Monday, 12 September 2011

Wind, Wind and more wind.

The last week or so has been unbelievably windy and the this has not helped the pacing of my harder runs. I read somewhere this week that the equivalent of running a 5:00 minute mile into a 20mph wind is a 5:40 or so when considering the VO2 impact it has. Whether this is true or not I have no idea, but what I know for certain is it is extremely hard to even run at half marathon pace for a mile or so into a strong wind. Talking about wind, I learnt a few months ago why you never seem to get the benefits of the wind on your back and why you feel the wind a lot more when you are running directly into it. This is because if you are running at say 10mph into a 10mph wind you are therefore going to be running into a 20mph wind (the 10mph wind and the 10mph resistance you are creating). It then means that if you are running at 10mph you will not feel the push of the wind unless it is any stronger than 10mph. I think I have got that right, but at the end of the day I am only repeating what I have read on Letsrun or somewhere and could have easily got this all wrong. But, it does makes sense if you think about it and I am definitely going to label the wind as the reason why I was unable to hit my target pace on the lactate threshold runs this week.

I have been doing a lot of steady mileage in the last few weeks and am starting to feel strong as a result of this work. My coach and I have sat down and said that over the next four or five weeks that I would just been running steady miles with a few progressive or lactate threshold runs thrown in. Lactate threshold runs are efforts where you run at a tempo effort so for someone like me I would run at 5:05 to 5:10 pace (half marathon pace) for a period of time. We are just easing into things this winter so are combining these efforts with progressive running and say do a warm up of three miles (7:00, 6:30, 6:00) then two miles at LT pace, one steady (6:15), two miles LT followed by two mile easy. The LT efforts will progress over the next few weeks so that by the end of this training block I can run 5 or so miles at LT and feel comfortable. This sounds easier than it appears as for example I could quite easily run a 5 mile road race tomorrow at LT pace and feel easy. The problem being is that in training it is always a struggle to get up to this sort of pace on your own, so hopefully with the help of Steve Robinson and if the wind ever eases off we can start stringing a few decent LT sessions together.

This weekend I ran the Grunty Fen half marathon, I was due to go on holiday this weekend so had already pulled out of two much bigger races, Bristol Half and Cardiff 10k. The attraction of Grunty Fen is that it is fairly flat and has some good prize money on offer and the incentive of setting a new course record. On the day it became apparent that the wind would prevent any records from being broken (in reaction to this the hairband came out!) and as soon as I ran into the wind at the one and a half mile point I had decided against killing myself. I went off at a decent pace and was around 5:05 at the mile and was already clear of a good group of runners who I thought might challenge me if the wind slowed the pace down (I think the above picture is about 200m into the race). Once I got out of the wind I picked things up for a few miles but only to around 5:15 pace and went through half way in just under 35 minutes feeling controlled (the pic below is around this point). The second lap is a lot longer and although the wind wasn't as brutal as early on it still had an effect. I looked over my shoulder at the 8mi point and could see I was a long way clear and knowing the course record was out of sight just eased off. I had spoken to my coach about this earlier and the week and he wanted me to ease off if I was well clear as it would do more damage than good by pushing on. The only problem I experienced in the last 5 miles was a tight right ITB because of the excessive camber on the fenland roads. I tried to run in the middle of the road at some points to stop this but kept being blown back into the gutter. I ended up winning by a minute and a half or so from John Clarke and Paul Halford, I expected James Lawler to be a bit closer to me but he was having a few problems with his stomach. Hopefully, James can put his run behind him and stay confident in the fact that he can run a good marathon when he represents England in Toronto in a few weeks time. All in all it was a good workout and gives me (or I should probably say Jenny) a nice little bit of spending money for my holiday on Friday. Excellent organisation and prizes at Grunty Fen, the course is perfect just a pity the wind is always likely to slow things down out on the fens. Profitable day for Philippa and I who went across from Stamford together over £600 worth of prizes accumulated by us both!

Below is the last two weeks of my training diary:

W/C 29/08 – Plan was to do a good solid week of mileage with some progressive running.

Mon 29th 9:39AM: 76:30 (11.29mi, 6:46/mi)- Easy run out on the Southorpe loop, plenty of off road. Ran a bit further than normal as one of the fields had been ploughed. A little tired.

Mon 29th 7:57PM: 36:51 (5.0mi, 7:22/mi) – Really easy run around the streets as it was getting dark and Burghley closed for Horse Trials. Just had a roast dinner so pretty heavy!

Tues 30th 12:31PM: 35:02 (5.11mi, 6:51/mi) – Easy run around ferry meadows at lunch time.

Tues 30th 6:14PM: (10mi) – Splits 6:50, 6:33, 6:23, 6:02, 5:59, 5:38, 5:30, 5:05, 5:00. 8 x 15 secs strides. – Times after 6mi approximate as watch died, ran with Steve and pulled away from in the last 2 miles and it felt pretty quick!

Weds 31st 6:49PM: 84:22 (12.27mi, 6:52/mi) – Very tired got home from work and slept for half hour before run. Felt a bit sluggish but got it done. Ran the Belmesthorpe loop, nice and undulating just got in before it was dark.

Thurs 1st Sep 11:55AM: 35:12 (5.14mi, 6:50/mi) – Easy run around Ferry Meadows at lunch again as I was too lazy to wake up!

Thurs 1st Sep 6:10PM: 67:00 (10mi, 6:42/mi) – Fartlek out to the rowing lake easy for 2.1mi then 4mins (5:00/mi), 5mins (5:05/mi), 3mins (4:55/mi), 90 secs (4:37/mi), 40 secs (4:02/mi), 40 secs (4:18/mi), 2mins (4:48/mi) with easy running in between no more than 2 mins rest on most. Then back to the track and forgot I had agreed to run an 800m which I ran in 2:03, with a 60 first lap then died off. Finished off with 2 x 100m strides.

Fri 2nd Sep 5:27PM: 36:39 (5mi, 7:22/mi) – Easy run with Stu around Ferry Meadows, warm and humid.

Sat 3rd Sep 8:51AM: 59:44 (10mi, 5:58/mi) – Lactate Threshold 2mi, 2mi steady, 2mi, run splits were 6:21, 6:13, 5:01, 5:07, 6:26, 6:28, 5:10, 5:18, 6:48, 6:44. Did the session on the road out through uffington and struggled with a stitch and the wind. Second rep was especially into the wind and I got the same stitch as last week after half a mile. Need to eat something before I do a session on a Saturday morning.

Sat 3rd Sep 5:42PM: 34:11 (5mi, 6:50/mi) – Easy out and back on the meadows.

Sun 4th Sep 8:51AM: 2:02.17 (18mi, 6:47/mi) – Long run, felt terrible as I did first 8mi on my own on the uffington loop, very humid and felt awful. Joined Philippa for rest of the run as she ran long the day before. Felt a million times better for rest of the run despite the wind, rain and humidity. Ran a lot of the run off road and felt strong towards the end.

Total Weekly Mileage – 97mi – Decent week, need to sort out the pacing on threshold runs though but hopefully will get better over the next few weeks.

W/C 05/09 – Idea to run another good week of mileage and to keep with the progressive runs. Doing Grunty Fen on the weekend and looking for a solid run in the region of 67:45 or 5:10s.

Mon 5th Sep 7:06AM: 36:44 (5.06mi, 7:15/mi) – Easy morning run measured some of the hills around the meadows to see suitability for hill training in the winter.

Mon 5th Sep 5:29PM: 96:42 (14.02mi, 6:53/mi) – Easy run with Philippa out to Pickworth via Casterton. Was only intending on doing 10mi but we got a bit carried away. Mostly offroad which was nice as it sheltered us from strong winds, felt good. Inc. 4 x 100m strides at 4:30/mi.

Tues 6th Sep 18:13PM: 68:19 (10.6mi, 6:26/mi) – Session of 1,2,3,4,4,3,2,1,3,2. Was really windy and we just ran the loop from track out and back along the river. Splits were 1:00(4:56/mi), 2:00 (4:49/m), 3:00 (4:50/mi), 4:00 (5:03/mi), 4:00 (5:06mi), 3:00 (5:13/mi), 2:00 (4:47/mi), 1:00 (4:21/mi), 3:00 (4:45/mi), 2:00 (4:40/mi). Ran fully into wind on the 4mins and 3mins where the pace was slower. Felt very strong. No morning run as I was at the NEC all day. Inc 3 x 13 secs strides at 3:55/mi.

Weds 7th Sep 7:29AM: 37:27 (5.16mi, 7:15/mi) – Easy run around Burghley and back, tired and windy.

Weds 7th Sep 17:25PM: 72:25 (10.54mi, 6:52/mi) – Run with Philippa out through Ketton offroad. Felt nice and controlled and good. 4 x 100m strides 4:30 to 4:10 pace.

Thurs 8th Sep 7:32AM: 36:20 (5.12mi, 7:06/mi) – Easy morning run on the out and back Burghley route, no problems.

Thurs 8th Sep 18:15PM: 63:42 (10.15mi, 6:16/mi) – Lactate Threshold run of 2mi, 1mi steady, 2mi. Out and back along the river with Steve splits of: 7:14, 6:36, 6:31, 5:10, 5:15, 6:39, 5:11, 5:15, 7:30, 7:00. Very windy once again and didn’t choose the best parts of the river path to do effort on. Ran on gravel over the bridge and into wind on the last one!

13:05 (1.76mi, 7:26/mi) – Easy cool down with Laura then a 3 x strides at 4:30 to 4:20 pace on the track.

Fri 9th Sep 7:24AM: 34:52 (5.0mi, 6:58/mi) – Easy out and back at Burghley again really didn’t want to wake up and run in the wind. 99% humidity this morning!

Fri 9th Sep 17:03PM: 68:42 (10mi, 6:52/mi) – Came home ill from work as couldn’t stop sneezing and had a head cold. Slept and felt better so went out in the humidity again. Felt Ok but not great.

Sat 10th Sep 11:23AM: 36:30 (5.12mi, 7:07/mi) – Easy run out and back in Burghley then 4 x 15 secs strides at 4:15 to 4:05 pace.

Sun 11th Sep 9:57AM: 17:00 (2.25mi) – Warm up for Half Marathon with Paul, Chris and Michael.

Sun 11th Sep 10:30AM: 70:31 (Grunty Fen Half, 5:21/mi) – Extremely windy and was in the lead from the gun, went through half in 35mins feeling easy and realised record wasn’t on so ran nice and controlled. Mile splits of 5:04, 39, 35, 14, 16, 13, 21, 23, 28, 26, 24, 19, 17, 4:52 pace for last 0.16. Was in comfort zone most of the way, only problem was tight right ITB because of the camber and wind blowing me into the gutter!!!

17:37 (2.15mi) Cool Down with Paul Halford, Chris Wright and Andrew Thake.

Total Weekly Mileage – 100mi – Another good week and happy with half marathon in such bad conditions. Feeling strong.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Summer is over... bring on XC

The track season has come to an end and to be honest I can't wait to get stuck into cross country. My track season didn't completley go to plan, but after a sluggish start I managed to get to a level where I feel I can now build from. The main reason for not running PBs was tiredness from the winter mileage, I went into the track season incredibly strong but lacking the raw speed necessary to run a decent 3000 or 5000. I spoke to my old coach, Mark Baddeley, in early June after a disastrous performance at the first British League in Exeter. He soon got me to reduce my mileage to around 80 miles a week and get three good sessions a week in the schedule. In hindsight, I think if I went to him in March to speak about this then I would probably be writing about how I had run some new PBs this summer, but as my Mum says "if ifs and buts were pots and pans there would be no need for tinkers!"

I may not have run anywhere near the times that I wanted to run on the track, but I have come away a more intelligent athlete after the problems I have experienced. I sort of got it into my head that more miles would be the solution to evertything and this is definitely not the case for me. Don't get me wrong I run well off high mileage and think that in the winter I will again be running up to 120 mile a week. But, to run fast on the track I need to be doing three hard sessions a week and the rest of my mileage to be easy and of course incorporate a rest day. It is hard for me to tell myself that having a day off running is beneficial, however having a Friday off for the last couple of months has been brilliant. It allows me to really get stuck in on a Thursday night in the knowledge that I can just relax the following day. It also means that I feel fresh when I do the tempo or longer session on the Saturday and can then hit the times that I have been set.

The summer has also taught me that I need to prioritise the races that I do, as I can not expect to run fast week in week out. I had a couple of England race opportunities this summer, dunfermline half marathon and berlin 10k, that I would have been stupid to turn down. They may not have been especially fast, Dunfermline being hilly and berlin being extremley windy and wet, but they were not ideal races when focussing on racing over 5000m. So, for the winter I have set a couple of target races in November and then only put in races that are either compulsory, road relays, or fit into my schedule in the lead up. Also knowing that these races in the lead up are not my priority lifts off some of the pressure as I know that I can't expect to run PBs at these races if they are simply just part of training. Again, this is not saying that I won't run PBs, but simply a good, fast race will just be seen as an added bonus to the training benefits I get from running.

I am off on holiday in the middle of the month, so I will use September as a month to take it a bit easier. The cross country season in this country is exremley long so if I want to run well from November through to early March then I need to build up sensibly and not rush into things. To be honest, I doubt whether I will do any hard sessions at all over the next four weeks and simply do some progression runs and a couple of tempos. The next race on the calendar is the midland road relays, which is the day after I get home from Greece. Hopefully, by then I will have some good steady miles in the legs and be feeling strong and ready to get stuck into the real cross country work.

Below is last weeks training (w/c 22/08) in which I slightly upped the mileage as I did intend to call the track season to an end at Watford on the wednesday.

Mon 7:18 AM: 41:16 (6.02mi, 6:51/mi) - Easy morning run around Burghley, horse xc course set out and immacuately cut so makes good running!
Mon 5:28 PM: 68:03 (10.16mi, 6:41/mi)- Easy run on Barnack loop, felt amazingly good and then had a massage after!

Tues 7:11 AM: 37:42 (5.18mi, 7:16/mi) - Easy morning run around Burghley, calves sore after the massage last night.
Tues 6:49 PM: 70:02 (10.02mi, 6:59/mi) - Easy run on Barnack loop.

Wed 7:18AM: 24:17 (3.3mi shakeout) - 3 mile easy and then a couple of strides before work ahead of 3000m tonight.
Wed 8:58PM: 25:57 (3.05mi w/u)
Wed 10:15PM: 8:27.73 (3000m RACE @ Watford) - Good solid race, despite the time it started! Fairly slow up to 2000 as we reached it in 5:41, so pleased to dip 8:30 of that sort of pace. Grice ran a sub-60 last lap to win in 8:21 and I was never going to have the legs to finish that fast.
Wed 10:30PM: 10:00 (1.15mi c/d)

Thurs 12:14PM: 36:59 (5.15mi, 7:11/mi) - Easy morning run, a bit later as I didnt get back till late from Watford.
Thurs 6:05 PM: 67:33 (9.52mi, 7:05/mi) - Ran from track with Steve Robinson, nice and easy along the river and back. Did 6 x 70m strides at the end.

Fri 12:22 PM: 36:05 (5.10mi, 7:05/mi) - Easy lunch time run at work, felt amazingly good!

Sat 7:25 AM: 18:57 (2.5mi shakeout) inc 2 x 16 sec strides.
Sat 3:26 PM: 19:00 (2.5mi w/u)
Sat 4:10 PM: 15:16 (5000 race) - absolute shocker, must have been tired from races on Weds and last Saturday. Felt heavy from onset and then got a massive stich when the lead group made a move at 2k. Really struggled to keep breathing and running, only finished it to get the points for the team!
Sat 4:30 PM: 15:00 (2.0mi c/d) - Did a lap of the grass by the stadium with Matt O'Dowd, hopefully be able to join the Loughborough group at weekends in the winter.

Sun 12:12PM: 2:02.05 (18.54mi, 6:35/mi) - Good long run after watching Mo in the 10000. Hit it harder than I should at the start, which was probably something to do with Mo running that 52 last lap. Was a bit windy out in the countryside, but all in all a good solid run.

Weekly Total: 89.29mi - Good solid week of mileage, but a disappointing finish to the track season. Felt I was in shape to run a PB of sub 14:30 but wasn't the time or race to do it in.

Below is the video of the 5000 the week before last in Birmingham, where I ran 14:43:

Watch more video of BMC Grand Prix Final on

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Running for England - Dunfermline Half 26th June

An England vest is something I have dreamed about ever since I started serious running at the age of 18. After the way racing has gone over the last few weeks and with results not matching my high expectations I could never of anticipated being selected for England. However, last Wednesday afternoon I received the call from Ian Ladbrooke at England Athletics informing me that I had been selected to run for England at Dunfermline Half Marathon. I am fully aware that others quicker than me turned down this opportunity, due to other commitments and with it being track season. However, despite the fact that I have cut the mileage recently, in the hope of getting some vibrancy back in the legs and chasing a 5000 pb, I wasnt prepared to follow suit. This was an opportunity that I could not turn down and to be honest I feel I am in much better half marathon shape than 5000 shape at the moment. Actually I have only spent two weeks at 80ish miles a week and in a strange way the half marathon date falls at what could be seen as the end of a taper!

My PB for the distance came in March at Wilmslow half, where we went off ridiculously hard and I just used my endurance to hang on and pick off a few guys over the last few miles. Since then I have added even more endurance and over the last week added a touch of speed that was horiffically lacking in my opening 3 and 5ks on the track. I had a long conversation with my coach a few weeks ago and we decided it was best to run 70-80mi a week for four weeks and get three good quality sessions in. Over the last two weeks this has gone really well and I have been feeling a lot better during training and the legs feel fresher for the cut backs. The Tuesday sessions, which is a track session of 10k volume, have really showed that I have not been putting in the required specific 5k pace to really get anywhere near my best. So hopefully, after the half I can get back onto the track and really start to aggressively hunt down my PBs.

Back to this weekend and I am really excited about making the trip up to Scotland to represent England. I think it is fantastic that England athletics are giving people like me the opportunity to race at this level and it really gives me the incentive to keep on trying to improve. I spoke to Craig, who was with me out in Portland, about the course and he said that it is testing to say the least. So, I'm not going up there with my eyes set on a big PB but rather on just doing a good job for the team and doing the best I can. I know the other guys in the England team on paper are perhaps a little quicker than me but I will give it my all to try and hang on with them and in the process beat the Scots!

Training week recently has been:
Mon am: Rest pm: 8mi steady (6:00 to 6:15pace) + 6 x 15sec strides
Tues am: 5mi easy pm: session (10k volume, 5/10k pace) eg. 4 x 1k at 2:55, 3 x 1mi at 4:55.
Weds am: Rest pm: 10mi easy (6:30 to 7:00pace) + 6 x 15sec strides
Thurs am: 5mi easy pm: session (up to 5k volume, 1500/3k pace) eg. 2x3x500m plus 5 x 200m
Fri: Rest Day
Sat am: session (tempo) eg. 6 x 1mi at half pace or 6mi tempo pm: 5mi plus 6 x 15sec strides
Sun: 15-18mi long run

Thursday, 26 May 2011

London 10000 and Track Season

I am still yet to get round to posting a training log, but will aim to get something up before the London 10000 next Monday. In short training has been encouraging and the last four weeks I have averaged 100mpw and trying to hit three key sessions a week. I have also increased the intensity of some of my steady runs in the hope of getting a bit more quality into my summer training. Next Monday I will be running in the London 10000 and am looking to take a big chunk off my PB. I cant believe how many people seem to be entered for the race, so hopefully we can see a few Brits run some decent times. The British individual and team prizes are a massive incentive and if it means that more Brits get out to do the same race then it can be only be a good thing for the sport.

The next few weeks are going to be busy and after the race in London, I will be doing a 3000, 5000 and 10000 in the space of two weeks. All going well at London I will probably run the open 3000 at Watford next Wednesday before racing 5000 for Notts at the British Athletics League meet in Exeter. Then it will be up to Stretford to have my first real crack at a 10000 on the track. Again, all going well there will be a fair few lads between 29:45 and 30:15 that should allow me to go close to breaking 30 mins, but we will see. The 5000 in Exeter should also be good as I will be running for Notts AC for the first time on the track with Ian Kimpton an ex-LWAC teammate who is running higher claim on the track for Notts. Ian is running really well this year after having an amazing cross country season and it is nice to see a lad who puts in a lot of hard work get some rewards.

I have set myself some pretty tough goals for the season, 8:15 - 3000, 14:15 - 5000 and 29:45 - 10000, but I think with a some real decent track work over the next few months these can be achieved. After all, I managed to smash the targets I set last year and I thought they were a pretty steep ask at the time. I realise that training on my own isn't ideal but in comparing my recent track sessions to the same sessions at the same point last year I have noticed that I am actually running faster this year. So, after a moderate track session tonight the idea is to ease down and get ready for some hard races in the coming weeks, which will hopefully see my PBs whittled down to somewhere near those targets.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Bi-annual blog update...

I just recieved a message from a friend via twitter asking for my 'bi-annual' blog update. It is fair to say that I have neglected blog posting updates for a long time and can ensure you that I will try to get my training up in the next few days. This will actually probably happen tonight as I have an easy day of running and the girlfriend is out, so maybe between football manager sessions I can be tempted to write some kind of update.

Running has been going well over the last few months and despite a cheeky little 3000 at Watford towards the end of April, I am yet to really start my track season. I intend to really open up in early June once I have got the London 10000 out of the way. I am hoping to really smash out a good 10k in London as I every time I have been fit in the last few years I have always not managed to pencil in a 10k road race. My PB for 10k is actually during the Wilmslow Half Marathon, where I think we went through 10k in 30:50ish, not the 30:25 or so that the official splits say! All going well at London I will come back with a decent new PB which is more representative of the time I can run over that distance, if I sneak under 30:30 I will be happy.

I have done quite a few road 10k's recently but not really attacked any of them with the goal of trying to run a PB. I ran at Kings Lynn in early May and managed to win the race in 31:25 on a windy day and after having broke clear from Adrian Mussett at 7k. I was hoping to run a bit quicker there but after the race started in to head wind I quickly opted after the first k to let someone else lead. The pace then dipped somewhat and I think I may have even ran a negative split as I had plenty left to give.

I then attempted to run a 10k tempo at Eye the other week and was greeted with some more insane wind. After running a couple of 5:35 miles during miles 2 and 3, when I was almost flat out, it soon became clear even a 32:30 time would be hard-work. I didnt even manage to dip 33 mins in the end, but still got a workout from it.

Last weekend, I made my annual trip back home to Woodbridge to see family and run in my home town Woodbridge 10k. I love this event and held the course record, from my run in last years event. I managed to knock another 15 secs off it this year, winning in 31:30 on what is a tough, hilly course with litte or no competition. It is a pity that the race always falls on the same weekend as Manchester 10k as looking at some of the times from up there, I would have loved to get amongst the pack and crack out a decent time.

Anyway I should probably get back to work and training and crack on with another 100 mile week!


Friday, 4 February 2011

Swimming and the Wind ... What a joke.

I have had a busy day today running 21 miles, doing some gym stuff and going for a swim, well if you can call it that! I am so bad at swimming its unreal, as I am out of breath after two lengths. The missus who can only run a couple of miles can do the same in the pool and not even be out of breath. I really don't get it, I'm thinking its because my technique is so bad but to be honest I don't care as I hate it. People say running is boring but seriously they would rather go into a pool, swallow loads of water and swim up and down the same 25m for half an hour? Jokers, Rather them than me, you just cant beat a good run even if the wind is gusting up to 50mph outside.

So, back to the running, I looked outside the window and from the looks of trees bending over double I decided a session of 1 mile, 2 mile, 3 mile, 2 mile, 1 mile was out of the question. Unless I ran with the wind for the entirety of the session and did a cool down of the same length back into the wind, I think I'll give that a miss then. In fact it reminded me of a few years back when I did a 10k on Mablethorpe promanade and the 5k back was all into a gale force wind, fun times.

I wasn't prepared to do any sort of run all on my own so I text Sam Mitchell, who was doing eight miles, and said I would jog out to his and attempt my 18 mile long run instead. The idea behind this is that I would then do a race on Sunday, a five mile local cross country, to make up for missing the session today. Anyway, the run was interesting to say the least and for the first time the wind actually was blowing me off my feet. Yes, I know that this should be expected when you way 9 stone wet through, but this is the first time that I actually couldn't run into the direction the wind was blowing. Decided to put the ipod on in the 10 miles I wasn't with Sam, listening to the latest installment from Marathon Talk to block out the noise of the wind. This week featured a Ron Hill interview, It is really inspiring to hear a guy who worked full time yet still produced some truly amazing results simply by putting in the graft, my sort of guy. Here are the details of the run:

9:52 AM: 2:03:31 (18.0mi, 6:52/mi) Mile splits were: 6:53, 6:46, 6:46, 7:20, 6:42, 6:43, 7:02, 7:05, 7:06, 7:13, 6:49, 6:54, 6:44, 6:56, 6:38, 6:40, 6:34, 6:32 - All this really shows is that when we had to run into the wind slightly we went above 7 minute mileing and when we came out of it we were too tired to do anything quicker!

Then this evening I decided to spend some quality time with Jenny by ... going down the gym. Only because I wanted to get another few miles done without going out in the wind and she agreed after I said we could get Chinese on the way back. I did three miles on the treadmill at 6:55/mi which felt nice and easy and allowed my legs to recover a bit. I definitely know I am coming back into some fitness as even after doing 21 miles today I feel pretty good and ready to race at the weekend, actually I'm really looking forward to it. Did some core exercises and 'stretched' while the missus did her 'routine' and then went for that ridiculous swim. I put stretched in quotation marks as for those who don't know me I am possibly the tightest athlete in the world. This was confirmed to me by an American physio stating that I had the tightest hamstrings in the US, after being repeatedly told by physios in England "They're the tightest things I have ever seen." This all means that my stretches, despite my effort, look quite ridiculous as I force my legs into positions that they really were not built to be pushed into. I wish I could become a bit more flexible and from reading Bryn's blog it seems he has had some success in this department, but I stretch twice a day and I really never see any improvements. The sauna was decent though and ate half a duck from the Chinese, great way to spend a Friday evening who says runners are no fun!

Back in the UK

It's been a while since I have posted anything, the main reason being that I have returned to the UK for good and have been busy sorting things out now I am home. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the US, even if it was only three months. The racing and training experience was invaluable and I would recommend it to any young athlete who wants the help and support that simply isn't available in the UK.

However, I do advise that any such athlete wanting to embark on such an adventure would secure a full scholarship at the university they attend unless they have thousands of pounds worth of savings. This is because financial worries, however small, seem a lot bigger when you are thousands of miles from home and have to pay for things such as accommodation and food. The reaction I often get to this is why didn't you get a job? Well in short, a student visa only allows you to work on campus except for extreme situations. Due to the fact I flew out to the States days before the start of term all the jobs on campus had been taken and the jobs I had arranged prior to going were non-existent. I did not want to borrow any more money from my family as I had already had to do this when I was an undergraduate and felt selfish continually asking for more money. This lack of money meant that I had to live like a first year student again and wasn't as comfortable as I had intended to be. These things start to escalate when you have things like a girlfriend back home and all add up and soon I found myself just wishing to be back home. I believe if I had been offered a full scholarship I would have at least stayed a year in the states and got to run the track season as well.

But I don't want to moan and sound like it was awful as this is certainly not the case. I had a fantastic time out there and met some brilliant people. The coach in Portland was one of the nicest guys I have ever met and if you're reading this and are capable of adding something to his team then drop me an email and ill put you in touch. The training out there is a different class, simply having ten guys around you of a similar ability and another twenty chasing behind you keep you on your toes. It is definitely a setup where any runner would improve, but sadly it is half way round the world and not on our doorstep. I wish that somewhere in the UK we could replicate this system and have groups of 15-20 athletes living and training together and being offered free kit and physio to help them financially. It is sad to think that all the money that is being wasted in this country could actually be put to some good use and then maybe we might start competing with progressive running nations like America again.

I realised that I never blogged about the nationals in Indiana, one word, INSANE! The pace the race is run at is unreal and the fact that David McNeil, a guy who finishes 8th at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in the 5000 and a 10k PB of 28:03, can blow up and finish 150th odd. From my time and position it looks like I didn't have a great race, but oddly this wasn't the case. I actually crossed the finishing line thinking Ive ran well today and thought I couldn't have gave anymore than I did. Maybe my legs were a little tired from a busy cross country season and perhaps I had raced a few too many times in the season. But, I was pretty pleased as I felt a lot better than I did on the same course a few months before.

The course may not look too tough on first looks, but I can tell you it is brutal. The gun goes off and you sprint for about 600m up a gradual incline before heading down hill to the 1k marker. I got myself in a fairly good position with Craig Hopkins and I think we went through the 1k in about 2:52/3 from memory. You then enter a long straight way and floods of runners flew past me and at this point I didn't realise I had lost so many places and was slipping to the back of the field. While I'm talking about the depth of the field I will just mention that there are around 260 runners who all are capable of running sub 30:30 for 10'000, unbelievable depth.

Anyway, people were flying past me and I went through the 2k in 6:04 as we turned into a very strong headwind. From this point you are gradually running back up the hill all the way to the 5k point and start of the second lap and it was all into the wind. I worked hard to maintain my pace into the wind and as I went through 5k in 15:49 I was feeling strong and now passing quite a few people. I think I would have passed a lot more on the long straight past the finish (start of second lap) but I had to keep tucking in to shelter from the wind. The weather was bizarre for the race as it is usually freezing cold by all accounts and was in the days leading up to the race. However, come race day it was I think about 17 degrees (in English money) with very strong winds, which typically were in your face going back up the gradual inclines.

By, this point I was now Portland's 5th scorer and therefore key to helping our team finish as high as possibly (five out of seven in the team count to the team score). I had passed Frerker and Craigo was now not on my heels so I just kept pressing on passing more and more runners. I pushed on back down the hill and managed to take my second duck (an Oregon runner, Portland's bitter rivals) in the afternoon, NCAA x country is duck hunting season after all. I hit 8k in 25:33 and then all of a sudden my legs started to feel heavy and I just battled my way to the finish. The finish is tough in itself as you can see the finish line as you turn the final bend but still have about 800m to run. There were some funny sights of runners who just couldnt make the finish line and apparently people watching the race observed about the amount of runners who staggered across the line, brutal. I managed to cross the line in a kind of respectable 32:06 for 197th and 5th man on the team and helped the lads to a 13th pace finish overall.

Basically, I believe that a lack of experience in this standard of field cost me a good thirty to forty seconds. I think if I would have pushed on at a 1k and stayed near the top 100 then I would have maintained that position. I neglected the quality of some of the runners in the field by thinking they will all come back to me, where in truth even if some in front were hanging on they had already got themselves in a better position than me. The wind didn't help my tactics as it was difficult to pass people the latch onto the next group as the wind was ferocious at times. But, all I can say is that it was an amazing experience and a fantastic way to end my time in the states. Portland would have almost certainly got a top 4 spot if we could have had a full strength team out on the day, as my 5th score would have probably been better by almost 130 places! Hopefully, next year the lads can achieve what they deserve as I can say for a fact that the hard work and effort that everyone put in for the whole season was second to none and deserving of a podium spot.

Back in England things haven't gone as well as I had hoped as coming back in sub 30:30 shape I hoped to have a race on the roads around Christmas. But with Ribble Valley and Southwell being cancelled this sadly never materialised and then to top it off I got a chest infection which kept me off running for three weeks. However, I'm back 'getting it done' again and have had nearly four good weeks of mileage again and starting to feel like I am in some shape. I decided to give the Northerns a miss last weekend and glad I did after seeing the mudbath from a spectators position. I plan to get the training diary up in a few days and will go into more detail about my racing plans for the next few months, just back from a ridiculously windy 18 miler!