28 August 2009

Goodbye, summer

The Big Bang serves delicious food (although the wild mushroom and garlic bangers are a bit too solid). It is not, however, runner's food. Perhaps the two pints of Henley Gold with which I washed down the meal were to blame, or perhaps it was the dessert - Star of St Tropez sounds irresistible, but it fails to live up to its promise.

The upshot was that, after dinner at The Big Bang in Oxford yesterday, I felt rather uncomfortable lining up for the Headington 10K this morning. Worminghall Airfield - the race no longer takes in the Oxford Ring Road and Marston Ferry Lane, as it did last time I ran it and it's a bit more than the 5 miles it was then too - is probably windy every day of the year, as airfields often are. Summer ended last Monday: to me, the August Bank Holiday always marked the end of summer, coinciding as it often did with my birthday and coming shortly before the start of the school year. Nowadays, I mark it by the fact that clients are back from summer holidays, so work starts coming in, other lawyers are there when you phone or email, and (I hope) bills finally get paid.

The route of the race is nice enough, although the scenery wins no prizes. It lacks relief, as the best running courses usually do - I like flat in a race. I started conservatively far back, but felt up for a rather faster pace so I weaved through the field over the first couple of kilometres (here is a photo of me doing so, and looking very serious about it, by John Harvey). The first leg went out and round a marker before taking us out of the airfield and onto a quiet road to half-circumnavigate the airfield and re-enter it at about 8K. The runways are disused, and grass grows through the cracks, so it is not a perfect running surface but it's pretty good - better than some Oxfordshire roads. I got to half-way at a good pace - 22:13, but each kilometre was slower than the one before: and when I stopped to drink at the water station just before the 6K mark, I had trouble getting going again. Several team-mates came past, then David encouraged me to keep pace with him for a while, but as we passed the 7K mark I was struggling to hang onto him.

Once the finish line came into view I managed to muster a reasonable sprint finish, but in the funnel at the end came closer than I have ever come to throwing up - before running straight to the Portaloos ... So I seem to have learnt something about pre-race eating, and probably a great deal about pacing to. not the best day's running of my career: indeed, it might well qualify as one of the worst. And such a shame that we are now stuck with autumnal weather, until it turns to winter.

12 August 2009

Running from the Law

A tough day's running, and still only half-way through it. Cycled to the station, took the train to Paddington, ran to Westminster, had a meeting - I had arranged it at Caffè Nero, but found the place was too small to have much in the way of seats so we sat outside, on the pavement! - then crossed Westminster Bridge to take part in the Bridges Race. Ran that in an unimpressive 16:52, resulting in a cut of 30 seconds in my handicap (which should prove useful next month), saw several old friends who I haven't seen much of recently, then ran on (much more slowly) to the office. A good 8 miles so far today, with the prospect of even more this evening if I meet Kevin as planned for a lap of the Royal Parks.

09 August 2009

People are strange

Some people would probably consider it strange that I choose to spend my Sunday morning running ... but after ten days or so enforced rest (brought to an end on Friday) I was keen to get going again. Chose a shorter route than I had in mind when I started out, just under seven miles - my regular hour-long run.

I didn't go hard at it, because I still have a sore rib to contend with, and I stopped for a breather, or just to think, two or three times. But after the Bury Down car park I got into a good rhythm, breathing in for three paces and out for three, lengthening my stride to increase the effect of the regular breathing. The sun shone, the going was good (though it's always a little bumpy on the Ridgeway), and I even found myself thinking about running the Ridgeway Challenge - not a realistic proposition this year, I am sure of that, but there's no harm in dreaming. Sometimes that's the most I can do.

Coming down the hill back to the village, I started with the idea of running one of Rachael's Reps - this being the 1000m stretch that I use for those, on the rare occasions when I get round to trying them - but quickly ran out of steam. Later, though, a passing telegraph pole reminded me that I could use them for intervals, so I ran three or four telegraph pole intervals, each probably well under 100 yards. First one trying to run more on the balls of my feet, but I was landing while my foot was still moving forward so I was slowing myself down: then one heel-striking, which was faster and much easier: then one landing on the forefoot again, but this time keeping my centre of gravity a bit further forward, making sure my foot was pushing from the moment it hit the tarmac. I passed the target pole and glanced at my watch: the pace was around 4:30, so allowing for the fact that I had already slowed down that sounded satisfactory. I ran another like that, and the watch told the same story, but when I downloaded the data to my computer Mr Garmin told me I had hit a maximum of 3:55 min/mile. That's world record pace, or nearly - if only I could run a whole mile without slowing down ...