Archive for May, 2011

31
May
11

BUPA 10,000 race report

It had been 2 years since I had run this race. I’d signed up for it this year because it is a great course, a 10k, and ticked the May box in my “run one race per month in 2011” pledge. As it drew closer, I became increasingly excited about it: I was getting quicker so a new pb was on the cards, and I had been upping the distance that I had been running in the Vibrams so it could, potentially, be my first race in VFF’s. In the run up to the big day, everything seemed to bode well. I would be meeting up with Hauling My Carcass, Fitartist and another friend Dianne who were all running, I had run a few 51-52 minute 10kms in the Vibrams in the preceeding week and I, unlike Dianne & HMC, had no niggling injuries to contend with.

On the day itself, I got to Green Park early, slipped the Vibrams on and sat around waiting for Hauling My Carcass. By the time he had arrived, I was looking forward to the race and feeling confident. We met with Dianne, briefly, and then caught up with Fitartist & Edward & Hector. We dumped our bags and then joined Fitartist at the start. The sun had come out and it was warm whilst we waited. We wished each other luck and chatted before our wave was to be released onto the course.
After the countdown, we were off and I was so up for it that I set off quickly and picked my way through the throng, nipping through gaps to try and stay out of slower clumps of runners. The adrenaline kicked in and, although wary of going off too fast, felt that if I had the energy now, I may as well use it. So I continued to pass others, the Vibrams felt good and I felt relaxed and my running easy. The race seemed to pass in a blur. I remember bits… the support from the crowd, Taiko drummers and cobbles underfoot through Leadenhall Market, Hauling My Carcass reappearing and overtaking me just after 5k. But my overall recollection is just of feeling very confident, the legs running easily. Before I knew it, I was back on Horse Guards Parade and heading for home. The last part of the course is deceptive as running up towards Trafalgar Square feels like a natural finish point. But once at Trafalgar Square, you take a sharp left and you have just over 400 metres to the finish. 400 metres that feels like 4km. I glanced at my watch and realised that I could come in under 50 minutes which I never thought possible. So I just went for it. At 200m from the finish, my lungs were bursting and my legs tiring, but I knew if I slacked off, I may just miss out and would kick myself. There was nothing to do but just keep pushing. I crossed the line, arms outstretched, aeroplane style, with a massive grin. I then, strangely, found myself letting out some euphoric primal howl which frightened the runner who’d finished just in front of me: if you’re reading this, Sir, sorry about that. 49:55 is my official time. I am delighted.
We collected our bags, met Mrs HMC and The Boy, caught up with Fitartist, Edward & Hector and headed off to Wahaca for some Mexican Refuelling. A few niggles aside (horrible race t-shirt, officious security enforcing nonsensical closure of footpaths), I had a great day with some great company.

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29
May
11

another 30 days of lunacy

It is upon us again. Juneathon: The original and best. For anyone that doesn’t already know, it is a month of exercise, originally created by the mighty Joggerblogger which has grown year on year, taken on a life of it’s own and spawned a younger and colder little brother, Janathon. Rules are simple: exercise: run, swim, cycle, weights, gym (walk to the pub if you’re JogBlog) each day, blog about it each day and upload details on Running Free Online. There is a website and a facebook page both watched over by JogBlog. This will be the 3rd year I have participated and it is a great experience, encouraging you to get out and exercise each day and the support and camaraderie from other Juneathoners is fantastic.

Last year, I vowed to run every day and managed to stick to my plan, even squeezing in a swift run straight after I finished the London to Brighton Cycle ride. This year I have given myself a different set of rules.

So, I will complete this years Juneathon either with these:

Or on this:

Or this:

So a barefoot, fixed gear and singlespeed Juneathon beckons. Check back here regularly to see how long it is before I crash and burn.

28
May
11

voltz energy shot – review

After a hideous R*d B*ll experience many years ago, I’ve tended to steer clear of “energy drinks” unless absolutely necessary. Late night drives home when sensible people are all in bed or 13hr excursions along dull stretches of European motorway have been my only recent usage. So I was intrigued to see what the Voltz Energy Shots were like.
Anyone who knows me is well aware of my love for coffee… I am a terrible coffee snob and as a by product of that, a massive fan of caffeine. But coffee is not always easy to come by before a run. Which is where Voltz Energy Shots excel. A tiny little 60ml bottle containing a shot with vitamins, minerals AND caffeine. Small enough, certainly, to fit in a small bag or even a pocket and easy to carry around and drink before any run.

They come in 2 flavours: Berry is the least appetising of the two with a distinctly medicinal taste. The citrus flavour is far more palatable and will have a strange resonance for runners of a certain age as they taste exactly like Refreshers. Just imagine grinding up a few Refreshers and dissolving them in water and you’re not far off. And, looking at the nutritional info on the bottle, each shot contains only 3 calories, which by my calculation is less than a single espresso with a teaspoon of sugar.
And they work too. I have experimented with them under carefully controlled laboratory conditions and can confirm… actually no, they weren’t carefully controlled or laboratory conditions. I have used them before a few runs, and prior to the Grim Beast In The East and Wheathampstead 10k and also whilst struggling to stay awake whilst slaving over a 45 page Powerpoint presentation I had to reluctantly write. The results are fairly subtle but noticeable. You feel a little more alert, you have a little more energy. Perhaps I have a higher caffeine tolerance but I found them to last for between an hour and a half and two hours although the blurb says 4 hours is the minimum time between shots.
So I shall keep a few of the little bottles in my car (for those late night drives home) and also be taking a bottle with me on Monday to have before the BUPA 10,000. Because until someone invents a self heating, pre-bottled, pre-sugared single shot of espresso that I can keep at hand before a race, this is the next best alternative.

23
May
11

wheathampstead 10k race report – back once again

I hadn’t planned to enter this year. Sandwiched as it is between Grim Beast In The East and BUPA 10,000, I thought I’d leave it this year and come back in 2012. But when SonNumberOne and SonNumberTwo started asking when they were running their 2k, I relented and entered… all of us for the 2k and, hell, I was going to be there anyway, me for the 10k.
This was to be the third time I had run this course, first in 2009 when SonNumberOne and I ran the 2k and I ran the 10k, and then last year when I ran the 2k with SonNumberOne, SonNumberTwo and Mrs eatingtrees and then the 10k with the mighty Hauling My Carcass. You can read reviews of previous years here and here.
The event itself has a friendly, village feel to it. A refreshing lack of corporate sponsorship, bouncy castles for the kids and cake stalls and a barbecue for the hungry.
The 2k was a blast… it is so great to see the joy on the kids faces when the race starts… all off like a shot with big grins. Some of the accompanying adults didn’t look quite so delighted as many looked like they were more familiar with the sofa and the remote than the running shoe. Myself and SonNumberOne finished in 16:24 with Mrs eatingtrees and SonNumberTwo coming in around the 22 min mark. And all the kids get medals…
Then at about 10:45, I set off to the start of the 10k. It is a short walk to the start and we make our way there, everybody chatting with each other as we file through along the narrow path. Once at the start, we settle into out respective zones, set out in expected finish times. Previous years I’ve gone for the 55mins – 1 hour zone as it is a challenging course with a few obstacles (stairs, kissing gates) where there is often a queue to pass. But having put in a couple of quick (for me) runs recently, I optimistically settle into the 50-55min section. As soon as everyone is in their place, we are off, bang on time and into the rolling countryside. A mixture of bridle paths, farmers fields, woodland tracks. I settle into my pace and at about 3km find myself running alongside a guy who has fallen into step with me. We begin talking as we run and the next few kms pass easily. There is a water point at 5km and I drop back slightly and put my headphones back in and concentrate on keeping a steady pace for the second half. There is a camaraderie not found in bigger events… runners ahead call back to those behind if there is a dodgy tree root or rabbit hole to avoid, people chatting and queueing calmly to get through the kissing gate
Obstacles successfully negotiated and with only one small trip over an incospicuous root, I finished in 52:43… a new personal best: beating my old pb by 2 mins and 5 seconds and my previous Wheathampstead times by 7 minutes. I see a few of the runners that I was talking to at the start and we swap congratulations and enquire how we each did. I love this event… it’s is completely unpretentious, very friendly, well organised and feels more like a village fete than a race. I will be back again next year.

15
May
11

grim beast in the east race report: hilly but flat

Things that I love about Grim Original…
The sense of anticipation, that perhaps anything could happen and possibly will.
The shrieking as those way in front of you round a corner and see what they are about to have to run through.
The camaraderie as you get your foot stuck in the mud at the bottom of a metre deep puddle and are about to lose your balance and someone reaches out a steadying hand for you to cling to.
The absurdity when you look ahead and see an enormous muddy puddle like a sea before you with hundreds little yellow rubber ducks bobbing on the surface.

I was really looking forward to this event being a massive fan of Grim Original. The drive to the parking area had me grinning in anticipation as the road ran parallel to parts of the motocross course: Huge sandy descents, tabletops and berms looked like the scene for enormous fun later. The marshalling at the car park was not great as the marshalls, rather than direct us to the car park, just watched us pass and follow, literally, the race route all the way around the perimeter of the field. It was only when we could get no further were we told that the area we had just driven round was the car park and that we should park “over there somewhere” with a non-specific waving gesture in the general direction of some trees. Parked up and united with the rest of the bunch (Hauling My Carcass, iliketocount, Graeme, Paul and Chris) we set off for the start to pick up our timing chips. Car keys were left with the Car Key Looker Afterers, tagged with our race number, and dropped in a box. There were too few toilets and a big queue and no sign of the post race changing facilities seen at Grim Original.
Then we hung around waiting for the race to start and… I hate to say it but this was the best bit of the day as it gave our little group a chance to all catch up. The race start was delayed by about 15 minutes and then we were off.
So, back at the beginning of this review, there was a list of all the fabulous things about Grim Original. Sadly, Beast In The East has none of these things. What it does have is a long average cross-country run around some non-descript Kent fields and a bit of woodland, topped and tailed with a lap of the motocross circuit. There is a small camouflage scramble net at one point but this felt like a token gesture. In my opinion the course relies too heavily on the motocross circuit which is very challenging but not enormous fun with most people opting to walk up the steeper (and they were steep!) inclines. Throw in some puddles, some humour and parts of the motocross circuit (a few uphills, lots of out of control descents and a few bermy corners), and the unexpected please, because, and it pains me to say this, the event had no humour, no personality, no surreal or memorable moments.
About half way through, the cold that I had been battling over the week, decided to bloom and I spent the last 5km using my trusty Buff as a handkerchief as my nose streamed. By 7.5km, I had lost interest and was walking up the steeper hills on the motocross circuit and just wanting it to be over with.
I crossed the line and collected my finishers t-shirt. The “secure” key collection now consisted of 3 shoeboxes full of car keys taged with a race number and collection of the keys was like a lucky dip at a Swingers Party – everyone reaching in and fumbling for the keys you want. Then back to the car to not use the towel I’d bought, not clean myself up with Wet Wipes and not have to change my clothes before driving home. At the time I thought my lack of enjoyment of the event was down to the entire liquid contents of my head exiting through my nostrils over the last half of the race. With hindsight, perhaps the event just wasn’t as good as it should have been.

09
May
11

notion

Not an enormous amount of running accomplished this week. One 10k in the Vibrams on Tuesday and then… nothing. Partly due to prior commitments and partly due to time consuming and mind-numbing tasks at work, I just did not have the opportunity to get out and run. So when my long Sunday run presented itself, despite feeling a bit groggy from a late night and too much food the previous evening (as it was Mrs eatingtrees birthday on the Saturday), I felt I should at least make an effort. The weather forecast had predicted rain but a glimpse out of the window on Sunday morning revealed a mostly blue sky, a few clouds and gusts of wind. So not bad weather for a long run. I set off hoping to match last weeks effort of 18kms but was unsure how well I’d fare based on the general feeling of sluggishness that seemed to reside somewhere between my brain and my feet.
The first couple of kilometres felt arduous but after 15 minutes or so, the lungs seemed to open up, the legs remembered what they should be doing and it all seemed to come together nicely. So much so, that at the 12km point, I started doing what rappers would refer to as “freestyling”… making it up as I went along: A little extra circuit of the block here, a looping embellishment there. I was feeling quite strong and enjoying being out and running. By the time I arrived back at the end of my street (and with almost surgical precision). I had covered exactly 21.1kms. It felt nice to run a Half Marathon distance, just on a whim, for the hell of it, particularly as the 3 races I have planned over the next 3 weekends are all 10k’s, so I also got a few miles on the clock.
So next Saturday is Grim Beast In The East, which I am very much looking forward to. There should be a few of us competing and will be a good opportunity to catch up and also run the course as an unofficial team, making sure everyone gets across the line. The following week, it’s the Wheathampstead 10k, preceeded by the 2k which the whole family will be running. Finally, the BUPA 10,000 on the Bank Holiday Monday, a great, flat course around the streets of Dirty Old London Town which will probably my first race in the Vibrams (and hopefully a 10k PB too!)
Soundtrack to this post: Beastie Boys – Nonstop Disco Powerpack

02
May
11

worms?

I am constantly hungry at the moment. No sooner have I tucked away an enormous meal, I start scratching around for something else to eat. Cheese. Bananas. Chocolate Biscuits. Perhaps I am looking to replace some of the calories used up in last weekends frenzy of activity? Maybe I am subconciously carb-loading for the 3 races I have in May (yes, an organisational SNAFU means I have 3 races in May… Grim Beast In The East, Wheathampstead 2k & 10k and the BUPA 10k) but what ever it is, I am devouring a huge amount of food.
Fortunately, the second Bank Holiday weekend afforded me a little time to spend eating and also a little time to spend running.
Thursday morning I crept out for an early morning run in the Vibrams. I have upped my mileage in them sufficiently to be able to run roughly 10k in them each time I venture out so a 10.7km run was executed before breakfast. A quick glance at the Garmin as I passed the 10k mark indicated that I had run my fastest ever 10k at 52:51 which set my good mood up rather nicely for the rest of the day. Thursday evening was spent with training partner, bad influence, inspiration, calibrator of the moral compass, epicurean and all round gentleman Hauling My Carcass at Kaslik in Soho, where we had arranged to meet, catch up and eat delicious Lebanese food.
Friday, there was a street party for the Royal Wedding and again the day was spent eating, chatting, eating and eating. Saturday we had friends round for a barbecue (yet more eating and chatting, obviously) and, by Saturday evening, my indulgences were beginning to play on my conscience. I went to bed vowing to get up and run first thing on Sunday.
Sunday morning was glorious and after making the family breakfast and powering down a capuccino, I set off. A beautiful bright crisp morning and I decided I should run off some of the excesses of the previous few days. There was quite a strong breeze and that kept me cool although as soon as the breeze dropped, the sun began to beat down and I tried where possible to run in the shade. I was feeling good so I just ran and ran and enjoyed running. A few deviations from my normal Sunday long route saw me complete 18.1kms. I was actually still feeling pretty good but cut the run short as to return home any later would have meant the rest of the day’s activities would have needed shuffling around.
So, it would appear that I am currently on a bit of a roll… enjoying running and getting just a little quicker without any kind of speedwork, fartlek or intervals. The VFF’s are fast becoming my shoe of choice as my regular running shoes begin to feel heavy and soft. I am intrugued to see how far I can comfortably run in the Vibrams – certainly a 10k race is do-able. Hmmm… then, who knows, maybe a Half Marathon..?

Soundtrack to this post: Zoo Music Girl – The Birthday Party




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