Monday, 9 July 2012

Best Made Plans……

I’m a planner, I like to think things through and look for the best path to take to get to where I‘m going. I use lists a lot and like to have a clear picture of what I’m aiming for. For some years I worked as a Planning Consultant, probably the most enjoyable working years of my IT life, though I enjoyed working in Change Management too, because I also like change, as long as it’s well planned. As an athlete I often had a plan that I worked with, particularly during my most successful years. During the more chaotic years in my career, it caused chaos in my training as I was unable to sustain a plan so tended to drift from race to race.

Having a plan doesn’t mean that plan can’t change, there always has to be flexibility and an ability to seize the opportunity. One of my biggest wins came when I had to change my plans and switch to a different race. This was in 1993, I’d had a good winter under the coaching of Arthur Bruce. He thought it would be good if I were to get an early season win under my belt and we planned for the Belgrave 10000m championship, which was usually held around early May. However, for some reason, the Belgrave committee decided to switch the 1993 event to later in the year, so Arthur suggested I went for the Surrey Championship 10000m instead. Because the Surrey’s were attended by some great athletes, including many international runners, in those days, Arthur suggested I hang onto the coat tails of other athletes and get carried to a good time, for the sake of boosting my confidence. So I turned out, with many of Surrey’s best athletes, and hung onto the back end of the leading pack. Lap by lap I hung on in there, not listening to the lap times but concentrating on matching the pace of the athletes in front. Athletes in that front pack started to drift off the back and I’d go round them so I was still at the back of the lead pack. Eventually there was only one man in front of me, International marathon runner, Mike Boyle. I was in a position I didn’t expect to be in and my competitor was an athlete whom I had a great deal of respect for, and believed he was much better than me. But with 3 laps to go I felt fresh and somehow managed to come level with Mike. Now that Mike knew who was tracking him I thought this might give him a confidence booster as I was a relatively unknown athlete to him, so I decided to make a long run for home, increasing the pace just enough to stretch away from Mike and take my first big win. So I got the win and improved my 10000m time by 2 mins, my confidence was high and a few weeks later I found myself in the UK 3000m final, where I came last.

If you’ve been following the blog lately you’ll know that I’m currently working to a 12 week plan, which I’m hoping will serve me well at the European Elderly Athlete Championships. As I sit here today, I have five more weeks of that plan to go, but it hasn’t all been smooth.

It started off well enough, week by week I’ve been getting stronger and faster, and this has been showing in my races, which included a bronze medal at the British Old Age Pensioner 5k race. Alas, two weeks ago I suffered the first blow to my plan. It was during my last treadmill session, which I mentioned in my last blog. I’d just increased the number of reps I was doing and was operating at the fastest pace I could. It was a tough session for me but I hung in there and managed to finish it, tired but in one piece. I was completely spent but that was the aim. The next morning my left calf was stiff. I’ve been there before and I knew it would ease up in time so I wasn’t unduly concerned, in fact I went for a long run in Tatton Park.

The following day it was still tight and I had a hard session planned for that evening. I was due to go to Spain the next day, for some hot weather training, and was due to use the travel day as my rest day, so I didn’t want to miss my Thursday session. And that was my downfall, the calf eased off after a bit of running but the hard work was too much and it seized up again later that evening.

You get an instinct for injuries and I knew this wasn’t a pull or a tear, just a very tired muscle. I’ll admit I was a little concerned but I went off to Spain confident that I would be able to run out there. After the day of rest my calf didn’t feel any better, so I took another day off and just did bodyweight exercises, cherry picking some of my favourite and most challenging ones. It was now two days without a run, I know that would drive some of my friends nuts but I chilled out, used the pool, did my shade bathing and read my kindle. I was so relaxed I wasn’t even bothered by the role reversal that was occurring, Carole was out running whilst I was lounging about, she even started making the dinner, which maybe I ought to have been a little bothered about.

Into day 3, and the calf was feeling a lot better, so I thought I’d try a run. I decided on a short run, that way I wouldn’t be too far from home if something wasn’t right, but within 2 minutes I could tell my calf was going to be ok so I changed direction. I had a sudden desire to do a quality session but I resisted temptation, instead heading uphill to the top of the village. It was hot but I was running within myself, I felt good and was enjoying myself, something I can’t always say when I’m running easy, on my own. The views from the top were worth the run up, though the downhills did put a bit more pressure on my calf. A good plus was that on the way home I found a newly tarmaced area that looked perfect for doing my quality sessions on. Run over, the legs felt fine, if there was no reaction tomorrow I’d be back doing the good stuff.

Day 4 and my legs felt fine, I was raring to go. I decided to do this week’s treadmill session, but obviously without the treadmill. I aimed for the new training area I’d spotted and reached it just as my 6 minute warm-up came to an end, so I started my first rep. Long reps, taken hard, with long easy recoveries. The first one started into the wind and it was hot, which is exactly what I wanted. After a couple of minutes I was out of the wind but now climbing up a long steady hill. It was hard work but I kept the pressure on, knowing I was getting a long recovery after, and boy did I need that. That was just how it felt when I was doing it in the gym, so I must be close to the correct pace. At the start of the next rep I was recovered enough and it was downhill for the bulk of it, so I felt a little better. By the end of the session I was pretty much done in, it was hot and I could feel my body temperature rising. I deliberately hadn’t taken any water out with me as I want to get my body used to working hard when in a state of minor dehydration, so now I was keen to get back to my base. The good news, my calf was ok.

So that was it I did another quality session two days later, shorter reps, shorter recoveries and more of them, after which I was again done in, no shade around either of my training courses. With two steady runs in between the quality runs I finished off on my last day with a shorter quality session, by now my legs were aching so I didn’t want to overdo it.

And then it was back home, using the travelling day as a rest day. Back to the rain and cooler temperatures of home. We’d watched the TV once during our stay in Spain, that was the European Football Cup Final. It was a good final to watch, for a non football fan, the score failing to give credit to how well the Italians played, but the Spanish were the better team and once Italy were down to 10 men it was no contest. I also tend to keep my phone turned off when abroad, giving me a little reminder of how life used to be before we all started carrying them around, how peaceful. What that meant, however, was that we were completely unaware of what was going on in the UK, whilst we trained in the sunshine and heat of Spain, my friends back in the UK were running in the rain. We were unaware of the controversy around the Olympic team selections, didn’t realise Andy Murray had made it to the Wimbledon final, though I was wondering how Bradley Wiggins was getting on in the Tour de France, I have high hopes, he’s my kind a guy, tough but scrawny and a bit ginger.

There was live music on three nights, two don’t really warrant a mention but a guy called Curtis was recreating rock music at Lo Marabou (an English style pub). He was pretty good, though he did have a propensity to follow the lead of many a 70’s guitarist and play ‘off-piste’ a bit too much. I’d recommend him, if you like rock music,

So back in the country and it was time to catch up and watch some sport. I’m not a tennis fan so I went off to do something else and wait for my turn to watch Moto GP and the British GP, whilst Carole watched the tennis. I did see bits, and in those Murray seemed to have some good play but he was outclassed by Federer. Bradley Wiggins had taken the yellow jersey, that was good news but it’s going to be a battle to keep it from Cadel Evans. F1 was a bit disappointing for a Brit but it was good to see Webber get past Alonso for the victory, I still have Moto GP to watch, only so many hours…..

Incidentally, yesterday I ran this week’s treadmill session on my old course and felt like I was absolutely flying. True it was hard work, it has to be, but the main thing is I had no reaction from the calf. So a minor change and we’re back on track.

Finally I thought I’d mention the book that an old friend and colleague, from my Belgrave days, has just published. I haven’t read it yet, it came out just before I went to Spain and I’m considering getting the kindle version, but I’m very interested to read it and I’m sure many of my running friends would be too. The book is called ‘British Marathon Running Legends of the 1980s’ by Gabrielle Collison (ISBN 978-0-9572186-0-4). It’s going to be on Amazon and there will be kindle and pdf versions available. I’ll be aiming to do a bit of a review when I get my copy and get a chance to read it, I’ve only just got round to reading Shackleton’s attempt to cross the Antarctic and that was written almost 100 years ago.

Written by Roger Alsop

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