Falling Down…

Potential disaster at the Sheffield Half Marathon

The song choice becomes VERY obvious at the chorus!

At the moment I’m tapering towards the big one, the Blackpool marathon on the 23rd April. Sheffield half marathon was perfectly placed in the calendar to use as a race to do just this so on Saturday Kate and I caught the train over to Sheffield (its quicker, easier and cheaper for us to get the train from Widnes to Sheffield than it is to drive) to stay the night to be ready for the 9.30am Sunday start.

Prior to the race I’d had been having bother with my blisters and had visited a podiatrist. After looking at my feet, trainers etc she suggested that I should wear trainers that fit me (DO NOT go up half a size as the running shops tell you) and suggested that I should get some (semi-bespoke) orthotic in soles. These in soles came one day after the Timpell 20 mile race.

As I needed my feet to recover following Trimpell for my Swedish Arctic Snowshoeing Trek just a week later (a truly incredible week away in the far north of Sweden – I will get round to blogging about this) I didn’t have much chance to properly try out my new insoles. I also had bought MORE new trainers (this time the right size). I done a quick 4 mile run out a few days prior to the race, and although feeling like my heels may pop out of my trainers I thought I’d just need to get used to the new in soles.

So, on the morning of the race I was up nice an early for a breakfast and headed out in to the morning sun and took the short walk across the city to the start line. The atmosphere was buzzing and this felt very much like a big city race. I had the usual pre-race nerves, and I had a feeling this was going to be a tough race. I’d read about the big hill and the 5 mile incline going out of the city and even at 9am the weather was very warm! After using the facilities and getting in my re race sports drink and gels got myself in position in the blue wave and near the start line.

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The race started at 9.30am and we headed out through the city. The first half mile or so of the race was a bit crowded and the corners of the course were a little bit tight and was a little bit stop start with the number of people in the race, and getting around the outside of some (yes, I know this is to be somewhat expected in a big city race).

Anyways, once out of the city centre and on to Ecclesall Road the course opened up and there was much more room. I think I’d left it too late to have me sports drink as I already needed a pee this early in to the race. I passed some loo’s around mile one, and I was having a look around for possible places to go. Then around 1.5 mile disaster happened. My left ankle just gave way on me and I went tumbling to the floor. I have never fell over in a race before. I’ve never fell over in a training run. I never ever fall over (apart from when I’m drunk, then I ALWAYS fall over!). I’m not sure what happened here. I may just of been looking for a suitable place to pee and not looked where I was going, I might just of hit a pot hole, or the insoles and extra height in my trainer might of made me fall (I suspect the latter).

After my tumble and my forward roll I went and sat in a bus stop and composed myself. My ankle hurt a little bit but I thought that I’d have a go on it, and I’d try to run it off. I was running in NWCR colours and I didn’t want to pull up and not finish. I headed back on the course and up Ecclesall Road (and found a suitable spot to relieve myself).

Soon enough the course started the incline that was well advertised. Getting out on to Ringinglow Hill and getting up to mile 5 of the course was particularly tough. The organisers even had a “King of the Hill” chipped mile between 4 and 5 miles. I was pretty slow through miles 3-5, I must admit to stopping a couple of times to check on my ankle (though I might just of been using this as excuse to rest). My King of the Hill time was not very good, but at least I passed Rugby League legend (and massive human being) Keith Senior around here.

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What goes up must come down, and once Ringinglow Hill was summited the decline was just as steep and afforded some wonderful views across the peak district of this most beautiful day. I now began to pick up the pace and that average pace on my Garmin began ticking down. Seems funny that my ankle began to hurt less as the course got easier.

My aim for this race was not to go for a PB and to use this as a training run. With the heat, the hill and the fall and injured ankle a PB was not going to happen for this run, but around mile 10 I ended up near the 1.55 pacer and I through that would do for me, so I stuck near him as we came back in to the city centre.

As the crowds cheered in the city I heard a few shouts of “Go on Big Al” (I had Big Al printed as the name on my Number) this spurred me on and I gave it all for a sprint finish, coming in at 1.55.55.

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What I would say about this race are the crowds are fantastic. Right throughout the whole course there were lots of people handing out water, jelly babies and spraying people with water pistols (in this heat this was greatly appreciated!). This is the best crown I can ever remember at any race. Absolutely brilliant, and makes me want to come back and do the race next year!

All things considering I’m pretty happy with that time. I then collected my pint of alcohol free Erdinger (apparently full of electrolytes), medal and goody bag. By the time Id collected all of this stuff my ankle immediately started hurting. Funny what adrenaline does in shutting out the pain.

 

I limped away for my traditional post-race photos, before phoning up Kate and asking her to get the ice ready for me when I got back to the hotel. I got back, iced up for as long as I could then got ready to get the train back to Widnes so I could get home and recuperate.

After looking after my ankle and going through the whole RICE process on the Sunday night, I woke up on Sunday morning with a rather large, and very sore ankle. I’m lucky enough to work for an understanding employer, and I am able to work from home which was needed on this occasion.

Again after restringing and icing all Monday morning it wasn’t getting any better and I took a trip down to the walk in centre. After looking at my ankle and me telling the triage nurse that I was running a marathon in 2 weeks she just chuckled and said “no you’re not”! After a nervous wait for the results of an x-ray I seen a Doctor and we looked at the x-ray which surprisingly to the Doctor, and much to my relief was clear! I asked the Doc if the thought I’d be able to run in the marathon. He didn’t say I wouldn’t, but said that it might be possible to run the marathon with lots of resting and icing.

As it is I don’t have a choice. I will be taking part in the marathon. If I’m able to run it all the better, but I WILL get round that course.

I have been a bit lazy in writing up this blog entry, and I now sit here a week later on Easter Sunday I have spent the week resting my ankle, and getting plenty of ice on it. My bruising and swelling has gone down, and although it’s still a little sore, there is still evidence of some swelling and its clicking like hell I’m confident that I’ll be running the marathon next week.

My lessons learned from this race is to STOP if there’s a possible injury. It is not wise to “run it off” with a marathon around the corner. Especially as this marathon has took over your life with all the training and effort I have put in.

Now for a week of rest (well maybe some light training), eating and looking after my ankle before the big one next week.

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On The Road Again

This blog details the tale of the Trimpell 20mile road race in Lancaster on Sunday but as Kate and I stayed up in Lancaster (well Morecambe) in Bri the Campervan on Saturday night the story starts with us getting on the road again.

We headed out up to Morecambe in Bri the Campervan. Bri is a 1997 converted Iveco van that we bought back in September, and obviously named it after my Dad. We’ve only done a couple of trips so far and we’re still learning the ropes. The van is in great condition and we love it, but it is fairly old and there’s still a few things that can go a little wrong on it.

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Bri The Campervan on a sunnier day!

On Saturday it was the heater blower. In fact the heater blower motor has been temperamental since our last outing up in Keswick for New Year. We’ve been on the lookout for a new one (well second hand) since then but we’ve not yet found one. Before we left on Saturday we had the van in the garage to give it a once over, and all was working fine.

Now the weather was pretty awful on the way up to Morecambe, and it was lashing it down as we were driving up the M6. Around 30 miles in to the journey the heater decided to stop working!  That’s not a problem if the weather is nice, or even if it’s just cold, but when it’s lashing it down and when its cold it means a really steamed up windscreen. Which meant we were driving up the M6 in the pissing down rain and wiping the screen with cloths and towels!

Eventually the heater started working after many Fonzie taps on the heater controls, but by this time we had just got in to Morecambe so it was a bit late! Anyways, we got to the site, found out pitch and got all set up for the night.

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We had a bit of tea and cake and I prepared my kit for the following morning then we got ready to hit the town. Well when I say town we went The Hurley Flyer pub over the road from the camp site for us tea. Hopefully this was the first and the last time we go here. The food and the service were pretty terrible and we’ll never go there again. Anyways back to the camper for some foam rollering, an early night and a good night’s sleep. Well almost, I think we need a mattress topper for the van and the wind and the rain was pretty wild throughout the night which made for in interesting night’s sleep.

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Tight squeeze for foam rollering

So up bright and early to have some breakfast and to pack up the van before the very short 4 mile drive in to Lancaster. A lesson learned here, as I did not give myself enough time to both get ready and pack up the van. I really need to add a half hour on to van packing up before the morning of a race again. I was very rushed, and felt very under-prepared getting in to Lancaster and I was extremely stressed. I tend to get stressed out on race mornings anyway and the idea of coming out for the night in the camper was supposed to reduce this not make it worse! Kate dealt with me very well indeed and I must apologise for being so stressed and narky!

As I was in the camper I had to find a suitable car park and this so happened to be a little way away for the race HQ where I needed to pick up my race number so it necessitated a jog to get to the whilst taking on my pre-race energy gels.

On my way up to Lancaster Castle I met up with my training buddy Helen and her mum & step dad. I was still highly strung at this point and Helen helped me out pointing me in the right direction for my race number and stuff. Interestingly the race numbers were collected out of some prison cells (until 2011 the prison at Lancaster Castle was still functioning).

Anyways we headed down to the start line, when I say line I mean tunnel. I’m not entirely sure where the start was but we made it there in time, and set off out in to the wind and rain.

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The first mile or so was quite difficult going as we were getting stuck in lots of traffic and the paths were pretty tight so it was hard work getting passed people. Once over the Millennium bridge that goes over the river Lune the path opened up again on to a walking / cycling path heading out towards Morecambe and coming close to the campsite of the previous night. The course then went round the Trimpell Sports club where the race must of got its name from before doubling back on itself heading towards Lancaster.

After heading back over the Millennium Bridge the course then dropped down to follow the Rive Lune heading back in land away from Morecambe. The difficulty was at this point keeping a sensible speed as both Helen and I were going a little bit faster than planned. In fact I found the first 10 miles of the course very easy and was going very strong, although I could already start to feel some hot spots on my feet so I was anticipating blisters (despite my best efforts of pre-emptive blister plastering and taping).

It was at 10 miles Helen and I split up. It had started out very cold on the morning of the race, but your temperature soon goes up after running for a bit and Helen needed to lose some layers so I left her at the 10 mile marker and I carried on alone. The next 8 miles where by far the most scenic of the course. Basically you ran out on a mainly trail path to somewhere near the villages of Caton & Brookhouse at 14 miles and double backed on yourself for the return to Lancaster. On this section there were a couple of bridges that took you over the River Lune and you were privilege to some cracking views (there happened to be a photographer there at that point too – you can see the out and back pictures!). The miles between 10 and 15 were getting a bit tougher for me and the pain from my blisters started to get a little bit worse, but I was still going pretty good.

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Heading Out
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Heading Back

I started to get tired and my feet started to get worse from mile 15, and I know at the appoint that I wasn’t going to get a particularly quick time so I stopped for a quick picture of my own from the Crook O’Lune Bridge.

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Although the scenery was good I was starting to get a bit fed up from mile 17 and my pace slowed right down. Not only that but I had an issue with my headphones so I had no music to take my mind away from my painful blistered feet. On reflection I should have stopped to investigate why this was. I guess it was just a loss of Bluetooth connection, but at the time I though the batteries had gone flat. It also felt the wind was in my face on the last 5 miles heading back towards Lancaster.

I really struggled from mile 17, and I had to stop more than once as my feet were getting very painful. However the other runners on the course were so supportive so I persevered I was glad to see the 19 mile marker located just before the course headed back in to the city and towards the castle.  I had been warned that the “little hill” (as the race organisers put it) that heads up towards the finish within Lancaster Castle was brutal. I part staggered part jogged up the hill, turned the corner then was met with another smaller hill on cobbles which felt horrible but at least the finish line was now in sight and I was extremely relieved to limp over the line in a time of 3.08.23.

As you can see I ran this course in my Widnes Running Club shirt. There was great support out on the course from some the faster guys from the club out there and also from other runners giving  me a “Come on Widnes” shout which was very encouraging and felt great. It’s also good to see the club getting noticed as we are still in our infancy. The encouragement from the marshals on the course and from the volunteers on the water stations was also fantastic and much appreciated. Its this kind of support that really gives you a boost and makes running these events enjoyable (or gets you through the event!).

After picking up my medal, t shirt and wolfing down a chocolate bar I seen Helen come in to the finish just a couple of minutes after me. After a post-race chat and rest I headed back to the van.

The conditions on the course had not been great with some quite heavy showers and blustery conditions, however the weather really decided to take a nasty turn as I limped back to the van. The heavens opened and it absolutely pissed it down. I was drenched and very very cold as I got back to the van.

Luckily for me Kate had got some minestrone soup and a cup of tea ready for me for when I got back to Bri the Campervan. After me being pretty fed up with all the stress it had caused in the morning this is when the van really come in to its own. I had somewhere to shelter, get warm, something to eat and drink and somewhere to get changed and clean myself up. A real god send after a 20mile race in tough conditions and blisters from mile 10!

Once I finally got warm and ready it was almost time to go. As we had heater problems on the way up I decided to run the van for a bit to get the heaters warmed up whilst we cleaned up and done the dishes etc. Now we had parked on a slight incline and I needed to take the van out of gear to start it. After getting the van running I headed back around to help Kate with the cleaning. I then noticed that the post in front of the van was moving away from us! “Shit, its moving!” I shouted as I ran my last few meters of the day back around the front of the van and jumping in and hitting the brakes before the van rolled gently down the hill! Another lesson learned. Always keep the van in gear when parked up!

One final note on my blisters. I have seen a podiatrist prior to this run, and I was waiting on some orthotic insoles (which I got the day after the run), the advice that she gave me was NOT to go a half size up like suggested in the running shops, and to wear shoes that fit. I also have a weakness in me left ankle which causes my right to hit the ground harder which goes some way to explaining why I tend to get worse blisters on my right foot (and why in the past I’ve tended to get things like ITBS and shin splints worse on my right leg). I have been told to work on strengthening that ankle, to stretch my calves and hamstrings EVERY day and to get lots of sports massages! I now have the insoles and yet ANOTHER pair of trainers this time in the right size (those Hokas are going in the bin) and hopefully this will help reduce the blisterage. Though I won’t be running as far as 20 miles now until the marathon.

All in all this was a tough run, painful for the last few miles in pretty bad weather conditions but I’m glad to of completed it. I also learned a few lessons about staying in the campervan, and I think this can work for me going forward (I just need to give myself an extra 30 minutes). Hopefully with my new insoles and trainers I might see an improvement on the blister front. One the plus point my feeding and nutrition strategy seemed to work ok for 20miles so I can transfer this to the marathon.

I’m heading for the trekking holiday in the Swedish Arctic wilderness for a week this coming Sunday. Not ideal preparation for a marathon in 4 weeks but I love adventure and this was booked long before I decided to run a marathon and it’s going to be the trip of a lifetime. I’ll try to blog about it on my return!

Peace and Love.

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The Stars of Track and Field

This blog covers my double header weekend of the Blackpool Stanley Park 10k on the Saturday and the Warrington Winter Track Team Marathon on the Sunday.

Seeing as both runs featured a track the song choice to accompany this blog is Belle & Sebastian’s “The Stars of Track and Field”:

Widnes is famous in music with the Stone Roses Spike Island gig going down in baggy folklore, Paul Simon’s “Homeward Bound” was wrote on Widnes Railway Station and Widnes actually gets a mention in “The Stars of Track & Field”.

Widnes also gets mentioned in lots of other popular songs like: KLF’s “Its Grim up North”, David Brent’s “Life on the Road”, Elvis Costello’s “Watch Your Step”  and of course in Black Grape’s “Reverend Black Grape” and in Marvin Gaye’s “Can I get to Widnes?”.

Saturday – Blackpool Stanley Park 10k

Saturday’s race was a tough day at the office. I had one of those days where my lungs just did not want to work.  On the Friday night I went to a gig again this time to see Man and the Echo (who are a wonderful witty indie power pop band from Warrington, they feature in my blog “Distance Runner”). Though I drove there and back and stayed sober (I learned my lesson from “Young Dumb and Full of Cabbage”) it was still a relatively late night getting back – especially after dropping off my pissed brother and his pissed mates outside Tony Meloni’s Sambuca bar. That drive back from Manchester was fun, cheers David & the Todds.

I didn’t have the best night’s sleep on the Friday night (having a piece of pizza at midnight just before bed didn’t help) and I woke up around 4am looking for my inhaler as my chest was pretty bad and I was struggling with my breathing. I then struggled to get any more sleep before my alarm went off at 7.30 and I got up to eat some breakfast and get my stuff together (I didn’t have the time on the previous night as I was out at the gig).

So not the best preparation as I headed out to meet my running buddy Stu and the East Lancs Road for the trip up to Blackpool (I am allowed to say you ran the race now aren’t I Stu?).

We got there with plenty of time before the race which gave time for race number collection, PRP, and a warm up lap.

Race HQ was at Stanley Park Leisure Centre in Blackpool, and the course was a 2 lap route starting with a lap of the athletics track, then heading round the outside of the park, back through the park round some boating lakes and ponds, and back around for a lap of the track. Then repeating all this and with a nice fast finish on the track.

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I had planned on a sub 47 minute 10K for this race. There’s absolutely no reason why I should not be doing this at this stage of my training. In fact I got a 46.45 in the same race last year, so I set the pace on my Garmin for between 4.35 and 4.40 min/km. After the first kilometre is became quickly apparent that this was not going to happen for me today. The remnants of storm Doris was still knocking around in Blackpool, and the wind was pretty blustery. Not only that but I was wheezing and panting and struggling to get my breath. I was feeling that bad that for a brief moment I had contemplated stopping for a DNF. Instead I just slowed my pace right down, took on some inhaler and stuck with the race going ad a slow 5 min/km (ish) for the rest of the race.

I did have a bit left for the last kilometre so pushed it as hard as I could in the track for the last bit of the race coming in at 48.30 (for a course my Garmin measured 270m short!). All in all a disappointing time, it was just one of those days I think and I was just glad to of stuck with it and got it over and done with.

 

Sunday – Warrington Track Marathon

Saturday evening was a bit more chilled out. Kate and I went to Kate’s sisters for a Chinese and to see Kate’s cousin, Ben who was over visiting from New Zealand. Its bit of a shame it was this weekend he was visiting as due to my racing I couldn’t have a few drinks with him. We were back home nice and early on Saturday night, I had a much better sleep and my asthma was much better controlled so I was feeling much better for Sunday’s team track marathon.

The event was held at the Victoria Park track in Warrington. The premise was that in a team (you could participate in a team or individually) you covered 105 and a bit laps of the track between you which is 26.2 miles.

I ran as part of a team with some of the guys from Sweat Fitness. Stu and Helen are regular running buddies, and we roped in Leigh on this one. Both Stu and Leigh are trainers at Sweat, and in the group chat leading up to the event we were talking tactics. Stu had some convoluted plan that I didn’t (and still don’t understand), and we were still undecided till Leigh came up with the ridiculous idea that we take some kettlebells along and do some burpees and some kettlebell squats after each lap (basically we run a lap each then do 10 burpees and 13 goblet squats), which obviously I point blank refused to do.

One the morning of the race we all met up at Sweat for the short journey in to Warrington.  Somehow or other Leigh managed to get a 32kg and a 24kg kettlebell in to the back of the car to take to the track with us, and off we went to Warrington.

Once at the event we got ready, had a race briefing on how the event would work, and how the transitions would work, I had a quick PRP, and we headed out to the team transition area to get set up.

 

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I am part of Widnes Running Club, who also had a team in the event. The club had sent the big guns out to get the best possible time, and they and the other teams looked on in some bemusement as Leigh carried the kettlebells from the start to the transition area.

I’m not sure how and when it happened but we agreed to go along with his hair brained scheme. We dropped the burpee’s part of the idea but we stuck with the goblet squats. So basically each team member done a lap, tagged the next person in, then done 13 x goblet squats (Leigh, Stu and I using as 32kg kettlebell, Helen using a 24kg kettlebell).

Anyways, come 1030am it was race time, with Stu leading us off, then tagging in Leigh, followed by me and Helen.  It was basically like a maxed out interval session, run 400m as fast as you can, do 13 goblet squats, rest, repeat. 26 times.

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I make it sound worse than it was it was actually was. The first five laps or so felt a bit tough, but then once in to my stride and getting used to it, it soon felt ok. About half way through we each done a section doing 2 laps each to allow for toilet breaks, then back to the one lap each.

It started to feel tough about 3/4’s in to the race. It felt like the wind was getting stronger in the home straight with every lapped that passed (whether this was psychological I’m not sure), it was also raining ever so slightly making the kettlebell harder to handle the longer the race went on. It was also hard to keep track of where we were up to. Luckily Helen was around with her whiteboard to keep us on course.

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With our lap times dropping off as we were getting through the later laps bit Leigh ran the final bit to get Team Sweat home in 03:01:02. It would have been nice to crack 3 hours, but we’ve still got to be happy with this. We came in 7th overall, and the 4th team on the day. We can safely say that we were the only team that were doing goblet squats after every lap. In total we completed 1310 squats between us, equal to a cumulative weight of 40 tonnes!

On another note the team from Widnes Running Club won the day with a time of 2.40.40, so a great result for the club too.

All in all this was a great event. Really well organised, with good support. The idea of having runners to pick the soundtrack that was played throughout the day was great, and to be able to speak to the same people as the laps ticked by throughout the day was really good. There was a cracking atmosphere at the event and I think we all really enjoyed it, and the medal was great.

 

We’re already thinking of something bigger and better to up the anti at next year’s event (assuming they hold it again).

Here’s a pic of my medals from the weekend.

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Peace and Love.

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Pain is Temporary (Like Paul’s Secretary)

Paul McCartney invented techno, go on, have a listen:

Sunday’s race was the Village Bakery Wrexham Half Marathon. After my previous week’s mess up this was a chance to “get back on the horse”. I must admit my confidence was knocked slightly by my failure last week, but after my quickest parkrun time since May the day prior and a good race nutrition plan after picking up a High5 marathon race nutrition box I felt a bit better and well prepared on the morning of the race.

So up relatively early on Sunday to have a breakfast of porridge a couple of pieces of toast, the rest of the morning I would following High5’s half marathon fuelling plan to the letter. I rolled the old legs out, taped and talc’d my feet up (where I normally get blisters) and got my kit together and headed out to Wrexham. I don’t really like driving out this way on a weekend as I drive out this way every day for work, but it’s a bit easier on a Sunday morning than it is on a Monday morning.

The race started in an out of town semi-rural industrial estate on the outskirts of Wrexham, to be honest it wasn’t the most picturesque venue driving in to the industrial estate but I got to the race HQ at Wrexham Club House and parking nice and early to get ready for the race and to use the facilities. The queues were pretty long for the portaloo’s outside so I headed inside the Club House for my PRP (pre-race poo). The facilities were not great, with one of the toilets being out of action and I heard more than one person describe it as looking like the toilet out of trainspotting.

Business done I headed back the car to get prepped for the race and bumped in to my training buddy Helen who arrived at the race with her mum. I was giving Helen a lift back after the race so she left her stuff in the car which including a hip circle band so I took the opportunity to stick it on and use it for my warm up. A hip circle band is a thick elasticated band, and you can put it just over your knees and basically go for a walk, and it will give the legs (in particular glutes and hips) a good warm up. You do look a bit daft doing this though, and I got a few odd looks and a couple of comments from other runners.

Sticking to the High5 nutrition guide I had my two energy gels and an electrolyte drink on my walk down to the start line, and positioned myself in what I guessed was the group behind the really fast runners. Its sometimes tricky to get this right as you don’t want to get too close to the front as you’ll get in the way of the fast people,  but nor do you want to go too far towards the back and try and pick your way through runners that are slower than you.

Anyways, once the race was underway it became apparent that I had positioned myself just right with people of a similar ability to mine and we were off. The conditions were pretty much perfect, still, dry and very warm for this time of year (about 12°C). My main aim for the race was to beat my previous time of 1.48.03 that I got in the Central Lancs Half in January but I felt I could go quite a bit quicker than that so I had my pace target set on my Garmin of between 8 to 8.15 minute miles.
The first 5 miles of the race was a lap around the industrial estate. Again, not the most pleasant 5 miles but I was the fast end of my target pace of 8 minute miles. If I could keep this up I’d be on for a 1.45 time, and after about 4.5 miles the 1.45 pacer passed me. I thought about trying to stick with him for a while, but I decided to run my own race and not worry or thing about keeping with the pacer.

To keep with the feeding strategy I took on another energy gel at 5 miles, at which point the course then headed out past some farms and in to a bit more open country which made the route a bit more interesting and got some better views of the surrounding countryside.

It was about half way in I could feel the burn on my right instep where I’ve been getting my blisters. I’ve now tried a number of pairs of trainers and I made the decision to wear my Brooks Transcend 2 which were picked up for £30 at TK Maxx. So far I’ve not suffered from blisters in these trainers and I had done 17 miles in them the previous week with no major blister damage, but today was pretty painful. At around 8 miles it was really bothering me but then Macca’s Temporary Secretary came on my playlist and I immediately decided on the name to the blog, as I was thinking “pain is temporary” and I started to put the pain to the back of my mind and I took on another energy gel to think about something else.

My pace was still round 8 minute miles at this point and as I passed through the water station at 9 miles I thought I heard someone shout “go on Alan” and it gave me a little boost. I had idea who it was, or even if it was meant for me until I got to work and a colleague had said she’d seem me and was helping out at the drinks station – thanks Donna!

From 9 miles until the finish the course was a steady incline and I started to get pretty tired from here on in. In fact it felt like I was running on sand and I just couldn’t keep up the pace with me dropping down to 8.20 minute miles for the next couple of miles.

I took on yet another energy gel at 11 miles and I think this one was a bit too much. I tend to react badly with my asthma if I have too much sugar and a sign of this is a hot blotchy face and I felt like this was happening after the last energy gel. It didn’t seem to give me much of an energy boost as getting to mile 12 was my slowest mile. At this point it was just a matter of sticking with it. I knew that unless I stopped and walked I was on course for a PB, so it really was a matter of just putting one foot in front of the other, and repeating the whole “pain is temporary” mantra until the end of the race.

The last 3 miles felt harder than the previous 10, but passing the 13 mile marker does give you a bit of a boost and I tried to finish as strong as I possibly could. Though looking at the video I think I could have shaved another couple of seconds off as I seemed to slow down at right the line.

I was well and truly knackered at the finish and crossed the line with an official chip time of 1.46.53. This is a new PB so I’m pretty happy with it and I still think I can improve on this. The last few miles on this really done me in though. I think the incline together with the unseasonably warm weather done it for me. Not to mention the rather large blister!

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All in all though this was a good event for me. It was the first event I’d raced in my North West Cancer Research vest. I think the event was really well marshalled with some excellent encouragement around the finish areas and at the water stations. You also got a nice medal and some nice sourdough crumpets from the race sponsor. The things I didn’t really like were the setting/first few miles around the industrial estate, the facilities at the start were not brilliant, and of course the massive blister that I got. I’m not sure what to do about this not after working my way through three pairs of trainers. Next stop is a podiatrist I think.

Anyways, that’s me done till next week and another busy race weekend.

Peace and Love.

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Young, Dumb and Full of Cabbage

Some big lessons learned on Saturday, but first to Friday night…..

On Friday night Kate and I went to see the wonderful Cabbage (the tile of this blog is taken from the compilation of the EP’s that they realised in 2016) at EBGB’s in Liverpool. For the uninitiated Cabbage are the most exciting new punk rock band in the country with a reputation for raucous live shows.

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Friday was no different, a wild crowd in a venue not entirely suitable for this band, as the above picture shows. For some reason, whether it be the atmosphere, the raucousness or whatever the sensible couple of beers turned in to quite a lot more.

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When Kate and I got outside of the venue we got well and truly fresh air snipered, resulting in us being very drunk for the ride home (thanks and apologies Ted!).

So, a great gig by a great band (despite the venue), but not ideal preparation for the 17.5mile long run I had planned for the day after. I’m not sure it was worth it. It is definitely worth listening to Cabbage though:

Waking up early and very hungover on Saturday I headed up to Victoria Park to volunteer as a marshal for parkrun. This is the first time I’ve done this (you could say about time too after taking part in 29 park runs before), and I really enjoyed it. The bracing cold helped clear up my hangover a bit and it was good seeing the run from a different perspective and seeing people of all ages and abilities taking part.

 

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Marshalling duties completed I headed down to McDonalds for a pre-run fuelling session consisting of a large fries. Far from ideal.

After messing and moping around and generally feeling a bit sorry for myself I heading down to Sweat to meet up with my training partner Helen (Stu our other marathon training partner couldn’t make it this week – I forgot his excuse).

 

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After a quick warm up we headed out (only 30 minutes later than we planned!) up past the MegaTesco and heading down in to West Bank and over the Widnes-Runcorn bridge and through Runcorn old town, having a healthy pace of around 9 minute miles.

Once through Runcorn Old town we passed though some Astmoor Industrial Estate where we got right up close to some of the bridge roadworks, cutting through a closed road and under one of the new fly overs. The views of the different pieces of the bridge coming together was one of the features of this route, especially for a civil engineering nerd.

Other that the views of the new bridge there was little else of interest through Runcorn Old Town and Astmoor, but picking up the trail around Haddocks Wood made the route a bit more interesting but as we got in to this area a guy on a scrambler shot past us, then as we went got round the corner we seen that he’d churned up much of the playing fields from doing doughnuts on his bike. A strongly worded email to the Widnes & Runcorn Weekly World “signed Angry and Disappointed from Widnes” might be in order.

We ran up towards Norton Priory and headed back down towards Sandymoor. I must admit there was a few times from Runcorn Old Town through Sandymoor where a quick pause was necessary to check the route map. Other than these pauses we were still going strongly at this point, with my hangover not having any real impact on my running.

Once through Sandymoor and Keckwick we got up to the Daresbury Laboratories with its iconic tower we then picked up the path running along the Bridgewater Canal. A nice, flat fast section and very scenic section we both really enjoyed running here, so much so we over shot where was suppose the leave the trail and almost ran through to Walton Gardens.

Once back on the road we had another rather uninspiring stretch heading back to wards Warrington and getting hit by some wind and rain. The whole route was gloves on, gloves off, gloves on again. It was a really cold day, fine when your running, but awful when stopped.

The route headed up to Bridgefoot traffic island in Warrington, passing the Village hotel where Kate and I were due to stay that night (we were going to a party that evening) and although I still felt ok at that point I did feel a little bit fed up that I still had 6 miles to run home just to come straight back to this point.

Once through Warrington we had another quick stop at the Pink Eye to allow me to take care of some chaffage (you don’t want to know, but I always take a little tin of Vaseline out on a long run just in case), this allowed me to have a quick breather as I was starting to feel a bit tired now. I took on a sachet of almond butter I had took out to try as some fuel. This was an abject failure and just stuck to the roof of my mouth. I also used up the last of my water trying to get rid of the stuff.

We got on the move again (ouch! it hurts getting going again – its ok when you’re going, but starting again is painful) heading down the old Liverpool Road and picking up the path next to the Sankey Canal. This should now be plain sailing. The last 4.5 miles, all flat on a nice trail path. The home straight. However, somewhere between 13 and 14 miles I just tanked. No energy. Nothing.

It was so much hard work, and very very stop start. I was out of water, out of food and totally out of energy. This last 3 or 4 miles or so was the toughest I’ve ever “ran”. In this bit I was in a bit of a bad way, feeling very dizzy, pretty ill and was chucking up and went down hill pretty fast.

 

I am extremely grateful to Helen for helping along here. I was in a bit of a state and I was frustrating myself for my continual stopping though Helen was far too nice to be getting annoyed with me instead sharing her drink with me and feeding me dates and jelly babies (though some of this come back up). Helen even tried some daft games to try to take my mine off the task, like going through the alphabet animal game but I couldn’t even remember the letters of the alphabet. Those last three miles were really hell. I was telling myself things like “It’s only a Parkrun” or “Its only 20 minutes of your life”.

Finally after LOTS of encouragement and help the small bridge came in to view back over the canal (I did have to stop one last time) we got the road back up to Sweat.

After a quick “rest” (literally just having to lie down on the gym floor) I got a drink from the gym and said my thanks and goodbyes to Helen (Stu was in the gym, its just as well he didn’t join us as my stopping would of made him late for an appointment)  I headed home.

By the time I got home I was in one hell of a state. Very very dehydrated, and once stopped running got very cold very quickly. I got in to the living room and I was shivering pretty much uncontrollably. I think I was displaying some mild hypothermia symptoms. I had to quickly get out of my wet clothes, get wrapped up in a blanket and get in front of the fire.

 

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I felt awful, still felt sick was having stomach cramps and then my legs started cramping up. I was lucky to have Kate on hand to look after, getting me hot drinks, dioralyte, taking care of me and helping me out with my legs cramps.

After 30 minutes or so I began to feel a lot better, but this was a valuable lesson learned. I was very stupid to drink as much booze as I did before a long run of this nature. I addition to this I had not hydrated myself enough ahead or the run, nor had I fuelled up enough pre-run (a bag of cheese and onion crisps and some maccies fries just does not cut it).

So, being Old, Stupid and Full of Booze is not good preparation for a long run. This will not happen again, and I owe a big thanks to Helen for the food, drink and encouragement in getting back off the run, and a big thanks to Kate for looking after me and sorting me out when I got home.

Big lesson learned.

Peace and love.

 

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Triple Threat

So, Wednesday night’s training was a “triple threat” at Sweat. I’ve not done one of these in a while. In fact I’ve not done one since about May (when I was awesome) so it’s all part of the mission to “Make Alan Great Again”. Basically a “triple threat” is when I do a PT session, followed by two Sweat Camp classes. All in all I spend the best part of 3 hours doing 3 sessions at Sweat.

All the training tonight was done by Paul Atkinson who started off nice and got progressively more evil as the night went on!

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  1. PT

First up was my Group PT session with Paul.

After doing some stuff with a band (band pull apart, then lying face down on the floor and stretching the band behind my back) and a kettlebell (kneeling bottom up press) to get all warmed up we were looking at doing some upper body stuff. With my rubbish shoulder impingement injury I’ve not done too much of this recently.

Anyways, building up to a 1 rep max on a floor press we were looking to see how the shoulder held up. Pretty damn fine as it happened because somehow I managed to get up to a PB of 72kg. I’ve got to be happy with that.

Following this was some barbell bent over rows. 2 lots of 15 at 40kg (I did one set at 50kg but it was a bit of a mess so dropped back down to 40kg for the final set). The last bit of the session was some barbell skull crushers (40kg) (a skull crusher is where you lower the barbell back towards or behind your head working the triceps) then press ups (declined press ups with my feet resting on the bar) and finally face pulls (a big thick elastic band strapped to the rig, pull towards the face). 3 lots of 10 reps of all that.

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  1. “Silver” Class

Next up was the Silver class (which Paul promised would be a “warm up” of the class following this one, he wasn’t kidding!).

So whilst everyone else was doing their stretches and warm up I was made to push a prowler up and down to “keep warm”.

Now on the main bits of the class. Partnered up with “Sankt Pauli Stu” Johnson first up was 10 minutes of 15 single leg ball bridges (each leg so 30 in total) whilst your partner does hip circle squats (put band round knees, squat, force band out). Once both of you done both exercises then there was 10 lunges (each leg so 20 in total) whilst holding 2 (16kg) kettlebells whilst your partner held a squat (with a hip circle on). All good for getting the legs to burn.

The next section of the class was done as one big team where everyone in the class held and excises statically whilst each person took turns to do the movement part of the exercise.

First one was chest press, so each person took it in turns to do 3 presses whilst everyone held the kettlebells in the air.

Next bent over rows to hold, so each person took it in turns to do 3 rows whilst everyone held the kettlebells up in towards the body.

Then press up to hold, each person holding the press up whilst everyone took it in turns to do 3 press ups.

Finally cobra’s to hold. I’m sure you’re getting the format by now, for a cobra you basically lie on your front with the chest off the floor, arms out and hold (like a prone cobra) whilst each person does 3 lots of lowering and raising the chest.

So three lots of this, and there were some interesting variations on counting to three from the class attendees with “Sankt Pauli” Johnson unable to resist the temptation of counting in German.

The last bit of this class was a 10 down to 1, again partnered up with Stu doing ball slams and squat thrusts. So your partner does 10 slams whilst you do squat thrusts, then you do 10 slams and your partner does squat thrusts, then your partner does 9 ball slams then… well you get the picture.

And that was that with that class.

As people sloped off I done a little bit of shoulder rehab stuff whilst waiting for the next class to start. It started to get a little concerning about the lack of people turning up for the “Circuits” class. When it became apparent that the only other person in the class was Dan “King of the Deadlift” Noon we knew the class was going to be horrid. Dan and I are both PT clients of Paul and for some reason this gives Paul license to be extra horrible to us:

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  1. Circuits” “Dan & Alan May Die Doing This Class” Class

As there was only myself and Dan for this class the exercises were done in blocks of two, timed, and then we’d swap until all sets were completed.

So to start this hell off was a 3 sets of 40 seconds each of:

Air dyne (the Devils very own exercise bike – that harder and faster you got the higher the resistance goes).

Box over burpee. Do a burpee (full chest to floor) jump on the box (I guess it was about 4ft high) down to other side of box do a burpee. Repeat.

Then after minimal rest (like 20 seconds or something) 3 lots of 40 seconds:

Trap bar squat jumps (trap bar loaded up with 2 x 20kg plates, squat, jump up holding said bar)

Jump rope slams (as name suggests, jump in air and slam ropes down)

Then the next 4 pairs of exercises were “TABATA”, which is 20 seconds of activity, followed by 10 seconds rest (although in this case there wasn’t really a “rest” as we had to swap and get ready in this 10 seconds).

We done 4 sets of each pair of exercises, with minimal rest in between the pairs and with Paul pushing and pushing us to go quicker, faster and not letting up get away with resting or “sandbagging” (we’d get taxed for sandbagging):

“Big Bertha Swings” Big Bertha is the 44kg kettlebell

“Cockroach” basically a bear crawl over a few meters but you jump up and twist to change direction.

“Sprawl Thrust” basically the bottom half of a chest to floor burpee

“Thruster” Squat and press with 2 x 16kg kettlebells

“Rope Wave” (self explanatory)

Mountain Climber (everyone knows what mountain climbers are)

“Overhead Jump Lunge” jumping lunges holding a 20kg pate over your head

“Rainbow Slam” 12kg ball slam moving in a circular motion.

Done.

Well not quite as we had a little finisher of 10 widths of the gym with the Prowler (at bodyweight).

After this Paul loomed over our knackered bodies with his phone grinning and putting us on Instagram. I gave him the finger and Dan just said “Fuck Off” ha ha:

So after this we were done right? Nope!

Somehow or other we had accrued a “sandbagging tax” which meat 90 seconds of “suicides” which were a 4 point shuttle run with a chest to floor dive to the deck at each point.

Done. Finally!

I was well and truly knackered after tonight’s mammoth session. Although doing plenty of running my overall training consists of much more than just running. I think that sessions like this will help in my overall endurance and will transfer to the marathon. I also think mentally they help, as Paul would just not let us stop and pushed us to our limits in the final session so even though I was hurting ans was well up for quitting I carried on (it’s a sign of a great coach who’ll push you to what you are actually capable of).  It’s only when its all done do you actually enjoy the workout. That said I had a couple of hours on the couch unable to move much through sheer exhaustion. That was great stuff tonight though, and I’m going to get back to doing these “triple threats” on Wednesday going forward.

Next up is an easy 10mile run for Thursday night followed by a couple of days rest after getting some more skin coloured in.

Peace and love

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Sunday Morning

I had planned on going out on Saturday to do my long slow run, but after a busy Saturday morning and afternoon I made some rubbish excuses to myself and didn’t end up going out on Saturday evening as planned. That meant I needed to go out on Sunday morning. Only problem is I had a Group PT session booked in with Paul at Sweat, so I had to do both. It’s my own fault for making excuses. Anyways, here’s what I got on up on this Sunday Morning.

To accompany this blog have a listen to this wonderful version of the Velvet Underground’s Sunday Morning by Flo Morrissey and Matthew E. White. White’s production on this is brilliant.

First up was my group PT at Sweat with my trainer, Paul. As Paul was writing the session on the board I asked him to go easy on legs as I was going out running after the session. He just laughed at me, we NEVER skip leg day at Sweat. In truth the session wasn’t too bad on the legs, and as I was going running I didn’t have to do a finisher so Paul was actually nice to me this morning!

 

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After a warm up consisting of  3 lots of Hip Circle Walk, 20 Band Pull Apart Lunges and 5 Inch Worms we got in to the main bit of the session. The first section of this was to build to to 3 sets of 8 x 85kg back squat which felt relatively easy. Then on to 3 sets of 10 Snatch Grip Romanian Dead Lifts at 70kg. I got through these ok but I’d forgotten my straps so my girly grip was giving way a bit towards the end of each set.

To finish my session at Sweat was 3 lots of: 20 x kettle bell swings (with the big boy 44kg bell!), 10 x ring bridge (hold on to the rings and do a glute bridge) then my favourite 5 x GHD ham raises. As mentioned earlier I missed a finisher so I could go out and do my run.

I decided to get changed at Sweat and base my run from the rather than head home after my session, this way I wouldn’t be tempted to make excuses to myself not to go running again.

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After getting in to the running gear I headed out up past MegaTesco, down Lugsdale Road, over the “Continental Plaza” outside the old town hall then heading down Victoria Road and in to West Bank.

My route then took my down to Spike Island where I got a good view of the new Mersey Gateway bridge in the mist and gloom and was surprised at how far this had progressed with the deck clearly visible heading out from each tower, before running back up in to West Bank and picking up the Promenade right next to the Mersey and I got thinking about the last time I was in this area of town. It’s been many many years since we used to call in to Ste Heslin’s nana’s for a brew, which I think was the last time I was around here.

Following the transpennine trail and passing under the approaches to the Jubilee and Ethelfleda bridges and I was exposed to the wind and the rain blowing in of the Mersey and this section felt pretty tough.  I followed the trail down the zig-zagged steps and over a bridge that takes you over a couple of brooks that feed in to the Mersey. This is the first time I’ve ever been round here so I turned around to take a quick photo, you drop about 50ft in height here back to near the level of the Mersey.

The track then heads up to Pickering’s Pasture where there were people out walking their dogs, and a rather large boxer dog decided he’d like to run with me. He was quite a large chap so he soon got out of breath after about 10 yards and he looked forlorn as I left him.  Cutting through Pickering’s Pasture, and picking up the smell in my nostrils I came out near the sewage works were I reminisced about my first job.

As a 16 year old I got a job as an apprentice civil engineer and my first job was at the Sewage Works in Widnes where we was building some sewage plant and out let pipes that go in to the Mersey (yeah I know, great job eh). Anyhoo, being the apprentice on one wet and windy day (on a day not too dissimilar to today) the engineers decided that they needed to know the ground level on the smelly mud banks when the tide was low so they made me climb down with the level staff with only a piece of rope tied round my waist for protection. As the mud banks were a good 3 meters lower than the ground above the staff was extended to its full 5m length and I struggled to keep it straight in the horrific weather, knee deep in mud next to the existing outlet pipe I was shouted at by the engineers on the bank to keep the staff straight. Grim.  Looking back it was an obvious apprentice set up by the engineers and I’m sure they had a good laugh about it.

I left the smell of the sewage works behind and headed back through Hale Bank, on to Hale Road, heading through Ditton before eventually getting to Prescott Road Bridge and picking up the “Never Ending Path” running adjacent to the railway line and coming out next to the cemetery. Then on through Derby Road and heading up the hill and to the highest point on the course, the bridge on the approach to the Horn’s Roundabout. This was the psychological switch point as I knew I had an easy 2 miles heading downhill on Moorfield then Warrington Road back to Sweat.

A total of 11 miles. I had planned on doing 9 minute miles and I managed 9.01 minute miles so I’ve got to be happy with my pacing. Though my Garmin watch really helps with this.

Some musings on my trainers and blister situation. Kate had picked me up a pair of Brooks Transcend 2 from TK Maxx, I had tried them the other night for a 5 miler with no hint of blisters. After a trip back to Run Geek on Saturday to look at my Hoka’s and potential cause of blisters I was advised to have a couple of longish runs in the Brooks to see if there are any blister issues. Based on today’s run there were no issues with blisters at all, however I really do not like running in these Brooks they feel too heavy on my feet and seem to put my feet in to positions they don’t really want to go.I was also getting a bit of ankle pain from them and the ride was not smooth at all. Hopefully after couple of run in the Brooks and a trip back to Run Geek next week we could be getting to the end of the blister issues.

All in all a good Sunday morning’s training.

Peace and love.

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