Sunday, 26 February 2012

Here comes the sun!

What glorious weather for running!  First run of the year where I was glad I'd remembered my shades!

Ignoring the fact that all race organisers send out blurb saying 'At risk of death, excommunication and forfeiture of all Nectar points you have earned and will ever earn in the future do not run if you have had a cough, cold, renal failure, transplant surgery or amputation in the week prior to race day' I decided that having been given the number 69 I had to run this race!  Who knows how long it will be before I ever get this number again?

The starting area  for the Winchester 10k could hardly be more scenic, but the organisation was not great.  There were 6 ladies' loos available - and these were in the Winchester Leisure Centre so I can't think that the regular Sunday morning gym users and swimmers were too pleased by the influx of lycra clad women  all desperate to use the loos within a 10 minute window!  You cannot have too many ladies' loos.  Organisers would do well to think of a number and then double it!

The start line itself had the normal 'Start here if your finishing time will be....'  These started at 30-32 minutes and finished at 40 minutes!  Never in a million years will I finish a 10k in 40 minutes.  Great way to make those of us who run primarily for health, fitness and enjoyment feel like we are part of the race!  Still, it was pleasant to stand in the sun for a change, rather than shivering, as we waiting for the off.  The race was advertised as being 'chip timed' so I wasn't too worried about where I stood at this point.  I did that daft thing of looking at the people I was standing with and trying to gauge how fast they would be - was I in the right place, would they leave me standing?

I was vaguely aware that the race had started - a couple of whistles and a surge forwards.  I shuffled with around 1000 other people over the line, and as I crossed it I realised that there was no timing mat at the starting line.  Why hadn't I noticed this as I made my way to the start? Why hadn't I made sure I was nearer the front of the pack?  Why do race organisers advertise a race as 'chip timed' when they don't have the facilities to record the starting time of each runner as they pass the start as well as the finish?

Crossing the start line was slow going, hampered by a 90º left turn over a narrow bridge.  Those of you who were at school with me will remember the bridge over the Jordan - the bridge today was a similar width to that  - tricky to get hundreds of runners over that at any more than a bimble!    From there it seemed as though it was uphill most of the way!

I'd run a slow parkrun yesterday and am generally not running well due to poor health and too much food, so I wasn't holding out great hopes for today.  Just as well really.   The hill at about 2 miles in was tough - I saw a lot of walkers, but my downfall was at the bottom of the downhill afterwards.  We'd been running down a residential street and all the runners were still quite closely bunched.  I was following the runners in front of me, so when they veered left  over a grassy verge so did I.  What I didn't see, until too late, was the 4' drop!  The guys in front of me leapt down it, I tumbled!  No damage was done, except to my dignity!   I didn't stop at the one water station, but do remember thinking that there weren't many people there to hand out water.

The roads we were running on weren't closed, and it did seem quite busy with traffic at times.  I pulled out to overtake and heard the blast of a horn, so thought better of it!  The 'incline' from 3 to 4.5 miles was interminable!  Again, lots of walkers here, but I just plodded on, slowly but surely getting closer to the finish.  

Finishing was great.  I was so relieved to see the finish line and claim my medal!   Great to meet up with fellow runners after the race and discuss war stories!  Well done to those who managed a new personal best today.  To say that I am envious is an understatement, but I am still pleased for you too! 


My 'official' time is shown above.  A bit naff, but I had said I'd be happy with anything under 54 minutes, and my watch (start pressed as I crossed the start line and again at the finish) shows a minute less than that.  I am very happy with the positions (hmm, should I say that when my bib number was 69?) so all in all, it was worth getting out of bed for!

My intended diet, started after seeing photos of me at parkrun yesterday (and no, I will not provide a link to that) took an immediate hit when I met Husbando and friends for lunch!  I think I can give myself a pat on the back for giving away about a third of my pizza, but I did make vast inroads into a bottle of Shiraz.

Ah well, diet starts tomorrow!  Will be interesting to see if weight loss results in faster times.  Physics says it should!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Woe is me, I am so slow!

It seems to me that I am stuck in a bit of a cycle.  I train, get a bit faster, up my mileage so that I can run a decent distance, fell happy and confident at that distance.  And then I get a bug.  I cut back on the miles, have some time off, get depressed about the fact that when I do run I can only do so slowly and everything hurts.  This is where I am at the moment.  And I'm fed up!

I went back to school on Monday, feeling as though I needed at least another week off to really get better.  I've been taking it relatively easily, as far as one can in a school situation.  I've been minimising the amount of talking I do, and so trying to promote independent learning.  Even so, at the end of day three my voice is beginning to creak again!  The independent learning thing should keep OfSTED happy when they decide to visit, and I am busy thinking of ways that I can provide evidence that my pupils are progressing.  An impending visit from OfSTED seems to throw most schools into a frenzy.  I am somewhat concerned as our department's results were not wonderful last summer, which means we will be scrutinised to within an inch of our lives.

I had a lovely experience today at school.  While trying to bolt my lunch in the science staff room I heard a little voice at the door; "Is MrsBridgewater there please?"  I was tempted to say no, as I'd already had a couple of interruptions (on both occasions pupils had come up to apologise for poor behaviour, which is nice), but I didn't.  A couple of pupils wanted me to explain something to them.  Nothing out of the ordinary in that is there?  But when they showed me the work it was something they were doing with their other teacher.  They wanted me to help them because apparently I explain things much better!!  I'm filing that moment away for later in the week when I feel like bashing my head against a brick wall!

After Sunday's awful run, I took a couple of days off.  Last night I had a sports massage and followed that with a visit to Pizza Express  - I don't think you can get more of a rest day than that.  It seems to me that when I am not running I see hundreds of runners out an about.  It is almost as if they are taunting me.  With a race imminent, I decided I could rest no more, and set out for a 4 mile run this evening.  My rationale being that if I can run four miles today I should be able to manage 6.2 miles on Sunday.  I am finding it really heavy going.  I don't seem to be able to get enough oxygen to power my legs, and everything is more difficult than it should be!  I did manage 4 miles.  But I suspect that this 10k will be my slowest ever!  The Runners' World reviews suggest that this race does not have good PB potential - so it could be a very slow time for me!  On tonight's performance I would be lucky to finish in under an hour.

Just as well this is part of a cycle.  That means there will be a period soon that sees me running faster and happier!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Running and not running.

It has been an odd week.  Half term should have allowed me loads of time for running in the day time, and the weather has been much milder than the weeks preceding the break.  I was looking forward to clocking up some serious mileage and revisiting all my favourite runs around local country roads.  I haven't been able to run these runs in the dark because I don't really like dicing with death and hoping that I can move faster than an oncoming car!

I'd been looking forward to the holiday.  The whole science department have been working flat out, running extra revision classes after school, coping with all sorts of changes and extra burdens that losing 1.5 members of staff brings with it.  In the week before half term at least 3 of us had a day off sick, and the rest of us coughed, spluttered and croaked through the lessons.  I'd spent the previous couple of weeks telling pupils who approached me to say 'Miss, I don't feel well!' to go and sit at the back of the class!  It isn't that I'm not sympathetic, but I've always been of the opinion that when it comes to germs, sharing is not caring!

Despite this, I got the bug.  I haven't slept through the night for over two weeks now, and have spent my days feeling fragile.  I thought that I was on the mend, if I had thought otherwise then I would not have run at Newbury and Bramley last weekend.  But I was convinced that I was 'almost over it!'    And so, with a week of freedom ahead of me and lots of exciting things planned, all I wanted to do was sleep - but sleep eluded me due to constant coughing.  A shopping day in London turned into a 'quick 2 hours to pick up essentials and then home again please!'

I ran briefly on Tuesday, but it wasn't fun.  Every step was hard work.  When I run, I try to keep the photo below in my mind.  This is my little girl who is running for the pure pleasure of the way it feels.  This is the feeling I aspire to, and sometimes get close to - but it wasn't happening on Tuesday!

A trip to Cambridge on Thursday for a book fair saw me optimistically packing my running kit and posting online that I'd run Cambridge parkrun on Saturday.  The running kit remained in my suitcase.  In a Facebook status I mentioned how grim I felt, and those who know me well responded that they were sure I'd run on Saturday!  Not a mad prediction based on previous experience, but at 9am on Saturday morning I was still tucked up in bed!  I suspect I have gained several pounds in weight from a reliance on cough sweets!  

I am, I hope, getting to the end of this cold.  I am back to school tomorrow feeling as though I have wasted my half term.  I went for a short run (3 miles) with Husbando this evening and it was very hard work.  I'm obviously nowhere near back to full health.  My body would not let me go fast and I was very happy to stop at three miles!  I have a 10k race in Winchester next Sunday and am wondering how best to approach this week.  10k is a distance I should be able to run comfortably even if I don't run a step between now and then, but I do normally like to put in a longish run the week before a race.  

We shall see.  Watch this space to see how I get on next week.  Or not.  Although I have a very cool race number and it would be a shame not to use it! 

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Bramley 10 and Newbury parkrun

 Yesterday was Elaine's birthday!  She decided to help out in true parkrun style by helping to organise the very first Newbury parkrun!   The thermometer in my car hit -12ºC on the way over to Newbury, but was a positively balmy -8.5ºC when I arrived.  This was the first time I had run for almost a week. I've been coughing and spluttering for NATO all week and a wiser woman would probably have stayed in bed!

I decided to brave the elements for several reasons.  First, this was a brand new parkrun.  What could be more exciting?  Second, it was Elaine's birthday and I am too cheap to spring for a postage stamp for her card.  Third, I wanted to support Colin, Elaine and the rest of the Newbury parkrun team.  Fourth, I wanted to see if I could still run in preparation for a race today.  Fifth, Elaine had mentioned cakes and sixth, I've never been to Greenham Common and I wanted to go there!  

The start was well organised and hugely busy!  The picture below doesn't show many people - but I like the light!   Cold, clear and very bright best describes the weather.  The snow made lovely, crunchy noises beneath my feet, and I think we were all eager to get going before we froze to death.  

The course is a single loop of the old USAF Airforce airfield.  I am sure it is a stunning place to run - the glimpses I caught when I looked up were beautiful.  The place is being reclaimed by nature.  In the snow, and in the absence of trail shoes, I did find I was spending a lot of time looking at my feet.  Snow blindness was a very real risk, the sun had some warmth to it once we got running.  A record breaking total of 317 people turned up to this inaugural event.  Staggering given the weather!  Coffee afterwards at the Coffee Exchange was very welcome (thanks to Rohan and Nick for the coffees!) and I am sure they aren't regretting their decision to open on a Saturday morning to catch the parkrun trade!  Elaine's birthday cakes tasted every bit as delicious as they looked.  I ate two, just to make sure!

I wish Newbury parkrun well and hope to be back soon to run it in warmer weather.  

Today, after another night spent coughing, I woke up without a spring in my step to get ready for the Bramley 10.  I had been checking the website in the same way that children check school websites at the first sign of snow.  Surely, given that we haven't had a single snow day all year, Bramley would be hit by some freakish weather conditions and be called off?  No such luck!  I know that no one was holding a gun to my head forcing me to run, but once I've signed up for something it seems really hard not to have a go. 

I parked my car in the first car park I found as I approached the race start.  This was not clever.  It was a mile from the start, which was fine on the way to the start, not so good on the way back from the finish!  The start area was thronging with people, apparently there were 1600 runners, most of them doing the 20mile race.  I kept my eyes open for people I knew, spotted Maura almost instantly (and as she was 'phoning to ask where I was!)  It was her first 10mile race - so a very big day for her.  I'd decided to treat this 'race' as a normal Sunday run - not worrying about time (although I wanted to finish faster than any of the 20 mile runners) and to make it more of a normal run I had my iPhone and headphones with me.  Because I was listening to music I think I missed most of the announcements pre start, but as it was chip timing it didn't really matter! 

The run was hard.  I felt as though everyone was overtaking me, and my legs and lungs were screaming at me to stop.  Looking at my time on my Garmin was demoralising - I know that I look at it more when I feel I am not running well, which throws me into a bit of a downward spiral!  That said, I did the first 5k in a better time than I did parkrun yesterday!  The route was fairly flat, but in a way that the downhills were negligible, but the uphills required an inordinate amount of effort!  At 5 miles one of the women running near me announced that she was 'just popping down here for a pee!' (pointing at a footpath).  From that point on, I was convinced I needed a wee.   I ran with one eye on the hedgerows looking for a convenient gap (which never appeared).  I didn't need a wee.  It was just my stupid brain playing tricks on me!  I never felt as though I'd got into the rhythm of this run, my pace was all over the place, and I just kept telling myself I'd do 'one more mile' and then think about stopping.

I realised today that I now know quite a lot of local runners!  Several people said 'Hello' as they passed me and as I approached the finish I heard my name being called out - I checked to see if I was wearing a top with my name on, I wasn't, it was fellow parkrunners, most notably the members of Chineham Park Running Club who had turned up to support fellow members and were more than happy to cheer on anyone else they recognised!  

I finished strongly - suddenly finding a bit of energy and enthusiasm for this running lark, crossing the finish line in a little over 1hr 28mins.  I am really quite pleased with that time - it is less than 2 minutes slower than my 10 mile PB.  I hung around a the finish to cheer on the others.  I saw the first 20 mile runner fly across the line in about 1hr 43mins - a new course record!   It was lovely to chat to people I know after the race.  Far nicer to share 'war stories' with people than to slope off home by myself!  The goody bag contained a trapezoid medal, chocolate and (most welcome because I had put my favourite water bottle down somewhere) a drink!  There was also an energy gel sachet - which will end up being thrown away as it passes its sell by date - and several inducements to enter yet more races!

The walk back to the car was a killer!  Never has a mile seemed so long!  I collapsed into the car, relishing the heated seats.  A quick dash around Sainsburys on the way home required the deployment of a shopping trolley in Zimmer frame mode.  What amazes me now is the big smile on my face.  I am so glad I did it.  I would have hated myself if I'd backed out!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Sub zero!

Depending on whose car one arrived at War Memorial Park in for Saturday's 194th Basingstoke parkrun  it was between -7 and -11ºC.  That is pretty chilly by my southern standards!  Most normal people would be tucked up under the duvet at 8.45am on a cold Saturday morning, or eating breakfast in a cozy kitchen.  But most parkrunners are not normal, and my kitchen is unheated and far from cozy, so off to the park we went!  168 other people were daft enough to turn out in the cold, and even more courageously, half a dozen or so brave volunteers stood around and waited for us!

For the first time ever, I ran with a jacket on.  It is a beautiful pink jacket, but I normally take off any jacket well before the start of any run/race.  I'd forgotten that there was some loose change in my pocket until about halfway around the first lap, when we'd all spread out a bit and I realised that I couldn't out run the annoying jangle! The jangling was made worse by the fact that I had now warmed up a bit and needed to unzip the jacket - oh my!  What a din!  As I passed the finish funnel and the shivering, huddled volunteers who were cheering us on valiantly, I struggled out of my jacket and gave to it to one of the friendly faces.

There were some brilliant runs recorded that morning, 49 people got new PBs!  The ground was frozen solid - so going was rapid across the grassy, hilly bit.  My time was not great, but there is always next week, or the week after that.....  In fact for the next two weeks I won't be at Basingstoke, I'll be visiting the new Newbury parkrun on the 11th and then on to Cambridge the following week. 

At least I think I will!  I've been a bit poorly.  If I tell you that I didn't go for a long run on Sunday, in fact I didn't go for a run at all, then you will probably think that I must be at death's door.  It isn't quite that bad, but I did have to come home from work after lunch on Monday as I could no longer talk!  Teaching a class of 32 teenagers is not easy when you can't speak at any volume greater than a whisper.  A day at home has been spent sleeping, reading and doing a wee bit of marking.

I'm wondering if I'll be OK for the Bramley 10.  I've made the mistake of running races with chesty coughs before and lived (just) to regret it.  Maybe if I am well enough I can treat it as long Sunday run, take it easy and just get around.  Maybe, if my nasty competitive streak doesn't rear its ugly head and make me push too hard.  There will be other races this year and maybe it would be a good idea to set a slow pace for my first race of the year - then I can improve upon it!

In other news.... having been unsuccessful in the ballot for the Royal Parks Half Marathon (both rounds) I have signed up to run for UNICEF again.  The guys at UNICEF were amazing last year, loads of support for their runners before, during and after the race (who can argue with a free lunch and a massage?) and UNICEF is a great charity, but the fundraising total target seems a bit daunting at the moment.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

I'm not superstitious, but....

I am not superstitious.  When out running with Husbando a wee while back I noticed that he always touches a certain tree as he runs past it.  He said that to run past it and not touch it would just be wrong.  I laughed at him.  A lot.  And then I declared that I didn't have any such superstitions.

So I was rather ashamed to realise that I do have 'running habits!'  There is a road sign I run past fairly often with two posts about 18" apart and I invariably run between those two posts.  I don't think about it, I just do.  I told myself on Saturday (as I ran back from dropping the car off at the shop for Husbando) that I would break this habit, but I regret to inform you that I ran through the gap before I realised what I was doing!

I did break another habit on Saturday.  I ran parkrun without carrying a water bottle!  I shouldn't need a water bottle on a 3 mile run, but I suppose the water bottle had become a bit like  a comfort blanket - I liked knowing that it was there!  I hate feeling as though my mouth is dry, and in the summer a water bottle is essential when running around the country lanes.  How else is one to wash bugs out of eyes and mouths?  Of course, I hadn't planned to run without water - I'd just forgotten to bring it with me!

Another habit that I want to break is that of slowing down to get water at water stations in races.  I don't need to stop for water.  I have a perfectly good water bottle in my hand, that always has some water left in it at the end of my longest training runs, so why do I follow the crowd on race day and jostle for a plastic cup of tepid water that I normally end up spilling in an attempt to get it to my mouth while running carrying an open cup and a water bottle?

The Bramley 10 is looming ever closer.  I only managed a 7 mile run last Sunday, and that was hard work.  I know I can run 10miles, but I'm not hoping for any great speed.  I hope to get out for a 9 or 10 miler this Sunday, and then take it easy until the weekend of the race.  Looking at my recent training run times, I'll be lucky to finish in under an hour and a half.  Maybe I should run a sweepstake to see how many of the 20 mile competitors finish before me!

School continues to be bonkers, maddening, frustrating, hilarious, tragic and rewarding to varying degrees!  Half term cannot come soon enough (29 lessons to go!) as I think the whole department needs long lie in.  Having lost 2 members of the department at Christmas we have been somewhat stretched, re-jigging timetables etc. to make sure all the lessons are taught.  Two new members were appointed this week, they will be starting after Easter, so it is all change again!