Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Back To The Back

With sun cracking the flagstones and mercury on the wrong side of 30, today was always going to be hot, hot, hot.

Leaving the gym heading over to the meeting point, wearing my fashion police compliant skimpy shorts, legs felt like they hadn’t recovered from last week’s hard sessions. But they’ve felt like that before and been fine once out running. Not today though.

Despite the heat there must have been the best part of a dozen of us congregated at the canal for the start. No Niall or Martin and with few other sub-county runners I guessed I was in for a lonely time. Plan for the day was two three minute reps with a measly minute recovery out, then 15 seconds on 15 seconds off all the way back. “It’s harder than it sounds” we were warned, “but at least it doesn’t take too long so you can get back for a nice cold shower”. Unless that is you’re unlucky enough to get changed at the Merrill Lynch gym whose showers were on the blink (only hot water can you believe?).

On the first rep I kind of just about didn’t managed to keep up with Karen. Caught up on the recovery but was well and truly dropped on the second (and thankfully final) long rep. On the way back stayed in a group of four for a while and then dropped back with a guy who had gone out chasing the elites for the long reps and was now paying the price. I found 15 seconds on and off a bit short and probably would have run better 30 seconds on 30 seconds off.

Warm down run back to the gym did little to lower my heart rate despite going topless. However, the girls on reception duly noted and commented on my fine physical stature which kind of made it all worthwhile. Still at least I didn't get lost which is exactly what my usual running buddies from work managed to do. I mean how an earth is that possible? We've been running virtually the same routes week in week out for over four years now! Numpties.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Genghis Khan and other domesticated creatures

So today we learnt about Genghis Khan’s first foray into China. The story didn’t have a funny punch line as I had been hoping but was very educational if not a touch blood thirsty at times. We also witnessed Dave’s new command of domestic animals with a dog diving into the bushes and hiding at first whiff and a cat joining us to set the pace during the warm down.

I’m not too sure how much advanced planning went into today’s route. My guess is it was something along the lines of head down the Nicky Line, turn right onto the footpath that takes you across the golf course and then wing it. Which is exactly what we did. Once on Kinsbourne Green Lane we turned right and headed uphill (where else). Then opposite Roundwood Lane tuned left onto a footpath that looked promising at first but actually just faded to nothing once across the first field. A quick look around revealed no obvious path so we headed to the right eventually making it back to Annables Lane complete with soaking wet feet.

Next call from chief navigation officer (arse and elbow now firmly relocated) was to head over to Paul’s Hill which, given we had no real plan, was as good a suggestion as any, even if it did mean running the hill in the wrong direction. However, on the way we spotted the gate into Luton Hoo had been left ajar which was just too much temptation to pass by. We didn’t find the path to take us down to the Lower Luton Road and so completed a loop that brought us back to the main road near the top of the hill. From there it was a case of down the hill and home via the Upper Lea Valley Walk. Pleasingly the nettles round the back of the sewage works had been cut back so it was a pain free trot back to Harpenden. Dave decided to exact his revenge for our Kenyan finish last week and promptly selected a higher gear and disappeared into the distance. Niall and I were either unwilling or unable to follow.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Top-Up Tempo

Not knowing how much running I’ll be able to get in over the coming weekend decided to put in a (slower) tempo run on top of yesterday’s intervals. Weather was muggy with periods of sun interspersed with cloud. In fact by the time I’d got to the Wobbly Bride it looked very much like we were in for a downpour, however, the cloud burst never arrived.

On the way out along the embankment I saw a small group of runners moving at reasonable speed on the other side of the road. Too early for the Hare and Hounds I though but when I saw one of them come within millimetres of being squashed by a car when crossing a side road I had to think again. As it happens I saw then again at the top of Green Park walking towards Wellington Arch having clearly finished their run so I guess they just had a death wish.

Decide to aim at 7 min/mile pace for the 5 mile run which, at around 10 to 15 seconds slower than usual tempo pace, I reckoned would be hard enough to count but was still realistically achievable. As it was I was able to complete the circuit slightly quicker although it felt far from easy. If the sun had been out for the entire run I would have struggled.

On the way back saw what looked like real Hare and Hounds hanging round waiting to start having finished but didn’t recognise anyone so continued on without stopping. Got back to the gym dripping in sweat but happy in the knowledge I had some chilled chocolate milk waiting for me back in the office.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

The Thursday Gathering

Today saw an unexpectedly large turnout from work for Thursday intervals. In additional to the usual suspects: Chris G, Dave, Guy and me, Chris brought along Nick (a.k.a. Handles) and Guy invited along another Chris (distinguished from Chris G by his superior height). We also bumped into Michael ‘Mauler’ in the gym who, inspired by the good weather, asked if he could join us (well we did say we were only running two miles oops!). Anyway I haven’t been out running with The Mauler for a good three or four years and he reliable informed me that was the last time he ran – I foresee aching legs tomorrow. And then the good bit – Michael presses a button on his trainers to convert them from gym to running mode. Dead cool or gimmick – I’ll let you decide.

So it was the seven of us that made our way to the start on the far side of St Katharine’s Dock. Nick was looking dangerous dressed all in black. While tall Chris came close to letting the side down by wearing a cotton t-shirt but redeemed himself admirably with a pair double mirrored, wrap around, thermo nuclear resistant shades.

It was pretty obvious the longer reps I had been planning wouldn’t work with such a mixed ability group so we plumped for 6 sets of 3 minute reps and 2 minutes recovery. Chris G was clearly not awake for the first rep and I comfortably led from start to finish. This wasn’t to be repeated and as time went on I began to struggle. We lost Nick briefly at the end of rep 2 but luckily the search party found him off-course just in time for the start of the next rep. On the 5th rep I wasn’t able to follow Chris’s surge as he overtook the newbies but was able to maintain the gap once he slowed back to normal pace. I was dead on rep 6 and didn’t even bother to trying to follow Chris. Instead I ended up racing Dave and Guy, both of whom I should add had a considerable start on me. For the record Guy beat me by about the size of his beer belly (yes that far!). Tall Chris did himself proud while Nick and the Mauler seemed happy to direct most their efforts towards chatting. They were also paying no attention to the route back and for the second time in one session Nick took a wrong turning. Tut, tut – must pay more attention.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Hot Rockets

Fourteen Rockets out today but mainly of the super quick variety so it was always going to be tough at the back.

A rear group of six quickly formed on the first 75 second rep (45 seconds recovery) although two of the half-dozen had been jettisoned by the end of rep three. Determined to remain with the group my focus was on keeping up with the pace during the reps and just as importantly making sure I didn’t get dropped during the recoveries. Martin doesn’t go for the bent over double gasping for breath recoveries that I favour. Instead you get five seconds gasping, five seconds walking and then straight back into a jog. If you’re off the back at the start of the jog then you’re unlikely to make it back into the group by the start of the next rep. I just managed to hang on to the group's coattails for the six reps out, which was one better than Niall who was clearly paying the price for an hours circuit training on Monday night (on top of the tempo finish to Sunday’s run). On the way back I was able to hold my own as the others tired and was able to take the fight to them through to interval eleven. My twelfth interval was a bit of a damp squid although not actually all that much slower than my two compatriots who by now were also beginning to suffer under the baking sun.

Too hot to run? "Runners are like farmers – never happy with the weather!"

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Someries Castle and Beyond...

Today I was given the honour of leading my first ever Running Fource training run. The pressure was almost unbearable but having been instructed to head in the general direction of Peters Green I knew I had to rise to the challenge and deliver a route of fly swallowing awe.

Plan was to re-run a route from a few weeks ago: head up past Sauncey Wood then stay high(ish) on the ridge bearing in the general direction of Luton and more specifically Someries Castle. Then before quite getting to the ruins turn left down Copt Hall Road and back to Harpenden via the Upper Lea Valley Walk. And we stuck to the route … well almost. On approaching Copt Hall Road it was suggested we continued on to have a quick nose at the castle and once there found a footpath that lead down its side and in the general direction of large noisy things with wings. Ah well, nothing ventured nothing gained. So off we headed following random footpath signs across badly rutted fields until somehow finding a vague track across a farmer’s field leading down to the Lower Luton Road. Problem then was that we were on the road whereas we really wanted to be up on the newly paved footpath. The only option was the nettle-fest of the old path and a scramble up an earth bank to the nirvana of new tarmac. Pleasingly the path had been extended since my last visit which gave rise to an injection of pace as we were 1) on a decent surface for the first time for a couple of mile and 2) finally had some confidence we were running in the right direction,

Dave was allowed the honour of being first onto the new footbridge across the Lower Luton Road from where it was a relatively straight canter home. Niall made another miraculous recovery from illness and was happy to keep up with the ever increasing pace. And despite claims to the contrary still had enough in the tank to out sprint me to the finish. You know you can really go off some people.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Short Fuse Rockets

Today’s Rocket’s session was very much of the short sharp shock variety. Three batches each of three reps. Batch one: 400m reps every three minutes. Batch two: 300m reps every two and half minutes. Batch three: 200m reps every two minutes.

Niall was there feigning illness and to be fair to the lad he kept the pretence up for two reps. However, the humiliation was all too much for the old boy and from then on I only saw his back. I did try to keep up when he came zooming past on rep three but to give the lad some credit he’s got some speed when he puts his mind to it.

I ran a pretty solid set of reps finishing each well in the midst of the back group. It was good to be out with similar ability runners: I’m sure I was pushing just that little bit harder than usual. The only thing I don’t quite understand is why my right elbow was hurting when I got back to the office – I don’t recall nudging anyone out of the way but then again it is dog eat dog out there on the canal path.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Dead Slow

Felt completely drained of energy today. Decided to downgrade from steady/easy to a recovery run but not sure what I was recovering from - too much birthday cake maybe? Anyway headed down to The Tower and then east, keeping as close to the river as possible, as far as Narrow Street. From there turned inland crossing The Highway and returned backed to Tower Hill via Cable Street and Royal Mint Street. Not being in a rush gave the opportunity to explore a bit more than usual but wasn’t hit by any sudden bursts of energy and ended the run feeling as empty as when I started. Hoping for better things tomorrow with the Rockets.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Unscheduled South Bank Tempo

Plan for the week was intervals with Rockets on Tuesday and then again with the guys from work on Thursday. That was before I checked my e-mail to find some moron has arranged a meeting for 1pm on Tuesday – grrr. So when Dave wandered past my desk armed with a copy of Runners World (top article on how to tie shoe laces – apparently) and mentioned he was planning a tempo today I felt obliged partake.

Expected rain didn’t materialise – in fact it was quite nice as we headed over The Wobbly to the start. From there it was a straightforward 4-mile tourist tangled tempo along the South Bank to MI5 and back. I decided to stick with Chris thinking he would drop me on the return leg. But had forgotten he’s still building up after injury and so ended up staying right behind him (and I mean right behind) the whole way. We had a mad sprint over the last 50 metres and finished with a dead heat. Commenting on my follow but don’t lead tactic Chris was wondering how slow the pace needed to drop before I would have overtaken. Very, very slow I replied - and I meant it.

Sunday, 14 June 2009


Sunday 14th June 2009 – the day of this year’s St. Albans Half Marathon. Not that I did it – but worth mentioning anyway.

So with Running Fource on official business (above) I was left to my own devices and had a lie in. Finally hit the road at 7:45 with my quadriceps femoris feeling really tight (presumably a result of yesterday’s 20 mile bike ride). Hastily formulated a plan to head north on the Luton Road taking the first Slip End turning on the left, then left again once over the M1 onto Pepsal End Lane and home via Kinsbourne Green.

But I wasn’t paying attention. Instead of heading down Hollybush Lane I stayed on Ambrose Lane and like a sat nav recalculating after a missed turning I decide on a completely different route. The hill. Now as hills go it certainly isn’t the longest (just under half a mile) or the steepest (no select low gear now warnings for those heading the other way). But it has a constant hard gradient and goes straight (and I mean dead straight) up the side of the large hill that separates the Luton and Lower Luton roads. From the bottom by the East Hyde sewage treatment works it looks like it goes on forever. This is a hill goes for the psychological jugular. I love it of course.

Today, despite the beast unleashing a burning sun, I managed to keep the pace above 9:15 mins/mile. That’s good. I was happy. I even managed cheery waves at the drivers of the handful of cars also tackling the monster. They thought I was mad.

But all good things come to an end and all too soon I was descending. With more time I might have been tempted to try a detour into Luton Hoo. But the gates looked very closed and I needed to press on. So it was over the Luton Road and up the other side, staying high, and back into Harpenden’s northern fringes via Roundwood Lane.

Without Niall to slow me down I was able to keep the pace reasonable and not have to worry about being dropped in the last mile. So the eight and a half miles or so were completed at a not too bad 7:30 pace. It makes a change to do an entire Sunday run on-road. But I don’t get my GPS watch until next week and didn’t want the faff of plotting the route from the satellite map in Map My Run. Roll-on next week. Roll-on straight through processing.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Combo Session

So today should have been an interval session with the guys from work. My proposal of four minute intervals with 2 minutes recovery met no objections so we were all good to go with an 11:30 start in order that Chris could be back in plenty time for his 1pm meeting.

Unfortunately things didn’t pan out as hoped. My 11:00 call dragged on well into diminishing returns territory and I was still heading towards the gym to get changed when I met the others on the way out on their warm-up. There was nothing else for it but to get changed double quick and tempo it out to Shadwell Basin to join the intervals from there.

Twenty pedestrian dodging minutes later I finally caught sight of them in the distance just as the second rep was starting. By the time I finally caught up we were down near Narrow Street. There was then some debate as to if we should continue out and go for five intervals in all or turn back and do just the four. Luckily four won the day. I ran the intervals back tailing Chris by some distance but still well ahead of Matt who apparently had been on fire for the first two reps. Felt quite tired by the end and took the more scenic Tower of London warm-down route back to the gym.

I don’t know how much good the session did but boy did my legs ache afterwards.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Nearly A Rocket

Out with the Rocket’s again today and pleased to report didn’t completely embarrass myself. In fact, even better, broke my duck and didn’t finish last in every single interval – just most of them.

Session was 3 batches of 4 reps of 75 seconds with 45 seconds recovery with an extra two minutes recovery at the end of each batch. Niall was doing a Kenny (we seek him here, we seek him there…) but Martin was there instead.

Hung onto the back of the bunch for the first rep but wasn’t able to keep up with the backmarkers during the recovery! By the end of the third rep I’d lost sight of the group and after the fourth decided to drop back to a couple of guys that had started with us but been off the pace from the gun. However, during the extra recovery found out they were only doing two batches and so were turning for home. Ho-hum – even more on my own now. However, half way through the first rep of the second batch was greeted by sight of Rockets heading back towards me at great speed. I duly stepped out of the firing line and joined the backmarkers for the remainder of the intervals. The tail end Charlie group had obviously gone out too hard (short-fused Rockets?) and for the remaining seven reps I was able to stay with them. I even had the audacity to finish second and third from last a few times.

So now I know my speed isn’t that bad after all. If I can up my game just a notch a two hopefully I’ll be able to hang onto the coattails of group C for the whole session – we’ll see.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Redbourn Rain

Cats and dogs weather today. I kidded myself the overnight deluge was easing but the harsh reality hit home pretty hard in the 30 seconds it took me to reach Kenny and Niall cowering for shelter at the start.

Running Fource roared to full power with Dave’s arrival and without standing on formality and waiting for him to get out of his car we were off. Rebourn loop again today – although with the footpaths more like streams I was soon wishing I’d worn wellies. Initially held back with Kenny as we squelched our way along the Nicky Line but with Niall and Dave getting smaller (no they weren’t shrinking) I decided to pick the pace up and rejoin the A-team. With Kenny safely dropped, Running Fource "A" added a detour round Redbourn, confident we’d easily catch our lonesome colleague on the return leg. Yeah right – we never saw our light-footed friend again. Did he steal one of Niall’s magic gels and gain superman powers? Did he turn around and head home as soon as we were out of sight? Or did he simply phone home and get Mrs K to pick him up in the family limo? I guess we’ll never know.

So the crucial three continued their aquatic journey; next stop mount Beeson End Lane. With Dave deciding not to challenge for King Of The Mountain points it was down to just Niall and me to push onwards and upwards. Niall led the way and I just did my best to hang on. There were no crowds cheering us on and no great sprint finish – just the two of us pushing hard all the way. After that Niall kept us honest as he led the bunch over the common and up Crabtree Lane. Unfortunately that is where my story ends. The legs decided enough was enough and sent my brain a system shutdown message. I came to a halt and was within seconds was doubled over with a killer stitch. Luckily I was able to stretch it out quickly but by then it was too late. The will to run had gone. It was all over.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

How Fast?

The theory was pretty straightforward: to run a 40-minute 10k you should be looking to be run 1k reps in 3:30. OK simple enough – slight issue that my 10k PB is 41:24 but you need targets to stay motivated don’t you?

So I figured out a flat 1k route not far from home, dug out my heart rate monitor strap, switched the measurement unit on my watch to metric and headed out to see just how many 1k reps I could do at 3:30 pace. The rather straightforward answer is none. I later worked out 3:30 min/km is 5:38 mile pace; some 20 odd seconds quicker than my usual 1k pace. What I could do is 500m at roughly target pace. But even then only three of them! So still some work to do then.

Oh yes – readings from heat rate monitor were somewhat erratic (now I remember why I don’t use it) but it looks I maxed out at about 170 which doesn’t sound much but probably isn’t that far off my max.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Assembly League Victoria Park – Finally It All Comes Together

After what seems like an age finally did myself some justice and ran well. Build up to the evening jaunt was "interesting": overslept, legged it down to the station to find train was delayed, train crawled along before finally giving up the ghost at Kentish Town, finally got to work well late to find my mailbox full of time-wasting stupidity and generally spent the rest of the day in a foul mood. So basically was well up for releasing my frustration with a hard run and was if anything worried I’d set off like a rocket and blow up horribly after a mile. It’s probably worth pointing out that should you ever be looking for a race with the intention blowing up after mile this is the ideal one. The route is a mile loop followed by a larger 2.5 mile circuit. So after that first mile you’re back at the start and less than a minute away from the clubhouse, warm showers and most importantly the bar.

Anyway blow up I did not. Instead I did something quite incredible that I’m still struggling to come to terms with: I ran the first three miles with exactly the same lap times – to the second. I’ve no I idea how I did it, however, like night follows day, 6:36 came after 6:36 came after 6:36 (6:32 after taking allowance for watch calibration). Of course the problem was everyone else was running a ‘normal’ race i.e. starting fast and then slowing. Hence at around 2 .5 miles I pulled away from a group of runners and ended up on my own with a fair bit of clean air to the bunch ahead. But it was quite a big group and I knew from the team’s perspective finishing position was more important than time (even though I also knew I’d be way to far down the order to count for SEAC and I wasn’t actually wearing a club vest). But it felt important. So I set myself what I considered to be a pretty tough challenge: catch and overtake ten people in the last mile. And so in true Hollywood epic style bit by bit I closed the gap and one by one picked off the runners ending with a final kick at 100 metres to out-sprint the 10th runner to line – oh to see the slow-motion replay.

And so there it was: 3.48 miles (according to Garmin) in 22:33; an average race pace of 6:29 min/mile (or 4:02 min/km for the more metric minded). A very satisfying run even if I was the last SEAC home. The rest of the evening is but a haze of running to/from railway stations and drinking beer.

Bad day turns into good day – I like it.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009


The glorious weather continues. Legs felt a bit heavy and mindful of the Assembly League race on Thursday decided to downgrade the usual tempo run round St James Park with a steady plod over the same route.

Dave ran with me out to the start under the Wobbly Bridge and kept company for the first mile which we covered in 7:10. I continued on at around the same pace while Dave eased off a bit. Tourist density was medium although that didn’t prevent me being clobbered on the arm by a tour bus tout. Was on the way out on Victoria Embankment down near Waterloo Bridge; pavement was as usual completely blocked by a combination of people waiting to join a pleasure cruise and tour bus touts harassing all and sundry. The only way through was to take to the kerb – normally a safe enough route as long as you don’t fall into the road (and get squashed by aforementioned bus tout’s open-top bus) but as I squeezed through bus tout simultaneously took a step backwards and swung her arm back with great gusto (presumably in celebration of bagging another gullible). I had nowhere to go and took a hard hit to my upper arm. Ouch! I took it like a man and continued on despite bleeding profusely (OK – how about aching slightly).

The path near Buckingham Palace was predictably congested but as I wasn’t on a tempo loosing a few seconds here and there didn’t really matter. Gave Horse Guards Parade a miss in favour of Westminster on the way out (Victoria Embankment to busy to cross) and Trafalgar Square on the way back (fewer aimlessly loitering tourists). Heading home along Victoria Embankment stayed on the opposite side of the road from tour bus tout as wasn’t feeling quite ready for round two. Arrived back at the Wobbly Bridge to find Dave already there having taken a more scenic (and probably less congested) short cut through St. James Park.