Thursday, 17 July 2014

Enjoyable torture in a pressure cooker

Last night marked my return to road running.

I know I run on roads all the time and run as part of triathlons but I have only entered 3 actual running races since I started this journey.

The Doncaster 5k was to be my third race as a runner and the second time I would get to pull on my club colours.

I left it until the last minute to decide whether to race as my knee had been causing me some discomfort but a quick visit to Blizard Physiotherapy last week helped cure the ailment. Yet again it looks like nerve tightness in my back causing me lower limb issues,

On Sunday I went for my first run since Austria and decided on a quick (actually it was quite slow) 5k near home. I trudged round in 29 minutes and was quite pleased with this having not run for exactly 2 weeks. I didn’t push hard but definitely felt the after effects for a few days.

So last night I went to register and was pleased to be back racing. I’ve found the post Austria rest enjoyable but frustrating at times. Some days I have felt great and others I have felt truly awful.

After registration I caught up with friends, some of the club runners and #runboss and watched the start of the Vets race before going for a quick warm up.

My knee felt a bit tight during the warm up but I’m not entirely sure this wasn’t in my head. Me and Martin ran a lap of the town centre including some strides and I genuinely felt good. I knew the heat would hurt me during the race.

When the heavens opened at 6pm, I prayed to the running gods that it could continue for another 150 minutes and then I could run in the rain. I much prefer running in the rain to running in oppressive heat, I just function better. But alas it was merely a shower.

We lined up for the race in the town centre. I positioned myself quite near to the front and on the outside of the course. I didn’t want to hold anyone up but also consider myself a runner, whereas last year I hung around at the back feeling awkward.

It's like Where's Wally. Photo courtesy of @doncasterrunner
The whistle went and we were underway.

I had targeted running the race above 171bpm and keeping it there as long as possible by setting my Garmin to alert me if it was lower.

After 100m my Garmin did it’s usual “beedlebee” to announce my HR was too low but I knew this was fine as we had only just started and had my HR gone from 70bpm to 171bpm in under 100m, I think I might have needed an ambulance or valium to take me to A&E or calm me back down. There were no more beeps  eminating from my Garmin so after a couple more minutes I glanced down at my watch to see 187bpm displayed.
Wow. How hard am I working? Photo from @doncasterrunner
187BPM. What the hell was I doing? Thats in my interval training zone and has only previously been seen on a treadmill when carrying out my lactate tests with Dave Tune spurring me on. No wonder I was breathing like some weird hybrid between a “60 year emphysema sufferer crossed with a male sex line operator”.

Well the plan was to suffer so I thought balls to it and pushed on at the same pace. I completed the first lap and felt absolutely horrific. The heat was dreadful but I carried on. Quick glance 181bpm.
End of 1st lap. Wow I look healthy. Photo courtesy of David Tune
I love the Donny 5km, you can get cheered on by friends, clubmates and the inebriated all in the space of 2 minutes. It really is a special race.

Quick check of Garmin as breathing hadn’t changed . Still 184 and feeling dreadful. Carry on? You betcha. Bring on the suffering.

By the end of the second of three laps some of the quicker runners (read race winner and about 17 others) had passed me. I had hoped to not be passed but I felt like I was running through treacle at this stage. I still had one lap to go so decided to keep the suffering up. HR 183bpm.

Another picture where I look a picture of health. Photo from @doncasterrunner
It transpires that my treacle running was justified. My first mile was a 7:12.

7 bloody 12. My fastest ever mile and proof that I might’ve overstretched myself given I haven’t run for two and a half weeks and haven’t run at speed since my last track session on the 10th June. My second mile was 8:40 and my third was 9:14 showing a steady decline after my earlier herculean efforts. Honestly 7:12? Was I on drugs?

Just for clarity, in case any of the organisers or people from WADA read this. No I bloody wasn’t.

So the race was completed in a (tbc) time of 26:02. Hardly record breaking and far from what I have achieved in the past.

But it is a new “race” PB.

And it came off the back of an injury and no hard running for 5 weeks.

This morning I expected to feel truly, well crap, I expected to have to walk down the stairs backwards. But I didn’t. I feel great. My legs feel fine and I can’t wait to race again on Sunday.

The race was important to me for a couple of reasons.

Fristly it helped banish any thoughts of long racing from my immediate future. Why? Well I truly suffered during this race and I can’t exert that much pain on myself for a longer race, but I have missed the hurt in the recent weeks. I love the feeling of beasting myself but I don’t possess it in me to keep it up for hours on end. If you had seen me at the finish line you’d have been tempted to call an ambulance as I was bent double propping myself up on the barriers with sweat dripping from my forehead but inside I felt alive.

Secondly it transpires that I possess the ability to well and truly suffer. My average HR for the run was 180bpm. This is harder than I have ever run before and although the time doesn’t reflect the effort I put in (given my actual PB is 22:53). I know I raced with honesty and heart. My previous 5k runs have seen my average HR be

169bpm for Blenhiem
169bpm for ETU aquathlon
168bpm for my last warm up run before Cologne.
168bpm for my actual 5km PB of 22:53 from April this year.

These are all in the right zone though as my tempo zone is from 167 – 186bpm.

But last night I absolutely beasted myself and completed all 5km with my HR well into my tempo zone. I didn’t die. Yes it hurt, but isn’t that the point?

So now with a renewed sense of vigour I know my distance. My distance is short, no more playing at going long as it isn’t for me.

I know how to suffer as I have done it.

Onwards and upwards. I have a score to settle in Doncaster in 364 days where I will be lighter, stronger, correctly trained and as a result a lot quicker.

I’d like to thank all the race marshals, all the spectators and all the people who cheered me on for making last night so enjoyable. Sorry I couldn’t acknowledge you if you cheered me, I was in a different place at the time.

Thanks for reading,


A sprint triathlete

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