Monday, September 24, 2018

Sunday long steady run that wasn't quite...

It was not really a steady run it was more of a marathon paced run, to see how I would get on. This run turned out to be one of those eventful ones that will stick in the memory for a while. The run started out close to my old marathon pace and then saw how long it would - not long as my post run Strava km splits revealed. I was really pleased with how much better this run went than last weeks run, I felt far more fluid and was in a really good frame of mind setting out.

The plan was to practice gels and take one an hour with one before - having gone around Cardiff Bay to the second gel at two hours of running I discovered I'd lost it somewhere (it must have worked its way out of my run belt). Happily I had packed a pack of 'just in case' sports beans, so I smashed those down and finished of the bottle of water I had carried / used until that point.

On the way back towards town I realised the park entrances to the Taff trial would be locked and I couldn't retrace my steps, new plan hatched (that I calculated wouldn't add too much distance) I ploughed on. Into town it was quite busy and I was greeted by three lads who yelled "Oi, fat slob!!" as I passed them. Already feeling a bit out of sorts at other hiccups this just about mentally finished me off... the long gradual hill up North road was incredibly hard.

Finally I got within a kilometer of home and entertained thoughts of a final push, to which my legs said "no chance!", and then the wall hit and I was in gripped by a full energy bonk as I got back. Breathing rate up, heart rate up, deep fatigue, legs legs jelly... yeah, it was not a long steady run, it was basically a 3 hour tempo run. Glad it was done, glad that I stayed focused (for the most part), and glad that it sets me up to get round Bournemouth marathon (albeit now perhaps as a recce for a better attempt at it another year).

Monday, August 20, 2018

Bournemouth calling (soon)

Why Bournemouth?
It will be an opportunity to meet up with a school friend who has also signed up to run the marathon. Though that said my biggest motivation is to try to take some time off of my most recent marathon time of 5hr 21mins. Initially when I signed up I was thinking of knocking an hour off, from here though I will be happy with simply bettering my last marathon time in a way that builds me into the winter and a crack at Newport again next year.

What is Bournemouth?
The Bournemouth Marathon is ’running as it should be.’ Beautiful coastal views, a chance to run the Boscombe and Bournemouth piers and a spectacular finish.
Held this year on Sunday 7th October 2018 (Start time:10am)
It's 2018 lead charity partner is Macmillan Cancer Support.

To answer this another way I turn to
The Bournemouth Marathon is a road race run over the distance of 42.195 km or 26 miles and 385 yards. It takes place each October in Bournemouth on the south coast of England. The inaugural Bournemouth Marathon took place on 6 October 2013. It is an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race. It is part of a festival of running which includes a half marathon, 10km run along with shorter races.
18 week training plan
The fulsome training plan went out of the window with the summer holidays, a change of job role, and well life in general really. Back on the road now and following a hastily assemble 9 week progression aimed at getting me around in one piece. The plan is my own and relies somewhat on prior experience of what works for me, the big issue (as it has been in most training phases of late) is to try and avoid injury whilst building up time on my feet.

Stretching and strength
I am almost permanently broken these days so I have to find some core strength and fascia responsiveness

Mental preparation
At the time in the Newport marathon when things began to unravel and the lack of preparation became fully evident I didn't have the mental preparation of having run long and hard through fatigue in my recent memory. I far from mentally imploded but it was evident that I was wrestling with plan B the rest of the way without the preparation that would have made the last 10k less emotional.

The biggest challenge?
Overcoming myself and the obstacles that I will no doubt put in my own way - the run with too much intensity, the run when I should have rested, the extra helping of food I don't need, the slavish dedication to a preset plan rather than listening intelligently to my body, and probably above all the pressure to run the time that I want to.

The way forwards
Training sessions will pop up on instagram and strava, and periodically be summarised here so that I can track my efforts and reflect upon progressions (weekly or fortnightly posts - I haven't decided yet). Most of all (and again a theme I keep coming back to) I have to get moving.

Hashtag cloud - #bmf2018 #runbournemouth #andyonthemove #autumnmarathontraining #comebackkid #anothermarathon #marathontraining #newtonrunning #garminrunning #stravarunning #chasingfitness #letsdoit #persistentrunner #slowandsteadywinstherace

Thursday, May 10, 2018

2018 so far

Apologies for the distinct lack of blogging, I have been very busy instagram'ing, strava'ing, and so forth but not sitting down to write and build blog posts. But then I realised that I have been missing writing about my running in a longer form, so I am trying to get back here a little more.

Running wise it was a brilliant start the year, a 10 week marathon training block that went about as well as any training plan ever has for me, and then I ran a half marathon. The Llanelli half went fabulously well, it was my fourth fastest ever, the bit that didn't go so well was the aftermath. As I healed up after the race it became clear that I had more than just little niggles, I had the kind of niggles that were going to keep me out of running for some time. The good part was that I really really really enjoyed the 10 weeks, and that I found lots of elements that worked for me.

At the end of the April I managed to get myself to the Newport Wales Marathon... more on that at the beginning of next week...

Friday, September 01, 2017

Race review - 2017 Severn Bridge10k

2017 Severn Bridge Half Marathon and 10k - Sunday 27th August

The first ever Severn Bridge 10k was a good one because it was born out of an existing half marathon course and organisation. The runners village was well proportioned and well laid out within the available space. Sunshine bathed the event on August bank holiday Sunday and even had some of us hunting the shade before the start.

Would I recommend the race to a friend? Yes, because it is well organised, a good sized event, an accessible location (as you might expect being as most of it is run on the motorway network), the goodie bag was very well appointed, and scenery is very different - how often do you run along a plank of concrete suspended between the sea and the sky?

How it went for me:
What happens when you haven't run a 10k in a while? You run the best 10k you have in three years - of course. It was a strange circumstance indeed and I can only fathom that as I have run so many near 5k PBs this summer that I carried something through to the bigger distance. I was absolutely chuffed to bits to smash my own low expectations. The runners high and raw endorphin buzz was huge afterwards, so much so I might still be riding on the wave.

We started at one junction of the motorway bouncing to power ballads and dance tracks played over the public address system with many runner tucking themselves out of the sun under a road bridge. Before the gun went off I had the pleasure of milling about with the merry band of Pegasus club mates that had also opted for the 10k race instead of the half. We discussed sun cream (which I was able to 'borrow' from a kindly Peg in the runners village), the nature of the last hill into the finish, what everyone hoped to achieve, and we even waylaid an official photographer to do us a group shot.

I started off running the first two kilometres with no idea how I was going to go and clinging to the hope of dipping below the hour mark. During the opening 15 minutes I settled, found a pace, and more importantly found my breathing in the warm weather. It helped that I found a flatter part of the road deck camber and was following a club mate up ahead who I knew was on a similar schedule. By the time we reached the turn around point just inside of 5k I was happy that it was turning out pretty well, and was bracing for the second pass up and over the suspension bridge. Running with Pegasus Club mates made for a buzz before the race and great encouragement during the race. It was at the half way mark that I realised I was in fact chasing just the one Peg up ahead of me.

On the down hill slopes I gained and worked to try and limit loses on the up hills, the Peg up the road was doing a great job of pushing up the hills and was consisting gapping me more on those sections. In the last 3k I settled into the thought that as long as I didn't slow down beyond 6:20/km I was coming in under the hour and any real notions of pushing harder melted within that thought process of "Under an hour? Awesome!". The sun was shining across the whole cross and I was not at all comfortable with the heat, but knew I could keep efforts where I wanted them.

That talked about last hill was indeed a kicker, not hugely long but a sharp gradient that took me right out of my rhythm. Up ahead I could still see my club mate and was pleased that she would be first home of our cohort. After the hill levelled off leaving about 100m to go I briefly gave chase and had given up when a guy sprinted up next to me. He clearly wanted to beat me to the line, so rather than throttle back I daftly decided to throw on the afterburners and race him. I held him all the way to the line where he actually squeezed over in the narrow funnel to make sure I wouldn't pip him on the line. Could have been he was running the half and not the 10k (as they come into the last 3k together), but I like to think I spurred him to a better time (! - ahem, will I ever learn!).
A welcome can of pop, a flipping big medal, and a cracking time

Summary: Absolutely chuffed to bits with my efforts, most of which I paid for over the following days of course having done so little training. The race is very good, and I reckon I will be back for a crack at the half-marathon.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Three 5k races in a week

After being a lone wolf runner since the start of my 'running career' I have now embraced the world of club running in joining the Pegasus Running Club here in Cardiff. This combined with helping out my wife at an aquathlon led to three 5k race events in a smudge over one week (!!), which is almost unheard of in my running.

In the end I ran these 3 events (in reverse order) :

29-6-2017 Parc Bryn Bach Aquathlon event 2 (run leg) - 00:26:06   [GPS watch time]
Event website
The Parc Bryn Bach Aquathlon series provides fast flat racing as well as an introduction to open water and multi-discipline events, in a fun and friendly environment. Our values are to provide a local, friendly race mid-week for people to use as good training and race practice.
Description 'borrowed. from the organisers Newport East Wales Triathlon (NEWT) 

28-6-2017 'The Chase' 5k Cardiff - 00:25:20  * new PB *  
Event website
The event is a type of Handicap with 2 start times. All the Ladies will start at 7.30pm and all the Men starting at approx 7.32pm with the intention of the first Lady and first Man finishing at approximately the same time. 
Put on by Cardiff Running Events
Photo credit - Luke Heslop (Cardiff running event photographer extraordinaire, and fine runner)   

21-6-2017 SSAFA Road Race Series 2, Cardiff - 00:26:01
Event Website
SSAFA is a charity that was formerly (or perhaps is more fully) known as the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association, is a UK charity that provides lifelong support to serving men and women and veterans from the British Armed Forces and their families or dependents [credit -].

It has to be said I am extremely pleased with how the sequence turned out, with a event timed run PB (I have run very slightly faster within Parkruns timed on my own watch) and two strong times either side of it. It has to be pointed out that the heat at the SSAFA event was high (in the middle of the UKs June mini heat wave) and that without the temperature I reckon that would have been the quickest of the three.

Life as a Pegasus Running Club member is proving to be brilliant, in the two club events I ran with two different Pegs as a pacing strategy and thoroughly enjoyed the support / banter / camaraderie. The single issue I have with it is getting beyond my lone wolf runner mentality of 'turn up, run, go home' and get used to taking extra kit along so that I can make a habit of attending the post race socials. So far, because I am unfortunately a very sweaty runner, the thought of hanging about stinking the pub out with my perspiration has put me off of having a slow pint of cold beer with the club posse.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Balancing the balance

Every website, and their subscriber, on lifestyle / fitness will at some point start to describe how to can achieve balance. I, however, can't provide a definition of my own, or a formula, or a roadmap 10 point list, to achieving balance. I can however point out some observations from my experience that might, or indeed might not, illuminate a small corner of the subject.

The first and most important observation is to me an obvious one, and one that is often overlooked in the name of compelling content or salesperson-ship... we are all different. And with that said though we can put ourselves into associations or groups that can provide direction in how best to achieve some balance... the early risers, the late night work fiends, the long slow eaters, the grazing snackers, the all day I dreamers, the all day I doers. So the art of balance starts first in identifying, well, you. What is it that makes you move and gets you started? There is little point subscribing to a fitness regimen that expounds "get your workout done before breakfast!" if you have never ever functioned well before 11am. Similarly there is perhaps little point joining a club in the evenings if you get up before everyone else and have pretty much completed your day by mid-afternoon.

So behind my punchy little blogpost title is this message... in identifying a way of balancing your life look at systems, training groups, session timetables, meal plans, team sports, etc. that fit your own physical / psychological balance, your basic make-up. Going against your own innate tendencies will only make you unhappy with your efforts, much less likely to stick with them, and ultimately further out of balance than when you started.

One final caveat is to look at your balance over time and reassess now and then. I had a whole different balance and pattern to my days during my University degree than I do now as a working, married, father of two busy kids. Balance is fluid through life's path, but try to identify patterns in order to work with them rather than in opposition to them. I absolutely can not claim to have found a perfect Zen like balance (and frankly who but a full time Zen practitioner genuinely can), but I have found things that work for me over different periods of time.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Milton Keynes Half marathon 2016 - my race review

Crickey, I just found this lurking in my drafts folder. Given that Milton Keynes 2017 is not far away I thought I had better fling this out there before I end up over a year out of date...

My race review (Monday 2nd May 2016)

General impressions -
Course: 8/10 - simple, quick, well sign-posted and marshalled. Couple of sections where the footing was a bit rough moving between road and park land paths.
Marshalling: 9/10 - great, cheery and friendly team. Though not particularly evident around the start area which seemed a little odd given the congestion.
Facilities: 8/10 - The stadium facilities are great. Though I did have to play hunt the shortest bathroom queue a couple of times, which is tricky when they are spread around the perimeter of the stands.
Organisation: 9/10 - I didn't enjoy the lack of marshalling in the start zones, but the overall experience from sign up to finish line is very well done. The team clearly benefit from the experience of becoming a calendar regular.
Crowd / support: 8/10 - always an enthusiastic and supportive crowd in Milton Keynes. Even the car drivers put out by road closures were relatively jolly, or at least that was what I told myself as I smiled and waved a "thank you" to them.
My effort: 10/10 - I could not fault my effort on the day (I could fault my pre-race training), my pacing was spot on and I was realistic about my target.

Half-marathon #11
How my run went: 
"It went really well, curbed my enthusiasm at the start, enjoyed the middle, and only really entered the hurt locker for the last 2km. Time not stellar but a good improvement on four weeks ago. The half marathon course at least was definitely an improvement on past years - only two major underpasses that I remember, and no gradients that went on long enough or were steep enough to cause much discomfort."