Still got it… But we won’t discuss the next day.

Well after two months of being in a camper I needed to stretch my legs. Regular visitors will know that I love to run and after the marathon and Manchester 10k I gave my legs a little rest and its been that way since I touched NZ soil. As those who are new to the blog and following it from the NZ entries, then the soul purpose of the blog started to document my training for the Manchester 10k some years back. But like my running, the blog as grown to express other areas of my life. However today I returned to running in both the blog and life.

Sure I did one or two 5ks on a beach or a quick run around Auckland when I first arrived but nothing to tell my legs or body to keep their form. Well roll on to Wellington and the sight of lycra clad cyclists makes me want to get back on the bike, but the streams of runners that traffic up and down the shoreline inspired me to delve deep into my rucksack and pull out the trainers and get back on a different saddle all together.

Garmin on, heart rate monitor set and I’m off. Running head on into the wind (which is strong) and following the crowd of other like minded folk who enjoy a good workout. The path was flat and being that I had been out of the game I was in good condition, well better than I thought I’d be. I thought I’d only being able to run 5k, but 7 miles later I was saving my activity on the gamin and going in for a well deserved shower.

Now it’s no lie that I did find the 10k distance a little straining, but nothing I couldn’t cope with. What was a real surprise was that I’d kept my speed. The pace was what I’d built up to in my training runs, and the only considerable factor that had changed from having a break was my heart rate. I had managed to get it down to around 152 b.p.m at the 7:30 pace but this run saw it sky rocket to 187.

So while my body has not lost pace or speed (yes they are different) my form is still good, but the three months out if the game as seen my fitness drop if you judge it by HR and the fact that I was ready to stop. Normally I also want to do another 3 or 4 miles. The other substantial factor I noticed that I was not use to running occurred the following day. My quads were acting like I’d just ran for my life, my calves were harder than the earth core and my hamstrings were, well they were behaving like they’ve always done… Stubborn and short.

However role on a day of rest and another run, this time up Mt Victoria, a cruel 3km of steep constant climbing. And only stopping at the top for the views, it seemed that I had not lost my live of hill running. My pace was also sitting at around 8:30 which was darn good.

It’s good to be out running again, and hopefully I’ll be able to burn some of this campervan fat off as snacking on crisps and chocolate in a confined place does nothing to an already shabby figure. The trouble is after today’s hill session I can already hear my tired sore legs complaining, that could see more than just a day of rest. But hopefully I’ll be back out there finding new running routes to fill my garmins memory up and hopefully when I get a job I’ll complete the dream of joining the lycra clad gang and fulling my desire to be back on another type of saddle.

Oh well, time for another stretch and then a shower.

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Rest

We all need it. That is why we sleep. But it can all be a bit boring.

For those who read the wonderful post yesterday from my legs then you may be able to guess what this short post is about. I need to rest before my race on Sunday. I somewhat over did the running and speed work this week after having a little unwelcome break from my running due to work commitments and the sudden lost in faith that led to me not being bothered and losing any kind of motivation to get out and run.

Like a novice I dived back in with both feet and ran up the miles. I ignored the screams and pleads from my legs to stop and carried on. While my legs do not feel heavy they have a touch of the DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) So with this I said that Friday and Saturday will be rest. Plenty of carbs and protein and feet up. The truth of the matter is, I want to run.

This sitting about lark is a tad boring. I would like to go and walk or run even cycle but I fear any extra stress or pressure I put on the tired legs will result in failure on Sunday. Speaking of which I am still undecided if to run a PB or just run the course. I know deep down that my mind is attracted to a new PB as I am looking at the Pace I will need to obtain a Sub 1:35, and that is after all why I have legs up resting. If I was to just run and practice my marathon pace, taking on gels etc then I would not be to concerned with the state of my legs. If anything it would be good practice to see how I cope with tired legs. After all come Mile 20 that is how they will feel.

But resting is what I am doing. Gentle exercise on the foam rollers and the Stick to ease knots. Wearing my compression clothing to help freshen my legs. Eating the right food, and drink the right liquid all to ensure my legs are fresh and ready for Sunday.

Oh well. Off to eat some more seeds and nuts and rest up some more. I might just go for a gentle stroll round town to get the blood flowing to help the repair.

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.

Clock Watching

So some time again I was confirmed to be a true runner as I spent a ridiculous amount of money on a watch. £220 I think the tiny device cost me. It told the time but it also knew my heart rate and told me the pace and distance I was covering and ever since that day it has been on my wrist for every run.

I love my Garmin and love the way I can review the maps and look back at all my past runs. I love the way It tells me if I’m going to fast or slow in a race. The trouble is I’m for ever watching it, constantly looking at my wrist and not just when it beeps to say ‘You’ve run a mile and here’s the break down’ no I’m constantly looking at it. I feel I’m breathing heavier I look, I feel I’m running slow up a hill I look. I reach the park and I look to see what time I’ve clocked in at to see if I have beaten any of my records.

So yesterday when it rained and I decided to get my new coat on to go for a run, I started the watch then velcroed the sleeved shut, preventing easy access to the watch and decided today it would just record the run. I got back to my house to stop the watch and saw I had done 9 miles. 9 miles. It certainly didn’t feel more than 6.

The point is that just running like I use to do seemed to be better. I ran further and controlled my pace by listening to my body more and went the extra miles and just let my legs take me on a run rather than me looking at the clock face and thinking ‘Need to find another two miles before I go home to make the run up to 10K’ Because thats what we all do isn’t it, as we are running down the street to get into that warm shower and comfort of our house we will give a flick of the wrist and see we are on 6.7 miles and we think wouldn’t it be nice if we ended on a whole number and so we carry on past the house to get the watch to read 7 but then it’s too late as we can’t walk back so carry on running.

I think the phrase ‘A watched pot never boils’ can be used here. I would recommend every one to try it. It frees you up and you will get far more out of the run. I think partly with the rain that I love running in yesterdays adventure was one of the best runs I have ran for a long time. I just felt free and enjoyed the basics of just running.

Snowdon Marathon Review

In the heart of Snowdonia National Park there was about to take place a disturbance to this tranquil peaceful area of the UK. Normal trips to the shops or the neighbouring town were about to be turned into awkward journeys for just on the outskirts of the National Park the local car parks of Llanberis were slowly filling up and lycra clad men and women were pouring into the visitor centre of Electric Mountain. Cafes were pouring coffee and tea for the friends and family of these runners as at 10.30 in the presence of Dolbarden Castle a starting pistol would echo around the valley signalling the start of the 30th Marathon Eryri or to us English speaking folk ‘The Snowdon Marathon’

Now I wanted to run this last year as a 30th birthday present to myself and you only have to browse the blog to see why that could be. I love running and I love Snowdonia more so if there was a chance to join the two then I would be there. However the issue with the plan was the race had been sold out and I also had done no marathon training so I made a promise that I would enter the race in time for my 31st Birthday and this is where we arrive.

Now I had already done a marathon and crashed and burnt as I smacked into the wall on that cold bitter Manchester day around mile 14. Not to be done I picked myself up from that event and carried on running and the minute the entries opened for Snowdon I had signed up. The training for Snowdon had been lax to say the least but while the amount of miles I was churning out increased the idea of hill sprints, tempo runs and all the rest failed to materialise and I only really ended up getting in two long runs. I had managed a couple of hilly half marathons for training including ‘The Langdale Half’ but I carried on deluding myself that I had a marathon in the legs all be it a painful experience and I was a keen hiker and could walk up hills at quite a pace all be it I had been told that running and hiking hills were very different and in some respect they are but I have found that my hiking has helped my running. So that’s the training dairy over with, now it was just a case of getting to Snowdon.

I always thought  I would travel to my usual hotel and stay the weekend but for one reason or other it just failed to happen. It could well have been due to my best mate offering the use of himself as chauffeur and so it was my friend very kindly drove me to the town of Llanberis famous for it’s slate works and the Snowdon Mountain Railway and one of the more gentle tourist routes up to the summit of what still remains my favourite mountain. I registered and collected my race number and so began the waiting game. My friend wanted to get to the start nice and early to make sure he had somewhere to park, as he didn’t want to drop me off and then spend the race looking for a parking space only to find one as I eventually crossed the line. You may laugh but when he dropped me off for the Great North a couple of years back I crossed the line just as he pulled into Southsheilds. I tried to assume him that there would be enough space as there had been no warnings of ‘get there soon as parking is limited’ but never the less here we were sat in the car park at 7.30. As I slowly nibbled my last minute carb loading we spoke about his daughter and work.

At 10am after several trips to empty my bladder and bowls we started on the rather long walk to the start and the rest of masses seemed to have the same idea. Now for people who are unsure of the race route then this is how another blogger describes the route.

Starting in Llanberis, through Nant Peris then up Pen-y-Pass. Following this it is a downhill and both on road and a brief stint on trail, then undulating road past until reaching the second of the climbs at Beddgelert. After this climb it is more undulating road until hitting the biggest climb of the race at mile 22 just past Waunfawr. This climb continues until about mile 25 before a steep descent back into Llanberis and the finish line.

So as I stood in the warm sun with a slight chill in the air I said goodbye to my mate and began the gruelling 26.2 miles. Now as we know from my last post I did not find this as hard as aI thought and this is due to me not racing, I was out for a gentle light jog and took the course at a good pace. After Manchester I did not want to burn out at mile 14.

As we started the first climb after a rather good flat start the gaze of Crib Goch caught my eye, the thought of the day when I climbed her and hung to her strong ridge propelled me up the pass to the Youth hostel and the main car park for many who choose to climb Snowdon via the pgy track. This was the hill I had been dreading but after Langdale it felt rather relaxed and I was making good time, hitting 4 miles on target. Next would be a decent and onto the trail path to take us to the long flat section of the course, I went through 10K in just under an hour  and was still making good time and felt very relaxed. The biggest thing I noticed on this race was how quick it was going we seemed to be ticking off the miles very quickly. I felt like I had only been on the road for ten minutes but according to my watch I had been running for a good hour: time seemed to be going quickly. This could only be a good thing as towards the end I didn’t want the last six miles to drag on longer than they needed.

As I ran down the trail route I was surprised on how many people like me were non trail runners but unlike myself they seemed to be showing their inexperience at running such terrain. Now the shadow on Snowdon could be felt and soon it would fade away as we entered the village and hopefully one day the place I would call my home.

You could start to hear the crowds of Beddgelert before we even turned the corner it seemed like the entire village and all the tourists were out to cheer you on. This was half way and as I looked at my watch, I had crossed it just after 2 hours. I was still on target and felt fresh. Crowds called your names and even the car drivers who had been forced to pull over or stop were also shouting encouraging messages. It was just as well as now came the head wind and the slow steady climb for the next couple of miles. The scenery also dried up a little, but Snowdon was always hovering in the side of your eye. I heard the sound of a steam train at one point as we ran past the Welsh Highland Railway I suddenly forgot I was running and tried to spy the engine that was making the noise but alas  only saw smoke through the trees.

Coming up to mile 18, which at four hours was the cut off, I did a quick watch check to see that I would be hitting in at 3 hours. I was on course and knew that if I stayed at the pace I would be home before five hours. The goal was just to finish and I was well under way to achieving this. As I ran into the 17th mile I turned to my right to see the wonderful beauty that she is standing tall surveying her kingdom and as I looked at her glimmering in the winter sun you could see the smoke funnelling up from the Snowdon Mountain railway as she shunted away from the summit.

Mile 18 was reached and a quick loo break in the car park was in order as the ginger bread man wanted to make an appearance. After using the car park toilet I was under way once again. This felt like the home straight now and all I could think off was the dreaded hill at mile 22. The banter on the course had been great with people talking and laughing all the way and as we came to mile 20, this did not change. I spoke to a club runner who had raced it before and asked about the dreaded hill. ‘Walk it’ he said ‘You’ll be quicker than those who run it’ and without fail he was correct. As I reached the brow of a smaller hill the road turned to be greeted by another village who decided they would turn out and support the race. Energy gels, water, pop, cake, tea you name it they were handing it out. After this slight distraction the true task could now be seen, 3 miles of hill and everyone seemed of have been given the same advice as they slowly put on the brakes and turned their jog into more of a walk.

It’s true what the runner had said I over took more people running on that section than I think I had the entire race and by the time it turned to flat I was up and running gearing up for the last bit of down hill. As the track turned to trail you could see the lakes and slate walls that made up the landscape of Llanberris and the sharpe descent started into the place where it had all began four hours ago.

Checking the watch I was on course to come in before 4.30 and as I stormed down the hill at a slower pace than I would have liked due to every step sending sheer pain through my quads I arrived on the tarmac and the last couple of bends into the home straight. At mile 26 you could see the final corner and hear the town folk cheering and as I turned into the final section I found some more energy and sprinted to the line clocking in at 4.17 to the roar of the crowd recording a new PB.

This race has to be up there along with the Manchester 10K. Manchester as it was my first race, but Snowdon because it was a good run, the support, course, aid, scenery  the banter between runners. Everything about this race scores highly and I would recommend every runner who is serious about running gives it a go. Forget Berlin, Madrid or London the marathon who have to run as a badge of honour is Snowdon.

A big thank you to all those who came and supported the organisers and volunteers those special people with whom none of it would be possible.

There are Good Drugs

It’s like a drug, well that’s what they say and to some extent they are correct but unlike people who ‘Chase the Dragon’ or drown their sorrows with a bottle of ‘Vodka’ there are no support groups for people like me. Come mile 14 I was feeling strong and felt good. One hill out of the way and the other climb had just two more miles before I would be running on a level playing field. Manchester at fourteen miles had seen me smack into the wall so hard that my run turned into a mixture of walking, hobbling and staying still. This time I still had tears in my eyes but it was more out of joy than the sheer agony that I was placing on my body and soul.

I am off course talking about the joyful drug of running. The full race report of Snowdon Marathon will be up soon but the main aim of this post is to report that as I was approaching the finish line I promised myself that this would be the last 26.2 miles I would run. I’lll stick to halfs in the future as I know I can run those in my sleep I thought as I crossed the finish line. A quick walk to find my friend and I suddenly realised I was already feeling better than Manchester. The fact I could walk, I could bend. The truth was that my legs didn’t feel like I had just completed a gruelling challenge that less than 1% of the population of the world have undertaken but I had and have the finishers medal and T-Shirt to prove it. I was now a marathon runner for the second time and I felt as fresh as a daisy. Not too fresh that I could go off and run the course again or indeed run for another five minutes but I could walk to the car unaided.

As I sat at home and watched the coverage on S4C and looked at the pictures and read forums on the race and the triumphs of the day I suddenly thought… I need to run a marathon. Now I know I said I wouldn’t run one again but you see I got a new PB at Snowdon and I still need to get a sub 4 that’s the very reason why I am still running the other distances. I wish or a more truthful look would be that I need to break a sub 1.30 on the half and go sub 40 on the 10K.

Running is a drug and it’s one that can be dangerous. I am now not only looking at running my next marathon but indeed looking at the world of ultra running. To say I don’t care about the distance is not true as I do love the 13.1 miles and shorter speeder cousin of the 10K but marathon running is fun. It’s a test from the training to the race day and as I sit up and rest and let my body recover I dream off being able to tie my laces and pound the streets to the beat of my heart. The only downside to running races and marathons is the sheer fact you have to rest for more than a couple of days but at least those couple of days will see me find time to hunt for my next marathon goal.

There is no one to help the likes of me and while the drug of running comes in many forms of pounding the streets to lining up on the start line and going all out all I know is it is one you can not come off and at the end of the day it’s good for you. Isn’t it?

Climbing the Wall

Well today I went out and managed to do a run. A long run. 20 miles. Twenty whole miles all for the aid of a bit of training to make sure I am ready for the Snowdon Marathon which is less than 3 weeks away. I thought the run was going smoothly apart from my leg and then my right quad the run was a good steady pace. Slower than my usual marathon pace and just could have been a knock on effect from the 7 mile Fartleck session I did the day before but for what ever reason it was working.

As I was running along at a snail pace, I was consuming the right amount of water and taking on the carbs at the right moments. Then at around mile 16 I could see the wall. Rather than hitting it I began to climb it and with doing so panic struck. I found myself consuming more water almost to the point of finishing my water bottle and with 3 miles away from home I needed to keep some in reserve.

I was really feeling it, I kept checking my Garmin to see if the LCD screen flashed to that all important target of 20 miles but each time I looked the only numbers that changed were those of ‘Total Time’ and the pace that was for everything slowing. Then just at the legs began to fill with lead and the water was almost drained my body thought it would be a great idea if the pace was upped. So from 9.30 miles I swallowed my pride and decided to ‘Man Up’ and some how settled on the rather quicker pace of 8.10. This was a crazy idea and only pushed the thought of being at home putting the kettle on and relaxing further into my mind. I was no longer concentrating on the goal of running and enjoying the run and if I had any common sense I would have stopped and started to walk back to my house rather than turning off to extend the run to make sure I achieved the goldern twenty by the end of the run.

I did it, and I felt it and now after Langdale and the long run have some serious doubts on weather I should be phoning Snowdon to ask them to withdraw my race number. The hills are very hilly and yesterdays run was an extremely flat route. I’m hoping the legs filling with sand was a result of the activities I carried out the day before and not because of the mileage I was undertaking on the run or the lack of energy supplements I was throwing down my neck.

Some more hill sprints and another couple of long runs this week to see how I feel and then maybe I will have to make the decision of pulling out and missing out on that bit of slate.

Oh well…