Sonntag, 26. Oktober 2014

Tough day at Beachy Head Marathon!

After my low in Summer I had to set myself a target to end my 2014 season. It did not take long until I was sure I would like to do the Beachy Head Marathon with start and finish in Eastbourne. It is regarded as one of the most scenic Marathons of the UK and is quite demanding with about 1300 meters of ascent/descent and it is all on trails which should suite my abilities. My goal was to win the race but then again every Marathon is a long way and anything can happen. You can feel great one minute and then find yourself in great trouble just after but that is what Marathon running is all about :)

The start of the race is quite famous as you run directly into the steepest part of the course: the East side of the Beachy Head which would make a natural selection of all the different speeds including some false positives who go off to quick. Before the start I was looking around if I would spot some familiar faces (apart from all the mighty Harriers). The only person I could identify was wearing bib 1 which was Jeff Pyrah, the winner of last years edition.

After the start you have to get through a relatively narrow gate and then climb the hill. To my surprise I was setting the pace of the pack and soon I would even lose my last companion, Jeff Pyrah. I felt a little twinge in my left calf but it was not bothering me and I started to focus to have an effortless and effective stride. Just as I approached the third kilometer mark this little twinge got more and more aggressive and forced me to stop as my left calf cramped up completely. BOOM! that was it I thought. I sat down, digged my thumb into the triggerpoints in my calf and started to stretch it. At the same time the first competitors passed me and asked me very kindly if they could help. Find that on a road Marathon I thought! And they must have thought - how typical; overestimating himself and that's what he get - serves him right!
In the meantime I managed to get up again but there was now way I could run so I sat back down again. Luckily I have the best methods how to handle such a situation in my repertoire as a prospective Osteopath and applied some Muscle Energy Technique. After about two minutes I was standing again, trying to do a few steps. It was hard, very hard as anyone must know how it feels when you have cramps. But only 3 kilometers into a Marathon? That was just not right.
I then told myself I either stop right now or I try to get on with it and see how it goes. As we all know sportsmen are stupid and they carry on. A decision had to be made so I got up and headed towards the next town we crossed after 7 kilometers. I was hobbling along one and a half legged. As soon as it went downwards to Jevington the trail was rocky with wet chalk which was extremely slippery in places - not the best thing if you got cramps! I made it somehow to the bottom of the hill and was happy it would go up again because then I would not feel my calf as much. I have worked myself through the runners and was back in about 5th position.

The discomfort got slightly less by time as I went on to Alfriston which was after 10 miles and a couple of hills later. I had some great supporters waiting for me there to supply me with drinks. They told me after the race I certainly did not look good. But I thought for myself the worst was over and its still a long way to catch up. I believe the maximum gap I had to the leader (Pere Capdevila) was about 4 to 5 minutes. My supporters say it was 8 in Alfriston but I can't quite believe that.
I saw the next two guys already for some time and I knew I was getting closer. At the time I thought I was third and did not realize Pere was leading with such a big gap. On the way to Borstal Hill I saw him far away and clocked a good 4 minute gap. Despite whatever trouble I had I needed to shift a gear up and my fighting spirit was there. During the next descent to Littlington (kilometer 26) I passed Luke and Jeff and clocked now 3 minutes to Pere. Right after the aid station in Littlington a sign went missing. I had to wait for Jeff who pointed me towards the right direction. Soon after, I found Pere in front of me who was also confused and lost nearly all of his advantage. The following passage to Exceat (km 30) included two stairs where I was able to close the gap on Pere. After we crossed the road towards the coast it was "only" the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head which seperated us from the finish. Pere pushed the first uphill to hard as he tried to get away from me. I overtook him over the top and was able to drop him.

As he was losing ground quickly I thought the seven sisters would be a stroll in the park now. Think again.. With less than 10 kilometers to go and after I was pacing myself I realized Jeff Pyrah was just about a minute down. I did not feel like I wanted to push any harder but that is what I had to do now. It got to a hard fight where I knew I had to dig deep to get out on top. I knew many psychological factors were on his side so it was time I remembered mine. I took my second PowerBar Gel which prevented my sugar levels from dropping when I needed them the most. Even though it was relatively cold I was boiling and I had to make sure I could lose some heat. Every cell was now focused and I had to retain my composure. I could not believe that I went through all this pain and trouble and losing all those minutes at the beginning of the race only to lose it at the end?
When you feel a competitor is closing in from behind it forms like a bond between the two of you which gets tighter and tighter. I had to break this chain in my head and I could feel like I was more confident immediately. And then again I told myself, if he could close the gap he would have done it already. So it was all up to me to make it first to the finish line.

At Birling Gap (km 36) it was down to 50 seconds (its hard to monitor this if you're in front!). I was almost able to maintain the gap to the top of Beachy Head (km 40) and from there it was all downhill to the finish. It was only when I actually saw the finish line that I could ease off and knew that I would win. It was a relieve to cross the finish line after 2:55:38 and just 21 seconds in front of Jeff.

Looking back on this race I am chuffed to bits that I was still able to win this race. It could have been a lot easier. But it makes me proud I was able to respond to every problem I faced and to get through it. All pieces of the puzzle had to fit and they did. This includes the support on site but also all the amazing material I can count on from my sponsors. The Race Rocker from Scott was super comfortable at all times and because a lot of the course was on grass cushioning was not really required. The lightweight running shorts had two pockets for gels but they never bothered me. Not to forget the supply from PowerBar which all together made this possible.
I would like the give a massive thank you to all the Harriers who supported me in any way. The warm response after the event was incredible and I am really happy to be part of this club.

The toll on the body was big because my training was very limited recently. I need to recover now so I will not be able to compete within the next few weeks. The priority is now on my undergraduate dissertation and I have to think of all the work that has to be done for my final exams next spring/summer.

Thanks for reading and please leave a comment!

Sonntag, 19. Oktober 2014

Finally back at Chilham Castle Duahthlon!

It has been quite a while since I did my last competition. It was the European Mountain Running Championships in Gap (France). I came 37th there which is not a bad result, but compared with other years what I could be capable of. To be fair, it was right after the exams at Uni.

After the race in Gap I had to focus on the work in the clinic and another set of exams which left me no option but to prioritize. When I was just about to get back into it and sat on my bike, I got less than a mile and had a collision with another cyclist and broke my zygomatic arch (cheek bone) in 4 places. I recovered real good and was able to start with training again immediately.

CT animation of my fractured zygomatic arch

So I started the first Duathlon for some time which is quite a local venue held in the beautiful premises of Chilham Castle next to Canterbury. My expectations for this race were relatively low as I was sick for quite a few days and only managed to get on my bike the day before and did a 68km recce ride. This did not go very good initially but the further I went the better the legs felt so the confidence was back.

The rain started just on time, about 40 minutes before the start which is always nice if the run is cross country. Putting my bike into the transition area was a special feeling but the routine came back immediately. There were about 70 people at the start waiting for the signal. Apart from my brilliant team mates from the Harriers I didn't know anyone and wasn't sure what to expect, as there are very good time trialists in Kent. I thought we would see soon enough who is left after the first run.

Beautiful morning mood; thanks Jo for the great pic!

The first kilometer or so went steadily uphill in the forest on a muddy and slippery trail. I was immediately on my own which suited me very well and set a pace I was comfortable with and would not be to exhausted after 10km. It turned out I increased my lead on the first run to more than six minutes on the second guy.
This allowed me to start the bike in my own pace which went gradually uphill. After almost half an hour I reached the highest point but was just 15 km into the course. On the way back down I was just pedaling whatever I could to not lose to much terrain on my fellow competitors. Reaching the 25km mark and with it the bottom of the hill my legs felt pretty empty. I had to reduce the speed a little to make sure I wouldn't blow. The last 15 kilometers of the course went out & back in on the same road. As it went relatively well out, I had to realize on the way back that I had head wind which made it even harder. I clocked my watch at the roundabout to see how far the next competitor was back. It took nearly two minutes and funny enough he (Tom Vandenbussche from Belgium) did the exact same thing and was clearly determined to catch me if possible.
I just wanted to survive the last bit of the bike which had a brisk and steep uphill into the premises of the castle. When I reached the dreadful running path it was transformed into a tough mudder. I fought my way up but once I reached the top, the ground was again normal grass and I was able to get back into a normal stride. I crossed the finish nearly 4 minutes under the old course record and was happy everything went as smooth as I could wish for.
Analyzing the split times I gave everybody a beating on the run with 6 and more minutes on 10km and almost 4 minutes on the last 5km. On the bike I had the 2nd split including the teams but then again Tom caught up 4:30 minutes on 40 kilometers. Great performance mate!

 Mens podium and post-race treat :)

Here are the results
And my splits on strava (1st run, bike, 2nd run)

Now its time to look forward to the Beachy Head Marathon next weekend. I am now confident that my running form is good enough to race relatively hard. I just don't know if my legs will carry me the full Marathon as I haven't run further than 30 kilometers for a very long time. Well its time to find out :)
This is my goal for this late part of the season and it is important to me to bring it to a good end. Until then have a good time!

Sonntag, 22. Juni 2014

Victory at the North Downs 30k run

It is now four weeks since the race in Zegama. And on Friday the exam period finally finished! This was a big relieve and it feels great not to think all the time about the next exam or essay. For months there was one submission or exam after the other. It is time again now to focus on sport.

Yesterday was the North Downs 30k trail run which is a very scenic run not far from Maidstone. I cross the ridge of the North Downs on a regular basis in my trainings and thought I would have to do this race at least once. It was also a Kent Grand Prix and I would like to help the Harriers to get a good position in this series. Unfortunately I can't do enough races on an individual basis.
The North Downs run claimed the first place in UK's Runners World in the category "other distance" so it would have been a shame really to miss the opportunity to start here!

On a training run on Wednesday some muscle groups started to be painful which forced me to stop. I had a few days left to treat my symptoms and my (still-) housemate Loic has helped me quite a few times in the past with some massages (thank you!).
On raceday I felt good and was just hoping the pain would keep within a bearable limit. It was a very hot day and I knew it was very important to drink enough on this day but also to cool down at every possible opportunity. Thankfully I had Josh who would supply me with Powerbar and water to cool down at the 10km and 20km aid stations so I had actually something different than just water. I also took a PowerBar gel on the way and chose for that my comfy Scott loose fit shorts with a bag either side.

Some familiar faces at the starting line would tell me that it would be hard to win today. After one minute of running a bright yellow shirt appeared next to me. It was to my surprise (and I am sure to his as well) Harold Wyber, teammate from Woodford Green. We were running the first mile side by side. I was trying to set a pace which I was comfortable with and was curious who would come with me with the result that I was on my own after two kilometers. I thought this was a bit early for a brake but I took it and just carried on and increased the gap to my competitors. The course went along a golf course, up and down some corn fields and into the woods. I was able to enjoy the scenery even though you have to be careful at every step as the whole race is basically on trails.

After about seven kilometers I crossed the bridge over the A2. The race marshal told me to turn right and to move on under the bridge. As I was just running on a bridge I concluded to make this 270° right turn and follow this cycling path which I could see from the top. Long story short: I went the wrong way because I could not see any sign saying any different. After a good minute I was quite sure I was wrong so I turned around but lost 2:20 with this maneuver and had an extra 600 meters on my watch. I was furious about myself because I knew there are some quality runners in front and it would not get easy to catch them. I knew I had to fight hard to make this time up but on the other hand I had to be patient not to overcook things in this heat. The water and Powerbar drink at kilometer 10 surely helped to delay this process. Soon after the aid station I saw the (now) leading five runners far away who did not realize they were leading the race!

There were just a few uphills on the north downs way and because they were pushing each other the group split up on the way to the highest point, Holly hill. I timed the distance between me and them and I just would not make up really any ground on these sharp uphills. Once it got flatter I started to catch one competitor after the other. They were all surprised to see me again and asked where I was coming from...
Before I reached the top of Holly hill I regained the lead and just carried on in my speed as the others were not likely to be able to change their pace just like that. I was happy to be upfront again and just carried on. I sure started to feel the muscles I was struggling with a few days ago. So I focused to have a smooth stride and to be as effective as possible. At the 20 kilometer mark Josh was awaiting me again and it was great to get this extra cool down and to move on with confidence because I was leading again with some distance. The last 10 kilometers were quite undulating with a few short but sharp climbs. I managed to get back under 2 hours and crossed the finish line after 1:58:30 and was 2 minutes in front of the second runner. Harold managed to get in 3rd place.

Data on Strava

It was a beautiful day and I absolutely loved this race. It was very unfortunate I went the wrong way but apparently the leading group took a wrong turn at the very same place last year. About 120 marshals on the course made sure we would make it back to the finish and they did a great job. And the live music in the finish area gave it a special atmosphere. A free cake and free massage in the finish area and other little efforts are the reason why this race is ranked #1. I only can recommend this race to everybody as it is well organized, quite challenging and brings you to some very scenic places.

Hopefully my next race will be the short distance European Mountain Running Championships in Pau (France). The selection will be next weekend. I would love to represent my country again at international championships!!!

Dienstag, 27. Mai 2014

Zegama Marathon

I realize this is going to be an extended version of a blog. But because this is quite an epic race for me this report is going to have an epic length :)

If you talk to people living in the world of mountain running they will all tell you there is this amazing race in Zegama you cannot miss. It attracts year after year some of the very best long distance mountain runners and is a core race of the skyrunning world series.
After I saw last years race report on youtube I knew I would have to do this race very soon. See for yourself how beautiful this race is. It is a full Marathon (42.2km) with start and finish on the village square of Zegama. 2736 meters incline is a big number as it is, but with the same amount downhill this results in an average of 13° gradient throughout the whole Marathon.

My schedule for the event was far from ideal but I knew what was coming, was well prepared for it and had the right mindset. I flew on Saturday evening from London to Bilbao where I rented a car. I arrived in Oñati at midnight, which was half an hour out of Zegama. When I had breakfast the next morning I met a few runners who did not had the chance to get a starting slot for the race because the numbers are very limited. Only 450 runners get accept through the ballot process and Millan Salva told me they got rejected the past six years. So they decided to come here to cheer the athletes on.
Once I arrived in the mighty town of Zegama I realized the dimension of this race considering the size of the town. So many volunteers were there to make this an event to remember; apparently this is THE event in everybody's calender in the whole area.

I decided to start in my Kinabalu shoes. I expected them to withstand the conditions better than the Trail Rocket. The weather forecast was not very pleasant to say the least; it said 8° in Zegama and 13mm of rain for the day. Luckily there was not much rain at all on raceday. But still mud and wet underground of all sorts would be your loyal companion at all times. These are not the sort of conditions I like because I seem to be less effective than my competitors.
I just received another new toy from Scott, the best hybrid running pants I could have wished for! They have a pockets on either side where I could put my gels and gloves without them bouncing about. They are super comfortable and I will wear them a lot whenever I go for a longer run and plan to take things with me. 

So I stood at the starting line extremely motivated for this race. You could not ask for a better field. Kilian Jornet won the race already 6 times, Transvulcania winner Luis Alberto Hernando Alzaga and my teammate Marco De Gasperi were the athletes to look out for, but the depth of the field was incredibly high. It was no surprise to expect a fast race even though the conditions were so bad.
Right after the start the top athletes set a very high pace. I knew that it would be suicide to go with one of the fastest groups. As this will be my longest run until now and I had to be careful with my resources. My gameplan was to stick to a comfortable pace until I would reach the summit of Aizkorri (kilometer 22) which I expected to reach well beyond the 2 hour mark.

After a first tough uphill the field was already fairly stretched. Trying to take the uphills as easy as possible but pushing the flatter sections I found myself soon in a position where I thought would be a good position for me just outside the top 10. I reached Otzaurte (km 7) which gave me the first big boost. I thought more than thousand spectators were lining the path into this sharp climb. The atmosphere was ear-piercing and simply gigantic when everybody cheers you on as if we were Gladiators! Now I know what it must feel like when you climb the Alpe d'Huez in the Tour de France. (Marco De Gasperi in the picture)

Soon the paths got smaller and even muddier. This climb was followed by the first technical downhill. I considered myself as a rather good downhill runner. I could imagine the likes of Marco De Gasperi and Kilian Jornet would be faster than me but I had to realize that this was a great weakness of mine. The whole bunch of athletes I left behind me on the last uphill rushed again past me. When I tried to increase my speed I started to slip on the wet stones, in the mud or grass. Nothing seemed to help. If it only was dry I kept telling myself. With great difficulty I could withstand a fall.
The uphill to Aratz (first summit after 16km) was interstratified with little downhills which did not allow me to get back to the position I was a minute ago. My mind started to work and I thought my time will come for sure when it's going to be less technical. Hah, what a mistake, this was just the beginning! During the following downhill to Sancti Spiritu, I did not only slip but fell also a couple of times. I must have lost well more than a minute on the athletes around me and a few others just passed me.
The next uphill was the last big climb of the course up to the summit of Aizkorri. The top was packed again with supporters and spectators. And again they dragged you over the last meters of the climb.

I knew the next bit would be quite a technical part along the ridge of the mountain. But soon there was no real path anymore and it was more of a climb. Because the rocks were sometimes quite sharp I had to pause for a moment to regain balance. To make things worse it started to snow! This was the moment when I realized I couldn't orientate myself to the front anymore and had to make sure I would get out of this in one piece! A drop of 300 meters in about 700 meters distance is not fun. And finally I started to really slip. Not once. Not twice, but many times.

At this point of the race I started to feel the distance and because the race did not quite go the way I was hoping (not only position-wise but also physically) it was hard to maintain the motivation to push myself. The muscles got tired of all the balancing acts. As the fog started to kick in I sometimes could not see the next signpost (the race is absolutely perfectly flagged though) and there was no athlete I could follow. This forced me to stand still again and again until i spotted the next sign.
To get back to Zegama you have to cross the ridge again at kilometer 30. Apart from a few counterslopes this is the last uphill of the race. This in mind I pushed more or less as much as I could (which was not that much anymore). A long 12 kilometer downhill to Zegama finishes this race off. I lost count after a total of beyond 20 falls, once I even tumbled over a branch and landed flat on my front but luckily I fell in soft mud.

I crossed the finish line after 4 hours 21 minutes as 31st. It was a tough day in the office. It was certainly not the result I was looking for but I witnessed an epic race, maybe even more so because of the conditions. I was covered in mud from tip to toe and was happy I made it to the finish and to my surprise my legs did not feel that bad either. I enjoyed every moment of it and am glad I made the trip to the Basque country. I am also happy with some parts of my performance. Before the race I thought 4:15 would be a realistic time. Considering what I have lost in the technical parts I know I would be at least there. In addition when I compare my finishing time with other years I would have been close to a top 10 ranking.

The guys in front of the race went absolutely mad (results). The first four athletes would have set a new course record. It was Kilian Jornet who won it in a time of 3:48 in front of Marco and Hernando finishing both in 3:50. I have great respect of their performance and everybody else who finished this race.

I am not sure yet if I will go back to Zegama because it uncovered quite a few weaknesses but something tells me it was not my last time in Zegama. I would definitely wish for good weather next time! And in addition I did not get the chance to see the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao by Frank Gehry. This is one of my absolute favourite buildings in the world so there's another reason to come back.
The next stop of the skyrunning world series will be Sierre-Zinal for me. In the meantime I hope I get the opportunity to represent Switzerland at the European Championships in Gap (France).

Dienstag, 20. Mai 2014

Preview Zegama 2014

 Zegama-Aizkorri 2014 Preview

It's only four days to go until I will start at my first race of the skyrunning world series! It is the mountain Marathon in Zegama, Spain. On the traditional 42.2 kilometers there is a total of 5472 meter incline and decline to overcome. Not exactly what one can prepare in the likes of Kent! Well I've tried to use the North Downs ridge with its 100 meter incline with a few repetitions. We will see if that did the trick ;)

There has been quite a while since my last post. Here is an update what happened in the meanwhile:

I did the Paddock Wood Half Marathon which was on the 30th of March in a time of 1:10:49. It was a very flat and fast course but I just did not feel right on the day. It was really tempting to pull out of the race after 3km because it was not only very close to my car but I also had to write a 2000 word essay within the next 24 hours. But I decided to finish the race, even though I had to take it a bit slower than I expected to. I had to let go those runners I thought I could challenge. James McMullan, Tom Collins and Anthony Jackson disappeared slowly and my speed started to drop until a few runners caught up to me. I thought it was a good idea to just hang in there so they could drag me along. I did not lead much until we reached kilometer 18. Because we started to close the gap to the aforementioned guys I tried to push hard to the finish line. It was to late to catch them and I crossed the finish line in 10th position. I was a bit disappointed with my performance but then again 1:10 for a not-so-good-day is acceptable I think.

This was just before I went to my training camp in Giverola, Spain. It feels like home to me, as it was about the 11th time I was there. The location, the food, the training and company was as always brilliant!
I did not get quite the miles in my legs I wanted but I had an amazing time with my love which made more than up for it.

Since the Easter break I was training about 10 hours per week. This is quite a lot for me but compared with my competitors from Sunday it must be very little and I am about to run a mountain Marathon! The training was generally not as hard as it could have been, but then again I am studying full time and had at least an exam or essay to hand in every week with the final exams of the year coming up in a couple of weeks.

There was a last test on Saturday with the traditional Sola-Relay in and around Zurich. I did for the first time leg 11 which was 12.3km and 400 meters up- and downhill. Because I knew it was a very close race between the first three teams I had to give everything. I wore for the first time the Scott Trail Rocket which is the lightest version of Scott Trail shoes (apart from the Race Rocker which is rather a shoe for tarmac). It was really comfortable and now I am a bit confused which shoe that I should wear on Sunday. After a few kilometers when I reached almost the highest point of the course it got flatter but I struggled a bit with the rhythm and the turnover of the legs. Thankfully this got better by time and I could push in the downhill, even though I tried to save my legs also a little bit from all the shocks. I reached Zumikon after 45 minutes and in total I was very happy with the performance. I realized pretty soon that my legs would ache the next few days after all this downhill running. However this needs to be trained as well and who knows, it might come in handy this Sunday on the last twelve kilometers to the finish line which are basically downhill. Taken in consideration this was only 300 meters downhill and another 2700 are waiting on Sunday for me, I do not want to waste a thought what my legs are gonna feel like afterwards.
Our team TV Oerlikon came less than a minute behind the winning team (after 6:55 hours) in 2nd position. I hope we can strike back next year! It was great to see so many familiar faces and to have two more Dala-horses in the collection :)

The training for this week will be to move my legs a bit without pushing to much but to keep the metabolic demand high. I have been struggling in the past with the tapering because the body was not ready anymore to get pushed to the limit.
I reconnoitred the course many times online on youtube (last years race recap with the beautiful scenery) and google earth and should be mentally prepared for whats coming. I know that I am my worst enemy by pushing to hard in the first hour. I hope I find the right mix to be able to get through without any serious downtime. I have been looking forward to this event for almost half a year when the skyrunning federation released their calender. Now its approaching really quick and I am excited to do well in this competition. At the same time I have great respect of the course and that so many things may happen on the way. The only question remaining is now which shoe I should run with! My beloved Kinabalus or the Trail Rocket?

I will let you know how it went as soon as I'm back from my adventurous trip to the basque country.

Thanks for reading!

Mittwoch, 19. März 2014

Southern 12-stage Road-Relay

On Sunday was the Southern championship of the 12-stage road-relay in Milton Keynes where my first claim club - Woodford Green with Essex Ladies had a medal to defend. We knew that the depth of the team was not the same as the year before so it was not realistic to aim for another podium - but at least you can try! So the pressure was somewhat off which gave you the opportunity to enjoy the race a little bit more.

When you participate in a relay its somewhat different from a normal race you do on your own. You realize other people depend on you and you can not afford to ease off when you think it's not your day or you would like to play some tactics. Every second counts. Its unrelenting until you pass on to the next runner and it is your job to get through there as quick as possible.

It was an absolutely stunning weekend. Blue sky and temperatures close to 20 degrees are for English circumstances a special treat. I arrived just in time to see the start of the relay which gave me roughly 40 minutes to warm up for my own start as I was running leg 3 which was with 7.7km a long one.

I could still feel my legs from the 100 mile cycle I did two days prior to the race but I know I need some miles in my legs for later on in the season so I just had to deal with it and make the best of the situation. They felt quite stiff when I started my warm-up but this would change once I was on the way. I reconnoitered the first and last bit of the lap to know exactly what I was on about.
Our team tactics was to stay with the quick boys for a few legs, see what happens in the middle and have a few strong anchor guys to finish solid.

Martyn Cryer who was doing the first leg started real quick and came in in fifth place. Jonathon Cook then took over and just managed with a final rush to came back in 2nd place which put me on a lot of pressure as I did not wanted to be the one who lost the places...
I started off knowing that some quick runners were on the same leg as me so lets say I was warned. I also knew that quite a few runners started right behind me. My goal was to run a consistent race to optimize my end time. I ran the first kilometer in 3:10 min/km pace and my goal was to hold on to this for as long as possible. There was this slight uphill where I tried to stay comfortable to pick up the pace again on top.
To my surprise nobody caught up to me on the first lap around the Linford Wood park. As I was going uphill for the second time Terry was taking pictures and with a contemplative expression on his face he just said sort of: "There are coming a few quick guys just hang in there". What this meant was that a couple of Olympians were right in my neck and made me look like a schoolboy. Chris Thompson (27:27 over 10'000m and yes he is the one which looks like Terminator) followed by Scott Overall (2:10 Marathon) overtook me in a pace which was out of my league.

I tried to keep the pace steady but dropped it a little even though I was fighting quite hard to the finish where I handed over in fifth position. My time was 25:06 which is a solid time but nothing I could be really to proud of (for strava link click here). The team finished in 8th place which we thought was realistically a good result.
A positive turnout for me personally was that I kept the guys on distance which started off right behind me. One of them was Daniel Bradley, my companion from the Ashford 10k in February. He started only 5 seconds behind me and closed the gap once almost but never quite got there and lost half a minute in the end (but Tonbridge finished in 7th just in front of us - damn!).

I ran with my Scott Race Rockers which are phenomenal shoes. I did last years Jungfrau Marathon with them and was super happy. For their lightweight of only 190 grams they are solid, have a decent amount of shock absorption and are very comfortable - even after a 3 hour race there was no discomfort whatsoever!

My plan was to run the Eastleigh 10k this weekend, but I had to acknowledge that my form was not that good to justify this longish trip with so much stuff at hand for my studies. So I signed up for Paddock Wood Half Marathon on the 30th of March and will do the Parkrun instead this Saturday.

After that its time for the training camp in Giverola - Spain! Really looking forward to that!!

Sonntag, 2. Februar 2014

Race report Ashford 10k

My next goal is to run a new 10k personal best in March. I have planed to go to Eastleigh for this attempt where I have set my official PB in 2011. 
To achieve this goal I have to work hard and be determined, as I am not getting younger and speed certainly does not come with age! This shall be the basis for the upcoming mountain running season where speed in the flat is not exactly essential. But it gives you confidence and makes your legs move quicker which is good for fast downhill sections. 

That's why I've decided to do the Ashford 10k, to get a first attempt on this distance under the belt. From the trainings on the track I knew that I have great deficits on the base speed. I know that I am missing the force of the cycling training which I have not been doing for months now (basically due to the beautiful English weather, long days of sunshine and smooth road surfaces) but have to pick it up again better sooner than later. 
From the Park runs I knew that I should be able to run between 32 and 33 minutes. The course had to be changed on the day because parts of the roads were flooded but fortunately the organizers were able to accommodate with the circumstances and had a backup plan which was a 5k stretch with a turnaround point. The course is undulating which makes it interesting for tactics but not exactly fast.

Everybody gathered at the starting line and all I wanted is to run a solid and smart race. The horn sounded and some local runners went for it and were sprinting with a 3min/km average into the first hill (the usual procedure :)). After the first kilometer I was in 3rd position and was in reach of the two leading guys which did not seem to slow down and I had to make the move to be under control of the situation. As I was passing the local Ashford runner he was breathing very heavy and I knew he is going to drop right away so I went to the front and made sure this would happen. The other runner, Daniel Bradley of Tonbridge AC, did not have any problem to follow me and I gave the lead back to him. Daniel is the guy who won the park run in Maidstone in between my two wins in the exact average time of my finishing times which means we had about equal strength.

Now this is the time I love most when I have a game plan and can play my tactics. After he pushed for another couple of kilometers I made another move and got a gap of a few meters but he would not drop. So I had to be patient and just carry on at a speed where I would not overdo myself, keep him occupied and was still able to attack again when the time comes. Just at the second aid station after 6km Daniel rushed past me and our positions were reversed. I was now following a few meters behind him when we reached the hill where he was looking for the deciding gap. I stayed calm and started the counterattack in the following slight downhill with 2.5km to go. I was expecting to get away from him quite easily as he looked quite exhausted when I passed him. But he was hanging in there tough and stayed just about 5 seconds behind me. Now I was missing the force in my legs so I had to concentrate to be as efficient as possible and not to show any weakness. The closer we got to the finish the more I was hoping he was not able to out sprint me but then again if he had the strength he would have closed the gap before.

I crossed the finish line in 32:24 just 3 seconds in front of Daniel and thanks to him I was keeping the pace high all the way. According to my GPS the course had about 100 meters elevation which puts the time in a better perspective. I think it is fair to say I have achieved what I wanted from this race. The legs feel still good and are ready for the next training block!

Now I need to get my bike sorted and get those miles in! 

Here are the results

Samstag, 25. Januar 2014

Park run number 2

Last week my goal was the Dartford 10 mile which got cancelled the same morning due to "flooding" of the course. I was really gutted about it because it was the first Kent Grand Prix connected with a bit of prize money which is always useful as a student! Anyway I could use the time to finish my "cranial" essay.
This week was densely packed with visceral osteopathy. I don't mind if people prod around in my tummy as it is fairly relaxed. Back in the days when I was training regularly with my Swiss club Oerlikon I was sometimes so hungry I could eat a pizza right before the track training and hardly ever was uncomfortable. Now this time I went after the lessons on Thursday straight to the gym from where I started a run and did some exercises afterwards. When I was relaxing in the jacuzzi I started to get a headache. By the time I was home I seriously felt sick but funnily enough still had a good appetite. It cleared off eventually the day after. My exercise for that day was my regular Friday evening water Volleyball which is great fun!!
As a proud fan of the Detroit Red Wings I watched a couple of periods of their match against Montréal which compromised my sleep and preparation for Saturdays morning race.

I don't accept excuses, looking at last weeks results there was a guy faster than me the week before so I was warned. I warmed up a couple of kilometers to look at the condition of the trail which was a lot better than a couple of days ago.

I am now familiar with the procedure of the event and was ready for a bit more resistance of the combatants. And I was right, Junior James West started off his first kilometer in about 3:03 and I just let him go right from the beginning. He has a good running style and I was a bit confused if I should chase him down or not. I thought I should wait until its my turn on the bottom half of the route.
Just before we reached the halfway point he blew up and I was able to overtake him and ran it home. I knew I was close to the course record and was pushing for it but also realized that its not my time of the year just yet and sometimes you have to be patient to prevent any injury. I crossed the line when the timekeeper shouted '52 which would equal the course record - the official results showed 15:53 just 1 second shy of it. A good reason to get back and claim it once and for all!

The legs were fine for the first 3 kilometers when I had to admit they were not working as well anymore. That is exactly what I want from these events, to keep my legs going and not to relax after a couple of laps like you do on the track where you can recover between the reps.

Here is again the data on strava, a very cool tool to upload your GPS data to and compare it with whoever run/rode at the same places as you did.

Next event: Ashford 10k on 02/02/2014

Sonntag, 12. Januar 2014

My very first Park run!

There is a national program to motivate everybody to get out and run. In more than 150 parks all over the UK (and further) there is a park run every Saturday morning which is basically a 5km run out in the green. It is completely free to start and has great success.
I think it is a great opportunity for literally everybody to get out and just do it. For me I think its good to do on a regular basis a 5k "training competition" to get my speed back and to get used to my Scott Race Rockers, the name says it all!

Finally I managed to get there myself. It was the 40th time it was organized in Maidstone. The start is just around the corner of the river Medway. The course goes along the river, crossing it over a bridge to make a U-turn and head back to where you came from. This course has a few features which makes it a rather slow course. The fact that the whole area next to the river was flooded made it a rather soft underground with lots of puddles. To get over the bridge one has to slow down around all the 180° turns. Finally, the trail is not exactly wide and some runners (understandably!) like it a bit slower and more social and don't pay that much attention to what is approaching them.

Right after the start the path got considerably narrow with a following sharp left turn so it was important to get through there quick! Some youngsters use it obviously as their training and were apparently aiming for the same goal, to get through there as quick as possible. After that, I thought I should be on my own, but you never know if there are some middle distance guys in their winter training!

It turned out to be quite easy to get away right from the beginning. I set the pace high enough on the first kilometer to get some distance between me and the other competitors. While I could choose my lane on the way out, it was considerably harder on the way back, hoping between the puddles as everybody else was on the "comfy" side. 
I managed to get back in 16:04 just 12 seconds shy of the course record. I could feel that I am not ready yet to push a decent pace for very long which will hopefully change in the near future. But I have to say it was good fun, can recommend it to everybody and will be back soon!

Click for data on strava


A post on the facebook wall of the Maidstone Harriers really got my interest. It was an invitation to take part in a local night orienteering. I thought it was the perfect occasion to do a good training whilst being pushed mentally and enhance my map reading skills.

It was a cold night and I was not sure what to wear. But one thing I could not miss was the head torch my dad lent me just as I was going back to England. I tested a few eventualities and was not really sure what to expect, if it was cross country or just on roads, how cold it would actually be, if the batteries of the head torch were still alright?! Must be, it was shining bright!.. all these questions were spinning in my mind.

Once I got to the parking of the Old Orchard in Leybourne it was still pretty quite. There were a few people hiding in their cars but I was still not sure if I got to the right place but it soon turned out there were others for the same occasion. I got my chip and tried to get a bit familiar with the area as it was completely new to me and trying to match a few directions with what I have seen on google earth. I decided to stick to my Scott T2 Kinabalu shoes which are incredibly comfortable both on road and trails and are now my favourites!

The format was to find as many (or all) of the 20 posts (all on lampposts) in one hour.  You get 1 point for every post found and you lose 1 point for every minute being late.

There were a few moment between getting the map and the start signal. I immediately tried to get some posts in a good order around me so I could find the best way to get out of the neighbourhood. Before I could count to three all of the approximately 60 athletes were running in different directions. I had an idea where I wanted to go and because one guy in particular was sprinting to the same post as me, I was following him. He tried to get rid of as many competitors as quickly as possible which I thought was great for me. The first post was found easily in no time.
I knew the direction I had to go for the next post and was pushing when my mate suddenly stopped and obviously decided to go for an alternate route. I went my way finding the second post, just realizing that I forgot to start my Garmin with all that stress at the start line. I came to the third post which led onto the big road where I could take a closer look on the map. I roughly had my strategy and was pushing about 3:30min/k between the posts.

It went all really well and I was sure I could make it in time except for the fact that the light beam of the head torch got weaker every minute. Reading the map got really difficult but I was under the impression that I was in control. 
After 58 minutes I was back and thought it took me longer than I estimated it should take me. My Garmin showed me that I ran 14.6 kilometers so it must have been about 15 kilometers.The guy I followed at the start claimed to have all posts and had just 12.6 kilometers! What the hell went wrong?

When I got the results sheet I had 22 posts, so I went for two of them twice and lost at least eight minutes! I got mixed up by a post that was in the middle of the map so when i folded the map I lost track of it and went for it again on the way back.. The other I got wrong was at the very end so I had to acknowledge that my brain was tired towards the end of the race.

Thinking back of some mountain running, the mental exhaustion towards the end of a (long distance) race can be quite significant! Maybe a good point to work on for this season?

I had great fun challenging myself with the map. I hope I can do some more orienteering very soon.

Cheers for reading :)

Here is my data on strava

Mittwoch, 8. Januar 2014

Season 2014

Welcome to my brand new blog!

A lot of modifications will be made in the future as the layout is pretty much non-existent.

Anyway this is more like a first trial. In this blog I will write on a regular basis about my Sport activities and how I prepare to my big goals in Summer. At the same time I also try to blog about themes I am processing in Osteopathy that I think might be of interest to you.

By the very end of 2014 I will have to hand in my undergraduate dissertation. This will influence my year to a quite big extend as it is just an addition to everything else which does not make things any easier.

Last September I started to work at the clinic of the European School of Osteopathy. This is both challenging and fulfilling because most of the patients responded so far quite well on my treatment.Nevertheless it feels like I am taking the first step of a very long journey - the journey of my life.

I have the desire to go new paths (figuratively speaking) in 2014. My aim is to perform well at the skyrunning world series (SWS) with competitions in Spain, Italy and Switzerland. Until the season in the mountains can start I will prepare myself with local races in and around Kent. Like in recent years I will go to Giverola (Spain) for almost three weeks to get ready for the season.

I am really looking forward to these adventures. I am also very happy to count again on SCOTT which is an excellent sponsor and partner. Thank you guys!