Category Archives: Intervals

Marathon Training Update & Nike+

Early mornings can suck sometimes. Especially when you have to run on a holiday. 

But then you come across a view like the photo above and it’s all worth it. Very few others saw this site. All of time waited for me to witness this. 

My Nike+ training plan gave me a relatively light week last week but is stepping it up this week. 

I had several speed runs last week which I still find tough to get motivated for even though only last for half an hour at the most. 

I had two speed workouts; one that was 12×200 and another that was 8×400. All with short recovery times because the mornings were chilly. 

The Nike+ Running Club app on my phone has now broken one of the nice new features! It no longer repeats the info from the phone on your Apple watch. Twice this week it crashed on the watch but kept running on the phone. In fact, it never really started up properly. 

I had to delay my Friday long run as we decided to have a family breakfast and I couldn’t run after that! So I ended up going out on Sunday morning for a 12.75 miler in the temperate weather that hit this weekend. 50F is rather surprising for February. 

Later that day, Nike+ asked me to update my run programme and when it did this it put down a 12.5 mile run for Monday too. What a cow! I think “Nicki” (my name for the voice of the Nike+ app) has got it in for me. 😦

This week is going to be tough with the 12.5 miler today, a benchmark run, a 6 mile recovery run and then an 18.5 miler on Friday. 

I’m going to have to increase my food intake as I’m starting to feel like my legs are very heavy and underpowered. 

Nike+ Running Club Update #3

Another week goes by and more quirks are experienced.

Firstly, and perhaps most annoyingly, I had problems with the Apple Watch Nike+ during my long run last week. I was scheduled to run 13.5 miles (on a weekday morning which is, in itself, ridiculous) but at mile 5.5, the damn app just stopped working.

I tried to restart it on the watch but it came up as starting afresh. I didn’t have time to investigate too much as I wanted to complete my run, so I just started the app on my phone and continued for the remaining 8 miles. When I got home I checked in the log and it did at least still have the data for the first run. Phew. 

Then what do you do at the end? The training programme only lets you put one run towards the goal for the day. You cannot combine the efforts. So, after playing around a few times, I gave up and manually created an entry for the 13.5 miles and attributed that to the training plan.

On the Friday it had me doing a 4×400 meter speed run, with 4:30 mins recovery. It was only 21F outside that day so there is was no way that I was going to hang around in the cold for four and a half minutes between each set of reps. I did 1.5 mins and then started out again. This meant that by the last set I was pretty knackered. 

For the route, I found that the cul de sac behind my house was almost exactly 400m around the perimeter. The first run took 6:28… not too bad. The second was faster at 6:08 and then the following sets were back up at the 6:28.

Again, the speed run requires that you keep the phone in your hand so that you can press the button for the start and end of each rep. This makes me feel a little uneasy running hard with a cellphone in my hand.

More on the Nike+ Running Club Experiment

As I progress through the marathon training programme concocted by the Nike+ app, I am enjoying the challenging runs that it is assigning me. 

After last week’s benchmark run it has started to add pace requirements to the runs that I do. Currently, they are all well below the pace that I generally run at which seems a little strange. Perhaps this will adjust as the programme continues?

On Sunday I decided that I didn’t want to do the suggested exercise which was to tryout the Nike+ Fitness Club application. Instead, I opted to run 12 miles. 

The run went well and was an enjoyable run on the Perkiomen Trail from Schwencksville. 

On completing the run, I chose to categorise it as an ‘Other’ event as I had already competed all the runs for that week. 

Come Monday morning and a new training week and guess what? The app tells me I need to do an 11.5 mile run. On a Monday morning. After doing 12 miles the day before. Bugger off!

I tried to reclassify the previous day’s run so that it would count as this one, but to no avail. There’s no way to edit the assignment of previous runs; even the website doesn’t offer a way to do this. Boo. 

Because of this, the app thinks I bailed on the long run for the week. :-(. 

I did actually go out and do a four miler but that isn’t twelve miles!

Roll on to Wednesday morning and the prescribed run was a speed run with 8x800m intervals and 2:45 recovery (strangely specific). 

I wasn’t too happy about this as that’s a lot of intervals but opted to hit the streets. Running track intervals on the road is tough as you have to allow for traffic and the ground is not flat; hills in fast intervals. Yuck. 

For the recovery periods I simply jogged a little and ended up running a total of around 7.5 miles. 

Did you notice how vague that was?

Why? Well, the speed test only counts the distance you run during the speed intervals and not what you cover in the recovery. 

Four miles is all that counted from the 7.5 I covered. Grrr. Not best pleased. 

Any way, one useful thing you can do with these 800s is use them to calculate your estimated marathon time using the “Yasso 800” approach. I know this is a correlation prediction rather than a causation, but it is fun to play with numbers. 

After some finagling of the numbers I worked out that my marathon time would be 3 hours 43 minutes. That’s pretty close to my current expectations of my performance. 

Back to the Nike+ stuff: I’m not best pleased that I have to run the speed tests with the phone in my hands. As I got sweaty I was worried I’d drop my phone. I think I’m going to stick some strong magnets inside my gloves so that they will grip the metal plate in my phone case and take some of my worry away… I’ll let you know how that works out. 

Have a fun week running. 🙂

Boxing Day Marathon: Summary

On Monday I returned to Valley Forge National Historical Park for my sixth Boxing DayMarathon attempt.


The first few years I did it by doing two half marathons in a day; one early in the morning and another late in the afternoon. I soon realized that this is actually harder than just running the total distance in one go. If you split the distance you’ll find your legs start to lock up during the day and it is really hard to get back out again.

This year, despite being very under trained, I went with the all-out straight-up marathon approach.

And it was very, very difficult!

Last year I took around 3 hours and 45 for this run. This year it was closer to 4:45.

So, what went wrong this time:

  1. Valley Forge Park is hilly. This shouldn’t be news to people that have been there before, but including circuits of the park in a long run is not such a great idea when you are under trained. I chose to start in the park, with a five mile loop, spin out for a run along the Schuykyll River Trail, and then come back for the seven mile outer loop around Valley Forge. The seven mile loop is even hillier than the main loop.
  2. Not enough training. Over the previous couple of months I had barely run. Perhaps ten miles per week in many cases, and in others less. Normally I would be up at 30 to 40 miles per week in preparation for the run.
  3. Not enough snacks. I didn’t have quite the right combination of snacks for the run and tried to put something together, but it wasn’t really quite right.
  4. Carrying extra weight. The reduced mileage and increased seasonal snacking left me carrying about 5-7 extra pounds for the run this year.

The first five miles went by quite smoothly and it was at 5.5 that I met up with my friend Ed. He joined me for 9.5 non-stop miles along the Schuykyll River Trail and the Betzwood Trail. This is the longest distance he has run without doing a walk-run combo and it was great to have the company along the route.

Mile 16 was where I started to have issues. My legs just stopped wanting to move. I tried fueling a little more and kept walking to give my legs a chance to recover. This is quite early in the run to be having issues. Once the food kicked in I was able to run again and kept going to about mile 19 where I took a bathroom break and refilled my water bottles (no, just no).

Crossing the new Sullivan’s Bridge I stopped to take a picture for someone who was half way through their first long ride since having some shoulder surgery.

The last seven miles were around the outer loop of the Park and it has many hills and is mostly non-tarmac trails. It starts with a long and steady climb. At mile 21 it started to hurt again, so I decided to switch to a walk/run strategy. This got me through to about mile 24…

At that point I had to just walk. I had nothing left in the tank at all. I felt like a bit of a sham walking around the park in my running gear but I had no choice.

At mile 25.5 I started running again and tried to keep going to the end… my car was waiting for me at 26.7, half a mile past the marathon mark.

I was sooooo glad to make it to the car. I got my thermal blanket out of the back of the car and wrapped myself up as all the walking had made me much colder than running would have done. It was done for another year. 

Next year I will prepare more. My thanks to Ed for the company during the marathon as that really helped early on.

Recovery Time

After my long run on Sunday I spent Monday recovering. 

My morning run on Monday was quite gentle but I did introduce my friend to fartleks. His performance has recovered suitably from his time off and I thought that adding these might be a nice challenge. 

The route we run has large pylons along the side of the trail that make for good markers for the fartleks. 

After giving some warning about it I was happy that he accepted the challenge. At the next pylon we upped our pace a little. Not too much, but enough to make it more difficult. We ran to the next pylon which is quite a distance; perhaps 1/8 mile. As I said, the pylons are huge.

We did three of these through the run. Consequently we got our overall time for the route back under an hour. It is good to try something different every so often. 

We saw our friendly Skunk again as we entered Norristown. He didn’t seem to care about us. 

During Monday I over indulged somewhat as I had a team lunch and then dinner with a friend in the evening. This blew me through my calorie limit for the day but I knew that I was well down on the previous one so I wasn’t too bothered. 

On Tuesday I cycled to work for the first time in ages. It felt great to get the bike back out on the road even for that short distance. It is going to take some time for my butt to readjust to the saddle again. 

This morning (Wednesday) I ran an early six miler so that my wife could get out after me. I nearly lost my hat three times as there were powerful gusts of wind on my way out. Fortunately it was behind me for the return trip. 

All in all, the week is going well. 

Tonight I go to see my trigger point therapist for a deep sports massage. It will be painful but good…

Get Back Out There

Today was the first run for a few weeks with my friend. He had taken a couple of weeks off because of the snow and moving house, but today we were back on the trail. 

His new apartment is right by the trail so we actually met up in front of the building rather than half a mile away in the parking lot.

There was still some ice patches on the trail but it has mostly melted now. 

Two weeks off had taken its toll on his running stamina though and he was struggling by the four mile point. On one interval we started walking slightly early to give him a chance to recover. 

The important thing to remember here is that it is okay to drop back in performance but that you must be gentle as you start back; don’t expect to instantly perform at your previous level. That will likely result in injury. 

Expect to have to rebuild strength for a couple of weeks as you get back out there. Yes, it is surprising how quickly your strength can fall back but it will recover. You just have to plan around that. 

Getting back out for our regular Monday run was good as it’s always nice to have a chance to catch up with a friend. 

New Year. New Intervals.

My friend and I decided that it was once again time to increase the length of our running intervals.

It has been a long road to get to this point in the running plan. We’ve taken it very slowly to eliminate the risk of any injuries along the way. This very slow and steady increase in both the interval durations and the distance covered has meant that he has been able consistently build his running performance and avoid all the usual pitfalls along the training pathway.

We are now doing this set:

  1. Walk for 2 mins to warm up (although it isn’t really warming up in the current temperatures of 10-14F!)
  2. Speed Interval: Run for six minutes
  3. Walk Interval: Walk for two minutes
  4. Repeat until 6 miles covered.
  5. Walk for one minute at the end.

One thing that we do try to do is achieve a ‘reverse split’. This means that you make the return trip faster than the outward trip.

We achieve this by reducing the walking intervals on the second half. After we turn around at the 3 mile point, we wait until the first walk interval and delay it by running for an additional 30 seconds. We then start walking for 1 minute 30 seconds.

If we feel fine at the next walk interval, then we run for an extra 45 seconds. After this we start walking for 1 minute 15 seconds.

At the next walk interval, we decide whether we will try to run straight-through to the end, or just push it up to one minute of extra running.

This flexibility in the return intervals allows us to push a little harder and further each time, but keeps us in tune with the various muscles and stops us doing anything stupid. It also means that we can gradually build towards the next interval goal and let’s achieve ‘course’ records regularly as a form of motivation.

Having gone from walking for 2 miles to run-walking 6 miles in around 58 minutes, all with no injuries incurred, I’d say that this has been a successful strategy. We’ve built up to this over the course of 15 months, so it isn’t a fast way to get from ‘couch to 5k’, but that’s not what I encourage anyway. Most of my friends who have tried those plans either got injured or found it to be tiresome and stopped running altogether.

I’m interested in encouraging people to run for the rest of their lives; not for a single event.

If you are looking to learn to run and don’t want to fall by the roadside, side-lined by an injury, try a run-walk-run approach like this.

Additionally, my friend can now run four miles without any walk breaks at all. He’s certainly set to get a new 5k record next time he runs one, that’s for sure.

If you need to know how to setup intervals like this, most popular running apps will support it. We use mapmyrun but it is an advanced feature that you have to pay an additional fee for. Make sure you have the volume turned up so you can hear the announcements. RunKeeper also offers a similar function. I know that Garmin devices generally support this approach too, so there’s plenty to choose from.

As a footnote (pun intended), you should track the mileage on your shoes. Most of these running apps will support this. Depending on your weight and running style the mileage you will get out of a pair of shoes may vary, but typically 300-500 miles is the most you can get.

Also, if you are just starting out and have a janky old pair of shoes that you used to wear for gym class, get rid of them. Go to a specialist running shop and get them to help you choose some appropriate modern shoes. They may ask you to walk or run on a treadmill to see how you move. Be prepared to have to spend an hour or more on this task and probably over $100 for a decent pair of shoes. Your body will be glad of the investment.

Get out there. Try running. And learn to love running by taking a very slow approach to increasing your distance.

New Year Group Run

Well, Happy New Year to you all!

I trust you had a good night and didn’t stay up drinking too much (like I did). Partying at the neighbors house is too easy.

I went through my logs and calculated that I ran a total of 1367.57 miles in 2015. That’s significantly more than last year when I just made it to the 1000 mile mark. I guess marathon training really helps to pile on the mileage.

Today, my friend Ed and I started the New Year by joining the Fasttracks running club annual New Year’s Day run that starts in Valley Forge Park and goes out a couple of miles to the base of a big hill (Diamond Rock Road)… Which it is then an option to climb.

This was a challenging run for Ed as unlike our regular weekly run it was six miles with some significant hills and undulations. We normally run alongside a river and there’s barely a slope at all.

Nonetheless, Ed had agreed to do the run (even though he misunderstood the distance; ho hum) and so we started at 8:30 this morning with a hard run.

Here’s Ed and some of the others climbing Diamond Rock..

  
It doesn’t look too steep in this shot but there are sections that are 24%. It is a long tough hill.

One of the club members lives atop the mountain so we went there for mid-run refreshments and chatting, but, all too soon, it was time to saddle up and run back.

Coming done the hill was fine but they took their toll on Ed’s legs so we slowed the return run down and did more walking intervals. We don’t want to start the new year with injuries, after all.

On the way back into Valley Forge we stopped to get a photo with the State Park sign, using my Apple Watch as a remote for the camera; such a cool feature.

 
When we got back to the finish some people we still milling around for a celebratory toast which we missed. Some others came in after us so we hung out with them for a while to give everyone a chance to recover.

This was the first time my friend joined me at a running club event. Hopefully he didn’t feel like a stranger as they are a very friendly group.

What will 2016 bring? I’m not sure. Now I’ve done an official marathon, I’m not sure how I feel about it and whether I will do another one. I did miss Boston qualifying by a very small (8 second) margin but I’m not too hung up on that. I think I prefer running half-marathons and it takes less of a toll on your body, for sure.

I am going to try to be better about cycling to work more, even during the winter. I did buy some fenders(mudguards) for my bikes the other day so I won’t get quite so filthy when the weather turns. I’m looking forward to testing them out.

Other than that, I don’t really have any goals for this year. Maybe I can find some from around the blogosphere. 

I wish you all a good year. 🙂

Recovery? From What?

The human body is a strange thing. I ran 26.2 miles on Saturday and come Sunday all I felt was a slight tiredness in my knees. No thigh aches. No soreness. Nothing. 

It is a very odd feeling. I did run it far slower (30 mins) than the marathon at the start of December but I sill expected some aches and pains. 

On Monday I joined my friend for our last run-walk-run interval session of the year. We stuck to our previous 5 mins run and 2 mins walk intervals, keeping them pretty well as per the plan. 

Next week we will move to the next interval level using six minute runs and two minute walks. 

My friend had some new tech this week: shoe lights. They were an xmas present from his family. It is great to see them embracing his new healthy lifestyle. 

These rechargeable lights strap into your laces and give out about 150 lumens. They worked quite well but are probably best suited to running on a Tarmac or paved trail. I say this because they are so low to the ground that uneven surfaces can lead to you not being able to see very far down the path. At some points we could tell if we were about to run into puddles or if it was just a shadow cast by the ground. 

They do light up items on the ground really well so it is unlikely you’ll trip over branches but I’d be worried about using them solely (pun intended) on a run. 

They do make you visible and would certainly catch the attention of drivers. Here’s a pic of my friend running off into the woods wearing them.  On my phone the picture is animated but I don’t think WordPress supports that yet. 

 
One of my xmas gifts was a new bag for cycling to work. A Timbuk2 bag. It was raining today so I thought I’d test it out. The bag has many compartments and has a folding section for packing clothes for work. This bag is much larger than my previous one that was an emptied camelbak water holder. I’ll comment more on this after I’ve used it a bit longer. 

Early Xmas Present

In taper week the long run isn’t too long, so I only had to do a twelve miler on Sunday.

The temps were quite low (32F) but the morning was beautiful. I ran from home to save some time as we had family plans for the holidays. I headed out to Evansburg State Park and took a narrow unpaved trail through the woods. It was so nice out there. The trail ran along a ridge overlooking Skippack Creek as the sun was rising over the opposite bank. Halfway along it turned into a horse trail rather than a walking one; this means that the surface became far more furrowed and uneven, and had several water crossings. Some were so wide that I had to take a running jump to cross them and on one I ended up with damp feet, but that’s all part of the fun.

When the lady in my phone told me it was time to turn around, I decided to ignore her. I was having too much fun to retrace my steps and I thought I might be able to make the run into a loop rather than an out-and-back. Eventually the trail came to the other end of the park and I looped around some roads (narrow unused country roads) to head back toward home.

I ended up doing 13.5 miles which isn’t too far over the twelve required and it was nice to run a distance that wasn’t prescribed by a plan.

Last night I went to see the new Star Wars film. Wow. Nice work, J.J.Abrams. Very true to the original trilogy. This meant I had a late night before my early run with my friend so it was a struggle getting out of bed this morning at 4:45.

However, it was worth it. We decided that we would run our 5:2 intervals for the three miles out and then just run straight through for the return. Quite a challenge but I thought he’d be able to do this… And, of course, this resulted in us beating our previous route record by a couple of minutes; 58:38.

We broke the hour for the 6.2 mile route! Hurrah. 

Certainly a nice early Chrimbo present.

For the remainder of the week I am tapering down so I can run a marathon on Saturday (Boxing Day) as is my tradition.

Have a good week everyone.