Sunday, 30 December 2018

Frozen Phoenix

If you want to run a race well there are some basic steps one should take in preparation.  It is a good idea to train for the distance.  I haven't run a marathon since the 18th of November, but I wasn't too worried about the lack of formal training, I've made sure that I've run half marathon distances at the weekends and, when push comes to shove, I know that I can run a marathon off very little training if I have to.  It is also a good idea not to push oneself too hard the day before.  Lots of people schedule a rest day or an easy run.  Most people aren't stupid enough to achieve their highest ever WAVA % grading at parkrun the day before a marathon.  Finally, it helps to be in good health and to have had a good night's sleep.  Coughing and spluttering all night is not ideal!  
Still, life is rarely perfect and, as I'd paid my race entry fee and had no other plans for the day, I set off for Walton-On-Thames and soon found myself sitting in the Xcel Leisure Centre chatting with fellow runners about upcoming races, mutual friends, plans for the new year - that sort of thing.  I still wasn't feeling the love for the idea of running.  At least it was warm and not raining!  We made our way down to the river, dumped our bags at the aid station and assembled on the tow path for the start.  

I set off at a steady pace, I wanted to treat this 'race' as a long, slow, training run with bling and was aiming for running just sub 10 minute miles.  This would see me completing a full marathon in about 4hrs 20mins or a half in 2hrs 10mins.  A nice easy pace, which allowed me to negotiate the muddy patches, dogs, small children, bikes etc. with ease.  I was happy to chat with people as I ran, but spent much of the time running by myself, at the end of the first lap I collected my wrist band and carried on.  My current, back of a fag packet, race nutrition plan calls for a banana every 6 miles which on this course is every other lap.  

I lost the plot a little bit towards the middle of lap two.  My chest was a bit sore, I had a busy week coming up, I'd told myself that I had nothing to gain from running a whole marathon and possibly making myself properly poorly.  I had pneumonia this time last year and I NEVER want to be that ill again!  The slightly damp air and the head wind on the outward leg of the lap were not helping me at all.  I was all set to stop at the end of lap two (6.6 miles), but as I got to the aid station I saw that another lady had just finished.  My stubborn streak decided that I wasn't going to be second lady at that distance... I would have to go on... I grabbed a banana and on I went.

Lap three came and went.  The highlight of this lap was seeing a Dalmatian in a leopard print coat!  I couldn't bring myself to stop after this lap as 9.9 miles is a bonkers distance.  I made a deal with myself.  If I could up the pace a bit I could salvage some pride from the day.  I decided that if I could finish the four laps in under 2hrs then I could stop running.  I also took the decision to run the return leg on the slightly longer route that goes along the road and not along the muddy section of the tow path - I thought I would probably be able to run faster along here and more than make up for for the slight added distance.  

I never quite trust my Garmin when it comes to distances left to run!  So I just ran as fast as I could for as long as I could.  As I rang the bell I said 'I'm going to regret this - but I'm stopping!' At least I'd squeaked in under the 2hr time limit I'd given myself.  I think that is a 7 or 8 minute PB with Phoenix at this distance - although it is 15 minutes slower than my half marathon PB!  Lots of work still to do.

The bling from today's race is awesome!  Even my cynical 16 year old son said so!  The egg moves to reveal the phoenix beneath - and it is purple.  Those who have done more than one 'Frozen Phoenix' race have the added bonus of medals that interlink.  Very cool.  Today was my 10th run with Phoenix - which meant that I was awarded my Bronze wings.  You can see them in the bottom right hand corner of the photos.  These can be worn on trainers or, as I have chosen to do, used as a fridge magnet.  What a lovely gesture and reward for loyalty!  The next set of wings is at 25 events... I'll have to check my diary.

I don't regret 'giving up' when I did!  There would be something wrong with me if I thought that 'only' running a half marathon was 'failing!'  I got out, had a long run, saw loads of lovely people and still had plenty of time to go out to lunch with Husbando and do stuff at home in the afternoon!  All this while, hopefully, not making my cough any worse.  That sounds a lot like winning in my book.
Thank you as always to Rik for another well organised event, thank you to the volunteers - especially the lady who said I didn't need to diet (she should have seen my back in July!) I think I love her!  

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Brooklands parkrun

This morning was the last parkrun of 2018 and one where I did not have to take my DofE volunteering son to our local venue.  The small children were off to visit grandma, Husbando was leaving the house at 4.30am and taking them with him on his way to a book fair in Market Harborough.  I refused the proffered cup of tea before they left, but accepted the hugs from my youngest child before going back to sleep.

There had been some discussion about where to go.  I didn't want to set off for a parkrun miles away on my own (and not just because my car is reaching the end of its life now and the poor old girl doesn't like travelling too far).  For a while it looked like we might all go down to Henstridge Airfield - but at nearly 90 miles each way that seemed a little excessive and would use up most of the day, so in the end 2 of us, Mr B and I, decided to visit the relatively local and relatively recently established Brooklands parkrun.  Husbando was pleased about this because he wants to do Henstridge as he is a  bit of an airport geek (we had to run around Templehof when we were in Berlin) and because his grandparents lived in Henstridge.  He was also unhappy because he wants to do Brooklands being a bit of a history of aviation and motorsport geek... but Brooklands is at least close enough for an easy repeat visit!

Mr B arrived to pick me up bang on 7.45am, to find me struggling out of the door with hat, hoodie, sunglasses, gloves, rain jacket and a bin sack of rubbish - luckily the right stuff got put in the car and bin respectively and we were soon on our way.

Brooklands Community Park is within the historic Brooklands site - home to the first purpose built banked race circuit in the world and one of the first airfields in Britain. Now, I'm not terribly interested in either of those things (although I will bore for England if you start me on what it is like to fly Concorde to New York), but a quick glance at the Brooklands Wikipedia page revealed names that even I knew about; Sopwith, Vickers, Hawker and Marconi to name but a few.  If that kind of thing floats your boat (or gives lift to your aeroplane I suppose) then the Wikipedia page is well worth a look.  There is a museum you could visit and I know that Mercedes Benz World is a popular attraction - you can drive cars very quickly there I believe!

The parkrun is located in the Community park that was established by a collaboration between the local council and Mercedes Benz.  It is a mix of bits of the old runway and wooded areas with a children's play area and car park thrown in for good measure.  There are no loos in the park itself - but there is a HUGE Tesco just across the road that probably opens in plenty of time for a last minute wee stop!  We parked in the car park (free we assume as we didn't see a pay point and didn't return to a ticket on the windscreen) and made our way towards a group of hi-viz jackets assembling in the middle of the old runway.  Having attempted to cough up a lung in the car I thought I better take it easy today (memories of being flattened with pneumonia this time last year have yet to fade) so I kept all my layers on while Mr B, in shorts, went off for a warm up run.

The first timers briefing was enormous - I haven't looked in too much detail at the results but it seemed as though most people were running at Brooklands for the first time.  I did wonder why some people bothered coming to the briefing though if all they were going to do was talk through it.  After this, and the main run brief we made our way to the start.

'I will take it easy, I will take it easy!' is what I was saying to myself as we waited for the signal to start.  But then I was among runners who were running, and I hadn't run for two whole days and my legs decided that taking it easy was not going to happen.  All the time my brain was saying 'Don't be silly, you are supposed to be running a long run tomorrow'  but I kept on plodding away.  The first section of each lap is on tarmac (into a slight headwind) before turning off into the wooded area.  This was muddy today, but not puddly (is that a word?) but it did seem to slow a lot of people down (that and watching out for tree roots) and I over took a fair few people in these sections before we came out, back on to the runway to run up it with a tailwind before turning back down to either start the second lap or sprint for the finish funnel.

And I did have to sprint for the finish funnel as Mr B had not only finished his parkrun but had time to retrieve his phone and stand brandishing it at me taking photos - slowing down was not an option!  I flung myself past one poor runner and across the finish line.  My efforts were rewarded with the best finish token of them all - 69!  It was also one of my fastest parkruns (23:39) which thanks to a birthday in November gave me my highest ever WAVA of 70.05%.

After barcode scanning we made our way to the coffee shop in the Tescos - we didn't see many other runners in there, but had a couple of cups of tea and a catch up about the joys of parenting: is it too late to move to a kibbutz and outsource child care to someone else?  Would I be put in charge of everyone's children given that I am a qualified teacher?

Thank you to all the volunteers both out on the course and behind the scenes who made today run so smoothly and thank you to Mr B for driving.  There are now no more parkruns until next year - but at least we get to do two in one day on New Year's Day - hopefully I will catch up with some of you in parkruns around the country/world (a girl can dream) next year - but until then I wish you all the best for 2019.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Finsbury parkrun

Despite living in London for many, many years there are huge areas that I have never visited.  Harringay is one such area and I will admit that, prior to today, if someone said "Finsbury Park" all that came to mind was yet another Madness farewell or comeback gig!  A little research reveals that lots of people have 'played' Finsbury Park - from Hendrix to Queens of the Stone Age via the Sex Pistols, Oasis and The Stone Roses (amongst many others).  The park itself has an interesting history - it was opened in 1869, during WW1 it was the site of pacifist meetings, during WW2 it was military training ground and housed anti-aircraft guns.  It fell into disrepair through the latter half of the 20th century, but a lottery grant in 2003 was used to fund cleaning of the lake, building a cafe and children's pay area and repairing the tennis courts.

We were up in London for the very excellent Nine Lessons & Carols for Curious People on Friday, coupled with a book fair for Husbando on Sunday, so we thought we'd make a weekend of it and throw in a parkrun too.   The idea was that we would get public transport to the start, run parkrun then run back to the hotel for breakfast.

Finsbury Park station is a third of a mile from the start.  We spotted the high viz jacketed volunteers by the cafe and made our way up there.  There are loos right by the cafe - which is good to know.  They were fairly clean and the ladies loos were very pink - pink tiles, pink paint!

After the first timers' briefing we made our way to the start.  It was bitterly cold, I was very glad to have my gloves with me.  So long as we kept out of the wind it was ok, but that wind was evil!  The start is down hill, on a nice wide road through the park. This is followed by a long, but gentle, uphill then a fairly flat section followed by a short,  steepish uphill and then back round to the start.  Two laps mean you get to look forward to the hill a second time, but the reward is a gentle downhill to the finish funnel!

We were so lucky with the weather. Rain was forecast - but held off until later in the day.  Running warmed us up.  It was refreshing to run on an entirely tarmac course for what feels like the first time in about a million years.  It was hillier than I'd anticipated, but I was fairly happy with my time.  Thrilled to be first in my age category!  One thing we have noticed is that the demographic at the London parkruns we have done appears to be much younger than they are out in the sticks.  

After we had finished we went to grab a drink in the cafe while we worked out our route back to the hotel.  As we sat down at one of the tables two regular Finsbury parkrunners (I want to say Paul and Anna - but I may have misremembered) asked if they could join us and soon tables were being pulled together and we were chatting about all things parkrun!  This is the 70th different parkrun I have done, and the first time locals have made us feel so welcome.  Thank you!

Thank you to all the volunteers who supported and encouraged us today - a lovely parkrun community with a deceptively challenging route in a great park.  Super speedy results processing - our texts arrived during our 3.5 mile run back to the hotel! If there weren't so many other parkruns nearby I'd be back like a shot next time we are in London on parkrun day.