Tag Archives: track

“And it’s Not About You Joggers that Go Around an’ ’round an’ ’round…”

To quote the Blur song from way back when, but today it was certainly about going round and round and round. 

My training programme called for 12.5 miles and I didn’t want to go off on a wild run around London for that distance. Too much planning to get the right distance for a circuit. 

Instead, I chose to run to “The Regent’s Park” and do loops to meet the goal. 

The park was two miles from my hotel and, after completing the first loop, I found it was about 2.7 miles in circumference. Therefore, three loops and the run back should make my target (near enough). 

Regent’s Park is home to London Zoo and you can hear the noises of the animals as they wake in the morning. There were also some reindeer out in a separate enclosure that were looking at me strangely as I ran by each time. 

There were plenty of other runners around in the park as well as gangs of cyclists doing circuits and riding waaaaay to close behind cars in an effort to draft them. If you are there for the exercise, surely drafting is a folly? Something to think about, cyclists?

The park is a nice place to run but the outer path has quite a busy road next to it that does leave you tasting the fumes a bit. It was nicer running on the inner pathways, but you cannot do that around the north end by the zoo. 

There was one runner there with her tiny dog (some sort of terrier) that looked like you wouldn’t want to run with it as you’d think t would be too slow. But, bugger me, it was a fast little thing and they easily blew past me and kept on going for quite a time before they stopped to rest. I was really surprised. 

By mile ten I was tired and the lack of fuel was beginning to slow me down. I was glad to be heading back towards my hotel and the free breakfast. 

Running back along Oxford Street at prime opening time was treacherous and often required me to skip into the bus lane to avoid laying out some poor pedestrian. 

I wasn’t far off in that estimate and ended at 12.2 miles. Damned if I was going to do that last 0.3 just for the hell of it. 

The route wasn’t picturesque so no photos again today. 

I did find a track at the northern edge of the park that I didn’t know existed. This will be good as I need to do 10 x 200s as one of my runs this week… I guess that will be tomorrow but I’m pretty sore right now. 

One other good thing about London: my meeting today was down in the theatre district and so I’m enjoying a warm beer in a classic London bar (Porterhouse) and soaking up the atmosphere while staring into my phone and typing frantically. 

Low ceiling and illuminated beer cases abound at Porterhouse. Along with a very wide range of beers. 

Off in search of food next: curry. Yum. 

A British institution. 🙂


Track Night with Apple Watch

I missed last weeks track event with FastTracks but I knew they were doing the same thing as week one, so I don’t feel like I missed out. 

This time I came along knowing there would be a different workout, a different coach AND having my new tech to play with. 

I started the session off by using Apple Watch to start a mapmyrun session to record my overall time and distance. I then turn the volume of my phone down to minimum to stop mapmyrun announcing all the half-mike waypoints. 

Then I put Apple Watch into stopwatch mode. This offers the ability to record multiple lap times from the same screen. After a warm up lap or three at a gentle jog we started the workout. 

Our target was: 200m consisting of 100m at 80% and 100m at 95%. Then walking 100m to recover… Then repeat ten times. Note that we were told to do the walk as 50m out and back.

The members of my set/group are really fast. The majority of them are older than me (some significantly) but they consistently hand my ass to me on a plate. I’m over the embarrassment of it by now and just hope that I can remain as fast when I get to their age! 

I ended up running mainly 38-40 second 200m periods. I was fairly consistent in my times but felt that we were probably running above the prescribed 95% level. The coach was running with us and didn’t rein us in. 

This was an interesting workout but it made traffic on the track quite chaotic and I felt sorry for all the other track users. We had three different groups running at different paces and going different directions on the track. This made it difficult for other track users. My apologies. 

Now for the tech. Well, I eventually got used to the stopwatch on the Apple Watch but it wasn’t easy. To press the lap button you have to use the screen. The physical buttons on the watch are set for other dedicated behaviours for the Watch OS. 

This means that before you can press the lap button you have to raise the watch to the appropriate position to get the screen to turn on, then try to find the lap button on the screen without knocking the stop button that is directly beside it. I also wear my watch on the ‘wrong’ wrist so this means the lap button is on the far side of the screen from my controlling hand. 

However, once I got used to this (and remembered that I was timing; stupid tired brain), it was easy to use. 

It has so good ways of presenting the data. I chose the digital face layout (hard press the screen) and it looked like this.   

When in use the lap button is in the same position as the ‘reset’ button above. You can scroll the lap list up and down to view the different results. It also has a graphical view but it doesn’t label it well so it has limited value.  

Then there is another mode that has it all in one.  

This shows the analog dials, the digital time, and the graph. 

At the end of the running I switched over to the mapmyrun app (double click the crown) and stopped the app. 

Everything appears to have worked fine.  

And if that wasn’t enough, I forgot my pedometer from work today so I had the Moves app running in the background of my phone to pickup my steps for the day (it is linked to my virgin pulse account).  

Completely teched out yet? Good, so am I. Dinner of meatless tofurky hotdogs and ice cream with strawberries. 

Day done. 

The Ups and Downs of Hill Workouts

Wednesday was supposed to be the regularly scheduled FastTracks track night but the circuit was in use by another group who were doing blood lactate measurements.

Therefore our coach decided to let us do some hill workouts on a nearby street. Whoopie!

Given that I had cycled there up those very same hills I had an idea what we were in for. They aren’t too steep but they are long and winding (cue Paul McCartney).

Initially we jogged gently to the bottom of the hill where the coach gave us a talk about hill runs.

He said that unless you are training for a hilly race you don’t really need to incorporate regular hill work. Although, if you find you pick up injuries running on tracks for speed then hills are a good alternative.

The aim was to run the hill at two mile pace, less 15-30 seconds. We were going to do half mile up and then jog back. Key to recovery is taking small steps on the way back down so you don’t over stretch you muscles, making the return harder.

To ‘warm up’ we ran up the hill slowly to get a measure of what was in store. Then we were told to repeat that seven to eight times! Yikes.

After jogging back down and leaving my bottle at the bottom of the slope, we started the run as a large group (20 or so) but this quite soon thinned out as people fell into their pace groups.

There is one guy in the club that is a real jack-rabbit and he was flying up the hills using three gears; 5k pace, 800m pace and finishing at 400m pace. I could not do that. I did get to chat to him towards the end and to see some of his techniques. Good stuff.

However, by the end of seven reps I did actually finish in second place. Hurrah! By this point I had been ‘lapped’ by our rabbit but only on the last interval.

I then had to ride home from the workout which had run slightly long. By the time I got home it was well into dusk and I’ll have to take lights next time. All in all I rode 25 miles and ran just under six with hills so not a bad days effort.

Come Thursday morning and my regular scheduled run and I had very little oomph left in me. I still managed to get out and do a 3.7 mile run (with some more hills because I’m slightly mad, I guess) but it was a struggle and I only averaged an eight ten pace but picked it up at the end for a 7:08 finish pace. Now to rest for a day.

And eat.

Track Night Meltdown

The summer finally arrived in PA this week and it hit with a vengeance. When I arrived at track tonight for the workout it was 91F (32.7C). Super hot.

I warmed up with two gentle laps and then did the prescribed dynamic stretches. By this time the sweat was pouring off my face so I returned to my car to get my halo headband as it is great at keeping the sweat out of my eyes.

The group was called to order and the workout began. The set was to be:
6x 400m @ mile race pace, with 200m recovery jogs.
4x 200m @ half-mile race pace, with 200m recovery jogs.

According to the coach, you can calculate your half-mile race pace by halving your mile pace and subtracting 3-5 seconds. It should feel like 95% effort compared to mile race pace being about 90% effort.

I started out strong and completed the first four sets of 400m but then bailed because the heat was just too much. My speed was going down quickly and I just wasn’t enjoying the run. After all, I do this because I like it so when it feels like that I just want to stop. I guess I need to build up my ability to run in the heat and running all through the winter and early in the mornings doesn’t help to build that stamina.

It was nice to sit in the shade with a cold water and watch the others finish off their runs. It gives me a lot of pleasure to see so many people that enjoy running being out together.

Track Night #4: Light Haze

Another night at the track with FastTracks Running Group and yet more rain to keep us cool. There was a better turnout this week as the rain was at least light. The week’s training was to be a repeat of last week (which I missed) and consisted of:

400m with 200m recovery, 200m with 200m recovery, 400m with 200m recovery, 200m with 200m recovery, 400m with 200m recovery then 200m with 400m recovery…

And then do it all again!

The pace for the main runs should be your 1 mile pace and it is key to the programme that you know what this is and that you can run to that pace consistently for all the intervals. I suspect that this is because we will gradually be running longer at that pace with fewer recovery periods.

I have to say that it was quite a tough workout tonight and there were a couple of really strong runners leading “Group 1” (the sub-22 minute 5k’ers) which pushed all of us. I was pretty consistently fourth in the group of about 12.

This week I also wore my heart rate monitor. It showed my max rate reaching 189 bpm which, coincidently, is the max rate value that I calculated with my exertion test last year. My average for the runs was around 157 which is okay (I think).

The total mileage measured was 4.5 miles because I did a warm up lap too, with an average pace of 7:30 that includes all the 200m recovery periods. I guess we must have been running a little fast for some of the intervals because if I switch my phone to give me quarter mile splits there are a couple that are lower than 6:20 pace and one that is 5:51 pace. I didn’t have my lap timer running for tonight… I’ll have to work out a way to do that for future circuits.

There were a few people present that I hadn’t run with before and some very different running styles. If you don’t believe that there is no right/wrong way to run then I encourage you to go to a track meet and see the various running styles. Some people lean forward, some stay dead straight and others lean slightly backwards. Some people move efficiently and along a straight line while others seem to swing their legs out wide around the hip. Some people take long over-reaching, slow strides while others take short quick strides. It is very interesting to observe.

It was a good night and a few of us went for beers afterwards (always appreciated) however it is now 10:43 pm and I am back in the office as we have problems with some of the DB servers… so I’m here to kick them back into line.


Washing The Track and Spinning My Legs


Last night’s track work out was very difficult. Not just because my legs are a little tired from the weekends activities, but also because it rained very, very hard. Thunder started right at the end of the session but the rain was that thick splatty rain that drenches you. Fortunately I knew about it in advance and took my goretex cycling jacket to keep me mostly dry. Only four people turned up if that’s a measure of how wet it was. It gave the track a good clean though.

The routine for the evening was 400@1 mile race pace, 200 recovery, 2x 200 @1 mile pace with 200 recovery. Then all of this was repeated three times.

This morning I went out for a gentle 4.6 miler just to spin out my legs a little. It was quite hard going and I didn’t really ever feel like I got going properly. Plus, my Brooks Dyad 7 shoes were rubbing on my left ankle.

Today the they are breaking ground on a new pedestrian bridge in Valley Forge Park; Sullivan’s Bridge. This will replace the current ramshackle wooden bridge that hangs on the side of the road bridge. It is narrow, dangerous and constantly has planks missing from the flooring so it will be good to get rid of this. The trails around here are really heavily used and providing a connector to the main park will be a big improvement. Hurrah as this is part of my cycle commute route.

We Are All Superheroes.


We are all superheroes and you should remember that. We get out of bed at stupid o’clock regardless of the weather and mood, and we do our thing. KickAss.

The Super Burtons were out in the neighbourhood last night protecting candy from the forces of evil. My daughter had a whale of a time and we have a ton of candy. I thought that might help supercharge my track workout today. No such luck.

The elements gathered against me for although it was a balmy 65F, it was raining and there was a very gusty wind. The problem with track workouts is that if there’s a wind from any direction you’ll end up running into it at some point on each lap. Today it was in the long back straight. I hadn’t realised how much that can affect your time.

There were other confounding factors today too. I received my new Nike+ sensor yesterday and tried to attach it to my non-Nike shoes. It came off on a ‘fast’ lap (#13) and I had to stop to pick it up which also stopped it sensing correctly. Boo. Plus, it doesn’t seem to hook up to my mapmyrun application which is a little frustrating as now I have to start Nike+, mapmyrun and then tap-a-lap. Ridiculous.

I warmed up over the first four laps (8:35 pace), first fast was 6:25, two recovery laps (8:57, 8:34), next fast at 6:22 Then I tried to cover my phone from the rain and accidentally pressed the lap button early (grr) but the average over the two recovery laps was 8:32. The next fast lap was 6:31 followed by two more recovery laps (8:54, 8:22). The next was supposed to be a fast lap but my Nike+ sensor came off my shoe, so I did two more slow laps (8:11, 8:13) and finished with a final blast at 6:12.

All in all an eventful run with weather and tech challenges. I still enjoyed it though.

You may also notice that I increased the distance for my track work to four miles rather than the previous 3.25. This distance will give me more of a challenge especially as I start to make the high intensity sections two laps long (‘Yasso’ 800 metre sprints).

Track Blast 5K

I wanted to see how I was progressing with my speed work because the last few slow runs have been a little disappointing.

So rather than doing an interval run I chose to do a track blast. Basically trying to run a 5k at race pace/conditions.

I managed to run four laps straight at a consistent 7:00-7:10 range, then sped up a little for the next five laps at 6:55-7:00 pace. At this point I had to take a half lap walk as I was shot and had no power left in the tank. After that brief respite I powered through the last three and a half laps at 7:07, 6:47 and 6:16 pace.

I ran a total of 3.25 miles (slightly over 5k) in 23:19. Not too shabby. I clearly need to do some more work on how long I can go at that pace which was more a mental battle than anything else.

I held good form throughout but forgot my heart monitor strap so I have no stats on that.

At least I feel a little better about my overall pace now which will spur me on for the next week of running.

Come on Legs, Move!

Friday is track intervals day and I was slow out of bed. This means that I end up getting gassed out by all the school buses as they start out for the day because the depot is behind the sports track.

Today I decided to try returning to my normal approach for intervals and just try to go all out for the very first lap. I nearly always find this gives me the fastest lap times even without warm ups. Odd, huh? I also ran with my heart monitor to see what ranges I hit during the fast laps.

The first lap was indeed the fastest with an equivalent pace of 5:37. Nice. I then ran a recovery (8:20), a moderate (6:53), another recovery (8:22), then a fast lap (6:05). After this I ran a recovery and then 6 normal pace laps as I was out of juice. I could not find any energy for my legs at all. My final lap was an all out attack and all I could muster was a 6:00 pace.

Despite my best efforts I am still losing weight and I think that’s why my I couldn’t get any more energy to my legs. Being mainly in the anaerobic threahold zone I guess my glycogen stores were low.

My heart rate maxed out at 181 which is about 93% of max. I was concentrating on proper form and pulling my legs through, but not too much on pushing back. I need to work on those muscles a little more, I think. My foot strike and body position was good and I was glad that the other people on the track let me breeze past and moved out a lane or two.

Here is the data from mapmyrun for HR and pace. I think it is interesting to see these two side by side as you can see where the increase in pace directly affects heart rate.

20130906-142454.jpgI’m pretty happy with the way the run went and 23:55 for 3.25 miles is quite a good time. I can do better though…

On the Right Track?

Now it is time to start varying my workouts. One of my favourites is going to the local high school track and running intervals.

I tend to target just over a 5k run (3.25 miles). That’s 13 laps and generally find that my first lap out from cold is my fastest. I would run hard, over-reaching strides with heel landings that were sometimes sub-six minutes, followed with intervals at my normal 8:30 pace.

For my visit today I was keen to ensure that I didn’t slip into any of my old bad habits, so I ran four laps (1 mile) as a warm up around my current favourite pace of 7:03. Then I did a fast lap ensuring that I didn’t let my form slip. I clocked a solid 6:32 then switched back to the slower pace of 7:07 for a recovery lap. The next fast lap was at 6:42 so slightly slower, but still not too bad. Another recovery lap and then a fast lap clocking a 6:39 pace. By this point I was burnt out so I chose to do a walking recovery for the next lap. The walk was a 12:32 pace which isn’t exactly slow but was a very welcome break. It was then time to kick it back up and I got a 6:29. One more recovery lap at 7:49 (too slow) and then the final lap. This was a go for it lap and I pulled a 6:15 out of the bag! Very happy.

My technical focus during the run was on foot strike, pushing my legs backwards and trying to increase my stride length without over-reaching. I could actually feel the difference from the techniques I’ve been using and I noticed that rotating my hips forward and leading with my belly also made a big difference to the feel for the fast laps.

Running at a track is a good place to work on technique and on intervals because it is really easy to see when you need to start and stop the different sections, and you can see what’s coming up and focus on your finish lines. Using the lines on the track to mark when you should accelerate a little more to try and keep your lap average high is also useful. Using a simple app to track your lap count is also a good idea and one less thing to try and keep track of.

I really am enjoying this new running style and my new level of engagement with my runs. It is good to feel so involved and not like I am just a passenger along for the ride.

Plus, it was a beautiful morning today so I took a quick snap on the walk into the track.