Saturday, 31 December 2016

The last race of 2016

Me:  Fancy a race on New Year's Eve?
Husbando: Where?
Me: Er, dunno, can't be far away 'cos a bunch of the Basingstoke guys are doing it.
Husbando:  Let me think about it.
Me: Great - I've signed us both up...
Husbando: Sigh.....

So that is how I came to be sitting on a bus, with a red wine and curry hangover, en route from a park and ride to Butler's Land Farm near Reading to take part in The Gutbuster.   In my defence I hadn't planned to have a hangover.  I didn't think I'd had that much to drink, I certainly wasn't steaming drunk, or even properly tipsy, so the hangover was both unexpected and unwelcome.  A bit of a headache is no reason not to run, especially when you have paid about £30 for the 'pleasure!' 

There is no parking at the start of the race, hence the coach journey to the farm, where the race HQ was located in a farm shed.  Numbers were collected, timing chips attached to shoes, removal of outer layers of clothing was contemplated and delayed for as long as possible, port-a-loos were visited, all accompanied by the smell of bacon being fried.  I quite fancied the idea of a bacon sandwich - but decided that waiting to the end of the race would be a good idea as my stomach was somewhat delicate!
After the run briefing, during which I wondered why I had thought the 10 mile option was better than the 10k option we were off.  The first section was very muddy - I dread to think what it was like by the time the 10k race got to start - and we bimbled along as a group of about 8 or 9 of us.  But we soon got separated.  I was running with Husbando, all was Ok initially - we clocked a 7.40min/mile for the second mile - and then my right quad started to hurt.  It had given me a bit of trouble earlier in the week, so I decided to take it easy and let Husbando go on.  There was no point in pushing myself too hard.  

The route was mainly on trail, the famed ford had run dry meaning that we didn't have soaking wet feet too early in the race, but the mud was claggy.  It stuck to everything, at times it felt like running on an ice rink with heavy weights (mud) attached to my feet.  It was demoralising - it felt like I was putting in an awful lot of effort for very little return.  The course was well marshalled, signposted and followed an interesting slightly undulating route, with supporters dotted along the route cheering us on.   I wasn't feeling the love though, my head hurt and I was on my own.  Yes, I was chatting a bit with people as I passed them or they passed me, but I knew that there was a big group of my friends behind me who were no doubt having a ball and encouraging each other and that Husbando was too far ahead for me to catch.  I thought about stopping to wait for the others, but didn't know how long I'd have to wait and didn't want to get too cold, so I plodded on.  
The first 5 miles seemed really long, I was beginning to lose the will to live and thought about calling it quits, but didn't, miles 5 to 8 went by a bit faster (in my mind if not in reality) but the last 2 miles were incredibly tough.  Zig-zagging through muddy fields, being able to hear the finish and not see it, then see the finish but know that there was a fair bit of zigging and zagging still to do.  My watch beeped to tell me I had run 10 miles, but I still wasn't at the finish - I estimated about 400m still to do, and not a lot of time if I wanted to get home in under 1hr 40mins.  I put on a burst of 'speed' turned a corner through a gate and ran up a muddy, slippery, hill (overtaking a few people on the way) to throw myself over the finish line in 1hr 39minutes.  I think it is possibly the toughest race finish I have ever encountered.  

Husbando was waiting by the finish - he only beat me by about 8 minutes, and whisked me away to pick up bags and get the bus back to our car before I could remember that we'd been promised mince pies and mulled wine at the finish!  

So, that's 2016 done.  10 marathons completed, not bad for someone who was going to quite running marathons at the end of 2015, and 1800 miles run in total, not many PBs, but lots of fun.  Looking forward to more of the same next year.  

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Rocky Pub 2 Pub Race

A few days ago a friend posted on Facebook about a race being run by Portsmouth Joggers' Club.  It was cheap to enter and in aid of a good cause - the Rocky Appeal, so I shouted upstairs to Husbando and asked if he fancied a 7.5 mile road run.  He shouted down to ask when, I shouted back to say 27th at 11am, he shouted down to say where, I repied Horndean, he shouted back again where!  At this point one of the children told us to embrace the 21st century and just text each other like normal people as we were disturbing their TV watching/PS 4 marathon.....

That's how we ended up in Horndean on a frosty December morning.  We were very glad to find that the race HQ was in a toasty warm village hall and not in a draughty tent. we grabbed a cup of tea and some biscuits and bought some raffle tickets while we waited, avoiding going out in the cold for as long as possible.  But out into the cold we had to go, at least by 11am it had warmed up a little.  It was a beautifully sunny and clear day, which meant that there was nothing to obscure the view of the hill that marked the start of the race.

I'd been told, by someone who had not run the race, that it was uphill all the way out and downhill all the way back.   This was somewhat reassuring as we slogged up the hill that made up the first mile of the race away from The Ship and Bell.  Husbando and I had thought that we might run together, but my right quad was so tight that I knew I would not be having the best of runs, I didn't want to slow him down so about half a mile in I told him to go on and watched him vanish up the hill.  The outward leg was predominantly uphill, but not entirely, and there is no fun in running down hill when you know that very soon you are going to have to run back up it!

Before the start of the downhill section I fell into pace with a bloke and we ran together for quiet a way, just before the 3 mile point we saw the first of the fast runners coming back, so we shouted encouragement and greeted people we knew by name.  Husbando came along and looked to be running well.  I told him to make sure he had a cup of tea waiting when I finished.   The turn around point was at the second pub, The Red Lion in Chalton.  The pub missed a trick by being closed when we arrived, I would have stopped for a quick G&T, so we had to make do with a quick chat with the ladies on the water station, and a cup of water before heading off for the return leg.

The weather was lovely, the views were pretty, but the hills were a wee bit brutal.  I told the man I was running with (I think his name was Andy) that when we got to the steep hill I was going to run/walk it.  I knew the hill was about half a mile long, and that while I could run it, it wouldn't be pretty and I would take ages to recover.  So I ran 50 paces and walked 40 all the way to the top.  When I got to the 'top' it carried on going up - I hadn't noticed that this section was downhill on the way out!  Thank heavens for the encouraging marshals - there were plenty of them to encourage us along and make sure we didn't go the wrong way.

The last mile was, obviously, downhill.  And I managed to pull of a fairly good impression of someone who is able to run as I approached the finish.  Husbando was waiting with his camera, having finished hours earlier.  No bling for this race, but a couple of freebies - chewy vitamin pills and a coffee drink.

After getting my breath back we took a seat in the village hall to wait for the raffle to be drawn.  Husbando got me a cup of tea (he is well trained) and we chatted with other runners.  We made out like bandits in the raffle.  We handed back 3 prizes but still had quite a haul to carry home with us!

Thank you to Portsmouth Joggers for putting on this fun race for the 32nd time!  Hope that you raised loads of money.  

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Bovington marathon

Signing up for a marathon in December seems such a good idea in June or July.  The weather is sunny (ish) and dry (ish) and it seems incomprehensible that you could ever need long running tights and gloves while running.  But I had signed up for yet another marathon.   This latest offering from White Star Running was a bit different, the location was on and around the tank ranges at Bovington with a medal that celebrates the 100th anniversary of the tank.

Last Sunday was freezing cold, and I was beginning to panic about a long, cold marathon, yesterday was mild but it rained all day and I began to worry about over 5 hours of running in the rain.  I was not filled with joy at the thought of leaving the house at 6am to drive down to the Tank Museum at Bovington - I was hugely grateful to be given a lift so all I had to do was relax and enjoy the ride, in the fog.

We arrived in good time, even after a McDonald's stop for coffee and loos, we parked the car within about 20 metres of the start, and went to use the loos in the restaurant of the Tank Museum (which looks awesome and well worth a visit) before returning to the start for the race briefing.   There can't be many race briefings where you are told, 'If you see something that looks like a grenade don't pick it up because there is a good chance it is a grenade!'

A little bit of mud to squelch through
And then we were off.  I decided to run with the guys I'd travelled down with.  This running races with another person is quite a novelty for me and I have to say that the miles fairly flew by!  The first few were flat and not too wet - just one river to wade through - or avoid by queuing to go over the rickety bridge.  After that it got a bit bumpy, nothing too steep (although some of the downhills were a little precarious) with all sorts of different surfaces under foot from concrete (not much of this at all) through woodland floors deep in in pine needles and fallen leaves to mud.  Lots of mud.  And puddles.  We christened one area the Lake District as the puddles were so huge and numerous.  We were having lots of fun.  The aid stations were well positioned but, with the notable exception of the Lovestation (more on that later) I didn't think they were quite up to the usual White Star Running standard.  At about 16 miles (I think) we ran down a hill, each of us commenting that we were feeling a bit peckish.  Our spirits listed when we saw an aid station... and mine fell again when I realised that the only food had nuts in.    This was when I regretted my decision not to carry any snacks with me.

The right stuff?
At some point someone had moved one of the signs, which resulted in us taking a little detour.  This meant that we got to meet a load of the half marathon runners who told us we were on the wrong track so we retraced our steps and found the correct route. We ran past Monkey World - and saw monkeys playing on their climbing frame.  They weren't impressed with us disturbing their peaceful morning and shouted us.  We responded by a rousing chorus of 'King of the swingers!'

At 20 miles crossed a road and I heard my name being called out and looked up to see a friend with his camera!  He also had Haribos - what a legend!  20 miles in a WSR event means that you are at the Lovestation - plenty of food, drink and banter, I was famished - I stuffed my face and grabbed a handful of pretzels to take with me and we set off for the last 6 and a bit miles.

Quite a bit of this last section was the same as the bit of the first few miles, but in reverse.  It took in the deep river we'd crossed.  I decided that, as my feet were still fairly dry, I'd take the rickety bridge. It was considerably more rickety and my 2 running partners opted to run through the middle of the water.  They told me that it was 'refreshing' and 'just what they needed' to wash the mud out of their shoes.  I was not convinced.  And I soon discovered that they were fibbing!  We had 4 (or was it 5 or 6) more river crossings - and these did not have bridges.  The water was really cold and deep!

Our conservative pace meant that we were still trotting along really happily, overtaking lots of people who were beginning to flag, and we still felt strong.  Based on prior knowledge of the 'ish' nature of the length of a WSR marathon we got to 25 miles and were debating how much further we might have to run.  We saw the '400m to go' sign (which has a history of being fairly randomly placed in the last mile of a race) and still did not really think that we could be near the end, as that would make it a marathon length marathon!  But, along the path we went, crossed a road and there was the Tank Museum and the finish flags.  It really was the finish line!

We crossed the line together - passing two lovely tanks, to be presented with our fabulous medals and goodie bags (great new buff and a bottle of beer) and to have celebratory photos taken!    An utterly fabulous day out - fun and smiles all the way!

Thank you guys for the company (and the lift).

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

I'm finally going to be a proper runner!

Yes, it is true.  After years of faffing around and running all those marathons that aren't 'proper marathons' I am actually going to run the only marathon that seems to count in the minds of the vast majority of the population... London!

After 7 (or is it 8?) consecutive years of entering the ballot in the spring and getting the 'Sorry' magazine in October I had resigned myself to waiting another year, and anyway I had already booked Paris on the assumption I wouldn't get a place.  When I got my first London rejection, way back when I started running, I thought I'd look into running for a charity, but the fundraising total seemed eyewateringly high, so I discounted it as a viable way to get to run.  I thought about getting a GFA (good for age) time, but let's face it my times aren't good for any age.

And then, this year, there was a glimmer of hope... My running club had 2 places for the club ballot and, as a one off, a draw was to be held for 2 people, who were prepared to find a charity place, to benefit from a sizeable fundraising pledge so that worrying about raising a huge some of money is reduced.  I did a little mental maths.  We have just over 100 members in the club, not all of them would want to enter the ballot for one of the 4 places.  This was my best chance every to get to London!

Time passed.  I got wrapped up in work - the end of term is alway stressful (and I have just remembered another admin task that I should be doing right now rather than typing this...).  Then, on Monday, while year 8 were doing an end of topic test on 'Atoms and Elements' I sneakily checked my email on my 'phone.... An email to say that I had won a charity pledge!  I smiled so much that one of the boys asked if I was OK!  All I had to do now was secure a charity place.

I thought this would be easy.... after all, when you get the 'Sorry' magazine it is stuffed full of charities begging you to sign up to raise a squillion pounds for them.  I checked the website.  Charity after charity said that all their places had gone.  I was beginning to panic.  Then I decided to think local - there is a wonderful school for physically disabled children just up the road... I wondered if they had any places, so sent them an email.  This was 9pm in the evening, so obviously I was going to have to wait for a reply.  

I didn't have to wait long.  During period 2, while my year 11s were working on their BTEC assignments, I noticed that I'd forgotten to turn the emails off on my 'phone (I normally don't get my email on my 'phone because it is annoying!) and decided that it wouldn't hurt to just flick through and see if there was anything interesting.  I actually did a little dance when I saw the email confirming that they had a place for me.  My yr11 are lovely and used to my eccentricities by now - but they do struggle to understand that anyone could be excited about the idea of running 26.2 miles!

So now the hard work begins!  I still have a sizeable chunk of money to raise and I will be running 2 big city marathons 2 weeks apart.  I'm not sure if I should look on London as an enjoyable recovery run after Paris, or regard Paris as my last long run before London.  Running London seems far more overwhelming than Paris, even though there are fewer runners.  It is going to be harder to get to the start line given the useless transport links on a Sunday morning.  I guess I am going to have to start thinking about logistics pretty soon.

Huge thanks to Fetcheveryone Running Club and Treloar's for making my dream come true.