Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Tuesday Night Run - 25/05/2011

Tom at the top of Mott's Road. Andy's lurking.
Sorry ladies, I should know your names but don't.
Well, Tuesday came around satisfyingly quickly this week and after a chat with Terry and a warm up on the Rectory Field, it was down to business...

We went off up Carding Mill Valley, taking Mott's Road up to the Portway. It's steeper than you think this way and I think pretty much everyone had a walk at some point up here (OK, Ruth, I never saw you walking, not once, but you could have sneaked a quick bit of pedestrianism in while I wasn't paying attention). The Houseman Hundred aspirants all seemed to be there, but only in body. There certainly wasn't the usual dose of speed about.

A quick discussion at the top, and we turned towards Haddon Hill. I put in a couple of good efforts on the short rises here, talking to Andy Davies (shows how hard he was trying, and I could only just keep up!). At the top we decided to go down the LMV descent to the bottom of Jonathan's Hollow.

Where shall we go next? Top of Haddon Hill
I tweaked my right calf slightly on the way down - probably a result of going too hard on the Haddon climbs - but not too badly. Tom and I loitered at the back on the way down the Batch, and got some extra climbing as punishment when Ruth and Adrian headed up Cwmdale rather than going down into All Stretton and back through the fields. I stopped on the way back bast the golf clubhouse to take a couple of pictures, then we were all together again in CMV, jogging back to the Co-op.

Cardingmill Valley and Burway Hill

Church Stretton

Happy band taking it steady back into town.

This was a shorter route than usual, 6.2 miles with about 1,500' of ascent in a leisurely 1 hr 20 mins. It was particularly nice to be able to welcome one of our juniors tonight.

Good luck to all the Houseman Hundred guys - JT, Noel, Sandy, Terry and Andy (hope I haven't missed anyone) - I hope you all get round and it only hurts enough to give you a sense of achievement...

Monday, 23 May 2011

Running (yay) at Stretton - 21/05/2011

In the breeze at Battlestones, Caer Caradoc behind me
Finally... this was the longest run since Three Peaks (but only about 11 miles), and with no adverse reaction!

I started from Watling Street in Church Stretton at about 11:30, running up Cwms Lane to the Plantation and then along the bottom of the access land to the barn under Battlestones. From there I took the direct line to the top.

Battlestones, with the Lawley left and the Wrekin just above the stones
This first section was done with some pain in my left achilles (again), but this time I decided to do something about it and barefooted (well sockfooted) the next section along the grassy ridge to the big cairn on Hope Bowdler Hill overlooking the Gaerstone.

About to put my shoes back on!
I popped my x-Talons back on for the slightly rockier bit down to the stile beyond the stone, and then went down the spur towards Hope Bowdler, hooking back on myself to climb gently through the pastures to the layby at the top of Hazler Lane.

The next mile was on the road (I could have taken the track under Hazler Hill, but I did that last time out). I was starting to feel quite free by the time I got up onto Ragleth Hill and ran along the ridge into a stiff breeze fairly comfortably. I dropped down into Little Stretton from the post at the south summit and had a quick pitstop for a pint of squash and a bottle refill at the Ragleth Inn.

From there I headed steadily up Ashes Hollow, and decided to go all the way up Windy Batch - I've been part way up here on the LMV race, but never right up to the headwall at the top of the valley. This steepens at the end, just like the un-named valley between Yearlet and Ashlet parallel to it. The path comes out pretty much where the Yearlet climb gets steep at the top of the Townbrook Valley, and I headed on up towards Boiling Well from there.

View down Windy Batch from nearly the top.
Grindle is on the left, the col on the skyline is Barrister's Plain
I descended via the Skyline ascent into Lightspout Hollow and down to Carding Mill Valley for a welcome coffee and warm sausage roll (it wasn't quite cream tea weather). By comparison friends got blown away and hailed on in Wales and the Lakes on the same day (Al Tye at Carneddau, Helen and Adrian on the Old County Tops race, a 37 mile monster, Mel and JT presumably recce'ing for the Duddon Champs race, and Owen on another BG training run), so I got off pretty lightly with a stiff breeze.

Stats for the day (still not really counting weeks at the mo - will start this coming week) were 11 miles and 2,600' of ascent in a leisurely 2 hours 30 minutes (excluding the Ragleth Inn stop). Photos to follow!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Cross Training and Programme - 20/05/2011

I've been holding myself down from running still (mostly). I just want to let the heels and achilles have as much time as possible to settle down. I've also decided not to run at Ennerdale on 6th June - there just isn't enough time to prepare properly and I don't want to put myself through it if I'm not going to enjoy it!

On Wednesday I had to go to the mid-Wales coast for a meeting, and found myself in Borth with an hour or so to spare before the return train. Strangely I seemed to have a T shirt and a pair of shorts with me (fell shoes too to be truthful, but I didn't use them). I thought the best use of the time would be to work on my running form a bit, so I got out on the beach, barefoot, and ran very steadly for 20 minutes on the surf line. I was concentrating on some of the pointers in the Chi Running book, and really enjoyed it. I then had a quick swim and stood calf deep in the sea for five minutes to cool down before a very pleasant train journey back.

Yesterday night was gym night again, and I was well up for it! 5,000m in just over 20 minutes on the rowing machine at moderate to high resistance made for a good warm up, then I got on the bike pretty much straight away. I was aiming to get a really good CV conditioning session in with some intensity so I set the resistance to a medium level where I can hang in at around 75% of my MHR, and just turned over at a nice constant RPM for 20 minutes. I find it's better to spin fairly quickly (90 to 100 RPM) at a slightly lower resistance than turn a huge gear relatively slowlty (that hurts my knees after a while). I covered 10km in just over 20 minutes and then eased off to cool down for a couple of minutes. My final exercise again followed straight on - getting on the stepper with a tune with a good beat on repeat on the iPhone, and just monstering away on again a medium resistance. This gets me up into a higher HR zone when I work hard (like a race pace run or climb), and I can ease off a bit to recover, dropping back into the aerobic zone. I held the hard sessions for 4 minutes or so, easing off for a minute to recover. When I got off and finished (after a five minute cool down) I had that brilliant skin tingly sensation you get after a good session or a hard race.

Tonight I'm going to take a rest, and tomorrow I'm going to start getting back into the long runs - I think no more than 12 to 15 miles this week.

I've thought over the Caradoc race too, and in hindsight I'm more positive about it now. I shouldn't really have run, and if I'd done the Streak I probably wouldn't have, but I wanted to get a score down for the Summer Series (this gives me the option of missing one of the remaining four races). I did very well to the top and had a good descent except for hurting my feet again, and I know there's lots more potential there. I should be able to get up to about 80% score in at least one of these summer races - with the long run out Caradoc doesn't suit me as well as say Stiperstones or Pontesford, and the extra distance and steep second climb at Ragleth will help me too. I know now that I'm physically capable of pulling the odd really good run out (Clee, LMV) and Caradoc as far as the lane was of that kind of quality this year... In the end it's pretty daft beating myself up about a performance when I went nearly four minutes faster than last year (I took almost exactly 10% off my time). Caradoc was my best summer series race last year too. So I should be being chuffed.

Track of the week: "There's No Other Way", Blur. London goes to Madchester, Baggy heaven. And unbelievably good for getting you dancing on the stepper!

Tuesday Night Hillclimbing - 17/05/2011

Sorry, more catching up to do.

On Tuesday I had a strange sickness bug which I slept off in the afternoon. I woke feeling as right as rain about 3:30 and after I'd eaten toast and watch Adam Gilchrist's amazing IPL hitting display, I decided to head over to Church Stretton for the evening run.

This turned out to be a bit of a misnomer as the "run" route selected was the hilliest I've known since I've been going... We started out up the Hundred Steps and the Green Path to the Yearlet / Ashlet col, and then descended by way of the gully that the Bluebell Run comes up. I was good on the ascent and took it easy chatting to Leyton and then Naomi, but for some reason found myself descending much faster than most. I think I just see Tom bounding down and go all silly!

Anyway we regrouped in Ashes Hollow and launched off up the spur onto Grindle. This is the route I'd used in January on my Gill Harris Round run. I started near the front and finished at the back - sticking to the plan and taking it fairly easy. My story is that I said I'd backmark the group, but maybe I was a little weary after throwing up in the morning! We didn't quite go to the top though and were soon over Nills and heading straight down again into Ashes.

Sensible people at this point would head back along the contour path through Cunnery Woods, but none of the fifteen odd of us could be remotely classified as being sensible. Up Ashlet we went by way of the brutally steep and loose ascent route used by the Stretton Hills race. Not nice, and again I followed the group up. At the top there was some discussion as to which way to descend to the top of the Rectory Wood. Most of the happy band went off by the approved LMV descent, straight down into Townbrook Valley, but four of us headed down the Green Path. We got to the woods (and thus the car park) comfortably before the others. They must have stopped again to regroup or something. Or maybe I'm right and the Green Path is quicker unless you're a demon descender.

Anyway, the heels mostly held up, I didn't irritate the Achilles significantly (hopefully it's settling down nicely) and I had a good night out (yet again).

5 miles and 2,000' of ascent tonight!! Didn't bother timing I'm afraid, but it wasn't quick.

Update - 16/05/2011

"No running since Caradoc" would seem to be the best headline for the period over the weekend to Monday 16th. I'm trying to give a little time for all the various niggles, particularly my heels, to heal. I've not exactly been sedentary, but I think a week off to let everything sort itself out was overdue really. I should have done this after the Three Peaks really...

On Thursday I had to hold myself down, with a meeting in Cromford I'd normally have run on the way back, but that wouldn't have been clever so I settled for a gym session with James in the evening. This was a fairly gentle 20 minute cycle at 60-70% MHR on a relatively low resistance, followed by a session building core strength on the weight machines (generally 3 sets of 8 reps at relatively high loads).

I was "up north" for a meeting early on Friday, and when I got back I went over to Wales for a weekend at Borth. We had a nice 4 mile walk along the beach to the pub and back on Saturday, and just chilled on Sunday before driving back to Shropshire.

When I got back I headed out on the road bike for a recovery ride, covering 14.4 miles around Muxton, Chetwynd Aston and Lilleshall Hall in 1:08 (so 12.7 mph on average). The route was fairly hilly with climbs from Donnington Wood up to Heath Hill (on the farm track which is just about OK on the roadie) and then up to Lilleshall Hall from Chetwynd Aston, so I was reasonably pleased with the speeed and it was just nice to get out for a moderate workout.

On Monday I did another gyms session with James. A bit heavier this time, with 20 minutes on the bike again to start off with, at a higher resistance but keeping to 60-70% MHR again. My core strength session was virtually identical to Thursday's. I did a couple of 500m sprints on the rowing machine to get some anaerobic work in, and then warmed down with 10 minutes on the cross trainer. I have a slight twinge in my left IT band after and I think this is from the cross trainer - better stay off that!

Anyway, stomach upset permitting, hopefully I'll make the Tuesday night run at Stretton (better take it easy though).

Monday, 16 May 2011

Caradoc Classic Race - 11/05/2011

Going well and chasing Rick down on the ridge (photo courtesy Brian Smith)

Another blog entry, must be another race!

Seriously though, training has been pretty curtailed since the Three Peaks due to the state of my heels, and I also had a sore left achilles after the Bluebell Run which meant I was hobbling on Monday and Tuesday and pretty doubtful I'd make it to the start line for the Classic. However my leg was improved somewhat on race day, so I took the chance and headed over to Church Stretton after work.

I had a nice chat with Rick Robson about his experiences from the Two Oceans marathon he's recently done in South Africa, then registered, applied Compeed, and headed off with Noel Hogan to warm up. I'm glad I managed a decent warm up, it certainly helped loosen up the tight achilles (and calf).

I went off fairly hard from the start and then eased off a little in the field, but worked hard up through the short wooded section onto the fell side and found myself in a decent position. Rick and I were together on the steep ascent and I really pushed on the walking section, particularly either side of the kissing gate. I was still neck and neck with Rick as we levelled out past Three Fingers Rock and forced myself to keep running as much as possible on the rising section of ridge.

Running past Three Fingers Rock
Picture courtesy Al Tye
I passed Rick two or three times and he kept coming back at me, but we were both holding our place in the field. By half way along the ridge there was a bit of a gap in front of me and I ran hard at the last steepish section to try to get a bit of a gap. I just about had breath to say thaks to Jan who was doing the summit marshalling, and then hit the after burner to try to get off the hill as fast as possible. My calf and achilles were giving me a bit of pain, but you can ignore it when you're in the zone I suppose. I was determined not to mess up the steep descent after last year and I think I heard someone shouting me to keep pushing hard, which helped. Two and a half minutes after leaving the top I was at the gate onto the lane...

And then it all fell apart. Half a mile further on than last year.

I'd destroyed my feet on the descent and my heels were absolutely shredded! All I could do in the lane and through the field was to jog along toe striking. I lost about 15 places on a section I'd hoped to be able to run hard on. I was particularly disappointed because I'd had such a great run up to the lane.

Being passed on the lane, my face says it all. I'm hanging in there, in pain.
Picture courtesy Al Tye.

In the end I hobbled home in 32:53 for 76th place and a 76% score. Last year was 36:34 for 96th and 69%. So I should be happy enough having improved by 3:41, but looking at the folk who were around me at the top of the lane, I really ought to have finished in about 31 minutes. I'm not sure why I couldn't just ignore my feet and keep going, maybe the calf/achilles thing was giving me problems as well, or maybe my body was telling me not to take any more pain after the Three Peaks and Bluebell Run. Whatever. There's more to come yet!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Bluebell Run - 08/05/2011

Rapid descending in Townbrook Valley, but not fast enough!
Photo courtesy Al Tye -

I hadn't intended to run this race but it seemed like a good idea as I headed back from a party in Oxford on Saturday night, other races being really a bit too far away given I needed to do other things afterwards.

The Bluebell Run is a charity event in aid of the local cancer ward. It attracts a small field of mostly local runners (we had two from Dark Peak and a couple of guys from Sparkhill too). The route's a nice one, starting in the Rectory Field at Church Stretton and climbing to the Long Mynd Hotel, then following Cunnery Road through to the ford in Little Stretton (about 1.5 miles into the race).

From here the route crosses the camp site and heads up Ashes Hollow, turning into the valley between Ashlet and Yearlet and climbing steadily up this to a steep grassy headwall which is taken direct and leads out onto the col between Ashlet and Yearlet (about 3 miles). Turning left here, a short final climb leads to the path which skirts the north face of Yearlet to the head of Townbrook Valley. Continuing round the head of the valley, the main Townbrook path is picked up and followed down into the Rectory Wood and through the kissing gate to the finish.

The official stats for the race give it as a BS grade race 5 miles long with 1,200' of climbing. Another 50' of climbing and it would be an AS though.

I didn't really warm up enough, but gave the start a pretty good effort and was 12th roughly coming into the campsite after a good fast run along Cunnery Road. I flagged a little up Ashes Hollow and started walking pretty much straight away in the side valley. I should have run a little more really, but I think some of the Three Peaks miles are probably still in my legs. I got a second wind at the bottom of the steep section and started to climb better, gradually catching up Ruth Stafford who'd passed me in the less steep section.

It wasn't to be though and I ran out of steep climbing with Ruth still 15 yards in front, so by the time I was running again she was 50 yards up. I couldn't make a dent in her lead on me by the top of Townbrook, and with sore feet and no-one close behind me I think I mentally settled for holding position at that point. I ended up following Ruth all the way down 30 to 50 yards behind her, finishing 16th in about 43 minutes (I forgot to stop the flipping watch again). Hopefully Phil will email me the results through soon.

Finishing - photo courtesy of John Corfield

Anyway I suppose I'm reasonably happy with that - a finish halfway up the field (sadly only 32 plus a few walkers), and a fairly fast 5 miles. My left achilles gave me some trouble in the race and has been pretty darn sore today (Monday) - I hope that's just general tightness and a crap warm up, and not further trouble with the dodgy left leg. I thought I'd left all that behind when I got round the Three Peaks OK.

Mel Price put in an amazing performance, finishing fourth overall and carving five minutes off the ladies record apparently. Mark Agnew ran with his son Nate, and they finished in a very decent time, earning Nate a box of chocolates. Pictures may appear in the South Shropshire Journal courtesy of John Corfield, and Al Tye was on the Townbrook path and endured a soaking as a heavy shower hit about 30 seconds after I'd finished.

Caradoc Recce - 06/05/2011

Bluebells and May Blossom above Church Stretton

I left work fairly promptly on Friday night for a recce of the Caradoc Classic. I thought I'd recce the route as far as the end of the main descent off the fell and then run on over the Hope Bowdler Fells and back into Church Stretton.

It was a very pleasant early evening and I set off at a reasonable pace through the field and up to Three Fingers rock. Right of this, left of the next knoll, and then a trod to the right of the main path seem to be the fastest ways to reach the short but steep climb to the edge of the Iron Age fortifications. There's still some steady climbing after that too.

View back down the ridge climbed in the Classic. Best lines are top secret!

The run down after the first little drop is a bit bobbly: one of those humpy grassy areas with unpredicatable footfall. I took the main section of the descent steady - the heels are still pretty sore. I did see one line which cuts off a wiggle on the descent low down.

From Cwms Lane I headed back up past the site of Cwms Cottage to reach the gate, and located a geo-cache I'd downloaded details of. Once I'd signed the log, I headed off up to Battlestones, where I took a photo, and then over Hope Bowdler Hill, running all the way and feeling strong. At Gaer Stones I took the permissive path towards Hope Bowdler and then hooked back where this drops into the fields to come out at the layby by the top of Hazler Road.
Battlestones with the Wrekin on the skyline

I crossed over, dropped down HR a couple of hundred yards and took the path on the left which climbs initially and then traverses under Hazler Hill. The bluebells were amazing and I took a couple more pictures before completing the traverse and picking up the footpath down past Snatchfield Farm to return into town.

I was quite pleased with today's run: the recce phase had quite a few rests but I took the running as a series of hard efforts once I'd warmed up coming out of town. I took it easy over to Battlestones but then ran at race pace as far as the bluebell field on Hazler Hill. The run was about 7.0 miles and 1,800' of ascent.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Tuesday Night Run - 03/05/2011

Sorry, no pics or GPS tracks for this one.

A shorter run than usual, which I cut even shorter, due to the state of my feet after the Three Peaks. Went pretty much around the Caradoc Classic route in advance of next week's race, then most folk went off through Helmeth Hill Woods to look at the bluebells.

I had a meeting about the juniors so met Pauline at the bottom of the steep Caradoc descent and jogged back to Church Stretton with her.

I was pleased with the climbing tonight - Tom and I were a couple of hundred yards behind everyone coming out of the lane into the field. I put a decent 80% effort in and we'd caught virtually everyone up before Three Fingers Rock. I ran on hard from the rock towards the top and that was OK as well - I'm hopeful I can run much more of the ascent this year than I did last.

The feet are limiting the descending a bit at the mo. I started off fairly steady and Tom came bounding past at pretty much terminal velocity (gotta learn to go that fast - do I need to have my entire brian vacuumed out as pre-race preparation?) I got it together a bit on the steeper section, but need to remember to really attack this in the race. Then it's hold on all the way across the field.

A couple of rehearshal runs on Sunday wouldn't go amiss...