Friday, July 31, 2009

Rest is Best!

I got back into Vancouver on Monday and found myself in a sprawling mass of heat, humidity and jetlag. Unknowing to my mind, my body had been taking the punishment of extensive travel and was ready to break. But when…?

I went for an easy run to clear my head and loosen the legs and bumped into Kevin. We shared stories, laughed and parted company – 7 miles.

That night I couldn’t sleep, it was too hot, too sticky and my mind was all over the place. At 6am I went for a run along the beach; on a tranquil morning with the sun rising over the mountains and a cool breeze it was blissful. My legs felt heavy, but that was normal.

Wednesday was the hottest day in Vancouver since records began. The average temperature is apparently 22°C and it was 36°C, by the time I left the apartment at 7pm it was still in the thirties and at every water fountain I made sure I stopped to drink. Even the shade of Stanley Park couldn’t shield me from the inferno, but the freedom of running was strong and I went for 10 miles.

Down at Beaver Lake for Thursday’s workout with the guys I knew I was going to suffer. After five miles of easy running just to get there I was already dripping, my shorts completely soaked in sweat; it was like Des Moines all over again.

Rep 1 (1km) – Target time 2:55 … Actual time 3:05. The legs were going round, but they weren’t moving forward. The heat was oppressive, completely brutal. I ran slower than my 5k pace.

Rep 2 (2km) – Target time 6:10 – Actual time 6:19. After the first kilometre I felt like stopping, my legs had turned to jelly, they were physically melting beneath me. I pushed on, my breath escaping from my lungs like lava being thrown from a volcano, forced into the atmosphere.

Rep 3 (2km) – Target time 6:10 – Actual time 6:41. In short, I collapsed after the finish. Hyperventilating and with my legs failing I fell against a log. I couldn’t get up, my vision went blurry, all I could hear was Coach John shouting out the times of the finishers. I had given everything, pushed my body too far, my heart had the strength but my body had broken.

Thankfully one of our members gave me a couple of energy sweets and I finished off my bottle of water. I sat out the final rep, clapping home Jay, Ynuk, Brad, Dave, Paul and Phil who were all giving everything and running well. I tried to comprehend what had happened.

I have to rest a while. My body broke down. It needs to build back up. I’ve put myself through too much. Next Friday I have a 14km race in Hungary at an event I’m going to, but if I’m not up to it then I won’t start. I don’t want to create damage that can’t be repaired.

As far as running is concerned…
Roll on the autumn, roll on the rain, cleanse my skin, flush the tiredness from my bones. Get me out there in the early mornings, watching the sun rise. Get me out there in the evenings, watching the sun go down. Let me bask in late summer sunshine, let me kick up the fallen leaves, let me hear the crunch of snow beneath my feet. Make me whole again.

But as far as life goes, I want to preserve this summer, I don't want it to end.
Enough from me, I’m signing off for a while. I’ll let you know when I’m ready to talk about running again.

The Broken and the Beaten

Next target, beating 2:30 for the marathon.
Who's coming to Sacramento with me?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Finally, the 10k PB is Broken!

I set my 10km road PB back in February 2006 at the renowned flat course in Bourton-on-the-Water during the height of marathon training. 33:14 for a 20 year old in perfect conditions... not bad going. But then 33:14 came to haunt me... I just couldn't break it; I'd get injured (early 2007), get a stitch (Sherston 10k 2007), turn to marathon aspirations (2008), and then get another stitch (Vancouver Sun Run 2009).

During this time Bourton was ridiculed as being short by many athletes, although the deadpan flat and wind-less out and back course on fantastic country lanes was naturally quick and a good group of guys could speed round in double quick time, helping each other out in the knowledge that this was a special place to run.

2009's Bourton 10k was taken off the record books following unnaturally quick times, including an incredible 32:32 for Alyson Dixon. Midland Counties asked for the course to be re-measured and it came in 110m short. Ouch! Whether 2006 used exactly the same course is another matter, but it still haunted me... that is until one day after my 24th birthday.

The Stroud AC 10k champs was meant to be a strictly club affair in the local village of Cherington, however due to some tenuous connections (going to school in the town and training with the Stroud guys) the organisers turned a blind eye to both myself and good mate and GB under 23 x-country star Tom Russell, who left his homeclub to run for Bristol and West AC.

It was decided the day before on Facebook that Tom would run round in a very steady 33mins as a tempo, well within his capabilities, and the rest of us would hang on in for as long as we could. Over a testing course I thought 33:14 was probably out of reach, and sure enough the remnants of a passing storm left breezy conditions out on the country roads. Anyway, to hell with it, with nothing to lose both Julian (Judd) Hough and I decided to have a crack at it.

Mile 1: 5:10 flat / felt pretty good and I pushed Tom on to run a bit faster
Mile 2: 4:56 flat-downhill / took on mile two but was shocked at the mile split
Mile 3: 5:24 uphill-flat / Judd and Tom came storming past on the hill to Rodmarton
Mile 4: 5:20 undulating / Pushed back past Judd, Tom came with me to help out
Mile 5: 5:14 undulating / Tom sheltering me from the wind as we headed for home
Mile 6: 5:31 uphill-flat / final long uphill hurt like hell, but stayed strong and opened up
Finish: 1:11 undulating / (4:46 miling) nice kick for home, really pleased with it
TIME: 32:51

Wow! On a seriously undulating and windy course I knocked 23 seconds off the PB and dipped under 33 minutes for the first time. Both Tom and I were wearing our Garmins and clocked the mile markers to within 0.01 accuracy and both had 6.22 miles showing at the finish - awesome! On a fast flat course I reckon there's another sizable chunk to come off that.

My incredible thanks to Tom for pacing me around, sheltering me from the wind and dragging me up the hills. Fantastic to have someone of his calibre working for us out there, and I will have to repay the favour in beer at Christmas! The Mince Pie run on Christmas Eve is going to be special!

Right off to bed. Am heading to Hamburg in the morning for the next leg of the 'Tri Tour'. Roll on some more PBs!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Training Week 12 July - 18 July 12.86m / 1:30:36 / 7:03 miling
Because of the German GP the women's race in Kitzbuhel didn't start until 4pm so plenty of time to get a long-ish decent hilly Sunday run done in the Alps. Took some energy tablets with me and they seemed to be digestible and work... maybe something to use over 26.2 in the autumn.

Mon. Rest - transfer to Munich --> Birmingham --> HOME!! 6.24m / 46:42 / 7:29 miling
Quick trip up to Loughborough to see Tim Hall before he departed for holiday. Nice run around Outwoods reliving the glory days in a torrential downpour. Catch up with a few of the guys in the evening. 2m WU - 6 x 150m strides - 2m WD
Nice leg stretcher before Thursday's 5k, feeling pretty bouncy. Afterwards the bridge of my foot felt very sore and had some problems walking. Not good. 2.18m / 15:16 / 7:01 miling
Easy jog to wake the legs up. Didn't fancy sitting on them all day with the race not getting underway until 7:45pm. Foot feeling ok, bettered overnight. 1m WU - White Horse 5k, 15:36 (3rd) - 1.33m WD
Lashing it down with rain all afternoon but said I'd take one for the Chelt guys, so rocked up to some hamlet the other side of Gloucester. Found the pub about 15mins before the start, so managed an adrenaline filled 5min jog before getting underway.

Race lead out by Dalton and Roper with a couple of younger guys in tow. I started steadily and worked through it, picking off the first guy to drop off the pace at 2k, then Sam Dagliesh at 3.5k. Finished strongly to get a PB by six seconds. Ironically Chelt placed 5 in 17 but had no 6th man so lost the team prize to Severn. Thanks to Dave Newport, Andy Proph and the Norris bros for the support.

1. Tim Dalton, Severn AC 14:59
2. Dave Roper, Cheltenham 15:12
3. Peter Holmes, Cheltenham 15:36 19.67m / 2:09:04 / 6:34 miling
Was aiming for a 15 miler, but took a wrong turn in Sherston and ended up going out for over two hours. Rather dehydrated and tired, pleased to have a Frijj in the fridge! All good for marathon training though. 2.00m easy - 8 x 180m hills - 2.10m easy
Needed something short and sharp following the long run so hit my favourite strength workout of Cirencester Road reps. Hurting like hell but moving well and powerfully. Rep times: 36, 36, 36, 36, 34, 34, 35, 34 for ~180m.
Unfortunately I stacked it (tripped over a lace of all things!) just a mile into the run and cut my hands, elbow and right knee, but carried on to get the session done. Once I stopped my body really tightened up and became quite sore.

Run total: 57.60m / 6:38:49 / 6:58 miling avg

Nice to be home for a week between legs of the European based races, and great to get a run done in Loughborough and get a race done as well. PB making it especially pleasing.

I've really enjoyed turning my attention to shorter distances and hopefully the lactic threshold work will in turn benefit my endurance when marathon training comes back around in September. 15:36 isn't exactly setting the world alight, but it's nice to have a decent PB to reflect on. Definitely gunning for sub-15:30 next year.

My trip on Saturday has left me a little bruised around my right knee, but hopefully having taken Sunday off I can make a 'birthday run' on Monday. Would like to run the Stroud AC 10k on Tuesday evening, even just to pace someone round, as it's only three miles from home... perfect for a warm up/down... if anyone from Stroud happens to read this, do you think I can make an appearance as a loosely affiliated ex-pat?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Another PB for the Year

On a whim I turned up at the Gloucester White Horse 5k this evening on instruction of Cheltenham team manager, Proph. Having watched the rain come down all afternoon like stair rods I was in two minds whether to run or not, but with the Chelt crew out in force I thought I would show my face and take one for the team.

Having navigated myself to the hamlet of Sandhurst just north of Gloucester I proceeded to spend half an hour trying to find the damn pub on flooded roads. If it wasn't for the fact I'd been in the car for 75 minutes I may well have turned back, but with 15 minutes to spare I found the start.

I managed to get a 'quick' five minute warm up done as the rain eased off a bit and lined up ready for some fun. Dave Roper was out for us and old Uni mate Tim Dalton was also on the start line, so at least I knew how to pace myself this time round.

We started smoothly with Tim and Dave hitting the front with a couple of young guys from Westbury tucking in behind. I started steadily, trying not to blow up as I did in the Yaletown Grand Prix. At the 2k mark I caught and passed the first of the guys to drop off the front group and flew past - he was not getting back on!

Sam Dalgliesh was the next guy to fall off the pace of the leading pair and I caught and past him under the watchful eye of Dave Newport with about 1500m to go. Despite the puddles I was able to pick out a pretty decent line, although I reckon there were another couple of seconds to be had if the corners weren't under water.

I got the "half a mile to go" shout from the marshalls and put my head down, wound up the pace, and went for home. I went for the line about 200m out but kept imagining I was just running the final half a lap at a Kerrisdale track session.

Having not worn a watch I was delighted to hear I ran 15:36 which is six seconds faster than the Longest Day, and a new PB. It also consolidates my second place in the VFAC rankings and leaves me just 11 seconds behind a certain Mr McDonald... although I think a sub-15:30 might have to wait twelve months! My prize of two boxes of biscuits made the trip extra worth while!

I didn't think I'd run as well as I did, but it felt good, my legs were springy and full of life. It was as if I was exactly on the line of lactic threshold - feeling great but knowing that an extra 1% and I would start the slow death that is oxygen debt. Maybe the Austrian hills and lack of sessions has done me some good?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Training Week 5 July - 11 July 15.64m / 1:43:02 / 6:35 miling
Long run in Vancouver, over Burrard Bridge and along Kits beach along to Jericho and back. Explored a few of the trails coming up from the coast - could have done with more time to look around.

Mon. Rest - flying Vancouver --> Dusseldorf --> Munich - transfer -> Kitzbuhel
Flying in to the World Champs race in Austria. Overnight flight so arrived in Austria on Tuesday evening. Jumped straight on the treadmill in the hotel as it was pouring down outside.
4.52m / 32:00 - increased pace up to 20kph for the final couple of minutes. 5.47m / 40:00 / 7:19 miling
Easy morning run to find my bearings, but thankfully remembered many of the routes from when I covered the race last year. Jet lag wasn't my friend so hit the trails at 6:30am 8.83m / 1:09:19 / 7:51 miling
Very easy run, pretty shattered from the travel, but nice to breath in some alpine air. Hit some hills to get the legs working, enjoying the heavy breathing. 8.25m / 1:00:16 / 7:18 miling
Another early run, but done with a tempo loop of the lake thrown in for good measure. Legs still not waking up though. 5.07m / 34:10 / 6:44 miling
Quicker morning run, giving it some beans, finally feeling normal considering a night at the Casino and 3am bed time... maybe that says something about my usual lifestyle 8.52m / 1:04:32 / 7:35 miling
Long day with press conference, athlete interviews and setting things up for the weekend, but managed half an hour. As I came back Andrew from the team was heading out for his run so jogged alongside to put it over the hour.

Sat. Rest
Men's race started at 2pm (Al Brownlee won), and legs were tired from all the hills... not much flat running to be had, so took the day off.

Run total: 56.30 miles (90.6km) / 6:33:21 / 7:10 miling avg

Really nice week of alpine running on the trails of Kitzbuhel; extremely beautiful and pretty warm as well. Very fortunate with the weather despite it raining during the men's race.

Legs took a bit of a bashing as for the most part you were either going up or down, and coupled with the jetlag (9 hour time difference hurts!) I was pretty tired most of the time. As such I didn't do a long tempo or a session, but still feel I got some quality because of the strength work required.

Am now back in the UK for a week before heading off to Hamburg for the next leg of the tour next Wednesday. Hope to make an appearance at the White Horse 5k in Gloucester on Thursday but my left arch has been complaining today.

For some pics of Kitzbuhel, click here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Training Week 28 June - 4 July 6.50m / 45:24 / 7:00 miling
Easy final run in Des Moines, but having worked at team world champs all day didn't have much time to get a long one in.

Mon. Rest - flying Des Moines, IA --> Denver, CO --> Vancouver, BC 2.03m WU - 8 x 100m strides - 2.00m WD
Prep before the Yaletown Grand Prix. Ran a few laps of the course, really nice setting. 3.22m WU - Yaletown Grand Prix (~4.2k) - 1.90m WD
See the race report for more info, not the best run of my life but pocketed $125. Happy Canada Day! 5.44m WU - 5 x 1km (3:07, 3:04, 3:04, 3:05, 3:02) off descending recovery - 3.73m WD
Had a bit of a sniffle following the race but felt like I still had plenty to give so went for the session. Started easily and worked into it. Really smashed the final 300m of the last rep, legs finally moving. Jogged back with Paul and cooled off in the Pacific.
16 miles cycling. 5.61m / 38:24 / 6:51 miling
Easy run around the sea wall, felt terrible so picked it up over Burrard Bridge to try and wake the legs up.
16 miles cycling.
4.08m WU - 5 x 800m (2:22, 2:22, 2:22, 2:20, 2:17) off 400m jog - 3.73m WD
Felt good but just couldn't hit decent times. With Jay on his break I had no one to target so plugged the ipod on and started smashing it out to Hillsong. Gradually worked up some momentum and as Coach John predicted, the times came down as the legs got motoring. Pretty pleased, especially after a hard Wednesday and Thursday.

Run total: 50.00 miles (80.5km) / 5:51:47 / 7:17 miling avg


A weird week capped by a strange race where I ran like an idiot and still made $125 (£65). Lots of quality but not too much quantity, but I guess it is the summer.

Not really too much more to add, although I am getting down to race weight so I'm sure my Mum will complain that I'm obviously not eating well enough when I get home for a week in seven days time. Hopefully I can get some hill work in this week in Austria, although the weather forecast might have me on the hotel treadmill.

Am back in the UK from 14-21 July, so if anyone has any race suggestions I'd like to hear them!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Despair in the Departure Lounge

Sitting in departures at Vancouver Airport (two hour flight delay) it suddenly hit me that I haven't put my week's training online. Shame on me.

I promise I will do it when I arrive in Kitzbuhel, the next stop on the triathlon tour. Am in Austria for a week, then back home in England for seven days before hitting Hamburg for the next leg of the crusade. I am returning to Vancouver on 27 July for some more smack down training sessions.

Hopefully I'll be running the White Horse 5k in Gloucester on 16 July against UK international vet Andy Prophett (of zoom!)

In the mean time, run hard and train well!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Rue de Pistolet

Rue de Pistolet, or 'Road of Guns' in English, is the chosen name for my annual Tour de France fantasy team. I saw this road sign when attending a French Grand Prix triathlon in Les Sables D'Olonne and instantly fell in love with it. My running nickname back at Uni of 'Pistol' (as in Pistol Pete) put into some cool caligraphy and smacked onto a wall. I wish I had stolen it now!

My team:
Lance Armstrong, Astana - bit of an outside bet but he's widely tipped to get on the podium

Andy Schleck, Saxo Bank - going to be good in the mountains and GC, what a talent

David Moncoutie, Cofidis - great climber, going to be going for the polka dot jersey

Igor Anton, Euskaltel - another solid climber, should attack early on near the Basque country

Mark Cavendish, Columbia - can anyone beat him in a sprint? I don't think so!

Christophe Moreau, Agritubel - strong in the mountains, super domestique

Sylvain Chavanel, Quick Step - another high class domestique, might fancy his chances

Maxime Monfort, Columbia - could be useful in the mountains and I like his attacking style

Fabian Cancellara, Saxo Bank - favourite for the time trials, overall legend, love his power output

Three weeks of racing to go, am looking forward to waking up to watch the prologue in Monte Carlo. A beautiful beautiful city to start a beautiful beautiful race. Love it. So glad I'll be in Europe for most of the racing as it means I don't have to get up at a ridiculous hour to watch it.

Pics from Yaletown Grand Prix

Many thanks to Rick from VFAC for the pics, much appreciated, some really great shots!

Lap one:
Lap two:
Lap three:
Lap four:
Lap five:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Money for Nothing

So today's Yaletown Grand Prix was an interesting affair where I ran like a complete muppet and yet still walked away with $125, which I feel is rather undeserved. Since pressing the 'autofill' button on itunes last week my ipod shuffle has had Dire Strait's Money for Nothing on it. With an amazing guitar riff and lyrics it seems rather pertinent to how I feel.

The whole race set up was pretty incredible, the 900m of closed roads around the district made for some cool racing, although the cyclists made it look better than the runners did. The cat one riders were tanking it! Having all of it just one block away from home was especially fun and it really was just a case of walking out of the front day to get to the start line.

I made a class 'a' error right from the start. I saw a young guy warming up in Asics kit and thought it was probably Ryan McKenzie so when the announcers didn't call him up I thought the race was open and I stood a chance of going for the win. Little did I know that my lack of knowledge of Canadian distance runners would cause me a lot of grief as both Richard Mosley, a sub-30 10k runner and legendary marathoner Steve Osaduik were on the start line. I should have picked up on Steve's name but I was listening for 'Ryan McKenzie' and had turned my brain off to anything else.

Me centre, with Richard in blue on the right and Steve in yellow on the left

I stuck in behind Richard and Steve for the opening of the five laps and felt pretty good, however I knew I was never going to be able to live with them as we headed out on lap two. We got a nice gap on fourth and I dropped off hoping to hold a decent pace to stay ahead of the pack, however the damage had been done and running solo was a real effort, especially with a headwind on the longest stretch of the course.

Lap two was decent but unspectacular as the guys started to disappear and I started to feel I was being caught on lap three. Come lap four I was overtaken by Tom Michie from Kelowna who had paced his effort a lot better than me. He drew alongside heading up the short hill at Davie and I couldn't hold on to the back of him when we got to the flat. By then I was already rocking and rolling so I backed off to ensure I didn't completely blow up and lose fourth. Lap five felt better as I knew I couldn't be caught and I managed a final kick off the last bend, but by then Tom was well up the road.

Getting dropped on lap two by Steve (left) and Richard (right)

Although I pocketed $125 I don't really feel like I've earnt it. I'm more disappointed with the ridiculous naivity which cost me third place. No disresepct to Tom, but I know deep down that I really should have done a lot better, but come the day he ran a much better race, paced the course to perfection and showed me a clean pair of heels, so full credit to him, he delivered and I didn't.

Secondly the prize money seemed too much for what I actually ran. Richard and Steve deserved their $400 and $200 respectively as they're great runners... but $125 for finishing fourth with a poor performance? You've got to be having a laugh. It's the same amount as the guy who finished fifth in the pro bike race, and that was 65 minutes of flat out wheel to wheel racing where the pack had a sprint finish... and he would have been a top cyclist riding for a team. There were even national champions and tour riders in there, crazy!

All in all a great first Canada Day, which incidentally marks my 100th day in Vancouver, and a super event atmosphere, but probably the worst race I've endured since Northampton Birmingham League back in December of last year with this feeling of guilt that I don't deserve a penny.