3000 miles and counting

 

Between October 2005 and April 2009 I ran 3119 miles. This is an average of about 17 miles each week, with a maximum of 54.6 and a minimum of zero. I know this because I am not just a geek but a thorough geek. Every time I ran I would record the distance and time it took. This would only take a few seconds after each run and it soon became habitual. Sometimes it would even give that little extra incentive to go out, to get above a certain mileage for the week.

I’ve resurrected this data as I’ve been thinking about all the racing I used to do. Yesterday I ran the Inverness half marathon for the third time. The weather was pretty grim but I don’t think that’s the reason for my 1 hour 37 minute performance. I can’t be too unhappy at that number; I didn’t feel like I could have run too much faster, maybe a minute, two at the most. However I do think back to that first half marathon, just over five minutes faster, and wonder how I did it on so little training. This possibly hints at how big the mental aspect of running long distances is; the excitement of that being my first half marathon giving me that bit more enthusiasm to dig deeper.

Looking at the mileage I ran over the course of four years it’s interesting to see how writing my thesis and starting a job affected my running habits. Not only does the data end in April 2009, but the mileage does too. I wouldn’t run for months at a time. I did get enough miles in my legs to run the Glasgow half marathon in 2009, but only just. The mileage died again after that. I then entered the UK half Ironman, giving me a surge of effort for three or four months until the event itself in June 2010. Since then again, the mileage dropped to near nothing. Revving up this latest race I’ve joined a local club and been trying to attend the twice weekly training sessions. It’s been going well, which is why I thought I’d post a better time yesterday than I did. I just need to keep at it. Better than quality training sessions, better than really long runs, is just plain old regular runs and I’ve not being doing enough of them.

Back in the saddle

Today I took part in my first running race in quite some time. The last time I donned a racing vest was in September 2009 for the Glasgow half marathon (and what a disappointment that was).

The race was a strange one; a twelve mile relay race with six members running two legs each. That’s the Hartley Cup. The venue is different each year as the hosting club changes.

Despite the quantity of races I’ve done before, I’ve never raced a mile. I found it pretty hard going! I started out too fast, stalled in the middle but finished well. I came in at 6:22 and 6:28 (it’s a mile plus 50m), which I’ll have to admit I’m disappointed with. But really I didn’t feel like I could put any more oomph in so it’s a fair result.

A great atmosphere in the stadium and tasty goodies at the end means I’ll most probably be back next year. And I’m sure I’ll go a damn sight faster!

UK ironman 70.3, Wimbleball

I woke up before my Alarm sounded, about 4:50am. Despite the very warm day ahead, it was quite cold in the early morning. I managed to get myself a cup of tea and a granola bar for my breakfast. Doesn’t seem like much but I knew my stomach would be unhappy during the swim if I had more.

As all the transition kit had been checked in yesterday all that was left for me to check was my tyre pressure and chain. Leaving my bike, sure that I could do no more than worry about it, I headed back to the tent to suit up. Once the wetsuit was zipped up I dropped off my after-race clothes in the transition tent and headed down to the start line.

Getting into the water was a relief – it was considerably warmer than standing by the lakeside! The scenery was stunning, a rolling landscape stretching out to the rising sun. The atmosphere was brilliant. Here we were, fifteen hundred participants, bobbing up and down in the water, quietly, with our own thoughts about what lay ahead. The crowd started to sing God Save The Queen, which at first seemed quite odd, but as more and more people joined in it sounded great and the excitement in the atmosphere rose. The singing ended and a horn signaled the start of the race.

 

I had unintentionally ended up near the front line. My first time in a triathlon, my first time in a mass start open-water race, and I was right in the thick of it. The first few tens of seconds were okay; then the columns and rows of swimmers closed in. Arms were scrabbling at my back whilst legs and feet were kicking my arms and sides. Luckily I only got slapped in the face once! After the first buoy things calmed down a little, the water all around me was dense with swimmers but we seemed to all have our own little plot.

I could feel the extra speed resulting from such a large body of people swimming in unison. On the whole, my first experience of a triathlon swim was exhilarating, the time passed very quickly and before you could say ‘Tee One’ I was out of the water. I surprised myself, 1.2 miles in 39 mins 34 seconds!

1.9km swim complete!The first transition (T1) involved running 400m to a tent to collect my blue (for bike) bag. An event volunteer helped collect the bits and pieces out my bag whilst I got my wetsuit off. Equipped with my glasses, gloves, pump, helmet and shoes I grabbed my bike and was quickly climbing the first three miles out onto the main bike loop.

I could describe the bike course in two words: very hilly. I can also describe it in three words: very very hilly. It apparently contains no less than fifty-two hills. Yikes. At first my fears were not confirmed, as after initially climbing for a few miles, the course seems to undulate mildly. almost half way round the loop there is a steep descent with a ‘no overtaking zone’. Coming down this hill drives home the altitude you’re going to have to climb to get back up and do it again.

The first of the steep hills was at approximately 20 miles, and it hurt. Crawling up in my lowest gear, turning a very low cadence, I wondered how I would manage a second time up! Not long after this a second and then third climb hit. At the top of Haddington Hill (I think that’s the name) there was tremendous support from spectators. I felt like I was on a mini Tour de France climb. Once this hill was behind, there were a few more undulating sections, but nothing too steep. Then the first lap was over. Onto number two.

On the second lap I did make it up all the hills without stopping, without walking, so I can confirm that you don’t need a triple to complete this race… but it would make it a lot more comfortable! The second trip up the steepest hills (about 14%) left my legs quite sore which didn’t bode well for the run. The last three miles descended towards Wimbleball lake and over a bridge spanning the reservoir. I crossed the dismount line and headed into the second transition (T2). The cycle took 4 hours and 18 minutes, much longer than I had expected and had left my legs worse than I had hoped.

I spent about seven minutes in T2, applying sun-cream and visiting the bathroom (probably too much information there!) then headed out onto the run course.

The course was composed of three laps. The lap covered varied terrain from single track dirt-tracks, tarmac and grass. Keeping with the theme set by the cycle, it was hilly. there was one decent hill near the start of the lap which then led down to the reservoir dam. The first few miles were terrible. My stomach was complaining loudly, I had to stop and let the feeling pass. Once I hit the second lap I was feeling fresher, getting up to my normal training pace. I was passing people every few seconds, this gave me quite a boost (even if some were a lap ahead of me!). During the third lap I lost the enthusiasm and adrenalin from the second and had to stop briefly on the dam due to a stitch. Telling myself that there was only a few miles left, I got going again with the stitch still burning in my side.

As the temperature continued to increase I made my way towards the finishing line, which I crossed after 1 hour and 54 minutes of running. This is the slowest time I’ve ever run a half marathon by far (my PB is 1hr26mins), but I didn’t care, I was finished, and it was ******* hard.

I raised my arms to the sky celebrating as I crossed the line in 7 hours 7 minutes and 3 seconds. I then ate a pork pie. [How’s that for an anti-climax!]

So… in short: this took much longer than I anticipated but I’m happy with my time as I now know how difficult the Wimbleball ironman 70.3 really is and believe the race organisers when they say if you can do Wimbleball, you can easily do any ironman 70.3.

Swim 0:39:34 (646th)
T1 0:08:27 (887th)
Bike 4:17:53 (1038th!)
T2 0:07:24 (1067th)
Run 1:53:46 (328th)
Overall 7:07:03 (831st) – 114th in the Male 25-29 category.

The night before

I’m lying in my tent. I smell quite smokey as Mark felt that camping required a fire – 20 matches later he finally got one. I should be sleeping as I have to get up in six hours to jump in a lake.

That’s right, I’m at Wimbleball lake and tomorrow is my first ironman 70.3. It’s the toughest of it’s kind in the world (unkown to me when signing up of course). The swim starts in deep water, the cycle has fifty-two hills climbing a total of 1750m and the run is three laps of an undulating course. My time expectations have evaporated, replaced by uncertainty.

I found organising my transition bags rather stressful – always sure I was forgetting something. Running events are much easier on the mind, just turn up in trainers, shorts and top. This afternoon I was worrying about tyre pressure, chain lubrication, energy bars, glasses, gloves, sun cream, bike stickers, elastic shoe laces, cycle clothing, race belt… phew. And most of all checking that everything is in the right coloured bag and on the correct rack… paranoia was setting in, I must’ve checked each bag a dozen times before leaving them.

It’s all done now, so nothing to do other than get some sleep. Goodnight.

Almost aluminium-man

In eight days I’ll be floating in a lake at 6:30am in the south of England, waiting. The following six to seven hours will see me swimming in a mass of swinging arms and legs, cycling up and down and up and down a number of hills and finally running my way to finish line. Then I’ll be half an ironman. I’m wondering if the experience will make me want to embark on training for a full one? I’m hoping not, but then again, do I want to remain just a half ironman? If you go by atomic mass in the periodic table- an aluminium-man.

I’ve only been training for twelve weeks so I can see myself doing more half ironman races, with more training. I’ll probably pick a much flatter races than the UK one!

Somewhat surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed swimming in open water. Something about feeling swift and efficient in the water, it’s quite a different enjoyment from running and cycling. Have been looking into Total Immersion method of swimming – seems to be working for me!

Norfolk & Chance

Through various parties pulling out, the team that eventually took part was “Norfolk & Chance”, consisting of Anne, David and myself.

Another great weekend this year (with weather to match). Norfolk & Chance made their way around the entire course in 11 hours. We covered most of Edinburgh and some of the Pentlands with kayaking, running, abseiling, swimming and cycling, with the last making up the majority of the day. Looking forward to next year already!

Rome

Rome wasn’t built in a day; but you can run around it in one. Four weeks from now I will be in a moderate amount of pain and discomfort – if all goes according to plan…

My flights are booked, the hotel is expecting me and I’ve ran most of the miles I need to run. I’m just about ready. All that remains is one good long run of about three hours (in which I get to see a lot of Glasgow) and a dozen smaller runs. Then comes the good bit… the taper. Ten days of easy(ish) running, taking it quite easy, eating well and generally making sure I don’t doing anything strenuous. Then comes the hard bit… twenty six point two miles in (hopefully) just over three hours.

I’ll pop by to let you know how I get on…

Lossiemouth half-marathon


Lossiemouth half-marathon, originally uploaded by jellykev.

Done in 1 hour 26 minutes and 40 seconds! That’s 5 minutes and 47 seconds off my previous time. Dan put in the exact same time. I trailed him for the first ten miles but fought my way back to bring us shoulder to shoulder. I wonder if the Rome marathon in four weeks can separate us?

It was a perfect day for racing. No wind, no clouds and a lot of sunshine. Let’s hope we’re as lucky in Rome…

Rat Race

Okay, more racing related material – surprised? On Saturday 15th June Mark, Shona and myself embarked on the prologue of the Rat Race – a three hour run around the streets of Edinburgh dotted with ‘challenges’ – wheelchair rugby, racing bikes with no brakes, carrying sand-bags up chutes etc. We sprinted to the finish line at 10pm having covered around 18 miles. Upon finishing we were awarded with pasta, carrot cake and a map. The map was for the real event. We managed to stay awake until just after mdnight, marking out half of the course for Sunday. After a bowl of Shreddies I crawled into bed for a few hours sleep.

5:30am. Up, shower, race clothes, race number, back-pack, harness, climbing helmet, compas, whistle, head-torch, Shreddies (again) and then into the taxi. By 7am we were standing outisde Edinburgh castle about to begin. Before we could mount our bikes we had to complete a short ‘warm-up’ run down to Princes Street Gardens, back up to the castle, back down then onto the bikes. We did pretty well in the run, getting to the bikes fairly early. Running the bikes out of the gardens, the excitement was building. Out and off with quite some speed we made our way through the streets. The first surprise was a long stair section. Mark made it down with bumpy ease. I made it half way down before chickening out. Realising that we would be out for at least ten hours, we began to slow.

The next task was an abseil into a quarry – in which some ‘locals’ were having an impromptu rave. Once some ratracers were down on the ground it made for an interesting mix of people. One member from each team was to comlpete the abseil. Shona made it look easy as Mark and I scrambled down the side of the quarry.

[From here on in the description is going to get a bit sketchy – it really is too much for me to type it all – but here’s roughly how the rest of it went…]

Back on the bikes and a short cycle later we were hitting golf balls at Braid Hills Golf Club. In order to progress we were required to hit a ball about 100 yards. Mark was over in two, I got lucky and hit that wonderful sweet spot on my first swing and Shona… well… let’s just say that golf is a frustrating game.

The next stage was a long cycle up over and down the Pentland hills. We all found going up hard, we had to walk the majority of it. Coming down was fantastic! I gave my bike a good hammering (and it gave me a few scares in return). After a lot more cycling we arrived at Roslin Chapel for a 10K trail run involving a bit of orienteering. I have to apologise to Mark and Shona for marking one of the bloody checkpoints in wrong grid on the map… sorry guys. Towards the end of the run we donned our climbing gear to traverse the underside of a bridge spanning a gorge.

More running. More cyling. Lots of water. Then Musselburgh for kayaking. I found this very difficult. It may have been that it was now 5:30pm or it may have just been really hard. We had to begin by carrying the kayaks ~100m to the water! They’re certainly not as light as they look. Shona and I jumped in one (with myself getting very wet feet in the process) and Mark took the single. 3K later we were back on land with very sore arms. Carrying the kayaks back took quite some effort. Being too late for some of the checkpoints, we headed to the race finish. I was empty. The final few miles dragged on and on. Hungry and dehydrated I fixed my gaze on Mark and kept pedaling. We walked at slow pace into Princes Street Gardens (compare with how we left) to be confronted with the ‘lard wall’. This was a sloped wall of linoleum pasted in butter and mashed bananas. Beyond this was the finishing line.

I thought, “it can’t be that slippy”. I took a few steps back, launched myself. Flump. Hmmm. Maybe some team effort required here. With me standing on Mark’s shoulders, Shona climbed up. She then pulled me up, Mark following close behind. Running down to the finish was a huge moment of relief. After twelve hours of rat racing it was over. Phew.