Such were my thoughts as I forced myself through 10x400m repeats first thing Monday morning. People often tell me that I "look like a runner". I'm the best part of 6ft, and 9 1/2 stone; lanky doesn't really describe it (though it wasn't always so... Possibly a future blog post?). I've been blown over in high winds. Seriously. What people don't seem to realise is, runners don't all look alike. There's a heck of a difference in build between a sprinter like Usain Bolt and a distance runner like pre-retirement Ryan Hall. Bolt is, to put it mildly, stacked; to run at those kinds of speeds you need a lot of power, and the upper body is just as important as the lower body. Fast marathons require a certain amount of power too, but not in the same way, and are arguably more about efficiency; marathon runners are often extremely lean to the point of appearing anorexic. Any "unnecessary" body mass is there to be shed, and it's well known that eating disorders are prevalent in distance running.
So, to get back on track (ha!), because I "look like a runner" i.e. I'm skinny, people seem to assume I'm fast, but I'm not. I'm a classic ectomorph. I don't put on muscle. Muscle is needed for power. Power is needed for speed. Ergo, I do not have speed. I have even less speed when I spent the Saturday before my track session messing around on the fells and moors behind my house.
"WTF?!", my quads seemed to be saying. "You made us run hills on broken ground and now, 48 hours later, you're asking us to run 400s?! We're going to have to have words..." My blood had, at some point, been replaced with battery acid it seemed. Inconvenient. Added to which, I was only allowing myself 200m to recover between each of the reps I was doing, which meant my heart rate was only just returning to recovery zone before I was off again. On the plus side, this meant the workout would be over quicker. On the negative side, it was going to hurt a lot more.
Despite all of this, I somehow managed to PB the 400m, in 74s. Like I said, not fast... The world record is 43s and change! It's obviously an improvement for me though; when I did my first 400s of this training session I ran 79s, so knocking 5s off is actually pretty massive. I make it roughly 7% improvement. If I have improved by 7% overall, that means I'm currently able to run a 3.10 marathon. It's not really possible to extrapolate in that way, I know, but it does show movement in the right direction.
Tuesday was core workout, so I duly put on Level 2 of Six Week Six-Pack. It was... meh. Much more cardio than crunching, to my mind. This makes sense in the context of what the workout is designed to achieve; spend 3 weeks building the muscle, and then 3 weeks burning the fat off to make it visible. Since my goal is not aesthetic (being the aforementioned ectomorph, and having comparatively low bodyfat, I generally have visible abs anyway) but functional strength, I decided not to do any more of Level 2 (having completed that workout).
Wednesday, I had to travel to London for work, and so engaged in that most pleasant of cross-training activities, "sitting on a train for five hours". Joy. Having recently thrown caution to the wind and joined the Fell Runners' Association (a dedicated blog post will follow) I had a copy of The Fellrunner magazine to keep me occupied on the way down. Wednesday night was spent drinking beers (Young's Hummingbird, which was pretty good, some Asahi, and Glamorgan West Coast Red), eating japanese food, and catching up with good friends from uni. Consequently, my usual early night did not happen...
...which meant that Thursday's tempo run sucked big time! Clearly, whilst I was asleep, the Beer Monkey crept into my hotel room, did a massive poo in my mouth, and beat my legs mercilessly with a stick, because at 5am when the alarm went off I did not feel in any way athletic. No sir. Bottle of water: chugged. ClifBar: consumed. Hotel hospitality tray instant "coffee": drunk, on the basis that owt was better than nowt. By 6am, I dragged myself away from BBC News on the TV and headed outside for 5 miles at tempo along the South Bank.
Running at tempo in a city presents an interesting challenge. On the one hand, it's flat as a pancake in comparison to most of Northumberland. On the other hand, pedestrian crossings, wheelie bins, even urban foxes, present a stride-buggering wealth of obstacles to overcome, at least until I made it down to the river. Once there, I was able to find a bit more of a rhythm, though my pacing was still all over the shop. Much too quick, at times. Punishment for the excesses of the night before, perhaps?! I ended up with an average pace of 6.21m/m over the route, which would have been quicker but for the quite drastic fade at the end. Pleased with the time, all things considered (it adds credence to my "beer is excellent for carb loading" argument!), but my heart rate was unsurprisingly sky-high; alcohol is not, in fact, a performance enhancer. Looking at my Strava record for the run, I was frustratingly beaten by 1-3 seconds on every single segment by one guy. Browsing the segments in more detail, the depth of talent in London is staggering. I don't think any of those CRs are at risk from me! Another five hours on the train brought me back to Northumberland in the evening.
On Friday I did the FitnessBlender routine below for core work, It was pretty quick, but I felt like I got a good burn by the end, so will give it another shot next week. With Daddy duties in the morning, anything I can do to speed up my workouts whilst keeping them effective (quality over quantity), is A Good Thing, and that video is half the length of the Jillian Michaels routine. Nothing like the calorie burn but, as I've said before, I'm interested in building strength in my core, not in another cardio workout.
On Saturday I decided to do something I wouldn't normally do for a road run. That is to say, I drove in order to run somewhere new. I've avoided doing this for years (with the exception of driving to track workouts or, the last few weeks, driving to find somewhere suitably flat for tempo runs) because, fundamentally, road running is something one should be able to do from one's door. However, I had it in my head that I wanted to run some of the inclines in and around Blanchland.
I forgot where I had planned to leave the car, and actually ended up driving to Slaley Forest, which was about 3 miles further on than I had intended. Consequently, I got to Blanchland only having done a quarter of my intended mileage. No matter, just meant that I ran on into County Durham a bit. The going was hard work at times, but I was fairly consistently in and around the 7m/m mark which, given some of the inclines, would probably put me on target pace on a flat course. The climb north from Blanchland, which I tackled after about 10 miles, is a half mile grind marked at 20%, Satisfyingly, although my pace dropped to around 9.45m/m, I didn't find it as much of a chew as I thought I might. Another sign, hopefully, that training is going in the right direction.
After shenanigans attempting to repair/reproof the used tent we bought recently, the decision was taken to just sack it off as a bad idea and get a new tent ready for next weekend's race at Ingram (and subsequent family holidays), so Saturday night was planned to be a night under canvas. Due to high winds, unexpectedly warm temperatures, and the presence of someone's first tooth, Xander and Rachel only made it until about 1am before discretion became the better part of valour. I stayed out, and actually got a reasonable night, although my legs felt pretty stiff the next morning; better to be prepared for that next weekend than to be caught unawares. On Sunday. I stuck Xander in his backpack carrier and then all three of us went for a walk and a picnic. A mini adventure with a mini adventurer, and a nice bit of active recovery.
Had planned to do yoga but... didn't. Some stretching, foam rolling, and tennis ball massage took its place.