Sunday, 30 October 2011

It's grim down south!

I ran this race last year and had been looking forward to running it again this year. Despite being a 45 minute drive away, and me not having a clue what Portsmouth has to offer apart from outlet shopping at Gunwharf Quays I still consider that this is a 'local' race. It is also the biggest 10mile road race in the world.

An early night last night, and an extra hour gained due to the clock going back should have meant that I woke up feeling bright and full of enthusiasm. I love races! And the morning of a race normally sees me buzzing about the house making a 101 last minute checks on my race day bag. But not today. Today I could barely drag myself out of bed. I moped around the kitchen, making porridge and eating painkillers - anything to try to stop the throbbing headache and general acheyness! I thought about pulling out, but I'd been looking forward to my last big race of the year for ages, and surely I'd feel better when I started, wouldn't I?

I left about half an hour earlier than last year, which meant that I got to Southsea Common about an hour earlier than I did last time! I sat in the car, reading my book, listening to the radio and generally trying to avoid the grey, miserable weather outside. About an hour before the race I met up with a fellow parkrunner at the start. Having a friendly face to talk to really did help, and the time passed fairly quickly. I'm glad we were in the first wave to start as it was jolly chilly standing around in shorts and a vest top!

The minute I crossed the start line I decided I was ravenously hungry! No idea why as I'd eaten a good breakfast, and a couple of bananas. Maybe it was my body thinking it was really 12 o'clock not 11 o'clock. As last year the race was crowded through out, but especially at the start. The road narrowed several times and I had to slow to almost walking pace a few times. I wasn't worried, I wasn't out to get a good time, for the first 8 miles I spent most of the time wondering when would be a good time to drop out, and after 8 miles I only carried on because it seemed silly to stop so close to the end.

My headache never let up, no amount of endorphins were going to shift that one (still got the headache now) and I can honestly say that this is the least enjoyable race I have run. I can't think of a single part that was fun! My throat ached, my neck was stiff and my legs were refusing to function properly and to make things even better it was drizzling! I lost it in a major way between mile 6 and 8. My speed dropped right down and I couldn't seem to find any motivation to pick it up. Coming round onto the seafront, and being hit by a blast of sea air seemed to bring me back to my senses. Either that or I realised that if I ran too slowly I'd spend far longer getting soaked and windswept!

At about 8.5 miles I spotted Richard at the Chineham Park Running Club supporters stand. Richard normally hurls 'friendly' abuse at parkrun on a Saturday, so the fact that he was saying encouraging things today convinced me that I must look at least as bad as I felt!

I crossed the line, eventually, in 1hr 27mins 37 seconds, which is over 2 minutes faster than last year, but I felt awful! I staggered back to my car, then realised I was going to have to eat something if I was going to drive home, so staggered back to find a hot dog seller! The drive home was slow due to all the road closures, but I did end up driving along one of the roads we'd run down - I have to say that I ran it faster than I was able to drive it!

Will I run this race again? Well, I have just entered for 2012, so I guess that's a yes, but I don't think I'll be running any race again when I feel 'flu-y!' I run because I enjoy it, and it is very hard to enjoy anything when feeling under the weather.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Bupa hypocrisy

I can't remember exactly how much I paid for my place in this year's Great South Run, but seem to think it was around the £30 mark. Whilst not being a huge sum of money, it is a sum that I am not prepared to waste. This being the case I will do everything I can to make sure I am there on the start line on Sunday morning.

According to the race information and, let's face it common sense, one should not run if one 'has or has recently had a cold or flu, have been vomiting, or had chest pain or otherwise feel weakened or unwell' in the lead up to the BIG DAY. This is all well and good, and the guidance goes on to remind one that the Great South Run will be back again next year.

It is possible to defer a place until next year. I looked into this thinking that at least I wouldn't waste my entry fee if I didn't feel up to it. But, but, but.... it isn't as simple as that. If you want to defer you need a doctor's note and it has to be done at least 7 days before the race - so no good for the last minute onset of a nasty bug. The doctor will probably want to charge £20 and anyway 'deferring' a place doesn't mean you just transfer your entry to next year. All deferring means in 'Bupa speak' is that one is guaranteed a place in next year's race if one chooses to pay for it all over again!

So the initial £30 entry (or thereabouts) will cost £80 if one chooses to defer! No wonder people run when they are ill/injured. No wonder those who are too ill/injured (or too sensible) give their race numbers to friends - despite the fact that this practice is 'prohibited' by the guys at Bupa Great Run.

Come on Bupa, you are supposed to be promoting running as part of a healthy lifestyle! As it is, I'll be running on Sunday, even if I still do feel under the weather. I don't want to waste £30!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Another week over, another race done!

It has been a funny week. The last week of half term saw me suffering from a nagging sore throat and general lethargy. I decided, for once, to take the sensible course of (in)action and hold back on the running. After my long run (10 miles) on Sunday, I went out for a quick three miler on Monday but after that nothing! Of course, this lack of activity meant that I convinced myself that I would be totally unable ever to run again. I was sure my feet would refuse to work and that I was doomed to walk around the Fleet 10k route rather than running it!

Saturday morning saw me at parkrun anyway! I may not have been running, but two of my boys were! One of them for the very first time and aged only 7! He managed the entire course, didn't finish last and is keen to run again next week! My biggest boy ran a PB, taking 58 seconds off his previous best! I was glad I pitched up as volunteers were thin on the ground and husbando and I were both roped in to help (husbando en route to hospital for a scan on his dodgy Achilles!)

Sunday morning dawned warm and sunny. The only clue that we are in autumn was the colour of the leaves on the trees! I headed off to Fleet, husbando, enjoying his first Sunday off since I started work, decided to take the children to the cinema. I had arranged to meet up with a friend before the race, and she was one of the first people I bumped in to. The second person I met was one of my pupils who was a volunteer marshall for the day! They do say it is good for pupils to see that their teachers are real people with outside interests, I'm not so sure I want my pupils to see me dressed in lycra though! Amongst the throng at the start was the ever so speedy John M with whom we chatted for a while, and I spotted the exceedingly tall Andrew W as we massed for the start - he didn't spot me as I am only average height so get lost in crowds! John and Andrew are regulars at Basingstoke parkrun and I did spot other regulars in Fleet too - but I can't namecheck them as I don't know their names! It is always nice to see a friendly face at a race.

The race was chip timed but, strangely, only had a timing mat at the end of the race. So time taken to cross the start was not taken into account in the final times. The race comprised 2 circuits of the famous Fleet Blue Triangle. The route is described as 'undulating' but felt fairly flat, the downhills were long and gradual, the ascents short but fairly steep. The finish was deceptively nasty though. Uphill for the longest '400m to go' ever experienced and a winding route through a carpark. I over took loads of people in the last 400m, partly due to the hill but partly due to the lack of clarity as to where the finish was. Lots of people seemed to have stopped in the last 50 - 100 m!

I saw three more pupils on the way around. Great to get support from them. One was shouting out "Come on 134, come on 258" etc., as I ran past he called out "Come on 13... oh Miss it's you!" And at the very efficient timing chip removal and medal distribution another of my pupils was helping out. Great to see young people volunteering at these events!

After the finish I bumped into John M, who had run a fantastic race! I was not hugely happy with my time. My Garmin had started beeping at me at around 4 K to tell me that it was 'Full' and that I needed to delete data. Not easy while on the move, so to stop it beeping at my I turned it off. I realised that I have become quite dependent on my Garmin to tell me how fast I am going. Without the information I just carried on at a comfortable pace, I knew I was under the weather, so wasn't too worried about times. My actual time was 50min 57 secs, which is 58 seconds over my PB. I do think that if I'd known my pace, and how close I was to my PB, I'd have pushed a bit harder and maybe cracked it!

The most demoralising part of the race was being overtaken by a man on crutches (or rather one crutch and one walking stick). He went off at a heck of a pace! At one point I was overtaken by a young man in plimsoles. I was on his heels for ages, watching his Achilles turn bright red as he ran! I decided that there was no way he was beating me - he was one of the people I overtook in the last kilometre!

A coffee and a catch up with my friend afterwards made for a perfect running morning (well, almost perfect, a PB would have been the icing on the cake!) We went to Cafe Giardino in Fleet. I have a discount card from the Basingstoke branch as we meet there after parkrun on Saturdays. I was stunned when the young man behind the counter had my coffee order (large, black Americano) waiting as I approached and was apologising that he didn't have any lemon muffins! That's what I call good service (well, apart from the lack of muffins!)

Not long now until the Great South Run! I am not officially running this for charity, but I have been amazed by the support UNICEF gave their runners for the Royal Parks Half Marathon, so I will wear my UNICEF vest to raise awareness if nothing else! If anyone does feel like sponsoring me, please feel free to click HERE!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

I learned something today....

It has been a strange week for me with respect to running. Sunday was great, but I woke up on Monday morning feeling as though I'd been one of Hugh Jackman's ill fated robots in Real Steel! I am blaming an afternoon spent walking around the shops after the half marathon for this rather than the race itself. I survived Monday at school, but just barely. At that stage of the term everyone was tired and a wee bit tetchy, and there were still two whole weeks until half term! By Monday evening I was cranky as anything, and although my body was aching I decided to go out for a short run. I managed 2 miles in just under 18 minutes, I felt better mentally, but knew that if I pushed it any more I'd suffer physically.

I rested on Tuesday (well as far as you can rest with 5 children and a full time job!) and couldn't get out for a run on Wednesday because I had a parents' evening at school. What I didn't know was that there is a staff shower at school. In future I will take my running kit with me to school when we have after school events of this type and go for a run around the local ponds. On Thursday I escaped in time for a lovely, early evening run in the setting sun. I am so lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world. I did catch a fair few flies! At least the cold weather of winter will mean fewer bugs over the next few months.

So, what did I learn today?

Well, I always have porridge for breakfast, but today I fancied a change. I had cereal and milk instead, and jolly nice it was too! I set off for parkrun (having had to scrape ice off the car before I set off) with the children in the car, feeling pretty good, if a little tired - my left ankle still thinks I made it do too much work last Sunday. I think that this is the first 'chilly' parkrun of the autumn - but at least it was beautifully sunny. I was absolutely fine for the first mile, and then I began to feel as though the contents of my stomach were curdling! I considered stopping, but it seemed a daft thing to do having driven all the way over to do the run in the first place. I plodded on, slowly, and was lucky to finish in just under 25 mins (24:50). A fellow runner tried to talk to me (as did my children) after the finish, but I couldn't concentrate on anything other than finding somewhere to sit down and regain control of my stomach contents! The humiliation of parting company with my breakfast in front of people is not something I want to tick of my BTDTGTTS list! Still, it is not a new PW (personal worst), I have merely equalled my previous PW!

As ever, thanks to the organisers and volunteers who make parkrun possible and successful. A friend asked me today (she was there for the second time) if I do parkrun every week. I think she thinks I am mad when I say that trying to ensure I get to parkrun is a priority for me. I almost cancelled a course as it has a 9.30am start in Birmingham on a Saturday, which means that I can't even do a local parkrun!

I'll be out for a long run tomorrow, so am hoping that the sunny weather lasts. I have Fleet 10k on the 23rd and the Great South Run on the 30th, so tomorrow will be my last long run before the Great South.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

A walk in the park?

4.30am is not my favourite time of the day, but needs must etc.! The Sunday train service is somewhat lacking in frequency and speed, and there was no train available that would get me to London in time to get organised for the start of the Royal Parks Half Marathon. Luckily, husbando was driving up to London for a bookfair, sadly he wanted to be there before 6.30am.

I set off, armed with a thermos of hot porridge and several bananas! By the time we got to London I was almost too nervous to eat, but managed to force some food down. I headed down to Hyde Park early, getting there at about 8am. It was raining. The thought of running just over 13 miles in quite heavy rain was not a joyous one! I made my way to the baggage drop and exchanged my bag for a wrist tag and a plastic poncho. The it was on to the UNICEF tent. As I walked in one of the wonderful coordinators recognised me from the UNICEF Facebook page - which was lovely. UNICEF had a huge marquee - just as well as there were around 450 people running for them.

I took myself off to the start line just after 8.30 - I'd much rather not do an organised mass warm up thank you very much! There were very few people at the start, I spent some time chatting to the guys from British Military Fitness who were running as pacemakers. When I entered this race I thought I might run it in about 2.10mins, and was placed in a starting pen accordingly. I had revised my expectations over the last few weeks, and decided to try to wheedle my was into the next starting pen. No one seemed to mind, and I had a lovely chat about parkrun with a gentleman from Wandsworth (local council there are unwilling to allow their ratepayers to use the Common unless money changes hands). It had stopped raining by now, but was still overcast and cool. Ideal running conditions!

The start gantry was fairly narrow, but once through there we could spread out a bit. I ran the first 3 miles faster than the first three miles of Paris-Versailles: 23 mins 27 seconds. The atmosphere was amazing. Between 5 and 6 miles we came back into Hyde Park and the route was lined with thousands of people, all shouting and cheering us on. I hit 10k in 49 mins 46 seconds, faster than my 10k PB.

I thought I knew Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens pretty well, but the course looped round and about so much that I became totally disorientated! I am 99% certain that I saw one of the mums from the children's school watching the race, probably at abound 7 miles into the race. Soon after this I saw a runner in trouble being helped by his friend. There didn't seem to be any race marshals or St John's Ambulance people around, so the next time I saw an ambulance (about 200m further on) I ran up to it waving my arms, shouting and pointing in the direction I had just come from.

I lost track of timings around now - pressed the wrong buttons on my watch somehow and couldn't work out how to get the display I wanted back - but I know that mile 11 to 12 was really hard work. I wasn't tired so much as bored! I had been playing cat and mouse with another runner from my local parkrun, and towards the end of the 11th mile I lost sight of him and decided that I'd not kick on too fast just in case he had developed a huge turn of speed and I would be in danger of killing myself trying to catch up! (He finished 40 secs ahead of me). I'd seen several people collapsed at the side of the route and I didn't want to join them. As it the way with lots of these races, you see the same people again and again. Two girls had been talking about entering a marathon in the first few miles as they dashed past me. I passed them at about 11 miles and asked them if they were still up for it!! We kept pace for a while, then , just past the 800m to go marker one of them stopped completely! Her friend told her to dig deep, I told her she had to finish - she was to close and if an old fart like me (I was probably 20 years older than her ) could do it then so could she! I hope she finished. Last time I looked she was plodding slowly on. I saw one man being dragged across the finish line by two of his friends. By about halfway through the race, all hint of rain had gone, and it was starting to get really warm - I think this took a lot of people by surprise and this could account for the number of people suffering.

Crossing the finish line, I noticed that the gun time was 1hr 53 mins 28 secs. Well inside my target time of 2 hours! The chip timing came through later at 1hr 52 mins and 6 secs. Thrilled is an understatement - although I do worry that I have set the bar too high to improve upon it! Once past the finish medals were handed out (see photo!) and chips removed. Then it was on to the goodie bag section. Possibly the best goodie bags in the world. Loads of stuff - Oreo cookies (full size packs) Hob Nobs, Shreddies, tooth paste, sports bars, drinks, tea bags etc.

After collecting my bag, I made my way to the UNICEF tent again, and got myself a free massage! Utter bliss! Food was laid on - but I wasn't ready to eat yet. That would wait until I met up with husbando. Even then I didn't think I was hungry until I started eating! The guys from UNICEF were fantastic! Great support and yet another goodie bag!

Walking down the stairs to Hyde Park Corner tube station was somewhat trickier than I remember it being in the past. I'd made the wrong shoe choice (going with the old pair that turn my toes numb rather than the new pair that don't turn my toes numb but just feel weird), and my feet were still protesting even though I was now wearing FitFlops rather than trainers! I met up for lunch with husbando at Carluccios - devouring my food and wine with gusto, before setting off for a little retail therapy. It was lovely to share a knowing look and a smile with other runners toting medals and goodie bags.

Hopefully I'll get to run this again next year. I love the support a London crowd gives its runners. I haven't run anywhere else in England (well in places and races big enough to draw a crowd) but the support in London is so much more vocal and enthusiastic than in Paris. Chatting with an Italian, who has run marathons and half marathons all over the world, informs me that the English crowds are the best!

Back to Earth with a bump now! It is nearly 10pm and I still have 2 more lessons to plan for tomorrow! Oops!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Shoe dilemma.

I bought new running shoes a couple of weeks ago. My old pair were well looking a bit knackered, my little toes kept going numb, and I was losing lots of toe nails. Toes going numb is OK, and infinitely better than the mile or two of 'very painful little toes' that precedes the numbness.

The new shoes are ugly. I know it isn't a fashion show, but who on Earth at Nike though that pale yellow was a good colour? They don't hurt my little toes though, so surely that is a good thing. But, but, but.... I've run about 20 miles in them now (including last Sunday's longish run) and, while they aren't uncomfortable and don't hurt my feet, they don't feel right. I feel as though I am running with my feet in a weird position when I run in them. I had them fitted by the lovely people at my local running shop and, when I looked at the video playback of me running on the treadmill, my feet looked as though everything was fine, it just doesn't feel that way!

I'm not sure what to do. I have the half marathon tomorrow, and I don't know whether to wear my old friends and suffer the pain (which at least gives me something to think about while running) or the new ones and feel weird for 13.2 miles! Apart from this, I think I am almost ready. My name has been ironed on to my shirt, I know roughly where I am going, have planned what to have for breakfast and when. All I need to do is get a good night's sleep!

In other running news..... Well, I've been tapering, so not a lot of running has been happening this week just two shortish runs to keep me ticking over. Part of the problem with tapering is that I worry about losing fitness, another part is that I spend the time I would have spent running looking at yet more races I could enter. I am thinking that if I stick to entering 10ks where I am not worried about getting a PB then I won't need to taper. I may sign up for a localish one in October....

I volunteered at parkrun today. Being a free event they rely on each runner volunteering at least 3 times a year. I like volunteering as it makes me feel as though I am really a part of parkrun. Not sure I'll be asked to put the kilometre markers out again, as the 2k marker was miles off and the 3k marker managed to detach itself from its post and was last seen flying in the wind! I blame my age! I still have no idea how long a kilometre is - although a fellow parkrunner did point out that I should try to think of it as 1/5th of a 5km race..... helpful that!! J came with me again, and the younger children played in the playground while he ran and I stood around in the cold 'volunteering!' He is getting faster, and starting to enjoy the post run buzz! He has decided to do parkrun as the physical part of his bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award and is hoping that regular volunteering at parkrun will count for his voluntary work commitment.

Right, must plan what to have for supper tonight, and get an early night.... Wish me luck (and stamina!) for tomorrow!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Wake up Mrs!

Yesterday morning I ran to breakfast!

I set out at about 7.15 to run 8.5 miles to Farnham, where I planned to meet husbando for breakfast at Côte. I'm glad I set out early, because the weather got very hot pretty quickly. I'd never run this route before, but had driven it a fair few times so was confident I knew where to to. I set off through the villages, listening to my music and enjoying the sun. I overtook a parked car, soon after I passed it it passed me, carried on for a wee while and then stopped. I passed the car, it then overtook me. I was starting to get just a little bit freaked out by this, wondering if I should stop and go back the other way. Just as I was about to do this the driver leaned out and asked if I needed a lift - it was the owner of our village shop who was out delivering Sunday papers!

Most of the route was on country lanes, or roads with pavements, but there was a section, probably about 2 miles, along an A road with no pavement. You'd think 8am on a Sunday morning would be fairly quiet, but it was incredibly busy! I would have sped up a bit - but it happened to be an uphill 2 miles! Still I arrived safely and was rewarded with eggs Benedict for breakfast while sitting in the sun!

I am tapering for the half marathon on Sunday, so have not done too much running this week, just 4 miles on Monday and 3.35miles today. I think that will be it now as the next few days are busy. I'm volunteering at parkrun on Saturday - I know that I wouldn't be able to 'take it easy' and it isn't worth the risk of injuring myself!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Heatwave central!

Wow, what a week we have had weather wise! Summer seems to have arrived a wee bit late this year, just as I was thinking of packing away my summer clothing for the winter.

After a busy couple of days catching up on 'stuff' after last weekend in Paris, and mindful of the fact that I am supposed to be tapering, I haven't managed too much running this week. A couple of 4.5 mile runs in the evening sunlight were really magical, and reminded me why I love running so much. Beautiful scenery and a chance to be out in the fresh air enjoying a stunning sunset. I bought new running shoes early in the week and am trying to get used to them. I know they aren't fashion accessories, but this pair are seriously ugly and a nasty pastel yellow. That said, my toes feel better in them so that is a good thing! I'll try them out on a longish run tomorrow and see how they feel before making a decision about what to wear for the Royal Parks Half Marathon.

This morning dawned sunny and warm and number one son and I set off for parkrun. Due to the set up for the Basingstoke Half Marathon tomorrow we were at the much loved (!) alternative venue on the Crabtree Plantation. Was great to see a fellow parkrunner celebrate his 100th run! Well done Colin! I'll get there one day - but have a LONG way to go. I had an equipment failure today. Just before the run started I noticed that my Garmin had frozen. I didn't have time to sort it before the start, and couldn't remember how to sort it as I was running - so spent a fair amount of time fiddling with it while trying not to trip over! I found it quite unnerving not to know how fast (or slow!) I was running. The sun was beating down, and the hills were quite punishing - I think I am fairly happy with the steady 24.34mins that it took me today. I'm going to have to dig through the results to try to work out how fast I ran it last time. I was overtaken by a runner pushing a buggy... that isn't demoralising at all....

Thanks, as always, to the organisers! And good luck to all the parkrunners who are taking part in the Basingstoke Half Marathon tomorrow.