This time last week I had just finished The Lakesman iron distance triathlon. Writing that feels a little surreal, did it actually happen? Did I actually finish an Ironman? Well this large piece of slate says I did so it must be true!
It’s always a weird feeling when you complete a big race or challenge, something you’ve been working towards and dreaming of for a long time. I’ve spent every Sunday night for the past 30 weeks planning how to fit my training in around family and work life, every time we made weekend plans my first thought was always ‘does it stop me doing my long ride?’. Commitment and obsession are definitely the required values of a wannabe ironman.
Why The Lakesman?
The logic went something like this; an Ironman is going to involve pain and suffering so if I’m going to do one I might as well do it in a location that inspires me. I’m a trail runner at heart and there are few towns as closely intertwined in trail running history as Keswick. Having a course that went past most of those famous peaks seemed just perfect. How could you ever choose Bolton instead?
Add to that a reasonable entry fee (£275 – still a lot of money to do a race of course, but given what’s required to put on a race like this I’m sure justified), incredibly positive feedback from the inaugural race last year and a race ethos that focused on the athletes and not the brand and I think you have a winning package. Continue reading The Lakesman race review→
I’m a structured person, I like plans, lists, goals, meeting minutes, good queuing etiquette. I’ve tried the ‘take it as it comes’ approach and honestly it makes me uncomfortable and stresses me out. I can cope with freedom within a framework as my corporate colleagues would call it, some rules and limits to guide with freedom in between but that’s it. This applies in particular to running and training, I love setting some big goals and then building a plan to try and achieve them. Just drifting along without some structure for when/how far/how fast just makes me feel I’m wasting time and not achieving anything. Sure I have periods of training where I don’t have a training plan and instead just enjoy being out running/cycling/swimming but those periods are planned and designated as ‘holiday’ periods, you see, freedom in a framework!
I’m also not a prolific racer, I like setting a big single goal and then focusing everything on that rather than flitting between races. Setting that s There is something so interesting about the process of developing your fitness in this way, trying different approaches to training to see which gets the best results and fine tuning with each iteration. I think it also helps that a big part of my motivation for training is mental health, this is my time for reflection and de-stressing, so I don’t mind the long periods of training alone.
I seem to have become somewhat of a Jekyll and Hyde runner, a split personality with 2 conflicting sides trying to dominate the choice of training and racing. 2 different approaches to running that have little in common with each other beyond putting one foot in front of the other.
The Hyde runner
This is my natural side; the trail runner, happiest when out on the trails breathing in the fresh air and basking in the glory of the British countryside. A place where pacing, PB’s and 400m reps are irrelevant, where the wildlife you see is as important as the kilometres you cover. It feels like home as you watch the seasons pass over a runners year. The smell of rapeseed in bright yellow fields during the first hot days of the year, the crunch of your feet on grass frozen solid on early January mornings, spotting deer in the dawn light as they munch on the first spring shoots.
I like the escapism of trail running, of getting away from the busyness of modern life and finding some peace. It becomes a form of meditation, albeit one where you puff and pant your way up a hill. I don’t run anywhere particularly tough or high very often but it’s enough of an adventure to make me feel alive.
Have you done a race recently? Have you seen the litter fairy that follows behind the runners picking up the litter and making the course look like no runner has been there? A fabulous person, making the difference, ensuring the good name of our sport continues. Except kids I’ve got some bad news, and you might want to sit down for this, the litter fairy does not exist.
Yet just like Christmas where we all keep up the charade that Father Christmas is real, at races we seem to all carry on not noticing that someone has just thrown a gel wrapper on the ground or has decided to wait until a mile past the water station to throw away their bottle. We carry on in the belief that the litter fairy will pick it up and so our conscience can rest easy. Besides even if the litter fairy doesn’t exist I’m sure these big road races can use some of the massive fee they charge us to pay a team of litter pickers right? Don’t think so.
At the Milton Keynes marathon I saw a guy about 50m in front of me very gently bend over a lay a bottle and gel wrapper on some grass, right in the middle of a beautiful park on the edges of a lake, nowhere near a marshal or an aid station. At that moment I decided the next person I saw dropping litter who was within shouting range was going to get called out on it. So it was that I found myself shouting at a woman at around mile 15 who’d decided that it was ok to dispose of the bottle she no longer wanted by throwing it on some grass which was actually someone’s front garden (incidentally if you ever need to pick yourself up mid race I thoroughly recommend a bit of a rant). Her excuse was that she thought it was near enough a marshal that they’d collect it and besides ‘she’d seen people doing it at other road races so must be fine, but maybe those were main roads and that was the difference’.
Milton Keynes marathon was my big goal race of the year, a PB attempt and an attempt to crack 3.20 for the first time. The theory being that training for the Quadzilla gave me a great base to work from in the 10 weeks leading up to the race. All was going well until 5 weeks before the race when we went on holiday to Cornwall, a great week with the kids and some nice running on the coastal path but I lost my focus and momentum and quite honestly never got it back. The final few weeks of training were ok but I missed a few sessions for various reasons and then a week before the race got ill. Somehow the stresses of life and work often seem to peak close to a race, Murphy’s law I guess, but it quickly derails your running.
Ultimately this meant a change in goal for the race from a PB attempt to just being happy to be well enough to be on the start line. And what a start line it is, lining up outside the beautiful Stadium MK (which I know sounds a bit odd but it really is a great stadium inside and out) and to top it all the clouds cleared and the sun put his hat on. While it may have been a nice start line it was most definitely not an organised one, in fact I’d go as far as to say it was chaos. The kids superhero run lining up at the front didn’t help things but there was also close to zero control of people entering the pens and the signage was crap.
There also appeared to be a confusion amongst the pacers who seemed to be standing in quite random spots, not helped by having both marathon and half marathon starters and pacers in the pens. I’d love to know whose bright idea it was to stick balloons to the pacers backs with their time goal written in felt tip on them also. Maybe the budget wouldn’t stretch to the normal flags that pacers wear? The strings were getting tangled up and then when actually running the balloons kept hitting people in the face.