Saturday, 29 May 2010

Tourists Trail

Today's run started yesterday morning when I woke to find a text from Dave: "In Harpenden tomorrow for a rugby tournament. Want to meet for a run?"

Now Dave hasn't had a blog mention for many a month now. And there's a good reason for this: a year ago he quit the City for the far, far tougher career of teaching. I've only seen him the once since then and so was more than happy to swap Saturday's tempo with Sunday’s easy in order to meet-up.

Further texts were exchanged and agreement was quickly reached on 9:30 start (excellent – lie in territory) for a seven to eight mile run. The distance worked particularly well for me as my schedule had me down for 12 miles and it's just over two miles either way to the rugby club.

I hummed and harred a bit regarding route but finally decided to go for a loop round Harpenden taking in the pleasantries of West and East Common, the High Street (wow so many estate agents and building societies), The Avenues and the Nickey Line. Well Harpenden is nice so why not show it off?

The rain kept off as I filled Dave in with all the coming and goings (mainly goings) at work. And he gave me an update and what it's like being a bone-idle teacher-training student!

Seven and a half miles covered at a relaxed easy pace got us back to the rugby club in time to catch Dave’s daughter in action (did I mention it was a girls' rugby tournament?) and then it started to rain.

Two and a quarter miles home gave me a total of 12.04 for the day. Spot on. Couldn't have planned it better myself.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Hot and Bothered (Hare and Hounds)

Today may well have been the hottest day of the year so far. If it wasn't then it certainly felt like it. So perhaps not the best day for a lunchtime race.

And given my performance today perhaps I shouldn't have bothered. But bothered I did.

I went off too fast, blew up horribly 3 miles in, and limped the final two miles to the finish horribly slowly.

Back at the office I consoled myself by drinking a gallon of chocolate milk... It didn't help.

End of.


Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Sore Arm Running

Following the Barbwire And Bloodied Knees incident with Simon I realised my tetanus jab is past its sell-by date and I need a top-up poke in the arm. Evening appointments are as scarce as rocking horse poo at my local surgery so I was booked in at 9:30 this morning for a rendezvous with a large pointy needle thing. Not expecting to get into the office until close on 11 meant a lunchtime run was off the agenda while an early morning jaunt was very much on.

So 6:25 saw me out of the door and heading off in the direction of my new stomping ground: Kimptom Bottom and Peters Green. But first it was up the hill to Sauncey Wood and, hold on, there's a path going through the woods! Well that's an opportunity not to be missed. And what a fine path it was. Wide and not too rutted. Must remember to incorporate it into a Sunday run.

And then it was onto the footpath down to the Blue Cross animal rescue centre on Kimpton Bottom across the road and off in the general direction of Peters Green. Kimpton Road is a bit busy for my liking but I didn't have time to detour (although if you zoom in on the map you can see I did initially turn right and think about it).

For once, time was on my side, so I was able to take it easy and averaged only 8:48 across the whole run. Which is a full minute per mile slower than the similar but longer Black Socks and Ankle Deep Mud run at the start of the month (again with Simon). So if there's one thing we can conclude from today (other than I'm scared of needles) is that left to my own devices I'm a lazy runner.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Sunday Solo

Simon had reported in ill. And Kenny was... well Kenny was more than three minutes late so I left without him.

So all on my lonesome I headed off for what tuned out to be 11 miles of off-road ups and off-road downs (although it's the ups I remember more). New paths were a-plenty including one behind the hedge to the left of Bowers Heath Lane (thanks Simon - beats being squashed by a Chelsea tractor) and the three miles from Peters Green to Kimpton. Three miles! Is that a record?

On reflection I didn't choose the best route out of Kimpton - should have gone left first right when I hit the High Street (instead of the other way around). I'll know better next time.

So all in 10.9 miles covers at 7:50 pace - I would have take it easier but had to push on as I started three minutes late...

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Heartwood evening run

Hold on, I just need to check how far it is from London to Geneva... What, about 460 miles? OK that should be far enough..

So this evening I did the unthinkable and had traitor tattooed on my forehead. OK, that might be a slight over exaggeration. But it felt like it. Yes today I went out for my first ever run with "the affiliated running club in Harpenden". Well that's the title across the top of their web pages.

I didn't want to do it - Simon made me. Well actually, more to the point, I couldn't get out for a run at lunchtime. Previously I would have got up early and headed out before breakfast. But today I couldn't be bothered. So instead I went running with them instead.


Saturday, 8 May 2010

Dorney Dash 10K

So today saw me at the 2012 Olympics rowing lake in Dorney, just outside Windsor, for the Dorney Dash 10K. This flat (whoever heard of a sloping lake?) two-lap affair is pure PB material as long as it's not too windy.

The weather forecast hadn't been promising with rain and wind expected to sweep in from the east. If we were lucky it might hold off until after the race. And lady luck was on our side: it was breezy, rather than windy, and the rain ventured no further west than the M25.

The start was well organised and after being advised by the race director to keep out of the water (it didn't look appealing and I can definitely run faster than I can swim) we were off. The first kilometre (3:56) saw the usual jockeying for position and tuning into race pace.

Into the next kilometre and I latch onto a couple of Maidenhead AC runners who look like they're aiming for a similar finish time to me. This turns out to be a bad move: their pace is fast but not quite fast enough. We're loosing four seconds per kilometre and so after four kilometres and 16:08 on the clock I leave my temporary compatriots behind and push on.

I'm relieved to see the next kilometre tick over in four minutes - bang on target pace. Five kilometres covered in 20:08. Five kilometres to go (negative split alert!).

So now we're on our second lap. The path is parallel to and slightly closer to the lake than the path on our first circuit although the view is the same.

I'm pushing hard. 6K split time: 24:07. 7K split time: 28:06. It's frustrating: I'm running at target pace but can't pull back the lost seconds. The thought of missing 40-minutes by a few seconds is crushing. I’m not enjoying myself so much now. This is the best I can do. I promise myself that if I don’t go sub 40-minutes I'll never run a 10K again in my life.

There is a water station at the far end of the lake, 7.5 kilometres in. The runners ahead don't take any water so I don't. I'm pushing harder than ever and overtake a couple of runners. I catch another and he goes with me. I can hear him breathing hard on my shoulder. I don’t look round but check my watch. Pace is good: 6:18. I can do it. In the distance I can see the clubhouse and the finish. I’m running for my life, gasping for air, trying to take deep breaths and get more oxygen into my lungs.

8K split: 32:01 – that’s a 3:55 kilometre. Almost back on schedule but was it too much too soon? The heavy breather is still on my shoulder. I ease slightly, he gets louder, I dig even deeper. We’re pushing each other.

9K split 35:59. Keep going, keep going, keep going. We catch another runner. He tucks in behind. I'm overtaken by David, as I later find my heavy breathing accomplice is called. But I speed up too, we run parallel. We can now actually see the finishing mat. Over the tannoy the announcer says "just 20 seconds to 40 minutes". I know I can make it. I shift up a gear. As I start to pull away from David I turn and yell at him "COME ON! We can do it". I shock myself - I hadn't realised this meant so much to me. The clock is still ticking. The finishing line spectators see us running flat out. Now they’re the ones shouting "come on".

As I cross the line I punch the air. 39:58. My chip time will be four seconds quicker. I've done it.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Race Day Minus One

It’s gotten colder. And windier. The sun hasn't been around for a few days. We've got a hung parliament. It feels like autumn. Running doesn't seem quite as much fun as it did when the sun was out a couple of weeks ago.

It's been a quiet week on the running front: nothing on Monday while Tuesday saw a trip out east with Chris G. We both did three-minute repeats. Chris seven. Me two. Curious as to why the traffic was backed-up along The Highway I following the roads back from Shadwell Basin. A suspect vehicle outside Aldgate tube turned out to be the cause. The police had closed the roads but were happy to allow pedestrians to roam free. Perhaps they believe human flesh it tough enough to protect from a blast and the accompanying shrapnel.

Wednesday had me running through Paris. No not the Paris to be found 98 miles northeast of Dallas–Fort Worth, Texas. And not even the Paris to be found 20 miles west of Euro Disney. This Paris, with its glorious parks, fabulous architecture and gangs of scruffy youth loitering menacingly can be found in the open space between Buckingham Palace and Horse Guards Parade. Hold on. That’s St James Park. But everyone was speaking French! Niall would have been in his element.

On Thursday I substituted the evening's Assembly League Big Tent race with a pre-race hair cut (proven to increase race pace by approximately two seconds per mile) .

And today I did three easy miles over to Tower Hill, down to the Wobbly Bridge and back via St Paul's. It sure was bone chillingly windy out there but also surprisingly warm when sheltered. The legs still feel a but stiff but as long as I warm up properly tomorrow I should be OK.

There's nothing else I can now do. I've followed the seven-week training schedule closely with just a couple of easy runs dropped in favour of rest days. Tomorrow I'll have porridge with honey and banana for breakfast and then a bagel bang on one hour before gun time. I've done my best to change the variables I have control over. Unfortunately the weather isn't one of them. It will be what it is and I will deal with it.

So long and thanks for all the fish.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Black Socks and Ankle Deep Mud

Black socks! Brilliant! Why did I never think of it?

When it's tippling down with rain and you're ankle deep in mud, black is where it's at. And if you have matching black trail shoes all the better. I had neither (although if you'd seen me at the end of today's run you wouldn't have known).

But I'm getting ahead of myself. We need to go back to 8pm Saturday when it started to rain. And then it absolutely pelted it down all night. So although it was hardly raining when I met Simon outside The Amble Inn at 7:20 the ground was wet, sodden, drenched.

We headed north along Swan Walk to East Hyde and then took an Ultra John footpath up to Peters Green. I'm sure with fresh legs on a glorious sunny day the path is an absolute delight. However, with heavy legs from yesterday's 11-mile romp, traversing the wet slippery grass and rutted mud was a real slog. The views on the way up are probably magnificent too. All I saw was gazelle legs Speirsy effortlessly bounding ahead.

Today's route took in many fine (i.e. muddy) paths interspersed with short sections on-road. Advanced route planning was minimal with a good few "I wonder where this path goes? Let's find out" and a handful of "Hang on - I recognise this path, but last time I ran it in the opposite direction".

The day ended with 10 miles covered at an average pace of 7:48. Not a bad result given the conditions under foot. If it hadn't been for Simon I would have skipped the loop out from Marshall's Heath Lane to Gustard Wood golf course and back (mile eight). Windy, muddy, nasty and a footpath flooded into a fully-fledged ankle-deep stream. What was the boy thinking?

So this week has ended with 50 miles on the clock which equals my second ever highest weekly mileage (the highest was during my 2005 marathon training).
Now do remind me again - is it a 10K or a 100K I'm training for?

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Barbwire And Bloodied Knees

Simon is the new Niall. OK so he doesn't talk with a foreign accent. And I don’t believe he is aspiring to emigrate to a nanny state European tax haven renowned for it’s cuckoo clocks and yodelling (or is that Austria?). But when it comes to appetite for trail running and exploring new footpaths Simon is now right up there with the greats: Ultra John, Niall and, dare I say it, my humble self. Even a barbwire barricade is no deterrent to Speirsy – although it did prove a bit much for Shorty Savage.

Today’s run was advertised as three miles easy, three miles fast (10K pace) followed by another three miles easy. Simon was the only buyer in the market although he left it late before fully committing himself.

I was struggling to decide on a route and left to my own devices wouldn't have ventured much beyond Harpenden's suburban fringe. Luckily Simon was more inspired and suggested a route out to Sandridge (original name "Saundruage" meaning a place of sandy soil serviced by bond tenants).

Three miles in and we're at one of the higher points of the run so the first tempo mile saw us tumbling at speed downhill. Into the village of Sandridge and left onto the gradual climb to Nomansland. Ten minutes later and I'm now heading across the common. Up front something is wrong. Simon is no longer a white dot getting ever smaller in the distance but is stationary. My watch says 2.5 miles. I catch up: 2.65 miles. I'm too exhausted to push on. "Oh well" says Simon cheerfully, "2.65 miles off-road is the equivalent to 3 miles on tarmac". I gladly buy it. It might even be true.

We ease off again in the direction of home; however, Simon is a changed man. The fast effort seems to have cleared last night’s alcohol from his system and he's full of energy like a playful puppy. "Ooh look a footpath! I bet that will take us through to Mud Lane" and he's off.

It did, although at first we went the wrong way on Ayres End Lane. We join Mud Lane (which wasn't) and then just before the railway he dives off onto a footpath to the right. New one on me – good call. But it isn't. The gap where the path joins Cross Lane resembles the perimeter of a prisoner of war camp. There's barbed wire everywhere (and probably a few land mines to boot). To the longer legged the hurdle is crossed with ease. I struggle. Snag my shorts a couple of times, get cut on both knees and we retreat.

East Common and the golf course are our allies as we return to civilisation. I'm a bit bloodied and muddied and we've gone over distance (see told you – the new Niall) but we will regroup and return to run another day (oh no – that will be tomorrow). Now where did I leave those wire cutters?