That Which Was Bitter To Endure May Be Sweet To Remember…

14 Aug

So, it’s been a while since I last posted, but then not much has changed! In May, I ran a reasonable amount (145 miles), and June was even better (172 miles), but July started with a busy work patch, and then T and I went on holiday to Malaysia for 10 days, so I only ran 117 miles. I did a bit of sea-kayaking and plenty of sea swimming and paddling (it’s hard not to when it’s toasty warm, and the sea is so inviting), but no running. I got back into a bit of ‘new normal’ running on my return, and then got asked if I could come and fill in for the Midland League final match of the season: the club was in a bit of a relegation battle, and needed as many people as possible to plug gaps in the team. With the way match scoring works, it is always better to have someone for both your A and B string (teams) in every event, even if they’re not particularly fit, because that way you will get at least 1 point (for being the 6th B string athlete): quite often you end up with than one point, because other clubs don’t have an A and B string, and then you get extra points, even if you still finish last, because you get the points for being second or third B string, rather than for finishing last.

I only had 2 weeks’ notice, and this is definitely not long enough to make yourself fitter. The best I could hope for was to try and remind my legs and lungs what running a bit faster felt like. 2 weeks out I did 3 x 1,500m, and anything under 7 minutes per mile felt ugly. That suggested I was going to be running 22 minutes or so for 5k (my track PB is 18.26 – although that was 8 speedy years ago). 1 week out I did 5 x 1km. I tried to do each one a little bit faster than the last one: the very first one was 4.24, or 22 minute pace, and felt manageable. The last was 4.08 or 20.40 pace, and felt very unmanageable for more than that single kilometre. I figured in similar conditions (15 degrees, sunny but with a breeze), I’d be OK for something like 21.20-21.30 based on my average 1km time in that session.

Of course, we then had a heatwave, and I had a busy week away with work in Plymouth, including a bit of an IBS flare-up due to dehydration from said heat, and stress. I couldn’t really risk solid food Thursday evening or Friday morning, and by the time I got home on Friday I was tired, dehydrated and a bit low on energy. Perfect.

Fast forward to race time on Saturday (a bit behind the scheduled 4.20pm): it was a not-at-all-pleasant 32 degrees, and simply jogging for 15 minutes at 9 minutes per mile had felt a bit vile. There were 6 A-string runners and 3 B-string runners, so I was already guaranteed more than the single point I had promised. We were also running with the men’s A and B string runners, so the start line was pretty packed. The gun went off, and I tucked in at the back. The two other B string runners were better than me, and away, but there were a couple of A string runners I could tag along with, although one was going about a few seconds per lap faster than the 22 minute pace I had in mind. This was tolerable for 10.5 laps, and then she was away. Still, I managed to hold my place, finishing ahead of the 6th placed B string runner, and – with a little bit of an attempt at a finishing kick on my part – I finished in 21.29. I had accurately predicted that I had lost about 1 minute per mile since my glory days! As for how many times I was lapped by speedy men and women, I honestly couldn’t tell you. I was just focused on that vest a few paces ahead of me…

The continued relentless heat overnight meant I slept poorly again, unassisted by the boy cat deciding that last night of all nights was the time I really wanted and/or needed a furry, purry hot water bottle on my chest. This morning’s 10 miles was an ugly, slow plod: my calves were tired, my quads ached, and my breathing was laboured. The heat is supposed to break soon, and I for one shall be delighted!

As for whether this has tempted me out of retirement, the short answer is no. I enjoyed the camaraderie, and the delight in seeing clubmates try their hardest, and often succeed, but I know how much work it would take to get even two of those ‘lost’ minutes back over 5,000m, let alone all three (although if I ran 18.26 as a FV40 it would be a far better performance, objectively, than 18.26 as a FV35). I still have no desire to go back to that sort of training and commitment. I can see myself doing the odd cross-country league match, but not focusing on specific races with specific (challenging) time targets in mind. For the rest of August I will quite happily revert to my ‘retirement’ running.

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