Sunday, 29 May 2011

Altitude Training

Sloped off for a long weekend hitting the heights of the Schwartzhorn (10,000ft). The exposure was just creeping beyond the edge of my comfort zone. A few beers later when we got down to Grindelwald I was raring to go again! A couple of weeks up here for altitude training would do wonders.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

EMF Edinburgh Marathon Festival 2011

Getting over an injured calf, my target for May was the Edinburgh Half Marathon. Part of the attraction was that it started at eight in the morning. Not that I like running at that hour, but knew it would be cooler than last years Edinburgh Marathon which started at 10am and was a scorcher in 2010. I couldn't face another marathon so soon after the last one and especially not in the heat.

With the passing of doomsday, I dragged myself from below the stairs and I made my way with trusty navigator up to Edinburgh. This year we parked free in St Andrews Square (just because we could). Free parking in the middle of a Capital City is the best bit.

I bundled my bag on the baggage bus among the throng of stretching, preening and nervous runners and confused bystanders at the end of Princes Street and tried to warm up by running around Waverley. I think people thought I was lost or had missed my train.

It was cool and breezy but not too bad. Made my way to the start and before long the runners were told to get into their pens. This year I was after a result so there was no chat or waving to the crowd, natty photos or flicking casually through the ipod.

I worked hard on the road past Meadowbank and then down to Portobello where, by then, the runners had thinned out. The wind was difficult to predict but it felt like a crosswind gusting in between building openings. I hit the 10k mark at 37:48. There weren't many people around and I expected a headwind for the last two miles so I was keen not to end up running on my own, so I latched onto an Edinburgh AC runner. It was head down and graft past Musselburgh and at the 10 mile mark I think I was close to the hour.

I had a gel after 40 minutes and another at 11 miles. Its not easy taking in gel when you're doing your best to gasp as much of the troposphere as you can and I felt the stuff squeezing out and bubbling around my lips while it waited patiently for an opportunity to go down. Probably not a pretty sight.

By 12 miles the Edinburgh AC athlete had about 5 seconds on me but the good news was that with a bit of effort I might catch a Fife runner who was running out of steam. He was only about 4 or 5 seconds ahead at the finish line when the announcer identified him as a Gateshead runner, (just with a similar vest).

Got my medal and goodie bag and waited to take photos of the early marathon runners as they came past. The weather had now deteriorated to a black sky and squally showers. I recognised quite a few. The wind began to whip up and I was pleased not to be caught up in what was going to be a hard final stretch of marathon into the wind.

Caught the bus back to St Andrews with a large Italian contingent who had taken part and finished the day experiencing coffee and patisserie in a souped-up swanky cafe next to Harvey Nicks.

No results yet but pleased to finish in 1:20:34. It might have been quicker if I'd used a low froth gel!

Photographs of the Edinburgh Marathon on Flickr - Link here

Saturday, 21 May 2011

You looking at me....?

I'm exhausted. No good lessons in race preparation to be had here. Reclining in the understated B&B with cheap carpet and woodchip, I keep telling myself its clean and adequate. Functional is a word that springs to mind. Luxurious is a word that doesn't. How much UHT milk can you drink? There's a mumble from the room next door and I hear the sound of a door closing. The last of the sun is streaming through the nets and I pull the curtain across to make some shade as I watch tele. The curtain and rail comes away in my hand. Oops...

Davina and Nicky have just repaired another few relationships and I admit it, my lower lip had a bit of a tremble on for a minute but then I remembered I was in Weymouth. I was soon back on track with Jeremy, the over zealous librarian and the silent singer in 'Psychoville' (-have you seen '50 great country walks (volume 2)'?! - You have to see it...

Another local job. Should I be concerned about my carbon footprint. After watching the sparrows down at the quayside for most of the day, I conclude that these twitching balls of grey featheriness have issues. They are the hardest sparrows in Dorset. Bonkers. They spend all day fighting each other. Is that the effect of pecking at discarded chips from day-trippers or just boredom? Their squabbling made my 10 mile jog along the cobble beach and coastal path look like a walk in the park (or a run on the beach, which, after all, it was). Even the sea-gulls were giving them a wide berth.

After a long but not hard day at work, I set off with my running gear in the early evening sun and bounced my way along the esplanade and then past the long, wide flint cobble beach and up onto the cliffs with the surf swashing relentlessly 200ft below me. Got to the Smugglers Inn at Osmington before turning back. The bounce had gone by then. The path along the cliff disappears into thin air in places as sections of soft Jurassic shale turn into clay and slip without struggle into the waves. The occasional sign warned of danger...'Landslip'....mild peril involved!

The rabbits seem to like it. The little blighters were everywhere. They had a bit of a nonchalent attitude. I didn't get too close though in case they went to the same school as the sparrows. Some were waiting for me at the style eyeing my trainers up with menace. Others stood by filing their teeth.

This place is hosting the Olympic Sailing next year. Some of the local lads I talked to during the day seemed less than impressed at the carnival coming to town. Who wants to watch boats two miles out, anyway? I've got to make a return trip in a week or two. Might look up the race calendar and get a race organised to see whether the south western runners are as formidable as the wildlife.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Roll on Edinburgh

Good session on Thursday night with a few short intervals that suited me and then a late spring dash round the woods tonight in full bloom with bluebells, blankets of flowering white stars of wild garlic and ground thats still rock hard. I fancied the local parkrun tomorrow morning, but instead I've collared a few lads for a ride through the lanes on the bikes. Hope I don't get dropped.

I hear the Great Manchester Run is on BBC2 at the weekend so that might be worth a look in. I've decided not to go up for the Leven Half tomorrow either and, instead, will have a steady long run as usual on Sunday. Not much other going on at the mo. Maybe no news is good news on the running front. Roll on Edinburgh.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Slave to the Rhythm

A few of the fast lads turned out with the usual suspects for Thursday nights session on the grassed track at the local school. Their appearance had the effect of lifting the usual times and sharpening up the evening. It was the first time for a long time that I began to feel some speed in the legs, finishing the last few intervals in 71 secs. A trip to the Midlands meant that Friday night was 45 minutes running steady along the canal and up and down the local high street .

Last night was a high speed 4 miler round the local woods.There's lots of dumpy bags scattered around the woodland track and regretfully 'they' seem intent on stoning up the track that winds its way through the wood (-next it'll be streetlights and signs). Earlier I had downloaded nine minutes of Frankies 'Two Tribes' (the annihilation mix) and Grace Jones 'Slave to the Rhythm' (extended hot mix). I've always rated ZTT's productions and remember walking into HMV in '85 and hearing Slave blasting out across the aisles. Back to back the extended mixes make a great thumping 17 minutes of music to run to. Today was a 16 miler round the lanes. I ramped up miles 11 and 12 to see what I could expect to churn out in a fortnight and managed a 6:30 for each at about 150bpm before winding down over the last final few miles. I think anything close to 1:22 in Edinburgh might be reasonable.

What is it with slugs wanting to lie on the roads after a heavy downpour. Not a great survival strategy. Nice to see a bit of rain though.

Monday, 2 May 2011

TeesPride 10k 2011

My first thoughts following the start of the TeesPride 10k race was what a good job the regeneration folk had made of the area. Having spent more than my fair share of 1981 working in Teesside before going back up north to the land of the silvery Tay, it was a pretty grubby place. It was a place where Maggie had had her 'walk in the wilderness', strolling around the post apocalyptic landscape with her handbag ruined by heavy industry (not the handbag that is!). But enough history already.

I was thinking at 2k 'this feels a bit quick' as I sat in a group which included a Chester Le Street runner who I'd seen before but couldn't place. And, of course, it was. The other thing that crossed my mind was that this wasn't the course I'd looked at on the website. Which, of course, it wasn't.

There was a strong easterly wind blowing and I tucked in behind a couple of runners to take shelter. The course consisted of 2 flat laps run around both banks of the Tees and while the north bank was one long straight with a helpful tailwind, the return along the south bank was in and out of cuttings made along the bankside where new buildings, some belonging to Durham University Campus, had sprouted up. The copious weaving left and right was partly compensated by the shelter afforded by the bricks, trees and street furniture from the headwind.

Having been dispatched from the group at the 4k mark for being 'too slow and generally useless', I spent most of the second half of the race on my todd catching the one runner ahead who looked like he was flagging. I kept reminding myself I was an endurance athlete, just not a very fast one at the moment. There were a few bikes to dodge and I was aware of being chased by the 200 runners behind me. Before I knew it I was approaching the finishing line. A sprint wasn't required as I hadn't caught sight of any looming shadows over my shoulder. I peered over the judges clipboard as a plodded across the line to see I'd finished in around 20th in 38:15. I was given a t-shirt and water for my trouble and wandered back to see the photographer and young 'uns finishing. Nice day out and friendly crowd. Photographs on the Flickr site.

It turned out that the course had been changed from a one lapper to a two lapper. No wonder I'm confused. I bet my drinks bottle is still on Newport Bridge. Results probably on the Billingham Marsh and Tees Barrage websites.