I’m back!

After many weeks of coughing and sniffling, and feeling very sorry for myself (and my poor family who had to put up with me) I’m officially back in the room. 

I ran twice last week, only slow and steady 5K each time with walking breaks and coughing breaks and taking photo breaks. 

Photo taken in a wheat field
“Doing a Theresa May” – an example of a photo break

It came as a bit of a shock to discover I had entered a 5K race for last night. Heddington 5K is run as a series of 3 races over the summer months and sells out in a matter of hours each time. This might be because the course is overall downhill, and thus practically every runner I know has run their 5K PB at this race. 

I wandered over last night, and was met by the vast hordes of Chippenham Harriers who also knew about this race’s magical ability to practically guarantee a PB. With lots of chat, and catching up with running buddies I hadn’t seen for weeks, I didn’t have time to feel my usual pre-race nerves because it didn’t feel like a race. 

As we moved to the start line I conciously kept to the back. The race starts with a mad downhill dash which means after half a kilometre you are already regretting your pace. My simple aim last night was not for a PB, but to have a steady run, with no walking / coughing / photo stops. Ideally I was hoping to try and stick to 10 minute miles but I was flexible on pace (I.e. I had no idea what to aim for!). I found myself next to another Harrier (called Nikki) who was doing exactly the same, we fell into step at the start, and ran together the whole way right up to the point where she managed a sprint finish and I managed a finish. 

Heddington 5K
Heddington 5K. Photo by Rachel Beek.
I was very pleased with my 31:04 time, which looks pretty much like spot on 10 minute miles to me, and with the fact I didn’t have to walk! Well done Calne Running Club for such a brilliant race, and especially for the chocolate at the end!

So looks like I’m back in the game again (well, I will be once my face loses this magnificent shade of puce!)

Confidence

is a preference for the habitual voyeur of what is known as

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parkrun *

After my stunning ** race last week, where I had a goal pace which I managed to stick to (below 9:30 minute miles) and even managed a sprint finish, AND felt strong going up the hill, I decided this morning was the day to try and chip away at this year’s parkrun times.

My parkrun PB is 25:52, which sounds a pie*** in the sky target at the moment and actually dates from May 2015, but if I can keep on chipping away at this year’s times who knows how close I’ll get. Current parkrun times have been around the 29 – 30 minute mark, but with my recent race times I thought SURELY I could run faster than that? Yes the course has been muddy, yes I’ve been doing a lot of chatting, but come on Lucy!

In February I finally managed to get a time under 30 minutes again. Two seconds under, but hey it all counts. 3 weeks ago, I hauled myself under 29 minutes. Three seconds under, but again, who’s counting (apart from the timekeepers and my Garmin). Last night I calculated that if I ran under 9 minutes per mile I should be able to scrape in under 28 minutes. Anything’s possible the night before parkrun!

This morning I told my friend Valerie about my plan, and she immediately said she’d run with me as she’d also love to dip under 28 minutes again. With the pride of the VW50-54 age group resting on our shoulders, we sprinted off from the start with the best of them.

Continually glancing at my pace meant I consciously overtook people when I would usually just drop in behind them (it feels like pushing in – I’m much too British to enjoy this).  Valerie stuck with me, and we even picked up her husband on the way round. Ignore all tales that this meant we forced Valerie down the middle of the path and through the splashy puddles. It was unintentional, but she definitely had the muddiest legs at the end.

As we made it to the straight that leads to the finish, Valerie told me that she was done, and to push on without her. I gasped “okay” and proceeded to overtake another couple of runners. Being so British, and disliking people who actually manage a sprint finish (despite last week’s effort), I shouted “sorry!” as I ran past.   One of them said “You look like you’ve got plenty left in the tank. Go for it!” which has to be one of the most pleasing things anyone has ever said to me when I’m running.

I was overtaken just before the line by a small child, who was being accompanied and coached by a lovely young man called Luke****. The encouragement Luke was giving him was marvellous to hear, particularly as Luke is an amazing runner who was going much more slowly than he usually would in order to pace the boy. I was trying to use some of his advice myself, but as they charged past me I felt like applauding them both! This was heart-warming, parkrun at its best, stuff.

I finally crossed the line in 27:45, with Valerie only 7 seconds behind me, as 1st and 2nd in our age group. Yay – go us! Although I was tired at the end, I was in no way completely shattered. As the nice man said, I think I did have something left in my tank after all. Just maybe this running lark just needs some confidence in your own abilities, as well as training, practise, good shoes and fab running partners (not much to ask for, really).

I was wondering what to aim for next, and then I remembered that next week is a “naked” parkrun (??!!!!!) where you have to predict what time you’ll finish in, and then run technologically naked (i.e. no Garmin!) to see who can finish closest to their predicted time. That could be very interesting!

* Apologies to Blur
** hem hem
*** mmmmm pie
**** yes I know that makes me sound SO old

A Frowning Nun

Ciao! Here I am in Monza, Italy taking advantage of the fact that my husband is currently working out here (free accommodation!)

Thought I’d better try a run, seeing as the apartment is only a kilometre from the amazing Parco Reale (Royal Park). This park is so huge it contains within it the famous Monza motor racing circuit  (you know, the one that hosts the Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix race. That little place).

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Parco Reala Monza

The park has marked 3Km, 5Km, 10Km and half marathon routes, making it easy to find your way around. I ran up to the park, past some curious looks from locals, and then followed the 3Km yellow markers. With the run to and from the park this made around a 5Km run – quite enough in this heat!

Route markers. Blue for 5Km and yellow for 3Km. Today was a yellow day
Route markers. Blue for 5Km and yellow for 3Km. Today was a yellow day

Always reassuring to see a defibrillator, just in case…

Photo of Defibrilator
Just in case…

There were plenty of runners in the park. Also power walkers, cyclists, mums with prams, but no inline skates today. It was well marked, it was hot, and all too soon, but very gratefully, I saw the finish marker.

Photo of finish marker
Always good to see a finish marker. Even after just 3Km

After that it was just a gentle jog back to the apartment, which included the longest stop EVER at traffic lights (good for drinking water and panting, basically). I arrived back looking like this:-

Photo after hot run
Attractive, huh?

So to sum up, It was beautiful and cool, no old men stared and no nuns frowned at me. I’m also most definitely not now a red sweaty mess and sweat did NOT drip from my elbow as I took the above selfie.*

*There may be a couple of fibs in this paragraph

 

Juneathon Day 20. Delayed Parkrun

So I was intending to go to parkrun. I really was. But a brilliant meal out with my best friends that ended quite late put paid to that. I want to bed thinking “I’ll see what time I wake up…” and promptly woke up at ten to nine.

To give me some credit, I did feel guilty about it, so a little later I decided to do a delayed parkrun. This was over my own route, it had no marshals, I could happily forget my bar code, it wasn’t in a park but it WAS 5K. It’s down and back a small lane that can be busy during the week but I reckoned would be safe on a Saturday. As I set off, true to parkrun form I briefly thought I should have had a warm up, then I carried on anyway. I also suddenly remembered that last Juneathon I ran this route at the start and end to see if I could improve my time.

It was really hot and muggy and I remembered using that excuse last Juneathon on this route as well. The route has an enormous dip that you run down and up twice, once in each direction (I always use this as an excuse on this route – even when I’m on my bike). Anyway I stopped my Garmin at 3.11 miles and dripped the remaining short distance home. I was so sticky I am sure I left a slug trail behind me. Attractive.

On checking the data, I was delighted to see the following times and dates:-

29:40 June 1st 2014
27:10 June 30th 2014

26:37 20th June 2015

Go me! Looks like the “Killer Tuesday” sessions (as we affectionately call the club “Efforts” evening) are working.

On a slightly more relaxed note, here are some sleeping kittens. Anyone remember a song from the 70s by Terry Scott called “my brother” (pronounced bruver”). It has a classic lyric that is so apt for these bruvers: “I know he’s good when he’s asleep … But you don’t know what he’s dreaming about, do you?!”
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Juneathon Day 9. With a scone as big as my head. And a PB

Whenever my brother visits from the North (land of pies) he always comments on how many more uncomfortably large people he sees here in Wiltshire compared with at home. I’ve lived here for too long to notice either way, but I think I might have found the reason why. My brother was popping over today with my Mum and Dad for a quick cup of tea, and I realised I didn’t have any cake or nice biscuits to offer. Fortunately our local pub has the loveliest owners and they happily agreed to package me up what was basically a takeaway cream tea. They even popped the scones into the oven so they were warm and included cartons of jam and cream. These were delicious, but what was amazing was the scones were as big as my head.* I’m thinking maybe this explains the size of people in Wiltshire?!

After such an enormous elevenses I couldn’t manage my lunch until about 4pm, but this was perfect pre-race food timing so actually worked out very well. I then headed out to the first in this year’s series of the Heddington 5K races. These races are quite informal, you can only enter on the night, you park and finish opposite a pub, they have chip timing and only £3. Last night was full of club runners because it’s basically a downhill, PB course. At one time this would have been intimidating, but for the first time ever I too was a club runner, proudly sporting my (borrowed) Chippenham Harriers shirt. ** It was so different to my usual race experiences to be with a big group of people, and to have lots of runners to chat to both before and after the race. *** It was also a novelty to hear people shout “go Chippenham!” and realise they were shouting at me!

That's my PB face, that is
That’s my PB face, that is

A scary downhill charge of a start**** led to a fast race and a new 5k PB of 25:27. There are two more races in this series so with a warm up, and less wind on the night, my goal of going sub-25 looks like it could be achievable. I think eating a pre-race scone-as-big-as-my-head is going on my list of ideal race prep as this was obviously what made the difference.

Whilst I’m talking about weight, a top tip. If you have any concerns about your own size, hide them by making your brother look like he’s heavier than he actually is by ‘helping’ with the scale.

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A helping paw

*There is no photographic evidence of this because I didn’t want to let the scones go cold.

**Thank you for the loan of the shirt, Lucy!

***To quote Luna Lovegood “It was like having friends” 😉

**** I’ve never had a mile split beginning with a 7 before which is amazing

Juneathon Day 6. Parkrun

It’s Saturday so it must be parkrun day, yes? Erm, actually I had told a friend I probably wouldn’t make it to parkrun as I was thinking of having a lie in. However Juneathon laughs in the face of lying in, and I was wide awake at 8am. What’s a girl to do, but to get up and parkrunning.

So 5k done and back home in time for second breakfast. Juneathon lives (as does the smug feeling) which lasts most of the day).

Today’s Kitten News. Big cat has been trying to hide. Unsuccessfully.

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You ain't seen me, right?

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Getting closer...

You really don’t want to see what happened shortly after this second photo, but I can promise no kittens were harmed. Just a little bit biffed.

I’m Back! And I’m a WINNER!

Phew, well that’s been a busy time. Our building work is really nearly finished, which has meant much last minute ordering of stuff, lots of snap decisions and a fair bit of painting. Our daughter is sliding towards her GCSEs so needs plenty of poking, gently reminding to work (i.e. nagging), and general supporting. Husband is spending more and more time cycling, and my son requires regular winkling out of his room and away from his computer before he becomes a totally stereotypical teenaged boy. So, all in all, busy times in the B&T household.

Despite all this I have been getting out running, just not as far or as often as I would have liked. Nothing spectacular, and no interesting photos hence no blogging. I did spend a happy few hours writing out a list of upcoming races, and am still dithering over which to enter.

It was pointed out to me this week that it was my local parkrun’s first birthday on Saturday, so as husband was getting up at stupid o’clock to cycle a ridiculous distance* I thought I’d set my alarm as well and go along to parkrun for a short and hopefully speedy 5K.

Conscious that only first timers and tourists get to parkrun early, I managed to get there rather late, just as the run director was giving his pre run talk. Yes, I was the one still tying my shoe laces as everyone else was applauding the first timers and visitors. (Sorry!) I was also the one who had to run back to my jacket to grab my bar code just as the run director mentioned not forgetting your bar code. Sigh.

These hiccups aside, I enjoyed my third official parkrun. I pushed when I could, but did find myself just trotting along behind a couple of blokes for a while rather than over taking them straight away. (It’s not a race, you see). Anyway I was very pleased when I stopped my Garmin to see I had a new parkrun PB of 26:26. I was impressed when I got home and saw this was actually a new all time 5K PB, and I was delighted when I got my official email from parkrun confirming my time, and telling me I was position 1 in my age category**. If it’s not a race, I can still be a winner, can’t I?***

*300K is a ridiculous distance to cycle in one day. Fact.

** on telling him I was first in my age category, my son promptly asked if I was the only one in my age category.

*** the correct answer to this is YES. It’s the first time I’ve ever come first in anything that didn’t involve sitting exams, so I’m pinning an unofficial winner’s badge on myself.

Chippenham 5K River Run 2014. Data wrangling.

It had been another beautiful day, and the weather was just perfect for racing in the evening. After last week’s 10K disappointment I felt like everything was riding on tonight’s 5K. No pressure then.

I wrote last year’s time and pace onto my hand, put my running kit on, cooked dinner for my children, raced around looking for car parking money and shot out of the door with about 45 minutes before the start time. Fortunately I don’t live far from Chippenham, and even more fortunately as I crawled around the packed car park I managed to nab a space. I bumped into a good friend at the start, so was feeling in high spirits.

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The Start

From the off all went well. I survived the usual crush at the start, I kept an eye on my pace to keep it close to last year’s. I overtook when I could (not easy on this course) and tried not to hold anyone up when I could hear them coming up behind me. I crossed the line and my Garmin said 26:47. Checking my smudged hand, last years time was 26:46 – so close! I was aware that in non-chip timed races it’s vitally important to keep in the same order in the finish ‘funnel’ as you crossed the line in. Just after I’d crossed the line, two guys were racing hard over the line, and shot past me. I got one of them to move behind me in the funnel but I wasn’t 100% certain that the other chap had crossed after me so I left him where he was.

Provisional results were out the next day, and gave me a time of 26:49 – 3 seconds slower than last year. I was a little disappointed, but to be honest I still felt very happy with my race as I’d run the best I could on the night. To be that close to last year’s time (when I had trained really well for it) was actually pretty amazing. Looking closely at the time of the chap recorded as finishing in front of me (in case he had ‘pinched’ my place) then my time would have been 26:48 – shaving a whole extra second off. 

I uploaded my data to Strava and was pleased to see some good results on segments on the route. Various friends gave me kudos and one (who had also run this race last year and this) made a very interesting observation. He pointed out that the course we ran this year was actually slightly longer than last year. On coming off the riverside path last year we cut straight up onto the road whereas this year we ran a little longer by the river before angling up to the road. For last year’s race my Garmin recorded 3.09 miles, whereas this year’s was 3:11. Now, here comes the data wrangling bit! If I look at this year’s data and stop it at 3:09 miles, it gives me a time of 26:40  Woot woot!!

Anyway, even without funnel line pushers-in, and slightly longer routes, I am very pleased with this year’s time. Even with my data wrangling I can’t really claim it as a new PB but I am still very pleased with my time and not at all disappointed.

I received proof positive that I’d worked really hard in the race when I returned home. My teenaged daughter proclaimed that I ‘stank’ and I was leaving a ‘trail of stink’ as I walked around the house. Lovely!

Juneathon day 30. A Grand Finale

At last – the final day of Juneathon. Made it, with just a few skin of my teeth moments, no failures and with my sanity intact. I was planning a long run today, after I realised I’ve just been popping out for short runs rather than anything over about 4 miles. Then I remember the challenge I set myself on day 1 of Juneathon, all those blogs ago:- to try and beat my time to run a particular 5K route. This out and back route has a big dip down and back up again near the turning around point, so of course you have to run it twice. It’s not the fastest route but I reckon the ‘dips’ are a good fitness builder.

On day 1 I ran this route in  29:30. I remember the day felt unexpectedly warm (mind you, the month has got hotter since then). Today the temperature was fine, warm but not hot, and I ran it in  27:10  After my race disappointment last week  I was delighted with this time, and as long as I haven’t using up my week’s supply of speedy running it bodes well for the 5K River Run on Wednesday.

 

 

27:26

Juneathon Day 18. A quick blast

After my epic rant earlier, I thought I’d better write a calmer post about the day’s Juneathon activity.

I’d put my running gear on first thing hoping to sneak out before any of the day’s deliveries, but as I waved the children off to school my son shouted “there’s a big lorry coming up the lane!” I made the newly arrived scaffolder a cup of tea, rang the builders to say he was already here, and went and got changed back out of my running kit. A hectic day followed, with many deliveries (including nearly two tonnes of steel), lots of people, much noise, and a great deal of tea and coffee made.

When they’d all finally left, I felt the need to escape. I put my running kit back on and speed of for a 5K blast. Despite the heat I was delighted to receive a new Course Record on Strava for the route and I believe it was the fastest I’ve ever run it.

Who knew builders could make you run faster?