A photo of Geoffrey Hayward

My Third Week on the Road to a 5K Personal Best

Balancing Intense Training with Recovery and Joy at the Cranbrook Christmas Cracker

Published December 4, 2023

A group of runners dressed in Santa suits with white beards and red hats participating in a festive race.
Out of the starting line at The Cranbrook Christmas Cracker

In the third week of my journey towards achieving a new 5K personal best, I found myself in a challenging dance between rest and vigorous training. The intensity of this balancing act came to a head by Thursday, serving as a stark reminder of the crucial role that listening to my body plays in training. The week’s standout moment was the Cranbrook Christmas Cracker – a festive Santa run that, while slower than anticipated, was still a moment of joy. Reflecting on this week’s experiences, I am keen to delve into what worked, what didn’t, and how I can apply these lessons to not only the coming week but also to my broader training strategy in pursuit of my goal.

To recap, the strategy I am following to reach a new 5K PB is to incorporate key workouts into each Monday-Thursday of the week. Namely the Seven by 1km Repeats, 8-second Hill Sprints, an Active Recovery run, Tennis, and a Cardio Session. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are left flexible for life, family, and ad-hoc training (or, as in last week’s case, a Santa run). However, next week will have to break from this, and I’ll come back to why after taking a look at last week’s log.

Monday: Hill Sprints with Too Much Coffee

I kicked off the week with 16 Hill Sprints. The concept of 8-second hill sprints is straightforward: you sprint up a hill at full speed for just eight seconds, then recover by jogging or walking for 3 to 10 minutes before repeating. If you are interested in giving them a go and the benefits, I covered them in more detail last week in A Runner’s Second Week Towards a 5K Personal Best. This weeks session felt effective and wasn’t overly taxing, however, I do think 3 cups of coffee over the morning beforehand did make staying within zone 2 during recovery more challenging than it should have been. It’s a note for next time, eh.

Tuesday: Interval and Speed Work

Tuesday’s lunchtime was a challenging but fun interval session: 20 rounds of 1-minute fast-paced runs followed by 45-second recoveries. The speeds of each run varied, peaking at 3:45/km and dipping to 4:21/km, with an average pace around 4:00-4:10/km per minute’s run. This workout was intense but satisfying, and I look forward to doing it again. In the evening I did the day’s second bout of speed work, the seven by 1km workout. This is where I ran at 4:20 /km pace (my target 5K pace) for 1km, rested for 70 seconds, and then repeated seven times. The last three repeats did take some mental determination to get through.

Wednesday: Not So Active Recovery

Okay, this is where I think I went wrong last week. Despite the strenuous work on Tuesday, my legs were feeling surprisingly fine, and I overdid the pace on the active recovery. I ran 5K of what should have been active recovery, but at 5:33/km. Which, contrasted with a slower 6:10/km pace from the previous week, was quite a bit faster. And when Thursday hit, I wasn’t as rejuvenated for another hard day as I should have been.

Thursday: Tennis and Tough Cardio

The day started with an hour of tennis at 6 am, where I felt off my game – a sign of inadequate recovery during Wednesday. Then later at my Cardio Session, it felt challenging and I struggled to meet my targets, reinforcing the importance of balancing training with rest.

Friday: Rest Day

A vital part of any training, a well-needed break.

Saturday: The Cranbrook Christmas Cracker

A festive highlight of the week was participating in the Cranbrook Christmas Cracker, first a fun family event with my girls, followed by a 5K race dressed as Santa. My performance was slightly slower than anticipated (I am waiting for the official time, but it was around 24:10), it was hot in the suit and I had forgotten to take off my scarf, but the experience was thoroughly enjoyable all the same.

Sunday: Rest and Reflection

Another rest day offered time to reflect on the week’s lessons and prepare for the next.

Looking Ahead

With a busy week on the horizon, I must take a break from my current strategy to allow for the City Runs Exmouth 5-mile on Wednesday. This upcoming event prompts a slight shift in my usual routine. Drawing on the lessons from the past weeks, I’m planning to do light training on Monday, Tuesday, ensuring I’m in the best condition for the race on Wednesday evening.

With this mindset, I’ll approach Wednesday’s race not just as a competition, but as another opportunity to test my limits, to learn, and to grow. And come Thursday, regardless of Wednesday’s outcome, I will be ready for the next challenge.

So, here’s to another week of running, learning, and moving closer towards personal bests. Let’s see what new adventures and insights the next week brings!

Enjoy your running, and why not join me on Strava.

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