Saturday, 14 July 2012

Thank heavens for baby robins

How does that saying go? It never rains but it pours? This week, it seems to apply both actually and metaphorically.

Whilst Eastbourne parkrun itself was run in dry weather today (it always seems to be a warm, muggy, sunny/cloudy combo), the course had been hit by the most heaviest of heaven-opening, overnight showers. Standing water lapped gently on the grass in the start-finish straight.

It was almost mini-me triathlon conditions and had I brought me some wheels, I could easily  have undertaken a one mile paddle, a one mile pootle and a one mile pedal on my tricycle (stabilisers not required).

Alas, as I had not brought my striped woollen bathing costume, or my tricycle elbow pads, I was going to have to run (and I use that term very loosely) the whole way.

Last week was, of course, my personal worst time of 25:47, some 3 minutes off my usual 5k pace. That was my benchmark to beat for today.

But, there were other aims today too.

On the must-listen parkrunshow podcast (Epsiode 44), the most refined and, I believe, only pregnant member of the presentation team, Nicola Forwood, recounted how she came across a baby robin at her local parkrun last week.

A baby robin! Could there be anything cuter in the world? Perhaps there is, but would you find it at your local parkrun? I couldn’t let Nicola have ALL the fun, so I made it a mission to not only beat least weeks’ time, so as to start heading back in the right direction pace-wise, but to ensure I also spotted a baby robin on the way round.

So, what are the chances of spotting two of them? Oh yes, TWO baby robins…

We set off at 9:00am prompt.

Last week I covered mile one in a predetermined 8:30. This week I was aiming for 8:25 - that should be more than comfortable enough for me, even accounting for the extra-high knee lift required through all the splish-splosh.

We trotted on our way, splashing through the standing water on the grass. I felt good, my pace felt comparable to last week and all seemed well so far.

And then, baby robin number one appeared. I encountered this one after about 600 yards. I heard it more than I saw it, but, as I ran past, mummy robin came to placate it by stuffing something in its mouth:

With much excitement, I continued my journey, picking off a couple of runners. I gave a big grin and a thumbs-up to the guys at the start/finish as we ran past it for the first time and headed off into the distance.

Mile one completed 
 - 8:25. Spot on.

How was I feeling compared to last week? Still bloody knackered, but I’ll plough on regardless.

Into the second mile and I sensed my pace  was slipping. I tried to concentrate, to loosen up as best I could, to concentrate on my form and relax. Result - I felt like I got even slower. I could barely lift my feet off the ground.

But, this lifeless form was suddenly brought to life by baby robin number two. I smelt this one, before I saw him and I think mummy and daddy robin might have a bit of cleaning up to do:

Robin encounters for the day over, I struggled on. 
 Through the second mile marker in 8:25 - exactly the same as the first mile. Well, I was running consistently, if nothing else and even though I felt like I was slowing, the evidence disproved it.

There were a couple of guys ahead of me and I knew I could out-sprint them in the run to the line, so I tried to pick up the pace as best I could and hold with them.
  With half a mile to go, they were winding it up and I found I couldn’t go with them this time. They slowly pulled away as I pushed to try and keep up.

Into the home straight. Here comes my trademark sprint.

Yep…. here it comes….. 
 in a moment….  it should be coming just about now…… where the heck is it?…… come on, sprint man…… SPRINT!!!…… not today?....... no?.......... oh well.

There was no sprint finish to be found….. anywhere!

I stumbled through the chute, grabbed my token and fell to floor, an exhausted wreck. I thought to myself that I should have beaten my personal worst time from last week. Anything better than 25:45 would do…… just something to show I’m heading back in the right direction.

I had to double take at my watch.

26 minutes and 29 seconds. Final mile split of 8:36 - my slowest of the three. Final time almost a whole minute slower again than last week. A new personal worst and now a whole three minutes behind my personal best pace of 6 weeks ago.

I have no explanation, no answers, no rhyme and no reason.

It’s mildly frustrating, but the most important thing for me to understand is that whilst my performances are going backwards very quickly, at least I am still able to go out there and run - and enjoy the feeling of pain and exhaustion for 23-26 agonising minutes. 

That really is the most important thing. Well that
  - and the existence of baby robins.

This is what a baby robin really looks like. Cute? I'll leave that up to you...


ps - more blog entries available and please do share/retweet if you want to spread the parkrun love. I don't come up with this literary rubbish just for my benefit you know...

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