Accepting the PB Plateau

Last year was a bit of a PB year for me. I got my 5k PB at the final Kevin Henry League race in September when I ran a 20:19. I then achieved my current 10k PB of 42:41 at the Cambridge Town and Gown event in October. I also got my default Sprint Tri PB of 1:17:44 (but since this was my first ever sprint tri it only kind of counts. Essentially it’s both my best and worst time….).

In both the 5k and 10k races,  I found myself experiencing what I would call ideal runs. Perfect conditions in regards to weather and terrain, and physically I felt GOOD. I also found fantastic people to pace me (whether they realised it or not) – Mary in the 5k and Pete in the 10k (up to about the 6k mark anyway). Seriously though, if you’d told me when I first started running 6 years ago that I would achieve a 20:19 5k I would have died laughing like those hyenas from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”.

die-laughing-o

But there comes a time when PBs become harder and harder to come by. When you reach a certain level in your running abilities, things start to plateau a bit, and you have to start looking at more than just your running if you want to get better.

Training with Alan and working on my strength and conditioning has seen me go from a 24 minute 5k to an average of around 21 (my last two races were 20:48 and 21:17). This is more than I could have hoped for, and it’s shown me how there’s so much more to being a good runner than just pounding the pavements.But when you’ve found yourself a measly 20 seconds away from a sub 20 minute 5k, you do find yourself wondering “what if……….?”.

I’ve come to accept that not every race is going to be a PB race. I understand that. So instead I’ve been looking at what I can learn from every race that I do. I try and take away the positives, such as the fact that I didn’t panic when my mouth turned to dust and I wanted nothing more than  a drink of water, or the fact that I managed a sprint finish in my last race which saw me take out the girl who had overtaken me in the last 800 metres.

Phoebe

And in addition to the positives, I’m also trying to take what I’ve learned and use it to see what I can do better. And for me this is always – always – about controlling that stupid voice in my head that says “you, a runner? Seriously? That girl over there – she’s a runner. You’re nothing but a fake. Go home before you make a fool of yourself.” And while that bee-yatch is wanging on, I’m also constantly thinking about how I want to make myself proud. Alan, my club mates, everyone who reads this blog even – I want to do my best.

There’s nothing wrong with having passion. On the whole it’s a really, really good thing. But when you’re at risk of becoming known as your club crier, you really need to get things in check and make an effort to start working on your mental strength. So I’m finally going to read The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters (I bought it a year ago FFS) and try not to put so much pressure on myself. Without being all mega cheesy FITSPO about it, one of my favourite quotes is “Don’t look at how far you’ve got to go, look at how far you’ve come.” I’ve come such a long way in my 6 years of running, but I’d like to go a little further please. Let’s see if 2016 has any PBs up its sleeve. But if it doesn’t that’s ok.

Fitspo Nonsense

Word.

 

 

 

Two New Running Experiences – A Training Partner and the Girton 5k

So this has been a week of firsts – my first time training with a partner, and my first time running the Girton 5k.

First of all, I’m going to get my excuses out of the way. I’ve just come back from 5 days in Germany for a flipping fantastic wedding, but it was hot. I’m talking seriously hot. As in didn’t get below 35 degrees and was 40 the day we left hot. Add a room on the third floor of a hotel with no air conditioning and you can imagine the sleep quality.

So on Wednesday, when Alan rocked up with Mary Twitchett to makes us do 10 x 100m sprints, I was a little nervous. Mary is without doubt one of the fittest women I’ve met in some time. Whilst I was drinking Prosecco in Wiesbaden, she was doing a half ironman. Just one glance at her athlete profile on Power of 10 was enough to make me start fan-girling a bit. Her 5k PB is 20:14, her 10k PB 42:20, and her half marathon PB is 89:03. That’s some serious stuff.

Mary Twitchett

Mary’s in the middle. Behind that smile is an endurance level set at STEEL.

So we warmed up together and ran the 100m on opposite sides of the path so that Alan could assess our techniques in turn. It started off well – I felt pretty strong, finishing maybe a second ahead of Mary and using my arms really well. After the 4th sprint my legs started feeling wobbly. And that’s when I started declining. Yet again my head took control of my body and I kept thinking about how I couldn’t possibly do 6 more, how Mary was now getting ahead of me and how I was letting her and Alan down by getting tired too quickly.

Here’s something you should know about Mary – her positive mental attitude is incredible. When she saw me flagging she shouted words of encouragement, trying to push me on. I didn’t really manage to step up to the plate, and after sprint number 8 Alan cut the session short because Mary had to get back to work and because I was quite frankly struggling. My tread had become so heavy you could have heard me pounding down the path from a mile off, let alone 100m.

I had mixed emotions after the session. I felt like I worked harder with Mary at my side but that I didn’t quite achieve what I could or perhaps should have done. I got lovely emails from her and Alan afterwards, with Alan saying that Mary and I could really complement each other, with her assisting me with her mental strength and me perhaps making her faster. I just hope he’s right because I really don’t want to be a hindrance to her. I had a long chat with my colleague Matt about it afterwards, telling him that my head always gets in the way, and his advice has led to my buying this:

IMG_20150710_211512

Alan says it takes 5 years to get the mindset of a serious athlete. Hopefully this might make it happen a bit faster. Naturally I’ll let you know how I get on with it in another post later on. Mary and I are going to train together next Friday, which is exciting and nerve-inducing in equal measure.

So, the day after sprintageddon, I found myself cycling the three miles from work to Girton for the Girton 5k. This event has been running since around 2009, and I just thought it would make a nice change to try a different race. I was sad that my friend Oli couldn’t make it because of work commitments, but my friend (and photographer for the day!) Andrew was happy to snap up his place. Alan was also meant to be running it, but changed his mind at the last minute. Wise considering he had a 3am start the next day for his holiday!

Girton 5k 1The coach knew at least 75% of the people running. Shocker. Such a socialite.

I was a ball of nervous energy before the race. It was around 23 degrees in the sun, and would be the first time I’d run in hot(ter) weather without a bottle of water, plus the sleep deprivation was really kicking in. So I drank lots before the race and annoyed everyone around me with my insane chatter.

The race itself ended up being challenging but fun. The terrain was really varied, with tight turns through gates around the fields. One section was pretty rough underfoot due to the dips where horses or similar had been in the mud and it had then dried, which meant that I found myself running a bit gingerly when I probably should have just gone for it. It was also pretty hard to overtake in sections where the path got really narrow. It has to be said though, that in the summer evening light it was one of the prettiest races I’ve done. Alan also managed to turn up twice on the course to cheer me on which was frankly lovely.

I had no idea what time I finished in, and sat down to enjoy a chat with some fellow runners in the lovely weather, gifting my free half pint to a grateful finisher who wasn’t willing to let it go to waste!

Girton 5k 2

Happy but knackered.

I felt certain that I wouldn’t have achieved a PB, but I hoped I wasn’t too far off. I also spent a lot of time that evening chatting to some members of Ely Runners. When I told her my PB, one girl from the club asked me why I wasn’t part of a club myself and I didn’t really have an answer for her other than worrying about the pressure of running and not being able to meet the expectations of others – in other words, my head was stopping me. Alan then said to me that maybe I should consider it, as he thought I could learn a lot from the Ely Runners I met. Something to think about.

The results came through this morning, and I ended up as 5th woman in 22:08. That’s 40 seconds away from my PB and at first I was disappointed, especially as the 4th woman came in at 21:59. However, when I spoke to Andrew (who came in at a STONKING 18:29), he told me that it wasn’t a PB course, and that he was 35 seconds off his PB. That made me feel a bit better, but did make me think that I could benefit from some more trail running practice.

So overall it’s been a serious week of running experiences that I can learn from. And after some rest this weekend, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next week. And can we please take a moment to appreciate the awesome girl highlighted in this photo, George Schwiening, who finished as first woman in 17:31. Woah.

Girton 5k 3

Awe-inspiring stuff.