Friday, 4 February 2011

Swimming and the Wind ... What a joke.

I have had a busy day today running 21 miles, doing some gym stuff and going for a swim, well if you can call it that! I am so bad at swimming its unreal, as I am out of breath after two lengths. The missus who can only run a couple of miles can do the same in the pool and not even be out of breath. I really don't get it, I'm thinking its because my technique is so bad but to be honest I don't care as I hate it. People say running is boring but seriously they would rather go into a pool, swallow loads of water and swim up and down the same 25m for half an hour? Jokers, Rather them than me, you just cant beat a good run even if the wind is gusting up to 50mph outside.

So, back to the running, I looked outside the window and from the looks of trees bending over double I decided a session of 1 mile, 2 mile, 3 mile, 2 mile, 1 mile was out of the question. Unless I ran with the wind for the entirety of the session and did a cool down of the same length back into the wind, I think I'll give that a miss then. In fact it reminded me of a few years back when I did a 10k on Mablethorpe promanade and the 5k back was all into a gale force wind, fun times.

I wasn't prepared to do any sort of run all on my own so I text Sam Mitchell, who was doing eight miles, and said I would jog out to his and attempt my 18 mile long run instead. The idea behind this is that I would then do a race on Sunday, a five mile local cross country, to make up for missing the session today. Anyway, the run was interesting to say the least and for the first time the wind actually was blowing me off my feet. Yes, I know that this should be expected when you way 9 stone wet through, but this is the first time that I actually couldn't run into the direction the wind was blowing. Decided to put the ipod on in the 10 miles I wasn't with Sam, listening to the latest installment from Marathon Talk to block out the noise of the wind. This week featured a Ron Hill interview, It is really inspiring to hear a guy who worked full time yet still produced some truly amazing results simply by putting in the graft, my sort of guy. Here are the details of the run:

9:52 AM: 2:03:31 (18.0mi, 6:52/mi) Mile splits were: 6:53, 6:46, 6:46, 7:20, 6:42, 6:43, 7:02, 7:05, 7:06, 7:13, 6:49, 6:54, 6:44, 6:56, 6:38, 6:40, 6:34, 6:32 - All this really shows is that when we had to run into the wind slightly we went above 7 minute mileing and when we came out of it we were too tired to do anything quicker!

Then this evening I decided to spend some quality time with Jenny by ... going down the gym. Only because I wanted to get another few miles done without going out in the wind and she agreed after I said we could get Chinese on the way back. I did three miles on the treadmill at 6:55/mi which felt nice and easy and allowed my legs to recover a bit. I definitely know I am coming back into some fitness as even after doing 21 miles today I feel pretty good and ready to race at the weekend, actually I'm really looking forward to it. Did some core exercises and 'stretched' while the missus did her 'routine' and then went for that ridiculous swim. I put stretched in quotation marks as for those who don't know me I am possibly the tightest athlete in the world. This was confirmed to me by an American physio stating that I had the tightest hamstrings in the US, after being repeatedly told by physios in England "They're the tightest things I have ever seen." This all means that my stretches, despite my effort, look quite ridiculous as I force my legs into positions that they really were not built to be pushed into. I wish I could become a bit more flexible and from reading Bryn's blog it seems he has had some success in this department, but I stretch twice a day and I really never see any improvements. The sauna was decent though and ate half a duck from the Chinese, great way to spend a Friday evening who says runners are no fun!

Back in the UK

It's been a while since I have posted anything, the main reason being that I have returned to the UK for good and have been busy sorting things out now I am home. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the US, even if it was only three months. The racing and training experience was invaluable and I would recommend it to any young athlete who wants the help and support that simply isn't available in the UK.

However, I do advise that any such athlete wanting to embark on such an adventure would secure a full scholarship at the university they attend unless they have thousands of pounds worth of savings. This is because financial worries, however small, seem a lot bigger when you are thousands of miles from home and have to pay for things such as accommodation and food. The reaction I often get to this is why didn't you get a job? Well in short, a student visa only allows you to work on campus except for extreme situations. Due to the fact I flew out to the States days before the start of term all the jobs on campus had been taken and the jobs I had arranged prior to going were non-existent. I did not want to borrow any more money from my family as I had already had to do this when I was an undergraduate and felt selfish continually asking for more money. This lack of money meant that I had to live like a first year student again and wasn't as comfortable as I had intended to be. These things start to escalate when you have things like a girlfriend back home and all add up and soon I found myself just wishing to be back home. I believe if I had been offered a full scholarship I would have at least stayed a year in the states and got to run the track season as well.

But I don't want to moan and sound like it was awful as this is certainly not the case. I had a fantastic time out there and met some brilliant people. The coach in Portland was one of the nicest guys I have ever met and if you're reading this and are capable of adding something to his team then drop me an email and ill put you in touch. The training out there is a different class, simply having ten guys around you of a similar ability and another twenty chasing behind you keep you on your toes. It is definitely a setup where any runner would improve, but sadly it is half way round the world and not on our doorstep. I wish that somewhere in the UK we could replicate this system and have groups of 15-20 athletes living and training together and being offered free kit and physio to help them financially. It is sad to think that all the money that is being wasted in this country could actually be put to some good use and then maybe we might start competing with progressive running nations like America again.

I realised that I never blogged about the nationals in Indiana, one word, INSANE! The pace the race is run at is unreal and the fact that David McNeil, a guy who finishes 8th at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in the 5000 and a 10k PB of 28:03, can blow up and finish 150th odd. From my time and position it looks like I didn't have a great race, but oddly this wasn't the case. I actually crossed the finishing line thinking Ive ran well today and thought I couldn't have gave anymore than I did. Maybe my legs were a little tired from a busy cross country season and perhaps I had raced a few too many times in the season. But, I was pretty pleased as I felt a lot better than I did on the same course a few months before.

The course may not look too tough on first looks, but I can tell you it is brutal. The gun goes off and you sprint for about 600m up a gradual incline before heading down hill to the 1k marker. I got myself in a fairly good position with Craig Hopkins and I think we went through the 1k in about 2:52/3 from memory. You then enter a long straight way and floods of runners flew past me and at this point I didn't realise I had lost so many places and was slipping to the back of the field. While I'm talking about the depth of the field I will just mention that there are around 260 runners who all are capable of running sub 30:30 for 10'000, unbelievable depth.

Anyway, people were flying past me and I went through the 2k in 6:04 as we turned into a very strong headwind. From this point you are gradually running back up the hill all the way to the 5k point and start of the second lap and it was all into the wind. I worked hard to maintain my pace into the wind and as I went through 5k in 15:49 I was feeling strong and now passing quite a few people. I think I would have passed a lot more on the long straight past the finish (start of second lap) but I had to keep tucking in to shelter from the wind. The weather was bizarre for the race as it is usually freezing cold by all accounts and was in the days leading up to the race. However, come race day it was I think about 17 degrees (in English money) with very strong winds, which typically were in your face going back up the gradual inclines.

By, this point I was now Portland's 5th scorer and therefore key to helping our team finish as high as possibly (five out of seven in the team count to the team score). I had passed Frerker and Craigo was now not on my heels so I just kept pressing on passing more and more runners. I pushed on back down the hill and managed to take my second duck (an Oregon runner, Portland's bitter rivals) in the afternoon, NCAA x country is duck hunting season after all. I hit 8k in 25:33 and then all of a sudden my legs started to feel heavy and I just battled my way to the finish. The finish is tough in itself as you can see the finish line as you turn the final bend but still have about 800m to run. There were some funny sights of runners who just couldnt make the finish line and apparently people watching the race observed about the amount of runners who staggered across the line, brutal. I managed to cross the line in a kind of respectable 32:06 for 197th and 5th man on the team and helped the lads to a 13th pace finish overall.

Basically, I believe that a lack of experience in this standard of field cost me a good thirty to forty seconds. I think if I would have pushed on at a 1k and stayed near the top 100 then I would have maintained that position. I neglected the quality of some of the runners in the field by thinking they will all come back to me, where in truth even if some in front were hanging on they had already got themselves in a better position than me. The wind didn't help my tactics as it was difficult to pass people the latch onto the next group as the wind was ferocious at times. But, all I can say is that it was an amazing experience and a fantastic way to end my time in the states. Portland would have almost certainly got a top 4 spot if we could have had a full strength team out on the day, as my 5th score would have probably been better by almost 130 places! Hopefully, next year the lads can achieve what they deserve as I can say for a fact that the hard work and effort that everyone put in for the whole season was second to none and deserving of a podium spot.

Back in England things haven't gone as well as I had hoped as coming back in sub 30:30 shape I hoped to have a race on the roads around Christmas. But with Ribble Valley and Southwell being cancelled this sadly never materialised and then to top it off I got a chest infection which kept me off running for three weeks. However, I'm back 'getting it done' again and have had nearly four good weeks of mileage again and starting to feel like I am in some shape. I decided to give the Northerns a miss last weekend and glad I did after seeing the mudbath from a spectators position. I plan to get the training diary up in a few days and will go into more detail about my racing plans for the next few months, just back from a ridiculously windy 18 miler!