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.