Venice Marathon. New PB!

October 28th, 2015

Holy Crap. Endomondo was predicting 3h:37m:59s which I wasn’t expecting to hit at all, especially with what felt like a really disrupted last month of training. I really had no idea of how to run it, so was really quite nervous.

Even worse, my left leg appeared to start going dead on me. I spent a good chunk of Saturday wandering around Venice getting more paranoid about it as I seemed to be constantly on the edge of cramp in it.

Later that evening at a meal when chatting about pace with Neil Aiken, I said that my plan was predicting me to finish somewhere between 3:30 and 3:40. His advice? Just stick with the 3:30 pacers and try and hang on as long as possible. A plan!

The race morning was the day the clocks go back, so we booked a wake up call with the hotel reception so we weren’t replying on our electronics. 6am start, so we could grab some breakfast and get the 7:10am buses which were taking to Stra for the start.

5am the phone rang. Confusion reigns. The phones said 5. Google said 5. The TV said 5. Bloody Hotel got the times wrong! Managed about 30mins more sleep before finally getting up and trying to get some breakfast in me.

The buses were very crowded, and I was stuck in a place in the bus without an easy place to keep balance and the handle was too high! This meant I could get my water out of my bag and sip it on the way! Not good for the nerves!

Finally got to Stra after an age stuck in the bus while it tried to drive the last 100 metres. Why it didn’t just let us all out so we could get in the loo queues I’ve no idea :/

Loo queues weren’t too bad, and the corrals weren’t too crowded either. I ended up in my number three corral, moved up as far forward as I could get and tried to get some stretches in.

As the other races started off, I spotted some balloons! Ah! The official pacers. Hang on, why am I behind the 4:30 pacer? That’s quite a way back from the 3:30 I wanted to keep with. I tried to push forward a bit but quickly gave up.

So, the race started and we were off! I settled into a pace just faster than 5mins/k which is what I remembered the 3:30 pace to be, but then I realised I wasn’t actually keeping up with the 4:30 pacer! Eh? Turns out these Italian pacers are crazy! Confused, I decided it might be better to just grab some early kms at a slightly faster pace to catch up with 3:30/3:40.

Fell into a nice nice rhythm eventually and I finally saw the 3:30 pacers with their pink balloons in the distance at about 6km in. However, by this point my left leg was extremely tight and sore, constantly on the edge of cramping. I was really worried I’d be dropping out with all cramped up before the 10km, so just tried to keep stretching my toes out as I was running.

Another problem? My gel belt. I’d packed 6 gels (and the 2 silly sponges they’d supplied), but I’d never actually trained with this many gels in my belt. The poor thing couldn’t handle it, meaning I was having to retighten it every 500metres or so. I’d lost both the sponges within the first 1km and was getting thoroughly fed up with it. By about 15km I’d worked out that I could loop the loose section under the belt which helped a little, and thankfully once I was down to 3 gels it was fine.

Somewhere after 15km my leg relaxed and I could start to really enjoy it. I was being swept along by the pack around 3:30 which was feeling really good. The only real gripe I had at this point was some really poor manners at the water stations with people pushing and shoving people around! I was nearly knocked over twice!

At about 22km, I was having delusions that I’d be able to keep this pace up for the full race, I was feeling so good. Sub 3:30 would have been beyond my wildest expectations. It was about 30k when I started to lose it. The San Giuliano was very tough, but dropping into the Ponte della Libertà, a 3.8km bridge was awful. It’s just a long straight road bridge with traffic running on the other side. There was a mist over Venice so we didn’t even have a great view to look at. Instead just a long, unchanging, car fume filled concrete slog.

My pace dropped here, hitting 5:30mins/k, occasionally being pushed back up when I tried to summon the energy again, but I eventually gave into it, thinking that once I hit the end and the streets of Venice with the crowds I might be able to pull it back up.

And Venice…. ugh! The first section of Venice was very industrial with very few people there, apart from some of the runners breaking and throwing up :'( It was really not what you needed after that bridge! Push on! Push On! There must be crowds somewhere?

Eventually we crossed a large bridge and we were suddenly in Venice properly! People! Cheering! Clapping! BRIDGES! Aaaagh. We crossed over 13 (I think) bridges which had their steps converted with ramps. Actually, not as bad as it could have been, until about half way. By that point I was just focused on finishing, not pace. Circling Piazza San Marco was tough, despite the crowds, but I knew I was almost there and boy was that a long last km. On the last bridge I saw the faces of the group I was with who cheered me on and I made it past the finish line with a gun time of 3hrs, 35mins, 35secs.

I slowed and tried to keep walking through the finish early, getting my medal, some photos, some hot lemon tea and tried to keep moving to find the massage tent as I started seizing up entirely. Eventually I got a massage which helped free my legs up and went to find the rest of the time.

So, why the confusion over times? Something appears to be wrong with my timing data. On my official record, my gun and chip times are identical, which can’t be possible as I was in the 3rd Corral and it took us at least a minute and a bit to get to the start. My Garmin had me crossing the line in 3hrs, 34mins. From looking at the GPS data, Strava things I did it in 3:34:03. Endomondo is more complementary giving me 3:30:31 from the same data so I’m not sure what crack that app is smoking (actually, looks close to moving time, which could be when we went under an underpass and lost GPS). My watch, which I started and stopped on the start and finishes, reported 3:34:02, which I’m taking as my proper result.


EDIT: Venice Marathon have updated my time and confirmed a chip time of 3:34:06 :)

2015 so far…

May 22nd, 2015

So, what’s been going on with my climbing and running in 2015?

Back Problems
I’ve had a back problem bothering me for much of this year so far. After period of being hunched over a laptop for a good while working on photos back in August/September last year, my back had been bothering me, and it all kind of came to a head in Feburary this year. After a consultation with an osteopath, I was advised to lay off the running a bit to let it heal. Going from 25km / 4 runs a week to nothing is a bit of a shock to the system!

Sadly it ruined my chance to run in the 2015 Sheffield half marathon which I’d been looking forward to, but also totalled my running holiday plans (which I should have been flying out to tomorrow!). However, some good news: I went for a gentle run / walk on Sunday, and another on Tuesday and I seem to be doing ok. It’s not 100% better, but I’m starting to get optimistic… *crosses fingers*

More Bouldering
Luckily, despite the back issues, I’ve been able to keep on bouldering (although a little rebellious part of me keeps suggesting that perhaps this isn’t helping with the back issues.  Shut up!) and my form is slowly starting to return.  I feel like I’m back at about 6b (indoor!) right now, getting the odd more difficult climb in, style dependent.  Liz and I have got a little book we share for ticking them off as we go, which is a marvellous motivator sometimes, if a little train spotter-like!

We’ve also started to get a little bit of strength training in, starting with just simple sets of pull-ups.  I’m managing 5 reps of 3 now, and should probably start to increase that soon.  We really should add some more exercises to that, but by the time we’re doing it, we really want to be heading home and getting food!   Lazy… 😉

Fontainebleau Again
At the end of the year I’m going to Fontainebleau again :D.  Not with the Bristol lot as usual (who are actually there right as a I type) but with my Sheffield friends instead.  None of them have been there before, so I’ll be the one with the knowledge, so to speak.  That might be interesting…

Either way, I’m really looking forward to it, and the bread and cheese!

We are staying in a gite at Maisonbleau where I stayed with Lorraine, Jim and Rowan last time I went.  It was pretty good before and not too far from the Buthier rocks, and a short car ride to the Les Trois Pignons  which has a lifetime of climbing available.   Last time I was in Font, I managed to complete a number of 6a’s.  I’m hopefully that a good year of training might see me up that grade a little bit.

New Shoes

New Shoes!

I’ve been climbing for the past 2 years with a part of Evolve bandits, which although they serve me well, do really bad things to one of my toenails on my right foot (i.e. continually break the toe nail in half! Eep).  It’s probably about time I replaced them to be honest (plus they really really stink…) so it was time to go find some more.

I really, really, really dislike buying new climbing shoes.  I’ve never managed to leave the store feeling like I’ve made the right purchase, and usually the next time I put them on I decide that I was wrong, they hurt too much and I’ve wasted my money….

This actually came true the last time I went to Font, where I bought a part of 5.10 Anasazi VCLs after climbing all day.  My feet were so sore an swollen up that when I tried to put them on the next day I realised they were probably a size too big!   After returning from Font they languished in a box for about a year before I managed to happily ebay them :)

So, anyway.. after about an hour and a half of trying on all the shoes in Crag X, I manage to settle on a pair of Boreal Lynx’s, which are causing me some significant toe pain right now!  I think I need to wear them more around the house tor try and get used to them! :/   Still, it’s nice to have an actual edge on my shoes 😀

Rope climbing

I’m still not properly back doing any leading.  There have been a couple of sessions, with some of my friends starting to get their head around wall climbing rather than bouldering.  Once of the sessions I got onto the main wall at the Foundry and lead a 6b straight up the big overhang so I’m not totally stagnating, but something needs to change really if I’m going to ever get back to my aim of breaking past 7a.   I’m not too worried though, it’s hard to fit bouldering, leading, running plus having a working life….  We’ll just go with the flow I guess.


Last little thing!  The weather has started to get nice again, so we’ve been going out.  (I’m definitely a fair weather bouldering!)  We’ve been out to The Roaches and Curbar so far this year, and I’m hoping to get a good few more excursions in soon.  Definitely nothing spectacular done, except perhaps just how hard my ass got kicked by Joe’s Arête at The Roaches.

Year Round Up and Next Year

December 24th, 2014

So, how has 2014 been for my climbing? Mostly pretty lousy to be honest, but if you read my last post, I’ve explained all that! However, on the bright side, I’ve got myself in decent running shape, and I’m ending the year carefully getting back on the Bouldering wagon.

So, on the running. For the past few months I’ve attempting to be improving my 5k time, (I.e. I really want a sub 20 min 5k!) and I’ve been following an Endomondo training plan for 5ks. It’s not really worked out well. A combination of being in Poland for work (where running is hard due to it being dark, unfamiliar and bloody freezing), spending a lot of time not at home and starting to boulder again really messed up the training in the last month or so. I think I should be able to run the Hillsborough Parkrun on the 27th, so that will be a good test but I doubt I’ll get near my 21:18PB. We’ll see I guess!

The next year? I’ve only gone and been roped into running the Venice Marathon with the Embrace lot. It looks like a great route (flat, no repeating sections, running into Venice!) but I’m still quite nervous! I plan to start the training in the New Year. I’m really not sure of what target to go for. Obviously I’d like to beat my PB (3:55) but by how much? That was run without a good training regime and no real idea what I was capable of. Mind you, I still don’t know. Could I do 3:30? I’ve an app which reckons that based on my 5k PB, I should be able to do it in ~3:26. Perhaps I should aim for that? *urk*

It’s likely I’ll throw the Sheffield Half Marathon earlier in the year, being as it’s a nice new route following the complete cock up last year. I suspect it’s going to be a tiring one though!

One nice big hill

One nice big hill

Climbing wise? What’s my aims? I’m starting to get my grades back on the bouldering, but it’s slow going. I’m probably back at 6a indoors, struggling to do many of the 6a-6c problems on the Black and Wasp circuits at the Climbing Works, but I think it won’t take too long to get back to around 6b which is where I probably peaked last year. Where do I want to be? Back there! (Although being able to go 75% of the wasp circuit by the end of the year would be great!)

As for rope climbing? Doing some again would be nice, but I’m not really sure how I’m going to fit it all in. At the back end of 2013, Kiri and I had got ourselves back to 6c/7a leads, and I really want to be back confident on 7as again and trying for 7bs but I really don’t know how I’m going to manage it while keeping the bouldering going and training for a Marathon. I guess I could mix the ropeclimbing with the bouldering as they help each other from a training pov, but it does seem like quite a bit to organise!

I guess once thing I could definitely do is try and post a bit more about my climbing and running here. Might give me some perspective on progress that will help when the new bouldering motivation I’ve found fades in frustration like it normally does!

Sporadic Updates, Sporadic Climbing and shed load of running

November 25th, 2014

It’s been an awful long time since I’ve updated here. It’s also had been an awful long time since I bouldered! The running kinda took over in 2013, culminating with running and completing the my first Marathon, the first York Marathon.

I’d set myself a public goal of under 4hrs 30mins, and a private target of actually breaking 4 hours, and surprisingly I managed it!

All the training for that though made a lot of climbing a bit more difficult. Bouldering pretty much dried up entirely (but for good reason as I was feeling really jaded with it and was struggling to co-ordinate any time with anyone else for motivation)

My long time climbing partner was struggling with injury for a good chunk of the year, but we found a patch in the middle where we started to remember how to lead. We spent quite a few Sundays in the Foundry again, slowly creeping up from 6a, back to bothering 6c’s again, never really hitting our 7a peaks from before. It would have happened with more time and more fitness!

The leading cumulated in a climbing holiday to The Orange House in Spain where we’ve booked a Sports Climbing week with Rich Mayfield who royally kicked our arses. I finished up completing the wonderful 3* 6c Diferente Partes and only very narrowly missing out on Vaya tipo el de Oti a great 6c+. Kiri on the other hand positively cruised up La cosa, a rather tough 7a on a top rope. I was blown by then so my climbing was somewhat insulting! All in all, it was a fantastic holiday, and both Kiri and I came back full of beans for more climbing…

and then…

it just stopped.

I followed the climbing holiday with the Sheffield 10k, setting myself a new 10k pb:

and then finished my training for the York Marathon.

The running continued though. After a solid week of hobbling around work, and then 3 weeks of full on cold, I signed up for the now (mildly)-infamous Sheffield Half Marathon 2014. Yeah, the one where they forgot the water… :)

I pulled a training plan together on Endomondo and started on with it sometime around Xmas, aiming for a rather ambitious 1:45min half PB. Training was going ok until sometime in February when I, rather stupidly, failed to notice the rather huge stone in the road while running and promptly stood on it.


So, I went over on my ankle, then booted the stone with the same foot and ran the last 3k home on it. Possibly not a great idea!

It swelled up a bit and took me out of training for probably 4 weeks, which was exceptionally frustrating.

Somewhere along the line here, I decided that I had loads of holiday remaining which needed taking by April, and so decided to use it all on a running holiday! I’d been browsing around and found the website of the Embrace Sports team who had a place left on their running camp in Portugal. The rather ambitious looking week plan (with two runs a day on!) looked frankly, terrifying, but I went for it and it was really worth it.

Ignoring the couple of days near the start where I ended up with a really dodgy stomach which stopped me running on one of the days, I had an amazing time and made a bunch new friends. The weather in The Algarve was gorgeous, and I felt like it set me up for a good attempt on the Half.

So, the half. I’ll not go into the shambles of it on here; that’s well documented in other places, but it didn’t really go to plan. I dressed too warm (trousers, long sleeve top) for what was actually a pretty warm day, planned a negative split which I’d never done before, and really didn’t drink enough water. As a result, my pace disappeared at about 17.5k and my 1:45 slowly disappeared into the distance! Still, can’t complain! I got *just* under 1hr 50mins :)

And them what? More running, deciding to do the York 10k as there was a free ticket through work. Again I built out an Endomondo training plan and this time managed to keep to it with no injuries. I trained pretty hard, aiming to shave a good minute off my 47min pb, secretly hoping for sub 45mins. Once the run kicked off (late…) I was definitely going too fast for a chunk of it, boyed on by feeling good and the fast group I found myself in.

…and then… I passed the 6k marker and *boggled*. Hang on? Wasn’t the last k 6? Surely that should be a 7k marker? And then I started to flag. It got really hard from this point and I must have looked dreadful as one of the stewards shouted out at me as a shambled past her at 9k “Don’t worry love! You’re nearly there!”. I felt really despondent though; I was super confident for a strong run here, and I’d thrown it away by not pacing myself well….. and then the text with my results on came through showing I’d done sub45mins by the skin of my teeth. Perhaps those fast first k’s pay off eh?

Next two races aren’t really worth talking about much. I’d hoped to stay on the wagon with the training for the Sheffield 10k which was a month later, but I’m pretty sure I ended up loaded with cold again, and completed it with a really disappointing 47mins; not as fast as the Sheffield 10k the previous year.

After that, I completed one of the 5k legs of the 2014 York Marathon Charity relay, which made me feel like a bit of a faker! I’m pretty happy with the time I got though, with me not really having got back to training form following the cold.

For the rest of the year I’ve been focusing on a 5k speed improvement plan, but work is getting in the way somewhat of that training. We’ll see though!

and finally……

I’m back bouldering again!

One of my old friends who has been bouldering for a few years is now available for me to climb with. She convinced me to some out on her birthday (not that it needed much arm twisting) and I’ve managed about twice a week since then! It’s slowly coming back, although I’m definitely down on what was possible before. I’m feeling reasonable motivated though and there have been some conversations about possibly going another Fontainebleau trip next year…

Well, we’ll see I guess!

Another week in Fontainebleau

November 2nd, 2012

Today is the last day of another week in Fontainebleau. I’ve come later than usual this year as we are usually here either April/May, or September, but this time we’ve come a little later.
I was wondering if this was a bit of a gamble weather-wise, but perhaps you run the rain lottery no matter what time of you come!

Still, we’ve been mostly lucky. The weather as been crisp and dry from the Saturday evening we arrived, right through to late Wednesday evening when the heavens opened and mostly washed out the last few days.

I was a little hesitant coming here this year. I’ve been bouldering three times a week pretty much all year since January once I’d recovered from pulling my finger in a pocket the day after my last Font trip, so I was hoping to feel like I’d made some progress. This nervousness was backed up with my grades not really seeming to have shifted from where I was last year on the indoor grades. Last year I’d be consistently completing 95% of a 6a circuit at the Climbing Works as it went up and be working the 6b – 6c circuits until they were refreshed. I was pretty much back there now after pretty much a year of 3 sessions a week. Outdoors, my best climb last year was a single solitary 6a; La Marie-Rose in Bas Cuvier and virtually everything else in the low 5s.

So how did I do? It took pretty much a day to get my head around Font sandstone again, but eventually I realised I was pulling on things which seemed definitely more thuggy than my usual climbs. I didn’t complete anything significant on the Sunday, but came away with a good ache in my arms and a feeling like I may be climbing harder than last year.

Lorraine was on a mission to complete as many 6a’s as possible provided a lot of inspiration for getting on stuff. The next day we hit 91.1 and Cul du Chien where she had a long tick list of items. Rowan also had a 6a project here: Presse Citron, something which he’d been working on his last trip to Font. After a full day of climbing a lot of 5s and falling off the more glassy-marbled 4s in 91.1, I decided that I’d had enough and wandered over to find out how Rowan was doing on Presse Citron. Now, I said I was done but it looked great; a really tough looking wall with a good mix of wall, overhang, crimps and slopers to play with. I couldn’t really not have a go! I got it on my 5th go, each attempt adding in an extra move or two to keep me hooked. It’s a great climb! So, finally I’d done another 6a to compliment La Marie-Rose from last year and prove it wasn’t a freak.

From there I added Le Nez, La Nescafe, La Soufflet and a repeat of La Marie-Rose on a couple of trips to Bas Cuvier and then L’Angle Allain at Cuvier Rempart.

Not a bad little week really, considering I was expecting to mostly be wallowing in the 4s and 5s as usual. I guess some of the practice has paid off a little.

This trip couldn’t have come at a better time really. I was starting to feel a bit jaded and tired of the indoor walls. Hopefully when I’m home on Sunday I’ll be a bit rejuvenated. I’ve definitely improved in my focus as well as started to get my head around properly crimping on small holds. I’ve also learnt about a “thumb spragg” which had completely passed me by until this week.


August 19th, 2012

I’ve felt like I’ve been stuck at the same bouldering grade for a long time; managing 6a -> 6b+s at the Climbing Works for most of the year after my hand had healed, and I was pretty much at the same last year before I broke my thumb. So I decided I’d get a training session with Dave at the climbing works again, hopefully without breaking my thumb this time. 😉

Dave had me do a couple of climbs to work out where I was at and where my weaknesses were and put together more of a structured session for me to help improve my climbing.

I’m usually going 3 times a week, providing nothing gets in the way. Usually this would be just trying out the usual tougher problems, but I need to change that.

So, my three sessions are becoming:
– Tuesday: LOTS OF CLIMBING. I need to try and do between 100-150 problems in this session. Holy Christ, that’s a lot!
– Thursday: PROJECT SESSION. More of a normal session, work the harder problems I’ve got on my hit list and not be afraid to try and do them in sections to link them
– Sunday: 4x4s. This was hard. Chose 4 problems which are mid grade for me on steep ground and then do them, 4 times in a row, followed by a 4 minute rest. Repeat the whole set 3 times. Ouch.

So, I’ve done my first week. Because I also went for the first run in a while on Monday, I was totally useless on Tuesday. Still I had a go at it and managed to do ~80 problems. Not quite 100+, but a good start. I was really tired and sore, so I consider this a victory. Thursday had the new Wasp circuit up, which I jumped on after a warm up. Tough! I only managed to top out 2 of the problems. Today, I did the 4x4s. I did 2 sets, rather than 3 and did quite a bit of climbing around it. I’m reasonably happy with that as a first attempt, but must do better next week.

Onde de Choc

June 5th, 2012

A quick video throw together some attempts on Onde de Choc at Apremont in Fontainebleau. Lorraine and I were pretty much not climbing this day, instead happy to sit in the sun and take lots of video and photos of Andy, Jim and Dan getting their beast on.


August 21st, 2011

BruisingWell, the week started off well. A run on Monday to get me started, left leg hurting a bit from a number of whacks I’d given it around my knee on the Sunday at the Works. On Wednesday off to the Works again as usual and this time attempting to finished the Black routes.

I managed it, even though my left foot kept slipping off the same hold on a particularly balance black route. Each time I’d ram the side of my knee into a hold…

This picture is as of Sunday so the bruising has come out somewhat! It’s stopped me running entirely this week since, as the swelling has made bending my knee painful.

I went again today and Andy and it attempting the new Wasps and Blues (both 6b – 7a). Both were nails. I think we managed 2-3? Ouch. I also went on to strip a nice piece of skin from my left shin on the first blue. Jeez that hurt when I got in the shower afterwards.

I don’t know why I bash my knees and shins so much in comparison to other people, or so it seems. It’s ALWAYS happening. I must be doing something wrong. :/


August 8th, 2011

Well, it’s going ok so far! An impromptu work night out meant I couldn’t run as planned on Tuesday, but a really good but extremely sweaty evening at the Climbing Works on Wednesday night kicked the week off. New green and reds circuit up which was mostly long, stamina sapping climbs with a couple of upside down problems on there. Was very happy with how I managed on them, and despite it being a MILLION degrees in there I had a lot of fun. The lift home from Matt was greatly appreciated too!

However, I was quickly running out of days to get my 2 more runs and one more climbing session. Thursday night involved run around Hillsborough Park. 3 laps which was extremely hardwork. I am so out of shape for running right now, but that is a lap more than I did the last time!

On Saturday my Font going friends Lorraine and Jim were up in the Peak so I trotted off to join them at Burbage South. In between dodging the rain showers, we climbed our way over Useless and Useful Block and then headed out to Stanage. We spent a good while on Deliverance, which is great fun. I managed to sort the traverse across the front to the move before the dyno, but that was it. It is pretty hard so I’m happy with that 😀

Sunday, Lorraine and Jim headed out to Cratcliffe which I couldn’t work out how to get to on public transport, so I went to the Works again. A new black circuit was up which was fun, but I hurt my shoulder a bit so decided to rest it out. This morning it seems better, so cross fingers I’ll be back at it this week!

Getting back on the Wagon

July 31st, 2011

Climbing Depot LogoSo, it’s another of those “I fell off the Wagon, I’m getting back on” posts. Except it isn’t really, I think.

I dunno. I broke my thumb, which kinda messed stuff up a bit, but still went to Font and climbed with it. When I got back, work was really busy, and I just couldn’t get straight back into it… So, here I am, not quite in shape, getting frustrated at not being able to climb stuff that should be easy.. again..

So, the deal.

I must run twice a week and climb at least twice a week each week until I go to Font (again!) second week in September. Woot! Started this last week with today being the end and have done 2 (short) runs and climbed twice, once outdoors at Over Owler Tor (which consistently kicks my ass) and tonight up at the Climbing Depot in Leeds, which is pretty awesome.

Turns out their summer bouldering ladder is on, so we bought a tick sheet and set out on it. 30 climbs, ranging from V0 to V11, with points in a 10/7/5/4 attempts scale. I scored a rather respectable 173 points, far more than expected especially with my thumb often crapping out on me when climbing at the Climbing Works. I’m kinda hoping that this might have been something of a little milestone from a recovery point of view.

I’m pretty darn tired now, that was 4 hours of full on sweaty bouldering.