Trailblazing: Changing up a gear

7 weeks until Keswick and counting. Positively back into my usual stride and with two, two hour slow trail runs under my belt and my mileage for this month around the 45 mile mark, I feel comfortable that I can (at the very least) get around the 14 mile course in a half decent time. So I have taken it upon myself, this week, to begin to focus on pace. Pace has always been a word I prefer to avoid as I have always believed that it’s the taking part that counts and not the winning.

Well, that no longer applies. I am under no illusion that I can win this trail race – I’m just not fast enough for that, but if I can place well within the top half (maybe even the top quarter) then I would be very, very happy.So tonight, on my first run of week 5 I chose to run my 50ish minutes at my perceived half marathon pace – which is around 5:30mins/kilometre. This shouldn’t be an issue, my usual short runs are normally somewhere between 5 and 5:20 per KM and my slow runs are 6min/KM +. Turns out I was wrong, keeping pace was a bit of an issue, not because I couldn’t run fast enough but because I couldn’t run slow enough…

I picked a nice, familiar, flat route with a nice mix of trail paths and pavement, fired up the watch and headed off. This route always starts downhill slightly which means it is easy to get up to speed quickly. I nailed the first K in 4:50 which was too fast, but I have found the first split is a little unpredictable and not a true reflection on pace/effort since one goes from a standing start – true I am not usually a good 40 seconds faster than my target pace but the battery needs charging so my watch is playing silly-buggers. Naturally I did what any runner would do when faced with a faster pace, I put on the brakes. It took me nearly 5 kilometres to get my pace slowed down to 5:30ish. The thing is, my effort level felt about 7 and every time I slowed down, it felt like I was reducing my run to a slow walk. This, I might add is on the back of a long run of night shifts and four weeks of intense exercise.

I read in this months issue of Runners World, an article about hill work and how it can improve your running economy. uneven ground, mud & hills have been a regular in the last four weeks of training and was quite prominent before that also, so it is possible that my running economy has improved and, quite simply, I’m now able to run faster, more easily. This is, a massive relief, up until earlier this evening, I was concerned that I would not be in the best possible condition for the 22K slog around Keswick but this latest run makes my 20K’er at the end of the week less daunting and means that my only real problem with the 22K trail challenge is finding a hotel, within walking distance of the start line, that is available on Saturday 8th June… I may also need to run for 30mins on the treadmill this week, just to nail the effort level for next time.


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