It hasn’t all been smooth sailing in September. I’ve been ill, irritated, training has been inconsistent, and worse still, I turned 30! Yes, I left my twenties behind on the 9th with booze, a cold and a chesty cough. My friends and family got me well as truly steamrolled and the next day I was coughing out of my chest.
I recovered from that to take part in the Stainland Trail, finishing 22nd on a tough, hilly course which is certainly nothing to sniff at. And my London Marathon magazine arrived in the letter box. It was a no. So no marathon in April for me. At least, not in London. Maybe September wasn’t so bad after all…anyway, read on to see how I’ve chalked up against my resolutions, a series that has gone onwards since the start of the year. For those unfamilar, I’m trying to get more sleep, learn to swim again, run more than before (be it races, more regularly, or greater distances), and become quicker.
Sleeping has been going consistently well in September, helped by having a bit of time off work and going on holiday again which meant being able to get into a regular pattern of sleep for a little while. I’m still roughly 50/50 on my minimum target of 6 hours sleep per night in a month, but I have got the yearly sleep debt down to between 8-9 hours, according to Sleepbot, which is further good progress having now got it into single figures. Most pleasing about the above chart this time is the lack of dramatic dips which were often a feature earlier in the year. I’m hoping for another good month of sleep in October with the next race on the horizon in a couple of weeks.
2. Learn to swim again
I’m pleased to say that while I haven’t done much swimming lately, I did get a chance to have a splash around on a second family break to Butlins – which I will write a bigger feature on soon. Despite not doing more in the pool recently other than aiding my kids’ continuing development, the Splash Waterworld park allowed me to get some freestyle swimming in as well as building up my confidence in other ways. Yes, you may laugh at the fact I consider riding down the rapid Jet Stream slide or slip-sliding around Vortex as a turning point in my swimming re-education, but I honestly do. My wife and brother-in-law were having a blast on these rides and I wanted in. I built myself up to do the faster, gnarlier slides and once I did them, I wanted to try them again and again. Furthermore, I found my freestyle technique has improved slightly – its far from perfect but I feel I have learnt to try and relax a little, and to swim hard. Obviously that won’t help me in terms of learning to swim slow, but by attacking the water I’m finding I can keep better count of my breathing rhythm and better maintain the quality of my strokes at present. I would say the further I’ve managed in one go without stopping, including kicking off the wall, is roughly 30 metres, which isn’t a lot at this stage – way below the 200 I need to realistically start aiming for triathlon or even aquathlon – but it’s an improvement that will surely offer me that encouragement to step up into the quicker lanes in the morning lane swim at the local pool.
3. Run more
So I didn’t get into London. Hardly surprising. But hey, I finally did it folks. I’m stepping up. That’s right. I’ve signed up for the Greater Manchester Marathon on Sunday April 19th and there’s nothing you, or the VMLM ballot system can do to stop me! Hahaha. Seriously though, I’m proud to have signed up for this race and I look forward to preparing for what will be my first marathon ever. Sure to be a barometer for whether I continue to step up in distances , it’s definitely a challenge I’m eagerly awaiting and I can’t wait for the preparation to start. However, I am going to prepare much differently post-Birmingham. I’ve decided the Great Birmingham Run will be my final race of the year, barring anything else turning my head, and so I will be focusing much more on swimming and improving my overall core strength prior to starting marathon training, which will be, ideally I must say, after Christmas. Which will allow me just enjoy Christmas a little before getting into the nitty gritty of the long miles.
September has otherwise been a reasonably disrupted month compared to July and August, when I was going really hard to achieve my speed goals. A cold at the start of the month, coinciding with my boozy 30th birthday celebrations, put paid to a whole week of running leading up to my birthday. My first run post-Halifax was three days after that race and it was sluggish. It was the start of my cold and reduced my preparation for the Stainland Trail, which was then plagued by a build up of earwax that didn’t really stop me running, but it did drive me crazy for a while. I’ve got out a bit more since and with Birmingham on the horizon I really want to make sure I’m ready for race pace. Here’s hoping for a consistent two and a bit weeks ahead.
4. Run faster
My performance at the Stainland Trail was my slowest 10K yet, but given that was a trail race in challenging conditions I’m not reading anything into that other than that I may not have been quite as fit as I’m used to being these days with the disruption to my training in the weeks before. That and it was a tough course and that I also approached the race with little expectation other than to complete and enjoy it. And yes, that is my shiny new Garmin, and I know it only measures 9.84km, but do I mind about the missing 160 metres? Of course not!
I did however pore over my performance in the Halifax Half Marathon and worked out from my segments that I was in for roughly a 1:26:00 in that race had I just done 13.1 miles and not taken a wrong turn. Assuming of course the race panned out as it did for me at the pace I was going. This is a slight kicker, but that said, with Birmingham now less than three weeks away, it’s good to know that my target of at least a new PB and maybe a sub 1:25:00 is in my grasp. Birmingham will no doubt be a challenge but the course is overall much less undulating than any of my previous three half marathons and with the added incentive of potentially overtaking numerous runners will make for an exciting pursuit of a goal that I have firm belief won’t elude me much longer.
Summarising, let’s hope the positive trend for sleeping and swimming continues, and let’s conclude my racing calendar with a bang!