Wednesday, 19 September 2012

On the comeback trail....

....Farnham Pilgrims Marathon.

(Oh and no that isn`t me)

This one had been planned for a year, only because it meant breaking a 4 year streak of running in the Great North Run. This event was local, reportedly a tough off road organised by the local Rotary Club with lots of well supported water / feed stations. I was also looking forward to it as I early in the year I marshalled a race which was along the North Downs Way some of which we would cover in our route.

My race plan - was an estimated time of 4:45 to 5:15 hrs. I did wonder how I would get on from 20 miles onwards plus I did hear that the course had a harder back nine. I will say my choice of races this year has been good - mainly off-road & hilly stuff. My nutrition plan was simple - a gel every 5 miles, I was also using my hand held water bottle.

One of the main advantages (& disadvantages) of this one was that the start was only 15 mins away....this did meant I got there later than planned (09:15 for a 09:30 am kick off) & was a bit rushed. I saw a couple of folks I know - Tony (Cove Jogger), John (Ex Cove Jogger - who was aiming for another sub 4). I chatted to Ruth before & during the start. I also missed a few people I wanted to say hello to but I wasn`t going to go sprinting after them :-) Shortly before the start we all assembled & had the race briefing - basically we had to follow the Orange Spray - I did have my concerns beforehand about getting in some (unwanted) bonus miles on this but I didn`t need to worry as the marking of the course was one of the best I`ve seen - I would be really surprised if anyone got lost.

As we headed out of the start / finish field turned left and down - I was thinking hang about we need to go up here when we finish - gulp. The first couple of miles ticked away as I was chatting to Ruth, we saw Superman (100 Marathon Runner) helping Blind Paul along, which was amazing to see. I hope they got on alright with the uneven ground. Now I did set the garmin on virtual partner for 5.00 hrs pace - I had noticed I was a little quick but nothing to worry about. One thing I do like about running longer, slower runs is that the miles just seem to tick over.

We headed through Seale, along to Puttenham Golf Course - I did ask a golfer who was practising if he wanted to swop for 10 mins - he said no thanks. Down past these really nice cottages, down under the Guildford / Hog`s back road - I`ve never noticed those crosses before. The course was varied, we crossed a canal - just as two canal boats were trying to ram each other. I was mainly running by myself which was good - each time I tagged unto a group they stopped at one of the many, many feed stations along the way - the tables were nibbles were well stocked with different drinks, biscuits & sweets - all very nice but because I was using my own gels & carried water I just carried on. The views were simply magnificent, even spotted some buffalo & lamas, the cottages & houses were stunning - in Shalford there was a lovely sounding cottage - Lemon Bridge Cottage (didn`t see any lemons though) - 11:55 Miles just over 2 hours

At about mile 11, just before the sand, I caught up with a local legend Mike from Sandhurst - for the next few miles we leap frogged each other (well not actually leap frogged cos that would be silly in a marathon, half yes, full no). Special mention goes to the very vocal marshal up towards St Catherine`s Chapel - brilliant effort for us to get up the hill. Have not been up there for years. It also meant we were close to being halfway .

At about 15 miles Mike had caught me up again - must of been when I was tweeting (damn touch screen phones). We had to go up & around a Roman ruin - which caused some fun.

Almost three hours to the minute I was at the 16.2 mile point - so only 10 to go. Easy to break down - 2 x 5`s or 3 & a bit parkruns, I went for the parkruns. At about the 18 miles point we had joined up the outward course
- past the tea room. I recognised this point as this was `my marshalling point` on the Pilgrims Ultra in the snow in January - I hadn`t recognised it on the way out. Up under the Hogs back, towards Puttenham, past the cottages again & I saw a couple of old tractors - which was nice,

At about 20 miles I had my last gel - I did offer it to some very lazy & rather large cows - they were massive (I was here at 3 hrs 47 mins), At this point I hadn`t seen anyone for ages but kept following the orange dots & seeing the marshals. Mentally the views & scenery kept me going & busy - physically, despite the lumpy course I was doing OK, tight hamstring but was only expected really but I was still moving forward. At 21 / 22 miles was almost the nicest part of the course - it was a wooded area with small lakes, flat with a hint of downhill. Here I overtook an Aldershot , Farnham & District (adf) runner Matthew Brown - this does not happen too often when I`m running. Now to be fair I did say this to him & he replied back that he was really a 800 metre runner - so I guess this marathon was like a LEJOG attempt for him - respect . I was glad we didn`t have a sprint finish !!!

Just before 25 miles was a bit tough as we to head over a field almost in a straight line for a good half mile stretch, a couple of runners overtook, then headed back under tress - I bet in the January snow these North Downs looked good. For me the worse bit was running up the hill towards the end, past the car park, pasted the pub - seeing all the runners who had finished.

I got to the top & through into the Start / Finish field & through the finish. My comeback marathon completed - I wasn`t feeling all that bad, tired, tight legs but all in all not that bad - I think I got my nutrition & drinking about right. I collected my goody bag - T-shirt, Medal, Calendars, etc - fantastic value. I made my way back to the start - saw Tony`s car still there (or as I think it was a very similar car) so I got changed, freshen up & made my way back to the Start / Finish HQ. Either Tony was in the pub or I missed him but he wasn`t there. I had a cup of tea, had a look at the Great North results that had come through. I saw Ruth finish which was good & in time headed back to the car & home. Very handy being 15 minutes away.

Totally enjoyable event, tough but so enjoyable.

Oh the race was won by Holly Rush in an impressive time of 03:07:03. How good is running where you have a 2:37 lady burning up the trail & a 800 metre runner in the same race.

Results - Full & Half

My thoughts on the way home was if I can do 26.2 miles I know I can do 30 miles. Now if I can do 30 miles then I think I can do.......................................

(Score on the doors - 10 Marathons completed v 8 Ultras)

Next up - after a couple of easy weeks it`s OMG October starting off with the Julian Farrell 10Km on the 7th October & need to think about next year`s plans.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Getting out there...

One thing which I do love about running races is the I wish, I really mean is the getting out there & discovering new places, new routes & courses often in very familiar places.   Take this weekend just gone for example. I have been to Stockbridge many, many times but this was the first time I ran the Stockbridge 10Km - I know last time was it`s inaugural event but still.

Now for those that don`t know Stockbridge I think this will give you a good idea....

"The pretty Hampshire town of Stockbridge lies midway between Andover and Romsey in the stunning Test Valley. The lovely chalk streams of the upper River Test, famed for its excellent fly-fishing, flow through and around the town and it’s here you’ll find the Houghton Fishing Club, the oldest fishing club in England based at the Grosvenor Hotel in the High Street.

Lying in the heart of Test Valley, the wide picturesque Stockbridge High Street reflects its early role as part of a drovers road where it was common to see flocks of sheep or herds of cattle being driven through the town on route from Wales. Seek out the Drovers House and you can still spot a sign in Welsh.

The Test Valley is famed for its rolling hills and tranquil beauty and not far from Stockbridge you’ll find many picturesque Hampshire villages with their thatched houses, pretty churches and traditional country pubs as well as the spectacular Test Way”

Sounds lovely eh? Well that`s what I thought and a good time to place to crack a good 10Km time, well a seasons best at least.

I arrived early, parked up & walked down the Primary School to sign in & collect numbers and stuff. As I was a bit early I warmed up with a jog down the High Street - the coffee shops were packed with runners chilling out. I headed back towards my car to drop the bag off & unexpectedly bumped into my Mum. I made my way down towards the start area.

Now for some reason I though it started at 10:40am - it wasn`t it was 10:30am - so glad I didn`t have to give everyone a 10 mins head start in a 10Km. I saw my cousin & my Mum again (my Mum wasn`t running but my cousin was), caught the end of the race briefing - opps, but did hear something about a low lying hill. My plan was to see how close I could be to a sub 50. Hooter went off & I found myself a going a little fast but ok, soon enough we had done the smaller loop and out into the country roads, Even by the 1.5M point I felt I was in a good group.

Just before the 2M point we turned the corner & almost straight up, then the road levelled off & the pace was back to normal, however about a mile later the course starting to reveal it`s dark side....and I wouldn`t describe it as `rolling hills and tranquil beauty ` - it was thigh burning, eye popping, energy sapping incline, followed by another turn and another incline this time even longer & straighter. I walked, I ran, I could see my time disappearing. - a 9:15/m flashed up, I walked, I ran I got to the top, I gasped a thank you at the marshal at the top for pointing us downwards. Despite the downhill & overtaking loads the group had gone (9:22 came up - the damage was done).

From here it was a straight, flat back home - at least it was under tree cover. Several runners were walking at this stage - unsure if they run completely up the hills or not - but I had done my walk, no more but my sub 50 min pace was all gone. Miles 4, 5 & 6 drifted into one but soon enough I could hear cheers & saw the `odd` runner who had finished walking back down the course. The finish was literally where the Test Way footpath popped out into the open. I ran through the finish - thanked the guys removing the chip tags & the medal hangers.I turned around and my Mum said `she had missed my finish` - I didn`t offer to run the course again (but there is always next year).

A little later Colin my cousin finished, and after we recovered we made our way to see the results & the prize giving..

Garmin Connect

Splits - 7:37, 7:53, 9:15, 9:22, 8:59, 9:01, 1:31 (0.18 @ 8:23/m)

Full Results - LINK

Nice event, great support from all the marshals, tough 10Km course (& I think the results show that).

Next up - this Sunday & after 4 years, a change to meeting up with friends under the footbridge by zone E & lining up with 50,000 or so other runners for the Great North Run I`ll be at Farnham Pilgrims Marathon - expecting a time for around 4:45 to 5:15 hrs.

Monday, 3 September 2012

A return to the scene of the crime...............via the beech.

Yes the beech rather than the beach. Of course it was the Burnham Beeches Half Marathon a couple of weeks back - you must remember it because it was the hottest day of the year (I know that could mean anything but it was really hot). This event seems to be fixed within my race calendar & despite the reduced milage this year was no exception but the really good thing was that it a good Club outing - 5 of us (well 6 on the results !!).

We arrived in good time esp as there is a good 20 min walk to the start, literally bumped into a friend & fellow Thunder Runner team mate (MrSJ) who was on holiday from the North who fancied a holiday race (see not only me then) & made our way to the start. Time seemed to disappear & soon we all assembled on the grass for the start.

The race plan was really to take it easy - wouldn`t mind a seasons best but really & despite the heat I just wanted a good run. We made our way out of the starting field via a huge grassy bank then out onto the main course. I kept it very steady for the first two miles, then seemed to speed up - opps. I did think "Would I pay for that later on??". The course has a few lumps & bumps esp in the 2nd half of each lap (2 lapped course), I ran the first lap & went through halfway in just under the hour. Then I took on board water - and almost immediately felt terrible. I slowed down, started to walk - blimey I still had a long way to go. I think the garmin was also having a funny turn as mile 9 came up with 8:15/m inc a best pace of 2.27/m.

I had a gel but noticed it was out of date - the trouble buying bulk and not running I guess. Normally I carried a pack of Randoms but being out of practice I had forgotten to stock up. Eventually felt a bit better and managed to find a steady but slower pace as I moved closer to the finish. As I said the lumps are towards the back end of the laps so I felt those second around esp the incline towards the turn back into the school & finish line. It felt like I `zoomed` down the grassy bank, around what seemed to be extended `home straight` & through the line.

My old mate Muttley (from RW) was there at the line - which was nice as I don`t think I was 100%. I was given a goodie bag - I think it was a spot prize but wasn`t really paying too much attention but did thank the finishing team for their work. I checked the garmin - 2:07:32.....what was my Fleet Half time????

I got home and checked on my Fleet half time was.............2:07:08     Darn but things are looking up - terrible race running wise, much hotter conditions but only 24 seconds so cannot complain too much.

Result - link (need to drop down to BB Half)

Next up was only 8 days later & a return to where I think my ankle problems started to happen last November. It was a trip up to Milton Keynes and a new event the `Enigma Gold 20`  Yes 20 miles - my longest run since the 17th December 2011 (Andover Track Marathon) - not that I was counting this day down or anything * :-)

I had completed a few half & those were a couple of hours on feet time, I wouldn`t have minded a 15 or 17 miler but hey hoe. I was only 90 mins away but I did have a `club`s` BBQ the day before but somehow I managed to leave nice & early for the drive up. I got there and signed in for the `fun run` - tongue in cheek I know but there was also a 30 miler being held at the same time so it was good to fool the brain that I was kind of being a slacker for the day - that was my way of thinking which seemed to work for me. (I wonder if that trick will work at Caesars Camp??). It was good to see a few folks again - Foxy, Plodding Hippo, CC2 Speedy Goth, HOD, Joe & good to say hello I haven`t met before.

11 of us made our way to the 20 mile start line. The course was a shorter lap & then 5 of the full laps. It was clear from the outset I would be towards the back of the field - I had set the Garmin to show Virtual Partner, which was set on 10.30/m (I knew I would be faster but 10.30/m would be a good gauge) rather than the normal 4 screen splits of Time, Distance, Average Pace & Speed.

Foxy started us off & straight away I was in last place - I had never finished last in a race before not that I minded as someone comes in 1st & someone comes in last & the rest in between (however we did know who was going to come in 1st place....CC2 Speedy Goth). I kept close to the last group - just to make sure we all went the same way esp for the first one & half laps.

Unfortunately at I guess around 5 & a bit miles HOD slowed down & dropped out. I think we saw our first ultra runners on the course & wished them well, soon enough it was the water station, cheering point (& finishing area) which is always good. Even at this point I had no real actuate idea on distance wise but concentrated on keeping the pace steady.

The laps ticked away, I had taken my iPod if needed but it was actually nice to listen to rhythm of my running & the noise of the course. Occasionally I ran with someone, like miles 11 - 13. I think it was Paul from the 100 Marathon Club & a lady from the 20 Mile race. I didn`t mind the pace dropping off I knew it was so steady, They both stopped at the water station - I just grabbed a bottle & continued running. In fact I only `stopped` 3 times & they were only to remove a stone from my shoe.

Suddenly I had Foxy ringing the bell - one lap left. I couldn`t really believe it as body wise I felt good. Ok a slight tightness in a left hip & left hamstring (slightly worrying it was that side) but ok. Ankle wise good. Soon enough I was on the far side of the course & felt the buzz of another mile being clocked over - two left, Round those horse shoes then buzz - One left. I picked the pace up & came around the last corner & through the line.

I thanked Foxy for putting on this 20 as there seemed to be a lack of 20`s around. As I recovered I chatted to CC2 - who kept to her name & won in a speedy fashion (talking of fashion she did had some nice slippers on). Soon after Joe finished his 30 - in a very good time I add. Myself & CC2 had some chips in the warmth of the restaurant while watching the remaining ultra runners going by. Soon enough it was time to head back down the M1.

A great day with the Fox & it was good to go back to the course where I think my ankle problems started & have a really good run.

Results -

Splits - 9:59, 10:03, 9:59, 10:18, 10:18, 10:11, 10:12, 9:56, 9:57, 9:49, 10:26, 10:21, 10:26, 9:41, 9:59, 10:06, 9:25, 10:09, 10:09, 9:39, 1:27 (0.17 @ 8:45/m)

Ohh and wondering 17th Dec 2011 - 27th August 2012 is 254 days, which you must agree is a nice streak to break

Next up - I went a bit mad & entered a few events but the next being the Stockbridge 10Km next Sunday.

Looking forward to this as been to Stockbridge so many times as I have family who live there & good memories of catching Rainbow trout in the small stream at the back of my Auntie & Uncle`s old Garage - which is now a very nice restaurant (Stokes Of Stockbridge), plus I`ve never done this event.