Promising Times

Following the Time Trial in the last post, I ran an easy 8 mile the following morning and then an hour on the elliptical trainer in the afternoon in between covering the F1 Post GP test at Barcelona. The left hip and groin continued to give concern which continued into Thursday’s long club run with GRC, which saw the hip ache for much of the run. It wasn’t enough to slow me but the ache was similar to what I experienced when the second sacrum fracture occurred, so it wreaked havoc on the mind as I feared the worst with every stride.

Thankfully no ill did materialise and the body was grateful for a scheduled rest day on the Friday. I woke early on Saturday morning to head to Melton Mowbray Country Park for a second stab at the parkrun held there. I arrived a little later than planned and so could only do just over a mile for a warm up. The nagging pain in the left hip was still there; I prodded quite firmly in the lower back and felt a release in the hip area. We were called to the start and was delighted to feel no discomfort at all from the moment we set off.

I was in fourth for the opening 100 meters or so but took first position by the time we reached the narrow bridge and set off up the steep hill for the first time. I formed a group of three who soon split from the rest of the field. The other two were unwilling or unable to take the pace so after the first mile (5:26) I made it my intention to try and make a decisive break so they couldn’t use me as a wind break on what was a fairly windy day.

The Melton parkrun course is a busy, twisty, two lap affair made up of sections of off road, gravel paths and part footpath. It meant there was little opportunity to pour over the Garmin data during the run. So aside from the mile splits and an occasional glance at the (pretty high) heart rate, it was a rare case, for me, of running to feel.

At the start of the second lap I still had my two shadows in tow. As we hit the big hill for the second time I knew that would be my point of attack and I pushed hard. It worked, for by the time I reached the summit I had a four or five second gap. There was to be no more looking back and I pushed on down the gradual descent on the other side.

It was there I suffered cramp in both lower quads. It was a similar cramping to what I experienced on two occasions post Christmas last year. I put it down then to Christmas excess and dehydration. I think I can claim I was dehydrated too at the parkrun. I also noted that on each occasion I’d eaten spicy food the night before, so there maybe a connection there. The pain was quite severe. If I had not been leading or if I wasn’t on for a good time, I probably would have stopped. However the lure of both a first place finish and a good time willed me on. Mile two was covered in a slower 5:46, but I dug deep to keep pushing all the way to the finish, clocking 5:36 for the third mile and crossing the finish line first in 17:25.

To put this time in perspective, it is a course PB for me by 1:29 and is currently the second fastest time run by anyone at Melton. It is my equal third fastest parkrun on any course (My best is 17:20 at Coventry, then 17:21 at Peterborough). Both those courses I consider to be much quicker than Melton, which is hilly, twisty, and half off road. I was very pleased with the time; a little less happy with the cramp in my legs.

This ruined plans of a long warm down, instead it was an effort to walk back to the car, which I had parked in a hurry and couldn’t quite remember where it was. Thankfully by the end of the day the worst of the effects of cramp had worn off and I looked forward to cycling with Witham Wheelers the following morning.

The Sunday morning club ride was a lot of fun. It was a group of around 20 riders and I, from the off, was feeling quite strong, taking turns at the front into a headwind. At around 30 miles I joined a group of four who formed an informal breakaway to the coffee stop. I struggled at times to stay on their wheels, but I was a lot stronger than I was four months ago. Following a tea and Bakewell Tart, the run home began gently enough but soon the pace picked up and I was again comfortable in staying somewhere near the front of the pack and taking turns. At times I could have gone faster but we were under instructions to keep the group together as best we could.

We were split a little by a level crossing, so the final miles I wasn’t in the front group. I saved my efforts for the final hills in the Belvoir area and was pleased to clock the tenth fastest time on Strava up Countesthorpe Hill and the second fastest time on the drop back down into town from Barrowby. Seventy eight miles was covered in a shade under 19mph and I felt as fresh at the end as I did at the beginning, which is very encouraging.

Monday was a bit of a shambles. I was supposed to row, run and swim at the gym, but I was delayed getting there and then forgot my swimming trunks, so could only manage the row and run. The treadmill run though was pleasing – eight miles covered in a progressive manner in 55 minutes, culminating with ten minutes at 16-17 km/h. Not being able to swim (and test my new goggles) is not great preparation for the upcoming triathlon, but at least it is only 400 meters of swimming to be covered, which I should be able to do on a minimum of training. To make up for the lost exercise, I put in an easy 40 minutes on the elliptical trainer in the evening.

Yesterday’s Time Trial with Witham Wheelers also didn’t quite go to plan. It was meant to be a lap of the road race circuit (Around 12 miles), but a lack of marshals (And competitors) meant at the last minute the TT reverted to the usual ten mile effort. I was cold and wet, my feet numb, and I struggled to keep up the heart rate over the course and nearly came a cropper on a couple of the wet bends, both covered in loose gravel. My Garmin time of 26:47 was therefore pleasing under the circumstances, as was the post ride brick run – 5k covered in 20:00.

Following an easy run this morning over some hills and trails, the plan now is to consolidate ahead of Monday’s BUPA 10k in London, which will be quite easy as I will be flat out working for the most part on the Monaco GP, which is always one of the busiest F1 events of the year. I’m hopeful if I can stay injury free and avoid a repeat of the cramping episode I suffered at parkrun, I could put in a half decent performance on Monday. It will be the first time I’ve raced in anger since last September, so it will be interesting whatever happens.

105 Days to Go – Melton Mowbray parkrun #1

Enthused by the encouraging run of a few days ago I was inspired to take part in the inaugural Melton Mowbray parkrun. Grantham residents are patiently awaiting their own edition of the free-to-enter-timed-5km-run. In the meantime they realistically have the choice of Peterborough, Lincoln or Clumber Park if they don’t mind a lengthy drive, or Newark if they want an event that is easily reachable, but is frustratingly a little over distanced for a 5km run (around 350 meters long by my reckoning).

Melton Mowbray, for me anyway, is roughly the same distance away (18.5 miles) as Newark, so the new parkrun potentially offered an attractive alternative. When the alarm went off at 7 am the mere thought of stepping outside didn’t seem that attractive with gale force winds battering the house and intermittent bouts of rain lashing against the window panes. I struggled for ten minutes to summon the will power required to leave the comfort of my duvet behind, but I managed it and before long I was preparing myself for the run.

The drive to Melton on the A607 was blissfully free of traffic (It’s a lovely road to drive when it is free of other people using it) but the appalling conditions were hardly inspiring. I made it to Melton Country Park around 40 minutes before the off. Already the small car park was nearly full (They’ve been allowed to use the local college car park to accommodate the masses) but I was lucky to get a spot and soon took refuge from the wind and rain outside the nearby Visitor Centre. The first person I spoke to turned out to be the first woman to finish. I think she had run the trial event a week earlier and pointed out the rough direction of the course. Keen to do a warm up I went on a reconnaissance lap as best I could given there were no marshals on course yet. What was immediately apparent was that the wind was going to make conditions very difficult and that the going underfoot was going to be challenging, with numerous deep puddles and several muddy patches on a course that combined sections of gravel, dirt and asphalt.

Two miles later and the warm up was done. The calves were a little less tight than they were (Which was fearsomely tight) and I felt keen to get going. It would be the first time I’d run in anger since the Robin Hood Half Marathon back in September and I was keen to know what condition I was in. I met up with a couple of guys from Grantham Running Club, I even met a friend of Kenilworth Runners on the start line. What was immediately apparent lining up is that the enthusiasm for the event, being held in conditions that would rightly put off most, was high. It turned out there were 268 finishers – a fantastic number for an inaugural running. Mercifully for the runners the rain stopped just before the beginning of the run – all they had to contend with now was a gale force wind.

After the briefing and subsequent re-briefing concerning matters that had been forgotten about in the initial briefing, we were given the 3-2-1 and we were off. On poor terrain the start was less frenetic than is customary at these parkruns. I found myself just outside the top five when the courses only real trouble spot caused, for the first few runners, some trouble. To cross the lake there is a narrow wooden bridge which, as the runners approached, was occupied by a gentleman with at least two large dogs. Alarmed by the sight of 270 odd runners hurtling towards him, he made his best efforts to vacate the bridge, but hadn’t quite done so by the time we got there. The lead runners had to slow to a virtual stop; the leader got a couple of muddy paws around his midriff by means of a friendly hello from one of the weighty quadrupeds. Thankfully no harm was done to animal or runners and we continued straight to another unexpected obstacle in the form of a former railway bridge to run under which was a good 30cm deep with water. I expect such things in cross country races, to have my feet soaked in such a manner this early in the morning was not in the plan.

Straight from the foot soaking we were thrown straight into the course’s tough little climb, which Strava reckons averages 6%. Today though it was made somewhat easier by a 30mph+ wind blowing us up it. A sharp right at the top and there was a long gentle descent made tougher by a fearsome crosswind. I settled into a pace that felt comfortable. I wasn’t fancying a flat out run, I was more concerned with making it to the finish in one piece. I was lying seventh and was content, for today with that.

After the gradual descent came a sharp right hander and down a fairly steep decent which almost became the slowest part of the course given the headwind that was trying its hardest to blow us back up the hill. The path degenerated into a narrow continuous puddle before a small bridge took us onto the main part of the park, which was happily properly drained and on wide concrete paths. The end of the lap saw a tough section into the headwind, then some poor conditions underfoot akin to cross country which saw me lose a position to a local runner more keen than I to do well.

The second lap was uneventful. I maintained the gap to the two runners ahead of me and began to close them down in the final stages of the run. That in itself was satisfying. I was as strong at the finish as I was at the start – not as quick as I would have liked but I have to remind myself that I’ve only been back running for two weeks after more than two months out injured.

I passed a runner to take seventh on the final drag before an unconvincing sprint to the finish where there were some lapped back markers to content with. I’d barely looked at my watch, which is unusual for me. It read 18:55 which was satisfying under the circumstances, but hard to gauge what that actually represents in terms of where I am at given the conditions were so difficult.

After seeing my GRC club mates finish I set off on a 3.5 mile warm down, which saw me do a loop round near the town centre. It was a slow affair, the calves now throbbing with tightness and the pelvis aching a fair amount too. I was pleased though that there was no problems in the back / hip area. I am still running in a constant fear that something is going to go wrong again, so putting in three quickish miles is a good confidence booster in that respect.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, it is off to the cycling club for another reliability ride. Hopefully the legs will recover a bit, otherwise it’s going to be a hard slog!