This time next week after the completion of the Mazda 10km in Pretoria, I will have completed a full 12 week training cycle. Looking at what I managed to achieve, it's difficult sometimes to believe that I'm only on my second calendar year of training, and have yet to complete two full years since I laced my shoes against in June 2011. Moreover this is only my third complete training program following the 10 week Wally Hayward Half Marathon and 16 week Soweto Marathon programs last year. I squeezed in some (ill-advised) 6 weeks of Lydiard style anaerobic trainng post Soweto that was the stepping stone to the cycle coming to an end now.
In 2012 I had somewhat broad goals that would allowed me to focus on simply getting into the routine of being a runner, but in 2013 I set some very lofty and specific targets. I got a respiratory tract infection last week and then traveled down to Cape Town to support my wife doing her first Two Oceans Ultra Marathon, so weeks 10 and 11 have to put it mildly not gone according to plan. As such it is unlikely that I will meet my intermediate goal at this stage, to break 36:00 for the 10km (and 17:30 for 5km) which is part of a bigger, very stiff annual goal.
Despite being derailed slightly it is fair to say that I have taken huge steps forward as a runner. Coupled with that, I have learnt some of the virtues that will help me achieve that goal, mostly patience. Just because it's written in black and white (mostly digital actually), it doesn't simply follow that my step-by-step idealised progress will progress well idealistically! I've been brought down to earth once or twice both in racing and training, then unexpectedly made a breakthrough!
While I still have the Mazda race to come, I'm not expecting much out of it, so I think this is a good time to take stock of the first quarter of my year thus far.
Training for the most part went really well, barring s bit of ambition that had to be quelled at times, put it down to youthful exuberance! The focus has been on quality so much so that my coach has set no weekly mileage targets. I had to get in a speed session every week, a strength/hill session and an endurance run. The only session I didn't do with great regularity was the hill session and I felt it cost me at stages. My speed sessions and 15km long runs were nailed on mostly week after week. Speed was the focus. The logic was that through the marathon training I had done a fair amount of endurance and also my staple speed session before was tempo runs, but I had never really done any top end stuff. And certainly when I pulled a 64s 400m out of the bag once (before blowing up as the session progressed), and consistently ran 69s 400s to close off a set of 8x400m repeats, the speed had arrived.
How did it it translate into racing. Well I headed into the year having done 37:46 for 10km (official time was 37:34 but I'm sure the time keepers were generous), and from the McCarthy Toyota 10km race, it's been a case of whittling it down. Six 10km races thus far in 2013 have seen 5 PBs, taking my time down in sequence as follows: 37:27 (McCarthy), 37:01 (Tuks Bestmed), 36:50 (Deloitte Pretoria), 36:38 (Om Die Dam) and 36:13 (Bonitas 10km Challenge), so roughly 90s in 10 weeks. The Bonitas 10km Challenge was coastal but I can safely I have yet to feel this added benefit of low altitude However it was the Saturday after I had got the respiratory tract infection, then co-driven 18 hours to Cape Town from Johannesburg on the Thursday, and then sampled a bit too much craft beer and wine on the Friday. All in all a job well done.
I didn't much of a go on the 5km front. I did two 5km fun runs and both were unfortunately well short of the 5km distance. I did Johnson Crane at the end of January and was actually on track to run under 17:30 having got to 3km at 10:35 and after consolidating to 4km was speeding up nicely to finish but the course was around 400m short. At the Sunrise Baby Monster, I was surprised to see I had run 17:23 on a hellish 5km course but while not as short as Johnson Crane, it was about 250m off. My only other 5km time was an 18:22 at the Ebotse Parkrun, a lovely course that I feel I can run at least 17:45 on, with 60% of the route on grass.
While in the Cape, I finally got in a 8km run and have a PB at this awkward far but not quite 10km distance. I entered the Two Oceans 8km Fun Run on 29th March and even though I still wasn't quite 100% managed a surprisingly quick 29:01, good enough for 7th place. Had I not had to ask for directions entering the UCT Rugby Fields and then mistaking the first banner as the finish line, a good sub 29 was on the cards! Since getting sick and then not running as much, my knee has been niggly and I even had to cut an attempted tempo run short on the tuesday. So with that in mind, I won't even berate myself for those two lapses in concentration that cost me a 28:5x for the distance.
So where to now? In some ways these last two weeks have left me a little bit deflated in that even though I ran two great times for 10km and 8km, I haven't been training or racing for that matter at close to peak performance. After Mazda, I have entered the Slow Mag Half Marathon, the anniversary of my first half so I just had to do it! I have done some 15km and one 18km run, and I'll probably squeeze in at least 15km this coming weekend. I'm not going to put pressure on myself for a time there but I would love to break my PB, 1:25:28. I think had these last two weeks gone as planned, I would have aimed to flirt with that 1:20 mark!
Thereafter, I'm going to go for one last push at the 10km. There is a lovely 10km race in Pretoria, the Jakaranda Centre 10km that I did last year and I remember it as a flat fast route though I did it as an easy recovery run. This year it's penciled in for 11th May, so after Slow Mag, I have 4 weeks to the race and will give it one final big push, with only the Colgate 15km on 5th May which I will use as a long speed endurance run. The Jakaranda will be the one where I gun for a 35:xx time.
Then I will probably do the RAC Sweat Shop/Asics 10km the following weekend and take the remainder of May off, 2 weeks, before launching into some base training once we return from Durban where my wife will have completed her first Comrades!