Tag Archives: runners

Fuelled by Science in Sport

In 2014 I ran my first marathon, the Manchester Marathon, with next to no nutrition strategy. It’s safe to say I hit the “WALL”. I decided to use the Science in Sport (SIS) Isotonic Gels in training and for the Brighton Marathon in 2015. Thanks to more specific training, a better taper and good nutrition I knocked 25 minutes off my time. I took a gel at kilometres: 10, 20, 30 and 37. As it was a hot day I sipped water at most aid stations, I felt good and avoided going to the pain cave.

A few months ago on the Freestak platform I saw that SIS wanted runners to test and review their new products: the Cookies & Cream Overnight Protein and GO Caffeine Shots. I decided to apply because I had a good experience with their gels and electrolyte tablets. I also thought the protein powder and caffeine shots would help with my racing and training for OCC (55k) at the end of August.

I have used the caffeine shots on numerous occasions over the last few weeks. I take them half an hour before hard track sessions and races. They have definitely helped me to be more alert and focussed. One of the first times I used a shot was before a big 1km rep session. I ran at 3:25min/km pace for 8 reps which I was happy with just two days after another hard track session.

Finishing the Westminster Mile in 4:48 (20th position in Wave 1) after taking a Tropical SIS Caffeine Shot.

I would definitely recommend the GO caffeine shots, I thought they would taste medicinal but actually the Coca Cola and Tropical flavours are great. They have definitely helped my performances; I’m excited to see what I can achieve in the races I’ve got lined up. If you want to find out why you should use caffeine here is a link to the SIS website and a piece on “The Performance Benefits of Caffeine”: http://www.scienceinsport.com/uk/our-expertise/performance-benefits-caffeine/

In training for OCC, the 55k race in the UTMB series, I have been increasing my mileage and taking part in some tough track sessions. At the end of May I ran the Bideford 10k, a 10,000m track race and did three hard track sessions within the space of 10 days. 

I thought it would be a great time to try the Cookies and Cream Overnight Protein to recover quickly and be able to run commute the next morning. I was wondering if the protein shake would actually taste like cookies and cream and was pleasantly surprised. It is hard to quantify how much the drink helped but my legs definitely felt better the next day. If you want to know which protein to take and when, there is another great piece on the SIS website: http://www.scienceinsport.com/uk/our-expertise/which-protein-when/

Overall the new Science in Sport products have been great. They’ve helped me a lot with my training and racing over the last couple of months. Good nutrition is something that I neglected in the past, it is great to have supplements so I can train hard day in day out.

Salomon Sunset Series – Box Hill, London

On Saturday the 24th of June I took part in the Salomon Sunset Series London 10k. I always keep an eye on Salomon Running on social media because their kit is great, they create some awesome videos and sponsor many of the best trail/ultra-runners. When they announced they were organising the Sunset Series a few months back I was really keen to get involved because I’d never ran around Box Hill, I knew some friends would be taking part and with OCC coming up I need to get some hills in. I was lucky enough to be offered a free place as I have reviewed some Salomon shoes in the past and I’ve recently been selected to take part in the Suunto Training Squad.

I was really looking forward to the event but knew that it would be a big challenge as I took part in the Orion Fell Race in Epping Forest on Friday night. The 5k included 900+ft elevation gain. I finished 7th in 22:20 knocking 48 seconds off the time I ran in 2015, my legs were not happy. During the day Lorna and I travelled east to have lunch with friends. It was nice to catch up with Ben and Maz and meet Will, Hayley and baby Jackson. Late afternoon I started my journey across London to Box Hill. I bumped into Mollie and Frankie on the train, it was good to have a catch up and speculate how tough the event would be.

We arrived at Box Hill an hour or so before the start meaning we could have a good chat with some of the Advent Running/Adidas Running lot, sort our race kit and drop bags. Throughout the afternoon Salomon had been putting on trail workshops and Q&As, it was cool to hear from Max Nicholls about his training, racing and goals. To loosen my legs up a bit I did a few strides before listening to the briefing and positioning myself near the front in the start pen. Knowing the 10k course included 250m+ of elevation gain I took it relatively steady off the line; I wanted to keep the lead pack in view but was confident that I would be able to move through the field once we got to the hills.

Having not taken part in many trail races recently I was excited to tackle the challenging course and I enjoyed the fact I didn’t need to look at my watch as I wasn’t aiming for a time.

Photo courtesy of @claudi8s

After 2k of running on the flat I arrived at the first hill, we gained 60m in 500m then from 3k to 3.7k we ran up another 100m. Thanks to the OH Fell Race my legs were tired but strong at the same time; I managed to overtake quite a few runners on the first couple of hills and was feeling good and enjoying the descents. From 7k to 8.5k there was a really nice smooth downhill section where I let my legs go. With more than a kilometre to go though I knew there would be another sizeable climb. There was a U-turn at the bottom of the hill to pretty much go straight back up again.

The final big hill was really demoralising as it was open, you could see the brow of the hill from the bottom and couldn’t help but long to be at the top with the click of your fingers. I could see two runners up in front and used them as motivation; with some words of encouragement from JP who was descending parallel to me I got my head down and refused to slow to a walk.

Iffley Road Cambrian River T-Shirt, Iffley Road Thompson Shorts, Stance Run OTC, Salomon S-Lab X-Series

Once at the top of the climb the last 500m or so was pretty flat. I crossed the line in 45:04, surprisingly in 3rd position.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1052324835/overview

Photo courtesy of @claudi8s

Overall the race was a lot of fun; I definitely need to run more trail races. After grabbing my wooden coaster, bottle of water and clif bar we cheered in the rest of the runners.

In the next few months I am going to try and make it a priority to run more trails and venture further out of London.

If you haven’t given trail running a try I would definitely recommend one of the Salomon Sunset events, fingers crossed they’ll be around next year and more people will get involved.

See a lot of you soon

Steve

The Strava Mile – London

A month or so ago I received an email from James Poole (Advent Running co-founder & Adidas Running Captain) inviting me to an event he was collaborating with Strava on – the Strava Mile. I’m good friends with JP, use Strava and really enjoy mile races, I was in!

Before I knew it race day arrived. After a big weekend of mileage at Endure 24 and a tough 10 x 1k track session on Tuesday night my legs were feeling a bit sorry for themselves. I opted to run the 4k or so from work to Mile End track to try and loosen the legs up. Struggling to hold a few 4 minute kilometres I wasn’t expecting to be breaking any records on #MyMile.

I was greeted at the track by Claire, Bill and Johnny from Iffley Road. They were supporting the event and providing tees to runners. As I’m a Team Iffley ambassador Claire gave me some of their lovely Thompson shorts in a new blue colourway to race in.

The event was a lot of fun; it was great to catch up with friends that I hadn’t seen in a while due to training predominantly on my own for the last few months. As the start time of 7pm neared James hit the mic to let us know the schedule, there was to be 4 mile races: Sub 9, 8, 7 & 6 and below. With my legs beaten up I was glad the final mile was sub 6 and not 5. I thought I would be left suffering at the back in a sub 5 race. It was great to watch friends flying round the track, many of them achieving personal bests. For some it was their first mile race, I suppose there aren’t that many around so it’s great for events like this to be organised.

I ran a few strides to try and get the legs ready for action. There was a large group in the sub 6 race. I positioned myself near the front but decided I would try and crank the pace up in the final two laps if the legs would allow me. With my mile PB at 4:44 I knew I wouldn’t be able to get near that but thought 5 would be a good target. In hindsight I should’ve tried to get the inside lane like James Brewster (pro!) or started a bit further up as I was forced to take a wider lane on a couple of occasions costing valuable seconds. I got into my stride and was on the right pace for sub 5, 3:06min/km.

It was great to have people to chase down, surprisingly my legs felt good after completing the first lap and going under the Strava gantry to cheers from friends.

Going through halfway I was still on pace and another sub 5 was within reach, I started to pick it up to try and bank a few more seconds and make sure I would achieve the time.

The last few laps went by in a blur; I gained ground on some of the runners in front and crossed the line in 4:55.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1036670638/overview

I was really happy and surprised with the result. It always makes me wonder what time I could achieve if I trained and tapered specifically for a mile race.

After everyone had run their miles we grabbed some tacos and beer. The event was a lot of fun, thank you James, Strava, Iffley Road, Eddie (Camden Town Brewery) etc for putting it on. I really hope there will be many more events like this in the future.

I hope everyone else that was there had as much fun as I did. See a lot of you soon.

Steve

Westminster Mile 2017

On Sunday the 28th of May I took part in the Westminster Mile. Having done it in 2015 I was looking forward to running up the Mall and crossing the finish line near Buckingham Palace again. The first time I took part in the event I didn’t know what time I would be capable of so ended up in the B race. I was in good shape and ran 5:05 which meant I lead the race from start to finish and took the tape. It was fun being at the sharp end of a race but on reflection had there been someone to chase I could well have dug a little deeper and scraped sub 5. With that lesson learnt signing up for this year I predicted I would run nearer my PB of 4:44 (achieved in the City of London Mile last year, thanks to some “pacing” from Ken Hoye) to get in the A race and have people to compete with.

With the sufferfest of Night of the 10,000m PBs still vividly in my mind I decided to take it easier in the couple of days leading up to the mile. 

I did a steady 8k run commute on Friday and swam with Lorna on Saturday morning to loosen the legs up. The A race started at 9:30am so we took the bus to get there around 9am, this gave me time to sort race kit and take an SIS GO Caffeine shot. I opted to try the Cola flavour; it tasted good and perked me up.

 

I did a few strides and then made my way to the start pen. Hugh Brasher gave a speech and there was a minute silence before the start to commemorate the victims of the Manchester attack on Monday. Something I was annoyed about was the fact that one runner had turned up late and was shuffling his way through the start pen while everyone else was observing the minutes silence. There are more important things than running, show some respect!

Hugh Brasher set us on our way. I was a couple of rows back from the start line so I was a little boxed in but was thinking “get up to speed, find some space and then push in the second 800m”. To overtake a few runners I went wider around the bend than I would’ve liked getting on to Horse Guards Road. Once I’d found some space I was feeling good, I glanced at my watch to check I was running sub 3min/km pace to finish in under 5 minutes. I passed the 800m to go sign and upped the pace; I had a few runners to chase which was good. 400m to go: my legs were burning and I was breathing HEAVY but I was on target. 

I turned the corner onto the home straight, I saw the clock showing “4:30 something”, I knew I’d gone sub 5 again. I sprinted through the finish, crossing the line in 4:48 in 20th position.


I was really happy with how the race went, especially off the back of increasing my mileage during the week. However, almost immediately after crossing the line I always wonder “how quick could I run a mile if I trained specifically for it?” and “could I have gone a few seconds quicker (PB’d) if I’d rested just that little bit more”. Maybe in the next couple of years I will set aside 6 months to a year to see how quick I can get over the mile, 5k and 10k distances. We’ll see…

After finishing the mile Lorna and I headed to Richmond Park for a steady 15k run. 

Lorna is using a coach at the moment, focusing on her form and doing easy trail runs before the mileage cranks up ahead of the Great East Run in September, I’m excited to see how much quicker she gets. It’s been really nice to run around Richmond Park the last couple of weekends, there’s no stress about the pace and it’s good to get off the roads especially with OCC coming up at the end of August.

June is going to be a pretty busy month for me. I have: Orion Forest Five, Endure 24, Strava Mile, LBH relays, Orion Fell Race, and the Orion Fast Friday (10,000m).

See a lot of you soon

Steve

Night of the 10,000m PBs 2017

On Saturday the 20th of May I headed up to Parliament Hill Athletics track to take part in Night of the 10,000m PBs. In 2015 and 2016 The Running Works retailed at the event so over the last couple of years I have seen how the event has developed and grown. The atmosphere was electric, I wanted to take part and experience the race from lane 1. Last year I ran 34:50 in the Orion Harriers Fast Friday 10,000m at Walthamstow Track allowing me to register for the Highgate 10k. I was initially put on the waitlist as the standard had risen but in the week or so leading up to the races I found out there was space for me. On seeing the start lists I realized I was the slowest, by quite a margin, in the E race. I knew this meant I would be left behind and lapped but I was still really excited to take part, spend the rest of the day cheering on friends in other races and watch the World Championship qualifiers.

I arrived at the track in plenty of time to register, pick up a race day programme from Left Spike Fanzine and sort my race kit. 

#fuelledbyscience

Having tested the Science in Sport Go Caffeine shots on Thursday morning before a track session with Hannah Walker I opted to take one at 2:45pm (30 minutes before the start of the race as recommended). It definitely perked me up; I was feeling ready to race and hoped that my legs would loosen up after a few laps. On the start line I had a quick catch up with my friend Dom, chatted to some of the other racers about goal times and then we were led to the start line. Knowing the majority of the guys in the race were aiming for 31-32 minutes I positioned myself at the back as I didn’t want to get caught up, go out too fast and blow up as there is nowhere to hide on track. I stuck to my plan of starting at around PB pace (3:30min/km). The first few laps passed and I was on pace, however it was feeling tough as my legs were heavy and I was already a good few hundred metres behind the rest of the group. I was immediately thinking “Ah man, I probably shouldn’t have pushed it at track on Tuesday or done so many kilometre reps on Thursday morning.” On the other hand I was thinking “Ease up a little and get it done, it’s good training to try and push the pace on tired legs and it’s been a good week mileage wise in training for OCC.”

Photo courtesy of @jamesbrewster 

My race “Afternoon of the 10,000m sufferfest” had begun, luckily though I was ticking off the laps quickly (mentally) thanks to friends and supporters shouting “Go on Skinner!!” every hundred metres or so. It was frustrating not to have any speed in the legs as I was breathing so easily, if someone was running alongside (unfortunately not the case) I could’ve had a nice good chat with them. I was lapped a few times which was demoralising but at the end of the day I couldn’t be too disheartened as I had put myself in that position, the pain was self-inflicted. Every kilometre was becoming slower and slower, I had gone from 3:28min/km to 3:49min/km throughout the race, there were so many times when I thought “I could walk off the side of the track and not many people would notice” but on the other hand I was thinking I would be letting Ben Pochee and the people supporting me down. I finally crossed the line in 36:21, a minute and a half slower than my PB. It was a humbling experience and I learnt if I want to race or do a decent time I definitely need to taper.

Photo courtesy of Steve O’Sullivan Sports Photography 

After finishing the race I walked past two guys lying on the floor exhausted. I felt guilty that maybe I hadn’t put in as much effort as them but once a PB was out of my reach self-preservation was my main priority. I did a quick cool down with Dom, he too struggled on the day but we both know why and what we need to do. I then met up with the Advent Running crew trackside; the first thing I said to them was “don’t ever do 10,000m on track”. The second thing I said was “there’s a 5,000m/10,000m event at Walthamstow Track in a couple of weeks” ha. I grabbed some pizza and we got a good position to watch the rest of the races unfold. In the men’s C race Ben Johnson (Run-Fast) had a great run beating his PB by 15 seconds or so. He’s in great form at the moment having finished the London Marathon in 2:21 earning an England vest in the Toronto Marathon later this year. It’s great to run at track on Tuesdays with the likes of him and Pete Huck (sub 30 minute 10k runner) and see what it takes to get to that level.

I felt relieved to have finished my race; I could relax and enjoy watching the rest of the races with Lorna and friends.

 I was looking forward to seeing who would win out of Dewie Griffiths, Andy Vernon and Ben Connor and the women’s start list was stellar. Andy Vernon opened up a large gap with 10 or so laps to go, the pace wasn’t quick enough to go sub 27:45 (World Champs qualifying time) as it was a little windy, but Andy finished first in 28:16.

 In the women’s race the favourites were Steph Twell, Jo Pavey, Beth Potter, Katrina Wootton and last year’s winner Jessica Martin.

 In the end Beth Potter ran away from Steph Well to win in 32:04. Steph finished just one second outside of the 32:15 qualifying time for the World Champs in August and Katrina Wootton took third after a good battle with Jo Pavey.

 The atmosphere was awesome for the A races, it makes me want to get quicker so I can one day take part in one of the later races.

For a more in depth recap of the day read this great article by sixth counter: http://www.sixthcounter.com/from-highgate-to-stratford

Overall it was an awesome day of running to take part in and observe, I can’t wait for next year already. Thanks to everyone that cheered me on in my race.

I am racing in the Westminster Mile on Sunday so if you’re going to be there give me a shout.

See a lot of you soon

Steve

Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon 2017

On Sunday the 19th of March I took part in the Hampton Court Palace Half. I signed up because Lorna, her sister Rachel, Marie (Lorna’s manager) and her husband Quentin had decided to run. As the race was organised by Run Through I knew it would be good, I was looking forward to running along the river and finishing just outside Hampton Court Palace. I didn’t really have a race plan as I knew my legs would be tired from the Escape to trail run, organised by Dean, on Saturday.

Despite the trail run I thought it would be good training to see how quickly I could get round. At the end of the day in Boston I will no doubt get to a point where my legs are feeling heavy and need to try and hold on to a decent pace.
We woke up at around 6am on Sunday morning so we could enjoy breakfast and get organised. Furthermore, we wanted to leave ours at 7am to make it to the palace in good time to park the car and walk to the race village. Lorna and Rachel were excited to see what time they could achieve. Rachel hadn’t raced since the London Marathon 14 years ago but had increased her mileage well over the few months before the race so we were all pretty confident she would run well. Ideally she wanted to beat Phil’s time of 1:43 from Colchester Half the previous weekend. We bumped into Tom (@tom.runs) and had a catch up before dropping our bags off. I headed to the start line and had a quick chat with Joe while we positioned ourselves near the front.

Off the start I went out pretty quickly, I was through the first kilometre in around 3:35 (75 minute pace) alongside Joe and a handful of others. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold that pace for long but decided to go with it and see what happened. I stayed with the group for a couple of kilometres but then I started to open up a little gap, first place was no longer visible but I could still just about see second place. I decided I was going to try and stay in third place and keep him in view for as long as possible. My legs were already feeling pretty heavy and tight from around 5k but I could still hold a decent pace, I was around 3:40-3:45 pace at this point. I knew it was going to be a long 16k but I wanted to have to dig deep and test the legs.

As I was on my own it was tough going especially running into the wind along the river. I didn’t turn around at all to see if I was being caught but when running past big crowds I could hear how close the runners were behind me. The support along the river was great.

Going from running on concrete to running on the towpath my legs were not happy especially having been on my feet for 4 hours, running 27k the previous day. I was relieved to make it to within 5k from the finish line and knew I could suffer for just less than 20 minutes to get it done. The final few kilometres were into the wind, which wasn’t great, but I just couldn’t wait to see the finish line and the palace. With 800m or so to go someone let me know there was a runner about 30m or so behind me, I upped my pace a bit to make sure no one was going to overtake me and then I was on the home straight. I crossed the line in 1:18:55 in 3rd, job done.


I cheered Tom, Hanif, Lorna, Rachel, Marie & Quentin through the finish. Lorna and Rachel smashed it finishing in 1:42 to beat Phil’s time. We went for a nice roast and then chilled for the rest of the day.

Overall it was a great day, if you’re looking for a quick scenic half next year I’d definitely recommend considering the Palace Half. The route was scenic and relatively flat, the crowds were good and the medal was cool (as to be expected from a Run Through event).

After racing the last four weekends in a row I’m looking forward to doing a steady long run at the weekend before tapering ahead of the Boston Marathon. I hope those of you that raced or had long training runs at the weekend enjoyed it and got the results/times you wanted. I love this time of year when everyone is racing and training hard. It’s inspiring to see so many great performances every weekend.

See a lot of you soon.

Steve

Colchester Half Marathon 2017

On Sunday the 12th of March I took part in the Colchester Half Marathon. I signed up because Lorna, her brothers and some friends were racing and I enjoyed the event in 2016 finishing 7th in 1:16:30. Lorna and I travelled back to Colchester on the Friday evening; it was deja vu as we had made the same trip the previous Friday for the Essex 20. Having raced Brighton Half Marathon and Essex 20 over the two weekends in the lead up to Colchester Half I took it easy during the week, no hard track sessions or tempo runs. My legs were feeling good going into the weekend and I thought a short shakeout run would be good on the Saturday morning so Rob and I did a nice 5k.

Rob was really excited to be racing, he was aiming to smash his PB and beat Phil. On our 5k run we talked about training and thought about how he should pace it. Having trained more specifically this year he knew roughly what paces he should be hitting when going down or uphill so was confident he would get a good result. As I have been doing more long runs recently the 5k went really quickly; it seemed to do the job of loosening my legs up and it was a good way to start the day. To fuel up for the race Rob and I met up with Alex and Smithy for Nandos whilst Lorna went for lunch with Holly. We then had a look around the shops before going back to Lorna’s mum and dads to chill, eat and get an early night.

We woke up at 7am on Sunday morning to give us time to have breakfast and get our kit ready. It had been while since I’d raced so frequently but I was looking forward to the challenge. Toast and coffee consumed we went to Alex’s place before walking to Colchester Football stadium where the race started and finished. We met Robbie Smith near the start line, it was great to have a catch up with him. He said he wasn’t in great shape due to injuries etc but I knew he’d still run really well! Having dropped a bag full of warm clothes for after the race we got ourselves on the start line. Normally I prefer to position myself a few rows back but having finished 7th in 2016 I decided to get to the front with a couple of friends: Ciaran Saunders and Sam Cornforth. We talked about training, recent races and what times we were aiming for and then we were sent on our way.

Quick off the start line with Ciaran (left) & Sam (right).

As my legs were feeling relatively fresh I decided to aim for 75 minute pace (3:35ish min/km). Knowing the first couple of kilometres of the race were flat then downhill I went out quickly with a view to bank a few seconds for the hills later on. There was a group of 5 or 6 of us to begin with; it was nice to be in a group for the first few kilometres. As we tackled the first hill in the 4th kilometre Ciaran and I pushed on, we passed the two runners who had taken the initial lead and settled into a good pace.

Once at the top of the hill I found myself at the front with one other runner for company (see runner on the right in the pic above). We both got back onto a good pace straight off the top of the hill to open up a bit of a gap to the rest of the field. Down the high street the crowds were in good voice. I was really surprised to be at the front of the race with the car and bike; I kept pushing the pace on the downhills. I knew that I was approaching the long pull up Ipswich Road that lasts for a good couple of kilometres. Finally we turned onto Severalls Lane to get back on the flat road and go through an industrial estate. The hardest parts of the course were done and I could focus on holding around 3:35min/km again. I didn’t look around to see where the other runners were but I still had the one runner alongside.

The kilometres went by quickly; I really enjoy the Colchester Half Marathon route because of the variety. The hills and corners break it up nicely. With 5k to go my competition started to up the pace, my legs were tiring but I tried to hold onto him for as long as possible. It was good to be pushing it on tired legs. I stuck with him for another 3 kilometres but then a gap opened up quickly. I was still on my goal pace but he was finishing strongly. It was disappointing to see my hopes of winning the race run off into the distance but I kept digging deep to get to the finish line inside 75 minutes. I passed Lorna’s parents’ house with just over one mile to go, Bob (Lorna’s dad) and Lidia (Phil’s fiancée) were outside trying to take photos and cheering.

There was a short incline just before the finishing straight, my legs were not happy. I just about held it together to finish in 2nd place in 1:14:58.

I congratulated the winner on a great run and then grabbed my bag before cheering Robbie, Frosty, Alex, Lorna, Rob and Phil through the finish. A big shout has to go to Rob for smashing his PB by 5 minutes and beating Phil by 2 in finishing in 1:41.

 Robbie, Alex, Lorna, Rob and me

We all freshened up before heading to Three Wise Monkeys for food. Overall a great weekend and another race completed.

Next up: Escape to Trail run (Saturday 18th) & Hampton Court Palace Half (Sunday 19th)

See a lot of you soon

Steve