Running your virtual London Marathon?

It’s three weeks to go before the big day.

If this was a normal London Marathon you’d be double checking you have enough gels, ensuring your trainers are nicely broken in but not too worn, and trying to work out what idiot to send to the expo to get your bib (they’re pretty awful in person).

But it’s not a normal London Marathon is it?

Unless your training has gone so well you’ve moved into the elites category allowing you to run around Regents Park on the 4th October you will instead be doing your London Marathon back home, past bemused shoppers and dog walkers on a Sunday morning in October.
This may seem daunting so here’s some random advice to help you plan and undertake your very own London.

Route if you’re super fast –
If you’re good enough to be thinking you may get a Good For Age or Championship time then make sure you pick a fast route. In pre-pandemic times these could only be achieved in events on measured courses fulfilling criteria for a maximum level of net downhill and maximum distance between the start and finish to avoid constant tailwinds. This was to stop you running 26.2 miles straight down Ben Nevis in a hurricane. If you’re running the virtual London Marathon in 2020 there is no restriction other than running the event within the 24 hour period so find something with a following wind, downhill, in an arrow straight 26.2 miles and you’re laughing.

Route for normal people –
If your aspirations are more not to die, then your criteria will be slightly different.

Aid stations – there aren’t any so plan to run past your house or car at intervals to replenish supplies. Shops would also work but likely to take longer and you need to remember a mask.

It’s likely you’ll be able to refuel less often than the every mile approach of London so you may want to think about a handheld bottle, hydration bladder or a race vest to carry some of it with.

Some runners may choose to complete multiple loops as short as a mile with bottles of drink left on a park wall, carefully labelled that they aren’t dumped and to please leave alone. If you can handle the risk of taking a refreshing mouthful of drunk’s piss then this is a viable option. You may be better to have a loved one/mate that owes you a favour on a park bench with a cool bag. As it’s your race you can fuel entirely on Port & Stilton if it takes your fancy.

Medical assistance – there won’t be St Johns Ambulance every 2 miles so don’t be an idiot. If you’re diabetic or need any medication then take it with you. Plan a route that isn’t too rural or remote should you need assistance.

Company – I ran a ‘fake London’ and a ‘fake Milton Keynes’ marathon in April and May during the height of lockdown where running with someone not a blood relative was punishable by death on social media. This is now more relaxed and you can run in groups of 6 so make the most of it. You may not find 5 mates with the same pace goal but even a spread of paces will allow you to stagger starts to at least keep an eye on each other as you pass (at the government measured 2m) or have a mate meet you at mile 20 to get your focused and encourage/belittle you as required to finish.

If you are running with mates then it might be a good idea to let them know of any medical issues so they can administer your Epipen as you go into anaphylaxis shock after a bee sting without you having to mime it due to a closed throat.

Safety –
Yes it’s dull but nobody likes being murdered or found dead. As with route and company, try to plan with your own safety in mind. Even experienced marathoners can occasionally have issues. It’s worth considering an ID bracelet or similar with details of emergency contacts and medical issues so if hit by a car and dragged to a hospital you’re not pumped full of drugs you have a deadly reaction too.

You can use various apps to allow loved ones and mates to track you as well. The official virtual London Marathon requires an app so you’ll have your phone with you anyway.

Pace –
There won’t be pacers like the real event so you will need to run your own race. Even the cheapest running watch will display pace to aid your efforts or use an app on your phone. Many even call out mile splits in a really annoying robot voice which is awful but effective.

Be realistic with your goals and accept that this is not a real event and for most of us, not worth risking injury for. If your training has gone well you’ll likely make 18/20 miles on target and then feel the effort levels required start to build. In a race you’d feed off the crowd support, dig in and push to get the time you deserve. This may be harder to achieve in a virtual event so you could instead back off a little and enjoy the final few miles without your lungs and lunch making a break for freedom from your throat.

Time of day –
Every spring there are countless runners shocked that over the course of the marathon the midday temps are higher than morning temps and complain bitterly on social media. For once the start time is entirely within your grasp in the 24 hour window. Want to run when it’s cold? Go out at 4am. Or given sunrise on 4th October will be at 7:09am maybe go then instead.

App –
Yes many of us run to escape technology and the black mirror of the iPhone that slowly steals your soul, but for virtual London you need the app to log and submit your miles for the medal and tee. It’s not released at time of writing but check HERE for updates. Given you need your phone you’ll also need to consider where to hold it so plan ahead.

The Finish –
Finishing on the mall is amazing. Finishing in dog-poop park just behind the public loos is less so. Accept it will be less special and personalise it instead. Run into the arms of your waiting spouse with a cold champagne on ice. Or a can of Special Brew and a bag of chips. You do you.

Putting it all into practice for the Re-imagined Milton Keynes Marathon

Unlike London, MK had a two week window to undertake their events, and with an app to guide you on a new route around the town. For the marathon this was two identical laps.

Due to rubbish diary and rescheduled events, I raced the first two weekends and had a further marathon on the Sunday of the third, so if I wanted a weekend MK marathon it would need to be a double marathon weekend which I’m not really fit enough for currently.

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Start ‘line’

Instead it was a nice 4am start for a mid-week, pre-work marathon. Yay.

It was dark. I ran with a race vest with two 500ml bottles of water, some Cliff shot blocks, and a few Caffeine Bullets. Given I was starting early I simply couldn’t be bothered to get up in time for a breakfast so grabbed a slice of toast on way to car.

For the aid station I parked my car at the end of the lap so I would get to it at about 13.5 miles. Inside was spare water bottles ready to go, some extra snacks if I needed them and a can of cold coke.

Starting – The app gives clear voice prompts either through headphones or phone speaker. As with London, your official time is the app time, so I elected to start my watch first, then the app as I set off. Using the watch as my main pacing aid means it was slightly ahead of the official time so as long as I crossed the line under my target time by Garmin I would be a few more seconds under by the app.

Running – Given this was a fixed route I relied on a combination of the app directions and markings for the course. If running your own route for London and it’s not one you’re familiar with, consider how you’ll follow it.

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Halway. Still dark.

I had hopes of something around 3h45 but given my still slightly stiff knee I completed the first lap in closer to 1h50/1h55 then stopped at the car to switch bottles and drink the coke. Even the swiftest changeover will add a few minutes to your plan, as will a fizzy coke and I adjusted my plan.

Once I settled on 4hrs I checked my watch at regular intervals, ensuring most miles were under 9 min and doing rough calcs at 16.22 miles etc (10 miles left, if I do exactly 9 min pace that’s 90 minutes remaining etc). Passed 20 miles at bang on 3hrs so then felt confident enough not to check so regularly and just run it in for 3h56ish.

Stopping – The MK route is marked so there is a clear finish line, and the app also counts down to the finish. It’s not known if the London app will automatically stop at 26.22 miles but the MK one didn’t, so you needed to pull your phone out as you approach the finish, unlock the phone (not easy with sweaty hands) and have the app ready to stop. It’s not a huge issue but if trying to shave a final few seconds off your time may need some consideration or potentially store your phone in a ziplock back to keep sweat free.

Of course if London stops automatically at the marathon distance you can instead concentrate on running like a man/woman possessed until it tells you to stop.

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Ultra-Tantrum – Shires & Spires

As I emerge from the shop with two Callippo I pop open the can of cider and down the ice cold goodness in a couple of quick swigs whilst walking to the aid station, much to the amusement of the marshals. I’ve covered around 29 miles and on the home stretch. Despite being September the sun has made an appearance for most of the day and I’ve been craving something other than luke warm water. Double checking my watch and it looks like I might have a chance of a sub 6 for the event. Certainly not a great time for a 35 mile course but given I’ve been nursing a dodgy knee since Wednesday and completion was doubtful I’m pleased with the overall progress. What matters more than the pace and the time is running an actual event, and where I belong, at an ultra, in the countryside, and mildly drunk. This is ultra-running and I’ve missed it.

One of your five a day.

Being an ultra I have (as legally required it seems) bumped into my running mate Jonathan. It’s been over 2 years since he carried me for the last half of the Thames Path and persuaded his good wife to drive me home at the end (my designated driver having retired due to early signs of renal failure because ultras are so much fun you risk organ damage) and we bump into each other regularly at events. I’ve not raced over a marathon distance since Lakeland 100 over a year previously. For 2020 my longest races have been half marathons so to be back at an ultra and hear him shout my name is a welcome breath of normality in what has been an unusual year.

The Plan

2020 was going to be a stellar year. With a running coach and sports massage package, along with fancy 3D gait analysis I was going to smash London Marathon in April. Surfing the wave of training gains I was finally going to run the Shires and Spires 35 mile ultra which has been on my to-do list for some years but never quite lined up with commitments. After a short recovery I’d ramp up the training again and go back to the Lake District to teach the Lakeland 100 a lesson to make up for the previous pitiful stumbling performance. The year would finish off with a bucket list marathon at New York with the wife and kids before we looked forward to Christmas and the festive parkruns. An excellent year of running was forecast. Nothing short of a global pandemic could stand in my way.

The Actual

Covid 19 happened and the world in general fell apart. London marathon was postponed (and finally cancelled when they admitted the impossibility of having 40k people in one race), Shires & Spires, Lakeland 100 and NYC also deferred or cancelled and running any event seemed a dream.

Return to Racing

With the relatively small numbers at trail events they began to make a tentative return in August. Centurion Running held a socially distant, Covid secure 100 miler at the North Downs way and everything was reported to go well.

Go Beyond managed to secure a new date for the Shires & Spires on 6th September and all signs looked good. I was finally going to race!

As luck would have it many of my mates had entered the re-arranged Spires event and we’d put ourselves forward for the team award as a mixed group of five. I was initially hesitant about being the weak link but after some up and downs months of training and minor niggles I put together two or three decent weeks of running including a respectable performance at the Ultra 5k (5k every hour for 5 hours).

The week before the race I manage my best Tuesday tempo session of the year and started one of my faster runs at the Wednesday 9 mile loop. Confidence grows. I feel good. Maybe I’ll have the experience and the fitness for this ultra. Towards the end of the run Maff comments on how well I’m doing and finally injury free. He curses me. Half a mile from the end of the run my knee feels a bit off and reminiscent of the issue I had post LL100 where I could barely walk for 2 weeks. Bugger. Thanks Maff.

Three days of no running and it seems a little better. Liberal application of deep heat and a knee brace mirrors my Chicago Marathon race preparation that saw me get around. Maybe this will be OK? Nothing else for it but to strap on our race vests and assemble in the car park in a quaint Northampton village ready for the start. Or at least three of us are ready. Jen and Ellie are still in the toilet queue and they emerge to see the runners set off. Quickly dumping jackets in the car they join Matt, Maff and I and we set off after the main pack with clubmate Stephen in tow. My knee is not sore but definitely a little stiff and I wonder if this hectic pace to catch the main pack is entirely the best idea.

Much of the first 8 miles is on quiet country roads. Excitement for the first race of the year is evident and everyone seems to be running far too quickly for an ultra. 35 miles is certainly not a long ultra but as our group records another successive sub 8min/mile I’m confident we’re going to regret them. As we pass other clubmates Neil and Jon we’re moving through the pack far too quickly.

Stephen wisely drops back and somewhere around mile 7 I decide the effort level in the gradual rising temps is too high at the pace and not helping my knee so let them drift ahead. I joke with some runners from nearby Buckingham that given it’s Maff’s first ultra I might well see them again further along the course. They’re visible on the horizon until around mile 10 before a sharp turn into some fields and they’re gone for good. Thoughts of catching them up are now laughable. Whatever Maff may lack in experience he evidently makes up for in fitness, and with guidance from the other three to make up for his inexperience this event is just too short to level the field. I resolve to keep a steady pace and hopefully not pull down the team position too far with a hobbling performance.

I’m not normally one for pain relief in a race, I’d rather know if something hurts but in this instance I already know it’s my knee so take a paracetamol to dull the throbbing and pass a half marathon in a respectable 2 hours wishing I’d packed some headphones to enjoy some music as I’m basically on my own.

Races are better if you chunk them down. Nobody runs 100 miles. You run 10 miles to the next aid station, 5 miles until you’re a third done, or 7 more miles until you only have a marathon left. For me I’m aiming for halfway. Using the GPX track on my watch I’m expecting 34.6 miles so 17.3 miles is the next target I focus on as an irregular stream of runners come past. There’s at least four mates behind me I can try and latch onto as they pass so can plod on and enjoy being outside running. In a real life actual race – none of that virtual nonsense here.

The course is probably one of the most picturesque I’ve done. Beautiful rolling farmland interspersed with villages so neat and pretty they could almost be movie sets. If you were looking to show an American ultra-runner a quintessential Britain this would be the route to pick, winding though nonchalant sheep and curious heifers before cutting past a stone cottage with leaded windows and a thatched roof.

Somewhere around halfway I stop at an aid station and douse myself liberally in hand sanitiser as it comes out with such ferocity I accidentally sanitise most of Northamptonshire. As I turn to leave Jon and his mate Ray arrives having inevitably closed the early gap and we run together much of the rest of the race, gradually surging and dropping back as we ride the waves of ups and downs that make ultra-running what it is. Marathons are a science, ultras are an extended car crash.

Munching down a banana and paracetamol I wonder how the other teammates are getting on. I have a history of under fuelling on ultras so make an effort to eat and drink regularly and often. It’s not food, it’s fuel. The negative effects of forgetting to eat are felt long after the mistake and can be difficult to resolve. With Covid concerns the aid stations are a little more sparse than what you’d be used to with just bagged sweets and bananas so limited on options. Fortunately my teammates had a veritable picnic in their race vests so should be no such issue. Mostly for me I’m craving a cold drink.

At the aid station at Long Buckby I manage to miss the village shop and we run on with the tepid water refills again. 24 miles down and on course for around a 4.5hr marathon which seems about right for current fitness and only one working knee which is making the 359th stile of the event a little tricky to clamber over. Mostly we talk the usual running nonsense and press on, pausing for the occasional navigational check. One field has no clear path across and we stomp over freshly ploughed dusty soil looking for an exit. A few fields later they’ve cut the silage down and let it sit in heaps including over the path and we wade through calf deep grass. When your knee is not great what you really need is a bit more dead weight to drag forward with each step.

As checkpoint 5 comes into view I’m just catching back up to Jon again when I spot the corner shop and dive in (remember a mask for shops kids!). There’s only one customer so I grab the lollies and cider whilst he concludes a long chat with the staff on whether they kept any copies of yesterday’s Daily Mail. The delivery of all of Murdoch’s Saturday papers was interrupted by an Extinction Rebellion protest at the printers and he’s clearly missing his regular dose of Brexit propaganda. Finally he leaves disappointed, forced to make up his own narrative of how the EU are trying to make our great PM look like a floppy haired fool and I can pay and get out the shop. Final aid station done and six miles left. The cold cider has done it’s job and I pick up the pace feeling refreshed and mildly drunk. Nothing can stop me now and I resolve to catch Jon and bring in that sub 6 hour. I had no real game plan when entering the race but it’s been good to have something to focus on.

The plan works and I’m closing down on the group ahead including Jon. I reach the back of the pack just at a farm with barely four miles left, using my specially honed skills of eating Callipo mid-run without spilling any as I’m a god damn ultra-runner and riding the rollercoaster of energy and emotions well.

Up ahead is a group of runners with one laying on the floor. Someone’s overcooked it. As we get closer I’m torn between disappointment and relief to see it’s my team. I bid Jon farewell and amble over. Maff is laying down admiring the sky whilst the rest are assembled around him. From the body language it’s clear there is no urgent medical issue. Their stance is more one of increasing annoyance and frustration than a panicked need to learn CPR via a Youtube video or call in mountain rescue.

Evidently Maff has decided to get the full ultra-experience on his first outing and has subjected all to a full on ultra-tantrum due to lack of fuelling and an ambitious pace. If only a wise and experienced ultra-runner had told them sub 8s was too fast. If only anybody listened to me. Schadenfreude is a wonderful thing. I know the trough of ultra-despair well and he’s deep in it. In his best impersonation of a made for TV war movie he implores us to “go on without me, I’m done for, save yourselves, I don’t want to be a burden”. Evidently I missed the previous game of ‘poke food in his mouth and hope he doesn’t spit it out at you’ which has tested their patience.

I’m a little annoyed at the rest of the team. Not for failing to look after him, but If only they’d have rolled him into a ditch and kept going I could have run past his contorting body in complete ignorance and got that sub 6. Now I’m going to have to help and give up my spare Callippo.

Fate obviously wants him to finish though. His phone has locked out so he can’t even ring anyone for a lift. He has to finish. Jen and Matt pick him up as I clearly wasn’t going to. They broke him after all.

We set off on a slow walk. Every runner that passes asks us if we need assistance. Some offer salt tablets or water but none have a can of ‘get over yourself you big idiot’ that we really need. Gradually Jen coaxes him into a run and I recall several years previously when she endured my own ultra-tantrum for a full 25 miles of the Autumn 100 and goaded me forward with regular suggestions to “try for a little jog”. Ultra-running is great isn’t it? Like normal running but more painful.

With two miles to go we find a pub and dive in to administer a half of Guinness which completes the restoration and he sets off at a pace that I’m not sure I can match. If he beats me after this I’m going to have my own tantrum. We’re joined by Jon who is surprised we stopped mid-race for a pint. It’s like he’s never met me before.

Finally 6h30 after setting off we cross the line and manage to secure third place in the team event. A mere pub stop and half hour tantrum away from first place. Although tired Maff seems pleased to have finished. He’s certainly earned the medal more than the rest of us and doubtless a few beers. He probably hasn’t yet realised that is his first, but certainly not his only ultra.

Afterwards in the pub Maff has made a full recovery whilst I shuffle around like a man with one working leg.

Extending the life of shoes – Hoka resoled!

e148723b-9cf7-4dcf-adb1-0815175f75fbAs you might have noticed on here I’m a big fan of the Hoka Rincon. A really lightweight and comfy road shoe that I was recommended after a full 3D gait analysis at Up & Running Milton Keynes.

At circa £105 they’re reasonable compared to some of the fancy  stuff out there but certainly not what you’d call cheap (recently the old stock has been dropped to circa £85-90 for any remaining sizes as the new Rincon 2 is now out).

I got my first pair in January (bottom) and as of early August was just starting on my third pair (middle, red). This may sound a lot but given I’m on 1700 miles for the year and most have been done on these two trainers (with exception of some trail runs) it’s a good mileage for a lightweight shoe being used by a heavy heel striker (I fluctuate between 82-86kg so I’m no Mo Farah).

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Some very worn Adidas Supernova of mine

I’m conscious that as runners the trainers we buy are one of the most problematic environmentally. They are very hard to recycle and can take up to 1000 years to break down (for more information on this check out Rerun Clothing )  I try to run in mine as long as possible before they start the demotion to dog walking then gardening shoes but there are only so many pairs I need for these so was considering getting some resoled.

Resoling shoes is relatively common in Europe, but less so in the UK.  Below is a stall I saw during a Spanish race. The general concept seems to be that shoes can go several times through this before meeting their final end.img_2771

By chance the super fast runner Richard McDowell (CFTB) had some of his super fast Nike 4% thingummy-bobs resoled by Chesire Shoe Repairs with some off road Vibram soles as below.

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Photo borrowed from Richard McDowell

The Nike are a similar ‘fat’ sole with a lot of rubber so far removed from the minimal sole trail shoes I’d often seen have the entire foot plate replaced and effectively just the ‘sock’ restitched to a new base. The company had shaved off the bottom layer, including the various black grip sections, and either filled or cut below the cavity sections to produce a smooth surface for the new sole.

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Original Nike sole – Photo from Running Shoes Guru

This got me thinking about the options for my Hoka with the similar sole construction. I emailed them photos and we discussed either trail soles as above, or road soles.

My first pair of Rincon were less worn than the second which I probably let go too far to be useful for road shoes as above (I’d literally worn the soles off).

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Instead I posted off my first pair for some white road soles “Vibram Carbon Road Soles” for £34. Return postage is included, my postage to them was £2.90 via Hermes.

The wear on the set I posted was mostly just the black grip sections as below. The uppers were all sound and had lots of life yet. If this all worked I’d have a rejuvenated pair of £105 shoes for £36.90.

As these are lightweight I thought it worth checking the weight before and after. They left me at 432g. For comparison my third pair, with only approx 150 miles on them were 459g so looks like I wore at least 27g off them during use. The listed weight on website (for an unspecified size) is 218g each or 436g for the pair.

So once posted it was a case of waiting. They promise 5 day turnaround (once received) and Hermes took a few days as expected. I posted Wednesday and it was received at their place on Friday.

Saturday morning I get a call from them that the chosen sole in white only comes in a single width (the black version comes in three widths) that is too narrow for my fat Hoka so we agree on an alternative – namely a SVIG road sole in white for same price.

True to their word, the shoes arrived back on Thursday (so 8 days from posting, two of which were used by Hermes on the delivery to them and a day or two on the return delivery) and I was impressed.

The sole has a bit more raised section than the one I picked which for me is ideal as I’ve got something decent for road but that will cope with some trail sections as well.

The workmanship looks good, with a decent attachment of the sole. There are some minor voids near the front at the sides where I presume they balanced cutting more of the original sole away for a truly flat surface versus the loss of the cushioning.

So what’s the weight? Given the original Rincon are super light with only a partial wear surface I was expecting some weight gain from going with a full length and width sole. They came in at 772g against 432g as they left me, or 459g for an almost new pair. That’s a gain of 313g from almost new. It’s a substantial gain compared to original but they don’t feel heavy, more like a normal road shoe.

I plan on using these over the next few days and will update with how I got on. I’ve got Shires and Spires booked for Sunday which is a mixed road/trail ultra which depending on the level of rain may well be a perfect test of these.

Update –

Update on my resoled Hoka. Did 35 mile mixed terrain ultra. Coped great on the road and the muddy paths.
For just over £35 I’ve take a knackered pair of road shoes & got a perfect trail hybrid, extending their life and keeping them out the bin.

Ultra 5k – Racing in a post-Covid era!

Races are slowly restarting across the UK as both the governing bodies and event organisers get to grips with the relevant safety measures to make their events ‘covid secure’.

This was to be first return to racing since March when I ran the MK Festival Of Running Half Marathon on 15th March. That was an odd day. Lockdown was still something happening in other countries and there were no restrictions on public gatherings so thousands of people congregating for a race was unremarkable although many could feel things were due to change and the compere even remarked that this might well be the last big event for a while and he was certainly proved right. Gradually events were cancelled, then club runs, then schools and pubs closed, then even seeing anyone outside your house was banned and the thought of 40k people gathering to run London Marathon became absurd.

161 days later and I’m driving to Box End Park for my first race back wondering how this is all going to plan out.

What is it?

The Ultra 5k is now in it’s 5th year, and requires runners to race 5k on the hour, every hour for 5 hours. Final positions are calculated on elapsed time so if you set a blistering first lap and then crawl around the final four you’re going to tumble down the leader board.

It’s a similar format to the Big’s Backyard Ultra except that race has no set finish and is a last man & woman standing event so can go on for 60 or more hours. Fortunately, we all know we’ll be done in five laps and not need to book the next week off work.

The event is normally held in July and often clashes with other events for me so for once the Covid postponement works in my favour and I can attend.

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Photo from https://www.boxendpark.com/

Venue

It’s held at Box End Park outside of Bedford. It’s primarily an open water centre and many of my immoral running friends attend a couple of times a week to slide into rubber gimp suits and splash about in the water for a few hours. When I pull up it’s more like a holiday camp with motorhomes and tents set up around crystal blue lakes with cyclists and swimmers bustling about. Most shocking is the torrent of swimmers in the lakes. Who knew so many grown adults thought a group bath was the best way to spend a Sunday morning?

Course

5k (well slightly over according to everyone’s Garmin) lap on grass, starting flat and then with some cheeky climbs for km 3-4 before a final flat push for the finish. It’s a measure of how a lack of racing dents your confidence that I was unable to decide on a suitable shoe. 5 months of not racing and now I can’t even pick shoes! Turns out I wasn’t alone in this as one runner I chatted to packed a different pair for every lap. In the end I went with my Hoka Rincon as lightweight road shoe but well cushioned for the bumpy sections.

Training

Yes we should all have done some. Had this taken place in April I was running well, scales were going the right way and speed work by Clean Coach Katie saw my pace peaking. Instead it’s August, I’ve just got back from 2 weeks in Italy eating pasta, pizza and Peroni and at heaviest I’ve been since I started running in 2011. On the plus side I’ve got back into running consistently after a poor June and July trying to recover from The Accumulator where I ran 540 (slow) miles and fell apart a little needing help from Rudi at the Treatment Lab to sort my hip.

Still it could have been worse, I could have been clubmate Lee who hasn’t run for the last 5 weeks due to work, family and lack of mojo and is wondering what idiots got him into this mess.

Arrival

The start of the Covid control measures. We’ve all previously completed a health questionnaire and upon arrival are asked to check it’s still correct (no temperatures, feeling unwell, cough etc) and have our forehead temp checked with an infra-red thermometer. If all OK then a gloved volunteer passes you your bib (and a cool free gift of a race buff) and you pass on to the holding area.

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Three ‘runners’. One doesn’t even have shoes.

Holding Area

A fenced off area of grass for the runners, marked up with dots at social distancing intervals so everyone has somewhere to use as a base whilst keeping separation. This works well with the number of competitors and is needed given many will have upwards of half an hour between races. We form a lose group of clubmates and mostly mock each other for lack of training or lockdown indulgence.

Refreshments

There’s one aid station to the side of the holding area, roped off out of reach of the runners. Instead you ask nicely for what you need and they bring it to a table for you to collect. It’s all very sanitary and clean, and works really well. For water there is a large taped tank that is wiped down between uses. For both of these they are used between races with no issue on speed which helps. How an event like London Marathon would handle 40k people trying to grab water without detracting from their splits and Good For Age attempts I’m not sure.

Toilets

Normal portaloos (or porta johns if you’re American) with ample hand sanitiser.

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Photo from Ultra 5k – look at that idiot in yellow in row 2! Oh it’s me….

Start Area

Five minutes before the hour they blow a bugle and signal everyone to assemble in the start pen. This isn’t the normal crush of a big event, instead numbered areas are spread across the pen to correspond top your bib. Three in each row and as the row at the front sets off you move forwards until it’s your turn. This keeps the separation well. The whole event is chip timed so whether in front or back row you’ll get an accurate time.

Bib numbers are assigned based on predicted 5k times with faster runners at the front to limit overtaking need. I have no idea what time I put down but I’m number 6 and feel very out of place as a portly sun burnt fatty ambles through to assemble next to the racing snakes. I presume I expected to be race weight and fast by now, not gorged on pizza and only just fully back from injury.

Race 1

After a little confusion (one of my row set off with the row infront) we head off after the fast boys and I do my best to keep up. I’ve not run the route before so set a far too quick first mile on the flat (6:41) to try and keep up with the runners ahead. Even that doesn’t work as I lose them and need to follow the route markings which are regular and constant but I’d rather follow a person and not have to use my brain. The route is similar to your typical cross-country race except dry and grassy not a mud slick. The ups and downs are challenging but runable. The predicted times seem to work well as I’m only passed once and for most of the race am well away from any other runners.

Other than a couple of attempts to attend a fast session with local runners I’ve not done any speedwork since April and it definitely shows. The mental effort to push an uncomfortable pace is a struggle. I’m panting, and my brain is questioning why a tubby ultra-runner is trying to beast himself for no gain. I’d need to run five all time 5k PBs, on a undulating off road course to even keep close to the front runners so it is all rather pointless.

Crossing the line I’m knackered in a vaguely familiar way. Legs are complaining but not a “just run 100 miles” way, more of a “oh that was a lot of effort in a short time” and my heart is pounding. As with parkrun after a minute or two it’s all settled down with only a sweaty top as a reminder of your effort whilst you cheer in team mates. The race format is interesting as balances outright speed (which I left at home) against endurance and ability to recover (which I hope I packed).

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Lee (left) finishing his furthest run in 5 weeks. Only another 20k to go.

Race 2-4

Similar story, passed by the same runner at around the same point (4k) each time. One lap he’s joined by a second runner but as before everyone is separated well and I’m closer to people queuing outside the pharmacy than I am at the event, it’s all working well and feels safe.

Most importantly it’s starting to feel fun. Yes it hurts to run fast but it’s a return to the ritual and the processes of running. Line up at the start with some nerves, a few tentative steps as your legs loosen up and you get into your stride, slotting in at the right pace within the runners as you push the speed, adjusting for inclines and sharp turns, realising your strengths and weaknesses against those around you before a final push for the line. Finish to virtual high fives and chatting about how it all went. For 5k every hour you can forget we live in a pandemic and just be a runner. It’s glorious and what I’ve missed.

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Race 5

Every lap I’ve been dropping around 5 secs per mile which is better than expected. I like to think the endurance is coming into play and making up for the slow start as my legs ask if once again I wouldn’t like to reconsider going this fast and maybe a gentle jog would be more fun?

Every lap I’ve avoided being passed until at least 3km. For the final lap I’m passed three times in the first couple of hundred metres. Pah! I resolve to keep them in sight and it’s a pleasant change to have someone to keep on the horizon. What isn’t pleasant is the last can of drink I finished before starting as it’s churning in my stomach and I wonder if an unplanned vomit might be on the horizon as well.

I can feel the runner behind gaining on me and after a few shouts from spectators realise I’m being hunted down by my own coach Katie, clearly intent on retaining her first lady prize from previous years (which she does, clearly motivated by Prosecco). The combination of being chased and having someone to target keeps me focused and in the final straight I decide to take the runner in front. I’m actually racing! The shift in pace is a surprise but feels manageable so I keep it going and pass another then just hold on to the end, half wishing I’d pushed this hard in the final sections on the previous laps.

Overall I finished 7th so maybe my 5k predicted time to get bib 6 wasn’t so far out after all. I’ve completed my first race (or possibly five races) since Covid and done more speed work in one morning that I’ve done in the last four months. The format is challenging but definitely one I’d try and do again. The pace drop off wasn’t as bad as expected and I’ll not dwell that my final lap pace wasn’t much quicker than my marathon PB pace a year ago though.

So did it feel ‘safe’?

Yes completely. It was expertly organised and at no time did I feel my health or the health of others was compromised. I’ve felt more at risk in Tesco when the staff push past with a trolley of stock. For smaller scale events this arrangement works well and given Boris is keen to get everyone fit should be encouraged. How this would translate to a 1000+ person event is unclear but it’s likely some time before that’s even a consideration for event organisers.

For entry for next year – https://ultra5k.co.uk/

 

“10 sure fire hints to keep cool on race day. Number 7 will amaze you”

Yeah we’ve all seen the clickbait rubbish.

Number 7 will not amaze you.

It’s unlikely to even be relevant.

It’s very likely written by someone who’s never raced but is paid to generate content. Their next article will be 13 surprising alternatives for dishwasher salt or even worse “You won’t believe how much these childhood actors from the 70s have aged in the intervening 50 years”.

So with all that in mind here’s a random brain dump of techniques I’ve used to try and keep cool and avoid instant death on hot races. None of them I invented. That’s probably why they all work. A bit.

  1. Slow down. Boring yes. You can’t do anything about the ambient temperature. You can control your heat production rate. Slow down before you break down.
  2. Acclimatise. You’ve already done that. Well done. We’ve had a hot summer. You’ve probably done some running. You’ll be better running a hot Saturday in August than you would a hot Sunday in April after a frigid winter.
  3. Shade. Yes it’s obvious but run in the shade if you can. Watch the footage from the ‘hot one’ at London Marathon. See how many keep to the sides in the shadow of building and how many run down the middle in full sunshine complaining it’s hot? Don’t be them.
  4. Hat on in the sun. Take it off in the shade to let your head cool a bit.
  5. Arm sleeves. Yes they look stupid. Even elite athletes look stupid wearing them. They look even worse on a tubby middle aged project manager having an outdoor poop on the downs but they do work. They keep the sun off your arms and you can soak them in streams or taps to help keep cool. You could even shove ice or a Calippo down each sleeve to boost the chill factor. Have I mentioned how good Calippo are? Incidentally if you are having an outdoor poop they also work as loo roll in an emergency.
  6. Buff. Same as above. Wet fabric you can move about to aid heat transfer and keep the sun off. It’s been scientifically proven (no it hasn’t) that a generic neckwear tube in yellow with a duck logo is the best for this.
  7. You won’t believe this one. Sorry.
  8. Calippo ice lollies are the daddy of all ice lollies. Anyone that says Solero are better is on a government watch list. Anyone that says Feast are the best ice lolly has no idea what a lolly is. A Calippo is perfectly shaped to shove down the back of your neck under your race vest to cool you. Wrap it to your wrist with a buff to cool the blood flow on your inner wrist. Stick it in your race vest next to your water bottle to cool your bottle. Unlike a crappy Solero even a melted Calippo is still a heaven sent slushy sugary hit of cold.
  9. Suncream. Whilst it won’t keep you cool it will prevent skin cancer or at least sunburn. Both suck. Slapping suncream on at 5am seems stupid but 50 miles later when you’re flame grilled like a whopper you’ll be sad you didn’t.
  10. Ziplock bag. We’re all trying to cut down plastic usage so use the one from your sandwiches. Fill it with cold water or ice. Stick it under your hat. You’ve just invented portable air conditioning.
  11. Dress sensibly. You are hot. You want to be as naked as the day you were born. Sadly that will mean excessive chub rub, sunburn and painful chaffing from your race vest so don’t be stupid. The combined weight of 2” sleeves on your tee compared to a tiny vest will not slow you down. The massive infected welt from not having sleeves will.
  12. All ultras route through graveyards. Nobody knows why. James Elson might I guess. Rather than dwell on your own mortality remember that most churches have an outside tap for watering flowers. Ideal to wet your hat and cool you down. In Britain it’s probably safe to drink too.
  13. Horse water troughs. Ever noticed how they’re full of manky water? Don’t drink that. Most are connected to a water pipe though with a float valve like your toilet cistern. Push down on the ball attached to the arm and ‘fresh’ water will come out the valve. I wouldn’t drink it but it’s safe to rinse yourself down with. In an emergency if it’s a choice between drinking that, your own pee, or a can of Fosters it would be touch and go.
  14. Tell everyone how hot it is. Nothing helps you keep cool more than constantly talking about how hot it is. Sorry that’s the wrong way around isn’t it? Stop being British and talking about the weather. You all know it’s hot. Repeating that fact will not make it cooler. Launch into a detailed recount of your last bowel movement to take your mind off it.

That’s it. Some of this might help. It might not. There are no amazing solutions to having to race in the heat. Except maybe don’t race at all. Go to a nice air conditioned pub. Have a beer.

For Sale! 1985 Dutton Phaeton Series 3 1300GT

Time has come to admit this car isn’t going anywhere as I don’t have time to spend on it so looking to sell it. Anyone in Milton Keynes fancy a kit car!

The good points –

  • It’s a properly registered Dutton Kit Car (not still listed as an Escort or something odd like many kit cars).
  • Insurance is a pittance. We paid less than £100 through a specialist.
  • It’s built to a decent standard
  • It’s got a 1300 X-Flow GT engine from a Mk1 Escort so is decent power for the size and the engine is pretty desirable
  • Strong 4-speed box
  • It handles brilliantly. Done two track days and it was only really stuff like Elise that could keep up with us in the turns. On the straights everything beat it though!
  • Very basic so little to go wrong – no power assist on brakes or steering etc
    Battery changed from the old Ford screw in type to the modern pole type. Current battery about 5 years old, barely used and may or may not charge up.
  • Sports harnesses
  • Has a full roof and doors (small hole in roof that needs fixing)
  • Also has the shoulder level tonneau cover thing
  • 4×108 wheel fitment so any old school Ford rims will fit
  • It’s road legal, has wipers, a (pathetic) blower, a window wash etc.
  • Emissions are based on age so it’s basically a no-visible smoke test
  • I ‘think’ there is enough original parts you could go through the process of getting an age related plate and be MOT and Tax free. I’m no expert on this though.

The bad points –

  • It’s sat for a number of years. I managed to get it started recently with petrol directly into the carb but the jerry can of fuel in the tank didn’t make it through to the front. Could be a blocked pipe, could be it just wasn’t enough to reach the pick up.
  • It’s a little buried in my garage at present (see photo at bottom) but in process of digging it out.
  • The exhaust manifold had a split so took it off to get welded (by high temperature coded pressure welders at work, it’s probably the best welded exhaust you’ll see) and it’s fitted with new gaskets but the rest of system is not yet connected.
  • It’s got a dynamo rather than an alternator. More authentic, less power.
  • It’s got drum brakes all around. To be fair with braided hoses they have no issue with the power, if you stuck a bigger lump in I’d look to upgrade.
  • It tops out about 70 or 80 so I wouldn’t want to drive to Scotland in it
  • The rear leaf springs are on lowering blocks but BELOW the springs so think they’re just to give the shock more room. Either way it handles well.
  • The radiator has a bracket, needs welding back on
  • Couple of cracks to the body work we fixed to get it track legal. Not very pretty. Worse is the front left arch as below. We rivetted a plate on to hold it together. We’re not GRP experts.
  • The wiring is the original loom with some adaptations and original bullet style fuses.
  • The seats are narrow and low backed which works with the low level cover but you might like proper high backed ones instead
  • Being based on a very old donor car the gauges etc are more a general indication of what speed/fuel/RPM etc you’re doing.
  • It’s got pretty high side walled tyres on steel rims. Personally I’m fine with that as cheap tyres and nobody is going to steal your rims but you might prefer some fancy alloys with a bit less rubber.
  • Handbrake isn’t amazing, probably wants adjustment

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Work needed to just get it MOT’d –

  • Charge battery or get a new one if it doesn’t hold charge
  • Work out why fuel isn’t getting through
  • Reattach manifold to exhaust
  • Fix radiator bracket
  • General check over, likely adjust handbrake

Work needed to improve it and make it A1 –

  • Repair body work better
  • Possibly some higher backed seats
  • Would be nice to rewire it all with one of those ready-made kitcar looms
  • General blow over of bodywork to a decent colour

Work needed to go crazy –

  • The world’s your oyster. People have fitted everything from Pinto to V8 into these along with suitable wheel/brake/suspension upgrade and roll cages etc

Price –
I’m looking for offers around £1000. Sadly a lot of these are ‘plate raped’ and the ID used for kit cars to avoid the need to pass through IVA/SVA or whatever it’s called these days so I’m wary if I sell for much less it’s going to be used for dodgy purposes. Turning an unregistered, unchecked Robin Hood or similar into a ‘road legal’ car is the fate of many of these.
Please note it’s registered in my mates name (it’s a shared track car) but he can pop around with photo ID to prove ownership etc and that it isn’t anything dodgy going on.

 

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.