Wednesday, 9 September 2009

It's Grim Oop.....

It's an interesting clubhouse that is forced to put up a sign saying "Do Not Spit in the Showers". At least, I fervently hope that that was a 'p' and not an 'h' - it wasn't clear due to the brown smudging around the edges.

I'd secretly been hoping to get a 5k PR at the Mansfield 5k although my confidence was tempered a bit by some proper Northern weather (rain and wind) and a course that had very few flat portions. My PR is a very modest 16:30 set a few years ago and as my recent 3k projects out to a sub 16:00 5k I was reasonably confident of at least going close, despite my poor stamina. Yet again, however, I felt my energy gradually leeching away during the race to the extent that by the end my legs had become comatosed and useless. My final time of 17:13 was pretty pathetic but that's about all I had, which is very disappointing. As the final slap in the face I got overtaken by a young lady so I came in as 19th male and 20th person!

In hindsight this will perhaps be the most useful result of the season. I'd had a suspicion that I'd backed off threshold and long runs much too early - partly because of a knee injury, partly because of the compressed year and crucially about 5 ill-timed hangovers. Next year I will make it a priority to ensure a long and deep base period and to carry on with the stamina work into the competitive phase of the year. There's no point having a good sprint finish if you are 600m behind the leaders near the line! I wonder what I could have run over 800m this year if I'd kept my stamina up to par......

Today is the final day of the season for me and it's back to a more realistic distance of 400m this evening at Watford. I hope to run in the low 51's and from there it's on to a few weeks transition before the next season starts in early October. No rest for the bone-idle!

Friday, 4 September 2009

Popping A Good One

Forgive the late update on monday's racing. Getting broadband out of virgin media has been about as easy as getting anything out of a virgin.

It was the Peterborough City games on monday where I was entered in the 800m at about 12:30 and the 1500m at around 4 p.m. First impressions weren't stellar as it was £6 to park, they charged me for safety pins for my number and there were no schedules posted (but, predictably, you could buy a program with them in it). I did fear they might try and charge me for having a shit but they did draw the line somewhere.

Having said that any nitpicking with the charges proved well worth it. The organisation was fantastic, timing accurate, results quickly posted and, in a rare break from tradition, trophies were really quite good.

There were 6 runners in the 800m a couple of whom had run quicker then me this year. I adopted my usual tactics of riding their coattails until the very last minute. I didn't put a watch on it but the first 200m seemed ludicrously fast and I was still in last place at the bell, which I took at about 59.4. I had forgotten how intense the 800m can be and it's only once I start my move that I actually feel that I can keep up. I think this is a combination of a shortage of speedwork and perhaps a lack of faith in my training as the season has been short. Even so, once I got going my confidence grew as the pain increased and I found a decent turn of foot down the straight to win in 1:57.12. Slightly surprised, but very pleased, with the finishing time particularly as I felt as though I was still carrying some stella artois dregs from the heavy friday night. That's good enough to be ranked 6th in the UK over 800m for over 35's which is satisfying after 7 months of training in a negatively split race.

For the 1500m my aim was to post a good time but once again the win was the priority. Given my speed the slower the race the better my chance, so I knew I had the race after a very slow first half where once again I found myself in last place. As the final straight was windy I had decided to take up the lead and stretch the field entering the 4th lap, slow up on the final bend and then quicken again on the final straight - the idea being that the other racers would have to close up / overtake into the wind. Suffice it to say everything went according to plan and I won fairly comfortably in 4:20.9. Not a great time and it looks like I've run out of time to post a good 1500m time before my season shuts down on wednesday.

In the meantime I've foolishly entered the Mansfield open 5k tonight where we'll see if I have any stamina left at all. At least the first kilometre will feel pretty easy!

Sunday, 30 August 2009

The Very Last Time

An absolutely monumental hangover on saturday which saw me eventually surface at 8:20 p.m. At the risk of sounding like a cliche that really is the last time. I'm not just hanging up the drinking boots, I am tying a rock round them and going to the river to meet the unwanted kittens.

None of which is ideal preparation for the Peterborough City Games tomorrow where I will be running the 800m and the 1500m. Assuming the weather is good I am eyeing up a sub-2:00 800m and a sub 4:10 1500m. That's assuming the last remaining traces of hangover are in the toilet. Beyond tomorrow there is only really one other opportunity to race in a competitive middle distance race so I'm going to go out all guns blazing and see what happens.

I had an interesting appointment at the physiotherapists. I had to stand in front of her with just my boxers on (praying I wouldn't get a woody) and as she mused "Mmmm....twisted". Holy shit she can see my personality from back there as well. Anyway my knee problems are most likely caused by tight hamstrings and IT Band. Not surprising since the last time I touched my toes was outside Mr West's classroom when I was 10 years old. (Fortunate timing as I suspect that Mr West's replacement would probably have slipped something in given half the chance - and I don't mean a house point.)

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Don't Pass the Grass, Man

With the hamstring more or less behaving itself since the weekend's racing I decided to have one last 'British Effort' at lowering my 3k time at the Watford open meet. As it was my last 3k of the season I decided to go out a little bit quicker and, as last time, ignore my watch. Conditions were damp, windy but overall not too bad.

Unfortunately it appears that Buffalo Mozzarella flavoured crisps from the Walkers sensations range don't mix well with running, even when eaten more than 2 hours in advance of the race. My entire warm-up was dominated by the usual (and expected) frenzied backside activity and an unexpected fighting of the mushy crisp tide in the back of my throat.

As with most things it had all settled down once the race started, although you certainly wouldn't have wanted to race closely behind me at any point. I went through the mile in about 4:52 and raced well throughout, although I was slightly restricted by a side stitch for the last 2 laps. Unfortunately given the standard of the field I came 15th, a respectful 66 seconds behind the winner! Pretty happy with the final time of 9:10.92 and that will serve as a good, but not too testing, benchmark for next season.

Another rather pointless visit to the hospital in the afternoon for my asthma meant I walked away with a prescription for my grass allergy. I always wondered why I used to fall asleep at college when it was passed around and now I know why!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Track Narcolepsy

It was off to Kettering at the weekend for another open track meeting. I have good memories of Kettering as it was home to Wicksteed Park - one of the UK's small, squalid amusement parks during my childhood. Nothing like a ride on the 10ft high rollercoaster, the 20m long log flume and some wet candy floss to get a boy dreaming of Disney World. Although the image of Nathan with his eyes closed on the pirate ship will forever be burned in my mind.

I had planned to run the 800m and 400m at the meet, however any hopes of a good time were dashed as the track was situated on the side of a hill and open to the elements. It was the sort of steppe that Genghis Khan made his own, albeit on a smaller scale and you couldn't buy scones in Mongolia at the time.

Every now and again I end up in a race where I look a bit ridiculous for entering. It's usually due to my age and the 800m field was no exception - if you drew up a venn diagram I would have been the only data point in both the male and over 15 circles. I decided to make it a good solid effort for training purposes, run the 400m and maybe even squeeze in a 200m for a full day of multipace training. I won by 12 seconds in a slow time.

By this time I had started to eye up the 200m race, purely because I figured the 400m wouldn't be that competitive, it was 3 hours away and also because the extremely strong wind was perfect for a decent time. So it turned out as I won my race in 23.5 seconds, although a tight lower hamstring at the finish reminded me of my old man's folly.

The reasonably successful day didn't quite end the way I expected as, after listening to the World Athletics Championships in the car, I woke up barely 10 minutes before my race to find out that they had moved the time forward by 9 minutes. I'd had no warm-up and sleep bogeys in my eyes so I decided to opt out of the race. The next day my hamstring told me that perhaps my bout of narcolepsy was a good thing. Maybe I should be testing myself on the polysomnogram rather than the athletics track!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Attack Of The Doms

Surprisingly I felt great the day after my last races, at least for the first part of it. As the day progressed I started to experience some discomfort in my upper quads and by the end of the day it until it felt that someone had shaved them with a sickle. Sure enough, as expected, it was my old friend DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). A particularly unpleasant case on this occasion which left me walking like a penguin for about 3 days - thank God I opted out of the 100m.

Hopefully all the pain will be worthwhile in the next scheduled race day, on sunday over 800m and 400m. I should be nicely set-up for them with last week's racing and a decent workout on sunday (a 5 * 800 @ 3k race pace with a 2:00 jog recovery) and an 800m lactic acid tolerance workout this coming wednesday. After that it's racing and strides until the end of the season in early September. This is the best time of the year; low volume, high intensity!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Under / Overdistance at Watford

Discretion is the better part of valour as they (usually cowards) say. As I had yet to attempt to reach terminal velocity during a short sprint at any point in the last few years I decided to opt out of running the 100m at the meeting last night.

I had feared that running the 200m and 3000m in one evening may go down in the annals of combo mistakes alongside gin with cherry 7-up and the infamous 'night of the Diamond White and prawn cocktail crisps'. It doesn't make a good story but actually the evening was a success.

Before the 200m I eavesdropped on pre-race discussions about attacking the bend, relaxing entering the straight etc. My current state of training absolved me from such technicalities, boiling down to a race tactic of pegging it as fast as I can. Not much to say about the race apart from I felt as though I got a decent start, but never really felt as though there was much speed on tap. I crossed the line in 24.00 - coming 4th out of 8 and with the 20th fastest time out of 83 total runners. Satisfying considering it was my first for 15 years but also highlighting the need for some acceleration / top speed work next season.

The 35 minutes between races was sufficient for my legs to recover but not to eliminate the puke taste in the back of my throat (a bit like the order of play for a hangover). After a sub-standard effort two weeks ago I decided on a change of tactics and ignore my watch except for the first 200m split and to focus on racing people not digits. The result was a much better effort mid-race and a time of 9:15.47 - 11 seconds quicker than a fortnight ago. This way of running is definitely more effective for me and I think I'll leave the watch behind for my final scheduled 3k of the season in 2 weeks' time. This was a good night of racing and hit the spot in terms of preparation for the 400 / 800 / 1500m races to come.

As a side note: I always feel a ridiculous sense of satisfaction at these meetings when they run out of toilet paper (as they always do). It eliminates the queue for the cubicle, allows me to practice my 'self-satisfied look of wisdom' and also enables me to make inroads into the McDonalds napkin mountain that has accumulated in my car.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

A Knife For The Gun Fight...

On reflection my 5k-focused season turned on a knee injury and then about 4 poorly timed hangovers. At the time I was starting to nail the tempo runs, was running regular 14 milers and could feel the stamina rising like water in a blocked toilet. Due to my contracted season it was soon time to move on to faster track stuff and in hindsight I definitely should have prolonged the stamina training. I now have the stamina of a 16 year old with a new copy of Razzle.

Perhaps it's not a bad thing as my heart really lies in the shorter distances and as August is racing season it's time to get cracking on some of my season targets - all of which remain untouched by any of my puny efforts to date. The stamina deficiencies will have to wait for next season or, more probably, another lifetime. (A spiritualist once told me I would be reborn as a camel - the animal, not the cigarette).

Between tomorrow and the 9th September I have sketched out about 14 races. They are principally focused around 400 - 1500m but I will venture outside this range and plan to have one last crack at the 5k PB. With so little time and so many races it looks as the opportunities to complete hard workouts are limited - therefore some creative thinking is required.

To hit decent times in the 400 to 1500 in a few weeks I need to add in some speed and some overdistance stamina - a bit like Gordon Ramsey adding some seasoning and winnet d'arse to his boring sausages. What better recipe than running the 100m, 200m and 3ooo at Watford tomorrow night? I'll give it a go and see at what point the body rebels and dumps me in the hospital ward...

Friday, 31 July 2009

The O.C. Part Two - 3000m

I'd stepped off the track after the 400m at about 7:25 p.m. and was still heavy breathing about 5 minutes later. Unfortunately I was in the toilet by then; my game of chicken with a turtle head during the race nearly ending in disaster. Not sure what my problem is, but I always need to hit the porcelain just before a race and I'm getting sick of the constant "do I have time to make it" dilemna. It must be what they call the 'shite or flight' response to danger!

Track meets can be similar to tennis tournaments in that there is often dead time between races where you have to be careful not to eat too much, keep moving without getting tired and avoid stiffening up. This was a particular challenge with the 3000m being scheduled for 9:15 p.m but the meet obviously running behind time with the 19 800m races in between. There was an added complication in that it was absolutely pissing it down and I'd not brought enough clothes.

I decided to start my warm up during the 13th 800m, but by the 15th everybody was ordered off the track. Of course, it was too much to ask for an explanation over the tannoy. It transpired that the racing was postponed because the timekeepers were no longer able to write due to the monsoon conditions. For the non-British readers amongst you this type of excuse is commonplace - but usually on our rail system where, on seperate occasions, the wrong type of leaves and the wrong type of snow have halted servies.

This announcement triggered a mighty boo from the stands after which, almost instantaneously, a mighty miracle occured and racing recommenced. A khamsin sent from the Lord himself must have swept through and dried the pencils and paper!

In reality I suspect the prospect of a riot (albeit a British middle class one which involves moaning, tutting and shaking of heads rather than stones and beer glasses) persuaded the organisers that perhaps they could manage.

By the time my race came around at 10:22 p.m. I was wet, freezing, sore and miserable. The race itself was uneventful and I suspect I'd shot my bolt at about 9:15 p.m anyway. I finished in about 9:25 although I got no official time because my number had rotted and blown away half way round. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. In retrospect I took the race far too easily during the middle laps and could have / should have pushed much harder. This isn't the first time this has happened in a longish race and is something I definitely need to work on....

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The Odd Couple - 400m

More like a love tryst between Josef Stalin and Mother Teresa than a personality conflict between Randall and Klugman - I ran the 400m and 3000m at the Watford Open Track Meet tonight.

I thought the combination might help bump along the training and given that it has been 8 years since I last ran both events let's face it - it's about time. The meeting is extremely popular, is held every fortnight and offers the chance to sign up on the day giving expert procrastinators such as myself ample opportunity to keep changing our minds and still compete. Upon registration you hand over an expected seed time and are then organised into races between runners with similar times.

Quite how popular I didn't realise but there ended up being 19 heats of 12 runners for the 800m alone. God knows what attendance will be like during more inspiring times (the 2012 London Olympics) or more clement weather (probably never), but you can't fit that many more athletes in one place.

Like any seeded event there's a certain art to giving your seed time. Given every entrant exaggerates their own skills you have to be fairly ambitious but you also don't want to be the sad bastard that trails in 50 metres behind experiencing very public rigor mortis. Perhaps worse is the athlete who massively underexaggerates their time just so they can stroll clear of midgets and cripples waving their fist in the air.

I will admit to a bit of concern however when I ended up in the 2nd fastest race of the evening amongst the young whippets, being the only one with grey bits in my stubble (perhaps that should be stubble bits in my grey). There was also a fleeting moment during the "on your marks" phase of affairs when I considered I probably should have practised at least once the first sprint start I was about to attempt since 2001.

The race itself went pretty well. Starting in lane 6 I got a decent start, relaxed well through the far straight at which point I'd made up the gap on the guy outside (important as it meant I wouldn't be last!). As the stagger hadn't yet been made up it felt as though going in to the turn I was in the lead but I could hear footsteps on my inside. I ran a decent turn but was overtaken and had a couple of metres to retake on the home straight. I managed to quicken up (or slow down less) and took the victory down the long, painful finishing straight. If I were a teenager I'd have described it as pressing the nitrous oxide button, nowadays it's more like releasing the cod liver oil valve.

This may seem like hubris and tinged with irony, given I can hardly walk in the mornings, but I have always had an extra gear at high speeds - I'm glad to see it's still there. Given the decent way I had won I had hoped for a time slightly better than the 52.0 seconds I got (with a seed time of 51.5 seconds).

I got something right then, I exaggerated my own capabilities but not quite as much as every other runner in my race did theirs....

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Cambridgeshire Mile Champion

At the ripe old age of 36 I won the Cambridgeshire County mile last night - in an open race not one just restricted to old farts and people who smell of deep heat and moth balls. In terms of enviable achievements it ranks alongside having the biggest feet in your household, finishing the medium size puzzle of Minesweeper without your boss seeing and the ability to do a serviceable Bruce Forsyth impression.

In the UK a county is a rough equivalent to a US state, so put in those terms it adopts a standing of some importance. However, the days of Seb Coe and Steve Ovett have long gone and perhaps things aren't as they used to be - as the population of our race could be described as a bit of a motley crew. Still, when they dust off the results for the year 2100 celebrations there will be no sidenote and I'll still have my medal - assuming cheap plastic isn't biodegradable of course.

Training up to the race was going pretty well and I'd even had a bizarre side bet of a tennis overgrip (this being a recession and all) that I would break 4:30. That left with me a bit of a dilemna after the first lap which was clocked in 69 seconds. Do I wait behind the leaders and use my speed which would be my best tactics for the win or do I go for a good time and run the risk of not putting myself in the best position finish wise? Dilemna solved with the thought it would be a bit ridiculous to be punching the air having come second and having to explain I'd won an overgrip in a bet, hence the reason for my unbridled joy.

To be honest I can usually track the leaders comfortably for the first couple of laps due to my good speed but I never really felt that comfortable. As one of our club's young juniors correctly observed - "you looked terrible on the 3rd lap". The whole thing was a bit of a struggle and it was a bit of a relief when the final effort came and I kicked past with 200m to go for the win in 4:34.5.

If it'd been a horse race there would have been arse whelts from the whip - having been given a couple of firm reminders on lap 3 that I wouldn't get my oats that evening if I didn't get my head straight and arse into gear. (Typical of my luck that I didn't get my oats anyway). So, not a great time but it was quite windy, I had wine with my meal, I almost followed through on the start line etc, etc......

Next up I might try a 400m at the Watford open meeting next wednesday.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Heavy Breathing

I popped to the hospital last week as I have problems breathing in hot weather and generally suffer from chest tightness. The results of the tests are that I have small airway constriction which is symptomatic of asthma, so I've been issued with a couple of inhalers. My suspicion that there might be a beer can stuck down there was disproved by the xrays. Incidentally the nurse was as impressed by my 11.11 litre lung capacity as I was by her set of lungs - although I didn't get the chance to give them the full test ride and examination.

This does mean that if I enter any major events I will have to get a therapuetic usage exemption for the inhaler because of the admittedly extremely slim chance that the professional piss-testers take an interest. A high profile drug bust a la Ben Johnson is one thing, but it would be pretty embarassing being caught if you were actually quite shit at a sport. You can imagine the headlines: "Drug cheat fails at cheating, returns £1.50 in prize money & race t-shirt".

After a couple of miserable training sessions I was back on form this week, putting in a good Vo2 max sessions of 800's and a quality repetition session of 400's. This is my time of year, short and intense rather than long and drawn out. I have 3 weeks left of VO2 max work and then it's time for the peak period of racing and glory!

Unfortunately I crowned a decent week of training but getting loaded on friday night, an episode which I am still paying for nearly 24 hours later. This is a little disappointing given I abstained for 6 months. If I can just prevent the flood gates from opening for the next month and a half....

Monday, 6 July 2009

British Masters Nationals - 800m

After saturday's fiasco I will admit to some reticence approaching sunday's 800m. Very little of my training has been aimed at the middle distances yet, but any that I have done would be more useful in the longer 1500m. That combined with a pedigree that boasts of just 4 800m's, none of which I'd run in lanes and the last one being in 2001 meant I was hardly approaching the race brimming with confidence.

On the bright side there were only 5 runners so I could always claim a 5th place and as it's only 2 laps any humiliation would be very temporary, albeit quite visible. But secretly I knew that where my running is concerned the shorter the better and that miracles do happen. Hell, even Gordon Brown apologised the other week - sort of.

I had drawn the inside lane which was helpful for me as I could keep all the other runners in front of me for the first bend ran in lanes - similar to yesterday of course, but this time it was at the start of the race and not the end! Most races I run in are categorised by runners going off much too fast and then spending most of the remainder suffering a vicious and lingering demise as I pick them off and kick sand in their face. Maybe it's the wisdom of age but I was shocked to go through 400m in slower than 61 seconds - particularly considering there were 2 sub-1:56 runners in the field.

I injected some pace 300m out taking up the lead, accelerated 200m out and then kicked for the last 100m. Unfortunately slowly, inevitably a couple of the runners reeled me in as my lack of anaerobic training told. The winner crossed the line in 1:59.92, the second in 2:00.27 with me in third in 2:00.70. I'm pretty pleased with that time as it was a negative split and I feel as though I have plenty of training to come that will solicit considerable improvement on that before season's end.

On the way home the Wimbledon final was on the radio and I was disappointed to see that the cry baby Federer won. The other day I heard him described as 'the gayest straight man in the world' and I couldn't agree more.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

British Masters Nationals - 1500m

Today's race goes to show that there is truth in the saying "lies, damn lies and statistics". I picked up a bronze medal in the over 35 mens 1500m at the British Masters Outdoor Track Championships. Sounds good doesn't it? Unfortunately I also came last. Suddenly 3rd doesn't sound half as impressive when you learn that there were only 3 entrants in my age group! That's a pretty lame turnout for your country's national championships. I attribute it to a number of factors, the over 35's age category is a relatively recent addition, old folk are more inclined to gravitate to the road racing scene and the general British apathy to participant sport that seems to be spreading like swine flu.

What's worse is that I ran like an absolute dog. Often in races you'll go through half way feeling great and in a state of amazement at the fast pace. The flip side is that sometimes you'll be really struggling and then find out you've been running as fast as Stephen Hawking. Today was definitely a case of the latter as I pottered home in 4:29 - a full 15 seconds slower than I ran last month. Admittedly I eased off slightly when I realised how much I was struggling as I have the 800m tomorrow, but for some reason I just shot a blank (it happens to the great Ron Jeremy sometimes!). I just thank the lord that they merged the race with the over 40's category so I didn't trail the other two runners like a complete terd.

Every death requires a post-mortem, but all I can come up with is the fact that I do struggle with my breathing in hot weather - as I did in the last 5k I ran. If you are wondering, I'm not particularly convinced excuses go that ranks up with 'the dog ate my homework' and is about as believable as 'I didn't mean to come in your mouth'.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Finishing Touches

This week involved a few easy runs and a session of race paced repeats with plenty of recovery. More Barbara Cartland applying cover up to a varicose vein than Michelangelo completing the Sistene Chapel, but finishing touches nonetheless.

It's been brutally hot (for England) and humid (for England) this week and with the veterans Championships involving competitors aged from 35 up to 100 one hopes that the ambulances are on standby. There's nothing like heart attacks and heat-related colostomy bag explosions to put a dampener on a track and field event.

This weekend I am competing in the 1500m on saturday and the 800m on sunday. I'm not really sure what to expect given recent injury setbacks and the fact that I haven't run an 800m since 2001. But fail to plan, plan to fail so I am looking to run about 4:10 for the 1500m and 2:00 for the 800m. To this end Wednesday's workout was 4 * 200m in 30 secs with 200 jog, 2 * 300 in 45 secs with 2:00 rest and a 400m in 66 seconds. The idea being to squeeze some last minute training in and to practice running at race pace.

In a way the races themselves follow a relatively simple strategy, as they are "Championship" events. Go out close enough to the leaders, hang on and then sprint past at the end. Simple and devastatingly effective - I wonder if any of my rivals have such an elaborate and detailed race plan!

Training is finished, now it's a case of dragging my bad knees, stiff back, painful elbow, swollen foot (insect bite) and Birkenau hair-cut over to Birmingham tomorrow and making sure the zimmer frame is oiled.

Sunday, 28 June 2009


Disaster struck this week as I attempted to shave my head using some clippers - 8 months without a visit to the barbers appears to encourage birds to nest. Unfortunately my idiots guide to electricity was unavailable and so I burnt out the motor on the clippers halfway through. Finding a maggot in your food and equipment failure mid hair cut - both better not started than half finished. I would like to thank all the people who waited until my hair was cut before they told me that they liked it the way it was before. Thanks for nothing.

I managed to get in 33 miles of running this week and the knee problem seems to have cleared up. Don't get me wrong they still hurt like buggery, but only in the usual way. Assuming no further accidents it looks like all systems are go for the British Veterans National Track Championships next weekend.

Since my last post I've fallen off the waggon repeatedly and, as is typical, had a really good time each and every time. Can something that is so good be so bad, I wonder. When it comes to serious training it's definitely true so I will be reverting to my monk-like behaviour from now on. Apart from the night out on the 10th of July perhaps....

Friday, 19 June 2009

The Insanity Of The Sensible

No point getting old without getting wise I suppose, so I haven't run since last saturday. After a couple of days rest the knee actually got worse - a strange form of sod's law if you ask me. Since then it has gradually improved to the point where I'll start running again on sunday assuming I haven't succumbed to the inevitable beforehand and drowned myself in ale.

Many would argue that an enforced mid-season break is a good thing - they of course being idiot soldiers of the silver lining brigade with their leg in plaster. Personally, I have found it incredibly frustrating - to the point where I almost applied the universal rule of "fuck it" and laced them up anyway. The Veteran National Championships are on the 4th and 5th of July so this break has come at just about the worst time possible. Still, maybe an enforced mid-season break is a good thing.......

In the meantime I have given some thought to some alternative forms of income as it seems that my tenants believe paying rent is a contractual option and the sponsorship / prize money will take a while before it is rolling in (a while meaning never, of course). So, I have decided to do some tennis coaching - a few hours a week being sufficient without actually feeling like a job. As an extra supplement I have also started some "private equine investing" which keeps a bit of cash flow rolling in, just like the old days.

I'll confess there was a brief moment this week where I considered an adult occupation once again, just after I'd got out of the passenger seat of this thing:

Friday, 12 June 2009

Wagon Sores - 6 Months On

Wednesday was a day of note for a couple of reasons. Firstly I ran my first track 1500m and secondly it signified 6 months since my last alcoholic drink.

While the latter seems little to celebrate the achievement has to be measured against the fact it's the first time I have gone that long since my first proper drink at 15 - which involved half a bottle of Teachers whisky and a tour-of-the-town pukefest. My reason for stopping was purely to facilitate training and because I was getting a bit fed up of 4 day hangovers. What started off as easy, just got easier until the nice weather arrived. Just lately however, there has been a bit of the green-eyed monster as I walk past beer gardens. Unfortunately I come from the Magnus Magnusson school of drinking - I've started so I'll finish -and I'd end up being wheeled out of there.

Good job I have the running to concentrate on. I ended up having 4 days off running because of my knee injury, at the end of which I had developed a nervous tick and a bad case of tourettes. It was a case of run or go insane so I did an easy 4 miler on tuesday and raced the 1500m on wednesday night. Initially I had planned to run the 400m also but felt that would be pushing my luck.

The race itself posed an interesting challenge. I have done no VO2 max or faster training yet my natural 'talents' lie towards the faster end of things. I decided to play safe and ignore the other runners and try and run an even paced 4:25 to open up the season. Unfortunately, in my ignorance this meant the humiliation of trailing at least 10 metres behind the other 12 runners for 2 laps. The good news is that I ran the last 800m in about 2:11 and worked myself up to a semi-respectable 7th place in 4:14.10. Pretty happy with that, particularly as in hindsight I could have afforded to go a fair bit quicker in the first half of the race. Now it's out of the way I can aim for more aggressive splits in the future.

Now it's a case of waiting to see what the knee decides to do next as it's behaving very strangely!

Friday, 5 June 2009

2009 Split Into Pieces

In 2009 I arrived late at the party with regards to running - fortunately not wasted and covered in sick like I would have a few years ago. So this year, although I am following a plan that periodises my season, it is one that's necessarily abbreviated starting in February and ending in September.

The concept is the same as a full season in that it's split into blocks, each building on the previous and each introducing a new training emphasis while maintaining the previous. The theory behind this being that it will lead to an utterly heroic peak come the end, while reaching said peak in a safe and progressive way. Let's ignore the fact that I appear to have fucked my knee up yesterday and temporarily ignore the slings and arrows of real life which get in the way of cunningly planned theory.

The season is divided as follows:

Phase Length Emphasis

Prep: 4 weeks. Conditioning body to volume
Base 1: 4 weeks. Building mileage, maximise long run, slow tempo work.
Base 2: 4 weeks. Maintain mileage, slow / medium tempo work.
Base 3: 4 weeks. More medium tempo work, greater emphasis on basic speed.
Threshold: 5 weeks. Fast tempo work and increasing basic speed, some repetitions.
VO2 Max: 5 weeks. Intervals and repetition work.
Peak: 4 weeks. Heaviily reduced mileage and races.
Post: A Few Days. Getting wasted and eating McDonalds.

It is advisable to modify your training paces every 4 weeks or so as the body will frequently take that long to adapt, and also to take advantage of increase fitness. To do so I run a race at least every 4 weeks and derive new training paces from those performances (based on a 5k time or a 5k equivalent time).

Needless to say none of this matters when you are sitting with your heavily iced knee, overdosing on anti-inflammatories with your leg elevated on a beanbag. What do I know....

Friday, 29 May 2009

Crash and Buuuuurn

As a pre-teen I supported Liverpool football team, even to the extent that I forgave Kenny Dalglish for his appalling attitude when signing my overpriced lampshade in the local co-op. Nowadays I have seen the light, refusing to take an interest in the tediously spoilt and intellectually retarded "professional" footballers.

However, one thing has always stuck in mind - partly because of its irony given their childish histrionics. In the tunnel leading out to the pitch was a quote from the Kipling poem 'If' which reads: "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same". I had cause to think of that as today’s 5k race was a bit of a disaster in contrast to last month’s triumph at the same venue.

Incidentally I can only assume Kipling liked his beers because the only instance I can think of where you can treat triumph and disaster the same is to respond to them by getting plastered in the pub. As I no longer drink I’ll go ahead and treat them differently and moan like a bitch rather than the usual gloat.

Conditions were hardly ideal as it was breezy and felt very hot, but nothing extreme and as I wasn’t factoring them in too strongly beforehand it would be unfair to blame them in hindsight. What is true is that I never really felt comfortable and even at the 1km marker had the feeling that it was going to be a very long day. Everything seemed a little harder than it should including clearing my nostrils - but with the resulting output not quite clearing my shirt.

The race splits tell the story far better than graphic language could: 3:15, 3:19, 3:23, 3:32 and 3:39 to finish in 17:10. I must admit on the final incline I felt as though I was laying a railroad over the River Kwai.

It’s a shame for my performance to soil my debut in my Riverside Runners (local club) vest, although in some ways the run matched the shirt. I don’t know who designed the damn thing but it looks like a dress – or the perfect shape to fit over a beer belly. I look ridiculous in most clothes but this one fits around the chest and then turns into a maternity shirt around the middle. Fortunately the wind wasn’t too strong today as I had enough sail around my middle for a Mary Poppins impression.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

A Man’s Reach Should Exceed His Grasp

This may well be tempting fate in advance of the Serpentine 5k on Friday but it’s time to put my season targets up for public consumption. After all, no one appreciates someone gloating over their vanquished targets at the end of the year when their existence cannot be verified. For the British readers in particular it’s also better to know how far short someone fell so the levels of piss-taking and general scorn can be adjusted appropriately.

Although I am training primarily for the 5k this year I will be competing over a number of shorter distances also, partly because it’s good training and partly because my philosophy is, as some ex girlfriends would attest, the quicker and sooner finished the better. The season will end in September.

So, without further ado and with accompanying drum roll:
400m: 51.0
800m: 2:00
1500: 4:06
3k: 9:00
5k: 15:50
10k: 34:30

Those of you paying attention will notice that, in relative terms, the target times get worse the further I go, despite the fact my training is orientated towards the longer distances. The main reason for this is, whether I like it or not, physiology plays a pretty major part in race times. I am predominantly a “fast twitch” runner, which essentially means that my muscle fibres are more suited towards speed than endurance. I suspect my ancestors had a postal round in high density housing rather than having to cover a large expansive estate!

The net effect being that my expectations must be higher (and goals more challenging) the shorter the distance. Having said that, I am old man now and it will be interesting to see whether I retain any speed. If not, I will be in the ridiculous situation of being a fast-twitch runner with no speed. All hail the Eunuch porn star.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Squeeze The Lactate

When you're employed and squeezing in workouts before breakfast or after you've commuted home you're less likely to notice their varying quality, or at least you are more inclined to blame the boss for your shitty workout. I don't have that excuse and although I continue to blame the wind there is more to it than that.

I've noticed that every few weeks I have a week of sub par training. Nothing too terrible but a week where the effort seems too great and the reward too little (see also: housework, work, dealing with government agencies and life in general). The good thing is that this is usually followed by a period of increased fitness. Last week was the former, running 62 miles but ending with a jaw-droppingly poor long run at pensioner pace. This week I'm experiencing the latter with a 5 mile tempo at 6:00 pace (hilly, windy) on tuesday and an encouraging 10k pace session today. This, no doubt, is the train, recover, compensate cycle that often goes unnoticed.

The 10k pace session is a new (to me) form of lactate threshold (this has nothing to do with pregnant women!) training recommended by the coach Antonio Cabral. Fast twitch runners (of which I am most certainly one) often struggle with long continuous tempo runs. His recommendation is to split it into 10k pace 400m repeats followed by 100m recoveries jogged in 45 seconds - to be run continuously. Must admit it worked pretty well today as I comfortably managed 5 miles of 10k pace running hitting all the paces for repeats and recovery.

Unfortunately my chronic stitch has decided to make an unwelcome reappearance. Any quality run further than 3 miles seems to bring it on and it can be totally crippling. I've tried everything to shift it including strange aural and visual solutions - all of which seem pointless as well as embarrassing. So, for the time being I will continue to ignore it and hope it will disappear - it seems to work with beggars, politicians and double glazing salesman.

Friday, 15 May 2009

As Wind Goes, So Do Workouts

I'm experiencing a bizarre phenomenon at the moment. It seems my mood fluctuates with almost direct correlation to wind strength, by which I mean that influenced by the coriolis force rather than my own digestive system.

The emergence of the British summer has, typically, coincided with extremely windy weather which has a deleterious effect on running times. I always took it for granted that the effect was relatively negligible, but eureka! I am finding that on a circular route it's adding at least 20 seconds a mile to my running pace. Not hitting my running paces with the correct perceived effort has long been a source of frayed nerves and prior to my moment of obvious enlightenment the neighbour's cat was being kicked regularly.

However, "through knowledge comes understanding" and I've discovered some research on the effect of wind on workouts (I already know the effect of wind on girlfriends, explained in my published paper "The Effect Of the Dutch Oven on Long Term Relationships"). According to coach and physiologist Jack Daniels in wind of 15 mph the energy demand is 17% greater than calm, whereas a tail wind reduces energy cost by just 9%. Another of life's natural "kick you in the nuts" formulae.

None of which will be any consolation to the Hasidic jew out on his bike (replete with black suit and side curls) who tried to interrupt my wind-affected tempo workout around Grafham water. Don't be surprised if you ask a bad tempered, red faced runner in oxygen debt not hitting his times what the noise is (referring to the bird scarer guns in the nearby fields) and get the answer "the Palestinians are coming".

Not in the best of taste, but good taste isn't my thing as many will attest.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Cambs County 5k Track Championships

In running terms I've always felt road races the equivalent of drawn out pitched battles and track races as a gladiatorial contest. I much prefer the latter, as I'm not much interested in scenery, I like it flat and have always preferred the "short, intense yank" rather than the long toothache.

All this of course, before I tried running a 5k on the track which I must say, on a windy day, rates as one of the most unpleasant racing experiences I've had. I was extremely close to reacquainting myself with my beans on toast at the end - although I'm not sure if that was due to the intensity of effort or the fact that a hairy back and shoulders was my scenery for the entire race.

To top it all off I ran exactly the same time as my last road 5k 2 weeks ago! The race itself split into 2 groups, with me in the second. There is a time for going with the lead pack and trying to hang on like an unpopular schoolboy - but that time is late season when you have completed all your VO2 max training and when there is a chance you'll somehow cling on like a fierce winnet until the end. All that would have got me, this being relatively early in my season, was the same result as a Beyonce marriage proposal - a horrific crash and burn. So I did the sensible thing and went out at my own pace in a group of 3.

I'm perfectly satisfied with the way I raced and the effort put in and don't feel I could have done much more than I actually did. That's the state of my fitness at the moment and I'm looking forward to another step forward at the end of the month - not on the track this time!

Friday, 8 May 2009

Better The Devil You Know

Rather than hit you immediately with scandal-filled features I'll do the sensible thing and familiarise yourselves with my running background. Although they say familiarity breeds contempt (and no doubt this will ultimately prove correct) it is useful to contextualise my running expolits.

As a youngster (this refers to anything or anybody under the age of 21) I dabbled in high jump, long jump and sprinting. I represented my county at both high jump and cross country - the former because I was probably the one boy who had tried it and the latter because I was the only one who had tried in it. I didn't particularly train for the events, more "did them" occasionally amongst other sports.

At university I squeezed in some sprinting and long jump amongst my principal sport which was drinking (an interesting combination which resulted in lots of farting during hyperextensions). I can't say for sure but my best for the 100m was about 11.2 and long jump just north of 7 metres.

While working in the US I took up running more seriously between 2000 and 2002 which ended prematurely due to respiratory problems and culminated in a painful slog round the Richmond marathon (never again..........perhaps).

Tomorrow I am competing in the Cambs County Track Championships at 5k where I desperately hope I will not be lapped. I have never run a 5k on the track before and there is something depressing about running round in circles for 12.5 laps. Nevertheless, I am hoping to run a PB (PR for the yanks) of 16:29 or better and I am going to shoot for even pacing.

So, there we have it, the stage is set and the game is afoot.....

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

One Chapter Ends, Another Begins

Back in January 2008 I introduced (or perhaps plagiarized) a concept that I coined Reverse Retirement. The basic premise questioned the accepted modus operandi - that we spend our prime years slaving behind a desk and then retire when we are too fat, old and decrepit to properly enjoy it. Surely it would be better to retire now and stick on a few extra, and admittedly, unpleasant years on at the end?

One of life's enduring tragedies is hearing of those who met their premature end on the way home from their retirement party - whether it be the postal worker from Norwich being knocked off his bike or the great conqueror returning from campaign accidentally impaling himself on a sharp carrot. With the reverse retirement you "cheat death" to a certain degree as all that is snatched from you are painful years at the office!

I suspect I'm not going to convince you of the wisdom of this here and I'm even more unlikely to endow you with sufficient ammunition to persuade the wife over your evening meal. Nevertheless, I am a man of my word and have spent the last year and a half playing tennis full time - finally achieving a world tennis ranking of 35 in the over 35's age group and this past weekend representing England. These exploits were recorded in all their gory, and sometimes depressingly mundane, detail at

I don't feel like jumping on the 07:45 to Kings Cross quite yet (or rather I don't feel ready to feel like jumping under it) so now turn my attention to a few running goals that have been festering in the recesses of my mind for a good few years. So, if you have an interest in running, training theory, racing, a bit of personal philosophy and the general abuse of fools read on. At the very least you may find that instead of wasting time at work on the toilet you might waste it reading this at your desk without the background smell of other peoples half flushed lunch in your nostrils.