Friday, May 20, 2022

2022 SSAFA series race#1 - Race review

Wednesday, 18 May 2022 - I can report that it rained and it rained some more, but we ran and ran some more. It saw the return of the SSAFA 5k series (after a hiatus since 2019)**, and because of that the rain could not extinguish everyone's joy at being back at a fantastic event. Happily it was warm with the rain and so it wasn't one of those miserable running days where you chill to the bone as soon as you stop moving. The turn out was pretty strong given the forecast and it was back to running mazy loops in and around Bute park, Cardiff.

The race is based out of the Blackweir tavern and the location makes for decent access and parking. The organisation and marshalling is so en pointe and utterly positive in their approach to the runners. Being based in a pub means that the facilities are good, and that there is food and drink for before (mostly drink), during (either for those not running), and after (food for those that didn't opt to eat before the run, and of course drink for those celebrating or commiserating post run). I would have stayed out for a drink in the Blackweir were I not wet through and cold and needing a hot shower.

This is mainly attended by local clubs and being Welsh Athletics accredited gets some speedy sorts out on the course. The route is straight forwards, well marked and marshalled on really good quality park paths in the most part and new walk / cycle way for a long stretch. It is always good to be running amongst familiar faces even if we are all that much older than the last time we ran this. There were a couple of super speedy Lliswerry Juniors that I know from junior parkrun that added to the sense of how time has moved on since the last time we trod this course.

My own run? Well most everything that could go wrong in the run did - my head went, my stomach went, my sense of direction went (I took a short wrong turn at one point - see the kink in my strava track!), my legs didn't turn up, and a lack of running of late put me in the hurt locker almost immediately from the off. To be fair to myself I had started cycle commuting to work again just this week and done a club hills session the night before, so I was hardly rested. That I ate before the run was though my biggest blunder in terms of prep on the day.

The support on the way around from the Pegs (Pegasus Running Club) was an absolute highlight, and I only wish that my smile had not also been a casualty of the run. Onwards and onwards, the summer and the series is yet young!

Picture borrowed from fellow Peg, Tim Webb (from the club's facebook group album)

This was also the first tentative week in looking towards Cardiff Half training... a very tentative step indeed.

**The SSAFA 5k Road Race Series in Cardiff consists of three 5k races (spaced roughly a month apart from each other) which raises money for the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association, Cardiff & The Vale Region. The marshals around the course are cadet volunteers - and they absolutely know how to cheer, motive and support runners!

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Newport City Half Marathon 2022 - race review

Sunday, 6 March 2022 Newport, Wales - 21.20km 2:24:00 pace 6:47min/km

Go out with a plan, and boom! I was well pleased with what came out of the box, whilst I didn't hit my plan of pick a pace and run a pace (the hills didn't help that ambition much) I did meet my target time frame. Time frame not goal time note.

The race was fab, the marshalling super, and the Newport spectators awesome. I availed myself of a couple of jelly babies and then some very very nice mini-gems from lovely people at the side of the course, nom nom! The shock revelation was that I found a football style chant of "Pegs! Pegs! Pegs!" popping out of my mouth along the out and back, which was nice! 

It certainly isn't every race where you get to hear the strains of the bag pipes on your way around the course - that the piper was playing underneath the M4 flyover did not in any way make the experince teh more unusual! All the way aound the course the support was many and varied, from people on doorsteps in PJs cheering you on, to local run clubs giving it their all, lots of smiley marshalls, a piper, car drivers honking their horns, people playing music outside their houses, charity teams, to name just a few.

The Pegs were relatively few in number but big on performance, with some terrific runs. Colin kindly hung on to see me home which was hugely appreciated, though I was a bit rude in packing down a banana hungrily whilst we were chatting.

Some fabulously funny camaraderie at the finish line was very much appreciated - thank you fellow runners and thank you Lliswerry friends 😊

With a month to Brighton marathon I have much to do, but I think today proved a very good test of where I am and where I need to dial my pace down to. In case you were wondering Brighton is "operation complete" and not goal driven... if I get there in one piece it will be a case of go out and enjoy that one, much as today was.

Footnote [no pun intended!] - after the race I found my heels were quite tender and so I have gone and purchased a pair of new running (and a new brand to me of) shoes in an effort to aleviate any issue for covering the marathon issue. More on the choice in a future post perhaps.

The footnote's footnote - this was my 15th half marathon which in of itself is something that makes me smile 😁

Monday, January 17, 2022

Every single activity! - well perhaps not any more...

I am in a phase of not logging every activity that I do in Strava... there I said it! Well okay I will always log my runs and probably my cycling (such as it is), but I was in the habit of logging near enough every walk that I did - to the shops, walking the dog, family strolls. It was something that I often did a fair bit of that then grew into a ritual during the SARS-Cov-2 lockdowns, where we were for a time restricted to one exercise outside per day. During that time particularly the recording and almost celebrating of walks took on a new meaning, although I had long been in the habit of attaching 'silly' titles to my walks (usually walks whilst I had a running injury) so it wasn't too much of a stretch to start naming and logging lockdown activities.

"Why then stop? Bored?" No not really, I sort of belated started to question quite what I was logging and by extension what I was doing. Every walk being turned into electronic data and then squirted into the great worldwide server complex for near posterity (or as long as the files are kept there). In listening to people discussing the nature and environmental impact of cloud storage centres I kind of linked up the fact that the more data I logged the greater my 'carbon footprint'. Now hey, I am not going off grid just at the moment and if you follow me on twitter or instagram you might note that I can not be considered abstemious with my posting habits. I am though rethinking quite what I use that type of cloud storage for to an extent, and logging every time I walked to the chip shop as an everyday activity was faintly (well not so faintly) ridiculous.

Also of course* logging every activity has other implications too and most notably in my mind is security. There is / are people who if they want to can work out where you live and when you are most likely to be out, thus working out when might be a good time to burgle your home. I know I know it sounds far fetched (and I have f' all worth pinching) but apparently it happens. Granted this, for me at least, is one of those secondary parts of my thinking here because my main thoughts were around the above environmental footprint perspective - but it is not to be over looked and if you are someone with concerns about people who might get 'stalky' then look at your settings on whatever platform you use at a very minimum. I do use the privacy zone in Strava, but got twitchy over time about the fact that it might not take an internet genius to work out my regular dog walking patterns, for example.

* - terrible use of language "of course" implies you know what I mean and why, and lets face it there is a high degree of likelihood that you have no clue what I am about to write and I shouldn't assume that you do.

At the risk of entirely disappearing up my own internet connection ultimately I sort of have a notion of winding the clock back and using some social media less and using other tools like this a bit more (bringing together more strands in one place and not in massive image files (my instagram accounts, ahem, I am thinking of you!), but I haven't really thought all that through yet. In times of reflection, and lets face it the SARS-Cov-2 pandemic has brought a fair bit of reflective time, I just get to pondering whether I could be a bit more strategic with how I use this here internet thing.

Hope your 2022 got off to a good start - what are you logging?

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Got any plans?

 It is not like this time of year is ever linked to new beginnings or that people seem to embrace the great new lists of things or anything, but I don't currently have a plan... and that's okay. Should I have a plan? Well probably - I am not fit at the moment so a plan might be good, I have a marathon in my diary so a plan would be good, I have a zwift membership so a plan would be good, and I have started a Leader in Run Fitness course so a plan really really would be good. Just at the moment though I give myself permission not to have one, to go with the flow, and have some down time. The only plan I actually have, in all honesty, is to get a plan some time quite soon and get back onto things.

Rise and fall, quiet and busy, full on and kicking back phases are a part of life that are sometime not appreciated. All go, go, go leads to running out of steam, all no, no, no leads to stagnation and boredom. So I am taking this short time out and then looking to get back on it. That I had an injury before Christmas has 'helped' produce the quiet phase, but as that seems to be healing its perhaps time to have a look at some new years plans... they don't all have to be made on New Year's eve ready for January 1st, they can be whenever you need them.

Hope your moving / activity is where you want and need it to be just now - Happy New Year! 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Running club?

Here is another post that mysteriously sat around in my drafts folder waiting for me to click 'publish', can't work out why its been there for nearly 3 years but anyway some thoughts from back in the day when I was new to the run club world... Written Sept 2018...

Over the last little while I have been exploring and then enjoying running club life, which was initially born out of my experience of swimming classes early in the year which had a club feel. Coming from a history where I was once an active rowing club member it could be seen as a little odd that it has took me as long as it did to seriously consider and then join a running club. For a number of reasons I have arrived here and so I have been dipping my toe in the waters and have actually come to some conclusions.

My story was a tale of two clubs. There are of course many more than two clubs I connected with, and I suppose living in a capital city you could perhaps expect that. Although tracking them down can be a bit of a journey in itself.

Narrowing the list down to two clubs for me was based on the following considerations:
  • location
  • days of the week they meet
  • size of the club
  • outlook / ambitions of the average club member
  • UK Athletics (UKA) / Welsh Athletics (WA) affiliation - lets face it basically for event discounts, and insurance
  • facilities
  • kit
  • feel - perhaps the most subjective and one that ultimately sealed the deal
The two I visited were the Maindy Harriers and the Pegasus Running Club, and the first thing that has to be said was that both were fabulously friendly, approachable, welcoming and understanding. It felt a little cheeky saying "can I come along, not join, and have a couple of runs with you to see how it is?", but it was absolutely the right thing to do. I would encourage anyone to do the same - maybe the club is too competitive, or not competitive enough; maybe they don't offer as many sessions as you'd like; maybe you don't 'click' with the coach / run leader - whatever sense you get will help you decide and moreover help you get more out of being a club member.

I had the pleasure of doing a couple of sessions with the Maindy Harriers before I tried out Pegasus, and by the time I arrived at my first Pegasus session I was absolutely sold on joining one or other because club running just felt right. As a long time 'lone wolf' runner it was definitely the right time to come in from the 'cold'.

In the end I went with my heart because the Pegasus club is based out of a rowing club that I used to row for (the one that forms a lot of my earlier blog posts), and so it felt like a place I wanted to be associated with again (albeit in a new form).

Both clubs can be found in the Welsh Athletics club listings, by searching with a search engine, on social media (a Facebook search will find them).

Monday, October 11, 2021

Race Report - Welsh Virtual Road Relay 12-14th Feb 2021

One from the vaults of 'stuff I wrote and then never clicked send, so finished or not here it is from back in February...

I ran a race! - Welsh Virtual Road Relay 5 miles 12-14th Feb 2021 - so why not do a race report like the 'old days'?...

My impressions from the day: I picked Saturday of the three days that were on offer. With Friday being a work day and Sunday being Valentine's day, there was really only one choice of day for me to be honest!

Course: 9/10 - a very simple, familiar, flat, quick, well designed course with only a handful of road crossing to negotiate - well the Strava explore route design tool (available in the paid version of the app only I think) certainly found me a familiar and straight forward route to run. I was a bit worried about how busy it would be as it covered some common run routes in the area, but it was okay on the day.

Marshalling: 5/10 - no marshals around the route for this event of course, however everyone I passed by was very good at social distancing and were generally very cheery and smiley to be outdoors.

Facilities: 10/10 - after years of supporting various running and sports events the household was well set to provide everything that the runners needed - clean toilets, great food outlet (a very homely kitchen looking affair, something that more events could think about laying on), excellent changing facilities, good runners village entertainment, and a super supportive atmosphere.

Organisation: 7/10 - given that the event is all organised online I can't really fault the overall organisation, I can though fault my own ability to remember a password from one log in to the next... I could try and blame a busy lockdown brain, but truth is I am always rubbish at that.

Fellow runners: 0/10 (10/10 online)- with no one allowed to run the same route at the same time this of course was always going to make the most difference to the event. No one to pace off of, no one to chat to, no one to arrange to meet in the finish zone, etc, etc. I can though say that the fellow runners in the online club environment were fabulous, and it was nice to be involved in an event again.

Crowd: 0/10 - really not the biggest of crowds... well lets face it there wasn't a crowd - of course, d'uh!

My performance: 8/10 - pleased with my pre-run plan and application during the run. I am trying to be comfortable with the outcome, as I know I could have gone faster. I ran within myself with control and with a sense of lets enjoy it and not have it hurt (during or after)

My time: 48:43 was pretty solid but in the back of my mind I thought I could have done more. Though truth be told this was a solid run and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Cardiff Parkrun - #65 (#60 at Blackweir) and my first one back after you know what

Back at Blackweir (Cardiff) parkrun for my first parkrun since January 2020, and it was an absolute blast. I had a great experience of being back out there in parkrun world, with the organization and marshalling utterly en pointe today. The biggest change I noticed was the shortened run brief at the start and truth be told I preferred it to the old ones. The atmosphere in the pack was good, the camaraderie certainly has not been diminished at all in the time since my last run.

A set of three pictures. One of me. Two of the cardiff parkrun setting.
Random phone pics of the event today

In terms of my finish time, I couldn't can given a monkeys what it was really. I ran as comfortably as I could, I looked to pace with caution and respect the backend of the distance. Certainly I feel I managed my run well, and that is at the moment what I want - I want to manage my expectations and just out and out enjoy my runs. The biggest give away that I had contained my over-enthusiasm was that I did not sprint finish (!), and come on what's the point right as it is only a run after all, its not a race.

For the record my watch recorded 31:50, parkrun officially clocked me at 32:43, and I was the 489th runner to cross the line out of 644 runners at Blackweir parkrun today.

I know I won't be doing parkrun every week and I am happy with that as I want to avoid getting on the "better, better, better" treadmill of parkrun time chasing, and stay with the "enjoy, enjoy, enjoy" rhythm and stay injury free.

Hope you have a good weekend of running or moving, A