Mad dogs, Englishmen, and Runners!

Today was hot. The temperature peaked at 32degrees celsius. For once even our house was uncomfortably hot. Usually the stone keeps it cool.

Today was the perfect day to be a swimmer. Not a runner.

But I am a runner. And tonight I had a race.

Of course, I could have followed my son’s advice, “It’s too hot to run, mum. Lie here with book.”

But I am a runner. And tonight I raced.

It was my first short race (8k) since September or October. I have been feeling ambivalent about my training recently. Just last week I met with my coach to re-evaluate where I am at, what I am doing and most importantly, how I am feeling.

We decided I needed the race practice but I was not to wear a watch.

I like races. We all know each other and there is a lot of banter before hand, and inter-club rivalry. I had not done the lead-in series to this race because of work commitments so a fair amount of the warm-up involved catching up with others.

It was hot. I doused my head, neck and shoulders with water, drenched my cap and cooled my wrists under cold water.

Time to go. My plan was to run by feel.

I felt strong and by the first kilometre was neck and neck with a club mate, who doesn’t like me to beat him. But I left him looking at my arse on the first hill and he never caught me again. I passed another woman and that put me in fourth overall but the next woman was only about 100m ahead. I felt I might be able to catch her.

I didn’t. I pushed through to the end, having a tussle with another man in the last couple of ks and eventually we crossed the line together. I finished fourth overall woman – no age groups here – in 34 minutes even.

When I came home my husband and kids asked me where I placed. “Why didn’t you win,” they teased me. And then my husband asked me if I was happy with my result. The perfect question to ask anyone.

I replied, “Yes.”

Not just because I didn’t barf at the end though it was an option! Or that I did a PB even if only because I had never raced that distance. I was pleased because after all the months of struggling with speed work and feeling I was not improving, I could still pull out the stops on a stinking hot night.

Nailing a workout

Speedwork. It pops up on my training plan all the time. I dread the sessions and make all sorts of excuses to get out of them. If I manage to convince my body that it is going to happen, my Garmin will be flat. Or set wrong. Or the track is crowded. Or wet. Or I stuff it up and only do half of the required repeats.

For the number of speed sessions I have not done, I am surprised I run as well as I do.

Once a month I am supposed to do 5 x 1k repeats. I was given this back in November. I have done it once and not completely. My excuse that day was I had run 35k the previous day and hadn’t known I would be running 1k repeats until I turned up for a club run.

Through November my excuse was too much high mileage, no energy (mental or physical) left for speedwork. I would focus on it in the New Year.

Once a week. Speed sessions.

My coach wants me to do any one of three sessions once a week – the 1k repeats, 3 x 6 steep hill sprints, or 8-12 x 400m.

Today I attempted the 1k repeats.

I drove to Hagley Park and parked on Hagley Ave near the Carlton bridge. I turned my Garmin on and jogged to the “start”. My Garmin was having issues finding the satellite. I warmed up with my usual routine. Garmin still not loaded. I turned it off and on again. This time no worries.

I set off on the first 1k. Fast and strong. Thighs were high, arms like pistons, hands like blades. I was Usain Bolt – not a white woman twice his age! My mantra was focus. Fo-o-o-cus. Four strides, one breath. There was a headwind on the final straight.

I walked back to the start.

And again. Focus. Focus. Focus. It is really easy to get distracted. Focus. Focus. The last 100m were tough. Okay two down. Three to go.

I had told people I was doing this workout. A friend. My boss. By now I had worked out I wanted to blog about it. I was going to finish the whole session. Or look really stupid.

Back to the start.

This time I changed my mantra to the time I wanted to see on my Garmin. 3:55. 3:55. Focus. 3:55. I rounded the corner for the last straight – I was running two sides of a triangle – it was getting harder, that wind was strong but I was stronger and kept going to the end.

Walked back to the start. Over halfway now. Only eight more minutes of suffering.

Round four. 3:55. 3:55. Focus. Don’t think about the swim session coming next, or getting Robert to mow his grandmother’s lawn before the rain. The last straight. And the headwind was tough but Mt Hagley – that was even tougher. For those who don’t know, Hagley Park is in the centre of Christchurch which is flat. But there are little undulations in the ground which are barely noticeable unless you are running 5 x 1k repeats when all of a sudden you wish there was a chair lift to get you to the summit. I summitted. Knocked the bastard off!

One more to go. I can do this. Legs are still high and strong. Arms are still pumping piston.s Hands slicing the air like a Ninja warrior. I am focussed on my mantra. 3:55. 3:55. 3:55. I am passing people walking in the park who I have maybe passed once or twice before today. I don’t care if this looks strange. Last straight and this speed session will be logged.

I finish. What a great feeling. I check my Garmin. Damn. What I thought was 1k was only 940m. But the splits were 3:52 (4:08), 3:47 (4:01), 3:51 (4:05), 3:46 (4:00), 3:47 (4:04). The times in brackets are adjusted for 1k.

Coach Simon wants me to hit the 4min k mark. I am pleased with me effort – there is good consistency across the five splits and no fade at the end.

Yep, I nailed that work out.

And I feel confident having done it that i can now complete other speed sessions. Yes, they suck at the time but the feeling of accomplishment lasts so much longer than the period of discomfort.

For running geeks:
I use a Garmin Forerunner 310XT
I log my training with Training Peaks because that is the system my coach uses.
I am coached by Simon Huntly at Complete Performance.

Oh yeah, then I had to go and swim some crazy drills in the pool! But that workout too, was nailed!