Friday, 22 February 2013

Mud, glorious mud

Finally I've got a few minutes to write about last Saturday's Southern Cross Country at Parliament Hill.

Pre-race much of the talk was about whether the orginal event shoudl have postponed from January because of the weather and what effect it would have on the strength of the fields. Without having visited the course on the originally race days its hard to say whether postponement was the right decision, however getting the race back on even with reduced fields was definitely a good call - once races miss a year its very easy to miss more and slide into oblivion.

For those unfamiliar with the Southern its a throw back to the old days when championship cross country races were 9 miles. In recent years the international 12km standard has been adopted for our regional and national championships but the Southern stuck with the old 9 miles - one of the few occasions when failing to move with the times is a good thing ! This makes it a real test, especially as the hilly course can get pretty muddy in places.

On the start line I was having some good banter with Ben Noad and a few of the other more 'experienced' runners at the expense of the low mileage/interval trained runners who were about to suffer for their lack of real endurance. Whilst club mate Frank Tickner put on a demonstration at the front of the race I had probably my best XC race for years as I worked my way through the field from about 50th at the top of the first hill to 30th after 1 lap, 19th after 2 laps and eventually into 14th place a stones throw behind my old sparring partner Huw Lobb who had a good day in 13th place as he also prepares for a spring ultra marathon.

The trick on a course like this is to manage your effort, saving energy through the mud and big hills so that you can use on the faster parts of the course. And of course controlling yourself on the first of 3 big laps so you have something left for the last lap otherwise you can easily find yourself treading water in the thick mud in those closing miles.

Reflecting on what has contributed to a better than usual performance 2 things stuck out for me. I've been doing more longer hilly runs this winter as I gear up for my first 100km race in the spring and that definitely gave me a strength in my legs that has been missing since my last full marathon buid up in 2009. And the second thing has been getting to grips with cross-country skiing this winter which seems to have had a positive impact on my glute and hip flexor strength and mobilty enabling me to run through the mud like I could 20 years ago - more on the cross country skiing in a future post.

And if you are reading this having also run on Saturday and your legs are still tired then you are not alone ! While I felt great at the finish its fair to say that my legs have been pretty battered all week and are only just starting to feel right again. Looking forward to nice supercompensation from the effort :-)

Long live the 9 mile Southern at Parliament Hill !

Sunday, 17 February 2013

South of England Cross Country Results 2013

In the absence of any official results on the SEAA website here is a link to the results on the Milton Keynes site.

Loved this race as always, Hampstead Heatrh at its testing best !

Friday, 1 February 2013

The big Alcohol Free Beer test - Beck's Blue v Cobra Zero v Erdinger

Us runners love our beer and for a couple of decades now the brewers have been trying to come up with an alcohol free beer that actually tastes like real beer. So here is a quick review of the current best efforts for those of you looking for something lighter.

First up is Beck's Blue. Available in packs of 275ml bottles this is one of the most popular alcohol free beers available and made by removing the alcohol after the beer has been brewed out. The taste can best be described as a bit metallic and while its definitely recognisable as a lager it is definitely on the thin side. I found this beer was at its best when very served very cold and its refreshing for a post training run tipple.

Next up is Cobra Zero. Packs of four for this one and nice sized bottles that look good in the fridge. This is the marmite of beers in more ways than one ! It has a similar yeasty taste and apparently that is down to the brewing process. The fermentation is stopped almost as soon as it is started, hence the yeasty flavour. I tried this beer cold, at room temperature and very cold indeed but nothing I could do made it palatable for me. Even pairing it with a fiery curry failed to disguise the taste. Not my favourite and no doubt some folks will love it.

Last in the test was Erdinger Alkohol Frei. Getting hold of it was much trickier than for the market leaders and its only available in UK in a 500ml bottle. This is a version of Erdinger's Weissbier and a very good job they have made of it too. It looks like a weissbier and the taste is remarkably close to that of the standard product. The extra body of a weissbier probably off sets the lack of alcohol ensuring that the beer isn't thin or tinny. It goes well with food or just own its own, chilled. The one caveat with this one is that it does actually contain a miniscule 0.4% alcohol so may not be suitable for the teetoal !

And the winner ....
Erdinger Alkohol Frei  - prost !