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Memories, Mojo & Me

Now that we’re closing in on the big day of the London Marathon I figured I’d better finally get round to writing a blog about my 2017 challenge.

So, sit back, relax and have a listen to Leonard Cohen. Other that the obvious song title connection this song has nothing other to do with the content of this blog. It is however probably the best song ever about trying to see a ladies naked body:

Memories:

So we really need to cast our minds back to really to 2016, when I first started raising money for North West Cancer Research. I chose to run for this charity following the death of my dad due to a short battle with Oesophageal Cancer in the summer of that year. I wanted to do something in his memory so I embarked upon a running challenge.

After unsuccessfully applying for the London Marathon ballot for 2017 and after being unsuccessful in the Widnes Running Club Ballot I entered the Blackpool Marathon, held on the same day as London (22nd April 2017). In order to up the ante a little bit I also entered the Great Manchester Runs on 28th May 2017. I say runs because my challenge was to run the Half Marathon AND 10k races back to back.

Now, there is no real need for me to go in to the training journey up to these challenges. If you go back to the very first blog post of mine you can read this. However, I do really need to point you back to my blog entry Falling Down.  Feel free to go back and read if you see fit, but basically I had a fall at the Sheffield Half Marathon just two weeks out away from the Blackpool Marathon. I turned my ankle about 1 mile in to the race and fell right on my arse. After dusting, myself down in a bus stop I “manned up” and competed the race this proved to be a big mistake. On reflection I should have pulled out of the race, but I didn’t and I ended up damaging the ligaments in the left ankle.

I then faced a race against time to be fit for the Blackpool Marathon!

After resting and icing the sore ankle, using compression, wrapping it up etc the swelling and pain had sufficiently gone down. I was raising money for charity so there was no way I was going to pull out of the Blackpool Marathon. I addition to this my family was joining in on my challenge in Blackpool. My sisters Natalie and Jennifer, joined by Jenn’s boyfriend Paul were taking part in the 10k race in Blackpool. Also my bother Johnathan would join in in running the actual Marathon. There was no way I was letting everyone down.

Blackpool

So, to Blackpool. I travelled up on the Saturday with Kate and the in-laws Ted and Jacki. We stayed at Breck Apartments a rather upmarket (certainly for Blackpool) self-catering apartment up on the North Shore, and although expensive for Blackpool standards it was a brilliant self-catering apartment and well worth the money. I headed to the race HQ on the Saturday afternoon and collected everyone’s race number, so everything was all set of the Sunday morning.

We took all the race number, race t shirts and vests to the rest of “Team Bri” to the restaurant where we met up for tea (which would end up being supper really). The restaurant was Nunzio’s. An Italian restaurant situated near the North Pier.  Kate, Jacki, Ted and I got there on time but my siblings actually turned up on early! As they are always late I told them that the restaurant booking was at 7pm rather than the actually booking time of 7.30 for ONCE they turned up on time, just a shame it was 30 minutes early.

As it was the restaurant was very busy and it took us ages and ages to get our table. Finally we got sat down and then the real entertainment started. If I was every in Blackpool I would come back to eat at Nuzino’s like a shot. Yes the there was a wait for the table (but that said there was a lot of us), but the food was very good, but the family of staff there are brilliantly eccentrically fun! It was owned by a Nuzino an Italian and his wife who was from Blackpool. They were loud, bold and very friendly. The head waiter was their son who we all assumed was Italian as when he brought every dish to use he announced its arrival in the best  and most convincing Italian accent ever. We he actually spoke to us he had a broad Lancastrian accent, and he just ramps up the Italian for the customers. There are loads of other little stories from this wonderful madcap Italian restraint, but they’re a blog entry in themselves.

Anyway after all this fun and games and a preparation final feed we headed back to our respective accommodation for an early(ish) night as the stag and hen do’s of Blackpool got ready to party.

So an early start and pre-race breakfast and we headed down to meet the Myler clan and get ready for the race. We got warmed up and ready got to our relevant start areas.

So soon enough we were on our way and heading out in to the Blackpool sunshine. I ran the first 6 miles or so with Jonathan for and I was feeling decent. My ankle was holding up pretty well and I was sticking below the target time of 8.45 min as I wanted to get a sub-four hour marathon. My pace was a bit too quick for Jonathan so I left him down near the South Shore and I continued along the course heading back up towards the centre of Blackpool past the Pleasure Beach.

The course followed the Promenade all the way back up towards Little Bispham before turning back on itself at around 11 miles and heading back towards the start line at near the North Pier. I past my family who had positioned themselves at the “Hole in the Wall” cafe right on the seafront at around the halfway point. At this point I was still feeling great as I heard their cheers ringing in my ears and I continued on the second loop of the course.

As I continued back south then disaster happened somewhere between mile 15 and 16. My ankle injury flared up again and now it was very painful with each step (it was already fairly painful because of the blisters I was suffering, but this was next level).

Blackpool Graph

You can see from the graph I was pretty consistent up to 15 and a half miles then bang, it just all went to shit. I got slower and slower. My ankle was hurting then my right hip and knew started to hurt, probably from over compensating too much to deal with my limp-run shuffle thing I was doing.  I was done and around mile 17 in a particularly barren, boring and unsupported bit of the course I’d had enough and I was texting Kate for support. It did help me continue, as at that point I did feel like pulling out, but I persevered. The next 9 miles were pretty much hell. I was in pain, hobbling along. It was very much stop/start run/walk/hobble and I just couldn’t get going.

Again the lack of crowd support outside of the “golden mile” of Blackpool was pretty sparse and the monotony of running a second loop of the same bit I’d ran early was affecting my psychologically too.

This was probably only broken when my playlist run out and Spotify starting playing some random songs. At around mile 22/23 Cheese and Onion by The Rutles came on and I burst out laughing. A rare moment of joy in a world of pain. The Rutles > Oasis.

I persevered onwards, past the turning point at Little Bispham, at least now knowing that I was finally heading back towards the finish a couple of miles away, my average pace dropping like a stone.

Finally the end was in sight, I could see my family cheering me on to the finish and I gave the best “sprint” (it was more like a walk) finish I could do. I’d don’t it! Crossed the line in 4 hours 27 minutes and 25 seconds. Miles away from what I’d hope to get (under 4 hours) but I persevered and I’d done it.

Upon finishing and popping my blisters (thanks again Kate) I had a good catch up my family. Unfortunately Jonathan had to pull out of the marathon at the halfway point due to his injury. It transpires he had a stress fracture in his foot, he’d done a half marathon on a broken foot. Made of strong stuff us Mylers! Natalie, Jennifer and Jenn’s boyfriend Paul had all smashed the 10k and we got a “Team Bri” post-race photos and headed off for some lunch.

Some thoughts on the Blackpool Marathon. The good points – well we had the weather, it was a nice sunny day. It was very well organised too. All the Fylde Coast Runners organised runs I’ve took part in have been good. That’s where my enjoyment ends. I didn’t enjoy the two lapped course. Obviously my injury flaring up at the start of the second loop didn’t help matters, but it’s a long two loops and the lack of support along the course didn’t help my mental state when I was really struggling. Also Blackpool isn’t the most inspiring and scenic place, I found the route ugly in places and boring in most. Yes we had a nice clear sunny view out to the see but that didn’t change and it became monotonous. I was also really disappointed with my time. I had in my head after that race that I would do another marathon that year and I would get that sub four hour time. I ended up entering York Marathon. More on this later…..

Manchester

I heart MCR

A month or so after the Blackpool Marathon came the second part of my running challenge. To do the Great Manchester Runs. For the first time in 2017 Great Run was holding a Half Marathon Race and a 10k race on the same day, so my challenge was to do both back to back.

The complexion of this race changed completely however. On the 22nd May, 6 days before the run was due to take place 22 people died, and 500 people were injured – including a number of children after a terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester Arena. A truly sicking attack on innocent children and families. Terrorism striking this close to home really hit quite hard. Manchester is a city that I LOVE. We knew people who were at the actual gig or who had family at the gig. Fortunately (for me at least) nobody that I knew got hurt in the attack but It’s horrible when somewhere that you love gets hit by like this.

In the aftermath of such an attack people and authorities have to take stock of what has happened, and whether to go ahead with such a big city event like the Great Manchester Run (and the associated Great City Games).

I for one am glad it went ahead. Not so I could complete my challenge. More as a fuck you to terrorism. If you change your way of life and cancel events like this then the terrorists win. And terrorism must not win.

Kate and I decided to stay for two nights in Manchester with the race being on a Bank Holiday Sunday, so we headed in on the Saturday evening and settled at our hotel for a Papa John’s and an early night. This hotel would give me a good base jut round the corner from the start line for both races and would allow me to come back after the half and get fuelled up and changed (and get some blisters popped) between races.

So, on the morning of the race I headed down to the start line for the Half Marathon. The start was obviously emotionally charged somewhat. There was a minutes silence ahead of the race start, followed by “Don’t Look Back In Anger”, the song that would become Manchester’s anthem following the terrorist attack.

There was still a race to be ran, so soon enough we were back out. The races for this day where not about times or PB’s for me. I really hadn’t trained properly since the Blackpool Marathon as I tried to give my ankle time to heal. The course took us out from the centre of Manchester on to the Mancunian Way and towards East Manchester and to the big blue council house (Ethiad Stadium). There were a couple of pinch points around these parts of the course, initially along the Mancunian way, and then on the footbridge that goes over the road towards citeh’s ground (the course did take you round the massive stadium), so any PB hunters might have been annoyed at these bits, but I see that the organises are looking to fix this for the 2018 version of the race.

The course then headed back along the ring road towards the centre of Manchester before picking up the well-established 10k route which heads down the A56 out towards White City, and the obvious best part of the course around Old Trafford.

Al MCR run 5

As I said I’d not really trained since Blackpool, and I’d not really trained a lot before that due to the ankle injury so I was not in the best shape, and as I emerged from around Old Trafford and back up on to the A56 heading towards Manchester I met up with Liam Boardman, one of my running club colleagues, and we kept each other going to finish, all the way back on to Deansgate and to the finish under Beetham tower.  My time was 155.23. Happy enough with that as today was just about getting the job done, and sub 2 hours is decent enough.

I said my goodbyes to Liam and headed back to my hotel as I had well over an hours wait before the start of the 10k. It would give me chance to get changed, for Kate to pop a few blisters and for me to take on some fuel and to get changed.

After doing this I headed down to the start line for the 10k race. The 10k race has been established for many years. In fact it was the first race that I ever took part in back in 2017 when I was a fat lad. It’s the biggest 10k in the county with some 40000 people taking part in it, so this was the main event.

The start was even more emotionally charged that the half marathon, with Longfella reading out this poem “Do Something”. There were tears in the eyes and a big lump in the throat. There were not many dry eyes around to be honest, a truly incredible and inspiring moment.  PLEASE WATCH THIS:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/athletics/40077781

Now to the race, there’s not much to say really, I struggled both through fitness (I probably didn’t have the miles in the legs) and the fact that my legs pretty much seized up 5k in to the run, so I wasn’t going anywhere very fast. I’ve pretty much described to 10k above, but one thing that stood out was an immaculately dressed Rastafarian looking dude smoking a massive reefer and filming the runners on his iPhone.

I hung in on the run, and then coming back in to Manchester getting towards Deansgate I was buoyed along by the incredible support and atmosphere.  Then just as I crossed the finish line I heard someone shout my name and I looked over to see my brother Jonathan who had come along with his girlfriend Becca to support me, a most wonderful surprise.

My time for this run was 59.12, my slowest 10k in many many years, but it really didn’t matter. Job done, challenge competed and a hefty £2200 raised for charity.

Time for the usual post-race poses then off to Dimitiri’s for a bite to eat and a couple of pints. Over this meal Jonathan and Becca decided to book a hotel in Manchester for that night and to join us to celebrate the end of the challenge.

On our way back to the our hotels we paid a visit to St Ann’s square, which is where flower and tributes had been left for the victims of the bombing. A truly sobering and solemn experience. As soon as you walk round the corner in to St Ann’s square the atmosphere changed immediately. An ocean of calm in the chaos of a city holding a huge event.

Manchester-Bomb-Vigil

That evening Jonathan took us to some really good bars and we celebrated in style, as so it seemed did Manchester. Terrorism was not going to stop this wonderful city having fun!

The next day, whilst very hungover Kate and I both got Manchester bee tattoos. This was part of the Manchester Tattoo appeal where the tattoo community across the whole of the UK set up a fund to raise money for the victims of the attack. Tattoo artists across the UK gave up their time for a £50 donation per tattoo straight to the appeal. A wonderful idea which raised over half a million pounds, and Kate and I got ours done at Manchester Ink which seems a fitting way to end the weekend.

Mojo

After the challenge getting back going was a real struggle. I’d pretty much lost my running mojo and to be honest I think I pretty much lost it after the Blackpool Marathon. Thinking back on it I shouldn’t really of done the race whilst injured, and doing the run made the injury worse, but I was raising money for charity and there is no way I wasn’t going to do the run.  That said I was disappointed, no gutted with my time from Blackpool so I entered the York Marathon for the October of 2017. This was just one of a number of races in 2017 I wasted money on in entering. Others where – Liverpool Spring 10k, English Half Marathon (Warrington), 2 lots of Cheshire 5k races (Spring and Autumn), a Tough Mudder and of course the York Marathon which I had entered in order to make up for the poor time in Blackpool.

Some not so mitigating factors in all of this – festivals and holidays! We had two big festivals during this period in Glastonbury and Kendal calling, and a Holiday to Boston over the summer of 2017.

But these are just excuses. I was going the gym over this time but I was just going through the motions. I even blamed my ankle injury, but truth was I really couldn’t be arsed with it all.

Once back from the Boston holiday I tried to get going again with my running and overall fitness and I even managed to actually enter and take part in the Flintshire 10k. But then another holiday (to Cape Verde – yeah we like to get around about) followed by business trips to Shanghai and Frankfurt all in the space of a month meant the mojo had gone, but the weight truly had come. I was weighing in at my heaviest for many years in November, around 13 stone 8 pounds.

Then after getting back from those business trips I noticed on Facebook that North West Cancer Research were looking for volunteers to run the London Marathon. I put my name forward for this and I was accepted to run for them, with a fund raising target of £1500. I raised £2200 so I figured I could smash this.

So training had to start in earnest. Those first few runs in early December were tough getting back in to it and I was struggling to do like four miles under 9 minute miles, but two runs in the run up to Christmas was where it clicked and the mojo came back in a 6 mile run up past some Christmas lights in Hatlon View followed by a 10 mile run the same weekend. Something just clicked at these runs and finally after all this time I had some mojo back. You can follow the rest of this journey up to now if you look back through my blog posts starting from Guess Who’s Back?.

Me

So now, as I sit here writing this in excitement ahead of the London Marathon this morning, where am I at? Well, training has go very well, much better than last year. I had some catching up to do in terms of time (last year I started training in October, this time I started training in December) but I learned a hell of a lot from last time and I put this experience to good use.  I found a solution to the blister problems that plagued me last time (the right shoes, socks and lube combination). But its in the long runs where I was much better.

Last time I only had about one out of about six successful long runs ahead of the marathon in Blackpool. This time I had one bad long run out of about ten, much better preparation. My training for the Marathon tomorrow has gone as well as it possibly good I think, I’ve also done the “other” stuff you need to do as a runner better, worked better and more specifically on stuff in the gym, had regular massages, done stretching, Pilates, and really looked after my diet from 13st 8lb in November I’m down to 11st 10lb now, back to the weight I was at before my dad got ill.

Before my Dad got ill I was the fittest I’ve ever been and very nearly got a sub 45 minute 10k (I was 14 seconds off), now I’m getting back towards that fitness level again a sub 45 10k is one of my goals for this year.

Looking back on last year’s marathon I don’t really think I was fit enough to get a sub four hour marathon. I didn’t really put enough long runs in and I think even if I hadn’t of been injured I would of blew up for about mile 20 in Blackpool as I really didn’t have enough miles in the legs from training.

I also think it’s pretty clear that the 2017 running challenge started as a grief coping mechanism following the death of my dad. I embarked upon the challenge in October 2016 after my dad’s death in June 2016 and I guess it kept my mind occupied for a while. Probably until I lost my mojo in May 2017 and partied most of that summer (but man I had some fun!).

Now, on the eve of the London Marathon I have really got the running mojo back (as you would hope the day before the biggest race in the world!). But by that I mean I am enjoying running for myself, not just to cope after losing my dad.

I know I am running in memory of my Dad tomorrow and I am raising a load of cash for a wonderful charity (well over £3000 this year thank you for everyone who had sponsored me your support means the world), but I am also running for me and for the love of running.

So tomorrows London Marathon is for Dad but it’s also for me!

Me & Dad

Peace and Love.

P.S. Please sponsor me:

VMG Logo

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RunningMyler

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Sweat – I Belong

An awesome charity event down at Sweat Fitness in Widnes!

Before I document the event lets rewind and go back to where this event was first born. I have been a member of Sweat Fitness gym in Widnes for a few years and the atmosphere and general all round vibe there is pretty awesome. I do personal training with one of the owners, Paul Atkinson, and over the winter I have been doing a bit of running training with Leigh Barber, who also co-owns Sweat.

It was on one of these runs that the idea for this event came about back on a cold January morning during a 6.30am hill interval session up to the Dream Sculpture with Leigh and Luna the Labrador.

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Leigh & Luna

We conjured up the idea of a Saturday morning fund raising Sweat Camp session coupled together with a 5k fun run during this cold, early morning run.

It took a while to plan what we wanted from the day and we got this sussed out on yet another training run. This time a 20 miler on a sunny February morning that took Leigh, Luna and I on an epic journey following the Sankey Canal from Widnes through Sankey, Burtonwood, Bold, Sutton Manor and Widnes. The idea of going big on the event with medals, goodies and freebies was cemented, as was an idea of the actual 5k route (our first few kilometres of this route would make up the final 5k charity route).

So after some diary juggling and figuring out when was a feasible date based on peoples availability and my race diary we plumped for 7th April, nice and close to the marathon date of 22nd of April to give me a good fund-raising boost ahead of the big day.

Now all we needed to do was to order the medals and promote the event.

So after setting up a Facebook event, pushing through social media channels the time was approaching for the big day itself. The idea was for people to sign for up via Sweat’s on-line booking system (so we could manage the event safely and get the legal gubbins done properly) then for people to go to my Virgin Money Giving Page with a suggested donation of £10 if they wanted to get a medal and a goody bag.

Sweat would fund the medals and the goody bags etc and give up their time and change there timetable for the event. ALL money raised would go direct to the charity.

In the two weeks leading up to the event the slow sign up rate and the low numbers were a bit of a worry, but we just had to trust Jim Morrison:

Jim2
“If You Book Them, They Will Come”

So we kept pushing through social media and generally bothering family and friends and slowly the numbers started to creep up and the donations started to come in.

The last few days leading up to the event was for final last minute planning and sorting out, taking delivery of the medals, getting the stuff to go in the goody bags, and planning out the 5K course and sourcing some traffic cones.

Then the big day was upon us. I went down to Sweat early on to head out on the course with traffic cones and signage to indicate start/finish line, tuning points and directions. I met up with Leigh (and Luna) and we headed out to the 5K route, which started just a short walk away from the gym, on the Trans-Pennine trail alongside the Sankey Canal.

We marked out the start line, and Leigh said “I’ll take Luna off the lead and she can run with us”.

So I hit go on the Garmin and we got about 15 meters and Luna decided to jump straight in to the canal! I don’t think see realised it was so deep and she struggled somewhat until Leigh leaned over and fished her out of the drink. Once she safely was back on “dry” land (it was far from dry – the path was rather wet and muddy) I could laugh and we were back off and running towards the 2.5k point.

About 0.75k in I realised I hadn’t started my Garmin after pausing due to Luna’s little swim. Back to the start for me as I let Leigh head up towards the 2.5k turning point with the traffic cone (this wasn’t a ploy so I could avoid carrying the cone, honestly).

So finally after heading back to the start and pressing “Go” on the Garmin I caught up with Leigh and the pooch and we got the 5k course measured out and we got back to the gym just in time to welcome the first participants.

One of these was Maureen from North West Cancer Research. We got some NWCR banners, info and collection boxes etc set up, and Maureen would be a great sport and got stuck right in to the challenge itself.

Our other help turned up in the form of Helen (my ex-running buddy turned weightlifter who was forbidden to join in by Paul!), Kim (Leigh’s wife and also an awesome weightlifter) and Zoey and Lydia, Kim and Leigh’s little girls. Helen and Kim would man reception and sign people in, making sure they had donated and generally organising stuff. Helen also sourced the traffic cones!

Helen
Helen the receptionist

Jim Morrison was indeed right, and people flooded through the door. Ahead of the event we was hoping for 25 to 30 people, at the event we had 37 people attend. A great turn out! I was especially happy to see the Myler clan turning up for the event!

So we all got in and ready to go and after a nice little speech from Leigh we were poised ready for the first part of the challenge – the Sweat Bootcamp class.

Paul
The main man Paul

This was delivered by Paul Atkinson, the head trainer at Sweat, ably assisted by Leigh and Rachel Spruce (who turned up even with a hangover!). One of the other Sweat trainers, Emma Pitt was on photographer and cheer leading duties – Emma’s enthusiasm is infectious!

Paul has been training me for a few years now, and has pretty much helped me get in top shape a couple of weeks out from the marathon. Really if you’re looking for a PT Paul is your man he’s a top guy and a half decent trainer (or is that the other way around?)  (There, I was nice about him!).

Sweat 2

It was great seeing Sweat filled to the rafters and people enjoying (or enduring) the boot camp style exercise class.  The atmosphere was ace and the place was buzzing. The 45 minutes for the class flew by.

We then had a big team photo (the featured image at the top of the page) before now heading out in the near torrential rain down to the canal. The route was along a local beauty spot following the canal up past Fiddler’s Ferry Power Station (real beautiful) before turning back on ourselves and coming back to the finish line via Widnes’ answer to The Angel of the North – “The Future Flower” – there where at least some good views of the new Mersey Gateway Bridge.

Run start

We all gathered near the start line then we were off. The fastest person at Sweat is Shaz, she won the Warrington 5 mile cross country a couple of weeks previous and she was out like a shot and no one could catch her – I think she broke 21 minutes for the 5k. I was happy with getting 23.59 (it was the second time I’d ran that route this morning so I was pretty happy with under 24 mins).

It was very wet, very muddy and there were some super big puddles. It was great seeing friends, family and strangers out enjoying the event and getting stuck in to this 5k in some pretty terrible conditions.  Some big shout outs for my nephews Liam and James who done awesome on the run. And a special thanks to Emma who took up the tail running duties and helped everyone along.

Once the run was done we headed back up to Sweat to get warm and dry, pick up our medals and goody bags (ably handed out by Leigh’s daughters) and cheer everyone else back in through the door.

The Mylers.jpg
The Mylers

Then some photo op time when everyone one got back. The Myler clan got a good family photo with our Sweat medals. Then we got some good photos with Paul and Leigh from Sweat and the brilliant Maureen from North West Cancer Research who got really stuck in to the event.

Mo
Maureen

NWCR & Sweat 2

NWCR & Sweat 1

In total we raised £480 from the day from 37 people attending. The day was an incredible success and I’m humbled and extremely grateful for the support.

Special thanks really goes to Paul and Leigh for putting the event on and funding medals, goodies etc and to Emma & Rachel for mucking in.  Thanks also to Helen and Kim for giving up their time and helping out on the day.

And of course a massive thank you to everyone who turned up on the day and donated. Your support really does mean so so much.

Sweat’s tag line is “I Belong” and as I wander in to overly cheesy and schmaltzy territory here (pass the sick bucket) there is honestly a real sense of belonging at Sweat and it really is like one big family here and I think this showed it big time here today!

Thanks ya’ll!

Peace and Love.

PS You can sponsor me at:

VMG Logo

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RunningMyler

Hello Sunshine!

Spring sprung at the Gloucester 20 mile road race.

After “The Beast from the East” and the “Mini Beast” had befallen some pretty miserable and very very cold weather upon us recently it felt good to finally get running in very pleasant weather. That “Mini Beast” made for some challenging running conditions in Lancaster 7 days before this race so lining up on the start line in bright sunshine felt positively tropical in comparison and it felt like spring had finally sprung.

But first the lead up to the race!

Gloucester is a fair distance from god’s own country of Widnes so travel down the previous night is needed. However it was Kate’s Great Uncle Frank’s 90th birthday so we headed up to Leyland for his party on Saturday afternoon. Frank had lost Sylvia, his wife of 61 years, back in January so it was super important that I went to the party at least just for a short time to show my face and to show some love.  (See my blog  entry Guess Who’s Back?….. for my tribute to Sylvia).

We had bought him some “Rum and Pep” for his birthday present as apparently it was THE drink to have back in the day. Rum and Pep is dark rum with alcoholic English peppermint cordial.  I had a tiny sip of this and I think it’s now going to be my drink of choice at festivals in the summer. Think dark rum with alcoholic peppermint mouthwash. It tasted awesome and there’s no doubt this stuff is rocket fuel.

Unfortunately I could only stay for 30 minutes or so before heading down to Gloucester but I’m glad I went and it was great to see Frank enjoying himself on the old “Rum and Pep” so I left Kate and the family to enjoy themselves and I headed out on the drive south.

On the way down I got this picture through of Frank and his Great Great Grand kids, Nieces and Nephews. How cool is that?! Happy 90th Frank!

IMG-20180324-WA0002

So I gets down to Gloucester after a 3 hour or so drive (and after filling my face with crappy motorway service station food and crisps and snacks – not the ideal night before race carb load) and I checked in to The Edward Hotel.

Last week I stayed in the rather wonderful Toll House Hotel in Lancaster before my 20 mile race up there and it was fantastic. This place was the polar opposite. If you ever find yourself need somewhere to stay in Gloucester then avoid this place like the plague. I can honestly say I’ve had better sleep in high altitude mountain huts and in youth hostels. The room I got was adequate enough, the bed was big (too big for the room) but was super hard, as where the pillows.

Anyways I got my stuff sorted out then headed down to the local Tesco to get some provisions and to get some food to have for an early breakfast as I wouldn’t have been able to get breakfast till at least 7.30, which is getting a bit close to the race time of 9.30 for a big feed.

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I had a little stroll around then headed back the hotel for an early night and here is where my problems started. The room looked out on to a very noisy main road and I found it nigh on impossible to get to sleep with all the vehicle and people noise outside (the hotel was about 100 yards away from a pub). I addition to this there were no curtains in the room, just some vertical blinds to “keep the light out”.

 

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Black out blinds

As you can see from the picture light was flooding in and sleep was impossible. By midnight I was totally fed up so I rang the hotel owner to see if there where any other rooms, and after he said no I was on the phone to the local Holiday Inn as I was packed and ready to leave to go there.

To be fair to the hotel owner he called me back and they did have one single bed room available at the rear of the hotel. This one had curtains and was much quieter but by the time I’d got there I was unsettled and it took me some time to actually get to sleep. Added to this woe the clocks went forward this night losing another hour of vital sleep, so when my alarm rang at 6.30am. I got up very tired and not at all happy (and had an extra couple of snoozes as I was not ready to get up!)

I headed back to my original room and ate the breakfast items I’d picked up from the Tesco (a porridge pot and a granola and yogurt pot – again, not the best pre-race fuel, I’d usually have some toast and eggs as well as the porridge), got myself showered, ready and KT taped up and got the hell out of Dodge.

I headed down to Quedgeley (about 20 mins outside of Gloucester), parked up at the Park and Ride (as per race instructions) then followed the runners and the signs to race HQ.  It was a little bit of a walk for the car park. If I was to do this race again I’d be tempted to park on one of the streets closer to the start.

Anyways, got to the race HQ inside a leisure centre, got my race number dropped my bag off and done my warm up stretches. I was in the loo when the call got made to head to the start so I was right at the back of the field when the race started but this was no bother as the race was chipped timed.

The race itself consisted of 3 x 6.6 mile loops and a little bit extra at the start/finish area to make up the 20 miles. I don’t usually like races with loops in so I figured this would be a good mental test to put up with the monotony or repeating the route.

The aim of this race was to simply get some miles in my legs and to beat my time from Trimpell last weekend. My ultimate is is a sub four hour marathon so I wanted to push the pace a little quicker here, hopefully keeping around the 8.40min/mile pace for as long as I could

So the first loop started and we headed past the massive Gloucester Constabulary HQ and in to the spring sunshine. Then we went through a bit of an industrial estate, and out on to the open road, up and over the M5, then a left turn to the end of a lane and back round a turning point and back down the same lane then back on to the main road which headed up and over a railway bridge (not one of the two small hills out on the course I don’t think!), then passing through the village of Haresfield and heading towards the village of Colethrop.

On this stretch (if I remember correctly) there was a car on its roof in a ditch by the side of the road and this had been marked off with police tape. Looked like someone had been driving a bit too fast on the country lanes.

Not long after this was where the first hill started, followed by a short downhill section and then straight on to the second hill a little shorter and a little steeper the first one. Then we went back over the M5 on a country lane and there was a fast downhill section heading under a railway bridge (with a great photo op), then passing a farm burning something which threatened to get on my wheezy asthmatic chest before finally leading back to back to the start/finish area.

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Flying Feet! Wooooo!

 

1st lap done and feeling good and pace was sticking quite close to 8.30 min/miles.

The second time around I still felt pretty decent and I was enjoying some of the views out on the course in the warm spring sunshine, I was concentrating on getting my breathing pattern right and was feeling pretty relaxed. Even the hills the second time around didn’t feel too bad.

During this run I was trying out some other fuelling products as well as my tried and tested High5 gels. In this first lap I tried out some GU Gums, I felt these worked a treat, tasted good, easy to digest and provided a quick energy boost. Result.

Soon enough the second lap was done and I was still feeling good. Pace slowing a few seconds a mile but still pretty decent. I had hoped to get round the course without being lapped, alas this was not to be and as I was getting close to the end of lap one I could hear a motorbike behind me. This was the lead bike then sure enough the race winner come running past me finishing in something like 1.54. Amazing!

At the start of the third lap I’d tried my other fuelling product, a Torq chew bar. Not good. I found these almost impossible to eat on the go, far too chewy and too much hard work. It went straight in the next bin and I switched back to the GU Chews and the High5 gels.

It started to get tough getting out on to third lap, especially during the hilly sections where my pace dropped off and over the 9min/mile barrier. I’m sure these hills got a little steeper and a little higher on this third lap!  Once the second hill was done though it was all downhill back to the finish! I managed to pick up some pace again, put on my best “sprint” finish and crossed the line ins 2:51:49!

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Sprint Finish Face

I was pretty ecstatic with this time. I knocked 7 minutes off my time from Trimpell the previous week and this was a big 20 mile PB.

 

The last mile was still my joint second fastest mile of the whole race so I’m happy with that at the end of 20 miles (yes I know it was downhill!). In fact I’m pretty happy with the pace throughout the while race, I think I was pretty consistent right through the race with the expectation, maybe of miles 16 and 17, the hills on the third lap.

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I said earlier that I don’t normally like lapped courses. On reflection I think that may be wrong as the two races I’ve performed well in so far this year, Great North West Half and this one have both been lapped courses. This was my last big race before London and I smashed my expectations on this one on about 3 hours sleep too so this gives me a lot of  confidence for the marathon and beating that sub 4 hour target. Just one more longish run now and I can start the taper!

Some thoughts on the race itself. It was very well organised with some brilliant encouraging marshals. It really does help when you have people shouting encouragement to you. I was a stranger in these parts after travelling down from up north so to hear the marshals shout “Come on Widnes” was a big boost!

Other than the bits around the start/finish and passing through some small industrial bits that course and the views were great. As far as enjoyment in running 20 miles goes I really enjoyed this race. And of course we finally had the weather.

Hello sunshine, Come into my life!

Peace and Love.

P.S. Get signed up for our awesome fund raising event at Sweat Fitness in Widnes on 7th April at 9.30am and bag yourself some sweet bling. All details are here:

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Sweat Charity Challenge

P.P.S. I hadn’t mentioned it was my mother’s birthday on Saturday also. Happy birthday mother! (I had called round with a card and prezzie early on – I hadn’t ignored my mam’s birthday!)

P.P.P.S. Please sponsor me…

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Perseverance in Lancaster……

Hanging on in there with the mini Beast from the East at the Trimpell 20 mile race.

I’d done this race last year so I saw it as a good test to see where my fitness was at in comparison to last year. I had been feeling fitter in the run up to the race so I was hoping for an improvement on last years’ time.

Unlike last year we did not stay in Bri the Campervan the night previously. I was planning on driving there and back on the day but instead Kate and I decided to stay over the in a hotel in Lancaster the night before. This was at Kate’s suggestion as I have been known to be a bit grumpy and stressy on race day.

So we headed up to Lancaster late on Saturday afternoon and got to our hotel for tea time. I picked the hotel on proximity to race HQ, race start/finish area and car park. If you ever stay in Lancaster I can very highly recommend the Toll House Inn. We had a good night’s stay, a very good evening meal and a decent breakfast. I got all my kit ready nice and early, had a good feed then headed back the room for a foam roll and an early night.

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We was first up to Breakfast in the hotel (I like to eat around 2-3 hours before a bit run) then due to the 11am race start I had plenty of time to head down to the race HQ for number collection. Walking down to get my number in the icy gold and strong easterly wind I was questioning my sanity. Staying over in the hotel was a god send though. After collecting my number I headed back there to get race ready, stretched and warmed up in to comfort of my hotel room away from the cold wind and light snow outside. I think this was one of the only races in England to be still on, most others across the country had been called off due to snow and ice. I didn’t know if I should be happy or gutted about this!

After check out and leaving our stuff in the car Kate and I headed towards the race HQ. I was pretty well layered up as you can see.

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After de-snooding and leaving some stuff with Kate I followed the throng down to the race start area. As last year the start of this race was a bit confusing. There was a start banner marked on the a path next to some playing fields (and apparently the only section of ice on the whole route) so runners just congregated around there before following a marshal down another path before being held for a short while. There was plenty of confused runners wondering when to hit the go button on the old Garmin. I just waited till people started moving then I hit start. I guess it doesn’t matter too much on a 20 mile run that people are generally using for a spring Marathon practice.

The first mile heading out was pretty crowded and I was pretty desperate for a wee so I found a suitable spot just before one mile was up. Because of the slow 1st mile (9.09) I made up for it in the second (8.07) before settling down in to a rhythm of around 8.30-8.45 so, which I kept up till around mile 14 (more on this later). I wanted to run this race “at pace” for sub 4 hour marathon to see how I felt, and this pace felt fairly comfortable for much of the route.

I was also using this race to test my fuelling strategy for London. My plan was to alternate every 30 mins between High5 gels and Tribe trail mix every 30 minutes. I am ok with the gels but after too many of them they tend to get sickly and I like “eating” something on these long runs so I figure I’d try some trail mix.

The first three miles of the race headed out towards Morecambe so the mini beast’s wind was on our backs if anything here. The route then turned back towards Lancaster then picking up the path next to the River Lune.

We would stick with this path for a while now, and I was getting in to a steady rhythm and enjoying Huey Morgan’s 6 Music radio show from Saturday. This is now my go-to listen for my long runs. Huey’s mix of hip-hop, soul and funk is a great listen and it allowed my mind to wander as parts of this route can be pretty monotonous.

We were probably shielded from the mini beast’s wind till around mile 8 after the route passes under the M6 then opened up a bit more in to face of the easterly wind. You could really start to feel this much more from mile 9 or so but here the route has its most scenic section near the “Crook o’Lune” so it was something nice to look at least. This bit up to the turning point in the course (mile 9-11) was a bit of a slog going against the wind and I was looking forward to running back towards Lancaster with the wind at my back.

Once turned around I was feeling pretty good running back down the way we just came, wind helping along the way. I even stopped to take a couple of quick photos at the “Crook o’Lune” as it was one of the few parts of the route truly worthy for a scenic photo.

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At this point I thought I’d cracked it. After doing this run last year I figured I has home and hosed and I just needed to follow the path back in to Lancaster. You can see how happy I am in the main image above. I don’t know how I didn’t notice a big chunk missed of the start of the course! Well, this was put back in at the 14 mile point.

The marshal (who was in shorts – I only know of one other man who would wear shorts in that weather – crazy!) signalled a turn and the route headed up a rather sharp uphill point heading over a bridge (where the cross wind was pushing you back towards the barrier!) and up on to the Lancaster – Morecambe bypass. A sharp incline gaining about 120ft in half a mile. Just what you want coming to mile 15. At least the wind was at our backs going up this hill but this section of the course was VERY exposed and did not feel very nice at all. After hitting the peak on this bit the course dropped another 70ft or so before another turning point. A BIG shout to out the marshal here, she must have been stood there for hours in the most exposed bit of the course. Truly horrific conditions to be stood around in.

Now this is where it got really tough. Heading back up hill against the mini-beast’s strong, freezing cold wind was super hard. It was just a matter of grin and bear it. Then once we got to the peak again and headed downhill it seemed even harder and even more exposed as the wind felt like it was forcing me back up hill. What in the blue hell was this? This wasn’t here last year! I really had to dig in here finally getting back over the bridge, past the marshal in his shorts and back on to the river path back towards Lancaster. That section really was one of the toughest three miles I can ever remember running.

 

Trimpell Hell 2

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The hellish bypass section

I had hoped to have something left in my legs for these last few miles but the bypass blue hell had zapped out any energy I had left from my legs. It was just a matter of perseverance and hanging on in there but try as I might I couldn’t get my pace back under 9 min miles.

Now it was time to switch from Huey’s show back to my own playlist to get some focus back. I knew from the previous year that the last climb back up to Lancaster Castle was coming so I just stuck it in there, kept moving along and finally the end was in sight and I was back on the road round the back of the castle.

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The nasty final hill

Then here it was that final steep climb up to the finish. A nasty sting in the tail at the end of 20 tough miles, I just had to keep pushing on up the hill before finally turning up towards the castle gates then I give as much as I could to a “sprint” finish, crossing the line in 2.58.23.

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The “Sprint” finish

 

I stumbled back towards where Kate was waiting for me, got my customary post-race photos then tried to keep warm and headed back to the car. (On the way back to the car I got the most horrific cramping in my left calf which is till painful a few days later. I hope I’ve not pulled a muscle!).

As usual a massive thanks to Kate for persevering at these things and supporting me! She had everything ready for me (drinks, coats, food etc) at the end. Three hours is a long time to hang around waiting for someone in this weather.

A few things that I’ll take away from the run. I was the lone Widnes Running Club member at this race, but I got a lot of love from runners of other clubs with shouts of “Come on Widnes” from people wearing club colours of Warrington, Penny Lane, Liverpool and Blackburn! This is always appreciated, especially when you’re struggling.

My fuelling strategy – the Tribe Trail mix tasted good, but when I was tired I couldn’t be bothered opening the pack and trying to stuff nuts and seeds in to my mouth. I just relied on the extra High5 gels I took out. I’ll try something different next time.

I felt fitter coming in to the race that I did last year and I think my time showed this. I was a full 10 minutes quicker than the previous year. I think this was a much tougher course too (mile 14-17 almost broke me!), so I’m happy with getting sub 3 hours. I hope this is a good indicator of getting a sub 4 hour marathon at London.

Next up is the final “London Warm Up”, the Gloucester 20 mile on 25th March. This will be as far as I get distance wise, then at last the taper can being and I can start reducing the mileage for these long runs. I’ll be thankful for that!

Peace and Love.

PS You can sponsor me at:

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https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RunningMyler

Hocus Pocus – Magic in Blackpool!

Hocus Pocus by Focus is one of my favourite running songs. It really does make you run faster. They play it really really really fast on this live version.

Proper preparation prevents piss poor performance. Remember that old adage? Will it wasn’t true for the Great North West Half Marathon at Blackpool.

This was the least prepared I’d felt on the morning of a race ever. It didn’t help that Kate and I went out for a meal on the Friday night, got accidentally drunk (again) then had a “proper” rest day lying around the house with a hangover all of Saturday.

I didn’t even get my stuff ready the night before the race as I normally do, so getting up Sunday morning still feeling rough I had my breakfast and quickly gathered up my kit then Kate and I rushed out of the door to get up to Blackpool in time to pick up my race number from race HQ.

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Sunny Blackpool

After parking up fairly close to the race HQ I had to run down to Race HQ to pick up my number before the 10.30am cut off, then got changed on the lower promenade and headed to the start line. Conditions where pretty fantastic for running though, a slight breeze and cool (but not cold) sunshine. A big surprise after seeing (though not taking part) previous Great North West Half Marathons where conditions have looked terrible in the past.

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Kate and I near the start

Although on the morning and the weekend of the race I felt thoroughly under-prepared in the week running up to it I felt great. The previous week I had reduced my mileage significantly, visited the physio and got a sports massage after feeling some discomfort from some mild shin splints so after a few easy miles in the week my legs felt very fresh (it’s just a shame my head didn’t).

We had the countdown and then we were off in to the Blackpool sun as we headed south down towards the North Pier before dropping down on the Lower Walkway right next to the sea then heading back north under the start line then looping back up to repeat this again before finally heading out north towards Bispham on the Lower Walkway. First small set of loops done.

My first mile clocked in a 7.48 and I was thinking this is waaaaaay too fast. However I was feeling pretty good and my next couple of miles come in at under 8 minutes so I figured I’ll try to stick it out a 8 minute miles until I run out of steam and see what happens.

Once out to Bispham the course headed up on to the Higher Walkway (so there was a bit of a hill heading up) and that slight breeze I felt at the start felt a whole lot stronger when it was blowing in to my face. There were also a few undulations on the top part of the route and with the wind in my face I was still just about managing to keep near the 8 minute mile mark up to mile 8 when we were nearly back to the start/finish area, then for another loop!

 

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Two Alan’s. I don’t know why the other Alan is doing Jazz Hands!

From mile 8-9 the course dropped back down to the flat Lower Walkway so I picked up a bit of speed on the flattest part of the course before looping back up at Bispham again. At least now after looping around back the 2nd time I knew I was heading back to the finish.

I’m not a fan of courses with laps and repeated loops in, I find them a psychological drag but I didn’t feel it too bad here. Probably because my head was still aching and fuzzy from Friday night and I was concentrating on getting rid of that rather than thinking about laps.

I was starting to struggle and my energy was running out a bit from miles 10-12, again the undulating top bit of the course with the breeze in my face was slowing me down and that pace was creeping up to just over 8 minute mile pace but I knew that up to mile 12 was as tough as the course was going to get and I picked up the pace again assisted by the sharp decline back towards the start/finish area.

With the finish line in sight I could see on the clock that the sub 1.45 was well and truly on. I sprinted as hard as I could and on the way to the line I just edged past another runner who’s legs seemed to have deserted him right near the end so I gave a big “Come On!” shout then we pushed each other on crossing the line at the same time (see the main image above, the race photographer captured my shout and sprint finish face well!)

I couldn’t quite believe it after crossing the line. I wasn’t sure where this came from, what Hocus Pocus and magic was this?!

Before the race I was expecting to do around 5 minutes faster than the Helsby Half (on 21st January) which would have given me around 1.48, but I didn’t expect to beat my time of the Village Bakery (Wrexham) Half from last February where I got my of PB 1.46.53. I certainly didn’t expect to beat 1.45, so to come in with a time of 1.44.34 I was ecstatic!

I smashed my PB and already beat one of my 2018 goals to get a sub 1.45 Half Marathon.!

After picking up my medal (Fylde Coast Runner do some fantastic massive medals), t shirt and freddo (the freddo makes it all worth it) I caught up with Kate, went for some fish and chips and headed back home well and truly pleased with myself.

I don’t usually enjoy courses with laps and I find them a bit of a drag. However conditions on this morning where just perfect for running, the support on the course was pretty good, I was feeling good (other than a fuzzy head) and the race was organised brilliantly so everything just come together on the day.

I’m done with half’s for a while now. I need to concentrate on getting that mileage back up for the marathon and looking after my legs (lots of foam rollering, massages, ice baths etc) as I don’t want shin splints ruining my marathon preparation.

Next race is the Trimpell 20 mile race in Lancaster on 18th March. I will be aiming for a PB and to beat my time from last year at this race.

Peace and Love.

PS You can sponsor me at:

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https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RunningMyler

 

Stone Cold Crazy

A crazy stone cold morning in Helsby, and that’s the bottom line.

Sometimes when you’ve entered a race and you see the weather forecast secretly (or not so secretly) you’re hoping for a cancellation because really as no one in their right mind would go out running in that weather. This was the case for the Four Villages Half Marathon, starting and ending in Helsby. The forecast the night before was pretty dire; heavy rain and sleet with a temperature of 1-2°C. After watching people try and cross the icy road outside my house before I went bed the night before I was thinking (hoping) there might be a possibility of a cancellation.

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The forecast on Saturday night. It wasn’t wrong!

Alas a cancellation was not to be. It must have warmed up (very slightly) overnight as when I awoke there was no ice on the roads. Heslby is only a few miles away from me and with a 10.30am race time I didn’t have as early a morning as some of the other races I have done, so I had my pre-race breakfast (always 2 hours before a race), got myself lubed up (Bodyglide everywhere, Footglide* on the feet, obviously)  got kitted up and headed out to Helsby.

*Note:  I know that Footglide is probably the same as Bodyglide only more expensive for less product but I’m not getting blisters at the moment, so I’m not changing it.

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Pre-race breakfast!

Driving over the Mersey Gateway Bridge the car was getting pelted with wind and sleet I was thinking “this is madness”. It was so tempting to turn off at Runcorn and head back over the bridge back to God’s own country and to my nice warm house.

I got to Helsby, managed to park up within walking distance to HQ (only just I nabbed one of the last few spaces) and headed to the start area at Helsby Community Sports Club. As you can imagine in this terrible weather pretty much everyone was trying to take shelter in the club and it was more than a bit cramped.

I tracked down some of my fellow Widnes Running Club Members and we congregated outside near the Up and Running Stall where another of our members Liam was working (Liam kindly offered to store our bags in his car). Whilst waiting for the start the weather went from rain to snow to sleet back to rain and all around again and we all generally moaned about how much of a bad idea this was and how cold we all where. I’d already lost the feeling in my fingers at this point. After finally plucking up the courage to take off my coat I deposited my bag in Liams’s car and headed to the start line all of 15 meters away.

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Start line selfie

The race started and we headed out towards Dunham on the Hill and the hail stone started. Nice. It genuinely was so cold and it took me until about mile 5 to get full feeling back in my fingers as my hands finally warmed up.

I had been a little worried about the hills on this course and I was hoping some of the hill training that I’ve been doing recently would come in to play as I don’t like hills and running up them is certainly a weakness of mine!  However the first few miles were fine. Undulating somewhat (with some nice down hills to pick up some time) up until mile 6 or so.

Then the hills and the weather kicked in. Hail and sleet had receded to cold, cold rain and the course really started to get tough from mile 7. I think the toughest section of the course (and it shows in my splits) from mile 7 to 8, it was all up hill and very exposed to the conditions especially on the Smithy Lane section towards Mouldsworth Village, it felt the wind was right in your face and pushing you back down the hill. I found this by far the worst bit of the course.

Once that tasty little section was conquered there was a slight respite from mile 8 to 9, (although by now my gloves had got wet and I had lost the feeling in my hands again) before climbing back up between mile 9 to mile 10.5.

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I’d not ran this course before but I knew that if I hang in there in this section than that was it course conquered and hills complete! It was true because as Super Fresco used to say “What goes up must come down”. A sharp decline at 10.5 miles (which is where the main picture was taken – “Wooooo!”) then a sneaky little undulating bit before being all downhill back in to Helsby and a good chance to pick up a bit of speed and pick up my two fastest miles of the race by far .

I had some left to put in a sprint finish and I crossed the line with an official chip time of 1:53:17. This is about a minute quicker that the Lancs New Years Half Marathon two weeks ago on a much tougher course in pretty terrible conditions. In fact I think I could of put a bit more in around some of the hillier sections and I think I could of get a better time than this (I was nowhere near as tired at the end of this race as I was at the Lancs half marathon) but I’m pleased with my result and I feel I’m making progress in my training.

Goodie bag and medal collected I headed back to the sports club. On the way I bumped in to an ex colleague from years back, all round nice guy, good egg and good runner Dave Owen and we bother agreed that that today’s run was “Character Building” and that we wouldn’t be winning any size contests today!

I headed back over to collect my bag from Liam’s car and I had some difficulty opening that car door and picking up my bagas my hands were frozen and my fingers would not work! I quickly got my customary post-race photos done and headed off in to the sports club to find a heater and to get my hands warm, get changed, get the hell out of Helsby and get home for a warm and a big feed (it took me hours to get anywhere near warm again!).

As much as I have gone on about the weather (it really was so so cold and up there with the worst conditions I’ve ever ran in) I actually enjoyed the run, even the hilly bits. A big thank you and well done should go to the organisers for putting on such a good race in these conditions, but a bigger thank you should go to the marshals, volunteers and spectators for hanging around in the terrible weather, well done!

All said and done I am glad this race went ahead. I needed to do this kind of mileage as part of my marathon training this week. If I hadn’t of entered this race there is no way I would of gone out in those crazy stone cold conditions.

Some more training in the coming weeks for me before my next race which is the Great North West Half Marathon in Blackpool on 18th February where I’d be looking to take around five minutes off today’s time (with a bit of luck and dependant on conditions).

Peace and Love.

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Guess Who’s Back?…..

…..The not so “Slim” Shady!

FINALLLLLLYYYYYYY Big Al has come back to……………………… LEA TOWN!!!!

Happy New Year! It’s been a while but I’m back running, back racing, back fund raising and back to writing blogs.

Last year I did a big running challenge to raise money for North West Cancer Research. I ran The Blackpool Marathon and the Great Manchester 10k and Half Marathon but I managed to get myself injured in the run up to the marathon last year. I didn’t really recover for the either the marathon or Manchester runs but I did complete them (I never actually got round to blogging about them, probably because I suffered with my injury through them!).

Since then I’ve had to deal with the injury sustained in the run up to the marathon, had a loss of mojo and have enjoyed myself a bit too much on holidays and at festivals. I will get round to covering those races from last year and my lack of mojo in much more depth in another blog but for this entry I’m covering my comeback and the Central Lancs Half Marathon in Lea Town near Preston.

I had actually started to get back running in September and October, with the last race I done being the Flintshire 10k in October. I was slowly starting to get some mojo back but then a holiday and a business trip aboard put paid to this and I ended up putting on a bit of weight (I was already a little bit heavy) and ended up around 21lbs overweight.

I got back from these trips and I noticed on Facebook that North West Cancer Research where looking for fundraisers to run the London Marathon. I raised money for the same charity last year after losing my Dad to cancer in June 2016. NWCR are a charity local to me and everyone knows cancer sucks so it is a natural choice for me to support a local charity doing great work in stopping cancer sooner and saving peoples loved ones. I applied to NWCR for one of their charity places and found out I was successful on 10th December.

There’s nothing like a big charity challenge and running one of the biggest and most famous races in the world for getting some focus and some mojo back. This is not without some self-doubt, could I do it all over again? And could I raise that kind of money again? I raised over £2000 in 2017 and I need to do at least that again! I know how much hard work there is and how much training you need to put in to run a marathon.

For my 2017 marathon in Blackpool (held the same day as London) I started training in October 2016, this time around I started training in mid-December. So starting a couple of months behind and being 21lbs over weight I had a lot of catching up to do. It really did feel like start from scratch (and when I say scratch I mean like when I first started running ads a 16 and half stone big lad back in 2007), but I persevered through December and finally in the run up to Christmas it felt like my running mojo was back, I’ve lost a bit of weight (8lbs, so now just a stone over weight) I had a couple of good training runs where it felt like I got some rhythm back and actually remembered how to breath properly. My last good run was a 10 miler of Christmas Eve (I actually felt great doing this and ran much faster than I had initially planned).

Then Christmas happened. I was due to do a run on Boxing Day but I had so much of a good Christmas day with my family this was not possible! I has also planned on doing some runs around New Year. My wife (Kate) and I had a break in York over the New Year but other factors like bad weather (really unsafe running conditions in snow and ice) and hangovers put paid to this.

So this brings us to the Central Lancs Half in Lea Town near Preston on 7th January. I had actually managed to do two training runs in the week preceding this (one 4 miler where I stopped for a breather after a mile – this was on the 2nd Jan though) and a cracking little hills session. I came in to the race feeling as I had not trained enough, but this race was down in my plan to get some mileage in my legs (it would be the furthers I’ve ran since the Manchester half back in May), and I really needed to get that “feel good race factor” back.

I ran this race last year so I had a good idea of what was to come (although there was some slight changes to the course) and it was a good opportunity to see how far away I am compared to this stage last year.

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So an early start heading up to Lea Town to get to race registration for 9am. The race started at 10am, but I like to be there an hour early to get prepared (PRP is essential). It was a very bright but very cold morning so I had my PRP in the portaloo’s, collected my race number from HQ and headed off back to the car to sit with the heater on for a while and to get in to my race kit.

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I headed off to the start and I notice that it a had shifted a little since last year, I guess to make up for the course adjustment. I was a little chilly stood round waiting for the start, but not too bad as the race director gave us our instructions (including a request to use our brains as there was cold icy stretches out on the course).

And then we were off. My main plan was to use this as a training run but obviously that went out of the window as soon as the race started and I went off at a quick pace (for me!). I continued with a reasonable quick pace throughout the first half of the race really, the first three miles did have a slight elevation gain but race excitement carried me along, the next three miles where then pretty much downhill and I was going a pace much quicker that I have done in any training run recently. There was some icy patches around these first six miles but it wasn’t too bad and didn’t really have too much of an effect on my running.

Then from the halfway point the course starting going steadily back up hill and we were getting out in to the exposed and very cold Lancashire countryside. This looked great in the crisp clear winter sun but there was some very icy stretches of road and some care was needed whilst running. From about halfway up to 10.5 miles my pace really started to drop and the steady incline (nothing major just a few miles gaining a little bit of height) really started to take it out of my legs and I think the lack of any training over the festive break started to show.

As previously mentioned I had run the race last year and I know the after mile 10 the course would start to go back down hill and I hoped to pick up some time here. I did somewhat but not as much as I would of liked. I tried to pick up the pace more but my legs would just not go faster. Again I put this down to a lack of any training over Christmas. Anyways I finally got back towards Lea Town and I knew the end was near, turning the corner near the Smiths Arms I gave all I had left for a “sprint” finish (see main photo) finishing at 1.54.08.

Throughout the course I notice the mile markers where not matching up with my Garmin and I measured the course at 13.26 so it was 0.16miles long according to me. I’m fine with this though, I wasn’t going for a PB this race was just about miles in the legs. In comparison to last year I was a good few minutes slower (1.48.04 vs 1.54.08) but I’m not a million miles off and I’m happy with this as a base line for the rest of the year.

 

I do have some catching up to do on last year but I am more experienced and my training plan is much better this time around. Also I am carrying an extra stone which hopefully should be gone by the start of February (I really hope so, I’m looking forward to having more calories!). I will be aiming to get well under 1.45 come spring time.

Other positives to take from this race was my lack of blisters (I feel like / hope that I have stumbled upon a solution from my blister issues from last year – a combination of socks, shoes and lube), and my ankle not hurting and not clicking (at least until the latter stages of the race) – the strength work I’ve been doing in the gym over the past few months seems to be working!

One final note. Your mind starts to wander when you run for any length of time like this (part of the reason I run is for some “head space”) and whilst running this race I couldn’t help but think of Kate’s Great Aunt Sylvia. This was the third time this week I had been up to the Preston area, firstly to visit Sylvia in hospital on Wednesday. Sylvia then sadly passed away on Thursday. She was much more than a “great aunt” to Kate and she was the matriarch of the family. Sylvia could be often be cantankerous and obnoxious but much more often hilarious. She was such a great character and I clicked with her immediately upon first meeting her back in the late 90’s and I loved her dearly ever since.  She would always look out for me on the big televised races I ran in (and I think even some I didn’t race in) like the great runs etc though she never seen me on the T.V.  I’m not much one for “RIPing” or dedicating stuff etc., but this one is for Sylvia.

Peace and Love.

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