"The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." -Theodore Roosevelt

Sunday, 5 July 2015

A tale of two races...

For me, racing is the best part of running; it's the culmination of all your training and hard miles you've put in and for the chance to push yourself against like-minded individuals. On occasion they can be the worst part of running, as I discovered this weekend.
In the last two weeks I 'completed' two races; a local club organised 10k road race, and an independent company organised 10k tough mudder type race.
One cost £12.50, was extremely well organised with excellent marshalling, water on route as well as being chip timed and having a great technical t-shirt on completion.
The other cost £30, had no sort of organisation about it, with close to no marshalling and no form of signage to show the route you should take (pretty important given the course took you through wooded areas with multiple tracks) and the tackiest, cheapest medal at the finishing line.
Probably not surprisingly, the cheaper, well organised race was the Penny Lane Striders 10k, for which I couldn’t commend, or recommend enough. It follows a route along the Otterspool promenade before looping back and diverting on to a paved, wooded section. It was a tough race with a strong head wind on the return leg of the promenade, but one I thoroughly enjoyed. I completed it in 42:19,  and despite wanting to go under 42 minutes I was happy given that head wind.
The independent company organised race, titled ‘Total Grit Xtreme’, was clearly just set up to be a money maker. For £30 it was a cheap version of tough mudder (other obstacle races also available), and whilst my expectations weren’t high, I do expect a race to start on time, and to ensure I get round safely. Not the case; I and over 20 others got lost due to there being little marshalling and no signs, and spent a good 15 minutes running around a wooded area just trying to get back to the start. We eventually did, but only by running alongside, and eventually crossing, a main ‘A’ road.
So, in the last two weeks I’ve seen the best and the worst of running; a running club organising a fantastic race for the love of running, and an independent company organising a ‘race’ only to fleece and make money out of people who just want to do an activity they love.
Final Race Stats
Penny Lane 10k:
Garmin Here
Strava Here
Cool technical tee:
Excellent photography skills here showing I am, in fact, winning the race (!)
Source: David Pinnington
Total Grit Xtreme:
Garmin Here
Strava Here
The 'medal'
Before getting lost; a tunnel, and bales of hay obstacle.


Thursday, 25 June 2015

Active Knowsley 5km 2015 Race Report

This was my second race within a couple of weeks, and another race which I'd completed before, so knew what to expect. Set in the luxurious grounds of Knowsley Hall (the ancestral home of the Earls of Derby) this 5km race was the first time I'd competed as part of a team.

Having cooked up some interest in work we had two 4-person teams entered, with my team including one of my best friends who I’d completed the MerseyTunnel 10k with a few weeks earlier. He’d never ran a 5k race before and so had no idea how to pace it, consequently he wanted to do his own thing. That suited me fine as I wanted to go for an ‘official’ sub 20min 5k.

The race started at 7.15pm on a very warm and sunny un-British summer’s evening. I wanted to head out fast to try and maintain a steady pace throughout.

The first half of the run I managed to complete fairly comfortably, and whilst a team mate had stayed with me for the first kilometre I was subsequently running alone – none of my ‘rivals’ had passed me at any stage.

Rather than helping me to relax, it did the opposite; I no longer had someone pushing me on to maintain my pace, which suffered slightly in the 4th kilometre as my time dipped to 4:08. The last time I completed this course the same 4th km dip occurred and meant I missed out on my sub 20min 5k. Would this time be the same?

I pushed on using the runners ahead of me to keep going and was pleasantly surprised when I saw the finish line approaching. A little dash to the end and I hit ‘stop’ on the Garmin…

..19:45, yippee! Officially back in the sub 20min club for me!

It was then just a case of cheering on the other 7 runners as they all came in. It turns out I get way too excited doing this and was soon bellowing each runner’s name to help them across the finish line (or scare them into thinking they were being chased by an axe murderer…)

My mate came in second out of the group with a great time of 20:53, very quickly (i.e. 2 seconds later) followed by our opponents’ first runner. The rest of the runners came in and it was fairly clear that my team was the winning one, but so made up was I with my mate’s time it really didn’t matter. “I’m so proud of you” I may have muttered more than a few times!

Final Race Stats

19:45, a time I am elated with, and a time that makes me feel like my fitness is returning, albeit slowly!

Garmin here
Strava here

Final Notes

The race was great, well marshalled and a nice medal for a very cheap £7.50. My only (slight) gripe is that the race wasn’t timed with a chip, all by hand, and so subsequently I haven’t got the final team times, but I can live with that.

Whilst we’d light heartedly gone ‘into battle’ with personal pride being the prize, it was fun and camaraderie which were the real winners (major cheese fest I know!).

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Mersey Tunnel 10k 2015

3rd times a charm… Or not

Sunday 7th June 2015 was the third time I took on the Mersey Tunnel 10k, which is usually the race I look forward to most in the year, and the course of my 10k PB. I knew I wasn’t in PB condition, but wanted to get round in a progressive time compared to my previous 10k races.

I didn’t really pay much attention to the race instructions as I ‘knew’ where it started. After I parked up I watched a few runners walking the wrong way to the start line; ‘look at them’ I thought, 'going the wrong way, obviously newbies to the course'…

…Soon what can only be described as huge swathes of runners were going the wrong way to the start line; it was at this point when I started to doubt myself about knowing where the race started. Turns out you should always read the race instructions in case the start line is moved compared to previous years.

After consulting the race instructions and following everyone making my way to the start line I warmed up and got ready. I was running this race with a mate whose first race this would be.

If you haven’t read my previous report on this race (I wouldn’t either) then you’ll know that the route takes you from Liverpool, through the Wallasey tunnel and into… Wallasey...
It’s the tunnel-y bit which is essentially the pull & appeal of the race.

Unfortunately, the moving of the start line, which was to a very narrow side street, meant once the 2,800 runners were sent on their marching orders, caused a very congested opening several hundred metres. Added to this was that the tunnel was right after these opening several hundred metres.

The tunnel starts off as a downhill before levelling out and then turning into an incline. Congested start and downhill = lots of runners racing ahead, but slowing down when they hit the incline, which = a lot of dodging if you don’t slow down with them.

After getting out the tunnel the route opened up on to the streets before tracking the prom for the final half of the race. It’s always a nice view looking back across the Mersey to The Liver Birds and all the other great architecture in Liverpool.

I'd lost my mate in the tunnel, but we'd agreed if this happened to just meet up at the finish line.

Having conquered the toughest part of the route and being on the prom allowed me to focus on maintaining the quickest pace I could through to the finish, which wasn't that fast at this point.

I was however given somewhat of an adrenaline rush at around 7km when my name was screamed in a somewhat satisfied tone* by a race marshal. The marshal in question was a young lady, and as I'm not used to young ladies screaming my name in a satisfied tone (or any kind of tone if I'm honest), I was flooded with a surge of adrenaline which allowed me to (try to) raise my thumb in thanks, smile, and up my pace for about 20 seconds.

Following this encounter I plodded on and having turned a dog leg corner to face some headwinds the finish line was in sight; I upped my pace and crossed the finish line, absolutely knackered.

Final Race Stats

44:25 - slower than my previous two 10ks this year, but a very much tougher course given the congestion at the start and profile of it.

The medal was, as usual, excellent. A decent technical tee and one I would wear in the winter months to be seen due to its fluorescent-ness (if I were to not horde my race t-shirts away), and a nice little goody bag:

Garmin here
Strava here

Final Notes

I'll continue to run this race every year because of the opportunity to run through the Wallasey tunnel, but unfortunately I don't feel its the same as it used to be given the moving of the start line.

* this is total embellishment on my part in an attempt to be funny (I know, I should leave that to the hilarious Jay at Born to Plod)

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Enoying the good aches...

...and hating the bad ones.

When you're flying with your running, you forget how long it took to get to that level of fitness and focus; the long runs in the sweeping rain, the tempo runs in the boiling heat, the aching joints afterwards. They were nothing, something that came with the territory, and only added to the feeling of invincibility having completed your run despite those conditions.

When you're returning from a break, whether enforced or not, that's when you realise how difficult running actually is - routes that would serve as a mere 'whip round the block' you suddenly have to psyche yourself up for. That hill which you could bosh out at the end of your run you haven't quite got the spring in your step to conquer.

Having had plenty of 'bad' aches over the last 18 months, I've learned to love the good ones over the last few weeks. Sure, I'm not as fit as I was, and I'm needing to stretch a little bit more post run, and the morning after, but I relish all of it. It means I'm getting fitter and stronger, and I definitely appreciate being able to run more, and looking forward to upping the distance.

I'm focusing on the 10k distance at the moment and improving my time, towards the end of the year I'd like to get back to half marathon distance and see where that takes me...

I don't like the bad 'aches' though* - like when someone logs a cycle as a run on Strava...

Running along the Liverpool - Leeds canal there are plenty of segments and so opportunities to work up the leader board, or just generally track how you're getting on speedwise run to run.

There's one segment which I'll complete pretty much every time I lace up my trainers. Earlier in the week I decided I'd put my foot down during the segment and see how quickly I could complete it (without killing myself).

Back from the run, I uploaded my route, and like a kid opening his presents on Christmas morning I was almost unable to contain my excitement looking forward to seeing how I'd got on... 4th, a highly respectable 4th place. However, when I inspected my fellow segmenteers (proper word), one of them had logged a cycle as a run, usurping my effort.

The proof is below, however I've blanked out the name of the offender to protect his/her identity as I wouldn't want the guilt of the repercussions that they could face from the Strava community who I can only imagine are equally as affronted as I:


So essentially, I'm 3rd on the leaderboard, and who knows, possibly even higher if other Strava users are so lax in their lack of regard for the running-cycle logging split. In all seriousness, I'm not that bothered, but it does grate against the OCD part of me :)

Next up for me is the Mersey Tunnel 10k a week tomorrow (Sunday 7th June). I race which starts in Liverpool, goes through the Wallasey Tunnel, and ends up on the Wirral. Previous race report for it here.
*Ok so it's not really an ache, but I've wanted to have a rant about this for a couple of weeks and never been able to fit it into 140 characters on twitter, or crowbar it into a blog.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

I've got all these tees...

It's becoming more and more common for your race 'goody bag' to contain not just a medal, sweets, leaflets for other races, and water, but also, a t-shirt, and it's generally a swanky technical t-shirt too. However, what happens to all of these tees??
The "McDonalds Happy Meal toy"
You get your happy meal and marvel at the little plastic toy* inside, playing with it in the car on the way home and then leaving it to gather dust in that bottom drawer of that spare room with all the other toys. It never sees the light of day until you're either having a clear out, moving house, or your parents decide that you don't need it anymore as you haven't played with it for months so it can go in the trash.
The "badge of honour / iGrunters"
This is mainly the tough mudder type races, and is generally, but not limited to, those blokes in the gym who strut around 'cause they lift and have completed an obstacle course. You'll often hear a low groan emitted from said t-shirt wearer when completing the last few reps of their set. You'll also often find yourself wishing that on this occasion they loaded the bench press with a bit too much weight causing them to 'follow through' on all that pushing. Heads up though guys, try completing a marathon and all the training that goes with and tell me which tee deserves more respect...
The "painter's tee"
It's that bank holiday weekend when you promised yourself/the other half/that family relative who keeps pestering you/the parents you'd decorate the spare room which has been locked for the last six months to stop people going in and seeing the mess. You know, no matter how careful you are, you're gonna splash some paint on yourself. Well you can't wear your going out t-shirt or shirt can you?
The "I earned it so I'm wearing it"
I'm surprised I don't fall into this category; when I buy/own/earn something, I feel it a waste to not get the most use out of it as possible - for race t-shirts, this would be wearing it until it's nearly falling apart, and even then I may just keep it.
The "my precious"
This. Is. Me. Ohhh, I've got another pretty race t-shirt, look how beautiful it is with its wicking features and colour scheme, I could frame it that's how lovely it is. I will keep my precious race t-shirt by ironing it, folding it precisely, and keeping it safely snuggled away with all of it's other brother and sister race t-shirts in its own dedicated drawer.
The "creative"
For those people who manage to find an obscure or slightly different (but amazing use) for just about anything; applications for race t-shirt can range from, bit are not restricted to, making a blanket to a funky outfit for their dog. Each a brilliant and novel way of using their goody bag gift.
The "normal"
The above are probably all figments of my imagination (with the exception of "my precious") to make myself feel better for what I do with my own race t-shirts and tell myself 'at least I'm not an "iGrunter" '.
Some of my collection (well I'm not going to get them all out and risk damaging them am I?!):

*Clearly showing my age here as they're not little plastic toys anymore,  they're more like human teleporters nowadays...

Monday, 4 May 2015

Race Report: Liverpool Spring 10km 2015

It's always nice to get a bit of déjà vu when writing a race report; it generally means you've run the race before, and, chances are, if you've run it before and are willing to run it again, it was a good 'un.

Rewind two years and I was participating in the inaugural Liverpool Spring 10k in Sefton Park - a brilliant local race which had a great turnout and atmosphere, as well as a not-so-nice steep set of steps mid-course. Lucky for me it took all the best bits from the last time I completed it, and left out the energy sapping set of steps.

The weather on the morning was abysmal; heavy driving rain, the kind which makes you want to put the fire on and snuggle up on the sofa with a massive cup of tea and your favourite any DVD boxset...

As I pulled up around the edge of Sefton Park the rain abated, bingo! I don't mind running in the rain, I actually enjoy it, but there's something a bit demoralising starting a race in the rain.

I warmed up and headed to the starting pens. I always love seeing all the runners in their club colours - I renewed my membership for my running club last week so will be donning blue and white hoops soon :)

The starter got us underway and off we set. I wasn't too worried about a time, but wanted to complete in a similar time as I finished the Mad Dog 10k in; due to recent personal health issues I've not had a chance to do any speedwork.

After several kilometres a running club buddy saddled up beside me and we had a chat about what time we were aiming for and what running we'd been doing lately - he'd completed the Manchester marathon a couple of weeks a go (awesome!). We were both using this race to get back in to the swing of things, though for obviously different reasons!

The course took us through the park and out and around the perimeter of it, and it was only at the 6km mark did I realise there wasn't going to be any set of steps to climb. The route was undulating though so definitely tested the legs.

Turning into the final straight I was feeling like I'd really worked over the last few kilometres and didn't think I could muster up a sprint finish, but it's funny what a guy dressed as a tyre (for 'dressed as a tyre', read compression skin tight clothing from head to toe - save it for later dude) can do for you.

Finish line, hey there human tyre behind me!

Final Race Stats

43:12 - Quicker than my Mad Dog 10k race, but I felt like I worked harder for it! I was happy with the time, but really want to get some speed work in to my legs to improve my time and fitness.

The medal, t-shirt and goody bag were excellent, especially for a race which cost under £20:

...And yes, that is a can of salmon with the t-shirt and medal!

Garmin Here
Strava Here

Final Notes

The Spring 10k is a brilliant, friendly and well supported race - there is always a crowd and entertainment around the course to help you along the way. If anyone local is considering it, I would urge you to take part!

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Words, Hands, Hearts

This is a bit of a prelude to my race report for the Liverpool Spring 10k I 'competed*' in today...

I've steered clear of all things social media lately as I've had some health issues - not due to running for a change.  I'm not going fo go into it in detail but suffice to say that I've had ECGs, chest x-rays and blood tests to rule conditions out, and that I can, thank goodness, still run, pending more tests and results. If nothing else I got to be a 'secret shopper' in the NHS, and it is a bloody brilliant institution!

Anyway, on a slighlty lighter note, and to sign off this post, im sure you'll agree I look dashing in a hospital gown...

Competed is such a loose term, only used loosely when participant is gravely unfit and has forgotten how to pace their exertion levels.