The Summer of Speed – Progress

I thought it would be a good time to drop back in and discuss how my ongoing preparations are for my big 10km PB attempt this summer. I’m heading down to London for the Royal Parks Series Regent’s Park 10km on Sunday 23rd July, and have my sights set on my long-standing PB of 37:15 from the Epilepsy Action Bradford 10K from March 2014, and have dedicated my spring and summer to chasing down the pursuit of blistering pace.

The key change in my life is that I’ve started training with the Halifax Harriers, an athletic club based just on the outskirts of the town centre, having now freed up my Tuesday nights to be able to train with them. After three trial sessions, I finally handed over my membership fee and now, just over four and a half years after taking up running again, am now proudly wearing the Halifax Harriers race vest.

I’m currently turning up on Tuesdays for training sessions with them, and already I’m seeing improvements to my running. Here are a couple of pace charts – one from a repetition session carried out on a Monday night (01 May 2017) and my first repetition session on the track with the Harriers, less than 24 hours later.

On my own – consistent intervals, but the slight drops are proof of the strain
With the Halifax Harriers, similar session, smoother intervals

As you can see, my pace is much more consistent running with a group, maintaining a steady pace even at my top end speed, where on my own the jagged nature of that pace line shows how hard I was working to keep my level up. I also tended to jog during the recovery phases of my interval training prior to club training, but the recovery here tends to be to stop, rest, stretch, loosen up and lower the heart rate, before setting off again. I’ve managed to get my 400 metre speed down to 70 seconds, which is as quick as I’ve ever managed lapping the track.

My 5K pace seems to have improved as well since joining the Harriers. I ran an 18:22 to take first place at Brighouse parkrun again, albeit I suffered for front running the whole thing – I set off too quickly and the hill at the back of the Brighouse parkrun course basically sapped my top end pace out of me. I had an immediate chance to pursue the sub-18 again the Tuesday after, at a 5K time trial on Harriers night, taking on a two lap, undulating course in Skircoat Green, Halifax. My first three k’s went for 3:50, 3:35, 3:37…and then my watch gave up. Saving myself onto the remaining uphills, I thundered down the flats and the descents, turning right at the end for one more hill towards the finish – absolutely on my toes, I pushed for the line and recorded 18:01 – narrowly close to sub-18, but a brand new PB over the distance by five seconds. It took everything I had, but it was worth it for the result, and gets me tantalizingly close to going under 18 minutes as we head into June.

Just this past Sunday, I ran on my own to test my 10km pace eight weeks out from the Regent’s Park 10km in London, running from Brighouse to Elland Bridge and back along the Calder-Hebble Navigation. I clocked 39:12.5, a couple of minutes down but on a slightly hilly route, and with a pronounced slow down at 9km so as not to needlessly chase the 3 minute km I would have needed to go under 37:15. I needed a marker to lay down and while I was shorn of top end pace later in the run, I know where improvements can be made and there’s plenty time to turn that around.

I’m not finding this without difficulty though. Odd cranks have started to appear, and at the behest of self-diagnosing, what’s going on in my right foot is the ruminations of plantar fasciitis. I haven’t half worked on my eccentric step exercises and calf massages since, and thankfully so far its remained manageable. I’m trying more than ever to get onto trails and away from roads when the opportunity arises, and listening more than ever to when my foot decides its not happy with the stick its getting. Furthermore, I had more than a  hiccup with my Garmin Forerunner 10, which seems to be on its last legs for a little while – its stopped recording runs despite all manner of reset attempts to right it. Not the most important thing but when you’re trying to measure your pace, its a bugbear if you haven’t got the kit.

And I definitely need time to acclimate to potentially hot racing conditions. I recently ran home from Ravensthorpe along the banks of the River Calder, and found it hugely stifling in 24-25C temperatures, with the sun endlessly beating down. Right now the weather is consistently around 17-18C in the UK, occasionally breaking into the 20’s in my area. The warmest I’ve ever raced in is 18C, so I’ve got to prepare for the potential of racing at least in the low 20’s. That shouldn’t prove too big a step, so long as I take the opportunities to run hard in the heat, and key things like staying hydrated. At the end of the day it probably won’t make too much difference, but its best to be prepared for all eventualities weather wise on the day of the race.

Selfie break in the pre-summer sun, on the River Calder, 25/05/2017
The River Calder near Mirfield, 25/05/2017

As you read this, I’ll have taken part in the Hebden Bridge Fell Race – more on that very soon – to kick off a surely busy couple of months packed with races and opportunities. Without question I’m going to have to work hard to keep bringing my time down, but who said chasing times was ever going to be easy? Especially with a watch that may or may not be on its way out. In any event, it’ll be great to keep on this road into the heart of summer, culminiating on July 23rd, when I can hopefully race the 10km of my life in the morning and be inspired by the athletes taking part at the World Parathletics Championships in the evening. The focus here remains resolute, and with the Halifax Harriers I’m feeling great about the remainder of the year going forward.

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Week 1

Just completed the first week of my training regime and I’m feeling really positive about it already. I ran four days this week – or three if you include the recovery walk that I did during lunch on Friday.

I felt a great sense of anticipation as I got myself prepared last Monday morning. It wasn’t smooth – my eldest (by twenty minutes) daughter wanted to tag along, it seemed, though she eventually tired and I was clear to go on my own. The bowl of Shredded Wheat, the glass of cranberry juice, the warm up, the soundtrack – everything was primed as I closed the door behind me, wearing a white running top and shorts that have seen more moshpits than cold mornings.

Sun was barely beginning to rise as I hit the streets. I didn’t really feel the chill of the air, though I did my best to keep my hands from going too cold in the 4C air. It was a slow/steady run that took me just under half an hour, within which I clocked up my first 5K. I felt noticeably chipper that day! That said, the fatigue lasted til about 6pm, perhaps a sign I hadn’t seriously trained in so many years. And to my cost, in tending to two loud and very awake one-year-olds, I didn’t pay enough attention to cooling down. Not getting every stretch out of the way led to cramps in my right calf, left hamstring and the groin area. I also seemed to have a side strain. I spent a lot of time working the calf, that seemingly the most aching of my muscles. Any opportunity to stretch out those twings before Wednesday morning were gleefully taken.

Due to an early start at work I was out the door at 5:10am the following day and completed three repetitions of six-minute steady runs followed by three-minute recovery walks. Unfortunately, my naivety about what exactly recovery walks were meant I was a little too leisurely in my approach. I used my lunch break on Friday to remedy this by walking a brisker pace for under 28 minutes.

My first week culminated in a 15-minute run at ‘race pace’, sandwiched between five minutes of easy warm-up and recovery walk respectively. I looked forward to this all week as a test of how far I could run within that time frame. However, come the morning, I was greeted by icy 0C temperatures, with myself in my inadequate shorts and long sleeved running top. Once the 5 minutes were up, I went hell for leather. 3 minutes in, I started to feel sick, believing the cold air was getting to me (though it was more likely the cereal I’d just eaten). Determined not to give up, I clocked my first mile in 6:51. Get in, I thought. The challenge was then to sustain that pace. I knew I could get the second mile inside the fifteen minutes, and so I did. Every fibre of my body wanted to jack it in – my mindset had other ideas. I passed the two mile mark with around 35 seconds to spare. My pace had dropped a little, but I had done it.

I collapsed once I got through the door. Not involuntarily, just that I finally cracked to sheer exhaustion as I heaved for breath on the floor, eventually reminding myself I still had to cool down.

Still, first week completed, I have  every reason to be positive. My times seem to be steady and around what I anticipated. Though more importantly, its about getting in shape. I struggled to get any time in to focus on core exercises or any sort of general exercise/cross training, which is something I need to make more time for, certainly. I’m confident this will all fall into place, though.

The weeks ahead are going to provide sterner challenges than this, but its one that I relish. What I’d give for warmer mornings or a pair of gloves, though!