Sunday, 29 January 2012

Training Run - 25 Miles - Vale of Belvoir, Lincolnshire & Leicestershire

A Handy Salt Bin
There are always hundreds of reason not to do a long training run, bad weather, lack of sleep, lack of motivation, can't be bothered....but the need for London Marathon training was the reason which trumped excuses. I left a colleague's leaving doo early on Friday evening after drawing on powers of discipline to sip cola instead of ale and wine and went home to get the car. In a similar way to last year I spent the latter part of Friday evening driving round a planned running route to drop drinks and food at strategic points along the way. At 8am on Saturday morning I left Grantham for a route which passed through - Denton - Harston - Branston - Barkstone - Redmile - Belvoir Castle - Woolsthorpe - Denton - Harlaxton and back to Grantham.

What Lincolnshire lacks in hills it makes up for in the beauty of its arable farming landscape and quintessential English Villages. I ran steadily past Harlaxton Hall, now used by the University of Edmunsville to give US children the chance to spend a term in England and on to Denton. I stopped at Denton to sip a sports drink, which I'd dropped in the village salt bin the previous evening. Last year I was unable to drop drinks the night before as they would have become frozen overnight. I ran on, along a straight stretch of road to Harston stepping off the road intermittently to allow tipper trucks to bypass. I counted three tipper lorries in the short stretch to Harston, each with their load of what looked like earth. After Harston I ran on to Knipton enjoying the sight of Belvior Castle to the right. It was a grey day and although it wasn't raining there was precipitation in the air. I climbed out of Knipton to reach a plateau with a view of Belvoir Lake through the trees, just visible in the valley to the right. I was glad to be wearing my new Running Bear top with a thin fleece lining, as a chilly wind blew occasionally across the fields. On the way to Branstone I passed a woman pushing a pram. She was walking along a remote country lane, before 9am in the morning and attached to the pram were perhaps five small terrier dogs secured with a length of rope. It was a sight that would seem unusual anywhere other then remote rural Lincolnshire. I exchanged pleasantries and ploughed on unsure of what or who was in the pram.

Snow Drops
Running through Branston there was an aroma of cooked breakfast coming from the fine stone cottages which flank the village high street. It felt like it should have been midday but I reminded myself it was still early morning. I stopped for drinks again shortly after Branston and ran on the 4 miles to Barkstone. The journey from Branston to Barkstone involves the highest part of the run descending steeply down the Belvoir escarpment along a road through the woods. The snow drops in the woods were plentiful, an unexpected treat and worth getting out of bed for. At the bottom of the escarpment, the steeple of the Church at Barkstone can be seen nestling in the distance. I was glad to be running along a straight quiet road. I was beginning to tire and I questioned whether moving my next drink stop a mile further on had been a good idea. After winding through the streets of Barkstone I passed a couple of horse riders and on the bridge over the canal at Redmile I was glad to find my next drink, banana and jaffa cake bar. I had dropped 'capri sun drinks' along the route but I hadn't realised that I had purchased the fresh orange version, not the easiest thirst quencher to drink and I was a bit concerned about the effect on my stomach. I ran on moments later back towards the magnificent Belvoir Castle which stood proudly on the hill in the distance. By the time I reached the castle stiffness was setting in and I was grateful for the descent to Woolsthorpe by Belvoir before the short stiff incline towards Denton which is part of the Grantham Half Marathon route. I staggered back into Denton and arrived back at the salt bin that had been my first pit stop some hours earlier. Here I drank the rest of my sports drink and half a banana, I left the jaffa cake bar as I was tired and wanted to get back home. Another short incline towards Harlaxton passed and I ran with renewed energy glad to see Grantham Town in the distance.

I arrived at the Farrier Public House and could see a couple of runners coming towards me in the distance. When they got closer I could see it was fellow London Marathon training compatriots and Grantham AC Members, Ben Hatherley and Ben Mason. We exchanged greetings and ran on, me towards home and Ben and Ben out on their own long training run. The sight of two others out training for the same goal inspired me through the last couple of miles but I was glad I wasn't in their position just heading out towards the Vale! 

Belvoir Castle
3 hours 24 minutes later I arrived back home with just enough time to relax in a hot bath before settling on the settee to watch the sad sight of Liverpool beat Man Utd in the FA Cup. It was great to lay watching lunch time football whilst eating scrambled eggs, with stiff legs content in the knowledge that I'd put a steady 25 miles on my legs in the morning. I had a Stella during the second half and didn't feel guilty at all.

On Sunday I cycled the same route to pick up my drink and food litter and took a few photos to illustrate this blog post.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Ropsley Raid 2012

Ben Hatherley - Grantham AC runs away from the field.
I started 2012 well, too well. A terrible hills reps session was the straw that broke my over trained or under rested body. The hill reps session wasn't terrible in the sense of being badly organised, it was terrible in the sense of being very hard! The last time I did any speed work was when I lived in London and I did a similar hill reps session with Ealing Runners. In 2002 I trained regularly with the BBC Running Club and we did fast reps sessions at lunch time round a park near White City. I know from experience that 'speed work' improves stamina and speed and is an essential ingredient of spring marathon training. My experience a week last Tuesday confirmed that speed work doesn't get easier with age. As I staggered to the top of the first hill sprint I took the bowed head, hands on knees position and between 'F' words questioned whether I was up to the other nine reps of the same punishment which had been directed by session organiser McArdle. In the event I carried it through and felt pleased with my accomplishment. Plenty of lunch time runs, a bit of treadmill in the evening, an occasional longer run and a 16 mile steady run culminating in a hill reps session meant I'd started the new year as intended, then came the familiar sore throat and cold that meant I had to ease back and consequently I decided against the Ropsley Raid.     

Ropsley Raid

Grantham AC
Instead I decided to spectate. I left the house, drove through the McD's drive through for coffee and some time before 11.30am I was sipping full roast whilst standing in a field with only a couple of Hare's and a distant gaggle of Deer for company. I had a pretty good view of Kirton Wood in the distance from which I knew runners would soon emerge. It felt fairly surreal stood by myself sipping McDonalds coffee in a remote part of the Lincolnshire countryside surrounded by silence and green but in the knowledge that in just a few minutes the silence would be broken by the sound of tired runners crossing the fields for home.

First Place but he didn't mean it!
The Ropsley Raid is organised by Ropsley Runners and informal group of folk who are responsible for the 13 mile cross country trek. In addition Ropsley Runners hold the 6 mile dash on a summer's evening. The race runs across a runnable cross country route, circular from the village of Ropsley just outside of Grantham. Eventually a small figure appeared climbing a stile in the distance, the first runner had arrived. I moved back towards the route to offer a bit of encouragement. An unidentified runner from Sleaford Striders was leading the field. I think he thought I was the race referee or something because as I clapped he slowed down, looked seriously and said, "I'm only at the front by default". Slightly perplexed I shrugged my shoulders and encouraged him on, he disappeared but perhaps lost a couple of seconds and the next runner wasn't that far behind! Soon afterwards I saw a few Grantham AC folk run by.  Ben Hatherley came through in perhaps 8th place and was looking strong and far too cheerful. Ben had obviously coped better with the previous hill reps session than I and was reaping the rewards for his intensive training.  Stuart Sinclair, Grantham AC ran past some time after struggling with lactic build up and possibly jet lagged after Christmas in Australia. I did see a few more Grantham athletes running strong races one of whom is pictured.
I started on my journey back to the finish and felt a bit envious as I watched runners bask in their post race tea and cake. The Ropsley Raid usually has an unusual memento, to compliment the sandwich and tea voucher, this year a black scarf with the inscription " I Raided Ropsley". And so it was a nice morning out. I would have rather been running and despite the subsequent cold I'm determined to keep up the speed work before London. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" or so they say...

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Happy New Year - 2012 Plans and a trip to Edale from Disley.

Chinley (Kinder Scout in background)

Christmas was predictably full of excess but not of the athletic kind. Too many nights out and too little running resulted in weight gain and lack of fitness. Although not a training run I did manage a walk from Disley to Edale on the 2nd January following the Bullock Smithy Route which ended in a run for the train. Pictures of the route illustrate this post. The weather was good but very wet underfoot. i walked with my partner from the Moorside Hotel over Chinley Churn up Edale Cross and on to Edale station. In addition to the Edale walk I have done a bit of post Christmas running staggering. I have struggled round two five mile circuits in Grantham since new year and am waiting for that happy time when a five mile run seems relatively easy so I can get back into a proper training routine. At the moment its hard I'm paying the price.

The year's first big challenge will be the Virgin London Marathon in April. I have entered the Stamford St Valentines 30k, the Sleaford Half Marathon and will probably enter the Ashby 20 mile race in preparation for London. I am also likely to do the Grantham Ultra running Nottingham to Grantham and back again the next day. In addition I am hoping to do more speed work ahead of London possibly with Grantham AC on a Tuesday evening.

The path up to Edale Cross

After London I hope to 'run further' this year. I have registered for the LDWA 100 mile event in May. this year's event begins in central London to celebrate the Olympic Games, 100 miles later the course ends in Windsor. A London event is unusual for the 100 with rural settings preferred in previous years. I don't know if I can run 100 miles but I know that many people do so many times during the year so its time to have a go. Jez Bragg and Lizzie Hawker are perhaps Britain's most prolific ultra racers of the moment both regularly running 100 miles or more and often using their talents overseas. It's inspirational following such exploits. This year Jez Bragg will against race again in the US Western States 100 mile race, one of the toughest ultras in the world and he will also compete again in the UTMB. The Americans seem to have a much more active Ultra running scene and 100 mile races are common. Mark Hartell (another top British Ultra runner) and his friends have created a UK ultra running series which has been growing in popularity over the past few years. This year my favourite event, the Bullock Smithy is back within the series and hopefully more of the top ultra runners will be attracted to the event as result. Last years record by James Scott Buccleuch will be difficult to beat but having the Bullock Smithy in the Ultra series ensures a popular and exciting event.

I have also committed to running with Grantham AC in the Thunder Run I have never run a 24 hour relay before but I am assured that the event is a running spectacle and I look forward to taking part. In addition to the major events, London, 100, TR and the Bullock Smithy, there will no doubt be many other fun events along the way starting with the Ropsley Raid 13 mile event next Sunday. Happy running in 2012 I hope that all readers of the blog achieve their goals and have fun along the way. Keep on running!