I dreamed a dream by the old canal…

Manchester was home for me for about ten years, I returned to the correct side of the Pennines in 2001.  Whisper it quietly, but I quite like Manchester.  Well, it would be more accurate to say that I like Mancunian people – in the main they are honest, thoughtful and genuine.

As for the landscape, Manchester won’t be winning any prizes for beauty.  The one thing it has going for it is that (when compared to Leeds), it is exceedingly non-hilly.  Of course that isn’t true when you reach the northern satellite towns like Oldham, Bury and Rochdale; but downtown Manchester and Salford are flat.

I like flat for running.  I suit flat. I run my best performances on flat courses.

As a Yorkshireman, I should crave running up and down fells and dales whilst wearing indecently short shorts, but I don’t. Mainly because I am quite rubbish at going uphill.  I’m not sure why, it must be something to do with my power to weight ratio, but then again lots of good fell runners are tall and lanky.

I have run the Salford 10K – held on Good Friday each year – numerous times.  The course is only a few miles from my old flat in Middleton, North Manchester.  It comprises two laps around the former Agecroft colliery site and finishes opposite the old Paterson Zachonis Soap works, now long gone.

A dearth of racing in 2018 left my wondering how I would go this time around.  I posted my 10K PB at Salford three years ago, clocking 36:06.  I doubted I could better than that but was hoping to go sub 37.

The race always attracts plenty of high quality club athletes, consequently the start is fast. I held back a little during the first frantic mile, and when the race calmed a little I began picking my way up through the field.

I felt good, clipping along at 5:50 per mile pace and was in a little group of athletes as we made our way down some smaller back streets at the 4K point.

One of the streets was cobbled, so the runners in front swerved off to the right to run on the smoother pavement, I dutifully followed and hopped up onto the pavement.

A few seconds later, without any warning, the two runners in front of me veered off violently left and right and I was immediately poleaxed when I ran into the end of a metal barrier fence that I simply never saw. A high-viz jacked had been draped over the end of the fence but I had no chance to see it.

I was shocked and winded and I stopped momentarily.

Shit, that has probably caused me an injury, I thought

A few other runners cried out ‘My God mate are you OK?; I wasn’t sure.  I shuffled around for a few seconds, more in shock than pain.  Amazingly, I wasn’t seriously injured, though after the race I realised that I had bruised my knee and jarred my thumb.

I resumed running, maybe losing only 10-15 seconds and after a few minutes I had calmed down and regained my focus.

Surprisingly, despite my little accident, I still recorded a season’s best time for 5K as I completed the first lap in 18:06.

I lost a bit of time on the slightly uphill fourth mile, running it in just over 6 minutes, but got shifting again for miles 5 and 6 and came home in a chip time of 36:18 – my second fastest ever 10K.

I was really pleased with that and thought that I might have got close to my PB if it hadn’t been for the incident.

Perusing twitter a few days later, I was amazed to stumble across Steve Renny’s blog, in which he describes a poor runner T-boning himself on a barrier…

My Valley Strider team mates all had good runs, a special mention must go to Chairperson Steph (pictured above) who smashed her PB by over a minute.

On Easter Sunday, we canned our original plans to do a long run around the reservoirs as it would have been far too wet and muddy.  Instead I headed off with a couple of Striders to the Planets Cycle path between York and Selby.

The cycle path is pancake flat and has a to-scale representation of the sun and all the planets of the solar system.  For example, the 150,000,000 km distance from the sun to the Earth is represented by just 260 metres on the path; yet the distance between Saturn and Uranus is over two and a half kilometres.

Recently, I have been re-reading Frank Horwill’s brilliant anthology of coaching articles (preserved on the Serpentine website here).  He argued convincingly that marathon paced running must be rehearsed frequently in training.

I thought a good session for me three weeks out from London would be a steady run at Marathon pace plus 30 seconds for 8 miles, then to turn around and run at marathon race pace back to the starting point.

Myra was planning a longer run of 22+ miles so I said I would run the first 8 miles out with her and then turn back.

Those 8 miles felt great, we clipped along at 7:15 pace, it was a breeze.

Therein lay the problem.  When I turned (actually at 9 miles because it had felt so easy), I realised that we’d had a generous wind on our backs.

I tried to pick it up to marathon pace (6:45 miling).  It felt like running through treacle, I couldn’t quite do it without throwing my heart rate out of range (Horwill says that marathon pace is 80-88% of maximum heart rate, which for me is 137-151).

I ground out about four miles of just about sub 7-minute miles into the wind before murmuring to myself, sod this for a game of soldiers.

I just couldn’t do it and then suddenly I slowed dramatically, I felt very tired and my ankle was killing me again.  I shuffled ignominiously back to the car and drove home, feeling a little disheartened.

As I have said before, being an older runner sucks sometimes. Although I can crank up the engine and still grind out a decent fast race every now and again, it takes me ages to recover from such a hard effort.

Clearly two days wasn’t a long enough recovery after a fast 10K to attempt this sort of marathon paced effort.  I really have no idea what I might do at London, I might run something close to my best of 2:55, equally I might blow and end up limping in with a 3:15.

The ankle issues mean that I have struggled to log more than 45 miles per week recently, then again, I have been trying to sharpen up and work on speed.  I have already logged a decent volume of miles this year.  Well its too late to do much about it now. I will get what I will get in two weeks time.

Yesterday, I was back at the Brownlee cycling track running a 4.8K leg of the Yorkshire road relays for Valley Striders.  I was on the third leg and by the time I was dispatched  the race was spread out all over the track, meaning that I basically ran a solo time trial.

A few superfast lads from the leading clubs shot past me, unsurprisingly, I was completely unable to follow them.  I had hoped that I would run under 18 minutes, but I failed, clocking 18:07.

Valley Striders men did OK, finishing in the top half despite not being able to select many of our fastest guys.

The ladies did even better with the A team finishing in a very creditable 7th position and the B team in 15th.

Now for two weeks of steady taper running, although I am running a leg at the National Road Relays in Birmingham next Saturday.

CM-10 weeks: 44.2 miles, longest run 16.3 miles

CM – 9 weeks: 37.7 miles, longest run 11.3 miles

Aerobic efficiency: (Salford 10K 907 beats per mile)

RunBritain ranking 2.5

Weight 11st 1.8lb

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Sliding Doors

A post on Twitter this week about a runner’s ten year anniversary of his first parkrun at Woodhouse Moor caused me to check back on my record.

His first parkrun in January 2008 coincided with my second – I’d made my debut the previous week.

I don’t believe in fate or any kind of pre-ordained life.  We have a good measure of free will and we are exposed to the fundamental randomness of the Universe in my humble view; however, I did muse on how that simple decision to take myself down to Woodhouse Moor to try parkrun has changed my life.

It led me on a path to become a serious runner, I’ve made many new friends, I have travelled to places and done events that I could never have even conceived of and it also led to great happiness in my private life.  Yes, digging out my trainers and dragging myself down to try out a strange new free 5K run over a decade ago is one of the best decisions I ever made.

After two high mileage weeks, I stepped it back this week. It felt the correct thing to do, I have been going OK and I still have 13 weeks until London and 21 until Comrades so there is no need to go mad with miles just yet.

The weather hasn’t been great in the North of the UK this week – with plenty of snow and cold temperatures leaving roads and pavements often ice covered.

I decided to have a crack at the fourth Peco cross country race in the series, a course of 4.8 miles around Middleton Woods in South Leeds.  It was undulating with not many ‘killer’ hills that usually find me out and a couple of twisty technical descents that I can usually run quite well.

In my last cross country I was asleep at the start and got stuck too far back, causing me stress and extra energy trying to work my way through the field.  This time I set off more purposefully, established a reasonable position in the pack and then just battled away for places.

Peco 18.4

A nasty short climb about half a mile from the finish sent my heart rate rocketing and I lost a few of positions.  Back on the huge finishing field, I gathered myself and unleashed my best sprint to take most of them back.  I finished in 63rd position, fourth in my age category, but overall I was satisfied with my effort. I’d kept focussed throughout the race and I don’t feel that I could have done much more.

It’s the Northern Cross Country Championships next Saturday, held at Harewood House, only a few miles from where I live.  I might jog there and back to make it a long run day as well as a Championship race, we’ll see.  A top half finish will be my ambition

Comrades 2018 -2 weeks

11 stone 4.0 lbs

36.3 miles, longest run 7.7 miles. No parkrun (bad weather)

RunBritain Handicap 2.9

Aerobic efficiency 1,087 heartbeats per mile

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Mind the Gap

 

After my wobbles over the last few weeks, I’ve felt better this week.

The knee and hip pain has eased off. I’m still aware of soreness after a run, but it doesn’t hurt much whilst I am actually running.

The deficit in mileage over the final month of the training period means I am not brimming with confidence about next Sunday, though I’m not too apprehensive either. I am fit enough to run well, hopefully sub three hours, but probably not to run a sub 2:55 PB time.

I ran steadily last week then ventured over to York for a blast around the flat parkrun with a few other Striders on Saturday morning. I was pleased with an even paced 18:12 for 13th place. I ran very hard, but not completely eyeballs out and I had to do an extended cool down run back to my car parked about half a mile from the finish because  I had left my barcode in it. That’ll learn me.

The Sunday one week before a marathon is a bit late for a proper long run, but I chanced a 12 mile run along the canal, with about 7 miles at 2:55 marathon pace, sandwiched between some steadier miles running with Liz.

As is the custom, the marathon paced miles felt rather hard, but not obscenely so, and in the main the heart rate stayed below 145 bpm.

My lowered expectations may work in my favour next Sunday. I am setting myself some ground rules for next Sunday. Assuming I arrive at the start healthy and fit, I want to run a conservative first 18 miles – with a target average pace of 6:40 – 6:45 per mile.

If I feel OK, I will try pick it up a little in the final 8 miles, hopefully overtaking a lot of runners and running a negative split.  However, my lack of long runs may well scupper those intentions, we’ll see.

My sore knees and hips mean that I will wear my Hoka Cliftons for the race, I’m sure they will thank me for the extra cushioning.

I haven’t run a London marathon this century, I am really looking forward to the experience. There are lots of teammates running and quite a few friends will be there in support.

Whisper it softly, but as I write, the weather forecast looks quite good:

London weather

 

 

LM-1 weeks

34.8 miles, longest run 12.1 miles

Parkrun – (York) 18:12 (13th)

Weight 11 St 0.8 lbs.

Aerobic efficiency on Sunday run 968 beats per mile

 

 

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Waltzing Matilda

I am progressing towards London a bit like a drunk trying to get off the Waltzers, i.e. I’m just about managing, but it isn’t graceful and it all might come crashing to an abrupt halt.

My sore knee and hip felt better in the early part of the week.  I knocked the mileage back and got my bike out for a first run of the season.  My white Italian carbon steed looked beautiful in the sun – clean and glinting, shod with fresh 25 mm tyres. The white carbon frame perfectly complemented my pasty Yorkshire legs, seeing the sun for the first time in seven months

On one of the lovely Spring evenings, I bombed around my standard 18.5 mile hilly circuit as hard as I could in just over an hour.  With a nice fresh tailwind on my back, I recorded my fourth best ever time on the classic Strava segment from Otley up the hill to Pool Bank, in just over 6 minutes.

Although I was due to run the Vale of York 10 on Sunday morning, I still fancied putting in a decent effort at Roundhay parkrun on Saturday.  I went for a progressive run, with the third and final circuit at max pace.  I wore my chunky new Hoka Odyssey shoes and they felt OK, a bit spongier than my beloved Cliftons, but not bad.

I ran the final mile in under 6 minutes and finished 4th in just under 19 minutes.

Perhaps it was the hard parkrun, or maybe it was an afternoon spent digging over my vegetable patch, but during the warm up jog with Tim and Liz before Sunday’s race, my left knee felt really sore.

I knew straight away that I couldn’t race. The pain was not agony, but it was bad enough to be worrying. I might have been able to get myself round 10 miles, but I would not have been quick and I am certain that I would have aggravated the problem.

So I cheered off Tim and Liz for their race and treated myself to a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea.  Tim maintained his good run of form with a new PB and a win in MV50 age category, I guess if I had been fit I would have had a fair chance of grabbing second place.

My perfect day was rounded off when a young BMW driver reversed into my car in Homebase car park. Cosmic!

I’m more frustrated than worried about London. I think with two weeks rest, my knee should be OK to run on.  I’m going to try to keep fit by riding my bike and rowing and possibly by jogging on grass, but not for a few days.

I will lose some fitness so a PB is now unlikely, but London was never going to be the number one target marathon for the year – that is Chester in October.

LM-2 weeks

20.6 miles, longest run 8 miles

Parkrun – (Roundhay) 18:58 (4th)

Weight 11 St 4.6 lbs.

Aerobic efficiency on Sunday run N/A

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Dem Bones

My old bones have not been feeling good over the last couple of weeks, something has been amiss.  I have suffered from knee and hip soreness which has precipitated a premature and involuntary taper.

In the ideal World, the training diary entry for the Sunday three weeks before a target marathon would read thus:

last long run – 24 miles, steady start then felt strong and pushed the last six miles at marathon pace. Finished tired but quietly satisfied. Bring it on.”

An honest training diary for my last long Sunday run is:

  • Got to the reservoirs at 8.00 a.m. ready to tackle a 22 mile long run with teammate John. At 8.05 a.m. John hadn’t arrived so checked my phone.  Saw that he sent me a text last night explaining he couldn’t make it, but I hadn’t had the gumption to look at my phone until now…. Will have to do this run on my own with no iPod.

    Set off running at shuffling pace, don’t feel great. Felt dull soreness in my left knee and right hip. Told myself to man up and get it done. It felt chilly and I wished I’d brought some gloves.

    First mile took nearly nine minutes, but it was  uphill and I wasn’t warmed up yet, told myself to dig in, it will get easier.

    Slogged around first lap of 7.5 miles in just under an hour. 8 minute miling felt hard. What was going on?  Set off on second lap without stopping. Tried to raise my speed a little.  It started to rain, the kind of rain that really wets you. Thought ‘Hmm, I’m not enjoying this, I’m wet, cold, slow and lonely….zip it up!’.

    Path blocked up with hundred of long distance walkers doing the Blubberhouses 25, spent my second lap dodging around them…

    Finished second lap in two hours feeling effing dreadful. Thought, there’s no way I can do another 7 miles…Decided to do a short lap of 3.5 miles instead…

    Set off for final short lap. After two minutes stopped abruptly feeling sore and incredibly fatigued. Muttered ‘Sod this for a game of soldiers’.

    Walked back to the car and drove home.

 

I can trace these problems back to the Trimpell 20 two weeks ago. I think I went too hard and I haven’t recovered from that race very well. I’ve obviously picked up niggles in my knee and hip and on top of that I’m short on sleep.

However, I’ve had an easier few days since Sunday and I feel a little better now (Tuesday afternoon).  I went for a 2.4 mile spin around the block last night and it was pain free.

So I’ve missed out the last proper long run and I’ve lost a bit of sharpness and top-end fitness because I’ve had a very easy couple of weeks. However, I still think I can run OK in London and I’m still hopeful of a PB, but its no longer the slam dunk certainty that it was a month ago.

I have a race on Sunday – the Vale of York 10, hopefully a decent run there might boost my flagging confidence a little.

 

 

LM-3 weeks

39.4 miles, longest run 15.0 miles

Weight 11 St 2.8 lbs.

Aerobic efficiency on Sunday run 985 beats per mile

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Yes (Cross) Country for Old Men

I missed my 60 mile weekly target because sometimes things happen which are more important than running. It’s been a tough week to say the least.

Along with four Valley Strider teammates, I ran at the Yorkshire Veterans cross country championships on Saturday afternoon.

Cross Country isn’t my best racing variant performance-wise, however this course suited me better than most.  It was reasonably flat and not that muddy given the deluge of recent rain.

I made a bad shoe choice – I wore my spikes because the course looked suitable for them. However, it was quite stony and I kept hearing annoying crunching noises as my spikes impacted the little rocks in the ground.

I ran OK – coming 6th overall in the 50+ race and 4th in my age category, just behind Tim who made the podium in third place.  He set off quickly and had opened up a good gap on me by the middle of the race.  For much of the third and final lap I was slowly catching him, but I never got close enough to really threaten him and he finished strongly.

Valley Striders came away with the victory spoils in the team event:

vyaa-xc

I’m really looking forward to next weekend, a road trip to the beautiful city of Bath and hopefully a crack at my half marathon PB.

LM -7 weeks

52.8 miles, longest run 11.2 miles

Weight 11 St 0.8 lbs

Aerobic efficiency on Sunday run 938 beats per mile

 

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