It has become a tradition/habit for me to enter the Folksworth 15 mile running race, having now completed the race every year since 2003. It has become a benchmark of my winter running work and where I am as a starting point for my early season training build up. The objective each January is pretty simple – beat the time for the previous year, but obviously this is a rocky road to eventual disappointment/demotivation. Last year was a turning point; having got my time down to 1:33:20 in 2009 I only managed 1:34:04 – had age finally taken its toll?
My winter training this year had been significantly different from previous years with my coach insisting I taken a proper rest post Kona (he wasn’t happy about the Rutland Marathon). He then kept me ticking over for a month then we started work in December. The work though was running 7/8hrs per week but at a heart rate <120bpm. To contextualise this I have a steady aerobic zone around 145bpm and race IM at 155bpm, so, it is a very slow pace. The plan – run slow, focus on form and cadence. I wasn’t convinced but you don’t have a dog and bark yourself!
Leading up to the race it was a normal training week with around 20+hours of training under my belt for the week and just to cap things off I had a one hour swim race morning before heading off to the start line. I had no idea how things would pan out but I was mentally prepared for a slow race, it was only to be expected. I was 4 kilos over race weight just to put a bit more lead in my stride.
I had planned to run the first couple of miles at my target race pace, around 6 min/mile, and take stock to see how I felt. So, the gun went and off we sped, first mile 6:02, second mile 6:03 and still feeling pretty relaxed. It was cold and windy but dry so conditions were manageable. I resolved to keep at this pace until I couldn’t sustain it any longer, then fall back to maybe 7s. At this point I was 12th with no one in front in realistic striking distance and the runners behind didn’t seem to closing, hang on at this pace and it would be a great result but could I?
As the miles ticked by I was just waiting for my endurance to fade and for me to finally have to back off and run it in at still a respectable time. But I focussed on form, fast cadence (I averaged 94 for the entire run) and remained relaxed, smiling whenever I felt a grimace appearing on my face. Mile 11 marks the end of the hills bar one, with a relatively flat run to the finish line. As I saw the mile 11 marker I knew I could nail the run in a good time, the splits had me on track for a time comparable to the last two years. Head up, I pushed on, each mile split building my confidence that my endurance would hold up. One sharp, short hill in the last mile then a hard run to the finish line. As I crossed the line, like any good runner, i looked down at my watch and captured the time – 01:33:03, not the best finish line photo but who cares.
So, a course PB for me, 12th overall and age group win – a fantastic and completely unexpected result. A real boost to my confidence and endorsement of the programme my coach set me. Now to start the build for IMSG in May.