Two weeks training done just like that! It was good to get back into a routine after Christmas though, and it’s been a busy start to my ultra training plan, so here’s a few highlights:
Week 1 – Monday
I’d stayed overnight in Bristol so started the day with 5 miles around the harbour before heading home. It’s one of my favourite places to run so it was a very nice way to start the year. I was tempted to head up the hill to the Clifton suspension bridge but in the end took the easy flat option.
Week 1 – Sunday
The annual trip down to Minnis Bay near Margate for the latest round of the Kent Fitness Cross Country League. As I did last year I got down there early and ran along the coastal path to Reculver and back to get 7 miles in to start with. It was a bright but blustery morning and it was good to bump into fellow Harriers Karen and Tracey as they headed out on their 14 mile training run. The race itself was good fun, the course isn’t as muddy as it perhaps was a few years back, but the infamous dykes still had plenty of mud and water in them, and one individual took it upon himself to jump straight into the middle of each one, as this video clip shows! A good way to get 13 miles in with the Benfleet 15 coming up a week later.
Week 2 – Wednesday
A first for me, a track 5k and a chance to test my speed. This was the latest race in the Medway Winter Track Series over at Gillingham and a few familiar faces were there as well. Luckily the race wasn’t 24 hours earlier when Storm Brendan was in full effect, that would have made for a very challenging race, but instead we got a cool and still evening, perfect for an even paced effort. The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly convincing myself I was on for a PB until the last lap when I realised I’d been getting my sums all wrong. Even then I’m sure I still told a couple of people afterwards I’d run a PB…I’m blaming going round in circles for 12.5 laps for all the confusion! As it turned out I was almost 40 seconds away from my 5k (parkrun) PB finishing in 22:08. I was perfectly happy with that though considering I’ve not done much speed work lately, and I’ve got sub-22 to aim for next time out.
Week 2 – Saturday
In my last post I mentioned how I was hoping to do 10 different parkruns in Kent in addition to the 4 I’ve done so far, and so I headed off to the Cyclopark event near Gravesend to tick off the first one. There was quite a heavy frost when I woke up so I checked the event was still on. As it turned out there were some icy patches on the course but the event team had put salt down so we were good to go. The event was swelled by runners from the latest Saxons, Vikings & Normans marathon who were using the event as the first 3 miles of their race. The participants included my friends Kieron (who was running the second of three marathons on consecutive days!) and Andrew (who was running at Benfleet the next day – more to follow on that.)
The parkrun doesn’t use the actual cycle track (they do use it occasionally) but instead is a simple course twice up and down the adjacent cycle path. With the Benfleet 15 to come I didn’t push it too hard and just opted for a steady one, finishing in 26:03.
Week 2 – Sunday
Prior to the event I bumped into Andrew (from yesterday’s parkrun/marathon) and mentioned how because it was dry when I ran last year I didn’t feel like I’d had the full Benfleet experience I’d heard about. Afterwards he asked me if I was satisfied I’d now had the experience, and I can certainly say I have! The weather was identical to how it had been 12 months earlier – cold but brilliantly sunny, but there was also mud. Lots and lots of mud. We hit the first stretch after a couple of miles. One runner had already lost a shoe, and we slipped and slithered and squelched through before a small detour up the hill to Hadleigh Castle. Another very slippery section followed, and there were several Bambi on ice moments as I picked my way along the track. I was wearing trail shoes but there was so much mud they weren’t a great deal of help.
The next few miles were on relatively firm tracks and paths, but after another tough little climb and a descent on a well made up path we found ourselves back at that first muddy stretch we’d been along after a couple of miles. Only this time 800 runners plus those in front of us had churned it up even more, and with a high degree of inevitability I finally went over with a splat into the mud! No harm done with such a soft landing but I was absolutely plastered by the time I’d picked myself up!
The final mile is uphill (with some more mud in places and almost another tumble) and I was struggling by this point. I had to remind myself that it was only 4 weeks ago I ran a marathon, plus the track 5k the previous Wednesday, so perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise, and rather like the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon the slippery, muddy sections took their toll on my legs as well. In the end I was 14 minutes slower than last year, not that the time worried me, but it was still good to finally have the proper Benfleet 15 experience, although I felt absolutely shattered by the time I got home!
Luckily this week is a recovery week, so hoping to get the legs back in shape for the Canterbury 10 miles this weekend. I’d like to go sub 1:20 but I’ll be happy with a good solid run, it’s not a target race for me this year.
Hope everyone’s training is going well, catch up soon!