Oxford parkrun 20:51

Amazingly (given how often I run/race), it’s taken me until today to get round to doing a parkrun. A spur-of-the-minute decision just before leaving work on Friday afternoon saw me walking out the building with a sheaf of barcodes in hand. After all, I had nothing better to do on Saturday morning.  Although… I must admit that I would normally treat myself to a bit of a lie-in on Saturday as I usually have an early start the rest of the week, and the hair-shirt in me says that as Oxford parkrun is only 9½ km away, I should be cycling there which is FAR too much hassle for before 9am. But today I had no excuse and got up early for the trundle on my bike around the ring road cycle path.

A nice, crisp morning greeted us and after a brief intro from today’s race director where I put my hand up as a newby, we were off. The first 200m were fast and then I remembered I’ve got Coventry half tomorrow and backed off a bit! Good fun all round and I guess fairly informal, it was nice to have something short and sharp under my belt before 10am even if my sore hip didn’t appreciate it much, and a bit of a chat to some familiar faces and another parkrun first timer friend-of-a-friend. And then as I was warming down I saw another face I recognised from Fetch – iPLOD was out for a run too – so I introduced myself and we finished another half lap together, chatting about running and so on, like you do.

Then I just had an easy cycle into town for a coffee and some dull stuff to do at my bank. Sorted.

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OUOC city orienteering race

For once, spring like conditions prevailed and we were racing in shorts and T-shirt (I wore the brightest one I owned, for all the road crossings we were likely to encounter). I’d not done any running at all in the week – my right quad was just too stiff – but after an extensive warm-up I didn’t notice it at all. I wore a lightweight compression sleeve on my thighs but in retrospect they were not enough.

After a bit of confusion at the start about which course I was doing (d’oh), I forgot to start my Garmin (d’oh again), until about 10 minutes in when I glanced at it and realised it wasn’t ticking away. Quickly into my stride around the University Science Area I immediately hit a dead end – something to pay attention to on this course – but after that I had a pretty good run. Didn’t bother carrying a compass, but I had a route description holder on my arm. With 43 controls, the type was tiny and hard to read though. Overshot a couple of controls, and took some long routes through the colleges we were using to avoid getting trapped in any more dead-ends. There was a moment of amusement in LMH when I ran through a portrait shot – it was a Degree Day and graduates were having their photos done for the parents  – but I don’t think I can have been the only orienteer to have interrupted that particular photo shoot. Clearly I was getting tired towards the end as I navigated myself around three sides of a football pitch instead of one to get to the penultimate control, I think with 43 controls I’d had enough!

I ended up tieing for 27th place on my course, out of 77 finishers, and 22nd in my M40 age group, so not too bad, although this city race played into my fast running ability. OUOC’s webpage for the race is HERE. There seems to be a city race series in the south and this one was fun but but I’m not sure I’ll have much time to go to any others with other racing taking precedent through the summer.

Town & gown 10k

Here we go, another Town & Gown 10k. Jules had entered too, managing to fit some training runs in around her crazy shift pattern. Sunday dawned sunny and bright, and I was hopeful of a better run than I’d had 10 days earlier at round 1 of the Mota-vation race series at Charlton-on-Otmoor where I’d struggled round at 6:45 minute miling, and been outsprinted at the finish by a resurgent Laurie Hearn of Headington Road Runners (Garmin file here).

A fairly gentle warm up to get my creaky old right achilles moving and then we were off, a minute early thanks to Christine Hamilton‘s eagerness! I set off at a “manageable” pace and was pleased to see a couple of sub-4 minute kilometre splits straight off the bat. The long drag up the High Street slowed me a little and then it was time to settle in and find some people to pace out the rest of the race with. After the loop north of the Parks, I passed the 5km mark in 20:06. Knowing that I’d slow a little in the second half, sub-41 minutes still looked on the cards. I was jockeying for position with a couple of women here, but they started to slow up as we hit the Parks for the last couple of km. Some runners seem to thrive on this fine gravel surface, others go backwards. I was just trying to stay with anyone who came past. Had a bit of a slump with a kilometre to go and then managed to lift myself for the last bit to the finish, happy to cross the line in a half-decent time of 40:42 (results). [My Garmin file’s here. I decided to wear an HRM for this event, curious to see how much fitness I’d lost. Funnily enough, my average – 167 – and max – 174 – were exactly the same as last year, when I’d run 39:40, but I’d been a little, ahem, slimmer.]

I found a few friendly faces to chat with while I caught my breath and then jogged over to the last loop of the course to cheer Jules on; she was looking pretty comfortable and finished just outside the hour. We stopped off at Maison Blanc for almond croissants as treat and then pedalled home to slump about in the sunshine. Decided I’d have at least 10 days off running to let my right achilles and left knee aches settle down – I’m not happy that I’m not comfortable running at the moment. Plenty of heel drop stretching to do on the right calf.

Oxford half marathon

I was a bit unsure of my form going into this one. Originally I’d entered it with Jules, as she was looking for an end-of-summer target (and for me, a stepping stone to a London Marathon good-for-age qualifying sub-3:15 Luton Marathon in a few weeks time), but her shifts changed and she picked up a niggle in her hip which curtailed running for long enough to make the race a no-no. I’d missed quite a bit of mileage over the summer, nursing the achilles niggle I’d picked up after Challenge Roth. And then, 10 days before the race and just as it seemed my preparation was going a little better, I stepped off a kerb towards the end of a harder run and strained a calf. I’d rested it though, and it seemed OK in the couple of jogs I’d managed to fit in before this race.

The Saturday evening beforehand was spent cooking for Jules so she could watch Strictly, while I had the small matter of catching up with the Ironman World Championships, streaming live over the internet from Kona (and catching up with the gossip in the Tritalk chatroom) inevitably, this whole process is made more fun with a few tins of beer on the side. I got to bed not long after the athletes had started on the run and my favourite, Pete Jacobs, was looking on course for the win; I was five tins of beer to the good.

It was a very cold and misty bike ride over to the start, the first frost of this winter! It all looked a little chaotic at the Kassam Stadium and I jumped the baggage queue so I could get a little jog done on my way over to the start. It was already crowded on the startline so I squeezed in as best I could. We had the usual delays and so on while the various dignitaries did their stuff (Sir Roger Bannister was there to sound the klaxon for the start), and then, only 7 minutes late (last year it’d started 15 minutes late apparently), we were off.

I was stuck well down in the bunch, somewhere near the 1:50 pacemaker, and it took me a few hundred metres to get a  bit of clear space, but after that I was more comfortable. I kept a careful eye on my GPS watch (a Forerunner 410), watching the average pace for each mile tick along. I had 6:40/6:45 in mind for these opening miles and apart from a bit of harder pace at mile 3 to catch up with a sizeable bunch, it all went OK. Despite years of experience I usually start off a bit too quickly and pay the price later on, but the watch made pacemaking easy.

Turned out the bunch had the 1:30 pacemaker in it (he wasn’t carrying a balloon like his slower compatriots were). They were blocking the road ahead and anyway, 1:30 was plenty fast enough for me so I jogged along behind them, feeling pretty comfortable. The sun was out and I got a few cheers from various Oxford Tri members along the way. We slowed slightly as we negotiated the narrower gravel path around Christchurch Meadow, but then a slightly faster pace down the next section brought us back onto target.

 

I was starting to wonder if I’d have enough energy left at the end to speed up away from the pacer, but as we turned on to the ring road he decided that he wasn’t going quickly enough and sped up anyway. I managed to keep with him for a mile or so but he got quicker and quicker and I wasn’t too bothered to catch him up. I knew that due to my slow start from further back I had a minute in hand over him and I could feel a little blister developing on one of my toes.

A last effort along the road back to the Stadium and then I was across the line, just as the finish clock ticked past 1:30. On chip time I’d comfortably beaten it. Provided I can get some longer runs done in the next few weeks, a sub-3:15 qualifying time at Luton looks on the cards.

My Garmin trace is here: MyGarmin, and race results here: RaceTimingSystems.