A Racing the Reaper Man Year: May 2021

It was all well and good tracking my progress each month by weight and miles run, but I had a single, looming target that would show if, indeed, my new lifestyle would translate into a quick 50k. In the last week of April, I decided I needed one extra day’s rest to recover from the fitness test imposed upon me by Martin, and moved my 50k to Sunday 2nd May. I reached the day weighing 12st 5lbs, a shade heavier than the previous few weeks, as I had been increasing my carbohydrate and liquid intake for several days. Yet, my weight was exactly what I had hoped it would be, and, most of all, I had tapered down and was well rested. 

It is so difficult to predict running times over a marathon, let alone over 31+ miles. In 2018 I tested myself over 30 miles and managed 6 hours 8 minutes, so that was all I had. Together, Martin and I had set out a wish list of times. Best: sub 6 hours = 11:35 pace. Mid: 6 hours 10 mins = sub 12:00 pace. Slowest: 6 hours 13 mins = 12:00 pace. To me these seemed like respectable times for a 64-year-old man.

As I lined up on that Sunday morning at the start of a 24 and-a-bit lap route I was apprehensive. Martin and my Passepartout, were there to support, but there was no field of runners to pull me along. To me, a solo time trial is always hard. 50k was new territory for me. Yet, it was a perfect day: sunny, but with a cool SW wind which would be behind me on the gentle climb of each lap. I wore sunglasses to ease my eyes, and had invested in some Hoka Carbon X shoes. As the countdown began, it was all up to me, and the efficacy of mine and Martin’s living experiment with very new training methods.

At the start of our timed 50k with Martin Sorensen PT

“Go!” Watches synched, Martin ran the first 300m with me to his van, then I was alone with my thoughts. Immediately I felt ‘right’ and decided to run instinctively, rather than with the watch, however fast or slow I was running. I hit mile 1 in 9:44, throttled back, did a 9:40, throttled back and started to run at the steadiest of paces I’d ever managed. Just above 10-minute miles and feeling fine.

Reaching the Marathon distance in my 50k

We were not prepared for this as the plan was 11:30s, so it was a worried support team that watched me pass by on each 2.28-mile lap. Passepartout cycled a few laps with me, but I was deep in another world by 10 miles. I took liquid or gels most laps and by 20 miles I was still averaging about 10:08 pace! It was too late to ease back now, so just relaxed, slowed slightly and focused. I drifted through the Marathon at 10:11 pace and decided just to keep pushing. Insane! The only issue I had was a sore right nipple, so I ditched the vest for the last couple laps and finished in 5:18:33 – 10:15s for 50k! And I felt just fine.

A great start to the month and solid evidence that the application of my philosophy was working. For the record I lost just 2lbs in weight over the run.

For the rest of May I was in a dilemma. I had a 53 miler in my plans for June, but realised I wanted to test my speed, more than endurance. A family emergency made my mind up, so deferred my entry to 2022, and reduced my training in favour of resetting my mind to long-lost speed.

This suited Martin too, as his MSc would benefit from the change – he could show his program of strength, core and plyometric sessions would support speed as well as endurance. For me it was no longer working hard at endurance, but hurting myself to regain some of the speed I had ignored for years. By the last week of the month we had decided a fast 5k on 4th July at Goodwood was a fine target, adding a series of attempts at getting close to breaking a 7-minute mile between the end of the month and 14th July.

Even with lower mileage I still lost weight, breaking through the 12 stone barrier for the first time since 1998. I ended the month with a glorious 10-mile trail run around Thorney Island. I finally looked slim, felt confident and, most of all, was living a new lifestyle based on my own philosophy. I was becoming what I wanted to be and working towards that every day. I no longer looked for excuses.  I set a benchmark by running a mile time trial in 7:44 on 26th May – I had a long way to go.

How did I fare in May?

  • Age 64
  • Weight progression:
    • Dec 31st: 13st 5lbs
    • End Jan: 13st 0lbs
    • End Feb: 12st 8.2lbs
    • End Mar: 12st 4.8lbs
    • End Apr: 12st 4lbs
    • End May: 11st 12.4lbs
  • BMI: Down from an initial 27.6 to 24.5
  • Avg kcal/day balance = 1493
  • Tummy: Down from an initial 38” in November, to 31”.

My racing the Reaper Man Year was not yet halfway through. The results, so far, have been astounding. June’s strength and speed work would be a new challenge for me. 

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