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:

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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.