A photo of Geoffrey Hayward

Embracing the Wind: A Week of Racing, Resting and Learning

A Week of Discovery

Published December 13, 2023

A family photo with Geoffrey Hayward wearing a green plaid shirt, his youngest child Lizzie in a white angel costume with golden wings and a halo, and Ewa Hayward wearing a black and white patterned dress. They are standing in front of a Christmas tree, smiling at the camera, with other people and holiday decorations blurred in the background. The photo was taken after Lizzie's school nativity show.
Lizzie's after her school nativity play with Mum Ewa and myself.

As I stepped into last week’s training, I focused on the City Runs Exmouth 5-Mile race on Wednesday, 6th December, a challenge I eagerly anticipated. Reflecting on the importance of listening to my body, as emphasised in my previous training, I approached this week with a relaxed view. I stepped away from the routine I had been following over the previous weeks to prepare for Wednesday fully. So here is how week four went in my journey towards a new 5K personal best and a seemingly valuable lesson learnt.

Monday: Les Mills BodyAttack

As I was taking a relaxed view, and because of the weather on Monday, I chose an indoor workout instead of Hill Sprints. BodyAttack is a high-energy class, blending running, lunging, jumping, and strength exercises like push-ups and squats. The 50-minute, at-home, session was a rediscovery of what I had been missing. I had forgotten how much I enjoy BodyAttack, and I want to work it back into my routine – I’ll work out the details soon.

Tuesday: Rest day

With the Exmouth Race on the horizon, I opted for a rest day. It was a time to let my muscles recover and my mind to focus on the challenge ahead.

Wednesday: Exmouth 5-mile race

So, on Wednesday, the 6th of December 2023, at 7 pm, the City Runs Exmouth 5-Miler race began. It’s held along the Exmouth Sea Front. As this race is nearby, I happily returned for the third year. Each year, the race is held three times over the winter, and everyone’s average across the three races is used as the final age-adjusted score – which is nice.

It’s on a pancake-flat course, and my objective with the Exmouth 5-Mile was to see how fast I could run it, a personal time trial if you like.

The course is on the tarmac and follows the Exmouth promenade west to south out and back twice. The course always feels fast, and I think that’s partly attributed to the scenery. On one side, you have a constant, dark-shadowy view of the sea; on the other, you get an ever-changing view of Exmouth’s seafront buildings and attractions. In front of you, you can almost always see what’s coming ahead. All in all, I am quite fond of the route.

On this occasion, the wind was mighty, knocking me sideways and blowing sand in my face and eyes. Luckily, the rain stopped, but the wind dramatically affected my pace. But all was not lost, as running in the wind got me thinking, I’ll return to this.

My average pace was 4:52/km, and I finished in my slowest course time of 39:21. However, I am not disappointed because the weather played a massive part in this time. During the race, I was just going for it as best I could and analysing what was and was not working.

Running in such a strong wind, I noticed a couple of things. When the wind was behind me, with that much force, lengthening my stride seemed to really boost the speed of distance covered. Unfortunately, I only figured that out towards the end of K6.

A race analysis graph. The graph displays split times for an 8-kilometer race with a final time of 39:21. The x-axis represents each kilometre, and the y-axis shows pace in minutes per kilometre, ranging from 3:00 to 6:00 minutes per kilometre. Vertical bars represent the pace for each kilometre, with annotations for the 25%, 50%, and 75% marks of the race, showing times of 8:37, 19:50, and 28:58 respectively. The fastest kilometre is marked at 4:06/km, the average pace is 4:52/km, and the slowest is 5:31/km. The background is white with grid lines, and the pace bars are shaded in varying intensities of blue.
The Strava Race Analysis graph.

Then, when running into the wind, I noticed not to lift my legs too high. I figured that out in K4. And in K7 and on, I worked out to lean into the wind from the ankles and keep my head lowish (perhaps only in the wind, mind).

Another thing I noticed is most of the already very fast people made running in the wind look easy. Somehow, they cut through the wind almost like it was not there. And I think it has to do with the lean.

This got me thinking: I should also try leaning forward more on a fine day to reduce resistance but keep my head up as it’s heavy otherwise. I know to lean, it should come from the ankles and keep the hips forward (i.e., don’t hunch), but this lean doesn’t feel natural to me yet, but I think it is worth trying. After all, in such noticeable wind, it made a big difference.

Thursday: Tennis

Despite the physical exertion from the race, I was back to tennis at 6 am the next day. I played well (if I may say so myself) and was full of energy.

Friday: The Treadmill Experiment

The 5k run on the treadmill testing the forward lean technique. I completed it in 22:32; I found that this slight adjustment in form was effective. The time was still a minute off of my PB goal, but the effort for this time was by no means overly taxing. It’s a technique I’m excited to explore further.

Weekend: Rest and Reflection

The weekend was a rest period, allowing my body and mind to recover and reflect on the week’s events.

Concluding Thoughts

The week was a journey through various aspects of self-discovery. From the energising BodyAttack class to the challenging Exmouth race and the exploratory forward-leaning run on the treadmill. This week brought an essential lesson in technique that I am very keen to take forward.

Until next time, enjoy your running.

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