26 May 2013

437.82 - 458.94KM: The Sweet Toothed Reverse Viking (Solo Run)

This weekend was my first 'race free' weekend in around a month and a half, yet it proved to be one of my busiest and most exhausting weekend so far this year. Yesterday I hosted a very successful Bake Sale at Asda Living in Lincoln and managed to raise over £150 for the National Eczema Society. Whilst today I added another 21km+ towards my 1000km target with a run in the midday sun.

I had this weekend marked in my calender for a while as the potential time to host a bake sale. Most weekends I am able to find several races to pick from to enter, but this weekend always remained empty in my calender as I was unable to find a close enough race. Whether or not this was down to today being the date of two major races in the Great Manchester Run and Edinburgh Marathon I'm not sure, but I had to unfortunately give those two races a miss as I couldn't justify (or afford) to pay the entry fee, travel and potential accommodation costs for one of these two alongside the 40+ other races I am running this year.

We were very gratefully joined this weekend by our friend Hannah, who had offered to help with the Bake Sale. If you've reached this blog through any eczema or chronic illness related means, or actually especially if you haven't, I ask you to check out her blog, The Retired Bridgeburner, where she offers support and aims to raise awareness of all kinds of chronic illnesses.


Many of Jenny's colleagues and my boss from work had offered to help bake for the sale, although we made sure to bake plenty of our own cakes too. With it being our first bake sale we had no idea what to expect or how many cakes we would need. We had advertised that we would be selling Dairy and Gluten free cakes, so on Thursday we grabbed some Gluten Free Flour and Vitalite Dairy Free butter, with little idea of what we were going to do with them.

I had taken the Friday off work as I had a day's worth of baking to do, although by 4pm I hadn't baked a single thing. I wasn't aware of what would or wouldn't sell and no idea of what others would be baking so I was very indecisive about what to bake. In the end I decided on Dairy Free Flapjacks, Dairy Free Banana & Raisin Muffins, Rocky Road and a Lemon Drizzle, whilst Jenny made some Chocolate Cornflake Cakes and some Marble Cupcakes. I woke up at half 6 on the Saturday to start making the Lemon Drizzle cake, and for some strange reason by the time we had to leave for the bake sale it still hadn't set so we had to leave it behind.

Throughout the day I was overwhelmed by people's generosity. We hadn't set a price for any of the cakes, opting instead to ask for any donations, with a suggested donation of 50p per cake. What we found was that many were willing to donate a lot more than that, and some were even donating without wanting any cake, a bizarre concept for this trio of cake fiends. 

Around October last year I made the decision to run for the National Eczema Society and do what I could to raise money for the charity. Jenny's health was spiralling downwards and we were both struggling to cope with it emotionally. I knew that there was little I could do on top of what I was already doing to make her any better, so I felt that I had to do what I could to raise as much money as possible in the hope that it will help towards the research for a cure. So whilst my reasons for all my fundraising this year are very much personal, it is heart warming to hear other sufferers personally thank me for helping raise awareness of their condition and helping to raise money.

By the end of the day we had just a handful of cakes left to sell, but with the numbers of customers coming through the shop dropping we were unable to convince anyone to buy these few remaining cakes. So instead, unfortunately they came home with us, well some did, a couple may have been eaten on the car on the way back. Before we returned home however we made a much promised visit to Bunty's, for some tea and cake. After a torturous day sat in front of cake we felt we very much deserved some of our own, and in doing so I think we made them a new customer for life in Hannah.

Today was all about the run and getting that little bit closer to my 1000km target. For the first time in around a month and a half I didn't have a race lined up, so instead I had another solo run. I was dressed and all ready to leave for my run when I realised that the Great Manchester Run was on TV, so I delayed it slightly to watch the majority of that. Once it had reached 12 O'Clock I decided I couldn't delay my run much longer, so stepped out to go for my run in the hottest part of the day. Which quite obviously would prove the be a big mistake. 


As for today's route, I opted to run along several parts of the Viking Way trail, a 147-mile footpath which starts at the Humber Bridge and ends at Oakham, Rutland. The route had come to my attention when I stumbled across the Viking Way Ultra, an ultra marathon which covers the entire 147 miles and just so happens to cut through my village. The run has since found it's way on my runner's Bucket List, a very very optimistic inclusion, but for me it currently represents the pinnacle of all races.

It didn't take long for my body to let me know that it has far from recovered from last weekend's Marathon, and in all likelihood it is still recovering from the London Marathon last month. My left quadricep was feeling very tight, and no amount of stretching or trying to 'run it off' seemed to work. I followed the 'Yellow Viking Way signs' for around three miles before breaking off and going my own separate way, running as wide a loop of Lincoln as I could.

With around a couple of miles to ago I began to realise that once again I had ran a route that would leave the climb up Cross O'Cliff hill in the last mile of my run, and by the time I reached it it was a very slow climb. I was very grateful for opting to run with my hydration pack on, but even sipping from it regularly struggled to keep me hydrated. At various points I was convinced that the bag/pipe was leaking as I kept seeing water dripping on the ground in front of me, but it was instead coming from my sweaty, sweaty face.

Leaving aside the difficulty I had in today's run, it was a great and very successful weekend that made me appreciate the power of cake. This year National Eczema Week takes place between the 14th - 22nd September and following the success of yesterday's bake sale I have the intention of running another Bake Sale, and maybe this time being a little bit more organised.

Once again please visit http://www.justgiving.com/shanes1000km and donate what you can, whilst I'm in the baking mood, generous donations may well be the recipient of cake.


Distance: 21.12 km | 13.12 miles
Time: 01:56:27
Average Pace: 05:30 min/km | 08:52 min/mi


View my run:

19 May 2013

395.63 - 437.82KM: Revenge is a Vulture (North Norfolk Marathon)

Today I ran my second marathon of the year (and ever) and took a big step closer to my 1000km target. Throughout this year I have constantly referred to the London Marathon as my first ever marathon, although that is not technically correct. It was the first marathon I have ever completed, but was actually my second attempt having entered the inaugural North Norfolk Marathon last year, but quit about 3/4s of the way round. This year was about retribution, no matter how much I may want to, quitting was never an option and I was getting over that finish line on all fours if necessary.

So what happened last year and what was I going to do to prevent it happening again?

Last year I didn’t so much as hit the wall, rather I ran into it face first and knocked myself to the ground. Going into last year’s race I was quite simply nowhere near ready enough. In the build-up to the race I was suffering numerous niggling injuries and in my training I hadn’t ran further than 14 miles so I was almost asking my body to do double what it was used to. As soon as I reached the 14 mile mark this lack of preparation began to show and I began to struggle hard, all the niggles come back and a long-standing hip injury I thought I had seen the back off returned at the worst possible moment.

When the time came to ask my body whether it was going to ‘man up’ or quit, it quit, each step became increasingly difficult and I was soon struggling to even plant my foot on the ground. So I took the easy option, phoned my brother, who was there watching me, and at the 18 mile mark I stopped. I regretted it instantly, but at the time I felt it was my only option.

In a way now I am kind of grateful that I did, it has made me a much more determined runner and when my body asks me if I want to quit, I say ‘Not today’.

Today was always going to be one of the most difficult races of the year, not just because of the distance but also the course. Described as multi-terrain, the route takes you from Holkham Hall, through country tracks and woodland, into Wells-next-to-Sea and then back towards Holkham before a mile and a half across the undulating, uneven grounds of Holkham Hall, and then back round again for another lap. Added to that was the stark contrast in atmosphere between today and in London and the fact that large sections of the run would be spent running by myself rather than with several hundred people. I knew I could run the distance, but all these elements combined to make it a much, much tougher run both physically and mentally than in London.

To avoid crashing out in a similar fashion to last year I had no intention of running for any particular time, it simply wasn't worth it. I had a rough target of finishing inside 4 hours 30, but today was more about getting to the finish line and making amends for last year.  I set off aiming to start running at about 8 minute miles but I had no intention of checking my watch at any stage, I would allow my body to dictate the pace it was comfortable running at rather than being pressured by numbers on a screen.

Once again I hit the magical 20 mile mark and bad things started to happen. I had struggled with the heat throughout the race and despite grabbing as much water as I could I still felt massively dehydrated. This then had the knock on effect of me missing a planned time to take a gel. I struggled on, almost counting down every metre until I would cross then line and the pain, for the most part, would stop. I slowed to a very slow run, I could see runners in the distance alternating between running and walking, and as much as I tried I could never catch them. Each step became a victory, as long as I could keep moving I was alright, the temptation to stop and walk had to be batted away numerous times, I felt I owed it to myself and to Jenny not to. Anyway, the faster I got to the finish line the sooner the pain would stop.

The last couple of miles were a struggle, as I stumbled up the hill towards Holkham Hall I knew that the most difficult mile was still to come. I'm not sure how long it took me, but it felt like a week had passed from entering the grounds to crossing the line. In truth it would probably have been quicker had I opted to walk, but somehow with the finish line in sight and less than 50 metres away my body saw a way out and I found enough left to manage what felt like a sprint finish but probably looked more like a comedic shuffle.
I crossed the line, grabbed my medal and goody bag and almost immediately laid down on the ground. It was over. What was potentially the most challenging run of this year was over, I had made it to the end even if it really, really hurt.

The past few weeks have been a bit of a struggle emotionally, Jenny and myself feel we may have found an answer to her persistent health issues, but at the moment we can’t afford for her to take the necessary steps towards the cure. For those wondering, it is highly likely that she is suffering from Red Skin Syndrome, where her body has become addicted to the endless amount of steroid creams that she has applied throughout the years after being prescribed them from doctors. There are numerous cases online of people whose resemblance to Jenny’s health is remarkable, who have gone cold turkey on the use of steroid creams and after a long, brutal battle have come through the other end ‘cured’. You can read more about Jenny’s thoughts on this diagnosis here.

Yesterday I stumbled across a blog post from a fellow eczema sufferer caregiver, who wrote a piece on the struggles of caring for someone with a chronic illness. You can find this post, alongside some of my own thoughts, here. I am not sharing this post in an attempt to gain sympathy, but rather to highlight areas that often go unconsidered.

Next weekend I do not have a race lined up, but will still be running another 21.13kms towards my target. I will however be taking advantage of the (relatively) free weekend by hosting a fundraising Bake Sale in Lincoln on the Saturday. So this week I’ll very much be putting my feet up and having a slice of cake (or six).

Please visit http://www.justgiving.com/shanes1000km and donate what you can.


Distance: 42.19 km | 26.22 miles
Time: 04:19:15
Average Pace: 06:16 min/km | 09:50 min/mi
Playlist: Stormwarrior
Goody Bag: Water Bottle, Electrolyte Powder and Electrolyte tablets.


View my run:

12 May 2013

359.80 - 395.63KM: Skelly 6, Zombie Run UK (Lincoln) and Sheffield Half Marathon

Initially this year I had planned for my shortest race to be a 10k, for no reason other than practicality and to lessen the burden of having to do more than 6 marathons. However this weekend I broke that rule twice as I ran not one, not two but three races as I looked to take advantage of a couple of local races to help boost my total km's alongside this Sunday's Sheffield Half Marathon. My weekend started on Friday evening with the Skelly 6, followed by the Zombie UK Run on Saturday afternoon and finished off with the Sheffield Half Marathon today. It wasn't the first time this year that I've ran multiple races in a weekend, and it also won't be the last, but it probably will be the only time I set a PB off the back of two races. 

359.80 - 369.46KM: Skelly 6

My first race was the inaugural Skelly 6, a 6 mile trail run in Skellingthorpe, Lincolnshire, hosted by the Lincoln & District Runner's running club. As the race started at 7pm I had to travel to the race after work, leaving me to get changed into my special 'Sonic' race pants, along with the rest of my race attire, in the car park. Being the first of three races this weekend, I had no intention of running for any particularly good time, instead setting off at a comfortable pace aiming to come in around 45 minutes. 

The first, and subsequently last, mile of the course took part on a cycle track leading to me initially questioning the 'trail' part of the race. We were soon directed through the woods however and out across a field. I spent the majority of the race battling back and forth with a couple of runners, not trying too hard to catch them whilst still allowing myself to be a little bit competitive. With about a mile to go I saw a couple of runners in the distance and decided to try and catch them, it was a race after all. 

Once I had passed these runners I saw a couple more in the distance and opted to try and catch them too before quickly realising that those runners I could see were crossing the finish line. My watch had lost signal for a brief period whilst in the woodland, so I thought I still had a little bit longer to try and catch them, but unfortunately not. All in all it was a relatively low key race, but one I'll keep an eye on as it looks to grow next year.


Distance: 9.75 km | 6 miles
Time: 00:45:24
Official Time: 00:45:26
Average Pace: 04:42 min/km | 07:34 min/mi
Playlist: Amorphis
Goodie Bag: Bag & Water Bottle


View my run:
369.46 - 74.46KM: Zombie Run UK (Lincoln)

My second run of the weekend was the Zombie Run UK in Lincoln, a 5km obstacle course with the added danger of being chased by zombies. The 11th of May had been in my race diary for some time as I had initially planned to run Rat Race's Dirty Weekend but with the cheapest entry fee being just five pounds short of £100 that idea soon went out of the window. I might have considered it had it been one of only a handful of races this year, but when I'm having to save up for entry fees for 40+ races, plus petrol/accommodation it soon became an impossible dream.

So instead, my weekend's plans initially consisted soley of the Sheffield Half Marathon until I became aware of the Skelly 6 race and was offered the opportunity to run the Zombie UK Run outside Lincoln. I almost entered it last year when it was held in Lincoln, but it fell the morning after the Nottingham Men's Health Survival of the Fittest run and my body was a little worse for wear. 

Unfortunately the event appeared to suffer from a lack of staffing, with the queuing for the registration taking over an hour, which was made worse by the downpour and cold weather and eventually led to both waves of the race being delayed. At the beginning of the race we were given a belt with three tags (or 'lives') which were attached by velcro to the belt. At various points throughout the course we would have to run through a group of zombies who would be trying to grab these tags from us. 

I thought I made a good decision at the beginning of the race to place these tags at my front where I could see them, thinking I would be able to dodge zombies if I knew where they would be aiming for. This seemed like a good idea until an overzealous zombie effectively 'sucker punched' in the nuts whilst trying to grab a tag (hence the pained expression in the above photo). My first life was lost almost immediately after this and I'm not entirely sure when the other two were.

The obstacles throughout the race, other than the zombies, included crawling through cargo nets, jumping fences, hay bales and leaping across numerous ditches, amongst others. The last of these obstacles was a group of cars, which we were told to either jump over or crawl through, feeling optimistically athletic I opted for the former and ended up slipping off and face-planting into the dirt. 

I believe I finished third but 'infected' as I had lost all my lives. Despite it's issues it was definitely an enjoyable race and one I would be interested in doing again. After I got home and showered I had a quick check to see whether the 'infection' was spreading before an aggressive foam roller session ahead of Sunday's Sheffield Half Marathon.


Distance: 5.00 km | 3.1 miles
Time: 00:25:47
Average Pace: 04:57 min/km | 07:59 min/mi
Playlist: None
Goodie Bag: T-Shirt.


View my run:
374.46 - 395.63KM: Sheffield Half Marathon

My final race of the weekend, the Sheffield Half Marathon, was also the longest and surprisingly my first time running the event, despite only being little over an hour away. A lot had been made prior to the race of the closure of the iconic Don Valley stadium and I was keen to take the opportunity to run round it's famous track before it is demolished later in the year. 

I went into the race without any predefined strategy. With the North Norfolk Marathon next weekend I knew that I would have to take it steady and I was expecting the past two races to catch up with my legs quite quickly. I knew that I would like to keep inside 8 minute miles, meaning I would cross the line in around 1 hour 45, but I expected my body to tire so would be happy with anything under 2 hours. 

Despite going to the toilet 30 minutes before the start of the race, whilst I was lining up I felt I could probably do with going again. I thought about jumping out of the crowd and going before I started, and after the race was 5 minutes late starting I wished I had. Instead I waited a mile or two before I knew I had to go and then waited for the nearest inauspicious bush that wasn't surrounded by spectators. 

As I wasn't racing for any particular time I found myself checking my watch much less and was able to enjoy the race, taking a gel every 3 - 4 miles when needed but ultimately just comfortably chugging along. It wasn't until well after half way that I noticed that I was running much faster than I had planned, I think subconsciously my body was tuned into the fact it was a race and it was willing me to overtake people. With about four miles to go I realised, somehow, that I was on time for a new PB, so I put my foot down so to speak.

My legs began to eat up the ground in front of me and each mile I ran was faster than the last. Eventually the Don Valley stadium was in sight but before I could cross the line there would be a painful loop around the outside before running the last 100m on the track. I looked at my watch as I crossed the line to see 01:36:26 but I had to contain my excitement as I knew I had stopped my watch when I went to the toilet, so those vital seconds I spent emptying my bladder could have proved to be costly. Fortunately I checked my phone to see a text message had come through with my official time, 01:36:50, around 20 seconds faster than my time at Silverstone. 

It was the first time, that I'm aware of, that I've ran a negative split in a race and possibly one of the few times I'm ever likely to. For a city that prides itself on being hilly, I was surprised by how relatively flat the course was, not that I'm complaining mind. It's too early to say whether I will be back next year, but with a fun course and great support from the crowd throughout it is definitely one I'd like to run again. Who knows, maybe next time I might even try and run fast.


Distance: 21.17 km | 13.15 miles
Time: 01:36:26
Time: 01:36:50
Average Pace: 04:35 min/km | 07:22 min/mi
Playlist: Freedom Call
Goodie Bag: Vitamin Water, Go Ahead, Bag of Sweets.


View my run:

5 May 2013

349.80 - 359.80KM: The Heat of the Hometown Sun (Grand East Anglian Run 10K)

My first race in May saw me return home to Norfolk for my 'hometown' race, the Grand East Anglian Run (10k). Despite being on the doorstep, I had only ever run the race twice before in its seven year history, for a number of reasons, but this year I was keen to make it part of my 1000km challenge. With a fast, flat course it had the potential to be another PB and being my local race it was one I was keen to put in a good performance in. Things aren't always that easy though...

Before the race I had arranged an interview with KLFM presenter Simon Rowe, who was broadcasting live from the 'Race Village' as it were. Simon had tried to arrange to interview me on the phone at the London Marathon, but was unable to due to the fact that my phone was struggling for signal at the Red Start (cheers Vodafone). It wasn't my most coherent of interviews as I struggled to hear Simon despite only being stood two foot away from me, but hopefully I managed to get across the key points. Unfortunately I am unable to clarify this as the station doesn't have a listen again feature, so I'll just pretend I nailed it. 

My nose isn't a microphone and I'm not wearing guyliner, honest.

After the interview I made a quick visit to the toilets before joining the crowd of runners at the start line, somewhat optimistically in the sub 40 pen. I took a look around at the fellow runners and with each race I'm beginning to recognise more and more faces, in particular a handful of runners from the Sleaford Stiders. As the race started I set off at my planned 6 minute/mile pace, as had been the plan for a couple of weeks. 

Within the first few hundred meters or so a week of running the 10km to and from work each day combined with the excessive heat began to show some warning signs. Stubbornness got me through the first mile in just over 6 minutes, but as much as I tried it wasn't a pace I was able to maintain for the rest of the race. The next two miles became a matter of counting down the meters until I reached the first of two drinks stations, where I promptly grabbed a bottle of water and poured three quarters of it over my head in a desperate attempt to cool myself down. 

I've never been one to cope well in warm temperatures, exercising in them even less so and today I felt the heat draining the energy from me. With a sub 40 time and new PB long gone I decided to settle with simply setting a new PB for the course and beating last year's time of 44:53. That was easier said than done however and after disposing of my water bottle almost straight away at the first water station, whilst only being a couple of kilometers  it felt like a long wait until the next one. 

Before long the finish line was in sight and I didn't even feel like I had the energy in reserve for my typical sprint finish, or so I thought until my competitiveness got the better of me and I defiantly refused to let the runners in my periphery come past. I crossed the line in just under 43 minutes, about two minutes comfortably inside the time I set the previous year. Whilst it wasn't perhaps the most enjoyable of races, it's another 10km closer to 1000km and a reasonably good time, even if I am slightly disappointed to have not set a new PB on a good course.

Yesterday I decided to treat myself to a new foam roller, as although it hasn't been used as rigerously as it perhaps should have been, my current one has taken a bit of a beating this year. With three races in three days this week getting a good recovery in is vital, so I'll be taking all necessary steps to make each run as easy as possible. I have also volunteered myself to be a guide runner for a blind runner at the Skelly 6. I felt that it was too good an opportunity to pass up to meet someone inspirational , plus it will force me to be disciplined and allow my body some extra rest.

Please visit http://www.justgiving.com/shanes1000km and donate what you can.


Distance: 10.00 km | 6.2 miles
Time: 00:43:06
Official Time: 00:42:57
Average Pace: 04:19 min/km | 06:56 min/mi
Playlist: [No Mp3 players allowed]
Goody Bag: Water Bottle, Dolmio Pasta pot, Can of Bavaria (Alcohol Free Beer), Tango Orange Bar, Coffee sweets and Green Tea Tea Pig .


View my run:

2 May 2013

April Review (244.81 - 349.80km)

In summary April was full of more PBs, birthday cake, marathons and one of the greatest days of my life. Two 10ks, a Half Marathon and my first full Marathon in London helped me end the month just 200 metres short of 350km. 

April had barely started before I was lining up for the Notts Easter 10k, my second of two races on the Easter weekend. Having run just 12 seconds over 42 minutes the day before I was eager to have another go at running sub 42. Whilst my mind was willing, my body was not and as the miles wore on I felt myself getting slower and slower before eventually crossing the line with little over 43 minutes on the clock.

Fortunately I wouldn't have to wait long before having another attempt as that Sunday I would be running the Lincoln 10k. The Lincoln 10k is a special event for me as five years ago it was the first race I ever entered, before then becoming my 'hometown' race. In 2008 I crossed the line in 72:17, this year I ran 31 minutes and 18 seconds faster, finishing in 40:59. I made a few mistakes in the race so I'm confident of comfortably running a sub 40 10k later this year.

A family christening meant that I was unable to attend the rearranged Rother Valley 10k, so instead my third 1000km challenge run in April was a Solo Half Marathon ran at my intended Marathon pace. Well that was the plan, but once I started running my body soon put paid to that idea and it soon became a case of clocking up the kms and avoiding injury.

With April comes my birthday and top of my list was a new pair of running trainers. I had had my previous pair for just under a year and sheer amount of running I have been doing this year in training and as part of my 1000km challenge had left them barely holding together. So instead I now have these beauties to get me through the next few hundred kilometers.

My next race, the London Marathon, was arguably the biggest race of this 1000km challenge, certainly so far. Before the race mentally and physically I felt prepared, although as it was my first marathon there was still that 'area of unknown' once I reached beyond the 20 mile mark. Fortunately the crowds, as always, were incredible and kept me going though the hardest 10km I've ever ran and I managed to complete my first marathon of six marathons this year comfortably under 4 hours. Job done. Entry on the Bucket List crossed off.

My final race of April was the Rotary Shakespeare Half Marathon in William Shakespeare's home town of Stratford-upon-Avon. In the week leading up to the race I had been debating whether to run the full marathon instead as my body felt remarkably fresh after the London Marathon. A couple of miles in my body soon began to feel the strain of the big effort I put in the previous week, so common sense dictated that when the decision came to carry on to the full or head towards the finish line for the half I did the latter.

Finally sympathies must go out to those caught up in the tragic events in Boston this month. I received a surprise phonecall from BBC Lincolnshire the day afterwards to give my thoughts on whether or not the London Marathon should go ahead. You can read and listen to what I had to say here.

April Stats:

1000KM Challenge Distance: 104.99km
Time Running Total: 08:46:00
Total Running Distance: 150.36km
Bananas Eaten: 47
Medals: 3

1000km Challenge Stats:

1000KM Challenge Distance: 349.80km 

Time Running Total: 29:34:30
Total Running Distance: 684.96km 
Bananas Eaten: 189
Medals: 7


A look ahead to May

05/05 - Grand East Anglian Run (10k)
10/05 - Skelly 6
11/05 - Zombie Run (5k)
12/05 - Sheffield Half Marathon
19/05 - North Norfolk Marathon