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.

Running for Dummies – or should that be “with”?

I had a shocker of a session last week. I should have seen it coming really. I’d had a dreadful road-rage filled commute to work, I was running sans-coach and I seriously procrastinated before leaving the office to tackle the 6 x 800m session on the West Cambridge site. You know when newsreaders shuffle papers at the end of a broadcast while they wait for the cameras to turn off? It was like that. My desk had never looked neater.

But I trudged out there – see the choice of word there people – and surprise surprise it was awful. I had to stop on round three. I was forced to stop on round four when TWO FLIES went in my eye at once. I had to stop on round five and proceeded to kick a fence post. I then thought “no chuffing WAY am I ending the session like this”, so I forced the last 800m and didn’t stop. I didn’t feel good about it though. I felt like I had wasted an entire hour.

flop

The next day I complained about it to one of my colleagues who told me everyone has bad sessions. I do know this, and I know I can’t expect to always feel great, or to always get PBs when I do a Parkrun. But this felt like I was back to square one. I felt weak, a sensation I really, really hate, and one I generally don’t expect from myself unless I’m ill. He then said something else:

“I think you’re a bit hard on yourself.”

Like a sensible person I huffed a bit and stomped off to do my weights session, obviously handling all of this like a grown up PRO whilst continuing to mentally chew the whole thing over. The thing is, I have a habit of being hard on myself. I’ve always felt like I haven’t quite achieved what I could or should have done. And I get frustrated so easily. It’s a lethal combination.

So you can imagine my trepidation when this Tuesday and my next session with Alan rolled around. I had managed to tweak my back slightly on Monday so tackling Wandlebury with its hills and tree roots was out of the question (a reprieve!) so we settled on 200m instead. I thought we’d maybe do it 8 or at a push 12 times, but Alan announced it would be four sets of four off 30 seconds, with 4 minutes rest between each set.

That meant 16 reps of 200m. Oh dear.

ScreamSo I did my usual thing of going off too fast and by the end of the first four I was doubled over, my legs feeling like lead and wanging on about how much I was hating it. Basically I was having a hissy fit.

But Alan has seen all this before, and he watched me have my tantrum with a slight smile on his face before asking me what the problem was. I told him it felt like I was running through treacle.

“I wish I was this fast through treacle. Now shall we forget all this bollocks and carry on?”

And that, in a nutshell of a sentence, is why Alan is the perfect coach for me. If I’d been on my own I would have bailed halfway, but in just a few words he managed to compliment me, make me laugh and snap me out of my bratty mindset. And so I did carry on. I brought my arms up high, kept straight and stopped doubling over (thereby squashing my lungs) at the end of each sprint and instead walked around, taking deep, restorative breaths and sips of water. By the time I finished I felt like I had pushed myself as hard as I possibly could have done, and most importantly, I felt strong again. Plus I reminded myself – I’m not a sprinter, not by any stretch of the imagination, so what I had just achieved was pretty flipping awesome.

And why did it feel like I was running through treacle? Because I was, on average, 4 seconds faster per rep compared to the last time we did this session.

Better Run CelebrationIf I’m pushing myself that bit harder, of course – OF COURSE – it’s going to hurt more. And as I know I’ve said before, if these sessions were easy there would literally be no point to them.

After the session we had a little chat about how even though my running is coming along in leaps and bounds, my ability to control my head still has a seriously long way to go. I’m not sure how I’m going to tackle that just yet (answers in the comments section please!) but in the meantime, at least I’m not dreading next week’s session (even though he parted with his favourite sentence of “you’re not going to like it”).

The only problem now is, if I can’t have a successful session without Alan talking me off the ledge, has he become my new dummy, something I can’t successfully train without?