Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Hounds And Hare Backwards

More in reverse than backwards but I'm sure you get the drift.

Having run Billy No Mates for the last couple of weeks I sought human companionship today in the form of JPM runner Andy Stubbs. I had intended asking him what the black dog reference in his blog was all about but forgot. Instead I mused over whether Nigel is a stupid name for a squirrel or not. And if it is then what constitutes a sensible name.

Alas today we say no marching bands playing pick of the pops and there were no close death experiences crossing roads. Andy did his now legendary darting through the tourists while I dutifully followed.

Eight miles covered and I don't feel too bad. Maybe running can sometimes be enjoyable after all.

Overdid It

Did a five-mile steady Westminster Bridge loop yesterday while today’s session was five-minute repeats off two minutes recovery.

Running out along The Embankment worked hard to keep the pace sub 10K. Then on the way back disaster: had to cut the fourth rep a minute short as needed to pay a visit.

Emerged a couple of stone lighter but with very tight leg muscles. Feeling guilty over the four-minute rep did a further two five-minute efforts taking the total up to six instead of the five demanded by the training schedule.

Got back to the gym absolutely cream cracker’d. Didn't fall asleep at my desk so still have a job to go back to tomorrow – should I be glad?

Sunday, 25 April 2010

A Field of Some Importance

Footpaths go places - right? You join one, go along it for some distance and then leave it. You have arrived. Perhaps you are now at the junction with another path, a rural village, a famous poet's birth place. Something. Anything. But not this one:

And don't be fooled by into thinking it leads to a reservoir - because it doesn't:

My faith in Hertfordshire footpaths has been destroyed.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

7-minute mile Saturday

Saturday morning and according to our beloved weather forecasters the mercury is set to rise steadily throughout the day. I'm out of the door at 8am and it’s still a chilly five degrees (yes Celsius). Unlike me, however, the sun didn't have a lie-in and is already burning bright.

Seven to eight mile tempo is today’s treat and I've decided on the "not quite as far as Sommeries Castle" loop. However, in a break with tradition I'm to run clockwise. This has the advantage of hitting the big climb after three miles, when I’m nicely warmed up, instead of three minutes when I'm still running like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The first mile is flat. Perceived effort is 7.5. Yet it takes me 7:08. Oh – no. Not another tempo effort – tortoise speed run! But the next two miles are sub 7 reinforcing the value of a decent warm-up (well more than this morning's two minutes).

Then, three miles in and it's a right turn onto Copt Hall Road and almost a mile of uphill. It's not too bad at first and I'm able to hold good form. However, as it steepens towards the top I revert to running like my Disney nemesis. But 7:40 for the mile is OK. I'm half-way through the run and it's now (almost) all downhill.

I hold steady 6:53 pace for the next two miles as I motor through Peters Green before dropping down to Kimpton Bottom. So far so good. But now it's the climb up to Sauncey Wood. Not too long. Not too steep. But the legs aren't pleased.

Then, hurrah, the final decent. It's shorter and steeper than Copt Hall Road. My legs spin at 200 RPM to get me down as quickly as possible. A quick check of my Garmin at the bottom and I'm relieved to see the time lost on the earlier climbs has been recovered.

I will average sub seven minute pace after all. The tortoise has been banished – at least for today (he’ll be back).

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Not Clever

Out and back run: 20-22 minutes out; faster back.

So let's make that 3 miles at 7 min/mile out. 3 miles at something nearer 6:30 back. Great plan!

Covered the first mile, dodging through city streets, in 6:57. Down to the Embankment and hey ho the wind is behind me as a breeze along the river and over Westminster Bridge in 6:45 and 6:41. Turn around and it's up over the bridge again and back into the wind: 6:22. Too hard, too fast. Flat out effort gets me back to the Wobbly Bridge and up the steps in 6:50. I'm dead.

So a big fat nil points for me for run strategy. And remind me once again why I chose to follow a training schedule that doesn't specify run pace for each session?

Tuesday, 20 April 2010


Today I bumped (not literally) into Kate while running along the Embankment. At the time I didn't know her name was Kate because I have a less than useless memory. Kate is big fan of the 1,000 miles in 1,000 minutes man and was there last Saturday to witness the great event. At the time I chatted to her and her husband (nope - no idea of his name) for quite a while about running, triathlons, training and stuff.

I had to text Kenny to find out her name. I'll feel a lot better if I later find out she hasn't remembered my name. Then again unless she also writes a running blog she probably doesn't need to know it.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Happy New Year

So today Kenny and I did a shortened version of the New Year's Day 13 mile off-road classic. I guess we could have made the full route if Kenny had a) been bothered to get up for a 7am start as I suggested b) wasn't in super taper mode and c) didn't stop every 10 minutes for some organic fertilising.

Kenny had a 10-mile route in mind (8.6 miles if starting/finishing at The Amble Inn). I persuaded him a knew a variation that was "probably about the same distance" (if you look on the map not far after the 4-mile marker you can see the turning he wanted to take). So I was wrong. I guess he did 12 miles in all. But come on - for someone who's just run a thousand what's a couple more miles. Well anyway he wasn't too happy with me. I'll live.

Many congratulations to Simon for his 12th place (36:06) and Darren's 30th place (38:07) in the Flitwick 10K. Very impressive for a race with just on 800 runners. I wish I could run that fast...

Saturday, 17 April 2010

London Marathon 2010: Harpenden man running in a kilt

Today I was lucky enough to be invited to spend some time with local running celebrity Ken Murray, 44, of Shakespeare Road, Harpenden. Frequently seen pounding the streets of Harpenden, Herts, in his kilt, this tireless charity fundraiser has built quite a following on his blog, as he attempts to complete 1,000 miles in preparation for the Virgin London Marathon.

Kenny confided in me that his training schedule, in and around Harpenden, Herts, UK, included sprint drills, tempo runs and long runs and had been designed to optimise his performance on marathon day where he hopes to hit his target finish time of three hours.

It was truly fascinating to witness at first hand how an athlete at the top of his game organises his day. In close attendance at all times was his personal nutritionist who kindly prepared a sample of the Scotsman’s stable training diet: bacon butties. Combined with cups of tea these high fat rolls are the ideal post exercise fuel.

The highlight of my time was undoubtedly being invited to join Kenneth on one of his training runs. I consider myself to be in reasonable shape but still had trouble keeping up on what he told later me was an easy half-mile jog. By performing multiple half-mile jogs without a rest between it was explained to me how it is possible to build up over time sufficient endurance to run 1,000 miles non-stop.

All too soon my time was over. I wished the gentle giant good luck for next week when he attempts to run 10,000 miles in two hours, stepped back into my spaceship and returned to planet earth.

What a complete and utter loony.

(ps read all about it here)

Monday, 12 April 2010

Five miles and a battle.

It's amazing how full of history London is.

Today I did a steady pace five miler (7:15 to 7:30 pace) along a route I've done a few times recently: down to Tower Hill, east along Cable Street (runs parallel and between The Highway and Commercial Road) and back via Shadwell Basin.

So when I get back to the office I want to double check Cable Street isn't actually spelt Cabel Street (well you never know). And the first result returned from Google is for the Battle of Cable Street. I had absolutely no idea (I wonder how many other people live on that street and have no idea either).

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Miserably Ten

So we’re staying with friends for the weekend. They know I run. They automatically assume I’ll be going for a Sunday morning run. That's good.

Steve kindly printed out a section of the local Ordnance Survey map (via some clever software where you buy map squares by the Kilometre) for me to follow. So far so good. Out of the door 8am Sunday morning. Take the gloves but leave the hat behind.

First mile and a half over familiar territory goes fine. Then I pick up the South Cheshire Way. Don't bother - it's rubbish. Swamps, bogs, shoe swallowing mud, long wet grass and footpath arrows but no visible path on the ground. It was a complete nightmare. I usually enjoy venturing off road into the unknown but not today.

It was a relief to get back on the tarmac. But by then my enthusiasm was gone. There is good running to be had in the area. But not today.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

One Mile Reps

Busy day today so it was out of the door at 6:30 AM or not at all. Session was a few miles warm up, 3 x 1 mile at 10K pace followed by a few miles warm down.

Not being as hardy as the 1,000 mile Virgin I ventured out wearing base layer, long sleeved top, gloves and hat. Although to be fair I was in shorts and the gloves and hat did come off during the 1-mile efforts.

So up until now my tempo runs have all been over dead flat terrain. Today, however, I ran on a section of the Lower Luton Road between Batford and Wheathampstead. More specifically from the Wheathampstead sign at the top of the short rise to the east of Batford, past the Indian restaurant by Cherry Tree Lane to the pelican crossing by Folly Fields. Now there are no hills as such between these two points. However, there is a tiny bit of up and down. Not a lot. But enough to make hitting target pace a real stretch.

The first mile from Folly Fields towards Batford took 6:22. Back to Folly Fields was 6:12. And to Batford again was 6:27. All with two minutes recovery. So with an average pace across the three miles of about 6:20 I guess I did OK. Legs do feel tired though...

Thursday, 8 April 2010

10K Pace Tempo

The schedule said "25-30 mins tempo run" which I interpreted as "four-mile tempo at close to 10k pace".

After racking my brain for a good route I remembered the Wobbly Bridge/St James Park loop is just over four miles. I used to do this run regularly, however, have been put off from doing it of late due to road works making the crossing of Whitehall extra difficult. If I'm heading over that way these days I'm more likely to cut up to Trafalgar Square, run down The Mall and go round Green Park.

However, none of that today. Along The Embankment, right onto Horse Guards Avenue, straight over Whitehall and Horse Guards Parade, clockwise loop of St James Park and back (via Trafalgar Square due to horses and tourists blocking the parade ground).

Surreal moment of the day was hearing The Band of the Coldstream Guards playing My Way (presumably not the Sid Vicious version) from their barracks near the top of Horse Guards Road. They were probably just out of earshot of Queenie who no doubt would not have been amused (off with their heads!). However, there was no marching band massacre today - just lots of amused (and bemused) tourists. I did consider hanging back in case their next tune was Sex Bomb but decided on balance it was unlikely.

So what about the run? Well the plan was to go out sub 6:30 and keep going at that pace. And as plans go it turned out quite well. I ran a touch too hard (need to watch that for the race) and ended up with a stitch kicking in about mile three. I was able to run through it for another mile but had to stop once the four-mile split beeped. And the pace was indeed sub 6:30 so happy days (although route was pancake flat). Rest day tomorrow so even happier day!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Testing Tuesday

This was never going to be easy. Two to three mile warm up (make that two miles). Two sets of 7 x 400m with 400m jog recoveries (7 x 90 seconds with 60 seconds recovery). Five to six minutes between sets (six minutes). Two to three mile cool-down (two miles).

Body was still tired from the long weekend's exertions and was now in shock thanks to the early morning "back to work" start. The arrival of an engineer to take a poke around my sick PC was the trigger to get me away from the desk and down to the gym. But even then the battle wasn't over with serious consideration given to going downstairs for a trot on a treadmill. However, common sense prevailed and I dragged my weary body outside into the wind & sunshine.

Down to Tower Hill and back to the Wobbly Bridge clocked up two miles and time to start the reps. The wind was against me on the way out to Vauxhall Bridge so the pace was never going to be blistering. However, that meant I relaxed and ran more naturally. Which is a good thing – no? Pace into the wind was about 6:40 while on the way back was nearer 6:10 which gives a good indication of how strong it was blowing.

With long recoveries relative to the interval run time the session turned out to be not as difficult as I had anticipated. This is probably due to making a conscious effort not to over do it on the way out. So satisfied with the session. Easy run tomorrow so hopefully legs will feel OK for Thursday's short tempo.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Holiday Monday Hoof

It seems like an age since I last met up with Kenny for a run. So long in fact that the cheeky runt wished me a Happy New Year when we met up outside The George at 8:15 this morning (well it is Bank Holiday Monday).

With no particular route in mind we headed through Rothamsted Park and across the field towards the rugby club (ah come on Kenny – how can you not have done this footpath before?). From there the only thing to do was pick up the newly discovered path round the back of West Common to the top of Beeson End Lane. Back to St. Albans Road and a quick left and first right took us onto Cross Lane and back to Southdown and home territory.

Today’s run was far more about conversation and catching up than covering miles and cardio training. Judging by the speed of his most recent reps session it sounds like Kenny is on fire. In this form I can’t think of a race distance over which he wouldn’t whip my ass good and proper. I think I’ll stick to my current plan of race avoidance. However, I did point out there seemed little need to aim for 3:10 when 3:15 will give a guaranteed good for age place in the 2012 London marathon (assuming the qualifying times don’t change).

Anyway can you believe Vienna by Ultravox was released in 1981? That's nearly thirty years ago! I mean thirty years. And it never even made number 1. But what can we do?

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Sunday Slog

I'm tired. We have family staying over Easter and spent yesterday trudging round the Natural History Museum. If was mad busy (45 minute queue just to get in) and draining. Add late nights and over eating and the result is motivation is at an all time low. I'm Billy no mates too. How I made it over the doorstep this morning I'll never know.

But I did. Maybe I'm experiencing what Nigel The Squirrel calls an "empty day". Over the doorstep and north towards Luton Airport - straight into the wind. Nine to ten miles in this? I'll be lucky to do nine to ten minutes. So I plod along the valley, turn right and plod even slower up the hill to Peters Green. Mid way up a shoelace comes undone. An excuse to stop. But not for long.

I continue out towards the Sommeries but turn left down Copt Hall Road before I get there. Notice some interesting woods up on the left. Another day maybe. Back into Harpenden via Cooters End Lane and I've only covered eight miles. Uh-oh.

Based on Kenny's assurance of safe passage I decide to divert into Highfield Oval. The notice on the way in says riff-raff allowed in between 6am and 6pm. I check my watch (and accidentally hit the pause button). Safe.

Round the back I find some woods. No bluebells but the muddy path reminds me of Sherrardswood Park. The cemetery reminds me of our mortality.

Back home but I'm not sure how far I've covered. A bit of playing on map my run and I decide its 10.5 miles.

Right then, where did I leave those Easter eggs? I think I deserve one.