You never can tell

I had all my excuses all lined up before I headed out the door tonight as I was expecting this run to be awful. It’s an evening run, after a day’s work, so you’re never as fresh as you are in the morning. It’s been a busy day; what with yesterday being my first day back after 2 weeks off, I’m still playing catch up. Working at home (the main road to work reported an accident before I left this morning, with queues already back 15 miles, so I decided not to try and get into the office and worked from home instead) means that often my hydration goes a bit haywire – I’ve got no prompts to have a break and a drink when I’m on my own at home. As a result I forget to drink, then overcompensate and, well, I won’t go on. It was the first run at a longer run interval, 3 minutes running to one minute walking. There you go, all my excuses all nicely prepared. And they can all go back in the box, because it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. Which just goes to show that you never can tell.

Setting off after 5 pm does run into one small problem, that’s the queue of traffic at the roundabout which I have to cross; managed one arm OK, but had to wait for the second on both the outwards and return legs. That slightly interrupted the first run segment, but from there on I stuck to 3 minutes of running. I won’t claim it felt easy, on the return leg I was looking at the watch after less and less time had elapsed in a sense of increasing desperation for the three minutes to be up (they never were). I also extended the run slightly from those so far. I got to the turn round point at the pylon and had just about a minute of a run section to go. I decided to carry on in the same direction to the end of that run section, then cross the road and start coming back at the start of the next walk. That meant that I could actually take a moment to look over my shoulder and check for traffic, rather than turning into something coming at a high rate of knots down the road. Meaning that the stats show 2.84 miles in 39:09 minutes. It’s not desperately quick, but that’s not exactly the point: it is done, it’s yet another small step in the right direction. Having expected an awful outing, I’m quite pleased with that.

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!

A good Good friday

I’m back again, and things are looking up again.

The day started well with no alarm clock going off at 6 am – that’s got to be a good start to a day. Then, with nothing particular to do on this first day of a nice looong holiday weekend, I loafed about in bed, having coffee & toasted hot cross buns for breakfast. Lounged about reading a book and generally doing not a lot until I headed out for a run.

I’ve been somewhat scared about heading out – after the last, awful, outing I’ve been half afraid to run in case it does hurt. That would seriously damped the chances of making it to the start line at Brighton. But today I took the bull by the horns and headed out the door.

And it wasn’t too bad. Not very far, just a pootle to the next village and back, but far enough of anything were going to hurt. And it didn’t. Not speedy, but that wasn’t the aim of the exercise.  That’s not to say that the mad worries have subsided completely – I am a professional worry pot – but the immediate fear has been quashed. Sunday’s run of ~ 10 miles is suddenly looking a lot less daunting.

Tonight we’re heading out to a skittles evening. No bellringing in Holy week, so practice night starts and finishes in the pub – rather than just ending there. Not a 10 pin bowling style skittles, this is traditional English skittles; where the puck isn’t a ball, the throw is underarm and the target is mounted at table height. My sense of aim is so poor that the safest place to be is either to be a skittle or be in the next county – anywhere in between is fair game. I may well retire, pleading it’s incompatible with training – that would save everyone a lot of danger!

Nice and easy does it.

And so we reach half plus 2 days. By Tuesday morning, the aches in the legs had started to ease up. In fact, the aches had moved from the sides of my hips on Monday morning, to the bottom of my thighs and bottom of my back. Despite this, everything was feeling better and walking was no longer being undertaken at a snail’s pace with little shuffly steps. In fact, Tuesday I even went so far as to wear low boots, rather than trainers – not heels quite yet though.

So I was very good and went out just for a little run on Tuesday night. Not far, not fast, but just enough to make sure everything was still functioning. 3 miles in 37:32 won’t break any records, but it was an even pace and felt good. It all ached a bit at the start, but the aches soon subsided. I was most relieved that my left ankle, that was hurting like billy oh on Monday was, in fact, entirely happy with the concept of running, including over some uneven ground. No tweaks or twinges anywhere. What a relief!

Followed this up with a good stretching session and feel that I’m pretty much recovered from the exertions of Sunday. I’ve certainly been making up for the calories burned, been starving hungry at unusual times and eating like a horse ever since!  Not sure I’m up to speed work on Thursday with the club, but I think I’ll give it a go regardless.

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…

Step to it!

Coo! That’s feels marvellous and awful at one and the same time!

First run out in 2 weeks, and I can’t think of a single bit of me that doesn’t ache a little bit. Both calves, thighs, ribcage, hips – you name it and I can feel it. And I’m clearly not over that cold yet (urgh, I’ll save you the snot-tastic details). BUT I feel ace!!

Just a short one at an easy pace. Kept the breathing to a 3 steps in/3 steps out for most of it, the exception being that annoying rise after the turn. I know what goes down must go back up again, but it always takes me by surprise. Didn’t bother looking at the watch, just wanted it to be easy and comfortable. And it was.

Distance – 3.44 miles
Time – 40:57
Average pace – 11:45 min/mile
Best pace – 10:10 min/mile
Out in 19:43, back in 20:47.

So glad I went out and ran, I feel just so much better just for getting out there. Have stretched and the ankles are both feeling a bit on the stiff side, but it feels more like lack of use than anything else, so I’ll stretch again before bed and hope it all feel looser tomorrow.