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2012 Review part 2

VLM 2012

VLM 2012

So, on to the big one, the VLM. I so much prefer the low key nature of local club races – turn up 20 mins before the start, safety pins in hand to collect your number, a small jog to the start, then bang, off you go. Therefore, I was dreading all the faff that goes with the VLM. You “have” to make a weekend of it, as they don’t post your number out. Instead you have to go to the tat market, sorry, Expo, to collect it in person, by 5pm the day before. Then there is the start area – I find the five thousand people at Wilmslow Half a faff, so I wasn’t looking forward to the ten thousand that would be at my start line (VLM has three different start lines, which converge after about 2 miles, which helps ease congestion). Nor having to negotiate TFL tubes and trains to get out to Greenwich.

Wilmslow 2012

Wilmslow 2012

However, the organisers have it down cold, and in the end it wasn’t too much hassle. Number pick up was dead quick, though the tat market was what you would expect, full of merchandising crap, or high street shops/brands offering the sort of discount you can easily get by shopping online. Probably worth it for relatively new runners, but a waste of time for a cynical veteran (hah!) such as me. The special trains were on time, and dead easy to find, and the starting areas were well laid out, and relatively queue free.

The race itself is a bit of a blur. I started out going slightly faster than planned, but whereas Chester last year felt merely comfortable, this was definitely easy pace. Not that that was much of a comfort, as I was paranoid that I was going out too fast. Looking back at my splits, I was. 8:20/8:11/7:59/8:14 for the first 4 miles was a touch too fast. But then, London is know for having a fast start (it’s net downhill). My pace settled in at 8:30-8:35 for the next 7 miles. This section weaves its way through residential areas, and the support from the houses and flats overlooking the routes was amazing. I put in a burst of speed from miles 12-15, taking me down to 8:15-8:20 pace. This took me over Tower Bridge, and into the Isle of Dogs. The atmosphere going over the bridge was electric (and this is coming from a cynic). Just after the bridge we hit the out and back part of the route, which (by the time I got there) had the second string Elite athletes coming back towards us. Seeing the British boys fighting for their Olympic places extended the mental boost from Tower Bridge, well into the back 9 of the course.

Llandudno Tri 2012

Llandudno Tri 2012

My times on the back portion of the course varied quite a bit, as my mood and energy levels fluctuated. Mile 19 was the slowest at 8:47, but mile 20 was 7:33 to compensate, and mile 24 was my quickest of the day at 7:28 – at this point I realised that going sub 3:40 was a real possibilty, and I tried to up the pace with “only a parkrun” to go, but ultimately I couldn’t keep it going to the end. The last 1.2 miles were quite painful, as I could feel cramping in my quads coming on. I wanted to push on, but was slowing all the time. In the end I finished on a high with a 19 minute PB of 3:41:57!

Llandudno Tri 2012

Llandudno Tri 2012

I took a week off to recover from the VLM, although with hindsight, I should have at least done some swimming. And then it was back into it with my first “Club” 10, which is like an Open, but you don’t have to pre-enter, you pay on the day. Riding alongside me were GBs Andy Tennant and future London 2012 Gold Medalist Ed Clancy. Needless to say they both smoked me.

3 weeks after VLM, I wanted to put my winter running volume to good use, and had a proper crack at lowering my 5K PB. I returned to Sheffield parkrun (as I’ve found this to be the course I go quickest on locally) and knocked another 20 secs off with a 20:40. The following day was the Wilmslow Sprint Tri. The run leg was changed this year, and was slightly longer, but baring that in mind, I swam, biked and ran quicker than last year, finishing 94 of 429. This race was dubbed the unofficial Man Tri Sprint Championship due to the large number of Man Triers taking part.

Llandudno Tri 2012

Llandudno Tri 2012

Back to Time Trialling. Manchester Wheelers (whom I’m also a member of) run their Club 10s on a Monday evening, which means that I usually can’t race them. However, during the Whit Half Term I raced back to back Mondays, slightly lowering my “10” time by 6 secs on the first one, but then smashing a whole minute off it on the second, to give me a PB of 27:40. The following day saw me take my first stab at a “25”, organised by Congleton Cycling Club and Macclesfield Wheelers. The weather was awful, and I did a disappointing 1:18:18. 3 weeks later, I was back at their second “25” and knocked 3 minutes off the time, in better conditions, with a 1:15:29. Not great, but then I know I have a lot of work to do.

Next up was Llandudno Sea Triathlon. This year the weather was much better, and it was run as a full triathlon. My split positions highlighted what I already knew, 21st out of water, 110th on the bike, and 43rd on the run out of 122. That said, it was a great day, and I really enjoyed it. I possibly won’t go back and do it again until I’m much better on the bike, as all the climbing really penalises me, but I’m glad I got to race it as a “triathlon” so I could tick it off the list.

City of Manchester 10K

City of Manchester 10K

The day after Llandudno was the City of Manchester 10K. I don’t think this course likes me. Although I was undoubtedly feeling the effects of Llandudno the day before, I was disappointed by my performance. I finished in 44:54 for a solid time (my second quickest in fact), but I know I could have gone quicker. Midweek saw the return of Round the Reser. I had high hopes of setting a new 5mile PB, but I made the rookie error of positioning myself took far back at the start. The initial part of the course is downhill, on an uneven road, artificially narrowed by all the competitors parked cars. My splits show that I was 40secs slower over the first mile than I was the previous year, and despite running the rest of the race quicker, I just couldn’t make up those 40secs, which would have been enough to take my 5 mile PB below 37mins, on a hilly course.

Chester Deva 2012

Chester Deva 2012

The end of the week was the Chester Deva Tri. Chester has a good local reputation, and along with it being one of the 3 qualifying races for the World Champs in New Zealand, saw a packed and stacked field. A number of fellow Man Triers had good races, qualifying for New Zealand. I, however, had a shocker. The swim is mainly with the current in the Dee, so I did the 1500m in less than 20mins for a decent start to the day. However, for some reason, I just couldn’t get warm on the bike. It wasn’t a particularly cold day, but I just couldn’t warm myself up. About half way through the bike, stomach cramps kicked in, and I mental gave up, and was even toying with the possibility of DNFing. In the end I zipped up the mansuit and finished, but I jogged in the 10K, treating it as a training run.

In hindsight, I was probably fatigued from racing too much. Which is amusing/worrying given my provisional schedule for the coming year. That said, some of the races I’m signed up for are bucket list races, such as Blenhiem, and how I’m feeling on the day will dictate whether I race them or complete them.

Chester put me in a real funk, triathlon wise. I let the bike and swim training slide completely. I had thoughts of running the Chester Marathon in October (but ultimately didn’t), so I kept the run volume up, and in doing so lowered my 5K PB by another 3 secs to 20:37 at a Sale Sizzlers event. I also returned to the Gravy 6 race, which I missed in 2011 because it clashed with Llandudno. The Gravy 6 is my favourite race of the year, mainly because it starts at the bottom of my road – literally  300m from my front door – and is run over the trails that I train on 80% of the time.

Another disruption to my training was spending a lot of August away with the Scouts. Firstly there was 10 days in Holland, and then a long weekend in London. Whilst in Holland I did manage a couple of sneaky runs, and we also did some mountain biking. I got back into my running groove in London though, going out for at least 5 miles each day.

Thames Turbo 2012

Thames Turbo 2012

I had to leave the camp early as I had to go back to work, but as I was down in London anyway, I decided to get in one final cheeky tri before I came back. Thus, I did the Thames Turbo Sprint Tri on August Bank Holiday Monday. This turned out to be an excellent decision as it was a real ego booster for me, and was the spur to get me back in the pool in September. The Thames Turbo races are started as individual time trials. Each person sets off with a 10 sec gap, and does 12 lengths of the 36m pool, ducking under the lane rope into the next lane after every two lengths. This made the swim 432m. My swim was poor, the walls were slippery, and I messed up every turn (yes, every single one). I started doing tumbles, and then changed to touch turns, but neither worked well. On the last length I whacked my hand on the kiddies slide that was slightly overhanging the pool edge, to complete my pool misery. However, my bike spilt was much better. Whilst it wasn’t by any means, good, I was very happy with it. I felt comfortable throughout (unlike Chester) and had a good tussle with a guy in front of me. He was quicker on the acceleration  and held his nerve better through corners, giving him the jump on me every time we had a sharp corner, or had to slow down for some reason. However, once we got onto a straight, I could “put the power down” (hah) and would take the place back. The run was through Bushy park (where I had done the mothership parkrun two days before), and I ran it only 30 secs slower than I did the parkrun, making up quite a few places in the process.

Thames Turbo 2012

Thames Turbo 2012

September saw me finally pull out of the funk that Chester had put me in. Although I didn’t do so until right near the end. My running hit it’s lowest volume it had done since 2010, with only 37 miles for the month. To put that into context, I was running 35 miles a week at the beginning of the year in preparation for VLM. My return to swim training was painful, with me being shelled out the back of the lane that back in May/June I was leading. Thankfully it didn’t take my swim speed too long to come back.

October and November saw my first forays into Cross Country since I was at school, many moons ago. I hated Cross Country then, and I still kinda do now. I changed my EA running affiliation from Stockport Harriers (whom I joined when I first started running but with whom I’ve never really done anything other than run under their name) to MTC so that I could join the guys in the Manchester Area Cross Country League. The races are tough, tough, tough, and whilst local club road races only seem to attract a handful of the fast boys at each race, the MACCL meets seem to attract all the speedsters, leaving me well and truly bring up the rear. The races are damn good work outs, and the pain is more than made up for by the cake at the end.

Stockport 10 2012

Stockport 10 2012

My last race of the year (Christmas Day parkrun aside) was the Stockport 10. I woke up the Friday before with an aching back and shoulders, and feeling a bit run down – usually tell tale signs that I’m going to be ill over  the next few days. I skipped the parkrun on the Saturday as I didn’t want to tempt fate, and by Sunday morning, I was feeling OK. Not great, but OK. The race went smoothly, in near perfect conditions, cool and overcast, but not freezing cold like it had been all week. I knocked 30 secs off my PB, which wasn’t bad considering my training over the second half of the year.

2012 had some real highs, but also, for the first time, some lows as well. Up until this year, I’d not had a major race go badly for seemingly no reason. There had been weekly parkruns where I’d just not “felt it”, and races run in hot conditions where a PB performance was never really on the cards. But Chester was the first race where I’d just been off form, and it threw me for a while.

I’ve got some interesting things planned for 2013. A number of Sprint Tris, 3 Olys, 2 Halfs (!!), at least 2 Half Marathons, and 2 full Marathons only a month apart (Manchester and Edinburgh). Plus more Cross Country, the usual club road races, and a parkrun or two – only 18 to go until I get my 100 Club t-shirt.

Posted in Cycling, Running, Triathlon.



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