Sunday, 31 January 2010

Saucony South of England Cross Country Top 20

It was great to be back running the 'Southern' at Parliament Hill yesterday for the first time since about 1997 for me. My big memory of that race was a battle with a certain Huw Lobb for a place inside the top 10 and 12 years later we were at it again though a few places lower than last time.

For afficianodos the southern is special because it is the only big XC race in britain that retains the old 9 miles distance. Add in the mud and hills of Hampstead Heath and it becomes a war of attrition to say the least. Yesterday was no exception though the mud has decreased in recent years since the council put in some drainage on the heath. (Photo left from

My race was a mixed bag. after struggling to keep up at the start I was back in the forties but quickly worked my up in to the twenties on the opening lap and tracking Dave Wardle but I was struggling badly on the hills. Every time we hit an up slope there was no power in my legs and I went backwards a few places - and hills are normally a strength.

By the end of lap 1 I was in the early 20's and not really enjoying the race. With concentration wavering and more uphills I had slipped to about 25th midway through the lap when Huw caught up with me and my race changed. Most of the guys around me were breathing hard, much harder than me so clearly my fitness was pretty good.

As Huw came past I tucked in and we start on a charge that would last most of the second half of the race (photo left by Alex Robinson and courtesy of Adam Prezedrzymirski). It worked out well. On the hills he was pulling away again but on the flatter parts I was charging past him so we pulled each other into the top 20 and were catching runners all the way to the finish.

Another lap would have been helpful at this point :-) I was even able to raise a good sprint to hold off a fast finishing James Connor. So I managed to salvage something from the wreckage of the first half of my race and will only get better with more races in coming weeks. Bring on the next one.

Left: Wells team tent with Enfield's Jon Pepper getting some love from Big Frank before taking 2nd in the senior mens race (and to keep the internet message board posters happy - checking out a move to the west country before transfer deadline day ?)

Full Results here from Milton Keynes AC (click tabs at bottom of page for other age groups).

Senior Mens Top 20

1. N Hall
2. J. Pepper
3. K Heywood
4. Deed
5. Neuschwander
6. Lacy
7. Mashford
8. Toher
9. Smith
10. Tickner
11. Clarke
12. Dalmedo
13. Wardle
14. Coleman
15. Warren
16. Edwards
17. Marriott
18. Connor
19. Lobb
20. Jones

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Why snow running is good for you

With half of the country at a standstill from last weeks heavy snowfall there has never been a better time to lace up your trainers and go and run. For a start, with many of us working from home there is an opportunity to get out in day light hours which is certainly good for the soul at this time of year.

But what about the training itself ? Its slippy underfoot, the ground is frozen. Isn't this bad news ?

Well not really. Running with these underfoot conditions gives you a core stability workout to die for. All those small accessory muscles which do nothing when you are running on smooth tarmac suddenly have to earn their keep. In the hips, stomach, glutes and lower legs the stabilisers are working overtime. Whats more you quickly learn to feel what is under your feet and respond stride by stride. It brings you much closer to the barefoot running our bodies have evolved to do. I was pretty sore after the first couple of days.

So what about speed ? Again its a question of working with the situation. Sure you have to run slower on snow so run longer instead. A short block of training with more miles at an easier pace is only going to stand you in good stead for when the weather improve and you can hits those reps again.

For running fast there are some good options. At 6pm last night the roads were empty and with snow free tramlines after a day of cars on them it was perfect for running fast. I was quickly able to find a nice section on the ring road with lights and do fast strides on the road. If you dont have that option then a multi-story carpark has been a favourite for our american and european cousins for years. And you can always find some smow covered grass and do longer reps in spikes. Just resist the temptation to try and hammer the speed and let the workout come to you.

And if you are going off the beaten track take some energy gels and a mobile phone with you just in case.

Friday, 8 January 2010

South West XC Champs Cancelled

Not surprised that the South West Champs at Bicton on Sunday have been cancelled. The ground is frozen solid and anyone who has raced at Bicton knows how rutted the course can be in parts.

Personally its a big disappointment. Training has been coming together nicely over the last few weeks and despite a nasty chest infection over xmas I've felt my fitness improving week by week with a combination of miles and some good aerobic workouts. Tuesday I was running hills in spikes on the frozen ground and the power is starting to come back into the legs. So I was looking forward to racing again. Looks like another week or two to hold on !