London Not Calling

Firstly, I apologise for the lack of a post last week. This was due entirely to my laziness and feeling a little miffed at not being able to run.

By way of  penance, I paid a few quid to WordPress so hopefully you won’t see annoying adverts on the blog any more.

I have been managing an assortment of minor left leg injuries and niggles over the last few weeks.  By running on alternate days and making sure that I undertook a long warm up before any fast runs, I seemed to be just about getting away with it.

In truth, I wasn’t doing anywhere near enough miles nor spending enough time on my feet to be properly prepared for a marathon.  This wasn’t because I didn’t want to, it was because I couldn’t.

After the National 12 stage relays in Birmingham, I couldn’t run at all without pain.  In fact, I felt discomfort even whilst walking.  My foot was stiff, my achilles and calf sore and tender and I had twinging pain in the side of my knee and the bottom of the hamstring.

I went to see a physio at The Coach House practice in Headingley. He did the usual assessments, watching me walk up and down in just a pair of shorts (me, not him) with some bending and mobility tests.

His verdict was “You are totally stuck on you left side” – he said my foot and ankle was stiff and didn’t have much range of movement, as were my hips which meant I was ‘hitching’ and using all the wrong muscles to run.

I was told to lay face down on the couch and he gave me a right old battering.  He hit quite a few really tight spots, inducing whelps and whimpers of pain from me.

“Is this your normal pain threshold?” he asked impassively.

How was I supposed to answer that? Was he calling me a wimp or complimenting me on my ability to withstand his aggressive dispensation of therapy?  I muttered an incoherent response and buried my face in the pillow, praying for it to end.

On the positive side, he didn’t think that I had a serious injury, he just thought my body had rebelled and had gone on strike for a bit.

The plan was to let everything settle down, then try some running drills and then short runs if it felt better.

I didn’t run much at all for two weeks, save for a couple of tester runs which lasted only a couple of minutes before I realised it was pointless trying to run in pain.

I tried to retain some fitness by beasting myself on the Wattbike in the gym at lunchtime and going out on my bike once the weather warmed up (I am a committed and devoted fair-weather cyclist).

Yesterday, I went for a run around the wonderfully named Bedquilts sports ground – a huge expanse of grass playing fields in North Leeds.  I managed to run laps for a whole hour, building it up from a timid jog to something approaching 7:30 pace. Running in a straight line felt fine, but my ankle didn’t want to make any sudden turns to the left or right.

After 40 minutes, my legs were feeling it, but I was pleased to stick it out for the whole hour.

I could try running London – with a bank of years of training, I could probably get myself round, but I know that I couldn’t run the whole way.  However, I am not going to.  Just getting round doesn’t really float my boat I am afraid.

It would be painful, I might make the injuries worse and I doubt that I would enjoy it much.  A marathon is a serious undertaking that requires the utmost respect. I am nowhere near fit enough to run one.

Therefore, I am going to experience the London marathon as a fan and spectator for the first time,  support my partner Liz as much as possible and just enjoy a weekend away in the company of people that I really like.

I’ll try to get healthy and then work on getting fit for some shorter races later in the year.

Liz is running London for the first time in a few years.  She hasn’t had an easy build up, but has stuck to her plan diligently (unlike me) and I really hope that she enjoys the marathon.  She is raising money for the brilliant Mini Mermaids run by our friend Hannah Corne.  Liz has coached many Mini Mermaids programmes over the last few years.

If you are feeling generous, please donate a few quid to Mini Mermaids: here

You can read Hannah’s amazing blog here.

Good luck to all friends who are running London, I’ll give you a cheer if I see you.

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Stormin Norman

My late uncle, Norman Smith, was a remarkable man.  He was ebullient, naturally comedic and lived life to the full.  He dominated any room he was in by cracking jokes, singing or just generally acting the goat.  He made and lost a fortune in business.  He was a professional sportsman and coach (he played rugby league for Dewsbury and Featherstone and later coached Dewsbury and was coach at Leeds Rhinos).   Norman was quite a character.

He died just over two years ago after suffering a catastrophic stroke. He was just 69 years old. They had to draft in the police to control the traffic around the Crematorium at his funeral because so many people wanted to be there.

Norman’s two daughters are both remarkable and successful in their own right.

The eldest, Gemma, has worked with racehorses all her life – she left school and joined the Hammond yard in Middleham as stable staff and has worked her way up to be the assistant trainer.  Three years ago, she was named employee of the year at the prestigious Godolphin Stud and Stable staff awards, receiving a prize of £20,000 presented by Sir Tony McCoy and Claire Balding.

Gemma has written a best-selling book about her life and career – Stable Lass.  It’s an honest and very funny insight into what it is really like to work with racehorses.  I thought it was a great read.

Norman’s youngest daughter, Becky, also works in racing at the Hammond yard.  After her promising career as a hockey player was curbed by injury, she followed Gemma into racing and has become one of the best lady jockeys in the country – riding both on the flat and over the jumps.  Last year she was the Champion lady amateur flat jockey in the country.

After Norman died, his mates formed a syndicate and bought a racehorse to run in his memory, to be trained by Gemma and ridden by Becky.  I can’t imagine that there were many disagreements on what the horse would be called –  his nickname “Stormin Norman”.

Stormin Norman is only small, but is beautiful with a big white face.

Stormin Becky

Until Wednesday, he had run in three races.  He ran well on his debut, but clearly didn’t like the soft ground he encountered on the subsequent runs and finished down the field.

Last Wednesday 3rd April, it was two years to the day since the original Norman’s funeral.

Stormin Norman was entered to run in the 5.05 at Market Rasen.  He wasn’t fancied much – he was 20/1 in the early betting market.

Naturally, I backed him.  In fact I back every single horse that Becky ever rides, whatever the odds. This time, I had a feeling, so I put on a quite bit more than I usually would.

It was a thrilling race, Becky kept Stormin settled in third or fourth place in the first part of the race which turned into a sprint over the last two furlongs. Three horses were locked together approaching the line, Becky was driving and urging Stormin for all she was worth. With a tremendous effort near the line from horse and jockey, he won by just a neck:

 

I was watching whilst at work on a tiny mobile phone screen.  I could barely believe what I was watching.  The people in the neighbouring offices must have thought that I had gone mad.  I was shouting Becky home whilst frantically riding an imaginary horse…

I’m not normally an emotional person, but tears were streaming down my face as Becky rode past the line.

What a story. Two years to the day after he was buried, a horse named after him, saddled by his eldest daughter and ridden by his youngest (and carrying the colours he wore when he played rugby and wearing the same number 6 he wore), wins in a brilliant close finish. They could make a film about it.

It was my biggest ever win on the horses, but that didn’t matter.  Sometimes in life something just perfect happens.

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Running:

After my rather downbeat post last week, I received some nice messages of encouragement.  Thank you.

My mate Jock sent an e-mail which was basically a stern talking to.  He was quite right too – he said that I was racing too hard and too frequently at shorter distances and I wasn’t getting enough recovery to enable me to do my long runs properly.  I agree entirely.  I haven’t trained for this marathon very intelligently.

Last week’s post was entitled “Am I injured or just lazy?”.  I can answer that question now – I am definitely injured.

I got up at 6:30 a.m. this morning and made my way up to the reservoirs, hoping to complete a final 20 mile long run before London in 3 weeks.  The plan was to run 10 miles on my own before meeting up with friends Myra and Sean for the last 10 miles.

As soon as I set off everything in the lower part of my left leg felt tight and painful – ankle, achilles and calf.  I have become accustomed to mild pain and tightness in my calf over the last few weeks.  It usually it eases off sufficiently after a couple of miles to enable me to run reasonably freely.  But not this time.  I jogged / hobbled / walked around a half lap of 4 miles and then skulked back to the car.

I know why I was knackered – I had run a short leg of the National 12 stage Road Relays at Sutton Park for my club Valley Striders yesterday.

Valley Striders qualified for the National Road Relays by finishing in the top 24 at the Northern relays in Birkenhead a few weeks ago. By any measure, I’m not quick enough to make the team if our best runners compete; however many of the fast guys were unavailable and we were struggling to raise a team so naturally I put my hand up.

The event comprised alternating long (5.3 mile) and short (3.16 mile) legs.  I was second off, running a short leg. The standard was very high – many of the absolute top elite British runners turn out for their clubs including internationals.  About 70 teams were competing.

Our first runner, Matt had a storming run and we in the middle of the pack when I was released by the starter for my leg (Pictures Liz Adams):

NRR 1.jpg

So early in the race, the teams were still quite bunched together, so I had the rather dispiriting experience of being passed by many runners during my leg.  There wasn’t much I could do about it, I’m a 52 year old 37 minute 10K runner and many of these were skinny-as-a-lat twentysomethings who can run 10K in a smidge outside 30 minutes.

Knowing that I had a few niggles, I’d done a nice long warm up and I tried to pace it sensibly. There was no point in bombing off, then breaking down and hobbling round. The course was tough, the first two miles gradually uphill, with a descent for most of the last mile before drag back up to the line.

I covered the first mile in 6:33, the second in 6:11 and then turned right and tried to bomb it as fast as I could for the fast third mile

From the final bend, there was maybe 150 metres to the finishing banner.  I sensed a Chorlton runner on my shoulder, he was being urged on to beat me by a gaggle of his supporters.  I’m nothing if not competitive, so I fired the burners and gave it everything in the final sprint. It nearly killed me, but I was delighted that he didn’t pass me.

He was magnanimous enough to say in the finish funnel after “great finish mate, you were making some strange noises at the end there!”…

According to Strava, I was in the top 20 fastest of all for the finishing sprint on the day – out of over 1,000 top runners…I’m pleased about that!

I tried my best, but I still lost 9 places during my leg, handing over in 54th position.  My team mates did a great job in clawing back all the places I gave up and we finished 45th overall.  Our ladies team were 41st in the female 6-stage event.

Project London has fallen off the rails.  All I can do now is try to recover. I won’t run much at all for the next three weeks.  I’ll cross train, try to get some physio and hopefully my injuries will improve.

I’ll only start at London if I think that I can run pain-free.  Given my disrupted training, I’m not setting any targets. I genuinely have no idea how fast I could run a marathon, but I am pretty certain I couldn’t run one in a sub 3 hour time, so there is little point in stressing about it.

We’ve already made all our arrangements – booked trains and hotels, and Liz is on course for her first London in many years, so I’ll be there in some capacity.  I hope it will be as a runner, but if I am chief bag carrier and supporter, then that will be great too.

 

LM -3 weeks

11 stone 5.8 lbs

20 miles, longest run 11.2 miles

Parkrun : None

RunBritain Ranking 2.8 (unch) (MV50 rank 232)

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Am I injured or am I just lazy?

Oh dear, its not exactly going to plan.

A combination of my age (52), a host of minor niggly injuries (a sore ankle, a tight calf and neural pain in my knee) and a loss of a bit of mojo are afflicting me at the moment.

My legs are feeling stiff and painful during the first mile or so of every run.  Once I have warmed up my ageing tendons, I seem to be able to run reasonably freely.

I heard ex-elite athlete Jon Brown speak at the England Athletics Endurance seminar about 6 weeks ago.  Despite twice finishing fourth in the Olympic marathon, his opinion of the event was illuminating.

He said, “I hated the marathon, it was so hard and the training was just so tedious”.  I think I concur.  Like me, he loved running and  competing – he wanted to be successful and win medals; but despised his best event.

The marathon definitely isn’t my best event – judged on age graded PBs then 5K or 10K is my best distance (about 82-83%).  I suspect my true best event is probably even shorter, maybe 800m or even 400m, however I don’t run those competitively (yet).  In comparison, my best marathon performances are only around 77-78% on age grading.

I’m finding marathon training quite debilitating this year, it feels like a slog, and  is slowly breaking me down.   London will probably be my last go at the marathon distance.  I’m not the sort of runner who just wants to jog around completing the distance.  Standing on the start line of any race, I have an overwhelming feeling of wanting to give it my absolute best effort.

I ran two all-out 5K races last week (well one was 4.8K in truth), both held at the Brownlee centre cycling track in Leeds.

On Wednesday night I ran the second race of the Even Splits monthly 5K series. I gave it everything and I recorded 18:14, which I was satisfied with.

Even splits 1.jpg

I’d just about got over that effort out of my legs when Saturday came around.  I was in our ‘A’ team for the four leg Yorkshire road relays.  The fact that I was in the A team tells you that we had a bit of a scratch team out (no disrespect to the other guys).  We have some very speedy guys in the club at the moment – many of whom can run  sub 16:30  for 5K.  However, many of our super quick guys weren’t available.

The event was 4 legs of 4.8K each around the Brownlee track. I anchored the team and ran a respectable 17:52.  It was the slowest leg of the four, but I gave it my best, which is all one can do.

I was disappointed in myself for poor racecraft though.   By the time I was sent out on my leg, the race was very spread out. I soon conceded a place when a much faster runner caught me and zoomed away, there was not much I could do about that.

A Holmfirth runner caught me a bit later in the leg, though he wasn’t moving that much quicker than me – so I managed to dig in and keep within a few metres:

YRR3.jpg

Halfway around the final lap, I was on his shoulder.  I sat behind him for a few hundred metres and was feeling fairly comfortable.  I should have just sat in behind him and waited right until the last 50 metres to try to beat him in the sprint.  Stupidly, I surged with about 300 metres to go, thinking he was weak.

YRR1.jpg

I got a gap of about 5 metres, but my nose was now out in the wind.  I couldn’t quite hold the speed and he got on my shoulder and passed me off the crown of the final bend. I had burned all my matches and had nothing left.

I’ve no idea if I would have beaten him in the final sprint, but the way I raced the finish was just stupid.

I need to get one more proper long run in before London, hopefully that will be next Sunday.   I am running on Saturday for Valley Striders in the National 12 stage road relays at Sutton Coldfield, so I expect I will be knackered again.

I’m ready for the taper.

 

LM -4 weeks

11 stone 4.6 lbs

23.1 miles, longest run 6.7 miles

Parkrun : None

RunBritain Ranking 2.8 (unch) (MV50 rank 232)

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