I’ve mentioned before how sometimes everything just clicks on a run and it feels great, and I was lucky enough to have that on Sunday. It was so good in fact I started writing this blog in my head before I’d even finished!
On Saturday I had down some speed work of 4 cut-down miles. Starting at 8 minute pace I tried to increase my speed by forty seconds each subsequent mile, to finish with a storming 6 minute mile. I think I might have had one beer too many the night before (literally one. I only had two beers, but on an empty stomach and being a light weight it went straight to my empty head). So I was feeling a little rough when I woke up. I decided to go for it though as I hadn’t done any fast running for a while. I gave myself a stiff talking to as I left the house, telling myself to get on with it and stop moaning and enjoy the chance to run fast.
I managed to just about get the times I wanted for the first few miles, but for the last I could only manage 6:11. Slightly annoying but still pretty quick, for me at least!, and I was pleased I kept going that last mile. It was hurting and I knew I wasn’t going to hit the target time, with a painful last third of a mile still to go, but kept trying. I was glad I did it but I was a mess when I finished with sore legs, soaked through with the rain and generally feeling a bit sorry for myself. The run could safely be filed under ‘bleurgh’.
After a hearty breakfast however, and with the sun out, me and Claire had a lovely time at the Will Adams Festival – where Japanese culture and Tudor history come together to commemorate Will Adams, who was born in Gillingham in the mid-1500s and was one of the first foreigners to visit Japan (and become an honorary Samurai no less). We tried some origami, got our names written in Japanese, learned how to play Go, saw some guys (pretend to) fight with swords, listened to an old guy tell a rambling story and got our portraits done manga-style. And all for free! Medway council really is good at putting on free events.
After that we had the honour of meeting Sterling, who Claire’s Dad Tony is looking after at the moment, a very lovely Golden Retriever. He’s an absolutely fantastic dog, who even makes stealing slippers look cute. We got to walk him for a bit, have a play and he even let us hang round and watch TV with him for a bit. Lovely lad.
But sorry, I digress; we were talking about running!
On Sunday I went out on a long run and felt like a completely different runner from the day before. My legs felt strong, my breathing was easy and I had a rhythm that I never seemed to fall out of (even going and up and down the hills of Medway). I’ve spoken before about those moments in a run when you feel completely in sync and you’re gliding along, completely in control. Well that feeling lasted for most of this run, over an hour and a half, and I’m not entirely sure why.
It might have been I’m more rested after a busy few weeks. It might have been the playlist I listened too; it had all my power songs on it and made me feel pretty pumped up (we are talking full goose bumps people). It might have been the absence of a hangover. Or that I made a special effort to be hydrated long before I left the house, so I wasn’t running with a load of liquid sloshing around inside me. It might have been my magic Red Bull buff. Whatever caused it, I liked it!
I ran a fairly standard route for me, through the Universities at Medway Campus, up and down Dock Hill and through Chatham Bus Station to the back of Rochester and the Riverside park. I started fairly gently as I was running at MAF, as I do for most of my runs. MAF being Maximum Aerobic Function; the fastest I can run using just my aerobic system, which for me is around about 153 BPM. Most of my training runs are therefore at a gentle-ish pace and I save the fast stuff for races and the occasional speed session (as on Saturday). I found this has really improved my endurance and has made increasing my mileage much easier on my body, although its a little more time consuming as runs take that little bit longer at a slower pace.
When I first stared it was really difficult to keep to the target heart rate and even a little hill would send it flying up and any kind of distance made my heart rate increase mile on mile, so I had to really slow down towards the end. But in the last few months my MAF pace had gone from a trundling mid-9 minute mile pace, down to low 8 minute pace (and with a much reduced increase in heart rate later in runs). It seems to be doing the trick and I’ve set PBs at all the distances I have raced at over the last few months, and even over the mile in training. (For much better descriptions of the MAF method visit philmaffetone.com or another site by runner Floris Gierman, flotography.com)
Post-marathon however my MAF pace had gone back up to about 9 minutes a mile again, mostly I think from fatigue and my body trying to repair itself. On Sunday however, despite my run on Saturday, I was down to an average of 8:22 pace over 12 miles. This isn’t fast I know but for me, at MAF pace, was as fast as I have ever run, especially over that far a distance. What was particularly pleasing was I was able to keep the pace up towards the end of the run and that included going up and back over Dock Hill, which is quite a climb. (I just hope the Heart rate monitor in my Garmin wasn’t lying to me…)
But the best bit was unrelated to the numbers, which I can get hung up on some times. It was most definitely the feeling; my legs were strong, my breathing relaxed and the pace seemed effortless. I just let my legs do their thing, whilst I was free to float off thinking about whatever took my fancy, take in the sights that I went past and enjoy the music I had on. I had a little pit stop at Rochester’s coach park at the end of the out lap, to use the loo and wash off the energy gel that had party exploded on me (nothing in line can be perfect). I was worried that would break the spell. After getting going again however, and saying a cheery ‘Mornin’ to the chaps working on the new station at Rochester, I was back on it and in the ‘zone’.
I only had the one gel with me and didn’t take a bottle as I wanted to run unencumbered and it seemed to work. I also only had on shorts and t-shirt, with my magic Red Bull buff earned at the Red Bull Wings for Life run, so I was a bit nippy to start but after a while I was on the right side of cool and running was keeping me warm enough. I was enjoying myself so much that on the way back I decided to tack on some extra miles by going round St Mary’s Island, and do 12 instead of the planned 8/9 miles. Even then my heart rate played ball, and I didn’t need to keep checking myself to bring my heart rate back to the right level.
As I finished, after another little extra block near our house, I was very pleased with the numbers on my watch. My playlist (everything from Muse, Gary Clarke Jr to Daft Punk) had finished so I had gone to the Royal Blood to keep the adrenaline going. It worked a little too well, as when I finished I was still amped up (partly as I finished on a downhill. They always make you feel that bit quicker than you are don’t they? Some hills sorts that right out).
After a little warm down stroll and with Royal Blood still pounding in my ears I decided to give it the beans on a fast 400m to finish the day’s adventures. I went hurling off along Pier Road but about 200m in I remembered that it has a hill at the end of it! Discretion being the better part of valour, I balked at the challenge and whipped about and ran back the way I came. The couple trying to quietly walk along while this happened looked terrified as this lunatic (me) flew past as if wanted for murder, and then raced past going in the other direction even faster like he had been spotted by the police. It was worth it though; I was knackered out finally and I had a 400m PB, well according to Strava (the tracking looks a little out though, so taking that with a pinch of salt).
It was a great run though – it wasn’t particularly fast compared to some (even the tacked on 400m) but it was everything I wanted. I felt better, buzzing in fact, when I finished and enjoyed it all the way round. It felt like a privilege being out in the world. Even better when I got home, Claire was there and I got to watch Mo win the Great North Run. You can’t ask more from a Sunday morning really. Not sure if I will enjoy a run as much again soon, so I will saviour this one, repeat the bits that worked well and try and remember it when it all goes tits up next time…
Thanks for reading, Adam 🙂