Saturday, 30 June 2018

Eastville parkrun

It has been a busy week at school.  Or rather, it has been a busy week not being in school.  We've had activities week which for my year group (9) was a series of day trip.  This coupled with a two nights out up in London meant that consideration of this morning's parkrun venue was very low down the list of things to do.  I knew it would be 'somewhere near Bristol' and I was hoping that there might be a new parkrun since I was last there.  

Husbando met me from the train (he was there for a book fair) and we decided, over supper, that it would be a good idea to find one that was close enough for us to run there and back.  This would mean that we didn't need to incur an additional charge at the hotel carpark and that we could skip our long run on Sunday.  Eastville parkrun seemed to fit the bill - 2.75miles from the hotel and one that I hadn't run before.  

After grabbing a quick breakfast in the hotel we set off.  It was overcast and cool - quite a change from the rest of the week.  It was a nice easy route to follow and as we arrived at Eastville Park, with plenty of time to spare, we could see the tell tale high viz jackets and a parkrun flag.  While we waited for the run brief we bumped into the RD of Maidenhead parkrun - last seen (I think) at the inaugural there!  

It is an interesting course.  The first lap is clockwise around the middle, squarish, section followed by a second lap that goes all around the lake and up to the top of the park with the last lap around the central square.  It is all on tarmac and is not exactly flat!  200ft of elevation with a long uphill drag from the lake up to the other end of the park and an uphill approach to the finish.  I took it easy today, my legs were tired after the marathon last week and it was starting to get rather warm!  Husbando sped off into the distance....   We ran right up to the edge of the M32 - is this the closest a parkrun gets to a motorway?  The marshals were helpful and friendly making sure that we didn't go the wrong way

We didn't hang around afterwards as Husbando had to get back to work.  We grabbed a bottle of pop from the Subway at the corner of the park and ran back to the hotel in the now baking heat.  

Thank you to all the volunteers who make the parkrun magic happen.  Hopefully we'll be back again soon!

Sunday, 24 June 2018

A marathon with bells on.

 In the days leading up to this weekend Husbando said that he would run with me.  'Oh great!' I thought.  'Just what I need, 10 miles of him nagging me to go faster and to quit whinging, followed by me having a hissy fit and telling him to sod off and finish the bloody race on his own.'  In the interests of matrimonial harmony I decided to give running a race together another go.  What could possibly go wrong?

We arrived, with friends, on Friday evening and after checking in to The Greyhound Inn we toddled off to the village hall to tuck into lasagne provided by the local WI which we washed down with a pint of ale before returning to the pub to sample a local gin (  Pre race hydration completed we went to bed.  We had an early start the next morning, but for once we weren't leaving the house at daft o'clock to drive to a race.

The race started at 8.30am after a short race briefing.  Straight out through the village and then up the first of many, many hills.  It was warm already but we were happily plodding along, walking the steep bits and chatting with a few people we knew.  The ground underfoot was treacherous: baked solid and  very rutted.  We saw a couple of people take a tumble in the first couple of miles - but nothing serious.  Just past the second aid station we heard someone fall behind us and turned around.  A lady had fallen on the chalky, flinty path and even from the distance of about 50' we could see that it wasn't good.  We ran back as there was no one else near her, I took my phone out of my pocket as I ran towards her ready to call race HQ if necessary.  The poor thing had split her eyebrow (breaking her glasses in the process) and had impressive bruising on her cheekbone, and grazes to her hands and knees.  Husbando ran back to the aid station, a first aid kit appeared and we stayed with her and her friend (who had caught her up) until the ambulance arrived.  I don't know if she carried on or not - I hope she is ok!

A couple of miles later, and after a minor detour resulting in climbing over a barbed wire fence, I realised that my phone was missing.  I couldn't think where it could be.  We stopped for a while and had a think.  The 'find my friend' app didn't work as my phone appeared to be in an area with no reception.  I then remembered running towards the fallen lady with it in my hand so assumed that I had put it down and not picked it up again.  I knew we'd be going back past that point and I knew that if anyone saw it they would hand it in, but decided to mention it when Andy drove by in his truck and slowed down to ask about the slight detour we'd taken.

As for the running, it was going well.  We were taking it easy and stopping to take photos.  The heat meant that it was not going to be a fast marathon for anyone, but as tanning opportunities go it was great!  At some point, before half way, we took another wrong turn - the dangers of assuming the person in front knows where they are going.  We probably only went about three quarters of a mile along the track before people started heading back down saying that we were going the wrong way.  There followed a rapid retreat and a scramble down a very steep slope to rejoin the rest of the runners on the correct route.

Soon after halfway, Husbando began to tire.  He is a better runner than me, but due to injury his training regime has been even more lacking than mine this year.  This combined with the heat made it really tough.  We were briefly distracted around this time by dealing with another person who had fallen over.  It was a short downhill section and we watched him land heavily.  Husband, me and another runner helped him up, chatted with him, asked him if he was OK, washed the grit out of his hands with my water.  He assured us he was good, and because we could see other runners approaching, didn't think too much of it when he said that we should go on.   We found out later that he had broken both wrists, cracked two ribs and damaged his eye socket... but he managed to complete the marathon!

Husbando was struggling.  We were walking more than we were running and stopping frequently.  I soon realised we had passed the point where I could run on and leave him to struggle on alone because I was worried about leaving him.  He was really struggling with the heat and various bits of him were hurting to lesser and greater extents.  Our pace dropped off considerably.  All we could do was hope to get around. I don't tend to run marathons with a lot of snacks and gels with me because I find I don't need them, especially at a White Star event as the aid stations are so well stocked.  Husbando became convinced that he needed salt - I am grateful to all the kind runners who shared salt tabs and gels with him.

At the final aid station I thought that the wheels had finally come off the bus and that there was a chance he wouldn't finish.  He sat in the shade, drank a lot of water, ate some salty snacks and eventually we set off again.  We'd run with James and Ruth at a couple of points during the race, and encountered them again at the aid station, they had the misfortune to leave the station just after us and therefore were able to witness Husbando throw up copiously!  Rather than take a wide berth and run on in disgust they stayed with us to check that he was ok. Ruth and I went up the final hill pulling him behind us.  After that it was down hill all the way - but we still took it slowly, breaking into a jog only where we could see the finish line.  I think I realised how rough he looked when, as we ran hand in hand to the finish line, people were shouting 'Well done that man!' It was as though I wasn't there!  As we crossed the line he started to wobble, so we steered him in the direction of the St John's Ambulance for a sit in the shade and rehydration salts before I went off to collect medals, buffs and t-shirts.

A quiet afternoon followed - back to the room for a shower then Husbando went to bed for a couple of hours, I went back to the village hall for a pint of beer with friends before we all met up for supper and a very early night.

I slept well, and woke up ready for a the '9k fun run.'  This had a Le Mans start (i.e first find your shoes) and a compulsory warm up.  The race follows much of the route of the Sydling Hill Race (10k -ish) with a short cut.  Forfeits must be performed at the aid station in order to collect your cowbell medal and running the last mile into the village and the finish line.  This was a lovely race and would have been even better if I hadn't done the marathon the day before!  As we ran down into the village with our bells, those taking part in the 5k fun run were coming up it - which made for some near misses as my very tired legs couldn't cope with running down hill and rapid changes of direction!

Once safely down the hill we all met up for tea and cakes (the local WI strikes again!) before packing up and going home.  Despite feeling awful, I think Husbando is glad he did it.  He certainly appreciates why my times at Giants Head are far slower than my road marathon time (3,166ft of elevation will slow you down a bit!) and is very pleased with his spinning willy medal.  He's only signing up for the 10k next year though!

Thanks to Andy and all the WSR team - and well done on your 100th race.  The marshals were excellent, the aid stations coped brilliantly with all the demanding runners.  I am looking forward to next year... I think.... we've booked our accommodation, so now we have to come!

This is what we think of hills!

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Phoenix Explorer

This weekend last year saw me running around Wasing Park at Endure24.  I wasn't having a great time.  My friend wasn't having a great time, having to stop running after 20 miles.  Somehow we managed to talk each other into entering again this year... and then when injury and illness got in the way and we both decided to be sensible and grown up and defer, which I was absolutely fine with.  Honestly.  I was looking forward to a weekend of not running, I wasn't going to feel at all jealous when I saw the updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  Not at all.

And then a few things happened.  I completed my 12 marathons in 12 months challenge some time ago, but hadn't run at any Phoenix Running events for a while so hadn't been able to collect my certificate and medal, and ten extra places were announced in the Phoenix Explorer marathon.  Just ten places, and demand would be huge because the medal was going to be very special - so a ballot was organised - and I got a place!  At least I wouldn't be sitting around doing nothing while all my friends were running.

And what a day it was!  We had World Record Holding twins (the most marathons run by twins) and a couple of  milestone marathons announced before we started our race, but other than that it was the shortest race briefing ever!  I did almost miss the briefing though -the last time I'd run a Phoenix event at Walton On Thames registration and the briefing had been down on the tow path.  I was happily chatting with a couple of people, wondering where every one was, down by the river having not read my race instructions at all!

The marathon was 4 out and backs, each of just over 6 miles, from Walton towards Hampton Court.  I decided, fearful of the wheels coming off the bus again as they had at Dorchester, that I would just aim to get around without feeling the need to cry at any point.  I chatted with various people at the start but have to admit that I was feeling a bit 'peopled out!'  I was more than happy to plod along (run 9 minutes, walk 1 for as long as I could) with my own thoughts for company.  I dropped in and out of conversations with other runners and there were faces I looked forward to seeing as they came running towards me on the out and backs and was more than happy to stop for a chat at the aid stations at either end of the route but for the most part I was happy on my own.

I watched the rowers going up and down the river, saw ducklings with their parents, avoided getting run over by bikes and tripping up young children.  I even managed to put on a bit of a sprint in order to avoid a dog that thought my legs looked tasty.  The conditions for the first half of the marathon were ideal - nice and cool with a light breeze, but it soon got rather warm and sunny.  I was enjoying the run, but was aware that my pace had slipped.  I didn't really care - because I was still going to finish faster than I had at Dorchester!  

Despite the fact that I was enjoying the run, I was very glad to get to the finish - the tow path is a mixture of hard packed gravel and tarmac, in the dry conditions it felt as hard as a road marathon and my knees were feeling a bit achey towards the end, I managed to pick up the pace at the very end to ensure I finished under 4hrs45mins.  Then it was bling time!

And when I say 'bling time' I mean "BLING TIME!"  The medal is epic.  It weighs in at 3.66kg and comes with a custom build stand.  The ribbon has the names of the 120 runners entered in the race when it was first launched, it is the World's biggest finishers medal.  I beg all race directors not to seek to break this record as carrying it back to the car was rather tricky!    I also collected my 12 in 12 medal.  Rik normally does these presentations before the race, but on this occasion there were so many to be awarded it would have delayed the start (and possibly felt a bit like a production line or a school speech day with prizes for everyone) so he awarded them as we crossed the finish line - which made it feel a bit more special.

Thanks for a great day out.  I was still a little jealous of all the Endure24 posts, but I will be back there next year.  In the meantime, I have at least one more Phoenix Marathon this year - The Remembrance Day Marathon which means I'll get to see this route in the winter too, and I have Giants Head Marathon in a couple of weeks.  It seems that I am back up and running again!