Jantastic: My Campaign Reviewed

Well, Jantastic has come to an end, and for me, its been an unequivocal success.

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Woo! 100%!

Last year I didn’t see the campaign through to the end due to a knock in January, and as I used a Joker I basically threw my toys out of the pram and gave up, like a real man! This year I have been a lot more pragmatic, and used it for what it is designed for – motivation.

There truly were some evenings where I really did NOT want to go for a run. It could have been the weather, the dark, the fatigue from the elevated mileage… But there was no way I was losing my 100% record. This kept me running consistently and I have been reaping the rewards.

The "General" badges I won. I acheivd all I could except a "top team" badge, which means next year the whip needs to be cracked!
The “General” badges I won. I acheivd all I could except a “top team” badge, which means next year the whip needs to be cracked!

Chasing the badges has also been a good addition to my training, particularly with the Strava integration. Firstly, it made me more accountable. I wanted to be able to justify each of my runs logged to Jantastic and remain 10% transparent about the process. By adding badges like “Mountain Goat” I went out and deliberately ran more hills. With the “Speedster badge, I deliberately went out for a fast 5k parkrun just to win the badge.

Strava Badges - Bloody unseasonably warm winter in Somerset meant I couln't get Sub Zero. Will have to get up super early next January!
Strava Badges – Bloody unseasonably warm winter in Somerset meant I couln’t get Sub Zero. Will have to get up super early next January!

The other thing its helped me do is acknowledge when I’m tired, to run easy, and when I’m REALLY tired to take a rest day. It’s really helped me listen to what my body has been telling me.

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Got these for all 3 months.

If I was “old school” I’d need a rapping of the knuckles when it came to my “timed run”. I smashed my target by 2 and a half minutes. I genuinely thought the target I set myself was a good stretch and I was anxious that I may not actually achieve the goal. This is something for me to work on next year, but while I should really have been penalized, its real proof that Jantastic, and specifically consistent training, has on running performance. I’ve got a 6 minute half marathon PB (And soooo close to sub 90 it hurts), a 5k PB (And hopefully on Saturday my first sub-20) and this magnificent haul of badges to show for it.

Bring on the Magic Mile, and bring on Jantastic 2016. Thank you Marathon Talk.

Manchester Marathon Training: Week 15 of 18

I entered this week of training knowing two things. One, I was bloody shattered following the Reading Half. And Two, this was the final big week of training before the taper. And now it has finished, I have to say, its a relief.

Here is what P&D had me down for…

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…VS what I actually did. It was actually pretty close, except I failed my Interval session, I was still recovering from the race, my Saturday run was a bit quick, I had a bonus run for a Jantastic badge, and my 20 miler was split across 2 to take into account that I did the Yeovil Half Marathon.

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Waking up on Monday was bloody agony. I woke up still absolutely creamed from the day before, and my legs really didn’t want to work. I managed a 5 mile walk to stretch them a bit which may have helped in advanced of Tuesday’s 7 mile recovery run with strides, but I wasn’t convinced. Though the strides started strong, they weren’t exactly consistent and faded near the end of the set.

On Wednesday I was down for a 10 miler with 4 x 1200m Intervals. I knew from the beginning it wasn’t going to be a success as I still felt tired. But I gave it a go. The first rep was OK, but the 2nd rep I just had nothing left, so did an extended jog home. I’m not too concerned about it, I was asking a bit much to expect any sort of speed so soon after the race!

Thursday was a rest day, which was unusual for me as usually I’ve had to switch my Friday runs for Thursday as I was travelling. So when Friday came along, after a long stressful day at work, finishing late, the LAST thing I wanted to do was drag myself out for an 11 mile medium-long run. But I did, and it went well, I even managed a decent progression and a marathon paced last mile.

Saturday was parkrunday and I ran at “home” for the first time for ages! I was meant to run it at recovery pace but ended up a bit quicker than that. It was great catching up with everyone and chatting with people as I progressed through the field. Though everyone made fun of my (definitely not) amazing cakes!

16953002392_f016c6e301In the afternoon I needed to go to the shop, and I had this niggle that I still had one potential Jantastic badge to get. The badge award was for any run which had an average page of 6:30m/m or less. Unfortunately, on my only “legitimate” attempt, a rounding issue done me out of it! So I went for a brisk half mile effort to try and win the badge. Cheeky maybe, but hey – I’ll take it! And it’s only for a badge – I wouldn’t have classed it if I needed it to complete the challenge proper.

Sunday was the Yeovil Half Marathon which I was running as part of a 20 miler. So I got up ridiculously early and did a 7 miler to “warm up” (Though it was miserbale, cold and wet). Then prepped for the half with the Running for Time group and met Ryan who I was trying to pace round in 1:57.

Credit to Olly Ayles
Credit to Olly Ayles

Unfortunately due to injury related fatigue, we didn’t hit the pace target, but we did have a brilliant time, it was well supported and I chatted with so many friends. Despite the weather I had a really good time!

This week therefore, along with completing the “Race Preparation” mesocycle marked the end of Jantastic, with which I scored 100%! I’ll post tomorrow detailing my experiences, but I have to say I love the challenge and love what it did for my running.

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Now the hard work and high mileage is over, its time to cut back in volume and maintain intensity as I navigate the pitfalls of taper madness and let my legs recover. Its brilliant getting through the bulk of the programme unscathed and I’m now itching to get to the start line!

Race Report: Yeovil Half Marathon 2015

The start of British Summertime not only signals an hours extra daylight at the end of the day, but its also the day that Total buzz Events hosts the Yeovil Half Marathon. Growing each year, its an opportunity for local people to set their sights on a challenging but achievable goal, and it boosts runner numbers that I see pounding the streets over the winter, hopefully to continue their running careers!

For me, its a poignant reminder of how far I’ve come. 2 years to the day since my first race, my first half marathon time was 2:07, and at Reading last week it was 1:30.

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Its not a massive race, and there are only a few road closures which can make it difficult I think to attract more people to the event. Furthermore the route could be improved to take in some more of the lovely countryside of the area (Camp Road would be a good addition). But it is what it is.

The weather this year was miserable. Cold, wet and windy. I needed to do 20 miles, which meant a super early start (5am in real terms). I decided to drive to the venue, the magnificent Huish Park, home of Yeovil Town FC! As I was so early though, the gates weren’t even open. I resorted to parking at nearby Abbey Manner to run my 7 mile loop. I found it tougher than i thought it would, which didn’t bode too well. Once I finished the loop I got to the car and headed to the car park, by which point there was a massive queue!

The parking was great, once you got in the car park. The problem was, they had 2 lanes of traffic which they merged together which caused a bottle neck. I think they’d have been better with a single stream.

Packet pick up was collection on the day, so i got out of the car to go and get it before heading back to pin on my bib and attach my chip in the comfort of my car. It was very easy to pick up the packet, and I was surprised just how many people I saw that I knew, either socially, through parkrun, or through the running club. I remember that first year being stood in the freezing cold, just me and Jodie, too scared to speak to anyone and not feeling like I really belonged – which I know know to be ridiculous!

I met with the guys from Running for Time where well chatted about our ambitions for the race, and moaned about the weather. We got a photo, and then Simon and I ran to get the obligatory club photo too. I was trying my hand at pacing for the first time, as I was only using the run as part of a 20 miler I offered to help Ryan round to a 1:57, who was struggling a bit with Injury.

Credit to Olly Ayles
Credit to Olly Ayles
Credit to the Western Gazette
Credit to the Western Gazette

With a relatively small field, there were no timed start pens, and unlike other years there were also no signs which advised people where to start based upon their expected finish times. With a few minutes to spare people headed for the line and without too much pomp and ceremony we were off.

The route started with a 3/4 lap of the Huish Park Stadium, and gave us the opportunity to find our pace. Simon and Hannah were pacing for a similar time to us and we spent a good portion of the race going ahead/behind each other.

The route was run over a lot of roads which are the bread and butter of my training, and aside from the weather it was quite a straightforward, sociable run. I saw so many parkrun friends, Strava friends and club friends and chatted with people all the way around – not only runners either, the support was great, better at some parts of the course than others though, but for a smaller race I think it was quite well represented.

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Despite it being so called “bread and butter” running, I still managed to go head over backside. Running towards the Airfield Tavern, I put my foot down on the curb and slipped off it. I managed somehow to hit the deck, protect my Garmin and carry my momentum into a forward roll of sorts, which meant I was able to get back up, feeling only a little sheepish and with a small graze to the elbow. I did hobble a bit afterwards but seems OK now. Thankfully, this was 100 yards before the biggest cheer point on the course so that saved my blushes! Though my friend Will captured these snaps of me right after my tumble.

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We managed to maintain pace all the way through to about 9 miles until we had to slow. As Ryan’s injury had prevented him training as much as he needed to, he started cramping up and struggling, so it was a tough last 4 miles for him, and the last 2 involved a few walk breaks too. Though I did manage to motivate him into a sprint finish for the line, and I have to say the support at the finish line was brilliant.

We got a decent medal, though they are always like a chromey/silver and look, to be honest, a bit cheap, despite being sizable. The goody bag wasn’t much to write home about, though the dairy milk chocolate went down a treat!

All in all, another good Half Marathon – Maybe I’ll even race it next year. Though this was still a course best for me!

 

Manchester Marathon Training: Week 14 of 18

14 weeks into the 18 week journey, and I have finally reaped the rewards in the form of a spanking new half-marathon PB. This week in the plan was always intended to be a big week, but I wasn’t sure how it would pan out. After last weeks marathon paced effort, I was going into it, a relative cutback week, with Reading Half Marathon waiting for me at the other end. As such, I made a decision to alter the plan a bit in order to have a mini taper for the race. It would transpire that this would be a good move.

For what it’s worth, P&D would have had me doing this.

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As I’ve said before, training races of 8-15k around here on a Saturday are a rarity, but last year (And following popular opinion online) a practice half was a great confidence booster and allowed me to assess the shape I was in, wearing race gear, in order to set a sensible goal for the marathon and build confidence. So I elected to slot Reading into my plan in place of my long run, have a recovery parkrun on Saturday, and swap out the 11m MLR in favour of a shorter, recovery run with some Strides to keep me sharp. And this is what it looked like. All according to (My modified) plan!

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Monday I managed to have a nice walk as usual. My legs were understandably a bit stiff but it managed to loosen them off, and I think the stretch and bath helped afterwards too.

Tuesday saw another short Interval session, 5 x 600 meter efforts as part of an 8 miler. I didn’t think I’d do much with them to be honest, but surprised myself with a 5.57m/m average on the intervals! Though it was only 3km’s worth, would be interesting to see how I’d fare doing a full set of 8. Still it was an encouraging start to a race week.

Wednesday saw a 5 miler with some strides, and Thursday saw a 4 miler with some strides. Neither run had much to report, though Thursdays strides were more consistent and faster than Wednesdays, getting close to 5m/m.

Friday had a good solid rest day, and Saturday we wanted to get a parkrun in. We had to keep it local (Well, my away from home local) as we were busy that day so took the opportunity to go back to Basingstoke again. My tenth visit there!

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I treated it as a bit of a fartlek, which was quite lucky really as I ended up having to chase down a parent who had irresponsibly left his 8 year old son eating his dust, and the 8 year old fell over and got quite upset, so I sent him back to his child. Jodie, supposedly taking it easy, managed to crack in a PB! I managed to have a chat with Steve, Event Director and he seemed like a thoroughly nice chap!

And then it came to Sunday. I have extensively covered the Reading Half Marathon in this post, so I have little to add other than to Summarize that it was a brilliantly organised event which I went round in 90:08, smashing my 92 minute Jantastic target, but agonizingly close to sub-90! But I gave it everything and didn’t have anything left, so I really can’t complain at a 5+ minute PB!

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Speaking of Jantastic, as I managed to beat my “Timed Goal” this week, provided I run 5 times in the next 7 days, I’ll complete the challenge with 100%, which will be splendid! The only badges I feel I’ll miss out on that were in my reach (Sort of), are the Sub Zero badge – though the temperatures never actually dropped below zero – and the Speed Demon Badge – as I am still to nail my sub-20 5k (Though I am scheduled to have a crack at it the week after Jantastic, dammit!). Still it is clear that Jantastic has been massively beneficial when working hand in hand with my training plan.

It has delivered me a 90 minute half marathon, which as delighted as I am, puts me in a difficult position going into Manchester, in a reallygood way. It means I should be able to comfortably go for sub 3.20, which, if I’d have been offered at Christmas, I’d have taken in a heartbeat. But there is the outside possibility of a 3.15. The problem is, if I go out with that in mind I may just blow to smithereens after 20 miles.

Decisions decisions!

Either way, I’m going into week 15, the last week of the “Race Prep” mesocycle and the last week of “proper” training before tapering in high spirits, high in confidence, giving myself a high-5!

Manchester, bring it on!

Race Report: Reading Half Marathon

I’m not a huge fan of waking up before 7 on a Sunday morning, but when its the morning of a half marathon I’m shooting for a PB at, I make an exception.

Reading has been on my “To do” list pretty much since my first Yeovil Half 2 years ago. It’s billed as the fastest half marathon in the UK*, has 16,000 runners, a big city race vibe and a fantastic finish in the amazing Madejski Stadium, home of Reading FC and London Irish RFC.

It’s an added bonus that Jodie’s folks live in Basingstoke, just 20 minutes down the road. This made travelling to the event a breeze. I’ve visited Reading before and I am categorically NOT a fan of the roads there. I always end up lost or angry, so I made sure I picked a car park nearby, on the Basingstoke side of the course. Parking had to be pre-booked, and I was “lucky” to get a space. All car parks were full, though they released extra spaces a few weeks beforehand in 2 car parks. The Blue car park was close to the M4 with easy access to and from it. The Red car park was smack bang in the middle of the course and advised that cars wouldn’t be allowed out til 2.30 at the earliest.

Imagine my (un)surprise when people were complaining on Facebook that they were still in the Red car park, despite all other car parks seemingly having no issues! People need to exercise common sense, my my sympathy for these people is limited.

That sympathy however, only goes so far to the event organisers though, who charged the princely sum of £9 to park and in exchange for a lovely blue parking ticket to hang from the rear view mirror. That’s all very well, but on the way in, no-one checked it – and no more than an hour later the parents-in-law parked in there, totally gratis without a problem, so that seems to me to be a bit of a rip off.

Aside from that though, I have to say the traffic was managed excellently. From approaching and getting into the car park everything was incredibly well sign posted, coned and cordoned off, and for such a large event I actually thought this was very impressive.

Walking to the stadium, the runners headed to the village were buzzing. The sun had come out, and despite it being a little chilly in the breeze, I had a feeling the weather was going to defy the forecast – and I was right. All day the sun shone, to the point Jodie got a bit sun-burnt.

I’ve not been to the Mad Stad before (Despite a couple of close calls for the football) but it really is a lovely stadium. Walking to the race village we thought we’d stop in and look at the finish area, and it was magnificent!

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There weren’t many people around yet, but there was a commentator already waxing lyrical and I just knew it would be buzzing for the finish. We soon realized the reason the commentator had started was the “Green Park Challenge” race had started and the first runners were coming in for the finish! It was quite the race for the win, the first 4 or so were all from Reading AC and the first two were only seconds apart!

It was here that we met Lucy who was doing her first ever Half Marathon, and she was suitably excited/nervous!  We headed to the race village which was starting to get busy. It was still cold, but the sun was trying to get through. The race village itself was enormous – it was more like a festival site. Much bigger than similarly sized events like the Bristol Half. We met Dave and had a chat with him whilst we waited for Simon to turn up, who we met near the bag drop. And speaking of the bag drop, what an absolute delight! Zero queue, stacks of amazing volunteers and both drop off and collection were a pleasure. Great people, many races can learn a lot from the team here. Good job!

Jodie and Lucy were in a different starting pen to Simon and I so we wished each other luck and went our separate ways. It was a bit of a walk through “Green Park” which was quite picturesque, but the lake was a bit smelly – maybe it should have been called “Brown Park”! We got to the pens about 30 minutes before the start, which, unsurprisingly, were excellently controlled. Marshals were checking the colours of race numbers to grant access to the fenced start pens, and each marshal seemed to know exactly what they were doing and where to send people. It was absolutely seamless. We decided as were were targetting 90ish minutes we’d head toward the front, which is exactly where we found ourselves! The joys of getting to the pens early!

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I started getting a bit nervous, mainly because everyone around me was talking about 80-85 minute times! But I held my own in there and pretended I belonged there. There was the obligatory Zumba style warm up and when that was over the chap leading it strapped on a 1h30 pacer flag and the proceedings were getting underway. After an (underwhelming) speech by John Madejski, the first wave was counted down and started. The waves were separated 3 minutes apart, which was intended to ease congestion. Although we were only the second wave, I have to say from my point of view, it worked, I had to do very little weaving around and was another sign of an excellently organised race.

As our wave was heading for the line, I shouted “Cheers John!” to Mr Madejski, who gave me a little wave and after an agonising 25 second wait, the gun went and we were off.

Not 200 yards later did an unfortunate woman absolutely stack it into ground and I was lucky not to get ripped myself, but I kept my head focussed and carried on.

From here on in, my memory has gotten a bit flakey. because I was absolutely flat out, and I can’t really remember much of large portions of the course, so here’s what I do remember.

Mile 1 – 2: We headed around Green Park and ran through a trading estate. I felt comfortable at 6.45m/m pace, which was faster than my 7m/m target, so i decided to keep at it. Brilliant support.

Mile 3: UPHILL! For a good half mile this was just up hill and then started what seemed like a gradual downhill towards the university. Pace slowed and I was worried I might not be able to maintain it. Brilliant support. *Apparently its the fastest half because of the number of fast runners who do it. It’s definitely not because its sodding flat after this mountain!

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Miles 4-5: Slightly down hill and I remember heading around the university. It was really windy and my Garmin messed up with all the sharp bends. A bit sparser but still good support. Thought Sub 90 might be on.

Miles 6-7: Through town, windy a few uphills, I remember brilliant support but this is where things started getting a bit hazy. Thought sub-90 had gone. The onset of runners tummy came on.

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Mile 8: UPHILL! This one seemed to go on and on and on. Convinced myself sub-90 was gone. Sparse support I think I really can’t remember.

Mile 9-11: Flattened out, brain was mush and basic addition and subtraction was beyond me but figured if I did 7m/m for the rest of the race I’d break my target. I have no idea what the crowd were like. Bowels growling on a consistent basis.

Mile 12: Pain, suffering and torture, but somehow banged in a quick mile. Crowd sparse, long drag bag to the stadium, which didn’t seem to get any bloody closer at all. Bowels were screaming at me and had to try my best to talk them out of doing a Paula on the A33.

Mile 13: More suffering, wound round into the stadium complex and wow, what a sight, the run up to the stadium was just lined with people cheering them home. I looked at my watch but I had no idea what I was going to do except that I know I’d beat my target 92 minutes. Saw Dave here, but I could barely raise a hand for him, I was spent. Had to go around the outside of the stadium before reaching the last…

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Mile 13.1: As I entered the stadium it was deafening! Such good support, the commentator was going and I had about 30 seconds to beat 90 minutes. I gave it all I had, but nothing was in the tank. On the home stretch I heard Jodie’s Dad yell “Go on Matty boy!” and I managed a little fist pump in the general direction (I couldn’t see anything) and crossed the line in 90:08 official time!

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That’s a massive 5+ minute PB which I am absolutely over the moon with, but I keep reflecting on the time and wondering if I should be upset not to go 9 seconds faster. Ultimately though, I gave the race absolutely everything and left nothing out there. That was as good as I could have given on the day – though I could have gone quicker on a flat course on tapered leg instead of in the peak mileage phase of marathon training, but thats another story!

Much like the rest of the race, the finish funnel was absolutely exemplary. Well orchestrated collection of goody bag (With tee shirt and water bottle – good haul!) and the most magnificent Half medal I’ve ever gotten, all the way through to collecting my bag again, which was an absolute pleasure.

After collecting my bag, I headed over to where I thought I’d seen Dave – and though I didn’t find him, I did see Simon, who smashed his target with an amazing 88m plus change! We got the obligatory victory photo in our vests!

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Then I headed back to try and find Jodie’s parents and watch Jodie come in. But I couldn’t find Jodie’s parents for ages until I called them. When I found them we waited for over half an hour, watching people carefully trying to spot Jodie. As the pacer flags came in, it was getting more and more difficult to come up with reasons why we hadn’t seen her. “Maybe she started at the back of the pen”, “Maybe she started a pen back”, “Maybe she started with Lucy”. Eventually, worried, I headed to the original meeting point – and lo and behold, there were both Jodie AND Lucy! Jodie had even seen Lucy cross the line! I felt awful for Jodie’s parents who came along to support but only saw me! But on the plus side, both Jodie AND Lucy smashed their targets.

Unfortunately due to the kerfuffle I didn’t get a chance to head to the Reading Road Runners tent to see Kezza from parkrun, but even so it was great to watch people come home. We saw one guy, who unfortunately had to be carried near the end, but was totally out of it. He collapsed and the St Johns Ambulance people had to go and get him. Its a stark reminder to people that a half marathon is a big challenge and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Train well, eat and hydrate properly and you will be fine though.

Anyway, before we saw Lucy of and headed to the car we got a photo together.

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We walked back to the car and left the car park without a hitch (Because I wasn’t stupid and didn’t pick the Red car park…)

What a truly brilliant race, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Top marks in every single department except for parking value for money. Credit to all the volunteers for making it possible, and absolute kudos to the thousands of people who either came to support or had their travel disrupted for the sake of this magnificent race.

Reading, we will be back!

 

Manchester Marathon Training: Week 13 of 18

I’m writing this safe in the knowledge that this time in 5 weeks it’ll all be over. Its quite a comforting feeling, as I have been thinking this week just how nice it will be to get back to shorter distances in time for summer, and hopefully some faster runs.

This week was, arguably, my toughest week. There was a a tough Interval session, a midweek MLR and the toughest (And in my view, most important) marathon paced session long run. It certainly felt like I have been peaking in my training.

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P&D had this, as you can see from the below, I pretty much achieved this. The only notable exception being I needed to switch my Friday run to Thursday as I would be away on Friday evening.

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Although I rested on Monday, I did have a nice 5 mile walk after work. I think this loosened up my legs following Sunday’s 22.

Tuesday saw a straightforward 8 mile general aerobic effort. I expected this to be tough, but I actually breezed through it. I think my GA pace zone has naturally increased, as even at the end of the run I felt very strong.

Wednesday was a bit of a beast. 3 mile warm up followed by a set of 5k Intervals at faster than 5k pace, and a 3 mile cool down. The warm up was good, solid and I think my legs appreciated it. The reps were good too, at a much faster pace than I’ve managed a similar workout before. The 3 mile warm down however was TOUGH. Very heavy legged, unsurprisingly given the beasting from the Intervals. Usually when I do an interval session I have a VERY short, light warmup jog. Sandwiching them in as part of a 9 mile run really changed the dynamic of the session, and hopefully was good for endurance as well as speed.

Thursday was supposed to be a rest day. But as I was travelling to Newport and attending a parkrun conference in the evening, I rescheduled this 12 mile medium long run. I knew this would make it tough, and I was not wrong. Legs just felt so tired, but not “overtired”. My body still felt willing, so it was quite literally a case of needing a rest day. Once I got into it, it became a little easier, but certainly wasn’t as comfortable as last weeks identical session. There was also a load of climbing on this route too. Due to doing the intervals the day before, rather than progressing through the pace zone, again I just ran on feel and found my comfort zone which was about right. Glad to finish it, but even more glad to have a rest on Friday!

Friday was good news weigh day, as I lost another 2 lbs. I’m now a mere 1lb away from that elusive 8th stone and 15lbs away from my overall goal.

14stoneexactlyUnfortunately I’m definitely going to miss my weight loss target in time for Manchester. I have though, still got time to make it to 13st5lbs, which would mean I was exactly 2 stone lighter for Manchester than I was in Paris. Which would still be an excellent result. But to be fair, any weight I can lose in the meantime would still be a bonus. I still have plenty of time to shift the remainder before my wedding in July!

On Friday night I went to a parkrun Event Directors conference and had a blast as you can find out here. Running wise, I was scheduled for 5 recovery miles, but I got the red mist of competition and ended up just doing a straight parkrun at a decent effort.

I was fully anticipating Sunday to be the toughest run so far, and it dd not disappoint. 18 miles, with the last 14 at Marathon Pace. Thankfully I wasn’t hungover, but I was suffering from a lack of motivation. Jodie managed to pep me up a bit though. “Whats the worst that could happen? You don’t run it as fast?” and when put in that context, it’s not so bad. As it goes, I needn’t have worried. Despite me mis-planning my route so my first MP mile was up Hendford Hill, I managed to keep all of my splits just about right. I tell you though, if the purpose of these marathon paced runs is to simulate the end of the marathon, they work. The last 2 miles really hurt! And I’m walking like John  Wayne today! But still, to have nailed this key session I’m feeling very chuffed and confident heading toward the race.

Still maintaining 100% for Jantastic, though that could all change next week as my Timed Run (Reading Half Marathon) takes center stage.

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To summarise week 13, I can only deem it a success. 5 weeks to go, and I’m feeling confident. If I can hit my Reading Half target I’ll be in prime position to take down my Marathon “A” goal of sub-3h20.

 

Newport parkrun

On Friday we were lucky enough to go to a meeting of Event Directors and core teams in Newport. We had the fabulous opportunity to chat all things parkun, meet other event teams, share notes, learn all the latest goings on and find out what other people did at their events. It was a hugely interesting event and experience, and we event got to meet parkrun founder, Paul Sinton-Hewitt.

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The event was truly inspirational. Listening to the HQ team talk so passionately about parkrun it really is abundantly clear that there is just nothing else like it in the world. So clearly uncompromisingly visioned (in a good way) it’s an honour to be a part of it.

As the event was in Newport, the HQ team were going to do Newport parkrun the day after. We stayed overnight to join them, along with a couple of other teams.

Newport parkrun is hosted at Tredegar House, in the west side of Newport. A National Trust property, we were sure the event was going to be just as special as our home run. We got there reasonably early on a cold, overcast day. It seemed to, like all other parkruns, take a little while to get busy, then all of a sudden with 5 minutes to go the masses descended!

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We attended the first timers briefing where we learned we were using the summer course for the first time this year – though I can promise you it did not feel like summer! We had a description of the course along with all the usual safety information and registration details.

The course started just in front of the house and runs out through the middle of the parkland down an oak avenue. Turn left at the end and begin a big lap, running through the courtyard in front of the house and along a lovely wooded river area. Cross the bridge and carry on round til you reach the top of the avenue again. Then repeat the lap. Just after the bridge on the second lap you turn left to go back down the way you came along the oak avenue for a good flat finish. The course is mostly flat with a few small inclines, but the challenge is that some areas are quite muddy!

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The pre-run briefing was an inspirational affair. There were over 400 runners, and I was amazed how quiet and attentive everyone was. At our home run we get less than 200 and they are much nosier! A young lad who had knocked 20 minutes off his PB won the parkrunner of the month, and there were shoutouts for milestone runs and volunteers.

We were ushered toward the start, and with the number of people there it was a bit congested. Before we knew it, and with no fanfare at all, the run was started – I only realized it had because the people in front of me had started running!

I had no real intention of running this hard, thinking a decent tempo effort would have been fine. But I started quite far back and needed to do some overtaking – so I took a wide line. It didn’t take long until that plan was scuppered and I nearly had to hurdle a stream! Luckily I spotted it in time and managed to squeeze onto the bridge.

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I found myself getting quicker and quicker though and it turned into a bit of a progression run. This was in part because it was bloody cold and I wanted to warm up! The course lent itself brilliantly to support from spectators and they really were a warming (boom boom!) bunch. Particularly helpful on the second lap when I was blowing pretty hard! I continued to make progress and through the woods on the second lap I just overtook a chap as we came out to the home strecth. Not long after he tried to take me again, but I still had plenty in my legs and had a blistering finish sprint, with the last 0.1miles in sub 5m/m pace, which i was pretty pleased with!

It was a lovely run, though i wish I had tried a bit harder so I could have taken this bloke down, who finished 30 seconds ahead of me.

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That’s Tom Williams, parkrun UK MD and host of Marathon Talk, to which I am a devoted listener. He was the one doing all the talking on Friday night and I had a chat with him then, but we got to talk more in the post-funnel recovery. What a damn nice guy. An honour and privilege to meet him, keep up the brilliant work with both parkrun and MT.

Of course, with this being National Trust, there was a magnificent cafe. We managed to get in there reasonably early, but before long it was mental! They do a parkrun special – Bacon Sandwich and a Tea/Coffee for 3.75, and the bacon was delicious! We got to chat further with Meryl and Adrian from Pomphrey Hill in the cafe too, who were equally lovely (I think all parkrun people are lovely, it must be a prerequisite) and we were invited to visit any time and maybe to a parkrun westcountry meal in June.

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We even managed to speak with Event Director and Ambassador Chris Davies who takes care of parkrun in Wales and we chatted about how great the NT are as partners for parkrun, and extended an invite to come on down next time he is in the area. I hope he does so I can extend the same brilliant courtesy that we had from NWhat a lovelyewport.

Newport, we will be back when it’s drier for a good fast time!

Manchester Marathon Training: Week 12 of 18

After a bit of a downer in week 11, things picked up again in week 12. I think my decision to abandon one of my sessions mid run was actually a contributing factor, as it meant rather than further punishing myself it gave me a bit of respite, and I hadn’t overcooked things.

It’s strange thinking that now there are just 6 weeks to go, and only 3 of those with meaningful training before tapering. It seems to have crept up on me a bit! Here’s what P&D prescribed for me this week.
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I knew I’d have to stray from the plan here early on. And in fact, what i designed to do this week changed right up until a few days before the week started. In this phase every 2 weeks I should be doing a “tune up race” of 8-15k on Saturday. The problem is, races around these parts are on Sundays! I certainly wasn’t about to race Sunday instead of doing a long run, so I settled on doing a parkrun at race effort. It’s obviously only 5k, but I elected to up the mileage into my long run to make it an equally productive week.week12

Tuesday was as per plans, and consisted of an 8 miler with some Intervals thrown in. 5 sets of 600m to be precise at faster than 5k pace. I felt quite tired when I started but the 3 mile warm up was at a decent steady pace which loosened me up, and I maaged a good set of intervals at an average of a little over 6 minute miling, which I was pleased with. The jog back was a little slower as I had a visit from the gingerbread man, which seemed to be a common occurance this week…

On Wednesday I did a 12 mile MLR, which after recent outings I decided to keep at a sensible slowish pace. My legs actually felt really good which meant I had to be extra careful not to push it too hard. I averaged about 8.30s, which is actually a little faster than I needed to be, but it was a consistent pace rather than a progressive pace, which meant at the end I still felt quite fresh.

On Thursday I went on a 5 mile recovery run with Jodie, and did a set of strides towards the end. I really enjoyed the strides too – My stride length was very long and I actually felt quite graceful when running them. My cadence was lower than usual though and felt a bit more “Stridey” rather than just doing some sprints. What was interesting was, when I was running at recovery pace my muscles hurt more than in my strides – I must be using different muscles, or in different ways. Perhaps it makes me more efficient? An interesting finding to explore further. This run was meant to be on Friday, but had to shift it due to travel arrangements.

Friday saw me weigh in – and I am still the same. I’ve not been really actively dieting or monitoring, but had felt a little “heavy” recently, so it was good to know I’m still on track. Need to revise my pre-marathon wight ambitions though.

Saturday was scheduled for an 8-15k practice race, but as already discussed I decided a parkrun at race effort would be the only way to test my body on Saturday. It saw us visit Alice Holt parkrun, one of the best I’ve been to. I’ve documented it more in this blog post. It was definitely a race effort, and an encouraging time to boot. Worth much more on the flat, and hoping to break that sub-20 on a flat course pre-Manchester. It was a good speedwork session.

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According to P&D, Sunday should have been 17 miles. With a shorter tune up race than prescribed, and because I wanted to do 5 x 20+ milers this year, and because I wanted to do a 22 as I felt it boosted my confidence last year, that’s what I opted for instead. The night before the run though, I went to a family party and had a few more drinks than I should have. So waking up, thick headed, I wasn’t keen on the run. But I got out and did it and felt fine after a mile or two. P&D say after a tune up race, to take the long runs easy, which is what I did again, rather than progressing through the gears. I rarely looked at my watch and ran mostly on feel. Unfortunately, thanks to the booze the night before, I had some excruciating stomach cramps which meant I needed to stop to use the loo 3 times, which broke things up a bit. This actually made the run harder, as the stop-start nature meant I didn’t get too much of a rhythm. Looking back though I was happy to complete thr un. The last 5 miles were tough, but on a 22 miler hey are always going to be. Writing this today my legs feel better than they did last year, so all being well I am on track.

In my Jantastic update, I’m still on 100% after 9 weeks, and I now have a brilliant 30 badges (though that’ll get updated tomorrow). I’ve decided that my timed workout will be the Reading Half, and my target is 1:32:30, which would be a 4 minute PB, and put me on track for a 3:15 marathon, according to McMillan. Not sure I have the bottle to go for the 3:15 yet but will reassess after Reading.

3 weeks of the mesocycle to go before I start tapering and things are feeling strong, and I’m building in confidence. My last big test is this weeks sunday run, 18 miles with 14 at marathon pace. I’m nervous about it, but convinced I can nail it. I’m just not sure at what “marathon pace” I’ll use!

 

 

Alice Holt parkrun

Looking at the weather forecast for this parkrunday it was clear the weather would be good, and we weren’t disappointed. We had the choice between 4 local, unvisited parkruns. My training plan called for a race pace effort, so I fancied a flat one. Unfortunately for me, Jodie was after her Jantastic ‘mountain goat’ badge. So we went to Alice Holt.

Much like the weather, we weren’t disappointed with our choice.

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We’d visited Alice Holt Forest before to do the ‘Go Ape’ attraction, but this was different. Last time the car park was rammed (we visited in half term) and there were people everywhere. We turned up today to an empty forest car park. (Incidentally, you have to pay for parking, so take a couple of quid or a debit card)

Alice Holt Forest is owned by the forestry commission, and the visitor centre and amenities were fantastic. The run’s center of operations was a ‘hut’ and some picnic benches. It really was a lovely setting. We chatted to some of the runners and volunteers, as I wasn’t sure if road shoes or trail shoes would be best. I was recommended trail shoes, and they were fine, but road shoes would have been fine too.

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The new runners briefing was the best I’ve experienced. The nice chap and his 2 young helpers eloquently and humorously explained about the course and the parkrun process (funnel, tokens, barcodes) with the aid of a couple of well timed props. He even warned us about the hill. It wasn’t a big enough warning!!

The main briefing was also well executed, and there were two young ladies running their fiftieth today, and one young lad running his 100th. Furthermore they are fundraising for a defibrillator, any donations welcome.

I had a strong feeling of ‘togetherness’ pre run, it really has a great community feel, and before long we were ushered to the start.

I was going for a ‘race effort’ so knew I’d be around the 21 minute mark so positioned myself quite near the front, but once the horn was sounded to start the run I wondered if I’d done the right thing as about 40 people sprinted past me! But time would prove that to be the wrong tactic…

The course itself is a 2 lapper, but on the second lap there is an additional loop of about a mile. It’s about 90% compact woodland trail, the rest being Tarmac. The run from the start is downhill for the first 700 meters or so, before climbing gradually back up toward the start. It’s the same downhill again the second time around, but half way around the second lap you hang a left for a large extra loop. Now the extra loop is about a mile long, but the first 500 meters are up a nice, big, long hill. Before a couple of right handlers, down the hill again to rejoin the original small lap, and an uphill section to the finish. They’ve had issues with people getting lost apparently- but God knows how, it’s extremely well signed, coned, and marshalled – you’d have to be not paying attention at all to get lost!

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So there I was heading down the first hill overtaken by dozens of runners. As we reached the bottom and looped back round, every slowed down, but I was able to maintain a better pace and kept it steady. The first lap and a half absolutely flew by and before I knew it I was at the turn for the extra loop and there weren’t many runners around at all! Then I looked up and saw the beast of a hill. I tried to power my way up it, but I was really blowing hard and slowed quite a lot. It levelled off and I was able to pick the pace up and I started catching a couple of people. Then there was another right turn back down the hill where I passed a couple more and picked up a good pace. Turning back left on the original circuit there was about 500m left, uphill. I found it really tough, but the chap just behind me passed me by a yard or so and said ‘come on, dig in’ – and I listened. When it levelled off before rounding the last corner I managed to just sneak ahead of him before crossing the finish line. After we had our tokens I thanked him for his encouragement, and he thanked me – I passed him at just the right time and towed him along to a PB

This was just one example of the excellent community spirit and friendliness I found at Alice Holt. I can’t speak highly enough of the marshals and volunteers who were brilliant.

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I ran a pleasing 21.07 and finished P5. Given the profile of the course, I reckon it’s worth a minute on a flat run!

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Jodie was taking it easy, but she experienced the same encouragement when she had a stitch and was struggling up the hill, as another friendly parkrunner boosted her on.

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We couldn’t stick around for a coffee and it’s the first time I’ve been disappointed not to be able to. It’s just got a good vibe. When we move to Hampshire we’ll be coming back a lot. It join’s my small list of ‘top parkruns’. Home, Lanhydrock, and now Alice Holt. (Yes I know all parkruns are equally awesome but these are my most awesome ones)

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Thank you to all the amazing volunteers and good luck with your defibrillator fundraising. Thank you for having us.

Race Report: Portsmouth Coastal Half Marathon 2015

What seems like ages ago, though was actually only the 22nd February, Jodie and I took part in the Portsmouth Coastal Half Marathon. Its taken that long for me to find time to write about it!

Back in December we noticed both our training plans had a cutback week this weekend, and thought a cheeky half might fit in quite nicely – the prospect of added bling helped the decision making process! I always prefer running a race (Even at training pace) as there are aid stations and other people around – less to worry about yourself and people to keep you motivated – far less lonely! We spotted this race as it was relatively local, was reasonably priced, had a medal and was pretty flat. So we pencilled it in, booked a budget hotel for the night and though we’d give it a try.

We arrived with plenty of time on the morning of the race and parked up by the seafront near the Race HQ, and we could see it was a much smaller race than the Great South Run! There were actually around 1000 entrants. It was “packet pickup” on the day in the Pyramids centre, which was seemingly an entertainment venue. The venue was bustling with runners. HQ was excellently organised, number pickup was slick and there was well attended bag storage.

When we arrived, we noticed how, although it was cold and a bit windy, the weather was actually quite pleasant. This would soon change… Inside the Pyramid Center was warm and toasty though and we hung out there, attaching our numbers and hydrating. it got busier and busier, and before long we were called to the start.

We got an obligatory pre-race selfie though!
We got an obligatory pre-race selfie though!

There were no instructions to gather according to perceived pace or anything here, just one giant corral, which undoubtedly caused some congestion at the start – but as we were only training and not PB hunting we weren’t too concerned. The race started on schedule and we made our way along the promenade. There was a bottle neck early on which caused many to walk whilst a promenade ramp was negotiated.

The weather seemed all too good even at this point, even the wind had dropped! (Or so i thought…) I decided upon my pace early on and Jodie went ahead of me for the first 3 miles. She was on fire!

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The course itself kicks off with 3 miles along the front all the way down the headland of “Lock lake” before doubling back and doing a quick loop of the “Muddy beach”, which is basically the shore of Lock lake. The beach itself wasn’t too bad, if you picked the right line to run. Some people didn’t pick a good line and had to come back for their shoes! It was around this section where I caught Jodie and ran with her for a bit. There were some good photos along the beach.

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I had to stop for a bathroom break though and then spent the next mile or so gradually catching up with her. This was still all along seafront on coastal path until we reached some civilization and cycle path. Jodie and I ran together again for a while until about half way. And that’s where things got a bit silly…

Remember I said it didn’t seem windy? Well that will be because the wind was behind us!

Remember I said the sun was shining? This is when it started raining!

Remember I said I was running at a training pace? This is when, for some stupid reason, I thought it would be a good idea to run a Marathon Pace for the rest of the race! Idiotic I know. 6 miles at MP with a strong headwind meant my perceived effort was much higher and made it a tough second half.

We came through some playing fields, around some football pitches (Including one that had a funny marsh name) before we ended up back on the seafront for the brutal last 4 miles. The weather got worse and worse, and then we passed the Start/Finish for the final 2ish mile loop. Psychologically that was quite hard, and it seemed much longer than 2 miles! You would have thought though after that final loop things would have gotten a bit easier as the wind would be behind again? Nope, you would be wrong. Somehow it was in your face no matter what way you ran.

I saw Jodie as we “crossed over” in the last section, I’m sure I looked a sight! Coming toward the finish I was relieved to see the end, but still managed to pick up some pace for a sprint finish.

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I'm even off the ground!
I’m even off the ground!

One of the issues with the race seemed to be distance measurement. When we passed what my watch determined to be the first mile, I heard a rapture of watches beep all around me, but the first mile marker was about 0.18 miles after that. Each mile marker seemed to be consistent after that though. So the race ended up, by my watch, to be 0.18 miles long! Normally I wouldn’t mention it as GPS can be anomalous, but both mine and Jodies, and every other watch beeping around me at the same time every mile was a little too much evidence!

I managed to catch some Snaps of Jodie as she finished, along with the official ones I’ve liberated.

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The marshalling was excellent, the aid stations were great too and had Jaffa Cakes and Chocolate! I’m not a fan of water in cups, though that’s my own preference and I can’t complain about that.

The medal was nice and the goody bag actually contained goodies, much better than the usual flyers and nothing else! Peanut butter, cereal bar, energy gel, energy drink mix and a bottle of water.

It was an brilliant race, and we both said we’d do it again. In the days after the race, my body really knew about it though and I struggled for the week after. I clearly over did it in the context of my training plan, the perceived effort being much higher than it should have done. Add to the mix I set my 5k PB at Newbury parkrun the day before I really was a bit stupid.

Cold and wet we may have been, but happy and pleased we were too!

Oh, and did I mention that despite running it at a “training pace” Jodie set a Half Marathon PB? On a long course in bad conditions? WELL DONE! Bring on Reading!

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