Last October, after I’d finished Couch to 5K and was starting to get into running, I came across Simon Wilson’s run notes. It’s a neat little format but not one I ever thought I’d need.

Anyway, here we are. Running is my main hobby these days, so I might as well write some notes about my performance and progress. It’ll be useful to look back on them.

Following Simon’s lead, here’s what’ll be in the notes.

  • Where I’m up to with my running numbers, coming into the month and leaving the month
  • A little commentary about some things that happened, tough stuff and rewarding stuff
  • I’ll wind up things looking ahead to the next month

SeaWheeze 10K

Yesterday I ran my first race, a virtual race, the SeaWheeze 10K. It wasn’t the first time I’ve run a 10K – I’ve done a half-marathon too – but it was the first race I’d trained for. And I was aiming to beat my previous personal best of 48:02, so I put some effort in to improving my performance.

The race organisers provided a training plan that encouraged you to run 4 times a week, mostly easy runs, with one long run and some pace work. It felt like quite a light program, but I figure it uses the 80/20 rule. The only changes I made to the program were to swap yoga days for recovery runs or swimming, and I occasionally ran longer than you were supposed to for a long run.

I ran longer on long runs because I’ve been getting into off-road/trail/fell running1, and I’m really loving it, but I made up for it by reducing my easy run miles and taking recovery runs really slowly. (I’m still not sure if easy runs and recovery runs are the same thing…)

First attempt

Anyway, last Saturday was the first day you could run the virtual race, so I set off just before 8 a.m. I’d picked the Abersoch 10K course as my route to run which meant I could jog from the house to the start line to warm up. My right shin felt tight, and I think I might have been a bit dehydrated because I had a few too many beers and wines in the week. My goal was to run the course at an average pace of 4:29 per km.

Stupidly I ran the first 2km way too fast, and even though I was ahead of my goal time by 30 seconds, I could feel the energy slipping out of me quickly. On the run up Tocyn Brutal, a steep and rocky track, I had to slow down to walking pace which is really uncommon for me. I run that segment often and never have any problems, so clearly my mental fortitude wasn’t where it needed to be.

After telling myself to pick up the pace and carry on, I adopted this strategy of gradually accelerating any time I felt I was going too slowly. First I’d increase my cadence, which led to increasing my stride length, which meant I had increased my pace. It worked quite well, much better than trying to accelerate your pace in an instant, pushing off hard and trying to maintain that harder effort.

Downhill sections weren’t too bad. I lean in to those, picking up my knees and pushing off hard with my big toe, meaning on some sections I was as fast as up to 3:00 per km.

Towards the 9km mark I had to stop as a trailer was blocking the path, but it allowed me to catch my breath for 20 seconds. I didn’t like that, seemed like I was cheating.

After the trailer left, I started off again and ran through the golf course towards the beach. Running on sand is no fun, but I’d timed my run with the tide and got onto flat, wet sand near the tide line after jumping over the groynes.

Then my watch buzzed that I’d finished the course, so I stopped and took a look at my time. I’d averaged 4:36 per km, not as good as I’d hoped but still a personal best! And then I realised I’d only run 9.6km…

Annoyed and confused, I headed home to try it again after rest and recovery. After looking at the course and my route, I realised I hadn’t turned right at the golf course, I’d run straight onto the beach instead. At least I knew where I’d gone wrong and could correct it.

Second attempt

I was tired all weekend and on Monday. Listening to my body, I really needed that recovery time, so I took it very easy. I also made sure to get lots of sleep and didn’t drink alcohol on Sunday or Monday.

On Tuesday I got up early and ate some breakfast, a vegan protein bar without much sugar, and topped up on water – about 500ml. I jogged to the start line. My goal was to run it in the same time as Saturday, 4:36 per km.

I adopted two of the same strategies – gradual acceleration, leaning in to downhill sections – and decided to run more slowly at the start (negative splits). Running up Tocyn Brutal required something different too: I increased my cadence, taking shorter steps, and used my whole leg to bounce up the track, which is something I’d learned from running off-road. It worked surprisingly well!

Throughout the run I felt increasingly strong and kept a positive mindset which carried me all the way. None of the hiccups from Saturday, it was a solid run.

As I reached the final kilometre, I took the right turning down the golf course track towards the slipway – on-course this time! I was slinking around the undulating, pock-marked track, picking my line a few steps in advance, weaving quite smoothly and picking up pace. I slowed down as soon as I hit the sand and had to jump over the groynes, but once those were clear I could pick up the pace again.

I ran the last 100m increasingly faster and finished in a record time (for me): 44 minutes and 50 seconds. I was so happy!

What I learned

  • Don’t drink alcohol in the 2 days preceding a race
  • Fuel up and hydrate on the day, especially if running in the morning
  • Shorten your steps and increase your cadence uphill, use the whole leg
  • If you’re feeling weak, try gradual acceleration to pick up pace
  • Review the course on the day!

What’s coming up

Next week I’m going to Innsbruck, Austria, to have some fun running on their mountain trails. I can’t bloody wait.

When I get back, I’ll start training for a marathon. I’d like to run that distance along the coastal path here, from Abersoch to Aberdaron, before we leave Wales.

  1. I don’t like saying ‘trail running’ to people in the UK, it feels like North American terminology. Much the same as I never say I’m going hiking, I’m just going for a walk.