Wednesday, 30 December 2009

If this is Manchester then it should be raining...

If this is Manchester (well Stockport) then it should be raining... Oh yes and how about windy too.

It took all morning to build up the critical mass enthusiasm required to dig out my running gear. However, given yesterday's serious over-eating in the end I had no choice.

I didn't fancy enduring another slip, slip away adventure and so stuck to a five-mile (yes anti-clockwise) on-road loop. Highlight of the day was without doubt running past a sandwich shop called Bulging Baps - Frankie Howerd eat your heart out!

Monday, 28 December 2009

Dark, Cold, Early.

With a busy day on the cards it was a case of run early or not at all.

Venturing out at 6:50 it was very dark and very cold. Things weren't helped by half the street lights being out (what's that all about?) and the cold, cold northerly wind.

Ice still lurked on many of the footpaths so keeping to the local roads was the safest option.

The five mile route kept me close to home - Pickford/Milford Hill (Batford) being the furthest I ventured East, Westfield Road the furthest north and Crabtree Lane the furthest South.

Saw a group of teenage lads out which kind of surprised me. However, the clink of bottles in their carrier bags was the give-away they were on their way back from an all-night party. Speaks volumes of today's youth - in my day we would have kept going until at least midday!

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Local Loop

I had permission to go out for longer but opted for just 30 minutes easy running. In theory today was a degrees or two warmer than of late, however, there was as a biting wind that had me heading home for an extra layer after just a few minutes.

Ice was still a problem on some of the pavements but conditions are definitely getting better.

Saw just one other runner. She was tanking it - powered by turkey leftovers maybe? I managed a very lethargic average pace of 8:20 - no doubt the mountain of chocolates I ate while visiting relatives yesterday didn't help (although it did numb the pain at the time).

Friday, 25 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Never mind "Yo Ho Ho" today was more "whoops mind how you go".

With Harpenden pavements still like an ice rink the plan was to stick off-road again. Problem was the snow on the footpaths had been compacted down to solid ice while the less used footpaths were little more than a mud slick hidden under a deceptive thin layer of snow.

To give some idea of how treacherous conditions were my split for my first three miles were 10:15, 10:58 and 12:09. That third mile was a complete nightmare featuring a slippy uphill and downhill plus a snowdrift on the only flat section.

After soul-destroying mile three I gave up on the off-road and decided to take my chances with the tarmac. This was a good move as I was able to increase my mile times to nearer nine minutes but it was still hard going with a couple of close calls thanks to the ever present ice.

Maybe next Christmas I'll give the run a miss and stick to the safety of the sofa.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas Eve Easy

With sheet ice pavements in Harpenden I was glad to be in central London today.

The Rockets had an early meeting time of 11:00, but with the gym closing at midday I was unable to partake. Instead I headed out west with the aim of getting to Hyde Park. I got as far as Hyde Park Corner, but ever conscious of the deadline for getting back, didn't have time to cross into the park.

Came back an unorthodox route taking in St James Square, Waterloo Place (nowhere near Waterloo Station), Trafalgar Square, The Strand, Lincoln's Inn Field (nowhere near Lincoln) and Holborn Viaduct.

Runners were very thin on the ground. In fact in the time I was out I saw just one other person - I guess mulled wine and mince pies are more appealing than running in the drizzle at this time of year.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Warning - Cold Showers Ahead...

Arriving at the gym I was greeted by not one, not two, but three separate signs warning of a lack of hot water for the showers. The person just ahead of me promptly turned around and headed back to the office - investment bankers clearly aren't as tough as they used to be.

Given yesterday's easy peasy run and no running the day before, today had to count. A good length tempo seemed the obvious choice so I headed over to the Wobbly Bridge to start the standard five and a half mile St James Park, Green Park loop.

I was expecting crowds of tourists, but was pleasantly surprised by how few were about. Perhaps the hotels were having problems with their hot water too.

Horse Guards Parade still had a thin layer of icy slush from last nights dump (yes - snow in central London) but otherwise the pavements were fine. The road crossings were kind to me so I should have recorded a good time. Instead I averaged 6:55 pace, with the mile from half-way up Birdgcage Walk to the top of Green Park considerably slower.

Arriving back at the gym it was promising to see there was now just one sign warning of no hot water. The showers were lukewarm which was probably about right given the reduced warning level.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Reunion Five

Reunion Five - sounds like a good name for a race if ever I've heard one. However, today it corresponded to a five mile easy run with our long lost colleague David (IT's loss is education's gain). Chris was there too although Guy pulled a sickie.

Route was the standard anti-clockwise Westminster Bridge loop although this time returning over the Wobbly Bridge. Super slow conversational running pace was the order of the day as David filled us in with the jubilation's of teacher training and in particular in-school teaching placements.

So with today averaging 9:40 mins/mile I'll have to think about doing something a touch more challenging tomorrow...

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Waterend Lane And Back

7:05 start this morning. Which being 59 minutes before sunrise meant it was still dark as we headed east on the Lea Valley Walk. Luckily the fresh covering of snow (yes more snow!) made it seem lighter.

It was, of course, still mighty cold. However, today's Running Fource Four, made up of Kenny, David, Tony and myself weren't going to let that get in the way of another glorious off-road expedition. I'm sure Tony secretly thought we were nuts, but he was there all the same.

Once in Wheathampstead I lead us through to Marford Playing Fields, the 10K race start and the Lea Valley Walk again.

There were no tyre tracks on Waterend Lane so we turned left onto the road and headed up the short steep incline (that might have been my idea). At the top Kenny made the call for a photo stop. Or should I say at the top of the hill Kenny stopped for a rest... and then took his camera out!

From there we found a path back down to the Ayott Greenway and headed home. Wheathampstead to Harpenden was on the same footpath as we took on the way out. Well, as they say, if it ain't broke don't fix it.

Average pace was embarrassingly slow - but then again today was more about enjoying the snow and giving the quads a good work-out.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

The opportunities for running in snow are few and far between so I was hardly likely to let this one pass.

It must have dumped a good six inches overnight, however, thanks to a howling wind the snowdrifts were far deeper. I didn't make any attempt at getting to work and so was looking forward to getting in some local white-carpet off-road miles. Kenny was also up for an outing, but had to drop a hire car off in St. Albans so a point-to-point run it was.

After a couple of false starts we finally headed south in what seemed like little more than an over sized matchbox car. Still, given the running clothes we were wearing, embarrassment was hardly an issue.

Fuelled up with a complimentary Quality Street we finally left the warmth of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car office and set-off for Sandridge. From there it was a left turn onto the path up to Heartwood Forest and our first taste of real snow. At first it was no more than a sprinkling, but we soon came to snow drifts with a single file path cut through by earlier walkers. It seemed like quite an effort at the time but turned out to be but a warm-up for what lay ahead.

Up past Langley Wood the path levelled off and the terrain became easier as we crossed the wind-swept open ground covered with just a few inches of snow. But once past Wells Wood the fun really began. The snow that had blown across the fields to the right had deposited itself on our footpath - and no one had been through to clear a path. I know I'm not particularly tall but the soft powder snow must have been about two foot deep as it went well past my knee and half-way up my thigh.

Kenny, with his extra-long legs, took to the front and not wanting to be left behind (left my avalanche transmitter at home) followed employing a Niall-style skipping action. It was without doubt huge fun - a real "I can't believe Niall is missing this" moment. I can't remember the last time I smiled so much while running.

Once at Ayres End Lane I suggested heading for the Three Horseshoes and Mud Lane, which delivered more deep snow delight.

Down at the junction of Pipers Lane we turned right with the intention of turning left onto the footpath halfway up the hill. However, I had the brain wave of carrying on to the top and taking the footpath down to Leasey Bridge and then the Lea Valley Walk home. Kenny agreed.

Tiredness finally set in around half a mile from home. We hadn't run all that far but it had been hard work. Enormous fun but hard work. I wouldn't have missed it for the world...

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Cold Reps, Short Recoveries

A combination of cold weather and the Christmas party season meant a much reduced attendance at today's intervals session. So few that I was even included in the consultation over which session to do (a definite first).

It was quickly agreed the session would be four long reps (five minutes) with a short recovery (one minute - two minutes was considered too long given the cold).

Richard didn't cycle in this morning so was too strong for me to keep up. I did, however, run well for the first three reps - perhaps a bit too well as I lost the plot during the final effort and finished well behind the rest of today's group C runners (Richard and Sarah).

Back in the office it was KitKat time to boost sugar and guilt levels in equal proportion. Whatever the weather I'll be running tomorrow...

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Easy Vauxhall Bridge Loop

Having missed Rockets yesterday was keen to get out for some easy miles. There were light snow flurries in the air that looked promising for a while but ultimately failed to deliver.

So wrapped up well against the cold I headed out west (again), this time as far as Vauxhall Bridge on an anti-clockwise loop. I seem to have a preference for anti-clockwise loops - right brain/left brain thing? Or maybe I just don't like running over the Wobbly Bridge as it's slippery in the wet and full of tourists in the dry.

So just over seven miles covered and plenty of loons out wearing just short sleeve (or sleeveless in one case) T-shirts and white cotton shorts (why always white?). Me - I was as snug as a bug in a rug!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Short Tempo

I'd normally take today easy. However, thanks to school Christmas play, I wont get a chance to run tomorrow so did a tempo instead.

Ran the standard three-mile Wobbly Bridge - Westminster Bridge anti-clockwise loop. Pace was OK (well I think it was OK as I had no-one to compare myself to).

Got back to the office to find, thanks to a power cut, PC was dead. Hmm, now did I leave any unsaved documents open?

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Sunday Few

Niall had a sick note while David and Simon were doing the Bedford Half (did think about it but race was full by the time I got round to actually doing anything). So that left it to Kenny, Tony and me to maintain the fine tradition of Harpenden middle of the night running.

I suggested 10 to 12 miles at 8 minute mile pace. Kenny countered with 10 miles at undisclosed (put presumably slower) pace. In the end we compromised on a run that turned out to be 10.7 miles at 8:11 pace.

Bumped into Kenny getting some sneaky extra miles in while I was on my sneaky three-mile prologue. His opening comment was "you're running too fast". And this from the man that beat me by some considerable distance at the Herts 10K.

Anyway, got to the meeting point bang on time. Kenny was nowhere to be seen (and we were hardly going to miss him in that yellow top) so spent a few minutes comparing ASBOs with Tony. Finally Mr 1,000 miles, or should I say Mr zone 5 judging by his state, turned up, lame excuse and all.

Today's route was a reasonably standard Childwickbury/Beesonend Lane loop with bit of an extra squiggle at the start. We made a point of stopping at the sticky seed balls tree and relaying to Tony in great detail how Niall made such a twonk of himself by running into the tree with those immortal words "this way boys!".

Next week we'll be returning to the start of Herts 10K in Rothamsted Park so Kenny can demonstrate his 2 mile reps crouch start position. I can hardly wait.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Don't Go Back To Stratford

Nine mile 'Kenny' run to Stratford & back (don't ask).

Didn't get lost. Didn't get mugged. Didn't get wet. Got most of the things I went for.

Four things you probably didn't know about Stratford:
  1. The name "Stratford" derives from the Old English word for "street" combined with "ford" (a river crossing).
  2. Stratford City is a multi-billion pound scheme to regenerate the 73-hectare brownfield railway lands to the north of the town centre. There will be a vast shopping centre similar in size to Bluewater, for which John Lewis, Waitrose and Marks and Spencer have already committed to provide anchor stores.
  3. The promotional film for the Beatles' 'Penny Lane' single was filmed in and around Angel Lane, Stratford.
  4. Labour Party politician Tony Banks is from Stratford.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Long and Short Repeats

New Rockets session for me today: ten minutes effort, three minutes recovery, turn. Four repeats of one minute effort with one minute recovery followed by four repeats of thirty seconds effort with thirty seconds recovery back. Given my rubbish short term memory I was thankful Martin was there to keep track.

The run out was hard. If it hadn't been for fellow group C comrades Richard and Martin I'm sure I would have jacked early. However, I stuck it out. Martin caught Sarah with a minute to go and finished about five metres ahead of me.

The first minute rep on the way back was a completed shock to the system. Luckily Richard was on the ball and set a ripping pace. My step counting technique on the thirty second efforts (87 if you're interested) working well - so much easier than trying to count the seconds.

Generally pleased with the session - although not enough to warrant a chocolate bar.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Don't Go Back To Dalston

Four and half mile 'Kenny' run to Dalston & back (don't ask).

Didn't get lost. Didn't get mugged. Didn't get wet. Didn't get what I went for.

Four things you probably didn't know about Dalston:
  1. The seventh track on Razorlight's 2004 debut album Up All Night, is named Don't Go Back To Dalston.
  2. Bad Manners' 1980 song "Night Bus to Dalston" is the B side of hit "Lip Up Fatty".
  3. In the Doctor Who episode "Love & Monsters" Obsessive fan "Elton" had a market stall on Dalston's Ridley Road.
  4. The 2007 film Run Fat Boy Run was filmed in the St. Marks Conservation Area of Dalston.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

OK Intervals

After another high mileage week, cumulating with Sunday's race, I anticipated not being up to much as today's Rockets. So when the call of eight three-minute repeats filtered back to Division C (Richard, Martin and me) I set my expectations to complete just six. Steve was also with us on the way out doing his usual trick of speeding up during the recoveries to catch and get a lead on us before the next effort.

Martin was by his own admission "knackered" and with Richard still recovering from a Sunday 10 mile off-road mud fest (sounds familiar), it turned out I was more than able to keep up with the group. In the end I ran all eight intervals and didn't embarrass myself tailing off the back too much.

After the second rep Martin, keen we regrouped during the recovery, said something about giving Steve a chance (to catch up). However, it sounded to me more like "giving peace a chance" which set John & Yoko going round my head for the next three minutes.

Keeping up with the C pack meant I managed to get a bit further than usual on the way out. So despite having registered their excuses we couldn't have been going all that slowly.

On the way back Richard ran strongly to the front (could not cycling in today have helped? - I think so) with Martin starting well but fading slightly mid way. I ran steady which meant a gap opening in the first minute that I was able to close over the final minute.

So overall quite pleased with today. No chocolate treat this afternoon though - saving myself for the minced pie and custard waiting at home.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

The Karen Trust 5K, Luton Hoo

As usual it was pouring down with rain at 7am this morning. No worries I thought - the race isn't scheduled to start until 10am. However, when the rain got heavier at 9am I gave serious consideration to driving to the start. But it began to ease, and much to my surprise had actually stopped when I ventured out at 9:20.

The start location had been given as "Luton Hoo Hotel, Warren Weir" which I was able to determine in advance (thanks Google) was actually on the far side of Luton Hoo on the banks of the River Lea. It was therefore but a flat three-mile easy jog away via the Upper Lea Valley Walk.

When I got to Warren Weir, Luton Hoo's posh new conference centre, there were lots of people milling around outside. I'd say about 60% were women (so Niall, that will be 40% men) and around 1% were runners, no make that 0.5% runners. I paid up my ten quid entry fee and picked up my surprisingly good quality cotton Adidas race T-shirt.

The start was delayed for about 20 minutes while we waited for Esther Rantzen, who gave a short speech, and then we headed off. There was no start line and no countdown. The initial direction of the route wasn't even obvious - someone started running and everyone else followed! A short section of gravel road quickly turned to footpath and then tyre tracks through long grass - not easy by any means. The 'runners' there quickly moved to the front: two ahead and three or four more in my general vicinity.

After a couple of hard miles we finally turned onto a tarmac road - oh the relief. However, the joy was short lived as with heavy legs we then started on the half-mile climb to the top of the estate. There was a fair bit of overtaking on the way up as we all suffered. However, I emerged at the top in 4th, having been overtaken halfway up by a very strong running lady.

Once back on the flat everyone's pace went up and the gaps remained constant. I couldn't sense anyone close behind which meant two of my companions from the first couple of miles must have slowed. Three and half miles in and the guy in front of me blew. Speaking to him later he explained he was a triathlete and never runs more than 5K - his legs simply gave up! The final half-mile was down hill - but gravity was everyone's friend so I was only able to gain slightly on the lady in front.

So I finished third having completed the four and a half miles (yeah I know 5K - apparently we went the wrong way!) at an average of 7 minutes per mile. The second mile through long grass had taken 7:15 while the following, which included the hill, took an agonising 8 minutes.

This was clearly a charity fun run rather than a serious race. However, it was still a hard, enjoyable workout. Everyone was very friendly and it was touching that most people were running not because they were dead hard athletes with something to prove but because their lives had been touched by someone who's life had been cruelly cut short.

You can read Karen's story here.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

If Anyone Asks - You Haven't Seen Me!

Official sources are remaining tight lipped, refusing to neither confirm nor deny reports that a number of category C/C+ Rockets ventured out to Victoria Park and back at lunchtime today.

Rumours started circling the city following the unconfirmed sighting of three Hertfordshire based runners in the Chiswell Street/Bunhill Row area. The following descriptions have now been issued regarded three middle aged men that officials would like to eliminate from their enquires. The first is tall with unusually well tanned legs. The second was also tall, spoke with a foreign accent and seemed particularly agitated. The third was short, had a fancy dress hat and appeared to be carrying hub caps.

The public should not try to apprehend these individuals as they appear to have been undergoing extreme self-inflicted torture training and anyway they wouldn't be able to catch them.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Chilly Rockets

Jolly cold again today. Turned up at the Rockets meeting place wearing fully winter garb including infamous "Surgeon of Death" running hat. Expected Micky taking didn't materialise - these guys are just too polite.

Session was the all too familiar 4 minute efforts with a minute recovery. Thought I was running well but didn't get quite as far as usual on the way out - not too sure why. However, managed to keep up with Martin on the way back which was a relief.

Had a chocolate Christmas tree cake waiting for me back in the office - nice.

Monday, 30 November 2009

What A Difference A Day Makes

After yesterday's aborted effort it was great to get out and actually and enjoy a run. Yes it was a bit cold, but not as bitterly cold as I had half expected (I think that's for tomorrow).

Did a nice easy anti-clockwise loop down to Lambeth Bridge and back via London Bridge knocking out the 6.5 miles at around 7:30 to 7:45 pace.

The ulterior motive for doing the run was to boost my distance for November to 125 miles. That makes it one mile more than February (yes I know less days) and only five less than March, my top mileage month of the year. All very geeky and irrelevant I know but fun to track all the same.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Easy Sunday

Saturday evening was spent consuming lashings of London Pride and it was well into the early hours before I made it to bed. So the chances of making it to the start at 7 am for a 10 miler this morning was about zero. I was, however, vaguely awake at 7 am - I mean how anyone could sleep through the racket made by that torrential rain beats me.

Instead I headed out just after midday with the best intentions in the world to get a good length run in. But the moment the cold win hit my face a killer hangover headache kicked in. Pretty soon the rest of my body had joined in the rebellion - I was in pieces.

1,000 mile Kenny saw me at the top of Station Road and pulled over for a quick chat. Turns out this morning's 10 milers was actually a "Niall 10 miler" i.e. 15 miles. It sounded like it was a quite a slog - I look forward to reading the blogs.

Anyway I managed a 4 mile loop down to Rothamsted Park and Hatching Green before total system shutdown. One positive though - I must have been out as just about the only time during the day it wasn't raining - Fortuna audax iuvat!

Friday, 27 November 2009

First Hare and Hounds

So with Niall's much planned departure on the horizon it was time to step up to the mark and give the JPM Hare and Hounds five mile(ish) handicap a spin. Martin assigned me a start time 30 seconds ahead of Niall which I estimated would mean being overtaken in Green Park while Niall played down the idea of catching me at all.

After a morning relaxing listening to the sweet melodies of "The Best punk album in the world...ever" and drinking coffee I set off ready for action. On the start line (well crack in the pavement) waiting for the word to go I had three things going round my head:
- Don't go off too fast.
- Don't forget the route.
- Don't get run over.

The first section along The Embankment was into a strong headwind so mindful of the first point I took it steady. Followed the correct roads through to Whitehall (second point) and didn't get held up crossing the road. On Horse Guards Parade I glanced back to see 30 seconds Niall a lot closer than 30 seconds behind. He must have mullered the first mile. Pushed on regardless, not sure if he'd now catch and overtake or keep a watching brief.

Was overtaken by a hound (or is it a hare?) on Birdcage Walk and then by another in Green Park, but still no Niall. Three miles in, with the Green Park hill behind me, I was safely back on The Mall having not been delayed by tourists, traffic or marching bands. Not wanting to be too easy a target decided to keep to the centre of the pavement weaving in and out of tourists as required - out of sight out of mind maybe?

Back through Horse Guards Parade and again no delay - why can't all my runs be like this? Was overtaken for the final time on Whitehall Place - but not by you know who. Powered back along The Embankment with the wind behind me. Pushed as hard as I could but was only able to close slightly on a couple of runners in front.

Finished the 4.8 miles in 32:32 with absolutely no complaints or excuses. Race strategy was fine - first three miles steady 6:50 ish. Then upped by the pace by 10 seconds per mile for each of the last couple of miles. No interruptions or hold ups, I didn't get run over and I didn't finish last - hurrah!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Tuesday Effort

So many potential excuses, so little time. Not that they matter, the end result was the same.

Today's intervals were a real struggle. The session was eight repeats but I did just six. Shame on me but with the wind behind us on the way out and feeling some way off 100% I'm pretty sure I made the right decision.

I kind of kept up with Niall and Martin for the first three of the three minute efforts. But while they were cruising I was feeling it bad. Returning on my own allowed me to leave the canal tow path a couple of bridges earlier than normal and so at least I had some variety as I wound my way through Shoreditch and back to base.

No chocolate bar for me this afternoon but I'm hoping an early night and some extra sleep will help.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Sherrardspark Wood or Bust

Is 6:50 too early for a Sunday run? Apparently not.

The other three were already ready waiting for me when I rolled up at 6:49:59. The overnight rain (hard enough to wake me up) had subsided but everywhere was wet, wet, wet.

Niall had forewarned us by text that we wouldn't be turning back until the A1M had been crossed and with that in mind, and the fact it was still dark, we took the direct route to the Ayott Greenway via the Lower Luton Road. Kenny was wearing his 'lets have a rave' yellow gloves and those strange running socks only those with no shame would dream of wearing in public.

It was about five an a half miles to the bridge over the motorway and the start of Sherrardspark Wood. Once in, the path soon started to descend and that's when the skipping started. Niall started it and being easily led I was quick to join in on the downhill sections. The technique didn't work too well when the path tuned into a bog: Kenny ran into a bush and David turned the air blue thanking Niall for his great route choice. It was quite a relief when we picked up Rectory Road which brought us back nicely to the bridge over the A1M.

Return trip took us across the delightful Brocket Hall golf course and along the Upper Lea Valley Through Walk to Wheathampstead. The pace throughout was quite slow which meant it took us over two hours to cover the 14 odd miles - the longest time I've spent on my feet on a single run since 2005!

Friday, 20 November 2009

The Spanish Inquisition

Plan: Five miles very easy.
Actual: Nine miles mid tempo.

There's a trend developing here:
Weekend prior to run - plan runs for the week ahead.
Evening prior to run - gather kit appropriate for following days run.
Morning of run - receive e-mail, complete change of plan.

So for the second day running I abandoned my painstakingly crafted training schedule for the greater good (or more to the point for the chance of a good chat). Niall wanted to do the full Limehouse Basin - Regents Canal loop and had to be back for a 1:30 meeting. I was happy to tag along but had to be back for a 1pm call.

Martin was also up for the run and thinking we would head straight east to St Katherine Docks I suggested they meet me at the Honour God arch on London Wall. Both duly turned up on time, however, Martin was keen to lead and took us west towards Bank and then down to the Thames, joining the riverside footpath by Cannons gym . Now I'm not one to knock other peoples choice of route but lets just say I'll be sticking to my tried and trusted direct east route.

Conversation quickly turned to Wednesday's cross-country race where my absence had been noted and then why I hadn't been at Rockets yesterday. Hey guys I came out for a run I wasn't expecting The Spanish Inquisition Having survived my interrogation we were able to move onto the main business of the day and full clarification of the difference between a B and a B minus Rocket (if you have to ask then you're probably B minus).

In no time at all we were joining the Regents Canal tow path by the time we got to Victoria Park it felt like we were nearly home. I was given the honour of leading for a while which allowed me to drop the pace by 10 seconds per mile. Niall noticed immediately and moved up to my shoulder to make sure I didn't take any more liberties.

The pace stayed healthy all the way back to London Wall where I said my goodbyes and headed for the gym. A quick shower and a brisk walk back to the office got me to my desk at 13:04 - just the call was about to start. Phew - that was close!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Intervals with Chris

Plan had been for a tempo run today. However, a late morning email from Chris changed all that and after a bit of discussion we ended up agreeing on short duration intervals.

The arrangement was to leave the gym at 12:20. However, as I was waiting for him in the foyer at the appointed hour he came rushing through the entrance in distinctly none racing gear with some excuses about being busy/late/useless. Rather than hang round for another five minutes I headed out and took the scenic route down to the traditional intervals starting point at the bottom of the steps on Spirit Quay. The session we finally decided on was two minutes effort with a luxurious full minute recovery. I wasn't too fussed about killing myself so we only did eight reps which still took us half-way along Narrow Street.

When in form Chris he easily drops me, however, he clearly isn't and so didn't. In fact I think I finished ahead on most reps and only got left behind on the final rep which he had obviously been saving himself for.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Tuesday Reps

Niall might have finished Sundays run as "fresh as a daisy", however, I was somewhat more tired. At 34 miles, last week was a relatively high mileage week for me (21 and 24 miles the previous couple of weeks) and despite doing nowt yesterday my legs were feeling somewhat drained this morning.

However, I still headed out for lunchtime intervals with the Rockets knowing I could always duck out after the first rep if I really wasn't up to it. As it happens, with a big cross-country race tomorrow, there were only 10 out and no C runners at that. Which worked out OK as I was able to run at my own pace without feeling the need to push to keep up with a group.

The session was 6 repeats of 4 minutes with the standard 90 seconds recovery and with the wind behind us on the way out I was sure to keep something in reserve for the return journey. Was caught by the B's at the end of rep 5 and sneakily drafted in behind them for the final four minutes effort. I do hope the two elites that overtook on that final rep didn't think I'd run the whole session with the B's - that would be a terrible misrepresentation!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Sunny Sunday

Against all odds it wasn't raining at 7:00 this morning. However, Running Force were well under strength with Simon racing and David and Ken both no-shows.

Niall and I jogged over to 1,000 mile Ken's house in case he'd forgotten about the earlier start but there was no sign of life. I did consider setting his car alarm off, but given that he can now run quicker than me, I thought better of it.

The intention had been to head towards Brocket Hall and although we'd now gone half a mile in the wrong direction it was agreed to stick with the original plan. This meant traversing Topstreet Way and then heading out on Wheathampstead Road. Although initially wary of using footpaths due to the recent weather (did I mention we've had the odd spot of rain recently?) old habits die hard and we soon swapped the grey hard stuff for mud under foot.

Once in the grounds of Brocket Hall we were spoilt for choice with footpaths seemingly going off in all direction. We plotted an anti-clockwise loop that featured at one point a short, lung busting, crampon worthy, climb. However, it must be said the place is an absolute delight to run through. Kenny and David should be kicking themselves for missing such a treat.

Heading back along the Ayott Greenway we were basked in glorious sunshine - it must be a good while since I've been able to write that. I was irritatingly saying "Look there's Kenny!" every time we saw a runner in yellow when Niall promptly tripped on a rock. I had visions of having give him a piggyback home, however, much to my relief he was able to keep running although clearly in some discomfort. I did, however, surreptitiously check I had brought my emergency taxi money out with me just in case.

We got home over an hour fifty minutes after leaving having completed nearly fourteen miles at 8:15 pace. Never has a peanut butter bagel tasted better!

Friday, 13 November 2009

Still Raining

Yet another dreary wet day. Great for ducks. Rubbish for runners.

Niall wanted to go somewhere new so I decided west east was best. Met Niall and Andrew on London Wall and took them on the usual route down to Narrow Street via Tower Hill, St Katharine Docks, Wapping canals and Shadwell Basin. The guys were suitable impressed with the traffic free route although when Andrew turned back at the swing bridge on Narrow Street I was somewhat concerned if he'd find his way back on his own.

Not as concerned, of course, as when about ten minutes later Niall said his breathing wasn't feeling that good. No problem. Having been on a first aid course only last week I know in the event of an asthma attack all I need do is pass the casualty their reliever inhaler.
"So where is it Niall?"
"Hmm, back in the office."
"OK - have you got your mobile in case I need to call an ambulance?"
"Loose change in the unlikely event I find a phone box?"
"Last Will and Testimony?"

On the way back, despite taking the scenic route round the Thames side of The Tower hotel, we caught up with Andrew crossing Tower Hill. He should have taken the underpass but got a tad loss on his way through St Katharine Docks.

A mile later we were back on London Wall saying our goodbyes. At some point during the run it had stopped raining, however, we'd all been too wet to notice.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Easy Five

Popped out for an easy lunch time five mile anti-clockwise Westminster Bridge loop. I wasn't expecting rain but it rained anyway. Took the inland route along Stamford Street instead of the South Bank and in doing so had the privilege of running past the local nutter's house - I mean full on Christmas decorations in the second week of November - I don't think so.

Further excitement was to be had on Westminster Bridge where it looked like some other nutter (or maybe the same one) was threatening to jump into the Thames. Either that or the emergency services (two fire engines, one ambulance, one motorcycle paramedic, numerous police, two police boats and one fire service boat) just fancied getting together for a good old chin-wag.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

A, B, Me

As usual the rocket's split into three groups for today's intervals: A, B and little old me (C). There were a few B minus runners dropping back during the three minute efforts only to rejoin the main body of B during the one minute recoveries.

On the first rep after the turn who did I meet running towards me but the main man: half-effort Woods. Martin was just crossing the bridge when we started our first rep and despite a tempo effort along the towpath was unable to catch up.

Rather disappointingly the main body of group B caught us two minutes into rep six, however, Martin and I managed to hold them behind. Repeat seven was a big effort as I managed to keep with the B's for the full three minutes. On the final rep was happy to run at my own pace while the others pulled away. Only a couple of elites got past me which was OK and it was pleasing to see I was still running at 5K pace through to the end.

Opted for Chocolate digestives today - not least because Mehram, who sits next to me in the office, was dishing them out for free - nice!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Muddy Six

With three fifths of Running Force entered into the Grand Union Canal Half-Marathon it was left to just Simon and me to venture out for an early morning drenching.

The plan was to follow the route Simon had run last Sunday with his Ultra/Allotment friend John. So all Star Trekked up with gpx file loaded into Simon's watch we ventured off into the rain. Clearly John is not a fan of tarmac as we spent a good 95% of the time on trails. However, with so much rain in the last week the footpaths seemed more suitable for bog snorkelling than running.

At some point during the run it must have stopped raining. Maybe it was around the time I realised I hadn't started my watch duh!

So we made it back, I guess after about 50 minutes, a bit wetter and muddier than when started but radiating smugness for venturing out and conquering everything that had been thrown at us. Priceless.

Hmm, I wonder how the boys did in their race?

Friday, 6 November 2009

Early Friday

It was still dark, very dark, at 6:30 this morning so full Blackpool Illuminations reflective gear was the order of the day. Decide on a safe on-road five mile tempo round the delights of northern Harpenden (Luton Road, Wood End, Roundwood Park).

Given the effort put in, was surprised to see my average pace was a mere 7:07 min/mile. I'll put this down mainly to the time of day - I never seen to be able to produce a fast paced run before breakfast. Also this was one of those routes where you seemed so spend 90% of the time going uphill. I'm sure it would be quicker in reverse direction!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Wet Tuesday

On the walk over to the gym it had only been spitting. However, by the time I emerged in running kit it was lashing it down. No time for second thoughts and I was off to the Rocket's meeting point on Chiswell Street. A large group of runners were already there by the time I arrived, although none of the usual C team.

Up at the canal we were joined by George (and not Garry as blogged last week - v sorry) and were just about to leave when Martin was spotted running over the bridge so we waited. Although out of breath from his warm-up sprint Martin was clearly disappointed that having gone to the special effort of wearing his orange racing flats Niall was nowhere to be seen.

As Martin later put it today's session was "rock hard" and I'm not one to disagree: five minutes on, 30 seconds recovery, one minute on, 90 seconds recovery. Phew that will be four repeats then wont it?

The usual puddles on the tow path had developed into lakes so any thoughts about keeping feet dry were quickly discarded. The Aqua Splash intervals weren't too bad. George switched to a tempo run at the turn point and I managed to keep close to Martin on the first three repeats. However, when Karen overtook two minutes into the final five minute effort and Martin tucked in behind I was toast. On the final one minute run Martin was on fire and disappeared so far into the distance I'm unable to say if he finished ahead or behind Karen (I suspect ahead).

The rain had stopped by the time we got back to the canal start point and with George not following through with his threat to push me into the canal I finished the day tired but relatively dry.

Back in the office, with no chocolate milk, I opted for a Kit Kat from the vending machine.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Wet Sunday

The weather forecast was right. The rain pelted down through the night and as the morning wore on it didn’t look like stopping anytime soon. A quick check on a random weather website and it didn’t look good – 100% chance of precipitation through to early afternoon. By 10:30 I had reached the now or never moment. Cup of tea and Sunday papers or, well there wouldn’t be a blog entry if I hadn’t taken the “or” option and got kitted up for a run.

The theory was any run would be better than no run – even if it was a quick 20 minutes dash through the deluge. However, as it happens, the rain had stopped by the time I got outside, although the wind was still howling.

With a bit of guess work and linking together sections from previous runs I put together a six mile anti-clockwise loop taking in the delights of the M60, the River Mersey and Stockport town centre (or is it a city?). Only one hill of note - I guess a road called Lancashire Hill was never likely to be flat.

Only downer was running past Halfords knowing I needed a replacement car fuse for the one I blew on Friday (my stupid) but not having any money with me - duh!

Friday, 30 October 2009

Upbeat Easy

I doubt the run category “upbeat easy” actually exists. But that doesn't matter. It's a run that starts relatively easy and develops into a tempo. Now let's be clear here: an upbeat easy is done solo. The sort of easy run you do in company where the pace keeps increasing because you (and your companion) are ultra competitive is something completely different.

So today I did a five mile upbeat easy. Initial difficulties choosing a route were resolved when a quick once round the block revealed a strong wind blowing from the east. So that was route decided: head out in a generally easterly direction and let the wind blown me home.

High points on the run included having to cross two motorway slip roads (why build a subway when you can play chicken with juggernauts?), a long slow climb (between mile 2 and 3), a short sharp climb at 3.5 miles and running past my now flattened secondary school.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Garry George Reps

So after a good night’s sleep following yesterday’s aborted tempo run I find myself up at the canal loitering at the back of the Rockets. As we walk towards the seemingly randomly starting point the group naturally splits into thee: elite, semi elite and rubbish. I guess I don’t need to tell you which group I’m with. Company today is in the form of Niall, Garry George and Steve. Although we all know Steve will run his own personally unique interval session – where recoveries are at the same speed as the rep.

Six servings of four minutes pain separated by ninety seconds intensive care are on today’s Menu du Jour and boy I feel hungry enough to eat un petit cheval.

It all starts off civil enough: three hard but fair reps out to the turn. Steve, however, just keeps running into the distance not to be seen again. The first one minute fifty seconds of rep four is tolerable and then we bump into Martin running towards us. About turn, three becomes four and it’s rumble in the jungle time. Now I’m not saying Niall and Martin are competitive but I think it’s fair to say neither like coming second. The pace shoots up and Garry George is jettisoned off the back.

Rep five and Garry George, now running with posttraumatic stress disorder, makes the classic schoolboy error of stopping a minute too early (yup been there – got the T-shirt). Rep six and with a minute to go I overtake Martin and run myself into the ground determined to stay ahead. A shallow gesture I admit given that Martin had been comfortably ahead of me on all the reps up to then. A few minutes later Garry George and his bag of excuses rolled up - hurrah!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Monday Is Still Monday

Give that Saturday is the new Sunday (Niall). And Six is the new seven (Kenny). Then it follows that Monday is surely the new Tuesday. So it must be intervals day? Well actually no, although the thought did cross my mind. Instead I decided to go for a tempo/threshold from St Katharine Docks down to Canary Wharf and back (about five miles if my memory server me right). And it might well be five miles as I didn’t actually make it beyond Tower Hill.

My legs were just dead. And this is despite, or maybe because of, having an easy rest day yesterday. But I’d spent the whole morning eating so I had to cover at least a few miles to burn some of the excess calories. Either that or buy new trousers on the way back to the office. I opted for the former and somehow managed to plod out a convoluted five and a half mile loop taking in Blackfriars Bridge, Waterloo Bridge and Holborn Circus. I would gladly have stopped and walked at just about any point but fashioning my bright yellow Nike Go Nocturnal top with a big 1 on the front I felt somewhat conspicuous.

I do hope the legs feel better tomorrow

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Saturday Long

My Friday evening was shattered with a text from Niall: "Saturday is the new Sunday. See you outside yours at 7:03". And them something about Heartwood and Brocket Hall! Didn't he know I'd run a hard tempo that day? Didn't he know the clocks were going back an hour on Sunday night? Hadn't he seen the weather forecast was for rain? No way Jose I thought to myself as I hit the delete button and headed into the kitchen for another beer.

By 7:25 with three miles in the bag it was time to turn off the main road and head cross-country to Sandridge. It had still been dark when we cut across Harpenden Common, however, in the last ten minutes dawn had broken and with our eyes now accustomed to the half-light we were confident of safe passage. Once in Sandridge I surrendered full navigational responsibility to Niall as we set forth in unfamiliar territory. Thanks to advanced preparation and a small printed map he did a fine job as we complete an anti-clockwise loop that conveniently brought us into Wheathampstead close to Sheepcote Lane (infamous start of the afore mentioned village's 10K).

Up to the Ayot Greenway and left but now we were in danger of short changing ourselves on the mileage front. No problem. Take the first right once on the Lower Luton Road and we have a handy little uphill off-road loop which brings us back via Marshalls Heath to the junction of the main road with Cherry Tree Lane. An easy mile and a half along the Lea Valley Walk and we're home.

Mileage for the week is 33 miles. However, cumulative seven day running total (including last Sunday's mega run) is 48 miles - no wonder my legs feel tired!

Friday, 23 October 2009

Tempo Trio

I thought I'd have a go at calibrating the foot pod on my new running shoes by doing a St James Park/Green Park tempo run armed with both Garmin and Polar running watches. And the great news is that according to the Garmin I've hit a bit a form: averaging 6:17 pace on a warm-up jog isn't to be sniffed at!

Then again perhaps GPS running watches aren't such a good idea in the City after all:

The tempo run itself went OK and the Garmin behaved itself for much of the time but really struggled around Whitehall/Horse Guards and even threw the odd dodge reading on the Embankment and in the parks. So at the end of the day the attempt to calibrate was a failure and I'll have to take the shoes home and try again over the weekend.

Also of note is that today I passed the 1,000 miles for the year milestone. This is some three weeks earlier than last year when I didn't hit the magic number until 12th November.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Thanks to Kenny easy slow runs are all the rage with Harpenden Running Fource these days. And not wanting to buck the trend I joined the ranks of zone one (heart rate not underground zone) plodders pounding the city’s pavements this lunchtime.

Route today was Westminster Bridge again, although this time cunningly in reverse. That’s reverse direction as in clockwise rather than actually running backwards! The mid-morning rain had stopped by the time I hit the road. In fact it wasn’t even spitting. So one has to wonder why some people still felt the need to walk around with their umbrellas up.

Target was to keep the speed down at around Kenny’s old 10K race pace (yes that slow) which wasn’t difficult as it felt like I was running with ankle weights on. But yet again I ended up overtaking another runner – one of Kenny’s relatives’ maybe?

So that’s three mentions today for Kenny and none for Niall – is that a record?

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Tuesday Intervals

After a rest day my legs didn't feel too bad considering Sunday's effort. The session was eight sets of three minutes with one minute recovery (two at the turn). Mindful that eight times three is (or at least always was) twenty four I didn't kill myself on the way out and so as usual finished last on each rep. On the way back I was able to keep up with Niall and Martin (today's C team) and even had the audacity to overtake Niall two minutes into the final rep. Of course he was none too pleased with this and came steaming through thirty seconds later leaving me for dust - oh well, it was worth a try.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Long (and Chilly)

I hadn't intended doing 14.2 miles. Even though Niall had said the plan was to do about 13 miles (i.e. at least 13 miles) I still had it in my head I'd turn back early and do about 10 miles. And even when Kenny headed up Beason End Lane to cut the run a mile or two short I didn't join him. I guess I must have been enjoying myself - or something like that.

The weather forecast for 7am on Sunday morning was five degrees Celsius - and it wasn't wrong. The previous evening I dug out my cold weather gear and so was fully prepared including the all important hat and gloves. So all togged up I trotted out at one minute to seven to find four runners ready and waiting - and that didn't include Kenny. We met up with Kenny on Cowper Road and then headed out across the common towards St. Albans. On the Harpenden Road as we approached Childwickbury the group split. The A team (David and Simon) surged ahead keen to cover their 20 miles at 7 minute mile pace. The B team (Niall, Kenny and me) plodded on, while John decided to call it a day and turned back for home (maybe I should have joined him).

The A team didn't speed off into the distance as expected and thanks to a few canny route 'optimisations' were still within shouting distance as we rounded the southern perimeter of The Lake in Verulamium Park. The route back was almost entirely off-road and saw some quite slow miles due to rutted, and in one case ploughed up, footpaths. We also lost some time when Niall ran into a tree (don't ask!) and came out the other side looking like he'd been attacked by a swarm of brown prickly things. The last time I laughed so hard was when Kenny assumed his sprint starting position for the 2 mile intervals a couple of weeks ago (no we're not going to forget that one anytime soon). As previously mentioned Kenny headed home via Beeson End Lane, which probably only shortened the route by out about a mile, while Niall and I, with ever more weary legs, did our best to keep the pace honest as we took the Nicky Line home.

Anyway back to these 14.2 miles. What was that rule of thumb again? Don't increase your long run by more than 10% each week. So let's see: longest run so far this month 10K. OK how about September 9.4 miles. Hmm. August 11.5 miles - that's more like it. July 10.2 miles. June 11.6 miles. May 11 miles... Right, so just how many times this year have I actually completed a run of 14 miles or more?? Ahh yes, found it. 6th March and 21st Feb 15 miles. So good to see I'm not risking injury by overdoing it.

Oh yes - did I mention Niall ran into a tree?

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Sunny Thursday

What a glorious day for running: sunny, 14 degrees and no wind.

I've been somewhat lacking in the tempo run department of late so today was the day to put things right. I decided a trip round St James Park, starting and finishing at The Wobbly Bridge, would fit the bill - just like the good old day - except the old running crowd is now more and I was all on my own. Was wearing the new shoes again, without the foot pod (not much point without calibration), so had the freedom to run without getting stressed about pace - which was very refreshing. According to Gmaps Pedometer the route was 4.5 miles, which I managed to cover at a not to shabby 6:50 pace. So all in all not a bad outing - in fact I'll go so far as saying a most enjoyable run.

Plus I had the psychological boost that I was getting one over Niall, as I knew he was spending lunchtime stuffing his face instead of working on that Nirvana of a 40 minute 10K - back to zone 1 boy with the rest of the fat lads (and Kenny)!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Easy Run

Easy 3.5 mile run to loosen the legs after Sunday and to break in a new pair of shoes. Down to Tower Hill, along the north bank to Blackfriars and back. Despite running ridiculously slowly still manged to overtake some joggers - good grief and I thought I was a slow runner....

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Herts 10K 2009

On reflection I think leaving the house at 9:43 for a 10am race 1.25 miles (run) away was cutting it too fine. Anyway as it turns out I had time to get there, jump a barrier, fight my way across the main starting pen, jump another barrier, find the bag drop tent, get back to the start, jump a third and final barrier, push my way to the front (there's never a race steward around when you need one) and join up with team Harpenden Running Fource with minutes to spare. Of course I was now way closer to the front than I should have been but was happy to take the adulation when the announcer referred to those at the front as elite! Waiting to start Niall glanced down and noticed my secret weapon - shiny new lightweight running shoes. Damn so much for the element of surprise.

The race plan, such as it was, was to aim for 42 minutes which required averaging 6:45 pace. With the course profile to mile three being short flat, big downhill, short flat, big uphill, followed by three relatively flat miles there didn't seem much point checking progress until after mile three. As it happens my pace at that point turned out to be just about bang on so all I needed to do was pump out three more 6:45 miles. I didn't manage it, slowing quite considerably in mile six, however, thank to the route being under-distance I still came in under 42 minutes!

So how did the rest of Running Fource do? Well despite yet another unfriendly results website (what - you want to see the list of runners and times in finishing order?) I've managed to extract that out of 2265 finisher we came in as follows:

OverallCompetitorFinishChip time

Yup - I came last! As way of consolation on the walk back home stopped off with Niall for traditional post-race coffee and carrot cake. OK so it's a tradition we only started today but it sounds like a good'un to me.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Easy run

No signs of illness to report so my inability to keep up during the warm-down on Tuesday must be down to a dose of lazyitis.

Did an easy 4 mile loop down to Tower Bridge and back over Blackfriars. That wasn't my intended route but had a bit of the Dave's about me and kept going the wrong way. Ah well at least on Sunday I'll have lots of people in front to follow.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Easy Intervals

With the 10K this Sunday and Kenny already a week and a half into his taper the plan was to do a shorter (as in less repeats) interval session. So when the Rockets decided on 6 sets of 3 minute we went for 4. Niall was taking it easy saving himself for the big day while I ran flat as I attempted to keep up.

Had to work hard just to keep up on the jog back to Chiswell Street. Maybe I'm going down with something...

Sunday, 4 October 2009

For the first time ever in the history of Harpenden Running Force the Sunday run was shorter than advertised. Niall's text said he was planning an easy one hour run so I naturally anticipated a 75 minute gallop round the local highways and byways. But no, today we did indeed do an easy (8:09 min/mile pace) 50 minute run.

Dave was somewhere else and Kenny had to duck out after a couple of miles when the pace became too much (although he claimed he had to get back to his wife because she was about give birth or something). Either way I'm pretty sure he only came out to show off his snazzy new trainers (no, not Green Flash this time).

We finished the run with a short sprint along the old railway line path from Crabtree Lane to Station Road. I came last but more amusingly we scared the living daylight out of some all dear out for an early morning meander(now I did leave the gas on didn't I?).

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Back for more

I'm sure the Regents Canal has its own micro-climate. What else could explain why it always seems warmer and sunnier there than in the murky old City of London.

Thursday means shorter reps so today we were treated to 12 repeats of 1 minutes with 30 seconds recovery. We were a bit lacking in the slow runners department, however, from rep 6 onwards I was pleased find myself in the company of a returning from injury semi-elite. And then at the turn point our numbers swelled to three when another semi joined us (sorry I'm hopeless with names). This made the 6 reps back good fun with more than a couple of glances over our shoulders between the final few reps to check we stayed well ahead of the fast boys.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

4 minute reps for all

Doing 4 minute reps I usually go for 4 sets with 2 minutes recovery. So the prospect of 6 sets with 90 seconds recovery was a tad daunting.

Luckily Captain Niall was there to skipper a sustainable pace and keep us off the rocks (or more to the point out of the canal). But there was to be no lazing in the glorious midday sun as the Commodore gradually increased his pace during each 4 minute effort. Set 5 was a killer when we were overtaken by a semi-elite with a minute to go and the Admiral decided to ratch up the speed a notch (or 2, or 3) to keep up.

The final rep wasn't what I was expecting. Karen and co caught and overtook shortly after the start. I upped my pace and tailed the group for maybe a minute or so. However, the Admiral of the Fleet hadn't followed and I soon found myself becalmed in clear water. As I couldn't keep up with the faster runners I eased off slightly and waited for the trailing fleet to catch up. But they didn't. So when I was overtaken by an elite with 45 seconds to go there was nothing for it but to hoist the main spinnaker and leg it.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

For every downhill (rep) there's an uphill

Rep One

Rep Two

Which is probably just about all Niall and Kenny are interested in.

However, for anyone reading this who isn't wearing an anorak then there is more. Firstly it was jolly cold at 7:00 this morning. And after yesterday's experience with Harpenden Cycling Fource I had no hesitation digging out my my hat and gloves. Also, with the summer holiday season now officially over, today's run was the first to see all five of us in attendance. Although having had only three hours sleep Dave was barely really with us. Niall and Kenny, however, were as enthusiastic and eager as ever while Simon was just very fast.

And in case it isn't obvious from the above, rep 1 was downhill (Nickly Line) while rep 2 was uphill (Beesonend Lane). The bit in between was either a slow jog (Kenny and me) or an extra eight minute interval (Niall, Simon and Dave).

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Reduced Rockets

There's some sort of whizz-bang race this weekend so there weren't many elites out at rockets today. And those that were there had no appetite for a hard session so we did 6 reps of 1 min with 30 seconds recovery out and 9 reps of 30 seconds on 30 seconds off back.

The sun shone, I ran OK and the birds were singing (OK I made up the bit about the birds). Why can't it always be like this?

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Very Easy Westminster Loop

I accidentally deleted a file I really needed this morning and naturally, being an IT professional, didn't have a backup. I was so annoyed I gave serious consideration to joining Lockett's Rocket's for some hard lunchtime running.

I didn't because after the exertions of the previous few days, and despite a rest day, I was still exhausted. Instead I did an easy plod to Westminster and back. Starting pace was 9 minutes per mile pace and I didn't really get much quicker.

Coming back along the Southbank I caught someone running even slower. Rather amusingly as I drew close he started glancing over his shoulder and sped up. But he couldn't maintain this killer pace and so within a few minutes I was back on his shoulder (by now doing 8:30 minute miles). Again lots of glances over the shoulder and then a sudden and short-lived burst of speed. It was hilarious - I mean the guy was running even slower than Kenny but was still determined not to let me pass. Oh well - I guess it made him feel good and it certainly brought a smile to my face. Oh happy days.

Sunday, 20 September 2009


On reflection it probably was a tad ambitious: intervals on Thursday with Lockett's Rockets, tempo on Friday with JPM Runners, cycling on Saturday with Harpenden Cycling Fource and then intervals again on Sunday... OK it was way over ambitious.

Today's plan was to run the Herts 10K route as three 2.08 mile reps with hotly debated three minute recoveries. Up at the race start point in Rothamsted Park Niall and Kenny could hardly contain their excitement with Kenny assuming a sprinters starting crouch. A few minutes later after Niall and I had finally finished laughing we started running.

My quads were aching like crazy and my stomach didn't feel too good which, without going into too much detail, explains why I finished my first rep just as the others were starting their second. I jogged through the recovery and started rep two where the path joined Kinsbourne Green Lane by the golf club. Second rep would have been a lonely affair had Simon not kindly jogged back to check I was OK. Met up with Niall and Kenny again on Roundwood Park. Fifteen seconds later they were off. Not being sure of the exact route back thought better of taking a three minute recovery, so hit the lap button on my watch and was off again. If I'd been on my own I probably would have abandoned the third rep but I seemed to be holding the gap on Kenny so kept going. It was only in the last half mile he accelerated and I lost touch.

At the end Niall and Kenny were jubilant with much pressing of buttons on watches. I did a slow warm down jog while they completed their post run analysis and then headed home for breakfast and a large mug of hot tea.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Bonus Three Bridges Run

I recently watched the film Yes Man. So when Niall asked if I'd like to come out running on Friday lunchtime I had no real option but to say YES. Hey it could have been the start of an amazing adventure... but it wasn't.

Instead four of us set off from JPM on a mid tempo down to Westminster Bridge, round the Three Bridges route and back. The initial pace was dare I say it perhaps a touch slow. However, I needn't have worried as mile by mile, bit by bit, the speed gradually increased. I hung on as far as the Wobbly Bridge on the way back by which time we'd hit a full-on tempo 6:38 mins/mile and my vision had started to blur. Jogging back from there I took the scenic route to avoid a marching band, Niall didn't and received a stern whistling at from one of City of London's finest keepers of law and order.

All in all a pleasantly tough run on what turned out to be an unexpectedly fine and sunny day.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Back With The Rockets

After an eight-week absence I finally made my triumphant return to Lockett's Rockets. I guess they weren't expecting me, as the bunting was nowhere to be seen. Maybe Niall (also nowhere to be seen) had it.

The session was apparently a Thursday classic: 12 reps of 75 seconds with 45 seconds recovery. At first the timings sounded a bit complex - until I realised 75 + 45 = 120 seconds - duh!

Steve Scrutton was there but is clearly still well below par, as I had no problem keeping up with him and towards the end of the first six reps was actually running quicker. On the way back I managed to more or less keep up with Karen's group of three which felt good. OK I had taken it far easier on the way out but that's not what the elite guys saw when they came flying past on the last couple of reps.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Wet, Wet, Wet.

Original plan was to join Lockett’s Rockets for intervals. However, the weather was really, really miserable so based on the premise I’d keep warmer doing my own thing I headed down to the river. On the way to the Wobbly Bridge was undecided if I should go for intervals or a tempo but in the end made a last minute decision to do a 1, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, 1 minute pyramid.

Flew down to Westminster Bridge with the wind behind me while on the way back the buildings on the Southbank bank provided some protection from the worst of the winter weather. It was actually warmer than I had expected and low pedestrian density meant I avoided getting my eye poked out by an umbrella. I probably didn’t push myself hard enough (nothing new there) but at least I was out running on a day that had ducks thinking twice before venturing out.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Sunday Three

This morning we had Running Fource Bloggers Three: Fit Scottish Bloke, Another Scottish Bloke and little old me.

A spot of advanced mis-information from club captain Niall set our expectations for a long 8:24 pace run. Which is pretty much what we did - except we covered the ground a lot quicker (first mile in 7:26) and only ran 9 miles (did I really say only?).

We also displayed an interesting range of running attire. Being a wimp, I opted for my favourite daygo yellow long sleeved dri-fit top. Niall went for sunglasses and short sleeves while hard as nails Kenny wore but a running vest. Shorts were worn by all, however, venturing further down threw up further differences. While Mr 160 BPM and I were happy to fashion conventional ankle cover Niall decided to push the boundaries of public decency wearing his finest High School (Musical?), high performance white knee-length compression socks. Now while Niall might (and I hasten to emphasise might) have looked like a bit of a plonker he did have science on his side. These socks are possibly the greatest thing since split side shorts: excellent for reducing the build up of lactic acid, accelerating blood circulation and preventing muscle oscillation, the socks also minimise muscle fatigue and soreness, enabling faster muscle recovery after training competing, or injury. Phew - someone's marketing department has been working overtime.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Another Early One...

At 6:05 it was still murky and felt cold so I opted for my dayglo (now slightly faded) yellow Nike Go Nocturnal Run London long sleeved top. Went for the standard anti-clockwise loop of Lea Valley Walk north to the big hill, over the top and then back down the Luton Road to Harpenden.

Took it generally easy, although had to push in a bit towards the end when I realised I was at risk of getting back late. In the end I was late and not wanting to sacrifice breakfast ended up catching a later train (standing room only) but still made it to the training course on time.

The path from Harpenden to Cooters End Lane is now 95% tarmac and a viable route for road bikes. Unfortunately the section behind the sewage works is still not great - OK for running or perhaps a mountain bike if you don't mind the steps but a no-go for roadies. Can but hope that the funding to complete the missing link comes through soon.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Early Morning Wheathampstead (again)

Back on a training course for work this week so it was out of the door at 6:15 for a dash down to Wheathampstead and back following the official Harpenden Running Fource 5.2 Mile Handicap route. This time went the right way through Wheathampstead which, for what it's worth, cut 0.04 miles off the distance compared with my previous running.

First few miles where dispatched at a reasonably healthy tempo pace, but faded badly towards the end. However, in the end what mattered most was I'd burned enough energy to allow me to stuff my face with around 500 calories worth of yummy cake at break time during the training course.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

I'm Back...

After three weeks radio silence I'm back!

First two weeks were spent mountain biking and learning to sail/capsize dinghies with Neilson in Greece while last week I did a handful of easy 5-milers to get the legs back into the swing of things.

In my absence Harpenden Running Fource Four has grown into Running Fource Five with the addition of SES: Super Elite Simon. This guy is just too fast for his own good but luckily is tapering for next Sunday's Robin Hood Marathon (anything sub three hours will suffice!) and so joined Niall, Kenny and me for our 7am wakey, wakey run. Niall had to be back by 8 so we decided on a quick circuit down to Heartwood and back. As summer turns to autumn the nettles seem to be dieing out, so no stings to report, and rather unusually my feet stayed dry for the whole run. We did, however, manage to include a new footpath round the side of Pudler's Wood so all was not lost. The run wasn't long enough for the all new and improved Kenny (talking all the way up Crabtree Lane no less) or maybe he was finding the pace was a touch too slow. Either way he stayed on Ayres End Land when we turned off left heading for the woods.

Just for the record here are the mountain bike routes from the holiday (Spetes and Kosta and a Caravan were done in both the first and second weeks).

And a couple of on-road rides (be sure to check the elavation profile of the last ride - higher than Snowdon!):

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Thursday Tempo

I had been thinking about doing intervals today. However, Chris was keen on a tempo and I was happy to tag-along. Convinced I'd get dropped I argued for Thames over Wapping as I'd feel more motivated to keep going if there were interesting things to look at! Bit of a feeble argument I know, but it worked.

So Chris, Jozef and I headed over to the south side of the Wobbly for a 4-mile dash down to MI5 (shh top secret) and back. Chris led the way through the throng of tourists while I followed close behind. Pace wasn't too blistering - probably because Chris's super strength was being drained by the effort of navigating a stop-start, left-right safe passage through the mass of 'London in a day' tourists. The stretch between Westminster Bridge and MI5 was reasonably clear and I expected Chris to accelerate away. However, he kept the pace at around 6:55 so I had no problem keeping up.

On the return leg we decided to avoid the worst of the Aquarium/London Eye crowds by going round the back of Country Hall. A bit of luck on my part crossing the road gave me a few metres lead on Chris for the first time on the run. Chris caught me after a few minutes rather than the usual few seconds. I'd already figured he wasn't on top form and feeling OK I pressed on hard for the finish. Chris was toast as was Jozef. An easy and unexpected victory in the end. And all because I was less slow than the others!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Easy Tuesday

My body was crying out NO!. But it was a warm sunny day and with Wednesday looking to be off-limits thanks to a lunchtime meeting I decided to go out for a run anyway.

Rockets would be unthinkable in my current state so I opted for a gentle run down to Westminster Bridge and back via the Southbank. Not being in any great rush the hordes of aimlessly wandering tourists didn't bother me too much and there were a few bonus clear stretches where I was able to speed up.

Five odd miles later I was back outside the gym sweating buckets - I guess given the recent weather my body has forgotten what it's like to run on a hot day.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Club Handicap

It was Niall's idea.

David was missing, assumed sick, so it was just Harpenden Running Fource Three for the inaugural club 5-mile handicap. Down the Lea Valley Walk (watch out for the fallen tree), over the hill to Weathampstead and back via the relatively flat Lower Luton Road.

Kenny was given a 1:50 start with Niall and me starting together. Now based on Kenny's VO2 Max he should really have started after me but we'll let that pass for the time being. Niall's combination of injury/holiday meant he dropped back after the afore mentioned felled tree leaving me to chase down "yellow" Kenny (note - the only one of us correctly attired in club running vest) on my own. I finally caught him on Waveney Road, about 250 metres from the finish. I was able to pass on the flat but the old boy wasn't happy and once on Cross Way kicked for the finish. I briefly responded but thought better of it and let the Running Fource hare take the first win. Niall rolled up some time later no doubt cheered in the knowledge that assuming he is fit for the next running of the handicap his start time will make him untouchable.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Early Morning Wheathampstead

Another early morning start but wasn't as quick getting out of the door as Wednesday so only had time for a five-ish mile run. Decide on a trip down to Wheathampstead taking the Lea Valley Walk/Lower Luton Road out then looping anti-clockwise over the fields back.

The wind wasn't as strong as I had anticipated so was slower out and quicker back. The ground under foot was very wet/muddy from our 40 days of rain and there were plenty of times when I was more focused on staying upright than running at pace.

As I was heading down into Batford decided the workout hadn't been hard enough so threw in a bonus trip over Milford Hill.

Made it home for 7:05 which meant I was cutting it even finer than Wednesday - but worth it for the extra smug value.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Early Morning East Hyde Hill

Felt completely drained yesterday so brought forward the planned rest day and ran today instead. Fine except I'm on a training course for three days so had to get the miles in first thing in the morning. And when I say first thing I mean hitting the tarmac at a time that makes Sunday's 7:15 start seem positively sloth-like. 6:10 and I'm out and running in surprisingly warm and muggy conditions. Ever conscious of time and the need to be back by 7:00 decided to go for what I guessed would be a six-ish mile loop taking in East Hyde's big hill. Legs felt OK so was able to push on at a reasonable pace. And lucky I did as just made it back bang on time having covered what tuned out to be 6.6 miles in 49 minutes. Cutting it a bit to fine for my liking but at least it meant I could feel smug for the rest of the day.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Batch Wood & Heartwood Forest

For this week's Sunday long I decide to revisit Heartwood Forest. And while one day it may well indeed grow into a mighty forest, today it comprises but three small woods.

In order to keep the tree count high and to avoid short changing myself with an under-mileage run I added a loop through Childwickbury and Batch Wood before crossing the A1081 and heading for the afore mentioned 'forest'.

First on the menu was Langley Wood: the one with well-defined paths and so easiest on the feet. Next it was Pudler's Wood, which has a single path running through and plenty of nettles. Finally there was Well Wood, which is an overgrown no-go zone. However, thanks to the new gates I was at least able to get my feet wet running on the grass around the perimeter.

At 11.5 miles this was one of my longer runs of our so-called summer. Given all the extra cycling of late it was pleasing to see I can still bash out a respectable mileage when the fancy takes.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Thursday Tempo(ish)

With the training emphasis moved firmly away from speed to endurance joining the Rocket’s for fun with intervals was out of the question. So instead went for a five-mile Green Park tempo. Well, when I say tempo there was tempo effort going in but only mid-tempo (if that) speed coming out. And yet again the wind was against me on the way out and thankfully behind me all the way home. Ran mainly at 7-minute mile pace but with having to slow down to cross roads and get past pedestrian blockages the average was a tad slower.

Started off from the gym in glorious sunshine, however, it quickly deteriorated and spent most of the tempo running through a grey drizzle. Went round Green Park the wrong way (i.e. clockwise) which seemed (and probably is) easier. On the way back picked up a free can of Orangina (with real orange pieces!) from some nice people outside St. Paul’s which made up for getting wet.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Easy Childwickbury Loop

Another nice easy run today.

Headed down to Harpenden and threw in a loop of Rothampsted Park before setting off for Childwickbury. Despite, or maybe because of, yesterdays rest day legs felt quite heavy and didn't really loosen up until a good 25 minutes into the run. Unexpectedly, despite going in the opposite direction from Saturday, the wind was again against me on the way out and with me home. Which was nice.

Could easily have plodded on for another couple of miles to make it up to ten but time was getting on and my stomach was telling me it was past lunch o'clock. So it was home via the recently trimmed common and up Crabtree Lane which was closed while new speed humps are being installed.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Someries Revisited

Today I fancied a return to the area between Someries Castle and Airport Way (previously visited on 21st June) to see if I could find a better route. Headed north along the Lea Valley Walk which bit-by-bit, week-by-week, gets better and better. This week I even managed to get through the section behind East Hyde sewage works without getting stung by nettles - something unimaginable but a few weeks ago. With the wind against me I was happy to take it easy and pump out the miles at 8:05 pace.

At Airport Way had no problem finding the steps leading to the path back to the Someries. Unfortunately once at the top and through the kissing gate I was faced with a field of very prickly looking crop (so much for not getting stung earlier) and little evidence of a footpath. In retrospect, looking at the map, I should have stayed close to perimeter fence. However, at the time the path didn't look too promising so I cut over to the field. Anyway suffice to say what followed wasn't very enjoyable, with some pain, much walking, and a mile times of 10:42! Once at the castle (or should I say what's left of it) it was a straightforward on-road gallop home. With the wind (and the aircraft noise) now behind me the return leg pace averaged a more respectable 7:30 min/mile.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Mid-Week Mid-Tempo

Had originally planned for this to be a recovery run. However, by yesterday afternoon decided a mid-tempo would be more fitting. Chris had stated his intention to come but instead came up with a barrage of weak excuses (too busy, meeting at 1pm, didn't like the look of the weather, blah, blah, blah). If I didn't know better I'd say he was put off by the e-mails warning of only cold showers in the gym - nesh or what?

So it was just hard men Guy and me that ventured out. Over to the Wapping steps for the usual debate on what to do. Quick decision was reached to do a 25 minute tempo run - as far as you like in 12.5 minutes, just make sure you can get back again before the big hand gets round to the five. Ran out at 7-minute mile pace which was fine. However paid the price on the way back where 7-minute mile pace was a real struggle thanks to the strong headwind (funny how I hadn't noticed the tail-wind on the way out!). Guy was distracted by the opening of the Limehouse Basin swing bridge and so didn't turn round on time. He then stopped for a chat mid-way back and so managed to turn his tempo into three reps.

I just about made it back to the steps in the allotted time, clocking my 3.58 miles bang on target pace.

Oh yes, the gym's boiler was patched up while we were out so showers were fine.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Tuesday Rocket's

Another Tuesday, another Rocket's session. Rolled up to the meeting point to find Chris already there and accompanied by his buddy Jozef (he's "quite good" - apparently).

Up at the canal there was some muttering and a few sharp intakes of breath from the back bunch when it was announced the session would be six reps of four 4 minutes with 90 seconds recovery. And they're off. With tired legs (rest days seem to have been replaced with spin/cycling) I had no hope or intention of keeping up. Took it steady/hard out to the turn, which given the length of the reps was down to Victoria Park. Joined up with Chris and Jozef for the back three. Jozef was wasted having gone out too fast (maybe not that good after all) so just Elbows and me. Elites caught us towards the end of rep five which was slightly disappointing. Chris kicked at the end of rep six - I didn't bother.

Jozef "won" the warm down back to the gym - yeah like anyone cares.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Once Round The Block

With a belly full of beer from Saturday night an early Sunday morning start was never on the cards. In fact it wasn’t until just after midday and multiple infusions of coffee that I finally managed to drag myself over the doorstep.

Walking up the road muscles felt as stiff as the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz and my knee was aching thanks to multiple falls while out on the MTB yesterday (doh!). Headed over to the Nicky line "Poli, Poli", as our Kenyan friends would say, with thoughts of doing a five mile loop round the back of Rothamsted Park. However, legs eased up after a mile and churning out eight-minute miles felt comfortable.

Just after turning left off the Nicky Line diverted through Knott Wood thereby fulfilling the contractual requirement to include at least one new path. A quick rain shower later and I reached the top of Rothamsted Park. Felt fine so decided to push on extending the loop round to West Common with a view to spending an hour on the feet. The GPS did well to keep track through West Common woods but surprisingly had problems with the railway bridge on Southdown Road. Back to Harpenden for a quick comfort break and then up Station Road detouring round Elliswick Road to ensure the trip meter ticked over to eight miles.