Thursday, September 15, 2016

Grand Canyon Rim to Rim (R2R)

I’ve always loved adventures and a big challenge, so when I heard about running across the Grand Canyon from Rim to Rim (R2R), I knew that it was on my list of Must-DO’s. A running buddy from the Pacific Road Runners in Vancouver, an English guy called David Parker (not Parkin like me haha), has run the R2R and gave me some great info and advice. Convincing my wife to do it with me took all of one second as she loves a challenge as much as I do. So during a trip out to California to visit her brother Tim and his family, our chance had come. 

Now there are options to doing the R2R. The sensible choice is to hike from the North Rim to South Rim over two or more days, staying overnight in one of the campsites or a lodge called the Phantom Ranch within the canyon. The elevation change is greater at the North Rim than the South Rim, so most hikers choose north to south as it’s easier. We decided to run the R2R from south to north in one day.  However, there are some crazy fools that actually run across the canyon and then back again (R2M2M). We had considered this option for a nano second and dismissed it. You have to be either a lunatic or insanely fit to do this. We are neither. At the very least, not run across the canyon twice in September in 36 degrees like it was on this day. That’s our excuse anyway.

The trail through the canyon is split into two, separated by the Colorado River. The North Kaibab Trail starts from the North Rim and from the South Rim there are two trails to choose from, the South Kaibab Trail and Bright Angel Trail. We used the South Kaibab Trail as this offered better views of the sunrise as we started the day. Here are the stats:

South Kaibab Trail: Rim to river 6.3 miles with elevation change of 1480m (4,860ft)

North Kaibab Trail: Rim to river 14.2 miles with elevation change of 1780m (5,850ft)

Total Distance: 20.5 miles.  Total elevation change of 3260m (10,710ft)

We stayed the night before the run at the Bright Angel Lodge located right on the South Rim. We wanted to start the run at the South Kaibab trail head before dawn, so experiencing the sunrise from within the canyon. Also ensuring we made it to the North Rim in time for our return shuttle ride back which departed at 2pm. So we set our alarm for 4am and hit the hay.

In a very bleary eyed condition, we boarded the 5.00am Hikers Express shuttle bus to the South Kaibab trail head. Then at approximately 5.45am we began our journey, entering the trail in the half light with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. Any nervousness was soon forgotten about as we were met almost immediately with the most amazing views of the canyon. Just the sheer vastness and majesty of what lay before us was quite overwhelming. We looked at each other and just smiled, both knowing exactly how each other was feeling. This was going to be epic! The light was slowly changing as we made our way down the initial part of the trail. The sun was looming behind the canyon to the east. The trail itself was quite steep and technical, so it was proving quite difficult to keep our eyes on it to prevent falling, rather then admiring the incredible views. We allowed ourselves the occasional break for gazing and photos of course, this was not a race and the scenery was rather special!

Then the sun was starting to appear and the most amazing sunrise was happening before us. We stopped and watched in awe. The South Kaibab Trail is located to the east of the canyon, so the sun’s rays were suddenly flooding into the west, illuminating everything with a beautiful orange glow. A definite OMG moment. We took a few more pics and carried on. We were conscious of how much time we were taking for all these breaks. We had a return shuttle to catch at the North Rim.
The trail weaved it’s way lower and further into the canyon and the temperature was slowly rising. We began to get glimpses of the Colorado River below us which is where the South Kaibab Trail turns into the North Kaibab Trail. This is also where our first pit stop was at the Phantom Ranch. We were going to refill our hydration pack bladders with water and electrolyte tablets, down some energy bars/gels and have a toilet break. Our friend David Parker had warned us about the homemade lemonade and the effect that can have on a runners digestive system, so we declined that one. We were glad to get to the Phantom Ranch also as it signalled the end of the steep and technical South Kaibab Trail. Zoe had suffered a pretty serious knee injury earlier in the year, so this was going to be a real test for her knee. In fact we had held off from making a final decision whether to run the canyon until a few days before. So Zoe was taking things a little more gingerly on the downhill than normal, it wouldn’t be good if her knee blew out in the middle of the canyon.

We set off from the Phantom Ranch feeling good. It was getting hotter by the minute now but we knew this was going to happen. We were taking our time and staying hydrated. Wildlife spottings were happening along the way. We had seen a Big Horn Sheep on our descent into the canyon, then we spotted a Mule Deer. Thankfully no rattle snakes or scorpions so far. From there we entered a narrower section of the canyon and we were running in the shade for quite a while. This provided cooler temperatures which were very welcome. It was interesting to see how the canyon is made up not of just one vast expanse but narrower and differing gorges and water ways.
  
We had heard that the Ribbon Falls were not to be missed. So we took the side trail that was signposted for them. It was certainly worth the extra effort to see this beautiful waterfall and spend a few moments cooling off. Once back on the main trail, we were really starting feel the heat as we were in the section of the canyon known as ‘The Box’. An area known for its intensity of heat due to the lack of air movement because of its geography. We arrived at the Cottonwood campground, our final pit stop before the big push up the ascent out of the canyon. 

Our legs were feeling fatigued as we left the campground but luckily, or unluckily depending on how you look at it, we did not know quite what an almighty struggle lay ahead of us. We were sweating a lot now too. We had put electrolyte tablets into our water bladder, eaten salty snacks, taken energy gels and then salt tablets. We didn’t want to start cramping. Especially now as we began the climb out of the canyon. 

We were starting to walk more now as the steeper sections came. Our tired legs were reminding us of what we had already done and our brains we’re telling us of what still lay ahead.  We dug in. The tail began to twist and turn more and more as it snaked it’s way up and around the canyon walls. We were looking at our Garmin’s to see how many more miles lay ahead. The running opportunities were becoming fewer and fewer. It was becoming a battle just to keep walking up the ever steepening trail.

We were still taking in the incredible views of the canyon but on a less frequent basis now. Mile after mile came and went, we were starting to pass more and more hikers coming down the trail, who had started their hike from the North Rim. They were looking fresh and were walking with a leap in their stride. In comparison, we were starting to stagger now and were probably looking in a pretty poor state. We were now longing for the end to come. Our Garmin’s had run out of battery life a while back, so we were now guessing how many miles there were left to go.
I’ve suffered at the end of many marathons, the last few miles have been tough. However, this was becoming a whole new level of suffering. Our legs were completely shot. The distance covered was significant but the elevation change combined with the extreme heat had taken its toll.  We  were having to search for energy that was no longer there. It was now about the will power to get to the end.  The pressure to make it up in time for the shuttle ride back was a real burden but at the same time a blessing, as it kept us going when all we wanted to do was stop. 

At 1.31pm we reached the top of the trail and exited the canyon. It was total relief. I’m not sure how much longer we could have gone on for.  Without doubt, it had been the toughest physical challenge that we’ve ever done! However, we had to walk another 0.7 mile to our pick up point for the shuttle, so we staggered on walking like John Wayne himself. We then grabbed a very welcome coffee and waited for the shuttle back. We had done it. Total exhaustion but an overwhelming sense of achievement filled our bodies and minds. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

North Lincolnshire Half Marathon 2016

After starting work as a Postman in the October of last year, walking 10 miles a day on my round, I've shed a few pounds as well as adding extra endurance into my training schedule. I also competed in the East Yorkshire Cross Country league running for the Driffield Striders during the winter months, so I had a head start coming into spring training this year.  


Hornsea 1/3 Marathon
So I was feeling quietly confident of a good run at the North Lincs Half Marathon. I had run two other races in the weeks leading up to this one, both the Hornsea 1/3 Marathon and Beverley 10k has gone well. Unfortunately Zoe had sustained a knee injury just before Beverley and was unable to run in that race or here at North Lincs.  

The weather was cool but sunny with no wind. The course is flat and fast. The stars seemed to be aligning to give me a great shot at going for a new half marathon PB.  Pre-race nerves were kicking in now as I had decided to go for it. I knew the pace would be fast and I would be suffering in the latter stages of the race.  Very different to a race where you have no expectations, just ease into it and enjoy. Not today though, it was serious business and time to go to work. Although Zoe wasn't on the start with me, a good running buddy called Sian was there and we wished each other luck as we prepared to start.

Once underway, I settled into a pace around 6min 50secs/mile. I wanted to run the race at an even split.  The first few miles passed and I was maintaining the same pace, just under 6.50's and my legs felt pretty good.  I know after the few few miles if my legs have it in them to go for a fast time.  Some days that feel heavy and slow but not today, they felt strong and fast.  


Beverley 10k
I could see the 1hr 30min pacers ahead of me and a large group of people running with them. I decided to ignore them and run my own race.  The miles were passing by and my pace was constant.  I knew that as every mile passed, my chances of breaking 1hr 30min were increasing.  I also knew that mile 10 was the key milestone for me, the wheels had fallen off at this point for me in the past in half marathons when going for a PB time.

As I reached the mile 8 marker, I was right behind the 1hr 30min pacers. The group running with them had reduced in size but still enough to make passing them a little difficult.  So I decided to draft behind them for a while.  As we reached mile 10, the group had reduced in size further still, it was now around a dozen or so people running with 2 pacers.  However, my legs were no longer feeling strong and I was starting to find it tough. Time to dig in!

With just 3 miles to go, the pacers could see that the expressions around them were changing and breathing was getting heavier. Pain was kicking it. The cool temperature of the early morning was gone and it was getting hot. It was becoming a test of perseverance and determination.  The pacers were becoming more vocal now and shouts of encouragement were helping.  By mile 11, my legs were finished and now it was mind over matter. I wanted this and with only 2 miles to go, it was mine for the taking.  


I found myself now running shoulder to shoulder with one of the pacers, the group seemed to have shrunk to a final few as one or two others were falling away. I was not going to fail now. Into the last mile and normally I can kick on but not today.  I  was hanging on for dear life now and longing for the finish.  Finally the football stadium where the race finished came into view and it was almost over.  I hadn't looked at my watch for the last mile or so but knew that I was going to run a sub 1hr 30min time but was it a PB? Once into the stadium, I ran the lap of the pitch as fast as my exhausted legs would let me and crossed the finish line in 1hr 29mins 34secs.... a PB by 16 seconds. 

I was properly tired but so thrilled to achieve my goal.  I ran a even split race of 6min 50sec/mile ave pace. My running buddy Sian and fellow Driffield Strider ran 1hr 32mins and was first woman in her age category.  

The North Lincolnshire Half Marathon is an extremely well organised event. It has a great atmosphere, with friendly faces. Its run on a flat and scenic course.  I cannot recommend it enough and I for one will be coming back again next year. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Leeds Abbey Dash 10k 2015

This is the first race blog that I have written for over a year.  Since my last blog in September 2014, my life has been on a roller coaster ride with many sad times and some very happy ones too. I got married to my wonderful partner Zoe but also lost my dear mum to cancer.  Running took a back seat for a while during my mums illness and treatment, she sadly passed away in May. I was very close to my mum as she was both parents to me due to an absent father, so it was an incredibly emotional time. My wife and my sister were both amazing support to me and I am very grateful to them both.

Then slowly but surely running came back into my life and has proved a great source of comfort and pleasure. Zoe and I have recently become members of the Driffield Striders running club. Zoe used to be a member previously and we know many of the Striders already. In fact we first met at one of the Striders Tuesday night runs back in October 2009.  I was a member of the Pacific Road Runners in Vancouver and missed the camaraderie and social side of a club.  The Striders also run speed sessions and participate in the East Yorkshire Cross Country league through the winter months. Nothing quite like bombing around muddy fields to get the heart pumping.

Zoe's had a stellar year of running.  Getting placed in her age category in virtually every race that she's run.  PB's, prizes and accolades galore.  She's been pushing me hard and keeping me honest.  So we travelled to the Leeds Abbey Dash 10k with high hopes of a good race. We ran this race back in 2013 and knew that it has PB potential.

The drive to Leeds proved quite stressful as we followed the wrong directions, printed out in a hurry that morning.  We ended up in Morley near to Leeds and it looked like we were going to miss the start.  Tensions were high as we frantically drove the few miles in the right direction and parked up.  We got to the start line with just 5 minutes to spare!

The day was very windy and wet but luckily the weather seemed to clear when we toed the start line along with 9,000 other runners. Then we were off and soon settled into a good pace, surrounded by other runners going well.  The first few miles passed, Zoe and I ran together at approx. 6min 25secs/mile pace.  Could we maintain it for the rest of the race?

The halfway turnaround point came and we headed for home.  I had lost sight of Zoe and hoped that she was close behind still.  After mile 4 came, it was getting tough but with only 2 miles to go, I gritted my teeth and drove on.  With such a large field, I was still surrounded by other runners all going for it and this helped, a camaraderie of warriors charging for the finish.

Finally the finish line was in sight. I hadn't looked at my watch for the past few miles, I just focused on running as fast as I could. As I crossed the line, I stopped my Garmin but didn't look at first.  I wanted to recover from the pain for a few seconds as I felt crap.  I had pushed really hard.  I glanced behind me to see Zoe crossing the finish line too. Brilliant!

As we walked away from the finishing area, I finally looked at my watch to see 40mins 58secs.  I was delighted as it was a PB and my first time under 41 minutes.  Zoe also ran a PB time of 41mins 11secs. Then I suddenly felt sick and threw up.  I should have known that the sausage and egg McMuffin that I had eaten on the drive to Leeds was a bad idea.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Jungfrau Marathon 2014

Of all the races that I have done since I started running back in 2008, the one that sticks out in my memory the most is definitely the Jungfrau Marathon.  I ran it back in 2009 and have always hoped to do it again one day.  What makes it special is a combination of many things.  Firstly it's a very challenging course with 1800 meters of elevation gain. Starting in Interlaken at 568 meters above sea level, going up to 2,320 meters at the highest point of the race.  However, what makes the race extra special is the breathtaking scenery that the course takes you through and also the incredible atmosphere surrounding the event. Not many races offer stunning views of glacial lakes, mountain rivers, lush green valleys, cascading water falls, Swiss villages, magnificent mountains, amazing glaciers and cows!  If all that was not enough, the icing on the cake is the unbelievable atmosphere created by the local Swiss people, who come out in huge numbers to watch the race and support the runners.  Loud cheers, smiling faces, clanging cow bells and constant shouts of "Hopp Hopp Hopp" were the order of the day. 

Although I had run the Jungfrau Marathon once before, it was my partner Zoe's first time.  I had tried to explain just how amazing the race is but I don't think she really appreciated the wonders that were to come.  We decided to stay in Interlaken for a week, so making it into a holiday with the race at the end of the week.  We stayed with my good friend Andrea who lives in Interlaken and we were made to feel very welcome. This allowed us to enjoy lots of hiking and sightseeing in the area with the race as the climax of the week. 

In the weeks leading up to the trip, Zoe had been suffering an achilles injury, so had not been able to train.  I felt in good shape but we decided to run the race together at a steady pace and enjoy it. Just get to the finish line before the 6hr 30min cut off.  So after having a wonderful week's holiday, we got the the start line along with 4000 other runners from all over the world. 

The course starts in the center of Interlaken and takes you around the town before heading out to the shore of Lake Brienz.  The streets were crowded with people lining the course as we ran the first few kilometers around Interlaken. The atmosphere was fantastic and we were already starting to feel quite emotional. Then we headed out of the town and followed the course to small village of Bonigen on Lake Brienz, then toward the village of Wilderswil at the back of Interlaken.  From here, the course headed up the valley and slowly climbs as it runs along side the Lutschine River.

The course narrowed as we headed up the valley and we took in the views and sound of the river as we climbed and neared the village of Lauterbrunnen.  As we entered the the village we were welcomed by crowds of very loud and enthusiastic supporters.  The emotions swelled and we felt like we were the luckiest runners to be experiencing something very special.  Lauterbrunnen lies at the start of the most beautiful valley that I've ever seen.  A large U-shaped glacial valley with lush green grass and trees at the bottom, then dramatic steep limestone vertical walls on either side. one of the deepest valleys in the Alps.  From the top of these walls, on both side, are numerous water falls cascading down into the valley bottom.  Spectacular!

As we passed through Lauterbrunnen, we had the pleasure of running through the glacial valley and gazed at the amazing views.  To make the vista even more mind blowing, in contrast to the deep valley we were in, you can see the huge mountains of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau (Ogre, Monk and Virgin) directly ahead of us rising high above the end of the valley.  

Upon reaching half way into the valley, we turned, crossed over to the other side, then turned back towards the village of Lauterbrunnen.  Once back in the village, the serious part of the race was about to begin.  The first 25km of the race so far had been mainly flat or steady uphill inclines, an altitude change of approx 230m .  Very runnable. However, now the course changed and the inclines suddenly get much steeper. With 17km to go, we still had 1600m still to climb. Yikes! 

The first steep section took us from Lauterbrunnen (795m) up to the village of Wengen (1,274m). It was STEEP.  We decided to power hike, as did everyone else around us which made us feel better.  This climb went on for about 5km.  Towards the top the incline lessened and we could begin to run again.  We were passing some other runners who were still walking, they must have pushed too hard up the steep climb.  We were pleased and relieved to reach Wengen.  The crowds of supporters here were amazing. So loud and supportive. We felt like super stars as we ran through the main street, high fives we aplenty and our hearts swelled.  We ran through the narrows street of Wengen and started the climb out the back of the village, and heading toward the big mountains.  

After Wengen, the course took us through a wooded area. Constantly climbing were we could run, walk and run again depending on the steepness.  We were passing lots of people now who looked like they were struggling.  We felt pleased to have taken it a little easier in the first half of the race and still have energy in our legs. The course was taking us closer to the big mountains and the huge glaciers.  We felt in awe as we looked up. 

The number of aid stations on the course was incredible.  We were stopping at most of them and filling up on water, soup, coke, bananas, energy bars, gels and more.  The soup was especially good, hot and salty.  Plus there were massage stations at various points along the way. We were tempted to stop for massage but didn't want to break our rhythm or slow ourselves down. 

The good news was that Zoe's legs were holding up fine and our time was actually pretty good. Much faster then we expected.  We had started the race just ahead of the 6hr pacer and had passed the 5hr 30min pacer someway back too.  We pushed on and were now heading up the final uphill section and reaching the alpine region above the tree line.  The course narrowed even further and it ended up being single file for the last few km's.  Our legs were really feeling tired now but we neared the highest point and it was time to grit the teeth and soldier on.  

Finally we reached the top, just a last narrow ridge to ascend where there was a bagpiper and we could see the highest point ahead.  Our emotions took over and a few tears were shed but we made it to the Eigergletscher (2,320m).  We then headed on to the final part of the race, a downhill 1.5km section leading to the finish line at Kleine Scheidegg (2,100m). As we approached the finish line, we held hands and let our emotions take over.  The sense of achievement and gratitude were overwhelming. We embraced and wept.  We finished in 5hrs 15mins.

As we gathered ourselves up and walked away from the finishing line, we saw a sight for sore eyes. A stand giving away free beer to the runners who just completed the race.  The local brewery offering glasses of Rugenbrau beer. We looked at each other and made a B-Line for it. Cheers!! Here's to you, Jungfrau Marathon. We'll be back!!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Dalby Forest Half Marathon 2014

Running on single track trails through beautiful forests sure does stir the emotions. Something that road running fails to provide.  Dalby Forest in North Yorkshire is one of our favorite running and dog walking places when we have the time to make the 45 minute drive.  On one recent visit we saw the poster here and knew straight away that we would have to sign up.  Not long after, two of our running buddies, Jon and Sian Morgan, also decided to also take on the challenge.

In the weeks leading up to the race, both Zoe and I had suffered injuries and then a flu like virus. So it was decided that we would just run rather than race it and enjoy the wonderful surroundings.  Jon and Sian are both very fast runners and had been training hard.  However, it was decided that we would run it together and enjoy the experience. We knew that the course was on trails and would be challenging, but the extent of the extra obstacles laid down by the race organisers was the unknown element. 

We set off at a steady pace and eased ourselves in.  The weather was sunny and humid, so I soon found myself hot and sweaty.  The race organisers had done a great job in keeping the race course almost entirely on single track trails.  The terrain was constantly changing from flat, uphill and some super fast down hill too.  

Although the race was not part of the Tough Mudder series, we knew there would be some added challenges. Just what form of challenges was the question.  The weather had been hot and dry for the weeks leading up to the race, so the trails were in great shape and perfect for running.  We soon found the first of the challenges. The course narrowed by tapping into a mini bog, where lots of water had been added.  However, it only caused a momentary delay as we trudged through before we could run again but with rather wetter and muddier shoes and legs.  As it turned out, apart from a few more of these man made mini bogs there wasn't anything else other than a couple of fallen trees that had been dragged across the trails. 

By the half way mark, I was starting to feel fatigued.  The recent virus and lack of mileage in my legs was starting to tell.  Jon and Sian were looking fresh and relaxed.  I normally love running on the trails and thrive in these conditions.  Therefore, I was feeling really frustrated. Zoe was also feeling tired but nothing like me.  It was only a few days earlier that I was suffering flu like symptoms, so I figured by body hadn't fully recovered.  So it wasn't long before I told Jon and Sian to run on and enjoy their own race.  I didn't want to slow them down.  Zoe stayed with me for a short while longer but it was soon apparent that I was struggling to keep up.  So I asked Zoe to also run on.  I needed to just get myself to the end and not hold anyone else up.


The rest of the race and tough but enjoyable.  I just took my time and made my way slowly along the trails and finally to the finish.  I crossed the line in 2hr 26mins, Zoe ran 2hr 16mins, Jon and Sian ran 2hr 6mins.  We all had a lot of fun on a great course in Dalby Forest. I would love to run that one again but with a lot more energy.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Humber Bridge Half Marathon 2014

I have fond memories of this race as it was the first half marathon that I ever ran back in 2008 (1hr 39mins).  I also ran it again in 2009 (1hr 33mins)It's a local race and also an unusual course, taking you over the Humber Bridge not one but twice.  The Humber Bridge is 1.37 Miles long and is the 7th longest suspension bridge in the world.

The course is tough as there are a few big uphill sections, the biggest one being a 1 mile climb at mile 8 known as 'Cardiac Hill'.  The second crossing of the Humber Bridge is also a long gradual climb, made tougher as it's situated just after finishing 'Cardiac Hill' and at the end of the race when your legs are pretty spent.  

Zoe was supposed to be running this one too but she was injured and had to just come to support me.  I had only just come back from injury myself after missing 4 weeks of running.  Therefore, my plan was to just get a solid 13 mile run under my belt and enjoy the race. 

The weather was cold and wet, so we took shelter under some trees by the start line as it was pouring with rain.  I was quite pleased it was raining as the weather was very hot and sunny on the two previous occasions that I ran this race.

It was good to get under way and even though I was wearing my Garmin, I decided not to look at it during the race.  I wanted to relax and just run on how I felt.  I also decided not to go out too fast as I knew that the big climbs came towards the end of the race.  I wanted to feel strong in the second half of the race, not slow down and struggle. Basically the pressure was off and I soon found a good pace and settled in.  

As I was just cruising, I was able to really take in the views as we crossed the Humber Bridge.  The rain eased off and I was really enjoying myself!  I began to slowly pick up the pace as we crossed the half way marker. My legs felt good and we were closing down on the infamous 'Cardiac Hill'.  As I started the climb, I gritted my teeth and attacked.  There is nothing more motivating than passing other runners and I was leaving them in my wake as I cruised up the hill.  I was pleasantly surprised how easy it felt as I soon reached the top.  Now the push for home.

The second crossing of the Humber Bridge, from Barton Upon Humber over to Hessle, is mainly uphill and once again I was feeling strong and passing lots of other runners.  Once across the bridge, it was just a few twists and turns to the finish line.  Zoe cheered me on as I passed her at the finish and I crossed the line in 1hr 40mins.  I felt pretty pleased to have run a decent time on a tough course, considering I was not pushing and felt relaxed and comfortable during the race.  Mission accomplished!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Hull 10k 2014

The Hull 10k is part of the Jane Tomlinson's Run For All race series.  The race is run around the city centre streets and takes in some landmark buildings as well as vistas across the waterfront. The race attracted over 5000 runners including Zoe and myself. We are always keen to do local races and both wanted to run a few more shorter races this year.

My race preparation was far from ideal.  After suffering a calf injury during the North Lincolnshire Half Marathon, I had only managed a couple of runs in the four weeks leading up to the race.  I had to resort to spinning classes twice a week in order to keep up my fitness levels. 

The race began at 9.30am but the sun was already beating down on us as we waited on the start.  We were glad it was only a 10k race as it was going to be a hot one. Due to my lack of training, we decided to run our own races as Zoe had been much faster than me in the couple of runs that I had managed in the week leading up to the race.

The race was soon underway and we were winding our way through the city streets.  I had no idea what pace to run at, having missed so much training.  So I decided to run on how I felt.  The first two miles went by at 6min 30sec/mile pace and it felt OK.  I was keeping up with Zoe and she was running well.  However, I decided to slow my pace after 3 miles as my legs were not happy at all. The lack of training was starting to tell.  I wasn't surprised and dug in for the second half of the race.  

Zoe was flying and feeling confident of a good time, maybe a PB.  I was now feeling it and trying to maintain a decent pace but slowing mile on mile.  Suddenly I saw Zoe ahead of me walking and then trying to stretch out her calf.  As I approached, I decided to stop and make sure she was OK. However, she started running again just before I reached her.  She was able to keep running and pick up the pace again after a short time.  So I never caught up but could see her in the distance as we neared the finish line. 

I crossed the line in 43mins 41secs.  Not great but I gave it my all.  I had lost my speed as a result of virtually no running for 4 weeks before the race.  Zoe finished in 43 mins 18secs bagging herself 4th woman (out of over 1,500 other female runners) and 2nd in her age category.  However, she missed a potential PB time due to having to walk and stop mid race because a calf injury. 

As it turns out, both Zoe and I have now both suffered calf injuries mid race in our last two races.  Bad luck indeed. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

North Lincolnshire Half Marathon 2014

My partner Zoe ran this race last year and had a great experience.  A super well organised event on a flat and fast course, snagging herself a PB time and 4th in her age category. The race was voted 6th best half marathon in the UK by Runners World for 2013.  So it was a no brainer for me to sign up for the event on 2014.  

Our friends Jon and Sian Morgan were also running it, so we car shared and headed to sunny Scunny (a local term used for Scunthorpe:) with high hopesThe weather was perfect with cloud cover (not sunny Scunny today), cool and little wind.  Everything was set for a great race.

I was feeling quietly confident after a a good winter of training leading up to London Marathon.  I decided to to try to run at a controlled pace of approx 7 min per mile for the first few miles and see how I felt in the second half of the race. Hopefully pick up the pace if I felt good and push for a time close to 1hr 30min.  

Once underway, I kept checking my Garmin to ensure that I didn't go off too fast. Something that I am prone to doing. Not this time!  The first mile passed, 7.07. Second 7.05, third 7.05 and so it went on.  I was feeling good and running a disciplined race.  Everything was going well up to mile 9.  Then suddenly, without warning, my right calf tightened and pain ensued.  OK, don't panic, keep running and hopefully it will pass.  A few minutes passed and rather than subsiding, the pain increased and I started to struggle.  Shit!  At approx 9.5 miles, I was hobbling and in a lot of pain.  I had no choice but to stop and try to stretch out my calf to ease the pain.  I then carried on but it was still no good.

I struggled on and soon saw Zoe catching me up and I cheered her on.  Time to grit my teeth and I went into limp home mode.  I have never had a DNF and I pride myself on that fact.  Get to the end no matter what! The last 3 miles were painful, slow and rather unpleasant.  However, I got to the finish line on 1hr 42mins.  

On a more cheerful note, my three running companions all had a great race.  Hats off to Sian with a 1hr 31min PB and 1st in her age category. Jon ran 1hr 21mins and got 2nd in his age category.  Zoe ran 1hr 37min and bagged herself 2nd in her age category.  All received trophies and a podium place.  Huge congrats to them and a rather sore leg for me (which later proved to be a suspected pulled muscle and prevented me running for two weeks after).  Time to suck it up and move on #shithappens

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Virgin Money London Marathon 2014

This was the second time that I took part in the London Marathon. Back in 2012, I was super excited to run in my first major city marathon, especially as it was in the lead up the London Olympic Games. However, I had a awful experience due to illness during the week before the race. So I wanted to do London again and try to put things right.

I had a very good training period with Zoe, my now fiance as well as training partner. She was flying in training and it looked like we were able to run the race together. Unfortunately she injured a hamstring and missed 3 weeks of training including several long runs. So we decided to run our own race.

I managed to get to the start line in good health this time. After what happened in 2012 when I caught a bug before the race, total paranoia kicked in this time. A bottle of hand sanitizer became my new best friend for the final weeks leading up to the race. My job takes me into doctors surgeries on a daily basis and I was in the danger zone!

The weather the day before the race was perfect for running. Light cloud cover, cool and dry.  However, come race morning, the cloud was gone leaving clear blue skies with sunshine. Perfect for spectating but not what I was hoping for.  I'm not great at running in heat and there had been no hot days in any of the training months leading up to the race.  The race started at 10am, so it was already feeling very warm as we made our way onto the start line.  I wished that London started the marathon earlier in the day like they do in Canada, often around 7 - 8am, and avoid running in the hottest part of the day.

After the slow start due to the mass of runners, I soon got into my stride.  Despite the weather forecast, I decided to run at my planned pace of 7min 15sec per mile and go for my target of 3hrs 10mins. Not sure if this was the right thing to do but the temperature was OK to begin with and I just hoped that it wouldn't get too hot in the latter stages.  I felt good and clocked the miles off and maintained the planned pace.  The crowds were incredible, thousands of the lining the streets and making so much noise.  

I crossed Tower Bridge and the half way marker bang on schedule at 1hr 34mins 50secs.  However, the heat was rising and it was getting tough.  I took water on board every two miles and ran in the shade whenever possible.  However, I feared that my pace would start to slow in the miles still to come. As I reached mile 16 it was clear that I was slowing.  Time to dig in and just get to the finish.  Maybe I should have started slower in anticipation of the heat rising towards the second half of the race. Maybe so, I just had to give it a go all the same after months of hard training.

The last 10 miles of the race were a struggle but I ran with a smile on my face all the same.  The atmosphere was fantastic and the support was overwhelming.  I passed a few people showing signs of heat exhaustion and some that were being attended to by first aiders.  The last few miles were past some of the most famous landmarks and the noise levels seem to reach fever pitch.  The last mile came and I was relieved. Then one of the celebrities passed me, a guy called Tony who plays a part in the TV series Emmerdale. I remember he passed Zoe and I in the Yorkshire Marathon last year.  But to add insult to injury this time, he was sporting a huge plastic false bottom.  That was it, I gritted my teeth and picked up the pace and passed him.  Take that Tony! I beat him to the finish which was a very welcome sight. I crossed the line in 3hrs 26mins.  

Zoe finished in 3hrs 41mins and also had a tough race.  Running in such a huge race is quite an experience.  Both times have not gone to plan for me but I feel lucky to have done it twice.  Zoe has now done it 8 times! Time for a change and some new challenges.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

East Hull 20 2014

This race was another build up for London Marathon and one to be just used as a training run, not to be raced. Zoe and I have been training hard and were planning on running it together. However, Zoe suffered an injury to her hamstring in the final week before the race, so was unable to do it. She still came to support and watch though. Team Boofee!

The weather was warm and sunny but also quite windy too.  The race course was mainly flat and through country lanes.  I planned on averaging 7min 45secs per mile pace for the 20 miles and bag myself a good long run in preparation for London.

Once underway, I soon settled into my rhythm and clocked the miles off but my pace was more like 7min 30secs but it felt easy.  The wind was at our backs and I decided to go with it. I reached the 10 mile mark and I was feeling good. The wind proved to be great as it was cooling the runners in the warm conditions. However, once we turned back towards the direction we had come from, it became a headwind which made the going much tougher.

The effort level increased to maintain the pace and it became hard work. After a few more miles, my pace was slowing.  I dug in and decided to just focus on each mile and get to the finish.  Tiredness crept in and the last 5 miles were tough.  My legs were now reminding me that I had not tapered for the race. A 19 mile run the week before and speed training during the week, my legs were not happy. I was pleased to finally see the finishing line and Zoe's smiling face. No usual sprint finish today, just cruised over the line in a time of 2 hours 37 mins. Slightly slower than I had hoped for at 7min 51sec per mile pace but OK in the circumstances. 

That's it, just 5 weeks until London.  Time to focus, stay healthy and train hard. I really hope Zoe's hamstring gets better soon and she can continue training too.  Fingers crossed!

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