The Weekend That Was Supposed To Be

Holkham Half Iron was today.

I was supposed to be racing it.

I didn’t.

Anyone that has been following this blog (hahahahaha) knows that I transferred my place to Outlaw X in September. A most wise and excellent choice. To the point that although the weather looked perfect – I didnt feel bad about not doing it. Although I did remind myself that I need to run.

So what did I do instead?

I surprised myself.

It is becoming a bit of a bad habit to say yes to the random things my mates suggest. About a week ago one mate sent me a link to race he had signed up for – up near Consett on Derwent Reservoir. Asked if I fancied it – and camping (with my new tent). Well bit of a daft question. I read through and debated it – but then it dawned on me I could use this to my advantage.

I decided I would use this as the perfect opportunity to head north (what a surprise!) and go cycle in my favourite part of the world – Northumberland.

I decided not to race but still go and camp and support my mate racing, while also riding my bike.

It was actually quite hard getting myself up and out on the Saturday morning to be honest – there was a little voice in my head wondering whether it was worth the money (fuel) and time going all the way north just to ride for a few hours when I could do a 40 mile ride at home. I had already printed off some OS maps just to keep in my pocket as I don’t have a cycle computer, and my bike was in the car – sod it. I overrode the little voice of doubt and thought it would do me good to go.

It was. Road trip central. I set off at half 7, donned in lycra from the start. I stopped at Scotch Corner as per normal and got some funny looks – which considering the lycra was unsurprising. I made Beadnell for 10.45. Driving North makes me so happy!

The weather was absolutely lovely but as I sorted out my bike and got ready to go (this is quite a quick process when you are on your own!) I realised that my route meant that I was going to be cycling back with a headwind!

Ah well.

My route was taking me towards Boulmer via the coast and then back round towards Lesbury and up to Rennington before heading over North Sunderland and into Bamburgh – this was a long tough slog actually – headwind and up hill – but the view was worth it (see the picture!). The other thing that made it worth the slog was the tail wind from Bamburgh through to Beadnell and some amazing speeds and top 10s on Strava!

It was bliss! I stopped eventually at the harbour in Beadnell for an ice cream before cycling back round to the car and heading back to Derwent Reservoir. It was mixed feelings though – it was an epic ride in terms of scenery and just sheer enjoyment – I was over the moon with myself at cycling so far away from home (without the usual back up) on my own! But equally – I really would have liked to have had someone to share it with. The joy of a good bike ride is like nothing else!

However I was feeling – it definitely helped reset the happiness/wellbeing button in my own head.

So looking forward to riding up there again and planning my next trip up there!

Sledmere Sunset Trail 10k

Sledmere Sunset Trail race on Friday night was a bit of a last minute (week) decision. I haven’t really run properly since Edinburgh Half Marathon so I knew it was never going to be brilliant!

I had managed to get a last minute place – in terms of – I had a place that someone didn’t want/need and it got transferred over, while I was sat in the cinema watching the trailers!

Anyway, back to the race. I tagged along with a mate who was running it and thankfully the weather had, for the most part, had improved. Considering the amount of times I’ve been through Sledmere, I have never stopped at the house so it was actually quite a treat to be there.

I registered, had a bit of a moan about how unfit I am and wandered down to the start line. The 10k did on mini lap – the 3.8km mini trail race route then did a longer loop around the estate. I have to say, the route, for 80% was really lovely – reasonably muddy but not XC style thankfully, undulating but few real hills as such (cant believe I’m saying that of all things!). I was doing ok for the first 5km – a bit caught up with slower runners but I wasn’t initially too worried – then we hit grass. I hate running on grass. Majorly. To me it is harder than sand.

From about 5/6km in to 7km, you had to run down the bottom of a long valley – and it was awful. Just energy/leg zapping grass. Even my mate at the end had a moan about that bit! Then a climb out and another run through the woods and down the trails. Apart from the grass, my only bug bear with other runners was down to the fact that very few were willing to fling themselves down the descents!

It started to rain at the 8k mark but my mate was already in – and I was happy for the rain just to cool off a bit. I pushed the last 2k – to an extent, as it was mostly downhill and then I heard my mate cheering/shouting at me to hurry up as I came to the finish line.

If I hadn’t been so unfit – I think I might have enjoyed it more – the scenery and setting was really lovely and doing an impromptu 10k during the week rather than on a weekend in the morning, was actually pretty good! The medal was also one of the nicest I have too! As for the organisation – that was top notch – as was the marshalling and cheering on. Driffield Striders put on a great event!

Same time next year I think!

Edinburgh Marathon Festival Road Trip 2019

What an absolutely epic weekend!

It should be clear by now that I love road trips and that this May has been full of them. It is possible that this weekend has been one of my favourites! All of them have involved eating a lot, drinking a lot and racing, a lot. All good I hear you say! Well you would be right!

There are two main parts to this – the races and the rest of it.

I’ll get to the races but I like chronological order. Possibly due to my inner historian. Anyway…

Background

Why Edinburgh? Why Edinburgh Marathon Festival (EMF) weekend?

Why not? One of my mates is doing Endure 24. He has signed up to run it solo. Edinburgh Marathon Festival formed part of his training plan of sorts (the 5k, the 10k and the marathon). Because our mates and myself are thoughtful, kind and supportive (knowing the likelihood of him reading this – we love you but we think you are a little crazy sometimes), we decided to tag along in support. In my case, with the thoughts of doing Holkham, I decided that it would prompt me to keep running as part of my own training. I decided to sign up for the half-marathon and then cheer on the marathon. I later signed up for the 5k after getting a discount voucher from EMF for my birthday. One of our other mates signed up for the 5k, the 10k and marathon out of support.

This is the result of post-swim/training discussions that result in all sorts of crazy, wonderful plans.

Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities so it was never going to take much persuading to get me there. Any excuse!

The actual trip

So the actual plan of action. There was four of us going to race. We travelled up in pairs and made our plans. I managed to persuade my mate to book first class train tickets – making the most of my railcard – both to Edinburgh and back. This was the wisest decision ever, even if we did lower the average age of the travellers in first considerably. More on this later. My mate, in turn, proceeded to book the wrong tickets home – causing me mini-heart palpitations. Thankfully, he realised! He was also responsible for booking the hostel.

Plans in place we met on the station platform at lunch on Friday and took the train to Edinburgh – making the most of the complimentary drinks and food while doing a great deal of people watching and general chatting. I love traveling by train, and its even better first class! What bemused me most though was how little luggage I had compared to my mate – however I was NOT complaining about this later and was soon rather impressed with his travelling skills. All kudos to him!

Arrival in Edinburgh and searching for our hostel reminded me how many steps there were in the city. To be perfectly honest, I followed my mate so he could have lead me on a right merry dance and I’d never have known! I knew where we were staying would be pretty cool but it was better than I thought it would be. We were Hostelling at the Kick Ass Hostel in Grassmarket – it was genuinely the funkiest place I have ever stayed – in these cool pods! Towel rail, hooks, plug sockets, own mini light, AND funky colour changing lights, black out curtain and own locker cupboard. Bar, plenty of toilets and showers, kitchen etc. All for £30 a night! Winning!

So far so awesome. So first night involved eating pizza, finding our feet and drinking Guiness. Our other mates had got to Edinburgh but both were poorly. This turned out to be a complete bummer as it meant neither of them would be racing. At all. The whole reason we were there. These things happen though. An early night was had and the next day saw my mate racing the 10k, and then both of us doing the 5k. Which was a bit surreal to be fair. Doing one race after the other? Well, I say that, but that was my mate. Watching and then both racing – and the number of people/organisation was impressive. More about the races in particular can be found here.

Post race plan was pretty simple really. Back to the hostel, shower, nap, eat. All of which we did. Brunch and Supper, where I went back in February, was literally around a corner or two from where we were staying so we wandered over before heading into the centre for some retail therapy/drooling over kit. Mentally spending a lot of money. This was followed by tea (I did say we ate a lot!) at a place called Mamma’s in Grassmarket – really reasonably priced, really fresh and really good service. No curry this time. Pre race pasta.

Nerves were starting to kick in about Sunday though. I was feeling it – I suspect my mate was too but he wasn’t showing it as much as I was moaning about it! Constant weather forecast checking and me debating kit and whether I should have brought a long sleeved top summed up my evening! Although I warm up a LOT when I’m running.

Sunday morning came, and I crawled out of bed – my mate came to the start line with me – well actually, it would be more truthful to say he lead me to my race – I was just following his lead! Either way – my mate’s forward planning came to the fore – black plastic bin bags! Kept the rain off perfectly. Anyway – this isn’t so much about the races as the weekend. My mates race start time was two hours after mine so after I’d set off – I’ve no idea what he got up to!

I’m going to skip forward now to post race and getting back into Edinburgh as the race day antics can sit in another post (which I’ve linked above).

We got back into Edinburgh and hobbled back to the hostel – first priority was clearly Guiness. Naturally! Then showers and then berating our mate for not racing. Followed by more drinks in the Beehive. Although our poorly mate deserves some credit – we did manage to all meet up and he suggested Zizzi’s and it was lush! So the eating and drinking carried on. Full three courses for me and the tired marathoner and pizza and desert for the poorly one. There was an internal debate about a final drink but tiredness had kicked in and so we all parted ways and headed back to sleep.

And thankful for a 10am train.

Monday morning – the pair of us aching and stiff, and me suffering with some blisters hobbled about getting our stuff together before a morning coffee and checking out of the hostel. The walk to the station was slower than our original walk from the station. It was at this point where I reminded my mate that he would soon be thankful for first class tickets home. The train was packed down in standard and probably a lot noisier too! We definitely made the most of the complimentary food and drinks, the bit extra space and the quietness. Discussing our weekend, the medal haul and me suggesting another road trip (the key is to drip feed these idea!).

It was with mixed feelings that we departed the train in York – parting ways on the station as I headed to Piccadilly to get the bus back to my pick up point. Sad that the weekend was over, that the racing was over and that I had no more planned road trips. I am more impressed that I didn’t lose my mate over the weekend or that it was as laid back as it was.

I haven’t been so chilled in so long.

Clearly in my mind I’m planning my next road trips and how to rope my mates in….

Maybe I am the bad influence?!

Racing at Edinburgh Marathon Festival

For all I hate running – this weekend I loved it!

Its been a pretty epic weekend in some respects. My mate and I pulling in 5 medals between us.

I’d heard good things about the Edinburgh Marathon Festival from friends who had been and I never need much of an excuse to go north so cutting a long story short (the full story of the weekend is content enough for a blog post in it’s own right), there was four of us heading to Edinburgh to race.

In the end, it ended up being just the two of us racing as the other two were genuinely very poorly.

The racing started on Saturday. I was only down for the 5k but one of my mates was down for the 10k before hand. Feed and watered at breakfast we headed down to the start line – and I watched the start of the 10k race, and waited/watched for my mates return. So far so good, with a cheeky second climb on the 10k – my mate came in with a respectable time and we promptly headed for a cheeky coffee before the 5k.

Racing a 5k…

This seemed odd to me – being a distance I had never raced, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The route takes you around Arthurs Seat – my observations?

  • If doing a short race – such as a 5k, put down a faster than usual time. I tend to plod out a 5k in 32 to 35 minutes – although my last park run was 31 minutes. Anyway – I found myself near the back with all the runners who were clearly not runners, or just starting out. All kudos to them but I found because there were 1500 of us – and the route quite narrow, I struggled to run between to get myself out.
  • This was more of an issue in one respect as the route was a slow gradual pull up hill – so people who could possibly have run were walking – it was a tough pull in that respect but I know I could have slow run it quicker than walk it.
  • It’s over so quickly!
  • The views at the top are just amazing. The most scenic 5k I’ve run.
  • Benefit of a long slow climb at Edinburgh 5k? An awesome down hill which lead to some PB times on Strava in terms of 1km/1 mile etc distances.
  • I reckon, if I had put a faster start time and started further up, I could have smashed my 5k PB.

Did I enjoy it? Yes! Very much! And it was so well organised too!

Perfect racing conditions, good company and well organised. So far EMF was looking like it was going to be a lot of fun!

The Half Marathon..

I cant say I slept well Saturday night or that I was feeling particularly prepared (LSR anyone?!) but I knew that the course was flattish and had PB potential.

Nerves where there but the bigger debate was what to wear. The weather forecast kept changing and although I had brought a waterproof and clothing for post race – it was still all changeable.

Morning came round and I was sort of thankful I had liberated some instant porridge from Sainsburys the night before. Getting up at 6am and eating breakfast I was a little quite when my mate walked into the kitchen. Him contemplating his marathon and me my half. I was more than happy to know he was planning on coming down to the start with me. The forecast had changed and the rain was just drizzle (it saved the torrential for the start of the marathon!). Deciding against the waterproof – we wandered to the start – the hostel perfectly placed close to the start – and I dropped my bag off. I decided NOT to queue for the loo but I wish I had now – which will soon become clear as to why.

Theres not much to say in terms of the waiting and hanging around. It was so busy and so wet! It really was just a quiet waiting game. Thankful for my mates forethought on the bin bag raincoats!

I was near the back – think think id put down a 2:40 time – but my plan all along was 7 minute Ks – so I wasn’t worried about being so far back – it did mean though that I had a 15 minute wait from the gun time to actually getting over the line!

The start of the race though through Edinburgh is just lovely – downhill and down the Royal Mile too! Seeing the city from a different angle was really cool – I didnt over cook myself either. The first 5k flew by but this is where I kicked myself. I decide rather than queue and miss the start of the race (in hindsight a daft idea), I’d go at the 5k mark – but this lost me time that, if I had gone before, would have seen the official time be sub-2:30.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing though.

Anyway, back to the race – I managed to keep a good pace – right through to the 6 mile mark my head was in a good space and my feet still holding up. Breathing was perfect and I suspect that the slow runs on the treadmill really played a part here.

After the half way mark my feet, or rather toes, started to get sore and I knew I would get blisters. The second half of the race took us out to Musslebourgh and Preston Pans – fairly familiar places as I’d been to watch the half-iron last year. The atmosphere was good though – all the way round. The route fairly flat and my pacing consistent – I was even in a pretty good place mentally and enjoying it, but by the 8 mile mark I was trying to work out the maths as to how far was left in kilometres as well as how long it would take if I ran at a certain pace. I never quite managed to work it out (I spoke to my mate about this and he does the same in races). By mile 10 my right hip and glute was starting to complain too!

Either way – we reached the part of the course that had the switch back.

I hate switch backs. So the marathoners 10 mile switch back must be horrific.

The turn around point seemed to take forever to get to and my feet were so sore by this point. I kept glancing at my watch – I was looking at a negative split – my pace increased and I was feeling mostly ok.

I managed to work out that I might be able to get the sub 2:30. I know thats not fast but I was on track for a half marathon PB.

I still done know how I managed to push the pace at the end to the extent I did. At the switch back point it was sheer determination and a bit of run/walk strategy and clock watching that got me to the end. This wasn’t helped by the headwind that all the runners encountered on the switch back – I dread to think how demoralising this was for the marathoners (my mate and many others commented on just how awful it was!). The sign for 25 miles for the marathon appeared and I knew that there was only 1.2 miles between the finish and me. I went for it.

The finishing shoot appeared and I tried to sprint finish but as soon as I pushed harder I could feel that I might just be sick and eased back – just enough not to be. It was awesome! I had got round a half marathon, with very little walking and knew I’d got a PB! I was incredibly happy about this but I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet.

Walking through to retrieve my medal and goody bag was well organised and clear. I really couldn’t fault the organisation. I went and retrieved my bag (very quickly – I genuinely was impressed with this!). Next priorities were actually getting changed and getting food. Next time I am taking a towel. I could have had a proper shower!

I got changed and had a bit of a chat with some of the women in the changing room and went in search of food – I had at least a two hour wait for my mate. A peanut butter and banana waffle and a cup of tea later, and I was sat chatting to some of the marathon finishers as well as a couple of blokes from Doncaster who were supporting their wives. Thankfully by this time the sun was shinning despite the wind. Now was just the waiting game – but a chance for me to contemplate how much I had enjoyed it – and how much my mindset had changed when it came to pushing (I think a lot of this is to do with racing TTs and my stubborn determination to push through the pain on them – I think its helping my running mojo).

The marathon… 

I didn’t do the marathon but I did go to watch the finishers and to keep an eye out for my mate. Time ticked by and I genuinely started to worry that I’d missed him. Thankfully I hadn’t – and I genuinely was relieved to see him come in. The headwind had had an rubbish impact on his race but such is life – that switch back was never going to be pretty.

The best thing about racing with mates is the post race review and chat – it is so much better when you’re with mates.

Once changed and ready – then came the worst bit of organisation/lack of local knowledge/only annoying bit of the whole weekend happened. There were a load of buses sat outside the playing field/school where the finish was. These were apparently the local and spectator buses.

We had a right walk to get the buses back into Edinburgh and paid £5.50 for the privilege! Then there was a faff sorting out which buses we needed to be on. Getting back to the hostel and talking to another lad who had done the marathon, what we should have done is just get one of the local buses back. £1.70 and less hassle/walking.

Despite this, on the bus back into Edinburgh, I was seriously contemplating and discussing doing the whole lot again next year!

So it must have been good!

And I have (temporally at least), found my running mojo again!

Rock’n’roll Half Dublin anyone?!

Pressing Reset – Holkham

This has come as a bit of a surprise to even me but after seeing a Facebook post about changing my A race, a month of being far too sociable and thinking I can manage to balance everything, as well as a rubbish race last night and cold….. I’ve decided to quit Holkham and change to Outlaw X in September.

After speaking to mates last night and some equally awesome people on Twitter, this will come as no real surprise – there are multiple reasons for this and I am quite happy to share them – I don’t feel at all bad about changing my race or my priorities – in fact if anything, going to see Graeme Obree speak last week has just reaffirmed my own outlook to not really care what others think, to not worry too much about life’s purpose and to enjoy the moment. I’m not a pro and life happens and no-one will die as a result of me changing my mind!

So why the change?

  • I don’t think I will be race fit in 6 weeks. That is completely my own doing. I had a plan. I was, at the start, doing well to keep to The Plan. Then I booked too many social things and took on extra work with my own business and an extra day at work in the day job, that I’ve struggled to fit it in – slowly heading towards burn out.
  • I was too ambitious with my initial training plan – I think this may have contributed to my loss of running mojo. It had all started so well too! I know too well though that this does ebb and flow anyway.
  • My friend withdrawing meant that I was racing far from home on my own. Ok this is a bit of a no-goer as an excuse and her decision, like mine, has been the right one (so no feeling bad!!). Changing my race means I can probably actually get out on the bike more with her, which was part of the original plan when we discussed Holkham anyway so win win! We will be back! And I’d still like to do Holkham.
  • Delaying/changing my A race means I can take on board what I’ve learnt in the last three months and get it right or rather improve it. How many people honestly get to reset their training during a race season? We are still only just in to triathlon racing season and I’ve a reasonably ok base on which to restart – so taking this as a mini win.
  • I need to reset – building on from the last point. I’ve come down with cold/chesty cough and noticed last night how much it effects my riding. As well as getting a good kick in the backside about doing more hills and actually going and doing some S&C – as one of my mates keeps nagging me to do. I need to mix up my training again. I also need to swim more as I have signed up for Coniston End to End and that now lands BEFORE my half-iron distance race.
  • Outlaw X is quite a bit closer to home. I hadn’t sorted out my accommodation for Holkham but Nottinghamshire is closer – which has some obvious travelling advantages. I also think I know a few people who might be doing it so that’s a bit of a winner for me too.
  • The weather will, hopefully, stand a chance of being cooler. Equally, there is a higher chance of it being a lot wetter – but I don’t really do well in heat – to be fair, this is just an advantage of having a later race – it could end up being an Indian summer and hot!
  • It gives me chance to go do some sportive that I’d like to do which will help with training – after last years events and thinking about my cycle fitness by September last year – I was in a good place – hopefully I will be in an even better place by this September!
  • Hopefully I have learnt to not book in too many social events – or rather, balance them a bit better. I feel like, after 8 years of being in a relationship with someone who actually wasn’t that spontaneous and that up for mini-adventures, I’ve been making up for lost time. I don’t want to lose that but I’ve been thinking about this a lot since Alnwick Sprint a couple of weeks ago – why not incorporate my mini-adventures/road trips with training? So going forward, I want to incorporate them.
  • Triathlon/training has taken over a bit too much and I need to step back as well I think. Hopefully in changing races, I can actually take a step back. I am heeding the warnings of my friends about burnout before I do actually properly burn out.

Genuinely think this is a good call on my part. A middle distance triathlon was the goal for this year and changing it has all sorts of advantages. It also means that I stand a better chance of getting a time I am actually happy with compared to racing in 6 weeks and possibly breaking myself!

Roll on a summer of training and enjoying life!

 

Why hello 2019!

So I receive a tweet suggesting I change my Twitter name/handle – I think I probably should. I cant believe how far I’ve actually come in the last six or seven months. Anyway, this quick post isn’t about that – but it did make me think about what I should change it to – food for thought and suggestions welcome!

It’s not even about the fact I spend New Year’s Eve tinkering with TT bars on my bike and watching GCN videos on YouTube.

No – it’s about the fact that I spent the first day of the year on my CX bike, with a mate, plodding (read: getting whooped) around the Blue Route at Sherwood Pines. Poor lad had to deal with me coughing my guts up most of the day. I went last Friday and was fine, despite cough, today, on lack of sleep and coughing – it was hard going. I suppose the fact that my mate is far far stronger and skilled than I am put me through my paces didn’t help matters but the sun came out, I ate cake and had a lot of fun. Should 2019 continue in such a manner then bring it on!