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Hi, my name is James McNally and I have recently decided to start blogging and logging my training. Hope you enjoy it!

The Highs and Lows of a New Challenge

Maccaby MaccaSep 23rd 2013
So it has been almost a month since I switched clubs from Penny Lane Striders to Liverpool Harriers and I have already achieved a new high in my adult running career along with a real low point to end a great run of training and performances. The result of which has caused me to finally take a week off and re-energise for the upcoming season. My original plan was to carry on hitting the mileage hard until Leeds Abbey Dash 10k in November and maybe then consider some time off, but it seems I massively underestimated the need for a rest after sustained periods of quality training.

Since September I have raced for Liverpool Harriers 4 times with differing levels of success. Two of which I incorporated into my training more as Tempo runs than all out races. The first race was the beginning of a multi terrain series which was recommended by a fellow team mate as a great work out. At the time I was training very well but feeling slightly fatigued so I planned to do it at tempo pace, which technically should equate to between 10k and 10 mile race pace. However due to the nature of the course I knew I would do very well to get near that pace so I planned to progress the pace throughout. The first mile was quick at the front and I sat back in about 6th knowing that I didn't want a quick first mile. Nevertheless, my competitive nature quickly woke me up as I knew if I wanted to win the race I didn't want to give the leader much of a gap. He was a strong runner after all with pbs similar to mine. We went through the firs lap neck and neck but I felt really comfortable and just let him lead for a little longer. Early in the second lap he went the long way round a rock (there were two options at many points on the course) and I decided to take advantage and kick on. In my mind I thought I would do one quick mile and that would be that. Once I hit the road and back into the windy trail I was flying and thought that was it but he was only 30 metres behind at that point so I had to continue the effort right to the end and won by over 10 seconds. All in all a comfortable run and great to win on my first outing as a Liverpool harrier.

Just two nights after I did the Mystery 5k which is put on once a month by our club. Since I was away on the weekend and could not do the Halewood 5k, which was supposed to be a time trial for the relays, my coach Dave Evans suggested I run this one as a time trial. However the legs were a little heavy from Tuesday's rough terrain and the weather was dreadful so I decided just to tempo this. Once again my competitive spirit meant I went out faster than planned as my friend Martin was racing and we always have a good rivalry. By 4k I was really struggling in the strong wind but had 50 metres on Martin so coasted a little. When I turned the corner into the home straight he was still 30 metres or so adrift. I strode out a bit to the finish and was surprised to hear Martin cross the line just 2 seconds behind. Another race, another win and another good training session. I was also delighted for Martin as he broke the 16 minute barrier for the first time and in pretty poor conditions I might add.

During my trip to London I had a minor set back, or what I thought might be a major set back. On a long run with my good mate Jon Worcester around Windsor I rolled my ankle quite badly around 50 minutes in. I managed to jog/hobble the 4 miles back to his house which I thought was a good thing that I was still able to run on it. I threw a bag of peas on it for an hour but it swelled up pretty badly and I was hobbling for at least that afternoon. I rested on the Monday in hope that it would get better and by Tuesday it felt ok. I attempted a run on it and it was fairly painless so I began running twice a day again. In hindsight I probably overdid the Thursday progression run but I felt great so pushed on for 6 miles in around 32.40. This was an indicator that I was in great shape and the next day I entered Cheshire 10k which was supposed to be a quick course with a big pb surely on the cards. That weekend was the North West Road Relays and my first proper taste of running for the harriers in a team event. I was set to do the final leg with 3 really good young lads leading the way for out team. When I took over I had a 40 second lead and was looking forward to bringing home the victory, but I was also aware that I couldn't coast through this as selection for the Northern Road Relays the following week was dependent on this performance. I felt good throughout and barring a small period on the final lap where I took the foot off the gas a bit was by far my best run to date. I was 8th fastest leg of the day in 13.35 which equated to around a 15.20 5k, the breakthrough run that had been coming for sometime this Summer. This meant I was duly picked for the A team the following week.

The following few days I felt great in training and thought I was going to get better and better over the coming weeks but pride comes before a fall as they say. By Thursday I was easing down for the big one on Saturday but for some reason my steady progression run felt like and absolute struggle. All of a sudden 6 minute miling felt like race pace. The fatigue continued on Friday, but I thought a days rest and I'll be raring to go. Saturday came and still tired, but I quite often feel tired on race days due to nerves. Throughout the warm up I didn't feel great but managed to just about snap out of it for the start. To make matters worse I was down to run the fast and furious first leg. I started fairly sensibly but I quickly felt out of my comfort zone for some reason. By as little as a mile in I was blowing and by two miles I was spent. In any other race I would have considered dropping out at that point. This is something I hate doing, as too many people do it when they are just having a bad race, but in this instance I was physically and mentally exhausted. It took all the reserves I had left just to jog to the finish and with 200m to go I as met by the unwelcome fact that the b team runner was on my shoulder. I managed a sprint finish and to just hold him off to save some pride. However, the people I usually have a good race with were more than a minute and a half ahead of me, and I was left thinking 'Why today of all days?'. Had it been a 5k, 10k or cross country I could have stepped of the course and taken the disappointment a whole lot better, but when you are in a team event and your mates are relying on you to perform it is hard to swallow. We managed to claw our way back to a top 10 finish which was a credit to the other lads in the team, but it was my first taste of disappointed for my new club.

Now I have had time to digest the disappointment of Saturday and analyse the problems I have decided to take a full week off running. Having discussed it with both my coach and a few of my training partners, I have followed their advice to have an end of season break that I originally planned to have around Christmas time. I sometimes find it hard to understand that I can't keep going at a certain level without disappointments and the need for rest, but it is a vital part of being a runner. It was my first bad run since the beginning of the summer and that shows as well as vast improvement, I am becoming consistent.

When I came into work on Monday morning I felt so flat and lacking motivation. I'm not sure if this is down to not training and working towards something or just the disappointment of Saturday but I decided last night that I needed to start planning and setting goals for the season ahead. So the plan is to enjoy the week off and begin with some steady miles next week. From then I would like to up the mileage slightly and start a 6-week programme for Leeds Abbey Dash 10k in the hunt for another pb. The racing season really kicks off again in November with cross country, relays and Leeds, so I am hoping to prepare well for these and most of all enjoy my running. This is something I have always been able to do, but bad performances always put doubt in your mind of your ability. Also, I love racing, for me it is what I run for, but there comes a point where you need to know when not to race and take a rest or a training session instead before you burn yourself out. I have almost cracked that with fewer races and treating some sa training sessions, but as always in running you learn something new about your bodies limitations every run.

I am by no means a man to give great advice on how to deal with disappointment, but you can't let it get to you. Have your moment, sulk if you will (thats my weapon of choice), but pick yourself up quickly and never doubt your ability or love for the sport.

Thanks for reading!
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