Eynsham 10k 2013

Apart from the return of a slight PF nag since the Watlington Skyline I’ve been feeling pretty good with my shoulder, while still not very mobile, hardly complaining at all. So I thought I’d try for a seasons best at the Eynsham 10k, not a lot to ask being as the best I’d managed so far this year was something like 52:30. I ran 48:33 at Eynsham last year and 47:48 the year before but that was then and it’s going to take a lot more training to get back there. So 52 minutes works out about 8:15 minute miles, achievable but only if nothing started hurting and I didn’t throw up!

I cycled out, over 9 miles, the furthest I’ve cycled since April I think. Last year there was flooding and the Thames had spilled over under Swinford Toll Bridge but this year just a bit breezy and chilly but really not a bad day for a race.

Leaving home just before 9am got me there in plenty of time to pick up my chip, chat to local runners and peel off my outer layers. A chap approached and introduced himself as Dean Miller, a recently joined Vegan Runners UK member. He wasn’t running due to injury but his vegan partner Jackie was. I also ran into another vegan from my neighborhood, Lynne, who was meeting up with members of her running group for the race. So I felt in good company.

We wandered round to the start then bang on 10:30 we were off. Chip to chip timing so I started not far from the back. A shout from Dean who was taking photos – then another from VRUK’s Maria who was unexpectedly supporting along with John and their dogs. The start being a bit downhill I tried not to get carried away but still passed a good many runners completing the first mile in under 8 minutes.

Eynsham 10k 2013 startI eased down to target pace for mile 2 only to feel my right shoe loosening and looked down to spot not one but both laces coming undone. Too far to go to leave them like that so lost about 20 seconds pulling out of the fray to re-tie and tuck in properly – I had been chatting when I put my shoes back on after removing my cycling longs and had obviously done a bad job of them.

The course is 2 laps almost right round Eynsham so a gentle headwind then a very slight climb up to and along the A40 path then left back into Eynsham to go round again. I held my pace and passed a good many runners though did have to ease a bit during mile 5 as breakfast threatened to make a return visit. I was going to get my season best but was glad I wasn’t trying for sub-50 as I don’t have it in me quite yet.

Eynsham 10k 2013 finish

We were marshalled left off the road, past the school race HQ, then onto the finish field where Dean waited with camera. I realised a last push would get me under 52 minutes on the finish clock so easily under on the chip – I went for it and just scraped in. A happy but rather achy ride back to Oxford and the results were up before the day was out. 51:17 394th of 588 runners. Slowest time to date at Eynsham but still pleased as I do feel I’m starting to move back in the right direction 🙂







Watlington Skyline XC 2013

Having enjoyed  the Watlington XC 10k last December I thought I’d have a go at the inaugural Watlington Skyline 10 mile XC  organised by the same team. At less than a fiver to enter and with the clear warning that this was a self-navigated race with marshalling only at major junctions it sounded like an adventure.

I managed to get a copy of the route off a fellow parkrunner and traced it onto my Tracklogs mapping software to reveal 2 sizeable lumps and the potential for great views and some hillwalking. I can do 10 slow, hilly, off-road miles without undue suffering now but not at all fast so set myself the unambitious target of finishing in 1 hour 50 minutes, possibly right at the back.

The forecast got a bit worrying as the 27th November approached with ‘the worst storm since 1987’ ominously predicted to arrive the following day. It looked like we might stay dry though if I didn’t drag it out too long and at 11am a rather small band of runners took off from the start half-way up a track near Pyrton, the chap who started us off also running in a style reminiscent of a good old bare bones Audax ride.

Having made clear to a fellow back of pack runner that I may be depriving her of the wooden spoon a small group of us unhurried trotted along to join the Ridgeway path then turn left to start the first long climb. Not a mile done and I managed to go a bit off route, retracing when I hit a dead end and rejoining the race now right at the back. I’d planned to walk some of this hill to preserve energy but the gradient was quite even so I kept going passing maybe 5 runners in the process.

We topped out on the road near Christmas Common at about 2 miles where we were marshalled left then right to join a long and lovely descent through the woods. Tassles of red and white tape had been tied to trees to mark the route. It was dry, not too cold, not too muddy, the sun even snuck through on occasion. A chap with number 14 on his shirt was just in front, a lady from Abingdon Amblers and another chap just behind. This was fun!

We briefly followed bridleways along the bottom before our path began to gently rise in more open landscape allowing us to see the size of the lump up ahead. There were various kissing gates and stiles along the route.  Abingdon & Co set a good, steady pace and I joined them for a while but having studied the profile knew we were in for over a mile of climbing and I’d be wise to walk some of it. So, as the climb steepened around mile 6, I settled into my 50 paces walk, 50 paces run, strategy for a bit. Mr 14 was also taking it easy and I had passed him by the time we reached the road at the top and were marshalled over the bridge at the top of the Stokenchurch Gap where we could see the M40 down below.

Some confusing navigation now, at this time of year there are so many leaves on the ground it’s not always clear that the way you are taking through the woods is actually a path at all, then I emerged by the little car park for Beacon Hill viewpoint where a marshall fortunately appeared to point me the right way. Some muddled math suggested of 5 or so behind me 2 had passed and I’d passed 1 so maybe 5th from the back. I had my Garmin set to show just the time of day but it did flash up each mile time and I reckoned my sub 1:50 was in the bag.

A bit more up then along following a very windswept, narrow, path along the side of that big grass-covered hill you see on the left driving up the Stokenchurch Cut. A marshall took a photo then told me to go left to start descending. Through a gate then a choice of paths, momentary confusion resolved when a couple walking their dogs pointed me left and soon enough I spotted my red and white tape. Below I saw team Abingdon and realised I might yet catch them. Down an old grassy sunken track then a hairpin and more down, looking up above I spotted a runner several minutes back. I was a bit knackered now so not making full use of the descent, through a kissing gate with a box of Aston Rowant nature reserve leaflets and turn left back onto the Ridgeway.

I knew we were going to face a strong headwind heading back west along the Ridgeway but suddenly things got really tough. You could have used the tunnel under the motorway for testing aerodynamics! Despite being nearly flat and no particular bits of me hurting I was back to taking walking breaks. The Garmin buzzing the 9th mile completed felt like ‘on no how can I do another mile’. I thought the organiser had said we would finish on the Ridgeway and not have to run the extra couple of hundred metres back to the start, I really hoped this was true. In retrospect I had good old-fashioned bonk and should have taken an energy gel with me but you never do recognise it when it’s happening.

The finish was beautifully low-key. A lad and a girl sat on stones at the turn-off from the Ridgeway with paper and iPad recording times. A couple of people clapped while someone gave me a bottle of water. My rival for the metaphorical wooden spoon was a little upset that some of them had accidently gone under distance, they had recorded a bit over 9.5 miles while I got the whole 10.1, I think someone had had a go at them for getting in front. It began to rain and I set off back to the car chatting with one of the organising club and spotted number 14 walking ahead of me when surely he should be behind somewhere.

So, with at least 3 accidental under-distances getting past me, maybe I was 2nd last? I was a little bit miffed that runner I’d spotted behind earlier hadn’t passed me when I was walking – I mean who wants to be 2nd last when you can be last-last? In fact the results showed me 39th of 42 with a time of 1:45:04 so 5 minutes ahead of target. The journey home was made interesting by an unexpected outburst of pins and needles in both hands and lower arms rendering me too clumsy to work the CD but fortunately ok to drive – I reckon the knackered nerves in my dysfunctional shoulders had decided to make their opinion of my efforts understood.

An excellent event and I’ve now put my entry in for the Watlington XC December 10k 🙂


Marshalling at the Abingdon Marathon

Having given up on any hope of being marathon fit several months ago I had transferred my place in this years Abingdon Marathon to VRUK member Shelley and volunteered myself for marshalling instead. I’d no real idea what my duties would be or how long I’d be needed for till just before the event so as the weather forecast got increasingly ominous I was beginning to wonder what I’d let myself in for.

Come 20th October I dragged myself out of bed in time for a good breakfast and drove out to the rendezvous at Draycott where I was 15 minutes early so parked up and waited in the car listening to the rain hammering down. A wet cyclist appeared then disappeared and I had a look round thinking she may be another marshall but she’d obviously gone off to shelter somewhere. A car pulled up beside me and Lucy from Abingdon parkrun emerged from it and, noticing the rain seem to be stopping, I got out and said hello. We spotted the others gathering over the road from the pub and joined them where Nigel very efficiently handed out our various positions and duties along with emergency contact numbers etc.

I was to go to Milton and try and get runners to use the pavement rather than run on the road at a section where the road was already narrowed by parked cars. Despite running this marathon twice I’d managed to forget there were 2 laps of a big loop making up much of it so runners would be passing my station at about miles 9 and again at mile 18. This spot had been a bit of a potential problem in previous years as it was not previously marshalled and there was a pub over the road which increased traffic come lunchtime. As it happened the Admiral Benbow was closed for refurbishment so I wouldn’t have to worry about this.

Dry now I nibbled a 9bar sitting in the car while waiting for 9:25 when my instructions said I should be in position. This proved a bit optimistic and it was nearer 9:45 when the lead bike, escorting 3 fast runners well ahead of the rest, came past. From then on it was pretty well a non-stop stream of runners for 3 hours. The rain returned for about 30 minutes about 10:30 and everyone looked pretty wet but then it gradually cleared and there was even a bit of sunshine. I shouted encouragement and clapped for so long I susequently found I’d upset my frozen shoulder and it took a day to stop aching again.

VRUKs Shelley and Alex came past running strong. Various local faces came and went but most were unfamiliar with a good spread of club vests near the front reflecting Abingdon Marathon’s reputation as a fast and well organised race. A couple of marshalls on bikes passed me several times. The fast guys came back round before the last of the slower runners had completed their first lap, still looking strong and determined. After a while some were showing the strain of the second lap, some taking walking breaks, some wearing determined expressions despite the lopsided gait of sore legs. A few chucked me their energy gel wrappers to dispose of. No one looked in danger of collapse. I clapped and cheered shouting out ‘please run on the pavement through the village’ when appropriate. There were several shouts of ‘thanks marshall’ and very few miserable faces despite the gloom and pain of bad patches some must have been struggling through.

Eventually the field thinned out and the bail-out minibus pulled up with no passengers on board. I was told there were 3 more runners that were almost with me and were expected to continue despite rather pushing the 5 hour overall time limit. Way behind them were 3 more who would continue but unofficially. The fact that both the last official runner and one of the out of time group were wearing their 100 Marathon Club shirts suggested they knew all very well what they were doing. About 12:45 I handed my yellow marshall tabard to the minibus officials and drove back home, a bit tired but not half as much as the runners. A very a rewarding experience and highly recommended!

Meanwhile – a couple of weeks back now – I completed my 50th parkrun timed to coincide with Oxford parkrun number 100 so I should be getting my red running shirt soon. I guess that counts as an achievement clocked up for this otherwise rather inactive year.


Inverted Bowl

Had one of those sad moments when I couldn’t drag myself away from the computer after parkrun yesterday so I decided to get geeky and create a graph of my parkrun times over the last year or so, using data conveniently downloadable from my Fetch training log, to examine their rise and, at last, fall. I know I’m getting a bit of speed back since my shoulder has become less painful but nothing like a graph with a trend-line to illustrate the obvious.

Rise and Fall of parkunThe November 2012 starting point is actually when Fetch introduced parkrun as a separate category but it tallies nicely with when I first started to be aware of something wrong with my arm, though it wasn’t diagnosed as a frozen shoulder till February this year.

Spuds 2013And while I’m posting trivia here is a photo of this year’s main-crop potatoes – pleased with the yield and apparent quality for just 3 rows, it looks like there are quite a few big bakers in there as well. They should last us till Xmas at least. The weather has been much, much better this year but I think the thorough dressing of seaweed fertiliser and compost we applied has revitalised our garden plot.


Headington Road Runners 5 Mile 2013

It’s been a couple of years since the Headington Road Runners 10k round a flat old airfield at Worminghall disappeared from the calender so I was pleased to see they were organising a new race to celebrate their 25th anniversary. I got an entry in, the start at Oxrad was only a couple miles from home, though I wasn’t expecting to be up to much.

Meanwhile, over the last few weeks, there has been some progress with this blooming frozen shoulder. It is still somewhat stuck – I can now raise it a few more inches, level with the top of my head at a push – but I’m not going to be reaching stuff from the top shelf with it any time soon. But it has got less painful, I can get through the night without painkillers (to say I can actually sleep through the night would be a bit of an exaggeration). Sometimes I manage to forget it’s there for an hour or so then feel unwarranted disappointment when it starts aching again. Most importantly I’ve felt able to go out and run as fast as I can a few times, it hurts the shoulder but only for a short while – not like before when any real effort left it really sore for a couple of days. I even managed a sub-25 parkrun a couple of weeks back – my best for ages. So progress at last!

Back to the race though, I was knackered that morning and the shoulder was having a (now less common) moan. I stuffed a couple of ibuprofen and cycled down to Marston anyway and it was great to see lots of local faces on what was a good morning for running, cool and fresh for a change. We wandered over a couple of playing fields to the start area and I checked out the start and finish, we were to go through old Marston then out onto the bypass cycleway then back through Cutteslowe and the paths behind Summertown to follow the Marston Ferry cycle-track then under the subway and on to the finish.

Chip timing so I placed myself right at the back with a hope of 43 minutes and definitely wanting under 45, not very ambitious I know! Off we went with me only pushing the start on my Garmin after the lack of tell tale beep wrongly suggested it was gun-to-chip not chip-to-chip. I settled into comfortable pace and passed a few runners as we ran through Marston, I was surprised to see a bunch of what looked like fast guys appear out a road on our right and join the race. We unexpectedly appeared at what I think of as ‘the hole in the hedge’ where we were efficiently marshalled through onto the cycleway – I had expected us to emerge from Elsfield Road.

The first mile clicked over in 8:07 which I was happy with, not quite up to 8 minute miles again yet but this was good enough and sustainable. We passed the ‘2 mile’ sign at about 1.4 miles – oh dear! A chap next to me had a grumble and I speculated that they had needed to change the route at the last minute, maybe due to problems on the road. Perhaps they’d add a bit on later.

I was feeling pretty good – always a boost starting right at the back as you’re bound to pass a few – just a matter of keeping the pace up and I was good for that. We turned off the cycleway and were very well marshalled through the Cutteslowe estate and down the narrow footpaths that they try and pretend are now a cycle route. Under the first subway, along the Marston Ferry proper cycle track – then under the 2nd subway where a couple of runners cut the corner despite being well marshalled. ‘Half mile to the finish’ a marshall shouted out – so we weren’t going to get our under-distance back. I passed someone having a walk just before the finish straight then heard her coming up behind so pushed over the line.

A lovely new race and really enjoyed it, a mug for a memento was nice as I’ve far too many shirts and don’t usually bother picking them up any more. It turned out that the race had indeed taken a wrong turn near the start and even a small mistake is impossible to correct when nearly 200 runners are charging along. Otherwise the organisation and support were great and I’m looking forward to next year already. 35:28 for 4.4 miles 123rd of 187 runners.

HRR 5 Mile Mug