I had mixed emotions about the 10km race at Dalton Park.
On the one hand I had to be happy with a PB and on the other I was sure I was in better shape.
I considered whether I had given my all. Or whether I had made a mistake in relying on my Garmin too much.
I have already learnt enough about myself to know that I race best unhindered by the computer on my wrist. I ran my 5k PB without a watch at all. I’ve also run my best cross country races without a watch.
But I tried to use it to my advantage on Sunday. Truth be told it gave me nothing but stress because I simply couldn’t get on target pace in the first 5 miles.
Was it the course or was it me in protection mode?
I’ll never know but I can try to take the positives in the PB, the fact that I finished strongly and the fact that I am determined to do better at the next opportunity.
Ultimately miles 4 and 5 put any chance of a sub 35 to bed, the issue in mile 5 being the u-turn back up into a headwind and slight incline which admittedly was a mental low point where I lost any momentum and felt like taking the foot off the gas altogether. Again, positives in the fact I dug in… UPDATE – course 10KNAD so no PB!!!
Time to move on and the goal this week was to recover from the race and try to go into the 5th North East Harrier League cross country race in better shape and mindset than the 4th which was run in early January.
I’d noticed some shin pain in my right lower leg on my warm down after the 10km and I noticed both legs were sore on my Monday recovery run.
It was only 30 minutes and I deliberately slowed it right down keeping my heart rate in the low 140s. I ran 4.1 miles in the time.
On Tuesday the shins still felt sore and the weather was very cold with snow during the day. So I decided to get in the gym and completed another 30 minute recovery run. Again I deliberately kept the heart rate low.
In other news my club transfer from Elswick Harriers to Tyne Bridge Harriers has gone much more quickly than I expected. Having resigned on 24th January the move was approved meaning I can’t run for Elswick from now on. So the plan will be to try to run for TBH at Thornley Hall. It looks like I’ll run in the TBH vest as a non-counter with a view to competing from the 1st March. This was as per plan except I expected to run for Elswick at Thornley.
On Wednesday I felt quite good both mentally and physically. I’d decided on a lie in and get an extra 1.5hrs in bed which I think I needed and did me good. So instead of the planned 40mins recovery I pushed into steady with my HR in the range 160-166bpm. I imagine this would be around marathon intensity if I was to ever try one (not convinced I ever will!).
I felt strong. Having started to read “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle (recommended by Coach Tune) and also taken note of Elite running Instagram accounts such as Jake Robertson, Julien Wanders and Hudson Elite (Parker Stinson, Trevor Dunbar & Sid Vaughn Jnr) I’ve come to the realisation that I am probably going through the motions a little in my training. I am not focussing on “deep practice” and I’m not trying to consciously improve what I am doing. Increasing mileage will only lead to so much progress. I will need to focus deeply on what I am doing and how to do it better – to improve my skill.
Through this I feel like I’m not using my arms enough. I’m not focussing on posture. And I’m not getting my stride rate where it needs to be.
So I went out and focussed on those 3 key things and got into a steady pace. It felt great! I was working the arms, I was running tall, I felt like the feet were flicking close to my bottom, the cadence was improved. I felt like a runner. This I believe is more like what Coyle is talking about with the term Deep Practice. This will be critical for me now.
And so I was able to run 5.6 miles in 35 minutes which is around 6:10/mile pace. And my cadence was much better at 175spm although still more room for improvement!
On Thursday the plan was a 30min recovery with strides. I decided to run off-road and just kept it very easy. I also completed the strides on the grass. Felt fine, the right leg was still a bit sore though.
On Friday the plan was a 20 minute recovery in preparation for Saturdays race. But I wasn’t happy with my legs so I had a full rest day instead. I think it was the right call.
Arriving at Thornley Hall it seemed the course was in better condition than the previous year. It’s a tough course and the organisers had decided to run it in the opposite direction. I had mixed feelings about it but ultimately, being the exact same course, the net elevation gain would be the same in theory.
I met with some of my new TBH teammates and picked up a vest. I decided to complete my warm up on the nearby road. It felt quite chilly on arrival but I quickly warmed up and the jog down to the start line was greeted with some sun and it actually felt very mild.
I noticed on the jog down that the mud quickly clagged on my trail shoes and I knew it was a day for spikes.
This was definitely a factor but I think the stickiness of the mud was such that everyone had to deal with it. But it has made me realise that I need to buy some spikes so that I can make a decision on best option based on the conditions.
I was keen to have a better run than at Herrington last month but in the final analysis I’m not sure I did.
The first mile was OK and I was probably there or thereabouts with where I expect to be but I struggled for the next few miles. On coming up the steep hill on lap two I developed a stitch that I couldn’t shift until the last mile.
Indeed I felt like I got some rthyhm and flow back only towards the end of the race. There were some particularly tough parts of the course but also some decent downhill stretches.
I think it was another tough day at the XC office and the only victory was in completing the course. I’ve now completed all 5 races so far and aim to make it a full suite at Alnwick early March.
I haven’t had chance to review the details of the results but I’m hopeful my Grand Prix points are improved versus Herrington and I can now focus on a final effort at Alnwick to better my 4th race qualifying points total and finish as high as possible.
In honesty I’m thinking more now about the spring road season and trying to keep faith that, despite not performing as well on the country since returning from injury, I can better my key PBs.
On Sunday I got out early. The plan was a 75 minute long run. I ended up running 60 minutes around 6:30ish miling and finished with a slow jog back up to home.
So overall this week I completed around 45 miles in just over 5 and a half hours of training. I suppose at the moment I feel a little tired and also a little unsure of where I’m at. I was probably wishing for more clarity from the 10k and XC race but I need to focus on the present and keep things in perspective.
I think the key now is to get some more quality training in. I don’t have any races planned until Alnwick. This week is school half term in the UK so I am going to have a few days up in Scotland. I plan to take the running shoes so hopefully get a few runs in new surroundings and reflect on things from a higher level and out of the weeds.
Thanks for reading.