Oakley 20 mile race – *** Did Not Finish ***

We’ll get onto my first DNF (Did Not Finish) in a bit, but first things first.

Picture yourself with a face made of porridge, with Nutella eyes, and peanutty nose.  Sorry for getting a bit “Lucy in the sky” there!

Anyway, breakfast – up early for a decent breakfast of a porridge face, with coffee, hydration drink and a banana:

Porridge Face

Porridge Face

Training’s been going fairly well really, I completed my longest run of the year last weekend – 18.75 miles, so well up to the distance.

As I was treating the Oakley 20 as a training run, rather than a race, I didn’t bother with a taper, so had a full week of training last week: Monday, ran just shy of 5 miles, Tuesday, tough turbo trainer session, Thursday, sprint relay run session, Friday 19 mile bike in the morning, then a cramp-fest of a swim on Friday night, plus 2 hours of hedge cutting in the afternoon.

This is quite a contrast from when I successfully ran the same race in 2012 – I ran on the Wednesday, then had 3 days of full rest before race day.

My fuelling was also different, I normally have a pretty healthy meal on the Saturday night before a race – normally brown pasta, with chicken and a load of veg in a pesto sauce, where as this time around, I had a chicken Kiev, potato wedges and a bagel.

So I was over trained and improperly fuelled for this race – setting myself up for a fall really.

The race started OK, it was cold and windy, but I was moving fairly well.  I started quite far back in the pack, and was overtaking quite a few people, especially on the hills, a lot of people were slowing for the hills, but I was able to maintain a fairly even pace.

The first few miles were uneventful, which is generally good when running.  I passed the 10k mark in 1:02, bang on my desired 10 minute mile pace.  The route is quite hilly – it seemed more up hill than anything, but that’s often the way when runnng.  There seemed to be very little on the flat, and there was seldom a tail wind.

I carried on at a pretty consistent pace, and completed the first 10 miles in 1:14, an average pace of 10:06 a mile.  After 10 miles, I walked to take a gel on, as I was feeling a bit like my energy was depleted, and then carried on.

My friends John and Angela from Freedom Tri came out to cheer me on, and I saw them shortly after taking the gel.  Here’s a photo of me high-5’ing John – it’s the Freedom way! I was still feeling pretty strong at this point.

Give me 5, John!

Give me 5, John!

The race is 2 laps – a 12 mile lap, followed by a shorter 8 mile lap.  At about 11 miles, I was lapped by the race leaders, which I found hugely demotivating.  I certainly don’t expect to finish anywhere in races, but being lapped by blokes who are absolutely flying really rubs it in.

Passing race HQ at 12 miles was also mentally tough.  I almost (should have?) called a day at 12 miles, but thought if I carried on, and tactically walked the hills, I’d at least complete the distance.

I saw John and Angela again as I was walking up one of the hills not far after the 12 mile marker, and that cheered me up a bit, so off I ran again.

The final straw came approaching the 14th mile marker – a fellow athlete was walking back to race HQ, having withdrawn from the race.  I did run past him, but then thought “Sod it.  I don’t want to run/walk 6 odd miles”, and decided to withdraw from the race.   I was aching, knackered, and cold, so decided enough was enough.  It felt pointless continuing feeling like that.  All I was likely to achieve was injury or illness, and I’m not having that.  I’ve got a full season of triathlon to look forward to.

My head wasn’t in it from the get go really.  I HATE lapped races, especially when the first lap is 12 miles!  I was over trained, and under fuelled, so was asking for trouble.

Things learned from the run:

  • I ran a good 10 miles – consistently paced and disciplined
  • Have more rest days before a race
  • Focus on lower intensity sessions
  • I’m only human
  • Focus on fuelling and nutrition – a reminder that all calories are not created equal
  • I know not to run it again – laps really can do one

When I was training for my first marathon, I read a book called “Run less, run faster”, which really advocates cycling and swimming to complement running.  I wasn’t into swimming or cycling back in 2012, but mis-remembered that swimming and cycling are generally helpful, and had it in mind that I’ve been training smart.  The point I missed, is that these should be low intensity cross training sessions.  I’ve been doing triathlon club turbo trainer and swimming sessions every week, but have been pushing hard to try to improve technique and stamina both in the saddle, and in the pool.  So I haven’t really done much low intensity training at all – it’s either been pushing the speed, or pushing up the distance.

Training 5 days a week is also taking its toll.  71 sessions in the first 82 days of the year.  Oops.

So, what next?  Well, tapering for the Brighton Marathon is definitely on.  I’m cutting right back on the training, I’m going to have a low volume, low intensity couple of weeks, do the marathon and see how it goes.


For anyone interested, here’s the bit of the race that I ran:  http://connect.garmin.com/activity/466352228

Saucony Cambridge Half Marathon Race Report

I entered the Cambridge half marathon a good few months ago, as part of my marathon training.  The last 3 years, I’ve ran the Silverstone half marathon in March, but felt like I wanted a change of scenery this year.

The Cambridge half is a big race – 4,500 places, and it sells out FAST – within a couple of days normally, so I was quick to sign up and secure my place.

Still no photo’s of my breakfast I’m afraid.  I was picked up early by my club-mate SJ and her partner Mat, so only had time for a quick coffee, and stuck a sandwich in my kit bag that I made the night before – a club sandwich of Nutella and peanut butter, on lovely seeded bread.  It was as delicious as it sounds!

We arrived in Cambridge nice and early and parked at SJ’s office.  We had a leisurely stroll to the race HQ, which was at the Jesus Green park close to the city centre.

As with pretty much every race, there weren’t enough toilets laid on, so there were massive queues for the toilets, but needs must, so I queued.

We met up with some other Freedom Tri members, Jacko, Chris, David, John and Angela, and had a chat and catch up.

It was soon time to head to the race start, so I stripped off to shorts and t-shirt with my Freedom Tri running vest over the top.  It was a hot and sunny day, so I could have quite easily just worn the vest, but as I tend to feel the cold, especially towards the end of a race when I’m getting tired, I was reluctant to ditch the t-shirt.

The race was organised into 4 coloured start pens – blue at the front, then green, then yellow then red.  I was in the green start pen with Chris and Angela.  They both headed towards the front to get in front of the 1:45 pacer, as they’re both a good bit quicker than I am.  I had a look around for a 2 hour pacer, but couldn’t spot one, so just hung about in the middle of the pen, waiting for the race to start.  I was probably a bit further forward than I should have been, but never mind, it doesn’t desperately matter.

The start gun fired, and we started, stopped, and started again, as the field of 4,500 runners surged to the start line, after a couple of minutes, we passed the timing mat, so the race was officially on.

Despite being such a big race, there seemed to be plenty of space to run, and I wasn’t tripping over anyone.  Quite a few people overtook me early on, so I definitely was too far forward in the pack, but I wasn’t going to try and keep up and run too quickly and ruin my race, so I let them sail past me.  I glanced at my watch to check my pace and it seemed like it was having a bit of a hissy fit, and for some reason, it lost the first half mile of the race, and my heart rate monitor was behaving oddly too.  According to that, my max heart rate for the race was 222 bpm, but I think if that had been the case, my heart would have burst out of my chest!

It wasn’t long before I passed the first mile marker, even though my watch had only recorded 0.5 mile, the time was at least about right – pretty much bang on 9 minutes for the first mile.  There is a silver lining to my watch playing silly buggers – it did allow me to relax and not worry about the numbers.  I did glance at the watch a few times, but didn’t have a lot of faith in it.

I somehow missed the second mile marker, soon after was the first water and gel station.  The water was distributed in pouches (like these)  – much better than cups, but hard to get all the water out of.  There were 3 water and gel stations, and as this was a 2 lap course, 6 chances to grab a water or a free High-5 gel.  I took on more water and gels than I normally would for a half marathon, but was keen to finish strong, and with energy to spare, and it was such a hot day, I didn’t want to get too dehydrated.

At the 3rd mile marker, my time was 27:15, a bit over the 9 minute mile pace of a 2 hour half marathon.  I was treating this run as a training run anyway, rather than having a goal time in mind anyway, so was expecting to finish in 2:05 or there abouts.

Although Cambridge is pretty flat, the course is quite twisty and turny, so not as fast as I’d have expected – there were a couple of u-turns in the race, which were a bit of a bottleneck.  Also, a few stretches of the race was on cobblestones – a very hard and uneven surface to run on.

I cracked on, and took advantage of the other 2 water and gel stations on the first lap.  The first 6 mile lap too me 55:17 according to the splits from the official results, so 9:13 per mile- a bit of drop in pace.

I’m not a big fan of multiple lap races – I find getting back to the start and having the same again to do quite demotivating.  This was made worse, as there was a relay part of the race, so some of the runners only ran the first lap – lucky buggers!

I cracked on with lap 2, and passed the 10 mile mark in 1:33.   I needed to pull a 27 minute 5k out of the bag to get a 2 hour half, which I wasn’t expecting to get, but thought I’d give it a shot.  I tried to speed up a bit.

We got back to the park at about 11.5 miles, so the last 1.6 miles were in the park.  It seemed a bit off to be that close to the finish line, but having to loop about before getting there.

Into the finishing straight, and I passed the Cancer Research 2 hour pacer.  Unfortunately, he was a bit off pace, as my watch was showing 2:00 as I passed him.  I picked up a  sprint finish, and my watch time ended up being 2:00:22.

I was quickly through the finishing funnel, and given my medal – a quality, heavy medal.

I was also given a really good goody bag – including a bottle of water, a cereal bar, a bag of Quavers crisps, an orange and a banana, a pack of High-5 energy and recovery products, including a couple of gels, some hydration tablets, an energy bar and a protein energy shake powder, and was also given a pint bottle of Erdinger alcohol free beer.

They were also giving out more free beer outside, so I grabbed a pint too!  I don’t know if it was just post race thirst, but this is one of the best beers I’ve ever tasted!

I met back up with some of my club mates, and had a “cheers” moment!



Left to right, Chris Belcher, Mathew Freeman, little old me, and Angela Phillips (photograph complements of John Phillips)

All in all, a great morning out, beautiful sunny day, and a time I was pleased with.  The race was well organised,  and well supported by the people of Cambridge and sponsors.

Here’s my slightly dodgy Garmin data: