Monthly Archives: September 2011

How to ruin a perfectly good half marathon

Sunday dawned nice and bright, a little mist indicating it was going to be a sunny day for a race once it burned off. Good job I drank as much as I could all day Saturday to ensure I was properly hydrated, then.

The Folkestone Half was the race – an out and back along the flat seafront of Folkestone, Sandgate and Hythe with a loop in Hythe as the turnaround, a loop on the Leas in Folkestone to start and a traipse down the Road Of Rememberance (about 400 yards of steep, steady hill) two miles in followed by the return up it at mile 12.

What could go wrong?

Ah. Well.

Mum came along to see us off (70 odd years old, 1 mile walk including three hills in just under 20 minutes. Marvellous!) and suggested I sounded a bit chesty. Hint number one.

I bumped into the Folkestone club runner I lost by 2 seconds to in the latest Ashford 5k race on the startline and a jovial chat saw us running most of the race against each other in a thoroughly decent, motivating fashion. The first 3 miles were steady but all well under 7 minute mile pace, he gaining about a 30 yard lead that I pulled back, to pass him by 4.5 miles and gradually stretch ahead. The long seafront stretch was in hot, bright sun reflecting off the bright concrete promenade and against the bright concrete sea wall. The clear stretch to Hythe was a relief (with a bit of breeze thrown in) – not only was the temperature a little more bearable but the shouts of encouragement from the marshalls to “Come on, Folkestone” were getting quieter as I gapped the other runner by keeping a steady pace.

I say steady; I eased off to between 7.10 and 7.18 per mile for miles 5 to 11 to ensure I had a push up the final hill and a sprint along the last flat mile. No-one was behind me to push me; no one was within 100m in front to chase. A steady, comfortable pace was all I could keep up, thinking my 7 minute mile average target was perfectly in range with a push for the last 2 miles.

Then, after a little nip in my left calf at 8.5 miles kept me alert to any hiccups, between 10.75 and 11 miles (oh, SportTracks is a wonderful tool for showing where things go awry!) I lost 20 seconds before stumbling over into the sea wall.

Completely lost my balance and, immediately afterwards, couldn’t focus on running a straight line and couldn’t be sure which side of the marshalls I was supposed to be going.

I identified dehydration. No idea how since I was drinking all day Saturday and sank 750ml of fluid over the run, but my spinning head and lack of coordination made me stop. I wasn’t about to collapse or anything if I could help it so, as bad as it was to have the Folkestone runner pound away from me, I let him go.

A minute or so later I tried a jog and felt awful so ate a jelly bean, drank a bit more and tried a 30 pace jog, 30 pace walk style which got me to the bottom of the hill. And all I was conscious of was the increased pace of people passing me. Why can’t I focus on the important bits, like my long term health, at such a moment?!

But I just settled into a walk up the hill. A little jog at the top was horrible but the shouts of the crowd kept me moving. Two more little walking breaks and I jogged over the line only to be clearly so bad that a marshall grabbed me, dragging me to the end of the finish funnel before I simply collapsed and moaned like a small boy. But not before telling him I was fone first, of course…

I must be honest – I don’t know how I got so bad, nor how I dehydrated, nor why I continued to the end again.

Mark Cadier (bloke I grew up with) crossed the line 16 minutes after me and he’s the first thing I remember. 15 minutes lost in space! Great…

But he was a good focus; chatting to him and his family (while he immeduiately started enjoying a post race Stella!) gave me 20 or so minutes to drink a bit and remember which way was up and then I forced myself to the car to get the camera to meet the others as they finished.

A pair of huge blisters let me know my feet had swollen massively compared to normal (350 miles in my trainers with no sores or anything…must have been the heat and concrete apron) and walking was a problem even without my dizzyness.

But everyone made it home and all was good.

I don’t know how to hydrate for the next race – maybe wait for the cooler days and hope!

The positives? 1.39.31 isn’t a catastrophe but it’s not 1.32, either. At least I know I have consistent pace and just 10 seconds a mile will give me 1hour 30 as long as nothing goes wrong. And I’ll at last be able to beat the bloke from Folkestone who may well be my nemesis!

The negatives? Doubt about my ability to do anything but cock up something I should be better at. And not being able to retire with a 1.30 to my name…at least one more half marathon to go before I can concentrate purely on shorter outings.

Right now I have some blisters to sort.

Good race, though. Friendly, well organised, great atmosphere, excellent start and finish area for spectators. Just a little dull in the middle, being an out and back against a concrete backdrop (odd how that’s the focus, not the expanse of water keeping France at a safe distance!) but even that was eased by the great spectator support.

I might even have another bash next year. After all, if the winner can do it in 1.08 (8 minutes 55 seconds faster than the bloke in second…!), there’s plenty of scope for improvement in my time…

145.52 miles to go.

Two for one

Laziness has prevented me from blogging Saturday’s run, to be fair. I was all kitted up in the morning before I found out my Garmin had completely discharged itself and I was left with the decision to put it on charge and run without it or wait until it had enough life for an hour and a half of use. Cathy says runs don’t count unless they’re on the Garmin, so that option was out, and as soon as it was on charge the heavens opened and encouraged me to put the outing off for a couple of hours in the hope of drier weather.

It turned out to be the right option. JB got soaked, I stayed dry and heading off at about 4 o’clock made sense after all.

I got bored around 3.5 miles, though. I’d set myself the sensible goal of maintaining a steady, reasonable pace. Into the wind down Long Length and Tally Ho Road I wasn’t struggling exactly but it was harder than it should have been and may well be a similar struggle to the race on Sunday if the wind’s up along the seafront.

I think that’s what transpired to encourage the boredom and desire to play. 3.5 miles is where my route takes me into the woods around Shadoxhurst. It’s also where the few little lumps in the profile exist. Running up one of these (but not in the wind now, due to hedges and trees), I increased tempo until I felt happy but quick…basically where I thought I could maintain the pace forever (or for 13 miles at least) to guess a race pace target.

Then a few yards later realised I could lap-time myself for a mile and see how it felt as well as getting a good average pace.

So I did.

3.64 to 4.64 miles was outed in spot on 7 minutes. No virtual partner to pull myself along to, just a steady pushing pace and my breathing to respond to. Analysing it at home, it was dead steady for each quarter mile split, too, so I think it’s a realistic target.

Certainly more so than when I did the same exercise between 7.5 and 8.5 miles. With the “recovery” miles settling in at 7.19, 7.29 and 7.38 per mile, I again wondered how much more slowly I’d run, so instantly hit the lap timer again and paced myself for another mile.

This time I felt a touch more tired, the mile seemed further, but the average pace was 6.50 somehow. The good thing is that my legs felt wasted and my breathing erratic to say the least. With no food intake or anything, it’s to be expected, but I reckon the 1.30 half marathon time is merely a dream so I won’t go chasing it and do mysef an injury. That can wait until next year, even if it is yet another of my year targets down the tubes.

Today was merely a gentle 4 miler to keep my legs working which is exactly what it did. a mix of lane and housing estate with an added light shower half way around. I was simply pleased to knock the last outing off with little worry of damage to my limbs.

Now it’s all down to hope that Sunday dawns fine and not too breezy. It might be a fun outing.

161.26 miles to go.

At a loss

An odd week for exercise seems to have ocurred and it’s still not quite over.

Since my 12 miles at the weekend I went for a run on Tuesday with the intention of using Audiofuel’s Pyramid 180 Max as a soundtrack and inspiration. Unfortunately somewhere between pulling on my running top and heading out of the door I decided to don a rucksack and plod around for 3 miles with the incorporation of a milk/bread roll/scone purchase.

A bit of a change in direction, but that’s how my will took me and with my intention to enjoy my runs, it’s what I went with.

2 miles of happy running fell apart after the shop when my running legs failed to stay with me and a plod home was endured to dissipate my merriment.

Last night brought on a desire to make my lungs hurt so my road bike was urged into action for a spot of time trialiing around the local dual carriageway but all my attempts at pace were thwarted by more traffic at every junction than I’ve ever seen. The bits in between were ace but every roundabout was a frustration. More so for the VW Polo who started to pull away next to me by Asda, though, and only succeeded in dropping something large from the bottom of his engine with a loud “clonk”. It’s odd how accurate “clonk” is to the noise his car made…simply half a forward lurch, a brief rattle and a harsh clonk. For my last two laps, the traffic was becoming confused by his location just on the roundabout, hazard flashers winking, but at least I could scurry inside him. Quite expensive, I’m sure.

Lungs burst, however, and I felt satisfied.

Tonight was going to be a hill session but a girlfriend appealing for a lift to the station combined with work frustrations lowering will to live to critical levels meant coming home with the intention of an outing tomorrow. Might be a good way to let go of work for a week of enjoying myself around the house before the half.

176.12 miles to go.

Like a metronome

Which, in my opinion, is massively prefereable to being like any other sort of gnome.

My odd not-really-a-training-schedule thing for the Folkestone half left me with the desire to click in my final long run this week and I was apprehensive to over stretch myself after the effort of Friday evening but eager to remove the weight of knowing I had a run to do from my shoulders.

The result was an outing this morning before the threat of awful weather hits which made the heavy shower I got caught in between 5 and 7 miles all the more frustrating, especially considering it was so local that home saw not a drop of the wet stuff.

A large loop was done, though, with slightly sore calves from the off, little spring in my step and a Garmin set for 7.50 target pace and an intention to stick as closely to it as I could. Splits? Possibly my best ever set which, if nothing else, must say I wasn’t struggling in the slightest despite sections being uphill and all sorts. For the record, they were (all preceeded by a 7.) 43; 44; 43; 45; 45; 45; 47; 42; 48; 36; 44; 44. The 36 was a direct result of being passed by a car which proceeded to slow down and display hazard warning lights…a couple of seconds later and I realised it was a bloke from work saying hello. Odd how such an event can take the mind off the job in hand and have such an effect on something like pace for such a split.

The legs feel a bit tired now, though, so a good few stretches before they stiffen up might well be in order.

189.91 miles to go.


Ashford 5k summer series part 2 or 3 or something

The ambiguity is owing to having missed the second race in the series. So it’s my second outing but the third race.

And what a fine race series it is. NiceWork who organise a a good few races around the area run a nicely friendly, relaxed but efficient race and make taking part all the more pleasurable. The fact that this one is on our doorstep is the icing on the cake. And the entire reason I managed to make Cathy come along and run. She’s had a cold all week (my fault for donating it to her last week, I guess) and was going to come along and watch but, somehow, this changed to her coming along and running, too. But the rush to leave saw her forget her Garmin which reinforced the nature of the race. She was chatting to Martin as we signed in and mentioned it and within seconds he offered his own device for her to borrow as she ran. I wouldn’t expect that in many events and massively appreciated it was, too.

So to my race.

An early start this morning (I had a bad night’s sleep as well as still having some cold in my lungs) made me feel out of sorts all day and I’ve been having shin aches and muscle winces all day; I’m sure all due to nerves since I set myself up for trying to go sub 20 minute for the run after last time running 20.44 as a new pb.

I got home, got changed, signed on and still felt odd as we lined up, having set my Garmin virtual partner to 6.20 per mile to allow some in hand for a slow finish. My bad day clearly didn’t stop as I left work, though. In what undoubtedly turned out to be a good result, right from the off I was mis-reading the Garmin and convinced myself I was behind target so kept bursting my lungs to try and stop the shortfall in time getting too large. A young lad was running identical pace to me and twice we almost tripped each other up in the first half mile almost certainly owing to my being right on the limit of my running pace.

At one point I was 28 seconds behind target…or so I thought. In fact, it was 28 seconds ahead. My computer’s broken so I have no data splits yet but one of the miles must be sub 6 minute, as it turns out. Flippin’ heck!

Three of us were overtaking one another throughout the race; the young lad, a Folkestone club runner and me. Having a cluster of us all together made a great race – another man finished 4 seconds behind me, so he clearly had a good finish as he wasn’t in the place swapping club through the race, but it made a great change to the usual lonely runs I do at these events. Guess it’s what comes of trying harder than usual.

The race went brilliantly for me, though. My breathing was hopeless (so noisy, trying to exhale through a chest still full of cold, the blokes around me must have thought I was going to wheeze to a stop – I normally like to run silently!) but my legs behaved really well. No tiredness showed and the areas that kept me in touch with the other two were up the little slope/hill thing and the exit of the hairpin – I was very good on these and made big gains on them in these areas. The leaders were again on another planet (winning time 14.42! Crikey!) but the outing I enjoyed was crowned when I finished, pressed stop on the Garmin and realised that the 15 seconds I was off target was actually under time. How I mistook the black screen for the white can only be that I wasn’t expecting to keep pace with it. Not in any way. At all. But somehow I did. The result?

19.11 finishing time. 6.14 average pace per mile.

Blinking flip. I never, not in a month of weeks, thought I’d get that quick. What next? 6 minute mile average pace target? I don’t know, but I’m sure I’ll be even more nervous before the next outing because I really don’t think my little legs and lungs have much more in them.

But I thought that at 7 minute mile thresholds, so who knows.

Certainly a well earned sleep and satisfied few days lie ahead of me, though. All in preparation for being disappointed after the Folkestone half!

202.18 miles to go.

Ticking along

Wondering whether I’ll pop out for a social gathering on Thursday has also tied in rather well with a plan to partake in the last of the three Ashford Summer 5k series races on Friday, so altered running days will continue for the week at least and may just tie in with the race schedule, too.

My run on Saturday left me with amazingly tight calves and I set off this evening for a 5 mile outing to ease some life back into them, I hope, to allow a return to normal for the end of the week. Tomorrow is normal run day but this has now been done already so, if things go well, I’ll do my hill repeats on Wednesday instead of Thursday (and looking at the weather forecast I might do well not planning a run tomorrow night anyway), might pop to the pub for an ex-colleague’s leaving do on Thursday (but might not, it’ll depend on how tired I feel now, as well as how inclined I feel to be ignored by the people I used to be ignored by when I worked there as well as how well I can hold my tongue towards the fools who always assemble at such events. And they’re just the ones I consider friends…) but will certainly make the effort for the last race of the summer series on Friday to see if I can improve on July’s race time.

Which, if my current aching legs and return from cold are anything to go by, I have no chance of doing. At 20.44 I’m not entirely sure I can do much with it, despite believing I have a hugely sub 20 in me somewhere…I just need to feel right to get it out, as it were! But I’ll not find out without turning up.

The run tonight was a slow start on, as I say, aching legs. All sorts of odd twinges befell me on the run up the hill from home – left shin felt as though it might crack, followed by right calf feeling like it’d ping from the attachment points, followed by left heel/achilles feeling like it wanted to spling, followed by right shoulder rolling painfully in the socket. I think I’m falling apart. But by 2 miles in, all aches had eased and I was running easliy.

Not fast but easy. I had no spring in my step at all and little air in my lungs, so a plod that swapped between forefoot, heel-strike and anything in between was employed to see me home in happy fashion. The odd thing is that, over the last few weeks, my pace that always settled at 8.12 per mile as default when things hurt/needed to be slow/needed to go far has now settled at 7.41. Whenever I ignore the devil on my wrist Garmin completely, I find myself running at 7.41. Great for half marathon pb target but slow for hopeful new half marathon pace.

Hopefully the rest of the cold that must still be in my lungs and limbs will out itself before the week progresses from here and I can see if, over the next 3 weeks, the potential I want is something I can put into race times.

216.67 miles to go.


From a very promising start, the month of August ended on a bit of a slow note.

I retired from running for my mid-week outings having gone for a cycle ride on Monday while feeling as though a cold or something was on the way (which resulted in lots of effort for very little reward), only to be welcomed on Tuesday by a head full of cold, a heavy chest and aching back.

This persisted throughout the week, plus or minus an aching head, but yesterday I felt good enough to set out for a plod.

It wasn’t fun, I had little spring in my step, my breathing was odd – not laboured but not very efficient either and I had no stamina for the outing. My planned 12 miles was adjusted to 9 which, having got out of the door, was re-adjusted to about 7 depending on just how far the loop I chose was.

It was in fact 6.5 which I considered a bit too short despite feeling rough (less than half race distance isn’t much cop, I feel, allowing for the issue that if I feel as rough on race day I won’t give up so may as well get on with learning how to run while ailing), so I looped around the local lanes which add a mile leading me to 7.6 miles total.

I arrived home hot and chesty with very heavy legs which makes me wonder how they tie up so fast when I don’t run regularly these days. It used to take about two weeks of non-running before I’d have any ill effects to a jog. Now it seems to be about three days. Today, my calves feel tight and my thighs just heavy. Constant showers have ruled out a proper bike ride but a quick trip on the BMX to buy some flour seems to have eased things a touch, so hopefully I’ll be ok for an outing tomorrow.

221.82 miles to go.