MK Marathon Weekend 2018

The MK Marathon finally arrived, along with the heat wave!

Sunday: MK Rocket 5K

On Sunday, the MK organisers host a 5k from the city centre out to the stadium. Its a particularly fast course, not that I would know as I spent most of the time focusing on running slower, trying to conserve energy for the marathon the next day! Rox took part and went for it, setting a new PB.

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It was great being able to do an event together, something that rarely happens now the kids are around. Afterwards it was time for some breakfast and then some shopping before returning home for some carb-loading and rest before the marathon.

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A lovely morning, but the most worrying thing was the sweat levels, and this was with a gentle jog at 9am in the morning. The marathon wouldn’t start until 10am, and it was predicted to be hotter!

Monday: MK Marathon

Arriving at the marathon I was lucky enough to have ‘VIP Access’ (get me!) and as such was able to sit in a lovely air conditioned room and catch-up with the other ambassadors. It was then onto the pitch for a group photo before making final preparations for the run.

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The Opening Miles

The 1st 6 or so miles are around the city centre and involve a few gentle climbs to get things going. The support is great in these parts, and I focused on holding my heart rate down at about the 160 rate, and this was going particularly well. The mile splits were about where I needed them to be for a 4 hour marathon.

Into the Countryside

After the opening miles, you turn off through a housing estate and onto many of the countryside footpaths / cycle paths that MK has. There was the welcome relief of shade being provided by the trees, and once again I struggled on Mile 7 for no apparent reason (exactly the same thing happened last year!). It was about this time that the HR went up and the mile splits also rose. I decided at this point today was not the day for a sub 4 hour attempt, but something in the region of 4:10-4:20 might be on the cards. Going through half way in 2:05 seemed to suggest things were going fairly well.

The Second Half

Everyone who has run a marathon knows that half way is really around the 20 mile mark. For me, it turned out to be about 15 miles. At the water stop at 15 miles I took on some water and starting feeling sick. I tried drinking some more and starting retching. That mile turned into a walk affair. I somehow then pulled it together again for Miles 16 and 17. However these miles have been the only marathon miles I’ve ever run when I would have happily dropped out if there had been an easy option to get me back to the end. From Mile 18 I adopted a walk-run strategy. Even at Mile 25, I was considering walk breaks!

The stadium finish was fantastic as always, and whilst the steps weren’t as welcome I did like the change that the organisers had made to have everything contained in the stadium. Returning back to the VIP room a slice of this cake from GBBO contestant, Ian Cummings, was a welcome way to start the recovery!

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The Medals

MK Marathon always take pride in their medals, and this year is no different. For taking part in both the Rocket 5k and the Marathon a bonus medal is awarded. 3 medals for 2 runs – fantastic stuff.

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Thanks to the organisers, volunteers and the outstanding supporters,  with everything from hosepipes and supersoakers through to oranges and jelly babies – they really do make this event special. This year has been extra special for me being an ambassador for the marathon which has somehow made me feel a bit more part of this fantastic event.

After initially being disappointed in missing my time goal, upon reflection I’m delighted with what I accomplished yesterday. At some points yesterday I was giving up marathon running, but today I’m back with some renewed enthusiasm. I’ve also just checked my position rankings through the race and turns out I moved up through the field despite the difficulties!

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Onwards to Snowdonia Marathon… with a small swim between now and then! I’ll also be back at MK Marathon next year for yet another sub 4hr attempt!

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Oakley 20–2018 (or not, as the case may be)

Oakley 20. I never remember to enter this race, and then when I do its sold out. Low and behold, this was my year. I remembered (well, I didn’t – I saw SarahCLoftus tweet that she was having issues entering), and there was I was entered. At last I’d get my hands on one those Oakley 20 hoodies that everyone raves about.

There were of course a couple of downsides. I’d just started a training plan, and the main selling point of said training plan – no 20 mile runs. Ah well. It coincided nicely with a 16 mile training run, so that’ll have to do. The other downside was I’d spoken to a couple of people who hadn’t exactly raved about it. But never mind, I was there at long last.

And, so it turns out, was the snow. I think the organisers did everything they could to host the race, but alas, at 5.30am on Sunday morning, the texts and emails arrived to say that the race couldn’t go ahead. Completely understandable. And it turns out I might get a hoodie anyway – sadly no refunds. (I’ve only ever had one other race fall victim to the weather, and that race offered a free place at the next running of the event, hence why I’m at Buntingford 10 every year).

What to do instead?

After enjoying a slightly longer lie-in than expected, thoughts turned to what to do instead. Driving my daughter to swimming in the morning I spent almost as much time assessing the state of the pavements as we drove along. Very strange in that some sections seemed completely clear, whilst other parts were still covered in snow/ice. That didn’t seem encouraging. Roads seemed fine, but again, didn’t really fancy running on roads in these conditions (a) for the sake of the drivers, and (b) for any ice.

That left another option of just not running and blaming the weather. I gave this some serious consideration until I realised how much running I’d already missed in this marathon build-up.

So that really just left hitting some local trails. And I called in a favour to run during daylight hours. It was fantastic. I went out without a care about times, and after taking 4 miles to warm-up and get over the cold, my legs starting working well.

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Indeed looking back at times, I didn’t suffer the slowness of miles once passing 12 miles as I have done in recent marathon training years. During the run I put this down to training starting to come together. With hindsight, I reckon I was because I’d carb-loaded for Oakley 20 the night before, and that coupled with my espresso gel at Mile 11. Note to self – nutrition makes a massive difference, and I’ve probably not trained enough to warrant ‘things coming together’.

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Onwards

I’m still managing a slight knee niggle (although, touch wood, that didn’t surface today). I think its from the jump in mileage having missed 10 days of training with that dodgy ankle and man-flu. As such I’m tweaking my plan to drop the mileage down slightly. I’m concerned I’m not fully following Hanson’s Marathon Method anymore, and I’m also not doing the traditional ‘long’ runs of 18 / 20 miles. But I’m going to see how things go and no doubt learn as part of the process (maybe painfully!). This week looks like:

M: 3 Mile recovery Run
T: Lunch Swim (hopefully) & 4×1.5 mile efforts (just faster than MP)
W: Rest
T: 3 Mile Recovery Run
F: 6 Mile tempo run (about MP which I’m aiming around 8:50 per mile) & Tri-Club Swim?
S: 8 Mile Run – hopefully including ParkRun #45
S: 10 Mile Run

(The Question Marks around the swims are because I’m just not finding the time. On Friday I was giving up swimming, but seeing my daughter swimming on Saturday morning made me re-think that. Lets give it another shot and see what happens!)

It was all going so well (or Weeks 6 and 7 of MK Marathon Training)

Week 6 – boom!

It started with 4 miles easy on the Monday, Tuesday saw some snow, and 9 miles with 12x400m repeats in the middle (hitting all the numbers needed). Wednesday was rest day, Thursday was a tough tempo day with 4 miles at (hoped) marathon pace.

Then Friday came. An enjoyable 4 mile run at easy pace, and then in the last 200m I landed slightly funny on my right foot. Nothing major, no twisting, but certainly noticed it. Ran the remaining distance, thought nothing more of it and celebrated an excellent week of training.

Saturday I could just feel the slightest niggle in my right ankle. I almost flipped a coin as to whether to run or not (no problems running, was just more worried about doing further damage). Ended up being sensible and left the running.

Sunday – nope. Limping around, constant pain. Not good. A little bit gutted I didn’t go for a run on the Saturday, quite a bit thankful I didn’t and make things worse.

Week 7 – Non existent

I took until Wednesday for my leg to feel ok again. On Thursday I was away with work, so decided that would be extra day of rest for luck.

Friday. Back on training. Kit packed for the lunchtime 4 miler. Woke with cold/flu like symptoms. Took all my energy (and multiple Lemsips) to get into work and survive the day. Saturday it continued on.

Sunday – not feeling great, but panicking about the lack of running, and the approaching marathon (and Oakley 20). Plan said 10 miles – no chance. Headed out to do 10k, but turned round after 2.5 miles for an easy 5 miler. Feeling better for it, back to plan tomorrow (with plenty of stretching tonight).

Its only a week missed, but its not half playing on my mind.

With this enforced running break though, I’ve noticed nothing but runners whenever I’ve been out and about. Can’t help by think the number of runners must fall into this mathematical equation:

No. of days since last run due to injury / illness

multiplied by

No. of miles the training plan says you should be running today

equals

Number of runners you’ll see whilst driving around, wishing you were running

MK Marathon and Hansons Marathon Method

Next week sees MK Marathon training start*.

*A little white lie there. I’ve been training for the past 5 weeks following the Hansons Marathon Method plan, but up to now its been some lovely ‘take it easy’ miles and getting the body set-up for the tougher sessions and 6 days a week of running. Can’t say I’m looking forward to the 12x400m repeats planned for Tuesday night.

Below is a quick re-cap of the past 5 weeks, before the training and blogging steps up a gear for the remaining 13 weeks or so…

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End of 2017 – Buntingford Year End 10

As is tradition, I lined up for Buntingford 10 at the end of December. Maintaining tradition I was undertrained, over-fed and resolving to be in a better place this time next year! Another fantastic running of this event, something I’ve run almost yearly since 2009. Great to catch up with club mates, fantastic way to end of the year and despite using the same course it was somehow hillier again this year.

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National Running Show

Next up was a day off training to head to the National Running Show in Birmingham. An excellent event bringing together loads of running suppliers and inspirational talkers. We took the kids along and as such weren’t able to catch the speakers – hoping to be more organised next year.

Great to bump into fellow MK Marathon Ambassador Baze187. His blog/vlog has been shortlisted for the The Running Awards – if you want to check it out see here: https://www.youtube.com/user/baze187 And I’m sure he’d appreciated a vote over here if you like what you see: https://therunningawards.com/ under the Online Publications and Personal Blogs section.

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I came away with a lot of goodies – I mainly went to get myself a Unilite head torch for Capital to Country Ultra next year – more about it later on!

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Swimming – Arun River

One disappointment from last year was a lack of swimming. I’ve put this down to not entering an event to give me the ‘fear factor’ to ensure I went to the swimming pool and do some open water swimming! To solve this I’ve entered the Arun ‘Iron Man’ Swim in June. This decision was helped by Glastonbury not being on this year. I’ve even been swimming 3 times.

Inaugural Letchworth ParkRun

Letchworth ParkRun has started. Yay! I went along to support at the inaugural event. Turns out its a tad muddy so I’m waiting to invest in some trail trainers.

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Running with a Headtorch – Unilite

The Unilite headtorch purchased at the National Running Show is amazing. The biggest problem with it is that it makes choosing a route to run much harder a night because of all the new options!

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Trail Running

The end of the fifth week of training ended on a lovely trail run, as a rare opportunity to run during daylight surfaced today. Legs feel good and most of the run was actually spent trying to slow them down.

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Week 6 in Planning

Monday – 4 Miles (Easy)

Tuesday – Lunch Swim and 12x400m repeats in the evening. :-/

Wednesday – Rest Day

Thursday – 5 Miles at Marathon Pace :-/

Friday – 4 Miles Easy

Saturday – 8 Miles Easy

Sunday – 8 Miles Easy

Snowdonia Marathon 2017

 

‘You not wearing your hi-viz jacket?’ asks Rox. ‘Nope, weather forecast looked alright and it seems quite warm – think I’ll be alright’.

‘Was thinking it’d be easier for mountain rescue to spot you’ were the final words of encouragement from Rox before I made my way to the start line.

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The Start

I was just happy to be here. 3 weeks ago when I did something to my calf I really didn’t think this would be happening. I wasn’t sure how far along the course I would make it, so vowed just to go for it and see what happens. I know from past experience that I also run much better when running regularly, so having the last 3 weeks off to let my calf recover was less than ideal preparation.

Catching up with Marathon Ste from Liverpool Running Club at the start was great and I’d spend most of the opening 8 miles running with him and Hayley.

The opening 2 miles are undulating and I set off at a fair pace thinking about bagging some time, half knowing that I was expecting to do some kind of walk/run strategy towards the end. Then came the 1st significant climb, and I made it to about half a mile from the top before being sensible and walking to make it easier on my calf.

The Views

Cresting the climb the view was spectacular (unlike last year where we were greeted with a wall of fog). Of course this year I’d decided not to run with my phone. Sad smile

The downhill then came and I opened my legs, things were feeling fairly good and I was keen to grab some time back. After this the ‘flat’ sections from last year suddenly appeared much hillier – evidently I must have been fitter last year. I can remember a hill at Mile 10 and thinking ‘but the next climb doesn’t start until Mile 14’.

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The 2nd Climb (and the start of the Walk)

Mile 14 saw me decide to walk and I spent the 2 miles climbing the hill trying to do maths in my head for potential finish times. It was looking like 5hr 30m, unless I started running some significant distance again – at that point I resolved to hold out for a sub 5 hour marathon.

The Final Climb and Muddy Descent

With much more running happening from Miles 16 through to Miles 22 (albeit being accompanied with a cramping calf) saw the sub 5 hour marathon being firmly on the cards.

The climb from 22 to 24.5 miles was very much a walking affair, and even with walking my heart rate was very high. The wall of fog hid the top of the climb (the flap jack at feed station at Mile 24 was most welcome) and cresting the hill again I opened my legs and started running hard, fully confident to having 22 minutes to run 2 down hill miles. Unfortunately the grass had changed to mud, and my Hokas really weren’t cut out for mud. I started slipping and sliding everywhere and decided walking was a better strategy – however this still resulted in just slipping and sliding everywhere.

Unfinished Business

This scuppered all hope of sub 5 hours. A new personal worst at marathon distance, but I couldn’t care less. I’d arrived at the start and somehow made it to the finish.

This was going to be my last Snowdonia marathon, but it now feels like I’ve got a little unfinished business so I’ll be back next year, hopefully with a build up to allow a performance to be put together.

Its such a fantastic event with great support throughout. Some of the highlights from this year were the people from MK at an aid station who recognised the Willen Hospice top, and then speaking to a Redway Runner who had run for Willen at London in 2014.

 

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A week of recovery coming up and then back into it hard ready for Country to Capital Ultra in January – which I’ll be woefully under-prepared for, before then turning attention to a big build for MK Marathon in May,

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Willen Hospice and MK Marathon 2017

In May 2017 I ran MK Marathon and Stirling Marathon. Now thoughts turn to Snowdonia Marathon in October to raise funds and awareness for Willen Hospice, an amazing local charity. I’ll be blogging my journey from here to the finish line. If you’re in a position to make a donation, however small, it’d be greatly appreciated. My JustGiving page is here, or alternatively you can text ‘GBMK50 £3’ to 70070 to make a £3 donation.

Many, many thanks to those who have donated so far, it really is appreciated, and really helped out at about Mile 19, Mile 20, Mile 21, Mile 21.5, Mile 22, Mile 22.5…. Smile

Snowdonia–A Week To Go…

It’d all been going so well. 2 marathons in May, incredibly similar times and some 20 minutes faster than my marathons in 2016.

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That was May and I was ready to crack on. A fortnight off extended to a month to include Glastonbury festival.

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A false start in early July, saw momentum pick back up in late July, albeit sidestepping any long runs. A work conference in Denver was amazing. Still, plenty of time to crack on.

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August saw an increase in mileage, but with only 2 long runs (and even then, *only* half marathon distance, struggling to go further with the hot weather and a mental block at 13 miles).

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September really improved. 2x 18 milers, joined with a 15 and another half marathon. Things were starting to take a turn for the better. Then Esme got admitted to hospital and running went out the window.

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Then the final opportunity to do a long run. Things going well, and then suddenly at 8 miles in my left calf goes. I hobble/run on for another 6 miles to do 2.5 hours and 14 miles. A calf strain and a physio recommending no running from then until race day – just in the hope it might recover and be strong enough to take on the hills. I’ve run 3 miles in 3 weeks.

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Will I make the start line – hell yeah. Finish line – well I’ll give it my best shot. Calf has improved non-stop since last week – if I didn’t have a marathon I’d be tempted to go for a run on it. 5 days and counting. Lets see what happens. At least I can’t blame being over-trained.

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Willen Hospice and MK Marathon 2017

In May 2017 I ran MK Marathon and Stirling Marathon. Now thoughts turn to Snowdonia Marathon in October to raise funds and awareness for Willen Hospice, an amazing local charity. I’ll be blogging my journey from here to the finish line. If you’re in a position to make a donation, however small, it’d be greatly appreciated. My JustGiving page is here, or alternatively you can text ‘GBMK50 £3’ to 70070 to make a £3 donation.

Many, many thanks to those who have donated so far, it really is appreciated, and really helped out at about Mile 19, Mile 20, Mile 21, Mile 21.5, Mile 22, Mile 22.5…. Smile

 

 

Snowdonia, an Ultra and MK Marathon

Normally I get caught up the New Year resolution whirlwind. Not this year though (well, truth be told, I probably will). This year I’ve got in early. More exactly, for me the 1st September is the new New Years Day.

I had a slight brain-wave. Annual appraisals at work generally happen in September, and that gives a good chance to reflect on the way things are going at work. Why not throw in personal reflection at the same time. Truth be told, it was pretty easy:

And then I received a place in MK Marathon 2018 via the MK Ambassador programme – so that really helped start to focus goals in 2018 and renew some mojo! It’ll be my 3rd time at an outstandingly well organised local race, with some lovely scenery and excellent support (by spectators and runners alike).

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Reading about the other ambassadors further resolved that mojo, providing some real inspiration. Hoping we could organise a meet up at a local ParkRun soon. To keep up with MK Marathon updates, their Twitter account is here: https://twitter.com/mk_marathon

Stopping before you start

Then Esme, our oldest daughter, started to come down with a fever. To cut a long story short, she ended up in hospital for the best part of a week with pneumonia, Delighted to say she’s made a good recovery, and just needs to rest up for a few more days to renew energy levels.

In this period, I managed to fail twice at a 15 and 18 mile run – bailing on both at 13 miles. Disappointing and not entirely inspiring for Snowdonia marathon in a few weeks. What do you do when you bail on a run like this – enter an Ultra of course! So I’ve entered Country to Capital 2018, my first Ultra, and if I’m honest I’ve no idea what I’m doing. I’ll worry about that a bit more after Snowdonia!

(I’ve also enter Buntingford 10 on New Years Eve, an excellent local race that I do most years – well, apart from last year, when it sold out before I got round to entering!).

Getting Started Again

Maybe 10th September is really destined to be the new New Years Day. With no cares about times, I headed out for what I’d hope would be at least 16 miles. I took in countless hills, suffered what felt like a monsoon and then saw some lovely autumn colours when the sun came out.

Apart from my hips killing me (lots more stretching required!), I managed to somehow put together 18 miles in a little over 3 hours. Its given me the belief I’m somehow manage to get round Snowdonia marathon.

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I must have been in a really bad way as Esme immediately went and got the roller when I walked in the house! (PS. Sorry for the awful photos, think my phone got a little bit wet on the run!)

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I’ve also started to make an appearance at the local running club on a Tuesday night to try and get some quality work in.

And then this Wednesday sees Race 2 in a local 5k series. Not feeling anything like 5k shape, but I’ll go, take it as a good workout and just see what happens (I somehow managed to PB there twice last year).

Upcoming Goals

Willen Hospice and MK Marathon 2017

In May 2017 I ran MK Marathon and Stirling Marathon. Now thoughts turn to Snowdonia Marathon in October to raise funds and awareness for Willen Hospice, an amazing local charity. I’ll be blogging my journey from here to the finish line. If you’re in a position to make a donation, however small, it’d be greatly appreciated. My JustGiving page is here, or alternatively you can text ‘GBMK50 £3’ to 70070 to make a £3 donation.

Many, many thanks to those who have donated so far, it really is appreciated, and really helped out at about Mile 19, Mile 20, Mile 21, Mile 21.5, Mile 22, Mile 22.5…. Smile