As a youngster, I would get home from School, get changed and go out to play with my pals.
Now I'm older, I get home from work, get changed and go out to play with my pals, but now I call it training.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Another week another race

Mile reps on Monday. The first one, in 5:45, included the most uphill, though not exactly steep or long.Then 5:39 to the far point of the course then a 5:38 coming back. The final one was obviously therefore the most downhill and 5:28 didn't feel ridiculously hard to achieve. A good session. and 5.37.5 would almost give me that elusive 34min 10k if I could sustain the pace over the distance.

Went for a jog with a dog on Tuesday - easy 4

Wednesday I was racing again. Keswick again. 5.5 miles this time but the first mile and a bit is up a steep hill offroad. Officially this is a fellrace, but there is no kit requirement, there are no summits visited, and even on this damp day I had no problem using road shoes.

I didn't want to get into oxygen debt before we even began the climb proper so settled into about 12th place as we crossed the bridge over the A66 to begin climbing up the side of Lattrigg fell. At the first sign of a relaxing of the gradient several lads around me seemed to need the breather but not having been trying terribly hard up until then I pushed on and opened my stride as a very brief downhill was enjoyed. This was enough to get me clear of the pack. On the climb proper I was in the top 10 and running with Sam Ware or Eden Runners. We exchanged a brief word or two as we climbed and after 11 minutes of the start were still within shouting distance of the eventual winner Carl Bell, maybe 15 or 20 seconds at most ahead of us at that stage.

As we reached the Gale Rd carpark where a small crowd was gathered to watch, I was about 5 metres behind Sam. We had dropped a companion from Keswick AC and were running in 7th and 8th position. I easily caught Sam over the flattish part, then was aware I was pulling away from him as we descended through the fields.

So 7th place was mine and ahead was John French of Eden, someone who I regarded as much faster runner than me (though not historically) since he beat me by nearly 4 minutes at the Keswick half earlier this year. As we finished running downhill and began the 2.5 mile section of flat track to Keswick along the route of the old railway line I was approx 70 metres behind John. I was trying very hard indeed all the way to the finish and was catching John - but only by the smallest of margins.  I saw him catch and pass two runners but try as I might I couldnt go fast enough to pass any of them myself. As we rounded the Leisure Centre I was right on the heels of 6th place but thought better of initiating a sprint to try to gain one place.

The results show me in 7th place but crucially, only 24 seconds behind 4th place John, who I suspect edged away from me again in that last couple of minutes racing as he must have battled for position with Paul Wathan who was 1 second behind him on the line. More remarkably I was just 41 seconds behind Steve Birkinshaw, who I don't know but certainly know of, and whom I regard as a 'proper fast' fella.

Walked in the fells with Scamp before the race - this was my view (but in colour)

Within a minute of finishing I saw the first lady, Emma Clayton of Bingley Harriers cross the line! Maybe just as well it wasnt a mile longer or I might have been caught by her. The average pace per mile had a massive hole knocked into it with the big uphill section but as far as racing was concerned I was very happy with this performance. I think the Ultra 50 is out of my legs now and after another week of fast training I should be as ready as I ever could be for the Dumfries 10k. I am a bit concerned about how much I have built up to it. Mentally I mean. Two years ago I was bitterly disappointed with my run at Dumfries after expecting much. One thing I am definitely going to do after Dumfries is have a rest from hard training after work. For two weeks I will only train at the weekend. Of a night I may go up the fells with Scamp and a camera whilst the daylight remains sufficiently long enough into the evening to do so without needing headtorch.

Grisedale Pike and Hopegillhead - Another view from our walk
Tonight is Friday and in keeping with my pattern of Mon Wed Fri 'tough' running I did 8x800 again. This time I went to the track and trained with Darren. Missing the one mile jog from home to the usual location I said I was going to do numbers 1 and 8 'easy' as a sort of additional warm up/down. so,
2:49 for the 'easy' one, then
2:38 then
2:37, I then asked Daz if he wanted to lead the fourth.
He did so and absolutely caned it around the half mile to record 2:29, I was about 3 metres behind him but still crossed the line before the watched clicked over to 2:30. Sub 5 minute miling! Get in!
Daz was too knackered to lead again and I tried my hardest to emulate his performance but could only manage 2:33, (though I did run a faster 2nd lap)
Daz again and ran 2:29 again but I was dropped 150m out and scored a 2:34
Both now pretty wasted we ran 2:37 for the 7th. At the bell on this one I honestly felt like quitting for the night - my legs were completely shot at.
Somehow we managed the 8th warmdown rep and 2:44 was inside what we had allowed ourselves to slow up by.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A race report - how novel!

The race in question was the Newlands Valley Round promoted by Keswick AC. From Keswick it goes over the bridge to Portinscale, up the hills to the Swinside Inn, down to Stair, up t'other side of Stair to the Newlands Pass road where turn right to come back almost to Braithwaite but then head right again to follow back to Portinscale and Keswick - 6.8 miles.

Last Monday I was alone for the 8.75 miler and instead of running steady away, I tried as hard as usual and recorded 6:18 pace. Slowest for some time, but alone, without the youngsters to try to stay ahead of, that is good enough. Tuesday I felt very lethargic and cut short the intended 7+ jog-with-dog to just 4 miles.

So to tonight. I didnt feel much like racing as I had a rather tiring day at work. One site all day long is actually much harder work than my usual day of driving between 4 or more sites and then  sitting in office doing paperwork/plans/emails/ quotes etc.

After walking Scamp for a while by the river below the old rail line near Threlkeld I felt a bit more energetic again and drove the couple of miles to Keswick to get signed on. I dont really have a proper warm up routine - I ran up the hill to the school twice, hard, and then did some stretches and two little sprints on the flat road by the finish.

The gun went and four lads immediately formed a lead group. James Douglas (Border), John Mason (Border) Steve Littler (Wesham) and another very young lad, unknown to me. I was in fifth and made no attempt to go with them. By the bridge into Portinscale I had been joined by 3 others so it was two groups of 4 heading the race.

I am sure I didnt set off too fast but within another half mile I was dropped by my group so was now alone in 8th on the road. Another half mile after that, approaching stair, I had caught back to one of my former group and I think I dropped him climbing out of Stair. The really young lad from group one also came back to me here so I was in 6th now. Trouble was Michael Cunningham (Borrowdale) had caught me very slowly and we two then raced all the way to the end vying for 6th and 7th. We exchanged a brief word or two at one stage and I suggested if we kept the pressure on we might get the lad in fifth who was not pulling away and was looking behind him a lot.  Michael is a lad I have recognised from racing against for 10 years  or more but I have never really had much of a craic with him.

On the slight downhill in Portinscale to the suspension bridge I took a 30 second breather then pushed hard again to maintain a gap which had opened up between us.  I felt it was possibly 10 or 20 metres at that stage. My plan must  have worked I think, as the gap at the finish line was more like 30 or 40 metres.

Stats then. I was 6th from just less than 100 finishers. 1st Vet 40. 3rd counter in winning team.
I was pleased to have been able to race hard for nearly 7 miles and not tie up or struggle at the end.
My time of 40.11 is 5:55 per mile which for approx 11k on a fairly lumpy course is OKish but nothing startling. Back in the day (sorry Stu) I would have looked to be just inside 5:40 pace over a hilly course like this, so 15 seconds/mile slower is quite significant. A 10 seconds/mile loss in the intervening years would be easier to accept.

Next week there is another race (Round Latrigg) and the week after that the Dumfries 10k. Only the Dumfries event will see me curtail my tough training regime beforehand so hopefully another week of speedwork, racing and tempo runs will see me perform well there.

Extra Extra. Friday night, I've just done a session of 800metres intervals. Every intention of doing 8 of them but I feared that after 6 I might be struggling and need to quit. Little wind meant only the slight elevation difference would make one direction faster than the other.

Set off a bit harder than usual for no1 (after last weeks poor 2:56) and got 2:45. Good
no2 (mild downhill) gave a 2:39
no3 exactly as no1 with 2:45
then a one second bettering downhill to record 2:38.

Halfway through the session now, and I reckoned I would soon begin to suffer in a big way or my legs would give up the ghost. As I got into the thick of the third uphill (5th effort) I promised myself that if I failed to do another 2:45 I would quit at 6 as it would be a sure sign of lethargy, and cutting short would be sensible.
I was astonished then to record 2:43!!
The next one (downhill) was the toughest of the night, by 300 metres into it my CV system felt like it was working on override. I thought this was because I was so completely knackered but my watch revealed it was because I was running so damn fast. It showed 2:34 as I finished
The final two reps were a bit more sedentary and matched my earlier efforts of 2:43 (up) and 2:39 (down)

What a session. a mile longer than I expected to manage and much much faster than last week (although to be fair last week was the first time doing this short distance in several months).
About 5:22 average pace.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Sat/sun no run (photography) - actually got paid to take photos (as opposed to taking them and hoping to sell some)

Mon 9 miles 6:12 pace

Tues only had 30 mins to run so did a 30 min run with Scamp

Wed - 800metre reps x6. Avg 5:30 pace

Thurs - bout 6 miles in the pissing rain and glorious mud near the new bypass - first time crossing the new bridge

Friday - ran up to top of Blinky from Scales. Then down to Tarn. Then to top again via Foule Crag then all way back down. Mostly easy apart from the last part of the second ascent when I imagined how far behind Stu and Stevie B would have been (very)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Going backwards

Do I mean I have been practising running backwards like that bloke Roy Castle could hardly keep up with in the opening titles to Record Breakers in the 70s?
Do I mean my fitness and times have slipped, despite all the tough training I have been doing?
Have I had a chance meeting with Dr Who and travelled in time?
Henry the mild mannered janitor?
Could be....
All it  is I'm going to blog about today, Friday,  then the day before and so on until I get back to last Saturday.

When I got back from my 10 miler this evening the clock said 68mins 44 secs. Nothing startling. This did also include the time spent running from home to the start of the 10 mile loop and back again afterwards. I estimate 3 minutes at most so my 10 mile run was probably 65 or 66 minutes. My watch broke last week hence my timing this run on my phone which I left by the back door.

Mile reps were Thursdays training. Again, no watch meant I simply ran hard for a mile then rested up until I felt ready to go again. I did four of these. Next time will be five. Little point in guessing what my pace was for these. Probably had my speed blunted by the 50 miler though.

First run since the 50 was on Wednesday when I jogged a while with Scamp. I felt absolutely great, with a spring in my step like never before. I reckon  I could have raced the 10k being held that night in West Cumbria but it was too late to go through by the time I decided I was up for it.

Tuesday, Monday and Sunday I was enjoying a wee holiday in Cheshire. I didnt run at all during those three days.

Which brings us to Saturday and the UTLD 50. Even at the back of 8 oclock in Coniston it was red hot. Not ideal for an endurance event beginning at midday! The bus that took us to the start near Penrith was delayed when the bus ahead had a minor scrape with a car as we passed through the narrow lanes between Coniston and Ambleside. This, and the slow progress past the resulting tailback meant we only got to the start at about 12.15. The start hand't happened and then was then delayed a little longer to give a chance for last minute toilet visits etc and we finally got started at 12.25. This was not a huge issue but I knew there would be little chance of finishing in the light of day as my 10 hour schedule was the best I could possibly imagine doing the distance in and would only just have seen me finish before dark given a noon start.

The first four miles were a circuit through fields and farms - a bit crappy really with lots of styles, gates and long grass to negotiate. Soon enough though we were onto the proper route and running along the pleasant path parallel to the outflow from Ullswater. In Pooley Bridge we had encouraging shouts from locals and holidaymakers and were soon ascending the tarmac road to Roehead  and then the track up toward High Street. This was the same section as I had blasted up as hard as I could in the DITL Triathlon so it was very pleasant indeed to run up just about as slow as I could on this occasion. Many people (and not just 100 mile participants) were already reduced to walking here though, and I passed several.  The route doesnt get to the High St path, it veers right to skirt the top of the fields and campsites and is overall downhill to Howtown where the first checkpoint (cp)was located, 11.2 miles from the start.

Filling my bumbag with bananas and cake and my bottles with juice I wasn't stationary very long at all and was soon jogging out of the tiny hamlet onto the open fell of Fusedale. More people passed as I climbed to the high point of the whole route, High Kop 670m above sea level. I can safely say I was inside the top 20 at this point, maybe even top 15. Unfortunately things went awry a little somewhere between High Kop, Low Kop and the path we eventually got to that runs alongside Haweswater reservoir. I missed the proper path (though it is described as 'faint' in the manual) and probably added 5 or 6 minutes to our day. Certainly, as I passed the point where I should have descended and joined the path I noted someone who I knew was about to join the path from the proper (shorter ) route. I'd been comfortably ahead of this fella at Howtown and had almost certainly continued to pull away from him over the Fusedale climb. I was really downbeat about this error. This was a section I had intended checking out prior to the event but didnt get round to doing so!!!!!

Some Fifteen minutes after regaining the proper route I passed Steve "Wes" Weston. A mile later I was in the Mardale Head cp (20 miles from start). As I left the cp Wes came into it. Although I later discovered he was having a low, I was obviously still going reasonably well at this stage if a little pissed off with myself. Penrith Stu was at cp2. He was anxious I should get going ASAP. He said Id gone from top 15 to only about 50th and lost quarter of an hour. The result show I was in 39th place at this stage - so not a bad guess by Stu.

The climb out from Mardale over Gatesgarth Pass is steep and long. Even once over the top it it tough going underfoot and at times I wasnt going much faster downhill than I had been up. As I caught a couple of 100 milers I slowed a wee bit to chat to them. Soon after I was caught by a group of 3 lads in the 50 and we stayed together until we reached the Kentmere cp3 (27 miles from the start) - over half way.

Top scran was enjoyed in Kentmere. They even had fancy jugs on the tables that were continually replenished with cold fresh water. I had a fruit smoothie, some pasta and tea and biscuits which I took with me as I left. Wes had came into Kentmere after me but had a very brief stop and we left together, along with an Ian. The route is immediately uphill and we all walked at first to work off the food just devoured. There were occasional  opportunities to run and I was dropped by the lads as I continued to walk and try to drink my tea. On the climb proper of Garburn Pass I noted they were not very far ahead at all and not pulling away so I ditched the remnants of my tea and easily caught up. We jogged, and walked when steep, together to Ambleside cp4 (34.3 miles from start)

The reception from the crowds  in Ambleside was thoroughly uplifting. This is what it must have been like for those intrepid early voyagers who returned home to a heroes welcome after taming stormy seas to discover new lands and bring back wealth and prosperity to a rising nation. Sort of.

Leaving Amblside I felt good. I knew the route to the end in my head and wouldnt need a map or go wrong anywhere. I walked through the town drinking my tea. In the park I was caught by Wes and Ian and ditched the tea so I could jog and stay with them. Although we walked out over the initial climb that skirts below Loughrigg, it's not very long and we then ran all the way to Elterwater. A very brief walk again from the river Brathay up to the mine then running again all the way to cp 5 at Chapel Stile (39.4 miles from the start)

My stops were becoming briefer as the day progressed and at Chapel Stile I probably only had 2 minutes at most. Just enough time to swallow some soup and a slice of bread and have my bottles refilled. The going from Chapel Stile is good a first and we were running until we reached some stony paths in the upper Langdale valley. As the path crosses various fields, stream and walls I was forging ahead. Wes and Ian were becoming isolated from me but I didnt feel I needed to wait as there was still an hour or two to go and I could make time up if I pressed on. However, the climb up to the top of Side Pike Pass saw me really struggle and by the top the other two were so close again that I lingered a little to allow us to all cross the road together and begin the section round the back of Blea Tarn.

Darkness fell briefly as we passed through the wood behind Blea Tarn. Not so long after that we reached the short section of tarmac  that is the Wrynose Pass road. Torches were looked out of our bags and we continued toward Tilberthwaite cp6 (46.5 miles from the start). The marshals at Tilberthwaite were exceptionally cheery and had plenty of food laid on. I had a mouthtful of malt loaf but to be honest I knew we would only take an hour or so to complete this final 3 and a bit miles and was keen to move on.

Climbing the final section fell this year felt much more pleasant than in 2009 when I hadn't a clue where I was and it was spitting with rain. Now, even in the dark there were no issues with the route and we were soon dropping down into Coniston. As we neared the village, Wes and Ian raced ahead of me to finish about 90 seconds up. We were 27th 28th and 29th from nearly 500 starters.

Theres more to the story of the Lakes 50 than that but I will type it another time.