Sunday, 8 March 2015

Finchley20 - A 20-Mile Race....

The plan for this race was simple. This was my first 20-mile run in this training cycle so I had no intention of "racing". I planned to just get out there and run it easy at 10 minutes/mile. So that was the plan: 20 miles in 3hrs 20 minutes.
I only entered the race because it coincided with the 20-mile run on my training plan. And secondly I did not feel like doing my usual 4am run alone in the dark.
This turned out to be one of those races you know you'll keep relieving in your head for a long time to come.
I woke up early, had a big breakfast - a big bowl of oats, two slices of toast and cup of coffee - and set out early. I had to, every Londoner knows how notoriously unreliable trains can be to the Ruislip and Uxbridge on a Sunday morning. So I took the bus and Thankfully I got there on time, registered and waited, shivering in the cold. The forecast had predicted a little bit of warmth so I settled on shorts and long sleeve top. Mistake: the cold still got to me. But not to worry I did not have to wait for long.
The race started on time at 9:02 and we were off. It was an undulating route. The uphill parts didn't feel so bad at first but three laps later it was a whole different story! Phew!
Mile 1 flew past in 9:47. At that point it felt too slow - like I was crawling so I picked up the pace thinking let's see how this goes. Miles 2 - 5 I kept the pace between 9:15 and 9:18. Mile 6 - 11 the pace crept up to 9:01 - 9:10. Legs felt good and strong at this point. I broke out the first gel at 9 miles and one every 5 miles thereafter. I drank water to thirst.
I was enjoying myself. The last 9 miles I allowed the pace to creep up to 8:50 - 9:00 and held it there till the end.
I guess it does say a lot for the effectiveness of the marathon training plan I am following (The ASICS Plan for those targeting a sub 4-hr marathon) and also the state of fitness it has brought me to.
Finally I want to say a big thanks to Hillingdon AC for a brilliant race - great organisation. The marshals were absolutely brilliant. On my last lap I made sure I said thank you to as much of them as I could.
It was a great race and I had a great run.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Fears Of The Long Run.....

There was a time I did not think twice about doing a long run. No matter the distance or pace my attitude was bring it on. Lately I find myself obsessing over the long run. Will I complete that distance, can I hold that pace for that long, drinks or gels, are among the myriad questions that I ask myself.
Take today's run for example. I've been thinking about it all week. The plan called for 170 minutes run - the first 90 minutes @ 10 min/mile and the last 80 minutes @ 9min/miles. Tough one. And the questions have been flying thick and thin through my mind. Amazingly though it never crossed my mind to forgo the run. So 5:00am I'm on the road taking tentative steps in what would turn out to be a great run for me. I ran it a tad faster than planned - did the first 90 minutes@ about 9:51 and the last 80 minutes @ about 8:47. I was able to hold the pace. Legs felt strong; I just knuckled down and got on with it. The strategy for taking in gels and drinking (Lucozade sports drink) on the run went well. I had a gel after the first hour and one every 45 minutes thereafter. I drank to thirst.
There was one thing though that really got me going. After the first few miles a thought dropped into my mind that changed my attitude and got me going. The thought: "You will never know what you can or cannot do until you try!"
Like a friend of mine on dailymile commented after this run - I will file this one away as a huge confidence booster! I will remember this one!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Road or Trail

I'm awake. Normally the next thing would be to get into my gear and hit the road for my run. Not today. And that is because I am conflicted. Should I get out there now and run on road or should I wait for daybreak and then go out to the trails.
It's been a long time since I went out to the trails and truthfully it's been because I couldn't stand the thought of wading through mud, puddles and all. And let's not forget the hills. I didn't feel like tackling them. And lately it's been raining quite a lot. Mmmmm.... So what is it going to be - road (comfort zone) or trail (urghhhh...) and I can hear it raining outside.
I've got free time this morning so I'm dawdling. In the end the trail wins so I take myself out to Epping Forest for a slow easy run in the rain wading through puddles, stamping through mud, weaving through wet vegetation, dashing up hills ( I must be fitter than I thought!) And the irony? I loved every minute!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

New Year's Trigger

Included in my to-do list for 2014 is running a sub 4-hour marathon in the spring specifically on the 6th of May. I do not start marathon training until January so to keep fit, stay motivated throughout the holiday season and get me going in the New Year I decided to enter a 10k race on the 5th of January 2014 and then train for it over the next seven weeks. This particular race is part of the Regents Park Grand Prix 10k Series held at the beautiful Regents Park in Central London.
Training started three days ago on a cold November morning with a 5-mile easy run. It was a good run. I did have a hard time though keeping the pace down. For my easy runs the pace should be between 9:10 and 9:20 minutes per mile but that morning I felt like letting go and tearing around the route. If there’s one thing I have to remember throughout this training it is this: “Run the slow runs slow so you can run the hard ones hard!!”
Today’s run was a completely different story. I had a tempo run planned – 1 mile warm up followed by four miles at 7:50 – 8:00 minutes per mile and a 1-mile cool down. Tempo runs are hard runs and I usually prefer them to speed work but today’s run took so much effort and energy. First mile after the warm up I was already struggling. I stubbornly refused to slow down. So I puffed and panted through the second and third mile. By the fourth mile I was barely hanging on. The cool down mile was such a relief.
Here’s what the run looked like – 1 mile warm (9:36), 4 miles@8:12, 8:00, 8:02, 8:02 and 1 mile cool down (8:46).
I am still trying to figure out what went wrong or was it just a case of a bad “run” day

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Long Run In The Snow...

This is the first long run of my marathon training and as far as I was concerned it was just supposed to be another easy run on a Sunday morning. 10-miler? Piece of cake that is until I got to Epping Forest and realised this was going to be a hard one. Everywhere was white - the forest was covered in snow! It was icy, cold and beautiful.  And the silence – usually  the forest is alive with the sounds of animals, birds, dogs, insects and occasionally the distant roar of traffic but today it was dead quiet – not a pip! I was beginning to ask myself if it was such a good idea to come out here.
The first three miles were tough. There are a couple of hills in those first three miles and going up and down them when they are covered in snow was not easy. Going up was not as bad as going down. It was tricky finding sure footing on such treacherous ground and I had to stay focused every step of the way on the ground in front of me. Sometimes it felt like I was running in place.
For those first three miles I saw no-one else – not a soul which only made the voice in my head telling me I should not have come out here louder. By mile 4 I ran into the first group of runners and I thought – ok, I’m not the only crazy one out here! After that I met other runners, cyclists and dog walkers.  Just before mile 5 I ran into this father – daughter team and we ran together for the next mile or so.  That was also when it started snowing heavily and a slight icy wind began to blow.  It was getting worse by the minute but I kept going. And I thought if that kid with her dad could run in those conditions I am not going to quit. I am going to finish this.
And talking of dog walkers – some of them that I have spoken to seem to think runners are a crazy lot but out there in those conditions I couldn’t help thinking; who is crazy now? How can you be out there walking a dog in such conditions? Maybe I am missing something.
Everyone out there was so friendly today. All the runners, bikers and walkers I passed said hello. Information about which trail was closed or still open, what side of the trail to stay on, where to avoid was shared freely and without prompting. It was as if we were all looking out for each other out there. Amazing how the human spirit pulls together at the first hint of trouble. That camaraderie really made my day.
Between mile 7 and 8 at the foot of this big hill I ran into another father-daughter team. The girl was about eleven or twelve. You will not believe what they were doing out there. It was not enough that they were out running in that weather in the first place. They were doing hill repeats!! Hill repeats!! I could not believe my eyes. The dad laughed when he saw the look on my face. I slowed down to watch them; they just got on with it with snow on their faces, icy wind blowing and treacherous ground underfoot– how is that for motivation when next you come up with excuses for not doing what you have to do?
After that I put my head up and picked up the pace. I finished the run strong. It was a good run. It was like running on a white highway. The weather notwithstanding, I thoroughly enjoyed myself out there today. In a heartbeat I would do it again.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Last Race of The Year 2012

5:30a.m. My alarm goes off. I jumped out of bed, dressed up, checked my travel plans online, had a coffee and did some stretches.
6:30a.m. I left my house. Ten minutes later I'm at the train station awaiting the 6:47. Then I remembered something: I've left behind my belt - the one I use to carry my phone, keys & stuff during races. I've got to go get it. No way I'm going to entrust my stuff to baggage drop. So I dashed home again, got the belt and dashed back to the train station. I missed the 6:47 but I got on the 7:02. And the journey began.
This race was at the opposite end of London across the river. I knew I had a wee bit of traveling to do. No worries: I love traveling and trains. Part of the attraction for some of these races that I do is having to jump on and off trains to get there.
8:58a.m. I finally got to Sheen Gate, Richmond Park. I must confess, for a minute or two there I got lost in Richmond. I missed my connection in Central London but thanks to my iPhone apps I still made my way to the park on time.
Registration was quick and well-organised. I got my race number (118), bib and timing chip. I found my corner and changed into my racing gear. A couple of minutes later and after a quick trip to the loo I was ready!
9:55. I am at the start line with all the other runners. I'm standing tall. I can feel the excitement coursing through me. Inside my head I'm screaming: come on people - let's do this.
10:00. I take a deep breath and when the horn goes off I'm off in a flash of adrenaline and pounding feet...
Easy now - I tell myself - easy now. There'll be no PB chasing here: I'm not even going to run this one fast. I just want to feel the sheer joy of running, of being able to put one foot in front of the other, celebrate 2012 and be thankful for life, family, love, friendship, career, the ability to run.
The first mile flashes past in nine minutes. By mile three I realise I'm going too fast. I rein it in and slow down.
As I run I think about all those who can't run, I think about the sick, the terminally ill and every victim of the wickedness and callousness of this world. I say a prayer for the devastated families of that Newtown, Connecticut tragedy.
By mile five a weird thing happens. I get this overwhelming urge to stop. It caught me unawares. Where did that come from? I was not out of breath or tired or injured or anything yet the feeling persisted. What is going on I ask myself. I struggled for a bit but I held on and kept going. After a while I was cruising again.
Mile 6 - there's joy in my heart. As I hit the home straight I was glad to be alive. I say it over and over again to myself - "I'm alive....I'm alive....I'm alive!" And I am grateful.
It was a good run. I loved every minute of it.
Distance: 10k
Time: 51:46

Monday, 30 April 2012

Milton Keynes Marathon 2012 Race Report.
"I am made of Belief not Barriers."
Official Time: 04:12:24
3:53am. - Woke up seven minutes before my alarm went off and got out of bed.  Showered, dressed up and finished packing my bag, checking to make sure I had not forgotten anything.
4:45am. – Had breakfast – Cereal (Oats) and 2 slices of toast with a cup of coffee.
5:15am. – Got out my door. It’s raining – it’s pouring is a better description. That rain would dog my steps all the way to Milton Keynes. There were no problems with public transportation. I took the bus to London Euston station.
6:53am. - I got on the  train to Milton Keynes. I was glad the trains were running. With National Rail you can’t be too sure. I did have a backup plan just in case there were any problems with the trains.
On the train I passed the time reading Rudyard Kipling’s poem – “If” and excerpts from Chrissie Wellington’s book “A Life Without Limits”.
8:20am. – The train rolled into Bletchley station and I got off. It was better to get off here rather go on to Milton Keynes Central Station. From Bletchley Station it was a 15-minute walk to the MK Dons stadium where the marathon was taking place. I pulled my hood up, popped the umbrella and walked down. The umbrella wasn't very helpful because of the wind. By the time I get to the stadium I am a bit wet.
8:40am. – The stadium is like a marketplace – busy and bustling with 4000 runners with friends and family. I quickly find a quiet spot and change into my running gear. Then I dropped up off my bag at the baggage truck and settled down to wait. I prefer to be quiet, go through my game plan and mull over the inspirational stuff I’ve read. The goal is to finish in 4 hours or under and to run the entire distance – no walk breaks! I consider all that could possibly go wrong and my responses to each of them.
I like this part too for the opportunity to watch other people do their pre-race routines, from the very serious to the very funny (nobody is laughing though) but you notice each runner means business.
9;45am. – All the runners head for the start line. The rain is pouring down heavily, the wind is blowing hard and temperature has dropped – it is cold. Within a couple of minutes my fingers are frozen. I can’t operate my iphone so I can’t use the Runmeter app.
10:00am. – The gun goes off and 4000 runners are away. I get my stopwatch going and I am off too. I hold back and hold back – stick to the plan I tell myself – Miles 1-5 slow. As hundreds of runners stream past me I am sorely tempted to join them but I hold back. I hit the first mile in 9:58. Good! Good! I tell myself. I’m relaxed.
The rain continues and the wind howls and I’m doing my thing. This marathon is taking place on the footpaths that criss-cross the whole of Milton Keynes. There are huge puddles on the path and folks are running on the grass to avoid them. Within minutes the grass has turned to mud. At first I avoid the puddles but I notice the mud is slowing me down so I just hit the puddle causing a splash and all. No-one is complaining. We are all drenched anyway and you wouldn’t be able to tell what colour of shoes we were wearing.
I hit the fifth mile marker in 46:37, a bit faster than I planned but it’s ok because by now I’m cruising. I’m going steady but most importantly I am calm. I start drinking; I break out the first gel at 60 minutes. By now I notice a small group of runners with me. I remember thinking – this is just fine – these folks will keep me on target pace. A couple of minutes later after a short conservation I find out I’m not running with them – they are running with me. I’m their pacer. What?? How did that happen?
Mile 6 flashes by, so does 7, 8,…..I hit the halfway mark by 2hrs 7 minutes. I’ve picked up the pace and left my little group behind.  I do a quick systems check – everything is fine. I’m feeling strong. I’m drinking steadily and having a gel every thirty minutes. There is this quotation replaying itself over and over in my head. I read it from Corey Q.’s entries,   – “Run the mile You’re in”.
Mile 15 is coming up and I am thinking this is where it all started falling apart in my last marathon. I shake the thought and keep going. Words of Chrissie Wellington are jumping in my head – “trust in your preparation…. Focus on that fact….” At mile 16 I feel like jumping in the air with a whoop! It’s all going according to plan.
I have got to hand it to the crowd – they were amazing. That they were out there in that weather was amazing in itself. They would not just stop cheering – that wall of sound followed us round the course. The marshals did a great job too. I will not forget the marshal at mile 17 – she was one excited girl, dancing, jumping up and down and screaming at the top of her voice. Wow!
I got to Mile 20 at 3hrs 7 minutes. Sub 4hrs is looking very possible. I do another body check and except for a twinge in my left knee I’m still feeling strong – there is no wall.  So I pick up the pace.  I go through this underpass at mile 21: when I emerge in the open again there is this crowd cheering loudly. This gentleman in the crowd says to me “you’re enjoying yourself”. Without thinking I ask, “am 1?” The gentleman answers, “you’ve got a smile on your face”.  So I did, I was enjoying myself.
Problems started at mile 22. My body began to betray me. After the 22nd mile marker there was this short incline. I just went for it but when I got to the top I got hit with severe cramps just above my knees on both legs. It was so sudden I was completely thrown. I came to a stop, willing myself to calm down – “remember the plan, deal with this” -. Once I got my thoughts together I did some stretches, walked a bit and started running again. The cramps did not go away completely but I didn’t stop again. But I had to really slow down to keep going and from here till mile 25 it was all uphill.
I found it difficult to keep it together at this stage; my thoughts were all over the place. With hindsight I realise all I needed to do was dig deep, keep my mind on the things that inspire me and focus. This is where I needed to force myself to think right and manage the pain.
At Mile 25 I’m holding on. By mile 26 I’m picking up the pace again. I’m inside the stadium and the cheering of the crowd keeps me going. I see the finish chute. I pass one or two runners. Then I’m over the finish line.
Time: 4:12:24. I am not disappointed. In fact I am so excited. If you had seen me then no-one would blame you for thinking I had won the race! I did not make the time I wanted but I had just shaved 18 minutes off my marathon time. I had run the whole marathon from beginning to the end except for the cramps stop. The hydration strategy went like a dream and there was no wall. I even helped some runners along the way. The whole race went according to plan.
And for my next marathon I know I need a mind as honed and as powerful as my legs. I’ve got train my mind to manage pain better. I have learnt that in this marathon business pain is always there and things will go wrong. The earlier I train myself to deal with it the easier it will be to get the PB.
For this race the best part is that I enjoyed myself – I ran with a smile!