Friday, September 26, 2014

Swansea Bay 10k 2014 - my race review

Swansea Bay 10k 2014 
Swansea coast road - September 21st 2014 - website

My impressions from the day:Course: 9/10 - simple, flat, quick, well set out, great start area.
Marshalling: 8/10 - I didn't see many, which isn't to say there weren't any it just says they were doing an absolutely great job :-)
Facilities: 8/10 - after years (43 in fact) of organising and running the race the facilities are really good.
Organisation: 10/10 - Couldn't fault the overall organisation, like I said above they have good event pedigree.
Fellow runners: 8/10 - great atmosphere, people listened to the time binning in the start area,
Crowd: 8/10 - not the biggest crowds all round the route but they were very vocal and encouraging.
My performance: 8/10 (& 0/10) - pleased with my time and application. The second score was due to my apparent error of judgement in the last 200m (more of that below)
My time: 54:48
The start line - borrowed from the Swansea 10k facebook page
"Dude, can't you see me?? I am like right in the middle!" - borrowed from the Swansea 10k facebook page
My Race:
It started with a quick 2km - and so goes many a race failure... happily this one didn't end in a complete pacing mess. The start area was great, I managed the usual pre-race nerves induced loo break without much fuss (I was amazed the queues weren't too bad when I got to the toilet blocks), and got to the right start zone with no problems.

So I was ambitious, I figured go out at a target pace and then see if I can hold it. That was simply not going to happen, and so as the sunshine beat down on a huge field of runners my targets were beaten down too. The first two kilometres are nice and wide so there were no bunching issues meaning that I could try my plan without fear of blocking anyone off if the wheels fell off. Into the 3rd kilometre the bite began and it was obvious I had to reign in my pace and finishing target time, by the end of the 4th going into the Mumbles I knew the second half of the race would require a pretty big effort.

The turn around and drinks station come at or around the halfway mark, and so does the disappearance of the shade. The race starts at 1pm, so if there is sun then it is pretty fierce (for the UK at least). Going into the return leg along the prom the heat and the feeling of having put in too much effort in the first third of the race got into my head and started a bit of negative dialogue. Happily my pace didn't fall off horribly and I began ticking off the kilometres to the finish.

Telling yourself you can hit the final 2k and actually hitting the final 2k hard are two different things, the effort I was hoping to rediscover in the closing stages didn't appear and I simply held the pacing where it was. I managed to speed up a little, and going into the last 500m I thought I was on for a reasonable time after all. In the last 200m there is a rise and the path narrows slightly and as I gathered pace towards the line I suffered my lowest ever racing moment. I looked at the course, saw no space and opted to move onto the grass verge. This was fine, what wasn't fine was that the verge was of a sharper gradient than I realised and as I rejoined the tarmac I tangled with another runner.

Avoiding the near face plant to the gasps of the crowds, and seeing that I hadn't floored the other runner I carried on utterly red faced. I crossed the line in a good time, but felt completely hollow - had I ruined someones day? Waiting a short while in the finish funnel I saw them limping through with a friend, my heart sank even further through the ground beneath me even though the limp didn't look especially horrible. I apologised with a simple "sorry", there seemed nothing else that I could really say and from the look on their face nothing else that they would really want to hear. I can only hope that in the end their day wasn't as bad as I felt, I did not enjoy the aftermath of the race at all even though it was fabulously arranged. My wife and I went for a Joe's Ice Cream afterwards (kind of a Swansea race ritual), but even that didn't take away the feeling of a spoiled race.
I think the look on my face at the finish line said it all really - not my greatest day!
In the days after the race I began to unpack my thoughts around the race and the event in my finishing dash. Friends comforted me with sentiments along the lines of "these things happen sometimes", which I know is true but it only helped a little. I learned a valuable lesson in my 11th 10k race, and it is not something that will happen again in any race I enter. It was striking how one brief moment changed an entire day, especially when I was happy with every other aspect.

On a more up beat note, I suspect I will be signing up again next year as the event and its organisation is just awesome.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The mojo is back

It can only be that my running mojo is back...
- I am looking forward to my next run
- I am planning a training block for the spring season
- I am imagining running better
- I am pondering the best strategies to keep the 'ball rolling'
- I am not feeling negative about all things exercise
- I am not eating rubbish, or finding myself seeking rubbish food in shops
- I am positive about progress
- I am half a stone (7lbs / 3kg) lighter
- I am setting PBs and looking for more
... most of all I am not spending time wondering where my mojo has gone!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Cardiff 10k 2014 - my race review

September 7th 2014 - race website

The basics:
Course: 7/10 - while still around Cardiff city centre it was a 'hilly' course compared to the usual Cardiff 10k route. Not their fault - the NATO summit induced the change.
Marshalling: 9/10 - friendly, warm, helpful but no marked time zones in the start area.
Facilities: 6/10 - deduction for having to have the port-a-loo blocks lining both sides of the start area.
Organisation: 9/10 - Cardiff 10k do run a good simple no fuss event, for a change at an event the PA was even pretty good. Point deducted for the disposable timing chips.
Fellow runners: 9/10 - almost a full score as the Welsh running community is super smiley and friendly, I am knocking the one point off for poor pack communication (the odd "watch out", "keep right" and so forth is needed when a runner has tripped, or a bollard is in the way,
Crowd: 8/10 - support in the start / finish was awesome, but it was a bit patchy in the middle of the race.
My performance: 5/10 - literally, it was my 10th 10k and this turned out my 5th fastest time. Given injury hit year I was very happy, so this score is a little tongue in cheek ;-)
My time: 56:09

Taken by Chris Cornell and posted on the Cardiff 10k facebook pages
- sadly there are no photos of me running as attending alone this year

My Race
Setting out with no goals was the mission statement I had given myself which was complete nonsense of course. I had a Garmin, I know what I've run before, therefore I had some time slots somewhere in mind. The main idea was to go out steady and see if I could find some progression through the run. Happily the post-run feedback showed I achieved something of this aim, shown below.

I enjoyed the atmosphere greatly and the roads weren't too crowded at any point to hinder my progress. Where there were patches of supporters it was nice, noisy and very enthusiastic. The first 2k was for me about controlling my own enthusiasm and holding pace during the gradual incline of the first part of the race. Going into the second 2k I began to feel the effort of the incline and found I was very keen on seeing the half way mark. Part of knowing the course well meant that I was projecting too far ahead at times and getting too far out of the moment.

The middle 2k around halfway was solid and at this point that course knowledge meant I knew that the climbing was in the main behind us (I say climbing, but this was not exactly a hilly course in the true sense). Before halfway was the one water station that I saw, though a lack of signing meant I more or less didn't see it was coming. My plan was to not take a drink so it didn't phase me, had I wanted some it would have meant a bit of a fight to get across the course. Shortly after the warm sunshine made me wondered if I had been wise missing the drink but ultimately my plan was just fine.

Through the fourth 2k block I found I was mentally working really hard, and that while the feedback from my legs was fine my engine room was complaining of a lack of base fitness. I concentrated on holding onto form, trying to stay smooth (these things are relative of course), and felt that I was succeeding in holding pace. Into the final 2k I enjoyed a good finish line fever boost and sustained an effort for the final 1.5k, which is net downhill and also had space to open the legs a bit. Managing a 'sprint' finish in the final funnel was gratifying, if not a little annoying to people I passed, I was pushing to nip under 56 minutes but fell a little short (!).

All round I was very pleased with my race. After the issues of injury early in the year and a lack of motivation over the summer I was pleased that this race made me feel I was turning a corner. Next year is the races 30th anniversary and I hope to be there chasing a PB while enjoying the brilliant atmosphere.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Post-race lull

So I am in the post race lull after the 10k race on Sunday (I am still writing my review). The race didn't have the most massive impact on my body as I was nicely mobile the next day, but given that my next race was two weeks away I didn't dive into anything too active. So in the end I cycled to and from work a couple of times to spin my legs, and then went running last night. Last nights run was an eye opener, I am clearly more tired than I figured so from here I only plan to run anything like hard at the parkrun on Saturday, and then keep things easy pre-race (happily my Garmin ran out of battery so I have no idea how fast or slow last night was). I am using the races as intense training blocks to take me from one to the next.

I have not approached a half-marathon without a full plan and no injury, often plans have been broken by injury before now. I intend to run the half in a months time using every bit of my running experience to guide me round... no targets, no goals, just running. In all of this my motivation does at least appear to be returning, I really have had the urge to train since the 10k, which I have been ironically trying to contain so that I don't do too much too soon. As a reminder of this my plantar fascia decided to say "hullo!" this morning so I do need to curb my enthusiasm to avoid another of those set back injuries (!).

Happy running :-)

Friday, September 05, 2014

The Cardiff 10k cometh

The weekend is nearly here and so is the first race since the marathon that was more of a long walk home. I am not putting anything on the race in terms of pressure for times and so forth, but I am really really hoping it will fuel my recent running rejuvenation. On the start line I will be relieved that the aches in my chest this week turned out to be slight muscle strains rather than a feared early sign of respiratory infection.

The Cardiff 10k will be my fifth, and it will take in a new route that includes areas that I ran around often during the genesis of my running 'career'. Seeing areas that I ran / walked around trying to work out how to do things like 10k races will be very interesting, and I hope it will mean the course won't have any hidden surprises.

The 10k route, like the parkrun route, has been moved to accommodate NATO and I hope all those World leaders appreciate our troubles. Happily there haven't been any local disturbances associated with the summit so the doom sayers who hinted the race might be affected further were wrong. Incidentally, they say the meeting has helped to put Wales on the World map - kind of thought we were already there (?), it is a bit rubbish of those cartographers and Google maps people to have missed a whole section of the UK mainland ;-)

My plan for my race is... "run", no more and no less. My goal is to enjoy it, enjoy the simplicities that come with racing in my home town, and simply run the thing.

Hope you have a good run, race, or whatever this weekend. 

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Midfoot for 9km - revelations for the plodder

Monday night I ran, which in of itself is a very good thing, and I ended up running the whole 9.3km with new form. The changes away from heel striking makes logical sense to me and to be fair it has done for quite some time now. Foremost in changing is the how, and so I have just started doing it as best I can over sensible distances / times whilst reminding myself to run the 'old' way whenever is prudent. In practice this has come down to which shoes I wear on any given session.

Don't get me wrong I am not wearing zero drops one day and super-stacked motion controllers the next, no I am wearing a less stacked shoe on days when I try to run fore- to mid-foot (almost entirely mid-foot in reality). Rotating two pairs is by conventional wisdom prudent so the shoes 'recover' their shape - though a lot of people might note this may have more benefit for manufacturers than runners. My experiment is a simple one at this point but does seem to be making some differences.

Difference one is that I don't feel the crash of my heel / leg into the ground, and for a plodding jogger / runner that is a revelation. Two, I have the sense of doing something new which has reinvigorated my motivation to go running. Thirdly, I hurt in all new places, which might seem odd but for me shows I am using more of my legs.

Really what I am noticing the most is the switch from fast walking, i.e. jogging over to running. When I run I essentially speed up my walking gait to a point where my speed over the ground counts as 'running', I am still heel landing and rocking over my feet in the same style as my walk. Looking back at marathons where I have had to take walk breaks (ahem, two out of my three thus far) my run gait simply decelerates into a fast walk and then walk with very little change in foot positioning. From the little running I've done on my mid-foot it feels more like a running action, positive, with momentum, lift (my shoes scuff usually the ground a lot), and the feeling the brakes are off.

Basically I want to move like my three year old, walk = heel / flat foot, run = toes / mid-foot... and blimey can he shift gears between walking and running! I want to re-find my childhood gears and move between walk and run in a similar fashion, so that I can discover what speed over the ground I really have and fully 'run' a 10k, half-marathon, or even the full marathon??

Monday, September 01, 2014


So I have another new 5K parkrun PB, whoop whoop!

I don't take it as a huge sign of fitness progress though, I am taking it as a sign of tactical awareness. I went out at a speed I felt I could hold for the 5K, and tried to work a tiny bit harder as I went on. So there was not only a hefty negative split, but in fact a Royal flush** with each kilometre being faster than the previous one. The new course helped, not that it was any flatter or any less bendy, it was simply wider over the first 1-1.5K so it was easier to find my rhythm and hold on to it. Which means I have to say thanks to the summit being arranged in the city for the change of route.
There is so much wrong with my running in this picture (borrowed from the Cardiff Parkrun flickr feed - credits to _NiallS). Apart from the fact I was chasing red t-shirts and two decided to overtake me at this point (knew I should have chased purple shirts, there were less of them! Better odds!), I look leadened legged, flat footed, overweight... need I go on?
From there I set about recovering and will get a couple of runs in this week ahead of the Cardiff 10K this coming Sunday. For the race I will again try and deploy the same plan - find a comfortable pace, hold it, and then see if I can squeeze a small progression of pace (with a negative split overall). To be honest I will be chuffed with any time under the hour at this point, and look for it to be another stepping stone to more (and better) running.

** - listen to a number of recent episodes of MarathonTalk and you'll hear all about Royal flush runs - happily they have absolutely nothing to do with Royal toilets or anything else of that nature.