Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Oakley 20 race report

When I entered this race it was going to be the final sharpener before the MK marathon, but my race schedule has since changed with the Fellsman in 3 weeks time instead. Nevertheless I have been looking forward to the Oakley 20 and that's not just because of the cool hoody every entrants gets (although it was a key reason for signing up :-)

My training for this race has been nil. Since theTP100 I have ran just 5 times in 3 weeks not because of any injuries but because of self-enforced time off to properly recover. However I've still managed some good runs since the TP100 including a new 10k pb and fastest stag time for over a year so the speed is there. But would it be there over 20 miles? That was the big question...

I've never raced 20. Some may appproach it as a marathon but I wanted to ignore the distance and run sensibly hard but pace it well from beginning to end. So the plan was to maintain 7 mpm pace from start to finish. This is just over 3hr marathon pace so if I could hold this pace it would be considerably faster than I've done before even at 15 mile distance.

I had company for this race. Pete Mackrell from LBAC is running really well at the moment in the lead up to London. He even won the MK park run the day before the Oakley 20! Pete's plan was to run 7s for the first half with me then go for it. I was glad of the company as we ambled along this very undulating but beautiful course. We started right at the front but ignored the pace of others around us and set about our game plan.

The climbs were constant which I had not bargained for. My 7mpm pace was based on a flat course! But it was certainly still very runnable and the downhills were fun. The course consisted of a 12m first lap and shorter 8m second. All on very quiet country roads. It was a lovely course and this made the miles fly by. Pete and I reached the 10 mile mark in good form and spot on pace (6.54 avg. I was certainly feeling the pace, whilst Pete was fresh as a dasiy and eager to push on. I wouldn't see him again until the finish and he flew off at 6:30-6 mpm pace!

I settled back into the same pace and carried on. I was very glad of my bottle of nuun water as it was a warm clear day. Perfect racing conditions. At 12 miles you came back over the start line and started the shorter second lap which is on many of the same roads as the first lap. The incline at the start which I didn't notice on lap 1 could certainly be felt now. I was flagging a little as 7mpm became increasingly more difficult, but of course it would! That was the point. It wasn't a surprise to me and I pushed on. I had an energy gel as I could feel my energy levels dropping. It helped.

There was no drama on the second lap as I continued to keep my eyes on the garmin. This was one race where I didn't follow my normal rule of ignoring it. My eyes were firmly fixed on the average pace all the way away and my mile splits. Without doubt the most pleasing thing about this race was the consistency of my pace. I didn't fall off the pace at any point. The only flutuations were dictated by the undulating course so where you lost some time on the up hills you would try and make it up on the downs.

The final mile was tough. You once again came across the start line but still had just under a mile to run which looped around narrow lanes between houses left right left and right again. It was unbarable but finally an opening into the school playing field emerged and there was the finish line but not before you had to do a full loop around the field! Argh. I sprinted around overtaking a few runners and knocking every second off I could.

I saw the clock ahead which read 2:19:30... and crossed the finish line 4 seconds later. I had held on and managed to run sub 7 mpm pace for 20 miles! It was a lesson in perfect pacing and something that I'm getting much better at. Gone are the days where I would fall off a cliff in the second half of a race because of going out too hard. My mile splits for this race as follows: 6:53 6:55 7:07 6:27 7:03 7:10 7:01 6:58 6:55 6:34 6:46 6:58 7:02 7:05 7:07 7:05 6:52 7:02 6:43 6:56.

I finished 60th out of 870 or so finishers. Pete who stormed round the second half of the route finished 14th in 2:10! Making up 46 places in the process. Awesome running and a dead cert for a 2:45ish marathon time in London on that form!

What I want to touch on now is where the hell has my recent good form come from because I'm at a loss to explain it... When I entered the MK marathon at the beginning of Jan my goal was a sub 3hr but I didn't think I was anywhere near that and haven't done any marathon training since then that would according to most marathon training plans get me anywhere near the sort of shape needed to achieve such a feat. Instead I put in the slow long runs in the build up the the TP100 but still averaged only 3 runs per week. A sub 3hr marathon schedule from RW would have you running 5/6 times per week covering between 40-60 miles per week. I'm no where near these figures. And since TP100 as I said above I have run just 5 times.

I've always said that its quality runs not quantity that matters and after the Oakley 20 I've never been more certain of this fact in all my life. The majority of advice and training schedules that have you out most days racking up the miles are in my opinion severely flawed and a recipe for disaster leading to injury. Rest is by far the best medicine to run faster. I'm so certain of that. The problem is that what happens with most runners is that they don't see the improvement they think they deserve from the amount of training they have done so ramp up the training even more rather than doing the complete opposite and resting. And so extreme fatigue and ineveitably injury then occurs as a result.

I'm still at a loss to explain my form but less is most definitely more. Have conviction in yourself and your training. Don't be fooled into beliefing that because others around you are running big mileage that this is what you should be doing. Half the time I think runners (and I include myself in this) only run big mileage to impress our peers with the mileage.... Look at me I've ran 60 miles this week and ran every day... Aren't I amazing.... What you only ran 3 times and did 20 miles... Oh well.

Its such an ego thing that we all have to change. Furthermore we also only do it to impress ourselves with the big numbers. We find comfort in the fact that we have done everything possible to get faster and fitter by adding up the miles ran and sitting around in self-admiration at how wonderful we are. Forget all that bollox. Instead:
1 - Listen to your body and stop listening to others (that includes listening to me!)
2 - run less not more
3 - run with real purpose
4 - mix it up. Run short. Run long. Run flat. Run hills
5 - don't be a slave to the numbers
6 - race short and race long
7 - pace evenly and stick to it
8 - sleep more
9 - eat well
10 - fuel your runs

... and watch as the times tumble!

Sorry for the rambling post but I'm really starting to believe that the misinformation to runners from RW and other sources especially around this time of year when everyone is training for the spring marathon and religiously following the training plan is misguided.... Ok I'm done....


  1. Stu I think there is one further element in play. I believe there comes a point where the physical benefits derived from weekly training are mnimal rather, unknown to the person, training serves a purpose to prepare the brain, to tap into the bodies real potential.

    There comes a point when the prime purpose of training is to prepare the brain to allow the central governer to release the reins; this happens in different ways for different people. This training for some may require hitting several goals, others it can be conquering a time barrier; what is clear is sporting performance stems from a deep routed sub concious confidence.

    I second your point that training must have a specific purpose, without this purpose it is difficult to condition the central governer. More importantly without a positive frame of mind towards the pain of training and the ability to push the limits these mental adaptions, that lead to improved performance, may never take place.

  2. Reluctantly I have to agree Stu. Listening to the body and giving it more than adequate recovery is essential if you want to perform well but we must not forget the mental side of the process. If you believe so much in the method then on the day you will perform well.

    Recently I set a massive PB for me at the half marathon and then 7 days later was out doing a 48 mile run and yet 3 days later I feel amazing. Yet when I look at the build up I pretty much was only running 3-4 days a week max most of which was jogging!!!

    Listen to everyone, follow no one is a rule I live by now when it comes to running.