Track dinosaur

Last Friday I ran only my second 10000m – at Orion Harriers annual Fast Friday track event. Whilst the distinction between a 10000m and a 10k may be subtle, it is one I am happy to make, particularly as it guaranteed me a PB. I have run twenty two 10k races and my PB in that discipline currently stands at 39:04, however I recorded just 44:04 in my first 10000m back in 2007. When I entered Friday’s race I anticipated my recovery and training going well and had an optimistic target of 39:30 in mind. Before arriving at the venue I modified this slightly, as I have had to back off for the last two weeks, to a still highly optimistic 40:00.

I arrived in good time and picked up my snazzy, bespoke race numbers; front and rear, got changed and talked to one or two other runners. I warmed up gently and made a mental note to search online for information on best practice when warming up … I have a feeling that I warm up too close to race start.

As the race started shortly after 7:30pm, I consciously set out at a pace faster than my target with a view to testing the limits of my performance to gauge how far my recovery has come. I have done this a couple of times recently; my logic being that since events are not currently likely to produce PBs, achieving a particular time target is not in and of itself the most important thing. In this, slightly unusual, case I rationalised that whatever PB time I recorded it would be one I would hope to better significantly when fully fit. I set out at 39:35 pace, partly because this made the mental maths, 95 seconds per lap, easier as I passed the race clock every 400 metres and partly because two runners soon settled in at this pace in front of me. Although I was wearing a GPS watch I did not want to rely on it for pace or distance on a track.

This seemed to go well for a while. In fact, I was arriving at the start/finish a few seconds inside each lap target, but the two runners soon left me behind as my pace slowed. I continued to try and do the mental maths to check my lap splits … 1:35, 3:10, 4:45, 6:20, 7:55, but struggled to get it right beyond lap 5 as the physical effort became more demanding. Even as I completed lap 5, and the first 2k, my average pace to that point was only just inside 4:00/km – which of course projects to a 10000m time of just under 40:00.

Just before half way, perhaps 10 laps into the 25 lap race, I was lapped by the lead runner. I was not discouraged by this or by the majority of the field who also subsequently also lapped me. I knew the target times of the other runners, from my race entry confirmation email, and had anticipated being lapped at about half way. In fact, I found each of the runners lapping me briefly useful in pulling me along until I lost contact with them. At about this time, I selected another runner who had just passed me and worked hard to stay with her for the next few laps. As the race progressed I kept her in sight, but the distance between us stretched to maybe 25 metres or more.


My snazzy, bespoke race number!

Also from about half way, the timing team began to call out the number of laps remaining for each runner; using the names on our race number bibs. This approach made sure the information was clearly communicated. Which was useful as I was now completely lost on what my lap split times should be or for that matter how many laps I had done. The back straight water team had been shouting encouragement on every lap also using our names. This became more and more significant and I put all my energy into maintaining something approaching decent form and not losing touch with the runner in front, now maybe around 35 metres ahead. After the number of laps being called out to me reduced to single figures I checked the average pace on my watch a couple of times. I could see that I certainly wasn’t going to achieve 40:00 and that 40:30 was looking increasingly unlikely.

I felt tired, and attributed this to the same combination – of it being an evening race and that I had done no training, just two race efforts, in the previous two weeks – as I did on Wednesday. However, the combination of the small crowd on the main straight, the fantastic encouragement from the back straight water team and my still just maintained contact with the runner in front of me, meant that I still felt that I was racing. I wrestled with the idea that I might be able to catch the runner in front, but wasn’t sure that I could give much more. As the remaining laps reduced below 5, it seemed that perhaps I was closing the gap. My memory is indistinct on just when I realised that actually catching up was a real possibility. It may have been that I made a sustained effort over the final two or more laps or perhaps all the gains were made in my final sprint which I think started with 200 metres to go. I finished just 0.6 seconds behind.

race data summary

official finish time 40:41.0 PB
target 40:00 – 41 seconds outside
approx km splits pace
3:55, 4:01, 4:04, 4:04, 4:01, 4:06, 4:09, 4:10, 4:14, 3:57
155, 161, 161, 161, 162, 163, 162, 163, 163, 166
biometric summary average HR – 162
max HR – 172 (estimated personal maximum – 172)
average cadence – 182
approx start weight – 69.8kg
positions overall – 18 out of 20
gender – 14 out of 14
category – VM50-54 2 out of 2

Dinosaur tracks

Last Wednesday evening, in a team completed by my regular training partner Simon and his speedy friend Des, I ran in the Dino Dash Team Relay event at Crystal Palace Park. Simon and I ran the 2k to the park together and found we had both independently decided on a target of 11:30 for the 3km course loop. I met Des for the first time on the start line and the race started promptly at 7:30. Simon first, handing over to me and Des taking the final leg.

Dino Dash team

Post dash dinosaurs: My regular training partner Simon (centre), his speedy friend Des (left) and I.

Each of the three kilometres of the course had a distinct character; the first began on gravel, moved onto tarmac halfway and gained almost 40 metres in elevation ending at the high point of the course. The second kilometre began downhill on tarmac and returned to gravel at about halfway; losing most of the elevation gain in the process. The final kilometre was just slightly downhill, almost completely on gravel paths and included the only sharp turns and narrow paths of the course. (The first two kilometres form the majority of the Crystal Palace parkrun course where they are usually run in the opposite direction.)


The Dino Dash Team Relay event at Crystal Palace Park. Each of the three kilometres of the course had a distinct character.

Inevitably I found the first kilometre hard going, so much so that I was unable to take in any more information from my watch other than that my average pace was over 4:00/km, as planned, but slipping significantly beyond that plan into the four minutes and teens as I climbed. Even as I completed the first kilometre I already felt defeated by my target time. Gravity came to my aid in the second kilometre and I noticed my average pace for the kilometre in the three thirties as I passed the Rusty Laptop/concert platform, although my overall average pace remained just above 4:00/km. Entering the final kilometre, around the dinosaur lake, I lacked motivation and did not wring out the best time I could have in the circumstances. Partly this was simply because I felt tired – I think due to a combination of running in the evening and having done no running since the weekend’s parkrun. Also, I felt strangely disconnected from the other runners and the race itself. I think this was partly due to my being in a relay team rather than in direct competition with the runners around me and also because I was unsure whether there was official timing of individuals, as well as teams.

personal race data summary

official time 11:51
target 11:30 – 21 seconds outside
splits pace
4:16, 3:35, 4:00
approx HR
156, 161, 163
biometric summary average HR – 160
max HR – 167 (estimated personal maximum – 172)
average cadence – 188
approx start weight – 70.5kg
positions overall – 64 out of 282
gender – 60 out of 158

team summary

teammate times and positions Simon
overall – 47 out of 282
gender – 44 out of 158
overall – 30 out of 282
gender – 29 out of 158 ]
team positions overall – 14 out of 97
male – 13 out of 30
[ male, female and mixed teams participated ]

Backing off

Even as I posted “Back on track (metaphorical)”, I was anticipating a 1500m at Norman Park track a few days later and revelling in my wit in titling the accompanying post “Back on track (literal)” thereby confirming my place in the blogging firmament.

The following day I ran an easy 10k, but experienced some knee pain from about 9k.This was frustrating. I concluded the most likely cause was worn out shoes; the pair I wore had covered 475 miles and I typically retire shoes at 500. I switched to a pair with only 100 miles on them and ran another 5k season’s best a couple of days later at Dulwich parkrun on Saturday 11 June . The next morning I set out for another easy 10k. I experienced similar knee pain and again from about 9k. This was annoying.

I had to conclude that I had been overdoing the mileage. Even as I wrote “my mileage has returned to what I consider ‘normal’; around 30 miles a week”, in the masterwork that was “Back on track (metaphorical)”, I had just completed two consecutive weeks of 34 and 32 miles and was about to complete a third of 35. Even though I didn’t include it in my post I had committed myself to maintaining a strict ceiling of 30 miles per week for at least a couple of months before making tentative increments. (Throughout the last four months of 2014, I averaged 30 miles per week and ran fast and injury free. Then in January 2015, I averaged over 38 miles per week; and I now think this precipitated my subsequent injury affected year.) I doubt I am the only one who, when fit and strong, enjoys running so much that it is easy to run too much out of sheer exuberance.


Even as I wrote the masterwork that was “Back on track (metaphorical)”, I had just completed two consecutive weeks of 34 and 32 miles and was about to complete a third of 35.

Trying not to repeat previous mistakes; of continuing to run at the same level and ignoring, rather than treating symptoms, I stopped running after last Sunday’s recurrence. Self-control was particularly hard because my anticipated 1500m was scheduled for the Monday evening. However, doing the right thing was made easier by a viral infection that made me feel nauseous and I did stay at home. I am also treating my symptoms with ice, compression and anti-inflammatories.

I didn’t run again until yesterday rationalising that a parkrun after five rest days definitely constituted backing off. I was pleased to run 19:29, just six seconds outside last week’s season’s best; again at Dulwich. I have race commitments this coming week, but apart from the races themselves I am not going to run. Beyond that, I am going to gradually return to running 3, 4 and then 5 times a week over the next three weeks and again gently increase my mileage. This time genuinely observing the 30 miles a week ceiling.

I am looking forward to my races this week; the inaugural Dino Dash, a 3k trail lap relay, on Wednesday and a 10,000m at Orion Harriers Fast Friday. (On Friday.) The latter, you will notice, is also a track event. Assuming this week’s exuberance doesn’t result in race-ending injury it seems the wit-revelling is not going to have to wait too long.

5,000 miles

During my run this morning I completed 5,000 miles since my first recorded run:

tweetmyrun - 2016 06 12

It has taken quite a bit longer, about eighteen months compared to the anticipated twelve, to complete this latest thousand. I completed 4,000 miles on 4 January 2015, but injuries interrupted my running significantly throughout 2015 and into early 2016. Now, though, things seem to be back on track.

tweetmyrun - 2015 01 04

Here’s to completing this year, and the next thousand miles, injury free.

Back on track (metaphorical)

So, here I am, back on track. My optimistic hope, expressed in my post at the beginning of March; that it would be the last I would need to tag ‘recovery’ for some time, has proved well-founded to date. The relief is palpable.

Since my return to running at the end of January, I have increased my mileage reasonably gradually; though I’ve not observed the 10% week on week rule since I’m returning to previous levels rather than starting anew. All the same, I have listened to my body and eased off when I have felt niggles develop; most often these have been general tightness or knots in my calves or, less often, discomfort in my knees or right Achilles. These niggles have become less frequent and less and less significant, through February, March and April, and from around the middle of May I have felt fully recovered from injury and that I am running niggle free. From about the same time, my mileage has returned to what I consider ‘normal’; around 30 miles a week.

Learning, at last, from my experience, I have continued to use a foam roller, as often as I can convince myself to, to look after my muscles and I have also started to observe a four week training cycle; three weeks of increasing distance and intensity followed by an easier rest week. As of the end of February I now also swim once a week; the first time I have ever consistently incorporated cross training. I have built up to 1.1k (in a 25m pool) in 30 minutes.

fortnightly mileaeg

I have increased my mileage reasonably gradually and have now returned to what I consider ‘normal’; around 30 miles a week. [Bars are fortnightly, values read from y axis, labels express this value as a weekly average.]

My return to fitness is particularly satisfyingly reflected in the series formed by my ten parkrun performances this year. My personal measure for being truly ‘back on track’ being that the last three are within a minute of my 2014 5k PB and rank within the top 20 of my sixty-one 5k events to date.

date parkrun target result average HR rank
12 March Oak Hill 21:50 22:00 158 53
19 March Dulwich 21:50 21:30 159 46
26 March Dulwich 21:20 21:18 161 45
16 April Dulwich 21:00 20:49 157 41
23 April Dulwich 20:30 20:29 160 37
7 May Dulwich 20:10 20:21 158 35
14 May Dulwich 20:10 20:00 157 25
21 May Bromley 19:50 19:40 158 17
28 May Dulwich 19:30 19:41 158 18
4 June Poole 19:30 19:32 14

I am also pleased that my return to running is reflected in my weight dipping below 70kg; my self-imposed ceiling as an active runner although I would like to reduce my weight further, to at most 68kg, if not to my ultimate goal of 66kg. The balance between the two primary drivers behind this weight loss – increased requirement for fuel for my metabolism and less indulgent eating due to my heightened mood – is tipped toward the former, I think.

weight jkfdas

My return to running is reflected in my weight dipping below 70kg; my self-imposed ceiling as an active runner.

Now if I could just commit to a strength training regime, I might consider myself truly reformed rather than just back on track.