Monday, 25 October 2010

On the Wild side (long run report)

So it was back to what I know best at the weekend with the reinstallment of the regular long run. I have been meaning for quite some time to do a big loop from Leighton Buzzard which takes the Two Ridges Link ( to Ivinghoe Beacon and then the Icknield Way ( from Ivinghoe Beacon down the valley and back up and around and along the Dunstable Downs before the trek mainly on road back to Leighton Buzzard.

Sunrise on the Two Ridges Link
 Well this was my chance to do some nice long slow miles and I enjoyed every minute. This is even despite getting up at the ungodly hour of 6:30am on a Sunday morning to fit it in and get back to do my fair share of looking after the little one. This meant however that I was treated to a nice sun rise which really is the only way to start the day!

The Two Ridges Link is the same trail I attempted months back however I was thwarted back then by a couple of barking dogs blocking a narrow part of the trail that goes up alongside a driveway. Well this time there were 3 dogs between me and my journey onwards but they didn't look too threatening so I did the trick of looking confident in my stride and edging pass them. I had made it! I still don't think it's right that home owners should be allowed to have their dogs out on the loose creating a nuisance on a national footpath.

View from Ivinghoe Beacon back across to Leighton Buzzard
 The rest of the Two Ridges Link was a lovely run and highly enjoyable across sheep filled fields, farms and wood lined trail. It climaxed with an extremely steep climb to the top Ivinghoe Beacon which was a hands on knees job. The prize however was a view I've enjoyed many times before (and the start line of the Ridgeway Trail).

Icknield Way back up to Ivinghoe
From here it was down onto the Icknield Way - a path I haven't run or walked before. The animal theme continued on this run as I also startled many Deer who wandered across in front of me on the trail. I tried to get some photos on my phone but they weren't hanging around for the shot.

Spot the three deer in this shot!
 Now the next animal that I happened across I'm glad to say wasn't on the same trail as me. If it was I don't think I would be writing this. A grey rhino! Yep I not kidding rhino living wild in central Bedfordshire!! Ok maybe not wild but part of my run went around the perimeter fence of Whipsnade zoo which is where I saw it off in the far distance. Very exciting stuff. From Whipsnade it was a very pleasant jaunt across the undulations of Dunstable Downs before I was off the trail and back in civilisation with a bump (Dunstable kind of does that it you!)

Not much more to say of any note re this run. Just nice to get back in the saddle and let the legs know that it won't all be half marathons. 22 miles in all in a very leisurely 4 hours however it didn't feel like it with quite a few climbs.

Recovery day today. Legs feel fine which shows they haven't completely forgotten what going long is all about.

Taken from Dunstable Downs back across the valley
with Ivinghoe Beacon in the far distance (left of centre in shot)

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Sunday long run report

A week after the half I was back to what I know best... going long. Different individuals from LBAC lead a Sunday run and this particular run started in Milton Keynes and was going to be a gentle 10 Miles through the many parks and greenways of MK. So to add a little distance I decided to run to MK along the old favourite grand union canal which made the total distance 24.5 miles. 

It was a good test because I haven't gone further than a half since the end of August. What didn't help though is that I made a very poor choice of footwear. The canal path is almost entirely on hard surface as was the MK 10 miler yet I threw on my innov8s with their ultra studded sole designed for proper off road running which this definitely wasn't! So this didn't exactly make for a comfortable ride. What a silly mistake which slightly took away the enjoyment of the run. It was still a good run don't get me wrong and I was pleased to get in the miles but I won't be making that mistake again in a hurry. 

One last point to note is that despite MK having a reputation as a bit of a concrete jungle designed exclusively for the car it actually offers the runner a huge connected playground of parks, lakes and greenways which offer endless running opportunities. This includes Willen Lake which is also the location for a weekly timed 5km Park Run held every Saturday.  Register at 

So what's next for me? 

Well it seems that I may run the Bedford half marathon in December. I haven't decided for sure but it's a club championship race so attracts many of my fellow runners all seeking to run a PB so I may tag along and see what happens. 

Excitingly my company are also organising a sponsored walk/run around a mile circuit on our company site. The idea being to walk or run as many laps as possible within a certain time limit. Perhaps 5 hours. This sounds right up my street so would definitely participate in what should be a fun day out with colleagues. 

Then there's the Winter Tanners ultra run on 9th January which I have registered for. This is a 30 miler open to walkers and runners organised by the Surrey Long Distance Walkers Association. There's also a 20 mile option. But the best thing of all - the entry fee is a mere £2.50!!! What a bargain which helps with the fact that my wife and I have baby number 2 due in April so £40+ entry fees are not so appealing!    

Friday, 15 October 2010

Royal Parks Half Marathon race report

Well it has been quite an interesting 6 weeks since the Ridgeway run to bring me to the start line of the Royal Parks Half Marathon on Sunday. Back then I would never of thought that I could be challenging for a PB over this distance. But the body is amazing and can adapt very quickly to change. Hence the long runs were out and the short fast efforts were in.

Training for this race went well but then I was hit with flu in the final week. This meant I didnt run for 5 days before the race but perhaps this was a blessing in disguise.

Sunday was a glorious day for racing with clear skies and a warmth for mid October previously unknown. This race attracted 12,500 runners and resembled a mini london marathon at the start as we squeezed into our pens like livestock with heads as far as the eye could see.

We were soon set on our way as we passed landmark after landmark. I tried to soak up the atmosphere and the occassion but in reality most of my energies were focused on keeping pace with little else to spare to outwardly enjoy the occassion but I did have a beaming smile on my face as I went about my business. My first mile was a quick 6.43 but not so quick that I could afford to let up the pace as I would need to continue this similar pace for another 12 miles. Eeek.

Unlike the wednesday training runs which felt effortless this was a different story. On the perceived effort scale I was already up at 7-8 in the early miles but it still remained enjoyable. We passed Big Ben and onto victoria bridge before doing a U-turn at the end and down the other side of the road onto victoria embankment and along the River Thames. At this point I had banana man in my sights! (I'd already passed a carrot and two peas in a pod in mile 1! ). There really is nothing that makes you feel slower than someone in fancy dress running at the same speed as you. I had to get pass him and quick before I slipped up! ;-)

The elites were already flying back down the opposite side of the road towards Green Park running 2 minutes per mile quicker than I was. I dont know how they do it! Next in my sights was celebrity runner Ben Fogal. That probably does him a slight disservice as he and James Cracknal have done some awesome things. I wasnt taking any prisoners however and I was soon past him whilst overhearing him tell a runner that his knee wasnt too good so he was taking it easy.

Approaching 3 miles by this point (splits: 6:38, 6:45, 6:42) needed fluids and if by magic the first water station appeared in the distance. Not just any water either... It was M&S water :-) but actually it had a funny taste to it so I had half with the rest over my head to cool me down. I could see ahead to see hundreds of runners still streaming over victoria bridge. Always nice to know there are plenty of people behind you feeling way worst than you do. The next 3 miles took us along Horse Guards Avenue and up Whitehall towards Trafalgar Square before going left through the Old Admiralty Arch and down The Mall alongside St James Park. Then it was a right at Buckingham Palace (a quick wave to Queeny) and up Constitution Hill on to Park Lane and back into Hyde Park (Any tourist would love this course!) Splits for miles 4 to 6 were 6:38, 6:49, 6:43. So I was keeping a good pace but still wasnt even half way so couldnt get too excited but I had settled down and was feeling good.

The entry back into Hyde Park was lined with cheering crowds which continued as we wound around the Park circling the Serpentine. It was at this point that I caught up with the official 1:30 pace maker holding the flag aloft which was fixed to his back. I had spotted the pace maker at the start and knew he had crossed the start a minute before I did so if I could stick with this guy he would comfortably bring me in within my goal pace. There was a pack of runners together at this point all it seems with the same goal in mind. It didnt make the pace any easier as it was still fast and the effort level now up at a solid 8 or 9 to keep on track.

This was a flat race no question but because of this every slight incline was even more noticeable with all of them coming in the Park. I used these however to accelerate past those that laboured ever so slightly getting ever closer to my goal. The miles ticked by as we continued to circle the park. Splits for miles 7 to 9 were: 6:49, 6:44, 6:51.

Then at mile 9 the pace maker simply stopped and desserted us! His parting words being I brought you this far on exactly 1:30 pace with an inferrance that we were now on our own. It was make or break time now. I turned to one of the others in the pack and half jokingly said he was only holding us up anyway! It took a mile to regroup my thoughts and hang on to the pace and then from mile 10 I decided to push on to the end with a concerted effort with everthing I could muster. Effort levels by this point had reached 10. I was giving it everything I had and for my rewards I continued to pass more runners as I had been throughout the race.

And soon I could see the home straight with the finish line off in the far distance. This alone must have been over half mile easily. I pushed to the finish with one last big effort. The clock read 1h29m... And my watch (and chip time) read 1h27m51s.

I was hugely excited to crack the 1h30 mark and so pleased with how my race had gone and the effort I put in from start to finish. My splits for the final 4 miles were: 7:00, 6:36, 6:24, 6:12. (also later found out that finished 154th out of 12,500 finishers).

The medal was put around my neck and photos taken. I was particularly taken with the medal which was made from 100% sustainble wood and in the shape of a leaf with 10.10.10 engraved in it. I found my wife and daughter amongst the crowds enjoying the post race festival and we took in the great atmosphere and laid on the grass by the Serpentine. A lovely day which I would happily repeat next year. I would recommend it to anyone interesting in running a big city race without the need to train for the full marathon!
I have also raised £920 for the PACE Centre so a big thank you to everyone that has supported me. It's not too late to give something -