Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Can You Feel It?

Different Coaches use different approaches to training their athletes, though each approach will, no doubt, be based upon a mix of study and experience. You can’t necessarily say that one approach is better than another, though it is sometimes easy to see that one approach might suit one individual better than another. During my time as a runner I’ve used the regular services of three coaches, all with different approaches but all who made a difference to my running. On top of that I’ve run sessions with other qualified coaches. Naturally I’ve picked up a lot of things that work for me but, as I’ve been self coached since 2000, I’ve also developed an approach of my own, that works well for me. This approach is nothing new or special but it’s just something that I use as a part of my training regime. It’s simply to run how you feel, e.g. not to a set pace or set heart rate measurement or any other measured method.

You’re probably reading this now and thinking, ‘what the heck is he talking about’ but let me explain further. I’m not suggesting there is anything wrong with running at a given pace or heart rate measurement, in fact these are handy methods of training and I fully support their use. However sometimes the body is tired and not able to keep to the prescribed pace or your body may be feeling great and is therefore capable of a faster pace. So I suggest that sometimes you should go out and do your run, whether this is a steady run or a repetition run, at the pace you feel like running. Currently my body is feeling tired so today I went out for a 9 mile run in Tatton Park, it’s my recovery run so I suggest it doesn’t matter how fast I run, so I pootled around at a comfortable pace, but it was still a challenging run, on another occasion I might well have run the same distance at a much faster pace, because I felt good. When I’m doing reps I run each one as hard as I feel I can, conditions, the state of my body, may dictate the distance I run in the time given but I’m giving the same % effort each time, and I don’t measure the distance I run each rep, therefore there is no chance of negativity creeping in. I do feel that sometimes I’m struggling in the run, but as long as I know I’ve put the same level of work in then that’s all that counts. I use this method with my clients, generally running alongside them to push them a little harder than they would have themselves. It’s so simple but often overlooked by runners who can be so time and distance obsessed. I’ve also used this in races, if I’m feeling confident I just went off with the leaders no matter what the pace, obviously it has led to a few disasters where I ran out of steam but it brought me to a number of personal bests and race victories that I wouldn’t have achieved had I run to a schedule. So simplistic as it sounds, don’t just dismiss it, it works for me and I’m not that shabby.

After last week’s cross country race I found this week’s training very hard. My legs felt like jelly all week. I still managed to do all the sessions, I had planned, but it was a grind trying to get the best out of my legs. Even on Saturday, when I turned up at Heaton Park for another 10k cross country, my legs felt a bit dull, and that’s a whole week on. That’s not an excuse for my performance in the race because once I started running the legs felt ok, but before the race they felt a little dull.

This week it was the Manchester Area Cross Country League, over roughly the same course as last week, oh boy another 3 times round that, well at least now I knew the way. I knew it would be a lot tougher than the previous week, with stronger teams available, so I was anticipating a fight to make the top 50. Being a nice day I managed to persuade Carole to come along, I thought the Bonnyrigg tones might just help get the best out of me. Last week I’d jogged around the course, before the race, with Simon Bruton, I felt afterwards that perhaps that had been a bit quick, normally I jog slowly before races, so this week I warmed up by taking a walk with Carole, down the first hill and back up again. I’d also changed my race day diet a little, as I felt last week I was lacking a little something when it mattered.   

First the Ladies were off. There were some impressive performances from the Salford Ladies, who set the standard by finishing 2nd team and 5th veterans team. In particular Hayley Kuter had a storming run to finish in 2nd place, just a week before her Frankfurt marathon, good luck with that Hayley, I’m sure you’ll do well, but also Bev Jenkins showed that she’s still a force to be reckoned with, finishing 7th and 1st vet.

After that it was up to us guys to show we could match the girls. Getting ready for the off though, I was surprised not to see more of our top guys out, but it appears some of them were running half marathons the following day. And we were off, hurtling down the first hill, though I wasn’t hurtling quite as fast as a load of other people, at the first turn I found myself a long way back from the lead and getting squeezed off the best line. At this point I think I was outside of the top 50 and struggling round, not surprising as I had to take a route through some of the worst mud in order to pass people. It wasn’t until I finished the first lap that I settled down and started looking ahead at the procession of people to catch. Over the next two laps I seemed to find my cross country feet and progressed through the field gradually picking off a number of runners, including three Salford Harriers. It was a strong finish up the hill for me, holding off a crucial attack from a young Trafford runner. My progress had been steady, if a little unspectacular, at the end I was 39th, some way and a considerable number of minutes behind the winner, Steve Vernon, who featured in my first blog when winning the National Cross Country title in 2010. There was solid scoring in the Salford team as we finished in 3rd place, Paul Savage once again showing his mastery of tough conditions, must be the ironman in him, to come home as first Salford Harrier for the 2nd week running. Somehow I’d managed to make the Salford scoring 6, but only 2nd Salford M45, for the second week running being shown a clean pair of heels by Dave Lockett. I was actually 5th M45 and 10th M40, positions I’m not too familiar with as I’ve become accustomed to featuring in the top 3 of M45s in races. However I think this is more an indication of how strongly supported, by old men, this race was, rather than how poor I ran. Incidentally we were 2nd veterans team.

Am I disappointed with my run? I’d be lying if I didn’t say I am a little. I’m positive I could do a lot better but I’m not despondent. I know there are a number of factors that play their part in these results and, with years of experience of how my body copes with those factors, I know I’ll come good again. As an example, in 1992 I placed 43rd in the Surrey Cross Country Champs and six months later I ran 30 minutes for 10k, and whilst I don’t predict a 30 minute 10k next April, I’m confident I will be in good form next spring. Mind you I’m glad that’s my last cross country race for a few weeks, my body feels absolutely shattered.

There’s a club cross country championship going on throughout the season, the best 5 scores from 10 races. After two events I’m currently lying in 4th place, but that is by virtue of having completed both races held so far. So I expect that to change as more people run more races. In the over 40’s category I’m currently lying 2nd, after two 2nd places, but if I’m to advance here I need to start beating Dave Lockett, no easy task.

These last couple of weeks I’ve been training with Lee Riley again, helping him in his bid to add two more world records to his growing list of achievements. We’re making good progress with consistent pacing in our training sessions, so I’m fairly confident the first will be achieved very soon.

I’ve been fascinated the series ‘Being Liverpool’ on Channel 5. I should point out that I am not a Liverpool fan, in fact I’m not even that interested in the game of football, but for a fly on the wall documentary I find it an interesting insight to how the club functions. Obviously there’s a lot more that goes on than what we’re being shown but the programme is worth a watch, particularly if you’re interested in football. There’s something about the pride of being involved with Liverpool and the passion shown by the supporters that bears a resemblance to being involved with Salford Harriers, we all want to play our part, no matter how small, in the success of this club.

On another point I was caught out this weekend by one of my Edinburgh friends. I’ve known Cath Ferry for some time and she’s a very talented runner, as well as a fine sports masseur. There was a time when I tried to persuade Cath that cross country would benefit her overall running, but Cath was having non of it. So I was rather surprised to see a facebook comment, from Cath, that she was thinking of running the East District League on Saturday. After having a chuckle at Cath’s wind up of her fellow Edinburgh AC athletes I posted my comment that the day she ran cross country would be the day I propose to Carole. The following day I heard that Cath had been Edinburgh AC’s 3rd scorer. I suddenly felt quite ill, but not ill enough to deter me from going for a run. Luckily Carole doesn’t use facebook so I think I got away with that, she doesn’t read my blogs either. But, those of you with a romantic outlook on life, don’t despair, it will come, one day, I’m just building up to it. 

And finally I post a photo of last Saturday’s race, courtesy of Sidney Sacks, to once again prove that I only smile when I’m running, even when approaching an uphill finish.

Gotta do something about that hairstyle!

Written by Roger Alsop

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