Keeping it interesting: June and July

It’s been a long time since I wrote a post like this (November, in fact), which just goes to show how little cross training and how much running I’ve done this year.

But as it’s a time where I’m not really in full on training plan mode, plus I’ve got a tight hip niggle that won’t go away, I’m enjoying much more than just running at the moment. Here’s what I’ve been up to…

Cycling

I bought a bike in April last year. I then rode it twice, folded it up under a desk for 8 months, moved house and then kept it in the garage for another 5 months. But last weekend I took the bold move and wheeled it – with pancake flat tyres – over to Evans Cycles at Fenchurch Street and asked for it to be made roadworthy again. Turns out, all that meant was pumping up the tyres and oiling the chain. Embarrassed at my incompetence, I rode off into the rain and off on an adventure.

Down by Regent’s Canal at Mile End Park

That weekend, I rode a few miles around Limehouse and Mile End, 6 miles up to North London, then all the way along the canal the next day from Angel to Wapping.

Since then, I’ve sorted out bike parking at work and rode to work most of last week. It’s ace! It’s less than 25 minutes from my front door to my desk and for where I am in East London, cycling is always the quickest way to get to where I need to go. I am LOVING cycling at the moment.

Limehouse Basin

Bootcamp Pilates

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to try out HIIP (high intensity interval Pilates) by Bootcamp Pilates at their City studio, which is nestled right behind Old Street station, only a 20 minute walk over from my office. It was a really humid evening and the mix of floor based cardio and strength exercises, interspersed with body conditioning sections on the reformer got me really quite sweaty in their basement studio.

I’ve really enjoyed the couple of reformer classes I’ve done in the past, but this class I found that little bit more engaging. We did exercises like squats, burpees, push ups and lunges, as well as some moves using dumbbells, on a mat placed to the side of the reformer. These were typically sets of two exercises done three times, before switching to work on the reformer, which was more stretching focussed, along with moves like planks and bridges.

I liked that we switched between on and off the reformer regularly, it meant I wasn’t hating being worked up into a sweat doing endless burpees, but also wasn’t getting too bored just lying on the reformer for an hour.

As you can see from the photos, I had the pink, shiny face of concentration on throughout the class! It was challenging but moves were adapted up or down based on ability. I know that this kind of workout would do wonders for my running, so I’ll definitely be back.

Classes are £19 off peak, £27 peak – so pricy! But Bootcamp Pilates do an intro offer of 2 for £12 on off peak classes (which only excludes weekday evening classes).

Lifting

My brilliantly fit and constantly active friend Charlie makes a great gym buddy. Over the last few weeks, we have managed to fit in four trips to my gym (Virgin Active Barbican) together. I really hate running before work, but I love going to the gym. She comes up with the workouts, shouts at me when my weights aren’t heavy enough and I just go along with it and feel great afterwards.

I only have the rest of July left on my membership, but then I am probably just going to pay as I go at other gyms and take advantage of the fact you can train for free on Fridays at Fitness First if you’re running Royal Parks (which I think is a fantastic link up!)

This week, it was an upper body session for me, and a legs session for Charlie. One day I will feel confident enough to step up to the squat rack alone…

Race report: British 10k 2014

There are few races I’ve enjoyed less than the British 10k 2013. I was lucky to have my place paid for by my employer at the time, and I ran for my industry charity, GroceryAid. However, the race itself was pretty terrible – it started off badly by taking over 45 minutes to get across the start line on one of the hottest days of last summer, and didn’t get much better from there.

I then went onto run the Color Run in the same afternoon, which is probably the only race I’ve ever enjoyed less than the British 10k. Now that really was AWFUL. So hot, so much waiting around, so boring, so crappy to run around Wembley. I haven’t been back to North West London since. Just eurgh.

So after all of that, you’d probably wonder why on earth I would even bother showing up to this year’s British 10k? Well firstly, I was lucky (again) to win a place with Tiger Balm to run as part of their #BorntoRun team. I’ll get the race fee thing out of the way straight away. No 10k should cost £50. It’s just ludicrous. I would not have run this race either last year or this if I had to pay for it.

And despite getting the race place for free, I still found myself no more impressed with the race this year than I did in 2013.

Tiger Balm were excellent. I got the place only a few days prior to race day, their communication was spot on and the pre race meet up – despite being early – was friendly, organised and really good fun. They asked us to wear onesies for the photocall, with the option of wearing them for the race. We were given a tshirt too, but I thought it would be fun to go with the onesie.

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This obviously made me really, really hot. But this wasn’t what I disliked about this race – I still wasn’t as hot as I was running it last year. I disliked the long walk to the start from the bag drop, the long wait before we got started (although admittedly not anywhere near as long as last year) and the fact that there wasn’t start pens by finishing time – which meant a painful mixture of weaving around walkers and being elbowed by faster runners. That was the worst. I’ve never felt so jostled, nudged and just generally harassed as I have in this race. It really started to stress me out by the second half and I ran the final 3k with panic rising in my chest.

The long walk to the start…

After the horrible bit right near the end where you reach Parliament Square, but then get shot off towards Victoria for an out and back loop along Victoria Street (my least favourite part of the whole route – and you run through the Blackfriars underpass – twice), I was really glad to have finished.

The we all got held from entering Whitehall Place, the location of the bag drop. The crowds mounted up quickly as more and more people crossed the finish line. It all got a bit ridiculous.

It then transpired that everyone was queing for the Help for Heroes tent, regardless of whether they had run for them or not and it was blocking the whole road. It took almost half an hour for someone to come and sort this out. By the time I made it to my bag and to Charlie, Harry, Jonny and Seb, I was so on the edge of panic from being hot, tired and packed in a crowd for the past hour and a half, that I did a little cry. I thought I was past the point of crying at 10k’s… so thanks for that British 10k. Oh, and one more thing – I still have no idea what my time was because when I put my race number into the website, someone else’s result comes up. Not that it matters, but you’re supposed to be able to find it out.

Thankfully, my day drastically improved post race thanks to my awesome ambush of tigers, as the five of us headed to Le Pain at the Southbank Centre for fizz, granola, coffee and a whole load of bread. Love Le Pain.

Then me and Charlie shared a peanut buttery cake of amazingness from Outsider Tart‘s stall at the food market, accompanied by a coffee whilst soaking up the sun.

I gave the British 10k a second chance, but I don’t think I’ll be giving it a third…

 

Race report: We Own The Night Amsterdam 2014

Running has felt very up and down since the marathon. I was absolutely loving it for about a month, but since my 10k PB at We Own The Night in London, it’s all gone a bit lacklustre.

So I went into this race with absolutely no expectations – I was in Amsterdam for the weekend to enjoy myself, I wasn’t going to hold back on what I ate, drank or did in favour of a better race. But this was a thoroughly enjoyable race (despite me being in a massive grump about my time afterwards and Charlie having to tell me off).

Myself, Charlie and Laureen were all running, with Laureen’s sister Alice also along as support. We knew very little about the race before we got there, the route map was in typically minimalist Nike style – with us knowing nothing about the layout of the city, it gave very little away.

We were also completely unaware that the race began at 22:30 until the day we arrived in the city. This was a bit annoying to start with, as I’d hoped to experience some Amsterdam nightlife, and such a late race was eating into this, but it was so hot during the day that a late start was appreciated.

After sitting down for dinner at pretty much the same time we were running the London race (that felt very odd!), we made our way out to the Olympic Stadium via bus. On the way we saw so many girls in their turquoise shirts travelling there by bike. I was very jealous of the ease and elegance of just jumping on a Dutch bike to go run a 10k.

As we got to the stadium, it completely clouded over and started to rain (I’d just bought some new sandals about 3 hours earlier as it was so hot. Typical). This did nothing to dampen the brilliant vibe in the stadium and we managed to easily while away the time before the race start by visiting the portaloos, playing around in the Vogue Nederland photo booth and having our picture taken by their photographer, finding our names on the WOTN wall and meeting up with the girls from Running Junkies.

In fact, we got a bit carried away, and before we knew it, pretty much everyone else was in their pens ready for the start. I’d told a very small sub-50 fib when picking up my wristband so I could be in the same pen as Charlie (who wasn’t telling any lies when she said she could run a sub-50). We jumped a fence to get into our pen, but accidentally found ourselves in the one for VIPs… in front of pen 1. OOPS!!

The atmosphere in the starting pens was the best I’ve ever experienced at a race. The DJ was awesome and the music was actually LOUD. I’m sure the time of the evening also helped, but we were RAVING at that start line and ready to GO! And then it all went silent, a bloke came on stage and wittered on in Dutch for a bit, before the DJ came back on and pretty much had to recreate the previous 15-20 minutes.

The race didn’t actually get going until nearly 23:00, by which time I have to admit, I was definitely in the ‘let’s just get this over with, shall we?’ mindset. I lost the other girls almost immediately, and didn’t have any music, Nike+ or Garmin with me (shocking, I know), so had no choice but to take in and enjoy what was going on around me.

I thought that running in London we have a lot of ‘street furniture’ to contend with. HELL NO. This course took in big bollards, wide bollards, and worst of all, shin height bollards. As well as steps, cobbles, low hanging trees and of course, bikes. Some parts were very dark and very uneven. There were street parts, but a large chunk of the course took place in Vondelpark.

Also along the course was a giant little up arch with music pumping and dancers (much more impactful that the light tunnels at the London race, I thought), quite a few cheering crowds (most drinking!) and topless guys on light up podiums (not sure that would’ve gone down in London…?!) I think 10k continues to be my favourite distance – long enough to earn a medal, not so long that it turns into a slog.

Finishing in the Olympic Stadium was pretty cool, we ran through and onto the track to be handed the usual coconut water, brown paper goody bag and necklace medal, designed by The Boyscouts.

Other than the annoyingly delayed start, I had a brilliant time at this race, and in Amsterdam. Obviously you have to get there and pay for accommodation, but this race was only €20 to enter – an absolute steal for an event like this. The flight over is super short (less than an hour) and pretty cheap, and I’m sure we could’ve got a better deal on a hotel if we’d booked a bit more in advance. Would I travel abroad for ‘just’ a 10k again? Absolutely!

Read Charlie’s absolutely brilliant race recap here too.

A weekend in pictures: running adventures in Amsterdam

Last weekend I spent a flying 48 hours in Amsterdam – for some running, obviously! More on that to come, but for now, some snaps of what we got up to…

Race report: North Norfolk half marathon

Everyone has races where time is important. We all have times where we train hard for a race, and are desperate to beat a PB or slip under an illusive but ultimately arbitrary milestone. And everyone has races where time could not matter less. This was one of those races. There were parts of it I really didn’t enjoy, like the heat (remember that one really hot Sunday we had a couple of weeks ago?!), the hills, running over sand, loose gravel and lumpy grass, but ultimately, none of that matters. I ran this race alongside my Dad and my brother, so I’m going to let them tell you how it went…

Kevin/Dad’s Race Report

NORTH NORFOLK HALF MARATHON – Sunday 18th May 2014 

I awoke early on the morning of the race with a mixture of feelings ranging from trepidation to concern with a very small amount of excitement, bordering on anticipation. Looking out of the window, the sun was already shining brightly. As forecast, it was going to be a nice, very warm day. Just what we needed!

Arriving at the start, it was noticeable that a large percentage of the participants were members of running clubs but I found it somewhat reassuring to note that there were a few competitors who actually appeared to be older than me. Or was that just wishful thinking resulting from unrealistic optimism?

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The training in the preceding weeks had not gone smoothly. A number of rest periods were needed to enable me to recover from calf injuries and, as a result, less than a third of the planned miles had been covered. It had become obvious that my warming-up routine was somewhat lacking, i.e. no stretching and very little in the way of warming-up before running. Over the last three weeks of the training, this had been rectified and, as a result, I had remained injury-free.

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We had thought about the tactics for the race and had come to the conclusion that discipline was required from the very beginning. It was important not to start too quickly. As we set off, I glanced at my brand new Garmin watch and pressed the button. We were away. I would look at that watch at least 500 times during the race (or so it seemed). As we set off, a quick look over the shoulder revealed a few runners behind us, but not many. It dawned on me that I was actually running with my son and daughter.

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It soon became evident that, due to the ever-increasing temperature, our planned times per mile would not be achieved. Thankfully, there were watering stations every two miles or so and full use was made of these. A number of runners were feeling the effects of the heat at a fairly early stage. They were walking, possibly having started too quickly. The route took us along the coastal path and then through the centre of Wells which was rather crowded. We had planned to run together but agreed that if any of us felt able to go quicker, they should do so. Over the last three miles, it was obvious that Marcus had more fuel in the tank and he soon disappeared into the distance. Melissa soldiered on with great determination despite suffering from the heat and running with an injured knee.

After about 10.5 miles, we received a welcome boost as Alison, Hollie and Freddie were waiting to cheer us on. I think they had been there for quite a while, enjoying a snooze in the sun. The final two miles of the race were uphill and on the roughest terrain but finally Holkham Hall came into sight, just as I overtook Sydney the “dog”. He had been blatantly cheating by carrying his head! A quick look at the watch revealed less than a mile to go but, rather frustratingly, the course went past the finish and away from it, before doubling back in a loop. As the finishing line was crossed, the button was pressed and a time of 2 hours, 38 minutes and 53 seconds showed – a personal best! (First ever half marathon).

Freddie the real dog...
Freddie the real dog…
...and Sydney the not-so-real dog
…and Sydney the not-so-real dog

It was an absolute joy running with my son and daughter. Dare I say it? I am already looking forward to doing it again.

Dad at the finish line!
Dad at the finish line!

Marcus/little bro’s Race Report

The North Norfolk half marathon was my first proper run. I have always played sport, predominantly football and cricket, and have therefore stayed (fairly!) active. This run however felt another step up. Looking at the weather forecast on the days running up to the race, it looked as though it was going to be a hot and sunny day! And as Sunday arrived, it didn’t disappoint. I had gone for a last pre-race run on the Friday prior to the Sunday in very warm temperatures. This may have been a bad idea! I struggled, and in turn casted doubts on my ability to run the half marathon.

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When it came to race day, I was running with my sister and father. We took it easy for the first half of the race. I think we all felt pretty good. For me anyway, surprisingly good. It was very hot and on differing terrain. With it being such a hot day, hydration was paramount. The organisers had numerous water stations along the route. I think originally we had been given every 3 mile stop offs as our water stations. Thankfully they turned out to be much more frequent!

So we carried on until 2 miles to go. At this point I increased my speed slightly, as I still felt ok. Again, against what I had expected! Overall I found the run enjoyable, and as I finished, after thinking about what I was going to get from the fish and chip shop, my thoughts went straight to planning my next race.

Marcus at the finish line!
Marcus at the finish line!

Can you believe they have both finished saying they want to do it again?! *proud face*

And I’ll leave you with a few more shots that make it a proud AND a happy face…

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