I feel like I’m getting fitter. These days any increases in fitness are small and incremental, but are very satisfying all the same.
On Tuesday I ran a 4:30 mile with a cold. Whilst this is ill-advised and not something I want to try again, the fact that I can run that time with terrible legs and a temperature shows that my basic level of fitness must be high. I shouldn’t have raced given how I felt earlier in the day but still managed a time I’d have been pleased with on a good day a couple of years ago.
Saturday’s track session was pleasing; I managed to run all the 300s in between 45 and 47 seconds with only a minute between efforts. Speed has never been a strength of mine so I know if I can keep up with faster runners on the short track sessions I am doing well.
I just hope I can translate this into a couple more good results before the end of the season, starting with a 3000 at Stretford on Tuesday night.
What would life be like if I did this professionally?
Of course I appreciate that this question is ridiculous and of course, entirely theoretical given that I am nowhere near the required standard. There isn’t a long queue of shoe companies, funding bodies and elite training groups all clamouring for the signature of the 40th best steeplechaser in the country. But let’s just ignore that inconvenient fact for a minute and speculate on how my life would differ.
This week I trained hard. Although I didn’t log huge mileage I completed three very tough sessions and this morning I feel completely exhausted. If running were the only thing I had to do with my day I suspect my week’s training would not have looked that different on paper but the differences would have largely been in what I did when not running. For a start, the hours of my job dictate that even on days when I don’t run before work I have to be up very early. This means that I rarely get more than eight hours’ sleep during the week, when something in the nine to ten region would be optimal. Afternoon naps are also, sadly, not an option for me. I notice this difference when on holiday. The quality of my recovery is noticeable and I feel significantly more fresh when I run, a result of being on my feet less and having my eyes closed more.
Aside from rest, the other element of training that falls by the wayside when I am busy is strength and conditioning and mobility work. I get a couple of sessions done a week but I suspect that daily sessions would convey much more benefit than what I currently do. My post run stretching sessions would last more than their current 10 minute duration after evening runs, and would actually happen after morning runs. All of this would undoubtedly help with injury prevention and recovery.
But would I enjoy it?
Yes I probably would, but that is not to say that I dislike my current situation. There is no pressure on me to perform beyond the pressure I exert upon myself. Everything is optional and running is the activity I look forward to rather than the chore I have to complete. I’m happy with my life as it is.
Monday: 10km easy (10)
Tuesday: AM 9km easy / PM grass session 1km,2km,2km,1km off 3:00/5:00, 2*300m off 60s (25)
Wednesday: 15km easy (15)
Thursday: AM 10km easy / PM road session 10*300 off 2:00 (25)
Friday: 14km easy (14)
Saturday: road session 10*500 off 70s, 10*50m hill sprints on grass (13)
I take a rest day every week and have the piss taken out of me by my training group for it on a regular basis. One of the guys I train with recently ended a 10-month streak of running on consecutive days and another recently hit 6 months. I rarely exceed 6 days.
When one of them put it to me recently that I am missing out on 52 days of training every year I retorted by telling him he was missing out on 52 days of recovery. I really do believe this. A guaranteed day off every week ensures that I stay fresh mentally as I am never far from the next break, as well as giving the obvious benefits of proper physical recovery. I’m not running tomorrow morning and am happy with that.
Monday: AM 14km easy / PM 11km easy (25)
Tuesday: AM 9km easy / PM grass session 2*10*400 off 30s (25)
Wednesday: 17km easy (17)
Thursday: AM 8km easy / PM track session – 4 sets of (600 with barriers in lane 2 / 400 flat) – 1:48, 67, 1:47, 68, 1:48, 67, 1:50, 65 (20)
Friday: 15km easy (15)
Saturday: AM parkrun in 15:55, grass session 2*2:00 off 2:00, 6*1:00 off 1:00 / PM 8km easy (24)
There is a fine line between training hard and overdoing it.
Last week I skipped a race with a cold. It might have just been coming anyway, it might have been brought on my heavy training and a weakened immune system; it’s hard to tell. What I do know, though, is that you don’t always feel how you are expecting to feel. Sometimes I can handle large amounts of intense training and at others my body refuses to cooperate.
Recently, I have been following the blog of my friend John, a runner I knew at university and have recently been reacquainted with. He is one of the best triathletes in Scotland and posts the kind of training that makes me look like a part timer. As well as describing his races he describes perfectly what I often feel when in heavy training and supposedly at my fittest: fatigue, permanent hunger, aching muscles and joints and all the other ailments associated with being an athlete.
The challenge is to distinguish ‘good pain’ from ‘bad pain.’ The former is normal fatigue resulting from hard training and must be ignored at all times; the latter is illness and injury and needs to be taken seriously. I’m glad I didn’t race through illness last week as I came back fresh and had a good race on Saturday, and am now half way through a big training week.
Monday: AM 10km easy / PM 10km easy (20)
Tuesday: 9km easy (9)
Wednesday: 17km easy (17)
Thursday: AM 10km easy / PM track session 10*200 off 150 jog (22)
Friday: rest (0)
Saturday: Birmingham Relays Mile B race, 2nd in 4:27.21 – PB, approx splits 70,67,66,64 (10)
Below is part of a message exchange between me and my friend Tim yesterday:
I know this feeling. I have had this feeling recently and am neither the first nor the last athlete to ask themself such questions when a race goes badly.
Running is a strange sport. Failures outnumber successes by a significant margin and the most typical type of race is a humdrum, routine one, where it goes neither well nor badly. So why do we do it? In my opinion there are two strands to this question; the first is ‘why do we run at all?’ and the second is ‘why do we compete?’
The first can be answered in a multitude of ways to do with happiness, wellbeing, a sense of purpose and all of the other reasons runners typically give when asked why they run. The second is much more difficult to answer. Although those perfect races when everything comes together are few and far between, if you do the right training and commit yourself to the sport they happen just about frequently enough for it to be worth it. In fact, it could be argued that their scarcity is what makes them so special. If we didn’t have bad races we would never have anything to put the good ones into context or allow us to appreciate them. Any more frequent and we wouldn’t enjoy them, any less and we’d probably all quit and so something more rewarding.
Tim is going to have a great race very soon.
Monday: AM 10km easy / PM 12km easy (22)
Tuesday: AM 9km easy / PM grass session 1,2,3,2,1,2,3,2,1 minutes with half previous effort recovery, 5*25s off 60s (26)
Wednesday: 16km easy (16)
Thursday: AM 9km easy / PM track session 10*400 off 3:00 in 63,3,3,3,3,2,3,4,4,3 (23)
Friday: rest (0)
Saturday: road session 10*2:00 off 90s, 9*50m hill sprints on grass (14)