33 years old today

Well I’m 33 years old today so it’s a good time to give an update on my target of going sub 17 for 5km before my 35th birthday. I’ve always believed I can do it although I totally understand how tough a challenge it is, perhaps now more than ever. It’s probably a bit too easy to think knocking 1m 24s off my current pb can’t be very hard. But there is a big difference between running 1mile in 5.55 and running one in 5.20 so over 3 it gets pretty testing!

I started this blog in April/May last year and the fact of the matter is my 5k pb hasn’t moved since but I’m not going to panic. The plan remains the same from now until 10th March 2016 and I’m hoping for this progression –

Sub 18min in 2014
~17m 30s in 2015
16m 59s before 10 March 2016

I’m entered into the Terry O’Gara on 30th March but I suspect that’ll be more a fact finding mission and I would expect to be in more of a position to have a true pb attempt in late April/early May. Given the lack of 5km races around I suspect I’ll be looking for a suitable parkrun. I’ve always thought Newcastle would not be the one given that its never been ultra fast but it sounds like the new measured course might be a bit sharper. Other than that it would be between South Shields and the Riverside.

On the way to that I’m interested in putting in a marker for a mile so I might target the South Shields Monthly Mile in April. I’d be looking for something below 5min 20s. The only known mile time I have is a ~5min 30s second mile I did in a 2 mile race last year so I’d have to hope I could go faster over 1. I’ve done an unofficial 70s 400m on a grass oval so I believe I have some sort of speed in the legs…

And there’s also the Gordon Smith relays which give a good guide for 2 miles. I performed well last year, going round in 11m 14s suggesting I should be capable of ~18min for 5k.

Plenty to look forward to then… First up though I’m really keen to finish the XC season on a high. Perhaps by a strange twist of fate the Prudhoe fixture has been cancelled and switched to a return to Wrekenton, and a chance to put things right from last time. Perhaps more importantly we need a strong performance from the Jesmond senior men’s team to ensure we stay in division 2.

The key thing is I’m enjoying my running again after a stressful start to the year. I tried to put running higher in my list of priorities, higher than it really can be in my life and with detrimental consequences. Its important to me but not the be all and end all. That’s not a lack of commitment, just a reality check. If I could establish myself as a sub 18m 5k runner (and threaten sub 17) and a decent cross country runner that would be an achievement in itself.

Lets see where it goes…


Battling recent demons and overcoming faltering performance

This blog will serve as a review of my run at Alnwick and also a discussion of my current state of mind with regards to my running.

Lets start by looking at some facts –

Wrekenton 2013, 39.58, 156th (Po10)
Wrekenton 2014, DNF

Alnwick 2013, 43.50, 125th
Alnwick 2014, 45.39, 236th

Things have not gone to plan this year and confidence is low. I deliberately went out slow at Alnwick as much to avoid burn out than anything else. Obviously the pull out at Wrekenton was still on my mind, exacerbated by a recent illness which disrupted my training to an easy run towards the end of the week. I’d actually pulled out altogether as I was bed bound all day Tuesday and felt poorly still Weds/Thurs. But I got back to work on Friday and something was telling me I had to give it a go, mainly as Jesmond has an outside chance of staying in division 2 this season, and I wanted to contribute anything I could to the cause.

I decided to wear a heart rate monitor as I wanted to keep the effort controlled but was somewhat alarmed during my warmup that I was spiking to over 85% max doing a very light jog. I was also struggling again with my stomach which was sloshing around and sounding like a washer machine in mid cycle. I contemplated making myself sick, and overall was panicking somewhat. Perhaps pre race nutrition is another blog, but I have been unable to get this important aspect right in my last two races despite returning to my normal strategy of a bowl of porridge very early on in the day. Granted I always feel dehydrated and that day was no exception. Perhaps I drank too much water. That said, I really don’t know why I hadn’t digested it and can only put it down to the remainder of the stomach bug that had grounded me earlier. Whatever the cause the overwhelming thought was “should I pullout”. I quickly dismissed that and comforted myself that this would be a controlled effort. Somewhat reassuring but a million miles away from my usual hard nosed grit and determination attitude that had me performing well last season and in the first few fixtures this, peaking at Wallington Hall in December.

How have I sunk so far from Wallington?

Well these are the key reasons in my mind –

1. Illness over Xmas and new year
2. A lack of xc specific training
3. A gradual decline in confidence
4. Overthinking / overanalysing to the point of paralysis
5. Meddling with my pre race routine
6. Failing to make my hard sessions hard and my easy sessions easy, training in the black hole
7. Muddling running goals, am I focussed on xc or 5k? Are the two compatible?
8. No cross or strength training
9. No stretching
10. Not attending club sessions
11. No idea where I am at, probably in particular over the 5k distance. For example, if I knew I was currently ~19min pace for 5km I am in similar shape to this time last year…

There are probably more.

So over the next 14 weeks I’ll be looking to get back on track. My attitude needs to change. The ego has to be left at the door otherwise the slippery slope will continue. Key action plan –

1. Rebalance training, 80% easy, 10% threshold, 10% intervals
2. Reintroduce cross training
3. Reintroduce strength training
4. Reintroduce stretching
5. Start attending club sessions
6. Start running a parkrun effort once a month

Back to Alnwick. It was a strange feeling starting slowly but still working well above 90% hr max. Part of me thought this is the last time I wear a HRM for XC! But then again it was a good learning experience. I steadied myself with the thought that I wasn’t too far behind last year’s paceish. Laps 1 and 2 weren’t too bad and I felt like I was settled in the middle of the field. The plan was to push really hard last lap and just see what I had in the tank. Unfortunately the answer became painfully obvious as I started the last lap. Answer – nothing left in the tank. The problem is I haven’t pushed myself in training enough to cope with the bodies response to 4 miles of hard xc graft. Again, I comforted myself that I was past 2/3s of the race. I had already improved on the dismal display at Wrekenton. But the negativity was back with a vengeance. Why? You can stop. It doesn’t matter. Give up. Its over, you’ve had your day. Your going backwards. You’ve failed again. Etc. Compounding this was the burning sensation just above the knee. I was questioning why I was so far down the field and getting worse…

A great help was the support of the Jesmond ladies team at a few points on the course. It served as a reminder that I was doing this not only for myself but also for the team. Not only for pride but for the team cause. I resolved to finish as best I could.

As I came to the last steep down hill section I wondered whether the legs would support the body. The brakes were well and truly on, jolting with every step.

Anyway, I got down and maybe even picked up the pace a little to the end. Strangely still elation at the finish line. I’d finished 6th counter for the team and it sounded like we’d beaten our relegation rivals Saltwell. Job done. Live to fight another day.


Final straight, pained face

Elation that was quickly replaced by negativity as a trait of mine is still to compare myself to others. I wouldn’t disrespect any other runners but the plain fact is I have gone from a reliable 2nd team counter to DNF and struggling 6th counter in the space of a couple of months. Last season our best runner (Michael Hedley), running from fast pack, got past me in the last couple hundred of metres of the race. This year he flew past on the 2nd lap downhill! Chris Heaps, who is currently our star performer from the slow pack (and a shining example of an improving runner) and hats off to him, showing me where I could be if I’d managed to train smart following Wallington Hall. If only I’d realised things were actually going well then as I wrongly thought they weren’t. Hindsights a wonderful thing.

I’m lost, but I will be found…