Monday, 30 May 2011

It's a fine line!

It's a fine line between being injury free and having a niggle!  It's a fine line between an average of 6-01 and 5.59 on a tempo run!  

Today I attempted my usual out and back route along to Lazenby Village from Marske.   Straight out and back with no loops or extras - simple!   The weather was wet, drizzly..the kind of rain that gets you wet!   I didn't mind as once I get my head round that Lazenby run I dont mind the weather - just take it as it comes.   As I set off I felt a bit of a niggle in my left knee and made a mental note to myself that with all my recent miles I need to make time for a bit of foam rolling on the IT band...experience has taught me to recognise the signs that this is one niggle that can develop and stop you in your tracks...I have always found it fairly easy to treat with a combination of massage, ice and stretching but as I said it's a fine line!

Having ran intervals yesterday I could forgive myself for going easy today but once I got into the groove of the run the thoughts soon turned to chasing sub a 6 minute miling average for the course.   On the way out it seemed hard work and at four miles just before turning to come back I clocked 24.27.   As soon as I started on the run back I concentrated on being nice and relaxed but building up the pace assisted by the slight downhill of the course and having the wind behind me.   Mile splits of 5-57, 5-56, 5-54 then a 5-53 gave me a 48-09 for the 8 mile course and an average of 6.01 per mile!   As I said it's a fine line between 6-01 average and sub 6 minute miling!  Still a good run in the bag particularly after yesterday's intervals.

Some great news today from America as my good friend Andrew Willows posted a quality 3-51.51 on his debut Marathon at the Bayshore Marathon.

Closer to home my attention is now starting to turn to the Redcar Half Marathon where I will enjoy a slightly different experience of being in the organising team rather than as a runner.  I know a few club mates are running in the event this year and are chasing Sub 75's to get into London next year through the championship pressure boys but my application is already in the post!  

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Retreat to the woods!

The plan today was to inject a bit of quality into my training so I opted for an early morning steady run (5 miles at about 6-20 pace) with a run later in the day that would be an interval session of some sort.   800m reps seemed a good option but as the usual courses would be more like wind tunnels I decided a trip to the woods was in order.

As the session approached I thought of some of the sessions we used to do up the woods with a group of us who at the time were running for New Marske Harriers.  The favourite session was a set of 1k intervals with a 1k jog back recovery.   I remember the sessions well and they certainly brought my running on as I was running with some experienced and quality runners.  Maybe those sessions were worth more than the physical benefits as I have always enjoyed the sort of efforts like that and the feeling that a hard set of intervals leaves you tired, motivated and buzzing from the high that your body has experienced.

Today I was looking to do 8 x 800m with a 2 min recovery.   Years ago I would have needed to search out the markers on the tree trunks to tell us every 200m point.   The Garmin GPS has made this sort of session much easier and I pre-programmed my watch with the session in mind.   Modern Technology certainly has it's advantages.   One thing that hasn't changed though with the advent of all this technology is the effort required to do a hard session.  This still needs to come from within!  I often wonder how my training might have been different if I had access to the range of features and feedback that you can get from the garmin.  Who knows!   For a while in the mid 90's I was desperate to break 33 minutes for 10k and the more I tried the more it seemed to evade me.  I ran about eight 10k's on the trot where I was low 33's and thought it would never happen.  In my frustration I decided not to worry about it anymore and ran the Chester Zoo 10k with no watch to refer to, no mile splits to worry about and a sense of freedom to run how I felt!.   As we turned the last bend with the finish about 200m or so away I saw the clock at 31:50 and sprinted home in 32.26 (think I was outside the top 10 and nowhere near the prizes but I didnt care as I had finally cracked the 33!).  I only achieved this once again in a race at Stafford where I equalled my Chester Zoo time......sometimes it just feels right!

Todays session felt hard and I needed to dig was also pretty busy on the woods path.  I started the 800s positively with a 2:43 followed by three consecutive 2:41's.   The next two were a little slower (2:44 and 2:45) partly because of a near incident with a poodle type thing (Grrrr!) and a couple of 6 year olds with parents on mini quad bikes added into the mix!   Rather than slip the quality I decided to think on my feet (with a quick re-programme of the GPS) and set out to finish the session with a 4 x 400m with 90 secs recovery.   Managed these fine but kept these at slightly under 2:40 (800m) pace.

Overall generally pleased to get the session in but probably not going to read too much into the pace I ran.  Sometimes you just need to get a bit of quality in and doing the session on my own always makes it a bit harder.  

I couldn't help admire the skill of the Barcelona team last night but also interested in the stats produced by ITV with km run per betting is Ji Sung Park might make a half decent marathon runner one day!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Back to business!

Tonight was going to be a track session but the weather just didnt inspire me...cold, wet and still a bit breezy!  I needed an alternative focus for the session so I turned my attention to a long effort.   The intention was an out and back run similar to Saturday's effort but (hopefully) a bit quicker. 

Sometimes I feel it is the first mile of my pace run that sets the pace for the whole run....Saturday's first mile was 7 minutes...the rest of the run did not get much quicker and I averaged 6-48 miling and felt tired and deflated.

Tonight was different...maybe it was because it was later in the day or was my body just fired up for intervals tonight and I was wimping out!   Mile 1 was a nippy 5-58...great.  Mile 2 was another 5-58....excellent.....Mile 3 I clocked 5-59...damn slowing down....Mile 4 back on track with a 5-53.   And so it went on.     The route I use for these regular pace runs are generally the same out and back route with a few variations en route to add additional miles on (not to make the run more interesting I might add!).   Tonight I was looking for about 10 to 11 miles.   The outward leg is a slight climb and quite a bit of focus is needed in the final mile before the turn point.  Another 5-59 bagged and feeling good...5 miles in 29.48 with the rest of the run generally a bit quicker.      I finished the run strongly with the second half quicker by about 20 seconds or so.   11 miles in total at an average pace of 5.55.  Definitely one of my stronger runs on this course so more than happy with my efforts tonight...I certainly showed a clean pair of heels to the imposter who ran my favourite long course on Saturday!

Tonight I have been reading an article about a true legend...Charlie Spedding.   Charlie is the current English Marathon record holder with 2-08.33 set 24 years ago.   His book "From Last to First" is a superb read and very inspiring.    In the Runners World article he gives some top tips on how to lift your running a notch or two.   My favourite tip and a message for some of my fellow runners who might be reading this blog is this:

"Progress is never a straight line.  Becoming a better runner usually involved plateaus and setbacks, but  perseverance with optimism always brings improvement in the end".

Nice one Charlie!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Wind, a sore foot and belated birthday cocktails!!

The last few days have been a struggle...Saturday's run left me a bit deflated and in need of a few easy days so the wind that has been rattling around the last two days has meant an enforced easy few days...I enjoy running in most weathers but the wind really does wear you down as a runner.

Enjoyed a few drinks on Saturday night as a reward for a relatively sober birthday weekend the previous was also a good opportunity to try out my new cocktail shaker!   Sunday and today were both easy days with just a nominal four mile battle into the wind both days.  

I also have picked up an annoying foot injury which I am 99% sure is to do with timing chips!   I have a swollen and bruised right foot at the point where I wore a timing chip in last weeks race...I know that this sounds a bit far fetched but after Thirsk 10 my left foot had similar problems (I wore my timing chip on the left in that race!).   So far it has not stopped me running but the kids are a bit hacked off with me for refusing to play football with them for the past few days.....they just wont accept my excuses that I'm a veteran and too old to kick a football about!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

What next?

There are a few decisions to be made.

1.   Do I continue to work on the marathon training and do Nottingham Marathon in September?

2.   Do I look at doing a few 5000m and 3000m races on the track over the summer and delay a Marathon until next Spring?

3.   What are the races over the summer that I want to concentrate on?

My run at Chester has given me the qualifying time for London 2012 Championship Race.  I really enjoyed running the longer distance and felt strong enough to not be daunted by a Marathon in three and a half months or so.    I have already entered Nottingham but know I can run the Half Marathon on the day but feel I need an early decision to give me some focus.

Saturday mornings have become a key session for me and the build up to Chester has seen me running a longish hard run between 9 and 12 miles at a pace hovering around or under 6 minute miling.  The focus for most of these runs have been the Half Marathon at Chester.   This Saturday I drifted, I felt like I was running without a purpose, no real reason to push myself to the limit and struggled to lift myself to anything like the past few months.  10 miles completed but my fastest mile was a 6-40 mile with the rest around 7 minute miling.   

I need a plan....quick!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Track Time!

In an effort to get closer to some of my old pb's I am turning my attention to some track sessions this summer.  I cannot remember the last time I did a session of 400's on the track but tonight was an opportunity to test myself with an old favourite session.

2 sets of 8 x 400.  Decided on a 1:1 recovery between the 400s with the plan to hit them at about 75 to 80 seconds.  Recovery between the two sets approx 5 mins.

1st set:  76, 75, 74, 75, 74, 75, 74, 75

2nd set:  77, 74, 74, 74, 76, 75, 75, 75

A good start to what I hope will be a good summer of racing...tonight was a tough session but it was great to have company for the session with Phil M. (fresh from two pb's over 10km and 5km in recent weeks) sharing the workload!

My race plans for the summer are starting to take shape and I have now entered the Great North 10km in Gateshead and looking to do the Silksworth 5km a few days later. 

Still no definite decision on a September Marathon (Nottingham).  Given that this was about getting a qualifying time for London 2012 and I now do not need to do that I may do Middlesbrough 10km instead the week before and opt for the Half in Nottingham...decisions decisions!

I just hope I can walk in the morning after tonight's efforts!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

On the way to recovery!

Just over 48 hours sice crossing the line at Chester Half and all seems well....a 3.5 mile blast tonight at a shade under 6-30 miling and I feel ready to rock and roll again!  The power of a post race massage and compression kit!    Not sure what my next race will be...more than likely a 5km or 10km - feel ready for a short race again to see what is in the legs!  

Reflecting on the race I am quite happy with the outcome but those vets in front of me had better watch out!  I know who they are and I will be stalking them on Power of 10 to gain revenge over the next few years!

On a sad note R.I.P Sammy!

Monday, 16 May 2011

A job well done!

Typically in the week leading up to the Chester Half I felt sluggish, tired, picked up a sore throat and generally felt crap!   I was trying to convince myself that this was a normal reaction to a taper and that I had enjoyed a really good build up to this race and my aim of a sub 75 was achieveable.  The balancing act of a family weekend away and a big race meant Saturday was family day spent visiting a local castle, an ice cream farm and a few hours shopping in Chster followed by a Pizza!   All good stuff but once we were back in the hotel it was a case of switching into race mode and out of holiday mode.  I had arranged breakfast for me in the hotel room and the Moroccan waiter was keen to oblige me with stories of the great Morrocan distance runner  EL GUERROUJ while I explained that I needed to miss the Full English and have something race friendly.  In the end we settled on crunchy nut corn flakes and a croissant.

Sunday morning came and the weather was not good for spectating but good for runners with a light drizzle.  There was a fair breeze blowing but soon I was on my way jogging through the city centre to the racecourse while the family tucked into a full english back at the hotel!.   It was great to see a few of the guys who I used to train with and swop stories and banter with but before long it was race time and we were lining up along Castle Drive ready for a few words of encouragement from the Lord Mayor.

My goals for the race were:

1.  Sub 75 Minutes
2.  Top 10 Finish (not always a good idea to have a goal that involves finishing position)
3.   To have a "decent"  race - this meant not falling apart after 6 miles! (Thirsk!!!!)

I found myself holding back slightly at the start as the lead group hared off.  After a 5.33 mile I was settled into a nice steady pace and running just off the back of a lead group of eight.   Mile 2 and 3 (5.36 and 5.35) soon went by and I was now on my own in 9th place holding my own against what was a group of seven and a lone leader who clearly was embarking on a solo run (John Gilbert of Kent eventually won by over 5 mins in 67.28).   After three miles I was joined by Peter Brook of Chester Tri Club who had stopped to tie his shoes but (typical triathlete!) struggled with the knots!   Peter and I then ran the best part of 5 miles together going through 5 miles in 28.01.  At 9 miles (50.32) I was thinking about the forthcoming hill when we were joined by Paul Sankey of Liverpool RC and a V40.  Unfortunately the hill split us up and I struggled to keep pace with the two with me and I posted my slowest mile of the day (5-56).   I knew that after the hill I needed to refocus and get back on track and make sure that Goal 1 (Sub 75) and Goal 2(Top 10) would be achieved.   A 5-37 mile (Slightly downhill) meant that all I needed to do was do two sub 6 minute miles to the finish and would be under 75.  5-55 and 5-51 meant I should hit the Roodee (Racecourse) with plenty of time to spare and hit the sub 75.   The last 0.1 miles seemed to go on for a long time and the clock was edging slowly towards 74.20 as it came into sight.   One last effort saw me clock 74.47, 9th place overall but more importantly I felt I had run a controlled race and other than a slight slowing of the pace over the last two miles but had I achieved my third goal of a "decent race"!

To put Thirsk and Chester into perspective here are my 5 mile and 10 mile splits!

5 Miles:                   Chester 28-01  (Thirsk 27.45)
10 Miles:                 Chester 56-28  (Thirsk 57-58)
Last three miles:       Chester 17-23  (Thirsk 18.39)

Think Goal 3 was achieved!    

Final Position 9th Overall (6th Vet 40!!!!!) and a gun time of 74.47.      An added bonus is the Qualifying time for London 2012 Championship Race is now achieved so I can readjust my 2011 goals and focus on a speedy summer of racing.....all in all a good days work and a nice prize bonus to take back home!

One to debate is that 6 out of the first 9 across the line were Veterans!   Come on you youngsters where are you?  So much for the competition getting easier after 40!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

An odd distance.....

Tonight I tested myself on my old favourite tempo course.   It's not a fantastic scenic route, or particularly fast course and it's an odd distance (3.94 miles)!   It is however a course with some history for me as I have used this course for about 5 years and have built up a "bank" of times that I can use to assess my fitness.  

I intended to use this course tonight to see how I was.  I have done this course twice in 2011 clocking 22.24 and 22.09.   It is about two months since I last ran it and have trained reasonably well since then and clocked up a few good 10ks in the past few weeks.

Five minutes before setting off the heavens opened and the wind whipped up...tonight's run could be a challenge!    The start of the run is about half a mile away so I jogged to the start and did my usual limbering and stretching.    The first mile into the wind I clocked 5.32 and felt comfortable.  Mile 2 5.33 and Mile 3 5.35.    Encouraged by these mile splits and feeling realtively comfortable I pushed on thinking a sub 22 might be on the cards.   This would be a best ever clocking on this course (previous best ever 22.09).    I wanted to stay as relaxed as possible on the last section and maybe this was my downfall as I clocked 22.03 for the course.   I'm happy with that effort which was an average of 5.36 miling!  Still though the Sub 22 eludes me!  It's getting closer though!

I'm reading an interesting book called  "Run - the Mind Body Method of Running by Feel" by Matt Fitzgerald.   In this book the author talks about "making it matter".    Quote:  " the degree of suffering that a runner is willing to tolerate is largely dependent upon the perceived importance of the effort".   For me this sums up why I use this tempo as a regular effort.   I could choose a better course, a more even distance, less traffic, flatter, faster etc etc but this course has become important to me because I have used it for some time.....It means something to has is screaming at me to get a sub 22!     Tonight it told me "I'm ready and in better shape than I have been for a while!"  

Roll on Chester!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Taper time!

Thursday night's track session took a lot out of my legs...I know that because the last three days of running since Thursday has felt heavy legged, hard work and at times a bit of a struggle!   That said after an easy Friday I managed 11.5 miles at a fairly decent 6.14 per mile on saturday and today an 8.5 miler at 5.59 pace.  Today's run really pleased me - that one second under 6 min miling made all the difference to me at the finish!  After 5 miles my intended sub 6 minute mile pace was slipping away as a combination of tired legs, wind and rain made the run  seem harder than it should be.  I thought about easing off and just running the last three miles at an easy pace back home but (after a mental kicking up the backside) I upped the effort a bit more and managed three consectutive miles at 5.59 pace.   This just left a mere half mile to make sure that the Garmin showed 5.59 ave per mile and not 6.00 or worse 6.01!     In reality the second or two difference in my average mile speed today would be no big deal on any normal day.  This however was the last "effort" before I line up in the Chester Half Marathon next weekend. 

I have done Chester twice before with a best place of 10th in 2007 with 77.22.  I was in much better shape when I returned in 2008 but suffered with the after effects of a heavy cold in the week leading up to the race and finshed 13th in 79.04.      Some unfinished business with the race it seems and it would be great to get close to or under 75 minutes with a Top 10 finish thrown in!

My build up has been good and I feel in good shape.   Now just have to get through the next 6 days remaining injury free, not overdoing it and making sure I line up fresh and raring to go next week!

A sub 75 next week will also get me a place in the London Marathon 2012 as the championship race is open to those who have done a full marathon in 2.45 or a half in under 75 minutes.   All being well I will get one of these times under my belt sometime in 2011 but I would prefer to get it out of the way early in the year.   I have pencilled in Nottingham Marathon in September but if Sunday goes to plan then I will revert to the Half in Nottingham and concentrate on shorter distances over the summer. 

It's always nice to go back to Chester to race as it was whilst living and studying in Chester that all my current pb's were achieved.   Quite appropriate then that I will set my first pb as a Vet 40 in Chester!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Cracked it!

I planned a 6 x 1 mile session tonight and it was weighing on my mind throughout the day...I know it will do me good and once I finish the session I will feel good.  The problem is it is so damn hard to do!

It looked like it would be a windy night so instead of using the usual mile course in Saltburn we (Graham Youngson and I) opted for the track at Guisborough.  Graham opted for a session of 12 x 400's while I kept to my plan of a 6 x 1 mile session with three and a half mins recovery.     It was great to see the track so busy tonight with  lots of enthusiastic kids, committed coaches and some familiar faces all busy undertaking various track and field training.   I was aiming for a session under about 5-30 pace and once I go going found that I was running well under that.  First mile rep done in 5-18 and only another five to go!   By the end of my second mile (5-17) the track was emptying, the sky was becoming darker but  now I was running in the "zone".   The next four miles were done in 5-18, 5-15, 5-17 and finally 5-24.   Cracked it!

The track at Guisborough is such a great place to train - It is a great asset to Athletics in our area and will be a venue that I will use more often in my quest for a speedy summer of running!    Now time for shower, pasta and a shuffle to the polling station.....

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Its all about recovery!

After Sunday's race it was time for a few easy days running....or so I thought!    Monday became my Saturday Morning out and back session where I usually push it hard on the way back to make it a meaningful tempo type effort.  As I ran out with the wind behind me I felt fresh and easy despite the race the day before.   On the turn back I realised the wind was against me so the second half was a bit of an effort!  I did 8.5 miles in under 6-15 min miling so happy with that and seemingly no ill effects from the race.     As often happens its the day after the day after a  race that the dreaded DOMS hits you.  

This morning I got out of bed slightly apprehensive about a run but having made a commitment to run early before work I set about my morning shuffle...Once the first mile was out of the way I felt normal again and finished my three miler without resorting to a crawl!    Tonight's run a different story with a quick four miler under my belt at a shade under 6 minute miling...all recovered and ready for a good session of 6 x 1 mile intervals planned for Thursday.   Seems my powers of recovery are pretty good at the moment! 

Next race is Chester Half in less than a fortnight....those on the other side of the Pennines better watch out cos I'm on a winning streak!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Victory on a plate....

What a great race....the atmosphere was superb, the sun shining and the hills looking inviting!   Pre race was all about the tractor parade, kids races and tea and cakes in the village hall!   The warm up was a good opportunity to look at the hill everyone was talking about and it was certainly one that would be a challenging one.    My target today was just to have a good strong run and not be too worried about my time as the course, the weather and the strong breeze were not going to make the race a quick one.   The intention was to take a steady first mile or so then push on from there.    Once the race got underway I wondered if there was a prize for the first to hit the top of the hill as a group of four runners went off at break neck speed while I settled into my steady pace.  At the first corner I was in 5th place but realised that the four "fast boys" were not as fast as they maybe thought and I soon passed them and found myself in the lead after 1km and settled into my rhythm with the lead car setting a nice pace for me.  Soon it became clear that as long as I continued to work hard off the hill and keep a good hard pace a gap would be established.   Daylight appeared and by 3km or so I was well ahead of the field.   I must have missed the km markers and had no idea what speed I was going (having left my Garmin at home!) so settled into a decent pace that was comfortably hard.   I realised at 8 km into the race that the time I was likely to post would be around about 35 minutes which I would be happy with considering the conditions and the course.   The best bit of the race was to come with hundreds lining the main road in Kirby Moorside cheering and clapping as the lead car and I came into view.   To mark the fact that this would be my last race as a senior man (the next race I will be a Veteran!!!) I wondered if maybe an aeroplane type celebration, fist clenching in delight or even a cartwheel might be the end I settled for a few "hand slaps" with a few of the local kids who previously had raced the kids dash.    35-20 was my watch time but I await the official results!

After a warm down around the local countryside of Kirkby Moorside it was off to the presentation to pick up my piece of local pottery which turned out to be a rather large plate!   It also seems that the NYMAC boys had also secured the Male Team Prize with myself (1st) Brendan Anglim (3rd) and Phil Musgrave (PB and 7th Place) plus a mystery NYMAC runner (we await the official results to find out who!).

So old father time moves on and next time I put on my race kit I will be a Veteran of 40 years and above....Thanks to the Race Referee today who must have known this as he shook my hand and said "Well done young un!"   I thanked him and jogged off at a rather sprightly pace!