs I decided to just do an easy 10k. As I headed out of the door and clocked my first mile I remembered that I have a few longer races coming up soon, and with a 10k race this weekend I won’t have done enough longer distances recently.

So after 5k I resolved to do 15k! This took a monumental amount of willpower as with already tired legs, the turning for the extra 5k loop was just before my house. This was a 15km training run that felt like I’d just run a half marathon! Looking at the stats from my watch afterwards, my heart rate was pretty high, maxing out at 207bpm – I’ve definitely noticed that when I feel that specific kind of tiredness when running, my heart rate seems to be high. Where-as my heart rate didn’t go anywhere near as high when I ran my 5k PB the other day…

Stats

Distance: 14km
Time: 70mins
Max heart rate: 207bpm
Average heart rate:

Next Training

A self marshalled speed session tonight!

How To Get a Parkrun PB

Parkrun is an excellent way to monitor how fit you are as it’s  a free, weekly, timed run. I use it as a barometer of my fitness; each week I do it, I try to beat my personal best time although this doesn’t always happen! When I first did Parkrun on the 14th Jan 2012, I finished in 22:18. My aim at this time was to run it in under 20 minutes. At this point I wasn’t doing much running, perhaps the occasional Parkrun and and a mid week jog, but in July 2012 we sold our house and had to move in with my parents for a couple of months. I started going along to their running club once a week and went out a couple of evenings after work. I also resolved to do at least one ‘long’ (10miles/70-90mins) run every Sunday. After this summer, I continued with Parkrun and was over the moon to run it in 19:59 at the end of Sept 2012!

Me in a Parkrun in April 2014

Well, then of course I set my sights on going under 19 minutes! This was going to take a bit more than the occasional jog and long run and it was at this point that I learned about speed work and first read the mantra, ‘if you want to run faster, you have to run faster. So in September 2013 I started going to speed sessions with a club at the local athletics track. this involved workouts like 12x400m or 6×800, or mixtures of fast paced 400s, 800s and 1000s. All run at faster than 5k pace, with short rests in between. These speed sessions, combined with weekly hill repeats, easy 10ks, long runs and regular races (from 5k to half marathon) saw me hit 18:55 in November 2013. Then I figured it was just a case of consistency, so I continued with the same program of running into 2014 and wavered at the 19 minute mark – sometimes going just under, sometimes just over. But patience is a virtue in running and good things come to those who train and wait… It takes a while for your body to make all the adjustments it needs to, to run at these faster paces. Better capillary networks, increased muscle fibres, increased heart and lung efficiency and, perhaps most important of all confidence in your own body and ability.

So having gone under 19 minutes in November 2013, a year later I’m still trying for under 18 minutes. I ran dead on 18:00 this Saturday, frustratingly one second away from my aim but very close! When I do, I’m sure the next target will be under 17 minutes, however the faster you get, the harder it is to slice those seconds off! But, as Westlife famously sang… ‘that’s myyyy goal’ ; )

View my entire Parkrun history here

View all of my race history here

Training: A 10K Hill Repeats Sandwich

Sunday, did 200m, long jump and 400m races. Monday, couldn’t move. Tuesday, couldn’t move even more. Wednesday, could move a bit. That track and field session on Sunday pulled muscles I didn’t even know I had and I was still feeling it in my legs as I set of for running club last night.

I forgot to start my watch (again!) so it will be a very general summary of last night’s training session. Looking at Map My Run it was 10.3km in Swanage:

We ran for around 3.5k as a warm up – a couple of km along the flat promenade and a 1km hike up Swanage Downs.

Then… we hit Newton Road – 26o metres of uphillness. The dreaded Newton Road begins with around 50 metres of steep ascent, before continuing uphill at a gentler climb for another 150 metres. It’s actually the more gentle climb that gets you! We did eight repeats up this hill, increasing the speed/effort each time until I could barely move another step by the end of the last one. Actually I was like that by the end of the penultimate one! Each uphill effort was followed by a slow, three minute jog back down to the bottom of the hill, before immediately turning around and running back up!

We finished by doing a gentle 2km jog back to the end / pub for a well earned drink : )

 

Running Watch Review: TomTom Runner Cardio

TomTom Runner Cardio Review

From £190 on Amazon and also at Wiggle

With the imminent launch of the Apple iWatch, as well as other so called smartwatches, is the end of the running specific watch near? As smartphones and other technology have slowly replaced everything from MP3 players to the humble book; are running watches next on the list? To maintain their existence, the current crop of GPS running watches will need to up their game and deliver a product and an experience that is truly useful – or drop their prices to compete against the new smartwatches. After all, why would you want to spend money on a product that has one purpose, when another product can do an infinite number of tasks? Answer: because it does that one thing far, far better than the multi purpose product.

Official Unboxing

So it was against this background that I began testing the TomTom Runner Cardio…

Aesthetics

TomTom Runner Cardio

Well it comes in a nice box… and first impressions count! I’ll say now that although I’ve taken my own images to share here (as above), a lot are from the amazing DC Rainmaker blog as he goes into painstakingly detailed descriptions of this watch, with excellent photos.

The design and feel of this watch is very similar to the Nike running watches, which were created by TomTom for Nike. There’s a big flexible strap with bright red colouring and easy snap fastening. The watch unit itself appears sleek at first, but this can be detached and become a stand alone part for easy charging.

TomTom Runner Cardio - watch detaches from strap

TomTom Runner Cardio – watch detaches from strap

This watch is not a touch screen and other than the on/off button for the light, all controls are executed using the toggle button underneath which allows you to click up, down, left and right to navigate your way around the watch’s features. Most people who have seen the watch on my wrist presume that in this day and age, the watch is touch screen and so they ask what the bit underneath does. They sound a bit disappointed to hear that it’s not the ‘run faster’ button but just the watch’s controller.

It’s a very comfortable watch to wear and the rectangular shape of the watch fits the contours of my wrist better than my previous round watch. The soft strap and grippers make for a snug fit too (see below).

 

Ease of Use

Having used only Garmin running watches previously, I found the TomTom navigation very intuitive and easy to go from feature to feature. Obviously the easiest thing here compared to other watches is not having to strap on and pair a chest mounted heart monitor. The integrated heart monitor on the TomTom can be activated at the touch of a button and reads your heart rate from your radial artery pulse. I have to admit that the green glow emitted once the heart monitor is engaged looks pretty cool in the dark…

TomTom Runner Cardio

TomTom Runner Cardio

 

Battery & Charging

The charger clips in easily using the module on the underside of the watch. I had endless problems with the magnetic charging device on my Garmin and it’s nice to be able to physically just slide the charger in to connect, rather than relying on magnets holding in the right place. Battery life seems good too and I can do a decent amount of training sessions or races before even having to think about plugging it in. This tallies with the manufacturers guide of an 8-10 hour battery life. The only negative is that it doesn’t come with an actual plug, just the USB cable meaning it can only be charged when connected to a computer. This isn’t great when you don’t own a laptop like me and do everything on your tablet! I got round this by plugging the USB into the plug of my old Garmin which works fine.

Features

The full feature list is:

  • Heart rate monitor with zones
  • Race against previous times
  • Set time, distance or calorie goals
  • Laps; time distance or manual
  • Set up interval sessions including warm up, work, rest and warm down times/distances.
  • Quickfix GPS. This means that when you plug the watch into a computer it records the upcoming satellite positions and so knows exactly where to look in the sky when you want to run. The quick GPS connection is one of the best things about the TomTom Runner Cardio.

The features are all easy to find and select using the controller. Two gripes I have:

– To pause a session you have to hold down the left button for three secconds and this is not easy to do when you’re racing across a finish line. another push left actually stops the session. Wouldn’t it be more prudent to pause the session with a quick tap and, once you’re sure you want to end it – then hold down the button for however many seconds? Additionally, when the watch is paused you can’t see any of the data! Just a big pause icon!Really annoying when you’re running repeats or just want to see what time you finished the race in! To see your finish time you have to:

1) Hold left for three seconds to pause
2) Tap left again to stop and exit the ‘run’ mode.
3) Tap right to get back into the ‘run’ mode
4) Hit ‘up’ until you reach your most recent session/workout
5) Hit right to open this up and finally see your time

Several times I’ve finished a race a people have run up to me and asked how I did, only for my reply that I don’t know yet. When you’ve just finished a race you’re really not in the frame of mind to be following the above process.

So in the next software update, please do away with the pointless ‘pause’ icon TomTom and show runners their time and distance!

I also had a couple of occasions where my hard fought workout refused to upload to Tomtom’s My Sports software. Very frustrating for a running geek like me that needs to analyse every last stat of every run! This hasn’t happened in a while though, so I’m hoping it was teething problems.

Connectivity & Run Analysis

Connectivity is excellent in the TomTom Runner Cardio with built in Blutooth Smart technology. One of the major bugbears I had with previous watches was the need to connect to a laptop or computer to upload and analyse run data. Even using a USB ANT+ adapter the process was slow.

Pace during intervals session

Heart rate zones during intervals session

With the TomTom I just had to download the My Sports iPhone app, make sure the Bluetooth on my phone was switched on and hey presto! All my run data gets automatically uploaded to My Sports. Even better, this can then be connected to 3rd party apps like Runkeeper and Strava. So within seconds of coming in the door from a training run all your stats are uploaded to whichever suite of tools you choose to use, before you’ve had time to pour a drink!

In Summary

Tomtom runner sessions

The TomTom Runner Cardio is a great watch with loads of useful features for the price (around £220). I was never a fan of wearing a strap around my chest, so the built-in heart rate monitor is of great benefit. Now during club training sessions, coach Ross will check what my heart rate is, to ensure we’re pushing ourselves hard enough! As I say it’s very comfortable and you forget you’re wearing it. The GPS is exceptional – I’ve never known a watch find GPS signal as quickly as this one does! As a runner this is probably the single most important thing to me. I want to know that when I line up at the start line of a race, or head out the door for a training session, the watch will be able to record all my data from the start. I had so many issues with previous watches, either realising 1 mile into a race that the GPS still hadn’t locked or standing in the freezing cold at the top of my road, desperately waving my wrist in the air to get signal. It’s nice to have a watch that I can rely on. This, I feel will be where Garmin, TomTom etc can beat Apple. That and the fact that I don’t want my day to day watch to be covered in the sweat of last night’s intense training session!

As mentioned earlier, you can find an even more in depth review on DC Rainmaker and buy from Amazon or Wiggle

Race Review: Bournemouth Autumn Open (Track & Field)

This seems to have become my month of trying new things! Last week it was my first triathlon and this week I partook in a little track and field. Athletics seems to generally be split between two types of event; invitational and open. Invitational is as it sounds, whereas for an open event, ANYONE can turn up! This had to be entered into prior to the day and each each you enter costs just £3. Seeing the entry form and the list of events I was swayed to enter three; the 200 metres, the 400 metres and the long jump. Seemed like a good idea a the time…

Bournemouth Kings Park Athletics Track

Bournemouth Kings Park Athletics Track

Track & Field

The first event on my list was the 200m which began at 11:10, I was then set to do the long jump at 12:45 and the 400m at 1:45.

200 Metres

Me mid-200m!

So arriving at the track for 10:30 I registered, stuck my numbers on the front and back of my vest and went for a warm up. Rather than the light jog I’d usually do to prepare for a 10 mile run, I did the warm up properly as a) my body is not used to sprinting and b) I had a whole day’s events to get through and didn’t want any pulls, sprains or other injuries. So I jogged for 10 minutes, before doing a series of dynamic stretches (heel flick, knee raises, high jumps etc) for another 10 minutes, followed by 30 metres fast, 50 metres fast and 30 metres fast. Feeling warmed up and ready I jogged around to the start area.

The vets were called first and before long, off they zoomed. I then had a panic about blocks! Did I have to use the blocks, should I have bought my own, would I be loads slower without them. We were called up to race and a number of the other competitors suddenly appear with bags carrying their own, customised running blocks! They deftly pinned them to the track in their lanes whilst I walked over to the trolley I’d discovered holding a load, saw how complicated they looked and opted to go without. To my relief I saw the guy on the inside lane to me was going ‘block-free’.

ON YOUR MARKS… we all walked forwards to our lines. GET SET… we crouched into the ready position. Click. Yes, that’s click not bang! We had three false starts as the gun wasn’t firing! I thought I was going to die of an adrenaline overdose!

Finally the gun went off. Head down for the first twenty metres looking at the ground and powering my legs as hard as I could, gradually raising my body to the upright position. Fully upright, I hit my stride and headed for the finish line, finishing in 23.8 seconds – not bad for my first sprint in about 15 years since school! Here’s the proof results.

Long Jump

This was the one where I felt like a rank amateur. The four other lads in the long jump had special track spikes for this event and they used tape measures to precisely mark the start point of their run up. Before each one started they did the strange pose that long jumpers do before doing that slow-getting-faster run up that you see them do on TV.

Haha look at that face – CHEESE!

We had four attempts, with me being variously way over the board, way short of board or in jump three, doing a quite big jump before toppling backwards (I got sniggers from the judges on that one).

Anyway, my best jump was 5:11, about 20cm behind the others but at least I now have an official long jump distance to my name!

Long jump results here

400 Metres

Ok I performed so dismally in the 400 I feel I need to give it some context! First off, the long jump is surprisingly tiring. Four lots of 40 metre sprints, each with a big jump at the end – after the 200m all out only an hour before my legs were feeling pretty empty by the long jump’s close. Looking at my watch I saw I had 20 minutes until my heat of the 400 so I ran off for a jog. I knew I needed to raise my body temperature and get my heart rate up ready for the 400 so this seemed like a good idea! At this point my legs were really complaining about having to do more work but I gently upped the pace, so after ten minutes I still felt heavy legged but aerobically ready to run. With ten minutes to go I figured I’d go and sit down for a few minutes to get my breath back after the warm up and register. Jogging round the the track and official clocked my number and shouted at me “You! 487! Get in lane 8, you’re on now!” Due to the small amount of competitors for the 400m, they decided to bring it forward and put everyone together

So all this explains why, at 1:40 I found myself legs hurting, out of breath lining up for the 400m. ON YOUR MARKS, SET….. GO!

I knew as soon as I kicked off from the start line that it wasn’t going to be good. I managed to keep up with most of them for 200m but being in the outside lane, on the final curve I dropped behind  and the usual ‘kick’ that I have in my legs for a sprint had completely deserted me. By the time I crossed the finish line I was pretty much walking.

Lesson learned – don’t enter loads of track and field events right next to each other when you’re a 33 year old doing said events for the first time!!

Time for the 400m – 56 seconds. Next time, I’m just going to do 400m and I’m SURE I could get it down to 53-54 seconds… we’ll see!

What a fun day though! I’d recommend anyone give it a go. Next time I’m just signing up for one event though : )

Results

2oom in 23.8
40m in 56.4
Long jump in 5m 11cm

Full results on Power of 10 here

Now back to my long distance training, what with all these triathlons and track meets I’ve been neglecting my longer runs – so back to it!

Bournemouth Kings Park Athletics Track1

Running Training: Try Something New – Athletics Track Competition as a Speed Session

Kings Park Athletic Stadium

Kings Park Athletic Stadium

Of all the advice I’ve digested over the past couple of years around running training – varying what you do has to be one of the consistent suggestions. We’re only human and if you run the same routes and the same distances week in, week out you’re going to get bored. With my short attention span this happens sooner rather than later, particularly through the long, dark winter nights. This is why I always try and mix thing up with track sessions, club nights, long (boring) runs and cross training. I’d rather try something different than let my running career fade into repetition induced decline. This was part of the reason why I did my first triathlon last weekend. It’s also why I’m competing in an athletics open meet this Sunday – what better way of doing a speed session than entering a track competition?!

There will nearly always be an open track competition somewhere near you between the months of March-September. Check Power of 10 to see what events there were the previous year, then apply!

King Park Athletic Track

King Park Athletic Track

Doing the Triathlon scared the sh*t out of me, giving me a near enough sleepless night before. This track meet is doing the same – but I love it! It’s exciting and something I’ve never done before. My heart races with adrenaline when I think about slotting my feet into the starting blocks, waiting for the gun, as it did when thinking about jumping in to the swimming pool for the Triathlon.

So Sunday is looking like this (full timetable here):

11:10 – 200 metres

12:45 – Long jump

13:40 – 400 metres

I have absolutely no expectations of times or distances for any of the events and fully expect to by lapped by the youngsters (yes, lapped in the 200 metres, that’s how slow I’ll be). I don’t even own a pair of running spikes! I’d be happy with the following outcomes:

1) To not come last in the 200 and 400 metre races.

2) To make a jump that isn’t a foul! Bloody tricky getting your long jump run up right and I haven’t done it since school!

If you HAD to pin me down to a time/distance then I’d be over the moon with:

200 – 26 secs

Long jump – 6 metres

400 – 55 secs (I ran 56 seconds midway through a 12x 400 metre repeats training session a couple of months back).

All of this of course is just different types of training for my regular longer distance club running : )

 

Running Training: Back To Winter Sessions with Fartleks / Hills

Nothing makes me feel that winter is approaching more than leaving the woods, fields and cliff-tops behind, and instead running through the concrete jungle in street-lamp lit twilight. After the fun and games of relays in the park last week, we were now back to pounding the pavements under the watchful eye and guiding voice of Coach Ross AKA ‘Ross The Merciless’. This was an ‘if it aint hurtin’, you aint workin” kind of session and believe me, by the end, my legs were a hurtin’.

The Session

As per usual I forgot to start my watch until just after we’d finished the warmup but I was reliably informed by Doc that   the total session was 6.77 miles (10.8k). My watch made it 8.9k so we must have been running for around 2km before I switched on…

Soooo…. we did a 1.5km warm up of gentle jogging, before starting the intervals. Looking at the stats from my watch, I make it a total of 28 fast paced intervals in 47 minutes. The session was obviously carefully planned by Coach Ross as the elevation (and so the intensity) gradually increased throughout the session, going from warm-up pace, to a flat stretch of intervals, to huge, horrid, hard hills and then graduating downhill to the flat promenade.

I spent 45% of the session in my ‘sprint’ heart rate zone which tallies with a hard hills/intervals session. I could not force my legs to run any faster during the final few intervals – I was spent!

It was also nice to do a few all out sprints in preparation for this Sunday’s athletics meet, where I’m running the 200m, 400m and long jump.

Pace during intervals session

Heart rate zones during intervals session

Elevation of intervals session