Category Archives: My parkrunning

Posts about parkrun, be it Yeovil Montacute or some of the parkrun tourism I do

Mission: Good For Age – Progress Update

It’s been 6 weeks since the amazing Greater Manchester Marathon 2016, and I’ve yet to write a single word about what I’v been up to. This is mainly because I haven’t felt inspired enough by my running to post. I’ve spent the last few weeks feeling pretty drained, both physically and mentally. Thankfully, I seem to be coming out of both now, thanks to a busy work period getting completed and the stress of house buying hopefully starting to reach its climax. I can now take the opportunity to reflect on whats been, to be honest, a fairly mediocre few weeks running.

Marathon Aftermath

Immediately after Manchester I was on a mega high. Naturally, I was extremely pleased with my PB – the training had worked fantastically well, PB-ing in every distance I raced in the build up. I should have had two weeks off running completely really, but after a week of no running I thought better. This was Mistake #1…

I thought the best way to check how well recovered I was, was to try 7 miles at marathon pace. This was Mistake #2.

Later that week I ran a 7 mile recovery run, wrote on Strava that I would have a rest day after, then ignored my own advice and went to Intervals. This was Mistake #3.

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Mistakes 4-9 were quite literally each run I went out to do. Every single painful, uninspired, draining mile – flogging myself trying to get back into the groove. Looking back of course this was absolutely absurd – I know better than that, so why did I do it? Here in lies the root of the problem.

Race Targets

As i was progressing through my training for Manchester, I already had one eye on what to do next. As has always been the plan, I knew I’d be doing an autumn Marathon, but what could I do in the meantime to stay motivated? My solution was to line up a couple of races. The problem with this was, I felt like I should train hard to perform in them, when in reality I should have been resting and recovering.

Firstly, we had the opportunity to run in the North Dorset Village Marathon Relays, and we had put together a team that we thought was capable of competing. As team captain, I naturally put myself down for the glory leg! I wanted to really do well, for both myself and for the team. So I kept training to try and give us the best possible chance of coming away with a prize.

During the race, the team had done really well, and as my leg came along, I was about 2 minutes down on 1st place. I thought to myself “If I run well I can catch her”, and sped up the hill at a pace which, had it not been so soon after the marathon, should have been fine. The pace got progressively worse as the realization set in that I was no-where near as well recovered as I needed/wanted to be.

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I managed to cut the gap by a bit, but I can’t help but think that if I’d have been more sensible and taken my recovery seriously I may have done better and gotten us the win.

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This again was meant to be a stepping stone to get me used to being in somewhere near 10k shape, as I want to race the Vitality London 10,000 at the end of May. It’s a race I’ve done before, and the course and wave start mean it is very fast – and as it’s the only distance I hadn’t PBed on in my Manchester build up, I really wanted to target it. Looking at that decision now, I think this was a mistake. By having this in my calendar I tried to hurry my recovery and its had a detrimental effect on my running. I still plan to race it, and I probably will still PB but I will target sub-41 rather than sub-40 as originally intended. Again, another lesson learned here is that I’m not going to set a post-marathon target race.

Most recently, I had a go at the Yeovilton 5k Summer Series. It’s a local race I’ve not had a great deal of success with recently. Last time I ran it was in September, after we returned from honeymoon. It revealed I was hideously out of shape but did spur me on to train hard for Manchester. I had a similar problem at Yeovilton this time around. I went out with sub 19:30 in mind, ran the first mile faster than that pace, then struggled for the last 2 miles.

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It was not my idea of fun! Thankfully though, this was the kick up the backside I needed to reflect on the last few weeks and start thinking properly about my recovery, and I know if i really want to take a serious stab at 3.04.xx in the spring, I’ll need to recover well this Autumn. This is why, the weeks following my Autumn Marathon have these giant notes on them!

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OK, I do have the Great South Run penciled in, but I shouldn’t think I’ll race it – I’ll take part because I love the race though.

Autumn Marathon: Bournemouth

With all this talk of my Autumn Marathon I thought I’d better mention where it is! When I ran Manchester, one of my targets was to run a Chicago Marathon qualifying time, which I achieved (Sub 3.15), with a view to running that. However with all we have going on this year with a new baby and a new house I thought an international marathon may be a little too much to ask! There’s always next year, and I have the qualification standard time banked for 2 years – though with any luck I’ll be sub-3.05 by then!

Bournemouth is a local race (Well, an hour away) and growing in stature as a festival of running.. It’s been on my bucket list so glad to get the opportunity to run it this year. Jodie is going to do the half as her first post-baby race.

Its not quite as flat as I’d like, but you’ve got to do some hills somewhere along the way! It’ll be good for the legs (Though I reserve the right to retract that statement when I get to mile 22).

The target time  3.09.xx – the next logical stepping stone in my quest for GFA in the spring. If I use a pace calculator this equates to 7.14 minute miling – but given that GPS is a bit inaccurate, and there will inevitably be some weaving around I thought it prudent to assume the GPS would measure 26.4 miles and calculate based upon that. This works out to be 7.11m/m, so 7.10s would be a nice target.

In training for Manchester, I wasn’t a million miles away from this, so I think this is more than achievable with another solid block of training.

Just like last year, I’ll be using P&D 18/155 – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it right?! The plan has worked well for me and I’ll keep using it until it stops being effective. It’ll be a challenge training over the summer – I’ve not run an autumn marathon before and the training starts in the first week of June! Still, I hope the conditioning I’ve given myself over the winter puts me in good stead for a good campaign.

The next step after that will be a good long recovery and a base build before starting training for the Spring, and my GFA target race. I’ve signed up for Brighton, so when I inevitably get my London rejection magazine I still have a good race to target.

Ultimately, if I look at my shape in September and the performances I had this week

In The Meantime

In the meantime, time to enjoy a couple of weeks of target free running! We visited the lovely Chippenham parkrun this weekend and it was great to get touring again. We plan to tour over the next few weeks too, and there is nothing like a bit of parkrun tourism to reinvigorate the mojo.

Speaking of Chippenham, it was a great event. The course was 2 laps around a small park, then 2 laps around a field, all by the river with the first 2 laps having a bit of an incline. The volunteer team were fantastic as ever and the weather was beautiful. It was first class event and a great course with variety. We loved it!

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We are holding a track session at the club this week which I am going to have a go at, as I am starting to feel a bit better, and we’ll be visiting Barnstaple parkrun  on Saturday.

It’s good to be back, hopefully the mojo sticks around!

Greater Manchester Marathon 2016: Week 17 of 18

So the 2nd taper week and to be perfectly honest its not been the recovery week I would have liked. Struck down by a cold and my legs not recovered from Cardiff on Saturday, By Friday I was feeling particularly low on confidence…

Midweek

Tuesday was a 7 mile general aerobic run with some strides. This wasn’t actually too bad. The weather was absolutely horrendous as I left my hotel room, I ended up having to run through a knee deep flood, but by the time I got back to the hotel, glorious sunshine! The pace was OK considering the weekends exploits.

Wednesday was a day off! First Wednesday with no running for months and months. But this is when the cold struck. A small sniffle but I knew one was coming.

Thursday was 3 x 1 mile Intervals. It was a bit of a failure. The first mile was OK, but the 2nd rep was pretty broken up, I think I had to pause 3 times. The third rep I just tried to stay faster than MP. Looking back on last year, I did struggle a bit with this last session on the last rep, but not this bad. My legs just felt totally empty. Part cold, part no recovery, and partly probably a carb free Wednesday won’t have helped. All things that with hindsight make me think this session wasn’t too bad.

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On Friday though, the cold peaked. I had a roll of toilet roll on my desk and I was sniffing, sneezing and my eyes were watering all day. Not the best prep for next week…

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On Saturday I felt marginally better. We had to stay local (well, Basingstoke local) as we had some properties to view and a surprise party to organise/attend so we were time limited. I targetted an easy paced sub 8 minute miles for it as I wanted to check my heart rate to see how the cold was affecting me… It helps when you turn the HRM on though… So no data from that but still it felt OK.

Yep, this is the best photo of me from Saturday!
Yep, this is the best photo of me from Saturday!

Sunday

Sunday saw my final “long run”. I had been at an all day party on Saturday so I wasn’t exactly feeling fresh. I ate a lot of junk and drank several beers so I wasn’t fully up for this 12 miles. Legs felt very weary and I couldn’t work out of that was party fatigue, cold or general running fatigue. My heart rate was OK all the way around so thats a good thing and I kept a consistent pace. This was no time for heroics.

Summary

I think this Runners World photo sums up this week.

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Everything has felt laboured this week. As I write this on Monday, I’ve seen the worst of the cold but I’m getting phantom niggles in my ankle, my legs feel tired still and I feel like I’m the weight of a sperm whale. But I have to trust that the training will get me through and that things will come right come race day.

I have settled on a race strategy now. My current plan is to run 7.20s for the first half then if I feel better increase that to 7.15s and in the unlikely event that after 23 miles I still have some to give, go to 7.10s. My goal is 3.12.30 and I think this strategy will deliver that. I think going for 3.09 is too ambitious, and I think this strategy gives me ample margin of error for not taking the racing line, GPS inaccuracy etc.

B goal is 3.15 and C goal is 3.19.

Of course, I reserve the right to change these in the next 6 days!

Times to rest, recover, carb up and get hydrated. Its squeaky bum time!

Greater Manchester Marathon: Week 12 of 18

I can’t believe it’s week 12 already! With only 3 weeks left until I start tapering (based upon the date of writing – 4 weeks as of the first session of the week discussed below) now is when the “Race Preparation” mesocycle of training kicks in, trying to sharpen my aerobic gains into speed through Interval workouts and tune-up races.

Midweek

On Tuesday I had an Interval session to do. I hate doing intervals on my own, but at least it was a short session. 8 miles with 5 x 600 meter reps in the middle and 2 minute recoveries. I was in Coleshill this week, and funnily enough I did the same session here last year, so a good comparison! When I finished the run, I felt the reps were excellent and thought I was in good shape compared to last year, but the reps weren’t a lot faster at all – I’m not sure whether to be concerned or not!

5x600

Rep 2015 2016 Difference
1 2:11 2:15 +4
2 2:12 2:12 0
3 2:14 2:12 -2
4 2:11 2:09 -2
5 2:11 2:11 0
Ave 0!

So looking at the data I’m in exactly the same shape I was in last year! A bit frustrating really, and it made me question if a sub-20 5k was possible this week, as I wasn’t able to do it last year – the PB which still stands. On the plus side, I know my new Garmin is a bit more accurate than the old one thanks to the addition of GLONASS so the data doesn’t quite tell the whole story.

Wednesday’s 12 mile medium-long run was suitably hard considering the day’s session previous. Couple this with the fact I was in Coleshill I also needed to find my way to a slightly new route, in the dark. Despite a couple of pauses and some very VERY dark alleys and crossing a couple of motorways (on bridges of course) I got around unscathed thanks to my handy printed map! What made it extra nice was progressing through to sustain sub 8s for the last half of the run including some nice segment PRs. I was on fire!

Thankfully, Thursday  saw me run 5 miles recovery (Which my legs were grateful for) with a set of strides. I ran with Jodie and my strides were of good form if the pace was a little slow. Nothing I was concerned about though.

parkrunday

On Saturday we went to the under threat Little Stoke parkrun. The full report can be read here.

To summarize, this was a tune up race according to my plan, so I went for it big style and delivered the goods! A 1 minute PB for 19:20!

Tactically it wasn’t quite perfect – my miles got progressively slower but I’m not sure how much of that was my fatigue versus having to weave around back markers in subsequent miles.

littlestoke race analysis

But sod it, I am bloody chuffed! I’m off to Blandford in 2 weeks which will be a bit less busy and no congestion, possibly a slightly faster course and single out and back. I wonder how close to 19 I can go?

Sunday

On Sunday I wanted to run 22 miles at a decent pace, somewhere around 8:15 pace which is target marathon pace + 15% ish. Thankfully Simon was doing similar. We met in the afternoon it was a lovely day and we just ate the miles up. After about half way I was starting to feel the pace and it got worse when we reached Ilchester Road for a long climb! Not nice to hit when you are 16 miles in!

We got to the top. Interestingly, despite us running it up together, Simon ran that segment 5 seconds faster than me! Its only a segment, but it got him 7th overall and me 10th overall! Hardly fair!!!

After about 17 miles, Si had to pause as he felt his knee twinge and wanted to take a short cut back. I carried on for another mile and then I felt my bum twinge. I needed the loo. Had to walk a bit for the cramp to pass then run towards the pub. After that my legs had seized a little making the last few miles a bit of a struggle, but that said, I managed to keep a pretty decent pace up. The last couple of miles I started cramping  little so needed to stretch out but otherwise a very successful long run.

22miler

I only have 1 more 22 miler to go, and that one will be slower so I spend 3:15 on my feet (8:45 pace).

Summary

A successful Interval session, a 5k PB and a successful 22 miler. What more could I ask for?

Next week will be a bit tougher with a marathon-pace long run, but that’s the last really tough one. 6 weeks til race day and I’m feeling good!

Run Report: Little Stoke parkrun

On parkrunday we visited another new parkrun to us, the under-threat from closure by the parish council, Little Stoke parkrun.

The council who are short sighted enough to think that the cost of a few loo rolls (Ok I’m sure its more complicated than that) outweighs the benefits of 300 of its local residents staying fit and active!

Ahem.

Anyway, we arrived with Nikkii and Steve and got the obligatory selfie.

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This was designed to be a tune-up race for me – yes I know parkrun is not a race, but what I intended was for it to be run at a race effort, all out, to see what shape I am in.

I’ve not run an all out 5k effort since August in Yeovilton, post honeymoon and well out of shape – mainly because of that very reason. I knew I wasn’t in PB form, what was the point?

So here we were in the exact same point in my training plan that I set my PB at Newbury last year. Could I finally go sub 20?

I treated it as a race, wore my club vest, did a proper warm up… the works. I had a time in mind and I set my watch for it. No rain, no wind. I felt ready.

The run briefing was excellent, and they warmly welcomed all tourists, but unusually we had to walk nearly half a lap to the start which actually meant we started a bit late. No big deal but as I wanted to start near the front I got there early and had to wait for everyone to catch up!

Without much fanfare, we were off. The course itself is a 3 and a half lapper, all tarmac but on some quite narrow paths. It is also pretty flat, though half the lap you are gradually moving (very slightly) uphill, so the second half is ever-so-slightly down. Its not too noticeable until the last lap when you realize you are blowing out of your ass at the farthest point of the course!

littlestoke map

The marshals around the course were excellent and very supportive, and of course there was always Nikkii making her voice very well heard! I’m sure whoever was running near me also got a boost from her yelling at me for going too slow!

The first lap and a half flew by and I was on pace for my target. Then I started catching some back markers. Despite the best efforts of the marshals and the briefing to keep them to the right, unfortunately they didn’t so it meant a lot of weaving for the rest of the run. It cost a few seconds but hey its parkrun, a run not a race!

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Mile 2 was bang on pace (Mile 1 was ahead) and mile 3 started getting tough, probably because I went too quick in mile 1. As I reached the “peak” of the gradual slope and started going a little downhill my legs turned to jelly and I had to really concentrate to hold it together. I was on target still. I dug my heels in. With a quarter of a lap to go I saw I was within 5 seconds of a time with an even nicer ring to it… I gave it one last effort and crossed the line, ready to collapse in P16.

My watch said 19:20. My target was 19:30 and my old PB was 20:22. A PB by over a minute! (The time was confirmed in the official results later).

littlestoke race analysis

I immediately lay on the floor to recover. Absolutely exhausted but utterly thrilled. Not only had I beaten my PB, I had SMASHED it. A guy from behind me thanked me for pacing him – happy to help but it was unintentional! The only person I was racing was myself, and I bloody won!

With a single lap/out and back course with no traffic, I wonder how close I can get to 19 minutes? I hope its not another year away.

The team at Little Stoke did an excellent job. Unfortunately we couldn’t stick around for coffee but if the council come down and see the joy in peoples eyes when they see friends, and achieve their personal goals, and they can see how important this is to the local and national community you would hope they could see no other option but to forget about their objection.

Thank you Little Stoke, long may you continue!

Run Report: Bushy parkrun

We’d wanted to visit Bushy parkrun for a long time. It’s the home of parkrun and the biggest parkrun in the UK by number of runners, and many consider a trip to bushy as being a “pilgrimage” – none more so than me!

Not only did I want to visit where it all began, the former Event Director in me wanted to know, logistically, how they managed all those runners.

Anyway, we were in London as we had tickets to watch them film “Red Dwarf” at Pinewood Studios, and had a wedding present to cash in – Afternoon tea at the Royal Albert Hall, so we decided to make this our weekend to visit.

Our Hotel was in Kingston, about a quarter-miles jog from Bushy, one of the Royal Parks. It’s a big park though, and it was nearly a mile further to get to the start line!

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The start was near the Princess Diana fountain, and when we got there to use the on site facilities, I was quite surprised at just how few people were already there. We arrived at about 8.45, which I thought was a little late, but the number of people around was quite sparse!

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Now, there is nothing unusual about this, from all the parkruns we have visited, it always seems to be very quiet until 2 minutes before the start when suddenly everyone seems to appear. I just wasn’t expecting it to be the same at Bushy, purely due to the numbers!

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The start was brilliantly organised, with flat cones delineating the start and people adhered to them – great idea! It was good and wide as it needs to accommodate so many people, not unlike the brilliant organisation at Yeovil Montacute!

People listened attentively to the run briefing which was over loudspeakers, and newcomers and tourists got a brilliant applause, but there weren’t as many tourists as I expected put their hands up. Then again, there are an awful lot of parkruns in London!

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Before long, we were off, a thousand runners thundering toward the path like wild cattle, naturally funneling and thinning as the path narrowed down. The course itself is less than a year old compared to previous iterations, and is mostly on compact trail with some short sections on grass, but it is very, very flat. I imagine it is a very fast course, if you can find the space to run because it is very congested in the mid pack which is where I was running for the day – it was a recovery jog day for me.

The marshals around the course were excellent, but whilst it was a great experience the course didn’t really inspire me – perhaps we need to return in summer when it’s in full bloom.

I eventually progressed my pace a bit (recovery be damned!) and found myself overtaking a lot of people. There is plenty of room you just need to take a wider line.

As we barreled toward the finish line I felt sorry for the timers who must be frantically pressing the lap button. As I ran through the pack I noticed large clumps of runners running together, it must be very difficult to keep track of your presses!

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The finish funnel was a spectacle itself – over 112m long and split in two.

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The idea is that when one funnel is full, runners are sent to the other funnel, and these are separated further by holding a “funnel card”. This way, when a person holding a funnel card reaches the token volunteers, they know they need to switch which funnel they issue the tokens too. it works very VERY well, I was really impressed.

My 25 and a half-minute time earned me 389th position, and what was even more impressive was that I got the result text before 11am. Huge kudos to the team for getting 1000 results processed so promptly!

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Jodie was a couple of minutes behind me and I managed to snap her in the mega funnel.

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Again, amazingly there was hardly any queue for scanning – I really couldn’t believe just how well-managed this was. But then again, I guess they have 11 years experience!

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Did I love Bushy? Yes, absolutely. Would I hurry back? No, to be honest, I wouldn’t.

One of my favourite parts of parkrun is spending time with friends and club mates, going for a post run coffee and shooting the breeze. Any parkrun without your friends isn’t the same, and as such I wouldn’t go back without it being a club/friends event. It is special that it’s the home of parkrun, but it is just another parkrun – and there are plenty of others still to visit yet!

Thank you Bushy, and all your amazing volunteers!

Greater Manchester Marathon 2016: Week 10 of 18

Well, what an interesting week! The last 7 days has epitomized how running performance often works in “peaks and troughs” starting in pain and finishing in pride.

Midweek

The week started out with what was meant to be an 8m easy run. The pace felt MUCH tougher than it did last week, though this was off the back off a particularly difficult Sunday run as I wrote last week. At the time I shrugged it off and figured I’d be OK tomorrow.

That was until that next day… where I needed to do 8 miles with a set of (6 x 800m Intervals). To start with things were OK, but the 5th interval rep was absolute hell. I even had to have a brief pause midway through such was the agony. I managed to ‘Man Up’ for the last rep but the 4 mile recovery jog afterwards was just awful to the point I could have cried. It was just hideous, my legs were in pieces. Still the set of intervals were in the right ballpark pace range.

6x800

Thursday was a 5 mile recovery which was again, hard work, but I felt a lot better for doing it, and my legs felt fresher come the end.

Thankfully, Friday was a rest day, and I treated myself to a much needed sports massage for my legs. I wanted to stay local, and found Bow House Physiotherapy in Langport, not far from our office. The masseuse was Denise Rees and for the bargain price of £30 I had an hour and twenty minutes deep tissue massage, relatively pain free. I came away feeling so refreshed and relaxed – my legs fel warm for the rest of the day and it was an absolutely pleasure – I highly recommend them!

parkrunday

On saturday as always we went to parkrun, and our tour continued, this week at Maidenhead parkrun.

It was a lovely 2 lap course on gravelly trail and tarmac round a nature reserve. The start and finish were on a pretty muddy field but other than that, road shoes would have been absolutely fine. There was loads of parking (we parked close to the road but there is also a car park MUCH closer to the start), toilets in the Toby Carvery and also at the Athletics stadium.

Newcomers and tourists alike were made to feel most welcome, and the first timers briefing was all about inclusivity – superbly delivered with clarity.

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This really was an excellent parkrun and we will definitely be back! It was made even more interesting by the presence of Karen Weir – one of the original 13 “parkrun pioneers”! Always nice to have a brush with some parkrun royalty!

As for my run, I knew I was racing on Sunday, but wanted to check to see if I had any pace at all given my problems earlier in the week. So I ran it as a progression, right up to my target pace. Felt very comfortable! So either I had recovered fully, or the massage really did work wonders!

Sunday – Bramley 20/10

On Sunday we went to the Bramley 20/10 – a full report on the race can be found here that I wrote for the club.

Going into the race I really wasn’t sure how I would do. I know that sounds like sandbagging, but its totally honest. With how my legs felt on Tuesday and Wednesday I wasn’t hopeful. But I knew that if I wanted to be “on track” for Manchester I needed to run 1:07:59, which is about 6:47 a mile. This was ambitious, as my tempo runs had been just about slower than this, and only for 6 miles. Either way, I set my virtual pacer and went for it. And as you can see…

 

bramleysplits

… I smashed it! The first few mioes flew by pretty comfortably, and after a while i realised I was running at a similar pace to number 278 – he looked and sounded a bit like a short John Bishop!

Credit: Barry Cornelius (http://www.oxonraces.com)
Credit: Barry Cornelius (http://www.oxonraces.com)

I kept plugging along, naturally easing off for the slopes which were on the course, but somehow making the time back up as it rolled downhill.

Credit: Barry Cornelius (http://www.oxonraces.com)
Credit: Barry Cornelius (http://www.oxonraces.com)

With about 3 miles to go I knew that I’d make my goal, and if I could put in a quick last mile not only could I break 1:08, I could also break 1:07 – so I went for it and absolutely nailed it! Official chip time 1:06:44, a PB by 1m46 seconds!

Looking at the race analysis below I can see the consistency really paid off with the first 3 quarters (2.5 mile splits) all within a couple of seconds of each other, then a kick finish down the hill.

bramleyanalysis

To say I’m pleased is an understatement. Its a big sign that the training is working and I now have masses of confidence. Could a sub 3:10 be on the cards at Manchester?
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Time will tell. I’ll assess that after the Cardiff Half. If I can break 1:29 at Cardiff then I’ll seriously think about doing Manchester in 3:09:xx.

Summary

Well frankly I’m bloody delighted. Despite a tough early part of the week I’m on a total high! Now to come back down to earth, focus on the next few weeks training and set my sights on the next tune up race – a 5k parkrun. Surely sub-20 has to be on the cards now?

Extra Bramley Photos

All Credit: Barry Cornelius (http://www.oxonraces.com)

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Greater Manchester Marathon 2016: Week 9 of 18

Week 9 of my training for Manchester, and numerically its the halfway point – though with a 3 week taper period, that means theres only 6 more weeks of serious running before winding down!

The week has consisted of some “bread and butter” recovery runs, but with the key session being the marathon pacer on Sunday,  this weeks training has been geared around trying to be vaguely fresh for that.

Midweek

On Tuesday, Jodie and I went for a 6 miler. Jodie is starting to struggle with the hills, but unsurprising as shes running on behalf of two people! I felt pretty fresh by the end of it, which I was quite impressed with given Sunday’s 22 miler.

Wednesday was my least favourite run of the whole training plan… 14 miles medium long, in the middle of the week after work. Not especially motivating to get out knowing I’d not be home til gone 8, though thankfully the weather was cold but crisp and clear. I set out at the slow end of the pace zone and executed a royal flush negative split through the pace zone right up to marathon pace!

flush

This included all the usual hills I cover, and included a good effort up Bunford – thought I PBed the segment but missed out by a couple of seconds! Still, not bad considering it was the end of a 14 miler!

On Thursday, I was meant to do 6 miles recovery, with 6 and strides planned for Saturday. But I didn’t want the strides to have a negative impact on Sunday, so I switched them up. The run was pretty tough, which I should have expected after Wednesday, but I focused on my technique and balance for the strides, and sure enough they had a good level of speed. I finished quite tired but knew I had a rest day on Friday, so no concern there.

Friday was weigh day, and I had felt that this week I’d been less strict and probably overeaten, so wasn’t expecting good results… Just the 3lbs off! Absolutely delighted, ahead of schedule and now at my interim target of the weight I was for the wedding! According to the scales it was mostly fat too, so the training is working to keep the muscles lean whilst the calorie deficit is burning fat. Happy days!

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Looking at my nifty projection chart, if I keep up the 3lbs a week I’ll be at goal by the end of Feb. I think maintaining 3 per week is ambitious. The target 2lb a week is more sensible and would put me at goal for 4th March.

weightgraph5thfebSo I’m ahead of where I want to be. What I tend to do now is think to myself “I’m well ahead, I can afford to relax a bit” and that’s when I plateau, and get frustrated that I stop losing, and why I never reached that 8th stone last year.

I’m going to stay focused all the way to Manchester to lose as much as I can. If I can achieve a 2lb a week average, that’ll put me at 13st 4lbs for the race! Using a more sensible 1.5lbs then I’d be 13st 8, which I’d still be over the moon with!

But lets get to sub 14st first before I get too carried away…

I treated myself this week too. After a few years with my Garmin Forerunner 220 it was high time for an upgrade. I had a bit of loss in confidence after it froze a few times and nearly ran out of battery the other day. Given how often I use it, I checked with the wife and thought it was worth splashing out on something new. I went for the Forerunner 235. A full review will be posted later this week but its a nifty device so far!

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On Saturday we chose to continue our tourism streak with a brand new parkrun for us, Salisbury. I did 6 miles at recovery pace. We met Simon in the car park before headed off for a warm up, during which the weather was overcast, but nothing like the conditions we feared. We did a couple of short laps and then went to find Jodie for our pre-run selfie.

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By the time the start came around though, the weather had taken a turn for the worse. Wet and windy is the only way to describe it. This was made more pleasant though by what have to be some of the best volunteers I have come across in my parkrun tourism. So encouraging, and so many of them it was fantastic to see. Not only from a marshalling perspective but there were pacers of all levels including beginners groups, all clearly identified on their hi-vis.

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It was so inclusive, and though I am not a fan of multi lap courses (Salisbury is pretty much 4 laps) the amazing volunteers and support made it an absolute pleasure, despite the weather.

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The parking was close by, the toilets were onsite and the course was very well marked out. Salisbury parkrun is an absolute credit to parkrun as a movement. First class! I look forward to returning in the summer.

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Sunday

Sunday was a key session and it was important for my confidence and belief that the training and weight loss was working, to run it well. I had to run it in Basingstoke, which meant the first half of the marathon pace section was uphill, though it meant the second half was downhill/level.

The problem was, it didn’t go according to plan… at all.

I woke up and felt OK, had some breakfast and headed out a bit earlier than usual, and for some reason I just knew it was going to go wrong.

After the first mile ticked over I realized I’d configured my workout incorrectly, so I had to abandon it and start a manual activity. Problem 1. I then started progressing until about 5 miles. This was quite literally problem number 2 and had to find a bush and use my sweat band in a way it wasn’t designed for. Needless to say I left it in the woods. By the time I got to marathon pace I was running on slippy trail and couldn’t maintain any pace at all. Then it was uphill. This was problem number 3. I then realized my legs REALLY didn’t have the pace in them. They felt like lead weights on ANY type on incline and things just were not clicking.

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So I made a call. Rather than flogging myself to death trying to hit MP, inevitably failing and then beating myself up about it, I elected to run a straightforward 20 miler as a time on my feet type run. I managed to maintain a decent speed, even though I had to stop for a breather once and also had to stop for the bathroom again but other than that I was pretty pleased.

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I was due a bad run and after 3 weeks of running 55 miles per week it was hardly a surprise my legs are fatigued!

Luckily, this week is a recovery week – I’m going to run my easy runs very easy. I have an interval session on Wednesday to get some speed in my legs and a tune up race on Sunday – hopefully my legs have recovered enough to give it a damn good go.

 

Greater Manchester Marathon 2016: Week 8 of 18

This week has been a bit of a game changer in my training mission for the Greater Manchester Marathon. One of those weeks where everything to do with my running seems to have started to click together, and like a step up in ability has been achieved.

Tuesday was meant to be a 7 mile recovery run with some strides, but instead I elected to lead a 6 mile social club run. There were only 3 of us but it was very enjoyable and we went over some ground I’d not run before as something a bit different. The pace was nice and easy and it felt like I was just bouncing along, which surprised me given the way my legs felt after sunday’s 20!

Wednesday saw a small step up in the midweek long run, with 12 miles to do. Midweek long runs are my least favourite. Having to get home from work and then run for 2 hours, eating at gone 8pm isn’t a lot of fun, but they seem to help. Usually I would try and run these progressively, but as I intended to run Friday’s tempo run on Thursday, I tried to just keep this at a steady pace. I ended up loosely progressing anyway, with the final mile at marathon pace. Despite the hilly elevation profile on the route, I felt strong throughout, like I was gliding through the air almost effortlessly (Aside from the hills) and got a couple of segment PBs in the process.

As I mentioned, I had to do Friday’s tempo run on Thursday as we had a club social and wouldn’t have time to squeeze it in. I thought I would struggle with 10 miles, 6 of which at tempo pace, but I didn’t really until the last tempo mile. As these runs get longer its harder to find enough level ground to cover, and a couple of the miles were net downhill. I did try and increase the pace to compensate and the GAPs on my splits were only off target by a few seconds.

10 miles, 6 at tempo workout analysis

I’m confident that if I’d have had the extra rest day I would have nailed it. I “made up” the difference in GAP on other miles and would have managed the 6th mile on rested legs.

Friday was my usual weigh-in day, and I had a feeling I’d get a positive result as I’d “been good” for the last few weeks and the mileage increase usually benefits me. I was right! 3lbs off this week with an increase in muscle mass.

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All good news! 3lbs to go to my intermediate target (the weight I was for the wedding) and 10lbs overall pre-marathon. At this rate (And I DO fully expect the burn rate to level off) I may even be able to go a little bit lighter still – but we’ll see.

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As mentioned, we had a good social night out with the club on Friday, a skittles night. A few of us ate too, and I figured I’d have something nice as a bit of a reward for the hard work and good results! I ended up having too many ciders but everyone enjoyed themselves, thanks to Michelle’s organisation. It’s just a shame Dave won the game of killer!

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A bit bleary eyed, we headed to Longrun Meadow parkrun on Saturday, as Jodie hadn’t done it before and we needed to stay local. James was coincidentally there too as he was visiting friends the night before.

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The puddled were DEEP, over the ankles in some places, and the muddy section was pretty horrendous too, but an enjoyable run. We did an extra couple of miles top up afterwards as I needed to do a 5 mile recovery run. Running along the river was really nice, Taunton seems to have a lot of foot/cycle paths, must be great for local runners!

 

Sunday saw an incredible 20 people turn up for the Running For Time long run. Lots of new people I hadn’t met, many of them training for their own races and events. It was a sight to behold and a sign of how the club is going from strength to strength.

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Sarah did a great job organising a good quiet and flat route for 10 miles. Most of the group finished up, but I needed to do 22 so a smaller sub group splintered off to top up their mileage. I ran with Fred and Sue Fox for most of their journey home, and I hope I didn’t bore them! They are one inspirational couple, I can’t run Fred’s times as a 33 year old, its amazing how well they both still run as vets! We also ran with Michelle, Helen and Chrissy, who peeled off at their own rates when they reached their mileage.

The flat course and steady pace meant I felt much stronger towards the end, and progressed my last 5 miles to target marathon pace, and as I write this I can’t help but notice how much better I feel compared to last weekend. I think that means the training is working! I’m definitely feeling stronger.

One bit of bad news is that I think my Garmin is on the way out. It froze at 21 miles and by 22 I only had 12% left in the battery. Still, it’s a good excuse to buy some new kit – my eye is on the Forerunner 235!

Next week is another marathon paced run. I’ll be in Basingstoke which will be a challenge, as finding a flat section to do the marathon paced miles will be near impossible! Time to man up and try the pace over some hills!

Greater Manchester Marathon 2016: Week 7 of 18

It’s when a training plan starts ramping up towards the business end that the usefulness of using a training log tool (such as Strava) alongside a plan you’ve used before really comes into its own, as you can directly compare sessions against each other. You can see your paces and heart rate relative to each other to see how well you are performing.

The first run of this week was 10 miles with 5 of them at Lactate Threshold. Strava’s tools can let me see how I performed for this session – specifically, for the Lactate Threshold miles.

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Using GAP (Grade Adjusted Pace – so it tells you the equivalent pace on a flat mile) I can clearly see on average I’m doing about 15s per mile faster than last year. Unfortunately, last years activity for this session isn’t a good session for this comparison as I abandoned it half way through – But I only know this because I have it recorded as a note! So not only was I faster, but I was able to actually complete the session – unlike last year.

It was a tough run for sure, and at about 4.1 miles I had to pause for a short breather, but on the whole I was very happy.

On Wednesday I had a 4 mile recovery run with the wife. it was fricking FREEZING. My toes were numb by the end and I literally had to soak them in hot water to bring the feeling back.

Thursday was one of the runs I dread – midweek medium-long runs. The idea is to progress through your long run pace zone so you finish about 15% slower than Marathon Pace. This 11 miler I followed a similar route to the one I did on sunday – hilly – and I was delighted with the results. Again, comparing to year on year, this run had much more elevation, an increase in pace (And GAP) and a slightly lower HR overall. The difference in “suffer score” can be attributed to me “having a go” at a long uphill segment whilst maintaining the faster end of the pace zone.

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Rather delightfully as a result, I made the top 10! I finished with a quick downhill mile and finished feeling really strong. It was a good confidence booster.

Friday was weigh day. I didn’t hold out a lot of hope – we had an enormous meal on the previous Friday night, the Saturday was lunch AND dinner out (with a skinful of cider, popcorn and Maltesers) and Sunday was a hungover massive Premier Inn breakfast… So to have lost 1lb and have a small shift in body composition was quite pleasing!

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I lost 1.5lbs in fat (good), increased my body water (good) but saw a small fall in Muscle mass (bad – but an increase in percentage). So something to keep an eye on. Most importantly though its that Body Fat and overall weight loss that’s going to make me lighter and therefore faster.

Saturday saw me on a split session. I needed to do a 7 mile easy run with Strides, but we had a club outing to Bath Skyline parkrun. So I ran that easy and then did the other 4 miles + strides in the afternoon.

It was nice going to a different parkrun as a group/club. We have a good spirit with our members and it was an awful lot of fun.

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The course itself was quite nice. Aside from the first K it was relatively flat, with a slightly downhill final K. In the first section you get a beautiful view of the historic City of bath from on high which could have taken your breath away… and if the view didn’t the 37 steps that took place right afterwards finished it off! The course was mostly compact trail but there were some sections of muddy field which must make fast times a bit tricky at the moment. It’s a single lap figure of 8 style which meant you pass near the finish close enough for a gathering of supporters to stand which was pretty nice. The parking was about a 5 minute walk to the course and there was a single toilet – though it was at the car park. No cafe nearby, and the website shows that you should bring your own refreshments in lieu of this. This week though, a local school had volunteered and provided hot chocolate and custard creams – such a lovely thought!

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Despite the lack of cafe, as we’d made the trip we visited the local Sainsbury’s cafe anyway. They do a fantastic 5 rasher bacon sandwich on thick bloomer, for 3 quid. Brilliant value and just what the doctor ordered!

My plan had me to do 7 miles with some strides, so I pulled a second session in the evening. Was very pleased with the pace of my strides, and shook the body a little bit – it’s not used to 2 runs in a day!

I was dreading Sunday’s 20 miler – my longest since Manchester last year – So I decided it would be nice to run with other people, at least for the first half. So i joined the club for the Sunday Social run. The time absolutely flew by, with great company, great banter, and I couldn’t believe I’d done 10 miles by the time they returned! We also saw loads of runners, even some other club mates. I love going out on the early runs, but with it being the only real day I can get a lay in, early Sunday’s are not high on my priority list! After this weekend though, it will be much more regular.

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By the time we got back, I still needed to do 10 miles. But I’d pre-organised with Dave that we’d do a further 10. it was brilliant to have some company for the second half too. The last few miles were tough, but running with Dave really helped to “keep me honest” as it was extremely tempting to just slow to a gentle plod!

All in all, the best, most enjoyable Sunday run I’ve had for a very long time.

The mileage steps up a bit over the next few weeks to peak at around 60 miles (with my own adjustments) before the next recovery week. So far I’m feeling strong though and if I can get through this mesocycle unscathed I will be very confident to achieve my target.

Greater Manchester Marathon 2016: Week 6 of 18

Week 6 has been somewhat of a milestone week. Not only is it the end of the first Mesocycle of the training, and not only is it the first recovery week, or the point where it marked being exactly  one third of the way through… But we were finally able to announce that we are growing a new little runner!

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We’re 12 weeks pregnant, and have had our scan. It was a truly magical experience which I’m sure every parent goes through the first time. What you don’t expect to see in the scan is the baby moving – I assumed it was still pictures – Imagine my surprise when our little one kicked out and had a ride around Jodie’s uterus! This of course means that Jodie will not be running the Manchester Marathon this year, but she is continuing to run to maintain fitness and hopefully she’ll be fine to run in the Cardiff world championships!

The recovery week in the plan has obviously been perfectly timed. My legs felt battered all week right up until Saturday so I deliberately went out to run at the slower end of all of my pace zones.

Tuesday saw me on an easy 8  miler with 8 strides. The weather was miserable and my legs were knackered. I also sufferedf romt he fact that I needed a poo. At some point I realised that everytime my runs are interrupted by a such an event, its normally a Tuesday! Without wanting to get too graphic, I suspect that as my biggest meal of the day is on Sunday, that Tuesday’s GI problems are simply that the food has finally digested! So I need to try and shift that event to happen pre-run!

Wednesday was a straightforward recovery run. Legs still feeling a bit dead, still miserable weather.

Thursday was another easy 8 miler with no strides. Heavy legged but did a reasonable amount of climbing too. Heart rate looked better though, and I knew Friday was a rest day.

Friday of course is weigh day, and it seems the hard work has paid off, I dropped 4lbs this week, most of it in fat and increased my muscle mass! So just another stone to go til my pre-race target.

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I’m a little unsure how much stock to take in the body composition analysis of these things. It said that I was 25.1% body fat, 50.3% water, and 28.3% muscle – that’s over 100% and doesn’t include bone any everything else! But I guess its designed as a guide and a way of tracking progress rather than a zero-sum game.

On parkrunday we avoided Ham Hill again to continue our tour. A group of us went to Blandford parkrun instead. I was scheduled for 4 miles recovery, but I was tempted to “have a go”. Its a fast course and could have had a pop at sub 20, but I figured if I run this hard it would affect my sessions next week. I felt quite self righteously smug at my self control! It was a good controlled effort and finished feeling refreshed.

Unfortunately, the next 18 hours consisted of bad food and several cans off Thatchers Gold. Which meant Sunday turned into a bit of a mare… Still, I figured a bit of a blowout wouldn’t hurt. Struggled through the first 6 of my 12 miler slowy, and had to make a pub stop to use the facilities, after which I felt significantly better. Managed lots of climbing too which was a plus point.

Next week is a bit of a big week (not as big as the following week though!), with 52 miles scheduled (It’ll go over that with warm up/cool down) and will be the biggest week for ages. Another tempo run is on the cards (Which I struggled with last year) and my first 20 miler of the campaign, which I’m going to part run with the group – carefully considered after my 18 miler a few weeks back caused me to want to cry!

12 weeks to go – which means only really 9 weeks until the taper…. this time is disappearing fast!