Thursday, 22 July 2010

Weekend training run

Last weekend I went for a long training run... well, it only was 11k but it still was the longest run I've done to date this year. As runners will attest, long runs are a very important part of training - not only because they allow our bodies to get used to being out running for hours, but also because this is a way to trial kit, fueling and other elements that also are important for a long distance race.

So last weekend's run was important not so much because of the distance, but because it was the first long run when I was actively testing kit, specifically my fuel belt (which I haven't used in a long time) and my fueling strategy (which mainly consists of SIS Gels).

Seeing as I'm training for a Disney race, another thing I need to practice/test is taking photographs. Yes, I don't really do these races to break any speed records and I want a visual record of everything I see along the way. Last time I used a disposable camera which worked well but I was sorry when I'd used all the film up, so this time I want to try running with my normal digital camera. Last weekend I got the chance to do this (as the camera fits quite nicely in my fuel belt anyway) and seeing as I was carrying my camera anyway, might as well practice the photo-taking too!

Here are some photos of my route that day. I started from my gym and then ran alongside the Grand Union Canal for a lot of my route towards Gt Linford. The canal route is very pretty and has some very high trees along most of it, making the route easy to spot from a distance (useful when I get lost) and is paved most of the way. There are also some gentle slopes when the ground slopes up a little to meet a bridge that crosses the canal, like here:


The route does begin to get a little boring after a couple of kilometers of the same view, so I turned into one of the lanes I've never been on and suddenly found these:


I stopped only long enough to take the photo but not to read the informative board nearby so all I gathered is that they are some sort of oven and they are 'fairly old'. (I promise to read the board next time!)

Not far from those things is a marina, full of canal boats:


The path goes very close to the canal here so it was quite pretty and the sight of the marina broke the boredom of the canal route.


I then turned away from the canal and towards the village of Gt Linford, which is one of the old villages that is now within Milton Keynes. Earlier in the day these same redways had seen the runners from the local Half Marathon go by, as evidenced by all the gel packets on the road! I was flagging a little by this point, so this sign cheered me up:


I was getting closer to one of the prettiest parts of my route, which is a cluster of houses in what appears to be a tiny village which in reality is completely within the modern city of Milton Keynes:


You wouldn't know looking at this photo that the city center is less than 15 minutes away! This is a lovely setting and I always like running through here when I get the chance. This is also on the route of the MK half marathon and it was one of the (few) highlights for me in that race.

I carried on running through the village and along one of the many, many parks in the city:

And past a nice thatched cottage (not that I would ever live in one, but they do look cute)...


But it's not all old buildings around Milton Keynes - not far from the cottage is a road called Solar Court, can you guess why?


I am not sure if it's true any longer, but when these houses were built they were apparently held up as an example of future use of solar energy in the home. I would guess they were built in the early 80s, guessing from the architecture and somehow they always remind me of the lofty ideals around EPCOT back then... and just like the park, these houses only really have a name (of the street) to remind everyone what the grand plan was way back then.

Not long after Solar Court I entered this avenue of trees:


It was an overcast day so it was pretty dark under those trees so it was both atmospheric and spooky. On a sunny day though, this 'tunnel' looks lovely with sunlight streaming through. Eventually I ran to the other side of the trees and onto open fields:


This is about halfway and the point where I started turning back towards the gym, but not before crossing the canal:


Unfortunately at this point my camera's battery died so I couldn't take any more photos! However, it did remind me that if I take this camera to the race I need to make sure the battery is fully charged as I probably won't be carrying the spare.

It was a pretty good run, even though I started off very tired but I gradually got more energy as I went. In part this is probably due to my gels (the best I've ever had, and I've tried them all!) and the weather which was overcast and fresh. My fuel belt worked very well and I will probably use it on all my long runs from now on. So look out for more photos of my training routes in future - and this time I promise there will be one of me at the end!

Friday, 2 July 2010

Disneyland 1/2 marathon: 9 weeks to go...

Time sure has flown! It is now 64 days (9 weeks) until the big day and the Disneyland ½ Marathon!

Apart from the fact that the practical issues of travelling now need addressing (mainly transport, accommodation and how many park tickets do I need?) I have also stepped up the training and started ramping up the mileage.

It has been a challenge as there are always things that get in the way of a scheduled run (such as illness, work, weather, forgetfulness and, why not, laziness) but as the date looms closer and closer, these issues somehow become smaller and the need to pound the asphalt for a couple of hours becomes larger.

So the training is going as well as it could. The travel planning is also coming together. What about the fundraising?

As you may remember, I’m not just doing this race for fun, as an excuse to see my imaginary friends or to get to play in Disneyland… I’m also doing it for UNICEF. It seems appropriate as this is a cause very close to my heart and Disneyland is all about young and the young at heart.

So I am begging for donations now. My JustGiving page looks a bit empty right now so won’t you help me get started? Any amount is welcome as a little goes a long way for some of the neediest children in the world. I may not be able to take them all to Disneyland with me but at least I can bring a little hope and dreams into their lives by helping them get the basics that they desperately lack.

Also, by sponsoring me it means that the responsibility and accountability increase. So the next time I have a scheduled run and feel like coming up with an excuse NOT to do it, the thought that so many people are giving me money for a good cause will definitely get me into my running skirt and out there. The power to get me off my butt is in YOUR hands!

Please, please, please give me as much or as little as you can and help me help UNICEF continue with the amazing work they do. The children of the world will be eternally grateful.

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