Race Report: Derby 10k – Hatswell’s ‘A’ race & a post-mortem of the season

Target time: <33.30

Actual time: Read on to find out…

Result: Success*

 

This year I had great plans to try and set PBs across the board. In the early year (i.e. now) focussing on 5k and 10k (aiming for PBs at both), and then hoping the speed and endurance carried through to the marathon. Later in the year then moving on to a half marathon to try and get under 75 minutes (PB: 75.04, though set over 3 years ago). With a new baby in November a 12 week plan to the Derby 10k was devised (heavily influenced by a couple of books), as the longer I left it before real focus was needed, the more chance I had.

A very nice idea, which completely cratered, meaning in performance terms an absolute failure with a 38.26 for my best effort on the day. 5 minutes slower than the original target.

The plan started quite well, with a few weeks of decent training (though not hitting every session – tiredness from a new baby does sap the willpower). Then on 1 February jogging home from an interval session, I slipped & fell due to dodgy roads (Sheffield is a dump in so many ways), and injured myself to the level I couldn’t bend my knee. I managed some jogging towards the end of the month, but didn’t manage a proper run until March. This left me with only a week until my ‘B’ race (Fradley 10k).

Fradley was a well organised and nice race, and came up with an encouraging 36.15, which is probably more like a 36.30 on a course that is actually 10k (GPS tracks for everyone come up under, and it isn’t officially measured I don’t believe). That was really encouraging, and left me skipping along home – whilst the time was well down on where I wanted to be, it wasn’t dismal, and there was still time to get some decent training in to salvage the season. And then Ashby happened.

After Ashby it got worse, my cough deteriorated, and ultimately ended up with a severe chest infection and antibiotics, after those ended it came back with a vengeance, and I’m now mid-way through a 2nd (different) course. At 8am the morning of Derby, the hacking and coughing made me realise that I shouldn’t run. At 8.05 I changed my mind, which meant a mad rush to drive, park, collect my number, warm up, and be on the start line (coughing up phlegm) for the 9am start.

On the way there I made a deal with myself about participation in London in 2 weeks time. Under 37 minutes and I was definitely doing it. Over 40 minutes and I would be an idiot to even contemplate it. In between the two and was a case of seeing how the next two weeks went [38.26 leaves me more likely than not to run].

The start felt great, easy even, until after about 800m the restricted breathing meant I had to reign it in, and settle in to a rhythm. That said the sun was shining, and it was nice to be out and running, after over the last 12 months so many injuries (pulled calf, knee surgery, achilles issues, the fall, and what felt like dengue fever of the chest). At the switchback (every race needs one, right?) at about 2k there was someone I didn’t recognise in first, and then a stream of Heanor, all looking strong (in the end they had 6 in the top 10).

Until 6k I could see various people I recognised, and was very slowly moving through the field, on account of a very consistent effort, I could see various people I recognised, and was very much enjoying myself – going in with so little expectation meant I didn’t bother to look at my watch apart from genuine intrigue as to what pace I was running.

From 6k until the end (and particularly from 7k to 9k), my lungs let me know in no uncertain terms that they weren’t all that happy about running whilst filled with sewerage, so it was a case of digging in, and doing what I could in between gasping for air. The pace slowed, and people started to come past me. Slowly at first, and then faster as my limits became more apparent. In the last k or so I managed to pick it up a bit, and hold my position in a sprint finish for the last 300m. Finish time: 38.30ish.

Despite in absolute terms a pretty awful time (the worst year since 2011, after which I started training properly), I’m quite pleased. Similarly even though the target time was missed by nearly a mile, I’m very serene about the whole thing. Previously when injured I’ve been quite miserable about it, and not really wanted to be around running. This time I’m really enjoying hearing about how others are getting on, and taking joy in their performances. Perhaps because it isn’t like I have done a huge block of training only to be thwarted by bad luck just before a major event, but instead never really got going – I don’t feel cheated in the same way as I did last year after 20 weeks of hard training and then a calf pull robbing me of my fitness.

So what went wrong? I think I underestimated how disruptive a baby is on life – you just get less sleep, eat worse by relying on sugar and caffeine to get through the day, and have less control over life. At the same time work has been extremely busy/tense, with my part time PhD also adding a lot of (self imposed) pressure. I don’t think it can be put entirely down to bad luck, just the high probability of failure when trying to add more to an already packed life. Falling over is a great example – yes the road surface is terrible, and Sheffield City Council generally acknowledged to be awful, but had I been less tired, would I have fallen? or just been unsteady? It’s easy to put things down to external factors, but if you look deeper, a lot of what has happened was probably foreseeable.

Plans for London? Clearly I’m not going to get a PB, or even get close. I have 2 weeks to try and bring my fitness along, and assuming I can rid myself of the plague, I’ll go for a fun day out with friends. If I can target a sub 3 finish the pace should be manageable, even if I am likely to struggle with the distance late on (due to a lack of long runs). I will however be cheering on the others I know doing it, and planning for London 2018. Any ideas on how I can go from where I am now, to where I want to be next year are welcome!

 

* It is a success in that I get to run, which given the last 12 months, is not a given!

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