Project RFP: Weeks 9 to 12

Another mixed 4 weeks of training with a lot of good happening  before illness scuppered these four weeks from being great. Project Relentless Forward Progress is now over half way through and like any other training block I’ve ever done it has had its ups and downs. There are many things I have enjoyed about the using ‘Relentless Forward Progress’ as a guide though, there is something comforting about knowing what is coming up week by week, and further ahead if you care to look that far. But also something comforting about having a framework to work from and adjust or move around as necessary. I will write more about the book and the plan I have used at the end of the project.

Week 9 (July 30th – August 5th) (57km Planned – 57.6km Completed)

I started Week 9 with an extra rest day rolling on from a really tough Week 8. When I got moving on Wednesday my legs felt heavy but I was glad to be out and moving again. Thursday’s run saw we back to form and goes to show that fitness doesn’t just disappear overnight!

The weekend brought two awesome runs for two different reasons. It was a really hot weekend and I started out early on Saturday morning with my friend Sean who I had agreed to run long with earlier in the week. The plan was to head out and to hit some hills and move at a reasonable pace for a few hours:

A long run worthy of the name! I’m really glad I’d asked Sean earlier in the week if he wanted to head out for a run today (I wasn’t glad when he suggested an 0830 start).

It’s really turned me around after last weekend’s tiredness related meltdown. Sean is doing Barkley Fall Classic in September so he was looking for some climbs and a steady pace and I was happy to oblige using one of my favourite out and back routes from Dunstable Downs to Ivinghoe Beacon. We hit the downhill hard and fast hiked the uphills.

I felt good for the majority of the run but definitely didn’t drink enough water which meant I struggled a little over the last 8km or so. All in all a really enjoyable long run with good company and fantastic weather. Looking forward to racing on some of this route during Dunstable Downs Challenge Marathon on September 2nd!

Sunday was great because early in the week Sarah had said she would like to go for her longest run with me:

A hugely enjoyable run with Sarah. She said earlier this week she would like to run 10km at Ashridge so I offered the Monument to Ivinghoe Beacon out and back route and she accepted!

Really proud that Sarah ran all the runnable sections and fast hiked the ups. My quads were feeling the downs after yesterday’s long run which focused on hitting the downhills hard. I ran off the top of the Beacon and back up to Sarah as she made her way day. Same again for the big hill leading back into Ashridge about 1km from the top of the Beacon.

We finished the run and then had a picnic and cold alcohol free beer in the woods afterwards.

A pretty perfect Sunday afternoon in my book!

After the storm of Week 8, I could not have asked for a better Week 9 and I anticipated much more of the same from Week 10.

Week 10 (August 6th – August 12th) (81.3km Planned – 76.2km Completed)

I reached the half way point of the project feeling stronger and fitter than I have for quite some time. Although my weekly mileage has fluctuated throughout the project I don’t seem to be feeling any adverse effects from this.

The positives from Project Relentless Forward Progress so far are:

  • I have rediscovered consistency in my training
  • I am back to running predominantly on trails
  • I am less focused on goals and race outcomes, and more focused on enjoying the process leading to their potential attainment
  • I have taken to running in the morning on some days, something that until this project began was anathema to me
  • I have enjoyed training in the company of others, another thing that I pretty well avoided where possible until this project kicked off

The list above is pretty representative of Week 10 as I went out in the morning twice during the week and ran with some friends on Sunday. The standout run for me, however, was my solo trail effort on Sunday after Saturday’s 4 hour, +1000m time on feet effort. For some reason on Sunday afternoon I decided the time had come to turnover my legs and get moving. I went out to cover two 5k laps from my front door, laps that comprise largely of uneven ground with some road sections. I was really pleased to feel so comfortable moving quijcky over the rough ground on both laps and I found myself able to push on the short downhill tarmac section on each lap. Granted, I started to feel the hurt at about 7km but I knew the end was in sight so did my best to keep my head focused on my legs and my pace, and not the suffering! Considering I haven’t done any focused speed workouts since about April I was very happy with 19:51 for the first lap and 40:38 for the second.

As I was feeling so positive I decided to enter a local trail marathon which would take place at the end of Week 11.

Week 11 (August 13th – August 19th) (72.9km Planned – 68.3km Completed)

I took this week pretty easy with a couple of slower runs and a weight vest hike with the knowledge I would be running a marathon on the Sunday! In the end I opted to run 3 Laps instead of 4 at Leila’s Run and surprised myself by actually winning the 3 Lap race, thus registering my first ever race win. There was no fanfare, no trophy and I only found out I won after checking the results on Monday but as many people have a told me since, a win is a win (even if there were only 12 people in the race you won)!

I entered Leila’s Run on a whim last Sunday so I am really pleased with the result. I had originally intended to run the 4 Lap marathon but half way through Lap 3 I made the decision to save something for Dunstable Challenge Trail Marathon in 2 weeks time.

A major contribution to my decision to stop at 3 Laps was also my stomach! It doesn’t seem to be on top form today, that’s for sure. I needed to go about 4 or 5 times before the race, once during and immediately afterwards so I’m glad I fuelled with Shot Bloks and not gels today. I am currently sitting at home feeling a bit under the weather!

Lap 1:
The race started whilst I was in the toilet so I spent the first 3km running through the field and picking up my pace! Finished the first lap in 1st place of the 3 Lap race and second in the marathon. (x1 Shot Blok)

Lap 2:
I felt pretty good all things considered and settled into my own rhythm. The race is run not far from home so I enjoyed moving over familiar ground. I practiced a lot of positive self talk which turned out to be very helpful as with about 3km to go on the lap I started to really need the toilet again! Finished the lap still in the lead of 3 Laps and still in 2nd place of the marathon but I had to stop to take a toilet break. (x1 Shot Blok)

Lap 3:
I started what would be my final lap leading the 3 Laps, but unsure of my position in the marathon. About halfway through the lap I decided not to go out on Lap 4 and to take this as a decent long speed session before Dunstable Challenge Trail Marathon in 2 weeks. I dropped a place in the marathon with about 800m to go until my finish and crossed the line to be told I had finished 3rd in the 3 Lap race. (x2 Shot Bloks)

FINISH: 31.5km, 2h28m, Winner.

(I found out I won the 3 Lap race on Monday night having checked the results page!)

My legs felt pretty good at the finish but my lower back was hurting and as I mentioned above my stomach wasn’t (and still isn’t) 100%. I’ll take this one as a good indicator of fitness though because I did pretty well and felt particularly strong on the uphill sections.

A lovely race, very well organised and low key with a friendly atmosphere and competitive racing if you want it!

Week 12 (August 20th – August 26th) (80.2km Planned – 37.5km Completed)

Week 12 started really well but then it began to fade through Wednesday as I felt a cold coming on.

I started on Tuesday with a mid-week long run to meet Sarah at the gym as I have done every Tuesday of this Project (and will continue to after the Project). Along the way it was clear that Autumn is approaching. The trails that cross some of the farmer’s fields have been ploughed over and the fields themselves have been ploughed almost to the  edge. This got me to thinking about my next running and writing project during the run as I often find I need some extra motivation through the cold and dark months – more on that when it gets colder and darker though!

Wednesday morning saw me running and this will become a regular thing as I have changed my working hours so that I can study for an ILM Leadership Award. This should be the case up to the end of January and I’m looking forward to having that as part of my winter motivation! I started out easy and kept it that way for the most part. The feeling of strength in my legs and body was wonderful and I was running with a clear mind. The clear mind was a surprise considering the fact that I know the running becomes much slower and involves a lot more muscle groups from this point onward, given the condition of the fields and trails I run on! I thought I would give the fitness a little early morning test with about a kilometre to go and took 4 seconds off my own Strava CR that approaches my house on a steep gradient.

As Wednesday wore on I began to notice I wasn’t feeling 100%. I developed a headache late in the morning and my throat felt quite sore by mid-afternoon. There have been a few people at work carrying colds and I am usually quite resilient and don’t easily pick them up, but this time it seems I wasn’t so lucky. I worked until 1900hrs and then went to meet Sarah for a 10km run around the Herts 10k course, as we had planned earlier in the day. I had been looking forward to the run all day and, unsurprisingly, I enjoyed running the course with Sarah and talking about the pros and cons of potentially running the race together in August. As the run went on I did feel my throat starting to become drier and my muscles felt much more sore than they should have, but I figured it would be nothing a good night of sleep wouldn’t solve.

Alas, a good night of sleep did not solve my cold. Thursday was pretty crap and I spent half the day in the office, and the other working from home. Friday, I felt even worse but spent all day at the office as I wanted to go into the long weekend with a clear ‘To Do’ list! It was obvious to me on Thursday evening that I would likely have to either severely curtail my weekend mileage or cancel training altogether, and by Friday evening I made the decision to cancel my planned runs for the weekend.

I am writing this on Monday of Week 13. A rest day in the plan, but one I would have taken anyway to clear the remnants of this cold had it not been. It is unfortunate that this came along when it did as it has eaten into my consistency, but as I mentioned above, fitness doesn’t just disappear and I know as the week ahead progresses I’ll feeling back up to scratch. Sunday of Week 13 I have a pretty tough trail marathon and I will see how I feel before deciding whether to race it, or whether to treat it as a long training run!

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