Saturday, May 28, 2011

Green Belt, Track, Brockwell Park and Achilles

Last weekend was one of my favourite in the year - the Green Belt Relay. For those who aren't in the know the Green belt is a 22 stage, 2 day relay race around London with each team member running a leg on day 1 and day 2. It tends to attract pretty competitive teams and has a great atmosphere. Highly recommended.

So day 1 I was racing over roughly 10 miles from Staines to Windsor with the first and last third or so offroad and the middle section on park roads. From the start it was clear that it was going to be between myself and Jeff Cunningham. Jeff is a top class competitor and rival but he's clearly still struggling to get London out of his legs a bit! We were even until about 3/4 miles in when we hit the top of the hill ( I hate hills). I managed to push away off the top and despite a minor misturn in the park stayed clear and pushed on to get a new stage record. It was nice getting my stage done early as it meant I was able to a) have a drink and b) cheer on the rest of the team going around! Unfortunately my achilles (not that bad one, the other bad one) decided to play up so I spent a lot of the day getting acquainted with ice cubes (of course to get the ice cubes I had to buy a pint of cider first...)

Day 2 we very nearly missed the stage - we were headed in the wrong direction and going fast until some local knowledge got us re-directed and we made the start with minutes to go. Day 2 was against my frequent rival Hugh. I tried to go with him but after a mile or two it was clear he was a man on a mission and I was floundering! He broke away and I ended up staggering to the top of Reigate Hill (did I mention I REALLY HATE hills). I was still clear of third and fourth until my garmin decided to take me down a very nice driveway. By the time I got back onto the path Steve Whitehead had caught up and with Hugh well clear, the team being more than 2 hours behind Steve's Stock Exchange mixed team already I decided to take the easy route and run around with Steve rather than get myself lost again. We had a nice natter going around. I was planning on breaking clear with about 400 to go on the 8.7 mile leg and kicking in. Unfortunately the Garmin beeped for 8 miles, we turned a corner and there were some people in pink bibs standing near what looked awfully like a finish line. I half started to sprint, still not totally sure with Steve likewise - as I got a little closer I realised it must be and went flat out - Steve wasn't dropping though! As someone commented afterwards - normally in these sprints for the finish one party gives up and the other coasts in - that didn't happen here! Thankfully I managed to get my carcass over the line first.

The team as a whole did really well and with a roughly 50/50 split of men and women I felt it was a very strong performance in the mixed category which only required 2 women. Personally I was a bit disappointed on both days - I just didn't feel myself with very heavy legs. Hopefully back to normal soon!

Wednesday seeing as Hayley was doing a BMC at Eltham I decided to give it a go as well - it was so close to my work I figured it'd be a laugh. Looking at the entry list it was clear that there was going to be two races - a sub 4 one and a ~4:10-15 one. From the gun I was at the very back as we went through in 67 and I'd moved past Justina my club-mate. Tucked in behind Buzz Shepherd we caught one youngster relatively quickly hitting 800 in around 2:14. I then pushed past and caught another youngster with around 600 to go and started trying to maintain the pace. I didn't catch the lead group but I put a few seconds on the chasers and was generally quite pleased with a 4:14.9 showing. My second fastest ever and with no specific pace work done I'm sure in the next few months I can post something a little bit quicker. Definitely an improvement over the paltry 4:22 I ran at SML!

So on to Brockwell Park on Saturday. My lunchtime run partner Mike Leong was taking a stab at a sub 18 clocking on the mildly difficult Brockwell Parkrun 5k course. I like Brockwell as it's all on tarmac and has a small(ish) hill that you go up both laps which on lap one seems fine but seems very tough on the second lap!

The pacing went pretty well. We were through the first 3k roughly on pace, a hard 4th k up the hill meant we lost around 20 seconds on the pace but the last k Mike really rallied to run his fastest of the race and drag back a lot of the time for an 18:10 which is worth sub 18 for sure on a really fast course. Lots of room for improvement as well there.

My left achilles hasn't been totally happy since the Assembly League 5k - minor tweak and it's never been really painful but I'm aware of it. Hence I've now embarked on an aggressive strengthening, icing and calf massage campaign on both achilles - it's fine now but marathon training is approaching and I need them both to be in tip-top shape and strong as an ox for that.

Right - enough for this time - take care people and see you at the races.

Monday, May 16, 2011

General Update - Races, Training and Iron

Things have been pretty hectic over here. Reading as I'm sure most heard was an unmitigated disaster. Last year I was very pleased in that I managed to time my peak so I ran best in the most important races - this year I ran, to be fair, shockingly at Reading. I was struggling almost from the get-go. I was just about able to hold it together til halfway and then I was gone. Boom. Now I think I was on track two-three months previous with a 7 mile 5:20 pace tempo feeling strong. Here I was all over the place and almost instantly dropped to 6mm and just slogged it out to the finish. I'm glad I did - I don't like to drop out and do so rarely (3 times I think in 15 years).

Anyways - post-race I went and got blood tests for the first time ever and they revealed a low ferritin level. Not critically low but well below the normal and far too low for a young male athlete. It also explained the almost regular fatigue I was feeling, waking up after 7-8 hours sleep and feeling like I'd had about 2. I just ascribed it to running high mileage but in retrospect it was much worse than that.

So - some simple dietary changes and an iron supplement and I've been back to my usual bouncing off the walls most of the time. Not to say I don't still occasionally feel tired but it's much more normal now and hopefully the longer-term iron supplementation with increased vitamin c intake (together with steak for dinner and 2 black pudding for breakfast - it's a hard life at times!) will mean that's the last of the problems. Looking back I wouldn't be surprised if something similar happened at London last year as it was a similar sort of feeling - and both times off the back of a block of high mileage. I'm not sure I entirely believe in haemolysis (red blood cells burst by foot impact) but with a very heavy footfall and a short stride it seems likely.

Just generally my stats for stuff like red blood cell count, haematocrit etc. were all well below normal - I'm intrigued to see what'll happen if I get them up again!

So I also started changing some stuff around after Reading. Whilst "regenerating" with reduced but much faster mileage. The run I'm slower than 7mm is rare now. It's taken a while to get the mileage back up to anything even vaguely reasonable (combined with a couple of really quite bad niggles) but either the training is working, the huge base I put in is paying off, or my body is finally recovering as I'm racing pretty well at the moment. My garmin clocked 15:27 for a road 5k the otherday (official 15:33) which is a good step forward and I was really pleased with how the race went being sandwiched between the two Torry brothers (hmm... that sentence might need a re-write...) who have both since had really good runs at Bristol. Nick I think pretty much ran back to back the same pace he ran for the 5k!

Aside from the 5k, on the previous Sunday I'd done the Sutton 10k and clocked a relatively pedestrian 32:51 but tbh was very happy with the race as I really wasn't going for time! (and a set of 10 x 200m off walkback recovery on the Wednesday meant I was still hobbling - my body was not built for speed!) I set off very conservatively tucked into the pack whilst Brian Wilder put a very big move in early on and had 50m on us before we even got out the park! I stayed very comfortably tucked in with the chasing pack. Not much progress was being made but we weren't losing huge amount either though I could tell most were likely to die off. Basil Wallace from Herne Hill (who has a fantastically efficient looking stride) zipped past after a couple of km and I tucked in. As we completed the first lap of three and hit the 4km point I could tell Brian wasn't getting any further away so made a big move and started reeling in the 50-80m he had going clear of Basil. I think it was too big a move as I caught him pretty much at 5km! I sat in for a bit, then pushed and got a small lead, at about 7km but Brian fought back and we were back level going into the park. As we were heading back out I got the feeling Brian was working a little harder than I was and decided to try and get clear so a hard burst and I had a small gap. Unfortunately I know just how strong Brian is and knew I needed to keep on pushing. I didn't get a halfway split but had to have run a huge negative split (most in my early pack ran outside 34) and kept the effort level up to the finish line. I didn't particularly kick as I wasn't sure how my legs would hold up at the faster pace! It sounds like Brian was coming off a tough few days and I'm looking forward to having a few more duels on the Surrey road racing scene.

So with the 10k on the Sunday, 5k on the Thursday I'd already promised Leroy I'd run the 1500 and 5k at the SML league in Wimbledon. The 5k I was really pleased with. I'd asked to be B-string and that meant I could conserve energy for the 1500. Pete Tucker took off from the start with John Clarke, Met Police B-string and myself all in a mini-race. I was very much just shadowing the Met Police guy (I felt I was stronger and could kick harder and it's a race - it's the other guys job to either break you or out-think you). With about 6 laps it was clear the guy was struggling a little and I was still feeling pretty strong - John had gone clear and Peter was 150m or so clear. With a mile to go I put a single big lap in, going past John and seeing if Peter was slowing down at all. He clearly wasn't so I eased back a bit and John and I waltzed in together for a comfortable 9 points. Running 16:07 I was fairly sure I could run a touch faster than that pace for 10k which backed up my 5k.

Unfortunately the 1500 was a bit of a disaster. My achilles was a touch tight and I just wasn't driving right off of it. From the start I was flat footed and a 70 second opening lap felt very hard. Whilst I'd felt easy as anything in the 5k (I actually think if I'd pushed flat out for the last 1500 of the 5k it might have been quicker than my 15!) and strong, in control, by contrast in the 15 it was a straight out sprint. Hopefully I'll have a better one soon!

So - limited training with days in general quite hard (including one midnight run home from work including a 5 mile stretch with 4 5:45 miles and a 5:20 to finish!) and lots of racing. I've generally been doing races instead of sessions with regular "half" sessions on the grass. Be interesting to see how it works out!

Let me know any questions or thoughts you all have.


Bryn Running

Training diary and musings on running in general.