Friday, 30 July 2010

The Shite Of Icarus

It can be windy, rainy; I can be hungry, tired or sore; workouts could have been awesomely quick or depressingly slow. None of said conditions can be reliably used to predict how a race might go. There's only one reliable indicator - and that's the log index.

I'm not going to race well if I do fewer than 4 poos on race day and, ideally, by the fourth they'll be the texture of one of Delia Smith's discards. So it was somewhat concerning that nothing passed my cheeks in the 10 hours prior to Wednesday's race at Watford - even more so that there was none of the pre-race respiratory tightness.

Lining up for the 1500m race I was curiously detached - I'd either tapped into the elusive zen-like pre-race calm or I shouldn't have been racing. Hoping it was due to sky-high confidence I decided to embrace the novel pre-race feeling.......and proceeded to run like shit. There are some performances that should be analysed and some that should just be consigned to the lesson learnt bin. Nothing there to really put your finger on - I was flat, never comfortable, incurred lactic acid a lap earlier than I should have and ended up coasting the last 150m to a relatively poor 4:10 clocking.

A race too many or too soon after Hungary? I'm hoping I managed to minimise any damage by backing off as we are journey to Glasgow tomorrow morning for the 3rd British League match and I'm pulling treble duty again.

In the meantime, whilst the athlete runs poorly the shameless self-promotion is just getting rolling.....

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

A Trip Down Larruping Lane

The last visit to the physio resulted in a vicious battering - or in the physio's words - a larruping of my hamstring. Either way it felt like open-battlefield surgery in 1815. This time I was cunningly armed with the forewarning that I was racing the following evening - the torturer's crestfallen face almost qualified as revenge.

I've been struggling with a tight right hamstring for about a year and a sore achilles for about 7 years now - so these were next on the agenda. The news is (almost) universally good - the achilles pain being related to the achilles paratendon (which sounds like a body part invading Goose Green in 1982) which is 'sticking' to an otherwise healthy achilles. The hamstring tightness is due to the muscle protecting the nerve - which because of prior trauma isn't moving freely along the muscle (which is otherwise fine).

Typically the achilles is pain-free during races with the day's biggest challenge being the negotiation of the stairs first thing in the morning. The hamstring tightness / pain is noticeable at 400m pace or quicker and is resulting in a noticeable lack of power. The solution is stretching, painful massage and what is being billed as an end of season larruping which promises to bring tears to the eyes.

I have 24 days remaning in the season and I've decided to compete in the 1500m at Watford this evening, despite a little residual soreness which can be blamed on Saturday's 4 * 100m relay. The fact is that it's racing time and there aren't that many competitive competitive (duplication deliberate) opportunities between now and then. Best make hay while the sun shines.....

Saturday, 24 July 2010

It's Relay Day - Hungary Day 9

Being on the medal podium at a slightly higher elevation due to my silver didn't provide much consolation - particularly as this defeat was particularly galling. I was pleased my tactics, execution and levels of effort but, like a failed prospector at Sutter's Mill, all I found was silver. I vowed to keep digging.....

The medal presenter was the Vice President of the European Vets (if I remember correctly) and regaled me with his version of "congratulations". This was cringeworthy and I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd just been presented with a medal by a paedo for the rest of the day.

Due to a dearth of young old folk our 4 * 100m and 4 * 400m relay teams were identical. It also meant that I was running the 4 * 100m for the first time since 1993. After some semi-vigorous early morning practice we took to the track with the feeling that we'd at least get the baton round and in the process do a much better job than the professional athletes from the USA have managed in recent years. As the third leg runner I took the baton very smoothly but passing it on to our 4th runner was a bit of an abortion with my hamstring complaning loudly - which was good enough for a silver medal.

By this time I was tantalisingly close to the full medal collection and, on paper, we had the best squad for the 4 * 400m. The race went to plan as we remorsely disposed of the Italians and Germans for a gold medal. The British over 35 record was missed by 0.17 of a second which we blamed on the soft track - with some justification indicentally.

(One caveat to the relay medals in the interests of full disclosure is that it would have been tough not to at least medal due to the paucity of entries. Not for the first time the oft-used phrase "you've got to be in it to win it" was wheeled out in it's, by now, fully rusted barrow).

Friday, 23 July 2010

The Agony Without The Ecstacy - Hungary Day 8

Days 6 and 7 passed in a whirl of reused underwear, nut sweat and excruciatingly long waits in restaurants. It transpired that a sufficient number of athletes hadn't made the trip so as to warrant a straight final for the 800m. Like a hand-cuffed man watching porn I was at bursting point by the time the final came around.

Being an only child I was horrified at the prospect of having to actually share a lane - something 8 of the 12 competitors would have to do given the size of the field. So it was with some relief that I drew lane 7 on my own with the Hungarian organisers completely ignoring seeding protocol in the process.

In a race of 12 runners position is paramount, so I was determined to be up with the pace - something that I sometimes don't do as I look to use my kick. That necessitated consideration of leading the race, in which case I'd try and make the pace as slow as possible.

The expected fast pace didn't materialise and I did indeed find myself disputing the lead 200m into the race. At this point I slowed the pace down significantly resulting in much shoving in the back and general frustration. Completing the first lap in 63.1 in a good position was absolutely perfect given my speed, but it was at this point the race changed considerably with the Dutch runner taking it up. (It later transpired the Dutch runner was worried that times under 2:00 don't get a medal - you need to be sub 2:00 and in the top 3 to do so).

I was feeling fantastic at this point and was happy to sit on his shoulder for the next 180m. This is how the race looked at that point:

From this stage I took the race up, quickening up the pace and extending a lead. The trademark final kick happened with 90m to go with me sailing into an apparently unassailable lead......but being chased by a constipated German.....:

Unfortunately the German sprouted bloody wings and pipped me close to the line prompting comments of "he came from nowhere", "he seemed inspired", "we all thought you'd won it" along with the inevitable "two world wars and one world cup". My splits were 63.1 / 55.17 for a silver medal - he must have closed in 54.?? which is unheard of at this level. Fuck!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Convertibles - Hungary Day 5

I've decided that medal ceremonies are a bit like convertible cars. You think people look a bit ridiculous in them, would feel self-conscious in one yourself and no doubt if someone were to post a picture on facebook of themselves in one you'd think they were a fuckin' helmet - but when you're driving along with the wind in your hair it doesn't feel too bad at all.

The only downside of a medal ceremony (when you came 3rd) is the lower podium makes you feel as though you're the lesser man in a Two Ronnies sketch and you have to listen to the Spanish national anthem. I vow to be back and "looking down on him" later in the week.

The atmosphere at the Championships is pretty good - although it is almost entirely reliant on the participants becoming the spectators and vice versa. Despite this slightly false feel the enthusiasm is genuine and as you get to meet people the camararderie increases.

As a competitor you have a pass, your uniform and a number and are required to declare your intention to run at least 2 and half hours before the start of the race. Once confirmed you report to the call room 20 minutes before and are lead out to the track 10 minutes prior to your race. At this point there's no turning back and, as I found out, no toilet paper. I'm ashamed to admit I had to pick a napkin off the ground and wipe the old bullethole with the edges because there was a piece of chewing gum stuck in the middle (of the napkin not my arse!).

After the race there's time to warm down before the medal ceremony where your arrival is accompanied by some cheesy music and a relatively good looking bird (nice cheeks but retaining a bit of fluid in the ankle area). You receive your medal, certificate and cheque for 1000 euros for coming third and are sent on your way.

There'll be no Day 6 blog because the non-racing days really seem to drag on. However I have changed my flight to will be competing in the 4 * 400m and, probably, the 4 * 100m relays on Saturday.

(..and yes, of course, there was no prize money)

Monday, 19 July 2010

1500m Final - Hungary Day 4

Fortunately it was a little cooler on the day of the final and whilst bricking myself early on in the day I was relatively relaxed at the start line.

There was some last minute annoyance upon discovering they'd shoehorned a couple of over 30 vets in our race. Why? It's a Vets championships - why not add a donkey or racehorse to the field as well? They were given bright pink '30' stickers for their backs (so that was alright then). Anyway there's no mileage in worrying about things you can't control so I ignored that along with global warming, farts after beans and people chewing gum with their mouths open. (Although having hoped for a slow race I must admit I was hacked off when the 30 set the pace!).

I had a reasonable position throughout the race - close enough, although it always felt like an uphill battle as I always seemed to be closing as the pace was increasing. In future I'll have to be a little more aggressive but given the speed endurance sessionjs I've had to miss due to injury this strategy was appropriate for attaining the best position.

The splits of the winner were as follows:

400m: 67.9
800m: 2:13.3 (65.4)
1k: 2:45 (31.7)
1200m: 3:17.9 (32.9)
1500m: 4:00.96 (43.06)

I came 3rd in 4:03.74, pleasing as it was a PB of 3.5 seconds and I also beat a few sub-4:00 guys.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

A Look Ahead From Behind - Hungary Day 3

Here is the list of entrants for the 1500m, although a few are missing:

In fact what appears to have been happened is many of the runners with PBs in the middle of the range are missing from the event which makes things a little interesting. Races run on paper are utterly pointless; however developing a race plan is infinitely preferable to having none at all - even if said plan is based on hearsay and unreliable foreigners!

There's obviously the potential for the race to split fairly early on and I absolutely cannot afford to be in the second group - if I do so my race will be over. What I'm really hoping for is a very slow pace and if this occurs I will either tuck in behind the leaders or get to the front and try and slow it down even further.

Actually this post is so half hearted I don't think I'll bother anymore. The truth is I have already run the race and the effort to try and accurately capture my pre-race strategy is just too much effort. Report to follow.....

Saturday, 17 July 2010

The Shortest Straw - Hungary Day Two

The final of the 1500m on Monday is scheduled to have 16 runners - which apparently necessitated holding semi-finals of 8 runners and 9 runners respectively. Hopefully your maths is sufficiently on the ball to realise the ramifications of such a calculation.

The semis were held at a second stadium - presumably so the potential farce could be hidden from the masses. I was half expecting a Monty Python slow walk contest as we played out our own rendition of Stephen King's The Long Walk. As it turned out 4 withdrawals meant that no semis were necessary. If the reasons for withdrawal were representative 2 would have been because the wife intervened, 1 would have broken his hip in an "inconsequential fall" leading to pneumonia then death and perhaps the last not wanting to be a part of a race designed to eliminate one runner.

I would have preferred to have run - if only because it would add a little legitimacy to the event. Even now the spectre of mass-withdrawls from the 800m means there is the potential for spending 3 days not competing in a place as interesting as Eucharistic Prayer Number 1.

As it was I only managed 64 minutes at the Games Party - held in a Communist era basketball arena where, if you listened carefully, you could hear the ghostly echo of 'Ivan Drago, Ivan Drago'. I have since learnt getting fleeced at this type of event is a childlike error which the experienced never make twice - unless they suffer from severe dementia.

In fact, underneath an apparently smooth running event there appears to be a cheap and slightly desperate undercurrent. I can't quite put my finger on it but it's a bit like conversing with an estate agent.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Bathroom Wars - Hungary Day One

For 27 euros a night at a college campus (which includes a breakfast of soggy bread, runny yoghurt and, unless appearances are deceptive, boiled cocks) you get what you deserve. Something I'd have been perfectly happy with in my 20's when all I required was a level surface on which to sleep off my hangover. The room itself is acceptable - although the mattress is the width and thickness of a British Rail sandwhich and an engineer called Douglas is in the attic fashioning an escape glider out of wooden bed supports.

What is a little harder to come to terms with is sharing the shower with the adjacent room and having to walk down the corridor to take a crap. A situation worsened by the two slags next door who insist on locking the door on the inside when they go out. The solution was to break the lock and remove half the screws so it appears to be functioning. No doubt I'll get the greater shock if I break in when it's occupied - judging by the look of them I'd probably step on one of their nipples.

On an athletics front the venue is pretty good, but its baking hot. Apparently the in town temerature gauge - which is about as accurate as a treadmill calorie counter registered 37 C. My semi final is tomorrow.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

The PB Club

You book with 18-30 if you want a guaranteed shag on holiday, Madame Scrampton's House Of Pain in Southwest DC if you want a pvc clad woman to beat you with a spiked dildo and you go to a Watford Open Meeting if you want a PB. Or so it seems anyway.

Last night Bedford and County's swarm of locusts descended on Watford and proceeded to feed on at least 7 PBs by my count. A couple of the young guns broke 2:00 for the 800m for the first time and three of us smacked the arse of our 3k PBs in the final race.

A while back I classified my PBs in three ways:

My 3k PB would be classed as 'fair game' - a respectable time for me particularly as I dislike the distance intensely. Since my comeback I've run 4 pretty moderate 3k races (9:10 - 9:25), so although I am hard fit I never seem to race them well and at this stage far removed from heavy VO2 max work. Despite this I lined up determined to give it a good crack with a sub-9 clocking the barometer of success.

As it happened I raced it very well and despite a mildly shitty 12th position was delighted with a 8:50.96 clocking - knocking a good 7 seconds off my PB of 2001. My splits were 2:56 / 2:59 / 2:55 which averages out at sub 4:45 for nearly 2 miles. Unfortunately I failed to catch Alex Bellew with whom I'd had a bet he'd have to shave his Jesus locks if I beat him. As it was I didn't see him all race - my eyesight not extending that far - which meant a big PB for him also. He was obviously as confident in my lack of endurance as everyone else at the club. Nicholson smashed his admittedly weak PB to secure Cornetto McFlurrys all round.

It must be my new streamlined 'minimalist' haircut (ordered as prison rapist grade at the barbers) that did it.

Tomorrow I'm off to Hungary for the European Veterans' Championships which has been the principal target all season. We are due for 1500m semis on saturday (which I doubt will happen as they are having a 16-runner final) and the final on monday. I'll try and update as we go - although I'm not sure if they have colour tvs over there so we'll see about web access.

The website is here if you feel so inclined:

Monday, 12 July 2010


So far this blog has resembled a cheap dog-eared porno that’s been passed around the classroom a few times. The odd colour picture amidst a sea of tedious verbage about Agatha, an airline pilot and a vaselined gerbil called Gerry - all aimed at padding the thing out. So it’s time to join the 21st Century of HD point of view with a veritable orgy of multimedia in support. Sort of anyway, here is a video of Saturday’s race from the BMC meet at Solihull:

Visit for more Videos

Not one of my best races and some validation for my concerns in the lead up. I ran okay, battled fairly well but didn't have much in my legs when push came to shove. Looking at my records I started the week at 11st 1.5 lbs, was 10st 9.5 lbs on race day and back to the original weight on monday morning. It would seem the combination of nervous energy, adrenaline and most probably dehydration during the week all contributed to things not quite being on.

Interestingly enough, I placed quite well (3rd) given the ability of the other athletes in the race as can be seen by the full result:

The time of 1:56.47 was disappointing, particularly as I went through halfway in 56.8 which was about spot on. It was a pretty rough race for me, as evidenced by the leg (complete with B movie blood splatter on the shoes):

Friday, 9 July 2010

The Stocking

One of the most ludicrous weeks I can remember. I've been like a 4 year old child waiting for Christmas all week, in such a constant state of nervous excitement that I'm surprised I haven't wet the bed. I've even been scanning the supermarket shelves for the long discontinued Texan Bar.

The reason for this? A lottery win perhaps, exam results maybe, a date with the Bangles lead singer, an opportunity to beat up Rick Astley? No, a friggin' 800m race tomorrow. I managed to squeeze in to the British Milers Club Grand Prix meeting at Solihull. This falls pretty far down the list of good reasons to get an erection but it's all I've been thinking about all week - this appears to be one of the downfalls of being an anti-social full time runner enjoying his Competition period.

Pre-race adrenaline is typically a good thing - however this has gone beyond the pail and I'm about 5lbs lighter than I was at the start of the week. I weighed in at an all-time adult low of 10st 9.5 lbs today, at nearly 6ft 2" tall. I can only assume the dangerous cocktail of nervous excitement and sad-bastardness is responsible.

Assuming I haven't left my race behind already this looks like a good chance to PB despite the oppressive heat. The BMC races employ pacemakers and organise the races based on ability. So, I find myself in a 9 runner race (plus pacemaker) with just the 7th fastest PB. As the pacemaker is scheduled to go off in 56 seconds it will also mean a fast first lap for the first time this season.

Start lists are as follows and I'm entered in race 'H' which, surprisingly, isn't the slowest race.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Help From The Melon Girl

My hamstring was as bad as feared on Saturday morning. Whilst trying every trick in the book to try and get as close to racing shape as possible I cursed my own stupidity. Ironically it turned out that the best remedy was to just run the soreness out of the damn thing.

This was our home BAL fixture and, given our opening 5th place, we needed a good result. Fortunately we had some of our big guns turning out as well as ancient detritus such as yours truly.

The 800m went very well. My first lap split was 58.7 and I felt extremely comfortable tucked in out of the wind in 4th place. The headwind was stiff in the back straight so I kept close in touch in 3rd place. With 200m to go I was still feeling comfortable and kicked hard at 100m for a close win in a PB of 1:55.53. This photo was taken 200m out (I'm in 3rd) where I'd started a premature 'finish gurn' so I was actually more comfortable and am slightly better looking than the photo suggests.

Bedford AC generously provided a massage girl who helped me with my hamstrings after every race. Her generous nature was more than matched by her generous endowment; to the extent where I was dreading her asking me to turn on to my back for fear of poking her eye out. Needless to say I went back twice more (but that's my just reward for doing 3 races!).

If the 800m race is the one that caused the most nerves it was the 400m which I really wanted to sort out. The season to date had been a catalogue of fast starts, slow starts and various blunders. I'd also devoted some training time to 400m pace work and block starts in an effort to improve my miserable efforts. I was rewarded with a good second place in 50.93, whereby the home straight saw the leader die, me close up and then proceed to die just before I got to him.

Pleased with both those efforts and we topped it off with a solid relay performance (I split 50.3) and a 3rd place overall as a team. That helps but we are going to be heavily reliant on availability for our next 2 matches both which involve plane journies.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

The Princess and The Bean

A visit to the physio today with the objective of getting to the root of one new ailment and addressing another issue which I've had since I was soiling nappies (for weeks now then).

The first, recent problem, is a Morton's neuroma which made a sudden appearance recently. A neuroma is a compressed nerve which, in runners, typically manifests itself in the foot between two metatarsals. The best analogy is that it feels like a hard pea embedded in your foot. I am showing some of the symptoms without having a fully blown case, suggesting there may be time to rescue the situation. The potential solution is not rocket science because a quick look at my training spikes shows the centrally placed spike in the exact spot of the neuroma:

Obvious now, but in my defence I've had these spikes for 10 years without prior problems. It would appear the lethal cocktail of old age and 3 track sessions a week was enough to push my foot over the edge. No doubt my fellow athletes will be delighted the spikes are now in the bin because they've smelt like an alcoholic tramp's ringpiece for quite a while now.

The second 'issue' is a sore hamstring and extremely poor flexibility leading to next to zero knee lift. I was finally persuaded to do something about it after seeing some distressing race footage which made me look like Mr. Bean overdosing on ephedrine when I ran. The tight hamstring got the full treatment - much like being on the surgeon's table without anaesthetic. The least he could have done was give me a bottle of rum and a leather strap to bite on.

Unfortunately I failed to give notice of this weekend's racing and the massage / beasting was so thorough that the hamstring feels as though it's on fire and I can hardly walk. The sensible course of action would be to pull out, but it's a little late for that so I will self-medicate instead.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

An Honest Man Amongst Thieves

The recently instated Chancellor of the Exchequer settled on a new measurement basis for inflation electing to use the consumer price index as opposed to the retail price index. Leaving the accuracy debate aside one surmises the primary reason for doing so was because the CPI inflation figure was lower thus increasing his fiscal options.

I suspect if the Chancellor had been aware of a 3rd index he wouldn't have touched it with a barge pole - given its rampant hyper-inflation. I refer to the WPI or Watford Performance Index, which has echoes of the floundering deutschmark of the mid 1940's.

The principle of an open graded meeting is that runners submit a seed time from which they are organised into races within ability bands. Not having run a 1500m this season in anger I submitted what I felt was a reasonable seed time of 4:05. Quite conservative considering my 800m time projection, but then I've never been a stamina laden runner. There were a number of runners in my race who had put down 4:04 as their seed time.

My race tactics were to stay within kicking distance of the leader whilst trying to hug the inside - a sensible tactic anyway and also to give me experience in a large group of elbows, knees and spikes. I went through the first lap in about 69 /70 which was much too slow, at which point a desperate runner shot to the front to increase the tempo. I must admit I felt pretty comfortable all the way round and at the bell was creeping up behind the leaders on the inside with frequent looks over my shoulder to prevent being boxed in before kicking clear 200m out.

Considering the low-key nature of the meet the back straight was actually fairly noisy. When I kicked clear of the other runners and hit the final straight I was met with an eerie silence, to which my initial reaction was - shit, I've gone a lap too early! I hadn't of course, but I still harbour some paranoia born from losing a lot of money on a steeplechaser at Fontwell Park when his jockey rode a finish a circuit too early (the fuckin' plum).

I came home clear in 4:07.24 which, although not a sensational time, was a PB and achieved with a first lap of 70 and a final lap of 62. I was very pleased with my race execution and there's a lot more to come I'm sure.

You will note I was still 2 seconds outside my seed time but the rest of the field were still miles behind making a bit of a mockery of the seeding process. The Chancellor wouldn't be pleased and I'm left looking like one of those dickheads who seeds a soft time so he can win the race easily.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Nothing to Say, Can You Tell?

It's finally racing season and I'm largely in one piece. Stiff back, sore right hamstring, sore knees, achilles tendonitis on the left and morton's neuroma on the right foot that can't quite make up its mind. I see the physio on thursday so hopefully I will get some answers there (and "you're too fuckin' old" not being one of them).

Had a good week of training last week, completing all of my workouts fairly efficiently. I'm still not entirely sure whether my attempts at improving speed has been a case of a too little, too late. At the very least a few 400m pace sessions and some block practise (where, for an instant, I thought I'd followed through) should enable me to reduce the 400m time further.

I'm competing at the Watford open meeting on Wednesday night in the 1500m and it looks like the second British Athletics League meeting on Saturday will see me doing treble duty again in the 800m, 400m and 400m relay. Looking forward to it.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

The Final Week....

This season was organised into 3 distinct phases. A base period of 27 weeks, a pre-competition period of 10 weeks and a competition period of up to 10 weeks. The latter begins a week tomorrow and principally consists of racing, recovery and race practice workouts where there is a long gap between races. That means this week is the final week of hard training in the pre-competition period. Overall volume is between that of the base and competition periods but intensity is – particularly as I’m an old fucker at the point where managing stairs is uncomfortable and I’ve been kicked out of the St. Neots Morris Dancing team for failing their physical.

So, what better time to share the schedule – where the workouts are a bit more interesting and the training shows me in an admirable light. Without further ado:

M: a.m. 3m easy;

p.m. 9m inc. 2 * (1200 @5k pace, 800@ 3k pace, 400 @1500m pace w / 2:00 jog rec) and 400m easy || 1m @ tempo || 400m easy between sets;

eve. Lower body weights

T: 4m recovery;

p.m. core / alignment drills

W: a.m. 3m easy

p.m. 6.5m inc. Drills, strides, 3 * 300m @ 400m pace w / 6:00 rec; block start practice

eve. Lower + upper body weights

T: a.m. 12m easy

p.m. core


S: a.m. 3m easy

p.m. 7m inc drills, strides, 2 * (4 * 200m @800m pace w / 20 seconds standing rest); 8:00 between sets followed by 4 * 30m flyins. Upper body weights.

S: a.m. 4m recovery.

p.m. xt, core.

Let's hope everything holds up as it would be a shame to finally fall apart properly without even reaching the racing phase.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Blue Stickers in Budapest

At the very real risk of sounding like a really sad bastard I was secretly quite pleased to see our club's masters record board updated with my 400 and 800m times. Not sure if it's deliberate but the new records go up on garish blue stickers against the normal white background. So many things are now "hidden" on-line these days that it means a little bit more seeing it up in print.

It reminds me of the use of blue plasters for people in the catering trade. Through ignorance I once ate one amongst my chips. It was subsequently revealed that one of the dinner ladies suffered from chronic warts (fingers, not vagina....I hope), although I'm sure the two are unrelated.

The start lists for the European Championships have been released. Links as follows:

800m here.

1500m here.

I only ever had 2 concerns about the event - both relating to its legitimacy. The first concern would be a very weak field where the affair would be open to criticisms of being the fat old cripples championships. The second would be there being so few entrants that we'd end up with a 6 man final and no heats. As it happens there appears to be a decent field and the likelihood of semis in both. Granted it's not elite by open standards and nobody's under any illusions in that regard, but I think the entries are sufficient to ensure quality racing.

A quick glance at the seed times suggest that I may be in danger of a slight arse-kicking in the 1500m, but that I have a good chance of medalling in the 800m. The former is not altogether surprising (although by no means inevitable) but that only serves to harden my determination to do the business in the 800m.

I ordered my GB kit the other day, only 26 days before I fly out.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Limo to the BMC

Saturday's masterclass wasn't quite what I expected. My day off (in my mind involving finding out about the Kenyans training philosophy while shining a seat with my arse) turned out to be an hour's workout with plenty of striding and some extremely light track work.

Our group was lead by Benjamin Limo (2005 World 5000m champion) and Duncan Kibet (2:04.27 marathoner). Running with them reminded me of the days spent on Britain's racecourses. Like their 4 legged thoroughbred equivalents, at their slow paces they looked positively ungainly at times, but when they stretch out they suddenly become incredibly smooth. I wonder what they made of me, who looks reasonably smooth at a slow pace and then turns into an epileptic combine harvester at race pace.

There was time for a few questions afterwards, but insufficient to really appreciate Benjamin Limo's true philosophy on training. One thing he was quite insistent upon was the use of weights for middle distance runners. Pointing out that Kenyans aren't known for using weights, not through choice but simply because they don't have the facilities. Perhaps food for thought when considering that at distance events which typically require strength the Kenyans are far less dominant that they are at the longer events where the power component is more or less absent. Let's hope Gold's Gym don't invest in the Rift Valley any time soon.

In the evening I popped down to the BMC Grand Prix at Watford - also known as "the activity that keeps me out of the pub". I think the BMC races are a great idea - extremely competitive fields, seeded by time, with a pacer whose lap split is published in advance. A great idea on paper until you actually do the sums. In one 800m race the pacer was due to hit 400m in 52 seconds despite none of the field having broken 1:50 yet during the season and, in a 1500m, the pacer due to hit 800m in 2:04 despite none of the field having broken 4:00. Couldn't quite work all that out.

Anyway I'd better be nice as I've entered the next Grand Prix in Solihull although my entry is currently deferred as I'm not a member. You need a PB of 1:55 or better to join the BMC so, although my SB should be good enough in comparison to other entrants, I may lose out to actual members. Fair's fair of course, but it's the BMC races which are typically best for breaking 1:55. Not quite a catch-22 though and hopefully I can outkick such technicalities in my next race anyway.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Fuck The World Cup, Here Come The Kenyans

Our economy is in crisis so it's fortuitous timing that we have just recently exported a host of very expensive cretins which should do wonders for the country's balance of payments and whose absence also serves to raise the collective IQ domestically. Unfortunately we will have to take them back soon enough, but they'll probably be worth less by that time.

I refer of course to the World Cup. It depresses me that professional footballers, the significant majority of whom are vacuous morons (for those players reading that doesn't refer to your hoover), are perceived by the world at large as representative of England as a whole. Less depressing though than the fact it's probably true.

I loathe the World Cup and everything about it. It's a good job I don't have a television as it means I may be able to largely avoid the thing altogether. I'll have to don the ipod so I can equally be ignorant to the armchair pundits near the fruit and veg at Tesco and I'll just pretend the flags are advertising a re-enactment of St. George and the Dragon using extra long baguettes and a Ryvita as a shield.

What's worse I wonder, the true peasant hardcore followers or the middle classes who affect jingositic blokeishness for a month every four years.

In the midst of the holocaust of vapid WC promotion I am betting that very few people are aware that the following collection of World and Olympic gold medallists and record holders will be at Bedford Athletic Club all week: Paul Tergat, Wilfrid Bungei, Catherine Ndereba, Samuel Wanjiru, Duncan Kibet and Benjamin Limo. Quite amazing, and they won't just be being rude to young kids either (ala Kenny Dalglish signing lampshades in the local co-op back in 1982).

The full schedule is here:

I'm not the type to salivate over (and no doubt irritate) famous people as pride disallows it but I will certainly be taking advantage of Saturday's endurance running masterclass. Let's hope we're not really British about it and that people actually turn up rather than watching football highlights.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Smug Shit Incorporated

There are PBs and there are PBs....and there are PBs. More precisely.....

The Wanks - most runners have a collection of awful PBs whose pathetic existence is attributable to the fact a distance is rarely raced, e.g. my half marathon time. The goal being to eliminate them to avoid the sheepish admittance of mediocrity when asked.

The Nostalgias - all but the youngest will also have a couple of untouchable PBs which, due to age or changing focus (or perhaps increased drug testing), will never be broken again such as my long jump or 100m time. The goal of these is to reflect on "how amazing I was", often knocking a chunk off your actual time in the telling. (Ah, the glory of a non-internet age).

The Fair Games - there are the PBs that you are neither ashamed of, nor incapable of and which form the basis of your existence. Blog rules state that when you knock one of those on your head you are allowed to gloat and also slip them into conversations as I did yesterday (although only when they naturally crop up):

Tescos Assistant: "Hello, do you have a club card?"
Me: "Did you say PB?"
Tescos Assistant: "What? I said clubcard"
Me: "Ah, yes. Sorry, I thought you were asking about the PB I broke today, knocking off over half a second my previous best."
Tescos Assistant: "That will be £3.50 please".

Bedford had the season's first BAL (British Athletics League) meet on Saturday down in Ashford, Kent. Conditions weren't ideal for me as I don't breathe very well in hot and humid weather - but on the flipside I was fairly well rested, nothing hurt and there was little wind. The trip down was far from ideal taking 3 and a half hours due to the Dartford Crossing travesty. A larger, more unjust toll booth operation I can't think of since the Japanese charged allied prisoners half their packed lunch to cross the River Kwai.

I'll also admit to considerable nerves heightened by the fact the A race was won in 1:53.00. The race itself went well, we proceeded spread out and in single file and I hung off the leaders for the first 300m before moving into third in the home straight. Once again I gave the leaders too much rope, but had got into a reasonable second down the far straight. Although a fair bit back I was pretty confident from 200m out as my legs felt great. As I closed up round the bend I knew my kick would be enough and I came home a second clear to knock over half a second off my 2001 PB to win in 1:56.03. Considering I could have gone for home earlier, the conditions and the fact I negative split (59.6 / 56.4) rather than the advised positive split I was delighted.

Beating one of your better PBs from years ago always feels as though you're regaining a bit of your youth. If I carry on like this I will be getting my star wars figures out of the loft.

Once again I got the 400m wrong - this time going out far too slowly. On the bright side I got the best position I was capable of (3rd, B string) and ran a better time of 51.47. It's still unacceptably slow but I have reasons to believe there is a lot more to come. I was feeling a bit sick by the relay where we did all we could but came 5th.

Considering 95% of the words that leave my mouth are aimed at complaining at something I'll hope you forgive my indulgence in this post for what many would regard as a very average time. No doubt the bitter old man will return shortly and normal business will be resumed.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

The Dead Start To Walk in Their Masquerade

During a couple of fairly intense track sessions recently I've noticed that my arms seem to be failing well before my legs. The nature of the workouts means considerable lactic acid - but it seems to flood my upper body before my legs. I start to look and feel like a confused extra in a Michael Jackson video. It's a most uncomfortable sensation and I now know how frustrating it must have been to be Tyrannosaurus Rex, although at least he had a tail as a stabilising influence and impressive teeth. More seriously, the issue has impaired my performance in these workouts considerably, so it's time to add to my gym routine.

I'll be hoping old rigor mortis arms doesn't make an appearance on Saturday in our first British Athletics League meet where I'm running the 800m, 400m and 400m relay.

It's with great concern that I report that the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, appears to be operating an ice-cream van locally. I always make a point of checking my witch's hat for the smell of almonds but he appears to be out of cyanide. Surprisingly, he seems like a genuinely nice bloke and always laughs at my terrorist jokes - a top class spy operative if ever there was one.

Finally, I originally missed the news regarding the death of Ronnie James Dio. Every now and again someone famous but actually worthwhile dies. I still retain a vivid memories of the first notes of Night People as I left Woolworths as a 15 year old. Very few artists release 3 classic albums, even rarer to do so with different bands. Check out 'Rainbow - Rising', 'Black Sabbath - Heaven and Hell' & 'Dio - Holy Diver'.

Friday, 21 May 2010

The Humiliation Starts Here

Ever since the Olympics was awarded to London I've been looking forward to them with an increasing sense of dread. If there was ever an international event that our nation, quango-ridden and riddled with interfering politicians and their petty fiefdoms that it is, was guaranteed to fuck up it is this.

Rather than hold out and elect for 'shock and awe' with a hugely embarrassing and pathetically British opening ceremony (complete with London buses doing handstands) they are going to drip-feed the excruciating rubbish gradually in an effort to soften the humiliation of the actual event itself. What other explanation can you offer for the Olympic mascots, Shithead and Wankstain:
You can't beat a committee for coming up with something that fails so miserably on so many levels. It makes you wonder at the conglomerate of fools that must have been gathered to create this pair of alien soft toy penises. Do they not realise that a rainbow is the universal sign of "batters for the other side"?

Anyway, I'm in a good mood remember? It's that time of season where days of perfect execution are interspersed with utterly miserable plods. Wednesday's 800m pace session was spot on - averaging 43.5 seconds for 5 * 300m w / 3:00 jog recovery. Followed, on Thursday, with an excruciating shuffle of 8 miles where I was reduced to 8:00+ minute miling by the end. Finally, having been forced to make way over a footbridge by a ranting geriatric (smelt of piss by the way) in her electric buggy, I gave up and walked home.

I have 4 * 600m @ 1500m pace on the menu tomorrow. It looks like a fine weekend for a beer as has been 2 months after all.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Deja Poo

I thrashed out two reasonably ugly 400m races last year. The first of which was done in 52.0 and the second, a few weeks later, done in 52.03 from an outside lane. So, a reasonably promising start, followed by a few weeks of speed development -followed by a slight regression caused by premature acceleration.

Fast forward to this season. A season opener in 51.8 followed by, 2 weeks later, a second 400m from the outside lane in a hugely wank 52.4 in saturday's Southern Mens League match. Given the 51.8 was run after a hard 800m this was bitterly disappointing. I suspect I went off too quickly but that is a purely circumstantial conclusion due to a crappy time and vigorous water treading in the last 40m. The pea under the mattress is that I felt, at the time, the first 200m was about right.

Some competitors theorised that the wind affected times, but this would be similar to the lightweight at school who threw up after 2 cans of Crucial Brew and from his puddle of puke claimed "I had some wine with my meal".

On the bright side I won maximum points from my 'B string' 400m (beating everyone but our own A string) and the 400m relay and our team swept the meet by a massive 43 points. However, technically sufficient performances are small consolation if you're a selfish bastard whose principal concern is his own glory.

I have 5 weeks to go before the true competition period starts and I have eliminated all racing apart from the first British Athletics League meet on the 5th June. This is the last opportunity to squeeze out some meaningful training.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Positive Negativity

I've mentioned that any workout in a particular season has its place in an overall, progressive training stream. The consequence being that if you can't complete one satisfactorily it's often advisable to repeat it until you can do so. The drawback of this policy, particularly when training has also been interrupted with travel and injury, is that subsequent sessions get treated like an awkward topic before an election. Shunted off into the future.

I'd failed twice to complete a 1500m pace session of 6 * 400m in 65 seconds w / 65 seconds rest, previously having had to split the session up but still falling just short of the time target. So I'm delighted to report that, together with my spikes and a reasonable day, I kicked the session squarely in the nuts and training is on an upward trajectory again. I will even tempt fate by revealing there was a little to spare and that I'm ready for next week's session of 4 * 600m at the same pace.

My knees are a little like the British weather. Whenever you are tempted to frown in to the distance and declare an overall improvement it will respond by absolutely pissing it down. So it's with some scepticism I declare that my knees seem to be a little better recently. A trip to the physio yesterday confirmed this biomechanically with my sole remaining issue being left foot strength and left ankle lateral flexibility (which affects the strength). Enter pothole, stage left, in the near future probably.

I've had my entry to the European old fart Champs in Hungary, for the 800m and 1500m, confirmed by the British Masters Federation. As a condition of competition I must purchase my own kit for the event - glamorous this sport is not. At least when representing your country at tennis a free (but undeniably shite) tracksuit was forthcoming.

Overall this has been an uncharacteristically positive and upbeat post for which I apologise. I will endeavour to do better next time. Probably from a hospital bed or a ditch underneath a crushed car. In fact, recently I've had a recurring dream where my central heating system explodes while I'm upstairs. You heard it here first.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Monty Python's Flying Track Meet

I assume it's part of local authority planning due diligence that prior to granting permission for the construction of a running track they must ensure it is in an exposed location that guarantees maximum wind. The sole exception I have encountered remains Watford track where I assume someone was greasing palms and rogering councillors when plans were submitted.

The Cambs County Champs took place today in miserable conditions - pissing rain, strong winds and low temperatures. Despite this I was looking forward to the 800m as it was stacked with 12 runners - many of whom were strong runners. Unfortunately, with many of the entrants life members of the Fair Weather Pussy Running Club, only 3 of us toed the line. One of whom (a U20m) was guaranteed his County title given he was the only runner in his category - he'll be dining off that one in his old age. As it transpired the other runner was quite happy to play windbreak and I sheepishly followed him round and took it up in the final straight after he was fucked from front running. To be perfectly frank I found the whole affair quite embarrassing - it's no wonder track is dead in this country. In the land of lepers the acne-faced man is king.

Due to the weather I decided to go home and have lunch followed by the obligatory nap. Unfortunately I overcooked the nap significantly and woke up nearly 2 hours later. As the meet (at noon) was already running typically late I was quite surprised to learn upon arrival that my race was starting in a couple of minutes giving me time for one stride as a warm-up and no time to change into my spikes. As it happens I got exactly what I deserved during the race and struggled all the way round.

A day to forget.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The Yorkshire Kipper

Sunday was spent icing the knee and celebrating my good fortune at having survived saturday's racing unscathed. Monday was spent managing the gradually increasing hamstring soreness as a result of saturday's racing whilst marvelling at sunday's naivety. Still, as far as an old shite like me is concerned, sore hamstrings are small price to pay for racing a young man's itinerary. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

It's perhaps a cliche that runners must listen to their body, but certainly a truism that the majority will ignore its message. My legs seem to be very heavy and, for want of a better word (or rather for want of an actual word), very lactic-y. I felt as though another quality session would be a bad idea given my upcoming racing so I settled for a long run of about 14 (slow, dead legged) miles at a pedestrian 7:35 pace.

It did get me questioning whether I was perhaps listening too much to my body. Arriving at speculative ph levels in the muscles and then adjusting training based on this nebulous calculation is a step nearer to the cuckoo's nest. Next I'll be farting with a French accent and hearing voices coming from a Polish headstone as a prelude to belting prostitutes on the back of the head with a ball-peen hammer.

Assuming I'm not hauled in for questioning on more serious charges after being caught for an inconsequential traffic violation I'll be racing the 800m and 1500m in the Cambridgeshire County Champs on saturday. My legs better feel a lot different by then otherwise I may as well stay at home.

On reflection a bit of a weird entry m'lud.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Southern Mens League 3N Meet 1

All in all my first Southern Mens League meet was a rather bizarre and enjoyable experience. The meet consists of a selection of 4 teams (out of a total of 16 in the division) with A and B events for each discipline. As long as you have 2 representatives in each event you are guaranteed at least a point for each. This of course leads to some farcical situations where you have shot putters running the 5k and unwilling victims being forced to negotiate the steeplechase barriers in the spirit of taking one for the team. I was almost swept along with the current and had to thrust my hands deep in my pockets and bite my tongue when volunteers were requested for the triple jump. That really would be rolling back the years - and peeling back the knee caps.

2:45p.m. 800m. I'd resolved to be in 2nd place at the bell whatever happened and not to give the leader too much rope. Ideally I would win with the minimum of effort or go down fighting. Felt pretty good during the first lap and managed to split about 59, according to plan. Typically in the third 200m of 800m races there's a bit of a lull during which I'd planned to close right up and pressure. As I closed the leader seemed to pull away with good form and I was starting to have to work very hard down the back straight. I kept pushing to line him up for my kick but he kept pulling away. I never got to kick in the end as the lactic started to build up and he was uncatchable - so I took my foot off the gas in second for the last 40m or so to save myself for the 400m.

Turns out I'd met the winner before but I was too gormless to realise - the same guy had won the Watford Open race I was in last week. To my surprise I ran 1:57.7 so was kicking myself for easing up. The difficulty in today's race was that there was absolutely no respite throughout - the 3rd 200m was brutal and then just got quicker.

3:30 p.m. 400m. Drew the inside lane with some very unlikely sorts outside! Ran pretty much evenly but was missing a bit of spark in the legs. Only really one guy for competition and had run down his stagger by the final straight where I accelerated clear to win by a second. Slightly disappointed with my time of 51.8 because I thought I was much quicker this year - but who knows how the 800m affected me.

5:15 pm. 4 * 400m relay. I ran the last leg and it soon became apparent we had no chance of winning. I took the baton in 2nd place and let the third place guy overtake me on the far straight. This was the guy who I'd beaten in the 400m so I stuck with him and kicked clear to get second. Decent effort given the circumstances and I apparently split 51.3 in this leg - although we all know about the vagaries of team mates and hand timing!

It's about 16 years since I last ran a relay and I must admit to really enjoying it. I typically choose to tread my own path in life and that partly explains my sports of choice but it was good to be part of a team - and one that did pretty well. Oh, and as a club we won the meet as well.

I wonder how I'll feel tomorrow.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The Old Nag

What do you do with an aging draught animal that is nearing the end of its useful life? Do you retire it gracefully with unlimited supplies of hay or do you work it into the ground mercilessly grinding out the last drops of its usefulness before you sell it for glue?

Definitely the latter when you need runners for the first Southern Mens League meet of the year. In truth I did volunteer to help out wherever I could - I just wasn't expecting to be selected for the 800m, 400m and 400m relay in one day!

I'm looking forward to the meet, but am having a few concerns about the state of my body by the end of the day. Having perused the results from last year's meets it looks like the standard can vary wildly - from pretty shit to slightly above average. It's probably no coincidence that that is the zone in which I currently reside, so maybe it's a good match.

In the interest of maximising team points I have resolved to get the best position possible in the 800m (first race on the card) without killing my prospects in the following races. I'm glad to see the meet is at Watford again, which is becoming like home territory and is one of the few places in Britain which seems relatively immune to wind.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The 800m Season Is Under Way

I returned back from the trip from hell at 1 a.m. this morning miserable, cranky and with a new, violent aversion to people who whistle in public. I haven't managed to do a decent quality workout for quite a while and for the first time that I can remember I couldn't contemplate trying.

It was time to use my get out of jail free card and use a race to pull me out of the doldrums. You can't do this often during a season - it's a harsh solution that must be used sparingly, like electrodes on your bollocks. Using a race to give you confidence when your own is low is the sort of strategy that is more likely to blow up in your face than be a success - particularly with the sort of preparation I'd had. But every now and again you have to volunteer for the Forlorn Hope and trust in something beyond cold, hard rationale.

So it was off to Watford in the evening to compete in my first 800m of the season. Watford organise their races according to seedings so I entered at 1:58 because I felt anything between 1:57 and 2:00 to be realistic. That got me in the top race with the slowest seed time. Knowing at least one person was seeded at 1:52 I was expecting a very quick race, so resolved to hang back and run my own race – particularly as I was in lane 1 (10 runners in total). The 800m is a weird race in that it’s one of the few where accepted wisdom leans towards a positive split – combine that with the first 100m in lanes and early race excitement and you get half the field committing suicide in the first lap.

Unfortunately when the field split out of lanes at 100m I found myself about 5 metres off the back and this gap was maintained for the first lap. I wasn’t panicking, although you could imagine the “why did the old fart end up in this race?” comments. I’ve been here before but when the leader’s split was 57.XX and mine was 60.XX I did note that the pace wasn’t as quick as I expected.

500m into the race I was still well behind but one runner had pulled out and some of the others’ form was getting sloppy. I felt pretty damn good so by 600m I was latched on to the pack and starting to get involved. I started to push hard and went past 3 round the bend (not ideal) pretty quickly – legs were still in good order but breathing very heavy. With 100m to go I still had room for a kick and started closing on positions 2 to 4 quickly, but with about 50m to go the absence of lactic tolerance training meant my thighs couldn’t carry on. Interestingly my glutes, calves, feet and upper body were still in pretty good order – reflecting my recent gym training perhaps.

I ended up with 4th place and a time of 1:58.12. Satisfied with that – as I ran a solid race and I learnt a valuable lesson. In hindsight I should have run the first lap much quicker and probably would have got at least 3rd . I made an incorrect assumption about the expected pace – although in my defence I would usually judge the pace myself but it’s difficult without much 800m pace work this year and a new pair of ultra light spikes. My best last year was 1:57.12 and my avid memory from that race (which I won but was way back at half way) was that I was barely hanging on pace-wise all the way round. This time I felt the pace was pretty easy – therefore I think my speed is a fair bit better than the 52.0 for 400m I managed last year.

Life in the old twat yet (as the oldest prostitute in the world once said).

Saturday, 17 April 2010

The Curse Of John Candy

If you've ever squared up to a proficient boxer you'll know that while you're countering the threat of the jab you'll probably never see the overhand right which turns your lights off. In the same way, whilst we were concentrating on the potential problems of flying out of Krakow due to the state funeral, a large volcanic ash cloud was forming to test the political will and organisational skill of our pathetic excuse for a country.

Faced with the ludicrous uncertainty of being stuck in Poland for the foreseeable future we have decided to take matters into our own hands and devise a guaranteed way of getting home. Unfortunately this means getting a train from Krakow to Warsaw, then to Berlin, to Uttrecht, to Rotterdam, to the Hook of Holland, a ferry to Harwich, a train to Colchester, a bus to Stansted and then a drive home. Oh yes, and we'll arrive home next wednesday morning at about 1 a.m. I'm going to have a sense of humour breakdown I can feel it.

Iceland has a lot to answer for - firstly for their sizeable contribution to the credit crunch and secondly, to rub salt into our wounds, they lose control of one of their topographical features. For a country so small and apparently pointless they know how to influence the lives of ordinary folk living far beyond their natural remit.

Oh, yes -this is supposed to be a running blog. I've been running wherever possible but my knee is still playing up and the concrete jungle of Rotterdam is the most unpleasant place I've ever been forced to run.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Arbeit Macht Frei

Greetings from Krakow - that's in Poland which is also the answer to question 4a on your MENSA exam booklet, page 3 - 'Mexico is to America' as '____ is to Britain' .

At the risk of turning off all the young ladies reading this blog I've always had a fascination with military history. Did you know for instance that the Gatling gun centered around a cyclic multi-barrel design which facilitated cooling and synchronized the firing/reloading sequence?

Erm...anyway, I've always wanted to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp so we have popped over to Poland for a few days. Once again, finding myself speculating on the similarities between the interior of the Ryanair flight cabin and transportation during WWII.....anyway, I digress.

The camp was nothing like I had imagined. It's essentially divided into two remaining camps - the original Auschwitz which prior to its notoriety was a Polish military barracks and Birkenau which was built specifically for death and forced labour.

Within its walls were hundreds of thousands harrowing stories but the general vibes it emitted were, and forgive me for saying this, more 1980's school trip than anything else. Of course, this wasn't helped by our ridiculous Polish guide who just wouldn't shut up. By the end if was beginning to feel like having the Krankies provide the music for a state funeral.

The people operating the camp were guilty of genuine depravity but the distinct impression I came away with was it was run so much like an efficient factory that within a few days I bet the whole extermination process had become so dehumanised it meant nothing to the people running it. The victims were systematically stripped of property, dignity and life in the same way you'd bang out a sheet of metal, drill the holes and rivet something together. I have to agree that with an author I am reading - that it's arrogant for any of us to look back and say we wouldn't have been a part of it, because the majority of us would have done as we were told like we do in life today and been as much a victim of circumstance as those in the ovens.

On that cheery note I foresee travel chaos on saturday, our departure day, as the Polish prime minister will be buried in Krakow and apparently the airport is going to be an interesting experience with President Obama requiring something like 6 planes! I bet he wouldn't be carrying that much luggage with a budget airline.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Walk Like An Ethiopian

Susannah Hoffs - now there's a woman I would have married in an instant. Unfortunately she has nothing to do with this post apart from having a tenuous link to an already contrived title which makes the whole thing a little desperate. Like my life.

Another trip back to the master physio, Mark Buckingham, yesterday. My knee pain, which was primarily making itself known below the kneecap, had changed location. The pain was circulating in the tendons around and above both knees - but of more concern was the regular pain underneath my left knee cap. This was actually preventing me from running sometimes, coming as it did upon straightening my leg. It got so bad on one run along the river that a pirate ship docked and asked if I knew how to splice a mainsail.

Apparently though this is all part of the process as learning a new running style will inevitably lead to more stress on tendons that had previously been taking it easy.

Hopping back on the treadmill again showed I'd made really good progress in my technique - which was further improved by concentrating on every step. (Having to concentrate on 180 footfalls a minute soon makes a 60 minute run seem a tad knackering by the way). Once we'd got the technique nailed via the video - my mental visualisation being Japanese soldier minus bayonet, Seppuku and rice packed lunch - I was sent packing with more of the same plus some kneecap stretching exercises. Apparently my kneecaps themselves are a tad George Michael (a tad gristley and don't point in the right direction).

As I was leaving it was also pointed out that I also walked poorly and need to work on that also. I'm starting to feel like a beginner, I'll be brushing off my school uniform next.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Watford Open Meet #1 3k

Running is a sport of lessons. Lessons that you only have to learn once (don't 'box the jesuit' before running when the temperature is well below zero), lessons that you have to relearn every single season (when it's wet and you're wearing a cotton t-shirt always grease your nipples) and lessons that you never really learn (if something hurts take a few days off).

Racing 3k's is a lesson I have to learn every single season. Whenever I wear a watch and run to splits my race always turns into a tedious, sterile experience with a disappointing outcome. This race was no exception. My adherence to my splits left me between two groups, effectively time trialling on my own. I managed to close on a couple of athletes at the end but I felt more like the guy who joins in at the end of a pub fight and kicks someone when they're already lying on the floor. Standing there growling in the middle of the pub shouting "come on then" when everybody's already left because the police are coming.

So, on a perfect evening I left with a decidedly average 9:15.92 to my name. Only 5 seconds slower than my best last year, but well behind the point at which I hoped to be. Lesson learned.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Redemption On The Track

In troubled times you increasingly turn to your running to offer relief and encouragement. That had been in short supply recently, given the training missed due to illness and knee problems. Every now and again you have a workout planned that could potentially make or break you.

The workout that is either so depressing you feel the season starting to slip or encouraging enough that any fears over fitness are allayed. Being old and gnarled enough I now recognise these in advance and today's was such a workout.

The workout was simple enough: 4 * (2 * 400m) @ 1500m pace with a 100m jog between reps and 400 jog between sets. According to my pace schedule these should be done in 66 seconds in the month of March. The day wasn't particularly great with fairly strong winds and pretty hot (I don't breathe well in hot weather) but the adrenaline was certainly pumping. It was one of those days when the legs weren't that fresh, breathing was a bit congested but I'd got into a rhythm which proved to be enough. Averaging 66.8 per 400m was nothing special, but done in flats after the couple of prior weeks it was enough to convince me that I'm back - or had never really gone away.

The Watford Open meetings start next week and I will be competing in the 3k. Slowly but surely I'm approaching race distances at which I have a modicum of talent....but we're not quite there yet.

Monday, 29 March 2010


I've had food poisoning twice in my life. One resulting in an in-flight argument with a stewardess who insisted I vacate the toilet and the other this past weekend as a result of braised duck at PENANG'S RESTAURANT, BETHESDA. Both particularly unpleasant experiences involving a simultaneous pincer attack from both ends.

This bout was particularly distressing given I was resident on my living room floor in a cheap Target sleeping bag - alternately sweating and shivering my way through the weekend. All I could think of was the training I was missing and the painting that needed to be done (and plotting revenge on the motherfuckers who didn't cook the canard).

Upon regaining mobility I decided to take expert rehydration advice at the local CVS pharmacy. The language barrier (she being Korean) meant it took 5 minutes of bellowing in front of the whole shop (in true Brit style - shout louder if they don't understand) that I wasn't suffering from poison ivy. Desperate times called for desperate measures so I had to resort to a charades-like description of my symptoms - at which point comprehension was reached that I was suffering from a shaving rash. For fuck's sake.

At this point I'd started to experience flashbacks from my 18th birthday party with a furious Chinese waiter bellowing "one pint lager, one pint lager, one pint lager" into my face at point blank range and decided to go home. What a miserable trip.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

He's Only Human

It looks like my USA trip will have to be extended - as getting tenants has been trickier than hoped. There are plenty about but they appear distinctly more fussy which, at the very least, means I have to get rid of the ludicrous garden murals in the basement - a legacy of previous ownership.

Normally an extended stay in the US would be welcomed, but running is a sport of consistency and consistency is a by-product of routine. To be honest returning to the US has been a bit of a disappointment. Similar to meeting an ex-girlfriend after 10 years, all your nostalgic feelings come crashing down when you see her flabby arms, cigarette stained fingers and wizened face.

So, what do you get when you combine an unwanted stay resulting in missing the British Masters Indoor Champs, an inordinately long list of jobs to do at the house, appalling traffic, bad knee problems and a meeting with old friends in a pub called Molly Malone's?

After 166 days the no-drinking streak was broken. Bloody hell it was fun though....

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Charm City Run 5k

The charm city run was held in the Baltimore harbour area (or harbor for you 'septics' out there). Baltimore, like most US cities, has the charm of medusa. There are parts of it that are very beautiful and enticing but they are usually surrounded by a poverty stricken den of snakes.

Running, being an activity principally undertaken by white middle classes, was naturally held in the nice area of town. Nice of course, unless you suffer from bad knees. Suspicions were first raised when I learnt the course was of certified distance but not ratified for records. My fears were concerned when confronted with a very steep downhill for the first mile or so of the race. I don't dislike downhill running per se, but it makes my knees twat and is of questionable merit when setting PBs.

There are some races in which you have your mojo and others in which it just seems to desert you. This was one of the latter - I was never really going very well and was unable to run a good first mile as it felt as though someone had removed my shins. I struggled home in 16:21 which, while a PB, must remain asterisk adorned given the nature of the course.

Surprisingly my miserable performance was good for 2nd place in my age group which I couldn't collect because the band kept playing crappy covers and I had to show my house to prospective tenants. There was one post-race highlight however. The band, put on as part of the St. Patrick's Day celebrations were heard to announce - "here's a song for all you Irish out there....

....I'm gonna be (500 miles) by The Proclaimers". Someone buy the bloke a map.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

The Achilles Knee

I hear that an absence of posts is starting to cause an escalation of unrest amongst the Luddites, as opposed to withdrawal symptoms in readers, so it's time to correct matters.

I had my follow up appointment with the physio, where I got a house point for ankle flexibility, a decent grade for glute strength and a middling C- for foot strength. Turns out my overall grade was sufficient to progress from the spinning Jenny to the Spinning Mule. I now have a program of weight training (one legged squats while standing on tip toe anyone?), foot alignment drills, flexibility exercises and balance drills. Once again, a fairly time-intrusive prescription but it's a relief to focus on dynamic strength over isometric strength - as the latter always feels as though you are squeezing something out as opposed to achieving something.

Since then I have graduated / progressed / regressed (delete as appropriate) to a new sort of knee pain. Relocated (generally) is the knee pain below my knee cap, to the more upper class neighbourhood (with a view of my ball bag) underneath the knee cap. As it's pain I'm unfamiliar with I am adopting the cautious approach of ignoring it and trying to carry on as normal. Generally the (or is it my) view on patella tendonitis is you can carry on without doing any further damage. Hopefully true, otherwise I'm going to look like a de-cleated Oscar Pistorius in a few years.

Anyway, a bit of rare excitement in the offing next week. I fly to the USA on thursday and am having a crack at a road 5k. It seems quite a while since I ran on a course that didn't require a spade and wellies to navigate.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Dropping The Kids Off At The Hills

There are never any dock leaves around when you need them. For the first time in years I found myself 'running the precipice' halfway through my hill session with guts in utter turmoil . In the end, to be able to continue, I had to bow the inevitable and emulate Laetoli man. Unfortunately for the county of Cambridgeshire my workout took place on the outskirts of a reservoir, so my heartfelt apologies if your drinking water has a slighty nutty aroma for the next month or so.

The hill repeats (hill pictured) alternate on a weekly basis with the 1500m pace sessions, the effort in the last set being similar to the track session but with a more significant strength component. The session involves 3 sets of 4 * 300m on the hill with a jog down recovery. The first set focusing on form / technique, the second at medium effort with the last set done hard. Delighted with the last set, averaging 53 seconds - although it certainly helped that I was considerably lighter than for the previous (see paragraph one).

As my fitness progresses there is an interesting dynamic during workouts; my legs and breathing alternate as the workout limiter. In my previous hill session, my legs couldn't work hard enough to maximise my breathing. This time, the honours were equal - the conclusion being, as the rep times were quicker, that my leg strength and / or speed has improved. At this stage of the season the hill isn't too steep. Later on I will switch to harder repeats on a steeper hill of 80 to 120m in length.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Progressions (1500m)

A dull fact for those of you who were fans of 80's TV's more esoteric sports. Geoff Capes, Olympic shot putter, World's Strongest Man and voted locally as the most miserable special guest at the St. Neots Mini Rugby Festival is a budgerigar breeder. Rhino racer, valkyrie breeder or bear wrestler I could imagine - but budgerigars? It reminds me of Hightower's first forays into florist-hood.

Had a good track workout today and it leads nicely into the topic of the day - 1500m progressions. The goal of 1500m pace progression sessions is to slowly acclimatise to racing pace whilst nudging the sessions towards workouts that increasingly resemble the race, so when your peak finally arrives you aren't thinking "oh, bollocks" after 2 laps. There are two components to this: session structure and session pace.

So, for example, my 1500m sessions are sequenced as follows (today's session in red):

2 * (4 * 300m) w / same stand. recovery; 400 jog between sets.
2 * (3 * 400m) w / same stand. recovery; 400 jog between sets.
4 * (2 * 300m) w / 100 jog; 400 jog between sets.
3 * (2 * 400m) w / 100 jog; 400 jog between sets.
6 * 400m w / same stand. recovery;
4 * 600m w / 2 * stand. recovery;
3 * 800m w / 2 * stand. recovery;
2 * 1000m w / 2 weeks in Corfu recovery.

This is not all - there are other race simulation and change of pace sessions at 1500m pace, but this effectively serves as the road map from current to goal fitness. Starting back in January one of these sessions is scheduled every fortnight and a seperate pace progression is used to determine how fast they are run:

- Feb: 67 secs / 400m (4:11 pace)
- Mar: 66 secs / 400m (4:07 pace)
- Apr: 65 secs / 400m (4:03 pace)
- May: 64 secs / 400m (3:59 pace)
- Jun: 63.5 secs / 400m (3:57 pace)
- Jul: 63 secs / 400m (3:55 pace)

If at any point the speed / session combination becomes unmanageable I will stay at the last achievable pace until there are signs I can complete a session at a faster pace. Alternatively it may mean 2010's ceiling pace has been established. In which case I train at that pace within a more searching array of sessions.

Easy, right? Now all I have to do is turn up.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

The Mighty Empire

The Great should have been dropped as a prefix to Britain years ago and I also wonder whether there is anything united about our Kingdom. I took a tour around HMS victory in Portsmouth docks today - it's the ship in which Lord Nelson died at the Battle of Trafalgar. It left me wondering what Nelson would be doing if he lived currently. No doubt sitting on his sofa in soiled underwear watching Eastenders and living off disability benefit awarded by virtue of having one arm. Churchill would be overdosing on pork scratchings and Speckled Hen at his local whilst recalling the glory days to his whippet Josef.

Being famed for my romantic side the tour of the ship allowed me to indulge my maritime fantasies - so instead of flowers and chocolates I ordered the missus around like a powder monkey for Valentines Day. Amusing at first but went rapidly downhill when I threatened flogging for being too slovenly running up the mainsail. I can be a really sad bastard sometimes - but a disciplined crew is a happy one!

I have every 4th week off as a cutback week in my schedule, although I hadn't planned to have 3 days off as I did this week. This was attributable to an unprecedented attack of the DOMS after introducing some 40m accelerations into my Tuesday session and a particularly gruesome mauling from the masseuse yesterday. She meant well (the bitch).

For those more technically minded the speed session alternates weekly between 4 * 100m fast relaxed, 6 * 40m accelerations and 1 * 200m @ 800m pace one week, and 8 * 150m @ 800m pace the next. Both sessions are proceeded by a 3m warm-up, drills and 2 laps of jog turn / stride straight.

Full week with no excuses next week - only 8 weeks of the base period to go before the fun really starts.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Root Canal For Runners

This blog can't live on solely as a repository of puerile excretia gags and second hand Clarksonisms, so it's time to include some training content. Timing is everything and it's a bit like closing the stable door when the horse has bolted, but better late then never. Plus, a Guinness World record for most cliches in a sentence to boot.

If your eyes glaze over at the first sign of VO2 max on the horizon now's a good time pick up your new magazine and box the jesuit. This year's racing goal is to medal at the European Masters Track Championships at the 1500m in Hungary - I have to give the 800m a miss as a good friend believes his wedding should take precedence over my running!

To that end I've periodised my year as follows:

Base 1: 9 Weeks at average of 51 per week.
Primary Focus: Base Mileage & Aerobic Threshold.
Secondary Focus: Basic Speed & Stamina.
Comments: Building up mileage after break, some hill work and non-anaerobic 3k pace work.

Base 2: 9 Weeks at average of 64 per week.
Primary Focus: VO2 Max & Early Season Race Pace Work.
Secondary Focus: Basic Speed, Mileage & LT.
Comments: Increasing VO2 max.

Base 3: 9 Weeks at average of 67 per week.
Primary Focus: LT & Basic Speed.
Secondary Focus: VO2 max & Strength.
Comments: Mileage peaks, more intense basic speed (800m race pace, short accelerations).

Pre-Comp 1: 5 Weeks at average of 64 per week.
Primary Focus: Repetitions at race paces.
Secondary Focus: VO2 max & LT.
Comments: Fast, hard with complete recovery. LT and VO2 maintenance.

Pre-Comp 2: 5 Weeks at average of 60 per week.
Primary Focus: Race pace reps, lactic acid tolerance & all-out speed.
Secondary Focus: VO2 max & LT.
Comments: Fast & hard often with partial recovery. LT and VO2 maintenance.

Competition Period: 5+ weeks at average of 45 per week.
Primary Focus: Racing.
Secondary Focus: Recovery and race simulation workouts.

This week is the first of base 3 and the intention is that each phase builds on the previous and once a particular area of fitness has been maximised it goes into 'maintenance mode' while a new system is stressed. Let's hope it's well aimed as it's an awful lot of time to invest building a plane that doesn't fly.

For those if you who enjoy prolonged sessions in the dentist chair this thread gives you all the workouts week by week:

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Aces High

"Bandits at 8 o'clock move in behind us,
10 ME-109s out of the sun,"

Friday's high-end aerobic run was interrupted by a pitbull hurtling down the slope from my blind spot and launching itself at me (the little fokker). Fortunately it was a result of enthusiasm rather than aggression, but it hassled and mauled me like a skint whore.

I've always been a dog lover, but have never owned one because I couldn't be arsed to train it and I speculate my shite picking would be inconsistent at best. This doesn't stop many dog owners who happily allow their untrained canines to trip pedestrians and spray the park with brown depth charges. If you can't be bothered to train the mutt keep it on a friggin' lead or better still don't exacerbate the over-population problem in the first place.

The pitbull was pleasant compared to the trio of miniature collies, whom I have named "Napoleon Complex", which are the bane of my morning runs. One day I pray they charge me during a BBQ - I won’t hesitate to end to end them with a spit and forcefeed them to the shreaking bitch who owns them together with a bag of dog shit garnish.

Running has a way of punishing hubris. The original topic of this post was going to be an inspiring forlorn hope-type heroic description of my first 80 mile week for years. Unfortunately a back strain has scuppered that, done during a bout of stretching. No good deed goes unpunished as they say and that's why I don't give spare coins to lepers. So today's training was curtailed and tomorrow will see who wins the contest of the long run - my back or the diclofenac overdose.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Plight of The Bumblebee

I remember, as a child, a few of life's initial disappointments: some teachers couldn't spell 'definitely', doctors weren't infallible health sentinels and Kenny Everett enjoyed a bit of sausage pitch and catch with the pool boy.

Nowadays I understand the incompetence of society in general must be assumed and that it is no respecter of profession or rank. Therefore on the few occasions that you do cross paths with one of life's accomplished experts you are best sticking with them.

I unearthed one of them in a recent sports physio appointment. I'd initially booked the appointment because I suffer from chronic stitches, but in the interim priorities have changed and my sore knees took point. I've given them a chance - about 8 years actually - and had finally decided that perhaps they weren't going to magically cure themselves.

After a few flexibility, stability and strength tests followed by a video treadmill session we arrived at the conclusion that I resemble one of NASA's bumblebees more than their space shuttles. It appears that foot and glute weakness combined with horrendous ankle inflexibility means that everything is pointing in contrary and incorrect directions. The result being that my knee, achilles and plantar are being pulled in all directions at once which has turned me into a one man knee-wrecking machine.

Better the devil you know and armed with a repeat appointment in 4 weeks I'm now embarking on a series of seemingly full time correctional exercises.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Loud Whispering Contest of Parliament Hill

There's a lot of to be said for cramming all your misfortunes into one occasion. The belief being that any one life has a limited number of misfortunes (although Violet Jessop may disagree) and the path forward is cleared if you get them "out of way" early in your journey.

I have already described the background to my presence at the Southern Cross Country Champs today - mainly attributable to blind ignorance on my part. The place lived up to its reputation - being a hilly bog and a venue more appropriate for the Massey Ferguson agility trials than a foot race.

Teams were all grouped in starting pens, having first passed through a tent, presumably to get the racing chips activated. Unfortunately there were still about 50 of us in the tent when the race was started. I'm a punctual person and there was no way of anticipating the jam from the outside the tent so I was pretty pissed off at the starter's premature ejaculation.

It doesn't sit well criticising the starter, considering he is probably an unpaid volunteer - a bit like slapping your Grandma in the chops for fussing. But his actions certainly invite speculation that he was a retired ex-filing cabinet manager for a small local authority.

The problem with being at the back of the field is that there were about 900 runners and the first section of the course is a steep up hill, leading to a bottleneck at the top so you are stuck behind a wall of slower runners. It was at this point where I got stamped on with the spike ripping my shoe and cutting deep into my little toe.

The rest of the 3 lap course consisted of trying to find decent ground to run on, trying to make up places on the downhills and trying to manage my painful stitch. All great fun, but I never felt like I was able to run fast on the underfoot conditions and it just felt like a dull slog. I'd hoped, at least, for a decent training impetus but the race seemed so far removed from reality I doubt I even got that.

It's not all doom and gloom as my new club, Bedford & County AC, won the team event. Obviously with no help from me and it was a relief to know that the team's total points tally didn't have to try and swallow my abysmal 343rd place.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

The Southern XC Ambush

Have you ever noticed that when asking for help to move a washing machine, put up shelves or assist in a similarly dull endeavour people take great care over their syntax. It's never "can you help me pick my nose?", it's always "are you free at the weekend?" - planting the germ of excitement in your mind (concert tickets perhaps?).

By the time you have cleared your diary and commenced speculation on the availability of back stage passes you realise that in reality you've agreed to run in a particularly nasty cross country race. As the light dawns you learn it's 15k long, hilly, muddy, a pain in the arse to get to and always freezing. Not only that, it's going to disrupt your diligently constructed training schedule and you're likely to come as near to last as first.

Having been ambushed, this saturday is now reserved for the Southern Counties Cross Country Championships at Parliament Hill in London. A hill named, depending on who you believe, for being occupied by troops sympathetic to parliament or because it's where Guy Fawkes used to go dogging on cold November evenings a few hundred years ago.

As always, a positive mindset is of vital importance when approaching any sort of race. I'm dreading it and it's going to be miserable.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The Extra Windy Mile

It's a sign of increasing age that after starting up some regular sports massage with a South American lady my primary concern has been holding in wind during psoas manipulation as opposed to praying against the possibility of an erection (which I'd have been doing 10 years ago).

Not that gaseous exchange was never a concern - just ask Dr. Mortimer, the chiropractor who had his hair parted while freeing up my back all those years ago in Washington DC. It's just that it's become the primary concern requiring 100% concentration these days.

The increase in mileage has seen an exponential increase in niggles so I decided that a semi-regular indulgence of sports massage would help keep me running. In the years since my last I'd forgotten how painful they are - exacerbated by muscles and tendons with the flexibility of a Scottish Prime Minister. Quite frankly, it isn't remotely enjoyable so it'd better result in some injury resilience rather than just a hole in the pocket.

The lady in question is well qualified and professional but has the slightly disconcerting belief that massage will cure everything. I can well believe it relieves hamstring tightess, it may even help you avoid stitches but solving the Goldbach Conjecture? I think not.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Back To The Grind

It's been a fair old haitus. To be honest blogging matters came to a head during a period of mild writer's block. "Eureka", as I palmed my forehead. Running is fine as an activity itself but, unless your angle is a fun runner's exhortation of endorphins or a dry-as-old-muff training schedule, trying to find semi-entertaining things to write about it isn't easy.

After due consideration I think perhaps it's worth another go - it hasn't been entirely mundane after all. There have been pitched battles with walkers, a frozen scrotum, an encounter with an armed farmer and some amusingly shaped dog terds along the way. It's not as if the blog has to compete with firework displays, white tigers jumping through hoops or PT Barnum's Managerie, Cavaran & Hippodrome - all it must do is be slightly more interesting than the spreadsheet you're working on or your dullard of a work colleague.

So as we rejoin the story I've been in heavy winter training, have been alcohol free for 110 days (but who's counting) and training is going well. Although recent racing leaves a little to be desired it's a deliberate plot to obtain better odds with Ladbrokes when the summer racing season arrives.