I wasn’t meant to run this morning.
I had got home relatively late yesterday evening after dinner with the family here in London and I had announced to Mum and Dad that I would be running in the afternoon instead of the morning. I don’t enjoy running tired when I am on vacation and, with no real stress to get me out the door in what is really a recovery week, I thought I would sleep in a little and then make up some time on my feet in the afternoon. As it happened, though, I was woken by noise in this unfamiliar house this morning not long after 5am so, not long after 6am, I was out the door and running.
I was also not meant to run tempo this morning.
Like I said, this is a recovery week. A couple of days ago I was running as far as I have ever run in my life and doing it on zero sleep, too. Just 48 hours ago I was trying to run 6 kilometers on tired legs and not feeling all that great, especially as I could barely climb the stairs without pain. However, motion is lotion, and walking around London for the last couple of days has done me good.
So when I headed out the door this morning the only goals I had were to get in about 10 kilometers or so, and to try and set a new personal best for the nearby hill climb of Mount Vernon. The Strava segment I mentioned the other day is just down the end of the street here so I figured I would give it a go and see if I could improve my time before looping back around to the coffee shop in a more relaxed fashion to round out the 10K.
I started with what I termed in my head a warm up: a loop from Mum and Dad’s place to the coffee shop, down the village high street and to the start of the hill. This had the advantage of letting me get my legs moving a little bit while also allowing me to find myself on the correct side of the road to hit the bottom of the hill without waiting at traffic lights. Plus one for thinking, right?
At the bottom of the hill I knew I would just have to hold things nice and steady and I would get the personal best time. It’s a funny climb in that it goes up in stages with a number of false flats along the way. I kept the pressure on and didn’t glance at my watch until I got to the top where I figured I was done in about six-and-a-half minutes or so. Turns out I was right on the money as my time on Strava was 6:29, good enough for 22 second personal best and a nice way to start the run.
Heading back down the hill I was a little more relaxed with the real challenge of the morning’s run out of the way. My Garmin was in ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode because I was still an hour earlier than the alarm I had set to wake me up at 7:15am, and this meant I wasn’t getting any alerts or vibrations as to how fast I was running. No matter, I am on vacation, right?
Heading along Ricksmansworth Road I kept things at what I thought was a nice pace but which, as it happened, was closer to tempo. The rolling hills and rises around this part of Northwood, Northwood Hills, and the edge of Harrow mean that holding a constant pace also means lifting the heart rate – and it did indeed lift.
I was holding a good pace as I pushed back up the hill into Northwood proper. I managed to pick up another Strava segment personal best along the way for a section between Northwood Hills and Pinner. I took 18 seconds off what I ran yesterday at a steady pace, and 5 seconds off when I ran it back in 2015 – a good sign that I was doing well half way into the morning’s effort.
Also surprising: I managed to crack the local top ten for a longer segment that included a nice sharp hill and about fifteen minutes of running. Not so much something I was aiming for as something I managed to hit keeping up the pace after the descent of the Mount Vernon hill.
Closing it out on Green Lane in the center of the Northwood village, the 10K mark clicked over within a few meters of the front door of the coffee shop and you can’t ask for more perfect timing than that, can you? I clicked stop on the Garmin, grabbed the biggest, blackest coffee that they were willing to sell me, and then walked the final 750 meters back home sipping on warmth and listening to Epic Bill Bradley on the Born to Kick Ass podcast talking about shutting up and suffering.
Yeah, I may not running the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim (seven times!) in the Grand Canyon or swimming the English Channel five times, but in a recovery week I think this sort of tempo run counts as ‘epic shit’.