The Island Race Review

‘ogee ogee ogee’ The race announcer shouted down the mic. The day had already turned out to be positive as I stood limbering up basking in the spring sun. The day was turning out to be nice. The right temperature and just the right amount of breeze. I knew this race was going to be good as I was in Wales standing on the other side of the Menai Bridge which I would soon be running over and shortly after will be taking in the views of the Victorian pier of Bangor, the impressive Norman Castle built by Edward and the stunning mountains of Snowdonia. Every run in Wales is always good. Some thing to tell the grandkids about. The weather also does not disappoint.

“Ogee Ogee Ogee” the announcer repeated after the crowd of 800 chanted back “Oi, Oi, Oi” and soon the countdown began. ‘Fifty seconds, forty Nine, forty eight’ As he counted he interspersed with messages of good luck, and look out for one another. I knew from that moment that this will be a good race and then the gun went and we all clapped before realising that this was a race and we darted across to cross the line.

The race had begun. Forget Marathon pace I was on one and as I looked down to see me moving a slow pace as the bottle neck plodded over the iconic road bridge I un-clipped my headphones and politely asked the more pedestrian runners to ‘Move’. Now I should have taken this as a sign. Last year on my Half marathon before the full 26.2 mile event I made the same mistake and shot out from the start line like a bullet and this year I promised myself i would do marathon pace, test when I needed to pop a gel and all that stuff the mags tell you but then the little devil woke and whispered ‘You could do this in a sub 1:35’ That was all it took.

The minute I had left the bridge I was running like never before. The tunes pumping which I was glad off as crowd support was thin on the ground. But who needed the people cheering you on when you had views of Bangor across the water, a 800 year old castle, a course which was car free and while not flat was not excessively hilly for Wales but still gave your lungs and heart a good work out on the uphill sections without really loosing that much pace.

The course was an out and back with the added bonus that while you ran away from the mountains of Snowdonia, the return trip would have them in full panoramic Technicolor laid in front of you. This was a race for seasonal runners as the amount of people I passed on the return loop still plodding to the half way point were few and far the majority crossed the line before the 2 hour mark. Off course not that it is not a beginner friendly course. The start and the end had a very warm ‘were doing this together’ mentally.

I loved this race. At the end there was your slate engraved medal, cups of water, fruit, chocolate, biscuits and then outside the finishers enclosure an array of burger fans and ice cream sellers along with activities for the family and friends who cam to support. The Marshals were friendly and efficient, the course information and pre race details spot on. A map of the area for those who were not familiar with Anglesey would have been a bonus. Car parking was free and there was plenty off it if you got there in time. The only down side was the goody bag that contained a poncho and leaflets from the Welsh Tourist board and some energy/protein powder thing.

All in all, this was a good race. It’s in its second year and I can see it growing bigger and while the course could handle it, the start line may have to be moved away from the iconic bridge but it has plenty more gems to make up for that loss. the other flaw is like all races on this scale is you can’t control who goes to the front and those who have a slow pace or can’t keep the fast pace up seem to be at the start causing a lot of pushing and shoving from the faster more competitive runners behind them. The course for the first mile is also on narrow streets which also adds to this very small issue that did not spoil the event.

Oh and I got my new PB. A sub 1:35 by 8 seconds.

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.

Macclesfield Half

If you had told me ten years that I would be running around Macclesfield I would have laughed at you. While I was young and lived in this urban sprawl surrounded by some of the richest villages in Cheshire I did partake in the activity of running but this was mainly confined to the school field during football or the dreaded cross-country. I can remember one time I decided to go for a run on my own steam when I was fifteen or sixteen to shed the pounds and managed less than a mile before my lungs burnt and my head banged with so much pain.

Roll on the years and I find myself training to complete the Manchester 10K, after discovering that I enjoyed running and enjoyed the benefits far more. The 10K happened followed by several halfs followed by more and more races and soon I was running in my home town when ever I visited and stayed with my old folks. Running in Macclesfield was fun and I often wonder why I was so quick to throw in the towel after my brief affair with the sport all those years ago.

As a warm up for Snowdon Marathon I thought a nice hilly half would help and while Langdale was hilly, Macclesfield was going to seem like a pancake compared to the peaks and troughs of the Langdale valley the week before. The race was staged on the athletics track which was built while I was at school but I never used partly due to lack of interest on my account of  partaking in any physical activity. But here I was lining up at the start of the 400 meter line ready to race. Again not after any PB but on reflection I could have pushed for one as my legs had more than enough in them to carry me over the line, but this was always going to be used as a training run.

Now let be said while I did everything to avoid running at school, I really wished I had discovered this sport a lot earlier than my 29th Birthday, maybe twenty years before that occasion, but after fifteen years of the track being laid I was about to run on it. The weather was due to rain but stayed dry with a strong breeze and while the roads remained open this was not a ‘fun run’ in the typical running sense. The limit to cross the line was 2hr 35 minutes which for some people is in the realms of fantasy but for the majority of the runners we were all capable of a sub 2.

There were still a mix of people who were finding it hard after 4 miles and I was one of them (hard but yet still comfortable). Not because of the level of difficulty of the course or because I set out too fast but because I could not settle. It took me till mile four to settle into my pace and rhythm and even then I felt I was going to quick for a training run (a whole minute quicker than marathon pace which I wanted to practice) After that the run was fun and while the crowds were barely visible probably due the sheer lack of people out on the streets that and the fact that most of the roads were country lanes I was enjoying the run with little distraction and the lack of music was not missed (As the roads were open Ipods were banned). At one point, I had started racing another runner, it was either that or we were keeping pace with one another as we stuck together for a good two mile until I managed to break away and see if he would follow. Come the final two miles I was in my element and the legs lifted up and the stride was in full motion for the home straight as we closed in onto the track for the finish line, I crossed with a rather impressive 1hr 45 which was 260th out of 800 plus. Not bad for some one who was still hobbling on Thursday from my last half and wanted to treat the run as a sheer training run. Only 4 minutes off PB as well so I could have beaten it if I really tried.

All in all I would do this again and add it to my race calendar, I would recommend it only for those who are experience runners, and whether you are seasoned half marathoner or a runner stepping up the distance this is truly a god race to run. Not to be taken on my first timers or people use to the ‘Great Run’ series.

Getting Back into It!

So I did the Marathon, I rested for 13 days then ran a 10K rested and a week later did another 10K, then another then rested for a week and then ran another 1oK  and then a ten miler. Within all this I was seeing my physio to work on my biomechanics and core strength and stability (another blog) and my legs were so tired and tight after each race, partly because I was going for it like the clappers, were talking below 7 minute miles and for me that is quick. So it was after the Llandudno 10 mile that I decided that enough was enough and I would hang up my trainers.

This was a good idea for two reasons. The first my legs did not want to move and the second I was working in Birmingham and then in the Lakes so did not really have time to run. So I rested for two weeks, and they say that your fitness does not disappear that quickly but I would like to disagree.

Now maybe your fitness does not drop just after two weeks of no action, and maybe it doesn’t but it certainly does if you spend those two weeks putting on almost a stone through drink and eating crap which is what I did. So when I returned to running on Monday as lets face it I have another marathon to train for so really need to start. The short run of 5k was tough, very tough and it wasn’t even a fast run. The one tonight of 6 miles was a little easier once I got back into my stride, but it took the first 2 miles to run through the niggles and loosen up the legs.

So for the next couple of weeks before I start my training I need to get back into tho running lark, training myself to run and run through the pain (unless it’s an injury). The hardest part of both runs was to control my speed, as I could not run at marathon pace or even half marathon pace my body and legs are so use to running a fast 10K that is still what they want.

So here we go, two weeks of some practice runs to get back into it, and then some long hard training runs for the hardest marathon in the Britain. The Snowdonia Marathon.

I have no plan!

I know I keep barking on about this but when you’re happy why not. People shout from the roof tops when they get married or have found out that they will be bringing a new life into this sorry state of a world so why can’t I shout from the roof tops ‘I love running’ I can’t believe I didn’t find out sooner, maybe it would have changed my life. More than a year ago I found I could run and I enjoyed it. Well maybe not enjoyed… Not the actually motion of running, the cold, wet dark mornings before work, no that I didn’t enjoy, I suppose it was the after burn of running the comments from people saying ‘You look well’ and seeing how I was loosing the belly and trimming up into a more leaner guy who was a bout to hit 30 (not that in anyway I was having a mid life crisis and running was the answer but looking back maybe I was and this stereotypical activity came to the rescue). I felt good, I was sleeping and had bags full of energy and didn’t feel bad about reaching for the second Mars Ice Cream or bottle of wine.

I suppose the first time I actually knew I enjoyed running was March, when I developed an injury and thought I might not be able to compete in the Manchester 10K. Now I don’t know if this feeling was down to missing the event or thinking about all those wasted mornings where I could have stayed in bed were now going to waste. I was really really quite cut up about. It wasn’t just the fact I couldn’t run in the race (which I did with the help of pain killers) but the fact I couldn’t run at all. It made me miserable, so much so I missed out one of my best mates stag doo’s as I was to busy wallowing in self pity and hatred. This was the moment when I knew that running was more than just a hobby, more than a past time that was a way to keep fit, running was my life, it had become part of me, and if I couldn’t do it I was a joy to be around (Not) in the same one as a relationship ending or losing a loved one, I felt rotten. Who would have thought that this simple activity could have such a hold on you and make you feel this way.

It was true, I had started buying the magazines and reading forums, talking to other runners, looking at what I ate, the way I ran. Running was now part of my life, so much so that if I was married then you could compare the past time to the mistress. I was having an affair with running. And why not she made me feel good about myself… She was worth the money I spent on her…she gave back what I put in if not sometimes more…Yes running was my real passion.

I started boring mates with ‘running this’ and ‘running that’ I was hooked on entering competitions and still am. I was obsessed with time and numbers and PB’s and distance. The only thing I never did was follow a detailed training program. I didn’t for the two 10K’s the second one being no point as it was 2 weeks after the Great North and lets face if you can cross the finish line after 13.1 miles then 6.20 is a walk in the park. My second Marathon I didn’t really train for as I had kept up my weekly mileage and knew that I could run the distance and was not really too bothered of my time partly as I knew there was a large hill which would rub out any chance of my PB. However I did get my PB.

The trouble is I am now doing a marathon. A full on 26.2 miles of running. When I did the half I wanted to do a sub 2. Which I did. With this big beast I wish to do a sub 4hr but if truth were known I’m heading or training for a sub 3.5hr. For some reason Marathons to me are the height of running, a half for many is a large task, and I have to admit after the two I’ve ran I don’t think I could really of carried on another mile after the finish line so what chance do I have when on the half way marker of 13.1 miles I have to push on.

The reason I did a half, was after the 10K I felt great, I felt like I could do it all again and straight away and doing the maths two 10K’s in miles is 12.4 almost a half so mentally I knew I could cross the finish line in some state, and since running 13.1 miles my weekly runs have increased in distance. For me 6k was a long run, and 30 minutes on the road was long enough, after the Great North my average short run is 7 miles.

So what is the whole point of this, well its to say I will be following a detailed plan this time, I will increase my mileage like they say rather than doing 7 one week and increasing it by a mile the next, and so on. No I will be increasing slow and steady. I will add speed and hill work into my training, I will do slow steady pace runs. The trouble is there are two schedules. One that is based on distance… building the distance up week by week, another which is time. You could spend 2 hours out on the road but only cover 10 miles. The question is which one should I so.

Over Christmas I will be thinking hard about it, as come Boxing Day I am going to start. I have already started already with doing long runs just to keep my mileage up and getting use to this weather.

Well I am sure you will be hearing of my attempts and efforts in the coming months.

My next blog is going to be a nice round up of my year with the achievements I’ve made, or have yet again failed to achieve.

See you on the other side of this delightful time we call Christmas.