Resolutions 2014: May Progress Report

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So that was May. A month which began with me trying to shrug off the frustration of a perceived injustice, to me not just bouncing back from that, but surpassing all expectations and achieving a result I barely thought possible a month ago. It’s safe to say that if events in Huddersfield briefly questioned my commitment to running, then Blackpool and it’s sands reinvigorated it and made me realise once again that hard work, commitment and dedication are crucial and will pay dividends. This ethic applies across my resolutions for the year, and all year so far they’ve varied from proverbial inaction to qualified progress. And while the last month hasn’t seen too much (that amazing race aside) compared to previous months, I do quietly believe I am making some slight progress in my non-running goals. And as you’ll read below, it’s hopefully going to set me up now for an exciting seven months ahead. Let’s read on about how May went.

1. SLEEP

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The theme of this month is largely peaks and troughs. That’s how my sleep has been going. I’m pleased to say, however that by and large this month has been the best one so far since I began tracking my sleep. That is not to say it has been perfect, because it hasn’t – one night I got under 4 hours of sleep which was a huge shock on my system. But this month has, on a more positive note, been much better. I’ve had more nights of six hours plus of sleep than in any of the previous months. This has been aided by a couple of factors, namely time off work, and time off running. I’ve done a lot less running post-Huddersfield Half, which I’ll explain more later, but this reduction in unnecessarily early alarms has been helpful in the first half of the month, when I attended a music festival and used the bank holiday it was based on to catch up with sleep before finally going out on the Monday afternoon in a run designed to replace the Sunday morning run, which I dropped to allow catching up from near enough two full days of rocking out to some stupidly fast and occasionally ultra-slow heavy bands. The following weekend was the Blackpool Beach 10K and I got three good night’s sleep, guaranteed. Yes, that’s a horrid shameless plug, I know.

I wavered a bit in the middle of this month and admittedly returning to work has meant me trying to keep on top of those late nights. And I’ve had a few nights this past week where I’ve not managed to get my optimum sleep and it’s left me yearning for plenty hot cups of tea to keep going. That said, I put my back out slightly doing the 10 metre dash across the living room after the kids, so I might well be catching a few z’s this weekend instead of hiking it 8 or 9 miles. Overall, room for improvement, but I’m getting just a little closer to getting my sleep debt down.

2. Learn to swim again

Not much action again this month, but I am at least played to say that for the first time, I can now back up words with actions. That’s right, I’ve signed up at my local gym and swimming pool! And this means that as you read this post, I should have gone for my first lane swim on my own in roughly 14 years. I was committed to taking this step and would have done so a couple of months ago – however I’ve been waiting for proof of eligibility to arrive which means I qualify to pay the lower rate. I’ve gone for a full 12 month membership and I would be pretty stupid now not to take full advantage of the facilities. I’m very lucky they’re nearby. Literally a three-four minute walk from my house. So now, I can swim as often as I like without chalking up £4.10 a time to do so. I have access to equipment to improve my core strength and all around fitness. I can even go for a run on the dreadmill if I wish!

It’ll be a completely new environment for me but it will be one that I will fully embellish – and I will have to if I want to achieve my goals of learning to swim again for my kids, and indeed making the step up into triathlon. With my next race training plan not due to begin  until late June, this is a good opportunity to identify if I need any further assistance getting back into swimming, and to embed swimming as part of my overall race training. I’d be quite happy once I’m up to speed to start replacing the occasional run morning with a swim morning instead. If I work hard at this now, I can put the lack of action over the first five months of the year behind me and look forward to reaping the potential benefits of this.

3. Run more

Or should that be run less? Haha. No new races signed up for this time around and I’ve decided that summer will be spent learning to swim and training for my attempt at doing a half marathon in under 1:25:00. Hence, I haven’t done as much running for the lack of an upcoming race, and to allow recovery from a strain in my left foot that I sustained prior to the Huddersfield Half Marathon and persisted through to about a week ago. In the two weeks prior to the Blackpool Beach 10K I ran only three times – once in the first week (after Huddersfield), and twice (on the preceding Monday and Saturday) prior to race day. I took those runs quite easily. Since Blackpool I’ve just done a couple of runs each week just to keep ticking, and now I’ve strained my back (as mentioned above), I’m going to take things a bit carefully for now.

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I have put together my training plan for the Halifax Half Marathon (part of the course featured above – I think) which I aim aiming to sign up for next month. I feel it is a reasonable course to attempt the sub-1:25:00 HM time I am seeking, and the course is local to me. It’s going to be difficult to knock 1:45 off my PB for the distance, but given I knocked 4:44 off it previously, I don’t see why it should be out of reach if I apply myself as I did for the sub-1:30. It was taken directly from the plan available on the Runner’s World site – see for yourself here – as it was the only one I could find. I like the look of it, and I know realistically doing six runs a week and potentially fifty miles in a week is a huge ask – I didn’t manage it once for Liversedge and potentially fifty miles in a single week is sure to test my mettle. But I’m approaching this with absolute conviction and more importantly, I’m getting enough rest in as it stands to allow my body to cope with the demands of trying to better myself as a runner.

4. Run faster

This month saw me compete in my first ever beach race, the Blackpool Beach 10K Run, and as many of you are already aware, my performance that day was good enough for third, my best ever finish in a race. It was a gruelling challenge and my time of 37:49 was my second fastest 10K time, coming in at just 34 seconds below my time of 37:15 set at the Bradford 10K in March. Sadly my MapMyRun phone app didn’t exactly record the data correctly – in terms of elevation (the starting descent from and ascent to the Promenade), and distance. It only recorded 9.3km when the course officials quoted 9.85-9.9km (owing to torrential conditions at St. Anne’s Pier). Still, I don’t think it was too far out in catching my pace through most of the race, so its worth a look.

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Aided by a fierce, but indirect tailwind blowing in off the Irish Sea, and thanks to the shift I put in to make my way up to second place by the halfway point, I ran the first 5K of that race in roughly 19:15, maybe 19:20. Considering my pace in Ingoldmells and Skegness during training was up to a minute down on the sand, I’m pretty happy I managed to replicate some of my fastest road pace on the sand in the race. Once the turnaround came it was always going to be hard to replicate that, and indeed up to 9km I was bobbing around the 4:10 per km mark. But I finally needed a sprint finish to seal a position in a race and I went and did it. To this day I’m still chuffed about it and I always will be.

Intriguingly though, since updating my MapMyRun app I’ve come across the km splits for the Bradford 10K at last, and I was stunned by what I found.

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I knew I ran a fast first two thirds of that race, and the km splits showed the 1st and 2nd kms went for 3:27 and 3:26 respectively, and the first 5K went for 18:13. That for me is a PB I’ve been sitting on for the best part of 2 ½ months and only recently have I been able to measure my own disbelief at my speed in that race in kms. Of course, I’ve yet to time myself over a measured 5K run, as opposed to a 5K as part of a 10K or a half, so I reckon I would beat that if it came to training for a speed goal. And while trying to better my 5K best isn’t a specific aim of mine, it may well come if I succeed in bettering myself at half marathon level.

Expect not much in the way of updates in the next month until the next Resolutions post, and it’s not looking too likely at the moment I’ll get much running in, but hopefully the back injury isn’t too serious and at least it isn’t impacting on any serious training. In the meantime, I’ll hopefully report some real progress in the pool next time, and hopefully I can continue improving my sleep regime. I’m desperate to report real progress now, and I really hope I succeed. For that’s how much I stuck my neck out over this and there’s a lot riding now on me making that breakthrough. Cheerio!

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