I have a cunning plan, or, Juneathon – the aftermath

It feels like ages since we were trapped in the tyranny of Juneathon, but it’s only been ten days. Originally, my plan was to have a couple of rest days and then (gulp) start following a proper half marathon plan in preparation for Folkestone in September. What actually happened was that I had a couple of rest days, then had a canal running plan scuppered by Peter Andre (well he’d been playing a concert at Haigh Hall the previous night and there was another day of music due to start when we tried to park up on the Sunday), then it was Monday and back to work… So two rest days became four and then I realised that I had to get my trainers on otherwise I might never run again.

The four rest days did give me chance to pore over the training plans that I was considering and I spent that time comparing and contrasting the Runners World Garmin-ready plan with the 2:09 Events plan. The two are fairly similar (well they are for the first four weeks, I can’t bring myself to look past there) but turn out to be exactly the same in that I hate them with a burning resentment. I appreciate that a training plan will keep me focused and help me to reach my potential, but they’re rubbish and harder to schedule than any of the bloody Athons. My main complaint is that they don’t seem to allow for, well, life. Or fun. Or any kind of running that’s not determined by The Plan.

I have planned my first three weeks on the kitchen calendar and have had to negotiate – the Juneathon picnic, giving blood, going for tea at my mate’s house, the wedding of an old rugby mate, the inevitable resulting hangover from the wedding of an old rugby mate and our fourth wedding anniversary. This is in addition to the fact that sometimes I like to run and have a natter with my mate. And sometimes I like to run an unknown distance along the canal stopping to take photos of ducks. If anyone knows of a plan that incorporates that kind of activity, let me know.

As it is, I’ve done the first week back to front, substituted the scheduled intervals for an Audiofuel pyramid and ‘rescheduled’ today’s three miles because I tired and quite frankly grumpy.  The 2:09 plan states that this week’s training is for ‘getting time on the feet and the start of a gradual build up of training’ and having just done 30/30 during Juneathon, I think that this is the least of my worries. My current mindset is to use the plan as a guide rather than, well, a plan. We shall see how successful this is over the next couple of months.

Yesterday was the Juneathon picnic in Hyde Park. In true Athon style, I was up stupidly early to catch the train down to London (although I am now beaten in the Most Miles Travelled to the Picnic category as Unshod Northerner came down from Darlington. Pah) where I successfully negotiated the Tube to meet up with Helsie who introduced me to the delights of Borough Market and the most amazing brownies ever at Konditor & Cook (their sausage rolls are rather gorgeous too, despite the inclusion of carrots).  Despite a lack of directional skills, we made our way over to Hyde Park and located JogBlog, there’s a six pack under here and jen runs 2011 who were guarding the picnic while abradypus, I like to count, unshod Northerner and Journalathon ran round the park. Food was scoffed and we were joined by disjointed tales and it’s better to burn out than fade away before catching trains/retiring to the pub then catching trains home.

Things I learned at the Juneathon picnic:

  • All the Athoners I have ever met have been, without exception, lovely
  • Unadulterated flapjacks are more popular than pretending-to-be-healthy-flapjacks (with sultanas and seeds)
  • In a test sample of Juneathoners, 75% will order a pint of Doombar in the pub
  • I am embarassingly indifferent to doing races
  • I appear to have said that I will (might) do a Park Run next weekend as everyone says that they’re great
  • I am better at taking photos of squirrels (and ducks and bridges and trees) than I am at taking photos of people

According to Hels, he's plotting to take over the world

Making my mind up

My post-Juneathon plan appeared to be simple and yet I nearly fell at the first hurdle, which was to find a training plan. I’m not training for a particular event, just trying to get out of doing junk miles and turn my efforts into actual improvement in terms of endurance and maybe a little speed. I decided that a half marathon programme fitted the bill and that’s where the choices began.

Using the scientific method of googling “half marathon training”, I found a multitude of different regimes and didn’t know where to start (and for once this wasn’t just advanced procrastinating).  Did I want an eight week plan? Twelve weeks? Fifteen perhaps? Am I using heart race or pace? Do I want fartleks? Do I want to be paced by speed or subjectively by myself? Am I that much of a Guardian reader that I want to use their training programme, or do I just want the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipes from the Saturday magazine?

Eventually I came to the conclusion that they’re all more or less a variation on the following

  1. Run fast on this day
  2. Run long on this day
  3. Run for a bit to recover on this day
  4. Repeat

I’ve plumped for the Runner’s World Garmin ready programme on the grounds that it’s Garmin ready, it gives pace in minutes/mile and I couldn’t be bothered looking at any more as my eyes were going funny. The pace thing is because I need the discipline of sticking to a slower pace on my long runs and if I have to judge it myself, I’ll set off thinking “I feel fine…” and then run out of steam. Using their Race Pace calculator, Runners World have taken my single 10k result (1 hour 6 minutes 7 seconds – it’s etched in my brain) and told me that I’d potter round 13.1 miles in 2 hours 25 minutes. Using the pace guide thingy on the training programmes, I’ve decided that I can knock ten minutes off that and am following the plan for a sub-2.15 (just typing that makes me feel like a real runner). So that’s that.

With the benefit of training plan hindsight, I can say that Wednesday morning’s 3 miles round the village was actually a Steady 3 miles. Even better, my 3 miles up and down the canal hearing about my mate’s exploits fending off amorous Italian waiters (they’ve got some classy lines and only claimed to need two minutes for whatever they were promising. Romantic and efficient…) was in fact a perfect Slow 3 mile pace. I’ve decided that these are near enough the plan to count towards it, even though I only chose the plan after the canal run…

Which brings me nicely onto the second part of my post-Juneathon plan – stick to the plan and not decide that I know better. Trying to run at an easy pace was so much harder than I imagined – it was excruciating and embarassing and I wanted a sign saying “I can go faster you know”. There was no way  that I could have managed to slow down to my prescribed pace of 12.21min/mile; I tried everything, but just ended up with a strange sort of jig-jog where I held my arms like Riverdance and shook my head in despair. In the end my garmin told me I’d done an average pace of 11.46min/mile, but couldn’t tell me any more than that because you can’t use the autolap feature with advanced workouts, giving me a single split of 5 miles which is neither use nor ornament.

So these are the scores on the doors so far, tomorrow should prove to be hilarious.

Week One I should have run… I actually ran…
Session 1 3 miles easy (12.21 min/mile) 3 miles at 11.59
Session 2 2 miles steady (10.44 min/mile) 3 miles at 10.49
Session 3 5 miles easy (12.21 min/mile) 5 miles at 11.46
Session 4 1M jog, 4x400m fast with 200m recoveries, 1M jog tomorrow

Is someone stealing time from me? Eh? Eh?

When I decided to have a go at following a proper training plan, I looked at the schedule and marvelled at how little 3 days a week looked. In reality, I’ve not dragged out my sorry arse since Wednesday morning. And I appear to be prioritising the easy weekend runs, whilst neglecting the interval sessions, I can’t imagine why…

It’s tricky trying to do different stuff (especially when you’re a wuss like me) when you’re running with company. My friend’s still a bit demotivated on the running front and wasn’t keen to get dragged into a 5miler with fast bits in the middle – I got into enough trouble when we reached my front door only for me to announce “well we’re nearly at 3.7 miles, so we might as well make it 4…”.

My note to self from today was “turn off the garmin’s autonag setting when out with other people” – I don’t think it helped the demotivated friend to be harrangued by what sounds like an angry doorbell whenever we slowed down.