There we go!

There we go!
Pushing the Nitro Button

Monday, 7 November 2011

Abergele 5 - Sunday 6th November 2011

Training for this race had been a bit haphazard. I did my marathon just 4 weeks before and I had been doing a lot of cross training in preparation for the “off season”. I had planned for this race to be the final one of the year, we’ll see :) My warm-up was limited by the fact that the crowds were quite large and it was hard to hear the announcer. I did jog for 2min from my car though.

As the start time approached the marshals pushed us back down the road. I had tried to get up nearer the front than last year but the volume of people, just fewer than 300, this year meant it was very very busy on the road. My time for this run includes the .25 of a mile I had to run to get to the start line. So I have cut this out of the race report. This would mean a deduction of 1 min 35 sec from my race time, but as there were no chips my race results stands. I am happy to say though that next year, if I can get a bit nearer to the start I should ba able to crack 35min J

As the bell rang, the race started and the road cleared surprisingly quickly. The first mile is basically a slow assent of 120ft. With the advice of Mark U. (he knows who he is), the only functions I was looking at on my watch, during the race, was my cadence and the total time. As the mile went on the road cleared and I passed quite a few slightly less-fast runners! Looking back now I see my HR was right up at  150 average and my cadence was nice and high at an average of 91. Mile 1 completed in 6.57

Mile 2 continues the climb up the hill with another 150ft of assent. The road was pretty clear now and the trees on the side of the road were giving good cover from a surprisingly hot sun. It was at this time that I took the opportunity to chat to an oldish chap who was slowing badly near the top of the hill. I assumed he was at least 70 but as it transpired I was wrong! The final section of this mile sees the race turn in a downhill direction, which I knew from last year, so I was hoping to get my pace back on track. Average HR 153 (164max) and av cadence 90. Mile 2 completed in 6.56

Mile 3 is just wonderful! It starts with a 150ft decent and ends with a VERY nasty climb into mile 4. I had left a bit in my legs to ensure I took advantage of the decent and my cadence was solidly above 90 for most of the mile. I should mention that I make it a point to thank ALL the marshalls at every race I do. This race was effectively an out and back so everyone got a double dose J It was nice to see that some of them recognized me from the out loop and shouted encouragement as I passed. The final section of this mile leads to the bottom of a very nasty hill. I was pretty tired already, but I was still on target. AvHR 155, av cadence 90. Mile 3 completed in 6.52.

Mile 4 is not nice. Not nice at all. In the way that mile 3 was nice, mile 4 is nasty! It is basically a  165ft assent for .7mile followed by a 100ft decent. The front section of this saw 2 contrasting elements. Firstly, as I passed the 3.1 mile mark I noticed that I had broken my 5km PB by 5 seconds.  Secondly, the hill starts quite easily and then ends very steeply. As I ran upward I was passed by 2 very fit looking women. I was pushing as hard as I could and felt like I was going backwards! As the corner turned for the final part of the assent I heard a familiar voice from behind me. Dave Gardner is one of the happiest runners I know. He had a new hip just over 1 year ago and has spent the last year shouting, from across the street,  about how he’s “Still running it in!” Always happy to encourage slower, mostly younger,  runners, he always has a smile on his face, even though he doesn’t have any of his own teeth left Dave’s comment clearly suggested that he was hoping to catch what he, and I, thought was the leading over 70 year old. I slowed a little, as much to catch my breath as anything else, and he pulled alongside. AvHR 158, avCAD 86. Mile 4 completed in 7.40.

As mile 5 started it was nice to have Dave running with me and he gave the clear impression that he was keen to go a little quicker. So as we ran the 150ft decent I kept him up to date with both our pace and the layout of the remaining part of the course. I had completely cocked my run up last year by “pushing the nitro button” about 100m too early! The final decent runs down a very shallow angle then turns sharp left through a gap in the fence, to finish another 70m on a slight uphill! He seemed pretty quiet during the 3rd quarter of the mile so I assumed he was getting ready to do a final push. I felt I was not able to push much harder so I told him to go off and catch the other guy if he could. He said, “ I can’t leave you now after all your help!”. I said “Bollocks to that! Piss-off!!” He took this in the way it was meant and we ran the final 50m side by side finishing together! At the time I believed that he had come 2nd in his age group, as I had remembered an old looking guy who had overtaken me around mile 3. As it transpired, after the results were put up on the web, he WON his age group by 2 min 27 sec! Dave and I completed the final mile in 6 min 46sec. My avHR was 160 avcad 90.

My final overall time was 36.49 and I came 109th out of a field of 290 starters and 261 finishers. On a percentage of the field I improved from 57th percentile to 41st percentile.

In conclusion, I would say I had a really enjoyable run. I achieved what I hoped to achieve and lots more. I ran a new 2 min PB for the course and more importantly had a great time helping someone I have tremendous respect for achieve his goal. Next year I will try to get further up the hill and I’ll do some more hill work to help get through mile 4. 

Monday, 10 October 2011

Chester Marathon 2011 October 9th

Training for this, my second marathon, had gone pretty well. I’d put all the long runs in and managed to keep in nice low HR zones at a good pace. So I was hoping to crack the 4hr barrier for the first time in a raced marathon. I had run this marathon last year, which was my first marathon, and managed to do a 4hrs 14min time on what was a hot and dead still day. That course had not had any significant hills, really none at all, and since the course had been changed there were a several small, 20-30m, climbs thrown in for fun J

What can you control when you run a race? You can train appropriately. You can plan for reasonable eventualities. You can prepare mentally. What you can’t do is prepare for the crazy moments or control the weather conditions. The good thing about the crazy things is that they’re rare! The good thing about the weather conditions is that everyone else has to put up with them. I had trained as well as I could. I had planned a pacing strategy based on my training and racing and I was ready for most weather conditions. The 
crazy stuff, well who knew!

The weather forecast for the race had been consistent over the previous few days. Rain, heavy rain and strong (20mph) winds. As I left the house it looked likely that the rain might start at any time, Chester is 40mins away from my home. In the end there was NO rain at any point of the race. The wind was definitely there but it was constant and not gusting, when I tend to find saps my energy much more. As I got to the race and put my bag in I loaded up my drinks bottles, 6 x 8oz 4/1 carb protein sports drink, and made my way to the start. I had come to the race with 2 friends one of which was much faster than me, the other quite a bit slower. As we approached the start we separated into our timed zones and awaited the bell.

At 9.05, after a short delay the race started.
The first mile saw us run around the race course and up a small hill into the town of Chester.
Due to the numbers of participants this mile was a bit slower than ideal but 8.31 it was well within target. My simple plan was to pass 7 mile marker at 1hr, the 14 at 2hr, the 21 at 3hrs then see what I had left. My HR was nice and easy at 121 and cadence 83, a bit slow but the hill and congestion meant I was spot on.
Mile 2 completed in 8.17, just to pull the time back from the first mile, looking to average 8.23 for the race. HR was fine at 140, nicely aerobic and cadence was still 83, and the crowds of runners were starting to thin.
Mile 3 everything going very nicely with 8.21 at a 141 heart rate and cadence steady. Took my first drink and felt really strong.

Miles 4 through 13 were run directly into the 20mph wind which saw my HR rise slowly up to just around 150. Cadence for these miles was a solid 83 and everything felt OK. My plan was to take 5 caf tabs at this point and my 2nd dose of Sportlegs. Having taken these, and with the added benefit of the 20mph wind behind me, everything was looking and feeling fine.

Miles 14-16 saw my HR rise to average over 150 for the first time, coming in at 154. Cadence was still fine at 83. It was near the end of mile 16 that the unexpected happened. For some reason there were several cyclists on the road and many of them were coming towards us. Starting to feel a bit tired I had my head down on one occasion and was very narrowly missed by a girl on a bike. As I re-started after having to stop to avoid her, my legs felt, for the first time ever, like they were working on remote control J It was at this point that I ran through a turn! Head down I continued to run for another few mins before looking up and noticing that there was nobody there! I then turned and made my way back to the course, noticing that the race marshal was chatting to a young girl rather than marshaling! Back on the course I tried to push on but I found my HR would run up to 160 in very short time. As I started putting walk breaks in I noticed that my HR was very slow to drop. I took the opportunity to drink as much as felt comfortable and got back going.

Miles 17-20 average out at 9.20 pace. HR was solidly around the 155 area and I started using most of the water at the stops as a way of cooling myself down. I had hoped the rain would come to do this for me but in its absence I decide there was nothing else to do than to take my top off! This had the desired effect of reducing my HR but did require me to stop for 90 sec while I did it.  This meant that mile 21 was 11.05 but with a much more acceptable 147 HR.

Mile 22 was much improved at 9.23 but did see my HR get back to 151 average.

Miles 23 – 27! All averaged 10.05 as I tried to keep my HR sub 150. The encouragement of the crowds and helpers was especially great at this time and I started playing the “F%$k your legs” segment I had pulled out of the Marathon Talk podcast in order to keep it all in perspective!

As I crossed the line my HR peaked back at 160 and I completed the course in an official chip time of 4.03.16.

Well, well. The result was not what I had hoped for. The weather conditions had been an issue BUT I had done more than ever before to reduce these to manageable levels. In fact if it had rained I have no doubt I would have finished faster. The big thing I did not plan for was stupidity. No one elses – mine! My friend recorded a total race distance of 26.3 miles for the run. I had run an extra .79 miles due to….. to….. me. Ah, well. There are some things you CAN control in a race then again…….. J

PS I’d like to give a massive thanks to all the DM gals and guys who have encouraged me over the months. They were all in the back of my mind as I was running. I’m sorry I didn’t do what I’d hoped but unfortunately there are limits to what you can plan for. I'd also like to thank Coach Geoff, from PRS Fit who provided my training plan. Ta Geoff!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Commonwealth Mountain & Ultra Distance Championships 5km

Before I talk about my 5km race I have to mention the AMAZING races that have happened in my home town in the last 2 days. Just to put this in context, this event is a world class running event, which took place in Llandudno – a town of no more than 20k people. The feeling I get when I think about this is somewhat a kin to Barak Obama turning up at my door for a cup of tea and a slice of cake! Some of the GREATS of Ultra-running have been running around the town I do my long runs through :o

Now I’ve got that off my chest, I’ll get onto the really good bit, but just before I do I’d like to take a second to mention that Lizzi Hawker has just completed a World Record distance for 24hr race for women with 15mins to go in the race. A moment of silence please……………………………….. For more on this please see -

Now, my small part in the days racing started 25 mins after my youngest daughter completed her Fun Run mile. Always a sucker for a sad story, she decided the glory had gone and helped the little kids at the end of the pack to keep them going until the end. As we cheered her in, my friend’s daughter was declared the winner and interviewed by local radio! 

5 mins after the Fun Run was the Elites Mile Race. The organizers had managed to pull in some of the best Milers in UK. The hope was that within the pack there would be a good chance of breaking the 4 min barrier! As the runners went off this became increasingly unlikely as the course required hairpin turns after every 400m. The final winning finishing time was 4.21 – but I can’t find the name of the guy who won it L

My race was the Open 5km which was run on the Llandudno Promenade at 7pm on Friday 23rd.
Weather conditions were as near to perfect as is possible in Llandudno. The timing of the race meant that there would be no direct sun on the course. The promenade itself is a flat strip of tarmac 30m wide which runs for 1.2 miles along the north shore coast of Llandudno.  The only downside to this race was that the route involved 4 360degree hairpin turns around a cone placed at each end of the course.

As 7pm approached I decided to get as much of a warmup in as I could. Not having run a 5km race before, I had taken advice from my DM friends, the gist of which was that I should take any easy run and finish with some strides. I managed to cram this into the 3.30 mins just before the off!

I normally try to judge my position at the start of races based on how fit the people around me appear to be. This race was not chip timed so I was less concerned about my starting position as I would be timing the race on my watch myself.  As the gun went it took no more than 15 sec to get to the line and I was off!

Mile 1 in 7.05 – The congestion at the front of the race seemed to dissipate quite quickly with the really speedy people running off and leaving space for me to get into my stride. My cadence was good at 91 but my stride was messed up a bit as I hit the first hairpin turn. I appeared to accelerate out of the turn quicker than most of the other people running at my pace, which was handy when trying to overtake. The only sense of pace I had while running was from my watch. I was seeing 7 min pace pretty consistently and so I was pretty happy to keep that going. Av HR was a very easy 149 (87%).

Mile 2 in 6.59 – As mile 2 started the race had completely opened out. There was lots of space between me and the people behind me and I had a few people in my sights. As the mile went by we crossed the finish line for the first time and my friends shouted encouragement – I was having fun J My cadence was solid at 89 average and my HR was stable around 158 (93%) At this point I spotted a small pack of runners who had been running in front of me from the start of the race. They would be my target.

Mile 3 in 6.53 + 36sec (.1m) – Mile 3 included 2 hairpin turns of the course. I had targeted a small group of runners near the end of the previous mile and I slowly drew them in. The slight breeze which had come up in the last few minutes had a nice calming effect and I really felt I had reserves of energy that I have not felt before. During the final parts of this mile I appeared to be running past large numbers of runners while I was feeling pretty easy – even calling out to my friend to encourage him as he came towards the finish! The main problem I had during this section was the lack of light. It was so dark by this time that it was almost impossible to see the finish. Fortunately, the people at the line were making so much noise it helped me orientate myself. As I approached the finish area I passed the final few people I had targeted in the last section of the race. I stopped my watch just after crossing the line. I was, for 30 sec completely incapable of speech! My Av HR had come in at 162 (95%) for the final mile and the cadence was a sprightly 89!

* Update the results have just come out and I was 54th out of 138. Happy with that!

My biggest lesson from this event is that I have not found my “right” 5km pace yet. Even the final mile was not that tough. When I do my next 5km I’ll be a bit more ambitious as to my pace – I think sub 20min is definitely a possibility!

Next race is my A race for this year - the Chester Marathon on 9th October  - and I just can’t wait J

Monday, 5 September 2011

Llanrwst Sprint Triathlon 2011 – September 4th 2011

The weather up to Sunday had been quiet but rainy. I had moved into running a few years back after a series of crashes due problems with rainy roads. So it was with delight that I woke on Sunday morning to see clear skies and, almost unheard of, very little wind.  My training had been focused on my Autumn marathon, my second, so the time I had spent swimming and biking were pretty limited. I had swum a total of 2 hours in the previous 3 months in preparation for the race L but had biked for just under 250 miles. Notably my biking miles had almost all been pretty easy efforts with nothing even remotely in the LT/Tempo zone – this would bite me in the bum!
My swim start time was 10.15 and I had anticipated completing the 400m in around 10min. Happily this is exactly what I did, the results show exactly 10 min as my swim time. Transition 1 took a little longer than I might have hoped at 2 min 44 sec. I had made the mistake of not drying myself off before trying to put my compression top on! After wrestling with myself for 90 sec I just managed to pull it down, HR strap on, socks on, shoes on, helmet on, bike off rack, glasses on and OFF!! I ran my bike to the end of transition and jumped on. Then I remembered to set my Garmin to record the bike J The delay with this was not so bad as the first half mile of the route was designated a “non racing” area, due to traffic /safety concerns. My first mile on the bike reflected this coming in just under 19 mph. The next few miles of the race were on lovely flat roads with no wind. My speed reflected this as I averaged just under 22mph for miles 2-5 with avHR of 153 and av Cad of 95. The world was fab!!!! Mile 6 saw a few small hills which dropped my speed down to 20mph for miles 6 and 7. Now came something I wasn’t really expecting, bad prep I’m afraid. The following mile saw my speed drop to just over 12mph! The hill the confronted me was no more than a 500ft climb but when I tried to push as I approached the hill I just didn’t have any strength there. In addition there were 2 other riders who, on the narrow country roads, had decided to weave their way all over the road. The on-coming cars didn’t help much either! After getting to the top of the hill then came the fun J The next mile was at an average speed of 28.2 mph. Unfortunately this didn’t make up for the hill but at least it was a start! The next few miles saw a return to 20-21mph average speeds with cadence never dropping below 90 and avHR was stable around 152. Coming up to the second transition there was a traffic queue and cars coming towards me on the other side. Slowing down considerably for the final half a mile, my average pace came down to just over 20mph, good for 38th out of 160 on the day and 6th in my age group. As I entered T2 I dismounted and proceeded to go down the wrong row of racks for my bike!! After finding where I should have been it was bike racked, glasses off, helmet off, bike shoes off, running shoes on and then run the wrong way!! Get shouted at to “Go over there!” then out of T2 and onto the road. I was a bit surprised when the announcer mentioned, over the annoy, that he knew me from my other running events in the area – who knew J. T2 took 1 min 51 sec – good for the second slowest on the day!! Now for the run. One of the few specific things I had done to practice for this race was a brick session. I had not had any problems running off the bike in training and that seemed to be the case as I ran down the road noticing my sub 7 min pace! This settled down to around 7.30 pace until I hit the first hill. The climb was just over 300ft at a grade of around 13% - I decided a short walk was in order. I actually passed a bike rider who was going up the hill, while I was walking!  Trying to keep my HR below 160,beyond which I tend to explode, the top of the climb saw a quick turn and back up a little further. Mile one was completed in just over 9min. The path saw a small undulating section then up a further 200ft to the turn point. I like to encourage people as they race, most of them like it too J, but I also find it has the added benefit of helping me forget the pain I’m in. As the decent started the people I had passed on the bike leg, who I’d already encouraged as I passed, were in for another dose of happiness! Most of them shouted nice things back as well! Mile 2 was completed in 8.07 and then the decent of the main hill came. I had hopped I would have some zip left in my legs for this, and my cadence did average 88 for the final mile but I was starting to feel a bit tired. As I pushed towards the line I felt as though I could have done better. No crazy, sub 6 min sprint to the end – as I normally do – just an easy-ish  7 min pace up to the end. My final time for the run was a disappointing 24.52 good for 45th on the day and 7th in my age group. My Final time of 1.27.57 was OK but not great! I have lots of lessons to learn from this race, which will not be my last J. Firstly, if I want to swim better then I need to practice! Then, T1 – don’t get dressed in T1 – get bike!! The bike leg was OK but I should check the route and do some proper Tempo work if I want to get that pace up to the 22mph region, which shouldn’t be out of the question. T2 – it might be an idea to think about a land mark to aim for and also try to spot the exit when setting up before the race.  Finally, a bit of hill work would probably have knocked at least a minute off my run time. I think next year, oh yes there will be a next year J, will see me aiming for sub 80min!! 

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Brithday Run July 15th 2011 – Llandudno Prom

Only a few months ago I was a member in a monthly run challenge on Buckeyeoutdoors. It included several runners who have many years of experience, and I as a novice was very much a listener rather than a talker. I’m not sure who mentioned it first but the subject of a “Birthday Run” was raised.
A Birthday Run is a run where the individual runs the same number of miles/km as their age, on or about their birthday! For this reason I decided to run 45km (28miles) on or near 15th July.
I am in the middle of a marathon training schedule so I didn’t want to cause myself any injury or unduely hinder my training by doing the run. So, for this reason I decided to do the run on the easiest terrain I have available locally. The Llandudno Promenade is where I do most of my interval training as it is flat and only suffers with a strong seaward camber. As it is very open it often suffers with the strong easterly winds we have in this area. My main concern was to avoid injury but if I could run a PB on the way then all the better!
During the previous days I had been checking the weather forecast. The forecast had gone from full sun – 20-25C to 15-20C with showers. In the event the day was more the former than the later.
After dropping my kids off at school I parked the car just by the prom and loaded up my sports drink. I had planned to take just 2 bottles at a time – which should have done me for 3 laps (7.6 miles). I had already prepared a single bottle loaded with 300mg of caffeine which I planned to take on the next section after the 2hr mark. Then off I went! My plan, to keep my HR below 130 for the first 2hrs then move it up to 130-140 for the next 2 hours, was going pretty well to plan. I needed to average just over 9 min miles in order to break the 4hr marathon distance.  My first 13 miles were completed in exactly 2hrs. This was a little outside the target but I had kept my average heart rate down to 127 for the whole 13 miles. I was happy to try to push the pace a little now as I knew I just had 2hrs to go and I was on course for a good new PB. As I pushed on my speed increased from 9.15 pace to 8.45 pace. My HR jumped from 127bpm to 137bpm. It was around this time that I spotted my friend, a local runner who is much quicker than me, but whom I had come within 50 seconds of catching in a race earlier this year – see Nick Beer 10km 2011. As he approached he slowed and turned to run with me. We ran on and chatted for about 5 miles, which saw my pace solidly under 9 min pace and my HR rising towards 147bpm. As he left me to complete the run I had been running for 3hrs and I had completed 20.7 miles. I had just 5.5 miles to go and 60mins to complete the sub 4hr marathon.  My Garmin shows how the harder I pushed I only managed to maintain my 9 min pace. My HR was rising and I was very tired. On top of this the weather had been very sunny and I had forgotten to drink all my drinks as planned. I had taken the caffeine drink but still I was getting very tired. As the 25th mile was completed I had 10mins to go to get in under 4hrs. By this time I was looking at my Garmin constantly and my HR was of no concern to me. I had planned to walk the final 1.8 miles, if I had to, in order to complete the 28 miles. So I tried to push as hard as I could. Unfortunately, as hard as I could was not hard enough. What I experienced was a sort of loss of control of my legs! My cadence had dropped to 77 and I just couldn’t get them to go any faster. I now believe this may have been due to a lack of electrolytes. The sports drink I take does have electrolytes in it but I think I might need some more! Next time I will definitely take salt tabs during the run. My HR at no point went above 153, it’s just that my legs wouldn’t move when I wanted them to. In the end I completed the marathon distance in 4hrs and 51 seconds. A 14 min PB for me and some more lessons learnt. I did get very hot but I countered this with a hat, some factor 50 sunblock and some strategically positioned ice packs! It would be very useful if I could find some of these in smaller sizes. One inside my hat would have been VERY useful. After I completed the first 26.2 miles I took a half mile recovery walk and then completed the 28 miles in a total time of 4hrs 25 min. Well my first over marathon distance run and how did it go? Well, I’m back out running now – just 2 days after the run – with no apparent ill effects. I’m very happy to have improved my marathon time and I’m really looking forward to my marathon in early October 2011. 

Mostyn Mile and Llandudno 10 miler 2011 - Sunday 22nd May 2011

I went into this race with the hope that I could regain the form of my training sessions during April. During some of my sessions I had broken 8 miles in less than 60 mins but as I look back the weather conditions for these runs were almost perfect. The weather on Sunday was by no means the same.The primary issue for me was the wind. Living on the North Wales coast is a wonderful experience. One of the few downsides is the wind! As I approached the start area on Sunday the 25mph westerly wind, gusting to 35mph, was fully in evidence.  The few showers that were forecast managed to avoid the actual running of the race. In fact the primary condition was clear and sunny for about 90 mins. I had previously used 6 proplus caffeine tablets, with 4 sports legs tablets, to help with my stamina. Recently I read some research on caffeine usage for endurance activities which suggested I might do better with 8 tablets.
So as I left the house at 9.45am for the Mostyn Mile Fun Run with my wife, Lesley and daughter, Emily, I was as ready as I could be. The fun run started at 10.36am after being moved from the previous course.  As the hooter went my daughter Emily ran off with the other older children. My wife and I started off nice and easily. My wife hasn’t run for many years and suffers with her heart and asthma. I was tremendously proud of her as we made our way round the course. She spent most of the route saying hello to the onlookers – I do believe she knows EVERYONE in Llandudno! As we approached the end we were presented with our medals by the Mayor. A fitting end to a lovely run. The wind, which had physically stopped us during the mile was just a sample of what was to come later.
Making our way back to the car, I got dressed for the 10 mile run. Parking in an area much closer to the start line I left my wife to go shopping as I approached the Starting area. There then followed a delay of 26 mins due to damage done to the signage of the race by the weather!
As 12.26pm approached the starting line. The announcer did his thing and we were off!
There was some congestion during the first half mile which probably was as much a help as a hindrance. This mile was run almost straight into the wind and so the crowd would have protected me from quite a bit of buffeting. As mile 1 ended the course turned exactly into the wind. The second mile saw my pace stabilize around 7.40 and my heart rate slowly climb above 160 – this was a hard mile! Mile 3 saw a 180 degree turn and now with a tail wind my heart rate dropped slightly, and even with a 30 sec walk break and a sip of sports drink, I completed the mile in 7.37. Mile 4 was pretty strong with the my average HR climbing to 159. It was during mile 5 that the course turned again into the wind. My average HR climbed again to 161. I was starting to feel the pressure and so I took a 50 second walk break to drop my HR. This helped get my HR back down to 152 but the average was still 161. Mile 6 was also back into the wind as we made our way back past the prom and into the town. I kept trying to keep the pace up but I was starting to suffer with the heat. I had poured 4 cups of water over my head at the water stations but I was still feeling very hot. I managed to get back to the pace but I was paying for it in terms of my heart rate which was stuck between 159 and 164 for the whole mile. Mile 7 was going to be straight into the wind. It felt like pushing through a series of curtains, constantly pushing me backwards. The attrition rate on this mile was pretty heavy. Many people who had past me in previous miles were pulling over to walk and stopping with cramps. I thought it couldn’t get much worse – I was wrong. Mile 7 in 8.26 with a 60 sec walk break which brought my HR down to 148 from 164 – I still averaged 160!! Mile 8 was VERY VERY hard. Easily the toughest in the race, next year I’ll keep something for this mile. Not only were we running into the wind in the completely open West Shore coastline, but the sand was blasting into our faces just to help with our exfoliation!! Another 161 heart rate average, this time with a 167 maximum, and the slowest mile of the race at 8.31. Mile 9 had to be easier. After the 60 sec walk break at the end of mile 8 my HR was down to 151. Again it swiftly returned to the 160-164 range even at a pace of 8.07. Is should say this mile has the added interest of a pretty long hill in the middle of it. As I spotted the final mile marker I knew I could look forward to the wind behind my back on the finishing straight.  The final mile saw me pretty much on my own with only a few runners in the distance. I felt as though I had a small push left in me before the end so I thought a sub 80 min time might be possible. I took the opportunity of the decent to get my heart rate down a little with a 40 second walk break. This got me down to 155 from 164. It felt hard to break down below 8 min pace but once I was on the prom I managed to get down to 7.35. This was partly due to a natural drop at the start of the prom. It was now my job to keep the pace up and hold on for a final push at the end. I was keeping the pace in to the 7.30 region when I saw my daughter Emily of in the distance. She started running by the side of the course and so I had someone to chase!  I managed to keep my pace below 7.30 for the rest of the run, achieving 5.35 for a few seconds as I crossed the line! My heart rate was climbing constantly during this mile and I finally peaked at 174 with an average of 166. My final finishing time was 1.20.30. I had missed my time by 30 seconds but I am happy I could knock another few minutes off in better conditions.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Shell Chester Half Marathon 2011

Training had gone well before this race. My taper was not quite so successful! My sleeping had been not so great – maybe in part due to caffeine withdrawal. During my taper, which had taken 2 weeks, I had dropped my mileage from around 50 miles per week to 25 miles in the first week and then 8 in the final week. During this time I had put 3lb of weight on and, with the higher intensity of the runs, I had soreness in my legs that had concerned me as potential injuries.
The weather on Sunday 15th was nice and cool. The only concern I had was the wind. As I’m quite tall and broad I find it quite hard to run into the wind. I had cut caffeine for the final week of the taper, which had led to some withdrawal symptoms! So as I approached Chester I took my sports legs (4) and 6 caffeine tablets 1 hour before the race. I had consulted a few friends on Buckeyeoutdoors concerning my heart rate monitor/strap.  The consensus was that I should try to run without referring to it, so I decided to run without it. My plan was to try to run a 1.42-3 finish time. My training, and other races suggested that this was possible. My fall back goal was to PB and my ideal goal was to go below 1.40!
I decided to do a short warmup as I had hoped to get into my 7.30-40 pace pretty quickly. As the race started, and I crossed the timing mat, the congestion was always going to cause me to drop some time.
Mile 1 went OK but the 7.57 pace was not what I wanted. Miles 2, 3 and 4 went perfectly with an average pace of 7.40. Cadence was fine at 85/6 including a 30 sec walk break in mile 3. Mile 5 was OK at 7.50 with a 40 sec walk break but my cadence had dropped to 83 average. At this time I decided to use my MP3 player to help keep my cadence up. The next mile, mile 6, was a bit slow coming in at 8.06 but this was partly due to me pulling my mp3 player out and setting it up. The effect of this was immediate. Miles 7 and 8 saw cadence back up to 85 average and pace was back at 7.40 average. Mile 9 saw the course turn back towards Chester and straight into the wind.  Pace dropped to 8 min with a 50 sec walk break. Miles 10,11,12 and 13 all included walk breaks and were in the 8.25pace area. As the finish line approached I put in a final effort which saw me cross the line at 7.30pace! I was completely out of it at the line. I felt as near as I ever have that I would blackout! After standing bent over for what seemed like a minute I went to have my chip removed and off to wait for my 2011 teeshirt!
My finish time on the watch was 1.45.59, and the distance showed 13.26, there was a lot of moving around the road to avoid congestion, though my official chip time was 1.46.02.
The race had been harder than I had hoped. My previous training had clearly helped but I am still waiting for the break through into the sub 1.40 area. My age graded performance was 58.72 which put me in 714 place in the race and 132nd in my age group. This was an improvement on last year as I had placed 750th with an age grading of 57.62 and 128th in my age group .
In conclusion, I am happy with my performance, I think I could have done better on a better day but I gave it everything I had on the day and I’m happy with that!
Over the last three years I’m happy that I’m getting better.
In 2009 I came 1341 in the age graded finish times.
In 2010 I came 901st and in this years race I came 832nd. Nice to see some room for improvement J
Next race is the Llandudno 10 on 22nd May – nice and flat – but again the chances of strong wind are high!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Chester Half Marathon 2010

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  (George Santayana)

The weather forecast for Sunday May 16th was for temps around 13C and cloud cover, with the likelihood of rain showers. It was for this reason that I felt confident heat/wind would not be an issue.
On the other hand my sleep had not been great in the days leading up to this race and I had decided to enjoy my favorite meal of vegetable tikka masala on the evening before. In addition I had not fasted from caffeine as I had done last year. Looking back now this tells me something about how I was thinking. The FIRST training plan I have been following had a 13 mile run at marathon pace, 8.23 for me, in the plan. So it was a happy coincidence that this race fit in perfectly.
I had prepared my drinks before I left the house with 6 scoops of powder across the 4 8oz bottles. 2 of the bottles had 4 caffiene tablets in them. I took 4 Sportslegs 1 hour before the start, as I have done before all of my races, be they bike or running. I was wearing my original Asics Cumulus 6 shoes, my knee length compression socks, my Skins shorts and a racing singlet.
We started at 9.30 exactly. I had decided not to wear my mp3 player, a decision which I regretted later. I had also decided not to wear my white cap, which, in the end, was another error.
The first time I had run this race I had chatted to 2 people on the road which both served to keep my HR down and ease the pain. This time I was doing a 9.30-30 run walk. The race was a much more solitary experience because of it. I believe that I can run faster with the run walk but I’m not sure it was worth it.
My plan for the race was to try to keep to a 8 min pace for as long as possible. My hope was that I could bring it home in 1 hr 45mins. This would mean 8 min pace from start to finish.
As the race started everything was going to plan.
 1st mile in 7.50 AHR was a bit high at 153 but I had my walk break to come.
2nd mile in 7.51 AHR was also high at 158 but my concentration was on the pace and not my HR. Another mistake – I will not do this for the marathon!
Miles 3 through 10 were perfectly on pace. The first 10 miles were completed in exactly 80 mins, a new record for me for this distance!  My HR had breached the 160 level after just 5 miles though. Looking back now to last year’s race, I had completed the same 10 miles in a time of 1 hr 29 mins and 54 sec, so a PB for the race was definitely on the cards.
After having a problem, at the start of mile 11, with my watch I combined the resetting of it with a walk break. This one lasted just under a minute, longer than required but needed as I was feeling pretty tired. Mile 11 was completed in 9.12 including the walk-break. Mile 12 was completed in 8.45 including a 40 sec walk break. As I approached the hill during mile 13, I was finding it pretty hard to keep everything together. I started my favorite phase of the race – the rabbit chase! Looking up I saw the least fit / most tired looking runner in front of me and tried to push to catch them. Normally I feel like I am pressing the “NITRO” button which helps me find the last dregs of energy in my legs. This time there was nothing there. I tried again still nothing there. Now I was running down the other side of the hill. Still there was nothing, I was hanging on for dear life! As I cruised to the line I was passed by a runner who had been behind me for 5 miles. I had failed. That’s how it felt and that’s how it still feels.
Not a very positive run for me, lots of lessons to learn. Everything from needing to reduce the risk of suffering with the heat to considering some entertainment on the route.
On reflection I ran a PB for the distance of 1 hr 47 min and 48 sec. I broke my PB for the race by 8 mins and 30 sec. I easily ran the 8 min 23 sec pace that my marathon training plan asked for but I set a target and I failed to achieve it. Next time will be different………………………… be continued ;)
The Chester Marathon takes place on Monday 31st May 2010 in Chester, UK. Please pray for me on that day if you can as I will be running it for my Mum who died of Brest Cancer 8 years ago. 

Chester Half Marathon 2009

I've now had a few minutes to get my head round the fantastic experience which was the Chester Half Marathon.

My training had gone pretty well with a weeks break 4 weeks out from the race due to a fall while running.
My wife is a nurse and she did an amazing job fixing me up - I was back running pain free after 7 days.

My final week taper saw me reduce my mileage to around 10 miles before the big day.

The weather forecast had been suggesting light rain and winds during the week but the weather looked fine as I approached the Chester racecourse at 8.30am.
As soon as I got there I parked up and took my Sportlegs, a natural product, which I have found helps reduce leg pain on longer events.
My nutrition plan was to fill both my 250ml Fuelbelt bottles with the High 5 Energy Source 4:1 with 3 caffeine tablets (a total of 150mg) in each. I also took a caffeine gel with me just in case. For recovery I always use Torq Recovery.

With the weather looking windy but clear, temperature around 10C, I decided to wear just my running bib and shorts with my compression socks. I'm not sure they make any real difference but I think they might Description: Smile emoticon, so they must at least as a placebo! 

Having completely failed to notice the massive Male Changing Tent sign, I managed to change in one of the toilets which was pretty warm, if a little cramped. 

As the race time approached I downed 2 gulps of Energy Source I'd made in addition to my bottles, locked my car, took the key off - as I was going to have to carry it around with me, and walked the half mile across the race track to the starting area. I had brought an extra t-shirt with me just to keep the wind off so as 9.25am came round I took it off and tied it to a fence, for later retrieval. As I approached the start line, with the other 2100 people stupid enough to turn up, I noticed the timing sections laid out behind the line. I had been advised, my a friend to get as near to the front as possible but the idea of standing with the 1-1.15 hrs group seemed a little ambitious.
I decided the 1.45-2 hr group looked most inviting so off I went trying to get into that section.

The most striking thing about my fellow runners in the this section was the large number who were running with I pods and MP3 players.
I had already decided in the car to leave mine off both for safety reasons and so as to really experience the race. As things transpired I was very happy I had.


Feeling very nervous

9.29:30 am

Feeling very nervous and chilly

9.29:45 am

Feeling very excited

9.30 am THEY'RE OFF! - Yes those people up ahead are definitely OFF! I on the other hand am not.......

I still haven't moved yet

9.30:30 am

Nope, still not moving yet

9.31:00 am  

I can feel that I might start moving soon - but not yet Description: Smile emoticon

9.32:00 am

I'm just starting to run now as I cross the starting mat and click my watch on.

The first few hundred meters of the course was heavily lined with friends and family, my family was almost certainly still tucked up nicely in bed, my wife is definitely not a morning person and had been suffering with the same head cold that I had for the last few days.

As the I started to see clear tarmac ahead of me I tried a best I could to keep my heart rate down. Trying to stay below 150bpm was my target for the initial few miles. This stratagy would leave me with some speed left to finish strong. Also following some other advice from a friend I targeted 8.50-9 min mile pace. As I came to the first mile post I was running at 9.04 pace. I was happy with that, as I had avoided any problems with the crowds and kept my HR down to 154 with a cadence of 81. This first mile had included the steepest hill in the course so that was out of the way!

As I made it to the 2nd mile post my pace was stuck at 9.04 and my HR was down to 151. I was reasonably happy but I knew I'd have to be a bit more active with my pace in order to do my best on the day. I started to look at my watch on a regular basis and upped my pace to 8.50. Took my 1st drink which went down well.

During the third mile I struck up a conversation with a guy who was looking to break 2 hrs for the first time. He seemed like a very similar kind of person to me. He'd always been active, which I have not, but he'd been bitten by the running bug in the last year. We ran together for a couple of miles at which point my pace required me to push on - so I wished him the very best and moved on. I would have been very happy if that had been the only person I had met on the day but that was not to be.

Mile 3 came at 26min 49 sec, a little beyond my hoped for 26.00 time but I was still feeling fine, not sore and I could push harder, so I did!. I upped my pace to 8.45.

Around half way through mile 4 I came across Paul, a guy from Wigan who I ran with for the next 7 miles. He was a strong runner but was clearly designed for strength rather than speed. We had a great chat as we ran covering both of our life histories. It is one of the enduring memories of this race and I feel very privileged to have met him. 

The only downside about chatting while you run is that you pace tends to drift, and it did. Mile 4 was at 8.53 pace, mile 5 was at 9.02 pace and mile 6 was at 9.06 pace.
I hadn't worried to much about going out slowly as we were running into a 30 mph wind on the way out.

At the turn around my time was 58.50 with an average HR of 154 and cadence of 81. It had to be easier running back, no?

At mile 8 the time was 1.12:42 I was going to have to push on to get as far below 2 hrs as I hoped. I was feeling fine but I could tell I couldn't push too much more or I'd start to suffer. I'd been warned that mile 10 was a killer as the hill that we had run down during the second mile would feel twice as steep on the return. Just as mile 9 finished the rain started. Mile 9 at 1.21:54.

The rain was still only light and the wind from behind was really helping, I had been taking my drink regularly and I was feeling fine with no soreness.

Mile 10 at 1.29.54 the hill had raised my HR from 154 avg to 163 avg and my cadence dropped to 80.

Just after this Paul had to take a toilet stop and told me to go on, he'd see me at the finish.

Mile 11 at 1.37:50 I had a bit left in the tank so I decided to push on imagining I was doing a 5k. My HR was steady above 160 which meant I was going to be running out of energy soon - but how long could I hold on?

Just as the mile 12 sign came into view the hale started to fall. The hale stones felt like pins being shot into the back of my legs and neck.
Mile 12 in 1.46.50. Slower but I hadn't noticed.

The hale and rain now meant that I had to watch my footing on corners but I gave it everything I had as I ran toward the line.

Finish time 1.56.18.

I had done it.

I was completely wasted. I could still walk and as I walked back to my car to get my recovery drink my left leg started to cramp. Running as best I could I made it back to the car only to have to ask a passing person to open my car as my I couldn't grip with my hands to put the key in. The following moments were concerned with trying to get warm and stretch as much as I could in order to avoid cramps. I'm sorry to say, it was only later that I remembered Paul and tried to make my way back to the finish line. I never did meet up with him again but I think it's likely we may meet next year as he mentioned this race is one he does every year.

In conclusion, the Chester Half Marathon a good race? Would I do it again? You bet! It was a really fun introduction to racing at this distance and I met some really nice people. I made it a point to thank all the support staff on the road as I am very impressed with the work they do completely free of charge.

On reflection I have to do it next year so I can get a new PB Description: Smile emoticon

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

2011 Nick Beer 10km Race Report

The Great Orme in Llandudno, North Wales, could never be considered and easy run. With 700m of climbing it doesn't take any prisoners. At least the weather was looking good for a reasonable run and a pretty straightforward destruction of my PB. The last time I did this race was 2 years ago. I had completed the course in 53min 33sec. It had been the second race I had ever run. I missed out on the race last year due to a family issue but this year I was going to take my PB down in a big way.
If you’ve read my 2011 Pier to Pier race report, you’ll know that the weather had really hurt my chances of a sub 45 min 10km but this time the weather was set fair. My prep had been great. I’d tapered properly, running for less than 1hr in the previous week.  As I said the weather was almost perfect. I would have preferred a slight drizzle to cool me down even more, but the big danger – the wind – was looking very easy.
I met my friend Richard just before the race for a warm-up. Richard is a pretty quick runner. He completed this course in 43.22 just last year. Unfortunately, Richard was involved in a car accident just a few months ago which has given him some difficulties running. So it wasn’t clear how well he would perform.  We just jogged very easy for 400m and I did a few strides on the return.
As the clock came round to 12.00pm the horn went and the first runners started. I crossed the line after about 1 min and turned my watch on. I felt really strong from the off. I suffered in the first half mile from runner congestion which added about 30 seconds to my time. First 1km in 4mins 45 sec. My heart rate was already in the mid 150s. The next kilometer continues the uphill and was completed in 4 min 41 sec. My cadence was averaging 172 per minute. My normal cadence on the flat is nearer 180 in these shorter races but the ascent of the Great Orme is not to be taken lightly. Even though it climbs a mere 500 ft over the first 4km it feels relentless.
 I had hoped to get to the top of the Orme within 20 mins. This would have given me 90 seconds to catch-up on the long descent down onto the West shore of Llandudno.  On this occasion my slow start meant I was at 21 min 20 seconds when I reached the top. It was clear to me that the 45min target was out of the question. Now all I had to aim for was as good a time as I could on the day. As I descended off the Orme my pace was a pretty consistent 7.25, still to slow for my original target but fair as the climb had really taken it out of my legs. My average heart rate was in the 160-165 range, normal for me on a 10km. The most interesting part of this race is the run up Church walks. Even though the climb is just 100ft in total, over half a mile, it needs to be planned for. The number of people who have to walk up this hill is crazy!
Anyway, my ascent of Church walks was well below 8 min pace so a fair time was still on the cards. I had been chatting to a guy as I ran down the far side of the Orme and this had helped to keep my heart rate in check. Now as I passed the 8km mark he was finding it hard to hold on. The final 500m of Church Walks is a decent onto the North Shore Promenade. This comes at a great time for the tired runner. If you’ve pushes the boat out getting to the top of the hill you can choose to take it easy and recover while still keeping a sub 8 min pace. This is what I did. Kilometers 8 and 9 were completed in just less than 8 min pace. I didn’t have a target time in mind at this stage. I was just running as fast as I could without burning all my energy. At this stage in a race I find it useful to spot someone up front that I think I can catch. On this occasion I had noticed a guy run past me down the back of the Orme and for this reason I had him in my sights! As the final km started I estimate that I was about 50m down on him. As I spotted the 500m to go sign I had reduced that to 20m. Strangely, no one had past me by this time so I felt I must have been going strong. I passed him just before the final 250m sign. In front of me were 3 runners. One young guy who looked a lot faster than me, an older guy who was just holding on, and a woman who is well known in these parts for wearing luminous kit! It’s at this point in any race that you find whether you’ve got anything left in the tank. I targeted the crazy lady and “pushed the nitro button”!  I had the amazing feeling that I was flying! As I crossed the line I found that I was! My Garmin showed a pace of 5.16/per mile. In addition, I saw, for the first time ever, 180 on my watch as a real max HR!
Lessons learnt from this race are; Set a reasonable target time and my training needs to be more specific! Next race is the Chester Half Marathon in May J

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Race Report - 2011 - The Pier to Pier 10km


The weather at 1pm on Saturday 15th January 2011 was terrible! There was a constant rain with strong easterly winds gusting up to 40mph! My youngest daughter, Emily aged 10, had completed her 3km fun run earlier in the day and had improved significantly on last year’s time with a time of 20.48, over 2 mins faster than last years time in much worse conditions. So as I lined up at 1pm I was feeling very proud of her and not a little worried that my target of sub 45min was going to be very tough to achieve.
We were held on the line for several mins and, with the terrible weather I felt like an Emperor penguin dutifully guarding my egg!  The shot was fired at 1.01pm exactly and off we went. This year there were 275 finishers, as against last years 372. In this sense the weather had been helpful in clearing the field for the more hardened runners.
Early in the race I was trying to keep my HR down while trying to achieve my 7.14 goal pace. I hadn’t warmed up properly so I was taking a few chances. Mile 1 went in 7.14 exactly with an average HR of 149. The second mile included the assent of the Little Orme. By this time I had spotted a friend who was running the race I had always been a pretty quick runner. I decided to try to follow him. This helped pull me up the hill at a good pace, mile 2 in 7.24. I was well on target with the hardest bit of the race behind me.
The beginning of mile 3 is the decent from the top of the Little Orme. This was an opportunity to drop my HR while putting in a nice quick mile. Mile 3 was completed in 7.15 but my HR had not dropped as I had hoped. This was partly due to my lack of high cadence downhill training and partly due to the cross wind that was now pushing us to the left. The wind was such that I and the other runners had to lean to the right to avoid running into the sea wall! As mile 4 continued the road turned right into the wind. I had run in these conditions before but not at 7.15 pace! Mile 4 was completed in 7.22. I was about 20 seconds off my pace. While I was trying to keep the pace up my HR had leveled out in the 165-170 range. This for me is 97% of my maximum HR! I tried to push one more time and I felt that there was nothing left. I needed to take a walk break to get my HR down. I decided to take a 30 sec walk break. This helped my HR drop from 168 to 159bpm. I knew the 45 mins target had gone by this time but I was going to give it everything I had. With the walk break, mile 5 was completed in 7.40 with an average HR of 165. It was now time to get the pace back up and hang on as long as I could! This section of the course includes a decent of about 30ft over 400m. There was only one runner ahead of me that I could chase so I tried my best to get to him. He had to have been 15 seconds ahead of me going into the last mile of the course but I was going to catch him….. Mile 6 was completed in 7.34 with and average HR of 168. I had no idea of the time in the last 320m. All I was doing was trying to catch the guy in front of me………As I crossed the line he was 1 second in front of me! I had completed the race in 45.54. The last .2 of a mile was at 7.13 pace and an average HR of 170bpm. Who said having a heart condition would slow me down J I finished in 93rd place this year as against 137th place last year.  I had improved in both my time and in my position in the field. I hadn’t achieved what I had hoped for but I had pushed myself as hard as I could. Never before had I gone so hard that my legs still ached 3 days after the race, and anyway there’s always next year and  “sub 45 and beyond!”