Monday, 27 June 2016

Juneathon 2016 - week 4

Links: Week 1 (01-05) / Week 2 (06-12) / Week 3 (13-19) / Week 4 (20-26) / Week 5 (27-30)

Last year I completed Juneathon - a fun challenge for no reason whatsoever where participants run (or some other kind of exercise) and blog every day in June. I decided to do it again this year, but rather than blog every day for a month (which gets a bit tiresome, as you may remember from last year) I'll just do a weekly summary. Like last year I'm going to try and run every day, with a 5km minimum for it to "count".

Monday 20th June

After yesterday's Freckleton Half Marathon, my poor legs were fried. The aim of today was as little as possible, as slow as possible! Therefore it was a gentle 2.5km trot down the road, and an equally gentle 2.5km back.

First km was very creaky in the legs, the second a little less so, but slow was the name of the game

On the plus side we found a nice bar attached to Ambleside Youth Hostel, so we went there for a post-run beer or two and lapped up the late afternoon sun. On the down side, although the run is on my watch, it doesn't seem to want to sync it to Garmin Connect. Does that mean it didn't really happen?

Not a bad view whilst enjoying a pint

Tuesday 21st June

Legs feeling surprisingly recovered, so up into the hills it was. Heading out of Ambleside then a small loop taking in the Loughrigg trig point, then back into Ambleside for a cuppa. Nothing too big, but a reasonable ascent and plenty of good views.

The Big Dipper - as depicted by a GPS trace

Mrs doing one of those "Ultra runner disappearing into the distance" magazine shots

Me on a trig point

Dramatic panorama with a person in it that I didn't notice at the time...

Wednesday 22nd June

Today was the biggie - because I'm lazy I'm simply following most of Mrs' training plan for this couple of weeks. She's training for the North Downs Way 100-mile race (I need a sit down just thinking about that) and this holiday for her is about consistency (running almost every day) rather than extreme distance or climbing. That works well with my run-every-day Juneathon ambition.

That being said, today called for a fairly tough 16 mile run from Ambleside to Coniston - a journey of fewer than 8 miles if you drive direct, but for us it's a 16 mile run/hike with almost 1,000m of climbing.

Not the short route, but most certainly the pretty route

We decided to run separately today, so Mrs left the house 15 minutes before me. I wasn't running fast to catch her, but was interested to see if I would, or what the time difference would be when we met up later.

The route was glorious, starting out on the same path as yesterday but then diving out into the countryside away from any towns. The OS Map Finder app kept me on path - apart form one section where I ended up on the wrong side of a river for a while. Easily fixed with a squelchy trudge across some heathland and a few displaced sheep.

Textbook glacial landscape - no wonder there are so many kids on field trips around here

The route down into Coniston was familiar, although I hadn't run this exact path last year I could certainly see all the familiar paths across the valley.

Running down towards the Black Bull pub I was pleased to see I'd beaten by over ten minutes the four and a half hour time I'd had in mind that would represent a reasonable performance.

Every good run needs a set of insane-o-steep stairs cut into the planet

Mrs was already at the pub, and had been there for... precisely fifteen minutes! We'd both taken 4:18 although had clearly gone a bit wonky in different places, and had our fast bits and trudge bits at different times. A good day out for both of us, and excellent training in the hills for our upcoming events.

Up, up, up from Ambleside then a long rocky down into Coniston

We settled back to wait for the bus back to Ambleside and enjoyed a celebratory reward pint of local ale and a slap up brunch at the cafe.

Thursday 23rd June

I didn't think my legs would even work today - and to start with they didn't. Today's "run" started with 2km straight up from behind our holiday cottage.

3/4 of the way up, and Ambleside looks pretty as a picture in the early afternoon sun 

 450 vertical metres later, and the view was, once again, well worth it. You really are rewarded for your efforts around here.

The view out across Windermere 

Once again we had a beautiful sunny day, with no need for anything more than a t-shirt at the summit.

Holiday ladder count: 1

We completed a short circuit up at the top, following some clear, and some not so clear, trails - but we did find a ladder over a stone wall.

Undulating wall along the ridge line

We took a jog around on the top of the series of hills, and then killed our quads "running" down the descent back to Ambleside, and a nice quiet pub with a sun-trap beer garden.

Local sun trap - featuring welcome refreshments after a leg-busting run!

I highly recommend the Golden Rule - it's the friendliest and least touristy pub we've found - we will be back!

Todays 8.7km route took two and a quarter hours

Up, a ramble around on the top, and down again

Friday 24th June

Today I decided to depart from Mrs' punishing week of hills, and instead jog a couple of laps around some nice flat predictable concrete. I think my legs probably could have got me up a hill or two, but with parkrun tomorrow and then the second of the holiday's half marathons on Sunday I don't think it's worth the risk of an injury from overdoing it.

5.2km in 34 minutes! No PBs today that's for sure

Also, I'm absolutely knackered and can't be bothered with anything more than this today!

Saturday 25th June

parkrunday! We drove over to Newcastle to visit friends on Friday night, so that meant a rare North East region parkrun. With so many to choose from, we opted to just go with the nearest (and get back for home-cooked breakfast, yum) so we trundled the 15 minutes to Gateshead parkrun.

Round the lake, round the lake again, then round the lake, and finally round the lake

After getting dizzy running in circles round the boating lake, and after complaining bitterly to no-one in particular about my legs which appear to be made of lead, today's run was done. Breakfast time!

Sunday 26th June

As the 8am "time to get up and drive an hour to a half-marathon in Morecambe" alarm rang, we got an attack of the sod-its, turned the alarm off, and stayed in bed.

Mrs was talking about a spontaneous rest day, but I was due my daily 5km minimum so plotted a short route up a road, a sharp climb, and then a lovely long descent down a ridge I'd seen earlier in the week.

Time to find more cows - today, longhorns!

I decided to wait until early afternoon, just as it started raining, to leave for the run - and Mrs decided to come too.

And sheep!

The first half was up a steep road out of the North of Ambleside up a hill ominously named "The Struggle" - after a week of going up and down hills it wasn't so much a struggle, but it was damn steep - and went up, and up, and up... After a few very slow kilometres we took a left onto a trail and off the road.

The struggle

By now it was raining properly. I was grateful for my lovely light waterproof shell layer - a memento from being up here on holiday last year.

Not so sunny across Ambleside today

Countryside takes on a different kind of beauty in this weather

Mrs running up into the clouds above

There was a steep walk/climb to the peak (if you didn't get to the trig point it doesn't count, right?) - and by now we were well into the cloud, visibility was about 20 metres, and the wind was whipping up.

Steep, but not in the wind and clouds yet

Gets a bit more serious at 1,800ft

Thankfully, the top was near, and after a quick shelter to get our breath back and a selfie on the trig point, it was time for the long descent back to Ambleside.

Another day, another trig point

A moment of well-deserved shelter

I'd picked this route in order to enjoy the views whilst running down the ridge - the only view I got was the inside of a cloud as seen by squinting through the rain.

The view (I'm assured) is incredible from up here....

Back under the cloud, dampened clothing but not enthusiasm

So, a 7 mile run in the rain and wind with sod all visibility - now we can say we've had a holiday in the Lake District!

Up, down

Check out the contour lines at kilometre 6!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Juneathon 2016 - week 3

Links: Week 1 (01-05) / Week 2 (06-12) / Week 3 (13-19) / Week 4 (20-26) / Week 5 (27-30)

Last year I completed Juneathon - a fun challenge for no reason whatsoever where participants run (or some other kind of exercise) and blog every day in June. I decided to do it again this year, but rather than blog every day for a month (which gets a bit tiresome, as you may remember from last year) I'll just do a weekly summary. Like last year I'm going to try and run every day, with a 5km minimum for it to "count".

Monday 13th June

Monday saw the traditional lack of inspiration, alongside a fairly knackered pair of legs form yesterday - so it was the local loop again. I briefly toyed with running it the other way round, but then forgot until I was half way round, so...

It's that loop again!

Tuesday 14th June

One of my regular partial run commutes, from work down the Thames Path to Putney Bridge tube station. A well known and enjoyable route - particularly in the summer when there are so many other people out walking, cycling, and running.

From Westminster to Putney Bridge

Wednesday 15th June

Another one of my regular runs, this is the one I do when I've got up too late or procrastinated heavily, and don't think I have time to run all the way to work or even from Putney Bridge. I can get the fast train to Clapham Junction (around 10 minutes) and run from there to work.

The opportunist run - if I don't take the opportunity, there is no run

Thursday 16th June

Back to a tactical local loop, far too busy being stressed about getting a significant amount of work done plus packing all in time for heading off on holiday after work tomorrow evening!

I'll give it a five-point-oh. Kilometres.

I've been listening to audiobooks quite a lot whilst running recently. I'm about half way through the fourth book in Orson Scott Card's "Ender" series, Ender in Exile. It's a lovely way to lose yourself in a different universe whilst running along - not so good when you need to focus on intervals or hills, but great when you're just ticking over in a zone 1 run.

Friday 17th June

We decided to have a pre-holiday night away in Stratford-upon-Avon. A beautiful town that I'd never visited before. We didn't arrive until gone 9pm and I hadn't been for a run yet, so I quickly got changed and set off for a random stumble. Thanks to summer no head torch required.

I immediately got lost and didn't go where I was intending, but managed to find a loop that went out on a road from the town, and then cut back to the river Avon. Making my way back to the hotel, and trying not to fill up too much on midges ahead of dinner, I found I had almost 1.5km still to go to make up my self-ascribed minimum of 5km per day. A couple of laps of the estate the hotel was on and the job was done.

A bit of a random run in Stratford-upon-Avon

I managed to get into the restaurant just in time for dinner. I'm not sure they appreciated me dripping in sweat, but it's not my fault it was 99% humidity - and you know what they say, "the customer is always right*".

*even when he's dripping into the soup

Saturday 18th June

There was a thread on the parkrun tourists Facebook group recently about the closest you've ever woken up to the start of the day's parkrun - I think today was my second closest ever.  As the crow flies I think I was about 0.2 miles, the only time I've been closer was Glossop inaugural last year when we stayed in a room in a pub that was on the corner of the park!

Mrs signing the tourist guestbook


It just happened to be Stratford-upon-Avon regatta today. Thankfully the parkrun was still on, but with an alternative course. Three and three-quarter laps of the field, incorporating a nice path down the side of the river where we could watch the racing.

The regatta-friendly alternative route

We jogged round in over 30 minutes, damply (so humid here!) and managed to avoid filling up on cake. It was a wonderfully friendly parkrun, and I'd recommend it to all tourists.

Dogs are welcome too

I was delighted to hear in the race briefing that the regatta organisers had offered a free bacon roll to every parkrunner on the production of their barcode - what a lovely example of two different sporting events sharing the park and doing so nicely! More of that kind of thing please.

Sunday 19th June

Today was the Freckleton Half Marathon, a race I entered a few weeks ago. It was wet. My race report is here. In short - torrential rain, a fair amount of hurt, a relatively fast time, and a definite need for a beer afterwards!

So that's 19 days back to back - roughly two thirds of the way, but with two weeks in the Lake District plus another half marathon, plus some supreme hills - it's great training for the Chiltern Challenge, but I'm so looking forward to a rest day on July 1st!

Monday, 20 June 2016

Race report: Freckleton Half Marathon

I'm on holiday at the moment, and following on from last year's tradition of entering local races (I absolutely loved The Cumberland Ale 10 and The Lancaster Half Marathon), we entered a couple this year too.

Our first is The Freckleton Half Marathon; it claims to be the oldest half in the UK. This year was its 52nd year, and the 40th year that it's been a mixed race. The first 12 years were men-only because it took a somewhat embarrassing amount of time to stop being concerned about wombs falling out under the strain of sporting activity.

We set off from our holiday cottage in Ambleside at a bit before mid-day; the race started at an entirely civilised 2pm. Lucky, because the night before was our first night on holiday and I may have indulged in a little liquid refreshment...

We arrived at Freckleton in good time, and signed in to get our race numbers. It was a proper village feeling event with lots of atmosphere.

I see minion

We had a small warm up ahead of the start, and then we grouped behind the line for the off. I didn't really have a plan - "run a bit and see what happens" was as far ahead as I'd thought. BANG! We were off...

Precisely as the gun sounded it began to rain, just very fine rain (for now). I cleared the first kilometre in around 4:45, which is roughly PB pace for me (though you can't think about such things when you're only at 5% distance). The second km went by in 4:30 which is a little over-enthusiastic! I backed off, and trundled around the rest of the first third of the course at around 4:45-4:55/km.

The course description was "flat and fast" - to be honest, I've raced flatter... There were many more gentle (and occasionally not so gentle) climbs than I was expecting. This being day 19 of my Juneathon (run every day in June) attempt my legs weren't really up for PB-pace up hills...

Not that flat, and look at the pace drop-off! (green line)

The middle third of the race was hard work, but by the final third I was pretty gone. The rain had gradually increased in intensity until in the last 5km I could only describe it as "settled in for the duration". Everyone was drenched.

Before the race again - the clouds got much, much, darker

I'd picked up a friction burn on the inside of my arm and my heel was a bit worn, plus my shorts were glued to my legs - things get a bit weird when you're running, soaked to the skin. My pace rolled off and I finally got to the end.

I finished with an official time of 1:47:42 which feels quite disappointing to me, but is only 7 minutes slower than my PB time (from the Royal Parks Half back in 2012) and I think is still my third fastest ever half marathon. Mrs came in at 1:57:36, only 20 seconds slower than her personal best which was an incredible performance given the conditions!

The route

We went to hide in the car and get changed - thankfully I'd brought a spare t-shirt and socks/shoes - but had to drive back in sodden shorts. Squishy. I enjoyed the run, despite the last few km of trudging, and I'm looking forward to our next holiday race - the Morecambe Half next weekend, where I'll ensure my night-before indulgence is a little more restrained, and hopefully the weather will be a little more forgiving.

Results are here.

Official results

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Juneathon 2016 - week 2

Links: Week 1 (01-05) / Week 2 (06-12) / Week 3 (13-19) / Week 4 (20-26) / Week 5 (27-30)

Last year I completed Juneathon - a fun challenge for no reason whatsoever where participants run (or some other kind of exercise) and blog every day in June. I decided to do it again this year, but rather than blog every day for a month (which gets a bit tiresome, as you may remember from last year) I'll just do a weekly summary. Like last year I'm going to try and run every day, with a 5km minimum for it to "count".

Monday 6th June

On any normal Monday after the hills of the weekend I'd take a day off, but as it's June I decided on jogging very very slowly round my MVR (minimum viable run). It's the return of the 5km local loop.

Monday plod

Tuesday 7th June

5km local loop day two, legs felt like they'd welcome a bit of a shake out, so I added some strides. Strides are a gradual increase in speed until you're almost sprinting but not losing form, and then a "float" of 20m or so and then freewheel back down to jogging.

Six faster sections clearly visible

Each stride only takes about 30s in total, and the aim is that you don't get as tired as the lag between output and heart rate is such that your legs and neuromuscular system get a good work out, but it doesn't spike your heart rate so much - therefore the recovery required after the session is lessened.

Tuesday strides

Wednesday 8th June

5km local loop day three. Tired. Set out to jog round at even pace. Uneventful. Nothing to report.

It's that loop again...

Thursday 9th June

Guess where I ran today? Yup, 5km loop day four.  This route is functional: I need a run, I have no imagination, let's plod round the block. This time I decided to go for a "Royal Flush". This is a Marathon Talk term to mean each mile or kilometre faster than the one before.

Starting to wonder why I didn't just use the same screenshot four times over

I set out slowly with this in mind and ramped it up - I didn't feel fully recovered from the weekend yet so started very slow. I've got it wrong when trying this before, if kilometre 3 is a bit fast, then kilometre 4 has to be even faster, leaving kilometre 5 to be an all out sprint - OK if you're ready for it, but today I wasn't!

The ramp up in pace is obvious, kilometre splits are 6:58, 6:19, 5:52, 5:20, and 4:57

Friday 10th June

A change of scenery for today. After cycle commuting to work and back, I drove down to Lainston House near Winchester after work where Mrs and I were spending the night. Asked reception if they had a running route - there were several to choose form, all clearly marked.

A 5.5km road loop

I set off to get my daily minimum 5km in and didn't see a single route marker, so I just made it up. Coincidentally, was passed by Mrs in a taxi from the station while I was out! A bit more hilly than I was aiming for, but I felt good.

Lainston House

Saturday 11th June

Saturday = parkrunday. We headed down to Eastleigh, one of the older parkrun courses which this week was holding it's 311th event.

The course wasn't the most inspiring to be honest, loops up the side of a shallow hill in the beautifully named Dragonfly Trail Park, then returning round to the start. 3 laps. The support was good from the locals, including an older chap in a deck chair with a school playground hand bell - every time he rang it I thought it was time to come in from morning break. Almost drowned out the sound of the M3 :)

A 3-lapper parkrun

It wasn't the best run for me, it was incredibly humid and all on grass - not good weather for me. I sweated heavily all the way round, which never puts me in a good mood.

After the run, we had a reverse panic drive. Normally the stress is getting to parkrun on time, today it was trying to get back to the hotel by 10am to catch breakfast service! We made it (well, we were 2 minutes late but it didn't matter) and had a glorious cooked breakfast. I'll definitely be returning to Lainston House for a longer stay, it's beautiful.

Sunday 12th June

The main run of the week, and an early start to get out to Wendover. I was running on the Chiltern Challenge Ultra route again. It was raining but not cold, a t-shirt and arm warmers plus waterproof shell layer kept me perfectly comfortable.

Today's route

My legs are very aware of the now 12-day run streak. I remember this from last year, fatigue bulls up over the first two weeks and then you just kind of get used to it - as long as you're not going hard every day.

This was a reconnaissance mission, so no intention on going hard or fast, quite the opposite. I jogged along, and walked a lot. I gave myself permission to do this, and it felt good. Normally walking means a hill or you've overcooked it in the early stages - but in the longer distances walking (hiking at a reasonable pace rather than strolling along) is an important race technique.

I may have misjudged a muddy spot

Apparently, this is a path

I was planning on looping round back to Wendover, but decided after nearly four hours for 25km I'd call it a day at Great Missenden. I grabbed a coffee and headed for the train.

It was a good run today, nice to see a bit more of the ultra course - five weeks until race day! Eeeep!!