Monday, 20 April 2015

Manchester Marathon 2015

You cannot really say that you've had the perfect build up to a marathon unless you run the perfect race.   You can also not assume that you will have the perfect race even with a perfect build up.  I'm almost certain you can't run a perfect race without a decent build up but when the build up is good and the race is well executed then that's when special things happen.

Since the turn of the year I've clocked up over a 1000 miles in training for Manchester which averages close to 70 miles per week.  Ive consistently run long runs between 16 and 23 miles from November last year and these have increased in intensity in the final few weeks before the taper.  All the races I have done have gone to plan if not better and my confidence has grown week on week with the mixture of long runs, tempo runs and interval based sessions.  Most weeks look very similar in the amount of mileage, the key sessions and the long runs but there has been a progression that sometimes isn't always measurable with running faster or longer but is more subtle - its that feeling that even on a bad day I am able to do a decent focused session, the feeling that the longer the session goes on the better I feel and more importantly the target marathon pace just gets easier and easier to execute.

After a taper that was relatively straightforward I felt rested and ready to race the 26.2 miles round the Manchester suburbs.

The first few miles I deliberately held myself back and was in around 45th position at close to the 2 mile point.  There were some big groups ahead of me and I felt confident that most of these groups would one by one come back.  just stick to the plan and concentrate on my own race.  The first 10km was 37:08 and I found myself ticking off the miles feeling relaxed and confident that the race plan was being executed as I wanted it to.

I wasn't particularly aware of my split times as my Garmin didn't function particularly well in the first few miles and although this might have previously panicked me I just switched to using lap times to make sure I was on track for my target time of around 2:35.    The first indication of my actual time was at 13.1 miles when I went through in 1.17.00 exactly.   At this point I picked up a group of about 8 runners which included the leading lady and although the group was operating at a decent pace I decided to push on and try and reach the smaller group someway in front.  I found myself clear of the group within a mile or so and over the next few miles I relaxed and looked forward to the 20 mile point which would represent the "business end" of the race.  The 20 mile point seemed to take an age to get to and I passed this in 1 hour 56 minutes and 58 seconds.   67 seconds quicker than my recent 20 mile race at Locke Park.   

So it was down to the business end and it certainly helped me to find two or three runners in front who were coming back to me.  Mile 21 (5:50), 22 (5:57) and 23 (5:58) made me think that with some focused running I could get close to the club vet 40 record of 2:34.00.    To do this I would need a negative split which I kind of figured that  this was unlikely.   Final three miles of 6: 02, 6:12 and 6:17 felt significantly harder than any of the last 23 miles - gone was the relaxed face it was the race face that was needed.  

In the last three miles I did manage to pass two other runners who were clearly struggling slightly.   As I turned the corner into the stadium there was a realisation that I was ever so close to the vet 40 club record of 2:34.00 but it wasn't going to be my day so i enjoyed the run in to the finish.  I finished in 2 hours 34 minutes and 15 seconds.   A massive three and a half minute personal best and the goal of a sub 2:35 marathon achieved.  

I could be disappointed to be just 9 seconds (chip time) off a club record (held by Harry Gamble Thompson) that has stood for such a long time (since 1986) but in reality I'm just so pleased to chip away again at my marathon best knowing that with more of the same work and a good build up I can take another chunk of time off that.  

17th place overall in a new personal best of 2 hours 34 minutes 15 seconds - I like the sound of being a sub 2-35 marathon runner!     Thanks to the Asics Greater Manchester Marathon, MyProtein, Erdinger and Runners Need for all the generous support as an Asics Race Ambassador.    Its a fantastic event and one which I would recommend for those looking for a fast time or as a debut marathon.  

Results: Here

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Locke Park 20

Having enjoyed a relatively easy week (if a 53 mile week can be considered easy in marathon training world) I was nervously anticipating the 20 mile Locke park race on Sunday.  For this that don't know its 20 x 1 mile laps which makes for a great carnival of running as you are passing people (or being passed by people) for the majority of the race.  You get a real sense of achievement coming through the field as for a lot of people the 20 mile race was either a build up to a marathon or a personal challenge never before attempted.

For me I had two goals that were within my control.  The first was to go under 2 hours for the first time if nothing else to have that badge of honour on my Power of 10 profile.  The second was to finish the race strongly and not feel like I was just "hanging on'.

As it was a one mile loop the split times were absolutely consistent as it was about passing the chip timing mats every mile.   My aim was to set off at six minute miling and then speed up as the race progressed.   As I've done very few 20 milers before i don't really have a pace.   I think the pace is closer to marathon pace rather than half marathon pace so my aim overall was just a few seconds per mile under marathon pace.   Six minute miling would be good....5.59 miling would be better!

The first five mile split was 29.31 (6:02, 5:49, 5:50,  5:53,  5:57).   Feeling comfortable at this stage and having run with Alyson Dixon for the first few miles it was Paul Wilson who was providing company at this point but this was short lived as I found myself on my own after about 6 miles.  Time to concentrate now on getting the miles in.  Miles 6 to 10 completed in 29.24 (5:57, 5:54, 5:53. 5:54, 5:55).

Ive been practising my long runs without gels for a while now and thought this was the ideal opportunity to test myself.  I had given one of the marshals a couple of gels to give me if I needed them (we agreed a signal!) but once I was into double figures I felt strong and decided that I would run as long as I could without taking anything.  In the next few miles I felt great, consistent pacing and  didn't feel the need for anything to help me along.  Miles 11 to 15 was covered in 29.35 but in terms of consistent splits was my best period of the race (5:54, 5:57, 5:55, 5:55 and 5:56).   The final five miles were definitely the  most satisfying of them all as I passed the second place runner (Aly Dixon) who was following  a race plan running the middle section of the race at tempo.   The last five miles was a consistent 29.33 (5:52, 5:53, 5:54, 5:56 and 5:58).    I took a couple of sips of water in this section but nothing else proving that I can run strong and within target time without any nutritional products).   There was an interesting debate on marathon talk about this and its definitely  worth a listen to.  Marathon Talk   At this stage I do intend to use gels on race day hoping that the additional boost these will provide will give me that performance edge but I don't feel that I am relying on them to get me round.  I'm trying to train my body to be fuel efficient in the race and less reliant on additional ingested energy and more able to use my body's own energy sources to get me through.   I listened to that debate and it made perfect sense to me.  The more you use these products the greater the body relies on them and the less likely that your body will efficiently utilise its plentiful fat sources.

So I finished 2nd overall in a time of 1 hour 58 minutes and 5 seconds.   That is around 2:34/2:35 pace which is a bit quicker than my target marathon pace but it has made me think that maybe just maybe I can get a bit closer to that long term target of a sub 2:34 marathon.

It was a real bonus to have Harry Gamble-Thompson watch the last few miles of the race and then present the prizes.   Harry is the Vet 40 and vet 50 club record holder for the marathon with a 2:34.00.      I told him I would do him proud this year in the marathon this year.  Its five weeks now until Manchester and the 20 was probably my last tune up race before the big day unless we manage to get a team out for the 12 stage relays.

So finally well done to Graham Hall and the Locke Park 20 team of volunteers who put on a magnificent event on Sunday.  The support was amazing throughout the event and we even had music on the lake to entertain runners fast and slow!.......meanwhile over in Spen?????   Talk about a storm in a teacup!

Monday, 9 March 2015

6 weeks and Counting

For a while now I have been trying to find the perfect training week and I think the last week probably comes close to it.

Monday - an 8 mile recovery run - no pace target but ended up feeling good so pushed a decent pace (6:45 minute miling).

Tuesday - an easy 3 mile run in the morning then a 5 mile tempo session pm.   Wanted to get under marathon pace but it was windy so settled for about 10 seconds a mile slower.

Wednesday - used my usual 800m road circuit and did a 10 x 800m session with about 90s recovery between intervals.   Started nice and steady with a 2:52 then finished with a 2:37.   Progressed nicely through the session getting quicker on each interval.

Thursday - Track session.  Used a Frank Horwill based session aiming to do 10km alternating marathon pace with 5km speed.  This would equate to 89s/80s laps.   Whilst I was a second or so slower on the 5km speed I hit the marathon pace recoveries 100%.  What was really encouraging though was the recovery I was getting from them.  A great session and in the end pushed on for 7 miles (28 laps).

Friday - a nice easy recovery run (5 miles).

Saturday - Redcar parkrun managed my first sub 17 on that course something which I have been trying to achieve for some time.  16:57 for the 5km then a 7 mile warm down at about 7 minute miling.

Sunday - 21 miles long run starting off nice and easy but finished quickly and managed a 5.59 last mile.  Total run 21.1 miles average speed 6.36 per mile.

Total Miles for the week 71 miles.

For more information about Frank Horwill here is the link.  Frank Horwill advice

This week I'm taking it a bit easier as I'm running the Locke Park 20 mile race on Sunday.  I'd like to go into the race a little fresher but I am looking to run at marathon pace as I did last year.   This year I'm hoping for a more even paced run than last year as I am in much better shape than last year.  There is a decent field so should have some company for the majority of the race.

Its six weeks until the Asics Greater Manchester Marathon and I was fortunate to receive more kit from ASICS and Runners Need to help me in my build up.   These are the latest additions...

Gel Nimbus 17


Compression Kit

Sunday, 1 March 2015

7 weeks until Race Day

We are now into March and that means a bit more focus on faster marathon pace runs for me.   Its just seven weeks today until the Asics Greater Manchester Marathon takes place Enter here.   I was thrilled to be selected as an ambassador for the race and here is an update of how my training is going.

Since my last blog I have benefited from a couple of weeks o solid and consistent training with a 65 mile week which included Snake Lane 10 organised by Pocklington Runners and a 70 mile week this week.

Snake Lane 10 was a great race for me with a 7th place finish in 55 minutes 56 seconds.   Had it not been for a strong headwind in the second half I am sure I would have ran quicker but in the end it was not so much the time but the way I ran it feeling strong all the way and working my way through the field from about 30th place in the opening few hundred metres to 7th overtaking runners all the way though the race.

In age grading terms that performance is one of my best only surpassed by last years Middlesbrough 5km so it certainly confirms I am heading in the right direction for the 26.2 miles around Greater Manchester.

The Snake Lane 10 was always planned in as a halfway point for me for the marathon training.  So this week I have deliberately increased the speed of some of my longer runs to really  tune into marathon pace.  That included a 14 mile effort at marathon pace today with the added effort required by a windy seafront.   As it was more of a crosswind I opted for multi laps of the seafront path - probably 6 laps in all so there were a few funny looks from the dog walkers who were braving the elements.   The mental toughness of multi laps does appeal to me and I will need that a plenty when i do the Locke Park 20 in two weeks (20 laps of Park - one lap short of 7 parkruns!

I'm certainly enjoying my running at the moment  but its a fine line as the intensity increases.   I was reminded of the impact of marathon training on Friday as I "enjoyed" a sports massage.   As usual it was my calf muscles that were the most painful reminding me that my foam roller is there to be used not just as a doorstop!

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Manchester Marathon Build Up

After the Brass Monkey the aim was to get a decent block of training under my belt with no distractions with the aim of increasing the long runs from the bases of 16/18 miles to 21/22 miles whilst maintaining some quality.

Its been a simple formula that seems to have worked for me.   Monday - easy recovery, Tuesday tempo run up to 8 miles, Wednesday quality session based around 3 or 4 x 10 minute intervals at 10km pace, Thursday steady aerobic run, Friday recovery, Saturday medium long run (off road) then Sunday long run.   So 4 weeks at about 70 miles a week done and I'm ready to move onto the next block of training which will start to introduce some marathon pace work into the long runs.

I decided to have a run round the North Eastern 6 stage relays yesterday at Hetton.  Its been two years since I last did this event and so it represented an opportunity for me to see how much effect the marathon training has had over the shorter distances.  Yesterdays run was 21 seconds quicker than two years ago which was really pleasing considering the event came towards the end of a tough four week block of training at over 70 miles per week.

Results here relays

The long runs have felt consistently easier with a 21 mile, 18 mile, 20 mile and a 22 mile run over the four weeks.   The Myprotein recovery whey protein certainly seems to be helping promote recovery from the long runs and after an easy run on the Monday Ive felt strong enough to do a decent tempo run on the Tuesday without feeling any ill effects from the Sunday run.  

I was lucky enough to be selected as one of four Asics Greater Manchester Marathon Ambassadors and received a nice load of Asics Kit including a pair of the new Asics Gel Kayano 21's.   So far the shoes feel very responsive, provide great support in my long runs but feel light enough to use them in faster paced runs over the shorter distances.  The best thing is they feel great out of the box so haven't felt the need to break them in slowly.  I would definitely recommend this shoe for longer distances and marathon training

This week is an opportunity for a bit of a recovery week before racing over 10 miles at Snake Lane on Sunday.   Last year this was my first long run of 2015 as i was recovering from Sciatica.   This year I've had a fantastic build up so far so I have the opportunity to use this race as a mid programme test to see how my training is going and try and get a decent 10 mile race in the bag.

Its just 9 weeks to go now until the Asics Greater Manchester Marathon so still time to enter.

For those seeking an alternative to London and a chance to hit a big pb then Manchester is a great option.  Well organised, fast and flat it is a super well organised event.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Brass Monkey's - It certainly was!

The Brass Monkey Half Marathon was the first big test of 2015.  In terms of the build -up it was either a third of the way through the build- up (if you were following an 18 week plan) or at the beginning of a 12 week plan assuming the majority of the week post race was devoted to recovery.  That is assuming of course that you conform to one of the off the shelf 12 or 18 week programmes.  
For me the Brass Monkey represented a point in time, a test to see where I am and how the training is going.   Right up until race morning I was unsure how to run the race.  The problem with winter races like this is you really are at the mercy of the weather.    In the past fortnight I’ve run in some freezing cold weather, snow, sleet, high winds and in some cases opted for a treadmill session  rather than risk a twisted ankle on the icy pavements.
So the Brass Monkey race plan was only going to be about the weather.  I decided that if the weather was a wintry shocker I would run the race as a true marathon pace effort tagging a few miles on either side.   On the day the weather was almost perfect with a ground frost, temperature around -1/-2 and no wind.  I say almost perfect as we stepped out onto the finish area I envisaged carnage in the home straight given that you could barely walk the course never mind run at speed.   We were also informed that there were patches of black ice on the course between about 5 and 7 miles which may need us to be cautious.   The rest of the course was bathing in tropical sunshine!
As the race started I felt really comfortable – the target pace of around 5.40 seemed effortless and the first few miles ticked along with splits of 5.31, 5.33 and 5.33.  The black ice started to appear on the course and this slowed the next few miles to 5.42, 5.43 and what would turn out to be the slowest mile of the day with a 5.48 mile at Mile 7.  Once we were past this point it seemed the whole field speeded up as a result of being held back for the last few miles.  My focus was now on the two Vet 40’s immediately in front – Alisdair Tatham of NYMAC and Andy Grant of Harrogate.  Both excellent runners over a wide range of distances.   I caught Andy at something like the 9 mile point after two consecutive 5.35 miles and set about trying to reel Alisdair in.  I reached the 10 mile point in 56.18 and Andy must have rallied as he also went past me again and set about trying to get to Alisdair.   Mile 11 – 5.39, Mile 12 – 5.38 were comfortably hard leaving me with a mile to catch the two in front.  I probably sub consciously thought at that point that I was settling for the position I was in and barring a disaster would be comfortably under the 75 minute barrier that I had set myself.   I closed with a 5.46 mile which left me the final 200m or so to negotiate – thankfully the organisers had gritted this section so I left my ice skating finish for another day.  14th overall. 4th Vet 40 in 74 minutes 18 seconds.

I’m really pleased with the time because it shows that in terms of fitness levels I am in decent shape.  The way I ran the race was a lot stronger overall and more in control of my pace at the end – no hanging on for the last few miles which was always a feature of my early half marathons.   
The half marathon as an event is not one that I feel I have been able to crack in the past.  My overall pb is 72.22 set at Wilmslow Half in around 1995.   That’s about 5.30 per mile so given my run on Sunday I think may be one that I look at for a slight revision.   Of all my non marathon pb’s this is the one that I think is in my reach.   
Well done to the race organisers on Sunday for putting on a great event.  I haven’t raced the Brass Monkey for a long time and it really was a great event, well organised and well marshalled.  Should they have allowed the event to go ahead given the conditions?  On reflection it was probably a brave decision as the middle section was a bit touch and go.  I was made aware that a similar size race over at Helsby in Cheshire was cancelled on the morning of the event due to ice on the course.   It’s a fine line as an organiser and I suspect both races got it right on the day.  

So in terms of the build up to the ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon things are going well.   Last week was a solid 60 miles (including the Brass Monkey) and now it’s time to focus on making the long runs slightly longer and with a greater focus on the marathon pace finishes.    My next race is the Snake Lane 10 on the 22nd February.  Last year this was a bit of a make or break day as it was my first long run of the build-up as a result of a badly timed bout of sciatica.  This year I’m hoping to afford myself the luxury of a few easier days in the build-up and an all-out race effort over 10 miles.  The next four weekends will be an important phase in the marathon build up where I aim to push the long runs up to 22/23 miles while maintaining the quality in the programme.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Manchester Marathon Ambassador

Got the news this week that I have been selected as an ambassador for the ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon.  Entries are still open and its a fantastic well organised marathon.   I will be putting plenty of work into both my marathon training and my blog as I progress towards a personal best over 26.2 miles.

Here is the link to the Athletics Weekly site where you can read my brief biography and meet the other three ambassadors for the  The Asics Greater Manchester Marathon Ambassadors 

Tomorrow its the Brass Monkey Half and looking at the weather forecast the race will certainly live up to its name!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Manchester Marathon Build up

My Manchester Marathon build up is pretty much in full swing now.   I've completed 7 long runs in the period between Chester Marathon (after a bit of downtime) and have a decent base level of fitness that's ready to spring into the main build up period of February and March where I will do a few tune up races over 10 miles at Pocklington and a 20 mile race at Redcar.

Its always useful to look back and compare this time last year and whilst I may have put some quality long runs in during late December and early January this was all cancelled out by a few weeks struggling with sciatica.

Compare my session last night on the treadmill last year (it was a bit icy to run outside although I was prepared to  brave the cold the pavements were just too icy to do any quality!).

Last year - barely managed 3 miles on the treadmill before the sciatic nerve seized up and forced me to return to the mobility work.

Last night - 4 x 10 minutes effort starting at marathon pace then increasing to a nippy 10km pace.  felt in control and finished the last rep covering 2.9km in the 10 minutes.

This weekend I'm hoping to run the Brass Monkey Half Marathon but I'm hedging my bets about how to run it.    It will all be dependent on the weather as to how the race will be so I've decided to train as normal this week but just ease off towards the end of the week.   Its never been a real target race but more of a test to see where I am.   The weather is a bit unpredictable at the moment so there is always a risk that the race may not even go ahead.

I've bought myself a pair of fell shoes in the january sales and set myself a goal of at least 15% of my overall mileage off road.  Two runs so far in them on the hills and I have to say its a nice break from the road miles.    The main benefit and one of the reasons I have done this is the grumbles from my achilles I have been experiencing intermittently over the last six months.  I'm managing to run fine and have been doing some preventative exercises but its not something you can ignore.   I've noticed after the off road runs less impact and stiffness in the achilles so will persevere with this.  I may even enter the odd fell race for a bit of fun

Just heard on BBC breakfast that 20 minutes of brisk walking a day can make you live longer...   Its not exactly rocket science is it!