Just two more sleeps to the Bristol Half Marathon. Training is as tough as ever. Not the running itself, rather deciding what to do.
I rested Monday, the day after the TenTenTen. That was an easy enough decision: I’ve been resting on Mondays since scheduling my long runs on Sundays at the start of this month. Then Tuesday came around… and you know what, I could easily have stayed in bed when it was time for my run. I was still feeling good about Sunday, I felt I’d achieved what I’d set out to achieve (I had!) and… well, I just couldn’t be bothered. But got up I did and 12.5km I ran. 1h07’16”: not spectacular in post-TenTenTen currency, but faster than I’d ever run that route. The new tarmac they’ve laid out for me is obviously helping!
Then Wednesday morning came around, not with the nicest of weathers I should add. But a little shower never hurt anyone. Same 12.5km, only in a less spectacular 1h09’45”. Not a problem: I didn’t set out for a fast run, just wanted to keep the rhythm going. However, there cometh a time when that becomes detrimental: the problem is, I don’t know exactly where that point is. But I have learnt the rewarding nature of doing less, even that of doing nowt, and those are lessons I should not dismiss. Especially when I find myself in the office on just another Wednesday morning, three days after my first race (which, whilst short and on forgiving trail, may well have taken more out of me than a training run) and four days ahead of my second, and suddenly those quads are feeling tighter than usual. Nothing major, nothing concerning, but a warning nonetheless. I’d already decided to give Thursday a miss and this just ensured the decision was not up for debate.
Or did it?
There I was, in the office on just another Thursday afternoon, still feeling a little tenseness in my quads. It may well be nerves: I am a huge believer in psychogenic pain, in the fact that often what we think is a physical problem is just something in our heads. Either way, I decided to go for a run last night: not in search of speed or endurance, but to stretch my legs. To kick out those legs that had been stuck behind a desk for three days running. I’d avoid the hills and return to where this journey had begun, back and forth along the main road at the end of our estate. If you go towards the pub, to the bit where the road starts to descend, turn round, head back all the way to Roberto’s school, twice, that’s 5km. A nice enough stretch.
Hang on… 5km to stretch my legs?
Yes. A short 5km run. Nothing probing, just kickin’ out. Which I did, even treating myself to a bath once I’d got back – probably my first bath in five years! I’ll be having another one way before 2017, let me tell you – felt good, did that. But the 5k… yes, just a short run. Just something for the legs, for the quads. Then it struck me…
… hey Squint, not that long ago you got really excited about your first 5k run. You got so excited you texted your Dad, you texted Cousin Nats (one of the two cousins who ran the TenTenTen ‘with’ me), because you’d never run 5km without stopping before. It was May 6 – and my text is still on my phone:
“Just got back. 5.4k. Took me 34’, but 5.4k. Without stopping or walking. I have never run for 34’ in a row, Nats. That’s twice my previous best (Friday! Two days ago!), in that respect. The Salcombe debacle aside, I have never run 5k. You have a lot to answer for” & for that… I thank you! xxx”
In fact… I got so excited I wrote my shortest post ever about it!
34’… and 5k became my first long run! I was still clocking between 32’ and 38’ when I moved up to 8k. Then, on June 20, I went for it. 5.45k in 28’29”. I’d broken the 30’ mark! It didn’t become a regular occurrence, as I often strayed above that again but, more importantly, found myself running longer distances more frequently. But I still recall the effort and the relief that went into to managing 5.45k in 28’29” on June 20, 2012. I didn’t improve on that until August 17, when I ran 5.05k in 25’58”. After that, I didn’t run less than 6k… till last night.
Last night’s 5k took 26’13”. Fifteen seconds outside my PB, then – and 50m shorter, too. But that’s only half the story. The difference separating those forty-one days is actually an abyss – and a good one.
What the times don’t tell you is that, whereas in August I went out to record a fast time, last night I just wanted to kick out. Stretch those legs. I maintained a steady pace but ran within myself, not even bothering with a final sprint. I wanted to stretch those legs, not myself. I specifically left my stopwatch at home to ensure I didn’t push myself. Which is not to say I went slow, simply to say that I ran those 5km at a pace at which I felt comfortable and at which I could have carried on for longer. With that in mind, the perspective on those extra fifteen seconds changes dramatically. I could easily have shaved 3”/km, even more. But that was not my goal.
More importantly, I was around eight minutes beneath the time it had taken me in early May. Back then I was still keeping off the scales, waiting till I felt I was within a certain weight range before troubling them. Given that I was 84kg on June 25, in early May I was probably still around 94, which is twenty more than I am now. And let me tell you, carting around 44lbs less really does help!
8’ comprise of 480”. Over a 5k distance, that’s 1’36”/km that I’ve shaved off since early May. And that’s without feeling I even came out of third gear last night. Once I got home, my legs felt better. As did my mind, reassured that the legs do have a 21.0975km run in them come Sunday. Whether the legs helped the mind or the mind helped the legs, I don’t know. And I don’t care. They will continue to feed off each other to get me over the finish line on Sunday. Later that evening, I will devour a 12” pizza: stuff the sharing Mrs S and I usually go for, on Sunday I’m having one to mi’self and I’ll even finish anything she leaves on her plate! Then Monday is rest day, as always. As for Tuesday…
…well, let’s see. Besides, I will start cross-training a bit more next week: well, spending some time in the garage on weights and stuff, anyway. Can’t see the bike coming out any time soon, although it could be an option for pre-work exercise. But I’ll tell you this for nowt: whatever training I do or don’t do over the coming week or two, at some point I will go out for a 5k like last night’s. And I won’t run within myself as I did last night for my 26’13”. Sub 25’, anyone?
Truth be told, probably not. Not first time round, anyway. But I do need to work on speed a little, and this wouldn’t be a bad start before I contemplate something more structured. Oh, and for perspective… while I target sub-25”, let’s not forget that Mo Farah’s time to win Olympic gold was 13’41”66. Those guys are just freaks.
Anyway, that’s all next week. There’s the small matter of a half marathon in two days’ time to tackle first. Odds are this will be my last post before then. Resting today (well, not running, anyway!), then I’ll run another 5k tomorrow – just to loosen up, you know, no time target. So thanks for getting this far with me: it’s been one heck of a journey and I’ve been delighted to share it with you. I’m sure we’ll still find plenty to talk about after that.
Oh, the shirt’s ready, by the way. Same shirt as I wore in Sheffield. Same safety pins, for that matter – thanks Uncle Rich! I’ll be wearing the same shorts and possibly the same socks, too. Superstitions? No, I just want to take something from Sheffield and from my first ever race with me as I step out for my first half-marathon. Oh, the shorts haven’t actually been washed, by the way. Which has been kind of intentional, even though it does sound gross, not least since they had to travel down from Sheffield stuffed away in my bag… anyway, let’s not mention that, eh? Shhh…
…which then reminds me about NouriSHMeNow. They gave me one of their t-shirts last week and I’ve been wearing it at home for the past couple of days, once I’d consigned the yellow TenTenTen shirt to the wash (I’m still to wear the white one!). Bearing in mind they ended up gifting me ten of their delicious drinks, by the time I’m wearing their t-shirt I feel like a sponsored athlete! In a week when I need all the help I can get, feeling like a sponsored athlete actually helps..!
Anyroad, I’ll leave you now. Two more sleeps… here’s hoping they’ll be good ones. 16745 is ready.