Project RFP

A new project for 26.2 & Beyond…

What?

As of Tuesday 5th June I will be following a 20 week training plan adapted from Bryon Powell’s ‘Relentless Forward Progress‘ 50 mile per week 50k training plan.

Bryon’s plan is normally 24 weeks but for first 4 I was in India and I’d already signed up to a 50k in October so it fits quite well.

The adaption to the plan comes from slightly increased mileage during some weeks as I will be running a trail 50k in Week 5 and a trail marathon in Week 9 and if I get off the wait list a 50 miler in Week 14. Additionally some of the mid-week speed work will be done during the Mid-Week Road Race League that I am part of, running for Watford Joggers.

I will aim to post progress updates for Weeks 1-4, Weeks 5-8, Weeks 9-12, Weeks 13-16 and Weeks 17-20.

Why?

I have put together my own training plans before now and when I first started out I totally winged it by trial and error! During my last Project I decided to take on a coach and that worked out quite well – I nabbed a number of road PRs but I didn’t feel that being coached was for me.

Therefore, seeking a new challenge, I thought I’d try something I have never done before. Namely, following a fixed training plan from a book or web source. For me, there was only one plan to turn to once I’d committed to running the Kings Forest 50k and that was ‘Relentless Forward Progress’.

I’ve had Bryon Powell’s book since 2013 but only very recently did I begin to look at the plans within closely. I have admired iRunFar and Bryon’s writing and adventures for a long time so I figured I would give one of his training plans a whirl, albeit with some fairly major adjustments.

The main goal for this project is to improve my 50k PR at Kings Forest. My current PR stands at 5:13 which was set at Country to Capital 45 way back in 2015 – I know I can significantly improve that time at a standalone 50k race. Kings Forest is just such a race. The course is pretty flat, on a looped crushed gravel and dirt trail which is perfect for an attempt! In addition, I would also like to improve my time at Chiltern 50k in July and Thames Meander in August as I have raced both before, and not very intelligently!

When?

June 7th – Mid-Week Road Race League 10k (Royston)

June 20th – Mid-Week Road Race League 10k (Welwyn)

June 27th – Mid-Week Road Race League 10k (Harlow)

July 12th – Mid-Week Road Race League 10k (Welwyn)

July 14th – Chiltern 50k

August 11th – Thames Meander Marathon

September 15th – Chiltern Wonderland 50 (on wait list)

October 20th – King’s Forest 50k

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Project Road Runner: conclusion

I set out to better my road racing PRs and aside from missing out on 5k,  5 miles and 10k I have set personal bests at 10 miles (1:04:56), Half Marathon (1:28:06) and Marathon (3:16:49). Project Road Runner is now officially complete!

I am extremely pleased with all of those results – significant improvements! I am sure that 5k, 5 miles and 10k will follow at some point in the future – I just couldn’t find space in my racing schedule for those distances without them impacting on my overall goal of a marathon PR.

What did I learn?

Well, I learned that unless I really love something I struggle to engage fully in the process. I found it very difficult to do the necessary longer and faster road runs required throughout the winter and longed for my usual winter trail and treadmill efforts. But with that being said I think I may have also learned I could be able to run faster at an Autumn or early Winter marathon. If I set a race goal in that period I could train through the Spring and Summer months which would be far more enjoyable because during this time I don’t mind running track, road or trail; I just love being outside.

I also learned that maybe being coached isn’t for me. I thank my coach for teaching me a lot about myself and some more about eating and drinking the right amounts during training and racing but I really missed being able to set my own schedule. A lot of people say that having a coach helps them to feel more accountable to something other than themselves but for me, honestly, I think it became another source of perceived authority to rebel against. I had wanted to try and train for a sub-3 hour marathon in April and then continue into some fast 70.3 triathlon training and my coach was aware of that. From October 2017 my training looked so much more different than I was used to – it knocked my confidence which in turn threw my consistency. The learning I took from this is that although I enjoyed the multi-sport races I did with my own cobbled together ‘training’ prior to being coached, I did not enjoy the routine and feel of actual triathlon training. It basically boiled down to ‘I’m a runner and I want to run – lofty triathlon goals be damned!’. So, those lofty triathlon goals have been damned and I may or may not race a 70.3 in September (I’m entered but  may DNS or drop down to Standard distance).

The Project has given me the confidence in my speed over shorter distances and I think that it will translate well now I’m heading back to trails and ultras. I will still race shorter road races and in August I have a flat trail marathon planned and then November a relatively flat 50k planned. The focus after Project Road Runner is to get back into some consistency with my run training, I am very much looking forward to following a loosely structured program but with no external oversight other than my Strava friends and myself!

It is a strange conclusion to the project as I thought I would find myself in the best shape I’d ever been in but I really don’t. Yes, I’ve set some decent PRs but if anything I feel quite unfit at the moment! This is probably down to my lack of consistency – I’ve weighed myself and I’m no heavier than usual, my resting HR is pretty much averaging out the same but there is some sort of innate confidence that is missing. I know this will return and I hope it returns sooner rather than later!

However, before I get back to training consistently, I have 20 days in India to look forward to! Sarah and I fly out to Amritsar on May 3rd and we’ll be back home on May 24th. Until then I wish you all happy running.

Project Road Runner: update

For those that don’t know, Project Road Runner is my road running break from trail ultras. The why and wherefore can be found by clicking here.

With 4 days to go until the Finchley 20, 31 days to go until the Brighton Marathon and 45 days to go until the Flitwick 10k the Project is nearing its end! It’s been a bumpy ride for sure. I lost sight of the process and then lost my mojo for quite a while so my training hasn’t been very consistent since Christmas but the positives are there. I have learned a lot about myself and what truly motivates me and I have tried new training methods and this has actually led to some good results and a few PRs along the way.

I will go into more detail when I write the Project Road Runner Roundup a few days after the Flitwick 10k and then I’m flying off to India for most of May and a well earned break from any kind of structure – either at work, at home or at play (let’s face it, running for most of us is play)!

For those interested, I have kept the parameters the same – all new PRs need to be set at races and I’ve improved my 10 mile and Half Marathon times twice! I had wanted to go for my 5 Mile and 5k PRs too during this time but I scrapped that idea as I didn’t want to burn out by over training and/or over racing. The only two left to fall are my Marathon and 10k PRs!

Here is a snapshot of the PRs set during the Project so far:

 

10 Miles:

Start of the Project: 1:07:12 (Training, June 8th 2016)

1:05:14 (Ricky Road Run, October 29th 2017)

1:04:56 (Buntingford Year End 10, December 31st 2017)

Half Marathon:

Start of the Project: 1:28:43 (St. Albans Half Marathon, June 11th 2017)

1:28:41 (Hertfordshire Half Marathon, November 19th 2017)

1:28:06 (Watford Marathon, February 4th 2018)

I will close this short update with the two PRs that are currently in my sights:

Marathon:

Start of the Project: 3:19:10 (Frankfurt Marathon, October 26th 2014)

Goal: Initially I set the lofty goal of 2:55 but judging by how I feel at the moment and where my fitness is I will be happy with 3:15 and surprised by anything better than that!

10k:

Start of the Project: 37:50 (Bushey 10k, July 6th 2014)

Goal: This is my longest standing PR and one I still look at and wonder ‘How?!’. I will be happy to shave even a second off this and I’d be equally happy to run under 39:00! We will see how it pans out on the day.

Desire

Sarah and I went for an unexpectedly soaking wet, freezing cold hike on the blustery downs of Dunstable yesterday.

The hike in itself was unexpected as I had intended to race the Fred Hughes 10 Mile road race in the morning. However, that was not meant to be.  I registered a DNS for no other reason than the desire to race was not there when I woke up. This is highly unusual. I had a terrible night of sleep – worse than the usual pre-race broken sleep kind of thing, I had some strange dreams that I kept dropping in and out of  and my stomach was causing me some difficulty. When my alarm went off at 0645 I was already awake and had been for some time. I didn’t feel wonderful but I got out of bed at 0700 and began to half heartedly prepare to race as I normally would.

After some time moping around my house, trying to be quiet so not to wake Sarah I realised I had accomplished little by way of pre-race preparation – I hadn’t made a coffee, I hadn’t started porridge, I hadn’t showered. I had, however, walked in and out of each room in my house just enough times to register that I couldn’t shake the feeling that I shouldn’t be racing. For the first time ever on a race morning the desire wasn’t there – the only time I’ve come close to this was the Ox Ultra in May 2015 and TDS in August 2016 and both of those were also down to stomach problems and sleep issues – I still managed to go through my pre-race routine and make it the start line of both (and the finish line of one).

In the end I tried to gee myself up until about 0845 but I gave up when I came to the realisation that racing wasn’t going to happen. I packed up my gear, drank some water and went back to bed. Mentally I didn’t feel great but within 15 or 20 minutes I was asleep and didn’t wake again until 1215. When I woke up I knew I’d made the right decision because I didn’t have a heavy heart and my mind wasn’t shouting at me – I felt rested and I looked forward to sharing the day with Sarah. I lay in bed for some time in the peace and quiet and tried to make sense of the loss of desire. I came to a conclusion:

  • I like running fast on the road, but my heart and mind desire the trail
  • I am still recovering from illness so I’m not feeling 100% physically – I need rest (I made this conclusion based on the fact I slept until 1230 the day before too!)

I felt indifferent to having missed the race and felt, as I mentioned above, happy that I would get to spend some quality time with Sarah without having to dedicate some or all of the day to my sometimes all consuming lifestyle. I do hope that this DNS and loss of desire is just a blip, in fact I am as certain as you can be that it is. Whilst coming to my conclusion I thought about a lot of factors and in addition to the points raised above I do feel that racing Fred Hughes could have been one race too many with Watford Half Marathon, Round 5 of the cross country season and the National Cross Country Championships all coming up in February!

Project Road Runner is still underway and I’ve now reset and refocused on the goal of running a PR at Brighton Marathon and taking down some other road PRs whilst I’m at it.

As for the unexpected hike – the wind chill factor made all the difference, making our faces and hands turn numb very quickly. Meanwhile the rain fell harder and the ground grew softer, thus the going got tougher! Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed myself even though I really should invest in some GoreTex trail shoes and vapour barrier socks – my socks were soaked and my feet were very sore, as they usually are if they inevitably get wet during hikes at this time of year. I’m not sure that Sarah was enamoured with the surroundings, but the edge was softened when we met some pigs and cows along the route.

As the darkness closed in, the wind grew stronger and the rain fell harder there were a few certainties: my desire for the trail was no less dampened, my heart had soared, my smile broadened and my mind had relaxed with each step!

2018 Goals & Resolutions

I’m going to keep this short, sweet and simple! Below are the things I would like to achieve by the end of 2018 in life and in sport:

Endurance Sports

  1. Finish every race I start
  2. Win a race or podium (I say this every year…)
  3. Improve my road marathon PR
  4. Race and finish a 70.3 Triathlon
  5. Start and finish a 100 mile Sportive

Life

  1. Advocate for the vegan/tee-total lifestyle
  2. Enjoy the experience of India in May!
  3. Start a personal trainer, fitness instructor or coaching course

Thanks & Praise

There are many things I love about being an endurance addict, and there are many things I love about endurance sports and adventures. One thing that I think worth mentioning is the plethora of blogs that are available to runners, cyclists, swimmers, triathletes and hikers of long and arduous distances!

As much as I like writing my own blog and planning my own adventures and race calendars, I really enjoy reading about how other people go about their own racing and planning. There is a lot to be gained from reading about a race or an adventure from the perspective of somebody else – inspiration, guidance and entertainment being a few reasons to take the time to look around and see what’s out there.

Below is a list of blogs I read fairly regularly. Obviously there are the usual outlets for commentary and news – Trail Runner, iRunFarAltitude, IMTalk, OxygenAddict, Ultrarunnerpodcast.com, TalkUltra – but this list is a little more grassroots. There are a smattering of professionals, some semi-professionals and amateurs like myself but all have something different to offer. Thanks to everybody on the list for putting their thoughts down and publishing, all of you have inspired or informed me in one way or another over the years!

John Burton (http://runningjohn.blogspot.co.uk/)

Hi, my name is John Burton. Software product manager by morning, ultra runner by mid-afternoon. If I’m not half-asleep on some conference call you can find me out on the trails tearing it up. Or slogging it out. Or just sitting on a comfortable rock in the sun catching my breath. It’s all good.

Dane Rauschenburg (http://danerunsalot.blogspot.co.uk/)

Both knowledge and experience, when not shared, are wasted.

Jon Fielden (https://www.jonfielden.com/)

I ran my first hundred mile race in 2014 (the Winter 100), my second one in 2015 (South Downs Way 100) and my third one in 2016 (Samphire 100). I loved and hated all of them in equal measure but for some reason I keep going back.

Jill Homer (http://www.jilloutside.com/)

Hello! I’m Jill, a freelance writer and editor living in the forested foothills above Boulder, Colorado. I’m an avid cyclist, hiker, and trail runner who tries to squeeze at least a small adventure into every day. Being outside and on the move is my passion.

John Kelly (http://www.randomforestrunner.com/)

I’m the husband to an incredible wife, the proud father of three kids (a son plus younger boy/girl twins), and have an English Shepherd named Dixie who’s too smart for her own good. I work as a data scientist at a startup in DC to support that family, and I run, bike, and hike to support my ability to do that day job with a clear mind. Oh, and I swim, but only because I like to race and challenge myself and triathlon was a natural extension from the running and biking.

Giles Thurston (http://ultrarun.in)

While I have raced in and enjoyed big races such as half marathons and triathlons over the years, I have found the high numbers of athletes involved make these events feel a little claustrophobic, taking the edge off the overall experience for me. Over time this, combined with my love of both mountains and running in general, has slowly drawn me towards trail running and ultra running.

Stephanie Case (https://ultrarunnergirl.com/)

I’m a Canadian human rights lawyer who discovered ultrarunning nine years ago and now my closet is filled with running shoes, rather than high heels!  To steal from one of my favourite running novels, I run to ‘seek the void’.

Phil Collard (https://philcollard1290.wordpress.com/)

I could ramble on here about my potted history involving cancer, two occasions of being told that I may never walk again, a hip replacement and an unlikely Ironman finish in Sweden or…

Jade Belzberg (http://www.jadebelzberg.com)

Writer, trail runner and MFA candidate. A native of British Columbia but currently residing in San Diego, Jade has been writing since the age of five, when she began recording her family’s travels and RV trips in a collection of journals.

Cody Beals (http://www.codybeals.com)

The objective of this blog is to document the slow, often challenging process of transforming myself into a world class professional triathlete. Too often, we only hear about an athlete’s successes, while their struggles, insecurities and screw-ups don’t get the same billing. It’s all part of the learning process and I haven’t shied away from sharing my highs as well as my lows, like overcoming mental health issues, overtraining and insomnia. In being so open, I hope to demystify elite development and help athletes of all levels learn from my experience.

Sam Pearce (https://thefootpathlesstravelled.wordpress.com/)

I play the French Horn for a living. Weird, huh, but someone’s gotta do it. I’m British. I’m from the countryside, but live in the city. I love to run off road. And cycle, and play cricket, and golf. And yes, I love to play the French Horn too, which is pretty neat for me as I get to do it for my job. But mostly I love running.

Derek Cross (http://longtri.blogspot.co.uk/)

Why do I do this crazy thing called Triathlon? Well because I enjoy it of course. I love the training. Okay, sometimes not the running, but everything else. I love the challenge, pushing myself, getting better, pushing again. I guess you could say I am a little addicted to that side of it. And while it has taken me a while to accept it, I love the racing too. I still tie myself in knots with nerves, but once that gun goes, the mind focuses and I am in my element. Really it is as simple as that.

Zach Bitter (https://zachbitter.com)

Endurance athlete and coach. Driven to find his limitations in a variety of environments and help others find theirs. Loves the trials of the journey as much as the result.

Stephanie Jackson-Horner (https://sjacksonhorner.wordpress.com/)

Everything I do is due to pure 100% love of it and giving things ago, you never know what you can do until you try and you often surprise yourself.

 

Once in a while I might add to my endurance library. Click here to see the latest.

I also like to hear about blogs I may not yet have come across so please feel free to contact me or comment below.

2017 in Review

The annual review of the year past from the ‘26.2 & Beyond’ perspective.

Overview

A tough year in many ways as I struggled in January and February with injury that led to me pulling out of Country to Capital (DNF) and TransGranCanaria (DNS). This led on to some questions and searching – do I want race ultras, do I still have the drive to train for anything, what shall I do, should I go back to road races?

The searching led to answers and I decided I’d take a break from ultras after one last redemptive shot to get over the ultra DNFs and DNS that plagued me from August 2016 to February 2017 – I ran North Downs Way 50 in May, and finished, and from there I trained up to and successfully through the Lakeland 50.

After Lakeland I began to look into diversifying into triathlon, duathlon, aquathlon and some short(er) distance road racing and committed to bettering my marathon and short distance road PRs between August 2017 and May 2018. I also committed to actually achieving my 2016 resolution racing a triathlon, duathlon and aquathlon in 2017!

The second half of the year, although exciting in terms of treading a new path was personally very difficult with anxiety, stress, depression and some family issues combining leading to some inconsistent training, struggles at work and a desire to hide away from the world for a while. Thankfully this has all subsided now as I’ve done a lot of positive work to redress the balance – work is good again, I don’t feel depressed and thanks to some counselling and the fellowship of AlAnon I don’t feel overly anxious and sometimes so alone anymore!

Best Race(s)

North Downs Way 50 and St. Albans Half Marathon

The NDW50 was great return to actually finishing an ultra! I ran almost exactly the same time as I did for SDW50 back in 2015 – I initially thought I was on for a personal best by quite a margin but it wasn’t to be as my watch recorded a greater distance as I was moving around Aid Stations! Alas, I ran a solid effort and hiked hard on the uphills and managed to a get a good rhythm and tempo on the runnable sections. It was great to have Sarah out on the course too and it was a beautiful spring day for running.

The St. Albans Half Marathon was amazing as I went into it with no real expectation – I was running it as I ran it as my first half marathon five years ago and I figured I’d see if I’d made much improvement since then! Apparently I’ve made quite a lot – I ran 1:38 in 2012 and in 2017 I happily ran a 1:28 in scorching heat. Sarah and her nieces were there to see me at the finish line and the little people had spent the hour prior to my finish making banners to wave when they saw me heading down the last 100m to the finish line!

Worst Race

Country to Capital

My first race of 2017 and a DNF – not the best start at all and all because I was stupid and went off way too fast! I have no idea what I was thinking but I felt great for the first 30km and then, all of a sudden, BOOM – nothing in the tank and shortly after excruciating pain in my glutes and my quads to boot. I struggled on to 43km and dropped out about a kilometre out of the aid station. It was awful turning around and walking back with my head hanging and my spirit dropping with each step. It really impacted on my running for the next couple of months and added to the mental stress of my DNF at TDS the previous August.

Country to Capital – an hour before race start

Best Moment(s)

St. Neots Sprint Triathlon and Ashridge Boundary Run

St. Neots – I did my first triathlon with very little training in September and was surprised to put in a strong open water swim before a relatively smooth transition to the bike where I held my own against people on fancier bikes and with a more seasoned pedigree in the sport! After the bike I went on a fantastic run! I ran my way up the field and in a slightly short course (4.7km) I ran 17:40, finishing 2nd in Age Group! I couldn’t have asked for a much better debut really and it cemented my love for a new found endurance pursuit.

Ashridge – This was my return to trail racing after January’s Country to Capital DNF. It’s a 16 mile run taking in some beautiful Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire scenery. 5k from the finish the course runs to the top of Ivinghoe Beacon – the highest point in Buckinghamshire. The weather wasn’t great for spectating as it was foggy and cold but to my surprised this hadn’t bothered Sarah who’d hiked to the top to cheer me on! That little cheer and wave sped me along to the finish where, lo and behold, I found Sarah again waiting to cheer me in.

Ashridge Boundary Run 2017

Worst Moment

It was difficult travelling to Gran Canaria in February. I had hoped to be racing the 82km race at TGC but my fitness was not up to it and, honestly, neither was my mental strength. We went down to the race expo nonetheless and I picked up my race pack just in case I had some mad cap idea to actually start the thing the next day! On the drive back to our finca it became apparent, in my head at least, that I wouldn’t be racing and this was confirmed that evening when I opted not to set a pre-race alarm and we slept in before heading out onto the course to provide some moral support to a friend racing the 125k race.

Favourite Run

In June I headed to Devon and Cornwall to race the North Devon Trail Marathon – the race went well – hard work, difficult conditions but a good race.

North Devon Trail Marathon – 18 miles done

After the race we headed with our camping gear down into Cornwall and there began the rain! A lot of rain for almost the entire week we were there. However, it didn’t dampen our spirits and we had a great time in the beauty of the south west.

My best run was, funnily enough, out in the driving rain at Grogley Wood, near Bodmin in Cornwall – extremely runnable dirt tracks, deep silent woods and steep descents made for awesome trail running, allied with the rain it also meant I had the trails to myself! To top it off there was a 1 mile road section to get there and back from our camp site and this made for both fast and dirty running!

Favourite Kit

Adidas Adizero Boost Boston 6

Taking on ‘Project Road Runner’ I realised I was going to need some new road shoes. My Adidas Adizero Adios Boost from 2014 just wouldn’t cut the high mileage! I had a close look at some New Balance and some Asics but in the end I went for another pair of Adidas as I knew exactly what size I’d need and I knew I loved my Adios Boost.

When they arrived I could run in them straight from the box and they were responsive, fast, comfortable and had just the right amount of cushioning meaning I could race and train in them. I wasn’t expecting to take to road running with ease after years of predominantly running trail but I very much think these shoes helped with the transition. I’ve also found them to be quite sturdy and usable on groomed and packed trails – I’d be tempted to try them at a 50k and possibly even a 50 miler if it was in summery conditions! I can’t recommend them enough.