Valencia is the third largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona, and is famous for a number of reasons: it is one of the earliest Spanish colonial settlements of the Romans (founded in 138BC), subsequent occupation of the city by Moroccan and Arab Moors has resulted in a beautiful mixture of both Catholic and Muslim influenced architecture and the locals enjoy extended festivals amongst which the ‘Fallas’ are most celebrated (five days of street partying, fireworks and paella). Oh, and Valencia has a football team apparently!?
But in my humble opinion what Valencia should really be famous for is its UTTERLY AMAZING Marathon!!
So, if you haven’t ever thought of entering a big city international marathon here is my pitch to sell you Valencia as the perfect race:
As a modern tourist destination Valencia is beautiful, has lots of accommodation and it boasts a good local airport within 20 minutes’ taxi ride of the city centre.
The Marathon is run alongside the 10K race and so the whole event attracts 1000s of runners, giving it a bit of a buzz.
The race event is well organized and extremely well marshaled.
The people of Valencia throng the streets and are very noisy in their support. Lots of bands, DJs and 1000s of supporters keep the runners motivated and enthusiastic. Towards the end of the race the crowds are deafening.
So far all these positive points could be made for numerous marathons across Europe. But here are the very best bits of the race:
The race route is flat: very flat! Consequently, it is very, very fast indeed. The 2017 race was won by Sammy Kitwara of Kenya, in a rather quick time of 2:05:15 which stands as the fastest marathon time in Spain.
The marathon is hosted in the autumn, which means in Valencia, dry, sunny, mild weather. Despite the sun getting a little warm by midday, the running conditions are lovely compared to the November weather experienced in the UK.
There is a massive international field (18,000), with runners from many different countries. However, the runners are overwhelmingly Spanish and incredibly friendly. I was really impressed with the number of runners who wanted to communicate knowing full well that we didn’t speak the same language. Not once did I detect anything but kindness and enthusiasm from the runners or the locals.
The start and finish of the marathon are brilliant! The start is a galloping charge across the Montovilet Bridge (one side of the dual carriage way for the marathon, the other side for the 10K race), whilst the finish is a descent down a ramp off the streets, a sprint round the outside of the Museum and Arts Centre to the a final home straight across a bright blue pontoon bridge built over an artificial lagoon(see photo below)!
Personally, I thought the event was a wonderful experience. Running a marathon at close to one’s limit is never entirely pleasurable but for me the Valencia Marathon was as close to being enjoyable as it is possible to get! I achieved a PB (and pretty comfortably too) and felt the only limiting factor was perhaps the heat of the sun during the final hour of the race. To get a pretty accurate impression of the whole event I recommend that you should view the Official Race Video which can be found on the Valencia Marathon website.
This is a list of members of Abbey Runners Leeds who participated at a parkrun on 2017-08-26. The first runner home for each gender is included/emboldened, regardless of club, for reference purposes. The list is presented by parkrun and contains every member registered with us that participated.
Hang on, just bear with me on this, the relevance to running will soon become apparent. So, where was I?
Oh, yes, as a child I hated Brussel sprouts. It really made no difference that my parents told me how good they were for me and that eating sprouts would make me strong. I felt no obligation to eat them even when I realized how much effort had gone into preparing and cooking them. The fact that they were served up as a welcome seasonal variation to all the other vegetables that I suffered throughout the year made no difference whatsoever. And the concept that they should be eaten simply because it was traditional in the winter seemed utterly insane to me! I just did not like them and that was it!!!
But then on Christmas Day 1983, I ate a sprout (under duress obviously) and I had an epiphany! The taste, the subtle yet bold piquancy, the texture! Oh yes, I discovered the joy of sprouts! And frankly I have never looked back. Par-boiled sprouts, al dente steamed sprouts, fried in butter with smoked bacon, curried or simply smeared in wholegrain mustard; oh Brussel sprouts, how could I have ever denied my adoration?
Yes, well anyway, before I forget myself entirely, let me come to the point: I think the love of sprouts is probably a bit like the love of PECO cross-country races. You either like them or you don’t. Judging by the large Abbey contingent (over 60 runners) that squelched their way around the fields and woodland of Temple Newsam amongst in excess of a 1000 like-minded folk, both young and old, there are a lot of cross-country devotees about. They obviously appreciate that just like eating sprouts, cross-country running makes you stronger. They also appreciate the care and hard work required for the preparation of the PECO races. Similarly, they must know that running through cold mud is an excellent means to vary ones running calendar. And on top of this all those cross-country runners appreciate that (just like the eating of Brussel sprouts) it should be engaged in simply because it is traditional at this time of year!
And good for them! Indeed, there were many notable Abbey performances at Temple Newsam this weekend and clearly too many to mention all individually. Unfortunately, I missed the junior events (I was too busy trying to triple-tie my laces in a cunning fashion such that they would magically undo at the mile and a half mark of the course), but strong performances were seen from the club. The elite adults amongst our club were impressively strong too (Aiden Curley seems to be getting faster and faster and will soon be finishing races before they have even started, which means that within a month or two he won’t have to bother turning up at all), whilst many of us felt privileged to watch Michaela Clark glide around the course in an excellent time. A welcome return to racing was made by Gareth Cavill who despite not running for a year, elegantly cruised round Temple Newsam and still recorded a really fast time (it’s enough to make you sick isn’t it). And as ever it was a pleasure to see Graeme Littlewood perform his sprint finish (judging by the response of all the numerous different club supporters, I get the feeling that these have become a crowd favorite at all Leeds running events).
But, what about me? Well, unlike my love of sprouts, I utterly hate cross-country running. I keep turning up when I can, but I am still waiting for that magical epiphany when suddenly I ‘get it’. John Ward despairs of me! I am desperately hoping for the moment when I suddenly realize that just like Brussel sprouts, cross-country running is to be savored, enjoyed and possibly even embraced! But so far I just get cold, or wet, or injured, or all of the above. So I might see you at the next PECO, or I might be at home cooking up a sprout lasagna with crusty croutons and a cheeky crème chou de Bruxelles!
Ali and I spent the night before the event with our friends Chris and Bethany over by Delamere Forest where we’d be doing a muddy half marathon event run by the Hell Runner team on the Saturday. Then we’d head over to Cannock for a long bike sportive.
The double weekend events have been the things that have most improved my fitness this year. Having to do a tough event two days in a row has definitely tested us as you’ve not fully recovered you find that you really have to push hard to complete the second event.
I’m prone to making some bad mistakes in terms of race day preparation and this weekend was definitely a doozy. I’d not met up with Chris for a while so we had loads to talk about; as is our way we decided to pop down to the pub for a couple of pints. These couple of pints ended up being a few pints; some wine and several double whiskeys.
Hell up North was feeling pretty bad the next day as I woke up with a hell sized hangover. Clearly this was self inflicted so I was just going to have to tough it out. Ali wasn’t going to put up with any moaning.
The race event is described:
Fancy a swift half? Bog off to that. This is the UK’s toughest half marathon where Mother Nature will deliver that sinking feeling and more. The bar in extreme mud runs is about to be set at a new level (which is incidentally chest high in “Lucifer’s Lido”). Methane-munching HellRunners are now being recruited to tackle the notorious Bog of Doom — where the heart-thumping Devil’s Disco will rock you to glory.
Epic will not describe your experience. We’ll have you in tears… pain and laughter in equal doses actually. Pyro, samba band, fun run, hose wash, fabulous finish line rewards. It just doesn’t stop… but will you?
As running experiences go, this is Heaven from Hell. Run Happy.
The run was amazing; we headed through the woods and before long were clambering up steep slopes and natural obstacles and then into the mud. There was a lot of mud. We pushed through the miles and eventually hit Lucifers Lido which was a freezing water feature. We started out waist height and then soon found ourselves neck deep. Eventually I started swimming.
Getting out of the water I found myself serious sapped of energy but still had three miles left and significant mud features to overcome.
The next day we found ourselves in Cannock for a 55 miles sportive bike ride. We were pretty tired but went out as hard as we could. The day was tough and i ended up coming off my bike three times; once nearly wiping Ali out. Lucky for me I managed not to cause her to much trouble.
I can’t really remember much of what happened because I was so tired but there was some spectacular scenery towards the end.
A lady at the end who we’d been speaking to donated £10 towards our extreme 2015 charities which was awesome considering we’d just been chatting to her to keep our spirits up when trying to get up the last hill.
Would like to do this event again; hopefully next time i’ll not be recovering from a hangover and not have done a hellish half marathon.
I am never, ever going to run further then 30 miles. I recall this thought vividly as I finished the Cortina trail. I was absolutely destroyed. Ali and I had been running for just over 9 hours over mountains; doing 2750m ascent and descent. Our quads, hamstrings and knees where kaput.
Two hours later I got this tweet:
The Warrington Way starts and finishes in the lovely Cheshire village of Lymm, about 5 miles east of Warrington. The route takes in the villages/areas of Warburton, Rixton, Birchwood, Winwick, Burtonwood, Bold, Penketh, Sankey Bridges, Moore, Appleton, Hatton, Stretton and High Legh before returning to Lymm.
Hmm – I wonder if I could run 40 miles? Its flat – how hard can it be?
A couple of weeks later I’d signed myself, Ali and Andy up for this.
I really felt that we had to keep pushing ourselves; we’d done an Ultra but it seemed like we could go further and I kept thinking that the point of this year was to push ourselves as much as we could. In the end I stopped arguing with myself and just signed up.
Our training leading up to Warrington involved doing all our other events; basically – Ride London, Race the train, London Duathlon, Dam Ard Triathlon, Hell Up North and Cannock Chase Sportive and six park runs with a small number of long runs.
So when Alison said we’d not done enough long run training I wasn’t worried – i’d run a muddy half marathon with a hangover – that was tough.
Andy wasn’t convinced about getting around leading up to this but he’d had some good races he’d done so i figured he’d be fine.
The week leading up to the event was pretty stressful for me as I had a presentation at the NEC for work. Diet that week wasn’t great and along with late nights and a few beers I wasn’t in the best shape.
Mentally I felt pretty good though as we drove across to Warrington the night before; I’d had a great week; got the presentation out of the way and now could blow some steam off over 40 miles.
Dan used to live in Lymm and his parents Silvia and Roger had kindly offered to put us up.
Silvia and Roger looked after us that weekend and it was great not having to worry about going home after the ultra. We can’t thank them enough for their hospitality that weekend.
Dan and Rachel and their daughters Emily and Fran has been supporting us all this year and we’d now got Dan’s parents in on the act too along with Dan’s sister Jo. I think we must have seen them about 6 times along the way which really helped keep our spirits up.
40 miles is a long way but I figured that I could run 30 as we’d done a couple of 20+ miles runs. I figured by 30 we’d be tired and the last ten would be just a matter of dragging ourselves around.
A week earlier we’d all got together for a run and came up with our race day strategy; which was basically a run/walk strategy. Plan was to run 2 miles; walk three minutes and then repeat for the entire event. I figured that we’d be looking at 8-9 hours.
The day started off wet; I had wet feet just going into register. There were two categories of runners; a relay team who comprised 4 runners each running ten miles and the nutters doing the 40 miles.
In our briefing we discovered that there was a diversion due to utility company doing some work so our 40 miles run was expected to come in close to 42 miles.
My knee decided to to feel sore.
Andy and I decided we’d better try and stick with Ali – as the only one who can run a consistent pace she was our best bet of finishing.
We’d warned Andy that Ali and I would likely have an argument at mile 18-19 as we always seem to go through a sticky point at this stage and he said he’d force feed us if we looked like we running low on energy.
The race started in the dark and the rain but Ali and I managed to try out our Montane jackets for the first time and found them pretty good for keeping the rain out.
After about three miles we took the jackets of as very warm and the rain had stopped. Our feet were socked from running through the puddles. It seemed pointless to try and avoid them.
Running and ultra is pretty relaxing in a way; you are going a lot slower – think we were averaging about 11 minutes a mile (including the 3 minutes walk every two miles) – so you can talk. Andy was in his element and kept the discourse varied over the next twenty miles.
In addition we had some notable people joining us at some strategic points!
Dan met us around the thirteen mile point and ran with us for quite a few miles.
At the marathon point (26.2 miles) Andy, Alison and I were crusing. We all let out a cheer that we’d done a marathon. We completed it in just under five hours and had about 16 miles left – I didn’t feel too bad. Andy had been getting worried from about 8 miles as he felt way too tired early on and started to struggle after 26. Roger joined us to run along the canal stage leading up to the third stop. Andy was really struggling and Roger pulled him along to the next stop where he was able to get some fuel. He was contemplating dropping out at this stage but after a brief respite and waving one of the marshals away started to recover.
Getting started was the most difficult point for me after each 10 miles respite; I couldn’t keep my legs from tightening up and it took me a couple of miles to loosen up again.
Despite our exhaustion the last ten miles were great; Alison got stronger and stronger and Andy was back on the pace (well after chucking up). Andy had the answer with some jelly babies and started to make a swift recovery.
At the last three mile point we met up with Rachel; who had been toying with the idea of running with us. We were unsure if she was going to though because shes only just started running; having done her first park run recently. So it was brilliant to see her as we crossed over a bridge and saw her in her running gear. She looked very clean! Her new trainers swiftly turned brown as we crossed a field. Rachel had been worried she wouldn’t be able to keep up with us but believe me that wasn’t a problem we noticed.
My garmin run out of juice around the 39 mile point (wuss); I understood how it felt but didn’t have the luxury of bailing out.
The very last mile i’d stopped for a quick call of nature and found I couldn’t get my legs moving again. I was really struggling. Rachel stuck with me and coaxed me though the next mile and I managed to scoff a few jelly babies which helped.
We met up with Emily and Fran and I ended up racing Fran through the park leading out into Lymm.
I finally caught up with Ali and Andy at the last hill; and we crossed the finish line together. This was a tough challenge and really needed the support from Silvia, Roger, Jo, Rachel, Dan, Emily and Fran to get through this. We all had rough spots and managed to work as a team to pull each other through.
Looking at our splits compared to others we managed pretty consistent times which I put down to going out slow for the first ten miles. There were quite a number of other runs who were twenty to thirty minutes quicker then us but blew up after that. Our consistent pace was definitely the right strategy and we finished in 8:24
This is supposed to be a running club but here I am talking about Triathlon. Seems like everything I seem to do these days involves cycling in some form but this week its all about swimming, cycling and a spot of running.
I am not a good swimmer. That is one honest statement and something I’ve tried hard to change. In fact I’ve been trying to build up for the last year from someone who could do a single length in front crawl to well – someone who can still only do a single length in front crawl. I’ve been swimming three times a week for about the last eight months and managed to improve my technique a lot over that time but still can’t go more then a few lengths at a time.
Alison has been steadily improving; at one point she couldn’t do a single length and I was effectively alpha fish. I was slowly improving; going from 1, 2, 4, 8 up to 10 lengths and Alison was struggling with two. Now she can do 16 and that’s after putting together twenty odd laps in warm up.
So how is it that i’m getting worse and Ali is getting better. The answer is that I injured my shoulder when I was eighteen and its come back to haunt me now I’ve decided to do something interesting with it a couple of decades later. Okay so I ignored it for twenty plus years; some might say I treated it with disdain but honestly it wasn’t anything personal. Anyway – it didn’t accept my apology letter; or the flowers I sent. Man that left shoulder is a nasty piece of work.
So this has resulted in me having to reduce my swim quota to a couple of lengths at a time and limit my time in the pool to enough to wet my shins and ensure I have a damp towel.
So with my current personal best of two lengths I set out with Alison on Sunday morning for our first attempt at a Triathlon – keenly aware that yet again i’d not done enough training.
Alison is looking eager and excited and a little nervous. I’m full of dread and expecting to drown; worst case I get the kiss of life from aunt Mildred.
Alison decided that our intended Triathlon – Drax with its 400m pool doesn’t look as exciting as another one shes found call the ‘Dam Ard Triathlon’ and is described thus:
The Dam ‘ard Triathlon is a pool based Triathlon is set around the facilities of Rishworth School in the Pennines. The course will be picturesque taking in the moors, the valleys and passing many Dams on route, finishing in front of the magnificent buildings of the School.
Slightly longer than the average pool based tri expect a few inclines (after all it is the Pennines) for an end of season challenge.
I tell Alison I don’t mind as drowning in a 400m swim doesn’t seem too different to drowning in a 500m swim.
So we arrive at the start and having had our race numbers cemented to our left legs and right arm and having put numbers on every bit of kit and on every position I can think of we are directed to the pool for the start.
They check me out and decide I’m about to scarper so direct me immediately into the pool; i’m given approximately 38 seconds to say my last prayers before they start me off. The lane marshal tells me before I start that he’ll alert me when I’ve got two lengths lefts to go – “good luck with that” I think.
At 9:47 I start swimming. The first four lengths go ok; my awesome technique mastered over the last 8 months has prepared me better then I expect for the 22.72m pool lengths. I have 22 lengths to swim in total in this odd length pool. By length six i’m loosing count already as my breathing starts accelerating. I’ve gone from breathing every third stroke to every second stroke. Sometime later I guess i’m up to 14 lengths and thinking I’m going to drown. My shoulder is fine but I struggle to think as I’m breathing like i’m doing a 400m interval session (ok what I assume a 400m internal session would feel like if i every turned up to training). By 16 laps going on 250 i’m thinking that drowning doesn’t seem such a bad idea if I can stop. The pool is deep at one end and shallow at the other and i’m in the shallow section so I decide to do another length so I can properly drown myself. By 18 lengths I feel like i’m in hell and don’t know what is going on but that I should focus on my core and make sure I don’t do something I’ve already forgotten.
Lap twenty and the marshal takes pity on me and tells me i’ve done twenty laps; really i’ve only done three but he is beginning to feel embarrassed for me so lets me off easy. I finish the last two lengths with the thoughts that I’ve survived it.
Then i get out of the pool and realise I’ve got a hilly 30K bike and a hilly 8K run still to do. I pull myself out of the pool and somehow crawl out of the building; down the back steps and up to transition to my bike.
At the bike I get my race number on; pull a t-shirt on over my trisuit and drag my bike out of transition before jumping on my trust stead and pedaling hard out and up the first of the hills I’ll encounter today. The elevation is shown below.
The swim has taken it out of me; I’ve got nothing left at all. Mt hard cycling turns into a gentle pedal; walking looks appealing; my pride somehow kicks in and tells me to man up or something like that. I plod on taking one hill at a time and eventually reach the top. There follows a number of down hills; desperate breaking maneuvers and more hills before I hit the final top and bright blue sky. After a day of mist and chill this is a tonic. I take some time to look around as I pedal like crazy along the short flat stretch before heading down the last hill before coming back into Rishworth.
I’m keen to start running; well actually keen to get off my bike but my feet are frozen so I take a quick minute to put some socks on and kick off.
The legs feel like jelly after cycling; I’m running slow. Very slow. I seriously consider walking as really seems like i’ll be quicker. The first stint is straight up a hill; god I hate race directors. The run elevation is shown below.
The run is split into a couple of big hills; the worst part for me is at the 4K part. I was just finding my legs coming back to me and thinking that I could push on when I hit a set of steps which I was forced to walk up; by the time I reached the top my legs had gone jelly again. There was a water stop at the top and then I was running along the dam where I was cheered on by a family which was quite encouraging. I then hit another hill and ended up walking up to a road where I prepared to run again. It was at that time that I noticed the Pink Assassin; yes Alison came bounding up to me all smiles and asking how I was.
Alison escorted me back to the end bless her.
Alison won here age category. Not bad for her first attempt!
It has taken two days to get the race numbers off my body. Feels like I was branded in shame.
Going up to the club I noticed a man walking a parrot – yep. He takes it round with him for walkies. Pretty odd.
Anyway this is the second week I’ve run with Duncan and thought i’d post the progress.
Duncan has been kindly helping me out with the beginners group while June has been away. He’s helped out a few times in the past but this time I figured I’d make better use of it to try and pick up some tips. As it happens its been pretty easy to do as he’s great with the beginners and has been sharing some good techniques to help them run easier, for example gently touching your finger and thumb together as if pinching crisps helps avoid the dreaded grip of death that new runners use. The pringles tip as patented by him ensures you have relaxed hands and shoulders.
So for the last two weeks we’ve been running with our latest beginner group for about 5K and once finished we’ve headed out for the Tuesday run.
He’s building up steadily so wasn’t bothered about going out fast which was fine with me, or so I thought until I went out. For some unknown reason I’ve been pushing pretty hard for the last two weeks; and got through them feeling like i’d run well, in fact it felt like two of the best runs I’ve had in a long time.
The first week we did four miles and this week 5.5 so slowly building up with a run through to Pauls pond and then through Golden Acre. The first week we ran down to Otley road and looped back in 31 minutes. This week we ran on the trail in just under 45 minutes. For me these times are arguably race pace so will be interesting to see how long I can stick with him over the next couple of months.
After our run we headed of to the pub for a pint and Duncan told me about one of the training tricks he uses when he goes out sometimes. He calls it urban running and has been doing it for years. It involves running easy until you spot something you want to race for a bit and then going hard to beat it. It doesn’t matter what it is so long as you decide when you’ll start and where you’ll race it to. Could be a car, bike, dog or bus and you could be running to the end of the street or the next lamp post. Funnily enough he didn’t suggest racing runners though…
Anyway it got me thinking that this is probably the modern equivalent to fartlek training but with a bit of competition thrown in. So how did we get onto this conversation? Well I was telling him about the training session Ali and I did last weekend for our Duathlon where we decided to do a brick – a bike followed by a run. I explained that I’d had a nightmare in the run; physically i was OK but mentally I was gone. We’d done 60 miles on the bike and then planned to do a mere three miles run. I was about into the first half mile when I realised we needed to loop up a small hill. That hill broke me. I didn’t even get to it. I just stopped and said I couldn’t do it. Ali eventually dragged me round two miles minus the hill. I was pissed with myself. The same thing had happened the previous day when we’d done a spin class and followed by a spot on the treadmill.
Anyway I was telling Duncan about this and saying that my problem is that I’m mentally weak and that is when we started the conversation about urban running. The conversation went along these lines. In order to be mentally resilient you need to do the same thing that you do to become physically resilient which is to stress your body regularly so it becomes adapted to the physical demands. So to become mentally resilient you need to stress your mind so it becomes adapted to the mental demands and the best way to do that is through interval training. Urban running is his way of getting interval training into his daily running routine.
What did I take away from this? Time to do some intervals.
So Thursday it is then at the track after I’ve chased down a man with a parrot.
This year has seen me venturing into a number of new areas. Fresh into a new job, running a beginners group and getting stuck into a few odd events as part the extreme 2015 challenge.
In my latest venture I’m going to be writing a blog for the club. For my first topic I’ve decided to investigate one of our own club runners Duncan Clark.
I’m sure most of you will know he has been out of action for a while following a decision to run on a damaged foot in the London Marathon. Despite the obvious disadvantage of running with a broken foot, which he noted went snap after a couple of miles he finished in 3:17:29. Before you all decide to go and smash your foot up in order to PB, our friend Duncan is not your typical runner.
While Duncan hasn’t been running recently he has been involved in the club, either supporting our club runners at races, doing his bit in the committee as men’s captain and helping June and I with the beginners club.
He’s starting on the road to recovery and I thought this would be a great opportunity to watch how he progresses. So the plan is to track his progress week by week and see how he goes from smashed runner to mean machine and get into the mind of a runner on the mend.
There ain’t no runner tougher so it will make for a good Yorkshire story of grit and blood.