Brighton – the full text version

It’s taken a while, but here’s a slightly more comprehensive race report.

Pre-race I was up at 5:30, which is very early, even for me. Wash (although I do wonder why I bother on race days) and into the running kit, which had been carefully laid out the night before. Breakfast was porridge & coffee, as planned, although I did struggle to work Mum’s microwave. Got there in the end and the porridge was edible. One last check I’ve got everything and into the car.

Mum’s not the most morning person you’ve ever met, but she’d volunteered to act as taxi service for the day, so she was driving me there. Not too bad a journey, although the pony trap racers on the Fontwell dual carriage way held us up a bit (and got the blood pressure rising).  Approached Brighton and we managed to take the A23 northbound, not southbound. A rapid exit at the first junction and an about turn got us headed in the right direction. Actually, I think it, inadvertently, helped us at the roundabout the park & ride was off, as we joined the roundabout with very little queueing, whereas off the A27 there was a big tailback. Parked, collected everything and headed down the hill to where the buses were collecting.

Due to the slightly longer than usual gap between breakfast & race start, I ate banana number 1 on the bus. Got dropped off near the start at Preston Park, then left Mum and got myself sorted. I followed the crowd and found the loo (essential). Then it was a case of getting everything I wanted to wear on, eating banana number 2 and texting the rest of the sub 5 thread to see where they were. Soon located Vik & Kim; FlatFoot & Foxy had arrived, although I never found them – but it’s hard enough to find one person in a crowd of almost 10,000! Bag got checked in, then I relocated Vik & Kim, who were now in the queue for the loo. I did a sneaky and joined them, thus circumventing a fair length of queue – how very rude!

Finally it was off towards the start pens. I was green, being a slowcoach, which meant I was the last of the 4 pens. Stood around for quite some time, waiting for the start, and then stood around even longer waiting for the red, blue & pink pens to get out the way so that we could get started. The leaders and, if I’m honest, a fair proportion of the field had done their lap of the park and were off into town before we’d even started to move! I got shot of the sweatshirt I’d worn to keep warm after checking the bag, it must be over 15 years old and was in a rather sorry state, but that didn’t stop me being a little sad to see it go.

Where we went

Then under the start gantry and we’re off. Lap of the park for the first mile or so, then off. Passed a banner saying “0.2 miles done, only 26 to go” and, shortly after, one marking the highest point of the course. I concentrated on trying to not go off like a scalded cat, but the press of numbers meant that was unlikely. Then it was a case of settling down into a rhythm, and just taking each mile as it came. That did include trying to avoid some idiot pedestrians who thought it would be a good idea to try and walk in the road while we were running down it. Several of us gave them a bit of a nudge as we came past and I think they got the message.

Me in action.

According to the course info and this picture, we ran past the Brighton Pavillion – but I never saw it! Have no recollection of running past this at all, and that’s a rather large building to miss!

Anyway, we meandered our way around town for a bit before hitting the seafront and turning left. This stretch saw me overtaken by a rhino but I did overtake a tiger, who’d stopped for a piddle (naughty tiger).  It was a bit of an incline, heading out to Rottingdean, with the detour into Ovingdean. There were a large number of people out spectating, and it was all very friendly and supportive. This stretch was the first significant length where you could see the front end of the field – not the very front, they’d past by before I got here, but the speedy ones at ~3 hours were passing down as I headed up the hill. And it was a hill. Not steep, but a long drag. Then the turn into the north also coincided with a valley in the hills to the north, meaning that it was particularly windy heading out to Ovingdean.

In full flow (and oscilating pony tail!)

As I headed down the hill, I could see the tail of the field, including my first sight of Tref, also in his first marathon. He looked to be doing OK, but was too far away to say anything too. At the very tail of the field was a chap in a suit of armour – didn’t look the easiest thing to travel in! Shortly afterwards, as I approached half way, I could see people looking over the prom onto Marina Drive, from where I could hear the fast men finishing – that did little for my ego, I can tell you!

Waving - again

I saw Mum at half way, just as I rounded a corner onto the front, there she was. She took this one. I’m waving. It could be worse, a few seconds later and I had both hands down the front of my top, fishing my gloves out of the bra for her to hang on to (talking of which, Mum, you’ve still got my gloves – can I have them back sometime?) That would have made a good photo, now wouldn’t it!

It was then that we faced the bulk of the crowds. The stretch along the seafront was packed with people, all yelling & shouting & clapping for all they were worth. I got very slightly emotional at that point. Half way came up along the prom, and I made that in 2:26. All going to plan at this stage.

From here it all got a bit more difficult. We headed away from the front onto a long straight section of up and back. This got dispiriting, I think because it shows you how far you’ve got to go and how slowly you’re going, especially compared to those going back the other way. However, it does give you a chance to see people you know, on the way back down I saw Tref again and was able to high five him as we passed. He was looking happier than I felt by then. Also saw my kid brother & wife, they’d come to support and were walking their way into Brighton along the route. A loud “Hey Sis” got my attention. The locals were out in force in this section, with music, bowls of jelly babies and vocal support. Quite a party atmosphere going on. Around here I managed to re-pass the rhino, and felt a certain amount of pride at stake in staying ahead of him. He was certainly earning his massive crowd support, it must have been an incredibly hot & heavy costume to run in. Here I also slowed for the first time into a walk, but tried to limit walk breaks to short intervals, and not too often.

It got increasingly more difficult from here. Nothing in particular hurt, but my entire being ached. At approaching 20 miles the route turns towards the power station and a big banner proclaims it “The road to hell”. They weren’t kidding. This was just so dull, and there was no support along the way. It was another straight out and back section, with a loop round the power station – scenic it is not! There were cones down the centre of the road, indicating the up & back sides. I always run on the left of a path, it’s habit. The railway trail I run is treated by most users in this way, ride/walk/run on the left, overtake on the right. So I naturally gravitate to the left of any route. I wasn’t looking too far ahead, just trying to focus on covering the next 10 meters at a time; the end of a long stretch never seems to come any closer, but don’t look at it and it will arrive. Coming the other way was one of the pacers, with a group following them. They’d spilled out and some of the runners were the wrong side of the cones. One chap ran straight into me and I was suddenly heading towards the floor on the right hand side of the road. Managed to stay upright, but that hurt. Left side now felt like it was going to be one enormous bruise.  Probably shocked more than physically hurt, I took a few deep breaths and carried on.

After rounding the power station, it was back the way we’d come. At 23 miles I actually stopped and have a bit of a stretch, but I’m not sure it helped any. I wasn’t suffering from cramping or anything, I just ached. A lovely chap asked me if I was OK, but I maybe wasn’t the most fluent in response. He went on with some more encouragement and I set off again, with a bit of a thumbs up. This may have been an encounter with Brighton’s own Fatboy Slim, but I was far too addled to recognise either him or his wife – apparently they were out spectating at that point. I doubt it’s going to go down in his mind as a sparkling conversation! But it was only 3 to go, and I was going to finish this, come what may. The last 3 miles are back along the promenade and then down Maderia Drive. The crowd levels were building back up, people walking on the prom, or sitting at their beach huts made for quite a holiday feel – or would have done had I been in the mood to enjoy it. With periodic walk breaks, I made it along the prom. At 25 miles I determined I was going to run all the way in, and so I lurched into something that doesn’t really merit the description of a run and set off one last time. At 26 miles I dug deep and found a final flourish from somewhere (I know not where).

Almost there

Mum took this one at about 26, and I’m proud to say that I was ahead of Big Dave by the finish. I wasn’t looking my best at this stage, but I summoned up an effort to look good for the cameras. Not sure it worked, the thumbs up look good, but the face is a bit drawn and pasty white.

So nearly there...

At the finish, all I felt was a huge relief that I’d finished. 5:06:29. I was awarded my medal, then wrapped in a big foil blanket to keep warm. Then collected a goodie bag and a finisher’s T-shirt – surprisingly, I was offered a choice of size, so have a wearable small. Then I waddled along to the baggage trucks and collected my bag. At this point I had my hands rather full, so found a patch of kerb to fall down onto to sort myself out. Never have I been so pleased to see a bottle of chocolate milkshake. That disappeared quite quickly. Took my shoes & socks off before putting my calf guards and long socks on, then added trackie trousers and fleecy top to keep warm. Phoned Hubby (and swore I’d never do that again) then phoned Mum. They were standing on the top of the Esplanade, so I had a nice big flight of steps to climb to find them. That was a bit of a challenge, as I found myself unable to get up off the floor. I had to hail a passing volunteer to give me a hand up. Actually walking and stairs weren’t as bad as I thought it would be, I hadn’t yet set solid.

That's one shiny piece of bling!

Another thing that had set solid appeared to be the leaky gel in my pocket. I took 6 gel packs with me, one for each 5 miles plus a spare. They obviously didn’t like being squeezed into the pocket. Whenever I took a gel, I felt I had sticky fingers, and it appears that at least one packet had leaked. This left a big sugery splodge which had crystallised. I didn’t notice while running, but when I tried to move the shorts, the set sugary mess had set and joined itself efficiently to my lower back/bum. Ouch. That removed some skin when I finally de-stuck myself. I have an interesting set of chafe marks in that region to prove it.

From here it was into the queue for the park & ride bus, which took a while to arrive and then took a rather circuitous route back out – at one point we actually passed Preston Park, where I’d started from! The bus driver stopped at the bottom of the park&ride, but then said he’s also stop at the top. We stayed on, thinking that a level or downhill walk would be better than up the hill. All was going well until Mum decided to take a trip on the uneven path and landed on the floor. I wasn’t terribly helpful, but some passing runners & supporters helped her up. We made it to the car without further incident, (discarding the leaflet for the 3 forts marathon that was on the windscreen – far too soon to consider that!) but Mum had a sore wrist and opposite hand, and I drove home. Her car and no glasses made for an interesting journey! We scooted through one set of lights at the last moment, as I saw the lights change but wasn’t sure that I’d be able to stop in time! But we made it home without any incident.

Once in, the family rallied round and sorted her out. Then the husband got the bottle of chilled champers out and I took my glass upstairs to have in a nice relaxing bath. Not an ice bath – I’m not that much of a masochist. We’d bought pizzas for tea, not being sure what state I’d be in (certainly in no state to go out to eat!) and they cooked while I soaked. It wasn’t until I eaten the first slice that I realised quite how hungry I was. From there, nothing much was left but to head, rather slowly, up the stairs to bed at the end of a long, long day.

Brighton Marathon report (in brief)

This will be the summary version – full version to be produced when the brain can concentrate on producing something you’d want to read.

In summary – I finished. I’m very relieved about that fact.

Distance – 26.34 miles. Also known as a bliddy long way.
Time – 5:06:29.

I have a big bling medal and a T-shirt.

Aftermath – I’m very very tired and can’t think of a single part of me that doesn’t ache. This may well be a once in a lifetime experience!

Done and dusted…

I am now the proud owner of a 20 mile personal best and a blue hoodie. It was guaranteed, being a first time racing the distance, but it’s nice to have got that under the belt. Although I’m not sure what a respectable, approaching 40 year old, is supposed to do with a hoodie! It’s not an item of clothing I’ve ever owned before I started running – and now I have two. I feel the urge to hang about on street corners, drinking cheap cider and getting an ASBO!

Anyway, I was about to regale you with how I acquired this item. In the run up to an April marathon, there are a few 20 mile races about that act as practice marathon runs. It’s a chance to run a long way with water stations, fuel stops, lots of people and the atmosphere of race day – all of which does make a difference to performance. Of those local(ish) to me there are Ashby & Oakley. For a Brighton marathon, the race at Oakley was too late, so I entered Ashby. In fact either of these two races would earn me a hoodie – seems to be the in thing!Ashby-de-la-Zouch is a bit over an hour from home, so for a 10 am start, I set of before 8, having had porridge & coffee for breakfast. The journey was sightly complicated by the closure of the road and an unforseen diversion, but I managed to arrive and park in town. The race HQ was at the leisure centre, with the race start being to the south of the town. I chosen to park between the two, saving me too long a walk at the end. As I was getting myself sorted in the car park, I heard the bells at the church start ringing. Only 5 (they’re a 10), but I decided not to go & help out; if I remember correctly, Ashby are ground floor with very long ropes – and I didn’t need that sort of adrenaline rush ahead of a race!

The weather had been quite grim on the way up, raining and the temperature gradually dropping. I was pleased that in my bag I had a spare long sleeved top, just in case. I made the decision to switch, and had my club vest over the top. Also swapped the baseball cap for the beanie hat – extra warmth for the ears. At the leisure centre I joined the rather long queue for the ladies, changed shirt and got myself dressed. I then retrieved my banana & dropped the bag for transport to the finish. It was a reasonable walk down to the start, during which the banana vanished and we congregated in a rather draughty field. I was seriously wondering if gloves would have been a good idea, but it was a bit late for that. At this point I met up with a few ladies from the RW forum, by pseudonym, DL, Far-Far, Spence & J. It’s a bit strange, this accosting complete strangers in a field, there’s an element of risk that you’ll embarrass yourself, and be looked at sideways by the wrong person. But this bunch identified themselves and we grouped ourselves at the slow end of the corrals.We were called forward to the start and I positioned myself firmly at the back of the pack. As the hooter went off, the entire field seemed to disappear at a million miles an hour: I’ve never seen anything like it! They all shot off like it was a 100 m dash, not a 20 mile race! It was downhill to start, but even so, that seemed extreme. I held back, but even so, started slightly too fast. Within a fairly short distance, I’d guess less than half a mile, I was last; accompanied by a lone lady and 2 slightly elderly gents in front of us. Bless the small number of Pocklington villagers who were stood watching the entire field go through their village for the first time, and cheered and waved us with enthusiasm.

I was happily keeping to a little under 12:00 min/miles for the first 3 miles, all according to plan. However, just before the end of mile 3, there was a downhill, and I’d sped up so that, without really noticing, I was running nearer 11:00 min/miles. This was due to be the pace I picked up to at about 5 miles, but I figured I’d stay there or thereabouts. I passed the two chaps on the hill at 2 miles, and dropped the lone lady when she had to dive behind tree to water the scenery before 4 miles. From there onwards, it was me on my own, gradually catching the people ahead of me. I had to keep the brakes on that, as it’s too easy to be encouraged into going too fast by trying to catch someone and pass them. The pace fluctuated a bit, but it’s not the flattest course, so maybe that’s allowable.

As this is all about practising for the marathon, I had a gel at 5 miles,  and was caught by a photographer shortly thereafter. Oh joy! The weather had started to cheer up, such that it stopped raining and the cloud started to break and I no longer was wishing for my gloves. I was nicely on pace, and was at 8 miles in ~ 90 minutes. Unfortunately for my ego, the leader was at 16.5 miles in pretty much the same time – he had a few minutes start on me, but not by much. As ever, I’m in awe of the fast runners. It looks so efficient, almost effortless, until you listen to them and they’re breathing hard, it’s just all so much under control. I applauded, politely, if through gritted teeth. Before we parted and I set off on my second lap, I was passed by the top 7 men. However, the chap in third blew my mind. He not only had the manners and spare capacity to say thanks, he also wished me luck in my run too. Awesome! Mr Ed Banks, of the Birmingham Running and Triathlon (BRAT) Club, take a bow!!

The route, round twice.

Second lap followed much the same as the first, although instead of being last, I was gradually picking people off. Gels at miles 10 and 15 followed, as well as water at the numerous water stations. The weather was still improving and the sun came out, although I’d not go as far as to say it was warm! At about 16/17 miles I passed some of the ladies I’d met up with earlier, and they wished my luck as I passed them and the photographer. That shot’s not one for the album! I just kept to a steady pace, trying not to let the hills get to me. It wasn’t that there was any one big up hill, more that it was continually short ups and downs. The downs were noticeable in two places, but somehow the ups felt more spread out. I’d been told it was hilly, but it was a form of hilly I felt I could deal with – it’s the ones where you can see nothing but uphill for the next mile that make me want to cry.

It was all fairly uneventful, really. Back into Pocklington for one final time, then over the A42 and a hump-backed bridge. Which had grown during the time I’d been out to enormous proportions! I was starting to wish this was all over, but kept my head down and just kept the legs moving. Saw several runners, wearing their hoodies, heading away from the finish, all of them offering encouragement. The last 400 m were across a field, that same draughty field we’d started from. It was still draughty, only now it seemed to be soft and felt like running on treacle. That sprint(ish) finish got sucked out of the bottom of my feet and ended up in the mud. I was slightly distracted to hear my name called as I approached the finish, but managed to keep going, despite the slight surprise.

Facts & Figures:
Distance – 20.03 miles
Time – 3:41:23 (official time)
Average pace – 11:03 min/miles

Split times and figures.

Yes, I know there aren’t 20 split – I like to use manual laps for races and I managed to miss hitting the lap button 3 times. Twice it was at water stations, the third time was just brain fade! But you can see the pace has a bit of a slope upwards through the race, and is fairly even.

Finished and made my way towards the tent where I received my hoodie, in a size that fitted, then the goodie bag, and towards the chaps sat taking chips off shoes. Took me a moment to work out which foot had the chip, then even longer to manage to raise that foot onto the crate provided! The collected my bag & put my prize hoodie on, as it was quite chilly once I’d stopped. I then made my way over towards the finish shute & identified DL as the random voice calling my name as I’d finished. 

Where's that ASBO?

I stayed with her until the rest of the girls had finished, and we slowly waddled our way back towards the same car park in town. Through a most inconsiderate hail storm! What the weather was playing at today, I have no idea! After investigating the contents of the goodie bag, I discovered that most of it was edible, and I started making inroads into it before heading off back home.

I am pleased with that performance. I kept to the pace I should have been running, and finished in under my target time. I wanted to finish in 4 hours, with a happy target of 3:45. I took on water and the gels without too much difficulty, and (apart from the odd burp) had no ill effects from them. I’m not sure I could have run another 6 miles at the finish, but I do think that the extra 6 may well be lurking in there somewhere. That’s the last really long run, they’re all shorter now until I get to Brighton – and that’s my next race…

What have you done today to make you feel proud

I was tempted to title this as “dummm dubby dum dubby-dubby dum dummm” but feared that only about 2 people might get the reference. That is (obviously) the start of the BBC’s F1 theme tune, taken from Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”. A match made in mixing heaven, and a short burst of notes that I have known for as long as I can remember. I’m from a family of F1 fans, and so today’s half marathon at Silverstone (the home of Formula 1) was a joy to run – both as a run and as a motor racing nut’s chance to take to the track.

The traffic into (and out of – more of which later) is always a bit iffy, sometimes you’re in with no issue, at others you can queue for hours on the A43. Todays wasn’t too bad, a bit congested, but not really awful. Not me driving, a car full of us from the club had met up and merged into one vehicle. So we arrived in good time and now had about an hour to kill before the race start. That meant the usual preparation took place at a leisurely pace. Loo stop, banana, fire up the Garmin, get all the kit on, stash the bag, team photo (I wouldn’t mind skipping this bit!) and a final, just-in-case loo stop were achieved in good time.

I also met up with another running friend, Tref. He’s running 12 different events in 12 months for two charities that work with Autism, and you can read more about his mad quest here. I’ll be seeing him again at Brighton. We hung about on the start line, wondering at the sanity of the man carrying a pylon and the two stilt walkers who were lined up near us. As the start approached, I said bye to Tref & headed forward to the 2:30 finish bracket. I was aiming at faster than this, but I find it easier to keep the initial pace under control if I start a little bit back.

And we’re off. Shuffled forward until the crowd in front launched into a run, for once actually before the start line. Set the Garmin to go and set off. Tried to focus and not get carried away, and didn’t do too bad a job. There’s something very inspiring about seeing a great mass of humanity heading along in a ribbon; as I entered Stowe, I could see them disappearing behind the new Wing and there were a fair few people out today. I could see the 11 min/mile pacer ahead of me, and caught them as we went through the Vale for the first time. That seemed reasonable, I’d started behind them and was heading along within the target pace fairly easily. Ran up the new start/finish straight, alongside the Wing and round onto the new extension loop. Interesting little loop, with some elevation change as you head into one of the corners. Then it was back onto the old track, in the Complex, where I finally passed Andy (having been shadowing him for a while) and a water stop. I drank some, but a considerable portion of the bottle ended up being poured on my face, neck and back.

Then round the pits and onto the infield. The addition of the new extension loop has meant that there were fewer up-and-back section in the infield, which made for a better race, 180 degree bends are tricky and energy sapping. The most exciting bit was we ran up the new pit lane. The F1 geek in me was thrilled! Somewhere here the winner finished. I think I’d just cleared half way, but it was tight! But, it is worth noting I arrived at 6 miles in 1:02, faster than my (out of date) 10k PB. Once Brighton’s done, I will be having a serious crack at the shorted distances…

After this, we headed up to the two bridges over the track. It was noticeable how many people were spectating, and the support was quite considerable in easily accessible places. These two track crossing bridges are the steepest hills on the course and I managed to steam up the pair – I like the challenge, up on the toes and get them over and done with! And so out onto the perimeter road. The second water station was not far down here and I again drank some and wore the rest. Even took my cap half off and poured some on my head – golly, that felt good!

It's a bit of a scribble when viewed like this!

This is a long way round, but there was a fair amount of support, especially as we headed back up towards the outside of Copse. It’s at this stage that you can see the track and the runners finishing – and I’ve still got 3+ miles to go. Slightly concerning, there were several people obviously struggling and an ambulance heading back towards the medical centre. I can understand how it could all get a bit much – it was rather hot. But I didn’t resort to pouring Lucozade on my head – unlike one particularly sticky chap not far in front of me. I can’t imagine that felt terrible pleasant once it evaporated!

Back onto the track and past the last water station. About here I passed Mary, who was beginning to struggle in the heat. We had a shorter run back, not having to go round the new loop, instead it was along under the bridge at Bridge and back to Abbey. Down past the Wing again, and the tune from which I’ve taken today’s title came on. This has a habit of getting under my skin, because it isn’t often in life we can point to something that makes us glow with pride, but today was going to be one of those days.

After my concerns earlier in the week about the weather, it had been clear and no more than breezy all day. So it’s ironic that the only time I really noticed a breeze was when it was a head wind as we returned up Hangar Straight (neither straight nor anything like as flat as it appears on the TV). I was trying to pick up the pace, and still hadn’t quite given up on a 2:15 time, but it had been tight at 10 miles, which came up at 103 minutes. That left 32 minutes for 3.1 miles, which is quite quick, especially after 10 miles.  I knew I’d need a sub 10 minute final mile and it just wasn’t happening.

Facts & Figures:
Distance – 13.1 miles (Garmin 13.27 miles)
Time – 2:16:44 (official time 2:16:41 – even better!)
Average Pace – 10:18 min/miles

Splits times - not too bad!

Pleased to report that the splits look pretty even. Aim was to set out at between 10:20 and 10:30 per mile and try to speed up after 10, aiming for an optomistic 2:15 finish. The pace is pretty much there, with no more than 17 seconds between fastest & slowest mile up to 10 miles. But there was not quite enough left to up the pace towards the last few miles. I did try, but it wasn’t quite enough. Still, that’s a 3 minute PB and I managed to knock 20 minutes off the time I posted here last year in my first half marathon. That’s not to be sniffed at in 12 months.
Crossed the line, after having mustered the requisite sprint(ish) finish and stopped the watch. had my chip cut off and collected the goody bag – with the bottle of water which lasted about 30 seconds! And my race medal – I do like a good medal. Found the rest of the club and was most pleased to make acquaintance with my milkshake (still quite cool) and banana. Having flopped on to the floor, I did have to get on all fours before I could stand up again, but a bit of a stretch made everything feel a bit better. Swapped my sweaty top for the finisher’s T-shirt, because I knew that I’d soon cool down being that wet. Actually I was quite pleased that I managed to walk to the car without too much trouble (although I did step carefully on and off each kerb). Tim negotiated getting us out of the car park and then it was back to the meeting point to collect the car. It was very nice to not have to drive straight away, instead I sat in the car and shuffled about a bit, able to move the legs freely in the spacious back seats.

Several learning points to take on board for the next warm race. I need to either get over my hangup about wearing a vest – or get some sleeves added to it. Wearing 2 layers on a hot day is asking for trouble. Also,  pouring water over your front doesn’t cool you down too much, due to the multi-layered iron-constructed undergarment that holds everything in place. It also has a tendency to make the tissues stuffed into said garment rather damp and ineffective as nose wipes.

So mission accomplished: one shiny PB achieved, in a good, confidence boosting style. I’m sure 2:15 is achievable, but maybe on a less hot day. Plugging that into the training paces calculator shows that MP should now be about 11 min/miles, which is where MP training runs have ended up – maybe the body did know what it was doing, all along!

Being blown away

Crikey! That was hard work. But I’m back, 15 mile race completed successfully.

First surprise came when I get dressed this morning. The capris I was going to wear were the same one’s I’d worn on last week’s long run. As i was putting them on, I discovered something in the back pocket. on closer inspection, it was a gel pack. I took 4 with me last week, but only had 3, this must have been the spare one, which has since been through the washing machine and been dried in the airing cupboard! It looked a bit battered, but intact, so I decided I may as well take it and use it today.

The weather forecast was not promising. not cold and no rain predicted, but very windy. 20+ mph is gale force. Yikes!!

The weather forecast looked blowy.

That leaves me with a clothing dilemma, you don’t want to overheat, but windy conditions do make you cooler quite quickly. I opted for long sleeves under my club vest. The legs don’t notice temperature quite so much, so capris as usual. Packed up hat, garmin, gels, milkshake for after, pre and post run bananas and all the usual paraphernalia for a race. Pinned the number to the club vest and set off.

Had arranged a lift with two other ladies from the club, so had to be ready to collect at the services just round the corner for 9 am. A later start than sometimes, for an 11 am race start.  Arrived OK, and were directed to pack in a rather lumpy bumpy field.It was blowing quite decidedly, so we quickly made our way to race HQ and met up with the rest of the club. This race has the unusual routine of giving out race shirts before the race. It does mean that I got a size that fits, rather than the tents that are left at the end. Everything got stowed in then bag, warm layers stripped off and ready for the rather long walk to the start.

I headed for the back of the pack, in order to not get carried away too early. After discussing how to approach this, the plan was to run the first 5 miles easy, then pick up to marathon pace for the next 10. So easy to say, but how very difficult to actually do…

Gun went off and we headed for the start line. As usually, I got that first half mile far too fast – something about the start of a race that completely throws me. So I made a conscious effort to slow down. It was quite breezy, but it wasn’t exactly a headwind at this stage. It became a full on head wind when we turned the corner. Blimy! It was hard going! The road wound through a small village, then headed up hill to the radio transmitter. It was at this point that I rapidly began to loose the ability to run to pace. It was just so very difficult to keep going at the required pace uphill and into a very stiff headwind. I was amused to hear the marshal at the top say “not far to go now” I shot him a surprised look and he corrected himself, “to the top of this hill”. Ok, I will let him off that extra description, but I’d barely gone 2 miles! The next stretch was downhill and it was a remarkable experience. I lean forward going down hill, trying to relax and let gravity help me out here. Long strides, arms flapping – I must look bizarre in the extreme. With the strong headwind, it was easy to lean even further forward than usual, and it felt remarkably like flying. I didn’t land with a bump at the bottom, but this rather fast patch, along with the slow one before it, mucked up the idea of running to pace. I felt I was continually trying to run faster on the difficult bits and not taking advantage of the easy bits. I won’t say I stopped looking at the watch, but I did worry less about it. 

See: they've marked the hills just to make them obvious!

After the downhill, we turned a corner, such that the wind was now marginally following wind, then up another hill – not quite as steep this time and onto a plateau. Turned another corner and it was magic – flat, and a really strong tail wind. Apart from the annoyance of the ponytail whipping round and trying to get in my mouth, this was quite fun. About 4 miles I had a gel and water station, and decided that I was just going to pick the pace up and aim for something about 11 minute miles, where I could and accept that some of the stretches would be slower. Went OK until around 6 miles, when there was a lovely long, shallow downhill, followed by the corresponding up hill. At the top of this, I was at about 7 miles, the leader came past. Blimy! He was going some, 1:16 ish and he had ~ 0.5 mile left. I applauded politely, while gritting my teeth. The marshal ahead said that I musty be in second place, seeing I was following the leader. How nice to dream of such a thing. He did break the course record, so good going.

Lap 1 down, and lap 2 commenced. Gel again at 8 miles, just to keep the energy levels up. I suspect it’s probably a mental boost, but they do help me keep going. The route hadn’t changed any, although it was, if anything, even harder to get up the steep hill. I passed Sue & Heather through the village at the bottom, and emerged round a bend into a phenomenal headwind. You know how cartoon characters sometimes run, head down, into a wall/obstacle – the legs keep turning, but the body goes nowhere? It felt an awful lot like that as I headed up the hill. Head down, like way down, trying to head butt my way through the wind and up the hill. The marshal at the top remembered me from the previous lap and promised me I didn’t have to run that hill again. Downhill was exhilarating again though.

One of the nice things about having a slow race start is that you catch people and pass them. This is always good for the competitive spirit. Going up the next hill, I passed Rob, who was trying to run to a heart rate, which the uphills certainly weren’t helping. Passed another runner towards the water station, then a group of girls strung out across the road (grrr – keep left signs were there for a reason) and turned the corner onto the fast section. I’d kept going at a reasonable pace. I won’t say it was really comfortable, but neither was it exhausting. Final gel at 12 miles (I did debate this one’s usefulness, but I figured I need to get into the habit of having them, so I may as well). Then past 13 miles, and down the last hill. 14 miles at the bottom and it was half a mile up hill, then turn the last corner and half a mile flat in to the finish.

As I turned the final corner there were 2 ladies from Herts AC ahead. That little competitive spirit got the better of me and I picked the pace up a bit. after all, only half a mile to go, what’s to loose? With barely 200 yards left, I snuck past them on the inside and approached the final turn to the finish line – and heard the rest of the club start shouting me to the finish. I do love this about them. Some of them must have finished over an hour before me, but there they all were, shouting, clapping and generally encouraging me into that last sprinty flourish at the end. They also seem to be the only club that consistently do this – and I do appreciate every last ounce of encouragement.

Crossed the line in a quite pleasing 2:46:30 (or so). No, it didn’t go exactly to plan, as the splits show. But I think that elevation profile looks pretty tough too!. You can see the fast spikes line up nicely with the down hills.

The stats don’t lie

Facts & Figures:
Distance – 14.94 miles (Under reading again – must be it’s habit)
Time – 2:46:33 (but I did turn it off after the finish line)
Average pace – 11:07. (oooops, that was a bit quick)

Finished an headed back into the HQ to collect my bag, and get some clothes on. it was cool out and the body temperature can dip badly after a long run, so some extra warmth is essential. Then the post race milkshake and banana were consumed. Again, it helps keep the body warm and helps recovery. And I like chocolate milkshake. Went back to the finish and the last 3 of the club were all seen in safely. We all congregated, and then set off back home. Sitting in the car I managed to set a bit, such that the walk from the roundabout home was more of a waddle initially, but the legs did remember how to function eventually. After some toast, and a bath I’m feeling human again. Next run is Tuesday, club night. If I can’t manage the speed session, I did this too hard – there’s one way to find out…

St Neots Race Report

It was cold & foggy as I got up to get ready for todays half marathon. I’d decided on short sleeve shirt, with club vest over it. I added cap (to keep hair out of my face) and my longest shorts – a mid calf length pair. At the last minute I threw in my new light gloves, thinking that with short sleeves the hands might get extra cold. To keep warm before and after, I also wore some tracky bottoms & my club hoodie. The one item of clothing you’d think it impossible to put on back to front would be a hoodie, but, this morning, I managed it. Not sure how, and it took me an embarrassingly long time to work out why it all felt quite so odd!

Breakfast was porridge, coffee & a pint of squash, just to keep the liquid levels well topped up. And off I went in the car. Really heavy fog most of the way there, but, fortunately, very little traffic until I approached the race HQ. Here there were an assortment of cadets directing traffic to parking places, so I parked up and followed the mass of people towards the HQ. Collected my number and found some other club people. Gradually sorted myself out, including having my pre-run banana, getting clothing on and putting the bag in the baggage store. We had a short walk to the race start, and I hung about at the back of the pack in order to not get distracted into going off too fast – for I had a plan…

The plan was to run at 11 min/miles until one of three things happened:

  1. The wheels fell of the wagon and I walked/ran to the end
  2. I reached the finish in a (hopefully) new PB of 2:25 ish
  3. I got to 10/11 miles and picked the pace up.

1 shouldn’t happen, 2 was my probable scenario and 3 was going to be all my Christmases come at once.

The gun went off and we gradually moved forward to the start. It was still rather foggy at this stage, although the sun was threatening to break through. I set off at approximately my planned pace and it didn’t take very long before I found myself pretty much last. I can’t say I spent a lot of time checking to see if this was the case, but I was certainly not aware of anyone behind me for easily the first 3 miles. This race has a 2:30 cut off, and there are very few, if any, times beyond this in previous years. But I tried not to let it bother me, and just to concentrate on my race.

At 2 miles I dug into my shorts pocket for the first of the jelly beans I’d bought along for energy. One a mile until they ran out at mile 10. Realised that I couldn’t open the packet in gloves, so these were removed & tucked in the bra for safekeeping. Yet another reason why running is not a fashion statement sport! The hands were warm enough by this time, so it wasn’t a hardship running without them.

It was very strange to see people spreading out into the distance and disappearing into the murk! It was very still and quiet, with no breeze to shift the fog and no bird song. All in all a rather odd sensation.

I tried to keep going at about the same pace, ignoring other people, but, sometime after 5 miles, I noticed that I was starting to catch & pass people. This doesn’t usually happen to me! I tried not to get carried away, and overtake them fast, rather to just creep up on them and then overtake gradually. It’s a major mistake to speed up in order to overtake fast, as it ruins the rhythm and uses energy that you’ll need later. At about 6 miles, I caught Andy, the first of the other runners with my club. Just before 7 I caught Maria. This was her first half, and it sounded as if she’d gone out too fast, so she ran with me for the next mile & half, but was starting to slow and so I carried on. She came in with a good 2:30 time, a respectable time for a first attempt at the distance.  These weren’t the only people I caught, but the club do support each other.

As we headed past 7 miles, the sun finally came out and it was a beautiful day. Blue skies and clear, but still breezeless. Very nice to run in, actually. At 10 miles I realised I was 2 minutes ahead of my 11 min/mile target, and thought that if I picked the pace a little, I might stand a chance of 2:20, rather than just breaking 2:25. So I sped up a little, trying to get down to 10:30 min/miles. I carried on catching people, concentrating on one at a time, and not trying to speed past them, but just head down and reel them in. It seemed to be working.

As I passed 12 miles, I saw I had just about 11 minutes to get to the finish in 2:20. I thought that had to be worth a go. All the information about this race proclaims a downhill finish, so I started to really wind it up and make the most of the slight gradient. I was slightly surprised that I was able to find this in myself, and it really did start to hurt here. But that last mile went by. I hope you’ll forgive me if I didn’t bother trying to hit the lap button on the Garmin as I went through 13 miles, saved the energy for what was, by now, something approaching a steam train in full flight. No, it wasn’t pretty, but it did exactly what was required, and I stopped the watch at the finish in 2:19:58.

I can’t pursuade the picture of the garmin data to upload, so hopefully you can see it here. Doc2 As you’ll be able to see from the splits, not too bad. Certainly not for me, anyway!

I can’t decide which I’m more proud of, the fact that I ran to the race plan, and executed it so well, or the time. 2:20 is 7.5 minutes off my last PB, and this time I did it all by myself.

PGER race report

9th October 2011, Perkins Great Eastern Run.

After my fretting about the weather, the forecast on Sunday morning was overcast, not too hot (16 degrees) a bit breezy (11 mph) and dry. Well it managed to be not far from the mark, with cloud cover all the way and no rain. It was a bit muggy initially, but not dreadfully hot. The wind caught a few times, especially a head wind on one or two of the return stretches, but it was better than the midweek forecast had looked!

Laid everything out Saturday evening, clothes to run in, club vest, extra layers to keep warm initially and put back on afterwards and my race bag; complete with number, chip, towel, water, map, car park permit, some money and cereal bars to refuel afterwards.

Number pinned on vest.

Race day dawned and we’d decided not to watch either the rugby or the Grand prix live, it would all be a bit too tight for time, so a lie in until gone 7 am. Porridge & coffee for breakfast, with a pint of squash to hydrate properly. They say don’t do anything new on race day, but I’m certainly not dressed and ready to leave 2 hours ahead of a training run! Left home just before 9 am, to make sure I got there in plenty of time – hate being late, even a bit. Parked in my usual Peterborough carpark, not nearest to either start or finish, but knowing where you’re going is worth the extra few minutes walk. Plenty of parking spaces, so was fretting for nothing – as usual.

Walked into the Cathedral square and managed to locate a bunch of people from the club, all loitering with intent near the loos! Jigged about nervously, with the best part of an hour to kill until the start. After pinning my number to shirt, and sorting out chip, garmin etc and what I was going to wear, (pink T-shirt with green club vest – maybe not the most stylish combination ever) it was time to strip down to the running gear, stash the spare clothes in the bag & hand in to the baggage truck. Then the ritual queue for the loo and a last-minute pee. Avoided the mass warmup, they strike me as a waste of time and energy! I’m about to run 13 miles, I’ll be quite warmed up enough after jogging the first half mile, thank you very much.

Called to the start line and we headed down the road en masse. I stopped first, having an estimated race time of 2 hours 30. Various other people had a fair old walk towards the front of the start funnel. And then it started. Towards the back this never happens in the sudden way it does at the front; it’s more a walk forward, then a shuffle before breaking into a slow jog, hopefully before the start line! Started the Garmin at the start line, and set off.

I’d like to think I’m an intelligent person, who can learn from mistakes, so why is it I can’t seem to start a run at a sensible pace? I mean, I was planning for 11:30 minutes per mile, so what on earth made me set off at 10:45 for the first mile? I tried to slow, but the next mile wasn’t much better, at 11 minutes. And that’s about the pace I stayed at for the first half. It was feeling OK, and there comes a point where trying to run slower just starts feeling unnatural; so I went with it, knowing the wheels were going to fall off sometime, it was just a matter of when. Went through 6 miles (just under 10k) in under 65 minutes. That’s barely outside my 10k PB pace! That is seriously insane!!

From somewhere in the first mile, I’d been running near another lady running on her own, wearing a Run London (North) shirt. Not necessarily with each other, just alongside. It was quite companionable, exchanging the odd word – most noticeably when one of the Macmillan fundraisers in green net tutu and bright green thong ran past – hairy male bum isn’t what you expect to see in a race! I made half way in 1:11, a good 4 minutes ahead of target schedule. At this point I saw Karen. She runs at the club in a much faster group, but I’ve met her at the ladies’ runs & know her by name and hobby – baking cakes. She said she’d recently had a cold, and was feeling ropey, so rather than plough round for a poor (by her standards) time, she waited for me, to run me in. Awww, how completely sweet was that!

So then there were 3, me, unknown lady & Karen, all going along at about 11 minutes per mile. Somewhere about mile 8 we had a faster mile, and it just about did for me. From there on it all started to hurt quite a lot. The lady I’d been running with went on at her own pace, and very good she was looking too when I last saw her. Not long after mile 9 I stopped and walked just after an underpass. grrr. Not impressed with myself, but I was feeling hot, faint, dizzy and slightly sick – almost certainly with hunger, as I could feel my stomach clapping together. With Karen cajoling, encouraging and doing a very good sergeant major impression, I kept going at a much reduced pace. Having gone to half way ahead of target, I knew I could afford to slow, but not by too much. Walking too far will quickly add many minutes to a race time.

So, keeping half an eye on the Garmin, I tried to keep it all going. The clock tells the tale, mile 8 – 10:46, mile 9 – 11:31, mile 10 – 11:52, mile 11 – 12:52.

 The Garmin's verdict

Just before the 11 mile marker was the last water station. At the other stations I’d been mainly throwing water at my face and neck/chest to cool down, just swigging a bit to wet my mouth, but here I slowed to a walk and drank the entire bottle. Don’t know if this made a difference physically or just psychologically, but I did start feeling better from here. Not to say it was easy, but the last 2 miles were certainly better, and speeding up, 11:59 and 11:04 respectively. With Karen doing a spectacular job of chivvying me along, I didn’t stop again. In fact she even encouraged something I might actually describe as a sprint finish out of me! Last 0.1 mile was at 8:33 pace! The finish comes through an avenue of trees, then a slight bend and the finish chute opens up down a field. I’d started speeding up before the avenue, so that it was full steam train mode down the finish chute and about half way along I could hear those of the club that had already finished shouting and cheering me on. At that point I was very pleased to have conjured the finish out of myself, as to have been walking in the face of that support would have been dreadfully embarrassing.

Crossed the line with a gun time of 2:30, and a chip time of 2:27:28. Personal best by almost 10 minutes, which was astounding! I certainly wouldn’t have knocked that chunk off without Karen’s help in the second half. Second half was 3 minutes longer than the first. Some brilliant data available on the RunPix website. In case that doesn’t work, I’m number 341 and it’s the Great Eastern Run 2011. Despite how poorly I thought the second half went, I overtook more people than overtook me between half way and the end. Find that surprising, as it didn’t feel that way!

T shirt & nice shiny medal for the collection

Had my chip removed, as there was no way I was going to be able to reach my ankles, by a lovely volunteer who let me lean on her for a minute or two. Then collected a lovely cotton goody bag, water, bottle, T-shirt, medal (I do love a good medal), more water and a banana! The water and banana didn’t last 5 minutes, and certainly went someway to making me feel better. Collected my bag and we wandered down to where the club had gathered. At this point the legs cried “enough” and I just had to sit down. Took my time having a stretch, then a slow hobble back to the car, another stretch and then drove home. Once home we watched the Grand prix (which was really good), while I had yet another stretch on the carpet in front of the TV – inviting several strange comments from the beloved!

Today I’ve been feeling dreadfully stiff in the hip, and my left ankle was hurting badly this morning. I may have left for work in shoes, but I soon resorted to a pair of comfy trainers, which looked really stylish when worn with a skirt & tights! But I’ve kept moving all day and it’s all beginning to feel a bit less of a struggle – although stairs are still not my friends.

And I get to do it all again in 6 weeks time at St Neots. hmm, what pace would I have to get sub 2:25…

The story so far – the first half

Race report – Silverstone half marathon. Number 655

Not the best start to the day, didn’t sleep well and had chronic butterflies. Managed breakfast as planned (2 weetabix, for the interested), then got changed. Had a look at the weather forecast and decided on 2 layers, one long-sleeved, and my lovely purple kitchen T-shirt on the top, baseball cap on head, mainly to keep hair out of my face, but the peak came in useful as a sun/wind shield. On schedule for arrival at about 11 until the traffic intervened. Used a spot of local knowledge and dived up the old road into Silverstone instead of the queue along the A43. Parked and then had forgotten quite how big the complex is! Bit of a route march to the paddock complex. Arrived there about 11:40, so stripped off, checked bag in & went to the loo, then had a slow jog to the back of the pack. They postponed the start by 10 minutes due to the traffic. It was a bit chilly out on the start straight.

After January was wiped out due to ankles & cold & goodness only knows what, I was really not very confident about my ability to do myself justice here. So had a plan to start at 12:30 – 13:00 minutes per mile, make sure I finished, and consider speeding up if it was going well towards the end. Consciously started right at the back of the pack, (by the rather large caterpillar) in an effort to stay nice and slow at the outset. Not sure that worked too well, with the first mile coming up in just over 11 minutes. ooops. Made a conscious effort to slow down, which I didn’t do terribly well.

Mind you, I seem to be looking OK at this point – there’s even half a smile here:

Me, either half smiling or concentrating hard - difficult to tell which!

Carried on round the infield, and noticed I was getting a bit warmer after 4 miles, so pushed my sleeves up and carried on. Found the up’n’back nature of the next bit slightly annoying.  In a few places the ground underfoot was aggregate, rather than tarmac, but at no point was it dreadful. Spent a bit of time wondering which piece of track I was on, which was a nice distraction, as was looking at the impressive new pit building. It was a bit twisty in places, and while traffic wasn’t too bad, there were a number of people running in pairs who had annoying habits, but only really got baulked once. Then we got to the two bridges over the track, at which point I decided they were short & sharp, so I’d just get them over & done with quickly, and powered up the pair of them – no idea where that came from!

Water again at mile 7 and I completely missed the mile marker at this stage. Tried to drink a bit more of it, but wasn’t terribly successful. The pour into hand, splash on face, lick what drips past seemed to work best! Not maybe the neatest method… About mile 8 passed Katie Price emerging from the loo. Trust me, I felt better than she looked!

The drag back up the outside of the circuit seemed to go on quite a long time – I’ve walked this stretch before and it always does. Could see the speedy people running in the same direction towards the finish on the track, and I’m not sure if that made me feel better or not!

Then it was back onto the track for the last backwards lap. By this stage (>10 miles) I’d realised I’d not stopped to walk at all, so that made me determined to get the whole way without doing so. The stretch down from Bridge to Vale seemed very long, and then back up the Hangar straight was miles! And uphill!!  At times I’m fairly sure I was running no faster than some of the people around me who were walking, but I didn’t walk.

Got to 13 miles and put a bit of a shift on to get to the finish. So I did at least finish at a reasonable pace! Behind Sonic the hedgehog and Spiderman, but in front of He-man and the very large caterpillar, you can’t beat them all.

Had a few emotional moments, I got into running initially to raise money for a charity to research into the disease that dad died of. He was a big racing fan and several times the “I wish he could see me doing this, here” got the better of me. And the supporters shouting “pain is temporary, pride eternal” really got to me too. Crossed the line blubbing like a baby – and do NOT want to see that photo! Had to apologise to the ladies taking the tags off, as I dripped on them quite a lot.

Got out into the paddock & found some of the club, who fed me fruit cake, provided hugs and a firm base to rest on while trying to stretch. They insisted on taking a photo!

Spot me - I'm the one in the very old & rather faded Silverstone jumper.

Still in shock at the time at this stage. Retrieved my bag then took a slow wander back to the car. Decided to sit & wait until the traffic had died down, so ate most of the edible contents of the goody bag (although I passed on the linseads) and some cereal bars I’d packed! Called Mum and had a bit of a brag too. Decided that, all in all, I had quite enjoyed it.

Splits: 11:07, 11:31, 11:43, 11:12, 11:55, 12:09, 23:53 (7+8), 12:00, 12:06, 12:18, 13:00, 12:58, 1:03.

2 hours 37 minutes 1 second. Result!

Thanks to Tony for taking the photos (I think) & Nicola for finding them for me.