Pipes down – Trainers Up !

Hayling 10 Mile – Four Weeks to Go

About six months ago I made the decision to put the piping down my priority list for a bit, while I increased and improved my running with the aim to see if I could complete a ten mile road race in under 70 minutes (that is 6:59 minutes per mile average). The target was quite a lot faster than I was normally used to running, and I knew it would take a lot of focused training. Well, with one more month to go until the race, I wanted to jot down what I’ve been through and some of my methods I’ve used to get to this point. Some I thought were clever ideas, and others might not seem so clever. Either way, the methods worked for me. Some detail may be a little off as it’s been so long, but the plan in my head was simple :

1. Lose weight
2. Run Harder

A few friends and I post run. Technical t-shirts!
A few friends and I showing off our free technical t-shirts after completing a 20 mile race.

The Weight Change

Those who know me personally will know about my addictive personality. I am addicted to anything I get into. Sweets and chocolate and snacking are on that list. Anything sweet – I will eat. I also enjoy my sweet teas and coffees. Where I run, I also eat large portions of food whether it’s breakfast or dinner. I’ve never carried excess weight and have always hovered around 77 kilograms (169 pounds). The weight loss started when I trained for a 20 mile race earlier this year. With the longer runs and more miles, a small bit of weight came off and I noticed the effect it had on my pace. I got faster. The plan then became to carry on doing this until I was at my target pace. This is how I went about it :

The tempting of the chocolate.
The tempting of the chocolate

1. Reduced portion sizes on meals – I stopped being so greedy. No more seconds. No more over-sized portions. I ate less generally with my meals.
2. Reduced lunches at work – from two sandwiches to one only. More fruit each day, especially on work days and cut out crisps on most days, and chocolate on ALL work days.
3. No office cakes – office cakes are plentiful where I work, like a lot of us. This was really hard work but I did very occasionally have a biscuit or two. Most of it was cut out.
4. Significant coffee/tea reduction – I reduced myself to two small cups of coffee with sugar each morning. This was needed to give me energy for the faster and further running I’d be doing, and to also compensate for my adjustment in smaller breakfast portions. Hard to do when you work in an office where it is being offered all day. My trick was to have a lot of water with me at all times. Drink water instead.
5. No naughty snacking – it all adds up. I ate seeds, nuts and more fruit generally. The nuts helped a lot if I had a small handful before a hard run.
6. Weekend Diet – most people I know do not agree with this method, and thought it was a silly idea, but it works for me. Saturday I would not eat, apart from my two sweet coffees until later in the afternoon. Some days it was hard, and other days it was easy. Yes, it’s not a great idea for everyone, but I believe the human body can take a lot and to be honest, I’d drink water and I had my coffees and if all went pear shaped I could always eat something. Sunday I’d have a small handful of Special K and then do a slow or fast half marathon early in the morning – every week. Again, I would not eat until afternoon but I’d still have those two sweet coffees. I can go for a few hours and survive without food – simples. It’s quite humbling really. I find myself appreciating my afternoon lunches a lot more and enjoying them so much as well. Another tip : I set myself a treat day every two weeks. It comes every two weeks and I get to eat a large Cadburys Marvellous Creations chocolate bar. Styling.

Tips :

1. I kept water with me and drank more of it. It helped when I was craving stuff.
2. In the evenings, when I find it tough to keep out of the kitchen, I go and brush my teeth. This seriously helps. Everyone hates doing it so once you’ve done it, you can’t eat. There’s not a chance in hell I’m brushing my teeth twice in an evening.
3. Oh, and I now have to keep a cushion in the car. Sitting on my backside for a car journey longer than 30 minutes aches like hell. I’ve lost some cheeky meat.
Outcome : I now weigh about 65 kilos (143 pounds), which is a loss of 12 kilograms (26.4 pounds or 1.8 stone). It’s given me well over a minute per mile in speed on fast runs! The diet change has been one of the hardest things to do ever. Food is all around me, all day, every day. When you cut out the things you can smell, hear and see people eating all day, it makes you think about it more and more, and the harder it becomes to refrain. This is why I introduced the Treat Day I mentioned above. Bloody fantastic it is. It’s made me appreciate it so much more. My wife and I used to often agree that eating chocolate most nights makes you unappreciative of it and it becomes standard really. My dieting has really increased my enjoyment of treats.

One of our hilly runs, admiring the view
One of our hilly runs, admiring the view

The Running Change

It’s hard to sum this all up in a ‘reduced portion’ size but I’ll try. The running is obviously the hardest bit, but the weight loss helped a lot. It didn’t take away the horrible, hard and hot runs over the summer perioud, which is where I made most of my progress, but it did help. For races, I could say I’ve always been a kind of 08:00 minute per mile runner. Thanks to the fantastic friends at work and their never ending pursuit of the ‘ultimate lunch time pain session’, I went out most lunch times. Interval sessions, Strava segments, distance runs, Kenyan Interval sessions, short 5k time trials, cricket pitch intervals you name it. I’ve had a really mixed training routine this year and it’s all helped. At some stage a few months ago though, I put together my own random weekly routine. I didn’t read anything, I didn’t plan it too much but basically the idea was to do the following :

1. Monday Recovery Run (usually 10k @ about 08:30 – 09:30 minutes per mile) Sometimes this run would include the odd few Strava segments, and other type training.
2. Tuesday Intervals (usually 6 x 800m , or 5 x 1km , or 8 x 400m @ about 20 – 30 seconds faster than what the current race pace). These would vary slightly, but I always tried to feel sick for these. It wasn’t hard. Interval sessions are not easy.
3. Wednesday Recovery Run (usually 10k @ about 08:30 – 09:30 minutes per mile) Sometimes this run would include the odd few Strava segments, and other type training.
4. Thursday Pace Test (anywhere from 5k to 8m @ race pace but managed to get them down eventually to 06:50 pace over the summer). I’d really hammer these hard, and almost always felt sick. The summer was really tough as I hate running in the heat. We were always running in the midday sun too (lunch time). These runs sometimes included hilly routes.
5. Friday Recovery Run (usually 10 – 12k @ about 08:30 – 09:30 minutes per mile). Sometimes this run would include all sorts of different distances, and training. A lot of it depended on what others were doing too.

Tips :

1. Running with friends who also enjoy their running – because each of us had goals, we’d all keep each other going. Planning a run knowing others are going means there’s no backing out. It keeps you motivated and you keep each other pushing forward. I may have joined a club if I didn’t have the great bunch of runners in Hursley.
2. Track yourself – buying a Garmin watch recently was the best investment I made for my running.
3. Strava.com segments. I am sure running segments had a small benefit there somewhere. It’s great once the weight comes off and you get faster as you can really start to steal peoples segments like crazy!
So where am I at now ?

With four weeks to go, and all the training and dieting, I have now managed to run a pretty fast 8 mile test. I don’t want to jinx it so I’m not typing it 🙂 The training has paid off. All I need to happen now is for the next few weeks to go well, and for the race day to arrive. I want to really focus on keeping the training going as I did peak a little early. Improving even more over the coming weeks I don’t think will help my mojo much, so I need to just keep it going. Perhaps a few more seconds may come naturally with the miles. I have had a few good months of milage. Feel free to take a look at my training page. There will be all the training activity logs from over the last year, with comments in the descriptions. My next blog will be two weeks before the race, where I’ll look at some other things that have helped me along – like the blindingly bright racing shoes.


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