Sunday, 26 June 2016

Bury 5 mile and a bit of Lionel

A quick round-up

Many of my blog posts are essentially round-ups of my racing and training. Since one of the main aims of writing it is in order for me to keep a "running diary" and to chart progress, I make no apologies for this. Sorry about that. However, I do always try to include things that are relevant to all runners, since I am not vain enough to think that anybody wants to read all this drivel simply to keep track of how I'm doing personally.

So, as I continue to chart progress with my recovery, I hope I can throw in one or two bits of useful information along the way.

June 9th - Newmarket 5km - (Kevin Henry series race 3) 

I always find this one of the hardest races of the 6 in the series, the surface isn't great (grass, dusty/sandy path for most of it) and although it's flat, it's very open, which means you can see the finish from a long way off. And it never seems to be getting any closer. I never race well here, and I'm not sure if that was playing on my mind, but I didn't feel particularly confident lining up for this one.

I think a big factor was the training I'd done the previous two days - having run a hard session on the treadmill on the Tuesday, I'd then gone along to Sudbury Joggers again on the Wednesday (ie the day before) and run 6.7 hilly miles. So I was racing on tired legs, which is clearly never a good idea. However, this is all part of my plan to try to prioritise mileage and general fitness over race results -- however well rested I am, I'm not going to be anywhere near PBs this soon into recovery, so it doesn't make a lot of sense to rest in preparation for races if it means missing useful training sessions. And I was particularly keen to make the Joggers session, as I seek to get to know a few people there. Those 6.7 miles were tough, running about 7m40 pace and trying desperately not to fall behind the group I was with. And that's exactly what I needed.

So the Newmarket race was a bit of a disaster - I was struggling after the first mile (I feel this is a recurring theme!) and mile 3 in particular was very disappointing. In some ways it actually helped to have a sub-standard race, because it reminded me that I really shouldn't be worrying too much about times at the moment, and that I should be grateful and encouraged by every pain-free mile. Which I am - although it's not always easy to feel that way in the immediate aftermath. Facebook has a lot to answer for sometimes, but after having a little moan about my 5km times, I was given some sound advice and encouragement by some good running friends that helped me get things into perspective.

June 16th - Long training run

Perhaps I was still feeling a bit negative when I went into the next week's training, and I struggled
both on an evening run on the Monday, and at an HRC club speedwork session on the Tuesday. However, Thursday was a lot more encouraging, as I decided to ignore speed and just see if I could increase mileage with a "long" run. I managed a solid 10 miles, at around 8m30 pace - which I found particularly pleasing since I chose to throw in a few hills along the way, and yet these didn't significantly slow me down. My route was a somewhat convoluted one, around the housing and industrial estates of Haverhill, and it was far from scenic - but it was exactly what I needed.
Nestled in the Suffolk countryside, the town of Haverhill is a really beautiful place to run through.....
(joking apart, we're very lucky to be only a few minutes away from really beautiful countryside, so I shouldn't moan)

I felt I could have gone on to do a fair bit more, but was sensible enough to stop after 10, since as all runners know, you need to be careful when increasing mileage - too much too soon is a surefire way to pick up an injury.

With a day off the next day to recover, I was feeling suitably encouraged enough to "go for it" at parkrun on the weekend - and I was really looking forward to this, my first attempt to race Great Cornard for about 10 weeks. In line with my current strategy of prioritising useful training over racing, I didn't feel under any particular pressure to hit a certain time, but it would be nice to see some progress.

June 18th - Great Cornard parkrun

And I was reasonably pleased with the result - 20m39 equalled my best time post operation, which I'd achieved on our club time trial route, a course that I would describe as slightly faster. So a little bit of progress - certainly when compared with my previous two 5kms at Newmarket and Colchester - and I always enjoy my local parkrun.

Preparing for Bury 5

And so on to this week's training.

It was a close finish in the Civil Service 3 legged race last year
Monday: a short sharp blast on the treadmill, to practice ahead of the forthcoming Civil Service Sports Day, but primarily this gym visit was about cross-training: working harder on the bike and the elliptical thingy than I normally do, and getting back into using the weight machines again.

Tuesday: I chose a training route that took me out to Kedington, where we'll be racing our club's home Kevin Henry race this summer - I wanted to run some hills again, but couldn't face the prospect of another tour of Haverhill's industrial estates. There's one particular mountain that I wanted to incorporate into the run - Cock Hill (I'm pretty sure I've made some immature jokes about this in the past so I'll leave it this time) -  and I was pleased with how easily I managed it this time. My aversion to hills is something I really want to address, since I can't keep avoiding them, otherwise I'll just get found out in any race that isn't entirely flat.

Wednesday: Back to Sudbury, complete with membership form - so I'm now a member of two clubs, albeit with Haverhill remaining my 1st claim club. This means I continue to race in HRC colours, but I can attend training sessions at either club, depending on what fits best with my training and - of course - other commitments. The two clubs train on different days, so I should be able to attend one of them every week, fitting it around my son, and work, etc. This week, I chose the group that was doing 6 miles (rather than 7) - and our route wasn't as hilly as in previous weeks, although still much tougher than anything I'd have done on my own. I was particularly pleased with the pace, which increased as we went, making it a progression run of sorts - excellent practice for racing, when ideally you want your 2nd half to be faster than your 1st, even though you're running on tired legs.

I'm a recent convert to STRAVA: it's a really easy way to keep track of your training - and to analyse individual runs. The following screenshot shows the pace we ran at - and has left me feeling extremely positive about the way things are progressing.

Thursday: REST DAY

It's so important to factor in some days off into your schedule, and all the more important to rest the day before a race. So I did.

June 24th: Bury Friday 5

And so to race day - and I really hoped to get an encouraging time to give me a boost and keep me positive. Five miles is one of my favourite distances to run - with my best times proportionately pretty good in comparison with my 5km PB, and much better than my 10km efforts. It's a short enough distance that you can really go for it without fear of running out of steam, but not so short that you can't make up time if you have a slower patch during the course of the race.

With this is mind, and well aware that I'd been pacing really badly recently, I determined to not get carried away for the first mile, and purposely stood a little way back from the start line to ensure I didn't get dragged along by the quickest runners. And although I did find myself inching a little closer to the front in the moments before the start, I did remain reasonably sensible as we all set off.

The course runs roughly the Bury parkrun route, in reverse, for about 1.5 miles, before you leave Nowton park and head out onto the quiet country roads for the majority of the race, with one random section through a farmyard. I have such a lousy memory that I never really remember the routes to races, even when (as in this case) I last did them only the previous year - however, I had looked at my split times from 2015 and had seen that miles 2 and 3 were a bit slower, due primarily to changes in elevation (ie a ridiculously long hill, that never gets particularly steep but seems to go on for ever!) So although I had a target in mind of 33m45 (6m45 pace) I wasn't too concerned when I began to creep over 7min mile pace, and concentrated instead on trying to maintain the same effort, on the assumption that what goes up must come down (© Isaac Newton) 

The importance of form

I've started reading this book, and I believe
the advice on running form played a significant
role in my improved race performance
In particular in this race, I was concentrating on my running form. Trying to lean forward a little more, and fall into each new stride. Attempting to keep my cadence high, but keep my feet landing underneath my body rather than ahead (which effectively acts as a brake.) And crucially, thinking a lot more about my arms - which, in common with a lot of amateur runners, I often forget about. And when I noticed my pace dropping over miles 2 and 3, I tried even harder to keep good form. If you can get it right, you'll be running a lot more economically, and in theory you should have more energy left towards the end of the race.

Sure enough, I was able to pick up the pace again in mile 4, and even more so for the last mile, which I was chuffed to bits to complete in 6 minutes dead (although it measured a little short according to my watch, so this may not be entirely accurate.) Nonetheless, it gave me a finish time of 33m54 - almost exactly what I'd been aiming for, and about a minute quicker than I'd managed the previous month at our club's 5mile handicap time trial, which took place on a totally flat course and on a better surface.

South America. South Africa. Las Vegas..... Colchester.....?!
So, progress, and a great way to start what proved to be a great weekend - I followed this up with an enjoyable pacing event at Great Cornard parkrun on Saturday, before travelling to Colchester to hook up with Bernadette to watch Lionel Richie in concert at the football stadium. He put on a great show, and the fact that such a big name had chosen to play in my home town made it all the more enjoyable, if slightly surreal. 

On then to Sunday, and back to face some demons at the Mersea Round the Island race. I could moan about how difficult this was, (and I will, in my next blog post) but it would be remiss of me not to mention that I have friends at the moment competing in a local event in and around the small village of Barrow, which puts on 10 marathon (ish) distance events (some of them are actually a little bit over the regulation 26.2 miles) over the course of 10 days. I know a number of people who have chosen to run one of these marathons, a few that have completed the "quad" (as in 4 in 4 days) and one Sudbury Jogger - Gin - who is tackling the full 10 in 10. When the heavens opened this morning and I very nearly wimped out of a measly half marathon, it was the thought of these guys battling their way round double the distance that ensured I didn't bottle it. 

So all in all, an encouraging period of running, and a decent increase in mileage - looking good as I commence marathon training next week. Next blog post will be dedicated to the Mersea Round the Island race, which was so tough it deserves its own post!

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