San Domenico 10 – 17 March 2019

This race had to be cancelled last year due to the snow in the UK.

I was due to run the 20 mile race in preparation for the Great Welsh Marathon. I actually went out for a 20 mile run around Brecon instead.I knew that I wouldn’t be able to run 20 miles at this point in the year so opted for the 10 mile race instead.

My mileage will build up soon for Race To The Stones (RTTS) but not just yet.

As I’m still getting through what ever is troubling my hamstring & glute, I ran a test 10 miler on the route last week. This actually went really well. It was also the first time I used TailWind to fuel my runs.

I will be using it at RTTS and it’s always best to try new fuel ideas beforehand.

The 10 & 20 mile races start together on the out and back course along the generally flat Taff Trail. Those running the 20 do two laps.

The start was slow and that was great for me! I had a race plan of taking the first six out easy (9 min miles) and then attacking the four miles back.

After the first mile, which loops back to the start, I felt like I wanted to pick the pace up. The legs felt decent so I went with it.

I started going passed runners with relative ease, although this can be deceptive as some are running the 20 and will be running at a more conservative pace.

I got to the turnaround and was doing really well, I’m sure the TailWind helped with that. I was tired but didn’t feel like I had to significantly slow down or stop.

The legs haven’t run at pace for a while and this was clear as I neared the end. With just over half a mile to go there is a slight incline which made my legs work more than they had been but I’d recovered by the time I got to the short hill under a bridge (locals will know). I was able to get up that relatively easily.

Then it was a downhill dash to the finish!

My chip time was 1:18:57Which works out at a huge Personal Best. My previous best was 1:27 although that was at the much tougher, hillier Brecon 10.

Photo credit to Robert Gale of Parc Bryn Bach Running Club

I’ll be back on the Taff Trail this Sunday as I’m running the Merthyr Half Marathon.

The race starts and ends at the College; first heading out on the Trevithick Trail before coming back on the Taff Trail.

The route has changed in the last few years but is going back to the route I ran in 2015. I finished that day in 2:05:48 so I’m hoping for better than that.

February Roundup

February wasn’t a great month. It began with the Llanelli Half Marathon which was followed by three weeks of not really running.

My hamstring / glute niggle needed rest. Following the Half I ran just 13.5 miles in the remainder of the month. I went to the gym to stretch and do a bit of strength work. I’m a bit haphazard with that which probably isn’t helping.

For the whole month I totalled 27 miles; less than a mile a day!

Retirement (sort of)

My last but one post back in November was about Cross Country running.

In the last paragraph I mention the next race which may be a bit boggy.

Well it was. Very boggy. In fact the worst conditions I’ve raced in. I’m definitely a road runner with the occasional relatively dry trail thrown in.

It took me a little over seventy minutes to complete the 10k course and once back in the club tent I told the few remaining hardy souls there that I had just retired from Cross Country after three races.

It wasn’t necessarily the conditions, it was that it was a race and I had to keep going for the team points when in reality I just would have preferred to walk or stop altogether.

For those that enjoy it and the challenge it entails, my hat is tipped to them. I’ll stick to what I enjoy.

And Stretch…

Yesterday I ran Llanelli Half Marathon. It was my 15th Half and my 5th quickest. I finished in 1:55:38.

Llanelli was my first Half in March 2014. I ran it last year too. This year the route has changed a bit. It’s a fast course, the winner comes in around 64 minutes.

My running in 2019 has been hampered by a persistent hamstring and/or glute niggle that won’t go away. Comparing year on year I’m about 45 fewer miles this year. Not great preparation. The DOMS I’m experiencing today are proof of that.

I’ve been reading lots of advice as to what I can do to try and strengthen my glutes but I’m yet to take any real action.

I have five weeks before my next race (San Dom 10 miler) and six weeks before my next Half at Merthyr.

Plenty of time to get my butt (arf!) into gear and make headway in solving the problem.

The niggle reared it’s head at Mile 3 yesterday and continued until I crossed the finish line; with intermittent calf and Achilles tightness thrown in for good measure.

I’ve never been one for stretching but that’s what I need to do now. Whilst my right leg is the one in discomfort, my left leg is even tighter.

Now that we are kicking into 2019, I need to sort myself out. I’ve booked lots of races this year including two Ultra Marathons and it would be awful not to be able to make the start line.

So I’ll give the DOMS a day or two to settle down and then get to it!

Cross Country

At this time of year runners eschew the relative comfort of road running and go in search of lumpy bumpy off road courses.

I’ll start out by saying that cross country is not my thing. I first ran at a meet last year in Brecon whilst with Parc Bryn Bach Running Club. I only ran that day as I felt that living a mile from the course, it would look odd that I didn’t turn up; even if I did have to borrow suitable footwear! I did intend to do a few more races, buying trail shoes in the process, but I never got myself to the start line.

That is until I travelled with Brecon Athletic Club to Pembrey in order to run a 9.9km course which would include a small section on sand.

I haven’t figured out why yet but when I’m on a cross country route, my leg speed slows down, I just can’t get going. Those runners who I know are speedy on the road, are equally speedy off road. It’s something I will try and address.

There is still a disparity in the league that we were competing in, in that then women run a shorter route than the men. Several of the ladies who run for Brecon AC can easily out run and out pace me, and I wonder why the length of the courses haven’t been equalised yet. If we all signed up to a 10km, half marathon or marathon, then we would all run the same distance.

So, the men had to run two big laps around the course. The course wasn’t particularly hilly, its bumpy. Although one young lad at the club who is more than twice as fast as I am, told me it was pretty flat! The bumps were nicely spread out though.

I started towards the back of the 400 or so men who were running, They of course set off at a dash, I being a little more sensible and wary of what was ahead, kept a pace I knew I could maintain.

In the initial stages I kept with club mate Paul. A few weeks before over a 10k trail race Paul had easily left me behind. So I decided to keep with him this time and see if I could hang on. About three quarters of the way around the sand appears in the form of a short sharp incline up to a dune. Paul and I were side by side and he told me to go ahead, it being a narrowish path, I bounded up the sand, surprising myself and managed to keep the effort level the same and powered away from Paul. He congratulated me at the end of the race for overcoming the difference in our times over the two races.

Our running friends group has a motto; “Love a hill”. They are vital really for good running performance and strength and we do love a hill around Brecon. It’s that mentality that saw me gain many places on the longer bumpier bits of the course. At each one I overtook at least one person and held that place on the way down.

On the second lap I knew I was near the back. There is one section that makes a wide sweep of a field where its possible to see whose behind you. I felt like I was slowing down but the splits seemed okay. I took a few places on the sand dune part and the final hill before managing a sprint finish to gain a couple of more places! Every place counts in cross country.

I did enjoy my run to a point, the not being able to be as fast as I’d like is a bit annoying but something I can work on.

The next race is on Sunday at Parc Bryn Bach where we have been warned that it could be a bit boggy in places!! The weather has been rather wet this week so conditions may well be challenging.

Severn Bridge Half Marathon

This is my favourite Half Marathon. It was first run in 2014 and I have run all five events.  Sarah and I ran at the first event, at that time it was my second Half and Sarah’s first.

The race begins in the middle of the first Severn Bridge crossing and continues into England, around the villages in the vicinity of Elberton before making its way back over the bridge and to the finish near junction 2 of the M48.

It is organised by Rogue Runs. They also organise lots of other local runs, we have also participated twice in the 5 mile night run over the bridge.

In the third year of the race, the route had to be changed and we ran into Wales instead. That was a tough route, I was glad when the route returned to normal for the fourth iteration.

The race is known for The Hill. A steep-ish section of the route at 7 miles which has defeated me each time. I think the fourth year I was prepared to run all the way but it’s a narrow lane and I couldn’t make my way passed the runners who had been defeated. This year I just wasn’t fit enough to make it up, I’ll do it one year.

I went into this years race not really expecting to do anything but a 1:59:59 finish. I haven’t been particularly fit for most of the year. A Half Marathon PB at Llanelli in February was a false dawn as I was injured not long after, followed by two marathons, two 50KMs and then a dreadful Brecon 10 just weeks prior to this race. I was hoping to get round and enjoy it.

I’ve just checked Strava to see what I was up to in the week leading to the race and the answer is… nothing. No running logged. The previous run was parkrun the week before, which concluded 22 miles of running over 3 days, all in an effort to up my mileage.

I had an idea to see if I could get close to my PB set in Llanelli (1:41:55), which would be a huge achievement on this course. Llanelli is pretty much flat, this course is a bit bumpy.

I wasn’t able to reach PB pace early on without feeling it too much in my legs so I ditched that idea and just ran. Seeing how long I could keep going. I averaged 8:09 min miles for the first six. The Hill at seven gave me a 10:10 mile and I averaged 8:11 for the last six. Pretty good. The final two miles were a bit quicker; 7:56 and 7:49.

I crossed the line in 1:49:30, which is a course PB.

I shall return once again in 2019, injury permitting, to run the sixth Severn Bridge Half Marathon.

2014 – 02:42:32 – With Sarah
2015 – 01:56:50
2016 – 01:58:44 (Alternate route)
2017 – 01:59:15 (Two hour pace test for marathon training)
2018 – 01:49:30

Race to the Stones 2018

This post is becoming some what of a millstone! I have been drafting it for months but never get it finished. So to get it out there, I’m going to shorten it considerably. I don’t feel like I can post about other stuff with this sitting in the drafts waiting for me to get back to it.

So here goes:

On 31 December 2013 I wrote a post on my previous blog that concluded with:

Eventually I’ll run a half marathon or two, then a marathon or two before getting to a bucket list goal of finishing an ultra marathon before I’m 41… but that’s for my aspiration list on 31 December 2016.

I have since run a half or two and a marathon or two and now I have finished two 50k ultra marathons in two days.

I first heard about Race to the Stones on Instagram, when some of those I was following completed the event over two days in 2017. I had planned to take 2018 off marathon distance running but not achieving the sub four hour marathon I’d wanted at Chester drew me to another marathon and as I was already committed to run Windermere Marathon, I thought I might as well have a crack at RTTS.

Injury in the lead up to Windermere meant that my planned training was curtailed greatly prior to RTTS.

I was at the event with Laurie (predominately a road runner and like me a first time ultra competitor) and Nick (predominately a trail runner and ultra marathon veteran).

This being my first experience of ultra running, I was on a steep learning curve. Run the flat and the downhill and walk the uphill was my first lesson. I do like running uphill so this was, at first, a challenge but once the miles ticked on and on, it was a relief not to have the pressure of “I must keep going” that is prevalent in road running.

The weather was very warm that weekend and at times the sun was scorching. Thankfully RTTS is a fully supported event and there are pit stops at every 10k or so. At these there were tables filled with all sorts of carb bars, fruit, crisps, nuts and much more. Water bowsers for refilling bottles. There were toilets too! Marvellous.

The weather affected me on the first day to the point where I thought I wouldn’t make it to halfway and basecamp. I was wearing an ultra vest with two 500ml bottles. I was drinking those in between each pit stop. However I wasn’t taking on enough liquid and that took its toll at around 20 miles in.

I thought I was doing fine, I had to use the portaloos at each stop and even had a few stops at the side of the path (we gents are so very fortunate that we can do this!). Getting to 20 miles in the early afternoon heat was where I noticed that I was getting in trouble. Laurie was having issues with blisters and was finding it easier to keep running rather than walking. Nick and I caught Laurie up as she attended to her blisters and I remember saying “I think I’m in trouble here. I’ve stopped sweating and I don’t feel like I need to pee”. I was also pretty much out of water and the next pit stop was at least a few miles away. The heat of the afternoon coupled with the elevation and terrain had caught me out.

Nick said later that I had gone quite pale. As Laurie made efforts to continue running, Nick stuck with me and his experience of these events came through. He gave me some of his water and the salty and sugary snacks that he had collected from the pit stops. With his assistance we three crossed the halfway finish line together and at a canter!

Tackling the event over two days, afforded us a stay in a tent, time to shower, get blisters popped, and eat as much as we wanted. I slept pretty well and was hydrating right from the moment I woke up in an effort to repeat the issues of day one.

My lack of running prior to the event started to tell early on day two. I was fine when jogging along the flat with Laurie and Nick but the moment we got to an incline I got left behind! Many a time the two of them would reach the top and I’d jog from about halfway to catch them up.

Laurie was finding it easier to jog along rather than walk due to the pain from her blisters. Mine had reduced to a minimal sting which was manageable. I remember loosing sight of the pair and thinking that they had finally got the message to go ahead without me but then I saw Nick waiting patiently at the side of the track/road. We had a chat and I said for him to leave me and go ahead, I was happy on my own and didn’t want to curtail his race any further, and with that I wouldn’t see either of them until I crossed the finish line.

There were always people around so I wasn’t fully on my own. I did make sure to catch up with some runners at one point as we made our way to a gate surrounded by cows. I’ve been chased by cows previously so I’m wary!

The rest of my day went really well, I was able to keep a steady jog going and reached the final pit stop in good order. I was tired  but thankful there were only 8 miles left. They were 8 very long miles though. The terrain was challenging when tired and it certainly tested the blisters.

I sang to myself quite a bit on the last 4 or 5 miles. Not a complete song but the refrain from Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO.

Everyday I’m shufflin’

That’s what I had been reduced to and it kept me going and in good spirits.

With about 5k to go, the farm where the finish is located is visible from the track, I could also hear the announcer. The bad thing is that to get to the finish, you have to go passed the lane to the farm and into the village to run around the Stones we have been racing towards.

Once that is done then you revisit the section of road you’ve run along before getting onto the lane, a left turn and the finish is a short run away.

By now I just wanted this to be all over! The legs concurred and after turning left my pace increased and ignoring the pain in my feet I managed to sprint the last few hundred meters to cross the line.

It was all done. 16 hours 27 minutes. Laurie and Nick had finished well over 30 minutes ahead of me.

Once reunited with Sarah, I uttered my usual “I’m never doing that again!”…. well I will be.

I have signed up to tackle the same event but this time all in one go. 100km, no halfway tent to sleep in and I’ve estimated that the final 15 miles will be in the dark. I’m yet to work out at what time I’ll reach the field with the cows but I can assure you I’ll know by race day!!