I washed my steeplechase spikes today.
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.
No sooner had I hauled myself to my feet than I was back on the track again. Unable to stand up, I lay on the warm tartan once more and took in a welcome lungful of sweet oxygen. The second attempt was more successful. Assisted by one of my competitors, I got to my feet for just long enough to stagger off the floodlit track and to a nearby railing. Mark had crossed the line by this point and patted me on the back, congratulating me on a hard-earned win. These moments are always best shared with friends.
Three minutes earlier I could smell blood. Increasing the pace every lap, I had picked my way through the field from 12th after one lap to second after ten. The leader was in sight and with a kilometer to go I realised I had a strong chance of catching him too. I was already on the limit though. Dan had just called my 4k split and it was faster than I had ever reached that point in a race before. A personal best was in the bag; now I wanted to win the race. With 800 to go I was within striking distance, by 600 I was on his shoulder. I went straight past and made one last push for the finish. In the last three weeks I had led at the bell on two separate occasions but been beaten. I was determined not to let it happen again.
Richard and some of the others from the club were at the finish line, roaring me on as the bell sounded. The announcer was now saying my name, not someone else’s. It was a big boost.
My winning time was 15:09, an 8 second improvement on my PB. This is the biggest chunk I have taken off my 5k time for a while and it now puts sub-15 within my reach. I need Tuesday’s conditions as well as the nerve to commit to the pace from the gun rather than giving away seconds in the first few laps. I’m delighted with my improvement; it is hugely satisfying on the rare occasion when everything clicks.
How great it would be if the next post here contained the number 14.
I broke my PB by 3 seconds.
Monday: 11km easy (11)
Tuesday: Metchley session: 1-2-1-2-1 laps off 60/90, 75% effort (16)
Wednesday: 10km easy (10)
Thursday: AM 10km easy / PM 8 easy, strides (18)
Friday: rest (0)
Saturday: AM 6km easy / PM Highgate 10000 C race, 4th in 31:52.96 – PB (22)
Sunday: 16km easy (16)
Week total: 93km
Taken from my training log.
A tiring but enjoyable day of track racing. Not a bad start to the season.
Monday: hurdle drills, 2×400 with hurdles, 15km easy (16)
Tuesday: AM 12km easy / PM grass session: 2 sets of 2km, 1km off 2:30/1:30 (28)
Wednesday: 16km moderate (16)
Thursday: AM 13km easy / PM 13km easy (26)
Friday: rest (0)
Saturday: AM 8km easy / PM Midland League Division 2, Yate – 2kSC 2nd in 6:28, 1500 3rd in 4:15.2, 400 relay leg 4th (24)
Sunday: 12km easy (12)
Week total: 122km
Two sessions: one on grass, one on track. Slowly trying to get my speed back.
Monday: ran home (15)
Tuesday: AM 9km easy / PM Metchley session: lap, 4×400 off 60s, lap, 8×200 off 30s, lap (26)
Wednesday: ran home (15)
Thursday: AM 10km easy / PM 16km easy (26)
Friday: rest (0)
Saturday: 4×800, 4×400, 4×200 – 200 jog between efforts / 400 between sets: 2:29, 29, 27, 26, 73, 72, 73, 68, 34, 33, 31, 30 (20)
Sunday: 16km easy (16)
Week total: 118km