Saturday, 26 September 2009

Saturday 26 September. Must do better

This has not been a good week for my training, although in hindsight it might prove to be just what the doctor ordered.

I was going to put in another 10,000' + week and just keep it going. However, with two team races for the club this week, i decided to have a 'step-back' whereby i do about half the training and use the rest that provides as a pick-me-up for racing well.

Well that just didn't work. I did a multi-terrain race on Tuesday whilst still tired from the triathlon (took more out of me than I realised), did a day out on the fells with 5500' of climbing on Weds and rested until a cross country (XC) race on Saturday. I thought the rest and reduced training load would help me for the XC. How wrong i was. I was awful, in fact I would say that it is probably on a par with my first ever Welsh Castles run in being my worst ever race.

I should take heart from the fact that I bounced back from that race to do the BGR shortly afterwards, but really, I feel terrible today. My right quad tightened up a bit during the race and I did back off a little, but the brutal truth is that I was tired, slow and lacking strength. Surely the training thus far has not been a waste of time?

Thankfully, there are no more races for me until well into November (Bangor XC). No multi-terrains, no triathlon, just 5 or 6 clear weeks to train without hindrance.

Now is the time to step things up. I need the confidence that comes with being able to run fast, and I need to get strong for all that climbing. So after some a massage and a visit to the osteopath for an MOT, I'll be training harder, eating better and building upon this base I've established.

In short, it's time for some speedwork AND some long days.

This coming week I'm going to do the BGR in 2 days. I can take it easy and enjoy it, but I think that's what I need. WHen I did that leading up to my summer round, I got noticably stronger. It's quite an exciting thought. I'll include some night running I think too. WHere is that headtorch??

I'm also going to so a longish (@10 miles) roadrun each week too, just to keep the speed. I think that'll help. I'm also going to return to circuit training, I need some strength..

I say it's been a bad week, but actually, how can it have ben a bad week when it included a cracking day out in the western reaches of Snowdonia?

Scenes from the Nantlle Ridge


Mon - rest
Tues 4.5M multiterrain race - ran ok, bit tired, 30:00 exactly
Weds - Beddgelert - PBR leg over Moel Hebog and Nanttle ridge and back to car - 14M, 5500'
Thurs and Fri - Rest, for XC (!)
Sat - 6M Colwyn Bay XC, crappest run ever

Summary - probably 6000' climbing, lowest total since restarting my training so I could run well at XC, and for what!?!?

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Sunday 20 September. Up, down, up, down, up, down, phew!

Pen Yr Ole Wen from Tryfan - the slope in profile was my big session this week, 2200 feet straight up times three...

As well as aiming to get the fabled 10,000' of climbing in each week, I like to ensure that at least half of that climbing is done in one session. So because time was pressing (I've seen a job to go for and wanted to get home and start preparing - hope at last?!), i wanted to do as much climbing in as short a time as possible. This means finding a big hill with an unremitting slope and getting up and down it. And so, on a fine Thursday, I drove to Ogwen and parked right opposite the stile gaining access to the Carneddau determined to get at least 6000' in. The direct route up Penyolewen (Hill of the Witches i think?) from Ogwen is a 2250' slog straight up and was perfect. I decided to do three climbs, and therefore 6750' up and down. Mentally this is tough. You deprive yourself of the pleasure that a more natural route provides and there are no small climbs or level bits to provide respite. It's either steep up or steep down for four hours or so.

I did it, and was delighted to note that all three splits were similar, 47 mins, 45 mins and 48 mins for each climb. Mentally, that third climb was tough. I'd done a short race and a 2300' brisk fellrun in the days leading up but found that steady climbing didn't seem to be inhibited by those recent efforts. It was a terrific day with some gorgeous views from a fine, high summit.

View to the northern Glyderau

The summit and Carnedd Daffyd beyond.

The rest of the week was very mixed. Tuesday saw a multi-terrain race of 5 miles on Thursaston beach. I ran poorly, no shock after the Trial on Sunday. I'm quite keen to make up for that in the last of the series next week. Weds saw me hit my best time of the year for my Moel Famau *2 run, 1:16, despite a poor run the evening before - odd.

After the big day on thursday, i did a slow up MF on Friday and then rested before doing my first ever triathlon in Nantwich. It was a bit different and my swimming was predictably poor, but i was ok and loved bombing round on the bike. I did the 500m swim, 20k bike and 5km run in 1:19:25. It was a fun experience, even though i was a fish out of water.

So with a race, a triathlon and three fellruns, it's been a mixed week. The good thing is that i'm not injured, didn't drown and i recovered well after a really hard day last sunday to put in a good, tough week. Surely i'm getting stronger?

Week summary

Mon - rest after Mountain Trial
Tues - 5 mile multi terrain race, good start, wheels came off midway and i jogged home heavy legged
Weds - MF run, 1:16 - best time since restarting my training, second fastest time ever (best was set just before BGR, 1:15). 7 miles, 2300'
Thurs - 3 ascents of Penyolewen - 6750'
Fri - 500m swim, MF run, 1200' - slow and steady
Sat - 45 min cycle
Sun - Sprint triathlon, 500m Swim, 20k bike, 5k run - 1:19:26 - such a rookie....

Total - 11,000'ish, no more than 40 miles

Tune in Head - a few this week, including Tiny Dancer (Elton John), She Bangs the Drums (Stone Roses) and, weirdly, the Overture to the Marriage of Figaro which is 100% my mum's fault.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Sunday 13 September. T'was a trial alright!

This week comprised of just three runs, all of which were extremely memorable but different reasons - one was short, wet, windy and 'orrible, one was quite long, laid back, warm and just lovely whilst the other was hot, marathon-esque (indeed it was 26 miles!), tense, difficult and stunningly beautiful.

After last week's Peris, I was a touch tired and took Monday off to allow a recovery for Tuesday's Wirral Multi-Terrain race at Wallasey. Despite being only four miles, it was a tough little nugget with a puddle-infused beach, plenty of rain and a strong wind. This was made tougher still by having clubmate Andy breathing down my neck and me enduring a strange sensation of wishng he would pass me so i could ease back whilst holding him off the best i could. I just about made it, showing that the speed has not totally deserted me!

I was busy wednesday but Thursday was a lovely day, out running with Steve and Sarah on the Howgills. The weather was perfect and we had a great day taking in about 13 miles and about 4500' on a shortened version of the Sedbergh Hills race. I believe the Howgills to be amongst the best running ground in the UK as far as i know and they did not disappoint that day...

The lovely Howgills

The lovely Howgills II

Then i decided to rest completely for the Lake District Mountain Trial on Sunday. I wanted to do well, and at an advertised distance of 16 miles (approx) and 7,000' ascent, i thought this to be an optimum distance for me - Peris-esque and in my beloved Lakes. I prepared accordingly and took what I considered to be the right amount of food and drink.

Well, they did say approximately! The route was a monster, brilliantly tough on a warm day. The route started and finished in Eskdale, but took in the catchments of Wasdale, Borrowdale, Langdale, Little Langdale and the Duddon Valley. It was 26 miles long and had between 8000 and 9000 feet of climbing in for most poeple (some took better routes with less climbing, but not numpty me, alas...).

Image of map - with controls taking in the slopes of the Scafells, Allen Crags/Glaramara, Bowfell, Crinkle Crags, Great Carrs, Harter Fell and Green Crag.

I started ok and had a strong middle section but ran out of gels and water and faded fast on the streamless ascent of Great Carrs. I bonked, as fellrunners say, and fought hard to crawl home over the last 2 hours. A chap from Horwich was as done in as me and togther we limped home, wondering why we were so tired. I think the LDMTA need to think about their marketing of the distance for this event to help people prepare. If i;d have suspected a 7.5 hour run and not, say, a 5 hour run, i'd have taken more food and been mentally ready. It was a great course, but took some adjusting to!

So i'm knackered again on a monday, which i like. I'm not so sore as all that, just heavy legged. Will get out on the bike in a bit and see how that goes. But with 13 weeks to go before the big day, I feel like i'm getting stronger by the week. With events like the Trial, it's hard not to.

Week summary - 13,000' ascent, 45 miles, 3 runs

Tune in Head - Tomorrow Never Knows, the Beatles (had a bit of a Revolver week actually)

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Sunday 6 September. Peris the thought...

16 miles and 8500' of ascent down, 2 miles to go on the gruelling Peris Horseshoe.
Photo Alistair Tye, with thanks

Just four runs this week but today (Sunday) Douglas Bader would kick my ass over 100 metres. It's been a superb week's training, including two very very different races, both of which went pretty darn well. Right now, my legs feel heavy and tired in that satisfying way that comes with having done a big race.

And Peris is a big race. A quick flick through the FRA calendar reveals that only Wasdale and the OCT have more climbing in a single day than Peris's substantial 8500'. That's more than Jura, Borrowdale, Ennerdale, Duddon - tough classics. It's 18 miles long, and 3 of those miles are on runnable tracks (including 2 lovely quick miles at the end where the top photo was taken). So that's 8500' of ascent and descent in 15 miles.

Its route includes 4 summits above 3000' (Elidir Fawr, Y Garn, Glyder Fach and Snowdon itself) and two other summits (Lliwedd and Moel Cyngorian (sp?)) which are no pushover. Much of the ground is rocky, there are some navigational issues, local knowledge is a real advantage (alas I had only a cursory knowledge of the critical parts of the course, cocking up the line to Penypass completely and losing many hard won places) and it's committing and tough - a proper hard race. In my view one's fellrunning education is not complete without having done it.

I loved it. I was tired on the start line having done 8 railways on Thursday, a fast Moel Famau run on Weds and a short sharp and fast trail race on Tuesday - not great prep. I got a bad start, with rock solid calves reducing me to a painful walk up the first climb.

Looking pissed off on the first climb - calves screaming before they warmed up!
Photo c/o Gwynfor, with thanks

But the calves loosened up and i spent the rest of the race eating gels, scoffing sweets and moving through the field, making up places. My legs were a bit tired all the way but i still managed to run 4 hours 37 mins, which is a reasonable time. I was expecting more like 5 hours. I think with more course knowledge and fresh legs, i could get under 4:15, maybe 4 hours?

That race meant a cumulative ascent for the week of almost 14,000'. What's encouraging is that the recovery time is getting quicker. I was tired after 8 railways on Thursday and didn;t run Friday, but ran well at Peris off one day's rest. This bodes well for the latter stages of the BGR when you have to pick yourself up and push on with tired legs.

The other race this week was the 4.7 mile multi-terrain race on the Wirral at Royden Park. Having spent all year getting beaten by all my peer group at Tattenhall, this was the first time i'd finished ahead of them, with just the three really fast guys ahead of me.

Fast running... quick recovery... this training lark seems to work!

Week summary

Mon - rest (Bank Holiday)
Tues - Multi terrain race - 300' ascent, some rough off road ground, 4.7 miles, 33 mins
Weds - Moel Famau run, 2300', 8 miles, 1:19. Did 1:18 two weeks ago but this run was the morning after a race so 1:19 is a good run considering.
Thursday - 8 railways and then the club run. @7 miles, 2700' ascent
Fri - rest
Sat - Peris 18M 8500', 4:37
Sun - Much needed rest

Totals: 13,800' ascent, 38 miles

Tune in Head - Love is the law, Seahorses (drifting into Mark and Lard's version occasionally!)

Friday, 4 September 2009

The Tattenhall Railway - a profile

The top half of the railway from above

The Peckforton Hills from near the top of the railway

I thought it useful to shed some light on the Tattenhall Railway, which keeps cropping up in the blog. What it is not is a typical railway track. It has never seen a passenger in the conventional sense, indeed there's precious little about this little gem that you can call conventional.

It is actually a narrow gauge track (a "hauled tramway") rising 105 metres vertically up a wooded slope to the top of Bulkeley Hill in the Peckforton Hills south of Chester. It was built to enable the construction of a hilltop covered reservoir in the 30's and has since provided a terrific training resource for runners. It is a favourite amongst Tattenhall Runners' fellrunning contingent and is surely hated amongst most of its roadrunners...

It is the feature of dread for most of the competitors in Tattenhall's annual Tough Team Race, a 9.5 mile multi terrain race held on the nearest Friday to midsummer which is done in teams of three and is a very popular race.

For me though, it's my outdoor gym, the place for a 'power' workout. As well as doing lots of hillrunning, I think training for a round needs to include some strength work on your legs, similar to lifting weights. Something that's not about pacing or time on your feet but a session that is all about working so hard you can barely stay upright. The railway is perfect and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to get stronger. Whatsmore, there's no costly monthly subscription.

But what it is like?

Well the photos do not do it justice. It's a narrow, rapidly steepening corridor amongst the trees. It looks terrifying from the bottom and the top! It has a series of mini-'sleepers' which provide the footing you need to get up and it is so steep that running is nigh-on impossible. The best I can manage in the steep uppoer stages is a run-shuffle where you have a lead leg and you bring the other to meet it. This is slower that walking though. At its steepest, it's about 45 to 50 degrees.

Garmin profile - four railway ascents....

The profile shows four ascents (ignore the first peak) as captured by a GPS. The run between them is a wider loop which acts as recovery, although I usually just pick my way straight down.

A steady plod up takes about 4.5 mins. My fastest ever just before my summer BGR was 3:06, running all the way. Two guys in my club who are faster than me have broken 3 mins by running the first section hard and then walking the top section - a tactic I will try out when i'm a bit fitter.

So when you see reference to railways, this is what I mean. If you're ever around Chester, try it!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Sunday August 30. Stepping back.

The Cheviot and its many satellites - scene of this week's long day out

This week I realised that I was tired, moody and leg-weary. So i decided to have an easier week which resulted in just 9,100' ascent and more rest than usual. Hopefully that'll help me for two huge events that are looming - the Peris Horseshoe and the Lake District Mountain Trial. Both are big days out and under race conditions and so another tough week leading up to them would have surely pushed me towards injury and burn out?

So what better than a Long Distance Walking event so get some time and distance in without pushing too hard? An opportune visit to the inlaws in the north east meant i could jog round the Cheviot Challenge - 22 miles and apparently 4200' climb (i'm not convinced of the amount of climb). It was nice to explore a new area, pratice some navigation and be one of the first back (it was not a race though, i kept telling myself!).

Summit of boggy Bloodybush Edge

I feel like my legs needed the break. During my weekday runs i felt strong but tired and my instincts were saying to listen to my body. Peris on Saturday will tell me whether that worked or not...

Week summary:

Mon - Straight up MF, 16:30 - not bad, not quite as quick as last week but still good going. 4M 900'
Tues - 9M, 1900' - MF run from Cilcain, towards Loggerheads ascent and back along ridge - lovely run, felt sluggish
Weds - rest
Thursday - 5 railways on my own and then an 8M run with the club which had about 700' in it (inc another railway) 2100', 10M
Fri - Rest
Sat - Cheviot Challenge - a very easy paced 22M and 4200', 5,5 hours in the bogs!
Suj - rest

Total - 9100' ascent, 45Mish
Tune in Head - Superhuman Touch - Athlete