In sickness and in confidence

So, here we are again: the night before the morning of a real race with real people. It’s becoming quite a habit now, my ninth or possibly tenth event since I started all this malarkey. And it’s a (relatively) short, sharp burst, in keeping with the trend of races of ever-diminishing distances over the past few months, after October’s marathon, March’s half-marathon and now, the We Love Manchester 10k; my first race at this distance for over a year.

Following on from last week’s post though I can’t say I’m feeling massively confident after the final few days of training. I rattled off a nine-mile jog last Sunday with little ill-effect, and most of the week from thereon consisted of small jogs of around 3 miles just to keep things ticking over. Due to a busy work schedule, however, they have all been run early doors before heading in to work, and it’s been a real shock to the system how downright shit I can be running at that time of day.

I can probably explain a few things as to why this may be. For one, I’m rarely properly hydrated when I first wake up. When I have an evening run, I generally spend the afternoon at work sipping through a two or three pints of water, which has on multiple occasions nearly led to an unpleasant and embarrassing accident on the bus home, particularly last September when the Fallowfield students returned and added over 20 minutes to my journey every day. However, at least I am properly hydrated, and waking up in the morning, parched, then heading out for a run will obviously not be as good.

Secondly, nutrition. I won’t have eaten as well as when I head out in the evening. In fact, I’m usually starving, and chomping on a banana and then setting off running with it still sat in my stomach is also not as good as on an evening where a large breakfast, decent carb-y lunch and a few bits of fruit in the afternoon have all sailed down the hatch.

Other than that, I don’t know really. I’ve read some bits about “circadian rhythms”, where certain bodily functions vary according to the time of day, and it makes a lot of sense. I suppose I’m not quite as awake at that time of day too, and maybe my stupid limbs and organs and stuff are still half asleep while I am telling them to run, damnit, run against their wishes.

My very last training run though was a bit of a disaster, and it’s knocked my confidence a bit heading into the 10k in just over 12 hours time. The aim was for a small jog, followed by three miles at my ideal 10k pace of 6:26 per mile, and then a light jog home. Again, I aimed for an early morning effort so I could squeeze it in before work, which meant I had to get up at the preposterous time of 5:30am to ensure I had a decent breakfast in me for such a tough run. Come race day I’ll aim for a good couple of hours before the race kicks off to have my last meal, but here that wasn’t practical, so a quick munch of some muesli and a banana was the order of the day. Out I trotted, 45 minutes or so later, into the early morning drizzle hanging over South Manchester. The warm up jog felt okay, so I started the tempo section and after less than half a mile I felt a bit drained. I put it down to early morning shitness, which I think is the official term. The first mile felt like it dragged on for an age, yet I was only four seconds off my ideal pace. Even at that pace though, come race day I will miss my 40 minute target by nearly 30 seconds. The next mile was even further off, and then the third of the three was a 6:33. Still quick I suppose, but again, translate this into race pace and I will miss my target by nearly a minute.

The worst thing of all though: this final tempo run was less than half the distance I will be covering tomorrow morning. If I can’t do the pace I need to hit for even one mile, how am I going to sustain it for 6.2? It’s things like this that make me realise quite how big an achievement it was in 2009 when I finally got under 40 minutes, the one and only time, in the Great Manchester Run, coming home in 39:29. Now three years on, I cannot quite believe how I did that. I suppose last year’s performance in the Mersey Tunnel 10k gives me some hope, but it’s still going to be a tough morning I feel.

Actually, that wasn’t the worst thing of all. After I finished the third mile of the fast section, I began jogging back to my flat. I was utterly, utterly spent, which was odd in itself due to the relatively short distance, and was almost walking at one point. Waves of dizziness came over me, and as I headed onto a side street off Barlow Moor Road I had what I will politely describe as an involuntary oral release, the first time this has ever happened to me over the course of the thousands of miles I have run since I took all this nonsense up. A horrible moment, and one I hope doesn’t repeat itself come tomorrow morning.

In a way though, I suppose I might almost be slightly glad it happened, as it might explain the lack of performance over the previous few miles. Maybe I was actually a bit ill, maybe I pushed myself a bit hard for the time of day, maybe I had my breakfast too close to a heavy run. I don’t know. I can certainly do my best to avoid the latter two issues tomorrow morning, and I’ll just have to cross my fingers that the former doesn’t rear its head. I feel pretty strong right now, sat in my flat, full of pasta, Lucozade and bananas. Hopefully, this will still be the case come 10:15am tomorrow. Tune in next week to find out.

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