Saturday, 24 December 2011

Reflections on 2011 in running and life...

Can it really be just 1 day to go until Christmas!? Well that can only mean only thing... its time once again to reflect back on what went well during the year and identify what one can build upon for an even better 2012.

2011 was really about three things - the ElliptiGO, the North Downs Way 100, and the birth of my son Jasper. The GO which was delivered almost to this day a year ago had a major impact on the way I trained in the lead up to the NDW100. Jasper also had a major impact too but for very different reasons!

I was running far less and cross training for the first time. Between January and June I logged just 24 miles per week on foot, and 64 miles on the GO. The results were that I stayed injury free all year and logged some new PBs at various distances.

January was the first Ultra of the year. The Winter Tanners. A very nice 50k trail run along the Surrey downs and up and over Box hill. A very enjoyable run to start the year finished in a leisurely 6hrs.

In March I upped the pace and raced the Leighton 10k. I trained well and was logging some high mileage on the ElliptiGO. It was one of those races where I just found my groove and everything went right. My time of 36:56 was my first official sub-40 minute 10k so I was well pleased with that. Not bad for an ultra plodder :-)

March also saw me return for the second year to compete in the SIS Lightning 12hr race. This year was without doubt the toughest race of the year which almost broke me but I battled through and learnt a lot from the experience.

In April along came little Jasper into our lifes. It was all change once again this time with 2 children vying for Daddy's attention. Would there be any time at all to run? It certainly reduced but you can always make time for the people and 'things' that you love.

In June was the Chiltern 100 cycle sportive which I rode on the ElliptiGO. An epic route and an epic day. Thoroughly enjoyable and all adding to my general fitness and training for NDW100. Finishing it also put my name on the ElliptiGO century list Hall of Fame alongside a select few including Dean Karnazes!

In July I went to Hungary with the family and convinced myself and my wife that I would serve me well to run for 5 consecutive days around a 1/3 mile loop of a local lake. The 5 day lakeside challenge as I called it consisted of 30 mins on Day 1, 1hr on Day 2, 2hrs on Day 3, 4hrs on Day 4 and 8hrs on Day 5. It was tough but so rewarding clocking up my first 100 mile training week. This is something I will definitely look at repeating this year in a similar but different format in the lead up to UTMB (perhaps involving a big hill!).

In August was the big one - my first 'proper' 100 mile race (I previously covered the distance in a 24hr race in 2010). The NDW100 was awesome and everything I had built it up to be in my mind. An epic challenge of signifcant proportions and a superbly organised event by new Race Director James Elson of 'Centurion Running'. James' approach really is to put the runner first before profit! I completed the course in 22:50 with my dad who was my pacer through the night making this a very special race. And to top it off an American style sub 24hr finishers belt buckle! Very Nice indeed.

In October was the goal marathon of the year - Snowdonia. This was hands down the best and most enjoyable marathon experience I have had to date. And this was despite it raining from start to finish. It's hard to compare Snowdonia with a big city marathon like London. The ONLY similarity is the distance covered but for me it was way better on so many levels. And to finally put the sub 3:30 marathon ghost to rest was the best part. 3:26 and 4 minutes faster than London! :-)

And finally December saw me complete in the Bedford half marathon. At the time it was a PB attempt but illness put pay to bettering my 2010 Royal Parks time of 1:27. However I still posted only my third sub-1:30 half which I was very pleased with on reflection.

So a good year with PBs at 10k, marathon and 100 miles. I would certainly have taken that at the beginning of the year. The big difference with my approach in 2011 was far less of a focus on clocking mileage. Out has gone the spreadsheet and an obsession with stats. Indeed I've focused on 'experiences' and running with more feeling. I didnt follow a single training plan during the year yet it seems to have served me well. My simple approach is quality over quantity in terms of the training miles that I do put in.

So what's in store for 2012?

Right now there are two goal races: The inalugral MK marathon on 29 April. The goal for this one is that with a solid 16 weeks of training ahead of me I will get close or under 3hrs. I think I have it in me but it remains to be seen if I can keep up the intensity of training over this length of time. The trails will also have to wait whilst I pound out the fast miles on the road.

And then its the big one! (dependant on me getting a place in the ballot drawn on 20th Jan) UTMB !!! If I do get in then my marathon training will quickly give way to trails and major hill training from May to the end of August. Whatever happens though I'm sure 2012 promises to be another year of discovery...

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Bedford Half race report

An extremely brief race report to cap 2012 (unless you count my
company Santa Dash on Wednesday that I'm organising).

Today was the Bedford Half Marathon. An insulating course with a few
good hills but some downs too! I had high hopes of finishing the year
with a PB but a bad chesty cough and cold all week meant I was toeing
the start line in less than ideal form. I was still intent in going
for it but wasn't sure what pace I was capable on.

Early on I recorded mile splits between 6:32 and 6:50 but by mid race
these had slipped to 7-7:10 pace and I was hanging on. Despite this I
gave it 110% and whilst knowing I wouldn't PB I still gave it
everything to record a descent time. Between mile 8 and 9 I was
starting to be passed. I had a choice: I could either continue to slow
down and watch as other disappeared into the distance or dig deep and
up my own pace. 2 chaps passed me with a lady tucked in right behind.
Immediately I made the decision to do the same and up my pace to stay
with them. I was putting in maximum effect to stay there but stay
there I did (for a while at least). When I finally lost them I picked
up another runner and used him to push on up the hills.

Mile 9 to 10 is all down hill and was great posting a 6:40 mile. The
final 3 miles are very flat. I was spent but still going. My final
mile was a 6:38 as I finished with a flourish and crossed the line in
1:29.52. Job done and great feeling that I didn't give up when I could
have easily have used feeling crap as an excuse for taking it easy

Roll on 2012... Which depending on whether I get a place in the UTMB
ballot which opens this Friday could be quite a year!!!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Tribute to Nannie

Dad asked me if wanted to say a few words about Nannie. I've never been the sort of person to say no, so I said sure thing. Where do I get this positive attitude from.... Well from Nannie of course. Nannie had so many special qualities that made her the very special person that we love so dearly, so I wanted to share just a few of these with you all today.

I've already mentioned her ever so positive and sunny outlook on life. She really was a girl who rarely got down in the dumps about anything. Even when finding out that she had Cancer she didnt change or feel sorry for herself. 'What will be will be' was Nannie's attitude and outlook on life and she took everything in her stride.

And then there is Nannie's honesty! She told it how it was even if her views were a little too honest at times! One example that illustrates this ever so well is baby names. In the last 3 years of Nannie's life she became the proud great-grandmother of 5 great-grandchildren.

That's 'great' in both senses of the word. She was so proud. But what was especially hard was finding baby names that Nannie approved of! It became a bit of a game between Stephen, Caroline and I when naming our children to find a name that Nannie liked because if she didn't she told you! But her grandchildren are equally strong minded just like Nannie so she always came around.

And then there was the time when I bought Nannie a garden ornament for her patio in Worthing. Whilst unwrapping it she said 'I really hope it's not a pig'. Of course having said that it was indeed a pig! But she smiled, we all laughed and she said a geniune thankyou. She cared so much more for other peoples feelings than her own and always put others ahead of herself.

Another great characteristic was Nannie's dress sense and demeanor. She was a very elligant lady and always carried herself so well and quite effortlessly. Something I most definitely didn't inherit!

And then there is Nannie's culinary skills which were on a par with Jamie Oliver. She made the most amazing roast potatoes in the world which had a crunch to them that 'Granny Smith' would be jealous of! Unfortunately though Nannie takes her secret roast potatoe recipe to her grave so I won't be appearing on Dragons Den anytime soon.

Anyone who knew Nannie will know that she was an extremely independent lady. Her independence was so important to her and is what she lived for in many ways. After her fall last year she lost this independence and couldn't drive. But she was a very determined lady and fought hard to get back her independence and used this as motivation to recover and get back behind the wheel at the age of 89! This is a quality that I can see in both our children Lili and Jasper, both are independent and they also love charging around the house in their cars.

Lastly there was Nannie generosity. She was generous in so many ways. With her time, with her money and with her love for her family. My childhood memories of how she looked after Grandad with such love and devotion when I'm sure everyone else would have given up on him is testament to this love, generosity and commitment to her family. I asked Nannie the day before she died what she is going to say to Grandad when she sees him. She replied that she will tell him that they have 5 beautiful great-grandchildren. Family was everything to her and she was everything to us. We will miss her ever so much. Thank you Nannie for everything you have given us.

Monday, 5 December 2011

St Albans XC race report

It was the third cross country fixture in the Chiltern League on
Saturday. The hosts for this one were St Albans Striders and a new
course at Veralium Park. It was a tough course with mud and hills!!
Just how XC should be. The format for the mens senior race was 3 x 3k

It rained the night before which made for perfect XC conditions. The
spikes were coming out! Bring it on. As far as the LBAC senior mens
team was concerned we were a little light. Many of our fastest runners
were enjoying themselves out in Lanzarotte at the Club La Santa
running champs. This left the rest of us to dig in and put in a
performance that will give the club a fighting chance in the 2
remaining fixtures to remain in League 1 - something we are confident
we can do.

The gun went and I was off. The start was sloping downhill and this
was a good opportunity to get early position before the first climb. I
was running far too fast for a 9k but who cares... no pain no gain.
The first up hill revealed the extent of the muddy conditions. Quite
frankly if you weren't wearing spikes you would have struggled to even
make I up the hill! It was that bad!! - meaning it was great ;-)