2014’s summary of achievements

Sometimes it’s hard to remember what I’ve achieved in a year and December gives me the opportunity to look back and summarise what I’ve done and to feel proud that I’ve achieved far more than I’d remembered. Blogging helps me remember otherwise I’d be a little clueless and probably forget most of the achievements.

I think it’s been a good year and sport gives plenty of ways to set goals and hopefully meet or exceed them.

So, here’s a quick summary of my 2014.

January
Return of Eastleigh parkrun at Lakeside
Skiing in La Plagne

March
Eastleigh 10K

May
Cotswold Super Sprint Triathlon
Eastleigh aquathlon series

June
Chosen as Baton Beefeater for Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay
Blenheim Triathlon

July
Thunder Run

August
Challenge Weymouth Half Distance triathlon

September
New parkrun PB (23:34)
HOWSC 100 Sprint Triathlon

November
Winter Wolf Run
Gosport Half Marathon

As well as those achievements, I’ve been involved with a few other things including:

- parkrun Event Adjudicator
– manning parkrun Welfare phone line several times
– Helped organise Lordshill Mile series
– Event Director and regular volunteer at Southampton junior parkrun (volunteered at 40-45 junior events in 2014)
– Volunteering at Eastleigh and Southampton parkruns
– Race Directed Lordshill 10K road race
– Re-elected as Vice Chairman of Lordshill Road Runners
– Awarded Southampton Tri Club Best New Triathlete
– Attend Lordshill training for first time

Looking back, there’s far more that I’ve achieved than I could remember. In fact, with being chosen as a Baton Bearer, completing my first half distance triathlon and being awarded STC Best Male Triathlete, it’s been a pretty spectacular year.

An unexpected award

As I was traveling back from Malta on Saturday and Denise had already arranged a night out, I was unable to attend the Southampton Tri Club Christmas meal. This was the 2nd year I’d not been able to attend :(

However, rather than mope, I decided to start reading Debra Bourne’s book about the first 10 years of parkrun and then have an early night.

After a relatively good night’s sleep I woke up and while eating breakfast checked what had been happening on Facebook. A rather intriguing post from Tamsyn implied that we’d both won an award. For what I want sure but guessed it must be related to STC.

Having dug around, I spotted a post on the STC Facebook page that said I’d won the Best New Male Triathlete Award. Uh? I was flabbergasted! What had I done to deserve such an award? I was delighted to have been chosen alongside such greats as Liz, Tamsyn and Sonia. They all deserved their prizes. Not sure I’m as deserving but I’m not handing the award back without a fight!!

Many thanks to those that chose me, too all my friends in the club (and for their encouragement and support at events) and for the coaches that have helped improve my swimming especially Peter and Steve Cooke. Steve, in particular, has been very supportive and encouraging.

Lordshill Road Runners Monday night training

After Sunday’s half marathon, I was not sure that I wanted to run any time soon and my Garmin backed me up by suggesting I take up backgammon or gardening or, at the very least, take 72 hours off before training hard again.

Although the garden needs some attention, I really enjoy Lordshill Road Runners’ Monday night training sessions and didn’t want to miss it as I knew I’d not be able to train with the club later in the week due to needing to ferry the boys around for their weekly activities.

With the decision made to go and train, I wasn’t sure whether to join my normal group, E, in one of my favorite sessions,’City Loop’, or drop down to group D and do a session called ‘Catch Me If You Can’. My head said go for the latter. My heart said stick with group E. In all likelihood, I’d regret either decision later.

I decided to follow my heart and chose ‘City Loop’.

Having battled the traffic across town, I got to Hill Lane at about 6:10 pm and then headed over the road to Tauntons College for registration.

There were a lot of members out for training (attendance seems to grow weekly regardless of weather) although notably quite a few regular faces appeared to be missing. Could it be the earlier rain, the chilly breeze, or something exciting on TV? The reality appeared to be that many who’d run the half marathon had wisely chosen to have a rest day. Had I made a mistake?

As group E set off up Hill Lane, I was pleased that my legs were working ok and not screaming at me. I was looking forward to the descent along Winchester Road to the western end of Shirley High Street though.

Within the first 10 minutes my Garmin advised that my Recovery Check was ‘fair’. Far better feedback than I’d expected.

I shalln’t bore you with the details of the session other than to say that we did some Fartleks along Shirley High Street which I enjoyed immensely.

In fact, I loved the whole session. There’s no way I’d have gone out and run 5 miles the day after a half marathon without having the club session to motivate me so my decision was the right one. It felt great to complete the session and that restored my confidence in my running.

Gosport Half Marathon 2014

On Sunday, I ran the Gosport Half Marathon. This was my 3rd attempt to finish in under 2 hours and I’ll spoil the ending by stating right now that I failed! D’oh! This is your excuse to bail unless you fancy reading the gory details and numerous excuses because as usual I have a multitude of excuses for this and I’ll summarise those later. However, with every race come the lessons learned and the intent (however short lived) to learn from those mistakes and do better next time!

Let’s start with mistake or excuse number 1 – not enough long runs in training. In fact, my longest run since Challenge Weymouth Half was 14km.

I arrived at race HQ at 8am and picked up my race number and timing chip and had just affixed the chip to my shoe laces when Becky Cleeves came out and offered me a free pre-race sports massage. Becky is a few weeks into her course and will complete it in May 2015. The massage took about 15 minutes and warmed my legs up (as well as making them glow like beacons!) Having left a charity donation, I went back out to see who I could find. After a few seconds, I saw Chris who told be that his partner, Ali, who I planned to run with was close by. We wandered into the hall and settled in before being joined by Andy, Robert and Susan amongst others. On my travels, I also bumped into several LRR members and other running friends from other clubs. With almost 60 LRR running, this was quite a well supported event.

My original plan had been to run with Tamsyn and Ali, but, I didn’t find Tamsyn in the start area. However, as I lined up for the start with Andy and Ali, Clare S from LRR and Ian Bowers both stood close by. It was clear we were probably a little too close to the start line given our anticipated pace. Oh well… I looked back and saw Di about 20m behind us! D’oh!

The course this year is new due to building work on the airfield that’s been traditionally used in previous years. This meant 2 loops off the sea front. Although almost pancake flat, this kind of course can be tough although I had enjoyed (in hindsight) Weymouth’s Half Distance Triathlon course which was similar so was unsure whether I’d love or loathe the new Gosport course (it turns out I preferred it to the old course and I hear that was a common view).

Fortunately, the heavy showers that had drenched the area in the 45 minutes prior to the start of the race had subsided and we started in dry conditions. Not too bad at all really.

Within the first km, it was clear our pace was too quick and we didn’t really settle back into our desired pace for the first 3km. However, I felt strong and didn’t want to back off too much (mistake number 2). Unfortunately, Ali got a stitch and had to slow up so Andy and I continued on. At times I thought I was running by myself until Andy reminded me we were ahead of target! Oops! I ran along with Andy Porter for a while and managed to keep up with him as he slowed to get water from the water stops. I didn’t take on water or jelly babies (mistake number 3).

I have to say that the first 7-8 miles felt good. I was on target for a sub-2 hour finish. However, that’s when the wheels came off and I got a stitch. I ran through it the best I could. There was a turn around point and as I headed back along the seafront I spotted Tamsyn, Helena and Paul all close behind. I knew that I’d struggle to keep ahead of them at this point.

It wasn’t long before my fellow club-mates passed, all looking like it was a walk in the park. This was a little demoralising but I tried my best to keep them in my sights. Up until I got to the 10 mile point, a sub-2 looked possible. However, at 10 miles, I knew that a sub-2 hour finish was going to be unlikely and this hurt! In sympathy for my pride, my right calf started to spasm. Hey ho!! I then needed to take regular 5-10 second walk breaks. Andy did his best to entice me to run. He said that there was still a chance I could get close to 2 hours so I tried. At the next couple of water stops, I drenched myself in water and took on some jelly babies. These helped but it was too little too late. The last mile was agony, mentally and physically but I was determined to finish. As we hit the last 400m, I tried to open up the throttle. I wanted to finish in under 2:02. That was my new goal! I gave it all I had and went for the line. Crossing the line in 2:01:27, I was pleased that I’d found the energy to get under my revised target.

I was shattered. The simple act of walking was a big struggle. I’d given it my all but paced wrong, fueled and hydrated wrong and messed up my chance of a PB. As I’ve said, I liked the course and think that I can seriously improve my finish time with better training and on-the-day pace management.

Every cloud has a silver lining though. According to Strava, my 10 mile split was a PB! In fact, Strava helped prove how hard I’d worked:

17-11-2014 13-48-31

My HR shows that I was working far harder than my pace analysis does!

17-11-2014 13-48-08

17-11-2014 13-47-18

Spot where my target of a 2 hour finish disintegrated!

Many thanks to Andy for running with me and for putting up with me especially for the last 5km.

My race season for 2014 is now over. The next race on my calendar is Stubbington 10K. Between now and then, I have some work to do!! I want to do well in this race and that means some decent training, some weight loss and trying to get some sleep occasionally!!

Turning my frown upside down

For the last month or so, I’ve felt a bit ‘glum’. It’s difficult to put a reason to this feeling. It could just be the weather or a combination of a multitude of other minor reasons but I know it’s nothing to worry about. Those minor reasons for feeling negative have included negativity towards a contribution I’ve tried to make, uncertainty about the future, work-related negativity and sometimes just the negativity of others.

In life, I’m very positive generally, I have goals and, more often than not, achieve them. I like to make things happen. I do like to see others being happy over and above my own happiness (but not at the expense of my happiness).

In truth, my mood has been a little self-perpetuating. I’ve put on weight, I’ve not swum our cycled for over a month and I’ve struggled to focus. None of those things have made me feel more positive though.

However, alongside the negatives, there have been many things to be positive about. Most of these thIngs have been due to what other people have done or said and they probably have no clue that the fact that they did something without a moment s thought could lead to a posmotive impact on someone else. These moments have included banter with friends, meeting new people, seeing someone unexpectedly, the potential of new opportunities on the horizon or something as simple as receiving a message on Facebook.

My mood can often become polarised in a millisecond and be triggered by the simplest of things.

I know several people who suffer from depression and until quite recently couldn’t understand why most of those who had so much to be positive about could be depressed. However, the complexities of the human brain (and mind) mean that it doesn’t always act as we’d like. It’s amazing just how much of an improvement medication can make on those that suffer. Truly amazing in fact.

But, I don’t advocate giving out antidepressants to all and sundry though. I truly believe that exercise is one of the most effective ways of combating depression and does so in the much the same way that medicines do artificially. From personal experience I know that missing a workout can easily turn a good day into a not-so-good day and visa versa. I suspect that scaling back my exercise activities since the Weymouth Half Triathlon has been partly responsible for my mood of late (and a contributor alongside ‘comfort’ eating in paying on a stone in weight).

So, I have a plan. I’m refocusing on my activities. I’m getting back in the pool and back on my bike. I’m including a couple of strength and conditioning sessions per week and I’ve set myself a couple of ambitious goals for 2015. Two are fitness-related. One isn’t. I’ll share them soon.

Winter Wolf Run 2014

Sunday saw me complete my first off-road obstacle course as part of a team I’d put together after the summer’s Thunder Run. The team consisted of several friends; Raymond, Scott, Charlotte, Phillipa, Laura, Aaron and myself.

The event is held near Watford in November and is renowned for being muddy and challenging.

Aaron, Laura and I traveled up together on Saturday evening arriving at about 9pm at the Travelodge in Lutterworth. The others had traveled up earlier in the day and were staying in a traveling in a Travelodge in Rugby. It was about a 2.5 hour drive from home and about a 15 minute drive from the hotel to the race venue.

Once checked in, we headed to our separate rooms. I was impressed with my room. Much better than the Premier Inn I’d stayed in recently.

Having got a reasonable night’s sleep we meet in reception at 8:45am as our race started at 10:30am and we had to register from 9am.

The journey to the race venue was really easy and we arrived at about 9am. At the time it was raining and the ground was getting a little muddy under foot as we walked to the marquee to register.

Registration was simple enough. Once we’d handed in our waivers, picked up our race number and completed the medical form on the back, we waited for the others in the marquee.

Once they arrived, we said our hellos, dropped off our warm layers and prepared for the fun that lay ahead.

10689950_4627794790913_3003426292430592763_n

Looking forward to the challenge ahead… kinda!

We met back at the marquee and watched the first wave as they warmed up and then set off. There was a big screen showing live video footage of them which was good for spectators.

Our wave was setting off at 10:30am so we had a little time to wait. Fortunately, the rain had eased.

At about 10:20am we were called into the start pen to warm up. This was quite fun and helped reduce any nerves.

Before long we were called to the start line, shared a few anxious glances with each other and were off.

The first obstacle was less than 10 metres away. A river crossing. It meant getting wet very quickly and trying to stay upright was the main priority. It was too soon to get completely immersed in water. That delight could wait a bit.

1496721_4763777987791_7334192176793810480_n

It’s not as cold as it looks… Honest. I’m definitely looking forward to it getting any deeper though.

Once we’d waded through the first river, there was a scramble up the far bank before another muddier crossing. Great!

After that, there was a little opportunity to run before the next obstacle. I don’t recall the order of the obstacles or their names but they included:

Tyres – this wasn’t too much of a challenge but was made a little treacherous as they were sloppy as we clambered over them.

Tunnels – crawling through a narrow and dark tunnel

Scrambled nets – climb over a very high net wall. Normally I hate these but enjoyed this one

Undulating muddy banks – up and down over lots of little undulating humps with very muddy inclines. Quite a challenge to find the least muddy path through

Muddy Sucker – unbelievable muddy wade. Waist deep and thick mud that almost swallowed me while

wolfrun-winter-14-sun_1043868

Looking like a scene out of All Creatures Great And Small – It Shouldn’t Happen To A Vet – quite apt really

Other very muddy obstacles – numerous mud related areas you had to cross. In some cases it was possible to run across. In others, you had to wade able deep. In a couple, you had to crawl across. Unbelievable!

River wades – several walks through rivers and streams of varying depths

wolfrun-winter-14-sun_1032273

Almost mud-free… but for how long? Hmmmm!

Water slide – an awesome water slide that had to be tackled head first. Probably the best Water slide. Ever. So good, most of the team did it twice

Walls – obstacles we had to climb over with no real places to plant a foot. Quite challenging and probably the most dangerous obstacle. In fact, this is the only obstacle type where someone was injured that I’m aware of from falling from the top

The first 3 km seemed to go on forever and I don’t think any of us could believe we’d only got that far when we saw the km marker. In fact, the first 5 km seemed much longer that the last 5 km. We’d probably just got used to the challenge in the latter half though.

We lost Aaron and Laura at one point and I didn’t see them again until the end. The rest of us kept together and that made the event much more fun. I’d bout have enjoyed out half as much as a solo participant.

I’m as 50 minute 10 km runner bit out took us about 2.5 hours to complete the Wolf Run course. Ray had completed it in 2013 in under an hour so it’s achievable to go flat out bit I’m sure it’s far more fun as a team all helping each other out along the way and sharing the funny moments such as Phillipa’s face plant into the mud. Classic!

After we’d had a finish line photo taken, we waited for Laura and Aaron to finish but they were some way behind and the others had to leave so I waited by myself on a foil blanket. It was cold and I was wet. Fortunately the last river crossing just before the finish gantry washed most off the mud off!

e2f63e2c37f010e1bfd1edda47073e50_fb

The finish is in sight. Hoo-bleedin-ray!

Finally finished and in need of a shower!

Finally finished and in need of a shower!

To save travelling home wet and dirty, we’d paid £10 for a late checkout (until 2 pm) so headed back for a shower and change of clothes for a more comfortable journey home. Definitely a very wise move. Highly recommended.

Overall, it was a great event with a great team. Would I do it again? I’d highly recommend it as an event. Great organization. Great marshals and sort from other participants. However, there are plenty of other events to try so the answer is no. We have already made plans for a tougher challenge – Tough Mudder London South 2015! Also signed up for Ensure 24 and Equinox – both 24 or team relay off-road races.

I should have probably had a rest day on Monday but instead chose to go to Lordshill Road Runners training and did a great 13km steady run around Southampton. Good stuff.

Grrrrrrr!

I haven’t posted for a while but have a couple of gripes to share….

I was contacted during the week by the group leader of a local ‘Weight Loss’ group asking if she, mentioning no names, could promote her group (and the benefits of her organisation’s approach to ‘healthy eating’) to parents and junior runners at Southampton junior parkrun using ‘flyers and special offers’. When I explained that I wouldn’t allow a commercial organisation to do this, she said that I’d misunderstood her and that she didn’t intend to promote the group and meant she’d talk to the parents about healthy eating. Hmmm, why the mention of flyers and special offers then? Having made it clear I wouldn’t condone this as we want to keep events simple, free from commercialisation and not open the floodgates to other commercial organisations wanting to jump on parkrun as a means of touting for business, the group leader said she’d try the Southampton event! Excuse me for stating the obvious here but I’d consider that many people who have made the choice to get up early on a Saturday morning to complete a 5k run may also be considering a healthy lifestyle already. Having said all that, there’s clearly a synergy between healthy eating, lifestyle and exercise and many dieters looking to get active should consider parkrun as a means of introducing a regular fitness activity into their weekly schedule or enhance their existing physical activities.

Lo and behold, I spotted an A-frame promo board for the group leaders slimming group as I was helping to pack up and as I left the car park at the end of the event. Had the group leader been trying to promote her group just out of sight after all at the junior event? It appears that she had! Hmmm! Surely I’d made it clear that such promotion wasn’t welcome? Also, you’d think that targeting families whose children weren’t already active on a Sunday’ll morning might prove more beneficial. Clearly, parkrun is a low hanging fruit for such promotion.

My other gripe relates to dog poo! We’re very fortunate to have a great park to host the junior parkrun but one major issue we have every week is dog poo. It appears that a large percentage of dog owners who walk their dogs at Riverside Park, Southampton don’t ‘bag it and bin it’. Prior to the start of every event, the event team have to do a sweep for poo and bag and bin countless little unwanted messages from the finish area where we also hold the pre-run briefing. However, that didn’t stop me from standing in some once I’d set up the course with Daniel just off the path lurking in the slightly long grass. Grrrrrrr! That was annoying enough. However, the icing on the cake was Daniel getting home with his friend Anisha both covered in dog poo from where one or more dog owners had left piles by an area that a lot of the children play after the run. When I say covered in it, I mean from head to toe. Hands, clothing and shoes.

Rants over.