Slowing down..

Somehow, it’s been a week already since Ragnar! We were exhausted for the first day or so but are pretty much mended and back to normality again. Whilst I haven’t yet got into a hot shower without appreciating it or stretched out in bed and not sighed in bliss, I am flipping MISSING it and still buzzing from all the fun.

Let’s start this post with a quick summary of this week’s training.


– Morning: Ragnar Leg 1. 4.3 miles in 9.44 pace (including a lot of stop-lights)

Always invest energy at the start of a relay by leaping for the photographer. Thanks Ragnar for the free photo
Always invest energy at the start of a relay by leaping for the photographer.
Thanks Ragnar for the free photo

Early evening: Ragnar Leg 2. 6.6 miles at 9.14


Very early morning (1.30am) – Ragnar Leg 3. 5.7 miles at 9.11

– Lunchtime – Ragnar Leg 3.9  miles at 8.46

Posing before my last leg
Posing before my last leg Photo Credit: Bean

I had both Sunday and Monday off to sleep, sit on the sofa, eat incessantly (RUNGER!) and give my aching legs a break.

Tuesday: 8 miles with 6 at tempo

Looking back, this was ridiculously silly. My legs felt more or less mended, just a little tired maybe. But I have Rock n Roll San Jose next Sunday (5th) and I wanted to push on, so I ran 8 miles which consisted of 2 x (1 mile normal, 3 miles tempo). My tempo miles were hilariously slow – averaging about 8.50. All I could do was laugh and realize I’d overstretched it! But secretly, whilst recognizing this, I was dismayed. (FORESHADOWING!!)

Thursday: 2.5 miles super-easy

Learning from Tuesday’s mistakes, I went out for 3 easy EASY miles whilst listening to my new e-book ‘What I talk about when I talk about running’ by Haruki Murakami. I love the book, I loved the easy run, I loved nearly slipping up in the mud from the season’s first rainfall and I loved not feeling guilty when I cut the run short to go home to the loo. Bliss.

Which brings us to:

Friday: 11.75 long run at 9.22

I would usually include this in next week’s summary but it’s important for what I’m going on to talk about. I wanted to do 12 miles alternating normal and faster miles, which is what I often do in preparation for a race. It has always worked really well for me. Usually I’d expect slower miles at 9.20 – 9.30 and faster miles at 8.40 – 9.00 pace. But today, after the first two miles where I hit those paces, everything slowed down to a slow crawl. My faster miles got up to the 9.30s and my slower miles went up to 10.

My overall pace wouldn’t be so bad except that I had WORKED FOR THIS. With the level of work I did, I was hoping for an average pace of 8.50 – 9.10.

Which brings me to something I’ve been noticing for a while.

I am getting slower.

At the start of the year, I was training hard for a 10k and Half Marathon PR attempt. Training was awesome – I was getting faster and faster each week and I felt like I was flying. Even though the week before the half-marathon was fairly dire, the solid training I’d done for the 10k carried me through and I ended up PRing at both of them. I felt amazing.

However since then (March), my running has lost a lot of impetus. I did some trail races which I LOVED and then the summer was more about me maintaining my fitness as we focussed on the Husband’s Ironman.

But over the past month or so, I’ve really upped my training game, using the same home-made ‘plan’ that I used in the Spring. And whilst I’ve seen glimmers of speed, the majority of my running has been fairly slow and solid and unremarkable.

I am getting slower.

I have two options here.

The first option is to consider some of the other training plans around. I’ve always believed that you get faster by practicing running faster and it’s worked for me so far. However maybe I’ve just done too much tempo work and my poor legs are knackered. Growing in popularity are the plans that involve training slower and racing faster. Jen has been using the MAF plan and making some remarkable progress. Angela just published a post about how she is doing something similar. I’m happy to jump on a bandwagon that looks like it might be helpful so I’ve ordered this Matt Fitzgerald book and I’ll see what that teaches me. 

The other option is to just accept it and to go on enjoying running – my lack of progress doesn’t seem to be making me particularly grumpy and is not taking away the pleasure I get from running.. I’ve quoted this before but the lovely Sara from Running The World: Sweden said so succinctly:

‘I’ve come to the conclusion that running a 10k race 30 second faster, or so, won’t make me happier. But running in beautiful places will. That’s quite an insight which has completely changed the way I run, and made it more fun and more meaningful.’


So for now I’ll do some reading and enjoy the views along the way.

I’d welcome your thoughts!

17 Comments Add yours

  1. dlubi says:

    Congrats on all the awesome Ragnar running and muddy trail adventures lately! Awesome work!

    After doing so many workouts this year, I am also completely on board with running for enjoyment as well – there’s something really great about going out there without all the gadgets and just appreciating your surroundings and running buddies!

    In terms of training… I really don’t know that much about running, but I can share what I learned in my triathlon prep this year (and from previous failed experiments in training myself for long distance events). I am always sort of a minimalist when it comes to running because, for me, too much run training is not always a good thing. If you are constantly doing long runs/training really hard/ doing a ton of long races, both injuries and fatigue build up which results in slower than normal paces. The only thing that really worked for me in terms of getting faster was periodization of my training plan (basis of most triathlon training plans and aims to prepare you to be in the best potential shape for a particular race) and running/riding hill repeats. I know the hills sound super fun, but this old-school approach works. I had many hill repeat type workouts mixed in with easy run days, as well as run workouts where you end at a faster pace than you start. All of these workouts build strength and teach you to utilize various muscles throughout your stride. Depending on what week of a periodized plan you are in, you may end up feeling slower (due to building up other types workouts/mileage, etc), but in fact you are still on track for getting faster overall – you just have to be patient with the training and trust the plan.

    Have fun out there and keep up the awesome blog posts!

    1. Cathryn says:

      I like hills. I could do hills. I was also wondering if, instead of working in weekly cycles, I try and plan my training in fortnightly cycles to allow different types of runs. That could be fun. But I think you hit the nail on the head – that I’ve just fatigued my legs.

      So glad you like the blogposts….thank you!

  2. Grace says:

    Has your doctor cleared you to do interval training? If you read running coach Jack Daniels’ ‘Daniels’ Running Formula’, he explains very clearly why runners should do intervals regardless of their distance goals – these short, relatively fast repeats (say 8×800 at 3k to 5k pace) help improve your aerobic capacity – the amount of oxygen delivered to your muscles and how well your muscles process it. Separately, even shorter faster reps, like 100m strides, help improve your biomechanical efficiency. Both of these will complement all your tempo work and the long easy runs that build endurance.

    Or you can be my partner in running easy and enjoying it (normally I’m a type-A Must Get Faster person, but what with an upcoming major move and other work/ life changes, life has caught up with me this year and I’m just going to do all easy runs for a while) 🙂

    1. Grace says:

      PS oh yes, a dose of strength training might also help. Even if it’s just Body Pump (for the chronically lazy, like me) or running-specific strength training.

    2. Cathryn says:

      I can do intervals but am not allowed to sprint – so I try to up the pace to a hard but manageable speed. Actually, intervals have been the one thing that have been missing from this training ‘cycle’ and I’ve been wondering if they might be the missing ingredient. I think I might do some this week in the run up to the half-maratho as I cut back on miles. IF my legs feel more rested.

      Thanks for your thoughts, I really appreciate them.

  3. padraigjapan says:

    I did MAF for 5 months in 2013 in preparation for a November marathon. I lost about 7kg, got much slower and nearly didn’t finish the race that I had PBed in 2012. I believe MAF is all about a life style change and you need to read (or at least glance at) the Big Book Of Endurance Running by Phil Maffetone to get the full picture. This year I put back on the 7kg, have done a lot of hill and interval training as dlubi and Grace and have recommended and seen my times get better. I will do the same race again this November and we will see if it has worked.

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and share your experiences. REALLY interested in your results from MAF. I’ve always thought that if you train your body to run long and slow, it gets good at running long and slow. I’ll be watching Jen’s experiences and seeing what happens. I think hills and intervals have been missing from my training and I’ve OD’d on tempos! Thanks again for commenting.

      1. padraigjapan says:

        This is a great blog which might give you some good training ideas. I am very interested to see if the approach works, particularly as I am getting on in years myself. If you go back to 15th Sept there is a great posting on Grete Waitz and Paula Radcliffe.

        Or for more lightweight reading you can see my experiences with MAF if you go to 2013 in my blog.

        Good luck with your training!

      2. Cathryn says:

        Aha, you DO have a blog!

        Thank you for both the links!

  4. Keep enjoying the views 😉 But, ok, in the meantime, I totally understand it is frustrating. I don’t know exactly how you train. I can see you do lots of tempo runs. But, do you do intervals workout too? It doesn’t have to be fancy on a track and everything. You can try Fartlek runs. I started intervals workout doing Fartlek and loved it.
    Also, what I really like to do is mixing things up. I do intervals workouts, tempo runs, hill training, easy runs, goal pace runs. I haven’t done it for a while but I loved progressive runs. I also liked doing runs on which you decide to run 1 slow mile then 1 fast mile… etc… Anyway, my point is, what works for me is: mixing things up.

    1. Cathryn says:

      Yeah, I think you’re right. A number of people have mentioned intervals and I think I need to add some back. But I also love the idea of doing many different workouts as you’ve suggested, it keeps things fun if nothing else.

  5. Angela says:

    Let me know what you think of 80/20! I’ll be super curious to hear.

  6. Bean says:

    I have come to realize that eventually I will not PR anymore….though not ready to throw in the towel just yet. But when that day comes running because I enjoy it will be key. And doing more relays with you of course;). Running with a faster running buddy may help- sometimes when we run with someone else we don’t notice how fast/ the pain/ the effort and end up gaining strength and speed. You might also try adding in some strength moves. Making sure your core and hips are strong can help maintain form when you get tired and let your body focus on going fast instead of keeping it all together.

    1. Cathryn says:

      Yeah, I don’t think I’m there yet either. I’m a good 7/8/9 years older than you and have PRd twice this year so you still def have time. And I think I have time too. And yeah, my core is pretty weak 🙂

      Miss you x

  7. Jen says:

    I think you already know my thoughts on this, but just wanted to throw in a comment about periodization and MAF training. My understanding of MAF is that you don’t only run slowly forever and ever — you’re supposed to do it until your improvement plateaus at your MAF heart rate, then you can start introducing speedwork, intervals, tempos, etc. 1-2 times a week. Interestingly, the amount of time it takes for the average person to plateau is 3-4 months, which is exactly what Lydiard periodization (aka the training plan most elite coaches use) recommends for an aerobic base before ~2-3 months of race-specific training is introduced.

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