News - Endurance
This Section posts news relative to the Endurance section such as information regarding up and coming training weekends, reports road races and what the section does socially.
With the annual Easter trip to Newlands cancelled a group of Sale Harriers decided to venture over to the Isle of Man for the Easter running festival. Despite late cancellation of the ferry resulting in some last minute flight booking Sale had a complete men's team (Nigel Martin, Dave Marsh, Rob Flannery and Chris Donnelly) and a partial women's team (Helen Armitage, Luisa Candioli and Janneke Van Beijnum). However, due to injuries neither team survived the weekend. Dave Rich and James Walsh were also there but running for their university clubs.
Posted 30/03/2016 14:17
Sale Harriers sometimes visit the fells, but there are fell races and there are ‘fell’ races and the Don Morrison Memorial Edale Skyline race is definitely one of the latter. Even with perfect weather (a treat for this edition that has been famously absent in previous runnings) this is a beast! Officially 21.5 miles (heavily dependent on your navigating ability) and containing 4500ft of climb the route takes in the ridges around Edale including the famous peaks of Loose Hill, Mam Tor and Grindslow Knoll to name just a few. There were real fell legends here too, with Nicky Spinks (holder of the women’s Bob Graham round record) lining up at the start. And so, this is where a couple of Sale Harriers found themselves on Sunday 13th March staring into a blue sky at the peaks above, and then the race began!
In the words of Chris Donnelly "a beautiful day, nice scenery (on the odd occasion I looked up) and a testing race on challenging terrain. Underestimated massively how tricky the conditions would make the last section from Brown Knoll to Grindslow. Hard going though no thigh deep mud incidents this time."
While Chris was apparently avoiding all thigh deep mud, Andy Carlin was finding it everywhere and wearing large smears of it on his face. At one point, after tripping over a rock, he ended up buried in a snow drift. The melting snow on the peaks made the some of the paths into rivers and the rivers in to white water making for some big jumps around the ridges.
So finally it ended, with Chris Donnelly finishing in an amazing 14th place in 3:18:15 and Andy Carlin coming 34th in a hard earned 3:40:31. Both have now qualified for the event for the next 5 years so that might be enough time to recover. And in the final words of Chris Donnelly ‘it beats a flat 10k road race anyway!’
Posted 14/03/2016 19:54
Fechin Mc Cormick
What an incredible Trafford 10k. It’s certainly has the ‘Wow’ factor. The quality might even have surpassed the organiser’s Altrincham AC‘s expectations. If you weren’t a participant or spectator and haven’t already checked the results, let me tell you it was a wholly exceptional race for quality with a stellar star-studded field who converged from England’s four corners like Cardiff, Cheltenham, Aldershot, Kent, Southampton, Exmouth, Morpeth to name just a few among the 1000 starters. Aided by a perfect sunny spring morning, virtually everyone in the first 100 recorded PB’s. Winner TOM LANCASHIRE (Bolton) broke 29 minutes for the first time in the race’s history with a PB of 28:56 and he was followed across the line by an astonishing 28 who dipped under 30 minutes. This is against 7 who dipped under 30 minutes last year and 7 the previous year
Of course, Sale Harriers were also out in force and many also went home absolutely delighted or had good reason to excuse a below par performance. A record 43 finished this year. There’s been a progressive growth in recent years from 35 club finishers last year and 24 in 2014. Year on year it’s increasingly on the calendar for club members emerging from the bleak winter cold and darkness and for those bench-marking their Spring marathon training.
Almost half Sale Harriers recorded a PB, some by significant amounts and several surprised even themselves with their PB’s Following his fantastic winter on the country JAMIE RODEN (29:54) confirmed his arrival into the elite class by cracking the 30 minute barrier. M50 GARY ROWLINSON now climbs to the top of the 2016 UK age-group ranking with his PB 34.04; M65 MIKE CURLEY’s fantastic 40.43 puts him second nationally and L55 JACKIE CORDINGLEY’s 44.09 places her eleventh nationally. Sale Harriers women also won the team race with their first trio home of KATIE WHITE, SARAH DOUGLAS and ANNE CHINOY. These were just some of the ‘wows’ in a ‘wow’ race. Read on.........
Those who pushed new limits to record lifetime best performances were: -
TIM KENNEDY (33.13) He was over 75 seconds faster than last year
STEVE Mc CARRON (33.36). He was about 2 ½ minutes faster than last year
ALEX BRADFORD (33.46) Almost 2 ½ minutes faster than last year’s Salford 10k
PETER O’NEILL (35.46) He was about 30 seconds faster than last year
BRAD THORNTON (36.50): 40 seconds faster than the 2014 Trafford 10k
ALISTAIR KELL (38.14). He was 45 seconds faster than last year
SARAH DOUGLAS (38.19) Over 30 second improvement on last year GMR 10k
AIDAN RAFTERY (38.28) He was 6 seconds faster than last year
CRAIG BRADBURY (38.25) Almost 45 seconds faster than Leeds Abbey Dash 10k
STEVE PARRY (38.56) He was over three minutes\faster than last year
ANNE CHINOY (39.43): She was 2 ½ minutes faster than last year
ZOE GMEREK (40.18) Six seconds faster than last year’s Gt. Yorkshire run
DAVID CONNOLLY (40.35). An unexpected surprise PB
GARETH WEBB (40.32) He was 1 ½ minutes faster than last year
SINEAD FERGUSON (48.30) Almost a 5 minute improvement on September’s Natterjack 10k
MARINDA BREDDY (48.33) Almost 10 minute improvement on 2014’s Wirral 10k
KATE GAVIN (53.34) A 1 ¾ minute improvement on 2014’s GMR.
Posted 14/03/2016 16:18
No sooner had the cross-country season finished than members of the endurance section were back out on the roads for the Oulton Park half marathon. The distance consisted of 6 laps of the race track with each lap containing some sharp ‘bumps’! This was a successful event for Sale, with a number of people using the race as part of their marathon training and gaining success for the effort that they have been putting in. The Sale Men took the 1st Team Prize with Andrew Carlin coming 1st in the individual race, Steve Townley coming in 3rd and Chris Green finishing 16th (4th V40). See below for how all our athletes got on.
ANDREW CARLIN finished 1st in a new course record of 1:14:19 eclipsing his previous PB set at Wilmslow last year.
STEVEN TOWNLEY finished 3rd in 1:18:13 after a strong final couple of laps. He finished just outside his PB of 1:17:57.
CHRIS GREEN finished 16th (4th V40) in 1:23:57, narrowly missing his PB of 1:23:32.
TRACEY TAYLOR finished 19th in 1:40:36 setting a fantastic new PB.
SAMANTHA WHEELER finished 50th in a brilliant 1:53:54.
TIM RAINEY finished in 1:53:54. One of Sales endurance kings, Tim had run in the National XC Championships the previous day and was acting as a pacer for Sam.
ALICE SMEDLEY finished 54th in a great 1:54:59.
Posted 29/02/2016 12:56
Anti-coping - 15th January 2016
Fear not, I will end this blog on a positive note. I’m just keen to share my recent witnessing of anti-doping’s mechanics, something I didn’t expect to be so hapless and arduous.
‘Tell us where you are or we'll ban you for two years.’
Cue panic (especially considering the camp Wi-Fi is in siesta mode and I’m about to nip to town for a brew).
It’s not right for me to identify any individual or nation in this. Besides, this happens everywhere and could happen to anyone.
Perhaps I was on a Sunday Times binge last year, but what a vacant way of inspiring compliance… Fill out a form, make sure you enter an address that the system recognises, and do it all within an aggressively short timespan (but not whilst they’re carrying out system maintenance).
Then consider this: (again naming no names) a banned athlete spends a short spell at the camp but is removed within a couple of days. I can’t note their feats but they’re glittering on the world stage. How and why are they here in the first place? Surely they lost that privilege?
Of course the forms were completed and life continued as normal, but it seemed the clean are being treated with the same contempt and aggression as the dirty. It felt wrong. Who knows if I’ll ‘make it’, but if I do I hope by then it’s less of a burden than this!
Which begs the question: where is the trust? That one’s easy to answer. Within the thousands of honest athletes who enter a world of pain several times a week to improve.
So here’s a more incisive question: where is the control? Answer: there isn’t any. It’s a wild west out there and there’s a long way to go.
Offering a solution to doping was never the point of this blog, though I can say for sure that online bureaucracy won’t fix anything. Nonetheless I hope you find this snippet as interesting and shambolic as I did.
The inspiration and commitment stands firm having seen the application and detail that running peers invest at home and out here. Honest improvement is the thrill behind all of this, which leads me neatly onto my final week of training.
Saturday’s tempo and hill workout went well, the repercussions of Sunday’s mammoth were greatly reduced, and then I managed the four quickest mile reps I’ve ever ran on Monday evening. Wednesday’s long tempo gave me a chance to leave on a high note.
Sadly as we know, training never goes perfectly all the time. On paper, five miles in under 30 minutes is half-decent at altitude, but it was a battle from minute one, a breathless slog carried out with no rhythm.
Clearly cumulative fatigue lasts longer out here, so perhaps my Saturday-Monday-Wednesday regime is ambitious. Perhaps I’m mentally weary from being here for over a month. Perhaps it was one of those days when my body just didn’t have the spark. Whatever it is, I’ve learnt something, but dwelling on it is pointless and we have something to work on back at sea level. Every cloud…
Let’s be honest, Coach Roden sent me here with a watertight training plan and we’ve only tweaked it once. I’ve had no niggles, no injuries, no illness, and skipped one session due to fatigue. Not everyone gets such a smooth ride during normal training, let alone this high up, so I count myself lucky.
Easy first week. Stay hydrated. Don’t let the sun dominate. Eat well. Stick to the plan. Work hard when it counts. Recover properly. I’ve barely made a mistake and as a result I’ve made the most from this priceless experience.
2015 was chaotic, a year spent haring to London and back every week with work. Training consistently was an uphill battle (no pun intended). My career is important to me but as the year went on and decisions needed making, I suddenly realised running had hit top spot on my list of priorities.
Therefore this trip came at a perfect time, affording me five weeks of headspace in a motivational environment, allowing me to benefit from strong training amongst a group of tremendous new friends and quality athletes. The training block has been as close to perfect as I could have hoped, and now I look forward to starting a Manchester-based job next week, which will help me retain more energy ahead of the big cross-country races and the next track season.
So as I round off, why did I come here? To enhance my endurance and become a stronger runner. Have I done it? Absolutely - all sessions barring the long tempo have improved and I feel stronger because of it. How much have I improved? Who knows, but I’m excited to find out.
If running reinvented me, then Kenya’s done it again. ‘Trip of a lifetime’ is probably accurate, though I do intend to return one day, or try an alternative altitude venue. Putting logistics to one side, I fully recommend it to anyone with even a faint curiosity.
If you’ve enjoyed my account half as much as I’ve enjoyed life in Kenya, then I’ve done a job. This leaves me with one more night in the mosquito graveyard before the long journey back on Saturday. Even the length of stay was well-judged – five weeks here has been perfect and I’m more than ready for my own bed before I say hello again to family, friends, Coach Roden and the Sale group.
Posted 15/01/2016 09:26
Listen to your body - 6th January 2016
We all get tired. Training through everyday fatigue is a fundamental challenge of endurance work. But what if it’s more than just the everyday? Take a day off and the guilt sets in. What about our precious mileage!? Train through it and you risk digging a deeper hole. The margins are wafer thin and any slight error in timing can prove costly.
After three solid weeks, the past weekend threw a spanner in the works and it needed managing carefully. Following Saturday’s 4x7.5mins tempo, recovery before Sunday’s mammoth 15-miler was more crucial than ever. Sadly things didn’t go to plan.
Generally the camp has been a superb place to relax and recover, but Saturday’s deafening party nextdoor (attended by all of 40 people) went down like a lead balloon. I wasn’t alone in my sleepless night and when I defiantly headed out into the dark at 6am, the din was still in full flow.
The run itself was positive: 15 miles and 1200ft of elevation gains through stunning forest, with distant views of the sunrise hitting Mount Kenya at the highest point. It was afterwards that I felt the consequences. I didn’t mind being wiped out for the rest of the day - the run was the longest of my infant running career and done in harsh conditions - but deep down I knew this wasn’t a one-day issue.
Back home I can just about bounce into Monday night car parks after a gruelling weekend, but out here I need everything to go smoothly to allow the same. Your body’s far more sensitive. When the fatigue spilled into Monday and Tuesday I knew the training plan needed tweaking. Coach Roden reminded me over FaceTime that the training plan is only an ‘outline on paper’, advising that the mileage and sessions are just targets, as well as the fact I’m at altitude, so I adopted the flexible approach and listened to my body.
Forget 4x1600m – that session needs a fully sound body and mind. Forget a full day off – that only encourages further lethargy. I found a happy medium and ran easy for two days, which also helped relieve some mental pressure. Last week was strong anyway, so a couple of easy days kept the guilt to a minimum without impacting on volume.
22 steady miles and plenty of mango later, I feel more like myself. It’s time to shake myself up. Wednesdays are session days and the plan says track. No excuses today, throw caution to the wind and use a quick session to reinvigorate yourself. Pull your finger out and attack.
It’s windy and I’m alone, but the session goes well. A 10-minute tempo at 5:30/mile pace precedes some quicker 8x300m reps. I average 47secs for each rep, with the last one at 42secs, again something I don’t consistently run at home. I head back to camp feeling confident.
I’m now joined by a group of GB athletes including Laura Weightman, Ross Murray, Theo Blundell and Adelle Tracey. More follow next week. Some have trained here for several years but they still run gently during Week 1. I’m in no doubt I’ve been doing the right thing.
You can never train perfectly all the time, so the key is giving yourself the best chance of training perfectly most of the time. As I enter the last week of heavy training on this trip, I’m focusing on maximising the quality of my sessions. But not before a sacred rest day on Friday, oh and some decent sleep before the next 15-mile beast…
Posted 08/01/2016 15:43
This sadistic sport – 2nd January 2016
We’re an odd bunch, runners. Pain and exhaustion, somehow, is a perfectly acceptable trade-off in this relentless pursuit of improvement. We compete with everything around us, including ourselves. On the one hand we’re busy, productive, driven, rewarded; on the other we’re downright twisted, inflicting on our minds and bodies a perpetual cycle of self-damage and lunacy. That’s the price we pay and it we’re loathe to let anything disrupt it.
Ironically, the evidence of this came on my rest day (New Year’s Eve). After three hard sessions in five days, I took the chance to keep learning and watched the Turkish group graft away on the synthetic track. I helped time an aspiring Olympic marathoner on a gruelling 10x1k session in baking heat. Despite having a pacemaker to help maintain consistent reps, her first two were a good few seconds too quick, which obviously dictated the rest of the session (reminds me of someone…)
I was tired just watching and having done so, marathon training remains firmly off the agenda for at least another decade. Two laps are more than enough. There was pain, there were tears and the word ‘slowly’ failed to register (I even know the Turkish for this). The speed of the first two efforts killed any hopes of extending the session beyond 10 reps, but this wasn’t sufficient deterrent for the athlete and just as coach and I were set to decamp, she started her watch and took off round the bend again. When coach has to step onto the track to put a halt to proceedings, you know you’re dealing with a different level of tolerance and determination. Suddenly the stubborn pride and aspiration that is built into us became bluntly apparent. It was scary to watch. I loved it.
It all depends on how you feel on any given day. The day before my rest, I bravely (perhaps stupidly) took on the hills on my 30-minute tempo run. Despite a relentless climb for the first six minutes, I felt strong for the majority of the run, but with 10 minutes left it turned into an ordeal, lungs bursting and legs burning. After 26 minutes, I didn’t need a coach to step in; my body did that for me. It’s not about burying me out here; more than four miles of hard running in this climate was a successful enough exertion for me, so I trotted back to camp in the morning sun. I needed that rest day.
I’m really in the thick of it now. The mileage is climbing, the intensity of sessions likewise, not to mention the daytime heat. Speaking of heat, this made the indoor track at Sport City seem a pleasant place to do circuits. They’re merciless out here - 20 minutes of explosive jumping, lifting and pushing left me absolutely flattened me yesterday. As I write this, I’m drifting in and out of slumber having run 4x7.5mins on the mud track. Whilst it hasn’t put me in a lactic body bag like summer track work does, I’m pretty tired. Nonetheless it went well as I averaged 5:33/mile, a pace I’ve only really started running at home fairly recently.
The greatest luxury out here is time. This opens up room for all the finer details that a working life sadly limits: better sleep, core stability workouts, sauna visits, stretching, a clear head, but perhaps most importantly of all, the chance to immerse yourself in the countless approaches and subtleties behind every individual’s training regime. It’s not just time that affords this opportunity, though, but also the huge mix of athletes here, from world class runners to aspiring Olympians, right through to recreational runners and then myself who, if I’m honest, doesn’t have a clue where this is all leading.
I look around the dining room and see marathoners from Sri Lanka, Finland, Turkey and England (our very own Sonia Samuels), the Turkish U23 European steeplechase champion, Mexican and American 800m runners aspiring for the Olympics, as well as a local Kenyan who’s only 1,500m run fell below 3:50 in bare feet. A large contingent of GB athletes arrive in the next day or so, but I needn’t worry about making friends or being kept in the dark about the variety of training methods people adopt across the globe. Some 800m guys squat twice their bodyweight and undertake sessions that comprise pure hill sprints. Others treat fartlek religiously, whilst some jog around the mud track with a tyre around their waist, purely aiming to improve core strength and technique. It’s a challenge not to have my head turned by all the types of training going on, but I trust my own programme which makes it nice to simply observe and absorb.
I’m training smart, sensible and being rewarded for it, but there’s still the odd giddy moment. Following this morning’s mud track workout, I joined the back of a small Kenyan group running 10x1k. This was for the experience as opposed to proving anything, so I aimed to be a back-marker for 4-600m and duck out before any discomfort. It didn’t go to plan and after I reached 300m a lot quicker than I wanted, I realised what a prat I was and converted the run into my warm-down. If I needed a reason to change my mind on marathon training, I definitely haven’t found one.
Posted 02/01/2016 16:34
No-one said this was easy - 27th December 2015
Forget the wildlife, the relaxation and socialising with high quality athletes from all corners of the globes. Since my last post I’ve been attacking the reason for my being here: training.
I write this having just finished my long run, an easy 10 miles which takes me to 60 for the week. That was supposed to be my longest run this week - I’m still adapting so we’re still building up the distance gradually - but my enthusiasm to meet people and join in saw me get sucked into a 12-mile hilly forest run with a group of Kenyans on Wednesday. A matter of hours after uploading this to my online training plan, Coach Roden was on hand to remind me of the risks of over-stretching too early. Point taken: stick to the programme.
In spite of that giddiness, that concludes a successful second week, one in which I’ve banked three tough sessions covering all the main facets of my training: fartlek, track work, tempo and hill sprints.
So far I’m pretty happy with the harder sessions. On Thursday, the average pace of my 400m track reps was only a second off what I run at the Wythenshawe track. Needless to say it was hotter too.
On Saturday I managed 5:41/mile pace on an eight-minute tempo effort, before attempting the same pace on another but blowing up after four minutes halfway up a hill. Heaton Park can be cruel but when I physically couldn’t get up this climb at a reasonable speed, I took an extra two minutes’ recovery and pushed for another four minutes. ‘It’s in the bank,’ assured Coach Roden, whilst overcoming the six nasty hill sprints gave further reason to be upbeat. This was graft, but that’s running: get out what you put in.
Throwing in 100 minutes of running between midweek sessions is daft, but adapting the hard efforts here is sensible and sometimes necessary. If your hands are on your knees and your lungs about to burst, you’ve approached it properly.
Resting on Christmas Day helped (not because of the occasion, Fridays remain a running Sabbath for me). The food was splendid – meat, veg, rice and fruit – whilst sporting autobiographies and my wretched fantasy football team keep me occupied between meal times.
It’s been fairly quiet here lately but I’ve mixed in with a warm and interesting Turkish group. Their athletes include a 3k steeplechaser, a marathon runner and an 8/1500m runner. They’ve made a great effort to include me in their group and I continue to learn a lot from their training methods, particularly the gym work and strength exercises.
I’m still adapting to higher mileage anyway, let alone at altitude. Weights can wait. I’ve just got to focus on running and recovering. Look after yourself and the running looks after itself.
Whilst my recovery runs are still modest (everyone here treats them gently anyway), the harder efforts aren’t too far away from sea level times. Hopefully that carries into Week 3, which would be impressive since it contains one of my most feared sessions: long tempo. Experience tells me 5:41/miles pace may be ambitious…
Posted 28/12/2015 12:24
Running with the Kenyans – Alan White, 21st December 2015
Mileage gets me fit. Back home I’m somewhat obsessive with my weekly mile count, but priorities change up here so, after six days of acclimatising, I take Sunday off. Typically I’d cover 14 miles on a Sunday, but this isn’t south Manchester so a rest day is definitely sensible. Besides, even a gentle stroll out here trains your body to be more efficient.
The locals take Sundays off anyway, which makes it easier for a few of us to organise a visit to a giraffe sanctuary. Their territory spans 3,500 acres of farm land, an expanse so vast that you can’t even see the perimeter. There are no enclosures here, no barriers separating us from these docile beasts, but even so it’s rare for a group like ours to get within yards of a large group. Their kick can kill a lion, so just let them eat leaves, don’t make sudden movements, and they’ll carry on as normal.
Despite the lack of any top predators, the gazelles and antelope remain as timid as their reputations suggest, but still look glorious from a distance. Their horns look pretty handy too. A large bush sits entirely covered in thick spider’s web. I’m not sure whether the bush is home to a group of them or a single monster. Frankly I don’t want to know.
The landscape is breath-taking; almighty trees and soaring hawks monitor from above, punctuating immense swathes of sun-baked savannah. We approach a bush surrounded by hundreds of those nuisance flies you encounter in warm weather. Except they’re not flies, they’re bees, African bees, and apparently they detest the smell of sun cream. As a pasty northerner, it doesn’t take a genius to work out I’m covered in it. Our guide informs us that if one stings you, it marks you with a pheromone that screams ‘danger’ to the rest of the swarm. Ironically you can’t outrun them either. There’s a reason people call them ‘killer bees’, so we take the long way round. It’s not just the altitude and hills that make this a harsher environment; everything here is designed for survival, an approach I’m still adopting with my running.
I spend the remainder of the day eating, sleeping and boiling in the sauna with a Kenyan chap about my age who clocked 2:13 on his marathon debut. He trains with Wilson Kipsang. That’s the calibre of athlete here, so I take advantage of the opportunity and arrange an easy midweek run (where our interpretations of ‘easy’ could differ!) If Wilson joins us, I’ll make sure you know about it.
Two years ago, Monday mornings used to signal wretched hangover fatigue. Now I’m up at 7am ahead of a 25-minute fartlek where my recoveries (1-3mins as a guide) are to be dictated by pulse. ‘When it’s back down to 115/120, you can go again,’ advises Coach Roden via FaceTime. I push the first effort, one minute uphill, and my pulse follows the incline. The problem is, as slowly as I jog on the recovery, it won’t go down!
It’s much tougher to control pulse out here, especially with a complete lack of flat terrain, so generally I find myself taking the full 3mins recovery before picking it up again. I feel strong on the efforts but really feel it on the recoveries. This is still a lung-buster but overall I manage eight minutes of hard running. If three local Kenyan ladies clap you during an effort, you mustn’t look too bad.
I dig in with one last minute of hard running - my hands are on my knees when I finish the last effort, but I’m not on the deck. It’s still early days, I’ve only been here a week, so be patient.
As long as I keep recovering well, I’ll keep adapting well, which is important because my next session is one of my favourites: 8x400m on the track.
Posted 23/12/2015 15:20
Many of us dream of getting the edge over our competitors with some knowledge of how the best in the world approach their training and get the best from themselves. One of our up and comming young athletes Alan White has had a chance to do just that with an oppotunity to train with the Kenyans. Here is his report so far.
Running with the Kenyans – Alan White, 14th December 2015
It’s a regular Saturday morning. I can’t recall the precise weather but we’re at Wythenshawe sports fields in February so let’s assume it’s cold and/or wet. I dislike this session but it gets you fit. Plus it could be worse, there’s always the Etihad car park on a Monday night…
I still consider myself an infant in running. Two years (at the time of writing) isn’t a long time. Track work comes more naturally to me, but having started from scratch at the age of 24, it’s fair to say my endurance still has a long way to go. I’m enjoying the sport more with every week that passes and improving just as fast, but road reps and tempos continue to break me.
So perhaps I could speed things up with a stint at altitude? Imagine running with the Kenyans, surrounding yourself with that calibre of runner whilst living as a full-time athlete for a while. Let’s ask Coach Roden. He agrees I’ll be ready by the end of the year. So I start to plan it all in my head. To get some benefit, three weeks is a minimum, so let’s target five. What do I need to make it happen?
The big one is time off work, which fortunately my boss agrees to. What else? Get fitter. Research flights. Book a room at the camp (run by Lornah Kiplagat). Jabs. Kit. Advice from someone who has been before (again, in Rodens we trust).
After telling family I’ll be abroad this Christmas, I work my way through the rest of a sizeable to-do-list. The trip was months in the making, but several chaotic months travelling to London and back - whilst training harder with every passing month - brought the trip round quickly enough.
I land at Eldoret jaded but giddy. The taxi driver is friendly. The police officer at Nairobi was friendly, as was the man in Nairobi who processed my temporary visa. The receptionist makes my arrival smoother than any English hotel, inviting me for dinner within 15 minutes. This is Kenya, the people are warm and kind. Life is simpler and more gracious here.
My first full day involves breakfast with a group of Europeans, lunch with Charlie Grice, an afternoon chat with Mike Kigen (a man entrusted my Mo Farah for marathon pace making duties). It also involves my first run at altitude. So I don some smart new kit, kindly donated by MyProtein, and head out in the rain (a little taste of home).
Don’t push it. Train with caution. Respect the terrain, respect the conditions, respect your own body and the fact you’re tired from the travel. Most importantly of all, though, respect the conditions. Especially given this is your first time. This is not Whalley Range; this is 2,500m above sea level. Listen to the sensible voice in your head. Besides, you’re here for five weeks. Don’t rush it.
A morning walk to Iten’s sports store gave an early warning as to the effects of altitude. Even strolling up the hills had left me catching my breath, so I knew to take this one slow. Keep a keen eye on heart rate and run extremely gently. Week 1 is probably the most important here, so I’m using all the advice I’ve been given and letting my body adapt completely before pushing myself. I’ve got plenty of time to train with the Kenyans, I’m just happy to be off the plane and running for now.
Running with the Kenyans – Alan White, 17th December 2015
My first three days have gone well – I’ve only ran very gently up until now, approaching my runs carefully so as to keep my average heart rate around the 150 mark. You don’t feel the adaptations, not from a scientific perspective, but I’m adapting quite quickly to this, feeling better with every run and pleased to see my average pace drop from 9:00/miles to 7:30/miles. I say ‘average’…the hills here mean that term is purely a mathematical one; the terrain makes one mile vastly different to the next. If my ability to cope with the altitude is improving, the hills are there to keep me level-headed. And I thought Woodbank was unforgiving…
Yesterday was my birthday (the most peaceful one in years), so I ran five miles before standing in awe at the Rift Valley’s vast sweeping landscape. Chorlton Water Park is nice but this was spectacular. Walking back through the local markets was a far cry from Stretford Tesco as well, whilst an hour in the sun was more than enough to redden my pale northern face. Come on Alan, remember Magaluf…
In the afternoon I treated myself to the core class. Thankfully core isn’t a new concept to me, but this was brutal, an hour-long pain chamber involving an assault on hamstrings, back, abs and arms. Even the Kenyans struggle with this, the room full of anguish and shaking bodies.
Watching the Kenyans run is absolutely glorious – their fluency is a sight to behold. I’m hearing rumours of a Kenyan fartlek this morning: two minutes on, one minute off, although the one minute off is still close to a hard tempo to me. More than 100 of them take part in this, which sounds like carnage (just how I like it), but even I know it’s too early for that. Imagine telling Coach Roden I’ve attempted that on Day 4…. I’ll get involved at some stage, but this is my first hard session so let’s not be daft.
History tells me running a hard session on a full stomach is asking for trouble. My sleep is improving (aided by the luxury of afternoon naps), so I skip breakfast and opt just for water and an energy gel - thanks once again to MyProtein – before heading out into the morning mist for an easy two-mile warm-up. This takes me past Lornah Kiplagat’s new synthetic track – a white elephant which I’ll explain later in this blog. I do a few strides and stretches before turning round and facing the malevolent climb back into Iten.
It isn’t as easy as ‘one on, one off’: whilst a 15-minute fartlek doesn’t look much on paper, this is my first hard session at altitude so I’ve been told to take whatever recovery I need after hard efforts. I feel good on the first effort; happy to open my stride up at last, but obviously the sessions get tougher. 90-second efforts become 60-second efforts, whilst 60-second recoveries eventually become two-minute recoveries. Overall I manage six minutes of hard running and nine minutes of recovery jogging (the Roden voice in my head ensures I don’t walk). For the time being, I’ll take that as a miniature accomplishment. Now get me to that breakfast table.
I finish my warm down and head into recovery mode. Breakfast consists of porridge, eggs, toast, Kenyan donuts (we’re not talking Krispy Kreme here), a banana and coffee. The food here is nutritious. People say it’s ‘basic’, but I live on my own so to me it’s pretty lavish! Recovery is crucial here – run hard yes, but use the abundance of free time to hydrate, refuel and rest.
Having this much free time is foreign to me, but it opens up room for all the things you’d love to do more often back home: core workouts, afternoon naps, recovery walks, stretching, sauna visits. Take advantage, it won’t last forever,
Something else I’ve learned is how gently the Kenyans do their recovery runs. They train extremely hard but jog lightly in between sessions give their bodies the best chance of recuperating before doing it again. So on that note, it’s time for a nap before doing exactly that this afternoon.
Posted 19/12/2015 15:21