Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Back In The Medals

It’s been a long medal drought for me. Ok I have a box full of medals so I shouldn’t be greedy but at the same time a medal signifies something to me, it signifies that all the work I’ve put in has resulted in this medal. It’s why I do it, it’s what I earn. Ok, so it doesn’t put food on the table but every medal won ultimately says ‘Roger Alsop gets results’ and I’m proud of them all. The last time I won a medal was on 13 October 2010, I was running for the England M45 team in the British and Irish Cross Country International, we came second and every member of the team got a silver medal, though frankly I didn’t feel like I deserved it after my poor run. In 2011 I didn’t get one championship medal, the first year this has occurred since 1989, which is the year I started to run. So after last year’s poor showing I vowed that I would be aiming for medals again this year.

My quest for medals has already been thwarted this year, I was 2nd M45 in the Cheshire Cross Country Champs, but only the winner received a medal. I was all set to run in the BMAF Cross Country Championships but I injured my back the week before and was unable to run. My club, Herne Hill Harriers, fell one man short of sending a team to Sutton Park, for the BMAF Road Relays, when we were almost certain to medal. So this weekend I was on a mission, I was sure I would be the lone Herne Hill Harrier on show, at the BMAF 5k Champs, and I was proven right. If I was going to get a medal it was up to me alone and I was up for it. A recent run of improving form had given me the confidence that I was getting closer to my 2010 form, when I came 2nd in this championship. Of course I’m still a little way off that form so I wasn’t sure I’d sneak a medal, but it wouldn’t stop me from trying.

For the race, in Horwich, I went up with Ray. Ray had run it last year, but I was away so couldn’t join him, and he was confident he would improve on both his position and time. I was ready for a hard race and had my eyes set on a top 3 position in the M45 group. We arrived early, as is my preference, and went for a run around the course. It was very windy on the uphill section and I knew this would have an effect on times, but I was still hoping my strength would see me to a season’s best. Back at the changing rooms and people had started to arrive, it was nice to catch up with a number of my competitors and friends. It was the first time I had spoken to a number of my Scottish friends and my local rivals the Whittingtons were also here, though only Russell was down to run. There were runners I’d known for years and others I’d only really got to know since I became a geriatric, and then there was Mike Deegan, superstar runner of the past but even at 55 keeping us young geriatrics honest.

I’m usually pretty calm before races but I’ll admit, on this occasion, I was a little nervous. My week hadn’t gone exactly to plan. I had shaken off the cold but hay fever was making life a little uncomfortable. I had done my usual front loaded week with a short hard session on Monday and then my treadmill session on Tuesday, and all was going well, but I’d forgotten I was training with Katy on Wednesday. That shouldn’t be a problem though and I’d be able to do my last speed session on Thursday. However Katy was in very good form, not only did she run great but she ran me into the ground. At the end of the session my right calf was tight, I had to abandon any ideas of a fast run on Thursday, it was easy running only then and on Friday. On Saturday I was taking the day off but my calf was still a little tender so I put my compression socks on. They gave me instant relief but the calf didn’t feel 100% right. Sunday morning it felt better but still not 100%. I wasn’t nervous about being in the race I was nervous I might pull, or worse, tear, my calf muscle.

As we started to congregate at the start line we were told there would be a delay, the cycle races were falling behind and we should expect a 10 minute wait. It was then that I was told that the walkers, it was a walk championship as well as a running one, would go off first and we would then be set off. Originally the walkers were due off 10 minutes before the runners, which should have given them plenty of time to separate, but the organisers were trying to claw back some time so decided to set us off only minutes after the walkers. I was thinking that this was a potential disaster and as the walkers set off I watched with a slight dismay as they stretched across the road.

Do you think those walkers could get a move on!

Then it was us, we were off and I shot off with the front runners. I’d known Big Stuart Doyle, of Vale Royal AC, was going to be there so my plan had been to try to hang onto him for as long as I could. Stuart is a consistent runner and I was sure it was my only chance to get clear of any M45 opposition, without putting in all the leg work myself. As we pushed up the first hill Chris Fell had already got a lead but there was a big pack of us behind which included myself and three other M45s; Charles Thomson, Simon Wright and Aaron Keene. There was a certain amount of jostling for position as we tried to pass the slower moving walkers and there were at least 3 occasions where I was forced towards a walker only to chop my stride in order to avoid them, it was an uncomfortable half lap and only adds weight to my feelings that it would have been better to set the walkers off a lot earlier or after the runners.

Around the corner at the Crown Hotel and some relief that we were onto the downhill section with the wind behind us. I tried to maintain a good pace and was still in with the other two M45s, I think it was here that we dropped Aaron. Up the hill for the second time and I was having to dig deep, Charles and Simon were starting to pull away from me, which was a little frustrating. The 3rd time up the hill I was really feeling it, I had started faster than recent races and this combined with the hill and wind was starting to take it’s toll on my body. My legs felt like lead and I appeared to be jogging up the hill. Charles and Simon were now well clear but I was aware I was still 3rd M45, not sure how close the 4th place was though, I was certain I would soon lose that 3rd place and probably 4th, 5th and 6th. But I made it round the corner, still in 3rd and I put everything I could into the downhill, thinking that if I was going to be taken it was going to have to take a real fighter to take me. We turned the last corner, with about 250m uphill to the finish. The guy in front of me was an M40, I didn’t care about beating him but I tried to aim for him to stop any M45s sneaking up behind me. Boy did it hurt and that last 250m seems to go on forever, but I did it, I came home in 10th place overall, taking 3rd M45 and I had set a new season’s best and fastest time since I ran 15:59 on this course, two years ago, my time 16:22. I was happy with that.

I grabbed a drink and watched other runners coming in before jogging round the course to cheer on Ray. Ray did finish higher than last year, and quicker, just missing out on a pb, 21:02. Then it was off for a little lunch and to the presentation. It was a good feeling being presented with that medal, it had been a long wait. Now, I know that there were a lot of good runners missing from the race, I don’t know why it’s a great race, and people may look at my time and say that I wouldn’t have got the medal if others had showed up. But do I care, no, it’s not my fault they chose not to turn up and I did and frankly I ran my socks off to get that medal. As my old coach, Arthur Bruce, would say the trophy only states who the winner is, it doesn’t say he won but such and such didn’t show up. Now onto the next one.     

Incidentally I spoke with Mike Deegan afterwards, he looked terrible coming into the finish and I couldn’t stop myself being honest with him, then I saw this photo of me coming into the finish, courtesy of Harvey Whittington.

Was I running fast or was that the wind flattening my hair?

It’s been a bit of a family weekend, for the second weekend running, last weekend my brother and his wife were up visiting my parents and we all, along with my sister, went out for a meal. This weekend it was Carole’s turn, her mum and friend were down from Scotland, along with some much needed Scottish treats, Lorne sausage and bread rolls (apparently we can’t make bread rolls in England, though I can’t say I’ve noticed), though this time the tablet stayed in Scotland. On Friday night England were playing Sweden in the European Championships, football. I was looking forward to watching the game but with three Scottish ladies waiting to go to the pub my choices were limited. We went to the Cock O’Budworth where the menu was quite good and service was excellent. Price was pretty decent too, plus they had Spitfire on tap, though for obvious reasons I was restricted to one pint.

Then on Sunday, after the race, I had my parents join us for a roast dinner which was a lot of fun. Unfortunately I was in celebratory mood and, making up for two nearly dry days, I had a little bit more to drink than I should have. Oh well it’s not like I drink all the time.

With the race being on Sunday I decided to go for a relaxing run on Monday so hit the woodlands. It was a beautiful morning so I extended the run a little to go a nice 9 mile route.

This morning it was treadmill day, week 4 of my training plan. I’d intended to start the first rep at 19.4km/h and work my way up but once I got to Cottons I decided I should up the ante. I was pleased with my run on Sunday but decided I needed to push more if I was going to get anywhere close to achieving my goals this year. So I started the first rep on 20km/h (3 min per K pace). It surprised me how comfortable it was and by the end of the session I’d got up to 20.6km/h (2.54 min per K pace). It’s still a little short of the 2:40 odd pace I used to run, but that was back in the 1990s, so I think I can be forgiven for my slower pace, after all I’m not running 1k reps, I’m running further. So I’m very pleased with that and with seven weeks still to go on this programme I’m getting more confident by the week. However I’m mindful that I’m running faster than I have for a long time and conscious that this is the time I’m likely to pick up niggles, which, if I’m not careful, could turn into injuries, so I’ll be trying to be sensible too. Mind you I’m training with Katy again tomorrow so I’ll have to watch out for her demon pace.

Finally a thank you to Ronhill for the package they sent last week. The kit looks good on me, even if I don’t look good in it.

Written by Roger Alsop

No comments:

Post a Comment