I had a shocker of a race yesterday. For reasons possibly related to sleeping in a tent all week and driving for several hours back from holiday the previous day, I just didn’t have the legs for a good race at the BAL steeplechase yesterday. I even took a tumble on the way out of the water jump that left me both bruised and drenched. The fact that I had been roped in to doing a 400 hurdles an hour before probably didn’t help matters either.
But the thing is, I’m not too bothered.
Yes, of course I set high standards for myself and want to perform well every time I compete, but I have noticed that some races are very easy to write off. This tends to happen when I know I am in good shape and that the poor performance was the outlier rather than the trend. With good training and good races comes confidence. What is more difficult is dealing with poor races when things aren’t going well. I’ve been there too, but for now am quite happy to just write this one off as a bad day at the office.
Monday: 14km easy (14)
Tuesday: 15km easy (15)
Wednesday: AM 10km easy / PM fartlek run – 10 sets of 60s,60s on road (20)
Thursday: 10km moderate, strides (10)
Friday: rest (0)
Saturday: BAL Premiership, Cardiff – 400h 6th B in 72.61, 3000m steeplechase 4th B in 10:03.49 (8)
This is the post I hoped I’d be writing several years ago but its delay doesn’t make the experience any less sweet. Yesterday evening I broke 15 minutes for 5000 metres for the first time.
There is no heroic story about how I was dropped then rallied then just snuck under the barrier with a hard last lap. No one needed to scrape me off the track afterwards and I didn’t require any medical assistance. There was no fanfare or fuss and no cheering team mates. I just took the opportunity when it came and when I was in good shape, and ran even 72 second laps twelve and a half times.
I had a feeling I would do it after about four laps when a 4:48 mile tucked in at the back of a group felt too slow. My legs felt good. I went through 3000 metres in around 8:59 and knew I had enough in the tank and just needed to focus and not let the pace drop at all. What I can do is grind out a hard pace from a long way out; what I cannot do is make up 5 lost seconds on the last lap. On pace with 3 and then 2 laps to go, I knew I needed to keep pushing and that even then it would be incredibly close.
The clock ticked from 13:48 to 13:49 as I went through the bell. By this point I was hurting. I tried to stay calm and remind myself of all of the laps I have run in under 70 seconds in training and how this was just another one of those. I kicked as hard as I could down the back straight, trying to hold my form and remembering what Dave told me the other night about wasting energy by leaning backwards as I tire. I had 35 seconds to complete the last 200, a simple feat on most days but a tricky one given the strong headwind that had been blowing down the home stretch for the whole race.
Then nothing. I had no idea of my time as the finish line clock had stopped at 14:45 for the winner. I knew I had run a PB and also knew that it was very close to 15 minutes. I chatted to a few athletes I know and to someone else from my race who I had spent the first half of the race drafting behind. Fortunately BMC were quick with posting the results and the numbers were good.
This is why you enter meets with electronic timing. That would have been outside 15 minutes with a stopwatch so I felt vindicated in trying to do it at a race with proper timing. Not that I intend to cut it that fine next time.
The last item on my to do list has been crossed off. Now I just need to add a new one.
Monday: 8km easy (8)
Tuesday: AM 9km easy / PM BMC 1500, Tipton – 8th in 4:07.31 PB (17)
Wednesday: 12km easy (12)
Thursday: AM 9km easy / PM 8km easy (17)
Friday: rest (0)
Saturday: BMC Grand Prix 5000, Watford – 6th in 14:59.96 PB (11)
This has been a tough week of training, largely due to the intensity rather than the volume undertaken. I know I lack basic speed and have really been trying to address this in my training recently, prioritising the sessions that require me to run close to my top speed.
I tend to find that the sessions I look forward to the most are usually those of least benefit to me. The converse is also true; the sessions I dread the most, for example Thursday’s 10 reps of 400m with long recoveries, tend to be exactly what I need. Give me a 10 mile tempo and I’ll be the cat who got the cream; give me short reps on the track with long recoveries and I will dread the session all day. This is not just a running phenomenon. People often favour activities that do not take them out of their comfort zones, even though those that do have value. I am starting to find, though, that the training I like the least generally isn’t as bad as it seems. Once I have got my head round the idea that I am going to be off the back and getting dropped, I relax and just get on with doing the work. And it tends to be over quickly!
I was particularly pleased with this session. Every rep was between 61 and 63 to the nearest second, whereas I completed exactly the same session last year with times in the 63 to 65 range. On Tuesday I will race over 1500m and have the opportunity to see whether the hard work is paying off yet or not.
Monday: AM 10km easy / PM 11km easy (21)
Tuesday: AM 9km easy / PM track session – 4 sets of 800,400 off 100/200 jog, 4*200 – 2:17,2:16,2:18,2:17 66,67,67,68 30,30,30,28 (22)
Wednesday: 16km easy (16)
Thursday: AM 10km easy / PM track session 10*400 off 3:00 – 62,62,62,62,61,61,62,63,63,62 (24)
This week I finished first in a race and last in another but second across the line in both.
On Tuesday, fellow steeplechaser Jonny and I travelled to his home town of Kettering where his home club had agreed to put a ‘chase on for us. The third of our party, Matt, had pulled out at the last minute leaving just two of us on the start line. It was intended as an early season warm up race but there was nothing warm about it. By the time the gun went it was 9pm and a cool day had turned into a very cold one. The back straight was windy and the water in the pit was ice cold. Not steeplechase weather at all. We ended the race with respectable but unspectacular times; I was only 6 seconds outside my target for the race, suggesting I am in decent enough shape.
Sunday was the opposite, a 5000m run in intense heat. My club mate Omer, who is from Ethiopia, charged off at the front. Knowing that I would not handle the heat as well as him I let him go, imagining that he would come back to me at some point later in the race. He never did. Fortunately for me, though, the rest of the field suffered just as much as I did and I managed to hang on for second, and first ‘B’ runner, in a time of 15:29. It was an uncomfortable race and if I had known a week in advance what the weather would be like I would have asked to do a 1500 or a steeplechase instead.
Unfortunately, as I have learned this week, you can’t control the conditions, especially in this country. The one thing you can control is your training, however. If I keep up the hard work the good results will take care of themselves eventually.
Monday: 8km easy (8)
Tuesday: AM 8km easy / PM Kettering Open 2000m steeplechase, 2nd in 6:16.28 (16)
Wednesday: 16km easy (16)
Thursday: AM 10km easy / PM track session 8*200 off 200 jog (21)
Friday: 10km easy (10)
Saturday: rest (0)
Sunday: AM 8km easy / PM Midland League 5000m, 2nd and 1st B runner in 15:29.1 (18)
This week, after a couple of weeks of low intensity running due to some calf trouble, I went all in on my return to the track. On Wednesday we did 4 reps of 1km over barriers in spikes. This session was noteworthy for two reasons. The first was the remarkable fact that three people who collectively possess degrees in Mathematics, Economics and Biomedical Science can’t agree on where the start line should be for 1000 metres in lane 6. 100 metres further ahead is the answer, by the way. The second is that steeplechase sessions hurt. You can do all the drills and clearances you like over the winter, but nothing truly prepares you for the feeling of running hard over barriers. Although it got easier as the session progressed, the pain in both my lungs and calves was unexpectedly intense.
One thing that a winter of weekly hurdle drills has prepared me for, though, is being able to hurdle off both legs. Eight months ago, the idea that I would be able to clear a steeplechase barrier with my left leg leading seemed fanciful and ludicrous. Now, after gradually increasing the height of the clearances and forcing myself to do more reps on my weak leg than my strong one, I can hurdle off either leg. The benefit of this is that any foot readjustment on the approach to a barrier is minimal, and thus less time is lost at each of them. It also means that the muscular load of both taking off and landing is spread evenly across both sides of the body.
On Saturday we did a deceptively hard session. A distance runner’s response to hearing that the session is 12 reps of 100 metres is “is that all?” but I was well and truly broken afterwards. Each effort was a series of 6 hurdles, bringing the days’s total to 72 and the week’s total to 116, not including warm up clearances or water jump practice.
I hope it pays off.
Monday: AM 8km easy / PM 12km easy (20)
Tuesday: AM 8km easy / PM 16km easy (24)
Wednesday: 4*1000 over barriers with 300m jog recovery in 3:00-3:04, 2*400 in 67,64 (12)
Thursday: 15km easy (15)
Friday: AM 12km easy / PM 10km easy (22)
Saturday: barrier session – 12*100m with 6 hurdles off 20s, strides (9)