Thursday, 22 June 2017

I'm now well into my first summer of speed since starting the gait change journey, with some interesting observations.

I've run a couple more 800m, the best of which was a 2:06.2 as a guest at a Southern Athletics League (SAL) match.  Whilst it's a seasons best, I was hoping to be at the low 2:05 by now.  2:06.2 is only 0.3s faster than 5 weeks ago (2:06.54 at the Hampshire County Champs).

However....! .... and here's the point of this post.

This summer I feel like an old canvas tool bag - all the bits rattling around inside!  I've got niggling aches and pains everywhere, and I even had to take 9 days complete rest 3 weeks ago with a groin strain.

Here's what I'm thinking.  I think that, despite the fact that I've been running with better poise for almost 22 months, 20 months of that was at 8min/mile 5min/km pace.  Now I'm asking it to run fast, using new soft tissue (and some remodelled bones especially in the feet) and so naturally it's complaining a bit

I've always said that middle distance running is a different sport to 5k+ running, and these niggles are supporting that theory.  (Sprinting is different again.... more like weight lifting than running!)

So, my conclusion is that I will actually go faster next year!  I know that sounds crazy, but by summer 2018 I will have a full summer speed season under my belt, and I'm convinced that the soft tissues will be happier about what's happening to them, because they will have done it before

2017 is like I'm a beginner again, and I'm expecting this beginner to run very fast indeed!

In other news, it's the British Masters' T&F Championships (outdoor) this weekend, and I'm just running in the 800m on Sunday.  Wish me luck!

Friday, 19 May 2017

A brief update..

Winter base training ended, first week of April, with a stunning 20 mile race around the Berkshire countryside near Compton.

I enjoyed a few weeks of racing - a 10k, a couple of parkruns, and my favourite race of all time, the, err, hilly, 8 mile, West Wight Three Hills on the Isle of Wight.  A handful of tempo runs, plenty of Keith Bateman drills, and style-conscious striding barefoot in the local park made up the bulk of the training during this period.  Ordinarily, this phase should last 6 to 8 weeks, but I'm targeting a June to July t&f season, so it had to be cut short.

On Saturday 29th April, I opened my SPEED account for the year, with an 8x200m off 200m jog session with Jon Tilt and his Saturday Breakfast Club.  The aim is to have a month of speed training, to be ready for the June & July peak.

However, as an early season tester, I raced 800m, outdoors, for the first time this 2017 summer season at the weekend (13th May), after just two weeks of speed training.

I was very pleased with the race, which was at the Hampshire County Championships 800m.  Thankfully there were a few "youngsters" (lads in their 20s and 30s!) to pull me round, for a very pleasing 2:06.54.  It was a windy race, and I had to put a spurt in from 500 to 600m to get in behind the guy in front before the wind hit, meaning that from 600m to 800m I was absolutely swimming in lactic!

But I was pleased that the gait style is coming on well at these speeds.  This picture is at 680m, as the pinnacle of lactic was washing through me!

(...still need to work on those arms though!)

Saturday, 18 March 2017

I'm at the sharp end of the learning journey now.  Correcting the running style at speed is proving difficult!

The following conditions are true:
  1. Running easy, the style is fine, even whilst talking or day dreaming!
  2. Running at up to 5k race pace, either in training or whilst racing, is fine.
  3. Running faster than that (800m pace), in training, is fine.
  4. Running 800m pace, whilst racing, is *not* fine!
In other words, I can't race at those fast speeds (sub 3:00/km 4:45/mile), think about gait style, and the race tactics, at the same time (I never could multi-task).

Or, to put it another way, good style is not yet subconscious at those faster speeds.

When you race 800m, you are full-on concentration the entire time.  If your mind wanders for just one second, your competitors will have gained one or 2 meters, and your race is lost (you will expend too much energy accelerating to close that gap).

How do I know that my style suffers in 800m race conditions?

At the recent 2017 British Masters Indoor T&F National Championships 800m final, I was fortunate to have both still and moving images captured.  The remains of the over stride are clear to see (although I did get a number of compliments about looking stronger in the core - less bend at the waist).

I was doubly fortunate that Mr. Bateman watched and commented on what he saw! 

"1. Quite a sink and twist on landing 2. the arm across the chest (both sides) 3 the back foot sole facing the ceiling.  I find that if the back foot is stretched out then the front foot is landing too far ahead. Solution. Try keeping the back foot dorsi-flexed as it comes off the ground - this seems to 'shorten the wheel base' and create a better-aligned landing which in turn returns more elastic energy and increases the stride length.  Summary: have an experiment with dorsi-flexing your back foot on take-off."
(Thank you Keith, as always)

So as we approach the summer track & field season, I'm looking forward to really concentrating on the gait at high speeds.  There's plenty in the book about this, and I shall be hitting the "Keith's Game Changer" drill a lot, whilst concentrating on the dorsi-flexion. 

Finally, and for the third or 4th time, I refer back to the chart below.  I've ticked off that "5k pace" milestone.  And the "race pace" milestone is also there, but not subconscious yet.  This is my next aim!

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Apologies for such a gap between posts. The journey is not yet done - there are still highs and lows.

At the end of November, I'd hit my third ever fastest 10 mile.  And everything was good.

On Christmas eve I had some even greater success, hitting my equal fastest time for a road 5km.  I last hit 16:37 in 2008 as a V40, and I repeated the time in Poole on 24th Dec.

The picture below shows that there is still more improvement to come.  This was taken (thanks Ellie) in the last 700m, and I can say that I was feeling very tired!

For a few days before, I'd had a little niggle, not painful, in the top of my right foot.  A couple of days after the race, this became gradually more painful, and felt exactly like the fractured/badly stressed metatarsal exactly a year before.

I missed out 4 weeks' training - still raced a couple of times as it was off road, and I didn't ant to let the team down.  But sooner than the pain had come on, it was gone, which all but confirms that it was skeletal as it went more suddenly than muscular or ligament damage would do.

Anyway, I am back on full training now, and aiming at the British Masters national indoor t&f champs on 11th/12th March, where I shall have a pop at the 800m on the Sunday afternoon.

I've had some other thoughts about progress in general, and I shall capture them within the next week.

Bye for now
Haven't tried this yet from Emelia Gorecka, but you can bet that I soon will be!

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

A Declaration...!?

One thing I don't think I've talked about in this blog so far, is "what does success look like?".  Perhaps it's because there was still a small, very small, part of me that was sceptical that I could really get faster.  And at 49 years old, I'm not talking about breaking some of the personal-best times I set in my early 20's!

Should I measure success as "best ever age graded run at a particular distance"?  I quickly dismissed this as a soft target; I've been increasing my age grading over the past few years anyway (as a function of not slowing down as rapidly as I am getting older!).

Of course, success will involve a race, of a certain distance, covered in a certain time.  I guess success could also be declared with another 800m national title (or better!), but that rather relies on the relative condition of the other competitors on the day (i.e. having fewer injuries in training than them)!

In terms of what distance, I am cognisant that I embarked on this journey for the sake of shaving a second or two off my 800m time, so, in theory, only a 2:02 or 2:01 at 800m could qualify as success against the primary goal.  That hasn't changed.  I've had an immense amount of fun running longer distances, learned a lot about myself, about running gait, and about shoes, but I still consider myself an 800m runner.  So, success is a 2:02 (or better) over 800m.  Right?

However.... an interim, tentative, declaration of success, a performance last Sunday can't go without mention.  On 27th Nov I ran my 3rd fastest ever 10 mile race ever, just 31s off my pb set in January 1990, almost 27 years ago.  My second fastest was back in 2005.

The graph shows, in blue, my best time for a 10 mile race that year.  The red dot is the age grade % for that performance.


I don't wear a watch when I'm racing properly, so I had no idea as I hit the final few meters what my time would be.  I run on feel during races, and of course these days I'm concentrating on style rather than attempting to calculate splits!  I consciously went out to hurt myself, and was only ever going to be happy with a sub-hour time.  But to say that I was surprised as the finish clock came into focus would be an understatement.

So I think I am going to allow myself a little luxury, to declare success!  Huge thanks to Keith Bateman and Heidi Jones, authors of Older Yet Faster, to Jon Tilt my coach, and Mrs.B for letting me go out running so much!

That's a week shy of 16 months since the first Older Yet Faster run in Lyon.  What a journey!

Below, just some of the successful Southampton AC team at the Hayling 10 on Suday.  Thanks to Sarah for the pic.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

...just for fun...

Anyone who's had the misfortune to be subjected to my ramblings will know that I joke that anything over 1500m is a fun run.  So today I ran the Gosport Half Marathon.  As it happens, this was the venue of my all time personal best about 9 or 10 years ago, before I re-set as an 800m runner.

The race rounded off a 90 mile training block over the last 9 days, so I really was expecting to be tired.  And the 15+mph wind wasn't going to help either.

On the day, a 1:25:27, I bagged my fastest half marathon time since September 2009.  Not unhappy with that!

Makes me think the changes are working!