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 : )


Triathlon Gear: Choosing a Budget Road Bike For First Tri – Viking Jetstream Review

Viking Jetstream – £150 from Amazon

I’d been thinking for a while about doing a triathlon so finally bit the bullet and entered on two weeks ago – the Blandford Triathlon. This is a sprint distance tri consisting of a 400m swim (in a pool), 16 mile cycle and a 4 mile run.

Once entered, I realised that I couldn’t possibly ride a bike on my old Kona Shred jump bike… The massive suspension, short frame and fat tyres are perfect for hopping around on dirt jumps, but would have left me stranded in a road race. So on to Gumtree went my precious Kona. It was snapped up within about 10 minutes and within a few hours of posting the ad, my garage was a bike down and I had £150 in my hand to spend on a new bike.

When I was a young boy, £150 cash in my hand would have felt like I could have bought the universe. However, when you’re looking at road or triathlon bikes, this is a drop in the ocean (or swimming pool). As I soon discovered, even a half decent front dérailleur for your gears can cost £150 alone! But this was my first triathlon and who knows if I’d ever do another one? Better to spend the bare minimum to get through my first one and go from there.

At first I toyed with the idea of getting a second hand bike, the Giant OCR1 in particular looked good, but even these were coming in at around £250 minimum. So it was that I found myself on the Tesco website, browsing their actually not bad selection of budget road bikes. This was where I found their cheapest bike – the Viking Jetstream for sale at £180. Now I’m a person who will always naturally go for the mid-priced option if I can. So usually my eyes would have wandered past the Viking and on to those in the slightly higher price range – but not this time. This time I was determined to keep My First Triathlon as cheap as possible. So on to Google I went and searched for the Viking Jetstream, just to see if it was cheaper anywhere else, which it was. I managed to find it for £149.99 at – a penny under my £150 budget – brilliant.

It’s also on Amazon for £150 here

Viking Jetstream Bike

Viking Jetstream Bike

So I ordered it and two days later it arrived in a flatpack box. This wasn’t much of a problem and it was just a case of fitting the front wheel, the pedals and the saddle which took under 30 minutes. Before I could take it for a test ride, I realised I’d need to pump up the tires and really I should wear a helmet. So the next day I popped into Halfords and picked up, again, the cheapest helmet I could get which was the Trax Mistral at £14.99. I also took the chance to purchase a water bottle holder (£5.99) and a saddlebag with puncture repair kit, levers etc (£10).

Trax Mistral helmet

Trax Mistral helmet

So finally Saturday came and I had to chance to actually ride the bike, although taking it easy as I had a 5 mile race on the Sunday. Off for a quick 6 miles I went. Now I’d never in my life before this moment ridden a proper road bike, only ever a mountain bike, so to me it felt like I was flying! With the tyres fully pumped up I whizzed over the concrete, only stopping at the halfway point for a quick drink. It was only when I went downhill on the way back that I realised there was something wrong with the gears. The front mech wasn’t moving at all and looked to be in completely the wrong position.

So off I went to my friend Tim’s house for a quick gear fix! Well Tim had to spend about two hours fiddling to get the gears to work and even now they rub a bit on certain gear ratios. It was when picking up the bike for repair that I noticed how heavy it was – the Viking Jetstream, with its steel frame is a REALLY heavy bike!

Tim fixing my front derailleur!

I then rode it to work and again was amazed by the speed, covering 8.5 miles in 30 minutes – only 5 minutes less than the journey takes me by car!

Summary of Viking Jetstream


– The price is the cheapest you’ll find for a new road bike
– It looks great to my eyes
– Really quick and easy to set up out of the box
– That weight must make you faster going downhill eh?!
– Comfy saddle


– So heavy although you don’t really feel it when you ride
– The gear shifters are located on the top handle bar making it very awkward to shift gear while pedalling with effort, riding up hill or braking. Most racing bikes have the gear shifters under the brake levers
– The brakes aren’t the sharpest
– The pedals look and feel oversized and cheap – they’ll definitely need replacing


Cross Training For Running (and Triathlon!) – Swimming

Tried to go for a run last night, but my legs and ankle hurt from a combination of The Beast last Sunday and a pretty intense hills session on Wed evening. So I turned around and did some decorating instead!

I spend most of today in London, on trains, the tube and meetings. I had my swimming stuff in the back of the car and with a pool a stones throw away from the train station, I went for a swim! With my first (sprint) triathlon in nine days and counting, I thought I’d better get some swim practice in.

Pool Session
A warm up of six 25m lengths of slow breaststroke. Then four lengths of easy front crawl, followed by 16 lengths at 90% effort. 16 lengths (400m) is what I’ll need to do for the swim section of the tri. I then carried on and did four lengths at 100%, pedal to the metal all out crawl. Halfway through this, I looked to the lane on my right to see a girl of around ten in her swimming club overtaking me! All finished off with four lengths of slow breaststroke to cool down.

All the while I was doing crawl, I was focussing on my technique. First of all imagining there was a line in front of me, dividing my body in two, and trying to touch this invisible line as my fingers entered the water. The other thing I practiced was bilateral breathing – that is alternating the side I took a breath from rather than alway breathing on the same side.

Next Training
Littledown 5 on Sunday and aiming for under 31 minutes…

Cross Training For Running: 1 Kilometre Swim

I did a lot of research into cross training for running back in February, when my feet got so blistered in a Half Marathon that I couldn’t run properly for two weeks. I love swimming and did a lot of it up until the age of 18. Perhaps that’s why I can not swim for six months and dive straight in and do 40 lengths?

Anyway, my reason for adding swimming to my training mix is that I’m toying with the idea of doing my first triathlon. I don’t own a bike, goggles, swimming hat, tri suit or any of the required tri apparel, so am currently trying to track down bargains on Gumtree and eBay! On the triathlon entry form it asks what your 400 metre swim time is, in order that they can allocate you in to the correct ‘wave’ of swimmers. Looking down the results of a previous race, I noted that swim times for the 400m ranged from the very speedy 5:30, to the much more realistic 9-10 minutes. So part of my reason for swimming last night was to gauge how fast I might be able to swim 400 metres in!

The Swim

I began with a warm up of ten lengths or 250 metres (it’s a 25m pool). Quite a long warm up but I figured better be safe than sorry, as I hadn’t been swimming for so long! Then, using the clocks at either end of the swimming pool, I swam 16 lengths (400m) of front crawl as fast as I could. It’s just like running in that the first part is the worst, as your body gets into exercise mode. My arms felt on fire after two lengths and I realised I must have gone off far too quickly! So I slowed it down a bit, got into a nice rhythm of arm, arm, breathe, arm, arm, breathe and managed to keep going for 400 metres. I did this in just over 8 minutes, however this included stopping every other length to empty the water out of my (five year old son’s) goggles! I think I could quite comfortably swim 400 metres in 7:30 under race conditions, so I’ll put that down on my form. By this point i’d done 26 lengths so I carried on swimming (breaststroke) to reach 40 lengths (1km)

Next Training

Running club tonight with Purbeck Runners – who knows, it could be an easy run, a speed session or hill repeats! It’s The Beast (13 miles) race on Sunday so probably be taking it fairly easy…

Cross Training: Swimming for Runners

With blistered feet I was sulking at the prospect of not being ale to run for what looked to be a full week. “What’s this going to do to my times?” I moaned. When suddenly it occured to me that running’s not the only sport in the world! I had heard that swimming was meant to be good as a cross training exercise for runners anyway and, as a kid and teenager I was rarely out of the swimming pool.

Runners cross training - swimming

Swimming for runners

So off I went last night to the local pool, which seemed a lot smaller than when I last went there 15 years ago. I swam for around 45 minutes, in which time I did 60 laps (about 1.5k), varying my strokes between a fast breaststroke and a freestyle/front crawl. Wow, that front crawl really took my breath away! 50 meters of full sprint front crawl was about all I could manage before having to switch back to breaststroke.

This is what the website has to say about swimming as a workout for runners:

“To get a workout roughly equivalent to running, you have to swim only about 1/4 as far as you would run. For interval workouts, for example, 100 meter repeats in the pool would be about equivalent to 400 meter repeats on the track. A six mile run could be mimicked by a 1.5 mile swim.”

I really enjoyed my swim and can definitely feel the benefits through sore muscles this morning. I’ll aim to do a good swimming workout at least once a fortnight in future. So there we go – every cloud has a silver lining as getting blisters reacquainted me with my love of swimming!

Some swimming workouts I found which may be useful in future:

1. From Runner’s World

Start out with about 10 laps (back and forth across the pool equals one lap), which is slightly more than a quartermile at a typical pool. Increase your time in the water and minimize fatigue (and boredom) by sandwiching pool-running in between sets of laps.

2. From Time Magazine

Sample Swimming Workout: 1,500 yards (60 lengths or 30 laps)

Warm-up: 10 sets of 50 yards (one lap) of easy swimming, focusing on your form and comfort (total of 500 yards)

Main Set: 5 sets of 150 yards. Swim 100 yards steady and 50 yards easy. This is an endurance set, your goal is to maintain similar effort across all of the repeats. Use each of the easy 50-yard swims for recovery, and take as much time as you need on the wall to rest between efforts.

Cool Down: 5 sets of 50 yards of easy swimming, focusing on form and comfort