Monday, 27 May 2013

Vanquishing demons

While most of the UK population was enjoying a Bank Holiday Monday lie in, I had persuaded Husbando to come up to London with me while I ran the Bupa 10,000m.  This meant that we got up at 'normal' time, but that we didn't have the hassle of getting the tribe organised for school, although number one son was travelling as far as Woking with us on the train before getting another train to Brighton for the day.  Porridge with banana and cinnamon was consumed, a final check of race number and timing chip was made and off we set.

London was beautiful this morning.  Despite bumping into a crowd of Chineham Park Runners on Waterloo Station, Husbando and I decided to walk 'our way' to Green Park, crossing an almost deserted Hungerford Bridge.  London was quieter at 8.30am on a Bank Holiday morning that it normally is when I go for a run at 6.30am on a Sunday!

I arrived at Green Park at about 9am.  The voice over the tannoy was exhorting everyone in the red starting areas to make their way to the start!  I still had to queue for a portaloo, untie and retie my shoe laces several times, dither about whether I'd need to keep a t-shirt on until the start, check my bag in at the bag drop etc. etc.  I was no where near ready to proceed to to the start a whole hour before the race was due to start.  I think I got my act together by about 9.20am when the blue wave were being encouraged to get a wiggle on and make their way to The Mall!

Standing in The Mall was a hugely different experience to last year.  Last year it was 27C as we baked in one of the very few hot and sunny days of last year.  This year it was sunny, but the minute the Sun hid behind a cloud there was a chill in the air.  My nerves were starting to build, I'd had a bad time at this race last  year and that, and being injured for a lot of last year had sapped my confidence.  I know that my time does not matter to anyone other than me, but boy does it matter to me!  I set myself a target of getting round in 54 minutes or under, that would be over 2 minutes faster than last year but would mean that I wouldn't have to push too hard on my poorly foot!

Mo Farah went past our start zone, to the accompaniment of a huge cheer.  I gave myself a bit of a talking to.  This bloke has won this event 4 years running, the pressure on him to make it 5 in a row must be incredible.  I was just out for a nice run in the Sun!

Soon we were off.  I started too fast, but thought, never mind, I'll soon slow down.  But I never really did slow down, passing each kilometre marker less than 5 minutes after the previous one.  It wasn't easy, in fact it was possibly the hardest run I have done in a long time, but I thought that I may as well push on.  The support on the course was fantastic, running through Leadenhall Market where a drum band plays loudly is a great treat.  I am not mad on the reverse route though as there seem to be a lot more upward slopes rather than one very short sharpish (not really steep at all) hill and lots of gentle downhill slopes.

The temperature through the City was pretty warm - very sheltered and the buildings reflecting all the heat, but there were plenty of pleasant breezes.  I almost got knocked sideways by the breeze as I passed Horse Guards!  The breeze through St James Park was rather brisk.  Suddenly there were only 400m left!  I picked up the pace, as I turned back onto The Mall and decided it was now or never - I didn't even think about smiling for the cameras, I just ran.   I crossed the line and stopped my watch, then before I could look at it I found I was hanging onto the barrier and trying not to be sick!  I couldn't see a friendly first aider with a sick bag anywhere and I was not going to throw up at this race two years running!

When I did look at my watch I found I had done it!  A new PB!  It had been very hard work, and probably not the best idea 5 days before a marathon, but it is done!

Milling about in Green Park and hearing eveyone's stories of the race was fantastic.  There really is a great atmosphere after this race as runners meet friends and family.  Many photos were taken, and I apologies if the ones I took on other people's cameras are useless but it was so sunny that I couldn't see the screen!

This really is a great race!  It isn't cheap, but if you are only going to do one 10k then this is it.  And if you aren't ever going to do the London Marathon then this race gives you some great sights to look out while you run!

Saturday, 25 May 2013

An unexpected treat!

It is the first morning of the half term holiday, so what happens at MrsBridgewater's house?  Do we all get a well earned lie in followed by a leisurely breakfast?  Of course not!  The alarm was set for 6.45am, which is to be fair 55 minutes later than a week day, and we had a quick breakfast, opened a few birthday presents (my baby girl is 7 today) and then I set off for Brokenhurt's inaugural parkrun.  Just one accompanying child this week, which seems to have become the norm.  He has decided to run with me a couple of times during the week too, and I had great hopes that this would improve his parkrun performance.  We also picked up a passenger on the way, and prepared ourselves mentally for heavy Bank Holiday traffic.

We were pleasantly surprised, the traffic was light and we got there with time to spare.  We weren't the only 'parkrun tourists' making a journey today, there was a knock on my car window before I'd even taken the key out of the ignition and and old friend was standing there.  As I looked around I saw lots of familiar faces from last week at Queen Elizabeth parkrun and overheard the comment that this was becoming a bit of a moveable feast... same faces different venue!  I like this aspect of inaugurals.  I think it must give first time parkrunners a real sense of the type community that their new parkrun will develop into.

Brockenhurst parkrun is held on the sports fields of Brockenhurst College.  The course details told me that it was a 4 lap course and fairly flat.  All of the course is on grass.  I think I may have mentioned once or twice that I don't like grass.  And I really don't like laps.  I am still wondering what on Earth possessed me to enter a 17 lap marathon next weekend....  After the run briefing we set off towards that back of the pack, we could see the field spread out as the speedy runners pulled ahead.  The weather was sunny but the wind was chilly, so it was a case of baking in the sunny bits and feeling rather cold in the shade!

My young companion had been running splendidly during the week, we'd been for two runs together of 2 miles and 2.5 miles, and he'd averaged 10 minute/mile pace.  I had great hopes that he'd pull a new parkrun PB out of the bag this week.  From the outset he was grumpy.  And slow!  I was disappointed. I love running with him, but I miss having a good, speedy parkrun blast on a Saturday morning.  He got increasingly more miserable (and slower) as we carried on.  He started complaining about achey feet, elbows, shoulders, eyeballs, earlobes etc!  I said he could stop, but he didn't want to stop.  I said that if he smiled he'd feel better, he accused me of lying!  I carried on encouraging him, running backwards to cheer him on.

One of the advantages of running at the back is that you often get lapped by the lithe young men, and get a lovely view of their legs as they race past you.  On today's four lap run we got lapped twice - an unexpected pleasure!  My son was more impressed by watching the passing trains, but each to their own!  One of the disadvantages of running on grass is that you often can't hear the faster runners approaching, so we had to work hard to stay out of their way!

On our final lap we were joined by parkrun show presenter Danny Norman who was running his warm down lap.  He and I chatted about all things parkrun and grumpy socks fell further behind.  Luckily my friend came back and ran with him, which meant I could at least put on a bit of a sprint for the last 100m!  I think the grumpiness may be due to not eating a proper breakfast, he is his father's son after all!  If Husbando is grumpy it is because he hasn't eaten, so maybe I need to make sure we all get a 'proper breakfast' before we leave rather than allowing him to just grab a snack.  He certainly perked up after a post run bacon bap!

A good proportion of the 113 runners and the volunteers descended on Brockenhurt College's internet cafe.  It was an inauspicious looking venue housed in a portacabin, but the coffee was surprisingly good.  Good enough to drink two cups anyway!  It has the advantage of being right next to the finish line, and the lady who runs it is apparently open to the idea of getting 'runner friendly' snacks in... that'll be cake then!

The Brockenhurst venue has free parking, right next to the route, and lovely clean toilets!  Nice toilets are always a bonus, especially if you are travelling a long way to get to parkrun.   This is a lovely little addition to the parkrun family, I really hope it goes from strength to strength.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Exceptionally good coffee!

Another Saturday, another parkrun!  Today marked the inaugural running of Queen Elizabeth parkrun just south of Petersfield.  This is about 4 miles further away from home than my regular Basingstoke parkrun, but the A3 is a slightly faster road than the A339 so it took no longer to get there.  I set of with my youngest boy, picked up a friend on the way and we all arrived in good time for the start.

I love an inaugural parkrun as you can guarantee that you'll meet up with people you like and don't get to see often enough as they now run at different parkruns, or you've only met them once or twice 'in real life' but have spent so much time chatting on line that you feel like you have known each other for donkeys' years.  You also get to speak to lots of people who have never been to parkrun before, but more of that later!

It was quite a walk from the car park to the start.  My friend commented that we were lucky it wasn't raining, as we'd have been soaked by the time we got to the start.  We walked up hill to the start.  The first of lots of up hill bits!  Milling around at the start we chatted with people we knew, discussed how hilly this run would be and plotted future parkrun outings.  Kiernan Easton, the event director,  gave an excellent briefing.  He said he was nervous, but it really didn't show.  He thanked all those involved in the set up and all today's volunteers before describing the course.  Apparently it is a net downhill course!

I started near the back, with my boy, and we stayed near the back!  The sharp uphill start spread the field out pretty quickly, but was followed by a lovely long downhill stretch.  As I was running at 9 year old boy pace (and he isn't fast, his PB is 33minutes) I had lots of breath to talk, so talk I did!  Alongside encouraging my 9 year old (shorten you stride, dig in with your toes on the hill, shoulders back, head up, etc. etc.) I chatted with, or maybe at, other runners.  Lots of them were first time parkrunners who were impressed and bemused by the concept in almost equal measure!  The course is beautiful, lots of lovely views and very well marshalled and signposted.  Much of it is on forestry commission hard packed gravel paths with some sections over grass.  Not my favourite running surface, but as I was taking it easy I didn't mind too much.  There is one short lap followed by one longer lap, which meant that it didn't really feel as though one was running laps!  Going up the steep hill for the second time the boy was flagging, as was a Havant parkrunner who was being supported by her friend.  Her friend grabbed one of her hands, my boy grabbed the other and they pulled her up the hill!  Suddenly he could run again, having had a bit of a whinge prior to that point!

Is it hilly?  Well, yes it is!  Look at the elevation profile!  But it is also very pretty.  My son finished it 6 minutes slower than his PB, but that includes a pretty spectacular tumble as he ran down hill.  The sort of tumble that would have put me in hospital, but he just got up, cried a bit, walked a bit and then carried on running!  He may not be fast, he may not always enjoy running, but he is very determined.  If he is struggling and looking miserable I ask him if he wants to stop, he invariably says no, he wants to finish, so on we plod!  I think he likes the big cheer he gets at the finish.

Coffee and a chat is an important part of parkrun for me!  Today we got to sit outside and drink some really lovely coffee.  'Exceptionally good,' as my friend commented.  So good we had to have another cup.  The bacon sandwiches looked pretty good too.  In best parkrun tradition, the event director had organised cakes.  They looked stunning and, I am told, tasted as good as they looked.  I want to know where to get the special cup cake carrying boxes from!

I look forward to coming back to this parkrun in the future and running it without a child.  A bit more hill training might be in order first.  None of the hills are as challenging as my local steep hill, but I run up that one by myself - no one can see if I am running so slowly that it would be faster to walk.  Still, the only way to get good at running hills is to get out there and run up them!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Alton 10, undulating, but a PB course!

I really didn't want to run a race today.  I wanted to plod along, in my own sweet time, probably giving myself lots of negative self talk about how useless and slow I was.  But I did need to run today, and it is the day of the Alton10.  If I 'just went out for a run' there would be hundreds of other runners on my route anyway.  It is a cheap race to enter, just £10 if you book in advance and have a UK athletics club registration, and ridiculously easy for me to get to.  I always get to races with loads of time to spare.  I hate being late, and worry about missed connections, bad traffic, getting lost etc.  This race, however, was less than a mile from my front door.  I could have a lie in, do some chores, check my emails, sort out snacks for the children to eat in my absence and still have loads of time to arrive and collect my race number couldn't I?  Well, yes, if I'd bothered to put a watch on and check the time!  We'd been advised to collect our race numbers by 9.45am, at 9.35am I was halfway through pegging out my washing on the line!

I quickly grabbed 'everything' I needed, realising too late that I had left my heart rate monitor band 'thingy' at home, along with my lip balm and a sweat band for my wrist.  I had remembered my sunglasses though.  As I jogged through the village the sun was shining down and it was really quite warm.  I was glad to dump my bag and sweatshirt, collect my number and meet up with various running friends.  I thought back to the first time I'd run this race, back in 2010, how intimidated I'd felt by all the club vests and the sinewy legs of serious runners.  I hadn't known a soul there.  My running life has changed dramatically, mainly due to parkrun, now I think I'd be hard pushed to turn up at a race without knowing someone there.  I don't name names on here - but it was great to see everyone.

I had no expectations for this run.  I set off too fast - running the first mile at a 5k pace, a bit silly, but at least I knew that the first hill would slow me down!  As we approached the first water station, while I was chatting with an ex policeman, a parkrun friend sped past me.  Our speed equalised a bit after that, thanks to me throwing caution to the wind on the down hill, and we ran together off and on until about 6 miles where she very graciously said she was going to let me go on.  She called out 'You're running really strongly - keep it up!' as I pulled ahead.  I can't tell you what a boost that was.  I kept that in mind as I slogged up a hill at 7 miles.  I think I chatted all the way around!  I certainly didn't feel as though I was going hell for leather, but I kept worrying that if I kept up the pace I was going at then I was going to blow up at some point.  I didn't.  I carried on overtaking people right up to the last few feet of the race.  My children came out to the end of my road to cheer me on just after the 9 mile marker - lovely to see them.  They took some properly awful photos of me too!

As I crossed the line I think the finishing clock said 1:24:57, the official results are yet to be posted, but even if it is more than that it is a PB (over a minute faster than Paris-Versailles, and two minutes faster than my last Alton10).  I punched the air as I crossed the line and shouted 'P-f*cking-B' and then clamped my hand over my mouth and apologised to the young Scouts who were handing out medals and cups of water (they did an excellent job both at the finish and at the water stations).  I was walking on air!  I bounced around looking for people to talk to.  If I'd been told I had to carry on for another 10 miles I am sure I was so high I could have done it!  As it was, after catching up with a few people, I ran home!

I've been on a bit of a post PB high ever since!  I could hardly wait for Husbando to come home so we could go out for another run.  4.5 miles over part of the same course, at a somewhat slower, but still respectable speed!  It was blooming hot out there this evening.  I have to say the local Scouts did an excellent job - not a sign of a plastic cup at the site of the water station we passed!