Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Mad Monk and the dreaded cold

After getting my 20 miler and 31st Birthday out the way the week before, my training plan said to do a steady 10 miler with only 7 days to go until Berlin. However, having seen the Kirkstall Abbey 7 mile race online, I figured this would be more fun than plodding out the lonely miles, promising myself I would take it easy and just enjoy the ride.

It was a nice surprise to see Carla at the start line. I worked with Carla at Savvy until she left for pastures new but we have kept in touch since and she has been well and truly bitten by the ultramarathon bug. The KA7 was her first race back after injuring her next 3 days in to the Dragon’s Back Race, 200 miles in 5 days over all the mountains in Wales, totalling an insane 45,000ft of ascent:  
One of the quirks of this particular race was to ‘catch the Mad Monk’, with one mysterious runner decked in robes and an oversized cross in keeping with the Abbey’s original inhabitants. I set off towards the back of the race with no intention of chasing the Monk but once the air horn went, competitiveness got a hold of me and I gradually moved up the field, clocking two six minute miles which was well ahead of my sub-3 hour marathon pace.

After heading up Kirkstall Road, the route cut into the woods and then out on to the towpath by the canal, up to Rodley before looping back around and down to the Abbey for the finish. At mile three, the monk was well behind and I was towards to the front of the field, with only two more groups of runners in front, I had a battle for position with a young club runner who I overtook but he then drew level again, running (deliberately I thought) through a puddle in his trail shoes to give me a splash (I was running in road shoes having not looked at the course profile before the race). This fired me up and I quickened the pace, dropping him and reeling in another runner in front.

The race was starting to stretch out now and despite having runners in my sight, the race was all downhill after the last wooded section and I couldn’t make up enough ground, finishing 9th overall in a time of 41 minutes.
I was feeling pretty good with my morning’s work when I got home but became worried when I started to sneeze uncontrollably and I rapidly got worse so I got an early night to try and sleep it off. I woke up on Monday feeling just as bad and started to worry about recovering in time for the marathon that was now fast approaching. So I got home and made a chicken balti in an attempt to blow it out of my system.
Another early night and it seemed to do the trick as I woke up early on Tuesday and dragged myself to the gym. By Wednesday, I was feeling my old self again and woke up early for a good final treadmill/gym session. I also popped in for a quick massage at lunchtime with Leeds’ best sports masseuse, Jim Mason:

I now feel in good shape and am looking forward to the race and taking in the sites of Berlin. I have also reached the half way point in my fundraising, passing the £1,000 mark with three months to go:
Next stop Berlin....

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Tri again

After really enjoying my first triathlon experience, I went home and immediately booked my place on the Olympic distance Leeds Triathlon. After a day or two, I started to question the wisdom of this, mainly due to the swim being 1,500m open water in Roundhay Lake, nearly 4 times the distance of my first tri and without still being able to front crawl, which would put me at a distinct disadvantage.

In light of this, I decided to switch to the ‘sprint’ distance, which still included a 750m swim in open water, 24km bike and 6.4km run. This, I reasoned, would be more of a challenge than my first effort and I could save the Olympic distance for next year after I sort out my swimming over the winter.
Having picked up my race pack from the HQ at Roundhay Park on Saturday night, I went straight round to my mum and dad’s for a meal to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary which was great but didn’t give me a huge amount of time to sort everything out so I was slightly stressed on the morning of the race, especially as I needed to have my bike and kit set up in the transition area by 7.30am ahead of the pre-race briefing.
With Sarah’s help, I managed to get the bike and all the kit from the car to the transition area with a bit of time to spare and as the sprint wave start wasn’t until 8.45am, I had time to apply my number transfers, work out how to add my race number to my race belt and squeeze into my wetsuit (I got even more practise at this after needing the loo three times before I finally got started!)
When the time finally came, I donned my standard issue green swim cap, zipped up the wetsuit and made my way down to the water’s edge and into the lake in preparation for the start. The water was on the chilly side and it was the first time I had worn a wetsuit so it took a bit of getting used to, but once we got started, I managed to get into a rhythm with my breastroke and although quite a few front crawlers pulled away, I wasn’t too far behind when we reached the furthest buoy and turned round for return stretch.

Despite losing a bit of time on the race leaders, I climbed out of the water in the middle of the field (65th out of 130 it turned out) and cheered on by Dad, Sarah, Julia, Roy and Rachael, I ran up to the transition area, peeling off my wetsuit as I went. My first transition was OK, though it did take a while to get my shoes, socks, race belt and helmet on plus dry off, de-rack the bike and push to the mount zone. Once I was out of the mount zone I tried to put the foot down, avoiding the dog walkers on the patch before getting out on to the open road.
It felt good to have the swim behind me and to be on the bike so I put the hammer down in an attempt to claw back some of the time lost in the lake. And it seemed to work as I generated good speed on the long stretch on the Wetherby road to Collingham passing loads of riders and despite a few steep inclines on the route back through Keswick, I powered through Shadwell and back up to Roundhay Park and into the second transition.

I lost a bit of time clomping along in my cycling shoes and then tying the laces on my trainers (whilst being annoyed with myself for not having used the tri laces I bought months ago) but was relatively quick out into the sunshine for two 3.2km laps of the park. The announcer also read my name out, saying ‘here comes Nick Robinson with his adidas sponsorship’ which was quite amusing to me and the friends and family who were cheering me on.

I slowly traded my cycling legs for my running ones and with this being my strongest discipline, attempted to work my way up through the field which I did with some success in lap 1and in lap 2 I tried to push myself as hard as possible with the finish line not far away. Re-entering the park for the last time, I kicked again to try and make up as many places as possible and improve my overall position, sprinting down the home straight and through the first set of flags that confusingly wasn’t the finish and through the second set of flags in an initial time of 1 hour 32 minutes.

It wasn’t until the Monday I got an email with final results:
Leeds Triathlon time: 01:30:46

Swim 00:17:57
T1 00:02:11
Cycle 00:47:11
T2 00:01:05
Run 00:23:55
That meant 10th place overall which was fantastic, considering I lost an average of 5-6 mins on swim, giving me motivation to learn front crawl and progress to Olympic distance next year. I was also really pleased to have recorded the 7th fastest cycle (I was 6th fastest in the run) both of which have made me think about potentially working towards a half ironman next year with the goal of completing my first Iron Man in 2014 – now that sounds like a plan!!!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Pleasure and pain

With the Berlin marathon looming on the horizon, I belatedly downloaded a sub-3 hour training plan and found that I needed to increase the mileage quick, starting with a 10 mile run in under an hour over the Bank Holiday weekend and a half marathon race on the following Sunday so I looked around and the only half marathon on that day was over at Blackpool so I booked my place and toyed with the idea of staying over and having a weekend by the sea.

Things didn’t exactly go to plan as family and garden commitments meant the 10 mile run got put back until the Wednesday (though I did run 10 miles in under an hour on the treadmill before work – an average of over 16kph) and due to more gardening on the Saturday, I set off at 7am for the two hour drive to Blackpool feeling a bit tired and stiff.
The race was well organised with the HQ situated in the Hilton Hotel so I actually had a bit too much time to wait for the race to start at 10am on the promenade. I again managed to get to the front after a last minute loo dash and when the air horn went, I actually led out the race for the first 200 metres, eventually being passed by a group of four runners who gradually increased the pace and pulled away from me and the chasing pack.

I stuck to the plan of trying to run 6 minute miles, like I had done for the 10mph run in the week (which would mean a PB of under 1.20 or 80 mins), and for the first 5 miles I was on track, but when the race dropped down on to the promenade for the first time, my legs tightened up and I could feel myself starting to slow down. At the end of mile 6 I was passed by another group of three runners which I tried to keep up with but only managed to hang on the final runner in the group, putting me in 8th position overall as I fought to stick as closely as I could to the 6 minute mile pace.
At mile 7 I started to feel slightly better so pushed ahead of the other runner and maintained through miles 8 and 9 before being passed by a lone runner clocking some serious pace – nothing I could do about that I told myself – as I fell into 9th place.

At mile 10, I was really tightening up in my hamstrings, calf and back and was caught up by a Keswick Harriers runner who I battled to keep up with for the final three gruelling miles to the finish. It felt like an eternity as I was tying up badly and I got passed by another runner on the final mile before losing out in the final sprint to finish 13th overall in a time of 1 hour 20 minutes and 50 seconds.
Although I was really pleased with this new PB (the training plan only required a 1.23 so I finished well within that), I missed out on a sub 1.20 and with it a top ten finish though it was still pretty satisfying in the circumstances. The hardest part was to come, with a two hour drive back home with the fear of impending cramp on the M62, before collapsing on the sofa for some well earned rest.

adipure technique

From my latest visit to adidas HQ in Germany, I managed to get my hands on the newly launched adipure adapt - designed as a training tool for runners to help them develop a more natural and efficient mid-forefoot running style.

Despite the slightly freaky appearance of the  ‘second skin’ upper, they are incredibly comfortable to wear, with a specially designed print that maps the areas of the foot that experience stress during running and providing them with additional support. The wafer thin sole is also surprisingly comfy, with the heel protected and the sole plate design mirroring the foot’s natural structure.

But the proof is obviously in the pudding and that is where they really impressed, making a 5k run round the block feel like a whole new running experience. Without wanting to jump on the ‘barefoot’ running band wagon, it definitely felt liberating to run in such a minimal shoe, whilst still feeling secure and protected from the road beneath.

Olympic spirit

Inspired by the heroic feats of Team GB at London 2012, I signed up for the Jane Tomlinson York 10k with the aim of improving my PB and getting under the 37 minute mark for the first time. I was further motivated by Mo Farah’s awe inspiring win in the 10k the night before, part of super Saturday that also saw Jess Ennis and Greg Rutherford raise the roof at the Olympic stadium – a night that surpassed even Seb Coe’s wildest dreams.

After an early start to pick up the numbers for Sarah and Tanya, plus a long wait in the portaloo queue, I managed to squeeze my way to the front of the start line to in a good position for a fast get away. Randomly, I was stood next to Mark Abdy, one of Ben’s childhood friends who is now a keen runner so we had a quick chat and then realised his dad Malc (my Dad’s barber) was stood on the other side of the barrier and he said they were planning on running the great North Run together in September.
The start was fast approaching but I could feel my bladder swelling up which wasn’t good. Luckily, I had an empty water bottle so during the national anthem, I discreetly relieved myself in the bottle, much to Abdy’s amusement.

It proved to be good timing as soon after, Premiership referee Howard Webb sounded the starting horn and we were off on a 10k loop of York’s historic town centre before doubling back to the finish on the Knavesmire in the shadow of the County Stand at York race course.
I made a decent start, making a conscious decision not to chase a group of around 5 runners who set the early pace and concentrate on my own rythmn – aiming for 3.36 minute kilometres which I managed to stick to, going through the 5k marker at bang on 18 minutes and on track for a new PB.

The aim then was to maintain the same pace through the middle of the race and deal with the discomfort (the Chrissie Wellington phrase for pain) of running on the limit for a sustained period.
I managed to keep going and at 8k, I was on track for a sub 36 but I started to tie up around the 9k mark (not helped by two random out and back turns that broke the stride pattern), losing a couple of places in the race.

After the final turn outside the county stand, there was one last corner before the home straight and the final push to the line. I tried to kick but had nothing left so lost another couple of places in the sprint but still crossed the line in a new PB of 36.33 – 14th place overall.
Absolutely spent but satisfied, I walked back up to the side of the finishing straight to cheer Sarah home in under 50 minutes, a new PB and personal milestone so it was smiles all round and back home for coffee and cake and more Olympic magic on telly.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Tri something different

Due to a number reasons, including Matt's imminent fatherhood and Jamie's injury plus my lack of big distance endurance training and fear of injury ahead of Berlin, I took the decision to replace the Lakeland 50 mile race with my first triathlon, the Leeds Xpress Triathlon.

It was a sprint triathlon which consisted of a 400 metre swim, 22.6km bike and 5.4km run at Leeds Grammar School. The swim took place in the pool and due to me still not being able to front crawl, I put my swim down as 12 minutes so was in one of the first waves to start (which would turn out to be a blessing when the weather turned and it chucked it down just after I finished) but despite swimming breastroke, I got out of the pool in 9 minutes and after a slight delay getting dried off and cycling gear on and got on the bike.

The bike was an out and back on Harrogate road and despite struggling on a couple of hills, I got off the bike in a time of 48 minutes, stuck on my shoes and set off on two laps of the school grounds.
Again it was quite hilly and off road, not what you need when your legs don't feel like your own, but I managed to get round in just over 19 minutes, making my total time 1 hr 19 mins and 33 secs, 48th overall and not bad for a first tri! 



Monday, 20 August 2012

Summer running

After a week's well earned R&R in Malta (plus the odd early morning run/gym plus a 16 miler round the coast of Gozo), it was back on the road for the Jane Tomlinson Run 4 All Leeds 10k, team Savvy's second event of the year.

Despite it being an extremely hot day and not the best route, I managed to finish 24th overall in 37 mins 33 seconds, though I did struggle in the scond half of the race, dropping at least 5 places in the final 2k which was disappointing.

The following week, me and Matt Harrison ran the Eccup 10 mile race at Adel which was an undulating but scenic course around the Eccup reservoir, with some great views and even better cakes at the finish!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Peaks and troughs

The week after the Haworth Hobble, I ran the Wrap up Warm 10k at Harewood House with a number of colleagues, clients and friends as part of Team Savvy and despite heavy legs and hilly course, I managed to start  at the front and hang on for 6th place in time of 39 minutes and 42 seconds with Matt finishing 12th.

 The next race wasn't so successful as I attempted to complete the 3 Peaks of Yorkshire race in under 4 hours. The first time I ran the 3 Peaks was in 2010 and despite getting severely de-hydrated coming down from the final peak, I finished in a respectable time of 4 hours 10 minutes.

So, two years later on a sunny (but still cold and windy) day I thought my chances were good. That was until I reached the bottom of Pen-y-Gent and a sudden stomach cramp meant an urgent sprint behind a farmer's wall was neccesary, along with the sacrifice of a compression sock.

I struggled on to the specatator point at the foot of Whernside but had to run straight past my mum and dad and into the portaloo. 10 minutes later and feeling sick as a dog, I set off again and crawled up Whernside but I wasn't in good shape and after hobbling down the other side and along to the final peak at Ingleborough, I was dead on my feet.

Mum and dad were there again to lend their support and I set off again but after another hundred yards I decided it wouldn't be a good idea to attempt the final climb in the state I was in so I reluctantly called it a day. It would be my first DNF (did not finish) and a low point in my running life so far.

Following the disappointment of the 3 Peaks Race, I had the chance to make amends two weeks later at the Leeds Half Marathon. Despite it being a warm day, I managed to maintain a good steady pace and got round in 1 hour and 22 minutes and 7 seconds, only 30 seconds outside my PB and in a respectable 28th place finish.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Hobbling along

The date of 10th March 2012 had been lurking in the back of my mind since I signed up for the Haworth Hobble just after Christmas. Having decided to run 20 events in 12 months to raise money for the MS Society: with the highlight being the Lakeland 50 Ultramarathon in July, I thought it wise to get some big distance trail races in beforehand to get an idea of what that kind of mileage felt like.
The Haworth Hobble seemend perfectly timed, 32 miles (or 50k) traversing gritstone moors around Haworth, Todmorden and Hebden Bridge on the Yorkshire/Lancashire border. 4,400ft of ascent/descent sounded lot (it was actually 4,600ft) but I had no frame of reference and I had ran an off road trail marathon on similar terrain a couple of years back so felt like I could handle the terrain.
Due to being mentally busy at work, It was only really the day before that I started to think about the race and it dawned on me that I was attempting to run further than I had ever run up (and down) some pretty big hills having not running anything like that distance since last year's London marathon, 11 months previously.
There was also the gnawing worry of not knowing the route, so I hastily printed off some maps and roughly plotted where the check points were before seeking advice from Carla (an ultramarathon veteran) on what food and drink to take to get me through it. One shopping trip later I was fully stocked with Soreen (which I forgot to take), gels, cereal bars, cashew nuts and sports drinks and after a big bowl of pasta for tea, I got an early night ahead of the 6am start the next day.
After a breakfast of porridge with honey, banana and coconut water, I set of for Haworth but was running late so when a taxi driver slowed down to 20 miles an hour in Keighley, I nipped past, only to see a police van with speed camera on the other side of the road. Not the ideal preparation but I made it in time to collect my number and get to the start line outside the Black Bull pub.
Having no idea where I was going and the route being completely unmarked, I made my way to the front of the pack and settled into a steady rythmn, pausing briefly to take some snaps of the secenery and stretch out my worryingly tight calves. Sticking with a group of Bingley Harriers who seemed to know the route, we clocked seven miles an hour for the first two hours which by my calculations meant we would be done in four and a half hours and I was starting to wonder what all the fuss was about.
I nearly got lost at a checkpoint having stopped to fill my bottle up, the Bingley Harriers had dissappeared into the mist but luckily a couple of lads from Pudsey who were running as a pair and had recce'd the course recently were just behind so I tagged along with them for the next six miles are so, chatting along the way.
It wasn't until the 20 mile mark that the tiredness started to creep in and my left knee jarred on a downhill making it painful to fully extend my left leg. I was still hoping for a sub 5 hour finish when we reached a steep incline into Heptonstall that you could only walk up followed by a steep descent and another sharp incline that sucked the life out of my legs.
I reached the marathon point at 4 hours 10 but was with another massive incline that slowed me down to walking pace and I was now in the unknown distance of my first ultramarathon. At the summit around the 27 mile mark, I managed to get the legs going for one last push, fighting against my aching body's desire to stop and rest and after one last, horrible hill climb, it was downhill to the finish and the warmth of the race HQ at Haworth Primary School.
Time had gone out of the window now and I was happy just to finish in a respectable time of 5 hours and 5 mins (considering my lack of preparation) and didn't feel in bad shape as I woofed down a bowl of stew and bread, washed down by sweet tea and a fairy cake. Exhausted but happy, I set off home a night in with a pizza and beer with the buzz of having got my first ultramarathon under my belt (though the idea of doing another 18 miles on top is starting to fill me with dread...)

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Just in time

Having been cancelled first time round due to the snow flurry in late Feb, the Dewsbury 10k was re-arranged for a wet and windy sunday morning in early March. Having run the monstrously hilly Huddersfield 10k the week before, I was looking forward to running on a relatively flat course and having a crack at my PB of 37.23.
The race started pretty well and I worked my way towards the head of the field though annoyingly, I had to stop for a pee which cost me valuable seconds and broke my rythmn early on. I also had issues with my compression socks which I was racing in for thr first time. Rather than help the circulation, they were giving me pins and needles in my feet which wasn't a good sign so I again had to break my rythmn to roll them down (see dips in the pace chart: )
I felt off the pace at half way, turning round in just over 19 minutes but with the second leg all down hill to the finish, I decided to go for it and after a couple of mini races along the way, I came in at 37.16, more than the 36 I had been hoping for but still a slight PB on the day (will avoid the pre-race coffee next time!)

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Huddersfield & Herzo

After 12 miles of sunny trails with Matt around Temple Newsam on Saturday, my 20 events in 12 months belatedly got under way with the Huddersfield 10k on Sunday 26th February. I had heard it was a hilly course but didn't appreciate how hilly it was with a mixture of steep inclines followed by nail-biting declines meaning it wasn't a race for the faint hearted.
Despite the undulating course and an annoying toilet break, I finished in a time of 39.14 in 18th place overall so not a bad start to the year's events.
On Monday afternoon, I travelled down to Exeter for an in-store running event
and had my footscans analysed and was pleased to find out my gait was pretty efficent with my foot strike following through from the heel to the middle of the forefoot to the toe off (see pic) which means I can now use trainers with neutral support as well as moderate support.
Then on Tuesday it was off to adidas HQ in Herzogenaurach with work which included driving on the autobahn, a trip to the outlet store for a pair of adizero Aegis, a brief on SS13 running and a quick lunchtime run around Herzo with Tom Siedel. Returning back to the UK on Thursday evening, two days' rest were in order ahead of the re-aaranged Dewsbury 10k on the Sunday.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Marathon weekend

With the Dewsbury 10k postponed until March 4th due to the snow, 20 events in 12 months is now more like 20 in 10, with the Huddersfield 10k now the first race next Sunday, 26th February, followed by 5 events in March.
After struggling with a chest infection last weekend, I needed to get a couple of decent training runs in this weekend. So on Saturday I hit the road with Matt for a 14 miler from West Park to Roundhay, round
the lake and back again.
Then on Sunday, I enjoyed a 12 mile trail run round Temple Newsam in the sunshine with plenty of hills in preparation for the Haworth Hobble (though 32 miles might not be so enjoyable!)
I also finished 'The Ghost Runner' over the weekend, a book about John Tarrant, one of the greatest distance runners the world has ever seen, who was banned from competing as an amateur after accepting £17 in expenses
for boxing as a teenager in the 50s. His ban from competing in Britain was eventually lifted after a long battle with the authorities but his ban from representing his country or competing in any events abroad was never lifted.
It is a remarkable and ultimately tragic story that takes Tarrant from a children's home in Kent during the 2nd World War to appartheid torn South Africa via two world records (for 40 and 100 miles). Well worth a read!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Back on track

After a slow start to 2012, I finally managed to drag myself to the Leeds Athletics Club at South Leeds with the aim of kick starting my training for the events ahead.

Finding out that my 37 minute 10k PB made me the slowest in the group didn't help with the confidence but after a track session of 15x 200m sprints with 200m recovery, I could see why. Definitely some serious athletes but managed to not disgrace myself and completed the sets - it could only get easier, I thought.

This turned out to not be the case as Tuesday's session consisted of 6x 600m sprints with 100m recovery then 300m sprint with 400m recovery which was even more brutal. It didn't help that the legs were heavy after 1 and a half laps of Otley Chevin with Matt H on Sunday plus Monday night football for Team Savvy (going back in goal from now on) but felt good when it was over.

A few more weeks of hard work should hopefully knock some time of the upcoming 10k races - if it doesn't kill me first!