Track Training

I recently transferred from Parc Bryn Bach RC to Brecon AC as I was unable to get to training sessions.

Last Thursday evening was my first track training session with the club. I have run intervals at the track with friends but this was coached training and a little different for me.

We started with warm up drills which I haven’t done before, I usually just run. The drills will certainly take some practice and I did feel a little foolish not being able to master each drill.

The session began with a mile benchmark test. Having been on marathon mode for a while, speed hasn’t really been at the forefront of my training. I ran Merthyr parkrun recently and was two minutes off my personal best even at near full output. Being injured also hasn’t helped.

Anyway, four laps of the track for a mile and I completed in 6:43 according to Strava. I’ve run a slightly quicker mile during a parkrun but that was with a slight downward trend to the mile! I’m happy with the time, I feel I can go quicker and that’s what the track training sessions are going to help.

After a three minute rest, up next were 4 x 800s. The pace for the repeats were supposed to be slightly quicker than the mile benchmark but my fitness meant that I was marginally slower. Coming in around 6:55 per mile pace.

Whilst my fitter teammates completed the four repeats, I managed three! I was even convinced that I had taken one of the repeats short by only running one lap. I had to check the Strava fly-bys when I got home to prove to myself that I did two laps each time.

The few times I’ve run on the track I’ve lost count of how many laps I’ve done. Yes, even when running two laps. That evening there were sprinters on the track, some doing hammer training and even young people doing football training on the other fields. All enough to take my focus away from running and remembering laps. I took to tucking my thumb under my fingers until I had completed the first lap. More focus required. With the 400s done, we finished off with 40m strides.

That night I slept all the way to the alarm which is very unusual for me. I have been tired since though so I need to be aware of that as I have two half marathons coming up and the cross country season will begin soon, although hopefully I’ll be fitter by then!

Brecon 10

I do have a post in process about Race to the Stones Ultra Marathon but that’s taking time to write and I’d rather not hold back any posts, as it has been over two months since I last posted.

The Brecon Lions 10 Mile Road Race is an annual event held in August. I don’t know how long it has been going but I do know that the route has changed a few times over the years. The route used to go through the centre of the town but these days it sticks to the back roads and takes in a loop of Llanfrynach situated five miles from the start.

I ran the race last year with Laurie as we were both in training for Chester Marathon. We happily plodded around and finished around ninety minutes.

Sarah was running this year. Her first Brecon 10 and the longest run for some time, one she has been building towards since the beginning of the year.

This years race took place on Sunday 5th August. The race starts and finishes on the local running track. For the first time the race was chip timed. The route included not quite two laps of the track at the beginning before heading out onto the roads on the out and back course before a 300m section of track to finish.

Coming off Windermere Marathon and Race to the Stones, I’m not in the best shape. The injury I had prior to Windermere has all but gone but I haven’t really run at my pace for any decent length of time.

The race was my first in the blue vest of Brecon AC following my transfer from the green vest of Parc Bryn Bach RC.

The weather on the day was very warm, well into the 20s by the 10:30am start time. I’d agreed to run the track section with Sarah before heading off at my pace. I was feeling fine and I had a rough plan in mind. The out section of the course is mostly downhill but coming back is a lot tougher.

I caught up with people I knew, said hello, and then pushed on. I got to about three miles and was feeling the pace, the downhills were great but the legs were turning over quicker than they have been recently. We hit the uphill prior to Llanfrynach and I was done. I had been keeping pace with Salome but I lost ground and found myself getting really hot. My pace slowed down and I made the decision to stop at the water station at Llanfrynach.

I propped myself against the wall, took on water and waited for my body to cool down a bit. I knew Sarah would be along eventually and decided that I would wait and run the second half with her.

Sarah ran passed the water station, with me calling to her, she waved, looked confused and kept on running! I caught up with her and explained what had happened.

We were keeping pace with Jo from Pontypridd Roadents AC who told us about all the crazy distance races she has been doing. Chatting back and forth made a few miles disappear relatively easily. Sarah was also being affected by the heat and we parted ways with Jo as we approached the hill into Groesffordd.

We took it steadily up the hill and continued our way to the finish. At times we weren’t sure if we were last. Sarah hadn’t seen any other runners behind her for sometime and I didn’t know if there was a tail walker. Later we were told that there was a car at the back.

As we ran down Maggie’s Lane I caught sight of some runners behind us and motivated Sarah by telling her she didn’t want to get overtaken with less than a mile to go!

To her credit Sarah ran the last mile without stopping and we hit the track knowing the finish was literally just around the corner. Cheered on by friends, Sarah and I crossed the line in 2 hours 10 minutes.

A tough route that was tougher than last year given the heat. Next year we have plans to run the Norwich 10k, having run it previously in 2016. Perhaps we will both be back in 2020 to have another crack at this race.

Windermere Marathon

It’s been two weeks and I haven’t written about the marathon!

Windermere Marathon was held on Sunday 20th May 2018, starting and finishing at Brathay Hall near Ambleside in the Lake District. The route takes in a complete anti-clockwise loop of the lake.

This would be a weekend of firsts. Our first time staying with Sarah’s family, I met some of Sarah’s extended family for the first time, our first visit to Lancaster, our first visit to the Lakes and the first time I’ve had an ice cream during a race! There are more but we’ll get to them.

Windermere Marathon wasn’t on my race radar until June 2017 when Sarah’s Uncle Andrew asked the family if anyone would consider running a marathon with him to celebrate his 60th birthday in 2018. Five of us said yes.

At that time I had completed the London Marathon two months before and had already signed up to Chester Marathon for October 2017; another marathon wouldn’t be a problem!

I wrote about Chester in an earlier post; I missed my sub 4 hour goal and eventually signed up for the Great Welsh Marathon.

That race would be five weeks before Windermere and I would get my sub 4 and come to the conclusion that marathon running isn’t for me.

I’d planned for the race to be a training run towards Race to the Stones (RTTS) which is a 100km Ultra Marathon that I’ll be attempting to complete over 2 days in July. When I saw the race elevation I knew it would be a long day! I’d figured around about 5 hours for me to get around the course in one piece.

After GWM I was feeling good but the drive to Norwich at the end of April did something to my right knee, it was aching and only got worse. A physio told me I have tight glutes which I can’t disagree with as my flexibility is very poor after years of not stretching properly.

So from being fit and raring to go, I was now unsure if I’d even get on the start line!

I rested and did the stretches from the physio. The knee felt a bit better by the time we got to Lancaster on Friday and I joined Sarah, Andrew and Cousin Dominic on a run the following morning. Whilst not 100% I felt that I would at the least be able to start the race.

We drove to Ambleside just after Harry and Megan had begun their vows and parked up at our hotel for the next four nights; Wateredge Inn

We walked to Brathay Hall to collect our race numbers. The distance was a mile and also happened to be the very last mile that we would run the following day.

Me, Andrew and Domonic with our numbers (photo by Alison). Not pictured are David, Henry and Lizzie who would arrive later in the day.

Later that afternoon I was stood in Lake Windermere cooling down my sore knee.

(photo by Sarah)

I woke the next day feeling as though I’d get around but it might just take a bit longer than the planned 5 hours. Our group of six runners had discussed race strategies and agreed that we would cross the start line together and stay as a group for at least 2 miles.

Two of the group, Domonic and Lizzie were running their first marathons and although had trained well were in the deep end with a tough debut course.

We did cross the start together and we did stick together for 2 miles as this photo proves.

David, Lizzie, Henry, Andrew, Me & Domonic (photo by James Kirby).

Soon after I had moved ahead with David, albeit briefly before he put the afterburners on and disappeared into the distance.

I knew that there was a challenging hill at mile 7, so I stuck with my running and decided to see what the knee could do. I wasn’t anywhere near my usual marathon pace of 9:00 per mile but I was running.

Andrew, Domonic, Henry and Lizzie had kept together and caught me up just after the 6th mile. I’d slowed to take on water as I was getting hot (more on this to come!) and we set off as a five. Initially I struggled to keep with them but the hill appeared and we all slowly made our way up.

As this race was a training run for RTTS, I was wearing an Ultra vest with water and other essentials. It was the first time I’d worn it, missing out previous runs due to the knee issue. It was a warm day and I just got hotter and hotter wearing it.

I was taking water on from my bottles and also the water stations. I dropped off the back of our five to eat a Clif Bar at mile 9 and my Ultra vest was soaked, this made me think I needed more water. I was wrong. By mile 11 my stomach sloshing about and I had to stop and walk to ease it. I told the other four I would see them at the finish.

I was sending updates to Sarah and friends via text and Snapchat as I went. The above was taken as I was walking the water problem off at 11 miles. I’d sent Sarah the following by text “11 miles @ 1222pm. Bit tired, hills are not fun. David left us at 2 miles, other 4 are running together”.

A few minutes later I took a selfie:

This is 11 miles in and I look shattered! Looking back, it’s amazing that I finished.

I plodded on, I remember sending Snaps that said “knee hurts to walk but okay to run” which quickly turned into “knee hurts to run now too”. Or words to that effect.

Somewhere towards mile 15 or 16 I caught up with Henry and Lizzie. I could see them ahead and couldn’t believe they were walking. I expected that Lizzie in her first marathon was having a breather but it was Henry who was suffering.

I walked along with them as my knee was now very painful and I took in the views across Windermere.

Henry had mentioned that Lizzie should run on with me so when I jogged back to them and said I was going on, Lizzie did indeed come with me. Although perhaps I was going with her as she set off at a great pace that I struggled to keep with.

Lizzie was running at my normal marathon pace but my knee and the fatigue just wouldn’t allow me to run that pace, I slowly dropped off the pace and shouted to her to keep going as she was looking so strong. It wasn’t long before she was around a bend and gone.

I was on my own again, walking and running up and down each hill that appeared.

At mile 18 I text Sarah, actually I text my sister Sharon by mistake “Through 18, knee is bad but I’ll finish. Lizzie is ahead of me, Henry is behind @ 1.51pm”

My sister asked if I was going to carry on or stop, I told her I would finish. It took a few minutes for it to sink in that Sharon had replied not Sarah, I then realised I’d not text her. I really was tired, mentally and physically.

The race route had mostly been on closed or half closed quiet roads until it came down into Bowness-on-Windermere. As I ran down the hill there were suddenly lots of cars and people around. It was quite odd really going from the peace and quiet of just runners and the occasional spectator to a cacophony of noise and support for these mad people running a marathon.

My next two texts show that I was starting to suffer: “20 miles @ 2.12pm” and “21 @ 2.30 – slowing doooooowwwwnnnn”

Over 15 minutes for that mile, my knee was not good. I had just got to the top of mile 21 which I walked most of.

I had read pre-race that there was an ice-cream vendor at the top of mile 21. However there was a very long hill to complete before getting to the top. I had taken cash with me just in case.

I took this picture at the bottom of Ice-Cream Hill. The hill continues up a bit more around a bend at the top of the picture.

I got to the top and saw an aid station which had cake! It was lovely, as I ate it and was about to get plodding again I saw to my left the ice-cream vendor! Rejoice! I shuffled over and bought a lovely chocolate chip cone.

I set off walking enjoying my treat and the words of slightly jealous runners who congratulated me on a great idea.

Two miles down the road though my stomach wasn’t so happy to receive dairy and complained a bit but all was fine.

The last 3 miles were a struggle but I got into a run walk rhythm with other runners as we sort of leap frogged along the route in that way runners do. I’d run past a walker, then I’d walk and they’d run past, and so on and so on.

Somehow Strava recorded mile 24 as my quickest of the previous 11 miles. I must have got a bit of pain free running done.

I sent my last text to Sarah “25 @ 3.21 nearly there”.

I knew Sarah would be somewhere on the last mile to run with me to the finish. I saw her ahead just before the turning towards Brathay Hall estate with her Grandfather Ron.

I was in a bad way, I was walking and in real pain. There were finishers making there way back wishing me well and I just wanted to get to the finish so I could stop moving!

I reached Sarah and shuffled on. The finish was after a hill into the estate, not something a tired runner really wants to see. I knew it was coming and I knew it would hurt.

I’d put my phone on to record a video of my last ever marathon finish and listening back it’s Sarah encouraging me on to get it the top and finish but I just couldn’t run up it. I’d gone all tingly, pins and needles like, I get that when I’m massively fatigued. Sarah is wishing me up the hill and I’m just saying I can’t I’ll run from the top.

Once at the top I did duly run and made my way to the finish line, I was over taken just on the last straight and momentarily did think about sprinting but I decided against it as I think I would have collapsed!

Finished and a medal.

The medal is the first in a set of four but I won’t be returning for the other three!

Overall this was the most enjoyable marathon I ran. Yes it hurt and it was hard but that’s what was good about it. It was the most demanding marathon I’ve run and would certainly recommend it to veteran and aspiring marathoners as it’s a great test of yourself mentally and physically. Plus it’s in a lovely part of the UK.

Results:

David – 04:04:16

Lizzie – 04:46:14

Domonic – 04:56:08

Andrew – 04:56:08

Gary – 05:06:43

Henry – 05:42:27

My splits from Strava:

My Marathon Journey

I began training for the London marathon on Sunday 1st January 2017 and my marathon journey will end on Sunday 20th May 2018 when I complete my fourth and last marathon at the Windermere Marathon.

The decision to end my brief sojourn into Marathon-land was made after the Great Welsh Marathon which I ran in a Personal Best time of 3:56:15 on 15th April 2018.

London Marathon – 23rd April 2017

I’ve watched the London Marathon since I was a child and had desired to run it for a very long time. I got a place though the ballot at my second entry. I was certainly lucky as some make entries over several years and don’t get a place.

The four months of training went really well with only a slight calf niggle to trouble me. On the big day Sarah was joined by our friend Lesley as they both waited around mile 11 to cheer me on and provide me with a fresh water bottle.

It was fantastic to finally run the marathon and I did get a little emotional as I crossed the start line but for me it was a far from an enjoyable race. There were too many runners and not enough space to run. At no point did I actually reach my goal pace.

The support from the crowds is something else though. They are an almost constant presence and I’ve never heard my name shouted so much.

The London ballot is free to enter and I think if anyone has a desire to run a marathon then get yourself in the ballot but understand that there are so many more marathons in the UK that you can enter where you will have a more enjoyable experience.

Target – 3:59:59
Result – 4:13:20

Chester Marathon – 8th October 2017

Having not reached the sub 4 goal at London, it only took a few days before I was researching other races for another attempt. This despite saying moments after meeting Sarah and Lesley at Horse Guards Parade “I’m never doing that again”.

Chester was the choice I made. I’d read that it was fairly flat. Unfortunately my research wasn’t quite as good as it should have been as the route was hilly, especially in the last 10k which wiped my legs out!

The training didn’t go quite so well as before. Summer training was hard, running when it was warm was really difficult. I was mixing it up by going out early morning or late evening. There were certainly days when I didn’t run due to the heat. I much prefer winter / cold weather training. I did get the miles in and felt prepared enough for marathon number two.

The atmosphere in Chester was really good. Everyone was friendly. The course went through the city at the start and end with the majority of the route going through towns and villages in the surrounding area. This meant that support was limited but this was okay as runners actually spoke to each other! This did not happen in London.

I had a race plan, in fact it’s the race plan I’ve used in all three marathons: Keep with the 4 hour pacer / 9 minutes per mile and at 20 miles try and push on.

I haven’t managed to follow that plan but that’s fine, you have to adjust plans as you go. I was with the 4 hour pacers for about 20 miles and then the wheels started to come off.

For those 20 miles my average pace was 9:02 minutes per mile, bang on pace and would have seen me home in goal time but I was slowing and then the 4 hour pacers and the group with them ran past me. I seem to recall an audible “oof” coming from me as they slowly opened a gap between me and them.

Between mile 21 and 25 I was averaging 10 minutes per mile, in reality mile 24 took 11:33 as I was walking a fair bit.

I managed a decent last mile but unfortunately with 800m to go I ran stony faced passed Sarah, her Aunt and Uncle, the parents & partner of Sarah’s friend Laurie who was also running the marathon as I knew deep down that if I had looked at Sarah I would have probably broken down as the sub 4 goal we both wanted wasn’t going to happen on this day.

Target – 3:59:59
Result – 4:02:37

Great Welsh Marathon – 15th April 2018

Two marathons run and the sub 4 goal still eluded me.

I took my time signing up for my third marathon, it was two or three days between London and Chester and nearly two months before I took the decision to go through it all again.

This time though it was a secret! I had proclaimed to all who would listen to me my desire to go sub 4 and it hadn’t happened. This time I would keep it to just Sarah and I and then there would be no additional pressure. Way back in June 2017 I had accepted the invitation from Sarah’s Uncle Andrew to join him and other members of Sarah’s family to run the Windermere marathon. This would turn out to be handy as I could then train for a marathon but let on that it was for Windermere without raising any suspicion. A bit sneaky but worth it in the end.

Training was good, back to winter training and this time that meant snow and lots of it over a two month period. This even included a 20 mile run in the snow which was good fun. I was aware that the course was almost pancake flat, this time I had researched a bit better, even looking at Strava data from runners who ran last year.

Race day was cold and wet to begin with. Once again Sarah was supporting me. Due to the weather I started with hat, gloves, club vest and a t-shirt. These were slowly stripped off and handed to Sarah over the first half of the race!

The course consists of two laps of a route also being run by half marathon runners. This meant that I would run past the start/finish three times before actually finishing. This wasn’t as bad as it sounds as the start/finish was set slightly off the main route so I just kept looking ahead.

The marathon starts five minutes before the half. However the half marathon runners were distracting as they came through at a much greater pace. Some marathon runners did get momentarily distracted and matched the pace of those runners before realising they were in a different race.

The out and back nature of the route was off putting before starting but I actually liked that I knew what was coming on the second lap. It definitely helped seeing the mile markers and I had great pleasure in ticking them off as I ran.

My nutrition was the best it had been, I usually just had Clif Bloks but added in Clif Bars to give my stomach some real food. This seemed to work much better but the dreaded wall did appear at mile 20. The headwind that we had to run through for most of the course took its toll and I had a real low point where I thought that the sub 4 would be missed once again.

I ran passed Sarah at mile 20 up a slight incline into the wind and it was just so hard that I stopped near the top but shouts from Sarah and a good shout at myself got me moving again. As I moved passed the 21 mile point which was adjacent to the finish line I started to calculate what pace I needed to get under 4 hours. I would need around 10 minutes per mile which I was just about matching as I headed to another steeper incline. This really was a flat course with only a few bumps.

At the top of that incline the sun came out and I slowed to a walk, thrust my arms wide into the air to grab some sun and relaxed. I knew I could do this. At 22 miles I passed the 25 mile marker, I had three miles to run to get back to it and that would determine the outcome of my race.

I was feeling okay, this was familiar territory, not only because I had already run this section earlier in the day but this part of the coastal path is where the Llanelli Half Marathon was held in February and where I got my PB. That should have been enough to keep me going but half a mile from the turnaround my legs felt awful and I came to a halt and sort of stumbled on half walk half jog before just walking. As I reached a group of marshalls one of them shouted at me “don’t walk, run!” that was all the guidance I needed and I didn’t stop running until I crossed the finish line.

My average pace for miles 1 to 20 was 8:56 per mile, almost perfectly on pace. For miles 21 to 24 it had dropped to 9:44 as I hit the wall before picking up the pace for the last two miles averaging 8:43 as I knew the sub 4 hour marathon I’d wanted was going to happen but I knew my marathon running days were done, well almost!

Target – 3:59:59
Result – 3:56:15

Still to come

Reaching my goal has reduced my desire to run marathons to nil. I will of course turn up to Windermere ready to run and ready to complete my toughest test yet. The course is not any easy one, there are lots of hills to contend with and hopefully the weather will be kind.

I will be using Windermere as a training run for Race To The Stones 100km Ultra weekend that I will be attending in July with friends Laurie, Suzanne & Nick. The Ultra is obviously longer than the traditional marathon distance however it will be a much more laid back affair with no goal time constraints. It will also be my only Ultra event.

Therefore I can test out my new running vest, eating more food on the run, run/walk strategies and generally enjoy the day. I’ve read that mile 22 is called ice-cream hill so I’ll make sure to take a couple of quid for a 99 to enjoy as I make my way to the finish.

Norwich parkrun

Sarah and I were in Norwich visiting family last week. Every time we’ve visited we have thought about going to parkrun but haven’t been able to fit it in. This time we were determined to go.

I plotted a route from our hotel to Eaton Park where the parkrun takes place. It was a two mile run there. I had the first part of the route memorised but had to check my ‘phone to get us all the way there. Which took us a slightly different way to that I had plotted.

It was raining when we left the hotel which meant that we were already wet once we got to the park. We waited undercover for the start which was a short walk from the large circular stone structure that dominates the park.

Sarah and I parted ways prior to lining up. Sarah making her way to the middle of the pack and I went a bit nearer the front. The start, like many park runs, was a very quick.

The course is three and a bit laps, anti-clockwise in a rectangle. It is flat but on this day had a lot of standing water. The puddles were deep in places particularly on the corners. Some runners took off the corners but once you’re wet, you’re wet. So we both ran through the puddles rather than dodging them.

Our usual parkrun at Bryn Bach is two and a half laps, doing an extra lap did make it feel as though it was further. The wet weather may have also played a part in that.

Bryn Bach typically attracts about 120 runners on average, Norwich had 421 runners on this day, they usually get over 100 more. Thankfully the course path is wide enough to accommodate the number of runners.

We both enjoyed the course and will hopefully go back there or another local parkrun at Colney Lane or Catton the next time we visit.

Our run to the park was two miles but our run back was three. This was due to my sometimes poor sense of direction! I checked the route back as I was sure we had got there by a slightly different route. We went out of the park a different way and turned right. About half a mile later I realised we were following the edge of the park when we needed to be running away from it. A quick check of the map confirmed it!

At least we got eight miles run that morning.

Results

Gary – 22:20 (83 / 421)

Sarah – 34:05 (380 / 421)

A bit about me

I’m Gary and I’m a runner.

I’ve been running since the middle of 2013. I began by walking down the local canal towpath and after slowly increasing my pace, I was running.

Since then I have run 12 Half Marathons and 3 Marathons.

This blog will be a place where I primarily write about running.