Crossing the finish line at the 2016 Tannenbaum 10k at the 40:36 mark, setting my 10k PB at 40:29

A Diary of My Attempt to 5k PB in 2020

With the summer of bikepacking coming to an end, and an injury return to running going okay, I’ve decided to set my sights on a new goal, running a 5k PB in 2020.

As a quick FYI, I’m approaching this post differently than any other post I’ve written before, in that it will be an ongoing diary of my 5k PB in 2020 attempt.

Click here to be taken to my most recent training entry, October 27 – No Limits Workout 1 – 6×600 @ 3k Race Pace

I’ve also started breaking out each week into its own separate entry, where I collect the individual posts from the week and sprinkle in some additional thoughts around my approach to training, my future training plans, and where I’m targeting improvements, click below to read about:

Why a 5k PB in 2020 Attempt?

I started running in 2012, ending the season by running my first half at the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon. After that I took a step back, only returning to running in 2014.  

In 2014, I would go on to run a 10k on eleven different occasions, with the highlight being a 49:23 10k, only my third sub fifty 10k ever.

By 2015 running became a way of life, with 63 runs over 10k, and a new PB of 44:27.

By the summer of 2016, I decided to set my sights on a new goal, to break the forty-minute barrier at the Tannenbaum 10k. From September onwards, I trained, and I trained hard. 

As detailed below, despite my training, it wasn’t mean to be, and although I came close, it wasn’t close enough.

On the bright side, I did manage to set PBs in the 5k (19:46), 10k (40:29), and half marathon (1:31:52), times that still hold to this day.  

Then triathlon and specifically the half-ironman took over, the shorter distances became an afterthought, and my in year PBs fell back from their previous highs.  

Where I ran a 19:46 5k in 2016 for each of the next three years, my in year PBs were, 21:04, 20:47, 20:48.  

For the 10k, my in year PBs went from 40:29 in 2016, to 42:54, 42:48, and 42:54 in each of the next three years.

Despite an annual improvement in the half, my 2019 marathon PB of 3:16:08, not breaking forty on the 10k has always eaten away at me.

Well, 2020 changed everything. First, I broke my heel, which took me out of running until July, then COVID hit, which shut down the world and the rest of my plans.

With no races, I managed to pivot to bikepacking, which has been incredible. However, with the cold weather approaching, that too is soon coming to an end.   

Although the return to running has been going well, with no races, no goals, and nothing to motivate me, I haven’t been able to push myself as hard as I would like. The best way to sum up the return to running so far is that it sucks.

And there it is, the reason for the 5k attempt. To seize the downtime created by my empty calendar and to set those long lost PB’s, starting with the 5k in 2020.

If that goes well, I will then target a sub forty 10k in the spring of 2021, as part of my Breaking 40 Project, and then who knows, maybe the Breaking 90 Project later next year. 

How I Set My 2016 PB

As I mentioned earlier, I set my 10k PB in the summer of 2015. By the end of August 2016, the anniversary of that PB was fast approaching, and I was nowhere close to repeating the magic.

In my defence, by the summer of 2016, I was also slowly changing my focus to triathlon, running my first race, the Milton Xterra, earlier that summer, with my first road triathlon, the Georgina Tri, planned for early September.    

It was during my last hard training run for the Georgina Tri that I surprised myself, posting PBs in both the 5k at 20:58 and the 10k at 42:27.  

That surprise 42:27 started my mind racing, fixating even, on what would happen if I went all in.  

The new goal for 2016. To break forty at the Tannenbaum 10k early that December.

Considering I had only broken 45 once before it seemed a little ambitious, but since I had knocked five minutes off my PB in 2015, why couldn’t I knock off another five in 2016.  

Due to the magic of the Internet, and specifically a combination of Garmin Connect and VeloViewer, I have the luxury of looking back and analyzing my approach. It was a simple approach consisting of a 10-12km interval run with 1km splits done at max effort, a 1 one hour run at a hard effort, a long run of no more than 16km, and a day of either biking or swimming.

By the end of September 2016, I was about where I am now, running splits of around 4:10 min/km on my hard interval runs.  

By mid-October 2016, I was progressing, but not as much as I had hoped, with my best 10k threshold run coming in at 43:34, for a 4:21 min/km pace.  

Then out of nowhere, I ran a 1:31:52 half marathon at the MEC Burlington Half, becoming the fourth male to cross the line, only losing third place, and a free pair of earbuds, on the final kick.

What that race taught me more than anything is that race day carries an energy that you can never repeat in a typical training session. If you want to see just how fast you are, and you don’t race, then sign up for one. If you’re like me, you will amaze yourself at just how much faster you can be.

After that race, I was more motivated then I’ve ever been. Knowing I could hold a 4:20 pace for 21k, made the idea of breaking 40 on the 10, seem like an all too attainable reality.  

Throughout November, I pushed harder than I ever had before, but no matter how hard I tried, I still couldn’t consistently break a 4 minute pace on my all-out intervals.  

I was close and was hoping close enough. With my best run, by far, being a one-hour speed session with six intervals at max effort posting splits of 3:55, 3:51, 3:58, 4:02, 3:58, and 4:06.  

On race day, I came out hard, running the first 5k with splits all under 4 mins, but after the 5k turnaround, the wind hit my face, and I couldn’t hold on, finishing the first 5k split in 19:46, and ending the 10k in a time of 40:29.  

Time’s I’m still proud of to this day.

After that, the half-ironman took over, and with it, my dreams of breaking 40. As I’ve said before, not a day has gone by where I haven’t wondered what could have been.

Summer 2020

After breaking my heel in March, I had to step away for four months, my longest pause in running since 2014 by a wide margin. As I mentioned earlier, and in my August 2020 Month in Review post, returning to running hasn’t been easy. I’m doing okay, but every run feels like a slog.  

September 3, 2020 – 10k Intervals (4x1km Max Effort)

Today was my first real attempt at hard intervals this summer, although I started strong, I faded fast, posting splits of 4:08, 4:12, 4:44, and 4:44.

One oddity that came up is that I don’t think I can trust the HR on my Garmin 935. I posted an abnormally low heart rate for the first 3km, which even continued into my first hard effort before jumping to a more normal range by km number four.

September 6, 2020 – Restoule Fire Trail Run

My regular training routine was put on hold by our first visit to Restoule Provincial Park. I did manage to get in a run up the Fire Tower Trail which included 70m of elevation gain over 2km.

If you’re interested in learning more about the park, it’s beaches, it’s trails, and more, you may want to read my Restoule Provincial Park Camping Review.  

September 7, 2020 – 40k Easy Ride

With a long lag between races and a goal of putting in one more bikepacking adventure later this month, I decided to log a few km’s on the bike with an easy 40k out to Kleinburg and back.

September 8, 2020 – 10k Intervals (4x1km Max Effort)

It was just before this run that I decided to attempt a 5k PB in 2020.  

As I mentioned before it’s always been at the back of my mind, then I came across an Instagram post by @lsanderstri, where he talked about his goal of setting a 5k PB in 2020, and decided why not me.

I was finally motivated and went out hard, and it went well, with what felt like my first real good run since my injury return, posting fantastic splits of 4:02, 4:11, 4:13, and 4:03.  

These splits put me right on track to where I was in 2016, with the only difference being slower rest intervals of 5:00 now vs 4:45 in 2016.

Although it wasn’t my intent, I also put up my best 5k of 2020, running 22:20, putting me 2:35 off my goal time of 19:45.

September 10, 2020 – 14k Long Run

The goal for my long runs is to build out my endurance, without worrying too much about speed. At least for now.

My thought process will be to try to hold a pace that’s about 25% slower than my 5k race pace, putting me just under 5:00 min/km mark.

With this being my first long run since March, I’ve decided to worry less about pace and to instead focus on building out my distance to 16k. Once I hit the 16k milestone, I will then transition to slowly improving my target pace to just under the five-minute mark.

For today, I ran a relatively steady pace of about 5:30, with some higher, and some lower splits. I came out strong running the first 4k under 5:15 each, before slowing down with a couple of middle splits approaching 6:00, before settling down to 5:30 for the final 4k.

Final thoughts on the day, not great, not bad, about what I expect for the first long run in six months.

September 9, 2020 – 80k Easy Ride Through Holland Marsh

My roadbike is placed with the onion fields of Holland Landing in the background.
The Onion Fields of Holland Landing

Another easy ride, with no goal other then to get on the bike and do some exploring, and maybe get a few photos along the way. If you haven’t ridden through Holland Marsh before, do it, it’s fantastic. To see some picture’s of the day, check out my Instagram

It was also after this ride, and once again seeing the Ghost Bike put up for Daniel Bertini, that I decided to put up on a post on bike safety, Ghost Bikes and Bike Safety, by far the most popular post I’ve written so far.

September 14, 2020 – Speed Work at the Track

The face of suffering, after a hard track session of descending intervals.  I felt like death.
The Face of a Hard Workout at the Track

For today’s run, I decided to mix it up from my standard 4x1km speed workout by trying a workout I came across last year.  

I’m a big fan of the 4×1. It enables me to go all out while still having time to recover. I also use it as a launching pad to either further increase duration by expanding out to 6×1’s or lengthening out the time with 2×2’s or some other variation.  

Today’s variation would change it up in a different way, instead of lengthening the 4×1, the workout had me run a descending distance of 1.2, 1, .8, .6, .4, .2 with an equivalent easy run between each interval, all at max effort.

The thought behind the run was to pick an intensity that would enable me to push beyond my max effort, by mentally knowing that I don’t need to keep anything in the tank for future splits.  

All in all, it went beyond well, with the paces times per split of 1.2 at a 3:50 pace, 1 at a 3:45 pace, .8 at a 3:55 pace, .6 at a 3:55 pace, .4 at a 3:38 pace, and the final .2 at a 3:34 pace.  

With each day that passes, breaking 19:45 in 2020 is seeming more and more like a reality.

September 16, 2020 – 16k Long Run

Today’s run was my first ten miler since 2020, and only my third long run since the 2019 Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon.

My memories of this run were that it didn’t go well, by the 4.5 km mark I felt terrible, it took everything in me not to throw in the towel, really it was just knowing that I had a goal, that made me push on.  

Instead of throwing in the towel I decided to take it slow, and focus on making it to the end.

By the 8km mark, I was back in the zone, not fast, not slow, but feeling like I could make it to the end.

With a mile to go, I felt good enough to give it one final all-out push, running about a minute faster per km, at a 4:30 pace for that last mile. 

While writing this post a week later, the thing that surprised me the most was despite how I felt, I ran well. My average pace for the run was 5:20, meaning that even without that final push I would have finished closer to 5:25, or five seconds quicker per km then last weeks long run.

September 18, 2020 – 10k Intervals (4×1 Max Effort)

Back to the classic, and it didn’t go well.

Building off the success of my track work earlier in the week I went into today’s run with the intent of breaking 4:00 on at least one of the splits and being close to 4:00 for the rest of them.

Instead, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t do it. My splits for the day were 4:08, 4:13, 4:16, and 4:19, with a rest break about a minute slower than each effort.   

By the time my final split was over, I was mad, the day felt like a waste. So, instead of cooling down during that final km, I gave one last hard push for the final 500m, posting a split of 4:06, my best on the day.

Final thoughts, a 5k PB in 2020 is not going to be easy.

September 19, 2020 – 100k Milton Long Ride

My bike pictured with the Niagara Escarpment, at Milton, in the background.
Milton Escarpment Ride Photo

For my weekly ride, I explored somewhere new today, with a 98km long ride starting at the Milton Velodrome, which took me west up the Escarpment, and through some quiet and scenic backroads, almost to Cambridge.  

I wrote up a full report, with pictures, SoCyclings 95km Milton Escarpment Ride, if you’re interested.  

September 20, 2020 – 5k All Out

A picture of me and the feeling of success after the 5km PB baseline run, September 20, 2020
After the 5k PB Baseline Run, September 20, 2020

After my poor showing on Thursday’s intervals I had planned to do my Saturday ride, take a rest day, then get right back into it with a new 4×1 effort on Monday, 9/21.

Well I woke up Sunday feeling fantastic, the family was out, I was bored, and there seemed like no better time than the present to see how far I have to go to PB in 2020.

The big concern for the PB attempt is where. If I pick a city street it may have lights, if I choose a trail there will be hills, and if I go to the lake it won’t be accessible for my family, and the cheer station support I hope to enlist to cheer me on. I won’t have the distraction of other runners, but hopefully, with strategically placed family, and friends, their moral support will help drive me to the finish.

After a bit to much research, I finally settled on a path that surrounds the various fields at the Concord/Thornhill Regional Park, a 1.3km relatively flat, and quiet loop. 

The run went well, better than expected even, with splits of 4:02.2, 4:08.7, 4:12.3, 4:15.3, and 4:09.6, for a total time of 20:48, tieing my third best time ever, and only 1 second off my second best time ever.  

During the run itself, I felt fantastic, by the 500m mark I was feeling strong, even wondering if today could be the day, then I made a turn, the wind hit my face, and reality set in. Although I slowed a bit as the km’s ticked by, it wasn’t as bad as I would have thought. I even surprised myself by keeping a little in the tank and running my second fastest split on the last km of the day.  

My 2020 PB is now 20:48, leaving me 1:03 to go to set my all-time 5k PB in 2020.

September 22, 2020 – 16km Long Run

I finished Sunday’s session at a mental high. Tieing my third-best time, in the 5k felt good. I am now more motivated and determined to PB in 2020 than ever before.

Although it won’t be easy, the best things in life never are.

To do this, I need to be prepared to push myself harder than ever. That doesn’t mean harder every day, but harder during each max effort interval. If I have one memory of 2016, it was that by the end of each interval I felt like death, but by the end of the run, the endorphins kicked in, and it felt fantastic.

Waking up this morning, I knew that I was running 10 miles, and I wasn’t excited about it. That’s the funny thing about running, I love it, but starting is the hardest part. As the day went on, I only began to dread it more.  

Then the run started, the anxiety went away, and I felt great. I planned to run a 5:15 pace as long as I could keep my heart-rate under or very close to 140bpm.  

I came out strong, running my first 5km all under 5:00 per/km, with a HR right around where I would want it. Although my HR was in range, it was creeping, and my motivation was high, and I wasn’t tired. I now had to shift my focus to dialling it back and keeping my HR below 140, so that my body could build out the endurance I desire.

With a slower pace required to keep my HR in range, I was at a 5:11 pace by the 14.6 km mark, four seconds faster than my goal for the day. Now was the time to finish strong, with a hard kick over the last mile, coming in at a 4:30 pace. Results on the day, 10 miles at a 5:08 pace, seven seconds ahead of plan, and feeling fine.

Thoughts for the day, and on the journey to a 5k PB in 2020. Today I feel good, I’m at a high, now to find a way to keep this feeling going.

September 24, 2020 – 10K Intervals (4×1 Max Effort)

With Sunday’s successful 5k baseline attempt in the books, and a long run that paced better than expected on Tuesday, I came into today’s 4x1k interval session motivated to excel.

During last Friday’s speed session, I didn’t have it. I finished the day much slower than anticipated, and upset for not putting in the effort required to PB in 2020.

If I have one memory from my training in 2016, it was that I gave it my all, every interval, without fail.  

If I want to be true to myself, I sometimes wonder if the reason I haven’t chased the sub forty 10k since then is… it’s the hardest thing I’ve done, and I haven’t wanted to suffer that hard again.

Today I was mentally ready to give it everything I had, and I did. Unfortunately, the results didn’t show it.  

I finished the first km at 4:02, right where I wanted to be. By the second km, I slowed slightly to 4:09, which, with a little wind, I was able to accept. By the third km, things went south with a time of 4:20, followed by a 4:19 finish on the final interval. 

Today was an interesting day, I truly gave it my all, but despite that, the results weren’t there, now the question is why?

Here’s what the data shows:

  • 9/22 Temp 22C, Wind 9SSE, Intervals/HR 4:02/159, 4:09/162, 4:20/160, 4:19/164, Day Pace/HR 4:47/151, Training Peaks Overall Fitness/Rest Score 75/2
  • 9/18 Temp 15C, Wind 23NNW, Intervals/HR 4:08/149, 4:13/154, 4:16/154, 4:18/153, Day Pace/HR 4:41/144, Training Peaks Overall Fitness/Rest Score 74/9
  • 9/8 Temp 16C, Wind 15E, Intervals/HR 4:02/144, 4:11/145, 4:14/149, 4:03/146, Day Pace/HR 4:37/142, Training Peaks Overall Fitness Rest/Score 76/0

From what I can see above, it looks like Training Peaks is showing that my fitness increased, and my body’s overall level of rest going into the day is about the same, so it’s not that.  

If I dig a little further, it looks like the weather was about equal all days, without much difference in wind, so the weathers ruled out. The surprising thing is that on 9/8 I put in the least amount of effort with the best performance, with an average HR of 142, as compared to today’s HR of 151.

Now I’m confused. The weather’s the same, my rest is the same, I’ve even checked over food and sleep, without any noticeable differences, and despite all that, I’m pushing harder with worse results.

Time to go a little deeper and compare to 2016, where I looked at two random interval sessions from the end of September and late October. From what I can see, Training Peaks scores my Fitness/Fatigue in a similar way. In neither of those two sessions did I push myself as hard as I did today, and still my results were better. 

Now I’m perplexed. It just doesn’t make sense. I’m just as rested as always, I’m pushing harder, but I’m continuing to slow.

I had one final idea.

If you’re not familiar with Training Peaks, it’s a great tool that takes your workout analysis to the next level. My favourite feature is a tool that uses a variety of metrics that tracks your fitness and fatigue. I’ve always had my instance setup with my Fitness and Fatigue based on cycling, walking, swimming, and running. The assumption being that each of these sports is hitting similar muscle groups, and it’s worked well enough for me.

What I’ve never done is isolate for a single sport.  

Here are the results of my Training Peaks Fitness/Fatigue grouped by date, overall scores, then isolated for running:

  • 9/24/2020, 75/2, 27/-13
  • 9/18/2020, 75/9, 25/-12
  • 9/8/2020, 76/0, 21/-6
  • 10/28/2016, 56/13, 32/6
  • 9/27/2016, 55/2, 30/11

Now here’s something interesting, and hopefully its that simple. 

As I mentioned before, I broke my heel earlier this year, forcing me to take my longest break since 2014, only gradually returning to running in early July.

Despite the time off, I feel great, I’ve biked lots, and feel like my fitness is almost as good as ever.

The interesting thing I see is that my overall fitness and fatigue scores haven’t changed much between 2016 and today, if anything I’m in much more better shape.

What has changed is my running scores. In 2016 my running fitness was marginally better then it is today, which makes sense due to my extended absence. What I didn’t expect is the wide variation in how much rest I had going into my runs. Running wise, in 2016, I was well-rested, in early September, I was barely rested, now I’m borderline exhausted.

Hopefully, that’s it, despite feeling fit and rested overall, from a running perspective, I’m not.  

Time to test the theory and take a rest week. 

It’ll be interesting to see what the future holds.

September 26, 2020 – Durham Destroyer Bikepacking

A view from the top of Martin Hill Road on the 2021 Durham Destroyer I'm Not Worthy

In what will hopefully not be my last big ride of the year I ended up riding the 2021 Durham Destroyer – I’m Not Worthy gravel/bikepacking route, covering 164km of distance, 2km of climbing, and 7km of sand. Full ride report available here, 2021 Durham Destroyer – I’m Not Worthy Ride Report.

September 29, 2020 – 1 Hour Easy Run

I don’t have much to say about this run, other then after the twelve-hour ride that was the Durham Destroyer I’m still sore. Today’s run was really just about getting out there and burning off some of that lactic acid, running a nice slow one-hour recovery run. Hopefully, by Thursday I will be able to up the intensity, while still being mindful, that this week is intended to a recovery week.

October 1, 2020 – 5x600m Intervals

Recognizing that this is a recovery week, in more ways than one, I decided to dial back my normal 4x1km Thursday interval session, and instead replaced it with a 5x600m session at the track.

All in all, it went well, I think.

After the Durham Destroyer, Tuesday’s run was slow, so I wasn’t sure what to expect today.

The confusing part is just how well I went. If I go by the watch’s GPS data, I was terrific, posting all-time records on the 400 and 800m, while also posting four top 3 times for various other distances in 2020.

However, according to Garmin, the local track is about 430m around, if I assume the track is 400m, then I was much closer to where I expected to be today.

Here is what the splits looked like:

IntervalPaceAvg HRAdj. Pace
13:321563:53
23:511534:12
33:501534:12
43:551534:15
53:521554:13
Today’s Intervals Showing GPS Pacing Versus Adjusted Pacing Based Expected Track Distance

As you can see below, my Garmin has me running the outside loop on each lap, which I know not to be true.

GPS view of my laps around the track, showing that it tracked me as running the outside edge, when I was instead running consistently on the inside edge.
Garmin Tracked Me as Running the Outside Edge, When Instead I Ran the Inside Edge

Considering that I felt like I had more to give, I think I need to trust the track and satellite data on this one, and with that time to eliminate those records from the book.

If you’re curious, according to Training Peaks my overall fitness/fatigue for today is 78/0, versus running metrics of 26/-2.

October 3 – 80/20 Running and Two Longish Runs

I’ve spent the better part of this past week reading 80/20 Running by Matt Fitzgerald.

The basic concept of the book, so far, is that generally speaking most people run too fast on their easy/long runs, impeding their ability to maximize endurance and adequately recover.

In the last chapter I read, Matt talked about how 80% of training needs to be in a range slightly below the ventilatory threshold, which for me works out to be between 126-140bpm. The benefit being that by training in this range, your body is best learning how to build endurance. That, by training slightly above this range, your body is neither gaining the benefits of a pure speed workout nor maximizing its ability to build endurance.  

From what I understand, even when training for shorter races, like a 5k or 10k, the focus should be on building endurance, supplemented by speed workouts, enabling you to best hold your desired pace over the 5k.

Really, from what I’ve seen during this current quest, endurance is the issue. I can run sub-four for the first 2kms, but then fatigue kicks in, and my times begin to fall.

Although I may only be halfway through, the general principle makes sense to me.

As I’ve begun to ramp up my training, my focus has started to shift to speeding up my long runs, with the intent being to get my pace back to where I was in 2016.

The focus on trying to replicate 2016 is most likely impeding my training, possibly accounting for my poor showing last week.

Mark’s advice is to focus on HR for your longer runs, thereby ensuring that your staying within the range to maximize endurance. While focusing on pace for your faster or interval runs, since HR can often take a while to adapt.

My goal today was to get in some distance while keeping my heart rate below 140.

Although I wanted to run long today, with being away last weekend for the Durham Destroyer, the focus was instead on family, and with that, I decided to split up my long run into two, one-hour runs.

Morning Run – 12kms 

Dressed up for and finished my first cold morning run of the fall.
Dressed up for and Finished My First Cold Morning Run of the Fall

During this first run, I wanted to stay true to the 80/20 rule, running 80% of it below 140bpm, and the remaining 20% at my current anticipated 10km race pace, slightly below 4:30 min/km.

For the most part that worked out well, with the first 8k at a 5:10 pace and an average HR of 137bpm, the only struggle was controlling my HR on the uphills where I ran much slower than anticipated.

I then transitioned into 2.5k at 4:29 pace with an average HR of 149 bpm, before finishing off with a brief 1.5km cooldown.

Afternoon Run – 12km

As I mentioned before I’m only halfway through the book, so really I’m not even that sure how best to incorporate the 80/20 rule.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my first run probably wasn’t the right way to go about it. That for these endurance runs, I should strictly focus on endurance, and that I should save the hard efforts for at least one speed session and one threshold session per week.  

The new goal will be up to up the distance with easy runs, while pushing myself during the more intense efforts, with the intent of fine-tuning the approach based on the remaining chapters.

With that, I put in another 12km effort, this at a surprisingly faster 5:06 pace, with a lower average HR of 134.

October 4, 2020 – Recovery Run

One of the concepts recently introduced in 80/20 Running was the idea of running an extremely low effort recovery run on your rest days.

The intent of the recovery run is to continue to build up your distance while placing an absolute minimum amount of strain on the body.

According to the book, the key to success is keeping both distance and effort to an absolute minimum. Where a typical low effort run should be in Zone 2, the recovery run needs to be in Zone 1, which for me works out to be between 112-126bpm.

With that, I decided to put in a brief 25min Zone 1 recovery run today.

The hardest part of the run wasn’t so much running slow enough to keep my HR down but doing it in a way that felt natural. By the halfway point, I was beginning to feel like I was on the verge of injury due to an altered gate, shortened step, and unnaturally slow running pace.

The solution, which worked a bit in the end, was to slow my leg speed down, but even that felt very unnatural.

All, in all I’m not sure how I feel about this concept yet, I love the idea of increasing endurance through low km running, but I will need to figure out a way to better manage the unnatural running style.

October 6, 2020 – 4x1km Hard Intervals

Strava chart of my intervals today, the best I've set so far in 2020
Very Promising Hard Interval Run Today 4x1km – Average Pace of 3:59km

Today was a good day, with my best splits of the year when running a 4x1km interval set, including a couple of top 3 finishes for 2020.

Coming into today, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  

After my disappointing set of intervals on 9/24, I’ve been working off the assumption that my performance is heavily influenced by running fatigue.

As you may recall, according to Training Peaks and their Fitness/Fatigue metrics, although my overall fatigue was good, my running specific fatigue was poor and dropping, falling from -6 on 9/8, to -13 on 9/24.

Working off that assumption, I took a recovery week, thereby dropping my running fatigue from -18 on 9/25, to -2 on 10/3.  

After 24km of running on 10/4, my fatigue was back through the roof at -11 coming into today.  

My only saving grace is that with no bike rides last weekend, my overall fatigue is as high as its ever been at a +9.

When looking back, these numbers are essentially an exact match for my 2nd last set of 4x1km Intervals on 9/18.  

Let’s look at the numbers:

  • 9/18 – Overall Fatigue +9, Running Fatigue -12, Wind 16NNW
  • 10/6 – Overall Fatigue +9, Running Fatigue -11, Wind 19SW

As you can see, the main difference was the wind, which worked to my advantage today. With the route I took, the wind was at my side or back for all my hard efforts.

Coming into today, I decided to implement three changes:

  • Slowing down the easy portion of my intervals, with the intent of saving my energy for the part of the run that matters, the speed intervals. Average recovery went from 5:10 on 9/18 to 5:45 today.
  • Prior to the run, I took 15 minutes to destress, and relax, laying down, closing my eyes, and mentally preparing me for the hard effort ahead.
  • Lengthening my run beyond 10k with additional low effort recovery time attached at the end

Here are the results, comparing 9/18 vs 10/6, broken down by split and HR:

  • 9/18 – 4:08/149, 4:13/154, 4:16/154, 4:18/153
  • 10/6 – 3:55/151, 4:01/156, 3:58/156, 4:00/156

Records on the day: 

  • 2nd fastest 800m in 2020
  • 2nd fastest 1km in 2020

It will be interesting to see if I can maintain this success during next weeks interval set and if I can carry the gains into Thursday’s threshold run.  

All in all, today was a good day. Where the 5k PB was beginning to feel out of reach, I am ending today more hopeful.

October 7, 2020 – 4.5km Zone 1 Recovery Run

Another easy/recovery run in the books. Where my first attempt at a recovery run, October 4, felt completely unnatural, today felt much better.

The only other mention is that I’m working out a three-week training plan, with the intent of coming as close as possible to the 80/20 rule, while running under 50km a week. Ideally, I can find a way to do one high-intensity speed session a week, one threshold run, a low-intensity long run, all of which would be broken up by various recovery runs, and ideally some biking. The most difficult part is planning this out while also trying to see how I can incorporate the Burk’s Falls Loop the weekend of the 17th, and my virtual marathon the weekend of the 24th.

For now, the goal is a threshold run tomorrow, probably consisting of a 2km warmup, followed by 8km at a 4:30 pace, followed by a 2-3km cool down. Potentially a recovery run on Friday. A 25km long run on Saturday, and ideally some biking on Sunday.

October 8, 2020 – 6km at Threshold Run

Considering I’ve run 43.5km since Saturday, I felt surprisingly fresh today and was ready to go hard on my planned threshold run. A 1hr effort including a 2km warm-up, followed by 6km at 4:25-4:30 min/km, ending with a 4km cool down.

I’m not sure if it was a result of the lower-intensity running, or not, but I came out feeling fast. The unfortunate part, every time I looked down at my watch I discovered I was anything but.

Not to be dismayed. I knew the warmup didn’t matter, and the key was saving my energy for the hard effort that followed.

For that hard effort, the splits today worked out to be 4:30/141, 4:32/146, 4:29/155, 4:33/156, 4:39/158, 4:28/159.

All in all I’m not sure how I feel about the day, I felt good, I felt like I put in a good effort, but I also felt like my splits were just a bit slower then expected. Where in the past I went on a deep dive, today, I’m going to try not to overthink it.

Overall, I think I like the 80/20 approach so far. I’m running more than I ever have, and feel like I have more to give. My day to day efforts are slower, which mentally makes me feel better, and I don’t seem to be losing speed on the more intense workouts. The only part I fear is whether or not missing out on the long hard runs, will cause me to lose some of the mental toughness or pain tolerance that has carried me through some of my past races.

Records on the day according to Training Peaks include my 3rd highest 20 min running HR for 2020 at 157bpm, and my highest 60 min HR for 2020 at 146bpm.

To end on a positive note, I guess if I’m setting 2020 records, I must be doing something right.

October 10, 2020 – The Metric Marathon

With my virtual marathon only two weeks away, and no runs over 20k, I decided that today is the day for my one and only, long run.

The run today was a metric marathon, 26km through the city, and in a way a partial mapping of my future virtual marathon route.  

Map of my metric marathon long run through central toront
Pace Map of my Metric Marathon

The part that always fascinates me about long runs is the mental games they play. I came into the day feeling good, enthused even for the run ahead.

It didn’t take long for the head games to begin.

KM’s 1-7 to the Beltline

Murals at the 401 Bridge over Bathurst
Murals at the 401 Bridge Over Bathurst

By the 6km mark, I was feeling fine, great even, the challenge if any was keeping my pace slow enough to stay in the zone.  

My average grade adjusted split for this section was around 5:20 min/km.

KM’s 8-13 Downhill to the Bloor Viaduct

Entering the Beltline Trail
Entering the Beltline Trail off Bathurst

As I crossed the Beltline doubt began to slowly creep in, with thoughts of your legs are tired, you have still have 17km to go, do you think you can actually do this marathon with so little training?

As I turned into David Balfour Park and the cliff drop down into the Don Valley, it hit me, what goes down, must go up, and I have a lot of uphill in my future. Maybe, planning my longest run of the year with a 13km uphill return to the finish, wasn’t my smartest idea ever.

Crossing the Tracks on the Beltline Trail
Crossing the TTC Tracks on the Beltline Trail

With that, what should have been the easiest part of the run, quickly turned into the most challenging part. The funny thing is, I knew deep down, that I was fine, that my biggest challenge on race day will just be getting out of my mind, finding a way to shelf that self-doubt, and focus on the run.

My average grade adjusted split for this section was around 6:00 min/km.

KM’s 14-21 – The Climb

Looking back at the Bloor Viaduct off Bayview
Looking back at the Bloor Viaduct off Bayview

As I made the turn onto Rosedale Valley the realization set in, the easiest part was done, the downhill was over, the rest, a straight climb back to the top starting with 80m back up to St. Clair.

What I didn’t expect, it was here that I found new energy, I was moving effortlessly up Rosedale Valley, with one of my best splits of the day.  I began to realize that the only thing I had to fear was fear itself, that it’s never as bad as you think it is.

Although my pace would slow, it was never as bad as it was before, with an average split of around 5:40. Far from the 5:00 min/splits that I want to be on race day, but close enough to be in reach.

KM’s 22-26 The Final Push

I often think of a long run as like a long car ride.  

As you settle into the early part of the ride, you’re not comfortable, you think about the journey ahead, the endless time spent in the car. You wonder, do you truly want to be where you’re going, is it worth hours the time your wasting now?

Then inevitably, at some point when you least expect it, you resign yourself to your fate, you stop thinking about the drive, the lights, the traffic, and you just settle in, the KM’s tick by, and if anything you almost enjoy the journey.  

Then, at some point, you near your destination, you realize it’s almost over, you think about getting out, stretching your legs, the day ahead, and with that those last few KMs are often the worst few KMs. By this point everything is an annoyance, the slow car, the redlight, the minor traffic, the unexpected rest break, it almost seems like your back in school watching time tick backwards as you count down the final few minutes of the day.

I say this because, that’s what this part of the run was for me, relatively flat, relatively fast, but with the knowledge that the end was in sight, I was back to focusing on the pain. Although I was running well, I was checking my watch constantly, counting down the KMs to 26. Every KM seemed like the longest KM, and then it was over.

Final Thoughts

My favourite part about a typical race day is the distractions, the distractions of cheer stations, crowds on the streets, other runners, all these little things that distract me from my own fear and self-doubt.

Today, I was slower than expected. I let fear and self-doubt rule the day. In the end, I did it, my longest run of the year, even finishing with more to give. 

Based on my run today, my race day goals are as follows time/pace, under 3:30/4:59 will be great, under 3:40/5:13 probable, under 3:50/5:27 okay, and anything else, well at least I finished.

October 13, 2020 – 4x1km Hard Intervals

New shoe day.  

Photo of My New Saucony Kinvara's
Saucony Kinvara’s, Discount Courtesty of the “Saucony September 60” Strava Challenge

Thank you Saucony and Strava for running the “Saucony September 60” last month.

With the 30% off reward I picked up a new pair of Saucony Kinvara’s, the same shoe I PB’d in back in 2016.

They are fast, light, look nice, feel good, and are perfect for short, hi-intensity runs, and races.

Now that the product promo is out of the way, the one I don’t benefit from in anyway whatsoever, let’s get to the run.

Coming into today, I wasn’t sure what to expect. At 53.5km, last week was my highest mileage week in well over a year, probably in my top 10 ever. 

My legs were sore, my day was long, and I just wasn’t in my happy place.  

By 5 pm I threw in the towel. My plan today, go hard, break four minutes on all my splits, while also running 12km, just slightly longer than last week. My justification? If I’m sore and tired, I won’t be able to run hard, the day will be a waste. Of course, if I rest up, tomorrow will be much better.

Instead of feeling relieved, I was angry. Angry at life, angry at tiredness, and most of all, angry at myself for taking the easy way out.

As I’ve said before, perhaps the reason I haven’t attempted a short PB since 2016 “is it’s the hardest thing I’ve done, and I haven’t wanted to suffer that hard again”.

By 8 pm the run was back on, by 9 pm I was off, and fueled by the need to prove myself, to myself. 

The final result? Although it hurt, and I mean a lot, I ended up with my best splits probably since 2016, all under 4:00 mins/km.

Here’s what that looked like, including recent trends:

  • 9/18 – 4:08/149, 4:13/154, 4:16/154, 4:18/153
  • 10/6 – 3:55/151, 4:01/156, 3:58/156, 4:00/156
  • 10/13 – 3:53/151, 3:58/156, 3:57/157, 3:54/156

A few thoughts on the run:

  • No matter how bad you feel, you probably feel better then you think, running is mental, your mind will play tricks on you, get out there, you never know what might happen
  • Very happy to see improvements week to week with slight increases in speed, despite similar HRs
  • My recovery intervals were much better, running closer to 5:35 as compared to last weeks 5:45, with a similar heart rate
  • Last week the wind was at my back, today there was no wind, which should make up for this weeks shoe advantage

Final thoughts on the day, I still have a long way to go, but if I can keep getting marginally better, my PB will be in reach.

October 14, 2020 – 5km Recovery Run

Not much to say here, other than, I like the recovery run, after the pain of yesterday, it’s nice to get out there and just enjoy the run.

The only interesting note. Last week, my average split/hr was 6:10/120, versus 5:46/120 today. Perhaps another sign of marginal improvements week to week.

October 17, 2020 – 2020 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Virtual Marathon

You can click here, 2020 Toronto Waterfront Marathon Recap, to read about the return from injury, my PB in 2019, signing up two weeks ago, and the experience of running my first virtual marathon through the much quieter streets of Toronto.

In case you’re wondering. I’m happy to say, I ran my third fastest all-time marathon, in just my third ever attempt. 🙂

October 19, 2020 – 30 Minutes of Zwift

It’s a strange feeling when you wake up in the morning, get out of bed, head downstairs and realize, “I feel my tendons.”

And with that comes the realization that I’m in store for my first real recovery week. Not a light recovery week like the one I took a few weeks back, but a true recovery week of very light efforts and easy runs.  

Coming into today, my feet are swollen, my legs are aching, it’s safe to say I’m sore, I almost wonder if I’ll ever be able to run again.

With the sole intent of trying to flush out some of the lactic acid buildup, I hopped on the trainer for an easy thirty minutes of Zwift.

October 20, 2020 – 5km Easy Run

Going into Saturday, I was overconfident, hoping that the nearly 1,000kms of biking in August, combined with the hard running in September, would be my ticket to the success of a sub 3:30 marathon.

I had hoped that, like last year, I could pull off a miracle, only it didn’t work out that way. I realize now that biking and running are like apples and oranges. Although they share some similarities, they definitely aren’t the same.

Last year I ran, and I ran a lot, my strategy for the half-ironman, was to focus on my strength, to run more, and bike less, and it worked.

After the half, my running dropped dramatically. In its place, the return to hockey happened, along with some hard efforts of single track mountain biking. I now believe that by race day, I probably maintained or increased my leg strength, maintained my leg endurance, and fell into my best pre-race taper ever.

The difference is this year, I came in with lots of biking in August and only a month of running with efforts, leading to legs that just weren’t ready for the demands of 42k.

That’s a long preamble to say… I get it, I ran a marathon on Saturday, and wow, this still hurts, a lot.  

Even though it does, it feels like I should at least get out for a bit, ultimately leading to today’s thirty-minute recovery run, where I felt every bit of it.

October 21, 2020 – 60 Minutes of Zwift

I no longer feel my tendons. That’s good, I think.

When I went into last weekend, my original plan was to head north to the Burks Falls Loop and my first fall colours ride. For various reasons, that didn’t pan out, so I ended up running a marathon instead.

Not wanting to miss out on the colours, I’ll be heading east to head east to Durham this weekend to ride a new route crafted by gravelroad.ca.

It’s going to be good. I’m looking forward to it, but at the same time, I hope I’m ready for it.

I guess there’s no better time than now to ramp up the training a bit more, so I put on some Netflix and hopped on Zwift for an unstructured hour of moderate sustained efforts, including some harder pushes on the climbs.   

I’m not sure how Saturday will go, I’m sure I won’t be myself, but hopefully, I’ll be good enough.

October 22, 2020 – 3x1km Recovery Effort Intervals

So far, so good. The hour on the trainer went well yesterday, with no ill effects to show for it. I’m recovering, of course not as fast as I’d like but recovering all the same.

Today I wanted to run, to push myself just a bit more. Coming off yesterday’s success, I decided to run some light intervals today, consisting of an 8km run, including 3km of light intervals. 

In case you’re new to the blog, my target for 1km intervals is my 5km race pace or just below 4 mins/km.

Today, I dialled it back. Instead of hard efforts, I took it easy, running with just a bit of effort, ending up with a 4:50 average pace, and although my cardio was good with it, my legs wondered how I ever ran sub 4 before :).  

The intent today, remind my legs not to get complacent, to still rest, but not too much.

As I mentioned in my week 7 review, next week I’ll start following Lionel Sanders 5km PB training plan on my hard efforts. Life is going to get tough, and I need them to be ready for it. 

BTW, congrats to the man that inspired this quest, Lionel Sanders, for setting his 5km PB earlier this week. Hopefully, his plan works as well for me as it did for him.

October 24, 2020 – 63km Easy Ride North of Durham

A picture of the truck that looks like a chicken in front of the White Feather store in North Oshawa
White Feather Store – Chicken Truck – North Oshawa

October’s been awesome, with some record fast runs, a surprise marathon on two weeks of training, and some great pacing towards my 5k PB goal.

As great as it’s been, it’s also been lacking in balance. With a laser focus on 80/20 running, and a few surprise changes to my planning, I’ve only managed one outdoor ride this month, a short and fun 10k ride with my kids through the park.

In short, I miss the bike.

Today that all changed when I had the pleasure of joining the man behind gravelroad.ca for a 60k tour of the lands north of Oshawa and Bowmanville.

With quiet roads, incredible scenery, and relentless hills, it’s safe to say Durham doesn’t get the respect it deserves. If you’ve yet to ride here, reach out, and I’ll point you towards a few great routes. You won’t be disappointed.

Thanks for the company instagram.com/gravelroad.ca, looking forward to doing it again sometime soon.

October 25, 2020 – 1 Hour Easy Recovery Run

A picture bridges of the Bartley Smith Greenway Trail approaching the Keffer Marsh
Bartley Smith Greenway Trail Approaching the Keffer Marsh – North of Rivermede Road

It’s been eight days since the Toronto Waterfront Virtual Marathon. The recovery week has gone well, and for the most part, I feel okay.

Where I went to bad on Friday with a little tightness in my left knee, after Saturday’s ride, the pain is gone, and I’m almost back to normal.

The final part of my very unscientific recovery plan was planned as a short, long run, consisting of 12k at the upper end of my endurance, aka Zone 2 pace.

Pace wise, the final result… not good, not bad either. A decidedly meh one hour run. I ran a little faster than I should of with an equal split between endurance pacing/hr and dead zone pacing/hr, where, according to 80/20 running, I’m not building endurance or working on speed.

Feeling wise, I’m not going to lie. It felt harder than it should have. Not that I was pushing myself hard, but that my legs still felt a little dead. Another way of putting it, this easy run was not that easy or enjoyable, feeling more like a July run when I just returned from injury than an early October run where everything was beginning to click.

On the bright side, according to Training Peaks and their Running Performance Chart, for the first time in a long time, I’m properly rested.

Next week will be a big week, so hopefully, there’s some truth to that.

October 27, 2020 – No Limits Workout 1 – 6×600

A picture of me after a night track session.
After LS Workout 1 – 6x600m at 3k Race Pace

Today was speed workout 1 of 10 of my final push to PB in 2020. The plan, 6x600m at 3:50km (target 3k race pace).

As I mentioned in my week seven wrap-up, the plan for these next seven weeks is to replicate the training plan Lionel Sanders used to set his 5k PB two weeks ago. Let’s just say, it’s going to be intense.

As I prepared for the run today, I decided to do two things.  

First, to leverage the power of positivity. To channel my inner Goggins, to not fear the run, and it worked. Not only did I not fear the pain. I welcomed it. Let’s face it, if I want to PB in 2020, I’m going to need to stay hard and embrace the pain. Pain equals progress after all.

I’ve also been experimenting with taking a pre-workout energizer drink, and for the most part, it’s been good. Whether it’s improving performance, or not, I don’t know, but I don’t think it’s hurting it either. With that, thirty minutes before the run, I decided to eyeball a serving of Vega One’s Pre Workout Energizer, and wow, that was a mistake. Within ten minutes, I was flying, probably more caffeinated than I’ve ever been in my life. I don’t think it hurt the final result. Maybe it even helped it. All I can say is that my head felt like it would explode, and I didn’t like it one bit.

The run started with a brief 15-minute warmup at a slow Zone 2 pace, before the main set began, 6x600m at a 3k Race Pace of 3:50min/km, before closing out with another 15-minute cooldown.

Here’s how it broke down:

LapTimePaceMax HR
12:13.23:41165
22:20.03:53166
32:23.54:00165
42:23.94:00166
52:24.24:00165
62:26.24:03166
6x600m at Target 3k Race Pace (3:50min/km)

Final thoughts on the run, I came out hard, flying through the first lap. By lap two, I could tell it was going to be a long day. Then positivity kicked in, reframing the thought to, yes it hurts, but in twenty minutes it’ll all be over, asking myself, do I want to know that I killed these twenty minutes, or gave in? It is only twenty minutes after all. Mid-way through lap 4 I was slowing, but not as bad as it felt, I started to channel my inner Goggins, reminding myself to stay hard, embrace the pain, and get through this like a champion. As I rounded into the last lap, I was ready to kill it, but try as I might, the legs just weren’t there.

All in all, considering the dead legs of Sunday, and the pain of last week, I’m happy with it, not my fastest session by any means, but considering it’s coming off a marathon week, that’s okay.

The only issue as I write this, one day later, is my upper back is a mess. Hopefully, only mildly aggravated by some bad form, from pushing it so hard yesterday.

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