Friday, 27 January 2012

A bit of Self Adjustment

The great thing about the Maffetone method is that it's self-adjusting. I'd been feeling a bit under the cosh after two foot races and a sprint session on the rower within the space of two weeks, with my performances suffering in response.

Prior to those races I’d been running at about 5:10-5:17/km (8:20-8:30min/mile).  After those hard sessions I a good 10 seconds per km off that pace.  Cycling I was down by 10W or so over an hour, and on the rower I was off the pace by about 3secs/500m, but more importantly I had to really slow down through a session to manage the HR.

So what can I do about it? Pretty simple really.  

All I needed to do was go back to the basics of capping the HR to keep all sessions aerobic only.

So last Sunday it was a deliberately very slow and steady 16km running at even slower pace than I had been doing, and then in Aberdeen this week two runs that were pretty mixed in results.  One was rushed and inconsistent, the second I paid much more attention to and apart from a bit of a blip when I turned into the wind and didn’t slow my pace quickly enough, the HR was well in control.  Neither run was fast, or even back to my previous pace, but they were relaxed and I was back to not feeling tired the next day.

Now less than two weeks later I've just done the fastest 10km on the erg since I started the HR capped training.
Total) 10km / 2:13.2 / 44:23.5 / 22 / A137 / M 150 

2km splits
1) 2:12.9 / 8:51.7 / 21 / A119 / M131
2) 2:13.1 / 8:52.7 / 22 / A135 / M141
3) 2:13.0 / 8:52.1 / 22 / A140 / M145 
4) 2:13.4 / 8:53.9 / 22 / A145 / M150
5) 2:13.2 / 8:53.1 / 22 / A146 / M150

All in all less than a minute over the HR cap of 148.

Now if that’s the recovery this method can bring, that seems to be a good demonstration to me that it works.

A bit more of this in February, then I’ll start building in some harder stuff on the bike in March ahead of the start of the club time trial season.  I’ll build up over a few sessions to HR typical of the range I see in a TT and see where that takes me.  Of course, in amongst all of that, I’ll be ramping up the time on feet as well for the long race.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

How to get it right, and how to get it wrong

How to get it right?
1) just go out and do it
2) have no target in mind, pace or distance
3) listen to the feedback

How to get it wrong
1) create an artifical agenda or target
2) let that dominate the session
3) ignore the feedback

Sunday, I dropped my daughter off at an extended extra ballet class ahead of next weeks recital.  I knew I had at least 90 mins to run, and with the ballet teacher's timing, another ten minutes if I wanted.  So I just set out to run for 90 minutes no targets for distance, pace or anything else, just spend 90 minutes on my feet. 

Not much really, you may say, but since I did my HM in August, I've been mainly working towards the new year's eve 10km, so looking at 6-7 miles.  I'm now thinking about July and the ultra-70, which is really less about pace and more about being able to keep a steady pace for an extended period of time.  Having done 5 and a half hours in the saddle, I know I can do these durations, but I need to get the body back into it again, so I have a framework in my mind of a long session every weekend, either on the bike or running. Should be fun.

So Sunday's run took me on a meandering course along the banks of the Ouse, up and down either bank on a mix of tarmac, hard trails and dirt tracks just meandering and then working my way back to the rehearsal hall almost on the dot of 90 minutes. 

I found it really easy to just settle into a nice steady pace around 6 min miles with HR mainly in the low-mid 140s, a kind of pace I felt I could continue for hours.  The only fly in the ointment being the first 2 km where I was getting serious interference from the wind on my light jacket (very windy, overcast about 10C) causing spurious HR data so I ditched that and it went away almost immediately.  Also managed to get a couple of photos.

1) 5:28 / A144 / M174
2) 6:03 / A150 / M165
3) 5:36 / A142 / M150
4) 5:56 / A141 / M146
5) 5:50 / A143 / M149
6) 5:55 / A144 / M149
7) 5:49 / A142 / M150
8) 5:58 / A143 / M146
9) 6:04 / A144 / M149
10) 5:59 / A143 / M148
11) 5:53 / A142 / M150
12) 5:50 / A144 / M149
13) 6:04 / A146 / M152
14) 5:39 / A143 / M146
15) 5:55 / A143 / M149
16) 5:47 / A143 / M147
17) 0.13km / 0:45.8 / 6:02 / A144 / M144
Total) 16.13 km / 1:34:32 / 5:52 / A144 / M174 (M152 non spurious)

A runner's Eye view of the river

my landmark - visible for at least 5miles, they knew how to build in 1086

Monday I flew up to Aberdeen and then today I had an 0800 check in for a fligtht to the Shetlands.  I reasoned I could geta  quick 4mile or so run in and still get to the airport on time.  My mistake was not in getting up too late, I actually had plenty of time.  My mistake was in letting my percieved time shortage rule my run instead of just doing what I needed.

The result was that I was constantly running up against the HR cap and bumping over the top of it.  In other words, not a successful run for a base building session.  Not likely to have a hugely detrimental long term effect, but frustrating nonetheless in that I let my short term goals get ahead of where I want to be right now.

1) 5:07 / 134  
2) 5:11 / 144  
3) 5:33 / 148  
4) 5:18 / 149 
5) 5:22 / 150 
6) 5:32 / 149  
7) 0.87 / 4:46 / 5:28 / 149

Total 6.87km / 36:51 / 5:21 / A146 / M161 (not sure about that max?)

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Stepping back now to safeguard future performance is not a failure

That’s the thing with this methodology, it’s pretty much self adjusting and that tends to help in limiting the potential for doing something stupid and hurting yourself. In September I started aerobic base building aimed at the new year’s eve 10km race, and apart from one erg session a month did nothing out of that zone.  During that period I was finding a reasonable, and measurable improvement in aerobic capacity measured by pace when running or watts on the turbo trainer.

And then came January.  Based on the back of the base building period, I PBd at the 10km by 1min 20, then did a sub-20 min 5k, and then a hard race-paced effort on the erg.  Things were going well, the training was makings itself felt, good improvements were coming.
Then last week, I was out in the middle of nowhere all week looking at people up utility poles and in holes in the ground in Northern England in one of the coldest weeks we’ve had so far.

My running pace was off.  My erging pace was way off recent experience.  My bike performance was down by about 10W.  My RHR was up by about 10bpm.  My sinuses were blocked and gungy.  Overall I was a little under the weather.
Conclusion – the races took a bit out of me and I’m a bit under the weather.

Recommendation – go back to the base building again until the cycling club TT season starts again in April, increasing the intensity in March for one session a week.
So what are the data that are telling me this?

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday – Running
  • 7.33 km / 39:43 / 5:25 per km / AHR 145 / MHR 158 – I don’t the max is reasonable, coming from fiddling around with the HR strap
  • 8.0 km / 42:55 / 5:22 per km / AHR 144 / MHR 151 - backed off on this one
  • 7.55km / 40:40 / 5:23 per km / AHR 143 / MHR 151 - more backing off, taking it steady

Prior to Christmas I was running at around 5:00-5:10 per km.  Yes it was colder last week, but not that much and it wasn’t that windy or hilly where I was.  That’s the other good thing with this methodology, you can see performance changes quite easily.
It’s most striking on the erg
Total) 45:10.2 / 21 / 2:15.5 / A142 / M152 
1) 8:52.8 / 21 / 2:13.2 / A129 / M139 
2) 8:54.4 / 21 / 2:13.6 / A141 / M145
3) 8:57.7 / 21 / 2:14.4 / A147 / M150 
4) 9:09.4 / 21 / 2:17.3 / A148 / M152
5) 9:15.9 / 21 / 2:18.9 / A147 / M152

 You can see a big drop off in performance across the piece there for the 2km splits where ideally that should be pretty level, and has been recently.  That’s the biggest indication that I need to refocus on the aerobic function.

And yesterday’s hour on the turbo trainer added more to that argument with the average wattage being 204 vs the 215-220W I’ve been increasing up to recently.

So between now and March it’s steady the ship, looking at the long term course i.e. the 70-miler in July, rather than the short term gains now.
So what else has been happening here? 

I’ve had a glimpse of the future, acting as taxi for my daughter who’s into a bit of everything at the moment with some landmark moments for her. She’s ridden her bike for the first time, with minimal help to start off, she’s taken up archery lessons after school (possibly the most scary activity so far, my daughter with a weapon!) and today I’m taking her for an extended ballet lesson prior to her first public performance next weekend.  Cue opportunity for me to drop her off and then go for a long run.

The biggest event so far for her though (vying with the bike riding) is that she was selected as one of two readers from her year at the end of year carol service.  She’s only 7, and as she goes to a Cathedral School, that’s where they have their end of term services, so there she was 7 years old, speaking in a 900 year old cathedral in front of getting on for a thousand people (no pictures unfortunately due to the dark conditions, but I saw the video and she was great). Did she bat an eyelid?  No way, she read perfectly.

So which one am I proudest of?  It has to be riding the bike, but the reading in the cathedral comes a very close second.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

I'm number one

At least for the moment.

Lunchtime today I went out for a run to put down a marker for the 5k online challenge we've recently started on the Concept 2 website

Conditions were good, overcast but reasonably warm for running at about 8-9 celcius with a stiff breeze, but one that I could avoid if I took the right route.

I warmed up with a gentle jog up to the post office to check opening times before I post a parcel tomorrow.  Stopped the watch and then restarted from a standing start.   I had a fair few things in my favour if you think about it
1) Having never run a hard, timed 5k before, I had no idea what I could do
2) I've switched to metric this year, so I have no idea what pace I'm doing yet, which means I'm not likely to tell myself it's impossible
3) I've just had a very good result in a 10k, so confidence levels are high

So basically, I went out hard, pushed for the first km, pushed for the second km, then tried to limit the damage for the last three km.  Probably not the best pacing strategy to be honest and from pretty much the start of the fourth km I was hanging on and watching the HR climb steadily and wondering when I would blow.  That last 2km were tough, pulling from reserves that I do not test very often, particularly in the last 500m when I'd ended up into the wind on an exposed fen road, but that's when you need to grit your teeth and keep going.

I was both amazed and chuffed to see the results. 

1) 3:52.1 / A 156 / M 167 
2) 3:58.7 / A 167 / M 170 
3) 4:03.3 / A 174 / M 177 
4) 4:00.4 / A 172 / M 175 
5) 4:03.1 / A 176 / M 179 
Total 19:57.6 / 4:00 / AHR 169 / MHR 179

Garmin geek trace here,showing the HR Rising inexorably

That max is about 97% of theoretical max so I was working pretty hard at the end, but one thing I've noticed since starting this Maffetone training is that I seem to be able to work at a higher HR for longer in racing, which seems to suggest that the aerobic base is working well at higher paces.

Interestingly, if you plug that into a race timee predictor, a 19:58 5k predicts a 41:53 10k, which is another 2min 20 secs faster than my PB of ten days ago. 

Now that would be interesting indeed.

But more to the point, that time puts me at the top of the online league at the moment for absolute time.  I'm sure it will be only temporary until the fast boys put in their good times for the month, but it's nice to be there.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Today, I'm a proud daddy

Today, Serena rode her bike unaided for the first time, making me a very proud daddy indeed. 

She's been slowly progressing towards the idea over the last few months, but has finally decided that it's worth it and that it could be fun.  Last summer I took her stabilisers off and refused to put them back on.  I also took the pedals off to let her hobby horse the bike along and get used to getting her balance right.  She's been going progressively further that way and has got used to going downhills and using the brakes, but it's only been in the last three or four weeks that she's really been wanting to actually ride the bike.  The pedals went back on before Christmas and she's been trying to used them properly.  Today we walked into the village and on the way back, we stopped at the recreation ground. 

She rode her bike on her own (with a little push start) about half a dozen times, taking a few spills but picking herself up and carrying on.   It won't be long before she's ready to take a ride into town with me.  No photos this tiem, but I'll try to plan ahead a little more in future.

She's right on the limit now of the bike she has, and I think a contributor to the recent enthusiasm has been the suggestion of a new bike if she can show me that she can ride one properly.

For me, another session on the rower this evening.  For the second time though, I've been able to meet the heart rate target.  Surely twice in a row can't be a fluke?  Still nothing remarkable, but I'm looking for long term improvement, not a quick fix.

And the detail
1) 8:54.4 / 2:13.6 / 21 / A126 / M137 
2) 8:54.9 / 2:13.7 / 21 / A135 / M139 
3) 8:55.6 / 2:13.9 / 21 / A138 / M142
4) 8:54.9 / 2:13.7 / 22 / A144 / M147 
5) 8:53.0 / 2:13.2 / 22 / A145 / M147 
Tot) 44:32.7 / 2:13.6 / 21 / A137 / M147

This is the first time that I've not exceeded the HR cap on the erg, and it's almost the fastest I've gone since I've started this HR limited training so it's suggesting that it's starting to have an effect.  Only time will tell.

A brief hiatus from the running, should help to keep the interest up

Since the new year's eve 10km race, I’ve not run.  The day after I took as a rest day as the legs were sore from the race, same as last year and understandable, but for some reason I’ve not felt like running since.
Maybe it’s the 640-odd miles in the year before that, maybe it’s just listening to my body and the feedback, maybe it’s just trying to keep things interesting.  Whatever it is, since new year I’ve done three sessions on the erg, one yoga class and one session on the turbo trainer.

Up to now I’ve been struggling with the erg in terms of managing the HR to the Maffetone limits I’ve set myself, but this week I seem to have had a breakthrough even if I’ve not necessarily cracked it.  Only a repeat performance could demonstrate that.

The three erg sessions were all 40 minutes in length, I’m not up to regular hours on that yet, though I might start to push it more as I get more accustomed to it again.

The sessions were


1) 2305 / 2:10.1 / 20 / A131 

2) 2244 / 2:13.6 / 18 / A 148  

3) 2206 / 2:15.9 / 18 / A150 

4) 2182 / 2:17.4 / 18 / A151

total) 40:00 / 8936 / 2:14.2 / 18 / A145 / M153


1) 2251 / 2:13.2 / 18 / A135 / M147  

2) 2217 / 1:15.3 / 18 / A 147 /M150  

3) 2212 / 2:15.6 / 20 / A148 / M152

4) 2271 / 2:18.1 / 21 / A149 / M152   

tot) 8850 / 2:15.5 / 19 / A145 / M152

Wednesday – none as I had a day trip to London.


Total 8996m / 2:13.3 / 20 / A140 / M150

1) 2256 / 2:12.9 / 21 / A 127 / M137

2) 2255 / 2:13.0 / 21 / A 140 / M145

3) 2247 / 2:13.5 / 21 / A 144 / M149

4) 2240 / 2:13.9 / 20 / A 147 / M150

As you can see, the HR was much better behaved on Friday, but at a significantly faster pace than either of the other two sessions.  The only thing I can really put it down to is the slightly higher rate which effectively lightens the stroke.  So it seems that that slightly higher rate gives a lower HR even though the recovery time per stroke is effectively shorter, but still around 11m per stroke.

Thursday was the first yoga session of the new year and I got the impression that our guru was going light on us.  More meditation before and afterwards, and no admonishment for being non-vegetarians.  I reckon he let us off on the asanas as well as it took at least half an hour rather than the usual 15 minutes before I was sweating copiously onto my mat and I had nowhere near the usual level of feedback the next day.

Tonight was back to the turbo trainer for my first session under my new metric regime.  Not knowing how fast I was going was quite interesting (I have no real concept of km/h) and I concentrated on the watts and HR.  I think the performance is beginning to move in the right direction, but like with the running I think the real demonstration of success or failure is not going to come until the first race of the season.

My wife, Rekha went off to the USA today for a week, so I’m at home looking after the kids and working at home during the day, so I can envisage the bulk of this week’s training being on the erg or turbo trainer.  I am however very excited at a new running challenge that’s come my way and is a perfect fit with my new metrification.  There are a bunch of pretty good runners that contribute to the Concept 2 forum as they are also either mainly, or at least regular ergers.  Anyway, they’ve started a running 5km monthly league, either in a race or timed by GPS.  There’s a straight ranking and then a handicapped version by BMI which is throwing up some interesting results.   My plan is to have a bash at it at least once this week during a lunchtime, should be great fun. 

I also had a first today in that I tried an un-sulphured dried apricot i.e. one that is not preserved with sulphur dioxide (spelt sulfur for those Leftpondians reading).  I was amazed at the difference and wondering why I’d never tried them before.  Although they look less appealing, the flavour is so much more rounded and richer.  That’s me sold, they’ll be in my shopping basket from now on.

It also seems that I have a bit of weight management to do over the coming weeks.  I’ve managed to put on about 1.5kg over Christmas with an extended amount of socialising with family and friends and the accompanying excesses of beer, wine, cocktails etc and the rich and empty calories stuffed with fats and refined sugars that accompany them.  I will admit though that I’m a sucker for Christmas pudding and went and bought two massive ones at a fraction of the pre-Christmas price, they don’t go off after all.   So, although I don’t believe in diets, the next few weeks are going to need to see a bit of moderation in both eating and drinking, cutting out the sugar, reducing the wheat intake and giving my liver a bit of a rest.  I also think I need to pay more attention to my sleeping patterns.  I’ve been falling into a pattern of getting up early to run while I’m away and to have breakfast in peace with the news when I’m at home.  The only trouble is I’ve also been extending the bedtime way too late either working in my hotel room or watching mindless drivel on the TV. I need to deal with this.

Monday, 2 January 2012

2011 closes with a good result and a good year overall on reflection

I’m not going to go into a full rundown of the new year’s eve 10k that I enter every year, starting and finishing in my village, as I’s already posted it on the Runners World and Concept 2 fora here and here

All I’m going to say here is that the lead up to it has not been the best this year, with time lost to Christmas, and then a minor cold, so I went into it feeling unprepared but well rested so wasn’t expecting much.
It’s a very fast course, pretty flat with about 15m height lost in the first km, then all flat, then regain the 15m in about 250m of the 8th km with a flat run in and a last 200m on grass/mud.  As usual it was all sold out early, but not all entrants turned up.  The trick here is not to get too far back and start behind loads of slow runners, who think they are quicker than they really are, but not to get too close to the front and get dragged along with the fast boys and suffer later.

I managed top get dragged along into a first mile that was way faster than I was planning, but managed to keep a good pace through the rest of the race and then pull out a decent finish as well.  So when I looked at my watch at the finish, I was absolutely dumbstruck.  Last year’s result, which was a PB then was 45:35 or 7:20 average pace.   This year was 44:14 by my watch, 7:07 average.  That’s a whopping 1 min 21 off the PB in one year.   I was absolutely chuffed and surprised. 

Splits / AHR/ MHR
1) 6:49 / 157 / 166
2) 7:19 / 165 / 169
3) 7:22 / 165 / 169
4) 7:16 / 165 / 168
5) 7:16 / 165 / 169
6) 6:50 / 170 / 174
7) 1:22.4/ 0.24mi / 5:45 pace / 172 / 177
Total - 44:13.8/ 6.24mi / 7:05 / AHR 165 / MHR 177

I really attribute this to the Maffetone method I’ve been following since the beginning of September.  I was worried that a lot of low speed/pace work would leave me unable to deliver when it came to a race, but it didn’t seem to work that way.  I was reasonably comfortable all the way round to be honest, with nothing more than the usual hurting in the last mile and I think I could have even done more if I’d trusted myself not to blow up.  HR was slightly lower at each point than last year, but where I blew last year away was the first and last miles. Definitely going to stick with the Maffetone now.

A good end to the year, with the added bonuses of a PB, another t-shirt and a nice bottle of beer.  Ready to head off to some friends to see in the new year now.

So now a look at 2011 overall

The stats look like this:

2011 calendar year

erg (metres)
bike (miles)
run (miles)

cumulative dist

average duration

average distance

average speed or pace

This was 2010

2010 calendar year

erg (metres)
bike (miles)
run (miles)

cumulative dist

average duration

average distance

average speed or pace

total sessions
average per week
total hours
average per week
Jan 10-Dec 10
Jan 11-Dec 11

If you look at the totals, there’s not a lot in it timewise, but obviously the emphasis was very different each year.  The other thing that happened in 2011 was the ITB/Hip trouble I was having at the beginning of the year.  For the first five weeks of the year, I did no running at all, and then I was starting my transition to barefoot/minimalist, so I’d only done 50 miles up until the end of March, with another 600-ish in the last 9 months of the year.

With all that running, something had to give.  I had a pretty good year on the bike overall with new PBs at all three distances in the club TTs, but even so the distance was down overall.  The erging was pretty much relegated to last place with CTCs getting done ( but not a lot else unless I ended up somewhere I didn’t want to run or didn’t fancy a treadmill.

So, the running was slower as an average, but there was a lot mire of it, which I think is at least partly responsible for the success in the 10K this year.

And plans for 2012-01-02

On the bike
  • Carry on with the club TTs when I can
  • Try a 25 mile TT for fun
  • Maybe try a longer ride again this year

  • Main thing is an ultra-marathon, likely to be in July as a 70 miler on a 10-mile loop circuit
  • Possibly a second ultra
  • A couple of smaller races mid year and the usual new year’s eve 10k
  • Carry on enjoying my running
  • Keep my entries going in for an online 5k racing league.  I used the first half of my 10k for December and did OK in the straight ranking, but not so well on the handicap.  Need to change that.
  • Pick up the Barefoot running again and try and get some regularity into it this year.

  • Keep up with the CTCs
  • In the second half of the year, pick a PB to knock off.  Haven’t decided yet whether to go for a longer or shorter one.

Otherwise, just keep enjoying it, stay healthy and definitely keep up with the Maffetone training.