Sunday, 16 August 2015

Race report: Thames Hare & Hounds 2nd Sunday 5 #4

Fourth running of the Thames Hare & Hounds 2nd Sunday 5 event, and the fourth time I've made it. I'll be on holiday for the fifth event, so here ends my 100% participation streak.

Race plan was simple, go out harder than I have before, and hang on for a PB. Normally I find myself with someone to chase, but this time I ended up having a tussle with someone all the way round the second lap, and down to the finish.

His sprint finish was far faster than mine, so he was a good few seconds clear at the end. I hit my objective though, running hard throughout to come in at 41:38, a new PB by 94 seconds, a big chunk of improvement.

I found out afterwards that Olympic 10,000m athlete Julia Bleasdale was also running - she combined it into the middle of a 17 mile long run, and in doing so won the race and set a new women's course record of 29:51. Wow!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Race Report: Wimbledon Half Marathon 2015

I've noticed a race around Wimbledon Common a few times, and today I was in it. It's the Wimbledon Half Marathon, put on by Run Through events. And it was wet. Very wet. The rain started soon after we arrived, and gradually got harder.

The first wave went off at 9:30, for those aiming for sub-1:40. Second wave three minutes later for sub-1:50, third after another three minutes for those aiming for the significant 2-hour mark, and then finally fourth wave with everyone else.

I was aiming to beat my Hitchin Hard Half time of 2:00:07 so I placed myself in the sub-2 wave. Mrs was also aiming to beat her time and go sub 2:15, so she went in the fourth wave.

The Wimbledon Half route

The first couple of km are mainly uphill, climbing from the recreation ground up towards the Wimbledon parkrun route and the Windmill tea rooms. I took a nice easy start, 6:00 for the first km, 5:50 for the second. Once up on the flat middle section though I felt good, so pushed a little harder. I was aiming for an average of under 5:40 per km, so was quite pleased when I knocked the next few off at around 5:20.

What goes up must come down, so it was a nice long fast downhill back to the river to complete lap 1. I felt really good, and was running at a good even pace. I'd been steadily overtaking people all the way round, and was enjoying picking off who would be next.

Good pacing (green line) and a few sharp ups and downs!

The uphill section was a bit tougher this time, but I engaged my glutes and kept upright, with high cadence - that seemed to work well. The rain was absolutely torrential, despite being in a forest for most of the route we were all completely drenched to the skin!

Into the final third of the race distance and I was having to work harder to keep the pace up. I was confident I would break 2:00 and it looked like I'd even get under 1:55. Finishing the lap there's a little nasty hill that nearly killed me, but then back onto the grass of the playing field for a finishing stretch and a bit of a sprint to the line.

The best thing? The medal has a Womble on it :)

The official results are out already, and with them the proof that I'd smashed my target of 2:00, coming in at 1:52:27 for 180th position overall. Mrs also did absolutely amazingly, finishing in 2:06:44 for 300th place overall. We're both super-happy with that, on a muddy, soaking wet, 100% off-road course (with some hills for fun).

The only other thing I wanted to do was negative split (do the second half faster than the first). Despite logging my runs into about a half dozen different activity/performance tracking sites, I can't see an easy way to find that out (you'd think "What was the time when I got to 10.55km?" would be easy enough to work out!).

Doing it rough and ready, my 10-11km split was 5:48, so if I add 0.55 of that to my 10km time, that's 53:51 + (0.55 x 5:48) = 0:57:02 for 10.5km. Take that from my overall time of 1:52:27 to get the second half, and that comes to 0:55:25 - so I negative split by 1:37! I'm very happy with that!!

LCHF (Low Carb High Fat) breakfast of champions!

Dinner time now - and a richly deserved curry at Khanage - the best curry house in Wimbledon.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Race report: Thames Hare & Hounds 2nd Sunday 5 #3

The third running of the Thames Hare & Hounds 2nd Sunday 5 - the new regular 5-mile race held on the second Sunday of every month. It's a great little run, low-key and "local" feeling, but with good running club standards from the TH&H members that I get some stiff competition. Last time I managed to come last, despite putting some serious effort in, so this time my race objectives were triple-printed: A) Don't walk up the Toast Rack; B) Don't come last; C) Go for a PB.

I drove up to the Windmill carpark on Wimbledon Common, it's a couple of km from the start/finish so a jog down makes for a good warm-up, and a gentle stroll back is a nice cool-down afterwards.

Today's run was a little different, it was doubling up with a local school for their off-road fun run. At the start there were a couple of dozen little kids - everything from three to maybe seven or eight years old would be my guess.

They looked cute with their giant race numbers on, and there was lots of excitement from them! I was expecting them to be doing a lap or two of the playing fields, or "out round the cone and back" - but nope, they were doing a full lap of the same course the grown-ups were! A little over 5km, all off-road, including up the Toast Rack!!

The kids had a great little warmup, jumping and bouncing, and then we all lined up to start. I was a bit concerned... I've seen kids start at the front at parkrun and the big risk is they just get mown down - but not this time. The little darlings shot off into the distance, leaving us oldies for dead! I laughed out loud for the first minute or two - running surrounded by tiny kids was hilarious - they were going at absolute full tilt, and all the parents were lagging behind yelling "pace yourself!", "slow down!", and the like. They'd slow down dramatically, then speed off past you again, then slow down - it was certainly not like any other run start I've experienced!

The usual layout, 2 laps for the 5-milers, one for the children

In any case, it was perfectly safe and I didn't see any collisions. And you know what? Quite a few of those tiny kids disappeared int the distance and I never saw them again...

I found a good pace, including running up the Toast Rack hill, and pushed down the other side. I'd overtaken a few of the kids and was running mainly on my own. Coming to the end of the first lap the kids and parents turned right to go back to the start/finish, and the 5-milers took a left for a second lap.

After the corner I could see a few people in the distance, including the woman I'd had a sprint finish to beat in the first race back in May. I kept the pace up and managed to run (sort of!) up the Toast Rack for the second time - first time in the three races I've not walked a bit. I overtook one of the cluster in front (yay! not last!) and set my sights on the next person.

Pace and altitude: Spot the Toast Rack x2 and the sprint finish

I overtook him a few minutes later, and still had the woman in my sights - she was also finishing at a good pace. Completing the second lap, turning right this time, and just under a kilometre left. I managed to reel her in a bit, and as we turned for the final 200m out of the forest and onto the playing fields, I pushed hard. I was certainly gaining on her, but there just wasn't enough race left - plus I was running out of lungs and legs. She beat me by about 20m.

The hard finish was good for my time, certainly a 2nd Sunday 5 personal best. The course start/finish was again in a different place so we've had three different routes now. I'll keep track of average speed as well as overall time.

Slowly upping the average speed - I'm aiming for a shade over 12km/h to go for sub 40 minutes

I'm very happy with that - good progress over the three months. My long-term objective for this race is to get under 40 minutes.

I was amazed by the tiny kids - some of them ran really hard and didn't slow down at all (I certainly hadn't caught them all on my first lap). A real contrast to a parkrun I was at recently where I heard a mum tell her crying daughter "5km is too far for little girls, you can run when you're older" - tell that to this lot, over 5km, all off-road, including down the side of a river with steep banks - and they were fast as anything.

When I was walking back up to the car I saw the youngest of the children finishing, a child laughing and happy just going down the field toward the finish area. She was no taller than my knees, and seemed to have had the best morning ever! A good reminder of just what kids are capable of - and it's normally far more than we realise.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Race report: Croydon Ultra

I have had a previous attempt at an ultra, and it didn't end well. I had to stop after 30km with my old friend ITBS irritating my knee. I have wanted to take another go for a while. On a whim I signed up for the Croydon Ultra about 6 weeks ago. I've been running relatively regularly, and relied on running every day in June (Juneathon) to give me what I needed.

I went to check the circuit out a fortnight ago, and didn't enjoy it too much. So I went back for another go a few days later and had a much better day. I still wasn't entirely confident I'd make it round two laps, but it was worth a shot.

Normal breakfast - anti-hystamenes essential

I got up early and ate a normal breakfast before heading out. I know I can do three hours of exercise on a cup of coffee, not sure about six! The night before I made a couple of snack packs too - a boiled egg, stick of cheese, and a bit of bacon. I was going high-fat low carb all the way, no cakes, sports drinks, or sugary sweets for this athlete.

Snack pots!

The trip to the start was easy, just 30 minutes on the tram. The two-lap course meant easy access to my bag at half way so that, plus an aid station half way round, meant very little to carry. I wore my trusty Flip-Belt with iPhone and inhaler, then in my shorts pocket an emergency bank card, cash, and copy of the route. Pretty sure I didn't need the instructions thanks to my familiarisation runs, but better safe than sorry.

Race start was at 9am, and at about 8.45 it started drizzling. By the time we started it was really raining hard. I decided to go for shorts and a vest, expecting warm dry weather - at least in a vest I wouldn't get bogged down with the weight of wet clothes, or poach myself in a waterproof top.

Registration - before the rain

At 9am on the dot we set off. There were around two dozen of us. A lot like the most recent 2nd Sunday 5, everyone shot off into the distance. I was fairly sure that within the first kilometre I was in last place. I didn't mind, I'm OK with that. Maybe they'll come back to me later, maybe not. For me it's about getting round.

There were a reasonable number of orange arrows painted onto the floor at opportune moments, and a few orange streamers tied to trees. Better markings than I was expecting for a small low-key race.

The rain continued, and I held a good pace. Jogging along the flats and downs, walking briskly up the hills. The White Bear aid station came round fairly quickly, I had a cup of water and a surprise piece of cheese (I was surprised, not the cheese) - nice to see something other than the usual sugar fest - maybe ultras are more accommodating? There wasn't any coke/pepsi, just flat water or orange cordial - it looked somehow more appropriate than the sugar-fest aid stations I'm used to from Ironman.

I'd enjoyed the first half of the lap, it's interesting and mainly trail. The middle section was country lanes, bit boring, and then the last part was mainly around suburbs - quite housing estates and some seriously nice houses.

I got back to the start to see two runners just leaving, maybe I wasn't so far at the back after all. I stopped for a few minutes, I don't know what my mid-point time was, I'd already decided I didn't care (within reason) about the time - it was about finishing. I was wearing my Garmin and it was recording, but I was just ignoring it. It buzzed regularly as the kilometres ticked by, but they passed uncounted. I consumed one of my snack pots - it was good! Felt so much more reviving than an energy bar or gel.

2x 15 glorious lumpy miles, South of Croydon

Setting off from the aid station to start the second lap I was still going OK. I clearly had a few hours' running in my legs, but I wasn't too tired. I enjoy the first third of the course, on the vanguard way, and was looking forward to seeing it again.

It had rained all the way round lap one, but had slowed to a drizzle now. The trail section was a little slipperier but still manageable. I'd made the right choice by picking my shoes for the two-thirds of the course that's on-road, not the third that's trail. After three or four kilometres I caught the pair who had left in front of me. They looked very tired, we exchanged greetings and "hang-in-there"s, and I pushed on forward.

My first twinge of worry was following the transition to the road section. I pushed a little to keep my rhythm on the flat, but couldn't run down the hill - yup, knee pain! Before long I was finding it hard to run for any more than few minutes, the pain built up gently until it made me stop, then I walked a bit, then I could run for a few minutes again.

The line up - I was at the front for approximately 1 second

By the time I hit the mid-point aid station I couldn't run at all, but I could walk - and I could walk fast.  For some reason that was fine. I was determined to finish - I need to pop my ultra cherry! I decided there and then to power-hike the whole second half of lap two, and not do any more damage by trying to run.

While I was there one of the pair I'd overtaken arrived - from the wrong direction! He'd lost the guy he was running with, and then got lost, and eventually chopped off the whole bottom end of the circuit, so he came back up the course to the aid station to get the distance covered. It was his first ultra, he was determined to get a finish too.

I set off at quite a stride, visualising the various sections of the course that remained - walking it in for 7.5 miles was going to take a while. My knee seemed OK on the flat but was complaining increasingly on gradients. At one point even walking up and down kerbs was uncomfortable!

Finally, now with sore feet because my shoes were certainly designed for running and not walking, I rounded the corner back to the aid station. 30 miles done - 22.5 running, 7.5 walking. Still, to get the bling all you have to do is get to the end - and I got to the end, so I get my little medal :)

Look at that drop off in pace!

I'm still not sure I'm an "ultra runner", but I certainly covered an ultra distance, and completed an ultra race, so that's good enough for now. Since Sunday I took Monday off exercise, and today (Tuesday) I cycled home from work. Knee is absolutely fine - as soon as the irritation subsides I'm back to normal in no  time.

Fell into the pub on the way home for a recovery wine

We have a train strike for the next few days, so I'll cycle for the next couple of days too, then parkrun on Saturday (of course), and the third 2nd Sunday 5 trail race on Sunday, which I should be right as rain for.


I think I'm going to stick to races that are just up to and including half marathon for a while. I'll try longer again at some point, but I'm not going to get over excited and enter loads of races (I was kind of considering some 50-milers next year - but there's utterly no point if it's 25 miles running, and then 25 miles "walking it in").

Still, it was fun, and I had a nice day, and I'm pleased I showed some resolve to get to the end and not give up. Job done :)

Race photos are here, but apart from the start line shot I was too slow to end up in any of them! The official results are here, together with a short blog post form the organiser. The men's race was won by last year's winner, David Ross, in a new course record of 3:43. The women's race was won by Daisy Rolfe in 5:02. I eventually rolled in at around 6:20, but I managed not to come last!

I'll take that, thank you very much :)

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Tewkesbury inaugural parkrun

Mrs is away on business so I decided to check out an inaugural parkrun (yes, I still go to them sometimes), so off to Tewkesbury parkrun I went.

It was a beautiful day for it, bright, clear, and sunny

The course is four laps of a field, not the most inspiring layout but it has the almost unique quality of being able to see all almost the runners almost all the time.

Tewkesbury Cathedral can be seen at the top centre of the satellite view

With tomorrow's Ultra finally upon me, the day called for a gentle jog round. This was enforced by forgetting my running shorts, thankfully I had some casual summer shorts with me, so I jogged round in those.

The scale makes it looks precipitous, but it's just a gentle rise and fall on each lap

I don't usually comment on parkrun distance accuracy; just because my Garmin reads 4.95km or 5.05km doesn't mean that the parkrun universe will implode. However today's route only measured 4.45km which I think is probably worth taking a look at!

I was a bit surprised at my time, I was only plodding!

It's a beautiful friendly run, I wish them much success in the future. It'll be an interesting course if we have a long wet season, expect cancellations and/or muddy knees from the short steep bit between the fields!

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Juneathon day 30/30 - Fin.

Done 30 days from 30. Hardest thing will be not running tomorrow. The thing is, if I run tomorrow I'll have to run every day forever, so I need to break the streak for my own sanity. Kinda not joking...

St James' park

This morning's run was lovely, two laps of the park near work before work time, much love to Mrs for suggesting it. Really happy I finished Juneathon with a new run.

I've run over 26 hours in the month of June, and over 150 miles - the thing that blows me away is that there are many people that can do this in one go! All at once! That's just... incredible. Maybe one day I'll be one of those people? For now, I just need a snooze :)

My Juneathon totals: 29 runs for 251.80km (156.49 miles) in 26:26:57

Juneathon is over.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Juneathon day 29/30 - Penultimate day of Juneathon

Penultimate day of Juneathon and my legs were surprisingly sprightly sprightly this evening after yesterday's half marathon. The results were published and my official gun time is 2:00:07 - just eight tiny seconds from sub-2! Oh well, as I said, better go back and do it next year.

Just the easy local 5km for me this evening, a box-ticker if ever there was. Looking forward to tomorrow's final Juneathon run which will see me complete the month with just over 250km on the clock.

My Juneathon totals: 29 runs for 246.26km in 25:55:03

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Juneathon day 28/30 - Race Report: Hitchin hard half marathon

I was a bit worried about today's Hitchin hard half marathon - half marathons seem to present the perfect balance of distance vs time vs effort to irritate my ITBS. Both bouts have been brought on by halves, both by the same half in fact - the Royal Parks Half, and both times I've been disillusioned and off running for at least six months afterwards.

Today's course was very different to those. Far fewer people, significantly more climbing and descending, and the 28th day of my Juneathon run streak (as explained earlier, actually the 30th day running in a row).

Mrs was running it too (her race report is here) - a big challenge and milestone for her as she continues her recovery from ankle surgery. To think that just 5 months ago she couldn't walk, and is now toeing the line at a hilly half. Much love and respect for that.

The route, a rough lollypop shape

We were off at 9:30, a couple of repetitions of a hill in the grounds of The Priory, and then out onto the open road. The roads were not closed to traffic so we had to keep an eye and an ear out for cars (no headphones allowed!), but it didn't cause any trouble - the roads were very quiet.

My race plan was to finish strong, I wasn't particularly concerned about time but two hours is a nice benchmark. I set off at a measured pace, cadence high, breathing easily. I walked the particularly steep hills, probably about five walking periods during the race.

Like always, most people started too fast and put too much effort in up the hills. For the first quarter I let people run away, I was fairly near the back but I knew I'd see them again. The middle half I saw the same faces. They'd run past me as I hiked up hill, then I'd set off at the top and overtake them easily as I was fresher. Repeat (several times!).

You can clearly see an increase in pace starting from about 1:30 - and the sprint finish!

The day was humid but stayed mainly dry until the last quarter. I decided to start seeing what I had in the tank and was easily able to draw people in and overtake. The light drizzle turned to rain in the last few km, I pushed harder. I overtook many more people in the last quarter than I was expecting to - a sign of good pacing control at the start, saving myself by walking the hills, and having some gas in the tank.

There's a long shallow uphill to get back to the grounds of the Priory, that part I found quite sapping, but pushed on. For the last km I was wondering if I might make it under two hours - it was going to be tight. The finish was on a grassy downhill, so I pushed hard, overtook a few people (including blowing past two guys who were in the middle of a sprint to the line!) and stopped my watch.

It doesn't look too bad seen on the graph - felt a lot lumpier at the time...

My watch read 2:00:13! I'll have to wait for the official result, but I doubt it'll disagree by as much as the 14 seconds I'd need to get under 2 hours. I'm very happy with my performance, and the race. Mrs ran well too, coming in well in the bracket she was aiming for. After a nice cup of tea, and unexpected chat with my friend Bob who it turns out is part of the race organising team, it was back to the in-laws for buckets of tea and a massive fry-up - perfect!

Looks like I'll have to come back next year for the sub-2!

My Juneathon totals: 28 runs for 241.25km in 25:27:55

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Juneathon day 27/30 - Harrow parkrun

A relatively relaxed start as parkrun tourism goes, up at 7am and out of the house at around half past. I was looking for something easy and near as we have a packed day today. Harrow parkrun started a few weeks ago, today was the 4th event - a perfect time for a tourist visit.

The residents of Harrow were unexpectedly philosophical

Harrow Recreation Ground was just a short walk form Harrow-on-the-Hill underground station. I made good time and arrived with 15 minutes to spare. The park was beautiful in the sun, it really was a glorious morning for a run.

Beautiful morning on Harrow Recreation Ground, and wonderfully warming sunshine

I took a lap of the park at a gentle jog, and then milled about with the other 100 or so runners to await the briefing and start.

Milling around prior to run briefing

My plan was to run at an easy pace with a little burst of speed for 100m or so each km to turn my legs over ahead of tomorrow's half marathon. The course was all on concrete paths, a little narrow in places but the field was well spread out. A slight drag up a rise each lap caught a few people out.

3 laps, the first adding in a short inner ring

Plan was executed perfectly, though I'm not sure my fellow park runners always appreciated me taking off like a scared bunny every few minutes. I got lap by the first finisher as I was completing my second lap - he recorded a time of 16:22, he flew past me!

A couple of slight inclines on each lap (looks like a mountain but that's because of the scale)

All in all, a very enjoyable run in the park. As always, thank you parkrun, and thank you volunteers.

My Juneathon totals: 27 runs for 220.02km in 23:27:42

Friday, 26 June 2015

Juneathon day 26/30 - Quick trot to work

Felt a lot more up for it today, but don't want to push the distance given the tough half marathon coming on Sunday I elected to take a train to Clapham Junction and run to work from there. Gentle trot, consistent effort, average pace, no stress. Job done! Juneathon, the end is in sight!

I love running down the river in the morning, bright and cool, and very London-y

My Juneathon totals: 26 runs for 215.04km in 23:01:38

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Juneathon day 25/30 - Minimum effort

For the first time in Juneathon I really didn't fancy it this evening. It's late and I'm tired. Pleasingly one of the reasons isn't that I'm aching from yesterday's run - I've bounced back well from that. In any case, I just trundled round the local 5km loop. Again.

My Juneathon totals: 25 runs for 208.34km in 22:21:08

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Juneathon day 24/30 - "Much better, thank you, Aziz!"

Finished work and left for Croydon, already changed into my running gear. Determined to go to Croydon and hit another lap of the Croydon Ultra route.

Train from Victoria, super-fast to Croydon, under 15 minutes

Thankfully the route is very different to my route home, so once I'd got to Victoria I was committed. It was well under an hour from desk to Lloyd Park tram stop, the start/finish of the lap.

A few stops on the Croydon Tramlink

I decided on a change to Sunday's plan - this time I would walk all the up-hills, regardless of how long they were, and run the flats and downhills. Not running the ups really helped, I had much more energy throughout. I stopped at the petrol station again for water, but was feeling good.

Much more even pacing this time

All the death march walking I did on Sunday was runnable today, and I completed the lap a massive 25 minutes faster coming in at 2:52:57 - and shaving off about a kilometre through knowing where I was going and not making mistakes.

Happy with that!

Much better, thank you, Aziz! I still think two laps is going to be hard, but it's supposed to be - it's an ultra marathon. But, unlike Sunday, I at least now feel it's achievable.

Happy face

But first, I have to get through the ominously named "Hitchin hard half marathon"; I understand hills may be involved.

My Juneathon totals: 24 runs for 203.33km in 21:51:33

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Juneathon day 23/30 - Tactical trot

No time this evening, long day at work and stuff to do at home! Uninspiring trot around the local 5km route it is...

Look familiar?

My Juneathon totals: 23 runs for 178.53km in 18:58:36

Monday, 22 June 2015

Juneathon day 22/30 - A quick out and back

Surprisingly my legs felt fine today after yesterdays run/walk, so I was looking forward to a little out and back with Mrs. Her training plan called for 40 minutes easy with three efforts of 60 seconds at 5km pace.

Three efforts at the end clearly visible (which is good!)

We took one of our regular out and back routes. It was nice to put a bit of effort in at the end, I haven't done much fast running lately. Must work some efforts in more regularly.

Not the most dynamic route, but nice to run with Mrs in the evening

I'm hoping to work in another Croydon Ultra lap on Wednesday after work, see how the legs hold up!

My Juneathon totals: 22 runs for 173.52km in 18:28:37

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Juneathon day 21/30 - Checking out the Croydon Ultra route

After a most frustrating morning trying to get a map onto my Garmin Edge 705 to use as a hand-held GPS where all I actually ended up doing was getting angry and uploading 300 junk activities to Garmin connect (and still couldn't copy the map...) - I went, armed with Mrs' bike computer, to the tram.

The 30 mile Croydon Ultra route starts at Lloyd Park stop on the Croydon Tramlink which conveniently also has a stop 200m from my front door. Getting to and from the race on July 5th will not be a problem.

Nice easy tram home afterwards was much appreciated

The route is hillier than I'm used to, though small fry compared to most. Two laps of fifteen miles. I started well, save for a couple of navigational errors, running for nine minutes, walking for one, and hiking the hills.

The trail sections were really good fun, I'm starting to really get a lot of enjoyment from running off-road. But after five or six miles it became more on road and footpath. My feet got tired and I found it hard to start running after my minute walk.

Graph of altitude and pace - the walking bit at the end is fairly plain to see!

Stopped for an emergency bottle of water and Pepperami from a petrol station, and pushed on. In the end I walked most of the last couple of miles.

My longest run for a long time, I'm not really "long run fit", but we'll see what happens. Today was 25.75km in 3:17:49 (including Pepperami stop).

It was good to have an image of what I'll be up against in a fortnight - I'm not sure how I'm going to get round twice though!

Three weeks down, one more to go...

My Juneathon totals: 20 runs for 167.42km in 17:46:52