Friday, 9 May 2014

Back in love with running


Ok, so firstly, in no way am I blogging so soon after my last post simply to avoid doing what I ought to be doing today, ie job-hunting. That is not the case at all. Important to get that straight.

Kevin Henry Series

Right, so I am blogging because I am on a high after yesterday evening's race, a 5k that forms part of the Kevin Henry Series. This series is a local inter-club event comprising 5 races, held over the Summer each year, from May - September. Well, Summer - ish. Each one is hosted by a different local club, all of whom compete over the series : yesterday was the first one of the year, held by Cambridge Tri, at Impington.

The scoring rules are straight-forward, in a complicated kind of way. Top 6 male athletes and top 4 female athletes from each club all score points based on their finishing position within their gender.
So the first male athlete home scores 1 point, the second scores 2, etc, and the same process for the ladies. The lower the score therefore the better. If, like me, you don't finish in the top 6, then your time and finishing position become irrelevant in terms of the competition, but you score a point simply for competing. Each point earned in this way is then subtracted from the score compiled by your top 6, so the more attendees from your club, the lower your final score will be.

Traditionally, or at least since 2012 when I've been attending, we have had relatively small turnouts at these races, with the notable exception of our own, in Kedington. I shall blog about this race later in the Summer, but it was the first race I ever did for the club, and has a horrific hill that didn't combine well with the KFC I'd had about an hour before.

This year, Sian-Marie from our club has been pushing hard to get people involved - I may also have banged on about it a bit on our facebook page. Haverhill Running Club has a rightly-earned reputation for being a friendly sociable club, and everyone's priority is to keep it that way. However, along with a few others, I feel we should push to be a bit more competitive too - and the nice thing about this series of races is that everyone who runs can help contribute to lowering our score, irrespective of what level they are currently at.

So it was fantastic to see 63 club members at Impington last night. Included within this number were a fair few new members, who have been coming along to training sessions and time trials, but who were competing in their first ever club race. This was great to see, and I hope they will all be back for the next race in June.

Personally, I did okay. My Gold target was to hit a new pb for 5k, which has stood at 19m44 for nearly a year now. Silver target was to get under 20mins, which I have managed 5 times previously at parkruns and time trials, but never in a club race. For this occasion, knowing I am pretty much back to my best, and that this course had big pb potential, I didn't set a Bronze target.

Ashdon 10k

The only possible problem would be how much my previous race at the Ashdon 10k, on Bank Holiday Monday, may have taken out of me. This race also had an excellent turnout from the club, and probably at least half of us did both, so this wasn't going to be an easy excuse to use with club colleagues.
A great turnout at a great local race, with great cakes afterwards. I can thoroughly recommend Ashdon 10k for the demanding off road terrain through farmer's fields, the tough undulating course, and the chocolate cake and apricot flapjack.
Didn't catch the guy in front but in truly chivalrous fashion we both overtook the lady

Ashdon was off-road and hilly, and was never going to be a pb for me - I was very pleased to get home in just over 45mins, coming in 27th place overall and 4th home for the club. We had 3 runners in the top 10: Bryan got 9th place, Martin - who picked up a trophy for first 50+ runner (as did Cheryl for the ladies) came 5th, and there was an excellent 2nd place finish for Andy, with whom I organise the monthly time trials, and who is in excellent form at the moment. For me this was a race I wanted to do for 2 reasons - mainly because it is always well attended by the club, and as such is a nice social occasion, but also just so I could get used to running the distance again ahead of the next 2 I have booked.

Pacing the Race

Back to yesterday then. The race was very straightforward, being two laps of a farm on concrete track, followed by a straight run to the finish. The lap was essentially a big square, so a combination of good surface, no twisty turny bits, and perfect weather conditions (the rain held off for the duration of the run and the temperature was fine) meant that there was no reason not to get a decent time. My pacing strategy was straightforward too. A 20 minute 5k needs 4min kilometres. I have recently begun resetting my Garmin watch to metric when I run a 5k, whereas for all other distances I still prefer to work in miles. However, since the watch still records lap times each mile, I get a beep and a display showing my mile time as well, so I can work in both. The plan then was to try to keep to 4min kilometres for the first 4, and then push on for the last kilometre to get that pb -- a 3m43 last kilometre would suffice, and I have managed 3m15 in training (albeit as part of an interval session with breaks in between.)

So first kilometre, and I went off too fast, as always. Very hard not to get carried away at the start of any race, and with this series being extremely competitive, being all club runners, it meant that even standing a little way off the front I was still surrounded by fast runners, and found myself swept along at their pace. I went through in well under 4mins, and realised I needed to slow up a little to ensure I didn't burn out too quickly. So for the second kilometre I hit 4mins pretty much dead on, before slowing a little in kilometres 3 and 4 before pulling it back in the last one. My watch records the lap times as follows:

Mile 1:            6m14                                    pace per kilometre: 3m52
Mile 2:            6m37                                    pace per kilometre: 4m07
Mile 3:            6m29                                    pace per kilometre: 4m02
last 0.1miles :   28 seconds                            pace per kilometre: 2m57

So a finishing time of 19m48, comfortably under 20mins and only 4 seconds off my pb. Next time I will try to go a bit steadier for the first mile - this is a mistake I make regularly at parkrun too, and although it is nice to go through the first mile ahead of schedule with "time in the bank" this invariably leads to a poor mid-section of the race. The other thing I must work on is my pre-race warm-up : Charlotte and I ran perhaps half a kilometre beforehand, but I have been told you want a good ten minutes warm up prior to attempting a fast 5k, and that should include some "strides" to finish with, ie getting your body used to the speed you intend to start at -- this is something I tend to neglect, and it will be interesting to see if this helps. I worked out today that I have raced over 50 times now at this distance, with parkruns, time trials and KH races, but I still have a lot to learn.

Interestingly enough, Charlotte was also exactly 4 seconds outside her pb, and we both finished 8th for the club in our respective gender categories. Well, I thought that was interesting anyway. I think that our post-race reactions were also quite interesting - I was pretty pleased, although I feel I can definitely get quicker, whereas Charlotte was far from happy with her performance. Providing this is channelled correctly, disappointment with a performance can be a good thing -- I think I am probably getting close to what I am capable of, and that knocking a few seconds off here and there is the best I can hope for, whereas both Charlotte and I believe that she can improve by some way still : and she has the ability combined with the determination to do just that. We both have our targets to have reached by the end of the series, and I'm pretty sure we'll both get there.

Next up

And so on Sunday May 11th, the next challenge awaits - the inaugural Haverhill 10k.
Photo taken before some wag drew a "C" in front
This is part of a family fun day that also includes the Haverhalf, but I opted for the shorter distance to fit in better with my priority for the Summer, which is to get my 5k and 10k times down. Having done Ashdon 10k last Monday, and with the Bupa 10000 in London on May 25th, this will make 3 10k races in total for May, plus the 6k Newmarket Heath race I ran on the 1st, the KH as waffled on about above, and the next time trial at the end of the month which  I hope to be able to run in - if I can rope enough people in to volunteer.

Haverhill promises pb potential, being flat and not particularly congested (unlike the 10000 later in the month in London.) My 10k pb, set back in December 2012, stands at 42m40. If I can maintain 4m15 pace throughout, therefore, I will beat it comfortably, and the way my running is going at the moment this really should be do-able. I shall of course blog about this in due course. 

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