This week, whilst idly waiting for the clock to tell me to leave for my latest cross country race I listened to Steve Magness’ latest podcast. This episode, entitled ‘Everything You Need to Know About the 5k’ was a fascinating conversation about preparing athletes to race 12.5 laps of the track. One of the most interesting comments made was to do with athletes’ tendency to want to have a great session a few days before a race as a confidence booster. However more often than not, they argue, the confidence boosting effect is negated by the damage, both physical and mental, that such sessions can do. The two coaches discussed some of their athletes’ best races and how the training that immediately preceded them was often unimpressive on paper. The real work came not days but weeks and months before the target race. The ‘going to the well’ sessions designed to create large adaptations were planned to take place at least 10 days before the race, with everything between then and race day a matter of maintaining fitness rather than trying to increase it.
I found this interesting as it echoes my own experience as an athlete, albeit one at a lower level than those described in the podcast. Maybe I need to stop looking for clues that I am going to race well in the days leading up to a race and trust that all the work done prior to that will pay dividends.
Yesterday I finished 13th in a Birmingham League race, my highest ever finishing position. It feels like the training I did a few weeks ago is starting to take effect!
I decided to adopt a new strategy yesterday at the Warwickshire Cross Country Championships. With no team points at stake and with the race solely about individual performance I decided to just go for it. I won the race to the first corner, I won the race up the first hill, I even won the first lap. It’s just a shame the finish line was at the end of lap four.
As it turns out, the top three would have beaten me whichever way I had chosen to race. I probably would have hung on to fourth had I raced slightly more conservatively and sat in the pack for the first two laps, but sometimes you just need to get out there and go for it to really know what your limit is. Mine seems to be 5th in Warwickshire at the moment.
Next week we’re back at the same course for the third Birmingham League of the season. I might try this strategy again; I might revert to type and try and pick people off in the second half of the race, such is my normal cross country strategy. Either way, I am looking forward to it.
I nearly didn’t race. Unable to sleep any later than 7:30 on Saturday morning due to the lingering effects of a cold, I picked up my phone to let my club I wouldn’t be competing. At this point I realised it was far too early to be trying to get in touch with anyone and decided to give it an hour or two. Four slices of toast, two cups of coffee and one hot shower later I actually felt reasonably human again and decided that I probably wasn’t going to do myself any harm by running. So I did.
That I came 19th in a Birmingham League whilst feeling under the weather says a lot about how far I have come. I got dropped on the steep climbs and lost places and had to run hard on the less aerobically demanding downhill sections to make them back up. Now I wonder what I can do in better circumstances.
One more race this year – Telford 10k next week.
Monday: AM 8km easy / PM 12km easy, drills and hurdles (20)
Tuesday: AM 10km easy / PM road session 10*500 off 60s. 6*30s hill reps (26)
This was a surprise. After only one week of proper training I was not expecting to run particularly well at the Birmingham League this weekend. Last week I couldn’t get under an hour for 10 miles; this week I made the top 20 in a very competitive fixture. It seems that the more time passes the higher my basic level of fitness becomes, and getting back to full fitness takes less time with every injury or setback. My floor is getting higher. Now it’s time to see how high my ceiling is!
Monday: AM 8km easy / PM 12km easy (20)
Tuesday: AM 8km easy / PM road session 5 sets of 90s,2:00 off 60s, 5*30s hill reps (23)
Wednesday: 16km easy (16)
Thursday: AM 8km easy / PM 9km with 3km tempo in the middle (17)
Friday: rest (0)
Saturday: AM 7km easy / PM Birmingham League XC, 20th (22)