Training for the best season ever. Block 1 = speed efficiency.

In September I gave myself the freedom to rest and train as much as I wanted to. The objective was to recover from the big races over the summer and give my mind a break from structured training. I needed this time to reset and relax before working towards new objectives in 2019.

After the time off I was ready to get going again and to start building up my body to be ready for new goals. My overarching goal is to be consistent and improve with each year. With that in mind, I wanted to start gently, give myself the best chance to remain injury free, and accumulate mileage over the winter.

I am still deciding my full calendar for 2019, but the first race will probably be Transgrancanaria in February. Last year I did two huge blocks of work (training log 1; training log 2) to prepare for the same race and it went well. I focused on volume and time on the legs and I felt strong through the whole race. However, I didn't feel fast enough so this year I'm aiming to remedy that.

My first training block this year has been all about working on my form and running efficiently. Short intervals on the grass and running fast were the bread-and-butter sessions in October.

Focus for the block
  • Improve running efficiency and speed through fast, short intervals
  • Develop a weekly routine and training frequency to set up the year

Training statistics
  • Time: 43hrs
  • Distance: 401km
  • Vertical gain: 9 380m

Training log

Overview of training from October 2018.

Green bubbles = normal training
Yellow bubbles = workout
Red bubbles = race
XT = cross training

Review of the block
I was very pleased with how this first block of training went. I could feel my efficiency improve over the month as each speed session became a little easier and I was able to run a bit faster during the easy runs. I wasn't sure how much of a difference this type of work would make, but it improved my general running speed and helped reduce my perception of effort during faster paces.

At the end of the block I ran the Semi-marathon de Lausanne. I hadn't done any long runs over the month and my intervals were all short (30" each) so I wasn't expecting a fast time. However, I was able to hold a good pace and I felt like the race was a solid way to finish up the block of speed efficiency training. Overall the first block of work for the best season ever was great.

Semi-marathon de Lausanne

My last race of the summer was CCC at the end of August. After that I took off the whole month of September as a period of unstructured training. I didn't have any goals and gave myself the freedom to run as much as and whenever I wanted, even if that meant not running at all. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, I still went out to run, but the mileage was low, most runs were easy, and I didn't do any long runs.

In October I started training again with purpose and focus. My goal for October was to work on my speed efficiency, something I had cut down as I worked on long mountain miles preparing for trail races in the summer. I used this article by David Roche as a guide for the types of training session I did in October. The details and a review of the month are available in another blog post with the numbers and analysis.

Last week, when I saw that the Lausanne marathon was taking place, I thought that it would be a good idea to end off the training block with a race. I entered the half-marathon which started at the civilised time of 13h45 on Sunday afternoon. After great weather for the whole month, the weekend of the race arrived with rain, lots of wind, and a severe drop in temperature. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, I decided that doing the race would be even better, as I probably wouldn't have gone out in those conditions to run that hard for that long if I was just going out by myself.

My plan for the race was to run it as a progression run. The pacing plan was:
  • 10km at 4:00/km
  • 8km at 3:50/km
  • the last 3km faster or at whatever pace I could achieve 

The start line in La Tour de Peilz.

The race started well and I felt great through the first 10km. I started a little fast, but I found a few people who were running the pace I wanted to run so I settled into a group and shielded myself from the wind. The route rolled along with very gentle ups and downs, but the wind blew at us off the lake whenever there wasn't any shelter. I took my first gel at 7km and felt a little boost which was amazing.

This is just after getting started during the little loop around La Tour de Peilz.

At 10km I pulled out of the group and tried to pick up the pace a little to hit my second target. I could immediately feel the headwind as I worked my way up to the next group. All through this section I jumped past people and then fought to hold my own pace in the wind. At 14km I took another gel which gave me another boost. However, by 17km I was starting to fade and I just managed to make it to 18km at around the pace I had hoped to achieve.

The last section of the race was tough. I wanted to run super fast through the last three kilometers to the finish, but my legs just didn't have it. I held on for as long as I could and got to the finish in 1:23:11. I was happy with that time and how I ran considering the conditions.

In Lausanne running up the finishing chute.

The event was well organised and fun. I enjoyed running along the lake road and having lots of people around to pace off (and shield me from the wind!).

My next training block involves longer intervals (rather than the short 20-30" speed efficiency intervals), tempos and long runs. I think that this will be a good way to build on October's efforts, as I felt I could hold the pace easily enough from a mechanical perspective, but I lacked the endurance to maintain the pace for the full 21km.

Training on the Verbier St Bernard race route

On July 7th I'm running the Trail Verbier St Bernard race. I've been out on the trail learning the route over the past two months and I love everything about this route! It's spectacular, brutally tough, and traverses multiple trails and areas that I've run before.

I can't wait to run the race and see all of these trails in one day. Here are some pictures collected during my training on the route over the last few months.

Looking down into the valley from near the start in Verbier.

Looking back towards Verbier from the trail out of the village.

At the top of the first climb of the race neat Château.

On the way up from Sembrancher to Alpage Catogne.

Alpage Catogne.

Just above Alpage Catogne and on the way to Le Catogne.

Looking back into the valley from Alpage Catogne.

Ridges and steep climbs.

Le Catogne in the background and the race trail to the left towards Champex Lac.

A very steep and loose descent from the summit of Le Catogne.

Champex Lac seems far down below.

The top of the skilift"au point 1986m".

The ibex statue outside Cabane d'Orny.

The high mountains are spectacular - this is definitely a "mountain" route!

Crossing la prise d'eau de Saleina.

Looking up the valley from La Fouly towards Lac Fenêtre.

Lac de Fenêtre.

A descent down into Italy close to Col St Bernard.

Lac des Toules on the way down from Col St Bernard.

Looking back towards Champex Lac and Sembrancher from Bourg St Pierre.

On the way to Cabane Mille.

I love this route!

Looking across the valley towards Cabane Mille.

Half way up the last (very steep) climb of the race.

The view from La Chaux before descending down to the finish.

Training for Transgrancanaria - part 2

The second five weeks of my training towards Transgrancanaria was a continuation of the first phase of work with high volume and high vertical gain leading into a taper period. I planned to do two more big weeks of training volume (to complete a period of four high volume weeks) and then start a four-week gradual taper. I've usually followed a two week taper protocol, but in the past I've felt like that wasn't enough and I wanted to increase the taper period for this race. I also shifted my high intensity training days towards steady state and race pace work rather than the shorter intervals of the first phase of training.

Focus for the block
  • maintain weekly mileage, vertical gain and training hours
  • transition quality training days towards race specific and steady state work

  • taper gradually over a four week period towards the race

  • Training statistics
    • Time: 92hrs
    • Distance: 790km
    • Vertical gain: 30 600m

    Training log

    Green bubbles = normal training
    Yellow bubbles = workout
    Red bubbles = race
    XT = cross training

    Review of the block
    I've had another five great weeks of training and I'm really looking forward to seeing how these come together in the race. I did one full high-volume week and then cut the second one short by two days as I was right on the edge of doing too much. Effectively I achieved three full weeks and five days of ~200km/week volume which was a solid period of training. I feel like I've done some of my best training ever.

    In the taper I felt ok in the first week, terrible in the second week and by the end of the third week I was feeling strong and ready to race. I'm hoping that one more week (which includes travel) will be just right to peak for the race. At the very least I confirmed that three weeks are better than two for me in a taper. Let's hope I've got the taper formula exactly right!

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    Training for Transgrancanaria - part 1

    The first race in my 2018 calendar is the Transgrancanaria Advanced (TGC) at the end of February. The race is very similar in distance to UTCT at 65km and the climbing is the same with the big difference being a long descent to the finish. Based on my form after UTCT and the time available to prepare for TGC, I wanted to take the opportunity to increase my training volume and build up a good base. The first part of preparing for TGC - these last five weeks - aimed to set me up for the race as well as building a good base for the whole year.

    Focus for the block
    • building up weekly mileage, vertical gain and training hours
    • increasing my long run from shorter pre-UTCT training
    • short intervals every three days to work on speed and turnover

    Training statistics
    • Time: 102hrs 03min
    • Distance: 878km
    • Vertical gain: 29 600m

    Training log

    Green bubbles = normal training
    Yellow bubbles = workout
    Red bubbles = race
    XT = cross training

    Review of the block
    I've had a great block of work and I'm very pleased with how it has come together over the last five weeks. I feel like I can handle the mileage and vertical and that it has set me up for a good five week run into the race. I'm looking forward to keeping this momentum and doing some more specific training as I lead into TGC.

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