Severn Bridge Half Marathon 2016

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Just read last year’s review (see under) and note that, this year, the parking situation has been sorted. Having said that, I did arrive an hour early and sat reading a book for a bit – lesson for next year.

This half marathon is developing year on year and this year was packed with marshals at the start / finish and throughout the course.

Full marks on the number of toilets (still long queues though) and for the introduction of a men only urinal that makes it easier for the men and limits the length of the queue for the ladies. The 6 man urinal could be made larger though and the plastic booth that it’s in could be a tent – as they do in Cardiff where there is a canvas topped structure and a 30 foot urinal emptying into a foul drain.

Felt quite young at the start when the oldest man and woman runners were announced by name and given ages of 79 and 76.

A completely different course this year as in two separate loops compared with the one large loop of last year – this due, the organisers said, to the inability to obtain certain road closures. The start last year was at the summit of the Old Severn Bridge, this year it was on the Welsh side so the first mile was uphill before descending down into England. The first loop was almost an out and back bringing you back to psychological breaking point of passing the finish line knowing you were only half way through the race.

Second loop was half downhill, a long slow hill upward and a last mile of downhill. The forecast said rain the reality was sun and humidity or, as I text my wife, heat, hills and humidity. A feature of this race, both years that I have run it, is the humorous notices around the course – they do keep you smiling.

Next year, apparently, there is a full marathon alongside the half and the race will take in both Severn Bridges. This, the organisers say, will be a one-off, never to be repeated, not to be missed, full marathon. If you completed the 2016 half you are guaranteed entry into the full marathon if you want it. At the moment I am undecided. Are my full marathon days over? Do I want to stick to halves? Do I want the Sunday morning 20 mile training sessions? We shall decide later and have a year to get fit enough for it if the answer to the above is yes.

Summary; good medal (Severn Bridge in 4 colours a la mode de Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup), tech tee shirt, bananas, loads of water, Lucozade, nut bar, salt and vinegar crisps and a grass slope for everyone to sit out in the sun and rest – and then find they were so stiff it was difficult to walk back to the car.

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JCP Swansea Half 2016

swansea 2016 before
Before. Was I the only Half fanatic at Swansea?
Swansea Half Marathon, 26th June 2016. Swansea.
During. “Come on Sponge Bob”

 

I started this review by looking at my notes from last year and noted that I was really impressed with four holes in the bib number to aid pinning to your vest – unfortunately missing this year – but was also impressed with our names printed above the numbers which was great as spectators urged you on.

As can be seen from the “During” photo I wore my quiet, subdued, disappear into the background running vest which stopped everyone shouting “Come on Clive” and had everyone shouting “Keep going Sponge Bob”. Spectators were excellent, by the way, this year – along the whole course again and very vocal.

Tapered well this year and the weather was a lot cooler but still humid under the cloud cover. I made the basic beginner error of starting at the front of my pen, going out to quick, feeling ok so keeping the same pace for ten miles, having heavy and tired legs for the last three point one. A week later the stiffness is just coming out of those tired legs.

One benefit of going out too quick is that I took 12 minutes off last years time (not bad over 13 miles) finishing in 2 hrs 19 min. The downside of the race getting bigger each year is the fact that in spite of going quicker, I dropped from 45th to 55th in the Male Vet 60+ category.

said last year that the goody bag was average but would get better as sponsors came on board and that is exactly what happened. Drinks, banana, energy bars, joint tablets, joint ache cream (used on left knee) and other stuff. Said last year I would do it again and say the same this year. Good and flat with lots of support.

swansea 2016 after
After. Yet another nice quiet tee shirt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Half Marathons In Two Days

 

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Windswept hair?

It seemed like a good challenge and a good idea, when I first thought of it six months ago. Inspired by a podcast, MTA, where Angie was running two full marathons over two days and discussing the mental problem of getting up on the second day to “Do it all again.”

 

Because I have made the decision to not run any more full marathons and only do half marathons for the rest of my running life, I figured the challenge of two halves in two days would be physically like running a full marathon but mentally tougher and, of course, everything would depend on recovery between halves, both recovery time and recovery meals and drinks. Add to this a training regime and you have the recipe for an interesting six month experiment. It would also get me into “Half Fanatics”.

 

The first job, of course, was to find two halves in two days, not an easy job in the UK where the vast majority of races fall on a Sunday. When the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships advertised their race in Cardiff, Wales, on a Saturday, it seemed the challenge was on. I scoured the web for a local half on the Sunday (local to cut down the travelling mileage) and picked the Pendine sands races. Pendine is a long beach in West Wales where land speed records have been attempted and was obviously going to be very flat. A bonus for my second day. I knew that one race would be high key and one low key but hadn’t quite realised how difference the gap would be.

 

My grandson ha a sleepover on Friday nights and I look after him all Saturday so double header training has to be on a Sunday morning and then Monday morning before going to work.

Training went well. I took the mileage up to 13.1 plus 10 the next day to get used to the psychology of getting out of bed tired and running. I didn’t go as far as 13.1 plus 13.1 as this would be kept for the special weekend.

Three things happened to change my recovery plans. What started out in my mind as two morning races starting around 9am with 21 hours recovery between, changed somewhat. An e mail from the IAAF announced that the World Half in Cardiff would be an afternoon race starting at 2pm so recovery would be cut down to 16 hours. Then someone asked me when the clocks in the UK went forward an hour for British Summer Time and I looked it up to find it was on my weekend so recovery was down to 15 hours. Luckily an e mail from Pendine announced that because of an exceptionally high tide on the Sunday the race could not start until 11am when there would be some beach to run on, so recovery was back up to 17 hours.

 

I guess the lesson there is that you can plan but things change. It wasn’t announced at the time but was on the day (as an apology) that the World Half had to be in the afternoon because of TV times in the US and Japan.

 

To the races, or should I say plods as both were slow. Cardiff was organised excellently with registration queues at a minimum as the expo and number pick up was over Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning. A very good idea for the 16,000 competitors. I chose Good Friday and enjoyed walking through all the trade stands. I wondered why half the attendees were in tracksuit and trainers. Some sort of uniform? The disappointment for me at the expo was the Adidas official kit stand. I wanted an after race warm hoodie and this seemed to be a good opportunity. Before arriving at the expo I envisaged a black hoodie with small writing on the front saying something about the World half marathon championships. What I found was almost the exact opposite. A hoodie of nondescript colour with a very large red dragon’s head on the front (red dragon, symbol of Wales) looking like a chess piece, with, in very large letters below it, the word “Cardiff”. I searched for a mention of the upcoming race and found it on the back, under the hood! That’s right, if the hood was down the writing was obscured. Come on Adidas, you are a rich company; surely you can afford an outside design company? I eventually came away with a Spongebob Squarepants running vest.

 

I thought the race itself would have no surprises as it was the same course as the Cardiff Half, run a number of times in the past. Those that watched the televised race will know that a world record was possible up to the point where the leaders were a mile or two from the end and the heavens opened and soaked them. This was from Storm Kate. At the time I was less than half way around, about to cross the Cardiff Bay Barrage and hanging on to my peaked cap, protecting me from stinging rain. Managing to dry out a bit by the end a good looking medal was handed out along with a tee shirt replicating the hoodie mentioned above, a few bananas and water.

 

Up the next morning and a one and a half hour short drive down to Pendine. For three day expo read, for this lower key race, pick up your number from the back of a Landrover. There was a bit of confusion over the state of the tide, Storm Kate pushing the waves up the beach and delaying the start for half an hour due to there being no sand to run on! Because of this delay, some transferred from the half to the 10k and some, unfortunately, went home. In the end 23 ran the 10k and 24 ran the half marathon, the winner finishing in 1hr 33mins. Nine also ran an ultra of two laps.

 

Running the first half of the out and back course I found difficult. It was difficult to find my right pace among the 10k runners and difficult also to find hard sand to run on. The guy in front of me had a run, walk, run, system going and, frustratingly, started running just before I caught him up each time.

 

Getting past my run, walk, run, man just before the turn around I started the run back in front of him and as I raised my legs to run, the wind stopped me moving forward and my competitor walked slowly past me. I persisted with attempted running until he was 30m ahead and finally decided on my own run, walk, run, philosophy – it was quicker.

 

Getting back to the start was my hardest run ever and amounted to 15 minute miling – yes 4mph a walking pace gained by run, walk, running. Sand in the face and completely exhausted we then had to do a further challenge, just as we were informed at the briefing “It’s not quite 13.1 at the finish line so run to the rocks and back to the Landrover, three times.”

 

A surprisingly large, colourful medal was presented along with a question as to whether I was in the 60-69 years category. On answering yes, I was handed a “Champion” certificate for first in age group. My first ever race win done from the back of the pack!!

 

I have joked that, taking both races into consideration, this was the weekend where a) I raced Mo Farrah and b) I won.

 

Thigh girth, running style, knee replacements and pointed out feet.

A completely unscientific study of the knees of obese people watched while on holiday based on my knowledge through rectifying a recurring knee injury suffered back in the 1980s. In no way is this article anti obese people, it is merely an observation.

Background
I have, luckily, only ever suffered one running injury. Back around 1986 I started getting pain in the knee of my left leg, on the inside of the knee only. This got worse after a couple of marathons and ended by my leg locking up completely during the Swansea 10k resulting in me falling over, not being able to straighten my leg. My running colleagues at the Pontypridd Roadents said I had a strange running form but couldn’t explain further other than ” you run like a crab! ”
Shortly after that we moved to a new house at the top of two hills and this, coupled with my knee pain, pushed me into a break from running that lasted twenty five years.
My return to running came when my stepson told me he was going to run a marathon, instead of encouragement I laughed and told him that even at my age I could run further than him, he signed us both up for the Edinburgh Marathon without telling me.
My next birthday present from my wife was a series of lessons on how to run. Some people may have been offended but, on reading the pamphlet that came with the lessons, it explained that a trained person would video me running on a treadmill, discuss with me any issues and then work on rectifying those issues. In my case it was discovered that my knee problem came from my shoulder. That’s right, from my shoulder. My left shoulder dipped while I was running, making my left leg shorter than my right leg. To compensate I had to bend my left leg outwards putting strain on the inner knee every time I put my foot down. In case you can’t imagine that, think of someone being bow legged but only in the left leg.
Over a six week period we worked on my keeping my left shoulder up, running on a treadmill in front of a mirror and then taking that posture into road running. I now run with much better posture and only have to think where my left shoulder is when very tired at the end of a race or long run. Think Alastair Brownlee, now think much, much, much slower.
We then worked on foot placement as my right foot was facing forward in the direction I was running but my left foot was splayed outward, shooting off towards the left. This I had to concentrate on more while road running but eventually programmed my brain to have both feet facing forwards while running and also, as a bi product, while walking.

Observations
Two weeks in the sun on the island of Sal in the Cape Verde islands helps your brain relax and wander, much as it would do on a long run but for a much longer period. Because people in and around the beach were scantily clad, I started to notice their knee and foot placement. I had always imagined that there was a very simple equation that went – obese people are heavy which puts a strain on their knees which eventually forces a knee replacement operation. I soon discovered that obese people have larger than normal thigh girth and are unable to get their feet together. They can either walk with their feet apart, as if they have wet themselves, or bring their feet together by bending their legs and becoming bow legged. This bow leggedness reminded me of the shape of my left leg prior to rectifying my problem, I could see the strain on these people’s inner knees and wondered how long it would be before they had severe knee problems requiring a knee replacement.
Happy with this observation I started walking around with my head down looking at foot direction of everyone at the hotel. I discovered that the larger you are, the more your feet point outwards as you walk. Perhaps this is a natural reaction to someone who is wide, the extra width on foot placement stopping movement from side to side and thus the person falling over sideways.
I started to think that I was the only person on the island that walked with feet pointing forward and then noticed someone walking towards me with very straight, forward pointing feet. I wondered if it was a runner, looked up and saw the tee shirt “Munchen Halb Marathon”.

Over Reliance On Gadgets

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These thoughts inspired by reading over an old blog and realising how easy it is to over rely on a gadget!

The old blog was titled “A non-programmed too scared to run week.” To cut a long blog short – I pulled out of a very cold and wet half marathon after about 4 miles because of a hugely increased heart rate that scared me rigid at the time and made me seek medical advice the following day. After a normal ECG and normal bloods my GP advised me to carry on running.

After about a month I was out on a HR zone 2 training run and looked at my heart rate and was shocked that it was showing over 200, shocked mainly because I was running down hill. As I started up the other side of the hill and started puffing, my heart rate dropped to 72 according to my Garmin, something was obviously amiss.

Ignoring my Garmin I trundled on and started thinking about the half that I had dropped out of. A couple of days later I was going to give the Garmin another chance. It would not start and had died. I placed it on charge and went for my run and on return, took the Garmin off charge – it was still dead.

Happy that it was the Garmin at fault and not my heart, happy that it was the Garmin that was dead and not me, it was confined to the back of a drawer.

Did it put me off gadgets? Did it put me off Garmin? No to both. The photo is my 310XT which I love. I think I might think twice about receiving a dodgy message from this monitor though. (note the photo is from the catalogue, I do not run 10 miles in 52 minutes)

One message I did get from my 310XT shook me a bit. I strapped it on for my first run in Cape Verde while on holiday (see below) and, after trying to find satellites for a minute or two a message appeared on the screen “Have you traveled hundreds of miles since your last run?”

I told it yes and all was well with the world.

 

Running on Sal, Cape Verde

Did a “Tripadvisor” review of the hotel where we stayed and the island recently which had a bit on running from the hotel. Thought it might be worth cutting and pasting the ‘running’ section into my WordPress blog and tagging names in case anyone else is looking for advice before leaving on a holiday there.

The hotel was the Riu Garopa but the notes refer just as well to the Riu Funana which is next door (same hotel, complicated, refer to Tripadvisor reviews) on the island of Sal in the Cape Verde Islands just off Senegal, Africa. The cut and paste went thus;-

I am a lark so run in the mornings and usually started about 5 to 5.30 in the dark and watched the sunrise as I ran, the sun coming up at around 6.00 (this is in November). All the local runners are out at this time in the morning, before the heat and before work. Even so, I added one minute to my usual miles per minute pace, at the start of runs as the breeze disguises the humidity levels as you run. It is only when you stop that the sweat drops off you like a waterfall.

Carrying water is a must. (I wrote that as sound advice that I, myself, ignored). To put your position in the world into perspective, travel due east and you would reach Senegal in Africa, travel due west and you would reach Mexico. We always take oral re- hydration with us on holiday in the shape of two tubes of ORS hydration tablets that you dissolve in bottled water – one of these after a run works wonders.

Unless you want to loop around and around the hotel gardens (possible, safe and observed being done while we were there) then you must venture out onto the roads. Please avoid the beaches to the east of the hotel – you do not want to be responsible for disturbing turtle nests! All the pavements outside the hotel area are of cobbles cut from volcanic rock, but not impossible to run on, not a trip factor, more a decent exercise for the ankles (note, us runners emphasise the positives in life and banish the negatives).

Watch out for roads being slippery though as a build up of oil, diesel and tyre rubber will not have been washed away with the rain as there is no rain.

Run number one was going to be to the old port of Santa Maria and back but was curtailed before the end and ended as a three mile jog. The reason? On reaching the town it was obviously kicking out time (dawn) at the Pirate night club and I didn’t fancy running through the drunks. Lone female (or male for that matter) runners note this was a Sunday morning after Saturday night celebrations. This run was out of the hotel, turn right, turn left at the massive palm tree (radio mast in disguise) and keep going until you reach the Pirate Nightclub. Three miles round trip approximately.

After confirming that I had been on the right route for Santa Maria with the Thomson rep, I tried again and it was well worth it. I got one of those early morning runner smug feelings as I stood on the end of the working pier near the Old Harbour, watched the sun come up, watched the colourful boats return with their catch – knowing that I was the only tourist there and everyone else had missed the moment. I then explored the whole town by jogging every street and backstreet and watching the town wake and its citizens walk to work. There was very little sound except for cock crowing. The odd lorry, two cars and a scooter were all I saw as motorised transport.  Every time I took out my map, someone approached to guide me on my way.

Next run was a five and a half mile loop. Out of the hotel and this time turn left towards the town in the distance where all is painted white. Pass one Melia Hotel and when you get to the Melia Dunas your road forces you to turn right. The next roundabout directs you right towards Santa Maria. A long straight road where you have constant vision of the giant radio palm tree mast, this is a dual carriageway but is unlit so try to hit it after dawn.

As you enter the outskirts of Santa Maria, go straight over the roundabout and you will find a petrol station next to the Pirate Nightclub. You will then know where you are from the runs described above. I did, one morning, attempt this loop in reverse but the long straight road between the garage and the Hotel Dunas was too dark and as there is no pavement (you run on the cycle track divided from the road by a white line) I turned around and did intervals between lamposts back to the hotel.

Further runs were a combination of all of the above. After every run, after first discovering a mess on the floor of the hotel room and corridor, I removed running shoes before entering the hotel block. Your shoes will be covered in an odd mixture of sand and tyre rubber!

Thus Spoke Zarathustra through Phedippidations

the spiral of life.
the spiral of life.

My first run out-doors since missing the Cardiff Half. Rhinovirus  it was called, a posh name for coughing, spluttering and having a headache for two weeks also known as the common cold (and manflu). Deciding a few days before the race to DNS I wanted, for some reason, to reinforce my disappointment so went into Cardiff, shopping, straight after the race, to watch everyone walking about in their tech shirts with medals around their necks. Grrrrr.

Getting back into running slowly I did my five ten-minute runs on the treadmill in the gym (with a different leg then arm exercise between each one) but still needed inspiration from somewhere.

Inspiration came in the form of a notification on my iPhone that a podcast I subscribe to had downloaded an episode. Past Runwelshman press items have referred to Phedippidations, and how on 5th July 2015 episode 329 of this podcast had come out but nothing since. I had enjoyed Steve Runner’s podcasts so much I had left his podcast app on my phone “just in case”. I was rewarded with episode 330 on 16th October 2015 and it provided the inspiration I needed to get outside for a run but not in the way you would think.

Episode 330 was very personal and showed Steve as a different person after a bit of a life change. It may have been a farewell podcast, it may be another three month wait, we shall see (your podcast app is still open on my phone Mr. Walker). 330 was mainly about a book Steve had read a number times called “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” by Friedrich Nietzsche and how it had shaped his life. The show was punctuated with the usual tasteful music and was excellently presented and produced as usual. I am not going to go too heavily into the content of the podcast but would suggest you download this and past episodes.

Talk of Thus Spoke Zarathustra sparked my interest enough for me to download a copy onto my Kindle and to start reading. Among the first pages, in fact in the introduction, was a reference that hit home “Like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Henry David Thoreau before him, Nietzsche did his best thinking while walking in the open air, so that place was of the utmost importance to him as a philosopher.” This brought home to me how I was missing my me-time, my running while letting my mind run free, my break from concentration and the reason I have never run with music.

So today it was important to run a slow but hilly 7.35 training run and to contemplate Steve’s podcast, his state of mind and my entry into his suggested book. Love the way this book came to me as Nietzsche himself said “Then the life that is saved in the book is immortal since it survives its author’s death with a strange autonomy: It seeks out readers for itself, ignites new life, delights, terrifies, engenders new works, becomes the soul of plans and actions.”

Another book I have read recently, or half read (more on that later) was called “Runner’s World Running On Air” which was previewed on another podcast I listen to (either Marathon Training Academy or The Conscious Runner Podcast) which interested me so I downloaded it onto my Kindle but only read half, if that. I mention it because part of Steve Runners podcast is recorded while he is running and it stood out to me that he breathes in two strides then out for two strides (again more on that later).

The basis for the book is that your body is at its weakest, while running, when you start to exhale. So, if you breath in for three strides and out for two strides then you will start to exhale on a different foot each time thus balancing your body and avoiding injury. If going faster then you can change this to two in and one out. Guess how many pages of the book it takes to get that message over – not many. Interested to find out what the rest of the book had to offer I was horrified to find I had spent money on a beginners running guide – beginner runners go out too fast, it’s ok to walk when you first start etc. No I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you are a complete beginner somewhere between walking and running.

So on my first run outside I tried out the 3/2 breathing pattern and hated it with a vengeance. It messed with my running, it messed with my breathing, I hated it. The only redeeming feature was that it made me think about my breathing pattern, which is two in and two out (see above) and, at the crest of a hill I could slow down my panting and heart rate by employing a 3/2 rate.

What about this for a thought to mull over. Next Easter on March 26th is the World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff. It is on the Saturday and I am already entered. On the following day Easter Sunday is the Pendine Sands Half Marathon (and ultra run but forget that) held on the beach where Donald Campbell used to race Bluebird on land speed record attempts. What about running Cardiff, jumping in the car, bed and breakfast somewhere down west and then running the Pendine Half as a back to back over two days.

Not only would this be a challenge to work towards but it might even get me into The Half Fanatics running club. What is going through my mind at the moment, and would have to be run out of my mind, is a note from Angie on the MTA podcast that running back to back marathons is mentally harder than a fifty miler (so assume back to back halves harder than running a marathon) because, she said, in a fifty miler you are running with a goal of finishing the run, with back to back marathons you are running with a goal of finishing the first marathon knowing you have to get up and do it all again tomorrow.

I wonder.