Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Birthdays and slow runs

Happy birthday Sidney and Mark

I've been celebrating in Birmingham with my brother-in-law as he celebrated his 50th and my niece her 18th. I was also 41 on Sunday, so it was a good weekend spent with family and having fun. Some great presents and lovely food too :)

Feeling tired after that though and having just had a few weeks with little running I'm seeing that catch up with me. I was ill for a week with a cold that I'm mostly recovered from now, but it's taken 3 weeks to properly clear up. I was also very busy for a week finalising artwork for my exhibition at Sacred Trinity, which launched last week and looks great. Very happy with the results of that, but it was more effort than expected.

So, after a few weeks of PBs on the back of good training, I'm now feeling sluggish from a couple of weeks of poor training... Race simulation (10k) on Saturday morning was under 54 minutes, but I had to walk for a minute a couple of times and generally didn't feel it. I forced myself out last night and was totally knackered - managed 4.8k in 28 minutes so not atrocious, but I plodded all the way round.

Still these are the variable factors that impact runners. Can't be getting PBs every week. I'm happy I got out (took a lot of willpower) and really need to make sure I keep going out and don't slacken off now. Stride Through The Woods 5k trail race is tomorrow night. I've no idea what the course is like and while I will put effort into it, I'm not pushing for any PBs so will just enjoy the experience and supporting a fellow running club :)

One month to go until Manchester 10k, my race pack arrived on Saturday! I'm in the White wave (wave 2 of 5), which starts at 11.55am. I will have to be careful about food and drink during the morning and when the race is ended will definitely be ready for lunch! I'll also have to be careful about warming up - the warm up at the start line is 11.23, which seems quite early... not sure I want to keep warmed up for half an hour! But getting to the start line too late will be difficult to get into position. All part of the race strategy to try and work out...

Also, half an hour after a gorgeous run up the hills around Dovestones on Thursday night there was a fire! It took 10 fire engines most for he night to control and extinguish and has burned around 3 square miles of hillside. I've not heard about what started it and hope most of the animals in the area got away unscathed - there are a lot of sheep and lambs around at the moment. An unpleasant reminder to be careful in the countryside - small issues very quickly escalate.

So there we go - time to rectify the training balance before the Great Run & enjoy being hosted by the Hyde Striders this week for race number 5. And some great inspiring runs from the Greyhounds this week in the Blackpool Marathon and Half Marathon, the London Marathon, the new unofficial Dovestones Marathon & also a Triathlon!

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Appropriate response

In the last week or so there have been a couple of instances of things not going quite right for UK runners. While both have been very disappointing in different ways, it has been interesting and encouraging to see the measured level of response from those affected. Not that those impacted are any less outraged, but proving that there are ways to move forward with grace and humility.

The first is very close to home, where one of the Greyhounds that was due to run the London Marathon next weekend for a national charity found out that the charity had forgotten to complete the registration. As a result, the Greyhound can't take part, despite months of hard training and months of fund-raising for the charity. Virgin Money run a very tight ship when it comes to the marathon, which includes no swapping numbers with other runners and no late entries.

Despite a swift social media campaign, it was clear that the situation could not be changed. So, rather than kick up a fuss, get all grumpy, rail against the charity or rail against VMLM, the runner saw a different way through. They will instead run the marathon at the same time, just up here in Saddleworth. Ten laps of Dovestones reservoir is roughly the same distance, so our Greyhound will prevail, complete the distance and make sure that the fund-raising challenge is still completed. Fellow runners will now be able to join in the endeavour, supporting both from the sidelines and by running alongside for a lap or two! What a great way through a problem.

The second instance relates to Parkrun, which as some of you will know is a free weekly 5k timed run held in parks up and down the country (and some abroad as well). Park run brings huge benefits to the health and social wellbeing of the nation - last weekend there were 86,779 parkrunners (6,663 of whom were first timers) and 8,453 volunteers taking part in 487 UK events.

This week, Stoke Gifford Parish Council (in South Gloucestershire) decided to charge Parkrun for their use of Little Stoke Park, citing that it was "unfair" to expect non-running residents to pay for path upkeep. As a result, for the 300 adults and children who take part in the Little Stoke Parkrun, their event was cancelled this weekend. This council decision comes despite the Little Stoke parkrunners volunteering to undertake any perceived maintenance and litter picking duties required to compensate for their activity. Since this news story broke, another 14,000+ have signed up! 

Parkrun have been trying to work with the council towards a resolution and have encouraged disgruntled runners to avoid the route of antagonistic protest and instead to "act with respect and dignity". However, they have encouraged everyone to share their love of parkrun and of Little Stoke parkrun on social media by way of support to those affected. There have been concerns about the decision to charge voiced by several prominent UK athletes. There has been the inevitable online derision targeted at the council e.g. suggesting they next introduce a subscription service for use of the children's playground (after all, it would be unfair for residents without children to pay for playground upkeep). There is also a petition, for the council to revoke the decision, that to date has attracted over 55,000 signatures.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

RACE 4 (again) - Spring 2016 ZRVR (5k)

I wasn't going to do this, but I decided to race again with the zombies. Given that my race packet hadn't arrived for last weekend's 10k race, when it arrived on Friday morning I was excited to do the whole thing again as it was intended. But I've had a rotten cold all week and been coughing and spluttering. That means I've not been running mid week like I usually do, so I was desperate to get out even though not fully recovered. The arrival of my race packet was the only incentive I needed, so I put on the race t-shirt and racing bib and off I went!

The ZRVR has two leaderboards, so I decided to get my name on the 5k board this time. I worked out a loop around Greenfield that started at the border again (same as the 10k route) and ended about 0.5km back into Mossley. I accepted that I may need to slow down and possibly even walk should my coughing get too bad, but was happy to give it a go.

Not wanting to do things by halves, I set myself a 5m/km pace and got the Well-i-hole climb out of the way at the start of the race and waved to a fellow Greyhound as I passed Tesco. It wasn't easy, but I managed to keep roughly to my pace, slightly slowing throughout the race, but finishing with a downhill towards Mossley's Fire Station Nursery meant a fast finish as usual.

Chuffed to bits with another PB over 5k distance and a time of 24 mins 33 secs (although Strava said 24m 25s). That placed me 141st out of 1875 racers on the 5k leaderboard, so very pleased to be in the top 10%. The race window is still open until end of Monday April 11th, so that's not the final position. I will update this post on Tuesday with final positions on both leaderboards.

Thinking of my fellow Greyhounds today, with a good number of them racing the Manchester Marathon (and some doing the London Marathon next weekend!).

UPDATE 11/04: Due to the issue of late delivery of race packets, Six to Start have extended the race window by one week, so I will upload final positions on Tuesday 19/04 instead.

UPDATE 20/04: The race window has now closed and the final results are in. The 10km was run 1,112 times and I came 153rd, placing me in the top 13.8%. The 5km was run 3,288 times and I came 204th, placing me in the top 6.2%. I'm very pleased with those results.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

RACE 4 - Spring 2016 ZRVR (10k)

The idea of a virtual race is still odd to me - running on my own, on a course set by myself, with no crowds. Still, I know there are thousands of others across the world doing the same thing.

The experience was slightly marred by my race packet not yet having arrived in the post. It obviously hasn't stopped me racing, as the race mission is still available in the app, but it lessens the experience somewhat. I should have been able to wear a race t-shirt specially made for the experience and been able to hold high a finishers medal afterwards. Never mind. It'll arrive eventually. The race organisers were let down by the t-shirt manufacturers, so I understand that some things are out of their control.

Anyway, the race mission itself was good. Set back in a time when the zombie outbreak had only recently happened, I was running as part of a team tasked with taking down a rogue general who wanted to cleanse the plague by nuking an outbreak site (irradiating the country in the process). Team members lost their lives, civilians need rescuing & time was critical. Fun drama :)

Back in the real world the Met Office weather app said it would be cloudy and feel like 5 degrees, so I dressed for a cool run. That was wrong. It turned into a lovely sunny morning that certainly felt a lot warmer - thermal leggings and long socks were not required! I felt the effects of that in the second half of the race where recovery from a hill climb was difficult.

I used the same race route as last autumn's ZRVR, which takes me round Greenfield and Mossley. Half a km into the race I passed some fellow Greyhounds - couldn't stop, but it was nice to see other runners I knew. I had good pace down to the Clarence and back up to Tesco, at around 5m/km. Then slowed down to around 5m40s/km over the next few km climb, up Chapel Hill and onwards to the Farrars.

Halfway into the race and the big climb behind me I faced a few km of flat running. Despite the beautiful scenery, the blazing sun didn't help my recovery much and I struggled to work my way back to target pace. I clawed back a bit, to around 5m20s/km, but thankfully the first few km had put me in good stead. Top Mossley was great to reach - downhill from here on - so pace picked up on the way to Mossley train station, well under 5m/km now. From there back to the Fire Station Nursery 'finish line' was a gentle downhill where I would usually increase my pace for the last km, but just didn't have it in me today. That said, I managed to keep sub-5m/km pace to the end.

Overall very happy with the finish time of 51m 21s - a 10km PB and more than 3 minutes off the last ZRVR, which is fab. Strava says I did it even quicker (51m 12s), illustrating how apps interpret GPS data in different ways. The training seems to be working, so I'm now more hopeful for a sub-50 Great Manchester Run (7 weeks to go).