Sunday, 19 February 2012

Sleaford Half Marathon 2012

The Sleaford Half Marathon starts and finishes in the grounds of RAF Cranwell, Lincolnshire. Such was the quality of the facilities, I had to keep reminding myself that I was at an air base. Football, Rugby and Cricket pitches surrounded the Sultan Quaboos Pavilion and gliders quietly flew overhead. A beautiful sunny day greeted the 337 runners who turned out for a 10.30am start.

Before the start at RAF Cranwell

The route tracked out of the grounds across the sports pitches before meandering past air base accommodation. There followed perhaps a couple of miles off road along a track. I had taped my ankle today and reminded myself to concentrate hard on the off road sections and keep the joint in an upright position. I've also invested in a balance cushion from Aldi to try and improve the "The motor control centre in the cerebellum to improve dysfunctional coordination patterns"!? or to train my brain to tell my feet to react quicker to obstacles underfoot. The off road start helped to maintain a steady pace and by the time the road section arrived I was running free, enthused by the wall to wall sunshine. Although the sun shone brightly it was cold and there was an occasional strong wind which created a bit of a challenge to the pace. The views across Lincolnshire were far and wide. One part of the route traverses an escarpment and you could see for miles in the westerly distance. 

Stuart Sinclair, Grantham AC blasts home.
There were frequent drinks stations and occasional volunteers handing out jelly babies. I avoided the sweets, no time to chew but drank plenty aware that I wasn't properly hydrated. The rest of the route followed quiet country lanes which were easy to run along. There were quite a few long straight sections which challenged the mind but helped in maintain a steady, even pace. Eventually I saw the wind sock of the airfield in the distance and managed to increase speed across the final three miles. On entering the grounds of the RAF base the biting wind was blowing strongly across the sports fields. I passed another contender on the home straight and finished in 1:32:27 minutes in 56th position. I would hope to run faster on another day but was encouraged because I felt strong throughout and managed to muster a good finish. 

Performance of the day for Grantham AC was Stuart Sinclair's 34th position in a super fast 1:27:52 gazumping the talented, ever present, Arthur Short, 36th 1:28:02 in the final leg of the race. In the ladies race, Catherine Payne came home 4th in 1:38:49 narrowly missing the third podium place and with a time that I think I heard was a PB.  A big turnout of Grantham runners followed, Full results here.         

A triumphant finisher!
This was a very good well organised race. Having no previous experience of military life, it was interesting to see the facilities available to those that serve the country. Apparently the air base also hosts a recruitment and selection centre and an RAF college. Perhaps as a more sobering thought, the base is also used as a rehabilitation centre for injured personnel. For an average entry fee there was a decent race over a decent course, a t-shirt, a well stocked goody bag, a tea voucher, chip timing which included a text of my race time which was sent to me as I pulled out of the car park and all backed by quality facilities in nice grounds.      

A few more photies here

Sunday, 12 February 2012

The not Stamford St Valentine's 30k 2012

Training for a marathon is like walking a ledge. When you are on the ledge you are training well. Sometimes, but not often you'll walk above the ledge but it's very easy to fall off the ledge and then getting back on the ledge is difficult. The aim is to keep on the ledge until race day.

This week has been a disappointment. After the Rauceby Ripper I didn't run Sunday until Thursday. On Thursday I ran with Grantham AC and about one mile into an 8ish mile run I turned my ankle again. I managed to get up and keep running without much difficulty but the ankle was swollen the next day. Consequently I didn't run on Friday or Saturday. Sunday was the St Valentine's 30K, a great race organised by Stamford Striders. On Saturday morning whilst shopping in Nottingham I got a call from a friend who runs for Stamford Striders...the race was off.

The 2011 race inc Catherine Payne & Mark Hillson, Grantham AC
Snow had fallen across Lincolnshire on Thursday evening which might have contributed to my turned ankle. By Saturday the thaw was well underway. It was explained to me that although much of the course was clear, 2.5 kilometers of the route was covered in sheet ice. Despite the organisers purchasing £200 worth of salt and calling on an army of volunteers to "pick" the ice, their efforts were in vain. The course was too dangerous and the race was called off, a decision that I'm sure the majority of runners, whilst disappointed, will support. I had run but 8 steady miles in a week and now a key race in the build up to London wasn't going to happen. I had fallen off the ledge.

I didn't feel at all like it but decided to do another lap of the 25 mile training route across the Vale of Belvoir described below. I decided to try and run faster to compensate for the lost race pace. I felt like I had run much faster and was surprised to get back home just three minutes faster than a lap of the route two weeks earlier. At least I'd salvaged something from a slack week and did at least feel like I was back, or almost back on the ledge! Next up, the Sleaford Half Marathon, a race I haven't done before and hopefully a bit of decent mileage and "terrible" speed work before then.    


Saturday, 4 February 2012

Rauceby Ripper 2012

Post Race Chat
"When the body cries stop, the spirit cries never." At 8.30am on Saturday morning the alarm rang and I staggered to the curtains. It was cold in the bedroom and it looked even colder outside. The body said "stop and go back to bed". Somewhere on the return leg, the spirit kicked in, I swerved the bed and went for a shower.

Thirty minutes later, I left Grantham on my bike for Rauceby, a typically quaint village west of Sleaford, Lincolnshire. It was bitterly cold during the 11 mile cycle across the Lincolnshire countryside, passing through Londonthorpe, Welby, Oasby and Culverthorpe before reaching Rauceby. I was late. I always seem to be late. I arrived at 10.10am for a 10.30am start. After rushing through registration and changing clothes in a hurry, I ran to the start which was some 1/4 of a mile away from registration at Rauceby Village Hall. My feet, which had felt like ice blocks during the cycle, began to warm up.
Keith Measures? Grantham AC leaves a competitor floundering in his wake!

There was a safety announcement at the start. It had recently snowed and the ground was covered and frozen hard. The sun shone brightly, a typically crisp day, perfect for running . The Rauceby Ripper runs through a private estate, a vast expanse of land with a huge gaff in the middle. The lady of the manor was presented with a bunch of flowers to thank her for opening up the estate to a hundred or so brightly clothed runners who had nothing better to do on a Saturday morning. The start gun went I ran at a steady pace, attempting to conserve energy. There were no mile markers which presented a mental challenge as you can't help but guess where on the 8 mile course you are likely to be. 

I felt strong throughout and noticed that I was able to sustain a good effort despite breathing hard, perhaps that "terrible" speed work is beginning to pay dividends. I passed a couple of runners over the past few miles to finish 12th in 56:51. Full results here. 
A frosty finish
The Rauceby Ripper was an excellent event. The route is picturesque and runners benefited from a sunny winter's day which allowed great views across the Lincolnshire fen. The race runs across tracks, field edges and road. The goody bag at the end rivalled the Stockport 10 and included a chocolate bar, a key ring, a fluffy sticker!?, a gold coloured metal shoe for the mantle piece and a bag of crisps. Post race I retired to the village hall for a cup of tea, and then another to wash down the crisps. I didn't much fancy the cycle back to Grantham but once I set off I enjoyed the ride and felt satisfied that the spirit had beaten the body. In contrast to my feet being cold on the way out, it was my hands that got it big time on the return leg. 

On the way back, after flying down the road from Londonthorpe, I encountered a limping runner. I stopped to ask him if he was ok. It turned out he'd turned his ankle by Belton Tower and he was trying to stagger back to his house on the Manthorpe Estate. He was grateful for the offer of my mobile but on ringing his Dad to ask to be rescued his answer phone kept kicking in! I couldn't help anymore, i was on my bike, my partner was away with the car and so I watched my  running brethren limp off through the Alma Park estate. He decided to divert to his sister's house instead. I was pretty sure he'd be ok but he did look mighty cold!            

PS - There's a new product on the running market, ideal for those awkward long runs when carrying water is an effort. I won't be using here