Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)

So take the photographs, and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time

Saturday was my last regular Oldham parkrun, for at least for a while and the last one as my home run as my allegiance switches to a new parkrun. Although my first parkruns were at Heaton Park, it wasn’t until Oldham parkrun started that I caught the parkrun bug, and even then it was a while before I really got what parkrun was about.

So event #197 rolled around, with a typical late arrival, just time for a quick jog to the loo and an inadequate 5 minute warm up – why change bad habits now! A record turnout of 194 runners was some difference to almost 4 years ago when 18 runners gathered on a sunny July morning outside the Lion’s Den for event #2 (We missed the inaugural as were away).

On that day the brief words of the run director’s course description had barely echoed in my ears “just follow the runner in front” before I found myself in the front at the first corner. With no idea where to go, I eased back and happily followed someone round the first lap. Dreams of a ‘win’ vanished on the 2nd lap as the unknown lead runner pulled away until on the 3rd lap I was on my own, no-one in sight ahead or behind.

With a different path on lap 3 to follow through the ‘Woodland Walk’ and no signs to be seen it was with uncertain hesitance I emerged from the woods at the other end wondering where now? Somehow I found my way back to the finish with only a minor detour.

It seemed fitting in my last regular run that I finished 18th – what would have been last position 4 years ago, now being followed in by another 176 happy runners. Completely unimaginable in the early days when at times it felt the future of the event was under threat due to a lack of volunteers and 30 was considered a big turnout.

As it was a kind of farewell run, I kept it quiet and slinked off quietly with my 4th best age grading at Oldham parkrun – exactly 1 minute slower than my PB – I’ve had 4 PB’s there. It was my 15th fastest time, due to a mixup I was handed token 15. (so don’t feel bad Mr Tokenman, it was fate!)

I actually finished in 18th position in my last regular run there, at my first ever Oldham there were a total of 18 runners.

I’ve completed 195 laps of the park and today there was a record 194 runners. I’m searching for lazy runner 195 who stayed in bed and spoilt my stats! You are on my list!

 

The promise of heavy rain propelled me out of bed on Sunday and clocked up a 20.5km flattish road run – my longest for years. Another zero breakfast run (discounting the cup of coffee, 2 toffees and a swig of sugar water). Felt strong to 11km, kept sub 5min/km’s going to 14km before tiring a little with a pain in right foot making me ease off to 19km, pushed harder on slight uphill to get km 20 back under 5 mins. The weather switched from light rain to heavy rain plus a bonus couple of torrential downpours and the odd sunny interlude – only 1 other runner seen on a magnificent day for running – probably my favourite run this year. Overall averaged 4:55/km to 20km as I continue to follow the 5 min plan for another 3 months.  Hopefully might be able to look at speeding up in Autumn?

 

The previous Tuesday had been a Tod Grand Prix race at the Diane Modahl Brownhouse Wham Trail Race with a sizeable 96 runners. Arrived late, inadequate warm up, too humid, too fast a start resulted in severe breathing difficulties that I never got on top of.  I hadn’t planned on all out effort but with points on offer it was frustrating to have to back off to get pain levels down.

It wasn’t too bad a run considering how much my chest was hurting but the decision to go with trail shoes probably cost me a place and caused a sore right foot from the reduced cushioning on the steep road finish.  Legs felt fresh at end as I never really tested them but continued to ache all week from that final descent. Back to road shoes next time!

Advertisements

Temptation

Step by step and day by day
Every second counts I can’t break away


Been feeling a bit lost for past couple of weeks after Bluebell & Coiners. After 3 months following a gentle rehabilitation plan, I haven’t really got a firm plan of what next. In an almost unheard of continued outbreak of sensibleness I have eased off for a couple of weeks to allow myself to recover – using the 1 mile a day formula i.e. 10 easy days after a hard 10 mile effort.

Pendle parkrun #1 was only exercise in those 10 days and right heel was still bothering. Despite an overenthusiastic start trying to outrun the little kids down the hill, I went through the first km in 4:30 mainly due to the soft grassy surface and decided that this wasn’t the day, or the surface, to push my heel or my tendon so kept up a decent but comfortable effort, gaining places throughout to cross the line in 22:10.  A tough uphill end to the very enjoyable two lap course probably added a minute or so to a ‘normal’ time.

 

The next bit of exercise was the Ian Casey Memorial Cowm Reservoir 5k, and a mini heat wave had the temperatures well into the 60’s – crazy! A lovely warm evening but a slight breeze to be run into on the straight helped from overheating in the first bit of decent running weather this year.

I love running in heat and with heel feeling a bit better and legs fresh; I was tempted to have a go at a harder effort to see where I was at. After clocking 20:33 a month ago on this course, the hope would be to be a bit closer to 20 mins.

A sizeable turnout meant for a great atmosphere and a crowded start so I hung off the front beforehand to avoid feeling hot in the wait for the start, before slipping a few rows back for the initial rush along the narrow track.

Once onto the wider road I checked my pace and settled for a steady effort up the hill but still arrived at the reservoir feeling it was too hard. I searched for familiar markers up ahead but with the majority of runners all looking the same in Royton vests, it was took a while to find a decent pace guide and I let a few places slip before settling on chasing down a fast starting Royton woman who I expected would fade a little to come in around 20:30ish. If I could catch and keep up with her on the first lap then hopefully I’d be able to up speed a little on the second lap.

Towards the end of the straight I recovered from the start and started to move up gaining the odd place to catch my pacemaker who was at the back of a group of about ten. I was unsure whether I had the pace to keep going after clocking 4:01 for the first km though. I eased off before the bike gate guessing there would be a little congestion, closing back up as I went through and immediately put in usual acceleration burst to get speed back, surprising myself as I rocketed down to the bridge passing all of them.

New strategy required, but immediately hit the gas again on the slope up to create a gap, pass a couple more and and catch a loose group of mainly Royton vests and a speedy pink lady who I didn’t recognise. We seemed to be flying along and the exhilaration of actually proper racing again after so long out drove me on. Another new plan as the group thinned and km 2 went through in 3:52 – Woah, too fast! There was no way I could keep this intensity up but was feeling fine so eased back as the group thinned to just a couple ahead.

Thoughts of a sub20 popped up, with the fast finish I could afford to fade a little but at same time it was too early to ease off to be sure, so worked hard on staying with pink lady, who was looking strong and consistent. I knew if I could hang on to her for another km or so it was a sure thing.

3rd km was back at 4:01 but still feeling hard and as we went through the bike stile for the second time I could feel legs tiring, no real acceleration down to the bridge and coming back up a gap was growing to my pink pacemaker.

There was no need to panic as I was a few seconds up on 20 min pace and had the downhill finish in hand too. However the temptation to chase was too much and I concentrated on getting back closer to her again.

Legs were feeling heavy now and despite catching back up I sensed she was slowing a little, rather than me speeding up. That was at least in part confirmed as we went through 4 km in 4:06 – 16 minutes exactly in total.

The sub 20 was definitely in the bag so it was time to have some fun and see how quick I could manage. After running side by side for a bit I slowly eased ahead of her in readiness for a long push for the finish. Once onto dam wall with about 600m to go I tried to up it half a notch in the hope of building a gap which seemed to work but coming through the car park there were footsteps catching, possibly another set too?

A car was arsing about in front but just about kept out the way, only slightly compromising my line down the hill. I eased off too early for the hairpin and steps were now very close but didn’t panic as I gradually upped effort again coming out of the corner. Sadly no big acceleration was coming from my legs so it was more a sustained effort all the way to the line… and staggered through crowd of finishers to sit down for a couple of minutes as legs weren’t keen on standing.

19:35 was surprising to say the least; I wasn’t planning on going sub20 for at least another 3 months and certainly didn’t think I had it in my legs or lungs yet. Encouraging and pleasing though it was, it will make it irresistable to have another pop at a bit of speed, probably on Tuesday, when my priorities should lie elsewhere as I try to build a bit more endurance and strength into legs.

 

The 100th Burnley parkrun a couple of days later –  followed a first bike ride for over a year, just 6km on Friday, but enough to tire legs a little – so planned for a steady 22min pace, with the option of a quicker finish or easing off depending how I felt. Managed to stick to plan for first 3km but couldn’t help overtaking a little early eventually putting a comfortable effort up the finish slope to cross line in 21:10.

For the first time this week, I finally managed to resist temptation, and turned down the chance to do another race straight after and decided to relax in the sun instead.

Sunday was the start of next phase of rehab plan – which I haven’t really worked out yet – got out in the sun for a 13km trail run in the morning.

The Trooper

And as I lay there gazing at the sky
My body’s numb and my throat is dry

Since tentatively starting back running three months ago, my main focus has been getting fit enough to complete the Bluebell 10.3 Trail Race. That made it a doubly frustrating week, once again forced to rest as heel pain had not cleared despite a slight raise inserted into day shoes, leaving me doubtful for the race.

‘New me’ would be sensible however and not race to injury, so it was left it until Saturday before an attempt at running to make a very late decision on whether to attempt the race. I put bigger raises into running shoes and completed a tentative Oldham parkrun in 23:46, spending most of it easing back as felt so fresh. No pain, so Bluebell was on!

Two weeks of virtually no running wasn’t the ideal lead up to Bluebell 10, but reasonably happy with how things had gone in the weeks before so optimistically stuck to original plan to aim for a 1 hour 30 target time. This represented a step down to 5:15 km pace to take terrain into account, plus a spare 3 min extra to deal with Trooper Lane Hill – a 0.75 km slope with ~125m of climb, averaging 1 in 5, about a third of the way into the race.

This was one of two key points in the race, too fast too soon and chances of hitting target would be blown. A balanced effort on the big hill was required to reach a smaller but significant climb around 10k mark in good shape and ensure a decent run in to the finish.

On the day I arrived a little later than planned, but foreshortened warm up so as to preserve right heel / left tendon – the run to the bottom of Trooper Lane made for a good warm up and aside from an annoying queue at a narrow gate early on- forgot about that! – I cruised along comfortably gradually gaining places but in no hurry.

Found myself dragged along a little as Trooper Hill beckoned but arrived at the bottom in 32:33 – a minute off target pace but bang on really, as spent about a minute queuing at the gate.

Boosted by the knowledge I was running a good pace I quickly got myself into a small fast step slow speed rhythm at the bottom, initially dropping a couple of places but soon gaining a few round a couple of steep corners.

A glance at watch showed HR still comfortably in 160’s so continued on weaving my way through what were now predominantly walkers. On and on it went, and after a couple of exhausted encouragements began wondering if I could make it to the top without walking.

HR was rising but still manageable so I kept on going, until I spotted was I thought was the final corner. I was now well into the mid 170’s and ready to ease back, but was driven on by the closeness, only to turn the corner and find there was still more to go.

There had been a few spectators on the way up, but after reaching the true final corner there was a mini Tour de France style mountain crowd cheering, so there was no way I was giving up now. They dragged me up the last few metres and as it flattened off I felt a wave of power at having run all the way. Tough but comfortable, I took the opportunity to drink half a cup of water and splash the rest on the back on my neck at the water station. Refreshed, it was on briefly down, then up to Beacon Hill with its spectacular view of Halifax and Calderdale beyond.

The descent was good initially but became increasingly rough and slippy and I reluctantly eased off to protect tendon, but still kept advancing places.

The 6 mile climb was the first really tough bit where I felt my legs beginning to tire, but it was onward and more places gained. A nice bit on downhill was allowed a bit of a see saw before a climb through trees saw me advance away and onward towards the next couple of runners. The sloping fields were now getting tough and my legs started to go.

I dropped a couple of places but after a small bad spell got one back and picked up a few others before the woods, which were carpeted in fantastic blue. I pushed hard to pick up another place, more to hold off any catchers from behind, as now I was definitely working.

Out of the woods I suddenly got my bearings as we joined the canal for the last km or so, I knew I would be close to target so pushed on. After dropping one place to a fast finisher, I had a couple of runners ahead catchable, maybe more. After getting the gap down to 20m, a near miss with a dog upset my rhythm and the gap eased out again.

There was just the final river crossing to go, but a glance at my watch showed I would be over target. As I jumped in the water the coldness seemed to freeze my legs and I struggled across and made a duck’s arse of clambering up the bank.

The sound of splashing behind kept me steady to the finish but didn’t bother with a sprint finish, as I stopped the clock at 1:30:31. So close. Average HR of 159.

After a few minutes recovery, was happy with that considering problems of last week and jogged back to the car feeling good with no pains.

 

As that went well the next target will be Radcliffe 3 day challenge in July and so I decided on Monday morning to do the 7.5 mile Coiners Fell Race as a tired legs practise, and partly as I hadn’t done it before. There was no real target, I thought 155 HR average was about right but had no real time/ pace goal other than keeping under that.

I wasn’t sure why but the first part of the race went badly, an unexplained late start, overrunning junior (EC to be fair) prize presentations, race briefing completely drowned out by a noisy generator next to the start, the fact that most runners seemed to be carrying no kit despite the strong full compulsory kit warning on the website, a rush to a too early stile – over 2 minutes queuing after less than 3 minutes running was ridiculous with so few runners – plus a couple of scumbag queue jumpers, all really annoyed me for no real reason.

A couple of miles in and I chilled out and started enjoying my run, even picking up the pace a bit until a nasty pathless descent before Stoodley Pike. An early wobble and my tendon had enough so I picked my way carefully down the hill, glancing across at others going uphill faster to my left. Better to lose a few minutes than a few months out injured.

Wasn’t too despondent as had been on the high side of HR target and knew a bit of a rest would mean I would have plenty of energy for the return up, unfortunately no-one told my legs, and I just couldn’t get going again after walking.

Bit confusing at the Pike, took a while to work out we had to run around- with no visible marshals or flags. The guy in front went round – although on the approach I was sure at least one runner had turned before – so I followed overtaking as we headed out down the path to Sunderland pasture, partway realising there were no flags and that I was on the wrong path.

Decided to cut over the rough stuff to regain the path and once again struggled with tendon. The early path through the trees was good but became increasingly bobbly and painful for tendon. The boggy smelly field was the driest I’ve ever known but struggled across the next couple of fields down to a hard track.

Climbing over a stile I was hopeful of picking the pace back up but was still struggling to get legs moving well so just enjoyed the ride. Lost a couple of rounds of Russian roulette in the bog crossings, mushy looking stuff turned out firm, firm looking stuff turned out knee deep!

The descent around Spring Wood finally got my legs going but eventually gave up trying to hold off the footsteps behind and eased down the last couple of fields with the priority on not spraining anything.

Almost a good day out, average HR 152 in the acceptable range but another local race chalked off the to-do list with a ‘not suitable’ rating for tendon.