Posts Tagged ‘determination’


This Wednesday 18th May saw the final race of the 2016 John Carr series for this year. This is the second time I have taken part and it is a series of 5k races that I look forward to more than enjoy taking part in!

The first race was more of a recce than a full blown, all out run. I was coming off some very good runs where I had been showing good pace on the flat and my climbing was improving to the point where I was passing people on the hills! This filled me with confidence and I decided to set a target of going under 25 minutes for the 5k at one of the races.

This may sound overly ambitious but the John Carr races have gained a reputation as races where you can set personal bests due to the course being set at Esholt Water Works and it is relatively flat which means fast times.

At the first race I was feeling good. My legs were a bit tired but nothing I wasn’t used to. I had a good warmup for the race although this was due to the fact that we parked about 2 miles away from the start which meant I had no choice but to run to the start and warmup.

The race went well. I felt good throughout the race and felt strong at the finish able to put in a sprint and beat some other runners to the line. My official time was 26:11, a new personal best, and I was happy with this. I felt it was a good indicator of my form and that a sub 25 was on.

The second race was a very different affair and brought me crashing back down to earth. I had, had a very stressful day at university finishing my final essay and then got back to my car to find my back window had dropped which meant a trip to the garage and no rest. This all added to the stress.

At the race I didn’t warmup as I should have done and set off far too fast passing one of my rivals within ½ k and continuing to pile on the speed. And then people started passing me and I had nothing left to respond with. My legs were moving but I felt I had no power or strength in them and I was going backwards. I looked at my watch and my pace had dropped to training pace and still I couldn’t go any faster. I wanted to stop there and then but pride and determination kept me going. The end couldn’t come quick enough and I managed to pick up speed and hold off some other runners but for me it had been a disaster. I still finished in a respectable 27:05 but everything that could go wrong had gone wrong and much of it was down to myself and how I approached the race.

For the final race I took a different approach. No stressing, it was only a race after all and do a warmup. I find a 5k difficult and you have to be on race pace from the off and for a well-built man like me it takes a while to warmup and get up to race pace. For distances such as 10k and ½ marathon this isn’t a problem, but for a 5k it is as you can soon find yourself being left behind and have nothing left to respond with as I did in race 2. You have to be on the pace from the off in a 5k and this is where the hard work comes in.

I set off at a comfortable pace, reminding myself to run my race and not someone else’s. I saw one of my rivals up ahead and decided to keep him in my sights rather than go after him and pass him early. I let myself get into the race and find my pace and soon I was steadily catching up to him and passed him around the 1mile mark.

I felt good, not my best by a long way but good enough to keep up the pace I was going and add a bit more if I needed to. My next rival was now up ahead and I was coming up on him fast. I passed him just after the ½ way mark and injected a bit more pace into my run as I wanted to make sure my move stuck and I didn’t have to race him again.

Then I began to struggle. My legs were on fire and my breathing was heavy and once again the thought of stopping briefly crossed my mind. But I dug deep and kept going. Although the course is described as flat the small hills that were on the course felt like mountains at this point as I tried to go faster and leave the runner who had decided to keep me company behind!

I crested the final small hill and saw the bright yellow finish which seemed a lot further away than in the other races. I was running at my maximum and I had nothing left to put in a sprint. All I could do was to keep my pace up and not give in.

I crossed the line a second in front of the runner who had tried to beat me. Another couple of feet and she would have done. The time was 25:43 a new personal best if not the sub 25 I was aiming for. I felt good. I had nothing left in me to run anymore so I was happy in the knowledge that I had done my best and giving everything I had on the night.

Overall I enjoyed my second John Carr series and I learnt a lot from it too. Preparation is key to these races and a good warmup is essential. Pacing yourself is all important too so you can finish strongly and I know that I can go sub 25 one day. But the most important thing is to enjoy your running and make the most of it while you can.

 


Opening my big mouth (again)

My running journey continues

Andrew Smith

Sunday, 06 December 2015

 

This Saturday, 5th December saw what is I hope the final piece in the jigsaw of my return to running from an Achilles tendon injury, although it didn’t start out as such.

The Friday night before I decided to go out as I have a race at Dewsbury in the West Yorkshire Winter League (WYWL) on Sunday, 13th December and I like to stay sober for a couple of days before a race at least! As is usual these days I ended up at the local club although I did start out at a different pub for a change after a friend arranged to meet for a catch up.

At the club the usual suspects were in and what was intended to be a quiet couple of drinks soon turned into a decent session as the beer flowed freely and frequently. Like many runners I am on Strava as are several of the runners from my club, Queensbury Running Club (QRC) and somehow I got into a chat with a couple of other runners from the club about the joys of running off road and challenged them to a run the next day. This might not have been so bad if I wasn’t heavily intoxicated at the time, went for a large Chinese curry afterwards and went to bed late.

One of the many things that alcohol does to me is to make me incredibly brave and stupid at the same time. Bravery in this case making me believe I was fitter, faster and a capable runner than I am, stupidity in challenging faster and more able runners to my challenge. The full realisation of this hit me at 3am the next morning when I woke up and had a vague recollection of the events from the night before and checked my phone to discover they were true and at around 10:45am would become very, very real for me.

So I laid in bed desperately trying to think of a way out of the run and still save face. After an hour I decided that there was no way I could worm my way out of it aside from a major disaster happening. Man flu wouldn’t work especially as one of the runners was female and she would never let me forget it again. Being drunk wouldn’t work nor would getting to bed late so I came to the only sensible conclusion I could that I would have to man up and do the challenge. It was my route after all and I had laid down the challenge.

Secretly I was looking forward to it as it would be a good test of my running abilities since my comeback from injury and the route was tough and good preparation for the forthcoming race. So at 10:45am I arrived at my local Co-op carpark to meet my fellow runners. We had been joined by another club runner so there was now four of us ready to go. Surprisingly considering the session I had the night before I was feeling good although I wouldn’t recommend going for 5 mile mainly off road run on a stomach full of beer and Chinese curry!

The weather was wet and windy as storm Desmond was passing by. This made the route more interesting as much of it would be muddy and wet grass which would make it more difficult and challenging. The first part of the route was a steady downhill to a pub just out of Queensbury. My three fellow runners set off at pace as I expected and although I couldn’t keep up with them I soon found my own steady pace and kept them in sight. At the pub we met up and went through the carpark to a row of houses behind. Passing between two houses we were soon into a wet and muddy field, heading down to a stream and then back up the other side and to the main road.

At the main road my companions set off at a decent pace again and I did my best to maintain my own decent pace. Luckily for me one of the other runners was familiar with the area so I wasn’t holding them back too much. The road goes downhill and then turns left going into a short but steep ascent. About three quarters of the way is a stone stile which was the next part of the route. Passing through this stile leads you into a farmers field. At the bottom of the field is a dirt track that leads you past the farm and back onto the road. The field is a sprint even in wet conditions and is a good test of speed and stamina.

When we had reached the road we went over it heading towards the village of Clayton. However we only went along this road a short distance before turning right and up a steep and long hill. This hill is quite a challenge as it is grass and the wet conditions made it slippy underfoot. I really struggled on here because of the pace being set by the other runners. This was my fault setting a challenge when I was drunk! However despite struggling it is still a very satisfying feeling when you reach the top of the hill and you look down and can see how far you have come.

The next part of the route took us round the top of the hill before we got to a small quarry and made our way down a short but steep embankment and onto a road called Brow Lane. This is well known locally as it is steep on both sides leading you down to the bottom of a valley and back out again. Whichever way you approach it you have a steep incline to get up and it is a good test of your climbing ability.

We headed down here and up the other side under an old railway bridge. Again I struggled and I was starting to feel the effects of the climbing and pace due to my lack of fitness and pace compared with the others. However I knew that I would benefit from the run because my fitness and pace would improve and if my Achilles held up then mentally it would be a massive step forward for me and give me confidence to go faster and further.

After the bridge there is a row of houses and a track called Bridle Stile Lane. This starts off road and is rough terrain with plenty of loose rocks to keep you focused on where you put your next step. At the top of the first incline the lane turns to tarmac and flattens out for a short distance before rising steeply back up the main road. The flatter bit gave me some respite but I was breathing heavy now and walking, determined to do my best and not give up. When I made the challenge I had said I had a killer to finish off with. At this point in the middle of Bridle Stile Lane I was considering changing my mind and heading back to the car park which wasn’t far now.

Instead at the top of the lane the others decided that they wanted to continue and do the full route. I felt mixed about this as I felt totally exhausted and ready to go home but also looking forward to the final part of my challenge. We then ran down a short distance before heading off road again up a short but steep track known as Harp Lane. This was very wet and muddy and even the others struggled a bit on this. At the top we met up and headed back down the main road to the carpark where we had a quick chat. The others congratulated me on a tough, challenging route, just over 5 miles and 800ft of climbing that takes in pretty much everything you could imagine.

I got home and felt relived but proud too. I had pushed myself to my limits and done the very best I could on the day. My Achilles had more than held up and I feel that my injury worries are behind me. A massive thanks to my fellow QRC runners who came with me for supporting me and waiting for me. They helped me push myself harder and further than I would have done on my own. I did say to them that I felt bad for holding them up and that if they wanted to drop me from the group I would understand. However they wouldn’t have any of it and said I was welcome to come along again. I’m really looking forward to the next run as they will help me push myself more and get out of my comfort zone. Well done everyone who came on the run.

And hopefully I will think twice before I open my big mouth again!

 


I’m starting to write this piece about my experience at the John Carr 5k, the day after the final race, but won’t finish it till later, but it has been such a great experience for me as an introduction to road racing and running competitively that I felt compelled to write about my experience as a first time racer at the age of 47.

I decided to enter the series because my times at the parkruns had started to come down quite dramatically from 45+ minutes to 33 minutes 15 seconds. Spurred on by this improvement I began to think about entering a race and was told about the John Carr 5k series which is held every May on the first three Wednesdays in the month in honour of a runner who died at the age of 30.

The races are held on land owned by Yorkshire Water and the course is fairly flat and fast which makes it appeal to runners of all abilities as the potential is there to set a Personal Best for the 5k and you have three attempts at it too. Add in the reward of a free beer at the end if you enter all three races and you can see the appeal of the series!

Once I had entered the series I decided that I wanted to break the 30 minute barrier at the final race. Whilst for many people 30 minutes is very achievable, for me it was a challenge. In addition to my improvement in running was a massive weight loss going from 18st 3lbs to 15st 10lbs. Whilst this was still quite heavy I was interested to see if my weight loss would also contribute to a new PB and hopefully one under 30 minutes.

The day of the first race came and I was in a mess to be honest. It was held on the first Monday after the bank holiday and stupidly I had decided to do a 7 mile run on the Sunday to collect my car from a golf club and a 7 mile walk around the hills near me on the Monday. This turned out to be a very bad idea. On the Tuesday my hamstrings were reminding me they were there by aching. This made me worried that my performance would be compromised and I would not be able to run at my best. In addition my left Achilles was aching once again, an old injury from many years back, so I approached the first race poorly prepared and with my legs aching.

As it turned out my fears were unfounded and I plodded round the course with the only memory being when I was told to turn right at the end of a short straight and saw the other runners all going at speed down the other side. I assumed it was a short straight only to turn round the corner and be confronted by a long, long straight! All the other runners where going a lot faster than I realised and I was a lot slower than I thought I was!

Near the end of the race is a 4k marker and a drop back down into Esholt. I decided to put a sprint on and managed it for a short while but then gave up, just stopped going at pace and as a consequence I was passed by at least two other runners from memory if not more. I made a vow there and then never to give up near the end of a race and to give it my all. No more giving up near the end, go for it and give it my absolute best. I finished in a time of 31:37, a new PB for me but it didn’t seem worth celebrating, didn’t feel like an achievement for some reason.

The next day my left Achilles was in pain, a lot of pain and I was having difficulty walking so I decided to give my Thursday night club meeting a miss and see how I was on Saturday for the parkrun. Saturday came and my Achilles was still in agony but I decided to do the parkrun anyway. At the parkrun I tried to warm up but I was in a lot of pain and decided not to risk running 5k that day.

At the parkrun however was a guy called Peter May who I had heard about as he is one of the more elite runners at my club Queensbury Running Club and a sports massager too. I had a word with Peter about my injury and booked an appointment to see him the following week. During this week I did no running or walking and it was a very, very difficult week because of this. I never realised before how much I would miss running and not being able to get out in the fresh air and feel free.

So the following week I went to see Peter and this is very relevant to the rest of my story. Peter asked me what was wrong and I told him, left Achilles, what shoes do you wear, support shoes. Wrong shoes, wrong problem. It turns out my problem was really bad tightness in my right calve and I needed neutral, cushioned shoes. For 20+ years I had believed I had the wrong injury and I was wearing the wrong shoes.

Peter sorted me out and gave me very good advice on how to prevent my injury getting any worse. I immediately went down to town and bought a cheap pair of neutral cushioned shoes for the next race. Wearing them was a revelation. My feet felt lighter and had more movement, I felt like I could run.

On the day of the second race I was looking forward to it excitedly. I decided to wear my old support shoes for the race simply because I had not run yet in my new ones. This time I got there early and proceeded to warm up doing around 1.5 miles. My legs felt good, still aching but a lot more movement and flexibility in them. Off I went at the start and my legs felt like lead. I went 100 yards and wanted to stop. My Achilles was killing me. My legs felt like lead, I didn’t feel like running at all.

But then something in mind clicked and I decided to see how I felt after a mile. The first mile went by and I was running at a good pace so decided to do another mile. After the second mile I was still going at a good pace so decided to keep going. My pace slowed over the last mile but I had enough left to kick for the finishing line and this time I did not give up. I went for it, giving it my all and crossed the line in a breathless and slightly dizzy 31:06. Another PB but still way off my target of sub 30 minutes.

I was in pain though. My neck was aching, I had a headache and I was struggling to catch my breath too. This was all too apparent to a good friend of mine who tried to talk to me but only got a load of incoherent nonsense and after quickly making their excuses I was left to try and work out where I was and how to get home!

But this week was different to the week before. This week I went to my Thursday night running club and I went out on my own. Running felt different, it felt fluid and natural, it felt right. I was doing non-stop runs and most importantly for me running up hills, something I had not done before. Mentally and physically I had changed for the better and my running was proof of this.

On the day of the third and final race I had another session with Peter and my legs felt better than ever. I had been running in the cheap shoes but felt far more comfortable in these than in the expensive support ones which felt like a pair of hiking boots in comparison. I was starting to believe I could go under the magic 30 minute barrier.

I got to the race in plenty of time and proceeded to warm up. My legs felt good but I was also aware of not overdoing things and leaving something in the tank for the race. And then there I was once again at the start line, ready to go for the third and final time this year. I set off and once again 100 yards in my legs felt like lead and I felt like stopping. I remember wondering to myself whether I should just stop there and then and go home.

But I didn’t. I carried on and my running freed up, I was moving smoothly, I felt good. The first mile went past in under 9 minutes, very fast for me, but I was enjoying myself. I saw people in front of me and I moved out and passed them and they didn’t come back at me. This was a new feeling, I was passing people and moving away from them. This felt good.

And this continued into the second mile too. This feeling of running and not just going through the motions was still here and I was enjoying it. after two miles my watch said just over 18 minutes. It was now I realised that my dream of a sub 30 minute 5k was on. All I had to do was keep going and believe.

Inevitably I slowed up, my watch showing my pace at 10:30 minutes a mile. But I knew I could still do it so I dug deep and kept going. I remember thinking if I didn’t do it today I would have to wait a year and that was something I was not prepared to do.

Back up over the start  line and I could see the village of Esholt coming into view. I knew the finish line wasn’t far away and put a bit more pace into my run. Downhill into the village and seemingly the roads were lined with people cheering for me, ‘keep going’, ‘you’re doing great’, ‘you can do it’, everything just a blur.

And my mind was blank, nothing there at all, no thoughts just a deep intense concentration, focusing on not just finishing but on breaking the 30 minute barrier. And then it was over. I had finished. I ran for the nearest wall in order to try and get some air into my lungs. I was gasping for air but had to queue with everybody else in order to register my time. And I looked at my watch and it said 29:26. According to my watch I had done it, I had broken the 30 minute barrier and achieved my dream. But would the organisers find 30 seconds from somewhere and take everything away from me? I didn’t dare celebrate just yet, although I told friends what my time was. I was sure something would go wrong somewhere and my dream would remain just that.

In the bar I stood with my friends waiting for the official results to come out, still thinking I was dreaming, still trying to get my breath back and return to reality. And then the results were out and I looked for my name and there it was officially in black and white, Andrew Smith 29:26. I had done it, I had done what I set out to achieve and I had proved to myself that I can achieve so much more when I want to.

But I didn’t feel like celebrating. I was so tired, in a sporting sense this was the hardest I had ever worked physically and mentally to achieve a goal, a dream. But I did it and went home to a nice glass of red wine to relax and unwind with feeling satisfied and feeling like a runner for the first time ever in my life.