Hartlepool Marina 5

Me sprinting for the finish
Got my sprint face on at the finish (Thanks to Lisa Taylor for the picture)

This race was in some doubt after my recent car troubles. But my fabulous Fetchie friends Lesley and Jeff came to my rescue. So on a sunny Sunday morning, I headed over to South Shields, recalling memories of the Great North Run, ready for a pick up.

All on time and off down the road to Hartlepool with much chatter in the car and Jeff predicting a sub 45 for me but I wasn’t so sure. The marina looked lovely in the sunshine, with the masts of the tall ship Trincomalee poking up through the skyline. It was still a bit chilly, but I Geordied up for my first race of the season in short sleeves and capris.

On the Race HQ boat I met Jason out for a rare road race and Dave, just spectating this one. But always two happy Fetchies it’s lovely to see. As we lined up at the start, there was some confusion over which way we’d be heading and it seemed this year we ran our laps of the marina in the opposite direction. That caught out Lisa on photograph duty, but she got some great pics on our second time around.

Soon we were running out along the promenade, into a slight headwind. I had to remind myself this wasn’t a 5k and tried to pace myself accordingly. I zoomed through the first mile in 7:59 which would have been a fantastic target pace if I’d kept it up, but I dropped back a little as the distance took its toll.

It was nice running today, in the sunshine with a slight cooling breeze (Flip – where were you?). And having never run the distance before, I had nothing to prove other than to run a good race in my own head.

As so often I was out on my own. I stuck with an older guy in a Heaton Harriers vest for a while, but we kept dropping back and then re-passing each other. I now can’t remember if I eventually overtook him or he got away from me. I didn’t realise Lisrun was taking pictures taking photos until he gave me a shout.

There was another guy with rather squeaky, shuffly shoes that I ran beside for a while, trading places until I passed him. There were moments when I felt it was tough and my legs lacked speed and then others where I seemed to be able to put a bit of a spurt on. Whenever someone came alongside me to make a pass, I pressed on and tried to keep with them for as long as I could. I had a number of these mini races and they helped keep me focused.

I saw the race leader bounding back along the promenade with a huge lead on the next runner and then a succession of speedy athletes going past. I almost missed Ha!Ha! until he have me a shout. But I yelled out to Jason and got back into my race.

Me running the Hartlepool Marina 5 mile race
Heading for the finish (thanks to Dave Robson for the picture)

There was a girl in a pink top, wearing a jacket around her waist. I passed her quite early on and then she came back at me. I overtook her again, squeezing in between her and another girl in turquoise who I stuck with until the turn.

One out of the headwind, the sunshine was blazing and I was starting to feel the bike miles in my legs. Still I pushed on, relishing the run by the sea, knowing I’d done more than half race distance. I saw Lesley looking strong and smiling and gave a few shouts to other runners as we passed.

Heading back towards the Marina and I was really struggling. But every time I felt I wanted to slow down, I tried to dig in and make my legs move faster. In the last mile, a guy in a yellow top fought to gain on me and I tried to make myself hard to pass, but eventually he had more in his legs and I had to let him go. At this point I was wondering how I ever ran 10k only 3 weeks ago, because this was feeling tough and I could feel my running losing form.

As the finish line approached and supporters began to appear, the girl in pink came past me. “Go on,” I said, “You worked for that.” She was off and away and I thought I wouldn’t catch her. But as I started to realise the finish was closer than I thought, my legs powered up and hit a sprint before I even asked them to. I really don’t know where it came from, but that sudden explosion of power and strength was exhilarating and I beat her to the line – my time 43:03.

I spoke to her at the water station afterwards and she said it had been her first race and she was really pleased with herself. She had every right to be.

Hartlepool water has never tasted so good as it did at the finish. Then back to see the rest of the runners coming in, congratulate Jeff on predicting my time better than I did and see a smiling Jason chuffed with a cracking run. Cheered Lesley over the line – still smiling.

After some grub and chat in the pub, it was a happy car load that headed back with talk of more races still to come. It’s promising to be a grand summer with my running buddies.

Stats and stuff:
5 miles 43:03
mile splits:
1. 07:59
2. 08:35
3. 08:47
4. 08:47
5. 08:42

Training catch up

Another glorious spring day with barely a breath of wind, perfect for my planned cycle to run session. I set off a bit later than usual after a trip to our friend’s farm to see the new calves and piglets – a sign that Spring really is on the way.

The piglets were all hidden in their straw nest when we arrived, but they soon started to wriggle and shake, then pop up through the bedding one by one and come running out to see if we were offering food. The welsh sow, Gwyneth is a good mum, quite relaxed but protective of her brood who squealed and squabbled over the best spot for milk.

Their tails are just starting to curl and their bright curiosity about their world is adorable. As we were leaving, one of the black and white saddlebacks popped out of its pen to take a good look at us. But when it saw we’d noticed it, scampered back to mum quick smart.

Back home and out onto my bike, following roughly the same route as last week and opting to test myself up Priory Hill at the start again. I’m so much more confident on my bike now. Every time it gets easier to get out and get into a good rhythm. And it helps that I know the roads and paths a little better now.

So keeping it strong but not flat out. Trying to stay more on the biggest ring and mainly staying on the top levels of the gears (except for the massive hill). I felt like I was going faster for less effort than last time. That feeling changed a little when I turned into the wind, but the ride back was fun. And overestimating my turning spot meant I covered a bit more distance than last week, but managed it in a similar time.

Back home, rack the bike, remove the helmet, gloves and jacket and out again for the run leg. This time I definitely knew they were my legs because they hurt. Not injury painful, but leaden, achey pain as though at the end of a long run.

I’ve forgotten that ache as most of my runs are shorter now. Today it was just 5k. But it was a tough 5k and the ache never really eased. I will have this to come again I’m sure, later in the year when I start to build up my distance. I kept telling myself it was good practice for running on tired legs.

The rest of the day I was busy cleaning, tidying and preparing a delicious belly pork hot pot that we shared with our friends from the farm who provide our delicious organic meat and vegetables each week.

I don’t know what it is since I started swimming ‘properly’, but I’m often a bit more nervous when I first get in the pool and it takes me a while to settle. I started a bit like that, fretting and rushing through my swim even though I was just warming up. The pool was quite busy but I was trying to tell myself that would be good for me as I’ll be swimming in a competition in the next couple of weeks and need to be confident in a turbulent pool.

At the end of one length, as I was fiddling with my goggles, a guy offered me some advice about cleaning them and then said “I notice you cross your arms in front of your body when you swim. You would be better to stretch them out straight ahead.”

I thanked him for the advice and we got into a bit of conversation, wherein he explained he used to do a lot of swimming and had trained as a lifeguard. After a couple more lengths as I was taking another breather, he asked if he could swim alongside me and help me with some tips. I was a bit unsure, but decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and give it a try.

So I swam some more sets, mainly 100m at a time and tried to pick up on some technique. I need to bend my arms more under the water, use my legs a little more (pushing down as well as up), make more use of the push off the side and keep my fingers together.

It was all good advice, kindly given and to be honest, all things I sort of know myself, but it did help me focus. It completely made me forget that I’d been a bit uncomfortable in the pool before and probably pushed me to swim a bit faster than I would have done – although I never did anything longer than a 200m set. But overall it was good to get a bit of unofficial coaching.

I set the alarm early and made the most of a glorious still early morning out at the coast. My legs were a bit reluctant after the weekend and a swim, but I managed a solid set of 7 reps of 4 min run and 1 min recovery. And I relished being able to enjoy the best part of the day.

When I woke early again on Wednesday morning, I decided to make the most of it and hit the backyard for a session with my kettlebell. It was a session planned for Saturday, but I’d already decided I wanted to give myself the option of an easier day at the weekend ahead of the Hartlepool Marina 5 mile race on Sunday.

It meant I doubled up with a spinning session later that evening. And that was another toughie. A different instructor this week, so a different session, but still hard work with some sprint and climb intervals. I was absolutely shattered at the end, and made sure I had a good stretching session to ease out the kinks.

Thursday – my awesome PT session
I love this workout. It’s been a staple in my calendar since I started all this back in September 2008. It’s what started me running and what first got me thinking about triathlons, inspired by my amazing personal trainer and friend, Ian.

This morning he’d brought a 12kg and 8kg kettlebell and skipping ropes that I used as part of my warm up. Then, without telling me what he had planned, he put me through his kettlebell challenge. I figured it out part of the way through when we did 5 sets of an exercise that I normally do 3 of. And also because he was trying to keep me moving with very little rest between the different exercises.

Now I’ve looked at this challenge and said I’d try it one day. But really I was daunted by it, so I never did. And I completed it in just over 25 minutes. It was hellish tough. But when we got to the last exercise I knew I could do it. And the feeling when I did was as exhilarating as any race I’ve done.

That wasn’t the end of my workout. There was more before stretches and chat and emptying the sand from my trainers. But it was an amazing achievement that kept me smiling and bouncing the rest of the day.

We’d discussed training and racing for the rest of the week. And I had agreed I needed to get some rest in. So it was madness to go for a swim the same evening. But I had the time free, and I figured it might ease out some muscle tightness.

So I swam. Just a short one – around 20 minutes with no particular goals or focus. And it did ease out the tightness in my legs. Best of all, in a busy pool, there was no anxiety or fretfulness at the start. Maybe I was too tired to care. But I swam and enjoyed it and I even remembered some of the coaching tips.

Ok, so not a complete rest day as I fitted in a lunchtime pilates session. Sadly it will probably be my last one of these as Sylvia, our instructor, is heading off to Cyprus. We’ll miss her as she does an excellent class and today’s was one of the best.

There are a some pilates, yoga and body balance type classes at my gym, so I’ll have to see if there’s one I can get to. It’s a good discipline to have some good stretches alongside the running and pilates has helped me develop strong core muscles. Plus I like the contrast of the quieter, more chilled out exercise alongside all the high adrenaline stuff I do.

So that’s me this week. Lots going on as usual. And some quality training that has me feeling fitter, stronger and ready to take on my next challenge. Next up – a five mile race on Sunday.

A poetic interlude

A couple of weeks ago I wrote down some thoughts about running that came out as poetry. And the most excellent Barry Cornelius kindly sent me a comment with a link to ‘The Song of the Ungirt Runners

I hadn’t read it before, but thought some of you might like it too. I particularly like the second verse:

The waters of the seas
Are troubled as by storm
The tempest strips the trees
And does not leave them warm
Does the tearing tempest pause?
Do the tree-tops ask it why?
So we run without a cause
‘Neath the big bare sky.

At the moment those images of tempests and storm tossed seas resonate with the scenes we’ve witnessed in Japan. And they reminded me of the Run for Japan campaign that I and many of my other running friends have contributed to.

It’s a simple idea: do a run, log the miles and make an optional donation to the British Red Cross. It’s a small way of showing that we’re thinking of the many people whose lives have been utterly turned upside down.

Today I also read that a poem by Gerard Manly Hopkins, ‘The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo’ was read at Elizabeth Taylor’s funeral. I think it’s a stunner. And who better to read it than Richard Burton?

Sometimes poetry is perfect, especially for the big events. Its heightened language speaks to us in ways that prose finds difficult, through rhythm, rhyme and precise language. Like the right word at the right time, it resonates deeply.

Unexpected kindness – a memory of Japan

origami crane
Origami crane

I first visited Japan in the spring of 2007 on a journey to see the cherry blossom. One day, as we were travelling by train, a young man carrying a backpack approached us. He held out his hand and showed us the origami crane nestled in his palm and asked if we would like to learn to make one.

He sat down beside us and started to show us the simple folds on a piece of origami paper. We learned his name was Tsetsuo and he liked to talk to practice his English.

He told us a great deal about the place we were travelling to, a little about himself and how Japanese people learn English in school, but how many are afraid of making mistakes when they speak it. We told him about our wonderful travels so far, the amazing food, sights and scenes we had already enjoyed.

When we got off the train, he walked us over to a tram stop and made sure we reached our destination. It was one of many, many acts of kindness and hospitality on our trip.

But what makes it so memorable is our destination that day. We were travelling to Hiroshima to visit the Peace museum that tells the story of the atomic bomb attack on the city.

Hiroshima. The word itself stops you as dead as the watch we saw forever stalled at 08:15, when the explosion obliterated the city.

It’s a word tinged with sadness. A word that reflects the worst of what we, as human beings, can do to each other.

But it can also reflect the best of people. Through the kindness of Tsetsuo. He knew his city was a hard place to visit. And that was why he took such care to welcome us. To honour our interest in his home town and help us see the smiles beyond the suffering.

It’s hard to imagine when you see the pictures and the models of what was left after the blast and read the stories of the fires, the water shortages and the desperate human suffering that resulted from the attack, but Hiroshima was rebuilt.

As we learned in the museum, in only a few days the trams began to run again and despite all the fears that nothing would ever grow again in that irradiated earth, lilies bloomed between the tracks.

The A-Bomb dome, the building that marks the epicentre of the bomb blast remains a ruined shell. A memorial so that no one ever forgets what happened there. But the gentle resilience and respect means the people of Hiroshima were, in time, able to move on.

That’s what gives me hope and faith that despite the current, unimaginable horrors caused by the earthquake and tsunami, Japan and Japanese people will endure and rebuild. They will do it quietly, gracefully and humbly.

They are well equipped and better organised to deal with such disasters than most. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel for the kindness of those who made us feel so welcome, and shared their culture with us.

So I’ll do what I can in a small way. On Saturday I’ll run my local parkrun and dedicate those few miles to Run for Japan, making a donation to the British Red Cross Appeal.

It may feel like a small thing, but small things matter. In Japanese culture, the degree of your bow can show the level of respect you offer to the person you are greeting. My gesture may be small, but my bow is deep.

The BBC’s Rachel Harvey captures brilliantly the hope and resilience that remains in Japan today: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/9426878.stm

Diary of a wannabe triathlete part 3 – bricked

I’ve relaxed my training goals a little this week. I can’t really say I’ve eased up on my training, as I’ve still managed to fit a lot in. But I’ve been guided more by how I felt and what I could manage to do, without pushing myself to tick off distances and times.

After my race last Saturday, Sunday should have been a rest day, but feeling out of sorts I took myself for a slow run and then I cycled to the supermarket for supplies. So, when I felt rather tired and more in need of a relaxed evening on Monday, I ditched my swim and took the night off.

Tuesday I worked from home and was looking forward to getting out for a run all day. But when the time came, it was windy, grey and overcast and I felt low on energy. I still ran, but more to enjoy the experience and shake off some of my worries than to match the time and distance on my plan. Generally I prefer to go for quality over quantity when it comes to training. And in this case you could argue that it was a run that was neither one thing or another – not speedy or especially long. But it was an enjoyable run, that made me relax and 45 minutes in the fresh air did me lots of good – including securing an excellent night’s sleep.

Wednesday I tackled Ema’s spinning class again. Boy it’s a toughie and the sprints absolutely kill me. But I survived and hopefully burned off some of the chocolate mood enhancers that have found their way into my diet this week.

Thursday is my regular early morning PT session which I love. I really do look forward to it. It’s always challenging and it’s always a pleasure to work things out with Ian and get answers to any questions I may have about training. I found it very tough this week. I felt low on energy again, but we tackled some pretty hard complexes with the kettlebell and somehow I kept going.  Ian was really encouraging this week, and I knew I’d worked hard, so it really lightened my mood.

I could have swum on Thursday night, but opted to rest again and take a quieter day on Friday. My pilates session showed how hard I’d worked my core on Thursday and gave me a welcome stretch out for my back and shoulders.

Saturday should have been parkrun and I was very sorry to miss the first paced session and seeing my parkrun buddies, but I had other things to deal with in the morning.

Seeing as the weather stayed reasonable in the afternoon, I opted to complete my first official bike to run brick. Kitted up, tyres pumped up, I was soon speeding away on the roads – so much more confident now. At first I thought my friend Al’s advice on making sure my tyres were well inflated was paying off and I even flattered myself that I’d improved a bit as I felt like I was flying. I even tackled a steep hill that had me completely breathless, but still moving.

When I turned back I realised how the wind had been flattering me and now it was in my face, I had to work much harder. Most of the time, I cycled at a comfortable level. Faster than a commute to the shops or a saunter along the coast, but not flat out as fast as my legs would take me. I wanted to leave myself something for the run.

I had a small stop for a slight wardrobe malfunction as I managed to snag my old run tights on my bike frame somehow. And there were a couple of places I had to slow down for traffic lights or walkers on the cycle paths. But I managed just over 15k in 50 minutes.

Back into the house and a slightly longer than planned transistion, as once again I snagged my tights as I was getting off the bike and this time the seam was well and truly ripped. Not wanting to scare the good folks out along the sea front, I dashed upstairs to change into a pair of capris. A five minute transition isn’t really in my triathlon plan. But then again I bet few transitions have three flights of stairs to negotiate.

Suitably dressed, having shed my helmet, jacket and gloves I headed back out for the run. And super triathlete, Lesley was right, it was a lot easier than the first time I tried it. My legs still felt heavy and weird, but not nearly so soft and wibbly.

Once again the pace felt slow compared to the effort. It felt like 5k effort and barely jogging pace. But I told myself to push on, keep going and not to worry. The aim was to complete 5k off the back of a bike session, the time didn’t really matter.

The route is flat and familiar and I piled on, determined just to keep going. As I counted down the kilometres I tried to mount a bit of a push for the last one, but really any increase in speed came down to the last 800m or so. It was so hard. I felt so tired. Like the end of a long run for half marathon training. It was all I could do to keep going to the end, even though I brightened myself up with an attempt at a sprint in the last few yards. I stopped the watch at just under 27 minutes, which is actually a good 5k for me.

And now I’m zonked. Properly worn out and weary in a good way with achey legs that want to do no more than sit and relax and watch TV. And an appetite that’s roving the cupboards for good things to eat. Lots of stretching tonight and probably a swim tomorrow to shake things out a bit.

Make no mistake, this triathlon is going to be hard. The endurance needed for three back to back events will mean I have to dig deep by the time I get to the run. But I’m beginning to believe I can do it. And actually, I might really enjoy it.

Training this week:
Mon: Rest
Tues: 8k run
Weds: Spinning class plus 1 mile treadmill run
Thurs: PT session (kettlebell and whole body workout)
Fri: Pilates
Sat: 15k bike/5k run brick session

Thinking of Japan

Last night I sat slurping a bowl of noodles in a warming miso broth. And I was transported on a sense memory back to my first trip to Japan and a far superior bowl of noodles and tofu devoured after a freezing cold trip out to see the Kegon waterfalls.

So to wake this morning, and to see the images of the earthquake and tsunami devastating this country where we were made to feel so very welcome, fills my heart with sadness.

To see cars, boats and houses tossed like toys in the eerie encroaching mass of water and debris; the walls of flames; the people standing on the roof of the airport building at Sendai; to hear that the trains in Tokyo have been stopped – seems scarcely credible. It’s like the most extreme Hollywood disaster movie. But it’s very real.

I count myself privileged to have visited Japan twice. It is a country of great contrasts – of beautiful countryside and sprawling neon-lit cities. At all times we were treated as most honoured guests and many Japanese people went out of their way to offer help and make our visits special. I trust and hope that all those we met are safe and well.

We blogged our visits. Our first account is no longer available online, but I may select and repost some of the entries here in coming days to give you a taste of what this incredibly vibrant and culturally rich country has to offer. You can see pictures, video and read about our visit in November 2008 here: http://thenicolog.spaces.live.com/ Click on November 2008 and then ‘Summary’ under Blog on the right hand side menu to navigate through the entries.

I hope you’ll understand why my thoughts are very much with our Japanese friends today. My slight Japanese does not allow me to express my sympathies for what has happened, but I hope they will understand the sentiment if I say domo, arigato gozaimsu (the most polite form of thank you) for some lifelong memories and unforgettable experiences.

Today I ran

Today I ran
For the sound of the surf and the breath of the wind
To turn my back on the cares of the day
To unknot my shoulders
And give my eyes a broader landscape than a brightly lit screen.

Today I ran
Not so far or so fast
But because I can.
I ran for those who will no longer run
Poppies in Flanders’ fields
Dust in Camp Bastion.

And as I ran
In the desert under the sun
Through the woods in moonlight
Up through the fells and down through the scree
The trudgers, the plodders, the brave, the hardy
The crazy, the committed, the hopeful and the glad
Joined me.

And among our numbers were the gods
The fleet of foot and bright of smile
Who astonish us all with their flashes of brilliance
And breathe the same breath.

A run and a recovery

It’s been many a year since I ran on the track in Stanley Park, Blackpool. Last time would have been a school sports day when my Green Flash plimsolls would have propelled me off the bend in the third leg of the 4x100m relay or over the hurdles. 

The playground may have lost its lethal high-tower slide and gained a whole range of new and more exciting wooden climbing frames and swings, but some things about the park never change. The white clock tower at the centre, the lake with the ducks and the ice cream kiosk, even the trampoline pits are still there, though not in use.

And here I am with my mum ready to cheer me on (as she used to on sports days), only this time I’m running much further. Gathering by the track, warming up with a lap on the lovely springy surface. It’s the perfect day for a run. Grey and overcast, but not cold, and unusually for Blackpool, barely a breath of wind.

There are some tasty looking runners here. Club vests much in evidence. My brother who has come to wish me well too points out an old guy in a veteran’s top – one of those wiry old harriers, with the familiar runner’s hunch and legs that are knots of muscle. “He looks like he’s had that kit for 50 years,” my brother says. “Watch him beat me,” I reply.

We chat to a runner from Accrington, here with his wife and little girl who delights in running round the track with Daddy. Only his second 10k, but he ran his first in 51 minutes. It’s the usual friendly atmosphere of a race and I’m glad my family are experiencing the running camaraderie too. It really does feel like a big parkrun.

Some confusion about where we start on the track and which way we’re running, but we’re soon all huddled up and ready for an almost casual, 3,2,1 – go! A lap and ¾ of the track then out the back of the stands and away into the park and out beside the road.

It’s a little congested and slow to start, but I feel fresh and strong, and amazingly, the expected nerves and anticipation haven’t really kicked in. I want to enjoy this. To run well, but relaxed, not pile the pressure on, even though it’s flat and probably my best chance of a 10k PB this summer. It’s my first 10k of the season, it’s just a marker.

At the first kilometre beep, I allow myself my only glimpse at my Garmin, just to check my pace – 4:56, spot on. The numbers have stopped me haring off too quickly and I feel good, like it’s almost easy. Just keep it there.

My friend from Accrington draws up beside me. “Come on you”, he encourages and I stick with him for about a kilometre. But the field hasn’t yet thinned out enough to make it easy. And as I drop behind him to squeeze on past another clump of runners, I begin to fall fbehind.

Run your own race, I remind myself. You don’t know anything about how he runs. Maybe he goes off really fast and then struggles. It’s only his second race, he should be able to smash his PB just from having the confidence of completing the distance.

And so I pile on through the park on old familiar paths and routes. Out around the bottom of the lake, past the bandstand, then back along the top where I used to feed the ducks.

At the two little bridges over the lake where we scattered her ashes, I blow a kiss and say “Hiya Nana”. She’s have loved this, to see me run. Her last, best and most precious gift to me was to set me on this path, to fitness, friendship and happiness.

Out of the park and running along beside the road, then back in and along the avenue of trees near the golf course that was always our route into the park. It seems so much shorter now.

Back around towards the lake and gardens and then turn right at the clock tower and head into the track for a half a lap and then back out to repeat the loop again. My Dad’s made it to the park and I see Donna taking photos as I pass.

As so often I find myself running alone. I sense runners come up behind me and hold onto my pace, but I rarely have anyone I can tag onto for any length of time. Anyone who comes past, I make work for their overtake and when I can, I hang onto them for as long as I can, keeping pushing my pace.

I’m halfway round and feeling okay. It’s not parkrun pace and I sense I may have drifted away from my optimum speed a little. I dig in and push on. A girl in a pink top and yellow sleeveless jacket runs beside me for a while, then pushes on. Maybe it’s just the bright pink and dark ponytail, but she reminds me of Kate, a Fetchie from Edinburgh who I met when she did the Town Moor marathon, so I resolve to keep up with her.

It takes me some time, maybe a kilometre, but as I stretch out I eventually go past her. Now my aim is to keep her behind me. I’m out on my own again, trying not to let anyone else go past me. As we pass the 4 mile marker, my legs and hips are starting to ache, but I think to myself “Two more miles – you can run that if you’re dead.”

My breathing’s a bit ragged now and I have a few breaths where I cough to clear it and settle back into a rhythm. It’s getting harder to sustain the pace. I almost trip on the heels of a bunch of guys running together, chatting away, taking it easy for them. They push on, and I sense they expect to drop me quickly, but I cling on to this little group for a while and eventually ease on past.

This is a real confidence boost, but it doesn’t last long as, in a pincer movement, two girls go past on either side of me. As my pal Al knows from the end of Edinburgh parkrun, I don’t like being passed by a girl towards the end of the race. But this pair are strong and making it look easy and this time I cannot keep up with them. Shortly afterwards, Kate’s double goes past too.

I’m well into the final kilometre now and I’m trying to push. I sense I have dropped off the pace and worry that I’ve given myself too much to claw back. It’s harder now to get the power down and stretch out. Through the avenue of trees, round the lake, towards the clock tower.

Another male runner is picking up the pace and I match him step for step until I’m jostled at the turn towards the track. Another girl with a long red plait has gained a place on me.

Into the track and only about 350m to go. I’m desperately trying to find another gear, but my legs aren’t listening. I wanted to ease up the gears and then go, but it’s not happening. Halfway down the back straight I kick into my sprint, desperately trying to gain ground on the redhead and another blonde girl in front of me.

I’m pushing and hoping against hope that I’ve done something decent as I hear the announcer saying that we’re looking at around 52 minutes now. Bugger – not so fast as I wanted. But there’s no choice now, my legs literally will not go any faster as I sprint the last 75m to the line, beating the blonde in the red top and clipping the red head’s heels on the line.

52:38 – I should be happy with that as a first run of the season. My PB is 52:14. But I’m a bit disappointed. Maybe I let myself get too comfortable. But on the other hand, I did run reasonably relaxed and I did enjoy it, while not piling on the pressure too much. Oh well, as I keep saying, 10ks not my target this year.

My buddy from Accrington is beaming at a 45 min run. I tell him to come and try the Great North next year.

At the finish I grab some water, a chocolate bar and a medal. My brother thrusts a chocolate muffin in my hand and I pose for photos with my family, red cheeked and a bit out of it. But even with a real tough sprint finish, I’ve recovered quickly enough to suggest there’s a bit more to give if I can find it.

Back to mum’s for some brunch or second breakfast, then packing up my gear and heading back mid afternoon, hoping to get home in time for tea.

And I’m zooming along merrily, listening to some CDs and enjoying the drive. Until I go to change down a gear on a hill on the A66. And suddenly the car starts screaming, as though I’ve gone from 5th to first and I’m losing all forward motion. I come back down through the gears, looking for anything to tale me forward, but nothing. I ease towards the edge of the dual carriageway, desperately hoping to get it into first and keep going, but nothing. I can’t even get enough forward motion to carry me a safe distance onto the verge.

The engine’s still running as I stop and put the handbrake on. I try a couple of times and realise, I’m going nowhere. Finally I turn off the engine and try again. Only now it won’t even tick over. Bugger.

Grab my coat and slide out of the passenger side, thinking I bet I can’t even get a mobile signal. But small mercies are in my favour. It’s cold, but it isn’t raining or snowing or blowing a gale like it was last time we came this way and my phone has a signal.

A couple of phone calls later and a recovery truck is on its way. I thank goodness I’ve had the cover on my car insurance. I’ve never had to use it before, but today it will pay for myself. I’m almost exactly halfway home on one of the bleakest, loneliest spots of my journey and the recovery van gets to me within the hour. But not before I’ve had plenty of offers of help and assistance. Facebook is a very good way of letting people know you’re in a bit of a spot.

I sort of surprise myself at just getting on with it. And once the guy with the truck arrives and I’m warmed up I just resign myself to getting home rather late with a car that won’t go. The little bugger knows I’m planning on trading it in. I was planning to go put my order for a new car in next weekend. The only reason I didn’t do it this one was because I was travelling to Blackpool for the race.

As far as breakdowns go, it could have been a lot worse. So if that’s my unfortunate incident with a car, I’ll take it. But it’s rather overshadowed my lovely weekend travelling to a race. Think I’ll stick with parkruns for a while :-)

Stats and stuff
10k 52:38
km splits:
1. 4:57
2. 4:59
3. 5:13
4. 5:23
5. 5:18
6. 5:20
7. 5:34
8. 5:40
9. 5:42
10. 4:35

February round up

I don’t normally do round ups, but recently I’ve been logging all my training on fetcheveryone.com.

Training for my first triathlon means I’ve added swim and bike sessions to the mix, so here’s what February’s training looks like:

43 miles, 70km, 6h24
67 miles, 107km, 4h30 (includes spinning and exercise bike at the gym)
2.6 miles, 4.2km, 2h08

Cross training 11h
Weights 2 hours
PT session 4 hours
Pilates 3 hours
Boxercise 2 hours

I’m really enjoying my training at the moment. Sure, I have tough days and sessions which are harder than others, but I always feel better for doing them. And It all makes me feel fitter, stronger and stay relatively balanced 🙂

Warming up for my first 10k of the season

Just a quick blog before I head off over to the Fylde coast this afternoon. Officially I’m travelling to my first race of the season and the first one that involve a journey over an hour in the car. It just happens to be convenient that I get B&B at my mums and an old friend is hosting an exhibition of her artwork – opening night tonight.

Strange old week this one. I’ve thought of it as a cut back week, as there’s no big bike/run session this weekend. But there is a small matter of a 10k race (flat and in a park = big park run). It’s the week where I started to mix up my training, doing things on different days.

I found swimming on Monday evening tough. One of those sessions that I just had to knuckle on with. That meant I was a bit unsure about my early morning interval session on Tuesday morning – especially as i stepped up the run intervals to 4 mins run 1 min recovery and ran 1 more rep than the last session. But I survived, and actually enjoyed running back into the pink sunrise of a spring morning. Next time I think I could push a little more on the run reps, but all in all a solid session.

That left a fun session at boxercise on Wednesday night. And a big smile as one of the tracks was something I last heard in the car on the way to my sister’s wedding. And then a really tough session with my PT and the kettlebells on Thursday morning. I got lots of well dones, excellents and similar encouragement, so I think I did well. It was certainly hard work, but so rewarding. And for once this week, I didn’t feel absolutely shattered by it.

Today, a quick early session on the static bike to get in 10k at a relatively easy pace before work. I did crank it up a notch for a breathless sprint towards the end. And treated myself to a very good stretch session.

As for the race tomorrow. No expectations. Just a good run. A good marker to see where I’m at. I’m not targeting 10k this year, even though I feel it’s my distance. The sprint tri is where my focus is. But it will be good to see if all the training I’ve been doing and how fit I feel translates into my running. I’m hoping some consistent performances at parkrun will help too.

Now if I can just hold onto this relative laid back calmness for race day, I think I’ll be alright. It will be a new expereince for me to run in the place I was born and grew up and I hope my family will understand a little more about my devotion to this sport when they see me run. Even as I write that I can feel the jangle of excitement and anticipation. Time to hit the road…