Race 12 of 12–Buntingford Year End 10

And so we have it. The day I’ve been looking forward to for quite a while now. The last and final race of the year, and ultimately this challenge.

This race always sees a slight change in preparation from the usual running races. Changing to turkey and Brussel sprouts for nutrition (from the usual pasta), and using Quality Street and After Eights for carbo-loading rather than… well I’m not sure. Add into the mix plenty of alcohol its fair to say Christmas was rather enjoyable. This race however wasn’t.

Having been in Ironman base training for the past few weeks (and a couple of weeks rest before then), 10 miles would be the longest distance I’d run for a good couple of months. I set off for the 1st 2 miles trying to replicate the form I was showing in October, which went fine. Mile 3 though and the inevitable stitch and sore legs came. These stayed with me for a good 4 miles before strangely I came back to something resembling life for the final 3 miles of the course.

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I remember doing this race in 2009, my first ever race in Hertfordshire. Now having grown up in Hertfordshire (and not having been a runner in that time) I was under the impression that Hertfordshire was flat. This course back in 2009 made me realise that it well and truly wasn’t. I must have removed some of these hills from memory as I’m sure there were more of them this year, despite it being on the same course.

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Another fantastic race in Buntingford, and ultimately after a bath, sandwich and cup of tea it was a very enjoyable experience. I’ll be back next year for certain, maybe eating slightly less chocolate and drinking less alcohol. Well, maybe…

Isabel Hospice

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This saw the 12th and final race this year for Isabel Hospice. Its been a truly remarkable and enjoyable journey. For full details please see here. If you’d like to make a donation, please see here. Thank you.

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Race 11 of 12–Stevenage Half Marathon

Its taken a while to get round to writing this blog post – basically a fairly hectic couple of weeks in work! But still, better late than never I guess.

Arriving at Ridlins Athletics track for the 11th as part of the challenge (and actually my 5th race in 6 weeks!) I once again didn’t really know how to approach the race. Both me and my mate were eyeing up a sub 1hr 40m performance. After standing around in the cold debating whether we should just become summer only runners we eventually built up the bravery to get changed and then joined the queue for the baggage tent. In this queue I spotted @Soggous looking very professional and warming up on the track. Unfortunately by the time the queue had gone down I’d lost sight of her and thus another tweet-up went passing by.

Moving to the start line we wondered past the 2:30 marker sign, past the 2:00 hour sign and then suddenly found ourselves about 2 runners from the front. A great starting position, but unfortunately it might I spent the 1st 7 miles of the race just being overtaken by people – very uninspiring! Coupling this with an empty feeling in my legs and some calf pains at about 2.5 miles I was very tempted just to drop out after the 1st lap.

Then something changed at Mile 8 and things just seemed to come together. A shout out from a member of my tri club, who was spectating, at about this time also helped to spur me on. Fairly gutted to cross the line in 1hr 42m 8s, but another PB – just wished I sneaked in 9 seconds earlier!

Another thing to point out is I think mile 6 of this race signified 1000 running miles for the year. Another goal ticked off the list. Unfortunately with this being my last half marathon this year I does mean a sub 1hr 40m time will have to wait. I can’t be too disappointed though – I was only dreaming of going sub 1hr 45m this year – something which I never thought would actually happen, let alone twice in a matter of weeks.

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Isabel Hospice

Once again this was race 11 of 12 from this years challenge to raise money for Isabel Hospice. If you would like to donate please visit my JustGiving site. Many thanks.

Race 10 of 12 – Great South Run

Another Sunday, another race. Or at least thats how it felt! After travelling down to Southampton on the Saturday and enjoying a nice little shopping trip, it was an early start for the short drive to Portsmouth.

Thinking we’d left too early, suddenly we hit the traffic and it took us close to an hour to get to the sea front for the main car park. Jumping out of the car, and joining a relatively short queue for the toilet in the car park, the guy on the PA announced that he didn’t understand why we were queuing as the other toilets were empty. We headed over that way to find out that he probably couldn’t see the massive queue round the corner for them. That ate up all the preparation time and we decided to dump the bags in the car rather than search for the baggage area.

With all these delays, it resulted in me missing my allocated start pen of ‘Orange’ and so I sneaked into the ‘White’ wave. The 1st 2 miles were incredibly slow, due to the sheer numbers of runners on fairly narrow streets. On more than 1 occasion we were reduced to walking pace. Things spread out a little after the early miles and I managed to get my pace on track, but ultimately couldn’t grab back the earlier lost time.

Watching the highlights show yesterday I realised how little of the scenery I took in. I think this was mainly due to clock watching too much and also being wary not to clip peoples feet as the course was incredibly busy.

Still, as per all the Bupa Great Run events this year a pretty good atmosphere out on the course. Finishing with a new PB of 1hr 18m 59s it sets something of a target for Buntingford Year End 10 miler – the final race of the 12 in 12 series for me.

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The nightmare of this race though was trying to leave the Sea front car park afterwards. After sitting in the car and not moving for an hour we decided to get out and grab some chips and a coffee. Eventually we managed to get out the car park at about 3.30pm, some 3 hours after finishing the race. Of course once we got out the car park, we just ended up joining the queues in Portsmouth.

Unfortunately due to the travel problems, I suspect I’ll not be returning in a hurry to this Bupa Event.

Isabel Hospice

As with all the other races I’ve done this year, this one was run to raise money for Isabel Hospice. If you would like to donate, please visit my JustGiving site.

Race 9 of 12–Cardiff Half Marathon 2011

Where to begin? Not really too sure. I could start with tired legs from Liverpool Marathon the week before. I could also start with a secret hope for running sub 1hr 45m for a half marathon at some point this year – something that changed from a hope to a possibility after the Great North Run some 4 weeks back (completed in 1hr 47m). I could also start with food and drink with some very good friends parents just outside Cardiff on Saturday night.

So turning up just in time to make the start but not actually make it to my pen the race got under way. Meanwhile Rox and Mel were enjoying the atmosphere along with the other runners.

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Upon starting I decided I’d just go for it and try and get that elusive sub 1hr 45m half marathon. The first mile though had other ideas as I struggled to find any room at all. I couldn’t even weave in amongst people. It eventually spread out a little in mile 2, but needing sub 8 minute miles for 13 miles, and the first being around 8m 30s didn’t bode well.

Then at mile 3, with the temperatures rising, my legs just turned empty. I had no idea why, and then I remembered the little matter of the marathon the week before. I decided to run sub 8 miles for next the 3 miles and then at half way I’d just back off and enjoy the scenery. By mile 7 I was just talking myself into running the next mile at sub 8 minute pace, and this continued for the next 6 miles.

At mile 9 I worked out I had 30 minutes to do the last 4 miles and I’d actually be getting a sub 1hr 40m. Motoring for the next half mile just to turn a corner and see a great big climb, hope along with pace vanished.

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Crossing the line in 1hr 42m 54s I completed an unofficial aim for this season. And even came away knowing that with a flatter course and a faster start, a sub 1hr 40m might be on the cards.

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Race 8 of 12 – The Liverpool Marathon

Arriving in Liverpool Friday night and meeting friends in a pub and sinking a few lagers probably wasn’t the best preparation for a marathon. But it was a sign of things to come. Plus I hadn’t put in nearly enough training either (PS – like the style of getting all the excuses in at the very start?)

Waking Sunday morning about 20 minutes later than originally plan I darted out of the hotel room and half way down the street realised I’d left my Garmin behind. Back I went. At this point I also realised I’d not packed any gels. I also had new running socks on – think I’ve managed to break all of the unspoken marathon/race day rules.

Arriving at the start it was great to be wearing my Liverpool Running Club vest, which meant lots of old faces came up and said hello – plenty of old running coaches and runners from various squads were there, and I think I said hello to most. Also managed to bump into 2 old work colleagues aswell, along with @Sidowski.

The Wirral

The race was essentially split into 2 halves – around 13 miles on the Wirral before passing under the River Mersey and round Liverpool to complete the marathon distance. It started in Birkenhead Park (the template for New York’s Central Park), and the crowds at the start were fantastic and were just a sign of things to come. Not really knowing the Wirral I just kept my head down. The start was incredibly slow (and I’m not even talking about the delayed start here) and we probably continued walking for the 1st quarter of a mile or so. After that I started to find a rhythm and started feeling quite good.

Running back along the promenade and taking in the breathe-taking views of the Liverpool skyline things were going pretty well. It was surprisingly hot though and I have to say I was feeling it.

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Coming out of the Birkenhead Tunnel the masses of support were waiting. It was literally 10 deep in some places, and took me straight back to my London experience in 2010. I’d run the entire length of the tunnel and my legs felt surprisingly good. A little route round the city centre before taking on the myth of Upper Parliament Street – a good 0.5 mile climb from the docks to the outskirts of Toxteth. They use a very similar route in the half marathon and I’ve always found it quite a nice little run, although it does come in the first couple of miles on the half marathon course. Not so nice this time due to the 15 odd miles before it. What was great was that my former running club had a cheering point around this area and grabbing a couple of Jelly Babies off them meant I set in off up the hill in good spirits.

Whilst successfully taking on these hills, I can’t help but think they ultimately took their toll in Sefton Park. Firstly I dislike Sefton Park at the best of times. It was here I started running and I’ve never really completed a full loop of it. This marathon course wasn’t even a loop, it was a strange horseshoe type set-up which meant we were in Sefton Park for about 3 miles, although it felt like much, much longer.

Really struggling around this section of the course and then up to Princess Park where just a handful of supporters were. It was great to see an old friend with his kids supporting the runners, although I think he was suffering from supporters fatigue at this point as well. This spurred me on to carry on running for the last 3 miles or so, and the only thing I learnt was that Upper Parliament Street feels a lot steeper coming up than it does going down.

The crowds lining the finishing chute were amazing again, and I was amazed to see I finished in 4hr 04m, just 8 minutes slower than my Edinburgh time but with probably 150 less miles done in training.

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So a successful return for Liverpool Marathon after a 20-odd year break from the running calendar. Some minor teething problems, although probably out of the organisers hands to be fair, and a very challenging course. The success of the day lead to them announcing the support for next years event is in place and will be held on the 14th October next year. I think I’ll probably be making plans to do some serious training for it and try and survive the 2 hills and Sefton Park.

Isabel Hospice

This is race 8 of 12 in this years Charity Challenge to raise funds for Isabel Hospice. If you’re able to make any kind of donation the easiest way is via my JustGiving site. Thank you!

Race 7 of 12: The Great North Run 2011

Last time I was lucky enough to get into the Great North Run in 2009 I failed to do very much training at all, and suffered on the day. I’d run Edinburgh marathon earlier in that year and then completely lost my running mojo. The Great North Run crept up on me and then completely out of the blue I found myself struggling on the streets of Newcastle.

This year I ran the Edinburgh marathon. This year I also lost a little of my running mojo (despite entering an autumn marathon in the biggest attempt yet to continue running through the summer). Again I suffered on the streets of Newcastle, but this time through all my own doing rather than a lack of fitness.

Bupa Great Run Series

Before coming to the race I need to talk about the Bupa Great Run series. I’ve always thought the Great Run series of events were over-priced, but I’ve nearly always done 1 or 2 of the events through the year. This year I’ve completely changed my mind. I can’t remember the exact costs, but certainly the Great Manchester Run must be one of the most expensive 10k runs in the UK, and I suspect the Great North Run wasn’t particularly cheap. You pay a premium for these events and whilst I’m certain they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, they really do deliver outstandingly well organised events and where ever the event is, they take over the city for the weekend to deliver something of a party.

And so on Saturday we rolled into Newcastle and went to the Pasta Party on Mill Road. Having taken part in a number of races, this was the 1st Pasta Party I’d ever been to. Parting with some money to buy Rox some new running shoes, we then got our free pasta and sat down to watch the end of White Van Man, a band fronted by the legendary Tony Audenshaw – probably more famous for appearing in Emmerdale, but a favourite in our household because of his weekly updates of ‘Tony’s Trials’ as part of the magnificent MarathonTalk podcasts. Unfortunately we missed the City Games and just saw the guys taking the track down.

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The Run Itself   

Using our little trick that we discovered a few years back we found parking very easy and quickly boarded the Metro to get to the start line (having had breakfast and a coffee in the campervan). The morning was pretty cold and I was worried about having to stand on the start line waiting to go, but it soon warmed up. Arriving at the start line we got ourselves organised and then spent some time trying to spot some famous faces. We didn’t see any this year (last time we were here we saw a couple of people off the Apprentice – can I call them famous?).

A few pre-race nerves from Rox before we went our separate ways and I went to my Orange starting pen, and spent a while trying to see if I could spot OgdenRunner. No luck spotting him and instead I looked to the skies to see the Red Arrows do their fly pass. And we were off. I managed to high five Mo Farah as I crossed the start line.

Before the race I had no idea of what strategy to use. I hadn’t really done enough training but just coasting round being cautious wasn’t really in keeping with the charity challenge I’ve set myself. I knew my half marathon PB was around 8m 23s miling so thought I’d aim for that and try and beat it on a few miles to set a new PB. Secretly I was hoping for a sub 1hr 50m time but wasn’t certain I had it in me.

A few ‘Oggy, Oggy, Oggies’ in the tunnels and I got out just in time to see the Red Arrows do another pass by, this time in the missing man formation. Even with a toilet stop at mile 3, I was still going under my 8m 23s per mile target. Around this point I overtook Tony carrying a fridge and then spied the Scottish Sikhs, who seem to be at almost every big race I ever do. I was still feeling good so just decided to go with the flow.

At about 9 miles I realised that I had 32 minutes to do 4.1 miles and I’d be under 1hr 45 minutes. I decided to go for it, but lost my way a little on the 12th mile. I had to resort to walking part of this mile in 2009 but wouldn’t allow myself to stop this year, but unfortunately the toilet break and this tough mile at the end saw me miss out on a sub 1hr 45m half marathon – finishing with a new PB of 1hr 47m 25s.

The support along the route was completely amazing and mind-blowing that people would give up so much time and effort to shout out. There was almost an endless supply of ice-pops, oranges and hose pipes along the route.

The Geordie hospitality continued further with a downpour as I just crossed the finish line. I quickly grab my bag and got changed into clean dry clothes and put on my waterproof jacket just in time for the sun to come out. And then I returned to the course to cheer Rox home.

Unfortunately I missed her coming in, and then stood anxiously for an hour on the course before checking our pre-arranged meeting point. She’d finished in around 2hr 28m and thoroughly enjoyed herself and had completely forgotten those pre-races nerves. Immediately she reckoned she could take a good few minutes off that time. I think both of us may have found our running mojo again – and I think the excellent people of Newcastle and the outstanding Great Run series both deserve thanks for that.

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Isabel Hospice

This is race 7 of 12 this year for me. Please see here for details of this years challenge. If you would like to donate, please use my JustGiving site. Thank you very much for reading – attention now turns to Liverpool Marathon for me – in a little under 3 weeks – eek!

Seaford Sprint Triathlon 2011

Where to start. I don’t really know what to write and yet have enough stuff in my head that I’d bore you all to death. When entering at the end of 2010 I could just about doggy paddle, I’d never been on a road bike and hadn’t been on a mountain bike since my late teens.

Arriving bright and early the registration was simple and straight-forward. I got my race number and then got marked up – 365 was ready for set off. Well, maybe not quite ready but I was here. Heading back to the campervan I put my bike out front to be all professional looking and had some breakfast.

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After having breakfast the event organiser came on the microphone to welcome everyone to Seaford and how great it was that since Wednesday this week the swim had been called off, but today the lifeguards had given clearance for the swims to go ahead, although at much shorter distances. I decided I’d better go and have a look at this ‘choppy’ water. Walking past transition I couldn’t understand why people were already racking their bikes.

The sea looked pretty bad and having never swum (properly) in the sea, this didn’t bode well. I also asked someone on the way back past transition why people were racking their bikes so early. The answer came ‘to claim the best spots to make them easy to find’. Good thinking, so I went to rack my bike in the best spot possible.

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After watching the Olympic distance swimmers set off and more than a handful deciding to come out after the 1st of their 2 laps my confidence levels with the swim were at an all time low. An announcement then came at 10am that the sprint distance swim was under review with an official announcement to come back at 11am, although it was doubtful it would go ahead.

The sun then came out and at 10.15 the swim was likely to go ahead. At 10.45 the swim probably wouldn’t go ahead and the event was likely to change to a duathlon. At this point I was gutted – I’d done all this to do a triathlon. However, at 11am the official announcement came through the swim would go ahead, although only be a distance of 300m.

The Swim

Making my way down the beach, one thing came immediately clear – walking on pebbles hurt. I walked down to the front due to wanting to be nearest the water due to the pain underneath (ok, I’m a wimp!). Looking around I then realised I was with the much better swimmers – probably the people looking to win. This really wasn’t my company but rather than walk back across painful pebbles I thought I’d just have to stick this one out.

The countdown began and soon we were off. Swimming into 4-5 foot waves and things actually weren’t going bad. Admittedly all the swimming lessons I’ve had and technique work went out the window – I was swimming for survival, not helped by people attempting to swim over the top of me. I was in with the most of the pack down to the 2nd buoy but then think I came too close to the shore line for the length back and had to deal with the worst of the waves. I also heard someone shout ‘Yuck! Seaweed!’. Thinking to myself about how fortunate I was swimming nowhere near it I then proceeded to go straight through 2 massive sections of it.

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The Cycle

So coming out the swim towards the back of the group (not really unexpectedly) I moved into the transition area for the bike stage. Getting my wetsuit easily down to my ankles, I then used my left foot to tread on my right leg wetsuit and promptly fell over. Much easier to do this sitting on the floor anyway. Helmet on, race number on, cycling shoes on and slow run with bike to cycle start line. Jump on and realise with an uphill start being in a high gear was probably the wrong choice. Fortunately the person directly in front of me made the same mistake so I pretended I had to stop abruptly because of them.

The course was a 2 mile loop, 1 mile going into headwind and mainly uphill, the mile back was mainly downhill and for most of it the wind carried you along. Needless to say I probably managed about 15mph on the way out, and then 20+ mph on the way back. Nothing much exciting happened – I think I did quite a lot of overtaking and the only people I really remember coming past me were the leaders.

There is a lack of photos from the bike section – I’ll pretend this is due to me going so fast. In all probability my ‘support crew’ had probably got cold and gone for a coffee!

The Run

Getting back to transition for what should be the easier of the change overs, I racked my bike, remembered to take my helmet off. Then couldn’t understand why my cycling shoes wouldn’t come off – turned out I’d only undone half the Velcro. Once the shoes were off I thought I’d reward myself with a mouthful of drink. Turning to run, I realised I’d somehow managed to put my left trainer and right cycling shoe on. 2nd attempt at running off in both trainers went much better.

I didn’t feel like I was running particularly fast but seemed to hover around the 8m 40 mark – which when I was originally aiming for sub 8s wasn’t particularly great. I did however have some strange stomach pain, much like a stitch which I couldn’t shake off.

 

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First Triathlon Done

So with a few lessons learnt, a finish time of just under 1hr 30 mins I’m ready to go again. I’m already eyeing up a couple of events next month just before the season ends before contemplating something very silly next year – more to come soon if I don’t come to my senses beforehand.

A Few Mentions of Thanks

Quite a few people need to have a mention here. Firstly – everyone that has donate to Isabel Hospice over the past few months – thank you very much! If you’d like to donate the easiest way is via JustGiving.

Another thanks has to go to my understanding wife who has let me venture off with her Father-in-Law to try and learn how to cycle, and has let me disappear most Saturday mornings to learn to swim in a lake.

Steve, the before mentioned father-in-law, needs a special mention and he ‘sold’ me the bike used. He also got hold of some racing tyres for me to use this weekend as my existing tyres have more holes than a sieve. Unfortunately we punctured 3 inner tubes trying to put them one, so resorted with just 1 new tyre rather than risk further punctures.

And also a thanks to my support crew on the day – Rox, Steve and Sandra who stood out in the miserable cold for 90 minutes.

A massive thanks is due to the lifeguards at Seaford who pulled out all the stops to get the swim to go ahead. I’m sure it would have been a much easier decision to just cancel the swim.