Saturday, April 30, 2011

No Repercussions

Yes, thankfully my ankle is fine if a little bruised. Let's hope that yesterday's brush with disaster is the only 'time stood still' moment between now and the 28th.

My legs felt a little heavy this morning. I struggled to rise from the pit and with conditions hot and humid I decided against a long run. Instead I opted for an hour on the bike, followed by a brisk 5k round the village and then another hour on the bike to finish. Fingers crossed the weather is slightly cooler tomorrow so I can run the run I should have run today tomorrow ... Confused? You should be, I am! - ssssh, shut it...

So why the 'brisk' run? Well, I've not done much speed for ages apart from the odd race. It was nice to stretch out the legs. Get a bit of leg turn over and you know what? It felt pretty good. Lots of spring in them her legs. I think I actually looked like a runner...

Friday, April 29, 2011

Disaster Almost Struck

As it was, I had to limp home on impulse engines, cutting the route short in the process as operation 'damage limitation' kicked into action.

The day started slowly. I enjoyed a bit of a lie in for once. Only running - or intending to run - 25 miles means less of an early start and I took advantage. Eventually I set off for the mountains and arrived at my allotted start location just before eleven and then I was into the run.

I had the split times to hand and I was going to try and really pace myself. That, however, went out the window once I got up on the hill. It was blowing a bloody gale, visibility was pants and I was freezing. So having stopped to put on a few more clothes, hat and gloves I decided to speed up. Throw the splits out the window and just get round the route without error.

Up to Pen Cerrig Calch and around the ridge to Waun Fach was uneventful other than the fact for once there were bloody loads of people up there. Normally if you see three or four people you'd call it busy. Today there must have been two dozen - guess there's quite a few people who don't like the Royal Wedding. Anyway, not that it really mattered, I was 37 minutes inside the schedule but as I said I was running to keep out the cold rather than pootle at traverse pace - which it has to be said, won't feel like a pootle in the real thing.

I had a real eureka moment from Waun Fach to Pen-y-Gadair Fawr though. From Waun Fach my route is to veer slightly further to the right than the 'direct' line and, in fact, the line most people go but hell, when did I ever follow the crowd. I find dropping just below the top and contouring around gets a 'dry run' as opposed to the boggy hell across the top. Today though, it was something special, I found another 'holy trail' - like the holy grail but in running route form. About 150m out from Waun Fach summit, heading slightly further right than normal, I picked up a trod that followed the contour and took me all the way to the main path. It was superb. I shall be extremely lucky to find it again, especially in the real thing, but at least I know it's there so I will at least try for it on 28th May. It made the run off Waun Fach almost enjoyable for once.

The rest of the run across the top was uneventful, preferring the main, slightly longer route from Pen-y-Gadair Fawr on the main path it wasn't long before I was dropping down into the forest. And it started well. I found the small, hidden path and got down into the wooded section and then near disaster struck - and I do mean disaster. Just as I was about to pop out - stop it - onto one of the main track crossing time slowed. I was going 'not slow' through the trees and as I planted my left foot I caught sight of a wire, about ankle high, right in front of where my foot hand landed. I was going too quick to respond and as my foot lifted it hooked the wire and like a plane landing on an aircraft carrier I came to a pretty sudden full stop. Cue lots and lots of swearing. As I burst - no, not into tears - as I burst out onto the track and scraped myself off the ground, I stopped to take stock.

The ankle was throbbing and painful but it didn't feel 'bust'. It was, however, painful to run and despite not having reached to the bottom of the forest, or indeed up the other side to the ridge I did the sensible thing and headed home. To be fair, even then, I still had somewhere near ten miles to go to get back to the car but if I had done something bad I wanted to get back by the quickest route.

Fortunately as I jogged the throbbing eased and after perhaps twenty minutes it seemed to be ok. In hindsight I would have been ok to carry on but I think I did the right thing because it could have been worse. Where that god damn bit of wire came from I'll never know. I'm sure it wasn't there the other times I've come down that way. Anyway, looks like no harm done.

The rest of the run was thankfully incident free and having run through Llanbedr and back up to Pen Cerrig Calch I got back to the car having completed just shy of 24 miles. Despite cutting it short I was only a mile or so short of the planned 25 - but probably a thousand feet less ascent though - what a shame.

So despite the near disaster moment it was a good days training. I was out there 4 hours 52 and put in a mere 5,500 feet of ascent. Guess I need to cross my fingers and hope there's no after-shocks from the ankle. Fingers crossed...

Today's route:-

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Happy Days

The simple days are the best. I took the day off work because I've been feeling tired these last few days. Gave myself a good long lie in this morning - well, I made it to half past eight before I got itchy feet and had to get up and at the world. When I say the world, it was really just my world. I haven't moved beyond the grounds of my estate and it's been brilliant.

The weather's been great and I've been working in the garden - but only light work. Cut the grass. Pruned the pear tree - not the right time of year for pruning, I know, but I can't let it get any more overgrown. I got a pang of guilt for letting the pond get into a bit of a mess so I put that to rights and gave it a tidy up. After that I had a quick whip round the whole garden to remove the largest and most obvious of the weeds. It's all looking ship shape. Ready for barbecue season - if I actually had a barbecue!

There is something quite satisfying when you stand back and see the results of your labours - and you know what? I could get used to this gardening malarchy. It's been a really restful day. I almost feel like I should pack in the day job, buy the field next door, plant it up, get some pigs and chickens and live off the land like Tom and Barbara - well, more like Barbara than Tom...

Maybe not.

Off to the mountains again tomorrow for 20-25 miles and about 7,000 feet. Going east Black Mountains, starting near Crickhowell.

Been such a good day in simple kinda way. Oh, and I did put in a very easy resistance bike session.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

An Abridged Version

I remembered to take my running kit with me to work. That in itself was a good effort on account that I have totally lost track of what month we're in let alone what day of the week it is but as six 0'clock approached, the supposed journey to the dark side of the city looked a long way off and with a heavy heart - and even heavier legs - I decided that forcing my tired frame round the Bridge Inn's 5k was not really sensible. These last few days in the run up to my traverse are more critical than can be given credit. I want another couple of decent long runs on the coming bank holiday weekend so I'm going to take it easy these next three days. To give my legs, body - and soul - a chance to recharge. I'm not yet broken and I want to keep it that way.

So, with some spare time this evening, I've had time to analyse Friday's splits - and they were good. In the days heat I managed to run the section from Garreg Las through to Fan Llia almost exactly on schedule, gaining just 8 minutes. If I could run it like that in the real thing I'd be well pleased. It was a good effort in my book because the aim of the day was to get the pace correct. I feel I'm getting in the groove. Holding yourself back, minmising effort to save energy for later is more difficult than you'd think.

Well this is sounding all too sensible, I'm off...

Monday, April 25, 2011

They Came In Two's

And unless you've been on the social networks you'll not have a clue what I'm on about when I mention cakes. As for the two lots of exercise I ran and I biked but I stopped short of the rowing.

It sure was hot out there today so I took it fairly easy over the 10.5km route. Talk about hilly though. For 'taking it easy' I still managed to get the heart pumping what with the 1,200 feet of ascent that included 'Breakheart Hill'. I've oft' gazed at Breakheart and thought to myself that I must find a route over the top and today I did just that. All in all it wasn't a bad little route. the section after Breakheart was - using technical terms - 'a bit rubbish' and I got a booter crossing a small water course that wasn't even on the map but despite that it wasn't a bad little route. If I can find a slightly better way off Breakheart today's route will be a keeper.

I got home in time to take the cake out of the oven - there's a gamble for you - no getting lost could I afford today else it was going to be a burnt offering. As it was I got home with a minute or two to spare before the timer went off. As to the cake it feels a little 'heavy'. I'm not sure it's risen quite as well as it should have. Maybe I'll try a bit more baking powder next time...

Anyway, the rest of today's training consisted of an hour on the bike. I couldn't get my mind off the boredom of it today so the hour lasted for about three but I got the job done. And that's the end of easter. Back to the grind stone tomorrow. Oh well, there's always next week...

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Lunch was a bit of a binge - at least for me, by my standards, it was. As always, the sister-in-law put on a great spread at the barbie. It was all a little too more-ish - as I went back for more, and a little more and... Anyway, not to put too fine a point on it, there were no bees and I didn't have a bonnet, make a little birdhouse in your soul - darn it's all gone a little weird, must be too much sun - to wit, I had some serious exercising ahead of me to burn off the excesses of lunch.

I started with an hour on the bike. The legs felt heavy and I felt the odd twinge from my hamstrings but nothing too bad. Then it was pushups and situps to hone the 'abs of steel' - happy to report they're coming along nicely, be ready in time for Butlins... Then it was a 2k row, in a fairly slow 8 minutes and 45 seconds. And then, in a final, over the top, dodging the bullets, push towards the enemy lines, I got through the front door and into the fresh air for what turned out to be a 6km run in an appallingly slow 34 minutes - although to be fair, it did have 650 feet of ascent. Happily there were no further twinges from the hamstrings and by the end of the run I was cruising at fairly high speed.

I tried a new route tonight, up to the Hobbs Quarry via the Church, looped around through the woods and came back via a different path across the fields. It was a lovely little run, with enough hilly bits to put it down on the list of runs to do again. So with the days three cardio discipline's complete I can relax, feet up and scare myself with the Walking Dead later tonight on Five. Been a good day.

Today's run:-

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Bit Of A Non-Starter

You know whenever something goes well that it's going to be followed by something to redress the balance. I woke up this morning feeling a bit congested and suffering from a slightly sore throat. Arse - and that's putting it mildly. I guess I might have over cooked things in the mountains yesterday what with it being mighty hot. With the day looking like being another scorcher, and if anything even hotter than yesterday, I declined to run. Risking dehydration wasn't going to do me - or the throat - any favours. I did manage an hour on the bike but even then my throat dried a little.

After that I pootled around the house and garden completing various chores and the like - as is almost the law on bank holiday weekends. The front garden is looking tidier now the weeds have been pulled and the car is nice and shiny after its shampoo and rinse.

Still sniffling this afternoon I am going to rest. I feel like I should go for a run in the late afternoon sunshine but I know my throat will dry up in about three seconds flat. I feel totally guilty - and not least because it looks gert lush out there. My nose is still running so I'm not going to be stupid - at least something's running.

Anyway, hopefully I will get out for a run tomorrow either before I leave for Bristol or afterwards at Ashton Court - if I can find out whether anyone will be there for the old 10am run. Haven't been to Leigh Woods for yonks so that would be nice...

Well, there is one high point to a day that has been full of disappointment - Dr Who is back!!! Yeah baby - god I'm a child...

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Good Friday

Did you see what I did there? - I fire my script writer.

I got up before six, taped up my feet and pretty much that was that. In the car and over to the Storey Arms. When I arrived it was looking like being a scorcher - and it didn't turn out far off that but thankfully the clouds did come across from time to time to give me a bit of shielding from the Sun's damaging UV rays. I was well covered in sun block but you can never have too much protection and I never like an unprotected run - fnah, fnah.

I won't bore you with the detail - I'll stop now then - kidding. Basically it was a good run. Not quite the full 37 miles planned on account that I had to call off the final summit and one just before because I'd taken too long - that and the fact I was bloody knackered. In all I covered 35 miles with some 8,000 feet of ascent and it took me a staggering 9 hours - yes, nine hours.

As a recce for the South Wales Traverse it was a great run. I managed to hone a few points to further optimise my route. I managed to crack Garreg Las. The optimum route is to head along the low path, below the ridge, a little further than we did on the previous attempt. Then at the big boulder at the edge of the path followed by the big dip you turn right and climb right up to the top and pop out right at the summit. The climb isn't even very rocky.

The run off Garreg Las was also spot on. I headed along the ridge a bit further (north) and then gradually turned east, picking up a small trod that took me pretty much most of the way up to Waun Lefrith. Then a bit further on I tested the 'drop off the edge' technique from Fan Hir. Again, it's definitely the right way to go, going back to the 'steps' is not an option.

And finally the climb to Fan Nedd was the only other bit of experimentation. I tried to locate the 'veer right, off the path on the small trod that goes all the way to the summit'. To be honest I'm not sure I picked the correct one but the one I did followed also came out at the summit, but it did join a more solid trod half way along and I suspect that's the one I should have been on but if it was then I reckon my way was slightly more direct. It's the way I will go in the real thing as I know it get me to the summit on time.

And that was pretty much it other than picking off Fan Llia on a perfect direct line for once, avoiding going too far right as I have done on every other occasion.

All in all it was a good run and an even better recce. Even the live location seemed to work - at least it's generated a plot of the route, can't say whether the location came up live as I didn't stop to log onto the internet but I reckon it must have worked.

And now it's time to put my poor, achy breaky feet well and truly up. TV time.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Live Later

For those who give one, I shall be testing 'live location' on tomorrows run. What does that mean? It means the 'live location' tab will show a small scale view of my progress which, when clicked, will load up the '' website live tracking page.

I know my mobile signal in the mountains where I'll be running tomorrow can be a bit 'iffy' so it will be a good test of whether live tracking in the mountains is really possible and how the mapmytracks system copes with loss of phone signal. Will it store history and upload when in coverage or just miss those bits out? I don't know so I guess we'll see. Fingers crossed...

I've Picked My....

Route for tomorrow's run. It looks like being close to 37 miles and around 11,000 feet. Might have to rein in my run for Saturday. I reckon 15 miles might be about right. That way I can stay in the forest and save some diesel in not having to drive anywhere. I've decided to run from the Storey Arms and head west towards the start but I won't get there before I turn around and come back. It should be a good choice on account of there are lots are watering holes so to speak and I think it's going to be another scorcher so I'll need it. Mustn't forget the sun block either!

Of course the downside to such long runs - apart from being thoroughly bloody knackering - is that I'm going to have to get up sub 6am - boo - and even then I still won't get home till close to 7pm!!! Cue the long day...

Tonight, by the way, I did a steady hour on the bike and now I'm off to the sofa and a DVD to relax....

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Shine. On recommendation - and having seen the bad boy in action at the High Peak Marathon - I have acquired myself of a MagicShine 808 head torch. To be fair it's actually a bike headlamp supplied with a headband. To say it's bright is an understatement. It is practically like having the sun attached to your head. I tried it out in the field - and planes tried to land! I cogitated long. I cogitated hard - it wasn't too painful - before making the decision to buy. It's an expensive bit of kit but sometimes times you just got to go for the top gear. I reckon this was one of those times and hopefully it will last a goodly while.

As to today's lunch run, it was a disaster. The sun was glorious but within three or four minutes I cramped up on both calves instantaneously. My legs felt heavy from the off so we weren't even going very fast. I had to stop and give them a rub. Fortunately I got going again and the rest of the run was incident free. We totally looked like joggers but interestingly it wasn't the slowest we've run the route - sure as hell felt like it though. I finished myself off with 45 minutes on the bike this evening.

I'm going to take it easy tomorrow because I want to bring my long run forward to Friday - just need to work out the route, gonna be an all-dayer again...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Not A Lot Happening Here

Well that about sums it up. A bit of row. A bit of bike. Some core body work and that's your lot. Martin and I have arranged a lunch run for tomorrow and to be honest my legs feel a bit heavy so it's going to be a steady one for me. Martin on the other hand is rocking at the moment. He was eighth in the Frenchay 10k on the weekend. I won't even try to keep up.

For the eagle eyed amongst you, you might have noticed the new 'live location' tab at the top of the page. There's not a lot to see at the moment but I've been doing some more testing of live location tracking. I've been testing a new service,, and it seems more polished than the other service I tried. So provided the battery on my phone can last 24 hours (with its spare battery) I should have full live location tracking during my South Wales Traverse attempt. Well when I say 'full' what I mean is 'as live as my crap mobile reception' will give me - them yer mountains is pretty remote. Hopefully I'll get enough reception to give some semblance of 'live' tracking though. I'm going to give it a try on my long run this coming weekend and will post the details of when and where to tune in - for those that give a $"!t...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Nearing The Finish

of tonight's session and that can only mean one thing - the Gadget Show is almost over too. Just an hour on the bike this evening. Setting, easy. Legs achy but not too sore. Hip good. And the harmony of the Universe is returning to normal.

The results from yesterday's Orror are now online and there were more runners than I thought, 272. Makes my 53rd look pretty good in the cold light of day. I reckon I would only just have nudged top twenty on a fresh set of legs and considering I started towards the back, 53rd is a result indeed.

And being a nerdy geek bastard I've even had chance to analyse the GPS data - as only a nerdy geek mathematical physicist would do - to work out I was sub seven minute mileing along the four miles of the river bank section at the end. I don't go much quicker than that at the moment under any circumstances let alone eight miles in on a f&%ked set of legs. I almost can't wait to get the Traverse out the way so I can train a few speed sessions and go bust a sub-3 hour marathon in the Autumn.

Heck I feel fine right about now - there must be a fall waiting just around the corner...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Run In The Sun

and by golly gosh it was a hot one. My legs felt as alright as I could expect - that is, I could walk. Up early. Coffee and breaky consumed it was over to Tintern for Chepstow's Harriers Offa's Orror race.

As I jogged over to the village hall to register I knew I was going to be in for 'a little bit of trouble'. I could hardly run. Not in a pain inhibiting way just a 'legs why won't you move more quickly' kind of way. I paid my fee and headed back to the car to prepare. Then, as the hour of doom approached, I shuffled over to the start line. I decided to start near the back and see if I could coax my legs into life during the first few miles - it didn't work. As we hit the first climb I ground to a halt and had to walk - oh the shame, and it wasn't even very steep, as runner after runner passed me.

I finally manage to start looking halfway like a runner once we reached the Offa's Dyke - nudge, nudge, wink, wink. The legs started working and slowly I started clawing my way into and then through the field. I was able to make my best gains on the sharp descents. Being a bit of nutter I piled down the rocky, stoney sections leaving my fellow competitors for dead - but not literally. By the time we reached the far end of the course most of the climbing was done and it was just the flat five mile run in by the side of the River Wye back to Tintern - my favourite bit - NOT. It's like a bloody road race, the ground so hard and level.

Anyway, I continued to overtake but the gaps were much larger so I only managed to make up another dozen places. Finally back to Tintern, I crossed the line in 1:42 for the 20km race with 2,000 feet of ascent. More surprising was my 53rd place. There must have 200+ in the race. I survived it and more importanly so did the legs and I was only six minutes down on my best - so all in all not a bad result considering...

Offa's Orror

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Now That's What I Call A Run

52km across the Brecon Beacons. I am, to say the least, slightly f*&ked right about now. In all there was about 9,000 feet of ascent. Conditions were ideal for a long one - ooh err. It was warm but not overly so and there wasn't much wind - fnah. Pretty much perfect.

I started out from the Tal-y-bont reservoir at just gone eight and mostly followed the route of the Brecon Beacons fell race - coming up later in the year for those interested, it's a corking twenty mile race. I digress. Once I reached Duwynt I dropped down to the Storey Arms to start my pacing practice. I ran the first part of today's recce too fast. I got to Storey Arms too quickly which was a bit of a school boy error. I really wanted to try and simulate 'real' conditions on the approach to where I was going to time my splits so I'd feel like I will in the real thing - fail. My main aim for the days run was to run easy and at the target pace I've set myself for the real traverse attempt. On that front things didn't go to well.

I got the absolute perfect line to Y Gyrn, found all the paths, walked all the ascent, held myself back but sadly got there five minutes too quick. OK, I steadied the ship and ran the loop around and back up to Duwynt - seven minutes too quick. I eased all of the up hill sections but still got there too quick.

Corn Du, Pen-y-Fan and Cribyn all passed in a similar vein - 2 minutes too quick a piece. The biggest fail was the run over to Waen Rydd. I decided to add an extra summit that isn't even included in the real thing, Fan-y-Big - stop it, it really is called that - but still got round to Waen Rydd nine minutes too bloody quick. I was better across to Alt Llywd - only three minutes up - and I got the drop to Abercynafon almost perfect on account of the drop off Alt Llywd is tortuous and I took it like a snail, and even walked bits - walking downhill? almost a sin - but I still got there with a minute to spare.

From there things got tough. The target time across to YStrad is an hour. Sounds like a lot. Felt like nowhere near enough. The climb out of the valley was killer. I took it really steady to conserve as much energy as I could but it felt too slow, far too slow. I thought I was going to need an hour just to get to the top ridge let alone the run across a few miles of wild country to YStrad. As it turned out my fears were unfounded, once I got to the top the run across was al-right and I arrived at YStrad with eight minutes to spare.

The drop through the quarry to Pyrgad farm went almost perfect. With Pat's magic route you save loads of time without needing to break into a sweat - another four minutes.

That was the end of the pacing section and I basically made my way back over the ridge, back to my car at Tal-y-bont reservoir. Yawn - that wasn't boring then - NOT.

As I type this the after effects of the run are beginning to kick in. All in all, though, it's been another bloody good day. I'm going to hop on the bike later for 30 very easy minutes to ease out the muscles if I'm to have any chance of running half decently at Chepstow Harriers 20km Offa's Orra race tomorrow. And then tomorrow afternoon I've the delight that is 'cutting the grass'...

Today's route:

Friday, April 15, 2011

Route Planning

Tomorrow's training route is well and truly planned - I only hope I can survive it! At 30 miles (plus a little here and there) together with its estimated 9,000 feet of ascent it is going to be - without getting overly technical with the fell running terms - a complete sod. I need to do it ergo I bloody well will do it. I'm guessing I could be some time - might need several kippers to be smoked because I'll be coming home for supper. No doubt it's going to be an all-day'er which means a 6am start to the day - where did all the lie-ins go?

I'm quite looking forward to Sunday's Offa's Orra. There'll be no pressure to run well - I'll have a bloody good excuse...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ode To Training

The was a 'young man' from Longhope (- slight trade's description act misdemeanour there)
Who biked, rowed, pulled-up and sat-up
As he finished the session
Like a man on a mission
The balance of training's a tightrope

Cue feet up....

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Weatherman Didn't Lie

but why does he get it right when it rains? Seems a bit unfair if you ask me. Didn't really matter in the end though because I feel a bit knackered right about now. Just about managed to climb aboard the bike for an hour but that's me finished. I think I'm going to sleep like a log tonight.

Not really sure what I'll muster for tomorrow. Might give resting a thought with an eye on my long run Saturday and then the race Sunday. I'd rather get a quality long run than a tired, pained affair. I'll have to think about it...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I Should Have

but I didn't. During the drive home I ummed. I also ahhed. Should I? Would I? In fact, could I? As it turns out, I could ... but I didn't. That may be a mistake as I hear that the weather is on the turn. No more ladies wearing very little - which is a shame. Hopefully the milder, possibly damper weather won't last long and then we can get back to admiring the lovely views...

Anyway, with the umming and ahhing complete by the time I arrived home I embarked on a bike session and a row - but not concurrently - with some ab-crunches thrown in at the end for good measure. That all went OK but in light of the 'change' I think I should really have got out for a run to make the most of the sunny spring evening. Oh well, I can't turn back the hands of time. Funny, funny how time goes by and blessings are missed in the wink of an eye, why oh why oh why should one have to go on suffering - just kidding, there's no more suffering going on here, move along, nothing to see.

Looking forward to the weekend I've only one race, Chepstow's Offa's Orra on Sunday morning, a fairly short 12 mile hilly thing - so it won't be too taxing. It is a good race if you're interested. Starts out from Tintern, near the Abbey goes up a bit, a long a bit, down a bit and then back - a bit. Aside from the race, I need to give some thought to Saturday's run. The schedule says I need to run something in the region of 25 to 30 miles - gonna be an all day'er so I need to make sure I plan properly. Time to start experimenting with protein intake during the run. I'm getting used to carb'ing during the run, now got to get the protein issues right...

Monday, April 11, 2011

After The Work Is Done...

You go for a run. For the first time in yonks - what is the official definition of a yonk? I don't think it's an official SI unit of time, but I might be wrong - anyway, for the first time in yonks I managed to shift my arse out the door after the drive home. First off though, I chopped the veg, spiced sauce and lobbed the casserole in the oven. Then I ran.

A nice steady trot through Flaxley woods in the fading light of the evening sun was just what the doctor ordered. The blue bells were out. The birds were singing but other than me, not another soul was stirring. I covered the five and a half miles in a slow 46 minutes. But by god it was nice to be out there - especially knowing a nice bit of healthy grub would be waiting for me upon my return - I was hoping someone would call by with some decent food, failing that there would be my stew.

Going to finish off the nights training without a half hour ease down on the bike and watch the Gadget Show - could it be any better? Yeah, on second thoughts, don't answer that, it might upset me...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Wonderfully Lazy

You know sometimes you just got to do it. You got to forget what's right. Forget what's just. Sometimes you just got to be a lazy bastard. Today was my sometime.

I woke late. That was 'a sign'. The first one. Then, as I took my first step from the bed, I got a second sign. Pain in my left hip. To be fair, that wasn't so much 'a sign', more an actual complaint. It was OK yesterday during the race and afterwards but today it's a bit sore. With only seven weeks to go till my traverse I need to take care. One slip now and it's over before it's begun. I cancelled the planned run and did a non-impact bike session and row instead.

A part of me regrets not getting out for a run in the glorious weather. The forest looks great this time of year, with the sun's rays fighting their way through the burgeoning forest canopy. But I needed to listen to my body today, now more than ever. When it says, 'hang on a minute' I need to listen. And if I'm honest I feel ready for the traverse already - but I don't want to be cocky, I give the traverse utmost respect. It's just that the next few weeks are going to be a bonus. There's no doubt in my mind I am the fittest I've ever been. Yesterday's Sugar Loaf PB only confirms that. It's feels like the old days. The day's when I had no worries. No fears. The day's when I raced to finish top ten. Oh happy day.

With the days amended training complete I headed into the afternoon sunshine - well, the garden anyway. I fixed the dog eaten gate - can't think whose dog did that? Then I tied back the roses and trained the climby plant thing over the gateway arch - what? Do I look like Alan Titchmarsh, I don't what type of plant it is. Then I took down the worst of the eye sore anti-dog-jump-the-fence defences - it's not like they'll ever be needed again. The garden is looking less Colditz more country garden.

Been a lovely restful weekend with the bonus of a great race. Totally topper...

Saturday, April 09, 2011

What A Corker

and I don't just mean the weather. I had another fabutastic race. True, I didn't score as many championship points as at the Hogweed Half but 96 points for fifth Chepstow Harrier home ain't bad - especially considering the cream of the Chepstow crop were out. We had four in the top ten so my fifth counter, 14th overall, wasn't too shabby and like last week, it was a large field. 108 runners buoyed up by the fact it was an East Wales Championship race as well.

So, to the race. I started towards the front but on the first climb I dropped back down the field. Either the cumulative sum of all my training miles were finally taking there toll or there were going to be a few runners suffering later on in the race. For those who don't know the race, the Sugar Loaf race comes in two varieties the cool winter version and today's variety, the fruity summer serenade. At only seven miles and 1,700feet of ascent it was a little short for me.

By the top of the first ascent I was two minutes quicker than last year to the same point - that was a worry. I was still well down the field, probably outside the top thirty, but it felt like too much of a time gain. What the hell was happening?

Then, after the mile and a half section across the flat I'd gained another minute but was still well down the field, although I had improved my position a little. Shortly there after we started the final climb up to the Sugar Loaf and fortunately I began to make some decent headway. Nearing the top my arch nemesis came into view, Matthew L - he's not really, but we've had some close battles over the last couple of years. He hit the top first but with the fast descent to come I knew the race was mine. Regrettably though, I'd lost much of the time I'd gained over last year's race to that point but I was still to the good but only by thirty seconds - boo.

Finally it was time for the rapid descent - not quite into hell, but Abergavenny is pretty close. I gained a few more places before hitting the final road section and then another few more to finally emerge onto the finishing field in 13th place only to be out sprinted by some young whipper snapper - and he made me look like I was walking he was so quick.

I crossed the line in a time of 58:36 which I think is almost a full minute quicker than last years time. So all in all I'm well pleased. My running continues to go from strength to strength. Just imagine if I actually tapered for a race...

Friday, April 08, 2011

Not Sure I'll Be Rested

For tomorrow's Sugar Loaf race. My legs feel heavy, very heavy. I haven't run today and despite the lovely weather, brighter evenings and plenty of time, I held off running. An hour on the bike to get yesterday's long one - no - out of the system doesn't feel like it worked. Maybe thing's will feel differnt in the morning.

I'm looking forward to having a bit of a battle against my Chepstow mates in the race, a bit of a natter afterwards and then for once I'll be home mid afternoon to enjoy the rest of the day and relax. That will be the calm before the storm of another longer run on Sunday. I might try the Malverns again...

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Grade A Day

Yeah baby. Bloody great recce and boy, what a day for it. I had to apply sun block for the first time this year! Bloody marvellous.

It was a circular loop today so started my run just below the change over point before the Pen Cerrig Calch climb and ran backwards. Well, not actually backwards, reverse direction might be a better choice of words. Anyway, I headed over to Tor-y-Foel and up to the ridge. Non of that part is in the traverse, just a means to an end to get me to the run across to Ystrad. I ran nice and steadily. Nothing too ambitious and found my way to the recce start proper. With Ystrad in clear sight I began.

Taking it steady, I wound my way over to it. I got the route pretty spot on. From there I cut across to the woods. Again I picked the lines pretty good. I mucked up slightly on one little bit but because Pat had showed me almost hidden paths I was able to bear back onto the correct line almost instantly. If I hadn't run this part with Pat there's no way I would be able to run it so quickly.

I dropped down through the woods and started the road section. My main aim of the day was to see whether my route idea, to miss out the private land of the Glen Usk Estate, is a goer. I managed a good pace along the road. Not too fast. Not too slow. As I neared the village I started my route. Heading off the road I bore to the left of the standard route to head into the village on the west side. I followed through the village and over the narrow road bridge. From there I carved through to the main A40 - the only slight down side of my route, a mile along the A40 but on the plus it was completely flat.

At the appropriate point I bore north off the A40 back onto footpaths which I then followed for a mile or so. Again flat running. Finally it was back onto road for the climb to the end of stage. All in all I am well pleased with the route. Although it's longer than using Glen Usk - but only 500m - it only utilises publicly accessible land. And because there is actually less ascent than using Glen Usk I don't think it will actually cost me much time.

My schedule for that section is 2 hours and 5 minutes. I ran it today, and fairly leisurely in 1 hour 39 which is great as I can afford to go even slower - and then it won't feel like I'm running at all. I'm kidding. I will have done many more miles in the real thing by the time I have to run that section but it's good to know I won't have to kill myself to hit the target.

The next part up to PCC was pretty text book. There is much opportunity for a balls up but fortunately I was able to follow the route properly. I walked the entire climb. No running, not even on the one or two flattish parts. I wanted to see what my time would be by taking it really steadily and not pushing hard. Amazingly I hit the summit in 41 minutes - the schedule allows for an hour and 8 minutes. Again, that's great because I was 27 seven minutes quicker and I really was taking it steady. I have to say I'm surprised but it all helps to build my confidence.

The descent back to the car was over in a jiffy and with some grub consumed I drove home. In all I covered just under 42 kilometres with 4,500 feet of ascent in 4 hours and 56 minutes. That's much quicker than I will be going in the real thing. And once home I even managed to get out the lawn mower and cut the grass - wonders will never cease!

Been a great day so far. Going to relax in a bit. Tomorrow is going to be a rest day ahead of the Sugar Loaf fell race on Saturday...

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

It Happened

The lunch run, that is. The sun shone. The birds sang - well I expect somewhere birds sang - and we ran. The clockwise loop and I ran like a sack of potatoes - and a sack of old, sprouting ones at that. But it didn't matter to me. I got out there, and that's what's matters. Martin, on the other hand, is still on fire at the moment. Having set a new sub-eighteen 5k pb last week, he continues to run well. I finished off my exercise for today with an easy thirty cool down on the bike.

I've booked a day off work to head back over to the beacons for more recceing. This time I am attempting to carve out a new and somewhat intricate route from the village of Llangynidr to the start of the climb to Pen-Cerrig-Calch without using the Glen Usk Estate. I want the route of my traverse to be entirely on public rights of way. To use private land - albeit with permission - doesn't seem in the spirit. I know it will cost me time and distance but I have to try. To make my mark. Where I lead maybe others will follow...

Anyway, to that effect I believe I have determined a cunning new way that only adds 500 metres. OK, that's a couple of minutes but if my calculations are correct - and I have every faith they are, my route entails 75 feet less ascent and you know me, I'm a great believer in not losing too much height. I reckon I'll get back some of the 500m from that. Tomorrow I'm going to try it out.

Other than that bit of excitement it isn't going to be the most exciting of runs. Up Tor-y-Foel, along the ridge, a practice crossing to Ystrad and then back down the road - boo. Then my new section - yeah. Then up Pen-Cerring-Calch - boo. Then back down to the car and home - yeah.

Right, time to detail the route....

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Legs Eleven

The number of 'em I would have needed had the lunch run taken place. From the moment I reached the top of the stairs at work I knew I wasn't going to run. Three flights of stairs was all it took for me to hit the 'burn' - that's poor. We have rescheduled for tomorrow. An hour on the bike and a bit of a row this evening should sort me out.

Is that a cake I smell burning?....

Monday, April 04, 2011

Sugar Low

Well not so much a sugar low, more a race low. Last week was a great week but now I've crashed. That's not to say today's been a particularly bad day. Work was good but it wasn't a race. Can the coming week measure up to the last? There's the Sugar Loaf but that's not till Saturday - and that's practically five days away. Can I last without a race till then? Can training possibly fill the void left by the absence of a race? Nope, but I'll just have to get over it and train anyway. I'll store the race energy and recapture the buzz next Saturday. It's a Chepstow championship race so hopefully I can claim good points and beat last years time into the bargain.

Tonight I mustered for 90 minutes on the bike. My legs have felt pretty dead all day so I took things pretty easy. The forecast for tomorrow looks a bit rubbish so the planed lunch run might not happen...

Sunday, April 03, 2011

The Might That Is Team Bristol Water

My legs felt like someone had detached them from my body, driven over them with a steam roller and stuck 'em back on again. Suffice to say I did not feel confident of a good run in the Bitton Road Relays. At only five miles it should have been a doddle - it was not.

We met at the race HQ to organise ourselves and work out team tactics - 'run as fast as you can' - I kept quiet, not knowing how 'fast' my brand of fast was going to be. With team orders registered, we headed out - an easy mile to the start.

Up first was Martin 'The Speed' Bailey and he got us off to a good start. Not sure of his time but I think he came home in fifth place. While Martin was running I set off in pursuit at a leisurely pace to try and get my legs into some sort of operational state over the five mile trek to Bath, ready to start my leg when the time came. That gave me a chance to get some marker points to gauge my pace when I ran back in the race proper.

Our second runner was 'Dead Speed' Dan Massey, running from Bath back to Bitton. He played a blinder moving us up to fourth place in a time of 28 minutes - an absolutely cracking time.

Third, taking us back to Bath was Graham 'Wonder Legs' Crump. He's had a few injury problems over the last year or so and is getting back into the swing of things. He held the ship steady to reach Bath in 5th place. That put the pressure on me. I have to be honest, I was hoping he would have taken it easy so I could pootle home. As it was the sixth place runner less than a minute behind - and that meant I had to run as hard as my frail legs would permit me. Damn it.

I set off with the intention of running even splits. To that effect things were going well until the mile marker when the sixth place runner moved up to fifth and there was nothing I could do to hold him off. He edged away. Out to fifty, maybe seventy five metres but then the gap stopped growing. The racer in me kicked in and I dug deep. I got a nice rhythm going - I'm a great fan of the rhythm method - and slowly but surely - don't call me Shirley - I started to reel him back. At first I wasn't even sure the gap was reducing. Mind tricks. But after a few minutes I realised it was.

Little by little he came back to me as I pushed hard. I felt, despite the poor shape of my legs, that if I could get to within ten metres of him by the time we reached the home straight that I could fire up my long forgotten and rarely used afterburners to take me past.

In the end, the question of whether the afterburners would fire up or not didn't raise it's head as by the time we hit the four mile marker we were level. As I nudged ahead he kicked to stay with me but I just kept pushing and finally he broke as I pulled clear. In the end I finished 100m clear, ensuring we remained in a great 5th place. My time of 33:11 was only thirty seconds off my time from 2006 - and I hadn't raced the day before when I set that time. Pleased? You bet.

All round it was a great team performance. Team Bristol Water had held it's head high. Man of the match has to be Dan with his 28 minute 5 mile. Corking.

My splits (kilometres), for the record, were; 4:11.5, 4:18.5, 4:13, 4:07, 4:08, 4:02, 3:56 and 4:00 (there was an additional 15 seconds to tag on because kilometres and miles do not mix). A pleasing set of splits as it proves my strength. Read my lips, 'I don't fade'...

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Bloody F&%king Brilliant

She was there. He was there. And you know what? I felt fine. More than fine. I feel fan-bloody-tastic. I'm the fittest I've ever been and I feel great. I can see clearly now the pain has gone. My life is better now. [shit I've just switched from past to present tense in the same paragraph - that can't be good, oh well]. I've no regrets. It's been like sailing through a tempest. Like navigating into the eye of the storm but I've made it through and I honestly do think my life is better now. Life is one big lesson and f*%k me I've learnt a lot this last year. And now I'm back to enjoying life. I started the day with a smile. I started the race with a smile and I god damned finished it with one.

The race to which I refer, of course, is the 15 mile Llanbedr To Blaenavon fell race. A testing little race consisting three main climbs to Crug Mawr, Sugar Loaf and Blorenge accounting for the 4,500 feet of ascent. In truth the race was a little too much of a sprint for me. To really show my strength I need something a little longer - oooh matron - but I did my best.

As a one trick pony - or should that be, one speed pony - I started steady. Remained steady on the middle section and finished steady.

The race usually attracts about thirty runners. Maybe fifty in a good year but there were 110 starters this year on account of it being part of the Welsh Fell Championships (or something like that). I didn't fancy my chances. It was also a Chepstow nominated fell series race which I didn't realise.

I was never really sure of my position through the race but I did over take a few here and there - especially when some of those ahead charitably decided on experimental new routes - not sure their choice of 'long' cut were particularly sensible though. Anyway, I knew the route and ploughed my own furrow - ssh, stop it - to traverse what I believe is the optimum route. I remember the words of my Nepalese Guru well, 'Always stick to the route you know'. OK, you might lose out from time to time as those with local knowledge pick a shorter line but you lessen your chances of what is commonly referred to in fell running circles as 'a cockup'. So, if you only take away one piece of advice from me - I ain't a wise man - it would be:- always stick to the route you know.

By the time I hit Blorenge I was still feeling good. I fueled up on my final energy gel at the start of the climb and by the time I hit the mid section I was going well. I hit the top with something to spare and got running quickly. The final two to three miles can be heaven or hell. I've done hell before and today it was heaven. I can't claim to have blasted across the top at lightning speed but I certainly went well and didn't fade. And fortunately I didn't make any mistakes on the final drop through Blaenavon to finish in a time of 2 hours and 31 minutes - a PB by two minutes - whoop. Better than that though, I was top ten - yeah, baby - 9th place - whoop whoop. Ninth place in a large field and a championship race too boot. Magic, bloody magic.

So far it's been a corker of a week. Fastest 5k for over three years. PB on Thursday night in the Chepstow Handicap by over a minute and another personal best today. And possibly better than all that - hard to imagine what could be better than that - I've only got meeself a bloomin' pizza for dinner.

Right, I'm off for half an hour on the bike to unwind - got my fourth race of the week to prepare for, the Bitton Road Relays. If you're running, I'll see you there tomorrow - just don't expect me to run the 5 miler very quickly.

Today's race route:-

Friday, April 01, 2011

You'd Think I'd Rest

Ahead of a tough race. Yeah, you'd think but oh no, not me. No I go for a lunch run and then half an hour on the bike. Stupid boy.

I really felt drained after the run. To be fair, I felt pretty darned drained during the run. 33:30 for the Dundry loop ain't pretty. Though I honestly felt I was going to close to thirty five minutes so in a way, 33:30 was a result. I almost stopped on the hill but I don't do giving in and just kept plugging away until I hit the summit. From there I took it easy all the way home - wee, wee, wee?

I've had two races already this week and both have been season best's. To me though, running on empty is all good practice for what I will encounter on the 28th May. So long as I avoid injury [touches head] the tough schedule won't do me any harm. I'm sure there are many that would frown on my training technique but I'm of the 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger' school and so far, I can't complain. I'm not dead and if I'm not there already, I'm damn close to being the fittest I've ever been. Certainly not the fastest. Speed means nothing to me - oh, Vienna. But fit? You bet your ass baby.

Bring on tomorrow's race. I'll not win but I'll try f^%king hard...