Sunday, July 07, 2024

Result! Didn't Get Soaked

It's been a week of very easy training ahead of today's race, the Fan y Big fell race. I knew it was going to be a tough test - and it didn't disappoint. The forecast was for rain throughout the race, which started midday. That rain didn't really materialise. The sun even made an appearance. The wind on the way out was pretty strong in gusts but I'd take that over continuous rain any day.

I was happy with my race. I ran a good amount of the ascent, which kicked in after about 500m out from the start and didn't stop until the high point at about 7km, climbing some 600+m at an average grade of 9.4%!. A year ago there would have been a very different ratio of running to walking so I'm really pleased about that. My long training runs have really helped my endurance and I felt strong - until the final couple of kilometres, where the pounding descent finally took its toll.      

Finished top half of the field and gained five or six places after the initial settling phase, so over all I'm very happy. Hopefully I won't be needing to descend the stairs backwards tomorrow but we'll see. Oh, and although the route was clockwise this year (first time ever) I was over 11-minutes quicker than the last time I ran it in 2019, clocking 1:47:20.

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Another KoM

I've felt a bit tired this week. Not a huge surprise as last week was a solid week. I did slightly more Zwifting than standard, including solid climb portal ride. Run-wise, I did get out for that promised 10k on Monday, a lunch run from the office Wednesday (and by heck was that ever a hot one). Yesterday I ran an unusually short (for a Saturday) 6k but did claim another KoM segment, although I only equaled the record so there is still work to be done to claim it outright. Today was a hilly 10k. I pushed the climb and was rewarded with my fastest time so far, only 35s from my heyday best so I am closing in. Not sure it's going to be a viable KoM target as I am way off the time of the top spot. Maybe top ten...

The week ahead will see me ease back as I head into the weekend as I'm back out to the Mountains for the Fan-y-Big fell race on Sunday, a testing 16.5km with 650+ metres of ascent. And it definitely will be a test. 

Saturday, June 22, 2024

More Running in the Woods

It's been a middling week with only one treadmill interval session - but it was a solid one, the ol' ladder down and up hitting 4min/km.

Friday I got out for a run in the heat of the midday sun for around 6k. I pushed pretty hard on the church lane climb KoM and claimed a PB and sixth place on the leader board but a long way back from top spot - it doesn't help that there are four downed trees to navigate, one of which you have to crawl under on your hands and knees. After that one, came the eastside climb KoM. I went for it but paced it too conservatively, leaving too much in the tank, accelerating into the finish but with too much left that I should have used sooner. It might take another couple of attempts to pace it right but I only need 4s so it will be mine....

I was back out there today, for 10k. Feeling less fresh, I never-the-less took another crack at the church lane climb. Better but still the cigar eludes me. A 22s improvement and now only 14s off top spot - the hands and knees bit doesn't help, mind. Later in the run I tried the eastside KoM again but fell short as I was knackered by that point. Still, the hill efforts are bloody good training.

Other training this week as been, three sessions on the Zwift, including one slightly more tempo, hour session. More running tomorrow and Monday, as I push the rest day out to Tuesday in the coming week.

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Back to the Intervals

It's put in some decent training over the last two weeks. After the strength and endurance work of the last few months I'm a bit ring rusty on the focused treadmill sessions. So the Tuesday before last, I was back on it with a decent enough set of 6-minute ramped efforts.

As I said the focus has been building my strength and endurance and the Zwifting (bike) has also been in cruise mode. I feel my FTP has dropped a little so it was with some surprise that I managed a 30s PB on the virtual Cheddar Gorge climb the previous Wednesday. Not gonna lie, I went for it. Out the saddle for the majority of the first half, the steeper bit. I am definitely an out the saddle grinder sort of climber vs the in the saddle faster spinner.

Last weekend, starting Friday, I ran back to back 9k tempo's and a 6k Sunday although that was more pruning than running as I cleared away the brambles and nettles from my local loop. I followed Saturday and Sunday's run with two zone 2 30-minute bike sessions.

This Tuesday it was more reps, five 1-minute sprints followed by six 3 minutes efforts. Wednesday I tried the new Zwift FTP test, which is, in essence, just a 3.5k hill grind at an average of around 10%. My legs had a bit of fatigue from Tuesdays treadmill reps so I wasn't holding my breath... but I still manage to clock 224W which is only just shy of my 227W best FTP, and well within the bounds of experimental error as these type of FTP tests are not exactly a precise science.

Up Thursday was more treadmill intervals. Short ones this time 3 blocks of five 1-minuute 'sprints' at 16kph with 30s recovery. Yesterday was a solid 45 minute Zwift and today, a 13k zone 2/3 run as my Garmin keeps shouting at me that I don't have enough 'low aerobic' runs logged. It's hard running slow, and when it's hilly the slow is easy but the zone 2 becomes hard as I'm not dropping to a walk - zone 2 be damned.

Hopefully, it'll be 10k-ish tomorrow and then back on the reps Tuesday after feet up Monday.

Saturday, June 01, 2024

Twenty Four

The focus over the last month has been building distance, culminating in today's hilly 24km with 540m ascent. The last few k were hard work but through twenty I felt good and I'm definitely stronger on the hills. There's still a way to go but I'm definitely noticing that I'm able to keep running further up the hills before they claims me as victim.

Next week I'll be switching back to some focused interval sessions, while maintaining the strength I've gained on those longer runs. Hopefully, with my improved strength and endurance I can really push out some longer speed intervals.

It's only a few weeks till my next block of races and with a bit of fine tuning I'll be ready. The block starts with a proper test at the Fan y Big fell race, followed closely by the Blaisdon 10k (road) and rounding things out, the Waun Fach fell race. 

Saturday, May 18, 2024

The Killing Fields of Ley Park

So it was long run day. I felt ready(ish). It was warm as I set off but soon got hot. Some like it hot - me, not so much. Anyway, I set off through Flaxley woods and out onto the road. The pace was steady. Not too slow. Not too fast. It was just about right.

Ten k in and I felt okay but I was starting to feel the sun bearing down. Today's route took me over to Northwood Green and through Ley Park woods. It was there things started to go awry. My mind wandered and I headed down the wrong footpath. Halfway across the rutted field this ragged rascal ran before I realised I'd gone the wrong way. No problem though, I knew I could carry on across and pick up a footpath in the next field to loop back and rejoin the original route. Maybe not the best decision I've ever made, as I forced my way through knee high grass. Anyway, I made it back on route and into Ley Park.

The woods afforded me some respite from the suns relentless onslaught but it was there I made my second mistake. Having not learnt the lesson of the first field, I once again deviated my route to stay in the shade of the woods a little longer but that brought me out onto even more densely grassed fields. As I crashed through the greenery my energy evaporated, and by the time I'd made it out of the fields and back onto the road I was broken. From there I jogged the 5.5k home on impulse engines, my warp engines offline, my reserves of dilithium crystals drained by those accursed fields. Still, it was another new longest long run at 21k and, as my Nepalese Guru would say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I sense some recovery Zwifting tomorrow as I watch the Giro d'Italia and like them, I too, shall be having a rest day Monday...

Saturday, May 04, 2024

Well, That Were 'Ard Work

There comes a time when you just have to head to the mountains for a fell race. The Cwmdu Fell Race. It was cracking weather. Sun shining, birds, um, making bird noises? There was even a cuckoo to be heard echoing in air. It was almost too cracking, too hot but after all the rain we've had, I'll not be grumbling. I'd been sensible enough to lather myself up - ooh matron - with sun cream.

Half a mile into the race...
I set off steady. With almost 16km to cover and 900+ metres of ascent it was not a day to be getting too carried away. The views across the entire Brecon Beacons were fantastic. Not that I was really taking them in, mind.  I was in the racing zone, focused on the task at hand. Namely, breaking two-hours without, well, breaking.

I wasn't entirely sure if I'd pull it off - here we go again - ooh matron - as I haven't been training enough at all in the mountains, and my leg strength isn't there yet when it comes to those steep ascents. But as they say in the astronautical industry, shoot for the stars, and if you're lucky, you might not blow up thirty seconds into the flight, like one of Mr. Musks rockets...

Almost at Mynydd Llangorse (and not walking!)
The first half was okay. I held it together quite well. Running out from the Mynydd Troed trig at 1:05, I thought I was quid's in. Then after the descent, my legs felt smashed, and I was far from sure. The final climb hurt bad, and my pace slowed to a crawl, the tank emptied fast. The run across the ridge and down seemed to go on for an eternity and I'd stopped looking at my watch. By that point I just wanted the pain to end.

So, to the big question - or more accurately, the answer to the big question [drum roll] - yes, I nailed it. In the end I made my lowly target look silly. Two hours? Pffft, 1hr 59mins 13secs. Don't know why I was so worried...

That's me finished - quite literally!
Totally wrecked now. There's a low no chance I'll be fit for even a gentle recovery run tomorrow. To be honest, I'm just hoping I won't be reduced to walking downstairs backwards - come on, you know we've all been reduced to that at some point...

Saturday, April 27, 2024

A Different Week

I was planning on k reps Tuesday, but I wasn't feeling it. After a new 5k time and my longest long run over the last couple of weeks I decided to defocus for a week and just do some running and Zwifting.
So, instead of the k reps I just went for a run. As I ran, I realised I was headed towards one of the Strava KoMs that's on my list to claim, so on the spur of the moment I attacked it. It goes up through the fields towards Hobbs Quary, about 1.2km and 100m of ascent. Mission accomplished, I took the KoM by 17s (and a PB by just over a minute).

The rest of the week has just been a couple of Zwifts and an easy run until today when I decided to see where my Zwift fitness is with a crack at the hour on the Alpe du Zwift - Zwift's virtual version of the classic Alpe d'Huez climb, a beast at 12km and 1040m of ascent. I've never broken the hour - until today, that is, 58 minutes 32s and a PB by just under 4 minutes and a new hour power average over what I set a few weeks. After that I put in an 8k zone3/4 on the treadmill as a recovery - and it felt surprisingly easy considering the hammering I'd taken on the virtual climb. I'll round out the week with another run tomorrow and then, after a rest day Monday, it will back into structured training once more...

Sunday, April 21, 2024


Yes, I've reached the milestone of my first 20-kilometre training run -  and it was not a flat one either, with some 500+ metres of ascent. It's a few weeks until the second anniversary of starting my comeback and the time has absolutely flown by. Progress has exceeded my expectation. I didn't think I'd ever get back to the levels of fitness I once had. I'm not there yet, mind, but I will get there...


Saturday, April 13, 2024

Parkrun Overdue but How Did I Do?

My plan to run a Parkrun once a month has panned out more like every two months. But that's okay. Fitting in the long runs, short runs, hills, intervals and Zwift isn't always easy. Training and my mojo for it, continues unabated, and my desire to go faster, longer, higher unsatiated. My interval speeds have been moving nicely upwards so I decided it was time for another Parkrun this morning, pushing my long run to tomorrow - where it will morph into a recovery run because legs won't feel up to anything more. My resting heart rate is slightly elevated which isn't surprising considering my training load and I feel a bit fatigued, but I still felt it was worth a go.

Anyway, I'll stop stalling... I had a pace in mind - or more accurately, programmed into the watch, but the focus was hitting the far point in the course inside 12:47, the time check from my previous run/PB. I ran the first kilometre slightly too hard and worked hard on the ever-ascending trail. I hit the corner 14s to the good but I'd pushed just a little too much. I did not feel I was running quickly enough on the gentle downhill, fading back from the couple of runners I was with at the top.

...but I needn't have worried, I crossed the line 21:51 for another PB, 19s to the good. So, despite feeling I wasn't going well on the way back, I still managed to grab another 5s on the downhill. It's sounds better now the PB starts 21...

The rest of the week has seen me complete two interval sessions on the treadmill, long and short intervals and a couple of Zwift sessions, an all-out hill climb effort on the simulated Col du Rosier and the other, an easy ride.

Monday, April 08, 2024

Enjoyed That...

..Wednesday night's group ride. A cracking 46km tempo group ride on Zwift. Despite being in a big group I was pushing on the front like a time trial. Two 23k laps with a decent cat 4 climb near the end of each lap - my killing ground. Despite not pushing to the absolute limit - except for the climbs where I ground it out hard each time, I still managed my 2nd best ever hour power, and that was literally only a couple of watts shy. If I knew I was so close to the power hour I'd have put the hammer down. Bodes well for my fitness.

Treadmill Tuesday was longer intervals, treadmill Thursday was a ladder of faster efforts 60s down to 150s and back up. Friday was an easy ride - albeit with my best ever 30s power sprint. After that, I was feeling a slight ache in my left achilles do I didn't go for a long run yesterday. Up today was a short - but pretty fast - run on the treadmill followed immediately by a Zwift climb portal blast. Happy to have claimed the Polka Dot Jersey on the Col du Rosier. It's not often I claim a Zwift vest so I'll take 'em when they come. 

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Longest Run of the Return

It took me a week to get over the Howling Bull race the week before last. Training last week was on the easy side although I enjoyed a solid Zwift group ride with a hill finish the Thursday before last. It was hard work to keep in the group for the first 30k. It threatened to drop me a few times, but I managed to stay on. Once at the hill, a cat 3 climb, and what I consider the strongest part of my game, that and sprinting, it was eyeballs out to the top. I reckon I was probably top 20% from the group.

There was no long run last weekend but I made up for that today with my longest run yet, 18.3km with 380m of ascent. I felt strong. My old climbing legs are, little by little, returning. I was able to grind the hills where a few months ago I would have been reduced to a walk. The rest of the week has been a mix of intervals and recovery.

And now I'm off to plan the route where I will break the twenty km barrier...

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Howling Bull Mudfest

Up Tuesday was a double header of the ol' down and up the ladder treadmill intervals. Intervals from 60s to 150s and back to 60s at fast to steadier and back to fast pace. It was straight off the treadmill into a 30 minute Zwift mass group ride where I started steady and finished hard. A good solid evening of training. Wednesday was a long day at work and I felt knackered. Thursday a Zwift interval session on the Bike. Thursday an easy 8k treadmill run - with Today's race in mind and yesterday was an easy leg turner on the bike setting me up nicely for today.

So, to today and the race, the Howling Bull Run. With it being only ten miles away I decided not to use the car and rode my bike there and back. The race itself was a total puddle filled mudfest - and I'd slipped down in it before the end of the opening field! My quick reflexes saved from a total wipeout and I survived with only the merest of contact with said mud on my left buttock.

The route was far more energy sapping than the 10k would have suggested. There was maybe 3k of solid going and the rest was a mix of slippery mud, boggy mud or totally submerged paths with about 250m of ascent - and the same of slippery AF descent. I was totally knackered by the end, trudging through the mud to the finish but you know what? It was kind of fun... Very happy with my 16th place (I think - not I think I was happy, I think I was 16th place). Best result of the return so far.

Saturday, March 09, 2024

Back Building the Long Run

After last week's snow filled long run hiatus, I was back on it today with 15½km. An off-road, uphill start (170+m of ascent) with an undulating road second half. I pushed it pretty hard and felt my lack of endurance in the last three or four kilometres, but I didn't fade off the pace much. Next week I'll be skipping the long run again as I have a race but following that, I shall be looking to go 17k.

Earlier in the week I ran some shorter, faster intervals. A really tough Zwift bike interval session and an easy, steady run Thursday. Tomorrow will be a recovery run.