Salomon Sunset Series – Box Hill

Stepping outside my comfort zone I guess is what you call this one.

On Saturday 24th June 2017 I travelled down to Box Hill with my friend Mollie as she and a bunch of other friends of mine were taking part in the Salomon Sunset Series race.  This is a 10km trail race which starts at the bottom of Box Hill and finishes pretty much at the top.

We arrived on site about 6:45pm. I said hello to a few friends who where already there.  My original plan was to support those I knew running this thing.  I don’t know what came over me but after a few minutes or so I felt like giving this a crack.  I traveled down in my running kit anyway just in case I decided to run and my decision to do so was very much a last minute thing.

 

The start

 
I had not fuelled to run 10km uphill or otherwise and the only thing light enough to stomach with 30 minutes or so before the start was a sausage roll and a couple of shot bloks.  Not the ideal pre race fuelling strategy but hey.

It was almost time to start but not before Mollie led the warm up from the stage.

 

PT Mollie mid way through the warm up

 
So onto the race. We set off shortly after 8pm. The first couple of kilometres were relatively flat. Then came the first of the climbs.  This was the first of two climbs which involved stairs. Now, I’m no mountain goat and this climb really did put my lower back to the test. It felt like it was going on and on and on. I’m not gonna lie, my back really did start to hurt.

Thankfully a downhill section emerged and I could relax into my running again trying to keep a controlled descent as I was keen on staying upright as it was a little bit dark through the woods and also wanted to get my breathing under control. Mission accomplished!  The water station soon became visible.  I took a couple of minutes here to take some liquid onboard before the second climb.  The other climb which involved stairs.

 

Smiling because I made it to halfway point

 
This climb didn’t feel as bad as the first.  I think because I learnt some lessons during the first climb.  Once at the top I seem to recall the trail levelling out a little bit and I could get back to running again.  I recall seeing a marshal and saying ‘surely there’s a downhill bit soon’.  Sure enough there was.  With the light continuing to fade I was once again trying to make a controlled descent as not wanting to stack it anywhere.  I felt much more comfortable on the section than I did on the first descent.

The final climb with about 2km to go was definitely the worst one for me.  The weather was turning for the worse at this point and the rain was making the ground a bit slippy in places.  Somehow I managed to catch and overtake a few people who had gone past me earlier in the race.  I powered my way up the hill. I was getting wet and this was giving me the incentive to get this thing done as soon as.  I was beginning to slip where the ground had gotten wet.  A fellow runner came past me just after the 9km and said ‘just a kilometre to go’ which gave me the extra push to get going again. He was wearing a head torch so I decided to latch on to him which made a world of difference in those final stages.

I crossed the line with around 1hr23 on the clock.  Given the amount of climbing involved I was pretty happy with this and happy to finish without falling over.

 

Finishers momento

 
Normally I wouldn’t have even entertained the idea of entering a trail race on a whim.  I guess I put this down to the confidence I have in my running.  I’m certainly no expert at trail running but this experience has definitely sparked something.  I may have walked about 95% of the uphill sections but I made it to the finish line.  I’ve done trail events before but this was by far the toughest trail course I have completed to date.

Happy running!

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Endure 24 2017

What a weekend that was! After taking part in 2015 I decided to go back this year after a place became available.  After a mad recruiting drive to find three other people literally 5 days before, the team was back up to six. Apart from my good self, the other team members had not done anything like this before.  For some reason, it was I who was made team captain.

The team met at Paddington station on the Saturday morning and off we went to the race site.

 

The team: Reka Horvath, Abbi Hau, Michael Law, Bec Lam, Vanna Chhay, Me

 
We arrived on site with plenty of time to collect race numbers and find a spot to pitch our tents then head down to the race village for a look around before the start…oh and some star jumps.

  
Michael led the team off at 12 noon followed by Bec, Vanna, Abbi, Reka then myself. All of the team (including me) ran pretty quick laps.  For me to run 5 miles in well under 50 minutes was a bit of a surprise and was a big improvement from my lap times in 2015.  

During the downtime between laps I did little bit of socialising, catching up with friends I haven’t seen in a while and also seeing some of my former team mates from 2015, who have been back every year since.  I call that a little bit of success.

Here I am with good friends Sarah (Windle Valley) and James (Frimley Flyers)

It was a bit of warm one on the Saturday, sleep was at a premium when an opportunity arose to catch some zeds. I don’t think I slept all that much between my 2nd lap and my double lap during the night. The night laps, well what can I say about them? The whole did a double lap during the night into the early morning. Some of the team less fortunate than others when it came to the weather.  The weather had turned during the night.  A little light drizzle to start with and by the time I took the baton from Reka to head off, the rain was gradually turning heavier.

It didn’t take long before some of the course became pretty slippery, especially the hills ‘a little steep’ and ‘heartbreak hill’. The conditions worsened on the second lap but somehow this was quicker than my first night lap.  Perhaps I was being extra cautious on the first and less so on the second as I knew what to expect.  I had not run the Endure course in the dark before and even though I was soaked, I kinda enjoyed it.  My favourite part of the course was definitely the wooded sections. It was like playtime.

During my first lap

After about 2 or 3 hours broken sleep I emerged from the tent around 7am to head down for breakfast.  The sun was out and it was already warm by this time.  The good thing about this is the course was starting to dry out.  Vanna was out on the course finishing off his double lap before Abbi, Reka, Me and Michael put in one more lap each.  On the last lap for the team Bec had the timing chip on her ankle and she was accompanied by Reka, Vanna and Abbi.  Michael and I joined with them on the home stretch and we crossed the line as a team.

  
For a team of six I am proud of what we achieved. 32 laps, 160 miles. Finished 47th from 202 teams in our category.  I was/am immensely proud of this result.  For me it was my best performance at a 24 hour team relay event.  5 laps, 25 miles and a course PB.  I can honestly say this was the most fun weekend I’ve had to date as a runner.

That’s not all! There is another team who deserves a mention.  A team of 5 ladies whom I run with regularly were also in action at Endure24.  These ladies were absolutely awesome. They came along to have a little bit of fun and they ended up winning their group category. These ladies truly are a BadAssLadyGang.

 

Jessica, Coren, Julia, Sophie and Sarah

 
It is amazing how quick 24 hours goes by when you are running, sleeping, eating and catching up with friends.

Sadly I cannot make Endure24 in 2018 but I will be going back in 2019 all being well.

Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings.

Happy Running!

Westminster Mile & London 10000

Where do I start with this one. On Sunday 28th May I took on the Westminster mile again.  It’s the third time I’ve run this race and this year I wanted to go and and run a sub seven minute mile.  Sadly this did not happen on the day but made up by ending up with a PB of 7:21 for a mile on the road.  Not bad for a 41 year old, slightly overweight chap.  The first 800m went to plan hitting half way at 3:30 and I’m not sure what happened after that.  I guess where I lost time was between 800 and 1200 metres. One day I’ll  get right.

 

First medal of the Bank Holiday weekend earned

 
The next day it was back to Green Park for the London 10000.  This race was the first race I ran in London back in 2010 and is years was the third year I had run it.  I did not know what to expect with this run. The previous time I ran the mile and 10k back-to-back was back in 2015 and I had an awful 10k run that year.

This year I went into the race with zero expectations, wasn’t going for a PB or anything, I was just out there to enjoy myself.  The day started with a quick pre race meet up with the other adidas Runners who were running for a cheeky pre race picture.  Then I went over to the Dogs Trust to pick up a race vest as I was running as part of their team.

I started the race with fellow adidas Runner, Devon, who was also representing the Dogs Trust.  The klaxon goes and we were off.  The start was fairly congested as always. I soon found my groove and I have to say I had never felt so comfortable than I did during this race.  I was a working hard but it didn’t feel like I was working hard.  My running felt effortless and this is something I don’t recall ever happening in a race before.  For once, everything seemed to click into place. My legs knew what to do, my heads was chilled out and not a single negative thought crept in.  I felt like I was in total control.

I almost ran this race in negative splits, the exception being mile four.  The first and fourth miles were both greater than sub nine minute miles.  The longer the run, the faster is was running.  That has always been a rare thing.  It was hot and humid, not the best conditions to run in but I quite enjoy them.  So glad I ran in a vest rather than a t-shirt, I think this helped a lot.

I knew I had a good run.  OK, so what with all the weaving in and out of other runners on the course I measured 10.44km and crossed the line in 57:54. OK, so it wasn’t a 10km PB on the day, but it was a course PB and I am very happy with that.  Strava awarded me with a 10km PB badge and 14 segment PB’s. I was over the moon with that run.  A run which gave me an abundance of confidence.

Second medal of the Bank Holiday weekend earned

Both weekend medals

What a great weekend of running that was!

There is a saying which says ‘to run fast you have to learn to run slow’. I’m becoming a firm believer in that. Running slow is starting to reap rewards.

Happy running!

I Would Run 500 Miles

On Monday 15th May 2017 I hit a milestone.  I reached 500 miles for the very first time in the history of my running adventures.  For those who have read my previous blog posts would know I had a torrid year with my running during 2016. To come back this year and run better than I have ever run is something I am quite pleased with.  Mixing up my running with intervals, fartlek, hill sessions and long slow runs over the past four and a half months or so have done and are making me a better runner.  Learning to run smart along with running without pressure is definitely paying off.

Yes, my legs, head and heart have done the hard part, but I can honestly say I have found an amazing group of people who have taken me to where I am now.  I definitely wouldn’t have reached 500 miles if I did what I always did and carried on running mostly on my own.  A couple of things I have found easier this year is finding consistency, being happy with my running has help me stay consistent. Since the start of the year my weekly average according to Strava has been around 24-26 miles week in, week out.  Staying motivated. I have had issues with motivation in previous years and touch wood, so far this year my motivation has not gone AWOL.  I give credit to the people I now run with.  They help keep me motivated more than they will ever know.

I’m doing things I’ve never done before like getting up at stupid o’clock (5am) on Friday mornings to go running with one of the best group of runners I’ve ever met.  After today, I think Thursday mornings might be a thing too.  The friends I have made this year through the groups I run with and the support they give, I am truly thankful for.

The best bit about reaching 500 miles for the first time is that I hit that number wearing the brand new adidas PureBoost DPR shoe which I absolutely loved.  I did a trial run in them on Monday as part of a pre-launch event and found them to be really light, comfortable, bouncy and had great grip in the wet conditions.  I went as far as saying I felt these were best adidas shoe I had run in so far.

Putting the DPR’s through their paces

 

Enjoying a Kenyan Hills session a bit too much?

 
 

Post Green Park hill session

 
I have truly fallen back in love with running again and I guess it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t say ‘thank you’ to the adidas Runners London team captains.  So,  James P, Claudia, James H, Noel and Olivia thank you so much for putting on these weekly sessions.  I for one have benefitted hugely from them.

If my 2017 running story is helping to motivate and inspire other people then I would love to hear from them.  In the meantime….

Happy running!

 

Brighton Marathon 2017

This was not in my plans for 2017 but a last minute charity place became available and I knew I had unfinished business with this event so I decided to take it on.  So let’s begin.  The weekend started on the Friday with an early finish from work so I could hit the coast to pick up my race number. What a glorious day and immediately this took away all the stresses from work. Sun and sea on a Friday afternoon, yes please.

Race day itself: Well this started with a 4am alarm and out of the house by 4:30am to meet my friend Emma in Victoria at 5:30am for a stupid early train ride down to Brighton.

 
📸 credit: Emma Jane Finch

We arrived in Brighton around 7:20am so we had bags of time to make our way to the start at Preston Park.  By this time I hadn’t eaten so to avoid going into the town centre I dived into a local shop to try and grab something for breakfast. Needless to say they didn’t have what I wanted so grabbed a couple bananas and a couple of nutri grain bars. Saved a banana and nutri grain bar for during the run.  I’ll come on to that.

Shameless selfie before going into the start pen.

  
With the sun beating down I made my way to the start pen.  The first runners were away at 9:15am and it was another 40 minutes before I would cross the start. I forgot my GPS watch so used my phone to record the run on Strava.  The first mile marker I saw was at three miles and that seemed to have come up a bit quicker than I expected it to. During those first three miles I had lost the banana I had saved for during the run.  All I had for energy was a breakfast bar and a few gels.  I was making use of every piece of shade I could find as shortly after mile 5 shade was at a premium. Given my left calf was pretty well taped up and hidden by the use of calf guards I surprisingly didn’t have any issues around the hillier sections of the course. As we approached the 8 mile marker I had found myself in front of the 5 hour pacer. That all changed after needing a pit stop just before mile 9.

Between miles 9 and 10 Melissa (@lisspeacock) rang along side me and she and I had a little chat before she carried on off into the distance. I recall saying to her “if I can catch the 5 hour pacer again and keep in front, I’ll be on for a good time”.  As if by magic this is roughly where the heat from the sun started to take an effect as well as effects from not eating a decent breakfast.  With energy levels running a little low, I was now listening to my body because running for a time was never the aim, finishing was.  If I had to walk a bit, I did and made sure I was taking on liquid regularly and energy gels roughly every 5 miles or so.

I made it to halfway in 2:30:38 which is the slowest time I’ve hit the halfway point at in all the marathons I’ve completed.  I even managed to have my name mentioned over the PA provided by the local BBC radio station.  Not having my GPS watch meant I had no clue of time or pace, just focusing on putting one foot in front of the other.  After mile 14 the course takes you into a more residential part of town where the support was fantastic.  Between miles 16 and 17 I spotted James (@DiamondLitefoot) (I think he spotted me first) with some of his running club who were providing some welcome relief from the heat by way of sponges.  I took advantage of one of these sponges which felt like a cold shower.  Also around these two miles I had spotted a runner who was also running for the same charity as I.  We had a brief chat.  Given there were only 6 people running for Trekstock, to spot another on the course was a bit of a surprise. I thought the other 5 were way in front.

I don’t remember much about miles 18 to 20, they couldn’t have been that exciting.  Mile 20 is where the course starts to take you into an industrial area.  I’ve heard some negative talk about miles 20 to 22 but I didn’t find them all that bad.  The only down side is the water stations at this point running out of water. In my view that’s a side effect of the conditions.  I spotted Tess (@fitbits_) going in the direction, which I think was between miles 21 & 22 for her. 

Mile 23 is where the course takes you onto the promenade, alongside the beach huts.   This for me was the worst part of the course, despite the support being fantastic.  The two miles along the promenade just didn’t seem to end.  Brighton Pier in the distance looked at a lot further away than it was and didn’t seem to be getting any closer. I was so glad to get back onto the road surface at mile 25.  This is where I spotted Michael (@WhippetRC), a who kindly took some action shots. I saw the 9km marker for the BM10k race and new I was inside the final 1,000 metres. Seeing a finish line has never felt so good.

  
Normally I would sprint for the line but not this time.  I don’t know why I didn’t. Crossing the finish line was special. It’s what I wanted to do on my 40th birthday but injury last year put paid to that.  Because of the weekend this years race fell on it meant I still crossed the line aged 40. That’s good enough for me.

I completed this marathon in 5:33:49 which is slightly faster than my previous two so I’m happy with that.  Given the conditions, how my legs were feeling prior to starting and the lack of food I cannot complain with how it went.  I probably enjoyed this one more than all the others I’ve done. Had I had a decent breakfast and had more fuel in the tank maybe I could’ve gone quicker for longer.  As I mentioned earlier, time wasn’t the motivator, finishing was.

  
I am so glad to have been given the opportunity to take on Brighton to finish what I started in 2016 and come back and beat it.  I can now go back to running for fun for the rest of the year.

Happy running!

  

North London Half

So, today was all about the Vitality North London half marathon. An event I only signed up the day before entires closed. Nothing like leaving things to the last minute.

  
This year I was determined to beat this course after my DNF in 2016. I pulled out of that one at just past the three mile mark.  Going into this year my running (not training) had been fairly consistent and had been injury free.  That was until last weekend.  After 20km run on the Saturday I (with the benefit of hindsight) foolishly went to the gym to spin my legs out. Turns out I may have aggravated either tendons or the calf muscle in my left leg.  It was so painful I had to cut a 5 mile run short on Tuesday. After that I hadn’t run until today, giving time to heal and the best chance of getting round.

I arrived at Wembley around 7:30am giving plenty of time to do the usual things likes bag drop and a last minute visit to the loo. 8:30am and the race was underway.  The start is uphill and before you know it you’re on another hill.  The first three miles are quite undulating and I could immediately feel the pull on my left leg. I was thinking uh-oh, and wondered if a second DNF was on the cards.  I got past the point where I pulled out last year and the course seemed to flatten out a bit so decided I was going to grin a bear it.  I knew a PB wasn’t on the table so it was a case of just get round.

After 5 miles or so I experienced pins and needles in my right foot.  I had not experienced this for ages. Either my choice of socks or choice of running shoes where to blame. Maybe both. I stopped to loosen the laces in order for the sensation to subside.

The halfway point was at Saracens rugby ground where you run into the ground, past the stands then out the other side.  Homeward bound and I wanted to try and pick up the pace a bit as I was feeling a bit more comfortable in my running.  It was at this point my Aftershokz headphones decided to play up. Shortly after seven miles I had to stop again to tighten up the shoe I had previously loosened.

All was going good until past the nine mile mark, then it was back onto the hills. The hills between miles 10 and 12 pretty much had me at walking pace. Even trying to do short strides wasn’t getting me up.  If I’m honest, I don’t think I had anything in my legs from the start.

Past mile 12 and onto the home stretch. Running down Wembley was pretty good. Lots of music being played and hearing ‘Feel Good’ by Phats & Small (late 90’s club classic) in the last few hundred metres seemed to give me a little boost and could feel my legs turning a little faster.  We then headed around the outside of the stadium to the left and then under the tunnel and into the stadium itself.  I went for a big finish and let my legs go and there it was, the finish line.

  
I’m not going to say I loved it and I’m not going to say I hated it. I will say my head wasn’t in it all the way and there where sections of the course I didn’t enjoy so much.  The jury is out on whether I’d go back and run it again.  For now I’m just happy I managed to dig deep, carry on and get the job done.  My official time was 2:21:00.

Next up Brighton marathon, another course where I have unfinished business.

Happy running!

Frankie

The Last Three Months

So here we are on 1st March 2017.  Today I have taken a complete rest from running to let my legs recover from a ridiculous week of running. Clocked up my first ever 50 mile week in the week to Sunday 26th February.  I’m not sure what came over me that week, but hey.

As we are now rapidly approaching Spring I thought I’d reflect on what has been the last three months in the world of me being a runner.

As mentioned in my previous musings, my running is in the best place it has ever been.  A lot of this is down to the @adventrunning and the adidas Runners London running groups. I have loved all 249 miles I have clocked up in my running shoes so far this year.  Whether those miles have been slow and steady or fast and furious on the track I’ve loved them all. OK, I might have bitched about a couple last week.  Track sessions with Advent Running are making a huge difference as are the different sessions with adidas runners.  Mixing up my running with intervals, hills, and fartlek sessions are also making a huge difference.

I never would have thought I would be 249 miles in by the end of February.  I am not going to use the term ‘winter training’ because I haven’t been in training mode.  That said the winter months have gone much better than I could have anticipated.  There have been some pleasant surprises along the way.  New PB’s over 1km, 3km and 10km which I didn’t see coming.  I finally clocked a sub 55 min 10km and I definitely did not see that one coming.

I feel I am in the best shape I have ever been in and I feel faster than I have ever been.  This for a slightly-out-of-shape-soon-to-be 41 year old is pretty amazing in my book.  As a result I have decided to run a half marathon on 12th March and should I complete it, it will be first half marathon I would have finished since September 2015.  I have also decided to take on a last minute charity place for Brighton marathon on 9th April.  I have not set any time goals for these two events as I want to enjoy them and let my legs do the talking on the respective days.

I still feel like I am not in training mode simply because I don’t want to put pressure on my running.  This mindset definitely helped last Sunday when I covered 16 miles over two separate runs.  The second of which, turned out to be longer than I had originally planned.  I think this was down to there not being any pressure to go out and do it.

Here’s to the next three months and let’s see what those have in store.

Happy running!
Frankie