Sunday, 20 September 2015

Two Tunnels Half Marathon

I had been looking forward to this race since I booked it back in July.  Husbando wanted to run too as it involved running through tunnels.  He decided that he was going to do the 10k and I would run the half marathon.  I could not work out the timings of the races from the website but signed up anyway and was informed, in my confirmation email that an email would be sent out a week before the race.  It wasn't. And the website wasn't the most intuitive thing to navigate, but I got there in the end.  
Goody bag.
The races, as it turned out, started quite late.  10.10am for the 10k and 11am for the half marathon.  As we hadn't known the start times we'd booked a hotel in Bath for the night before - but in retrospect we could easily have driven down in the morning.  

We arrived at the race venue in plenty of time, and bumped into several running friends who now know that Husbando is not a figment of my imagination!  Being ever so slightly OCD about getting to races early and knowing where I need to be, I had looked up our wave numbers and memorised them.  But being in the wave one for the half marathon meant I had to go to the bib collection point labelled 'wave 9' and Husbando had to go somewhere entirely different for wave 1 of the 10k.  Totally illogical!  

Waves started at 10 minute intervals, I saw Husbando off and hung around waiting to watch runners finish.  I did feel for the finishers at this stage as they were having to cross a field with people milling around aimlessly.  I was hoping to see Husbando finish - but had to go to the start for my own race.  As I waited there I heard him shouting my name - he'd got back in time to see me off and to warn me that it was 'not flat!'  

The 10k had been an out and back, and the half marathon followed the 'out'  bit before carrying on.  This bit was quite sociable, there were plenty of runners running in both directions and plenty of people to see, although I have to say that running through the tunnels was really not my cup of tea!  The second tunnel was a mile long, and I could not wait for it to be over!  And then we were on our own.  Running through some country lanes, along miles and miles of canal tow paths and back into Bath.  I ran for many of those mile on my own - and I really did not have a good time.  The scenery was pretty and the canal was busy - which was lovely to see - but this meant lots of dodging cyclists, hikers, dog walkers etc.   The marshals were lovely, very friendly and encouraging, and the aid stations were well stocked with lots of yummy food.

But this race could have been so much better.  Chip timing would have been nice (given the entry fee), the organisation could have been better and I can't help thinking that an earlier start time would have made for a less congested run - hundreds of runners, cyclists and pedestrians in a narrow tunnel was a bit hairy at times!   Some of the mile markers were very randomly placed.  I had expected some discrepancy due to the tunnels, but that didn't seem too bad - I passed the 3 mile marker just as my Garmin beeped to tell me that I'd run 3 miles, but the 5 mile marker appeared at 4.6miles, we were back on track by the 12 mile marker, and then way off again as the last 1.1miles was closer to 1.5miles.  Uphill for the last part of that too!  Husband was there at the finish.  I'd taken so long to run that he'd had time to walk back to the hotel, have a shower, and drive back to pick me up.  

I would like to say that I am glad I ran this race, but I'm really not!  There are so many races with better organisation, both small quirky races and big races that the world and his brother take part in - I'd have to think very hard about taking part in races by this organisation again.  

Sunday, 13 September 2015

I rather like this park!

Olympic Stadium from the start line
Last time I was in Victoria Park it was cold.  I've just looked at the blog post I wrote back then and I am wearing long running tights and a long sleeved top in the photos.  Today may have been overcast at times, but it was certainly vest and shorts weather!  I hadn't realised quite how close Victoria Park is to the Olympic Stadium until today.  I spotted The Orbit as I walked up from the tube station, and the Stadium itself was visible - just - from the start line.

I'd entered this event at the last minute.  I registered online last night.  Run Through organise loads of events around the capital.  I've done two of their events before, Greenwich Park 10k (cute medal with a clock on it) and Battersea Park 10k (cute medal with Battersea Power Station on it) and I had loved the relaxed yet organised feel of the events.  You can choose on the morning whether you want to run 5 or 10k (more of that later) and there is no messing about with goody bags.  A medal, a flapjack, a banana and bottled water are what you get - and let's face it, most races (there are exceptions) fill up the bags with junk that ends up in the bin!

I arrived in plenty of time, warmed up, and was heading back to the start area when I saw a woman in a Kent Road Runner vest at the registration desk collecting her number.  I ran up behind her and smacked her on the bum - it running through my mind only briefly that there could be another person who looked similar with the same top - she screamed with shock, but no one took a blind bit of notice!  She is a regular at these events, so it was a reasonably safe bet that it was her.  I believe she has a season ticket for these events - something I may consider investing in next year.

We assembled at the start.  At Battersea the 5k runners had a 10 minute head start, but today we all started together.   This meant that there would be a temptation to jack it in at 5k.  I haven't been running well since April, so I had no expectations today, I thought it would be nice to get a time of around 52 mins.  I just wanted to get past all the slow people at the start.  The park is flat, one slight incline, but not really anything to write home about, and we were running 1.5 laps for a 5k and 3 for a 10k.   I didn't feel as though I was running fast, I felt like there was more in the tank (but I am basically a bit lazy and pushing hard doesn't come naturally), but when I got to 4k I looked at my watch and thought I could be on for a 5k PB.  I picked up the pace (pushing a bit hard for a while), thinking a 5K PB was much more fun than an indifferent 10k time.  I lost my nerve at the point where I would have to commit to the 5k as the finish looked a long way off, bending back around a corner.  I eased off and ran past the 5k marker in a smidge over my PB time - I'd probably have got a PB if I'd gone for it.   I ran the next 2 miles (can't think in kilometres as I am too old) quite slowly.  I knew I had no chance of a PB, so there was no point in killing myself.  But I couldn't help myself from picking up the pace towards the end.  I'd been overtaking, and lapping, people throughout the third lap which is amazingly good for the ego, and as I crossed the line my Garmin said 48:00:95 - that came down to an official chip time of 47:59, 68th overall, 14th lady and for the first time ever the first in my age category!  I am very happy with that - and the medal is lovely too!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Let them eat cake!

The rain that greeted us we arrived at Fowlmead Country Park was interesting, to sat the least!  I didn't want to get out of the car.  If I hadn't driven for over 2 hours the day before and paid for a hotel I think I would have turned around and gone straight home.  But I had driven a very long way, because I'd booked this race with no real idea where Deal was, and I'd paid for a Premier Inn room, with scenic views over the McDonald's Drive Through, so I reasoned there was nothing for it but to get out there and run.  

The Cakeathon challenge is unlike any other race I have entered.  If I enter a marathon then I train for a marathon.  But this was a 6 hour challenge.  Run as many 3 and a bit mile laps as you want within the time limit to qualify for a finishing time, a rather stunning medal and a generous goody bag.  I had not run more than 15 miles since the Giants Head Marathon at the end of June and in no way did I consider myself 'marathon ready.'  And did I mention that the weather was awful?  I put on my Goretex jacket, pinned on my race number and made my way, dodging puddles, to the start.  These are small events, approx. 100 runners, where everyone seems to know lots of other runners and if you don't know anyone at the start you are bound to have made a friend or two by the end!

It was a low key start.  The first lap was uneventful, the rain had eased off to a light drizzle and I was baking in my jacket.  At the aid station at the end of the first lap I stowed my jacket in a friend's bag, collected my first wristband (used to count the laps) and set off again.  At this point I was thinking 'I'll go for a half, but if it starts raining again I am quitting.'  Well it did start raining. With the added bonus of thunder and lightening.  I was thoroughly soaked by the time I got back to the aid station and thought 'Oh, what the hell - I can't get any wetter!'  The route was varied enough to keep me interested, 2 short, sharp uphills and fairly good paths underfoot - although they got more and more muddy and the puddles got deeper and deeper as the morning wore on.  There was one long, flat stretch which should have been wonderful with great views, but I found it very tedious.  Lots of puddles, views obscured by clouds and no shelter from the wind.  

I completed the first four laps (half marathon) in about 2 hours.  Not fast by many people's standards, but it would have been faster if I hadn't stopped for a chat every time I got to the aid station.  And now I had a decision to make.  I had 4 hours of the challenge left, at that point the rain had eased off a little, so carried on.  I almost immediately regretted my choice.  I ran most of that lap on my own.  I'd seen the route four times already, it was raining hard again, I could have stopped and got a medal and been on my way home by now.  Why on Earth had I paid good money for this mental and physical torture?  My mood was improved slightly by a bit of banter on the half mile 'out and back' section to the aid station and I decided to carry on.  One reason I hadn't stopped was because if you want to stop and have your time written down you have to ring a bell.  This reminded me of the bell US Marines have to ring if they want to quit training - and that felt a lot like failure!  This lap was where my whole attitude to the challenge changed.  I caught up with Greg and Phillip, I knew Greg a little from a previous race.  They were taking a walk break, so I walked with them.  I said I was considering walking the rest of the race - but that walking would be boring (by which I obviously meant walking by myself would be boring).  Greg said he had run the first half (in a similar time to me) and the rest of the challenge was an endurance training session.  A bit of running, a bit of walking and a lot of chat!  That seemed like a good idea and we ran, walked and gossiped our way through the next lap and a half before going our separate ways.  

I carried on this strategy and suddenly I was on my 8th lap.  8 laps was marathon distance and I had plenty of time left.  I pondered an extra lap to make it an ultra, but decided that I couldn't face the long boring stretch again.  Somehow when I got to the aid station and everyone was telling me that I still looked really strong I forgot about that and set out again.  Madness!  I was so pleased to complete the 9th lap that I briefly considered lap 10 before coming to my senses and ringing the finishing bell.  I am stunned that I could cover nearly 30 miles on so little training.  It was lovely to spend a day with so many friends all doing something we love.  The weather could have been better - but if it had been I don't think it would stick in my mind as such an achievement!  

Huge thanks to Traviss & Rachel, aka Saxons, Normans & Vikings.  This was the first of their events I have run, but I am sure that it won't be the last.  I won't be at Cakeathon next year though, as it opened for entries last night and has sold out already!   

Now that is a goody bag!