Monday, 28 February 2011

February 2011 - Training

Hi all another whirl wind month for me, with work busy, Lauren on European adventures, My Birthday, A Christening, Two Races, a decent amount of training and new toys to play with.

So on the training and racing front you will have seen from previous blogs that I PB'd at Great Bentley in the Half Marathon. Then followed that up with a 5k PB at Middlesbrough Parkrun. The next week I managed a 37mile running week.

But the last 8 days of February have bucked the trend and been very poor. Achilles was sore after the 15 mile long run on Sunday and so I took two days off running. I then managed to get out for a couple of short runs to test it out, but should have then kicked on for big miles over the weekend. I was tired, busy and just generally low on energy and motivation and so got out for one shambolic 4mile run. Leaving me with a feeble week of 3 runs and 13 miles.

My lack of running was not offset by a monster cycling week. Again from previous blogs you will see I suffered a puncture which stopped my commuting for the week. I did then successfully fix this with Lukes help on Saturday ready for our Sunday ride. This didn't go great, with Luke feeling really rough after working hard up a hill, so we cut our 20mile ride short and did a 10miler instead. I wasn't too downbeat, I had fixed my first puncture and got out for a ride.

My mood soon darkened when I opened the garage ready to ride home. My front tyre was flat. I knew it was bad news, but I pumped it up anyway and cycled on my way. Half way home I heard the noise of rim on road and so pulled over, tyre flat as a pancake so rang Lauren to come and rescue me. I didn't know to use my CO2 pump so thought the wheel repair would have to wait and so went out for my diabloical 4 mile run.

On my return I was in an even darker place, with a flat tyre and a rubbish run I needed something to go right. So tackled my flat with renewed determination. Finally working out how to use my CO2 pump and successfully removing the old inner tube I was on a roll! In went the new tube, give it a little air, and wow that CO2 is fast! Managed to get the tyre back on in double quick time, then unleashed the full furry of a CO2 cannister inflating the tyre in less than a second. I still have a hard tyre in my kitchen, and I am hoping to put it on successfully tonight and give it a test ride before bed.

I did go for a 5 mile run tonight and felt better than last week, so maybe it was just a temporary blip. On the upside in February I got 2PB's I ran 107 miles and did 113 miles on the bike. So given the circumstances pretty solid. Another interesting trend is I have now run 3 months in a row of 100 miles or more. December 100, January 102, February 107. The breakdown of this months runs was as follows:

0-5 Miles - 7
5-10 Miles - 7
10+ Miles - 3 (Longest of 15.09 Miles)

So aside from one terrible running week I was happy with this months efforts. Will be pushing on next month. Looking for 130+ miles running and 250+ on the bike (punctures allowing). Wish me luck!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Wheelie Good News!

After 75 long minutes, with the help of youtube, bike maintenance books, no shortage of effort, and a good helping of luck Luke and I changed our first tyre! Unbridled joy!

I was convinced when Luke picked my up, that we would have a good stab at it, half an hour of fiddling to no avail and then give up. I'd jump on one of the spare bikes for our long ride together tommorrow and Dad would change my tyre on his return. So when it all came together I was well chuffed.

Luke and I have been blessed with many gifts, practical skills however are in very short supply. It was only the other day, that I successfully changed my first light bulb after 27 years on this planet. But that achievement paled into insignificance compared to changing my first bike tyre. It was slow, it was tedious, but we did it. I hope very much that I never get another puncture in my life, but if I do, I now feel much better able to tackle it. Next time I hope to change it in under 30 minutes.

So with bike maintenance achieved, a ride tommorrow, and Joe and I discussing the pressing need to nail down a route and get booking accomodation, the LEJOG adventure is now starting to feel very real. Come back Monday night for my Feb Training update.

Friday, 18 February 2011

I spent a lot of money on energy drinks, kit and races. The rest I just squandered.

In the lead up to my birthday I went on a bit of splurge on kit, with some new running tights, a long sleeved base layer and some warm socks at ten pound a pop!

But my Birthday has brought me more fitness related gear, as everyone has been incredibly generous. I am now the proud owner of a Garmin Forerunner 205 which I have already spent many happy hours playing with, and have used this succesfully for both running and cycling.

I have also bought some new running shoes, with Lauren questioning their purchase "Didn't you get running shoes for Christmas? " to which I answered " Yeah I got some from my parents but they only have another 350 miles left in them, and anyway you can never have enough pairs of running shoes"

Lauren got me a lovely Team Sky Cycle Jersey so I will look the part on LEJOG, and I have also bought myself a Livestrong Cycle Jersey. Lauren also got me a holder for my keys, Ipod and Gels which should come in very handy. Luke got me the much debated book "Bounce" which discusses what makes a Champion and I'm really looking forward to reading that. I don't think I'll have much time for telly as I then decided to buy 5 books with the last of my Bday money. They were almost exclusively sports related:

1) The guy that cycled round the world
2) Andre Agassi Autobiography
3) Mark Cavendish Autobiography
4) The Ultramarathon Man
5) The guy that bets on everything (The least sporty book of the five)

I am still waiting on Joe's mystery present which I'll be getting next week, very intrigued by that! I don't think I missed anyone out, if I did I'm sorry. So all in all an outstanding Bday. I think I should rename my Birthday "Sportsday" from now on.

Monday, 14 February 2011

My 2011 Race Schedule

This is what my 2011 Race Schedule looks like along with my targets for the races.

23/01/11 - Benfleet 15 - PB - 2:06:41
06/02/11 - Great Bentley HM - PB - 1:35:04
12/02/11 - Middlesbrough Parkrun 5k - PB - 19:42
06/03/11 - Silverstone HM - Not intending to race.
13/03/11 - Norwich HM - Hoping to PB sub 1:35
08/05/11 - Stratford Marathon - Hoping to PB would like sub 3 hr 30.
30/05/11 - BUPA 10K - Running with Lauren aiming for sub 1 hour.
12/06/11 - Southend HM - Looking for sub 1:40
10/07/11 - British 10K - Target of sub 42min.
16/07/11 - 28/07/11 - LEJOG 1000 miles by bike.
11/09/11 - Bristol HM - Want a PB and ideally sub 1:30.
18/09/11 - Great North Run - Would like to beat last years time of 1:40.
09/10/11 - Chester Marathon - Very dependant on how Stratford goes. But want to PB again.
November and December - Another go at PBing over 5K.

So as you can see plenty to keep me training. After 3 PB's over 3 different distances in the first 6 weeks of 2011 I am feeling confident for the rest of my year. I booked and paid for Silverstone before the snowed off Norwich HM was rescheduled and with Lauren away that weekend I think I think I'll skip Silverstone and concentrate on Norwich and I am aiming for a small improvement on my Great Bentley PB. I believe the Norwich course is slightly more undulating than Great Bentley and with only 5 weeks between them a PB might not be on.

Stratford Marathon comes shortly after a two week holiday in South Africa for a friends wedding and with a stag do in March my training in the build up to the marathon looks to be disrupted. But I am still confident of much better preparation than I have had for my previous two marathons and so as a minimum want a PB but my stretch target is for a sub 3hr 30min run.

At the end of May I will be running with Lauren for her first 10K and she has me under instructions to get her round in less than an hour. This is followed shortly afterwards by the Southend HM where I have had two pretty unpleasant experiences. It's the flatest marathon that I run but has been very hot both years and that was definately my undoing last year, so at present I am not targeting a PB but beating last years 1:45 perhaps a 1:40 would be my aim.

In early July I get to tackle the other big London 10K, this is a notoriously busy and poorly organised 10K, but I hope to start fairly near the front and run unimpeded on my way to a big 10K ideally sub 42mins. I feel this is feasible particuarly after this weekends sub 20min 5K.

LEJOG though is the main focus of July, 1000 miles in 13 days. With completion being my only goal. Hopefully in as little discomfort as possible with as little bike maintenance as possible.

I am yet to book and pay for Bristol HM with entries not yet open. But I will enter having had two PB's and two successful races there. September is a long way off but I hope to be in shape to attack the 1:30 mark in earnest at Bristol.

I ran the Great North Run last year two weeks after Bristol and made it round in 1:40. This year there is just 1 week between the two races. So perhaps a course record is overly ambitious but that will be my aim.

The final race I have booked is the Chester Marathon in early October. This is 8 months away and so predictions require some imagination. But I would again hope to PB at Chester.

November and December are free and I may well spend these asleep recovering from my 11 races and LEJOG but I think what is more likely is another Parkrun or two with the aim of rounding off the running year with a 5K PB or two. I'm exhausted just blogging about it! :-)

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Albert Park Race Report - 12/02/11

Had a fantastic race this morning at the Albert Parkrun in Middlesbrough. I set my 5K PB at Brighton Parkrun in July with a time of 20:31, the last time I had run at Albert Park was in May and I had run 21:11. I was feeling good and really wanted sub 20mins but felt 20:15 was the more realistic target.

I headed to the park with Lauren and Jan for the 9 O'clock start and it was wet and miserable. Not the most inspiring of conditions. But by the time we arrived at the park, the rain had slowed and when the gun went at 5 past 9 the rain had thankfully gone. I positioned myself right at the front of the 200 plus runners that had assembled for their 5K time trial, I felt if I ran around 20 mins I should be in the top 25 or so and thus merited a decent start position. I went off fast, and got away from the masses and was in about 10th place, after 400m or so people started to come past me but I wasn't too concerned. I was working hard, and happy with my pace so just settled into my rhythm.

I missed the first Km marker but I think I went through in 4mins, so on target, you then head up the only slight incline on the course and I was breathing heavy, 5K full pelt is tough! I was in a settled position now, the leaders were well out of sight and I was working off a pack of 3 guys ahead of me hoping to reel them in slowly. I went through 2K now 10 seconds ahead of schedule and I felt strong. Heading down the side of the park then turning past the lake I saw Lauren and Jan as I went through 3K 8 seconds up on target and kicked on for the final loop of the park. Up the slope again and I had now caught the group ahead of me, and we were starting to lap the slower runners. They didn't hold us up at all, and catching the next one kept me focused. Went through 4K 5 seconds up on sub 20 and kicked it up a gear. Down the side of the park, before the real sprint for the finish as you turn at the lake. I caught one or two on the way in, and nicked 19th place on the line, I'm not sure that's parkrun etiquette but I didn't mind.

Final time of 19:42 a 49 second PB and a 1 min 29 second Course Record. 19th out of 242. Ecstatic! Still buzzing from it now. Really felt good, and a big improvement, need to bring my other PB's up to scratch. My 5K WAVA of 65.48% now stands out from the rest. I'm off to have one of the beers Jan bought me. Touch!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Why do we run? Why do I run?

Non runners often ask runners this question with a puzzled look on their faces. Shelley asked me the other week what my plans were for the weekend, and I told her Lauren and I were having a quiet weekend in but I hoped to run twice and go for a 30 mile cycle sometime as well. She has come to expect these silly answers from me so just sighed and said we live very different lives!

It just got me thinking why did I take up running nearly two years ago and why I am still running strong now? There are millions of runners worldwide and each runner has their own reasons for getting out there. I was on a run in the sun today and it was just beautiful, and it gave me time to come up with my list of 10 reasons why people run and more particuarly why I run. The list is in my order of importance:

1) The Challenge - I love challenges, particuarly physical challenges. Running gives me this outlet. One big challenge I have achieved was completing the Marathon, but I have other targets such as LEJOG on the bike, running Comrades and completing an Ironman.

2) For PB's & Finding My Limits - This was a close second. One of the things I love about running is the old cliche about running being fair, what you put in you get out. It also appeals to the number crunching Accountant and stat lover in me. It is so quantifiable and comparable. I enjoyed playing football, and there are elements of being part of a team that I do miss as a runner. But what I love about running is it's just down to you, you can't have a stinker and let somebody else pull you through. Football is also subjective, and sometimes you would come off very pleased with your efforts, but someone else watching might say you had a shocker. In running once you've set your time that's set in stone and aside from the difficulty of the course or the favourable conditions there's not alot of argument. I'm also intrigued to see where my limits are, how far can I push my PB's, this is a physical test, but also over the longer distances such as the Marathon or Comrades it's very much a mental test of character.

3) For Fitness & Self Esteem - I'm a guy and so as a big broad generalisation I am driven by ego. I think this probably applies to me quite strongly. I enjoy being fit and healthy and it boosts my self esteem and I'm more confident when I am in good physical shape.

4) Competition - I love competition. To some it's a hugely unplesant personality trait, but for me it's a trait I would love to inject into every newborn child. I'm not competitive about everything, but when I find something I'm motivated by my competitive instincts kick in. Some might look at my times and say, but you're not very quick why are you being competitive? You don't need to be at the front of the race to want to compete, I am getting faster and still have plenty more improvement in me. But from my very first race, I wanted to beat as many people as I could, and as the finish line approached I was looking to outsprint those around me. In running the battle is firstly with me and the clock, but measuring myself against those around me is still important to me.

5) Allowing me to eat the foods I love guilt free - My diet has, and always will leave something to be desired. Since taken up running I have tried to improve it in certain areas, I'm now able to get some Breakfast inside me in the mornings, and my lunchtime ritual of cooking pasta and then washing up the mess I have created has become a part of my routine. But I still love my chocolate and crisps and my Mum's full blown Sunday Roasts. Running allows me to have these foods and not worry about the impact they will have on me. I'll just have to run abit harder the next day.

6) To be outdoors & active - This reason might be higher in my list if I lived somewhere else. My running routes are not varied, in the winter I have two circuits and the rest of the year I have three. I think this is down to a lack of options, but I am also a slave to the watch so like to run routes I am familar with and can pace well. My two winter routes are running on pavements alongside busy roads and particuarly in the dark, aren't hugely appealing. But today I was able to run in the day, and the Bridle Track wasn't too wet and muddy and it was fantastic! I wasn't too concerned with my time, it's only two days after Great Bentley and I just wanted to get out. The sun was out and I just cruised around 5 laps of the Bridle track and was beaming by the time I had finished.

7) Stress relief & time to myself - I am fortunate that I am a fairly laid back person, I do seem to be getting less so as I get older. Whilst my job also taxes my brain, I am yet to rise to a high enough position that I take work home with me physically or in the mind. So my stress levels aren't particuarly high. But even so after a busy day with the all the noise and distractions of modern life it's very pleasant to be able to lace up my shoes and head out by myself for a 40 minute run when the mood takes me.

8) To lose weight - I was not blessed with abs of steel or biceps to crack nuts with, but I was lucky to be naturally thin, and so my mum gave me the nickname Slim. This got expanded on overtime but I won't go into that. Far too embarassing. But after leaving Uni and sitting behind a desk for 8 hours a day with not much in the way of exercise I started to put on a bit of weight. Nothing too dramatic maybe I was 13 or 13 and a half stone but it wasn't the physique I wanted. I didn't go out of my way to lose weight, there was no diet, but after a year of running I was back to my more natural weight of 11 and a half to 12 stone and I felt much better for it.

9) For a good cause - I have been very fortunate in my life, that I have not suffered alot of bereavement nor had family members suffer from horrible diseases such as Cancer. This maybe one of the reasons why I don't feel compelled to run for charity very often, the only time I did make a serious effort for fund raising was for the Great North Run in 2010. We also intend to cycle LEJOG in July 2011 and this will be for St Anthony's a Childrens Home in South Africa where my Sister has worked over the previous two years. This cause is close to our hearts and so gives me motivation to fund raise for it. But in general my running and physical challenges are seperate from my charitable giving. I don't enjoy nagging friends and family for sponsorship and I run nearly a race a month so I could bankrupt some people! Also having run over 20 races, a 10K is not a huge physical feat for me anymore, and so in my opinion not worthy of sponsorship.

10) For the social aspect & sense of community - I am yet to join a running club, and if I do at sometime in the future it will be more for the good training it provides and for the potential to improve my performances rather than for the social aspect. Running for me is a solitary thing, and although I do enjoy the buzz of runners and crowds around me in big City races, I rarely speak to any of my fellow runners. The one exception being the great race I had running alongside Pete for 10 miles in Bristol.

So there you have it. The end of my most mammoth blog by some distance! Congratulations to you for reading it through to it's conclusion. This list of reasons for running is by no means exhaustative and there are many other reasons for running that I haven't mentioned. Whilst others will disagree with my order of importance. Reading it back I do look a little too driven and focused, with the softer more pleasant reasons for running such as for charity or to make friends very low on my list. But we are who we are, and I am who I am. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Great Bentley Race Report - 06/02/11

This was my second race of the year and I was hoping for a 2nd PB. I ran this last year in 1:39:32 and my Half Marathon PB was set at Bristol last September in 1:36:21. Having done a good PB at Benfleet last month, I felt I was in better shape than last year and so set myself a minimum target of a course record so 1:39:30, my mid target was a new PB so 1:36:20 and my top end was sub 1:35:00.

My prep for the race was similar to last year. Instead of Soph & Lauren for company and an Indian and Beers, it was Dominos Pizza and Beer with Hayley, Tom and Lauren. Lauren was impressed when I stopped at two pints, but we then spent the evening dancing around on the wii and I went home, tired, hot and sweaty. But had a great day.

I had forgotten to print myself out a paceband for 1:35 and so wrote them on a scrap of paper. I had the pacings for 1:35 and 1:38. The maths for 1:35 isn't too complicated, being 7min 15secs miling, but it's nice to have the timings as a comfort blanket when the head is spinning after 10 miles.

So on to race day, and me and Lauren were up at 8 and out the door before 9 ready to get to Great Bentley with plenty of time to spare. Got there about half 9, grabbed my number and timing chip and used the facilities and said goodbye to Lauren just after 10.

I'm not a big warmer upper or stretcher so I just mooch around and try to stay warm. The organisers had us all set a couple of minutes before kick off, and right on half 10 we were off! I got myself fairly near the front, but unfortunately got boxed in and had to go up on the pavement, I let the offending woman run past me, she then promptly swiped her left arm on the wing mirror of a near by van. That will teach her!

90 seconds into the race my lace came undone, shocker! Half an hour to prepare and I can't even do my shoes up properly! Pulled over and dealt with it, made an effort not to get wound up by the lost 15 seconds or so and carried on regardless. Even with the delay I went through the 1st mile in 7:16, then clicked through miles 2 and 3 10seconds ahead of my 1:35 schedule. I felt good, there was a decent wind and that made life hard, particuarly on the exposed parts of the course. But the course is beautifully flat, quiet and rural. An added bonus was this year the farms were much less stinky!

By mile 4 I had lost the 10second advantage but was still on 7:15 min miles. The frantic start had now settled down and there were a lot of familar vests and faces so I settled in behind a guy in a Braintree Vest with a Leeds United tattoo on his neck. Nice! There was a loose group of 5 or 6 that I ran with for large parts of the first 8 or 9 miles. Braintree went off after about 6 miles, but I then tagged onto a group of 3 who were going at my pace and stayed with them till about mile 10.

I had been running very consistently through the first 9 miles and was on pace for my 1:35. But it was at the 10 mile marker that I had suddenly appeared to slip 45seconds off. I think it was a long mile, but the wind had picked up and the few inclines that are on the course come during this period. I took it steady through the next mile, and then around 11 miles I was passed by a guy in a Navy Addidas top and we then ran stride for stride over the next 2 miles. We didn't speak or decide this is what we were doing, but he really helped me pick up the pace, and we took over a dozen or so runners during the later stages and I felt 1:35 was back on the cards.

I got to the 13 mile mark leaving myself 40 seconds to run the last 160 metres, I did my best impression of a sprint finish, passing addidas and two other runners as we ran over the grass to the finish. But as I hit the finish line, close to chucking, I looked down at my watch to see 1:35:05! Offical time is now in at 1:35:04 so I just missed out on my sub 1hr 35 min run. But a PB of over a minute and a 4 minute improvement on last year leaves me very happy with my race.