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Race Report: Virgin Money London Marathon 2017

It’s been 3 months since I ran the Virgin Money London Marathon. I didn’t want to blog it straight away, as I wanted some time to reflect on it and write objectively about my experience as a whole and only now do I feel recovered and refreshed enough to do it. I did want to do it sooner than this though, I blame my expert procrastination skills!

It’s been a dream of mine to run London ever since I started running. My “Mission GFA” was designed to enable me to run a qualifying time, after many unsuccessful ballot entries. When I was drawn at our club ballot to be awarded our “club place” it was a dream come true! And I spent the next 6 months furiously planning my visit and of course training to ensure I had the best possible experience.

I documented my training extensively right up until race weekend. So lets pick up where I left off.

Saturday

The most important part of the London Marathon experience is attending the expo. Primarily because this is where you register and pick up your number and timing chip – so without attending you can’t run! But for the first timer the expo is a chance to experience an overwhelming buzz of nervous anticipation mixed with commercial advertising.

The Expo was held at London’s Excel arena as it is every year – a popular exhibition centre just off the DLR. Our hotel literally looked over the Excel which was very handy, though as we were travelling from Mile End parkrun we needed to take the DLR to get there anyway.

I’d been to the expo before when Jodie ran London in 2015, but returning to collect my own registration was an exciting and slightly emotional experience. For so long I’d worked towards running London, and when I finally picked up that race packet I could finally relax – I knew I was going to make it to the start line.

After getting my number I went through to get my timing chip – which you get to keep, unusually. But it’s a nice memento of your run as its London Marathon 2017 branded.

After collecting my number, I was into the expo proper – the arena was filled with rows and rows of stands of mainly retailers, but also other races trying to recruit you to attend their events. There were plenty of opportunities to grab freebies, leaflets and “tat”, as well as photo/video opportunities. I made the most and got fully into the swing of things. After all, we had all day!

Some of the highlights for me were the New Balance video, the official London Marathon photo spots and also meeting the guys at Fitness Rewards including Jenna, who sold us our life insurance policy. I had a go on their agility game – I was pretty woeful though!

We left the expo at about lunchtime and headed back to our hotel where our room wasn’t quite ready. So we had lunch in the lobby, chilling out until check in time. It seems the hotel were understaffed, as no-ones rooms were ready for when it was advertised. We eventually got in at about 4 and spent the time chatting to a nice lady from Edinburgh who was also doing her first London Marathon.

When we eventually got to our room I made my final kit check and obligatory kit photo before chilling out in our room.

In the evening we procured some hearty Italian fare (I ate a lot more than I needed) which arrived stupidly early – we were expecting it at 7 as we requested on Just Eat, and it arrived at 6! Then we met Marcus and Pippa for a drink in the evening – once we worked out they WEREN’T in the same hotel as us like we thought!

We headed to bed to watch some rubbish on TV and I set my alarm, drifting off to sleep at about 10. Not too bad considering how nervously excited I was.

Pre Race

I woke up, naturally very excited about the day that lay ahead. My prior preparation meant that I had plenty of time to get ready, as my kit was all laid out nicely. I put the hot water in my porridge pots (I had 3 of them…) and got in the shower to freshen up. I was awake, raring to go.

We loaded up our bags and checked I could get it in my official kit bag – success! But then a rather lovely spanner was thrown in the works – we won the hotel’s marathon prize draw! We were awarded a hamper of goodies, which contained energy bars, Lucozade, a fit ball, a pedometer, sweets and all sorts of other bits and bobs. It was brilliant – if only we didn’t have to try and fit it in with all of our existing stuff and have Jodie carry it around London! We had to remove all the packaging from everything, but we eventually managed to make it fit.

We went to meet Marcus and Pip and headed to the DLR station. Marcus said his goodbyes as he was meeting the club later to go to the cheering spots they’d organised, so Pip was in our capable hands.

We were nervously chatting on the DLR journey to Cutty Sark station, on a carriage with a few other runners and supporters. What surprised me was how quiet it was – I was expenting a lot more activity, but then again I guess it was quite early still. As we left the station we walked past the Cutty Sark ship – they were getting it ready for the swarms of people that would be cheering here – it’s one of the most popular points on the course. It was a bit quieter when we got this snap than it would be later! I was already picturing how it would feel running past this after 10k. My nervous anticipation was already building.

We walked towards Greenwich Park. I made a slight cock up with the directions, but we got there in the end, heading up the hill toward the start zones. There isn’t a race like it with start zones like London. So many people all gathering to fulfil their ambitions after months of long hard training – there was such an amazing buzz.

We had arranged a meeting point to get a club photo at the start and almost everyone made it! It was fantastic to share the experience with my club mates, all of whom had gone through their own journeys to get here. We were all raring to go!

Then, I had another great surprise. Race day was also the day of our nephews birthday party.  So there weren’t any plans for the in-laws to come and watch. But just as we were about to head to the start area, my father in law Robin came strolling across the field! He’d gotten the early train and come all across London, just to see me and wish me luck. It was a really touching thing for him to do and I can’t express how much that meant to me. It really gave me an amazing boost and I am so thankful that he came.

Then after a few “good luck” and “all the best” to everyone, we went our separate ways! At London, there are 3 start zones. Green, Red which is mainly charity runners (and that’s where most of the club had to start) and Blue was for Ballot and Club Places ran from, so I headed to Blue with Steve Vellacott. It was Steve’s first ever marathon, but you wouldn’t have thought it – he was as cool and calm as you like. I remember on my first in Paris – I was a nervous wreck in the start pen! We had a wander around, and I grabbed a coffee to get a caffeine boost (It was free which I didn’t realize!)

The start areas were so well organised and with so much space it was a really nice place to make final preparations. The weather was lovely and bright with little breeze, and listening to the theme tune and other announcements over the tannoy, I really felt part of it now – I was finally experiencing the London Marathon! Before long we were making last toilet visits and depositing our bags.

Speaking of bags, mine almost didn’t get checked in…. Bulging with swag from the raffle, I tried squeezing it in the provided polythene bag and ended up splitting it slightly! Luckily I was able to tie it up and get it on the truck.

I then cracked open my banana, said goodbye to Steve, and we headed to the start pens. It was starting to get very real.

I was fortunate enough to be in zone 3, so very close to the front. I was quite surprised how small the pens were. They did a great job of getting the right paced runners into small enough groups. I had a short warm up and then stood near the front of the pen. People were talking about their sub-3 ambitions and I felt a bit out of place but I thought, sod it. I’ve worked hard and I’m going to stand where I bloody well like!

Before long we were ushered forwards, slowly came around a roundabout, and there I was – I could see the start gantry about 40 meters in front of me. I was literally ON the start line – I felt so fortunate. The emotion really started to set in now, and I gulped. Despite not being religious I looked to the sky.

How was the heat going to affect me?

Have I trained enough?

Is my race plan was suicidal?

But it was a bit late now. They called the elites names. Then the gun went. We were off!

The Race

In the short walk to cross the start line, I gulped down a gel and reviewed my plan. 7 minute miling. Simple. Don’t get carried away through the first downhill 5k, get to Tower Bridge and review.

I quashed my nerves, and by the time I crossed the line I had my game face on – a smile! Finally a lifelong ambition was being realized. Time to enjoy it!

The first 3 miles were an absolute whirlwind. Despite being in a “faster” group near the front, the amount of congestion was still crazy. I found myself having to tread very carefully, especially in the first mile. Looking back I can see that my biggest mistake came after the 1st mile. I ran it in 7.08, which was a little slower than target (Only 4 seconds… but in my head I thought that was too much) and I ended up trying to claw it back over the next 2 miles – especially as the course was due to get MORE congested once the red start joined our course. This resulted in a 6.55, which was EXACTLY what I wanted, but then came the damage… Mile 3 in 6.34. It was downhill granted, but just the same that was too quick.

I hadn’t really taken much in at this point, but somewhere along here I could see the back of Rob Deering – host of the “Running Commentary” podcast which I listen to religiously. I’d heard what his race plans were on the show, and given that I’d just banged in a 6.34 mile I knew that was not in his plan! So I said “Bit quick? Love the show!”. He said thanks and I continued on my merry way. At this stage I felt comfortable and strong – but of course, you are supposed to – there was still 23.2 miles to go!

At mile 4 or so we ran through Charlton and saw the R4T cheer squad. I gave them a big wave – it was great to see them there, so many had come to experience marathon day as a spectator – and even spectating is a special experience. Thank you to all you guys who came to cheer us on.

Around here my gel strategy commenced. I planned to take a Gu every 4 miles (It’s my tried and tested fuelling method) so took one on just in time to see Jodie, my mum, stepdad and brother! That was another nice lift.

It was around here that I really noticed it was getting warmer. The sun was forecast to be sunny spells but mostly cloudy. I’d not seen any clouds yet, it was very sunny and I could feel myself sweating more than I’d have liked.

Before long we were rounding the 10k point and the cheers became deafening – Cutty Sark really is everything they say it is! A real spectator hotspot and an amazing experience.

After Cutty Sark I did a quick time check. I was definitely up on pace by about a minute thanks to a 6.43, a 6.48, a 6.57. Definitely too fast. I knew I was ahead and I just wanted to sustain my pace now. I thought if I could get to half way with a minute in the bank I would be OK, so I tried to be a bit more conservative, and spent the next 6 miles hovering around 7s. 6.51, 6.51, 7.00, 7.01, 6.52, 6.56. I seem to recall seeing Lucy and Stephen around this section, but I can;t be sure now looking back.

I wasn’t familiar with Rotherhithe at all, and knew there wasn’t to much to see. I’d pretty much zoned out focussing on trying to stay relaxed, thinking about my cadence and form.

I also remember Jimbob catching me up. Jim is a multiple sub-3 marathoner, so when he passed me I had an inkling I was going too fast. We had a brief chat, and he said just to run it out til you get to 20 and see what I had left. I then let him go ahead of me. Its amazing to think when you have 40,000 runners in the same race  of runners with different abilities from 3 different starts that you end up running with someone you know!

After 12 miles you start thinking about Tower Bridge. It’s an iconic part of the marathon and running over it was really special. I heard my name halfway across and saw James Parrot cheering me on. How I heard him I don’t know, there was so much noise! I didn’t realize until I was headed toward the bridge, that the drag towards it is ever so slightly uphill. That was a bit of a warning sign that my legs were tiring, as I felt the slope a lot more than I should have done. I thought I was prepared for it though, and I went through halfway in 1.31.05. That was a minute and a half too fast. Again, I convinced myself that this was “time in the bank” whilst still acutely aware that my legs were starting to diminish.

Running towards the Isle of Dogs I tried to get things back under control by staying closer to my target pace of 7.04. Miles 13-16 were 6.54, 6.53, 6.54, 6.55 – the model of consistency – but too bloody quick! Looking back now I wonder what the hell was going on in my head… Why didn’t I slow down?!

It was around here I saw Jodie and my family again. Great timing! I still felt OK but knew it was on a knifed edge now. Big smiles again for them as I trotted around the Isle.   By the time I saw them again at around mile 19-20, my smile had dropped and it was my real game face.

Liam still found time to expertly time a boomerang though!

I was just about hanging on to my target pace. Before long I came across 20 mile marker. That’s supposed to be a big boost as there is only 10k to go – but it didn’t feel that way to me.

At this stage I was telling myself “One mile at a time”, and that worked until I passed the corner around the 21 mile mark. The R4T cheer squad was around about here and I was grimacing – Dave shouted “It’s all mental from here” and I felt like shouting “That’s not what my fu*king legs are thinking!!” but I just mumbled “I can’t do it!”.

By the time 22 came along, I couldn’t hold on any more, and I had to walk. Just as I started walking, I saw Fred Fox. He tried his best to get me going, but I was suffering. I managed to start running again, butthe next couple of miles I was run walking. Everything below the waist hurt and I was just so hot.

At around 24 miles or so, I came to an absolutely standstill and had to lean against the railings. I felt broken. The supporters were amazing and offered me jelly babies and water which I gladly took. The encouraged me to keep going, and I did.

The embankment is supposed to be one of the biggest highlights of the marathon, and I was looking forward to running along it feeling comfortable and soaking up the atmposhere pushing on for glory  but it wasn’t like that for me. For me it was a painful, humbling experience and I was crying for small parts of it. Partly due to the pain, but mostly because the “good for age” time I had trained so hard for was disappearing before my very eyes, and I just didn’t have it in me to claw it back.

I had to have a good word with myself and tell myself to “man up”. I had less than 2 miles to go and I just needed to put one foot in front of the other and enjoy the rest of it. And that’s what I did.

Running towards Big Ben I stopped worrying about my pace and just waved to the crowds and took in the atmosphere. It was magnificent. I heard an almighty “Come on Matt” from the Grandstand and there was James Gibbons – wow what a pair of lungs he has!! It was EXACTLY what I needed.

Video of that can be found here. Thanks for getting it on film, Holly, and thanks for lifting my spirits James.

Birdcage Walk was a tough slog but I knew the end was in sight. Those infernal “800m to go!” signs weren’t coming quick enough, but I dug deep and rounded the corner under the “385m to go!” gantry. It was the Mall. I could see the finish, so I gave it all I had left, looking around, clapping to the supporters and put in the best “sprint” I could muster and just before the finish line a shot of cramp ran up my leg! I stumbled but crossed the line in an official time of 3.08.43.

There is a video of me finishing here.

As I turned around and looked back down the mall and saw everyone behind me crossing the line. I had done it, I had completed the London Marathon!

It was a strange mix of emotions. I fulfilled a lifetime ambition, setting a 5 minute PB, running a time I should have been really proud of. Most of the people in the race would have been pleased with a 3.08. But my target had been 3.05 so I could run this wonderful event again.

It took many weeks for me to reconcile those two things in my head, but I reached that sense of pride eventually. I collected my medal, a wry smile on my face and got my bag before calling Jodie.

We met, and with my mum, step dad and brother had a celebratory drink in Green Park. They were so proud of me and did a brilliant job of lifting my spirits.

It was the best race of my life… But I have unfinished business and I’m not giving up on Good for Age just yet.

Analysis

It’s only now I can look back objectively and try and understand what went “wrong”. As you can tell, going out too fast and sustaining a face faster than target was a big factor. It was only a few seconds per mile, but I guess when you are running on the very edge of your capabilities, this can have a massive effect.

It was pleasing that despite a detonation in the last 10k the slowest mile I ran was only 8.17.

The heat though transpired to be the biggest factor. I underestimated how much of an effect it would have.  I found out after the race was that Neil and Jason – both sub-3 marathoners – also struggled on the day.  So when I put my run into context, it wasn’t so bad after all.

Looking at my heart rate, it was very much under control – all in the right heart rate zone.

Its when I consider all of this, I really don’t think i could have prepared any better. This was the best I could do on that course, on that day, in those conditions. If the conditions were slightly more favourable…. who knows.

According to the results, I finished in the top 7% of the field and in the top 11% of men. In spite of my detonation, over the last 7.2k I still overtook more people than I was passed by.

Looking back, I am now very proud of my performance.

Strava Activity.

Summary

The London Marathon really is the greatest race in the world and I am so proud to have completed it. I need to thank the following people.

  • Mum and John, who came to support on the day. They looked after Ivy when we were in Yeovil and both Jodie and I needed to train. It really was invaluable.
  • Liam, for coming to support and enjoying some support beers
  • Trish, for looking after Ivy when we needed to train and taking care of here on race day
  • Mac, for coming to see me at the start of the race despite how busy your day would be. You supported me throughout my training too.
  • Dave Purchase, for motivation and being a sound pair of ears for me
  • Running for Time, for being the best club, and to everyone from the club who came to support and run.
  • Jodie – for literally EVERYTHING.
  • And of course little Ivy.

Race Report: Bournemouth Marathon 2016

Well, that didn’t exactly go to plan…

Saturday

Coming into the weekend of 1st and 2nd October I was in a bit of a mixed bag as to how I felt about this, my autumn target race. As I mentioned in my previous post, training had been a bit up and down, but I felt I may have just been able to squeeze out a decent performance come race day.

We headed to Bournemouth with a little optimism on Saturday morning, so we could take in Bournemouth parkun. This doubled up a bit of parkrun tourism with a recce of the Race HQ.

bournemouth-parkrun

The weather was a bit rubbish, but the rain just about held off as we completed 2 big and 1 small laps between Kings Park Athletics Stadium and AFC Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium. The course itself is a mix of tarmac, trail path and a bit of grass. There is a room at the stadium you can change/shelter in with toilets on hand there too. Naturally with it being marathon weekend, there were plenty of tourists about and there was an excitable vibe to the event.

bournemouthmapsplits

Though we were taking it easy, it wasn’t as flat as advertised in my opinion – I wouldn’t go there on a PB hunt – but the marshals and volunteers were excellent. Thank you!

We had to hurry off to check into our AirBnB so couldn’t stick around, but there is a cafe onsite for post-parkrun cake, coffee and gossip!

After getting to our digs we headed into town to check out the finish area where most of the activity was going to be over the course of the festival. It was already bustling. I had to pick up a replacement number as mine never arrived. This was a painless process except it was a generic unbranded number which was a little disappointing, as they are souvenirs to me. never mind!

After a bit of shopping, a trip to Starbucks, some playing the amusements and even a cheeky pint, we decided to watch the races. There were a couple of kids fun runs first and then the 10k in the late afternoon. The course for these was fast and flat as it was all along the beachfront, and I was amazed at the size of the field! Saw plenty of folks I knew running and cheered everyone in both directions as good neutral supporters should!

Then we headed back to the AirBnB. In all we did 20,000 steps on Saturday which may be a little high for the day before a Marathon! But never mind eh.

Dinner was pasta from a local JustEat vendor. Good food and the same stuff I had pre-Manchester. We got a reasonably early night as Jodie was off in the Half at 8am which meant a VERY early start!

Prerace

Getting up at 6am wasn’t a great deal of fun, but as we went to sleep early it didn’t feel like too bad a hardship. I feasted on my usual 3 porridge pots and armed myself up with a couple of bananas for before the race and we took the short walk to race HQ. The weather was perfect! Clear skies and no wind at a cool temperature. You couldn’t have picked better marathon weather.

As we were pinning Jodie’s number on for the half, we noticed the foam had gone from her embedded timing chip. We checked at the helpdesk to make sure the chip was fine, but they weren’t sure – so issued her a new number. Which was the same unbranded type as me! So at least we both had crap bibs!

numbers

One thing became clear as the morning went on, and that was that the half seemed significantly better attended than the Marathon.

Jodie was a little nervous about her race at it was her first half since our daughter Ivy was born. I dropped her off in the start pen and headed a bit further on from the start and took this Facebook Live video of the start of the race. Logistics meant I couldn’t see her anywhere else on the course so all I had left to do was wait nervously for the start.

startline

I headed back to the cafe to have a cup of tea and it was a little chilly! I had checked my bag in with Jodie’s number, as she’d need it at the finish first, but was wearing a “disposable” hoody – just my race hear other than that! As the 2 hour wait went on, more and more people arrived, though it was still notably a much smaller affair than the half. I got a bit bored but before long it was time to head to the start.

I was assigned a pen right near the front due to my estimated (ha!) finish time. So I had plenty of loos to use and warmed up at the side of the course. I saw Ben of Marathon 401 fame who was starting the race on the warm up too, but didn’t introduce myself – he seemed busy. Then before long I was in the pen. It was nearly time to go!

startselfie

The Race

My race plan was to go out at 3.10 pace, so that was around 7.14 a mile. I figured if I could get to 20 miles at that pace I’d try and cling on for the rest of it.

For the first few miles I ticked along quite nicely. A little fast, but it was downhill. There was some good support along here. I felt comfortable at the pace I was running, and when it levelled off a few miles later I slowed a little naturally to bring me back into target range.

One of the challenges with this course was the number of “out and backs” you have to contend with. By mile 7 I was already on my way back of the second of these alone – the “out” here was gradually uphill, but I managed to stay on pace before we dropped back down to the seafront for a few more miles, heading towards Boscombe Pier.

Now, I like the seaside, and I like the view of the sea. But that was all there was to see. I found myself getting a little bit bored of trudging along promenade for mile after mile with nothing but beach huts and the english channel to look at.

By mile 12 there was the first of 2 not-insignificant hills. 30 metres of climbing in 400 metres which is 8% incline! And believe me, by the time I got to the top, I knew about it. With the benefit of hindsight, I should have eased off a bit here to save the legs, but my stupidity/pride meant I tried to stay at target pace – which did work…

Once we reached the top it was a mile through to the half marathon split, by which point local parkrunner Miles Caswell caught up with me. This lad is super speedy round Yeovil Montacute parkrun and he was running his first marathon with a similar goal to me. We chatted for a bit but by this point I was starting to flag.

Thankfully, this was when we dropped back down into the finish area (for the first time). The crowds were MAGNIFICENT. I, being the crowd pleasing tart that I am, was pumping my arms in the air to get them going – and it worked. Miles and I appreciated the roar of support echoing around us like a mexican wave. I bet not every runner got that!

Shortly after this I saw Jodie for the first time. She had managed to get a marshal to cheer for me too which was lovely, but then I looked ahead to Boscombe Pier, which we’d already seen once… and yet more promenade running my head started sinking.

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By the time I got to Boscombe I had eased back to my target marathon pace. Running with Miles and the support at half way meant I had increased effort and I was starting to suffer. I encouraged Miles to push on without me. Running the pier and then back toward the finish area (For the 2nd time) I saw Jodie and told her things were not good. I ran Bournemouth pier and got a high 5 from King Danny and then ran THROUGH the finish (3rd time!) before looping around onto some road then running past the finish for a 4th time.

Realisation had struck by this point that this pace was not only unsustainable, but utterly ludicrous – my legs were shot to bits. Ahead of me lay the biggest and longest hill of the course, at which point, my race plan was abandoned. I walked the hill. All of it. At the top of it was a toilet – I stopped in there too at which point I think the bluetooth/internet connection on my phone went, so the LiveTrack i had set up on my phone stopped. This meant Jodie and others thought I’d stopped, or switched it off in a huff. I didn’t! It just stopped working, promise!

bournemouthmap

The next few miles were around some park, some closed roads and were a bit lonely. It was a tough part of the course for me and it was a bit undulating too. I had decided by now that I was run walking for the rest of the race.

We eventually dropped back onto the promenade (for a change) and the last 6 miles were out and back along the beach. I was losing my sense of humour. It felt incredibly patronising for all these beach hut owners to tell me I was doing really well, even though I really wasn’t. I smiled politely and said thank you though. It wasn’t their fault I was having a bad race, and again, with hindsight I can say the support was excellent throughout.

With slightly more running than walking I eventually got back to Bournemouth Pier to see the finish line for the 5th and final time. I crossed the line, a bit emotional, and headed to the funnel to see Jodie. I had a bit of a “moment” with her and I was obviously disappointed but a 3.33 marathon is a time many would be proud of, and a marathon is a marathon.

Jodie had also had a tough day coming in a little slower than she would have liked, but still faster than her lowest target.

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It was a very well organised event, with great support. However we both really bloody hated the course. We also weren’t too impressed that everyone got the same tee shirt. All the 5k and 10k runners got the same T shirt as the half and marathon runners! Either way unfortunately we won’t be back for the half or the marathon, but I do quite fancy the 10k for a speedy time.

Analysis

In the cold light of day, and thanks to Strava, I can see where my race really went wrong.

bournemouth-analysisNot only was I too fast in terms of pace, in effort terms I was far too fast over the first half. In GAP I was running a GAP average of 7.04 a mile (3.05 pace) and if I then extend that to mile 16 it was 7.00 a mile (3.03 pace)! So its hardly any wonder I blew up.

firsthalfsplits

I barely felt like I was in 3.10 pace so to find I was actually running faster than that means that I wasn’t actually far off form wise (I don’t think) but not understanding/using my effort as a gauge is what really cost me.

My spring marathon is much flat, so with this in mind, a strong block of training having gotten through the bulk of life upheaval the last few months, I’m still encouraged that Mission GFA is on.

Strava Activity: https://www.strava.com/activities/731955875/overview

 

Greater Manchester Marathon 2016: Week 18 of 18

Its the last taper week and its been far from perfect preparation. I’ve been suffering from a cold, which, thankfully seems to have cleared up though it did have an affect on my running with my legs feeling fatigued. I’ve also been suffering from a wisdom tooth trying to sprout through, which has had an infection in its retaining sac. So I’m on antibiotics.

To top that off, on Monday I had a horrific stomach problem that felt like a cross between trapped wind and constipation. This made life very uncomfortable!

Now most antibiotics they say not to have with alcohol. I was told in no uncertain terms that I must NOT CONSUME ALCOHOL whilst taking these or I will be very sick. Thats not the worse news in the world,. I’ll take my last one on Sunday morning.

Tragically however, I am also not allowed to drink for 48 hours after the course has completed. That means I can’t have a celebratory pint! Still, the antibiotics have cleared up a very painful and irritating problem and I’m feeling much better for it.

I have been consuming mostly carby food this week in preparation for Sunday, and also trying to take on lots of fluid so I’m feeling pretty chunky, but its all for the greater good.

So, onto the training.

Midweek

Tuesday was a 5 mile recovery run. All my ailments seemed to be at their peak which made my run feel very leggy and heavy. I certainly didn’t feel like I was recovering but my Heart Rate looked OK, which makes me think my physical condition is actually OK. Sure physically i felt a wreck but at least i don’t have flu type symptoms.

Wednesday was the “Race Rehearsal“. This consisted of 3 miles progression to 2 miles at marathon pace, and 2 miles ramping back down. I felt better than I did on Monday, and the session itself went really well. Again, heart rate was right where I would expect it to be and I found myself clicking a bit which was a good confidence booster. I figure the training has made me more economical running at Marathon Pace, which is the point of the training I suspect! Pace wise I was probably a little quick, but my MP miles were net downhill so I wanted to make sure my body felt OK at the right effort level. Thankfully, it did. I really needed this run to go well, it was a great mental boost.

racerehearsal

On Thursday it was another 5 mile recovery run. heart rate well under control despite the net VERY uphill nature of the route I took. legs feeling better afterwards too.

parkrunday

Well given its the day before a big race it was a rather uneventful 3 miles at recovery pace in Basingstoke. Ran with Jodie, weather was glorious and the most important thing – my legs feel OK and I didn’t injure myself, so I should make the start line!

Summary

As I post this on Saturday afternoon, sat in the car as we drive up to Manchester, I’m quietly mulling over how the next 24 hours is going to progress. I’m not sure what I’ll eat for dinner but it’ll will either be the now traditional fish and chip supper, or it will be some pasta. I’d prefer pasta, but can’t forget that Lauren is also running her first marathon so we will probably go with whatever she wants. I’m not allowed a pre-race beer so that’s out of the window, all I can do is get an early night and look forward to my porridge and banana breakfast.

From a race strategy point of view, nothing has changed from what I posted last week.

  • 1-13 – Try and hover somewhere between 7:15 and 7:20 pace.
  • 13-22 – Try and hover between 7:10 and 7:15 pace
  • 22+ – I blew up by this point last year so it will be dependent on feel.I’m hoping I might be able to go a little quicker than 7.10 pace, but I may be back down in the 9s by then!

With this in mind I have my 3 goals.

  • “A” Goal – Sub 3.13 – This was my original target back pre race
  • “B” Goal – Sub 3.15 – This would be a Chicago marathon qualifying time
  • “C” Goal – Sub 3.20 – This would be a PB#

If I don’t PB I must admit right now I will be disappointed. I’ve trained very hard and have set various PBs at shorter distances along the way. Truth be told I’ll be disappointed not to hit my “B” goal but anything can happen come race day.

Time to see if all the training paid off! A.K.A. Squeaky bum time…

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.

3x1mi

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…

parkrunday

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 2016: Week 16 of 18

After the bulk of training was completed last week, this week was the start of the taper, with the key sessions being a set of Intervals and a target Half Marathon race.

Midweek

The first run on Tuesday was 8 miles with 5 sets of 600m intervals. Last time, I nailed the session, and despite running 22 on Sunday, this time was the same. A little slower than last time out but they averaged at 5.30 miling, so I was delighted.

5x600

Wednesday I went for a nice recovery run with Jodie, trying to let the legs recover for the race on Saturday.

On Thursday we went to Cardiff for the weekend for the Cardiff World Half Marathon Championships. I needed to get a run in, 4 miles with a set of strides. Whilst out, I saw the Canadian team out on their own recovery run, cruising along barely breaking a sweat!

Saturday

Well as we had a race on Saturday afternoon, it was our first Saturday morning without a parkrun for a very long time! So that was a bit strange! But it was all because we competed in the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships. I’ve written a full report on the event here.

My race was a mixed bag. I was targetting 1.27.xx and went out at a pace to achieve that. But after about 7 miles I realised that the pace was too quick and my legs started screaming at me. The awful conditions hit and I was unable to maintain close to the pace I wanted. My heart rate showed I couldn’t go any quicker as my effort was right up there.

cardiffhr

I think a combination of the afternoon race which meant my fuelling was well off, plus the weather, plus 22 miles last week all contributed. I think if I had tapered properly and if it was a morning race, I’d have been able to hit that 1.27. As it was I came in at 1.29.27, which was still a 40s PB which I am obviously pleased with – I just wanted to go faster. With this slightly slower time, I’m not sure what goal to set for Manchester now.

Sunday

Given that I raced on Sunday, I only ran a 5 mile recovery run. The first mile was agony but it got progressively easier, and I certainly felt better at the end.

Summary

Well, I am obviously pleased with a new HM PB – I’ve wanted to go sub-90 for a very long time, but I can’t help feeling a little deflated that I didn’t go quicker. But given the stage of the training plan, I haven’t done any threshold/tempo work for 4 weeks – which could also have contributed. The race really didn’t sit well in the plan and if it was 2 weeks earlier it would have been perfect.

My training has been geared around the Marathon, and not a Half Marathon. I still think my original target of 3.12 is viable and achievable. I’m less sure of a 3.09.  One thing I was pleased about with Cardiff was that in spite of the state of my legs for the last 6 miles I still kept my pace above the 7.14 per mile that a 3.09 would require.

I think I need to give things a week to settle, let my legs recover (As I write this on Monday, they are still pretty sore) and will reassess next week.

To be honest, I probably won’t make a decision until 8.59 on the morning of the race!

 

Greater Manchester Marathon 2016: Week 15 of 18

It’s over, I’ve reached the peak week and its downhill into the taper from here! Aside from my knee taking a little while to warm up on cold days I am free of injury and niggles. The weeks training has been solid if unspectacular.

Midweek

Tuesday was 7 recovery miles with a set of strides. Given the exertions of the weekend I went for form rather than speed and tried to concentrate on high knees and a lengthier stride which I think I managed to crack by the last rep.

Wednesday was a session I wanted to do well in. It was 10 miles with 4 x 1200m Intervals. Last year, I bombed out of this session as it was 2 days after my big Reading Half Marathon PB. 2 weeks ago, I bombed out of my 5 x 1km session. So my relationship with the longer intervals is not good! Despite running a quick 5k time on Saturday, I really wanted to try and get this session right. And I just and just managed to get all my reps under current 5k pace – 6.05m/m. Rep paces were 5:56, 5:55, 5:55, 6:04 (Just!) for an average pace of 5:58 which would equate to an 18:32 5k. Good confidence booster though I feel like I have reached my maximum top end speed for this training cycle and can’t see myself getting any faster without another block of structured work, with some more tempo running.

4x1200

Thursday ended with me thanking my lucky stars that there would be no more midweek long runs! They are my least enjoyable runs due to the slower pace and increased distance meaning that I just seem to be out for ages, in the cold and dark. I decided given yesterdays tough session to keep this 12 miler at a sensible pace and not perform any heroics. Despite nearly tripping over a few times I managed a good consistent relaxed run, despite the hills – I just took it very easy on the way back down! Knees are starting to feel the fatigue. No injury, they are just knackered and need a rest.

parkrunday – Volunteering!

As it was the day before a big local race, as a new club we held a parkrun takeover where we provided a load of marshals. It was the first time we’d been back for AGES and it was nice not to run it. I took on co-Run Director duties training up Jason and it was a blast.

I did need to run 5 recovery miles of course, which I completed running to parkrun.

Sunday

As I already mentioned, this was the biggest local race of the year. As a club we had 19 members and another 19 members of our Facebook group take part – Not bad for a new club! We got a great photo of those who were able to make it in time to the modified photo location (though it required some liberal photoshopping thanks to a minor error by our passer-by-photographer who couldn’t squeeze us all in!

I have written a race report for the club and you can find it here.

For my run, as this was peak week I wanted to make sure my time on feet exceeded my target marathon time whilst also peaking mileage wise with 22 miles. This meant being out for 3 hours 15 minutes and would need to average 8:45 miling.

I decided to pace the Yeovil Half at that pace for anyone that wanted it – I wasn’t going to deviate on my plan! I managed to bring 3 people in in sub-1:55, even though I paced it to 1:54 by accident! Great work from Becs, Simon and Vanessa!

There was an absolute classic moment when I saw a videographer on the course. I ran up close and shouted “Running For Time, Woo!” which was captured in all its glory by the local press photographer!

Credit to @snapperlen on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BDL6nI7pRnF/
Credit to @snapperlen on Instagram
https://www.instagram.com/p/BDL6nI7pRnF/

When I got to the finish I hand my goody bag to Becs who passed it on and I had it for me at home as I motored straight on to do the extra 9 miles. I wanted to go straight away, as last year I felt my broken up long runs contributed to my detonation at 21 miles.

Recently I have been toying with the idea of 3:10 pace, so I ended up running the second half faster so I could stay on my feet for that long instead. I hope this negative split will train my legs a bit to run the second half of the marathon a bit faster.

What I was most pleased with was that at the end of the run my legs felt strong, like they were conditioned well and well trained. I hope I’ve peaked at the right time!

Summary

As I said in the Intro, the main work is now over. Any training I do now is simply to maintain and keep the legs ticking over, whilst remaining sane through the dreaded “taper madness” where I’ll undoubtedly go through numerous crises in confidence and worry I’m going to inexplicably fall over and hurt myself!

Most importantly I need to remember my mileage is dropping so I need to eat less food or I’ll pile the weight on. Not what I’ll need!

Like I said earlier, I’m toying with the idea of “manning up” and going for sub 3:10. Next week sees my last tune up race in the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff. My target for that race is 1:27:59. If I can run that, then it’s game on.

 

Greater Manchester Marathon 2016: Week 14 of 18

Really getting down to the business end now, and following last weeks marathon paced beasting I seem to be riding along on a crest of a wave…

Midweek

The first run of the week was another interval session. 8 miles with a set of 5 x 600m. Last week, my legs just couldn’t carry me through any sort of speed at all. Given Sunday’s performance I wasn’t massively confident going into this one. I didn’t feel up for it and felt pretty tired. But, the lengthy warm-up seemed to work, and blasted through the intervals like I’ve never been able to before…

intervals

Average of 5:19m/m per interval. Now I only did 5 not the full 8 for a 5k session, and I’m not sure if I could have continued with any more, but lets so I could, that would equate to a 5k average of 16:31! Still a long way off that level though, ha ha!

Wednesday was a strange one. We had my grandfathers funeral in the morning, and the wake at about lunchtime and I ate a lot of food and had several pints. I did get a one hour nap in before my 11 mile medium-long run, but I felt the effects of it. It had some pauses, I felt really ill (probably drunk) and I really shouldn’t have gone out. But still, it was miles in the legs.

Thursday was a recovery 4 miles with a set of strides. Strides were decent but my legs were a bit knackered!

parkrunday – Poole parkrun

Jodie was off on a hen weekend and I was due another tune up race. I was originally going to do Blandford, but Simon was off to Poole so I thought I’d join him.

I’d not run Poole parkrun other than the day after New Years Day, when the conditions were awful. This time though, conditions were perfect. It’s already regarded as one of the fastest parkrun courses around, so fresh off the back of my PB, I thought I’d have a crack at an even faster time today and optimistically set my watch to pace me to 18:59. I figured with 20s leeway I may at least get another PB even if I didn’t dip under.

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We got there early, parked up at the far end of the lake and jogged in as a warm up. It was pretty cold first thing, though it did warm towards the end of the run. Conditions were absolutely perfect, not a hint of wind, dry, cool… After a run brief which was barely audible we headed to the start. It was back on the “main course” compared to last time. We were quite near the front and aside from a dog runner right near the front (why oh why…) we got away pretty cleanly. I immediately found a stride and rhythm I felt comfortable with, though looking at the watch it was a tad fast.

The first mile ticked over in 6.01 – my new fastest mile PB if nothing else! I knew I was working hard but was still hopeful I could sustain. As we rounded the lake the the first time we were at halfway. One of the great things about a fast 5k is that they don’t take long, so you can hold on! Mile 2 came and went in 6.09 which meant I was jsut and just on pace. It started getting tough and the back end of the lake was a bit of a blur the second time round. I had to take the racing line when we reached the road and by now I was clinging on.

As we tantalisingly reached the pavilion we still had a 400m loop of the cricket pitch to round… I looked at my watch and I was 1 second behind target pace. I kicked on a bit but felt like I kicked to soon – with 300 to go I felt like I wanted to be sick, but I clung on and somehow found another gear. As my watch ticked over for mile 3 in 6:08 it was on – close, but on! I was worried that I’d end up with 19:00 flat, or that my watch was mis reporting something, or the official time would be a bit behind so I gave it absolutely everything I had for the last 100 meters and crossed the line, stopping my watch without looking at it…

I heard someone say “well run” to me as I heaved in the funnel, I was ushered forwards and then I looked at the watch… 18:54! I’d done it! A 26 second PB, and the official result confirmed the time. I was absolutely chuffed as nuts and can’t believe that after a year of trying to break 20, I bunny hopped in the 19s and into the 18s!

5kpb

Simon also run a brilliant 18:28 which he was delighted with, only 18s off his PB at Blandford last year. We are on fire! It made for a very happy drive home!

Sunday

On Sunday a few club mates were running the local Sherborne 10k. I had to do 16 miles so I decided to run the race at an easy pace and then run home which was about the right distance.

Though it was a small, local race it was a lot of fun thanks to my club mates and the fact that we paced 3 members to PBS! I wrote the club race report about it here.

The remaining 10 miles were a bit of a slog, we got a bit lost and my new short shorts started chafing but the pace was decent and brought the average down.

The biggest challenge with this run was the weather – it was so bright and sunny! I was too hot by the end – that’ll teach me to wear long sleeves instead of a vest!

Summary

Well with that week out of the way it’s the last tough week ahead before tapering. A set of long intervals, a midweek long run, and my longest long run as time on feet (3.15 hours) resulting in my peak mileage week.

Just one more week… Just one more week..

Greater Manchester Marathon: Week 13 of 18

Halfway through the “Race Preparation” mesocycle, my body has really started to feel like it has been well trained – in more ways than one. Following an amazing weekends running I came back down to earth with a bang!

Midweek

Tuesday was 8 easy miles – or “General Aerobic” as P&D call it. And they were in my easy pace zone, and it felt easy, I felt comfortable, I felt on top of the world! I ended up going too quick though….

…as Wednesday’s 5 x 1k interval session was MASSIVELY compromised. I went out knowing that I didn’t feel right. The 3 mile warm up was comfortable enough, but as I got towards Ninesprings I needed the loo. The cafe toilets were locked though, so I decided to use my first interval to run to Morrisons. The problem was, the legs weren’t interested! I managed about a 6.40m/m pace which was disappointing. 2nd rep was much better, where I needed to be, and then half way through the 3rd rep my legs just told me they’d had enough. Totally out of juice. Hardly surprising given a 5k PB, a tidily paced 22 and 8 miles faster than I should have done the day before. So I shan’t be too hard on myself about it.

Given Wednesdays performance I went into Thursdays 12 mile medium-long run with a very easy pace in mind, keeping it right at the low end of the zone. Despite some tough climbs, including the “bunford bugger” I came through it “OK”. It was definitely high time I had a rest day.

parkrunday

On Saturday we visited Guildford parkrun. It was about a 40 minute drive which is close enough, and near where Jodie’s sister Lauren goes to university. Despite some navigational difficulties finding the car park we eventually got there, though it was FREEZING. I needed to do 5 recovery miles so I trotted off on my own and met them at the start line, as they also met Lauren’s friend Imogen who was doing her 2nd parkrun, though her first with a barcode!

I tried to hear the first timers briefing but it was quite quiet and wasn’t helped by people disrespecting the RD and talking over her!

The park itself was right in the middle of open streets, and consisted of 3 out and back “legs” as this was the winter course. Each of them had their own undulations and it was much tougher than I thought it would be!

Volunteers were as fantastic as ever. I helped to pace Lauren who was trying to push her boundaries a bit and a great time and would be worth much, much more on a flat course – probably a PB at Newbury. Imogen ran a time quicker than she did last time and Jodie was pleased with her time too given her pregnant condition and the inclines!

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The only downer was the length of the scanning queues. They were mammoth and slow moving. They had 3 scanners but something just wasn’t working and the queue length never went down until the last runners came in. I’d never seen a queue that big – and that includes Bushy!

Sunday

The big session for this week was Sunday. The biggest marathon paced run in the plan, and from a confidence boosting point of view I really needed it. Last time out I tried to do 18 with 12 at MP, around Basingstoke and just didn’t have it in me at all. Usually I like to do my Marathon pace runs in Yeovil along a nice flat road to simulate the race conditions.

Unfortunately as scheduling goes this week we ended up in Basingstoke again, and I was filled with Trepidation. I really didn’t think I was going to be able to do it. I was mentally already lining up the excuses – “I drank too much yesterday”, “I’m not using my own Garmin” (I’d left my charger at home) and “It was too cold”.

I went out gloved up and just got on with it though. Progressed nicely up to Marathon Pace, and aside from one mile (which was ridiculously uphill) I managed to get all my splits on pace. The average pace for my MP section was 7:17 per mile (7:16 using Strava’s GAP…) which would put my just below 3:11 for the marathon.

This is well in line with my primary goal when I set out on this training plan of sub 3:15, and also in line with my adjusted goal of 3:12:30. It’s also tantalisingly close the 3:10 though…

Are these my Bronze, Silver and Gold targets? Are they too close together and I’m setting myself up for a fall? I can;t help but think that on tapered legs I won’t be far away…

Once again I need to remind myself that I will see how Cardiff goes and I’ll assess it from there.

Overview

Next week is a mini-cutback (Is not cut back by a lot!) and I have another 5k race pace effort which I’m going to Poole for with Simon. I’m hoping to PB as it is a fast course, but anything sub-20 I’ll be happy with for consistency purposes.

Only 5 weeks until the race and only 2 more weeks of hard training before the taper. Getting exciting now!

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!