The end is just the beginning. The end of this training block that is. January has proved once again it is a great time to get fit and prepared for the year ahead. At the start, I was a little rusty and was just getting back into some good rhythm. By the end, I’m in full flow and and looking to begin taking the next step in my performance.
Here’s the breakdown:
From the first week I was glad to get in just under 90km’s a running. Nothing amazing here, just regular 30 min runs, a bit of bike riding and only two runs over 30 mins in total. The extra work that bumped up my energy expenditure came from a variety of strength exercises, walking and sailing down at Port Vic. All good things to keep the body guessing what’s next.
The following week, first week of January, was pretty well the first 100km week since early October 2022. This week built on what the prior week had and added in a longer run (1.5 hrs) out at Dutchman’s Stern (involves hills) a Parkrun effort (16:39) and some swimming as well. It was good to get my first fast hitout since October out of the way and I felt pretty good, a little sluggish, and wasn’t dying by the end.
Week 3 was a slightly lower week in terms of overall energy expenditure because this week involved a taper towards the Belair race on 15 January. Last couple of swim sessions on my 10-visit pass were used up too. The only thing during the week out of the ordinary with my running was one session where I completed a ‘Mona Fartlek’ very comfortably averaging around 3:45/km. At my best last year I was averaging around 3:25/km for this. The race on the weekend was a mixture of a long run and second workout for the week (making it my third faster session of running for this little block so far) and my result surprised me for what I thought my level of fitness was. The little taper in and recovery out of this race shows up well on the graph on the left a bit further down as a little dip around 16/1.
Coming off the race I took it a bit easy for a couple of days, went on some bike rides and a few 30 minute jogs to shake a little bit of shin soreness. Knowing that my goals this year are around the 20-40km race mark I prioritised getting a mid-week long run as my first session for this week and cranked out a very comfortable 21km effort in 1hr 45 min on the Wednesday. I eased off the next couple of days after that and then thought, ’bout time to run fast again, so set off to the Port Augusta Parkrun for the first time. Nice course, out and back, not busy, great for running fast. Set my quickest Parkrun time of 15:56 as a result. From this I achieved one of my goals for the whole of last year by cracking a 15:?? minute Parkrun and I did it off only 1-2 sessions in the last few months where my heart rate was above 160 bpm. I also realised that if I’m to go faster I probably need to actually train at sub 3:10/km pace a bit more consistently which I’m not sure I ever have…Good food for thought and good to finally get the monkey off my back and believe I can run fast again. I backed up this effort with another easy long run of 2hrs where I covered 27km on the Sunday. A final mention for this week is that on the Friday of this week and the previous and next week I’ve been strolling up Dutchman’s Stern for an easy 1.5hr of walking and feel like while it’s pretty basic exercise it’s bloody good to end the ‘working week’ with an easy effort like this.
Final week of January and time to start really getting serious. This week had almost all of what I’d expect from a normal training week. It had the same amount of strength, cycling and walking work. A session of 12*400m on the Tuesday was good for my first dedicated speed session. A mid-week long run was in there again. Sadly, didn’t fit in a Thursday effort due to working all day for Australia Day at the pool but still got an easy run in though. Saturday was another Parkrun visit, this time treating it as a ‘tempo’ race at semi-goal marathon pace (around 3:30/km) and in windy conditions I was pretty happy with how it felt. Best run of the week was the Sunday long run though, 30km, 15km out and back on the one road, in the rain, no music or podcast and felt very relaxed and fresh still by the end of it showing me the my fitness is allowing me to recover from my daily runs pretty well now.
The next step to add to this training block is to really start to focus on adding in more high quality speed work (how fast can I go in Parkrun albeit with no supershoes or pacer?) and some more hill work. I have neglected the hills so far for now because the next race I’ve entered isn’t in the hills but, despite this, the strength I’ve been doing with my legs has left me feeling confident it won’t take too long to sharpen up. If I can continue training at the level I did in the last week of January I’ll be happy. For that week I had 2 faster running sessions and 2 longer runs, making it in total for 5 weeks, 5 faster sessions and 5 longer runs for the whole 5 weeks. This should really by around 8-10 faster sessions and 8-10 longer runs in a 5 week block at least to get any progression.
Another comment to add on this training block is praising the amount of extra work I’ve been doing besides running. To illustrate this point, first I’ll point out that I define ‘work’ by using it as general adjective for any activity where there is energy expended to get my body moving with a reasonable purpose. This energy is measured in calories and is shown in each week’s little snapshot. As my shins have improved in strength and my running’s been getting better, the running has formed a greater percentage of my total energy expenditure. Week 3 was a slight anomaly in that I dropped a bit of cross-training in order to freshen up for the race. The table below shows the numbers in a much easier format. The final two rows are the two greatest weeks of my documented training from last year for reference as to the level I can get back to. Documented training started in September. Both weeks (screenshots of which can be found here) involved 180ish km’s with a couple of faster running sessions (‘Mona fartlek’, a 16:00 min Parkrun and TRSA trail race win being highlights) and a couple of long runs in each week. Basically, the best training I can put together (without working as well in there I might add). So, from the data below there’s two main conclusions in my mind. 1) It’s clear I’m starting to become more runner-focused as the weeks go on. Have to be mindful of not dropping too much cross-training, because…2) I was able to get fit/prepped for a race off a running load that was only half of my total energy expenditure, which isn’t much. Something interesting to keep in mind at this stage and just monitor for when I’m neck deep in the middle of the year with races coming at me from every direction.
|Week||Running Energy (kcal)||Total Energy (kcal)||Run Energy/Total Energy|
The real question is though, after this training block am I back to my peak fitness from last year? Or have I still got a way to go? Well, in my mind and acknowledging that I’m my harshest critic I still think I’ve got a little bit of a way to get to the fittest I’ve ever been but I’m not months off it, just maybe weeks. According to my watch though, my VO2 max is back at the level I pushed it to at the end of September/start of October in 2022 and if not slightly higher. Another way of showing this is by observing the two graphs below. The one on the left shows my training load over the past 8 weeks, showing some rises and falls in the ‘acute’ training load (red line, and a measure of the previous seven days of training) and a steady incline in my chronic training load (black line, and a measure of the previous 42 days of training). The graph on the right has this same data over the previous 8 months and while it’s difficult to truly assess the first peak in the black line (I’d only had my watch for about 4-5 weeks therefore the load might’ve been higher had it included the August training load) it does indicate that my CTL is at it’s peak.
To back this statement up I checked out another graph available from the Suunto app and liked what I saw especially here. This graph below shows my average sleep duration (7.9 hrs) and my average sleep heart rate (51 bpm).
It’s pretty clear that my sleep is pretty consistent (mind the start of the graph, I wasn’t wearing it religiously to bed) and my heart rate sort of jumped around a bit towards the end of 2022. Throughout 2023 and the period of this training block it’s been on a steady decline indicating I’m either a better sleeper and getting better rest, or my fitness is improving. It’s hard to know conclusively but I also think the fact that I’ve been sleeping in my own bed more often and not working away in the outdoors (with the added stress that challenging weather and students can bring) has also been beneficial.
Finally, the race result I had at Belair of 1hr 22 min for a hilly 21k course would’ve made me proud at any stage last year when I was in peak fitness. So, to be able to do that off the back of one faster run, and one longer run and a couple of 85-100km weeks is also pretty good evidence that maybe I should just be a bit more confident in my ability as it is. Or maybe I just had a really good day? Who knows!!
Summarising all of this and forecasting some info in dot point fashion:
- I’m back to a level of training I am confident I can improve from and not just a level of training that will maintain my current fitness.
- The next block of training block will start to involve more quality running sessions rather than just easy runs. To ‘up my game’ from 2022 I need to train at a level that stretches my mind to what I’m capable of. The one caveat here is that I have a race in a fortnight that will chop out a few days for tapering and recovery.
- Monitoring my energy expenditure for each week is an easy way to ensure I keep a good consistent level of training as I phase in/out cycling, strength training, more running etc.
- Lastly, monitoring my sleep more closely throughout the year will be interesting to see if I can continue keeping my average heart rate down or whether the month of January was maybe just an outlier.
So there you have it, a bit heavy on the numbers but a good insight into how things have been progressing from a medium-angle (not quite big enough block to be a wide-angle) lens. With the Aussie Open, summer and school holidays winding down, things may appear to be quietening on the western front. However, you could also say from the above explanation things are just starting to heat up…
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