Archive for June, 2012

I’d imagined my first barefoot run would be a symphony of minimalist technology and running smarts. I could see myself in the early morning, plodding along in my new found lightness, breaking new barriers and (not) my legs.

Turns out it was not to be…

I headed home tonight to give my daughter a lift to her friend’s house before she flies away on holiday tomorrow. Just before I left work it started to rain. Apocalyptic-type rain, real wrath-of-god type stuff. Still, I needed to get home.

It’s only 3 miles from work to home, which included some mild flooding, bumper to bumper cars and a burst drain that had left the road looking like something out of an earthquake movie.

I made it back, feeling that a bit of a wait before heading off might be wise. However, the journey was beckoning, and a trip to the supermarket for last minute sun tan lotion was in order.

So we headed off.

Down onto the coast, and the road was flooded. Back into the town, and there was flooding, but not as bad. Off to the supermarket, and the road was blocked with water, and we sloshed through and made it. Sun tan lotion purchased, and back into the car.

The road to the A19 was flooded and blocked, so turned around. Back towards the coast, but the road was flooded. Through the north end of Monkseaton, and the roads were flooded – driving involved cutting onto the path at the side of the road and inching through the mud – bumper to bumper and taking some risks.

Back to the coastal route, and the whole road was under water – again onto the path. One hour in and two miles covered.

The traffic stopped. There was no sign of what was going on. So, I jumped out the car, leaving Mrs Bees at the wheel and padded through the river at the side of the road in my Converse All-Stars to each the path. Walk up ahead and see what’s going on around the corner, eh?

No. I may as well run – the All-Stars are as close to barefoot as I can get without wearing barefoot shoes, so I loped off in a jog – maybe 0.1 of a mile if I had to guess until I reached the brown mass of water blocking the road. Some cars were turning around, a few were braving it. I jogged back to the car, another 0.1 mile, I’d guess and got back in. Converse All-Stars have thinnish, flat soles with no drop (that I can see), and basically no padding. They’re no smarty-shoes, but I feel they tick a fair few of the barefoot boxes.

We waited.

The car inched forward until we reached the water, and we were at the flood. Slowly, slowly and we were at the other side, but the traffic was still backed up. So, out again and another 0.1 miles or so to the next flood and a chat with the police woman who was directing traffic. All seemed in order, so I padded back and sat in the car. There was a bit of a blitz spirit in evidence, with the drivers on the way back out of their cars and asking what was going on.

Inch, inch, inch and there we were again. Two and a half hours and we were past that water. The rest of the trip was, frankly, fairly normal, except for some traffic lights at a three way junction that were stuck on red. Dropped the daughter off, turned around and picked up a pizza for tea before heading home – avoided the route out and got back in a half hour.

So, there you have it – my first barefoot run. In sneakers. Calves feel fine, which is a blessing, and now for the remainder of the transition…

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After yesterday’s unexpected half-marathon success, I’m clear to October and the Kielder Marathon. However, not being one to just work at the reasonable targets, I have another goal – I’m planning to learn to run barefoot.

I’ve fancied it for a while, but what with races and the rest I’ve never felt that it was the right time to start, what with my couple of attempts in the past having left me with aching calves for a week at a time. But now I have a clear window of opportunity.

Probably start in early July, and aim to use a programme and fit it into my regular runs. Who knows, with any luck I’ll be running Kielder in barefoot shoes, eh? Now that would be dandy.

Watch this space…

Half-Marathon Day!

Posted: 24/06/2012 in Running

So today was the day – months in the making – The Hadrian’s Wall Half Marathon. A whole 13.1 miles of mixed trail and road running, and a personal milestone in my running progress. I’d planned, I’d trained, I’d bought some water-repellent shorts on the basis of the weather predictions for the day.

Only it didn’t happen.

An e-mail at lunch time yesterday informed the runners that the camp site car park that was serving as race HQ was flooded with no sign of getting better overnight, and there was no way it could be used. With apologies the race was cancelled.

I was gutted. It’s fair to say it was like I was a balloon that had just been burst. Not that the organisers could have done much else, if it’s flooded it’s flooded, and it would be too much of a risk to see a field full of cars unable to escape.

But what to do? Too late to look for another event, and the weather report was still looking grim. I could aim for a longer run and see where it went, but it’s not the same as the fun of a race, is it?

Anyway, it looked as though the only solution was going to be a self-start, so I decided a jaunt up the coast and see how it went. I was feeling a bit rubbish, so it might not be that long a run, but it would have to do.

So, geared up with the water-repellent shorts I headed off into the not-quite-raining morning. Up the coast towards Seaton Sluice, with the beach at Blyth off in the distance.

A good start, keeping to a 10:00 mile pace and heading up past the Spanish City, and sticking with my ‘if it hurts, slow down’ philosophy for aches and pains, and the rain held off.

Up the top at Seaton Sluice, and I headed off to the far end – all normal so far so good, and it’s a route I’ve run a pile of times. Out the end of Seaton Sluice, and to the car park on the way to Blyth – that’s 4.5 miles, and would be a good return point – but, you see, it’s Half-Marathon Day. So, I kept going off to the farmhouse just before Blyth. That’s 5 miles, which is the furthest I’ve gone to date. So it would make sense to head back now, no sense in crippling myself for the sake of a distance, right?

But it’s Half-Marathon Day.

So I run on a little further, and now I’m at the gun battery at Blyth, which marks the end of the promenade. Now I’ve been here before, but only if I’ve driven to Blyth and then walked the short way here. Down onto the prom and along the path, past the beach houses and the touring information. On about 5.5 miles now, and it dawns on me that I only have to go another mile to make it half of the half-marathon distance. Given that I started out thinking 6-7 miles would be cool, it would be mad to continue, right?

But it’s Half-Marathon Day.

So I head on, up to the Port of Blyth and through their security-notice-emblazoned gates. No one could have a problem with an innocent runner, right, despite them being the ones who always find the bodies so I figured I’d be OK. Along to the end of the road and I’m not quite up to the distance yet – there’s a wooden pier that runs out into the sea, the fishermen fish off it and I know that it’s around a half mile long. So I head off along that, and realise that some of the huge beams are a little loose. That’s probably not a problem if you’re walking along them, but running along causes a bit of jouncing.

I reach the end, and took a quick photo.

That’s looking back down the coast – the little pimple on the left is the Lighthouse at Whitley Bay – I’ll be running back past that on the way home. Suddenly it seems like quite a distance – I’ve done 6.5 miles, and I’m going to do them again on the way back. But that’s OK, ‘cos it’s Half-Marathon Day.

View of the pier looking back to shore – see those beams – some of those are a little loose.

Turned around, plodded back (carefully) along the pier and commenced the return journey. Back to the promenade at Blyth, and I was feeling a little tired. Onto the coastal path back to Seaton Sluice, and my left knee was feeling a little wonky.

Did I mention necked a gel when I got off the pier? Thought not. High-5 Citrus, mmmm. Helped the little legs keep going. The path along to Seaton Sluice was pretty waterlogged, puddles right along the path, and a lot of dodging back and forth across the path to avoid cyclists / dog walkers / ramblers. So far no rain, and feet were still dry, but left leg was feeling mardy.

Into Seaton Sluice, and feeling like I’m on home turf now, still about 3 miles to go, but that seems reasonable, right? It’s incredible how slowly the distance counter can click up on a GPS, I remember thinking as I headed onto the trail along the headland. Round past the Lighthouse (remember that pimple in the photo? Yup, that’s the one) and down towards the Links. By now I’m thinking about stopping and walking, the leg hurts and I’m slowing right down to try and keep it going.

But it’s Half-Marathon Day.

I’ve got a date with this distance, and if I make 11 miles, 12 miles, the distance will remain to be completed. If not for that, then I might not have continued.

I dropped down onto the Promenade and along to the Skate Park – allowing myself to walk up the steps at the Hill of Doom rather than running up the bank – think that would have been a step too far. At the top of the hill, I realised that my legs feel weird – like they’re not mine, and my head feels buzzy. Is this the start of passing out? At 12.5 miles?

No.

No, I’m not going to pass out, I’m not going to stop – there’s only half a mile to go. After that, then yes, passing out is an option, but I’m not there yet.

So I plod on, past the Spanish City, watching the GPS distance creep up, 0.01 of a mile at a time. Now there’s only 0.05 miles to go, and I figure that’s the end of the row of benches along the Promenade. So I stumble on a bit further and look at the GPS – 13.12 miles. We’re there. I can stop…

I collapsed on a bench, and watched the world swim. Legs felt numb and the buzzing in my head slowly subsided. Drank the last of my water and hoisted myself back up for the stumble home.

MapMyRoute

Statistics:

  • Distance: 13.22 miles 🙂
  • Time: 2 hours 16 minutes 55 second
  • Average pace: 10’21 per mile (What? Didn’t think I was anything like that speed)

Elated? Hell yeah. Didn’t think I’d do a half aeration today after it the Hadrian’s Wall Half Marathon was cancelled yesterday. When I left the house I didn’t think I’d run a half marathon. At 10 miles in I didn’t think I’d complete a half marathon.

But you know what? I ran a half marathon today – myHalfMarathon, no one else ran it.

OK, so for the gory bits, I had a blood blister the size of an orange that is now safely hidden under a blister plaster, my toes feel quite peculiar and my left knee is not a happy camper. Think I’ll be taking the rest of the week off running.

It was so worth it.

This afternoon, I limped along to the Baltic Modern Art Gallery for tea with family – forgetting it was the finishing point for Rat Race’s “The Wall” – 69 miles from Carlisle to Newcastle over one of two days. Slightly put things in perspective seeing runners coming in, but also reminded me; I’ve got a marathon to prepare for!

All around the world…

Posted: 21/06/2012 in Uncategorized

Just a little note, and a thank you if you’ve read my blog – looked at the stats for the first time in a little while – since November last year there have been over 4,300 views from 43 countries.

Felt proper chuffed by that… 🙂

So, only four days to go until Hadrian’s Wall Half Marathon, and tonight was probably my last run before the big day. I had two three things in mind for tonight:

  • Try out my Wave Harriers and ensure my feet felt fine
  • Check out my swanky new Ronhill Twin Trail shorts – they’re water repellent, something that I suspect may come in handy on the day
  • Not to knacker any parts of myself – that would be bad

All good, so off I headed, feet on and adequately clothed for the balmy evening weather.

A quick spin around the country park, something in the order of two and a half miles should do it – nothing too strenuous, either, aiming to re-live my hurty = slower = better magic trick from Monday night.

There were a lot of horses tonight, and not in the fields either, they were ramming the path with their flare-y nostrils and their oh-so-deadly hooves. Luckily they all seemed to be relatively chilled, and I managed not to offend, scare or otherwise antagonise the blighters.

Starting off on the approach road, I figured my shoes were un-padded enough to be causing a little bit of calf tenderness – that’s my big worry for race day, the course is “mixed surface”, by which it means a good six miles of the thirteen are on roads. Trail shoes, especially wafer-thin trail shoes are probably not the best for that terrain, though if it rains much (and I’m promised it will by Geoff at work), then they will make up for it on the grass and trails. If it holds dry (and I’m promised it won’t, also by Geoff), then I may switch them for my Asics 1160s and hope the trail isn’t too gnarly.

Without much effort I was holding my pace down to 10:10, which seemed good, and I plodded around in good humour. The hill was OK, although I could feel the added strain on my muscles – don’t think the halfie has much hill involved, so I’m not worrying about that over much.

The new shorts behaved well, I’ll post a capsule review after Sunday, but suffice to say they’re a form-fitting inner made out of stretchy-thon and a baggy outer made of less-stretchy-thon. They felt a bit odd, as I’m used to running in my free-in-the-breeze Nike shorts, but nothing too peculiar, and very comfortable. Should it rain, I feel the alleged water-repellentness will give me the edge over any sodden chums I make along the way.

Through the woods, past some young chaps who felt shouting and swishing sticks was good fun and I was back to the approach road. A plod down to the car, and my left calf was feeling a little bone-ache, but I reckon I could live with it.

Don’t think I’ll be out again ahead of the day, though you never know, I may go for a mile or two at the end of the working week.

Stats:

  • Duration:  27’37”
  • Distance: 2.73 miles
  • Average pace: 10’07” per mile – nice gentle pace

Nine miles of lovely…

Posted: 18/06/2012 in Uncategorized

Title says it all, really.

As the clock clicks down for the Hadrian’s Wall Half Marathon on Sunday, I’m trying to pretend that my runs are “race preparation”. I’ve heard of tapering, but always assumed it was something that groovy trousers did. Apparently runners do it too.

With just under a week to go, a figured a final longer run ahead of the day would be a good plan, and with the daunting 13.1 miles staring back at me from the race entry form, laughing quietly at me personal longest run of 10 miles, I figured somewhere around or over my regular 6 miles would be a good start – I mean, if I could do it and face the idea of doing it again then I’d be almost there, right?

It was a stonking good night for a run – warm, calm and only mildly threatening to rain buckets. Up to Seaton Sluice then, and the three miles along the Links and up to the Sluice slid by. As I’m trying to be quite techno about my preparations, I tried to hold my pace down to my 9’40” slow-ish speed at the start. Not so easy, as my wee legs like to get out there and get going.

A bit of a twinge from the left calf, and I tried something new, I slowed down to see what would happen. The ache went away. Eureka! After a while, a niggle from my right knee, and I slowed down again. Niggle went. Mint!

Reaching Seaton Sluice, I decided to press on a bit – the far end of the village gives a 7.5 mile round trip. That’s like more than half of the run, right? Wow. If I could do that, then I’d be left with 5.6 miles to go, that’s less than a 10km, so why not?

Ploddy, plod plod, along through the Sluice and past some kids who thought it was fun to shout “faster, faster” – or they may have been racing snails, it was hard to tell. Anyway, I did not comply, plodding along at around 10’00” per mile by now.

To the end of the Sluice, and I figured I still had some legs on me, I may as well aim for a 4 mile turnaround for 8 – that’d almost two thirds, right? Slowed down for a niggly foot, and the pain went away again. What kind of dark magic is this?

Made it to four miles and frankly just kept going; I reckon reading Dean Karnazes book and his exploits of heading off to run all night because it feels good has had a bit of an effect. Reached the first car park on the way to Blyth at 4.5 miles and figured now was a good time to turn it around and head back. I could have kept going, but I was developing the feeling that I was starting to tempt fate with less than a week to go.

Necked a High-5 gel, another part of the race preparations and plugged on. Back to the Sluice and along the street by the sea. Off onto the headland and along the trail that leads back past the lighthouse. All feeling pretty good, now running around 11’00” per mile and feeling pretty groovy. Passed a few folk and was tickled with the idea that they have no idea how far I’ve come of how far I’m going – therefore any thoughts they might have about my current speed were badly informed.

Popped out into the car park and surprised two Ford Fiestas* of teenage lads; I wouldn’t say I flashed by them, in fact they probably would have had the time to read a pamphlet on basic personal hygiene had I been carrying one, unfolded for just such an occasion.

Along the trail past the lighthouse, and out onto the links – passed a few more runners along this bit, and felt properly athletic as I clomped past. Every time something hurt I slowed down a bit. When the tops of my calves felt a bit weird, I kicked up my legs to stretch the bits inside my legs and they seemed to appreciate the effort.

Down the steps and over the bridge across the stream, down onto the promenade and along the top of the beach – see me, I am athlete (though you won’t hear me roar, sorry). At the skate park, I took the crazy hill of doom to stretch other bits in my legs, and heard one of the young gentlemen exclaim “DUUUUUUUUUUUUDE” – now I’m not sure if he was a-watching me (I like to think so) or if one of his playmates had just completed a somersault on a scooter, but he sounded pretty gee’d up by the whole affair. On reflection, it must have been me, that’s a bit of a steep hill, and I was cocking a snook at the world by ignoring the oh-so-easy steps next to the bank.

Last leg now, along past the Spanish City and onto the top promenade – legs feeling pretty good on my new-found sensible-pace approach. Finished off at just over 9 miles with some wind to spare. At this point I’d have around 4 miles to go in the half marathon – that’s OK, I reckon I could have just about plodded the extra out if I’d had to.

Here endeth the LSR** preparation run for Sunday. Feeling pretty good, and not like death at all. Got home to the salad I’d prepared before heading out and gobbled the fella’ up in a moment.

Stats:

  • Distance: 9.1 miles
  • Time: 1’31″17
  • Average pace: 10’10” – I’ll take them numbers.
Thats suggests if I can hold that average pace, I should come in around the 2 hour 15 minute mark. I’d be Mr Happy if that happened, especially as I already have the mug to fit…
*The collective noun for groups of young men of a certain age – they were actually in Ford Fiestas too, which helped in the counting.

**LSR – Long Slow Run – that’s runner-talk, that is. Get me.

Today was the first Whitley Bay Parkrun, held on my home turf, and along paths I run every week, so I wasn’t going to miss it for a little rain.

When I went to bed, it was raining.

When I got up, it was raining.

As I headed to the door, it was raining.

As I got out of the door, the rain eased up and stopped as I headed to the start at the memorial in front of the Spanish City. There were a good few other runners there, and more arriving all the time, so I wandered about aimlessly, waiting for the general excitement of the build up to the start.

Given the weather, I’d opted for a vest/waterproof/shorts combo, but as it seemed quite warm and humid I ditched the jacket and made my way over to the start. A buzz of excitement, and the Mayor turned out to wish us all well and  we were off!

The route swings around the Links, down by the Skate Park and along the promenade along the top of the beach. All feeling pretty good so far, and mighty warm, so I was glad I’d opted out of my jacket. Everyone was well behaved, and the dog walkers mostly stopped to marvel at the combined athleticism on show (or gawp at the lunacy of it all, my recollection is a little off on this point).

At the end of the promenade, up a wee hill and down over the bridge across the stream – my one bit of advice to anyone doing the run is to position before the bridge – it’s only barely wide enough for two quite close friends to cross, so you don’t want to be at the back of a pack at this point.

Up the hill, swing around and onto the road for a spell, then back onto the promenade and up onto the Links again, running along the top and over the roof of the cafe that sits underneath – it must have sounded a bit funny to the folk inside, I reckon. A bit further and past the finish point, but this is a two lap race, so you don’t want to get too excited just yet.

Back to the start and off you go again – I was feeling pretty good at this point – my calf wasn’t complaining and my achy toe (which materialised last night) was silent. Back onto the promenade and I was trying to keep my pace down, thinking ahead to the Hadrian’s Wall Half Marathon next weekend, where I reckon pacing is going to be the making or breaking of the event for me.

Back over the bridge, back onto the road and dip down and onto the Links again and into the finish. A nice short-ish distance, and it was great to see that the Mayor has stuck it out until the end, congratulating the runners as they came in at the end. Collected my position tag, queued to get my barcode scanned and that was that. Straight off home for the rest of the day’s fun, no time to dawdle (I ran the extra 1/2 mile to get back, it was spotting again now the race was over).

Great stuff, and very well organised. I’m planning to volunteer for next week’s event, as the halfie is the day after, so I won’t want to be running.

Stats:

  • Distance: 5km
  • Time: 26’53” (new Parkrun PB!)
  • Average pace: 8’49” (far too fast…)
  • Position: 131