Sunday, October 15, 2017

Birmingham International Marathon

So... Marathon day. Naturally we would have preferred to have gone by train but despite this being the 21st Century the country is still unable to run these things before 9am on a Sunday. So we drive there, although we do get a great parking spot right in the centre of Birmingham. From where I get the shuttle bus to the start at the Alexander Stadium while L starts limbering up in readiness for the shops opening.

I have printed her off a map of the route, on which she complains that they haven’t marked Waterstones. They’ve not marked much to be fair but I’m sure she’ll cope.

There are two start times 8.30am and 9.30am. As a Marathon virgin I have been placed in the latter category. It would have nice if everyone could have started together but I guess the current start area simply isn't big enough.

I line up wearing my new barely broken in trainers behind two girls who have labels on their backs saying ‘I’m running for...’ erm ‘Gin’ and ‘Sex’. I suppose it’s a conversation starter but no one’s talking at the moment everyone looks far too worried for chitchat.

This is the rebirth of the Birmingham Marathon. The original, known as the People’s Marathon, started in 1980 which was a year before the inception of the London Marathon. It ran for six years until 1985 and apparently included the M42 (before it was finished). Now it’s back.

So off we go. I like the course which runs us into the city centre before a two lap loop of a large chunk of the usual Half Marathon course. This included Cannon Hill Park, Cadburys and the Edgbaston Cricket Ground. Plenty of people didn’t like the two lap bit but I do like to know where I’m going, as I did second time around. I wouldn’t have wanted to do a third though.

I set off at nine minute mile pace as planned but clearly subconsciously I found this simply too pedestrian as I soon speeded up. Suddenly not four hours but three hours fifty minutes looks briefly on but only briefly.

The atmosphere was good and there were plenty of designated ‘cheering points’ but there were actually plenty of people cheering all the way around at presumably unauthorised points. The route could have perhaps done with a few more bands and there was also no beer stop like at the Great North Run. So they’ll have to sort that omission out.

By half way I have used up all the energy gels I had carried with me and L hands me a few more as I push into the uncharted waters of the second half marathon of the marathon. They are handing gels out at a few points but it would be better if they were available at all the feed stations and a sports drink would be nice too.

I had left a sports bar with L but I don’t take it, which was probably a mistake, as I do start to feel a bit low on energy and start taking jelly babies off the crowd. I discover that it you nibble them slowly you don’t choke on them, which is a bonus. However Haribos and wine gums turn out to be deadly. They are totally inedible and chewy, so I spit them out and go begging for more jelly babies.

Things are going really well until I suffer a minor meltdown at 24 miles. Is this what they call ‘The Wall’? To be honest it’s more of a privet hedge. I start feeling a bit light headed, so I walk for a bit and pour water over my head. This ruins my target time and I slip outside four hours pace as I finish in 4:02.

Bizarrely Erdinger hadn’t sponsored this one and they hand me a bottle of water when I cross the line. How quaint and old fashioned. It was only the one bottle though, which wasn’t enough and I downed mine in one go. I very nearly had to cause a scene in the Sack Of Potatoes pub in order to obtain more fluids.

That’s where I end up by the way, on the grass outside said pub, which is just out of crawling range. Apart from more water, I would have liked a massage but although I can see the sign it might as well be several miles away.

I have informed L where I am and now I await rescue. She says don’t move. That’s easy, I can’t move. She soon found me because she recognised my legs sticking out from under the park bench. I had tried to sit on the bench but hadn’t quite managed it.

I have raided the Goodie Bag but I have to say if this is your typical Marathon Goodie Bag then I’m disappointed. There’s barely anything to eat in it and not much to drink either but I do love the T-shirt.

Apparently I came 1506th out of 5204. Naturally I’m gutted not to make the top 1500 but that’s not too bad for a first effort.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Great Eastern Run

Today I’m in Peterborough for the Great Eastern Run which is a Half Marathon that has nothing to do with those ‘Great’ and ‘Run’ people.

There are dire predictions of parking chaos but as it happens we park practically on the start line, not sure how that happened.

While I make my way to the start line, L makes her way in to the city centre to find a good viewing point. She’s really going to scout out the local Waterstones but if she gives me a cheer as I run past all the better.

With half an eye on next weekend’s ‘big’ one, I was more than happy to jog round this one in another 1:45. When I ran this race before, in 2014, I got round 1:49 but I was seriously strapped up at the time.

Sadly there isn’t a 1:45 pacer today but there is a 1:40 one. So I thought I might as well flirt with him and see what happens.

The route is very flat as was shown by my split times which were incredibly consistent. I also achieved my aim of getting them all under eight minutes per mile. This is always my aim on a half marathon but it is rarely achieved. My slowest today is 7:41. Which all bodes well for a decent time, although by the end I am hanging on to the pacers for grim death.

There are about a dozen of us running with them but when a group of us stop at one of the later drink stations and the pacers don’t, pandemonium ensues. Runners end up colliding with each other as they attempt to get back on pace and in the end a group of us form our own little peloton around 50 metres behind them.

We do gradually battle our way back to them but never quite gain parity with them again and in the last mile I let them go. I’m more than happy when I come home in 1:40:38. L remarks that it was good that I was ‘taking it easy’. I think she’s impressed.

So a good race, although not a very pretty one once you’ve done the city centre but it’s pleasant enough and well organised. I could have done with a different colour t-shirt though, yellow ugh.

I again use my new trainers and all appears well with them but then it was only a half marathon... next week it isn’t.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Lincoln Half Marathon

Well it could have been Malmo but it wasn’t to be and now here we are in Lincoln instead. Malmo was a tentatively plan for my 50th Birthday running teat but it just proved too difficult to get over there for a weekend. I need to start planning further out next time and by which point L should be fit enough to play a full part.

My entry to Lincoln went in very late and at first it looked like they were going to make me drive over to Lincoln on Saturday just to pick my number up but they relented. As it turns out there are loads of people collecting their numbers on the day. It is a day that starts very dull and rainy but it does fine up by start time.

This is the second running of the event which starts at the Lincoln Showground which we know well from the many dog shows that are held there.

You can see why they held the start and finish out at the Showground but it’s a bit of a dull run in to Lincoln itself from there. It’s also surprisingly not very supporter friendly because the start was a fair old hike from race HQ as it was held on the far periphery of the showground and supporters also weren't allowed past the finish line to watch us complete it.

However, once the race got into Lincoln it was great. There was plenty of support there and an interesting section on the river front, followed by lovely big hill up to the Castle and then a nice little cobbled section.

Then there’s the long dull run back to the Showground and a final stretch along the very gravelly access road which hurts my feet. It makes me think I some less minimalist trainers for my marathon, which isn’t really what you’re supposed to do two weeks out from a race.

I cross the line in a reasonable 01:45 to be handed the traditional pint of Erdinger Alcohol free.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Robin Hood Half Marathon

Given the fact that Nottingham is overzealous with it’s road closures for the Marathon/Half Marathon and the tram isn’t very convenient for the Embankment, I employ Shank's Pony to get to the start line. In truth, the walk probably served as a pretty good warm up.

The course is more or less the same as last year's with one dead turn thankfully taken out. So just one more to remove please but this is certainly one of the better courses they’ve had.

Just ahead of seven miles I get chance for a sweaty snog with one of the crowd, which was my partner of course but then everyone else backed away in terror when they saw me coming.

I have a good run and finish in 1:44:50 and pass Richard Whitehead en route, in the end beating him by a couple of minutes. 

It's again an excellent event and with a t-shirt for all finishers this year for the first time. It's a cotton one too, which I prefer. I have so many technical ones already.

My only real grip is that Nottingham still persist with the notorious water pouches. Oddly some people do seem to like them but I assume these are the folk who possess the black magic required to get something substantial out of them. Personally I probably consumed only half the amount of water I wanted to and I really don't see how they get these things through their H&S Risk Assessment. I run races up and down the country and have never come across these dreadful things anywhere else.

These are a blot on what is otherwise, fantastic race. Although I still maintain that they should be taking this race into the city centre like the big cites do - Sheffield, Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester etc etc. Which perversely would contain the race more central and therefore probably even reduce the number of road closures.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Mansfield 10k

In the post race euphoria of the Great North Run I entered us both in today’s Mansfield 10k while sat on the platform at Newcastle Railway Station. Unfortunately the euphoria was not shared by L’s back, so now it’s just me. 

The third running of the Mansfield 10k turns out to be a decent little event, once we’ve managed to park somewhere as the town has pretty much shut down for the race.

The course is a twisty route with a few includes around the town centre and surrounding streets with the start and finish in the Market Place offering excellent viewing potential for my reluctant supporter.

There’s a 5k as well as a 10k which presents some excellent cheating potential for any dishonest 10k runners. Not me, obviously.

My time is a steady and unspectacular 45:51. Not great but its all about building fitness and remaining uninjured at the moment. It’s four weeks to marathon day.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Great North Run

L and I head up to Newcastle, via a parkrun in Sheffield, as you do. Daughter joins us and the two them, not me, run the Sheffield Castle parkrun. I’m saving my calves for the GNR tomorrow.

Once in Newcastle, we head to find the pasta party, which is no longer held at the finish line where we expected it to be, where it was fifteen years ago, but apparently it hasn’t been there for years. Who knew? That will teach us to read the race information.

The next day we are near enough to walk to the start which saves a lot of hassle with the Metro etc, which I’m sure will be busy. Then amazingly we bump into some people we know and the Elite women’s coach almost bumps into us.

Then we part to go to our respective start points. The race starts at 10:40am and I get to cross the start line at 10:45am, L who is further back doesn’t get to start until 11:10am. By which point Mo Farah is long gone. In fact before I am even half way around they are announcing that he has won, smart a***.

The route, of course, goes from Newcastle to South Shields via the Tyne Bridge. The on course support is, as expected, amazing but (whisper it quietly) I was a bit disappointed with the route, it’s just not that scenic... the bridge is good but isn’t it tiny! I was surprised. Blink and you’ve missed it but you can’t missed the Red Arrows who flew across overhead as we crossed.  

There was a very welcome beer stop at 10 miles provided by Newcastle Hash House Harriers but, again, blink and you’ll miss it. Which I did, so naturally I turned around and went back.  They had beers from several local micro breweries so it was almost a mini beer festival. Perhaps I should have stayed for a couple but I just grabbed a taster from Tyne Bank Brewery and went on my way.

The best bit of the course is probably the end and that's not just because it’s the end. After an uphill section around mile 11 there then comes an evil downhill slope (for those of us with dodgy calves) at 12 miles but having weathered than the final mile long stretch along the sea front is great.

Having looked after my calves all the way around, I start to push it now and they twang at me in protest but they can pack up now if they want. I can crawl from here.

So I finish in one piece and a little while later so too does L. By now I’ve managed to grab a massage and have headed back up the course to cheer L in, who texts me from the finish. So I’ve missed her. We arrange to meet in the beer tent which is filled with tempting real ales. It was fairly quiet when I finished but it’s heaving now, so we shelve that idea.

The queues for the Metro are huge even after we’ve killed time in one of the pubs so we head to get the Tyne Ferry instead which will enable us to pick up the Metro on the other side of the river. The queues are probably just as long but at least we are serenaded by a band in the queue.  

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Leicester 10k

We are still without a car, so we forced to use public transport to get over to Leicester for the newest of Asda Foundation / Jane Tomlinson Run For All events. They call it the ‘first’ Leicester 10k but there are multiple 10ks in Leicester and always have been, this is just the latest.

Many race plans in the past have been scuppered by the lack of public transport options so I am pleasantly surprised\shocked to find that there are actually trains to Leicester before 9am on a Sunday and that the Nottingham tram starts at 6am on a Sunday. Wow.

So in the end it proves relatively easy to get to Abbey Park for the event.

The route of the 10k sounds nice. It takes us across the Grand Union Canal, into the city centre, past the Richard III visitor centre, past the cathedral, then twice over the River Soar before ending with a final lap of the park. I didn’t really notice much of that...

My only aim is to not get re-injured, so it’s a case of stick at a steady pace all the way round and a laborious time of 48:36 shows that it’s job well done. There’s even a post race massage to check out the damage, which I’m told is negligible. The masseur concurs that I’m good to go and compliments Thursday’s treatment.

L runs it too and seems equally ecstatic afterwards to have survived it.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Nairn Half Marathon

While we're up in Scotland on holiday we fit in a spot of running, of course.

First we head to Elgin, around thirty minutes away from where we are staying in Nairn, so that L can chalk up another parkrun where she beats Olympic rower Heather Stanning on TeamParkrun day. Heather, it has to be said, doesn’t try too hard and tailwalks.
Then it’s back to Nairn for the Highland Games where I am one of the attractions in the Half Marathon.

Sadly I injury myself (calf again) during my warm up. I decide that the best thing to do would be to pull out completely. Then as things improve slightly after a few stretches I decide to jog the first mile.

The first mile is uncomfortable but bearable, so I give the next mile a go, then I give the other eleven a go. My conclusion, as I hobble home home in two hours exactly and then can’t walk afterwards, is that I should have pulled out.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Newark Half Marathon

The original Newark Half Marathon ran for many years until 2011 when it ceased to exist. It seemed the organisers had had enough of the endless hassle of organising it. Then in 2016 it returned, albeit without much Newark in it and certainly not the town centre start and finish.

The new race starts in the Sconce Park, on the outskirts of Newark, and the site of many civil war battles which are now being exchanged for battles of another variety. From there the race heads further outwards and despite it being advertised as the dreaded flat and fast, meaning its probably going to be dull, I decide to give it a go this year as part of my Marathon Project.

There is no car parking, so we park in the street and then walk to the start which is buried deep in the park.

The course is almost totally on closed county lanes, if you don’t count farm vehicles. One of which tries a massive reversing manoeuvre mid-race at about the ten mile point. It was sort of all on road as well, if you discount a few minor thoroughfares that hadn’t see a layer of tarmac in twenty plus years and had grass growing through them. Oh, and the entire last mile was a lap of Sconce Park itself, on the grass. Other than that... no complaints about the course.

I set out determined to take this (relatively) easily and quickly put aside the fact that one of my former Thunder Run team mates is currently ahead of me. I know he can’t maintain that pace and true enough I soon ease past him without doing anything.

What is more worrying is that another (occasional) rival of mine, shoots past me about six miles in as if his shoes are on fire. That has NEVER happened before. I hope he can’t maintain that pace but just in case he can, I up mine a little. This is probably my undoing.

I am correct in that he can’t maintain that pace and soon I get back in front of him, leaving him far behind until... disaster strikes. At ten miles my calf locks up and I start to walk, race over. Both of my ‘rivals’ come past me. Oh, the shame but I suppose I was in good company today.

Later, Usain Bolt pulled up injured in his last ever race while Mo Farah also messed up his finale. Mo is now apparently giving up the track to focus on racing against me full time on the road. Not sure I’ll give him much trouble.

I have my phone with me, specifically for an injury meltdown just like this, so I text L that I’ll be a while and to put her feet up/have a beer/get her knitting out etc etc.

She is somewhat appalled that I’m not. I sort of run/walk/jog/shuffle the last three miles and finish in 1:58. Not bad I suppose and at least I finished unlike Usain but it’s not a good omen for my future plans.

The goodie bag proved to be interesting, red t-shirt aside, with a few decent snacks, a medal and some weird plastic thing that I mistook for a dog toy but someone else said was perhaps a massage tool but could just as well have been a sex aid. There were no takers in our household to research this further, even the dogs weren’t interested.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Thunder Run

Last year L and I did the Thunder Run as part of a team of eight and the team as a whole managed 21 laps of the 10k course which worked out at three or less each. This year we attempted it again but with a team of five, which hopefully should get us at least four laps each.

If that wasn’t enough of an epic challenge, we hadn’t reckoned on the weather. I kicked the team off with the opening lap at midday with an impressive 48:27 but then four hours later it started to rain and kept raining through to about 7am the following morning. Summer? Summer in the UK always has been merely a notional period on the calendar rather than an actual indicator of nice weather.

Consequently the off road course because an absolute quagmire becoming not just a stern physical challenge but also a test of mental toughness. I loved it and thought this new, unexpected, side to it merely added to the enjoyment. However most people seemed to disagree with me.

Last year both L and I went into the event with questionable fitness, this year I’m possibly in as good as shape as I could be on the back of two 70.3 triathlons. L however has been advised by practically every doctor and physio on the planet to stay at home, so naturally here she is and fully intending to do her four laps.

As I headed out for my second lap at around 5:20pm, I felt that I had the right footwear for the necessary mud skiing that a lap now mostly involved and my time of 51:23 perhaps confirmed this.

As before we fuelled ourselves with ham and cheese rolls and pasta.

At around 11:30pm I’m off on my third lap where I did take one tumble, somewhere between the 8km and 9km points, when I misjudged the slope of the hill I was running across in the dark. After sliding for half a mile or so, I picked myself up, brushed the smidgen of mud off my clothes and carried on. Sadly this ruined my time a touch but I still got in under the hour with a 59:32.

The organisers were having a few problems too, as the weather took out the generator for a while overnight and the marshals had to hold the inflatable start line up while it was fixed. They didn’t seem to mind, the general camaraderie or should that be the Dunkirk spirit between everyone was great. Which included a couple who got married on Saturday morning and then shared their on course wedding reception with all of us.

After grabbing a few hours sleep, I ran my fourth and final lap at 06:45am. By now the rain had eased, not that that made any difference to the conditions underfoot and my time was a slightly disappointing 61:15.
I did offer to do L’s fourth lap for her, which would have been my fifth but she was having none of it. I hope she doesn’t regret that tomorrow. So I head to the Bus Bar to grab a pint and watch her slither home.

We have one more runner to go after L then we’re done. Only 19 laps this year, I suppose we have to blame the weather for that.

There was only blot on the event (unless you count the rain as a blot) and that was the range of Ladies fit T shirts that none of the girls could get into. So only the lads will be in the pub tonight wearing their swanky green race t-shirts. I’m sure they’ll sort out replacements post-race.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Nottingham GP Race 4 - Colwick Park 5 Mile

It’s the final round of the GP series tonight at Colwick Racecourse. For the first time ever the race starts and finishes on the Racecourse itself before doing its usual multiple loops around Colwick Park. L isn't running the race but not to be outdone she runs there, well run-walks as she builds her fitness back up.

This has always been my least favourite of the GP races and I’m really not sure what my tired legs are going to make of it. L assures me that the red mist will mask everything.

The route is a loop of the smaller lake followed by a loop of the whole park, five miles in all, which seems a very long way and it shouldn’t as I’m supposed to be marathon training but then again I was probably going for it a tad too much. I don’t quite recreate the heroics of Tuesday but 36:14 isn’t too bad.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Nottingham GP Race 3 - Victoria Embankment 5k

This evening we head to the Victoria Embankment for the third round of the GP series which is a 5k. I have of course missed the first two rounds due to being in London but I’m quite pleased with how this one goes.

It’s a rather dull flat route on the tarmac paths on the river side of the Embankment that takes us up to Trent Bridge from the centre of the Embankment, then up to the Toll Bridge, then back to Trent Bridge again before finishing back in the centre. 20:44. I haven’t ran that fast in years.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Llandudno Sea Triathlon

The Llandudno Sea Triathlon is a Middle Distance event aka a 70.3 aka a Half Ironman, it is also my first competitive swim in the sea, gulp, and it’s raining. Things do not start promisingly with a ten minute long swim out to the off shore start. I wasn’t expecting that sort of exhausting warm up and I’m not sure why it was necessary. Surely a beach start would have been far more exciting and in eye shot of the crowd.

The swim itself, all 1.9km of it, was actually quite fun, a bit like being on a rollercoaster. One minute I was surfing a wave, the next minute I was in mid air until I slapped back down into the water. It was tough swimming against the current but after the turn it's... wheeeeee... great fun swimming with the current. Then we have to go around again.

At some point I lose the five people I’ve been swimming with and end up on my own. As the swim takes me a very tardy 59 minutes, I assume they found a short cut.

Then on to the 87km bike and a very deadly exit from transition, where we are asked to turn right for a lap of the Great Orme (big Welsh hill thing) crossing the path of faster triathletes coming off the Orme and now heading off in the other direction.

Then when I’ve been round the Orme, I’m faced with the same hazard again because the Sprint race has now started and they are emerging from transition just as I try to pass. At least by now it’s stopped raining but the roads are still quite damp.

The rest of the bike course is hilly, very hilly, making the Orme look like a mere undulation. However I make good time and pass loads of people who are clearly finding it tougher than I am.

A marshal briefly throws a spanner in the works at the feed station when he chucks a bottle of sports drink at me. They’d been no information in advance on how the feed station would work, unlike at other races, and I have nowhere to put this extra bottle. I pull over, top up my own bottle from it and then chuck the extra one at the next marshal. Sorted.

Finally after what seems like an age, and is actually three hours and forty-nine minutes, I pull back into transition and go out on the 20km run. This too is hilly and takes us over the Little Orme (smaller Welsh hill thing) down to Penrhyn Bay.

We do two laps of this with a turnaround point on the promenade. Sadly the turnaround comes very early on the promenade and short of a full lap where there is no crowd, no L and no dogs because they were expecting this barely marked point to be somewhere more logical. It makes a lonely run, even lonelier.

I complete the run in 1:47 giving me a total time of 6:22 which doesn’t sound that great but it was a tough course. Sadly, hardly anyone notices when I cross the finish. There was no announcement of your name as you crossed the line like at other races and there wasn’t even a timing clock.

It would also have been nice to know that there would be only water available on the run. e.g there were no gels, no sports drink and no food items, any of which would have been nice. Still it was a decent event, although there’s plenty of scope for improvement.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Hairy Helmet

The Hairy Helmet, for the uninitiated, is a four person relay with everyone doing just two (and a bit) miles. For my team of girls (and me), which includes L, that’s not a given as all have recently been injured or are still nursing injuries. The team is rather tastefully named after this blog ‘Team Fit For Nothing’ and we are entered in the Supervets aged 200+ category. Which will probably turn out to be the fastest category.

Everything starts from Darley Abbey Cricket Club and I walk there from work, which is a good warm up while L drives over with the dogs. Being first to arrive I collect our timing baton, race numbers, beer tokens and, oddly, a bag of Portlebay Popcorn.

I am offered the choice of running first or last. Obviously that’s a no brainer, I’ll go first. L decides to anchor us home and mop up the glory.

So off I head out around the cricket pitch boundary and onto the park itself. After a quick 180 degree turn we’re heading steeply uphill towards the main park gates. Then after the park gates we’re descending back downhill and towards the rowing club end of the park. Another U-turn there, then it’s along the river and back towards the cricket club where I hand over to our next team member.

My time is a not too shifty 13:23, I didn’t think I had that in me any more. The rest of the team aren’t quite as nippy but we come an impressive 7th in the Supervets category. Oh, it’s out of seven but not to worry.

The beer tokens are for the Derventio Brewery who have a beer tent but they are only valid on their bottles. They also have three draught beers but these sell out very quickly. I don’t know if this is spectators supping it as they watch or runners supping it before they go out. Having ran first, only one beer is left available even then.

By the time L has ran, none is left and we adjourn to the Furnace. It's always good to have a back up plan.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Columbia Threadneedle ITU World Triathlon Leeds

It’s race day and I am in the wave rather too officially titled the British Standard Distance Triathlon Championships (Male 50-54). Is that what I signed up for? Sounds very serious and it all kicks off at 7.30am.

The day does not initially start off well with us again unable to access the main car park from the north of the city. Sadly nobody we asked on Saturday or on the Sunday knew how to access it, so we ended up parking in the street again. This isn't really a problem but some advice as to whether this was the best thing to do would have been nice. Luckily everything else goes quite well today.

The swim is ok, it's not too fearsome, either course wise or people wise, and even the swans kept out of my way. In fact, it was so shallow in places I could have walked it.

One thing they haven’t changed from last year is the long runs in and out of transition but at least we don’t have to carry a bag this time.

The bike route is a bit of a pain, very twisty with not much chance to get your head down other than to attempt to plough through the wind which seems to be head on pretty much all the time. The only time it seems to drop is on the uphill sections, meaning are were no easy bits. Mind you, you don’t really want your head up as the suburbs of Leeds are not particularly pretty.

The bike route takes us back to Roundhay this time, meaning one transition not two, and then it’s a 7km run into Leeds following by a 3km loop around the city centre. I can only guess that they have lengthened the time gap between our races and the elite races this year because there was a lot less support in the city centre.

I was slightly slower on both the swim and the bike this year but overall I was two minutes up on last year due to actually having two working legs for the run this time. However, I have no idea how this year's long runs in and out of transition compared to last year's long runs in and out of transition. My T1 last year was an eye-watering 11:23, this year a spritely 8:34.

Last year it was noted that there weren’t many freebies available but this time it’s much better even if the Yorkshire tea stall did seem to peak too soon and run out. We even got a race t-shirt this time and the shuttle bus back to Roundhay from the city centre works like clockwork.

So a very good effort from the organisers to repair the damage to triathlon's reputation that was inflicted by last year’s debacle. However this race can now be very much consigned as done and dusted as far as I’m concerned. New challenges now await.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Outlaw Half

So today I return to Holme Pierrepont for my third Outlaw Half in four years, having taken last year off. After being slightly injured in 2015, and desperately trying to not get more seriously injured so that I could do the Ramathon the following weekend, I recorded a slow-ish 6:07 that year.

This year I feel in much better shape, so it’s chance to get back under six hours and hopefully somewhere close to my 2014 time of 5:52.

The 1.9km swim immediately dashes my hopes of a new PB. With a time of 46:27, that’s over seven minutes off 2014 and three off 2015. So a PB isn’t going to happen. Unhelpfully they have also moved the swim exit this year which means there’s quite a long run to transition on tarmac, which has shades of last year’s Leeds ITU debacle. Can we have some matting please for next year.

The bike is better, much better, although I still can’t get it under three hours. My bike time for the 90km is 3:04:17, better than last time but just behind 2014. It would probably have been a PB had I not gone wrong in the final km and overshot the turn into Holme Pierrepont Hall with the help of some inefficient marshalling.

So to the run and that is where I do nail it. My 2:01:20 half marathon is better than both previous years and even two minutes up on my uninjured efforts in 2014. Yet still I pace it a touch wrong as I come in an agonising eight seconds over six hours.

EIGHT seconds. OMG. I blame that marshal, I mean I blame myself for overshooting, and that lengthened run in from the swim can’t have helped either. Oh well, there’s always near year. Did I really say that? I better not have done. It is an amazingly well put together event, better than any of the other 70.3s I’ve done but I must focus elsewhere next year.

The post-race rubdown is gratefully received along with the lashings of Erdinger Alkoholfrei, then it’s off for the post-race food which is posher than ever.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Lichfield Half Marathon

Today we head over the Lichfield for the Half Marathon. It’s just me running with L and the boys supporting. The race starts at King Edward VI School, which is the same place that we did the 10k from. They recommend you park there and then they will bus you back from the finish which is on grass land near the town centre.

We do things the other way around and park in a car park very close to the finish. Then we walk to the start, where I warm up with both dogs and even do the aerobic warm up with MD.

Conditions are warm but the course is largely flat with a bit of an incline in the last few miles.

My race goes pretty well and I was on for a pretty good time until we reached what is known as Fine Lane Level Crossing. Apparently in the entire seven year history of the race, a train has never gone over this railway crossing during the race but it does today. Apparently a farmer’s fence not far from Lichfield got damaged and several cows wondered on to the main line, causing subsequent trains to be diverted on to this line.

I am held up for six minutes which turns my potential finishing time of around 1:42 into 1:48:41. There was one solitary marshal at the crossing attempting to take everyone’s numbers who got held up but there were far too many runners to take note of and I’ve no idea how they’d work out how long everyone was held up anyway. Many people claim they didn’t even see a marshal to give their number to.

Later, when the results go up, I see that my time hasn’t been adjusted but there isn’t really much point making an issue of it, they will really have no idea how long people were detained and everyone will have self-timed anyway.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Wollaton Park Easter 10k

Today its time to revisit the Easter 10k on Wollaton Park. This is a real old school event with big queues for registration, a delayed start and no mile or kilometres markers at all. They have dabbled with such high tech devices over the years but have never actually managed to cover the whole course for some reason, now they seem to have given up completely.

Although a jog around my local park is always pleasant, except when it’s raining and it isn’t today, this is just for training purposes. So it’s nice to find out that I am actually 30 seconds quicker than when I last ran it three years ago. Not that my time is quick by any stretch of the imagination or comparison to ‘back in the day’ but at least it’s not too disheartening.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sheffield Half Marathon

I do like the Sheffield Half Marathon and I did like the old course but there is something rather beautifully masochistic about the course change they introduced three years ago when Run For All, the legacy organisation for the late Jane Tomlinson, got involved and decided to embrace Sheffield’s inner hilliness.

It’s possibly the way they quietly ratchet up the intensity as they take you out of the city along Arundel Gate and onto the long stretch that is Ecclesall Road, which all takes place on a slight incline. Then the slight gets less slight and much more significant as the road rises skywards, getting gradually steeper and steeper. Until by mile four you are on your hands and knees crawling up the one mile stretch that they call the 'King\Queen of the Hill' before eventually you can kiss the tarmac at the top of Ringinglow. From where you look forward to plummeting down... the scenic flat bit.

Allegedly, after the scenic flat bit, it’s all downhill to the finish, only it isn’t. It remains frustrating undulating and deliciously painful right up to the finish line.

Plus there is an additional nuisance factor this year, a dose of very unseasonal Yorkshire weather. Obviously in Sheffield in April you expect wind, rain and maybe hail or possibly snow, or all four at once but this year Sheffield is struck by a heat wave which really wasn’t that welcome.

I survive though and cross the finish line where I am bested by last year’s time by a three mere seconds but you still can’t beat it as a location for your Sunday morning jog and they’ve even given us a wearable t-shirt this year.

My only wish is that they would put as much effort into the mile markers as they do the km markers that map out the last 10k, for which there is an additional prize. These are all nice sail banners whereas the thirteen mile markers appear to be an assorted collection of whatever was lying around at the back of the race director’s garage.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Coventry Half Marathon


Today I am entered in the Coventry Half Marathon. We head over without the dogs and once the race has been started by no less than Coventry Olympian Dave Moorcroft, L heads across the road to the local Puregym. 

Her Puregym membership apparently enables her to use any of their gyms across the country which will save her having to bide her time heckling me when she’s not running. Unfortunately no one had told the computer at Puregym and it takes her a bit of time to gain access. By then I’m well on my way around the sights of Coventry.

Coventry turns out to be hillier than I thought, much hillier, but at least my legs lasted as long as Mile 5 this time. Progress. I did try to hold my pace back a touch to save something for the end and was more successful in keeping to something approaching eight minute mile pace throughout. I ended up beating last week’s time by 37 seconds despite the hillier terrain.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Retford Half Marathon

Today I run the Retford Half Marathon which starts at Retford Oaks Academy. L and the boys come along to offer vocal support.

Some folk from Sheffield Running Club described what is to come as pan flat which, as there is nothing anywhere near ‘pan flat’ for them to compare it with in Yorkshire, could mean anything. As it turns out the course is remarkably flat for the first five miles but then becomes quite undulating thereafter with several long but gradual inclines.

The race is well organised, on closed roads, but very low key e.g. somewhat lacking in atmosphere. Outside of Retford itself, it’s a case of spot the spectator and it’s also not hugely scenic, which I don’t mind at all.

As is the way with races early in the year there are not many slow runners so the pace is brisk. I make a good start but after three miles my thighs stiffen up and I gradually get slower and slower. This is where actually doing some training might have helped.

My time of almost 1:49 leaves a lot of room for improvement although, being very early in the season, there is plenty of time for that. If I was to ever get among the awards here I have some serious work to do. First 40+ Male clocked 1:14, first 50+ Male 1:18 and first 60+ Male 1:23. Ouch. So, just half an hour to knock off my time to get first 50+ Male next year. I suppose I did want a challenge for my 50th year.

I also entered the Nottinghamshire Amateur Athletics Association Half Marathon County Championships which was part of the race, and I didn’t win that either.

There is no goody bag, just a bottle of water and an orange t-shirt. It was ominous at registration, that they gave me a pile of leaflets with my race number as this is the sort of tat that usually weighs down the goody bag. T-shirt wise, as orange t-shirts go, it’s not too bad.

If I found the lack of a goody back disappointing then MD found it positively soul destroying. He is so upset at the lack of crisps and/or biscuits that he starts to eat my race number in frustration.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

East Midlands 10k, Holme Pierrepont

Today I needed a 10k purely as training for next week’s Retford Half Marathon. Yes, it may be a bit late to start training for a half marathon but I always get injured training so perhaps not training is the best way...

The day dawns damp and gets damper as we join an impressively long queue to get into the car park at Holme Pierrepoint. I don’t recall anyone ever having charged for car parking at Holme Pierrepoint before and we have been here dozens of times but they are charging £5 to park, which has manufactured the queue.

As start time approaches I jump out of the car and leave L to park up, just in case they don’t delay the start but sensibly, they do. Now I have the problem of having excess clothes to dump which I hide behind one of the porta cabins in front of the main buildings.

As I said I needed a 10k and any 10k would do...

Question: What’s worse than one laps of the rowing strip at Holme Pierrepoint?
Answer: Two laps.

Question: What’s worse than two laps of the rowing strip at Holme Pierrepoint?
Answer: Two laps in driving wind and heavy rain.

Yes, it’s not pleasant but then the omens have never been good for this race right from the moment they sent me my race number ‘666’.

My time is unsurprisingly unimpressive but it’s only training. Isn't it? The bonus is that despite the inclement conditions nothing snaps.

Afterwards we head to Wetherspoons in Beeston for a bacon roll and a hot coffee to warm up. My dedicated supporters are as wet and cold as I am.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Three Villages Gala 10k

Today we do our third run in three days as we head off to Burton Joyce for the Three Villages Gala 10k. We did this run five years ago on L’s 500 mile challenge. It is a run around the three villages of Burton Joyce, Bulcote and Stoke Bardolph.

It was cheap ‘n’ cheerful then and not much seems to have changed. In fact, if anything, it’s got cheaper as according to my blog back then it had km markers. Although it appears they weren’t very accurate and not necessarily in the right order. Well it doesn’t have km markers any more perhaps because they simply gave away the fact that the 5k route was only 4.5k.

As far as I can tell the 10k is accurate although there are still no marshals ensuring you do the two lap loop around the Ferry Boat Inn at Stoke Bardolph or even signs telling you that’s what you have to do. These loops were mentioned at the pre-race briefing but only about five people heard that, so cheating is probably rife but possibly not deliberate. Folk will most likely say it doesn’t matter as there are no marshals at the finish ether and therefore no results.

I have to do this one without MD, considering which my time of 44:31 probably isn’t very good although the route is very icy underfoot. Most races would have been called off in such conditions as we well know.

Still, a run is a run and I’ve managed to pack quite a lot of training in to the festive period.