Saturday, 30 June 2018

Eastville parkrun

It has been a busy week at school.  Or rather, it has been a busy week not being in school.  We've had activities week which for my year group (9) was a series of day trip.  This coupled with a two nights out up in London meant that consideration of this morning's parkrun venue was very low down the list of things to do.  I knew it would be 'somewhere near Bristol' and I was hoping that there might be a new parkrun since I was last there.  

Husbando met me from the train (he was there for a book fair) and we decided, over supper, that it would be a good idea to find one that was close enough for us to run there and back.  This would mean that we didn't need to incur an additional charge at the hotel carpark and that we could skip our long run on Sunday.  Eastville parkrun seemed to fit the bill - 2.75miles from the hotel and one that I hadn't run before.  

After grabbing a quick breakfast in the hotel we set off.  It was overcast and cool - quite a change from the rest of the week.  It was a nice easy route to follow and as we arrived at Eastville Park, with plenty of time to spare, we could see the tell tale high viz jackets and a parkrun flag.  While we waited for the run brief we bumped into the RD of Maidenhead parkrun - last seen (I think) at the inaugural there!  

It is an interesting course.  The first lap is clockwise around the middle, squarish, section followed by a second lap that goes all around the lake and up to the top of the park with the last lap around the central square.  It is all on tarmac and is not exactly flat!  200ft of elevation with a long uphill drag from the lake up to the other end of the park and an uphill approach to the finish.  I took it easy today, my legs were tired after the marathon last week and it was starting to get rather warm!  Husbando sped off into the distance....   We ran right up to the edge of the M32 - is this the closest a parkrun gets to a motorway?  The marshals were helpful and friendly making sure that we didn't go the wrong way

We didn't hang around afterwards as Husbando had to get back to work.  We grabbed a bottle of pop from the Subway at the corner of the park and ran back to the hotel in the now baking heat.  

Thank you to all the volunteers who make the parkrun magic happen.  Hopefully we'll be back again soon!

Sunday, 24 June 2018

A marathon with bells on.

 In the days leading up to this weekend Husbando said that he would run with me.  'Oh great!' I thought.  'Just what I need, 10 miles of him nagging me to go faster and to quit whinging, followed by me having a hissy fit and telling him to sod off and finish the bloody race on his own.'  In the interests of matrimonial harmony I decided to give running a race together another go.  What could possibly go wrong?

We arrived, with friends, on Friday evening and after checking in to The Greyhound Inn we toddled off to the village hall to tuck into lasagne provided by the local WI which we washed down with a pint of ale before returning to the pub to sample a local gin (  Pre race hydration completed we went to bed.  We had an early start the next morning, but for once we weren't leaving the house at daft o'clock to drive to a race.

The race started at 8.30am after a short race briefing.  Straight out through the village and then up the first of many, many hills.  It was warm already but we were happily plodding along, walking the steep bits and chatting with a few people we knew.  The ground underfoot was treacherous: baked solid and  very rutted.  We saw a couple of people take a tumble in the first couple of miles - but nothing serious.  Just past the second aid station we heard someone fall behind us and turned around.  A lady had fallen on the chalky, flinty path and even from the distance of about 50' we could see that it wasn't good.  We ran back as there was no one else near her, I took my phone out of my pocket as I ran towards her ready to call race HQ if necessary.  The poor thing had split her eyebrow (breaking her glasses in the process) and had impressive bruising on her cheekbone, and grazes to her hands and knees.  Husbando ran back to the aid station, a first aid kit appeared and we stayed with her and her friend (who had caught her up) until the ambulance arrived.  I don't know if she carried on or not - I hope she is ok!

A couple of miles later, and after a minor detour resulting in climbing over a barbed wire fence, I realised that my phone was missing.  I couldn't think where it could be.  We stopped for a while and had a think.  The 'find my friend' app didn't work as my phone appeared to be in an area with no reception.  I then remembered running towards the fallen lady with it in my hand so assumed that I had put it down and not picked it up again.  I knew we'd be going back past that point and I knew that if anyone saw it they would hand it in, but decided to mention it when Andy drove by in his truck and slowed down to ask about the slight detour we'd taken.

As for the running, it was going well.  We were taking it easy and stopping to take photos.  The heat meant that it was not going to be a fast marathon for anyone, but as tanning opportunities go it was great!  At some point, before half way, we took another wrong turn - the dangers of assuming the person in front knows where they are going.  We probably only went about three quarters of a mile along the track before people started heading back down saying that we were going the wrong way.  There followed a rapid retreat and a scramble down a very steep slope to rejoin the rest of the runners on the correct route.

Soon after halfway, Husbando began to tire.  He is a better runner than me, but due to injury his training regime has been even more lacking than mine this year.  This combined with the heat made it really tough.  We were briefly distracted around this time by dealing with another person who had fallen over.  It was a short downhill section and we watched him land heavily.  Husband, me and another runner helped him up, chatted with him, asked him if he was OK, washed the grit out of his hands with my water.  He assured us he was good, and because we could see other runners approaching, didn't think too much of it when he said that we should go on.   We found out later that he had broken both wrists, cracked two ribs and damaged his eye socket... but he managed to complete the marathon!

Husbando was struggling.  We were walking more than we were running and stopping frequently.  I soon realised we had passed the point where I could run on and leave him to struggle on alone because I was worried about leaving him.  He was really struggling with the heat and various bits of him were hurting to lesser and greater extents.  Our pace dropped off considerably.  All we could do was hope to get around. I don't tend to run marathons with a lot of snacks and gels with me because I find I don't need them, especially at a White Star event as the aid stations are so well stocked.  Husbando became convinced that he needed salt - I am grateful to all the kind runners who shared salt tabs and gels with him.

At the final aid station I thought that the wheels had finally come off the bus and that there was a chance he wouldn't finish.  He sat in the shade, drank a lot of water, ate some salty snacks and eventually we set off again.  We'd run with James and Ruth at a couple of points during the race, and encountered them again at the aid station, they had the misfortune to leave the station just after us and therefore were able to witness Husbando throw up copiously!  Rather than take a wide berth and run on in disgust they stayed with us to check that he was ok. Ruth and I went up the final hill pulling him behind us.  After that it was down hill all the way - but we still took it slowly, breaking into a jog only where we could see the finish line.  I think I realised how rough he looked when, as we ran hand in hand to the finish line, people were shouting 'Well done that man!' It was as though I wasn't there!  As we crossed the line he started to wobble, so we steered him in the direction of the St John's Ambulance for a sit in the shade and rehydration salts before I went off to collect medals, buffs and t-shirts.

A quiet afternoon followed - back to the room for a shower then Husbando went to bed for a couple of hours, I went back to the village hall for a pint of beer with friends before we all met up for supper and a very early night.

I slept well, and woke up ready for a the '9k fun run.'  This had a Le Mans start (i.e first find your shoes) and a compulsory warm up.  The race follows much of the route of the Sydling Hill Race (10k -ish) with a short cut.  Forfeits must be performed at the aid station in order to collect your cowbell medal and running the last mile into the village and the finish line.  This was a lovely race and would have been even better if I hadn't done the marathon the day before!  As we ran down into the village with our bells, those taking part in the 5k fun run were coming up it - which made for some near misses as my very tired legs couldn't cope with running down hill and rapid changes of direction!

Once safely down the hill we all met up for tea and cakes (the local WI strikes again!) before packing up and going home.  Despite feeling awful, I think Husbando is glad he did it.  He certainly appreciates why my times at Giants Head are far slower than my road marathon time (3,166ft of elevation will slow you down a bit!) and is very pleased with his spinning willy medal.  He's only signing up for the 10k next year though!

Thanks to Andy and all the WSR team - and well done on your 100th race.  The marshals were excellent, the aid stations coped brilliantly with all the demanding runners.  I am looking forward to next year... I think.... we've booked our accommodation, so now we have to come!

This is what we think of hills!

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Phoenix Explorer

This weekend last year saw me running around Wasing Park at Endure24.  I wasn't having a great time.  My friend wasn't having a great time, having to stop running after 20 miles.  Somehow we managed to talk each other into entering again this year... and then when injury and illness got in the way and we both decided to be sensible and grown up and defer, which I was absolutely fine with.  Honestly.  I was looking forward to a weekend of not running, I wasn't going to feel at all jealous when I saw the updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  Not at all.

And then a few things happened.  I completed my 12 marathons in 12 months challenge some time ago, but hadn't run at any Phoenix Running events for a while so hadn't been able to collect my certificate and medal, and ten extra places were announced in the Phoenix Explorer marathon.  Just ten places, and demand would be huge because the medal was going to be very special - so a ballot was organised - and I got a place!  At least I wouldn't be sitting around doing nothing while all my friends were running.

And what a day it was!  We had World Record Holding twins (the most marathons run by twins) and a couple of  milestone marathons announced before we started our race, but other than that it was the shortest race briefing ever!  I did almost miss the briefing though -the last time I'd run a Phoenix event at Walton On Thames registration and the briefing had been down on the tow path.  I was happily chatting with a couple of people, wondering where every one was, down by the river having not read my race instructions at all!

The marathon was 4 out and backs, each of just over 6 miles, from Walton towards Hampton Court.  I decided, fearful of the wheels coming off the bus again as they had at Dorchester, that I would just aim to get around without feeling the need to cry at any point.  I chatted with various people at the start but have to admit that I was feeling a bit 'peopled out!'  I was more than happy to plod along (run 9 minutes, walk 1 for as long as I could) with my own thoughts for company.  I dropped in and out of conversations with other runners and there were faces I looked forward to seeing as they came running towards me on the out and backs and was more than happy to stop for a chat at the aid stations at either end of the route but for the most part I was happy on my own.

I watched the rowers going up and down the river, saw ducklings with their parents, avoided getting run over by bikes and tripping up young children.  I even managed to put on a bit of a sprint in order to avoid a dog that thought my legs looked tasty.  The conditions for the first half of the marathon were ideal - nice and cool with a light breeze, but it soon got rather warm and sunny.  I was enjoying the run, but was aware that my pace had slipped.  I didn't really care - because I was still going to finish faster than I had at Dorchester!  

Despite the fact that I was enjoying the run, I was very glad to get to the finish - the tow path is a mixture of hard packed gravel and tarmac, in the dry conditions it felt as hard as a road marathon and my knees were feeling a bit achey towards the end, I managed to pick up the pace at the very end to ensure I finished under 4hrs45mins.  Then it was bling time!

And when I say 'bling time' I mean "BLING TIME!"  The medal is epic.  It weighs in at 3.66kg and comes with a custom build stand.  The ribbon has the names of the 120 runners entered in the race when it was first launched, it is the World's biggest finishers medal.  I beg all race directors not to seek to break this record as carrying it back to the car was rather tricky!    I also collected my 12 in 12 medal.  Rik normally does these presentations before the race, but on this occasion there were so many to be awarded it would have delayed the start (and possibly felt a bit like a production line or a school speech day with prizes for everyone) so he awarded them as we crossed the finish line - which made it feel a bit more special.

Thanks for a great day out.  I was still a little jealous of all the Endure24 posts, but I will be back there next year.  In the meantime, I have at least one more Phoenix Marathon this year - The Remembrance Day Marathon which means I'll get to see this route in the winter too, and I have Giants Head Marathon in a couple of weeks.  It seems that I am back up and running again!

Sunday, 27 May 2018

I've taken so long to run this race I've finished in a different age category!

We drove down to Dorchester in rain so heavy that we couldn't hear the radio.  I snoozed in the back seat - I have never been a fan of early starts - only waking when we had to stop suddenly.  Our early start wasn't too early, which meant we arrived 15 minutes prior to the race briefing.  This is an excellent time to arrive, even though I would normally arrive much earlier, because it doesn't give you time to fret too much - just enough time for a quick run to the loo.  The weather was AWFUL!  The rain was coming down in stair rods so I left my sunglasses in the car and grabbed a hat instead.  And why would anyone cover themselves in suncream that was just going to be washed off in the rain?

There wasn't much time to chat with people at the start, but I did catch up with a few people I hadn't seen for a while.  At 8.15am, as the race brief started, and when it was too late to go back to the car, the sun started to shine.  I wasn't too worried, the last forecast I had seen said that it would rain for most of the day.  How wrong was that forecast?

I wasn't sure what I expected from this race.  I ran it last year, but I was much fitter then.  I has sort of decided to adopt a run/walk strategy,  so set off running for 9mins and then walking for 1min.  That was great(ish) for the first relatively flat half of the race.  We went though some very picturesque villages, past houses that looked as though they were straight out of Country Living magazine, it was hilly but it would have been fine if not for my dodgy guts!  No idea what was going on but I spent rather a lot of time dodging behind hedges.   I considered pulling out.  At the aid station at 15 miles I spent a long time hiding in the village hall (very nice loos!) considering whether it was sensible to carry on.  I may have cried a bit.  I may have needed a bit of TLC from the people there, but I decided  to carry on.

I was greatly helped by the company of 'Cupcake' from Itchin Spitfires - we'd been doing that leapfrogging thing for a while, but soon after 15 miles started chatting, deciding that we were having a bit of a shit time - who knew it was going to be so hot? - and what was necessary was a bit of common sense and just bloody finishing this thing.  We decided to walk the up hills, run the downhills and take the flat bits under consideration - we didn't need to think too hard about the flat bits as they were few and far between!  He'd been aiming for sub 5 hrs - but there was no way we were going to hit that goal!

The aid stations were great!  Portsmouth Joggers had one manned by blue haired mermaids, the love station was awesome - one of the best love stations, and there was a brilliant super hero aid station at around 17 miles.  All the aid stations were fantastic, many of them stocked with lots of great stuff to eat and always with friendly people to look after us all.  There were also a couple of unofficial aid stations - local residents who had decided that we all needed a drink/banana/spraying with water.

The hills in the second half were relentless, including the totally unnecessary entirely uphill mile 23 (or thereabouts - my frequent trips into the hedges seemed to have added considerably to my mileage) so we were walking rather more than we were running, but we were still, just about, capable of running. It was hot an humid, even when there was a breeze it was a warm and totally un refreshing one, but we were going to finish this marathon.  It felt as though we had been running for a very long time - days or weeks seemed to have passed since we had set out which led to the every so slightly hyperbolic comment that is the title of this blog post.

The 25 mile marker was a beautiful thing to behold!  'Not as nice as the 26 mile marker would be' grumbled the two people I was running with!  It was downhill from here, until the last 200m that were flat, so when we got close to the finish we went for it.  We may have looked like extras from a zombie movie, but in our minds we were sprinting!  Crossing the line was a huge relief, thank heavens we didn't have to run again!  Medals were collected - along with a t-shirt and a hug - all part of the WSR service!

It was my slowest road marathon - possibly my slowest ever marathon actually.  However considering I was going to pull out at 15 miles a finish is a win in my book! The race was well organised, the marshals were brilliant and the race village had a lovely atmosphere as everyone relaxed in the hot sunshine after the race.  I am hoping that I will soon stop looking like a lobster!

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Wormwood Scrubs parkrun and a bit of family history.

I was supposed to be tail walking at Alice Holt today, but events conspired against me.  It ended up being easier to get to London than 9 miles up the road so I looked for volunteering opportunities in West London.  Wormwood Scrubs needed a tail walker and I needed to tail walk as I have a marathon tomorrow.

I spent a year living in Acton while I was a student and passed Wormwood Scrubs prison on my way too and from university on the tube but I had never noticed Wormwood Scrubs Park before.  My first impression was how big it was!  Then there was the added excitement of a pony on the loose.  The pony appeared to have been abandoned, but whoever left it in the park probably knew that there was a pony centre nearby and the pony was soon captured and taken off to the centre.

We gathered at the parkrun pop up flag thingy, chatted with regular Wormwood Scrubs runners and other visitors while we waited for 9am.  95 runners ran two laps of the park.  The route is all on grass, today the ground was hard packed but I should imagine it is fairly muddy in the winter.  It is also pretty flat.  A brisk walk with the occasional short jog kept me just behind the last runner.  That last runner ran every step of the way and managed a burst of speed as she approached the finish line - the lengths people will go to in order to avoid talking to me are quite extreme!  I think we finished in just under 42 minutes.

After the run we popped into the Thames Valley Harriers club house for coffee.  My father in law ran with Thames Valley Harriers in the 1940s/50s, Husbando mentioned this to one of the coaches who pointed him in the direction of some photos on the wall.  There are no names with this picture but the man in the glasses in the middle of the photo looks so like photos of my father in law, and the resemblance to Husbando is uncanny.  Originally I was planning to parkrun without Husbando.  He was working in London this weekend and didn't even have his barcode with him.  He decided that he had time to run while we were eating breakfast, so we had to ask the hotel to print off a barcode for him.  Had I gone alone I would not have remembered the TVH connection (if in fact I ever knew about it) and would have missed this little bit of family history.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Wickham Whistler III

When I looked at the race calendar and the family calendar earlier this year it appeared that I would not be able to take part in this fabulous little event.  I thought I'd be spending child no. 4's birthday ferrying him up to Staines to complete his scuba open water diving training.  I was gutted as I'd run the previous two Wickham Whistlers and love supporting On The Whistle.  On Wednesday last week a lift share was organised for the boy - but the race had sold out. I asked the very accommodating organisers if they could keep me in mind if anyone dropped out.... and my luck was in.  They even made sure I got my favourite number!

The Whistler is a 6hr challenge event - run as many laps as you like within the cut off to get your medal.  I only needed to run a half marathon and, realistically, only had time to run a half marathon.  This meant I would need to complete four laps.  I arrived early, paid my money, picked up my number and then retreated to my car because I wasn't feeling terribly sociable!  My stomach was feeling very dodgy - I've spotted a bit of a pattern here, I don't eat much meat during the week, and the food I eat tends to be fairly simple.  Lunch is often a bowl of ramen, supper is a bit of cheese and some crackers.  Then at the weekend on a Saturday evening we invite friends over and BBQ enough meat to feed a small army and the next day I feel ghastly!  I eventually emerged from the car and chatted with friends.  

After our race briefing we were off.  It was a lot muddier than I anticipated.  The conditions underfoot have got wetter every year - next year I predict we will have a swimming section!  The route is out an and back along a disused railway track, the bluebells were visible in the woods to either side, we ran under bridges and past rivers - it was all very pleasant if a little chilly.  Each lap is 3.3 miles.   I ran the first lap, listening in to conversations of those around me.  My tummy was grumbling and my head wasn't really where I needed to be.  It was going to be a long four laps.  The second lap nearly broke me.  The running wasn't hard, but I got it into my head that I had run this route so many times and I really didn't want to run it again.  I considered finishing at the end of the lap and completing another 6.5 miles on my own.   I got to the aid station, filled my water bottle(*) and considered my options.  While I was pondering a familiar face came up to the aid station.  We share a mutual friend and see each other at lots of events, but have never really done much more than say hello to each other.  I asked if I could run with her for a lap.  She protested that she was slower than me, and I said I'd rather run slower than nor run at all, so we grabbed some snacks (sausages and fudge are an odd combination but do hit the spot)  and set off for lap number three.

Talking certainly made the time pass faster.  We chatted about all sorts of things - discovering that we are both members of FetchEveryone and both post on the same forum. To be fair, she had worked out who I was ages ago - but I'm not very quick on the uptake!  At the end of lap three I saw a familiar face at the aid station - he'd run to Wickham to run a lap with me.  We'd met at various On The Whistle events but haven't seen each other for ages.  He graciously slowed his speedy pace to plod along with me.  We walked a bit when I really thought my guts were going to revolt - if I could have made myself throw up I would have done, but I managed to hold everything together and muster a bit of speed towards the end.  

I rang the bell to signal I was done, and collected my medal - and a raffle prize from the Chilly Hilly back in January.  I may or may not have told someone that it was a prize for the being the coolest person at the race.....   I am glad I stuck it out - this week's training miles are in the bag and I can take it easy until Tuesday now!   

Thank you to everyone at On The Whistle for a great morning - the hugs, encouragement and laughter are much appreciated!

(*) Hats off to On The Whistle - they are encouraging everyone to bring their own water bottle to reduce the number of plastic cups being used.  

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Portsmouth Lakeside parkrun

For someone who doesn't really do 'parkrun touring' I seem to have visited a fair few parkruns over the last month or so!  I like to take advantage of being in the area for something else rather than making a special journey if that makes sense.  This Saturday morning I had to drop my youngest son off in Petersfield at 8am (to go SCUBA diving), so had plenty of time to get to a new to me parkrun.  I decided Portsmouth Lakeside parkrun looked like a good option - it also gave me the option of visiting Shit Weasel (you may remember him from adventures in Tanzania) afterwards.  I did no more research than to ask a friend for a postcode to point my sat nav towards - in my defence last week was somewhat hectic - and that was a mistake!

Portsmouth Lakeside parkrun is very easy to find, there is plenty of parking and friendly marshals to point you in the right direction.  The first marshal I saw was wearing a cape, which is when I got an inkling that maybe I should have done a bit of research, but the second one I encountered was just wearing a hi-viz vest (over their clothes -obviously) so I was willing to put the cape down to mild eccentricity.  On parking the car I spotted two Wonder Women, some Super Men and various other caped crusaders.  Oh dear!  I had pitched up for Super Hero Day without a costume! It was also their second birthday and all this combined with a graduating Couch to 5K course made for a very busy parkrun.

The course is very flat, on tarmac and hard packed gravel - with a fair few puddles due to all the April showers.  If you like a course with lots of out and back bits where you can see other runners - which I do - then you'll love this course.  There were loads of opportunities to spot friends - and I am always amazed at the number of people I know at parkrun - and offer encouragement.  I loved the fact that you can't see too far ahead at any point on the route - there is always a corner or a turn coming up soon.  I am not sure I actually saw the lake - although I did see tents with people fishing from them - so I must have been a bit daft to miss it!  The main landmark I spotted was the Porshe garage!  I spent quite a lot of time avoiding puddles rather than running in a straight line (no clean trainers in the car - school girl error!) and that, combined with feeling as though I have been beaten up after trying yoga for the first time earlier this week, meant my time wasn't as fast as last week or as fast as I'd like on such a flat course, but 25:28 and 14th lady (86th overall) is OK considering I need to run at least 13 miles tomorrow.  I was also somewhat hampered by the fact that my running tights kept falling down!

After the run, everyone retires to the Starbucks near the start.  I chatted to a few people, but dashed off fairly sharpish to meet SW.  Lovely to see him and his fiancĂ© again.  We went out to breakfast at the Southwick Tea Rooms in the gorgeous village of Southwick.  You can't buy a house in this village as they are all part of the Southwick estate - it is beautiful and charming and the Tea Rooms are excellent.  Possibly the best post parkrun breakfast I have ever had (eggs Benedict with a pot of tea and a slice of coffee cake to bring home).

So that was Portsmouth Lakeside parkrun.  Huge thank you to all the volunteers as always!   I may break my non touring rules next week to go and see a friend who is running near this space!