Paul’s Blog – A Running kick up the Arse

As some of you may know I’ve got a place in this year’s London Marathon which I am very excited about so turning into the New Year I sat down on my arse in front of the computer to start my training. A little odd you might think but after a lot of Clicks training was going well, Winter Trail Wales Half Marathon – entered (thanks Alwyn for giving me your place), Nick Beer 10K – entered, Oulton Park Half Marathon – entered, Anglesey Half Marathon – entered, Ras Yr Arran – entered, Goldrush (is that too close to London) – sod it, entered, Park Runs – registered (thanks Angel for helping me doing this on-line).

Of course I got carried away believing I would now be in super condition so continued entering post London races, Welsh 1,000’s & the Ultra Trail Wales (bit optimistic that one being only 4 weeks after a wasted away me is due to return from the Karakorum).

With my first Park Run behind me soon afterwards I turned up at the start line of the Winter Trail Half Marathon hoping that my loss of speed in the latter part of last year (too many enjoyable long steady joy runs & too few races to blame) would be something I’d have time to train out. As anyone who was within crying distance of me as I finished will be more than aware that my time was crap (7 minutes down on my 2018 summer pb & 4 minutes down on my slowest winter time also in 2018). Apologies in particular to Alwyn who, whilst waiting for Maggie to cross the line, was subjected to a particularly long spell listening to me beat myself up.

Still mustn’t cry over spilt Milk so 2 days later I drove down to the Mawdach estuary & rather than jump in & be swept out to Sea to never run again I instead began to run a plan of fast 10K out & hold for a fast 10K back. This soon changed to make that 10.5K each way & you’ll have a Half Marathon. 1:34:50 later I was back at the car (by now surrounded by some dodgy looking individuals, didn’t ask them what they were up to as I don’t do drugs even with London in mind) having just run my fastest Half Marathon training run ever, now that’s how to put a smile on your face after a ‘disaster’.

Next evening I drove again, this time to Menai Bridge to join Russell Bentley’s track sessions for the first time. Here I joined the 3rd slowest group out of 4 & was seen 5 times trailing off the back of the group of seven as I tried in vein to hold onto a 3:50 pace for each 1,000 metre interval. That said it felt like it was doing me good so I was back there last night for more ‘no gain without pain’. Thoroughly recommend these sessions, every Tuesday at 6:00 pm.

Next day back out in my local CyB for a 6 miler that turned into 9, not bad as my tired legs woke up as I ran. This was followed by Matt Ward’s Thursday evening group run where I was in ‘luck’ with it being the ‘Hills from Hell’ session, 4 of them to be precise & another 7+ miles under the belt.

A Friday night out for a meal & wine is probably not ideal for an early morning Park Run but it didn’t stop me from setting a pb, a whopping 11 seconds faster than two weeks earlier & 5th out of 44 albeit a long way behind the first for which included a 2nd placed Russel Bentley beaten by Andy Davies who broke the course record.

Less than 3 hours later & with a late change of mind I was lined up at the Start of the Tarren Hendre fell race with my pre-race excuse already blurted to anyone who was too slow to run away. It being my first ever full route of this race I was a tad nervous but the organisor (Nick Bradley) confirmed the tops were clear so my pre-race map studying might hopefully be overkill.

I soon found out that this race is no pushover, the two early steep single track climbs were split by a somewhat annoying upward gradient on a long forest track, my post Park run legs suffered & were more or less wiped out before I hit the final ridge climb to the summit. Thankfully on the subsequent descent they began to recover & despite losing a few places I began to enjoy myself as I also began to focus on the Nicks pre-race advice ‘look for a grassy bank, climb it & you’ll soon see a sheep trod’. We were by now in thick mist & I needed to focus on finding this grassy bank.

As a 2nd woman got me as we meandered around a good track I politely said ‘think we need to turn off soon’, in the heat of battle I can only describe her response as a grunt, we ran on. Soon enough was enough, I stopped, got the map out, confirmed my suspicions & turned around (by now the grunter was out of sight in the mist, I believe she was one of the two who didn’t finish but were found alive). ‘We’ve missed the turning’ I yelped to Gonks who’d I’d recently gone past because he’d twisted his ankle, Gonks agreed & turned to follow me. We were soon back on course but then came to a fence line that ended in the middle of nowhere, left or right? Map back out, my luck was in the pointless fence was on the map, left!

Still I glanced back kidding myself that it was to check on Gonks’ condition when in truth it was to make sure I wasn’t heading alone into a misty oblivion. Thankfully not long after I saw Marshalls ahead & breathing a sigh of relief knew that I’d found the descent through the forest & it’s notorious mud.

Even then the way to the finish wasn’t without incident as some idiot had turned a directional arrow 90 degrees to the right but thankfully one of my tracking entourage called out to me, a place lost but soon regained.

My time of 1:18 was of course nothing to write home about but I had enjoyed the descent & run in & also had the sense of achievement having just ‘competed’ in two races just 3 hours apart. Arse having been kicked what a difference a week had made, London here I come. 

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