Saturday, 29 November 2014

Asics Target 26.2 Boot camp

Time to reflect on yesterday and my attendance as one of the 50 shortlisted runners at Runners World Asics Target 26.2 Boot camp training day in Birmingham. 

Our introduction to the day informed us that we were lucky enough to be selected from a record number of over 3,500 applicants for the boot camp stage and from everyone I spoke to during the day I can certainly echo the sentiment from Asics that everyone thoroughly deserved their place and should be proud of their achievement of coming this far. 

The day itself.....

The journey 

For me it was a particularly long day as I was up and awake at 4.00 in the morning and out the door at around 5.00 to take on the early less reliant pre rush hour tube service to make it to Euston for my 6.45 train. 

The tube is a completely different proposition at that time of the morning with almost everyone in a zombie like state of sleepiness somewhat surprised that there are other individuals up and awake at this unearthly hour. 

I made it in plenty of time for my train and soon settled down in my seat to catch up on some much needed sleep as I sped my way across the Country. 

At Birmingham New Street Station it was a case of mixing with the early morning Birmingham commuters to catch my connecting train to Perry Bar station and onward to Alexander Stadium where the day was being held. It was pretty easy to spot a few other individuals in running gear heading for the same train so I introduced myself to what turned out to be previous winners Malcolm (AKA Malcs on twitter on the RW forum) and Roger Reid (AKA ChiroRoger on twitter) who both offered interesting and insightful views of their winning experiences. The group also included fellow bootcamper Rosie (AKA Londontrack on twitter) who like me was both nervous and excited about the day that lay ahead. 

Session one - Running gait analysis 

After a quick briefing by the Asics team and watching a video of last years winners experiences we split up into our time category groups for the first session. 

A selfie of the sub 4 group running style! Courtesy of  Sarah @mia79gbr
My category, the sub 4 hours group, had the gait analysis session first where we all took it in turns to have our running gaits analysed and the appropriate suggestions made on our current footwear and potential future footwear. 

The nature of the session meant that the group was able to talk amongst ourselves while one runner was being analysed and it was great to start chatting with fellow runners. We were also able to spend time discussing the incredible prize on offer with previous winners Malcolm (aka Malcs on twitter on the RW forum) Adrian (aka Ady_Livingstone) and Sarah (aka mia79gbr). It was really useful to get a better idea of how the competition progresses as well as hearing about the pressures of the dreaded public vote!

The group listen and learn from last years winner Malcolm, photo courtesy of Craig Bowdery @craigbowdery
Session two - Physio session

Session two for our group was a physio session with Sarah Connors where she talked us though common runner injuries and complaints and how we can combat these. The session especially focused on warming up the nerves in you back and the importance this plays in firing up your glutes and hamstrings to allow you to run more effectively. 

We then all took part in some stretching and core conditioning exercises with varying degrees of success and flexibility. 

After a morning that flew by in a blur it was lunch time and while the other groups hungrily tucked into a wide range of sandwiches our group more conservatively nibbled at our food as we had drawn the short straw of having our running track session straight after the lunch break. 

Session three - Run session on the track 

After trying to take on some sustenance we reluctantly headed outside into the cold West Midland air for the obligatory group photo shoot which gave us our first taste of being out on the track. 

With the formalities of the photos done and dusted the other groups departed leaving us out on the track ready to be put through our paces from the coaches. 

For many of the group it was their first experience of running on a track but I think it is safe to say it was an exciting experience for us all whatever our background. 

The track session had rightly generated a lot of discussion through the day and I think was causing a certain amount of anxiety amongst us especially as we didn't feel particularly well prepared after a hurried lunch. 

After some warming up, which was much needed as it was pretty nippy, our first task was to complete some pacing runs at both 9.30 minute miles and slightly faster at 9 minute miles to give us an idea of the pace required for our marathon times and to see if we could pace ourselves for a sustained period. 

One of the pacing runs as part of our track session, photo courtesy of  @runnersworlduk
It was a difficult task and one I think we all struggled with and relied mostly on guess work rather than an insightful pacing knowledge. 

With several laps now completed we were all raring to go into the main exercise of the 5K time trial. The task was to complete the 5K by completing different periods of sustained increased pace followed by shorter recovery periods. The pattern was to be 400m at our 5K race pace, 200m of recovery at a slightly relaxed pace and repeated 8 times with the final 200m being left for a sprint finish. 

It was a run I really enjoyed both in terms of the mental and physical challenge but also for the testing nature of it. It was pretty tough to keep pushing and raising your speed at regular intervals and it is an interval session I would like to repeat again. Everyone I spoke to form the group seemed to likewise enjoy the session. 

It was hard to judge what was being gained from the session in terms of selection criteria apart from the obvious of making sure we could all run as fast as we had stated on our application which everyone easily demonstrated. I was pleased with finishing fourth in the group despite being ran down in the last quarter but I don't believe it gives me any advantage in terms of being selected for the next stage. 

After another few laps of pacing we were all relieved to head in doors to the warmth and to replenish our energy supplies with some left over sandwiches. 

Session four - Q&A with Holly Rush

Our last session was the Q & A with sponsored Asics athlete Holly Rush which was already a money cant buy opportunity without taking into account the actual prize we were all competing for. Holly was very relaxed in front of the group and obviously is a passionate runner and she was more than happy to talk through her experiences and share with us many facets of her training, nutrition, racing strategies and offered us advice in all these areas plus injury prevention, training methods and race preparation. 

I think the group were all thankful and privileged to have the opportunity to spend time and discuss running with such a talented and passionate elite runner. 

The end of the day

Eventually the session had to come to an end and with it marked the end of the day as a whole. The Asics team gave us a quick debrief of what to expect from the next stage and the boot camp day was then at its conclusion.  

The last thing to do was to pick up our goody bags and make plans for the journey home. And what goody bags they were, here is what we had in them: 

I ended up travelling back into central Birmingham with two runners from my group Chris (aka ChrisBrammer on twitter) and Tony (aka AnthonyMcNeill).

We all had a bit of time to kill before our respective trains so we took the logical option of heading to the pub for a well deserved pint! If an elite ultra marathon like Holly Rush can enjoy a drink during training then why can't we! A nice refreshing pint in the pub was a nice end to the day before the arduous journey back home.

A well deserved pint!
My reflections

Overall it was such a positive day with so many lessons learned. The cynical amongst you might say it is all just a very clever marketing strategy to further the asics brand and you might be right but when they treat us runners so well and offer such an amazing prize I think we are all more than happy to be part of this marketing ploy.

In terms of selecting the bootcampers for the next stage and in turn the final 5 I believe asics know what they are looking for in a potential finalist and maybe I am what they are looking for and maybe I am not. I believe I have a lot to offer but at the same time I am not the big personality perhaps required for some of the demands of being in the final 5.

In many ways I am happy to have just experienced boot camp and would be happy to not progress any further but at the same time I am even hungrier for the prize having found out more about it.

The demands of the voting stage will be gruelling if I get that far and it would be awful to go through to the voting stage and then not get any further. On the other hand I am really interested and motivated by the challenge the voting stage presents!

What did I learn and take away?
  • I am definitely a neutral runner
  • Making new friends and meeting some social media acquaintances
  • Some excellent stretching and core advice and techniques
  • To be proud of my running achievements
  • A drive to want to be a better stronger runner
  • Some good ideas for some more speed work
  • A plan to follow the sub 4 marathon training program in the spring
  • A renewed determination to run a sub 4 marathon in 2015
Thank you for reading, it was great to be a part of the day and meet so many other bootcampers. I would love to hear what you thought of the day and what you got out of it. I wish all my fellow bootcampers the best of luck in getting through to the next stage and look forward to supporting whoever gets through if I'm not fortunate enough to get through.