Posts Tagged ‘challenge’


Opening my big mouth (again)

My running journey continues

Andrew Smith

Sunday, 06 December 2015

 

This Saturday, 5th December saw what is I hope the final piece in the jigsaw of my return to running from an Achilles tendon injury, although it didn’t start out as such.

The Friday night before I decided to go out as I have a race at Dewsbury in the West Yorkshire Winter League (WYWL) on Sunday, 13th December and I like to stay sober for a couple of days before a race at least! As is usual these days I ended up at the local club although I did start out at a different pub for a change after a friend arranged to meet for a catch up.

At the club the usual suspects were in and what was intended to be a quiet couple of drinks soon turned into a decent session as the beer flowed freely and frequently. Like many runners I am on Strava as are several of the runners from my club, Queensbury Running Club (QRC) and somehow I got into a chat with a couple of other runners from the club about the joys of running off road and challenged them to a run the next day. This might not have been so bad if I wasn’t heavily intoxicated at the time, went for a large Chinese curry afterwards and went to bed late.

One of the many things that alcohol does to me is to make me incredibly brave and stupid at the same time. Bravery in this case making me believe I was fitter, faster and a capable runner than I am, stupidity in challenging faster and more able runners to my challenge. The full realisation of this hit me at 3am the next morning when I woke up and had a vague recollection of the events from the night before and checked my phone to discover they were true and at around 10:45am would become very, very real for me.

So I laid in bed desperately trying to think of a way out of the run and still save face. After an hour I decided that there was no way I could worm my way out of it aside from a major disaster happening. Man flu wouldn’t work especially as one of the runners was female and she would never let me forget it again. Being drunk wouldn’t work nor would getting to bed late so I came to the only sensible conclusion I could that I would have to man up and do the challenge. It was my route after all and I had laid down the challenge.

Secretly I was looking forward to it as it would be a good test of my running abilities since my comeback from injury and the route was tough and good preparation for the forthcoming race. So at 10:45am I arrived at my local Co-op carpark to meet my fellow runners. We had been joined by another club runner so there was now four of us ready to go. Surprisingly considering the session I had the night before I was feeling good although I wouldn’t recommend going for 5 mile mainly off road run on a stomach full of beer and Chinese curry!

The weather was wet and windy as storm Desmond was passing by. This made the route more interesting as much of it would be muddy and wet grass which would make it more difficult and challenging. The first part of the route was a steady downhill to a pub just out of Queensbury. My three fellow runners set off at pace as I expected and although I couldn’t keep up with them I soon found my own steady pace and kept them in sight. At the pub we met up and went through the carpark to a row of houses behind. Passing between two houses we were soon into a wet and muddy field, heading down to a stream and then back up the other side and to the main road.

At the main road my companions set off at a decent pace again and I did my best to maintain my own decent pace. Luckily for me one of the other runners was familiar with the area so I wasn’t holding them back too much. The road goes downhill and then turns left going into a short but steep ascent. About three quarters of the way is a stone stile which was the next part of the route. Passing through this stile leads you into a farmers field. At the bottom of the field is a dirt track that leads you past the farm and back onto the road. The field is a sprint even in wet conditions and is a good test of speed and stamina.

When we had reached the road we went over it heading towards the village of Clayton. However we only went along this road a short distance before turning right and up a steep and long hill. This hill is quite a challenge as it is grass and the wet conditions made it slippy underfoot. I really struggled on here because of the pace being set by the other runners. This was my fault setting a challenge when I was drunk! However despite struggling it is still a very satisfying feeling when you reach the top of the hill and you look down and can see how far you have come.

The next part of the route took us round the top of the hill before we got to a small quarry and made our way down a short but steep embankment and onto a road called Brow Lane. This is well known locally as it is steep on both sides leading you down to the bottom of a valley and back out again. Whichever way you approach it you have a steep incline to get up and it is a good test of your climbing ability.

We headed down here and up the other side under an old railway bridge. Again I struggled and I was starting to feel the effects of the climbing and pace due to my lack of fitness and pace compared with the others. However I knew that I would benefit from the run because my fitness and pace would improve and if my Achilles held up then mentally it would be a massive step forward for me and give me confidence to go faster and further.

After the bridge there is a row of houses and a track called Bridle Stile Lane. This starts off road and is rough terrain with plenty of loose rocks to keep you focused on where you put your next step. At the top of the first incline the lane turns to tarmac and flattens out for a short distance before rising steeply back up the main road. The flatter bit gave me some respite but I was breathing heavy now and walking, determined to do my best and not give up. When I made the challenge I had said I had a killer to finish off with. At this point in the middle of Bridle Stile Lane I was considering changing my mind and heading back to the car park which wasn’t far now.

Instead at the top of the lane the others decided that they wanted to continue and do the full route. I felt mixed about this as I felt totally exhausted and ready to go home but also looking forward to the final part of my challenge. We then ran down a short distance before heading off road again up a short but steep track known as Harp Lane. This was very wet and muddy and even the others struggled a bit on this. At the top we met up and headed back down the main road to the carpark where we had a quick chat. The others congratulated me on a tough, challenging route, just over 5 miles and 800ft of climbing that takes in pretty much everything you could imagine.

I got home and felt relived but proud too. I had pushed myself to my limits and done the very best I could on the day. My Achilles had more than held up and I feel that my injury worries are behind me. A massive thanks to my fellow QRC runners who came with me for supporting me and waiting for me. They helped me push myself harder and further than I would have done on my own. I did say to them that I felt bad for holding them up and that if they wanted to drop me from the group I would understand. However they wouldn’t have any of it and said I was welcome to come along again. I’m really looking forward to the next run as they will help me push myself more and get out of my comfort zone. Well done everyone who came on the run.

And hopefully I will think twice before I open my big mouth again!

 


Last Saturday I ran my usual parkrun at Horton Park. I’m really getting to like this course as it is a challenge and a great wakeup call on a Saturday morning whether you have been out or not! It was a pleasant, sunny morning and I ambled round at my usual pace enjoying my running. At the end I did my now customary sprint for the line and went to talk to one of the other QRC runners Neil.

Neil has only just started running again but he is fast around 211/2 minutes for a 5k. He asked me if I was doing the Bolton Brow Burner and I asked him what it was! It turned out it was a challenging 10k race the next day, one where you could turn up and just run it. I’ve got the Pudsey 10k in just under 2 weeks as I write this but I thought what the hell, no time to think about it, go for it!

I had a couple of pints at the club that afternoon but was in bed early as I am not very good at getting up on a morning after a session on the beer. Sunday morning came and I was up bright and early, feeling good and ready to race!

I set off early as I am well known for getting lost and today was no exception. I drove past the venue at least once and ended up miles out of my way. A journey that should have taken me 15 minutes ended up taken me 1 hour 15 minutes. The lesson here is to never let me give directions in any form of transport.

But I finally arrived at the registration point and within minutes I had entered my fist 10k race not knowing where I was, where the race was or what the course was like. All I could see around me were hills, steep hills so I guessed I would be running up at least one of them at some point.

Off to the start we all went a car park at the side of the canal but as good as anywhere. After hanging around for around ½ hour during which most of the men were running off to have a pee, we were told to line up and then we were off!

The race started on the canal for a mile or so, just nice and steady and I settled in looking for a suitable candidate to follow and pace myself against. Unfortunately for me they all took one look at me and increased their pace as soon as we turned off from the canal and headed for the hills.

Before I knew it I was at the bottom of Bolton Brow and it was scary! Very steep and covered in gravel, it was not an easy hill to climb especially if you had never been near it before. I got talking to a lass of a similar age to myself and we walked up it together discussing running. The thing I really like about running and runners is they’re always happy to talk to you about running and relieve past glories.

At the top of Bolton Brow the lass left me for dead but I had never run 10k before so remembering what my fellow club runners had told me went at my own pace. This proved to be a good strategy because once I started to head back down I was keeping the lass in my sights and not letting her get away.

This proved to be going well until I had to stop and pull my shorts up. I’ve lost a lot of weight recently and I’ve dropped several sizes in shorts and jeans. However this was quite embarrassing as my shorts were falling down and my boxers were on display for everyone to see. After managing to give some people an eyeful I was back on the trail safe in the knowledge that my shorts weren’t halfway round my bum.

But now I had some catching up to do on unfamiliar trails. The lass had gotten quite far in front, but there was a young lad not too far up ahead so I targeted him and used him as bait to drag me round. And it worked. I had a couple of runners in front of me due to my shorts adjustments, but I soon passed them and set about catching the young lad. And then the lass appeared in the distance too and I decided to do my best to keep them both in sight because you never know what might happen.

Through Copley Woods we went up and down, sloshing through mud, diving down wet rocks and stone steps and generally just enjoying it all whilst trying not to fall and damage myself. I would certainly run it again as I enjoy off road running but for today I concentrated on just getting round and completing the course and avoiding injury.

And then I was through the woods and running back down Bolton Brow towards the canal. For some strange reason my downhill running has got slower recently and I am going faster uphill and on the flat than I am downhill. I’ve no idea why or how this has happened but it had and today was no exception. I sort of lumbered down Bolton Brow and only felt like I was picking up speed when I reached the flat at the bottom.

Up until this point I had no idea where the lass and the lad where. For all I knew they may have pulled a mile on me and be out of sight. But as I turned onto the canal I saw them both up ahead and I thought ‘they’re not too far I front’; ‘I can catch them’. And with that thought in the back of my mind I set about maintaining my pace and seeing if I could catch them.

The only problem with the canal is that it is quite boring by its nature being flat and beside a still water, but encouraged by walkers and homeowners who obviously revelled in the sight of a middle aged man trying to kill himself through running I carried on until I reached the end of the canal and began the home straight back to the registration point at the school.

By this point the lad had pulled quite a distance on me so I resigned myself to not catching him, but the lass was slowing, and by quite a bit too! I had her in my sights and I could visibly see myself gaining on her until I was right behind her and then past her. I don’t think I said anything to her as I passed her as I needed every single breath I could muster at this point.

And then there was the finishing line at last. Or at least I thought it was until I realised I had to do one of those convoluted finishes that involve going in and out of fencing and rope until you see the sign that says finish.

But finish I did in a time according to my Garmin of 1:14:26. I was very happy with that. Under 1:15 for my first ever 10k and according to the runners around me if I could run this one I can run any. My official time was over 1:15 but this was due to my shorts stoppage so I’m going by my Garmin time which is a more accurate reflection of my performance on the day.

And I got a very nice metal medal too for all my efforts. At the end of the day I left Bolton Brow a very happy and satisfied man knowing I had accomplished something I never thought possible which is run 10k.

Now my next challenge is looming up quickly, the Pudsey 10k. I am prepared for this mentally although I haven’t been round the course, but I know I can run 10k on any day and I know I will give it my best. I would like to go under an hour but I am aiming to get as close to this as possible. All I can say is that I will give it my all and do my very best.


I enjoy a challenge. The thought of a challenge keeps me going. However yesterday I may have gone a step too far because I entered the Eccup 10 race and when I saw 10 I assumed it was kilometres. However as my friend Nic kindly pointed out to me later on 10 was miles or around 16.5 kilometers, oops.

So what do you do? Back out and say you’re not ready for the race bearing in mind you’ve only been running seriously since March? Or do you admit your mistake and take on the challenge knowing it will be tough and painful but worthwhile at the end?

I decided to take on the challenge.

True I’ve only been running seriously since March and my 5k times have come down from 45+ minutes to 29:26. But 5k is as far as I’ve raced. I’ve entered the Pudsey 10k, another error on my part as for some reason I remember Pudsey being flat as a kid, but in the 40 years since I lived near it Pudsey has developed hills, quite a few by the sound of it.

My weight has come down too from 253lbs to 219lbs, a good weight loss but is it enough to run 10 miles in a decent time? Speaking of which I put in an estimated time of 1 ½ hours when it should be nearer 2 hours.

So I’m a moderately fit, slightly overweight, middle aged man with a poor memory who doesn’t read the large print and underestimates courses whilst over estimating his own abilities!

But I’ve decided to take on this challenge and I am going to do it. the race is on 5th July so I have plenty of time to prepare if I use it right. One thing I’m doing is cutting out alcohol. This will help with my fitness and weight loss goals. And there’s other goals I want to achieve in that time. Some are goals involving only me, others involve other people. But we will see which of these goals happen and which don’t.

But the hard work starts tonight with my writing workshop down in Halifax. Normally I drive but tonight I’m going to run down there and then run back, all the way uphill for around 3 miles. Should be interesting to see how I get on!