Icknield RC 100M TT, F1/100. 3:56:10

Wow, what a morning. Standing nervously on the start line I shared a good luck or two with Steve Batsford, off two minutes in front of me. It was cold (it wasn’t quite 6:30am, after all), but very still, and looked like it was going to get warm and fast.

I’d had a bit of a set-back with my running 10 days before when my right achilles tendon (the one I always have trouble with) started to get very sore after a couple of runs – it came on very quickly. Looking back, the only things that I’ve changed recently are the haematoma that came up on the same leg last month (the bruising’s still there) and a move to short, high-intensity intervals on the bike. It seems likely that the latter has put too much strain on the achilles, in combination with the running, and it’s cried enough. It puts my preparation for Grafman half-ironman (English Championships) on the 8th June in doubt. Cycling was still OK, at least.

Off the start I was soon into a good rhythm, keeping a careful eye on power to be sure not to overcook it, although I knew I’d inevitably fade a little over the second half. To be honest, the first couple of hours were a bit boring. I’d set my bars a bit higher for comfort and I wasn’t in too much distress from my back or shoulders. I was trundling along at just under 50-mile TT power, sipping my carbo drink and watching how everyone else was doing. Halfway passed in 1:57:10 – pretty good!

OCRCHowardW533<- early on. Camelbak still nearly full, bottle between the bars and gels taped to the top tube (photo thanks to Davey Jones)

Over the second half I started to feel that I should be pushing on, not letting my power drop off too much. The morning was warming up nicely, and the wind was still calm so although I was tiring my speed stayed nearly constant. I had my two energy gels in the last 1h20 just to give me a bit of a boost and then we were off the main road and onto the finishing final 15 miles. I still had enough left in the tank for a final push to the line, despite feeling like I was about to cramp up, crossed in 3:56:10. A new personal best by 1:21 and an OCRC club record. There were some very happy faces back at the HQ, we’d had near-perfect conditions.

It seems likely that this’ll be the last running of the F1/100 in this form – traffic lights are going in at the roundabout in the middle of the course, so it was a great way to sign off racing here.

Garmin Connect data HERE. Full result HERE. I’m in the Oxford Mail HERE (81 seconds though, not 81 minutes!)

High Wycombe CC 25M TT. 55:14

Not too bad a ride on the H25/2 course at all, notable for what happened to my leg the day before more than anything:

I’d driven back from Southsea in the afternoon (empty roads – the FA Cup Final was on!) but as I was unloading the car I tapped my shin on the car door, didn’t really think much of it and went out for an easy 1h20 on the bike. After I’d got out the shower and was wandering up to the corner shop for milk I noticed a strange sensation in the shin and looking down saw a massive lump had come up where I’d tapped it 2 hours earlier:

ShinHaematoma

Some bruise! Anyway, I kept the leg elevated for the rest of the evening and next morning it’d gone down quite a bit.

I rode the TT in legwarmers, just to protect it a bit and although I felt a bit odd, the ride went OK. I finished 13th fastest, some way behind Adam Topham who’d clipped a few seconds off the course record on what proved to be a pretty fast, warm morning. Garmin Connect data HERE, full results HERE

Town & Gown 10k. 40:46

Another cold breezy day. Jules had come back up from Portsmouth to run this with me, and we were nice and early cycling to the start in the University Parks. The crowds seemed even bigger than usual and although I didn’t see anyone I knew before the start there were likely to be a few people from work and so on amongst the runners.

After a little warm up I lined up, feeling pretty good despite yesterday’s efforts so I decided to commit to an early fast pace and see where that got me. Off the gun we had the wind behind down the first kilometre or so and I went through that in a crazy 3:36. I’d hoped to find someone tall to shelter behind on the slog up the high street but ended up following a diminutive woman, oops. After all that I settled into a couple of 4-minute kms and then we were round the Norham Gardens loop and past the 5km board in a speedy 19:32. I was still feeling OK as I crossed paths with Jules, waving and smiling, running past her 3km marker.

I managed to keep striding out for the second half of the race but the early pace got to me as we came back into the parks for the final 3km. I just couldn’t stay with the bunch I’d been running with and my pace slipped to 4:11 and then 4:14. I didn’t help that I could feel my right quad niggling again. Although I managed to lift myself for a last lunge to the line the damage had been done and a second half 21:14 saw me cross the line in 40:46, 4 seconds slower than last year.

I jogged about for a bit and managed to cheer Jules as she ran through 9km before heading back to collect my kitbag. Jules finished in a 1:03:30, pretty good considering how much her training has been interrupted by paramedic shifts.

Full results HERE. (I’m in this shot from the Oxford Mail gallery, behind no. 3018.) My Garmin connect log:

2014_T+G_connect

WLCA 10-mile TT H10/17R. 21:50

A horribly cold, windy day for a time trial with the odd squally shower about, just for good measure. Thankfully the wind was pretty much straight up and down the course and behind us on the longer outbound leg, so apart from fitting a shallow-section Rolf front wheel it didn’t affect me too much.

I played it fairly cautiously on the way out, knowing I still don’t have the top-end power I’d expect later in the season, and then hammered it as much as possible into the wind on the way back to the timekeeper. I still hit over 60km/h on the way out, twiddling along in 55×11 and 12. Neil Pugh had come out to try to capture the action:

2014-05-10_WLCA10_1 2014-05-10_WLCA10_2

The return trip was just a slog into the gusty wind. I was quite glad to get to the timekeeper in 21:50, and an eventual third place (although the fastest two riders, Nick English and Tejvan Pettinger were miles ahead with 20:20 and 20:33), as well as fastest vet on standard.  About a third of the field was DNS and a few had warmed-up and then decided better of it!

Full results here: http://www.mickfountain.co.uk/t14-013.htm

Norlond Combine 30-mile TT F1/30. 1:09:04

Since the London Marathon, I’d had a few days rest and then got back on with catching up with my cycling while my stiff right quad problem was keeping me from doing quite so much running. I’d done a couple of audaxes, including a decent ride around the Heart of England 300k on 26th April [Garmin Connect]. Back in 2002 this was the first 300k I’d ever ridden, when I wasn’t even a member of Audax UK. I returned to ride it again in 2003, but hadn’t been back since. It was good to find that the route is largely unchanged since then. We were lucky with the weather too, even if it was a bit blowy coming back down the country from the loop around the Coventry area. For once, I wasn’t the first back but this was because my old Oxford chaingang friend Nik Gardiner had turned up. He’s much occupied with a young family these days but still keeps himself fit and strong and finished a good half an hour in front of me. It was good to catch up with him over a cuppa in the Parish Hall at the finish.

Sunday 4th May dawned cold and bright, with a light southerly breeze. I could see I was going to get cold so I wore long gloves and an extra layer underneath my old skinsuit. I rode fairly hard down to the first turn into the wind, and then cruised up to the top roundabout with a tailwind where Davey J was waiting with his camera:

OCRCHowardW347_ed OCRCHowardW354 OCRCHowardW357

From there to the finish was a hard 10 miles back into the breeze. I managed to lift my effort a little and crossed the finish line about a minute and a half slower than last year (a day with more favourable conditions). The top seeded rider had punctured, but the event was still won in a fairly rapid 1:05 and I’d finished 9th in a 38-rider field. I was reasonably happy with my ride – those cold conditions don’t suit me. [Garmin Connect]

I had enough energy to get out for a little run later in the day, and on the Bank Holiday Monday did another 200k ride. More miles in the bank, although I’ve also been mixing it up with some hard intervals.

London marathon 3:16:00

I’ve finally made it, walking up the hill to the Green start at Blackheath amongst thousands of other runners. Preparation wasn’t ideal, with a bit of a problem with my quads from the beginning of March onwards. I’ve had it before and normally it seems to cure itself in a few weeks with wearing a neoprene support but this time it took a bit longer. In the meantime I’d done a bit more cycling and indoor rowing to keep my fitness up and paid fairly close attention to what I was eating to make sure I wasn’t carrying any unnecessary weight on the big day. I managed to get down to something close to my “summer ironman” race weight, which I was pretty happy with given it was still early April.

The campaign started back in October with a steady 125 km of running, and ramped up through November and December. I had a bit of an easier week starting in the New Year, mainly down to my achilles and knee tendons getting a bit sore and demanding a rest, and then February was also pretty good where I managed a 92½ km week somewhere along the way. I was starting to feel really quite efficient on my longer runs, ticking along at 7:40-7:45 mile pace, but in March was hit by my quad problem:

November 175 km
December 248 km
January 330 km
February 278 km
March 211 km

The week before the race was taken pretty easily, an hour’s run on Monday (where a calf muscle tightened up a little - cue frantic foam rollering and stretching on Tuesday and Wednesday!) and some cycling and rowing, plus a couple of rest days. I took advantage of a massage on my visit to the marathon expo on Thursday and was feeling pretty good. A bit of carbo-loading over the last couple of days saw me put on just over a kg in weight, but that’s to be expected. On Saturday I went out for an easy hour’s bike ride, just to keep things ticking over. I had a reasonable night’s sleep and was up and out the door for a bike ride to catch the 6:40am London bus from Headington.

Once at the start area, it took me most of the next hour to get changed, check-in my bag and queue for the loo. I had a few sips of tea from a flask along the way and from a bottle of water, just to keep me hydrated on what was clearly going to be a nice sunny day. It’s so crowded there’s no chance of even a gentle warm-up. Inside the start pen I chatted to Ian Wright, “TheInspector” from Fetcheveryone.com, and then we watched the elites get introduced on the big screen. A few seconds later, we were off.

Start
It took me 24 seconds to shuffle across the start line, and I was keen to get into a decent stride although the green start didn’t really sort itself out until we’d just about merged with the blue start runners after 1200 m. As we merged there was a bit of elbowing and then after another steady half-mile or so things thinned out a bit and I was running more at my own pace, checking my Garmin as I did so.

Around mile 3 you descend quite a bit, but I was hold back and feeling quite good, careful not to overcook it. From here on in, the crowds lining the streets were huge and deafening in their support – it makes the race very special. The sunny day and the presence of Mo Farah in the elite field had brought everyone out, even more so than usual. The race merges red and blue starts not long after this and it was pretty crowded although we were moving along at a fair lick – not far short of 7 minute mile pace. Both the 2h59 and 3h15 Runner’s World pacers were in sight here – I didn’t expect to see either of them so close-by after this time. I planned on starting drinking after 30 minutes, but missed the water station and resorted to picking up an abandoned half-empty bottle at the next roundabout. After that, when I was ready for a drink I always made sure I was at the side of the road ready to pluck a bottle from a helper.

I had a couple of gels tucked into the key pocket of my shorts (planning on picking up a few more along the way) and had my first one after 45 minutes. I kept downing them every 40 minutes or so, a regime I’d tested in long training runs which seemed to keep my energy levels up OK. There was Lucozade on offer but not having had it before in training, I skipped those stations. 5 miles passed in 35:21. I was on my target to run the first half at 3h10-pace and then slow a little bit over the second half to bring it home in 3h15.

At the 12-mile point just before the right turn to Tower Bridge, I’m in orange on the left

Around 6 miles PaulTheBuilder from Fetch caught me. We were both going comfortably enough that we were able to chat for a bit – a good sign. He was planning a bit of a faster paced run than me and so I said I’d better let him go after another mile or so, although I still had him sight 25 minutes later as we crossed Tower Bridge, oops. Running across that bridge was awesome, I couldn’t quite believe it and had a huge grin on my face. I was starting to feel a few hot spots coming on my toes despite running in my old race shoes and some decent socks, but apart from that everything was going OK.

Waving to Fetchpoint at 13 miles

Halfway
Past halfway in around 1:34:30, on schedule, and the Fetchpoint cheers from the opposite side of the road were great! We saw the leaders come by on the other side of the road. Mo Farah was off the pace though – he hadn’t come into sight by the time we turned down to the Isle of Dogs. My feet were getting rather sore so I dropped back off my toes a bit and got some instant relief there. The twists and turns here seemed to take forever past those massive buildings. Looking back at my splits I think my concentration went a bit too (and my Garmin was struggling with the high buildings all around), my pace slipped. My quads were starting to tie-up despite the quad guards I was wearing, although I’m sure they helped a bit. As we came out of the Isle of Dogs and turned for home along Poplar High Street after passing the loudest crowd of all outside an evangelical church – there was a sound system and confetti - I stopped for a few yards walk – it felt like I’d been running a long time and there were still 50 minutes or so to run. Typically, someone in the crowd recognised me as soon as I slowed and shouted out “c’mon Oranj!”, so I waved acknowledgement and got back on with the job in hand.

Home run
Ian passed me as we turned under the railway bridge just before The Highway and gave me a shout of encouragement. He was looking smooth. And then we were back past Fetchpoint where I briefly stopped to shake a few hands. The next bit past the Tower and through the City of London was familiar to me from years of following my mum around the course – you’d have the roads to yourself as the race used to follow the river more closely in those days. It was still a little bit quiet along here but I was starting to find a better rhythm again, now that I could hear myself think.

Coming out the tunnel on the other side (note to self – wear a footpod next time, the Garmin doesn’t like the tunnels and high buildings) I could see the London Eye and Big Ben in the distance – a real target. Somewhere around 24 miles I stopped for another short walk to swallow my last gel and saw Ian just ahead. That was my new target and I was determined to catch him up and keep running on. I caught him just before the right turn past Big Ben, said hi, and then tried to raise my pace as much as my sore legs would allow. The last mile-and-a-bit seemed to take forever, but eventually we were round past Buckingham Palace and the finish was in sight. I had visions of getting up on to my toes for a final sprint to the line but the reality was less energetic.

Finish
I remembered to raise my arms as I crossed the line for my finisher’s photo and then had to have a bit of a rest, no surprise there. I’d finished in 3:16:00 exactly, a little bit slower than I’d been aiming for, but hopefully enough to get me another good-for-age place in 2015 (when I’ll be 50 and the good-for-age qualifying time limit relaxes to sub-3h20). After collecting my medal, goody bag and kit bag I had a chat to Ian. I think he might’ve been a bit deflated that he’d just missed the 3h15 GFA qualifying time.

I finished off most of the drink in the goody bag and ate the free apple. The free T-shirt, although one-size-fits-all, was cotton which is great, a nice change from all the nylon “technical” shirts you get at races these days. It took me quite a while to find the changing area (up some stairs – how cruel), but eventually I was on my way back to the tube and the bus home ready to watch the TV highlights and then for a few beers with Jules in the evening. Very happy, job done, what an amazing race experience!

Official results HERE (and more official photos). Click image below for stats from my Garmin:

LM2014_connect

Gloucester 20 – 2:26:28

I had a few days off running after the Teddy Hall Relays to give my stiff right quad a bit of a rest and done some cycling and swimming instead, so when I came to warm up for this last pre-London tester it was feeling pretty good.

It was going to be a warm morning, so my new London Marathon-branded vest and shorts got an outing, but I found it difficult to decide what shoes to wear and plumped for an old pair of Asics racing flats which I’d run a marathon in at the Roth ironman. The Gloucester 20 is a fairly old-school event – only about 500 runners, no chip timing, and a race briefing in a car park beforehand, while we all stood about nervously sipping water and wondering how hot it was going to get. I still saw a few runners toe the line in tights though!

After a 5-minute delay we were off with a shout of “3, 2, 1, Go!”, no fancy whistles or horns here. I quickly got into an easy stride, following a group led by some purple-vested “Almost Athletes” and a couple of hangers-on. 7-minute-ish miles felt comfortable, so I stuck with them for the first 3 or 4 miles, out on to the first of three 5.5-mile rural road laps, until I decided that I really ought to back off to my planned 7:05-7:10 pace. I wanted a good run here, but I was also acutely aware that I still had 4 weeks to London and didn’t need to compromise that preparation by running too hard.

It was getting warm, so I was stopping to walk at every drinks station for a cup of water (I’m useless at drinking on the move) and at 8 miles a guy from Stroud & Dist. caught me. We ran together for most of the next lap-and-a-half, him getting away from me at the drinks stations and me slowly reeling him in again. He started to falter at about 15 miles and I was thinking that perhaps I was doing OK by leading him there but by 16 miles we were stride-for-stride and thoughts of “just finishing” were creeping up on me.

I walked up the next railway bridge and let him go. My feet were getting very hot in my skinny racing flats and I’d started running on my heels rather than forefoot to take the pressure off some hotspots. I was also starting to get a bit of cramp in my right foot, which needed a few steps of walking and a stretch every so often. The next three miles were rather slower, more at my usual training pace; I was content just to make it to the finish and very relieved to do so in 2:26:28 (7:19 minute-miling). A couple of minutes off my target, but the heat had really got to me and my feet at the end. For comparison, I went through 20 miles at Luton in 2:23:51. The Stroud runner finished 40 seconds in front of me, and it turned out he was a 3:08 finisher at London last year, so I can’t be too unhappy with my race.

I had a few blisters and my right quad stiffened up quite a bit soon after the finish, but I was OK for a slow drive home after I’d drunk about 2 litres of water. That’s five 20-milers in the bag since the New Year. Just a few more weeks of steady training and I’ll be ready for the start line in London.