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.


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.


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.


A Forest

I’m running towards nothing
Again and again and again and again

A steady trot around the Littleborough 5k route on Monday, at 30 min pace, was followed by the first in Cannonball Littleborough 5k series on Wednesday. The plan was to take it steady and come in around 22:30, so 22:42 was about the right pace, but a combination of a pollution smog made breathing very laboured and a weird wind storm that blew up just before the start meant effort was far too high.  Spent most of first km over 180 bpm when I would have expected 170 max and was forced to back off to get it back under control, the lack of warm up & a quick start may have contributed a little, but suspect mainly down to smog.


trace 050414 keswick parkrunSaturday was the inaugural Keswick parkrun, an out and back along a former railway line. Obviously it’s a long way for a 5k, so meant a weekend away with an excellent stay at Hazledene Hotel, who kindly allowed us a late breakfast post-run. This meant for the first time ever, just a short run to the start!

The plan was to run 12:30 (5min/km) out and then faster on the way back. I hadn’t quite decided but was thinking of 11 min on the way back but was feeling good and upped it to a 10min target. Pleased to record 12:34/10:07 for 22:41 but possibly should have saved the fast bit for just the last km?  Added a 9 mile walk up Bleaberry Fell in the afternoon as the big hills were shrouded in rain clouds.  A big meal out and a couple of pints at the fantastic Pheasant Inn to re-stock energy topped off a fine day.


Sunday was the big test – The Great Grizedale Forest Trail Race – my first 10 mile race for over a year. The route through Grizedale Forest was on the opposite side to where I know, so whilst expecting rocky track and hills it was a bit unknown as the exact nature of the course.

trace 060414 grizedale10The plan was to run 5min/km for 1:20, which on the one hand seemed realistic after recent shorter runs. However with only one run at that distance in the past year and the hilly course meant I had major doubts about my endurance. Last year’s 10 mile pancake flat race saw me fade a little at 6 and die at 8 miles, with more miles in my legs. And I hadn’t run a 5k and hill walked 9 miles the day before that one!

The weather didn’t help either, windy and wet with the course map revealing that we would spend roughly 5 miles straight into the wind, including the last three.

The start was very steep and I positioned myself in the back third of the 150ish field, but still slipped backwards as we climbed the first few hundred metres to a cattle grid. I concentrated on my own efforts and didn’t worry that I was almost last. Over the cattle grid it levelled off and I got up to speed, regularly checking watch pace which because of the hills was all over the place. Generally seemed to be below 5:30 but after a high start HR was around 160 which I reckoned was about right, so switched to HR view and decide to run on that.

Every time I glanced down and saw 157/158 I upped effort, every time it was 162/163 I eased back. This allowed me to steadily move on settling into a nice catch-recover-move on pattern.   Whilst it felt sustainable, after 4km each split was way behind target. Whilst it had mainly been up, there had been downs and I wondered whether too much time had been lost already to make the 1:20 target, when finally km 5 popped up at 4:30.

By now the field had thinned considerably and there were only a handful in site in front. With less climb but still plenty of ups and downs I rattled off a few quicker kms to reach halfway just a few seconds over 40 mins. Target back on as surely it was nearly all down from here?

That gave me a boost and combined with feeling in good shape I now pushed on to catch first woman and another guy. Just as I made a move to get past on the right side of the path, I suddenly wondered if we were supposed to turn off left. Slightly confused as there was a runner up ahead, who we shouted out to. A bit of tape off to the side and some orange paint on the ground were not really obvious.

The path then descended steeper on rockier ground and I eased off to protect foot. As it flattened off there was an unexpected water stop, and I dithered over whether to get a drink, which I did but then after walking a few steps found it hard to get going. The combination of these three events in succession interrupted my relaxed rhythm and took nearly a km of chasing down first woman to get past her again, having dropped the guy at the water stop.

Once past her there was no-one in sight ahead and after nearly missing a turn I kept a sharper eye out. The route was fairly twisty and I upped effort to try and create a gap behind to get out of sight. Whilst I hadn’t looked behind since the start, I knew there probably 10 runners within a minute or two.

At 12 km, every km was still blasting past sub 5 mins, so I knew even if I slowed a little then primary target of sub 1:20 was assured. The hills were non-stop though and every time it went down, I knew another up would follow, but overall it was feeling slightly more down than up until the 12th which was a tough one.

With just 4km to go, I decided to push on and put in my fastest km split so far of 4:17 in the hope of building a bigger gap to those behind. For the first time since I had overtaken first woman, I caught a glimpse of a couple of runners through the trees but they were well over a minute ahead, so I ignored any hope of catching and concentrated on keeping cadence going, playing alternate games of lifting heels/ lifting knees as I had throughout.

It was good to pass the SportSunday photographers, as I’d been feeling very lonely for 20 minutes or so. With a couple of km to go I finally saw another runner ahead walking on a hill, just maybe? My legs were tiring but I pushed a little harder to try to close the gap which was down to under a minute but he started running again and extended it out. The same thing happened on the next hill and a muddy section (due to some forest works) took the last out of my legs as I crested a rise and I settled for concentrating on my time again.

After clearing the last bit of mud I got cadence back up and after a near miss with an out of control dog on the steep rocky descent to the finish – I was tempted to ‘comment’ to the stupid moron that passed as its owner but couldn’t think of a polite response or one that wouldn’t involve violence, so resisted – and concentrated making it to the finish grateful that I had no broken bones.

A very pleasing 1:16:11, still feeling good despite the just out of the lake look and even had the energy to jog back to the car!   Feet felt a bit battered, tendon a little sore but no major issues.


A couple of rest days off was followed up with the Joe Salt Cowm 5k on Wednesday. I’d been a little unsure about entering beforehand, and didn’t have a clear plan, all of which lead to a well paced 4:30 first km, and then stupidly upped pace for remaining 4km to set a season best 20:34 but with a pain in my left calf when I stopped. That then developed into a very tight plantar fascia the next day and wrecked weekend plans. Will I never learn?

I generally use the 1 mile a day recovery rule i.e. after a hard 10 mile race, no hard efforts for the next ten days. I broke it. I broke me!


After a couple of rest days I decided on a tentative Oldham parkrun on Saturday to work out how much damage had been done. There was no specific pain, so ran at a decent pace for 21:46 but always within myself. Probably too fast as both calves sore and tight afterwards, which was good as it meant injury to left is minor. Will rest for a few days and make a decision on Wednesday about when/where I run next.