Thursday, 27 March 2014

March 2014

I’ve heard a few runners in the UK talk about ‘mad March’ and I think I understand this reference. March is a little lighter, brighter and dryer (not always the case). Therefore it’s a massive opportunity for people to get out and make as much progress as possible on their feet. All of this aiming towards their goal of a big spring time marathon – London, Paris, Boston and Rome to name only a few of the most popular. My March has been very positive and I’m taking plenty of confidence from it. Hard work of February has really paid off, I’m sure that March’s efforts will show come April the 13th.

First of all I’ve really enjoyed the local races here in Essex and feel that places could learn a lot from the methods applied. First and foremost the size of smaller races has been amazing, but facilities have never lacked. There has also always been a small food set up, all very cheap and for a good cause. I’m looking forward to continuing getting out to some smaller places around the UK, racing and enjoying the local scene.
March has been really productive for running, I set the goal of a PB at Reading and achieved this, managed to run strongly over the Essex 20 mile champs and bring it home first in the Colchester Half.

Essex 20 Mile:

After the run in Reading I was aiming to pace this at goal MP for the whole 20. The day was stunning, around 17 degrees and I went straight into my work from the very outset. The course was three laps, set around rural country roads with a couple of sharp climbs in each lap, nothing too major. I managed to run relatively steady splits throughout the laps to come home in 1.48.27, which crept under the course record by a second - day done, really stoked and job achieved.

Colchester Half Marathon:

I was really confident for this race and wanted to keep the momentum going from the previous fortnight. I’d heard a few bits and pieces about the course, downhill for the first mile and a bit, then sharp climb and steady climb afterwards, continuing to be up and down through the countryside to the finish. We set off at a good clip and I moved towards the front of the pack. We thinned out gradually and I was left with local Colchester legend Adrian Mussett. The support through the town was awesome and it continued throughout the race, even into the quieter rural roads out of the town. Once out of the town I tried to push a couple of the miles and seemed to open up a slight gap on Adrian, although I could still hear the supporters claps between us so thought he wasn’t too far behind me. Not wanting to look back I went through and pushed a hard mile, as I’ve been doing lots of speed work on the road I’ve got a pretty good idea of what speeds I can hold and recover from quite quickly, pushing well through I maintained the pace through to the finish line to come home in first place in 1.09.09. I was super pleased to get the win and still tick off a reasonable time.

So here we are with only 2 weeks left from London. There’s still plenty of work to be done before the 13th and every session I have to look at as a small gain and something positive to be taken from. Every second counts from now on in!   

Saturday, 8 March 2014

2014: A brief update

2014 has well and truly dawned and most of us, if not all, are well into our new goals, endeavours and ambitions. For the first third of the year my running drive has been heading towards Sunday the 13th of April. The London Marathon. So with a reduction in working hours, a coach and a clear target I've been off. 

Winter training in the UK has been what I expected it to be. Wet, dark and quite chilly. However, the miles have clocked up and I've always made the most of the time I've been running. I feel it has significantly helped to have clear direction, and I have to thanks Rob for this. I feel in the past I've still been planning my sessions - especially speed - in my head while putting my shoes on. I like the openness of this idea but I now really understand it's far too scratchy. 

Pre 2014 finished for me with a solid little training block in Wales over the Christmas and NY period. I then worked my way through a niggling lower back injury, which went away after only a few days of rest. Always good to keep in mind, rest that is. Therefore once into the swing of 2014 I've quickly established a solid routine and seem to be seeing some of those benefits 5 weeks out from London.

Races to re-caps so far this year:

Watford HM: First race of the year - 6th 1.12.01

Weather turned on a stunning morning, if on the slightly chilly side. I went into this race excited, as it was my first hit out of what is going to be a busy year. I knew that I'd only put in 4 weeks of consistent training so approached this race to be as fresh and strong at the 10 miles mark as the start. It wasn't quite the case, but not too far off. The course has a couple of testing little climbs which took some of the pinch out of the legs but it was a top race, perfect hit out for the first of the season.

Great Bentley Half Marathon - 2nd 1.11.26

Back out into Essex following the trip to Watford. This day was windy. At times parts of the course felt like you were up against a brick wall! Then running down wind wasn't bad, although you can never make up the time lost going into it. This made what is normally a very flat and fast course slightly slower. For the conditions I settled for my time but had hoped for a little bit more.

Reading Half Marathon 26th 1.08.36

Last weekend was Reading. I knew I was in good shape and was really up for having a decent go. The crowds where big (16000), the weather held off and was a great temperature and I managed to get into a great little position on the starting line. Albeit in a rather sneaky fashion.

From the outset I felt relaxed and confident. I found myself surrounded by fantastic runners and we worked really well together sharing out some of the duties at the front and remaining to keep a steady and active pace. The support on the course is fantastic and does make a very big difference. A real credit to the town and area. With about 3 miles to go we went down on the flat final section of the course to be greeted by a stiff head wind. Fortunately we had managed to keep four of the group together so worked hard to pull each other through. The stadium finish was a buzz and full of excitement - really great finish line set up. Much better than the empty void of the Olympic Stadium in Seoul!

So now the home stretch is on for London. This weekend (Sunday the 9th) I'm running the Essex 20 mile road champs. This will be another testing rural road run - a perfect measure of fitness. Following this there's the Colchester Half Marathon (Sunday the 16th). Then it'll be ticking off the days until London.

Here are a few photos of Frankfurt;

Touch base again soon - Run well!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Post Frankfurt

What’s the worst thing about running a marathon? Out of the millions of people who have completed this event, challenge, race, milestone…whatever it’s referred to as, I would assume a host of answers would come up; many ranging from the blisters, the wall, dehydration, suffering afterwards (or during or even before), bloodied nipples or injury. I would agree with these but ultimately, on a personal level, what I can’t stand about the marathon is the time you have to wait until your next one.

In this instance it’s just over 5 months, 5 long dark and wintery UK months. Is this the true beauty of our sport? The fact in which we put all of our eggs into one basket and hope for the best. Well, not hope. Plan, train, think, respond, plan more, think more (everyday as a matter of fact), live and breathe the 42.2km for hour on hour. Yes, it has to be. We dream of what will be, visualise and block out any doubt or negative thought. At my latest marathon attempt, Frankfurt, I’d done all the planning, training and thinking. I was ready to run.

While going through my warm up, a very relaxed jog I thought some more and more again. Time seemed to be on my side, so I headed back towards the starting area to what I presumed would be a quick change, and hop into my designated starting area. The quick changed occurred but unfortunately the starting area did not. For some reason I was not allowed into where I thought I was going to be. By this time the starting gates where full and heaving with frustrated runners, elbowing their way into the gates. It was one of those panic moments that I couldn’t quite believe. I just didn’t realise the size of this marathon (15000). This was a very silly mistake, and one I’m sure I won’t make again. Now, I don’t want to sound like it was the end of my marathon and that I’m blaming the organisers for my poor lack of judgement. I do believe that incident at the start did cost me, something anyway. The stress of it, having to weave my way through copious amounts of other runners, and the uneven pace I ran throughout my first panicked 15kms.

Now that I’ve got all of that of my chest I can focus on the race. With only the experience of one other big city marathon, Seoul, I was really excited for this one. Seoul was brilliant, but Frankfurt, I felt was going to be in another league. And boy was it. The support was incredible. There are only 700,000 living in the city, but it felt like the majority of them where out on the streets cheering.   They put on quite a show.

As I mentioned above the start of the race was not ideal. However, these things do happen I know I should have handled it better. Therefore my first 15km I managed to get close enough to my time zone, albeit slightly over. I was still confident that I’d be strong right towards the end. From 15km through to 25km I ran really well and was enjoying every moment on course. I positioned myself with a large group that ticked away together quite well. The pacing just seemed to be shared between myself and one other runner. Beyond the 25km mark I started to become quite excited with the possibility of a PB. By this time a smaller group of us had broken away and where running really well together.

The group consisted of 4, 3 German runners and myself. As we moved within the final 15km the rain really started to tumble down. It had been steady from about the 15km mark but know it was very heavy. Fortunately it did not last long at its heaviest and then did seem to clear. Our little group ticked into the last 10km and the pressure went on. This is where I’d wanted to be, and where I’d hoped I’d be at this point. However, not long after my final consumption of an energy gel I had tight stomach cramps, they felt much the same as the ones I had in Christchurch, at a very similar point in the race. I desperately tried to keep pace in the group but found myself tailing off the back. This was the beginning of a very poor ending of my race. From there I slowed, as did my km splits and did the hope of the PB.I came home in 2.27.54 for 52nd place. It was a tough one to swallow but boy it makes me more excited for London in the not so distant future.

So to the next target, April, 2014 London. There are plenty of positives I’ll take from my experiences in Frankfurt and I learnt plenty. It was great to have experience of fast pack style pacing, which I’m sure will be the style at London. Shorter term I’ll be getting myself involved in the club scene as much as I can. With some shorter Cross Country races and road races. Training through the winter will bring with it its own set of challenges but building towards London there will be no stone left unturned.

I will update again towards the end of the month! 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Final week

The final week has come around very quickly and in the lead up to a marathon you start to get itchy feet. So much of your previous months have been filled with waking early to get the extra miles in, checking over previous plans for a comparison with a recent session and generally building up to the day. Yes that day. The upcoming 2 and whatever hours it may be.

I know that right up to the last fleeting moments, before the starter will cast their gun-shot into the endorphin filled air, I’ll still be slightly edgy. However, after the gun sounds it’ll be all on. The time for worry and concern has past. There’s no need to waste what is potential energy on such thoughts. We need to relax, stay focused on what is in front of us and stay in the moment.

Although I’ve run a few marathons I still feel that each one is a big learning curve and experience. One of the most important experiences I’ve taken from running a few is that the race is long. There are going to be highs and lows. Reducing the low parts as much as possible is very achievable in a marathon, and something we strive to do each time. I enjoy the concept of staying in the moment, and continually updating/checking myself by using series of little reminders and prompts. Form, core, head and shoulders and the main regions I target, while chanting a mantra ‘light and strong’. Recently I’ve read about other athletes who continually do this, with their own variations of course. Consequently I find this interesting so here are some –

This is what you came for
Scott Jurek, ultra runner.

Thing strong, be strong, finish strong
Renee Metivier Baillie, indoor athletics runner.

Mind over mileage
Kara Goucher, elite marathon runner.

Concrete, meet courage
Paula Radcliffe

Last Sunday was my final hit out before Frankfurt. It was a ten mile race in a quaint little town called Tiptree. Tiptree is famous for its Jam Factory. The race was run around quiet country lanes, with minimal traffic. Conditions proved to be ok, despite lashings of overnight and early morning rain, it did manage to subside before the start.

I wanted to take confidence out of this race and feel strong at the end of it. Both of these boxes I ticked off. I even went through 10km in a PB time. I ended up winning the race in a time of 52.39. A slightly slower final 5 km’s but I feel I was thinking about Frankfurt in the back of my mind.

Speaking of which, I can’t wait to get another taste of a big city marathon. I believe that this will be another step up from Seoul, although they are both Gold label races, Frankfurt seems to have plenty of pre and post marathon hype! I’ll be busy taking plenty of snaps and getting them online!

Rest this week, that’ll be the key for me! Plenty of it and plenty of good food!

I’ll touch back post Frankfurt! 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

July, August and September

To account for my persistent lack of updating this blog I'm going to avoid apologies and excuses. What I will do is briefly outline what has been a pretty hectic past 3 or 4 months.

I'll start off back in early July at the Canterbury Cross Country Championships. This was the first race of a busy little mini season in NZ. This race was a mud bath/fest which raced around the Halswell Quarry on a sweet little 2km circuit with plenty of thrills and spills. I'd aimed to run as hard as I could for as long as I could, with the aim of making the Canterbury Team for the National Cross. I ended up a satisfactory 7th, feeling slightly disappointed and worried that I'd miss out on the team.

I picked things up again quickly after this race and trained as if I had made the team, the only option really and planned that what would be would be. It was brilliant being back in Christchurch and the ease and accessabilty of the hills and Hagley park made training a real treat.

Next on the cards was Captain Cook's landing in the Marlborough Sounds. This was an event, proper. The race filled part of what was a magic weekend away spent with a fine bunch of people. For those of you who know the race you know what I'm talking about, those that don't, well I suggest you find out. But for a taste you are ferried out, picked up, well-fed and ferried back to Picton. She's a long day but worth every ounce of energy spent. In terms of the run, the Queen Charlottle trail is very special, fast and well maintained, especially for the mid winter time of year. The 26km is much more my distance and as Dave took off from the start I was happy to relax into second and build into my work, safe in the knowledge that there was still plenty of running to be had. I only managed to join Dave with a couple of kms to go and managed to pass him down into the finish area for my first win in NZ for over a year.

From here it was a switch of focus back onto the shorter form of the game (5-10km) with the well run Christchurch Riverside relays and Nat Cross Country. I had just recieved word of making the team so I was really excited about that and keen to get stuck in. Running for University in the relays we all ran very well on a stunningly mild Christchurch winter afternoon. However, we where no match for a sharp New Brighton/Olympic team, boasting some seriously speedy legs (at the time of writing this they have just won the National Road Relay title). The day was again a fine showing from all of the clubs and reaffirms how wonderful the Christchurch running community is!

2 races to go now, National Cross and Taupo Half Marathon. Nationals was on a stunning Saturday in Hamilton on the same day as the Super rugby final. I'd love to say that the two events complimented eachother so well and the vast majority of Rugby supporters thought an afternoon of watching NZ's best running talent would whet the apptite for the evening ahead. Sadly I'd be lying. However, I do believe an oportunity was lost. I didn't see one piece of advertising in Hamilton for the Championships and surely a few punters would have strolled along for a look? Having said that, support was not lacking, in fact it was outstanding and a pleasure to run around the testing course in provincial colours. The race started hard and fast and I tried to maintain a pace that did hurt me during the middle of the race. Overall I came home in 20th position and Canterbury just missed out on the top spot to Auckland. We settled for silver and all ran very hard to achieve that!

A quick drive to Taupo and the next morning I was on the start line for the 20th edition of the Taupo Half. This is an out and back course that follows the edge of the great lake and takes in a new section of pathed DOC track within splashing distance of the lake. The field, although large, was mainly of honest runners who go for the weekend and soak up the array of incredible spot prizes on offer afterwards.

It was great to be back inTaupo and I was pleased to grind my way around the course in 1 hour and 12 minutes.

Now looking back I'm very happy with the results from my stint back in NZ. If it'd all gone to plan I would have loved a top 12 position at NZ Cross but just to make the team and be part of it was great. The top 12 can wait for another day!

Changing hemispheres now and since my arrival back in the UK I've competed in 2 races. The first was  a Cross County style race that was 10km long and the second the Ipswich Half Marathon, a tight and hilly affair run over a great closed off circuit course with plenty of support. These have all been helping build towards Frankfurt which is now less than 3 weeks away! I can confidentally say that a PB in Frankfurt is really on the cards. My build up throughout the past 3 months has been very matter of fact, disaplined and balanced. Having run 100 mile weeks while pumping out 12 hour working days has really made me keep a focus and become more determined to achieve this. With one final hit out this Sunday (10mile race) I'll go into the final and probably must challenging two weeks of the training phase. The final taper. This is an area that is quite foreign to me and something which in the past I can honestly admit I haven't given enough thought or respect to. This is one of the things I've grown to love about running. No matter how much you do, how far you go, what your time is, you are forever learning something new about the sport, its science and yourself. Granted there are plenty of so-called experts out there, I'm happy to say I'm not one of them. Whether or not this taper will give me the extra benefit I'm hoping for, time will tell.

Lastly, as Frankfurt fast approaches I still have to remained focused right up to the start line. As is the beauty of this running caper, being fit and ready to run at the start line is one of our sport's biggest challenges.

 I'll post again before the race.

Run well and massive!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Goodbye Korea…..Catch up NZ and Hello UK!

Our Korean stint is over.

In terms of running success it’s been fantastic….and I feel that I’m well on track to getting back to a quick marathon time! The past 6 or so weeks have been very bright. June was my biggest running month for a year and also injury free. May, I took part in 3 races, also injury free! Therefore heading back home for 5 weeks of a very busy mid-season of running I’m feeling really good!

I have signed up for the Frankfurt Marathon, end of October, that’ll be my long term focus. However, while in NZ I’m running in the Canterbury Cross Champs (my first Cross Country race since primary school days over Riccarton Racecourse). Queen Charlottle Trail Run will be another real highlight, and just what I need after a year surrounded by heavy industry! I’ve also signed in for the Taupo Half Marathon, and fingers crossed, I may get a spot into the NZ Cross Country Champs!

So leaving Korea is sort of bittersweet. We are ready to go, but it’s also hard leaving good friends. I don’t know if I’ll ever live in another place which has such accommodating, welcoming and friendly people…..especially the running community. I can’t imagine people in NZ or the UK cheering me on while I do a normal training run down the footpath! Runners build up a connection with other runners. The chap I would always see doing the same old routine each morning at 4.45am is a prime example. It’s people like that who make you appreciate why we run and why the simple act of waving, smiling or saying “good morning” is a brilliant way to start the day.

Other things I’ll miss…….Korean Banks/ATM machines – I should elaborate…..ATM’s you can wire money to you foreign bank account! Banks – super service! I’ll also miss water coolers everywhere, and free of charge! Perfect when battling on a longer run, pop into any store and top yourself up. I’ll miss pre-peeled garlic… much time of my life has been saved thanks to this outstanding idea! Side dishes, Korean restaurants love them! And lastly I’ll miss the clear and consistent seasons/weather. Just like a switch, the seasons change before your eyes. I’d read about this before but was always doubtful, but now I see, understand and marvel.

I won’t miss the weather we have had over the past 3 weeks. It’s monsoon season here. This brings hot, humid, and wet weather! As if you have just jumped out of the shower humidity, making the important things like hydration vitally important. Running has been very challenging. So the idea of running in a mild 5 – 12 degrees in Christchurch is amazing!

As school’s out for summer I’ll keep tabs on this more often! Next post will be post Canterbury Cross Country.

Cheers and cheers Korea……don’t know if I’ll see you again but it has always been swell! Thanks for looking after us!

Haman Half Marathon May 2013 2nd 

Staff Olympics Day II - Photo Scavenger Hunt (me playing musical instrument)

Korean gold!

Team Asia/Oceania at Olympics

Team Asia/Oceania with DSME (Shipbuilding company) workers. 

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Cutting down to the chase….

Blogs that I read always put that it’s has been a while since my last post. Since I’ve already put this in you’ll understand that it is very true so I’ll ‘cut to the chase’ and attempt to fill in the missing gaps and write about what’s on the horizon!

Firstly; Seoul Marathon

This is a IAAF Gold Road Race so it’s a big deal and one would expect it to be well organised, which it was. Around 20,000 people took part, and around 100 elite men and woman. For the share amount of people I was quite surprised how the start was, I didn’t feel swamped or overwhelmed. Everyone stayed where they were meant to be making it an easy experience.
I couldn’t say much on the course as I never really take in much else than 20 metre’s in front of me in a marathon. Mind you running into the Olympic stadium was cool, some real spring in the track! I could imagine John Campbell (2.14 marathon) and Lorraine Moller (2.37) would have felt amazed with it being full for their last 400 in the marathon.

My race unfolded really well and I can say I was stoked to come home in 2.31, for 5th place in the non-elite category. I was striving for below 2.30 but faded away in the back end of the race (the most important). However, I have to look at how the previous 4 months have gone training wise and put that into perspective. The main thing I can take is experience. While running that last 15km’s I was really focused and mentally felt strong, although the body was telling me otherwise!

From here; Jinju Half Marathon

This is on the 28th of April, then a couple of other races close to where we are that I’ll also do. These are half marathons, so I’m aiming to get that time down around 68 for the half (fingers crossed).

Looking forward;

Once time is finished here in Korea it’ll be a month long trip back to NZ, taking in some cross country, Captain Cook’s landing and Taupo half marathon (50/50). Then to the UK and I’ve been looking into an Autumn European Marathon……..very exciting and establishing myself in a club (missed the regular club fixtures)!

Some photos of Seoul, trip to Japan and a 10km in Ulsan (Korea).

Guttered to miss out on what seems to have been an incredible NZ summer!