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…