May – The Accumulator

accumBoredom can lead to odd choices.

All races cancelled.

Training for London was stalled.

zxwaqnj7kdab44lfxwh5The great guys at Centurion Running launched a virtual run of various distances, for the final week of May. Typically I don’t enter virtual races but this one had a great community spirit to it. I entered for the 100 mile. Split over a full week it was achievable but a fair step up from recent mileage.

With this in mind it made sense to suspend training for the rescheduled London and just take May by feel.

So that was fine. I had an ‘event’ planned for end of May, three weeks away so I could just run whatever I fancied in between. Cool.

Then Allie Bailey happened (you might have seen her trying to get celebs into shape to run across the desert for the recent Sport Relief). She posted a link on the Bad Boy Running group about something called The Accumulator. Everything else that happened is her fault and she owes me a pair of shoes. And a toe. And some new loft boards.

The Accumulator is a virtual event set up by Mark Cockbain of Cockbain Events. Normally he arranges the most sadistic UK races such as The Tunnel Ultra (200 miles back and forward through a 1 mile tunnel) and The Hill Ultra (165 miles up and down a massive hill. In winter). In the age of Covid19 he’s taking the pain virtual and after events such as The Garden Isolation Ultra (laps of your garden until your brain runs out your ears) his challenge for May was The Accumulator.

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Run 1 mile on 1st May. Easy.

Run 2 miles on 2nd May. Easy.

Run 3 miles on 3rd May. Easy.

In fact the first ten or more days are pretty easy for the average marathon runner. Then it starts to bite and you have to really make a decision if you’re in or out. Complete the whole thing and it’s a minimum 496 miles for the month, or 798 km.

The rules state the runs must be done in a single go. No double days allowed, so a pre-work 13 mile on a Wednesday morning  was probably the point I committed to the delightfully pointless endeavour. How far could I get?

The early days were largely uneventful. I run very long on the 3rd as I complete my own Milton Keynes marathon. Other than that mileage fits easily before work and months of structured training, core class by Katie and attention from Rudi the sports masseuse means my legs are in great shape and the miles are no issue.

Day 17. Saw a cool old car and mis planned my route to end up over 18 miles. Upside was a perfect 100 mile week which I couldn’t have done if I’d planned it. Also got some new Altra shoes as my favourite Hoka Rincon were close to failure from all the miles. These were from the lovely people at ReRun who find new homes for unwanted running gear.

 

It was all going pretty well up until around day 21. I was keeping to around 9 min miles so just leaving home 10 minutes earlier each day to allow for the extra distance. The weather was glorious but getting hotter each day which wasn’t ideal. Two weeks of blast furnace were forecast for the finish. Ideal weather for all the outside events that have been cancelled.

Whilst idly scratching my leg I noticed an insect bite on my ankle. Being a man I of course ignored it. It got big and inflamed quickly. It pretty much set my ankle in place and made movement hard. If it hadn’t have been for the bite I might have assumed I’d twisted it. This was becoming an issue with a long Bank Holiday on the horizon the plan was to take these days far more gently and do some sections with the family as fast hikes whilst they cycled.

Day 22. Friday. 17/18degC at even 5am. And muggy. My ankle is stiff. This is not ideal. I’m mentally wondering how many more days I can go rather than thinking about finishing it.

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Day 23. Saturday. I get out of bed accompanied by a scraping sound. My ankle is so inflamed that every step makes a sickening noise. Bum. I work it off with some stretches and try not to think about it. Ignoring stuff is always a good idea. The wife and kids join me on bikes for an escort for first 6 miles and then I round up in the woods. I’ve got a definite limp from the insect bite. The final couples of miles I’m met by the wife who brings me a beer and I limp it in.

Day 24. Sunday. Again the wife and kids join me on bikes for an escort for first few miles. I take a quick break at the new BMX track to do a lap on the daughters pink BMX under guise of freeing off my ankle. It may even have helped. We stop for doughnuts later at an impromptu aid station before a long solo loop and a final few with wife (no beer today).

Day 25. Bank Holiday. Also hot. It was also way too close to marathon distance not to round up. I seldom run much more than 20 in training as anything further is pointless. Running an unofficial marathon distance is even more pointless but so is this whole endeavour. I start the run with Jen for first loop and then meet the family on the lake for a picnic aid station and revisited it a few times as I continued to round up, then headed back home with family on bikes to hit the 26.2. The three days of ‘fast hiking’ was definitely helping and my ankle was slowly less sore but still took a fair few steps to agree to bending after stopping for roads or gates. I’ve felt worse on ultras but knew the event would be over in hours, not days. It’s also the first day of the Centurion One Community challenge so I get a solid 26 knocked off the 100 miler.

Day 26. Needed a marathon. Needed to be in Somerset for 8am to meet contractors on site. Left home at 5am. Unfortunately they were working to a different timescale so rocked up at 1pm. Would have been ample time for a morning marathon after all. I debated a dry slap but that doesn’t go down well at work. Instead it was back to hotel for just before 6pm and out for a marathon. Being Covid19 times it was for essential workers only at the hotel and room service only. The kitchen closed at 9pm so I ordered some cold food to await my return and set out. The hotel owner was a little confused “But the kitchen is open for 3 more hours sir, how long are you running for?”

Gentle half marathon down to Burnham-on-Sea for an aid station of sodium infused carbohydrates and fruit based sports drink (chips and cider on the beach) before heading back to cold sandwiches and a hot bath.

I stayed in the bath a long time.  I struggled to get back out with my ankle. When I did it was too cold so I got back in.

img_6035Day 27. Ideally should have run before going to site, but that would have been a 4am start after finishing the previous marathon 6 hours previously. Too much for me so instead a day on site, with a couple of people questioning my odd limp. Then a drive home for dinner with family before heading out with mate Gary for some miles (including a cute horse), and finishing up just after 11pm; time for bed. This was definitely a day I wondered what I was doing…

img_6044Day 28. The problem with pushing the runs later and later is it kills any prospect of a morning run. Fortunately I had a half day so ran in the afternoon. Unfortunately it was hot as feck. Again. A three Calippo and two beer run. Passing all the closed pubs is disappointing but I did see some deer so balances out. The dodgy running form is giving me a blister on top of my big toe. I ignore it.

 

Day 29. The previous day had convinced me to go early. So I got up at 5am and remembered my race vest was still on the washing line from the day before. It wasn’t. It was in the middle of the garden with a hole ripped in it where some wildlife had pulled it down and helped themselves to the biscuits and the Caffeine Bullets. Somewhere in Milton Keynes is a fox tripping out on caffeine. Fortunately I had time to grab my spare race vest and head out with the dog for a 14 mile loop in the woods, then home to drop dog, change a sweaty top and out to run the most shaded route I could find, a mixture of railway walk, canals and tree lined streets. In the woods I bumped into a mate SJ with her three dogs and it was great to chat to someone who wasn’t a podcast or voice in my head.

I finished a sweaty mess but my blistered toe was getting more and more painful, rubbing the top a little more with each step as the friction lead to more swelling and more friction. I was consciously having to stiffen my toe with each step and run even more oddly. My dodgy ankle had led to a dodgy blister which was leading to a dodgy leg and now my calf was playing up as well. It would be really rubbish to DNF this event ultimately due to an insect bite.

That evening in desperation I took a knife to an old pair of Adidas and cut the toe section off. I couldn’t manage a further two days of rubbing. The pair I massacred were a worn pair, well used but with just enough life to manage a further 61 slow miles.

Day 30. Repeat. Out at 5am with dog, and accompanied over the first 16 miles with a changeover of mates who also get up too early. Then solo for final 14 miles with more Calippo stops. The shoe is amazing. I almost forget the toe completely and can run so much freer, hitting marathon distance in 4h45, a full 30 minutes faster than the day before. Given the escalating temps this was much needed. Took a final three mile hike in with the wife to finish off and get to stroke a cow.

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Day 31. The final day. Out at 5am again for recreation of the day before, using my custom Adidas open toe again. Nobody else daft enough to join me at this time on a Sunday so just me and the dog seems more interesting in chasing squirrels and looking for left over picnic in the bushes (if you’re going to a park for a picnic, take your rubbish home with you, you lazy arse) so it’s a slower 14 miles than planned and I get home to swap the dog for a Gary who’s waiting to join me. Out for the usual loop to Newport Pagnall and Railway Walk loop, with two Calippo stops, passing marathon distance in a shade over 5hrs.

I hit home to enjoy the final couple of miles with the wife and kids and an impromptu finish line. The enthusiasm of the kids is off the charts….

 

Aftermath

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Legs feel so much better than around days 20-25. An ankle that bends is so handy. I’d recommend it to anyone.

My blister whilst allowing running has still grown. It is not pretty. On Monday in the loft I kick a box. It explodes. The release although painful is very welcome. Like a toe orgasm. The loft boards may never recover.

I finish the Accumulator and finish May on around 540 miles. It’s a big number but feel fresh enough to carry on. I don’t. I’m not THAT obsessed. Yet.

Tips and advice for pointless multi-day challenges –

  • Sort the admin the night before. Waking at stupid o’clock is hard and you’ll have plenty of excuses to stay in bed. If your trainers are misplaced and your race vest not packed it’s probably one too many reasons to stay in bed.
  • If able allow time to take the first mile really slowly, maybe use it to eat, drink and sort your podcasts out. I was up and out the house in about 15 minutes, eating on the way.
  • Timing is critical. Given the runs have to be done in one go then a 10 minute delay to leaving can leave you with three miles left of the days target and needing to leave for work in 15 minutes. Either you’re going to be late for work or you’re going to be abandoning this run and doing it all over again after work. Both would suck.
  • Check the clock. A further rule was the runs needed to be done within the 24 hour period. Head out at 9pm on the 20th and you best be running less than 3 hours.
  • Shoes. With a minimum mileage of 496 for the month you’re going to be putting a lot of miles into them. Probably enough to turn a box fresh pair into a set of dabs only suitable for dog walks. Best to have a couple in rotation. In my case a pair best described as ‘fucked’ saved the day.
  • Podcasts. You’re going to be running a lot. In current climate it was mostly solo or towards the end of the month with one other person. Get some decent entertainment to take your mind off. I ran out of running podcasts and started some true crimes one. Bad idea. Running at 5am, alone, in the woods, listening to the detailed account of a dismembered body found in the woods is not ideal.
  • Charge stuff. You need proof of your runs so keeping on top of Garmin/phone charging is vital. If you’re forgetful it may be worth sticking a battery pack and Garmin lead in your running pack for an emergency mid-run charge.
  • Plan your routes. Up to about 16/17 miles I did them as a single loop, carrying enough to get me through. After that I would drop into home at mile 14 (a convenient single loop and suitable for the dog to accompany me) to replenish supplies, pick up a hat etc.
  • Aid stations. It’s a virtual race so plan your route to pass shops that will be open at the time you’re expecting to go past. Particularly in the age of Covid, pay contactless to minimise time in shops.
  • Calippo. It was hot in May. Ice lollies were needed. Calippo is the only suitable option. Buying one at 9am on a Friday gets you odd looks.

Training like a proper runner! April – Where have all the races gone….

April is normally the peak of the running calendar. Brighton Marathon, London Marathon, Boston Marathon, Manchester (nearly) Marathon. Instead for 2020 it’s devoid of races or focus and much like life under lockdown, fairly unsettled and strange feeling.

1st – April fools day and like a fool I don’t get up for the planned 8 miler. I’ll do it later after core class (where dog helps with resistance on wall sits). I do go out later with the boy, for a couple of miles with intention of dropping him home and rounding up. In the end I struggle with energy after a busy day. Poor show.

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2nd – Should be a rest day but after such a sucky run yesterday I go out with dog for just over 7 to enjoy the sun and make up for previous missed miles.

img_55723rd – Should be a 6 miler, but take it as rest day as busy with work again and DIY. Knocked up a desk for the daughter given home schooling is here for a while.

4th – Back to plan, a steady 5 so I do a steady 5.

5th – 12 mile medium run on plan, I love the woods this time of year so run there and back for a slightly overly long 13 miles including the death defying rail crossing. The line gets about 1 train an hour but always feel dangerous using the old fashioned crossing.

Week 14 done, 45 miles in the sun. Burning through my podcast at the minute!

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6th – Gorgeous dusk 7 miler around lake. Going late avoids people.

7th – Back to proper intervals. 5x2k. Sounds easy until you realise that’s 10k of effort. Always harder on your own so stick on some fast music and enjoy turning the legs over.

8th – Long day at desk, work through core class and manage a poor 3 mile with dog in the dark at 9pm. Given so many people are struggling work wise it’s churlish to complain about having too much.

9th – Nothing. Should have been an easy 5 but need to attend site for critical works. Leave home at 5am, back at 9pm so it’s dinner and bed.

10th – Easy 5 with dog rolled over from previous day. It’s Good Friday and weather is perfect. Everyone is locked in and the weather is rubbing it in.

11th – Should be 7 miles at 6:52 (HM pace). I sleep in. I go out when it’s too hot. I don’t drink first. I manage 5 then fade horribly. Yep I literally make every mistake possible. Poor focus on my part. Then back to DIY and a bonfire!

12th – Easter Sunday. Should be a steady 10 miles. Once again I go out too late, on a breakfast of Yorkie Easter eggs and manage 6 miles before deciding I’m about to vomit up chocolate and come back.

img_5661Week 15 done, 41 miles, messed up or cut short a lot of sessions – poor focus and probably for the best London is cancelled. 

13th – Easter Monday. After a disappointing week of running it’s me and dog again for an early run before it gets warm. Turns out we needn’t have bothered as the weather has jumped from Summer to Autumn and I’m cold. After a mid-run discussion with dog we agree the planned short run is not enough and we both need to chase squirrels in the woods so do a 14 mile loop to start the week right and atone for abject failure last week.

14th – Back to work, pah. Also back to intervals. I diligently set up 8x800m with 90s recovery. First interval is great, then I realise I messed up the timings AGAIN and have put 3 minutes recovery. It sounds minor but it annoys me and means I’d have too much break between efforts, take longer and end up finishing in the dark without a headtorch so have to bodge a new intervals session in of 0.5m runs. All the faff and wasted time play on mind a bit and the overall result is less pace than I expected.

15th – An easy 40 minutes with dog and then core class online again. Loving running with dog in the sun.

16th – Another easy session with the dog, gradually getting her used to doing doggy paddle in the lake.

17th – Rest. So I do. Well actually I get a skip and work my arse off filling it.

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18th – 3 mile warmup with dog then drop her and 3 miles at 6m50 pace like a parkrun effort for Saturday. Felt good but can’t deny I was glad to finish. Probably my favourite session of the month. Then like everyone in lockdown, back to DIY and pressure washing the drive for hours.

19th – Sunday run and a reminder that you should double check your programme. 90 minute, 11 miles became 9 miles in my head and I only realised the error when uploading.

Week 16 done – 46 miles and better

20th – 8 easy miles. Did the 8 then raced one of the Starship Delivery robots for a final one. It’s an evening run and the increased daylight means a new route out to Woburn Sands and back before dusk.

VIDEO HERE

21st – A bit of pushing the leg speed. 10 sets of 2 min on and 2 min off. Went well and I got a little faster for the final few. Felt more like a lack of coordination rather than fitness that stopped me going faster. Training is working!

On the same day Germany announces a ban on all public gatherings over 5000 until the end of October. With Berlin marathon scheduled for September that means yet another marathon major biting the dust and doesn’t bode well for London.

22nd – A further reminder that you should double check your programme. Normally says 8 for a Wednesday so I cheated a little and did my 9 mile loop that I missed for the past few weeks. Clocked my fastest time since May 2019. Got back to see it had 5 miles on the programme.  Oops.

23rd & 24th – Should have 6 miles easy on Thursday and rest Friday. Work was manic so switched the days.

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25th – Keeping miles down before long run so just an easy 5k with dog. Felt quite coiled and ready to go. The upside of London being postponed is I didn’t have to waste one of the sunniest days of the year in an expo hall collecting a bib.

 

 

26th – Not The London Marathon. Like a fair few people I feel the need to run the marathon I’ve trained for, albeit not at hard effort. Last year I ran the actual route, in reverse as part of the amazing but odd “The reverse London marathon – nohtaram eht“. This year I’m running it in MK and planned a route of roughly 26 miles allowing a little round up at the end to get the full distance. The route loops petrol stations, corner shops and mates houses so I’m never far from aid if I need any, but carry everything with me. There’s various views in the public and social media on whether people should be doing long runs in the current climate. Concerns cover social contact, strain on runners and any detrimental strain on NHS should something happen. Oddly a charity marathon around your kitchen running on slippery tiles, with lots of hard surfaces to hit your head off is lauded as amazing. Running on footpaths with soft grass and a relaxed pace is viewed by a few as despicable. Personally given the marathons I’ve run before, choice of route and that a 30 mile training run would be relatively usual I’m satisfied in my choice.

I set off early in the cool and to avoid crowds. Plan is to keep around 8 min/miles for a finish around 3h30. Although not the PB attempt I had planned way back in January it would still be a big improvement on the fight I had late last year to get sub4.

40e4b2e0-7571-42a7-96f7-a87d5329201aHalfway comes in 1h45 and at 20 miles I stop to refill bottles. The miles are getting a little harder but nothing too major. In a race I’d probably dig in and push to get the 3h30. I feel good enough to push hard and go under but given it’s a training run I elect to back off and keep it comfortable, finishing in 3h32 feeling relatively fresh.

3h30 had been a comfortable pace for a couple of years, but the Lakeland 100 in July last year took a toll. It’s good to see the sports massage by Rudi at The Treatment Lab  and plans by Clean Coach Katie have got me back to where I was. A shame that there’s no real event to see what I could really do.

Weekly 17 done, 52 miles and should have been the end of the London training.

27th – Rest day. Walked the dog.

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28th – Rest day. Took the opportunity to try and calibrate the treadmill. 3 and a bit miles of swearing at the Garmin site to try and coordinate.

29th – With clarification that we can drive a reasonable distance to exercise I went back to Bow Brickhill for my usual Wednesday 9 miler.

 

30th – 4 miles at sub7 pace after 1 warmup. Not easy maintaining pace and dodging pedestrians and dog walkers but broadly there. Cool down after with doggie.

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April miles – 193. So far for 2020 the monthly has been 178, 191, 225, and now 193 for April. 

Next month – Training for London, whenever that is……

Training like a proper runner! March – Coronavirus takes over

February VS March

Well March has been sucky hasn’t it? If anyone whined about races being cancelled in February due to the weather they’d be in for a shock as pretty much everything was cancelled in March as Coronavirus gradually spread across Europe and went from ‘that virus in China’ to ‘oh shit people are dying and the NHS is struggling under the pressure’ which is pretty much the thought process Boris had as well. Not being a medical expert and this being a running blog I’ll focus on the training and running rather than deadly viral pandemics. For me running although ultimately pointless (especially with all races cancelled) has helped give some structure and normality to an otherwise frightening and stressful time.

February I failed to get my sports massage from Rudi at The Treatment Lab due to poor diary management on my side and being too busy. I had one booked for March but in a fit of ‘my races are cancelled I’m gonna sulk like a baby‘ I dropped out and now feel tight and stiff. Lesson learnt there….

img_52811st – 20 mile long run. Nobody else up for it so just me with some podcasts. Route changed on the fly due to floods (remember when wet feet was the worse thing we could catch on a run?) and roadworks. 2h50m for 20 miles then off to rugby training with the boy on heavy legs. Was nice just to run and listen to podcasts, my preferred selection of which can be found HERE.

Week 9 done, 46 miles of paddling.

2nd – 4 miles recovery with dog. No fox poo so a good Monday.

3rd – 5 miles, too late to run with either club, so a late solo attempt. Felt good to get some pace along the dark streets.

4th – Despite legs feeling awful from having done speed work only 8 hours before, and with a head full of snot I accidentally ran the fastest of the 9 mile Bow Brickhill loops since May 2019 and the ultras killed my legs. Training is working. Wahey!!

5th – 3×2 miles. Mixed it up with the Lakeside club run. Went well and encouraged by clubmates I pushed and gradually got faster on each interval. Another positive session. “I’m going to smash London” was my thought. Oh how funny in hindsight.

6th – Rest Day.

trailstalesales7th – Should have been a 5 on Saturday and a 18 on Sunday. Didn’t want to face a long run on Birthday (Sunday) so did it all on Saturday. 18 mile long run in morning, then off to football, followed by 6 mile run in evening as part of the Trails Tales and Ales run talk I did with Big Bear Events. Was great to chat running and hopefully encourage some people to make the jump to ultras. If I can manage it then truly anyone can.

8th – My Birthday. Breakfast made by daughter, then a footie tournament for the boy at the MK Dons training ground before pizza and movie night with the boy whilst wife and daughter at another family party in London. Nice not to have to worry about running.

Week 10 done, 51 miles

img_53359th – 4 mile recovery run and dog rolled in fox poo. AGAIN. Fecking thing.

10th – Should have been 8x400m but I was down to run lead for Lakeside with 8x3min on schedule so did that instead. Felt really good and was pushed along by Lee from the club who is making massive jumps as he trains for his first marathon. “He’s going to smash Milton Keynes” was my thought. Oh how funny in hindsight.

11th – Brickhills 9 mile 5am loop again. Continued the fast streak and managed a little faster than previous week for some good progression.

12th – 6 miles at 7:40 ahead of the HM for the weekend. I was unsure if the event would happen with the impending Coronavirus but indications were positive.

13th – Rest Day. And the day the UK running scene finally made it’s move. UK events seemed to be playing chicken, waiting to see who moved first. In absence of any direction or guidance from the government which was following a Herd Immunity approach, London marathon finally broke ranks and delayed until October. Within the space of a few hours Manchester, Brighton and a host of smaller events all followed Paris and Boston from earlier in the week, and Tokyo from earlier in the month. The Autumn race calendar suddenly stacked up.

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Like most runners I expected London to delay but hoped it wouldn’t happen. All the training seemed a little pointless. I was down for Milton Keynes marathon the following week but as a pacer so even if it went ahead I wouldn’t have the opportunity to race it. Not sure the 4hr runners would appreciate being taken off at 3h10 pace.

In more happy news, my interview on The Running Hub podcast was launched. First time on a podcast and understandably nervous but having plucked up courage to listen after a few weeks I’m not too bad.

14th – Plan had a gentle parkrun before trying a fast HM in training for a marathon that wasn’t happening anymore. Pah. Most other European countries had cancelled their parkruns so this felt like it could be the last parkrun for a while. Others were restricting  gatherings of more than 500 people but nothing yet in UK. Numbers for Milton Keynes parkrun were a little down either due to people tapering for next day or staying away. I chatted to another runner also coached by Clean Coach Katie and had a very sociable run, finished around 27 min. As it turns out parkrun and sociable running was soon to be in short supply.

15th – MK Festival of Running. After a will they/won’t they couple of days this went ahead. The announcers on the tannoy reminded everyone this could be the last race for a while. Goal was somewhere around 1h32 and managed to come in 1h33 after setting off a bit too fast. Aimed to keep behind the 1h30 pacer but he was a bit quick for the first few miles and so was I. Good to be getting back towards pre-injury form. Unsure what I’ll use the training for though…

Week 11 done, 49 miles

16th – Recovery run so another gentle 30 mins with the dog. This was the start of the week leading into the Twin Lakes 20 mile race on the Sunday. By midday on Monday this was cancelled as the virus spread and Boris rejected his ‘Herd Immunity’ approach and went for stricter advice. Stay home if at risk or elderly, stay home if you feel unwell. This was still lagging behind other EU countries with various stages of lockdown imposed but so was the current infection rate.

17th – Was meant to be a 20 min effort sandwiched between 20 min warmup and cooldown. Instead swapped for a 10k loop in the woods with mates and the dog, and a semi-tempo in the evening.

18th – Bow Brickhills 9 mile again. Felt fast but comfortable. Turns out it was just comfortable and I was slow. Pah. Just the encouragement you need in the face of all races being cancelled.

ba9ee7cb-324f-4c7d-9b90-2963aa9df66b19th – Work from home day as people were gradually asked to socially distance. That will be the word of the year. A morning weights class, an evening remote Core Class with Katie over Zoom, aided by the dog. Turns out Zoom was the future as before the month was out it was to be the main way of communicating with everyone. Nipped out for a gentle 6 miler with a couple of mates after, all keeping the recommended distance as outdoor small group exercise was still encouraged. Not for long as it seems.

img_555520th – Having missed the Friday dog run in the woods all year whilst training it was good to get back to it. 4 adults spread out across the trails with 5 dogs going mental between and a steady 6 miles. Always a perfect start to a Friday, getting back in time for breakfast with a tired dog and that warm post-exercise glow. Later that day Gary helps me pick up a treadmill. The wife had pointed out I am unbearable when I don’t run so a treadmill in case of lockdown is an insurance policy on her not murdering me in my sleep. For most of the UK it’s also the day the schools close for an indefinite period. Home schooling will be the norm unless you’re a key worker. Both Cloe and I fall into that category (just) but feel we’d be taking the piss to send them to school whilst we both work largely from home.

img_543721st – Should have been steady short run on Saturday, then a hard effort at the Twin Lakes 20 on Sunday, now cancelled. With all football and rugby matches for the boy also cancelled for foreseeable future due to the virus for once I had no other commitments to rush back for so could have done a leisurely 20 instead. Hell I could have run all day. It all seemed a bit pointless though so a steady 11 miles with dog was the end result.

22nd – The most muted Mother’s Day ever as everyone did it over the phone or skype. Each day the government advice had become slowly more restrictive and an eventual lockdown seemed inevitable. With a lot of peoples mums being in the ‘at risk’ group many made do with virtual visits for the day. Those not at risk were still allowed out so it’s football with Billy and a dog walk, keeping the separation from others. Then drop off supplies to my Mum and run away after ringing the bell. Yep Coronavirus means playing ‘knock down ginger’ on your own mum. No running as Mother’s Day.

Week 12 done, also 49 miles

img_546523rd – McDonalds and Nandos announced this would be the last day of trading for a while as they closed for the virus. UberEats delivered a McDonalds breakfast one last time. Probably for the best all marathons are cancelled as I love a pre-race McMuffin. Gary asks if I’m free for a run but I’m stuck on concalls until late. Turns out it would have been the last social run for a while as that evening Boris announces new semi-Lockdown measures in his 8pm bulletin as people can’t follow simple rules on keeping your distance and not having impromptu mass gatherings.

You can run/walk/cycle once a day with members of own household only, nobody else. I joke that all runners have a couple of hours to move into a shared house with their clubmates before lockdown. Sub 3hr marathon or seeing your family? How bad do you want it? Not much in my case as I sit on sofa eating crisps and don’t run as it all feels a bit pointless.
Up & Running also close their stores to protect customers and staff but continue to trade online. Sports Direct tried to argue it’s an essential store and to continue to trade in shops. Remember that approach to profits over safety next time you’re buying sportswear.

img_548624th – My update call with Clean Coach Katie. It’s a good job she’s generally cheery as she must have had a week of client calls with miserable runners. Like me. Eeyore. After listing what races I’d now had cancelled it went mostly along lines of “new goals? dunno, it’s all pointless now ain’t it and can only run on your own so can’t even do easy runs with mates, I’m taking up knitting”. She’s kindly offered to continue to coach me to the new London date, so stuck with my miserable approach for many more months.

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You shall not pass

Felt generally better after and went for a 1hr dog run. Really impressed with how all other runners, walkers, dog walkers moved apart from each other and we all mutually gave each other far more than the recommended 2m of space. Then the cyclists came past and let themselves down. Not a single one gave more than a metre as they whizzed past, desperately hugging the tarmac as their carbon fibre full suspension bikes couldn’t possibly handle a few feet of flat and dry grass.

25th – I’ve run the same 9 mile loop with mates pretty much every Wednesday for 5+ years. We always go at 5am. Today due to social distancing we all ran, but solo and spread between 5am and 6:15am. Didn’t see each other but nice to know we’re out there somewhere which helped. Long day follows so miss the online core class.

img_5491After shops being ransacked by panic buying idiots now would be a really bad time for the fridge freezer to break, spoiling what little food you have. So it does. Bugger. Kids being off means a lot of time doing creative stuff and I find cartoon tutorials oddly relaxing….

UK Athletics later announce a ban on all races and group training sessions until end of May 2020. So another load of races fall away across the calendar. Less whinging this time as people are coming to terms with the virus being more important than the desire to run an arbitrary distance in a given time in pursuit of a metal trinket.

26th – Ridiculously long day on site again. Roads are quiet for journey to Somerset and back though. Manage to squeeze in a slow 30min with dog before bed.

27th – Rest day so just a bit of the Joe Wicks PE session. Looking back in years to come this will seem weird, but a personal trainer live streaming a fitness class is one of the most watched streams on Youtube with figures well over a million. There’s some TV programmes that struggle to break that.

28th – General advice seems to be that you should take your one bit of exercise a day from home where possible so doggie and I run for the hills (and woods) and complete 14 miles. It’s the sort of relaxed scenic run that makes you remember why you do it in the first place.

29th – Easy Sunday so just 6 miles ambling with dog to tire her out. She and I will be getting a lot of runs in together it seems.

Weekly 13 done, 38 miles, yeah I couldn’t be arsed much!

img_554130th – Light evenings mean we can go out for a long run again, another 14 mile loop to the woods with hound. Again not following the programme much but need to blow the cobwebs away before getting back to it.

img_554931st – Final day of March. Most have spent longer working from home than ever imagined, or their employers ever thought possible. It’s surprising how IT systems that simply won’t allow home working can suddenly do so when it suits certain companies. I go out with doggie for a 5 mile progressive run as I get back on the programme.

 

March miles – 225. So far for 2020 the monthly has been 178, 191, and now 225, building nicely ready to peak for London in April, or October. 

Training like a proper runner! February – Watford HM & Sandstorms

February has been an odd month. Starting with a muddy half marathon and cross country, then sweating in the Canary Isles, disruption due to sand storms and closed airports, finally back to freezing UK and snow storms. The theme of the month has been poor weather, race cancellations (luckily not for me but many others) and general disruption.

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1st – Steady 5 miler pre-half marathon. Came back to new shoes in the post. Loved my Hoka Rincon so much when I realised I had birthday vouchers for Wiggle that were due to run out I made an easy choice.

2nd – Watford Half Marathon – A new event for me, and a traditional closed road race. A great event but very hilly if you’re next expecting it, with one hill that reduced a large number of people to a power hike to ascend. Early in the training programme and still on comeback from ultras I wasn’t expecting anything close to a PB but pleased to get a 1h38 minute for a challenging course and managing a decent effort level throughout even if the mile splits look very erratic. Wore my new Hoka and got them muddy….. 😦

Week 5 done, 45.6 miles with one race. 

3rd – Steady 4 mile recovery with doggie. It was cold and dark. The dog rolled in fox poo. It was everything you expect from a Monday.

4th – 5 mile tempo, combined it with run leading for Lakeside. They were doing 12x2min intervals so made for an odd overlap. Including the cool down with the clubmates managed 6.7 miles at 7:51 average – slightly over the mileage.  Tsk tsk.

5th – Back to Bow Brickhills. Not sure what happened but fastest of the year at 8:10 average and only 136 heart rate against 145 the previous 4 weeks. Made it to core class for the evening where I amazed everyone with my inability to sit up straight.

6th – 3×1 mile and 4×400 metre. Also combined with Lakeside club so flitted backwards and forwards like an idiot. The important bit here is I SET UP THE INTERVALS PROPERLY! Overall 7:52 pace for 8.2 miles with some decent pace on the intervals, and some periods on the recovery where I wanted to puke. Which I think is good.

7th – Rest day. Also my mum’s birthday so had a massive dinner. I like rest days so much now I might try and engineer one more?  Hmm….

8th – Schedule was easy 5 on Saturday, and 16 mile on Sunday. Sunday was due to be smashed by Storm Ciara. So I made a last minute decision to do the long run Saturday morning. 13 miles with Jen and then straight into parkrun. Unfortunately I was down to run the Cross Country Saturday afternoon so neatly compressed both runs into one day and got Sunday as a rest day! My devilish plan was soon noted by coach Katie as she was at both events. Oops.

The evening was spent at a comedy night with Milton Jones at Warwick Uni as a surprise organised by the wife. Nearly 20 years since I studied there so we popped back into the Students Union. It was dead. It appears students don’t drink anymore. Cloe and I made a good stab at raising the average alcohol consumption and surfaced mid-morning feeling a little jaded ready to fight the storm home so 9th was another (hungover) rest day.

Week 6 done, 50 miles with one Cross Country race. 

10th – Standard recovery 5 miles. It was cold so all the fox poo was too frozen for the dog to roll in. Saw the sunrise. A good start to day.

11th – Hill repeats. Still windy but had my trusty dog to keep me company. I figured she might sit them out at the end or wander off for squirrels but instead she ran up and down each rep with me, barking encouragement and splashing in puddles.

12th – Bow Brickhills. Plan to stick to usual 145HR was foxed by a dodgy HR reading on watch. No matter how slow I went it kept climbing and peaked at 192 when I was basically walking and not even breathing heavily. Eventually ignored it and ran on feel, noting it was recording a steady 140HR when finishing with a sub 7 minute section so obviously a little screwy. Upshot is 7:59min average for the loop.  Finished the day with a core class.

13th – Did my session with the Lakeside Runners again. 1 mile warmup then 7 at marathon pace. All went well!

14th – Valentines and rest day. Ate way too much chocolate and felt ill. Had the worlds slowest pizza service from the local place. 1h10 from ordering and that was for collection. Pah!

15th – Longest run of the plan, 18 miles. Did the same approach as previously, ran majority prior to parkrun and then finish with that. Legs felt dead from the start, think the marathon pace efforts on Thursday were still in my legs. Definitely finding recovery is slower with age and veggie diet. Average pace was 8:26 which was a way off where I’d been for 16 so far.

16th – Half Term so disappeared to Gran Canaria. Last year this coincided with the amazing Transgrancaria race and I ran 85 miles up and down from coast to coast. This year they’ve moved the event to March. It was odd coming back to the scene of the race and I couldn’t help feel nostalgic for the dried up canal that marks the final few miles of the event. Feeling a little jittery and unable to sleep I went for a short 4 miler before bed. Even that late in evening it was hot and shock to system. Part of me was glad I wouldn’t be running for 24 hours in that heat.

Week 7 done, 51 miles. 

17th – First full day of the holiday. Didn’t manage to get a run in but did the morning stretch class at the hotel. I became a regular over the week and was variously laughed at by instructors in Spanish, Greek and Estonian. So that made a nice change. Most days I ran early, ate breakfast, then a stretch class and felt like a proper athlete.

18th – Having missed the previous days run I did what they always tell you not to and combined both runs into one for a steady 10 miles at 8:20 pace. Even starting at 7am was hot and sweaty. Followed it off with a core class of some sort (they all seemed pretty similar at this hotel).

19th – Another 10 miles taking in the Stairs of Death, The Real Stairs of Death and Stairs of Death 2. My sentiment is echoed by the graffiti. Followed with stretch and aqua aerobics. Get me!

20th – Relocated my Bow Brickhills 9 mile 5am run from MK to a 7am run along the beach. Then stretch again and a new one on me, pool bikes. Like an underwater spin class. For dinner we stumbled on a Tapas tour of the local town. 3 Euro for beer and tapas in each restaurant. No choice. Most were meat. I fell off the veggie wagon for the night and got relaxed.

21st – Rest day from running so just stretch and aqua aerobics.

22nd – Another 9 mile along beach and the various steps. Yoga to follow and then to the local market to look at the tat for sale. Cloe decided to walk back to enjoy the view which caused the wind to pick up and sand to be blown in, with an odd yellow tinge to the sky. Walking into town for dinner was akin to Wizard of Oz opening scenes.

23rd – Should have been my final run of the holiday. Glad it was only 4 miles on plan as wind had picked up again. More steps.

Stretch class is normally outside so wasn’t on. It wasn’t the first disappointment of the day as we arrived at the airport to find chaos and all flights cancelled. A sand storm had blown in from Sahara grounding all flights in Gran Canaria, Tenerife and other local islands. Maspalomas where we were staying has beautiful sandy beaches. The locals tell you it’s all blown in from the Sahara. You presume it’s a fairy tale for the tourists. It’s not.

Eventually the airline stuck us all on a coach to another hotel and we got 2 extra days of holiday. Coincidentally we were put in the Maspalomas Princess where we’d stayed the year before as it was walking distance from the race finish line.

Week 8 done, 43 miles of sweating. 

24th – Should have been waking up in Milton Keynes ready for a week of work. Instead out in Gran Canaria wondering if the sand in the air made it unsafe to do my 10 mile run. Instead I stuck to aqua aerobics and rolled the run to next day. Spent the day balancing work conference calls, helping kids with school work and a short radio interview on the sandstorm that oddly a lot of people heard.

I manged to fit in a spin class. Not done for a year or so and forgot how hard it is. The instructor ramped things up with small 1kg hand weights. Doubtful these would do much but everyone in the class limped out with trashed arms at the end. 472 calories gone in 36 minutes. Ouch!

25th – A final final run of the holiday. 2 hours. The sandstorm had gone so sky was beautiful but temp was 20deg even at 6am. Took it steady for a relaxed 13 miles. Then finally caught a flight home, landing at 1am. Have to say, we’re very impressed with the airline Jet2 over the handling of Gran Canaria sandstorm delays. Not easy to deal with a natural phenomenon like that but they put us up in a hotel for 2 nights, coach back to airport and eventually home, all with efficiency & smiles.

26th – A 1am bedtime meant no usual 5am Wednesday run so just core class with Katie.

27th – Gentle 5 miles with dog face.

28th – Rest day.

29th – An extra day of Feb. 6 miles with a leap year MK parkrun thrown in. They ran it in reverse which seemed quicker but found the zig zags hard to make any pace on. Happy with a 21 something and then a couple of miles later with dog to loosen legs.

February finished with 191 miles, and for 1st March ran a solo 20 mile to bring the week to Week 9 to 46 miles. Started in a sandstorm, ended with wet feet.

 

 

Training like a proper runner! January

When Anastasia and I had the initial meeting with Rudi, Dionne and Katie I was asked how many races I had booked (I normally do at least a marathon a month). There was some shock when I said none. And I’ve kept to it! Not a single secret marathon or ultra sneaked in.

I made the decision to follow the plan exactly and other than one missed run have done so. This weekend is the Watford Half Marathon and will be a good test of where I am.

The post is long as I’ve tried to record everything. The TLDR version is I built mileage slowly, did core classes, got a sports massage and fell in love with my Hoka Rincon shoes. Now all set to see what happens on Sunday.

January Training

1st – New Years Day starts with an optional double parkrun. I join Gary for a lift to Millennium Parkrun at the Marston Vale forest centre. It’s a flat park and I managed a 3h14 marathon there last year. Feeling full of cheese from Christmas I hold on for a 21m23s. I like the out and back route as it’s good to see other runners. When I get to the point it starts to hurt I can feel myself backing off. So out of practice at digging in. It’s not a flat out effort but not as relaxed as I’d like that time to feel and in pretty much ideal running conditions.
For the second parkrun we head back to Milton Keynes via home and get the dog. A far more relaxed 27m07s with poo stop and lots of trees to smell.

Normally I do Linford Wood and Milton Keynes, running between the two and getting close to a HM distance but they don’t line up this year.

indian_bullfrog_hoplobatrachus_tigerinus_by_dr._raju_kasambe_dscn6470_042nd – A rest day for running but manage to make the extra core class by Clean Coach Katie. I won’t say I’m good but feel significantly less shit than the last one. During one of the exercises I realise my running shorts have worn a hole in an inappropriate place and I’m flashing everyone the bright yellow inner liner of the shorts. Would be worse if there was no liner I guess, but feel like one of those bull frogs with the bright chin pouches they inflate to attract attention – “hey everyone, check this out”….

3rd – And another rest day, so just the exercises recommended by Rudi whilst watching TV. Given however busy people are they always manage to fit in at least a little TV or Netflix each day it feels like a great use of time to do some basic strength work. Plank for the advert break to avoid a trip to the biscuit tin.

4th – Down visiting a friend near Bournemouth. Parkrun is on the programme so head to Moors Valley with remains of a hangover. We get there late and are right at the back. It’s having the largest attendance ever and it shows as we walk across the start line a good 30 seconds after the start, and then just about manage a gentle jog for most of the first mile or so. Although the paths are wide there are way too many people today to overtake consistently and Scott and I (he aided/hindered by doggie) finally get around in 30 minutes.

img_46795th – A 60 minute run required, fail to get it done in Bournemouth for a reason not unrelated to drinking until 3am. I’d planned to go dry January but it’s coincided with my mates annual return to UK from Australia so there’s much reason to celebrate. Once back in MK I go out in the new Hoka Rincon. The weather is finally dry enough to break these out the box. They feel super light and comfortable and I manage 8 miles just under 8min/pace, trying to hold back as it’s meant to be a steady session, and I also can’t see very well on the final couple of miles in the dark.

Week 1 is a short one, and low mileage week at just 17 miles. I’m running far less than usual, and still slow.  Need to trust the process.

6th – It’s a Monday so start of the recovery runs. A steady 5 miles with dog at 9min20 pace. Tried the Rincon again and they feel a little less special and speed inducing when stopping to pick up dog poo.

img_49167th – Go out with the Redway Runners for the 640 session. This should be one mile at 7min as warmup, then three at 6m40s pace. It’s never been a comfortable run, but did get easier over the early part of 2019 and then very hard for the second half with Lakeland 100 in my legs. Tonight starts OK but fades quickly and I’m off pace for last two miles. Pants. Strava tells me this run is trending slower.

8th – Bow Brickhill – a 9 mile loop taking in the biggest (and probably only hill in MK). I’ve run this pretty much every week for the last 3 or so years. On a very good day I average around 7m30s/mile for the loop, more like 8m-8:20m as average and bad days can be far slower. One week I struggled so badly I considered taking up knitting instead and laid down in a ditch to let the foxes eat me. The plan has this as a gentler run so keep to 145-150bpm HR and average around 8m20s pace. HR is pretty consistent throughout but pace drops to maintain it.

img_4929After an action packed day at work it’s core class in the evening, my third go and even in three sessions feel markedly less rubbish. There is one weird sideways knee stretch at the end that my legs point out I shouldn’t even attempt. So I don’t.

 

9th – A day at the office pondering where is best to do the evening session. 1 mile repeats. 4 of them. 90 seconds recovery. It’s a reminder I’ve not really done intervals in a long time and certainly not this long a duration. Given I’m apprehensive it’s a good sign and an indication of the benefits of a having a coach.

Would I have picked this session myself? No.

In the unlikely event it came up on the Lakeside schedule would I run it hard or go at 80% and not get any real benefit? Yes.

Goal is 6:15-6:25 pace. I manage 6:13, 6:33 and two at 6:40 so not a million miles off. HR is relatively low at 153-161 so not as flat out as it felt at the time. Definitely need to work at getting comfortable with being uncomfortable again. I picked my lightweight Adidas Adizero for this sessions as they mentally make me feel ‘fast’.

10th – Rest day. Get in. Third this month.

11th – Football clashes with parkrun. Boo. Then it was cancelled due to water logged pitch so I could go to parkrun. Hooray. Then they hired an astropitch. Boo. So in the afternoon I run a steady 5 miles with Stephen and Bella at 8:23min/mile pace. Then an evening in the Blackened Sun brewery with school mates drinking beer and eating a very tasty vegetarian pizza.

12th – Schedule has 12 miles at a decent pace, aiming for an average of sub 8. All my running mates are psychopaths when it comes to start times. I decline the 5am start (on a Sunday!) and pick the marginally less ridiculous 6:30am group. Too early for breakfast so a can of full fat coke to keep hangover at bay. I’m a great example of eating clean.

There’s 6 of us, all but me are slightly soiled from cross country the day before. I’m just nursing a hangover. The first mile is 9min+ due to dog breaks and general faffing. The second is marginally better. I push a bit more for the rest and after losing a few on route Ben and I finish at 12.6miles a fraction under 8min average. Job done, which was doubtful given the first couple of miles. I took a couple of Haribo for a midway snack. Definitely finding I’m less able to run without some form of fuelling since going vegetarian. Also pleased to have sections at 7:20 pace which was my old marathon pace and it feels like the legs are remembering what to do.

Week 2 done at 43 miles. Some resemble of pace returning.

13th – Early morning recovery run. 5 gentles miles with doggie and we average over 10min pace as taking it easy.

14th – Knowing I wouldn’t make it back for the 6:40 paced session I popped out on my own for a tempo-ish 5 mile in the morning. Fast is hard first thing in morning and after a slow first mile average 7:27.

15th – Steady 9 mile Brickhill loop again – trying to keep to 145 HR average and finish 8m27s per mile, a tad slower than previous week. It still feels odd to run at a relaxed pace. I’m mostly still asleep from waist up with just my legs awake. Back to core class in evening, again getting a little better (less bad) each time.

16th – Intervals. Ouch. 3×2 mile, 2 minutes recovery. Get out early in morning as weather is forecast to be awful for rest of day. I manage to hold consistent pace for the intervals at a tad over 7min but struggle to get the pace under 7 as required. Lots of work to do before London it seems.

17th – Rest day. Given I ran early the day before I’ve got a 48hr gap between intervals and parkrun on Saturday.

18th – 5 miles on the plan. The footie match is cancelled so boy stays in bed and I can join Milton Keynes parkrun for their 10th Birthday. A bumper attendance of 1240 runners, not including Bella who comes for a run and objects to the final puddle that comes up to her belly, but happy to round up to 5 miles.

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These are rank

19th – Sunday Long run. An increase from last week so 14 miles at the same 7:40-8:10 pace. Running with a fair group we’re a little slow again for first couple of miles then pick up to hit 7:52min/mile average. Feels good to get some more miles and hit the pace after being nowhere close for the intervals on Thursday. We go through HM distance in around 1h40, so 5 minutes slower than I’d normally pass halfway in a marathon when back at full fitness but heading the right way. At the end I’m surprisingly knackered after basically just over a half marathon. It’s also my 3rd month of being a vegetarian so I celebrate with a ‘sausage’ buttie. I’ve been dreaming of it for the whole run. The tofu attempt is not good. In fact it’s bad. It’s barely food. The dog gets half and eats it with a grimace.

Week 3 done at 46.7 miles. Getting back to the sort of mileage I’m used to.

20th – Early morning 5mile recovery with doggie again. It’s dark and slippery. Not all training runs are a soul awakening joyous experience but I do always feel mentally clearer after.

21st – Long day in Somerset, just back in time to join Lakeside for their evening run. I’ve come prepared with intervals set up on watch. Sets of two different intervals with differing tests. It would be awkward to do manually so I’m reassured to have it set up on the watch. Except I’ve messed up and set the interval length to 0.4 metres, not 0.4 km. Yep smart. Second set of intervals are correct and I finish at 7 miles of decent ish pace at least and wondering where I went wrong.

22nd – 5am 9 miler again. Keeping HR at 145 throughout and finish with a slightly quicker overall pace than last week which is encouraging. The evening is spent at the excellent Redway Runners Expo chatting to mates and selling books but I do miss core class to attend.

img_498023rd – Again I manage to meet up with Lakeside. My programme has a progressive 6 mile, and I gradually ramp up, running back to regroup at times with a 7th mile to cool down. Job done.

 

24th – It’s Friday and rest day. Given I’ve got to move my long run this week from Saturday to Sunday I debate doing the Saturday 6 mile today but run out of time anyway and decision is made for me.

25th – The first time I’ve gone off programme and switched days. At least being a Saturday allows me to use parkrun for the final section of the 16 mile run and I manage to time it perfectly to reach the start just as it sets off. Really pleased to average 7:44 and finish strong with a 23 minute Parkrun and far less tired than the previous weeks long run that left me knackered for the day. It’s one of those runs that leave you smiling and happy with the progress.

26th – Sunday is an early start for National Running Show at NEC. If you’ve read on blog or book about my view of race expos you’ll wonder why I’m here. Don’t think of it as an expo, it’s more like an indoor festival with some great speakers and areas to hang out and talk rubbish.

natrunshowRace expos have huge crowds, half of whom don’t want to be there, just forced to attend to collect a bib. Everyone here has come by choice and the talks aren’t the dry “five ways to shave 30 seconds off your marathon PB” or “my favourite gels in order of viscosity” but actually motivational talks by the greatest runners and race organisers out there. When a stage has Camille Heron, the greatest female ultra runner next to Laz of Barkley Marathons fame then you know it’s something special. After a long day I have to bin off the planned 6 mile run leftover from Saturday but I’ve been on feet all day so no huge issue.

Week 4 – 45 miles with a missed run. Feeling far more positive than earlier in the month.

27th – Another early start to Somerset so a 5am 5 mile with the dog. It’s cold unsurprisingly.

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28th – Tuesday 640 session. Hanging off the back again but manage to do a little better than last time. With a mile cooldown I average 7:23min/mile.

29th – Bow Brickills again. Heart rate slightly lower at 143 average and pace slightly better at 8:18min/mile – a decent improvement on 145 HR at 8:25 the previous week. Miss the core class again as in charge of kids and the wife is out at the theatre.

30th – Intervals again and run them with Lakeside. I mess them up AGAIN. Should have been 12x400m with 60s rest but I manage to get the cooldown before the intervals and a random 1 mile so it all goes to pot. Pah. Run with the group until 6 miles then peel off.

31st – Rest day so pop to see Rudi for a pre-Watford Half marathon sports massage. He attacks my legs in his usual manner and I try not to cry, knowing I’ll be floating out later.

Total monthly mileage – 177.8m, with only 6 miles missed. Overall positive, pace is coming back, the intervals (when I set them up properly) are working. I’m reminded that if you can’t handle the training load in January then you’re going to be stuffed as the load builds later.

Training like a proper runner! The Start

Sponsored Athlete

As I mentioned in a previous post I was lucky enough to be one of two runners picked for a local competition to be a sponsored athlete with coaching by Clean Coach Katie, sports massage by Rudi at The Treatment Lab, and a gait analysis and trainers by Dionne at Up & Running Milton Keynes. I know Katie from local races, Rudi managed to fix my knee for Chicago when I could barely walk three weeks before, and Dionne hosted the book launch party at the old store (now moved to fancy new premises over the road).

Target Race

dont-break-the-chainI’m targeting London Marathon having defied the odds and got in on a ballot entry. Again. I’ve typically run 20 marathons a year so ignore the traditional 1, maybe 2 a year approach with dedicated training schedules. The closest I’ve come to following a plan was marathon 2 and 3 back in 2012 when I trained for London and Milton Keynes on subsequent weekends so still not your standard approach to training or recovery.

Why?

Having my two fastest marathons off the back of ultra training almost as accidental PBs I’m keen to actually focus on a race and see what I can do. My three fastest marathons at 3h13, 3h14 and 3h15 have all been at small, low key events with barely 50 competitors and aid stations where you stop at a table and peruse your choices rather than having stuff handed to you like a large event. The 3h14 marathon required an extra stop per lap to get a lap card punched. Not ideal for shaving off precious seconds, and neither were the 40-50 miles in the previous week.

Where I am now

Whilst I’ve enjoyed a good 2 year run where anything slower than a 3h30 was a disappointment to me, my most recent attempts have been in the 3h45 to 4h window. The ridiculous Lakeland 100 took far more out of me than any previous ultra I’ve done. The terrain plus the sheer duration (36hrs) lead to cankles and foot issues, robbing me of speed. It got so bad I actually went to a sports rehabilitation for the first time in 8 years of running as I was so broken before Chicago I was checking cut off times (6.5hrs in case you were wondering).

Target 

I’ve always entered races with at least a couple of targets. When undertaking the Grand Union Canal Race, I had goals of 36 and 38 hours for the 145 mile route. The weather was brutal (actually brutal, the hottest bank holiday in the UK ever) and the route came up long at 153 miles. I covered 145 miles in 36 hours but still a long way off the finish, and the second goal kept me focused to complete the event in 38 hours dead. Without that I probably would have walked it in closer to 40 hours. With this in mind I have a few targets –

  • Gold – secure a Good For Age for London. The cut off is 3h05 but based on 2020 entries would need to be around 3h02m20s to get me in. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.
  • Silver – secure a Boston Qualifier. Currently a softer target than London at 3h10 but places filled at 3h08m21s for 2020. Also ouch.
  • Bronze – go sub 3h10 to break the mental barrier. I’ve struggled mentally to crack each significant time when chipping away at a PB. Breaking 3h45 and 3h30 both took a lot of failed attempts but once done became easier.
  • Pewter – a new PB, breaking 3h14m47s.
  • Tin (hey I’m running out of metals) – Sub 3h30. I want to do all the majors eventually and get the certificate. I’ve yet to do a time at London I’d be happy to have on a certificate, I was injured for Chicago and still managed a 3h24.

The Training Schedule 

This is put together by Katie, and only released a month at a time to avoid scaring me. It’s printed out on the wall and I’m crossing off each day like a new runner again!

As I’m targeting London my schedule starts in January so I could enjoy Christmas. The other athlete Anastasia, who’s targeting Manchester marathon started in December as the event is earlier. Less mince pies, shame!

The main difference from my usual running is these things called rest days. I’ve never intentionally done a run streak (run every day for a set periods, sometimes months, sometimes years or even decades) but don’t take rest days often. In the 6 month run up to the Lakeland 100 I probably only took 10 days rest in total. So now I have one day a week as imposed rest, and a few days recommended at the start of the plan to recover from a busy year and the very odd Headtorch marathon on 27th December.

The schedule is based around other commitments like taking the boy to football on a Saturday so has long runs on a Sunday.

  • Monday – Easy Run
  • Tuesday – Speed Session
  • Wednesday – Brickhills morning run and Core Classes
  • Thursday – Speed Session
  • Friday – REST!
  • Saturday – Parkrun – 5 -6 miles
  • Sunday – Long Run

For January it’s a slow build, with the Watford Half Marathon on 2nd Feb as first event. I don’t do HM much and this one will be a new event for me and a good way to judge where I am. I’m told it’s also got some cheeky hills.

a6a3a008-e96e-4b65-aea8-88cd092db526Core Work

Included in the package are core classes once a week where I get to show everyone that I have the flexibility of an oak tree. They’re fun in a ‘why doesn’t my leg bend like everyone else’s?’ way. Given I’ve had my first injury this year I’m conscious that this is something I’ve neglected for too long. I stretched once a few years ago I think. Wasn’t keen.

 

img_4673Sports Massage  

Before Christmas I popped to the Treatment Lab for Rudi to assess how wonderfully agile I’m not. The whole process takes an hour including assessment and attention to areas needing work. The upshot of his manipulations is he’s diagnosed stiffness in my hips, and the right in particular needs some work, as shown by the dodgy knee on that side. I came out the treatment feeling like a coiled spring so it must work.

He also sent through exercises to do at home which I’ve surprised myself by actually doing, even getting the family to join in.

Running Assessment

The Up & Running store in Milton Keynes has fancy motion capture cameras on a treadmill to provide motion metrix gait analysis. It’s not even comparable to the stores where a member of staff tries to asses how you run from a 20 metre jog around the clothing rails. This detailed analysis provides excellent data to evaluate your running style, measure efficiency and crucially allows comparison between different trainers.

I took along my Adidas Boost (I’ve got umpteen pairs of these and struggle to remember the model names, I think these were Supernova), and also my impulse buy Nike Zoom Fly FK with the carbon fibre plate. The shock result was that I ran less economically in the Nike, exactly the opposite of what they should have been. Overall I was a ‘constant glider’, or basically an old man shuffler as expected.

img_4679Dionne then tried me in three more shoes, and eventually settled on a Hoka Rincon which was a surprise. I’ve got a couple of pairs for trails (when I finally got over the daft colours and unusual looks) and not considered for road use before but they just felt so right and moved me towards ‘quick stepper’ like an ultra runner or female marathon runner according to the system. If that’s Paula Radcliffe then I’ll take that.

The Hoka gave an efficiency of 3.15 Joules/kg/m compared to 3.26 for the Adidas, with a natty graph of efficiency like when you buy a new boiler. I moved up to B from C. I still wouldn’t buy me with the current price of gas.

Time to start

So that’s it. I’ve got the shoes and plan, with regular sports injury treatment and checks to keep me in line. All I need to do now is train.

3rd 1st Annual Headtorchruns Marathon

Marathons are pretty simple things. Run a measured 26.2 miles along a well-marked course, go as fast as you think you can sustain, wave at the crowds and finish with triumph under an inflatable arch accompanied by a band or a DJ playing that latest hippity hop music (see I’m down with the kids).

cowThe 3rd 1st Annual Headtorchruns Marathon is exactly not like that. Run a dark and mysterious route with some run guides, re-group at times to ensure nobody has been eaten by vicious night cows, and if lucky you’ll pass a few drunks on the way home from the pub who might cheer you on. It’s ridiculously pointless fun.

If you’ve only ever run London Marathon you’d struggle to get your head around this. No marching band at the end, but there is beer and food. Plus it’s all for charity so you’d be a bit of a knob not to take part really. In an odd twist on entrance process, you pay £35 to sign up, and if you turn up on the day you can get £30 back and just pay the £5. If you don’t like funding charities that is. 😊

If you’d like to help fund an excellent cause then please visit http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/markthornberry

giraffe_10
An actual Giraffe

A few people had recommended the event from last year and it seemed a good if perverse way to squeeze one last marathon in before the end of the year. The entry list started to fill up and it was a who’s who of running idiots I’d met over the trails (at least one of whom continually disappoints by not looking like his giraffe photo on Twitter).

I managed to rope in two mates to join me. Stephen was finishing off a monster year of marathons including 7 in 7 days, and Gary will agree to most events if there is beer present so was up for only his second marathon as he normally runs ultra for which he’s cultivated the obligatory beard. So late on a Saturday afternoon we bundled into Stephens car and headed down via McDonalds. Being responsible passengers Gary and I waited a while before opening the beers to ready ourselves for the event.

The start is at Mickleham Village Hall and has the usual pre-ultra odour of skanky trail shoes and waterproofs that haven’t quite dried out from the last race. It smells like home.

Registration was manned by Lou who plied with me with beer to finish the GUCR145 when she was crewing Phil who is also somewhere in the hall with his wife Suzie, counting down the days until his Brexit unicorn whilst I’m mourning the loss of a 4 day Socialist/Marxist week.

The infamous Karen is manning the raffle table. She’s perfected the art of mocking runners over many Enigma events and is now in high demand from Race Directors who need experts to cajole and taunt people to the finish. She’s also the gatekeeper to your £30 entrance refund. Coincidentally nobody is brave enough to ask. Her better half Matt is manning the kitchen and taking delivery of the various party items dropped off by runners. I bump into fellow Do-Badder Dimi as well who’s sporting the new Bad Boy Running Club vest which looks surprisingly professional.

After the safety briefing we’re off outside and mingling about ready to start. The various guides are pointed out, including Spencer “it’s not a giraffe it’s a goat”, Ally and the main man Allan who takes the lead. It’s an odd experience to set off on a ‘race’ that isn’t one. The jostling for position is more to avoid falling over stuff than gain places.

The route as it gradually unfurls is predominantly off road and a mixture of fields, footpaths and chalky slippy stuff. The recurring theme is mud. A wet couple of months have churned up most of the UK. Having spent a 10 mile run on Boxing day failing to keep up with Stephen (my dog got bored of watching my sliding and wandered off) in my Hoka trail shoes I’ve gone for something with grip and added cheat sticks. I’m using one as it keeps the other hand free to eat or carry my cider. Priorities.

We start with around 80 runners and we spread and regroup at times. Often stopping at landmarks we can’t recognise on a field we can’t name in a location we couldn’t find again if our lives depended on it. Which it might if the guides did a runner and we needed to call emergency services to bring more beer.

The steady pace leads to the random conversations you normally get on ultras, and the regrouping mixes people up further. Topics vary from podcasts, races, family, films and eventually onto the hardship faced by those who grew up before broadband and had to rely on Eurotrash once a week for a chance of titillation. At times there’s almost too many people to chat to and I miss saying hi to Simon, the founder of the Band of Runners Podcast (a new discovery to me and I’m slowly catching up) and also the Sussex trail eventsteam.

We stop at a gate to climb a hill. It had a name. Mostly it seems to be cow shit hill based on the terrain. Looking up at the imposing hill in the dark, there’s a chorus of groans as we power hike up. The wind is stronger at the top and for the first time in the run I feel a little cool. Despite being late December it’s surprisingly warm and thankfully dry.

When we regroup later Stephen is looking a little worse for wear. After a marathon on Christmas day and runs every day since he’s probably due a rest and decides to drop out at the halfway aid station along with a few others including Stuart, who I met along with Helen way back at CW50 a couple of years back. We sip down mulled wine and eat mince pies (a proper aid station!) as they set off for the short run back. Later we bump into Helen again and debate how long is polite to leave it before ribbing our mates for dropping out early. The consensus is at least a few hours. Harsh.

For anyone used to road marathons or faster trail events, the pace can be unsettling. We’ve been on the go for over three hours and only covered a little over a half marathon. It’s final stages of a 100 miler pace, in the dark. To be dropped into this without the preceding 75 miles of decline from fresh faced runner to haggard and broken embarrassment to the species is a new experience and a reminder of my love/hate relationship with ultras, and my yes/no dilemma to next years Lakeland 100 race.

One runner is accompanied by her dog who receives relentless fuss at each stop. I’m feeling guilty I left my hound at home as the pace would likely make this a good marathon for her.

There’s a long sequence of steps that never ends and to which my stiff knee objects (a memento from this years Lakeland 100) and I’m relying on the sticks more than I’d like to. At the top we surprise a couple of lads out for a quiet evening admiring the view and getting stoned as fuck. The fug of smoke is enough to envelope all 70 remaining runners. It’s impressive that after toking sufficient pot to achieve this that they can still stand. They wander off, and it’s unclear whether they considered us a joint hallucination or not.

After one final hill at Satan’s Staircase we round the corner into the hall and descend on the food as only a herd of runners can. It’s taking over 7 hours as promised, so excellent value for money on £/hr.

Time to relax, check your mates have got back safely and wait for the raffle. The prizes are properly amazing, and I win a grand total of nothing. This doesn’t detract from a great event, and one I’d recommend if you can get your head around a night time mystery tour of the hills, and like talking rubbish to other runners who have an odd sense of fun.  I’ve clocked over 4000ft of climbing, an impressive amount in a marathon.

Tim to head back to Milton Keynes and a few hours kip before ice skating with the boy.

Meat Dodging Week 8 – two months down!

Up until starting this endeavour I would have expected fatal consequences for avoiding meat for 2 months. There just aren’t enough vegetable I eat to avoid certain death. Whilst I’m still limited, it is slowly growing and the general diet is improving (which says a lot about how poor it was before).

What’s becoming most evident is how badly I plan food and how often work means I miss meals. Still a fatty so a fair amount of snacking I must be doing subconsciously.

img_4607Monday – Granola breakfast then off to site for supervision of some crane lifts. Apple and banana on route. Missed lunch vans (again), so back home for carbonara dinner (sans meat for me) with some salad. A short 3 miler with dog in evening.

 

Tuesday – Started with a 10k with dog before a day of conference calls working from home. Cereal breakfast and scrambled egg on toast for lunch.

A poor attempt at the 640 paced run where I struggled but was better than the previous week, managed 4 miles at a not awful pace. Can’t even remember dinner. Expect I had something.

Wednesday – 9 mile run 5am, where I had the best run since Lakeland 100 broke me. Then straight to Somerset, so egg McMuffin and hash brown on route. Fruit for lunch and then headed home – I’d planned to nip out for lunch for failed due to site works. Due to family emergency the wife had to dash out and leave kids with Nana. Sat in gridlocked traffic I ordered them pizza for dinner whilst I licked the car windows for sustenance. Many many hours got home to a cold slice of pizza and bed.  Why is Somerset so far?

img_4616Thursday – Granola breakfast, fruit for snacks and meetings all day so missed lunch van multiple times. Just stared out the window at it and cried. Back home and decided in honour of a recently passed family member we should go to her favourite restaurant so off to Bella Italia. A new menu since I last went and it was excellent, went for veggie pizza with stuffed crust and baked cookie dessert. Didn’t manage to run today but pizza made up for it.

img_4618Friday – Another early start to get to Somerset so again an egg McMuffin on route. I’d been prepared with a tomato, spinach and feta pasta salad lunch but work went so badly I mostly ate Quality Street for comfort. Traffic was poor so once finally home around 8pm I tucked into the pasta salad. Pretty arse start to Xmas, and no running. Rare for me to have two days off.

 

Saturday – Failed to get up for the 6:30 club run so did parkrun with Bella. The puddles were so deep at one point that Bella had to swim. Back for breakfast of soda bread toast and peanut butter. Lunch of cheese sandwich. In an attempt to line stomach before drinking I tried a Quorn chicken tikka masala. Pretty good. Washed down with copious beers and some bad dancing.

Sunday –  Too hungover for the 6:45am run with mates, so slept in. As an Xmas treat we were booked into breakfast with Santa at Harvester. Vegan sausages, scrambled eggs and hash brown with beans. All pretty good but both the meat and veggie sausages were a bit dry, presume from the flame grilled technique used.

Once the breakfast had settler I took doggie out for a 10k to Willen lake. Much of the route was flooded but we ran anyway as she loves a paddle.

For dinner the wife made a hidden veggie sauce for meatballs and spaghetti, with very good Linda McCartney meatballs for me.

Next week is Christmas so will see how it goes dodging Turkey and pigs in blankets.

2019 – The year in running

It’s the end of 2019 so as is traditional we all look back and realise the fleeting nature of time and cry at lost opportunity and receding hairlines. Then I make sarcastic lists as it’s the easiest form of humour.

January – Surprisingly Cold

It was cold, lots of people ran and posted about how cold it was. My dog agreed and asked to be dropped off halfway through a morning run as she couldn’t feel her fingers. I pointed out she didn’t have any. She countered that she couldn’t talk either so I was probably suffering hypothermia induced delusions. It was a fair point. Mostly I ran lots as training for an ultra and got into an unhealthy competition with a local runner on a Garmin challenge and managed 360 miles. Mostly January is pretty dull. And cold. Did I mention it gets cold in the winter? Revelation.

transgrancanaria2019-19898February – Still cold

Very little happened. I pissed off to Gran Canaria to get sunburnt running up mountains on the Transgrancanaria. It was even hillier than Milton Keynes if that is conceivable. I concluded that not only am I rubbish at running up mountains, I don’t actually like running at mountains which was awkward with the Lakeland 100 coming up later in the year. I did manage to pair up with some Irish runners and figured the finish photo may help me get an EU passport.

March – Bland

Brexit happened and we left the EU on 29th March just as May promised. It all went great, we had 40 trade deals ready to go and the British empire regained control of the world. Then Farage awoke from his wet dream and realised it was all an embarrassing mistake as we’d delayed it but it was almost certain not to be delayed again.

rc2879920rfl20drawstring20bag20-20square_0Weather was actually pretty good and there were no major race cancellations this year so generically dull. People ran Bath and Reading HMs and got the miles in the bag. Still not sure what bag you put miles in. Hopefully a recycled hemp one, more likely one of those drawstring bags you get from races that I love but which my wife has a deep seated loathing for.

Asics picked their latest set of Frontrunners. I was overlooked based on being a miserable bugger and as inspiring and photogenic as cat sick. My hashtag game was also weak #howdothesework #inmydaythissymboldenotednumbers #anyonefornoughtsandcrosses

cactusoneApril

A dog ran the MDS.

He didn’t need a personal trainer or sessions in a heat chamber just lots of pats on the head and to be told he’s a good boy. Cactus has yet to write his 24 page blog on the race detailing how he cut the tags off his top to save 0.0001g of weight and precious weeks weighing food to see if Almonds or Macadamia nuts packed more calories per gram (can dogs even eat nuts?). He did get a medal which saved him the £4.5k entry fee. Good boy. Cynical people noted MDS was down on numbers from previous years and a cute dog running it would guarantee some media coverage and encourage more entries.

Manchester marathon held a marathon length marathon, with no obvious baggage or transport disasters. This brings their mighty string of unbroken success to a whole 3 years and about a 50% success rate so they celebrated by releasing early bird specials for the following year. With booking fee on top these were just under £50. A whole year early. Bargain. Entrants were further enticed to join by promise of a new route through the city. Many hope this might also be marathon length marathon.

img_2469Nike launched the ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% running shoe, the sequel to 4%. They were allowed to be worn by the elites at London as were available in shops prior to race day. About two shops, and a couple of days before the race. Nice gaming of the rules. Retailing at £250 it was literally minutes before a pair were up for sale at the bargain price of £1100 on FB groups.

A man dressed as Big Ben runs London and has to be helped under the finish gantry in a symbol of the goodwill of London. Later in a pub the real London shows it’s form and the costume is nicked.

The March Brexit was so good we left again on April 12th. Even more potential was unleashed.

London Marathon scores a bit of an own goal by having pacers for 7h30 to be inclusive and then closing the course ahead of them. Runners in 58667520-470569157014105-3296871365184847872-n-1557084528the pack are denied aid stations, sprayed with blasts from the crews pressure washing the blue line off the route and eventually forced to complete on the pavement. Unfortunately for them the pacer documents the whole debacle and posts over social media. They’ve seemingly dealt with it well and anyone affected will be back for 2020.

Also in media issues, and the issue with influencers, one posts a photo of herself after the arduous London marathon on a drip. No not in a medical tent or hospital but sat at home the day after having been given a freebie by The IV Doc as “more and runningdripmore athletes are having this, It includes fluids, vitamin B12 and multivitamins”. No, more and more athletes are not having this. As a professional life coach and motivational speaker you need to act responsibly. I’ve edited out the name as it’s a rant more about influencers and their negotiable values than a single individual. When this one was roundly criticised for promoting unnecessary medical procedures (at circa £150 a pop) when a big drink and some food would be better she handles it poorly, accusing people of being bullies.

Also at London, Jessica Anderson an actual real life, life-saving nurse runs an amazing time in her scrubs to raise funds for charity. Having approached Guinness world records in advance she confirmed on Instagram approximately a month out from the event that they “have declined my application as my uniform doesn’t meet their criteria of what a nurses uniform should be but I will still be aiming to beat the current official record time of 3hrs 8 minutes 54 seconds”. She runs an impressive 3h08m22s, faster than the record.

That could have been the end of it but Social Media explodes with indignation and eventually Guinness World Records agrees and awards her the record. Are the costume rules used by GWR outdated and in the case of the nurse outfit bordering on something you’d find in Anne Summers? Yes (the school boy record requires a school cap, tie, shirt and satchel last time I looked which whilst hopefully not sexy is equally outdated). Did they state in advance the outfit didn’t meet the rules? Yes. Should GWR change the requirements for future years or set up a new ‘modern/contemporary nurse’ category? Yes. Is it right that they caved to social media pressure and retrospectively awarded it when they normally require stringent checks and officiating for a record to stand? Opinion is divided on that.

If a bloke ran in trousers and polo shirt in an unsanctioned attempt and retrospectively tried to claim the record for fastest school boy would there have been such an outpouring of anger at GWR having outdated Dickensian outfit requirements and infantilising of children? Probably not. In the unlikely event there was a social media storm and the blokes attempt took the record from someone who was burdened with satchel, shirt, tie and hat, would that have been fair on the previous holder? Probably not. Would a new category of ‘Fastest school boy (modern)’ be more fair to all concerned?

May – Nothing exciting

London marathon announce a record year of ballot applications with 457,861 applying for 17,500 ballot spots or about a 3% chance of success. Still better odds than the lottery.

June – MK runner wins an ultra

2cc7c056-0f56-4aac-b25c-411d784cbcc5It’s the first year of the MK24 endurance event and I bash out 104 miles and a surprise win at an ultra. Just call me Kílian Jornet and don’t focus on the small field or that my aid box was mostly beer and cider.

July – MK runner nearly gives up on life

img_3333-2Notable only for me, but I ran the Lakeland 100 ultra. It took forever. Half the entrants wisely went home. I knackered my feet and I hallucinated frogs. I vowed to never run again. I finished and adjusted that to never run ultras again. I’ve signed up for next year. I’m an idiot. Send help.

 

August – London Marathon Good For Age places are released

This being the first year with sufficient warning of the new qualification standard there is a rush of applicants. Due to the number of applications exceeding the 6,000 places available, the qualifying times within each age category were reduced evenly by 2 minutes and 40 seconds for men and 4 minutes and 15 seconds for women. For men it now makes London harder to qualify than Boston. For women Boston is still the harder.

Men Qualifying standard Qualifying times accepted
Age 18-39 sub 3:00 sub 2:57:20
Age 40-44 sub 3:05 sub 3:02:20
Age 45-49 sub 3:10 sub 3:07:20
Age 50-54 sub 3:15 sub 3:12:20
Age 55-59 sub 3:20 sub 3:17:20
Age 60-64 sub 3:45 sub 3:42:20
Age 65-69 sub 4:00 sub 3:57:20
Age 70-74 sub 5:00 sub 4:57:20
Age 75-79 sub 5:15 sub 5:12:20
Age 80+ sub 5:30 sub 5:27:20
Women Qualifying standard Qualifying times accepted
Age 18-39 sub 3:45 sub 3:40:45
Age 40-44 sub 3:50 sub 3:45:45
Age 45-49 sub 3:53 sub 3:48:45
Age 50-54 sub 4:00 sub 3:55:45
Age 55-59 sub 4:05 sub 4:00:45
Age 60-64 sub 4:30 sub 4:25:45
Age 65-69 sub 5:00 sub 4:55:45
Age 70-74 sub 6:00 sub 5:55:45
Age 75-79 sub 6:20 sub 6:15:45
Age 80+ sub 6:40 sub 6:35:45

September 

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Short Races

An annual highlight for many runners is the opportunity to take part in the Great North Run and the chance to pay just £58 for a half marathon. For anyone feeling flush for cash they can pay around £27 on top for an amazing 5k event the day before.

Critics might argue that in the days of parkrun, what justification is there to price gouge the public for the same length race? Well Great Run answered that criticism by ensuring everyone got a PB when they knocked 300m off the distance. Yes another big price event that can’t even get the basics right. It joins Manchester (nearly) marathon and Brighton (not) Half Marathon, the later of which was 146 metres (0.09 miles) short for THREE years. I confidently predict it will be at least November until a repeat of short courses.

Running in a furnace, and doping

The 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships was held in Doha. This was based on their perfect climate for running at a chilly 39°c in the day and a positively arctic 29°c at night. They had to air condition THE ENTIRE STADIUM TO 25°c FOR FUCKS SAKE!

Even better is the easy transport links and strong local support for athletics leading to capacity crowds of 100, sometime 120 people. The mixed 4x400m relays was a new event for 2019 and had the honour of having more people taking part than spectating. Some lefty liberal snowflakes suggested holding events in the desert in Summer in countries that have little interest in the sport is stupid. Some couldn’t hear the complaints over the sound of their money.

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CREDIT: REX

Highlights were the mens 100m final where Christian Coleman (under a cloud for failing on three occasions in 12 months to let officials know his whereabouts for drugs tests but avoiding punishment on a technicality) beat teammate Gatlin, a convicted doper. It’s the sort of clean sport image that inspires children (if they’ve been kicked in the head by a horse).

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If this photo was bigger the sheer beauty of the course would make your eyes bleed (CREDIT: REX)

Of course one of the reasons to host a prestigious sporting event is the amazing coverage of the scenic country on a worldwide platform. The marathon is ideal for this being a longer event, outside of the stadium. Doha took full advantage of this by staging the event at midnight and running backwards and forwards along a dual carriageway giving everyone ample opportunity to soak up the views of some kerbs and a couple of pasting tables.

In the women’s event of 68 starters only 40 finished as the rest were overcome with excitement at the sheer beauty of the course and needed to be taken off in golf carts.  Some runners were embarrassed at being so easily distracted by the aesthetic perfection of the tarmac and unbelievably tried to blame the weather. “The humidity kills you,” said Volha Mazuronak, of Belarus, who finished fifth. “There is nothing to breathe. I thought I wouldn’t finish.” Have the courage of your convictions Volha. The perfectly lined up safety railings were too much weren’t they? I had similar issues at the Sistine Chapel.

More doping

In a shock announcement, completely out of the blue, Alberto Salazar, the American Coach was banned for four years for “orchestrating and facilitating prohibited doping conduct” after Usada concluded its investigation into the Nike Oregon Project. Countless athletes who had previously been coached by Salazar all appeared mystified and confirmed that if any doping had been occurring it was definitely the other athletes, not them, and their own massive jump in performance since being under his guidance was due to hard work only. Coincidences seemed to pop up everywhere. The announcement came during Doha so was discussed during the event on the BBC where pundit Paula Radcliffe failed to disclose her slight conflict of interest having been a Nike sponsored athlete, and married to Gary Lough, the current coach of Mo Farah who was previously under Salazar between 2011 and 2017 during his most successful period of his racing career.

October – World Records (and some not) fall

109205494_split_times_graphicAfter getting so close to the barrier before, Eliud Kipchoge has a second stab at the sub2hr marathon and manages to break it in 1h59m40s. He consistently knocked out 14 minute 5ks. Have a go at your next parkrun. It’s around 2m50s per km. I can confidently say you’ll either win it outright or die trying.

The staged event was not a valid world record due to many technicalities such as pacers, and using a car with laser beams which looked pretty cool to be honest. Anything is cool with laser beams, even putting up shelves.

Nike also provided Kipchoge eliud-kipchoge-ha-corso-la-maratona-a-vienna-in-meno-di-2-ore-foto-apwith a new model of the Vaporfly trainers – called AlphaFLY. The latest in a long line of performance enhancing shoes that have been worn by athletes running the five fastest marathons in history which then renewed controversy on whether the whole line of shoes should be allowed in competitions.

I used my 50% voucher from the lovely guys at Fitness Rewards life insurance to get some Nike Zoom Fly FK with the carbon fibre plate and then injured myself before being able to even wear them. I did limp around the Chicago Marathon in 3h24, 9 minutes quicker than the previous weekend in Bournemouth so they may potentially work although probably the benefit is best realised by racing snakes than tubby project managers having a midlife crisis.

Also at Chicago marathon, aside from me nearly getting a PB for most drunk during a race, the other notable performance was Kenyan runner Brigid Kosgei breaking the women’s world record set by Paula Radcliffe 16 years previously to cross the line in 2h14m04s (1m21s improvement is pretty steep). Having run the event I can confirm temperature was pretty much perfect, on a fast course, but with some blustery winds at times making such a big jump impressive for a record many considered unbeatable.

London Marathon Rejections

Being October, the annual London Marathon ballot results came out and as usual social media was awash with people who were ‘relieved as I never wanted to get in anyway’ or angry that they’d been denied again and proposed alternative ballot systems heavily weighted in their own interest. Personally I think allocation alphabetically by surname would be simplest although I was lucky enough to get in for the 2020 race so I’m quite happy with the current system, thanks for asking.

united-states-long-distance-runner-camille-herron-reacts-news-photo-1572197726Taco & Beer God of Ultras

Just before the month ended, the legendary beer swilling, taco eating ultra runner Camille Herron won the women’s race at the International Association of Ultrarunners 24-Hour World Championship and set a world-best performance of 167.842 miles in the 24 hours.

Finally, to complete the set, the UK did a third Brexit on October 31st delivering on new PM Boris Johnson’s assurance that it would happen “come what may”, “do or die,” “no ifs or buts”. Some suggest that leaving the EU could become a monthly event or at least seasonal.

November

More short courses. Leeds Abbey Dash 2019 was found “to be short by 23 metres. This is approximately 4 seconds for athletes on a time of 29 minutes for 10k.” and any times recorded at the event will not be recognised by UKA and Power of Ten.

florenenceFlorence (Firenze) Marathon had good and bad. Jess Piasecki (née Coulson) became the third fastest female in British marathon history after winning in 2:25:29. This follows follows Charlotte Purdue’s 2:25:38 in London, and Steph Twell’s 2:26:40 in Frankfurt.

All looked good for the first 42 athletes over the line in Firenze. Sadly it was later announced everyone else had run a short course “Firenze Marathon would like to communicate that due to a gas leak at km 40 along the race route of today’s marathon, in order participants’ safety, in agreement with local police and firefighters it was necessary to make a slight change to the route. Exactly 600 meters were ‘cut’ near Via Lungarno Vespucci

I got my annual ‘Dear John’ from Berlin Marathon ballot. So signed up for NYC instead. That’ll show them. And by them I mean my Visa company as the travel package is ruinous and I’ve only got enough in book sales to buy the in-flight peanuts.

Just when Nike thought it might go a month between PR disasters, former athlete Mary Cain told the New York Times  she was “emotionally and physically abused by a system designed by Alberto and endorsed by Nike”. She claimed that Salazar (him again) pushed her to get down to 8st 2lb (about the same weight as my left calf). As a result she stopped menstruating, broke five bones, started self-harming and had suicidal thoughts. I’m no coach but I’m pretty sure these aren’t the outcomes of a well rounded and athlete-focused system. The video on Youtube is a real eye opener and details ritual public humiliation the like of which Brits have only ever seen in US fraternity hazing videos.

December

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A non-man winning something, mustn’t encourage this. (Photo: Getty Images)

As usual the Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) award overlooks athletics and anyone without the important man junk in their pants that makes their achievements worthwhile.

The amazing Dina Asher-Smith gets a consolation third place despite being the first British woman in history to win a global gold medal in a sprint event, with her 21.88s 200m at Doha and also won a silver medal in the 100m, and again in the 4 x 100m relay. Only three medals in a year eh? Clearly not enough.

gettyimages-1142567378
 Just off on my private jet, but stay away from single use plastics guys! (Photo: Getty Images)

Lewis Hamilton finishes second for driving a car really fast all year, against limited opposition, and virtue signalling about being vegan and saving the planet despite DRIVING A CAR REALLY FAST ALL YEAR. In his defence sometimes he leaves the car at home and takes a jet.

Outside the podium was Katarina Johnson-Thompson who ‘only’ got two golds in the Heptathlon, one at the World Championships and one in the indoor champs. If she’d done it using a car or better still, as a man she’d probably have made second place. Besides if SPOTY started recognising female athletes it might inspire future generations and lead to actual change which is never popular. Women will want the vote next and ask to join the gold club. Where would it all end? I saw a woman wearing trousers the other day. Brazenly.

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A British woman being the best in the world. Best overlook this as well. (Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

 

 

Meat Dodging Week 7 – Xmas beers

Another week of trying to stay meat free. It’s also peak Christmas party week so keeping honest with three heavy(ish) nights is a challenge.

Work and life commitments meant mileage is well down again but pint consumption is high enough for someone to arrange an intervention.

Monday –
3 mile run with dog before work. Kept it gentle.
Then dash over to Northampton for site works. Lack of prep (again) means skipped breakfast. I did manage to plan lunch better though and had cheese mayo rolls, apple and banana with some nuts.

Back home and have some leftover falafel pesto pasta I made up and froze previously then head out for a meeting.

I was lucky enough to be one of two runners picked for a local competition to be a sponsored athlete with coaching by Clean Coach Katie, sports massage by Rudi at The Treatment Lab, and a gait analysis and trainers by Dionne at Up & Running Milton Keynes. I know Katie from local races, Rudi managed to fix my knee for Chicago when I could barely walk three weeks before, and Dionne hosted the book launch party at the old Up & Running store (now moved to fancy new premises over the road) so I’m not as nervous as I would normally be. I also met the other athlete Anastasia, who’s targeting Manchester marathon so has a training plan starting immediately. As I’m running London I have a few weeks grace before mine starts so can concentrate on taste testing mince pies and festive food.

Once back home I was peckish so went peanut butter on wholemeal bagel.

Tuesday – 
Granola breakfast and coffee.
img_4563Grab a banana and chocolate croissant on way to site. I’d planned to pop to the café next door for lunch but after a lot of site issues we don’t have time. I survive on mince pies until home time. Just about. Before going out for 6m40s paced run session I’m fully rungry so make a cheese sandwich which I regret for the entire run. It’s blowing a gale, I can feel the sandwich in my stomach and my pace sucks. 4 very slow miles. The post run photo is everyone else looking for me….

img_4565Being Christmas it’s the first of the festivities so the run group meet at the pub for dinner and drinks. The Ship Ashore in Willen has a gas issue it transpires, can’t cook much, and of the half dozen options left on the menu they can do, it’s only the veggie burger that’s suitable. It’s good though and washed down with beer whilst we chat rubbish.


Wednesday –
After failing to get out of bed last week I drag myself for the 9 mile run at 5am. It’s cold and dark. Builders have left a digger blocking the way and we have to clamber around and through bushes but I manage a respectable overall pace then hit the road for a long drive to Stoke and back (just by Alton Towers but sadly no time for a quick go on Nemesis).

I stop on route and can only fine McDonalds so go for the Egg McMuffin with cheese and large coffee.
The journey back is plagued with traffic, accidents and I end up at two service stations to make conference calls. I give in to the smell at one and buy some chips for lunch as the noodle place has no veggie option.
Still with the noodles in my head, once home I knock up beef and veggie noodles for the kids, and a tofu version for me. Stir Fry is a pretty easy way of switching in and out the meat and hiding some veggies.

a6a3a008-e96e-4b65-aea8-88cd092db526Then wife and I pop to the Core Class put on by Clean Coach Katie. My first go and I manage to not die or get thrown out but I’m again reminded how inflexible I am. One exercise starts laying on your back with legs in the air at 90 degrees. You then attempt to reach as far up your straight legs as you can, ideally touching your toes. I can’t even get my legs to go straight up. There isn’t enough ligament for that to happen so I resort to bent legs and rubbing my knees like a dirty old man.

 

Thursday – 
3 miles with dog before work then grab the train to Manchester for work conference. Just time for a takeaway omelette on way.

The venue was a hotel in city centre so I expected lunch to go well. I was wrong. Everything had meat. Even the potato salad had bacon. FFS. So I had to beg the waitress for some bread and demolished the cheese board with some limp lettuce salad and grapes. Pretty poor show for a large hotel catering to conferences.

Dinner was a team meal out and a novel take on Christmas dinner, done as a fondue, so a tray of stuff to dip into a burning pot of gravy. Meat for the murderers whilst us social outcasts were down one end with veg sausages, spuds, cauliflower, waffle, other nameless veg, stuffing, chickpea balls. Really tasty and evidence you don’t need meat if the chef actually has a clue. Dessert is same but with fruit and chocolate sauce.

We then went out for a few beers. Ended up at 4am in Burger King which was a test of my resolve as drunk Mark is even more partial to meat than sober Mark. Managed to stick to onion rings and chips as everything else was meat.

Friday – 
img_4585Woke up a little jaded so missed a morning run. Wolfed down a breakfast from hotel and ran for train. The speed of breakfast was made easier by lack of choice. No veggie sausages or much for the meat dodgers so basically beans and a fried egg. If you were Vegan you’d just have beans and disappointment. Beginning to think the hotel manager has something against vegetarians. 
A little delicate for lunch so a medicinal bag of salty crisps and then a mushroom and veggie stroganoff for dinner made by the wife with beef or tofu options.

Saturday –

9 mile run in woods. Was really enjoying it until Chris went past and advised us to pick our feet up on the downhill and go for it. I was just about to remind him I have a recent history of falling over in the woods when I fell over in the woods. Hard. I’m told the noise I made was very loud as I found the one section of the whole 9 miles that wasn’t inches deep in mud.  I scraped hands and legs pretty badly but soldiered on. Later attempts to wind up Chris with staged photos were met with limited enthusiasm. Spoilsport.

After the run I dashed straight to boys footie so just a rain soaked cereal bar breakfast.
I was holding off for a slap up lunch, and we went to the local Black Horse Pub with my mum. With a crisis of indecision I continued my exhaustive survey of veggie burgers of the world then brownie for dessert.
The evening was the Lakeside Runners Xmas do, with a big buffet at the Brewhouse & Kitchen. My third night of liver abuse in a week. My comedy arm sling did elicit some brief sympathy but slowed down my drinking. The buffet was decent but unlabelled so I worked my way down and annoyed people by insisting they eat a sample from each dish to check for meat, like some taste tester to royalty. After exhaustive checks I confirmed the beer had no meant in it either but figured have many more pints to make sure.

Sunday – 
img_4601Oddly enough a little too jaded for the morning run so instead spent it decorating cake with the daughter for cousins birthday party. Didn’t come out too bad considering I’m an engineer, didn’t know what I was doing and was attempting to make a bear into a panda.


Quick fried egg buttie for breakfast then out to the party to help decorate and then eat all the veggie sandwiches, veg sticks, chips and dip. I had what I thought was houmous dip at one point but was likely taramasalata so accidentally ate my first fish in 7 weeks. Apparently being colour blind is a bit of a hindrance when developing a self-imposed eating issue.