Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Trailblaze - it's got me fizzing with excitement...

...been a bit flat since end of debut Marathon, next Marathon (October) seems a fair way off and while the planned races in-between will be fun and challenging they lack that certain je ne sais quoi.

Killing time over lunch today I checked DailyMile to be confronted my a message from my friend Simon L mentioning TrailBlaze. His post sounded good, but the reality is this is cool!

Trail Blaze
I'd said to myself once the Marathon was out of the way I'd hit the South Downs for some trail running, and have also been wondering how easy it might or might not be to run from Brighton to Eastbourne. Now I've got a great way to do this, but also a route near my parents in the Peak District and what could be a very nice run in London.

In their own words,
Trailblaze is a brand-new concept designed to test your limits and fire your spirit. This hand-picked portfolio of tough endurance challenges consists of a selection of stunning trails which pass through some of the world’s most demanding and inspiring landscapes.

The trails differ greatly, but the challenge is always the same; travel as far as you can under your own steam in one complete attempt.

As well as earning rewards for reaching important milestones, known as 'hotspots', there are some amazing prizes up for grabs. The further you make it, the better the prizes get, and the greater your chances of winning. 
The question is:- How far can you go?

Sounds good to me! Yes, I could run these routes anyway for free, but I know me and the reality is I probably won't, but give me the challenge of paying to complete different milestone races, "earn" coloured bracelets as proof of my trail blazing and I'm well in! 

8 trails go "live" this Easter weekend and there are many more planned to go live through the course of this year and beyond, utilising the myriad miles of National Trails across the UK, and the plan is apparently to go International with it in the future. 

I'm a sucker for a bit of structure and pre-planning, and the idea of pushing myself further and further along these routes in quasi-race conditions has got me feeling excited again, and that's enough for me. 

See you on the trail...

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Why did you join DailyMile...

...the Daily Mission asked.

I have no idea.

I think I found it lurking somewhere in the dark recesses of the internet, not sure how, not sure why, and not sure where it was when I stumbled on it. I guess I thought signing up might be a laugh.

Little did I realise what I'd let myself in for...

...its not a simple site to log miles/workouts and swap a bit of banter, I've realised its so much more. Admittedly at times it can be a bit all-consuming, being the first page you go to when you go online can be a bit extreme, but it takes hold of you. Not in a "sad" "I've got no life" way, but because it's really interesting and makes you realise there's more.

I want to know what my friends on DM have been doing. Whether its a 3km run, a Half, the full 26.2 shebang or some of the nutters doing 100-miles and more, I want to know what they've done. I want to read their comments and better still their reports, because it's fascinating to follow their stories and their own individual journeys to personal greatness. I log-on looking forward to seeing what people have been up to, and when it's a race weekend I truly am excited to hear how they've got on.

I may never meet the vast majority of them, but I think of many as friends.  We share a few gags online, know a bit of back history, have shared part of the running journey and understand the running joys and disappoints we've gone through.  Writing that could (perhaps does) sound a bit sad, weird and removed from reality, but for those on DailyMile we know its not the case - please tell me you do!

Yes, it's a community, but it's so much more than that. Or at least it is to me.

What do I get from DailyMile...I'm inspired, motivated, supported, pushed, challenged, respected, endured, cajoled, understood, educated, put in my place, and much more besides.  Unfortunately somewhere along the way you've also helped me sell my soul and realise it's never fast or far enough, but I won't hold that against you, it's such a tiny thing.

Don't get me wrong I get all those things happen at home (I'm not that pathetic a specimen); my family and friends are great and I've been lucky to be given the time and space at home over the last year to take on my first marathon, but only on DailyMile do people really understand the excitement of shaving 30secs of a PB, or the relative disappointment of "only" running a 4hr33 Marathon at the first time of asking. The point is on DailyMile its really interesting to people, whereas in the real world I'm conscious of how boring it can seem to be talking about the trauma of tapering or whether my toenail is going to fall off or if I should buy compression sleeves.

When I joined DailyMile I wanted to survive my first Marathon, stupidity and over-ambitiousness nearly put paid to that, but the greatest thing about being a member of DM and sharing my experiences with everyone else is the way in which it has made me push my goals, to stretch myself to achieve bigger and better things with my running. I thought running my first Marathon was the culmination of the journey, now I realise its just the start. Hell, its even got me thinking about changing my life - stay posted for whether that happens!

So thank you to all my buddies on DailyMile because without you I probably wouldn't have had the courage to run the first 14miles of my debut marathon like a lunatic and nearly get away with it. But don't worry, you'll all inspire me to glory next time, even if its just running round the corner to get a loaf of bread and some milk.

Now get out there, pound the miles and give me something to read about in return.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Leaner, Faster, Better...

...that's now the name of the game.

Sunday night was all about relief, relief that my first marathon was at an end, Monday was fuelled with disappointment, today is just a sense of dissatisfaction and feeling that it is now just another run (although admittedly a bloody long one).

Part of my issue is in not really knowing what constitutes a good time beyond the male bravado of sub-4hrs. One of the speakers at the Expo said it was one of the strange things about people's fascination with the marathon, that in much the same way as you might watch a gymnast on the beam and wonder was that actually good when she dismounts, the same element of confusion reigns with marathon running and finish times. At the time I thought "nah, bollocks", but 48-hrs later I'm not sure.

I'm not over-the-moon with finishing in 4:33:13, but maybe (probably) I should be.  Is that a good time?  I don't actually know. On the face of it, it was my first Marathon, I've only been seriously running for a year, dropped about 10lbs and gone from struggling through 6miles to managing 26.2 so I should be damn pleased, and let's face this there's something wonderfully English about going off too fast in pursuit of glory only to implode gloriously.


...I wanted to go faster. I knew I could go faster, or at least hoped I could go faster and never expected problems to start as soon as they did. And no matter how much I tell myself not to, I'm pissed off that I walked - 1.6miles according the Great God Garmin. I should have zipped the man-suit tighter and  wrested that bit more with the Central Governor. In my defence, it was very warm which had a huge impact on my race, but unfortunately I'm not going to be able to control the weather any time soon so if I don't want the same to happen I need to become...


I learnt a lot of lessons yesterday. The race brought home to me just how much it is about running against yourself and just simply running your own race, only now do I really understand the significance of this.

I thought Sunday was the end of the journey, but now I realise it's actually just the start. I need to do it again, I need to do it faster, better and with more "enjoyment". And I will.

Training to date has got me to the start line, but now the hard work is really gonna start. Mileage alone is not enough to take care of the rest.  I ache everywhere, but we have the technology to rebuild this man and at a far cheaper cost than 6million dollars!

I need to...

  • eat and drink better
  • lose more weight
  • warm weather training (although in England, chances of running in heat this summer are at best 50:50)
  • stretching - start really doing this and as an addition to running not a before or after
  • weights and core-work 
  • proper interval training 
  • hill work for endurance (daft not to take advantage of South Downs on the doorstep)
  • "proper" training schedule - more than just running miles, and when it demands speed or interval work, an LSD or a tempo to do exactly what is says on the tin not just the equivalent miles (especially with speed). 
  • focus on improving general fitness (which was lacking at start of this adventure), and 
  • as Scott from In the Long Run told me start pushing for faster 5ks and 10ks if I want to run fast marathons. 
But what do I know. It's easy to write down the list, but what I really need to start doing is quite simply "doing". I've got unfinished business with the marathon, I will be leaner, faster, better when I line up for my next run. So if you've got any ideas and practical advice on how I can get there and deliver against this list then PLEASE PLEASE pass on your words of wisdom and experience. 

And you know what I just realised in the bath soaking my aching limbs, its as much about the process as the outcome. It's gone now, no point looking back, it's all about the next one now...Leaner, Better, Faster

"Ask yourself: 'Can I give more?'. The answer is usually: 'Yes'." Paul Tergat

Sunday, 10 April 2011

First Marathon - 4:33:13

Now I know why Pheidippides died! 

Running my first marathon in near 20degree heat, with hardly a breeze, having trained solidly in single figure and minus temperatures, as Brighton decided to bypass Spring and go straight to Summer, always had the potential for a whole heap of pain.

If you can't be arsed to read in a full, what basically happened was that it was f%&king hot from start to finish, opening 13.1 miles was on course for sub-4hr pace (which I now realise was astonishingly ambitious in a debut) then pace started to drop away dramatically no matter how hard I fought it through miles 13 and 14, mile-15 my legs well and truly went, and by 16 I was a broken man. 

Had to slap down the little demon in my head at 16 that wanted me to stop, and instead embarked on 10-miles of complete and utter pain - THE WALL came very very early! Legs had nothing in them, emotionally and mentally I was spent, but there was nothing left to do other than to continue. Hated the back half, wasn't the pace I dreamed about, or even in more lucid moments wanted, but I completed my first Marathon

I just never realised that degree of pain existed, took me 10-minutes after finishing 'til I could speak and although I tried I was too drained to even cry. But, while Mary might have made me her bitch today, I've got unfinished business with her becuase now I know...
So that's it in a nutshell, but for those of you who will enjoy the full gruesome details of my descent into hell here ya go...

Miles 1-6
Start in one of Brighton's many parks then opening 5-miles winding through town and crowds, all very straightforward, felt great, kept hydrated, very much in control, fair bit of shade, all according to plan...nothing much to really report other than going past a few people in bizarre costumes - including the guy dressed as Noddy "wearing" a Noddy car that must have been at least 1-metre in length (glad I wasn't him). Never saw him again, so at least I know I beat him!

Miles 7-13:
The race went out of town along the coast road with a number of undulating hills, past the exclusive Roedean School then up into Ovingdean around the school and up the hill to Rottingdean.  All of a sudden there was no shade or cover from what was already becoming an ominous sun with temperature pushing 20-degrees, pace was ok, but already starting to feel it.  One guy took a tumble in front of me around mile 9 which meant having to literally leap over him (not a pretty site).

Mile-10 was as far East as you get, then it was the turn running back along coast road to the 13.1 mark just before the Pier in the centre of town. Pace was still fine, went through the half stage at 1:58:56 which was still just inside 4hr pace, saw family around 13.5 which gave a great lift, then turned back up the final "hill" (well long steep gradient) to mile 14 it what was already becoming quite frankly unbearable heat for a pasty ginger-haired large framed chap....

Miles 14-20: 
"The Descent into Hell" I'm not kidding, this is where it all started to go wrong.  What had been an uneventful race thus far, suddenly became hell on earth.  Got to the top of the hill at mile -14 and legs felt awful, pushed on to mile 15 and by that time they'd completely gone.  It wasn't that they felt heavy, just that they'd lost all power and desire to respond to my feeble demands.  Stumbled into toilet, weaving, couldn't get shorts down and couldn't pee properly - suddenly thought "oops!". 

Recently listened to MarathonTalk discussing pacing and the importance of committing yourself to a pace, but understand just how badly it could go wrong.  I was happy to make that commitment, and boy did it go wrong.  But if you are going to miss your goal, you might as well do it gloriously and implode! 

By mile-16 I was a broken man, physically I'd run out of juice a good 5-miles earlier than I expected any such problems "might" occur. I wanted to stop, I wanted to cry, but had no choice. 10-miles still to go and I felt quite frankly absolutely awful. The next few miles on a truly crap part of the course where you double-back upon yourself was truly a descent into hell. 

The body had gone, then the mind started to follow suit. It so desperately wanted me to stop, I tried to fight the Central Governor and had to make do with a truce and compromise that involved a bit of walking...yes, I know walking is not allowed, but I was truly a spent force and if it makes you feel any better it was more of a fast march than a walk, but I just couldn't do anything more.  Thank god there was a street shower at some point (was too gone to know exactly where) and one lovely old bloke stood outside his house with a garden hose on full blast spraying heavenly cold water across the runners. 

It didn't matter how much liquid I took on, I just couldn't get going again...was lifted by seeing Nick (parent from my son's football team) who's words of encouragement gave me a lift, but this was just becoming horrible.  Miles 15-18 were an absolute nightmare, at 17 I took my last look at the Garmin and knew then this was no longer about dreams of sub-4hr marathons or time goals, but a war of mind of matter, a battle to finish what I'd started - I just wished this had started 5 or 6 miles down the line with only a few to go. 

Miles 20-26.2:
Mile-20 takes you to the grimest part of the course, by this point I was having to run/march I just couldn't function any other way, vainly trying to drink enough fluid and also douse myself with enough to cool down, this part of the route takes you away from civilization and out to the power station (as dull as it sounds).  

One "highlight" is running through THE WALL just beyond mile-20, but by this point I couldn't have cared less.. was of no real help at all, but at least I wasn't in quite such bad shape by this stage as the 2 or 3 people I saw by the roadside being given oxygen by the medical service team!  

This was 3-miles of sheer tedium, not helped by a desire to vomit as my stomach dial went past zero and the last available gel was consumed.  Sad thing was I was so buggered, I couldn't even muster the energy to puke.

Finally got back onto the Esplanade at mile-23 where crowds were thick and the support fabulous, was hoping to get a real lift for a big finish, but just couldn't get anything more from the legs, managed to drag my sorry arse down beyond mile-25 where my mum and sister and persuaded everyone around them to cheer and shout my name as I went past (which was wonderful), then lurched towards the finish.  

The Aftermath
Staggered through the post-finish area in a blur collecting medal, banana, drink, presenting wrong foot twice to have chip removed, and finally found my way out of the back to civilization. Suddenly realised I'd made no plan with the family as to where to meet, so meandered off in the "right" direction soon to find them but incapable of the powers of speech or the ability to work properly.

Stopped to stretch, wanted to cry, but to tired. 

Met my mate Ollie who I'd fallen behind at around mile-12 and reunited with family life started to veer back to some semblance of normality. My son had his medal from his kids race, seeing them was wonderful and life suddenly didn't wasn't quite so bad...
So in summary, I truly hated the second half of the marathon today.  I was a completely spent force, there was nothing left and I was a goner with 10-miles to go.  4:33:13 is not what I was hoping for, but hey it was my d├ębut, I'd never gone beyond 20-miles and you know what it ain't that bad.

Oh, and at the time of writing   we've raised nearly £1,400 for disaster relief in Japan which makes me feel proud.

So basically it was absolute hell!

But, you know what? I can't wait to do it again. I "loved" it, kind of - in a perverse disturbing sort of way. Now I've got a time to beat and I know I can go quicker, and this time Mary I'm coming for you!


In case you are wondering what the Brighton course is like, have a butchers at what 15,000 of us signed up for: 

Calm before the storm...

...nearly there now.

less than 3-hrs to the gun, and feeling oddly detached from proceedings. No over-excitement or gut-churning nerves, just a quiet calm solitude while the family still sleeps.

The days, weeks and months are nearly at an end, suddenly it feels strange, bizarre, daft almost, that I'll soon be lining up to start my first marathon.

There's a goal in mind, but beyond 20-miles today is very much uncharted waters.  The FATES my aid or conspire against me, but whatever happens its cherry-popping time, my first and one that I will enjoy and will remember.

"Ain't nothin to it, but to do it". Maya Angelou

Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Waiting Game

"All good things come to those who wait"

"Patience is a virtue"

Bollocks! You've obviously not tapered then have you.

It's crap isn't it. I know I should use more eloquent English, but its a lot more simple and straightforward than that; it's crap.

I'd like to say I feel like a "tightly coiled spring", but I'm just not that poised or able to conjure the correct impressive imagery.  Think of me more as a big ginger inpatient bugger, fizzing over with excitement, who's ever so slowly getting a bit grumpy.

THEY tell you tapering is important, and granted I'm not going to dispute that, but THEY don't tell you how it gnaws away at you, how it traps you into a routine of nothingness, how it starts to drive you mad, how it...(you get the idea).

Or is it just me? Maybe you are all good, patient and virtuous, but I doubt it.

The excitement is building to fever-pitch, but there's nothing I can do with it. No doubt this is how I felt as child at Christmas waiting for Santa - god it must have driven my parents up the wall.

What THEY also don't tell you is the paranoia!  Now you can take the moral high ground if you want on patience, but no way will I believe you're not ensnared in the clutches of paranoia.

What if I twist my ankle? What if I pull a muscle? What if I don't have enough carbs? What if I have too many carbs? What if I have no time for recovery? What if the Gingerbread Man pays a visit? What if my eye-balls explode?

What if, what if, what if? The thoughts keep going round my head. I'm desperate to run, but to scared to even run to the loo for fear of disrupting Sunday. Nearly a year of waiting, plotting, planning and training, so close now, but all of a sudden it seems so far away. While the last few weeks of training seemed to fly by, this final week is crawling along on purpose - taper limbo.

And it makes you a bad parent! For a moment (not even necessarily a fleeting one) it makes you contemplate putting your slightly ill 4yr old in the tree-house with Calpol, juice, a bit of food and some crayons so she can't pass on her germs.  And just for a moment (again, not necessarily a short one) it doesn't seem to be that bad a thing to'd be like a little game.  Don't worry I'm just joking, I would never do anything so heartless and cruel to my little princess, I've put her in a quarantine suit instead.

No doubt as the pain builds at mile 22 or 23 I'll be glad of that tiny little bit of energy left in my limbs from tapering sensibly, but right now its a curse. Or perhaps I'm just not virtuous.

But, I should probably treasure these moments, I'm so nearly there. To misquote Dr Seuss:

"Sunday is you day! Your mountain is waiting. So...get on your way."

Cooler than being World's Fastest Marathon Superhero...

...I know what you're thinking, "this better be good!" Well it is!

Breaking the marathon world record for the fastest Superhero is, let's face it, a very cool achievement, but there's something about this run, which I think is even cooler. Although this may say something about me (and of course, Ian Sharman who actually did it).
At the recent Napa Marathon, Ian ran 2:40:06 to break the record by 3minutes for the fastest superhero in a marathon. It was however only a fleeting record as Mike Wardian ran 2:34:56 a week later on 13th March, but that is not why I think this is so cool. 

Ian was apparently on course to finish under 2hrs40, but slowed down in the final few miles to make sure he finished at 2:40:?? Why, I hear you ask?  

This is the good bit, and to quote Mr Sharman himself: 

"I have a game where I try to get every marathon minute like 2:59, 2:58 etc and the only ones I'm missing below 3:10 to 2:32 are 2:44, 2:41, 2:40, 2:37 and 2:34."

That is quite frankly brilliant and wonderfully insane! 

So only 4 more timeslots to achieve and Ian will have finished a marathon within every minute from 3hrs10 to 2hrs32.  All I can say is hats off to you Mr Sharman!

I have of course shamelessly stolen this story, having first heard about it on the wonderful Marathon Talk podcast then checking out Ian's great blog:

Sunday, 3 April 2011

7-days 'til the big date with MARY...

Crikey, only 7 days now to my date with MARY. I hear she can be a vicious mistress!

There come's a time in life when you've just go do it for the first time, the excuses and waiting for "that special one" just won't cut it any more. No more time for prevaricating, 7 more days and then it's time.

I'd often dreamed of what it would be like, but been far too timid, cautious and told myself I never stood a chance, after all there were so many others to choose from, but since Mary arrived in Brighton a little over a year ago, I knew I had to be brave, zip up the man-suit and throw myself on her mercy and rid myself of this innocence.

A year of planning and its nearly time.  Put some effort into getting in shape and done a fair bit of practice to work on my moves, often alone and quite a lot of it in the dark, but now I think the preparation could be ready to pay off. Now feels like the time.  If I don't do it now, when will I?

Had my haircut, watched my weight and put considerable thought into my outfit to create the right impression on the day and make sure she's takes me seriously.  I've heard she can chew you up and spit you out in double-quick time if she doesn't like the look of ya or you've not shown due respect.

I doubt I'll bowl Mary over, or given her reason to fear me, but I'd liked to think she'll take pity, perhaps even show some kindness, on a ginger, 6'4" pasty wastrel in unflattering white knee length compression socks, a look of mild confusion, and with enough gel to coiffure a battalion of haircuts - and who know's I may even surprise her.

I just need to hold my nerve, remember what my friends told me (and what I've read on the Net), not go off to early and remember Mary demands "stamina" - if I get carried away and finish too quick, it's just going to end in tears.  Maybe, just maybe, if I do that Mary will be gentle with me.

One thing for sure, no matter how good, bad or indifferent the sweaty, uncertain fumbling...I'll be back for another date as soon as she'll see me.

Brighton Marathon: Sunday 10th April, 2011 - the time is now

Saturday, 2 April 2011

30-seconds... a tantalising amount of time.

Arguably the time it takes to test your smoke alarm, dust the TV screen or change the hand towels in the kitchen. It's not long is it? There's not a huge amount you can achieve, not a great deal with any real purpose, and yet from a runner's perspective 30-seconds is an age, an aeon even. Or it is to me.

Why? Why, when you are running does 30-seconds make such a difference, when in most every other aspect of my life it's seemly a fleeting moment in which you can't even pick your nose successfully (perhaps that's too much information).

Perhaps it's just me, but 30-seconds one way or another over the course of a mile makes the world of difference. Be it faster or slower than the norm, the differences are actually quite extreme.

Is it just me or is this the same for everyone, be you a 5, 10 or 15-minute mailer? Judging by a recent conversation at a party, I know there's at least one other sad-sack out there. And yes, when the highlight of a party is chatting to the only other person not drinking about the impact of running 30-seconds faster or slower you know you've sold your sold to running and got an eansie weansie bit of a problem - just be glad you missed the bit where the conversation moved onto discussing compression clothing and preferred gels (party was naff, but we both had a great time!)

But, it has really struck me over the past couple of weeks what a difference 30-seconds can make, particularly as my training schedule comes to and end. My pace has markedly quickened over this year of running, but I'm assuming this is a universal feeling and the 30-second vagary was the same when I started this journey, in my case working from my recent half-marathon I can hold 8:20 in a race, so let's call 8:30 my normal pace, which I think is right there or thereabouts at the moment.

I'm "comfortable" running/racing at that pace up to a certain distance..if I push to go faster 8mins is eye-poppingly quick, the old ticker is pounding in my ears and stamina rapidly drains away, but go the other way and drag the time out to 9min and I feel pretty good (most days) and content enough to do some pretty long runs. I recently did a 20-mile run at 9:30min pace and that was hellish - not the distance, but the affect of slowing down further, it seemed to take significantly more effort to run at that pace then at a swifter 9min - and yet I remember when I dreamed of holding 9:30.  Only time will tell whether I have the endurance and stamina to hold 9-mins for a marathon, but that's not the point...not that I'm entirely sure what the point is.

What I spent way way too much time deliberating over the last week or so, is just what a difference 30-seconds can make in a mile. Be it fast or slow, and irrespective of what your "normal time" may be, that fleeting amount of time can totally change how you feel, how far you can go and how much you enjoy yourself. Maybe it's just me, and maybe I'm waffling, again!, but I can't help but think how much difference the time it takes to toss out today's junk mail has on each mile of my race.

Maybe I should find another hobby, but I'm sure I'd find something banal about that to dwell on as well, as the wife often laments..."you think too much".

One thing I do know is that only another runner is going to be daft enough to understand this drivel, most people have "far better" things to dwell on.

Gonna train "properly" for the next one and get down with some serious speed, interval, tempo training and proper MP pace, slow-run thinks, that degree of training is going to be a "real" shock to the system...but god, I can't wait!

Slow day in Cerebral Central...

Read this on DailyMile yesterday about male nipple removal being the answer for runners and thought "blimey, that's a bit extreme"...what's wrong with a glob of vaseline or a corn plaster...
Cool info!
...didn't think twice about the esteemed surgeon's name, and just thought "extreme". Neither did I contemplate the date, April 1st for those that might be wondering - doh!!!!

After an evening of thinking "male runners actually do this", the act of reading this on April 1st suddenly clicked as the old grey matter slowly kicked into gear.

What a doofus! Yep, I'll accept that, but...

...Googled it this morning having lain in bed pondering, yes I am that sad, and you can actually have this done!!! There's some disturbing images on said Google if you really need to look - the things you do in the search for truth!

Perhaps not by Dr Kutteroff (yes, I know - I'm slow), but you can as a bloke actually have this done, you could as a lady as well, but apparently its not advisable on medical grounds.

So now I'm completely lost, was yesterday a slow day in Cerebral Central or is this actually a bizarre solution to the bane of chaffed nipples...not sure I actually want to know really.