Sunday, 29 May 2016

RACE 7 - Dove Stone Diamond

A couple of days resting after the Manchester race and I was ready for the Diamond, a completely different experience. This was a midweek evening race, the temperature was much cooler (so much I had my thermal leggings back on and a t-shirt under my racing vest!) and the Sunday sun was replaced with soggy drizzle. The sold out Diamond had far fewer participants and spectators than the Great Run, with a course capacity of 250 and 207 eventually crossing the finish line. There was no medal or finishers bag - just the opportunity to buy some good pizza, coffee and beer to reward our labour - but that's not why we run this particular race, it's for the love of the sport, the surroundings and racing together.

I swapped my road shoes for tough trail trainers, made for getting traction in mud, flexing with the terrain and protecting from stones. This year the course was slightly longer, at 10.7km ("more race for your money", according to the race director), due to an embankment that we used to run down now needing to be run around.

With the experience of last year's race under my belt, I had been pondering my strategy. I wanted to beat that time of 62m 52s. The course starts with a climb made of three sections, which can easily tire the legs. I determined to take the hill at an easier pace to conserve my energy (hoping I wouldn't loose too much time in the process). Aiming for 5 minutes per section, I successfully reached the forest (also known as the plantation) 15 mins after the start.

Feeling that went to plan, I decided to continue the 5 minute idea. It worked really well for me, breaking the race into manageable chunks and keeping me on track for a target finish. The forest and subsequent moorland was a fun, undulating, muddy set of sections that brought me roughly to the halfway point after half an hour. So far so good even though at one point I'd had both feet in a bog, covered in mud - my trusty Salomons stayed securely on (phew, no lost shoes!).

A fast downhill on a concrete road took me to the two streams that need to be waded through - nice wet feet for the next half, although it does wash a lot of the mud off. I actually find the second half tougher than the first, due to the relative monotony of the reasonably flat bridle path and feeling the tiredness by this point. I continued my 5 minute strategy and ended up running the reservoir with two female runners in order to keep at their good pace.

After the embankment, it was another long downhill that allowed me to pick up the pace. Knowing the end wasn't too far away allowed me to focus on maintaining the increased pace. Some great encouragement by marshals all the way round was topped off near the end with cheers and shouts to run faster. A final sprint and I was over the line in 61m 50s - a full minute quicker than last year and with an extra 0.7km in the bag. Good running from lots of Greyhounds was celebrated with a pint of Silver Owl from the on-site Greenfield Brewery. Lovely :)

Sunday, 22 May 2016

RACE 6 - Great Run Manchester

It's exactly one year since I started racing. Last year's Great Run saw me finish in 54m 26s, which was a great first race time. I was obviously hoping to beat that today, with a year's running under my belt, more experience at running and racing and now knowing that particular course a bit better.

As you know, I've been training myself over the last few months, to bring benefits in all my racing, but with a specific focus on speed in order to improve my time today.

The weather predicted 'cloudy with sunny intervals' and 15 degrees feeling like 13 degrees. It turned out to be fully sunny and around 20 degrees! I would have preferred a cooler race, but that's one of the challenges of running and makes each race a very individual experience.

With over 35,000 runners it was really busy. There's a lot of good runners out there and the track was bustling all the way round - I did an extra 200m just weaving around people! I managed to settle into a good pace fairly quickly and hold that without too much bother for the first 5km, but by the 7km mark I was really finding it tough, my breathing now quite heavy.

I didn't know whether to take some water at the next station or not - I probably would have benefitted a little from it, but didn't want the distraction of holding something, drinking while running, trying to get rid of the bottle and having water burbling around my body. Everyone must have been tired by that point, because the number bottles just dropped in the middle of the road (rather than thrown to the verge) was ridiculous, a proper hazard to run around!

Last year I managed to increase my speed in the last kilometre and finish strong. This year it was all I could do to get to the finish. No sprinting for me today! My final time was a course PB and a 10k PB, so really pleased with that. I didn't get my sub-50, which is a shame, but I had to try. I can safely say I put everything I had into that race and couldn't have run it any quicker, so I'm happy with that.

Final time was 51m 7s, well over 3 minutes quicker than last year and a 6% improvement, which I think is quite respectable. Big thanks to all my sponsors - it's a great encouragement to know that I've now passed the halfway mark in terms of number of races run, and almost in terms of months elapsed, but am already over 2/3 of the way to my fundraising target!

Bring on the Diamond on Wednesday - weather forecast is 9 degrees and heavy rain = lots and lots of mud!

Monday, 16 May 2016

The double

Great Run start line

There have been a lot of runners raising money recently, hence I've not been pushing my fundraising as much. However, we are making great progress with just £845 left to raise and plenty of races still to sponsor.

Next up is what I'm dubbing 'The Double' - Great Run Manchester 10k on Sunday May 22 followed by Dovestone Diamond 10k on Wednesday May 25. Please dig deep to sponsor me for this gruelling week! I have set myself a goal of completing the Great Run in under 50 minutes. That's quite the challenge for me (my current 10k personal best is 51m 21s). For the Diamond, I'm just aiming to be better than last year's 62m 52s - it's a tough trail course!

I'm now on my taper week, so just a few short runs to keep reminding my body it's got to race soon, but without tiring it out or injuring it last minute. The two races next week will be my only runs, as the rest of the time will be rest or recovery or party (I'm DJing in Manchester on Friday May 27). Hopefully a race-free June will bring me back some schedule stability as I gear up for more new courses to race in July.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Quick update

Anniversary cake made by Angela, a fellow Greyhound - yum, yum

It's been a busy week, so just a quick update for you. Wonderful weather accompanied my return to parkrun to celebrate Stamford Park Parkrun's 1st anniversary! There were 101 runners, I got a course PB of 27m 1s and there was celebratory cake in the cafe afterwards - all the wins!

I'm also making a concerted effort to run more each week, trying to increase mileage as a strategy to better my running form, efficiency and capacity and therefore make me quicker at the shorter distances I'm currently racing. There's no real science to how far I need to run, just that I need to run more. Finding time for that is difficult, but I've added Monday nights to my run schedule to see how that goes.

10% weekly increase is recommended to avoid injury, so I aimed for 33km last week and fell a bit short with 31.7, but that's close enough for me. This week I'm aiming for 36km. I'll then have a 2 week blip as I taper next week and then race 10k distances twice the week after. But eventually I will get up to around 40km/week mark. An average week for me should then look like this:

Monday - solo run, around 10km
Tuesday - Greenfield Greyhounds club run, around 10km
Thursday - run with subset of Greyhounds, around 12km
Saturday - solo training run, around 7km / parkrun, around 5km

So my new Monday run this week was a hot 10k round Dovestones. But that's good, because the Great Run has a history of being hot and I wanted to see how I would hold up. I was pleased with it. There were a couple of 0.35km climbs that I walked for 4 mins each in order to conserve energy - removing those factors from my end result gave me a 51 minute time for 9.8km. Not a precise race simulation, but good confirmation I'm still around my target sub-50. One more intervals training session this weekend and then taper for the big race!

Monday, 2 May 2016

RACE 5 - Stride Through The Woods

There were muddy woods and there were plenty of Hyde Village Striders, so it lived up to its name! I was looking forward to this relatively short race, being only 5k and on trails (which I prefer to road). What I forgot was how intense a 5k race can be.

Being a little on the minutes getting registered, fellow Greyhound John and I had just enough time for a short warm up. Thankfully the hail stopped before the race started, but that weather blip was a bit unexpected. A cool evening and just under 150 runners all raring to go.

The course was two laps of a velodrome-style loop - we started in the middle, turned right, went up a hill and round a loop that brought us back to the middle. Then along to the other side of the park, up a hill, round a loop and back to the middle again. Over the race that's 4 hills - short hills, but at pace they tire you quickly.

It was a race populated mainly by club runners. That means it's a fast race. We were off like a shot and too fast for my liking really. But it's hard to slow your pace down when everyone around you is whizzing past. As a result, it was a hard race, pushing me to run at my speed limits for most of it. I paid the price for that and found the second loop tough. My Strava split times showed me managing to keep a reasonable pace (averaging 5m10s/km) for the first 4 kilometres, which I was surprised at. But then I died on the last kilometre, slowing down to 5m34s/km pace.

The last straight back to the finish line was fairly short at around 100m, so I went for a sprint finish as is my style. I love that last bit of a race, putting everything that's left into as much speed as you can possibly muster. I shifted up a gear and dropped to a pace of around 4m10s/km. While I'm not bothered too much by final placement (it's more about the personal time challenge for me), it was still good to overtake a couple of runners on that stretch. Apologies to fellow Stamford Parkrunner, Jasmine from Hyde Striders, for beating her to the finish by 0.7 seconds...

So no PB for the distance this time and a tiring race, but it's all good experience. It's good to mix things up, so I'm happy to get some different distances and terrain into the challenge year. Thanks to the Striders for a good race and to John for keeping me company and standing proud for the Greyhounds together :)

Next up is the big one (for me), Great Run Manchester 10k.