Recovery vs Taper

I’ve discovered a problem with running two races so close together – the problem of tapering / recovering simultaneously.

In theory it should work well. Both involve resting, running less and good hydration & nutrition. In practice I don’t know if the aches and pains I’m feeling are just taper madness (which should be ignored), or post race niggles (which should be mollycoddled whilst polishing well earned race medal).

I know all about pre-race nerves – I wrote about them last week so they’re still fresh in my mind. I know its just nerves, and I know how well last Sunday’s race went . However, this week’s nerves are just as bad and just as unsettling. It probably doesn’t help that the Bristol Half is a much bigger event than Malmesbury. Think long established, big city event vs. first time, small market town event. Think 15,000 runners vs. 500 runners. Think needing to plan transport there and worrying about parking, think about the impossibility of trying to meet people there even though its always great to meet online ‘virtual’ friends in real life (if only to prove to my husband that these people do exist!)

Ah well, I’ll pop another ice pack on and take more vitamin C and will no doubt see you in Bristol on Sunday morning!

Pink Start – yuck!

Malmesbury Half Marathon 23rd September 2012

After setting the alarm for 8, I was hoping for a good night’s sleep before the Malmesbury Half. Young cat had other plans though, so it was a slightly grumpy racer who got up to eat porridge at 8am. After seeing the awful weather forecast I was quite pleased to see that it wasn’t actually raining at this point.

We set off a few minutes later than planned, but were still on time to first pick up a friend who was also running, and then my brother-in-law who was running his very first race. The rain had started very gently as we parked up and walked to the registration point (this included a long flight of steps up – not great before the race had even started!)

We collected our race packs, and retired to the changing tent to shelter from the increasing rain. Despite my worries about being late we still had an hour before the race started. We hid from the ever-increasing rain, pinned on our numbers, and slowly (somewhat reluctantly) peeled off our layers down to ‘Lycra’ level.

A 5 minute walk to the start line in the High Street (up another slope) took me to find the wide street full of soggy runners, with sadly no indication of where to line up according to your pace. I was just thinking I had better take my black bin bag off before the race started, when suddenly I heard “GO!” and people around me started moving. I frantically struggled out of my bag just before I crossed the line, and even found a bin to put it in.

The race started quite fast, as a downhill slope encouraged everyone to speed over the line and round the corner. Feeling like an experienced racer now I didn’t worry about this, but just waited until the crowds thinned out and there was space for me to run at my own pace. The rain was pouring down now – those big fat drops the look like hail stones. I was passed my a chap from the Veteran’s Association in a hand cranked racing wheelchair. He made me an offer I nearly couldn’t refuse – if I helped push him up the hills, he’d give me a lift down the other side. I then found myself next to another lady and we started chatting. Turns out she was practising running at 2:20 pace (so 10:40 Minute Miles) as she was pacing someone at Swindon Half in a few weeks time. This was quicker than the 11 Minute Miles I’d planned to run at, (which would give me a 2 hours and 25 minutes finish) but it felt comfortable so I stayed with her.

I rang with this lady for the first 4 miles or so, then came a hill and she left me behind. I chatted to a group from “Slinn Allstars” for a mile who were pacing a lady to a 2:30 finish (although they were going faster than that!) before I overtook then. I could see my 2:20 friend just in front, so reckoned if I stayed between her and the Slinn Allstars my pace would be fine.

Made it to the 6 mile point, and then the 10K split. I managed to mess up my Garmin at this point by trying to press the ‘Lap’ button and actually pressing the ‘Stop’ button instead. Some frantic fumbling with cold fingers sorted it out though.

Somewhere around this point was a long slope down, and then a horrible slope up – really tough. This was hard work, but I was determined not to stop running as I’d finally warmed up and didn’t want to get cold again.

Pressed onto the 7 mile marker, and thought gratefully that I was over halfway. Then I realised my legs were feeling tired and had a little panic that I’d set out too fast after all. My pace was still hovering around the 10:40 mark. Had to talk some sense into myself, remind myself that the route (overall) sloped upwards for the first half, then downwards towards the finish. I decided to have my Gel with caffeine at the 8 mile point. I reckoned this would then kick in coming up to mile 10 and would give me a boost over the final 3 miles. At this stage of the race I was just making it from mile marker to mile marker. I had my gel (yum yum) (not) and as I finished it I ran past an open wheelie bin so popped it in (how convenient!).

By now the runners had really strung out, and at a few junctions there wasn’t a Marshall, just signs. I found myself running all by myself down a deserted, wet road and had another panic that I’d taken a wrong turning. Somewhere along this section of the route I ran past the best named pub ever – “The Cat and Custard Pot”. I’m still not entirely sure if this was real or a hallucination. Fortunately as I rounded a corner I could see other runners up ahead – a great relief. I could still see my 2:20 lady, and was amazed I was still keeping up with her.

Mile 9 was grim – was having a real wobble. The wind had shifted and was blowing into my face. My eyes were stinging from the rain, and my whole body was complaining. I heard my phone ‘bing’ to say I had a text, and managed to get my phone out to read it. It was from my husband, asking how I was doing. I replied saying I was wet, and at mile 10. After I stuffed my phone away again, I realised I was only at mile 9 – wishful thinking, obviously.

Mile 10 went past in a blur. At mile 11 I passed another runner, and commented how I was fed up of the rain now, and was just thinking of my warm fleece waiting at the end for me. She agreed, and added she was thinking of a Hot Chocolate from the drinks stand. I practically drooled at this thought and added it to my mental list of ‘things to get me to the finish line’.

We passed the ‘Welcome to Malmesbury’ sign, and seeing the Mile 12 marker was great. I’d seen the mile 13 marker as we left the registration area, so could visualise it and feel it getting closer. I has no idea where I was as I don’t know Malmesbury very well and had completely lost my sense of where we were. It was a surprise to suddenly see signs to the pool were I used to take the children for swimming lessons, and exciting to think “I know where I am!”

Just one (and 0.1) of a mile to go – I’d been assured there were no more hills, so easy right? Actually, no. This final section cut along a footpath that ran between the backs of houses (well, that’s what it felt like). It sloped down, and up again. It was narrow and full of people with umbrellas coming towards me. It was full of runners clutching goody bags and medals coming the other way. At this stage there was no way I could weave between everyone – one runner advised me just to shout to get everyone out of the way.

It was a relief to get out of this path, and onto the final downhill road to the finish area. At this point I realised I was next to the 2:20 lady and gasped at her “I didn’t think I’d catch you up!” She kindly moved aside, and said “I’m slightly ahead, so if you push on you’ll get 2:20”.

Smile of Relief. Now where’s my hot chocolate?

I overtook her and dashed down the narrow path to the finish area. I passed the Mile 13 marker I’d been visualising. I could see the clock saying 2:19:56 as I entered the finish ‘funnel’. I could also see my soaking wet family waving and shouting me on. I stumbled over the line and stopped my Garmin.

I gasped that I thought I’d done 2:20, and then bossily ordered my husband to get me a hot chocolate NOW! (Remember – I’d been thinking of it since mile 11!) Saw my friends, who’d also had a great race. Friend had been hoping for sub-2, and had got 1:56 so he was very happy.

I sipped my hot chocolate, collected my bag and struggled into some dry clothes. As the tent was just an open tent I just had to pull them over the top of my wet running clothes meaning my trousers were soaked through in about 3 minutes.

We waited to cheer my brother-in-law in. As his first race, and with plans to walk parts he’d been hoping to break 3 hours. We cheered a few more people in, and then my children ran up the final straight to see if they could see him. Just a few minutes later they reappeared, escorting BIL in. They left him to cross the line by himself, and I was very proud to see him pull off the only Usain Bolt impression of the day. Despite being similarly cold and wet, BIL was delighted that he’d  achieved all his aims for the day: he’d finished, he wasn’t last and he’d beaten 3 hours – by about 10 minutes.

It was a great relief to arrive home, to get clean, warm and dry, to have something to eat and then slump on the sofa. The children lit the fire for the first fire of the winter.

It was the first time this half Marathon had been run, and they’d limited the numbers to 500. Although the route was mainly lovely, there are things they’ll need to change if they’re going to run this even again with greater numbers. On the whole though, a good race, and a GREAT medal!

My offical Gun-to-Finish time is listed as 2:20:09, but my Garmin (which is the true Start-to-Finish time) is 2:19:46

For the geeky nerds amongst us, my splits are:-

Mile 1-10:18
2 – 10:37
3- 11:01
4 – 10:52
5 – 10:43
6 – 10:40
7 – 11:21 (this is where I messed up my Garmin at the 10K split, but I think its right!)
8 – 10:43
9 – 10:46
10 – 11:03
11 – 10:38
12 – 10:25
13 – 9:54
final 0.1 run in 53 seconds, at 8:46 pace. Amazing what the smell of a finish line can do!

Pre-Race Nerves

So symptoms are:-

1. an easy 3 miles which felt hard
2. Increasing amount of ‘digestive stress’*
3. Planned race pace is changing everyday, with pace getting slower and slower
4. Obsessive Googling** of race name in case anyone has said something interesting / revealing about the race, the route, or ideas of good places to park in what is really quite a small town.
5. Nightmares about how undulating ‘undulating’ really is
6. Random aches and pains in all joints

Yes, I think its quite plain the patient is suffering from pre-race nerves. Only cure is to ignore all of the above and just get out there and run the darned thing.

Roll on Sunday!

* just in case anyone’s reading this whilst eating
** yes its a word, and of course, other Search Engines are available

Bring on the Tapir!

No – TAPER not TAPIR! (although he is a lovely fellow – pop into the Natural History Museum next time you’re in London and see if you can spot him).

It seems a little strange to be talking about tapering when I’ve only really done 1 week of hard training for the Malmesbury Half Marathon. In fact it feels down right ridiculous. However, after running 20 miles (in total) last week, I think I’d better take it easy this week ready for Sunday.

Nervous? Getting there. Unsure what pace to run at? Yup.  Wishing it was over? Oh yes.

Remind me why I do this again?

10 miles done, now for the RICE!

Attractive calf compression thingies.
So in my continuing ‘crash course’ plan to get ready for the Malmesbury Half in 9 days time,  I decided it would be a good idea to run 10 miles today, just to make sure my legs remembered they could run somewhere near half marathon distance. Showing a distinct lack of grit and courage, I chose the very flat disused railway line-come-cycle trail so as not to stress my legs too much. This also means I can run under the bridges ‘woo-hoo’ing* like a train and making echoes, and I can steam through the little station, Black Dog Halt. I was puffing enough to do a very realistic impression of a steam engine today, I can tell you.
I decided to try and run it at 11 minute mile pace, as hopefully that’s what I’d like to run the race at. That would give me a new PB, which would be stupendous given my lack of running last month. Amazingly, I managed it, although the last 3 miles did feel hard. My legs were mostly okay, but my hips – good grief – put me on the list for 2 hip replacements, thank you very much!
A very lovely running friend reminded me to RICE* my legs afterwards, after the shin splints I suffered earlier in the year (I may just have mentioned them, once or twice, when I was marathon training). So I have dutifully sprayed them with cold stuff, put on my attractive calf compression things, took a photo and am just about to put my feet up.
Now then – how do I RICE my hips?  
Resting is fine – the sofa is calling.  
Ice packs could be strapped to both hips in an attractive and yet chilly manner.
Compression – does anyone have a very tight mini skirt I can borrow?  
Elevation? Elevation???? The mind boggles and I may draw the line at this one.
If anyone wants to send me a Heath Robinson inspired drawing of how to go about this, I’d be very impressed, but nothing from the Karma Sutra, thank you very much. I’m in training I’ll have you know.
* RICE is   Rest Ice Compression Elevation, and is the first thing a runner should do with any soreness or injury after running.
*woo-hoo-ing is a very technical term. Ask any steam railway enthusiast

Sore legs, vague feeling of panic, it must be September

Sore legs – Check!
Slight panicky feeling in the pit of the stomach – Check!
Have run more in the last two days than in the whole of the previous month – Check!

Okay – it must be September.

Every year the same, summer holidays rule out any chance of running. A few snatched runs to keep the guilt at bay, whilst the September half marathon inches ever closer. This summer we managed to fit in a trip to see the in-laws, a trip to London to see the Olympics (Women’s basketball – I am now a fan!), 10 days in Italy, bedroom redecorating (my son’s – now red, orange and green. Honestly) and a general house clearout. I also managed to squeeze in 3 runs, a total of 10 miles.

I ran yesterday and today, a total of 10.2 miles and my first half Marathon is in 11 days. My second is in 18 days. I think ideas of smashing my PB should be ruled out …..