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Running for Autism…

This is the post excerpt.

So this is me… Owain Williams, a thirty something year old man from the South Wales Valleys, currently in training to run my first ever ultra marathon (The Wye Valley 100km Challenge) and attempting to raise some money for the National Autistic Society. I’ve decided to start this blog to document my training, a way to keep myself motivated, and most importantly to raise awareness for the National Autistic Society…. with the hope that someone reads this, likes it and wants to sponsor me!

So I like to run… I’ve ran numerous races from 10k to full marathons, but still the thought of running 100km over two days kind of terrifies me! I am not a professional athlete, I’m not even a fitness/running fanatic… I’m not one of these runners that clocks up 100+ miles every week with their running tights seemingly surgically attached to them like some kind of second skin. I’m an average middle aged guy, probably carrying a bit too much timber, that likes a beer, loves his food, and would quite happily sit in front of the TV binge watching the latest must watch series on Netflix. So running a ultra marathon is a pretty big deal for me!

So why did I decide to raise money for the National Autistic Society….

Around 700,000 people in the UK are on the autism spectrum. Together with their families, this means autism is a part of daily life for 2.8 million people.

Rewind back a few years to when I left university with my degree in sports science and rugby, couldn’t find that dream sports job, so decided to apply for “stop gap” job in the care sector working with individuals on the Autistic spectrum…. Then fast forward back to today, still working in the same sector, still enjoying it, just with a whole new appreciation of how amazing people with ASD are and a better understanding of some of the daily struggles they and their families face…. That’s why I’ve decided to fundraise for this awesome cause!

So anyway, think that’s enough for my first post, more training related blogs will follow soon. If you’ve taken the time to read this far, please take another minute to look at my just giving page:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/owain-williams14

Marathon training (12-2-18 to 18-2-18)

So this week ended up turning into a bit of a rest week, it wasn’t planned but for one reason or another I only ended up running four times totalling 29.9 km.

Monday:

Today I did a CrossFit run WOD I’d seen years ago in a men’s health magazine. 1600m – 3min rest – 1200m – 2min rest – 800m – 1min rest – 400mI set my Garmin forerunner watch to open intervals and open rest periods and to give me prompts every 400m so I knew when to stop each interval….but in hindsight I really should have gone up the running track as my interval distances turned out to be all over the place! Still a pretty decent workout if you do it properly! I managed to finish in a time of 25:43.

Tuesday:

10k treadmill time trial today. I decided to incorporate my hill session too so set the treadmill to 5% gradient for the run. Really didn’t anticipate how hard running 10k up hill would be! Started at 12 km/h and after about 2k my legs were burning so had to slow down. Still a nice little workout though!

Thursday:

30 minute fartlek run tonight, really wasn’t feeling it but still had to be done. I managed to cover a total distance of 6.50 km in the half hour. This is where I must confess, I was planning on running for 45 minutes but like I said I really wasn’t feeling it so stuck to 30 minutes.

Saturday:

So today my treadmill died on me…. I was planning on doing 16km but it came to a screeching halt just after the halfway point… looks like I’ll be manning up and running the streets a lot more.Like I said earlier this weeks kind of turned into an unscheduled rest week, I’ve missed a few runs with work commitments, Valentine’s Day and just lack of running motivation. On the plus side I’ve managed to land myself a new job this week and I’m hoping the rest will help me kick on with my training next week!

Treadmills and mental toughness….

Whenever I talk about treadmill running I get a little bit nervous. I know it’s a subject often frowned upon by most “hard-core” runners, and the “dreadmill” as it’s often referred to, is often the very last resort for those runners. By last resort I’m talking weather of biblical proportion outside… Or suffering from some highly contagious disease and quarantined from the outside world… Some people really don’t like running on treadmills and will do everything possible to avoid them.

This might be where I get ostracised by these hard-core runners, but personally I’m OK with running on treadmills. Not everyone likes running in two foot of snow like some kind of montage scene from a Rocky film… some people might live in a rough neighbourhood and not want to run around late at night… some people might just prefer running on the treadmill!!

I think running on treadmills can give you a lot of benefits in your training. From accurately judging your pace in your speed sessions, customising your hill work using the treadmills incline, to running set distances in your interval sessions. Another benefit of treadmill running is its possible link to improving mental toughness.

I read a post the other day by runnerdier, titled “things I will never do”. In it she talks about running 19 miles on the treadmill…

https://runnerdier.wordpress.com/2018/02/09/things-i-will-neverdo/

One quote that really stood out was when she recalled what her friend told her…

“… if I could run 19 miles on the treadmill, I could run 50 on the trail…”

One of the biggest issues people seem to have with treadmill running is the whole monotony and boredom of it, but could this possibly help build up some mental toughness?

I strongly believe that mental toughness is forged through struggle, from putting yourself out of your comfort zone and doing things you find challenging… And pushing through it.

Running for 2+ hours on a treadmill will mentally challenge most people. I don’t mean running whilst watching your favourite TV show or listening to your favourite playlist, I mean just running in the same spot for 2+ hours, looking at the same spot in the wall. No change of scenery, no change in terrain, no running buddies to motivate you. You can also set your pace, make it uncomfortable for yourself, and just try to keep up with it! Just run!

That kind of monotony for that length of time will be a struggle, knowing you can stop it at anytime by simply pressing one button just adding another mental factor. Negative thoughts will creep in, you will want to stop, but if you can control your mind, stay focused on that task at hand, push through those negative thoughts, you will build a bit of an edge, a bit of toughness about you.

I’m not suggesting some running revolution, where everyone leaves the pavements and trails in favour of the local gym. Nothing will ever beat running outside! But I am suggesting that perhaps the treadmill shouldn’t be so frowned upon, and it could still be a valuable tool in the toolbox of even the most anti treadmill runner. We’ve all heard the saying “Running is 90 percent mental and the rest is physical.” So if fitting in a handful of long boring treadmill runs into your training cycle could give you a bit of a mental edge it should be considered….

Marathon training (5/2/18 – 11/2/18)

Monday:

So I decided to try the Yasso 800s workout today. This workout supposedly predicts marathon finishing time from a session of 10 x 800 meters with equal time rest between each 800 meters. The time you run your intervals (in minutes and seconds) supposedly estimates how fast you can run 26.2 miles. So if you run your intervals in 3 minutes 10 seconds, that would give you an estimated marathon time of 3 hours 10 minutes.

I decided to run my intervals at around 3:30, give or take 10 seconds either way, but I stuck to 3:30 recovery time. If I’m honest I didn’t really find the workout that hard, I’ve been running 800m intervals with 90 seconds recovery, so to have over double that was a bit of a luxury. I’d be extremely happy if it did equate to a 3 hour 30 minute marathon, but I’m pretty sceptical given how easy I ran the workout.

Tuesday:

So I did another 30 minutes fartlek run tonight. I must admit I really wasn’t feeling it. Had such a crappy day in work all I wanted to do was come home and have a beer….but I’ve carried over my dry January into February so decided on a packet of wine gums instead! Hopefully the 581 calories I burned running have offset those a little! I managed to cover a total distance of 6.4 km in the 30 minutes so I was pretty pleased with that, especially as I wasn’t feeling the run at all!

Wednesday:

So Wednesdays are turning into a bit of a regular rest day at the moment. I’m trying to fit two “rest days” into my training week, one total rest and one recovery run. Today was total rest day, I didn’t even hit 4000 steps all day, but man it felt good!

Thursday:

Today I ran 800m hard, 400m easy 5 times. Turns out it’s a really hard way to run 6k! I found today’s session a lot harder than Mondays yasso 800 workout. I really pushed hard on each 800m, and ran a comfortable but still good pace for the 400m easy recovery periods. I ended up with a average pace of 4.24/km which I was pretty pleased with.

Friday:

So this is my second week of back to back long runs. Last week I ran 10km and 12.2km on consecutive days and I’m planning on increasing these distances gradually each week. Today for my first long run I went for a 13km run. I managed to finish in 1:02:16, giving me an average pace of 4.47 min/km. Felt really good again today and it was hard not to run a bit further, but I know it’s important to gradually build myself back up so I stuck to 13km.

Saturday:

Another 13 km today for my second long run of my back to back training. Ran it slightly slower than yesterday in 1:03:56. I started today’s run with a few aches and pains from yesterday’s run, my calf was very tight despite plenty of stretching. It took a good 4-5 km to really loosen up and feel comfortable in my running again.

Sunday:

To finish off the week a little 5 km recovery run. I’m still kind of new to this recovery run malarkey. I’m not the most competitive person when it comes to racing others, I try not to compare what I do to what others are doing, but I’m extremely competitive against myself. I like to push myself, challenge myself to run faster or longer than last time, so I’m finding it quite nice to actually run at a slower comfortable pace and enjoy the run instead of always struggling from pushing myself so hard.

My tips for new marathon runners…

OK, before I start I just want to reiterate that I’m no expert, I’m not a professional athlete, not even a running fanatic… Just an average runner wanting to share some tips and advice that might help some newbies as they start their running journey. These are some things I’ve learnt from years of running, the kind of tips I wish someone told me back when I first started out.

Tip 1: LOOK AFTER YOUR FEET!

For me probably the most important bit of advice I could give a new runner, never underestimate how important your feet are! A building is only as strong as its foundations… for us runners our feet are our foundations. You might have the lungs of a blue whale, the heart the size of a watermelon, spring-loaded legs like a gazelle and a technique that get Mo Farrah drooling. But if your feet fall short the rest will crumble soon after!

When I ran my first half marathon I hadn’t yet learnt the importance of looking after my feet. Wearing a pair of ill-fitting trainers so old that they could easily be described as retro/bordering antique, and a pair of rolled down rugby socks… At the end of the 13.1 miles needless to say my feet were a right mess.

Ever since that day I’ve put a big emphasis on making sure I look after my feet. From rolling them daily on massage balls, making sure I wear correctly fitted trainers, to sampling hundreds of different socks to find the perfect pair for me.

After trialing many a pair of socks I came across Injinji toe socks. I never thought I would like toe socks, but decided to give them a try, and low and behold not only do I find them extremely comfortable I’ve also seen a significant difference in the amount of blisters I’ve been getting. I’ve also started using Glide Foot. I first tried Glide Foot running the Bournemouth marathon last year. Probably the least prepared anyone could have been for a marathon, only a handful of training runs in the months building up to it. I knew I was going to struggle and I did, but surprisingly my feet held up OK with only one tiny blister after 26.2 miles. Definitely a great purchase!

Tip 2: FIT YOUR TRAINING AROUND YOUR LIFE, NOT YOUR LIFE AROUND YOUR TRAINING.

When you sign up for a marathon you’re not just signing up for a few hours running the day of the race, you’re signing up to months of training… It’s a big commitment. It’s easy to get caught up in it, overcome by it even. Most of us don’t have the luxury of being a professional runner, we have jobs, families, pets, social life’s, housework, the latest Netflix series to watch… So don’t be a slave to that training routine, make it flexible, make it fit around you and your life.

Can you pop to the gym in your lunch break for a quick 5k on the treadmill meaning you get to spend the afternoon with your family… Run to or from work instead of after it… Run with your partner, go somewhere where your kids can cycle with you when you run… Like I said make your training suit you! Don’t be the guy that misses the birthday party of your first born child because your routine says you’ve got a 15 mile run that afternoon!

Tip 3: DON’T FEAR THE TREADMILL!

OK this is possibly where I get a angry mob of runners turning up outside my house waving running spikes and water bottles in the air, wanting to burn me at the stake! I know that lots of runners think that using a treadmill is sacrilege but personally I’m OK with it.

I don’t live in a rough area, but that doesn’t mean I relish the thought of running past gangs of teenagers drinking cheap cider on the street corner shouting run fat boy run…their parents really need to educate them…at least make them watch Forest Gump! I also live in Wales…a country not really renowned for its great weather…. Running on the treadmill suits me, I have a treadmill in my house, I can use it whenever I want. Don’t get me wrong I love running outside but I guess it ties in with my previous point of making training work for you, if you’re comfortable getting miles in on a treadmill who cares what anyone else thinks!

Tip 4: GATHER AS MUCH INFORMATION AS POSSIBLE!

Don’t just follow the first training program you come across. Research! There’s a wealth of information out there… Books… Websites… Chats with other runners… There’s not one definitive way to train for a marathon. What works for someone else might not work for you, be your own Guinea pig, try different approaches and see what works best for you, if it isn’t working don’t be afraid to try a different approach.

You will come across some information that is totally rubbish too… Marathon training is going to be hard whatever approach you decide on. If you see some article promising you a sub 3 hour marathon by only doing 10 bicep curls on each arm whilst balancing on your none dominant foot once a week… I’d be calling bull shit! But there is a lot of good information and training programs out there. Research and experiment!

As well as gathering information from external resources don’t neglect all the internal information that’s on hand. Listen to your body, how does it feel, your body will tell you so much about yourself. There will inevitably come times when your body and mind come into conflict, and you will have to make the hard decision what one to go with. I think the more you run though the more in tune that mind-body connection gets. You know when your body can push harder even though you’re minds telling you to stop, likewise you know when you need to stop despite your body feeling great.

Tip 5: KEEP A JOURNAL!

Sometimes it’s nice to just go out there and run, no phone, no watch, not tracking how far you’ve ran or how fast you’ve ran it. Just running because you can. But for the majority of the time I think it’s important to keep a journal or some kind of record of your running journey.

You might just want to track how far and how fast you ran, but the more details you document the more likely you’ll be able to find trends in your performance. Did you run in the morning or afternoon, before or after work?? How was your sleep the night before?? Did you skip breakfast that morning?? Document how you felt on the run, was it easy, did you struggle?

Not only does documenting your training help you track your progress, see what works, what doesn’t…it also helps you manage your training, letting you make changes to suit you. If you realise that you always struggle with running in the mornings, and Saturdays are always a write off because your out on the beers till stupid o’clock Friday nights… it probably doesn’t make much sense to schedule your weekly long run for Saturday morning.

Tip 6: BUILD UP SLOWLY.

I can’t emphasis how important this is. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of starting a new routine, you go from couch to daily runs overnight. Then a few weeks later your struggle with runners knees and another 10 little niggling injuries, and you find yourself sidelined, injured. Then worried your behind in your training routine, rushing back into training, pushing yourself harder to catch up just for the same cycle to repeat itself again. Remember it is a marathon and not a sprint!

Marathon training (29/1/18 – 4/2/18)

Monday:

So I started this week with a 10k run in a not too shabby 48:57. Given my current level of fitness 10k is probably “long run” territory at the moment and I was pleased to run sub 50. I find pacing 10k runs really hard, I either go off too quickly and die around the 7k mark, or I start slowly and leave it too late to really go through the gears and finish with plenty in the tank…. But today I think I nailed it pretty well.

Tuesday:

Threw a bit of interval work in today, 5 x 800m with 90 seconds recovery. I’m trying to up my mileage so I think from now on 800m will be the shortest distance I’ll be running when doing intervals, I’m also trying to increase the number of intervals I’ll be running. I think this kind of distance still let’s me get out of my comfort zone and do a bit of speed work, but also helps me get some well needed miles into my legs.

I also decided to shave all my hair off… This is why I shouldn’t be left unsupervised as I have a tendency to do crazy impulsive things!! Oh well, maybe my new aerodynamic look will help shave some time off my PBs!

Wednesday:

Nice easy rest day today. Lots of stretching and foam rolling out all those little aches and pains.

Thursday:

5km treadmill “Hill” run today… My treadmill is always set at 2% incline, I read in “the running revolution” that setting the inclination to 1 to 3 degrees allows the body to fall forward as it does in road running. I set my speed to 12km/h and after a 5 minutes warm up gradually increased the incline 1% every minute till I hit 7%…then dropped back down to 2% before repeating the process another 2 times. Considering I live in the South Wales valleys you would think I was OK with hills… But my god I hate them. But I guess they are one of those necessities for us runners, so probably should keep them in my schedule!

Friday & Saturday:

So I decided to put Friday and Saturday together as I’m trying a new training technique I read about on another blog. Back to back training… Where you fit two long runs in on consecutive days. In August I’m running my first ultra-marathon, 100km over two days. So I thought this approach would be very beneficial. I’m not going to lie, the thought of getting up the day after running 30 miles… Then doing it all over again fills me with dread. So if I could get my body accustomed to those back to back efforts before that day surely it will only benefit me.

I started Friday with a 10k run. This was a hard run because I was feeling really good. My body body wanted to run longer but I chose to be sensible and cut it short. With it being my first time doing these back to back long runs I didn’t want to burn myself out on the first of my two runs.

Saturday I decided to do my long run in the form of a 1 hour time trial. I was hoping to get closer to 13km but ended up hitting 12.2 km. Still not huge distances but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I’m looking to gradually increase these long runs each week till I’m running 10+ miles both days!

Sunday:

I’ve decided to end the week with a easy paced 5k recovery run. Giving me a weekly total of 46.7km. Still not huge numbers but definitely improving each week!

Just wanted to finish off with my normal reminder: if you’ve taken the time to read this far please take another few minutes to look at my JustGiving page! Raising awareness and money for the National Autistic Society is the main reason for me doing all this!

Thanks in advance!

Owain Williams – The Valley Runner

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/owain-williams14

Getting back on track….

17th of April, 2016… The Great Welsh Marathon, my first ever marathon, standing on the start line full of nerves… 26.2 miles… Am I ready??? Have I trained enough??? Am I going to die??? My heart rate already 100 bpm as I struggle to contain that nervous energy, I think I might die!

Fast forward 3 hours 56 minutes 26 seconds, and I’m done! Tired, aching, sweaty, but happy… Standing there with a nice bit of bling, huge grin on my face and sub 4 marathon time!

Then fast forward to the 1st of January, 2018. Standing on my treadmill… Tired, aching, sweaty, but this time I’d struggled to run 5k. That huge grin replaced with a look of disappointment knowing just how much I’ve let my fitness decline over the last year.

Now as we approach the end of January and I look back at this months training, I can’t help but take a bit of pride in the fact that I’ve finally got my mojo back and appear to have got my training back on track.

OK, 144.7 km over the month might not be a big number for some runners out there (plus I have got 2 days to clock a few more miles) . My Instagram feed is full of runners hitting these kind of numbers weekly…. But for me I’m pretty happy with it. It falls into more significance when you see the amount of kilometres I’ve ran the 8 months prior to this month.

I got my new Garmin Forerunner watch in May, and between then and December I covered a whopping grand total of 165.7 km. In that 165.7 km, 21k were from running the Swansea half marathon in June, and 42k running the Bournemouth marathon in October. So in 8 months I’d only ran 102.7km in training runs, and one half marathon, one full marathon, both which I was obviously well and truly under prepared for!

The one thing that pleases me more than getting my training back on track is the improvements I’ve made over the last month.

  • On new year’s day I ran 5k on my treadmill in 25 minutes and really struggled, on the 24th I ran 5k on that same treadmill in 22:07.
  • On the 7th of January I only managed 7.5km when trying to run 10k…today, the 29th of January, I ran 10k in sub 50 minutes.

So I guess the question is… what do I put these improvements down to?? How much physiological adaptations can you make in such a short time period? I know it can take weeks, even months to make any real adaptations, but has the fact I have years of running in my legs made it easier for me to adapt quicker to my new training regime?! I know I’ve made some adaptations, my resting heart rate has decreased from 55-60 bpm at the beginning of the month to 45-50 bpm now, so I must be getting fitter.

My running times aren’t the only numbers going down, the number on my scales has also decreased…. 8lbs down from new years day. Is carrying less timber the reason my times have decreased so dramatically?

Or are others factors at play? Psychological factors maybe?? Does the fact I feel good about my fitness lately mean I’m willing to push myself that bit harder than I did a few weeks ago.

Whatever the reason, be it one factor, or possibly a combination of all the above, I’m happy that my training is back on track. I may be a long way off my peak fitness, but slowly and surely I’m getting back there…. And I will get back there!!!

This weeks marathon/ultra-marathon training….

Monday:

So I started my week with my long run, well a long run cut into 3 x 5km intervals with 5 minutes recovery between each. But a total of 15km adds up to a pretty long run given my current level of fitness.

Tuesday:

So I really wasn’t feeling today. My legs were pretty sore from yesterday’s 15km, I was planning to run some intervals but just couldn’t face running fast. So I decided to run a one mile time trial on my treadmill. 10 minutes 58 seconds later my one mile time trial was done. Ok on paper one mile in 10:58 is nothing to really write home about… But when your treadmill is set to its highest incline… One miles seems like a hell of a lot longer! Started at a run… Soon turned to a jog… And ended as a power walk. This one mile was one of the hardest miles I’ve ran.

Wednesday:

A nice little 22:07 5k today. Really pleased with how my training has been going lately and I’ve made a huge improvement from the 5k I ran on new years day. Granted that was new years day, and I may have been slightly worse for wear from the new years celebrations… But I’m still feeling a hell of a lot better about my fitness lately. Over the last year I’ve really let my fitness slip so it’s a bit of a motivational boost seeing some numbers coming down.

Thursday:

So after three hard days of running I decided to have a rest day today. I’m not really following a structured training plan, I just have a head full of different runs and workouts and do whatever my body feels like doing each day. No idea how this approach will work… I’ve booked on to a few half’s and marathons in preparation for my ultra in August, and I’m hoping they will act as good indicators of how my training is going. Obviously if I really struggle then I might need to re-evaluate my approach and follow a structured training plan… Time will tell!

Friday:

Another 10k in the bank today. I was planning on a 10 mile run but about 2km in my calf started to tighten up so I decided to cut the run short. Home late from work, eager to get out there, I totally neglected my stretching/warm up routine before tonights run… It didn’t take long for that decision to come back to bite me on the ass… Lesson hopefully learnt though! like that saying goes… Fail to prepare, prepare to fail!

Saturday:

30 minutes of Fartlek training on the treadmill today… I decided that my “comfortable” pace was going to be 12 km/h, and my “hard” pace 16 km/h.

Fartlek training is one evil mofo…. unlike interval training (which I’ve been doing a lot of lately), where you can push yourself really hard then have a decent rest period to recoup before you go again… Fartlek training keeps you constantly working.

That “comfortable” pace soon becomes a lot less comfortable. Granted dropping back down to that comfortable pace gives the legs a bit of a reprieve… But when your heart rate and breathing is still going 100mph from the hard efforts it doesn’t really feel like much of a rest.

To put a hard interval 28 minutes and 20odd seconds into a preset 30 minute workout was just well, NOT VERY NICE!!! Mentally I was already upstairs running a nice hot bath…. it took a lot of mental strength to push that 16 km/h button one last time!!

Sunday:

3 x 1 mile intervals to finish the week off, with 90 seconds recovery between each set. As you can see from my interval times, I probably could have given myself a bit longer recovery period…. I’m trying to gradually increase my interval length to get more miles in but just couldn’t recover enough in 90 seconds. My first interval felt good and I really pushed myself hard, the second was a struggle, and come the third the wheels well and truly fell off!Not a bad weeks training in all though… 43.6 km done… I know that’s still relatively small numbers compared to a lot of runners but my weekly mileage is slowly increasing so I’m happy about that! Still scary to think that in August I’ll be running double that distance over the weekend… better get thinking about next weeks training!

If you’ve taken the time to read this far… I would greatly appreciate if you could spare a few more minutes to look at my JustGiving page! After all, that’s the whole reason I’m doing all this!

http://www.justgiving.com/Owain-Williams14

Thanks for reading!

Owain Williams aka the valley runner