Sunday, 19 February 2017

Test Track 10 - Much More My Style

After my downbeat blog after last weeks Saltburn Half Marathon I am very happy to report much better times at the Test Track 10. This is a local race, one I haven't done previously, it's at the Ford centre and is around the test tracks and surrounding support roads. There is quite a bit using the banking, think a cycling velodrome, but we ran along the bottom so it wasn't too steep, there was the occasional incline, one of which was pretty brutal, but it was generally flat and the weather was not far from perfect, a little wind but nothing too great, all in all my kind of event.

Lauren and I got there just after half 8, an hour before the race start, lots of parking, race start very close by, so we could relax in the car before getting out for the race. I managed to drop and then lose one of my safety pins and so had to go for the three pin formation. The number did stay on this time though, unlike at Saltburn last week. I also managed to get GPS signal and get my heart rate monitor working before the go. I decided to skip the warm up, aerobics and co-ordination really aren't my specialism. We lined up and I was in the second row and we were off. It was fun to be in the front group, maybe in 10th and it wasn't for 100 metres but probably the first 500 metres before I decided this was far too fast for me so eased back. I haven't felt in a race like that, probably since me and Luke nearly lead into the first corner at Bromley parkrun.

I went through the first Kilometre in 4:08 my pre race target had been 4:30-4:40 (1:12 - 1:15 finish time)I felt good and was keen to get some time in the bank. My 10 Mile PB was 1:12:05 and so 4:30's were really the top end of where I wanted to be. The km's ticked on 4:12, 4:19, I was working hard and got to see Lauren. The looped nature of the course meant I got to see lots of Lauren over the 10 miles, it was a really nice little pick me up every 2 or 3 miles. 4:15, 4:18, 4:15 got me through 6km's just over 90 seconds up on 4:30 pace, probably a little too much, but I like to race hard. There were runners around me throughout the race, maybe not right on my shoulder but definitely close by, a nice change from the lonely desolate run along the cliffs last week.

I looked down at my watch half way through the 7th kilometre and realised the early pace had gone, and we were in my regular mid-race holding pattern. 4:30 now became the target pace in the hopes the time in the bank from that early burst would be protected. 4:32, 4:36, 4:25, 4:29, 4:31, 4:33, 4:31, 4:34 gets us to 14km. All look nicely paced, slightly different profiles and some wind with some wind against. What those splits don't show is I was working really hard, particularly the one decent incline on the course as you came down towards the finishing straight you turned right and round one of the banked sections. It was steep and both times I ran it, my body was screaming to have a walk up it, but I managed to keep turning my legs over and running it. Once you reached the top there was a nice downhill section then onto the finish straight which let me recover. As I went past the start/finish line with 2km to go I felt the beginnings of a stitch, and where I had been smiling and waving at Lauren each time I saw her, at this point I was really grimacing. I felt if I could just hold it together a PB should be on, but if I started to fall apart the time I had gained early on would soon evaporate.

The 15th km split was 4:41, I was clinging on, there was another banked section and I took over a couple of back markers, it was hard because you had to go up the banking and work hard to get past them. As I entered the last km and then the final straight I was overtaken by a small group of runners, that was a big help and gave me a little kick to get moving again. I wasn't racing them for position but trying to use them to spur me on for a sprint finish and to ensure the PB. Coming into the finishing chute I knew the PB was mine and as I looked down to stop my Garmin I was well inside 1:11 for the race and a final split of 4:11. The official time has me at 1:10:36 and 35th out of 287 runners a PB by 1 minute 29 seconds! I have worked really hard for the last 5 months and today was the first big dividend. If I can keep working hard, this should be the first of many PB's over the rest of 2017. The only slight blemish on an otherwise perfect race was the negotiation needed to get out of the carpark. The race had quietened down but the Marshalls were keen to keep us penned in for another hour for every last runner to finish. Thankfully they relented and we were safely on our way out and headed home before a cracking Birthday Roast dinner at my parents house.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Lack of Mental Toughness

This is my story of the Saltburn Trail Half Marathon. Now before I begin my sad tale, let me first say the race is brutal, the course is tough, the marshall's and cameramen on the route are made of stern stuff to be out there in the weather we had and to still be cheering us on and supporting us. The organisers have created a course along the coast using public footpaths to really test even the toughest runners. It was enough to almost break me.

I am a fair weather runner, a flat track bully. I like to be out there in mild conditions, on the road, on the flat, not a puff of wind. That is where I enjoy myself, pushing my limits to go as fast as I can without mother nature or the course have too much say on my performance. I have shown in my 3 DNF's from a 100 or so races that I don't handle adversity too well. The Outlaw Iron Distance triathlon Part 2, the Thunder Run 24 and the Berlin Marathon. In any event I do, particularly in difficult conditions or over long distances I need a reason for being there.

In the Outlaw I had done it before, I had failed to train adequately again and couldn't find a reason to slog it out for another 8 hours to get the thing done. At the Thunder Run the heavy rain, the thunder, the lightening I couldn't find a reason to endure another 12 hours of that. At the Berlin Marathon I took the easy option, I had done more than 10 Marathons, I had failed to prepare adequately for this one, and so perhaps quite sensibly decided pulling the pin at halfway was the right option. A good training run done without too much damage to my body.

The Saltburn Trail Half Marathon could very easily have been my fourth DNF, the only things keeping me going were the fact I was raising the money for Sarcoma and not wanting to let Marcus down. The fact that if I did quit I would be cold, wet and in the middle of nowhere did also encourage me to get the thing done. The telephone calls to Lauren and Jan for some moral support were also a huge help to get me to the finish. So today I had my why, my reason to finish.

Even when I do manage to complete in these conditions, I still struggle to perform anywhere near my max, where as my brother Joe got 3 punctures on his first Ironman in appalling conditions he sucked it up and got it done and got it done well. I tend to throw my toys out the pram and once my A goal has gone I struggle to refocus. For this race I didn't particularly have an A goal, it was a race that was at the right time of the year in the right location and so I didn't start in the right mental place. When the weather was 45 mph winds, sleet hammering my face, once I had fallen twice, my recently healed broken bone and sprained wrist throbbing I was not in my happy place, I was a long way from it.

I had fallen on my butt and a guy asked me if I was ok and then told me to get out the way, which really got my back up. I was slip sliding all over the shop in the mud, keen not to fall again, only having eyes for the floor and the path in front of me. I had another guy ask to get past on a narrow section, for me the onus was on those guys to get past me. I had my own issues to worry about like staying upright, I didn't want to be looking over my shoulder and easing aside for every fella who wanted to race in the middle of the pack with me. I got a little rush of adrenaline and decided to go on a little burst and was hurdling brambles and taking over three of the guys who had recently passed me. The rush and anger soon subsided and I eased off, the 2 hours of trudging that still lay ahead of me were at the forefront of my mind.

The women I met on the course were totally different and as I was struggling we had some nice running chats and that kept my legs turning over. One of which I had met at the leisure centre before the start of the race and we then ended up running some of the last mile together which was great. I must have spoken to 3 or 4 guys or girls during the race and they were all having a lovely time, and I think they genuinely were. It just really brought home to me that this type of race isn't what I am about. In all the training goals, mileage targets, pace goals, you sometimes forget that you are actually meant to enjoy it. These cross country, trail races, mudfests, aren't enjoyable to me but cruel and unusual punishment. My race schedule is pretty booked up to October and it is predominantly road races with the one crazy 24 hour race. After that 24 hour race in July it is going to take one hell of a race or for me to have a total change of heart to get me back into these crazy races.

So I think I will leave my tale of Saltburn Half Marathon misery there.

The downsides:

- It was 15 Miles not 13.1 Miles
- There were 45mph winds, rain, sleet, I don't think there was snow.
- Mud, so much mud.
- Two falls.

The upsides:
- The donations that came in before I raced and since, they've brought home why I did it.
- I got it done. In just about 3 hours. Think the official time will have me just over.
- The phonecalls with Lauren, I would have been completely at a loss without them.
- The race schedule is now free of these crazy races.

Sorry for the downhearted race report. I am still on for a good mileage month in February it's my birthday Thursday and I have a nice flat 10 mile race round a race track on Sunday. I just need to hang in there for 2 or 3 more months and all being well should have a PB or two to my name and be in good shape to tackle my other PB's in the 2nd half of the year. I was one of the only half Marathon runners with my bare legs out and I'm sure Marcus would have been pleased I was part of the still in shorts brigade. Come back next week for a more upbeat blog.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

January 2017 - Challenge Update

I am now into my 19th training week post Berlin Marathon fiasco, but only one month into my 2017 challenge. The base built in the last quarter of 2016 is yet to be truly tested. The mudfest that was the Benfleet 15 wasn't really the place. I have a busy race schedule coming up, a parkrun at my PB course of Albert Park in Middlesbrough, followed the next day by a trail half marathon, my birthday in the middle and then a local 10 mile race the following Sunday. All exciting and a couple of chances to really gauge where my fitness is at over the shorter distances.

The month of January went well, it's a really busy time of year for me workwise being an Accountant. Only 2 days off from the 3rd - 31st January. The work all got done and pleasingly so did the running.

- 22 Runs
- 163.5 miles (record high mileage month)
- 18.01 miles (longest run of any kind since April 2015, longest training run since October 2010)
- 2 races (1 new parkrun, Basildon, 1 15 mile X-Country)

All very pleasing, a long run or two short of perfect. Outside of the 18 and 15 milers my next best efforts were two 10 milers. But another month ticked off and my streak of running 5 times a week marches on.

Still looking for donations and another £60 was donated after I ran the Benfleet 15 with my hand in a splint and that was really pleasing. There are rumours of a potentially huge donation, and that would be incredible. All donations great or small though are massively appreciated. Here is the link if you feel so inclined.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/runformarcus2017

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:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/runformarcus2017

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:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/runformarcus2017

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.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/runformarcus2017

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