This week’s blog is another one inspired by multi-world record breaker Lee Riley. Actually it’s a bit of a tenuous link but the fact is that over the last week I’ve been training with Lee at Cumberland Sports Ground in Crewe. I mentioned in last week’s blog that on Monday I paced Lee to a World Record equalling 5:35 (for running the mile with a 40lb pack, him not me). Following that attempt, for which I’m still awaiting Lee to publish the video so that I can share it with you, Lee asked me to train with him for a couple of week’s to help him crack his next attempt, which takes place on November 12 at Cumberland Sports Ground, at 09:00. The first session was on Thursday and my intention was to crack the 80 second barrier for 400m, so that Lee would find that comfortable on record day. We ran 5 reps, but not over 400m, I decided to try to break the mental challenge of those extra metres at the start of the mile race so we ran 5 x 409m. It was a tough session and Lee was battling all the way but knocked out 5 good ones, all under 80 seconds. My intention was to do 10 but it was clear that it was a tough ask so I switched the session to do a further 5 x 209m, which Lee completed in under 38, finishing with a 34. I should point out here that Lee was wearing his pack for all of these reps.
Despite having broken the world record over the half and full marathon distance, Lee always feels more comfortable at the shorter distances and it was then that he suggested we do a 100m race. Now anyone who knows me as a runner will know that I’m no sprinter, in fact with a best 100m of 13.1 seconds, set some 21 years ago I never was one. Admittedly I used to go on the ‘g’ of the bang instead of the ‘b’, but I’m also a slow twitch man, built for endurance not speed and power, so I wasn’t particularly keen to run a race over such a short distance. But I figured it was the least I could do, if it meant giving Lee a confidence boosting finale to the session and Lee did offer to keep his 40lb pack on. So we went for it. I managed to hold the lead for about 30m but then I had to give in as the formidable 220+lbs of Lee and pack came whooshing past me. Lee finished in 15 seconds, with me lagging behind in 16, not bad I suppose, considering I’m old enough to be his dad.
For today’s session I wanted to concentrate on running further at a slightly slower pace, the aim being to get Lee comfortable at 80-82 second laps. The aim was to run 4 x 809m with the pack, but knowing how difficult it is to run fast with the pack I would have been happy for 2 reps, and then we’d see how things were before we decided what else to do. We started well, Lee felt comfortable on the first rep, which we completed in 2:40. Lee struggled a little towards the last 300m of the next rep, completed in 2:45 (still on target pace) and then really struggled on the 3rd one and had to sprint hard for a 2:49. All good stuff and I’m sure it’s help enormously on the day but I decided to call it a day for the pack at this point. Next I decided to do 809m without the pack but still try to cover it in 2:40-2:45, but Lee clearly hadn’t recovered and I stopped him at 409m as he ran 87 sec. Next it was a further 3 409m reps. By now Lee was recovering and smashed them out under 80, with the final one in 71 seconds. By now I was trailing behind Lee so we called it a day, coach’s prerogative.
The next session will be 1000m and 1200m with the pack and then we’ll decide if we should do 1400m.
Lee’s learning a lot over these sessions, there are some simple improvements we’ve made that I hope will make the difference on the day, namely to try to keep relaxed, don’t panic, stand tall and, most importantly, to run through the line. Lee’s managed to secure some pacing help, so hopefully that’ll also help. I’m sure the two pacers will feel great being involved in helping Lee to achieve his goal, plus they’ll be on TV. Having taken part in Lee’s record equalling attempt I already feel somewhat special, it’s just unfortunate I can’t actually make it on the day, but then I’d need to get my hair cut for the TV.
This week has been the first time I’ve set foot on a track since early in the summer, when I did a session with VRAC at Winsford. The track at Winsford is of the old style, cinder, and it was pretty rutted, which didn’t do my recovering knee problem any favours. However I decided I was going to continue training there, but I was going to join a younger group of 800/1500m men to try to put some speed back into my legs. As it turned out I suddenly took on regular clients during weekday nights so that put paid to that idea. Before that session it was almost a year since I had set foot on a track, at the European Masters T&F Champs. In fact, since I tore my hamstring at Wimbledon Park, trying a set of 200m reps (now Lee you can see my reluctance to do the 100m), in 2005, I probably haven’t done more than 20 sessions on a track.
It’s possible that not training on the track is detrimental to my speed, in the days when I was running my fastest times I trained on the track once a week and it certainly did my confidence no harm to know I could do some pretty good sessions. In those days I was running 1 mile reps in sub 4:50, 1k reps in sub 2:45 and 400m reps in the low 60s and it was that consistency of pace that gave me the confidence to run fast times in races. However, I’ve also run fast times after a prolonged time away from the track, I managed a 31:04 10k from training on a German forest trail but it was probably the self belief I already had from having run fast times in the past and my endurance fitness that helped.
In my early years I loved the track, I loved racing on the track and I loved training there, but as I’ve become older, and slower, I find it quite tedious. I really don’t like racing on the track anymore, probably because if you’re having a bad one you’re more exposed to the watching public, plus it’s much easier to see the opposition pull away. Training on the track I find it really hard to accept the times I’m running which are a lot slower than I used to run, it makes me feel talentless, which is why I choose to train away from the track. Having said all that I’ve really enjoyed training on the track with Lee, it probably helps that I was aiming at times that he needs to run for his world record attempt rather than the times I used to run.
In my opinion track training is a great confidence booster if you’re running well and it does have the tendency to make you run faster, but when you’re not running so well it can really sap your confidence. As running well is all about confidence (ok you need to be fit too) you should train in ways that continuously boost your confidence. And that’s justification enough for the way I train.
So good luck to Lee on 12 November, here’s to another World Record.
Just to finish off I should just point out that Ray smashed his 5k pb, by 34 seconds, at the parkrun in Norwich, on Saturday, running 21:32 and another of my clients, Matthew, began his Killer Mile training in earnest by covering the course in 16:49 – lots of improvement to come before race day but a good starting point. Incidentally, I would recommend the Killer Mile race to anyone who loves running and loves a challenge. Not only is it a great, tough race over a classic distance but it has the atmosphere of a major championship event.