I had missed the first OCR training session of 2017, which had been away from St Albans, whilst away in the Lake District, so was looking forward to this first one at Verulamium Park, my home venue, although I was as disorganised as ever as I got ready in the morning, so had to jog down to ensure I was on time. There was a big group assembled by the time I arrived, with the very familiar faces of Tony Leary, Nick Day, Rebecca Cohen, Kirsten Whitehouse, Robert Boarder, Ray Fletcher, Lee Jackson and Peter Williams, as well as many faces which were new to me among the 16 people who had turned out for this session – Anna Ward, Matt Stewart, Neil Rainbow, Daniel Spears (who had only had a few hours’ sleep since finishing work before coming over for this session), and Andrew French, Dasos Gonnella and Richard Waters from Team Phoenix OCR. Certainly no drop in elite standard then !!!
Once Tony was happy that everyone who was going to be here was here we set off for a warm up lap around the wider park, starting by following the outside boundary from the museum car park, heading into the far field and running up along the hedge which follows the road, pushing on at a pace which split the larger group into two before we reached the top of the hill. Tony had told us where we were ultimately heading to, and we knew how to get there, so that was not an issue. We cut across the top and through the gap into the open grassy space below King Harry Lane, and headed straight over the ridge to go into the woods, looking down on the mist below before heading into the woods and following the track through there as it wound up and down until we came out at the far end. It had been a little muddy but not too slippery inside the woods. You just need to be careful with the tree roots which have grown out of the ground. We crossed over the path to get into the edges of the golf course, although Rebecca seemed to have found a shortcut for us to get into there because we entered higher up than I had gone in there the last time we ran this boundary route. I carried straight on, heading to where I knew the main group would be coming down, and Kirsten followed me. Rebecca ran up the hill with Matt and Neil. I reached the wooden fence at the bottom of the golf course around the same time as the main group, but unlike last time there was no stopping for a stretch as they hurdled over the fence (and I followed their lead) and continued running to the grass area in front of the Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre, going to the far end before turning left and then coming back alongside (and not in) the river, cutting through by (and not in) the weir to end up at the bottom of the grassy hill below the Cathedral. The fast pace had been too much for me, although that is definitely how I am going to improve, so I cut across the grass area to get to the river, letting Peter file through ahead of me as he continued his lap so I did not slow him down. We gathered as a group and Tony told us we would be running 3 hill repeats up the path to the Cathedral, round the bin at the top, and back down the far side of the grassy hill, including going over the tree branch, before cutting across the bottom of the slope back to the beginning, and after each set of 3 repeats we would take a trip to the weir, with each of us fitting in however many sets we could until someone had completed 3 sets. From the beginning it looked to me like that someone was going to be Lee.
This type of session really suits me as I can push to my limit without actually slowing down any of the others, and I actually managed to achieve a Strava segment PR on Abbey triangle, as well as a 2nd fastest time on verulamium park cathedral hill descent, so I was clearly not doing as badly as I thought I was doing ! It certainly helped being in a group, with the constant positive encouragement as the others went past me, and I did manage to hold them off for two hill repeats ! I eventually made it round my third and headed off to the weir, which was cold and deep, as always.
I noticed a group near the top as I went past, and after I had managed to get to my furthest point to date up the weir, I stopped to see if I could help. Nick had lost his phone and watch when exiting from the top of the weir, and while he had retrieved his phone, the search was continuing for his watch. Somehow, the watch was also found, but sadly the phone had drowned.
Once we had finished the hill repeats we ran from there to the bowl on the other side of the lake for some more hill repeats, going up the slope from the bowl, over the two benches at the top, and then back down into the bowl for 10 press ups, with us doing 5 repeats of the circuit. As I was running up one of the hill repeats I mentioned to Anna that she appeared to have a cut on her leg, and she was clearly already aware of it as she pushed on.
Tony followed that up with some fun and games, running us over the ridge at the top of the bowl to the nearest football pitch, then getting us into teams of 4 for plank hops up the length of the pitch, before we were up again and going over to the far football pitches to use the 8 goalposts for some spidermonkey training. The idea was to split into pairs to see how many of the 8 crossbars we could climb across. I have mentioned in a previous OCR Training blog the bodyweight problem I am currently dealing with, so I did not have high hopes of completing this, or indeed any part of it. I decided I would run between all 8 goalposts and see what I could manage with each one. The crossbar on a set of goalposts is really high. All the way up there. I jumped up and got both hands over the top of the first crossbar, and hung there until gravity had its way. I was not so successful with the next six crossbars, only being capable of tapping the top of the crossbars with my fingers, and then I came to the eighth crossbar, which was perfect for me. I watched Ray going across from left to right while Kirsten videoed him, and he got so close to the other side. Now it was my turn. I was able to reach the crossbar, then gradually moved from left to right, one hand after the other, little by little, until I reached the other side, and all done with only my tiptoes on the ground. We gathered as a group over by the far goalpost and we were done, with just the walk back to the car park, and a quick demonstration from me of how to smash these crossbars for Coach Tony as we passed my perfect crossbar setup.
We were back at the cars and it was time to put on some extra layers, get a hot drink, and most importantly enjoy the vast picnic of all the food various people had brought along. Matt had brought toffees, instead of bringing his children’s Christmas chocolate, Lee had brought Party Rings, Kirsten had brought some strange cakes with an even stranger name, and Peter had brought some eggs, prompting Kirsten to ask, “Are the eggs boiled ?”. Maybe we should try egg roulette one week. There were also bacon sandwiches, protein balls, cookies and brownies.
Away from the magnificent picnic, it had also been a very good session for me, picking up the Strava segment PR, and I had covered 9.3 kilometres (which came as a surprise because I was using a borrowed Garmin and had not appreciated it was dealing in miles rather than kilometres, so I thought I had only covered 5 very tough kilometres), while Andrew had covered 12.7 kilometres, and everyone else had covered a distance in between. Many thanks to Kirsten for taking the photographs I have used in this blog.