Sunday, 31 January 2010

Extra Early Sunday Morning

The choice today was either 6:45 am start for 10 miles with Kenny or 7:30 start for something a bit faster are probably at least as far with Simon and Lee.

I went to bed undecided and still contemplating a 7am solo effort instead.

As it happens I woke early and so decided on the Kenny option...

However, got to the Amble Inn twenty seconds late. No sign of Kenny! But he wouldn't have waited as I hadn't confirmed I'd be coming. Had a good look round for runners disappearing into the distance but none to be seen. Decisions, decisions. Started to slowly head back up Station Road and lo and behold there was tango man thundering down the hill.

If I'd been on my own I would have headed towards Wheathampstead. However, Kenny said something about heading the other way and going up "The Hill" - we headed north.

The sky was clear so while being cold it was nowhere near as dark as Friday morning. In company The Hill was far less foreboding and we summitted with ease. Down the other side I felt compelled to demonstrate my uber fast downhill running technique employed to great effect in last Sunday's race.

From there we took my standard route through Kingsbourne Green past Expensive Christmas Tree Farm but instead of hanging a left onto Roundwood Lane headed down to the golf course following the Herts 10K route in reverse all the way back to Rothamsted Park.

Kenny was master of the mileage and knew how to make the round trip back to his house bang on ten miles. However, having done nothing except eat on Saturday I felt the need to carry on a bit further and threw in a 3 mile loop taking me into half-marathon territory.

Not a particularly fast run but 8:34 average isn't that bad given the bumpy profile.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Early Rain

It might have stopped by the time everyone else got up, however, at 6:10 this morning it was still very much pouring with rain. With the sky full of clouds and an hour and a half to go to sunrise it was also very dark. An ideal opportunity for getting the headtorch out and going for a run if ever I've seen one.

Just did an easy five mile anti-clockwise loop by way of Swan Walk (north) and Cooters End Lane. Didn't follow-up with lunchtime intervals or any other such madness. Only a true loony would think of doing something that crazy.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Back To The Rockets

Thanks to latrine congestion I was late getting to the Rockets meet point. Instead of arriving thirty seconds early I was thirty seconds late which given the speed of their "warm-up" is quite a gap to have to close. Luckily delays crossing City Road worked in my favour and gave the opportunity to catch.

With the Southern Counties cross-country this weekend elites were in in short supply. And of those present only one did the full session. After the usual mutterings the session was called as eight two-minute reps off a minute's recovery.

The session was quite unusual. With the elite(s) taking it easy and jogging back after each effort we ran the reps as a single group. The short fast efforts were a welcome shock to the system after the last three days of little effort. So that's it. Recovery over. Back to training...

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Easy SE1

Current temperature 2 degree Celsius.
Feels like -2 degree Celsius.

Perhaps not the best day to forget one's thermal base layer. Luckily I was saved by my yellow emergency wind-proof(ish) gilet.

Following Sunday's exertion the legs ached yesterday but felt much better today. However, didn't feel recovered enough for speedwork so gave the Rockets a miss and went for an easy run along the Old Kent Road (why not?). The very same lunchtime Kenny was busy pumping out 6:20 miles with the National Grid elite while I was happy to plod around covering a mile every nine minutes. Spooky role reversal or what?

Did seven miles - no specific aches or pains - but legs did feel a bit tired. Not sure what the rest of the week has in store. Simon is making positive Locket Rocket noises so guess I'll be back up their with my Niall replacement soon.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Fred Hughes 10

I've changed my mind - I actually ran OK.

A couple of miles into the race I decided to target completing the ten miles at 6:50 pace. In my oxygen depleted race stupor I calculated that meant finishing in 68:10.

So when I actually crossed the line in 68:29 I was slightly disappointed to miss the goal by the best part of twenty seconds. However, a few hours later, having rehydrated, refuelled and brought my heart rate down from zone five I realised I should have been aiming for 68:20. So given the rolling nature of the course missing out by nine seconds doesn't seem so bad.

Crunching the number further shows a pleasing negative split (34:26 out, 34:03 back) and that's with slightly more uphill in the second half. Actual lap times (for those having trouble sleeping) are 6:54, 6:51, 6:36, 6:52, 7:03, 7:07, 6:39, 6:44, 6:35 and 6:22.

And that's all based on the course mile markers. According to Garmin I ran an inefficient 195 feet further than 10 miles. Plugging that into the magic numbers machine gives 6:49 pace. Bingo. See - manipulate the inputs enough and you can get to any desired result.

With neither Niall nor Kenny on form it's difficult to objectively judge my performance. According to the McMillan Running Calculator to hit a 1:30 half-marathon (6:52 pace) I should be knocking out 10 mile races at 6:46 pace. So no good news there. What was clear is this is a course that rewards those that can run down hill quickly. With high cadence and the feet barely touching the ground I was zooming past people left right and centre.

And what of the others?

Niall missed out on his post-match massage but at least has a new T-shirt to wear when changing the oil on his car.

Given Kenny's need to avoid a random drugs test he did well to keep a low profile and finish in the pack with the "fun runners".

David disappeared up front at the start never to be seen again. According to the results he finished in 66:16, which is mighty impressive given his long training run yesterday.

And Simon had a stormer, finishing an incredible sixth and only nine seconds behind the third place man. Without last night's dinner party he would have been on the podium.

Out of the 617 finishers I came in 72nd. Not even in the top 10%! Hold on - I've changed my mind again...

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Swan Song

Today was Niall's last session with the Rockets. In recognition of his contribution to the running group he was given the honour of leading the first of our six 4-minute reps. I would have gone for throwing him in the canal...

Chris and Josef from work said they would come along to the training session. However, I met them going into the changing rooms just as I was leaving for the off (no I didn't wait) and they only just made it up to the canal in time for the first rep. Schoolboy error number two was neither had a watch. Hard to believe these guys have actually been running for years.

Sarah was there too so Niall asked if she knew about showers in the Gherkin for Simon. Her reply was in the negative, although expressed in rather more colourful language and definitively not reproducible here.

With the Fred Hughes 10 on Sunday there was no point killing myself and was happy to run at 95% effort. Steve was jubilant to finish the set ahead of me. Oh well, if I've made someone happy today that's no bad thing.

Monday, 18 January 2010

One Year On...

Today is the anniversary of my first ever run with what has now become known as Harpenden Running Fource.

If I'd know at the time what I was letting myself in for I would have made my polite excuses and given it a miss. The benefit of hindsight...

I would, however, like to say what a great year it's been and how I've enjoyed running with such an inspiring group of like-minded runners. Yes I would like to say that, but can't, as I'd be lying through my teeth!

No, but seriously, I've now come to look on Niall, David, Kenny and Simon as, well I guess, as people I've met that have somehow got my e-mail address and won't leave me alone. A bit like internet spammers but with Lycra and DayGlo jackets instead of Viagra.

So to celebrate this auspicious occasion I went for a run with Niall and Andrew out through Wapping. Well re-enacting the original run to Verulamium Park would have been a bit of a stretch for a lunchtime given it's 20 miles away.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

We have the technology… We have light!

The easy early morning run the day after the Hare and Hounds the day before...

Had arranged a bright and early 7am start with Niall with the intention of taking the Nicky Line to Redbourn. Early it was, bright it certainly wasn't. Rain had been forecast and with the extra cloud cover (and little snow) it seemed darker than ever. Most of the ice had melted but there were still patches out there to catch out the unwary. Taking to an unlit tree lined footpath in these circumstances seemed out of the question.

However, opening my front door seconds before the appointed meeting time I was greeted by a grinning Niall (not sure how long he’d been lurking out there) complete with his latest Christmas gizmo – a head torch. Fantastic! I’ve got one of them too - bought by my nearest and dearest for our wedding anniversary (yes I know – how romantic). However, unsure how comfortable it would be on a long run I hadn't used it yet. "Hold on, I’ve got one of them too. Just need to put some batteries in. Back in a second". Slam! Leaving Niall on the doorstep while I quickly grabbed the torch, fitted batteries and put it on over my running hat.

Wow – what a revelation. Why I hadn’t I done this before? OK so we had two torches and Niall’s was slightly brighter than mine. But it was such an improvement.

It tuned out the Nicky Line was still very icy – doing it in the dark would have been too risky. But with our new illuminating technology we were fine.

Once in Redbourn Niall threw in a short new section round Church End for me. However, the real fun didn't start until after Redbournbury Watermill on the way back. I knew there was a route via Hammonds End Farm and thought today was as good as a day as any to try it. Truth is it wasn't as there was still sufficient snow on the ground to hide the footpaths. Anyway we went straight when we should have gone left and ended up stuck in a farmers field and had to cut onto the golf course to make our great escape. That mile took us 12:46 - yup barely quicker than walking speed. Kenny would have loved it!

Anyway after that crossed Redbourn Lane and followed the track straight across the field (wot no footpath sign?). Before we knew it we were heading for the tree lined avenue into Rothamsted Park and home. Just as it started to rain - perfect.

Friday, 15 January 2010

View From The Back

Today was the first running of the JPM Hare and Hounds five mile handicap over the all-new Westminster/Three Bridges/Blackfriars route. My initial thoughts on seeing it was there were too may steps. However, having now run the course in anger I've warmed to it.

First surprise of the day for me was that despite Niall running the last H&H quicker he would be starting today nine seconds ahead. Second surprise was I was down as the fastest runner and so would be starting last. Surely some mistake?

So my expectation was for a pretty lonely run with Niall disappearing off into the distance and me finishing dead last. And one mile in with Niall now about 17 seconds ahead and no other runners in sight my prediction was looking good.

However, by mile two Niall seemed to be getting closer. And then, with the wind now behind us, running back from Vauxhall Bridge and over Lambeth Bridge I gradually bit by bit got closer until finally catching as we rounded the back of County Hall. I had just enough energy to grunt "Are you saving yourself for the last mile?" I didn't hear a reply - maybe he muttered something unprintable under his breath - I'll have to check his blog to find out.

With just over a mile to go it was then a case of keeping going and not looking back (well not until I was crossing Blackfriars Bridge). I overtook a few runners that looked kind of familiar as so I presumed were also H&H. I didn't say anything just in case.

Final uphill over Blackfriars Bridge was not as bad as I had feared. Yes I felt like my mid-morning bagel was about to make a reappearance but hey that's racing.

In the end I finished the five miles in 33:12 - an unexpected 27 seconds ahead of Niall. So I guess that goes to show running 40 mile training weeks in freezing temperatures battling against snow and ice is better race preparation than spending two weeks on an all-inclusive sun holiday. I'm glad that's been resolved...

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Early Bird

I had to go up to Luton to get some new boots for the family run-around fitted this morning. I didn't think it would take long (it did - but that's another story) but still decided to err on the side of caution and get my easy run in first thing rather than wait until lunchtime.

It was lightly snowing when I left the house at 6:45 and there was a welcoming fresh half-inch covering on the ground. However, it was still very dark and the cloud cover made the light seem very flat so decide not to venture too deep into the wilderness.

Instead I headed north on Swan Walk, turning left onto Cooters End Lane. However, having passed under the railway bridge I kept going straight (the road with no name?) instead of bearing left to stay on Cooters End Lane. I tend not to go straight like this as I find he road a bit exposed, bleak and just plain boring. However, all dressed in white it was a world away from the usual experience. House lights twinkled in the distance while the cushioned road made the running feel effort-free. The white glow from the expanse of surrounding fields was almost haunting.

Dropped down through Thrales End and back to civilisation (well the Luton Road). Completing the loop home took the distance to 5.25 miles at a very leisurely 9:52 average pace. That must be my slowest run since... well since I started logging runs (2005).

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Back To Rockets

I've been doing plenty of running this year (72 miles to be precise) but no speedwork. So today it was back to Rockets for some New Year punishment. Arrived at the meeting point spot on time (12:34!) to find lots of people, some of whom I even recognised.

Warm-up to the canal was, how should I put it? Brisk. Got dropped a couple of times but managed to just about keep the main pack in sight. Once up there much debate ensued. Too many cooks? If Ian had been there it would have been decided in an instant. Dissent would not have been tolerated.

In the end the session was finally called as 10 minutes out, 2 minutes recovery, then three reps of five minutes, again with 2 minutes recovery, back. Yeah - 10 minutes out and 15 minutes back - go figure!

I did the 10 minutes and two 5-minute reps which not too surprisingly brought us back to the start. The others then decided on two 3-minute reps. However, I was good only for heading home which I did with fellow C runners Steve and Richard plus one of the elites who I'm guessing must have indulged in a touch too much Christmas pudding.

Canal was frozen (except under bridges). Towpath was snow and ice-free. Unusual sighting of the day was the swivel office chair embedded in the ice mid canal. Bad day in the office?

Monday, 11 January 2010

Out East With Sean

Sunday's easy five mile run didn't happen. I felt tired and decided extra sleep would be more beneficial than forty odd minutes gallivanting through the sub-zero Hertfordshire countryside. Felt I was kind of letting Running Fource down, however, Simon saved the day and ventured out to the mighty Sommeries Castle (or part thereof) with Darren.

So that makes Monday the new (recovery run) Sunday. Had intended doing the usual Westminster Bridge loop, however, this changed when I bumped into Sean in the gym. Turns out today is the first day of his Brighton Marathon training schedule. It's also his first day's running for a good few weeks thanks to injury and Christmas hols. And what does the schedule say - five miles easy - perfect!

He had been intending to do an easy session on the treadmill (yeah I know - soft southern shandy drinker) but was all too happy to accept my invite to run outside. Of course this led to the usual wardrobe issues (shorts - no running longs) but at least with the temperature hitting the dizzy heights of two degrees (above zero!) it seemed warmer today.

So as we leave the gym I'm about to turn right and head for Westminster when Sean pipes up "so what about these canals you keep telling me about..." No problem. About turn, let's go east...

Down past Shadwell Basin, quick loop of King Edward VII Memorial Park, and back - exactly five miles. More luck than judgement but fine with me.

I let Sean set the pace, which meant going slightly quicker than usual recovery run speed. I think this was mainly due to nervousness on his part as he didn't want to go too slow for me! Ha if only he'd knew - me - I'm all gear no idea!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Snow deer?

More snow. More wardrobe malfunctions.

It all started off OK. Well except for Kenny's ridiculous route to Ayres End Lane. But other than that everything seemed quite normal, perhaps a bit too normal, as we made our way over to Heartwood Forest. It wasn't until we got to our final wooded section, Langley Wood, that it started to go wrong.

First there was the bench. Nice touch - gave Niall and me somewhere comfortable to sit while we were waiting for Mr Mega Miles.

And them there was the deer. No - not real. Made out of twigs and stuff. Very clever. Worth a photograph? Yes. Worth getting your kit off for? Hmm - pass.

And finally there was the question of what to do with Kenny's clothes? Luckily throwing has never been one of my strong points. Otherwise they'd still be up that tree.

Twelve miles. Lots of snow. Great scenery. One nutter.

Friday, 8 January 2010

City - Wharf - City

Having bumped into a thankfully fully clothed Niall on the way to work we arranged to meet at Honour God Arch at 12 midday for a run east. Unfortunately by then his wardrobe malfunction fetish had returned and I found him waiting for me (sorry about that) minus gloves and long bottoms. Shorts are fine on warm days. I'm not so sure they are the best choice when the temperature is bang on zero.

It was good to see the pavements in the City had been gritted and without Martin to divert us we made to make good time to St Katherine Dock. However, it was a different story on the Wapping canal-side paths. But it takes more than a spot of compacted snow and ice to put off the City of London chapter of Running Fource (wot - no Simon?).

Keen to ratchet up new routes for the man in shorts we pushed on as far as Canary Wharf (3.5 miles) before turning. Speed on the way back increased the closer we got to home. This was part due to improved grip underfoot and part due to the temperature dropping. By the time I reached the gym snow had begun to fall although it had stopped when I left again 10 minutes later.

As you would expect, given today's conditions, our pace was on the easy side. However, we did manage to get in a couple of short bursts of speed when passing under bridges.

So what we need for the weekend is a route that involves running under as many bridges and through as many tunnels as possible - shouldn't be too difficult to arrange...

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

More snow, less clothes

This must be the first run I have done that started by standing on someone's doorstep while their running bottoms were posted out of the letterbox. I mean leaving home without say your key or gloves is understandable. But forgetting your trousers!!!

Anyway, wardrobe malfunction aside, today it snowed. Well actually it started during the night so by morning the carpet was some four inches deep. With more snow forecast for later in the day only a demented masochist would risk trusting First Crapital Disconnect to get them to London and back.

Met up with he who forgot his trousers (hwfht) at 2pm just as the snow started to dump down again. With little wind it didn't feel too cold and the trails were fine under foot.

During our seven-mile jaunt we managed to include a few paths hwfht hadn't run before which is always good. Although not a good as shaking a tree just after you've run past it so the person behind gets the instant snowman treatment! Childish? Yeah whatever.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Tuesday chat

Had planned on intervals today. However, Niall suggested tempo instead so I happily switched.

Given the choice of heading east or west (sounds like something from The Wizard of Oz) west was selected and that was the full extent of our route planning.

Heading along Victoria Embankment I was thinking of striking out for Lambeth or Vauxhall Bridge. However, Niall requested "the parks" so after an unorthodox diversion round Parliament Square (sorry - don't know what I was thinking) we found ourselves in familiar Hare and Hounds territory.

The pace turned out to be more steady, just about talkable, hard, rather than full on tempo. Naturally I blame Niall for holding me back while no doubt Niall will blame me.

I stupidly forgot to start my watch so I'm guessing I did about 7.8 miles (Gmaps Pedometer worked it out at 8 miles but I know we cut quite a few corners) in about 56 minutes. Taking account of slowing for steps and crossing roads I'd say we were probably pumping out steady 7 minute miles.

Snow dump is forecast for tomorrow so may have to move planned rest day back to Thursday. I mean only a fool would pass on the opportunity to run on fresh snow...

Monday, 4 January 2010

If this is London... it must be freezing.

While I accept running through Harpenden countryside before sunrise may mean encountering sub-zero temperatures I hardly expect the thermometer to be the wrong side of zero at midday in the centre of London. However, the reading at lunchtime today from our friends at was temperature -2, feels like -6.

Whatever happened to global warming?

So New Year - new route? Well maybe not. However, shock, horror, I did run the Westminster Bridge loop clockwise.

In the sun and out of the wind it was fine. However, the first mile or so running in the wind corridors between tall office blocks wasn't too pleasant. Time to invest in some heated gloves maybe? And heated hat, top, tights, socks...

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Almost to Sommeries Castle

I didn't fancy Kenny's offer of 6:30 start for a slow 14 miler so arranged to meet Simon at 7:00 outside the Amble Inn for something a bit shorter and quicker. Niall and David had already sent in their excuses so it was down to guest runner Lee to make up the numbers.

My plan was to take the guys up to Sauncy Wood and then across the top following tacks, trails and roads towards Luton Airport. Depending on how we felt we could then either drop down Copt Hall Rd or continue on past Sommeries Castle, round the runway onto Airport Way and drop down to the Lower Luton Rd to pick-up the footpath home.

Despite clear skies and an almost full moon it was darker than expected when we set off. I was already having second thoughts about the wisdom of the route when the first section off-road, cutting across from Common Lane to Bower Heath Lane, confirmed my worst fears. It was suicidally dark: underfoot was frozen and slippy while low hanging branches were all but invisible. But working on the theory silence implies approval we pushed on.

However, it turned out this was but a taster for the blind running to come. One of my favourite footpaths, and as it turns out one of Simon's too, runs from Little Cutts Farm (about 2,5 miles in) to Farr's Lane. It's a great trail but is heavily wooded and tends to get very muddy. Simon accelerated away in his trial shoes, I tried and failed to keep up while Lee followed behind. We got to the end in once piece - just. It was exhilarating in a "that was a stupid thing to do" sort of way.

From there we pushed on past Chiltern Green and ever closer to the aeroplanes whisking people off to sun drenched beaches (or Poland depending on the flight).

Despite Simon and Lee having never seen the wonder of Sommeries Castle the call was to head left down Copt Hall Road and back towards the Lower Luton Rd.

From there we took the Upper Lea Valley Walk/Swan Walk back to Harpenden, turning right onto Westfield Road for a final uphill blast. As before Simon stormed away. I was OK. Lee, however, was by now paying the price of a three-week lay-off and despite in normal conditions being the stronger runner was unable to keep up with me (this time). I doubt this will be the case at the Fred Hughes 10 in a few weeks time.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Happy New Year

Given it was minus one with a wind chill at 8am this morning it was impressive to see five runners ready and waiting as I stumbled out of the door.

Niall's plan was for a 13 miler out to Brocket Hall via the Ayot Greenway and back by way of Swan Walk. However, in no time we were running up through Mackerye End, Gustard Wood and five miles in found ourselves skirting Ayot St Lawrence. By the time we eventually hit the Greenway seven miles had been covered so Brocket Hall wasn't going to happen.

On the way back I made a bad call to go right on Down Green Lane which meant we ended up running a short section of the Wheathampstead Road. We should have gone left and picked up the footpath round the golf course. I felt bad but thankfully the guys didn't make a big issue of it. I wont make that mistake again.

My Wheathampstead Road transgression aside, the route was undoubtedly a good'un what with being almost entirely off-road and both Niall and me bagging new footpaths. I hope Darren, our guest runner today, doesn't expect such greatness every week.

So million dollar question is will Kenny be downloading the route to his watch and running it tomorrow?