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 Given that Milton Keynes 2017 is not far away I thought I had better fling this out there before I end up over a year out of date...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."

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Small steps = many steps

Small steps are required to build anything and in my case the small increments towards getting back to running a 'good' marathon really are small. I am walking and moving a lot more than I was and feeling the benefit. In getting my day to day activity back on track I have had to make sure that I don't cram on top of it a mass of run (or any other) training sessions. It is very much that case that in the past I started a running training programme at the same time as massively increasing my daily activity levels - walking every staircase, walking to work, doing extra bits and pieces every which way leading to 'burn out'. So for now I am laying lots of small steps down in order to ensure that a training plan will have a better chance of injury free success, and it is taking patience.
Instagram photos from the last couple of productive weeks
So what are the many steps? Well in a quick list they are:

  1. shedding some timber - losing unnecessary fat mass, which is going well having lost 7 lb in the last two weeks - there is no point training hard and losing weight at the same time it is too much stress on the body and in my experience that way deep fatigue and illness lie. Giving up chocolate and cheese for lent has certainly helped hugely (!).
  2. walking in lieu of run sessions - building time on my feet to strengthen my musculoskeletal system gradually. Over time I will convert some to runs and mix them up.
  3. joining a running group / club - I have tried out one (Maindy Harriers Running Club) and try another one tonight (Pegasus Running Club) . It looks like I'm being choosy but there are several good groups nearby and each have different pros and cons, both groups have been incredibly kind when I have approached them. This time next week I hope to have settled upon one and 'signed up'.
  4. laying off my marathon ambitions to next year - I will still run one or two this year but for the fun and not for goals.
  5. finding variety - backing up recent swimming classes with some semi-regular swims.
  6. enjoying and not 'racing' parkrun 5k runs.
  7. relaxing - giving myself permission to be flexible and not tied to a fixed programme for the time being.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Running slow... really slow

I have run a lot and I have hurt a lot this year, I started the year with some monumental ideas and a training plan that took an age to craft but then I got injured. And so goes the story for so many runners, and moreover so goes the story for me on a pretty regular basis (you won't have to click too far back in this blog for proof of that).

So 2016 sucked, it sucked real bad! No, I am not about to launch into how many idols died, or start on about geo-political shifts... it was for me at a fundamental level awful. I now weigh more than I have in years, so much so that my body is hurting from the burden, and any life / work / activity balance has gone up in smoke. Hence a New Year uber-plan that went so spectacularly wrong, and looking at it in the cool light of reflection I know exactly why - I did not go slow, so now I have to go really slow.

I started out on the plan as if I had been running decent miles already (which I hadn't), it presumed fitness would return overnight (which it didn't), it assumed that I would see issues coming and fix them before any damage was done (which I didn't). Seeing as I have read so many running books and magazines which explain frequently about returning to running, the importance of incremental adaptation, the crucial need to take accurate stock of where you are in life before you start a running program of any kind, you'd think I might have avoided this phenomenon? No!

Looking at my 'running' now I have to slow done, so much so, in fact I have to... walk. I am trying to steadily increase my very basic fitness, upping my day to day walking, stairs climbed, and better food volume choices. Happily I am enjoying walking and have taken several 'power' walks in the last week or so. The other part of this approach is not running fast, I have now completed two parkruns staying deliberately within zone 2 aerobic heart rate, reasoning that if I run fast this heavy I it won't be a case of if I get injured but when.

All of this means that this years late spring marathon will now be a stepping stone to 2018, when I hope to be firmly back on track with running and a whole lot of other things.

Monday, November 07, 2016

A toe in the water - wherein I learn to swim (again)

Four weeks ago I literally took the plunge and took up an adult swimming class after quite some period of hmm'ing and haw'ing. Now at this early point my vanity feels the need to point out that I can swim, I was blessed to have had the opportunity to learn in school and even spent what felt like an age treading water in a pair of pyjamas as a test of the ability to 'survive' falling in water fully clothed! My swimming, then and since, consists of breast-stroke and not a great deal else. Front-crawl, or freestyle swimming, was always a mystery to me and I never completed any more than 25m without having to stop have a coughing fit, put large volumes of the pool back in its proper place, and catch my breath.

So my reasons for joining a class were more about improvement, and essentially so that I could keep up with my children and wife who are all 'regulars'. My notion was that if I learned to know what I was talking about with the different strokes then I would be able to engage with and encourage the kids even more than I already do. My wife is not perhaps entirely keen as it might look like I am trying to cross into something that is very much her thing, but I have promised that once I deem myself proficient I will stop classes and use it only as an aid to my running training (my friendly neighbourhood physiotherapist keeps insisting swimming will do me the power of good - and to be fair so far it looks like he knows his stuff).

So I have been going along on Thursday evenings to the Cardiff International Pool adult swimming lessons and experiencing into a whole new exercise world. It has been hard from a point of view of base fitness particularly was in the first week I swam easily more front crawl than I have in the whole rest of my life previously. The atmosphere is great, we are all newbies together, and the coaching team are super experienced and moreover good fun. After four weeks I can't say that I love front crawl yet, but I am getting there. My biggest challenge has been explaining why I am pretty proficient at all the other strokes, though this now is a source of humour as I get gently teased about it each week.

As a new challenge it is fantastic, and I certainly see the sport from a whole new angle. Even though I have sat on the side watching my kids classes for the past three years or so it isn't the same as getting in the water and experiencing the process. Six more weeks to go in this block of lessons, and I think I will need perhaps one more block to get to where I want to be... but I guess we'll just see.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The marathon that is coming back, though not just yet...

So there was a lot of noise around the return of the Cardiff marathon next spring with an announcement by Run 4 Wales on the day of the recent Cardiff Half marathon. Over the days after there was a call for a register of interested runner which I duly signed up to, and anticipation built. Groups of runners were getting their teeth into the idea, parkrunners feverishly chatting about the route on facebook, and charity runners getting excited about a marathon on their doorstep after London marathon rejection letters began hitting postboxes.

Image result for cardiff half
2015 Cardiff half - Gareth James
For me it sounded brilliant as I was one of those turned down by the London marathon ballot (I am losing count of my 10+ rejections), and hoped it would be a 'no-brainer' replacement as a spring marathon... and then the news broke... not the new route, not date of the race... an announcement that unfortunately they couldn't square away the organisation of the event for 2017, but hoped to get the permissions in place for 2018. 2018 sounded all the sweeter for the suggestion that the great run series team may be involved in creating a Cardiff and Vale marathon.

I ripped up my rapidly forming plans, and I am now looking for that spring 2017 target. Beyond 13.1 miles would be great, but at the moment it is looking like more of the 'short' stuff going into 2017.

2016 despite its rollercoaster of fitness and emotional lows has been the year when I managed to complete the most half marathons in a calendar year, so perhaps I shall just stick with those and build another year around them adding in some other events. Thus, my 2017 plan is still incubating and when it is hatched I shall share it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Post-cardiff10k blues + my biggest post-race positive

I suppose it was inevitable after enjoying a race and setting aside the poor (for me*) time that I would get around to thinking about the time. So it was that a bout of the post-race "I could do better" blues set in. It could not have gone a lot better on the day of the cardiff10k but somehow I started with the "what if"s and it was all downhill from there really.

Yes I is my second slowest recorded time for 10k but given the year I have had and the weight that I am now carrying after so many comfort eating snacks could I really beat myself up about it? Well, yes, because my body and my brain knows how it feels to go quicker (for me*).

It took a couple of days for the blues to strike so I had a goodly while to enjoy the glow of enjoying the event. What I am left with is a fresh resolve, and the very real feeling that I should not expect miracle returns to old event times.

The truth of it is that I have tried to change my running form and the I am still in the transition period (or so I tell myself). That I completed the whole 10k in mass participation crowds of enforced pace changes and avoided the inevitable possible collisions of big group running without breaking form was perhaps the biggest single take away from the run.

I have now the half marathon in two weeks two to try and build into. The main aim there will be to come away with the same big achievement - will I be able to run 22+k without falling back into heal striking?

* I know all times are relative and that speedier and slower runners alike will be cross with me unless I try to set things as far as I can in proper context.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Time, meh! Complete, yeah!

In the end I completed my seventh Cardiff 10k in good shape, and even with a reasonable negative split. The time was not special and I am really not that bothered as it was just a huge buzz to get out there running in a crowd. A time of 01:00:59 represents my second slowest recorded 10k, but I simply am not bothered. I find myself wishing that I could bottle the post-race buzz and save it for the likely dark phases of the half-marathon in under three weeks time.
Post-race 'glow'