Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Successful Season draws to a Close

I'm just 3 days into my annual week-long end-of-season break, and already I'm itching to get back into training. 

The season ended with another season best at the Alexander Stadium on Saturday evening, as I  ran under 11 minutes for the 3,000m steeplechase for the first time since June 2004.  At the time it didn't seem like a very big deal. Truth be told, I was a little disappointed not to run a personal best.  I didn't feel particularly sharp, and I know that my hurdling wasn't as fluid as it's been all season.  Some hours later though I realised what I've achieved this season.  I'm not world class by any stretch of the imagination, but after seven years of struggling to get back to fitness, I'm finally running the sort of times that I did when I was 25.  The only bad race I ran all season was the 400m hurdles race that I tried to squeeze between two steeplechases two weekends ago.  I feel like I belong on the starting line now, and I'm really enjoying racing.  And I've managed it despite the anemia, dog bite, and other little injuries, and the moving home and job.  My 91st place finish at the Northern Cross Country Championships in January seems like a lifetime ago.  In fact it feels like a different person.  I'm glad I didn't quit that day.

Before I get too carried away, I realise that my PB in the steeplechase is quite a weak one and was ran in a race where I ran the first half way too fast.  I am by no means world class.  But I know that I am getting into the sort of shape that I can do myself and my talent justice, and hopefully next season I can set a personal best that is a true reflection of my ability.  Right now I feel that nothing would give me greater pleasure.

This blog was never intended to be about my training.  But part of the reason for me quitting work last year was to get back into my running, and hopefully those who have been following my blogs for the past year and a half (how can it be that long?), will appreciate what this means to me.  I like to refer to it as 'sharing the joy'; you may have your own opinion.

So where to from here?  Well I have a week off work next week, so I will be updating the website, adding some blogs for those interested in running, and making plans for the months ahead.  Then I will hopefully getting my annual leave request for next year signed off, every minute of which will involve altitude training, with a view to getting the research for the book done and dusted.  And that means that soon Egan's Adventures will be all about my travels again, just as it was born to be.

And best of all, I get back into training next week.  First up for the new season will be a half marathon.  I can't wait!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Two Chases, Two Days, Two Season's Bests

A promising start to the season, as reported in my last post, was followed by a Division 3 record for the 2,000m steeplechase at the first UK Women's League Match. I then ran some training PBs around Metchley during a session in Birmingham. I couldn't have been more optimistic about what the season ahead would hold.

Nothing ever goes to plan though, and since then I have missed some training through adjusting to life in London, pulled stomach muscles, a dead leg from running into a bollard, and a bruised knee cap from walking into the shower door. Additionally, blood tests revealed that while my haemoglobin levels have returned to normal, my ferritin levels (iron stores) are still very low. It was with considerable apprehension, therefore, that I went into one of the most challenging racing weekends of my life. I'm not averse to doing a few events in the same day, nor am I scared of racing two days in a row, but normally I can't walk for two days after doing a steeplechase. Last weekend I was attempting to do two in two days!

I left my house in East London at 5:30 on Saturday morning to fly to Dublin for the Irish Championships. There was four of us entered in the 3,000m steeplechase, and I was determined not to be the first person to do this race at the Irish Championships and not win a medal. I won bronze in 2008 and 2010, but on both occasions I was also last in the race.

I went out conservatively, and was sitting at the back of the field for the first few laps. At about halfway I realised that the gap between second and myself wasn't getting any bigger, and I soon realised that silver could be mine. I felt really strong for the last kilometre, and had a massive smile on my face as I raced down the home straight, knowing that this time round I actually deserved my national medal.

Last year as I stood on the podium I was close to tears. I knew that that I'd thrown away a national title. This time round I couldn't have been happier with my silver medal. It wasn't just atonement for last year, it made up for all the frustrations that I've experienced over the last seven years. I've had lots of highs and lows around Morton Stadium, but I don't think I've ever felt so satisfied on a warm down at this venue.

And then I saw the time! I knew that I'd ran faster than last year, but I couldn't believe that I'd ran 11:02.39. Not only is that the fastest time I've ran since 26th June 2004, but it's the 4th quickest time I'd ever done. My seven year old PB is now only 12 seconds away.

I quickly gathered my belongings, and made for the airport, and a short time later I was on my way to Liverpool. Sunday was going to be a whole new day, and two more races lay ahead of me.

With a pair of very heavy legs, I laboured around the 400m hurdles, and gratefully gathered the 3 points on offer. This was going to be a very long day!

At the previous two matches I had easily won the 2,000m steeplechase, and my current league record stood at 7:22.3, which, as I calculated at 7am that morning, isn't even as fast as 2k of my 3k chase from yesterday. If my legs would only just hold up, I could be on for something special here. Just before the race, I really got up for it, and though a little scared that my legs may let me down, was ready to try and break the record again.

I quickly got a bit of a lead, but 2 laps in realised that it wasn't getting any bigger. With just over two laps to go, somebody came past. Though I knew we were both well on schedule to smash the record, I knew that I would have to win the race to take the record into 2012. I tried as hard as I could to hold on, and did some of the best waterjumps that I've ever done, but alas it was not to be. My time of 7:14.3 would have knocked eight seconds from the record, and again it was the fastest time I've ran for the distance in seven years, but unfortunately on the day it just wasn't good enough. Cathy Ansell ran 7:12.1, to add to the 1500m, and 3000m wins that she had collected earlier in the day.

Despite the slightly bittersweet end to the weekend, I can't but be happy. For seven years I've struggled to find any sort of form, or get any sort of consistency in training. At times, I felt a little self conscious calling myself an athlete. But those times are behind me now, and someday soon I'm sure that I'll be able to say that I am faster in my thirties than I was in my twenties.

Now I just need the muscle sorness to die down a bit, so that I can crack on with training for the next challenge.