Sunday, 15 January 2017

Benfleet 15 2017 - January's Race

My lead up to today's race was eventful to say the least. A stress free run in the snow and slush Thursday was followed by a fall on the ice on Friday morning as I walked to the station. My butt took most of the fall but I put out my left hand to brace for impact and got up with it feeling a little sore. During my day in the office the hand got gradually more uncomfortable and swollen and I eventually gave in to my wife and colleagues calls to go and get it checked out, not before running 5 miles though. I couldn't have my sequence of 5 runs a week being broken! 4 hours in A&E later we had a splint and a diagnosis. A bad sprain and a small chip fracture, the little shard of bone had been moving around, causing trouble and leading to the swelling. The splint should be enough, come back Monday afternoon to see the specialist. Not ideal, but about as good as I was expecting.

I ran in the splint on Saturday, I felt tired throughout but the arm didn't effect me on my 5 mile test run. So I gave myself the all clear to run the 15 mile race as planned. I couldn't have my 2017 challenge stopped at the first hurdle. The Benfleet 15 is no ordinary 15 miler either. I had run this twice previously, but that was on the old course before it transferred to the Hadleigh Mountain Bike start. The new course was even more brutal than the old one, good size hills at both the start and finish, but with a lot of the middle section the same, the sticky mud, the grass, the wet, but mercifully pretty flat.

The big inclines on the course I elected to walk, my training has been pretty exclusively on the flat, and on the pavements, so the cross country surface and undulating terrain definitely weren't ideal for me. The arm meant I was a little more watchful, reporting to Lauren that I had fallen, and I would have been in the dog house bigtime! Thankfully I kept my feet throughout and made it safely to the finish via the monster climb at the end.

Today's race had the added perk of my Friend's Ross and Charlotte running and with their partners cheering, along with my wife we had a nice motley crew. Ross finished 5th and Charlotte and I, although running separately throughout finished within seconds of each other. A trip down to the Harvester for a burger and buckets of tea went someway to restoring my energy. I will add pictures to this blog later when I have them as well as my official time and position. Unofficially I have it as 2:17:42 for my tough 15 miles.

Once again if you could make any kind of donation towards my 2017 challenge on Justgiving that would be massive. I did run 15 miles with a broken bone, that's got to be worth a few quid. Here is the link:

Saturday, 31 December 2016

December 2016 - Round Up

This month was the final building block in my preparation for the challenges that lie ahead in 2017. It went pretty well. There was a distinct lack of long runs, just the one of 15 miles. I did manage to race and was pleased with my 35:08 at the 5 Mile Rudolph Run, that could well be my December 2017 race.

It was another record mileage month, beating the record I had set in November, I just ticked over 162 miles on my run today. I hope that record doesn't last long. There were 24 runs so an average of 6.75 miles a run. Other than the race I think my favourite runs were a frosty run around my favourite loop in Sandy and my Christmas Day run in Suffolk with my Brother Luke. It's always nice to run away from your regular routes and even better to do it with good company.

My already busy race calendar has found room for a couple more races. The most important of the 2017 races, The Marcus Gynn Newmarket 10K on the 2nd July is now paid for and in the diary. Another race also booked in is the Sandy 10 Miler. This has been on my radar for a while and I'm finally doing it. A good PB opportunity early in 2017. I'm still looking for a race in June after the rescheduling of the Southend Half Marathon. All suggestions are very welcome.

So there we have it, Month 3 and Week 14 completed. I have run 456 miles in the last 3 months of 2016 out of a total of 913 miles for the entire year. The sharp eyed among you will notice that bar a little rounding that is 50% of the entire years mileage in 3 months. I couldn't be much happier, perhaps a parkrun or two more and another one or two long runs but I'd give myself 9 out of 10 for the training block. Now onto the serious business of racing in 2017. 12 races booked and paid for already.

If you could find a pound or two to sponsor me in my 2017 Challenges it would be hugely appreciated. Here is the link:

Sunday, 4 December 2016

November 2016 Training.

Month 2 of my training in preparation for 2017 was another successful block. 158.2 miles run, why so precise you ask? After 90 months of running this was my biggest mileage month but only by 0.3 miles. Such fine margins, but a really pleasing target met.

I managed 21 runs, a longest run of 15 miles. No races, I missed St Neots Half as we had guests and so it didn't quite fit. Without the racing, it was just solid training runs, 36 - 38 miles a week across my 5 runs. I've had some illness at the tail end of the month, sore throat, cough and cold but I've managed to train through it and I seem to be through the worst of it.

December is a short month at work, but there's still plenty to cram into those three weeks before the Christmas and New Year shut down. I'll still find time for plenty of running, with some time off over the festive period and an extra day I'll be looking to set a new mileage month record, and hopefully by more than 0.3 miles. I've signed up for a 5 mile race next weekend and am hoping to fit in a December parkrun at some stage so should have a better gauge of whether all this training has been worth it or not.

Come back early in the New Year to see how my training and racing has gone.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

October 2016 Training and the 2017 Plan

It appears I haven't written a running blog since way back in August 2015. I think that probably gives you a fair indication of how well I have run in 2016. Prior to October my 2016 mileage totalled a paltry 457 miles. A 49 minute 10k in April, a pleasing 1:47 in the Half at Stratford upon Avon, keeping my streak of Southend Half Marathon's going in June and dropping out at halfway in the Berlin Marathon was all the racing I had done.

A number of factors then combined to give me a kick up my no good lazy butt. My abject preparation for Berlin meant using it as a training run was definitely the safest and best option and I didn't want to enter races only to perform way below what I was capable of. The second factor was the target I have set myself for 2017, to run at least one race a month, anything from parkrun to Ultra, all to raise funds for Sarcoma a charity that is raising awareness of this rare form of Cancer, that my friend Sophie's brother Marcus succumbed to in February this year.

Armed with this new found motivation and keen to start as I meant to go on I have thrown myself into training in earnest.

October saw me running 136 miles over the course of 19 runs. 4 or 5 times a week. I have only run more miles than that in a month, 3 times over the 7 and a half years I have been running and so it's been a start that me and my coaching team (supportive friends and family) have been really pleased with. It's been dominated by steady base building running, but I did make it down to Southend for a parkrun and finished 32nd in a time of 22:16, I was beaten by those younger and older than me and so some how managed to be first home in the Male 30-34 category. I've not been brave enough to check back at the results to find out how few turned up in that category but a win's a win.

Looking forward to November I will look to run 5 times a week, hopefully beating the October Mileage, even with a day and a weekend less. I also have another parkrun planned and would expect to beat my previous time, as well as running St Neots Half Marathon to see what shape I am in over the longer distance. Come back in early December to see how I have fared. #runformarcus

Sunday, 2 August 2015

The Next 17 Months

So after the disappointment of DNF'ing the Outlaw Iron Distance race, I have had a week to mull over what my future exercise plans might be. I have registered an interest in both the Outlaw full and the Outlaw Half next year, but having given it some thought I don't want to commit. The hours I need to dedicate to do myself justice, particularly for the full are too high and so the remainder of 2015 and all of 2016 will be dedicated to beating all of my significant running PB's.

I broke my 10k PB in May this year, but have since let my run fitness go, and so I don't expect to PB for the remainder of this year. The five months that remain of 2015 will be used to build up my mileage and have me in tip top shape come January 1st. I have already booked some races for the tail end of 2015, namely:

Sept - Grunty Fen HM. Running with my Dad, looking to get him round in sub 2.5 hours.
Oct - Southend 10k. Will see what shape I am in here. Will look to run this hard and use it as my start point.
Oct - Bristol to Bath Marathon. Have a 12 week block to get myself in shape. The way I feel after today's 9 miler I will be happy just to break 4 hours, but funnier things have happened.
Nov - St Neots HM. Have heard great things about this race, and I love the Half Marathon Distance. It's far enough away that I could run well there.

May try and get in a parkrun or in two as well. 5K's are a good measure of my run form and don't take a lot out of me.

2016 depends to some extent whether I get into the London Marathon. But even if I don't, I think I will enter a spring Marathon somewhere in the UK. I do have some races in my mind, but aside from the BUPA 10k, I don't think I have parted with any money yet. More specifically I have some time targets that I want to have reached by the time the clock strikes midnight on the 31st December 2016 they are:

5K - 18:59 - Current PB 19:21
10k - 39:59- Current PB 41:44
HM - 1:29:59 - Current PB - 1:30:05
Marathon - 3:19:59 - Current PB - 3:34:28

All of these are challenging some of them more than others, but I have generally averaged 20-25 miles in the 6 years I have been running and to hit these targets I need to be running 40 miles plus a week. As well as the PB's above I would like to tidy up some of my other times, namely 10,15 and 20 milers and I think those will come naturally if I hit the other targets.

It's a big ask, but I've put it out there and my team will do all they can to keep me on track. In the end though it's on me and I'm ready to hit my stretch goals. Let's go!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Outlaw 2015 - A Premature End

So after a 1:49 swim and a transition of nearly 11 minutes I was on my bike and pedalling with 2 hours on the race clock and it was only 8am. A pirate lady had got on her bike just before me and we played a little bit of cat and mouse on the way round the lake. I have never got on very well either running or cycling with company, enjoying my own space. I finally broke away and was free to fly/potter along. Once round the lake I saw my raucous support crew cheering me through the tight corners and out onto the open roads.

I wasn't feeling especially good, my stomach felt bloated as it was in 2012. I'm still not sure if it is ducky lake water or air that I'm swallowing and I felt very uncomfortable at the start of the ride. I was making decent progress, the wind was light and the weather good. The course was very similar to that of 2012 but had undergone some tweaks. First off we headed out to Car Colston, this was only maybe 12 - 15 miles in and in the previous edition I had been greeted by Luke and then the rest of the gang, but with the reroute I thought I would beat them there this year, which I did. Through I went, staying relaxed and seated wanting to conserve my energy. I was being passed by the odd biker who had come out of the swim behind me, it didn't knock my confidence, more pepped me up because there were people around me. In 2012 I stopped at a portaloo after 30 miles and barely saw a soul afterwards.

The first official split came at 16 miles and I was through in 1:02:44 and averaging 15.4mph. Very early days but well in excess of the 14mph needed to make the cut off. I wasn't feeling quite as strong after the first go round the southern loop and 38 miles in, just over a 3rd of the ride done. I was already trying to break it down, a quarter done a 3rd done. Although enjoying my own space, this far back in the race was a little too lonely even for me.

I was now heading out on a pretty busy road on the way to the Northern loop. During the ride there were quite a few of those speeding warnings 'Thankyou 14mph.' I did manage to hit a downhill one at 24mph which was a bit more like it. As I headed down this long busy road I was seeing plenty of the fast boys coming the other way having done the Northern loop but thankfully there were still a few of us trucking on for the infamous Oxton Bank. I had done it in 2012 but didn't remember it as particularly scary and even managed to take a guy over going up it, but that year the Bank was much earlier in the ride when I was riding strong. This year it came around 50 miles in when there was some fatigue in my underprepared legs.

Memories do fade and Oxton Bank was actually quite a tester. I brought out the granny gear though and spun my little hamster legs around, I did have to get out of the saddle in my lowest gear just to keep myself moving. Strava has a segment on the steepest bit of 0.4 miles and an average gradient of 7% I make it having 11.1% at its steepest. I averaged the meagre speed of 6mph. I still found Leonard waiting for me at the top, we had been bouncing back and forth through the ride, me and granny a little stronger on the climbs. Leonard stronger on the downhill and flat.

With Oxton Bank done, the rain began to come down in earnest. I was slowing noticeably now and the rain and traffic was in marked contrast to the dry, quiet country lanes of the first loop. I was just keeping my head down into the wind and rain and using my low gears way too much. My big gear only getting some use when I was on a downhill, showing you where my bike fitness is. Strava has helped me out again and has the Southwell loop measuring at 18.4 miles and I averaged 13.4mph.

Off the loop and onto the busy road heading back towards Car Colston, I didn't spot any landmarks on the way down and so the road seemed to go on forever. I lost it mentally here in quite a big way. The culmination of lots of different things just got on top of me. I was cycling pitifully slowly, the rain was coming down harder and I was soaked through, the rain was washing the sweat into my eyes and I really didn't feel too safe riding in the gutter with fast moving traffic going past. A number of riders I had seen earlier went past me and a new one called Amanda. These guys had all whipped out the ponchos and my poor lightweight yellow jacket was waiting patiently for me back in transition. I just wanted it over and Car Colston couldn't come fast enough!

Analysing it afterwards it was actually a gradually downhill but I wasn't feeling the benefit in my own little world of my discomfort and self pity. Finally, mercifully familiar points appeared. More smiling marshalls, absolute troopers each and every one of them. Every feed station was noisy and enthusiastic, all my water bottle grabs went surprisingly well. The marshalls on their own at lonely roundabouts were smiling and just a few kind words really roused my spirits. But my heart had gone out of it now and the 'keep smiling' 'well done, keep going' were outweighed by the demons telling me I'd done it before, telling me I had 8.5 hours more exercise in the rain before I got to become an Outlaw a second time. Do you really want to go through all of that? I spent the hour or so in the lead up to Car Colston weighing it up and the answer that I kept coming to was no I didn't. My cheer squad were in position and in good voice when I passed, but I gave the signal that it was all over. I talked it through with them, and a few cyclists passed as we were chatting which was nice as I wasn't last but I just couldn't face the 2.5 hours needed to get me round the southern loop and home again.

My bike splits from my Garmin look like this:
10miles - 38:23 - 15.63mph (section), 15.63mph (overall)
20miles - 40:46 - 14.72mph, 15.17mph
30miles - 42:05 - 14.26mph, 14.87mph
40miles - 43:41 - 13.74mph, 14.59mph
50miles - 39:20 - 15.19mph, 14.71mph
60miles - 41:22 - 14.50mph, 14.67mph
70miles - 47:19 - 12.68mph, 14.39mph
77.34miles - 34:43 - 12.69mph, 14.17mph

It looks worse than it is, obviously not showing wind, rain or gradients. I think the last loop would have suited me better than the northern loop, but there was definitely a fade be that mental or physical.

Lauren my wife was worried I would have regrets and I told her I didn't. Even now two days later I don't regret my decision. My only regret is that I failed myself so abysmally in my training. I could have made it to the end of the bike, I think I would have made the cut-off and been allowed to begin the run but I was pleased to go out on my terms and still in one piece.

I love the enormity of the challenge of Ironman, but I just haven't found the commitment to train for one properly, and when you don't they come and take a great big bite out of your butt. I will get all the pieces slotting together and produce an Ironman training and race performance I can be proud of it, but it might not come for years. I intend to stay fit be that with running or something else physical and when I feel ready I will fully commit to the monster that is an Ironman. Hats off to all those who have completed an Iron distance race, you are all mental and especially well done to the Outlaw class of 2015, it was a toughie.

Thanks to my wife Lauren, Mum and Dad, Luke and Amber, Jan, Dan and Henley the dog. You were all great supporters, sorry I couldn't finish the task and really give you something to cheer. Also thanks to all the Facebookers and texters who have helped pick me up when I've been feeling really flat. I have done over 100 races and this was my first DNF, it hurts, but it's not over. We go again.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Outlaw 2015 - The One With the DNF - Part One

Just a quick bit of background before I dive into how my day went at the Outlaw on Sunday. I completed this in July 2012 in a time of 16:05 and even made it onto the Channel 4 coverage for my 5 seconds of fame, unfortunately it wasn't a speaking part, just me running down the finishing chute. In the 2012 instalment I had swam half distance in the pool a couple of times, never swam in open water and only cycled half race distance over a rolling route once in my build up. I had done LEJOG in 13 days the previous year, but that fitness had most certainly gone a year later. I had a few years of running behind me and this was by far the discipline I was most comfortable with. The day was epic and a day of firsts, my first wearing of a wetsuit, my first open water swim, my longest swim, my longest cycle, my first triathlon, my first Iron distance race completed. Lots of boxes ticked but not a time I was particularly pleased with.

A few years later, having watched my brother Luke perform well at the Outlaw in 2014 and with my brother Joe in Australia really throwing himself into Iron distance racing I thought it was time for me to throw my hat back in the ring and go long. You have to book a year out due to the popularity of the event. Lots of time for me to knuckle down and do all the training I should have done last time. It didn't happen.

Running - 763 miles - 20 mile PB and 10km PB. In very good shape in May, Have taken my foot off the gas since June.

Bike - 311 miles
73 miles of commuter riding in 9 trips.
10 miles of gentle riding home after swimming in 2 trips.
228 miles of road biking on mainly flat terrain over 7 trips. Longest ride of 56 miles with little to no hills.

Swim - 2 swims. One 25 minute swim, one 35 minute swim.

All of this meant it was going to be 2012 all over again, lots of suffering and a race to beat the cut off.

To add insult, to being hugely unprepared was the weather forecast for Sunday of rain starting at 11am and not ceasing until 11pm. My legion of supporters were warned of the weather and told not to worry if they wanted to skip it but they all came back positively and they would be there ready to cheer me on my quest to become an Outlaw a second time.

Lauren and I got through the process of registering me, servicing bike, racking bike, preparing kit bags, attending mandatory, dull, long, rehashing all the things I had read and reread in the information booklet. But finally we had done the formalities. One good thing to come out of the day was I got chatting to a guy called Ian and we exchanged some tri stories whilst having an alcohol free beer as we waited for the briefing to begin. We did also get to spend some time with Jan and Dan before we headed back to the hotel for dinner and an early night.

Race morning we were up at half 3 and after some fun and games with temporary outlaw tattoos we were out the door at 4:15. Finally got the car parked and began to make our way down to the start. I put my last few bits into my kitbag and got my 2second water bottle on the bike, checked the beast was racked alright then headed back to Lauren. Everyone else seemed very relaxed, some were in their wetsuits but rolled down to their waist. Others were in their casual gear and didn't have a care in the world. Lauren and I on the other hand were doing our double act trying to get me into my wetsuit. We had found a few minor tears in it the night before and used the wetsuit glue to attempt to close them up. I think we did a pretty good job of it to be fair, but as soon a I got the wet suit on and heaved it into position a whole new set of 4 holes popped open. Glorious! We elected against gluing them as they wouldn't set in time. Now fully in my wetsuit, but not at all comfortable I gave Lauren a kiss and headed for the start area proper.

Once there I bumped into Ian and we wished each other luck and said we would look out for each others results then headed for the water. I was nervous but just pleased to be getting going. I warmed myself in the lake and waited anxiously for the starting hooter. Off it went at 6am, 17 hours to get this thing done! I probably picked the wrong pen and position again this year, 3rd pen and midpack. Knowing I was on for a 1:40-1:50 swim. I paid for this choice with wacks around the head. I make quite good time in the first 500m as I get pushed along by the masses. When I was still getting hit after 1,250m the novelty had well and truly worn off, but at least people were still around me.

I was trying to check my time at every 250m marker, the only way I could do this was by stopping swimming, putting my arm under the water and waiting until the murk cleared for me to read the time before setting off again. I was aware that this may have given anyone watching me the impression that I was dead, face first in the water, but I did try and do it for just a few seconds before going back to the business of swimming. One highlight of the outbound leg was a swam of ducks/geese going overhead only for one of them to divebomb a poor swim 10 or 20 metres to my right. I hope they were ok, that would have really put me off my swim!

Finally mercifully I saw an orange buoy ahead of me. I had got quite lonely by this point and it was nice as I turned right to find some company. We had all spread out across the lake and having to go around the buoy meant we all came back together. Across the lake we went and then we were heading back to the finish, an incredible feeling. Now I was on the homeward leg and I was checking my watch as the markers were getting ticked off. I thought I might be on for 1:42 - 1:45 and my 2012 effort was 1:50 so I was very happy. Just keep on trucking. I felt a noise was following me, but my sighting skills are appalling and I was doing all I could to stay afloat so couldn't locate the sound or respond to it. I was still managing to find people to bump into, and I was convinced at the time that I was swimming straight and true and it was my fellow competitors going off line. But my wife took great joy in telling me it was a bit of both and that I probably swam 4.2km not 3.8km with all my zigzagging around. She did also spot my timechecking / play dead act and said the canoeist were keeping a close eye on me. I was oblivious and was convinced they were further over looking after other people.

The finish line seemed to take forever to come into proper focus, and even then 250m was taking me nearly 8 minutes and so it really was an age away. Finally, ever so slowly I was pulled ashore. My legs were giving up on me and I grabbed a barrier for support. My lovely crowd of supports gave me a huge roar and the announcer got my name, I guess off the chip time flashing up. My legs finally got the message that they still had 14-15 hours of work to do and got moving. I was helped out of my wetsuit by the wetsuit strippers, even if I did resist their advances.

Into the transition tent I went, way down deep into the transition tent. Grabbed my bag, laid it on the bench and got to work on taking what I wanted and discarding what was excessive. Finally after what felt like forever I managed to get off my tri suit, put on my cycle shorts, top, heart monitor, Garmin, helmet, socks, shoes and with failing hands managed to get some nutrition into the back of my top. The tights, jacket, chamois cream and sun tan lotion were all left in the bag. Then I was out, more cheers from Lauren, my parents, Luke, Amber and Jan. I think by this point Dan had taken Henley back to the camper van. I was off bike hunting, and what a straight forward hunt it was. The one advantage of taking 1:49 to do the swim and nearly 11 minutes to get through transition is that your bike is one of the very few left in the lot. I grabbed my trusty specialised allez with my much loved granny gear and headed for the exit. Over the mount line and we were off. 112 miles in 8 hours please sir. To be continued tomorrow.