Hello again all

I’m back with another update, counting down the subsequent four weeks following the last entry charting my training for the 2016 London Marathon. That I’ve made it to here and still on a mission to reach the capital feels like a minor miracle given the problems I’ve had before and during training. Persistence indeed pays off. But as you’ll read below, I’ve had plenty of ups and downs since my last entry.

This picks up where the last one left off, from around Sunday March 20th up to today. Enjoy!

I was tired after that 18+ mile run the previous Sunday, and if ever I knew it, the swimming lesson and run home reminded me. The swim session was the last for three weeks due to a refurb on Halifax Pool. I did five miles on the way home and just didn’t feel myself. I’d been a bit full of cold, recovering enough to carry out my lesson and my training, but my knees particularly felt as though they needed a breather. As did my airways. So I opted to avoid running on Wednesday and Thursday and instead focused on getting my stamina back and planning a trail route for the Sunday that would perhaps give my long suffering limbs something to look forward to.

That Sunday before was the furthest I’d run in quite some time. During the run, which in a roundabout way I paced pretty well, I felt fresh and could have perhaps gone up to 20 miles. But the injury lay off last year clearly had whittled away at my overall endurance and rebound. And so a rest was due, albeit not one I wanted for very long. Instead, the next few days would be spent trying to stop the cold developing a cough. It seemed that this was to be the beginning of the taper.

Saturday came and I had business to attend to in Halifax, so I doubled up by searching for a nearby parkrun. Over I went to Shroggs Park for Halifax parkrun, my first at this location and my fourth parkrun overall. Despite previously recording a PB of 18:17 over 5K, I wasn’t feeling too great about going all out as I usually do, still feeling the effects of my cold slightly and generally just a bit cautious about over-exerting my knees after the rigours of the previous week. Plus, it felt horrid running at such extreme pace for 2.5 laps of Greenhead Park that I almost felt no desire to run flat out as I sometimes enjoy doing. Still, I had to get out and run, and I was pleased to see the usually very hospitable welcome that you get from any parkrun. This one was the smallest I’d been to yet – it turned out 99 ran on the day – but for that it made it a quite warming experience.

The course consisted of a half lap, followed by three full laps, each finishing with a climb known as Harrison’s Hill. We set off and I was established in a pack of around the first six or seven runners. I found myself moving through comfortably and by the end of the trail section, I’d hit second place. At the end of the first half lap, I was gaining on the man at the front. By the end of the second lap, having stayed on his shoulder, I noticed I was catching him and so I went to move past, and subsequently upped my pace. It wasn’t part of the plan, but I saw an opportunity. I applied hard on the downhills. I maintained steady, short, rhythmic steps up Harrisons Hill, and entering the final lap, I went flat out. I was feeling the burn now, but I didn’t look back. I kept going, continuing to keep my pace and I was the first one over the line. Finally. In any competitive event or communal parkrun, first place! It turned out to be a bit of a surprise, but a welcome one at that, and more so a shock when I found I’d recorded a new 5K PB of 18:07, on a course I hadn’t felt to be PB material!

The Sunday continued the good vibe as I ditched my road shoes for my trail shoes and ran 13 miles of mostly glorious Calderdale and Kirklees trails. Along the River Calder from Brighouse town centre, through a trail leading to the railway crossing. Over Cooper Bridge and back on the Calder towards Mirfield. Onto the cycle path, into Mirfield itself. Then, the roads. Up a 10% and then a 13% gradient, both of which I kept myself going on. A turn onto Jackroyd Lane, along a public footpath. Then the coup de grace.

imagePanorama view from North Lane, near Kirkheaton, West Yorkshire, 27/03/2016
Panorama view from North Lane, near Kirkheaton, West Yorkshire, 27/03/2016

Down North Lane, across a wide footpath leading through a farm, yet a public right of way (if you respect it), coming out with a glorious view of Huddersfield’s Castle Hill in the distance. Back down away from Kirkheaton, now down a 13% gradient, and back on the cycle path, heading across a wide bridge and back onto Leeds Road.

imageWoodland area of Upper Quarry Road, Cooper Bridge, 27/03/2016
Woodland area of Upper Quarry Road, Cooper Bridge, 27/03/2016

I rejoined the Calder here via a nice section of woodland accessible from Upper Quarry Road, taking you back through Lower Quarry Road onto the towpath at the same place I left it, and then back towards town. A brilliant trail course that was arguably at least 60% off road if not more, challenging but a lot of fun.

The taper period of course means shorter training sessions, and one lunchtime I cracked out a 5:51 mile run out and back a section of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. Yet there was still a midweek 60 minute run that I wanted to test myself on. I ran on Thursday, getting the bus out about as far as Drighlington and tried from to at least run at hard pace. This, in itself, was quite hard – Whitehall Road, taking up the first three miles of the route, was very undulating, and it was hard trying to get into my natural stride, particularly with a backpack on. Eventually though I was up to speed, eventually departing through Cleckheaton and Scholes towards Hartshead. That’s when things took a bit of a tumble. Literally and figuratively.

Heading down Walton Lane in Hartshead, aka ‘The Mad Mile’ (due to hordes of speeding motorists over the years), I was finishing the run, the sun in my eyes, focusing on the road ahead, and running between 6:30-6:40 mile pace downhill. Then, a stumble, a fall, and BAM. Straight onto the grass verge, chest and ribs first. I was in a heap at the roadside, grimacing for 10 seconds or so on the floor. Nobody stopped, so I had to pause my MapMyRide on my phone myself. Its not quite the same as stopping your Garmin, is it?! I picked myself up and managed to reach my target distance (over 8 miles) with room to spare. But the damage, though not visible, had been done. Not since doing karate as a teenager had I truly known what it was like to take such a hit.

In a way, I’m glad that its happened then, rather than the middle of training. The hardest work is in the bank, and despite the wild discomfort I’ve been since at times, its not going to affect my plans massively going forward. Of course, for now I’m on ibuprofen, taking long hot baths and icing occasionally. My kids were fully aware there’s a no lifting, no carrying policy for Daddy right about now, although I’ve relinquished that a little more as the ribs improved. And I still managed my swimming lesson recently, which included butterfly technique for the first time!

I can still run, at below my marathon target pace too. Runs of 3.25 miles and 11.4 miles the Saturday and Sunday after the accident confirmed that and one other thing. Push it too hard (for now) and you risk a blowout. I found out the hard way for getting carried away and running around 5:30 mile pace down a fast straight section and followed up with a not too shabby, but comparatively tired 8:06 mile. That was because my ribs had warned me and now they were receiving full force of my tired lungs.

No doubt of all though, before the end of March, a little something dropped through the door which all of a sudden reminded me that, if it didn’t feel real before…


Oh yes. Now it’s real!

So the taper phase is drawing to a close. Two more runs this weekend, and then the home straight. Its getting tangibly close now. For all the struggles I’ve had up to now, I’m still standing, and eager to take my place on the start line in Maze Hill on Sunday April 24th. Let’s hope I don’t set myself up for any more falls!