What I Did At The Weekend

Regular readers of this blog will want to know where the digusting bit is, either to brace themselves for it, skip it or head straight there and miss all the boring, inspirational stuff about mates doing really well in races. Nasal lavage gets a mention later. More than that, I’m not willing to say.

I had an utter stonker of a weekend. I spent Saturday morning at the ashmei headquarters in darkest Buckinghamshire. I have been selected for assessment as an ashmei ambassador. Now, I’m a fan of the kit. It’s all about performance, quality and style. Stuart who founded the company explained that everything they do hinges on those three words.

He said that a new product begins with the fibre. They decide how they want the garment to perform and then select a fibre to deliver that performance. They specify the fabric using the fibre and only then begin to design the it. Price isn’t an issue for them as much as quality is so while a pair of shorts or a jacket is expensive, it will still provide value for money because you will be using it for years. They use top quality zips and fittings because they are already using top quality fabrics. He was very convincing except when he was talking about darts. I didn’t believe a word about them doing darts-wear next.

We had a run with Stuart and Rob around the Ashridge Estate. It was a little less boggy than it was the last time I was there on the ashmei run a couple of months ago. There were still a few stretches where the mud was ankle deep. I did my usual thing and ploughed straight through the middle and trusted my inov-8 Baregrips would keep me upright. Lift the knees and make sure you keep your centre of gravity directly under you and you’ll be all right. I was. I splashed and dipped and trotted through the muddy and messy stretches and chatted to the other aspirant ambassadors.

There are some incredible athletes among them. Gemma is off to the European Duathlon championships soon. Benjamin is training for Marathon des Sables. Wanda is running the Ocean Floor Race in a couple of weeks. I’m just a bloke who runs a bit. I know how to swear pretty fluently in three languages – and can manage casual abuse in two more. I’m willing to risk drowning in a lake and crashing off my bike in front of a bus because I love triathlons now too. I will push myself harder than is strictly sensible just to see when I break. Pain is temporary but a foot injury can put you out of action for three weeks and all that jazz. I enjoy coaching because I want to see my friends excel. I’m not exceptional but I am willing to push my limits. I am everybloke, really.

I chatted with Rob from ashmei for a few minutes. He talked me into doing their trail ultra in Ullswater at the beginning of July. It’s only 40 miles… Actually, I’ve done some Rich Sums and discovered that it’s not that far, really. I’ve done 55k in a Thunder Run weekend and it’s not that much further than that. Walk uphills and jog the rest. I just have to keep going for two laps of Ullswater. How hard can it be?

All the others were every bit as nice as you’d expect runners to be. I had a great time in their company. Whatever happens, I think ashmei will have fine people to help them promote their brand.

When I got home, I changed out of the running gear and put on some cycling tights. I pulled my bike out of the conservatory and headed out onto the course for the Cambridge Half on Sunday. It’s become what I do the day before the race. I don’t like the word visualisation but that’s what I was doing. I was familiarising myself with the layout of the course and where the twists and turns were. Some of the course is quite tight and narrow and the surface along the side of the river on Jesus Green is heavily rutted and very uneven. I cycled it because running it would be too hard on my legs the day before the race. I pictured myself running the second lap. I knew it would be hard going from Silver Street to Fen Causeway on the second lap because that’s where it hurt most last year.

The race itself was brilliant again. I ran around the streets of my adopted home and savoured every second. It was a warm day – I have sunburn on my shoulders – and I probably lost time to the heat. I certainly lost time at the water stations. I slowed a little to pick up the a bag of water at each one. The little bags are easier to handle than cups or bottles but you have to squeeze the water out of them. Squeeze too hard and water goes up straight up your nose. Nasal lavage, remember? That happened on Bridge Street on the second lap. It was really unpleasant. I had my slowest km split there and the highest spike in my heart rate.

I loved having the support. There were crowds most of the way round the course. All the way down King’s Parade, round the Market Square and off along Sydney Street the noise was wonderful. I high fived kids who had their hands out and my coach Alan at the end of Trinity Street and then rocketed off round the Market on the first lap. The second lap was harder but I was going for home by then. I pushed hard from the end of Fen Causeway over the last couple of miles. I had places to make and I was tiring but determined. I picked off people one at a time. I don’t think more than two or three people overtook me but the ones who did were motoring. The last man did that going onto Midsummer Common with about 800m to go. I wasn’t going to let anyone else past.

I crossed the line in 1:37:16 (chip time). Not bad for an old bloke who had been doing hill reps for the camera the day before. I had a celebratory burger and chips in The Old Spring after the race and a piece of carrot cake and a coffee in Afternoon Tease after that. It was a good day and a great weekend. I’m very happy now and quite tired still. I’ll find out whether I’ve been selected as an ashmei ambassador soon. I’ll let you know.

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Week Whatever

I’m definitely losing track of time. My training diary is counting down. I only know how to count up. Subtraction isn’t my thing, man and I’m completely lost. So, it’s eight weeks to go to the race in Manchester and I’m not sure whether I’m in my ninth, tenth or possibly eleventh week of training. Things are becoming slightly weird.

In space, no-one can hear you scream. I’ve seen it on a film poster so it must be true. Hollywood wouldn’t lie to me. When you’re on the Roman Road, everyone in earshot can hear you swear when you almost lose a shoe in ankle-deep mud. I’m afraid I had a sense of humour failure towards the end of my run this afternoon. I had what some would call “a complete paddy” in what might pass for a paddy field. I’m not sure anyone would want to eat the rice grown at the top of Babraham Road but I think you could actually get a crop there right now.

In the gym, quite a lot of people can hear you whimper. I wore new running tights this morning. They had unexpected seams. There is nothing worse than a seam where you least expect it. Where I least expected it this morning was rubbing my right testicle. The Laws of Comedy dictate that the left bollock is always funnier than the right bollock. If my left bollock had been so exquisitely chafed that I didn’t actually notice any pain until hot water ran onto it in the shower, I would have been been standing in that cubicle bent over with laughter. I wasn’t. I was sucking in a breath and trying to avoid the eye of the nice lady standing next to me. I mean, what would I say to her? That wouldn’t get me slapped or thrown out of the gym, I mean.

Chafing issues are something people warn you about but you always forget about them when they haven’t happened for a while. You can avoid them with Vaseline or BodyGlide. I would probably have been able to avoid it if I’d slathered it on down there. The trouble is that I would have needed enough of it to leave a highly suspicious stain on my new breeks. I’d have ended up with one of my mates asking me if I’d a little accident. “Well, you can claim it’s just Vaseline but it certainly looks like you’ve shat yourself.”

I also have the Garmin Scar. The chest strap for my heart rate monitor has left a particularly impressive welt across my breast bone area. You don’t see that in the brochures. No, you see attractive men and women running around, getting a nice glow on (not a euphemism, possibly a special effect) and you don’t see the after effects of a three hour run without first having slapped on the BodyGlide. It’d be enough to put your off your dinner, as if the sight of me topless isn’t bad enough. David Beckham, I am not. Nor am I David Tennant whom I have seen photographed almost wearing his kilt this week. I’m not even Vladimir Putin who would stand more chance of being a gay icon if he didn’t keep saying stupid things about homosexuality and stopped being a complete pillock. I’ve forgotten the Russian for pillock. I hope someone will remind me.

Next week, Week Whatever 2, I’ll do some more running around and I’ll certainly remember to slap on enough Vaseline to excite the Village People and give Vladimir some cause for concern. No more whimpering in the showers for this old man. Nossir.

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Up and down like the Assyrian empire…

I think we’re at the end of week seven. It’s hard to tell. I’ve lost count already. I certainly can’t count to six. I have committed to six runs a week for Jantastic and I’ve only made it on one of the three weeks of January. I was injured a couple of weeks ago and I just haven’t been arsed this week.

I did have a good run at the Folksworth 15 last Sunday. I ran the first 13 miles nice and steadily, digging in a little when I had to and ticking off eight-minute miles. I ran the last two miles at a quicker pace and finished in 1:58:48. Those last two miles really fucked my legs. They had that horrible jiggly feeling all night which kept me awake. The bloody things were still running.

The positives to come from the race were all about just how easy it felt until I got carried away with myself. I picked off some runners in those last two miles who had overtaken me early in the race and were fading. Mile 14 starts at the bottom of the last climb on the course. I ran past one man who was walking, slapped his arm saying “Come on, you can walk at the end.” He said that he would catch me up. He never did.

I know that if some bugger had done that to me, trying to get me to run when I was completely spent, I would be hugely pissed off. So, if that was you, I’m sorry. I’ll probably do it again but I’m sorry anyway.

Lack of sleep has been a feature of the week. It was jiggly legs on Sunday night but just stupidity the rest of the week which meant I didn’t get to bed terribly early on two or three occasions and my itinerary which had me swearing at the alarm most mornings. I need a lot of sleep and it’s something I always forget when there’s an old NCIS or Castle on the telly late at night.

I was out at a Burns’ Night ceilidh last night with Anne. We didn’t get back until gone one. I’d been running round the Ashridge Estate, out along the Ridgeway and up onto Ivinghoe Beacon in the afternoon. 10 hilly and claggy miles. I would probably much rather have gone to bed. We seldom have a night out and this one had been planned for a few weeks.

My tiredness has meant that my mood is all over the place. I was completely trashed this morning and couldn’t face going out with the others for a run after breakfast. I haven’t been able to summon up the energy all day so I’ve canned the run. I’ll be one run short again on Jantastic but I want to start next week properly.

Next week is a new week. Let’s view that as a positive. I can acknowledge the negatives of not hitting targets over the last few weeks and work on those too. That’s a positive too. In the meantime, I’ll have a reasonable dinner and an early night.

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Week 5 Already

Photo credit,  Metropolitan Museum of Art

I was in the steam room at the gym this afternoon. I like stretching in there. The warmth helps relax tight muscles and I feel a lot better for a bit of an extra stretch before I leave the facilities. The steam room and sauna are both newly installed. I really like the sauna; it still smells more like a Norwegian timber yard than a Turkish wrestler’s jockstrap. The wooden benches and wall panels are pale birch or beech and have not yet absorbed the sweat of a hundred thousand hairy arses. It’s all very lovely in there.

The new steam room has little twinkly lights in the ceiling, two prodigiously powerful kettles producing steam enough to fill the long, narrow room and flood lights at ankle-level beneath the tiled seating. The shadows my feet and legs cast against the walls reminded me of images like the one above. I seem to have teeny-tiny feet and ankles below the calves and thighs of a Greek god.

Running form must have changed in the 2,500 years since the unknown artist painted the athletes on the vase in this picture. I don’t think I’d like to see any of my athletes allow their shoulders to counter-rotate quite as much as that and while I like to do a few barefoot drills on a kind surface on a summer’s evening, bare-arse drills would get me arrested.

Week five of marathon training has gone well. Shocker, I know. I had a rest day on Monday then raced on Tuesday in the Ely New Year’s Eve 10k, battling nasty winds to log 46:10 which is a minute and three quarters outside my PB and slightly slower than last year. I had a gentle 14 miles on New Year’s Day, 5 miles of recovery run on Thursday, a very tiring 18 miles on Friday after work and a blessedly regenerative 5 miles yesterday evening. The last few miles on Friday evening were hard but I couldn’t slow down to the comfortable shuffle I wanted because I was running through the city. Suppose someone I know had seen me? I wasn’t going to let that happen so I kept running at a nice even pace and tried to look good even if I wasn’t going very quickly. Runner’s pride is a terrible thing. I did nine of the eighteen miles in Julia DeCesare’s very welcome company. She kept me at a nice, even pace and helped me keep my head straight. I couldn’t quite bring myself to do the extra 6 miles on the plan for today after racing hard this morning but that’s still my biggest ever week of training.

I never enjoy racing in the County Cross-Country Champs. It always comes too soon. I haven’t done any really hard, fast running in what feels like weeks. Tuesday’s race was just a slog in the wind and couldn’t really be counted as a proper session. It was just survival. Christmas gets in the way and obsessing with logging marathon miles gets in the way and what should be an A race turns into an OMG, Already? race. It’s supposed to be 10k but I logged it at 10.7k this afternoon and while that last half mile or so is all downhill, it’s downhill when you’re dying on your arse because your fitness isn’t what it should be and the guys behind are getting closer and the only thing getting further away from you than the guys in front is the fucking finishing line. It just never seems to come until you need another 50m to take another place in which case it’s right there and you cross it in a confusion of relief and despair. Funny thing, racing.

I had someone called Paul from – I think – Riverside Runners up my chuff for the best part of half the race. We each had support on different parts of the course. The race is held in Priory Park in St Neots so it was home turf for Paul and a lot of the marshals come from his club. It’s a good, supportive club because he got a lot of “Go on, Paul, get after him!” or “You’ll catch him, Paul. Keep it going!” I yelled “No, he won’t!” at that one. I’m a lucky man. Because of parkrun, lots of people from different clubs know me so I had lots of support round the course too. It makes such a huge difference. I have friends in clubs and towns all over the county now and just like on Friday night, my runner’s pride wasn’t going to let me look bad.

I finally got away from Paul with about 600m to go. I kicked really hard down the final hill and gradually the sound of his footsteps faded behind me. There were two runners ahead and I was blowing bubbles in a last desperate attempt to close them down. Maybe if I’d pushed harder on the final climb and closed the gap more then, I would have stood a better chance. Whatever, they held me off finishing about five or six yards ahead. It’s hard to tell because I was having blurry vision at the end. There may have only been one runner ahead but I think there were two different colours of vest. The only other time I’ve had blurred vision at the end of a race was the 400m in the Fetch Summer Mile Meeting in Southend when I was chasing Chris Hurcomb down. It’s a bit scary but sometimes you just have to run and trust you won’t actually black out until you cross the line. Besides, the first aiders are at the finishing line, not 200m out so that’s where you have to collapse for the most urgent attention.

I didn’t collapse. I didn’t feel dizzy. I did very badly want to puke and had to find a quiet corner away from everyone until I felt better. That’s how I finish nearly every race. If I haven’t run so hard I want to vom, I haven’t given it everything. When I felt better, I was talking to Christof Schwiening and his daughter, George. He was very generous in his praise. I was grateful to him for his kind words because I look up to him as a runner. George was second overall in her race and won the U20 Girls’ category. I was 95th. I’m happy with that.

Back to work and a normal routine next week. I need to move sessions around on the plan so tomorrow’s rest day becomes a session day, I’ll be coaching on Tuesday and Wednesday becomes a rest day, Thursday get a recovery run and I’ll do my long run on Friday again. I have another race on Sunday, you see. I feel much better today than I did last Sunday. I think I have 13 weeks to go. Bring it on. Bring. It. On.

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Marathon Training, Weak One

Did you see what I did there? Did you? Did you? It was quite rubbish, wasn’t it? Oh well, the only way is up. The first week of my marathon training has not gone well. I’ve been doing a good impression of the bastard offspring of Coffin Henry and Bob Fleming. My cough has developed a personality of its own. It’s a solid, traditional character; John Bullshit, maybe. It has however given me an excellent excuse to eat Pantagruellian quantities of ice cream in an effort to stave off the sore throat. Given the choice between a couple sad, wee, wee-flavoured Strepsils (other wee-flavoured lozenges are available) and a biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig bowl of Green & Black’s vanilla or chocolate, what would you do?

The cough has kept me awake at night all week. Bastard thing. I’ve had about four hours of sleep each night. I’ve also made return day trips to Manchester and Newcastle on consecutive days. I’d be knackered in the normal course of events this week with my normal training load and even though I haven’t kicked up to 55 miles immediately, I have done three hard sessions, a race and a long run in the past seven days and my legs are mashed as a result.

I’m following the P&D 55-70 miles plan. The plan says 50 miles next week but that would not be sensible at this stage for me. I need to add miles again next week so I am closer to 40 miles than the nadge over 30 I did this week. I also need a rest day or two. I’ll drop a couple of miles off each session next week and swap things around so I can train with Alan tomorrow.

Anyway, let’s hope for a better Week Two because Weak One was horrible.

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Marathon training starts tomorrow and I don’t mind telling you that I’m bricking it. I don’t have a happy marathon history. I’ve only completed two of them, Moray in 2011 and London in 2012. I started Edinburgh in 2012 but DNFed and didn’t even reach the start line of Amsterdam in 2012 due to injury and idiocy. (I continued to run long after I knew I was too broken to run. Idiocy, as I said.) I’m running the Greater Manchester Marathon on 6 April next year as the first step towards qualifying so I can run the Boston Marathon as a 50th birthday present for myself. It’s an odd thing to want to do but there are worse mid-life crises to have.

26 miles, 385 yards is a sod of a long way to run and training for it takes a lot of time. I’ll rack up the best part of 900 miles in the next 18 weeks if I follow the plan fully. I’ll wear out a pair of road shoes just training for the race, or I will if I do all my training on the road. I’ll probably do at least half my long runs off road, round Wimpole or on the Roman Road, Fleam Dyke and the Devil’s Dyke. I should probably get myself a new pair of road shoes and possibly a pair of race shoes. I go very well in my inov-8 Bare-X. I did 5 miles in them last night and it felt easy and light. my 12 miles today were off-road round Wimpole estate for the most part and hard work. I was very tired by the end.

I could be quite pessimistic about my prospects of hitting my targets on the basis of today’s run but that would be daft. I’m at the beginning of the process, not at the end. I’m not marathon fit but I shall be in four months’ time. Manchester or Bust is not the most inspiring of slogans but it’ll have to do for now.

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The God of Small Joys

There must be one surely? I’m not talking about those major events in life like the birth of children or falling in love. I’m talking about the little things. Finding a fiver you didn’t know you had in a pocket when you really need a coffee and a cake. A smile from your beloved when you wake up. That sort of thing. They deserve to have a god. If love can have a god, then so can smiles from loved ones and children.

This came to mind because I had a really rubbish run yesterday. I had no energy, no vim or vigour and I worked really hard to post a 26 minute run around Wimpole Estate parkrun. It was a bit muddy and sticky but it shouldn’t have been so bloody hard. I’d spent the week on the road in Manchester and Yorkshire meaning lots of miles, hotel nights, unfamiliar beds and crappy food on my own. I hadn’t run since Sunday’s St Neot’s Half in spite of taking all my kit and shoes with me. My lack of energy and oomph has been hanging around for a while.

So I ran flat out and slowly round parkrun on Saturday morning and crossed the line feeling a little meh. However, it wasn’t a crap run. It was a beautiful morning – really, really cold. It took the best part of twenty minutes for the feeling to return to my fingers even though I was wearing my best winter running gloves. It’s definitely winter again and that makes me happy. I was running among friends. I saw familiar, smiling faces everywhere I looked. I know lots of them now but even more of them know me. There were runners of all ages out on the course yesterday and they were by and large giving the absolute berries. Afterwards I had a very nice mocha, one of Cambridgeshire’s better sausage rolls and a slice of Bakewell so sexy I wanted to call it Joan.

My parkrun is so much more than the run and that’s just as well. Running in general is like that. My St Neot’s Half was an hour and three quarters of socialising and partying. I ran the last mile quite hard and it took a good five minutes before I stopped wanting to throw up but apart from that I was chatting and laughing. My time wasn’t dreadful, less than three minutes slower than my 2011 PB on the same course and it was a happy, happy day.

Small joys are important. They keep us going and give us something to rely on when small sadnesses creep up on us and the god of small joys knows there are enough of those around.

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Inhalers Go In The Other End

I’ve had a couple of disappointing races recently. The fourteen and a half miles down the A143 to a town called Scrotum – or something like that – in the Round Norfolk Relay were in the middle of a damp night. I had an asthma attack. That interfered with things just a bit. Then I ran out of energy and had to have a word with myself just to get going again. The Bourn to Run 10k on Sunday was also a bit of a struggle. I’ve enjoyed it the last couple of years and it’s my PB race. I just didn’t have much oomph at the weekend. I’ll blame my flu jab and my sore feet for falling short of last year’s time with 45:14. I worked hard for it if you go by the length of time I spent retching into a hedge at the finish. I’m racing again on Sunday in the wonderfully-named Wimpole Half Marathon Hoohah. It’s an off-road course and it’s not flat so it’s not going to be a PB attempt. I’ll treat it as a quickish long run and see what happens.

Last night’s training session was… It was an interesting experience. It’s always an unusual night when your inhaler almost disappears up your bum. Well it is for me. Maybe it’s what you do for diversion of an evening. A warm up, the usual dynamic stretches and drills followed by a 1k time trial which I thrashed in 3:45. I have run that distance more quickly but it felt good. I think my post-jab gronkiness has gone. We followed that with 4 x 1k at a slightly more relaxed but still very brisk pace.

Now, a brief diversion: I was wearing a pair of skin-tight track shorts last night. Nearly all my shorts have a zipped pocket on them where I can stash my car key, inhaler and a tenner in case I need to get home from a long run on the bus or by cab. These don’t so I usually only wear them at the track where I can stash all those things trackside in my race bag. I left my car key with a friend who needed to stash his bag while he was running and who would be back before me and pushed my inhaler into the back of the waistband of my shorts. I couldn’t find the little pouch on a belt

I set off on the third rep having had a quick puff a the end of the second. I was a little rushed and didn’t quite hook the jutty-outy bit over the top of my waistband. I pegged it off up Clerk Maxwell Road and as I started to climb the gentle rise onto Madingley Road where everyone else seems to slow down, I felt the inhaler jiggle down into the back of my shorts. I could have slowed down at that point and fished it out but I’d just worked hard to overtake a couple of other runners and I didn’t want to let them past so I just kept going. The further along Madingley Road I went, the more the inhaler disappeared down until it was nestled uncomfortably between my bum cheeks. There were a couple of moments as I ran down J J Thompson Avenue when I thought the sodding thing was going to work its way up inside me.

I got to the end of the rep with an inviolate anal sphincter and pulled the inhaler out of my  shorts. It was sweaty but not smelly so I tucked it back into place more carefully before I headed off on the final rep. I can’t imagine that even if you were so minded to push an inhaler into your fundament that you’d get much pleasure or satisfaction from it. There are probably better butt plugs out there.

And no, I’m not going to road test any butt-plugs for your amusement.

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Duelling Affletes

Recently, I have been Thunder Running across scorched earth during daylight and through the sort of quagmire unseen since the Somme in the First World War. I have been riding my bike on high days and holidays and having a whale of a time. I still think cycling is still cheating, mind. I have swum in a lake and not drowned myself while chilling the fuck out and calming down. And all of this was in preparation for the Cambridge Triathlon which took place yesterday.

Only it didn’t. Thank you, blue-green, pestilential and poisonous algae. You can bugger off. Cyanobacteria produce toxins which can kill people to death and sadly they showed up in the lake at Mepal where we were due to swim yesterday. I thought that drowning was going to be a greater hazard than poisoning and have practiced really quite a lot so that I hardly drown at all these days. The organisers took the view that losing participants to something which still has the hump at us for being out-evolved a billion years ago was not an acceptable risk so changed the event to be a duathlon of 6k/40k/6k. The organisers are always right but I do wish that the bloody algae would just let it go. Your time has passed, my little blue-green friends.

I had planned to get out of the lake not last having enjoyed a bit of a splash around, bimble the bike leg waving cheerily to the marshals maybe overtaking a couple of ladies of a certain age if they didn’t mind and have a wee jog round the run course, chatting to friends as I encountered them. That plan went out the window because I would now have to actually do some racing. I had a steady first run during which I was overtaken by a handful of competitors from the next wave back. They were flying. I timed the run at 27:49. I didn’t know exactly where the transition lines were so it doesn’t reflect my official time. I didn’t faff too much in T1. Helmet on. Shoe off, shoe on. Shoe off, shoe on. Bike off the rack and run with it across rough ground to the start of the bike course. I have no idea how all that took 2:16.

I had overtaken some of the women from the previous wave on the run course and one of these nailed me right at the start of the bike. She was off like she didn’t fancy being chased round the bike course by a skinny, middle-aged, bearded bloke with pubes poking through his trisuit. I wonder whether the Brownlees shave down there. Maybe they just wear thicker material. It was a fun ride. The course was as flat as week-old roadkill and I was catching and passing some of the women regularly enough. The quick guys came past me at astonishing velocities. I could hear the whum-whum-whum of their wheels as they came up behind me. One came by so closely and at such speed that I was momentarily blown off-course. On a few occasions, someone came past and then struggled to make headway. I would overtake them again and try to pull away. I managed that once, never to see the rider again. Once I yelled at someone much younger to try it again and make it stick this time. He did and was gone off up the road after his next victim. Finally, I duelled with a bloke between Earith and Haddenham. He finally got away from me on the only climb of the day, a short 300m or so up to a junction in Haddenham itself. I must have demoralised the one guy on a time-trial bike I overtook somewhere between Chatteris and Somersham. Chris gave me a huge lift when he came past me halfway round the bike course. I was yelling and shouting and may have whooped a bit. I dug in there and continued my race all the way to Haddenham. I timed the bike leg at 1:19:35 which gave me an average speed of 30km/h, as near as makes no bollocks. It was the target Chris gave me so I’m quite chuffed with that.

T2. Oh, T2. It’s when you find that someone has taken your legs away from you and left you Christy Brown’s instead. Unclip the right foot. Stop at the dismount line, Attempt to unclip the left foot. Go on. Fucking unclip. That’s it. Swing your leg over. No, the other leg. That’s not working. First leg again. That’s better, Jog through to the bike rack. No, walk through to the bike rack. Walk slowly to the bike rack. Smile at the supporters. No need to swear at them. They’re being nice. Where the chuffing fuck is my bag? That’s it! No, it’s not. That’s it there. Right, rack the bike. Helmet off. Drop shades. Bend to pick up shades. Ohhhhh fffffffffffffuuuuuuucck! Why does that hurt? Shades back on. Shoe off. Fuck! That’s sore. Shoe on. Wince. Shoe off. Shoe dropped, Fumble. Swear, Wince. Swear again. Shoe on. Jog to the run course. Walk a few steps. Remember you’re supposed to be a runner and just fucking run. 2:41. Worst experience of the day.

I thought I would not be able to run at all. My back was aching. I had some intimate chafing issues because I’d forgotten to apply my chamois cream in the morning. As it turned out, I ran slowly but well. I think it was only my technique which got me through. I had little energy left and no strength at all. I turned out to be in better nick than the people I was overtaking. I kept thinking about light steps and using my arms to drive me forwards. I tell my athletes that your arms will get you home when your think your legs can’t. Drive back with your elbows not forward with your wrists and your knees will come up themselves. You’ll keep some poise and balance. There were some very, very tired boys and girls out there. I tried to encourage them as I went by. There must have been some people overtaking me too but I don’t remember any. I caught up with Clare with 2k to go and tried to encourage her to stay with me but she was completely spent. She had a stonker of a day overall though and came 4th in her category. I’ve been given a time of 13:48 in the provisional results for my second run. 31:48 would be closer since I timed it at 28:55. I made my overall time 2:21:18 which was reasonable since I would have happily have taken 2:25:00 when I set off.

Finishing isn’t the end. No. Then you have to try not to throw up over anyone important. Chris was waiting by the finish. It was a huge pleasure to see him there. There’s something about the snot you generate in course of vigorous exercise which makes it far more viscous and unpleasant than usual. I couldn’t find my inhaler because I’d left it in my car that morning along with the tissues I keep for removing mucilage. I was using the water I’d been given to dislodge the mucus which was making me gag and looking at the banana in my other hand as if I’d never seen a banana before. It was an alien object. I’d no idea whether to eat it, use it as a weapon or take it home as a pet. I saw Clare come in and then Glyn a few minutes after that. So, I beat a girl and an elderly man. Woohoo! I feel really good.

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PB Saturday

I hadn’t really planned it. I seldom do. I thought it likely that I’d be needed at Wimpole Estate parkrun on Saturday morning so when Paul said he had a full roster and that I wasn’t needed, I thought I’d have a trot round Cambridge instead. I’d planned to have a real go at my Mile PB at the Fetch Summer Mile which was on Saturday lunchtime at the university track. It’s traditional to have a bit of a blow at a parkrun first, I thought I’d take the opportunity to have a pop at my parkrun PB while I had a decent set of legs. Training’s been going very well and I haven’t had an injury for a few months so I knew I was in good nick. I’ve been running at the back of the quick groups at C&C’s Tuesday night training sessions and not being too far off the back of the group.

I thought I’d be able to hold the pace I needed. My previous 5k PB, set in March 2012 was 21:03 and I’ve been running 800m repeats in around three minutes. I knew that pace was unsustainable over 5k but I should have been capable of running much more quickly than seven minute miles for the distance. I asked on Facebook for pacing help and Peter Stephens and Neil Tween both volunteered. I thought I’d need to be kept in check a bit at the start. I have a tendency to go off like a teenager at a porn party. There was a chance I’d blow up at 3k if I went off at my usual harum-scarum pace.

On Saturday morning, I had my perfomance porridge (not at all Scottish – made with honey, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries) and a coffee. I remembered to finish my orange juice but not my banana. All done before 7:30am. I need to have my breakfast to run properly but I can’t have it too late or I park my porridge on the finishing line and that’s just not pretty. I met Neil and Peter at Milton. Peter was in a very nice Tweed jacket. He intended to wear it on his run. Chris Darling has a reputation for dressing up on his pacing days so Peter thought that the least he could do was look smart. He looked very smart.

I warmed up. I don’t bother when I’m just jogging round but I needed to be on it from the start. I did the shorter first lap of the course and ran up the finishing straight to check conditions and to visualise crossing the line. I like to say that I don’t have a ritual before a race, that I just rock up and run but that’s not quite true. I need to get my heart rate up before I start or I spend the first half mile running through treacle. I do the same warm up and stretches each time I run hard. I suppose that counts as a ritual.

I ran just behind Neil and Peter for the first lap, It felt really easy. I nearly tripped on another runner and then nearly tripped her. The first lap can be really congested at Milton. I moved past the pace group just past the 1k board. I thought I’d cruise along just ahead of them for a bit in case Peter came in a little behind his target. I gradually pulled out a bit of a lead. I wasn’t wearing my watch so I had no idea how quickly I was running. I ran up behind a junior in a C&C vest at the far side of the lakes. I pushed out a few words of encouragement as I went to pass him and he kicked on a bit. Each time I caught him he would speed up a bit and I nearly fell over him a couple of times. I was a little frustrated but impressed that a boy who couldn’t be in his teens yet was easily keeping pace. He was right there for almost the entire lap. I finally got past at about 3k, I think. Martyn Brearley had overtaken us just before the long straight going back down to the Slippery Bridge at 3.5 and I set about trying to keep him in sight.

As we went through the final lap, I gradually began to close the gap to Martyn. I try very hard not to slow down on Milton’s many corners and each time I ran round one, the gap would come down a little bit. I finally came onto Martyn’s shoulder with a huge effort going past the cafe for the last time and kicked hard to overtake him on the straight just after the final left-handed corner onto the starting straight with 400m to go. I was sure that not only Martyn but Neil and Peter were right up my chuff and I gave the finish everything to stay ahead of them. That finishing straight goes on for fucking ever. There is nothing but pain in your legs, nothing but fire in your lungs, the very hounds of hell in the form of a very gentle, kind and tall man are chasing you down and you can’t look back. You. Can’t. Look. Back. Look back and you risk falling. Worse than that, you give those chasing you heart. They think you’re worried about them. I was.

I crossed the line, collected my finisher’s token – number 45 – and then glanced back. Martyn was there. I had no idea of my time. Neil and Peter came across the line a few seconds later, Peter’s watch stopped on 21:00 so I had a new PB. I didn’t know what my time was then. I waited at the finish funnel for some more friends to come through and then wandered off for a coffee with Julia, Martyn and Alex. It was a happy, happy and completely exhausted time. James gave me my time before I left. 20:38 – a PB by 25 seconds. Job done on PB Saturday, part 1.

And then I had my Mile.

Once again I had a pacer. John Oakes is a legend. He consistently runs at the front of races up to Half Marathon distance and regularly wins his age group. He is another quietly driven, self-effacing, personable and very generous athlete. I had asked for a 5:50 pacer, once again more to stop me going off too quickly. Ours was the fourth of five rounds and it was the busiest. I settled in just behind John after the off and concentrated on moving as efficiently as possible round the track, hugging the inside of lane 1 on the bends. I had Martyn there again. He moved just ahead of me and sat on John’s shoulder at the end of the first lap. We cruised up behind Stacy Wheat, the only woman ahead of us at the 1k mark and this is where I came unstuck. John and Martyn overtook her on the straight before the bend but I was still on the inside of lane 1 and had to move round the outside of her to overtake her because I was losing ground on them. I took the entire length of the bend to do it and then had to work hard to close the five or six strides which had opened up between us.

I didn’t do it. Martyn was flying and I couldn’t close the gap. I took maybe two strides out of him in the final lap. I crossed the line in 6:06, three seconds outside my PB and 16 seconds outside my target time. It was silly to expect two huge PBs in a day but I had so much fun trying. I then ate far too much cake.

I would like to publically thank Peter and Neil for their time and generosity at Cambridge parkrun and John for his pacing at the track. Chris Hurcomb did a grand job organising everything at the track. My thanks to him as well.

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