Thursday, 9 July 2015

Kedington 5km & Gt Bentley Friday 5

Kevin Henry Fixture 4 - July 2nd

So the "home" fixture for Haverhill Running Club, the 4th of this 6 race series, and we were all hoping for a big club turnout, with the aim of breaking 100 club members. As you'll see from the photo, loads of us showed up - a total of 112 in all, which was a fantastic result.

Last year I had a number of disappointing runs in this series, and so it's been fairly straightforward to improve my times in 2015. Although a cold prevented me from registering any improvement in the 1st fixture at Impington, I took more than a minute off at both Newport and Newmarket, and I've been edging ever closer to a top 50 finish in what are without doubt the most competitive fields I find myself racing against at any point in the year. Last year at Kedington I decided to take it steady up the hill, and then kick on at the top - this didn't quite work out, and although I picked up pace for the last part, I wasn't happy with finishing outside the top 100, with a time of 21m32. Looking back to my post this time last year, I can see that I was struggling more than usual with my groin pain at the time, and had eased off the running as a result - I also note I weighed a fair bit more than I do now. So there was every reason to expect a better result this time around, although to do so on this tough route I'd need some kind of plan.

Race Strategy

The route is about half a mile of flat to start with, and then you hit the hill. It's almost exactly one mile from the bottom to the top, but the first half of this is the steep bit, and the second half - whilst still going up slightly - is no-where near so bad. This takes you to the halfway point of the race, and from then on it's all either flat or downhill to the finish line.

Theoretically then:

Not for the first time, Charlotte regretted asking if I had a race plan
* Mile one needs a good first half mile off the start line to compensate for time lost on the tough part of the hill, but as a result shouldn't be too much slower than usual pace.

* Mile two is half slight hill, then half easy downhill, so that should average out probably about usual pace.

* Mile three is all either flat or downhill, so should be well below usual pace. There's no reason, therefore, why you can't get a good time here.

My aim was to run 6min mile pace to begin with, maintain effort (and accept a loss of pace) on the hill, then push hard from the halfway point, with a sneaky suspicion that I may be able to record my quickest ever mile split for that nice last section - my best previously was when I got a 5m48 at the end of Hadleigh 5 last November.

Split Times

So a comparison of what I wrote on my arm, and what actually happened:
(incidentally, I just scribbled some numbers on my right arm, I didn't create a table or anything....)

Distance         Spilt Time                             Elapsed Time
(Miles)           Predicted        Actual             Predicted            Actual

0.5                 3m00              3m15              3m00                 3m15

1.0                 4m00              3m24              7m00                 6m39

1.5                 3m30              3m21              10m30               10m00

2.0                 3m00              3m05              13m30               13m05

2.5                 2m45              2m55              16m15               16m00

3.0                 2m45              2m56              19m00               18m56

So how did it go? Well, as the above table shows, I wasn't too far off my targets throughout the race. As it turned out, I was a bit slower than expected on the quick parts, and a bit quicker than expected on the slower parts, but only 4 seconds out by the time I completed the 3rd mile, so pretty accurate for once.

I managed to get myself boxed in at the start, meaning I didn't quite get the flying start I wanted, but I suspect this was actually quite a good thing, since I had plenty of energy when I hit the hill, which I managed a little quicker than anticipated. I was within sight of three club runners who I've mentioned before - Mark, Craig, and Sian-Marie - the four of us tend to finish close together at the moment, so I knew I was doing okay when the gap between us didn't widen significantly as we made our way to the top.

So as we reached 1.5 miles, I checked my watch and I was bang on 10mins. On a flat 5km this would mean I was heading for over 20mins, but I knew due to the "race of two halves" nature of the route that I'd done the tougher part a bit quicker than expected, and providing I could get that quick last mile then I was on for a decent time.

Knowing the route so well gave me the confidence to start to push much earlier than I would ordinarily, and whilst one or two runners had passed me on the hill, I soon began to gain places, and continued to do so throughout the remainder of the race. To run the 2nd half of a 5km stronger than the first was an unusual and enjoyable experience for me, and it was a good feeling knowing I'd paced well for a change!

Looking at the splits, I can see I was slightly pessimistic about how much the hill would slow me down, and then slightly optimistic about how quickly I would manage the downhill section - but I did at least keep that last mile under 6min pace throughout, if not quite getting the mile PB I'd hoped for.

In addition to over 100 runners, we had loads of club members along the route taking photos and offering support.
This is taken on the home stretch, just before the 3 mile mark
Going through 3 miles in 19 mins would normally lead to a sub 19m30 finish time - but you never know in a race exactly how close your watch will show to 3.1 miles at the line, so I don't normally predict how long the last little bit will take me - and it varies wildly depending on how much I've got left for a sprint finish. There wasn't really anyone just ahead of me to catch as I entered the last part, but I managed to push on respectably enough, and (with 3.13 miles showing on the watch) I recorded a final time of 19m38. Almost 2 minutes quicker then than I've managed before on this route, and my finish position of 51st, whilst agonisingly still just outside the top 50, is my best KH position ever, so all in all a good evening's work. 

Most pleasing was the way I managed to execute a sensible race plan, and I have to say I didn't experience any of my usual discomfort at all during the race, although I suffered the rest of the evening and again the following morning as a result of my exertions, which is why this impending operation is so important.

Not much time to recover before racing again the following evening - some ibuprofen would be required before the off and I'd get round okay, hopefully grabbing that 5 mile PB in the process.

Great Bentley Friday 5 - July 3rd

The last race of the series, my 4th of the 5 - and since they take your best 4 results, this meant each one counted towards my final score. Although an overall top 3 finish was already mathematically impossible, 5th or 6th would be a decent achievement in a very competitive age category - but this mattered to me more as a one-off race, since it offered a clear opportunity of getting a quick 5 mile time and was likely to be my last proper race for a while (I'll give my all at both Ekiden and the sports day but they're more fun/social events than serious races.)

Just to ramp up the pressure, both Charlotte and I had decided to submit this race as our bonus for our club Grand Prix series. I've mentioned this before, but briefly, in addition to entering a selection of races chosen at the start of the season by our Grand Prix organiser, you get to chose any other race (that you think you'll run well at) to add in as a bonus. The club GP is scored on WAVA (a percentage score based on your time and accounting for your age) rather than position - so it doesn't matter how competitive the race is that you chose, you just want to pick one you think you'll run quickly.

 I was feeling particularly stupid today
It's a rare but nice feeling to line up at the start line feeling confident you're about to get a PB. As I mentioned in my previous post, this was as much because of the fast and flat nature of the course than anything else, but my basic speed has been good recently, and buoyed by my race the previous evening I felt confident enough to go off hard for the first mile and see how things progressed. Although the target was sub 32mins, I had a suspicion I may be able to get sub 31 if everything went well - which needed about 6m15 pace per mile, with a quicker last mile thrown in if possible.

I purposely avoided checking my watch for pace for as long as I could - eventually having a glance as we approached the first mile marker - and I was pleased to see I was bang on 6mins for that first mile. Although - not surprisingly - I wasn't able to maintain this pace throughout, mile 2 was still below target pace, and I passed mile 3 at around 18mins30. A quick bit of maths - which I quite enjoy doing in a race since it takes my mind off the physical effort for a bit - and I knew I was on course for a PB, and that if I could keep up this average, a sub 31 was on the cards.

At this point in the race, I realised that - had the race been a 5km (3.1miles) - I could have pushed on for the last part and probably grabbed a new PB for that distance. Whilst this was nice to know, it suggested to me that I'd gone off too hard with still 2 more miles to go. Sure enough, I dropped significantly in mile 4, and I had to work very hard in mile 5 to pull things back.

Not for the first time, I wonder how big a part psychology played in this slowing of pace. The first mile had felt great - almost comfortable - and yet was under my usual 5km pace. Perhaps if I'd not had my watch on, and not known this, I'd have been able to continue at the same pace - but as soon as I knew, I began to slow. I am certain that, once I realised I'd just run 3 miles at 5km PB pace, I immediately began to doubt I could continue like that. I can run 6 min miles on a treadmill without too much difficulty, because there's no option to slow unless you physically press buttons to alter the speed. All you need is enough willpower not to do so, and you just grit your teeth and let your body respond to the speed of the belt underneath you. As soon as you come off the treadmill and run outside, you introduce a greater element of choice into the equation, and fighting the signals that your aching body is sending to your brain (generally shouting "slow down!") is surely the hardest part of running.

That's what I said.
I just used more words.
But of course you can use psychology to your advantage too, and throughout the last mile I was telling myself that I'd never find a better course on which to set a PB, and that it was really important to do the very best I could in what was likely to be my last serious race for some time. Whilst I wasn't able to pull back quite enough time to grab the sub 31, I was really happy in the end with 31m04 - a full minute and 6 seconds off my old PB, good enough for 39th in a field of around 390. It also proved to be good enough to secure 5th place in the series rankings for my age category - which I was pretty happy with, although it was'nt as good as Charlotte, who achieved 4th in hers, or indeed club colleague Trevor, who came 2nd in our category, and whose improvements this year have helped inspired me to progress as best I can too. I'm really looking forward to the time, probably in late Spring/early Summer next year, when both operations are over and I can knuckle down to some serious training. I needed a decent time at Gt Bentley to take me into these next few months on a running high, and I'm convinced I can improve a lot further once fixed!

Harry seems to enjoy racing - he certainly puts
plenty into his sprint finish
It was great to see afterwards that all 5 of us representing Haverhill, plus our friends Kerry and Chris from Colchester, all got new PBs. Harry ran well in the children's race beforehand, as did Kerry's two children and one of Chris and Jenny's daughters, and and the whole event had a nice friendly, family atmosphere to it, in addition to attracting some of the best runners in the region (it's clearly not just me that purposely seeks out fast courses!)

My WAVA score - that now goes across as my bonus score for the Grand Prix -  came out as just over 73%. As well as being able to judge yourself against others runners (of different ages, or gender) using WAVA, you can also use it to compare the various race results that you've managed over different distances, to rank them in order, should you so wish. This is my best ever WAVA score, and consequently I can say - with some level of certainty - that this was my best ever result. A nice way to bow out for a while.

Or at least, so I thought......


Operation Delayed

I can't fault the Nuffield Hospital in Cambridge, who have been brilliant since I was first referred to them at the end of last year. Since then, appointments have come up pretty quickly, and progress has finally been made. Therefore, I didn't want to complain when they called to tell me they'd had to rearrange the date of my first operation. However, given the recovery time needed afterwards, particularly the first couple of weeks on crutches, it proved quite tough to find another date that worked - in terms of fitting in with my new job starting 10th September, and with the added factor of a holiday already booked for mid August.

Race kit sorted
In the end, we settled on a new date of 27th August, just after Charlotte and I get back from Lyon. It only gives me 2 weeks before I start my new position in the Civil Service,
but I'm assuming the first couple of weeks will be sitting at a desk doing training modules, etc, and not too strenuous - so hopefully that will be fine, even if I'm still fairly immobile at that stage. The only alternative was 4 days before we are due to fly out - and despite Charlotte's kind offer of pushing me around France in a wheelchair, this seems a much better option.

And every cloud, as the saying goes - because I can now do a few more races! Keen to make the most of what I thought were my last few days of running, we'd already booked in to race the  5km at Girton (Cambridge) this week, before I run the 1500m at my sportsday, followed by Ekiden Relay at the weekend. But now, I can do a few more, including three races I was particularly disappointed to be missing.

First of these is the Littleport 10km, fast and flat, and another chance to have a go at breaking the 40min barrier for 10km. If I can replicate my recent 5mile form, then it looks a realistic prospect.

I can also now look forward to the next KH fixture - a new one for this year, at Ely - meaning I'll only end up missing the last one of the series. This will be the first KH fixture I've missed since joining the club, with the exception of one I helped marshal at in 2013, but I hope to be able to go along and support Charlotte and my running club colleagues.

And best of all, I've been able to enter the inaugural Ipswich Twilight 5km race - which requires a qualifying time that I've been trying to get all year, and finally nailed at Kedington. The requirement was either a sub 40min 10km - which regular readers will know I've tried and failed to achieve  3 times recently - or a sub 20min 5km - which I've managed plenty of this year, but all parkruns or time trials and so ineligible, since the qualifying race needs to have a UKA license. I knew Kedington would be listed as an official race, but obviously at the time thought I'd be unable to do Ipswich due to the operation - so didn't realise the significance of breaking 20mins until the date got changed and I saw I could just fit in Ipswich before I go for surgery.

I have time now, unexpectedly, to get into that structured training routine I talked about in my last post, and will do so right up until Ipswich, where I'm really looking forward to seeing what I can do on a flat road 5km - hopefully a chance to go out on a new PB.

Next post though will talk about what should be a couple of enjoyable running events, at the sportsday (where I've also got roped into the 6-a-side football tournament) and the Ekiden relay. I'm looking forward to running with my Commando friends at this one, and being on the first leg means I can then relax and enjoy cheering everyone else on - I've been the last couple of years, and it's one of the highlights of the racing calender.

No comments:

Post a Comment