A picture of the view back to the Bloor Viaduct while running my Metric Marathon Long Run on Saturday October 10.

2020 5k PB Attempt Week 6 – October 5 – 11

I’m currently in week 6 of my quest to set a 5k PB in 2020.

The first five weeks were about finding a baseline and trying to determine the best path to success. The next six weeks will be about testing the plan, fitting in a marathon, and refining that path to success.  

If you’re interested in learning about the journey so far, I encourage you to click through to Diary of My Attempt to 5km PB In 2020, for a full day by day breakdown starting at week 1.

The journey so far has included the lows of declining performance and slowing intervals in weeks 3 and 4, counterbalanced by the high of tieing my third fastest 5k of all-time, also in week 3.

I also haven’t been making things easier on myself by signing up for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Virtual Race later this month. It doesn’t fit into the plan at all, but it will be fun to do at least one virtual race and continue my streak of running a marathon three years in a row.

I’ve amazed myself at my dedication to the goal so far. I’ve become more analytical than I ever have been in, like when I took a deep dive down the rabbit hole at the end of week 4 to figure out why everything was going wrong. Or how I’ve become a student of the run, building out my first running plan, which includes many of the concepts I’ve learned while reading 80/20 Running.  

Probably the most important thing I’ve done is cutting back alcohol to one night a week. Not that I have a problem with it, but more that I know, the difference between success and failure will come down to a matter of seconds, and a glass or two of wine at night, is not going to help.

This week I focused on incorporating aspects 80/20 Running into my training plan, by increasing my distance through short easy recovery runs, and long slow runs.  

Total distance on the week was 55km with 75% at an easy pace, plus an hour of virtual biking on Sunday.

Next week will start with a rest on Monday, 4×1 Intervals on Tuesday, easy run Wednesday, before another 5km Test on Thursday, then either the Burks Falls Loop (Bikepacking/Gravel Route) or another long run on Saturday.

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, posting my best splits of the year while 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 11, 2020

Coming into the weekend I had grand plans, a big bike on Saturday, a long run a Sunday, the weekend of exercise it was meant to be.

Instead the weather was perfect, yesterday instead of a ride, the pool went up to 93, with some amazing family time to be had. COVID sucks, but top to bottom I have an amazing family, with lots to be thankful for, whether its my loving wife, two amazing girls, mom, dad, and everyone else through and through.

With that I managed to fit in the run Saturday, my legs were toasted today, and instead of a long ride, I settled for an easy hour of Zwift while I closed out my favourite show of all time, season 3 of Dark on Netflix. If there is one thing I don’t have to be thankful for it’s that it had to come to an end. Dark, you confused me, I barely ever knew what was going on, but you tied it together perfectly in the end.

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