Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Following the links…

Sometimes for fun I see who has been referring to my blog or linking to it…it’s pretty straightforward thanks to Sitemeter, many are familiar and a lot are for some of the things I have reviewed, my Review of the Asics Kayanos 16s accounts for 10% of my traffic and the shoe is nearly 3 years old! Some of them leave me wondering so I follow them:


Usually it obvious as to what the link is hooked to, “Quadrathon” or in fact the name Stuart are not that common…this time I had to spend some time looking for it…


I have highlighted the link. you may have to squint to read it…but it says: “I don’t know how triathletes find the time to train this much?”, and so the question was where does it link to?

Well here…


I guess I really had better do one now if that's what people are calling me!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Monster week…

With three weeks to go before race day this was the last build week my so called “Monster week” before I ease off and downswing into taper. I had the target of 15 hours training, 100 miles on the bike, 50 miles running and 2 miles in the pool. Monday was Columbus Day in the US and I was fortunate to have the day off from work, that tied in really nicely as the weekend prior was spent wandering around Sea World in San Diego and had had to miss my long run so I just spilled it over into the Monday…that and the fact that my wife and kids did not get the day off.

So Monday I was up and out early a’la my usual 5am start and hit the local sidewalks for a 15 mile long tempo run


15m @ MP+15 (7:24)

With two days off, albeit walking around Sea World this was solid run, was "within" myself for the whole run which is displayed in my average HR data

After a quick clean up I headed out on my bike riding a favorite loop that has some steady climbing; 41 miles and 2:28 later I switched bikes and headed out on my new slice for a quick hour to start the transition to aero, here is the new steed, I still need a few bells and whistles but there is no rush. Suffice to say it feels very very different!

DSC00539With that done it was off to the pool, I had hoped for 2100 yards but as is often the case I was short of time so I had to cut it in half…Day 1, 71 miles!

Tuesday I had Intervals, a nice sensible set of 10 x 400s the actual full set was 2 m w/u 10x400@5:40 w/400mRI 1m c/d
After yesterday's big day I knew this was going to be hard...and I wasn't disappointed! Only one sub 6:00 split everything else was around the 6:15 mark, it was a long hard set and I was happy to walk most of the rest intervals!

Wednesday back on the bike for an early ride, 28 miles done and home by 6:30am, the full moon added some much needed extra light but I was ginger on the descents, finally with enough sunlight I could pick up the pace and push a little harder on the flats. I was working at my local office which is 6 miles from home and 6 miles from my gym so for lunchtime I ducked out and hit the pool for a quick 1050 yards.

Thursday I eased right off the gas and took a recovery run for time, 9 miles in nearly 90 minutes, like they say make you hard days hard and your easy days easy.

Friday back on the training plan for a short tempo (although some might argue 8 miles is not a short run) 8m @MP (7:09) The numbers don't really reveal the level of effort needed for this, it was way harder then it should have been, a good sign that the week was catching up with me! But that's the whole point of training right...train hard - race easy!!


Saturday back to the pool drills and laps for 1250 yards some even without all my floaty bits; fins, paddles, pull buoy etc!

Sunday…oh Sunday, I started to not look forward to this from Thursday onwards, 20 miles at MP +15 which equals 7:23. I fell asleep on the sofa and finally went to bed around 11:30 with the alarm set for 5:30, the plan being out the door by 6:00am and back by 8:30 for present opening for our 4 y/o whose Birthday it was today. I hit snooze once too often and got out at 6:10am, two hours and twenty one minutes later I walked back in with 19 miles on my Garmin, those snoozed 10 minutes my nemesis. To avoid a complete hard stop (and evitable lock up of everything below the waist) I put my bike on the trainer and jumped on for a quick 45 minutes and a slow 10 miles just to flush the junk out my legs, which worked as I got off feeling 100% better than when I had gotten on! Here’s the 20, 19 deets:


As you can see I was 3 seconds off my target pace per miles but the good news was that I was 10 seconds faster than my last 20 miler two weeks ago and I was well within myself. So here is the final tally for the week:

59:38 miles run in 7:55

3300’ (1.875 miles) yards swam in 1:40

92.36 miles ridden in 5:59

All in 153.61 miles in 15:42, right now I feel pretty good, maybe better than I should but whose counting, I would say that my idea worked and while I missed a couple of my goals it was only just and I more than made up for them on the sidewalk!

Next week my wife is out of town so it’s going to be bike heavy with lots of trainer miles and squeezing in runs at the gym when I can, but with three weeks to go till race day it’s time to start the downswing, I don’t do that well with tapering usually but right now it’s looking pretty good!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Review; Furman Institute of Running & Scientific Training (FIRST) HM plan

This is the not the first review (no pun intended) of a FIRST plan, I wrote about my experiences and success using the 10k plan in February last year and up until July this year my 5k PR from November 2008 was attained by poaching a lot of the interval workouts from the FIRST marathon plan.

At the risk of not reinventing the wheel a lot of what I have written here I have talked about before but for some readers this will be new. 

The FIRST Plans are captured in the Runner’s World Book Run Less Run Faster. So as a reminder the basics of the plan are three runs a week; Intervals, a short Tempo and long Tempo run, interspersed with cross training for which I used cycling I also threw in a smattering of core work and some comfortably paced recovery runs

The basic science behind the plan is that the volume of running is decreased but the intensity of the runs is increased. Each run is designed to improve vo2Max; the measure of an athlete’s ability to produce energy aerobically; through the use of oxygen. Increasing Lactate Threshold; Lactate is an organic byproduct of anaerobic metabolism; an improvement in the LT is an improvement in the muscles ability to do endurance work. Finally an improvement in running economy is expected, running economy is expressed either as a velocity achieved for a given rate of oxygen consumption or the vo2 needed to maintain a given speed. Improvement in running economy generally takes the longest period of time for measurable improvement.

As you can already see this is different from you typical plan which tends to have a long(ish) slow run at the weekend, comparatively all of these runs are fast. So the first question is how fast, well there are a lot of tables, each run is based on a different pace and the pace is derived from a recent 5k race time. I initially used my existing 5k race time and then with a month to go before race day I used my new PR which was 30 seconds faster at 19:11. I made a couple of substantial modifications; I cut the plan short by 5 weeks  from 18 to 13 to coincide with Race Day and changed two runs at the end to simulate race pace.

So lets look at some results:

image Week 1 Day 1 400m intervals


Week 13 Day1 400m intervals the last week)

That’s a decrease of somewhere between 10-17 seconds per 400 meters or 40-68 seconds per mile. Here are some stats from the Short Tempo runs:

image Week 1 Day 3 2 mile warm up 3 miles at tempo 1 mile cool down


Week 10 Day 3 1 mile warm up 5 miles at tempo 1 mile warm down

Less than a minute and a little over a mile longer, some things to note in the data, ‘cos a I nerd like that. Heart Rate is consistent but look at the cadence, significantly faster turnover. And the final result, Race Day:

imageWent out too fast and kinda lost it in the last three miles but hung onto the end! Now all the quantitative data let’s talk about the qualitative:


  • Good for people who like a very structured training plan
  • It’s ultimately not super high mileage even with additional runs I maxed at 49 miles in a week, most weeks were late 30s early 40s
  • It’s very rewarding, speed work, in my opinion, is instant gratification
  • You really can measure your improvements and progress
  • It works…kinda obvious really but the results do speak for themselves
  • With only three prescribed runs a week you have some flexibility although they recommend a day in between each runs
  • Speed opens you up to injury although sensible cross training helps mitigate the risks


  • It’s not easy be prepared to work hard
  • It’s probably not a plan for someone who complete rather than compete
  • It’s very structured, each run has a specific goal, pace distance etc
  • You have to be a bit of  a data junkie
  • While not essential investing in a Garmin really helps
  • You need to have a pretty solid base for the HM plan, don’t expect to jump in deep out of the gate
  • It can get a bit boring, essentially each week is the same

So there you have it…I have to say I am very pleased with the results, I reduced my Half Marathon from 1:37:32 to 1:28:41…that’s a big drop for a 13 week investment! My 10k was reduced by over 3 minutes last year, I took 30 seconds off my 5k time and it looks like I will be making a dent in my Marathon PR next month!

If you are looking for some more info you can hear Bill Pierce one of the authors of the book being interviewed on the Run Run Live Podcast here and a follow up interview on the same Podcast with yours truly as a case study talking about my results here.

Now with all of that being said I do believe that this plan was only one leg of a three legged stool, the second being my transition to midfoot striking and the third being my shift into Newton shoes…more on those to follow.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Just to qualify…

A couple of people emailed me about my last post, which was nice seeing as I have been such a crappy blogger (writer and commenter) this year I wasn’t sure anyone read it anymore! Anyway they wanted me to qualify my comment about times.

I wrote a couple of conflicting statements;

My plan actually called for Marathon pace +30 which gave me a target of 7:39…” indicating my pace would be 7:09


… “when I “need” to average 7:23…oh well in two weeks I get to do it all again!”

The truth is that yes according to my 5k time of 19:11 the FIRST plan establishes a pace of 7:09 and predicts a marathon time of 3:07, to be honest that scares the bejesus out of me! That being said a 7:23 pace would give my a finishing time of 3:14, enough to make  the qualifying time of 3:15 for Boston by 1 minute. Under the new rules that does not guarantee me an entry as it is now fastest come first served:


To be honest running Boston was never on my radar although I can see the appeal. For me qualifying for the New York Marathon, which I did in August at this race (running a sub1:30 Half Marathon guarantees me a Masters entry)


and Boston in the same year has the cache. Now as to whether I run them in 2012 and 2013 we will have to see…I have some other fish to fry before then.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

15s and 20s

I ran my second 20 miler this morning, I have one left to do in two weeks time and I did my first one two weeks ago. The first I ran just to cover the distance and make sure I could, it was the longest I had run all year and it was a good mental check mark to give me a confidence booster than my legs had the miles in them…they did and my average pace was 9:03.


Last weekend I had a 15 miler, a reduction in distance but an increase in speed. It actually went really well, really really well, I was ahead of my pace from the get go and stayed there for the entire run, finishing with a pace of 7:07


Today I had to combine them both, a quick pace and the 20 mile distance. My plan actually called for Marathon pace +30 which gave me a target of 7:39, as with all of these runs I tend to freak myself out with them, sometimes for no reason and others well for no reason too! Although this has been a big build week, nearly 11 hours and lot of cycling as well as my usual three training runs; intervals, short tempo and today’s long tempo. So that being said I hit the ground early to avoid the heat and to be back in time for things at home, my pace wasn’t fast and I was conscious about consistent pacing and running within myself. The first 15 miles went well and it’s not like the wheels cam off it was just that I felt the last five miles.


Yeah you can really see the last five miles..worrying a little given that there is another six after that and even more so when I “need” to average 7:23…oh well in two weeks I get to do it all again!

Tonight I’ll sleep well and tomorrow is a rest day…first one since September 4th!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Review; DIY Overhead Bike Rack

This is not a review per se but I thought I would share with you my solution for storing my bike(s). If like me you have little storage space and have some little people who let’s say can’t tell the difference between carbon and Crayola and will gladly push over your hard saved for precious to get their big bag of sand toys then there is only one direction to go…up!

Enter a trip to Home Depot…


…and $25 later we’re all set. Now I should caveat that this will only work out of the gate if you have exposed rafters, if you have a sheetrocked ceiling  this is possible but will need a little extra work. For this to work you need two Husky Hangs Alls and two rubber straps with S hooks…and unless you are really really tall a step ladder.

Now quite simply you throw one of the straps over the rafter, space out the other and do the same, depending on how high you want to go make it wider. From there thread one rubber strap around the seat and the other around the stem, be a little careful with the hooks, if you are paranoid wrap them in electrician tape. No drilling, no nuts, bolts or screws…nada!

Lift up, hook through and voila!


Subject to the amount of space you have you can hang as many as you like. It may not be the prettiest of solutions but there is zero set up time and with the $205 dollars you saved thing abut what kit you will need for the winter, an upgrade or two or something carbon and sexy!