Friday, April 15, 2016

Anatomy Of A Half-Marathon

I popped out on Friday 4th to do a spot of running, I had in mind I'd do roughly a six mile loop into Guiseley, and then perhaps press on for a second six mile loop down into Otley if I was feeling good. The weather was cool but sunny with a very light breeze, pretty much perfect weather for running.

Miles 1-3) I'm feeling really good this morning, running at a couple of seconds under 9 minutes a mile which is a good pace for me and easily a minute faster than when I picked up running again in January. Probably because I'm wearing a hip belt for my water bottle (I hate carrying stuff in my hands shwn running), I need a pee, now I need a pee all I can think about is needing a pee.

Mile 3.5) Pop into the leisure centre for bio-break. As always the amount of pee expelled, about an eggcup full, is out of all proportion to the amount of relief gained.

Mile 6) I'm feeling really good, still under 9 mins which is probably too fast but it's hard to slow down when you're running so well. I'm back at Menston so yes, I'm going to push on for the half marathon. Ahead of me I've got at least two miles downhill into Otley and then some flat miles along to Burley. I'm running with my earphones in and a steady diet of Ramones - Wildhearts - Massive Wagons - Megadeth to keep me going, I don't mind shorter solo runs without music, but on longer treks I get fed up of the sound of my trainers slapping the pavement.

Mile 8) Still running well, but I'm so hot, there's little beads of sweat bouncing off me with every pace. Worst bit of the run so far was when I stopped at the Ilkley Road / Otley Bypass roundabout waiting for traffic, my legs felt a little heavy after I'd waited for a couple of minutes and when I tried to pick up the pace again it's feeling a little more laboured.

Mile 10) Ok, I'm feeling a little tired now. It is quite a warm morning and the water in my bottle has warmed up nicely and is doing little to refresh me. Thankful for a handy bush on the bypass to Burley for another bio-break, not so thankful for the short stretch without pavement, busses and trucks are big scary things up close.  There's a little uphill section on old Otley Road and I've really slowed down. All the way round I've been telling myself how good I'm feeling, but now I'm not, I seem to have switched from positive self motivation to grim determination in about half a mile.

Mile 11) Along the flattish bit out from Burley back towards Menston. The flat miles at the start of the run felt great, I felt light and bouncy, each step was easy and thoughtless. Now I feel leaden, heavy and strained, every footstep slaps down hard and jars my frame. And the uphill bit is still to come.

Mile 12) Uphill. Up Bradford Road. This is awful. What on earth posessed me to do this ? I'm tired, soaked with sweat from head to toe, my legs are aching, thighs are starting to burn, there's a niggle in my left calf which wasn't bothering me on the flat but which is spiking now with each step. Thud

Mile 13) I made it up the hill, lumbered around Menston Park and now I'm moving along Main Street in an ungainly, elephantine manner. I'm hating having to cross roads as the six inch drop off each pavement edge is hideous and my legs are so stiff now I'm scared I might stumble ovet the pavement on the other side.

Mile 13.1) I'm home, and I should be elated, but my brain has fried from the heat and exercise and somehow I've convinced myself that the half marathon distance is about 13.5 miles. For a moment I consider giving up, but then with a quite remarkable outburst of swearing I set off again, moving with wooden legs towards Bleach Mills, turn around, swear some more, get home again, 13.7 miles, and that's me knackered.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Two To Go

I sent TMA05 in for marking late last night, and for the first time in 5 years of university work I deliberately padded the essay to get it completed. Not that my padding was off topic, I added in a quote from Professor Nick Groom about the Goth band Fields Of The Nephilim and then responded to the quote. So it was on topic for the essay question but not in a manner that is going to get me any points.

If I wasn't still on the cusp of being able to achieve a 1st I don't think I'd be panicking so much. The awful score I received for my EMA on the previous religions module left my overall score just short of a 1st, but with the outside possibility of still getting there. Perhapos a lower score earlier in the course would have just left me in solid 2.1 territory and that would have been an end to the sleepless nights and endless stress.

I don't think TMA05 is going to get me over the 85% grade, and as it carries 25% of the total score for the module that's probably the end of that. Perhaps I can just relax a little now and coast over the line. Perhaps sometime soon I can return to reading books for fun, or not spending every single day off perched in front of the computor writing bloody essays.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Harewood Age UK 10k Dash

A misty morning gave way to uncomfortably hot, for the plump runner anyway, sunshine halfway around. It's not as hilly as Huddersfield they said, but nevertheless that hill after 5k seemed endless.

This race had a much bigger field than Huddersfield, around 2,000 runners against 570, so there was quite a wait to get over the start line, let's be thankful for chip timing. We'd warmed up first to some of the most awful music known to humankind, the sort of high tempo dance shite I'd normally run away from, then turned around to find that our place at the front of the warm-up had secured us last place in the starting line, bugger.

Three and a half tiresome minutes went by as we watched the elite runners bounding away from us, we shuffled slowly to the line and then finally got to do a bit of actual running. The route took us on a nice circuit of the Harewood estate, but I've got to admit that although lots of the club runners had said it's a nice route with lovely views, the traffic was heavy and most of the run was spent ensuring I didn't fall over someone else's feet.

I managed 54.11, a new personal best and two and half minutes faster than my last outing. The Airecentre Pacers were well represented with around a dozen of the Orange Army participating. We achieved a slew of PB's from the team, special mention to my near neighbour and running buddy Emma who had targeted a sub hour 10k and smashed it by two and a half minutes.

My sister in law Carole, her sister Lisa, and a group of friends also did the race, all achieving great times.

When I'd told my team at work that I'd joined a running club, one of the lads said "Who wants to run with a load of sweaty old blokes ?". Take a look at the pictures, they have to run with a sweaty old bloke, but I don't!

I'm not quite sure how the age grading figures work, but I got an age grading of 55.8% this time out, an improvement of almost 3% against Huddersfield. You can find various race time and grading calculators on this link.

I haven't got a race for April lined up yet, better get my skates / running shoes on.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

What I Know About Running

1) I have to walk a bit, or a lot, am I still a runner ? Hell yes. When I first took to running a few years back I couldn't get to a half mile without thinking I was going to die. If you have run some, half, or most of your route, then you're a runner.

2) Some people can keep up a stream of consciuosness style of chat while running uphill. Usually I can either run, or chat. I'm not being anti-social, it just makes me get more out of breath.

3) Do you need loads of expensive kit ? Er, no and yes. I've found that investing in some good running trainers does make a difference, and having a skin-tight compression top and leggings stops my nipple ends from chafing off and other bits from flailing around uncomfortably. Something reflective for night-time runs is probably also a good idea. Also, I've come across some lycra leggings that would be the envy of any 80's cock rock / hair metal band, so obviously I've bought two pairs.

4) Body size isn't a good guide to running speed or stamina. You see some lithe and limber young folk who look at first glance as if they could run marathons for fun, and yet they're out of breath and struggling before the first half mile. That big lad at the Huddersfiled 10k who looked like he'd locked himself in the Pukka Pie factory for the winter, well he fairly trundled up the hills and thundered back down the slopes leaving slimmer, fitter looking runners trailing in his wake.

5) I have no idea about proper nutrition for racing, and I'm pretty happy just muddling along as I am. So it's crumpets for breakfast before tommorow's race, and then pretty much whatever I fancy for dinner afterwards, including a pint or two, or wine if I fancy. Obviously my approach to food and booze isn't perfect, that's why I'm overweight and might have been part of the reason for my stroke. But energy gels sound disgusting, bananas are foul and as for going down the road of elite athletes like Teresa McWalters, well just end me now, spirulina powder and flax seed isn't food. Steak is food, roast pork and all the trimmings is food, a nice Mediterranean meze with some garlic prawns, olives, bread and chorizo is food. And beer and wine are food, I know I'm not allowed so much these days, but beer is still wonderful.

6) It dies get easier, and then you can run a bit further and faster to compensate for it feeling easier.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

The End Is Nigh....

Of my degree course that is, and it's been a fair old slog. I started my degree back in 2011 with a 15 taster module on the arts, a module which I later discounted for scoring purposes so in reality it just gave me 3 months of extra work and essays.

Now 5 years on I can almost see the finish line, I've two TMAs and the last ever EMA to do, and barring major mishaps I'll be able to wear a silly hat and cloak and receive a piece of rolled up paper with a ribbon round it. Woo and yay.

At the mid-point of my studies I was seriously considering taking a second degree in Cultural & Heritage Studies with Leeds University, but the changes in funding brought about the Tories and their spineless Liberal pals put an end to that thought, and to be honest, I feel like I'm running out of steam a bit as I near the end. 5 years of sacrificing days off and evenings to study has been a long time, I'd like some of my free time back, I'd like to take up hiking again, and perhaps going to the cinema, or spend more time with my wife, you know, just normal stuff.

The TMA we're currently slogging towards is a comparison piece taking the text of a music review and a text of our own choosing and looking for literary creativeness and worth in the two. The final EMA is a very similar project, except for that we have to choose both texts with one being ordinary / everyday and the other literary. I'm currently analysing Marillion's Grendel every which way to seek out evidence of creativity and worth, I hope I don't end up hating something I love.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Huddersfield 10k

Huddersfield 10k Start (Pic - Meg Jarvis)

I'm not sure if I could have picked a tougher track for my first ever 10k road race. The race began wil with a long and gentle uphill section and then a rather steeper hill which had me puffing and blowing early on in the race.

As we reached the bottom of that hill some helpful marshall said "Don't worry, only the two big hills to go.

He wasn't kidding. Fellow runners from the Pacers had told me to enjoy the views and enjoy my run, but to be honest I was head down ploughing away, just trying to keep some sort of running cadence going on the uphill sections, then swearing internally as the equally steep downhill slopes shook my knees to bits. I find downhill slopes much worse than uphill ones.

One really nice moment came via some good thinking at my running club. We seem to be the only club to have our names printed on our club shirts, so as I toiled up to the top of the first big hill people were calling encouragement to me by name. Spectators were sparse around the route, but it's amazing how even a smattering of applause can steel your determination to keep moving.

Still, it was a nice morning, cold, still and sunny in patches. The organisation was terrific, the only change I'd make would be to have more regular kilometre markers on the route so that first-timers could better judge where they were. £10 to enter a professionally organised run and you get a free t-shirt to boot.

Almost at the finish (Pic - Meg Jarvis)

The winner, Tristan Learoyd, who apparently flew round on a jetpack or stepped through a time portal, reached the finish line in a fleet footed 34.27. I thundered over the line, overheated, sweaty and knackered in 56.42.

I was placed 376 out of 572, and down at the lower end of my age category, I'm a 45+ Veteran apparently. Age grading result of 53%.

I was the only Airecentre Pacer to enter this race, so no OrangeArmy photoshoot at the end. Some of the club were running the rather more strenuous half marathon at Harewood House which is the venue for my next competitive run when they host a 10k in 2 weeks time. Let's hope for fewer hills and a better PB.

I think joining a running club has helped me to improve my level of fitness more rapidly than if I'd just been training on my own, and running in a group doesn't mean you get held back if you're of a faster pace. The club practice looping so the front runners to a checkpoint loop back to the rear of the group, faster runners get to do more distance and the rest of the group never get left behind, it's a nice system.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Pre-Race Nerves

I'm running my first ever 10k road race today in Huddersfield. I'm a little nervous and excited at the same time, Meg has sent me back upstairs so I'm not pacing the house. We did 10 miles on Wednesday night with the running Club, the wonderfully friendly Airecentre Pacers, so I don't think this distance will be a problem. I've been warned that there are some hills to negotiate though, but that said, you can't really go running at all in this part of the world without encountering a few hills.

I'll be proudly wearing my neon orange Pacers t-shirt, I know, I know, I don't ever usually do anything on a team basis or willingly wear the a uniform that other people are wearing, but you have to break your own rules once in a while.

(Pic - Amanda Connolly)

This was the Sunday Breakfast run last week, 9 miles over Otley Chevin which would have been really pleasant except for the howling gale which greeted us as we left the woods. I'm probably to blame to Wednesday night's 10 miles as I'd mentioned on Facebook that a 10 miler would be good, I'd said that before spending all day on my feet at the cafe of course. It was cold, but that's fine as I overheat after a mile or so, then it started snowing, and I have to admit that the last couple of miles weren't really much fun at all. I kept falling off the back of the peloton as we heading back uphill to Guiseley, although the club practice 'looping' so the faster runners keep returning to the rear to pick up the fat old lads. Tony and Muhammad seemed to have enough energy to do another 10 miles.

This morning some of the club are running the Harewood Half Marathon, just a bit far for me right now, especially as I think it's a trail run. I'll be at Harewood in two weeks for the 10k.