Sunday 31 August 2014

Know when to hold'em, know when to fold 'em

If you have found your way to this blog through Twitter then there is every possibility that you've astutely deducted from my Twitter handle BrockleyPoker, that I’m partial to a game of poker every now and again. Poker is a beautiful game that requires strategy and guile. You manoeuvre your way around your opponents deceiving, trapping and if you’re good enough, outplaying them to win cold hard cash.

Why am I telling you about poker on a running blog you ask? Good question. I’ve played poker with Mark Isham before and he’s a sound player, he plays his strong hands well and gets rid of the rags, a winning strategy in the long term. However, when it comes the #RoadToSub20 bet that the 3 of us have entered into, Mark’s strategy has let him down. In short, he’s shown his hand too early. Let me elaborate…

Let’s be clear about this, there is more to running quickly than running quickly. To shave the required minutes and seconds from our 5k times will take a well thought out training routine. But almost more importantly, like in poker, we must manoeuvre our way around our competitors, using psychological warfare to convince them that they have the upper hand so they think that they don’t need to train.

On Saturday 23rd August, Mark and I were attending a wedding, and as has become a bit of a tradition we used this as an excuse to do a bit of parkrun tourism. Swindon was the location and Mark set off at a good pace. Historically I’ve been significantly quicker than Mark, pretty much only because I got into running a little before him, but my times were always a minute or two faster. Having caught up with him half way round the first lap I managed a breathy ‘You started fast’ to which I got a reply ‘Just trying to get round some of the traffic’, a reasonable response. As the run progressed we both settled into a rhythm and although the pace felt quick, I didn’t feel beyond my aerobic limit. Coming towards the latter part of the last lap I was thinking that Mark would be sure to tire soon, after all, how could he keep up with me when I kick home for the finish? Up the slight incline towards the end we go and finally Mark fades (Inevitable, I thought smugly), I push on towards my victory slightly disturbed by what a valiant effort Mark had made. Then ~400m to the finish line when I’ve cranked it up to maximum I hear heavy breathing and a long stride catching fast. I was astounded that Mark had so much left in the tank to kick so hard for the finish line. I had no response and had to settle for the runner up position. In the end Mark ended 5 positions and 9 seconds ahead of me.

On the car journey back to the hotel Mark reveled that for his training for the Great North Run he’d been doing interval training and long runs. Ultimately he’d adopted a properly structured training regime! The cards are well and truly on the table, Tommy and I now have a clear view of what we’re up against.

There is a small twist in the tale. I too had dabbled with interval training. I’d attended a training session with Kent AC at Ladywell Arena and plan to go weekly. I had intended to keep this information from my competitors as part of my devious strategy but Mark’s overly enthusiastic run got me thinking. Is this bet, like poker, about deceiving your competitors for financial gain or is it about spurring on your friends to a shared goal? Clearly it’s about the money. But on reflection, I am aware that others don’t have as much gamble as I do so I decided to ruin my strategy and come clean to the fact that I am taking this bet seriously and plan on putting in the work.

The #RoadToSub20 continues.

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