Building towards Liverpool

As I’m writing this I see that I’ve completed 18 running sessions since the Reading Half Marathon. That’s 18 sessions in a month and three days. Reading was really successful in a sense but still wasn’t enough due to irritating illness. The past few weeks have really seen my pace and strength improve.

I’m not going to attempt to list all of those training sessions but there have been some real highlights. The Parkrun I did last weekend was much better than I’d expected seeing me over the finish in only a little over 25 minutes despite not really having worked on my speed in a little while.

Then today’s run, which was planned to be nothing more exciting than a threshold run but actually turned into being a little bit special. The run had a block of ten minutes run at Heart rate zone 3 so tough, yes, but not something i can’t persevere with.  In the end I stormed through that middle section of the run including my seventh fastest ever 2km section – second fastest if I take away Parkruns and races. And I’m not going to say it felt easy but it did feel like i could carry it on. I came away thinking that a sub-24 minute Parkrun is properly within reach but of course I’m focusing on the hills and half -marathon at the moment and probably for the next couple of months too.
The next challenge is the Durrell Challenge in three weeks time and once again I’m not really looking forward to the hills that it will feature. I wasn’t massively happy with my effort in the event last year but I’m feeling like I’m coming back into something resembling decent form. Then there’s the two Liverpool events at the end of May which are going go be great fun.

We’ve also added an additional run into our schedule for the year – the Guernsey Dairy Milk Run on Fathers’ Day in June. I’ve looked at different events in Guernsey over the past year or so and its great to have one signed up.

But for now its still the routine of training. Tomorrow sees me running ten miles using Waterworks Valley. That could be painful!

Reading Half Marathon 2017… and ’18?

The story of my Reading Half Marathon 2017 on Sunday is one of both great success and achievement but also missed opportunity and a little disappointment.

Let’s deal with the last of those first. Disappointment because I really could have probably achieved so much more had it not been for my poxy irritating illness from a few weeks ago. Training had been going pretty well, apart from going over on an ankle one time, and I’d felt confident. Being ill knocked much of that confidence out of me but I’d certainly felt ready as I could have been.

The trip to Reading had been a good one. The flight to London was fine. Our meal in London was lovely. The train to Reading dragged on a bit but it all ran to time. Meeting up with our daughter was fab and we shared a nice meal at our hotel in the Madejski Stadium – it was a fairly good hotel but quite expensive really.

The morning of the race was as full of anxiousness and anticipation as ever. I enjoyed the atmosphere of the race village although from my very quick visit back there after the race there probably wasn’t very much there other than retail stalls. The racing started with an earlier 5k event and then a bit before our event with a wheelchair event – sort of. I believe there was one self-propelled chair plus another being pushed by someone else. The self-propelled one didn’t finish as she came off on a bend after around 4 miles. Maybe I’d expected too much from the wheelchair event. Last year’s one had one finisher – only a slight fall then. Maybe that’s the wrong phrase actually…

Anyway, my race started well, stopped again about 20 metres short of the actual start line then started again – don’t know why. There wasn’t a narrowing of the road anywhere near there. The initial phase around the Green Park area was good aside from speed bumps every so often to navigate.

Before long we’d reached the first hills. A steady one up Hartland Road then the nasty one up Whitley Wood Road. I’d decided to set out with the 2-hour pacer group despite my poor recent training and see how I got on. I’d more or less kept up through the big hills but used the downhills on the other side to recover and actually pull slightly clear of the pacer again, although I made sure I didn’t go too far ahead.

My cheering section of Lauren and Jean saw me around the 4 or 5 mile mark as we turned off the road back to the town centre to have a couple of loop sections around the university. I enjoyed seeing them but otherwise didn’t enjoy the university section very much. Lots of short straights and corners and all breaking the running rhythm up a bit.

The run down to town was enjoyable and the run around town was excellent with some fantastic crowds and brilliant drumming, music and DJs. Special mention to the DJ around the halfway point on Friar Street who put on the most Excellent “Sandstorm” as I ran past. Nice choice.

I am told that on the corner before the hill coming out of town that a group were offering beers to runners. I seemed to miss all of that. How disappointing really. It might have made the rest of the run more pleasant. You see that was about 8 miles and from around 10 miles I thought my heart rate indicated that I wasn’t reacting well to the speed / distance so I dropped a little off the 2-hour group. Then a little later still I had stomach cramps which made me stop running a couple of times. 

For the final section running into the stadium proper I found the energy to finish off strong. The welcome from the crowd was brilliant, although one of my lasting memories of the stadium was how small it was – I wonder what running into the London Stadium will be like in July.

So after it all I finished in my second fastest half marathon time ever of 2:06:57. Yes it was a good seven minutes slower than what I wanted but at the end of the day I can look back at my training and conclude that I ran so much better than my training really justified. Yes, I’ll be looking forward to Liverpool when I’ll be going for two hours again.

Oh and along with my wife, I’ve signed up – on the day that 2018 entries opened – to do it again next year. The university bit aside it was a fantastic, largely flat course and I highly recommend it to anyone interested. It just so happens we love Reading too which definitely helps.

Running again – counting down to Reading

I’m back and running again. After a nasty cold & sinus issue, I’d taken a sensible few weeks off but I got a clean bill of health from the doctor and so I started running again with the intention of being ready on the start line for the Reading Half this coming Sunday.

My first run on Sunday wasn’t the best ever but it did the job. The rain came to see me as it often tends to do, but it went OK. Not my best run ever – far from it really as shown by a relatively poor VO2 max score – but the point of the run was that I ran safely with no ill effects. In that sense it was perfect.

I got out for another run tonight. This time I ran for 35 minutes and aimed to push my heart rate that little bit higher. In the end I did what I set out to do but my speed was a little low for my heart rate (or vice versa I suppose) but it was better. I ran the final mile or so at around 2-hour half marathon pace so it was good preparation even though it’s not at all certain what speed I’m going to set out on during the race.

I’m planning two more sessions – tomorrow and Thursday – although I’d accept getting to do only one of those if circumstances get in the way. Both quite light sessions preparing me for Sunday’s event. At this stage I can only hope I’ve done enough to overcome my illness and achieve something in Reading. Whatever happens I’m really looking forward to it all.

While I’m here I thought I’d post my running music playlist on these pages – specifically this one. I don’t profess that there’s a load of inspirational Half-marathon tunes on here. Nope, this is just my personal selection at the moment. I’ll try and keep this up to date but can’t promise! My favourite running tune at the moment is the new Chainsmokers / Coldplay one. All this being said, I can’t run with music on in Reading this weekend so it’s all a bit irrelevant for now!

Frustration….

I’m sorry to say that since my last run along part of the Reading Half Marathon route I haven’t ran since. At the end of that last long run, I felt a little unwell but that turned out to be the beginning of a rather nasty cold / infection that’s afflicted both Jean and I and has clung onto us both for the past 2-3 weeks.

So with RHM being only 13 days away as I write it’s probably fair to say that personal bests are likely to be out of the question. A real shame because the armada of pacers turning up for the event was a real plus. No, at the moment being on the start line will be sufficient but I really need to be back running by next weekend to feel like I have any confidence to do that. Time will tell….

Reading long run

I wouldn’t go as far as saying today was a rehearsal but Jean and I came to visit our daughter in Reading and while here I went for a run over what were described as the hills around mile 3 of the RHM route.

Having done the hill in a 7 mile run I’m quite encouraged. Yes, there’s a very pointy bit but it really is very short and no worse than some of the hills we train on regularly at home. If I’m honest I think the longer hills before the run back to the stadium will be harder. Looking forward to four weeks time now!