Wednesday, 7 December 2011

OK there's Wet and there's this!

Last time I blogged I was nearer the end of my trip in Kenya and about to travel home, this I did but not without a bit of drama to make this interesting...

Usually we leave Lorna's Centre about 2 hours before our flight as the drive is only 45minutes to the airport, the airport is even smaller than Guernsey airport so you are usually safe arriving 45-60minutes before. On the day of travel though, Willy (Songok) who looks after us while we are there, came and said we would be leaving earlier due to flooding on the road between the centre and the airport (there is only one tarmac road the rest of dirt roads) in order to allow for any possible delays. We had been told that we should be able to get through the flooded area, which was also being blocked off my some of the Kenyan Matatu (Kenyan mini bus/taxi) drivers. This way apparently a way for them to make a quick buck as they were charging people to carry them (and their belongs) across the flooded section of road, where they were able to pick up another Matatu! When we arrived at the flood it was carnage...

Whilst it was all pretty amusing initially the novelty soon wore off, particularly when a number of the locals saw we were in a 4x4 vehicle and starting climbing onto the roof. I can only presume they thought they would be able to get across the flooded road without getting wet but I must admit for a minute it didn't feel particularly safe!

After trying initially to get across the road things proved unsuccessful and so our driver decided we would take the detour via the various dirt roads in order to bypass the flood and then rejoin the main road further on. Literally no sooner did we back up and turn off onto an already muddy and flooded dirt road it started lashing it down with rain! The dirt road were proving a challenge even for our 4x4 and there were a few times I thought we were going to slide into a few Kenyans walking between villages.

We had only driven a mile or so before we came across our first major obstacle, which was a broken down car blocking the road we were on. Our driver decided to try and get into the adjacent field in order to drive. Unfortunately we became stuck and despite our drivers best efforts it didn't appear we would be getting out anytime soon as the wheels had dug themselves a nice deep grove into the mud. A Kenyan guy in our vehicle managed to find some rocks which were thrown in by the front wheels in an attempt to find traction but it didn't seem to help. Fortunately by this point a local man had joined us and he basically dug us a pathway for our driver to able to negioate his way out, although not before we had all got thoroughly socked in attempt to help push our vehicle out.

Despite being on edge for much of the next 2hours we did at least make it through to the main road eventually, through some pretty hurrendously muddy and flooded sections. The usual 45min journey from the centre to Eldoret Airport took us 3hours and we arrived only 20mins or so before our flight but we made it at least!

On a lighter note, early in the day myself, Hannah England and Luke Gunn had met up with Tom Payn, a british marathon runner who bases himself Iten. Tom whilst renting a room elsewhere spends much of his time with a training camp called Run-Fast and he invited us into visit the camp. We met Edwin Kipyego who is one of probably the camps star athlete and one to watch out for, his 10k PB is already 28.12 and 61.23 for the half marathon and so I've been told has only been training serious for a couple of years.

We were invited into his accommodation for a cup of chi (kenyan tea) or at least Edwin's version of it, as he had added a sachet of hot chocolate to the original flask, however having not had anything particular sweet for the past few weeks it was a bit of treat to satisfy my sweet tooth!
(myself and Edwin outside his one room accommodation which sleeps two people, a room no bigger and 10 feet by 10, includes 2 bunk beds, a sofa, a tv and a sink, its compared to most Kenyan homes this is luxury)

The camp was situated slightly off the main dirt roads, near to Iten town centre and meant we had to walk through a few back streets (which were basically muddy paths) to get there and we passed lots of Kenyan kids en route. They apparantly have all of December off school. Myself Hannah (England) and Luke (Gunn) couldn't resist a picture with them.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Update from a wet Kenya

Hi folks

I’ve been Kenya a couple of weeks now, in fact my trip is nearly at an end! but my altitude camp has gone really well for me. A couple of weeks before I got hear I had to pull out of the Great South Run due to illness but I now feel I have found my feet again and I’ve put in some good 100mile weeks, alongside all the little things too. The added benefit of being on a training camp is having the time to utilize recovery with daytime naps the order of the day… I do manage to squeeze a few in at home but logistically it’s always more challenging, out here its part of the daily routine.

This now my third time in Kenya, I also came out in January and March earlier this year before the Virgin London Marathon, so I feel quite at home. Things have been a little different this time around though as there’s been a substantial amount of rain, somewhat unusual for Kenya in November. There main rainy season is usually April & May and whilst there is supposedly a short rainy period in November, this has been anything but short. Previously we there has been rain it’s mostly been over night and not that regularly but since we’ve arrived there has been rain most days and some heavy down pours during the day too. I don’t feel it has affected my training all that much in terms of quality but we have had to adapt the surface, the trails are all ground/clay based so as soon as you get any persistent rain they become very stick and sometimes just not run-able. The only option for running when its been really muddy has been the solitary tarmac road which goes through Iten, so this has lead to a few out and back on the bad days. Whilst the rain has not been a big issue for us, with perhaps the exception of the crazy drivers when we have taken to the road, no pavement here! For the people locals it is a little more serious, as the heavy rain is delaying the harvesting of crops and this for many is there only source of food or income.

It has not been all bad weather though, as we did manage to get on the Iten Track a couple of times. This is always an impressive spectacle on ‘session day’, that being a Tuesday morning, as you will always find large number and various Kenyan training groups in full swing (assuming its dry day). We were even witness to something other than distance running on one occasion with some crazy high jump techniques going on.

My sessions have gone surprisingly whilst here actually, as after picking up a stomach bug at home a few weeks ago I must admit to did struggle with my training somewhat in the aftermath. It been nice to train in group again though and having been on previous UKA/London Marathon training camps I know that these trips work well for me and it has been just what I needed to get my fitness back and set the wheels in motion for the next few months of training.
Its certainly tough training here though as you won’t find too many flat runs but I’m sure that is one part of what makes so many successful athletes here. I did have an unscheduled day off the other day however, feeling dizzy and generally under the weather, fortunately it turned out to be just a 24hour thing… or as I've since heard it call here ‘a little malaria’. Whenever a Kenyan person gets sick, whatever shape or form it takes it is usually referred to as malaria, it seems this is just a word for someone who is ill! Whilst of course genuine malaria is a serious issue here and across many areas of Africa it seems to me that the Kenyan’s version of man-flu is this ‘small malaria’, don’t let the reference foul you. When I was here in January one of the Kenya guys who works at the centre was off ill with malaria, only to be back at work the next day!

Just a few more days here now and then off to Preston to catch up with a Sports Psychologist and then on to Loughborough for some physiological testing to measure how well the camp has really gone.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Planning for success

It’s between a while since my last blog even by standards but plenty to update you on, despite my lack of racing…

I took my usual break after the World Champs as planned, actually that’s a little bit of lie as I actually started running a few days earlier than planned. I usually get out on my push bike just to do something in the second week to fend of the boredom but unfortunately my bike was out of action so went out for a few easy runs instead. Nothing major just 20 to 30mins of easy jogging on a daily basis but it at least kept the cabin fever at bay.

I have since been building things up again training wise and despite not feeling particular fit I ran the National Road Relays for my UK club Newham & Essex Beagles only a few weeks after starting back. I have only competed for Newham a small number of times over the last 2 years, mainly due to events clashing with other racing plans but I enjoying doing something as part of a team when the chance arises. On previous outings for Newham in UK competitions I have always been on a winning team, but with a slightly weaker team (partly down to me not being in shape) and coming up again a strong Aldershot team we had to settle for 3rd spot on this occasion. I ran 4th leg for the team and whilst my time was somewhat short of what I would expect to run I came away thinking I can now kick on the training. Unfortunately no sooner did I touch down back in Guernsey airport that night after the relays did I come down with a stomach bug, this let to no running for following week and when I did start back again things took a good few days before I started to feel a bit more like myself again. For those reasons I decided against running the Great South Run which I was down to do originally and decide I would be better just getting myself back to full health.

Since the Daegu Champs I have a lot of time to analysis my past season and also look ahead to the next 12months and most importantly how I will tackle it. One of the main things I have done is sit down and think about how I can improve things and find those little difference, the one percenters which will all add up to an overall better performance. I have always set myself targets and within that the little processes which will get me there. A book which first encouraged me to start thinking like this was ‘Gold Minds’ by Brian Miller, a book which my old coach recommended to me. The book is a few years old now but the principles are still useful, although recently it’s been useful to fine tune things following a meeting I had with a guy called Tim Newenham. Tim runs a company called Javelin Consultancy and the Guernsey Sports Commission have been using him to help develop a support programme for athletes in Guernsey. Tim helped me fine tune my goal settings a little more which helped identify a slightly clearer path to achieving success. I still have one or two things I need to finish off in terms of my full season plan, namely the marathon I will run in the spring, but I plan to decide this over the next couple of weeks.

I am now a couple of weeks on from the road relays and I’m actually out in Kenya at the minute on a UK Athletics & London Marathon funded altitude training camp. I will be here for just over 3 weeks with the plan to use the altitude and extra time away from my usual environment to focus on things like rest and recovery a bit more. I have to admit I have found the past 8 weeks challenging at home with our little girl Jessica (who is only 13 weeks old) still not sleeping through the night yet. I do find it hard to be away from the family these days but the training camps and the altitude exposure in particular are something I see as a an essential ingredient if I’m going achieve my targets. Our boy Thomas is a really good sleeper at night fortunately so all being well Jessica will follow suit, I joked with my wife that it she could get her sleeping through the night for when I return that would be sit nicely with me :) I won’t repeat what she said to me!

I leave you with something which made me laugh following a conversation with my son on the phone the other night (sorry I have become one of those parents who talk about their children all the time). He has been given the part of father Christmas in his nursery nativity play and he has to sing the song quoted below, however he when he sang it back to me he replaced the final word (the word out) with the word ‘off’, hopefully he gets it right on the day!

Father Christmas got stuck in the chimney,
So he began to shout,
If you boys & girls want your toys,
You better pull me out.

You can see our concerns at his mistake!

I will try to post up regular while out in Kenya, with what Kenya & the camp in general has been like but in the meantime if anyone has any questions please feel free to leave comment or questions in the comment box below.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Down but not out

For those of you who have seen the result, you will probably already know that I finished 22nd place in the Marathon at the World Champs in Deagu, unfortunately narrowly missing out on a top 20 finish and subsequently missing out on achieving an Olympic A standard that I was after. It's been a rough couple of days having got so close and initally it left me feeling particularly frustrated with myself being that I was only 18seconds outside that 20th spot. I only found out how close that 20th spot was after the race which only compounded my frustrations with myself. My thinking being that had I known I was in touching distance that I was sure I could have found that little something extra required over the closing stages. Whether I would have is another matter, I will never know but even having that conversation with myself immediately following the race left me double guess myself as to whether I had exhausted every possible ounce of energy in the race.

In terms of how the race unfolded I came very close to executing the race plan I had set out to run, for all but those two places! I started conservatively with the aim of running a more even paced race than my fellow competitors with the believe that many people would get it wrong and start to fast. In general most of the field did exactly this. Whilst conditions on the day were not as bad as expected temparatures were still 25c and around 60% humidity. I think because the weather was cloudy and there was a breeze many people under estimated the conditions. At half way myself and Dave Webb were 51st and 52nd place, well down the field but only gaining in places until the finish. At 35k I got a shout out from the sides to say I was 33 place and in front of me I could see half a dozen people coming back to me, 3 of whom were the three spanish athletes who had beaten me last year in Barcelona (where I finished 8th, in Daegu I was the 6th European finisher). During that last 7km I figured I had passed approx 7 or 8 runners, hence assuming I had worked myself up to around 25th place, however I may have miss counted and also not allowed for drop outs, which evidently was the case as I crossed the line in 22nd place. Whilst I fell short of my target the performance itself is probably one I should be more proud of but because of what was at stake one I can't help but be disappointed by the result. Had the race just simply been a World Championships for me and not a chance to gain Olympic Qualification I think I would have probably taken much more positive from the race but it was difficult to see past that at the time.

Moving forward now though I have to run the Olympic A Standard time (which is to run under 2hr 12mins for the marathon) and I have already starting looking at how will go about doing that. My thoughts and disappointment of last Sunday have not completely left my head just yet but my appetite to succeed remains as strong as ever so I will do everything I can to ensure I achieve my goals.

Currently I am now enjoying a break from training, no running and more time at home... which is proving just as much of a challange as the marathon as our little girl Jessica is proving difficult to settle in the evenings. Whilst she is now 5 weeks old my wife was almost a single parent pre-South Korea so it's been a bit of shock to the system for me! I no can longer be excused due to preparing for a World Champs and there's nothing like a bit of real life reality to ground you again and remind you it's not just about running... at least not all the time :)

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Its a girl!

This is a little bit late as per normal but now I'm In the holding camp in Ulsan ahead of the World champs I have a bit more time to write and post this up...

Firstly baby news! on Thursday 4th September we had a baby girl, Jessica Yves who weighed in at 6lb 15 0z, the middle name(pronounced Eve) uses the male spelling as we wanted to use my late grandpa's middle name in his memory, he passed away last December. Other than lack of sleep mother and baby are doing fine and my wife has been a bit of a star taking the brunt of the baby duties so I could get the rest I needed from training. Our son Thomas celebrated his 3rd birthday the other week too, so with a cluster of kids running around house for his party and people popping in to see Jessica there's been plenty going on.

In terms of training I am now into my easing back period here in Ulsan, but prior to that the last few weeks have gone really well, certainly as well as my preparation for the London marathon earlier this year, if not better. I've also managed to get some good acclimatisation prior to the holding camp, with a few sessions in a greenhouse, made available to me thanks to the local vinery the Clematis Nursary. Unfortunately the treadmill I was initially using packed up though, due to getting too hot apparently. It was 36c and 100% humidity on one occasion mind! The greenhouse sessions went well though and i felt pretty comfortable in the that environment, certainly more so than Fae the BBC Guernsey reporter who joined me for part of one my sessions the other week, I think she lasted about 5mins :)

As I say I'm now out in Ulsan in South Korea after a fairly long journey out here, taking the best part of 24hours. Certainly staying awake during the last few hours was a challenge and slept well that first night! the jelag doesn't seem to affecting me too badly either but I understand most people have taken a good 4 or 5 days to get used to the hour time different. I will try to update again here with a bit more info about Ulsan and my final prepations, although that will only be if I can get a new battery charger for my laptop as I left my at home! If I can source another I get another update up here in a few days.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Camping out at home

I'm now back home after my month in the Pyrenees, ironically c0ming home to better weather than I left in Font Romeu. The weather for the last few days was not the best, all most constaint rain for the last two days, not what you usually expect for the South of France in July! but training went well so can't complain. The 4 weeks of training was arguably my best period of training at altitude and the last week was particular good with a solid track session and a very good 25km tempo run, the latter so much so that the person who accompanied me on a push bike couldn't keep up :)

Now I am home I feel a little bit more at ease, as Teresa has not given birth yet, so this means I will definately be here for our new arrival. As the doctor has suggested the due be a little sooner than first thought, Teresa only had to be a few days early and I would have still been in France. The due date is basically this weekend and I'm told that they never let it go more than 2 weeks overdue and I am home now for 3 weeks before I leave for the holding camp in Alsan.

As mentioned in a previous post I would normally be at altitude closer to the race but came home sooner to be around for the birth, however in order to maintain the benefits I have gained from my trip at altitude I am sleeping in my altitude tent. Which has cosily fitted into our conservatory at home, much to my wife disappointment :) The only probably with using the altitude system that I have is that because it's an old system the generator needs to be inside the tent, rather than outside, which is the case with the more modern versions. This makes means getting used to the noise and also the temparature (as the generator increases the temparature by 10 degrees C inside). As those of you with conservatories probably know these places tend to warm at the best of times so I'm not going to getting cold at night to say the least! BBC Guernsey came around to my house yesterday for an interview and seemed particularly interested in the tent that's inside the house. They are not the only one amused by the tent, my son Thomas loves come in there too.

Anyway just a brief update for now, next time I post something I should be a dad again so fingers crossed everything goes smoothly with that...I'm not sure who's more terrified about the actual birth, Teresa or myself! Our first, Thomas was delivered by C-section so the thought of a natural birth seems a little bit more scary. Running marathons seem a much easier prospect to get my head round than child birth.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Living and training above the clouds

Fancy A Run On Cloud 9?

Well I’ve been in training in the Pyrenees now for just over 2 weeks and generally speaking things have been going really well. The weather has been a bit changable at times with glorious sunshine and temperatures in the mid 20's to electronical storms and heavy rain. Yours truely made the wrong choice the other day, driving up to La Calme, the one of the highest point in the area (also referred to as the plateau) just as an electrical storm was passing overhead, not a cleaver choice in hindsight!

From my first few days here my running and fitness has felt good and my first full week here gave me just over 120miles for the week, my key sessions have been good too. I had a good track session last week with 5k runner Ryan Mcleod, Ryan and I have the same coach (John Nuttall) and so we were able to work it that Ryan had his last big volume track session alongside a typical one for me during marathon training. I have also spent a bit more time in the gym over the last 2 weeks, whilst I have been doing my typical weights and core sessions each week I have also been spending 2 to 3 additional sessions per week doing my calf/achilles exercises and doing the hurdle drills that I must admit I don’t always manage to fit in every week back home. The additional calf/achilles exercises or as it’s been renamed calf club! Is an array of exercises to strengthen my calfs, the soleus muscle and achilles tendon which I have been doing with the physio here and athlete Chris Thompson. I am prone to achilles niggles on my right side due to my running mechanics, nothing that has ever stopped me running but the sort of thing that if not given a bit of attention can lead to secondary injuries if you’re not too careful so it’s been good to make time for this. Although I have broken the first rule about calf club, that nobody talks and about calf club :)

Recovering after a run at Lac de Matemale, near Les Angles.

The great thing about being on a training camp of this nature is that you not only have more time to recovery from a sometimes hectic home life but the environment in general is ideal. There are many other athletes here all equally focused, with athletes from both the UK and also from USA this time and UK Athletics have some of their best staff out here too who are second to none, certainly from the perspective of being a non-lottery funded athlete like myself this is as good it gets.

The only minor interruption I have had these past couple of days has been a toe infection of all things! I picked this up on Monday, after training as normal I didn’t sleep a wink that night due to the infection being so uncomfortable. Fortunately the UKA doctor John Rogers had arrived that same day and I am now on a course of antibiotics to sort it out. It only meant two days of not running, two I would have preferred not to miss but on the second day I was able to put my energies into some cross training. Motivated by the Tour de France I took to the bike for a spot of hill work. I used the road that leads to the plateau, the road is just short of 5km of continuous climbing with a different of around 1000feet from the bottom to top. The road is ideal for hills sessions by bike or by foot as is fairly quite road. It took me 15mins to reach the top on a near all out effort, my quads are not designed for cycle that’s for sure! and following some further shorter 3mins reptitions I have to admit that my enthusiasm for cycling was somewhat lessened that but it served it's purpose of getting my heart rate up. I am pleased to say that after that little interruption though I’m now back running as normal and ready to crack on with training.

To The Plateau

Pictures courtsey of

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Getting the balance right

Getting the balance Right.

Even by my standards this blog is a long time in coming, considering my last blog wasn’t since early May. I am finally back on it terms of blogging and I should have a bit more time to post more regularly given that I am now out in Font Romeu for a training camp.

Firstly racing… last Sunday I ran my first race since the London Marathon, which took the form of the half marathon in the Natwest Island Games in the Isle of Wight, competing for Guernsey for the first time since last October. The course used was a fairly challenging one, with a number of decent sized hills in each of the two bigger laps but given that I was aiming to use the race as part of my marathon preparations for the World Champs (later this summer) it workout quite well. I ran 68.36 which considering the challenge circuit this equated to about marathon pace effort for me. As well as individual gold, I also picked up team gold along with my Guernsey team mates Mike Wilesmith and Steve Dawes, who placed 4th and 5th respectively. A great run by Mike who is very new to the running, unfortunately my fellow training partner (in Guernsey) Steve was suffering with a virus and was unable to run to form.

Our achievements and Team Guernsey in general seem to have been received well back at home, It was also nice for us and for athletics to win gold given that they were the first gold medals won by Guernsey at these multi sport games. Also I always say when interviewed by Guernsey media that its nice to pull on a Guernsey vest (given that I rarely get the chance these days) and this was no different. With the course being a multiple lap race (as opposed to one big circuit) we were also able to great support as even from fellow Guernsey athletes and supporters alike.

Unfortunately I wasn’t unable to hang around for too long at the Games due to a planned training camp out in Font Romeu, where I am currently located. I would have loved to have stayed for the full week long event in the Isle of Wight and would have like to have enjoyed the team camaraderie that comes with it, but with so much going on for me this summer it just wasn’t possible.

As some of you maybe aware my wife and I are due to have our second baby soon, with the due date being the 5th Aug, I want to be there for the birth but I am also aware that if I am to achieve my goal of competing at the Olympics in London next year I need to be able to prepare as best as possible. The World Championship Marathon on the 4th September provides me with the first opportunity to qualify, as by finishing inside the top 20 places this will count as achieving the Olympics A Standard Qualification. So this will quite literally be my most important race of my running career. Teresa has been very supportive and understanding these past 12-18months to say the least… infact it’s usually the first thing people say to me… ‘you have a very understanding wife!’, the second thing they usual joke is that how on earth were you home long enough to get her pregnant…but I don’t like to brag :) In terms of training at altitude I usually aim to spend 3 to 4 weeks there to get the desired benefits but then return to sea-level approx 2 to 3 weeks before my race so to maintain the benefits (they usually only last up to around 4-5 weeks but with the peak benefits being around 2-3 weeks after). However in this instance I have gone earlier and will be back at sea-level 5 weeks before the race (one week before the due date, if baby arrives as planned!) so I will then use my altitude tent for additional 2 weeks or so on returning home to maintain the fitness benefits gained from the training camp. My only potential problem of course being that babies don’t always come when you want them too! We said we would cross that bridge if it arises, which well take the form of early return home, but hopefully you can at least see the dilemma I was faced with. I guess my the compromise in this instance (which I would like to point out was more of a compromise between myself as a father to be and one as an elite athlete) was that I have gone to my altitude training camp slightly earlier in the instance keeping my fingers crossed that I will not regret the decision should the baby come early that the due date!

As for Font Romeu the training continues and the first few days have gone really well, I feel at the moment that my previous altitude camps have help me in terms of feeling more comfortable with the altitude from day one. I have still taken things a bit easier in terms of the intensity I have been training at but the pace of my first few runs have been good with my heart rates remaining low (usually the first few days of altitude you can experience elevated heart rates due to your body having to work harder due to less available oxygen). I feel settled as much as I can be away from home and all being well I will have a good few weeks of hard training ahead of me and be home in time to experience the imminent arrival!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Virgin London Marathon Result

It’s been two weeks since the race but it’s still fresh in the mind and now in a position to post this up after just getting back from our family holiday. Here’s my latest blog update…Results wise I finished 14th overall in a time of 2.14.27, which was a PB by over 2 minutes (previous PB was 2.16.48, which I ran in London last year) although I was actually a little disappointed with the time. I was looking to get under the Olympic & World Champs A Standard of 2.12 and whilst clearly that was still my ideal outcome I made the choice over the race weekend to start with the 2.13 pace group. Partly I felt that the 2.11 group might be a little too quick at this stage and I didn’t want to damage my changes of running in the region of 2.12-2.13 which would have been a good stepping stone to running something faster in the future. I feel on reflection I made the right choice as many of the 2.11 group seemed to struggle and whilst my finish time was not what I was after there were lots of plus points to take away.

In terms of how the race unfolded, the group I set out with included Stephen Shay (USA) one of the mexican athletes (there were a number Mexicans running, I believe they may have been using this as a trial race) and fellow Brits Dave Webb, Tom Payne and Martin Williams and of course our pacemaker (Max King, a former American steeplechaser, with a marathon best of 2.15). We set off on schedule with myself, Shay and Dave Webb tucking in behind the pacemaker then Martin, the Mexican and Tom Payne in behind us. Generally the pace was spot on throughout although there were a few fluctuations in pace even though the actual mile splits were pretty much bang on (2.13 pace is basically 5.05 per mile). The personal drinks stations (which are every 5k) were a bit busy for our group as unfortunately myself and the three other Brits in the group all happened to choose the same drinks table, which is done the night before the race. This really was a case of sods law because when you deliver your drinks to the organisors the day before everyone can choose the table you would like to be on (there's a choice of tables 1 of 4) and as luck would have it we all choose table 2 and so of the 6 people who had drinks on this table 4 of us all happened to arrive at the table at the same time. Fortunately it didn't seem to effect anything and we filtered through without any major issues. Some time around 8 to 10 miles the group shrunk to just myself, Shay, Webb and our Mexican friend and we reached half way together in 66.37. At this stage I felt really comfortable and was growing in confidence, it was around this stage we started to catch people too, the first person being the Australian Colis Birmingham who was making his marathon debut. Not long after this I saw my wife and friends who were watching at the 14 mile mark, feeling good I gave them a quick thumbs up as I passed (not something I normally do during a race). It wasn't until around 16 to 17 miles that I noticed that I starting to work a little more but looking at my 5k splits this was the quickest split the weather may have also been a bit of factor too as by this time it was starting to quite warm. It was also around this point that the group caught and passed one of the other british athletes, Phil Wicks. The group by this point was just myself, Webb and the mexican however over the next couple of miles this just became myself and Max (our pacemaker).

The only hitch around this time occurred at the 30k mark when I managed to miss the 30k drinks station, annoying because it was here I had attached a carb gel to my sports bottle, luckily I had attached another at the next 5k station as back up but I was ready for the gel at 30k mark. Shortly after the this we hit the 20mile mark, pretty much still bang on 2.13 pace at this point but from here I was on my own. From here unfortunately the pace dropped off a little bit, possibly more than I should have allowed, however I didn’t really check my mile splits at this stages and just focused on keeping myself inj one piece and ticking off people as they came back to me during the last few miles. Also by now the temperature got pretty warm by now.

Around 22 I passed Tomas Abya and a little further along the road I passed Chema Martinez (silver medalist at last years Euro champs), passing people in the closing stages whilst you still feeling quite strong gives you a lot of inner strength and when I passed the remaining british runner Andrew Lemoncello I felt for the first time in marathon I was able to enjoy the last half mile! The crowd support over the last 800m was just awesome too and it was a great feeling to be the first British finisher with and to get that kind of crowd reaction provided perhaps a small taste of what could be next August if I can achieve my goals. Since the marathon the legs seem to have recovered fairly well. I didn’t run a step for the first 7 days after the race. We went on a family holiday the day after the race and it was nice to be able to take it easy (well as much as you can do with active 2 year old!).. Now I just need to work out how I can fit in an altitude trip before the World Championships as well as ahead a 10 day holding camp and also be around to attend the birth of our second child which is due the first week of August. The Marathon in Daegu in on 4th September. In the meantime I have an MRI scan on my knee in couple of weeks, it’s something which has been around since returning from my first training camp at the start of February. I’ve been able to train on it without too many problems so hopefully nothing to be worried about. As for now I’ve doing some easy runs this week, just once a day of between 20 to 40minutes and other than feeling a bit of a slouch I think I’m ready to get back on the horse and start putting some proper training in again, so next stop Daegu.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Race day is almost here...

Well race day is almost here! its less than one week until the race so the both the excitment and adrenaline is building, although I must admit I don't get nerves in the same way I used to for the shorter distances races. When you are racing for over 2 hours its not quite the same as a race that only lasts a few minutes but I think the feeling of adulation and satifaction runs deeper come the finish line when things go well in Marathon. When a big race approaches you inevitably start to reflect back on your build up at some stage as part of the process of getting your mind focused on the task ahead and looking back this time there is a lot to be positive about, more so than my two previous marathons. Certainly I am far better prepared in terms of general training that I was for the London Marathon 12 months ago so anything less than a personal best would be disappointing. Certainly the UKA/London Marathon supported training camps out in Kenya have made a big different to my preparation and with better workouts I've been doing this all suggests that my body is more than capable of taking a good chunk of that my best time. You can of course never fully replicate what willl happen on the day itself but I feel I ready and will continue to make sure of the next few days I look after myself and tick all the right boxes. On a separate note I wasn't able to upload pictures very easily whilst in Kenya so below are a few pictures I took whilst there... Runners stay here! ....

The only way to travel, by Matatu...

One morning we went down to watch an an adhoc 'Discovery' race organised by a German race agent...

In January I went into town of Elderot, the roads were strangely clear of traffic due to the Kenyan Priminster coming into town...
The other British runner who were here in March...

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

St Patricks Celebrations

I’ve been in Kenya for two weeks now and in terms of training I feel like things are slotting into place well. I have been carrying a few niggling injuries over the past few weeks but being hear has allowed me to manage them better, with regular treatment and additional rest between training. The running itself has been a bit more unusual compared with my first trip in January, in that we have had quite a bit of rain last week, fortunately it didn’t disrupted training, although I did find myself a little low on clean training kit at times. There were also a lot less Kenyan’s out training first thing in the morning too… they don’t like the cold or the rain, so they often wait for it to clear up for going out running.

I have been running most of my day to day steady runs with the other British runners who out hear which includes Andy Baddeley, Mike Skinner, Ben Whitby, Mark Draper & Tom Bedford who are all part of the same training group back home. Whilst they have different immediate terms goals to me we have started most easy or steady runs together which has been good.

In terms for my key training sessions these have been on my own mostly with my a good 30k tempo run on on Friday, using and out and back route along a road called Kaptuli, a short 20mins drive from the training centre. Whilst still being offroad it provided me with slightly flatter route than the options directly around the centre. I ran the run solo but did have Barnabus, a local Kenyan who works for Lorna & Pieter as a driver and general worker at the centre following me in car. He drove behind me in a 4x4 and pulled alongside me every 5k to provide drinks. He certainly needed the 4x4 too, as with the overnight rain we encountered a few tricky muddy patches along the route. It was a good session for me though and confirmed to me that my fitness is good and that I’ve managed to acclimatization to the altitude as much as I would have hoped for. It was arguably one of the hardest workouts I’ve done too with the high altitude and an undulated route a tough combination on what was my longest marathon tempo run to date. More recently I joined the other guys for a track workout yesterday. We drove to Eldoret Univeristy track on this occasion as we had heard it was a better surface than the Iten track. I thought Iten track was busy with some 80+ Kenyan distance runners on there last week, however this was something else with some 120+ using the Univeristy, there seemed bearing enough of a gap between training groups to slot in to do our session, however once we got going we seemed to fit nicely around the various moving trains around the track. There were a number of Kenya’s better know athletes training that morning with Eluid Kipchoge (5000m Pb 12.43) on track, unsurprisingly he was not even at the front of his training group (of some 30-40runners).

Outside of training I have been lucky enough to time my training trip with the 50th Anniversary of the St Patrick High School here in Iten. For those who read my blog entries back in January you may remember me writing about the School. It’s one of Kenya’s most famous, particular in terms of running, some 30plus Olympic runners having attended the school, there is a tree planted and marked for each athlete within the school grounds.

The anniversary took place on Saturday and was attended by thousands of locals as well as many famous past students and religious and politicial leaders, with the current Prime Minister Raila Odinga being one of those. We didn’t stay long enough to see any of the athletes who were reportedly also attending but I did pick myself up a programme which included the school athletics records…the school record for the 800m is 1.43.64 and the 1500m record is 3.33.24, so not to shabby for a secondary school. It’s worth noting though that some Kenya’s don’t attend secondary school at the same ages as we do. They will often take a couple of years out between primary and secondary school to work so they have the money to attend as the like of St Patrick’s, which is a boarding school. That said both athletes in question (Japheth Kimatui and William Chirchir) were both 18 when they ran those times. Whilst we did not stay for the full celebrations it was a privilege to attend and clearly a big deal for local people and those who run the school, so something to tell the grand kids about. Next week are hoping to go into one of the classes during lesson time which should be fun, apparently the kids love to see Mzunga’s!

Sorry about the lack of pictures in my blog posts, I wanted to include some additional pictures but the internet isn't great here and I couldnt manage to add them, so I will have to post them up on my return home.

Friday, 11 March 2011

20k Race Result & back in Kenya

Last Sunday I raced on the road over 20k in Alphen, Holland, finishing 5th in 60mins 30secs. This was the only race I have planned in my London preparation so I was keen to race well, which I think I managed. Conditions were very windy unfortunately which is apparently quite common for this event, making things a little tougher. I was aiming to run sub 60mins which would equate to around 63mins for the half marathon but the wind put paid to that, with a 4km section in particular directly into a strong headwind. I also ran the last 12km solo but found that I was able to get into a good rhythm and hold my pace well (when not into the wind). A good result and bodes well going into the last 6 weeks of preparation for London. You can find offical race results here my race is the 20k wedstrijdloop which you need to click on (far right on the tool bar).

Following the race I was back on my travels that evening flying back to London Gatwick before then jumping on a bus to Heathrow. I stayed overnight in Heathrow before then getting my flight to Nairobi, not before squeezing in an early morning jog around Heathrow I might add. I also had to stay overnight in Nairobi too as I arrived late at night before then completing my travels with the short flight to Eldoret (nearest airport to Iten, where I am based) and a 40mins bus ride to my final destination. Needless to say I was pretty tired but pleased that the travelling was over, unfortunately though I couldn’t run that day (which I had planned to do) due to my left knee & shin giving me some trouble, both had faired up after the race and I don’t think the long haul flight helped as my left ankle had doubled in size. Fortunately I was able to get some treatment on it that day from David Kirui a therapist who works with world famous Gerard Hartman, who is also based in Kenya during certain times of the year. Thankfully I was back into normal training the next day and the injuries seem to be starting to settle down. I even ran my first harder workout today which was 6 x 2k, I ran this with a small group of german athletes who also staying at the centre. I not quite fully acclimatized yet but I was happy to get a solid session under my belt.

One of my faviourite pics from my last trip to Kenya...

Today saw the arrival of further british athletes, namely Andy Baddeley, Mike skinner, Ben Whitby and Mark Draper, so it will be nice to have company on some of my runs. Although I came out on my own there have been some familiar faces on camp too, namely a few athletes (who are on extended training camps here) and friendly staff whom I met back in Janurary.

Today has been a busy day at the centre as they have played host to some Kenyan delegates for some kind of a conference. Apparently attended by one of the richest men in Kenya… I was told a story today he is not a man to cross, as apparently some of his rivals in the past have randomly disappeared without a trace!

Right that’s it for now as it time for my afternoon nap, which now forms part of my daily routine. One last thing, I had a really fun interview with Tom Williams from Marathon Talk the other day. Any keen runners there who have not heard of Marathon Talk, you should check it out, Tom along with Martin Yelling present the show which is free weekly podcast and well worth a listen. There’s been some really insightful interview with many well know runners and I certainly recommend you give it a listen.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Competitive would be understating it

My Kenyan training trip is almost at an end now but it was been a fantastic experience and certainly the best training camp I have been on… the Kenyan way is a very simple lifestyle but a very effective one in terms of getting the best out of your running. Our lifestyle has involved little else other than running, eating and resting, perhaps the odd game of table tennis and a few hands of cards.

In terms of training last week for me saw me top over 120miles for the week for the first time and the terrain and altitude will have certainly given my body some good conditions that I wouldn’t find anywhere else in the world. I’ve got some good long runs in here too with runs building from 2hours at the start of the camp to 2hr 30 by last Sunday. The pace of these has been good too at a little over 6minute minute mile pace, which is certainly a lot more taxing than it would have been down at sleep level not to mention the inclusion of the hills here. The only other session I did last week was 40min tempo run, I had the company of Reid Coolsaet from Canada who is one their fastest marathon runners (with PB of 2.11.23). It was a good solid tempo run for us, I believe Reid’s first in a while and we managed to average under 5.30 per mile over undulate 4km circuit. I have been pretty rubbish with my photography here in Kenya but checkout Reid’s blog for some great snaps of the sort of things going on out here.

It’s certainly not difficult to understand having been here why Kenyan athletes have been so successful over recent years. I have read various articles in the past that cite a variety of reasons for the success of distance running here and of course like most things it a combination of various circumstances but it does strike me that there are a few stand out reasons. Such as everybody runs here!, where as most other countries have a variety of other sports to choice from there doesn’t seem to be the options here so pool of people is far larger. Of course the environment/climate is a key factor, particularly the altitude that most elite distance runners seek out, that’s part of the reason why I’m here after all. Then there is the desire, as the Spanish 1500m athlete Casado put it to me the other day… ‘you can see it in their eyes’. Whilst I’m not say that I lack desire nor does any other elite athlete in most cases but I think it’s a little different here when the desire is to escape poverty. Plus there is also the fairly cut throat approach to the free food and housing that many of the training groups here provide, as these privileges are soon removed if you are not performing and there are no shortage of athletes to fill the spaces. I was aware that Kenya had many athletes of a world class standard but there are even more than I realised here, many of whom will never get the chance to race outside of Kenyan as there just so many vying for the same thing. When you have half marathon won in 62mins (at over 2000m altitude) and regular fields of over 500 runners all trying to be noticed in their discovery XC races it little wonder the standard is so high.

Also in my last post I think I mentioned there seems to be an incredibly number of children in Iten, a quick search on google reveals that the average age of Kenya is in fact 18years old, so this explains things. Iten is also famous for one of its schools in particular, ‘St Patrick’s’ although one of many Christian school here this one is a little different, it’s a boarding school which is sort after as not only does it have a good reputation in terms of education but it has a bit of history of producing world class athletes. I believe it has produced more Olympic runners than any other school, they have trees planted with names of the athletes who have been to an Olympics, with more than 30 in total. Wilson Kipketer (former 800m world holder) being one of many Olympic medallists to attend the school.

This trip has been a real eye opener but I have enjoyed it tremendously, so much so that I will be coming back here in March for a further 3 and half weeks as part of my final build up into the London Marathon. I must admit I do continue to find it difficult being apart from the family, whilst I realise these sort of camps are essential to coming a better athletes I miss out on funny things that Thomas seems to do on a daily basis... one of his xmas presents was Toy Story the movie and he is apparently now walking around with his hands on hips, a serious look on his face and stating I am Buzz Lightyear! :-)

Monday, 17 January 2011

The Kenya Experience

Hi folks

Much to update you about on here as per normal, where to start… well first of all in terms of racing I’ve raced a couple of times already this year, one was a local race in Guernsey on the famous soil that is the Full Course race on New Years day (course so called due to using part of the L’Ancresse Common horse racing course…so I’m told) and the other was representing Great Britain in the snowy fields that were the BUPA Edinburgh XC Team Challenge. The latter is a new event held within the normal Edinburgh XC event that I ran in last year. Both went well in the whole scheme of things, whilst not particularly setting the world alight I wasn’t expecting to be in peak shape right now, that will be saved for the London Marathon in April which I will be running again this year. Whilst I am now back in full training I have not been placing too much emphasis on the harder workouts up to this point as I wanted to make sure my body was willing and able after a long 2010 season, the Edinburgh race signified the start of a new training cycle and the start of my London build up.

I am now currently in Kenya, as some followers may know, I am on the UKA/London Marathon altitude training camp in Iten, Kenya. Iten is small village approx 30miles from Eldorat and has a history of producing great Kenyan athletes. Where we are staying is Lorna Kiplagat’s place and is known as the HATC (High Altitude Training Centre), although Lorna now represents Holland due to marrying a dutchmen (Pieter) who runs the place, she is still a hero in these parts. Many famous Kenyan athletes have originated from here or are based here, to name them would take forever plus there are many lesser-know Kenyan athletes that train here in the numerous groups that you see out every morning on the trails. Many of these guys would be good enough to walk into any other counties national squad but they are just one of many. The world rankings for the marathon speaks for themselves with more than half of the worlds top 200 coming from Kenya alone. Running is just a way of life out here, I heard this morning that something like 4000 people live in Iten and something like 1000 of them run! Myself and John Beattie joined one (of the many) training groups for an easy run last Friday… there was approx 50 in the group, also to give you an idea one of the standard the slowest guys in the group was a 2.17 marathon runner.

It really is a running mecca out here and you can’t fail to be inspired by the environment. It’s a very friendly and safe environment too, on every run you see literally hundreds of kids along the red dusty trials (which leave your shoes permanently red in colour). There seems to be lots of schools out here for the size of the place and all the kids shout out ‘how are you’ in their cute African accents, many run alongside you when you run past them or want high 5's as you pass them. The other day one of them grabbed Steff (Twell’s) hand and just wanted to ran with her for a few minutes like this, they also love it when you response to them too… hakuna-Matata is a good one! (think Lion king here). There is certainly no obesity out here too, few people can afford a car and all the kids walk or run to school around here. So not only are they living at 2400m above sea level but they also run everywhere partly because they have too but they also seem to love it too. Furthermore I have been here one week now and I’m yet to hear any kids crying or whining, they just get on with things.

Lorna’s place where we are staying at (the HATC) has everything you need but is fairly basis compared with western world luxury. Every rooms has 2 single beds per room with its own toilet and shower, it can be the luck of draw as to whether you get hot water some days but like I say its all we really need and any Kenyan would consider where are a complete luxury. The food is pretty good, there’s always plenty of it and meals change daily with plenty of rice dishes, lentils, beefs stews, salads and occasionally fish. Meats such as chicken are used sparingly but the beef stews are good and go down well. Desert which we have after every evening meal is pretty much always fresh fruit, grown locally as is pretty much all of the food here. We have however found a more westernised place to go for the occasional treat… Keiro View, which is restaurant (which also has accommodation) that overlooks the Rift Valley, we went there the other day and it has breath taking views. I posted a picture up on my twitter page, unfortunately internet can be a little slow so I won’t be posting up any other pic’s at the moment.

In terms of training we are meeting every morning for a 7am run (6am if you want to run with the Kenyan’s) before breakfast, the only exceptions are key session days when we start the warm up at 9.30am or the long run day which is at 9am, this is so we can get some breakfast in first. Training for me personally is going pretty well, you have to respect the altitude for the first few days otherwise it will break you but I think I have adapted quite well. It can be tough trying to regulate your breathing initially though and any hill soon gets you breathing hard and they are plenty of them out here, flat sections are few and far between.

I am now one week in with just less than 3 to go…I have a very understanding wife, who also had to move house without out me last week, technically making us homeless for a week or so whilst our new purchase is being sorted out. She is a bit of a star, although she tells me that she is banking all my trips away for when I retire from running!

Unfortunately there are other downsides to being away for so long too, as well as missing my family in general is that I seem to be missing out on my sons new daily antic’s… he has now mastered the art of climbing out of his cot, oh and he can pee standing up too now! He seems to be coping well without me and whilst I get a quick chat on the phone with him a few days a week as like most children he soon loses interest and is off playing with toys rather than speak to me.

Another bummer is that I will miss out on just about every awards night going in Guernsey, I have been nominated for an award at the Guernsey Sports Commissions Awards, as well as the SportingBet Channel Island Sports Personality of the Year and I have also been short listed for the Ambassador of Year Award at the Guernsey Achievement Awards…no laughing please! No seriously it’s a real honour to be nominated for any one of these awards let alone all three, I am very proud of where I come from and it’s always special to get any sort of recognition locally, whether that be winning awards or just simply being nominated. I can’t think of a more supportive place I’d rather live than Guernsey. Only a few weeks before xmas a complete stranger stop me on a run and told me that he had a lump in his throat watching me cross the line during the TV coverage of the London marathon.

Anyway I better go as its time for some dinner, I will try posting up next week with more details and perhaps give you a further idea of the training and what a typical day consists of.

That’s all for now folks.