As we approach the end of December, I am starting to reflect on the year that is just about to pass and think towards the one that is about to begin. With that in mind, I planned to attempt a steady ‘Double Riverbank’ (11 mile) run in something close to about 80 minutes; I still have unfulfilled (well, ‘in progress’) goals for the year, but have a race planned in less than a fortnight’s time, so must be careful not to cause myself an injury.
Last week was tough on the legs, so I was not overly surprised to feel rather tired 20 minutes into the run, and slowed down accordingly. Yet, once the wind was on my back*, I felt much more comfortable, and found myself about two miles from home with less than 60 minutes on the clock. I knew a quick time was possible, but I would have to dig in, resting only to cross the ring road on the final approach.
I was counting down in my head “if I can get to *this* point in *this* time, then *this* should be possible”. It was looking good, but I was struggling and was now looking for more opportunities to rest. My breakfast was even talking to me, but I managed to keep (most of) it down**. Fortunately, I was approaching the busy cross roads***, where momentary stops are sometimes possible. I looked around as it neared. There was definitely traffic. I would have to at least slow down. In fact all four approaches had traffic.
Just as I was about to apply the brakes, I spotted the solution. ‘Three Kettles’ was on the bike heading towards me, but turning left (that’s their left). Perfect. I would have to cross two of the four roads to get there, the ideal opportunity for some rest. “Where are you going?”, I asked, appearing to sound interested, but really wanting to know how much further I would now have to run due to the detour that I found myself on. “Just to the leisure centre” was the reply. By now, I realised I had also chosen a hill for my detour alongside a former GB athlete – not the ideal recovery.
“You’re clearly not running hard enough if you still have energy to talk” was the other reply, while increasing the effort. This is a mantra I have said to myself on many occasions. It’s somewhere close to the chapter of long running at a ‘conversational pace’, but I digress. I tried to justify it. “I’ve run *this* far in *this* time, so *this* should be possible, except I’ve now taken a detour”. But it didn’t help.
At this point, I started to question how I was going to get home. We reached the leisure centre, where 3K was headed, so I was on my own once more. I had certainly increased my effort for those two minutes, but I was tiring rapidly – and slowing down with it. I could go home through the estate, a route which I haven’t often run, so have little to compare it with. The risk of doing this was that I would jog home, which would waste much of my effort.
I thought about it for a few seconds, reached a recognisable landmark (the High School entrance) and, on the spur of the moment, turned through 180° and doubled back. It was the best way that I would be able to measure my overall performance – by adding on the detour to my mileage (as can be seen by the evidence here). And it worked. I maintained the intensity for the remainder of the run home.
Furthermore, I still arrived home more than two minutes ahead of my target time.
I know I ran reasonably well but, due to my detour, I don’t have an exact comparison. While it could be argued that the detour helped me (although I’m not sure how), the moral is to remain focussed throughout the session. It will be worth it in the end.
*see this post
**I’ve told myself on many occasions that if I deviate from porridge and marmite, I need to allow longer for it to digest, but do I listen?
***admittedly, these are not really busy cross roads but, for the small town where I was running, this is about as busy as it gets