Friday, 31 July 2009

The O.C. Part Two - 3000m

I'd stepped off the track after the 400m at about 7:25 p.m. and was still heavy breathing about 5 minutes later. Unfortunately I was in the toilet by then; my game of chicken with a turtle head during the race nearly ending in disaster. Not sure what my problem is, but I always need to hit the porcelain just before a race and I'm getting sick of the constant "do I have time to make it" dilemna. It must be what they call the 'shite or flight' response to danger!

Track meets can be similar to tennis tournaments in that there is often dead time between races where you have to be careful not to eat too much, keep moving without getting tired and avoid stiffening up. This was a particular challenge with the 3000m being scheduled for 9:15 p.m but the meet obviously running behind time with the 19 800m races in between. There was an added complication in that it was absolutely pissing it down and I'd not brought enough clothes.

I decided to start my warm up during the 13th 800m, but by the 15th everybody was ordered off the track. Of course, it was too much to ask for an explanation over the tannoy. It transpired that the racing was postponed because the timekeepers were no longer able to write due to the monsoon conditions. For the non-British readers amongst you this type of excuse is commonplace - but usually on our rail system where, on seperate occasions, the wrong type of leaves and the wrong type of snow have halted servies.

This announcement triggered a mighty boo from the stands after which, almost instantaneously, a mighty miracle occured and racing recommenced. A khamsin sent from the Lord himself must have swept through and dried the pencils and paper!

In reality I suspect the prospect of a riot (albeit a British middle class one which involves moaning, tutting and shaking of heads rather than stones and beer glasses) persuaded the organisers that perhaps they could manage.

By the time my race came around at 10:22 p.m. I was wet, freezing, sore and miserable. The race itself was uneventful and I suspect I'd shot my bolt at about 9:15 p.m anyway. I finished in about 9:25 although I got no official time because my number had rotted and blown away half way round. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. In retrospect I took the race far too easily during the middle laps and could have / should have pushed much harder. This isn't the first time this has happened in a longish race and is something I definitely need to work on....

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The Odd Couple - 400m

More like a love tryst between Josef Stalin and Mother Teresa than a personality conflict between Randall and Klugman - I ran the 400m and 3000m at the Watford Open Track Meet tonight.

I thought the combination might help bump along the training and given that it has been 8 years since I last ran both events let's face it - it's about time. The meeting is extremely popular, is held every fortnight and offers the chance to sign up on the day giving expert procrastinators such as myself ample opportunity to keep changing our minds and still compete. Upon registration you hand over an expected seed time and are then organised into races between runners with similar times.

Quite how popular I didn't realise but there ended up being 19 heats of 12 runners for the 800m alone. God knows what attendance will be like during more inspiring times (the 2012 London Olympics) or more clement weather (probably never), but you can't fit that many more athletes in one place.

Like any seeded event there's a certain art to giving your seed time. Given every entrant exaggerates their own skills you have to be fairly ambitious but you also don't want to be the sad bastard that trails in 50 metres behind experiencing very public rigor mortis. Perhaps worse is the athlete who massively underexaggerates their time just so they can stroll clear of midgets and cripples waving their fist in the air.

I will admit to a bit of concern however when I ended up in the 2nd fastest race of the evening amongst the young whippets, being the only one with grey bits in my stubble (perhaps that should be stubble bits in my grey). There was also a fleeting moment during the "on your marks" phase of affairs when I considered I probably should have practised at least once the first sprint start I was about to attempt since 2001.

The race itself went pretty well. Starting in lane 6 I got a decent start, relaxed well through the far straight at which point I'd made up the gap on the guy outside (important as it meant I wouldn't be last!). As the stagger hadn't yet been made up it felt as though going in to the turn I was in the lead but I could hear footsteps on my inside. I ran a decent turn but was overtaken and had a couple of metres to retake on the home straight. I managed to quicken up (or slow down less) and took the victory down the long, painful finishing straight. If I were a teenager I'd have described it as pressing the nitrous oxide button, nowadays it's more like releasing the cod liver oil valve.

This may seem like hubris and tinged with irony, given I can hardly walk in the mornings, but I have always had an extra gear at high speeds - I'm glad to see it's still there. Given the decent way I had won I had hoped for a time slightly better than the 52.0 seconds I got (with a seed time of 51.5 seconds).

I got something right then, I exaggerated my own capabilities but not quite as much as every other runner in my race did theirs....

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Cambridgeshire Mile Champion

At the ripe old age of 36 I won the Cambridgeshire County mile last night - in an open race not one just restricted to old farts and people who smell of deep heat and moth balls. In terms of enviable achievements it ranks alongside having the biggest feet in your household, finishing the medium size puzzle of Minesweeper without your boss seeing and the ability to do a serviceable Bruce Forsyth impression.

In the UK a county is a rough equivalent to a US state, so put in those terms it adopts a standing of some importance. However, the days of Seb Coe and Steve Ovett have long gone and perhaps things aren't as they used to be - as the population of our race could be described as a bit of a motley crew. Still, when they dust off the results for the year 2100 celebrations there will be no sidenote and I'll still have my medal - assuming cheap plastic isn't biodegradable of course.

Training up to the race was going pretty well and I'd even had a bizarre side bet of a tennis overgrip (this being a recession and all) that I would break 4:30. That left with me a bit of a dilemna after the first lap which was clocked in 69 seconds. Do I wait behind the leaders and use my speed which would be my best tactics for the win or do I go for a good time and run the risk of not putting myself in the best position finish wise? Dilemna solved with the thought it would be a bit ridiculous to be punching the air having come second and having to explain I'd won an overgrip in a bet, hence the reason for my unbridled joy.

To be honest I can usually track the leaders comfortably for the first couple of laps due to my good speed but I never really felt that comfortable. As one of our club's young juniors correctly observed - "you looked terrible on the 3rd lap". The whole thing was a bit of a struggle and it was a bit of a relief when the final effort came and I kicked past with 200m to go for the win in 4:34.5.

If it'd been a horse race there would have been arse whelts from the whip - having been given a couple of firm reminders on lap 3 that I wouldn't get my oats that evening if I didn't get my head straight and arse into gear. (Typical of my luck that I didn't get my oats anyway). So, not a great time but it was quite windy, I had wine with my meal, I almost followed through on the start line etc, etc......

Next up I might try a 400m at the Watford open meeting next wednesday.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Heavy Breathing

I popped to the hospital last week as I have problems breathing in hot weather and generally suffer from chest tightness. The results of the tests are that I have small airway constriction which is symptomatic of asthma, so I've been issued with a couple of inhalers. My suspicion that there might be a beer can stuck down there was disproved by the xrays. Incidentally the nurse was as impressed by my 11.11 litre lung capacity as I was by her set of lungs - although I didn't get the chance to give them the full test ride and examination.

This does mean that if I enter any major events I will have to get a therapuetic usage exemption for the inhaler because of the admittedly extremely slim chance that the professional piss-testers take an interest. A high profile drug bust a la Ben Johnson is one thing, but it would be pretty embarassing being caught if you were actually quite shit at a sport. You can imagine the headlines: "Drug cheat fails at cheating, returns £1.50 in prize money & race t-shirt".

After a couple of miserable training sessions I was back on form this week, putting in a good Vo2 max sessions of 800's and a quality repetition session of 400's. This is my time of year, short and intense rather than long and drawn out. I have 3 weeks left of VO2 max work and then it's time for the peak period of racing and glory!

Unfortunately I crowned a decent week of training but getting loaded on friday night, an episode which I am still paying for nearly 24 hours later. This is a little disappointing given I abstained for 6 months. If I can just prevent the flood gates from opening for the next month and a half....

Monday, 6 July 2009

British Masters Nationals - 800m

After saturday's fiasco I will admit to some reticence approaching sunday's 800m. Very little of my training has been aimed at the middle distances yet, but any that I have done would be more useful in the longer 1500m. That combined with a pedigree that boasts of just 4 800m's, none of which I'd run in lanes and the last one being in 2001 meant I was hardly approaching the race brimming with confidence.

On the bright side there were only 5 runners so I could always claim a 5th place and as it's only 2 laps any humiliation would be very temporary, albeit quite visible. But secretly I knew that where my running is concerned the shorter the better and that miracles do happen. Hell, even Gordon Brown apologised the other week - sort of.

I had drawn the inside lane which was helpful for me as I could keep all the other runners in front of me for the first bend ran in lanes - similar to yesterday of course, but this time it was at the start of the race and not the end! Most races I run in are categorised by runners going off much too fast and then spending most of the remainder suffering a vicious and lingering demise as I pick them off and kick sand in their face. Maybe it's the wisdom of age but I was shocked to go through 400m in slower than 61 seconds - particularly considering there were 2 sub-1:56 runners in the field.

I injected some pace 300m out taking up the lead, accelerated 200m out and then kicked for the last 100m. Unfortunately slowly, inevitably a couple of the runners reeled me in as my lack of anaerobic training told. The winner crossed the line in 1:59.92, the second in 2:00.27 with me in third in 2:00.70. I'm pretty pleased with that time as it was a negative split and I feel as though I have plenty of training to come that will solicit considerable improvement on that before season's end.

On the way home the Wimbledon final was on the radio and I was disappointed to see that the cry baby Federer won. The other day I heard him described as 'the gayest straight man in the world' and I couldn't agree more.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

British Masters Nationals - 1500m

Today's race goes to show that there is truth in the saying "lies, damn lies and statistics". I picked up a bronze medal in the over 35 mens 1500m at the British Masters Outdoor Track Championships. Sounds good doesn't it? Unfortunately I also came last. Suddenly 3rd doesn't sound half as impressive when you learn that there were only 3 entrants in my age group! That's a pretty lame turnout for your country's national championships. I attribute it to a number of factors, the over 35's age category is a relatively recent addition, old folk are more inclined to gravitate to the road racing scene and the general British apathy to participant sport that seems to be spreading like swine flu.

What's worse is that I ran like an absolute dog. Often in races you'll go through half way feeling great and in a state of amazement at the fast pace. The flip side is that sometimes you'll be really struggling and then find out you've been running as fast as Stephen Hawking. Today was definitely a case of the latter as I pottered home in 4:29 - a full 15 seconds slower than I ran last month. Admittedly I eased off slightly when I realised how much I was struggling as I have the 800m tomorrow, but for some reason I just shot a blank (it happens to the great Ron Jeremy sometimes!). I just thank the lord that they merged the race with the over 40's category so I didn't trail the other two runners like a complete terd.

Every death requires a post-mortem, but all I can come up with is the fact that I do struggle with my breathing in hot weather - as I did in the last 5k I ran. If you are wondering, I'm not particularly convinced excuses go that ranks up with 'the dog ate my homework' and is about as believable as 'I didn't mean to come in your mouth'.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Finishing Touches

This week involved a few easy runs and a session of race paced repeats with plenty of recovery. More Barbara Cartland applying cover up to a varicose vein than Michelangelo completing the Sistene Chapel, but finishing touches nonetheless.

It's been brutally hot (for England) and humid (for England) this week and with the veterans Championships involving competitors aged from 35 up to 100 one hopes that the ambulances are on standby. There's nothing like heart attacks and heat-related colostomy bag explosions to put a dampener on a track and field event.

This weekend I am competing in the 1500m on saturday and the 800m on sunday. I'm not really sure what to expect given recent injury setbacks and the fact that I haven't run an 800m since 2001. But fail to plan, plan to fail so I am looking to run about 4:10 for the 1500m and 2:00 for the 800m. To this end Wednesday's workout was 4 * 200m in 30 secs with 200 jog, 2 * 300 in 45 secs with 2:00 rest and a 400m in 66 seconds. The idea being to squeeze some last minute training in and to practice running at race pace.

In a way the races themselves follow a relatively simple strategy, as they are "Championship" events. Go out close enough to the leaders, hang on and then sprint past at the end. Simple and devastatingly effective - I wonder if any of my rivals have such an elaborate and detailed race plan!

Training is finished, now it's a case of dragging my bad knees, stiff back, painful elbow, swollen foot (insect bite) and Birkenau hair-cut over to Birmingham tomorrow and making sure the zimmer frame is oiled.