Great Chalfield 10K. Sometimes it’s enough to finish

I love the Great Chalfield 10K. Beautiful course with enough undulations to be challenging but not so many that you can’t appreciate your surroundings. Low key organisation, but with accurate timing. Race HQ is the small scout hut on the Common in Broughton Gifford and profits from the race go to the Scouts. Always a medal, weather that varies from torrential rain through to scorching sun. Perfect!

Sometimes a race is run for a PB. Sometimes as a new challenge. Sometimes it feels like you’re taking several steps backward, and just hoping the forward steps will come in time. Last night was one of those, and bearing in mind my lack of recent running I was thinking of this 10K less as a race and more as a little trot with a number pinned to my front.

This year we had rain, and an altered start and finish (we did the ‘running around the common’ at the end rather than the start, but it worked fine and was less onerous than the usual “round a field to make up the distance”). Course was all on quiet roads apart from the tiny bit of field at the end (at least they’d cut the grass this year). Water station marshals promised us cider next year, there was no sign of Poldark at Great Chalfield Manor (it’s used as Killewarren, home of the Penvenens in the BBC drama), but I did spot a deer watching us runners climbing the last incline with a very puzzled expression on its face (“Why??!”)

I had promised myself a little walk up this hill, but actually because I’d been sensible and taken it easy from the start I felt okay and carried on running. I had an interesting chat with a man who’d dragged his son along for his first run. The son was swearing away at his Dad, but made it to the end just behind me. Kudos to him!

I was delighted to see (and hear) my fellow Chippenham Harriers who had waited for me urging me over the finish line (probably so they could go home out of the rain!)

Harriers at the finish line
Bless’em for waiting for me #lastharrierhome

I was also delighted with my medal. Apparently you’re supposed to get fed up of “participation” medals after so many years of running, but this one felt like a real achievement and that I’d really earned it.

Medal!
Medal!

Looking back, I see I ran this race in 2012 (hot and muggy); in 2013 (really really wet but an amazing PB); in 2014 (the disappointing one with the stitch) , AND in 2015 (first one in a Harriers shirt, just not MY Harriers shirt). Rather sad I missed last year now!

Bristol to Bath Marathon 2015 Highlights

After starting a long and dull race report (you know the sort – just look at some of my early reports!) I decided I was even boring myself and I’d better start again. Here goes.

The amazing thing about the Bristol to Bath marathon wasn’t the start, or the finish, or the support between the two. It wasn’t the number of Portaloos or water stations, or the weather or even the medal. It was the sum of all these things, and a little something extra – how I felt on the day.

As I’ve already written, I loved every minute of this race. I didn’t look upon it as a race, but as a last long run. Bizarrely unlike most people I read about, I love the long runs in my marathon training – all on my own, carrying my stuff, really feeling like I’m travelling around where I live. I took this attitude into last Sunday with me, and it did me proud.

I had some lucky breaks, like finding 2 Portaloos with no queue just when I needed them, at mile 3 and mile 17-ish. Also you know that moment when you’ve just taken a gel and your mouth is really sticky and you really really need some water but you had wrongly guessed where the next water station was? Well, imagine at just that point hearing your name called, and seeing a friend offering you some water (Thanks Nat!).

Headphones = no smiles. Me - lots of smiles!
Headphones = no smiles. Me – lots of smiles!

I had considered taking my ipod along for the tough bits where I had anticipated little support (between the two cities, including the two big hills). I was glad I abandoned this idea, because the support was amazing. Plenty of people around me were listening to stuff, which was really annoying when I was talking to them, only to be ignored. I was running at one point in Bristol next to a man who was wearing a running top emblazoned with the Welsh dragon. A spectator started loudly singing the Welsh national anthem at him – but as the Welshman had earphones in he completely missed it. What a waste. I, on the other hand, stayed completely in the present listening to the cheers and applause, and enjoying reading people’s banners. My particular favourite was held by a bored looking teenager and read “IT WASN’T EASY GETTING UP EARLY TO MAKE THIS BANNER, EITHER”.

Smiling AND Jazz hands. What was IN that gel?
Smiling AND Jazz hands. What was IN that gel?

The route was flat and hilly. The first half was mostly pancake-like, with everyone I spoke to anxious about the second half. I was mentally prepared to walk up the hills if I needed to (I was expecting to if I’m honest) but in the spirit of just taking everything as it came when I actually got to the hills I felt fine and just carried on running.
All the way around I could see the flags of the 5 hour pacers just ahead of me. This was perfect as my ‘Gold medal’ goal was to finish in 5:15 (which means averaging around 12 minute miles) and if I kept them in sight I knew I was on track without having to keep on looking at my Garmin. My ‘Silver medal’ was to beat my Brighton time of 5:25, and ‘Bronze’ was to finish with a smile on my face. With the prospect of the hilly second half I told my family I expected to take around 5:30, so they could plan getting into Bath without having to hang around for too long.

As we hit the long Kelston Hill at mile 20 I slowed to a walk to pull out my sports beans (not a euphemism) and then ploughed on up the hill slowly running and chewing. I tried visualising the hill as actually going down rather than up to see if it helped. Actually it did – don’t know what was in those sports beans! I could see the now much smaller group of people with the 5 hour pacers were walking up the hill. I gradually caught up with them until we all reached the top of the hill and we started running together.

For the first time there were the most amazing views of Bath from the top of the hill. We could see it! It was only about 4 miles from here. I overtook the 5 hour group and caught up with a couple of Run Mummy Run friends who had been run-walking from the start. At the next hill I left them behind as they walked and I ran. I smiled, and ran, and smiled, and ran a bit more, and realised I was actually feeling sad that this amazing run was coming to an end.

The downhills were sore on my right knee by now but I was excited to be back in Bath. Running down streets I usually go shopping along was an amazing experience, as was seeing the bemused foreign tourists taking photos of exhausted runners against the backdrop of Bath Abbey.

The sneaky hill just before we entered Victoria Park was cruel, but seeing the mile 26 marker was enough to make my throat tighten with emotion “Don’t cry yet!” I sternly told myself. A glance at my Garmin told me I was definitely on for an amazing time, which made a sob rise inside me again. “DON’T CRY YET!!!” Into the park, crowds of people lining the barriers, spotting the finish line ahead, “Still don’t cry”, suddenly hearing “LUUUUUCCCCYYYY!”, turning and seeing my daughter waving frantically at me. She was the only member of my family who had made it to the finish before I did, despite initially not being able to find the park on the way from work. Amazing!

As the sobs threatened to escape, I roared over the finish line, for the first time ever feeling justified in raising my arms to the sky. My official photos of this moment might not be pretty, but they’re the ones that best tell the story of this run.

Roaring. Not sobbing. Honestly.
Roaring. Not sobbing. Honestly.

Thankfully my daughter took a slightly less deranged photo.image

Fabulous. I beat even my Gold medal target, so I guess I won Platinum. I finally felt like I’d run the marathon I should have been capable of for a long time. Nothing else to say, just more smiling.

Apparently I didn't look like I'd just run a marathon
Apparently I didn’t look like I’d just run a marathon

Janathon Day 18. Bath Skyline 10K #3

When I arrived home after this morning’s race, I told my family I felt like I’d been steamrollered. (Teen 2 promptly asked if I’d ever actually been steamrollered. I told him Health and Safety standards had been much lower in the seventies when I was little).

How I arrived home, post steam rollering.
How I arrived home, post steam rollering.

At the last Skyline 10K I ran, back in November, I was fairly scathing about the course, the organisation, the location, in fact about everything except the medal. (Read my race report here). I am very pleased to report that Relish Running Races has acted on all of these problems and turned this into a fantastic race. It has moved to Bath Racecourse, the route is all off road and incorporates two big hills, and after the recent wet weather we had been warned it would be muddy.

I’ll notlie to you, the course was hard. Steep hills are always going to be difficult (for me) to navigate. Throw in thick, oozy mud and things get interesting. Wading and splashing through knee high mud is one thing. However slipping and sliding down a steep hill or being unable to climb back up the otherside because you have zero grip is quite another. Think cartoon running, where your legs are spinning but you don’t actually move. It was all good fun.

I love the camaraderie at tough races like this. I love that I was complimented on my balance as I slithered out of control down a muddy slope (I told my complimentor not to jinx me). I love that I was inspired to tell a strange man that he was my favourite person so far this year (he was handing out the chocolate bars at the end). I was touched that I spotted an expression of true love in the car park afterwards, when I saw a chap struggling to pull off his partner’s muddy tights for her whilst she held onto the car seat with both hands.

"Keep those expensive socks clean" was the last thing Mr B&T said as I left the house
“Keep those expensive socks clean” was the last thing Mr B&T said as I left the house
Post race snacks. Jaffa cakes, mmmm
Post race snacks. Jaffa cakes, mmmm
Medal. It came in a plastic bag which is why it's not muddy
Medal. It came in a plastic bag which is why it’s not muddy

I loved the warm tent at the end to collect my medal and graze upon the snacks. I loved the sunshine which made the temperature feel warmer than the 3C it actually was. The views down towards Bristol were stunning, but I had to concentrate on where I was putting my feet so didn’t get much of a chance to savour them. I’m delighted that I think I recorded a new PW for a 10K time, and yet I still think I gave it my all. I’m loving the glass of red which is now going down very well and making me feel very mellow. However I might not love how my body feels tomorrow …

Bath Skyline 10K #1 Update

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Hooray!

Quick update to my somewhat nit-picking review of the Bath Skyline 10K #1 which I ran on Sunday.

The medal mix-up has been sorted. Apparently, halfway through the ‘handing out of water and medals’ at the end of the race, the second box of the first part of the interlocking medals was mislaid. Disgruntled runners like myself ended up instead with the (still very lovely but not interlocking) medal that will be given out to anyone only doing one of the series of races.

Relish Running posted on their Facebok page and website that they would exchange the medals for anyone who sent it back. I duly wrapped and posted mine back this week, and was very happy to recieve the correct medal this morning. It’s not that different to the incorect medal, but it now gives me the impetus to complete the rest of the series and complete my medal, even if that does mean running hilly trail races in December, January and February.

As an added bonus this morning, the photos from the event have been published. Not only did I manage to have a good photo with Sham Castle in the background (my eyes are open and I’m smiling), I even managed to have a photo of myself running with both feet in the air AT THE SAME TIME! Excellent!*

Look no strings!
Look no strings!

* On looking at this foot again, I look like I’m about to do a perfectly executed heelstrike. I can only blame my uncomfortable clumpy trail shoes, concentrating desperately hard on not slipping over on the muddy downhill in front of the photographer. 

 

Race Report – Bath Skyline 10K #1

After a new PB at Cricklade Half last month, I had a feeling my next race might be a new PW. It was the Bath Skyline 10K organised by Relish Racing. The first in a series of 4 races, a key selling point was the great medals – a set of 3 interlocking medals if you complete 3 races with a single extra medal if you only run one or as your final fourth medal.

BathSkyline10K
Lovely interlocking medals

The race was supposed to be based at Bath University’s Sports Training Village. However due to last minute changes everything was down at the start line with only toilets available in the Sports Training Village. These changes were posted on Relish Racing’s website but nowhere else. There were people wandering around before the race who obviously didn’t know where they were going. Fortunately it’s easy enough to spot and follow other runners on occasions like this, and one family stopped me and asked if I knew where they could register. Maybe an email to all entrants would have been a good idea?

Down at the start we were told we were being split into two starts – men and then women, again at the request of the University. I could overhear groups of people who’d been planning on running together discussing this and they were obviously upset.

At five past eleven most of the men (and a few speedy women I think) set off and then about 10 minutes later a whistle blew and the rest of us set off. Well, the people at the front set off, the rest of us shuffled forward slowly towards the start line, shuffled slowly over the start line, and finally managed to slowly start to jog. This first part was really congested as there were several hundred runners all trying to run along a very narrow path. We all came to a halt as the route took a sharp right turn after a bridge, and as we entered the woods we stopped and queued at every steep section up and down, at every muddy section and at every narrow section.

Things only really improved on the second lap when the runners had spread out. Then I had a chance to run at my own pace and yes, I confess, I did still walk up the steep climbs in the woods but I did my best impression of a mountain goat on the steep descents. I also had a chance for a better look at my surroundings.

For a race called “The Bath Skyline 10K” I had been hoping for glorious views down over the city of Bath. What we actually got was the back of the University accommodation blocks (concrete), followed by some woods (nice), the edge of the golf course (bemused golfers), and finally a section with a view as we ran past Sham Castle (great but would be even better if it wasn’t foggy).

I was pleased with my own running as I managed to push on where there was space, and ran all of the slopes (apart from the really steep bits in the woods) including both accents of the long steady slope up from Sham Castle. I passed several people here so I’m sure the hill training I’ve been doing paid off.

I headed for the finish line, pleased with how I’d run and keen to get my hands on the first medal of the series. I crossed the line and – oh look – a queue. I could see the Race HQ tent ahead so I was confident I’d soon get some water and my medal. After waiting and shuffling forward, more waiting and more shuffling I reached the tent only to discover that the queue actually made a U-turn, doubled back on itself, and then made another U-turn before finally reaching the promised land of the tent. It took at least 20 minutes to get to the front of the queue and finally grab a cup of water and a couple of slices of orange. I was then told they had run out of the first medal in the series, confusingly given another medal and a chocolate bar, and told they’d post the proper medal out later. I was really cold and fed up by this point as my warm top was back in the car and I’d been waiting all this time just in sweaty running clothes.

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Lovely medal. Shame it’s the wrong one

As I quickly walked back to my car I was feeling quite disgruntled about the whole race. I rang my daughter because I was now going to be late collecting her from a friend’s house, and when she asked how it had gone I told her I’d have to have a think about it..

So after a couple of glasses of wine on Sunday night and several days to think about it, I’m finally feeling slightly mellower about the race. The shuffling and waiting on lap one meant I actually managed to run negative splits over the two laps of the course (by nearly 3 minutes) – something I’ve never managed before. Parts of the route were lovely, and I’ve never raced on such steep hills before so I did feel pretty hardcore (for me!) The atmosphere was good with plenty of smiling faces and encouraging marshals. I believe the problems could be solved fairly easily with a few little tweaks to the organisation of the race. I’ve made my suggestions below:-

1. E-mail any last minute changes of venue, registration and start details so runners can make the appropriate arrangements before they arrive.
2. If you aren’t allowing people to register on the day then you know exactly how many runners there could be, and therefore how many medals to bring.

3. If you separate out bag reclaim from the finish line funnel of water /chocolate /medal collection then runners will be able to clear the area more quickly and won’t be stood waiting for over 20 minutes for a drink of water.

4. Chip timing is really reasonable nowadays, and would mean runners could start off in more and smaller waves whilst still recording an accurate race time. This would help reduce the queueing on the first lap resulting in a smoother race all round. The problem of running negative splits I’d have to solve on my own!

Having already entered all four races in the series, with my mellower head on I think I’m looking forward to the next race next month. I’m interested to see what the ‘B’ course is like (apparently it’s harder than the ‘A’ course we ran on Sunday). It will be interesting to see if the organisation is any better by then. Watch this space …

Juneathon Day 9 – Race day!

My first ever 5 mile race, a strange distance, but a good one. The race is so local to me that the route is one I run regularly. The top part of the course is my default “I just need to get out somewhere flattish and put a few miles in” route, and is also where I’ve been running my intervals. Probably because its so local, and I hadn’t managed to pre-register in time, it was only late last night I realised I needed to get myself organised for it. I piled up running cap, sun glasses, shorts and t-shirt, in anticipation of another warm, sunny day.

Mr B&T was up and out early, for a 175Km ‘Audax’ ride (think orienteering on bikes), so I stayed in bed for a bit longer after he’d gone. I didn’t manage to get any more sleep though, because the ol’ pre-race nerves were kicking in BIG TIME. I’d foolishly looked up last year’s results and seen how speedy most of the runners were. It was looking like I would be right at the back of the pack. Not a new experience by any means, but it doesn’t give you much leeway before you end up AT the back.

I finally got myself organised and out of the house, and off to collect daughter from her sleepover. I had to drive along part of the course and was a little confused to see runners already out. Had I got the time wrong I nervously asked myself??!! Quick check – no! I saw exactly where the water station was going to be, which is always good to know. It was cloudy and a bit chilly at this time, with a cold wind, so I was laughing at myself for picking up my running cap and sun glasses, and for applying sun cream before I set off.

Daughter finally collected and dropped back home, I sped back to the race HQ and was very relieved to find there was sill time to register, and still places (phew!) I completed the paperwork and pinned on my number at high speed, and then realised I had nearly an hour to kill before the race started. After (another) trip to the loo (I hate race mornings!) I found a quiet corner to see what the runners I follow on Twitter were up to. My timeline was full of lots of other people getting ready for races, and after I tweeted how nervous I was, a few good luck messages as well. Thanks Tweeps – it really helped!

Finally we were called for the pre-race briefing, and then told to assemble. It was still overcast and a tad chilly at this point, so I didn’t bother going and getting my sunglasses or cap from the car. 11 o’clock arrived, we shuffled forward towards the line (which was quite a long way away in my case – I always like to start near the back), and we waited and shivered in the chill breeze. Suddenly the air horn blasted, the sun sprung out from behind the clouds, the wind dropped, and we were off. I started my Garmin as the horn sounded rather than as I crossed the start line so my time would be consistent with the officially recorded race time. Down the drive from the rugby club, then a quick loop through a field to make the distance up, then back down the drive and onto the course proper. The field of runners were already well strung out, and I was delighted to see the normally deserted country lanes full of colourful running tops and club vests.

In a fit of runner’s logic, I had managed to convince myself to run at around last year’s 5K PB pace, because obviously 5 miles is only a tiny bit longer than 3.1 miles, and nowhere near as long as a 10K race. This pace was 8:56 minute miles, so I figured if I could keep to under 9 minute miles I’d be doing well. My secret ‘Gold medal’ result would be to come in under 45 minutes, with Silver being less than 50 minutes and Bronze being just conquering my nerves! The course has a very gradual incline for the first couple of miles so I knew it would feel hard and I should just hold on for the downhill bits.

Close to the end of this long incline one runner I’d been following had slowed to a walk. Ever helpful, I pointed out the tree that marked the top of the slope, and the start of the downhill and flat section. He gasped he’d been hoping the water station was along this section, so I also told him where the water station actually was (just call me Mrs Tourist Information!) He started running again, and we chatted in between gasps and puffs. He told me he had a muscle problem so was actually running a minute per mile slower than usual. I told him I was flat out hoping to stay under 9 minute miles. We laughed that both of our Garmins were ‘beeping’ quite a way before the official mile markers, just to confuse pace setting. We moaned in unison about the headwind which appeared as we came up the last uphill section. We ran together right up to the very last section, pacing each other along. I could see my average pace was around 9 so I was getting quite excited. Along the last section I had to pull in behind him as a car passed us, and I couldn’t catch him back up after that. I pushed onto the finish line, crossing (according to my Garmin) in 45:09

First thought – damn, missed my Gold medal by 9 seconds! Second thought – oh a medal and goody bag! (Like a magpie – easily distracted by something shiny). After a drink, a banana, a ‘thank you’ to my pacer and some stretches, my third thought was “well if I started well back from the start line, I actually ran further than most people, so I wonder what time  I actually passed the 5 mile mark, according to my Garmin?” Statistics and technology are wonderful things – with a quick shufty through my Garmin data I can see I hit 5 miles in 44:32, and my average pace over the whole distance was 8:54 – quicker than last year’s 5K PB pace.

Hooray – I have awarded myself an honorary Gold medal for this, as with the heat and the nerves I think I ran a pretty fine race. It also looks good for a new 10K PB later in the month, if I can keep near to that pace for another mile.

Race Bling
Race Bling

Back home, here’s my finisher’s swag. Not sure what a ‘Titan’ bar is, but it looks chocolatey, it says its suitable for vegetarians so I think I’ve earned it. I just wish I could do something about those pre-race nerves – can anyone offer any tips?

What Next?

Training Completed

Training completed.

My Medal

The race is run (and the medal worn).

What next? Well – listening to my body I’ve decided to have at least a week off from running. It feels very strange not to be running, not to be checking my schedule, not to be dreading my Friday Long Run. On the plus side, this break has coincided with Spring finally appearing, so I knew instantly what I should be doing to still get my fresh air fix.

The allotment
The allotment

The allotment. It has been swathed in black weed suppressing fabric all winter, and now like a teenager, its alarm call is well overdue. Already this week it has had its covering rudely removed, its been partially dug over, had compost added and some potatoes have been planted. Not bad for someone recovering from a marathon!

What else is on the ‘To Do’ list for this week then?  Oh – quite a lot. Apparently I haven’t crossed anything off since January…

Post Marathon Reflections

I’ve had a few days to reflect on my race, and also some time to reflect on the fact that a young man collapsed on the course and later died. I also, very sadly, have been thinking of the people of Boston. Although I’ve felt guilty for enjoying my race, and for thinking about a race report, and even for still being here to run and race again, I’ve come to the conclusion that if we stop running, if we panic, if we stop racing and enjoying our running then we’ve let the evil s*ds who did this win. We owe it to the people of Boston to hold our heads high, and run.

So with that in mind I wrote a very long race report (do I do any other kind?!) and had a good think about Sunday and the race and how it went.

Looking at my Garmin times, I did indeed slow down in the middle section of the course, but apart from mile 2 which I went too fast on mile 26 was 11:37 pace and the very last bit was my fastest at 11:22 I *really* wanted to finish! I’m really pleased with this, because it did feel like I was pushing at the end so I’m glad the numbers show that. My final time was 5:25:41 which was 47 minutes quicker than London last year. Before the race I’d thought about my ‘Gold, Silver and Bronze’ finishes. Bronze was to finish under 6 hours, Silver was to finish under 5:30 and Gold was to finish by 5:15. I’m delighted I achieved my Silver medal.

New PB!New PB!

Something else I noticed was the amazing signs and banners people were holding. Maybe its a Brighton thing, maybe the people of Sussex are particularly entertaining, but I did laugh at some of them:-

“Worse parade ever”

“Chuck Norris never ran a marathon”

“Any fool can run. It takes a special kind of fool to run 26.2”

Hurry Up Runners, my arms are killing me holding this up”

“If you feet hurt its because you’ve kicked so much butt”

I loved the couple of people holding bowls of slices of fresh oranges. So lovely and refreshing, especially after gels!

About mile 20 I was thinking that running a marathon was just too hard, and I couldn’t see how I could ever get any faster because it takes such a lot of energy just to complete the distance. I guess I’m not planning on running another marathon anytime soon. After London, I straightaway knew I needed to try again, to see if I could manage the training; to see just what it felt like to race that far; and to really feel I’d given it my all. I did all of those things this year, and I’m happy with the time I ran.

Other great achievements from the race were – my new shoes felt great all the way through. Despite only running in them for 10.8 miles before the marathon, which I know is a huge no no, they just felt fantastic, comfortable and supportive all the way around. No blisters, no rubbing, no pain! I also managed to avoid any chafing – obviously I got that out of the way in training. Actually, the only lasting pain I have is from the sunburn I caught on my arms. Good job I had applied it to my face or I would have been a total beetroot!

Excuse me a moment, must just go and polish my medal again, and put some aftersun on my poor arms…

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