Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Riddlesdown parkrun thirty-seven

During the thirty-seventh Riddlesdown parkrun I...

... clocked up my 200th parkrun kilometre (that's 40 parkruns in total).
... completed 8 continuous months of parkrunning.


After last weekend's double whammy, I decided to take things easy during the week. In the end due to other commitments it worked out that I took five days off training.

just before half-way

The conditions were ok. The ground was still quite soft in places and there was some wind along the back straight, but nowhere near as bad as it has been over the last few months. There was some wind in places, but again it wasn't too bad.

Only ten more weeks until I earn myself one of these shirts

The run itself was not the best, but as I ticked off each kilometre I found that old aches and pains were resurfacing. Ultimately I had to slow my pace and my splits reveal that each kilometre got progressively slower as the run went on.

Mrs7t took charge of photography during the first lap but had to hand the camera back to Nicki so we could make a quick get-away at the end.

This is what the photographers get up to before the runners appear

We were upset to have missed the post-run tea and coffee, which was back at the good companions pub - now under new management, I hope it works out ok. I'm sure I even saw homemade cakes in the event photos, looks like we picked the wrong week to make other plans!


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Riddlesdown parkrun thirty-six

The temperature at the thirty-six Riddlesdown parkrun was approximately 15 degrees warmer than at the thirty-fifth event. The snow had melted and left the course soft, but not overly muddy. For the first time in i-don't-know-how-long I left the tights at home and only wore one layer on top, it was long sleeved but not lined.

On the way to the start line I managed to fit in just over a kilometre's worth of jogging to warm up. During which I discovered that there was such a thing a half-term-athon. I'm glad I didn't know about this beforehand as I may have been tempted to join in!

[photo: Nicki Clark]

Once all of the runners were assembled we were quickly taken through the usual pre-run announcements, and then without much delay dispatched to do our best on the course.

I thought somewhere around tempo pace would be good for today's run, so I set off nice and strong. For a change I didn't start right at the back.

The first lap went by quite nicely, I smiled to myself as I ran across the sleeping policemen (see my Riddlesdown course description on the parkrunfans blog).

[photo: Laura Land]

Once I had come back around to the start line I had caught up with David. I passed him here, but then further along the path I saw some dogs and I could feel my body tensing up. I slowed my pace and just before the hole in the fence David re-took the position. I almost collided with David as he went past, completely my fault, I was too bust fretting over the scary dogs. David, if you read this - sorry!

Thankfully we went past the dogs without incident and once we had turned into the trail section I felt confident enough to push the pace again.

I thought my place was secure until near the end I could hear someone breathing behind me. It was a runner that I had passed much earlier on in the run. As we turned onto the final straight I could sense that he was gaining on me. I had just done enough and managed to cross the line four seconds ahead of him.

[photo: Nicki Clark]

Mrs7t and Lime were waiting for me at the finish line. We quickly went to the registration table and then back to the car as we had to drive down to Redhill to pick up our new car, before returning to the Horseshoe for some tea and to find out what goodies were in our graze box.


Sunday, 19 February 2012

Isle of Oxney 5 Mile Dash 2012

Date: 19 Feb 2012
Distance: 5 Miles

Note: As of 2013 this race is now called the Tenterden 5.

We arrived in the village of Wittersham about an hour before the race was due to start to allow plenty of time for wandering, warming up and chatting to Terry, who had also signed up for the race. I should point out that we forgot to pick up the SLR on our way out of the house, so the photos are all from Mrs7t's smart phone.

making our way to the start line

We had already been sent our race numbers in the post, so registration was not necessary on the day. We weren't sent timing chips, so we thought we may have to pick one up. A quick chat to one of the marshals in race HQ informed us that the race was going to be timed the old fashioned way - with a stopwatch!

off we go (i/we have a habit of starting from the back)

We made our way up to the start line and before we knew it were on our way. We finished our conversation during the first 100 metres of the race and then went our separate ways. I pushed on and filtered through the other runners, one of the attractions of the race was that it was a local race in aid of the local town hall. I like these races.

the ladies - hanging out in wittersham during the race

The two wonderful ladies were there with me of course, and Mrs7t took all of the photos here. They spent some time looking around Wittersham and chatting to someone about minimalist running, while we were making our way through the country lanes.

me finishing

The course seemed to undulate, but didn't contain any serious hills. The first three kilometres felt like they were mostly made up of downhills and after that I felt like we were climbing. As usual with these kind of races I try to take in a bit of the scenery as I run along, however, most of the country lanes had hedges on either side so I gave up after a while and just focused on running.

terry finishing

When I finally made it back into Wittersham, there were a few people out on the road cheering. It gave me a nice little boost at the end of the race to hear them. The finish line was at the race HQ. Once I had crossed the line I looked down to check my stopwatch, however, a few seconds had passed since crossing the line. I remember the stopwatch saying something around 35 minutes. I would have to wait for the results to be processed and uploaded onto the nice work website to know my official time.


About five minutes later Terry came around the corner and across the line. Initial timings suggested that he had run just under 40 minutes. Along with most other runners, we headed into the refreshment area to stock up on water and cake.

cake and stuff

As the car park exit was blocked by the finish line we had no option but to hang around. This worked out quite well because we stayed behind and watched the prize giving ceremony and had some of the delicious home-made carrot and coriander soup (and some more cake).

the route (from my gps data)

The official results were made available later the same day, in total 105 runners took part. Here is how we both did..


Position: 18th
Time: 34:49



Position: 49th
Time: 39:40



Wednesday, 15 February 2012

End of an era

Today I went to the gym.

I didn't go there to play with their toys.

This is the conversation that took place....


Me: Hi, I've come to cancel my membership.

Her: Oh.

[she reaches for cancellation form]

Her: May I ask why?

Me: Well, I'm a runner. I do everything I need to do... out there.

[I point to window]

Me: Over the years I've learned that I don't need all of this fancy equipment in order to reach my fitness goals.

Her: How long have you been a member?

Me: about 7 years.

Her: Wow.

Me: Yeah, I'll miss the place. I used to be here almost daily.

Her: hmm

[she writes stuff on a form and then answers the ringing phone]

Me: Do you want me to sign that?

Her: uhm... yeah, probably.

[she hands me the paper and a pen]

[I sign the form]

Me: I'll probably come down for a session or two before the end of the month, I have a few challenges to complete.

Her: hu?

Me: Don't worry. Cheers.

[I leave the gym]


The challenges that I was referring to are from the tribesports website - If you need a new challenge to give your favourite activities a bit of a kick try it. If you join, remember to find me and add me.

So now that I have left the gym I will save myself £36 per month. That is going straight into Steve's running stuff account, I am going to use it to pay for anything related to running (races, new gear etc).

It really feels like the end of an era, but life has moved on over the last couple of years and the gym just doesn't fit in anymore.


Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Riddlesdown parkrun course description

My first parkrun home was at Riddlesdown, which is nestled on the London-Surrey border just south of Croydon. It is easily accessible by road, being only a few minutes drive from the M25 / A22 junction.

Here is my attempt at giving any of you budding tourists that have not yet visited us a quick virtual tour of the course.

The photos are all from the official Riddlesdown photo account. They are mostly the work of run director, Nicki Clark, but some are from other people, notably Pete Gibson.

Riddlesdown parkrun starts at the southernmost point of the course (roughly indicated by the green marker in the photo below). Parking for the event is located in Warlingham School, where you'll also find the toilets. The distance from the car park to the start line is approximately 700 metres.

The official course map

It is one of the faster parkrun courses in the local area. The course is almost entirely flat. However, there are a few different types of terrain, a couple of tight turns, and one very short incline, which when combined may take a few seconds from your potential 5k finishing time.

The view from the start line
If you were to pass through Whyteleafe using the A22 you would no doubt notice a very white cliff face high above the road. The green fence in the photo above divides the downs from this potentially dangerous area, which, I'm told, used to be a chalk pit.

The View
Once released from the starting gate you head north-west along a grassy path, after 200 metres the fence disappears to reveal a lovely view across the valley towards Kenley. Continuing on you may notice the slightest of inclines until you eventually pass through a gap in the hedge.

The gap in the hedge

Here the course remains flat until just before the corner, where it dips down and then flips you around an approx 120 degree angle right turn. Just to add a little spice, this juicy little corner also then forces you to climb as you are turning. A really interesting corner to negotiate - especially in challenging conditions. You then continue your short incline to our only named section of the course - Condon corner.

Photo taken from Condon Corner (now Barry's Bend), looking along the trail section.

Next up is the 700 metre long trail section. As you'd expect from a trail section, there are parts where you'll find protruding rocks and tree roots to negotiate. It's certainly not the trickiest trail section you'll find, but you do need to remain focused in order to remain upright.

Sometimes it rains and we have some fun puddles to negotiate during the trail section
Once out of the trail section you are returned onto a grassy path, which can become quite boggy when the course is muddy. On the first lap you will turn right after 400 metres and cross the field. The course here has a different challenge, the ridges in the ground run across the path, so it is like running over a hundred sleeping policemen in quick succession.

In the photo you can't see the sleeping policemen, but when you run across you'll know they are there

Once across the field there is another right hand turn, which delivers you onto the gravel path. About 200 metres along this path you will hit the half-way point. Another 200 metres of gravel later and you will be swinging another 120 degree turn back onto the grass, this one is a left-hander, and as it remains flat is not quite as challenging as the earlier sharp corner.

The gravel path
You'll now head back towards the start line to retrace your steps through the hole in the hedge, around Condon corner, through the trail section and along that 400 metre grassy section, where you reach the point where on the first lap you cut across the field. On the second lap you follow the sign to the finish which is conveniently just a 100 metre dash from here.

You'll usually find the finish line around here
The registration desk is at the entrance to the downs. It's 150 metres or so from the finish line, so if you've had a tough run you'll have enough time to recover before reaching the desk to have your personal and position barcodes scanned.

The post-run coffee venue - The Horseshoe - is just down the road in Warlingham. It is 1.8km away from the registration desk and, of course, everyone is welcome!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Riddlesdown parkrun thirty-five

The thirty-fifth Riddlesdown parkrun was awesome.

However, before I start with all of the me me me stuff, the event would not have been possible without the dedication of today's team of volunteers, who clearly must be a hell of a lot madder than the people that turn up to run.

Thank you.


On official camera duty today was Pete  - Thanks for letting me use your photos again, I hope you like the collages that I put together!

riddlesdown [photos: Pete Gibson]

Temperature: -5 or -6 or -7, depending on who you ask.
Wind: Not even a whisper of a breeze.
Conditions: Lying snow (approx 5 inches), most paths trodden.

Before this I had only run in snow once before. However, on that occasion (in Germany and Belgium) most of the pavements had been cleared and only part of the route actually involved me running on/in/through the snow.

forty-five runners turned up [photo: Pete Gibson]

Upon arrival at the downs I was greeted with what you might call a 'winter wonderland'. I've tried to think of some other names but that really does sum it up best.

By this point I was already in danger of missing the start of the run, but thankfully once I had trotted over to the start line I managed to join the other forty-four parkrunners just in time to hear the pre-run announcements.

towards the end of the trail section [photo: Pete Gibson]

Starting from the back again, I moved on through the snow. My usual plan to sail past as many runners as possible during the first kilometre thwarted by the fact that only a very narrow trodden path existed and any attempts to deviate from it resulted in a doubling of the effort required to travel the same distance.

However, I was impatient and took the path less (never) trodden in my desperate attempt to break through the congestion. Ultimately it worked, and I found myself in some clear air for brief periods before having to resort to the previous plan a few more times.

riddlesdown (again) [photos: Pete Gibson]

The course may have been harder work, but you could not fail to notice how stunning the downs look in their winter coat.

I was glad that one of the marshals, Mark, was on duty at (take a deep breath) 'the sharp corner at the bottom of the short incline to Condon corner', as on both laps he managed to save me from hurtling straight into the hedge, skillfully predicting my poor attempt at cornering on the compact, slippery snow, and realigning me onto the correct trajectory. (If you are reading this - thanks!)

Apart from that one tricky corner, I managed to pick my way around the course without incident, there were a few icy sections, but again, extremely well-placed marshals were on hand to warn of ice ahead.
getting some air [photo: Pete Gibson]

At one section of the course (just after 2km) we had lost our usual path to the five or so inches of powdery snow, and in its place had appeared a choice of two meandering paths, which had evolved over the course of the week through various dog walkers and possibly the odd volunteer before the start of the run. To be honest, I didn't realise we had a choice until I was already on one path, and even though the other looked more direct, it wouldn't have been worth the extra effort of crossing the deeper snow to get there.

I wasn't racing this week and really, why would I want to? The scenery was amazing, there was no wind at all - which only added to the experience (in a good way, of course), plus I was enjoying myself out there and wanted to drag the experience out for a little longer.

i'm sure it was this way last week [photo: Pete Gibson]

After the run, we went to the Horseshoe pub for our post-run natter and coffee. Although, because I am trying to break my dependency on coffee, I settled for an orange juice instead. The pub is nice enough but it seems to have a few grumpy regulars who don't seem to like us invading their space. Also the drinks are more expensive than at the good companions, my orange juice and Mrs7t's green tea weighed in at £4.65. We had some lunch too, which meant shelling out another £20 on two deconstructed veggie burgers. They were nice enough, but were they worth that much? Probably not.

team7t [photo: Nicki Clark]

Good Companions - Please hurry up and finish your redecoration thing. You don't have an open fire place (or maybe you do, but not where we sit) and all the fancy accessories that the Horseshoe has, but it feels more like home. I even miss the dodgy taps in the gents!

This run will definitely go down as one of my favourites. I (and the rest of the runners) owe a great deal to those who got out of bed early enough to make the event happen, especially as it would have been so easy to have cancelled it altogether.


Sunday, 5 February 2012

Riddlesdown parkrun thirty-four

Sub-zero temperatures ensured that the field was smaller than usual at the thirty-fourth Riddlesdown parkrun. We had somehow managed to get there with plenty of time to spare, which meant I actually had time for a warm-up for a change. I did a kilometre of jogging plus a bit of this and that to get my legs ready for the run.

pre-race ritual prep [photo: pete gibson]

Yet again I started at the back, I was not quite sure exactly how I was going to approach today's event. I was still faffing around with my phone as I ran along the first 100 metre section of the course. As I settled into the run I realised that I was feeling good at a slightly faster pace than I have been running in recent weeks/months.

I worked my way through the field, always focusing on the person ahead and using them to motivate me to keep the pace up. By the half-way point I had caught up with Ange, I stayed with her for about a kilometre and would have been happy to finish behind her. However, I saw David up ahead and couldn't resist testing myself to see if I could keep the pace strong enough to catch him (I haven't run this hard for months). It turns out that I did just about have something in me and I caught up and overtook him during the trail section on lap two.

trail section during lap one (hat still on) [photo: pete gibson]

By the time I reached the finish line I was completely wasted. I was handed my position barcode but my head wasn't thinking straight and I just kept walking, not realising that Mrs7t and the Baba were actually waiting for me at the finish line.

Once I had been scanned at the registration desk, I wandered over to the car park (to look for the wife) but clearly she wouldn't be there as she had been waiting at the finish line. I found a spot and had a stretch and a quick massage of my legs. Before I knew it the wife had appeared and we jumped into the car for some well-needed relief from the cold.

approaching condon corner (approx 3.5k point - hat off) [photo: pete gibson]

Next up we went for the post-race coffee with the rest of the gang! The Good Companions was closed for some refurbishments (maybe they'll do something with the taps - lol) so we went to a different pub. It was The Horseshoe, in Warlingham. A pub with very nice decor, an open fire and real coffee!

Mrs7t had brought some snacks in the form of a graze box, which we have delivered every now and then. There were different seeds, sultanas infused with cinnamon (awesome), and some with lime. Tiny rice crackers with mango chutney, and plenty of other healthy snacks. They were much nicer than our usual selection of chocolate and cake.

final straight [photo: Mrs7t]

So another week was done. The 100% attendance record still in-tact. Nice to finally be able to put in a decent run. I finished in 20:41, which was my fastest time since last October, and thus stands as my 2012 pb so far.

After the fun and games of Janathon, February is to be a month of ease and recovery. I've made a deal with myself that I will make sure that my relative recovery time outweighs my training time. We'll see how that goes, the snow/ice should help me stick to it.


500 push-ups in one day challenge

The challenge details are on the tribesports website:

Perform 500 push-ups in a day

After an extremely lame attempt at completing this challenge last Tuesday, I decided to have another crack at it on a day where work wouldn't get in my way.

I started at 11am and worked out that if I stuck to an average of 50 push-ups per hour for the rest of the day, I would be done just before I hit the sack (albeit with burning chest, triceps and shoulders!). Here is how it went:

11:10 - 11:18: 5 sets of 10 (regular).

We then had to go out to the shops to buy food.

13:26 - 13:29: 5 sets of 10 (with pushup bars).
14:58 - 14:59: 1 set of 20 (with pushup bars).
15:14 - 15:16: 3 sets of 10 (with pushup bars).
15:50 - 15:56: 5 sets of 10 (regular with feet raised).
15:59 - 16:05: 5 sets of 10 (with pushup bars).

Half way point!

17:07 - 17:13: 5 sets of 10 (arms wide).
18:01 - 18:10: 2 sets of 25 (regular)

That took me up to 350. Time for a longer break while I had dinner. After eating approximately 1kg of roast potatoes and an awesome salad (rocket, spinach, watercress, basil) my body started to feel sleepy. I got down into the push-up position but my arms would not push me up. I gave myself a stern talking to 'you will not come this far and then quit!'. After that I tried again..

19:55 - 20:02: 5 sets of 10 (regular).

400 pushups done, but my right shoulder was feeling a bit tender (maybe due to the extra potato weight it was lifting).

20:40 - 20:45: 5 sets of 10 (regular). The last two reps of the last set were really hard.

The last session..

20:55 - 21:03 5 sets of 10 (regular) - Plus one extra push-up at the end for luck!

500+1 push-ups complete!


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