A Windy and Winding Snake Lane…

For an intelligent bloke, I occasionally do some incredibly stupid things.   For the past two weeks, I have been very disappointed with the performance of the new Fairy washing tablets that I purchased from JTF (a large discount cash and carry store).  Last night, I realised why my whites weren’t quite as white as they should be.  I have been washing my clothes with dishwasher tablets!  What a plonker.  What’s worse is that because they were such a good price, I purchased four massive bags of the buggers!  I know what my sister will be getting for Christmas, and her next birthday…

Onto the running.  It’s been an OK week – 55 miles done and my achilles has felt OK.

I have a confession to make.  I have an addiction. I have tried to kick it, to go cold turkey and hope that it will leave my system and free me from the compulsions that afflict me, but no, that has never worked.  I am addicted to buying running shoes.  Before writing this week’s blog, I checked the wardrobe in my spare room and I currently own 14 pairs of useable running shoes.  I suppose I’m a sort of athletic Imelda Marcos.

I buy most shoes online and I am a creature of habit – always Saucony Grid Omnis size 9.5 for my basic heavy trainers, I must have owned 20 pairs of them over the years; and Asics DS-Gel for my fast training and racing shoes – I have two pairs of DS-Gel Trainers that I use for interval training sessions and longer races (10 miles and longer).  I also have a pair of super light DS-Gel racers – which I wear for short races.  They weigh virtually nothing because they have virtually no cushioning or support.  I wouldn’t dare wear them for anything longer than 10K because of the risk of injury.

I planned to run the Manchester marathon in my DS-Trainers, but both pairs I have are getting a bit past it.  I saw that Sportshoes.com had some 2013 DS Trainers on offer at just under £50 (i.e. half price) with 1 pair left in my size.  A few days after ordering, a guy from Sportshoes.com phoned me and told me that they had no DS Trainers left, did I want to order something different.  I ended up buying a pair of Brooks Pure Cadence in lime green also half price.

Despite what the guy from the store said, two days later, both pairs turned up!  Being the obsessive hoarder that I am, I decided to keep both.  I had never owned a pair of Brooks before and I tried them out at the Tuesday night Valley Striders session.  They felt great – light yet supportive and springy and for the first time ever I managed to cover at least 1 full mile inside 6 minutes for the 5 reps of our 5 by 6 minute session.  I have my new marathon shoes!

I ran the Leeds parkrun on Saturday in 18.40, my best time of the year.  I was pleased because it was a hard but not full gas effort. Once the weather is warmer and stiller, I know I can go much quicker.

Sunday was a target race – the Snake Lane 10 miler.  The target was a sub 60 minute run.  Unfortunately, conditions were against fast times today – there was a 30 mile SSW wind.  It felt great in the first half, with the wind at my back I was pinging along in my bright green shoes and made halfway in 29:50. However, as we reached the village of Bishop Wilton we turned dead into the wind, Oh my, what a difference!  6 minute miling became 6.30 and a massive effort at that.  I made a big error by letting a group of about 6 runners drop me at 6 miles. I should have made a better effort to stay with them and once I was dropped I was totally isolated, taking the full brunt of the wind in my face all on my own.  I didn’t particularly enjoy the last few miles.  I had burnt a few too many biscuits and running on my own was miserable.  I was passed by a few runners in the final two miles, eventually coming home in 62:30 to finish in 40th/ 802

I ran the identical time 12 months ago on a much stiller day.  It wasn’t all bad though, because in the provisional results, I have finished 2nd Male Vet 45, so I might get a few quid for that. A sub 60 minute time was never on for me today – only the top ten guys achieved that – 12 months ago 41 runners achieved a sub 1 hour time. I’ll try again at Thirsk on March 23rd.

With six weeks before my sub three attempt at Manchester, it would seem a good time to undertake a review of the training so far.

Overall, the project is green, I have done three proper long runs and significantly increased my training volume, and though I haven’t quite run as many miles as I planned to, I’m not far below target.  I have done at least one interval session every week and I have some really solid race results, including a really pleasing PB run in the Brass Monkey Half marathon.

I have 4 weeks of heavy training and then I will ease off for a two week taper.  Next week I’m hoping to do a 22 or 23 mile long run, which will be my longest training run.  The week after, I have the East Hull 20 mile race, which will be done as “a catered training run” to borrow Tom Williams’ phrase.

Please God,   No colds !!

Unfortunately, a number of my teammates have succumbed to injuries or illness and one or two are doubtful for Manchester.  It’s an occupational hazard for runners, but I really hope that we all make the start line in 6 weeks time.

M – 6 Weeks / 55 miles. Longest run 10 miles. Parkrun (Leeds) 18:40 (11th). Weight after Sunday run 11 st. 5.6 lb


Running can be a Sole-less experience

As I get into the real crunch phase of my marathon training, my weekly mileage is not often reaching the 60 miles+ target.  My niggling injury has partly caused this – I can’t seem to increase the volume without setting off the soreness in my left achilles tendon.  However this week, three days working long hours away from home in Birmingham meant that I only managed to run 3 times.

As local readers will know, the U.K. has been battered by nearly incessant winter storms for weeks now.  Although we have not suffered the terrible floods that afflict the South of England, I am pretty much completely over this crap weather now.  Going out in the driving wind and rain can be bracing and character building, but when you are doing it for the 10th time in a row, it is just a pain the butt.

Tuesday was meant to be the monthly Valley Striders track session at the Leeds Met University track Beckett Park – definitely my favourite session that we do.

Unfortunately, the track was frozen and it was unsafe unless you had spikes.  A small and hardy troupe of Striders had turned up and they followed my suggestion that we jog the mile or so to Chuch Lane in Meanwood and do a hill repeat session on the road instead – basically 6 times up and down a steepish hill, each ascent being half a mile.

I didn’t run again until Saturday when I turned up at Roundhay parkrun and ran 19.46 on a very hilly course on a very chilly and very windy day.  It wasn’t much fun.

Sunday was the fourth race in the Peco cross country series, held on fields about 6 miles from my house and close to the location of my office.  My plan was to include the Peco race in the middle of my Sunday long run, so 12 miles there and back plus a hard 5 mile cross country race would be a good long run substitute.  As the course was going to be very muddy, I dropped off my studded fell shoes at my office on Saturday evening, planning to run to the office in road shoes on Sunday, then change to the fell shoes for the race before changing back for the run home.

All was going perfectly to plan until about 1 mile in to the race. The mud was epic, really deep and gloopy stuff, but pretty good fun to run through. Suddenly, my right shoe started to feel strange. At first I thought my lace was coming loose, but then I realised that the entire sole of my shoe was flopping about.  I stopped at the side of the course and as I lifted my foot the entire sole fell off completely!

My only option would have been to jettison the shoe and run half barefoot, but I decided to jack and DNF the race, it would have been pretty hopeless to continue in the quagmire shoeless.

Feeling a little forlorn, I waited and cheered my teammates through the end of the first lap, but as I was getting cold, I went back to the office, changed shoes and made this a long run day by taking a long route home, eventually running just over 20 miles on the day.

And finally some good news – as a result of entering the Sierra Leone marathon, I have been invited to a reception at Kensington Palace next month. I’ll definitely go, work commitments permitting.

With seven weeks to go, I am still just about on track, but I need a couple of strong high mileage weeks, with 20 mile+ long runs and hopefully no injuries.

Next Sunday is a race over my favourite distance – the Snake Lane 10 miler.  I would love to have a crack at a sub 60 minute run – even with my recent 80 minute half, that is a really stretching target for me, but if we get a nice calm day, I’ll be having a good crack at it.

M –  7 Weeks / 32 miles. Longest run 20 miles. Parkrun (Roundhay) 19.46 (5th). Weight after Sunday run 11 st. 5.6 lb


Quick update…

A quiet week.  I missed my 60+ mile target, and my achilles injury is grumbling again, so I didn’t want to push it too hard.  Two days working in London also restricted running opportunities.

I gave it a bit of a go at parkrun on Saturday.  It wasn’t a fast day, very slippery on the corners and with a strong breeze, but I think I was heading for a solid sub 19 minutes run when my lace came undone at halfway I had no option but to stop…oh well.

Sunday’s long run was done solo because I had been out seeing friends in Manchester on Saturday night, so I had to run on Sunday afternoon.  It was a real grind.  I intended to run 20 miles by running 10 miles out along the canal from Horsforth to Bingley, turning and then heading back.  The towpath was in a right state – muddy and rocky with loads of massive puddles which made it impossible to run with any rhythm, the driving rain and strong wind in my face didn’t enhance my mood as I made my outward run.  When it started to hail in my face at 9 miles I decided to turn back early.  To round off a pretty miserable run I got the hunger bonk after 15 miles and the last few miles were the death shuffle.  Oh well, at least I got it done.

I’m working away from home four days next week with very limited running opportunities.  It might be good to give the Achilles a rest.

When will it stop bloody raining???

M –  8 Weeks / 52 miles. Longest run 18.7 miles. Parkrun (Leeds) 19.14 (17th). Weight after Sunday run 11 st. 7.0 lb


Injury Paranoia and the Dewsbury 10k

Put bluntly, I was completely knackered after last week’s cold and wet 20 mile run.  Even worse, when I awoke on Monday my left Achilles was very painful and I couldn’t walk without a pronounced limp.  I suffered from a severely inflamed Achilles tendon after the 2013 Manchester marathon and I was really worried that this was a recurrence of the same injury.  Last year I had to take 3 months off running in the early summer, retaining fitness by cycling, if the same injury had come back, the marathons this year could be scuppered.

I had no option but to refrain from running completely for three days.  The injury improved quickly and I even headed out for a tester run on Wednesday evening, but after a twinge in the tendon I abandoned the run after 200 yards and returned home.  I was probably being paranoid, but a few days off shouldn’t make a difference to my chances in Manchester in 9 weeks.

I ventured out for gentle runs on Thursday and Friday and on Saturday turned out for Leeds parkrun, running 19.08 in my heaviest trainers, not feeling too sprightly.  I was probably saving myself a little for the Dewsbury 10K on Sunday morning, a race I had targeted as an opportunity to break 37 minutes.

As other runners will know, there is a standard procedure the evening before the race to be followed – lay out your race kit : favourite shorts, vest, socks and race shoes.  Work out what time you need to set off in the morning. Attach 4 little safety pins to your vest; retrieve your race number from the envelope in the bookcase in that place where you leave all your numbers. 

I was calmly undertaking these tasks when to my horror I noticed that my Dewsbury race number was for the 2013 event! What the F? Surely I hadn’t forgotten to enter?  A quick check of my e-mail folder with all the race entry details and yes, due to complete muppetry I had not in fact entered the race!

Feeling a little deflated and annoyed at my own stupidity I sent off an e-mail at about 7pm on Saturday to Bernard Disken, the race director, pleading that I thought I had entered and there must have been a mix up.  He responded saying that if I got there early and brought £16 with me, he had a spare number that he would give to me. Phew! Thanks Bernard!

Dewsbury 10K is one of the premier 10K road events in Yorkshire – it has a similar profile to the Abbey Dash in Leeds in that it’s a simple out and back along a dull inner city road, with a slight rise going out and a favourable incline for the return.  There are always plenty of fast lads and ladies up at the sharp end, with the winner often breaking 30 minutes.

To break 37 minutes, I had to average 3:42 per kilometre.  I set out purposefully, running 3:34 then 3:39 for the first two Ks.  The gradient then kicks up a little, only slightly, but I knew I was slowing.  However, I kept working, trying to keep my leg cadence high and working through the field, picking off runners as I went.  I was slowing – 3:48, 3:55 then 3:58 saw me reach halfway in 18:50.  Sub 37 was looking very doubtful.

After the turnaround, I realised that I was moving much more easily and quickly, it was now ever so slightly downhill and the breeze was definitely on my back.  The field was getting strung out so there were some bigger gaps and I was often isolated, but I was still passing others from time to time.

Check the Garmin each K – 3:35, 3:36, 3:40 – I was clawing it back…blimey, I might just do it – keep going like this, but man, this feels hard now! Come on you lazy sod, go faster! Where is that zip for the mansuit when you need it?

I hit 8 K in 29.44. Quick mental maths – I have to run 2K in 7 minutes 15secs  to beat 37 minutes –  about 3:37 per K, oh, it’s going to be close!  Hang on, where has that wind come from?  All of a sudden we were running right into the teeth of the breeze, which had switched right around.  That scuppered it.  Despite giving it my all, including a desperate sprint over the last 300 metres, I just missed out, finishing in 37:06.

However, I’m really happy with another PB and looking at the winner’s time – unusually well outside 30 minutes this year at 30:24, the breeze undoubtedly had an effect on the times. I ran a strong negative split of 18:50/18:16 and 18:16 would be my best parkrun time for 5 months, so that’s a good effort.

After a lower mileage week, I want to step back up to the 60+ mile weeks, assuming my Achilles remains stable.  I’m working in our London office on Monday and Tuesday, I’ll take some running gear with me, but I can’t see me squeezing in more than a couple of 4/5 mile runs – we’ll see.


M – 9 Weeks / 30miles. Longest run 6.2 miles. Parkrun (Leeds) 19.08 (15th). Weight after Sunday run 11 st. 7.0 lb