Monday, 19 December 2011

I'm a dreamer

Since I started running I've always fancied the idea of running a proper 'adventure race', like I say I do like a dream.  I've been following the Jungfrau marathon (Switzerland) on facebook for ages and occasionally I have a bit of a peek at at the information and decide, nope I'm not quite ready for that.  The course profile alone makes my legs want fill with lactic acid!  I also found this virtual course today after the organisers sent me a FB message enticing me to sign up.

Two generations of my family have been to Interlaken on school trips that involved a train ride up the Jungfrau at some point and for that reason alone the idea of this race just tugs at the heart strings.  But then a bit of realism kicks in and I remember that I live in one of the flattest parts of the country and let's be honest I'm a bit lazy.

So for now at least, I shall just continue to dream and look at these pictures.  I think awesome is word that is a bit overused by 30 somethings like me in describing various 'extreme pursuits' but that word is apt for these.  And this race is going on the list of stuff to do before I'm 40.

The highest point on the course 2205

 Hopefully this will serve as a distraction from the fact that I had a CBA day on Sunday and didnt run my planned 15... Hmm

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Second Blind Mouse

When trail racing, knowing your left from your right is very handy, reading the instructions helps too.  These are lessons that I learnt (or didn't learn) last night on the second stage of the 'Three blind mice'.  A series of navigational errors or school boy blunders meant I ended up running 6.97 miles, according to my Garmin, as opposed to the planned 5.5 miles.  It didn't help that I sped off up the road from the Queen Victoria past the footpath that was the start of the 'trail'.  It really didn't help that I didn't turn back for about 3 minutes. Being 6 mins down before the first trail is not a great way to begin.  The next few miles were okay, I was either focused on the instructions or following someone, Roy, that I knew could read the instructions.  My 5th mile was a spiral of decline.  I'd lost Roy to the darkness but was quite a way in front of another group.  I entered a field the instructions said SA which translates to straight ahead. This confused me.  Straight ahead from where? I went straight ahead from the gate, then straight ahead to the field corner, then straight ahead to another gate..... My Garmin trail shows the confusion.  Eventually someone that could read instructions caught up, so I followed them for a bit.  We then got on a road section so I decided to try and recapture some lost time, a great idea if I turned left at the junction as instructed instead of right... Eventually I got back to the pub in 1:14 and as it turns out 35 place. Roy won (again) - well done to him.  For me it was a longer run than expected but really great fun. Helped by the sense of humour of the Striders who delighted in putting a clipper point in the middle of a stream.  

I'm sure there's some scientific reason why trail running is great training, but for me its just a fun way of getting miles under the belt with bursts of speed and bursts of going round in circles.  Alternative intervals almost!  Next time out - I AM going to read the instructions.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Another 8

Quick run around town this evening after work. 8 miles and 7:51min mile average which aint too bad given the 16miles on saturday.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

16 miler - TICK

Okay so it wasn't that pretty in terms of performance but it wasn't about speed it was about miles.  In the end I stayed on the roads for all but about 3 miles in the middle which was the bit along the sea wall to the Chapel, and it was definitely a nice run.  Sea walls in the middle of nowhere are always feel strange to me. On one side you have the natural bleak beauty of the Essex salt marshes and on the other side manicured mono-culture.  I suppose in its own way, that's quite nice to look at too.

So my first attempt at a long run for a while and I'm really pleased with my pacing from Miles 7 to 14 which (interesting to me) include the off road sections.  I really struggle holding a pace and seem to fluctuate randomly unless I'm running fairly hard.  So for anyone interested (?) here's my split times.

1) - 1m - 8:55(8:55/m) - 123cal 
2) - 1m - 9:21(9:21/m) - 119cal 
3) - 1m - 9:06(9:06/m) - 119cal 
4) - 1m - 9:17(9:17/m) - 118cal 
5) - 1m - 9:33(9:33/m) - 120cal 
6) - 1m - 9:18(9:18/m) - 118cal 
7) - 1m - 8:47(8:47/m) - 116cal 
8) - 1m - 9:00(9:00/m) - 115cal 
9) - 1m - 8:54(8:54/m) - 119cal 
10) - 1m - 8:54(8:54/m) - 119cal 
11) - 1m - 9:06(9:06/m) - 115cal 
12) - 1m - 9:01(9:01/m) - 119cal 
13) - 1m - 9:03(9:03/m) - 118cal 
14) - 1m - 9:27(9:27/m) - 119cal 
15) - 1m - 10:35(10:35/m) - 113cal (I stopped to look at the view here although that was an excuse really). 
16) - 1m - 9:10(9:10/m) - 115cal 
17) - 0.29m - 3:53(13:16/m) - 32cal

Apparently I burnt up 1917 calories in total which explains how I demolished a massive bowl of couscous half hour after returning.  
Looking forward to next week, Im aim for a 8miler on monday, I have the second of the 'Three Blind Mice' trail runs on Wed, and then another long one on Sunday. Im sure I'll try and get in a 4-5 miler on either Thursday or Friday too.

Friday, 9 December 2011


Over the last few weeks I haven't quite managed to get my mileage up as much as I had hoped but tomorrow I'm going to attempt a nice gentle 16-17 (ish) miler out on the marshes.  What better way then to spend a Friday evening than mapping various potential routes?
At 7.40pm this evening the favourite option is a run along St Peter's Way to St Peter on the Wall, an ancient church right on the waters edge. Its a pretty bleak place but if the weather turns out as expected it could be a pretty special run - I may even remember to take the camera.  The only thing thats worrying me a bit is how much Essex clay will be attached to my shoes by the time I get there.  The plan is to just go out and run gently at about 9-9:30 min mile pace. We'll see how that goes.

Whilst I was typing this I noticed that I have been linked from the Milton Keynes Marathon training page.  As a new comer to blogging it's really exciting to get a proper external link - so thanks MK marathon people.  I better keep writing now.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Evening Star

Evening Star was the name of my brothers favourite Hornby train when we were kids.   It's amazing (to me) what I end up thinking about when I'm out running but that was one of many topics covered yesterday and I decided to dedicate this post to that little train.  Apparently you can still buy them, that, to quote a mate of mine 'so uncool it's cool'.

Yesterday was one of those days where I could have easily sat around all day being  lazy.  Grey, cold and fog isn't normally a weather combination that inspires me rush out the door.  Especially when a nice brisket of beef is slowly cooking in the oven.  Very late on in the afternoon the sun did eventually break through and grey, cold and foggy became, cold, bright and almost crisp.  I had planned a 7-8 miler as a 'short' long run.  Given that it was so late in the day I decided to run down to the river, along the sea wall and steer clear of the main road into the village.  That route and the desire to avoid the main road makes an out and back route the only easy option, so thats what I did.  As I left home I could see the sun going down and it was a really deep red.  Some of the route I'd planned was due west but by the time I would have got to that section the sun would have dipped down below the horizon.  So I decided to run out across the fields and meander down to the water and enjoy the sun.  As I ran along the mist rolled gently across the fields and into the distance. I got to a section of reclaimed salt marsh and as the mist rolled across it gently it looked like those abandoned and untouched First World War trenches you sometimes see in northern France.  After a mile or so I reached the sea wall and headed off towards Marconi Sailing Club.
The east coast at this time of year is full of wading birds which I assume are off somewhere warmer for the winter.  There were hundreds of them zipping about in the mud pecking away purposefully refuelling.
The route to Marconi is handy as the end of the sea wall is almost exactly two miles from my door.  I dropped down into the sailing club dinghy park and headed up Stansgate Road.  In my first year of running I used to call it F-ing Stansgate as it always seemed to go on for miles and miles.  I thought the light was fading fast but as I came out into one of the less enclosed sections I was hit with one of the most beautiful sunsets I've seen in years. The sky was still deep red and with the mist drifting across the fields was reflected a sea of pinks and reds.  I tried to take a photo on my phone but just came up with another reason to get a newer one!
I ran on for another mile or so before turning back. I don't really enjoy out and back routes but they are quite useful at times and I'm really glad thats what I did last night. The changes in light and mood were spectacular. As I reached the sailing club and water again I decided it was time to bring out the head torch again.  The river was mirror flat and apart from the noise of a little motor boat and the birds it was completely silent.  Reaching the edge of the village exactly 7 mins 19 seconds later (I love my garmin) I was distracted by the wash of the motor boat crashing onto the beach.  Somewhat strangely I felt the sudden urge to stop and as I turned back to the footpath I realised I was about to collide with the barrier that stops people riding along the sea wall.  Perhaps I need to pay a bit more attention in the dark. With only a mile left I looked up to see a really bright star over to the South East. At first I thought it was a plane, or perhaps a planet before concluding that it was an evening star. And that's why I ended up thinking about my brothers train set.        

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Cabbage anyone

For anyone out there (I wonder if there is anyone) that has not tried a trail race - give it a go.  It really is great fun and from what I've seen so far pretty relaxed.  Perhaps its just a really good excuse to get out and run or in some cases walk.  You do have to learn a few new skills like running and reading at the same time but for me that is part of the fun.
When you sign in you get given a list of course instructions, there are no maps involved!  You decide when you're ready, then just tell the organisers and off you trot.  There's a load of codes to help keep the instructions concise. For example FP = footpath, EB = Earth bridge (a new one for me tonight) and LHFE = left hand field edge.  But you don't have to remember them just read them carefully.

I have to admit I was a bit nervous about tonight's race.  I aways seem to get a few butterflies before any kind of event but  I think the darkness and potential to get properly lost added to that today.  Once underway I managed to find the first turning off the road I started to settle down a bit and was reassured by the sight of a couple of walkers doing the same course.  Running off road with just a head torch does need concentration and although I've run loads of times at night, I have never noticed how much your other senses kick in.  That sounds a bit cliche but it seems to be true.  My outstanding memory of the first of three, Blind Mice was the noise and smell caused by running flat out through a cabbage field.  Or were they sprouts?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Simple things

I am lucky to do a job that enables me to get out and run during my lunch breaks.  There’s nothing better than being able to get out for a few miles to clear away any cobwebs or frustrations that have built up in the morning.  This morning was one of ‘those’ mornings where nothing seemed simple and everything felt like it was raising my blood pressure.  So on went the trainers and off I went with a colleague for nice gentle 3.5 miles around the nicer parts of town.  Its amazing things feel so much better after just 30 odd minute of fresh air and some autumnal sunshine. The afternoon was a breeze and much more productive. 

I’m really looking forward to a trail run tomorrow evening which is part of the Springfield Striders ‘Three Blind Mice’ series.  This will be my third trail race and since its going to be very dark it will be another chance to use the new head torch.  It will be interesting to see how close I can get to the 5.5 miles planned course.  

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Heads up

I wonder how many other people have been inspired to start a blog by a new head torch?  To be honest its not just down to the head torch, but after running with one for the first time on Thursday night, I feel like it's opened up a new seam of running experiences.  

Living in rural Essex I normally hate it when the clocks go back.  Midweek running is suddenly restricted to pounding the pavements around Maldon after work or cramming in a quick run at lunchtime.  After reading about people running off-road with head torches I decided to stump up the grand sum of £38 and give it a try. 

Thursday night was the test run. I thought I'd try one of my favourite 4 mile routes taking me out across the local golf course and then along a few trails before popping out back in the town.  

I was a bit worried about how much I would be able to see, but even on the 'economy' setting it was absolutely fine.  Running through a leafy bit proved the most challenging as there was very little definition between the trail and the surrounding undergrowth.  Overall a very successful run. I am sure my little torch and I will spending some quality time together over the next few months. 

A few weeks back I had a chat with my sister and brother in-law about running a marathon together.  When I say together I mean running all on the same day at our own pace and meeting up at the finish.  So we've all signed up for the  Milton Keynes marathon on 29 April 2012.  I need to get some miles under my belt before the serious training starts in the New Year and I thought the head torch would give me an excuse to get off the pavements into the countryside.