My Dad Often Asks…

When I do return to the nest which hand on heart is not as many times as I could but since I got my car is more than the Christmas visit that I use to grace my parents with, my father would often ask me a question. This may be the first subject on the card, or it may be slipped in at some juncture during the days events.

I have never and will never answer the question and that is because I can’t. I’ve tried to detail the answer in a blog but failed. The failure haunts me every time I go to write a new entry as it sits in the drafts section waiting to be completed and finally published.

The question is not to be compared to one of life’s mysteries or indeed a question you want to shy away from. The question is pure and simple. The question is ‘What has been your best race?’

‘Best Race’ In terms of what. Personal Best, crowd, scenery, atmosphere, achievement. I have run many a race and find it hard to answer. I trouble with answering the question of what my favourite distance is.

The only way I could answer it is if I was to break it down. After all the Manchester 10K would be number one, as it was my first race and I enjoyed the atmosphere and passion of everyone who watches and participates. Plus the added bonus is it’s in my back yard. However the Conwy Half scores highly as it always see’s me smash my PB for the distance and starts under the gaze of my favourite castle in Wales and also takes me up the Orme. (Oo-er missus). But then Snowdon Marathon would come top as the crowd support was immense and I was under the careful scrutiny of my beloved mountain range the entire time. But the Liverpool Half would have to score a mention as I don’t think there has been a course which has carried support for the entire length. Manchester Marathon as it was my first for that distance and if I was to award the number one spot to Manchester for that reason then ‘The Great North’ would have to sit alongside it as that was my first half, with the added bonus I crossed one of my top 5 bridges and saw 6 others. It’s also on every runners bucket list as a must do race which I can now tick off.

So the simple question that my dad fields me every time I return to the Scott household may seem like a harmless innocent inquiry  but the boundaries and categories on what makes a good race are so far apart.

That question is about to get harder to answer as I am about to race again in Wales, what seems like the home of PB’s but in a race which if I run well could see it be catapulted to the top spot knocking Manchester and Conwy clear out of sight. For tomorrow is ‘The Island Race’

It’s 13.1 miles my favourite distance. It is taking place in Wales which followers of the blog do not need to be told is my favourite country. It’s taking place on Anglesey which is one of my favourite Islands (and there are others) and starts by running over The Menai Bridge which you guessed it joins the Tyne Bridge in my top five. Did I also mention I run around a castle which is also found in my top five castle list and I will be able to see the mountain ranges of Snowdonia. So all I need is for it to be a good course, a good time, and wonderful weather and I think finally I may be able to answer the question ‘What has been your favourite race’ Well until I run another event that is.

But even with all those ticks might see me choose to run it again but to answer the question is not just about, course, crowd, scenery, or even performance. It’s about how you feel. Every race has seen me run and become over powered by different emotions. Manchester Marathon has me believe I was going to die, I wanted out as the pain was too bad but the thought that only 1% of the world will ever run this distance spurred me on. Bangor 10K saw me run with passion as I crossed the line in shearing heat and almost a state of exhaustion. Snowdon taught me to pace and race well to cross the line for the first time feeling I had more to give, Manchester is the simple joy of running with people in their prime and those who entered in a drunken bet. King Johns Road on the Great North was only completed when the thought of those people who sponsored me and the way their kind contributions would help the Cancer Charity Christies to carry on their work allowed me to push on through my pain to reach the euphoria that is the ‘Runner High’.

So the very notion that I could answer the question is ridiculous. Every race, even a bad one will always be the best as I will be rewarded with the best drug in the world. That feeling of knowing you have pushed your body to the extremes and have survived.

Running into 2013 – A review of 2012

So lets be honest the year has not been great. I’m still in the UK and only managed to visit the wonderful Wales and walk Snowdon a handful of times. I have yet to make the move to New Zealand and am still working in theatre. Still single and desperately want to move to Wales and work in the heritage sector or be a park ranger for one of the National Parks,  2012 has not been any different from 2011 or 2010 apart from two letters, ‘P’ and ‘B’.

2012 has been a year of Personal Bests or as my friends across the pond say Personal Records. Hopefully when I do a round up of 2013 I will be sitting in a cafe in Christchurch or Wellington talking about how the past three months have seen me Skydive and Bun-jee jump in between the trekking and kayaking through the scenic backdrop of New Zealand. The 2013 review will also have some PB’s I hope.

So 2012 has all been rather quiet. Work has been slow but I have managed to fit in a lot of running. The first being a 10K around the Orme in Llandudno Wales and this was the first PB of the year, the second race was to see yet another PB although not intended. 2012 was the year I discovered the Marathon and was taking part in the Manchester one that had been away for ten years and as a warm up entered Liverpool Half. When I say a warm up it was to practice my pace, taking on gels etc as I knew I could run 13.1 miles has I had done the distance several times however on that hot March morning as the gun echoed I went for it and after 1hr 41 minutes  34 seconds had recorded a new PB, which had not been my intention as I wanted to see if I could run at Marathon Pace which would have seen me cross the line in under 2 hours.

The next race was the Marathon and what a wet marathon it was, cold with a wind chill of -1 degree. I wanted to break sub 4 as every runner does for some reason anything more doesn’t make you a runner but as I was left out in the cold soaked to the bone and hands frozen to the point where I couldn’t hold bottles or undo the zip to get any gels my brain went F$%K it…. and i hit the wall at mile 15 in the middle of an open vast empty isolated cheshire countryside with 6 miles until the urban sprawl of Trafford and the city lights of Manchester. As I ran those finally 11 miles forcing my legs up rather than dragging them beneath me all I could think off was ‘Who else can say they have done this’ the answer is less than 1% of the worlds population has ran the distance and as I was crying with pain spending time thanking the crowd who were offering words of encouragement and the all so important jelly babies, I was determined to cross that line and as I returned into the park I crossed the line in 4hr 31 minutes and 22 seconds. Cold, exhausted, euphoric and wet I had done a marathon. As I hobbled to the tram stop and clambered into a warm bath my thoughts turned to the next marathon… Not because I enjoyed this one but because I had to get a sub 4.

The next week I was in pain, as a runner friend says I had a bout of the ‘Lady GaGa’s’ “ohhhh, oh-oh-e-oh-oh-oh’ But I had to get better as for some reason I had schedule a whole month of runs. The first saw me at Port Sunlight 10K. Again this was to be a cool down run, a recovery run a nice slow pace. That slow pace saw me get another PB in 43 mins 20 seconds. Oh well I will recover on the next 10K the following week, which I did as I crossed the line in 44 minutes. A new course record for me on the Manchester 10K but I wanted to do better on my home turf but the usual crowded streets and bottle necks does not make for a PB. I was now determined that the 10K in Bangor run would have to be a PB, but it seemed that the Marathon and constant fast running had taken it toll as it was not to be plus the fact that Bangor is hilly and the heat on that day was a joke. As we pulled up I said to my friend I would just run it nice and slow. 46 minutes is not slow and was not nice in that heat. I finally had a week off from not running so rested a little more and by this point I had started seeing a physio on a regular basis and still do to this day. The last 10K of the season for me was in Merseyside and was to take place running through the tunnel from Liverpool over to the Wirral and I did it in 42 minutes, another PB. The week after was seeing me drive to Llandudno again but for a new race distance a nice ten miler. I as usual set off to quick at 10K pace but managed to keep it up to see me cross in 1hr 12 minutes.

Most of the summer saw me walking and hiking in the Lakes and not really get much running done, due to a strange injury I had developed. This was a concern as come October I would be running the 26.2 miles around Snowdon in a warm up to this I entered the Langdale half. To say this was hilly is like saying the Sistine Chapel has a nice painting. So on a very warm late september morning I tackled this course that had climbs of 33% as I twisted around the valley to come in at a very impressive 1hr 45. No PB, but certainly not what I was expecting.

A slighter slower race in a warm up to Snowdon was the Macclesfield half, which was no fast time but just a really good race being able to run in my home town and hear the fellow runners complain about the hill sections of the course. I had to bite my tongue as after Langdale the hills were more of a bump in the countryside than any force to be climbed.

So then came October and the big race was upon us. I just wanted to finish it, and had set a target of five hours. Snowdon has a lot of hills, long hills. Not steep, but long. If I remember correctly one section climbs for over five miles. Unlike Manchester I felt fine crossing the line in a PB of 4hr 17 minutes I felt super. Legs didn’t ache, I could walk with out looking like I had just shat myself managed to get out of the car with little fuss after a 2.5 hour drive, to be honest It didn’t feel like I had ran a marathon. I said to my friend who had kindly driven me on the day that Snowdon would be my last 26.2 mile race. I wasn’t cut out for them and preferred halfs. He laughed and said there’d be another one…. He was right.

The only race left to run now was Conwy Half. A half I was introduced to by a running friend and saw me get a PB in the distance in 2011. I wanted to get a sub 1:40 and had worked out my pace and even worked out on the which sections I could speed up if I had lost time as again the first four miles tends to bottle neck so you are running slower than you would like. On this cold November morning in the crisp ideal weather conditions for PB’s I set off running towards Llandudno and to climb the great Orme for the 3rd time in a race. By the time I got back to Conwy I was clock watching trying to work out when I would cross the line, the Maths in my tired brain was way out as when I finally crossed the line thinking I had failed to get a sub 1:40 and looked down to my Garmin to stop the clock to see 1hr 38mins 36 seconds. Get in .

And so thats it my 2012 has mainly been in running. Sure I bagged some Wainwrights and finally did the Snowdon Horseshoe, but 2012 has been all about the new races and the way I have gone from strength to strength. Hoping I will take all of this into 2013 where I hope the Manchester Marathon will see me break sub 4, but I’m hoping a sub 3.30 will be on the cards. The Bridge race in Anglesey will see me do a sub 1:35 for a half and I’m hoping that the Manchester 10K will see me smash 40 minutes for that distance but again I am secretly thinking that a 35 minute PB would be nice.

To do all of this I need to be strict. My training has never followed a plan, I have just ran. 2013 will see me kick the booze for the first four months, eating like a runner should and doing some good old cross training as well as plenty of tempo, hills and speed work, I need to get this targets and I need to run fast…. I have dream to beat Mo in Glasgow in 2014.

Enjoy the rest of 2012 and enjoy 2013… I know that I will as towards the end of the year i will be finally boarding that plane to take me to New Zealand.

Cheers’

Below are links to my race reports

Nick Beer Run

Liverpool

Manchester Marathon

Langdale

Macclesfield Half

Snowdon

Conwy

End of the Season

Well after my last race the ‘Conwy Half Marathon’ in Wales the place where I seem to always get PB’s and the races that I most enjoy it was also the end of the season. Well the end to my running season and what a fantastic year it has been. Now as my physio puts it, it’s the time to take it easy and concentrate on any niggles and injuries and make sure I correct them and not carry them over into 2013 which will see me run Manchester Marathon again, The Island Race which is a half and Manchester 10K. There will be more I am sure, I just need to find them and book them.

So as I am resting the blog will go a little quiet so don’t worry it’s not that I have died while I am out on a run. I will be back in the new year. I will be back in a couple of weeks doing a round up of my year and what a running year, two marathons, three half marathons and 4 10K’s and a 10 miler all with new PB’s and more weight lost.

I will proberly also be back to have my annual snipe at Christmas as I really really love that period of the year… NOT. But that for the next couple of weeks is all from me partly as I will be heavy in desiging several Christmas shows back to back so won’t be able to run and won’t have time to play about on WordPress.

See you soon. Hope you don’t miss me too much.

Breaking 1:40

Under the gaze of a seven hundred year old castle in the winter sun on a cold November morning I ran through the game plan in my head. Along with 200o other runners in the 4th year of this truly wonderful half marathon that would see us run past one of my favourite castles and then along the coastal path to the Victorian town of Llandudno passing the pier before starting the undulating climb of the Great Orme before rapidly descending back to the coastal path to the finish below the castle. This was the Conwy Half and a race I had run before and got a PB and today I was determined to race and race hard to go after another PB and a sub 1:40.

The game plan was simple. I just needed to run 7:37 splits the only trouble was the year before the congestion in the first few miles is horrific you really can’t get into your stride, and then there is the Orme itself. I like hills but I couldn’t run up that in 7:37 pace. The only saving grace was the down hill sections where I could catch up and as long as the down hill parts were in 6 minutes pace then I knew I was on for a winner. I also knew at 10K I would have to be clocking a time of 47 minutes to stand any chance of breaking 1:40.

The gun went off and as predicted it was a battle to pass those runners who thought they could run at the front, while many of them were giving it a good go and I knew that many would regret it down the line. I really do wish people would know their pace and position themselves accordingly at the start.  My pace was as expected all over the place but after the first mile it averaged 7:44, not bad just a few seconds behind my target pace. For the next 3 miles I hit 7:37 on the nose and then came the hill with 7:50, 8:10 and 7:45. I wasn’t worried as I knew I had two miles of down hill one of which was very steep and then 3 miles of flat road to take me back to where it all began. I was still on course when I crossed 10K in the 47 minutes which reassured me that a PB could well be in sight. My legs still felt strong and I had more energy gels if needed. Any fear of falling behind schedule was soon forgotten as the down hill sure me clock 6:44 and then the flat straight saw me slowly increase pace from the 1:40 as I picked off each runner one by one seeing me clock in at 7:17, 7:25, 7:11.

I looked at my watch and sure I was making good time, and when I saw the finish line and looked to see 1:35:34 beam back at me and dug deep and sprinted to the line to cross in 1:38:32.

All I need to do now is to get it under a sub 1:35 but that will have to wait for next year.

The Race I Did On Sunday

Well I knew it would be good race even if I hobbled over the finish line or didn’t even get to finish it. For those wondering I did cross the line and in a new PB, which considering the chances of getting a PB is below 50% and it was only my second half marathon, I would say I am very pleased with the result. To be honest I didn’t go out there to win, I just wanted to run another half marathon and test my self, and oh boy did this course test me.

I suppose I should also mention the amount of training I did. Well it didn’t amount to much. After the Great North Run I carried on running 8 or 10 miles and then did the 10K in Sheffield. I think had a week off from hitting the pavements. From October to the race day I had done speed work, and a lot of 10K’s but nowhere near the mileage I should have. I think I ran 10 miles once after Sheffield and that was a couple of weeks before this race. That did concern me slightly as to weather I would be fit enough but for some reason I was telling myself that I could run another half…. I did one a couple of months ago.

So it was with that I found my self in Wales with a 700-year-old castle standing tall at the start line. The race I was about to take part in was the Conwy Half. A small race, with 1600 people running and no road closures, instead there were people stopping the traffic as we ran past. All my other running events have been large organised races where they shut the roads and film it for telly. This however was small.

There was no mass warm up. You collected your number in the morning. There were no waves. Knowing that I didn’t want to be trying to push my way to the front of the pack, I got to the start line early and it was a good job. The race started on a hill, only about 100m and was quickly led out over the bridge to turn briskly onto a walking/cycling path. This was where overtaking became hard. We were like a herd of sheep jostling to get in front. I had some people from a running club who thought it was acceptable for all 3 of them to run together abreast preventing people behind from getting in front. That annoyed me. As members of a running club they should know the rules of running more than anyone. I eventually got past and found my self in a nice little housing estate running down a road, only to have to run round a traffic cone and head back and straight into an alley way.

Now at this point I was doing well, 8.30 a mile and we had already covered 2 miles. Out of the alley and we were now running along the coast. We could see the Great Orme peering at us. Inviting us to climb her. Along this path there were people walking their dogs who politely waited. In fact even the car drivers were polite and waited for the pack to pass. A good stretch of this mile to Llandudno was also covered in sand. It’s really quite strange running on this stuff after tarmac.

We had now arrived at Llandudno, and it was a small climb through the back streets to the roundabout on the sea front and onwards to the Great Orme. We were not going to run up the Orme but around it on the coastal road, and this was a steep climb. The Orme element would see the half waypoint, but would also be the majority of the run. I started the 5 mile trip climbing up slowing my pace. People had given up and started walking. I had started to feel it in my legs, my heart got faster but I refused to slow, I knew if I did I would carry on stopping till the finish line. I just had to go forward.

The breath taking size of the rock that stands over the road glistened in the sun as the different colours of this geological marvel kept you company on the climb. I should also add at this point that people out walking or cycling and rock climbing would encourage the pack with cheers and clapping. This was tuning out to be a good race.

Then I got to the top. It was now down hill for 2 miles. This hurt a lot more than the climb. I tried to go slow and steady, rather at full speed. I think I was doing about 7.10 mile on the way down, the pain in the legs were increasing with every stride and I just wanted to be on the flat. But as I approached the flat and final part of the course towards Conwy my legs had begun to turn to jelly.

The run back was painful, the pack in front of me had thinned out and I could see the castle standing erect guarding the town. By the time we reached the housing estate I was reading to throw in the towel, but seeing that there was only a mile left I carried on. By the time I had joined the road to cross the bridge and the sign that read ‘400 m to go’ I spurred myself on and sprinted to cross the finish line In a new PB taking 2 minutes of my Great North Run time, and coming 133rd in my category and 492nd in the race.

This was one of the best races I’ve done, one of the best runs even. The hill of the Great Orme is painful, and I’m glad that in my 10K training and normal running I included hills and hill sprints into my training, but nothing can compare you for the climb and slow steady incline as it got steeper. Like a snake it twists around and just when you think you can see the end the road bends inwards to reveal yet more climbing.

Despite that the race is now down as yearly activity in my running dairy. The atmosphere was better than the Great Run and views of the Irish Sea, castles, Snowdon in the far distance was stunning and the little breath I had left in my lungs was quickly snapped away by the wonderful welsh scenery.

A week Tomorrow

Well come a week tomorrow I will be lining up or in actually fact at this time of writing I should be half way round the Conwy Half Marathon. Starting on the bridge and heading out to the Great Orme and back to have a lap around the castle walls and the town to finish on the harbour. This will be my last half of 2011 and maybe my last race of the 2011 season as I need to turn my sights to the 2012 running calender with several halfs and a full Marathon.

Hopefully the run on Sunday will give me yet more time to reflect and really think hard about doing a cold start. The idea that is still growing in the back of my brain even more after I got back from Ireland. I was over their staying with friends and doing a show and loved the slow relaxed way of life. It was like stepping back in time and being that I want to go to New Zealand, love North Wales and now Ireland I can only conclude that the fast pace living of city life is not for me. In fact the ultra modern way of life with gadgets is not for me. For only the second time in my life I was not happy to be back in Manchester. Even when I have been away for a while or even a day on work or pleasure I am always glad to return to the city and my flat but as the plane touched down in Manchester I wanted to stay on and return to Ireland. The only other time this happened was when I got back from Gent after working out there where when I returned to the gray skies of England I knew I wanted to move over to Belgium.

So here to the race in a week blowing away a few of those cobwebs and letting me think straight.

 

Conwy Here we Come!!!

Well I am now addicted. I knew I was after the Manchester 10K, but after doing the Great North Run and the Great Yorkshire I love running and entering competitions. The truth is I have not yet found my distance. A lot of runners talk about their distance, the length in which they are comfortable at or most enjoy. For me I thought the 10K was the one that I could complete without feeling shattered but after the Newcastle race I felt like I could do yet another half marathon.

This was concluded to be the case as the Sheffield race was fun and I enjoyed it but I didn’t feel like I had ran, it was all over to quick and even my runs in the evening consists of a 6 mile as a short quick run. For this reason I have been trying to find another half before the year is out to see if I really am a half marathon runner, or whether I should stick to the shorter distances and just get good at them. So with this I searched the internet high and low for a race that was either near any of my friends or one I could travel to quite easily.

So on the 20th November at 12:00 I will be crossing the start line with 499 other people crossing a bridge in Wales next to one of my favourite castles to then head along the coast to run up and around one of my favourite hills. The Castle is Conwy and the Hill is the Great Orme.

The information on the website does not draw a picture of how hilly the climbs will be, so to be safe I am going to work on endurance and stamina training, as well as hill sprints. I know I can run 13.1 miles. I often once a week now put in ten miles with little effort so the distance is not the issue, it will be the conditions and the terrain.

So with little than 8 weeks to go I better start training. Think I will start with a nice 10 miler tomorrow.