Strange magic

What makes a good run into a good run? Difficult to say, but on some days the alignment of the planets is just right and it all comes together. You feel on top of the world. Today I felt I was on a roll. Well I was, but the parts of me that suffered undue movement last time out have been firmly restrained. I did battle with the shopping crowds and and inclement Saturday weather to visit a specialist purveyor of intimate garments for the, ahem, larger lady. As a result I now own what looks rather like a medieval implement of torture, but is, in fact, a sports bra. Once into the item (which is an exercise worthy of a contortionist) things are not going very far, let’s put it that way. If I’m completely honest, the adjustment on the shoulder straps are at their tightest and I’d like it a smidge tighter, so a couple of tucks are clearly in order, especially to give some room to take up any stretch. But compared to last outing, this was divine.

Whether that is entirely as a result of the new underpinnings or not it is difficult to say, but I had an epic run today! Set off in the middle of the afternoon, which is an odd running time on a Sunday. But what with ringing first thing and a coffee shop stop, a quick foraging session in Sainsbury’s, the Grand Prix (recorded & watched on catch up; eventful, but no one wants to see that sort of accident) and lunch, it was gone 3 pm before I set off. By this time the morning’s ground frost had long since departed, leaving blue skies and fluffy white clouds. It wasn’t quite as warm outside as it looked from inside, but no way could it be described as cold – not yet, anyway. It should be the final outing at 3 minutes run to 1 minute walking and it really felt like it was time to move up. The run sections felt fine, the pace was good. Once again I ran past the pylon to turn at the beginning of a walk segment, meaning that for the first time since I picked up running again I managed an outing of over 3 miles. Whoop Whoop.

Distance: 3.02 miles
Time: 38:51 minutes
Ave Pace: 12:52 minute/miles

Which is hardly speedy, but is the first time I have averaged less than 13 minutes to the mile since returning to running – which at least shows improvement in a positive direction. And it felt just really good out there. The running was not exactly easy, but it wasn’t lung bustingly difficult either. I felt I could have gone on for longer and returned feeling that post exercise rush of euphoria that makes the good runs so very very good. These are the kind of outings that I used to so much love running for; the days that make all the pain, discomfort, blisters, chafing, rain, cold, miserableness, (insert your pet hate here),  worthwhile. This is what I’ve missed. This is why I will be out again next week, just hoping that magic happens again…

Ole ole ole ole

It’s been a gorgeous day here in the shire. Started early with a spot of ringing before I ran (part way) home. The husband dropped me off in the usual place and I set off with no particular distance or time in mind. I had checked that the route had dried out – last week we’d driven past and the entire nature reserve was under rather more water than usual, with just the trees showing above the surface. You could see evidence of this, in places the path had been disturbed somewhat, in others there was the flotsam & jetsam indicating a tide line.  The water had receded, but there was still more of it about than usual.

The first 2 miles ended up being speedier than intended – at ~ 10:20 min/miles. For the longest run since M-day, I thought that might be a little too speedy, so eased off after 2 miles to something nearer 11s. After the topsy-turvey weather we’ve had recently, it was a really lovely day out, although I could complain it made running rather hot work. For someone who is always at least one jumper colder than the rest of the world, I seem to overheat when running really quite quickly. No autumn marathons for me – I’d never manage the training through the summer! But the niceness had brought people out of the woodwork, saw far more than the usual number of runners (including some runners who weren’t when I saw them), plus walkers  and cyclists out and about.

I got back towards town with almost 6 miles on the watch, and decided that would be a reasonable run, so took the shortest (but steepest) route back home. 6.6 miles in 1:16 seems entirely reasonable. Need to get back into the habit of making the Sunday run at least 10, but it’ll come.

The shower and lunch before sitting down to watch the Spanish Grand prix (see, now the title makes some sense!). I do like my F1, and have been watching it for a rather long time now. And so to see Williams win a race after a long spell in the midfield (and lower) was just brilliant. I’m not in any way, shape or form (that’s mild understatement) a Ferrari fan, so was willing Alonso to fall off and let Maldonado alone. In fact even my Ferrari fan of a husband (yes, I did know that before I married him) thought it the right result. So good to see Frank Williams there to see the team back on top the podium. Never, to my recollection, have I heard the Venezuelan national anthem before, but good on F1 for having both the flag and the tune available. Excellent result and that makes 5 different winners and 5 different cars have won the first 5 races – shaping up for an exciting season.

A good day all round, and it’ll be topped off with a joint of beef (in the oven ) and maybe a bottle of something nice. Sundays should all be like this.

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!

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.

Diary disaster!

I was merrily tapping away at the PC at work today when someone mentioned a meeting next Monday, 21st. No, I said, 21st is the following Monday. They were adamant, so I checked my diary. By some random brain wave, I’ve managed to insert an extra week into November! This has relevance for a running blog because I’ve got a half marathon on the 20th and I though that was over a week away. It isn’t; it’s this weekend! So, instead of a full running week, I find myself on a slight taper down to race day. Which, in fact, puts my slightly short run on Sunday into better light – I had planned 8 for the long run a week out, and did 9.

But that makes little difference to Tuesday’s club run, sprints this week. Long warm up run to the park, and it needed to be the long way round, as it was really cold out. We’d had beautiful clear skies all day, so by the time we were setting out to run the sun had been down several hours and the warmth of the day had vanished to the stars. First really winter run. I may have been shopping for running goodies (shhh – don’t tell the husband), and one of my purchases was a gillet. For those (like me) that aren’t sure what that is, it’s a sleeveless jacket. In this case light and windproof, with a zip all the way up the front. The idea is to keep the body warm. I decided it was cold enough to try it out. The trouble with sprints tends to be the standing around, sorry, that should be recovery periods, between exertion. It’s very easy to get cold.

Sprints were from start to various lampposts, the recover back to start & go again. Repeat until a sweaty mass of humanity collapses on the floor. 3 minutes rest, then do it again – oh joy! We finished up with a bit of a relay race. 2 teams, 4 people at each end, person 1 sprints to the other end, person 2 runs back etc. I managed to line up against Alan. He’s one of the club’s elder statesmen, but he has a lightning fast turn of speed when he wants to. His team was marginally ahead by the time we were the next to go, so I jokingly suggested he give me a chance & wait for me. To my surprise, he did! This meant that I was then left trying to keep up with him over the distance. I will admit that he beat me, but not by an embarrassing amount.  

Facts & Figures
Distance – 3.1 miles.
Time – 52:39
Average pace is fairly meaningless for a sprint session, but I do love the fact that my darling Garmin has reported my best pace as 5:02 min/mile. I don’t care if it’s a technical aberration, or was achieved for no more than a few meters, that says I ran at almost 12 miles an hour! Wow!

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.

The story so far – the first half

Race report – Silverstone half marathon. Number 655

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 hours 37 minutes 1 second. Result!

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