PB review 2014 & targets for 2015

Ending 2014 on a high – running over 120 miles and recording a PB in each of the last three months of the year – the middle six months where I didn’t run a competitive event now seem a long time ago. My primary PB focus this year was intended to be on distances of 5k and shorter, but that failed to materialise due to injury*.

One positive of being sidelined was that I took time to focus on weight management and successfully reduced my weight from around 73kg and rising, at the end of March, to around 67kg and stable since June. I am certain that my reduced weight has been a significant factor in the subsequent PB improvements I have made, although I’ve yet to realise all the hypothetical potential I calculated when considering my Stillman running weight.


Around 67kg and relatively stable since June this year, I am certain that my reduced weight has been a significant factor in the subsequent PB improvements I have made.

To minimise the risk of further injury during my extended recovery period, I chose to focus on restoring strength and endurance at the expense of absolute speed and so reverted to historical type and ran exclusively longer distance events. Hence the only targets I’ve needed to revise this year are those at 10k and above. The marathon I’ve only included for fun since my first marathon isn’t due until twenty sixteen anyway.

2014 season 2015 season
event opening PB target events improvement target
800m 2:25.9 2:19.9 2:19.9
1500m 5:18.2 4:49.9 1 4:49.9
mile 4:59.9 1 March 5:31.7 4:59.9
3000m 9:59.9 9:59.9
5k 18:58 17:59 13 March 18:55
October 18:53
5 mile 31:36 29:59 1 December 31:28 29:59
10k 39:33 38:59 2 November 39:04 38:29
10 mile 67:53 1 March 66:41 64:59
half marathon 89:53 88:59 1 March 88:16 87:29
marathon 3:09:59

Whilst the right hand column is optimistically labelled “2015 season target” I’m curious to discover if any of these ever need revising again; it may be that it could more accurately be labelled “lifetime target”. In any event, whether I can achieve these targets or not, I am hopeful that I have at least two or three more seasons where I’ll be able to improve my PBs in as broad a range of distances as I have in the last two. With an eye on 2016’s marathon I shall be doing everything I can to stay injury free next year and hope that this will enable me to run a similar number of events as I did in 2013. If this in turn results in PB achievements as extensive as either 2014 or 2013 I’ll be very satisfied indeed.

end of year summary 2014

I’m hopeful that I have at least two or three more seasons where I’ll be able to record PBs across a broad range of distances as I have in the last two years.

Here’s to a Happy New Running Year. And a good one in all aspects of life for that matter! 🙂

* I have agreed with myself to stop linking back to the posts I made at the time, but am making a final exception as I say farewell to 2014 and re-spraining my right ankle back in March.

Quality Street, quality running

On Monday night a friend came to visit and brought us a small tin of Quality Street chocolates as a gift. It was only a small tin. It still is only a small tin. It’s just that it is now a small, empty tin*. I have blogged about binge eating in the past and whilst it is not an overwhelming problem for me, it remains a recurring theme. Based on the product’s nutritional information, slightly ameliorated by the Cyclist and our friend eating a polite number of chocolates during the evening, it seems I wantonly consumed around 1000 junk calories after our friend had left and the Cyclist had gone to bed. Extended nutritional highlights; 42g of fat (20%) and 123g sugar (58%)!

Unfortunately such an occurrence remains ‘normal’ for me; although it cycles through periods of higher and lower frequency I would estimate an average of once a week … Fortunately I am currently running so much, and enjoying it so much, that such a binge is all but cancelled out by the combination of running and the good eating habits which I maintain the rest of the time. Since my weight has remained constant, at around 67kg since June, the calories themselves are clearly fully consumed by my metabolic furnace; averaging 30 miles a week as I have for the last four months burns an additional 3,300 calories a week. I am aware that, although the furnace seems indiscriminate about its fuel, the flaws in the quality of my nutrition will have an effect on my running performance.

My youngest daughter woke me up at around 4:40am on Tuesday morning and, despite insistently remaining in bed for a further 40 minutes, I failed to convince myself that sleep was still an option. Influenced by the excesses of the night before I decided to bring my long run forward from its regular Thursday morning slot. A long run for me is currently 10 miles / 16 kilometres or a little more and when not tapering for a race I do one most weeks. Consequently my previous long run, of 18km, was towards the end of November before my efforts of the last two weekends at Oak Hill and Perivale.

Just before 6:00am I set out from Beckenham, South West toward Croydon, on a route of approximately 10 miles that I’ve run several times before. As I’d not done a long run for a few weeks I planned to limit my pace to around 5:20/km for the opening kilometres so that I would get the most training and fat burning benefit from my run and simply so that I could ease along and enjoy the morning. It was cold enough that running tights, two top layers, gloves and a hat were necessary.

My Garmin Connect activity shows that at least I kept my pace over 5:00/km for the first four kilometres – 5:14, 5:12, 5:06, 5:08. After that I remained at or slightly under 5:00km for the next few kilometres which is the pace I naturally fall into when I’m running at my most relaxed. The most significant feature of the route starts 8 kilometres in; a 70 metre climb spread over 2.3km, 50 metres of which is within the tenth kilometre. This felt significantly easier than I remember it and my splits for kilometres 9 and 10 were 5:00 and 5:11 respectively. Moreover my HR averaged 133 and 140 in those kilometres in contrast to the 124 I’d maintained up until that point. I ran at under 5:00/km for the remainder of the run.

Activity map from my Garmin Connect activity record.

Running along the North East side of Crystal Palace Park was the high point of my run both literally and metaphorically. I felt strong, light and fresh and completed kilometre 12 in 4:34. The endorphins which fuelled that also inspired me to not to cash in my elevation immediately and run down the North West side of the park towards Penge, and home, as I normally do on this route. Instead I continued past Dulwich/Sydenham Woods and only then turned downhill into Sydenham where I joined another route I know well, one I learned when out running with my club: I turned into Venner Road and then onto Lennard Road towards Cator Park. By now I had run just over 17km and I was little more than a kilometre from home. I was heading in that general direction mentally as well as geographically. However at the junction of Lennard Road and Kent House Road the traffic lights and traffic flow were against me and so I turned right rather than continuing straight on as I otherwise would have done. At the next junction I did the same, again influenced by heavy traffic.

track in fields

Running along the North East side of Crystal Palace Park … doesn’t look like this, but during my run it felt like this.
And I believe it is compulsory for every runner’s blog to include a version of this image anyway.

Passing through Penge I completed 19km and arrived at Lidl at the North end of Elmers End Road. I definitely had it in mind to continue straight ahead down Elmers End Road, to the station, and then turn left home; a further distance of a little over 2km. Instead, in a state of heightened euphoria, I turned right and headed directly away from home. Reflecting on my Garmin data now I can see that for five of the preceding six kilometres I had been running downhill and had lost 80 metres of elevation in the first five of those. Notwithstanding that the final sixth kilometre actually climbed 20 metres the net effect was that I felt very strong and, more significantly, very excited at feeling so good such a long way into a run. As I continued my run I began to think about writing a blog post. I came up with the title and contemplated how far I might run in total. I knew that my longest single runs ever were around 22km and that I’d once run a little over 23km with two short breaks whilst on a group run with my club. With my recent Advent Running experience in mind I thought 25km, or perhaps 25.25km, would be appropriate. Feeling all but invincible I started thinking that maybe my first marathon won’t be such a big deal … quite pleasant even. And that my sometime fantasy of running the Sri Chimnoy 24 hour race wasn’t something from an alternate universe after all …

My route home was essentially dictated by the limitations of my geographic knowledge; as I passed Norwood Junction station, at around 20.5km, I rejoined my outward route and simply re-traced the opening kilometres of my run as I didn’t want to risk getting lost exploring possible alternatives. I did use the one cut through I know in the area, past Blackhorse Lane tram stop, to shorten my return slightly. Which was a relief because as I completed 21km I quite quickly went from feeling fine to my right ankle feeling sore/painful and shortly after that both legs became heavy and tired and I felt sore and stiff in various unusual locations. My run was no longer the stuff of fantasy. Reality kicked back in and it occurred to me to check the time for the first time since I’d left home: 7:45 and I realised I needed to get home promptly so that the Cyclist could go to work! We passed on the doorstep as I arrived home and it didn’t seem to be a good time to share my new running milestone and hope that she’d be enthusiastic …

DISCLAIMER: The author in no way advocates the use of Quality Street or any other confectionery items to enhance running performance. Any persons using confectionery items to enhance running performance do so entirely at their own risk. Any loss or injury caused directly or indirectly by confectionery items in a running context remain the sole liability of the individual(s) administering the confectionery and/or doing the running.

* Well except for two coconut eclairs, but nobody knowingly eats those. I did eat one in the low illumination of the TV screen and reminded myself why I don’t.

Just another parkrun

Yesterday I ran at Oak Hill parkrun where my sister Cathy is a regular. We had planned to run it together anticipating that it would be her 50th parkrun, but unfortunately life intervened and it was actually her 49th parkrun overall (and 41st at her home run). So, just another parkrun.

This was my 40th parkrun and my 4th at Oak Hill. I first ran at Oak Hill in October 2012, in just my 7th parkrun, and I recorded 20:32 in a non PB attempt. At the time my 5k PB stood at 20:12 and I improved it a week later to 19:50; both these at Dulwich. I returned twice in May this year; running an easy 24:58 at the beginning of the month and a 23:05 at the end pacing my sister to a 26 second PB of 23:04. Having recognised the potential of the course in 2012 – it is distinctly flatter than my own home run at Dulwich – I planned yesterday’s run as a PB attempt.


Oak Hill parkrun: Two and three quarter anti clockwise laps, only 7 metre elevation difference between lowest point (just before the start, marked green) and highest point (approximately opposite start on return side of the lap) and just a couple of sharp turns.

Knowing that the alternate course was much less PB friendly I checked out whether there were any planned changes …tweet 001tweet 002

Even as I opened a BBC weather tab in my browser the parkrun weather fairy most politely joined the conversation, waving his/her wand, and offered to help …tweet 005

My only concern centred around the parkrun weather fairy’s definition of “cold”. It transpired that the forecast temperature for 9:00am on parkrun day was zero degrees Celsius. Hmm … Before I had time to contemplate this further a regular Oak Hill runner got in touch about a member of the Oak Hill parkrun community …tweet 003

I had also tweeted my target time of 18:45 …tweet 004

I had heard a little about the planned purple event from my sister and decided to wear something subtly appropriate; as much as anything to show general solidarity with the parkrun community since I don’t know Henry myself.


Something suitably subtly egotistical …
[ images and my original t-shirt courtesy of Xempo ]

Come parkrun day morning my sister, her husband and my nephew had all confirmed that they were parkrunning and so we jogged the mile and a bit from their home to Oak Hill Park together. The morning was crisp and clear and the forecast zero degrees was believable with frost visible on many surfaces. Arriving at the park in good time I continued my warm up around the course by way of assessing the surface. Unfortunately frost was visible on many parts of the course and although I didn’t slip, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to accelerate hard or take turns sharply. There was one particular segment about 900m from the start – which we would traverse three times on the two and three quarter lap route – where there was small, muddy, partially frozen puddle. It was too big to attempt to jump over in the conditions and as I exited it I found the next several steps were compromised by the semi-frozen mud coating the sole of my shoe and leaving me with almost no grip until those steps passed and the lubricant had been deposited on the clean, dry tarmac beyond the puddle …

Nonetheless I completed my warm up without incident and having assembled at the finish line we walked en masse to the start line as seems to be Oak Hill parkrun tradition.

2014 12 13 - parkrun start line

En masse to the start line …
[ image Claire Sliwerski ]

As the run briefing came to an end I took up a start position on the shoulder of, and said hello to, a runner at the front whom my sister had pointed out as being Rebecca and of similar pace to me. I was glad to have started well forward since the course is run entirely on paths of approximately the width shown above. I set out to hold on to the runners in front whilst testing out the surface at as close to my goal pace of 3:45/km as seemed reasonable.

I found that I had to ease into and out of bends both in terms of pace and racing line. When running in a straight line I felt relatively ok, but I didn’t want to test the limits of my grip anywhere close to the point of actually slipping. Attempting to check my Garmin early on proved difficult; firstly my eyes were watering profusely due to the cold and also I couldn’t spare the time to distract my eyes and attention from the challenge of staying on my feet. Managing to decipher three fifty something or other I decided to abandon Garmin checks and simply run by feel as tempered by the conditions.

I found the muddy puddle much as I’d left it on my warm up: Positioned about halfway down the Southern side of the lap it fell on a slight bend, just after a subtle change in camber and just before a short climb up to the high point of the course. I focussed on minimizing any change in speed or direction so that the lack of grip wouldn’t be too critical. I found that as I started the climb I had almost no grip at all and slowed significantly as I took tentative steps and waited for my grip to return. Within the expected ten or so steps it did and I ran along the high ridge before turning down the most significant decline – a 4 metre descent over 100 metres – to pass the finish line for the first time. Knowing what to expect I felt more relaxed entering the second lap and passed Rebecca and another much younger runner shortly afterwards. Or it may have been a lap later. What I do remember is that the muddy puddle was easier the second time around, but that on the third and final pass – by which time I’d been lapping runners for some time – the mud had spread significantly up the incline. This time I slowed more than I had even the first time … And had to wait and wait for my shoes to regain grip … When finally they did it felt as though I had almost come to a stop. By now threading through and around numerous other runners I ran along the high ridge for the final time and used the decline to finish as fast as possible.

2014 12 13 - Oak Hill parkrun

Passing the finish line for the second time, with one full lap to go. I think. I really hope I didn’t look like this after only three quarters of a lap.
[ image Claire Sliwerski ]

I stopped my watch at 19:15 and official results later confirmed this. I’m totally satisfied with this in context and on my warm down with my sister I was already excitedly expressing my hope that next Spring or Summer I’ll be able to parkrun at Oak Hill for two or three weeks consecutively and extract the true potential from the course. I noted that my average HR for today’s time was 151 compared to other recent 5k events where I have recorded an average HR of 158 to 160. I’m sure at least 18:45 is achievable …

It’s a great feeling to finish in good company. Although I often arrive and depart from parkruns and races on my own, my friends and the community of parkrun always makes me feel welcome. And the special company of family before, during and after yesterday’s run was a real treat. We all enjoyed our parkruns and the subsequent planning and anticipation of our next events. And I really should mention that my nephew casually recorded a 45 second PB in today’s conditions!

2014 12 13 - post parkrun

It’s a great feeling to finish in good company:
Rebecca, another purple runner, my sister, yours truly and my nephew.
[ image Claire Sliwerski ]

So, yes, just another parkrun.

race data summary

finish time 19:15
splits pace
3:53, 3:51, 3:54, 3:53, 3:44
approx HR
146, 150, 152, 153, 155
biometric summary average HR – 151
max HR – 159 (estimated personal maximum – 172)
average cadence – 191
approx start weight – 67.5kg
positions overall – 4 out of 117
gender – 4 out of 78
category VM45-49 – 1 out of 12

Recover, reflect, retire – Advent running, day 8

This morning’s run was a straightforward recovery run after yesterday’s race day exertions. It would probably have been at least a kilometre and a half, and consequently at least 7 minutes, shorter without the Advent running aim to run for at least 30 minutes every day.

Since my run this morning I’ve reflected at length on whether to continue with the challenge and in particular, if I do continue, why I would be doing so. Ultimately I find that my thoughts are still much as I expressed them on day 1.

If I were to continue I think my main reason for doing so would simply be to avoid stating that I am stopping. I don’t dismiss the idea of run streaks, those who participate in them and particularly not @adventrunning, but at present a running streak for me feels limiting rather than challenging, stultifying rather than invigorating. I miss the greater dynamic range and rhythm of my typical weekly pattern.

Recovery is t-shirt shaped.

training plan t-shirt #runhappy

For myself I can envisage there being a time when I will run every day, but this will be a consequence of my improving fitness and deepening commitment to running rather than because I decide to undertake a running streak per se*. My target base number of running days per week was 3 in 2012, 4 in 2013 and 5 this year. And to these I occasionally add an additional day, for a recovery run after a race or particularly long run, or miss a day as part of an event taper. The base number could quite easily become 7 days a week for a period early in 2016 when I plan to be deep in training for my first marathon.

For now though continuing the streak would simply be a pointless exercise in saving face and would diminish the many aspects of the experience I have enjoyed to date. I have really enjoyed the challenge to increase my blogging frequency; the last 8 days of blogging have been fun! I’m hopeful that my approach to blogging will relax as a result and I’ll be able to blog more freely and frequently in future.

And of course my run log spreadsheet now counts consecutive running days and includes notable achievements on this in my run summary graphics. And so with my final stats, and today’s run summary graphic, I shall retire gracefully from this year’s #adventrunning challenge. I shall be running again tomorrow.

day 8, 33 minutes running

average cadence 174
average HR 122
max HR 136

Advent running summary

total consecutive days 8
(3 less than 30 minutes)
total distance 52.7 km
total time 4:07:17
average distance per day 6.6 km
average time per day 30 minutes 55 seconds

* Though of course I may change my mind. It does happen apparently.

Perivale 5, 2014

My practical preparation for today’s Perivale 5 mile was thorough. I checked my public transport connections (overground Clock House to London Bridge, Jubilee Line to Bond Street, Central Line to Perivale), checked the BBC weather forecast and chose clothing for a couple of possible weather scenarios, packed vaseline for my tender male chest parts in case the more apocalyptic of these scenarios transpired, selected my Oystercard, a credit card, a £20 note and £1 coin (for the lockers at Perivale Park Athletics Track), made sure my phone was charged for post race tweets and generally felt very pleased with myself. This last part being primarily, and almost uniquely for me I think, because I did all this the night before the race.

As I waited on the Jubilee Line platform at London Bridge for a tube to Bond Street I re-did some mental arithmetic and rehearsed my per kilometre pace plan – 3:54, 3:53, 3:52, 3:51 and 3:50 for the remaining 4.05 kilometres – giving a projected time of 31:02. I hoped that with a fast finish I could dip under 31 minutes. Satisfied with this and for no apparent reason it then came to my mind that I hadn’t actually packed my running shorts.

note to self - just knowing what shorts are isn't enough

note to self: just knowing what shorts are isn’t enough

Fortunately I was wearing running tights for warmth whilst travelling and of course decided to race in those. This aside my planning bore fruit and I arrived in good time and walked from Perivale station to the track deep in running conversation with two other entrants I’d met en route.

After a brief warm up over two and a bit laps of the track I adjusted my laces and race attire and lined up pretty near the front. The race starts on a closed road but this barely allows the field to be a dozen abreast at most and the strong, fast field combined with the need for everyone to move off the road onto the right hand pavement in time for the first corner onto an unclosed main road within 400 metres makes for a frenetic start. Unsurprisingly then I was swept along in the flood, despite being prepared for it by having raced the Perviale 5 twice before, and noted my pace at 3:40/km early on. I eased off as much as the running traffic allowed as we ran no more than two abreast down the pavement to the side of the main road. After this initial 600 metres or so the field had spread out enough to allow normal progress. I deliberately checked my speed and completed the first kilometre in 3:52. Wanting to get back as close to my planned pace I took the next kilometre relatively easy at 3:55 and tried to establish a comfortable rhythm. The comfortable part proved difficult.

Comparing my pace plan against the actual splits recorded by my Garmin it’s clear that I wasn’t able to maintain the pace required in the second half. During the race, as I reached the almost half way point, where there is a sharp 90 degree left followed by a slightly more forgiving right kink (fortunately only negotiated once in what is essentially a two lap course) I knew from how I was feeling that my sub 31:00 target was impossible today. Even before taking into account the slight over recording of distance typical with a GPS device which would mean I was already several seconds behind, I knew I couldn’t increase my pace further and maintain that level for the second half of the race. In this case the 8.05km recorded as 8.15km which means I was running about 3 seconds per kilometre slower than my FR620 displayed at the time.

planned pace displayed pace
k1 3:54 3:52
k2 3:53 3:55
k3 3:52 3:51
k4 3:51 3:54
k5 3:50 3:49
k6 3:50 3:57
k7 3:50 3:56
k8 3:50 3:45
final 0.05km 3:50 (equates to ~11 seconds) 3:01 (recorded as 0.15km and hence equates to ~27 seconds)

To be more generous I was pretty close to being on plan, at least in terms of displayed pace, until k6 and k7 where I slowed most significantly. And ultimately I did record an 8 second PB, even if that was short of the target I’d set.

Reflecting on this and my previous two races (Brighton 10k and Bournemouth 10k) there is apparently a pattern here; in all three I slowed significantly in the later part of the race notwithstanding that I was still able to finish quickly. Whether this is mental, physical or both it is certainly something I need to address.

race data summary

finish time 31:28
HR splits 150, 155, 158, 159, 160, 159, 160, 161, 165 (final recorded 0.15km segment)
biometric summary average HR – 158
max HR – 166 (estimated personal maximum – 172)
average cadence – 187
approx start weight – 67.2kg
positions overall – 49 out of 316
gender – 46 out of 183
category VM40-49 – 13 out of 55

Today was also of course day 7 of the Advent running challenge …

Advent running summary

total consecutive days 7
(3 less than 30 minutes)
total distance 46.2 km
total time 3:34:17
average distance per day 6.6 km
average time per day 30 minutes 37 seconds

Tokens – Advent running, day 6

Running in daylight for the first time since last Saturday I dressed as I did last night, minus the reflective ankle bands, and this morning the extra layers were all definitely required. Partly because it was certainly colder this morning than it was last night – around zero degrees as opposed to about four, I think – and partly because there was quite a heavy frost with patches of ice which I had to tentatively pick my way through. I wouldn’t have been confident attempting to run any faster and the reduced pace combined with the shortness of my run meant I never got warm enough to contemplate unzipping the neck of my top layers or removing my hat as I did for the second half of my run yesterday.

So a token run today solely for the purpose of preserving the Advent running streak whilst waiting for tomorrow’s race. And a token post to accompany it.


parkrun finish tokens – I’ve rarely, if ever, been handed a finish token with a position this low …
[ photo 7t* ]

day 6, 17 minutes running

average cadence 172
average HR 113
max HR 122

Advent running summary

total consecutive days 6
(3 less than 30 minutes)
total distance 37 km
total time 2:57:28
average distance per day 6.2 km
average time per day 29 minutes 35 seconds

* Original photograph by 7t. Used with permission. Original image can be found within his blog post Dartford parkrun 13 – a strangely muggy October day, an awful run and a tech malfunction.

Moonlight – Advent running, day 5

I had a run planned for today and a post prepared to go with it. And then I changed my mind because of the moon.

As planned I ran later than I typically do so as to extend the window of rest since my previous run. And, as planned, I will be running early again tomorrow to maximize the window of rest in advance of my race on Sunday. So after getting dressed to run, I swapped out the battery in my heart rate monitor as my FR620 had been advising to for the last few days.

Except it turned out that the supposedly new battery was in fact a used one I had mistakenly kept and so I needed to go out to get a replacement. About 700m each way, but almost entirely walked with just a little jogging. Because I wasn’t on a run. I couldn’t be. Because (a) I didn’t have my Garmin recording my every metabolic moment and (b) I’m trying not to run too much before my race. On Sunday. Which I may have mentioned.

So walking, with just a little jogging, and feeling mildly self conscious since I was fully dressed to run in the cold, crisp evening – running tights with additional reflective safety bands on both ankles, base layer, parkrun fleece with yellow t-shirt over, yellow gloves and a black Gore beanie – I sauntered into the bright, commercially lit Tesco Express and casually browsed batteries over the checkout operator’s shoulder. Whilst walking home, I took the opportunity to look up into the cloudlessly precise night sky and marvelled at the moon and stars. And planes and suburban street-light glow, but you get the idea. And I decided to modify my route to include some relatively quiet, less well lit, non-residential roads.

Hence this post. And the following image …

… which wasn’t taken by me*, but captured from the excellent Phases of the Moon; a free Android app.

day 5, 35 minutes running

average cadence 172
average HR 125
max HR 137

Advent running summary

total consecutive days 5
(2 less than 30 minutes)
total distance 23.8 km
total time 2:40:34
average distance per day 6.8 km
average time per day 32 minutes 7 seconds

* Although it is the same Moon.