Tuesday 21 April 2015

2nd attempt at Sub 20

While Adrian was trying (and failing) at a sub 20 attempt, I found myself running in the extremely difficult, but picturesque Ashton Court parkrun. 2.5km uphill, turn around, 2.5km downhill. One of the good points of a simplistic course like that, is that it makes for interesting split times: a glance of the stopwatch at halfway revealed I’d taken 13.20 to get to the top of the hill. My finishing time? 23.16. 

So with that knowledge, it should be immediately clear to the reader that I had abandoned much hope of winning this bet long ago. Bar some long term injury, or horrific mid-race attack involving a dangerous escapee from London Zoo, both my competitors were too far ahead for me to ever mount a competitive challenge. I could point to my prolonged absence from exercise as an excuse, and there is some truth in that (in the parkrun directly before my operation I was only 20 seconds behind Adrian), but that only tells a small part of the story. In truth, Adrian’s dedication had been his biggest asset; probably putting in more effort than Tommy and I put together. He deserved to win the pot for that alone. 

In addition, he’d conducted himself with good grace (with the exception of his shenanigans at Peckham). I’ll admit to being disappointed when I saw he had missed the mark by just 10 seconds. 

So it was with some excitement that I joined him on the start line of Fulham Palace parkun. Adrian was planning another assault on the sub 20 barrier, and had extended this invite to Tommy and I. 

Both of us had accepted, but Tommy admitted to “being nervous that Adrian was going to win the pot all week.” So sure was he that he’d brought along a mini bottle of Prosecco as a surprise to celebrate Adrian’s achievement. 

There was a reason he chose that particular venue. That corner of west London is particularly flat, and rumour had it that the course is fast.  

The rumours are true.

I kept on Adrian's heels for as long as I could (roughly 1km) but eventually I had to surrender ground and run my own race.

So the second attempt at a sub 20 time was well underway, and Adrian had settled into his pace.  Infact that is incorrect: Adrian had settled into a pace he couldn't maintain.  I crossed the line to see him lying breathless in the morning sun.  "I detonated" he exclaimed, pointing to his time of 20.10.  

So that was that...Except it wasn't.

Next to Adrian was an even more breathless Tommy.  It turns out that the threat of Adrian winning was enough to spur him on to an outstanding performance, surprising everyone with a stellar time of 19.40.

Tommy hadn't so much broken the 20 minute barrier, but had flamboyantly smashed it into pieces, and rebuilt it in his own form.

Tommy celebrating in front of some bags...obviously

So after exactly 40 weeks the pot is won, in a most surprising fashion.  Or maybe it's not surprising...Tommy was the fastest when we started the bet.  Perhaps, after all this we've learnt nothing?

'Champagne' celebration

I'm being flippant of course.  I can only speak personally, but the past 40 weeks have changed the way I think about my health, from how much exercise I do, to what I eat.  I thought I was in reasonable shape before; it turns out I was wrong

Now, the question moves on to 'What next?'  All three of us have decided it's easier (and more inspiring), to think of a new challenge rather than cancel the direct debit.

This Friday, we take to the pub to discuss how we can structure our new challenge.  All ideas welcome.

The sun doesn't set on #RoadtoSub20, like all amateur athletes, we just move on to the next target.

The #RoadtoSub20 athletes, with a couple of partners.  All except Adrian ran a PB

Friday 17 April 2015

1st attempt at Sub 20

When this bet was made back in July 2014 a part of me thought that one, if not all of us would probably knock this milestone off within a few months.  How hard could it be to shave 2-3 minutes off our 5k time?  It seems my optimism was misplaced as we find ourselves in April with still no real assault on our goal.  This was all about to change.

On the eve of parkrun day I declared to Twitter that I would be making my first attempt to run a 19 minute something seconds 5k.  The plan was to run at Burgess parkrun on Saturday 4th April, a course recommended to me by Neil, one of my Kent AC running buddies (Who incidentally writes a great blog on running history here).  Burgess parkrun is flat, very flat indeed, so it really lends itself to quick times.

To avoid public humiliation I had to go quick given that it was out there on social media.  I was sure that a shoot and a miss would be forgiven but if I detonated and missed by a long way, any ridicule would be deserved.  So what do you do when you're PB hunting? You follow the routine.  This consists of the following steps:

  • Avoid all alcohol
  • Keep hydrated
  • Sleep well (If the child will allow it)
  • Get up at 7:00am
  • Eat cereal & drink tea
  • Stretch well
  • Don't be late
I stuck to the routine and toed the start line raring to go.  I was conscious not to get stuck at any pinch points so set off fast.  I carried this speed through the first mile and was surprised to see that I'd covered it 6'01".  The pace I was aiming for was 6'26" minute miles so I knew I'd done too much, too soon.  This became very apparent on the next mile where I barely managed to keep it under 7 minutes.  As I came to the finish straight, about 400m on this particular course, I tried to up the pace again but I had nothing left.  It was all I could do to stumble across the line, no sprint finish in sight.

The time stared back at me.  I'd missed my mark by 10 seconds.  I'd assumed I'd feel disappointed should I fail my first attempt at Sub 20, but I didn't.  Instead I felt pleased that I'd been so close and that there were still improvements to make.

Next on the hit list is Fulham Palace parkrun, another fast flat course.  The three of us are heading there tomorrow for a showdown. The routine will be implemented.  Will the bet be over or will we have to wait?