the view from the middle of the pack

"the hopelessness of the long distance runner"

Stoke 10K

The Stoke 10k. What a strange little race it was, certainly from a personal perspective. On one hand, the race was very well organised, slick and efficient. For a first time event it was as smooth as one could reasonably expect. On the other, the atmosphere seemed strangely subdued. This may have been have been just my own experience but it seemed a little flat. For me, too many people run in MP3 players these days and it takes away some of the camaraderie that you share with your fellow competitors before, during and after the race. Maybe this played a part but there was little buzz about Hanley Park as the runners got ready to race. Possibly it was due to the early start time of the race. I doubt it but who knows.

562 runners lined up on the start line for the inaugural event. I expected more, closer to 1000 and the organisers probably did too. The cost was quite high for a 10k. Not prohibitive but I paid nearly £18 including fees, more than I paid for the Potters Arf.

The overall standard wasn’t as high as I’d expected. My time of 44:57 was my worst ever time over the distance by nearly a minute and a half but it was still good enough to get me a 53rd placed finish which was very surprising. I think that I was still suffering from the after effects of the virus I had last month. I am well over the virus itself but haven’t had enough time to build my stamina back to what it was before the tonsillitis.

I managed the first 5k in 21 minutes, roughly what I would expect for half marathon distance and below. The difference was that whilst I could normally maintain sub 7min/mile pace for 10k fairly comfortably, in this race I was shot after 2 miles. My race stamina was way below par, due to a lack of good tempo runs of late. I had little in my legs to get me round the flat(ish) course in anything approaching the time I know that I am capable of. I should never have entered the race in the first place. I knew that I was cutting it fine in terms of building up a decent fitness base and thought that I could just run the time on mental strength alone. How wrong you can be.

I didn’t hang around at the end out of sheer embarrassment in my time and even forgot to take my tag off although the organiser will be glad to know that it has been posted since.

So, not a race to remember from a personal standpoint and not one I’ll look back on with any great pride but I hope it’s not the first and last running of the event. The course had plenty of PB potential but was still tough enough to be a challenge. I hope word of mouth helps it to grow in the future as it deserves to be a success. Spectators were thin on the ground outside of Hanley Park but you expect that in and around Hanley at 9am on a Sunday morning.

In spite of my bad day at the office, I would do it again and will recommend it to others.

My splits (highlighting my struggle in the second half) were as follows:

1 – 6:46

2 – 6:51

3 – 7:04

4 – 7:39

5 – 7:14

6 – 7:49

6.2 – 1:35 (7:07 pace)

10k – 44:57

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Aching Limbs and Tonsillitis

Following that great big behemoth of a race in the Brecon Beacons, my body and in particular my legs have felt of late like they were passed on loan from Pheidippides, immediately following his arrival in Athens. Perhaps rather foolhardily I decided to train again on Wednesday 24th following Saturday’s race. A mere three days rest. Somewhat hopefully and against all prevailing experience and logic, I figured that three days would be ample recovery time. How wrong can you be? Well apparently, very is the answer.

Sensibly I took it very easy on the Wednesday and felt quite loose for the three or so miles that I jogged. Suitably inspired, I decided to go to the club night on the Thursday. After a short jog to warm up, I upped the pace and pushed hard for a couple of miles. I got to start of the hill climb on the Congleton Edge route and disaster, or maybe reality struck. My feet were suddenly cast in concrete and I felt like that 35lb bergen was back on my back. My knees groaned and it was a struggle just to make it back to the leisure centre from then on in.

To my own amazement given my usual blasé attitude to injury prevention, I decided that the only way that I would recover would be to take a week off. Following the Dave Clarke 5k on August 22nd the plan of action was that I would hang up my running shoes and take that week off to get my mojo back.

As it turned out my system was so beaten up by my experience in Wales that I didn’t make it to the 22nd. I had to take a break immediately to try and ensure that I could make the start line. My training runs had become slow and painful affairs and it was a doubt as to whether the sessions were doing anything anyway. Quality always usurps quantity and this had never been more evident.

I came back after a week off feeling suitably refreshed and with a couple of weeks left to get in shape for a good crack at sub 21 on a tough multi terrain course in Trentham.

After my enforced break the training had gone well and I was looking forward to a good race. On the day of the 5k I woke up feeling like I’d been gargling with glass. I put it down to sleeping with the window open and feeling the effects of hayfever. As the day wore on I felt gradually worse and seriously considered pulling out of the race. However, being a tight fisted sod I reasoned that as I’d spent £6 on my entry fee I would run the race and hope that I didn’t throw up or collapse before the end.

Luckily I did neither and my time was a fairly reasonable 21:09, a slight improvement on the previous year. I did feel terrible and couldn’t really get going at any point during the race. I struggled all of the way through and wanted it to be over, a strange feeling for such a short race.

Afterwards it took me ages to stop sweating (virus alert!) but the post race endorphins kicked in and I felt good on the way home. When I woke up the next morning my sore throat was even worse and I couldn’t swallow my breakfast without grimacing in agony. It turned out I’d picked up a dose of tonsillitis and another week of mind numbing inactivity was ahead of me.

Since the race I’ve run several times. The first four times were horrible. My legs were like lead and I struggled along doing 9:00 minute miles. The next few have been slightly easier but the virus seems to have killed my stamina. I did manage to open up a little yesterday, it was less Aston Martin more Austin Allegro but on the right path at least and a sub 42 at the Stoke 10k is the target.

Sadly the Congleton Half now is out of the question. Too little time now to rebuild my ‘lost’ stamina and I don’t want to run a race just for the sake of it, tempting as it may be.

Fan Dance Race – Pen y Fan

It’s been a while since my last post. There’s no real reason for this other than the fact that I couldn’t really be bothered to write. I’d settled into a nice routine of training and didn’t feel that I had much to say.

Since my last post the Potters Arf came and went. It was a great race as usual, a hot beautiful day and I had a half decent run, completing the course in 1:38:50. This beat my previous course PB by almost 1 minute. Alongside this, endless training runs seemed to blend into one but it was brilliant to be able to run in scorching heat instead of wind and rain.

The reason for my lack of interest in the present was that I had entered a race that was completely different to any that I’d done before and I was really excited by it. Inspired by a former work colleague who completed the event in the January snow, I had entered the Fan Dance Race summer series which would take place at Pen-y-Fan in the Brecon Beacons. The event was run by an ex SAS soldier, Ken Jones and would follow the same route used for SAS selection. Candidates for special forces selection have to complete the course in under 4 hours 5 minutes carrying 55lbs plus weapon, food and water. We would have to carry 20lbs less in our bergen, though still a hefty 35lbs plus food and 4 litres of water. The previous weekend two SAS candidates had sadly died in the area due to the physical demands in the immense heat. There was a worry that the event wouldn’t take place but the decision was taken to bring the start forward from 1000hrs to 0800hrs and for entrants to carry 4 litres of water instead of 3  plus we had to leave an additional 2 litres at the turnaround RV point at half way. As it turned out there was plenty of cloud cover and although it was in the mid 20’s the heat was nowhere near as suffocating as the previous weekend.

I arrived at the start lined outside the Storey Arms Centre at 0630hrs to weigh in and register having camped overnight in Brecon. There were already plenty of people milling around getting kit ready and taking in water ahead of the 0800 start. I was slightly worried that my bergen would be short on weight but as it happened it was bang on 35lbs so I was good to go. I added my water and food after weigh in (taking the weight to over 40lbs) and slapped on suncream and my hat and waited at the old red phone box with the other intrepid competitors waiting for the off.

Start Line - Red Phone Box, Storey Arms.

Start Line (obviously not the same day!) – Old Red Phone Box, Storey Arms.

The course is 24km of rough terrain. The footing all the way round is very uneven and great care has to be taken with foot placement or you risk turning an ankle quite easily, especially with bearing so much extra weight.

The route leaves the Storey Arms centre and summits Pen-y-Fan via Corn Du, respectively the first and second highest peaks in South Wales. The first 3 miles is almost exclusively climbing up to the summit of Pen-y-Fan.

Summit of the Fan looking out over the course ahead

Summit of the Fan looking out over the course ahead. Turnaround point was at the uppermost reservoir in the distance.

You then descend down the Fan for several miles onto the RV turnaround point in Tal Fechan Forest before retracing the route back up the Fan via the madness of Jacobs Ladder before descending back down to the Storey Arms. The reality of what goes down must go back up 2,000 feet again hit when I saw the ascent back to the top of Pen-y-Fan, contouring Cribyn. Positivity was the key but the scale of the challenge was apparent and all idea’s of sub 4 were destroyed by the quad burning, lung busting ascent. By far the hardest physical challenge I have ever undertaken. Ahead of the race I had expected to enjoy the downhill but the reality was that it was so painful on the descent. My toes were getting a pounding in my boots and I had so many hotspots all over my feet in the last couple of miles that it took all my will to keep putting one foot in front of the other to finish. I made great time in the first 8 or 9 miles and was powering to a sub 4 hour finish, ahead of expectation.

The Ascent of Pen-y-Fan as seen from Cribyn

The Ascent of Pen-y-Fan as seen from Cribyn

When I finally got to the top I had a quick look around at the stream of people stretching back out across the course for miles and I couldn’t help but feel pleased to be among those at the head of the load bearing pack. The 2 mile descent to the finish was broken up by a welcome ascent of a couple of hundred metres, easing the pain on my feet. I never expected to be hoping for more uphill to take the pressure off!

I ‘staggered’ back down to the Storey Arms to be greeted by Ken Jones with my finishers Fan Dance Patch for a quick photo opp. To be honest I just wanted the hog roast that I knew was waiting for me at the end, the smell was gorgeous!

I finished in 4 hours and 9 minutes, just 4 minutes outside the special forces cut off time, so not a bad effort in the end. I couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed not to break 4 hours and bar a wrong turn 3 miles in due to cloud cover and following the leaders I may have just done it but the effort of the day and what was by far the toughest physical challenge I have ever undertaken saw that the disappointed didn’t last long.

As soon as I finished I said ‘NEVER AGAIN’ but that lasted all of an hour. After I staggered back to the car for the 3 hour drive home after a very welcome shower I was already hatching plans to take part in the winter edition in January.

Bring on the madness!!!

Mow Cop Killer Mile

For several years I’ve harbored a masochistic desire to run up a mile long ‘hill’ in Mow Cop. Why? Who knows, I think I just like the idea of ridiculously painful races (I’ve got the Fan Dance to come later in the year but that’s another story). The reality of said races is completely different to the idealised vision in my head where I am bounding effortlessly towards the finish line.

In the past I’ve always been away on holiday and unable to take part so the fact that I was at home this year and able to enter was perfect. One run would have been quite enough but I decided that, to make up for all those missed entries, I would enter two races on the night. I decided to run the club runners race at 6:50pm and then the 2nd adult race at 7:30pm. This would give me enough time to stagger to finish at the top and then back down to the start with a few minutes left to recover my thoughts (and breath!)

I’d run the course before when training but it’s one thing jogging it on your own and another thing altogether ‘racing’ up it. The standard in the club race was frightening and I seriously worried about coming last (as it turned out I was bang in the middle of the pack!). It was a great experience to line up alongside one of Britain’s top athletes in Steve Vernon. It was awe-inspiring to see him make short shrift of those killer hills and finish in 6:40, although he was gutted with his performance and said he would have a proper go next year!! To be fair, his best time is 6:18 so he was slacking (ha ha).

The race was everything I anticipated. A nausea inducing, chest tightening beast. There just isn’t enough room in your lungs to run this thing at anywhere near your usual racing pace. Just making it up the hill is a war of attrition, with a constant voice in your head telling you to ‘WALK’. At the start I was drawn in by the racing snakes and went off far too quickly. No warm up can prepare you to run a one mile race with absolutely zero flat or downhill in it and I was puffing like an asthmatic donkey carrying fat kids along Blackpool beach within 200 yards. My legs were jelly and I had nothing left in the tank at the 3/4 mile point coming up to the dreaded 1 in 4 incline. I somehow made it over the brow of the hill only to be faced with another stretch of climb! At the top it was a sharp left turn onto the only flattish part of the race to finish at the foot of Mow Cop Castle, exhausted and on the verge of passing out in 9:58.

I’ve never wanted to hot foot it back to my car and make a quick getaway so much in my life but I found some resolve and jogged, gingerly back down to the start to do it all over again.

Second time around I have to admit it was much easier. The pacing was easier to gauge after the experience of the first and I got to the top, slightly more slowly but much more comfortably in 10:22.

I picked up two very nice certificates for my two boys for my efforts and have to say that it was a fantastic experience and despite saying never again at the end of the first raced, I can’t wait to do it again. A Killer Mile it most definitely was!

Pain!

Pain!

Results

Club Runners Race – 9:58 (23rd of 54 runners)

Adult Race 2 – 10:22 (19th of  140 runners)

 

 

10k to Half Marathon

With the Potters Arf looming large on the horizon…..5 weeks today to be exact, I thought it might be an idea to look in to the finer details of running the distances between 10km and 21km as that’s where the bulk of my running is done these days.

For those not wanting to take on the full-time occupation that is the marathon, the 10km and half marathon represent big enough challenges to warrant respect without having to spend up to 3 and half hours of your Sunday morning plus untold steady miles during the week training for it. Having done several marathons myself I know what is involved and if you have commitments such as work, children or even a passing interest in having spare time, then preparing for those 26.2 miles is difficult.

Building Up

Working your way up to a racing distance is as important as building mileage in training. If you have never run a half marathon before then a 10k would be a great place to start. It’s just under half the distance of the half and helps you get comfortable with what to expect in a race such as crowds, other runners and most importantly will help you judge your pacing in race conditions. You would reasonably expect to be able to maintain a slightly faster pace over 10k than 21k given a similar terrain and course profile.

Pacing

I would advise someone running their first 10k or half marathon to run the first half of the race slightly within themselves so that so that you don’t reach halfway absolutely shattered and then have the problem of wanting not to continue. It’s much better to feel that you could maintain the pace for the second half of the race, or even better increase it. The worst mistake you can make as a novice and even as a more experienced runner (and I am still very guilty of this) is to get carried away by the occasion and start the race too quickly. Far better to gradually work through the gears and build to a strong finish. Negative splits are the panacea of all distance runners and are achievable through sensible pacing. Have a goal time in mind based on what you know you can reasonably achieve. Don’t be afraid to push yourself but it has to within your limits or you will just ‘blow up’ and leave nothing in the tank to finish the race. This is true no matter what your level, elite or novice.

Hydration

As long as you have sufficiently hydrated before the race, there is no real need to take on fluid during any race up to 10k. If you do want to take on fluid mid race then a small (250ml) water bottle will suffice. Some 10k races have a drinks station at the midway point but I always find it hinders more than it helps to take fluid on at the station, it affects your running rhythm and breathing pattern. Better to take you own and a 250ml bottle is light enough to not affect your gait. For the half marathon you want to be taking on approximately 250-500ml per hour of running depending on the conditions (up to 750ml in hot conditions). A 1 hour 30 minutes runner should be looking to take in around 500ml of fluid on a normal day and a little more in hotter conditions. Gels are not really needed at this distance either but everyone will have their own opinion based on experience.

Fueling

In terms of a pre-race fueling, assuming that a decent meal has been eaten the night before the race, breakfast is not really necessary. Races of up to 21k do not cause muscle or liver glycogen depletion so it’s unlikely that hypoglycemia will develop sufficiently for fatigue to be caused by not eating at these distances. The main reason for having breakfast, aside from the psychological benefits is to top up the stores partially depleted from sleep. If you do want to eat ahead of a race then you want to make sure that you avoid any foods which will cause an unwanted mid race pit stop! Long distance, competitive running does unfortunately cause gastrointestinal disturbances and knowing what foods exacerbate this will help you immeasurably. Only experience will tell you what these are. For me it’s bread, milk and cereal.

Warming Up

Having never been a fan of a pre-race warm up it pains me to say that it does actually help, especially dare I say, as you get a bit older. A 10-15 minute jogging and stretching session with a few bursts at race pace will suffice and mean that you are ready to run hard from the start of the race. About 5 minutes before the race starts have a 250-500ml drink (ideally carbohydrate containing).

Start line Preparation

When lined up on the start you should not be afraid to adjust your race pace based on the conditions. If it’s an extremely hot day it may be an idea to slow your pace a little to prevent heat exhaustion occurring. Again, experience guides best here but having come unstuck on a hot day I can attest to this being a point to take on board. Also, visualise how you are going to race and imagine running strongly to the finish. It may help, when running, to break the race down into chunks. That way you are not looking at a finish that could be up to 2 hours away but are winning mini battles along the way.

Post Race

Post race and after 10-21km all runners will be at least mildly dehydrated and should drink to replace fluid and sodium at the earliest opportunity. The body will only replace fluid after the sodium chloride losses are corrected so some salt needs to be taken on. A bag of crisps is a good option, much better that a chocolate bar which will offer little (save that treat for later!). When the post race joy or disappointment abates you can review your performance and adjust your training to better prepare for next time. There is no substitute for experience in running. Only you can know what your body is telling you. Coaches, books and online information can all guide you but you are the master of your own destiny where running is concerned.

Moving Up

You should not feel that having competed at these distances that you need to move up to the marathon. You can race as much or as little as you like but the general consensus is that the more you race, the less likely you are to perform at your best. I would say no more than 3-5 10k races and 2-3 half marathons a year if you want to race at your best.

If you do want to move up to the marathon then that’s a different beast altogether and warrants great respect. I will write about that next time…………

Newcastle 10k Road Race

I’m still trying to decide if I like 10k races or not. I must reconcile the fact that I’m not the quickest thing on two legs with the fact that I love racing and want to get quicker. On the face of it, 10k should be ideal. I love the Half Marathon and this distance, especially in a race, is ideal speed training to improve my times over 13.1 miles.

Unusually for me, I wasn’t particularly up for this race. There were no pre-race jitters and it was simply a case of getting it over and done with…….not a good way to head into a tough race and certainly no way to a PB.

The weather was blustery but at least the sun was shining (at least for the first half) and I had not looked at the course profile so wasn’t aware of the steep climb for the first couple of miles. Had I have known, I may have stayed at home and watched the F1!

1k in, middle of the pack!

1k in, middle of the pack!

The first two miles confirmed (as if it was ever in doubt) that a positive frame of mind is needed in a race. I really struggled in the first two miles and at one point wanted to stop and walk, something I’ve not experienced for a long, long time. At the top of the climb I did manage to pull myself together and get some semblance of a rhythm together.

Hard going!!

Hard going!!

The last few miles were a case of, head down and get it over and done with, then chalk this one up to experience. Steve Jones was my target throughout the race. I could see him just ahead the whole way round but after he kicked on at the 2 mile point I just couldn’t close the gap he opened up. I tried a couple of times but the elastic had well and truly broken. To make matters worse I found out afterwards that he had run 13 miles the day before!  To be fair he seemed fresh as a daisy and ran really well so hats off to him.

Actually my pace wasn’t all that bad; not great but it was the physical feeling that was worst. I finished in 43:45 and to be honest was very glad that it was over.

The race itself was great, well organised and for a local 10k race, well supported too. The route was undulating and quite scenic in parts. After the halfway point the bulk of the running is well earned downhill racing. You can just relax and let gravity do the work (as long as the wind isn’t blowing!). I would definitely do it again, only this time with my proper running head on.

Finishing well.

Finishing well….now where’s my car!

Split
Time
Distance
Avg Pace
Summary 43:45.6 6.21 7:03
1 6:46.4 1.00 6:46
2 7:23.4 1.00 7:23
3 7:39.9 1.00 7:40
4 6:59.5 1.00 6:59
5 6:31.8 1.00 6:32
6 7:01.4 1.00 7:01
7 1:23.2 0.21 6:37

Stafford Half Marathon

Sometimes when you don’t feel particularly ‘up for it’ you can amaze yourself with a best ever effort. Fortunately that’s what happened on Sunday at the Stafford Half, resulting in a near 3 minute personal best over the distance of 1:33:08. Happy days 🙂

Staffs 1

It’s happened to me before when I ran in the ‘Sting in the Tail’ Congleton Half last year. That day I felt tired after running the Macclesfield Half the previous week plus it was freezing cold and  yet I surprised myself with a 1:36:00 PB. In the days leading up to the Stafford race I’d been suffering with sinus trouble and was worried that I might not even get to race. As it was I woke up on Sunday feeling fine and suitably recovered and ready to go.

As usual I had a PB in mind but I was concerned that I hadn’t pushed myself enough in the preceding week or so to beat my PB over the distance. Having long since done away, perhaps foolishly, with the predetermined training plans I was reliant on a regimen roughly made up of a long run, a short recovery run, one speed-work session and a couple of ‘floater’ sessions per week usually consisting of one easy paced and one steady paced 5 to 6 mile run.

I was joined in the race by my brother (he just missed out on his sub 2hr target which was a great effort considering he was severely dehydrated in the last quarter of the race due to an ill advised mixed grill the night before) and it made a pleasant change to have company on the way to the race. I’m not bothered about company during the race though, I’m more concerned with not puking over my trainers or hyperventilating in my quest to push myself at that point!

The race itself……….The organisation was a pleasure. Loads of free parking in Stafford town centre only a couple of hundred metres walk to the start line. Plenty of portaloos for the inevitable pre-race jitters and a square in the centre of town for the runners to congregate with various things go on such as free massages and free horse racing tickets….all good.

I knew that there were plenty of familiar faces running, old friends, acquaintances and running club members but despite having a nosey around I didn’t see a soul I recognised before the start. Plenty at the finish though so they must have been hiding away in the coffee shops near the start.

The course itself had been advertised as fast and while it was certainly that, it didn’t come without its challenges. There were a couple of challenging climbs in the first half of the race which would have sapped under prepared legs. Thankfully I managed to latch on to a couple of guys who probably ran sub 1:30 at this point (it seemed to disconcert them a little which was funny given that I didn’t have the legs to go past them!) and they pulled me through with no adverse drop in pace.

The support was great and to be honest I enjoyed the race that much it sort of passed me by in a blur and before I knew it I was back in Stafford town centre for the finish. That said, I’m not sure I could have run another mile at the pace I was at so the finish line as it came was a welcome sight.

All things being well I would love to do the race again and think that a sub 1:30 is definitely possible on this course with some serious application in training. The Potters Arf will probably be my next race over the distance and that’s a different beast altogether. 1:36 will be the target there due to the ‘mountains’ on the course!

Almost there...12 mile point.

Almost there…12 mile point.

Splits below and for once I am actually almost pleased following a race. In the car on the way home I couldn’t help but think I could have gone 1:32 if I’d pushed slightly harder. The problem is that if I had I would have thought I should have gone quicker still, so you have to draw a line somewhere.

Split
Time
Distance
Avg Pace
Summary 1:33:09.1 13.09 7:07
1 6:42.3 1.00 6:42
2 6:58.4 1.00 6:58
3 7:14.1 1.00 7:14
4 7:02.4 1.00 7:02
5 6:58.9 1.00 6:59
6 7:15.1 1.00 7:15
7 7:18.0 1.00 7:18
8 6:56.1 1.00 6:56
9 7:15.1 1.00 7:15
10 7:09.2 1.00 7:09
11 7:14.6 1.00 7:15
12 7:12.8 1.00 7:13
13 7:15.5 1.00 7:16
14 :36.3 0.09 6:41

Knype Pool Charity Race

Club affiliations aside, I do genuinely love this race. This was the second time that I’d run and the previous time, last year, I had a virus so couldn’t give my best. I coughed and spluttered my way, tiredly round in 40:36. This year I was in fine fettle and wanted to push under 37:00, which is a decent time for a tough course.

The main reason that I love the race isn’t the fine scenery or the great family atmosphere although both are big draws, it’s the fact that I get to complete the fun run with my eldest son Thomas who is now 8. He ran the course last year, his first real race at the age of 7 and completed it in 9:40. This year he was determined to go faster and beat his Dad again. Unfortunately for Thomas he seems to have inherited his Dad’s inability to set an even pace and he went off like a rocket for the first 200m. The pace slowed a little around the rocky, undulating course but he still managed to power his little legs round in a wonderful 9:04 for a PB 🙂 Good lad and I can’t wait until he is annihilating me on a regular basis!

Mo who??

Mo who??

The race itself was near full capacity this year with 181 hardy souls lined up to a rousing welcome from the Biddulph town crier before he handed over to the Mayor of Biddulph to get the runners under starters orders.

After achieving a great time over 5 miles last time out over a flat course in Alsager, I was determined to try to gauge a better pace for a tough undulating course. Pretty much as soon as you set off you are greeted by a rather large and imposing hill to tackle before motoring across some flatter paths before hitting the ‘off road’ sections. Mercifully, the lack of rain in the preceding weeks had left the course, despite the odd muddy patch, as dry as you could reasonably expect at this time of year.

Taking it easy early on!

Taking it easy early on!

After heading off slightly quickly but much more reserved than usual I settled into a steady comfortable pace. There wasn’t much chance to maintain an even pace throughout due to the nature of the course but the energy sapping hills, steps and one pot-holed open field would ensure that most runners held a little back for the second half of the race to chase a good time.

I felt good throughout the race and having conquered my arch nemesis Monsieur le biscuit tin in the 3 weeks leading up to the race I felt much better than in the Alsager 5 and was rewarded with a 2nd placed club finish in a time of 36:10. Aside from a misjudgment down to looking at the GPS and thinking that there was another half a mile left I probably could have pushed Nigel Lindop harder than I did. I was holding back to push on over the last half mile and when I realised that I had misjudged, I put my foot down in the home straight. I also forgot to stop my GPS watch at the end so my race data was rendered useless!

For once, I was relatively pleased with my efforts and felt as good as I’ve felt since the Congleton Half back in October. Onward now to the Stafford Half on 17th March with my bro’ and hoping for a better race than Conwy at what is now my favourite distance.

Sprinting down the home straight to a nice bit of soup and roll.

Sprinting down the home straight to a nice bit of soup and roll.

Knype Pool 2013 finish time – 36.10 PB for the course!

Alsager 5m Road Race

The first race of the year and if I’m honest, I was quite apprehensive about this one. Not because the course was going to be difficult because it wasn’t, it was pancake flat. The reason was that due to circumstances outside my control, training properly had been nigh on impossible of late.

The Christmas period hadn’t been the most productive one anyway, mainly due to a mix of the snow and seasonal illness. The snow, although fantastic to run on and very picturesque, was not the best surface for speedwork so that was left out of my training schedule altogether in favour of just doing what was possible, which in this case was just to get out on the road.

I have been overindulging on the food front recently, mainly due to the incessant boredom of being in the house for the majority of the day and was half a stone heavier than Conwy. Not a huge amount but it was certainly noticeable to me and would no doubt slow me down as extra weight always does.

It’s a perpetual battle to keep it off but if I’m to start putting some decent times together I will need to steer clear of my arch nemesis, Monsieur le biscuit tin.

The race itself was an absolute pleasure. Loads of parking (a pet hate of mine is inadequate parking on race day. An unnecessary hassle) and easy navigate to the start via Race HQ.

The start was a little congested but chip timing rendered that a moot point and within 100 metres or so you could find plenty of space to get moving. The weather was a little wet but the winds of the previous few days had subsided to provide to give the runners good conditions for a fast pace. As always my pace management was poor and I started far too quickly with the first half mile pretty much at VO2 Max and from there you can only get slower. I had to settle into a slower pace and watch Steve, Nigel and Sean disappear a couple of hundred metres into the distance.

The scenery wasn’t much to shout about but to be fair, the flat course was what it was all about. The standard at the front of the pack was staggering with the winner coming home in 23.57 (4:47 pace!!) and a sub 30 race not even making the top 100! Overall it was an enjoyable first race of the year and one I would definitely do again, even though it was a touch on the expensive side ( a nice technical tee made up for the cost). One for the racing snakes rather than the mountain goats and there will doubtless be more challenging races this year but thoroughly enjoyable all the same.

Hurry up before the burger van closes!!

Hurry up before the burger van closes!!

From a club perspective, Biddulph was the best represented club in the race with 26 runners. A fantastic achievement and indicative of the strides(no pun intended) that the club has made in attracting new members. The standard within the club has also risen and if you’d have told me before the race that I would run 34:15 and still only be 4th BRC member to finish, a full minute behind Nigel, Steve and Sean then I wouldn’t have believed it. Hats off to those guys for a great run and massive improvement in the last few months since I’ve struggled to attend club nights, particularly from Nigel and Sean. There’s some serious competition in the races now and if I’m going to pull that minute back, I’ll need to train hard and cut that weight. Game on!!

Split
Time
Distance
Avg Pace
Summary 34:15.5 5.02 6:49
1 6:27.0 1.00 6:27
2 6:46.5 1.00 6:46
3 7:01.7 1.00 7:02
4 6:51.7 1.00 6:52
5 6:59.7 1.00 7:00
6 :08.9 0.02 6:10

New Year; Motivation Needed!!

I can’t believe it’s been so long since my last post; over seven weeks. How time flies!!

To be fair my inactivity at the keyboard has been mirrored out on the road so there hasn’t been a great deal to write about. Like most of the population, sickness in the Walker household during December pretty much wrecked my running schedule over the festive period. Weeks of inactivity followed by false starts and then more inactivity have put me back months in terms of fitness and stamina. This week is the first week since Conwy really, that I have put a string of more than two consecutive runs together and whilst my base speed of 6.30 – 7.00 miles seems relatively unaffected, my stamina is absolutely shot. I could comfortably maintain 6.45-7.00 miles for 5-6 miles before December before fading gradually as the lactic builds and the muscles burn and slow.  Now I’m struggling to maintain 7.00 beyond the first mile and am struggling with hills that I was eating for breakfast last year!
I don’t expect that I am alone here as the combination of seasonal illness, freezing cold weather, motivation and Christmas overeating means the majority of us are struggling to some extent but it’s frustrating.
Onwards and upwards though and in an effort to pull myself out of the proverbial mire and get back on track I’ve entered a couple of races already. I’ve got the Alsager 5m to look forward to at the start of February and then our annual club race, the Knype Pool 5m trail race. Being the type of person who needs a target I’m aiming to run sub 35 minutes for each race. A big ask considering where I am at present but I like a challenge and sub 7 minute miles are very do-able as long as I manage unbroken training and stay out of the biscuit tin, although the later will be the biggest challenge!
I’ll need to stay clear of injury, illness, dogs (long story) and dog shit (even longer story) but my schedule is written for the next few weeks (I’ll post it later) and lets hope I can stick to it!

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