I felt my training was going ok, the transition to the new running style was feeling more natural and I was enjoying feeling lighter on my feet as I ran, so encouraged by my improved time at the Trotters 5 miler I decided to enter the Wigan 5k. I ran this race last year and was delighted when I finished in what I thought was an incredible 19.28, only to find out that the organisers had got the course wrong and it was around 200m or so short so my PB wasn’t valid! Distance error aside I really enjoyed the run, its well organised and is one of three races on the day the others being a half marathon and then also a 1 mile family fun run. The course is run mostly on closed roads along with some tarmac paths around a park, so there is very little bunching once you get past the start line. The first half is a gentle downhill to a turning point where you promptly head up the hill you’ve just enjoyed running down, before a short tour of the park just before the finish.
My race preparations last year were hampered by a 7 day stomach bug the week before the race and this year I found my self suffering from a nasty little head cold so when the snow began to fall on Saturday evening, truth be told, I would have been happy if the race got cancelled. I awoke Sunday morning to the news that the organisers had decided to cancel the half marathon but the 5K was still on. After a bowl of Rice Krispies (my pre race breakfast of choice) and wrapped up warm, as it was -2 with a biting wind, I set off for Wigan and mentally set my objectives as firstly to bag 20 points for the championship, secondly run sub 19.56 for a new 5k PB and finally try and finish 1st V55.
I arrived in plenty of time (I just hate being late) and went for a walk to check the course and get a feel for the conditions – they were absolutely fine hardly any snow and no ice to be seen anywhere – and I bumped into to Coach Ian and his wife, Debi, as Debi was also running today. As we had plenty of time and it was freezing we went for a pre-race coffee in Caffe Nero, before meeting the other club mates, Neal and Chris, who were also running.
After a brief warm up I headed on down to the start area with everyone else, eager to get going before we got too cold. The announcements were thankfully brief, the most important one being a slight course change (it was a straight out and back route now) due the weather and confirmation that it had been remeasured to make sure it was 5k this time! Then we were off.
The early part of the race went really well, I was feeling comfortable and as we passed the 2k marker I checked my watch to see I was 15 seconds or so ahead of my PB time. However as you can see from the splits above as I turned at the halfway point, I seemed to lose my momentum. The return section was uphill but also a lot of it was into the biting wind. I’m not sure if it was the conditions, a result of my head cold from earlier in the week but I lost a lot of time coming back and finished in 20.30, a disappointing 35 seconds outside of my PB on a relatively flat course. I was exhausted at the end and had nothing left to give so I know it wasn’t due to a lack of effort on my part but nonetheless I was pretty p***ed off with my time. Neal, Chris and Debi all ran fantastically well and posted new PB’s, which compounded my frustration as clearly the course was a good one for getting a PB on.
My frustration and disappointment with my performance became secondary as I realised that both my ankles were very sore and by the time I got home I was struggling to walk on the right one – had I pushed my body too far too soon trying to run a fast 5k, just 13 weeks after transitioning my running style. At this point my head filled with a raft of negative thoughts and emotion and I found my self questioning everything I was trying to do.
On reflection my time, whilst looking like I was a full minute slower than last year, was actually the same average pace of 4.06 minutes per Km, however on the RunBritain rankings website it was my worse performance against expectation for 4 years. That said I did finish in the top 5% so gained maximum championship points and was 3rd V55. So not all bad, but definitely not great. My main concern was the pain in my ankles, was this an indication that the transition in my running style was being attempted to fast, or even not for me at all and what did it mean for the next few months of my running and my goals for the year.
I’ve booked in to see my physio, Paula, to get my ankle checked out and get some advice on what I can and shouldn’t do. I’ve also been reading about how others have found making the transition to their running style to see what I can learn from them. My conclusion is that I am trying to do too much too soon especially in terms of increasing my pace. One of the articles I read described making the transition in style as being like learning a new sport, so that means small changes gradually building up both the distance I run and the pace I run at. This means that I will almost certainly postpone attempting a marathon until next year and also delay doing a half marathon until the autumn.
My focus now will be to build up my distance in the new style at a steady pace of around 5 minutes per km until I can manage around 75 minutes, and after that start to introduce some speed work to increase my pace.