Saturday, 9 February 2019

A shiny new PB my precious!

The training plan, which aims to get me race fit in time for   the Paris Marathon in April, called for 15 miles at 10 min/mile pace.  But I was booked into a multi lap, 6 hour event.  No problem, I thought, I'll run 15 miles at that pace and then drop down and run/walk the rest of the marathon distance, or stop as soon as I can after 15 miles depending on how I feel.  It would be safe to say that this has been a bit of a shit week!  Too much to do, too little time, lots of after school and family stuff to sort out, plus planning for me to be away and out of contact next week.  Let me just reassure all parents out there, no teacher likes missing classes.  The effort involved in planning cover lessons, then marking the work when you get back is far more onerous than showing up and teaching, when you get to adapt and improve your lessons as you teach them so that they work for the students.  I've also had my new member of staff lesson observation this week - on a Friday, so I had all week to get ridiculously stressed about it.  Which is daft, the member of SLT who was observing me is lovely, and I am quite good at this teaching lark by now.   Anyway, the last thing I wanted to do on Saturday morning was get out of bed at 6.30am and go out and run any distance at all, but having paid my money I thought I ought to show vaguely willing!

I do love a Phoenix event.  I must be a special kind of nutter who doesn't mind running up and down the same bit of the Thames towpath lots of times.  Even the blue bridge has a certain charm.  I got there in plenty of time to grab a pre race coffee and to chat with lots of friends.  Some of them were running their first Phoenix event.  As we made our way to the start it became clear just how windy it was - thanks to the tail end of Storm Erik!  At least it was an out and back route so we should get a little respite.  

We were soon under starters orders.  I hadn't been for a run since Tuesday evening, so my legs were raring to go, even if my brain had forgotten that you need to turn on your Garmin and acquire satellites before the race starts not as it starts! I've never been any judge of pace, or any good at running to a set pace, so I just went with it.  I had so many layers on that I couldn't see my watch anyway!  The wind was brutal, a headwind or cross wind all the way out there.   The section under Walton Bridge was so windy that I was nearly blown over, and there were several sections where I really struggled to maintain forward momentum!  

Just after the turn around on the second lap a small, black dog ran right in front of me.  I sort of swerved, jumped and skipped to avoid kicking the poor animal into the Thames.  It hurt.  I swore (sorry!) One lovely runner stopped to see if I was OK, the dog's owners just glared at me.  I chatted with the lovely runner for a while before our paces digressed. 

The recent rain (thanks again Storm Erik) meant that some sections of the towpath were really muddy and puddly (is that a word?).  Along with a lot of other runners, I took the decision to take the teeny bit longer, not guaranteed traffic free, tarmac route - which meant my feet stayed dry.  I ran the half marathon distance in 1hr54mins - my fastest half for over a year - and thought that any moment now my legs would give up and I'd have to slow down, I took a slightly longer break at the aid station (to get rid of some layers and a loo break) before setting off for the second half.  I won't lie, by lap 6 I was beginning to think that maybe I am not the special sort of nutter who likes running up and down the Thames tow path, and quite frankly that blue bridge could do one!  

What kept me going was all the friendly support from the other runners.  Special mentions must go to  lovely Amy who was smiley and encouraging every time I saw her, and Ivor - who I didn't realise was running his first Phoenix event - kept telling me that I looked strong and that I was running really well, there was also another runner (red jacket, black shorts, couldn't see his number who I know that I know but can't remember his name) who was unfailingly positive!  That, along with any number of conversations with loads of runners really kept me going.  OK, I did have a little sense of humour failure at about 18 miles.  In my defence I felt sick and was beginning to get a horribly tingly, almost but not quite pins and needles sensation in my hands.  

But I'd also worked out that a sub 4hr time might just be possible, it would be tight, I wouldn't be able to have any of the walk breaks I'd promised myself and even then I was aware that my pace had dropped off so it was going to take everything I could throw at it.  I told myself that, for every minute over 4hrs, I would have to run an extra lap tomorrow.  Oh yes, this nutter is back in Walton-On-Thames planning to run a lap or two at the Donut Dash.  I have a busy day tomorrow - hence only planning a couple of laps.  

The last lap was bloody hard work.  I was grateful for the tailwind.  When I had a mile to go I couldn't feel my hands.  I had a handheld water bottle in my hand and couldn't feel that either.  I kept glancing at my watch - trying to work out if I could still do it, I thought I could.  As I rounded the last corner I was pretty sure I had it in the bag, but was taking no chances.  I like to think it was a sprint to the line.  I called out to ring the bell as I passed the finish - mainly because I couldn't let go of the water bottle as my hands weren't playing - I did ask someone to stop my Garmin for me!  
I'd done it!  3hrs 58mins and 50 seconds!  I felt ghastly.  I think Rik may have been worried that I was about to vomit on his very well stocked aid station!  It took over half an hour to get rid of the tingles and regain the feeling in my hands and what felt like several hours to walk back to the car!  The medal is awesome, tomorrow's medal has a lot to live up to!  

I managed to finish before the rain started too - so that was a bonus!  I did leave my water bottle behind somewhere though so I decided to celebrate by buying a new one, and two new pairs of running socks.  Don't say that I don't know how to party!

Sunday update.

Do I have to get up and run?  I've got to pack for a week away... surely an extra hour in bed and a morning spent organising myself would be a better use of time?  And did I mention that my knee hurts?

Turns out that arguing with oneself doesn't mean one wins the argument.  The part of me that said 'Nonsense dear, you've paid good money to enter this race, and you need to loosen up your stiff legs anyway.  Plenty of time to panic pack later.'  So I found myself at the Xcel Leisure Centre for a second morning running - gratifying to have so many people congratulate me on yesterday and wonderful to see a friend I hadn't known was coming. My poorly knee, which had felt almost 100% better until yesterday, made walking uncomfortable (I've got tendonitis), but I thought I could probably manage a couple of laps.

Today's race was a battle run. 50% of the runners would turn left on the blue bridge route, the rest would head off to do their laps in the direction of Hampton Court, guess which route I got?  Yup, the blue bridge of doom!  Ah well, at least the wind had dropped a bit, but it had been replaced by grey skies and a persistently annoying drizzle.  There were fewer runners than yesterday and that, coupled with us going in both directions meant that the course was a lot less crowded.

My run didn't go well.  My knee hurt and I felt sick almost as soon as I started running.  I decided before I got to the blue bridge that I would be sensible and stop after one lap.  The week ahead is going to be physically demanding enough without crippling myself first.  Or crippling myself any further - a dodgy elbow from falling in the ice and tendonitis in the knee = almost entirely fit and healthy doesn't it?   So, just 3.3miles in 29 minutes, neither fast nor far, but finished and I have a fabulous medal to show for it!

The doughnuts looked fabulous! I'm not a fan so didn't partake, but there were boxes and boxes of them so this could be one of those races where you go home weighing more than you did when you arrived!  Well done Rik and crew!  If you are a doughnut fan then manning the aid station will be torture!  The medals are excellent - double sided too.

Right, now back to the packing....

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