Archive for the ‘Running’ Category

OMM White

Sunday, November 4th, 2018

Last weekend it was the OMM in the Black Mountains, South Wales. Christine’s parents had offered to mind the children so Christine and I were running the Medium Score together. There was a biting wind but blue skies as we set off on Saturday morning. There was some early indecision but we soon settled down to a steady mountain marathon pace. As the morning went on, the skies started to look increasingly ominous and, as we cross one bit of particularly bleak hillside, the snow began and persisted for long enough to paint the mountainside white. We reached the campsite with around twenty minutes to spare – not long enough to have fitted anything else in.

It was a long night in the campsite, made more bearable by being able to chat to Christine brother and his wife in the tent next to us. Due to the cold, we both ‘slept’ in all of our clothes, including waterproofs. We were certainly glad to discover that, as third mixed pair, we qualified for the chasing start and had an hour less to spend in the campsite in the morning.

Although we removed a layer, we both kept our waterproofs on for the whole of the second day. Christine’s knee was giving her grief (a likely outcome even before we started the weekend) and, as a consequence, we were setting a pretty stately pace. We reined in our plans as we went round and, although we finished with another 25 minutes to spare, at the speed we were going it still wouldn’t have got us another checkpoint. We were 47th on the second day which brought us down from 13th to 28th over the two days. Still respectable but not what we would have hoped for had we both been fit and healthy. On the plus side, it did mean we could slip away before the prize giving and make it home in reasonable time!

If you watch the promotional video, you’ll catch a brief glimpse of us finishing on the first day around the 1:33 mark. Thanks to Christine’s dad who purchased the image above where we were reunited with the children at the finish. You can also find our routes from Day 1 and 2 on RouteGadget.

Hursley 10k

Sunday, September 16th, 2018

It was Christine’s turn to run the Hursley 10k this year so the rest of us went along to spectate (Emma is always keen when there’s prospect of a cake stall!). There was lots of Eastleigh Running Club orange out for us to cheer on. As you’d expect given the location, there were also a few IBMers although, looking at the results, I also failed to spot many I should have seen.

On Christine’s return, I raced off for a quick run (a chance to knock out the September Challenge). It took longer than I anticipated but I made it back just in time to see Duncan cross the line in the KS2 race. He seemed pleased with his run. It’s just a shame that it’s another four years before Emma is allowed to take part in any of the races again.

More photos on Flickr.

Not so sunny Severn Half

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

On Sunday both Christine and I lined up at the start of the Severn Bridge Half Marathon in the pouring rain. We had free entries as a consequence of Christine’s parents helping and neither of us had done anything in the way of preparation. In my case, I’d also had some stomach bug for the proceeding three days. As a consequence, I really had no idea how I’d do, or even whether I’d finish.

The race starts at the Welsh end of the bridge, heads over to England where it does a loop in the country lanes before returning back over the bridge. I felt okay at the start and my pace was forced a little by a feeling that I should be ahead of the guy pushing the running buggy (although he was aiming for under 90 mins). I fell in behind a runner from the local club who, it seemed, was aiming for negative splits as the pace picked up when we passed through the halfway point.

That said, when we arrived at the bridge again, I was still feeling pretty good and left him behind as I realised that I might just be able to make it back in under 1:25. As the results show, clock time was 1:24:54 with three seconds less on the chip. Not a PB by any means but still much better than I was expecting when I set off. Christine was also pleased with her time having come in well under 1:45. Comparing with her medal from last year, someone appears to have added a sun above the bridge this year – something we certainly didn’t see all day! The children seemed to have enjoyed their time on banana duty though despite getting soaked through their waterproofs!

OMM De-Lite

Monday, May 7th, 2018

We enjoyed last year’s OMM Lite sufficiently that we signed up again this year. The venue had shifted to the Forest of Dean, another area we know reasonably well through orienteering and its proximity to Christine’s parents. In a repeat of my marathon weekend, it was set to be a scorcher and we were grateful that the organisers took the decision to drop waterproofs from the kit to be carried!

This time we had a much better idea about the distance that we were likely to have to cover to fill seven hours on Saturday although that didn’t stop us re-planning continuously. Things didn’t start well with a run along the road, a detour down a dead-end, followed by hacking through the forest past the wild boar. That, at least, taught us the extent to which we should trust all the tracks on the map!

We headed out of the forest to pick up a 50-pointer out at Symonds Yat but decided not to go further afield and, after picking up a few more checkpoints, headed back into the forest again. At that point, there wasn’t much for it but to sweep around the bottom of the map and back up the eastern edge. Christine was definitely fading towards the end and wasn’t best pleased with my suggestion to squeeze in one extra checkpoint before the finish. The unexpected lap of the camping field meant that we were docked one point for being 19 seconds late back. Much to our surprise, this still left us 49 points clear of the next pair! (My watch began to die so our efforts are spread across part 1 and part 2 on Strava.)

Christine switched to trainers for the Sunday in an attempt to pacify a rather angry looking blister on her feet but, otherwise, we didn’t feel too bad setting out for a further five hours. The map was centred on the forest this time which provided some much-needed shade. We didn’t have to think a great deal initially with the first three checkpoints being ones we had visited on Saturday. Christine accepted that we needed to cross the valley to the controls on the eastern edge of the map but the climb back out of Soudley was pretty unpleasant, particularly as the path we were on disappeared amongst fallen trees.

We made it back in time and, although we didn’t clock the biggest total for the day (guest ultra-runner Markus Scotney sped past us at the end having knocked off another 100 points), it was enough to secure a victory. Winning prizes for the first mixed pair, as well as first place, certainly meant we had a tidy haul of OMM vouchers to show for our efforts! The 23 miles covered on Sunday brought the total for the weekend to over 55 miles, very similar to last year and only with around 200m less climb.

The podium photo also shows off our cheer squad with all but two of the children in the front row being relatives (the other two were a reunion from last year’s event). Sarah and Sue, in particular, had done a wonderful job of keeping them all amused whilst we were out running. Our two had done the orienteering on Sunday. Duncan secured a second on M10 whilst Emma had an absolute epic, spending nearly an hour and a half on her orange course! To round off an excellent weekend, they also ran in a sweltering children’s race at Devauden on Bank Holiday Monday.

Southampton Marathon

Sunday, April 22nd, 2018

The day of the Southampton Marathon finally dawned today. Training hadn’t quite gone to plan. I’d largely managed to keep running on my three trips to the US but the time zone changes and flights do take it out of me (Christine claims I’m grumpy for a week after I get back). The biggest issue turned out to be back pain which meant two weeks off running and then another two weeks getting back up to speed. That meant that, although I had a reasonable base, I missed out on a lot of the longer runs and started today still without a clear idea what pace was feasible. On top of that, it was going to be warm (14-19ºC), another factor for which I wasn’t quite sure of the impact.

Preparation on the day was also a bit lacking. After a long queue, I exited the toilets five minutes before the start and, given the layout, had to try and force my way through from the back. When the pace flags eventually appeared I followed someone who was determined to push their way through so I didn’t start too far back. I still spent the first couple of kilometres weaving through slower runners and we had crossed the Itchen Bridge and were halfway around the Wolston loop before I found the 1:30 Half Marathon pacers.

On the whole, the first half felt pretty good, reflected in a split of 1:28:48. There was lots of support on the course, cool water and the occasional mister. When the half marathon runners peeled off though it was a different story. As they make up at least a fifth of the entry, all of a sudden I was pretty much running alone, my feet were sore, my legs tired, and keeping the pace up was starting to become a real effort. Suddenly the idea of a two-lap course and having to do it all again didn’t seem that great anymore!

It was around the 22-mile mark that things really started to slow down and, for the drag up Highfield Lane, my pace dropped below 5 min/k. I was determined to keep going and the downhill through the shade on the common was a chance to pull myself together again. I eventually crossed the line with a chip time of 3:03:46 with which I am more than satisfied.

Now I started out this journey talking about London Marathon good for age times. Sadly, a week before the race they announced new times for 2019 and my target dropped from 3:15 to 3:05. Whilst I did finish in under that time, the numbers are also to be capped so this time still doesn’t guarantee me a place. How I feel as I write this (sore legs and a headache from too much sun) I’m going to let them decide whether I should run another road marathon but, maybe in a week or twos time, I’ll feel differently…

I should end by thanking my family for their support, not only on the day (where they managed to cheer me on in no less than seven locations!) but also for putting up with me disappearing out for long runs and generally being inflexible with my training.

West Midlands JK

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

As is often the case, our Easter involved orienteering at the JK but, for the first time, both the children were entered. We headed up on Friday to the Sprint event at MOD Stafford. As with all days, the children had timed starts and we had open starts which were very convenient. Duncan flew round his course but Emma disappeared. I guess we’d failed to explain to her that she needed to make sure that she was on the right side of a feature: something that you don’t experience on your average orange course. She’d wandered off for 20 minutes before returning to the other side of the wall!

We were staying in Lichfield which seems like a pleasant enough town: the cathedral is certainly impressive and there was a good selection of places to eat out even taking into account the children’s (ok, Emma’s) preferences. I had a particularly bad run at the medium event: I just shouldn’t be allowed out with contours. The rest of the family did better with Emma first on W12B, Duncan second on M10B and Christine fifth. We decamped to the nearby Cannock Chase Go Ape afterwards where the children enjoyed racing around with their second cousins.

It was always a bad sign when cars were being towed into the car park field on Sunday. The course was no less muddy but at least it had some longer legs and I scraped a top ten. The children repeated their positions from Saturday and Christine moved up to fourth. These were also their overall positions. We stayed around for the prize giving but it turned out there were no prizes for B-courses: so much for encouraging juniors! At least it meant we could take a more direct line to escape the now largely empty car park field unaided.

The relays were back at Beaudesert only now with the addition of an overnight dusting of snow. Thankfully the car park field had been abandoned but the assembly area was a complete mud bath. Despite running alone, I must have still visited every other gaffle on my course (and wandered into an out-of-bounds marsh by mistake!) Emma was running but not Duncan. She went out in the mini-mass start which meant that Christine was back in time to shadow her round. Just as well given that the course took in tracks that had only been created by the previous day’s event!

Half Term Action

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Although we had no particular plans, I had the whole of the February half term off work. We went over to Wales for the first few days. I had a lovely long run in the Forest of Dean on Sunday whilst the others went around the sculpture trail. Christine drew the short straw as she got to run back to Monmouth just as the Arctic conditions arrived.

The next day we had to shovel the snow off the driveway before heading over to Llangorse Activity Centre. Christine wanted to cement the skills she’d learnt on her rope handling course whilst her Dad was around. Sue and I went for a short walk up a snowy hill!

Unfortunately, the weather deteriorated again as we headed back to Southampton. Not surprisingly, therefore, we weren’t the only ones to have the idea of going to the Winchester Science Centre and it was Thursday before I could actually book a ticket. By this time we had blue skies but it made a nice change to actually be able to sit outside and eat our lunch. The children enjoyed the special ‘Secret World of Gases’ show even if only for the loud bangs. I was less sure about the ‘We Are Aliens!‘ film in the planetarium but you could always just lie back and close your eyes… The same was true of our rather belated trip to see Paddington 2 the following day!

Christine took up the reigns again at the weekend with a trip to Mottisfont. I only made it as far as the car park, running back home instead.

Marathon training begins

Sunday, January 14th, 2018

I finally cashed in my prize from the Hursley 10K for an entry in the ABP Southampton Marathon on 22 April. The entry may come free but sadly the training does not! This week I embarked on a training plan. My starting point is one from the London Marathon site. For me, it primarily means running one more day a week than I typically average and mixing things up a little with intervals and, of course, ever longer runs. On the few occasions in the past where I’ve followed a training plan, I’ve quite enjoyed the variety as, left to my own devices, I’m prone to just churning out the same old runs at the same pace.

Sticking to the plan is unlikely to plain sailing. There was already some flexibility needed this week with visiting colleagues disrupting my normal lunchtime routine. There are already a couple of overseas trips in the calendar for the coming months and the weekend of what is supposed to be my longest run, I’ll be racing four days at the JK! Sadly I’m also not entirely injury free, with a long-term problem with my left hamstring and my right knee never having quite recovered from the jar it took in the long grass at the Caddihoe Chase. Stretching and strength training therefore also form part of the plan and they’re probably the part that I’ll find hardest to keep going!

All of this begs the question “So do you have a target time?”. That’s a tricky one. Having finished the Clarendon Marathon in 3:26 at the end of last year, aiming under 3:15 for a London Marathon good-for-age time seems like a reasonable start. Back in the dim and distant past the power of 10 claims that I completed the distance in under three hours but I’m somewhat dubious about the course measurement. That was also over 10 years ago but this will be the first time I’ve run a road marathon so should I be aiming for something a bit more ambitious? Let’s just see how the training pans out…