Week 29 – Back on track

Day 197 – Sunday 16 July

6.9 miles – 7:41 – 138bpm

I have just completed my worst session ever. A standard 6×3 minutes which is great for 5k training and a session I have completed at 3:10km pace in the past. Today, I averaged 3:55km pace.

This is the lowest point of my running history.

I would be a very disappointed with this pace for a half marathon, yet here I am in Bushy Park dying at the end of a 3 minute rep at a pace which 5 weeks ago would have been somewhere between easy and steady. If I was a race horse I would be a Lidl beef lasagne and glue by now.

Yet I am contemplating a track race on Wednesday.

Day 198 – Monday 17 July

4.4 miles – 8:15 – 131bpm

A run of four quarters.

First mile felt rubbish and tight.

Second mile felt good.

Mile three was slow and then after a few stretches mile four felt good and banished any thoughts that I shouldn’t race on Wednesday.

Day 199 – Tuesday 18 July

5.3 miles – 8:15 – 139bpm

I felt amazing this morning.

Legs fresh, resting heart rate back to normal and I am now in a position to start training properly again.

But then I went for a run.

I am starting to think something might be wrong. The first two miles felt great. My legs were light and bouncy and my running mojo was returning. Just after 2 miles, my legs started to feel heavy and I lost all my energy. My heart rate started to increase and I had to slow down by 20s per mile to maintain the easy effort.

After the loop of Bushy Park I stopped for a few light stretches and then ran back to work with a bounce in my step. I pushed the pace a little and it felt much easier running at 155bpm than 140bpm.

I am racing tomorrow. I probably shouldn’t but I enjoy it so much I just want to get back on the track have a blast round for a couple of laps. Yes, I will be doing my first 800m of the season and I have no idea what time I can run. At the moment, I am struggling to maintain 2:40 pace for a minute!

I might also run the 1500m to see where I am at. I’ll try not to shed a tear when I struggle to break 5 minutes and consider that 5 weeks ago I thought I would be running under 4:30 by now and setting my self up to attack my pb in a few weeks time. How quickly our short term goals are obliterated.

Day 200 – Wednesday 19 July

3.3 miles

I am very excited about tonight’s track race. Which is perverse considering I am in dreadful shape, have not trained properly for 6 weeks and haven’t run an 800m for nearly a year. But I love the 800m and the thought of running tonight, no matter how slowly, is a very exciting prospect. It represents and new start and I can only improve from here.

My first race was the 800m and it was difficult determining a pacing strategy. Recent sessions indicated I would struggle to break 2:30 but I decided that would be a suitable target, only I had no idea what that pace felt like on a track. The race broke into two packs within 50m so I joined the front of the second pack. It felt slow. But how slow? I decided to stick behind the guy leading the second group and was pleasantly surprised to pass through 400m in 71s. This was my fastest 400m since last summer and I still had another lap to go. My focus was now on how my legs felt. I was racing in spikes for the first time this year and my ankle was still a bit sore from when I twisted it last month. I didn’t want to push too hard but when I was overtaken by a teenager with 100m to go I decided to allow myself a little sprint finish. Not too fast, but just enough to retake the position I lost. My time was a slow 2:26 – this was my slowest stand alone 800m since I started track racing as an adult – but it felt ok and much faster than any rep I had completed in Bushy Park since my illness subsided. Always look for the positives!

Now for the 1500m. I hate the 1500m. It scares me. It hurts less than the 800m but the pain is prolonged and its additional aerobic element often makes it insufferable. It is rare that I do not experience some anxiety on the start line. It isn’t an understatement to say that I wasn’t looking forward to this race.

My legs were still heavy from the 800m, just over 30 minutes earlier and once again I had no idea what time I would run or how to pace it. Surely sub 5 and perhaps even 4:50. This time I wasn’t in a pack and just ran my own race at a comfortably hard effort. The first lap was a very slow 78s and then second a practically jogging 84s.

I was now running 5k pace and my finish time 5:14 was nearly 10s slower than my 1500m split for a 3000m I ran at the same track only 6 weeks earlier.

When I crossed the line I made a point of continuing the pace for a few additional metres so spectators understood that I wasn’t at full speed and could have kept the pace going for another lap or two. These things are important.

I finished the night with leg 3 of the 4x200m. It has been a couple of years since I last ran this quick on a track and it showed. I sprinted round the bend and then realised I my legs were gone. There was no way I could maintain the pace and my only hope was not to slow down too much. My legs were burning and my glutes were sore – so that it what it feels like to run with your glutes.

A productive evening and whilst the times were poor it was great to back on the track. I survived three races in spikes and I ran much faster than had I attempted a similar session in the park.

The challenge is still on. My legs are surviving and I am feeling very positive about the rest of the season.

Day 201 Thursday 20 July

5 miles – 7:51

I have had enough of being a slave to the heart rate monitor. Mocking my efforts and telling me my slow shuffles are too fast. Today, I left my heart rate monitor at home and decided to let my legs decide how slow I should run and not my heart.

The first two miles were predictably slow. My legs creaked as the soreness from last night’s races and a day at the office slowly left my tired body. I was approaching the stage of the run where my heart rate monitor begins to whisper ‘watch the pace’ and I was prepared for the strange phenomenon whereby my legs to tire and heart rate increases despite running slowly.

But today, something stranger happened. I didn’t slow down, I sped up. From having shuffled through the first two miles averaged 8:22, I bounded over the final 3 miles averaging 7:30. My heart rate monitor was powerless to stop me as I listened to my legs and not my heart and lungs.

It felt great and I think I may finally have my body back.

Day 202 Friday 21 July

6 miles – 7:59

An easy run to work and whilst it didn’t go as smoothly as yesterday’s run I still felt strong and ran a consistent pace. Parkrun tomorrow, I was aiming for sub-19 but perhaps I could sneak under 18:30.

Day 203 Saturday 22 July

5.5 miles

My first time at Buckingham parkrun and I was sussing out the competition at the start and felt I had a good chance of a podium position.

I started steadily, just off the leading two and in a pack of three which soon became two and then four as we caught up the leading two. With a mile remaining, one of the guys pushed on a built a small lead.

I was enjoying the feeling of running comfortably hard and didn’t want to over exert myself so allowed the gap to grow and happily finished in second place.

Perhaps it exposed my mental weakness, but I was more concerned with how my body felt that ‘winning’ a parkrun.

Weekly totals

  • 7 runs
  • 36.6 miles
  • 7 leg freshness score

Yearly total

  • 239 runs
  • 203 days
  • 1323 miles
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