The months started hot on Tuseday 1st when I did the my club's 2.9m handicap league race. I put plenty in, keeping just shy of a "blow-up" pace, but keeping close to 6min/miles on garmin for the first downhill mile. Mile 1 ends on a short uphill I blasted through, already catching people. Mile 2 also feels downhill with a steady descent for much of it with just a bit back up, still close to 6's. Last mile is tough, with a along, but steady climb or flat most of the way. I kept my foot down as long as possible as my knees started to splay sideways, but achieved what I've never before on the undulating circuit. Sub 18, in fact 17:49 officially, inside last month by 37seconds and I really went hard then. My best ever time by 14secs. Really pleased with that, the endurance training with just one long speed/tempo sesh per week is obviously doing me good at all distances. Whoever said long slow running makes a long slow runner (though this is all relative as I am still v.slow to some).
The first long event of the month 4 days later saw me return to Guiseley for the LDWA event that started the whole long distance, off-road, love affair for me - the Rombalds Stride. I've been a constant participant since 2007. Towards the shorter end of the scale as challenge events go at 22m and the hill profile isn't the nastiest either. However, the X Factor - sorry! - of this one is the effect the weather has. Not just on the runner/walker on the day, but also what it has done to the ground. Incorporating a massive, horseshoe shaped mooland section for about mile 4 to 17 there has usually been some challenge thrown up each year. Sometimes it is thick snow, ice, other times wind, rain, and last year we had thick fog - to make me doubt route choices on a route I know pretty well.
This year the snow of November, December in the east was seemingly unmatched in West Yorkshire. And there seemingly hadn't been a big dump of it since. This doesn't necessarily make things easier. Warmer conditions and some rain just means the mud-baths, which account for paths aren't "firmed up" at all. Would you rather slog through snow or slog through deep mud? its a personal preference, but neither is easy.
As it happens I may be a 'mud' man. Ran a strong run over the middling long moorland section. Despite bringing up gallons of gunk from my nose and mouth, which appears to be a failed cold, i.e. never slowed me down, but outwardly sounded crap and was stuffed up. Through the villages and towns post-moor and pre-Chevin - a nice steep sting in tail hands-on-knees climb I seized a bit in the legs, but the pace was good if not fast. After an energetic march up the Chevin - catching tiring others as wasthe pattern of the last few miles - I even found pace for the final mile or so downhill run to the finish. A good start to the month.... and year - 3:53, my first sub-4 here and route best by 15mins or so.
The next week saw something completly different a road run at a set distance of half marathon. Not an obscure 2.9ish miles, or 20 something miles off-road, but 13.1m, a chance for a PB at a distance a road runner would recognise and understand. This was the Liversedge Half Marathon, run amongst the bumps and lumps of West Yorkshire near Huddersfield. After watching and being slightly inspired by the pros at the UKA indoor Championships in Sheffield on the Saturday I had prepared well with a Vindaloo-strength curry the night before and a fry up for breakfast, just the ticket!
Anyway, after a first mile where I held back amongst the sub-6 min/mile "cavalry charge" of those around me down the initial hills, I soon settled into a pace close to 7's. I maintained this until biting nearly 10secs a mile back just before halfway on a long 1/6 downhill where I played to my descending strengths. I also made good account on the courses own "hill from hell" barely a mile later. A short attack of the hill we'd just descended on another road, but not long, a mere bump compared to some of the hills I've tackled in the past year or two. My up and downhill running both gave me strength over those around me, who I'd hold on the flat and move away from on hill.
I expected the slowdown, energy drain, but it never really came. I maintained a similar pace most of the way, only loosing slightly on uphills. I even bought back a few more seconds during mile 11, but mile 12 and 13 didn't have many easy seconds. In fact 13 seemed uphill most the way. This could be considered cruel for a road race, but I wasn't bothered.... the PB was on..... and I held pace to finish in about 1:31:55. I was dead chuffed with this, 25secs inside the PB set at a faster Liversedge course back in March 2009. More evidence that big miles at suitable pace with limited, but quality long speedwork sessions will improve race times at all distances. The 'less injury potential route' than doing several speedwork sessions per week, which I seemed to have fizzled out at following a series of similar results in 10ks around the 41/42 min mark.
The next weekend saw something completley different still - no running. Well 2.5m to be exact. After nearly 40m midweek I was tired so I went out on Friday night and drank a fair bit, had a good time and then slept in. I ran the aforeentioned 2.5m, with slightly tender tum, early saturday afternoon in the brief window between clearing the friends from my house/squat and the other half coming around. I didn't fancy doing more that day anyway. On Sunday I laid in again and then attended a family do which went on late. So no running again... back to it next week. Maybe I needed the rest, my left calve had been pulling a bit during speedwork on Thursday after 5 days straight running, the first day being that half. I'd even turned down an invitation to take part in the National XC's from club, due to my concern.
The relative lack of long, off-road runs this month makes for an odd stat in my running log. My average pace for a run in February thus far, usually 10-min miles and above most months, is quite close to starting with a seven?!