Monday, 25 January 2016

RACE 2 - Lyme Park Night Run

Saturday night I travelled to Lyme Park in Cheshire with a group of 4 other Greenfield Greyhounds to take part in one of the National Trust's series of Night Runs. One Greyhound was recovering from injury, another was racing for the first time and none of us had run the course before. With a body like the National Trust involved, it's a well publicised event that attracts a wide range of skill levels and experience. I think that's a good thing, but we were not let off with an easy course!

The night was a little cold while waiting around at the start and although it was nice and dry during the day, the rain decided to pour down for race time. That didn't stop us, but it did mean the course was extra slippy. It's muddy to begin with and has lots of tree roots and puddles to jump over, but with some quite steep ascents and 250 runners churning the ground this became a very tricky course on which to remain upright.

The first hill was only a minute or so into the run and managed to split up the Greyhounds quite early. But it was a great sight to see a long line of bobbing head torches climbing up and have the wonder of Manchester arrayed before us at the top. We then turned away and into the forested sections. More climbing, more mud, more roots, and a few stiles to climb over. The course was well marshalled - thanks to all marshals who stand out there in all weathers to make sure we go the right way and get a heads up on tricky sections.

Towards the end of the forest section I couldn't see where I was going. By this point my glasses were full of rain and I wasn't able to run quick enough to clear the fogged lenses. Added to this, the night torch illuminated my cold breath to become a blanket of blinding white in the midst of pitch dark forest. I had a reasonable pace up to this point, but had to slow right down for the final crest. In the end I took my glasses off, as it was just too dangerous.

The last descent was long, working its way down the muddy hill to pick up a bridle path and eventually end up on the tarmac drive back towards the beautifully-lit grand house. A few final fast sweeping bends meant picking up more and more speed - a really good way to conclude the course, along with the cheer of the finish line crowds.

My current barometer for predicting a finish time is 6 minutes per kilometre. This course was supposed to be around 6.8km, so I was forecasting a 41 minute finish. I'd completed Hit the Trails at a speedy pace of 5:30/km, so had a potential finish time of just over 37 minutes in mind. In reality the course was even shorter - my Strava had it as 6.2km, although there wasn't any signal out there so that could be inaccurate - and I ended up completing the course in 41 minutes 50 seconds.

This is slower than I wanted, especially given the shorter distance, but I'm happy enough given the conditions and terrain. Looking at my Strava data, I can see my pace increasing after the first hill - from 6:49/km on kilometre 2 to 5:47/km on kilometre 4 and 4:44/km on kilometre 6. Can I just say that again... 4 minutes 44 seconds for the last km... for me that's very fast! That last hill was terrible - I slowed right down to 8:49/km pace! If I could run that again and see where I was going, I reckon I could shave a couple of minutes off my finish time.

So there we go - race 2 in the bag. A free bottle of water and a lovely cup of hot soup for the runners topped off a great race. We were given a goody bag of National Trust info, water bottle and snack... and a glow in the dark medal!

Next up is the Huddersfield 10km. It will be a nice change to have a road race, but this will have even more hills - over 100m more climbing than Lyme Park (which is already 158m)... oof!

Sunday, 17 January 2016


Something you will see a lot of runners do just before they set off is clicking watches and phones to start tracking their activity. I had experimented with the Walk Jog Run app, but had seen a number of my running mates using other timekeepers - Garmin watches and apps like Runkeeper and Endomondo.

Halfway through last year I decided to switch to Strava. It seems a very popular application and I've enjoyed using it. Some of the things it allows me to do:

  • obviously record the time I run for - I have set it to auto-pause so it doesn't record my rests and that then tells me the pace I'm actually running at
  • record the shoes I wear for each run - useful for gauging when to replace them i.e. at around 500 miles
  • show me a map of where I've just run - let's others know what routes I've been on
  • track the height I'm running at so I can see all the ups and downs - elevation gain is something I look for to gauge how tough a race will be
  • share that information with fellow strava users - and be able to encourage each other with our achievements
  • share that information with social media - although I don't do that very much at the moment
  • join challenges with other runners in the Strava community, which helps with motivation - for example, two challenges I've joined this month are 'Strava Races: 10k' (complete a 10km run) and 'January Run Climbing Challenge' (run up 1,000 metres this month)
  • lastly, a cool feature on the website is that if you're running with other Strava users you can overlay a few sets of run data and see how you all did on a single map - seeing 3 or 4 dots navigating the map is amusing to watch

I also wear an Apple Watch and use it's Activity app to record the same run. I can look at this easily while I'm running (the Strava app is on my phone, which is strapped to my arm) and see my time and distance at a glance. I tried the Strava watch app, but it doesn't stay on screen - hopefully that will change sometime in the future. Also, I use my watch to record the full run time (as opposed to Strava, which I set to exclude my rests).

Strava made a personalised end of year video that shows some of the key stats for the year (or half year for me), here's mine:

I look forward to the 2016 summary showing a much better set of information!

Coming up next week: Race 2, the Lyme Park Nightrun

Sunday, 10 January 2016

What next for Q1?

As you now know, I had a great start to the year with Hit the Trail 5.

What's next? A bit more mud, I think :)

I've now got the races for the first quarter of the year locked:
  • next up is Lyme Park Nightrun on Jan 23, which I'm expecting to be very similar to Hit the Trail 5 (tough, muddy, watery in places and a bit hilly), except run in the dark!
  • after that is the Huddersfield 10km race on Feb 28, which I'm expecting to be rainy, cold and very hilly (likely to be more than double the climbing of Hit the Trails 5!). It's the first road race of 2016, so not as muddy as the other two (although there could well be snow instead).

I've made a few other changes to the race calendar:
  • added Black Knight Charge, which I found out about from a fellow runner last week - a race around Daisy Nook Country Park, which I'm familiar with from travelling through for many years to get to school
  • swapped Salford 10km for Huddersfield 10km to have a better break between races, even though Hudds is much more difficult (I assume), although I may still have a go at the Salford 10km...
  • I've also decided to no longer consider the Mad Hatter race in May, which looks to cover similar terrain as Hit the Trail 5 and May is already busy with Manchester 10k and Dovestone Diamond.

The new year is still very new, but Horizons has already had £130 of donations - thank you very much to those first few for a great start. There is still a long way to go and I need your help to reach £600 from these three races. The fund raising from this first quarter of races will go to feed school children in Zambia, so please give generously to help that next generation study well.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

RACE 1 - Hit the Trail 5

Excellent! First race in the bag...

Mud, glorious mud. This was a very mucky course to run, with a number of climbs and a couple of water sections! Five other Greenfield Greyhounds ran this 5 mile (8km) course with me, which ended up being slightly shorter at 7.75km by my watch.

There was light rain throughout, but the trees sheltered us from most of it. The day was cold (5 degrees, closer to 1 degree with wind chill), but again the course took us through woodland that kept us feeling warmer (as did the running, of course).

There were 3 steep climbs of around 25m (82ft) elevation gain - I decided to take a note out of a fellow runner's strategy book (thanks Allan!) and walked up the first two (along with a lot of other runners) in order to conserve a bit of energy for the rest of the course.  The last was right at the end - that final stretch was tough.

There were a lot of puddles throughout the course, some tricky patches of mud that had us all slipping and sliding trying to stay upright, a large puddle that got us foot-wet about 3km in and 3km from the end a massive puddle about 8m long. With the turbulence of me running through it, I ended up soaked to the knees in cold muddy water - a lovely feature of the course.

I was aiming for a time of around 45-50 minutes and managed 44m 46s, so very pleased with that. It's the first time I've run the course, so that's a PB :) I've set up a new photo's page, so feel free to have a look at some more pictures from the race.

Next up is Lyme Park Night Run on the 23rd, which could be a similar course just in the dark! I'm planning to go to the Lyme Park Parkrun on the 16th to get a better idea of the terrain.