Chippenham Half Marathon 2013

So after a summer of irregular training, last minute upsets and two emergency training plans, the morning of Sunday 15th September 2013 finally arrived. It was in the middle of a very busy weekend involving various family members staying with us, and a trip up to London for a family get-together of around 35 of my husband’s family. Getting to bed at 2am on race morning is not ideal, but I told myself I never sleep well before a race anyway.

When the alarm went off, adrenaline kicked in straightaway. I shot out of bed, and tiptoed down to the kitchen for my traditional pre-race porridge. This was followed by a hastily remembered beetroot shot for stamina, a banana for energy, and a cup of tea to wash this strange mixture down. Feeling slightly queasy I sidestepped the early rising visiting children and finished getting ready.

My kind husband had offered to drop me off at the start, and I was surprised to see him in full cycling gear, loading his bike into the car. Turns out he was planning on being a mobile cheerleader-cum-photographer. This is good news, because he’s very good at both of these roles. (I think he may have set a new world record at the London Marathon, when he and the children managed to see me running 6 times!)

As we arrived I walked down to the start area and immediately joined the portaloo queue. I was hoping to meet up with a lady I’d chatted with on an internet runner’s forum, so as I queued I was scanning the other runners to see if I could see any one who looked like they were looking for someone as well. She’d texted me what she was wearing so I approached someone matching her description with fingers crossed, and nervously asked “Dee?!” Thankfully it was her, so we queued together, chatting and trying to hide our nerves. Sorting out our bags, Dee pulled out her bottle of Lucozade and somehow managed to squeeze it open and shower a man standing to the side of us. Fortunately he saw the funny side and declared he’d rather it was champagne she was spraying him with after he’d won the race.

We skulked off at this point before Dee sprayed anyone less forgiving and made our way to the start. At Chippenham it’s a bit of a narrow route onto the road for the start, but we squeezed through and made our way to the back. We were both hoping for a time of around 2:15 (having both had disrupted training over the last few weeks). I had been thinking of pacing at around 10:30 and then speeding up towards the end if my legs would let me, however Dee confidently said “so, around 10 minute miles then, yes?” and I gulped and squeeked “okay – but I reserve the right to slow down if I need to!” We were still chatting as an air horn shattered the Sunday morning peace, and then a very loud firework made us jump again. I hastily set my Garmin to finding some satellites and Dee sorted her phone out as we started shuffling toward the start line. Chippenham is a relatively small race, compared with our neighbouring races at Bath, Bristol and Swindon, so two minutes later we were running over the line and our race had begun.

The first mile took us up Chippenham High Street where we saw Mr B&T for the first time with his bike (and camera). We carried on out of town and then turned onto a small country lane. There were plenty of people out clapping, but not as many as previous years. Maybe the threatened wind and rain had kept everyone indoors, despite the fact that the weather was actually perfect for running – dry and cool.

Chippenham Ham Street
Chippenham Ham Street

By the first water station at mile 3 we were running well, had both got into the pace and were chatting as we ran. I always talk when I’m nervous, so poor Dee got quite an ear bashing! I won’t mention the fact that she barged me into the hedge at one point as I’m sure it was accidental and not at all just to shut me up.

By the second water station at mile 6 we were glad to think we were close to the half way mark as to be honest we were both starting to find it hard going. At mile 7 Dee confessed that this was the point her mind started playing games with her, and I knew exactly what she meant. My legs were feeling tired, and my lack of sleep meant my head was fatigued as well. By mile 8 I was telling both of us we were nearly two thirds of the way, so were effectively on the home straight. I might have mentioned the nasty hill at mile 12 at this point once or twice, only because I had bad memories of having to walk up it one previous year. I think I had Dee worried about it, as she kept mentioning it. At mile 9 we saw Mr B&T again and he took another attractive photo of us. My legs were really feeling tired now, and I remember telling Dee I’d forgotten quite how long a half marathon really was.

Mile 9 - still running
Mile 9 – still running

Our pace had slowed but we were still on target for a 2:15 finish. Both of us had stopped chattering by now as we had no spare breath. Dee’s phone app was telling her she’d completed each mile nearly half a mile before we got there, and my Garmin was ‘beeping’ for the next mile when the marker was only just in sight, so it was amazing we were believing anything these pieces of technology were telling us. I think we were both suffering by this point (I know I was), but neither of us wanted to be the one to say “I need to slow down!” I was thinking, through gritted teeth, that I had no idea how I was still pushing on at this point when Dee said she’d have slowed down miles before if she were running on her own. I think it’s known as peer pressure, in the nicest possible way. Apart from the low points at Brightom Marathon this year’s marathon, these were the hardest miles I’ve ever run in any race.

After mile 10 the course is very slightly uphill, the sort of incline you only notice when running. Dee did ask if this was ‘the hill’ and I wasn’t sure if it was kinder to warn her that ‘that hill’ was steeper than this, or to leave her in blissful ignorance until we got there. As it was I didn’t have the breath to grunt anymore than “not yet!” Bang on 12 miles we hit the short downhill which was followed by the mile 12 hill. To be honest, it’s not that bad, but it felt like a mountain to tired, undertrained legs.

As Dee gasped that we must be nearly at the top, I was happy to tell her it was just found the corner, and then downhill all the way to the finish. As we staggered down the hill back into Chippenham I joked that I felt like I had blinkers on, as I could only focus straight ahead. We turned into the residential streets that lead to the back way into the sports field and right on cue we passed a house playing the Chariots of Fire music. Staggering onto the grass we could see the finish line ahead, just as my roving cheerleader and photographer popped up again. I half expected Dee to pull away in a sprint finish, something I’ve never managed to do, but we stayed running at the same pace and crossed the line together, absolutely rung out, finished, nothing more to give.

Sprint Finish
Sprint Finish

I remember standing, gasping, zombie-like as my husband snapped another photo – sometimes I wish he wasn’t quite so keen. I shuffled towards my medal, t-shirt, banana and goody bag, and met up with Dee again. The clock had said 2:15 as we crossed the line, but my Garmin was saying 2:13, so we’d actually beaten our target, and had both beaten our previous PBs. I said good bye and thank you to Dee and we staggered off home.

Chippenham2013 - gormless finish

So we did it, undertrained and sleep deprived. Official time had me in at 2:13 :35, and Dee at 2:13:34. Not sure where she sneaked that extra second from as I’m sure we crossed both lines together, but I don’t mind as I have a shiny new PB and I’m very happy. It was great to run with Dee, to run at the same pace, to both be pushing ourselves equally hard and to be suffering together towards the end. The DOMS I had for the next 3 days were worse than for a marathon, but it was worth it.

Chippenham Half 2013 PB
New PB thank you very much!

Right – what’s next?!

Emergency Half Marathon Training Plan #2

After the upset and stress of the past week,  even my Emergency Training Plan went out of the window in a flurry of hospital trips and plaster casts.  Emergency Training Plan #2 needed to be brought out of the small dark place at the back of the wardrobe where I keep such things (behind the old running shoes and race t-shirts worn for going to the allotment).

This plan kicks off with a ridiculously long run 9 days before the race,  followed by some gentle recovery runs and a speed session if the long run hasn’t already killed my legs. A couple of days rest and I’ll be good to go.  (‘Go where?’ is a question I haven’t asked myself yet,  as I’m worried the answer might be ‘to the knackers yard’). Friday was the start of this plan, as it was the day I’d got the boy and his cast into school uniform and back to school. Breakfast at 7.30 was a rushed affair as it was interrupted by the boy needing a clean dressing on his knee,  and wanting a packed lunch making,  and needing help doing up his shirt buttons and putting on his socks.  We finally got out of the house and I delivered him and his sister to school.  I then returned home and tried to get myself in the right frame of mind for a long run, when I haven’t done a long run for weeks.

I suddenly remembered the Beet Shot concentrated beetroot juice I had to try before the race next week, so I grabbed it and slugged it down.  It didn’t taste as bad as I thought it would,  but next time I might try it chilled as ‘cupboard warm’ was a little strange.

I was finally ready to step out of the front door when my tummy gurgled.  I looked at my watch and saw it was 11.30 – breakfast had long since gone down but if I stopped for a snack now I’d never get out.  Exasperated with myself for taking so long to get ready,  I dashed back into the kitchen to see what I could grab to eat.  5 Veggie Percy Pigs seemed like a good compromise between a quick energy boost and something I could eat on the go, so that’s what I grabbed.

I set off on a route that I hoped would be at least 10 miles and hopefully more like 11 in order to really get my body ready to run half marathon distance in 9 days time. The sky was dark and it was threatening to rain as I set off,  so it felt great not to have to fuss about suncream or sunglasses. Of course, a couple of miles down the road the sun came out. This is a strange talent I seem to have, not so useful when out running though!

The Percy Pigs seemed to do the trick, and most of my run was okay.  I felt tired,  bits of me were aching by the end,  but with a Gel after mile 6 and some unusual tunes on my ipod I ran 12 miles. Yay!

So just a couple more runs next week and I’ll be ready for a half marathon next Sunday.  I’ll let you know then how well Emergency Training Plan #2 prepares your body for a race …

Things I spotted on this new route

What an inviting footpath …
All roads lead to Thingley
Miles of Fibre Optic Cable

If a huge drum of Fibre Optic Cable isn’t exciting to you, then you obviously don’t live in a village with snail’s pace broadband but with the hint of Fibre Optic Broadband coming this month *does a little happy dance*.

    Things I learnt from this run

1. 5 Veggie Percy Pigs are a good source of energy
2. Concentrated Beetroot Juice tastes better than expected, but sadly doesn’t give you ‘Barbie-Wee’ despite the warning on the bottle.
3. Dolly Parton singing ‘Jolene’ is surprisingly good to run to.
4. Dolly Parton singing ‘I will always love you’ isn’t.

“What could possibly go wrong?”

So in my last blog post,  I tempted fate by writing the following :-
” Time for an emergency training plan which looks like 9 days torturing my legs until they remember how to run,  3 days taper followed by race day. What could possibly go wrong?

What indeed! That very evening my son was taking part in a kids’ time trial on his new road bike.  Desperate to beat his previous time he was flying, until the double chicane where he unfortunately had an ‘off’. He walked back to the start, limping, bleeding, holding his arm and trying not to cry.

We took him home and patched him up.  He went to bed after taking Calpol with promises that if his arm was still sore in the morning we’d go to the local hospital to get him checked out. Sadly he appeared by my bedside at 3.00am asking for more Calpol, and pointing out that his arm probably shouldn’t be bent in the way it was. (It was distinctly curved – something I’d put down to swelling the previous evening).

Wednesday was spent taking him to two hospitals,  having two different casts put on,  having two x-rays taken, having his arm referred to as a ‘banana arm’. Seeing him all giggly after having gas and air was a lighter moment in the day,  but it was heart breaking watching my boy wincing and trying not to cry as the doctor manipulated his arm to get the bones to lie straight.  I was trying not to cry as well, and it was incredibly hard trying to stay positive, reassuring and comforting.

Thursday, today, has been spent helping him get used to his very heavy cast. Working out what he could do by himself (go to the toilet, put pants on, fasten a seat belt) and what he needed help with (getting a t-shirt on,  putting socks on,  opening a can of coke). Tomorrow hopefully he’ll go back to school, until his appointment at the Fracture Clinic on Wednesday. We’ll know then if his bones are healing straight. Keep your fingers crossed.

One amazing thing happened as a result of all of this. To try and cheer my son up,  I tweeted Jens Voigt, professional cyclist, Tour de France regular, hero of our family and all-round nice guy. I told him about my son’s accident and asked if he’d retweet my tweet to cheer my son up.  I was amazed later on to see I had a tweet from Jens, with a special message for my son.  He said :-

“@thejensie: @BandTRuns hi there, sorry to hear about your crash, hope its ok now and you are back home!! I keep fingers crossed forna quick recovery!!!”

Tweet to my son, from Jens Voigt, officially the nicest man in pro-cycling

Tweet to my son, from Jens Voigt, officially the nicest man in pro-cycling

What a star! Jens is definitely the nicest man in pro-cycling. I wonder if, when celebrities and sports stars spend a few seconds writing a tweet or a message, they realise quite how much it’s appreciated? I hope so, because the smile this message brought to my son’s face was fantastic. He is still mentioning it several days later!

Curse those long Summer Holidays

So September is here,  the children are back to school (hooray on behalf of all the parents!), and it’s Half Marathon season (again).  Oh hang on, it’s actually only 12 days until the Chippenham Half. After a lovely summer spent mainly waiting for children (with a couple of glorious weeks swimming and relaxing thrown in) my training schedule has been abandoned.  Time for an emergency training plan which looks like 9 days torturing my legs until they remember how to run,  3 days taper followed by race day. What could possibly go wrong?  (Sigh)

On a more positive note,  it was a beautiful morning as I set off on a 3 mile recovery plod.  I ignored my legs telling me they were tired after the unexpected 7 miles we did yesterday,  and enjoyed the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”. I eyed up good patches of blackberries to go back and pilfer when they’re riper,  and enjoyed the ethereal draping of mst in the valleys.  Only this weather can make spiders’ webs photogenic!