In fitness or in health?

I’ve learnt quite a lot over the last couple of years since I started running again. In many ways I wish I’d known then what I know now. Then again, maybe I don’t. Maybe the fun is not in getting everything right first time. Maybe the fun is in making mistakes, thinking you’re doomed, realizing you’re not and moving on.

But what I have learnt is that my progress in running, and particularly my progress with regards to my 5k times, has not necessarily led to an improvement in BOTH my fitness and health. A lot of people might express surprise. Most people might think running equals fitness equals health, especially if times are improving as well. Not necessarily so.

I am “fit” enough to run a 5k in 18.23 but I’m not necessarily healthy. I know this because there is a big disconnect between what I have been able to push myself to do at my top end (anaerobically/all out) and what I can do comfortably in my aerobic range. Basically what I’m saying is I don’t have an efficient aerobic base. I have a weak aerobic base. I would also say that if I don’t develop one I will not hit my target of sub 17 for 5km.

The problem that I have had is that I have fallen into pretty much every running trap by following my intuition. Intuition that was unfortunately wrong. For example, surely if I need to run 3 miles at ~5.20/mile all I must do in training is bash out reps at or around that pace until it’s ingrained? Wrong. Only injury and illness will follow as I know I’m not genetically gifted enough to succeed with that boom and bust strategy.

At the start of this blog I said I wish I knew then what I know now about training as an endurance runner. The main reason for that is I’ve spent two years chasing a dream in the wrong way.

Not one to dwell on mistakes I now have the opportunity to get it right and be both fit and healthy rather than just apparently “fit”… I have a very well structured training plan that I just need to execute. But it can only be executed effectively if I manage my stress levels in other areas of my life, particularly work. This is something that I believe I have not done well, further harming my aerobic power. I’m the sort of character that worries, does everything in haste. That needs to change.

Outside of running, I’ve recently bought a bike. The good thing about riding is that you can do some good long work bubbling around the top end of your aerobic range without the stress of running. So I’m planning to get some work commutes in which could add 1-5hrs to my weekly exercise schedule with hopefully good benefits to my overall fitness and health. I’m also considering getting a turbo trainer. I’d certainly not rule out duathlons in the future, it’s certainly something I’m interested in.

On the horizon is Alnwick cross country and I’m keen to put the disappointment of Wrekenton behind me. Unfortunately Jesmond have slipped into the relegation zone in Division 2 so we need two very good performances in the last races of the season to have any chance of survival. Its not in my nature to avoid responsibility and I know if I’d somehow battled on at Wrekenton we might have scraped some extra points. So I’ll be trying doubly hard to get back to what I know I can do…

Wrecked at Wrekenton

I couldn’t wait to get back to Wrekenton. In last years Harrier League it had been my most disappointing fixture. I’d struggled through Jan-13 with a persistent cold and my training diary shows that I barely did any training going into the race (I only did 37 miles total for the month!). I got round but I felt I was capable of more.

What a difference a year makes. I picked up a very similar bug at New Year but seemed to shake it quickly and resumed training 6th of Jan. I then put together arguably the most consistent 5 weeks of training leading up to the first XC fixture of 2014. 100 miles solid training in Jan-14, 63 miles more than Jan-13.

I felt confident and couldn’t wait to race.

And then the race started. I felt spent after the first tiny incline. Coming up the first big hill I was heaving for air. I managed one full lap but couldn’t continue. I had to stop.

To make it clear, I have never found a XC race easy. I’ve never cruised round without thinking “I wish it was over”, and would never expect to. One of my strengths, I feel, is my ability to overcome these inclinations. But this was different, my body and head said no, no, no – not today. I couldn’t do anything but stop…

I felt gutted and confused.

When I got back home I felt exhausted. I had to go to bed. Even yesterday, couldn’t really contemplate leaving the house. Today still tired and not feeling too good.

Is this what they mean when they talk about overtraing syndrome or just some sort of bug???

The only other possible explanation, or perhaps not helping, was a change in my dietary routine. I always get a bit worked up about food routine on race day, the what and when etc. Usually I just ensure to drink enough water to stay hydrated and a bowl of porridge 3-4hrs before the race. It has always been fine, I know now it didn’t need fixing. This time, however, I opted for a shake (just add milk and banana) that I’d bought, specifically marketed at endurance athletes. It didn’t digest and I could feel the “washer machine effect” during warm up… One of the first bits of nutrition advice I ever received was don’t have milk before a race as it curdles on your stomach…

This has knocked my confidence and I no doubt will be dreading Alnwick and Prudhoe. I’ve read running books that say never drop out unless it’s a serious injury and I would tend to agree that it’s going to be tough to keep mentally strong knowing that this has happened.

But I’m confident I can put this behind me, work out what has gone wrong and get back on track.

I have to say well done to all other athletes on what was a tough day and a tough course. Hats off to you all.

Revised running goals 2014

I’ve had a rethink on my goals for 2014 as the last set were poorly thought out.

In order of importance –

1. Stay injury free
2. Train consistently
3. Enjoy my running
4. Sub 18min 5k
5. Compete in the Blaydon race
6. Compete in the NE XC Champs
7. Complete (and compete in) a 10km race

A race(s) is/are 5km (Terry O’Gara)
B race is The Blaydon Race
C race(s) is/are XC (NEHL/NE XC Champs)

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Pic – NEHL – Wallington Hall, 2013