Saturday, 27 November 2010

Leighton Santa's Dash... ho ho ho snow

The real Santa! Lili asked for a Lego house :-)
Today was the first Leighton Santa's Dash! A 2 mile loop out and back from Church Square. Organised by the Leighton Fun Runners this was a lovely jolly affair with at least 50-60 fully clad santa's raring to go (mainly because it was so cold!). It had snowed last night making conditions under foot interesting.
To add even more fun and festivity to the occasion I chose to run with my 2 1/2 year old daughter Lili in the pushchair who was also addressed as Santa, as the photos show. Aarrr so sweet!
Lili fuelling before the big race!

I thought what with this not being a proper race and all, plus dressed as Santa, plus pushing a pushchair that I wouldn't have my competitive hat on today... Yeah right who am I kidding! Even on the start line I was positioning myself to ensure I had the very best of getaways.

Getting prime postion on the outside line
 And it worked a treat. Lili and I blasted off the line (mummy missed it on camera!!) and we chased down the Christmas Pudding in true festive style. It was SO much fun.

I haven't raced with lili in the pushchair before so wasn't sure how she would be. She was ok, but I was glad the race wasn't any longer. Not sure I would take her on one of my Ultra runs :-O The pushchair was actually helpful in a way too as I had something to hang onto on the patchy snow and keep upright!

Anyway back to santa's dash and we were fighting for 3rd place after the first mile. The Christmas Pud had disappeared in to the distance and 2nd place was gone too but we looked good for 3rd. Singing jingle bells to lili we sped on our way and made sure of 3rd i thought only for lili's Santa hat to fly off her head with the sheer speed we were going :-) Disaster. I quickly retrived the hat whilst I was overtaken and back in fourth spot. But this guy wasn't really going flat out so we took back 3rd and pushed in the final 1/2 mile all the way to the finish.

Santa gave lili and I our medals and we waited for mum (who decided to go shopping and missed her daughter's first race and podium finish!) oh dear mummy. Soon mummy was back all apologetic and cuddles, and we retired to the pub to enjoy our well deserved mince pies and mulled wine.

Paul - The Christmas Pud (LFR runner)

I was very proud of my little girl.
Her first race medal and many hope to come ;-) A great race and very well done to LFR for organising such a lovely event. All proceeds also went to KidsOut charity so a nice warm glow all round :-)

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Dirt Half Marathon

RACE UPDATE 21/11: official results are in ~ 15th Position out of 384 finishers

I ran the first Dirt Half Marathon held in Leighton Buzzard today. Great to have another local race in the calendar and this one particularly up my 'trail' as the event name suggests. Despite the claims though the majority of the actual route is along the grand union canal so flat and fast but no dirt! But this changes at 6 miles with a one mile climb that gets steeper and steeper. Once at the top it was a short dash across the street in Great Brickhill before descending into Stockgrove country park. This was by far the best part of the course with two miles of winding single track trail. It was brief but thoroughly enjoyable.

From the beginning of this race I could feel the hamstring strain I picked up on Thursday so there were no thoughts of a fast time. I would of been happy with 1:35 and wasn't really even thinking of a time anyhow. As the race progressed though the strain wasn't showing any signs of slowing me down. About 3-4 miles in and settled into a pace I found myself running amongst 2 other runners (one just ahead and the other behind) whom were running the same 6:45 pace +- 10 seconds. This helped to keep me honest as I didn't want to fall behind or be passed.

In the woods from mile 7-10 I really had a blast and used the downhills to pass both runners. I always prefer to have a clear trail ahead of me so even though the other two weren't going anywhere we flew along together. Back onto the canal at mile 10 it was a 3 mile flat stretch home but this didn't make it any easier and I didn't have too much left to give. It was only now that I could see that I was potentially on for a 1:30 if I could up the pace. This spurred me on as I tried to chase the others down who had passed me again in a boggy field prior to rejoining the canal section. The two I had run with were extended their lead now, but I had caught another guy whom I tried to stay with. I kept an eye on the garmin and was managing to sustain around a 7 min pace. The avg pace read out was 6:53 and I knew to go sub 1:30 I needed an avg pace of 6:51 or better. This meant I had to up the pace in the final 2 miles. Some jelly babies at the final water station helped!

We were now off the canal and into the final mile around the lake where we had started 12 miles prior. I was closing on the same guy still ahead of me and I upped the pace as I passed him, then through the gate, and a short dash across the school playing field and under the finishing arch. My garmin time was 1:29.36. Nice. Avg pace 6:50. Don't know my placing yet but might have sneaked into the Top 20. 500 started.

I was chuffed to bits. I really didn't think I could sustain this pace over such a course and show that I have carried over the speed and fitness from my Half in October despite the relatively low mileage in the past month.

My right knee is complaining a little bit now so I don't plan to so too much in the remainder of 2010. I don't have any races booked, unless you count the XC season. The next one of those is 4th December.   


Thursday, 18 November 2010

Bob Mallows Cup run

Today was the annual Bre (my company) Garston Grand Prix race which is a 2.5 mile on and off road blast. We have a couple of races in the bre calendar, which is great for a company to do. This was the first year that I took on the race organisation too so added pressure as well as actually running it.

I didn't stand a chance of winning it as a new kid on the block Glen Watts recently joined the company and is super quick. And I don't just mean a little bit quicker either ~ Glen's half marathon PB is 66 minutes!! I really didn't stand a chance, that was until he pulled out of the race this morning. I should have been thrilled but I wasn't as I really wanted go see what he could do and the course record of 12:53 set by BRE running legend Bob Mallows which has stood for 25 years was under threat!

I certainly wasn't going to be challenged the record but I would settle for going sub 15. The field of 16 runners lined up with Bob present to start proceedings. My strategy was simple ~ go out really hard and open up a lead early then hold on. And this is pretty much what happened. My opening mile was a 5:41 on road, but I wasn't able to sustain this pace and my second mile which went off road was a 6:23. It didn't feel this much slower and I was giving it everything I had however by this stage I was totally alone with no one to push me even harder.

I still thought though that I was doing enough to go sub 15 minutes (my pb was 15:36). I only had an avg pace read out on the garmin though so had no idea what the time was and how close I was. The last half mile is through the woods. There was a bit of slipping and sliding but the innov8s kept me moving forward.

As I exited the woods for the last 200 yd dash on tarmac to the finish I gave it what I had, but again had someone been baring down on me I would have surely found a few more seconds! And as it was I needed them... I crossed he finish line in 15:00.88. Overall I was pleased with my run although my second mile let me down. 2nd place finished 1:20 behind me so quite a margin.

Had Glen raced I certainly wouldn't have won but perhaps I would have gone quicker!!! So there is the question: what's more important ~ time or positioning or both!! Obviously you would take both given the chance. Bottom line winning any race is a good feeling, and it might be my last for a while if Glen does get racing! So I will enjoy it whilst it lasts! And the best thing of all I can still go quicker.

The only downer on today is a slight hamstring strain which has had the Deep Heat treatment. Basically there was zero warm up before the race and I've paid for the opening mile! Not sure how it will be for the Leighton Dirt Half Marathon this Saturday. I will race but it may not be full on.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Watford Chiltern League XC race

Saturday was the second cross country race in the Chiltern League calendar held at cassiobury park in Watford. For some reason I expected a flat course but instead we were presented with a challenging hilly course that certainly got pulses racing. It was 9km and involved an out and back beginning section and a woodland loop which we would run twice. 

15 senior male LBAC runners lined up for the start. The female race had started eariler with 4 runners representing the club. 300+ runners toed the start line as we were set on our way down hill. It was a pretty frantic first half mile as everyone attempts to position themselves. You soon learn from these affairs that unlike other races going out too fast is an absolute must if you aren't too get stuck in the pack using even more energy later in the race to pick off people as it gets stretched out.

My first mile was a 6.06 which included a climb. I found the early downhill sections especially pleasing as I let rip and passed quite a few less sure footed runners more hesitant to let gravity do the work. I worked hard on the uphill sections too which weren't too steep but a few of them quite long.

Soon into the second loop it was evident I was tiring but so were those around me. It was a case if survival mode now and holding position. The pattern of the race was that I was passed by a handful of runners on the flat sections but would take back the places on the ascents and descents as I pushed to keep in contact with those infront.

With the second loop over it was a 1/2 mile or so slog to the finish initially downhill and then a long uphill to the finish. I was planning for this section for most of the second half of the race determined to hold back some fire in the legs and pick off runners up the final hill. It worked a treat as I passed   one by one each pass being a small victory. Then there was the usual finishing straight sprint for the line against a fellow competitor. I pulled alongside and he pushed I went with him and he pushed again, but I sat back, he relaxed and I pushed with everything I had which he responded to but I took the photo finish! :-)

Total distance - 5.33m according to the garmin in a time of 34.01 and 76th place (4th for the club) out of 210 division one runners and 331 runners in total. I enjoyed almost every second and look forward to the next XC fixture on 4th Dec which promises to be even hillier than this one with more mud!  


Friday, 12 November 2010

Quality not quantity... Training sessions that work of me and might for you too!

I thought I would take the opportunity to capture the main training sessions that I frequently find myself doing as part of my normal training. Hopefully some of this might be useful to others to incorporate into their own training.

Now for the caveat: I'm no trainer and have no coaching experience. These sessions are just ones that I personally have consistently found to be beneficial to my training to both improve my stamina and speed. They can be easily adapted to suit different abilities and speeds.  These sessions are greatly aided by the use of a Garmin GPS unit or similar to be able to accurately measure pace and distance.

It is not intended that they are all performed in a single week. I personally aim to do 4 'quality' training runs per week.  I always try and avoid going out the door just to put in junk miles - those runs without any real focus or goal for the session. Quality over quantity is the order of the week here!

Session 1 - Long Run (negative split - 10-30 miles): distance dependant on ability and by definition your long run is simply the longest run in that week. The long run should be paced accordingly so that whatever speed and distance you run it at, the second half of the run is faster than the first half. This teaches good pacing and finishing strong which are two crucial attributes to running ultras! increase long run mileage by 10-20% per week or whatever you feel comfortable with. 

Session 2 - Recovery run (4-8m): slowest run of the week to recover from a long run or hard session and get energy back in legs for harder runs later in week. Best run at easy Conversational pace (approx 1-2 mins slower than marathon pace).

Session 3 - Tempo Run (5-10 miles): This is the fastest run of the week where you are really pushing your limits. Speed and distance will be dependent on ability but you should be pushing the effort levels to the max and not holding back. Even Pacing is still vitally important and should aim not to slow. Each week either try to up the distance slightly running at the same pace or up the pace over the same distance.

Session 4 - Progressive Run (4- 8 miles): The goal for this run is to run each mile faster than the last. So depending on ability you may start at 8 minute or 10 minute miling then knock off 10-15 seconds per mile for each subsequent mile run. A great workout and really teaches the body and mind to push the boundaries even when you are tiring.

Session 5 - Hill training (10 reps on 1/4 mile hill) this is a really tough session and best done in a group. Runners position themselves on hill based on ability so that everyone reaches the top at the same time. The aim is to go out hard but controlled up the hill and recover on the way back down. If paced well each rep should be consistent and after a few of these hill sessions when you know your pace you should aim for each rep to be slightly quicker than the last. As said best done in a group so you have people to aim at when you approach the crest of the hill. You should nothing left at the end of this session!

Session 6 - One mile intervals (1m x 4-6 with 0.25m recovery) this is a great run to get the heart and lungs pumping. Run on the flat take a short half mile/mile warm up first before the first interval. Know your pace and stick to it. It should be run at about a 9 on the effort level, whilst being able to maintain the same pace for each rep.

Session 7 - Short flat out tempo run (2-3m) it's a killer but well worth it. I only do this run once a month organised by my club.  It is a good gauge of improved fitness (hopefully) during the month. Find a good flat 1 mile loop that you can repeat two or three times. This way you can gauge the effort levels on each loop and get consistency.       

Session 8 - Cross training (1hr+ low impact workout) Gym workout, cycling, swimming etc. For me never the easiest session to find the motivation for. Key is to find something else that you really enjoy that aids your running.

So that's it. Eight key sessions which if you build a training plan around, buiding up the mileage and speed as you go should really make a difference come race day whatever the distance.

Love to know what others think and what works for you!? 

Sunday, 7 November 2010

ElliptiGO test ride!

Went out today on one of the first test rides of the ElliptiGO in the UK!! What an awesome machine and a complete unique riding experience. It's similarities with a conventional bike end after the handle bars and two wheels. Everything else feels quite different, from the high upright standing position, to the way that the legs operate it. It's basically running on a bike with no impact. It's 100s times better than an elliptical trainer in the gym... whilst I do use one because they are static they get dull quite quickly. On an elliptiGO however you are constantly on the go and I had a grin on my face nearly as long as the ElliptiGO itself! (nearly 2mtr in length). In terms of getting a work out - it's great. I was out for over an hour and we (me and Idai Makaya (the European manager) )covered 11.5 miles - we were taking it easy (avg speed 10mph). the legs felt it (slightly) after that but the arms definitely so! So an all over body workout. And cos you are constantly balancing upright it works the mid area and core muscles too to thought.

This is a really fun machine and it looks awesome too but underneath the bold green paint (also comes in black or blue) it is a serious bit of kit. Technologically it's pretty advanced - with it's all aluminium frame, carbon fibre drive arms - the bit you stand on that connect to the crank arms which drive the shimano 8-speed hub gear set. This allows for good speed on the flat (although not as fast as a road bike) and serious climbing ability on the hills. Words really can't describe the ride experience because it is so unique so if you are intriged then go try one for yourself!

Am I sold on it...? I reckon so but I will have to find £2,000 first to make it mine :-O However even before the ride i was sold on the concept and riding one has convinced me! I will integrate it into my ultra training by riding the 45 mile round trip to work. At first once a week, but perhaps 2-3 times as the days get longer. This way i get all the training benefits of high mileage but none of the high impact issues and injuries that result from running all the time.

 It's not yet released in this country but a cargo container is bound from Taiwan to the UK as we speak. The guys at ElliptiGO are expecting to have it on sale direct by December. My name will be on the waiting list. The only remaining decision is do I go for Green, Black or Blue!? Hhhmmmmm decisions decisions....

My thanks to Idai who took time out of his Sunday to take me for the 1hr test ride. Cheers. I hope you have loads of success with the ElliptioGO once it hits the UK (online) highstreet.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Club Stag Run

Time had come around once again for the club stag run. I dread it and look forward to it at the same time. It's 2.5 miles at full tilt with a staggered start based on ability and points awarded from 25 down to 1 for 1st place to 25th.

In short it was hard work from start to finish but that's the point as you chase down one runner after another. Mile 1 was a 5.34, mile 2 a 5.39 and the last half mile run at 5.38 pace. Finishing time 14.04. A new PB by 15 seconds over last season's final race where I took the stag title. Can I do it again... Probably not as to keep improving from that tome for the rest of the season is gonna be tough if not impossible. But hey with 23 pts on the score board there is always hope :-)

Stag race times:

09/10 stag 1 - 15.29
09/10 stag 2 - 15.04
09/10 stag 3 - 14.54
09/10 stag 4 - 14.31
09/10 stag 5 - 14.19
10/11 stag 1 - 14.04