Week 4 was a mixed affair: intervals upset by a dodgy tummy; dizzy spells on a recovery run forcing an unplanned day off; a lovely run around Belton House and then some inconclusive Saturday morning intervals. The highlight was undoubtedly Sunday morning’s lap of Rutland Water (Not forgetting the all important Peninsula). In theory it was a club run, the reality was it all solo and very enjoyable – excellent running terrain and superb views. The lure of saving a couple of quid on the car parking meant I covered the 22.6 miles in dead on seven minutes per mile.
Week 5 saw a somewhat odd club hills session on the Tuesday where, with nigh on everyone racing on the Thursday night, the focus appeared to be on putting in as little effort as possible, which I managed with great efficiency save for the final rep when the lure of stretching the legs proved too great. The race on Thursday was the Club Handicap Ten KM, reported on elsewhere here. Fastest time on the night, but a bit slower than yesterday, plenty of questions over form. A stomach upset induced double short run on the Saturday was followed by a long Sunday run that was more pleasing than the handicap race – the Newton’s Fraction half course plus three miles – run at marathon pace plus 30s and feeling very comfortable.
Week 6 began with a long 10 mile recovery run with Minnett’s Hill thrown in, which is never easy even if you are taking it easy. Tueday’s pyramid session at the club threw up an alarm when the left foot flared up midway through the session. Thankfully some massage during and after the session cured the foot of its ills, a lesson learned, the injury curse of Dysart Park avoided. Thursday was meant to be a hard fast run but I felt fairly lethargic so I changed the plan – taking part and coming home first at Newark parkrun on the Saturday (Six seconds outside my course PB) as part of and 18 mile long run.
Week 7 to date has been another mixed bag – easy run on Monday followed by what felt like ridiculously slow club hills on the Tuesday which turned out when I uploaded the run to Strava to be comfortably the quickest I’ve run them. Hopefully there’s something to be said for feeling rubbish but running quickly. The supposed easy run on the Wednesday felt so easy it turned into something quite swift by the end. Then on Thursday when I’d hoped to put in a hard threshold run, I came down with a cough and sore throat which resigned the efforts to a gentle paced run with the club and a day off on the Friday and see what happens in terms of the weekend.
The half marathon a week and two days away, I’m hopeful of being in shape of getting that PB, I think it’s going to be closer than I’d like and I think we’ll have to see if I’m on a good day or a bad day. We shall see.
After what feels like months of wet and windy weather I think the entire country rejoiced this morning when the day dawned bright, sunny, and minus most of the wind which has battered us relentlessly for the past few weeks. It would be a great day for distance training and a great day for road racing.
I woke at seven to prepare for the Stamford 30k, which has a very sociable start time of 11am. I watched some Winter Olympics for a bit before downing my morning coffee and consuming my now regular pre-race breakfast of three cheap and cheerful cereal muesli bars. I showered and changed and then changed again at the last minute based on a weather forecast posted on Facebook which suggested the wind during the race would not make things quite as warm as I’d first dressed for.
It’s a short journey down the A1 from Grantham to Stamford – I arrived just as GRC runners Andrew and Scott arrived; my Kenilworth Runners team mate Stuart Hopkins was already there and waiting in the hall. We’d raced here together last year – Stuart beating me to the tune of ten minutes as I clocked 2:04 on a difficult day made tougher by Sciatica and the dreaded tummy trouble.
After collecting my number and generally pfaffing around trying to change into my race kit, I headed out for a mile’s warm up with Stuart. We passed the group containing Folksworth 15 winner Aaron Scott, who I pointed out to Stuart as being the likely winner of today’s race. One slightly interesting point to note is that whilst Aaron likely ran an extra half mile or so in warm up, it was at a pace more sedate than our leisurely stroll. There is no point doing drills or strides in a long distance race it seems.
Back at base I queued at the paltry two Portaloos. After ten minutes or so of standing impatiently it was apparent the queue had barely diminished, so I jumped ship to find alternate facilities. Thankfully there was a set of toilets which also had a number of people waiting, but at least they were slowly moving. I made it out of the toilet with just five minutes to the start – cutting it a bit fine but ultimately near perfect timing.
I made my way to the front of the field and met up with Stuart. We’d agreed to start together but not commit to running the whole race together. Stuart was full of cold and had plenty of miles in his legs following some heavy weeks of racing. I, thanks to my injury in the last couple of weeks, was relatively fresh – effectively tapered for this training race. After a brief pre race instructional briefing – which amounted to look out for traffic – we were off.
I’d said to Stuart I’d planned to run the first mile in around 6:30. I’d set the virtual partner on the Garmin to run 6:17 (Sub 2:45) pace, but in reality I was looking at something around 6:07. At the very least I wanted the race to be run at marathon heart rate. I think I said to Stuart we’re going too fast seven or eight times in the first mile as the pace read significantly under six minute miling. We clocked that first mile in 5:53 and thereafter I stopped worrying about going too fast. The heart rate was fine and the legs felt fairly good, so I decided to go with the flow.
We ran the second mile in 5:50 and passed through 5k in around 18:20. It wasn’t too many kilometres after that, on one of the infinite drags on the course, that I eased passed Stuart and pulled clear. No words were said but it was clear Stuart was not having a great time. I thought briefly about easing up and waiting for him but decided to push on. Despite the undulations the pace was good, breaking 37 minutes for 10k.
Heading into the eighth mile there was a wake up call as we turned sharp left at Careby into a long drag and a fairly stiff breeze. It transpired that much of the opening miles of the race had been wind assisted. The long uphill drag seemed to last forever. My morale wasn’t helped much on the following descent when I was caught by a rapid runner. We chatted for a while and even traded places to around 10 miles before he eased ahead. I went through ten miles in just over 60 minutes and went through the hardest part of the race with what seemed like hill after hill after hill.
I took my second of three Powergels and by twelve miles began to feel more comfortable again. I worked on being relaxed and it seemed to work, bringing the splits back down closer to 6 minutes. It helped too passing the 20km marker, knowing that there was just 10km to go. I went through 13.1 miles in c. 1:19:00, which even with my exercise addled brain worked out at 2:38 pace for the marathon. This was way ahead of expectation and that spurred me on further.
A runner caught me at around 14 miles when I took my final gel. At 15 miles, when we turned right to retrace the route we took from the start in the opening kilometers, I caught a runner ahead of me. After tackling the hardest part of the race along a narrow partially flooded road with a stiff climb which totally destroyed me last year, the runner I’d just passed caught me back and we ran together for a while, discussing marathon plans and the number of hills remaining in this race.
Until now the legs had felt great – the memories of the injuries of the past weeks just those. At 16 miles the right groin just began to ache a touch and the legs felt really tired and almost numb. It was then I looked at my legs and my arms and realised they were covered in goose bumps. They weren’t so much tired as really cold.
This realisation seemed to spur me on. It had looked as though the guy I was running with had the better of me up the penultimate drag but I seemed to up my level on the final rise and as we turned left into the housing estate – which was just about a mile from the finish – I seemed to find another gear from nowhere. I began to close on the runner who had passed me at 14 miles. I wasn’t to catch him but closed a gap that was around 30 seconds at one point down to something much less. The final whole mile all but matched the fastest mile of the race and I increased the tempo all the way to the finish.
The final bit of the Stamford race is a real killer. Once into the school they send you on a lap of the playing fields. Mercifully dry despite all the rain, it was nonetheless heavily rutted and a real trial to run on. I hadn’t looked at my overall running time since I past the Half Marathon stage. As I crossed the line I glanced at the finish clock and saw 1:52:38! This was a couple of minutes quicker than Stuart ran last year and 12 minutes faster than I ran twelve months ago. Moreover, aside from a couple of difficult patches it felt pretty comfortable – plus Rotterdam is going to be infinitely flatter than the course I raced on today.
Stuart came home five minutes later, complaining of persistent stitch and hacking his lungs up with a violent cough. The first Grantham runner – Andrew – came in at 2:13:51 and was followed not long after by Abi who put in a storming run to finish in 2:17. I watched the rest of the Grantham runners come home, but made a reasonably swift exit – the cold breeze beginning to wreak havoc with the back.
All in all with the injuries of the previous weeks, the Stamford 30k went better than I could have hoped for and bodes well for Rotterdam. I just need to stay injury and illness free!
The right leg felt sufficiently better during the day to see me out for the Thursday night club run – it included five or so minutes of running with the buggy as I was late collecting my daughter from school. I didn’t go into the run with any great confidence of a positive outcome however – a feeling that I had a cold brewing didn’t help matters.
I ran 4.5 miles before joining up with the club – keeping close to home in case things went very wrong. The weather was miserable – wet and cold, only a degree or so above the point when snow would turn to sleet and then snow. My legs felt heavy and I struggled to enthuse myself. Things picked up a touch when I ran to the club – there was still very little pain in the right leg aside from a niggle near the knee.
We ran the same route as last week – to Belton House, then Londonthorpe before heading back to Grantham. We checked out our potential new meeting place – a cycle storage and changing facility behind the Tolle. It met with my approval as I acquired a sudden need to test the facilities with an emergency pit stop.
That inconvenience over and I felt a little more lively – something in the stomach clearly hadn’t agreed with me. Splashing along in the puddles I took a slightly longer route than my club mates so spent a mile or so making my way back to the front of the pack by the time we reached Belton House.
It was here where the inner thigh near the knee began to get quite sore when running. It was enough to slow me a touch although I couldn’t decide if it was more painful to run slowly or quickly. I settled mostly for something in the middle as I took a wrong turn somewhere in the dark and spent the next half mile heading back to the front of the pack and pushing on – feet by now totally soaked as large swathes of the road resembled streams and tributaries.
We climbed up through Londonthorpe and on the quiet narrow lane that takes us back to Harrowby and Grantham. By now the thigh was constantly quite painful and the discomfort and tightness began to spread to the upper calf. My consternation must have been fairly obvious as a few club mates asked if I was okay. I grumbled something about being injured and having to ease back for the next week or so.
Once into Harrowby and near the Girls’ school, I said my farewells and took the shorter way back home, the internal GPS successfully predicting, almost to the metre, that there would be exactly sixteen miles covered by the time I reached home.
A stretch in the rain then a long hot shower to warm up, followed by a twenty minute ice session, something I’ve not needed to do for the best part of a year. The following morning and there was no killer pain, thankfully, but enough discomfort for me to decide not to run – hopefully a day or two or more of rest, plus Ibuprofen, stretching and massage will see the problem settle. It’s been a good run without injury, hopefully this one will not set me back too much.
Feeling pretty much recovered from the Folksworth 15 but mindful that the race will probably be in the system for at least a week, today was an exercise in trying to reign back the temptation to go full beans in respect of paying attention to the bigger picture.
The first run of the day was straightforward enough, done after walking the kids to school. The same 4.4 mile run as last Tuesday morning, up and around Great Gonerby hill and back. As with last week that hill up comes as a shock to the legs; once that was navigated the rest of the run felt easy in comparison.
I debated whilst picking the kids up from school whether I should do 10 steady miles at around 6:40 pace or take part in the club’s hills session, albeit not giving it 100%. In the end I opted for the latter, part of me felt my hills were a little weak on Sunday and I could do with the practice. I gave myself a strict instruction – not to give it everything and treat the right groin / abductor with caution.
So the session comprised of 3x 8x c.20 second sprints up a hill with jog down recovery and no rest at the bottom. At the end of each set of eight reps there was eight minutes of easy paced hilly loop to run. The first rep showed that I would have no problem in not giving it 100% – the legs felt fairly lifeless and there were some keen runners around me flying up the hill. By the sixth rep I managed to feel a little better and was better again during the eight minutes of hilly loop running.
The second set of eight again saw me well down for the first few reps, but then finding myself nearer the front and then, on the eighth rep, I gave it pretty much everything, climbing the hill first and clocking the quickest rep of the night. Interestingly the right groin, which had been grumbling, didn’t hurt during or after the rep.
From there I ran the next eight minutes comfortably in 7:01 miling. We had a two minute rest before the final set of eight reps, which saw the legs stiffen somewhat, It took until around the sixth rep for me to find my legs and I gave my second hard effort of the night in the final rep of the night.
A long warm down back to the club and back home followed. All in all 11.25 miles on the night, 15.6 miles of running for the day and around 8 miles of walking. Not a bad day.