Author Archives: runnerstudley

Armagh International 5k – 14:01.8

This was my fifth time heading out to the sleepy county town of Armagh, Northern Ireland; for arguably the best road 5k in Europe. As always the event provided phenomenal hospitality and organisation from a great group of volunteers at Armagh Athletic Club. Athletes from the US, Home Nations, Poland, France and Ireland made up probably one of the best fields the race has attracted.

Usually combined with the tail end of a fully fledged cross-country season, this was the first time I aimed to target the race as a key marker heading towards the track season. Training has been consistent, but not without a few issues. The last fortnight mileage has been halved with aqua jogging topping up the volume to manage a niggle on my achilles.

The race takes place over five laps of the 1,030m Armagh ‘Mall’ lined with fairly lights and thousands of supporters, a truly unique race setting. I set out cautiously in a melee of athletes as the first 200m was a ferocious sprint to the first bend, I must have been outside the top 25. So much was the ferocity of the  opening exchanges, dead last went though 1km in 3:01, and as an athlete from Swansea put it ‘I thought I got out well, until I realised the revving behind me was the back-marker bike scraping up the stragglers!’.

Once I found my place on the back of the lead group it was just about letting those middle km’s pass by without doing anything silly; staying tucked in and out of trouble. Triathlete Jonny Brownlee kept the pace true with some help from the American athletes. I never found myself on the front of the pack, but gained in confidence as athletes started dropping off towards the final lap with 1000m to go.

At the top of each lap there was a little rise of 10-20m, and I felt I kicked off this well and moved into 7th with 400m to go. Doing a few sharpening track sessions helped me finish well to secure 4th place in a new 27-second PB of 14:01.85, three seconds beyond winner, America’s Joe Stilin in 13:58. Ending up sandwiched between an Olympic Triathlon Medalist and a European Steeplechase Medalist was beyond the expectations of my finishing company, but sets me up to race among the best in Europe for my debut on the track over 5000m in a few months. I guess a little bit disappointed to lose out to Olympic Bronze Medalist Jonny Brownlee by 1.6 seconds, but that was probably the closest I got to him all night, so fully deserved. (if only it was 5.1km!)

The organisers believe it could have been the best road race Ireland has ever seen; with 56 breaking 15 minutes, and 96 athletes breaking the 16 minute barrier. Results are here

The race video can be seen here, just skip to 4:30:

An encouraging start to 2015, and more importantly a testament to the consistency of training and strength, drills, core work over the last four years. I’ve never been an athlete for super high mileage, but continual analysis of how training is managed has ensured injuries/illness have been kept to a minimum and the improvement continues to come.

Next up I am back on the tarmac for a road 10k, a good opportunity to test an increased volume of intensity.

Thanks for reading!

Transition

It has been a while since my last blog, back in October midway through the National Collegiate Cross-Country season in America. Since then there has been a transition in the way my training is functioning, and I am about at the tipping point of having something meaningful to put pen to paper about.

My final three races of the season for New Mexico were a pathway to the NCAA Championships, qualifying through the Conference and Regional rounds. The Conference race was again over 8k – around a sandy, dusty Californian park (The most un-cross-country race ever). I finished 8th in the race, helping the team to their fifth straight Conference title. Next up was the Regional Championships on our home course in Albuquerque. Again, I had a solid run but nothing too spectacular, finishing up 26th and second on the team to secure our place at the National Championships.

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The Conference, Regional and National Championships respectively

The NCAA Cross-Country in Terre Haute, Indiana is tipped to be the second most deep (to the World Champs) cross-country race in the world, so it was quite an experience toeing the line with the best 250 collegiate athletes from America and overseas; something i’ll never forget in my career. I felt the following weeks races catching up with me and although again satisfied with my 131st and 5th scorer for our team (Who ended up 14th Nationally), it wasn’t quite the aims of the season I had set myself.

Just seven days later I was on the line for the European Cross-Country trials, but regrettably should have been resting up from the excursions of the American season. I faded away through the race and in the end a long way off staking a claim for an Under-23 GB spot.

I look back on my season in America as an invaluable experience, with lots learnt to take into the future of my running. I got to see seven states and meet some great people along the way, but ultimately felt my best successes have been in an environment that isn’t purely engulfed with running. Having a balance of interests keeps the enjoyment in the sport, and I found ‘living, eating and breathing’ the sport was not the most productive way for me to be successful, but you only learn that by trying!

The last 10 weeks have been about initially recovering, and then building into a consistent period of training. Back based with my coach Tom, it has been managed perfectly, with a healthy block of 80-85 mile training weeks. As always our training is built on the foundations of good steady running and consistency; something that has worked so well for the last four years.

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Back to the mud and hills!

A few weeks ago I swapped a weekend grass session for the Midland Cross-Country Championships in Nottingham (picture above). This was a thoroughly enjoyable return to 12km of mud and hills (all 14 of them!), taking 7th place out of the 500 strong field. A reassuring indicator, but by no means any fireworks just yet.

So there is almost four months in a nutshell. Next up I fly out to Ireland, for my first real target of 2015, the Armagh International 5k; one of the highlights of the calendar. It will be a chance to really test myself against some quality opposition from Europe and America, and hopefully set a marker to build on into the summer.

Thanks for reading. We Are Top The League!

Notre Dame and Wisconsin

The past eight weeks have probably been the biggest challenge of my career both physically and mentally, but there isn’t much that can prepare you for American collegiate cross-country back in the UK. The next five weeks training since my last post were consistent, but not without their ups and downs. Expecting to hit where I left off at home I put over 80 miles into my third week here, then after running the home cross-country meet as part of training, the altitude really struck me down, spending the rest of the day completely bed ridden.

Since then I have kept my mileage lower, constantly erring on the side of caution and running to feel. I think my Garmin breaking was actually a blessing, and means I don’t even think about pace at all on easy days.

Bristol team manager Keith Brackstone came to visit me and clubmate Anna, and took in a couple of sessions at the University Stadium in Albuquerque before we started the season.

Bristol team manager Keith Brackstone came to visit me and clubmate Anna Burton, and took in a couple of sessions at the University Stadium in Albuquerque before we started the season.

The structure of training is actually very simple, repetitive and consistent; we run a km’s or miles session, a 10 mile tempo and a long run in the foothills of the mountains; and apart from that just bog standard easy running.  The only real difference to what i’m used to at home is everything is longer and slower, which has certainly made me aerobically stronger.

So our first race of the ‘regular season’ (which is actually only 2 races) was the Notre Dame Invitational in Indiana. A very twisty, technical course on a perfectly flat golf course made for typically fast American conditions despite lots of heavy rain. It’s a great experience to have everything taken care of on trips, with food/accommodation/transport all organised to mean the sole focus is on performing successfully for the team.

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Despite a pretty crazy first couple of km’s where you literally had to stand still around the corners as it was so congested, I was satisfied with my debut collegiate race. It was a nice change to compete as a team and try and use each other to move through the field. I ended up in 30th place out of a 200 strong field; but more importantly we put five athletes in the top 50 to gain third place and some valuable victories over nationally ranked teams which aid your qualification to the National Championships.

We got to spend the evening in Chicago on the way back from Notre Dame.

A fortnight later, and we were back on a plane; this time to Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Invitational is the biggest event bar the National Championships, as we competed against 18 of the top 30 ranked teams in a field of 250 athletes. The purpose built cross-country course at the University was basically a manicured grass road through the autumnal Wisconsin woodlands, and apart from a few little mounds, very very fast! I just focused on being as comfortable as possible and aimed to move through when the lead group started to string out, which was 50 strong at halfway. I was pleased to run in a much more controlled manner than Notre Dame, as I moved through in the last couple of km’s to finish up 41st in 24:16 for the 5 mile course, to finish second New Mexican and help us to a 12th place team finish.

To put the standard of competition into context compared to a cross-country back in England, if you were one minute behind 20th place you’d have finished in 168th position, that’s over two athletes a second crossing the finish line. Apart from the World Cross, is there a cross-country setup in the world of that depth?

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We are now entering the Championship stage of the season, starting with our Conference Championships in California next Friday morning, followed by the Regional and National Championships making it three races in the space of 23 days to close out the cross-country season.

Thanks for reading. Until next time.

A fortnight Stateside

Ten weeks have passed since the end of a much shorter track season, and the build-up into my first taste of the American collegiate setup is beginning to take shape. I took ten days off following the season then spent a month back at home steadily increasing my mileage. With competitions at a British domestic level covering almost every month of the year, the opportunity to spend a month ‘base’ training is often hard to schedule in, so it was a nice change to have some downtime from the intensity.

My last two weeks before heading out here totalled around 70-75 miles per week, and included a couple of longer tempo runs with everything staying heavily towards the controlled end. 

photo 1 So rewind two weeks from now and I arrive culture shocked and shattered in a City with highs of 30-35 degrees almost everyday. Albuquerque, New Mexico is situated central in the state of New Mexico, and the city sits a mile above sea level; a higher altitude than anywhere back in the UK. My first week here was all about recovering from the 15+ hours of travelling, and adjusting to the time difference. After a very stressful first week of organising my academics (Yes I am doing a bit of studying too), accommodation and endless form filling it feels great to be into the routine of a student-athlete. I train daily with a group of 15-20 guys with a ridiculous amount of depth at anything from 800m up to 10k. To put the depth into perspective i’m one of nine athletes with a PB of under 3:45 for 1500m. 

Footy at 5000ft!

Footy at 5000ft!

The UNM (American) Football Stadium

The UNM (American) Football Stadium

My preparations toward training out here tried to mirror their approach, which primarily meant reducing intensity and increasing volume. Another difference is the ‘easy’ running we do away from the harder days is consistently at a good pace, and especially heading into the cross-country season this obviously helps to build a solid aerobic base fitness. Our longer run each week is usually done up in the spectacular Sandia Mountains; the cities natural backdrop, and a further 1500ft higher. The makeup of a day is also a little different with training usually taking place between 7-9am, and lectures usually around 4-8pm, meaning almost the entirety of the day can be used for recovering/football manager. 

Our backdrop for long runs. The Sandia Mountains

Our backdrop for long runs. The Sandia Mountains

Away from running itself, the multitude of additional support has been hugely beneficial. We have physios, nutritionists, psychologists and doctors available at our convenience and a fully stocked medical room which I have been utilising on a daily basis to maximise recovery. 

The nature reserve is home to endless miles of flat bike trails. Tempo central.

The nature reserve is home to endless miles of flat bike trails. Tempo central.

I have four more training weeks out here before we begin the cross-country season, which looks like around six races in nine weekends if all goes well; an exciting opportunity to explore a bit more of the country. 

I’ll hopefully try and keep this up-to-date during my time away, and write some reviews of the array of College sport available to watch free of charge as a student!

Thanks for reading. If you see any mistakes it’s because I wrote this watching MK Dons beat Man United 4-0. 4-0!? 

The Final Five

Deciding to have a short summer season to focus on a stronger winter has meant packing the races in like i’ve never really attempted before; culminating in five races on five consecutive Saturdays.

The 14th June meet in Dublin came about just days before. After winning the B race at the British Milers Grand Prix at the start of the month, I was invited to compete in the Ron Delaney 1500m in Dublin, part of the Irish Milers Club event. It was my first trip to the Rep. of Ireland, and the hospitality was organised to maximise performance of the athletes, with transfers, food etc. laid on. The race itself had a few drop-outs from the original start list, but nevertheless my room-mate Sean Wylie was fresh off a 3:41 PB in Germany.

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The little Irishtown Stadium provided absolutely perfect conditions for racing on a still, overcast day. The pacemaker was aiming for 59/1:58 and hit 59 for the first lap as I just sat in behind two Irish athletes. Sadly a few of the athletes ahead didn’t keep on the pacers toes, as he also slowed down taking us through 800m in 2:01. It was then all about racing, and I felt like I executed the last 400m well, building each 100m to close in 56 seconds, to just snatch the win off Shaun in the closing meters in 3:44.76. The race celebrated Irish Olympic 1500m Champion Ron Delaney, which his local club donated a trophy for my efforts. All that was left was viewing a typically dismal England football match and a whistle stop tour of Dublin. Not a PB, but my second fastest time ever feeling super controlled. It certainly points towards a faster clocking in the right race.

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Racing a National Under-23 Championship just seven days later was not ideal timing, but the volume of training stays on a much lower level during a race period; meaning I had plenty of recovery time. With over 30 entries in the 1500m, two heats were scheduled and I turned up early on the Saturday morning with the intention of saving as much energy as possible for Sunday’s final. As the time toward the heats ticked away, the heats were still yet to be drawn and barely five minutes before going into the call room, we were informed it would be a straight final. That’s five minute’s notice that you’re racing in a National Championship final.  It was a busy final with 18 athletes, 1500m normally has about 12-15 in a race.

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I guessed nobody in the race would want to take it out hard, so just stood still on the start line and filed onto the back of the pack to avoid any wasteful pushing and shoving. I began to take closer order heading into the last 600m, and was up to third by the bell. I tried hard to be patient in my kick again and just held my position along the back straight, and began to build in the final 200 meters. I found myself getting a little gap from the field around the final bend, but didn’t quite have the legs to hold off Will Paulson’s ferocious last 100m. Although disappointed to not finish off  a winning position, it’s my second national silver medal this season and my first in an age-group championship so it was a bit of a bitter sweet feeling atop the podium.

You can see the race here: http://www.vincosport.com/videos/8817

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Annoyingly the British Championships, my last race of the season was probably the most forgettable of the lot. I knew going in that I’d put virtually no proper training into the last month, easing down for race after race. It was interesting to see how long I could hold a ‘peak’ for, and five weeks was probably pushing the boat out a little too far. I was knocked out of the heats, and felt heavy and lethargic throughout. The first half of the race was fairly controlled, but as the change of pace came I fell away in the last 500m, finishing 10th in 3:51. Not the way I wanted to finish the season, but I like the fact I still have another Championship i’m hungry to perform better at in years to come.

So another season in the right direction: Two National Silver medals, two England vests, four consecutive years of 1500m PBs and PBs at 3000m, 5k and 10k.

Thanks to everyone who has helped out this year such as Brookes Sport, Masseurs Lesley Bryant and Martin Flook , Physio Sarah Wilkins, Strength Coach Chris Ross, Psychologist Mark Keep and most importantly my training group and coach Tom Watson back in Bristol.  I’m now taking a couple of week’s complete downtime before building back up for the autumn. Having the entirety of July and August to build everything up means I can focus more than ever before on conditioning myself to deal with a heavier training load to extend the progression curve in years to come.

Thanks for reading.

Is losing learning how to win?

Two more 1500s in the bank, but with pretty contrasting outcomes.

A fortnight ago I was selected for the British Universities team to compete at the Loughborough International. I’d heard a lot about the uniqueness of the event and it was great to compete in front of a packed crowd for a change! The build-up to the race had been consistent, so the plan was to compete with a top domestic field and be confident at the business end again.

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The pacer announced in the call room he would be taking us through 800m in 1:58 and asked if anyone wanted it quick/slower..to which he got 12 blank looks. Those blank looks seemed to transfer onto the track as the pacemaker strode away as I was bustling for a position about 50 metres behind. True to his word, he hit 1:58 but the race itself was happening quite a way back, as we went through 800m in 2:10. I was really struggling to get myself into a good position with 600 to go and heading towards the bell I was out as wide as lane four to move into a good position.

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The wind on the back straight was gusty and it seemed to just stand me still. I came back a bit in the last 50m but the race was pretty over, as I placed 10th in 3:50, and four seconds off the winning time.

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Although disappointed, there was loads to be learnt about staying settled and saving energy at the right times. It was also great to round off racing for Oxford Brookes with a BUCS medal and a representative honour, a nice reward for all the help I have had on Scholarship these past two years.

Fast forward 13 days and a complete misunderstanding happened in Manchester, as 60,000 screaming fans who thought they were heading for a top-level European distance running meeting, in fact got shepherded to the stadium beside to watch some lads mime some songs written by some other lads.

Regardless,  the meeting went ahead in perfectly still conditions with PB after PB falling throughout the night. Running goal 1500 pace in training has been feeling easier by the week, so I had a lot of confidence I could get to 800 and be relaxed to build-up. The first lap was perfect, through on pace in 59, although the pacemaker then dropped the pace a little through 800m to a 61 (2:00).

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I focussed on holding the pace to the bell and trying to kick on. I passed 1200m in 3:00 still feeling like I had a lot of running in me. I attacked the last bend and swung out to lane 3, took a deep breath and worked to the line. I passed 2nd with 50m to go, and closed down the leader and dipped for the win in 3:43.64. A two second PB and a 58 last 400m.

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This was my twelfth 1500 PB since running 4:12 in January 2011, and got me thinking what is the fastest 1500m race I have ever been in? Digging into my Power of 10 it turns out it was Saturdays win, and here is the fastest three:

1500 times

 

 

 

The next step is hopefully to get in a race of the 3:39-3:45 range and test myself going out harder and seeing what I can achieve.

Thanks for reading.

British Universities

Coming off of a successful pre-season training camp filled me with a lot of confidence going into the first track race of the season. The British Universities Championships always falls over the May bank holiday weekend which is awfully early for a National Championship, but I guess means students can compete before exams etc. commence into the summer.

Having only done two specific 1500m session on camp, and prior to that seven months of 10k Road/XC training; I was intrigued to see how a far more endurance based preparation would fare.

Round one and day one we were on bright and early at 10:30am, meaning a 6am wake up to make sure I took on the right nutrition prior to racing. The heats are always tricky at BUCS with a range of abilities meaning you have to bide your time and be sensible. I pretty much did the opposite and fought around some elbowing, before getting clear in the last 150m and finishing 2nd in 4:02.

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Checking I was safe through the first round

The kind scheduling meant the semi-finals gave us a whole 31 hours recovery; being the last individual event on the Sunday night. It was first five to qualify for Mondays final, and I tried not to panic as the pace started kicking. Again the focus was picking my position, and I slotted into 3rd place at the bell and tried to build the pace for each segment of the lap. I felt the lactate building up into the last 80m of the race, but was mightily relieved to see a gap behind and finish in 3rd, comfortably in one of the five auto spots. Relief.

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Running very scared with 50m to go

So to my first ever British Universities finals day. Back in the Olympic Stadium in my first year I was knocked out of the semi-finals, so racing three times in three days was a totally new experience for me. I felt great warming up, and tried to envisage executing my race plan as well as the semi’s turned out. The first 800m was hit in a (relatively) pedestrian 2:10 as I carefully made my way around the outside of the main pack and slotted into 3rd approaching the bell lap. I was amazed through the final lap that the gaps started opening like they did, and once at 150m in 2nd place I was far too scared to look behind,and gave it everything to the line to take the first national medal of my career. Coming away with a silver medal in a race where my PB was I believe 6th fastest out of 12 certainly proves the aerobically focussed preparations paid dividends over the three days. I was also not ashamed to be beaten by a 3:40 French Erasmus student who was a class above throughout the weekend, and totally deserved the win leading from gun to tape. I’m sure Guillaume will go onto break the elusive 3:40 barrier this season!

A video of the final can be seen here

Results are here

On the podium for my first National Medal

On a National podium for the first time

Just five days later and after numerous late nights finishing off my undergraduate degree,  I completed the 800/1500m double in abysmal conditions at the British League. Our Bristol team was pretty decimated, meaning we came 4th of the 8 teams in our first match in Division 2, certainly not a reflection of what we’re capable of this year! I took 2nd (1:55/800m) and 3rd (4:02/1500m) which was a pleasing points haul for the club despite not feeling by any means 100%, but nevertheless a good workout.

The BUCS performance meant that I have subsequently been selected for this Sundays British Universities team at the Loughborough International against the Home Nations; my biggest accolade to date and hopefully a competitive 1500m race to boot.

You can catch the race live here at 4:55pm – www.vincosport.com

Thanks for reading.

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