Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Prague Half - Race Report

Well I'm back in the country after 3 days away indulging in delicious food, cold beer, flavoursome shisha and 13.1 miles of city streets. The 13.1 miles on the streets were the worst part by far! I was feeling really good before this one. Saturday morning was a carb loaded breakfast, hanging around a bit (not a fan of Midday starts) and then jumped onto the Metro to the chaos that was around the start. I have to say though, very well organised chaos. The bag check in was quick and painless, the toilet queues weren't utterly horrendous and all looked as if it was going to be a good day for a PB. Then we got to the start and the cobbles. Oh how I will never underestimate how much they can affect your race again. We hung around a man with a Red Balloon with 2:00 printed on it and tied around his shirt and that was my aim... To keep it in my sights for the first half of the race before picking it up in the second and get my PB.
This is my only gripe with the race organisation. All the runners were lined up by number and not by estimated time which meant that there were a lot of people trying to get to the front from the back and vice versa. This made the first few k's a complete free for all. We set off aiming for 5.35 k's (9 m/m) for the first half and it all seemed to be going well. Eatingtrees' Garmin was saying we were slightly up on time and my pace band said we were spot on for the first 8k so all good. The pain across the top of my foot arrived at around the 3km mark but it wasn't bad enough to stop or slow me. More just awkward. We jogged our way North West of the city along the river that meandered through the city and at this 8-10k point was where the tram lines and cobbles came out in force! These just seem to sap the energy from your legs and ankles.


At 11k I tried to pick up my pace in accordance with my race plan (the race plan was a new concept to me and part of my trying to become a proper runner.... pah!!!) but I just couldn't do it. Every time I picked it up, I had to get myself across 3 sets of tram tracks and the entire path and road covered in cobbles. It was an effort just not to trip up.

I watched as I lost seconds to my pace band at every km sign I past. This is pretty devastating to be honest but I still knew I could get a good time and that alone was pushing me on. Step up 17km marker and a check on the watch. Feeling OK and I could still post a time I would be happy with but I couldn't let myself drop anymore. Continuing back towards the start/finish was long straight roads (read cobbles) and I knew even though I was still 2/3km away, I was nearly there. I turned onto the bridge knowing that the 20km sign would be here somewhere and after dodging not one but two moving trams, the 20km sign was there. Look at the watch time. 1:52:20 ish. I had about 6 minutes to get to the finish or I wouldn't even get the PB I felt I should have got. I really pushed now with everything I had. Up the hills, over the cobbles, through the little tunnels with some great crowd support and there's the blue mat on the floor leading to the finish line. Another look at the watch. 1:58:08. Bollocks! I have only 25 seconds until I lose the PB chance. Now it's head down and give it everything. Running past people, coming to the line, finger on the stop watch... and Stop! 1:58:29! I'd done it. Only just but I'd done it. I had to wait for my official time and that came in at 1:58:30 so a new PB by 3 seconds.

In the end, around 3mins 30s longer than I wanted but a PB none-the-less so job done and on a bloody tough course too.

So will I run it again? Not if I'm aiming for a time no but was Prague worth the visit? Absolutely and I'm glad that I allowed myself to be bullied into it in the end. It's a course that shows you the modern city, the new regeneration work, the classic bridges, the Eastern block style history and of course, the cobbles. They alone, will be my eternal memory of Prague!


Saturday, 28 March 2009

Just a quickie from Prague

Well that's a bloody tough one! I managed a PB just... By only 4 seconds! My PB now stands at 1:58:29.

Now a rest before an evening of Lebanese food, shisha, mint tea and Staropramen. Bliss! I'll give a full report of the race when I return on Tuesday.

Good luck for Reading tomorrow!

Thursday, 26 March 2009

It's Prague o'clock

It's the last day of work and now I'm excited. My foot's stopped hurting enough that I know I can run, I've been doing some research and found some good bars and restaurants (main priorities of most trips have to be feeding my belly and glass of something chilled in the evening), I've looked at where might be cool to visit (Prague's a strange, strange place and includes a torture museum and a spiders and scorpions exhibit) and have also come to terms with sharing a hotel room with eatingtrees for 3 nights.

But this is going to be fun! It seems like it's a big event and has loads of support and I just can't wait. Travelling to different cities to run in events makes all this training worth it. I'm nervous though. I got like this pre Fleet as well but this is more intense. Prague was always the main event this year and I just want to do well. This is PB territory.

I'm sure you've seen eatingtrees' post about the completely unknown weather so I'm packing a little of everything which seems sensible. Who cares though, whatever the weather, it's gonna be great. I'll try and post my time up whilst out there so watch this space and also a massive GOOD LUCK to everyone running the Reading Half on Sunday Morning. My thoughts will be with you as I rest my dull and aching muscles!

Also finally, 14 hours after first checking the website and constantly pressing refresh, I'm in to the Royal Parks Half! £39 is a bit of robbery I reckon but the event is well supported and good fun and also has a place in my heart as it was my first ever HM when I did it last year so to be honest I had to pay it really. It's also the place I want to meet my goal of 2009 and if I do that, I certainly won't care about £39 at all!!! See you in a few days!!!

Monday, 23 March 2009

This is getting annoying now!!

I seem to have done something to my foot during Fleet. Across the top of my left foot (approx in line with my middle toe) my foot is really painful when pushed and also now when I walk. It was sore for a day or so after Fleet and then seemed fine and then when I went for a run on Saturday morning, the pain came back immediately and now it just won't go away. It won't stop me running Prague (5 days YAY!!!) but just means that ibuprofen will be eaten as if they were jelly babies!

I've done plenty of research over the weekend and i've discounted the following: 1)Shoes too tight: My trainers are always relatively loose through the middle part of my foot as just one of the weird things about my feet is that I have extremely high arches. 2)Broken Metatarsal: I can walk and run without falling and rolling around on my back. Therefore, not enough pain to be broken. 3)Me being lazy: I was really looking forward to running tomorrow with eatingtrees but I don't think it's a good idea until Prague now so that idea's buggered too!

Assumptions: It's something to do with muscles/tendons in the top of my foot and I intend to rest it and ice it until Prague.

As I said though, I won't let it change the run. I'll still be aiming for a PB and my reward?? Well that will a few days of Staropramen, Shisha and feeding my geeky love of bridges!!

As a side note, my run on Saturday (8.74 miles, 1:17:56, 8.55 m/m) was interesting to say the least. My entire route was blocked with rowers and their 8 man boats (I'm sure there's a more technical name other than '8 man boat' but you ain't gonna get it from me). Therefore I spent the entire route trying to not be hit in the head with oars and boats as they moved them around and then by the time I got to the home stretch towards Putney Bridge, I had to deal with the General Public, their dogs, their grandkids and the numerous snack stalls set up all along the river too. Twas Madness I tell you!!! I found an article in the paper on Sunday saying there were over 400 boats. 400!!! Thats over an extra 3200 people to dodge not including the public! ARGH!!! Leave my river route alone. Well at least until around 9/9.30am once I've got home to my coffee and my sausage muffin!!

NOTE: I'm aware that 'sausage muffin' and my previous post about weight loss don't quite go together but I assure you... it's an extremely good painkiller. So there!

Friday, 20 March 2009

When I grow up, I wanna be a proper runner

I know many proper runners. You know, the 1:3x:xx Half Marathon types. I'm not one of them and never will be but I'd like to at least be a better runner. See I have a dream. My dream is for my PB for a half to start 1:4x:xx by the end of 2009. I have 3 more HM's set for this year (Prague, Down Tow Up Flow and then the Royal Parks). Obviously I can't count Prague as that's in 8 days and taking 8 and a half minutes off in 8 days is not very likely. DTUF is at the end of July and I'm thinking it will be pretty warm but could may be a chance to get in the low 1:50's but not under that. So it looks like it could all come down to Royal Parks. Which is a lot of pressure on one race so firstly I'm thinking of doing the Surrey Badger in Sept (which I'm sure will delight my g/f) but secondly and more importantly, I'm going to change my training, and this.... will be the subject of today's blog. (It took a while but I got to the point eventually).

So currently, when training, I have never run more than 10.1 miles leading up to a HM. I really felt this during 'Snotfest 2009' when in the last 3 miles my legs started feeling so, so heavy. Therefore:

Plan number 1: is that I'm going to increase my longest weekly run, firstly to 12 then maybe onwards to 14/15 miles (that's going to hurt right?) and by that point I'll be running further than I need to so my legs will be used to it and therefore I won't look quite so hideous and close to death by the time I cross the line. This will obviously benefit any spectators too.

Plan number 2: is going to be to start running hills. I cannot explain how bad this is gonna be. I mean, running up hills hurts. I get a burning feeling in my thighs and that's just not healthy! But I have been told on a number of occasions that running hills is one of the best things I can do and I guess I can't really argue considering the person telling me is one of those annoying 1:3x:xx Half Marathon types.

Plan number 3: will be to introduce short sprints to my long distance runs which I reckon will hurt just as much as the hills. In fact, the first (and only) time I ever tried this, across Hammersmith Bridge as a flat out sprint at around mile 4, I'm actually convinced my lungs exploded. I cannot begin to explain how much this hurt.

With all these tweaks to my training, I'm reckoning that it will increase both my strength and lactate threshold and this along with losing a little weight (boo hiss) will help me meet my 2009 goal!

See... Simple. That's all it's gonna take. 6 months of pain, numerous pairs of trainers and the will not to give up and go to the pub!

Monday, 16 March 2009

Fleet Half: Race Report

Well I did it. Carrying an approx 3kg of extra snot, I completed it in 2:02:08. Overall pace of 9:18 m/m. Revised target time was 2:05:00 because of the Man Flu and on Saturday night, I still wasn't planning to run so overall, I'm happy. Not ecstatic. But happy. And at least I've done the distance now 2 weeks prior to Prague.

As myself and eatingtrees wandered to the start (in the middle of a housing estate), we looked up to see the estimated finishing time sign saying 1:30. Oh no, lets head to the back. The back just said 2 hours. No 2 hours + so we settled near the back and stood around like lemons for a bit. First thing I noticed... It was full of proper runners. This wasn't an any shape, any size event like the Royal Parks that I enjoyed so much in Oct. This had proper runners that were going to completely embarrass me in a couple of hours time. I put that to the back of my mind and focus on my own race. My target. Completion, staying alive and not eating concrete! After babbling on about negative splits for the last couple of weeks, this was my sole intention. To take it easy at the start. Bugger. Took it too easy. 9:30, 9:30, 9:15. So after 3 miles, a minute and 15 seconds down on where I wanted to be in an ideal and me feeling 100% world. Oops. Never mind, I wasn't about to blitz it and ruin myself so we just picked up the pace a bit and carried on plodding along.

Now I want to mention something here. The word I heard a lot of in the build up to this, from people who have completed was flat. Flat! WHERE WAS THE EFFING FLAT BIT???? Now I admit that if you added all the 'up' slopes and took away all the 'down' slopes then it may end up pretty even but running along a country road going up and down over the hills is not what I call flat! ARGHHH!!! Anyway, we plodded along at roughly the same pace and got to the 7 mile mark (time was approx 1:06:00). Time for the music playlist!! On it went and I picked up my pace instantly. I knew I wouldn't beat it to the finish in my current state but I wanted to give it a good go. I started weaving through a few people and felt pretty good. Ticked the miles off and compared to my music, I was around a minute down on my 'perfect time' from 7 to 10 miles. That's good. 10 to 11 was OK but I felt myself slowing and then 11-12 was just one long meandering uphill in which you kept being able to see other runners in the distance (not fair!). Now that was slow! 12-13 was very tough and wasn't helped by numerous breaks/bumps of concrete where the tree roots had had their way. I tripped and nearly fell 2 or 3 times in that mile. The last time was VERY close and the thoughts running through my mind were, do I have the energy to put my arms out and stop my face and glasses becoming my airbag. Luckily, I kept my feet and to the relief of the onlookers I reckon as I don't think any of them fancied trying to revive a 14 stone, snotty bloke who was looking like he'd run 100 miles and not just 12.5! I hobbled on (there's no way I can describe it as running by now) and went over the final speed bumps without any falls and finally crossed the line.

I've worked out an average and I believe I ran the first half in approx 1:01:40 and the second in 1:00:28 so happy days with the negative split theory. It works, I will never doubt you again.

I left eatingtrees at the 7 mile mark so for the rest of his race, he'll need to tell you himself.

So good decision to run? I think so but I'm suffering for it now. Usually after 10 mile training runs, I feel good the next day but I seemed to have made the cold worse and made every single muscle ache a lot at the same time. Needless to say, sleep last night was non-existent. Moan, moan, bitch, bitch!! My lovely girlfriend really does have to put up with a lot and not once did she say well it's your own fault so thank you. You're a star!

Now a bit of rest this week, to attempt to kill this cold and then it's back to getting ready for Prague but I'm looking forward to it even more now. BRING IT ON!!! I want that PB!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

New, Shiny, Lovely, Mmmm

The cold is still here and I'm trying to fight it to the best of my ability in order to be ready for Fleet but I had something through to cheer me up today.

These are the New Balance MT1110GO that have been sent by the lovely people at FitnessFootwear. They are a trail running shoe that I intend to use on the towpaths and around the parks of SW London. I'll be giving a review of these once I've worn them in a bit so please watch this space. I'm off to stroke my trainers some more...

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Help Required. Apply Within

Oh Cock it!!

I've got the start of a cold!! 5 effing days before Fleet and I've woken up with a sore throat, crappy cough and slightly snotty. It started last night but was hoping a good night sleep would sort it. It hasn't! It's only the start of it so I think I can push it back again but I need some advice from the runners out there please.

I'm already taking a lot of Vit C in various forms but I think I should do more. I'll buy some Echinacea at lunchtime. But anything else? Foods, drinks, should I do another short run on Thursday or just leave it now until Sunday.

Also, just in case anyone was wondering, my run was awful last night. Ran out of puff, had no energy and ended up walking! Arse!!! This isn't the preparation I was after!!! ARGH!!!!!!!!

Monday, 9 March 2009

In the words of Europe... It's the Final Countdown...

6 days and counting then. I think I'm ready. Well certainly more ready than the last time I ran one of these ridiculous things!

I'm cutting right back on the training now (officially rather than lazily I might add). I'll do a 3 miler to stretch my legs tonight and then the same again on Thursday and that's it until Sunday. I've heard some good things about the Fleet HM including the words 'flat', 'fast' and 'PB'. I hoping to add 'completion' and 'alive' to those 3. Actually I'll be fine. I'm even trying to convince eatingtrees to sign up for another couple later in the year but it's dependant on 'outside factors' at his end at the mo. Prior to that though, we have to deal with the Prague HM in 3 weeks. Now this one, I'm looking forward to a lot!! This will be the big one and because of that, Fleet will be used more as a training (ha) run.

My target time for Fleet will be 1:55:00 which would be a PB. Not exactly quick but I'm sure you've guessed by the name of my blog that I'm not exactly in the peak of physical fitness. My build is more Russian wrestler (yes the female ones) than distance runner and that time will suit me fine. The gel packs are at the ready, the water bottle is clean, the music playlist is sorted and the best thing of all about the Fleet HM??? Well upon completion I'll be less than 3 weeks away from a 3 week holiday in SE Asia! Now there's the best bit of motivation I could hope for!

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Stuck between a lazy and a tired place

Miles intended since Saturday: approx 6.66 (This works out like this. I was intending to do any of 6 on Tuesday, 8 on Wednesday or 6 on Thursday)

Miles since Saturday: 0 (This works out like this. I didn't bother)

Hmm... This post isn't off to a great start is it! But I do have a number of (crap) reasons for this.

On Tuesday I had loads and loads of good intentions to run home from work. I bought my stuff in, I ate carbs the night before, I didn't pig out during the day. See, all prepared. Then came a problem. Some of the people at my work can be a right pain in the arse sometimes! This put me in a tremendously bad mood. Like really bad. Bad enough for me to strop out of work the second it turned 17:30 and headed straight for the shop for Wine and Mini Eggs. You'll be please to know that this worked. I felt much better later. I didn't even care that I hadn't run as I could make it up later in the week and as eatingtrees had declared it 'National Shite Run Day', it didn't matter anyway.

Wednesday, I couldn't as I had a gig to go to that I was really looking forward to. Very quickly as gigs are a little passion of mine, they're called Mumford and Sons and they were playing at the ICA. 4 blokes and guitars, double bass, banjo, keyboard and accordian plus 4 cool voices. Very cool to dance around like a loon to and these boys will be MASSIVE. I have been to many a gig over the last few years and this was one of the best ever! Please, if you get a chance to listen, do it. I have nothing to do with them but they just make me truly happy when I hear them!! Anyway, because of this, no run. Again.

Before leaving work on the Wed I found out that we had a big company thing after work on Thursday. So I didn't bother bringing my stuff in as there was no point right? Wrong! They cancelled the meeting at 9.15am Thursday morning and left me banging my head the table in frustration. Now I have to admit, this is where it gets a little (read VERY) lazy. I don't do well at getting home and then running. I have no motivation for it. When I get home, that's my energetic bit done. I'd like to say otherwise but it's the truth. Once I'm home, I just won't put my running gear on. So I've just eaten a Pizza. And not run. Again. Bugger! Mmmm Pizza.

OK, bang goes my Friday night. I'm going to do 6 miles tomorrow. Or 8. This depends on whether I run Saturday morning. OK decision made. I will run 6 miles home from work tomorrow. I will then get up early Saturday morning and do another 6 as punishment before heading to Essex. That'll be 12 miles which isn't great but as it's only 1 week before Fleet, I'm cutting back. Albeit through laziness... which is just wrong.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Amphibians and bad calculations

So another 10.1 miles this weekend meaning a socially acceptable 15.8 miles for this week. Clocked 1:28:49 for the 10.1 which is still OK but I was a touch disappointed. I think after last week I expected it to go wonderfully well again and break all records known to man obviously forgetting that I'm a slightly overweight foodie who likes a few too many glasses of wine most of the time. Plus, In my experience, a bad run always follows a good one. That will be my excuse of the day! Write it down and use it as your own.

I set off around 8.30am on Saturday morning safe in the knowledge that at least I wouldn't have a trip to Sainsburys to interupt my run this time. (It should be mentioned at this point that if your delightful and wonderful girlfriend asks you to dinner and also knows that you are running home from work, it's bad form to be asked to stop on the way home to buy ingredients for said dinner.) For the record, the dinner was lovely but that's really not the point. Anyway, I digress.

Back to this weekend's run. I was really intending to take it easy for the first 5 miles like last time but I took it a bit too easy me thinks. A 9:23!!! Ooops. Time to play catch up! Then caught up too much and went backwards and forwards over and under the magic 9 m/m time until 6 miles had gone. By this point I was 32 seconds over where I should have been. Something wasn't right and I'm not just talking about my ability to run. Since sitting down this morning and re-checking my route on runningAHEAD, I've worked out 2 things. Firstly, my 10.1 miles is actualy dead on 10 miles as I now use a tow path which cuts a bit off the route and secondly, I was slightly out with all my mile markers and therefore my spilts were all over the place!! The net effect appears to be that I've run a slightly shorter distance in total and therefore slower BUT my first 6 mile splits were quicker than I though they were. This proves one things and one thing only. I'm very confused! It may be time to become a running geek and invest in a Garmin. I don't tend to need encouragement to spend money on gadgets but with a holiday coming up in April, I will wait until my return I think.

Question: Why did the frog cross the road? No honestly, just near Fulham FC's ground, in the road and not far from the path, a bright yellowy/green and black frog/toad type thing. I know I'm trying to be a 'proper' runner now but this really did take up a lot of the next 8 miles of thought process. Where had he come from? Where had he been? Did he turn up at the wrong weekend as Fulham were playing away? Plus, was he (I'm assuming it was a he anyway, I didn't really check) going to get squished by a runner/cyclist/motorist at some point. He didn't even flinch when I went past!

One last wonderful point to leave you with. I'd like to celebrate my first blister of the new trainers. It's taken a while but it's finally here. Right on the tip of the toe that has the ever-non-growing nail! That in itself is weird. It hasn't grown since I started running in these trainers. I'm not sure if it's in mourning for my previous trainers or whether it's just in protest at my decision to run but whatever it's reasons, it appears to be happy to have it's growth stunted! Actually, maybe it has started smoking....