22 July 2013

London Calling

It seemed like another good idea at the time, and even with hindsight it doesn't seem bad: a five mile race in the Olympic Park, finishing in the Stadium, marking the firs anniversary of the Games and the reopeninig to the public of the park. It would provide family members with a chance to see inside the Stadium for the first time. What could possibly be wrong with that?
Well, to start with it was not a cheap privilege. Then Tor, who had drawn it to my attention, didn't get a place in the ballot (but Phil did, so when I got mine at least there were two members of the extended family taking part). There was the small matter of getting to the far side of London for 0930 on a Sunday morning (whatever happened to sleeping in? That must have been in a previous lifetime). Finally, there was a cold to contend with, one bad enough to wake me several times during the night, one which should have precluded running.
And there were 15,000 other people taking part, too, not all strangers but I had no idea who I might know. Had I known, and tried to make contact, it would not have worked because the cellular network could not handle all the traffic, anyway. But the chances of finding someone in that crowd - each runner had two guest passes - were vanishingly small, which made my encounter with a member of Didcot Runners whom I recognised from my recent three-race weekend rate high on the improbability index.
The race - it was a race, for those in the elite section - was hard work. It was started in waves, and Phil and I started together but he went off rather faster than me after we finally reached the start line, some five minutes after the official start time. My Garmin had been plugged in all night but had failed to charge, so I had to judge my pace, which is tricky in an obstacle race such as this. I have never overtaken so many others in a race, including some who had to pause on the ramp to the velodrome less than a mile in. There were runners listening to music rather than what was going on around them (though fewer with headphones than I had expected, perhaps because there were supposed to be bands around the course though I saw few: there was rather a lot of loud music of the supposedly uplifting rock genre which completely fails to communicate anything to me - I'd have benefited from something like the the piece from which I borrowed the title for this blog post, incongruously used as a theme song for the Games last year, proving perhaps that no-one pays attention to lyrics). There were runners two or more abreast, leaving no space to squeeze between them. There were constructions sites, and gaps where venues from last year had gone. In short, four-and-a-half miles of irritation with no real redeeming features.
Then we were in the Stadium building, running at first through its bowels, a concrete world reminiscent of the underside of the Dallas convention centre, and finally for the last 300m out into the daylight in that huge arena with cheering crowds and the springiest track I have ever run on. I crossed the line with a few seconds to go before the White wave's clock tripped over to 46 minutes - but it had taken over 5 minutes to reach teh start line, so my chip time is an astonishing 40:38, just 23 seconds slower than Didcot, where I really tried!

06 July 2013

So far away

It seemed like a good idea at the time - Abingdon Parkrun at 0900 as usual, to have a go at setting a PB for the course after my shoelace thwarted a (completely unexpected) fastest time last week, making me realise that I am fitter than I thought: then at noon the Compton Canter, which it seems I run every other year - well, the last few year. This was the eighth Canter, and I ran the sixth in '11 and the fourth in '09. The Parkrun would be a good warmup for the Canter, which is too demanding (terrain, heat, topography) for a fast run.

The first thing I would have to do was get near enough the front of the Parkrun start that I wouldn't have to pick my way through the kids who start flat out and fade, if they get that far, along the single-file path by the river. Two did still get in front of me, one of them clearly under 11 and without a parent despite the race director's threat that unacompanied under-11s would be taken straight into care: and predictably he took a break after a few yards, turning round to see what was going on behind him (a hundred runners about to trample all over you!), but I sidestepped him and left them both behind.

And that's the story of the race, or most of it anyway. I was in the zone, concentrating on my form, picking off a few slower runners and being passed by a big guy whom I tried to keep close to - and then, at about the 4K mark, by the older of the two boys who'd started in front of me. Good for him (and I don't think he was required to be accompanied)! I let him slip in front of me where the path narrowed a bit, but accidentally clipped his heel as he did so, for which I apologised (and he barely seemed to notice me nearly tripping him), but got back in front somewhere between there and the finish. My sprint had been exhausted on the opening hundred yards or so, so it was not an impressive race for the line, and I didn't manage to catch the big guy until we'd finished and I thanked him for the race. All very pleasant, and a PB by 15 seconds - even more time than it takes to tie a lace.

And thence to Compton, where at registration I was handed the number 1 - a heavy responsibility! - and quizzed about llama-hunting, which I have managed to avoid doing for over a year now. The course was the same as the last couple of times I have run it: a steady climb out of the village to the top of Lowbury Hill, then a fairly straight return along two more sides of a triangle. Except that someone - presumably following the runner who'd checked the route in the morning - had moved or removed several of the arrows showing which way to run, hence the spike on the map of my course (below) and the wheels coming off my run when, at the 6K marker, Mr Garmin reported 6 MILES. Further than the course was supposed to be to begin with!

I walked. I stopped for water. Two of us met a competitor coming up the hill from completely the wrong direction. I walked some more. Someone passed me, also walking. Terrible. It was hot, it was hilly, the path was rocky (or I was running on recently-cut long grass) and I was not happy. But as the track sloped down into Compton again my feet rediscovered running and I hauled in the guy who'd passed me a few minutes earlier, then maintained a respectable pace to the recreation ground and for the last 200 metres on the field itself. But the time ... I did 44 and 48 minutes before, so an hour and 12 is disastrous.
Photo by Mel Groves. Looks like I am overstriding a bit.

One runner collapsed at the finish, another at the far side of the recreation ground, and a third out on the course. I don't know whether they had run the extended route, but if they did the prankster who thought it amusing to move the signs has a lot to answer for - in addition to ruining several people's races, mine included. I think it's going to have an effect also on tomorrow's Didcot 5, which suddenly seems a lot more ambitious after the extra 3K today.

Up to 9.1K it looks as if I actually ran a respectable pace, which is something to be pleased about. I got up the hills well, better than those around me, and I got down pretty well too, passing some people who chose to resist gravity. But it's the final 3K that I'll remember!

02 July 2013

Running up that hill

Only 3.74 miles to show for it (a couple of hill reps missing because I forgot to start the watch - but even then not much more that 4 miles, as I was doing short reps, only about 100 metres): but what an effort, and what a great feeling at the end!


July Morning (again!)

An energetic start to the month - a fast ride (perhaps my fastest ever on the traffic-free route) to the station, a very brisk run along the Regent's Canal to the office, and the reverse, rather slower, in the evening.

8:08 is a pretty good pace for a route that throws plenty of obstacles at the runner, including a couple of road crossings, a few bridges, and a flight of steps - not to mention cyclists, who are almost all very considerate along the towpath although I would like to hear a bell ring before the bike whizzes past from behind!

Wonder if I might achieve a PB if I venture another Parkrun on Saturday? I am in better form than I imagined I was.

"Money is like fertilizer: When it's hoarded, it stinks. When spread around, stuff grows."

Not a quote from JM Keynes, who tended I think to employ a rather different turn of phrase, but from John Densmore in his new book (brilliantly entitled "The Doors: Unhinged") quoted in Defending The Doors in the Syracuse New Times. The article creates a wonderful mental picture of Densmore and Rear Admiral Morrison as co-plaintiffs. Another book for my "to-read" list, too.