Sunday, 29 May 2011

Copped Hall Open Day

In the week I picked up from IanVisits, a unique guide to events in and around London, that the Copped Hall Trust were going to be running one of their infrequent open days this weekend. Now I'd never heard of Copped Hall before but when I realised that it was a Georgian mansion embedded in Epping Forest with grounds to die for then I knew that we had to visit. Luckily the weather played fair this morning and so just after midday we bumped along the rough half-mile track up to the main house, which seemed a little underwhelming on first impression, and parked next to a building that has seen better (and worse) times. At least nowadays it's not being used for growing mushrooms and little else!

Through the side gate it felt like we'd stumbled across a village fete; a touch amateur, very charming and with something for everyone. With the house being open, in the most literal sense, we made a bee-line towards it to see what it was like - half-way between demolition and reconstruction - and it was amazing. The building is stripped back to its very bones with the beams and the bricks plainly visible; so we descended to the cellars, where we got to taste rose-hip ice-cream and shell peas from the kitchen garden, before returning first to the servants quarters on the ground-floor and then the state rooms on the first floor. It's hard to know where we felt most at home:

She sells sea-shells?
I want this room!

From here the view of the gardens was delightful and we just had to make our way outside to enjoy everything that was on offer. Lenore had already stripped the book-stall so we took the easy option of petting the shire-horses and then moving on to the birds of prey. Just like a local fair you could pay a few pounds, pull up a seat and spend as long as you liked with an owl or a hawk or something similar. For little kids this is an experience like no other and both Joshua and Christina took full advantage of the situation:

After this, well, what could we do but play a little ferret roulette, check out the may-pole dancing and head over to the racquet's court for some tea and cake (all home-made, delicious and served by hard-working volunteers). All of these activities proved popular although I have to admit that the ferrets scored very highly indeed on entertainment value! We still hadn't toured the gardens though and so after a spot of lunch (in a beautiful spot overlooking a wide, forested valley) we meandered off to view the archaeological digs (where the foundations of the previous Tudor house are being revealed) and other green-fingered delights:

Mock orange and mockery in the rockery
The highlight, though, was definitely the four-acre, fully-walled, kitchen garden. Walking into this space from the top gate took my breath away; the sheer symmetry of the grounds, sympathetic restoration and glorious view over distant hills make it a truly special place. In common with the rest of Copped Hall we felt free to wander anywhere and investigate; in this case our wanderings took us from the ruined shells of greenhouses to the pretty central lake where Joshua somehow spotted a lost car and retrieved it from the muddy bottom:

Kitchen garden exploration
After all of this excitement we were a little weary and in need of a lie-down in the warming sun:

Taking it easy
Even when the open day was meant to have drawn to a close there was no rush from anyone to close-up and lock the doors. In fact the tea-ladies were still serving up slices of scrumptious chocolate cake and the man from the deli station was still selling artisan Italian cheese to an eager clientele. So we hung around and Joshua took great delight in choosing a slice of a particular hard-cheese that took his fancy; for sure he has a decent palate and you don't get this kind of experience in Tesco! A great day was had by all and we will most definitely be returning to Copped Hall for future events - there are plenty of them!

Just the three of us

Unlike yesterday this morning I rolled up to the car park and there was no one there; not a solitary sausage! I was just reconciling myself to a solo session when, at the last moment, Rob and Mike both arrived - but that was it! After a bit of toing and froing I came up with a rough idea of where we might go and so we sauntered off in the vague direction of Hampstead Village. We ended up heading down Frognal before veering off roughly due East, over the Heath and in the direction of Holloway, Lauradale House and such-like. As ever Mike was his loquacious self and looking very calm and collected:

Mike - ready for action
Sadly Rob was struggling far more than usual due to a hamstring strain but for all of that he's a real trooper; no way was he going to let this get in the way of business! So we kept on over to Crouch End and then back along the Parkland Walk (the one that leads to Finsbury Park), finally intersecting with Highgate Woods after having climbed that steep path from Highgate Tube - some might say that that was just cruel but Rob took it all in his stride. Only on Winnington Road did it all get a bit much but then again I can't say that I felt in the best shape ever with my knee starting to ache (from last Sunday) and a general sense of lassitude. Still we all remained the best of friends:

A moment of relaxation!
So a successful Sunday morning run even if only three of us made it! The conditions and the company were both great and the rest of the day beckoned. Bring on the summer!

Distance: 8.9 miles
Time: 1h 25m 19s

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Been missing in action?

It seems like this is the first Saturday this month that I've managed to hook up with the Running School - or if it isn't then it certainly feels like it. I've been missing the camaraderie so it felt good to rock up this morning and hook up with what turned out to be a large group. Also, for a change, Ira had handed over the reins to Mark James and so no one knew where we were headed! As it turned out Ally Pally was on the menu although not before we'd taken in some off-road and a few hills:

Pushing to the top of Fitzroy Park
Once you're in Highgate there are quite a few potential routes but Mark surprised us with a back alley coming off of North Hill and then we soon got to enjoy Highgate Woods, the Parkland Walk and then almost being squashed by a bus on Alexandra Palace Way. This might have put a dampener on the whole shebang! Fortunately we survived termination to reach Queens Wood, although by this time maybe half of the original line-up had fallen away, and the traditional route back via Hampstead Lane.

Surprisingly there were a decent number of smiling faces at the end and a number of the 'missing' re-appeared to general applause. Sadly Ira was forced to abandon halfway round with an injured foot, which we surely hope improves soon, but despite this loss Mark put in a decent freshman attempt. Of course there were a number of running jokes with our 'teacher' but I like to think that we all scored top marks by the end!

Distance: 8.1 miles
Time: 1h 13m 23s

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

An achy, breaky kind of run

The funny thing about running in to work this morning was that my legs weren't sore or tired from my efforts on Sunday; why should they be given that I only had to run 10K! And yet my right knee felt decidedly sore due to one of the muscles in my quadriceps being tight and pulling my joint out of alignment. Such a simple thing but even so really quite limiting. Anyway I had to run in because we were out last night at the London Comedy Night, which was a lot of fun, and I didn't feel like cycling home in the gloom.

Hence I started out quite gingerly this morning and took it very easy warming-up, crossing Highgate Wood and heading over to the Heath. There was definitely no messing about with diversions and hills on the menu this morning I can tell you. That said it was a lovely start and I like how some paths onto the Heath make it seem like you've found a secret tunnel that's all your own:

Mine - all mine!
On the other side, concealed from view, it's all open fields and heathland; quiet, pretty to look at and delightfully fragrant at this time of year. To be honest it's always a bit of a shock to emerge in Kentish Town on the other side and more often than not I'd rather just do another lap of the Heath! Today this feeling was especially strong as my pace was well down on my usual standard and while I wasn't limping I had to hope that I wasn't making things worse! Fingers crossed but I seem to have got away with it but for sure running when you're injured is no fun at all.

Distance: 7.8 miles
Time: 1h 04m 21s

Monday, 23 May 2011

London Comedy Night 2011

A few years ago I stumbled across the Amateur Transplants via their wonderful London Underground song (which is phenomenally rude - truly) and then a great concert just down the road from my office. So when they sent round one of their emails advertising the London Comedy Night 2011 I didn't hesitate to bag a couple of tickets; after all it promised to be a fun night out and all of the money raised was going directly to charity (in fact the James Whale Fund for Kidney Cancer has some personal relevance to me so that was a bonus). Of course I didn't forget my sensible head when booking the tickets and made use of Theatre Monkey to make sure that I ordered some good seats!

So it was that we ended up in Row C with a prime view of the action and that was a great call. The whole show was anchored by a hairy Canadian guy called Craig Campbell and he did a fine job of warming us, the audience, up; even to the extent of handling a deranged heckler in one of the boxes. That was very surreal! OK it's fair to say that his routine of being amazed by the British got a little bit familiar but as an energetic compere he had what it takes. Each act got a rousing introduction and an equally enthusiastic departure; just what you need to keep the show rolling.

From here the line-up had some real highlights that had us in stitches. One of our favourites was Simon Evans with his nice line in sardonic wit, sharp asides and inability to move around the stage. In a way that's the mark of a professional and Jimeoin shared that skill. With what seemed like scant effort he could ramble on about cheddar cheese, making the bed and anything that came to mind; in the beginning he even managed to play the chair as strange as it sounds; that's talent. In a similar vein a young Josh Widdicombe served up some pretty solid stand-up with riffs on living in deepest Dorset and other low-key observations.

On the other hand some of the artists were really off-the-wall. Chris Cox came on as a mind-reader who can't read minds and that was really strange; after a while his act came together and Lenore became increasingly happy that she hadn't been the poor lady dragged up on stage and embarrassed! After this there was Frank Sanazi and he was so far beyond our expectations that it was hard not to laugh; imagine a suave Sinatra crossed with Hitler crooning show-tunes and you'll be half there I guess. Then we came to Kalki Hula Girl and her act was equally past comedy but what acrobatic skills! I'll never regard hoops in the same light again.

Finally, to round off the evening, Adam Kay from the Transplants came on and we knew that wherever the line happened to be it was about to be firmly crossed! Sadly Suman Biswas wasn't around (because he's decided to focus on his medical career for some reason!) but Adam had enough off-colour songs and skits in his notebook to make up for it. Part of the fun, really, was to try and identify the song that Adam was parodying the lyrics of and with Lady Gaga in there this wasn't just of historic interest. Of course the tube song made an appearance and then it was time to leave - via the collecting buckets of course. Very enjoyable!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Crouch End 10K 2011

In a way the Crouch End 10K is my home-town race, where everybody knows my name. Well not quite but there is a picture of me, from last year, displayed prominently on the race information page; so I must be doing something right! Actually in 2010 Joshua also ran because the festival hosts a variety of kids races, as well as the 10K, but this weekend he's been very under the weather - probably because Christina has chicken pox and his immune system has been fighting off the virus. So at around 9:30 this morning I warmed-up by jogging down to Priory Park where all the action takes place and arrived just in time for a quick stretch before jumping over the barriers adjacent to the start line.

Hitting the finish line in 2010

Last year I was quite surprised that the route didn't take us over the top of Alexandra Palace, as I was hoping that the hill might act as something of a trump card for me, so this year I knew what to expect. Essentially a fast pace from the gun, two up-and-down laps and then a sprint to the finish! When the horn went I was probably in the first twenty or so competitors and that seemed about right as a couple of groups quickly formed while two super-quick guys broke free at the front (given that they ran sub-35 we didn't see them again!). Despite them getting away my preconceptions were fully realised by a 3:40 first kilometre and a 3:34 second kilometre; this is not a pace that I'm familiar with but I hung in there and when we came up by Alexandra Palace Railway Station the speed slackened by 10-15 seconds per kilometre. This came as a welcome relief but still the field started to thin out - the initial canter claiming a number of victims.

As we performed a u-turn over the railway bridge and entered Alexandra Palace Park suddenly an unwelcome visitor joined the party - a vicious and gusting headwind. Now there aren't many things more demoralising than a sapping breeze so I sensibly tucked in behind my fellow runner; he was setting a strong tempo and I didn't feel able to break away. So we trotted along together and entered the second lap; at which point two things happened. We spotted the guy ahead of us by maybe 10 seconds and we gained a tailwind - so our speed leaped up and we completed the sixth kilometre in 3:36! Talk about flying along! Even so neither of us could get free of the other, even when we suffered up the station approach, and as we once again entered Alexandra Palace Park a young man drew alongside.

With under three kilometres to go this changed the whole dynamic of the race; suddenly both of us were forced to raise our game to meet this unexpected challenge. By sheer force of will I managed to get behind this young buck, and stay with him, but the effort required cost me a great deal. We were still a long way from the finish and every step felt harder than the last. Even so all three of us remained neck and neck up to the nine kilometre mark but a hundred metres further on, as the other two drew inexorably away, I knew that I had reached my physical limit. My lungs could draw no more oxygen from the air and there wasn't a damn thing that I could do about it!

Over that last 800-900 metres then I concentrated on not blowing up, on not getting caught by anyone else from behind and on getting to the finish. That said I still covered the last kilometre in 3:42 but as the course looped around the perimeter of Priory Park I felt anything but fast - desperate more like. So I checked behind me a couple of times (no one there fortunately) and kept myself moving. This year the family came to see me suffer finish but I didn't see or hear them; all I wanted was the double-beep of the timing mat and the chance to breath freely again. In the end I hit the line in 38:12 (although the results show 38:25 for some reason) and that was quick enough for 12th (out of a thousand finishers). Okay I was still only 4th V40, and so nowhere near the medals, but I'm not a miracle worker (and given the fact that The Rapture didn't happen last night it seems I'm not the only one!).

Distance: 8.4 miles
Time: 56m 39s

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Running through the dew

Too many weeks at the moment are just being blown out by work and courses and family life; running, and sport in general, is defiantly on the back-burner. So this week it took me until today, Thursday, to throw on some running shoes and I haven't run since Saturday. Gosh that's terrible and it's not as if I've kept away from the cake either! Oh well I suppose that there's nothing wrong with a 'down' week or two. Anyway this morning I had no choice but to run to work because of the torrential downpour last night and my decision to take the tube home; at the same time I had to be in work early for various reasons and so at 7am I left Joshua's homework behind and grabbed myself some sunshine.

Hampstead Heath but in the far distance is The Shard
Yes another glorious morning beckoned and I zig-zagged a bit more than usual across the Heath to take advantage of it. What was nice was just how quiet it all was - like one of those mornings when it's snowed and you're the first one out to leave footprints in the middle of the road! So I deviated a bit along the side of Kenwood House and found myself in a tall, dewy meadow that's just right for dormice. I didn't see any of them but my shoes got a lot of aquatic action:

Just look at those droplets!
After that it was kind-of back to the same old route although at least my legs felt light and carefree - as they should after four days off. Almost a bank holiday weekend for them in fact! In town, after the Euston Road, it got awful busy and I dodged around pedestrians and kicked my heels at the traffic lights. Business as usual I guess but definitely an hour well spent; after this all I had to do was swim at lunchtime and cycle home. Almost a triathlon in reverse!

Distance: 8.5 miles
Time: 1h 01m 53s

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Legoland Trip

It's no exaggeration to say that a trip to Legoland Windsor is always, rain or shine, anticipated joyfully by our kids; they just love the place because it has something for everyone. In fact it's not even too painful to visit as an adult as Lego (or Merlin Entertainments anyway) really know how to cater for their target market. So there was general excitement all-round when we surprised the little ones this morning even though Mummy was going to be absent (having family and a flower-show to take in up-North). That left me to organise the whole shebang and it worked out pretty well if I say so myself; we managed to haul ourselves to Windsor before lunchtime and while the car-park fill-factor spoke of a busy day it wasn't going to be at the August level of insanity!

I decided to let Joshua and Christina decide what to do (as if I had a choice) because I had nowhere else to be and no particular agenda. So we started off small with a bit of messing around on the slides:

Feeling no fear!
Then it was a case of heading down to the main rides via some enormous Easter Island heads, a moving (literally) picture of how moles mined out the million's of Lego bricks required for the park and substantial time spent in the deserted imagination facility. That's one of the greatest things about Legoland - that kids can, more or less, run anywhere, climb, poke and push things without being remonstrated with and find something that'll capture their attention. So when Joshua and Christina wanted to settle down to building towers I was content to oblige them:

This is just the start of a metropolis
Of course there's more to life than bricks and a 'zone' that both of them absolutely adore is the driving area where there are a couple of academies that furnish them with driving licenses! As is common in the park different age-groups are split sensibly and so while Joshua ran off to the big kid's track (lots of space and a touch more speed) I took Christina to the beginner's school where they don't have to handle much more than steering and hitting the gas. Even this proved too much for some pupils with a few epic smash-ups taking place! Christina is an old-hand though and quite adept at talking and driving:

I can multi-task you know!
The other strength of Legoland is that they have a number of shows taking place around the clock; so you can just arrive, settle down with your lunch and enjoy a properly entertaining performance. A known favourite for us is the water show involving pirates, jet-skis, a lot of falling into the briny and heaps of slapstick; if you're still in your first decade of life there is no finer experience than watching grown men trip each other up! From here we wandered into some sort of Pharaoh bouncing ride, onto the Chair-O-Planes (which I sensibly avoided) and then took in the 'Steam' train; so a fair variety (no pun intended) and there was very little waiting in line involved.

It's funny actually because as we slowly headed back towards the entrance we still managed to drive around dinosaur land, crash our boat in a trip through the jungle, re-live the tale of the Three Little Pigs in the style of Michael Caine and take another boat ride through the world of nursery rhymes. There really is some variety here, as well as plentiful facilities for food, drink and everything else, and that's before we get to a feature that's more entertaining than you would believe - Miniland! Here the whole world, it seems, is rendered in Lego and then animated; all of the London landmarks are present and correct and they even had a Royal Wedding diorama in place today. Topical and captivating; what's not to like?

North by Northwest anyone?
After all of this we somehow managed to miss buying any ice-creams (and neither of them noticed, much less complained, about this parenting failure) but on the other hand we did get sucked into the giant Legoland shop. I can't really complain as it's a real treasure-trove for the Lego fan - much like the rest of the park - and I did manage to escape fairly lightly from the chance of a real wallet-bashing! It's fair to say that we might have done a few more rides with two adults present but to be honest there were no rides that we wanted to go on and couldn't; that's how well Legoland delivers a fun day out for children. We will be back and not just to experience the new Atlantis ride that opens in a couple of weeks.....

Saturday, 14 May 2011

What's Saturday for anyway?

Having survived last night's auction with my wallet intact (even I don't stretch to spending £800 on a night's baby-sitting!) this morning I had to head out directly from my warm bed to avoid scheduling conflicts later in the day. I can't say that I was exactly keen but it was nice to re-visit one of my circular routes around Muswell Hill that I used to run back in the day! Fundamentally this one is all about staying off-road and that means a bit of Coldfall Woods chopped into a generous serving of Alexandra Palace plus garnish from various parkland walks and other tranches of urban greenery. One of these is Hollickwood Park, a small but pleasing park adjacent to the North Circular, and I had thought to photograph the small pond there but when I turned round I discovered that I was not alone:

Taking the kids to the park?
So that was a nice surprise and I carried on with the intention of exploring just a little further than usual; which is why I ended up near Bounds Green and running on top of the main line from St Pancras (it travels by tunnel for a short section here). I've come this way before but it's usually been quite muddy and overgrown which has put me off exploring fully. Today though I benefited from the recent dry weather and discovered that the path terminates in what is, essentially, a light industrial estate - quite surprising when just a few metres away it's like this:

Can this really be suburban London?
Rather a contrast to be sure but the path is like this for it's full length to Durnsfood Road and it's a bit of a battle not to get swallowed up by the brambles! After this experience I played it safe and wiggled my way over to Ally Pally, took the disused railway line and then made a quick dash across the grounds of St Luke's Woodside Hospital; yes I know that it started out as a lunatic asylum and that I probably shouldn't be using it as a short-cut but I haven't been locked up caught yet! So who's to worry eh?

Distance: 7.8 miles
Time: 1h 01m 57s

Friday, 13 May 2011

Blue sky in the morning

What a busy, busy week this has turned out to be! One, or both, of us has been out every night socialising or taking a course, and this evening our school has an auction hosted by Nicholas Parsons, so it hasn't been business as usual. Hence my bike was at work and I had to run in this morning; although with the sun shining down from a clear sky I didn't mind! In fact I positively enjoyed it as the sunlight fell on my back with just the right amount of heat, the trees came alive with birdsong and the scent of blossom hung in the air.

Highgate Woods in dappled sunlight
Down at Hampstead Heath my senses continued to be entertained by the Spring atmosphere and I decided to detour by the 'private' garden next to Athlone House. This hasn't been open to the Heath for all that long but it's secluded, always quiet and worth a visit. As a bonus you get to feast your eyes on the magnificent gardens that the hoi polloi don't have access to! I fondly imagine that there is a squad of gardeners beavering away on the other side of the fence tending to the flowers:

I don't know what this is but I like it!
After these delights it was back to the hard-paved streets and an honest push south. As previously mentioned I've refined my route to take in as many 'garden squares' as possible and that's working out very well in terms of breaking up the scenery and adding interest. On the other hand there are other possibilities around; I've always fancied running through the Inns of Court (if it's allowed) but I don't know their geography well enough at the moment to chance it! One of these days perhaps when I've got a spare moment.

Distance: 8.1 miles
Time: 1h 00m 40s

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Cloudy in the city

I missed out running on Sunday due to suffering from a proper hangover (although it was a great party!) and I didn't even get to run on Monday despite having the day off. So my track record isn't great. I knew that I had to run today whatever happened and so I left the building at lunchtime, despite ominous clouds, and headed past the noisy demonstration outside the Ministry of Defence. Having slightly aggravated my back on Sunday, while teaching Christina to ride her bike, my whole running posture felt leaden and heavy-footed. So it was a bit of a slog getting over to Hyde Park - although I was quite interested in seeing how quickly they'd managed to tidy up after the wedding. As it turns out there's still quite a lot of scaffolding left and a heck of a lot of dead grass!

In Hyde Park I turned left on the horse track and tried a bit harder but my legs weren't really answering the call. So I continued and wondered if I might find something interesting to photograph (which seemed unlikely given how you really need sunlight to brighten everything up) but nothing turned up by the top of the park. As a result I decided to turn my attention inwards and ended up snapping my hard-working feet; they don't get a look-in normally so I don't begrudge at least one of them some time in the spotlight:

This shoe has seen some action!
Funnily enough after this brief rest I felt inspired to try striding out a bit; ignoring my listless back and instead actively making my legs spring upwards. It worked! Suddenly I began moving faster, pumping my arms and landing lightly, to such an extent that over one half-mile stretch I was hitting 6:09 min/mile pace and that's essentially my 10K speed. I had to work for this, of course, but nevertheless over the remainder of my run I felt so much better and covered a fair chunk of ground at 6:30-6:40 min/mile pace. We all know how important the mental aspect of sport is (being focused and what-not) but this lunchtime was a powerful reminder for me of just how important the right frame of mind is. Food for thought.

Distance: 7.6 miles
Time: 55m 47s

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Regents Park loop

Well the dry spell has definitely broken: at 7:45 this morning it was lashing it down as I ran out to the car! So it was fairly fortuitous that by the time I got to Jack Straw's Castle the rain had petered out and it didn't reappear right until the end of the run. Bonus! Today a very large group, too numerous to name, assembled in the car park and set off through Hampstead (after lapping the pond a couple of times in a holding pattern while Darren caught up!). Ahead of us waited one of the classic routes that arches over Primrose Hill and plunges down into the heart of Regents Park.

A classic route south
As always no one gets left behind when we're running downhill and we all arrived in the park together looking for a water stop at the halfway point. Fortunately there's a kiosk handily sited just near the Inner Circle, above the rose garden, and it's always open. After this we headed back and the sense of anticipation began to grow; everyone knew that we were going to be heading uphill; the only question was which one. Unusually this question was put to bed quite early when Jonathan Green put in a surge along St John's Wood Park, which I followed, and we then continued straight up Fitzjohn's Avenue without waiting to regroup! So that was the deal; a direct push for the top with no prisoners taken!

In a sense this couldn't have worked out better for me but it wasn't easy maintaining a 7 min/mile pace all of the way up to Hampstead village and beyond; even though Jonathan had fallen off of the pace I didn't feel that I could let up and so past the tube station my mouth was hanging open like a yokel on a trip to the big city! In a way I think that these little moments of suffering are great preparation for strong race finishes but I was very glad to make the traffic lights by the pond and bring an end to the pain. Maybe this is just the lot of the recreational runner though - an endless cycle of pain in a bid to maintain fitness!

Distance: 8.3 miles
Time: 1h 09m 04s

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Track Session II

This evening I cycled over to Regents Park for another of the TriLondon track sessions; hopefully this will become a regular habit as I could do with lifting my top-end speed. Tonight's session was run by Lotte and there was a decent turn-out with maybe 8 or 9 of us taking to the track. Sadly I didn't recognise too many people, apart from Andy, but I think that that's as much a reflection of how fluid a decent triathlon club is in a big city as it is a comment on how rarely I get to train in a group now!

Either way after a few laps warm-up we moved onto the intervals: 2 minutes running followed by 2 minutes rest, repeated 8 times. The same as last week except tonight I felt distinctly jaded at the beginning and it took several repetitions for me to loosen up and feel a bit more coordinated. By the halfway point I was managing to hold my position in the group and when it came to the last two intervals I decided, as happened last week, to turn up the gas and see. Luckily this lead only to good things and I covered a number of extra metres although at the cost of having to push a lot harder - which kind of leaves me wondering if I wasn't trying hard enough?

Anyway I had my watch set to record the intervals and so I have the split numbers this week. They aren't perfect as Lotte's timing wasn't quite in synchronisation and so by the end I was probably starting a good 10 seconds after the watch wanted me to. Nevertheless the splits aren't too bad (with the first 7 seeing 544m covered and the last 576m, more or less):

1 - 5:46 min/mile
2 - 5:55
3 - 5:55
4 - 5:54
5 - 5:50
6 - 5:54
7 - 5:51
8 - 5:38

So a pretty good session although I did find it rather taxing cycling home over the top of Hampstead; this is not the altitude profile that I would choose if I had a choice!

Distance: 4.1 miles
Time: 34m 17s

Monday, 2 May 2011

Mayday, mayday!

On the last of the bank holidays our chairman Ira once again graciously decided to host a run; so I levered myself out of bed far too late and raced down to St Johns Wood. I was certain that I'd cut it too fine and would be left to run on my own but, no, luck was on my side and everyone was still warming up. For a change Ira decided to take us down to Little Venice and south towards Paddington Basin - which suited me fine as I've never run in this particular area before. Okay it's not overly scenic but the Canalway Cavalcade festival, with what seemed like hundreds of barges, brightened things up; as did the return of Errol fresh from constructing a business empire:

Errol - cool as a cucumber
However as good as Errol looked for a man who has barely run this year things turned bad, even for him, when we got to Marble Arch and entered Hyde Park. The wind picked up and the air swirled with pollen and dust, forcing itself into our eyes and lungs while we waded ankle-deep through the discarded timber blossom. To be perfectly honest it was positively hateful and I, for one, would have welcomed a decent downpour just at that moment! Yet we persevered and headed over to the opulence of Kensington Palace Gardens; it's fairly astonishing that some of these monumental buildings are private residences (or as private as you can be with bountiful staff).

Here come the Men in Black!
After this high point we swung back through Paddington again; a touch anti-climatic perhaps but if you look up, as we did, you get to see the dramatic art-deco design of the Great Western Railway office next to the modern station. What a super piece of timeless architecture! Even so it was a relief to reach the end of the run and the end of the airborne irritation; London isn't normally this bad, thankfully, but one glance at my lawn demonstrates just how dry it has been this past month. Maybe a few drops wouldn't do us any harm (although not when I'm outside thanks).

Distance: 7.5 miles
Time: 1h 02m 48s

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Regents Park 10K - May

It was a bit of a rush this morning making it down to the start line, what with the rest of the family heading to the beach, and I had to run straight from the car into a truncated warm-up and then directly to the start line. So I didn't get a chance to relax, stretch or even check out the crowd for a few familiar faces before we lined up for the starting gun. Fair enough it wasn't a big problem as I've been in this position many, many times before but when we did kick off I was probably forty or so bodies back from the front. So for the first lap I concentrated on steadily making my way through the pack and generally speaking this went ok although my progress was slower then the ideal.

Then at the 4km mark a rocket in black drew up alongside just as I'd tucked in behind someone else for a bit of shelter from the incessant wind; I knew in that instant that this was a race-changing moment. If I could get behind this guy and stick with him for a while then I wouldn't regret it - possibly! So for the next 1000m my pace went from 3:49 min/km to 3:46 min/km. It doesn't sound like much does it? Well maybe except for the fact that the previous km was all downhill and this km was all uphill and I was flying past the runners in front. An amazing feeling but I was absolutely at the limit; an assessment cemented when I discovered that my pacer was looking for a 37:30 finish and had the speed to match. So at just after 5km I dropped back and considered my options....

To a degree I'd rather committed myself up to this point and I certainly felt the strain (if my rabid foaming at the mouth was any giveaway). So I resolved to ease back a little and try to hold my hard-won position. For a little while this plan worked well and I managed to recover; in fact I recovered to such a degree that I began eating into the lead that the two guys in front of me had. With every km I managed to drag myself a little closer until the 8km mark where I caught, and then passed, the pair with another full-on effort. Looking back I'm amazed that I was able to pull this together but throughout the race each push like this was followed by a scaling-back of effort and this approach seems to work for me.

In fact it worked so well that the tenth km was my fastest of the race at 3:42 min/km pace (very definitely my top-end race speed) and I felt like I was both in control physically and also running with a light, smooth style. I only ever experience this type of body-and-mind intensity when racing and it's simultaneously blissfully energising and painfully enervating. That'll be why a couple of rascals came charging past me right on the line, when I had nothing left to give, bumping my from a joyous 16th place to a pleasing 18th place. I forgive them though as they didn't stop me being the first V40 home this month out of 427 finishers.

This is a result that I can live with (well that and stopping the clock at 38:27).

Distance: 11.1 miles
Time: 1h 17m 16s