All posts by Charles

Running into the new year

This week: 4 runs. 1 ride. 1 swim.

The last run of 2018 was not a torpid jaunt as its name would suggest. Instead it was my weekly interval training run, which this time consisted of three 2400m sprints with 400m jogs in-between.

I managed the sprints at a 4:00/km, 4:21/km and 4:14/km pace. I was aiming for a 4:00/km, but I couldn’t manage it. I’ll put it down to a Christmas food hangover.

The run was around Wandsworth Common, which was very busy with families and dog-walkers, but I still enjoyed running around where I grew up… it seems a lot smaller now than I remember.

The following day, and a few drinks later, it was time for the first run of 2019. This was a gentle one with Emily and Kirstie around Tooting Bec Common this time. Another place I remember from my childhood, but unlike Wandsworth Common, now somehow seems bigger… maybe it was the hangover.

Kirstie, Emily and I after the new years run

On Wednesday I decided to do another long cycle ride after the successful ride to Windsor with Andy last week, this time on my own. After starting off with (another!) puncture, I headed down to the River Thames by Hampton Court Palace and then round Richmond Park. I totalled 62km in 3 hours and really enjoyed it, but it has made me realise that I need to look at getting a proper road bike. The hybrid I have is great for my commute, but it’s too heavy to get much above 30km/h.

Thursday evening was when I did my next fast run. 11km with km 2,3,6,7 and 8 at threshold pace. I was really happy with how I felt on this run and all of my fast km’s were under a 4:00/km pace which is what I was aiming for. I even managed my first KOM on Strava! Many more to come I hope.

Friday I had an early start and dragged myself down to the 50m pool for some lengths. I really got into it and completed 1700m before they kicked everyone out to change the lane setup.

Then, after a big breakfast, I rounded off the week with a 16km long run. I ran 7km along the canal and then up and down Horsenden Hill. Horsenden Hill is a 500m, 8% uphill. It was not fun, but it did slow me down to finish the run at my target 4:50/km pace.

Nearly at the top of Horsenden Hill, half way through Friday’s 16km long run

Next week I’m skiing (read: trying not to die) in the French Alps so running should be interesting…

PS This week I also signed up for the Richmond Marathon in September and the All Nations Sprint Triathlon in May. Bring on 2019!

How to eat everything at christmas and not feel guilty

Christmas Day 10k with the girls

While most of the UK is curled up indoors, opening presents and eating pigs in blankets, I tried to buck the trend over the festive period and get a head start on those new years fitness goals.

This week: 4 Runs. 1 Swim. 1 Ride.

I have to say upfront that I suffered serious eating and drinking hangovers on a couple of the runs this week, but it’s all about getting out there regardless! And I have to say, I always feel better after a good run in the fresh air than if I’d just stayed in bed feeling sorry for myself.

Monday started with some interval training – that’s several short, fast sprints followed by a slow jog to catch your breath. Today the sprints were just 400m, followed by a 200m jog. The hills of Bridgnorth presented an added sting in the tail, but not nearly as much as the spicy madras and several beers from the night before that certainly presented a handicap!

I managed the first three sprints quite well, maybe because they were downhill, but then I started to suffer and had to cut short the fourth sprint because I was too knackered to keep running. I managed to compose myself again and finished the ten sprints.

400m SprintElevationPace (min/km)

Looking at the table above you can see that I probably need to work on running uphill a bit more in the future.

The next day was Christmas Day, which means it was time for a nice 10k loop of Bridgnorth with Emily and Helen. We followed the route of the Bridgnorth 10k which is held annually in October. It’s pretty hilly, as you can imagine, so it was pretty challenging… doubly so given that I started the run with quite possibly the biggest hangover of 2018. Then again, nothing cures a hangover like a good run, right?

High spirits (quite literally, we were probably still drunk) before the Christmas day 10k around hilly Bridgnorth in the Severn valley

About half way through the run was the bit we’d all been dreading – the 100m long innocuously-sounding Railway Street with a 16% gradient! I decided to sprint up it, naturally…

The Railway Street Rumble – a 100m, 16% incline of doom (picture by Helen James)
That brought the hangover right back! (video by Helen James)

By the end of the run we were all ready for a glass of bubbly and the onslaught of Christmas dinner that had been wonderfully prepared for us by Emily’s mother. This is the second year we’ve done a run on Christmas day, I hope it’s a tradition that continues… although maybe not quite as far next year!

On Boxing day we went for a foggy walk up the Brown Clee, the highest hill in Shropshire, with Emily’s mum providing supplies of mince pies and damson gin.

The motley crew atop the Brown Clee (minus my mug as I’m taking the photo)

The following day I went for round two at the Bridgnorth Leisure Swimming Pool, this time much busier than last Sunday, but I still managed 1250m.

Friday we we’re back in West London, so I finally got a run in on flat ground! I ran 10km, with the middle 5km at threshold heart rate (AKA flat out). The threshold section was tough and I certainly felt the effects of all that festive eating and drinking. Hopefully that’ll go in a week or two of good training.

Saturday was an exciting day, my workmate Andy came down and we did a long cycle ride together to Windsor and back again. It was a really varied route, taking in gravel paths, muddy fields and towpaths as well as the road.

We didn’t get off to the best start as I got a big puncture within the first kilometre, but luckily Andy had come prepared with a spare inner tube and replaced the offending article in no time like a real pro.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the end of our bad luck, as Andy’s chain snapped around 20km in. Thankfully we weren’t far from a bike shop where we managed to get a replacement. Once again, Andy impressed by having all the tools to hand to replace the chain in a jiffy. I learnt a thing of two watching him and have a few items on the Christmas list for next year already!

Apart from all that excitement, the ride itself was lovely. 63km in total and taking six hours, two of which weren’t even spent moving!

The Lycra louts make it to Slough in one piece

When we returned just before sunset Emily had prepared a wonderful vegan Tagine.

There is nothing better on this earth than eating after a long day in the saddle

Sunday rounded off the week with a 15km long run along a route I’ve wanted to try ever since I realised that the River Brent was a great running destination that I hadn’t tried yet. I planned a route that started with going north on the canal, then heading east through Greenford to meet the River Brent, following the river south to meet the canal at Hanwell, then following the canal back west then north to the start.

A lovely route following two waterways of West London
A great way to end the week of festivities for 2018

I’m glad I got this route in before the end of the year, and at a 4:37/km pace I could enjoy a large fry-up for brunch with a clean conscience.

Next week I try to finish 2018 strong, see you then, bye x

Chasing a sub-1:30 half marathon

Hello again, it’s been a while. I’ve run a marathon since we last spoke. It was hard, especially the last five miles when I was just trying to keep myself sane and motivated. But I made it, and in under the four hour time that I’d set myself as a target. 3h55m was my time over the line.

Me and my loyal supporters at the finish line of the Windsor Trail Marathon in October having completed my first marathon ever in just under four hours

The Windsor Trail Marathon course itself was great, I love running along the river and there was lots of that, but the organisation of the day itself left an awful lot to be desired. It’s put my off any future F3 events that’s for sure. I don’t want to get into the detail here, but you can read my review of the race here along with reviews of the two other races I ran in 2018 which goes into it.

So given that all-in-all the whole ‘marathon thing’ went pretty well, I’ve started looking at what devilish challenge I can find to put my body and mind through in 2019. And I’ve come up with three main challenges:

  1. Run a half marathon in under 90 minutes. My current PB is 96 minutes, but shaving those 6 minutes off is going to require a monster effort. I’m planning on attempting this at The Big Half in March 2019.
  2. Run a marathon in under three hours 30 minutes. Another big ask and one I’m currently thinking of doing at the Richmond Runfest Marathon in September 2019.
  3. Complete a Half Ironman Triathlon. As my first triathlon this might be the craziest one on this list, but nevertheless I’ve already signed up for the UK Ultimate 1/2 Triathlon in June 2019. A 1.2 mile lake swim, followed by a 56 mile cycle ride, finishing off with a half marathon run. It takes a typical triathlete around six hours to complete, so should be fun.

The first challenge is to smash The Big Half in March. I started my training last week – loosely following the Runners World sub-1:30 plan – but with one less run a week.

The Big Half Training – Week One

Training started on Tuesday morning with a 1000m swim at the local leisure centre, which has a brilliant 50m pool open every weekday from 7-8am. This time I’m aiming to use swimming as my cross-training.

Tuesday lunchtime was my first running session, starting off with a speedwork session that nearly killed me. 5x 800m sprints with a 200m jog in between. I did this around Osterley Park but hit a bit of traffic crossing the road during the last sprint.

Wednesday and Thursday I ran 8km steady in the dark December evening. Aimed for a 4:40/km pace, but on Thursday I went a bit too fast because my new watch was still set up for miles/minute which got me all confused.

The Severn Valley Railway path that set the scene for my PB-bursting 10k – 41:34!!

I finished the week’s running on Saturday in Bridgnorth by running a time-trial’d 10k along the old Severn Valley Railway route. I was aiming for a 42 minute 10k, so I was super-chuffed to manage it in 41:34. In two weeks time I have to knock another 100 seconds off that… not looking forward to that!

On Sunday I wound-down with my second early-morning swim of the week, this time at Bridgnorth Leisure Centre. The centre has been recently renovated with thanks to lottery funding so the changing rooms were very clean. I was one of only three people in the pool – I guess it’s not everyone’s idea of fun at 7am the Sunday before Christmas, but it was a great start to the day!

Merry Christmas

Long Run Nutrition

Good news from the physio! Apparently the problems with my knee have been caused by a tight IT band on my left leg. There’s no damage to my knee, and with a bit of stretching to that area it should be fine!

So with that good news I set about a full week of marathon training, including a 10km lunch run, an interval session, and my longest run so far: a 33km jaunt along the canal.

I also finally get serious about nutrition for my long run. Turns out you can’t just run a marathon without eating anything during the race, so I need to think about how I’m going to get about 400-500 calories during the race and practice that in my long runs from now on.

Only 7 weeks to go before the big marathon race day :/

Thames Meander Half Marathon

Week 10 of training for my first marathon and it’s time for the next big milestone: my first race. I’ve never run in a race setting before, and I’m on my own during the race. Thankfully I did have my girlfriend and my parents come along to cheer me on and calm my nerves before the start.

I chose the Thames Meander Half Marathon – the course starts in Kingston and follows the River Thames downstream to Kew Gardens where you turn around and run all the way back!

The organisation of the start was good, there were no issues with bag drop or bib collection. There was a long queue for the toilets before the race, but that seems pretty standard at these things. There was good spacing of water points and good communication via email in the week leading up to the race. Not a huge crowd of spectators along the route, but the locals who were out certainly cheer you on. I’d highly recommend it for someone who is looking for a scenic, flat trail run in London – I’ll definitely be signing up again next year!

Having had some trouble with my knee over the last two weeks I was really not sure how the race would go, so I’m very happy with the outcome!

The marathon is only 8 weeks away!


Running in Bridgnorth

This week has all been about keeping my runner’s knee at bay. With only 1 week left until my half marathon race I don’t want to do anything to agitate the knee into a full-blown injury which would prevent me from finishing the race.

To that end, I only ran twice this week – a 6km on Thursday lunchtime, and a longer run on Saturday in Bridgnorth.

Next week is the half marathon!