The fast courses, excellent organisation and strong fields have always made the Polaroid 10k series an attractive set of events in my running calendar and since discovering them a couple of years ago, the four runs have consistently made it into my spring calendar. This year however I decided to take a different approach to my season and, rather than enter the series in its entirety, I decided to focus my attention on a single race: Clydebank.
Having experienced a decent run of training, I set my sights on a new PB. My time of 33:08 during this series last year gave me the confidence to aim to break the 33 minute barrier and secure a time in the 32 minute range. With only one race to aim for, I was able to focus my training on this particular event and even gave myself the luxury of two days off running in preparation for it.
My confidence took a slight knock on the way to the race as the heavens opened and the rain threatened to scupper any chance of a fast run. As the evening progressed however things eased up and by the time I was heading out for my warm up, the downpour had ceased completely. The poor weather had not put too many off and a large field of over 700 runners made their way to the start line.
The race began with a bang I tucked in behind the leaders. I had noticed a couple of regular faces on the start line and made the decision to stick with them for the first section of the race. It was not far into the race that I realised that this had perhaps not been the wisest decision – I passed the first mile marker and glanced at my watch. 5mins 02secs. This was much quicker than I had intended to run and I knew that I would not be able to maintain this pace for the full distance. I made the decision therefore to allow the rest of the pack to get away from me and I found myself striding along with a single runner tucked in on my shoulder.
We remained together for the majority of the race as the miles ticked by at a more reasonable rate and I knew that things were going to be close. Approaching the final mile I had another glance at the watch. I realised that I would need to step up the pace in order to hit my target and so put in one final burst. As the finish line approached I was exhausted and struggled to make out the digits on the clock but knew that I could not afford to slow down – the knowledge that I was not racing in the remaining events of the series forced me to push on. There was no chance of easing up to ‘have another go’ next week; it was now or never. I crossed the line and was ecstatic to discover that I had finished in 32:48 – 20 seconds faster than my previous PB and comfortably within my target!
Now that the race is over I will be looking through my diary for the next target. I am positive that my decision to enter only one event of the series was central to my succeeding and hitting my target. When things got really tough it was definitely the awareness that this was my only chance to hit my target that kept me pushing on – if I had been racing next week it may have been more difficult to dig deep and keep suffering! I look forward to attending the Dumbarton 10k next week as a spectator and will enjoy watching the rest of the Harriers push on.
For the second spring in a row I have just finished a six week bootcamp at Glasgow Fitness Gym in Thornliebank. For those unfamiliar with the bootcamp philosophy it is essentially a short, intense series of classes to improve fitness. A lot of people use these sessions to get in better shape, detox and to vary their training regime. For me I was definitely aiming to build my core fitness, compliment the start of the racing season and lose some of the winter weight gain. The wedding is now just over a week away and in my head I had the added motivation of getting in good shape for the big day.
Many bootcamps have popped up all over the city and The Boy even dipped his toe in the waters with a short stint running a camp out of Victoria and Kelvingrove Park when he first moved to the city. I have been to the Bulletproof Bootcamp twice before as I know Dip Sekhon (instructor) very well. The gym has the added bonus of being located 5 minutes drive from work. I would recommend the camp to anyone who is looking to be pushed hard and up for introducing new activities to their training regime. In additional I wanted to see whether an element of cross training would benefit or hinder my running?
The camp comprises four morning (or evenings – or both if you are proper hardcore) sessions a week. I opt for morning classes which are 6-30am to 7-30am. My colleagues think this is crazy but I am the type of person that hates getting up whatever time and I would rather get the class out of the way.
All of the classes comprise of a gradual warm up which increases in intensity over the first 15-20 minutes of the session to loosen the joints and pick up the heart rate. Calling it a warm up by the end often seems like madness as challenging as many of the exercises that come later in the hour. Sessions vary providing a good mix for those who like to try different things and the result is a weekly regime that gives a good all round balance of strength, speed, conditioning and endurance. Typically sessions include:
1. Tabata Circuits – short intense bursts of exercise including burpees, push ups, kettle bell swings, shuttle runs etc.
2. Boxing / Muay Thai – the gym specialises in boxing and TKD and Muay Thai amongst other martial arts. These classes are in a padded cage which is pretty cool
3. A Barbell class
4. Running – the only thing I actually perform competently at
Each session is tough and you won’t leave feeling anything other than you have had a brutal work out, in a good way. The weights session in particular is a good addition to my regular training where my upper body is totally neglected. I am shamefully weak as seen by embarrassingly poor performance anytime push ups are on the menu.
My favourite session this time around (aside from the sprint session on the track) has been the circuits. I like the variation in exercise and we usually complete four x seven minute rounds in pairs. For those who are competitive there is an element of challenge vs your partner but the fundamental thing about bootcamp is personal improvement.
I enjoy all of the workouts but in terms of the exercises within them there are some I would rather avoid. Aside from the push ups the others that are horrible are the cards game where we have to do a set number of exercise depending on which card comes out the pack (screw you Aces and Joker), bear crawl and anything that involves twisting of the core. The good thing about Dip is he senses your achilles heel and gives you more punishment so that you get the maximum individual gain from the experience. No pain no gain certainly runs through your mind a lot during these classes as you are working at your limit. Dip and Harry make sure they motivate you to give you best during the sessions.
Weekly fitness tests at the end of the class are used to chart progress and Body-Fat is calculated pre and post bootcamp. Alongside the classes Dip also moderates a Facebook nutrition page for people attending the camp giving lots of good ideas about eating more healthily and in moderation.
The group that attend are extremely mixed with people looking to get back into a fitness routine through to high level amateur and professional athletes keeping fit on their off season giving an indication of how highly thought of the training is and how well Dip caters to different fitness needs. Participants come from all different backgrounds and the number of people returning to the bootcamp and making it the main part of their fitness programme is testament to the quality of training and facility at Glasgow Fitness. The classes are tough but fun and are accompanied by motivational music. A nutrition Facebook page is also offered to give ideas and share recipes about healthier eating – I promise I didn’t eat any junk during bootcamp 🙂
So has attending Bulletproof Bootcamp helped or hindered my running?
Once again the combination of racing and bootcamp has worked well for me delivering me into good race shape during the Polaroid Series after a relatively quiet winter. I have achieved my 3rd and 4th fastest ever 10k times in the last month. This is despite the fact that the class on a Thursday morning has meant I have doubled up on the days of my 10ks. Last year I ran my fastest ever 10k and 5k while I was completing bootcamp showing that it has most definitely improved my core fitness and as a result my speed and medium distance endurance.
Overall the camp has shown me that a greater variety is required in my training to improve my base fitness. Classes focus a lot on core strength and key exercises have developed this for the benefit of my running. When I am not at bootcamp I use a lot of these exercises on my rest days at home. There is no hiding at Bootcamp and Dip and Harry work well to ensure everyone is giving their all meaning you are going to see some real benefits and changes to your body definition over the 6 weeks.
The next bootcamp at Glasgow Fitness is a shorter 4 week block which would be an ideal opportunity for anyone looking to vary their training and try something different over the summer. For me I will definitely be completing a block of training with Dip two or three times a year to give me a different focus from running sessions comprising 100% of my training whilst providing a platform that compliments and enhances what I am doing with my running.
If anyone is interested in finding out more the best way would be to look up the camp on Facebook and contact Dip that way.
This morning marked the end of the Polaroid Series for another year. Another cracking pair of sunglasses, four medals and a mixed bag in terms of race performance from me this year round. For those who don’t know the Polaroid is made up of four 10 kilometre races. This was our second outing at the Polaroid and once more each race was well organised and offered a good chance for improvement week on week and pbs all round.
Race 1 in Helensburgh has just enough uphill to give the legs a shock for anyone who’s fresh from winter hibernation but once again the route provided an excellent opener. Running the tree lined boulevards of Helensburgh before routing back via the coast it is great to be out of the city. The depth of field was evident at this first event and The Boy did well to place in the top 10.
Yet again the Polaroid coincided with my attendance at four morning a week boot camp at Glasgow Fitness and although last year I felt the two complemented one another my legs were definitely feeling the effects of several races in the month leading up to the Polaroids. As a result I ended up about 30 seconds slower than last year in a time just over 41 minutes but was pleased to be closer than expected to my time from last year.
Race 2 saw us move on to Dumbarton. Starting on the grass before moving on to the narrow cycle path you need to be wary of the regular bollards along the route on this one. I felt like I was really pushing it and at the half way stage was happy that I was going to improve on my time from the previous week. The course is flat and fast and I maintained my pace in the second 5k to finish in 41:03. Again this was a bit outside my time from last year when I had the benefit of a more rigorous winter programme as I was preparing for the London Marathon. This winter I ran regularly but without the pressure and structure of a marathon programme. However I was pleased again to be reasonably close to my time from last year.
On to Race 3 at Clydebank and I managed to put a good dent into my time for a seasons PB of 40:38. It hurt a lot and I was sorely tempted not to run so I could go and watch Rangers destroy Motherwell. A lucky escape as the pain only lasted for 40 minutes at Clydebank. This route is again a fast course that loops an industrial estate before following the canal on a two lap course. I started a little further towards the front of the field this time and it certainly helped pull me along to a fast time. Last year I had managed 40:24 on this course and it goes to show how useful the Polaroid Series is as a training tool that I was closing back to 2014 fitness levels after only 3 races. It was at the end of race 3 that Jack started telling me I might have a chance of a series prize – the top 20 runners over the 4 races. Despite his optimism I had to tell Jack that I was finishing in approximately 200th place in each race 🙂 A really incredible testament to the quality of runners in the series and the remarkable optimism that Jack has in me.
So three races down and then it all came to a shuddering halt this morning at Race 4 – Balloch. The only Sunday race, I finished in an underwhelming yet somewhat remarkable 44:30. Remarkable that I made the start line despite being bed ridden the previous day with a shocking hangover after my Dunoon Stag. Feeling really sorry for myself I made myself travel out to Balloch and I am glad I did as the course travels through some of the nicest scenery in the series. It was refreshing to run without a pressure goal and I was glad to even be able to put one foot in front of the other. The Boy and I rewarded ourselves with some great burgers from the Farmer’s Market before he collected yet another prize for finishing in 8th place in the Male Seniors Category. Despite his optimism the week before I doubt my series prize will be in the post any time soon.
A big well done to Ronnie Cairns of Dunoon Hill Runners who completed 3 of the series events as part of his fundraising efforts on behalf of Yorkhill Hospital.
Having completed the first three 10K races in the Polaroid Series over the last few weeks, it was all to play for in this morning’s race around the Vale of Leven. I entered this series of races for the first time last year and really enjoyed the excellent organisation and camaraderie that grew over the course of the event. This year proved to be no different and we were in for another fantastic month of racing.
The series got underway in Helensburgh and I could not help but feel a little concerned at the evening start time. Due to most of my running happening early in the morning, particularly for races, it felt a little alien to be sidling up to an event at a time when I would usually be settling down to my dinner. Nevertheless the atmosphere began to grow as people arrived (and the coffee kicked in) and I felt the familiar sensation of pre-race nerves starting to take effect. The facilities were great and the course itself proved a fair one – there were no major undulations – and I found myself crossing the line in 8th place with a shiny new PB of 33:30! I knew that I had put in a decent performance but was still shocked to discover that I had taken 29 seconds off my previous best time. It was also pleasing to see that the Harriers had managed to secure a prize for 3rd Team – just one point behind second place – gaining me a cheeky voucher for Sweatshop!
The order of races had been shuffled this year and so Dumbarton featured as the second event of the series. I was feeling optimistic after the success of week one and was also armed with extra determination to finish inside the individual prizes, having narrowly missed out previously. The grassy start was less dramatic than it had been last year (where several people slipped during the first hundred metres!) and the flat and fast course was bound to lead to fast times. I was delighted therefore to knock a further 22 seconds off my PB to finish in 33:08 – securing 9th place. An individual prize still managed to evade me but I was more than happy with the faster time!
By the time Clydebank came around I was hopeful that I could drop below the 33 minute mark. Last year Clydebank had been my fastest course of the series and I knew that the course would be flat. Unfortunately it was not to be. My legs felt tired throughout the race and I struggled to find a change of gear to keep up with the fast group. On reflection I think the half-marathon in Campbeltown the previous weekend must have taken more out of me than I had given it credit for. I finished the race in 33:44 (still one of the fastest times that I have every recorded over 10k!) and missed out on the prizes once again.
And so to this morning. The Vale of Leven. I was lucky enough to have the support of my fiancee Vicki at the race this morning and so I was determined to make a good impression – I didn’t want her thinking that all of the training sessions which I was disappearing to were actually trips to the pub! We arrived nice and early and found Kenny who informed us that he was still feeling a little under the weather after his (3rd!) Stag party on Friday. As we made our way to the start, past the incredibly tempting farmers’ market and bbq, I began to get really nervous! As the crowds got more dense I was worried that I was going to miss the start or not be able to make my way to the front. Vicki noticed my agitation and took my bag so that I could jog ahead and get to the start line nice and early. As I stood talking to the other guys at the start (and laughing at Stevie who had managed to pin his race number to his vest upside down) the horn signaled for us to go! Whilst it was a little unexpected, it certainly got things moving and before I had a chance to think we were making our way up the road and into the park. This was the hill which I had somehow succeeded in blocking from my memory and I decided to take it steady for the first kilometre to figure out my pacing. I tucked in with the pack and decided to wait it out. 2km later and we exited the park and hit the long and winding downhill section. I decided to let things fly here and managed to pull away from the pack and catch the next runner along the course. After this rollercoaster section of the route things settled down and I found myself stuck on my own for an uneventful second half of the race. I soon realised that this would be no personal best but I stuck to it and finished in 33:58 – having taken a slightly premature turn as I came into the finishing straight which, fortunately, only cost me a couple of seconds. The celebratory roll and sausage from the farmers’ market was phenomenal and Kenny, Vicki and I made our way to watch the distribution of the prizes. I was delighted to find that they awarded prizes to the top ten runners in this race and so, finally, I found myself grasping that elusive individual prize! It was also a bonus when they announced that the Harriers had once again taken 3rd place in the team prizes: another Sweatshop voucher! With the vouchers burning a hole in my pocket it was time to leave.
This was another fantastic series with four exceptionally well organised races providing a good variety of fast routes and scenic courses. The generous prizes were much appreciated but it was the fun atmosphere and the camaraderie which really make this series stand out. I will definitely be back next year (and I will be eyeing up those individual prizes!).