Spinning in the rain

Sometimes I’m too easily amused. Perhaps that’s symptomatic of a vacant mind but, on occasion, the pictures I ‘draw’ when out running make me smile. I’ve been known to doodle a pistol, and, quite accidentally, the occasional phallic symbol (!) but today’s effort was perhaps my most complex and impressive ‘work’ so far.

Take a look at it, maybe tilt your head a little and, if you need a little extra help, look at the Relive video. It’s a spin bike, isn’t it? Tell me I’m not the only one to see it. Maybe I’ve finally lost it.

Anyway, yeah, running … that’s the point of this blog, isn’t it?

I had help with today’s ‘picture’. Bronagh got in touch to say she was available all day and whilst I wasn’t really feeling like going out I was glad she did because otherwise I most likely wouldn’t have bothered.

We decided to go out to Broughshane and basically just see whereabouts we ended up. Parking at Houston’s Mill we spotted the Buttermilk Bridge Riverside Path across the road so went down there and pretty soon hadn’t much of a clue where we were!

But it was nice, scenic and very wet. Yep, it was raining. Lovely, wonderful, cooling rain. Oh, how I missed you!

I wanted a gentle run so, with that in mind, went back to heart rate zone running and it felt pretty good. A quiet Sunday morning through the Village of the Year (according to a Channel 4 competition earlier this year) with the only sound being our breathing and squelch squelch squelch of my trainers. Oops.

With no route in mind we just ran along the riverside path, up and down various cul-de-sacs and generally just seeing where this road would take us, and then the next and so on …. 45 minutes, 3.6 miles – not fast, but just enough to keep the legs ticking over.

Relive my run

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#18in18 – nine down, nine to go

I’ve reached the halfway stage in my self set challenge to run 18 half marathons in 2018, so no better time than to throw out a quick recap of my progress so far.

If you’re new to this and are wondering what the point behind it is then you can have a read through the why’s and how’s and so on here.

It all started back in March in London …

1. The Big Half
I couldn’t really have got off to a better start than this, kicking off within sight of Tower Bridge and finishing right beside the Cutty Sark. Iconic.

Big city, big race, big crowds – perfect for me. During the race I set a personal best over every single distance ie: 5k, 5 miles, 10k, 10 miles and Half … I loved this so much I signed up again for 2019 as soon as entries were opened.

2. Larne Half Marathon
The first of the local races in my challenge, and another rip-roaring success. A race that treated us to stunning views along the world famous Antrim Coast on a gloriously sunny day.

Although a little bit slower than the Big Half I was still really pleased with my performance, only being denied a PB by a great big hill halfway through.

3. Reading Half Marathon (Virtual)
A little bit different this time, a virtual run based on the Reading Half Marathon. The actual race was cancelled because of the weather back in March so the organiser, in conjunction with the Virtual Runner website, allowed runners to earn the same medal in their own time and a route of their choosing.

I decided to do it around my hometown of Ballymena. I also used this ‘race’ to experiment with Jeffing (the run/walk method) and hated every minute of it. My legs hurt, it rained, I got soaked. Next please.

4. Not The London Marathon
Held on London Marathon day, this event was organised by the East Antrim Marathon Series over a 10k course with a number of different distances available. I did two laps to bring me up to Half Marathon distance.

I didn’t really enjoy this one either. The route was tough in places, there was a small number of entries, my head wasn’t in it etc. etc. … from the highs of London and Larne these last two runs brought me crashing back down to earth.

5. Lee Valley VeloPark Half Marathon
Back to London at the end of May for a RunThrough event outside the 2012 Olympics Velodrome. The route was 13 laps of a circuit designed for cyclists, which made it very undulating and whilst it wasn’t particularly steep it did get quite trying towards the end.

I almost pulled out at around eight miles. I felt quite ill due to the heat of the day, but after a quick refresh I battled through to finish. If I didn’t already know it, this challenge was going to be tough in places!

6. Lacock Half Marathon
The first of three races in two weeks. This one was in the picturesque Wiltshire village of Lacock, three laps of a 4.4 mile course. A lovely route which took us out into the countryside before returning into the village to great support from locals and tourists alike.

Another really hot day, and the third loop was a real struggle but, on reflection, a great event and a great day out. Things were beginning to look up again!

7. Lisburn Half Marathon
I ran the Lisburn 10k last year and was awful in it, so I wasn’t really looking forward to this one especially since it was double the distance.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I only went and set a PB! The fact that it was a cooler evening undoubtedly helped, but I also got my race tactics spot on. My head was in the right place, I didn’t panic after starting almost at the back and simply and methodically picked off those in front of me one by one.

8. Swansea Half Marathon
It’s not hard to see why this has been voted the UK’s favourite half marathon. An outstanding event featuring a wonderfully scenic Swansea Bay hugging route with a big turnout of both runners and supportive locals.

If it wasn’t for the fact that it was another ridiculously hot day I have no doubt I’d have set another PB. This is one I’ll return to do another day.

9. Bath Two Tunnels
Perhaps the most unique race to date, around five miles or so were run through disused railway tunnels outside Bath. Dark and atmospheric, I really enjoyed them.

The heat has been a bit of a recurring theme lately, but nothing has been as hot as this one. The tunnels themselves were lovely and cooling, but outside the temperature peaked at 29° which simply did not agree with me. It was like running in a sauna, and I did consider dropping out at one point again.

So that’s the first nine done. A mixture of the good, bad and downright ugly but I never expected it to be easy.

I haven’t finalised my schedule for the remaining nine just yet but, at the minute, it’s looking like this (those in bold have already been entered):

10. Dark Hedges Half Marathon – 21st July 2018
11. Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin Half Marathon – 12th August 2018
12. Dambusters Half Marathon – 18th August 2018
13. The 401 Challenge Festival of Running Half – 25th August 2018
14. Waterside Half Marathon – 2nd September 2018
15. Chippenham Half Marathon – 9th September 2018
16. 
Belfast City Half Marathon – 23rd September 2018
17. Great Scottish Run (Glasgow) – 30th September 2018
18. Royal Parks Half (London) – 14th October 2018

A pretty hectic schedule, but I’m feeling so much stronger and fitter now than I did when I started. To be honest, I can’t wait for each one now!

Part of the reason I’m doing this is to raise a little something for Diabetes UK. I’m Type 2, and have received great encouragement and advice from #TeamDUK over the years.

If you’ve enjoyed my journey so far and would like to support me in running towards a world where diabetes can do no harm then I would be so appreciative if you could make a small donation via my JustGiving page.

Ecos parkrun 14.07.18

Back to parkrun today, and after my gentle outing last night, I felt a lot more confident about it than I know I would have been if I hadn’t bothered on Friday.

It just goes to show that it really pays off to face down your demons as much as possible even if it does feel like an almost impossible task at the time.

Anyway, parkrun … my old bones felt a bit creaky this morning after my relatively late run the night before but the 40-odd minute walk to Ecos soon sorted that out, and I felt pretty good lining up at the start.

I went this morning with a definite plan. I wanted to approach this one in a much more structured, controlled way than I normally do. My usual tactics are to go hell for leather from the off, and then hang on over the final mile in an attempt to record something approaching a time that won’t frustrate me!

So, today, I started off almost at the back and slowly worked my way past a few people in a methodical manner. For example, one bloke said he was running to 36 minute pace and whilst that was slower than I would have liked for myself I stayed with him for a short while in a bid to save my legs a little for the latter part of the run.

And it worked a treat. As I said, I started at the back but didn’t panic. I managed to get into a comfortable rhythm and tucked in behind one runner before moving onto the next one and so on.

The idea was to remain consistent throughout. Mile one came in at 11:11, but that was ok and even by then I had worked my way past a few.

I slowed by 24 seconds over the second mile, but this was deliberate in order to save my legs for the final push. Normally at parkrun my earlier efforts leave me struggling a bit over mile three so I wanted to see what I could do whilst having something extra left in them.

What a difference it made! I completed the third mile in the same time as I’d done the first which resulted in catching and passing quite a few ahead of me. It was a strong finish and, according to Strava, my final kilometre was my fastest ever at a parkrun event.

Overall, this was my fourth best parkrun time (and my third best at my home event) which, for a purposely controlled run, was a pretty good result.

I felt a lot fresher at the finish, and probably could have increased the pace a little throughout. I also learnt today not to stress too much about trailing at the beginning, and to trust in my own tactics. Today was a good day.

Relive my run