Another month, another load of races, parkruns and a couple of triathlons. We've also seen the introduction of a brand new club session on a Wednesday starting at Pandy Park meaning we now have 5 sessions per week plus a regular 20 parkrunners on a Saturday. I commented on a post recently that it was less than 2 years ago we regularly only had 5 or less turning up to training and there a couple of occasions where I was only one who turned up and the same happened to Nick. Now we have up to 20 (sometimes more) turning up to each of the 5 sessions plus around the same attendance at parkrun. That's without even mentioning races! The membership numbers continue to steadily increase and we're now into the 90's. Hopefully if the London Marathon criteria for club places doesn't change and we hit 100 over the next few weeks then we could be allocated three places for the 2016 race.
1st August - parkrun
The month started with the second 100 club celebration in as many weeks and this time it was my turn. I've already done a blog on my parkrun tourism so I'll just keep it to the stats this time.. 21 different events, 78 parkruns at Porthcawl, 125 weeks from first to 100th pakrun and volunteered 10 times. After a slow(ish) start, the weekly parkrun fix really kicked in back in April 2014 and since then I've only missed 3 parkruns - one the day my twins were born, one due to illness and one being sensible and not running the day before Manchester Marathon. I think Nick started the tradition of having to 'go for a PB' on a milestone parkrun when he ran a PB on his 50th. Chris Pratt smashed his PB in his 100th parkrun this year, whilst Chris Roberts and Richard Garratt got PB's on their 50th. The pressure was on but I also did it with a parkrun PB of 20:35 knocking 18 seconds off the time set back in March. Not far behind was the ever improving Chris Pratt with his first sub 21 run of 20:59. His aim at the start of the year was to get under 23 minutes! With Nick in the low 20's and Dave Evans just behind me, it meant we had 4 sub 21 runners. Dai K ran a seasons best of 21:25 and there was a rare appearance from Aled Hughes a minute or so further back after he'd run part of the way to parkrun with Kevin. Christie Coleman set another PB whilst Jonathan Edwards ran his quickest parkrun in almost 2 years. A massive turnout of 24 runners with Kelly making another cake to celebrate the 100 milestone. Fiona Drysdale was our only parkrun tourist and clocked a seasons best 5K time at Newport parkrun.
At the start with a fellow 100 clubber
Sprint finish with Dai Evans
Another 'secret' event was going on whilst I was celebrating my 100th parkrun. Fiona, Lorna and Helen have been missing from club training nights for a while with the occasional post about 1 mile open water swims and a few swim, bike, run sessions. Well we know why now as they were off training for the Wales Triathlon. Second triathlon for both Fiona and Helen this year whilst it was a triathlon debut for Lorna. Excellent effort by all.
The Cwm Ogwr Tri Club
August 2nd – Brecon 10 miler
I think a combination of club championship points, guaranteed PB’s in most cases and it being a good Snowdon training run contributed to 12 members turning up for this one. 10 milers haven’t been very popular with only 8 club members having run an official 10 mile race before this one. Me, Nick and Dai K all had times to beat whilst it was a guaranteed PB for the rest. The race starts with a couple of laps of Brecon Athletics Track before heading out through country lanes with a loop before doubling back for the last 3-4 miles. Undulating throughout – no major hills, but definitely enough steady inclines to just knock a few seconds off the pace.
Unsurprisingly, Nick was the first Cwm Ogwr runner across the line in1 hour 12 minutes and I was next with a 1:15 – unfortunately both a couple of minutes slower than our best times. Dai Kembery decided to run with the on-form Chris Pratt with Chris sneaking in front with a few meters to go with a mid 1:18 finish for both which was good enough for Dai to beat his previous best whilst it was a brilliant first 10 mile time for Chris. I’d mentioned before the race that everyone should be looking to beat their half marathon pace and Chris certainly did that and would arguably be on for a 1:42 HM time on a flat course (his PB at the time was 1:47). New member Martin Beard ran his first race with us clocking a solid 1:26 with Antony Lewis next up with 1:27. Both suffered significant injuries in their respective marathons this year and are getting back to full fitness so great times considering. The Garratt’s apparently swapped positions several times throughout the race and came onto the track for the final 300m side by side. Richard managed to find an extra kick and finished a few seconds ahead in the end with both in the low 1:28’s. Heather was just 2minutes outside the women’s club record. Christie Coleman ran an excellent sub 90 minute time which suggests a sub 2 hour half marathon could be on the cards soon. Steve Riddler posted a 1:31 whilst Liz was very pleased with a 1:37. Gail Pritchard was our final runner coming in at 1:50 with the rest of us all cheering her across the line. Gail's brother Rob, who joined the club a week or so after the event, also ran and finished in 1:36.
End of Brecon 10
August 7th – The Murder Mile
Me, Chris, Richard LJ and Nick went along to what Runners World ranked as ‘one of the toughest races in the UK’. It’s only 1 mile… but it’s entirely uphill with 669 feet of elevation (see graph below). To strike fear into the runners, you have to walk down the hill first to get from registration to the start so you know whats coming, and it’s mostly very steep. The course record was over 8 minutes and set by a runner capable of a 4:40 mile on the flat. Nick who had done the race in 2014 was first CORC member across the line beating his previous time by a few seconds with a sub 12 minute finish. Unbeknownst to me, there was a very close battle for next Cwm Ogwr finisher. I was very pleased not to have walked any of the course overcoming several urges to do so when with 200m to go, Chris Pratt came striding passed me! He finished in 12:25 whilst I clocked 12:34 in our first attempts. Richard LJ had run the event with Nick last year but a calf injury meant he was slightly off his course best and came in at 14:47.
Murder Mile Elevation
Post Murder Mile beers
August 8th - parkruns
Even with a few regulars away (Dai C, Chris R, Dai and Jayne K, Kelly and Richard G) we still hit the 20 runners mark. A very busy Porthcawl parkrun with a second best ever attendance of 263. Me, Aled and Chris P ran down to parkrun clocking 15-17 miles each including the parkrun itself. Nick beat his own record for consecutive parkruns with his 42nd week in arow – all of which at Porthcawl and was first Cwm Ogwr Runner across the line as he has been in so many of those 42. There was a third PB in as many weeks for Christie Coleman and a massive well done to Ceri Raffill who beat her year-long standing previous best. Shelley Smithson ran her first parkrun since training with the club in a speedy 26:07 putting her amongst some of our fastest female runners this year.
Meanwhile over at Cardiff parkrun, Neil Harris set another PB with a 19:46 for his third sub 20 time since joining the club. Prior to this year the club had 12 sub 20 times run by 5 members of the club which has now increased to 25 sub 20 times run by 9 different members. Neil’s time was the 11th fastest 5K by a Cwm Ogwr member.
August 15 – parkruns
Turned up to hear rumours of a special guest appearance by double triathlon World Champion and double Olympian Helen Jenkins. Funnily enough I decided to start a little nearer the front than usual and there she was! I have to admit to being a little starstruck given I’d gone up to London especially to see her race in the Olympics back in 2012. The parkrun itself was interesting. Both Chris Pratt and myself had said we weren’t ‘going for it’ after recent efforts but ended up within a couple of seconds of each other for the whole parkrun with Chris on for a PB. I started edging nearer in the final straight but Heather Garratt spoiled my surprise attack by shouting to Chris that I was on his tail. I’m almost positive Chris would have found something extra had I managed to get alongside him. In the end it was yet another PB for Chris (20:50) knocking a further 9 seconds off his best set 2 weeks previous whilst my 20:52 was my second best parkrun time. Nick and Dave were just ahead with the four of us finishing just 27 seconds apart. Not so further back these days, Christie set his 4th parkrun PB in as many weeks knocking a huge 39 seconds off last weeks effort for a 24:44. A minute behind him was Shelley Smithson who will have some of our fastest female club members looking over their shoulders with a 25:43. Katie Wood ran her first parkrun of the year with a PB whilst new member Sian Llewellyn-Goring was just a few seconds off her overall parkrun PB in her first since joining the club. Richard Garratt, Kelly Owen and Fiona Drysdale were all close to personal or seasons bests whilst Denise Bradley volunteered to be the 30 minute pacer doing an excellent job in finishing in 29:57. Over in Colby, Ann Davies finally did her 50 parkrun having been on 49 for the last 3 weeks.
The end of the epic battle between the 'not going for it' pair
Cwm Ogwr runners with Olympian Helen Jenkins
August 16 – Afan Argoed Half Marathon, Cheddar Gorge HM & Tuska Triathlon
The Afan Argoed Half Marathon has been run for several years as a club championship race between Port Talbot Harriers and Brackla Harriers. In previous years it’s mostly just been members of their clubs with one or two guests. Last year me, Nick and Lorna went along and it seemed there were a few more guests and this year it was advertised as an open invitation to all running clubs. The event is free with an accurately measured course and timing – amazing. The only downside is if you get a PB,it’s not going to show up on Run Britain / Power of 10 but most importantly, it will on the Cwm Ogwr stats.
Me, Chris, Nick and Christie went along. Yet again me and Chris said the usual pre-race ‘I’m not going for it’ and ‘it’s just a training run for Snowdon’. I don’t know about him, but I honestly mean it at the time! We started reasonably far back albeit with only 80 odd runners in total. Under normal circumstances I might keep up with Nick for the first half a mile on a good day and up to this point Chris decided to come along as well (because clearly we’re not going for it?!). Chris decided the pace was a bit too hot having said about aiming for 8 minute miles which would give him a 1:44-1:45 finish time which he felt was within his reach and would still knock a couple of minutes off his PB. I forgot to start my Garmin and only got signal after 0.4 miles so was a bit lost as to what sort of splits I was doing although as I’ve said before, I sometimes find I run better that way. I had no idea what sort of time Nick was going for having run a PB of 1:32 back in March, but ‘only’ a 1:39 a few weeks ago in Swansea (albeit with a cold). The miles ticked by and I even went passed him for a couple of seconds at 4 miles and assumed he must have been more on the 1:39 pace. A check of the watch at 5 miles confused the hell out of me and I went from thinking I was on for a massive PB, to 'no, I'm way outside' to.. 'well I just don’t know'. Another check once my watch actually said 5 miles indicated the PB was on. At around 7 miles I pulled up alongside Nick again and he injected a bit a speed to open up a 5-10 second gap. I felt good and knew that actually the first half was mostly incline (as can be seen from the elevation chart below) and apart from a bit at the end, it was mostly flat or slightly downhill for the remaining miles. I’d decided I’d next check my watch at mile 10 and almost fainted when I not only seen I’d just run a 6:40 mile(!?) but also my 10 mile split was 1:11:40 – that’s 2 minutes quicker than my 10 mile PB and also meant I could afford 8 minute miles for the final 3 miles and still get a PB.
Of course, the goal changes at that point and you want to get every second out of it you can – who knows when this opportunity will arise again - could be the next half marathon, might be never. Nick was still between 5-10 seconds in front and I’m massively grateful as I’m certain I wouldn’t have run as well had he not been there. Every time he started edging further away was a timely indicator that maybe I was just slowing a bit and I’d make sure I maintained the gap. I thought I seen Nick holding his side indicating the dreaded stitch and at mile 12 he had to stop dead in his tracks. I shouted at him to keep going mainly for selfish reasons as he was an amazing unintentional pacer but I was gutted for him as he was on for one of his best ever times. The final mile agonisingly includes a couple of inclines but I still wanted to give it 100% to get every second I could. The final straight is a good 200-300m long and seemed to take forever.
Crossing the line was amazing but strange as I knew I had a PB but had no idea by how much because of the Garmin issue. In the end I was given 1:34:09 – over 3 and a half minutes off my PB despite this being my 24th half marathon and me being convinced if I ever beat my previous best again, it would be a matter of seconds not minutes! Nick came in 2 minutes later which still beat the time he did the previous year despite the stop at mile 12. We knew from the turnaround point that Chris and Christie were going well so it waited to see what sort of times they ended up with. Chris came in at 1:41:58 knocking an incredible 6 minutes off his previous best set in Swansea just 2 months ago. Christie’s improvement is mind-blowing – on a super flat Swansea course he ran 2:02 but he annihilated that time with a 1:50:30.
Team photo after the race
Meanwhile, Martin was running the Cheddar Gorge Half Marathon which is ranked amongst the toughest in the UK. An off road course with over 2000 feet of elevation with steep hills throughout - quite a few of which at 10-15% gradient. There's actually a 21% incline right in the middle of it. He completed the course in 2:32 having completed a 10K obstacle course in Bristol the previous day.
For Lorna and Fiona there was another triathlon. The Tuska Sprint Triathlon is organised by Pencoed Tri Club and involves a 750m swim from the lifeboat ramp in Porthcawl, followed by a 20k bike with a 5K run which is 90% the same as parkrun course. Unfortunately Fiona struggled on the mass swim start and ended up withdrawing from the race. Meanwhile Lorna who hadn't done a triathlon just 16 days previous completed her second of the month. I'm sure Fiona will bounce back with some big plans for 2016 whilst Lorna definitely has the triathlon bug but is concentrating on a mountain bike challenge event and getting back to running regularly over the next couple of months.
Never stop improving
This year has already seen amazing progress by literally dozens of members but I thought it was worth focussing on a few just to show the incredible improvements than can be made whether it be in just a few months or consistently over a few years…
Christie Coleman – the super-quick improver (Apr 2015 - present)
First 5K: 28:16 (April 2015)
Current PB: 24:44
First HM: 02:02:42 (June 2015)
Current PB: 01:50:30
Christie has also set PB’s at 10K and 10 miles. His PB at Afan Argoed is his 5th PB in 16 days!
Chris Pratt – the steady improver turned speedy improver
First 5K time: 27:22 (April 2013)
Best as at April 2015: 23:42
Current PB: 20:50
First 10K time: 56:17 (July 2012)
Best as at April 2015: 51:06
Current PB: 49:04First HM time: 02:03:18 (Feb 2013)
Best as at April 2015: 1:56:46
Current PB: 1:41:58
Chris has also got PB’s at 5 miles, 10K and 10 miles this year all whilst doing more events than ever and has already beat his yearly mileage for 2014.
Nick Harris - the consistent improver
First 5K: 23:15 (Aug 2013)
Current PB: 19:38
First 5 mile: 43:05 (May 2013)
Current PB: 33:37
First HM: 02:02:30 (Mar 2013)
Current PB: 01:32:07
First Marathon: 04:25:50 (Oct 2003)
Second Marathon: 04:07:57 (Apr 2014)
Third Marathon: 03:50:54 (July 2014)
Current PB: 03:40:56Nick also has 5 mile and 10 mile PB's this year and holds the record for most overall PB's since joining the club.
Gareth Jenkins – the long term improver
First 5K: 24:44 (May 2011)
Frist Parkrun: 22:26 (Mar 2013)
Current PB: 20:27
First HM: 2:09:37 (Oct 2010)
End of 2011: 2:03:08
End of 2012: 1:49:14
End of 2013: 1:38:03
Current PB: 1:34:09
First Marathon: 05:04:08 (April 2011)
Second Marathon: 04:31:54 (April 2014)
Current PB: 03:50:26
I just need a 10K PB to complete the set having got 5K, 5 mile, 10 mile, Half Marathon and Marathon PB's this year.
Elsewhere there are loads of equally good examples - Chris Roberts 25 parkrun PB’s or Jayne Kembery who has PB’d at nearly every parkrun ran so far. Kelly was a 2 hour plus half marathon runner before joining the club and is now down to 1:47 and dozens of members made huge improvements this year. Plus I think it’s just a matter of time before we see more stats like this with so many having only recently ran their first 5K’s, 10K’s, Half Marathons or Marathons.
Club Championship update
I did suggest in a previous blog that this was pretty much done and dusted with Richard LJ and Kelly odds on for the titles but after Brecon 10 miler, it appears it’s not so clear cut and makes the remaining fixtures very interesting (Cardiff 10K, Richard Burton 10K, Pembrey 10 miler and Pudding Race).
Gareth Jenkins 156 (yet to score in the 10K category)
Richard LJ 150 (yet to score in the 10 mile category)
Nick Harris 139 (yet to score in the 10K category)
Liz Davis 119 (yet to score in the 10K or off road category)
Heather Garratt 110 (yet to score in the 10K or off road category)
Kelly Owen 110 (yet to score in the 10K or 10 mile category)
I should point out if you are not one of the 6 mentioned above, it’s still possible to win. In fact, even if you are on zero points youcould still win as there’s still races left in each of the categories.
Still to come in August
Yet more parkrun celebrations with Nick's 100th and Steve Riddlers 50th over the next couple of weekends. Bank Holiday weekend includes the CPR challenge, Severn Bridge Half Marathon and the South Wales Trail Half Marathon. Expect more PB's, more members and more happy runners in the next instalment.