Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The Harry Gamble-Thompson Marathon Award

Well 2014 is drawing to a close and as far a running goes I'm putting in some decent miles as a bit of a pre-marathon training block.  No races in December for me as I wanted to get a few base weeks in, do a  few medium long runs and just prepare for the 2015 season where I will tackle three marathons in a year for the first time.   I've managed over 3000 training miles this year which I'm delighted with as it means a level of consistency for me and no major interruptions with injuries.

I was delighted to receive the Harry Gamble-Thompson Marathon Award at our club presentation in December.  Harry G-T is a legend of local running and was a fine marathon runner as well as being a great training partner, club man and general all round nice guy.   He is still involved in New Marske Harriers as the club President and is still at the church hall twice a week welcoming and chatting to runners.  Sadly he no longer runs but I can tell by the glint in his eye that given half a chance he would put his trainers on and do a  few miles.

For those that may not know Harry's pedigree here are the club records he still holds.....

Vet 60 5km - 18.41 set in 1995.
Vet 60 10km - 36.52 set in 1992.
Vet 70 10km - 42.58 set in 2002.
Vet 50  10m - 55.52 set in 1986
Vet 60 10m - 59.51 set in 1993
Vet 70 10m - 71.27 set in 2002.
Vet 50 Half Marathon - 74.23 set in 1986.
Vet 60 Half Marathon - 78.31 set in 1991.
Vet 70 Half Marathon - 1 hr 34.14 set in 2002.
Vet 50 20 mile - 2 hours 3.20 set in 1998.
Vet 60 20 mile - 2 hours 10.15 set in 1993.
Vet 40 and Vet 50 Marathon - 2 hours 34.00 set at Selby in 1986
Vet 60 Marathon - 2 hours 52.54 set in New York in 1991.
Vet 70 Marathon - 3 hours 31.10 set in Honolulu in 2001.

Not many people will know that Harry ran a 2.32.10 marathon as a 50 year old which ranks him currently 8th on the all time list.

I enjoy having the odd chat with Harry and he is quick to offer advice to all runners from novices to the most experienced.   Sometimes the word "legend" is too quickly thrown around but to me Harry G-T is most definitely in that category.

Both Harry and wife Yvonne were recognised at the club awards for the long service given to the club.  Yvonne is always ready to meet runners coming back in on club nights with a cuppa and a biscuit and like Harry is a club legend!

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Winter Sessions

So the marathon season is coming to an end.  My two marathons this year seem a distant memory and the Dash is done.  What now?   
I suppose a reflection on the last few races is a good place to start this blog.   In the build up to Chester whilst my focus was on the long runs needed to complete the marathon I also had an eye on the Abbey Dash as an end of season blast to keep the speed in the legs.     So much of the “speed work” I was doing in the build up to the Dash had a 10km focus.  Typically sessions like 3 x 10 minutes at 10km speed or 800 repeats at 10km speed with minimal recovery were a regular feature.   It’s good to see progress being made and most sessions there was a glimmer of progress but while the marathon was looming my focus was always on the long runs so the speed sessions were a means to an end.  Once the recovery from Chester was done the focus turned more to the 10km sessions and there was a good few weeks of repeating key sessions, tweaking recoveries and increasing time at 10km pace to get me to the Dash in the best possible shape for an attempt at Sub 34.   
I had a decent (solid) if unspectacular race at the Maltby 7 mile race.  It was my fourth Maltby in five years and my 2014 time of 39.50 was my fastest since 2011 (39.49) and 18 seconds quicker than my last run in 2012 where I clocked 40.08 and went onto run 33.56 at the Dash.     Maltby is one of those races that I like with a tough first half with a few climbs then a fast winding route to finish.   

A rare racing smile!

In the weeks leading up to the Abbey Dash I saw some measurable improvements in sessions and felt like I was coming into form at the right time.   In the end a 34.01 10km to end the season shouldn’t be a disappointment but In all honesty I was gutted not to break 34 minutes.  I could spend time looking back at sessions,  looking back at the race and over analysing but to be honest I don’t think it was anything to with my training leading up to it.  I think the difference is simply how much I wanted to do well in that race.  I have never had a problem in the past with getting myself up for the big races but the more I concentrate on the marathon the less I feel “up” for other races.  It’s like there is something in my head that is telling me that this is just a means to an end and not as important to me as a marathon.   It could also be a result of increased mileage and less focus on speed.   I’ve also developed this “cautious” first mile approach which is most suitable for a marathon but possibly leaves me with a lot to do over the shorter distances.  There were a lot of bodies to get past at Leeds!  Partly the reason for the cautious start these days is the old body needs a bit of getting going so its not all about choosing to start easy!
So I am unlikely to race much for the remainder of 2014 (except possibly the North East Cross Country Champs for a bit of fun!) and concentrate on building a good base for the 2015 season. 
I’ve entered the Brass Monkey Half to give me a bit of focus over the winter and so speed sessions are focusing on 10km work and half marathon pace tempos.   I’ve got the long runs back on track with a decent 16 mile effort at the weekend and a base mileage of around 65 miles per week settling in as “the norm”.  I’m using a schedule for the half that is focussing on the 10km speed work over the long runs as the relationship between the half marathon and the 10km is closer than the relationship between the marathon and the half marathon.  If nothing else that makes sense given the closeness of the distances (11km difference vs 21km difference).  One of the key sessions is the planned half marathon pace runs which so far are around the 4 and 5 mile mark but build up to the 9/10 mile region by the end of the programme.
For me its about what fits in to the week and what works.  That means back to back sessions on Wednesday (10km based session) and the half marathon paced tempo (Thursday).  That does make the Thursday session a bit tougher but so far i’m hitting targets and am on track.  It does mean the Friday is a very very easy recovery run to put the body back together after two hard sessions.  
Marathon wise I’ve entered Manchester Marathon in April and following this up with the Potteries Marathon in July.  That gives me the option of a third marathon in October and I would look no further than Chester for another outing along the Cheshire/North Wales border.   

Other races in 2015 will be the Locke Park 20 in March and a few 5km and 10kms mixed into the year.   It’s going to be a real focussed year for me in 2015 as I attempt to lower my marathon time further.   The extra marathon in July will be something new and it may not suit me but sometimes it’s good to experiment.   

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Where has all the speed gone....

So its four weeks since Chester and I'm making good progress again on the training front.  I ran just 31 miles in the week following Chester but since then picked up the mileage again with a 60, 55 and a 65 mile week.  Today was the first long run with a 16 mile steady run with an enforced "easy" start due to the wind but picked up the pace in the second half to finish the run closer to 6:30 miling than I expected when I set off.

As I did Chester last year its easy to make comparisons with how I felt then and how I feel now but to be honest I feel different mentally this year.  Last year I came straight out of marathon training determined to bag a decent 10km at the Abbey Dash (finished in 33.58) but this year my focus has been more of a longer term plan with the aim over the winter to simply "Winter well".  What does that mean?

For me it means putting myself in the best possible position to build a solid base of miles to start marathon training on.   Last year I ignored the long runs until December but did manage to get three decent long runs in before being dealt a massive blow withe the onset of an unexpected bout of sciatica which meant January was a write off.  Although on paper the Manchester Marathon build up went ok and the race went very well (a four minute pb) I did feel that the build up became rushed and ended up with long runs being crammed in last minute and tune up races being used as long runs instead of sharpeners.

So the plan for the winter will be to do the odd race here and there starting with the Maltby 7 next week and then the Abbey Dash the following week but other than those two it will be a case of getting some base miles in over December and January before the more specific marathon training in February and March.  As Manchester is slightly later this year I am going to have a serious attempt at lowering my 20 mile pb as I feel that this is a race distance that suits me.

So the Abbey Dash will be a case of pushing as hard as I can and getting as close to the sub 34 goal again.  I've enjoyed a few decent 10k specific workouts in the last few weeks including 3 x 10 minutes @ 10km pace and earlier this week a session that was a 2 mile effort @ 10km pace followed by 4 x 1 mile.  Recovery was a very slow jog of the track.  Although I was probably a second a lap off the kind of 10km pace needed for a Sub 34 it was enough to convince me that the Dash would be worth a crack at.  I had done a session of 800s the night before so doing a back to back session was never going to be easy.  

Saturday I had the latest attempt at the elusive Sub 17 Locke Park run.  My 17.16 effort on my own making my way past the ghosts, ghouls and witches of the Halloween run was a valiant effort but it wasn't to be.  Then again it probably reflects where I am at the moment.  Plenty of strength just lacking the speed.
Running scared!

Last week was the inaugural Locke Park 10 mile race.  It's always nice to support a new race on your doorstep so I decided to give it a go.   I felt good before hand but on a windy day it was never going to be a race that would be my fastest of the year and I finished 5th overall in 58.36. The  Locke Park 10 was a multi lap race so there were plenty of opportunities to see people.  My attention soon turned from being competitive at the front end to "best make sure I keep running hard so I don't get lapped!".  In the end my fifth place was enough to get me promoted to 4th place on the age graded prizes so came away with a decent voucher to get some solid mileage shoes for the winter miles.  Well done to Graham Hall and New Marske Harriers for yet another superbly organised event.

On the world marathon front it was inspiring today to watch the New York Marathon on TV and despite the wind affecting times the quality of Wilson Kipsang (2.10.59) and Mary Keitani (2.25.07) shone through at the finish as they timed their finishes to perfection to take home the prizes.   Whilst Kipsang's time may be slower than the usual finish time in a marathon major it still represents 5 minute miling which in the windy conditions that the race was run in was a phenomenal effort.   I think the marathon record will once again be lowered next year if he regains the form that brought him the world record at Berlin last year.  I think the mouth watering contest between Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto should be very interesting to say the least!   There is an interview with Kipsang on the IAAF website which makes for some interesting reading.   In particular the fact that he loves the long easy runs and hates speed work!  That is something we both have in common!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Don't write off Bekele

Flicking through this weeks Athletics Weekly and I came to a statement that made me think a lot!  It was the Chicago Marathon report which described the way that Eliud Kipchoge kept Kenenisa Bekele at bay.  The fact that Kipchoge put in a 4.33 mile at mile 25 and the split between 35 and 40 was a winning 14.31 clearly showed that this was a race that he wanted to win.  Bekele finished in 4th in a time of 2:05.51.

The article goes onto describe his disappointment at the result but something that the great man said in his interview really resonated with me.

"there is something with training method.  The body has to change completely from short distance to marathon.  Maybe it needs time and experience also".   So two marathons under his belt both at 2:05 which happens to be better on paper than two ex world marathon record holders "debuts" - Tergat and Gebreselassie - most definitely means that to write him off at your peril.  My bet is that there is more to come from that man!

My own recovery from Chester two weeks ago has gone well.  A few days off, some easy runs, a massage and a decent few runs this week stepping up in intensity has meant now I feel fully recovered.  I'm going to do a few low key cross country races and enjoy a good winter before starting out on another 18 week build up to Manchester next year.

Like Bekele I have definitely learned a lot about the marathon since this race!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Chester Marathon

Well the dust has settled on another marathon journey.  I finished the Chester Marathon in 13th place in a new personal best of 2 hours 37 minutes and 38 seconds.    The build up to Chester was a planned 18 week build up starting on the 2nd June and finishing with a two week taper leading up to race day on Sunday.   Briefly my training has involved 14 "long runs" mostly over 20 miles each focusing on a decent pace but not flat out.  One or two of those long runs finished at marathon pace.  A fair few runs at a marathon pace (mainly between 9 and 12 miles at marathon pace - around 6 minute miling) and these I felt were the most beneficial to me.  I set out at the start of the 18 weeks with a clear goal.  A 26.2 mile race at 6 minute miling ending with a 2.37 marathon.   At no point did I deviate from this or think I cant do it or maybe I could go faster.  This meant a clarity over all my training as I set that goal early and stuck to it.  There were times when i set off on a 10 - 12 mile marathon pace effort and felt that 6 minute miling was just slightly out of reach but I was confident that come race day it would click!

I've never been a high mileage runner and usually 50 to 60 miles has been my average weekly mileage.  In this build up over the 16 training weeks excluding the taper I've averaged about 70 miles per week peaking at 90 miles with four weeks to go until race day.    I've maintained a weekly speed session mainly focusing on 10km speed intervals with the odd 5km based session thrown in. 

For the taper I reduced from the 90 mile week down to 60 miles then 50 miles.  For my last week I kept things similar to my last two marathon's and this involved:

Saturday - 13 mile steady run averaging 6.08 miles per minute
Sunday - Race Director duties most of day for Redcar Half then an easy 4 mile recovery run.
Monday - Steady 4 miles averaging 6.28 per mile followed by a massage.
Tuesday - a 4.5 mile steady run in 6.18 minutes per mile followed later in the day with a one mile easy jog then 4 x 400m efforts @ 5km pace.
Wednesday - 5 x 800m efforts at a nice and relaxed pace (close to half marathon pace).
Thursday - A three mile marathon pace effort on the track where I averaged 5.58 minutes per mile.
Friday - No Running
Saturday - a two mile easy jog to loosen up the legs after travelling.

This was the easiest taper I've done and unlike other marathons I have done I wasn't climbing the walls with the reduced mileage.  There were plenty of taper niggles but In was confident that they were just the body getting ready for the main event!

So race day arrived and after a gentle warm up and hanging around time in the elite tent at Chester it was time for the start.  I felt confident but knew the first few miles were important to find my feet, get my head straight and establish a steady rhythm for the race. 

The first 10km was completed in 37.10 almost bang on target despite the few climbs and descents around the town centre so it was a case of putting in the miles now until the real test starts post 20 miles.   I was fortunate to get into a great group of three runners.  Nick Sparkes of Sheffield Tri Club and a runner from Exeter Simon Longthorpe who both went onto finish in the Top 10 and under 2.36.  Between us we pushed on until almost the 30km point before I was dropped from the group but not before we had picked off a fair few runners on our way who were suffering from a faster early pace.   The group effort was relaxing.  There was very little communication between us but total concentration and effort and a sense that we were working off each other rather than competing against each other.   Frustratingly being dropped from that group was not because of the effort needed to maintain that pace but the onset of some tightness in the hamstrings which continued to the finish.  It also co-incided with a slight hill and a drinks station whcih broke up our steady rhythm.

I passed 20km in 1.14.13 (37.03 10km) and 30km in 1.15.13 (37.00 10km) so far so good.  between 30km and 40km I struggled slightly with the hamstrings but still managed to maintain a decent pace (37.51 10km pace) going through 20 miles in 1.59.12 which would be a 20 mile pb.    Inevitably the last two km was a struggle especially after the Sandy Lane hill (Chester's equivalent of the Heartbreak hill!) and the final two miles were covered in 6.18 and 6.23 respectively.  

 Descending out of the City!

Overall I'm pleased with the run but know where the improvements can be made.  I know I can cope with a higher mileage overall and what works for me.    I felt relatively fresh at the finish so know that in terms of nutrition, pacing and judgement I got things right.   The weakness in my armour is once again the hamstrings and although it wasn't a show stopper it was certainly the things that was holding me back and i was definitely conscious of this in the last mile which involves a rather nasty descent onto the river side.

Chester Marathon is up there in my all time favourite races.  It's a fantastically organised event that really looks after you in terms of the course.  They have the drinks stations spot on in terms of nutrition options (gels, isotonic and water at plenty of opportunities around the course) and the pre and post race organisation was impeccable.    Also the elite set up with the pre and post race refreshments was a great help to make the day go smoothly.  You can't beat a decent cuppa and a few cakes after a 26.2 mile effort!

So its all about recovery now.  I've no real desire to run today and will wait until the body feels ready to go.  It might be tomorrow or Thursday or even the weekend.   After my previous few marathons I've been dying to get out and put a few miles in post marathon.  This time the feeling is different like my body is telling me to recover. 

What next?  

Marathon wise I've entered Manchester Marathon again in April.  My long term plan was to do marathons in a two year cycle to learn from the experience in Year one and then feel the benefit in Year two.  This has worked for me at Chester with a a 6 minute improvement from the 2013 race.  That would mean missing Chester in 2015 and opting for a new marathon but I was so impressed with Chester and the way it looks after you that I may be tempted to go back in 2015 and see if I can knock another chunk off that pb!   The target for 2015 will be a 2.35 marathon edging ever closer to my former mentor and club stalwart Harry Gamble-Thompson's club record for the Vet 40 (and Vet 50!) 2.34.00  set at Selby in 1986 as a 50 year old. 

For the statto's here's a link to my Strava run.  

Chester Marathon Andy Pearson

It's an interesting journey this marathon training! 

Saturday, 6 September 2014

A challenging August

Marathon training in August can I guess be a bit hit and miss with holidays and hot weather.  MY August has brought a few such challenges and a few niggles thrown in for good measure.  In terms of the marathon the month of August has felt like a mid race bad patch that challenges you physically and mentally.  Thankfully I seem to have come through it and am now running well again and firing on all cylinders with the start line just four weeks away tomorrow. 

The total mileage of 290 miles in August included three runs over twenty miles (20.7, 21.7 and a 23.4).   Whilst the intention was to include some specific marathon pace running within that I only managed that once when I threw in 7 miles at marathon pace on my 21.7 mile run.   I did these at random sections of the run and in bursts of three, two and 2 x 1 miles just to mix things up a bit.    A week on a Greek Island which was ridiculously hot meant runs were limited to no more than 3 or 4 dusty miles or along a beach to take advantage of the sea breeze.   This meant the latter part of August was a case of jumping straight back onto mileage work before easing up a few days before Wetherby 10km which was always in my plan as a "tune up race".

So perhaps the day after coming back from holiday doing a 10 mile tempo at quicker than marathon pace (10 miles @ 5-56 pace) followed the next morning with a 16 miler at a steady 6.25 pace may have taken a bit more out of the legs than  had appreciated.     A tight adductor decided to make a gentle appearance on the later stage of my easy recovery jog on the Friday and then completely burst onto the scene 24 hours later as I pulled up in the middle of a steady parkrun effort. 

After a bit of easy jogging and plenty of stretching I decided to set off for Wetherby regardless and see how it went.  In the end it went ok after a cautious start I finished 9th in 35.23.  I cant complain at that and although I would have loved to go faster my mind wasn't focused so much on this being a race but more of a test to see if I could get round in one piece. 

A massage on Monday and a few steady runs has meant no lasting damage to the adductor and this week has seen me come through the bad patch and put some decent sessions in the bag.

Wednesday - a solid run at the Coast Road 5km finishing 6th in 17.07.  This is the same race that last year I ran 16.36 but then spent the next two weeks with hamstring issues - not the ideal preparation in the later stages of a marathon. 

Thursday - A track session.   25 laps alternating marathon pace (90 seconds) with 5km pace (80 seconds) was the intended session.  It almost worked out that way but I did struggle to hit the 5km pace and settled for the majority of the "fast laps" being more like 10km pace (83/84 seconds).  What I felt was the most important was hitting the recoveries at marathon pace and maintaining that difference between the fast laps and the slower recovery laps.  Its one of those sessions that seems easy to begin with then the toughness creeps up on you and hits you in the latter stages.  Sounds familiar? 

After an easy Friday todays run was a 12 mile effort at my intended marathon pace (5.59/6.00) per mile.  With this comfortably in the bag I can almost certainly say I've come through the bad patch.   It will be another 20 miler tomorrow then I'll settle down in front of the telly and see if Mo can go one place better in the GNR.   Happy Days!

Sunday, 3 August 2014

July Stats

July for an Autumn marathon is the February for  a spring marathon without the dark nights, cold winds and occasional "I know the weather is terrible but I've got a 20 miler to do!" sort of dilemma.  Instead it's been hot and dry most of the time so running has been mostly a pleasure.   My February for the Manchester Marathon was a case of building up some mileage after a disastrous January where I suffered most of the month with sciatica.   241 miles in cold and miserable February compared to 302 miles in July.   I've also managed to hit three runs of over 20 miles and raced just twice.    All in all a very positive month as I progress towards Chester. 

The races were a mixed bag if you look at them in pure racing terms and times.  Sunderland 5km has become a regular for me over the past few years and it would be easy for me to be disappointed with
my slowest race there and not quite breaking 17 minutes.  I felt a bit flat and not quite able to produce any real speed but looking back on this it was probably a result of some big mile weeks (75 and 80) and coming just three days after a 20 mile effort.  The next race after Sunderland and the opportunity to "put things right" came just four days later at our own Victorian 10km.  I've tried to really focus on the marathon and made a late decision that a long run would be more beneficial to me than a 10km so decided to run a long warm up (13 miles) then change into race gear and hit the 10km.   The aim 6 minute miling (2:37 pace) to replicate the latter stages of the marathon with tired legs.  It was a bit surreal and took some discipline to do this but the splits tell the story...5:58, 5:56, 5:52, 5:51, 5:53 followed by a 5:41 to finish 10th in 36:20.  A two mile warm down completed a very satisfying 22 miles. 

One of the challenges of the Autumn marathon is the family holiday.   A week in the West Country with the family meant a change of running scenery and an opportunity to ease off a bit.  I ran each morning once I found a decent circular route (without getting lost!).   The 5.8 mile run was a pleasure with lots of country lanes, a few hills and lots of breathtaking scenery.     A feature of the run was the opportunity to see buzzards flying above.  A couple of days into the run one made an appearance down a lane just a few feet from my head.    A quick search on the internet back at the cottage revealed a dark side to this experience.  It seems that the buzzard may not have been simply checking me out but more likely warning me off.  The internet was full of stories of runners being attacked by these birds to the point that it was recommended that hats be worn! Thankfully that was my only close encounter but it certainly opened my eyes and made me run a bit quicker down those lanes!

So the holiday week was a 45 mile "tick over week" but the rest must have done me good as I knocked out a Redcar parkrun pb of 17:01 on Saturday.   With another long run (20.7 miles) in the bag its still all on track for Chester.  9 weeks today until race day so still plenty of time to hit some more long runs.  From here on the longs runs will start to get a bit more specific with a few marathon miles thrown in. 

At least they warned you about the hills!

certainly built up a thirst on them lanes!

The locals thought I was crazy!  But then I am marathon training !

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Chester Marathon Training weeks 4 to 6. 12 weeks to lift off.

Ok I'm not jealous but there has been a lot of "race talk" today with the Great North 10km, Eccup 10, Kilburn 7 and the odd track race here and there dominating the local dispatches!

216 miles in three weeks has been the order of the day for me with a 60 mile "recovery week", a solid 75 mile week and this week an 80 mile week.

With 12 weeks to go I know I have time on my hands and am feeling pretty relaxed about the build up.

Week 4 recovery saw me just easing off the tempo a little on the intervals (8 x 800m @ half marathon pace) put a solid 16:45 in at the Coast Road 5km, a marathon pace tempo (4 miles) and finished the week with a long run of 18.5 miles at 6-55 minutes per mile.

Week 5 was "back to business" with an intended 80 mile week but I lost a couple of runs more due to other commitments rather than tiredness.  I decided this week to put some long tempos in having just felt the hamstring was a bit tight after last weeks 5km.  So a decent 75 mile week was ended with the obligatory long run covering just short of 21 miles with an average pace of 6-22 minutes per mile for the last 18 miles.  Probably the best long run of the build up so far feeling really strong for the second half but just shy of marathon pace (although I admit that I wasn't intending to do any marathon pace).


So this week I was pretty determined to get a quality week under my belt and hit the 80 miles that has become the aim for my marathon weeks this build up.

Key sessions this week have been a solid 10 x 800m session on Tuesday averaging around 2-48 per 800m which is slightly slower than 10km pace but slightly quicker than half marathon pace.  I was quite happy with the session given the short recovery (90s).  Thursday's track session was a shorter 12 x 400m session where I averaged around 78 seconds per lap (5km pace).  After 12 reps with 90s recovery I finished the session with a warm down at my intended marathon pace (6 min miling) and it felt reassuringly easy!

On Saturday I decided to have a run round the local Redcar parkrun.  I've been after the sub 17 on that course for a while and decided to give it a go.  I had company for the first lap of three but then found myself on my own and finished in 17:04 which is equal to my course pb and the fastest Redcar parkrun since 2012.

So the end of the week just needed a shade of over 20 miles today to hit the 80.  I was a bit tired at the start of the run having done a few miles before meeting up with my long run partner of late Steve Hepples covering the last sixteen miles of the 20 at a pace averaging 6-33 per mile.  There were certainly a few miles today towards the end of the run that I could have eased off and drifted back but having a bit of company was one of those days where it made a difference.  


So thats six long runs in six weeks and I feel like its given me a great base to launch me into the last 12 weeks.  Quality on the last two long runs has been good with strong finishes on both.

This week I'll be easing off the mileage pedal and racing at Sunderland 5km and then hopefully the New Marske 10km on Sunday.  I've tried to put distractions aside and concentrate on the long runs which so far is working well.  I know there is still a bit to do and plenty of long runs to do but its a great feeling knowing that there are six long runs already under my belt.

The tightrope seems to be in my favour at the moment!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Marathon Build Up Weeks 1 to 3

215 miles in three weeks.  Not quite up there with the 100 plus mile weeks enjoyed by some marathoners but a nice block of training as the build up to Chester starts in earnest.  As I write this its 15 weeks to go and quite honestly I feel like things are moving well and truly in the right direction.

A 75 mile week after the Middlesbrough 5km which ended in an 18 mile run averaging 6:47 was the week that kick started the build up.   It took a difficult track session and a few "conversations" to prompt the marathon build up switch despite being tempted to stick to some faster stuff and see what I could push in terms of 5km/10km performances.

Week 2 was a slightly lower week with 70 miles but with two quality interval sessions mixed in.  An 8 x 800m session @ half marathon pace  on the road  was followed up the following day with a 4 x 1 mile session with the miles at 10km pace and the recovery being a 400m float.  There was no real science behind the back to back sessions more convenience as I felt that the Tuesday was better spent recovering from the long run on the Sunday.   I do like back to back sessions sometimes though and feel it can build up leg strength particularly in the marathon build up.   I also feel that my recovery from sessions is pretty good and usually my long runs don't leave me feeling too tired.   Week two long run was a hilly 19.5 miles with Steve Hepples for company.  I know that putting a few hilly long runs into the mix will be a good idea seeing as Chester is not exactly a flat marathon (describing it as hilly would be a bit much though!).

This week Ive enjoyed another two interval based sessions with a slightly quicker 8 x 800m session this time at about 5km pace on Tuesday followed by a 3 x 10 minute 10km pace effort with a four minute rest recovery.  Looking at the distance covered we would be slightly under 34 minute 10km pace for the duration which I was really pleased with given the miles in the legs.  I had a blast round Locke parkrun yesterday (17:15) and ended the week with a 20 miler at an average pace of 6:50.

Today's run was all the more satisfying as it was on my own, ran without any gels or even water (until over 2 hours into the run) and my pace gradually increased from 7 minute plus miles to 6:40's and 6:30's in the second half.   It was also a run on my own and one that from around 6 miles I felt would be a long old slog as I just didn't seem to be "feeling it".   It was a case of concentrating on efficiency of running, switching off the negative thoughts and just ticking off the miles.  It worked and once I was in the "long run region" I knew that the hard miles were behind me and the last few would be ones to enjoy.   I almost felt a sense of "come on bring me some pain I'm supposed to be toughening myself up for 26 miles!

So a 71 mile week and now time for a bit of recovery as I look to the Coast Road 5km on Wednesday.  Last year in the same race and a week earlier in the marathon build up I clocked 16.36.   I hope to get close to that again this year but it will all depend on the recovery from today's long run.  20 minutes of aqua jogging tonight seems to have hit the right spot (as well as homemade curry, rice and Slimming World Onion Bhajis! which are apparently almost free food so I can eat as many as I like!  Not like I need an excuse to fill my face especially in marathon training!). 

I was feeling good about my three week block of mileage then I read Steve Way's highly entertaining blog. http://www.steveway.co.uk/ which made me feel a bit inadequate in terms of mileage!   I do think though there is a bit of room for me to up the mileage a little from previous marathons but its a fine line.  Ive coped so far with 70 mile weeks so lets see what 80 miles a week feels like after a bit of a recovery week.  

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Marathon Time

Well thats it.  Decision made.  Im now officially in marathon training.   Week 1 of the 18 week plan is underway.

Tonights track session was the clincher.  The 400m intervals @ 3km pace with 200m recovery at marathon pace was just not happening tonight.   I didn't feel good, missed my splits and just felt flat.  Ive also looked at my build up to my last two marathons and the long build up has certainly helped especially given that the 18 weeks have been eaten into by the odd niggle and holidays.

So my first four weeks are planned out and I'm looking how best to accommodate some build up races into the plan without compromising the need for consistent long runs.

My target at Chester will be around 2-37 which will mean 6 minute miling for the 26.2 miles.  Thats going to be a big ask so the longer build up will certainly help.   My aim on each run is to make marathon pace seem easy, to be efficient at running at marathon pace and to effectively recover from key sessions.

For my last two marathons i've planned out the full build up only to find Ive needed to tweak it to take account of enforced change.  This year i've planned out a broad plan, looked at build up races and identified key weeks where I will do some big mileage.

Time is on my side and the first few long runs will just be about time on my feet.  The path is clear and its now down to me to make it happen!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The dilemma - which way now!

After the decent run at Melmerby last week I knew that all things being equal I could expect a decent run at the Middlesbrough 5km.  The niggling doubt in my mind was the lack of specific 5km training I've been doing.    Most of my "sessions" have not quite hit 5km speed.  My sets of road based 800s have mainly been at 10km pace and my track work has just not quite hit full speed.

The lack of "speed" in my legs was underlined by the recent mile relay where I posted a relatively lacklustre 5-18 for the all out mile and although I tried to convince myself that the course wasn't that quick you just cant help looking at other results and thinking "Where's the speed gone!".

Thanks to Erin Corbyn for the ation shot!

The field at Middlesbrough was fully loaded with local star Matty Hynes expected to dominate the field but facing some stiff competition from last years winner Dominic Shaw and paralympian star Wondiye Fikre Indelbu with Veteran Ian Hudspith always likely to feature.   Results

My own race went well.  A seemingly "steady" start was actually surprisingly quick for me with a 5-06 but still quite a way down the field.  The next mile was a case of picking off the odd fast starter here and there and working my way through the field.  Another 5-06 and a few more people picked off it was down to the business end of the race with just a few people possibly "catchable" in my signts and a few people behind me who I was determined to hold off.  The third mile was a real tough one particularly given the twisting nature of the course at the finish but a 5-23 mile meant that the "chariots of fire" run in would be a case of job done in terms of the sub 16-30 but I was also determined that unlike last year I wasn't going to be "taken down" in the Riverside in a sprint finish.  Given that there was a bit of daylight it was a great feeling to run round the hallowed turf of the Riverside enjoying the atmosphere secure in the knowledge that nobody was going past me!

Stopped the watch at 16-20 and I was over the moon!  Its another 85% Age grader and beats the Melmerby performance to my number 1 race on age grading of all time. 

I can honestly say I don't know where that came from but it does present a bit of a dilemma in that the "script" was to do Middlesbrough 5km as a sort of end of the mini speed block that I planned "between marathons" and as a starting point for the next marathon campaign about 18 weeks away.

The question now is...Do I shorten the marathon build up and try and sharpen the speed up a bit more and target a few more 5kms/10kms or do i plough on with the marathon build up secure in the knowledge that I'm in great shape to cope with the miles ahead.

That's something I'm going to ponder this week and see how I feel.  There are a few race options I'm considering and its tempting to keep this momentum going but at the same time the thought of a long build up to Chester to really get things right in the marathon is tempting. 

On the age grading front an 85% is in the 2:34 region which to be honest is dreamland for me!  Can I find 5 minutes over the next 4 months?   Well its starting to feel believable!

There were some pretty spectacular performances on Sunday but three in particular stuck out for me. 

A massive pb for Steve Munro (newly joined New Marske Harrier) with a storming 15:47 for 11th place...watch this space this guy has massive potential!

A first time under 17 minutes for V45 Clive Thornton of New Marske Harriers showing that hard work and commitment equals results.

A massive pb for Michael Joyeux hitting the big time with a 16-06.  His blog is a great read.

Running is a good place at the moment!

Monday, 26 May 2014

Melmerby 10km - one of those days!

A quick bank holiday blog.

I decided a few weeks ago to slot Melmerby 10km into the race diary.  For no other reason that is filled a weekend in my pre marathon training "mini speed block".  It was a new race for me as I've not done this one before but an undulating course, country lanes and tea and cakes in the village hall was just too tempting.  But it was a B race......not one that I specifically targeted and therefore off the back of a fairly normal week.   Tuesday a decent 10 x 800m session, Wednesday a steady 8 miler and Thursday a run out at the North York Moors AC 4 x  mile relay at Stewarts Park ( a very well organised and enjoyable event next planned for 28th August - www.nym.ac) meant just an easy Friday and Saturday "ease down".

The race started at a very leisurely pace with team mates Shaun O'Grady, Tristan Learoyd, Paul Dalton and Paul Cook from Darlington and a few Harrogate/Ripon vests in a pretty large group all running together for the first km or so.  At the front of the pack it seemed there was a huge number running together and made for quite a surreal experience as we approached the first "undulation" when eventual winner Shaun O'Grady attacked and at that point effectively won the race.

After the first mile (5:19) I found myself in about 6th place and working my way comfortably through the field in the next mile (another 5:19) settled into third place with Shaun about 30 seconds or so in front and eventual runner up Andrew Grant from Harrogate about 10 seconds in front of me.  Looking back occasionally it seemed the gap behind was never going to be pulled back so it was a clear 1-2-3.   I tried to pull 2nd place back but he was just too strong and ended up clear.  Mile 3 (5:27), Mile 4 (5:30) and Mile 5 (5:29) meant a 27:12 clocking at the 5 mile split.   Still feeling strong I had a final attempt at pulling back 2nd place but it was clear the gap was widening and at that point thought I would enjoy the run back into Melmerby secure in the knowledge it had been a decent race and my time would be a seasons best on a fairly challenging course. 

I think because I hadn't set a specific time target I wasn't really focused on my time and the first few miles felt like a "proper race".     So to stop my watch at 34:11 was a nice pleasant surprise and much quicker than I had hoped or expected. 

Based on my last blog this then becomes the best road race I have ever done (based on the WAVA Rankings).  It clocked an 85.01% age grade which exceeds any of my previous performances including all those from 1994/95 when I set most of my all time pbs. 

Using this age predictor it predicts a marathon time of 2:34.20!   I've been in the game for too long to think that sort of time will be easy and there is a huge amount of work to be done but maybe just maybe that could be done!   

Whatever the predictions say I know that sometimes things just go well and a "stellar" performance can just creep up on you without you noticing.  Sometimes just being relaxed, enjoying your running and letting things just flow can work wonders!  Sometimes you can just work too hard and that's a lesson Ive learned only too well in the past!

Next week its the Middlesbrough 5km.  Its a super loaded field and there are loads of people throwing out predictions some wild and some achievable.  Me... I'm staying quiet about mine....I'll let the running do the talking next week.   Another 85% er would be nice though!

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Its all about percentages!

At some point in your running career you realise that you are never going to run the same times as when you were at your best..especially over the shorter distances.  I reached my peak as a "youngster" when I was 24.  Most of my pbs were set in the 95/96 season so using WAVA http://www.howardgrubb.co.uk/athletics/wmalookup06.html

I thought it would make an interesting comparison.  My peak at 24 compared to now at 43 years old.  It was also prompted by a question someone asked if I was running as quicker than ever before.   The answer to that on first thought is a resounding no but maybe the age grading might tell me otherwise.

As a younger running I never raced upwards of the half marathon.  

My 5km pb set as a 24 year old (15.11) is an 84.96% WAVA age grade.  My best as a Vet 40 is 83.98% set at last years Middlesbrough 5km.  My WAVA target therefore is 16 mins 26.

My 5m pb set as a 24 year old (25:17) is an 84.38% WAVA age grade.  My best as a Vet 40 is 83.50 set at Locke Park 5 (27:39) giving me a target of 27 mins 22.  

My 10km pb set as a 24 year old (32:26) is an 82.79% WAVA age grade.  My best as a Vet 40 is an 84.74 set at last years Leeds Abbey Dash (33:58).   Thats one to the new me!  

My 10m pb set as a 24 year old (52:26) is an 84.65% WAVA age grade.  My recent best as a Vet 40 is an 83.54 set at the Thirsk 10 this year (56:31) giving me a target of 56 mins 15 secs.

My half marathon pb set as a 24 year old (72:22) is 81.83 WAVA age grade - I never did get that distance right!  My recent best is an 82.49% set at the Chester Half Marathon in 2011(74:38) so that's one back to me.  

So am I quicker now than I was then?  The jury is probably out on that one but the targets for 5km, 5 mile and 10 mile do all seem within reach.     At the moment its 3-2 to the old me so I need to hit one of those targets as a 43 year old to snatch it!

Three races since my last blog post Manchester Marathon. 

New Marske Harriers Mermaid 10km finishing 5th overall and 2nd Vet 40 in a time of 34:48.
New Marske Harriers Coast Road 5km finishing 19th in a fully loaded field in a time of 17:02.
Locke Park 5 mile pie and peas race (and they were delicious!) finishing 1st in a time of 27:39.

Its always nice to get a win and what made this one special was that it was first over the line and first in the age graded list.  Another race in the race calender that Im sure will become a regular fixture thanks to New Marske Harriers.  http://www.new-marske-harriers.co.uk/

I'm enjoying a few shorter runs over this early summer period before knuckling down to Chester Marathon preparations which will begin in earnest mid June.

Start of the Locke Park 5 mile race


Thursday, 17 April 2014

Post Marathon Reflection

All the marathon talk in the last week post London has been around Mo Farah's debut in the event with a 2:08.21.

Just reading the BBC website about Farah...

"Mo Farah finally struggled for answers"
"Farah's 2 hours 8 minutes 21 seconds on his London Marathon debut on this sunny Sunday morning may have seen him finish down in eighth place, not just among the elite also-rans but more than a minute off Steve Jones's 29 year old British record and almost four minutes off winner Wilson Kipsang.

To be fair to the author (Tom Fordyce) he does go onto put the performance into some perspective talking about the hype that was built up around Farah and an admittance that actually he didn't do much wrong.

The early pace in the race meant Farah, running sensibly in the first 6 miles, found himself cut adrift and forced into pushing hard in the second quarter.  The tracking tool (where there is no hiding!) shows the section between 20km and halfway was the quickest section of the race.   Slowest section between 35k and 40k.   I think most marathon runners can relate to those stats!  Oh and he messed up a few drinks stations.....

I'm sure Farah will be disappointed but for many people to write him off then really I think they need to take a reality check....

Only the great Steve Jones has run quicker than Farah from a GB perspective and this performance puts Farah as the fifth quickest performance on the list of British men's marathon times and breaks the English record held by the great Charlie Spedding.  

In reality the field at London was one of the best assembled and Wilson Kipsang is world record holder, course record holder at London and more significantly in his 9th marathon.   His debut in Paris in 2010 shows 3rd place in 2:07.13.   Other than a 3rd place in the 2012 Olympic Games where he ran 2:09.37 Kipsang has an exemplary marathon record which includes the World Record mark set in Berlin in 2013 where he ran 2:03.23.

Let's hold the verdict on Farah as a marathon runner once he has done a second or third marathon.  And for all those people who have a view on Farah but have never run a marathon before put your money where your mouth is.  Lace up your running shoes and go out there and bang some miles out in preparation for a marathon and see how you do in your debut 26.2 miles.  

I've had some time to reflect on my own Marathon in Manchester and definitely feel there were some learning points that will springboard me to a quicker time.

1.   Training and the build up - no major changes needed just more of the same, avoid injury and just tweak the mileage up a little.

2.    The race - again no major changes just quicken the pace by a few seconds a mile and keep the pace consistent.

3.   Final stages - really only struggled in the last two miles.  Mentally I was strong but physically I was on the edge.   A few more long runs in the bank and some specific marathon pace work should help.  I was running from just before half way to about 24 miles with Emily Wicks who went onto record 2:38.21 exactly a minute in front of me.  That's almost 30 seconds a mile taken out of me in the last 2.2 miles.  

4.   Race Nutrition - think this is where I made errors on the day.   I didn't feel in control of my nutrition.  Carried a couple of gels which I used as planned.  I then missed the first official gel stop on the course then relied on the product provided later by the organisers which was shot bloks.  I've never used them before, they were difficult to chew and not something that I would use in future.   That was an area I was complacent with as I have never had a problem with gels affecting me.   That said I don't think it made too much of a difference to me but to make the small gains you need to look at all aspects.

Ultimately I would like to master the marathon distance and whilst as runners we are never happy with our pb (there is always more to come off!) I would be more than satisfied with a marathon pb of under 2:34.   That's a good five and a half minutes away yet so I know I will have to work hard to get there.   

Marathon performance of London for me has to be Steve Way.   Check out his highly entertaining blog here... http://www.steveway.co.uk/

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Manchester Marathon - The day I joined the Sub 2:40 club!

You reach a point in your marathon build up when you know the work is done and you cant really do much more.  The miles have been logged and the preparation is done.  The start line cant come soon enough and the taper becomes a drag, every niggle is a race threatening injury, every sniffle is man flu and the doubts convince you that you are losing fitness every day and you just need one more run to be ready! 

Actually I felt some of the above but it wasn't over consuming.  There was an air of calmness in my taper.  The last week's runs were planned out and each run went to plan including a few short runs at marathon pace where I tuned in easily to the intended pace of 6-06 per mile (2:40 marathon pace!).

Manchester is a great marathon to do.  The location at Old Trafford was easy to get to and plenty of parking etc so all those pre race issues were easily dealt with.  To the start line.....

Today...we race!

The legendary Ron Hill started us off.  Ron has run 115 marathons.  112 of which have been under 2:50 and has a best of 2:10.  He is also famous for his long running streak of running every day since December 1964.  He is a true running hero and still looks amzingly fit!

I only came out for a paper!

The first 10km of the race went according to plan.  Holding myself back I completed the early miles in 6-01, 5-59, 5-59, 6-05, 6-02 and 6-02 clocking 37.41 for the first 10km going through in 39th place.  The race was going perfectly at this point and despite a headwind the times were going in my favour.
10 miles in 60-10 I had picked up 8 places into 31st.   It was a case now of keeping this pace going and counting down the miles.  I felt comfortable and had the leading lady in my sights.  Just before halfway I caught the leading lady Emily Wicks and we ran together then for the next 10/11 miles.  I seemed to have found someone who was banging out an even more consistent pace than I could and despite a "quick" 5-50 mile at Mile 14 we set a consistent pace around 6-05 minutes per mile.

20 miles was logged in 2 hours and 23 seconds.  Over a minute ahead of my recent pb over 20 at Locke Park.  Now it was down to the business end.  This is where the doubts can come in and you wonder at what point in the next six miles is it going to go from comfortable to not so comfortable down to downright horrible! 

Mile 21 - a solid 6-02 we were going well still and managed to gain a place or two.
Mile 22 - 6-12 and it was starting to get tough.
Mile 23 - 6-16 this was crunch time.  My running partner of the last 11 miles was pulling away from me.  She went onto win a a solid 2:38.21. 
Mile 24 - 6-21 starting to think about the finish.  This was getting hard!
Mile 25 - 6-24.   Legs were aching.   The stadium was just in sight!
Mile 26 - 6-35 and the slowest, hardest mile of the whole race....

Finish - 24th overall in 2 hours 39 minutes and 21 seconds.   In my pre-race vision I would savour this moment.....its been a long time coming. Ive put the work in now I'm going to enjoy it!     In reality my effort had been a real tightrope job...I wobbled as I crossed the line and spent the next ten minutes emptying the contents of stomach unable even to keep the bottle of water the finish marshall's gave me!   It was certainly the worst I had ever felt at the finish line of any race !

I might look like I'm smiling but I'm not!

Ian Bloomfield - Vet 60, 2-44 and UK Record holder!
Do I want a massage, a coffee or just a lie down!

So that's another marathon done and dusted.  The marathon is more than just a one off race.  The real battle is getting to the start line in one piece and not falling off the tightrope that is the high mileage.   Now the dust has settled I'm over the moon with my result and even more chuffed that at this moment In time my 2:39.21 sits pretty at the top of the UK rankings for Vet 40 to 44.    

Manchester - you were fab!  Highlight of the day was most definitely the youth choir who belted out... "I predict a Riot!....I predict a Riot!" as I ran past.   That was the most surreal and amazing experience of the day!   

I'll sit and enjoy watching Mo run next week at London but I'll be keeping an eye on those vet 40 to 44 times! 


Monday, 24 March 2014

Thirsk 10 and Negative splitting!

I can count the number of times I have enjoyed the feeling of a negative split on one hand!  I just don't tend to do them.  I would like to but I always think that maybe I'm just not that kid of runner. 

Thirsk 10 on Sunday I had a game plan.   First three miles or so fairly steady then pick up in the middle section and finish strong.  Negative splits are so far out of my conscience I didn't even consider this. 

Thirsk 10 has been in my race diary now for four years. 

2011 - Finished in 58.01.   2nd half was two minutes and twenty five seconds slower than the first half.  A fast first half turned out to be too fast and the last five miles were a painful experience with splits of 5:41, 5:49, 6:00, 6:09 and 6:30!   Ouch!  

2012 - A much improved Thirsk 10 performance in the middle of marathon training with a 27:52 first half and a 28:04 second half  gave me a solid 56:06 which remains a Vet 40 pb.  Missed out on a negative split by 12 seconds but it was a solid run

2013 - In great shape for this but the weather defeated me (and most of the field apart from Alyson Dixon who effortlessly cut through the wind I recall!) in the second half.   1st half of 27:56 was followed by 30:13

2014 - a first half of 28:23 was followed up by a second half of 28:09 (Yes you read that right - a negative split of 14 seconds) gave me 10th place overall in a time of 56:31.    Splits were:  5:43, 5:43, 5:41, 5:39, 5:37, 5:31, 5:39, 5:42, 5:35, 5:40. 

All smiles pre race!

The business end!

The race itself was great.  The windy first few miles was just a case of tagging onto a group, realising they were slowing a bit too much and then moving onto the next group.  The final group I settled with were some way ahead at the start but I caught then at around 3 miles.  This was the last big group and the rest were individuals in the distance.  I decided that being at the front of this group and pushing the pace from the front would be better rather than running behind and having them dictate the pace.  After a couple of miles of this there was only three of us pushing each other along at a nice steady pace.  Michael Joyeux (Quakers) was on his way to a storming personal best and did his best to drop me at the turn into the "lane" but I managed to stay in touch and we both managed to drop the third runner in our "pack".   I was more than happy to put some space between us to allow me a clear run home.  The "chimp" on my shoulder was telling me to take it easy and think big picture but had MJ come alongside me in the final 200m I would have found it hard to not give it my all!

Michael Joyeux has an excellent and informative blog called Run Michael Run! its well worth a read and I get a mention #consistency #outofreach #experienced !!!  Its always great to hear about someone who clearly loves his running and is making some great progress!

It's just under 2 weeks now until the big one.  Manchester Marathon.  The work is done now and I've just got to trust in the taper gods to get me through and on the start line in one piece.  



Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Taper Time

The three weeks after the Pocklington 10 were always going to be a make or break phase of this marathon build up.  After the enforced three week easy block as a result of sciatica the marathon build up would be one of a balance between catching up on lost time and making progress towards the goal whilst balancing on the knife edge of marathon training.

I must say that the last three weeks have been the best three weeks of training for some time.  A 66 mile week which included two decent quality runs and a nice steady 22 miler was followed by a 60 mile week with the Locke Park 20 being the highlight.  This was topped off by the biggest week of my build up which was a 74 mile week that included two decent interval based sessions, a long tempo at marathon pace followed by a 20 miler.  I actually feel good after the three week block, not over tired but Ive definitely lost that feeling that I am making up for lost time.

This is my third marathon build up in recent years and all three have been different.

Marathon 1 - Sunderland - 15 week build up averaging 62 miles per week.  Max week 80 miles in week 8.  No injury issues but peaked too early, not enough consistency in my long runs and not a great focused build up.  Outcome - hit the wall at 23/24 miles and finished in 2:46.29.

Marathon 2 - Chester - 17 week build up averaging 63 miles per week.  Max week 82 miles at Week 8.  Struggled with hamstring pain weeks 13 to 15.  Decent build up and a decent run that was hampered by hamstring pain most of the second half.   Outcome - a solid run and a pb of 2:43.42.   

Marathon 3 - Manchester - 19 week build up averaging (to date) 56 miles per week.  Max week of 74 miles in Week 16.  Injury issues weeks 8 to 10 meant reduced mileage.   Feeling totally back in the game now and raring to go.  Don't feel overtired and full of confidence going into the three week taper.   Outcome - ????

The difference between the first two and the current build up is length and mileage.  I have taken longer as a build up and not done as much mileage.  The peak mileage has been considerably later and Ive been fortunate that (touching wood!) the injury issues have been earlier in the build up to allow recovery.  Time will tell if this is the right build up or not!

Race wise the big one was the Locke Park 20 mile race.  20 miles of a park with two bridge crossings per mile, two or three sharp corners and a 180 turn isn't everyones cup of tea but it was a great experience and all credit to my club New Marske Harriers for putting it on.  My time (which was enough to win the race) was 2 hours 1 minute and 22 seconds.  This worked out to be sub 2:40 marathon pace which was a real confidence booster ahead of Manchester.  It was also an overall pb (my last attempt at 20 was in 2000 where I ran 2:05.23 in Stafford - a terrible run!) and a Vet 40 Club record which has stood since 1998. 

My splits (as the race was also chip timed for the record) were:

5:54, 5-53, 5-55, 5-57, 5-59, 6-00, 5-59, 6-02, 6-01, 6-01, 6-00,6-02. 6-04, 6-03, 6-05, 6-10, 6-12, 6-18, 12 -45 (last two miles). 

Link to the full report and a rogues gallery!


Andy looking strong early on the race

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Pocklington - job well done!

Today's race was never going to be an all out affair.  I toyed with the idea of doing the race as a long run and wondered how disciplined I could be to do an 8 or 10 mile warm up then "race" at marathon pace.  In the end the wind that greeted us decided my tactics.  I would do a four mile warm up followed by the 10 mile race followed by a four mile warm down.  I decided that I would have an easy start with the first few miles with the wind helping then "see how it goes".  The Manchester Marathon is my A race and these races are just part of the build up.

Race aims were simple:

1.  Get through the race with no injury issues.
2.  Keep each race mile at marathon pace or quicker (6:06 minute miling).
3.  Try and run the second half as close as possible to the first half.

After a steady start the first five race miles (after a 4m warm up) were completed in a nice and steady 28:46.   The second half a positive split with 29:53.   The four mile cool down was a nice steady affair making it a total of 18 miles at an average of 6:15 per mile - job done!

So back to the aims:

1.   Yes got through all fine which was a big relief after the last few injury ridden weeks.
2.   Yes - all race miles under 6:06 miling - a bit close at times in the second half due to the wind!
3.   A 67 second positive split.  Did I mention it was windy?

8th overall and 1st Vet 40 was a bonus!

Back in the game it seems!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Manchester Marathon Update

As I limped through the rest of January my mind was set that the only way I would contemplate Manchester Marathon on 6th April would be a "normal" February.   But what is normal?    Normality for me in terms of running would be a 50 mile week or getting through an interval session or two without any niggles.  The unpredictable nature of sciatica (affectionately known as the dark passenger!) meant that you literally need to take each day as it comes.

So on the 31st January a pain free "double day" was completed with a decent 5km on the treadmill at lunchtime was followed by a steady four miles on the evening.   Maybe February would be "normal" and I could put the terrible start to the year behind me.    Imagine my frustration when on the 1st February I struggled to manage little more than a four mile jog limited by the sciatic nerve making every step a struggle!

A 40 mile week followed by a 66 mile week that included some quality in the form of an interval based session and a couple of decent tempo efforts on the treadmill surely meant that I was back to normal, managing decent runs with only slight episodes of sciatica in between runs.   A 50 mile week followed which included a snowy 5 mile tempo at marathon pace and a more than decent track session should (under normal circumstances) be considered as being back in business.

But the marathon relies on consistent long runs and so far in 2014 my longest run was 16 miles almost six weeks ago.  So not back in business at all really! 

Its amazing the difference one good run can make.  An 18 mile run to start this week has provided the boost I needed.  I'm now officially "Back in the Game!"  At this moment in time I am six and a half weeks away from the start line in Manchester.    Its the Snake Lane 10 on Sunday so an opportunity to combine a decent 10 mile effort with a long cool down.   It will be the first race of 2014 and will be followed by the new Locke Park 20 and possibly Thirsk 10 in March. 

How many pairs of running shoes do you have that are currently active?

Runners World in December released an article that showed there was a 39% less risk of injury in runners who use multiple shoes.   In work today a colleague asked me how many pairs of running shoes I own.    

The answer to that is probably far too many as I'm not keen on throwing away good shoes that have limited "running life" but still look ok.

So active shoes......

2 x general training shoes - Mizuno + Adidas
Race Shoe - Brooks Racer ST 5
Old Race shoe used on treadmills - Brooks
Quicker shoe for intervals - Adidas Adizero
Trail Shoe - Brooks
Spikes - Two pairs one for Cross Country (not used this winter!) and one for Track

Total - 8 !   Yes I'm a multiple shoe wearer and Yes I probably am addicted to running shoe shopping!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Manchester Marathon Build up Weeks 5, 6,7 and 8

Blogging has been a little bit sporadic so far in 2014 and so far a mixed bag of success in terms of running.   I wouldn't say the wheels have fallen off the marathon training but this is a testing time!

Week 5 - 61 miles with some great runs to see in the new year.  First run of 2014 was a 10 mile effort at a nice steady 6-27 per mile and I finished the week with a solid 16 miler which included 13 miles at marathon pace. 

Week 6 - Started to notice a few aches and pains around my hip/buttock area and although this didn't stop me from running it was a constant reminder of the fine line between injury and the feeling of flying along effortlessly.   Most of the runs this week were along the lines of an easy start to get the body moving, good middle section putting some great efforts and intervals in followed by a cool down/post run stretch.  Unfortunately what I ignored was the post run aches and pains that crossed the line from "normal" to " a bit unusual" to just doesn't feel right".   It all came to a head after an 11 mile steady run when the dark passenger known as Sciatica decided to invade my running world.  Since then he has been a constant pain in the backside.  

Week 7 - Just five runs this week.   Only one more than around 5km and no runs pain free!  An early visit to the physio seemed to pinpoint the issue to a bit of irritation around the hamstring insertion point.  Nothing major but enough to make running unenjoyable and that feeling of going out and wondering am I going to complete this run. 

Week 8 - still niggling on so far this week and another visit to the physio.   Things are easing up a little bit and Ive managed a few easy runs.  The problem is the unpredictability of irritation on the sciatic nerve.    In my mind I have set myself the nominal target of the 1st February to be rid of the sciatic irritation and to be back running normally and pain free. 

The Internet is a wonderful thing and can provide illustrative advice on all aspects of injuries, running and rehabilitation.   That said you really cant beat a prod around by someone who knows what to look for.  My last physio session really seemed to have pinpointed the source of the problem and Ive got a few simple exercises to do which seem to be making a difference. 

The question of "how do I stay fit" or "how do I avoid fitness loss" is usually in the forefront of our minds.  I think I'm no different to most runners in that non running/cross training just doesn't quite cut it!    Ive tried swimming, cross trainer, elliptical and cycling.   The most sensible way to keep fit is to recreate the action of running without the stress and impact of running so it will be off to the pool over the next few days for a spot of aqua jogging.    Time for those funny looks from the lunchtime swimming brigade!  "I can swim you know I just like running more!"

My new training partners!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Manchester Marathon Build Up Week 4

Week 4 of the build up allowed a little bit of flexibility with no quality sessions planned just mileage as and when the festivities allowed.   As it ended up it was a decent week with 72 miles bagged.   Put in a couple of runs with some efforts but generally all runs were fairly steady and consistent.

The wind has dominated much of the week and been a bit of a nuisance.  Its the weather most runners dislike most but at least it offers the opportunity sometimes to work hard into the wind and then feel the benefit out of the wind.

Saturdays run was an out and back effort in the end not quite at tempo more an aerobic run.  With the first half into the wind it provided an opportunity to come back with the wind behind me and "tune" into marathon pace on the return.  Job done and just the long Sunday run to complete a decent mileage week.

Sundays long run was a 20 mile run with the last three at marathon pace.  This was the first of my marathon pace efforts and I consciously kept the first 16 miles easy and closer to 7 minute miling.  Really pleased to manage three miles at marathon pace at the end with room for a warm down mile to complete the 20.

For those who enjoy the Marathon Talk podcast the interview with American running legend Pete Pfitzinger was my recovery run accompaniment this week.  Pfitzinger adopts the long runs with marathon pace finishes and that has been a feature of my training in my last few marathons.  Another key element that Pfitzinger advocates is the use of strides over 100m or so repeated up to 10 times.  I've yet to get into these so this may be a new year resolution in the making along with the usual eating better, training harder, racing more craftily etc.

So...stats for the week.

Total Miles:  72
Longest Run: 20
Ave Speed: 9 miles per hour
Key Session:  20 miles with last three at marathon pace
Weeks until Manchester Marathon:  14
Next Race:  Helsby Half Marathon

and yes I did train on Christmas Day!