Why, one might ask, is this a noteworthy or remarkable occurence? After all, I have not broken 15 minutes countless times. I am an expert at not breaking 15 minutes. I am reliable and dependable and if you ever need someone to not break 15 minutes, I’m your man. My failures at breaking the barrier outweigh, by some margin, the number of times (one) that I have.
Yet despite my impressive aptitude for failing to get round twelve-and-a-half laps in under a quarter of an hour, I was very pleased with yesterday’s run. In fact, my near miss was almost as satisfying as the time I actually did it. It confirmed my belief that I have taken another step forward this season. Backing up a PB with another time in the same ballpark is reassuring and shows that you are on a new level; it shows that the performance was no fluke.
I also feel that yesterday’s run was intrinsically better than my 14:59. It rained constantly throughout my race and the track was soaked. I went for it, stringing together a succession of 70-second laps in the middle of the race in the knowledge I had nothing to lose, and paid for it later on when I got dropped from the lead group I had fought hard to get on to. Despite this, I had decent strength and didn’t completely blow up having gone off at 14:45 pace. I learned that I am not yet in that kind of shape but also learned that I’m really not too far away. With even pacing I would have run a personal best but wouldn’t have learned anything about where my limit is.
Last night’s race has made me excited and hungry for next season, and in the shorter term, motivated for the cross country races that winter brings. But first a break…
Monday: 10km easy (10)
Tuesday: AM 8km easy / PM 13km moderate, weights (21)
Wednesday: 10km easy (10)
Thursday: AM 10km easy / PM 12*100 on grass (20)
Friday: rest (0)
Saturday: AM 6km easy / PM BMC Gold Standard B race – Milton Keynes, 6th in 15:00.71 (17)
Whilst the act of cleaning my stinking shoes after a race is nothing new, the sight of my spikes drying in the hot August air seemed symbolic of a seaon passed and prompted reflection on what I had achieved and how this compares to my expectations for the season. Strictly speaking the season is not yet over; I’m going to have one last go at my 5000m PB later this week before putting my feet up for a week or two, but with leagues and championships done and dusted and their results consigned to the history books (Power of 10) it is fair to say that the track season is complete.
First of all, this season has definitely been a success. As well as running personal bests for 1500m, mile, 3000m and both steeplechase distances I achieved a long standing ambition to break 15 minutes for 5000m in a race that was by far the most satisfying of my track season. I’ve been in this sport for a decade now but continue to learn new things about myself. One is that I can still get a huge buzz from the simple act of having run faster than ever before. The thrill of running a personal best, in particular one that represents the conquest of a significant barrier, never goes away. The race played out exactly as I imagined it would when I had tried to envisage breaking 15; the conditions were good, the field was strong, I cut it about as fine as I possibly could and most of all it was bloody hard work.
Another thought that occured to me is that at 31 years old and with about as many miles on the clock as a second hand car I am still getting better. My surprise at this fact has nothing to do with me believing I am old and that my body should be weakening at this age, far from it, but more to do with the observation that it is normal for athletes in all disciplines to have a down year or a period of taking a step backwards before advancing. Every year since I started I have improved in some way or other, whether this be measured in the hard currency of PBs, by consistency of performances, or by my positions in events.
My final observation is that I need to take care of myself if I want to stay in this sport for another decade. My left calf has been a constant source of trouble since I tore it last year and hard racing on the track only tends to make the problem worse. The process of managing this starts with a break next week after my last race, and in the longer term doing more work over the winter to strengthen my calf. I have also picked up a fair few bumps and bruises this season, almost all of which were acquired by competing in or training for steeplechase. It is a tough event and requires good technique, high levels of fitness and plenty of concentration. I’m just lucky that none of these falls resulted in anything more serious. I will not be complacent about such a demanding event in future.
Time to take the spikes off the balcony and store them somewhere safe until next May.
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 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)