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!)

And so the Road Race season begins

Since my last post, I have been a little busy. There was “that” large birthday to celebrate, a new age category to rise up* into, a parkrun that I dragged family and friends along to, many presents, delicious food, and cake. Much cake. So much cake.

After all that  carb loading I’ve staggered around a few runs, and also managed my first road race of the 2017 road racing season. The Highworth 5 was on Sunday 19th March 2017, and before we go any further I should clarify it was a 5 MILE race, not 5 kilometres. The poor chap I spoke to in the first mile was wishing there’d been some clarification – he’d turned up to his first ever road race, after a longest run of 3 miles, thinking he was in a 5K race. It was a simple loop around the roads and lanes, with a sneaky hill at 4 miles. How the organisers had arranged for gale force headwinds for the last 2 miles (including the uphill section) was a puzzle to all of the runners. I have included an informative slide explaining my pace vs. conditions:-

Love a good mug

What was also a puzzle was why a runner thought it was okay to shadow me all through the windy section, thus using me as a windbreak. I could hear her behind me, and as I glanced behind could just see the red of her top. As we entered the playing field for the hated “rounding up to 5 miles” section. I could still hear her behind me, and had a horrible premonition that she was about to sprint past me and finish in front of me. Now I don’t do fast finishes, I am the runner people love to catch on the line, but the bit was firmly between my teeth now. I was seeing red, not just the red of her top,  and thinking of our club’s Tuesday nights Efforts sessions I sprinted for the line. The satisfaction of beating her by a second will last for quite some time. As will my delight in my race momento.

* I’m choosing to think of it as a promotion

Lungbuster 2017

Another cold foggy morning, another off-road race. After much research (i.e. Strava stalking and run club chatting) I’d discovered this 9 mile race was actually 8 and a half and there was only one steep hill on the course (which everyone walked). So far so good. I also heard that last year someone fell into a waist-deep puddle and the farmyard at the start was a slurry-slick which one runner fell face first into after just a few hundred metres. Not so lovely.

The reality was a wet farmyard but no slurry and on the course sticky, slide-y but not waist-deep mud. The pre-race briefing surprised us with the news that this year’s race was a new course which was 9 and a half miles long and sent us up “the hill” twice. With this joyous news still ringing in our ears (or it could have been the noise of numerous sets of teeth chattering and knees knocking) we set off.

At the start. Running and smiling.

The route didn’t sound thrilling, mostly around the edges of fields, but in reality it was lovely. We started in fog, but by the second loop this had lifted and we could see views right over Wiltshire which emphasised how high we were. We ran on a mixture of concrete farm tracks, fields, woodland and paths – the woodland was beautiful and I would run through there again in an instant. The hill was steep and short, but everyone walked up it to the loud encouragement of a marshal. I say encouragement, it was part heckling, part harassing, and mainly shouting. How she had any voice left for the second loop I don’t know.

The hill. Walking but still smiling.

By the second loop, I needed every once of help I could get. Around mile 7 I got a stitch, caused by scoffing a veggie Percy Pig and then glugging my water  too fast.  I had a little walk and stretch to ease it out, but after that my legs just said “No”. They’d had enough, but there was still 2 and a half miles to the finish, so I just had to pull up my big girl pants and get on with it. 

At the finish. Running again, but no longer smiling.

These were some of the hardest race miles I’ve ever run. You know that bit in a marathon where you just have to ignore what your legs are telling you, and get them moving automatically? Well that’s what these miles were like.

Of course I finished, but phew was I glad to see the finish line, and also the cakes back in the village hall. Oh and the medal! Off road races seem to pride themselves on how low key they are. No goody bag at the end for these bad boys (and girls)! Just a cup of puddle water and if you’re lucky you can buy some cake. At the end of Lungbuster, as I staggered over the finish line unable to even smile, a lovely lady put this gorgeous hunk of metal around my neck. I’ll even forgive them the pink ribbon. 

In other news, the running club that put on this race must have the longest name of any running club. Just have a look at my race number – the random letters on the bottom are the initials of the club, the “Royal Wootton Basset Hounds Runing Club”.

In summary, a really good race with great marshals and a good varied route, but it is a proper hard off road race so make sure you’ve done some long runs beforehand.

A tale of two races

Two weeks, two races. A muddy, hilly trail race and a fast, flat 10K. Both pretty chilly, both hard work but both an achievement in their very different ways.

Last week was the Wickstead Wander. A 5 mile meander over hills, down paths, through farm yards and over horse jumps. And through water jumps. It was good fun, despite being able to see runners in front of you then learning there’s actually an extra sneaky loop you can’t see between you. I loved the marshals who helped runners leap over a stream, and the biggest water jump had marshals armed with cameras and a safety inflatable dolphin. In my defence, I couldn’t see how deep the water was so tried to lower myself elegantly into the black, smelly water.

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All the elegance
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Made it!

I enjoyed the race and would do it again. 5.3 miles in 58:42

Race number 2 – the Bromham Pudding Run. This is 2 lap race around the village of Bromham, organised by and with all profits going to the village school’s PTA. There’s no medal at the end, but every finisher does get a Christmas pudding. Does this make it sound like it’s a small, amateurish affair? Don’t get the wrong idea – this race is a flat and fast course, so it attracts serious, speedy runners. It is fantastically organised with some of the most enthusiastic marshals around (clapping, cheering, playing Christmas music – these guys are pros!)

After being injured and not running ‘properly’ for so long I felt like a beginner in my first race. I didn’t know what pace to run, or what time to hope for, but I vaguely knew I’d be very happy to get anywhere near an hour, as I remember how hard I worked first time around to do that.

I ran with a friend from my running club, who was aiming for just under an hour to beat her PB.

Swishy pony tail!
Swishy pony tail!

We worked hard together, enjoyed the sunshine despite the frost and although I left her in the last mile (she told me to go!) we finished within 30 seconds or so of each other. The photo shows me crossing the finish line feeling shattered but happy.

Finish line in sight!

I collected my official time, and was split between being pleased with getting so close to an hour and being annoyed at how close to the hour it was.

Just 3.9 seconds!

6.2 miles in 1:00:03.9 – I’ll take that!

I’d forgotten just how hard ‘proper’ races are (ones that don’t involve mud, water or hills) but I’m very glad I did this one as it’s boosted my confidence no end.

Next weekend, it’s back to the mud and hills again …

A swim, a ride, a run and a race. AND A HILL!

It’s been a busy week, but the headline news has to be about the race. (Read about my cycle ride, and my discovery of “coffeeneuring” here).

The White Horse Gallop, described as a “quad-burning” 8 mile off road race basically runs up and over the Westbury White Horse. And then down again. As predicted it was hard, as someone said to me “when you’re walking in the first two miles of a race, it’s not good” this was said as we walked up the first hill, in the first two miles.  To cut a long race report short, here’s the moment I spotted the White Horse:-

And here’s the moment I made it to the top of the White Horse (mostly on hands and knees):-

Race face
Grr!

Now that you’re all scared, here’s me safely back home complete with finishers’ rosette:-

And just in case you’re doubting how steep it was, here’s the elevation profile:-

HILL!
HILL!

 

Impressed yet? Cause if not, I’ll have to do my scary face again.

Two runs (one race), one swim and a cycle ride. Boom!

So I finally did it. In one week I managed a swim, two runs AND a cycle ride. Never mind that, one of the runs was a race. I know – get me, eh?

The bike ride went surprisingly well. I enjoyed it, especially as it just *happened* to include one of my favourite cafes* as a stop to warm up.

Mmmm

Unfortunately it was also a chance for me to prove as true the old saying “pride comes before a fall” by also including a stationary “couldn’t unclip in time” tumble off the bike in front of an admiring audience.

The swimming lesson went well, the first (short) run was fine and I was feeling quite enthusiastic for the Marshfield Mudlark on the Sunday.

Finally got to wear my club vest again
Finally got to wear my club vest again

First real race for nearly a year, so I was feeling nervous, and glad I would be meeting up with other runners from my running club – the race to be “last harrier home” was on! It was only as I stepped out of the car, I realised I’d left my trail shoes at home. Sigh. The recently-retired road running shoes I was wearing to drive in would have to suffice.

Fortunately it wasn’t very muddy at all this year, and there were zero cattle on the course (woo hoo!) it was just a lovely run through the countryside. Wearing a number. With a bunch of other people. In old road shoes.

Felt so good afterwards I was persuaded to enter another trail race. I’ve just noticed it’s described as “quad burning”. What have I done??!

* Merkin’s Farm, Bradford Leigh, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, BA15 2RW   GO!

Three runs, one swim and a triathlon.  What a week!

I’d like to just leave it at that, but in the interests of full disclosure I’d better elaborate. 

Monday was my swimming lesson,  and I enjoyed it as much as ever. Only negative was getting home,  putting my costume into the washing machine,  and realising the costume fabric was now so thin it resembled a string vest. I  immediately shamefacedly added “swimming costume” to my shopping list. 

The three runs were a short race (the Lacock relay), a long run (4 whole miles!) and a parkrun (with cake – bonus). It’s been a fair few months still I’ve managed that many runs in a week,  and my foot felt fine, if a little stiff afterwards. 

And the triathlon?  Well it’s true I was at the Bowood Triathlon on Sunday. However I wasn’t competing,  I was helping out. If you were there I probably gave you your registration pack, along with some supposedly helpful advice and a smile. I also took the chance to go down to the Lake and have a look at the swim stage. Oh my word. How scary did it look?! I watched the start of a Super Sprint swim (400m) and how far did it look?!! Think I need to keep going to my swimming lessons….in my new costume of course. 

A race report. Yes, honestly! Lacock Relay

Still technically in the first half of the year, and I’ve finally managed my first race report of the year. Actually my first race of the year. 

The Lacock Relays are a series of 3 races organised by my running club,  Chippenham Harriers. Runners are placed into teams of 3 according to how fast they can run,  so that reach team has a fast,  a medium and a slow runner. In theory, any team can win, you’ll always be running with other people of around the same speed as you, and even if you know no one else there you’ll at least have the other members of your team cheering you on. And it’s only £2. What’s not to like? 

The course is very simple but extremely pretty. Heading out of the village the entrance to Lacock  Abbey, you cross the river and then take every left turn until you’re back at the start 2.6 miles later. The hill back down into the village gives you enough momentum to thunder through the beautiful High Street (as seen in practically every period drama), frighten the tourists and sprint over the finish line. 

I confess I wasn’t running my fastest, as I know I haven’t run much lately and I’m still cautious about my foot.  However it was still a hard run and I enjoyed it. My Harriers vest had its first outing of the year, I saw friends to chat to,  and it was the most fun I’ve had whilst wearing a vest on a cold and drizzly evening for ages.*

*I think you might have to be a runner to appreciate this

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

First Thoughts on the Bristol to Bath Marathon 2015

So yesterday was my third marathon – the Bristol to Bath. Just some quick thoughts on what was a fantastic day.

My first marathon I ran in 2012 after missing 5 weeks of training through injury and with a longest run of 14 miles. I finished in a time of 6:07.

My second was run in 2013 after great training, but I never really felt right in the race. I had a huge wobble at mile 14, another at mile 17, really struggled after that but was pleased to finish in 5:25.

Yesterday’s was a strange one. I couldn’t really get psyched up for it beforehand, so I decided to think of it as just another long training run. It was a training run with people applauding me and telling me how well I was doing. What an ego boost! I can honestly say I enjoyed every minute of it, even the hills and after overtaking the 5 hour pacers I finished in 4:56:54. This is 29 minutes faster than my time at Brighton. Amazing!

It was fantastic to meet so many lovely ladies from the Run Mummy Run group before and during the race, but I mostly ran on my own and just enjoyed the route and the sights.

I’ll post more when I’ve digested it all and found some more photos.

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Run Mummy Run Socks

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Clifton Suspension Bridge

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Thanks to Lynsey Miles for this photo

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Finished!

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Medal!