Friday, November 27, 2009

Back in the VFAC Game

What a difference a training group makes. Last night I returned to VFAC having last seen their friendly faces in the last week of July between trips to Germany and Luxembourg. That blazing hot night I collapsed at the end of the session at Beaver Lake from chronic fatigue and dehydration, dizzy, disorientated and stumbling I was delirious.

A lot happened between the end of July and the end of November which meant I didn't get a chance to return, but last night made up for it and reminded me why running is so awesome, even when you're relatively unfit.

Surprisingly I ended up being the top runner there and Coach John made me hurt by setting me off at the back with the aim of catching up the guys and girls in front. He sure knew what would motivate me having had six weeks of very little training, but there's nothing like some healthy competition to get the blood pumping and the legs moving, and once the first rep got underway I was able to get into that trance like state and go through the motions.

After a solid five mile warm up we launched into a four mile tempo, complete recovery, one mile tempo, complete recovery, one mile tempo. Six miles of balls to the wall effort with a real killer to start with - pacing a four mile stretch is hard to do when you have no concept of how fit you are and what your body can do.

I started thirty seconds behind the decent guys and decided to ease my way into the tempo; but of course I went out like a bat out of hell and then had to settle into a rhythm. At the half way turn around I finally passed the last of the group ahead of me and had made my thirty seconds up, probably too quickly. Heading back along the sea wall was very unnerving with cars coming towards me with their lights on full beam and not being able to see the holes and drains in the dark. I had to back off a little bit just to keep my nerves in one piece; the prospect of tripping did not appeal!

Once at the three mile mark I found myself running at a fair lick without too much trouble. I was breathing heavily and my legs were tired but I knew I could maintain the pace to the finish. Sure enough I finished the rep in 22:08 (5:32 per mile average), somewhat surprisingly decent with all things considered.

The Olympic rings shine out over Vancouver

One thing that really inspired me when hitting the rep was the beautiful sight of the Olympic rings floating out in Coal Harbour, just off the sea wall. Suddenly it was this light in the darkness, the Olympic dream shining out, the iconic symbol of effort, hard work and prowess for all to see. It really fired me up, the realisation that everywhere in the world there are people putting themselves through hardship as they try and attain their personal goals.

Next came the first of the mile reps and God was it painful. I started ten seconds down on the guys and clawed back half of their advantage relatively quickly before finding the going extremely hard. Thankfully I hit the main traffic at half way and had a chance to recover slightly as I moved through the group before pushing on again. With a few hundred metres to go I went for home and made my way to the front hitting 5:10 (for 1.03 miles according to my GPS).

On the return I felt decidedly lousy and couldn't get onto the back of the guys in front. I should have buried myself early on to make contact and then hung on for the finish, but instead I started steady and tried to build up the pace. Having not done much mileage my legs were exhausted by this point and although I got close with 200 metres to go I couldn't finish fast enough despite clocking a solid 5:13.

Jogging home my right knee started to seize up and some 'runner's knee' I had been experiencing came to the fore, however with some strengthening exercises I hope this will pass relatively quickly and without too many consequences. All in all though 13 miles of running and feeling decidedly good for someone who hasn't done much since the marathon. No complaints, I just need to find a routine and get into it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Getting Back Into Things?

Since my last post motivation didn’t really pick up, I guess I was still physically jaded from the marathon and mentally just not ready to start running again. I have certainly felt tired this past month, never really quite on song, falling asleep on the couch in the early evening and generally carrying some lethargy throughout the day, despite going to bed earlier.

I decided to have one more week off, just putting in one session last tuesday to see where I was in terms of fitness before having some nights out to relax and recuperate knowing that I could take this final opportunity to let my hair down before having to train again. I hit 4 x 5mins off 90 seconds recovery in the dark on the seawall around Stanley Park, and surprisingly I found I was in better shape than I thought I would be, hitting >0.9 miles for each rep, which isn’t bad seeing as it was freezing cold, I was in trainers and couldn’t see where I was going!

Having a laugh after winning the 2008 Boxing Day Challenge

Despite picking up a sore throat over the weekend I decided to start ‘training mark II’ tonight as the soreness didn’t develop into illness. With The Boxing Day Challenge on Cheltenham Race Course coming up I finally have a target race, and one where I am the defending champion... not that I expect to successfully claim that crown again given my somewhat limited training.

So 33 days to get into four mile race shape. I started tonight with a two mile build-up tempo, two mile relaxed and two mile tempo. All in all it went well and I finished off my tempo in bang on 11 minutes, a perfectly adequate time seeing as I was stripped down topless in the cold (my top started to chafe and my nipples were complaining).

Congrats to Charliiiiii, an 'old' training partner from younger days

I guess I felt an ounce of motivation come back, not least because some of my friends were racing down in the NCAA (collegiate champs) in the USA having been given scholarships for some of the top university teams. Watching the races on the live stream was awesome, seeing the relaxed style of the lead guys, the turn of pace, the surging, the sprint finishes... I wanted to race again.

So a big congratulations to Charlotte ‘Charliiiiiiiiii’ Browning on 21st place, hopefully that will be good enough to see her selected for the GB under 23 squad for the European Champs, and then a pat on the back for Ruth Senior (46th) and Andy Baker (78th). Cheers guys, hopefully you've just kickstarted my training!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Motivation Needed - Volunteers Required

Since the marathon I have run a total of four times and considered retiring or taking a sabbatical from running.

Running is great when you have goals and races, but here in Vancouver there isn't the same racing fixture list as back in England, and as such I pretty much have no races to target over the winter. So what would I train for? Planning a spring marathon or half-marathon is one thing, but it's still quite a long way away and doesn't provide any intermediate fixtures to keep the calendar busy.

Also, since getting back from Europe, this city has been miserable. I can't remember a day when it hasn't rained, and with the clocks going back it's dark when I leave work. Who wants to go out in the dark, wind and rain every evening? I don't want to run on a treadmill, that's boring, so what do I do?

What I need is a BIG kick up the backside!

It's not that I haven't trained through similar winters (although England tends to be cold rather than wet), but back in Loughborough I had a training group of 60 other guys and girls to train with. It's sad to say, but apart from one Sunday run with Jay, I haven't trained with any of the guys from VFAC since mid-summer. I need to get back in the club scene and arrange to train with the guys again!

I've decided that I can't just take the easy option and take a break or stop. If I had achieved my potential then maybe, but looking at my personal bests, 10k through to the marathon need some revision:

  • 10k - set on a hilly course. Give me a flat course in the same shape and I'm a low-32min runner.
  • Half Mara - got a massive stitch and walked for two minutes. Sub-1:12 is possible.
  • Marathon - stitches, cramps, the wall... one day the 2:30 barrier is getting smashed.

So here's an open invitation - email me with a time when you're running in the evening (I'm free from 6:15pm) and I'll do my very best to meet up.