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Advent of Running: week 2

Successfully completed another week of running, this time without a visit to the treadmill, thankfully. Was thinking of doing a 5km run today but having suffered through a 12km at very slow pace, very glad I didn't!

Seem to be doing quite well at alternating easy and hard days, which is good as it allows recovery.

Tried using a foam roller for the first time today to try and allow my calves some release, will see how my legs appreciate that tomorrow.

Weekly log

Date Minutes Distance Pace
Dec 05 40.0 6.4 06:15
Dec 06 30.5 5.8 05:15
Dec 07 40.0 6.3 06:20
Dec 08 43.0 8.1 05:18
Dec 09 32.0 5.4 05:55
Dec 10 39.0 7.0 05:34
Dec 11 72.0 12.0 06:00
Total 296.5 51.0  
Average 42.4 7.3 05:48

Advent of Running: week 1

Someone on Tritalk suggested a challenge for December, an Advent daily run challenge.

This started on Advent Sunday, meaning it includes a bit of November too, so yesterday I completed my first week ever of running daily. Before now I don't think I've run on consecutive days more than a couple of times, if that.

The snow didn't help, of course. I'm planning on getting some Springyard Cross Country ice grippers to run on ice, but this week I could only hit the treadmill for two days before the thaw.

Weekly log

Date Minutes Distance
Nov 28 43.0 7.3
Nov 29 31.0 5.0
Nov 30 34.0 6.0
Dec 01 36.0 7.0
Dec 02 30.0 5.0
Dec 03 30.0 4.6
Dec 04 54.0 10.0
Total 258.0 44.9

Ambivalent about Iron distance

Typically only two possibilities are mentioned for a post-Iron racer - "Never Again" or "Iron Addict". I didn't think I'd be in the former camp, and thought I'd lean more to the latter, but I'm just not that bothered about doing another just yet. One problem is that none of the UK long distance races seem very suitable in terms of timings (either too early or too late). I could look at IMUK or Outlaw but neither are as convenient as Forestman or Henley.

I guess I'm just keen to do other things next season too - my first Sprint triathlon (yeah, a bit crazy to do a first Sprint after Ironman), maybe a standalone marathon, maybe an ultra run, maybe the Fred Whitton challenge. I'll keep up my swimming too, to keep myself in challenges. I'd love to do A Day in the Lakes, and Bala was so good this year that I'd consider doing it again - I've said it before, but I really do enjoy middle distance.

I also need to ensure my supportive wife doesn't feel like a tri-widow - Ironman training schedules don't lead to the most fun weekends!

Anyway, I will be back to the iron distance, just maybe not in 2011.


My run volume has been well down over the last couple of weeks due to, of all things, what seems to be foot eczema on my little toe. I've been trying to keep it dry and prevent too much rubbing of it, so I've not been swimming or running. It seems to be getting better now, so I'm hoping to get back to a bigger volume soon.

I initially thought this might have started from a blister from my five fingers, which would have been ironic as my little toe is too far away from the ends of the shoes to even reach the shoe toes. However, it could be an allergic reaction to either a cat scratch or the shoes themselves!

I've ordered some toe socks to provide some protection, but I won't stop running in them barefoot altogether.

I have come to the realisation that while I think barefoot running is a good motivator to improve form, it is not essential, so I'm going to mix it with some new Newtons. My 'clown' shoes are off to ebay as they don't promote forefoot striking. I'm clearing out four pairs of running shoes this weekend (two to ebay, two to shoes4africa via Running Shoes London when I get there)! That'll leave my new Newtons, my Vibrams and my Adidas trail shoes.

I'm not doing Hellrunner next weekend now, as my run volumes have been so low, and I still haven't broken the 5km barrier - doing a 16km run, offroad, trying to maintain good technique just isn't going to happen. I might make it up to myself by aiming for the London Ultra run at 50km, but I'm not going to force my run volumes up too fast, so that might be overly ambitious - to be honest, getting back to past distances and past speeds would be a good start.

My cycling and swimming motivation hasn't been great - I think I need something to aim for as I'm just struggling to even bother at the moment.

Running update

So common perceived wisdom is that you should build very slowly into barefoot/minimalist running to avoid injury - increasing volume by 10% per week. In my first week I did about a kilometre, doubling that would take ten weeks at that rate.

I've been trying to build up gently but last Sunday I did 2km, and today I did 5km. Last week I did under 4km, this week I've done more like 12km.

I am going to take the next couple of runs quite easy - the 5km today was a bit too long, my form was poor towards the end, and so I should ensure I can do the distance properly before moving up further.

But I am quite excited that soon I'll be able to get back to my old regular runs of the Putney Bridge loop (6.5km) and the Barnes Bridge loop (7.5km). Then I'll keep my midweek runs fairly constant and start increasing the long run distance.

I had my first venture to the other side of the river earlier this week - running in the mud was fun (but you quickly get wet toes!) but the surface certainly keep you on your toes (haha), increased awareness to avoid sharp stones is essential!

Offseason progress

As my run volume dramatically declines, so my need for aerobic activity increases, and I've returned to the pool and perhaps more radically, the bike. I really enjoyed my first group pool speed session in over 18 months and swam the fastest I think I've ever swum. My bike session yesterday had some very interesting pace characteristics for what should have been two evenly paced threshold intervals

I've really enjoyed reading what I call Run by Feel, and have embraced some of its less obvious philosophy wholeheartedly and want to shape my entire triathlon training programme around it.

One key point from the book is that the amount of variation in most training programmes is actually massively greater than is best. For example many Kenyan runners have a very simple training programme (simple to follow conceptually, much harder to follow athletically!) and get great results. Also, the less variation, the easier it is to measure progress. And a testing session is almost always a good training workout, as long as you're not in need of a recovery session!

As such over the next few weeks I want to define some key workouts so that I can just pick six plus workouts per week, follow them, and track progress against previous iterations. I will ignore running for now as my key workout is 'Run at a comfortable pace until the slightest perception of niggles' and even that might be going at it too hard.


  • Testing sessions: 1500m-2500m time trial (looking to turn current 1500m pace into future 2500m pace), also CSS test.
  • Interval sessions: 100m warm up, 10 x 100m + 1 lap rest, 100m cool down. Overglider session 2.
  • Could use some technique sessions too

One key point is that the first interval session, and a 1500m time trial can be done in a lunch hour, so could fit in a three session week.


  • Testing session: 15 min warm up, 2 x 20 minute threshold interval, 5 min cool down
  • Pick a couple of spinervals DVDs to do on the turbo trainer
  • The aero spinerval is great on the rollers
  • Get outside once in a while!

Running (once I improve)

  • 7-8km tempo run - looking to improve on speed
  • Long run - looking to maintain pace over longer distances
  • Track intervals - pick two and alternate

McMillan's pace calculator will help me work towards ideal goal running paces, I'll have to find similar for swim paces. I'm still waiting for Garmin to release MetriGear's Vector power meter so that I can finally get some decent info on the bike (at least the rollers will be consistent week on week)

Review of this year's goals

In my 2009-2010 goals, I listed my goals for this season just gone. How did I do?

  • 25 minute 1500m swim by June 2010 - FAIL. My swimming endurance and technique have improved this year, but that hasn't translated into improved times - just longer distances
  • 45 minute 10km run by June 2010 - FAIL didn't even try this. The running calculator for my HM at the weekend suggests that I could do a 46:07 which is not success.
  • Ironman Switzerland (IMCH) in sub 13 hours - SUCCESS! 12:17, smashed it.
  • New Forest tri in less than 2:30 - no idea how well I'd have done at this! I wouldn't call this success or failure (perhaps failure to try)
  • Bike leg of (flattish) middle distance triathlon in 2:45: I did Bala in 3 hours, which is quite close to this goal; I'm saying this one wasn't a success or failure either

Hmm, that's not great - two FAILs, one SUCCESS and two uncertain outcomes. What can I learn from this? That my goals need to be more relevant. Who cares about a 45min 10k or 25min 1500m swim when you're training for Ironman which is all about endurance, not speed.

I succeeded at my main objective, the sub-13 hour Ironman, and I'm also happy with my sub-1:45 half marathon, not to mention the surprise of smashing the six hour barrier in Bala (I predicted 6:30!), and my new 5K Richmond Park PB, shaving a minute off. My six hour London Duathlon was a triumph of stubbornness. I'm happy with all of my race outcomes (I can't think of a single race where I'm disappointed in my performance), which is surely the true test of . I've had a good year, I'm a bit concerned improving on it will be hard, but I suspect there is so much potential for improvement that I've yet to realise.

End of the season

I officially declare my racing season over. That's not to say that I won't race again this year, but it really is time to start the off-season.

This year I've decided to concentrate on form in my off-season - use the break as an opportunity to go destroy my form and rebuild it from scratch.

I plan to train solely* in my brand new Vibram Five Fingers KSO that I picked up from Ten Point at the weekend. I'll keep my Green Silence for races for now, and if it gets too cold I reserve the right to put on warmer shoes, but for now, I want to train as close to barefoot as I personally dare in London.

Running in them just on a treadmill was strange enough (although of course the feedback loop on a treadmill is always going to be terrible). Running on hard surfaces should promote forefoot striking, and that should radically reduce my injury risk (although at a cost of radically increasing my injury risk in the very short term; having said that the impact is different - any potential muscle pain should be far shorter term than knee damage)

I need to build up to running in these slowly. I've been wearing them on the walk to work, and tomorrow I hope to have a jog. I don't plan to run very far - I don't know how far that will be yet, but I'll be listening to my body very carefully.

If I don't lose my fitness, I will do Hellrunner as planned, but for now, my priority is form over fitness. I'll use swimming and cycling to try and at least maintain my aerobic fitness, even if I lose some run endurance.

* see what I did there? ;)

Great reads

Royal Parks Half write-up to come, but in the meantime, the most inspirational books I've read in ages :

Born to Run
Run: the Mind-Body method of Running by Feel

Royal Parks Half Marathon 2010

My first race was the first Royal Parks Half Marathon in 2008, where I was very pleased going under 2 hours, finishing in 1:55. Since then I've done a lot more running, including my first marathon at the tail end of Ironman Switzerland.

However, the last few weeks haven't been entirely confidence-inducing - I've had some calf issues that have disrupted my training such that most of my shorter runs haven't been pain-free (interestingly some of my longer runs I have managed to push through the muscle pain). Last week had been pretty reasonable with an excellent (but not very fast) intervals session and tempo run.

Given that most of my leg pain has been after setting off too fast, my plan for the race was to start slow and finish fast, warming up during the race. I did participate in the British Military Fitness warmup, after which I felt tired before the race even started!

A former colleague, Andy, was also doing the race, and we had very similar goals, hoping to get 1:45, so our plan was to run the race together as much as possible.

At 09:30, the race started, and about three minutes after, we crossed the start line. Andy and I ran a fairly solid pace, staying around the 5:00/km pace for the first few kms, a bit faster than planned. However, I felt good and the pace felt easy enough that I wouldn't blow up. We avoided other runners, and didn't bother with water stops, heading through Parliament Square, over Westminster Bridge and back, and then along the Embankment. Our pace headed as low as 4:45/km at times, but it was never particularly uncomfortable.

At around the 8km mark, Andy wasn't feeling too good so dropped back, and I just pushed on, aiming to maintain a good speed. I kept a good eye out for Peta as I entered the park around the 10km mark, but she spotted me. I also saw her a bit later, probably around the 15km mark as I went past the lake again, so early enough not to be looking too shocking!

I didn't really feel much need for water in this race - I took some twice in the second half, mainly to wash down my shot bloks and pour over my head for cooling. Temperature wise it was fairly comfortable, much cooler than 2008.

At around kilometre 18, I really just had to dig in and push on. However, in spite of how hard I thought I'd been working, kilometre 20 was the fastest of the lot, as I did 4:40 just before the finish line.

In terms of perceived exertion, on a 10 point scale the first half was around 5, and it went up to around 9.5 in the final km, even the sprint across the line didn't feel like I'd hit 10.

I was very happy with 01:42, but I know that I have the potential to do better; just as with my last Royal Parks race, had I had less traffic, I could have gone faster. My negative split (my last ten km were two minutes faster than my first ten km) was a bit too extreme. However, it was good to feel confident about my pace early on and not blow up.

This was the most enjoyable run I've had in weeks, I was pleased my calves didn't stiffen up and I ran without any significant pain, although there was some suffering towards the end. My confidence is skyhigh at the moment, and I plan to use that confidence to set some proper goals for the next year. But that's another post.

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