Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Essex 20 2017 - PB Season

The lead up to the Essex 20 wasn't perfect. I had enjoyed a lazy couple of weeks in the build up and after going 99 planned runs to 99 completed I managed to miss 4 in 3 weeks. My Saturday prior to the race wasn't textbook, lots of standing and waiting in line to see Princess Diana's dresses (not my choice!) and walking around Hyde Park, much more my scene, but still more energy expended than ideal. I rounded it off with my choice of dinner a steak and chips with a beer. I would have loved a plate of pasta but we were in a French restaurant not an Italian. Well it's a formula I might look to repeat, as my Essex 20 went well.

I decided to treat Lauren to a lie in and lazy Sunday, so got in the car and drove myself to a friend Charlotte's who was racing and she gave me and a couple of her fellow Whitham Runners a lift to the race. We arrived to some horrible weather, heavy rain and breezy. I was imaging 2.5 hours in that and it wasn't a pretty picture. Thankfully by the time we began the rain had eased slightly and the wind had dropped, the weather improved as the race went on, we really were so lucky.

I was looking to get a PB, my existing one was 2:38:51. 2:40 is 8 minute miles or 5 min km's and so I was using that as my upper split. The course is undulating and so even splitting isn't possible, the race begins with some nice flat and downhill and the priority is to hold back as much as you can. I tried my hardest to do this. I will look at this race in blocks, so here is the first lap:

1)7:33 (18seconds up on PB)
2)7:26 (27 seconds up on PB. 45 total)
3)8:07 (21 seconds up on PB. 1:06)
4)7:40 (18 seconds up on PB. 1:24)
5)7:39 (21 seconds up on PB. 1:45)
6)7:39 (12 seconds up on PB. 1:57)
7)7:31 (23 seconds up on PB. 2:20)

Mile 3 had the most significant climb in it, but the pattern throughout was of around 20 seconds a mile up on PB. I was feeling good, the rain was easing off and I was running well. I really enjoy the quiet roads, it's very similar to Great Bentley Half Marathon and suits me a lot better than a crowded city races, especially over the longer distances where I want to keep it steady.

8)7:36 (32 seconds up on PB.2:52)
9)7:37 ( 10 seconds up on PB.3:02)
10)8:09 (19 seconds up on PB.3:21)
11)7:49 ( 13 seconds up on PB.3:34)
12)7:53 ( 5 seconds down on PB.3:29)
13)7:47 ( 10 seconds up on PB.3:39)
14)7:50 ( 6 seconds down on PB.3:33)
15)7:46 ( Same as PB.3:33)

This section is lap 2 plus a decent part of the final lap. The second lap went well I was putting time in the bank and the miles or in my case Km's were ticking by. I was beginning to struggle though, particularly as the 3rd lap began. As you can see my time cushion was going up steadily all the way to mile 11. Miles 12-15 went one way and then the other but the net effect was basically nil. I was hanging on in there, and still had one more go up the big climb.

16)8:31 (29 seconds down on PB.3:04)
17)8:09 (18 seconds down on PB.2.46)
18)8:14 (12 seconds down on PB.2:34)
19)8:15 (19 seconds down on PB.2:15)
20)7:13 (11 seconds up on PB. 2:26)

The final five miles were an absolute drag, I was hanging on for dear life. My hamstrings were both really tight and restricting my running style. My form was shot and I was using my back, hamstrings any muscle group to get myself to the finish as quickly as possible. That 16 mile split includes the hill and I was moving so slowly near the top that I decided to walk for 15-20 seconds to get my breath back and to get myself mentally right for the final half hour. It was an absolute trudge, I only got taken over by a handful of runners but I was working really hard to keep the km splits to low 5 minutes. I felt I still had enough time in the bank to give myself a PB, but the thoughts of 2:35 had long gone, I knew if I kept moving the PB would be mine.

I really do enjoy this course and the lapped element. When I was slogging it out it was good to see familiar landmarks and know exactly what I still had to come. The sparse crowds of much of the course then get thicker near the start/finish area and I found my final reserves for a good last km. A guy who was struggling managed to get himself going with the finish in sight and he just pipped me on the line, I wasn't particularly racing him, I just wanted the race done and the PB secured.

I was absolutely spent over the line and found a bench to park my bum, I then got back to the finish in time to see Charlotte bringing it home and on fine form. It was her first 20 mile race and she was more than 5 minutes quicker than her target time. A good day all round, the cherry on the top was the mud that Charlotte managed to splatter up some poor runners car as we excited the field. They took it in very good fashion and even helped me with the push. This was another good race for me, I'm really pleased to continue to tidy up my PB's but my lack of long runs showed in my poor final quarter and that doesn't bode well for the Marathon. I have one more good long run planned as well as some more races before Brighton, if the PB doesn't happen at Brighton I fully expect it to go at Stratford a month later.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Test Track 10 - Much More My Style

After my downbeat blog after last weeks Saltburn Half Marathon I am very happy to report much better times at the Test Track 10. This is a local race, one I haven't done previously, it's at the Ford centre and is around the test tracks and surrounding support roads. There is quite a bit using the banking, think a cycling velodrome, but we ran along the bottom so it wasn't too steep, there was the occasional incline, one of which was pretty brutal, but it was generally flat and the weather was not far from perfect, a little wind but nothing too great, all in all my kind of event.

Lauren and I got there just after half 8, an hour before the race start, lots of parking, race start very close by, so we could relax in the car before getting out for the race. I managed to drop and then lose one of my safety pins and so had to go for the three pin formation. The number did stay on this time though, unlike at Saltburn last week. I also managed to get GPS signal and get my heart rate monitor working before the go. I decided to skip the warm up, aerobics and co-ordination really aren't my specialism. We lined up and I was in the second row and we were off. It was fun to be in the front group, maybe in 10th and it wasn't for 100 metres but probably the first 500 metres before I decided this was far too fast for me so eased back. I haven't felt in a race like that, probably since me and Luke nearly lead into the first corner at Bromley parkrun.

I went through the first Kilometre in 4:08 my pre race target had been 4:30-4:40 (1:12 - 1:15 finish time)I felt good and was keen to get some time in the bank. My 10 Mile PB was 1:12:05 and so 4:30's were really the top end of where I wanted to be. The km's ticked on 4:12, 4:19, I was working hard and got to see Lauren. The looped nature of the course meant I got to see lots of Lauren over the 10 miles, it was a really nice little pick me up every 2 or 3 miles. 4:15, 4:18, 4:15 got me through 6km's just over 90 seconds up on 4:30 pace, probably a little too much, but I like to race hard. There were runners around me throughout the race, maybe not right on my shoulder but definitely close by, a nice change from the lonely desolate run along the cliffs last week.

I looked down at my watch half way through the 7th kilometre and realised the early pace had gone, and we were in my regular mid-race holding pattern. 4:30 now became the target pace in the hopes the time in the bank from that early burst would be protected. 4:32, 4:36, 4:25, 4:29, 4:31, 4:33, 4:31, 4:34 gets us to 14km. All look nicely paced, slightly different profiles and some wind with some wind against. What those splits don't show is I was working really hard, particularly the one decent incline on the course as you came down towards the finishing straight you turned right and round one of the banked sections. It was steep and both times I ran it, my body was screaming to have a walk up it, but I managed to keep turning my legs over and running it. Once you reached the top there was a nice downhill section then onto the finish straight which let me recover. As I went past the start/finish line with 2km to go I felt the beginnings of a stitch, and where I had been smiling and waving at Lauren each time I saw her, at this point I was really grimacing. I felt if I could just hold it together a PB should be on, but if I started to fall apart the time I had gained early on would soon evaporate.

The 15th km split was 4:41, I was clinging on, there was another banked section and I took over a couple of back markers, it was hard because you had to go up the banking and work hard to get past them. As I entered the last km and then the final straight I was overtaken by a small group of runners, that was a big help and gave me a little kick to get moving again. I wasn't racing them for position but trying to use them to spur me on for a sprint finish and to ensure the PB. Coming into the finishing chute I knew the PB was mine and as I looked down to stop my Garmin I was well inside 1:11 for the race and a final split of 4:11. The official time has me at 1:10:36 and 35th out of 287 runners a PB by 1 minute 29 seconds! I have worked really hard for the last 5 months and today was the first big dividend. If I can keep working hard, this should be the first of many PB's over the rest of 2017. The only slight blemish on an otherwise perfect race was the negotiation needed to get out of the carpark. The race had quietened down but the Marshalls were keen to keep us penned in for another hour for every last runner to finish. Thankfully they relented and we were safely on our way out and headed home before a cracking Birthday Roast dinner at my parents house.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Lack of Mental Toughness

This is my story of the Saltburn Trail Half Marathon. Now before I begin my sad tale, let me first say the race is brutal, the course is tough, the marshall's and cameramen on the route are made of stern stuff to be out there in the weather we had and to still be cheering us on and supporting us. The organisers have created a course along the coast using public footpaths to really test even the toughest runners. It was enough to almost break me.

I am a fair weather runner, a flat track bully. I like to be out there in mild conditions, on the road, on the flat, not a puff of wind. That is where I enjoy myself, pushing my limits to go as fast as I can without mother nature or the course have too much say on my performance. I have shown in my 3 DNF's from a 100 or so races that I don't handle adversity too well. The Outlaw Iron Distance triathlon Part 2, the Thunder Run 24 and the Berlin Marathon. In any event I do, particularly in difficult conditions or over long distances I need a reason for being there.

In the Outlaw I had done it before, I had failed to train adequately again and couldn't find a reason to slog it out for another 8 hours to get the thing done. At the Thunder Run the heavy rain, the thunder, the lightening I couldn't find a reason to endure another 12 hours of that. At the Berlin Marathon I took the easy option, I had done more than 10 Marathons, I had failed to prepare adequately for this one, and so perhaps quite sensibly decided pulling the pin at halfway was the right option. A good training run done without too much damage to my body.

The Saltburn Trail Half Marathon could very easily have been my fourth DNF, the only things keeping me going were the fact I was raising the money for Sarcoma and not wanting to let Marcus down. The fact that if I did quit I would be cold, wet and in the middle of nowhere did also encourage me to get the thing done. The telephone calls to Lauren and Jan for some moral support were also a huge help to get me to the finish. So today I had my why, my reason to finish.

Even when I do manage to complete in these conditions, I still struggle to perform anywhere near my max, where as my brother Joe got 3 punctures on his first Ironman in appalling conditions he sucked it up and got it done and got it done well. I tend to throw my toys out the pram and once my A goal has gone I struggle to refocus. For this race I didn't particularly have an A goal, it was a race that was at the right time of the year in the right location and so I didn't start in the right mental place. When the weather was 45 mph winds, sleet hammering my face, once I had fallen twice, my recently healed broken bone and sprained wrist throbbing I was not in my happy place, I was a long way from it.

I had fallen on my butt and a guy asked me if I was ok and then told me to get out the way, which really got my back up. I was slip sliding all over the shop in the mud, keen not to fall again, only having eyes for the floor and the path in front of me. I had another guy ask to get past on a narrow section, for me the onus was on those guys to get past me. I had my own issues to worry about like staying upright, I didn't want to be looking over my shoulder and easing aside for every fella who wanted to race in the middle of the pack with me. I got a little rush of adrenaline and decided to go on a little burst and was hurdling brambles and taking over three of the guys who had recently passed me. The rush and anger soon subsided and I eased off, the 2 hours of trudging that still lay ahead of me were at the forefront of my mind.

The women I met on the course were totally different and as I was struggling we had some nice running chats and that kept my legs turning over. One of which I had met at the leisure centre before the start of the race and we then ended up running some of the last mile together which was great. I must have spoken to 3 or 4 guys or girls during the race and they were all having a lovely time, and I think they genuinely were. It just really brought home to me that this type of race isn't what I am about. In all the training goals, mileage targets, pace goals, you sometimes forget that you are actually meant to enjoy it. These cross country, trail races, mudfests, aren't enjoyable to me but cruel and unusual punishment. My race schedule is pretty booked up to October and it is predominantly road races with the one crazy 24 hour race. After that 24 hour race in July it is going to take one hell of a race or for me to have a total change of heart to get me back into these crazy races.

So I think I will leave my tale of Saltburn Half Marathon misery there.

The downsides:

- It was 15 Miles not 13.1 Miles
- There were 45mph winds, rain, sleet, I don't think there was snow.
- Mud, so much mud.
- Two falls.

The upsides:
- The donations that came in before I raced and since, they've brought home why I did it.
- I got it done. In just about 3 hours. Think the official time will have me just over.
- The phonecalls with Lauren, I would have been completely at a loss without them.
- The race schedule is now free of these crazy races.

Sorry for the downhearted race report. I am still on for a good mileage month in February it's my birthday Thursday and I have a nice flat 10 mile race round a race track on Sunday. I just need to hang in there for 2 or 3 more months and all being well should have a PB or two to my name and be in good shape to tackle my other PB's in the 2nd half of the year. I was one of the only half Marathon runners with my bare legs out and I'm sure Marcus would have been pleased I was part of the still in shorts brigade. Come back next week for a more upbeat blog.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

January 2017 - Challenge Update

I am now into my 19th training week post Berlin Marathon fiasco, but only one month into my 2017 challenge. The base built in the last quarter of 2016 is yet to be truly tested. The mudfest that was the Benfleet 15 wasn't really the place. I have a busy race schedule coming up, a parkrun at my PB course of Albert Park in Middlesbrough, followed the next day by a trail half marathon, my birthday in the middle and then a local 10 mile race the following Sunday. All exciting and a couple of chances to really gauge where my fitness is at over the shorter distances.

The month of January went well, it's a really busy time of year for me workwise being an Accountant. Only 2 days off from the 3rd - 31st January. The work all got done and pleasingly so did the running.

- 22 Runs
- 163.5 miles (record high mileage month)
- 18.01 miles (longest run of any kind since April 2015, longest training run since October 2010)
- 2 races (1 new parkrun, Basildon, 1 15 mile X-Country)

All very pleasing, a long run or two short of perfect. Outside of the 18 and 15 milers my next best efforts were two 10 milers. But another month ticked off and my streak of running 5 times a week marches on.

Still looking for donations and another £60 was donated after I ran the Benfleet 15 with my hand in a splint and that was really pleasing. There are rumours of a potentially huge donation, and that would be incredible. All donations great or small though are massively appreciated. Here is the link if you feel so inclined.


Sunday, 15 January 2017

Benfleet 15 2017 - January's Race

My lead up to today's race was eventful to say the least. A stress free run in the snow and slush Thursday was followed by a fall on the ice on Friday morning as I walked to the station. My butt took most of the fall but I put out my left hand to brace for impact and got up with it feeling a little sore. During my day in the office the hand got gradually more uncomfortable and swollen and I eventually gave in to my wife and colleagues calls to go and get it checked out, not before running 5 miles though. I couldn't have my sequence of 5 runs a week being broken! 4 hours in A&E later we had a splint and a diagnosis. A bad sprain and a small chip fracture, the little shard of bone had been moving around, causing trouble and leading to the swelling. The splint should be enough, come back Monday afternoon to see the specialist. Not ideal, but about as good as I was expecting.

I ran in the splint on Saturday, I felt tired throughout but the arm didn't effect me on my 5 mile test run. So I gave myself the all clear to run the 15 mile race as planned. I couldn't have my 2017 challenge stopped at the first hurdle. The Benfleet 15 is no ordinary 15 miler either. I had run this twice previously, but that was on the old course before it transferred to the Hadleigh Mountain Bike start. The new course was even more brutal than the old one, good size hills at both the start and finish, but with a lot of the middle section the same, the sticky mud, the grass, the wet, but mercifully pretty flat.

The big inclines on the course I elected to walk, my training has been pretty exclusively on the flat, and on the pavements, so the cross country surface and undulating terrain definitely weren't ideal for me. The arm meant I was a little more watchful, reporting to Lauren that I had fallen, and I would have been in the dog house bigtime! Thankfully I kept my feet throughout and made it safely to the finish via the monster climb at the end.

Today's race had the added perk of my Friend's Ross and Charlotte running and with their partners cheering, along with my wife we had a nice motley crew. Ross finished 5th and Charlotte and I, although running separately throughout finished within seconds of each other. A trip down to the Harvester for a burger and buckets of tea went someway to restoring my energy. I will add pictures to this blog later when I have them as well as my official time and position. Unofficially I have it as 2:17:42 for my tough 15 miles.

Once again if you could make any kind of donation towards my 2017 challenge on Justgiving that would be massive. I did run 15 miles with a broken bone, that's got to be worth a few quid. Here is the link: