3K on the Green.

 
Since joining Bella Harriers early in 2014 I had heard several members talking about the monthly 3k race around Glasgow Green. The reviews were always positive of the flat, fast course and members often commented on the camaraderie at the race. Due to the race taking place on the final Friday of every month I have been limited in opportunities to give it a go myself – whilst several friends of mine manage to squeeze it in during their lunch hours, my work is simply too far away to make this feasible! This week however I finished for summer (one of the joys of being a teacher!) and so penciled in my debut.

I dusted off the racers for this one!

As I was jogging down to Glasgow Green doubt started to creep into my mind. Having completed a 1500m race on Wednesday night and a tough interval session on Thursday, I was feeling the effects in my left hamstring. Optimistic that I could work the ache out over the course of my 3 mile jog into town, I took my time to loosen up and enjoyed the lengthy warm-up. By the time I arrived at the arch – which would be the start line – I felt much better although the tightness was still giving me some concerns.

The turnout was impressive and I was informed of the straightforward nature of the route – follow the path for 1600m, turn back on yourself and sprint to the finish along the riverside! The runners collected their numbers, paid their £2 entry (a bargain!) and made their way to the start line.

 
Keen to get things underway, the starter gave a quick run through of the route and we were off! I flew out of the start with perhaps a little more pace than I should have but I had spotted a couple of potential rivals in the crowds and wanted to make a statement in the opening 500m. I found myself in first place as we made our way along the leafy riverside and, once the adrenaline of the start began to wear thin, I felt the heaviness creep into my legs. Serious doubt started to cross my mind as I began to wonder if I could even finish the race – my legs were feeling terrible and a glance at my watch told me that I still had a mile to go. It was not long however and I could see the turning point. I figured that if I could make it to the turn I would be able to grit my teeth and hold on for the final five minutes.

A bit keen out of the blocks!

Taking the turn I managed a sneaky glance behind me and spotted that second and third place were only a few seconds back. I realised that they could easily get back into the race unless I held the pace which I had set and so pushed on. With 500m to go I heard a spectator shout to the boys behind me to kick for the finish and so I determined to do the same. Realistically I don’t think it made a huge difference to the pace at which I was running but it felt like a full on Usain Bolt moment! I managed to hold the competition off and crossed the line in first place with a time of 9:25 which I was pretty pleased with and would definitely have taken at the start! The jog home was pretty painful as my hamstring started to seize up again and so I took my time striding along in the rain with Marathon Talk keeping me occupied with stories of ‘Bingo running’ helping me to appreciate that at least my run home would only be a few miles!

Hanging on!

The 3k on the Green is a fantastic event and I will definitely be heading back. I was particularly impressed by the turnout and by the efficient running of the race – it would be easy to turn up, complete the run and disappear again in under an hour. There was plenty of competition at the sharp end of the field but also a depth of runners which meant that the race was competitive right the way through.

For more information check out: http://www.3konthegreen.com/

Photos courtesy of Iain Burke (Bella Harriers).

Lapping it up (sorry!)

track team

Since completing the London Marathon I have had an incredibly busy race calendar. The Polaroid Series dominated the last couple of months with its weekly battles and last week saw my club host the Brian Goodwin 10k. Whilst I love the 10k as a distance, I was starting to feel that my performances were hitting a plateau as most weeks saw me sacrificing quality training sessions in order to get sufficient recovery for the next race. It was a welcome change therefore to see the DunRen Open Graded Meeting appear in the Club Summer Championship this week with a 1500m event on the cards.

The Harriers use a track once a week through the winter for training sessions however I had not taken part in an actual race on a track in a very long time. With no idea of what time I would be capable of running I couldn’t help but feel incredibly nervous before the start. We arrived early at the sports centre in Linwood and I spoke to one of the coaches from the club about my predicted time (I was asked to declare my expectations at the registration desk). I was advised to estimate 4:30 as a conservative debut target.

The lucky spikes.
The lucky spikes.

The event began and I took a seat in the stands as the races kicked off with the 100m sprint. It was great to sit on the terraces and watch the athletics unfold as I don’t often get to watch many of these events. There were some fantastic performances and it was great to be able to support my fellow Harriers in the early events. With a couple of nervy hours to go until my race I decided to get a swift espresso from the sports centre cafe to try and wake myself up a bit and it definitely did the trick. By the time of my heat I was raring to go.

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One of the organisers called us over and I was told that I would be in the second heat alongside several of my club mates. Lining up on the start line was terrifying. I had decided to ditch my garmin so that I would not be tempted to chase a time and instead I determined to follow the advice of Iain and just sit on the shoulder of whoever would take the lead on.  The gun fired and everyone pounced over the line at a speed which made me panic before it settled down by the first bend. I was tucked into second place and felt comfortable as we rounded the first corner. Coming out of the first lap the race was fairly frustrating; I was unsure whether to make a break for the lead or to continue sitting back in second. It was becoming clear that the guy in the lead was struggling to maintain the pace and I knew that my club mates were tucked in close behind me and would be keen to chase me down if I did not get away from them. With 600m to go I decided to make my move and I kicked away from the leader. As I heard the bell for the final lap I was too scared to look behind me to see who had kicked with me and that fear drove me round the first bend. Along the back straight I put in one last push and felt the familiar burning in my chest as my lungs started to really have to work. Still afraid to glance over my shoulder I had no option but to grit my teeth and keep hanging on for the finish.

1500m

I crossed the line in 4:25 which was a little slower than what I had anticipated but I was really pleased to win the race. I loved the experience of racing on a track and the support from the Bella crowd was phenomenal. I have a few more races lined up and am definitely keen to have another crack at the 1500m. I believe there is a meeting in a few weeks time which I will be marking in my calendar!

Photos courtesy of Iain Burke (Bellahouston Harriers)

Bulletproof Bootcamp

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Racing to be fit for the wedding:

For the second spring in a row I have just finished a six week bootcamp at Glasgow Fitness Gym in Thornliebank. For those unfamiliar with the bootcamp philosophy it is essentially a short, intense series of classes to improve fitness. A lot of people use these sessions to get in better shape, detox and to vary their training regime. For me I was definitely aiming to build my core fitness, compliment the start of the racing season and lose some of the winter weight gain. The wedding is now just over a week away and in my head I had the added motivation of getting in good shape for the big day.

Many bootcamps have popped up all over the city and The Boy even dipped his toe in the waters with a short stint running a camp out of Victoria and Kelvingrove Park when he first moved to the city. I have been to the Bulletproof Bootcamp twice before as I know Dip Sekhon (instructor) very well. The gym has the added bonus of being located 5 minutes drive from work. I would recommend the camp to anyone who is looking to be pushed hard and up for introducing new activities to their training regime. In additional I wanted to see whether an element of cross training would benefit or hinder my running?

The camp comprises four morning (or evenings – or both if you are proper hardcore) sessions a week. I opt for morning classes which are 6-30am to 7-30am. My colleagues think this is crazy but I am the type of person that hates getting up whatever time and I would rather get the class out of the way.

Morning fear when you have to set this up! Only slept in once the whole time though
Morning fear when you have to set this up! Only slept in once the whole time though

All of the classes comprise of a gradual warm up which increases in intensity over the first 15-20 minutes of the session to loosen the joints and pick up the heart rate. Calling it a warm up by the end often seems like madness as challenging as many of the exercises that come later in the hour. Sessions vary providing a good mix for those who like to try different things and the result is a weekly regime that gives a good all round balance of strength, speed, conditioning and endurance. Typically sessions include:

1. Tabata Circuits – short intense bursts of exercise including burpees, push ups, kettle bell swings, shuttle runs etc.

2. Boxing / Muay Thai – the gym specialises in boxing and TKD and Muay Thai amongst other martial arts. These classes are in a padded cage which is pretty cool

3. A Barbell class

4. Running – the only thing I actually perform competently at

Each session is tough and you won’t leave feeling anything other than you have  had a brutal work out, in a good way. The weights session in particular is a good addition to my regular training where my upper body is totally neglected. I am shamefully weak as seen by embarrassingly poor performance anytime push ups are on the menu.

Additional weight optional to improve upper body strenth
Additional weight optional to improve upper body strength

My favourite session this time around (aside from the sprint session on the track) has been the circuits. I like the variation in exercise and we usually complete four x seven minute rounds in pairs. For those who are competitive there is an element of challenge vs your partner but the fundamental thing about bootcamp is personal improvement.

I enjoy all of the workouts but in terms of the exercises within them there are some I would rather avoid. Aside from the push ups the others that are horrible are the cards game where we have to do a set number of exercise depending on which card comes out the pack (screw you Aces and Joker), bear crawl and anything that involves twisting of the core. The good thing about Dip is he senses your achilles heel and gives you more punishment so that you get the maximum individual gain from the experience. No pain no gain certainly runs through your mind a lot during these classes as you are working at your limit. Dip and Harry make sure they motivate you to give you best during the sessions.

Weekly fitness tests at the end of the class are used to chart progress and Body-Fat is calculated pre and post bootcamp. Alongside the classes Dip also moderates a Facebook nutrition page for people attending the camp giving lots of good ideas about eating more healthily and in moderation.

The Morning Crew
The Morning Crew

The group that attend are extremely mixed with people looking to get back into a fitness routine through to high level amateur and professional athletes keeping fit on their off season giving an indication of how highly thought of the training is and how well Dip caters to different fitness needs. Participants come from all different backgrounds and the number of people returning to the bootcamp and making it the main part of their fitness programme is testament to the quality of training and facility at Glasgow Fitness. The classes are tough but fun and are accompanied by motivational music. A nutrition Facebook page is also offered to give ideas and share recipes about healthier eating – I promise I didn’t eat any junk during bootcamp 🙂

So has attending Bulletproof Bootcamp helped or hindered my running?

Once again the combination of racing and bootcamp has worked well for me delivering me into good race shape during the Polaroid Series after a relatively quiet winter. I have achieved my 3rd and 4th fastest ever 10k times in the last month. This is despite the fact that the class on a Thursday morning has meant I have doubled up on the days of my 10ks. Last year I ran my fastest ever 10k and 5k while I was completing bootcamp showing that it has most definitely improved my core fitness and as a result my speed and medium distance endurance.

Overall the camp has shown me that a greater variety is required in my training to improve my base fitness. Classes focus a lot on core strength and key exercises have developed this for the benefit of my running. When I am not at bootcamp I use a lot of these exercises on my rest days at home. There is no hiding at Bootcamp and Dip and Harry work well to ensure everyone is giving their all meaning you are going to see some real benefits and changes to your body definition over the 6 weeks.

The next bootcamp at Glasgow Fitness is a shorter 4 week block which would be an ideal opportunity for anyone looking to vary their training and try something different over the summer. For me I will definitely be completing a block of training with Dip two or three times a year to give me a different focus from running sessions comprising 100% of my training whilst providing a platform that compliments and enhances what I am doing with my running.

If anyone is interested in finding out more the best way would be to look up the camp on Facebook and contact Dip that way.

https://www.facebook.com/bulletprooftraining?fref=ts

http://bulletproofbootcamp.ebspages.co.uk

Brian Goodwin 10k

startlineWith the promise of a cold bottle of beer and a burger fresh from the barbecue included in the entry fee, this race was always going to attract a crowd. 500 people made their way to Pollok Park last night for the Brian Goodwin 10k – hosted by my own club the mighty ‘Bellahouston Harriers’. As I arrived at the clubhouse to pick up my number it was clear that the weather would be reasonable enough for the race and the crowds were certainly picking up. As is to be expected there was a nervous energy filling the air in the registration area as bags were dropped off and numbers were pinned ceremoniously to vests. I managed to catch up with a few teammates as we hovered about the start area and we could not help but be impressed by the excellent turnout – with many of the local clubs being represented! Motherwell AC had put in a particularly impressive entry with a bus load of their athletes turning up to flood the field. Strong representation from Shettleston, Garscube Harriers, and Ronhill Cambuslang further meant that our Bella hopefuls would be in for a tough race in the team competition.

I was feeling fairly tired prior to the start but I put this down to the fact that this was in fact a Friday evening after a long week of work and accepted that these feelings would not mean that I would not perform – I had secured my 10k pb a few weeks ago during an evening race and had experienced similar feelings at that time. In order to wake myself up I strode out for a decent warm up with my teammate Cris Walsh. Having knocked out a fairly brisk 15 minute jog along the first section of the route I was definitely feeling warm and was raring to go. I ditched the tracksuit and made my way to the start. The atmosphere at the start was fantastic and some great banter between some of the Bella lads meant that we were all raring to go. There is some phenomenal competition for places between a group of the boys at the moment which is forcing everyone to improve and which has added a real sense of excitement to the races in recent weeks.

go!

As the starting claxon sounded the crowds surged forwards for our first loop of the park. The downhill start ensured a fast first mile and before I knew it I found myself racing along in the second group. I soon realised that the pace was a little spicy for me and so I made the difficult decision to let the group get away from me and I dropped my pace to something I felt would be more manageable. Before long I was joined by a couple of runners from the third group and we made our way silently around the remainder of the loop.

As we passed the startline to begin our second lap I was sitting pretty much where I had hoped I would be although my legs were feeling heavy. I would have to replicate my first lap time if I was to achieve my target of a sub 33min 10k. Shortly into the lap I realised it was not going to happen as my pace began to drop and there was nothing I could do to pick it up again. Half way through the lap I was passed by Nick Milovsorov from Metro Aberdeen as he came flying past, leaving me in his dust. I determined to not let anyone else pass me and so pushed on into the final couple of kilometres.

finishline

As I hit the final straight I put in one last burst to try and catch the Metro runner however I just came up short and we ended up crossing the line with the same official gun time (although I am sure he was a fraction of a second ahead of me). I had finished the race in 33:47 which was a little disappointing however this was soon washed away with the complimentary bottle of Budweiser and a satisfying cheeseburger. My disappointment was then further eradicated when I realised I would be picking up the ‘Brian Goodwin Trophy’ for first Bellahouston Harrier. Our efforts had also earned us second place in the team competition.

beerburger

The evening went from good to great when it became apparent that the Harriers had picked up several prizes and many of the runners made a night of it and reflected on the evening’s success over a couple of beers. This was a phenomenal event and one that I will definitely be penciling in again for next year – after all, I now have a trophy to defend!

trophy

Photos courtesy of Brian Douglas.

Polaroid Series 2015.

End of Race 1
End of Race 1

Kenny:

This morning marked the end of the Polaroid Series for another year. Another cracking pair of sunglasses, four medals and a mixed bag in terms of race performance from me this year round. For those who don’t know the Polaroid is made up of four 10 kilometre races. This was our second outing at the Polaroid and once more each race was well organised and offered a good chance for improvement week on week and pbs all round.

Race 1 in Helensburgh has just enough uphill to give the legs a shock for anyone who’s fresh from winter hibernation but once again the route provided an excellent opener. Running the tree lined boulevards of Helensburgh before routing back via the coast it is great to be out of the city. The depth of field was evident at this first event and The Boy did well to place in the top 10.

Yet again the Polaroid coincided with my attendance at four morning a week boot camp at Glasgow Fitness and although last year I felt the two complemented one another my legs were definitely feeling the effects of several races in the month leading up to the Polaroids. As a result I ended up about 30 seconds slower than last year in a time just over 41 minutes but was pleased to be closer than expected to my time from last year.

Race 2 saw us move on to Dumbarton. Starting on the grass before moving on to the narrow cycle path you need to be wary of the regular bollards along the route on this one. I felt like I was really pushing it and at the half way stage was happy that I was going to improve on my time from the previous week. The course is flat and fast and I maintained my pace in the second 5k to finish in 41:03. Again this was a bit outside my time from last year when I had the benefit of a more rigorous winter programme as I was preparing for the London Marathon. This winter I ran regularly but without the pressure and structure of a marathon programme. However I was pleased again to be reasonably close to my time from last year.

On to Race 3 at Clydebank and I managed to put a good dent into my time for a seasons PB of 40:38. It hurt a lot and I was sorely tempted not to run so I could go and watch Rangers destroy Motherwell. A lucky escape as the pain only lasted for 40 minutes at Clydebank. This route is again a fast course that loops an industrial estate before following the canal on a two lap course. I started a little further towards the front of the field this time and it certainly helped pull me along to a fast time. Last year I had managed 40:24 on this course and it goes to show how useful the Polaroid Series is as a training tool that I was closing back to 2014 fitness levels after only 3 races.  It was at the end of race 3 that Jack started telling me I might have a chance of a series prize – the top 20 runners over the 4 races. Despite his optimism I had to tell Jack that I was finishing in approximately 200th place in each race 🙂 A really incredible testament to the quality of runners in the series and the remarkable optimism that Jack has in me.

So three races down and then it all came to a shuddering halt this morning at Race 4 – Balloch. The only Sunday race, I finished in an underwhelming yet somewhat remarkable 44:30. Remarkable that I made the start line despite being bed ridden the previous day with a shocking hangover after my Dunoon Stag. Feeling really sorry for myself I made myself travel out to Balloch and I am glad I did as the course travels through some of the nicest scenery in the series. It was refreshing to run without a pressure goal and I was glad to even be able to put one foot in front of the other. The Boy and I rewarded ourselves with some great burgers from the Farmer’s Market before he collected yet another prize for finishing in 8th place in the Male Seniors Category. Despite his optimism the week before I doubt my series prize will be in the post any time soon.

A big well done to Ronnie Cairns of Dunoon Hill Runners who completed 3 of the series events as part of his fundraising efforts on behalf of Yorkhill Hospital.

http://polaroid-10k.co.uk

Jack:

Having completed the first three 10K races in the Polaroid Series over the last few weeks, it was all to play for in this morning’s race around the Vale of Leven. I entered this series of races for the first time last year and really enjoyed the excellent organisation and camaraderie that grew over the course of the event. This year proved to be no different and we were in for another fantastic month of racing.

The series got underway in Helensburgh and I could not help but feel a little concerned at the evening start time. Due to most of my running happening early in the morning, particularly for races, it felt a little alien to be sidling up to an event at a time when I would usually be settling down to my dinner. Nevertheless the atmosphere began to grow as people arrived (and the coffee kicked in) and I felt the familiar sensation of pre-race nerves starting to take effect. The facilities were great and the course itself proved a fair one – there were no major undulations – and I found myself crossing the line in 8th place with a shiny new PB of 33:30! I knew that I had put in a decent performance but was still shocked to discover that I had taken 29 seconds off my previous best time. It was also pleasing to see that the Harriers had managed to secure a prize for 3rd Team – just one point behind second place – gaining me a cheeky voucher for Sweatshop!

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The order of races had been shuffled this year and so Dumbarton featured as the second event of the series. I was feeling optimistic after the success of week one and was also armed with extra determination to finish inside the individual prizes, having narrowly missed out previously. The grassy start was less dramatic than it had been last year (where several people slipped during the first hundred metres!) and the flat and fast course was bound to lead to fast times. I was delighted therefore to knock a further 22 seconds off my PB to finish in 33:08 – securing 9th place. An individual prize still managed to evade me but I was more than happy with the faster time!

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By the time Clydebank came around I was hopeful that I could drop below the 33 minute mark. Last year Clydebank had been my fastest course of the series and I knew that the course would be flat. Unfortunately it was not to be. My legs felt tired throughout the race and I struggled to find a change of gear to keep up with the fast group. On reflection I think the half-marathon in Campbeltown the previous weekend must have taken more out of me than I had given it credit for. I finished the race in 33:44 (still one of the fastest times that I have every recorded over 10k!) and missed out on the prizes once again.

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And so to this morning. The Vale of Leven. I was lucky enough to have the support of my fiancee Vicki at the race this morning and so I was determined to make a good impression – I didn’t want her thinking that all of the training sessions which I was disappearing to were actually trips to the pub! We arrived nice and early and found Kenny who informed us that he was still feeling a little under the weather after his (3rd!) Stag party on Friday. As we made our way to the start, past the incredibly tempting farmers’ market and bbq, I began to get really nervous! As the crowds got more dense I was worried that I was going to miss the start or not be able to make my way to the front. Vicki noticed my agitation and took my bag so that I could jog ahead and get to the start line nice and early. As I stood talking to the other guys at the start (and laughing at Stevie who had managed to pin his race number to his vest upside down) the horn signaled for us to go! Whilst it was a little unexpected, it certainly got things moving and before I had a chance to think we were making our way up the road and into the park. This was the hill which I had somehow succeeded in blocking from my memory and I decided to take it steady for the first kilometre to figure out my pacing. I tucked in with the pack and decided to wait it out. 2km later and we exited the park and hit the long and winding downhill section. I decided to let things fly here and managed to pull away from the pack and catch the next runner along the course. After this rollercoaster section of the route things settled down and I found myself stuck on my own for an uneventful second half of the race. I soon realised that this would be no personal best but I stuck to it and finished in 33:58 – having taken a slightly premature turn as I came into the finishing straight which, fortunately, only cost me a couple of seconds. The celebratory roll and sausage from the farmers’ market was phenomenal and Kenny, Vicki and I made our way to watch the distribution of the prizes. I was delighted to find that they awarded prizes to the top ten runners in this race and so, finally, I found myself grasping that elusive individual prize! It was also a bonus when they announced that the Harriers had once again taken 3rd place in the team prizes: another Sweatshop voucher! With the vouchers burning a hole in my pocket it was time to leave.

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This was another fantastic series with four exceptionally well organised races providing a good variety of fast routes and scenic courses. The generous prizes were much appreciated but it was the fun atmosphere and the camaraderie which really make this series stand out. I will definitely be back next year (and I will be eyeing up those individual prizes!).

Classic Polaroid Bright T-Shirt
Classic Polaroid Bright T-Shirt

Snap Happy!

parkrunvest

Saturday morning is one area of my life during which I have a pretty standard routine (and it’s one that I am pretty happy with!). The alarm goes off at 8:00am and I roll out of bed, stick on my running gear and jog down to Pollok Park for my weekly dose of parkrun. Having the chance to run alongside so many other likeminded people on a weekly basis in a free, timed event is phenomenal – and is something which I have undoubtedly taken for granted. This week therefore I decided to approach the event in a different way and give something back – I opted to volunteer. I am a little embarrassed to admit that I have been taking part in parkrun events for over four years now and, prior to this morning, had never contributed to the running of the event. It was about time this changed! With the final race of the Polaroid Series taking place on Sunday I knew that I wanted to take Saturday off and give myself a chance to rest. By helping out at parkrun I would still get my Saturday morning fix of talking about running whilst managing to avoid the temptation to go out and run myself. This is how I found myself this morning wrapping up in my waterproofs – which proved essential – and fishing my camera out of my cupboard: I was to be the run photographer!

As I waited at the Burrell Collection for my fellow volunteers I definitely noticed the change of approach to my morning. Part of me longed to be warming up with the other runners and I missed the familiar feeling of nerves that always show themselves before any timed run. As I got chatting to the other volunteers however these feelings disappeared and I found myself excited at the prospect of being part of the organisation of the event.

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I made my way to the start for a couple of quick pre-race snaps and then wandered over to my designated position. I would be waiting at the mid-way point of the race where those runners on their second lap would turn off into the final straight. This way I would be able to catch every runner twice – giving me two chances to get a decent picture! I took up position alongside my pal Dave who was volunteering as a marshal and we waited for the front-runners to appear.

Right on cue Bellahouston Road Runner Bruce Carmichael appeared around the corner having already carved out a decent lead and fellow Road Runner Russell Whittington followed shortly after. Behind the leaders the numbers came thick and fast and I realised how difficult it would be to get decent pictures of everyone. With so many people taking part, and in the poor conditions, it was proving tricky to catch decent shots of people so I found myself essentially just pointing and clicking away in hope of landing myself a few clear images.

As the runners flooded by I realised how much I was actually enjoying what I was doing. There was a steady stream of gratitude from the runners and, despite the best efforts of the weather to dampen spirits, it was clear that everyone was enjoying themselves (even through the struggle of dragging themselves around a hilly 5K route!).

After a good hour of snapping away, my time as photographer was up. I joined the rest of the marshals and the running Harriers for a well-earned cup of coffee in the Burrell Collection. I thoroughly enjoyed my morning as a volunteer and am looking forward to doing it again – I will definitely not be waiting another four years before the next time!