Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Looking Forward

We don't find out our results until the 2nd week of January - so
it's an anxious wait, but a big relief they're out of the way.
It's been a busy time recently, and I've not done a great deal of running, with my focus primarily on the studying required for my job - but with my first exam out of the way, and with my operation scheduled for last week delayed until February at the earliest, that's all about to change. I've booked my place to run the Fowlmead Challenge on 10th Janurary, and with this new event on the horizon, it'll be back to some serious training over the Christmas and New Year period. But first, a quick catch up on a weekend of competing at the end of last month.

Great Cornard Parkrun - Sat 28th November

Buoyed by a decent club time trial on the Thursday that I mentioned in my last post, I decided to try a parkrun to begin the weekend, and made the 40 minute drive to Great Cornard Parkrun feeling confident I could get a quick time. For some reason, I found it tough going - in the event getting almost exactly the same time as 2 days earlier, which was good enough for 7th place, but feeling twice as exhausted at the end. It was then back home for some studying before making the trip the next day to SouthWest London, for the Kingston 10k that I also mentioned in my last post. 

Kingston 10k - Sun 29th November

Me and my two short friends. ( Or, me and my two friends with the bottom
of the picture cut off so you can't see the podium we were standing on )
I was pleased enough with the run - not quite managing my target of sub 7 minute miles throughout, but going a bit quicker than I'd managed at Histon at the start of the month, and finishing in 40th place with a time of 44m16. My friends Bernadette and Rob ran round together, with Bernadette grabbing her best 10k result for some time - so it was a happy car journey home, with the highlight of the weekend undoubtedly a stop off at the Toby Carvery for a well-earned roast dinner.

And, given that I thought this would be my last event before surgery, and with my first module exams on the horizon, I put the running to one side, and immersed myself in the fascinating world of Bookkeeping for the first part of December.

Operation Postponed

Races fill up so quickly
these days - you need to
book months in advance
and I'm really not that
well organised. Ideally, I
need a coach and a secretary...
Unfortunately, due to paperwork issues, I then learnt (only a week before it was due) that my left hip will not now be operated on until some time next year - I am hoping mid February, but this is yet to be confirmed. Frustrating yes, and I spent a good 24hrs feeling a bit down about it, since I'd booked time off work to coincide with recuperation, and falling between study modules, the timing had been perfect -- but it's just one of those things, and hardly the end of the world. 

It's always possible to find silver linings to these clouds, and the first thing I did the next day was to seek out races for January and February that I could now do. By keeping my time off over Christmas, I have the chance to train - in daylight - pretty much every day should I choose to, and although I've hardly run at all over the last 3 weeks, I am confident I can get my fitness back up again pretty quickly. However, the hardest thing was finding a race with space left. One of my favourite events of the year - the Great Bentley Half, run in February - sold out within a few days of entries opening earlier in the year, and another good local race - on New Year's Eve - is also fully booked, although I'm now on their waiting list for a place. 

Fowlmead Challenge

Eventually I stumbled across an event I'd not heard of before - an endurance event in Kent early in the New Year. The course is an off road lap of just under 3.3 miles, the event lasts 6 hours, and you can do as many or as few laps in that time as you choose. Plenty of people look to complete 8 laps, which gives them marathon distance - a few hardy souls keep going for another lap, or more, thus completing an ultra. For me personally, I'll be looking to do 4 or maybe 5 laps - I'll be taking it nice and steady, and just looking to see if I can get past half marathon distance. 

Ordinarily I would find this relatively straightforward, but I've not run further than 10 miles since I broke down at Tarpley back in February, so this will be something of a challenge, especially since I've let the training slide for the last three weeks. But as I said before, I now have spare time -which has been at a premium lately - and I'm looking forward to getting back out every day, gradually increasing the miles with each run, and seeing what I may be able to achieve. 

With more time to prepare, this event would actually be a perfect way for me to tackle a marathon - fairly low key, the opportunity to pull out at the end of the nearest lap if things are going badly, and a good event to try out a slower pace. On both my previous marathon attempts, I've begun the training hoping for a sub 4 hour, but training (and build-up races) have gone well enough to suggest I can get nearer 3hr30. As a result, come marathon day on both occasions I've ended up going off at too quick a pace and this, combined with getting the nutritional aspect horribly wrong too, has led to cramping, walk/running and finish times over the 4 hour mark.

The beauty of this event would be that I could set off at 9 min mile pace - and if I found, as I would hope, that I could get to marathon distance under 4 hours and still feel comfortable, then I could keep going and do another lap or two, to turn it into a decent-paced ultra. I guess I'd be reluctant to do the same for a regular marathon, because I think I might then regret not trying a bit faster. Obviously, with less than 3 weeks to go before the event, I'm not going to be able to manage marathon distance this year - but I'm looking forward to checking the event out, and it may well then feature in my plans for 2017.

Planning for a marathon

Talking of marathons, I'm very keen to tackle one in the latter part of 2016 - even with a new operation date of February or March, I should be back running again end of May latest, giving me plenty of time to fit in a 16 week training plan for an autumn event. This does of course rely on everything going well with the second operation - but if, as anticipated, I am then back running pain-free, then I think I'll enjoy the challenge of getting back to some serious mileage. I do need to remember my consultant's advice about swapping some of the running for other, lower impact forms of training, and getting a decent bike remains on the agenda for some time in the New Year, finances allowing! My plan would then be 3 running sessions per week - the requisite long slow run for marathon training, a speedwork session at running club, and a threshold/tempo run in the middle of the week. The remainder of my week would be split between gym workouts and cycling. In terms of running mileage it would be much less than the usual recommended amount, but the additional core-strengthening work and the cardio work on the bike should more than make up for this, and lessen the strain on my weak hips at the same time.

If you're planning to run a marathon, you do need to sort out your nutrition - and to help me with this, I've downloaded an excellent e-book, written by a good friend of mine, Angela Isherwood. It pulls together all kinds of advice, but one of Angela's specialisms is running nutrition, which was my main reason for reading it - and as part of a structured training routine I really need to get my diet sorted. Fair to say it's gone down hill a bit in the last few months, and - unsurprisingly - the weight is starting to come back on again. Regular readers will know this is an ongoing battle for me - as I suspect it is for most people once they hit middle-age - but I do know I can get back to where I want to be in a relatively short period of time, since I've managed it before. 

It's all about willpower - as is running, of course - and although perhaps Christmas is not the best time to think about losing weight, it's crucial that I shift a bit before my next operation, when another period without being able to exercise is sure to take its toll. I talked in my last post about the various targets I've set for 2016, and it's fair to say I'm not going to be hitting them unless I shift a few pounds. And it's not just about eating less, but about eating the right kind of food to sustain you through your exercise regime - and of course, the further you plan to run, the more important it is that your body has the fuel you need. If. like me, you really don't know the difference between good and bad fats, what type of carbs to consume, and when, etc, etc - then I can't recommend Angela's book enough. You can download "How to Run your Best Marathon" by clicking on the link. Angela has this year run a time good enough to secure qualification for next year's Boston Marathon - so she clearly knows what she's doing!

Finally, I can't end this latest blog post without mentioning the sad news that a fellow runner sadly passed away recently. I mentioned Neil a while back - despite having been diagnosed with terminal cancer, he'd decided to run this year's London Marathon (for charity), and although the doctors had suggested he probably shouldn't attempt more than about 6 miles, of course he went and completed the whole race. This was typical of his bravery, spirit and determination. I only met him on a handful of occasions, but you only needed to meet him once to realise what a good man he was. It's only through reading about him afterwards that I've become aware of just how much he did for sport locally, and that he was a sub 3hr marathon runner in his prime - too modest to have ever mentioned that to me. 

My thoughts are with his wife Christine, and with their children Justine, Jack and Seb. A truly remarkable man.


  1. Crazy to have stumbled upon your blog, my wife and I live in Juneau, Alaska and she is from Haverhill. Visited last year, what were the odds? I hesitate to ask but if you grew up there you probably know her mom and maybe even her grandparents.

  2. Crazy that someone in Alaska has read my blog! but is that Haverhill in the UK, or Haverhill MA (I'm UK btw!)