The Outer Hebrides – March 2018

Should we go? Yeah, go on then…

When the country is being battered by ‘The Beast from the East’ and there are red weather warnings being issued for as long as anyone can remember its probably not wise to embark on 1200+ miles of driving in four days. Turns out we were either very lucky and dodged the snow or the media and news like to scare us. Probably a bit of both. We had some problems getting to Martin’s house on Thursday evening; a 35 mile Woodhead drive tuning into a meandering slow going 100 mile head scratching journey.

Car packed to the hilt and some sleep at Martin and Karen’s house bagged we were off for 04:45 Friday morning. Making good time and hitting Glencoe earlier than expected we could relax knowing we would make the ferry crossing from Uig, north Skye, over to Uist and then up to Berneray.

Outer Hebrides Route Map
Our Route after Glasgow

Having arrived early at Uig we had time for a short drive over to the Quiraing for a look at that famous view. Very windy and very cold but wow, what a view.

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The Quiraing, Isle of Skye

We boarded the ferry at Uig and made our way to Lochmaddy, North Uist. A 13 mile drive north over the causeway onto Berneray got us to the Gatliff Trust Youth Hostel around 20:00. A long day but well worth it. A brilliant building with low door frames, a thatch roof and 3 foot thick walls with a view out onto the sea. Awesome.

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Gatliff Trust Youth Hostel, Berneray

The following morning I sneaked in a short 3 mile jog sniffing in some quality air. After some good breakfast we headed out to explore the small Island. Here is the link to have a look at. We took in the two ‘peaks’ on the Island, had our sandwiches on the beach, saw a beached minke whale (an odd one to witness that) and got harassed by a flock of black sheep.

Berneray walk

Afterwards we cooked up some good food, lit a fire in the wood burner and chatted until tired. Aside from our group there was one other chap staying there for one night before moving on named Alistair. A Glaswegian who was semi retired and now a piano tuner. His visit to the Hebrides was both pleasure and business as he toured the Islands tuning pianos as he went. Brilliant.

Should we go back?

The following day was an early start to catch the ferry up to Leverburgh on Harris. We set sail before we had paid our travel and upon doing so learned that the only boat back would be as soon as we got there. The afternoon sail home had been cancelled due to a bad weather forecast (we were in the midst of the beast from the east after all!). With that now in mind we had a decision to make. Come back to Berneray as soon as we arrived at Harris or, stay on Harris for the night and make our way back in the morning before we headed home. Martin had a good idea of where we could stay, another youth hostel in Rhenigidale. So, leaving all our gear in the Berneray hostel for the night we headed up through Harris stopping off at what has to be one of the most picturesque places there is, Luskentyre. A great walk and look round a place where we didn’t see another soul whilst we were there. Saw a sea otter and some snowy mountains off into the distance though. We had a play on the beach and climbed some massive sand dunes. What a place to visit. From Luskentyre we made our way over to Rhenigidale’s youth hostel to claim our beds. We’d have to raid the ‘free food’ box later on as we didn’t plan for staying there! Before the light faded away we climbed a decent mountain called Todun. Cold and brilliant. Some picture of the day’s events below.

We’d stopped off at a pub for a bite after Luskentyre where the owner took pity on our story and gave us a loaf of bread to put us on. It was Sunday and so no where was open for us to stock up on provisions that we had back on Berneray. Whilst there we heard a tune being played, The Gael by The Vatersay Boys. That was that, played on repeat for 95% of the time we were in the car thereafter. True sounds of Scotland and the Islands.

After another early start, this time to get back to the ferry terminal, we made our way back to Berneray to pick up our belongings then the drive down North Uist to Lochmaddy where we caught the ferry back over to Uig, Skye. After that it was all about making our way back towards home, a long drive whilst listening, of course, to The Gael.

A brilliant long weekend. This was all back in early March 2018 and I’m only just finishing writing it up in February 2019! Poor. Found the motivation to get it done as in 3 days we’re off again up to the Hebrides for another adventure. Over and out.

2019 is here…

Right, I’d like to get back into this documenting of all things running again, helps with motivation.

2019 is going to be a year of good things. More miles planned and writing this, in February, January has gone very well. Banked lots of base miles with plenty more planned. No races yet but that’ll change. Sheffield Half Marathon planned mid April and will need something between now and then to test the legs and lungs, Wombwell 5 could be a good place to start in mid February.

Legs are feeling good. Heart and lungs are feeling good. Smiling whilst running is always good.

All sounds good…

Vale of York – Half Marathon

It was May and the Leeds half marathon where I came close to my ‘break 90 minutes’ target and scored a 01:30:07.

Feeling fitter than I ever have (apart from when I was at school playing basketball 8 days a week) I was confident with the summer training under my belt. All the hard work done, as they say. Yeah yeah. 😉

feeling good I even had a sub 01:29 in mind. Hmm.

Got up at 05:55 for some porridge, coffee and water. Senior came to pick me up (cheers dad) at 07:20 and so we arrived nice and early meeting Martin there. Lots of people representing all clubs in Barnsley, great to see. Had a catch up with Martin and left dad and him to it whilst I went for a couple of miles warm up. Walking up to the starting straight bumping into Rob and Andy. Rob, Martin and Dad go way back to the days of the Milton Arms running club (Elsecar) and so were having a good old chin wag. Some last minute keep calm tips from Martin in my head. We made our way up the field to the front third and found Liam to stand with. Off for 09:40. A steady away 06:41 first mile, conservative and steady. Flat as a pancake with the only hill over a railway line at 3 and a bit, not really registering. Steady splits and determined to hold them all the way. I started thinking I set off too slow as felt solid and no-one overtaking me, only me overtaking others. Turning at 7.5 miles to head back home into the wind. Not too bad but noticeable for sure with shelter between the trees coming through Bishop Wood at 10.5 for a while. Had to ward off some negative thoughts at the 10 mile marker. “calm, calm calm calm” in my head. 5k to go or one Parkrun. Keep going. Punishing my bad thoughts by picking it up – mile 11 clicked off in 06:34. Grrr. A lady runner had unknowingly been pacing me for 4 miles or so but started to fade at 12 miles. Pressing on and starting to breath one one. Involuntary pain face on until the finish line now. Mile 12 and 13 done in 06:39 and 06:35. Round the last corner back onto the air field hearing Gareth’s shout of encouragement gave me a nudge. Cheers mate! Across the line in 01:28:03. Really pleased with a strong finish and a big PB for me.

After catching breath and hugging everyone around me I found out others had done well too. Congratulating Andy P, Liam T and Rob D all with great results. Lots of PB’s. Gareth came 9th! Learning afterwards Emma J, Chris B, Charlie & Henry S all with solid times. Some first half marathons and PB’s. Go Barnsley!

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Vale of York Half Marathon – 2017 – Mile Splits

A warm down air field tour and a chat with Gareth before heading back to the car for a jam sandwich.

90 minutes cracked. Now looking for a sub 01:25:00.

Keep smiling (and running)

Training and Askern 10 mile

The goal has been to crack 90 minutes in the Half Marathon. And so training has been geared towards achieving that along with improving form and increasing cadence on the way.

Martin kindly agreed to put together a training plan for me. He’s got a wealth of knowledge and used to put lots of thought into his own plans back when he ran and raced regularly – to a decently high standard. Anyone who can run 10 miles in 55 minutes (05:30 pace) gets that credit!

Typically, the plan consisted of one or two speed workouts per week, a tempo session, a long run all supplemented with easy miles for recovery. 30-40 miles per week. Having it down on paper (or screen) to work from helped lots. I’m a stickler for putting my trainers on, heading out of the door and not really knowing what I’m doing, usually working it out during the first mile. Martin’s guidance and plan gave structure and steer. Each run had a purpose.

Speed workouts can be killers but enjoyable. Structured fartleks are my favorites. Warm up, various minutes at a fast pace with rest intervals. Cool down. These get the legs turning over quicker. Cadence has been stuck at low 160’s forever and these get me going at 170+. After a few sessions and getting used to 170+ the faster paces became easier to hold and run faster still. More economical for sure. Recovery time seems lower too down to less impact force (I think)

Sticking with the plan to the letter is never going to be easy and there were days I missed or had to change but that’s just busy life and obligations taking precedent. That’s OK.

Martin periodically checking in to see how I was progressing. Not just a Strava review, although that told him lots, but more about how I was feeling, making sure I had plenty of rest and making sure easy runs were just that, easy. Essential for recovery and to aid having a good, effective workout when it came up.

As part of the ‘break 90’ target for the half marathon (Vale of York – 10th September 2017) Martin suggested a ‘see where we’re at’ race. This was the Askern 10.


Askern 10m – 13th August 2017

I’d had a few low mileage weeks leading up to the race and so wasn’t in the best shape. Legs felt fresh though. Bonus.

Got to the car park and collected my race number and timing chip. Off for a warm up with Charlie. Bumped into Gareth on the way and tagged on. The very last Askern 10 was to be my first and so a decent turn out. Warm morning turning into a hot day.

Stood near the start line chatting and had a catch up with a guy I’ve not seen for years, Keith Gordon. A long time runner and still going. 10:30 came and we were off.

The route is one of the more interesting ones. Rolling with a decent climb at 3.5 miles for about 3/4 of a mile. The first half is pretty much uphill actually. Setting off a bit quick clicking off mile one in 06:42. I settled down with mile two in 06:53. Temperature was climbing and so drinks stations were used with most of the cup of water over the head. Makes a big difference although I don’t see many others do it for some reason. Miles 8 (06:46) and 9 (06:57) were tough. Breathing hard and form collapsing making holding a pace harder. Cadence dropped. I was annoyed so pulled myself together and got a hold of my form, making breathing easier. Regrouped and ready to finish strong. Mile 10 in 06:33.

Finishing up with a 01:08:35 and a 06:50 average pace. Happy with a strong finish. Fitness heading in the right direction. Love racing.

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Askern 10m – Mile Splits

Keep smiling (and running)

Recovery & Buxton Half Marathon

Training of late has been really enjoyable. The weather has been good. The trees, fields and everything natural around us in full bloom. Meandering through it on on a morning or evening is great fun. Makes me smile whilst running. I appreciate it.

Life is as busy as can be. I like it like that. More often than not consciously having to tell myself to get to bed or you’ll pay! But of late things in the physical seem to have caught up with me and I’ve been tired. Legs tired. Knees tired. Ankles tired. I thought maybe running was to blame so I had a bike ride to loosen up. This made it worse and was only a week before Buxton so I decided to look back at training logs to try and make sense out of why I was feeling shot. Leeds Half hurt a lot and I don’t think I recovered before running a fair amount the week after. Then a 30m bike ride with some decent efforts on hills at the end of that week. Weeks prior had been fairly consistent from a mileage perspective and the weather has been warmer than normal. I surmised that whilst total load had been steady, race effort, ineffective recovery and work/home life being super busy had caught up with me. I ran a couple of steady runs during the week leading up to the Buxton Half with no running from Wednesday and a short bike ride on Saturday before the race on Sunday. It worked as on the Saturday I felt much better. Legs, knees and ankles had recovered. I was feeling all bouncy again. Ate a lot too through the week. Glycogen stores replenished. Primed.

Sunday morning was an early start with little sleep bagged wanting to make sure my porridge breakfast was digested before the race. Olive has chicken pox, so awake a lot in the night. My dad decided he want to come and so Henry came along too, setting off at 07:50. We arrived at 09:00 and after seeing Bryan and Gareth briefly I collected my race number from the pavilion gardens office. Just shy of 400 runners running so not nearly as busy as Leeds but Buxton felt exciting. The scenery and atmosphere relaxing. Out with Bryan and Kevin for a quick warm up then a quick Team Barnsley photo near the start line whilst I quizzed Bryan and Gareth, who’ve run this before, about the route. Buxton is built on hills!

Courtesy of Jane
Team Barnsley. Gareth, Kevin, Me and Bryan. Photo by Jane

A few compulsory words from the race official and we were off. The first three miles are uphill. Nice way to start. Gets it out of the way. This isn’t a PB course and as I haven’t raced Buxton before there was no pressure to beat myself.

I set off steady knowing we’d be climbing for a while. Those who set off fast then fade quickly created the challenge of weaving around as I overtook them. The field thinned out quickly after a mile and people settled into positions they’d hold for a while. Climbing, climbing climbing. At mile two the road bends left and up resulting in you being able to see whats coming. A good or bad thing depending on your state of mind. I could see Gareth off in the distance looking strong on his lonesome in 3rd or 4th. Couldn’t make it out as he was so far in front!

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Buxton Half Marathon – course profile
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Mile 2. Bryan Harrod on the far right in Orange

Top of the mountain and we turned sharp left to claim a bottle of water (Buxton, of course) from the first drinks station. Not used to running down hills so steep it was jarring on the skeleton, quads and knees. Miles 3, 4 and 5 were undulating with no flat ground to be seen. Mile 6 all downhill with a few of us rotating to take point.

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Mile 4.5ish

Breathing easy and trying to make conversation. One guy talked back, the others didn’t. Down to the bottom after 7 miles along single track roads past Chrome Hill bringing back memories of a new years eve walk in 2015. After another drinks station you head up for a mile and a half resulting in the slowest split of the race, a 08:48 mile. Towing! Recovering downhill at the 8.5 mile mark and having one last drink at mile 9. Most of the bottle dumped over my head as the morning started to warm up. Another decent ascent up to 10.5 miles then mostly downhill from there in. I felt good. Legs were flowing so I pressed on with the aim of overtaking a couple of guys out in front. The last two miles were decently fast and I picked up a couple of places. A brilliant feeling running the last mile. Working hard but knew the legs/lungs had it. Around the final corner noticing Dad and Henry before crossing the line at 01:34:50 in 50th place.

A much stronger finish than Leeds a couple of weeks back. Confidence boosted. Nice one.

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Half Mile to Go!

All photos taken by Frank Golden over at www.racephotos.org.uk

Keep smiling (and running)

Leeds Half Marathon – 2017

The last race I entered was the 2016 Leeds Half and so its been a full year since I have felt the emotions of what only a race brings with it. I had a goal in mind of breaking 01:30:00 knowing that I should be able to and was quietly confident. Last years result was a 01:32:45. Lets see…

I woke up early. Had some breakfast. Porridge being the standard these days, a coffee and a pint of water. Bag packed and ready to go. Jenny, Henry & Olive were supposed to be coming for a morning out but chicken pox struck the household a week ago along with snotty noses and interrupted nights. I know I’m fighting something off but feel fine.

Arrived late as parking at Woodhouse Lane was a nightmare. I should have anticipated it but having worked in Leeds city center for more than a few years I likened the days traffic to that of rush hour. Warm up was a jog from the car park to the start line arriving at about 09:20. This put me at the back of the bunch for our tranche of runners. Looking across the U shaped queue to see Gareth. A quick thumbs up from each of us before an announcement from the starting crew stating a 10 minute delay. Me immediately thinking ‘I could have had a much better warm up in the end!’ I took the opportunity to make my way toward to start line. Chatting with a couple of blokes from Prague made for interesting conversation whilst waiting. Random.

Mile 1 came and went very quickly in 6:37 trying not to trip up over other feet. Hard to find a rhythm. Soon settled in only looking at my watch every mile bleep. Miles 3 & 4 climb a fair amount and I started to feel like the pace was an effort. Water at the drinks station over the head help cool me down. I felt like I was ‘running hot’. Heart rate felt high and so I knew later on was going to pose a problem. Knowing I had to average 6:52 overall to hit 01:30:00. After 7 miles I was on pace and knew that miles 8 through 11 were downhill. Almost flat after that so confident at this stage. Mile 8, 9, 10 and 11 were clicked off in 6:32, 6:29, 6:41 and 06:51 but I was working hard. Really hard. Breathing was one, one. Never good when you’re a few miles from the finish and not going uphill! I slowed up pushing my average close to 6:52/mile and at 12.7 miles hit a little hillock that you shouldn’t notice if feeling OK. It felt like Everest and pace dropped to nearly a walk I swear. Runners started to overtake me. A shout from the crowd “C’mon JB” spurred me on. Over that then the crowds started to build. I picked it up and gave what I had left picking up what places I let slip half a mile earlier. Great support from the Leeds crowd.

I had no idea looking at the approaching gun clock if I’d cracked my 01:30:00 target and couldn’t even check my watch after stopping it over the finishing line. Staggering around like a drunk man and propping myself up on a flower bed for a minute. Looked at the watch. It said 01:30:10 and the official time came in at 01:30:07.

Chip Time
Chip results

Missed target but a PB for sure. Happy at that and know I have more in me even at current level of fitness. Encouraging. Already signed up for next year. Me and Leeds have unfinished business.

 

Working with numbers I like to compare and contrast. You can see where I slowed up. Mile 12 was run slower than last year!

Leeds Half Marathon - 2016 vs. 2017
2016 vs. 2017
2016 vs. 2017
2016 vs. 2017

Back to training and looking forward to Buxton Half Marathon in a couple of weeks.

Keep smiling.

Worried… But not. But am…

Injury. Injury, injury, injury. Never been injured before and so I don’t really know how to tackle this both from a continuation of training and mental perspective.

Lots of emotions but frustration being the main annoyance in my head especially given I have two Half Marathon races coming up, Leeds and Buxton in May. The last race I entered was 12 months, pretty much to the day, ago and was the Leeds Half. So I have a target to beat that time and hopefully crush it. 1:32:43. Not bad for a first effort.

The injury is my right knee and a bit of IT band, I think. Brought on by a dodgy landing or two over rough terrain and me not paying attention to where my foot was going to land. Error. I ran on it knowing it was there thinking it may go away and oh how wrong I was. Made it worse and has more than likely prolonged the healing process. Another error.


Last year was one that got me interested in running properly. There’s always been a love for it on and off – off most of the time but knew it was always something I could do when I had the time to commit. Well time to commit to anything is always going to be scarce so I made the decision that I was a runner from the back end of 2016. I’d clocked plenty throughout 2016 but had never made the mental decision that it was something to take more seriously with a view to improve and do so methodically.

 

Progress has been very encouraging since the introduction of consistent mileage of around 30 per week coupled with some more structured workouts rather than just miles. There have been some runs of late that made me think “wow, feeling easy and I’m flying” and had to make the conscious effort to slow down thinking ahead of tomorrows harder interval session, for example. The image below shows how my ‘fitness & freshness’ from Strava has increased since January.

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Strava – Fitness & Freshness. Taken on May 5th 2017.
The introduction of this feature for running on Strava confirmed how I was feeling. Fit! Feeling invincible, not unlike Superman. 😉

The decrease over on the right is the ‘no running’ period. Not what I wanted given the Leeds Half Marathon is only 11 days away!

So this is new to me and they ego inside took a while to accept what was happening. 8 days of no running so far and we’ll see what happens in the coming days. Plans are to heal, then increase mileage up to 40-50 per week and cap out at that. Realistically with family and work commitments that will be enough. Fingers crossed.

And to quote a very fine runner, “Just Keep Running” by Gareth Cooke

Head over and read his accounts of all things running. Quality work.

2017 is here

Not written anything for a long while and don’t really know why. Silly really.

The miles have been somewhat consistent with a full two week break over Christmas and new year. Not because of it being the holidays but because of a bad cold/flu. Frustrating times as I had plenty of time off work and so thought I could get more running done at different places but, no chance. I had my first sick day from work in 12 years. Being fair as soon as I’d gotten over the shivers and sweats I enjoyed the time with family and friends, had a few pints, ate a bit too much and relaxed.
2017 arrived and so running was back on the table. 25 miles to ease back into things the first week and I’ll hit 30+ miles this 2nd week. Legs have felt a little tired but that was to be expected after not running for a while. Plenty of energy but just stiff and flat.

The new Apple Watch Series 2 is annoying me. Strava haven’t yet pulled their finger out and delivered an updated app. I can’t use Apples workout app as you can’t export workouts to any other platform. There are only a couple of apps currently supporting the built in GPS and they’re not a patch on Garmin. If the Strava app, when delivered, doesn’t do the do I’m going back to a Garmin.

Been running the Barnsley Parkrun of late. 3 in and so well on the way for a t-shirt. Great fun with lots of new faces and New Years resolutions. Most will disappear soon but hopefully more than a few will stick with it.

Back on it after a planned rest…

After a two week break from running regularly, up at 30ish miles per week, I’m now back training feeling rested and enthusiastic. This week I aim to run over 30 miles and next week over 35 miles. The rest has been nice and has helped me fully understand that rest is indeed part of a good training plan. Its not been a total break from running though, rather less of it. Just kept the legs turning over.

wc 2016.08.22 progress v1

My diet is clean and I’m making going to bed early a priority especially as Henry, our two year old, likes to get up in the night at the moment on and off. This helps a big amount and should be focused on if you’re serious about improvement.

 

A couple of weeks in the dunes. 

A holiday with family and friends meant that getting away for some runs was difficult given I prioritised building sand castles with my 2 year old boy over most other things but when I did it was a joy. Different given the terrain change but great fun with wonderful views that the coastal paths bring. Lots of elevation gain for runs 6-8 miles long and quite technical underfoot. One minute it’s sand and dune grass then rocky followed by smooth dirt. One thing I did find more awkward was running across a slope for an extended period but I thought being careful it would help build some ankle and tendon strength.

some of the dune trails (and my wife) in Holywell Bay, Cornwall.

But now it’s back to the road mostly and trying to keep my cadence up near 170 steps per minute as before holiday. Must try and get my weekly milage up too! If I keep saying it….