Fairlands Valley Spartans 3k Relays

This was an event that I had looked forward too as a team event with the Spartans. We waited until the week before to decide on our A and B teams. The A team was selected through performances in the MWL and recent training. The team included  Grant Ramsey, Simon Jackson, Richie Bates, Myself and Craig Halsey.


Team Gets Gold Hertfordshire ASA Medals!

Team Gets Gold Hertfordshire ASA Medals!


I planned on racing under sub 10mins and the team was in 4th place overall and I held the place. But annoyingly my 2km effort was slower by 20 seconds and the drop off pushed me above my target and gave me a time of 10:09. The team result was the important aspect of the night and holding 4th overall but also being the top club from herfordshire won the team the Hertfordshire County Championship.

Boom – Sub three hour marathon achieved!

The idea to do a full marathon had been in my bucket list for many years. When I had been working for 5 years after university I tried my first ballot for London Marathon (2007). I was unsuccessful in the ballot but managed to get a fine adidas running jacket. After many years of Triathlon I never motivated in doing the long distances until I completed my first half marathon. The experience motivated me towards trying to get London Entry and another failed Ballot and even the club ballot ended in me choosing the wrong soin of the coin. So my first ever marathon at the end of an Ironman and that got me thinking that I could achieve the good for age time for London Marathon. So to achieve this goal I entered the race then checked with the wife if she fancied a weekend in Brighton.

I knew immediately what my goal was – I wanted sub-3 hours, this was based on my half-marathon PB (1:18). I could live with missing my target, but not if the secondary goal of GFA for VLM(3:05) was not achieved.

(c) Andy Leates

(c) Andy Leates

I was provided some very good advise from Coaches at FVS and my training buddies. Some quotes that helped with my strategy

“Just remember for Brighton, I always say you can take seconds off at start of races to add lots of minutes on at the end. ” Simon Jackson

“Remember 6.40 throughout is 2.54 so you don’t need any mile quicker than 6.40” Simon Jackson

“Don’t let the adrenaline fool you, discipline yourself the first few miles and then smash miles 10-20. ” Andew Patterson (coach @ FVS)

My build up to the race was to slowly build the training miles up from my longest run of 10miles (Sept 2014) to 20miles (Mar 2015). This was with my usual tempo and interval runs and IM training plan provided my Russ Cox. The build up included some half marathons and my test race was at Oakley 20 and I knew I was ready to race. However, my injury prior to the race caused some concern but as ever my Physio Kieran Feetham got me to the start line and I can’t even remember my knee hurting post race.

The new addition to my plan was removing alcohol and watching my diet in general. My justification was that racing without drinking could add benefits not only on race day but during my training cycles. I simply figured that carrying any excess weight for 26.2 miles was not going to help.

To monitor my progress I often refer to the Training Peaks Performance Chart as this is a good indication of my running form.

Performance Management Chart - Running

Performance Management Chart – Running

I was finally ready to race and Saturday was the planned trip to the expo center and pickup my race number. We booked in Crowne Plaza London Gatwick hotel that is actually based in Crawley. I weighed up being in Brighton versus travelling on train, however, In hindsight my choice was excellent as the hotel was in proximity of Three Bridges train stop and trains ran every half an hour. This obviously did’t stop me panicking post race as we got stuck on the M25.

My pre-race strategy was to run the race at 6:45 m/m and at mile 20 push if I had anything left. My nutrition strategy was to take a gel every 5 miles as this would be around 35 mins per gel. I used water at most stations to ensure I was hydrated during the race. My pre race purchase was a flip belt (I actually challenged them to see if they’d award a prize for the first racer home in a belt) as I experienced issued with my traithlon belt and gels during training runs. Although untested this felt comfortable when around my waist and didn’t move during the race, I’d love to see an Ironman Race Distance belt. I would rate this belt 10/10.

On race day I was up early okay for me(6am). Breakfast was what I always have before a race – a cup of coffee, followed by 2 pieces of toast and a yogurt. I had entered on a Good-for-Age HM time, and was lucky enough to have a place at the Elite start.  The facilities have a small area and exclusive portaloo for the International Elite. For the rest of the runners we had exclusive use of a large marquee and around 10 Portaloos  (130+ runners I would guess). The lorry to take the kit needed to be packed by 9am and I put on my kit bag. I kept my long top to keep warm and decided to remove before the race started and asked a helper to put in a rubbish (maybe a waste but I suffer in the cold). We are asked to line up at the start at 9:10, but leave 10 metres for the International runners to take their place on the line.

At 9:15 we are off! The Elite start at Brighton, has a few benefits one is that no congestion exists except around the 3hr pacer (he had a lot of friends) and it’s downhill until the two packs merge (Elite and Main Race). The race has great crowds and you can feel the energy as you run through banks of people  on either side of the road. You come into Brighton on York Place and the crowds in the town are amazing.  My first mile is completed in around 6:40 and I’m on the pace set. This continues around the town until I get into mile 6 until we head to Ovingdean. The route is a gradual incline maybe around 4-5% and a group of 4-5 runners form. I tend to run on the front until 2 other runners come and help keep the pace. At each water station I ensure I grab a cup and take a few sips of water. The weather has been much kinder than forecast with a little wind and nice bright sunshine.  For the first half I’m feeling pretty comfortable, but as we head downhill into the city centre we can hear the commentators but that was the last thing on my mind as I started to experience some nasty stomach cramps. I asked the helpers for the next location of the portaloo but nobody had the information I desperately needed. I finally found a loo on my third attempt after being sent up the incorrect side of the toilets. To my annoyance the first 2 were closed but to my releief the third was available. The experience cost me a minute in time and maybe a change in my pace as I tried to catch runners around me.

I hit the half-way point at around 87 minutes. The next few miles are another out-and-back through residential streets and for me this was an enjoyable section with lots of enthusistic supporter. Many local residents had music playing and a makeshift band was playing some tunes. I ran with another club runner and we were running around 6:45 m/m. However, when we hit mile 20 I got a little tired and for me the most unenjoyable section of the course as it goes into a industrial docks and strong smells of fish make my tummy turn. The section is also not very well supported and I understand why Saucony have the 23 mile films to help motivate runner. This was very motivational as my daughter Beca made a film (Catrin made a film for her medium friend – Gareth). At mile 23/24 my pace was dropping at around 6:55 m/m and I felt my hamstring and calfs cramping.

Then disaster the 3hr pace maker caught me in mile 25. I was caught by surprise and thought no dig in otherwise the time will simply disapear. I dug deep and followed the pacer as he motivated the 4 runners around him. My plan was to leave 2 x 7:30 m/m for miles 25/26. The reaction was to increase my pace but then I started to cramp badly so I started to do walk/run technique for 50m. This eased the cramping and I continued to get back to a pace that felt controlled. This unfortunate timing then forced me to consider were my calculations incorrect. When I glanced at my watch and on mile 24 I had around 2:43:something. So best case scenario is 17 minutes to run 2.2 miles. I left the pacer go and thought if my maths and watch are correct I can achieve my target time. The crowds are getting noiser as we head towards the end. Many are shouting “nearly there”, “go go you can do this!” and more importantly “you can get sub 3 hrs”. Finally the 400m to go, I can see the line but can’t read the clock as I get closer is it saying 2:58 or 2:59 something am I too late ! The commentator is geeing the crowd as the runners still can achieve 3-hours, I muster a final sprint down the finishing straight. I look up I can see the finish line and the clock and can only explain my emotion as uncontrolled feeling of achieving something very special.

I head through the end congratulating the runners around me and get chatting to a runner from Flitwick who is also an Ironman. Its time to collect my medal and t-shirt, and head off to find my family as I say my goodbye.  The girls give a a big hug and my wife is proud of her husbands achievement (this can be translated to thank heaven I don’t have to listen to a moaning husband all the way home and for the next few weeks).  The final hours of the weekend are to support those to shared my journey to Brighton (Anna, Yvanne and Gareth).

Now to focus on my up and coming Ironman in Germany (European Championships).

Finally, a few post-race thought and some tips.

  1.  Follow a plan and keep to the detail you’ve worked out.
  2. Book a hotel away from the centre. My friend had no sleep as this is a very busy city at night.
  3. Try out your gels in training and ensure you have a comfortable gel belt that does not move. I would not recommend a triathlon belt.

Many thanks to my family support team and my running club for those enjoyable training runs.

Position 95

Steffan Ford – Race Result

Is it a serious sports injury ?

After my race at Oakley 20 my recovery was to follow a bath and 2 days rest. A few days later my knee started to feel unstable. I decided to only swim and bike during the week and felt some pain on the bike. On Sunday 5th April I decided to go for a 10km run at a pace faster than my marathon pace. The run felt fine but a section was up a few stairs and again I felt the pain…

I had planned a visit to my Physio a few days before Brighton Marathon and decided to do the Fairlands Valley Spartans Interval run on the Tuesday evening. The run was fine but I was still aware of the pain whilst walking up stairs at work. I started to think that the 26.2 miles might become a target too far. So obviously I decided to search on Knee Injuries on google and started to build a picture of a dreaded failure to get to the start line. I knew the pain was on the inside of my right knee and after a few (okay lots) of sites visited I concluded that it could be a injury to the “Pes Anserine Tendinopathy”


So my race was over before it had started, I turned up to Stevenage Sports Clinic with the thought that if my physio advised me not to run then I would follow his advise. As ever Kieran went through the last weeks and focused on aspects I had not even thought about such as work shoes. Kieran identified the issue very quickly linked from my feet to my hip flexor and then worked on the area of concern. The news at the end of the consultation was a very happy moment – your all ready to race and good luck.

As an athlete I tend to jump to conclusions too fast and need to follow the advise of those who are qualified.


Oakley 20 Mile

My final big run before Brighton was to attend Bedford Harriers Oakley 20. The race plan was to run as sub 3hr marathon pace. Therefore, based on the sub 3hr I worked out that I needed to run mile splits at under 6:50. Using the data I set my Garmin to 7:10 max to ensure I kept the pace. At the time this seemed an excellent idea but at mile 18 when the legs began to get tired hearing the garmin (beep-beep) became very annoying indeed.


The weather was typically British and high winds and rain was the order of the day. The cross winds were very challenging and added another dimension to the tough course.

At the start I noticed some groups of runners form and I found the pace with a group of 4/5 runners. In hindsight this wasn’t really running to the plan. I soon realised that the course was very hilly and not very good for a pacing practice.  I carried on with the plan to run sub 6:50 and this went to plan until mile 17 when the legs became very jaded. I had taken 3 gels during the period and was convinced it was simply the legs that couldn’t keep going at the pace and I concentrated on completing the last 3 miles without losing too much time.

Lap Distance Time Pace GAP Elev
  1 1.0 mi 6:22 6:22 /mi 6:22 /mi -10 ft
  2 1.0 mi 6:34 6:34 /mi 6:20 /mi 44 ft
  3 1.0 mi 6:51 6:51 /mi 6:16 /mi 114 ft
  4 1.0 mi 6:13 6:13 /mi 6:41 /mi -99 ft
  5 1.0 mi 6:38 6:38 /mi 6:34 /mi 8 ft
  6 1.0 mi 6:42 6:42 /mi 6:34 /mi 28 ft
  7 1.0 mi 6:32 6:32 /mi 6:27 /mi 7 ft
  8 1.0 mi 6:35 6:35 /mi 6:34 /mi -12 ft
  9 1.0 mi 6:41 6:41 /mi 6:35 /mi 13 ft
 10 1.0 mi 6:27 6:27 /mi 6:48 /mi -72 ft
 11 1.0 mi 6:37 6:37 /mi 6:37 /mi -3 ft
 12 1.0 mi 6:40 6:40 /mi 6:40 /mi -5 ft
 13 1.0 mi 6:32 6:32 /mi 6:35 /mi -16 ft
 14 1.0 mi 6:39 6:39 /mi 6:25 /mi 47 ft
 15 1.0 mi 6:53 6:53 /mi 6:41 /mi 36 ft
 16 1.0 mi 6:50 6:50 /mi 6:55 /mi -22 ft
 17 1.0 mi 6:39 6:39 /mi 6:50 /mi -45 ft
 18 1.0 mi 7:06 7:06 /mi 7:05 /mi -2 ft
 19 1.0 mi 6:59 6:59 /mi 7:05 /mi -25 ft
 20 0.9 mi 7:00 7:08 /mi 7:06 /mi 8 ft

At the end I had finally achieved my goal of finishing the 20 mile course and having a Oakley 20 hoodie that I will appretiate as my prize for 28th place overall in a time of 2:13:42

Welwyn Half Marathon

In my final preparations towards Brighton Marathon I entered the Welwyn Half Marathon based at Gosling Sports Park, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.

The race conditions were perfect for the race that was partially on an offroad path. The route for the race is a gently undulating mixture of a residential setting and a rural taking in the villages of Hertingfordbury, Birch Green and Cole Green plus a 4 mile section along the traffic free Cole Green Way pathway. The race started and finished on Gosling Running Track.

The objective of the race was to get some quick training miles before the marathon and maybe add a few miles at the end. However, as the race got underway after 3 miles I realised that I had an opportunity for a podium place.  As the race developed I got into an easy pace and managed to break away from the group of runners viaing for 3rd position. Towards the 7 mile I was joined by another runner(Antonio Maraia) and we ran together until mile 10. Then the pace began to get quicker as we raced for the podium pace. I decided to wait and follow and see what he had to offer and with 2 miles to go I decided to push for home. With an incline towards the end of the race I used this to put in a hard effort and as we got to a mile to go I was again on my own. I kept the pace in the last mile and ended with a slight sprint towards the end to end in a time of 1:20:09.

This was my first run as a fairlands valley spartan and the third place was an added bonus.


Time for a new start..

After 5 years of racing for Team Trisports it was a time for a new challenge. I made many friends at the club and was sad once I made my decision to leave.

So why leave ? My choice was made as I wanted to run the herts midweek 10k series over the summer and wanted to train with a group of runners that would push my limits. 

Why 10k Series ? This was a great opportunity to get some regular high intensity runs in the week. I wanted to achieve this but running for a second claim team, however, due to the consutitipn I was unable to compete for multiple clubs.

Where now ? I decided to join Fairlands Valley Spartans as this was my local running club in Stevenage. I’ve been made very welcome at the club and had the benefit of some friends and past team mates who were already at the club.

What about Swimming ? Open water is still on my mind but I have joined a swim club and train with a masters group (Monday, Thus (50m), Fri, Sun) at Stevenage Swimming Club as secretary of the club I get to see the development of the club at close quarters.

So now to the future ? My aims this season are my A races. These are Brighton Marathon and Ironman Germany (Frankfurt).