Friday, 17 April 2015

Out but not Down

So I've finally stopped faffing about and decided to pull out of running this year's London Marathon. And despite feeling somewhat disappointed initially, it hasn't taken long for me to realise that not only was it in reality the only choice I could make, but I'm actually a lot happier for having made it. And it ended up being a pretty straightforward decision.

Those of you who read my last post may remember that I was going to use my two runs over the Easter weekend to allow me to work out what to do. The first of these was a local five mile race in Sudbury on Good Friday morning. The second was a planned long slow run on Easter Monday. Here's what happened....

Sudbury Five Mile

This went far better than I had any right to expect. I felt more nervous than usual as we congregated in the local sports centre prior to the race start, chatting to some friends from the Commando Runners, and also to the Haverhill RC contingent present. An albeit short warm-up run helped settle these nerves however, and I felt confident I would perform reasonably well as we made our way through the crowd to start fairly near the front of the pack. Always difficult to know how near the front to stand. Too near and you can easily go off too fast as you get carried away attempting to keep pace with the quick runners. Too far back and you may find yourself having to weave around fellow runners to maintain your desired pace.

For the first time since I began running,
I've paid for an official race photo. Not a bad
one for once. So don't worry about the
copyright bit. 
I started pretty near the front. And got carried away attempting to keep pace with the quick runners. Not for the first time! But in some ways, I can get away with this in a short race, since I would always try a quick first mile and try to hang on when running a 5km, and 5 miles isn't that much further. So mile 1 was 6m06, and I felt pretty good. The course begins with a short loop so that you run past the start again after a few minutes, and there is always a good crowd of spectators cheering you on, before you head off into the main part of the race.

Mile 2 was 6m23, and mile 3 was 6m34. So beginning to slow, not surprisingly, but through 3 miles in around 19mins, and at this point going well, although it did feel tough! As I began the 4th mile, which is the hardest part of the course, involving a long steady incline, I developed a stitch. This is not something I usually suffer from, and I suspect it was to do with a general lack of fitness which led to more laboured breathing than normal. I decided the way to deal with this was to slow the pace a little, allowing me to slow my breathing down - and so mile 4 took 7m02. At this point, I had stopped considering what my finish time might be, and just wanted to be able to finish without completely falling apart. One of my club colleagues, Mark, who has been a very consistent runner for all the time I've known him, went past me during mile 4, and I determined to at least try to keep him in sight as we moved into the final part of the race.

And fortunately, slowing a little seemed to do the trick, because I found a second wind, picked up the pace again, and finished strongly, with a final mile time of 6m11, giving me a finish time of 32m16. Which is only 6 secs outside a pb for the distance. How on earth that happened, given the lack of training recently, is beyond me. But it suggests that, if I can remain injury free for the summer, and get back into a decent training routine, then my times should continue to come down for the remainder of the year.

And talking of remaining injury free, the best news of all was that I got no reaction at all in my troublesome calf, boding well for my planned run a couple of days later.

Charlotte managed her usual trick of racing without a great deal of training and pulling a big PB out of the bag, so it was a nice start to the weekend.

Easter Monday Long Slow Run

I needed to run off some of this lot....
Ah, the Long Slow Run. How I hate this vital part of the marathon training schedule. But clearly very necessary, and having missed so many recently, it was crucial for me to try to get at least one more under my belt before the marathon. And I was toying with the idea of maybe even doing another the following weekend, even though by this stage I should really be entering the tapering part of the training schedule. But in the event, this all became academic because, after around 7 miles, the calf started to give me grief again - and I had to walk the last couple of miles back home, not for the first time recently.

So - for whatever reason - I can manage a short fast run but once I try to increase time on feet, the problem comes back. I am wondering if perhaps it's something to do with my running shoes, which I changed before Tarpley - it could potentially be that my insoles need renewing too. The reason I suspect this is because I race all my shorter distances in different shoes - lightweight racing flats. So the next test will be to dig out an older trusted pair of road shoes, go for a longish run in them, and see what happens. It will be annoying if I've wasted the best part of £100 on a pair of shoes that I need to bin after only doing about 50 miles in them - but, if they are the problem, then that's what I'll have to do.

I won't be troubling Kipsang this year 
And because I can't manage more than 7 miles without breaking down, then clearly I wouldn't get round a marathon. So an easy decision in the end to defer. I am not sure yet whether I will choose to run London next year, since I'm pretty convinced marathons aren't my thing, and if I dislike the type of training you need to do simply to get to the start line, it may not be worth the bother. In fact, if it was any other marathon, I doubt I'd even consider it next year - but it's London, and places are like gold-dust, so the fact I have guaranteed entry next year by virtue of deferring this year's place gives me a difficult decision to make. But in a sense, a nice position to be in - I can just decide nearer the time, and much will depend on how the remainder of this year goes. It may be that I manage to hit my targets for 10km, 5mile and 5km between now and January, in which case I could potentially be convinced to have another crack at a marathon. It will be interesting to see how I feel in two weeks time when I watch it on TV.

What's happened since?

And so it was time to re-focus on the type of running I really enjoy. I had already begun this process in the build-up to Sudbury, making use of the gym at work, but unfortunately the following week there was lots of work on, and I didn't really get proper lunch breaks. Probably not such a bad thing - it meant I gave the calf proper rest, and with a trip up to Manchester planned for the weekend, to spend some time with Charlotte's parents and attend a wedding, I began to wonder if there may be a chance to fit in a bit of Parkrun tourism on the Saturday morning.
Worsley Woods, a great location for a Parkrun

Parkrun tourism is when you visit a different course from your usual one, and it's something we did when we visited Charlotte's sister in Wales a few months back. Other than that, all my other parkruns have been fairly local, but on Saturday, Worsley Woods still became my 8th different location. It's nice to try out a new course, but obviously you lack the local knowledge of the other runners, and also you don't know who to try to keep pace with. I did manage to chat to a couple of people at the start, and ascertained that I would probably finish ahead of one but no-where near the other, who was gunning to beat his PB which already stood at 18mins. I checked afterwards, and was pleased to see, he managed it - he finished in 3rd, whereas I was back in 12th, so I'm glad I didn't attempt to keep up with him!

Personally, I was looking to record another sub 20min time, and in the event I was pretty happy with 19m30. The course looked to have PB potential, with the first and last mile being completely flat and on a good surface. An out and back course too, which psychologically I find much easier than the two laps that most parkruns tend to be. However, mile 2 was something of an unknown quantity, with 3 separate sets of steps as part of a woodland section, that promised to slow us all down a fair bit!

Shame about the steps though...
And that was exactly how the race panned out for me - I was quick for the first mile, slower for the second, but managed to pick up the pace again to run a sub 6min last mile. In terms of actual pace recorded by my watch, I was all over the place, but in terms of perceived effort, I would say I was pretty consistent throughout. In most 5kms I have a section - usually somewhere in the middle - when I feel like I'm slogging it out, almost plodding - before finding something for the last bit. But on this occasion, apart from maybe a half a minute or so after the third set of steps, I felt like I was running well throughout. The time - again, after not a great deal of training - was pleasing enough - it continues my run of sub 20 results, extending now to 13 (I ran bang on 20mins at Bury as part of this, but my watch said 19m59, so I'm counting it!)

Of course, no sooner had I got my breath back than I began to work out what difference the woodland section may have made to my time - because the next big race for me is the first 5km of the club league, which is a great course for PBs. Held at Impington, off road but on a good surface, basically two laps of a farm with absolutely no incline whatsoever. I don't know how much time the steps and woodland cost me, but I believe I can easily knock 30 seconds off to get back down to sub 19mins, which I managed twice towards the tail end of last year but not so far in 2015.

The reasons I've dropped some time recently, I believe, are three-fold.

Firstly, as I've well documented/moaned about previously, is the injury problem - and the associated loss of training time. I'm not too concerned about the calf now - it doesn't seem to cause me problems on shorter runs. On Tuesday I worked hard at club training, with no ill-effects, and last night (Thursday) I managed a 5 mile tempo run, again with no pain at all - although it does feel a little sore this morning.

Secondly, I haven't been so careful with diet recently, in fact probably not since Christmas - which may well tie in with why I've not improved my 5km time since the turn of the year. Having got down to 10.5 stone, I'm now back up to 11.5 - and so this week, Charlotte and I have recommenced following the weightwatchers points plan which worked so well for us before. Only a few days in, but so far so good. I use my desire to run quicker to help resist temptation when I'm feeling hungry, in particular remembering the calculation I heard somewhere (and I really ought to source these things before including them in my blogs...) that you will save 2 seconds per mile for every pound of weight you lose. Therefore, 1 pound lost = 6 seconds saved over the course of a 5km. Not a huge amount - although of course the shorter the race, the more important every second becomes - but if you consider I am now a stone heavier (again!) than when I set my PB, theoretically that's 1 minute 24 seconds right there. I'm not sure whether I can lose the extra stone in weight in time for Impington - to lose it that quickly would probably be unhealthy - but even just 5 pounds lost should equate to the half a minute I'm looking to find. In addition, it's not just carrying less weight around that's going to help, but the fact that I'm now eating more healthy food can only benefit my running too.

And lastly, the type of training that I have managed this year has been geared towards marathons, and so there's been more emphasis on distance and time on feet, and less on speed and interval work. Additionally, I've not managed to make many Tuesday sessions so far this year, which I know help me tremendously with my 5km times. We've now moved into our summer training schedule, which takes place at a running track rather than on the roads and paths near the leisure centre, and so the coaches are able to more accurately measure the reps we do.

This Tuesday, for example, we completed a tough but enjoyable session comprising the following:

Typical Speedwork Session

1 lap warm-up of the 400 metre track, followed by:

100 metres jog, 300 metres hard run
100 metres jog, 300 metres hard run

And I thought OUR track had a hill?!
200 metres jog, 200 metres hard run200 metres jog, 200 metres hard run
100 metres jog, 300 metres hard run
100 metres jog, 300 metres hard run.

3 minutes rest

200 metres jog, 200 metres hard run
200 metres jog, 200 metres hard run
100 metres jog, 300 metres hard run
100 metres jog, 300 metres hard run
200 metres jog, 200 metres hard run
200 metres jog, 200 metres hard run

Unfortunately, our track is simply a grass field at a local school - and to make matters worse, it has an incline at about 250 metres until the end! However, we need to be realistic - Haverhill doesn't have a proper running track, so there's nothing the club can do about it. The facility is provided to the club for a nominal charge, and it allows us all to train together in one place, meaning newer members who may not be ready to complete a whole session can still come along and do what they can, without fear of getting left behind somewhere on a dimly lit industrial estate.

Charlotte and I live roughly half-way between Haverhill and Bury St Edmunds, where there is an asphalt athletics track, which we could use either through the leisure centre or by attending the club sessions run by either Bury Pacers or West Suffolk AC. I am tempted to try this out sometime, and have considered joining one of those two clubs to get the most out of their facilities - but even if I do, they will be my 2nd claim club, since I enjoy representing Haverhill RC and would feel disloyal moving elsewhere! (That said, I am re-considering my role on the committee following an amount of unpleasantness recently that I'd rather stay away from! No doubt it will blow over - I need to learn to step away when things become heated, rather than attempting to mediate, because I doubt I do much good, but I do end up (genuinely) losing sleep over these things!)

Last night's Training Run

I followed this up, after resting Wednesday, with an encouraging tempo run/interval session of my own. I set off without any clear understanding of what I wanted to do - except that I knew I wanted to push myself. Consequently I set off hard, and without checking my watch I decided I was probably running at close to 5km pace. On the route I was on, I have a choice - after a mile, I either turn left for a 5 mile loop or right for a 5km, and as I approached the junction I checked the pace to discover it was around 6m30. I probably should have turned right, but I decided to turn left see if I could hold the pace for the full 5 miles.

I couldn't. I should have turned right. My pace began to drop off by the end of mile 2, recording 6m40 and then 6m55 for mile 3 - although to be fair these are the toughest 2 miles of the loop, with a long steady incline. At this point, I didn't really feel I was achieving much, other than frustration that I was slowing. So I did the logical thing, and stopped. A five minute breather, and then a decision to turn the session into intervals - so I ran hard for another mile, at sub 5km pace, and then stopped again for a brief recovery, before putting in one more hard mile to get me home (5m45, which was surprisingly quick after 4 previous miles, albeit with a couple of rests.)

I got home pleased with the way the session had turned out in the end, knowing that in future doing the whole route as 1 mile reps would be a good training run, and one I'd enjoy much more than doing the whole thing as a tempo effort - although important I do these too, otherwise I'll be no good come race-day because my body will be expecting me to stop and rest every few minutes.

What's next?

Club time trial next Tuesday, and this month, with Charlotte in control of the stopwatch, I get to run. I could have run last month too, had it not been for an appointment with my consultant about my hip/groin problem - which I should say seems absolutely fine now. I'm not sure if it's because of the procedure, or whether it's gone of its own accord - and I may never know, but as long as it doesn't come back, then I guess it doesn't matter: and if it does, I know Mr Khanduja will be able to sort it. Back to time trial, and it will be interesting to see what difference the more speed-orientated training makes to my time, and so too whether the weight loss will help shave some more seconds off. We have a new race clock that we'll be using for the first time, and I love the idea of sprinting towards the line and looking up to see 18 something displayed!

More importantly though, I need to try and get sub 19min for the club at Impington at the end of this month, and time trial will be a good gauge of where I'm at. 

No comments:

Post a Comment