Cool weather, warm pace

It was foggy and cold this morning when we left for ringing this morning. The little snowflake light on the car that indicates when it is cold or freezing was resolutely orange all the way, showing it was less than 4 degrees outside. brrr. All of which made me quite pleased that I wasn’t going to head out for a run until lunch time. When time came, it had cleared a bit, the fog had lifted but there was consistent cloud cover and only a watery sun; it didn’t look very warm out there. So I delved into the bottom of the kit drawer, unearthed a long sleeved top and headed out.

And it wasn’t all that warm out. I was cold to start with, but the body soon warmed up. The hands and ears took a bit longer to come to a comfortable temperature – it might be time to find the beany hat rather than the baseball cap. By the time I was half way I had pushed my sleeves up to my elbows, so maybe a short sleeved shirt would have been OK, but I’d have felt colder for longer, and I don’t enjoy being cold. Maybe that told in the pace, as I seem to have managed to run my fastest average pace run since coming back. 12:45 minutes per mile over 34.40 minutes didn’t feel difficult to maintain, which is good. Being cold doesn’t always make for a fast run.

Going out at lunchtime meant that it was a lot busier out than it is in the early morning. There were quite a lot of cars, but they were all being quite considerate and moving over to the far side of the road to pass me. Maybe there’s something about Sunday drivers having more time, or being less harassed, than their weekday colleagues. I acknowledge each of them for making that kind of effort with a wave of the hand, and quite a number wave back. I suspect they’re also thinking “nutter” but as long as they don’t think “target” I’m fine with that. There were also 8 cyclists, a couple of solos and three pairs. In two cases the pairs were wearing what looked to be matching kit – not at all odd. I wonder if it’s appropriate to count them in a manner analogous to Magpies, but that would make 8 for joy. It wasn’t a euphoric run, but it was quite fun, so maybe that’s apt.

Sunday Runday

Sunday demands a run. After the hustle and bustle that is Saturday, the air of relaxation of a Sunday morning just demands a nice tootle. I’m not sure a nice tootle would be how you’d describe Dennis Kimetto’s Sunday morning run, seeing he broke the world record for the marathon this morning, in Berlin. 2 hours, 2 minutes and 57 seconds. I make that a smidge over 12 & 3/4 miles per hour sustained for 26.2 miles, or, to put it into pace terms, less than 5 minutes per mile. I can’t do that for one mile, let alone 26 of them! As my husband would point out, even when I was in training, it would take me longer than that to run half as far…

Further details from the BBC site:

Anyway, while he was speeding along, I was plodding across the countryside on a cool but clearing morning. I wasn’t the only one out and about; today’s tally of energetic persons passed included some cheery cyclists (not long out on the road?), a less cheery cyclist (he had just ridden up the hill out of town) and a man walking two dogs that I reckon could have dragged him along at a fair old pace if given their head. It looked like he was having a pretty good upper body workout trying to keep them in check. It wasn’t speedy, but it was feeling OK. I’m not certain that I’m going to be able to manage the next step up, to 3 minutes running, but it’s time to give it a go. That will be next time out. Promise.

You can leave your hat on

There are good runs, there are bad runs and you don’t always know which it’s going to be. Today doesn’t go down as a good one. Maybe I’ve still got Ashby in the legs, but the body didn’t want to co-operate at all today.

Missed a run Tuesday, just too much on and I was just too tired by the time I thought about a run. So today it was out for a tempo run. Only it didn’t quite work. Set off and managed to forget my hat! I can’t remember the last time I ran without a hat, but I always go out in either a cap or my beanie – felt quite undressed! Started to run and it was all feeling quite hard work. The garmin claimed I was toddling along at the fast end of easy pace, which was as it should be, but it didn’t feel easy. The legs were complaining, particularly in the outside of the calves, the stomach felt really heavy and slightly sick while I was just struggling to breathe easily. Not sure what it was exactly, but I just couldn’t find that sweet spot.

Got to the pylon and changed the pace, picking it up to around 10 min/miles. And I managed this for approaching 2 miles until the body finally over-ruled the will and I slowed right down again. Maintained a slow plod, with a few short walk breaks, until I got home.

Facts & Figures:
Distance – 5.4 miles
Time – 1:01:14
Average Pace – 11:20 min/miles 

Time was I’d have been thrilled to have managed 5 miles in under an hour, or 2 miles at sub 10 min pace, but that was then and now I expect more. This was obviously one of those bad runs and I’ll just have to move on. Not sure I can entirely blame forgetting my hat, but I will be properly dressed next time I set out.

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…

Every triangle has three sides

And this post has three runs. This week started on a high after the performance at Silverstone. Still buzzing about it, and there will be a follow-up post with pictures and additional superfluous detail. Proudly displayed my medal to anyone who showed even a flicker of interest, and even those who didn’t.

But back to this week and the running. Monday I actually went out for a short pootle. I could feel the after effects of Sunday’s exertions, lightly in both thighs, but quite noticeably somewhere deep in the bottom of my bum. Several times found myself absent-mindedly massaging that area while stood talking to someone. oops. Work pattens this week meant I didn’t think I’d manage to get out Tuesday, so Monday it was. Just the standard 3.5 mile loop with Janet. The legs got going OK, with not too many complaints – the bum being the most vocal part. As we got back towards work, she did ask if I was going to continue, but the calves had said that enough was enough. Before an early night I did spend quite some time stretching out all the aches, and felt better for it.

Wednesday I was later home than anticipated – I’d had a call from my local running shop (LRS) that my new bra was in. It’s a Shock Absorber Run bra – could they have though of a less attractive name?! They are the most difficult items of clothing to get into – it’s quite some contortion required. But, once in, they hold on to all the bits that might bounce. They’re certainly effective – and I imagine if my car’s shock absorbers ever fail I could simply replace it with one of these! That makes just about the complete kit set for the marathon, and I’ll be wearing it for long runs, just to make sure it’s all comfortable. Being later home meant I only had about an hour’s light, so I switched the week about and did the 5 mile tempo on Wednesday. That went well. Headed out at a good pace, but at the change of pace went too fast – turned round having run over a mile a 9:30 pace! Wow!! That’s pretty fast for me, and proved to be unsustainable. Slowed on the return leg, but still managed sub 10 pace for the 3 miles.

That meant Thursday was midweek long run. 11 miles on the plan, my longest midweek run. Set off and kept below 12:00 for almost the entire run, including the slightly boggy bits round the lake. Ended up having to double back for the very last section in order to find the extra 0.5 mile, otherwise I’d have got to the end of the road, and my usual finish point, too early. Pleased with that, as it felt quite relaxed the whole way. It was getting dark as I got back, by which time I was quite pleased I’d headed out with a long sleeve top, once the sun went down, the temperature dropped and the wind got up.

Facts & Figures: (Mon/Wed/Thurs)
Distance – 3.57/5.4/11.1 miles
Time – 40:58/56:57/ 2:09:36
Average pace – 11:29/10:33/ 11:40

If all goes to plan, there’s just the small matter of a 20 mile race between me and my first 40 mile week. Plan will be to go out for the first 5 easy and then pick up to MP for the remainder. It’s all about practising the race day routine, pacing with that many people around, fueling and taking on water in a race scenario – even if it’s not really an out-and-out race. Guaranteed PB , which will be another one to add to the collection!

So, to finish the week, I’ve had a lovely relaxing Saturday morning, food shopping, hair cut and a cup of coffee with a slice of cake. My hair looks great, sharp at the ends, well finished and lovely. And with a 20 mile race tomorrow guess how long that’s going to last?!

Back on my feet again

I didn’t want to tempt fate and declare that all was well in the world until I’d run a few times. Seeing I’ve now been out twice since my enforced break, I think it’s not too early to say it all seemed to go well.

Thursday marked a whole week with no running, and I was climbing the walls just wanting to get out there. Which is a good indication that I was ready to run, but nothing worse than pushing too hard, too soon and falling back again. So Thursday was a run with Janet from work. It was surprisingly light when we set out – amazing how much more positive some lingering daylight makes the start of the run feel. Usual loop of 3.5 miles together, then I went for an extra 1.5 to bring it to the 5 on the plan. Janet was saying that the runs had been getting harder, but I suspect that’s as she’s getting faster. If that’s the right thing to do, I don’t know – I’m certainly no expert at this running lark. The work group are due to be getting a coach at the start of next month for the 2 months leading up to the town’s annual 10k. I may suggest that we turn this run into a Tempo, as I ought to be doing one and it hasn’t always happened.

Then on to today. The plan (after some judicious rejigging) was for 15 miles today. After a fairly disjointed few weeks, I decided I’d be happy with 10, but would see how it went. Hubby dropped me off after ringing at the local nature reserve, and I did a lap or two of there (including a handy pitstop at the visitor centre) before heading up the railway path towards home. It was a nice day to be out – the sun was shining and it was much warmer than it has been recently. really felt as if Spring is just around the corner, with the ducks on the pond dashing about madly and the pussy willow starting to show on the trees.

As I got to the mill crossing, the watch was at 9 miles, with the shortest route home being only 1 mile – so I decided to go a bit further. And so it ended up at over 14 miles, which I felt was a pretty good return. The pace was a bit up and down. Not sure if it was the recent enforced rest, but I kept having to slow down to a suitable pace. Of 14 miles, only 3 were over 12 minutes, when I usually aim at 12 to 12:30 for a LSR. And one of those was my nemesis hill, which I approached at 12 miles and did resort to walking up part way.

Facts & Figures (Thurs/Sun)
Distance –  5/14.25 miles
Time – 55:57/ 2:49:12
Average pace – 11:11/ 11:52

So a good way to get back on track. As I was heading across the road towards the end of today’s run, I got hooted by a car, followed by a thumbs up. I waved – no idea who it was, but any positive encouragement is welcomed in my book. M-day is 8 weeks today, so fingers crossed it all goes smoothly from here.

Here we go again

and it’s not in a good way – I’ve got a cold again. Or, possibly more accurately, I’ve got the same one back for a second dose.

2 weeks ago, I ran 20 miles and on the Monday started to feel under the weather, before coming out in a sore throat and stuffy sinus cold. urgh. Well this week I ran 20 miles and by Tuesday had pretty much the same symptom set, with a side order of a tickly cough.

So going out and running 5 miles Tuesday and 8 miles Wednesday may not have been the wisest move. I was feeling under the weather, but not actually ill, hence going out and running. Coz I is hard, innit? Wednesday was actually a pretty good run. Set out with Janet and ran a 3.5 mile loop with her at a good pace, ~ 11:20 pace but we conversed the way round, so it wasn’t as if either of us was flat out. I then dropped her back at work and set out for a second loop of 4.5 miles, making 8 for the day. This run should have been about hitting marathon pace, and I missed. Too fast. I’ve got to get that under control.

Facts & Figures.
Distance – 8.1 miles
Time – 1:29:03
Average pace – 10:59

It started to spit with rain as we finished the first loop, but it never really rained properly, I certainly didn’t end up wet.  It felt OK.

It was possibly slightly stupid though. I’m still not feeling really ill, but the stuffy head aches and I am lacking in energy. Tired limbs don’t really want to carry me about so there’s been a fair amount of reclining on sofas, drinking hot drinks, snuffing a Vick-laden hanky and sucking decquadins. I’ve also started taking a daily multi-vitamin and vitamin C to give myself the best possible chance of recovering and making it to the start line at Brighton. An early night and 9 hours sleep certainly helped, but rest is the order of the day. I’ve swapped the plan about a bit, such that my next 20 mile run is in 2 weekends time, giving me an extra week to get myself back to 100%.

I can run for miles and miles

I know that’s not how the song goes, but it was how I felt yesterday. First 20 mile run completed. (Please imagine a little happy dance here – not sure I can do a happy dance, but I feel like it merits one!)

Had that breakfast of champions – porridge & coffee, then went into town for the weekly shop to give that all time to settle before changing and heading out. By default (ie they were the only ones clean) I ended up wearing my full length tights. I have begun to wonder if these were designed for someone with legs a good 6 inches longer than mine, as I rapidly develop some Nora Batty-esque wrinkles at the lower leg regions when running in these. But they’re by Ronhill and so have a wonderfully capacious rear pocket – perfect for stashing gel sachets. After ~ 3 miles the zips at the back of the calves were digging & rubbing, so I paused to turn them up. How very fetching!

Set out with waist belt packed with water bottles, phone, cash card, £10, £1 coin, front door key and 4 gels in my shorts. Hopefully all eventualities covered. Decided that the best bet would simply be to run down the railway path for 10 miles, then turn round & come home again.  Set off at a reasonable pace, just to get warmed up. Slowed up a bit thereafter, into a comfortable run pace, not worrying too much about time – this is all about getting the distance covered. At a smidge before 5 miles I had a gel, thinking that one an hour ought to be at about 5 mile intervals. At 7  miles I nipped into the nature reserve visitor centre for a loo stop. At 8 miles I was on virgin territory. I’d decided to follow the river path, rather than the railway track, as beyond this point the railways starts the peter out, whereas navigation alongside a river is always easy – don’t fall in! I’d heard from runners at the club that the river path from the end of the nature reserve was a bit muddy, but nothing quite prepared me for the reality. Literally ankle deep in places, this was alternately squishy and slippy and I think I did really well to maintain pace to no more than 2 minutes a mile slower. Found a junction on some raised ground just after 10 miles, but wasn’t sure that this was the railway, so decided it was better to simply retrace my footsteps rather than risk getting lost.

And so I turned & headed back again. The return leg was less tidy (now being plastered in mud to the knee and splattered thereafter) but comfortable. As runs go, this one was pretty uneventful. Had one dog try and eat my shoelaces, while another pair were playing doggy tag and zipped across about 6 inches in front of my feet. Having been frightened out of my skin, I leapt to a stop and let loose an expletive – which frightened the pair of ladies walking said dogs – who hadn’t heard my approach! A few fluttered heart rates later and we all carried on.

I took a bit of a detour round the nature reserve on the return leg, thinking that some extra miles on the flat would mean I could take a circuit round the base of of one of the two hills on my usual route home. Just making life a little easier. I did climb the last hill towards home at a reasonable pace – in fact the last mile was the fastest in the entire run. 

Facts & Figures:
Distance – 20.03 miles
Time – 4:10:27
Average pace – 12:30 

Very pleased with that. At the bottom end of my ideal pace for a long run, but the terrain over the new part of the route would easily account for that average.

I got home and downed a whole pint of fudge brownie milkshake – a well deserved reward for some serious exercise. Stretched a bit (blimy – that hurt!) then hopped in the bath (ahhhh). After some food, yet more stretches and some warm clothes, we headed of for a bellringing (my other hobby) society AGM. This had a traditional ringer’s tea (sandwiches, sausage rolls etc and lots of lovely cake) at which I did my best to demolish the cake mountain. Didn’t quite eat my body weight, but not far short. Mind yo, as my Garmin data tells me I used 2169 calories, I think a bit of cake wouldn’t go amiss. However, it did all catch up with me during the AGM. The under pew heating was warm, the pews had cushion pads so rested my head on a hassock, reclined under my coat & dozed. Didn’t actually fall asleep, but it was a close run thing.

Managed 39 miles this week, just shy of the 40 mark (for which I blame Tuesday’s lacklustre effort). I did consider heading out to run 1 solitary mile, just to make that 40, but I’ve decided I’m not that bothered! I’ll no doubt break that barrier in a few weeks time – so no hurry there.


Catchup on last week.

After Tuesday’s dismal efforts, I went out Wednesday thinking I’d see how it went, taking it easy if necessary. Should have been 5 miles Easy, then 5 miles at marathon pace.  Set off and it was all feeling OK. Not great, but OK. Hip not complaining, back feeling looser. Started off a bit slow, but gradually picked the pace up, such that by the 5 miles it was all running along happily. After that I decided that the pickup to MP was in order. I’ve got it into my head that MP is much faster than Easy. It’s not, it’s ~ 45 seconds different. So why was I suddenly running 45 seconds under MP? Not sure. Pegged it back to where I should be. I did keep drifting up towards 11:00, rather than sitting at 11:15. I’m going to have to keep an eye on that – running too fast in the first stages of a marathon will severely risk an uncomfortable finish.

Thursday was a run with Janet. Increased the distance she ran by ~ 0.5 mile, and, again, she ran that non-stop in pretty good pace. Having run back to work with her, she headed in and I headed off and ran another 1.5 miles to bring the run to the 5 miles.

Facts & Figures: Wednesday/Thursday
Distance – 10.0/5.25
Time – 1:55:41/1:02:03
Average pace – 11:34/11:49

So a pretty good pair of runs. After Thursday’s run I went to yoga and managed to stretch & contort my lower body into feeling much better than it had done all week. Upper body ached like mad on Friday though – so it must be doing some good! Janet was also feeling the extra distance in the legs, but in a good way. We’ll stick to the same distance next week – don’t want to overdo it.

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…