Sunday, 11 June 2017

Return to Wasing Park

I'd been obsessively checking the weather forecast for over a week.  I knew where my tent was, what food I was going to take with me and which clothing I would pack.  In other words, apart from a lack of adequate training and niggling injuries, I was as ready as I could be for another Solo Endure 24!

Yet again, Husbando had a busy weekend (work, school fete, childcare, gardening) so I would be 'on my own' for the first day.  Not that it is possible to be on one's own at Endure.  There are so many familiar faces and the majority of them are bloody lovely!  I set up my tent next to a friend's on Friday evening, went to a Stewart Lee gig and then home to bed.

Saturday was sunny.  After days of looking at a forecast that promised rain we were now apparently assured a dry weekend.  Wet weather gear was swapped for sunscreen and hats.  After faffing around and getting a massage to try to loose up my piriformis and hamstring it was time to go to the start line.  There seemed to be far more people than last year, but as with last year the atmosphere at the start was amazing.  Starting near the back, and feeling quite exhausted (it has been a busy few weeks) it was easy not to go off to fast.  The sun was beating down, we were on our way up the 'Hill of no return.'

When it comes to setting targets, I am my own worst enemy.  I had wanted to defer my entry, but had missed the deadline.  I knew that I was not as fit as I had been last year and that the 24 hours were going to be really hard work. I desperately wanted to equal last year's mileage (70miles), but knew that this would be a tall order.   After three lap I wanted to quit.  Laps are a mental challenge at the best of times and, despite the fact that I was running at a good steady pace, my heart and head weren't in it and I couldn't see the appeal of running 11 more laps.  About this time I bumped into some running buddies and that changed my event.  Several renditions of 'I know a song that will get on your nerves,' (I only shifted that earworm by singing 'Bye Bye Miss American Pie' very loudly) and discussions about all sorts of things (more of this later, maybe!) helped the miles tick by.

My 'runners' Alzheimer's' was in full force.  People kept saying hello to me and calling out my name - and I was wracking my brains to try to match a name to the face.  I was convinced that I must be wearing one of my tops with my name on it - but I wasn't!  I do apologise if I looked a bit vague at times.  Between laps I was the Queen of Faff!  I probably wasted hours trying to decide if I needed to go to the loo or not, whether I wanted to eat or not, change my shoes or not.  I also worried about a friend who was not having a good time.

I wanted to complete 45 miles before bedtime, after 8 laps (40 miles) I was flagging.  I decided to walk the next lap and was joined by a friend who was here to support members of her running club.  We hadn't seen each other for a while and it was great to catch up!  She sets a cracking walking pace and we saw the famous Forest Faries! After that I had a massage and, just after midnight, retired to my tent.  I timed this to coincide with the portaloos in the solo area being serviced - a lovely aroma and noise to act as a lullaby.  I decided to allow myself 3.5hrs sleep with the aim of being back out again in 4 hours.  I may have been lying down, but I didn't get much sleep - the solo area is near the track and all night there are team runners calling out to try to find the next team member.

Then it started raining.  I think that may have lulled me to sleep, but it was still raining when the alarm went off at 3.30am.  This meant that long tights and a waterproof were needed, not shorts, but the condensation inside my single skin tent meant that I was likely to get soaked if I tried to change in the tent.  I retired to my car and contorted myself into long tights while sitting in the driver's seat.  It would have been much easier to do this in the passenger seat - but I didn't realise that until I was half into my tights!  As I got out of the car the bloody rain stopped!

That first lap on Sunday was tough.  I was so tired that I was falling asleep on my feet.  I got back to the car, wiggled out of long tights and back into a pair of shorts, and texted Husbando to say that I was going to have a 20 minute nap before going out again.  He said to wait for him because he would be here in 40.  I was asleep within minutes.

The last four laps were much more walking than running, accompanied by Husbando, we maintained a fairly brisk pace.  My legs were too tired to even attempt to run on some of the more uneven sections.  My feet were burning.  Every footstep was painful.  My brain could barely compute the 5x table.  This lead to great joy when I realised I only had two laps left to do not three!

The last lap seemed to take forever, but as I zig zagged across the field at a shuffle and turned the corner to approach the finish I could see that there was no one between me and the finish arch.  There were loads of people around the finish so I couldn't carry on shuffling - I had to put on a burst of speed.  I felt as though I was sprinting, I probably looked like a three legged donkey, but I heard the commentator name check me and he said that I was sprinting so it must be true!

At last it was over!  I was so happy to be able to stop.  I eased my trainers off, peeled my socks away from my skin and realised why I was in so much pain.  Blisters!  I don't get blisters!  But today, maybe because of the heat I had a life time's supply.  Blisters on the side of my feet, the base of my feel, under my heel and between my toes!  Putting on flip flops was painful!

Thank you to everyone who helped me through the last couple of days!  You are all awesome.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Of knock knees and beautiful bling

It was the first Sunday of the half term break.  This was a break that I had been looking forward to for what seemed like a millennium.  I was so tired  towards the end of  the half term that the temptation to fall asleep while standing up in front of a class was hard to resist.  So why was the alarm ringing at 4.30am on a Sunday?  Because I had decided that I'd rather sleep in my own bed than travel down and stay in a B&B.  It didn't seem like such a good idea as Husbando and I blearily got ourselves organised and into the car and, picking up friends on the way, set off towards Dorchester.  

We'd all pretty much decided that we needed a McDonalds breakfast an a coffee for breakfast, and we knew exactly where we would stop.  The disappointment we felt when the McDs at Ferndown was closed for renovations was huge.  How could this be?  Did they not know we were depending on them? How would we manage now? We were starving!  Husbando had taken the car to be valeted the day before, so there wasn't even the chance of finding a lost chocolate bar or packet of crushed mini cheddars under one of the seats.  There was nothing for it but to head on into the wilds of Dorset and hope that there would be food available somewhere! 

Our detour to the (closed) McD's had cost us a few minutes. Minutes that meant that we arrived on the outskirts of Dorchester just after 7am.... which was the time that all the road closures kicked in and we were told that the signs had 'been up all week' and that 'closed means closed.'  After a couple of false starts, a look at the map and the race instructions, we decided that the only way to get to the race start was to just drive through the road closure signs - much to the annoyance of the people setting it up!  Luckily we had plenty of time - I do hate cutting things fine!

We arrived at the 'Athlete's Village', parked the car, faffed about a bit, grabbed a coffee and, thank goodness, a bacon roll!  As is normal at a White Star Running event, there were lots of familiar faces to greet and chat to, we picked up out yellow ribbons to wear as a mark of respect to all those affected by the events in Manchester last week  and pretty soon it was time for the two of us running the marathon to say goodbye to our other halves (aka, throw our hoodies at them for them to stow in the car) and head to the start line.  

Standing near the back of the 700+ strong field of runners, I have to admit I didn't hear a word of Andy's run briefing, but the Town Crier, in full costume, stood on a cherry picker and sent us off with a rousing speech.  My plan was... well I really don't know what it was.  Suck it an see?  The weather was hot and humid, but overcast at the start and for the first 5 or 6 miles I was having a great time.  It was very pretty, lovely villages (mostly with a name that included 'piddle' or 'puddle' but 'Tincleton' was my favourite name), gentle undulations and great scenery! I began to think I would be on for a reasonable time.  But then my knee went wonky.  It had been a bit 'owy' on the previous day, but I'd put that down to pre-marathon jitters.  Suddenly my right knee felt as though it wanted to bend the wrong way.   Should I stop?  Probably.  Did I stop?  Well, what do you think?

I decided to run until I got to 13 miles and then run/walk the rest of the way.  I saw a few familiar faces as I plodded around.  I played leapfrog with several runners, especially when I was running 9mins walking then walking a minute, but soon people weren't catching me up anymore even when I was walking - even though I stopped to chat at every aid station and the love station.  Lord Badger got upset because I 'molested' him (his words for a big sweaty hug) and didn't hang around for a badge!  To be honest it almost hurt my knee more to walk than to run, but my hamstring was tightening up (to support my knee) when I was running! In fact, the whole right side of my body was tensing up so much that even my hand was aching!  

At 23 miles there came a totally unnecessary and rather rude hill.  It was about a mile long.  Not overly steep, and really quite runnable in normal conditions.   But I felt as though the right hand side of my body was ever so slightly broken and did I mention it was hot?  Very hot, sunny and unpleasantly humid.  At this point I fell into step with some other runners who had decided not to run up the hill - so it seemed rude to run when they were walking.   The 24 mile marker (yes, mile marker at a WSR event!) was a very welcome site.  I knew that I was suffering but that 'no more than 4 more miles' was more than achievable!  I refused to be lulled into a false sense of security by believing that this would be a traditional marathon distance, but low and behold, as I ran downhill and past the 26 mile marker I could see (and hear!) the finish. I overtook a few people who had been just ahead of me for most of the race, and then had to really push it to the finish to make sure they didn't come back past me, the finish was great - the last 100m was lined with supporters.  Someone called out my name (or rather a variant of it that was used on the parkrun show - I didn't see who it was, but thank you!  And Husbando was sitting on a wall by the gate to the finish area to see me home.  I picked up the pace and lengthened my stride (my last .3 of a mile was sub 8min/mile pace) and threw my aching body over the finish line.  The WSR team gave me my rather super medal and lovely t-shirt and I hobbled back to meet my friends.  My time was 'Ok - considering.'  Husbando had run the half marathon and had an awful race.  He'd hurt his knee 4 weeks earlier, and decided to switch from the full to the half for his reason.  He'd run the first 6.5 miles in 44 minutes, and then taken 1hr45 mins to complete the rest - his knee just locked up totally.  To counter this our little group also had a massive PB - a time of 3hrs51mins which was also his first sub 4hr marathon. 
All in all it was a excellent race, well organises, great race village, awesome aid station and wonderful route.  Can we do it all again next year please?

Monday, 1 May 2017

Running to stop the voices!

Life is busy for everyone.  I don't necessarily think that my life is any busier than the next parent who works full time.  But I can't help but feel that it is a little noisier.

I have 5 children, admittedly only 4 live at home now, but nature abhors a vacuum so I haven't noticed any more space at home or any decrease in the decibels.  At work I am a teacher.  All day, every day, (or so it sometimes seems) people are talking to me.  Or if they are not talking to me they are talking all around me, even during silent reading there will be someone talking.  Often this babble, that I am doing my best to tune out, is interrupted by a call of 'Mum' or 'Miss' (and I've been called these interchangeably at home and school) and I am drawn back in trying to replay what has been said in order to provide a relatively lucid response.

And, don't get me wrong, I do like talking to people.  I love the fact that we sit around the kitchen table to eat together at least once a day and have a good catch up about what is going on in everyone's life.  I love it when people pop in to my lab at school on the pretext of discussing a pupil's progress and then we spend the next 15 minutes chatting about this and that.  I love the bizarre conversations I have with random runners during races, safe in the knowledge that we will probably never see each other again, only to end up bumping into each other at subsequent races and becoming good friends.  When your first ever conversation has been about chaffing bits then you know you can talk about just about anything with that person, so long as you don't mention politics or religion!

But quiet is what I crave.  Not silence, but an absence of people talking at and to me and expecting me to... do something... say something.  It is exhausting.

And this, I believe, is why I run!  If I go to the loo you can bet that the minute I unzip my jeans someone will knock on the door wanting to know where x, y or z is 'hidden!'  But if I head out on a run then I am on my own.  If I want to listen to music I can, I even listen to a lot of audio books - that's a different kind of voice, nothing is expected of me and I can just let it wash over me.  At races or group runs with friends I can choose to chat away (and I often do) but I can also run on my own, changing my pace to engage or disengage in a conversation.  Yesterday I ran most of the second half of the marathon on my own.  Not really thinking about anything, just letting my brain switch off from having to deal with all the voices.

I'd like to be able to say I have some of my best ideas while running, but if I do I have forgotten them by the time I take my trainers off.  What I do get, or so I like to think, is the headspace that some people get from meditation and yoga.  Maybe I am deluding myself but you can be sure that the minute I contort myself into some complicated yoga position someone will appear with a demand to know where their reading record is or need help to untangle a necklace - hardly conducive to relaxation!

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Take the slow train.

When I signed up for this event, I hadn't got a place at the London Marathon, so I wasn't at all concerned about running it three weeks after Paris.  I'd taken part in last year's event, which was On the Whistle's first event, and had a really lovely time, churning out 35 miles in the 6hours available.  There was never any doubt that I'd be on the start line, but what came next was more uncertain.

As with last year, Husbando came too.  We parked the car, bumped into one of my very favourite running people, who is injured at the moment.  He was totting his camera and accompanied by his dog.  We collected our numbers, stowed our bags in the tent, chatted with friends and waited for the whistle to send us off on our way.  We were in good spirits and the first half mile was uneventful.  That's right, the first half mile was uneventful.  Suddenly Husbando was on the ground.  He'd gone over on his ankle.  I stayed with him for a while - it didn't look good, and he told me to go on.  After checking that he could stand up, and bear weight on his leg, I did just that.  I stopped to tell the marshal at the turnaround point to keep an eye out for him and, as we were chatting, I saw Husbando approaching, so I waited for him.  We bimbled on together, Husbando's ankle and knee were not good, but he persevered and very nearly ran 4 laps, pulling up about three quarters of the way around lap 4 and walking the last bit to qualify for his half marathon medal.

I continued on, I adopted a run 9mins, walk 1min strategy,  interspersed with stops to feed my face at the aid station.  I have strict rules about my run/walk strategy.  If the 1min walk coincides with a downhill stretch then you miss the walk break and carry on running until the next scheduled walk break.  This wasn't really relevant today as the course was pretty flat.  Another rule is that, if I miss the start of the minute walk then it is forfeit and I carry on until the next walk break.   I skipped quite a lot of walk breaks, some of them to make up for spending too long at the aid station, others to try to catch up with a runner I fancied chatting to, and to avoid being lapped by a friend!  

I do love an event where I get to see so many friends and so often!  It is even better when the weather is kind, which it was for most of the day.  The forecast had threatened rain from about 11am, but it remained dry right up to then end of my 7th lap (8 were needed for a marathon).  I am pretty certain that, had it been raining from 11am the distance I covered would have been greatly reduced!  As it was I finished my 24th marathon, 5th this year and 3rd in April in 4hrs44mins.  Strava tells me my moving time was 4hrs 21 - which sounds about right as I did spend a lot of time faffing about.

Huge thanks to On The Whistle for another great event!  I'm off to put my feet up!

Sunday, 23 April 2017

London marathon, a tale of snot rockets, kittens and royalty.

You know that bit in any race instructions that says 'do not race if you feel unwell, have a flu type cold or an injury?'  Does anyone ever pay that any attention?   I nearly did.  At 7.50pm, having struggled to walk the length of Shaftesbury Avenue while wheezing and coughing, I sent out a desperate plea, via Facebook, asking if it was possible to defer a charity place... I had 9 minutes to make the decision, if a deferral was possible.  The responses I got were of the 'Man up, cupcake!' variety, with a side order of, 'No you can't defer charity places.'  So it was off to bed with a dose of paracetamol for me.

Husbando and I were staying in London so at least we wouldn't have to get up at sparrow fart in order  for me to get to Greenwich Park for the start.  As an added bonus, the hotel we stayed in had decided to start their breakfast service early so that the marathon runners could eat before heading off.  I felt grim, couldn't taste my breakfast and swallowing toast felt like swallowing razor blades, but the only option I had was to run.... A 10am start to the race made for a leisurely start to the day.  It felt odd travelling to the start by myself - but there were plenty of other runners to chat to.  The Red Start was enormous, but once I'd located the loos, the baggage wagons and the start pens I was much happier.  The loo queues were something else!  From the end of the queues the loos weren't even visible!

It took me 10 minutes to cross the line and a nice steady pace was enforced by the sheer volume of runners all around me.  From the start there were people lining the route and cheering us on.   The red starters don't merge with the blue runners until about 3 miles into the race.  I think the blue runners may have crossed the line faster than us, as suddenly I felt we were amongst runners who were at a slower pace, which added to the congestion.  It was good natured though, yes there were collisions between runners (I doubled up in agony after an elbow caught me awkwardly) but there was none of the ill mannered pushing and shoving that I experienced in Paris two weeks ago.  The weather was fabulous at the start, sunny but not too hot, but I had no expectations of running a good time.  For one, it was hugely busy, and for another thing I felt grim!  In my mind I planned to run the first half, hopefully see Husbando there for a quick chat, and then run 9mins and walk 1min for the rest of the race.

As it was, I saw Husbando with the Fetchpoint guys at around 14 miles, but there were on the other side of the road with the fast runners already coming back, so I plodded on!  At some point, I think about 16 miles, I did drop down to the 9/1 strategy, but got bored and managed to blast out two fast miles (8.02 and 9.09 minutes).  There was no way I could manage to run that fast for much longer today, but I wanted to see if I could manage it. Probably a silly thing to do, but it was fun.

I'd been anticipating that Canary Wharf would be quiet, and was quite looking forward to a respite, but there were crowds EVERYWHERE!  The noise was intense at times, the only quiet(ish) sections were in the tunnels.  I chatted to a few other runners, at one point telling everyone around me that I'd just had kittens!  It isn't often that you get a text with the single word KITTENS while you are running a marathon.  Another time, while talking, briefly, to a friend who was speeding ahead, a man said 'I just want to thank you for running for Treloar's - my son is starting there in September.'  He was running for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and (I think) wearing a cape.  There were very few of us running for Treloar's so the chances of the two of us bumping into each other were tiny.

At around 22 miles I was back at Fetchpoint to say hello to everyone, scarf down some cocktail sausages, hug Husbando and thank that Fetcheveryone community for the generous fundraising donation that made my run possible.  There was not far to go now, but after being virtually spot on for the first 9 miles, my Garmin was wildly out now,  it was reading up to half a mile more than the markers on the road said I'd run, and it seemed to me that the difference was just increasing as time went on.  I'd been hearing 'Toria' screamed at me almost constantly, so when I heard 'Victoria' shouted at around 25 miles I figured that it must be someone who actually knew me... I turned and saw a familiar face, ran back (not far - only a couple of metres) and gave him a hug.  I then realised that, yes I did know him, but possibly giving your Head of Year a hot and sweaty hug is not quite the done thing!  Sorry!  Still, it cheered me up no end to see him, and then another parkrun friend a few hundred yards later.

Suddenly we were running past the Houses of Parliament and the end was nearly here.  But, boy, Birdcage Walk is long!  I think it is longer than when I ran the Westminster  Mile there!  My impression is that I was overtaking more people than were overtaking me.  I certainly didn't give it my all today, I couldn't as I had a head full of snot and cotton wool, but the run did give me back a little of the confidence I have lost over recent races.  As we rounded the top of Birdcage Walk and ran past Buckingham Palace I picked up my pace a bit.  I could see the finish line.  And then it was over.  I'd done it.  Not my best marathon, by a long way, about half an hour slower than I wanted to be, but over 15 minutes faster than two weeks ago in Paris, without feeling as though I've worked anywhere near as hard!

I trundled through the process of getting medals, t-shirts and retrieving my kit bag.  I'd got my medal and walked (hobbled?) on when the woman behind me squealed.  I turned back and realised that the bloke handing out the medals, who had looked a little familiar, was Prince William!  Now that is a selfie opportunity I well and truly missed!  As I passed the baggage lorries I saw friends from my local running club - fabulous to say hello!

I made my way back to the hotel, Husbando had organised late check out, so I could have a shower and change before driving home.  What a brilliant idea that was!  All in all, a brilliant day out!

Huge thanks to everyone who has donated to Treloar's Trust, donations are still welcome...

Monday, 10 April 2017

April in Paris

I should have known the weekend would not go entirely to plan when there was no Haribo stand at the Expo!  I'm not saying that it was the highlight of last year's Paris trip - but it was a pretty good way to start the weekend.  I had the restraining presence of Husbando with me, which meant that I didn't spend too much money at the expo!

We arrived on Thursday, and checked into my first ever AirB&B apartment - that was a slightly stressful experience - I was half convinced that we would find that there was no such apartment and that we would have nowhere to sleep that evening.  As it was our apartment was there, just off av. Foch and ideally suited for our needs.  After dropping off our bags we headed to the expo and picked up our race numbers and t-shirts for the Breakfast Run.    Friday was spent hanging out with friends, walking about a bit and looking, anxiously, at the weather forecast.

Saturday morning was glorious!  We made our way to the new start for the Breakfast Run (in previous years it had started just outside our front door, but this year a short Metro journey to Palais Royal-Louvre was required).  The new route was stunning!  Through the courtyard at the Louvre, over the river, past the MuseĆ© d'Orsay and then along the bank of the Seine  before finishing right next to the Eiffel Tower.  The Breakfast Run is strictly a 5k fun run.  Husbando and I started at the middle of the 3,000 strong group of runners and ran together for the first couple of kilometres before he decided he needed to have a pee.  I carried on, comfortably at 9min/mile until I realised that I was catching up with the pace car.  From then on it was 10.15min/mile pace for the rest of the way.  It felt incredibly slow - but the irony of the fact that there would be times the next day when 10 min/miles would seem like a really fast time!  Coffee, croissants, bananas and bottled water were provided at the end.  It felt really fabulous to be running.  I was suddenly buoyed up with enthusiasm and confidence.  Despite my less than ideal training I though that I might just manage a halfway reasonable time at the marathon.  Maybe the two marathons and the couple of really long trail runs I'd already done this year would be enough to get me through.  

Husbando was running his first 'proper marathon.'  He'd run an accidental marathon at one of On The Whistle's events, but I have always thought that it is easier to run a lapped event, where you can stop for drinks, food, hugs, loo break, change of clothes every three or four miles than a traditional marathon.   After the heat last year, I'd decided to buy ourselves a little bit of extra time in the cooler early part of the day and put us down for a totally unrealistic (for me!) time of 3hr30min, with the hope that I might get sub 4, this meant we had a start time of 8.35am.  My friend, running her first ever marathon, put herself down for the 4hr30 plus pen, with a start time of 9.50am.  Husbando was so excited about his big race that he set his alarm for 5.30am .... we'd decided that the two of us would need to leave at 7.50am!  I set mine for 7.10am, and was ready to leave at 7.50.... Husbando was just getting dressed....We eventually left just before 8am.  We got 5 steps outside the apartment before he realised that he had the wrong glasses.  Argh!  No matter, we were close to the start, we had  enough time.  We tried to get into the start pen.  It was so full we couldn't get in as it was so full - it wasn't until they started moving the runners forward that we could get into the pen.  I wasn't panicking, not really, but it wasn't the least stressful start to a race!

Husbando and I ran the first few miles together, it was getting warm pretty quickly.  I think there may be a cheesy photo of us running and holding hands somewhere!  Husbando had a pace band for four hours, and I could hear him doing the maths to work out if we could still make it.  I knew we couldn't and any amount of maths on his part would not change that.  I knew that I was probably being pushed on too hard and that disaster lay ahead if I carried on running with Husbando.  I also didn't want to hamper his chances of getting a great marathon time.  I decided to take a tactical pee break in the woods.  We'd got to nearly 9 miles and we were already baking.

I decided that as sub 4, or even close to 4, was off the cards I would just get round.  It shouldn't be too hard... but it got hotter and hotter.   I've probably run in hotter weather, but not much and not out of the blue.  A friend informs me that the average temperature in the shade while I was running was 26 degrees with a maximum of 31 degrees.  And there is precious little shade on the Paris marathon route!  I don't think I've ever run a race where so many of the other runners were downright rude!  I know the route was crowded, that the course was very narrow at several places, but to push another runner out of the way is unacceptable.  And I'm not talking about the unintentional bashes that occur by accident, on several occasions I was pushed out of the way by another runner trying got get past.  The course does get narrow at times - because spectators crowd onto the road.

At some point I got it into my head that I needed to go to the loo.  Probably because every single portaloo I saw on the route was padlocked closed, apart from the one that I climbed over a concrete barricade to get to at about 16 miles.  That one was so disgusting that I couldn't even step inside it to use it.   Ah well, I soldiered on.  Then my foot started hurting.  My right foot.  It hurt every time I pushed off, a couple of mile later the fact that I was obviously 'running funny' meant that my hamstring was making its presence felt.  At 18 miles (ish) we ran under a pedestrian bridge that had a load of people touting trade for (I think) the Chicago marathon.  The noise there was phenomenal, and slightly scary.  I began to panic about my ability to run London if it was going to be this noisy.... and would my foot even work?   At this point I popped into a cafe and asked if I could use their toilet.  Amazingly they said yes, but that the toilet was upstairs.  I went up, locked the door and burst into tears.  I looked at my garmin, it said I'd done 19.69 miles, so I sent a text to the three friends who were with me in Paris, saying that I had 7 miles to go (overestimating the distance I thought) that I was in pain, and that I might have to walk the last 7 miles.  You can imagine how awful I felt when I'd been running a bit longer and got to the 19 mile marker!  (My watch at this point read 19.75miles!)

I did some maths, calculated that I was walking at about 15min/mile pace, and that I wasn't prepared to be out there for another hour and three quarters, so I was just going to have to suck it up and at least run part of the way.  So that's what I did.  More rude runners, very hot sunshine, minimal support where it was really needed in the last stages through the Bois de Boulogne made this a less than joyful experience.  I was just glad to finish.  Husbando had finished about 20 minutes ahead of me, having struggled in the heat too.

Having collected our medals we went back to the apartment, had a shower, got changed and had a quick snooze before heading back to the finish line to support my friend.  I was wearing flip flops and compression tights - an attractive combination!  The marathon website states that there is a 6 hour cut off from the time the last runners start.  I was getting concerned that we were getting close to the limit, so I told Husbando (jeans and trainers) and my friend's husband (t-shirt and cargo shorts) that I would head back along the route to find her (wearing my finisher's t-shirt, medal, compression tights and flip flops!)  I ran back about 2km, shouting encouragement at the runners coming toward the finish, until I found her.  We ran her last 2km overtaking people along the way as she upped her pace (probably to get away from my incessant and inane chatter) and got to the bottom of av. Foch just as they were starting to move a lories and fork lift truck across the bottom of the road to close the finish.  We legged it up to the finish, I had tears running down my face, with her husband joining us too.  Husbando, taking pictures, said that there were only about 10 more people who finished after us, so I am so glad that I made the decision to take my knackered legs back out there to chivvy her along!  She worked so hard to complete her marathon, the idea of not making the cut off does not bear thinking about.  I am so proud of her.  She was out there in the full heat of the day, while the people at the water stations were packing up the tables as she ran through them and she DID IT!

We took our medals out for supper - the best steak frites we've had in long time, before collapsing into bed.  Some of us will run another marathon, one of us says she won't but I doubt any of us will be in a hurry to enter Paris next year!

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Le blog

There will be other marathons.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

The one with a statue and a wedding!

The Easter holidays have started.  The six members of the family who are involved in education are all officially on holiday!  The seventh member of the family is NOT on holiday.  To celebrate the start of the holidays the family member not on holiday decided that a book fair in Bath was a good idea and, in a moment of madness, I said I'd go too.  I like Bath and I haven't been there for a while.  What I hadn't factored in was that we would be leaving home at 5 am.  FIVE AM!   To be fair, all I had to do was fall out of bed, then into the car and I slept all the way there, but still FIVE AM!  In the holidays - madness.

After unloading a car load of book at the Assembly Rooms I headed off to find a parkrun.  I'd run at Bath Skyline a couple of times, so thought that a bit of variety was called for... the choice was between Southwick Country Park and Pomphrey Hill, and as one of those has 'hill' in the title I decided to go to Southwick.  In my haste to get dressed I had put together a natty ensemble of my 250 top and the peacock leggings I should have worn at the Larmer Tree Marathon.  This winning combination proved quite a talking point.  I had several people ask if I'd done Larmer - because there can be no other reason for buying peacock leggings, and many comments about my 250 shirt.  That was quite a novelty, I think that in Hampshire/Surrey/London we see so many of them that we begin to forget that it takes quite a long time to earn one!

Anyway, to the run.  It was a special one today.  Two parkrun regulars were getting married.  The happy couple ran the first lap, then jumped into a car, along with friends and supporters, to go to the local register office, got married and then came back to run a freedom parkrun before retiring to the cafe for cake and celebrations.   Congratulations to Sarah & James!  

The course is two and three quarter laps, all on nice firm gravelly paths, I can imagine they get a bit puddly in the wet weather but this morning they were nice and dry - my trail shoes were not needed.  It was fairly flat, just 108ft of elevation, a welcome change from Alice Holt parkrun, with a downhill to the finish.  Because I am running like a pregnant donkey at the moment and a three legged one at that, I decided that I'd take it easy and just keep the 26 minute pacer in my sight. I kept pace with him most of the way, asking him where the statue I'd heard so much about was (I'd just run past it!), before deciding that the legs needed a wee bit of a stretch as I approached the finish.

This was a lovely, friendly, parkrun.  I didn't go to the cafe afterwards as I had to get back to Bath but I have no doubt that much fun would have been had there too!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Larmer Tree Marathon

Today was a lesson in respecting the marathon distance.  I may have run a few now, but there is no place for becoming complacent about what is, by any stretch of the imagination, quite a long way to run.  I've had a few tough runs recently, culminating in the aptly named 'Plod' two weeks ago, but I was quite excited about today.  As excited as you can be when you are exhausted and overworked and still trying to sort out the house you moved into a few weeks ago.

I'd run the 20 mile race at Larmer Three Gardens last year.  And while I was running that I seem to remember thinking that it was silly to run 20 miles when there was a 26 mile option available, so that is what I signed up for, fool that I am.  The weather forecast was not promising, so we arrived with loads of layers, waterproofs. hats etc.  Numbers were collected.  Mine was so wrong it was almost right.

It is quite a long time since the last White Star Running event down in Bovington, so it was lovely to see all the regular characters.  We chatted away as we waited for the start.  I was on the look out for peacocks, while at the same time realising that the peacock leggings I was wearing were not the same, very comfortable, Tikiboo pair that I wore last year.  I have no idea where they were from, but they will not be worn again.  One of the many things you are told when you start training for marathons is that you should not wear something during a marathon that you have not road tested for a good few miles beforehand.  This oversight would come to bite me on the bum a few miles into the run.

The start was lovely, apart from the weather!  Damp and drizzly.  It was down hill and on tarmac, this was going to be ok.  I got to the first water station at about 6 miles feeling relatively confident and making fairly good time.  Within 2 miles that had all changed.  It was tough going, but not unrunable at this stage, the ground was either very slippery or very sticky.  At times it was like running over a huge tube of Prit Stick, it took lots of effort to even life feet off the ground.

By 8 miles I was walking along a totally flat path, sobbing.  Really sobbing, and just feeling a huge sense of despair.  And that was before I saw The Hill.  At least this was a reason to walk!  Or stagger...  From then on I think I did more walking than running.  To be fair, there were loads and loads of people walking.  It was hard to motivate myself to run when there were so many people walking all around me.  I had blisters on my insoles, from trainers that have never rubbed before and chaffing where no one ever wants chaffing from the evil leggings, which only added to my misery!  I chatted with lots of lovely people, who made the whole day bearable - bizarre conversations about conspiracy theories not withstanding.

The route was varied, we ran though pretty villages, lovely woods and across fields with stunning views, the marshals and aid stations were supportive and enthusiastic.  The Love Station was fantastic as always - a much needed hug and dose of MTFU was administered here, along with handfuls of mini sausages, pretzels and jelly babies!  From here it was 'just' 6 long miles to the finish.  One hair raising descent and a long slog uphill were involved, but the end was in sight.. almost.  The trademark '400ish yards to go' sign came and went and all that was left was a nasty gravelly path, past a folly to the finish.  I managed to overtake a fair few people as my desperation to get this ordeal over and done with manifested itself.  I crossed the line and was given a medal and a hug, by one of the regular WSR team.  She has been at every event I have done, and always greets me with a smile and a hug- I really wish I knew her name!

After sitting down on a conveniently placed chair and getting my breath back, I went to get my lunch (included in the entry price) while the three of us who had travelled down together reassembled and rehydrated before the journey home.

Thank you to the team from WSR for an excellently organised event.  I promise to be in a better mood next time...

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Meon Valley Plod. There's a clue in the name.

All shiny shoes and big smiles at the start.
'plod, verb, to walk doggedly and slowly with heavy steps. ' -  Oxford English Dictionary.

When I signed up for this race it was for one reason, somehow I didn't have a single race booked for February!  Not sure how that happened, but something had to be done!  And because misery loves company I persuaded Husbando and a couple of friends to come along too.  After all, it was 'only 21 miles' and it would fit in well with the alleged training plan for a marathon that we are doing in a couple of weeks.  

Things were going pretty well before we started. We had the warmest run briefing ever inside East Meon Village Hall before making our way to the start line.  Spirits were high, it wasn't raining and we spent the first couple of miles running with friends.  I say running, but within the first mile we hit the first hill, so there was a fair amount of walking involved!  Pretty soon the group splintered, not by design but due to the stop start nature of a large number of people trying to get through a narrow kissing gate.  Husbando and were quite happy on our own, occasionally chatting with other runners as they passed us or we passed them.   

The first few miles were not too muddy, but soon we were experiencing epic levels of muddiness!   It was tricky enough to stay upright while trying to run on the flat bits - my legs were going everywhere and m feet felt like they had medicine balls due to all the mud!  Running, OK let's be honest, walking uphill was often a case of one step forward then slide two steps back!   My race plan of walking the ups and running the downs went out of the window for a lot of the time.  As we looked at the decents the thought that went through my mind was 'There's no such thing as a green stick fracture when you're in your late forties!'  

At some point I had managed to pause my Garmin, I probably knocked it when going over a stile, which meant that I didn't really have any firm idea of how far into the route we were.  This wasn't helped by one of the marshals who told us we were 'half way there' when, in retrospect, I reckon we were 7.5 miles in!   At one point, when we were holding onto overhanging trees in an attempt to stay upright as we skittered down a hill, Husbando asked if we would manage to finish in under 5hours - it was looking doubtful!  Soon after this however we came across a bit of tarmac which made running a bit easier and then  to the top of a hill where the wind was so intense that we had to run because we didn't want to stay exposed to if for a minute longer than we had to!  This helped us make up a bit of time, and we even overtook a few people!  We did have to slow down just before the end as the mud behind in the church was so deep and so intent on trying to remove our shoes that we had no option but to walk!  

Coming up to the finish line I looked in disbelieve at the timing clock.  The first number was a 4 - I couldn't see the rest of the numbers, but figured that it was worth a bit of a sprint to see we could do it... And we did!  Tea and cake in the village hall were most welcome afterwards, but we got cold very quickly as we waited for our friends to finish - thank heavens for space blankets!  They keep you warm and protect the car from some of the mud!

Thanks to all the marshals and race organisers.  I have apologised to my friends for subjecting them to such an arduous day out and told them to shoot me if I suggest doing it next year!

Monday, 30 January 2017

Chilly Hilly rebooted

The weather couldn't possibly be as biblical as last year could it?  The rain last January came down pretty much for the whole time we were running and, as we drove towards QECP this morning it looked as though we were on for a repeat performance.   It was a relief to get out of the car to find that the rain had eased off and there was barely a spit of rain while we were running.

But, oh my word, the conditions under foot were... interesting!  I knew it was going to be hilly (there's a clue in the name) and I knew, from our Wednesday evening runs in QECP, that it would be muddy, but this was mud on another level.  Slippery, slidey mud that had only 2 objectives; to try to steal your trainers and to make you look silly when you fell over!

As to my run... my snazzy Garmin has a 'performance condition indicator.'  This pops up in the first few minutes of an activity with a number that rates my current performance relative to my general fitness levels (or something like that).  Normally it varies between 0, when I feel rough, and +5.  Today the number that popped up was -9.   Minus 9!  Maybe the cold I had been suffering form all week had taken its toll.... Given that I was halfway up the first hill by then it made very little difference - I had to go on.

There were loads of marshals on the course - so lots of encouragement and warnings about taking care on the sharp bends.  Lots of banter amongst the runners, we all agreed that it felt a lot more challenging than last year.  Part of this was due to the paths being churned up by logging vehicles, in fact part of the course had to be rerouted due to logging activity.  This was nice because it meant we had an out and back - so more opportunities for banter!

Just after half way I confidently planted my foot on what looked like solid ground, only to have the ground vanish from under me!  I ended up sitting cross-legged in the mud - I think it  must have been quite a graceful tumble, but there was no one there to see!  I took it even easier after that, I just kept going with the thought of a steaming bowl of chilli keeping me going.

The chilli was great, as was the cup of tea I had with it.  This is a lovely race, with the added benefit of a raffle.  I'll be back for more next year, but will be hoping that we have dry weather!

(My Garmin also gives me a recovery time at the end of each run.  The longest I have seen so far is 48hrs after a marathon.  Today is told me I should wait 3.5 days before exercising again!  I think my cold may actually have been man 'flu!)
Best sign of the day!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Make a plan and then stick to it!

Today was my first visit to Hayling Island.  It is always slightly worrying not to be able to see anything at the other end of a bridge, and this was exactly what happened as I drove onto the bridge over to Hayling Island.  It wasn't even a long bridge - but all I could see in front of me was mist!  I hadn't thought too much about where this race was located when I booked it.  The guys at On the Whistle put on great events, and that is all I really need to know, this meant that I didn't realise that it was to be a trip to the seaside!  The run was on the Billy Line, consisting of out and backs, as many or as few as you fancied completing.

My training plan, aimed at the Paris marathon, required me to run 9 miles today, which would have been a smidge over 2 laps, so obviously a new plan was required.  I decided that I would run 9 miles and then adopt a run/walk strategy until I felt like giving up.  The tough thing was to stop running at 9 miles when I still felt as though I could go on for ever!  But I did.  I also managed to stay relatively on track with my run/walk breaks - they sometimes varied a bit when I stopped or slowed down to talk to another runner.  I think I finished in about 4hrs 30mins, maybe 4hrs 3mins - I was feeling so ropey that I was concentrating on staying upright rather than important things like stopping my Garmin!

The run itself was much tougher than I'd anticipated!  This was a very flat course, but also, due to the rain, very muddy.  We ran the first couple of laps with very limited visibility, the mist and/or rain ensured that we were pretty soggy pretty quickly, and the lack of obvious landmarks on the route made it somewhat soul destroying!  The fact that I was pleased to see a white fertiliser bag in a puddle is an indication of how desperate I was for familiar points to judge how far I had to go!  The visibility remained poor throughout the time I was running - I didn't get to see the sea!   Who'd of thought that I might actually welcome a couple of hills to break up the monotony?! And I decided very early on that a marathon distance would be enough for today.  The idea of setting out for a 7th lap made me want to weep!  During my 5th and 6th laps it was only the thought of McDonalds that kept me going.  I can only have McDs if I have run a full marathon, so I had to keep on going!

It was lovely to see old friends and speak to new people, but the weather was a huge negative today.  Not epically bad enough to inspire a blitz spirit, just a constant drizzle and limited visibility.  I can't fault the organisation, or the enthusiasm of the On The Whistle team - it isn't every race you go to where one of the organisers comes up to you with your own personal bag of Tangfastics -surely the crack cocaine of the sweetie world!   The medals and aid station were fabulous, the marshals friendly and enthusiastic, I just wasn't enjoying the rain! Still as a training run for Paris and London, it is all good! Hoping to get to my Treloar's Trust/London fundraising total before I run the race!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Doing the double.

My New Year's resolution is not to run while hungover or drunk in 2017.  There is a subsidiary resolution, that might not be practical, and that is that I will not enter races while under the influence of alcohol.  Not sure how long these resolutions will last, but so far at 7.10pm on 1st January everything is going well!  I've do two parkruns without even a wiff of a hangover.  

I did have tired legs.... legs that were so tired (after yesterday's Gutbuster 10miles) that I was really quite happy with our decision to stay in, plans for an early night were scuppered by teenage children phoning to say 'Happy New Year' and 'Can you send me some cash?' at midnight!   

Husbando and I had been plotting which two parkruns we'd run.  At first we thought Basingstoke and Alice Holt, but Basingstoke quite often start a little after 9am, which meant that we could be cutting it fine to get to Alice Holt, so we decided to go to Rushmoor instead.  As we drove over I complained that we wouldn't know anyone, only to park our car, walk to the start and bump into a parkrun friend from Abingdon who I hadn't seen for ages.  He was there with a group from Abingdon and Didcot who were planning to go on to Frimley Lodge, but we persuaded them to come with us instead!  

So, to the running part of parkrun.... my legs felt heavy, and I couldn't be bothered to warm up as I had no great expectations, Husbando and I were aiming to 'just get round.'  Turned out that my tired legs wanted to move a bit faster than I'd anticipated.  Husbando and I jogged around chatting away until I realised that I was on for a PB - which happened as we got to the finish straight - I was thrilled to go home with a 45second PB!  

Then it was into the car and off to Alice Holt.  Whereas Rushmoor is flat and fast, Alice Holt most definitely is not!  We arrived in plenty of time, which was lovely as it meant we got to see loads of people I hadn't expected to see.  There was a huge contingent from Basingstoke and more from Guildford, including my ex head of department - who I hadn't seen for ages.   Alice Holt is a lovely run, but it is not one that you can do quickly on tired legs, so I was happy to plod around.
parkrun is really all about the people, the volunteers, the other runners - the whole community aspect is why parkrun is so successful, so it was wonderful to sit in the cafe drinking coffee, eating bacon rolls and chatting with friends.  I'm looking forward to many more in 2017!  

I hope you all have a fantastic 2017 and that I'll see some of you in parkrun land soon.  In the meantime, if anyone fees like sponsoring me for the London Marathon, which I am running for a local charity, Treloars, please click on THIS LINK