Guernsey, Newham and a lull in the running

It’s been about seven weeks or so since my last post here but I’ve still managed to squeeze in a couple of races in that time.

Training went ok. After Liverpool I did a couple of gentle runs then a ten miler on the Sunday after the half marathon. Then a few more little runs including an aborted effort at trying to beat #mymile record and the following Sunday another great long 8 mile run.

A couple of days on from that I had another go at my mile record and achieved it getting a 6:49 – a brilliant effort. Which pretty much takes me up to the Guernsey Milk Run.

In the build up to the run, my wife and I had decided that we’d try and run this one together, ideally in order to get her a best for the half marathon, but probably just to enjoy ourselves. While we were in Guernsey, we stayed at this lovely pub with rooms, the Longfrie Inn. The staff there were just brilliant and I really hope we find a reason to go back next year, although if I do the same run next year I probably wouldn’t stay at that hotel.

The first couple of miles in Guernsey were great. We both had lot of fun.

But as the race got on the heat took its toll on Jean so we didn’t do as well as we wanted too but the 2:54 time was perfectly ok in what were actually horrible, hot conditions.

After Guernsey I had only a couple of runs before running the Great Newham London Run two weeks later. Work had got really busy so training ended up taking a lower priority.

I think my wife and I had differing views about Newham. I thought it was an amazing event and I hope to be able to return one day, but again it was very hot and there wasn’t a lot of shade out there on the course.

Again we didn’t really meet any speed objectives but we had a good run. I really enjoyed finishing in the Olympic Stadium and while yes there could have been bigger crowds it still had a great atmosphere.

Then since Newham I’ve done very little running at all. Work has still been stupidly busy so running time hasn’t been available. But the Jersey Marathon is still a fair while away yet.

Before that though we have the pleasure of an all inclusive week in Greece and after the past couple of weeks I can’t wait.

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Sub 2 done. What’s next?

So as we discovered in my last post, I might have just done something which for me was a little bit special during my last run.

This left something of a dilemma though. More about that later.

Firstly, let’s cover the last day of our trip. As would now appear to be traditional / compulsory for a trip we have in Liverpool we had one day of rain, but I suppose I can’t really complain that it was the Monday after our runs.

After a rather excellent breakfast – can’t really go wrong with a Premier Inn all you can eat breakfast – we wandered into the city center and before long we found ourselves in the Cavern Club. I’ve got to say I was surprised it was as quiet as it was but that was to our benefit – nicely priced booze, no queues and great live music on a bank holiday in a great venue. Could have stayed all day really but sadly we had to catch our bus up to the airport.

The trip back involved ropey looking weather around Jersey airport but we landed unlike most people flying back today so that was good.

Now my next race is in just 20 days time on Father’s Day in Guernsey for the Dairy Milk Run Half Marathon and having achieved something I’d been hoping to do for a while (let me know if I haven’t mentioned what that is), I’m left to consider what the next target is. Do I keep chipping away at a PB? Do I look at longer distances (clue: no, they hurt and have boring training)?

I’ll also be going from a mass event with 8,000 runners down to one in Guernsey with a couple of hundred. Possibly. But I guess my 2:06 training run a few weeks back tells me that I don’t need the crowds to run fairly well. Then after that it’s the Great Newham London Run in July then onto the Jersey Marathon.

I’m not sure how I’ll approach Guernsey now because somehow I can’t see another improvement but who knows. Maybe I’ll give it a go. Still plenty of training between now and then too.

Outrunning Superman

The Durrell Challenge 2017

Sunday’s race was one I think I’ll always look back fondly on. It was hot, tiring and very very hilly and of course I absolutely loved it. Eventually.

The build up to the race really couldn’t have gone better as I’ve said previously. Injury free and probably in the form of my running life to date – Jean had been running brilliantly too so we’d really both been looking forward to what was actually Jean’s first race of the year.

The race morning build up went to plan. I had my strategy in mind of keeping my pace under control so as to aim not to blow up like last year. There was clearly a big field, as was shown by the eventual results showing 502 finishers, but it didn’t seem particularly crowded at all. I’d seen a couple of familiar faces before the start and then got chatting to someone who was visiting from California having just come for the race. The race began a little late but we got going and I found it to be slightly heavy going. I’m not sure it was crowded or whether there were just a lot of people who had lined up too far forward for their likely pace. There was certainly someone in the first kilometre or so getting in everyone’s way by walking and causing chaos, but otherwise getting to the foot of Vallee de Vaux was uneventful.

This graph was quite revealing when I’d seen it after the race. I felt like the first long climb of Vallee de Vaux was steady and fairly unremarkable. My heart rate was under control and my pace was fine. The pink trace in the graph is my time before or ahead of last year’s run, which is the black trace. That told me I’d lost a little over 30 secs in the opening of the race but had managed my energy loads better.

About halfway up Vallee de Vaux I’d caught the group around Henry Cavill. Last year he beat me by a couple of minutes but in 2017 I overtook him quite early. To be fair I think he was having fun with his family rather than actually racing. Fair enough really.

My strength this time was primarily on the big hills. There were 4 steeper hills and I probably gained most of my time on these – they are the sharp upticks on the graph where I walked last year.

But the hills wasn’t the whole story. I ran the final 5k in 27 minutes which was four minutes faster than the 2016 running. I’d kept plenty of energy back – my 13th kilometre was run in under 5 minutes which I’d find fairly quick for Parkrun, let alone the 13th kilometre of a hilly race.

In the end I finished in 1:13:17 – about five and a half minutes up on last year. Either the second or third most improved on last year’s times out of all those who’ve done both runs. A brilliant effort really and I loved it.

There was a really good atmosphere up at the Zoo at the finish and I enjoyed chatting with a few people I knew who were running or were waiting for someone else. I was tired and had worked hard but was very happy. I really hope they keep running this in 2018.

The next challenge now is Liverpool in a little under a couple of weeks and once again I can’t wait!

Running into form

There was a time – shortly after December 2015 to be reasonably precise – when I could, and occasionally did, bore anyone within earshot about how good my running form was.

I would babble on about how I’d got myself into such good running form that I broke just about every personal best I track in a period of a couple of weeks. What was (slightly) interesting in the preparation of this very blog post was that this was a complete fabrication – lots of PBs were broken but not all. And it took a couple of months too. But evidently my brain has re-worked this period as a golden age of my running.

For what it’s worth, I should have been talking about what was actually a two-and-a-half month period from the final leg of the Jersey Marathon relay where I set my 5 mile best as part of a sightly longer run to Jersey Parkrun #13 during which I broke every best from 2km up to 5k, and took in the Poppy Half and my first Regent’s Park 10km on the way.

Anyway, the point of all this is that i seem to have run myself into some pretty excellent form again just in time for some big races. It’s about time too really. I’ve had a few too many races spoiled recently by injury or illness so I’m determined to make the most of a good run of success. Up until very recently all of my personal bests were set in 2015 with the exception of all those longer than a half marathon, mainly because I’d not run beyond a half until 2016.

That’s all changed in the past couple of weeks.

I’d previously mentioned breaking my 5k / Parkrun best with my first time under 24 minutes but I’ve followed it up with much more. On Tuesday I set out to have a crack at my one mile and 1km bests. I broke both of those plus every other shorter distance best as well. 6:55 for a mile was just brilliant.

At Parkrun on Saturday I had resolved to run steadily, like a threshold run I guess, keeping my heart rate under good control. I did that well but evidently my basic steady speed has increased to such an extent that I could still run a 24:22 without really thrashing myself. I was really happy with that effort.

For today’s long run, I had originally planned to run 8 miles but decided this morning that I’d make it 12 miles. I used an unusual route combining the seafront promenade with a more inland path, just to make up the extra distance without finding too many hills.

Then on the way back home I still felt strong albeit starting to slow up a little, and I’d decided I could add a loop around the harbour to find an extra mile or so to take me up to an unplanned half marathon. I continued to slow up but kept a pretty reasonable pace and ended up finishing the GPS measured half only eleven seconds slower than March’s Reading Half Marathon. I think with proper race day preparation and tapering I’ve definitely got a really special run in me.

So it’s the Durrell next weekend. I’m feeling a little anxious about all of the hills but I’ve run it before so at least know what to expect. Then two more weeks to Liverpool. Certainly exciting times!