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Sunday, 28 April 2013

VLM 2013 - Race Week

VLM  - Week 14 of 14

Week 14 - (Mon 15/4 - Sun 21/4)

Mon: Rest Day
Tues: 6.21 miles @ 8:48/mile
Weds: 6.0 Miles incl. Sth Yks Road League Penistone (4.23 miles) 28:40 (6:39/mile)
Thurs: Rest Day
Fri: 2.0 Miles (No Time)
Sat: 4.0 Miles incl. Rotherham parkrun 23:17 (7:30/mile) (15th)
Sun (very early am) : 1.0 Mile (No Time)
Sun: 26.21 Miles VLM 2013 3:11:29 (20:48, 20:46, 21:12, 20:44, 20:43, 21:12, 23:55, 29:03, 13:06 )

Total Mileage: 45.41 Miles

Weds - Sth Yorks Road league, Race 2 Penistone

This 2nd race in the 5 mile road race series was very well timed. With it being run for the most part on the flattish Trans Pennine Trail it was ideal for a 5 miles @ MP type session, which is a typical session four days out from a marathon.

There was a reasonably steep hill in the middle section before returning to the TPT but it was still a nice run for tapping out a controlled rhythm. I intended to stretch the legs out a bit more over the last mile but just after the 4 mile mark a marshall declared that the finish was only about 400m ahead.

This was a bit confusing as these races are accurately measured but it turned out that the entire field had taken a wrong turning very early on in proceedings, thus cutting off the missing three quarters of a mile.

Nonetheless, 4.23 miles @ 6:39/mile avg. represented job done.

Sat - Rotherham parkrun

Saturday morning had perfect sunny weather for the inaugural Rotherham parkrun at Clifton Park.

It is another of those undiscovered gems of the parkrun world. Venues always look more attractive in sunny conditions but this is certainly a park that surprised and is highly recommended for a visit if you get chance.

The run itself was a relaxed pre-marathon leg stretcher. The idea was to get as close to 24 mins as possible so as to keep the legs intact for VLM but since my Garmin battery seems to be dying a very quick death, it gave up the ghost after a mile and we ended up with a satisfactory 23:17.

Hannah, Tacey Healey, Sam Healey, Jess The Dog and myself pre-run:

It almost seemed inevitable, even when we had 6 foot snow drifts a couple of weeks back, that by the time we got to the weekend of 20th/21st April there would be bright sunshine and thoughts would be quickly shifted from frostbite to sunburn, and so it proved.

So, after getting the day off to a very pleasant start it was time to have a relaxed journey down to London, with the aim of picking numbers up after all the fuss had died down towards the end of the Expo.

The advantages of doing it this way are:
1. Literally 1-2 minutes to get the registration and tags sorted out.
2. Much easier to see what is on offer/display at the Expo stalls.
3. Goody bags are piled on you in a desperate attempt to get rid of them before the doors close. I think we ended up with about a dozen, each with a beer voucher worth upwards of £4 inside. It is just a pity that they expire on 5th May!

On the way out a VLM official politely enquired 'how many have you got?' My reply was 'not sure, about 8-10 I think'. I thought he was going to take some off me but instead I got a 'well have another couple then' :p

It was now 5pm on a sunny pre-marathon evening, so plenty time to go for a nice stroll around the finish area of Birdcage Walk, The Mall and Horseguard's Parade to give Hannah a feel for how things would work in the morning and, much more importantly, how to quickly get out of the finish area and get to The Red Lion on Whitehall.

And since we were there anyway it would have been rude not to.....

VLM Race Day
Sun - 4:30 am:

Some runners like to do a very early morning short jog on marathon morning whereas others think it is a waste of time. It is difficult to know for sure but I get the impression that the legs feel looser at the start as a result. So at 4:30am we popped out and had a very slow jog of no more than a mile before tucking into the last input of carbs and a bucket of Costa coffee. 

Although it was completely empty we drew the line at taking our warm up jog onto the M4:

VLM - The Start

After taking the usual empty route to the start from Victoria to Lewisham we sauntered up to Blackheath in the morning sun with lots of time to spare. Once in the GFA compound the first little snag was that the usual free flowing coffee wasn't available due to water supplies running out. Ah well, good job the huge Costa was had earlier.

After milling about to use up the time before the start I got a tap on the shoulder from Kev Ogden. As we chatted and walked towards where I'd left my bag it became apparent that my bag (the one in the picture above) wasn't where I'd left it.

However, I did find it pretty quickly - in the possession of stern looking security personnel! It had been rifled through to the extent that it now contained mushed up bananas and squashed jaffa cakes amongst the rest of the resulting mess.

This was very OTT, it was a secure area that had no general access and bags were left all over the place while runners did a bit of jogging warming up or went to the loo, just as in every other year!

Anyway, onto the race:

The Race:

No specific times target were laid down for this race. I just wanted to execute it as well as I could on feel and see what came out of the other end. A sub 2:55 to deliver a comeback PB would be very pleasing and anything quicker even more pleasing.

0-5K 20:48

As last year I ran without a Garmin/stopwatch and just wanted to relax into the race and get into a metronomic rhythm for the first 15 miles and then take stock from there. The first 5K was used to just let tendons and muscles warm to the task.

6-10K 20:46

The run down to Cutty Sark at around the 10K mark is probably the easiest section of the race and, as such, it is important not to get carried away. It was still feeling like the legs were warming into the race and felt relatively effortless, as it should at this stage.

11-15K 21:12

The next two 5K sections between Cutty Sark and Tower Bridge used to be a very quiet area of the race where you could really switch off and let the time to halfway just fly by. But this year this section was as noisy and packed as anywhere else. Of course, with everything nicely warmed up this is the time when you're itching to get on with it so it takes some concentration to keep a lid on things with all the crowd noise going on.

16-20K 20:44

The 20K mark is actually very close to the centre of Tower Bridge before you start coming down the other side. I was feeling very comfortable through this section but have it ingrained in my hardwiring not to fall foul of the 'Tower Bridge Surge', which you see on the pace graphs every year. So still nice and controlled.

Halfway 1:28:01

With no pre-set idea of what the halfway time was going to be but having run two half marathons recently in 1:22 on testing courses, the time of 1:28 correlated pretty well with how it was feeling.

The thoughts now were turning to a negative split but not to start doing too much too soon. Mentally I wanted to get to 30K before starting to have to grind it out, so for now more metronomic patience was the aim.

21-25K 20:43

We were now in the Docklands loop and the route is completely lined with 6-10 deep spectators. At the same time the streets are narrower than in the previous sections so there is a noticeable heat build up as you get into this section.

Still going well though so the heat was very tolerable.

26-30K 21:12

Thoughts now turned to upping the effort level as the 30K mark approached. The current pace projected forward would deliver something around 2:55 so whatever increase in pace I could find was going to start getting the overall time into very pleasing territory.

31-35K 23:55

The 31st km was the fastest of the race so far by about 10 secs in 3:55 and felt like a good launch pad for kicking on. It was shaping up nicely as a result of getting in a group of about 6-7 runners moving at bang on the pace I was wanting.

With confidence growing and the circumstances going in my favour I just had a general feeling that this was going to be my day, one of those where everything clicks.

However, then the drama started.

As a result of the depth of the crowds and the relatively narrow streets mentioned earlier discarded water bottles were staying on the course as opposed to being thrown clear. Add into that the fact that the bottles discarded by the runners that had gone before us were pretty full, and were therefore solid, and a potentially dangerous situation existed.

Because I was in the middle of the group I got no warning when a bottle bounced off a kerb and came spinning back into our path. My right foot landed right on top of it resulting in a painful twisted ankle.

After a few of these $%^%£"$&&^s and a few more of these *$&***^&*% the automatic reaction was just to get straight back into it. Although the ankle was ouchey I managed to get back with the group and just hoped it wasn't too bad.

We were still moving at just under 4:00/km and the ankle was easing off so at around 34K it felt tentatively as though the bullet had been dodged.

But not for long! There was now something resembling a limp in my right leg with the weakness being somewhere in the quad region. Presumably this had been caused when my ankle turned over and the result was that I was now struggling to lift my right leg properly. The left leg was fine but I was reduced to a shuffling action to nurse the right leg.

36-40K 29:03

I was hoping that, as with the ankle, whatever this strain was might work itself out over the next few minutes but alas that wasn't going to be the case.

At the 19 mile mark I didn't have any choice, the leg just wasn't lifting. I could still keep running, or rather jogging, but it was taking a long time to eat up any ground. 7 miles of this was going to be a complete pain when any reasonable result had now gone out of the window.

But what was the alternative? Taking a tube or walking wasn't going to get to The Red Lion any sooner so I may as well just relax and soak up the sun.

At least it could still serve the purpose of securing a place in VLM 2015 so it was worth getting to the finish as long as no serious damage was being done.

41-42K 13:06

It was like being a spectator for the last few miles, as indicated by my being shuffled back around 700 places through the field.

Going past the 25 mile mark in 3:00:00 brought a wry smile, I like round numbers :)

But probably the weirdest feeling is to be doing the last few miles of VLM without working hard. There is an automatic mental connection between these miles and suffering but on this occassion it was the exact opposite.

Helplessness was the overall summary, so there was nothing to be disappointed with. The training build up had been good, the pre-race arrangements had been absolutely spot on and the execution of the race was just how I had envisaged ..... but it hadn't worked out due to another factor.

This can happen any time of course, whether it be weather, illness or one of a host of many other possible gremlins. So it is just a case of enjoying the parts that went well and moving on.......

First Half  - 1:28:01

Second Half  - 1:43:28

Total  - 3:11:29

5K Splits - 20:48, 20:46, 21:12, 20:44, 20:43, 21:12, 23:55, 29:03 and 13:06 for the last 2.2K

Performances of the day:

In a nutshell there were lots of great performances so I am bound to miss people but a selection of the very impressive ones were:

1. Kev Ogden - 2:39:48 A superbly paced 1:19:34, 1:20:14 run for a 5 minute PB.

2. Jason Cherriman - 2:29:31 A grafted out 2 second PB to finish 41st overall (incl elites)

3. Caz Hall - 3:11:44 A well deserved 3 minute PB

4. Phil Sanders - 2:35:54 After a long injury lay off a superb run to land the 2:35 he had been looking for. And a run that meant he was one of the three counters in the overall winning team. Now a national champion!

5. Hannah Oldroyd - 3:16:29. Last, but certainly not least, was Hannah's superb performance. After being unable to run about 6 weeks ago, the emphasis had to be on a steady start. 

With a previous PB of 3:36:36 the first half of 1:42:26 was intentionally well constrained but all the same a second half of 1:34:03 for an 8 minute negative split was way beyond expectations.

5K splits were: 24:48, 24:16, 24:06, 24:06, 23:44, 23:05, 22:05, 21:11 and 9:08 for the last 2.2K
But the most impressive stat was that the pace over the last 7Ks resulted in her passing 906 runners with 0 passing Hannah! Not many people achieve that!

The finishing straight before the masses arrived:

Hannah with Kev and Ian Ogden in the Baggage Reclaim area;

The best bit of any VLM weekend, the post race relaxing outside The Red Lion on Whitehall:

This was Tony Burgin after suffering the same mishap as myself of treading on a discarded water bottle:


What comes next is a very good question.

I was going to spend the next few weeks targetting the mile towards the end of the Summer but that may now change after reviewing what I will potentially get most satisfaction/enjoyment from over the second half of the year.

Another marathon may now be on the cards but we will see.........


  1. Bad luck mate! As always your positivity is an inspiration though.

    I've just entered the Sinelloop 10k road race in Holland on the 29th of September, as the course record is 26:44 I'm guessing it's a fast course... could lead you into a fast October marathon ;-)

    Fancy it?

  2. I do indeed, it's either fast or short but we'll assume fast! A diary note has been made.....

  3. I can see your autumn racing plans coming together nicely.

    English Half Marathon (Warrington) 8th September, Sinelloop 10k followed by the Abingdon Marathon on 20th Oct ;-)

  4. You never know Dan.... it may well be something like that with the Leeds Golden Mile thrown in there somewhere.