French Bloke Runs

Shut up and run!

Tag: Serpentine

Middlesex county 10k

Oh my word! I’m such a lazy bum, I haven’t written anything in a month now, that’s as bad as Lanky Pole. But at least I ran and I even raced! This time, I made sure to control my alcohol consumption on the days leading up to the race, to the point of not drinking at all for a birthday party. If that’s not self-control, I don’t know what is. OK, Draculito gave me his gym-rat trick: drinking a Virgin Mary, that’s way better than non-alcoholic beer and it lasts longer than a soda.

Anyway, I made it to the start of the race well rested and not hungover for a change. The Middlesex 10k championship was organised in Victoria Park by the Victoria Park Harriers and Tower Hamlets Athletics Club (that’s a mouthful!) but it was also the Serpentine club championship. So let me tell you that the level of the runners for this race was much higher than your average 10k for charity. It was nothing like I had experienced before: every single runner was wearing their club’s vest, mostly VPH&THAC and Serpentine but I spotted runners from many other clubs including a Mornington Chaser (not the one I beat at the Beer Mile World Classic though).

After my usual warm-up routine, I made my way to the starting line. As we had no chips, I guessed that only gun-time would count this time so I tried to start very close to the line. It took me only 2 seconds after the loud BANG to cross the starting line but I soon realised that the level of the runners was really good: half the people behind me overtook me in the first few hundred metres. And after that, there wasn’t much overtaking, club runners know their stuff and they sure can be regular! As usual, I ran my first kilometre way too fast then I tried to contain myself for the first half. Then I tried to accelerate but I didn’t really manage. Good thing I had found a pacemaker by then, otherwise I would probably have lagged behind. I tried to overtake this pacemaker for the whole second half of the race but I never had the energy until 200 metres before the finish line. I managed to pull a sprint out of my hat and finally overtook him! I released my signature scream on the finish line and waited a few seconds to shake my pacemaker’s hand. He then congratulated me but deep inside I was a bit disappointed because I knew my gun time would be 42 minutes and 1 second.

Just a couple of seconds faster and I could have claimed that I run 10k in less than 42 minutes! That’s so frustrating, especially knowing that if the race was chipped I would probably be there. Since then I put things into perspective and after all I’m quite happy because I got to beat my PB by 21 seconds. I take this as a good omen for my half-marathon next week.

Middlesex 10k Championship

A shed load of Serpentine runners at the Middlesex 10k Championship

Beer Mile World Classic

I’ve been talking about it for a long time, but now I’ve finally ran a Beer Mile! And no less than the Beer Mile World Classic with the world elite of the discipline! The rules are simple: drink 1 beer then run 1 lap and repeat 4 times! If you throw up or don’t finish one of your beers, you’ll have to run a penalty lap. There are petty regulations (only 355ml canned or bottled beer with at least 5% alcohol) but that’s pretty much it. Quite simple uh?

Lanky Pole had planned to come with me but in the end he couldn’t make it because this plonker injured his foot. Worst of all, he didn’t even come to support me and chug a few beers during this day-long event. Never mind, I came with my Serpentine Kit – which I am required to wear when I race – and the Serpie running vest helped me making friends (and foes) as you’ll see. I arrived quite early at the event and I did well because I was running in the second race. It gave me enough time to change, watch and learn from the first race and warm up for my own race. When I was given my bib, the clerk recommended to burp as much as possible to avoid puking. This was really good advice: whilst you can always bring your own beer, the default beer was Heineken, which is very gassy and will definitely provoke barfing when running if the gas isn’t eliminated quickly. And I didn’t want to get a penalty lap.

On the starting line, all the runners have their finger on the capsule of their beer, ready to open it. The speaker (very funny guy by the way) counts down and Psssst, everyone opens their beer and starts chugging. For crying out loud, this is much harder than I though! Not only it’s a tasteless beer, but it is so gassy that I’m mostly swallowing foam, which makes it really hard to down it quickly. I belch several time and I finally manage to finish it but at least seven or eight guys managed to finish theirs before me. What a piss poor start, I’m very disappointed in my performance so far but there’s no time to dwell on that so I start running. The first quarter of lap is continuous loud belching and I’m not the only one. Very early in the race, I spot who’s going to be my pacemaker: it’s a redhead dude with a striped vest (white, orange and green).

At the end of the first lap, as he’s cheered upon, I understand that he’s a Mornington Chaser. But oh, I’m being cheered upon too! A bunch of people shout “Go Serpie!” and this gives me an extra boost: I raise my fist in the air and I chug faster. I’m getting the hang of it. But it’s still very hard to chug on this crappy beer and the Mornington Chaser is still well ahead of me. More burping and belching while running, but I don’t feel like vomiting, that’s a good sign. At the end of the second lap, I hear more heartwarming cheering and I start chugging on my third Heineken. This bloody chaser is still ahead of me but I managed to gain some precious seconds in the chug zone, so now he’s within reach: 4 minutes and 10 seconds after the start of the race, I accelerate and I finally overtake him! But not for long and he overtakes me again just before the chug zone. With the fatigue, it’s getting harder and harder to swallow anything, but I manage to down my last can just a second before the chaser. I run a fairly good last lap (1:20) and I finish on a beautiful sprint that the speaker describes as ‘unnecessary’ but it allows me to finish 10 seconds before my opponent in the very unimpressive time of 7 minutes 35 seconds. Anyway that’s my new PB and I’m proud of it!
[Watch the video of the race on Trackie]

Serpentine v Mornington Chasers

Serpentine v Mornington Chasers

We shake our hands and exchange a bit of banter around club competition. Other Serpies come and congratulate me on my time and on my final sprint. It turns out there are plenty of us here but most are volunteers and marshall the race. I make plenty of new friends, we exchange running tips and devise new strategies to improve our Beer Mile time. The best suggestion is to compete with a better and flatter beer. Someone reckons Guinness is good for the job but I’d rather go for an ale, unfortunately London Pride doesn’t contain enough alcohol to be officially recognised, which is a shame because it’s one of the flattest beers I know, but I promise myself to search and find the ideal beer. There are a couple of brewers at the tracks and some of their beers are very good candidates.

Speaking of brewers, I enjoy my rest time by drinking a few pints of proper beer while other races take place. I want to stay and watch the elite races. The women are quite impressive, but the men are even more impressive! Corey Bellemore, a Canadian, shatters the World Record with a time of 4:34! It’s the first time in my life that I witness first hand a World Record in any discipline! Although I wasn’t impressed by everyone: the last of the elite race finished in 8:21 which is 46 seconds slower than me and makes me think that I could join or assemble a French national team!

During these races, I was hitting it off with the brewers and one of the volunteers (another Serpie) came to me with a Wally outfit and asked me if I could run a relay with it. I’m already a Wally, so I sure could! In my team was one of the brewers, another Serpie and Corey Gallagher, the legendary Beer Mile runner who broke the 5 minutes barrier first! I was truly honoured and decided to run up to that standard so I bought a bottle of Solvay Society Brewery‘s Saison for the occasion. It was much much easier to drink and I downed it in one go. I almost didn’t burp and I ran my 400 metres in under 70 seconds, so I made a pretty good effort to get our team to just 5 minutes and 40 seconds. but in the end, Team Canada won and set a new World Record at 4:06!
[Watch the video of the race on Trackie]

French Bloke is a Wally

French Bloke is a Wally

All in all, I had a splendid day, the recovery isn’t easy but you can be sure I’ll run it again!

Going to the gym

One of my priorities when running is to remain injury-free. It’s only been a year since I’ve been running seriously, but so far I’ve managed to increase my weekly mileage without hurting my good self. It came to my knowledge that if I wanted to carry on like that I had to strengthen my core muscles, it helps keeping a good posture and gives you control and strength. By the way, when I run hills with the Serpentine, the coach always insists on focusing on the core muscles, so this confirms that.

Because I hate going to the gym even more than I used to hate running, I decided to hire a Personal Trainer for 5 sessions. Since I’m a complete novice, the idea was to be given a few tips on what to do, which machines to use and how to use them, but also to get some motivation and maybe to start liking going to the gym (the same way I started enjoying running after I’ve been given a few tips). Spoiler alert: I still don’t like going to the gym, even though I don’t hate it anymore now that I start knowing what I’m doing.

The first thing I learned with my PT was that I had to warm-up at the gym too. I used to to warm up for 10 minutes on the treadmill, but now I do that on the rowing machine, it’s as boring as the treadmill but it involves more muscles, including legs, arms and core. The other important thing I learned was to alternate the muscle groups you work out, so the first group can rest while you do a series of reps on another muscle group. For example, I’d alternate the pull-ups machine with oblique crunches. That’s a real time saver and it also prevents boredom.

I also learned a lot of different ways to make my abdominal muscles suffer and that’s pretty cool because it avoids monotony and it makes me exercise the long fibres as well as the short fibres in the same muscles. I’m also trying to work on my glutes (the butt muscles), not only will this help attracting members of the desired gender by showing off a cute and firm butt, it also gives more power to the legs, thus improving speed.

So all in all, even though I still don’t like going to the gym, I now understand this world a little bit better. For example, I understand that mirrors are not only here to fulfil the narcissistic needs of gym rats but also to check proper form of your exercise. Another proof that I don’t hate the gym anymore? After 4 months, I still find the motivation to get up early in the morning to go there on the days I’m supposed to rest from running (that’s only twice a week though). And I find this motivation even if I can’t really see the results (still no 6-pack).

More running with Serpentine

Like I mentioned recently, I just joined the Serpentine Running Club. I already had a hills session with the club and despite it being tough, I went back last week and I’ll certainly go back this Saturday. It’s not that I love running hills, but I’m not as good at it than I though I was and I can see that it is really beneficial. This time was even tougher than the previous session: we did 3 times 12 minutes of running up and down different hills in Greenwich park, but this time I was less ridiculous than the first time: I didn’t give everything I had in the first twelve minutes, so I had energy left for the 2 following intervals, and I didn’t finish last, I even overtook some runners during the exercise, so I’m getting there and it’s really rewarding to see that I’m getting better.

But the main event with the Serpies this week wasn’t the hills session, it was the Club Championship. Last Tuesday was the 1 Mile event, at the Paddington tracks. Mid-distance is far from my favourite kind of running but Lanky Pole convinced me to come to the tracks on that day. It was good to see so many runners at the same time and so many motivated and dedicated club members, it reinforced the sentiment of belonging, especially since everyone must be wearing the club’s colours for races.

Runners were separated into different groups depending on their expected performance. There were 2 groups of women and 5 groups of men. Based on my only time on a mile so far (5:42 at the Westminster Mile) I ended up in the ‘C’ group, which wasn’t too bad.

I did my warm-ups, dynamic stretching and all the trimmings. On the starting line, I was really intimidated and I forgot all the advice Lanky Pole had given me a month earlier at the Westminster Mile. The race began really fast: even though I was at the back of the pack, I knew couldn’t hold that pace for the 4 laps, so I stayed at the back, slowly leaving the runners ahead widening the gap. I think being the last and seeing the others further and further ahead put me down a little bit, and I didn’t run as fast as I should have. Even though I finally managed to overtake one guy in the last lap, I only finished in 5:46, which is 4 seconds slower than my performance at the Westminster mile. This was bad for 2 reasons: you’re supposed to race faster on tracks than on the road, and it was the first time that I didn’t beat my PB in a race.

Anyway, I didn’t let this get me down: in a way, I had a new PB because it was my first Mile on tracks. And I knew I hadn’t given everything I had: my lungs weren’t even burning at the end of the race! So I knew I’ll be doing better the next time. Anyway, someone was in a worse position than me: unfortunately Lanky Pole couldn’t run because he was injured and he was really upset about it. But it didn’t prevent him (nor me) from having a post-run pint with everyone at the pub.

Running track

Running track Photo by Colin Harris

Serpentine & hills

There we are, I gave in to Lanky Pole‘s pressure and I finally joined the Serpentine Running Club. It is a big club, with almost 2,000 members. It’s a bit expensive to join on the first year, but I’ve heard it’s worth it. I have to admit, after the first week as a member, I’m already convinced. First, there’s the club t-shirt, which gives you a sense of belonging to a team, then there are the events organised by the club (mostly races), finally there’s plenty of training sessions every week, and I still have a lot to discover about the club…

Serpentine

Speaking of training sessions, I discovered that the Serpies (that’s how we call the members of the club) have a weekly hills training session in Greenwich, so I decided to sign up for this one. This session is coached and I though it would be a good thing to finally run these hills properly. I arrived a bit late, but the coach was very friendly and she told me to catch-up with the group of 10 who was already warming up in the park. After a little bit of jogging, we gathered around the coach to do some proper warm-ups, which reminded me a bit of my sessions with Lanky Pole: walking on the heels, on the toes, plenty of warm-up movements, lunges, high knees, etc…

After that, the coach gave us advice on running form in the hills: work with the core muscles, have the arms at a 90 degrees angle, keep the shoulders and the face relaxed, and I’m sure i’m forgetting some. We then went to the nitty gritty and did 2 series of 12 minutes of hills running. Unlike my previous personal hills sessions, this one gave very little time for recovery: it was going up and straight down and up again. Also, we ran on the turf (or rather on the high grass) which made it even harder. After the first 12 minutes I was already knackered, but off we went for the second round! At the end of the second round I was the slowest of the group, even though on paper I was not supposed to be. Oh well, this gives me plenty room for improvement.

We finished by a relay in teams of three, up and down hills of course, and thanks to me my team finished last, but at least I gave all I had on the finish line. Lack of training aside, I think one of the reasons I was so slow was probably because I was dehydrated: the session lasted for 2 hours, which is much longer than I ever ran in the past and it was really hot on that day. But I made it all and I was quite happy anyway: I had learned more in these 2 hours than I could ever learn by myself. After the relay, we cooled down together and did a bit of stretching. I had to leave the group, but they all went to the café to enjoy some well-deserved coffee and cakes.

I came back really happy from this session: training with a coach and with a group brings so much! Even though I was dead-beat, I already wanted to sign up for the following week! Next time, I’ll come with a water bottle and I’ll make sure I have nothing planned afterwards, so I can enjoy the coffee and the cake with the others, and each time I’ll be better and better.

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