The Witch’s Promise

Lend me your ear while I call you a fool.

I completely ignored the hint of a virus and ploughed on regardless with my hardest weekend so far of the year. Oops!

The week had started on a good but tired note, a gentle 5.2k recovery on Monday followed by Littleborough Lions 5k on Tuesday.

I knew I had blown my 5k PB chances with the 3 day event the weekend before, so sensibly decided not to try for a 4th PB in as many weeks and settled for aiming for around 19:30.

With a bigger than usual club turnout for it being a Grand Prix race, I knew I should have a few pacemakers to help/ tempt me. All went to plan until the descent to Smithy Bridge, when I was closing gradually on Michael and John ahead, so I put in a small extra surge to close the gap completely. Tactically, a good move, but for my legs the wrong one.

As we climbed up past the station, Michael pulled away a little as struggled with breathing but I managed to work well to contain losses and then start to reel him in towards the top. A glance at my watch showed pace was slow, too slow, so decided to push early for the finish. Surprised myself with a strong run in for the entire last mile and hit 19:08 officially (19:15 watch time). Maybe I should have had more confidence in my tired legs. GPS.

First v40 finisher, but no specific prize category to recognise it so consoled myself with a pint to mark the end of ‘speed month’. Coming up next a month of gentler off road runs to try and build a little more strength and endurance, well one more hard uphill mile planned next Weds.

A fairly steady packrun followed on Wednesday before just the slightest hint on Thursday things were not right, put it down to tiredness but Friday I should have listened.

Pendle 3 peaks_1

Set off Saturday morning uncertain of whether I would race the new Pendle 3 Peaks Fell Race as there was a lot of clag on the hills and I wasn’t feeling right. I wasn’t really sure I could be bothered with the mental effort on unfamiliar ground. The cloud was forecast to lift during the morning so I kept options open. After a steady Pendle parkrun – well 4.5km steady, the last 500m uphill hard effort – for 23:56. GPS

The clag and my head were both clearing as I whizzed over to Barley so decided on a gentle trot round. A quick change, help out on registration and I was ready to go. Headache had almost vanished, and I set off very steady. Wasn’t really sure how long it would take, but plan was to leave enough in legs for Alice’s 10k on Sunday, I had a vague guess of less than 2 hours but much would depend on the terrain and was completely irrelevant really, this was just a fun run!

After a very steady start, I upped effort on the first climb and steadily gained places, on boggy ground. Concentrated on keeping it comfortable and enjoyed the long run down to the first of the ‘3 peaks’ – for some reason the first hill didn’t count!

After crossing a stream there was a tough climb up but I started making a bit of progress and feeling strong. Halfway down the next steep downhill and bang, maybe a rabbit hole, but foot went forward toes down and there was a unpleasant sound from right ankle. Before the pain could reach my brain it went sideways and there was a brief but distinct tearing sound as the ligament fibres pinged.

I got my foot flat and started walking, thinking more about the location of the sensations than the actual pain and why here, the furthest away possible. Who would do the results if I couldn’t get back and how would I drive home if I could? By which time endorphins had kicked and I gingerly attempted a quicker hobble to get to the bottom of the hill.

Having had millions of sprains, I find the best thing is to keep going to stop the swelling building too much whilst considering options. First sprain had been front so that should be ok to run on as long as it didn’t swell. Second sprain was more of a worry, louder and to the side, but very brief so should be ok if I could protect it and not repeat it.

I kept moving, carefully reaching the bottom, smiled and thanked the marshals and continued on, slowly and tentatively. By now I was sure I would be ok to finish, just so long as I didn’t go over on it – cue rough traverse for a mile. Lost a few places but main thing was to get back with causing damage.

Gradually was getting range of motion back and wasn’t feeling too bad, concern now was left ‘bad’ ankle was taking all the strain, partly from sprain partly from traverse and first tendon, then knee started hurting.   Oh well, left leg needed an extra workout to get me more even again.

Fortunately the traverse came to an end and it was now up a monster hill, managed to get running again before top and ankle not too bad, just a shame ground was littered with ankle twisting rocks, and we were heading towards a bit of clag.

Another descent and I was forced to back off again, got overtaken by Nicola from Trawden who swapped places with a few times and as we turned down a rough field to a checkpoint she vanished (gaining 40 secs in a very short distance).

On the way back up, I got it back sooner than expected and there was just a climb up big end and a long run down to the finish. I decided to go max effort on the climb which got steeper and steeper, until it was hands on, gaining about 6 places. A final easier push to the Trig Point and then managed an ok-ish descent, still giving back all 6 places by the finish in 2:01:22 – pretty much on target.

Hobbled off to do results but foolishly didn’t slap on an icepack for some reason going for the pint of Pride of Pendle instead.

 

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Sunday, was one of my favourite races, Alice’s Run 10k in Mytholmroyd – a surprisingly undulating multi terrain run up and down the valley to Hebden Bridge all in a good cause. Nice T-shirt too.

Took a bit of hobbling to get warmed up enough to walk to the car! Despite the previous day’s efforts and a headache that screamed viral attack incoming, I was still up for a fairly hard effort on a nice sunny morning and set off with a 42:30 in mind in the hope that it was smooth enough to not trouble ankle.

All was going well until about 4km when I just started tiring a little, but managed to just about hang on at a distance to a couple in front until Hebden station at around 6km, when I was delayed a little crossing the road and couldn’t seem to get legs going again until the old clog factory by which time they were gone.

It was now a battle to hold off the guy behind who was closing, forced to walk a couple of times on final ups as legs too tired but was managing to get legs going again. Ankle was aching and knee hurting but nothing major.

Going into school field put in an early final push to grow the gap and able to ease off before the line. Misread watch thinking I had hit target but actually a minute slower at 43:31. GPS

Saddened to hear that 2015 will be the last ever Alice’s Run. Great route, great race.

Now the nasty cold could come out – at least a couple of days off would rest my sprain and other pains.

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Mr Jones

She’s suddenly beautiful
We all want something beautiful

Started the week with a hard uphill mile test – 7:42 off an insufficient warm up, amongst a 3.25km run, still with tired legs from Saddleworth.

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Arrived on Wednesday at Horwich 5 expecting a gently undulating course only to find it was a bit hillier than that. With taking it easy, I’ve been a bit lax with race research, and had only glanced at previous results, not many familiar names but the odd one suggested it was a good opportunity to set an official PB for the distance.

As part of 10k preparation, the aim would be to run at sub 4 min km’s so target was under 32 minutes. However that was before realising that the course had more climb, oh well, good test, decided to stick with plan.

Had a few bits of warm up but didn’t feel particularly speedy, unlike most of the other runners who hared off like mad at the start. A quick check of watch showed I was way too quick anyway, as I was swallowed up by the field so didn’t worry and steadily worked my way back through up the first small rise.

Just before we started a descent, I closed in on one of my pre-race planned potential pacers, Maria from Horwich, who I expected to be sub 32 from looking at previous series results. All I needed to do was follow her and target would almost certainly be hit, but that was easier said than done. Took a minute or two to recover from effort to catch and then felt comfortable. Was happy pace was good so kept position behind a small group even though I was tempted to push on.

The descent kept going, which could only mean we had a lot of up to come. I’d spotted a road rising up ahead and hoped we turned before it, but we didn’t. It was not that longa slope but steep enough to dent overall time.

Despite that I knew I was up for a fast time, so concentrated on controlling breathing, quick cadence, light feet and keeping up with 2 or 3 ahead, all the while still sticking to the plan of not overtaking Maria. It was hard to stay with them at times, dropping off then working my way back, overall pace seemed right but was unsure how much was lost on the climb and how that would average out (didn’t want to waste energy playing with watch to check).

The downhill at the end of the first lap finally allowed a bit of recovery and I held back from overtaking until we completed the lap which was just short of halfway.

I had the feeling that I may lose more time on the bigger climb second time around so decided to push on and moved past my first lap pacers. Got into a swapping places battle with a bloke in green up the first rise and then pulled away a little on the downhill. I’d been so busy thinking about my pace with those around I didn’t realise how much I’d closed gap to a big group ahead. Too late, nearly at the bottom, to push now would mean blowing up on the climb so reluctantly had to let them go.

Green guy came back past and I worked hard to follow but maxed out breathing, so gap grew but we had reeled a couple in that had dropped off the group. I managed to recover well along top and closed gap back, pace was increasing and it got harder again, with lungs and heart working overtime. Thought I should have worn HR monitor as it would have been interesting to see how high it had reached, but then decided if I could think things like that I wasn’t trying hard enough!

I was unsure of exact finish line – really must get back into the habit of checking things out – as it was on the other side of the reservoirs, so hesitated on downhill when I could have pushed on earlier and by the time I decided to push everyone else was and I struggled to pass. Glanced at watch as we crossed dam and realised we were still 500m away, bit further than expected and legs were tiring.

A final turn and a twisting woodland road meant the finish still wasn’t in view, felt like I was fading and stumbled on a ramp giving the place back to green guy. Plenty of footsteps behind so somehow kept effort going to the line for a PB smashing 31:25

Really pleased with performance, first lap had been perfect (thanks to excellent choice of pacer!) although a tinge of disappointment I hadn’t been concentrating and missed the opportunity to close in on group ahead on the 2nd lap. Would have been a gamble, could have blown up, but that group finished around 31 mins and I’m sure I had it my legs on the night.

A great evening race in a great location will definitely be back for at least one of next year’s series, but think I’ll choose a flatter course for next 5 mile PB attempt! GPS

AdobePhotoshopExpress_9c50861330f445ad8046d8af72ac7141_jpgFriday was far too soon to be racing again so the plan for the inaugural Cannonball Three Day Event was to take it steady. I doubted I would recover in time whatever I did, but there still a possibility of a fast 5k next Tuesday to prepare for.

The first race was a 4.3 mile road race. After a nice steady start settled into a decent effort but probably a bit higher than desired especially towards end, added a slight extra bit but nothing significant to cross line in 29:34. GPS

Day 2 was the Watergrove Trail 4.55 miles. A great route taking in different trails to Watergrove parkrun – which I was Run Directing again in the morning – and despite how hard it felt, my favourite day. My pace was about right but effort way too high and really struggled in mid section. Managed to come round with a good steady climb away from the reservoir and then got embroiled in a battle in last couple of km and ran down a little faster than planned for 33:39. GPS

The final day was the Sheep Fell Over fell race, an up and down 3 miler. Aimed for an even paced 15 minutes up and managed ~14:30 and then had an easy run down, doing my best to save legs for Tuesday for a time of 23:24 GPS and 1:26:37 for the series.

Back in the Saddle Again

I’m back, Back in the saddle again

There are not many 6 mile races around and with one coinciding with a recent period of good speed, I decide to make another exception to the current ‘slow’ running period to have a pop at a PB.

Based on recent runs, predictions were coming up with estimates between low 39’s and 40 mins. As my previous course best in 2008 was 41:02 and my 6m PB was 40:02, this suggested that an attempt at just under 40 was achievable, and I would have the consolation prize of a course best if I just missed out.

A lot depends on conditions on the night and they weren’t brilliant, bit too humid and a breezy evening with threatening showers. Arrived nice and early for a couple of easy warm up runs 2km and then another slower 1.2km.

After a final trip to the loo, went into another final 15 minute warmup with a bit of stretching alternating with a few fast efforts, but tendon wasn’t happy so slightly curtailed final preparation. A heavy shower interfered a little too as I didn’t want to get too wet beforehand on a cool evening.

Positioned myself a little further forward than usual due to an early bottleneck with the additional challenge of avoiding some bollards but still held up by slow runners ahead. Took my time to work around them, unlike some crazies swerving all over the place and making a nuisance of themselves for the sake of gaining a couple of seconds before fading back after a few hundred metres later. Pointless.

Settled into a satisfactory pace once out onto the wider road easing my past the too fast starters. Put in a short burst to close a gap ahead as the field split ahead of me. I needed to average 4:07 km’s to hit PB target, but due to the hilly course this probably meant going at the flatter sections around 4:00mins, the downhills a bit quicker and hoping that the uphills would balance out.

A short rise past the bottom of Greenhill station road sorted out the wheat from the chaff and I settled into a nice pace along the flat – had Alison from Belle Vue just ahead, so knew was somewhere around right pace.

I had planned to stay behind her until at least the top of the hill but was feeling strong and comfortable so pushed on a little to close in on Moh, who seemed to be struggling up the hill (it later turned out he was taking it easy for a race the next night) and gain a few more places.

Onto the downhill-ish back of the course and I was really enjoying myself, going through 2 miles in 12:45 – 38:15 pace – maybe a bit quicker than expected but still feeling fairly comfortable. Breathing had been tight but with higher than normal pace not unexpected.

Was slightly concerned that pace was too much, best prediction had been low 39’s so I was 30 secs a mile ahead of best pace. With the dreaded section after the tight turn at the PUB to come, when I always seem to struggle I eased off slightly to save a bit.

Managed to keep going up without too much issue and latched onto Ian from Rochdale, usually further ahead but after a brief spell soon managed to get recovery in. Tracked him round to the uphill, expecting to see him go away but managed to stay with him to the top briefly passing him as I got legs going quickly again. He soon came past but this was great fun, and the pleasure of having a ‘better than best’ run kept the negative chatter down.

It was then a battle down to the bottom corner with a couple of others and could feel tiredness in legs but still felt strong. Faded back a bit after the turn but then closed in on the three ahead again going to final corner.
I knew at this point I could walk to the finish and still get a PB, so pressure was off and I could enjoy the run in. I knew I would have no sprint and wasn’t bothered about placing, so concentrated on keeping a sub 4 min pace going to the line for 38:39. PB well and truly smashed! GPS.

[Still no official results online yet… ] – Partial

 

Saturday was a chance for my first real run around Watergrove parkrun, thankfully all the volunteers turned up so I could run but my legs didn’t, so I decided on a comfortable effort. Ran a nice even pace but just upped it a little towards second turn around and down the cobbles, before easing round to the line for 22:16. GPS.

Sunday I went for a slow plod around part of next Friday’s Shore Road Race route and tagged a Littleborough 5k onto the end, in readiness for the Lions 5k next week. Considered running home but energy still not returned, so didn’t push it! GPS.

Times Like These

It’s times like these you learn to live again
It’s times like these you give and give again

First run of the week was Crow Hill Fell Race, I still wasn’t feeling well after weekend illness so unsure how I would go on and probably wouldn’t have run if it hadn’t been a club Grand Prix race. Tried a 2km warm up road run but foot not settled and breathing heavy. The plan was to treat it as an uphill only race and then try to limit losses on an steady descent.

I made decision to go with a mad start and have a rest at early kissing gate, but in the event there was no real rest and it was flat out uphill. I knew pace was a bit high but kept reminding myself it was just 3.5km up so I was capable of it.

Things were going ok until reaching the steep hill field in middle and just tipped breathing into the red and forced to ease off. Took a while to recover and get going but plenty of Toddies to chase. Another slight breathing struggle towards the summit and then managed a decent start to the decent, until the dreaded steep field. Made a much better hash of it this year, only lost half a minute, as opposed to well over a minute last year.

Once back on the track the plan had been to pick the pace up but my legs refused to get going again, and all too soon it was another rough section and more places lost, including to a former school friend I bumped into last week, Andy.

Got taken by a couple of Calder Valley runners going into woods and had a Stainland girl trampling all over my heels but just about managed to hold her off, helped by the narrow path. Managed a decent burst of speed towards finish but still lacking in energy and ran out of distance and motivation to regain any places.

40:08 after a bit of consultancy work on the results!  GPS.

 

Wednesday was a nice short but steep packrun with medium group, but with a scramble up to Eagle’s Crag it was a while before we were running, just 6k covered as we went up Flower Scar.

 

Thursday was the final Todmorden summer series race, and whilst effects of illness had gone, legs were feeling a bit tired and air didn’t feel good. How I long for the good running weather of a couple of week’s ago.

With series regulars Annabeth & Autumn consistently going sub 20, plus Michael and Dan likely to be a little quicker there were plenty of targets to chase, and that was before I spotted Hannah who I’ve bumped into at a few parkrun’s offering a likely too fast option for tired legs. I was split between a conservative just sub 20 or a harder effort to try and get around race 1 time of 19:28.

A quick start for first few hundred metres, then settled into a nice effort level, but breathing a bit uncomfortable. It was clear after half a lap that Hannah was going to be out of reach and Dan was a bit far off too, so settled on keeping Michael in sight for first couple of laps. After a bit too speedy first km of 3:42, I dropped back to a more manageable 3:52.

Laps 3 and 4 felt increasingly difficult and chest still tight with breathing not flowing well, sure I was slowing down but 3:54 for both. Michael was just ahead and we had drawn Dan back in and I decided to pass them both. I immediately pushed harder to get the gap up the hill but tired a little at top. Got recovery in on downhill but had heavy footsteps close by. Unsure who they belonged to and concentrated on keeping pace going without overdoing effort.

After final tight corner, with about 300 to go really pushed hard, too hard, corrected, then pushed again. I hadn’t really been thinking about overall time but going onto the grass, thought that maybe I had a chance at a sub 19 and kept effort up.

It was going to be close, legs felt weak, felt like I was slowing but kept pushing. I could see the clock on the line and agonisingly saw it turn to 19 just before I got there. Final km of 3:38 with last 300m covered in 56s = 3:07 pace!

Can’t complain too much about my third fastest ever 5k, and a new official PB of 19:02 (the fastest being uncertified and other a trail, so are non-counters) but 3 seconds faster would have been nice.

Still in ‘slow’ phase until end of the month so a little surprised I managed such a good time without specifically trying. Unlikely to attempt to improve on 5k time this year as focus will be on 10k’s for the Autumn, might have a pop at a 6 mile PB next week if conditions right on the night though. GPS

 

Saturday was another stint Run Directing at Watergrove parkrun, where Andi Jones knocked a bit off the course record, which previously had been the slowest men’s record in the UK – read more here (The women’s record still stands at the 2nd slowest, at 21:56, so if any fast girls fancy a challenge…)

I went out later for a 10.3km run steady run and added another 17.2km (9km slow, 8 km steady) on Sunday in lovely rainy conditions as ex-hurricane Bertha breezed through.

Monster

Take off, get out, no excuse
No excuse, no excuse

After the weather turned prematurely autumnal, I have really struggled for motivation this week, a planned day’s rest somehow turned into two.

Wednesday was a Trail GP race though, and got there with plenty of time for two warmups. Despite having run in the area once before I hadn’t really checked the route out and after an initial small road warm up, the consensus was that road shoes were favoured over planned trail, so switched back to road.

A fuller warm up around the open woods put doubts in my mind as some of the paths were a bit sandy but decided to stick with them. Temperatures were still down on last week, but humidity was way up.

The course very roughly headed uphill for much of the first half so a nice steady start was called for given the humid conditions, but a bottleneck path to start off with meant I headed off faster than I would have liked to avoid too much delay. Once out onto wider tracks I eased back to get breathing and effort under control.

A brief down after crossing a reservoir and I picked it up a little to go with a couple of Belle Vue guys that were overtaking.  Bit more effort than planned at this stage but the right move.

I knew there was a stiff climb after a hairpin so made sure I was in good condition for it, and took it steady up the first part. A brief respite and picked up pace a little. There had been a Tod shirt up ahead that I had been ignoring and trying not to chase, so was surprised when I rapidly caught up and it turned out it was Dan struggling a bit on the climb. Despite feeling the humidity and finding it hard to breathe, I zipped by and immediately pushed to catch a group of 4. Settled behind them and got some recovery in before the final bit of climb where I worked hard to move on.

Next Tod shirt ahead was Michael and was sure I could catch and pass on the down, but knowing that Dan would probably recover and be chasing me down I had to make an earlier effort to counter. Hammered it down a steep rocky track and I had closed the 100m gap to Michael’s group of 3, including first woman.

There was a water station just after halfway and I decided to go for a face splash option to refresh but a slight mix up meant I lost a few seconds and gap of 2 metres was back up to 20, and I had a couple of teaspoons of water in a cup. It was barely enough to refresh a midge and not worth the delay.

We were now on tarmac and I upped pace to close gap, the other two had pulled slightly ahead of Michael so I slowly went past to catch them. After sitting behind for a few seconds, I decided that I had the energy to push and squeezed through on the inside just as the side of the road fell away, a slight ankle wobble but managed to hold it. Close.

Pushed on and left them behind, really concentrated on form and cadence, continually upping speed as I closed in on next runner just as we reached a small rise. I kept cadence going, keeping foot backlift high and breezed up with virtually no effort. Could really have done with watch, as sure that would have been fastest km and fastest mile this year by far.

Swapped places with Bury guy a couple of times as we caught another in red and I settled in behind them on a rockier path. Could feel legs tiring from the downhill but didn’t want to ease off as I needed to keep gap up. As we entered the woods I knew it was a narrower path so upped effort to get ahead. I knew we still had a bit of a loop, but with no watch had no idea of how far there was left, and there had been talk of a monster set of steps near the end, 100? But I had run around the woods before and not spotted more than a few, and surely there wasn’t enough climb for that many?

I recognised a path from the warm up and upped effort again in an attempt to lose the other two but the footsteps remained on my heels and with legs tiring I made decision to let one through, but inadvertently let both go past. I immediately latched on back as we went round a corner to see 9km marker. NO! Surely not, I thought we were much closer to the end, and then not long after a set of steps destroyed my legs to a walk. It was a bit of a blow and another lesson not to forget watch.

Don’t panic, keep going, recover, and then… another bigger set of steps. Even with the encouragement of Andi Jones, who had long since smashed the course record (and reduced our GP points on offer!) I just couldn’t manage a decent effort and resorted to walking up the side.

No looking back, one runner still in sight ahead so set about chasing him down but legs like lead, finally a bit of down and cadence was back up, energy levels recovering as we headed to the finish. No, it was just a few spectators cheering, there was still more as we passed the 400m to go sign. I was beginning to wonder if I was running round in circles, never to escape the tardis woods.

Finally the finish came into sight and a decent push for the line, every second counts! 29th out of 224, in 45:55 well ahead of the 48 minute estimate I had beforehand, maybe I should run without a watch more often!

Really enjoyed run and great atmosphere at the local chippy afterwards as we swapped our race numbers for chip butties.

SAM_0997 crop

The rest of the week faded away as I ditched planned Thursday Cock Hill Wood Fell Race for just helping out. Found out late that the excellent (but secret) Padiham 5 mile race was on Friday evening, but without any transport I couldn’t make a train-bus combo work. In fact despite searching at the time, only just discovered it was on last year as well. Someone please let me know next year as I loved this race in 2012!

Didn’t feel 100% anyway and definitely feeling ill on Saturday after another stint as Run Director at Watergrove. Sensibly gave Sunday’s planned race a miss but couldn’t even muster up enough desire for a slow jog.

After last week’s highs, my energy seems to have vanished with the heat, just 11km this week in total. Another GP race on Tuesday at Crow Hill so will have to hope all the resting will have done some good.