Saturday, 9 June 2012

Successful failure: introducing the PW...

What a parkrun.

As usual, I stepped off the train and headed straight for the toilets for my 8:20 piddly-pee. As usual, the floor was slopping with water. As usual, there was some Friday night vomit just outside the door.  As usual, the whole place stank. As usual, it is the only place to go between the station and the park. (Eastbourne parkrun has no toilet facilities). As usual, I came out bemoaning the state of community amenities.

I strolled the 20 minute journey to the park, contemplating my strategy and how I might run it today. I settled on start fast, stay fast, finish fast. Oh, that’s the strategy I adopt every week. And it’s the strategy I usually fail to pull off every week.

The start was running a few minutes late owing to some car parking problems for those who drove in.  Fortunately, I come by train and then walk for 20 minutes, so I was unaffected by the huffing, puffing, sweating and swearing that was undoubtedly going on - I’d be saving those for the run!

The wind was pretty blustery, but it was by no means cold. The starter jokingly advised us that we might have the wind behind us - somewhere on the course (!) and warned us our times would need to be ratified to make sure we were not being wind-assisted! To be honest, unless someone had been eating a sprout and baked bean pie last night, I’m not sure there would have been any wind assistance today!  As a runner, I have rarely experienced a tailwind. It constantly blows at you, or across you, but never, ever behind you.

I did my pretend warm-up - jogged round for a bit,  leaned from side to side and touched my toes once. I put on my professional psych-them-out face and eyed up the beatable competition:

8 year old boy over there - yep, should be able to take him out…
93 year old lady over there - should just get by her…
Giant labradoodle - touch and go, but we’ll give it a shot …

I decided on two new tactics today.

1)   Leave my heart rate monitor off. Part of me thought the reason I keep gasping like a fish out of water after a mile was because the HRM might be constricting my chest ever so slightly. So, I experimented with it off today. I was never convinced I was going too fast, because I can generally sustain the pace - and the pain - for the entire 3.1 miles. Even though it isn’t tight (and occasionally slips down to my waist, which can be most off-putting!), I am always conscious of the strap around my chest. I thought it worth a little try.

2)   I also opted to slow down the first mile by 20 seconds or so, to see if that would help me feel a bit better later on in the run.

And what a result! Ladies and gentlemen, please join with me and celebrate a new PW.

No, not  a PB - personal best. You heard me right the first time - a new PW - a personal worst.

I ran a 24:49 - 44 seconds slower than last week; over 1min 10sec slower than my parkrun personal best and a whole 3 minutes slower than my lifetime 5km personal best (which I was running two years ago and will probably never see again).

I gave it everything I had, to the point of exhaustion -  as I do every week.  Despite slowing my first mile by about 20 seconds, by the second mile I saw my pace slipping from the usual 7:40s to 8:01, then 8:04, then 8:08. People were easing by me as I tried  to control my breathing, turn my leg speed over and keep my body form nice and straight (cue several bemused faces, who now think I was wearing a well-known pantyliner).

I managed to muster a sprint of sorts for the final 100 metres (5:06 pace) but still finished in a collapsed mess at the end gasping for air.

Once I had regained my senses, I chatted with some fellow parkrunners, who all seemed to be celebrating PBs. Damn, I couldn’t blame the swirling wind then.

No excuses - I’m just not quick enough and, in general, my 5k times are getting progressively slower and slower.  I would like to caveat that statement with the fact that I don’t undertake any formal training as such. I run one hard 5km parkrun, one long, slow or steady 10-13 miler, one intervals session (usually five or six  400m reps at 6:40-6:50 pace) and one or two slow, gentle jig-jogs in each week. On the other two or three days I rest completely or do a spot of yoga.

I am not motivated by fast times, but I am motivated by hard effort on the day. As long as I know I gave it my all, whatever the finishing time, then I am one happy runner. Today, I am still one happy runner.

I laughed so much about my shambolic performance that my belly hurt and I am definitely going to celebrate my new mark with a tasty treat for lunch.

So, please, raise your glasses and toast my worst ever parkrun performance. "To Martin.... and his rather rubbish time!"

Roll on next week, I might even surpass the 25 minute mark and we'll have to celebrate all over again...

(In the interests of achieving world blogging domination, please do share or retweet if you feel so inclined to do. Many thanks)

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Course Description - Conkers

Conkers, described by Martin Yelling as a 'hidden gem' what more do we need to say. We are not one of the biggest (or smallest) but we are a friendly parkrun family who are looked after by Andrew (event director) who is our parkrun dad even though he's younger than most of us! We're always up for a laugh and some fancy dress. Course                 
Lollipop/out and back loop
Meeting point       
Bath Yard, Moira.We meet at the car park for Conkers Waterside Centre (many tourists and first timers end up at the main Conkers Waterside Centre so take note). We're 5 minutes from J13 of the M42.
Run briefing          
This takes place in the car park before we all head for the start line together. 

The start can be tricky to hear - I take complete blame for this as it is usually because of my 'yappy dog' but I find just following the crowd works! The run begins by heading under the tunnel about 200m in. After the tunnel there is a short incline to the top of the Ennstone Trail. Going round the corner along the trail we head along the old railway track which is tree lined.

1 mile in you come to the start of the 'lollipop' and continue on at Stephen's Gate down a slight decline before taking a sharp turn up an incline (Cheeky Hill/Happy Hillock - it has many names but doesn't get easier although it's over pretty quickly). At the top of the incline we turn right and head towards the canal (known as Buck's Turn, mainly because 'Buck' didn't turn one week and dragged a load of others with him!).

When you see the canal you're halfway. There is then a half km run along the canal tow path before taking a left turn back towards Stephen's Gate. Then you head back along the trail for the run back. When you hit the tarmac you know you're nearly home. Head back up the slight incline then let your legs go for the decline after before going for it from under the tunnel to the finish line.  

From the finish line head back to the car park for registration and from that point it would be rude not to join us for a coffee in the Gallery Cafe.

Conkers is one of the only courses to have permanent markings on the course and these fit in with the theme of the National Forest. Have a look for these if you're doing a freedom run.

Fixed signage
Garmin route