Personal Best

As usual, to prepare for the run this morning we stayed up until midnight, and then at 5am our daughter woke up and started yelling, so I didn’t have the best of rests beforehand. Then I had the bright idea of wearing my 2XU compression socks, which are so tight I risked getting a hernia trying to pull the damn things on in the dark. I got on my bike and started riding to the East Coast Park, constantly panicking that I wasn’t going quickly enough. I suppose that was a leitmotif for the morning.

I arrived with about five minutes to spare, drank half the water I’d brought with me (I don’t have a working Camelbak any more, so I stow a bottle in my backpack and only drink when I stop cycling) then walked down to the start of the race.

Every start, the same sort of thing happens. I go out a bit too quick, but I still don’t keep up with the fastest people when I hare off. Today, it went a bit different. There was a group of about four people who were ahead of me, but within the first half kilometre I’d closed down on them, and then gone past. Somehow, I was actually the front runner.

Another man was right on my tail. We went through the first kilometre in about 3:45, which felt risky: much too quick. I was expecting to blow up and fall apart in the second kilometre, but I kept pushing. Me and the other guy stayed at pretty much the same speed for the second kilometre, and even in the third I wasn’t going above the 4 minute mark. Then it felt like I began to slow or he stepped up, and he vanished into the distance, followed by somebody else who came from behind to overtake me.

So I wasn’t going to make first place. I kept going: I’d built up enough time from the first 3 kilometres that I had to just just hold on to the end. Coming into the last hundred yards I pulled a little bit of extra effort I didn’t know I had, and sprinted for the line.

19:36. I was surprised and amazed. I’ve been trying to break 20 minutes for a long time, and to go more than 30 seconds faster than my previous best was a source of real amazement. Part of this was probably to do with having a hair cut and saving a bit of speed. Some of it may have been down to remembering to put an isotonic tablet in my bottle, or having a banana before the run, or wearing compression socks. But the majority of it came from the consistency over the past few weeks – making it to the track every week and having people to train with there, and having them to keep me honest and not rush off like a madman without carefully planning what I’m meant to be doing.

Then, after ruminating on how grateful I was to the people around me, I had to ride home, exhausted and desperate to sleep. It would have been good not to get lost on the way home, but you can’t have everything…

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