Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Take 5

Shoe Selfie at Ackers Pit
It was difficult to go for a run today but not because of the reasons you would think.  I haven't ran for a week, because of a calf injury, but that's not the reason I was having trouble getting out of the door.  I got it into my head that I couldn't leave the house.  After two bad days sat on the sofa unable to do anything I started to get a bit depressed.  I don't get depressed very often, I try to find the good in everything and see the positives but sometimes it's hard to keep fighting all the time. So I give in and the depression just hits me like a massive wave and I can't stay afloat.    I didn't want to leave the house, like every again, or talk to people.  Thankfully I have the most amazing husband who just lets me moan at him and then I forced myself to go for a run (which was pretty much like forcing myself to eat slugs or something).  So, I ran without a route in mind and ended up finding somewhere pretty and new, even though I've ran past it a billion times.  I stopped and laid back on the grass for a while,  looking at the moon in a blue sky and just enjoying being alive.  

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

I need a Runsie

Just came across this on Runner's World.  I want one!  Hopefully it won't be one of those things that never makes it to the UK.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Dopey Costume Planning

I'm managed to strain my right quad (probably on the merry hills of Chester) so I can't run for at least a week.  It's been one day and already I'm going a little crazy, I want to go run and i'm gutted I can't go to today's Walton 5 miler.  

Image owned by C Suarez
Usually when this happens I either buy new trainers, enter lots of races or both but I'm trying to resist.  Thankfully, my friend Ceci sent me something to distract me, a photo of my new sparkle skirt that she's made for me.   My nephew decided it would be great for me to dress up as Maleficent  for one of the Dopey, hence the black and purple  It will go great with my Maleficent Mickey ears (which are pretty heavy so I'm pretty sure that this is my 5K costume) and a black running vest.  I love sparkle skirts but they're so difficult to get in the UK.  Before I met Ceci I was getting them from Sparkle Athletic but the postage cost is quite high.  Ceci is coming to Liverpool Rock n Roll so if anyone is interested in getting their own skirts then I can put you in touch with her.  She can do a range of colours and sizes and she can bring them to Liverpool next month so no postage costs. She has an etsy shop too at https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Chilimargot if you want to have a look.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Tour & Dopey Training

I was meant to do about 40 miles this week but I decided a 7 mile hill session wasn't a good an idea after seeing the elevation for Chester.  I decided to give parkrun a miss too because I thought it might impact of getting a sub 2 at Chester.  In the end i decided a sub 2 was too unrealistic and but the pace group I was running with decided to go for 2:02/2:03 which would give me a pb and a club standard so I thought it was best to rest on Saturday.  

It turned out to be the right move because it seriously took every thing I had (and the best pacer ever) to finish Chester in 2:02:30 but I've decided that I need to forget about getting fast times in races now and just go back to racing for training.  At the start of the year I had planned to not go for any pb's but then I kept getting them and got a little distracted.  I need to focus on getting the miles up again now though so it's back to racing to finish.  I hurt my quad so no running this week but next week it's back to the plan.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Catching a cheat? Did Mike Rossi cheat to get a Boston qualifier and does it matter?

Firstly, I doubt anyone outside of the US has really heard of Mike Rossi.  I came across the story in the Dopey Challenge facebook group of all places.  It's a private and hidden group but it just so happens Rossi is also a member of that group and I found the article posted in there interesting and so I started paying attention (The original article has since been removed and this put in it's place http://www.seekingbostonmarathon.com/2015/05/mike-rossi-2015-boston-marathon-story.html?m=1).  

It turns out that a group of people on a forum called LetsRun.com were investigation, trying to find evidence that Rossi's 3:11 marathon time from 2014 Lehigh Valley race wasn't valid and that he must have cheated.   It's worth knowing that members of LetsRun.com were instrumental in catching another cheat, Kip Litton.  After reading about it in an old New Yorker article (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/08/06/marathon-man) last year I went to the forum and saw the fast amount of evidence that they had collected against Litton, including checking hundreds of photos.  If I cheated and these guys were on to me I'd confess straight away because they relentless.  

Rossi actually bought attention to himself by his own accord, upon returning from Boston Marathon he recieved a letter from his childrens school about unauthorised abscesses. In reply, he wrote a somewhat pompous open letter that he shared and facebook and tweeted a number of times (even though he claims now that he never shared it as per this interview) and it ended up going viral in the US.  The first accusation of cheating appeared on Runner's World thread on the 28th April and it was long before LetsRun was investigating. In Rossi's case it was the lack of other race results supporting that he could run a 3:11 marathon and the fact that there were no photos at all of him on the course other than the finish line that drew suspicion.

Race results of course can be subjective, everyone has bad races and sometimes we can do much better than we ever imagined but none of Rossi's other results on Athlinks (a US version of RunBrition) even come close.  Rossi has made his Athlinks profile private now (Along with his blog and has deleted his twitter) but LetsRun guys have screen shots (Nothing ever gets deleted from the internet) and statistical analysis that has been conducted by a user called GregTR shows that "his average estimated marathon effort would be a 3:38:29 with a standard deviation of 7:47. What it means that running almost 27 minutes faster than the average performance is statistically inprobable. This includes his performances before and after the Via Marathon at any and all distances. For someone to go from and average 62.3% age graded performance to 70.2% overnight on a hot marathon day is nothing short of a miracle." Fair enough, he might have done training runs in-between his races that account for the speed increase but you have to admit it does look dodgy. "Rossi said the answer to that is simple: he didn’t try very hard in any of his 20 other races."

Then there's the photos. LetsRun decided that if could show that Rossi wasn't evident in any photos then it would be pretty damming evidence. Over 19,000 photos were taken by the official photographers at a number of locations along the course. They took the bib numbers of the 50 runners who finished before and 50 who finished after Rossi and did a systematic search of their race photos. Images were checked to make sure Rossi wasn't in them and there number of photos over the course were recorded. Only a small number of runners only had finish line photos out of that 100 runners but more photos of them were found in the unclaimed photo bin. The unclaimed photos have obviously been checked for signs of Rossi by many people including myself. A script was then written to find anyone in the whole marathon who only had finish line photos. Again, there bibs were recorded on a spreadheet and the photos were diligently checked by members. All of them were proven to have more photos elsewhere along the course. Mike Rossi is the only person who ran Lehigh Valley Marathon in 2014 to only have finish line photos. There is also one section of the course where there is pretty much continuous photos. The largest gap in-between the time stamps is 6 seconds yet it shows about 100 meters of the course. Rossi can not be found any of those photos.

Pretty damming evidence but still circumstantial. The the Dopey Challenge group on facebook came into play. Mike came into the group and posted two attachments in separate threads, the first a statement about how it's possible to improve with dedication and the second about judging people of being guilty before it's proven. Both prompted discussion the Mike has since deleted but I have screen shots of everything here and here (and he contributed to this discussion that hasn't been deleted)  He does disclose that he apparently doesn't use GPS when he is races and that he has no GPS data for Lehigh Valley, even though he admits that he ran the race with a phone and a Nike GPS watch (Both are evident in photos from most of his races).  He certainly used his watch at Haddonfield Adrenaline 5K  because there's a video here of him stopping the phone as he crosses the line.  He also mentions that he was using his GPS watch at Philly Marathon in an article for Runner's World.

On Facebook he came across as well quite arrogant and an attention seeker  He would only answer certain questions and refused to even provide estimates of what his split times were in order to figure out which time he would pass each photographer.  In previous races, such as Philly Marathon, he literally poses for every photographer he passes and he is certainly not camera shy.  A cached image of his blog written when he received his Boston acceptance letter is followed by 20 photos of himself and he has quite a lot of running selfies on facebook (here, here, here, here and here).  Now, whilst I don't really understand running selfies they're certainly not a crime but it's hard to imagine someone who likes images of themselves so much would be seeking out the cameras for a quick finger point or victory fingers (I don't really understand them either but Rossi seems to like doing them in race photos) during the greatest race of his live.  I also find the lack of blog posts or social media celebrations about his most amazing performance yet that would have got him a personal best in every distance under 26.2 in just one race compared to all of his other race results. His blog has quite detailed race reports for some of his other races (including an entry for Oddyssey Half Marathon where he states that he was on track for a BQ but results show he finished in 1:47) but the cache for August 2014 shows nothing.  Now, I'm behind on a few of my race reports, I haven't even finished Brighton yet, but there's no way I wouldn't be telling the world that I got a 3:11 marathon and a Boston Qualifier time.  There's nothing other than one minor post on facebook. 

So, although the evidence is all circumstantial there's certainly some things that just don't add up.  The main issue though is the race photographs.  If I was him and I'd honestly ran the race of my life I'd be going through every single image until I found myself so that i could say look here I am.  Instead NBC Philidephia has reported that volunteers will have to go through the 19,000 photos and speak to 126 runners who finished near to Rossi in order for the organisers of Lehigh Valley Health Marathon organisers to decide whether the disqualify Rossi or not.  I've seen people cheating twice since I started running.  Both cut the course, one at Mo Run in Manchester and the other at Port sunlight 10k where a guy cut in right in front of me.  People cheat all the time in races and most of the time they are only cheating themselves (unless they are getting prize money or something).  If Rossi did cheat then it's not only him who if affected, there's a person somewhere who would have been next in line for that Boston Marathon place which went to Rossi instead.

On a lighter note, if you go to http://results.chronotrack.com/event/results/event/event-10268?lc=en and search for Rossi.  It will bring up Mike Rossi's finish video but don't bother watching that.  Go back to 3:06:30 on the finish time clock and see what has to be one of the funniest race finishes every, involving a man and his dog.  Now I know why I don't run with Gizmo. It's some consolation that if Rossi did cheat, for attention or pride or whatever, in a a few months time I'll have forgotten his name but that Golden Retriever (not a Lab, sorry) crossing the finish, that's a memory I'll keep.  

Also, Lehigh have already confirmed that they'll be having mid race timing mats in future so if you want to cheat your way into Boston next year I suggest finding another qualifier race. 

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Halfway to 1,000

I've done 503 miles so far this year.  No wonder my legs hurt.  I'm half way to my target of 1,000 miles in a year.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Tour & Dopey Training

Today I will mostly be sitting on the sofa doing nothing because I feel like I ran a marathon after doing three races back to back.  The funny thing is that in 9 months I'll have to do exactly the same thing again with a marathon at the end.  I'm terrified just thinking about it but hopefully the training between now and then will make it easier.  I probably ran the 5k too fast too.  Even though I ran the 10k the next day pretty easy I could still feel the 5k at the start of the half two days later I think.  I really struggled during the half (At least I can take some comfort in the fact that it was a hard and hilly course whilst Disney is flat with lots of things to look at and a castle to run through) and when I started my legs felt like they were going to fall off but I managed to run the whole thing except for one toilet break and a couple of seconds when I almost gave in.  Hopefully this means that my plan to run the whole of Dopey is not too unrealistic.  I'd like to run the whole of the tour too but I've heard that there's a really bad hill in the second race that I might have to walk.

So it took me 3 hours 26 minutes and 15 seconds to complete all three races.  Assuming I have to slow the 5k down a little and estimating 5 hours for the marathon would mean that I would complete Dopey in 8 and a half hours.  Based on last year's results this would place me around 1,300th out of 6,397 finishes which would put me in the top 20% of all finishes. 

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Liverpool Spring 10k

Today I dedicate my blog to four amazing men; Stan Coultier, Derek Ralphs, Keith Peacock (the three amigos) and David Marsh. Running Liverpool Spring 10k with them today was truly amazing and it has to be one of my favourite races. 

Image owned by J Peacock
I wasn't planning on doing the 10k originally. I have Milton Keynes half tomorrow but the race looked like so much fun last year and it's getting more women than men entering which doesn't happen very often. So I decided to go and turn it into a mini dopey training by sticking a 5k on the front, which is why I ended up at Halewood 5k yesterday.   The day started with heavy rain making a racket outside my bedroom window, I almost stayed in bed, but once I was on the WRC party bus I was looking forward to it. Then I realised I'd forgot my watch. I checked if my old one was in my bag and it was... with a blank screen and a dead battery. I felt like my arm had been chopped off. No watch, no pace, no time and no evidence on Strava. I was pretty gutted which sounds bad because it's just a watch but it is like my best friend during a race. Racing without it would be interesting. 

Race organisation was really good. Tents had been set up in the park to create a little runner's village with stands from a number of charities, a food van, bouncy castles and a lot of toilets (there was no waiting). Bag drop was really secure and effortless too. The Zumba band were playing and it had a whole party atmosphere going on. It was great to catch up with lots of people and just before the start I spotted Derek, Stan and Keith who were dressed in the funniest outfits ever which goes back to a joke from the RDB Facebook group (which is awesome). 

I have no idea what pace I was going when the race started. I think it was fastish but my legs were tired from the day before so it was hard to judge if I was going too fast without my watch pacing me. The first couple of k were hard work but I could see the Amigos in front of me gradually getting closer (stopping to hug every marshal) and so I decided to run with them, have some fun and hopefully keep up. The next however many miles were so funny (except for Keith's leg issue and Derek swallowing some of his fake moutashe. Derek struggled with his breathing for the rest of the race but Keith became like Superman when he stripped off his base layer for his wonderful wife Joyce, instead of keeping him going David had to slow him down).these men never let anything keep them down though, they chanted, clapped, high fived and bear hugged any marshal they came across and the fantastic bands, music and spectators along the course certainly added to the sense of atmosphere. It was so funny to watch and be apart of and its a great reminder that running isn't all about times and targets. If that had been my last race every I wouldn't have changed a thing.  These men just love running and runners so much that it's just a joy to be around them and it's great to be around like minded crazy people (Although David seems pretty, Keith, Stan and Derek are all slightly bonkers which is why I get on with them).

Liverpool Spring 10k Route
Since I didn't have my watch I don't have a record of the route or elevation and so I had to 'borrow' them from strava. When I did Sefton Park 5 last year it was all in the park and I really didn't enjoy that route so I was a bit worried about today but a lot of the course was actually on the roads which was much better. There were a couple of hills which might have been a challenge if I'd been trying for a time but I didn't really notice them today. I like the end of the course where you go back on where you started (passing the amazing band again) because after that last hill it's a nice long incline to the finish line. 

Liverpool Spring 10k Elevation

Image owned by J  Peacock
We crossed the finish in who knows what time. It's not important. We still together, in one piece and still laughing so we had a great race regardless of how long it took. Stan was jealous because the announcer said my name at the finish and not his which was great! Organisation at the finish was really good. There was different exits depending on tshirt size which was a genius idea really and kept everyone moving. The volunteer on the line for smalls was pretty strict with only allowing people with a small sticker through which is great to see, it's not nice if you finish to find out they've ran out of your t-shirt size. I loved the design of the finish too with the last straight stretch filled with spectators cheering. Thank you to WRC for cheering me on at the end.  We got a t-shirt, medal and a pretty nice goody bag (I gave the tin of Salmon we got to Joyce so it's not in the photo).  We sat in the cafe afterwards for a little while (Stan bought me a doughnut and a drink so I'm thinking he don't hate me as much as he pretends to).  Some of the kids were tiny but moving pretty fast, I saw one boy stropping with his father because he wasn't going fast enough.  I got to meet the lovely Sharon Bullock from Run or Cake in person too.  On the way to the pub to meet WRC we watched the last finishers of the 10k who must have took around 2ish hours.  Not only did they clear the route for them (I've finished racers where you have to dodge pushchairs and runners who have finished and are heading home, it's certainly not a pleasant experience), the Samba band ran and quickly got into position to give them an amazing finish.  It was so nice to watch the last runners being given the same experience as the first, very impressive and well done.  Oh and I also loved the race bibs too, I wish I'd entered early enough to get my name on my bib because you had no number, just your name(hopefully photos are not searchable by bib number though otherwise there might be a few issues).  I wangt to go back and do the race again next year but with my watch and without a 5k the day before and a half marathon the day after.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Halewood 5k

The plan for today was to plod a nice easy parkrun to pace out the weekend but when Claire, who I ran Hale 5 with, mentioned Halewood 5k I couldn't resist.  We're the same speed and are going for pretty much the same PB's so she's great to run with because she forces me to push myself more.  The 5k is hosted by Knowsley Harriers on the first Saturday of every month.  It's completely free, organisation is really good and there's even toilets, somewhere to put your bag and a warm place to wait for the start.  You need to register when you get there, your can't register before, but it's pretty quick and then you get given a laminated race number to use and give back at the end, they even have safety pins.  The race starts at 10 am right next to the club house in Halewood which is only a five minute walk from the train station.  The race is actually fully licensed and the results even go on Run Britain, not bad for... well... nothing.

Halewood 5k Route
The good stuff doesn't stop their either.  The course is completely flat. It's pretty much an out and back along a tarmac path.  You run out for 1.6 miles after a little detour at the beginning and then run back.  The route goes through a park and by some fields so is quite pretty and countrysidey (I made up a new word) but you never leave the tarmac so you have the benefits of a pretty trail run without having to deal with running on uneven ground.  Obviously the path is still open to the public but there was only a few walkers and one bike so it wasn't an issue at all.  With around 70 runners it doesn't matter if you're not near the start because everyone crosses the line pretty quickly and you get to see the faster runners coming back towards you and encourage each other which is nice.  I got to cheer on Martin from my club who was running really well after a massive PB at Manchester Marathon.

Halewood 5k Elevation

Me and Claire started a little too fast at 7:10/mm but then we managed to slow down a bit to a nice steady pace.  We slowed down a bit in the second mile but not by much and were doing pretty well by the time we reached the turn around point.  In the last mile I started to lose Claire a little bit I couldn't slow down so I just kept trying to shout at her over my shoulder occasionally to make sure she was still there.  I felt bad for leaving her but if I'd tried to slow down I would have stopped.  This has happened a few times now where I just have to keep going.  I managed to get down to 6:23/mm in my final sprint, which I'm pretty impressed with, and my official time was 25:58.  It's four seconds slower than my PB (which is a bit annoying, being so close) but Claire did really well finishing in 26:31 and we'll both be back next month for another crack at it.

I have to say that I really love Halewood 5k.  The course is perfect for working on your pace and running style because it's so flat with  like literally three turns.  All of the volunteers involved are amazing and it's all completely free which is just incredible really.  We even got a mini flapjack at the end and results were posted within a few hours.  I would really recommend going and giving it a try.  If you want more information then please click here.

Right, after today I'm hoping I'll survive tomorrow.  One race down, two to go.

Image owned by R Meadows