Following the various niggles that I picked up after the Coventry half marathon, I’ve started getting back into training again over the past couple of weeks. My chest is now as good as fixed, but I’m still experiencing an occasional discomfort in my left foot. It’s not a pain though, so it’s not stopping me from running, but it is making me a bit more cautious than I’d like to be. I also say that because it has become apparent that I have lost a surprising amount of fitness since the half marathon. Whereas before the race, a pace of 09:10/mile was comfortably in HRZ2, I am now pushing HRZ3 at 09:45/mile. Just an off day (or two) perhaps, but it’s frustrating, nonetheless.

It’s more frustrating because I wanted to continue with the good progress made during training for the half marathon and tune that into some shorter distance PB’s. But the way I feel at the minute is that I’m almost back to square one. Of course, that isn’t the case and I will get back to where I was, it just may take a little longer than expected. I remember going through a similar cycle at the same time last year, after the Stratford half marathon that I did. It makes me wonder if my recovery routine after the races has not been sufficient, and whether getting back into training too soon afterwards has caused the injuries. Unfortunately, there’s no real way of telling but it does seem rather coincidental.

This brings me on to what next. Again, the plan after the half was to race some shorter distances, try and get that sub-21 5k and a sub-44 10k before potentially taking on another half in the autumn. This hasn’t yet happened as I’ve been restricted to base-building easy miles. I’m currently in the process of completing my application for an engineering masters course at Loughborough University which, if successful, would see me returning to part-time study in early October. With that in mind, I had thought of doing another half before that kicked off, sometime in September. For that though, training would have to start fairly soon and, if I’m honest, I’m not sure I have the desire for another half marathon training cycle given the recent circumstances.

Instead, I’m thinking of targeting a 10k, potentially around the same time. I’ve had a look at the calendar and there’s the Stratford Big 10k on September 8 that I may set my sights on. Failing that, there’s a 10k at Draycote Water every month that I can take a pick of. I quite like the idea of a 5/10k , speed focussed training cycle. As the two distances are quite similar, I can almost work on both of the above goals at the same time, aiming to PB in both during the cycle. Stratford’s Big 10k it is, with a selection of parkruns as and when I can make it.

Next up then is choosing a training plan. I’m intrigued by the new Garmin Coach feature that is now available. For those not familiar, Garmin have launched their own “adaptable training plans” that personalise workouts based on your current ability and recent training performance. It sounds similar to the service that Train as One offer and that I have used in the past.

Whilst on the subject of Train as One, I gave it another try recently. After all, I was after a training plan specific to me, and I had already signed up etc. so I decided to head out for their initial perceived effort run and see what came back afterwards. A perceived effort run involves you running at your natural easy pace so that the systems’ algorithm can work out your training paces. During the run I had to stop a couple of times for traffic, but my pace was around the 09:30/mile mark. Following upload, Train as One calculated my easy pace to be 11:10/mile. It had taken into account the time stopped for traffic, which I can understand, but it meant that the result was void and I would have to record another perceived effort run. Enough is enough and I have since given up on the Train as One platform.

Back to Garmin, they currently offer these plans for what they call beginner to intermediate runners. This is anyone looking to finish a race (5k, 10k or half marathon) in 07:00/mile pace or slower. A sub-44 minute 10k is just under 07:00/mile pace so it could work well. I haven’t been through the setup process as yet, but if you wish to know more there’s a fairly comprehensive post from the5krunner here that will provide you with more information. In this post there is a comment about the Garmin Coach feature appearing to be free. It is free, but this comment got me wondering if it’s currently a beta level program that is free to ‘testers’, with a fee coming in as the software develops. That kind of makes me want to give it a try now, before (if) it does become costly.

That being said, 07:00/mile pace is only just within my target for a 10k. It would be perfect for a half marathon but what if, and maybe I’m being a little optimistic, but what if, with a bit of training I could actually go faster than this? The plan doesn’t necessarily cater for that, not yet anyway.

Something else that I’ve been keen to try for a while is a personalised (although seemingly slightly different to the Garmin Coach and Train as One platforms) training plan offered by the5krunner. Following a set of questions, a plan is built based on your current level of ability that is said to offer maximum gains. This plan is not free but it is not expensive by any means, and I’m more inclined to go with this at this stage, especially as it comes recommended.

12 weeks out from the Stratford 10k would mean training beginning on 17 June. That gives me a little time to continue building a bit of base and also seeing just how much speed I’ve lost by attending a parkrun or two in the meantime. The parkruns will also give me a benchmark time with which the personalised plan can be built. I’ve also got another mountain day scheduled between now and then, a chance to knock a couple of Hewitt’s off the list before settling into a strict training plan.

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