The Last 5%

Sunday 9th February 2014

I think it’s fair to say I’ve recovered from my injury.

After a couple of months almost completely off and another couple spent building the volume back up very slowly, I’ve now managed 7 weeks of what I would call normal training. When you initially start training again, it is a real shock to realise how unfit you are. Paces and distances that would normally be no problem leave you gasping for breath and in pain for days. Recovery takes much longer; your body takes a while to adapt to the demands once again being placed upon it. When I was at this stage, Tim said to me “don’t worry – when I was injured it only took 3 weeks to get to 95%” and this has proven to be the case.

After two weeks I raced again and after 3 I was managing Tuesday track sessions without feeling like I was about to die on Wednesday morning. After 4 I almost broke 16 minutes again at the parkrun. Tim was right. The 95% rule seemed to be working a treat. What he never told me, though, was how long the last 5% would take. Clearly this is not an exact science but there is an element of truth to it. You improve very quickly when returning from injury, just as one does when taking up running for the first time, but the difficult bit is when you start to approach your physical peak again. Like climbing a mountain, the summit always looks closer than it is. As you keep climbing, however, you realise how much further there is to go.

Yesterday was a day when I was hoping to notice some improvements. I’d had a light week, tapering down for the race after a very good week of training prior to that, and was confident I could have a decent attempt at breaking the top 30 or even top 25 in Birmingham League Division 1. Sadly it wasn’t my day. Feeling confident, I went off quickly but within a few hundred metres my legs felt sore, heavy and sluggish. To add to my misery, the wind had picked up and seemed to be in our faces the whole way. I say ‘our faces,’ but what I really mean is ‘my face,’ as I managed to get myself stranded after half a lap and ran the vast majority of the race completely on my own. I dragged myself round the second lap of three and as I crossed the line to start the final lap the rain began to pour, cold on my wind-battered skin. I managed to work my way past two people but did not get any shelter from them as they didn’t respond and went straight out the back door.

I held my position for the remainder of the lap and limped over the finish line feeling freezing cold and sorry for myself. One mild attack of hypothermia and one hot chocolate later we were on our way back to Birmingham. It was the kind of race and conditions that make you if you’re in good shape and break you if you’re not. Yesterday I learned that I am the latter.

The last 5% clearly takes some time. I don’t know how long yet but I’m going to keep working hard until I find out.

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