Thursday, 6 June 2013

Room for improvement?

More racing, Cross Training and even more eating!

It’s been a few weeks since the Halstead Marathon where I finally managed to break the 4hr mark after a struggle. Since then I’ve ran a couple more races with mixed results, experimented a little more with fuelling and also stepped up the cross training by getting back on two wheels!

On your bike mate…!

A year ago I’d brought a new Chris Boardman mountain bike specifically due to recovering from my foot operation and also because I couldn’t run.
 
The Coat Rack!


I’d justified the purchase also by telling myself that it would pay for itself in no time as I’d commute to work on it everyday and think of all the fuel money I’d save! Well you guessed what happened next can’t you? Strangely the bike suffered the same fate as our cross-trainer in our bedroom but instead of clothes, the bike was used as a stand for various rubbish in the shed.

I did use the bike for a couple of days last year but just didn’t keep it up although probably not helped by the logistical nightmare of “laptops and work clothes”, the journey time was also more than doubled so I had to get up at really stupid o' clock! Well for whatever reason as I said the bike became a very nice piece of static art.

Well almost a year later and I’m in the process of training for my first 100 mile running race and I’m looking at ways of topping up fitness levels but taking the strain off the joints and cycling seemed to tick all the boxes. I dusted off the bike and took her for a spin around the block just to see if everything was still working, I then thought about ways of making the commute more maintainable so I would still want to ride to work come rain or shine!

I’m sure you know this already but I use a simple set of rules when trying anything new for the first time. It’s not rocket science but if you plan a routine that’s extreme you can do it once or twice but you will probably fail in the long run. It’s a little like my last race… start too quick and in the end it will all go wrong.

So I decided on a 3 day cycle (24 miles a day) commute Tuesday to Thursday leaving Mondays and Fridays free to drive (and deliver anything required for the week). I also knew I'd have to think about the second rule. Do something once or twice and you can easily quit but get me past that honeymoon period and this reinforced by our classic British weather where I would probably experience everything from hale to tropical heat in the same day and in a few weeks you can do anything.

A month later and I’m still cycling. I’ve missed a couple of days here and there but just carry on with the routine and I can tell you I’ve never looked forward to Fridays and Mondays so much as you start to take the little things like listening to music and heating whilst on route to work for granted

Anyway, training value? How has the above effected running? Well it’s hard to say at this early stage but I’ve stopped running as much mid-week so the training/work/wife errr I mean “life not wife” balance works better and I haven’t noticed an negative results so far in fact I’ve manage a couple of decent times.

One big bit of news on the cycling front is the fact that I took on a little project purchasing an old racing bike off the noticeboard at work for £50, stripping it down and rebuilding it as a Single Speed bike. I’d never done this before but thought they looked cool so what’s the worst thing that could happen?

The Advert

I totally guessed the gearing set-up but the conversion actually went pretty well. I took the decision to try to use it to ride to work but 24 miles a day over hilly ground would prove a test for the machine AND my legs! Well I have to admit I’ve fallen for her! A harder workout and faster times straight off the bat have relegated the top spec mountain bike back into the shed.

Post Conversion

Anyway, I’ll let you know what happens long term but so far, so good.

Baddow 10…

Last time out I’d just PB’d the Halstead marathon and was basking in the fact I’d finally broken sub-4 hours. Well where normal people (and I don’t qualify as one) usually put their feet up for a week post run, I was lining up at the start line in Great Baddow with …. you guessed it Mr Andy Hind (of previous blog entries fame).

This 10 mile road race isn’t normally on my schedule but a place came up via elite club runner Nikki Brockbank who couldn’t run and considering I can walk to the start I was in. The collective plan in this race was to start as quick as possible and try to maintain the pace. 10 miles is a strange race distance for an ultra-runner as it’s almost sprint like but still not really short. Andy led the way and set the pace and I was struggling. I always hate the first couple of miles of any race and this fast pace didn’t help.

Eventually I started to settle and I got into a rhythm, I’d moved slightly ahead of Andy but we were in the same pack that was now pushing hard up a 1 mile long hill which passed my house. I waved to my son who was walking the dog and then it was head back down and push on. I was slowing a little but kept on the heels of the people in front and was having some success hanging in there. We got to the top of the hill and then we could freewheel back down hill. I took the brakes off and let gravity do its stuff.

It was then that I turned around and I noticed that my partner in crime Andy was nowhere to be seen? For a few seconds I wondered what I should do but I was now with a couple of other runners from our club so decided to just keep going (I later saw Andy at the finish as he’d had to pull out due to a hip injury). I’d only ran this race once before and I hoped to get close to my PB as I still felt strong from last week, I was enjoying myself and on schedule to get close to that last time so just kept pushing, I got to the last turn before the finish and just as I approached the line I could see the clock and managed a PB’d by about a minute, that was 2 in 2 weeks!

Capital Racing…

More than happy with my progress so far I carried forward my new found enthusiasm to London town where the whole Brazier family were running in the Bupa Westminster Mile. This was going to be a simple slow jog around part of the London marathon finish area near Buckingham Palace. Part of the proceedings for the day was the opportunity to meet some of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic teams and the children were looking forward to meeting them.



As I’d recently observed that the lack of true “barefoot” running material on the log so the Luna Flip Flops came off and I was running around the streets of the capital without footwear. First impressions? You would have thought that the Queen would have spent a little more money and got the road surface a little smoother.

It wasn’t actually that bad and if I’d been travelling a little faster then I think it wouldn’t have been so much of an issue but I was getting that familiar barefoot burn but was probably more to do with the lack of practice, post run the feet were a little sensitive in the forefoot area but fine. The funniest thing about the short run was the crowds though. There were 30 separate small races during the day that set off back to back and no one was really trying too hard. We ran past a large bunch of Japanese tourists who noticed my lack of footwear and must have assumed I was some form of celeb as they started going mental shouting and screaming at me. I smiled and waved back as my wife was wetting herself next to me.

Mr Wolf meets the Brazier's

Post run, the family finally managed to meet up with David Weir, Richard Whitehead and Mo Farah! It was a great day, check it out next year.

It’s a sprint NOT a marathon…!

Next up was yet another road race. I’m not a lover of these but they always help to keep me motivated and are better than endless training runs. This time the distance dropped even lower as again the family travelled this time to the Hatfield Broad Oak 10k. This race is probably one of the prettiest races in Essex as you run around the picture postcard village.

I had no idea or plan to follow before the race but I was interested in seeing how the long distance training would effect this short race especially as this was my PB course. I started the event quickly and tried to keep going as fast as I could (the usual default plan). It was a warm day and I soon noticed that I was struggling and it was hurting. I got to the top of the short hill at the start and eased off a little but mentally I think I had already thrown the towel in as I felt so slow and couldn't see myself getting faster. After approx. 3 miles though I realised that I wasn't as shattered as I thought and when I tested myself with an injection of pace and didn’t have any issues I kicked myself for not trying harder earlier, I then dropped a gear and increased the pace from Baddow 10 speed.

I latched onto the back of a slightly faster runner in front and kept running with them all the way in and I'm sure I negative split the second half of the race and finished only 30 seconds off my PB. Lesson well and truly learned! Lack of strategy slipping into long distance mode had resulted in missing out on my 3rd PB in as many weeks by seconds.

No actually it is a marathon NOT a sprint…!

The last road planned road race of the year for me was the Kent Road Runner marathon. This differed from a normal road marathon as it was 17 laps of a cycle circuit. The race director is a guy I work with and is a serious ultra runner and I'd been told it was relatively flat so good for PB's and you never know, could another sub 4 be possible?

Well the venue was very impressive and the track seemed a lot bigger than I imagined, I'd thought it would be almost an oval but it was just under 2 miles of winding perfect tarmac... Oh and it was also built on the side of a hill!

The organisation was impressive with everything running as clock work and soon when the race started I was running just over 8 min miles encouraged by Mr Paul Bridges from our club, the first few laps passed quickly and I did actually think the time and miles were going to fly but that thought wasn't to last.

The actual course was generally undulating but on one side featured a long steep steady incline up to the start finish. This wasn't bad but large enough especially as you had to do it 17 times! Everything looked good until about 16 miles when the fast start caught up. I'd actually managed to open a gap between me and Paul when he had answered the call of nature but he was now back and carried on straight past. By now the course was starting to get to me as we went round and my mood dipped. I was now doing approx. 8:50's and every minute that pace got slower until we had 10k left to do in under an hour, this should have been achievable but the wheels well and truly flew off.... Paul managed 3:58 in the end and I followed in 4:02. To be honest I'm happy to get my second fastest ever marathon time.


I'm convinced that if I'd started slower, I would have had the energy left at the end but I also don't regret giving a different strategy a go.

The race was completely different to any other marathon I'd done and I noticed a lot of ultra runners I knew taking part opposed to the "racing snakes" in the normal road races. All in all a good event and a real mental test, totally harder than I imagined! Back next year? Hmmmm we'll see!

What's up next? Longer training runs, more back to backs and a couple of LDWA Challenge Events building up to my first 100 miles.

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