Brighton Half 2014

I’d entered the Brighton Half an age ago as it seemed there was going to be a big vegan presence. Rubbish that I may have been recently, I’d used this as a focus for some training and – while my target of scraping in under 2 hours seemed uninspired for a distance I could run in 1:45 2 years ago – it was a bit of a boost to be reminded by my ‘purple’ start race number that when I’d entered I’d apparently put 2:00 – 2:15 as my expected time.

As a ‘tune-up’ race (well alright because I couldn’t resist it) I did a orienteering event up Shotover the day before. Went for ‘light green’ this time and while I took a long time again – 1:06:36 for a nominal 2.8k turned into an actual 5k – I made an attempt to do it properly and managed 9th out of 11 finishers with 3 disqualified. 25 minutes ‘stopped’ time according to my Garmin so I obviously need to learn to think quicker!

So Shotover done with mid-afternoon I was off to Littlehampton where I spent a comfy night in the Travelodge before scraping unexpected ice off the car and driving the last few miles to Brighton where I caught the special bus to the start by the seafront. Thousands of runners milling about, I bumped into Matt Woodman and Peter Simpson then deposited my bag before heading off to the ‘purple’ start area – after a bit of a warm-up we were off.

Plan was to start easy and try to keep my miles under 9 minutes throughout. This ought to be easy but I’d struggled to keep under 10 minute miles towards the end of the 13 mile training run I’d done a couple of weeks before and had been absolutely shattered for the rest of the day – it had felt more like I’d just run a marathon. Anyway I followed the convenient 2 hour paceman for a bit – entertained by his obvious urge to run a bit faster tempered by regular checks of his watch to slow down a bit. After a couple of miles I passed him though and was glad to find a bit of space appearing round me as the field opened up a little bit.

Up a long but steady slope for a mile or so watching the faster people descending the closed road in the opposite direction. A great drum band beating out a rhythm – Stix – then our turn to descend with a view of those behind. I had a half bottle of Lucozade at the 3 mile station and again at 6, it had turned into a beautiful sunny morning and I was working up a good sweat for maybe the first time this year.

Brighton Half 2014Tiring a bit around mile 8 I still managed to maintain sub-9s with the help of my Garmin. I felt a little queasy from the Lucozade so washed a gel down with a bottle of water at the 10 mile station which was just at the point where we turned back east and followed the promenade back to the finish. I was seeing a chance of finishing in 1:55 and come the last mile pushed as best I could speeding up for a fast (for me) finish but not quite – 1:55:12 3047th of 6924 finishers chip time – pleased with that though and a day later I feel ok and no injuries 🙂

Afterwards I met up with some of the 15 odd other – mostly much faster – vegan participants, many of them VRUK members. Despite my earlier queasiness a chunk of V-Bites carrot cake and a hazelnut latte went down a treat!



Goring, Woodcote & District Lions 10k 2014

The Friday before the Oxfordshire XC Champs last weekend I got an email saying they were cancelled – not that surprising considering the amount of rain we’d been having, rain now resulting in severe flooding in Oxford and elsewhere.

I’d been rather looking forward to a race though so entered the Goring, Woodcote and Dist Lions 10k which I’ve done a few times before instead. This race is always fun, usually cold, and mainly consists of running on country lanes down a big hill then through Goring and then up a big hill back to Woodcote.

The forecast offered a window in the rains for the morning of the race and while cold it didn’t seem too cold for shorts. I arrived early to ensure I got a parking space and to enter on the line, it seemed a long 30 minutes waiting in the car for start time but a bit cold for standing around.

Gun to chip – we gathered for the start which was a couple of minutes early causing some surprise. Along the flat bit through Woodcote then over a slight rise and right at crossroads to go down and down. I would be disappointed to be slower than 55 minutes and was aware that the 2nd 5k would be taking several minutes longer than the first due to the hill.

Woodcote & Goring 10k

The first 3 miles just under 8 minute miles allowing me to build up a bit of time. I grabbed a cup of water at the halfway station, as much because everyone was running past making them look unwanted as that I needed a drink. Then gently over the first rise watching a couple of runners attacking it then giving up and taking a walk, perhaps they thought this was the big hill already! A bit of pleasant downhill – there was a bit of flooding round here somewhere which we all avoided by running on the grass verge though when I asked the marshal didn’t reckon it that deep.

Goring & Woodcote 10k 2014Then immediately right at the bottom to climb non-stop the last mile and a half. I was pleased to just hold my pace saving just enough to retake most that tried to pass me and then gain a couple more places before crossing the welcome finish line. 53:31 134th of 252 runners, a minute slower than last year but a good bit quicker than I would have been last summer so great to be improving be it rather slowly.

Another local race entered for later in January, the new Oxford Charity 10k from Cutteslowe Park which I suspect will resemble last years Wrap Up and Run.



Xmas Time

Well I’ve not done a lot over the Xmas break so far and I’m not planning on doing much with my remaining week off work. I seem to be tired – as in don’t want to get out of bed before 8am tired – and suspect body and mind are doing some healthy catch-up on sleep lost to my frozen shoulder and early work start over the year.

With the Brighton Half less than 2 months away and it being a targeted Vegan Runners UK event I thought it about time I made myself a training plan. All things considered I’ll be happy with a reasonably dignified finish under 2 hours but I do need to build up the distance a bit to even manage that. Yesterday’s attempt at a decent parkrun – no beer the night before and up at 6:30 for breakfast – was a total flop as my determination gave way under the strain of a chilly breeze and a moaning shoulder. 27:29, 63rd of 101, is my worst for a while but at least I didn’t put a lot of effort in so hopefully will be able to struggle round todays planned 10 miler ok. I did receive my red 50 parkrun shirt so was worth turning up for that 🙂

parkrun 50 shirtI rashly entered myself for the Oxfordshire Cross Country Championships first weekend of January again as part of a club effort to target various ones across the country. Oddly ours is just over the Warwickshire border in Warmington near Banbury. Maybe I’ll be last this year – I’ve no idea what the course will be like but at least by driving there I get a chance to warm-up probable wet feet instead of taking them home on the bike.

What else have I done? A couple of very short spins out on the road bike which feels very precarious but doesn’t seem too uncomfy shoulderwise so something to build on. Lots of food and beer. Too much playing with the computer and websites – I now seem to be looking after both VRUK and VC&AC websites which is not a problem but I have to avoid getting obsessed with detail and stuck in this chair too long.

Oh and entertaining the cats who are not so keen on going outside for exercise at the moment. Mostly I sit about with them while Jane indulges them with sessions of string play (or is that the other way round).

Honey String Dec 2013 Molly String Dec 2013


Watlington XC 10k 2013

Saturday before race day I had a cold – shivery, snotty, tired – I wasn’t at all sure I’d be running. Watlington XC 10k isn’t an early start though and I’d already decided to drive rather than cycle so I decided to restrict myself to just the one beer and see how I felt in the morning. Sunday morning I had breakfast, didn’t feel too bad, more snot than weak and feeble. A look at facebook and it seemed Vegan Runners UK member Rafal had decided to enter last minute so that made my mind up and off I went eating a couple of paracetomol for luck.

In the start hall I collected my number and was pleased I’d brought safety pins as they had run out. Rafal wasn’t so lucky but a chap had a few spare so team VRUK settled for 3 each which was enough to do the job. I was only expecting to 10 minute mile it what with the hills and 1 hour 5 minutes sounded about right as I’d taken a hour last year and had been almost last at the Watlington Skyline only a few weeks ago. We got a runner to take a photo then jogged off to the start.

Watlington XC 10k 2013

A chat then we got in our appropriate start positions, Rafal near the front, me not far from the back, and waited while more runners arrived and 10:30am – start time – came and went. Lots of people were going off for warm-ups and Rafal must have done an extra kilometre by the time a young man with an iPad leapt out of a large black vehicle at gone quarter to eleven. Technology now present the horn sounded and we were off.

I took it nice and easy up the track and along the rough surface of the Ridgeway heading north. My body seemed to have given up what with the wait and I didn’t feel at all energetic. After very gently climbing for a mile and a half we turned towards the Chiltern escarpment then climbed somewhat steeper till a bit after mile 2 I was walking the sharpest bit as expected. A couple of guys valiantly ran past me but I took the places back near the top when I started running but they’d given up.

We were hardly on the top road 10 seconds before turning right into a field and a good long, grassy,descent, a bit steep for me to let go in places but fun non-the-less. A not so young Thame Runner whizzed past me with the confidence of a fell runner. Along a bit of single track with plentiful trip hazards, skirting a wood. Then left onto tarmac, the same track we had started on but further up. Soon through a gap in large logs presumably placed to stop vehicles and soon enough I was walking the 2nd climb of the morning as was everyone around me. This one went on a bit so I got my walking speed up enough to gain a couple of places then into a field and I jogged the last bit of up before we joined the long track back down to the Ridgeway that runs parallel to the Watlington Hill road used for cycling hill climb competitions.

We’d been warned the landowner had cut a lot of wood back and moved the footpath. Every now and then the cut short stumps of coppice poked through the layer of leaves we descended through, fortunately painted orange but still demanding full attention. My specs kept steaming up which really didn’t help things. About halfway the surface improved and I opened up my stride aware from my Garmin, set only to show the time of day, that I was in with a chance of finishing under the hour. Steps fast behind and I wrongly guessed Thame Runners but he wasn’t far behind either and also passed me.

Still I was feeling good as we turned right back onto the Ridgeway and a glance at my watch when the finish came into sight suggested I had over 2 minutes to get there. In the bag I thought but still pushed my best remembering that this race was at least half a kilometre over distance. I was glad to finish but pleased.

Rafal had waited for me despite having finished in 47 minutes plus change. We wandered back to the cars both pleased with our efforts but a bit behind schedule what with the late start. When I did eventually bother to check my time on the Garmin it showed 1:00:08. Damn it how did that happen? Still a few seconds quicker than last year and a bit further up the field managing 94th of 150 finishers.

Still feeling fine I drove home. I had an unusual experience when a foreign chap I thought to be broken down flagged me down on the M40 slip road only to ask for money for petrol and food for his family. I gave him my emergency tenner – I can’t think this was the life he’d been hoping for when he headed for the UK 🙁

Jane also has this cold and didn’t fancy our usual Sunday afternoon visit to Wetherspoons but I didn’t feel too bad as I had a beer and headed for bed. Monday morning though I felt awful and took the day off. A bit better now, Wednesday, but still really tired, rather useless and mentally adrift with a fair amount of snot. Oh well – so it goes!


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 🙂