Thursday, 16 August 2018

Port Talbot half marathon and more

Last Sunday was the Port Talbot half marathon, organised by Port Talbot Harriers. This was the second time I have participated in this event having run it last year where I strained a calf muscle at the six mile mark. I finished that race in 02:07 which I didn't think was bad considering the injury, so of course I had to run it again this year.

The forecast wasn't great with rain showers forecast all day, and anyone who knows me knows that if the rain is more than just a bit of drizzle, then I don't like it at all.

Running friend Claire joined me for this race and we had an easy drive to race HQ at the Glyncorrwg Ponds Visitor Centre although the drive took longer than I anticipated. We collected our race numbers and met up with other Caerleon RC runners for photo's and a chat before heading to our start pens.

The course is fabulous! It consists mostly of tarmac paths, deep down in a wooded valley with the river Corrwg flowing through the middle, which we crossed several times. But the first 6.5 miles leads you into a false sense of security as it is a very gradual downhill most of the way, but of course that means that the second 6.5 miles is a gradual uphill, and your legs really begin to notice that by mile 10 or 11.

The rain the night before and that morning meant that in several places there were some sizable, ankle deep puddles, which most people tried to tippy toe through in order not to get wet feet. I learned last winter whilst taking part in my first cross country races, that the best way to negotiate puddles and mud was to just plough straight through them at full speed, and that is what I did here. The rain began again just before the race started, only very lightly, and then it stopped, followed by some drizzle. And then by the time I'd reached mile 8 or so there was one hell of a downpour that just soaked everyone totally through to the skin.

My race went well and pretty much to plan. I was aiming for a 2 hour finish and I got in at 02:01 so I was happy with that. If you've never run this race then I can thoroughly recommend it.

Tuesday evenings run was different to the usual club run. The club run was to run the Llanhennock Loop in reverse, which meant some fairly sizable hills but, my calfs and glutes were still aching from Sunday's race and I really didn't fancy that. Fortunately fellow club member and friend Michelle came up with an alternative which was to run from the 14 locks canal centre with some of the runners from the Run Newport group. This was a nice, easy paced run along tarmac paths , an open grassy field, and some trail paths before getting onto the canal path where we headed back to 14 locks, and my achy muscles thanked me for not subjecting them to big hills.

Wednesday evening was something different, a 1 mile track night at Newport Stadium with Lliswerry Runners. This was divided up into times, so for instance there were groups for sub 7 minute runners, 7 to 8:30 minutes, 8:30 - 9 minutes and 9:30 plus minutes, and I was in the 7 - 8:30 minute group.

Running on a track was a new experience for me, the track felt slightly spongy and a bit of a weird feeling to it, but after having run a lap or two to warm up I quickly got used to it.

My race began and I think I was somewhere mid pack, and I did manage to catch and overtake a few people. Then with just 50 metres to go I could hear my Caerleon running buddies shouting that someone was on my tail and catching me. I had a quick glance behind and Eddie was there, but I knew if I put a burst on for those last few metres then Eddie wouldn't catch me, and so it was, I finished with an official time of 07:30

All in all it was a good hour or so, and good fun too.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Running update, this, that & the other

Since running the Cardiff Epic 10k Trail I haven't done a lot other than the usual club runs. 

When I was away camping in Cornwall and Dorset in May, when I also ran the Ocean City (Plymouth) half marathon, I did something to my lower back which proved to be quite painful, but after a week or so the pain subsided and I thought nothing of it. Then just before the Swansea half marathon I was putting my wheely bin and recycling boxes out for emptying and I must have twisted in a funny way and the pain returned. I mentioned this to a friend who recommended a physiotherapist in Cardiff, who I went to see. He checked me over, laid me down on his couch and stuck acupuncture needles into my lower back and left me for ten minutes, then returned, manipulated me into a particular position laying on my side, stuck his knee in my back and pulled. He then told me to come back if I had a repeat of the problem.

I ran the Swansea half marathon alright but my back pain had returned so I went to see the guy again and he repeated the same treatment, but a couple of days later I was back to square one.

Daniela Gormley of Advanced Sports Massage, (you may remember I featured Daniela a few months ago in my blog), recommended Michelle of Whitchurch Chiropractic. Dr Michelle Thomas was an elite swimmer and trained for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, and is a very experienced practitioner in chiropractic treatments, and so I made an appointment for 8 AM on Saturday morning. I explained my problem and Michelle examined me from head to toe and diagnosed my problem as a strained ligament within my pelvis, and began treatment for this. She sat me down, showed me on a model of a spine and pelvis what the problem was and what treatment was required, saying I would require a course of treatment, and so I booked two sessions per week for the next two weeks, and then we would reassess at that point, but she did say that being a ligament problem it could be six weeks or so before I really begin to feel the improvement, which was the same when I badly sprained my ankle at Cwmbran parkrun in 2016.

I will let you how how I progress in future posts, but I felt that Michelle was a HUGE improvement on the other guy I saw and has instilled confidence in me that there will be an improvement. Fortunately it is not affecting my running much.

As for other running? Well I have missed the club Thursday interval/speed sessions over the last few weeks due to other commitments, so instead I have been going out after work on a Friday evening for a 10 mile run, and last week was no exception, so I took myself off down the canal path to Newport Riverfront, ran a loop of that before returning home a similar way for 10 miles. I have to say that I didn't mind the heat that evening but the humidity was off the scale and I don't think I have ever been so wet with sweat on any run, not even Tenby.

Last Sunday I ran in the inaugural Barry Island 10k, a new event for 2018, and judging by its popularity, one which I think will be back next year. It was quite a nice route, taking in Romily Park and The Knapp. It was a very hot morning but at least we didn't have the humidity that I experienced on Friday, but I was very pleased with my time and my performance on the hillier sections of the route. It was also a bonus having my picture taken with Welsh althletics legend, Iwan Thomas, who ran the course for charity in 48 minutes.

Myself with Claire Louise (aka Candy) & Iwan Thomas

Tuesday evening was the final race in the GLCL road race series, hosted by Griffithstown Harriers & Fairwater Runners and held in and around the park in Cwmbran. There was a good turn out by Caerleon RC with some members running their first league race.

Caerleon RC race competitors
I think I was still feeling a little tired from Sundays Barry Island 10k but still managed to put in a performance I was happy with.

Me coming in to finish

This Sunday I am running in the Port Talbot half marathon, which is actually held in the Afan Forest and follows a former railway route. I ran this race last year but my calf went again at the 6 mile mark. I had to walk a little before breaking into a slow jog to the finish with a time of 02:14 so this year I am looking to complete it without injury. The surrounding scenery is lovely and the atmosphere is great, and with only about 600 runners taking part, it isn't very crowded.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Caerleon RC on tour in Tenby

Last weekend was the annual Long Course Weekend and Wales marathon in Tenby, and as last year, I ran in the half marathon event. 

I thought that this would be an ideal opportunity for a camping weekend away with some of my Caerleon running buddies, so I put the feelers out at the beginning of this year as I knew that camp sites would quickly become booked up as the event got nearer, and eventually we had a group of us that were going away more for a fun weekend rather than a running weekend, although some running did get done.

Michelle and I arrived early Friday afternoon at Meadow Farm camping. It was a gloriously sunny, hot day and this was the first time that I had used this particular camp site. I had chosen it mostly because it was cheap and cheerful with only basic amenities, unlike Kiln Park which has everything there and is huge. I saw Kiln last year and the tents were crammed in next to each other, but Meadow Farm had magnificent views overlooking Tenby and it was only a 10 minute walk into the town centre.
Tenby from the camp site

Tony and Jane were the next to arrive with a new inflatable tent, followed by Carl with his new lady, Ann. Then came Tania, Ade and kids, Sally, Phil and kids, with Michelle C and daughter Maddy coming in last in a rented VW camper.

Once everyone had set up their tents, we took a stroll down the hill to North Beach where the swim part of the LCW was taking place. I guess at this point I should explain that the LCW is a ultra triathlon event, taking place over three days, unlike an Iron Man event which takes place over one day only.

It was quite a spectacle watching hundreds of swimmers entering the sea to complete one triangular lap of 1.2 miles or two laps of 2.4 miles. We all had a paddle in the surprisingly warm sea water before heading back to the camp site where I had already prepared a lamb curry for everyone. We ate, we had a few drinks, and admittedly we did get a little raucous and had to calm it down and call it a night at around 11 PM ish.

Saturday morning was warm and humid as myself, Carl, Ann, Tony, Jane, Michelle C and Maddy got our running gear on to go and take part in the Colby Woodland Gardens parkrun, near Amroth, which is about a 20 minute drive from Tenby. This is a lovely trail course, surrounded by trees which kept the hot sun off us, but the humidity certainly made us sweat a bit.

At Colby parkrun

I had intended to take this run easy as I was running on Sunday and I didn't want to expend too much energy, and that is exactly what I did. We all finished, stretched and cooled down before heading back to the camp site for a hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs etc.

Tania and Sally had already fed their families and were heading off to the beach to keep their kids occupied and happy whilst the rest of us who had run chilled out in the sun for a while before heading into town for a mooch around, watched some of the cyclists finishing,  and then we found a pub which was showing the Belgium v England World Cup game. Then it was back to camp where Carl was cooking up a Paella for everyone.

Half time watching the football 

Sunday morning and Michelle C and myself were getting ourselves ready to take part in the Wales half marathon. We had to meet our bus at 09:30 in Tenby which was to take us to Pembroke where our start was. The Wales marathon runners had left Tenby at 10 AM and were heading to Pembroke, which was their half way mark and we were to start at 12 noon.     

We met up with fellow Caerleon runner Beth and we had to hang around until the bulk of the marathon runners had passed through before we were paraded down Pembroke High Street to a Samba drum band to the start line, and then off we went.
Waiting for the start with Michelle C & Beth

Oh man was it hot! There was very little shade in those country lanes, but the cooling water from garden hoses provided from the occasional house we passed was truly welcome. I was also pouring water over my head at every water station along the route. This is a particularly hilly course with hills of various steepness, but all of them were energy sapping in the midday heat. As I passed the six mile marker I knew one of the worst hills on the route would be upon me in a few minutes. The road drops down nicely towards the beach at Manorbeer, then slowly increases again to go past the castle and a very steep hill climb, which just seems to go on forever.

The next big hill comes at about nine miles when we begin to climb to the top of the Ridgeway. Earlier in the race I had overtaken my good friend from Lliswerry Runners, Lisa, but this hill was too much for my already weary legs and I, as well as most others, was walking up this one, but not Lisa who was striding very strongly and confidently past me and out of view. Go Lisa!

Eventually, what goes up has to come down, and there is a very nice long decent down to Tenby before one final steep climb up to the sea front and the red carpet finish line.
The narrow street was lined with cheering crowds with people you have never met calling your name and cheering you on. This is the spirit of the LCW. It certainly spurs you on to a speedy finish.

Once over the line I was cooling off and Michelle C came in just a couple of minutes after me, however, because she had waited for Beth at the start, (who needed a last minute comfort break), we actually finished with the same official time of 2 hours 18 minutes. A text message to my phone from Carl said that the rest of the gang were in the pub and to make our way there, which we did.

After some refreshment and a change out of our very sweaty tops, Carl, Ann, Michelle and myself headed for the beach for an hour before heading back to the camp site. Michelle C and Maddy had to head home whereas Carl and Ann were staying with me until Monday, and everyone else had headed home also. The rest of us went back into town for dinner and a couple of drinks before calling it a night and dismantling our tents the following morning.

What an awesome weekend that was, and every one agreed that we should do it again sometime. Check out the video.


Monday, 9 July 2018

Tough Runner - Cardiff Epic 10k Trail

Sunday morning dawned as another beautiful, hot summers day, and I was up early to take part in the Tough Runner Cardiff Epic 10k trail race.

Car parking and collection of race numbers and chip tags was taking place at the Mountain View Ranch, a golf club and outdoor centre, which was only a short walk from the race start at Fforest fawr which, if you've never been, is a lovely forested area just above Castell Coch, ideal for family walks, mountain biking and trail running.

The race briefing took place at the start line which was on the main gravel path just along from the Fforest Fawr car park, and went along the lines of the course being quite technical in places with narrow uphill stretches where we would mostly have to run in single file, and we may need to walk up the very steep hill at mile 4, otherwise the course was hard packed dirt or gravel.

It was hot, humid and very sweaty, even though we were shaded by the trees in the forest, and those hills were tough in those conditions. So tough in fact that my finish time of 01:10 is probably the slowest 10k run, of any kind, that I have ever done.

My friend Claire Louise of Lliswerry Runners, (who is usually a little slower than me), finished 3 minutes ahead of me 😒. Paul and Charlotte from CRC were also there and also found the course tough, (I'm so glad it wasn't only me!). Rhys Knight who has just left CRC and is currently not a member of a club finished in 2nd place with a time of 49 minutes, an awesome finish for Rhys.
From the left is Rhys, Paul, Charlotte, Claire Louise & me
Next weekend is the Long Course Weekend in Tenby and I am running in the half marathon on Sunday as I did last year. A full report on that weekend will be available once I've recovered from that one.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Swansea Half Marathon

My race calendar is filling up and last Sunday I took part in the Swansea half marathon.

Last year I ran this race, taking the place of Samantha from Caerleon RC who was injured if I remember correctly, I used the race as a training run before running the Tenby half. In that race I surprised myself by finishing in a time of 02:02, so of course I wanted to improve on that this year.

It was a particularly hot day with temperatures above 25°C and the sun was beating down on us with very little shade along the sea front route, which began in Swansea city centre and headed out to the coast road where we ran west towards Mumbles. This was the half way turn around point and we ran back towards Swansea along the sea front promenade.

With water stations every 3 miles I picked up a bottle at the 3 mile mark and held onto it, slowly sipping as and when I needed it before discarding the empty bottle at about 5 miles. At 6 miles I picked up another bottle but I only took a few sips and poured some water over my head and the back of my neck.

I had set the estimated finishing time function on my Polar M430 watch for half marathon distance and it was constantly updating and showing my finishing time at between 01:50 and 01:55, which was a pace I was comfortable at but I knew that I would not finish in that time as my final 2 - 3 miles would definitely be slower. I was hoping for a time around 01:58 ish, which I felt was realistic as this is a flat route but also considering the heat, and as I predicted, by 10 miles my legs were beginning to feel tired and at 11 miles my pace began to slow, and my watch was now estimating a finish time of 01:58 , so I just needed to hold onto that pace now.

I crossed the line in a chip time of 01:59:05, which I was happy with as it was still a sub 2 hour finish, just.

I don't mind running in the heat as long as I can stay hydrated, and I would much rather heat than the cold of winter. It has to be said that I hated last winters training in Arctic conditions.

So my race calendar now looks like this.

July 8th - Cardiff Epic 10k trail
July 15th - Wales half marathon (part of the Long Course Weekend in Tenby)
Aug 12th - Port Talbot half marathon
Sept 2nd - Cardiff 10k
Sept 16th - Mic Morris Torfaen 10k
Sept 30th - Cheltenham half marathon
Oct 7th - Cardiff half marathon
Oct 14th - Palma Majorca half marathon
Oct 21st - Stroud half marathon
Nov 17th - Brechfa trail half marathon

It's going to be a very busy summer, and I may be pushing myself too far running 3 halfs in 3 weeks in October.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

RACK Raid 2018

On Sunday 3rd June I took part in the annual RACK Raid (ruins and castle keeps), organised by Fairwater Running Club in Cwmbran. This was the 25th anniversary of this inter club relay race which this year was made up of 14 stages over a total of 114 miles, beginning in Llanthony and finishing at the Castell Y Bwch pub in Cwmbran.

I decided to drive the route the evening before, that way it would be fresh in my mind the next morning. This was a new first stage from Llanthony to Grosmont, a distance of 12.5 miles as usually the race begins in Grosmont.

Sunday morning came and I was up at 04:45 as I had to be on the road by 05:45 to be in Abergavenny for 06:15 to meet with Gwyn and Tom who were my designated support crew. I left my car in the car park and got into Gwyn's car for the final part of the journey to the slumbering village of Llanthony, where upon arrival we were met by a tree which had fallen across the road about 1 mile from the village and our start line.

The organisers made the decision to begin the race from the fallen tree, and they didn't have any other option really, and so at our designated race start time of 07:00, we were off.

The pack set off like a bunch of scalded cats, and they left me standing. There was no way I was going to be able to keep up with their pace, so all I could do was go at the fastest pace my little legs could manage.

The first 5 miles along the winding country road were easy as the road was either flat or a very slight down hill and my pace varied from 07:34 to 08:31, which is a very quick pace for me over this distance.

We reached the main Hereford road, which is usually quite busy, but not at that time on a Sunday morning, and there were marshals there to ensure we crossed it safely, and I then took the country road that would take me to Grosmont.

Very quickly the roads gradient increased and my pace slowed, (I'm pretty slow on uphill sections but usually make up what I lose on the down hill stretches), and then the road would level off for a short distance before beginning to climb again, and this pretty much continued like this until I reached the right turn into Grosmont, which was then down hill all the way for the next ½ mile

All the way along the route I could see a Pontypridd runner about 150 - 200m in front of me, and a Fairwater runner in front of him, but although I managed to close the gap on occasion, I couldn't catch them.

Each stage has a cut off time and mine was 1 hour 53 minutes, which I was a bit concerned about making before the race so, before I started I set the estimated finishing time function on my watch for 12.5 miles, which I find a much easier way of judging my pace in a race than looking at my pace itself, and for most of the race my watch was showing me an estimated finishing time of around 01:40 , so I was well within my cut off time even if I had run the full 12.5 miles, so I wasn't really bothered that I was the last runner to finish because I knew I had completed my stage within the required time, and that was all I could do.

Once I'd finished and recovered a little, it was time to hit the road and Gwyn drove me to the next stage at Skenfrith, where I changed cars and got a lift back to Abergavenny with Gareth. I watched the next group of runners begin their stage to the village of Moat and then the Skenfrith runners as they arrived. It was then time for me to head home to shower and get some food before heading out to support my club mates along the rest of the route.

What a fabulous day that was, which we ended by meeting at the finish line at the Castell Y Bwch pub for food and drink.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Ocean City Half Marathon & Eden Project Parlrun

I've just returned from my spring holiday, and what a fabulous time I had camping in Cornwall and Dorset with beautiful sunny, warm weather.

My first stop was in Cornwall so that I could visit my son and his family. Whilst I was there I was persuaded to take part in the parkrun at the Eden Project, which I wasn't intending to do as I was running a half marathon the following day. But I thought, what the heck, I can just take it easy and maybe a leg stretch would do me good. However it didn't quite turn out that way.

I ran this particular parkrun last December when I was visiting my son to deliver his Christmas presents, and I completed it in 25:57 which, considering the three zigzag hills on the course, I was pleased with. But this time I absolutely smashed that time, but also my own all time PB with a time of 25:10. Wow, where did that come from? To say that I was pleased was an understatement.

Wearing club colours at parkrun

The Plymouth Ocean City Half Marathon was taking place the next day, and with an 08:30 start, and an hours drive to get there, I was up at 5:45 and on the road by 6:30.

The sun was shining warmly and there was an on shore breeze as I walked from the car park along the road from the Barbican to the Hoe, where the race village and start was, and I had just enough time to use the loo and apply sun cream on my exposed skin before entering the starters pen, just behind the 2 hour 15 minute pace runners. I wasn't planning on taking that long though.

On the dot of 08:30 we were off and we headed downhill on a loop that would take us past the start again, along an uphill section there as we then headed towards the Barbican and east away from the city.

By mile 4 there was a long uphill climb for a little over a mile before we turned off the main road and along a country lane towards a wooded park. Up until now the sun had got pretty warm and so the shade of the trees was very welcome. But all too soon the park had been left behind and we were out into the hot sunshine again, and I was sweating profusely and grabbing a bottle of water from every water station.

The route took us back over a bridge and then there was an out and back section, roughly between miles 9 and 11 when we then headed back into the city the way we had come.

By this time the heat had got to me, but also probably the previous days parkrun had left me feeling more tired than I had thought also, and so the last two miles were pretty tough, and as you leave the Barbican, the road bends sharply right and you have the final ¼ mile with a tough uphill climb ahead and spectators clapping and cheering lining the road.

I didn't stop to walk, although I did feel like it, and I was pretty slow by this time. Another sharp right hand bend and the hill steepened a little more, followed by a sharp left hand bend and an even steeper ramp to negotiate before seeing the finish line about 400 metres away, and with only about 200 metres to go, I felt a sharp pain in my right calf and I wasn't sure if it was cramp or my old injury flaring up again, but I couldn't stop now and I managed a running hobble towards the line.

I had finished in 02:07, which considering the heat, I was reasonably happy with. Along the way I had seen St. Johns Ambulance staff seeing to runners who had collapsed, probably due to heat exhaustion and dehydration. I was told afterwards that the lead runner, having reached that final steep ramp in about 01:30 collapsed and had to be helped up so that he could finish.

All in all I enjoyed this race. It appeared to be well organised, the route wasn't bad at all, although I would like them to flatten out some of those hills, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a different race to take part in.

Port Talbot half marathon and more

Last Sunday was the Port Talbot half marathon, organised by Port Talbot Harriers. This was the second time I have participated in this event...