Posts Tagged ‘Andrew’


what did I do before
I discovered you
and the joy you bring me
in piecing together
the jigsaw in my mind
so that the world makes sense
and is no longer
a jumbled mess
of thoughts and ideas
floating around
a bottomless pit
but something
I can feel
make sense of
gives meaning to my world
lets me face the future
with renewed confidence
and believe in myself
my abilities, my talents
to be the best I can be
today, tomorrow, forever


It is now Wednesday and I have had time to reflect on the Huddersfield Half Marathon which together with three of my fellow runners from Queensbury Running Club I ran in on the Sunday just gone.

 

The day started warm but overcast and this filled me with confidence as the Huddersfield Half is one of the toughest half marathons in the country and a lack of sunshine would save valuable energy for the climbs that the route is renowned for and prevent the possible onset of dehydration in the later stages of the race.

I was picked and soon all four of us were on our way to Huddersfield YMCA, New Hey Road. Luckily for us there was someone in the car who had a vague idea of where we were going otherwise we could still be driving round Ainley Top now looking for the YMCA!

At the YMCA we were pleasantly surprised to find a low key affair with relatively few runners around which made for a relaxed atmosphere and runners and supporters alike able to move around freely and not worry about bumping and jostling each other. We had also arrived in plenty of time which again added to the relaxed feel of the event and enabled us to pick up our numbers and take photos at our leisure.

Outside the temperature was slowly raising and our fears of a hot run began to come back to haunt us as we took to the sparse starting line. For a large town like Huddersfield this seemed to be a small scale affair but this added to the charm of the event.

And we were off! A nice gentle downhill start through the suburbs surrounding the YMCA. I watched as my fellow Queensbury runners went off at a decent pace into the distance and remembered that this was a half marathon and not a sprint and as a slow starter I would have plenty of time to get into my rhythm and stride and maybe even catch some of the other Queensbury runners up.

Soon we were out of the housing estate and into open countryside. I have never been to this area of Yorkshire but it is beautiful and stunning in equal measure and even as you run through it you have time to have the odd glance and look in awe at the sheer magnificence of Gods Own County.

And to the first steep descent. I love running downhill as fast as I can and seeing how fast I can go before I fall and lose some skin and blood to the unforgiving tarmac. Today I was fortunate not to fall as fast as I was running and I soon made up places on other runners and was sure I could see some of the other Queensbury runners not too far ahead of me.

What goes down must come up! Sure enough I was soon at the bottom of the first steep climb and being mindful that I had not been feeling 100% all week and did not know the area I opted to take the sensible option and walk up the climb as fast as I could. This proved to be a sensible option as this climb meandered its way up the valley and whilst not as steep as the infamous Trooper Lane in Halifax was considerably longer and took just as much, if not more out of you because of its length.

Near the top was the welcome sight of a water station and mindful of the ever hotter conditions I stopped and took a cup of water. Usually I will grab a cup and sip some as I run but knowing that this course was tough, physically and mentally and feeling the sweat starting to run down my forehead into my eyes I decided to take on board as much fluid as I could rather than risk the onset of thirst and dehydration later on in the race.

I set off again knowing I had lost valuable time at the water station and began to climb again when a man came out of nowhere and gave me a bottle of Lucozade, muttered something and run back to his car! I looked at the bottle, checked it had not been tampered with, although why anyone would want to stop me running when I would be just happy to finish is beyond me. But this thought did flash through my mind and having satisfied myself I could drink this Lucozade I carried on.

At the next water station because of my Lucozade I was able to carry on straight past it and make up some time. This allowed me to put some space between myself and the heavy breathing woman behind me which gave my ears some much needed respite! And so began the descent towards the M62 before the climb towards Scammonden Dam.

I had seen the climb as I descended and had already made up my mind to walk up it rather than run as I didn’t know the route and was unsure what lay ahead of me. At the bottom of the climb I slowed to a decent walking pace and took on some much needed fluids. The heavy breathing woman who I had left behind had now caught me up and she was much stronger on the hills on the day than I was. So rather than risk wasting much needed energy racing her for no purpose I watched her slowly go into the distance and leave me behind as I made my way up the climb.

I finished my ascent and there was Scammonden Dam bathing in glorious summer sunshine. I was filled with renewed energy and began to up my pace and pull away from the pack of runners who has caught me up and were now my competitors. This was fun until it happened. My feet began to ache. Not just one of but both and all over. It felt as if I had blisters all over my feet and the bones in my feet had collapsed. This was a new pain for me and something I had not prepared for. How can you?

But I pushed on in the hope that the pain would subside but it got steadily worse. Turning right towards Golcar I saw a sign for Scapegoat Hill and my new found enthusiasm evaporated as the realisation of climbing another hill this time with painful feet hit home. I carried on and was soon rewarded with yet another stunning view of the Yorkshire countryside resplendent in glorious sunshine as the road flattened out and I was able to relax slightly and enjoy running for what it is and forget that I was racing.

This didn’t last long as a lady came up on my shoulder and for a mile or so we kept pace with each other going as fast as we could, following each twist and turn in the road, each undulation, me not daring to look behind me in case I lost those valuable seconds that can make the difference between winning and losing.

The road began to drop steeply into Golcar and I speeded up despite the pain in my feet and toes getting worse. I was passing people who had passed me now and enjoying running down through the streets of Golcar. Some people were even clapping and cheering us on our way and offering jelly babies to boost our flagging energy levels, which was a lovely touch and made our effort feel appreciated and respected.

And then I got to the bottom of the final climb. I already knew that the finish was uphill but for a first timer running the race nothing could prepare you for it. I grossly underestimated how long it was and at first I was running up it, in pain and at a slow pace but I was running. Parts of the hill were shaded by trees giving us all a welcome respite from the midday sun.

The climbing continued up and up and up. It seemed relentless, going on forever. I looked at my watch and there wasn’t far to go yet I was still climbing, feeling as if I was as far away from the end of the race as I was at the beginning. I was in agony with my feet now and the thought of just stopping there and then briefly crossed my mind. But I knew it would be a shame to stop now, so near to the finish and I remembered some encouraging words a friend of mine had said to me and this spurred me on despite the pain I was enduring with my feet.

I was walking now and everybody had stopped racing each other and were saying words of encouragement and support to each other instead. As a group of runners we had come together and all we wanted to do was conquer this hill and finish this race. Beating someone to the finish line didn’t matter anymore. All we wanted to beat was this hill and the inner demons telling us we couldn’t do it and we should stop.

And we had done it. We had got to the top of this seemingly never ending climb to be greeted by a cheery old man sat on a bench telling us the finish and relief was only round the corner through a small underpass.

I went through the underpass and was greeted by the sight of some downhill at last! My legs had nothing left in them but I put a spurt on as best as I could and soon the marshals were in sight directing us to the finish.

I rounded a corner and two of my fellow runners were there waiting for me, offering words of encouragement to go as fast as I could. I duly obliged and used up the last ounce of strength in me to give everyone a grandstand finish.

And then it was over. I crossed the finish line in an official time of 2:21:06, 40 seconds off my PB for a half marathon. On a course considerably tougher than my previous half marathon I was proud of this. The Huddersfield Half is a tough race but it is one that gives you an immense sense of satisfaction and achievement and makes you a tougher runner mentally and physically. I highly recommend this race to anyone who wants to challenge themselves as a runner and a person and just prove to themselves what they are really capable of.


darkness goes
replaced by light
trails dry out
grass beckons me
as water flees
sun light energises
body and mind
as I look up
to my inspiration
and begin my
ascent to nirvana


Last Saturday 28th May I got an email for my sprint coach asking if I would like to represent Bradford and District in the Regional Finals of the Special Olympics on June 26th at Sheffield. I qualify for the Special Olympics because I have a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome and have elected to run the 100m, 200m and possibly 400m.

To say I was surprised is an understatement as I have not done any track sessions in the past six weeks and as anyone who has run on the track will know it is very different to running on the road especially if you are running the short sprints as they are all about explosive power in short bursts with no second chances to redeem yourself if you have a bad start.

My shock soon turned into a feeling of pride at being asked and then apprehension at how I would approach the event mentally. I’m quite happy with my physical form at the moment and enter races knowing I won’t place but still with the intention of doing my best and enjoying myself.

With the sprint competition I have a chance of doing well as I will be competing against runners of a similar ability so much of my chances of doing well will rest on how I approach the event mentally.

Where to start though when you are looking for inspiration? Do you look on the net at the thousands of articles written by coaches and champions or do you look for something closer to home written by someone you have met and can relate to?

One person I have met through running is Ben Mounsey. Ben is a rising star on the fell and mountain running scene but someone who is down to earth with it and always willing to share his knowledge and experience of running and competing with everyone. Ben has written several blogs about his running experiences detailing his successes and failures and most importantly his approach to competing.

These blogs are extremely helpful as they give you an insight into the mind of an elite level runner who is a dedicated and determined winner and every runner of any ability can learn much from them if they have a desire to improve their personal performance and push themselves a little bit further.

One article had stuck in my mind that Ben had wrote called, ‘How to Become a Mountain Lion in 10 Easy Steps’. Here Ben details the changes he has made to his life in going from a top club runner to an international star. This includes tips on training, nutrition and equipment but importantly for me mental attitude.

This article is very useful as although it is written from the perspective of a fell runner it can be adopted to any form of running including sprinting.

Equipment is important and sprinters wear special spikes as many of you will know. I’ve never worn spikes so at this stage it is probably too late to change for this competition but in the future spikes will be on my list.

Nutrition is important in all forms of sport and for the next 3 weeks I will be following a high protein diet with plenty of fruit and veg. This is to ensure I have the muscle I need to maximise my explosive power off the line and be able to sustain that power all the way to the finish line. 200m is a long way when you’re going at full speed from the start!

And whilst I have lost a considerable amount of weight through running for this competition I need to strip away as much body fat as I can so all alcohol and fast food is out until after the event. If anyone needs a lift just ask! The leaner I am the faster and more efficient I will be.

How you train is important and as with Ben I will be running up hills to build muscle, power and endurance. I may not do as Ben does and storm up Trooper Lane but living in Queensbury I have plenty of hills to choose from to run up again and again and again.

I will also be on the track practising sprinting but also visualising what I am going to do on my run, where I will put the power down and where I expect to be going at full speed and pushing myself beyond my limits. Visualisation is another technique Ben recommends in order to maximise your run especially when you are competing.

I’m hoping that all this will enable me to perform at my very best on the day and whether I finish first or last I will know that I have done my best in my preparations and performed to the best of my ability and achieved more than I could ever dream about two years ago.

Whilst I will never reach the elite level Ben is at I can apply the techniques Ben has adopted in order to maximise my potential and be the best sprinter and runner I can be. And it is easier to be inspired by someone you have met and can relate to rather than someone who you only see on the TV every now and again.

Here is a link to Ben’s article if you want to read it: https://www.google.co.uk/#q=10+easy+steps+to+becoming+a+mountain+lion

 


Last night, Tuesday 24th May saw the second round of the Yorkshire Veterans Athletics Association Grand Prix competition at West Park, Leeds. This is my first time competing in the Grand Prix and all of the courses are new and unfamiliar to me so this is not only a test of my running ability but also my ability to run fast on unfamiliar territory.

We arrived in plenty of time and met up with some of the other runners from Queensbury Running Club. After a brief chat we made our way up to the course, around half a mile from the pub that was the race base for the night. Once at the course we went for a warmup and to familiarise ourselves with the course which is held in a public park.

Time soon went and on a cool, spring evening in Leeds it was time to get the race under way. The race director spent what seemed forever explaining the route and emphasising how our trail and road running shoes would do considerably more damage to the football pitches than twenty four pairs of football boots with longer studs! This amused many of us as we tried to work out how we could cause more damage but the threat of immediate disqualification meant we took it seriously and were more concerned with stepping on the football pitches than the race itself!

The starter set us off and set off at a reasonable pace. I have learnt that pacing yourself and running your race is essential. Getting caught up in a race with others especially at the start can cause you problems especially later on in the race when you need strength for a good finish.

The course meandered round a field in order to split the runners up and I get into a comfortable rhythm, concentrating on pacing myself and not worrying about some other runners I recognised getting away from me. It was far too early in the race to chase people down. That was for later if we were near each other.

After the field we entered the woods and one of my favourite surfaces trail. With trail you still have to concentrate on where you are going but you can also get plenty of speed on as well which isn’t always possible on the moors and fells. The trail snaked its way through the woods and began a gentle uphill climb round the other side of the park.

By now I established my position in the race and was beginning to keep up a good pace and pass people. Running over the moors and fells teaches you to look for spots where you can put your feet down safely, but keep moving swiftly. This experience becomes invaluable when racing on trials where the passing places can be small and you have to be quick.

Rounding the far side of the park I saw the familiar shape of one of competitors. She is very good and a tough, determined runner who never gives up. I knew I would have to be at my best and more to catch her never mind pass her!

I kept plugging away but the gap between us seemed to widen if anything. I felt a bit disheartened but kept going. I was maintaining a good pace and enjoying myself. So what if I didn’t pass her? It was not the end of the world.

We went through the final bit of woodland and then through the other side I was right behind her to my surprise! I wasn’t sure if she had made a mistake or had simply started to run out of steam but she heard me coming up behind and graciously told me to go past her and go for it!

By now I had found some serious pace. I’ve no idea where it came from but my stats on Strava confirmed it too. My final mile was my fastest by a long way but it very nearly wasn’t. At the start I had been warned about the finish being deceiving. You come out of the woods up the field and you think you’re on the finish straight but you’re not.

As I came fast up the field expecting to sprint to the finish I suddenly realised I had to make a right turn and go back down and around the field! I had passed a younger competitor on the corner and now I was fearing that he would be right behind me and go pass me at any time now.

But my fears were unfounded. I was flying now and not only did I make the pass stick but I also passed another runner on the finish straight and nearly caught another on the line!

All in all I am very happy with my performance. A time of 44:37 for five miles of trial was a lot better than I was hoping for at the start of the race and is well below my 10k PB pace. I was pleased with myself as I kept pushing all the way and even when I felt I couldn’t catch my fellow runner I still kept going and never gave up.

I’m really looking forward to the next race at Kirkstall next Tuesday and hoping that my legs are still feeling good as I need to do a long run in preparation for the Huddersfield half marathon on Sunday 6th June.

 


bridges fill in gaps
that appear in evolution
and stop the sands of time
from escaping to the stars


watching people crossing
the bridge of life
going back and forth
so easily, so freely
and i stand here looking
for the path that will
lead me to that bridge
and onto the path i desire


As I sit here writing this blog, I am reflecting on a very successful Dewsbury 10k and feeling the pain in my legs which is a constant reminder of how much effort I did put into the race.

The Dewsbury 10k is a flat and fast course. This in running terms at least translates into a gentle incline for the first 5k, followed by a gentle decline for the next 5k back towards the start/finish. Although it is flat it doesn’t mean it is easy to run. As I have learnt in my short time running, many of these terms can have a slightly different meaning in running circles and lull the new runner into a false sense of security. Flat and fast, as I now know means the incline cancels out the decline so overall it’s flat and it’s fast on the decline section!

A chilly but still and clear winters day greeted around 1,300 runners and this made it perfect conditions for running and going for a Personal Best (PB) over 10k. As we gathered at the start waiting for the announcer to finish his talk which was threatening to be even longer than the race would take for many, I ran through my race plan, remembering what the other, more experienced runners at my club, Queensbury, had told me.

Steady over the first 5k then go for it. Race against yourself and not other people, don’t try and keep up with someone who you think you should be faster than. You don’t know them or their running background. Listen to your body and save enough for the end and countless others I’ve forgotten. But most importantly I went into the race with a vague plan in my head of what I was going to and when!

So for the first 5k I took it steady, let people pass me and did my own thing. I knew to be in with a chance of getting under the magical hour mark I would need to turn around in under 30 minutes and then go for it and hope I had enough pace and energy to push myself under the hour.

After what seemed an age and the constant thought ‘I’m never doing this again’ whirling around my mind I turned around at the 5k mark in under 30 minutes. This gave me the boost I needed to believe I could achieve my goal and I immediately upped my pace and set off back down the slight decline.

The second 5k was much more enjoyable than the first. I felt good going at pace and was soon passing people who had passed me on the incline. I kept checking my watch to make sure I was going at the pace I needed to. At times I was going too slow so speeded up and at the end of the 5th mile I was well on target to achieve my goal.

The last mile hurt and I had to dig deep to keep up a pace that would see me go under the hour. It would have been easy to ease up and aim to just get under the hour. But that to me, would have made the run meaningless and I’ve seen the agony on other runners faces as they give it everything they have, only to have it snatched away at the last minute, by a second sometimes. And I’ve been in similar situations myself and didn’t want to be in another thinking of what went wrong, where I could have done more, what might have been.

So this time I kept going, kept pushing until the end, went through the pain barrier time and time again because my goal was there in front of me and the only person who could stop me achieving that goal was me.

And I did it. My official chip time came through at 57:40. And all of a sudden the pain in your legs, the long runs in wind and rain, up hill and down dale, the memories of close misses from before are all worth it for that one moment when you have achieved what you set out to do and before you readjust your sights on your next goal in life and set about achieving it.

 


i do not want

to go there

fear is sending

my mind into spasms

but i must confront

the old to be able

to embrace the new

 


it is cold and dark

street lights struggle

to penetrate thick mist

suspended in animation

i am warm

a passionate burning fire

flowing through

a cave of ice

one foot follows the other

pulsating red hot rods

of energy transformed into power

through sinew and muscle

creating a sense

of togetherness

a feeling of being at one

with soul and nature

mind and body

in effortless motion

as i appreciate

the simply act

of being able to run

free