Wimbledon Common Half Marathon

Last week I ran the Wimbledon Common Half marathon.

Last year I really enjoyed it and it was my first experience of a race on trails (sort of) and not flat. I wanted to do well as last year’s 12th position and time could definitely be improved on.
As I had ran the NDW Marathon the week before I had to rest and take it easy for the six days in between.
So I only ran three times:

A very slow recovery 10k on Tuesday. My legs were really dead. I could not run faster than 5:12 m/km.

On Thursday I felt better but my quads were still knackered. I need to train to run downhill more. I did 15k at a nice speed nonetheless: 4:27 m/km, but every little downhill step or section was a killer.

On Friday I did the 10k loop around Bushy park at an easy 4:48 m/km.

On race day Sunday I woke up pretty early and feeling really well. On Saturday I cycled a bit just to keep active and I was full of energy. I had to drive to the race even if it was not that far as the weather was going to be very wet.

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I arrived pretty early to the race start, got my bib and then went to the car to spend half an hour reading tweets. At that point it started raining a bit and when I started my warm up routine it was really pouring down. From then on it never stopped raining. I like running in the rain and the temperature was good for a race (super cold to be July), but I was afraid of mud or slippery bits.

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The race took place around Wimbledon Common which is a bit hilly and it was made of two loops. I started in the front group but pretty soon I had more than 20 people in front.

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I stuck to my race plan which was very simple this time. I just wanted to finish the race with an average below 4:00 m/km so I was going to go fast on flats depending on how much time I had lost in the climbs (2 small climbs per loop, but enough to slow you down considerably).
I am very happy to say I stuck to my plan and after 5k I was starting to overtake people that had started too fast or were not expecting to run in the muddy slippery trails. I was wearing my Saucony Peregrine that performed extremely well.

I was really putting in maximum effort. My heart rate was constantly above 165bpm and I made sure that every single step was pushing me forward. I never felt like this, I was running closer to a 5k effort than a 21.1k effort, but I felt like it was the right way to do it.
At around the 8th km some people tried to overtake me and I fought back, actually overtaking more people myself in the process. I soon started running with another guy and we run all the way together to the end. I don’t know what he was thinking but in my mind we were both trying to help each other to push ourselves to the limit. I was very much in race mode, as soon as I had someone in my sight I slowly but surely started catching up and overtook him. When my new companion was overtaking me I made sure I kept super close to him.
We kept overtaking people, finished the first lap, kept a good pace uphill (4:30 m/km) and a fast pace under 3:50 m/km the rest of the way.
In an hour we ran 15k, which then made it my second best time for 10 miles. Basically I did my second best time on everything that day, 10 miles, 15k, 20k and finally Half Marathon.

I was on fire, very wet and muddy, but on fire. In the last 2 miles my companion took the lead and I struggled to stay with him but there was no one behind so I was not afraid to lose positions.

I finished in 1:23, in 9th position. One minute slower than my half marathon PB, but on a much harder course than the one I did the PB on, so I am very very happy. Amazingly if I had done this time last year I would have finished third.

I was so wet and cold that I did not do any stretching (I paid for the mistake), put my legs under a water faucet to get rid of the mud and drove home.
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I am very happy with the result and with the “racing” feeling I had. While running I kept on telling myself “when you are home later on this afternoon you definitely cannot complain about not having gone fast enough or put enough effort this time”. Which is all I can ask for.

Thank you @RunThroughUK for organising the race.

If you are interested here is the Strava of the race.

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See you!

100k+ week again!

After the weeks dedicated to getting a bit faster and running a half marathon it was time to prepare for the next race, the North Downs Way Marathon. Yes, I am going to back to the trails of the NDW, I cannot wait. So I had to think less about speed and go back to running for longer.

On Tuesday I did a recovery run of 12.5km at 4:45 m/km. I bought a new pair of shoes. As I fell in love with the Saucony Zealot and their 4mm drop I bought the Saucony Peregrine. To test them I went criss crossing Bushy Park, looking for the most “wild” trails there. It was a wonderful morning and the shoes are awesome too.

On Wednesday I did the same again. Trail shoes and search for interesting new trails, but this time in Richmond Park. I found a hill I never explored. It has a lot of single tracks going up at various angles. I will go there more often. It was also a very hot day, probably the hottest of the year. It was above 24 degrees at 5am! I did 15k at 4:35.

On Thursday I went out for a tempo run. I fist did a 5k warm up and then 5k at 3:55. I finished the session with a 1.7k cool down.

Friday I took it easy as I wanted to have enough energy for long runs during the week end. I did 10k at 4:36.

On Saturday I went for a long run. I probably left too late and it was very hot. I wanted to run 40k but the heat had the best of me. I ran out of water at the 20th km and had to stop in Richmond Park to refill and then fell running down a hill and slid on my back head first. I got home with rocks in my pants. In total I ran 36km at 4:59. Not too bad, but less than planned.

On Sunday the weather was completely different. It rained a bit and it was fresh. I looked for new trails in the Wimbledon Common, via Richmond Park. Always an adventure. I got lost and ended up running a bit more than planned which was good as it was compensating for the day before. I ran
23.5km at 4:54/km.

Overall it was a good week. I managed to run longer distances, test new shoes, see new paths I will explore more in the future, had a lot of fun. Week total: 109km.

One of the highlight of the week was going to see an evening of trail running short movies organised by Like the Wind magazine. They brought Trails in motion to London and shown the movies in the basement of a pub near Liverpool Street to a bunch of like minded people. I did not get the chance to chat with many people as I arrived late and left early, but the vibe was good.

Here is (without saying too much) what I think about the various movies:

From the Trails
Nice images of wild woods and hills in Japan, boring video, I did not get the message.
Score: 4/10

Just keep running
A short movie about personal life and problems faced by Ruby Muir. She knows how to run! Nice to see someone go so fast on spiky rocks wearing Five Fingers.
Score: 6/10

La Triple Corona
The movie is about three sky running races taking place in Mexico. I like the way it showed how wild and hard those races are and the guts the runners have to run them. It looked very “real” and did not try to be poetic or philosophical like too many running movies do.
Score: 7/10

Around Patagonia
I really liked the locations and the idea of two friends going for a nice adventure together. I did not like the bit where, in the moment of difficulty during the run, the movie showed the family of one of the runners as if he went to war and was looking for strength thinking of home. You are on holiday in one of the most beautiful part of the world doing what you like!
Score: 7/10

An idea
Too short, I would have loved to have seen more of the adventures and achievements of the runner. Nice images and montages, but not much more.
Score: 5/10

Why we run
This was one of the best movies. I had already seen the shorter version on YouTube. You should definitely check it out.
Score: 8/10

For the Love
I don’t remember much about this movie apart from seeing some famous faces in there.
Score: 4/10

Before he wakes
This is basically what I do every day, run while everybody in the house sleeps and then come back before they wake up. I did go back to bed once like the runner in this movie, but I had a shower first.
Score: 5/10

Finding Traction
This was the main piece of the event, the longest movie too. I really liked it. I think movies need a story and this one had a strong one. It narrates Nikki Kimball attempt to beat the male FKT on the 273 mile Long Trail. I will not tell you how it ends, but it does not matter actually. Seeing the struggle of the runner, the support of the crew is all that matters. Worth watching twice.
Score: 9/10

If you can, try and see these movies. I am not much of a reviewer so don’t listen to me, see them for yourself. I also suggest you subscribe to Like the Wind, because it is a special magazine, crafted with love.

See you around!

End of 2014

This week has been great (apart from the never ending cold and light flue). Being on holiday meant I could go running whenever I wanted and not in the dark. I wanted to put some kms in my legs before the tapering week before the marathon (on the 10th Jan) and I ended up running a total of 103km in 5 runs, which is my weekly record.

Monday I did 20km going around Bushy Park and then to Kingston via Hampton Court. Beautiful frozen sunny morning. The park was at its best. White grass, a little fog, the yellow sun coming up behind the trees and lots of deer. Very poetic. I did the first 15km at an easy 4:20/4:30 pace and then did the last 5k at around 4:00. Very nice. The heart rate monitor did not work. I spent an hour trying old ones and different straps with no luck. I need to get a replacement.

On Tuesday I did another easy run. This time 15km long. Again in freezing conditions, around zero degrees. When I entered Bushy Park it felt more like -5, running through a wall of freezing fog.

On Thursday, being the last day of the year, I decided to go for a long run and maybe aim for the marathon distance. I did not manage to. I did 40km, but I could not do more. I have to respect the distance a bit more and start running slower at the beginning. It was a good lesson for next week. I ran with an average pace of 4:53 min/km which I think is a fine pace to aim for, but I should not do the first part at 4:30 and then end up doing the last kms at 5:30. Anyway it was a good run. I went through all the nearby parks, Bushy, Richmond and for the first time in ages Wimbledon Common. This last one is a lot of fun, I randomly took paths to see where they took me. There is quite a lot of up and downs there, it is a good training ground, I should go there more often.
I used this run as a test for next week and went out with the Ultimate Direction AK race vest carrying one bottle of water, 3 gels and all the required kit for the next marathon (jacket, first aid kit, thermal blanket etc). I had no problem at all. Apart from the socks which ended up with a hole in them I am now 100% sure of what I am going to wear next week, including which pants!

Thursday I rested and then on Friday did a slow recovery run (17km at 4:40 min/km). After the long run earlier in the week this one felt too short and when I got to 12km and was supposed to turn for home I decided to run a bit more to the Teddington Lock.

On Friday even if it was raining and cold and I was still a bit ill I had to go out and run. I was too close to the 100km week not to go. So I went out for an easy 11km run but then I decided to push a bit on the last kms. As I have not done any speed work for the last 2 weeks I decided to run a bit faster and did the last 4 kms the way I like it (4:02, 4:00, 3:46, 3:39). I felt good. Actually I have never been in such a good shape, even doing warm ups and stretching I feel strangely athletic, different. I could not be more ready for next week’s trail marathon!

So this ends my week, but also marks the end of the year. I wanted to do a post to close 2014 with some goals for 2015, but I was too lazy, so here is just a quick recap of last year:

To sum it up, it has been the best running year ever. I started with the plan to run more during the week (from 3 to 4 times a week) and to run more half marathons. I ended up running 6 times a week and preparing for an ultra. I wanted to do PBs on 5k, 10k and 21.1 km and did them multiple times and I wanted to aim for a marathon. In 6 days I will have achieved that too, hopefully.

I have run a total of 2765 km in 2014 and ran the following races:

Half Marathons:

  • Hampton Court Half Marathon
  • Bracknell Half Marathon
  • Richmond Half Marathon
  • Wimbledon Common Half Marathon
  • Burnham Beeches Half Marathon
  • The Dirt Half Challenge

Others:

  • Whole Foods Market Breakfast Run (16 miles)
  • Harry Hawkes (10 miles)
  • Garmin Kingston Run Challenge (16 miles)

And 3 Bushy Park Runs.

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But the best part is the new found love for trail running and setting crazy new goals like doing 3 marathons in the next 3 months and my first 50 miles ultra in May. This has basically changed my life and I cannot wait to see where this leads me. I still have to decide what to do the rest of the year after the NDW50.

For all the fun and “successes” of 2014 I have to thank the support of my family that has not got bored of hearing me talking about running every second (yet) and my running friends Marco R., Davide G. and Manu. I am looking forward to running with you guys in 2015.

Have a wonderful 2015 and I hope you can all reach your goals, whatever they are.