Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Port Talbot Half Marathon 2017

This story actually begins a week earlier when I went on the clubs regular long Sunday run, which was 14 miles but with various distance cut offs beginning from 7 miles. I had decided to do the 12 mile distance.

All was going well until I hit 10 miles, when I felt my right calf muscles begin to steadily tighten, and so to try and preserve them I slowed right down to a slow jog, but man were they tight, even after a good stretch. So it was time to get some RICE, (rest, ice, compress, elevate), done once home.

It wasn't looking good for the following Sunday's Port Talbot half marathon, unless I could get that calf running again PDQ. So I sent a text message to Daniela, top lady runner from Griffithstown Harriers who is also a sports therapist, and a damned good one at that. Fortunately for me she had an opening in her busy schedule for a mid week, after work massage. In the meantime, I continued to take ibuprofen for any inflammation, ice packs, stretches and foam rollering, then I rested until Sunday and kept my fingers crossed.

Race Day

I met Paul, Charlotte, Antony and Mike at our usual car share pick up point in Caerleon and I drove us to the venue which was nowhere close to Port Talbot really, but in the very picturesque Afan Valley where, we would be running along 3 metre wide tarmac and dirt track paths, following the course of the river south before heading back north along the opposite side of the river.

The 500 runners were divided into waves for the start, with a one minute gap between each wave, which was really good as if we had all gone at the same time, the congestion in the first 50 metres would have been considerable.

From the left - Paul, Charlotte, Antony, Me & Mike

After about a mile I checked my pace and I had set up the Estimated Finishing Time function on my Polar M430 GPS watch, which was telling me that I was on a 1 hour 49 minute finish time and my pace was just way to fast. I needed to slow down before I burned out. Of course, a sub 2 hour finish time would be great and a new PB but that time was just way to quick. So I did slow down, just a little, and I found myself at a very comfortable pace which was still showing a sub 2 hour finish time and an average of about 08:30 min/ml.

The course was nowhere near as hilly as I was expecting it to be. In fact, the ascents and descents were long but very slight, so much so that at times I couldn't tell whether I was running on the flat or a slight incline. There is a slightly steeper incline in the last half mile though.


With the 6 mile water/gel station in sight I suddenly felt my right calf begin to tighten very quickly and I had to slow down to a walking pace and decide what to do. With this run taking place on such narrow tracks, getting a lift back to the finish in a car was going to be out of the question, so I was going to have to make my own way back, whether that be walking or running. So I began to walk, then accelerated into a slow jog and finding that a 10:30 min/ml pace was comfortable.

Those 7 miles seemed to go by extraordinarily quickly. Maybe because I had to concentrate on not making my injury any worse, I don't know but, I do know that I was actually still overtaking other runners and I wasn't feeling tired.

I could see that I wasn't very far from the finish as I approached the brow of a slightly steeper incline, and then as I headed down the hill, a marshal informed me that I had to run a lap of the pond before heading uphill to the finish line.

I had finished in 2 hours and 8 minutes, which is still a respectable time, but way slower than I had hoped for, and especially knowing that had my calf not acted up, I was definitely on for a sub 2 hour PB. Gutted is the word that comes to mind. However, I was the 5th fastest finisher in the VM55 category, so that did put a little smile on my face.

The post race photo

The course

You can see the sudden change in my pace from mile 7 in this chart

I absolutely loved this course and I will most definitely be taking part again next year. But for now, I'm going to rest for the next three weeks as I have some holiday booked, and then I have the Cardiff 10k followed a week later by the Great North Run, and I want to be fighting fit for both races.

If you have 22 minutes to spare, go and make yourself a cuppa tea and watch the following video of the race. Enjoy.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Why do we run?

This is a very interesting question, and I guess there are many reasons why we do so.

Going back about three years or so, I felt that I needed to do some form of exercise. I work in a busy sales office all day, sat behind a desk and a computer. Then I was going home, cooking and eating my dinner, maybe doing a few chores, and then after dinner I would sit down and watch the television for the rest of the evening. So I wasn't getting any exercise.

I like my food, I enjoy cooking and baking too, so consequently I was piling on the pounds and feeling very sluggish. But not only that, my body was beginning to ache. I would get up out of bed in the morning and my back wouldn't bend far enough for me to bend over so that I could put my socks on. Dressing was a real struggle. Once I'd been up and active for an hour though I was OK.

I would occasionally go for a long walk at weekends but by the time I had reached six or seven miles, my hips were beginning to ache, and by nine miles I was in agony. Something had to be done otherwise in ten years time I would be struggling to do anything, and I didn't want that. So I needed to be able to do some form of activity that I could do on my own or, as part of a group.

C25K & Parkrun

One Saturday morning I was eating my breakfast whilst watching the BBC Breakfast news program, and they featured a story about something called Parkrun, where people met up in parks and other town/city venues at 9 AM every Saturday morning to take part in a FREE 5 km (3 miles) timed run, and I thought to myself that this was maybe what I needed. So I went on line and found the Parkrun website.  I found my local Parkrun, which takes place at Tredegar House in Newport and so I went along on the following Saturday.

I arrived at Tredegar House and there seemed to be hundreds of people there, of all ages, shapes and sizes, wearing T shirts, shorts and trainers. I spotted a hand made sign on a post saying, Beginners Here and so I went over to join the small group of people stood there. A grey haired chap, who was very lean and looked like a seasoned runner spoke to me and told me this was week five of a nine week couch to 5 km course, (C25K), to get people into running from having never run, to be able to run the 5 km Parkrun course, non stop, but I was welcome to join them, and that is exactly what I did.

Me being a Parkrun tourist at Crawley, W Sussex

I completed the rest of the course and I was going to Parkrun on every Saturday that I could, but I now needed another challenge. That same grey haired man mentioned to me that the running club he belonged to, Caerleon Running Club, was running a follow on course to the C25K course, designed to take us from 5 km up to 10 km, as he said that most running clubs require their members to be able to run a 10 km distance in roughly one hour. This felt like a good next step, and I had made a few friends already, so I went along each week, my distance increased until I had reached 10 km, and by which time I had decided to join the club.

Caerleon Running Club on a Parkrun tourist away day at Porthcawl

So my reasons for taking up running were to get more exercise and to aid weight loss. And I think this is probably the motivation for most people. The new January intake of C25K ers is always much larger than the new courses that begin at other times of the year, as people make New Year resolutions to lose weight and get fit, just the same as gym membership rockets in January. I guess others begin running because they know someone else who runs, or they want to raise money for a charity and so they enter something like the cancer charity, Race for Life.

One thing is certain, and that is for many people, running, (especially once a member of a club), can be addictive. We enter a couple of 10 km races and become absorbed in the atmosphere of the event, with the crowds lining the streets, clapping and cheering, the camaraderie of your fellow club mates, and the competitive spirit between them. We hear the stories of more experienced runners who have just completed the latest half or full marathon and are proudly wearing the finishers brightly coloured T shirt. And that spurs us on to push our own boundaries and distances and enter that next, longer race.

Myself and fellow club mates wearing our brightly coloured finishers T Shirts after the Swansea Half Marathon

But it isn't just the distances that we wish to conquer, it is our race finishing times also. For example. When I first completed a full Parkrun, I was doing it in around 35 minutes. By the following autumn, a year later,  I had got it down to 27 minutes, and now it is a few seconds over 26 minutes, and I'm sure that will come down further. My 10 km times started out at 1 hour 9 minutes, and I have now have a personal best of 53 minutes. We all seem to feel the need to improve speed and distance, to a point anyway.

Now, I still have a few aches and pains, (which I'm putting down to my age), but I get very little hip pain and, most importantly, I can easily put my socks on in the morning. Keeping ourselves reasonably fit, (you don't have to run a marathon every month), is very beneficial to our physical and mental health and overall well being. And although we may well complain during a run, (what, another hill?), we all feel better for it afterwards.

Running is cheap, (as long as you don't go overboard registering for lots of races), and it's a great way to meet new people and make new friends, especially if you join a club.

Happy running 😄

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

GLCL Road Race # 5 - Cwmbran

Yesterday was the 5th and final race in the GLCL Road Race League for 2017 and hosted jointly between Fairwater Runners and Griffithstown Harriers, both clubs being located in Cwmbran.

The atmosphere at these events is always buzzing, with 548 runners from ten local clubs chit chatting away before the race, and club photo's taken.

Caerleon Running Club ready for action

The call came from the organisers and we had a short, 5 minute walk to the start position where we were told the do's and don'ts of this race. Ear phones not allowed, keep to the pavements and do not run on the road sections, etc.

The course begins on a quiet section of road before we have to get onto the pavement for a few hundred metres before turning into the park.

The start

Me in the white cap

Just after the start with new girl Lowena in the pink on the right. She's going to be a fast runner I think

The path is followed to the far end of the park where we then crossed a small bridge spanning the river, then we followed the path again back in the opposite direction and heading back to the road. This then heads along a shallow hill for some way before turning left and heading back down to the park and along the paths following both sides of the river again to the finish line.

Approaching the top of the hill

Running through the park the first time

From my perspective there isn't much to say about my race, other than all went well and I had a good pace on. As I was approaching the finish line with about 100 metres to go, I could hear someone behind me and a quick glance behind confirmed that someone was right on my heels, although I couldn't make out who it was. He came level with my shoulder and I hit the gas pedal, but this guy was a good 10 years younger than me and I couldn't match his pace in the last 20 metres and with my energy levels now well and truly sapped, I just couldn't keep the pace up and he finished just before me. I then realised it was Tony Derrick from my own club. We did have a good laugh about that just beyond the finish line.

The usual thing we do after one of these races is to all get together for cake and tea/coffee and a chat, and yesterday was no different.

The route and my pace details.

So that is the end of the summer GLCL road race league season. However, the GLCL cross country season begins in October, hosted by Bryn Bach Parc running club. I'm looking forward to this as I haven't done a cross country before and it'll be a good introduction to trail running, which I'm going to get into next year.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Forthcoming Races

I've just been going through my calendar to see what races I've registered for, as I seem to have booked so many that I've forgotten what I am and am not doing.

So here is the list.

Tuesday 1st August - Championship GLCL Road - Cwmbran
Saturday 5th August - Championship - Best Newport Parkrun (Tredegar House)
Sunday 13th August - Port Talbot Half Marathon
Sunday 3rd September - Cardiff 10k
Sunday 10th September - Simplyhealth Great North Run (Half Marathon) - Newcastle upon Tyne
Sunday 1st October - Championship - Cardiff Half Marathon
Sunday 15th October - Championship - Ponty Plod - Llandegfedd Reservoir (11 miles of multi terrain and hills)
Sunday 22nd October - Stroud Half Marathon
Sunday 5th November - Poppy Run

Have I overstretched myself? Mmm, we shall see.

December - Manchester Marathon training begins 😱

Monday, 24 July 2017

CRC Parkrun away day

Saturday morning can only mean one thing in the world of running, and that is Parkrun. And so on Saturday, a few of us from CRC headed off on an away day to try out the Parkrun course at Porthcawl.

The weather forecast was for showers but fortunately, it didn't rain until the journey home again but, for a mid July day, it wasn't particularly warm.

After parking the cars, we walked to the sea front where a crowd of the regular Portcawl Parkrunners were mingling before listening to the briefing given to those who had never run the course before.

The course began flat and we ran for a few hundred metres before coming back on ourselves and heading in the opposite direction. Then the path began to climb steadily up to the next turn around point where we headed back down hill to the finish line, against the wind. A simple, out and back course.

Me coming in to the finish line with a new 5k PB of 26:14

Fern pushing Sam to the finish line

New girl Suzanne looking strong and happy

Yangi always looks happy

Gritted teeth and sheer determination from Steve

Tania looking to overtake

And then goes flying past the guys

CRC Parkrun complete and the compulsory post run photo

 Andrew had just completed his 100th Parkrun, so a call for celebration 

Hungry runners awaiting breakfast

I'm sure there will be another CRC Parkrun away day very soon, possibly Barry of Caldicot. What this space.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Cornwall Weekend

I had a long weekend off work to go to Cornwall as it was my grandsons 10th birthday. I traveled alone and stayed in my small tent on a quiet, Camping & Caravan Club site at Indian Queens.

Whenever I visit another area of the country on a weekend, I like to try out one of the local Parkruns, and this trip was no exception, so I headed 20 minutes up the road to Lanhydrock House, near Bodmin, which is a late Victorian country house set in magnificent grounds and is now owned by the National Trust.

I attended the briefing for those who had not run the course before and I was told that this course was a little hilly. That turned out to be an understatement.

The course begins with a downhill stretch on a tarmac path, then it heads uphill onto a dirt track before a long downhill stretch as you approach the river. It then winds back uphill to a field, which you cross and join up with another tarmac path which heads uphill again. It is then downhill for maybe 150m before you veer off the path and onto the grass to the finish line.

The finish line

Me with the house in the background

Considering the hills and the multi terrain aspect of the course, I did quite well, coming in 65th place out of 219 runners in 27:43 minutes, and I was 9th in my age category. So all in all I was quite pleased.

Sunday morning was grey, but quite warm and very humid and, I was awake early so I decided to go for a long run along a route I had previously devised. This took in a road loop to begin before crossing the busy A30 road by a footbridge which would take me onto the Goss Moor Trail.

The trail was mostly on dirt tracks, although I did leave this a couple of times onto muddy tracks where horses had obviously been.

I was in no rush and so time was irrelevant and I just wanted a long, easy run, which this turned out to be. Except for losing my orientation at one stage and I ended up doing a unintentional loop around a pond. Ooops!

My non running friends thought I was mad running whilst on holiday but, I was on my own and had time to kill, so why not. I saw some lovely scenery on both runs, and I chatted to some people at the Parkrun, although I didn't see a single soul on the Goss Moor Trail run, so that was peaceful.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Wales Half Marathon Report

Saturday was a lovely morning as Michelle and I headed to our little camp site at Manorbier, near Tenby. We were diverted around the country lanes a little as that day was the cycling part of the triathlon weekend, and as it turned out, the cyclists were passing the entrance to the camp site I was staying at.

Once we had erected the tent and been suitably refreshed, we drove to the leisure centre in Tenby, which was being used for registration purposes for the weekends events, and I collected my bib number.

Whilst we were there, we bumped into a few friends from Griffithstown Harriers, Cwmbran who had gone there first before going to their camp site. I was the only runner from Caerleon attending this event so it was nice to see some friendly faces.

We spent a couple of hours in the town, watching the cyclists coming through the finish line after completing either 45, 66 or 112 miles, and also licking an ice cream whilst strolling on the golden, sandy beach.

During the evening we decided to take a walk into the village of Manorbier and to the beach there, but also to see what the hill was like coming through the village as I knew this was on my route the next day.

The road begins to climb with Manorbier Castle on the left

And still it goes up

At this point there are still seven miles to go. Phew.

Sunday morning and the weather was cloudy with a few spits and spots of rain in the air, just as the forecast predicted, and after a breakfast of porridge and a banana, Michelle drove me to the race meeting point at Pembroke Castle. 

Competitors began to arrive in dribs and drabs and I latched onto those friendly faces, the girls from Griffithstown Harriers.

From left to right: Paula, Cath, Katy, Jenny, Daniela, me and finally Lena

Then at 11:40 we were paraded through the town to the start line as the full marathon competitors were coming through. These had begun their race at 10 am in Tenby and Pembroke was there half way point.

Then at precisely midday, our half marathon began, and within a few short minutes I found myself running through the narrow country lanes.

From here to Manorbier, there isn't much to tell, except that I was feeling good and that the sun had decided to make an appearance, but fortunately we were sheltered by trees from the worst of the midday sunshine, for a while anyway.

Steadily the road climbed but it wasn't difficult, in fact I was feeling that it was pretty easy. Then the lanes became open to the sunshine and I heard some people around me saying that they were feeling hot. I don't appear to mind the heat, as long as I sip fluid regularly and keep myself hydrated, and I was carrying water with me, so i was feeling good still.

We reached the top of a hill and I could see the sea and the beach below, meaning that we had a nice, downhill stretch towards Manorbier.

Short, baby strides and that hill was ok, although it was really hard work. And half way up were crowds of people, some were spectators but, most were runners about to begin the 10K race and they would begin once we had gone through. The top of the hill came into sight and with it a sense of relief. Phew.

I had a mile, maybe a mile and a half respite before I turned a corner and saw the next hill, and every last runner in front of me was walking. I carried on running up and around the next bend and saw that the hill just kept going on, at which point I gave up and began to walk too.

Someone with a sense of humour had used white spray paint on the road, writing;

Think happy thoughts. Think beer. Think wine. Think chips.

Eventually that hill leveled out, but my legs were now feeling tired, but I persevered. 

The road then was a bit undulating but I remembered thinking that the worst appeared to be over, and there were only about another two or three miles to go.

From the top of the next hill I could see Tenby in the distance, which certainly lifted my spirits and the road began to go downhill towards the town and a main road where I could see race marshals and police controlling road traffic. There was just half a mile to go but one last, steep hill heading up to the town centre.

I tried to run all the way up it but I just didn't have the strength in my legs, and so I had no choice but to power walk until the road began to level out, and I could see the crowds cheering and shouting and I knew I only had a couple of hundred metres left to run, and then the finish line came into sight and I put a spurt on with only 100m left to run.

Oh my God that was a tough seven miles. The first six miles felt really easy but those hills in the second half were just so tough.

Before the start of the race I had been asked what time I was expecting to complete the race in. I had completed the Swansea half marathon in 2 hours 2 minutes, but that was a flat course, so I was guessing that I should be able to complete a hilly route inside 2 hours 15 minutes, and I completed this race in 2 hours 13 minutes, so I was a happy bunny.

You can see the huge dip in elevation, in the middle of the graph, as we dropped down to sea level at Manorbier, then it climbing again up through the other side of the village. Then there is that last big hill at the very end.

With the race over, it was time to head back to the camp site for a well earned shower and a cup of tea before meeting up with the Griff girls, which were also now joined by Catherine Spencer who had run in the 10K, and her husband also.

Suitably attired in Hawaiian dress, we ended the day with a few drinks and a few laughs.

So the question is, would I do it again? Hills and all? You're damned right I would. I'll be back again next year along with the Griff girls and hopefully some of my own club mates from Caerleon.

Port Talbot Half Marathon 2017

This story actually begins a week earlier when I went on the clubs regular long Sunday run, which was 14 miles but with various distance cut...