Posts Tagged ‘Hills


Seasons Greetings

Without wishing to jinx anything, it appears Spring might have just about arrived in the UK. Waking up, squinting out of the window again this year. We have a 150km training ride planned for 2 weeks time and breaking into a grin is a sure sign that things are looking up weather wise. Saturday and Sunday were both just about perfect for a run and a cycle and I was able, as I got up and out of the house early enough, to squeeze in both this weekend.

Saturday’s morning of sunny spells was perfect for a run and I completed 16.6km – certainly not at a pace that would set the world alight, but steady. I had had an odd “injury” after a few of my previous runs – the day after a run, my foot would “creak” when I flexed my toes. It wasn’t especially painful but it is quite worrying when your foot feels like a rusty hinge. A quick bit of Googling informed me that the cause was usually mild tendon inflammation – so wanted to see if slowing down and concentrating on my form would help. Which it appeared to do. Sunday came around and there was no pain and no creaking. Hurrah!

So, creak free on Sunday morning, I jumped on the singlespeed and just headed off. I planned to cycle for 2 hours – basically one hour in one direction chosen at random and then turn round and head back. I set off through the Hertfordshire countryside and managed to pick out and unusually hilly route to Barnet along country roads. I love my singlespeed and have never suffered “gear envy” before but on Sunday I found myself up out of the saddle and grinding my way up hills only to be passed by roadies in lycra calmly overtaking me, legs spinning and looking relaxed. One even informed me as he passed that he “wouldn’t want to be riding a singlespeed up this hill”. Thanks.

Still, it is all good training for when Hauling My Carcass once again tackle the Dunwich Dynamo but for now, this ride would blow some of the cobwebs away.

Almost precisely 2 hours later, I was back home, just shy of 50km in the bank. It was not even 11a.m. Which left me with that fabulous smug feeling that you get when you know you have done what you needed to do and have the rest of the day to relax in the sun.


Hertford 10k race report


Or what used to be known as The Hertford Charity Run – I have run this race a few times now and I still really enjoy it. It could be the proximity to my house (I walked to the starting line from home – took about 15 minutes). The picturesque, well marshaled route – out along the Cole Green Way and then through a number of small, Hertfordshire villages before rejoining the Cole Green Way to head back to the finish. Or it could be the finish itself – a tough uphill that sees many give up and walk before a big finish right in front of County Hall and the crowd of cheering spectators.

I did get caught up a little at the beginning, positioning myself too far down the field before the start, meaning I had to try and pick my way through the runners on the narrowest and most congested part of the course. So the first mile or so was spent in a bunch of 6-6.30mins/km paced runners when I wanted to be doing 5.30mins/km. Also, I was running in Vibrams along a bridle path so needed to try and keep a little distance between me and the runners in front to ensure I could see enough ground in front of me to avoid landing on any stones of bits of tree branch.

Once out onto the road, the race opened up and the sun/breeze combined to create almost perfect conditions – if a little windy on the exposed sections. Marshaling, as always, was frequent and encouraging with an added water/Jelly Baby station just before 5km.

Because I have run the race before, I am aware of the big hill at the end. Subsequently, I began to slow (not sure if it is consciously or unconsciously) around the 8km mark and a handful of people slowly overtook. I think I have some inbuilt mechanism that tells me to ease up and conserve energy for the hill at the end. Once at the hill, many of my “overtakers” end up just ahead of me and walking up the hill. Some were run/walking. I am always intent on not stopping to walk, although my legs and lungs protest. The encouragement from the crowd and the knowledge that the end is imminent make it bearable but it is still one of the toughest and most satisfying finishes.

My only criticism from a few years back was that the race used to be “approximately 10k”. I am not sure if the organisers have taken heed and tweaked the route to find and extra 500m (the race used to be about 9.5km) or whether my Garmin had mis-measured, but Sunday’s distance showed as 10.11km

Incredibly, this was my first race this year and therefore not as quick as previous years (approx 3 mins slower than last year. Also, I think the combination of mixed training I have been doing (forsaking some runs for longer cycle rides) and getting stuck for the first 1-2kms contributed to the slower time. It’s still a great race though and I’ll be back again next year.


Spring forward…

Easter: 4 days off for the ceremonial eating of chocolate. But not for me. The return of snow the previous weekend had me forlornly looking out of the window and wallowing in guilt. I had retreated into that horrible pre-race dilemma – I have a race preceded by a big cycle trip in 5 weeks time. I should be training. But if I train and it is icy, I may fall over whilst running or fall off the bike and not be able to do the very event that I am training for. Therefore I won’t train. But I  will feel guilty for not training.

So each of my Easter mornings consisted of either a run or a cycle. I alternated – run the first day, cycle the next, run the third day, cycle the fourth. By the end of the 4 days, I at least felt smug that I had done 4 consecutive days of training as I gingerly made my way up and down stairs or struggled to get up out of a chair.

And then Winter seemed to ebb away, leaving some comparatively mild days. I managed a 16km evening run after work without the use of tights, gloves and a head torch. And then Sunday morning, I actually had sunglasses and short sleeves on for the run for the first time since… probably October!

And the sun does have such a psychological effect on me. I bounded out of the house on the Sunday morning and headed off – with only a vague idea of where I wanted to run. In the end, I sought out one of my old Berlin Marathon Training Routes – running along shady bridle paths into the next town and back again clocking up 19km in the process. And it felt good.

Most of my recent runs had been the day after a long cycle ride and the difference was noticeable. My legs no longer felt heavy – I was bounding along – a spring in my step. Mentally, this is a massive reassurance for me. I had been agonising over the heavy-legged feeling for a few weeks… Maybe I was just getting old and this is how it was going to be from now on. Turns out the legs were just knackered from the previous day’s exertions.

So Sunday will see the annual running of my local 10k – The Hertford Charity Run. I love it because it is a small, local race with a friendly feel and a killer hill right at the end. Most of the route I run regularly when out training but the hill is generally avoided – except on race day when I treat (!) myself. So I shall stay away from the bike this week and hope for sun on Sunday morning so I can fully enjoy the race.


marathon training – week 12

After my tough 32kms long run last week, I had been having an email flurry with My Running Life about possible causes. It was suggested that I was perhaps starting too quick. So, on this weeks 24km run (which by comparison to my other recent runs was short so I was actually looking forward to it!) I decided to monitor my pace a little more closely. It turns out that I am going off fast – my schedule says dictates that I should be hitting 6.17mins per km whereas my first few kms were run at between 5.30 – 5.40 so about 40 secs too fast. I tried to reign it in but I find it very difficult to run at a pace that does not feel natural. And I have to keep checking the Garmin which I find off putting. I did however manage to slow it down to around the 6min/km mark. The route had a couple of quite nasty hills but with a km to go, I thought I’d just go for it and run as fast as I could. I was nudging 5min/km for the whole of my final kilometre and finished 2 mins and 7 seconds faster than the last time I ran the same distance. And I didn’t feel like I was about to die! This has boosted my confidence as I was feeling a bit deflated after struggling on the previous weeks long run.
This coming Sunday, I have another 32kms run however this should be a little different.
I had a call from a friend of mine who is running the Loch Ness Marathon and is at the same stage in his training as I am for Berlin. He suggested we run our 32km long run together and also suggested that we do it as part of the Dunstable 20 Mile Challenge. So on Sunday morning, I’ll be setting off on an unmarked, unmarshalled 20 mile route. Runners get given a number and a printed sheet of directions and off they go. I am looking forward to it as it’ll be something a bit different, I’ll have someone to train with and I don’t think I can be too precious about times for once as I suspect that we will be stopping to check our directions every once in a while. I also have a sneaking suspicion that it’s proximity to the Dunstable Downs will means that it may be a little hilly but am fortunately too scared to try and find out the elevation in advance. See, ignorance really is bliss…

Soundtrack to this post: Flux Of Pink Indians – Progress


up, up and away – maidstone half marathon race report

Sunday morning. 6am and I am slowly heaving myself out of bed to get to Maidstone for 8.30 where I have planned to meet Hauling My Carcass and our mutual fried Paul. Paul is a Maidstone native and had turned 40 the day before the race and decided that it might be a nice idea for us to run a Half Marathon to celebrate. When it was originally suggested about 6 months ago, it seemed like a fine idea but in the dark and cold of a Sunday morning hours before the race, I was wondering what I had let myself in for, particularly as I had not run a Half Marathon since March and had also had almost 3 months out with an injury.
Still, it was off out into the fog for a jaunt around the M25. It was cold and, arriving at the race HQ, I wondered if I should have perhaps opted for a long sleeve top. I found HMC and we quickly picked up our timing chips and race numbers, met up with Paul and, after a chat, we set off on the 10 minute walk to the start. The start itself is odd, placed in a non-descript road in a residential area, hundred of runners standing around in the road waiting for the off. Soon, a horn sounds and we are underway, firstly in a loop around the streets nearby – it is odd to pass the 13 mile marker after only 10 minutes running but soon we are venturing into the outskirts of Maidstone. We run along the side of anonymous “A” roads and the route seems to be a constant series of slight inclines – not enough at this point to tire you but noticeable. The first 6 miles or so is OK – not much to look at but the smattering of supporters dotted along the route offer encouragement as you pass. There were water stations at approximately 4 mile intervals but I had opted to take a bottle of Orbana with me whilst I ran so just sipped from that every few miles. The hardest part is around 7 miles where the road rises and rises… and rises passing through a few small villages as it continues to rise. This was the first Half Marathon that I had run without listening to music so distratcted myself from the hills by listening to the (very loud) conversation of the group running just behind me. The route then flattens out and undulates along the top of a ridge, giving you views of the surrounding countryside on this now blue-skyed day. Somewhere between 8 and 9 miles I was aware that I had a companion running alongside – she was quicker on the downhills than I was but I was faster uphill so we had an unspoken agreement that she would take the lead on the way down and I would on the way up. Having a running buddy at this point was great – we exchanged a few words every mile or so and generally kept each other motivated. Soon we were nearing the finish – looking at my watch, I could see I was close to a sub 2hr time. I asked my running pal if she thought she could manage a sprint finish, she politely declined and said she’d see me at the finish so I just went for it. The last 500 metres was a flat out sprint – shouts from the crowd urging me on. I finished in 1:59:17 which I was delighted with. I picked up my goody bag, medal and very, VERY bright race top, saw my running buddy, congratulated her on her time and thanked her for her support and went off to find HMC. Turns out he had run an absolute stormer and bagged himself a new personal best (you can read his account of the day here). Paul struggled in a while after, the hills having taken their toll on his knees which began to give up around the 10 mile mark.
The race is a good, testing Half Marathon. Smooth organisation, a friendly bunch of runners, good marshalling and crowd support. On a personal note, I had a great day… it was one of those rare races where the organisation, weather, atmosphere and my training and race preparation had all come together to make it very enjoyable event.

Soundtrack to this post: Funkadelic – Cosmic Slop

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