LRR Training again – Long and Winding Hill

Although I’ll post more later in the week, my bad back, some man flu and other poor excuses have resulted in my training being affected for the last month. However, I’m getting back on schedule this week as I now have 5 weeks to go until the Challenge Weymouth Half Distance Tri.

Last week, I managed the LRR training session on Monday and the STC swim on Wednesday morning which was poor. This week will be different though.

I started the week with my 2nd LRR Monday training session and will cycle today, swim tomorrow and then run on Thursday and cycle again on Friday. With luck I’ll lake swim and parkrun on Saturday and hopefully cycle on Sunday time permitting.

Anyway, back to last night. I had a decision to make, swim or run. Although the weather had been abysmal for most of the day with heavy rainfall, the forecast showed an improvement with a dry sunny evening. The decision wouldn’t be made due to weather. It was made due to the fact that in less than 5 weeks, I need to run a half marathon and therefore need to make sure I’m run fit.

The evening’s session was called ‘Long and Winding Hill’ and consisted of that and another 7km. We met at Tauntons College and the group included a couple of new faces as well as a couple of the runners from last week’s session. Alison and Becky weren’t there though so other than Run Leader, Dave, I only knew Alice in the group. I know that Alice is much quicker than me. Gulp!

We headed across the Common up the incline we’d used in many Run Camp sessions and then cut through onto Burgess Road, past all the fast food outlets and down the hill to McDonalds. From there, it was the steady climb back to the Chilworth roundabout at the top of the Avenue. It’s a section which is certainly challenging and is about 1.5 miles long. I’ve run it once or twice and cycled it several more times and wasn’t really looking forward to it but by not looking up too much, I made it in one piece without stopping. As we stopped at the top to wait for the tail runners, I caught my breath before we headed down the gradual descent down the Avenue.

The weather was lovely. Sunny and not too warm.

As we entered the Common, I knew it was all downhill and made my way into 2nd place within the group. There were certainly quicker runners in the group and it was good to push myself.

A majority of my run training over the last 5 years or so has been solo and it’s been great to run in company as part of the training sessions.

With less than a km to go, the heavens opened and we got soaked to the skin. Completely drenched. It was really refreshing though and it was welcome although I’m really glad it happened at the end of the run.

Another great session and invaluable!

My first ever Lordshill Monday night training session

After being a member of Lordshill Road Runners for a couple of years, I finally made it to my first Monday night training session last night. Why was it my first? Well, the session is from 6:30 ’til 7:30pm and tends to clash with the boy’s bedtime. It also clashes with the STC swim sessions which run from 7 ’til 9pm so I’ve tended to try to do the 8 – 9pm swim session.

However, with Denise and the boys at Legoland for the day and not expecting to get home until late, I decided to give Monday night training a go.

The sessions are aimed at runners of all abilities and the participants are split into different groups based on their pace. That’s worked out based on recent 5K or 10K race times, Run Britain rankings and/or training goals.

I checked out the extensive information on the LRR training pages and decided that I was able to get myself into Group E (group A is the beginners group, Group G is for the balls-out super-fast runners who travel on foot at break-neck speeds without breaking into a sweat. I break into a sweat putting my running shoes on.

The groups meet on the ‘lawn’ in front of Tauntons College on Hill Lane and shortly after I arrived, it was clear that it was going to be popular with lots of members and new faces too.

Fellow Thunder Run team member Laura had decided to try out the session and was in group D. We spoke briefly before I introduced her to Lynda who explained the session to her.

Meanwhile, our group was growing in size as more people turned up. It was good to see lots of familiar faces and chat with many of them. parkrun regulars Becky Cleeves and Alison Crooks were also members of the group which was led by Run Leader Dave Johnston.

Before long, it was time to head out for our session which consisted of progressive intervals along Cemetery Road. However, we had to get there first and that means a warm up around the top of the Common. Southampton parkrunners will know this as the most challenging but of the course. It was no less challenging on the warm up!

I ran alongside Becky Cleeves and we chatted most of the way to Cemetery Road although, in honesty, my chatting was gradually subsiding as the warmup continued! At that point I was wondering whether I should have joined Group A!

After a few moments (too few!) it was time to start the intervals. With about 10 of us in the group, the range of abilities meant I was about 3/4 of the way back in the group which I was absolutely fine with.

The session consisted of:

3 x 15 seconds fast pace with jog back
3 x 30 seconds fast pace
3 x 45 seconds fast pace
3 x 1 minute fast pace
1 x 90 seconds fast pace

With the heat and humidity, it was more challenging that it should have been but overall it was a great session.

On the last effort, Becky was cruising at a great speed. By this point, I was feeling a little too lethargic but tried to catch them up. It wasn’t to be though and I burned out about 20 seconds before the end of the interval.

Having completed the intervals, we just had to jog back to the Bellemoor triangle. I say ‘just’ but that jog was more of a shuffle for me!!

At the ‘triangle’ we did some cool down stretches before heading off in different directions. I spoke briefly with Laura who had found her ‘hills’ session fun but tough.

So, that was it. My first LRR training session. Really enjoyed it. Will I go again? I hope to!!

Thunder Run 24 2014 – part 4

With 2 laps completed I was on the home stretch. I had several hours before my last lap and it was 100% that I’d get a third and final lap done before the end of the event.

Ray decided theta he’d not complete a 3rd lap and that meant that if we pushed hard, we’d still be able to complete 23 laps if the person running that penultimate lap could finish before 12 o’clock. If the last runner starts their lap before 12, it counts.

There was some discussion about whether Aaron or I do the penultimate lap. Based on the times taken to complete the previous laps, there was more likelihood that I’d run a quicker lap but in order to meet the deadline, I couldn’t blow up on the course. However, with Laura ahead of her schedule and Charlotte running well, there was some leeway.

In order to make sure I completed the 10k lap in time, Chris kindly offered to keep me company and pace me around. As we set off, he kindly let me set the pace. However, it wasn’t long until he was beasting me around!! Lots of great advice was imparted as we negotiated the course. It really helped having the company and although I know I’d have got back to the finish in time, I’d not have completed it in the time I did. 1 hour and 2 minutes. It was my best lap by over 3 minutes. Not bad given the sun was out again.

I think the best bit of that lap was the roars of encouragement from spectators on the last incline before the finish. There was simply no way they’d let you walk up the hill and the roar I got helped me drive up the hill. As I went over the brow of the hill, I knew that the end was just around the corner and I revved my engine and sped up. I wanted to finish in style and ‘pegged it’ to the line. Chris said he struggled to keep up but I think he was being kind and possibly feeling a little slower than usual having completed 45km in 24 hours.

As I handed the baton onto Aaron, I slowed and walked off the course expecting Chris to follow me but instead he ran after Aaron to complete a 5th lap. I half-wished I’d followed him but also am glad I didn’t.

As Aaron and Chris completed the last lap for the team, I started to pack my things and thing about heading home. Some of the LRR participants had started their journey home already and Rolly and his family were enjoying their trip to Alton Towers.

We couldn’t collect our finishers medal until after midday when the event officially finished but that was fine. We were in no real rush to head home as we expected there to be a queue of traffic leaving the camp site.

When Aaron and Chris got back at the end of their lap, it was great to think we’d completed our challenge. It was great to be part of a team and achieve something together even though many of us didn’t know each other that well. It was also great to be surrounded by lots of LRR friends and share their weekend. They’re a great bunch of people, all very encouraging and friendly.

I’d love to do the event again but next year, the event will probably fall on Connor’s birthday weekend which will probably mean I’ll have to miss it. However, the team already have plans for a muddy obstacle course event later this year and, hopefully, Endure 24 next June. I can’t wait!

Thunder Run 24 2014 – part 3

Having completed my first lap, I knew what to expect on my later laps course-wise although the weather and time of day could dramatically affect how well I did.

My next lap wasn’t scheduled until the early hours of Sunday morning and that meant some time to relax. Having had very little sleep on Friday night, I needed to try to get some rest at least. But, before that I spent time with the rest of the team, the LRR teams and ate. I’d prepared some paella and pasta to take with me and that meant that I didn’t have to cook during the weekend. Woo hoo!

As it got near 10pm I decided to try and get some sleep which proved difficult with the general noise around the camp and some silhouette puppetry from a team member’s tent!!

I probably dozed for a couple of hours but kept an ear open for the other team members as they came back from their laps. As we’d not hit the 1 hour laps, the schedule of me running at 1am had slipped closer to 2am. Shortly after 1am, the heavens opened and the rain started. Fortunately, rain-lover Charlotte was on her lap. I hoped that the rain would ease before I left my tent. My wish came true.

I was umming and ahhhhing about what to wear and was thinking it was going to be a bit chilly and considered ‘long legs’ and ‘arms’. However, after a quick visit to the ‘facilities’, I decided to stick with shorts but wear a long sleeve top under my tech T-shirt. A decision I’d come to regret!

The rain stopped and I headed down to the start area. I was about 20 minutes early by waited on the course and watched the baton handovers. It’s far easier for the lap finisher to call out the name of the person they are handing over to plus if they have something prominent they can wave, that’ll help too.

I struggled to see Charlotte as she ran towards me. Even though there are floodlights, it’s still quite dark so spotting someone wearing predominately black was, er, interesting.

Having received the baton, it was time for my run. I had me Lenser head torch on and what a fantastic bit of kit that is. I had it set to quite a narrow area of illumination but 10-15 feet ahead so I could focus on what challenges lay just ahead.

There were a good number of participants out in the course as the trail of bobbing head torches showed. I won’t go into a mile by mile breakdown of how I faired around the course other than to say that it was easier to run in the dark. Why? You ask!

Well, the lack of visibility meant that you focus on a much smaller area when looking for issues underfoot and that meant, for me at least, less to concern myself with. Also, because you can’t see as far, the inclines seem shorter. In fact, I ran the whole way on the lap and felt that my pace was better than the previous lap. As it was dark, there was no real opportunity to check my Garmin and I only did that as I entered the finish straight where the floodlights gave a better opportunity to see my watch. 1:08. Seriously?!

I was convinced I was quicker and momentarily annoyed that I wasn’t. However, that feeling didn’t last long as I started to appreciate that I’d completed the lap without incurring any injuries.

Before trying to go back and sleep, I decided to shower so that I’d not be honking later. I don’t recall which visit it was, but one of the visits to the showers had the highlight of very cold water and very little of it. Be prepared.

Once refreshed, I walked back to the tent, almost breaking my ankle on the uneven ground under foot (the irony of that happening didn’t escape me!).

I actually think I may have gotten some sleep after my 2nd run. Not much, but a little.

Im a little undecided as to whether to document my last lap in this post or another and have decided on the latter. It was my best lap and includes some useful advice. As with the best Sunday Supplement Serialisations, I’ll leave you hangi…

Thunder Run 24 2014 – part 2

Once we got back to Catton Park, the rest of our team had arrived. Phew!

The sub-camp was now full with about 35 LRR members, some of their families and supporters and our team and Rolly and Laura’s children.

We all headed down to the start area for the pre-event briefing at 11am before the announcement was made that it would be held at 11:30am. D’oh!

I forgot to mention in part 1 that on Friday evening there had been a race for children, the Pyjama Dash; a great way to get the children involved and engaged with the event. It would be great to have a few more activities for children such as a bouncy castle.

Before long, we were heading back for the briefing where the organiser, Patrick – who looked about the polar-opposite to how you’d expect the organiser of a mass running event to look – gave an emotional thank you to all those taking part.

Prior to this point, we’d decided on the order the team would run in. This had to factor in several things such as ensuring that parents didn’t run one after the other thereby ensuring their children weren’t left unattended at night. I also tried to ensure that Laura, Charlotte and Kelly didn’t run between 2 and 6am and that Rolly didn’t need to run after 7am as he had secret plans to take his family to Alton Towers and wanted to leave by 9am.

Chris was first to run and assembled with the others starting lap 1. These included Kirsty and Tamsyn as well as solo runners Jim and Rob Kelly. We watched as they all headed off and then headed back to camp.

I took the opportunity to have a shower and re-check that I had everything ready for my run. I had several hours to wait as our running order was:

Chris
Rolly
Kelly
Laura
Charlotte
Myself
Aaron
Ray

Our running abilities ranged from fast to not quite so fast and we’d estimated that on average it would take 60 minutes to complete a lap given the conditions (sunny and very hot) and the course (challenging in places). If we could maintain that average pace, we should be able to complete 24 laps.

Our camp was at about the 9.5km point in the course; an excellent position to give lots of encouragement to all the LRR and Townhill runners as they got close to the finish. Shortly after, there was a short steep climb before a gradual descent to the finish.

After about 45 minutes Chris passed our position and was looking on great form. Although the position meant that we could walk quickly to the start area for the handover before the previous runner got there, we’d decided that it was better to not risk a runner not being there and leave 15 or so minutes before we expected each runner to arrive. We maintained a sheet of the anticipated lap time per team member and then supplemented this with their actual lap start time, lap finish time and duration. We also amended their estimated time based in their previous lap time and the weather conditions.

It was the responsibility of each runner to ensure that the runner 2 behind them in the rota was ready to get to the start in time. This meant that Chris made sure Kelly was ready, I made sure Ray was ready etc. Although this wasn’t really necessary during the day, it was during the night. Some of the other LRR teams had more elaborate schemes which they explained but I still can’t quite understand them. In reality, during the day, an entourage went to greet a ‘returning runner’. This proved very useful as they often waited to see the runner get to the 9.5km point and were therefore able to let the next runner know that they were due at any moment.

As Rolly, Kelly and Laura completed their first laps, Charlotte went out to run hers. Each team member gave feedback on their run on their return and it became clear that although the climb through the woods was one of the most challenging aspects of the course, the first 5km was the toughest half and if you could get through that, the rest was easier.

A couple of bits of non-running related advice while I remember them. The mobile phone reception at Catton Park is really bad. Not only is mobile Internet via 3G almost available, even being able to send a text message is almost impossible from the camping area. Also, it’s unlikely that your gadgets’ batteries will last the weekend, so it’s worth keeping this in mind and having something to charge them or having a backup gadget that’s fully charged. My solution was a Powerpack external USB battery which was about £20 from Amazon and proved invaluable as it charged up several people’s iPhones and Garmins during the weekend.

After 40 minutes of Charlotte’s lap, I headed down to the start line for my first lap.

I positioned myself in the changeover pen and waited to see Charlotte as she ran down the finish straight. I spotted her and put my arm out to receive the baton and started my lap.

The first 500m or so are on a flat, wide stretch of grass before reaching the ‘nasty’ climb through the woods. I knew that was coming and mentally prepared myself thinking that I’d walk if needed. I didn’t want to burn myself out for the other 9 or so km. As it turned out, I ran the first 1.5km on the flat and the narrow path as it twisted and turned through the woods. Shortly after, there was another section on grass with an incline and I reduced my pace to get up that.

Out of the shade, it was hot. The sun was beating down hard and I welcomed the shady sections for their coolness.

At about 4km, Jim and I met and we ran and, where necessary, walked for most of the rest of the lap. It was great to have company and chat with Jim who, as I’ve said was going solo and hoping to complete 14 laps. There were quite a few solo runners taking part many of whom were walking a significant portion of each lap to conserve energy for their daunting task ahead.

At around 7-8km, there’s another wooded section that’s really challenging as it has lots of twists and turns and tree roots to negotiate. It requires 100% concentration. Looking up and not at your feet is likely to result in a fall, or worse, a twisted ankle. I almost managed one if these by taking a quick glance at my watch. Not a mistake I repeated.

Once we were out of the tricky section, the last couple of km are far easier consisting of a run along a ledge and then a descent into the campsite before a gradual and slight incline past the LRR encampment, the short sharp incline and then the descent to the finish.

As I turned the corner to the finish gantry, I looked out for Aaron and spotted him ahead. I got the baton ready and made a beeline for him. My first lap was over. I’d completed it in 1 hour and 5 minutes. 5 minutes faster than my estimate. As I left the course Chris was on hand to provide water by the cupful. As we got back to camp he provided post-run nutrition. What a legend!! Thanks mate!

Two more laps to go…

Thunder Run 24 2014 – part 1

This weekend, I attended my first Thunder Run 24; a 24 hour endurance running event for solos or teams. The idea is to do as many 10K laps of a cross-country course at Catton Park near Tamworth as possible.

A few friends had been discussing putting together a team before registration for the event opened. As it was our first time at the event, we wanted as big a team as possible. That meant getting together 8 runners. This didn’t prove too difficult and meant that we’d likely have to run 3 laps each non-stop from midday on Saturday for 24 hours.

It was quite lucky that I had been organised and got entry in within minutes of registration as the event filled up within an hour.

As it was several months before the event, we had time to focus on other events before worrying too much about tough cross country in the dark when sleep-deprived and during thunder!!! (Last year’s event took place during a nasty storm that made parts of the course even more challenging than normal).

On the team we had Charlotte, Laura, Aaron, Rolly, Raymond, Kelly, Chris and myself. To save rushing, Chris and I went up together on Friday morning leaving at about 9am. This was a wise choice as there were several accidents later in the day which led to some very long journeys for others travelling up in the afternoon.

We arrived at about 12:30pm and spent quite a while trying to find the LRR encampment. At one point we ended up driving up the course towards the start/finish gantry until asked to stop by one of the event crew.

After spotting Pete in an Eastleigh 10K t-shirt, we located the other Lordshillers and spoke with them to establish if there was room to join the camp. Fortunately, there was so we set up our tent, gazebo and ‘pantry’ whilst leaving space for our other team members to set up their tents.

During the afternoon, many of the other LRRs arrived and set up their tents but our team members were stuck in traffic or un-contactable. We were beginning to think that we might have to run the multiple laps between the two of us!

By late afternoon, Chris had showed me all the support devices for various limbs and joints, his stashes of pre- and post- run nutrition and his portable library of running and triathlon- related reading material. As there appeared to be no sign of the others, we went to register and picked up the race packs for the team. As we got back to the camp, there was still no sign of the others. Hmmmm!

By this point, we’d spoken to most of the LRRs, many of whom had been at several of the previous year’s Thunder Runs. Many had offered information on the course, strategy etc etc. I’ll distil this into a couple of points:

- don’t go out too hard.
– the first 2km is the most challenging of the course as it comprises a tough uphill and windy trail section through woods and a section that’s very exposed in the sun
– conserve energy by walking up hills that you can’t see the top of

The first 2km sounded harsh so Chris and I decided to go and check it out. The information we’d been given wasn’t inaccurate and it was quite a challenge walking up the trail section. I wasn’t looking forward to having to try and run it!

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As we got to (about) the 2km point, I received a text message from Rolly to say that he’d arrived. He and his family had been stuck in traffic and that had meant a very long journey. Once we got back to the camp, we helped set up their tents and let them get settled in.

One negative was that the showers didn’t open until midday on Saturday. This was to conserve water and although I can appreciate the reasons for that, having spent the afternoon setting up tents and walking part of the course, a shower would have been welcomed. I have to say though that the other facilities were great. The toilets were fairly plentiful and clean. The food tent had a fairly good selection of food and beverages. Whilst I remember, another negative was the lack of a Thunder Run buff.

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Once it had started to get dark, Laura, Aaron and their two children, Callum and Hannah, arrived and pitched their tents. Soon after, and after a long day, we decided to try and get some sleep as we had a fairly early start the following morning as we’d planned to visit the closest parkrun at Conkers which was about 15-20 minutes drive away.

It wasn’t the greatest night’s sleep due to some almighty snoring coming from a nearby tent which lasted for most of the night. The rest of the camp was silent in comparison. I’m 99% sure the nasal flatulation came from a fellow LRR member and I have my suspicions as to who it was. I’m not sure if anyone else had to ensure the noise but I pity anyone sharing a tent with the culprit!!

On Saturday morning, several of us made the journey to Conkers. We had a few issues finding the location as the sat nav wasn’t as accurate as we’d hoped. The car park was a short walk from the start area and when we arrived it was clear that a good number of TR24 participants had decided to get a warmup parkrun in before the real challenge of the weekend.

Having listened to the briefing and spotted Kerri, a fellow parkrun Ambassador, we started to make our way to the start area. On our way, it sounded like there was a noisy dog kennels on route. However, the barking turned out to be over-enthusiastic dogs who were due to be running with their owners at the parkrun.

As we had some serious miles to run over the weekend, most of us took it easy over the 5km course. The course itself is an out-and-back lollipop shape which is a little undulating. The paths are wide and there’s little possibility for 2 way traffic. I ran with Emily, Stuart and Rikki and a few other LRRs and we stopped for some selfies along the way.

Having reached the finish, congregated with the other LRRs, we decided to head back to Catton Park to relax for a while before the start of Thunder Run 24 2014!

70.3 Tri week 7 – quack, back oops!

Having been in Malta last week, my training went a little off the rails. However, I did manage a couple of 5-6km runs and some swimming (ocean and pool) so it wasn’t a complete wash out.

On my return to the UK in the very early hours of Friday, I decided that family time would be the main goal for Friday and Saturday and that I’d try to get out on my bike on Sunday so I’d have a reasonable ride under my belt.

In fact, in Saturday, we went up to Airkix in Basingstoke where Daniel and I had 2 x 2 minute flights. I definitely felt more stable and think that if I go again in the next 3 weeks that I’ll maybe be able to progress to turns.

On Sunday, with Denise and the boys out for the afternoon, I was able to plan a ride of about 28km. First of all, I was Run Directing at Southampton Junior parkrun. Another excellent event.

After a trip to Sprinkles for coffee with Chris Stocks, I headed home, got some chores done and then got ready for my ride.

The weather was good as I left and I decided to try a new route, heading out to Botley and then Titchfield. I ended up to my surprise in Whiteley. I’d only ever been there via the motorway so finding another route was quite interesting… to me at least!

Having cycled home (I don’t recall the route I used!), I got some more chores done and then took the boys to their swimming lessons where Daniel demonstrated some great bilateral breathing. Jealous!

On Monday, I was planning to do a treadmill run (1 hour) but as the weather was good, I chose to go out instead and enjoy the sunshine and heat. It was lovely and definitely a good choice.

It was the STC swim session in the evening and as I watched the previous session, it looked like a challenging one. The session consisted of:

200m warmup (f/c)
200m pull
15 x 100m f/c off of 2:10

I was doing pretty well for the first 8 or 9 of the 100m sets until the cramp set in. It started in my toes and then worked its way up my legs until I was unable to bend them or keep my feet from acting like anchors. I opted to use a pull buoy for the last few sets and know I dropped about 150m from the set. It wouldn’t have been fair on the others in the lane to have kept them waiting.

It would appear that I wasn’t the only one suffering from cramp as Pete in my lane and Steve from the previous session were suffering too.

In the cool down, I used the pull buoy while doing breaststroke in the hope that’d help. In fact, it meant my posture wasn’t right and my back started to get achy.

Having cooled down, at the end of the session, I walked scarecrow-like to the changing room. As I started to get ready to leave the muscles in the left side of my back spasmed/twinged and I sat down in agony. Getting up was them a challenge as was bending down to pick things up. Having praised myself recent on how injury-free I’d been, a bad back looked like it was going to screw up my training plans…

… And so it has. I’ve spent the last 2 days struggling to walk, lay down, sit down, get up, stand up straight. You get the idea. I’ve missed 2 rides and the Wednesday morning STX swim and it looks like it’ll be a fee more days until I can consider running, cycling or swimming. The good news is that I’ve got a sports massage with Tiff tomorrow evening where I hope to get some relief from the pain.

In other news, after over a year of weekly Run Camp sessions I’ve decided that in order to fit my triathlon training in that I’ll have to, very reluctantly, miss the next 3 months of Run Camp sessions. I simply can’t find enough mornings and lunchtimes to fit long rides and runs in especially as the my increase in duration. I’ll really miss the banter of the fellow Run Campers and am looking forward to rejoining the sessions in mid September. Until then, and once my training gets back on schedule, my focus is on nailing my half distance triathlon plan.

Hope to have some more positive news in my next post.