Monday, 27 June 2011

Beauty and the Beast: G3 series 2011

The North Downs

I caught the last of the G3 races yesterday. The race is part of series of five races which take part in the beautiful surroundings of the North Downs in Surrey here in Southern England. The first three
races take part in the early months of the year finishing with the final two back to back over this Weekend in Sunny June.

I say Sunny, the forecast was for this to be the hottest day of the year, fortunately though the day started very misty and the race start was 8:30am.

Setting Up at the Start

It was an early start as I had offered to help friend Tim whose Company sponsor the event, a helping hand in putting up his Company banners. Tim had got me my race place so it was the least I could do to help out. It also gave me a chance to meet some of the Organisers and chill out a little before the other competitors turned up. I enjoy helping out at events, especially shorter races as it makes more of the time rather than just turning up racing and going straight home.

The Calm before the Storm!

The race course consists of Forest trails and Woodland sandy paths with quite a few challenging hills thrown in too. The well organised start to the race made a prompt start as scheduled at 8:30am. Tim had warned me that the first two miles of the race were fast and downhill and it would be easy to get swept along at a fast early pace. He was not wrong and I shot off from the start like a greyhound. This was my first mistake as I would learn later in the race.

I'm really pleased with the way my Nike Lunarglide's handled this type of terrain although a Trail shoe would be recommended for this course. After the easy start to the race and crashing through two seven minute miles, the false sense of achieving a PB was slowly but surely zapped out of me. The next mile and a half was by far the toughest I have competed in, the ups were tough and the downhills just as daunting. Be warned the Down hill's are steep and fast with the terrain uneven and rocky!

The toughest of the hills follows up to the Church of St Martha's. Not only is this steep but the terrain is loose sand. I've run this hill from the other side on a training run. That particular run was the first time I have ever had to stop and walk while running and today would be no different. Despite my recent efforts to include more hill runs as part of my training, St Martha's, my Nemesis, had reduced me to walk for the first time in a race.

The Final Stretch

Once I had got past this, my confidence came back and I was able to go past a few people up the smaller hills that followed and finish the race strongly. I finished with a respectable time of 52:12 on this very tough course. It was nice to be greeted by the race director who I had met earlier while setting up, with a "What took you so long!" I like this kind of banter at the end of the day and laughed along while I ate my Banana and Recovery Shake that you receive at the end of the race.

There is no medal, which was a little disappointing but you do have access to download your photo for free after the event and I was pleased that the Recovery Shake was my favourite 'For Goodness Shakes' which I swear by as part of my recovery at the end of a tough event.

The race was faultless in it's organisation and the Marshall's were encouraging and friendly. I will definitely be up for doing the full series next year, a great race although not one for the beginner.

The Course

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Getting There

I was unsure what to name the post this week, 'Nearly There' was an option, but after 20 tough,tough miles this morning, 'Nearly There' felt along way from the truth at mile 16 and 'The Run from Hell' was feeling more appropriate at mile 20!

This was probably my toughest run to date, 20 miles consisting of 2 circuits of the route I ran last weekend, titled in my last post as 'My favourite Run'. It still is my favourite place to run and the weather was perfect this morning for running, overcast but the odd spells of sunshine to lift the spirits.

I don't like to run repeat circuits if I can help it on long runs, I find it hard to know on the first lap you've got to do this all over again, but this is a great course to get some tough hill training in, as well as dealing with the undulating terrain on the way.
Today's Fuel
I forgot to purchase some Gels beforehand, I wanted to try something different rather than the Lucozade ones that I don't really like. I had my faithful Camelbak with about a litre of water in, and I thought I would try taking a cereal bar with me. That really went well, the thought of having 'real' food along the way worked as a motivation tactic. I broke small pieces off and rewarded myself after completing a hill. So not to suffer any stomach problems I made the bar last for probably 45 minutes in the middle part of the run. The only problem was it was quite a small bar and didn't give me enough energy for the over 3 hours that I was out, but is definitely something to work on.

I got to half way round (10 miles) feeling quite strong, I took the hills steady and my pace slower than usual for a long run. Mile 12 and slowly but surely the breakdown begins. It's amazing how one moment you can be feeling strong and within minutes struggling. I finished my last piece of cereal bar which renewed some energy and over the next few miles kept me going but once I hit the main hills for the second time round I was reduced to a staggering mess, looking like a boxer at the end of round twelve and trying to hold on.
A tough hill in the distance (The Photo does not do it Justice!)
As I approached home I realised that my distance was going to be nearer 19.5 miles rather than 20, and there was no way that was going to happen. I was not going through all this to still have a '1' in front of the distance, this was going to be 20 even if I had to crawl in. My mantra of 'Push' (I was saying this out loud on each breath!) seemed to do the trick and get me to my door in 3:08:39.

I'm hoping that I am not peaking too early, I still have a few months to go to my first Marathon, but it's a tough one and I want to be at that start line knowing I prepared well.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

My Favourite Run (Despite the Rain!)

Burger (Home made) and Fries, Bottle of Beer, 2 glasses of Wine, and watching Batman Begins till after midnight...Oh and a Ready Salted Crisp and Cream Cheese Roll (The Best!), all in all not the best preparation for an early morning hilly 11 miler.

It made me think about my nutrition today and how it definitely affects your running (Must try better!) because the run felt harder than usual and I partly put this down to last night indulgences. We eat fairly well as a family, I do the cooking in the household and try to cook most things from scratch, even the burgers when we have them but I reckon that there is room for some improvement.

I knew the forecast today was for rain for much of the day (The Weatherman always seem to get that one right!) I was OK with this, as of late we have been blessed with some great weather, it made a nice change to get out in the rain again.

My favourite run takes me over the Ash Ranges which are about a mile from my front door. The Ranges is an vast area of common land owned by the MOD which the nearby Army at Aldershot use for their training, The area of Trails and Woods with plenty of hills makes this the perfect place for running. Sometimes on these runs I don't see a soul, so is the perfect way to escape from the world for a couple of hours.

The only trouble is that when the Army are using the Firing Ranges you can't use the area, the use of Red Flags around the perimeter are used to show when this is happening (and the sound of shooting gives you a good idea to keep out!) Normally at the weekend the flags are flying until about 4 o'clock, but I was fortunate that the flags were down for the whole weekend.
The Long and Winding Road
From door to door the run is just over 11 miles. Its fairly undulating all the way although early on there are some flat straights. Between mile 7 and 9 is where the main hills lie, in this area the elevation rises by a few hundred feet. One hill in particular (Tunnel Hill) is a tough steep hill that you think you've got to the top only to bend round and climb some more. This hill is a real 'Thigh' burner! and when I'm grunting my way up it, I question and try to remind myself why this is my favourite run!

On a Summers day this run gets a 10 out of 10, today with the rain maybe a 9.

I have to apologise to all fellow Juneathoners for not sticking to the task of exercising and blogging everyday through June. a) I was struggling with the time b) I was struggling to write everyday. Especially when I'd just been out for a routine regular 4 miler it was hard to come up with something half decent to write and the posts were losing quality. I salute the other bloggers who are sticking to the task and getting the blogs out everyday. Well done to you all.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Easy Run - Juneathon #9

After adding speed work to my schedule on Tuesday (I now do long runs and hill work also) It was only right to add the final piece to the jigsaw, The Easy Run!

I kept it flat (along the canal path) and headed out nice and easy. I think that by starting out comfortably it acted as a warm up because as the run progressed I naturally picked up my pace and by the time I finished, the pace overall was quite respectable yet did not feel uncomfortable.

Distance: 4.12 miles
Time: 33:26
Pace: 8:07min/miles

I took it fairly easy after an exhausting previous day that in the evening had me behind the microphone and recording a couple of songs. This is another interest of mine that offers something different to the running which is becoming quite a big part of my life now, with my work and family added to this, it fills up the time quite nicely. See for the results!

Swapping the trails for the Studio
I'm back on track with Juneathon now after misunderstanding the rules (I know they are simple!). I thought you just had to blog everyday about exercise and could afford some rest days. Well I've kept half of the bargain up, now I just need to concentrate on the hard bit!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Rest Days - Juneathon #8

I take my rest days seriously. I probably take them too serious and have too many of them. My typical week of running looks something like this:

Monday - Rest
Tuesday - 12 mile long run into work
Wednesday - Rest
Thursday- 4.5 mile hill work
Friday - 4.12 mile easy run
Saturday - Rest
Sunday - 10-20 mile long run

This can vary I may do a long run on the Friday instead of Sunday but generally the last month has been following the above.

I understand that not only does your body need to recover ie. Muscle repair, but also your Immune System becomes depressed. Pounding trails over 30 - 35 miles is going to have some effect on my joints and last year I suffered from quite a bad Achilles Injury, so I'm probably over cautious with my recovery.

When you read up on this topic, most advice is to try to get at least a day's rest into your weekly schedule, but I think I benefit personally from the 3 days I allow myself. I guess everyones different or maybe I'm having too much rest?

I know I could certainly infill with Cross Training on my rest days, I'm determined to get more Core Training in also. But the beauty about having these rest days is it keeps me fresh and looking forward to my next run, it's quite satisfying to enjoy the rest day following a 20 mile run.

I would be interested in any ones thoughts on this subject and in particular my current weekly schedule.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Speedwork - Juneathon #7

I'm hoping I've got the rules of Juneathon right. Although I've had two days of not exercising this month, I have been blogging everyday, so this counts, right?

Anyway I took to the Canal in my lunch break today. I thought I'd do something a little different for me today....Speedwork! I tick all the other boxes, long runs, hill work but Speedwork is something that I don't do enough of.

Usually my lunchtime run is done at the same old speed, sometimes faster but generally a steady plod. I guess I could be falling into the trap of these becoming 'Junk' miles.

So I decided on doing some Fartlek training. It was fairly random, with my first burst I sited some chap walking ahead so decided to run to him. I probably scared the living daylights out of him, this mad grunting runner heading full speed at him, but he seemed not to care of my antics. From then on I would recover for a couple of minutes before charging again to the next big tree I could see in the distance. I continued this throughout the 3.43 mile run and I guess I was running anywhere between 100 and 200 metres at a time when picking up the speed.

I'm not sure if this was correct with what I was doing today, but I was well and truly knackered by the end. I think I'll read up a bit about Speedwork, definitely a weak point in my running at the moment where as everything else seems to be going well. The long runs are up to 20 miles and I'm getting some good quality hill work in also.

Distance: 3.43 miles
Time: 25:38
Pace: 7:29 min/mile

Monday, 6 June 2011

New Running Kit

The good people of Simply Sweat kitted me out in some super new running kit this week. I ordered online late on Thursday night and was impressed to recieve the kit on Saturday morning, which meant I could give it a good test on my long run on Sunday. The Website's clear and easy to get around and is stocked with all the leading brands you'd expect at very competitive prices. A nice touch is that you get the chance to view some products on a short 'catwalk' clip which I found really useful.

With the warm weather upon us I got myself a Vest, Shorts and new socks.

Ronhill Advance Running Vest - Indigo and Slate - £16.45

Product Info: This lightweight and breathable running vest has excellent moisture management, drawing moisture away from your body and once at the outer surface it evaporates, keeping you cool and dry on your run. In a relaxed fit with UPF 50 protection its great for hot sunny days.

Vapourlite fabric: 100% Polyester
UPF50 protection
Reflective graphics
Flat locked seams

This done exactly what it said on the tin, very lightweight and comfortable, at times the top was completley sodden and the next dried out.

Ronhill Advance Running Short - All Black - £23.00

Product Info: The mens advance running short from Ronhill is lightweight, breathable and highly wind resistant. Ideal for urban and rural environments this relaxed fit short is water repellent and has reflective graphics to keep you visible in low light.

Activelite fabric: breathable and wind resistant
Durable water repellent treatment to fabric
Reflective graphics providing 360 degree reflectivity
Inner Bamboo brief
Bonidex waistband with draw cord
Power mesh inserts
Back zip security pocket - ideal for mp3 player

Fibre content: Outer: 100% Polyester, Inner: 50% Polyester, 50% Bamboo
11cm inside leg
Weight: 129g

Definately the best part of the kit, The most comfortable shorts, I've ever owned. Comfortable and lightweight and loose with no ristriction 10 ot of 10.

1000 Mile Ultimate Racket Sock - £7.75

Product Info: The Ultimate Racket Sock from 1000 Mile us a sock within a sock. The Tactel inner stays with the foot reducing friction and wicking moisture away. Side airflow channels add breathability and arch bracing gives extra support. Outstanding comfort and no blisters - guaranteed!

Outer: 76% Cotton, 22% Nylon, 2% Elastane Lycra
Inner: 100% Tactel

For the Price, this is great sock, The Tactel inner sock works really well and is really comfortable. Kept the blisters at bay.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Twenty Twenty - Juneathon #5

New Kit

Today is officially the furthest these little old legs of mine have taken me in forty years. Sunday = Long run, I was up early for a Sunday (6-15am) so I could get some sort of fuel inside me. I managed a slice of Fruit loaf and half a bottle of sports drink, before crashing back to bed for half an hour,getting back up,stretching then leaving for my run. The weather was perfect for running this morning, mild but cloudy and I had my new running kit on (See tomorrows Blog for kit review).

I headed out along the Basingstoke Canal, The same Canal that I run at work but this time I was heading the other direction towards the Hampshire town of Fleet. I needed this to be a bit of a confidence booster, my previous two long runs of 18 miles were run on a very undulating course and had broken me by mile 16. Today I wanted to go longer but on a pancake flat course to see if I was stronger.

Trees and Water

By mile 4, any minor twinges had disappeared and I was soon in my rhythm and going along nicely. The plan was to be just under 9 minute miles, which I plan to be running for my Marathon in September. There was the odd Jogger, Cyclist and dog walker but generally quiet (Sensible people stay in bed on a Sunday morning!) The Canal can be quite hypnotic, it's very much the same mile after mile, the intense surrounding of the trees and the water. I got to mile 10 comfortably before turning round and heading back.

Er...More Trees and Water

I only had one gel with me today and my Camelbak filled with water. I took the gel halfway. By mile 13 I was starting to feel a little tired, which fills your thoughts with "Oh No, there's still 7 miles to go" but after a further couple of miles the tiredness had lifted and I was back on track. Mile 16 passed and 17 & 18 I actually picked up the pace. I tried to concentrate on my posture, as my head was dropping and I was looking down, I focused on looking ahead. Mile 19, I was feeling tired but not in the same way as my previous long runs.

I got home, stretched and sat in the Garden enjoying my Recovery Shake (Damn they taste so good after a hard run) I then hit an ice cold bath for 10 minutes to relieve the legs. After changing and feeling good about my run today, I was brought back to earth by my good wife with her comment of " God you look Ill".....Happy Days.

End of the Road

Friday, 3 June 2011

The Old Routine - Juneathon #3

I've managed to get to the dizzy heights of Day 3 of Juneathon and today's activity was my good old regular lunchtime run down the Basingstoke Canal. I run this probably twice a week and have done for the last 5 years. Amazingly I've never really get bored of this run, and on a day like today (It must have been the hottest day of the year so far) it's perfect. Fortunately the Canal backs onto the office so I can get out quick and usually get just over 4 miles in. If I push it I can get it to 4.5 miles.
Obviously it's a flat course so it's good for doing Tempo runs or a nice easy run. Today's run was somewhere in between. With an overall time of 33:14 and a distance of 4.12miles, that gives 8:04 minute miles. Not bad as it felt fairly comfortable, despite suffering a bit of a groin strain of late which seems to be hanging around.

I'm not sure either if I have the start of a cold or Hay fever. That's the trouble with Hay fever you never can quite tell, both make you feel lousy.

I'm feeling better now though, rested and sitting writing the blog having just finished a delicious meal of Lightly spiced and seasoned Chicken pieces on a bed of sauted potato's.......Ok it was KFC! and I may even treat myself to a nice cold lager on such a beautiful day. The plan is for a big run on Sunday so I need to think quick on what to be logging and blogging tomorrow.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Strength Training - Juneathon #2

So it's Day 2 of Juneathon and I'm thrown into blind panic! I must confess I had not thought much past the first day,I had a game plan for Day 1, I could blog about my run for that day. I'm a runner, I run 4 or 5 days a week, I rest in between those days which in Juneathon terms, means.....I've got a problem.

I had thought I would use Juneathon (How many times am I going to mention 'Juneathon' in Blog posts and Tweets this month!!!) to do some cross training, so this morning I come up with a make shift Strength Training session. I always read about the importance in a strong core to improve as a runner.

Maybe by the end of Juneathon this month I will be looking like Peter Andre....although probably more like Peter Kay!

So my session went like this:

3 sets of 10 Press Ups
3 sets of 10 Crunches
45 seconds of the Plank
5 sets of 'V' Sits
20 seconds 'Bridge'

Short and Sweet, and an early bird this morning (Up at 6am) but I'll add to this over the month, and it's more than I was doing last week. Day 3 of Juneathon (Doh! I mentioned the 'J' word 6 times) will see me back running again...Happy Days :)

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Lunchtime Hills - Juneathon #1

So today is the start of Juneathon. For those who are unaware of the concept, basically myself and other like minded bloggers have to post workout activities every day through the month of June on our blogs. Check out the Juneathon Website for details (and join, it's never too late!)
Today was my regular weekly short hill training session which takes me and running partner/work colleague Brian away from the office and into the centre of Woking. The course is 4.55 miles long and we can just about squeeze it into our measly 45 minute lunch break. It involves two trips up the hill you can see in the above pictures and some challenging steps to endure.

It was quite a struggle for me today, my legs were aching where I did not get chance to stretch before hand. I suffered quite badly from Achilles Tendonitis last year, but providing I keep my stretching up everyday I seem to be able to keep the injury at bay, but alas today the quads and calves were sore.

On the plus side the pace was still quite good for the hills, 8:10 minute miles, so you have to take the positives out of it. The sun was shining too which always makes for a better run.

I try and get as much hill work as I can at the moment. I have the Farnham Pilgrims Marathon in September which takes in the North Downs and is a very hilly course. My thinking is what you put in, you get out and although this is going to be a tough debut Marathon, I should come out the other side a better runner.

If you have the time, have a look around the blog, otherwise see you here tomorrow :)