Wicked Game

The world was on fire and no one could save me but you,
It’s strange what desire will make foolish people do.

No chance to run until Wednesday and first visit to Eddie’s Revenge Fell Race at Shaw. A nice little trail 6km but with a sizeable 1000ft plus of climb, which would make a nice practice for Bull Hill in a couple of weeks.

After checking out the tough uphill start, I decided tonight’s plan was a nice steady pace building through. After setting off near the back of the field I began steadily overtaking all the way up the first km as it climbed up. Picked up the pace in readiness for the brief downhill, and then it was onto the 2nd hill, about 1.5km steady climb, moving up a few more places.

Paths were dry and rocky so even managed a decent pace on the descent, making a net gain for a change. More places gained on the uphill but things thinned out and lost sight of runners ahead as we headed down the final steep section.

A bit of undulation took us back onto part of the first climb and was closing in on next runner. Missed an opportunity to overtake at a switchback and got stuck behind on narrow path when I had the energy. As slope headed down legs feeling a bit tired but lined up an overtake on the descent. However surface got a bit rougher and was not to tendon’s liking and just lost a little ground as I protected it, catching him back up as we reached the line – 32:36 ahead of expectations, just behind the 2nd v65!

Brilliant race, £4 entry, free if you brought a cake, split between a charity and Mountain Rescue, lots of supportive volunteers and a great trail route.  The only thing missing was a bit of flat ground!

Eddie's Revenge Profile

So Thursday was back to fast start and hang on tactics at the first of the Todmorden 5k summer series. Feet and ankles had felt a bit battered all day so wasn’t really sure even on the start how I was going to run, as didn’t feel good in warm-up. A slight course change meant 5 laps were now just under 1km and then a bit extra at the start and end making pacing by watch more important, so it didn’t help that I had the wrong screen and misread progress by looking at average pace rather than current.

Had the extra pressure of having made the top 20 of runbritain’s monthly handicap improvers rankings, so needed a counting fast time before the end of the month.

Set off quick and a few tendon misfires went through 1km in 3:40 – PB pace – that’ll do, now to try and hang on to position! Surprisingly despite a gradual slip in pace managed to actually gain by the end with 3:49 > 3:57 >a tough 4th 4:07 and 3:54 to end for 19:28 and a new season’s best time.

Particularly happy with last ~700m when I upped effort after fading a little on the ‘hill’ on the last lap, even had the luxury of easing back slightly on the grass finish. Felt good afterwards as despite pace was relatively comfortable for first 3km and only really worked for last 2, promising signs.

That’s it for daft tactics for now – had enough tired legs practise – back to preferred pacing in the run up to Radcliffe with only one planned hard effort before then.

Just managed to aqueeze into Run Britain’s top ten ‘not as crap as last month’ national rankings… before the weekend would knock me down a bit!runbr june14 top10 rankingSaturday meant leaving Watergrove behind for Cheadle Hulme inaugural parkrun, a nice grassy perfectly flat course that looked like a small boy sat on the loo!

Well the cricket field was nice, going round the rugby pitches was a little rougher and made planned 21-22 min pace harder than it should have been.  Few pains in tendon during and after, two rough runs this week not ideal, happy with 21:12 but felt should have gone slower.

 

Sunday was Burnley Boys 5k, another new course for me, but mentally and physically didn’t really feel up for a hard effort, so settled for vaguely aiming around 20 minutes or so. Had had a disturbed sleep with stomach pains waking me at 4am so was in half a mind to give it a miss as had a bit of a headache.  But it promised to be another sunny run, so couldn’t resist.

I had hoped to make it a more even run this time but with 600m around the track to start, inevitably everyone set off like it was a 600m race and I got dragged along a bit. Managed to get pace under control going out on the first 1800m street circuit, but could feel breathing was not good. Gradually came round and made good progress but struggled badly with breathing on the slightest slope back towards the track.

Foot was bothering a little and combined with finding it hard to maintain pace with breathing issues, I switched off a little and lost ground at times, but still progressed a bit on the 2nd street circuit. Again really struggled getting back up to the track and motivation wasn’t there for a hard 400m finish, so plodded round and put in a token 70m burst to ensure no places lost at finish.

Felt unjustifiably unhappy with 20:14, despite it being 3rd fastest time this year on the back of 4 races in 5 days, and in target range. Slightly painful tendon afterwards and felt exhausted.

So not for the first time in my life, June ends in an air of disappointment, but nothing broken this time!

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Blinded by the Sun

I don’t mean to sound unkind, to you.
You’ll just have to go and find something else to do.

After Hendon Brook I made sure I got a gentle 5.2k recovery run in on Monday and surprisingly didn’t suffer any after effects, so it was straight back racing at Tintwistle for the Round the Resers 5 mile Trail Race on Wednesday.

This had been my first race back after tendon problem last year and after a torrid time thinking I would never run again, will always be a bit special. Aside from a short steep hill it’s fast flat and downhill running, on a mix of good paths.

Once again there was a great and noisy atmosphere at the start being well attended by clubs across east and south Manchester. The first 150 get a mug, so it’s not a race to enjoy the views on!

I doubted my legs would stand up to 5 miles after Hendon but decided on reverse normal tactics i.e. fast start and hang on to practise running on tired legs to prepare for Radcliffe 3 day event next month. Had a vague idea I might manage 35-36 minutes but it would depend how much I faded on a warm sunny evening.

After a struggle to push the record turnout back behind the start we were off and everyone hurtled down the bottleneck start. I checked a couple of times to avoid swerving legs but had a pretty clear run down to the reservoir – far too fast but spotted a couple of familiar (quicker) runners ahead that I settled on trying to keep up with for the first lap.

After going through 1 km at 5k PB pace, I knew it was going to get interesting, but felt surprisingly good as slowly runners started dropping back, and the tactic was to make the 2nd lap tough.

I went through halfway in 16:43 managed to keep pace going until slight slope in woods and finally started fading a little, another weak effort up the hill and slipped back a little. Having got caught at the top, I managed to get legs going better to hold the place and slowly picked off a couple more on the way down.

Used the dam descent again to launch sub 4 pace and went for line early with 1500m to go to gain a few more. Struggled briefly with about 500m to go but picked back up and even managed a brief push for the line for a very pleasing 34:08. Once again really enjoyed this race.

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Another gentle run on Friday and I was really struggling for breathing in humid air, so cut it short for just 4.8k, foot a little unhappy too.

No run at Watergrove on Saturday, but covered 5k at run-walk-sprint putting out pre-event signs and had a great time marshalling at the Y junction.

 

We made a late decision to tackle the unusual distance of 7k at the Oldham Carnival, again another great atmosphere and strange to start off in Alexandra Park teaming with spectators. The tactic was the same again, start too fast and then work hard to hang on. With sun, blues skies and temps in the mid 70’s it was my kinda running weather!

This was made easier by nearly everyone starting off at breakneck speed with a bit of early downhill as we left the park. A hill in the 3rd km killed my legs and breathing maxed out which took a bit of working on to recover.

After a bit of undulations a nice down got the pace back up and approaching 5km, I knew the only was was up – and a long steady climb gradually took it out of my legs.

Re-entering the park I took a marshal’s advice to go straight down literally and got a late call back to lose the place to the first woman. Used my knowledge of the park to launch an attack at the start of the finish straight and then kicked for the line with 100m to go to regain it and just miss out on 30 min target time.

However, as the course was hillier than expected I was fairly happy with time, sure I would have managed it with normal running tactics, but the point was to work on physically dealing with tired legs. I also was unhappy with mental attitude at the end of Hendon, so wanted to work on dealing with fading and losing places at the end, so was happy with that side of things too.

Like a jigsaw, I feel I’m getting little bits right at the moment so hopefully when foot improves more I’ll be able to put it together later in the year. Really enjoying my running at the moment, possibly happiest running ever.

Helter Skelter

When I get to the bottom
I go back to the top of the slide
Where I stop and I turn and I go for a ride
Till I get to the bottom and I see you again

The Hendon Brook Half Marathon is a race that is surely in breach of trade descriptions, for a start its 13.5 miles, not the usual 13.1 distance. Secondly Hendon Brook sounds so gentile, a leafy meander alongside a bubbling brook in the East Lancashire countryside. The truth is that this a monster of a race, a beautiful rollercoaster of endless hills, each seemingly bigger than the last until the final humungous hill squeezes the life out of you, and even then there’s still a couple of miles back to the finish which then throws in one last final little slope.

I’ve only done two other half marathons, Liversedge and Langdale, neither of which fall anywhere near the flat end of the spectrum, but Hendon is in another class of difficulty. It is 5 years since I made a first attempt at Hendon and after sustaining an injury after a few miles, I was forced to slow up and enjoyed the ride to finish in 2:16, followed by a few months off.

So it was with a slight nervousness I set off this time, especially as my only run this week had been an unsuccessful 6k on Wednesday, and my legs still hadn’t recovered from last week. As I knew too well, this is not the race to show any weakness as the monster will sniff it out and chew you up.

Traditionally this race only takes place in ridiculously hot sunny conditions, so the damp cloudy humid conditions added an unwelcome factor for me. A short warm up before the start and it was clear it was not a day for hard efforts. My lungs were definitely not up for the humidity.

My race plan of running at 160 HR then went completely out the window when I realised I had my HR strap but no watch, so would have to run on ‘feel’ to regulate pace. On the one hand this was good as it would take any time pressure off, but bad as I was much more likely to go too hard. A shorter distance would have been fine, but this was an unknown so really could have done with it.

Standing at the start I picked out five likely candidates that I could guide my pace by and we were off. A nice slow start on the first downhill km dropping about 75m, relaxed, barely breathing, concentrating on form. A brief flat and then a loop climbing back up to pass the start, still nice and steady but my five targets were all pulling away.

Patience. It felt right, so I let them go. The next hill was steeper, 50m climb in half a km, but still felt nice and comfortable, starting picking up the odd place. No familiar targets in sight and less than 5km in.

The downhill and ford offered the opportunity to gain a few more places, just managed to stay upright on the unexpectedly slippery cobbles, and collected a couple of shoefuls of water.  Hmmm, over 10 miles to go with wet feet.

A stiff short climb and for the first time my lungs were called into action, and failed as they maxed out far too low an effort. The second ford topped up my shoes. A few more places eased up.

Another longer climb with 100m gained over a couple of km and descent and climb and I finally recognised a parkrunner Simon ahead, closed down steadily and after a brief chat pulled away a little, before he came back on a downhill.

I vaguely recalled a tough climb around here so held back before picking up pace again. Caught sight of Mel ahead. The tough climb was as bad as I recalled but kept going steady, until we turned at the cattlegrid and another steep up that I hadn’t remembered, with those in front almost grinding to a halt as we headed up to the highest point of the course, another 80m gained in just over a km. Lungs struggled again and took a few mins to recover before making up a little ground using the downs to close in on a couple and half the distance to Mel as we had an easier undulating couple of km.

There was a huge looking climb rising up to the horizon that I didn’t remember being as big. I clocked a brief respite section mid way up and prepared an attack plan. At the bottom of the climb I upped pace, and breezed up the first half, used the flat to recover partly, passed Mel and then steady up second half just about fully recovered by the top. Shorter than it looked just 40m gained in about half km. Surprised at how strong I felt, but a reality check as I realised we were only just past halfway.

Another long steady down losing 100m over a couple of km and I could see Michael and then Sarah ahead. Tried not to catch too quickly and drifted off in my head. Concentration back, I maybe pushed a little hard to close in on a group of 3 including Michael and Autumn from Trawden, brief recovery and weighed up options: 1 stay with this group, 2 push on to catch Sarah, 3 push on and try and build a gap.

Fearful of fading towards the end, I made probably the wrong decision to catch and try to pass Sarah. Memory had failed though as we turned a corner to find another extra hill I’d completely forgotten about just after Trawden but I was already committed.

Closed in on Sarah but struggled to bridge final few metres as we rose another 40m, before finally drawing alongside. Aware that the toughest hill was still to come, I was suddenly undecided on what to do and after briefly getting ahead on the downhill dropped back a little on a short climb before we went through the outskirts of Colne.

Was feeling in not bad shape overall, a little tired but not as bad as expected. However the odd twinge in tendon every two or three miles was now becoming a few twinges every downhill. After dropping back a little on the first of the two big climbs, again lungs maxing out before legs, I struggled on the downhill as tendon began misfiring and calf tightened but still managed to bridge gap back to Sarah.

No need to panic, I’d already coped with one bad patch, so it was just a case of keeping going and coming out the other side. Not! On the monster big climb of The Lenches, after running the first bit made the decision to walk, as most were, and immediately realised it was the wrong decision, calf went rock hard, tendon painful every step. Breathing tightening, legs tiring fast and I allowed my mind to go and lost motivation. Place after place I went backwards. From the lowest point of the course, the hill rose 130m in just over a km. It was a long kilometre; even the well timed cooling rain didn’t help much.

Onto the flatter section at the top, every time I tried to start running my calf felt like it would cramp, eventually paused to stretch it, made it worse, and decided to take other dextrose tab, only to find I dropped it. Mentally I was gone and struggled to regain motivation and belief I’d had just 10 minutes earlier.  I finally managed to get going but legs still felt like lead.

At the final water station, it went straight into my face which had the desired effect. Refreshed mentally I was on the way again but the downhill brought the tendon pain back, was catching guy in front but had to ease off again.

I had no idea of my time throughout the race, so when I turned the final corner to see the clock on 1:49 I made a final push to be sure of sub 1:50. Not bad as my basic target had been under 2 hours but still a bit unhappy at 3 lost minutes, and 9 lost places, in the final 5k.

The important thing was I could still walk, just – unlike last time – and best of all there was the bonus of best improver prize – a much coveted Hendon Brook profile tech t-shirt… although it turned out all improvers got a top, so I could have run 26 mins slower and still got one!

Hendon T

Tour de France

En danseuse jusqu’au sommet

(Dancing to the top )

A busy couple of weeks building up to the launch of Watergrove parkrun on Saturday and the Le Two’r Halves 10 mile race in Mytholmroyd on Sunday.

The week before my new shoes had arrived –accidently ordered Cumulus rather than my usual Nimbus and very disappointed that they are by far inferior, despite being very similar build. After a couple of short runs, I think I will chug out a few miles in them but won’t be getting another pair.

Sunday was a nice steady sunny run over Stoodley Pike to take weekly distance to 23.62km (14.7m) which was a bit light against plans, but few niggles around lower limbs.

This week I got back on the mileage with a 10.37km run on Tuesday, still not keen on new shoes which overheated my feet and resulted in a blister. I followed that up on Wednesday with the last in the Littleborough 5k series (in old shoes). I didn’t want to push too hard and planned a steady start, gradually building to a quicker finish.

Pretty much went to plan but picked up pace a little early before pushing harder than planned for the last 2k to cross the line in a relatively comfortable 20:39.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/513988833

 

Saturday was the inaugural Watergrove parkrun and after staying dry for the set up, thunder & lightening struck just a few mins before the start. Fortunately not enough to call it off but seconds after we set off with me tail running to get inaugural #23 in the bag, the skies emptied.

I tracked off the back at first but then caught up the last two and had a bit of a chat on the way round, interspersed with brief stops to chat to marshals.

After easing off, the rain became torrential again by the finish – which I delayed for another chat with a couple of parkrun tourists a few yards short of the line (apologies to finish volunteers!).

All in all, it was a pretty successful launch and we managed to meet our quiet target of keeping it under 100 runners, with 89 turning up despite the cancellation of Heaton, partly helped by the weather no doubt.

 

All of which made a nice build up to Sunday’s race, Le Two-r Halves 10, a rather unique 5 mile up / 5 mile down Cragg Vale along the Tour de France route and the now infamous longest continuous gradient in England. With Hendon coming up and being slightly short of long runs, I planned a steady start (160 HR) out the 3 mile point, then up effort to 165 HR to the turn and a gentle jog down the hill at 155HR.

However, was feeling good on the line, especially in the warm sunny conditions, and realised that the wind would be against us on the tops which would make my planned ‘fast’ bit very hard going. With seconds to go, I quickly switched plan to a more even 165 HR effort to 3 miles and then see how I felt, with the hope of keeping it going to the top. Immediately shot off at 170 and settled into about 10th place after half a mile.

I tried easing off effort but even dropping a few places HR was still up, was feeling ok and got a bit of a tow for a while but realised that 170 was too high and tried again to ease back. Managed to get a bit more comfortable but still couldn’t get HR down.

It was only 3 weeks since I did a flat 5k at 171HR average and that was pretty much my limit so I was alternating between concerns that I was going to blow up any second, with enjoying the run and how well it was going, so far. A constant 5 mile uphill, albeit mainly not very steep, is a rare test and after running all the way up Trooper Lane the other week (150m in 0.75km), I was definitely up for the challenge of a longer steadier climb.

To put it in context, though, it was 250m over 8km, pre race I had watched this year’s Transvulcania highlights which starts off with a 2000m climb over the first 18km, 4 times as steep on volcanic sandy paths. Maybe a bit more training required before I take that one on! Good inspiration.

Approaching half way up the hill, it steepened a little and I felt a slight tiredness in legs and slowly slipped backwards a little more. A quick mouthful of water and the rest down my back refreshed me but almost immediately we were out into the open road and heading into the wind. I tried hiding but lost touch with the guy in front and a couple more place slipped by, unable to hang on. I allowed myself to get slightly demotivated with the wind and doubts over going to fast too soon, resulting in a slight drop off of effort.

Another Toddy, Michael, came past and I briefly kept up but effort was too high and I reluctantly backed off. Finally the next runner, Geoff from Halifax, came by and I was able to hang on. We passed the 1km to go painted Tour marking and I upped effort managing to hang on to the now very gentle incline. A slightly cruel extra bit past the zero line and it was time for the descent.

I had been dreading this as I knew it would be much harder on my tendon and the length of the descent risked aggravating it badly, add on two niggling achilles, a bruised foot and a bit of blister from a week earlier and there was a whole lot of tape holding my feet together. The plan had been to take it steady but with a Tod vest just ahead I had to at least put in a token fight?

I worked hard as Geoff closed the gap to Michael before going past him a few yards. I stuck behind them both but then decided my best chance was to make use of the gentler slope at the top as I was more likely to have problems lower down. I was still consistently in the 170+ HR and had given up worrying, this was turning into a great run and I was really enjoying it again after the rough patch.

Around the 6 mile mark I made a ridiculously early move and steadily upped effort, around 172-174. I decided to keep that going to 7 miles and then take it back to 170 as the road steepened. I didn’t look back but there was no sound of feet so knew I had a bit of a gap. I doubted it was going to be enough but was still feeling good and no pains.

All my focus was on counting breaths to the runner in front, 40…38…36… 30 I was definitely closing gradually but after going through 8 miles feeling completely fine, I started tiring and suddenly was wobbling. I wasn’t sure if it was just in my head or whether I was actually physically wobbling but this wasn’t good.

I struggled to get my only dextrose tab out my pocket, whilst simultaneously trying to work up some moisture in my mouth and keep as straight a line as possible. I t still wasn’t clear how ‘real’ the wobble was.

I read recently that just the taste of sugar in your saliva is enough to revive your brain; well I had the sugar so I must have been missing the saliva, as even after a minute chewing and trying to swallow it down I was still not coming back. Finally things were feeling better and I’d dropped back to 170.

The chance to catch the runner ahead had gone, as had the runner himself, which meant I’d lost a significant distance. The fear now was holding off the two or more behind. I didn’t panic and decided that if I could keep effort up at 170 it should be enough. Head was clearing all the time but I was sure I could hear feet? Still didn’t look, concentrated on maintaining effort and recovering.

Coming round the final bend with 400m to go I glanced back hoping that it would be all clear, only to see Geoff bearing down. Damn, I was tired and would have been happy to jog into the line. Now I was going to not only keep going but up the effort, I immediately upped it half a notch, and then again.  Could feel the power fading a bit each time.

Coming to the line I was sure I had it but upped it again the last 50m just to make sure, nearly threw up and struggled to get bottle top off for a much needed drink for about 2 minutes but was really happy with time of 1:13:39. Took a few minutes to recover but then got a decent warm down jog in too. Better than Grisedale or Bluebell and most importantly tendon had survived, roll on Hendon!

Average HR of 171 was insane, may need to re-calibrate my expectations but still stick to the next phase of a 3 month steady plan.