Sunday, 17 April 2016

Reality check

Experiencing and dealing with a failure is an important part of becoming a better runner.
In my beginnings, I was getting a PB in every race. I guess it's the case for most of beginner runners.
Then, as the standard and ability grows, PBs are getting more sparse. After a while I learned to enjoy them more, as I couldn't take them for granted anymore. But at least I was expecting to be getting PBs from season to season. The idea of a constant improvement of my results was kind of basic, it didn't occur to me to even try to question it. Until very recently.

After my last year's official nomination to a mid-distance runner, we (my coach and I. Ok, mostly my coach) came up with a quite decent training plan, with proper periodization etc. The first part involved hard winter training, consisting of typical long-distance sessions, fairly high milage, topped up with serious weights work in the gym. Only during the first 3 months of this year I run nearly 1300km, did over 160 training sessions (including gym work). What's most important, it was consistent, uninterrupted training. Even shitty cross-country season didn't discourage me. I was ready to do early spring road races, hoping for good PBs, and then to move to proper mid-distance training and track racing.

So I did two races. The first was one a 10k in Salford (north Manchester) on Good Friday. I did my last hard session on Tuesday, easy ones on Wednesday and Thursday, and on on Thursday evening, after work, boarded the train to Manchester. Woke up after a good sleep, feeling fresh and ready to race.
The Salford 10k is a race of a fairly high standard, with the course record of 29:32, and 50 people (out of 700 participants) finishing under 35 minutes (based on 2015 results). So I knew I won't be fighting for a good position - only the finish time matters. The course is pretty good - two flat laps, not too many bends. The weather was perfect - around 14 degrees, not windy, nice and sunny. No excuses, just run fast. And that's the part I've messed up. The plan was to start easy, and then start pushing after first 2-3km. The first part went according to the plan - I started at a pace around my current PB, clocking the first km in 3:36, and the second one in 3:40. The second part of the plan failed spectacularly, though. Instead of speeding up, I started slowing down. Not much, but enough to finish the race 24 seconds outside of my PB, in 36:49. I was disappointed, but I knew that there is one more race coming in a week's time - Reading Halfmarathon.
Based on my heart rate at the 10k race, I reckoned I run it more on a 10 mile effort, so I was hoping to keep similar (maybe just a bit slower) pace next Sunday at Reading. So I was in a fairly good mood. The weather was fantastic, I had a whole day of exploring Manchester ahead of me, followed by meeting good friends in the evening for some drinks and partying. And then three days in Wales, with friends and family. So nothing to really complain about.
Manchester turned out to be a pretty awesome city, and Wales knocked me down again. It was my third time to Wales, and as always I was amazed by it's beauty.
Here are a few photos of Manchester and Wales:

After coming back from Wales I did a quite decent track session on Tuesday, and another one (mixed with mid-distance stuff) on Thursday. On Friday and Saturday I did only easy runs. I caught up on sleep, didn't do anything on Saturday, just relaxing, a bit of walking and some carbs-loading (in other words - eating pizza). On Sunday I felt good, the weather was fine. I got to Reading with enough time to prepare for the race, do a good warm-up (which wore off a little bit, as the stat was delayed by 15 minutes). Finally, start time comes. First the elite runners, then, 60 seconds after them (I'm not sure why - so we don't overtake them too early?) - rest of us starts. I run well, keeping consistent pace of low 3:4x for the first 3 km. Then the course starts going slightly uphill. 4th km in 3:52 - still ok, I'll catch up on the downhills. And then comes the 5th kilometer. 4:22! The race was pretty much over at that point. Nevertheless, I continued, sticking to the original plan - run consistent first 10km, and then start pushing harder. And I did, but the results were far from planned. My pace was all over the place, with low 3:2x/km on a more downhill parts, to nearly 4:00/km on the uphills. But I was pushing. This time I wasn't holding back, I left there all I had. I finished (after a very brief sprint finish - I had to overtake a few guys I've been racing over the last couple if miles) in very disappointing 1:20:40, over a minute slower than my PB.

It took me nearly a week to recover from this race. Not physically - I took Monday off, Tuesday and Wednesday easy, and was back on the track on Thursday. But mental recovery was harder.
Initially I was nearly depressed, but then I realized that I must learn something from those failures.
So, here's what I've learned.
I realized that - no matter how ambitious and wishfully-thinking-realistic my plans and targets are - I will never be an olympic champion. Or professional-level runner.
I learned I have to learn again how to love running and training just for itself, not for the results. To take pride and satisfaction from well executed training sessions, to enjoy being active, to run just for the fun of it. Not that I don't feel all of it, but I was too busy thinking about my times and goals, that I forgot those basics a bit, made them secondary. While those should be the primary goals, possibly - the only important things about my running. Run and enjoy. Work hard just for the sake of enjoyment of job well done. I sound a bit like my father now, who loves working just for the work itself, but hey - he's always been my role model, so nothing wrong with that.
I need to remodel my approach, stop being obsessed with the results. Focus on training, the here-and-now of it, live and enjoy every moment of it to the full. And stop thinking and worrying about my running goals and results. My life doesn't depend on it, my happiness doesn't depend on it. If anything, I can only ruin my running with thinking and worrying too much.
So let's just run.

I'm off for my long run. It's a sunny day outside, let's enjoy life!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I have so much to learn... I guess if I don't beat my PB at the London 10000m, I'll be pretty disappointed.

    PS: Nice pics as usual!