26 March – 2 April 2018
After returning from holiday and resting, I still did not feel physically prepared to tackle my mile challenge at the start of the week as I had planned. The weather was also far from optimal, with rain close to flooding my local river. It was not until later in the week that the time would be right.
1 Mile Time-Trial
The sky was overcast yet blue. The quiet country road was dry.
There was no traffic. I was alone.
So I set off. Fast.
I drove hard with legs and arms.
But by the end of the first quarter mile I had my doubts about achieving my lifetime ambition.
I knew the run would be painful and I wondered if I was only setting myself up for failure.
I persevered and pushed the thoughts away.
My legs felt heavier despite my level of effort remaining constant.
Still, I kept passing the landmarks of trees, logs and gates lining the road.
I stayed on the balls of my feet as the pain in my chest increased.
The metallic taste spread across my throat. I felt on the edge of my physical limit.
But I also intuitively knew it was the measure of success. I needed to stay in this zone.
I continued to push hard along the slightly downhill gradient. The side winds kept me concentrating.
After the three-quarter mile mark I looked down at my sportswatch for the first time. The pace at that moment was 5:28 per mile.
I had no idea what my average pace was so I picked up the pace and sprinted the last thirty seconds.
As I looked down at my sportswatch to see when I had crossed the proverbial finish line I glanced at the number 59.
I hadn’t been slow enough to run 5:59 so I knew I had done it.
On the ground, exhausted, I confirmed the achievement.
I was overjoyed.
I chuckled to myself hysterically.
As I got to my feet and began walking back up the road to reclaim my running jacket, the metallic blood taste was indescribable.
I had to stop several times.
I told myself this feeling was worth it. The time was 4:59.82.
Despite the jubilation of running a sub 5-minute mile at my first attempt, I had to be patient for my chance to attack my two-mile personal best. I had thought that Sunday would be right, but my legs were still a little heavy and achy from Thursday’s exertions. Unfortunately, the weather Sunday night meant Monday’s conditions were not as favourable as they had been on Thursday.
2 Mile Time-Trial
Significant puddles sat on many sections of the route. The sky looked as if it would rain.
Wet feet were inevitable.
I started a mile further along the same stretch of country road as my one mile time-trial.
I waited for a couple of vehicles to drive past before I set off.
This time, I kept glancing at my sportswatch as I took the first bend, then the second.
My heart was racing but no lactic acid had built up in my throat.
I was excited when I noticed my average pace was 4:59 per mile.
The memory of last Thursday spurred me on as I powered up a long, slight incline.
My pace suffered but I didn’t panic.
I soon reached halfway, the starting point of my one mile time-trial. I clocked 5:13 for the first mile.
From there, I faced more puddles, but my pace was steadily improving.
I considered the heavy effect on my stride as the rainwater soaked my Vibrams.
I told myself that “I had this record.”
I focused on maintaining my strong arm and leg movements, whilst not letting my average pace fall any further than 5:23 per mile.
Less than half a mile to the finish and I saw my fiancée at the side of the road.
She took photographs of me as I checked my sportswatch.
I made a conscious effort to give all I had to the moment.
For the last few seconds, I felt my chest begin to fill with lactic acid.
I clocked 10:42.74, over 35 seconds quicker than my previous best.
Aside from my two time-trials, I ran 22.37 miles (equivalent to 2 hours, 56 minutes and 23 seconds) at a comfortable pace, which included Monday, Saturday and Sunday. I rested on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.
Also, on Thursday evening I ran a tough session with my club. I completed 6x 0.5 mile reps at a tempo pace, with 0.25 mile jogging recoveries in between reps. Despite my pace fading as the session progressed, I was pleased that I still had some power in my legs and stayed in second position throughout.
I feel great relief and exhilaration in what I called ‘my race week’. By giving myself adequate time to taper and devise the ideal route I was able to accomplish a challenging goal in style (by working hard from the start and maintaining quick speed despite severe discomfort).
My mile performance also allowed me to maximise my training, by resting and breaking another personal record four days later. Although the two-mile time trial was a relatively easier run, I still wanted to ‘give my all’, which I managed by staying focused and pacing myself more evenly.
The past twelve weeks has been a great experience for me, both preparing for and adapting to relatively great physical stresses. I enjoyed the process of becoming more psychologically aware and capable of sustaining fast speeds, and feel proud to have applied those lessons at the first attempts.
For me, the momentary discomforts I felt during the time-trials were necessary in order to achieve goals that I will remember for the rest of my life.
I am confident that my training techniques can now help me deliver similar performances at longer distances.