Saturday, 23 February 2019

Osterley parkrun.

 I hadn't planned to go to Osterley parkrun this morning. I had intended to go to Tooting Common parkrun in order to tick off the letter T on my alphabet challenge but I changed my mind.  After looking at several possible locations and working out journey times and the possibility of meeting up with friends Osterley came out as the most likely contender.  

Osterley parkrun in held in the grounds of Osterley House - a Georgian estate in Isleworth.  Walking from the tube station (Piccadilly line) up to the start along a tree lined drive we passed cattle and horses grazing in the parkland - it didn't feel as though we were in an urban area, but. in the countryside!  Apparently Osterley, now owned by the National Trust is one of the last surviving country estates in London.  The house was described by Horace Walpole as the 'palace of palaces' having been designed in the 18th century by Robert Adam for the Child family to entertain their  friends and clients.  

Despite the mist, approaching the start was impressive.  Past a lake with swans, ducks, geese and moor hens, and then the house itself! A very grand portico emerged from the mist and as we were very early we had the place to ourselves.  Soon the parkrun magic started to happen... people in lycra started appearing, a finish funnel was set up and soon we were warming up, listening to the first timer's brief and getting ready to start... right in front of the house.  

The course was on hard paths and flat.  There was a section that felt like it was ever so slightly downhill, but I never found the corresponding up hill, so maybe I was imagining it!  The paths were wide, so the congestion at the start was very short lived.  I found the going pretty hard for the first mile - I didn't look at my watch until the beep told me that I had done my first mile.  No wonder I was finding it hard going my pace was 7.13min/mile.  I eased off for the second mile, but was still kicking along quite nicely.  The marshals were friendly - I tried to thank them all as I went past.   My younger daughter had come along for an outing, she set off after the tail walker with the intention of walking one lap and taking some photos.  About half a mile before then end I ran past her, she told me that I was in 64th place.  At this point I was tempted to let some people pass me so that I could get finishing token 69 for the second week running, but looking at my watch I could see that I might be able to get a sub 23 minute time.

I've only run sub 23 minutes once before - and that was on the old Fulham Palace parkrun course that was short.  My next fastest time was 23.10 at Northalla Fields back in March 2016.  I didn't think it would ever be possible to run faster than my Fulham Palace time... but I was wrong.  By a whole 2 seconds.  Today I ran 22:41 - a brand new shiny PB for me.  Utterly thrilled with that - although apparently I wasn't trying hard enough if I could a) thank the marshals and b) didn't need to cling onto the fence at the end!  

After the run we celebrated with coffee in the cafe.  One of the benefits of being at a National Trust property is that the cafe is great (the cakes looked really yummy and the bacon and egg rolls that my friends ordered looked fabulous).   There are also loos near to the start and parking is free.   Sadly we didn't have time to look around the house today - but hopefully we can come back again, run again and see the house.  

Thank you to all the marshals and volunteers who made today happen!  

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Bramley 20/10

I don't recall ever making a conscious decision to enter this race this year.  I had suggested the 20 mile race to a friend as a good training race for him in preparation for his first marathon, but hadn't really considered running it myself.  Then Husbando said that he thought he might benefit from running it too and suddenly it seemed daft not to take part too.  Being a local race it is quite shocking to realise that I haven't run it for a couple of years.  Especially when you factor in the very excellent hospitality offered by friends who happen to live right next to the start line.  Not only do we get a bit of a gossip, a cup of tea and proper loos we also get to park less than a mile and a half from the start.

The weather was wonderful, sunny, warm with just a light wind.  We took off some extra layers and, at the allotted time - a civilised 10.30am start so not only a local race but a lie in too - we made our way to the start, bumping into lots of friends on the way.  We had a plan.  I almost always have a plan.  I very rarely stick to a plan.  Our plan was to run at 9min/mile pace and to see if we could run the whole thing together.  It would be R's longest run ever, having never run more than 14 miles before and I was still feeling the effects of my marathon the previous weekend.  None of us had anything to prove.  A slightly downhill start made for a faster than anticipated start, but our thinking was that we would 'bank' the time for the hills.  We ran and chatted, I stopped to hug a friend I haven't seen in a long time, ran for a couple of miles with another friend.  The route seemed to feature an awful lot of downhill.  I was beginning to worry about the huge hills I could remember at miles 6 and 8.  When they came they seemed to have shrunk - hopefully this is a reflection on my training and the fact that I live on the side of a hill now.  We came through the 10 mile mark in a 10mile PB time - simultaneously thrilled and wishing that I didn't have to run another lap.  But another lap was what I had signed up for, so off we went.

We passed the bus stop where, in a previous year. I had stopped for a little sob and to phone home (no one came to collect me so I had to run on then) and back around the course - which was considerably less busy than the first time around, we stuck together until about 15 miles.  At this point Husbando told R and I to go on as he was struggling.  R and I carried on together until just after 16.5  miles - and the second ascent of the slope that masquerades as a hill, but I felt I was holding him back.  Despite never running this far he was absolutely smashing the distance, looking light and easy on his feet.  I was beginning to feel the effects of lots of miles and tendonitis in my right knee.  My 18th mile was my slowed mile, but still below the 9min/mile target that we had set ourselves.  I began to think that I might, just might, be able to better my 20 mile PB - which I remembered as 2hrs 50mins and change.  But I was going to have to pull my finger out.  Which was fine as in my memory it was down hill all the way to the finish.  I'd forgotten a sneaky little rise in the last mile, but I pushed on - remembering to smile for the cameras as I passed them.

The finish was not as downhill as I remembered from previous years, but I tried to pick up the pace a bit.  I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch - 2hrs 49mins and 44secs - I'd done it.  My fastest paced long run ever!  I stopped to chat with friends who were waiting at the finish line (thank you to them for the photo) and to wait for Husbando to cross the line - which he did about 45 seconds after me.  After that we collected our medals and goodie bags, found R (conscientiously doing his stretches) and headed back to A&G's for post race scoff and more gossip.

Garmin and Strava have both been playing up today - so it took ages to upload and do the normal post race faffing and checking of splits etc.  Now that I have, and now that I have checked the results from previous years I find that I was comfortably inside my previous PB of 2hrs 52mins 13secs! Still, I am glad I pushed myself - I felt as though I could comfortably have run on for another 6 miles, and even if I had dropped to 9min/mile pace (or even a bit slower) I would have comfortably run another sub 4hr marathon - heck, at 9min/miles I'd have had good for age for London in the bag.  Let's just hope that I can replicate this later in the year.

Thank you to everyone who was supporting on the course, whether they are official marshals, water station volunteers from the ACF, police cadets and Scouts or friends and family cheering us on- your support was much appreciated!

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Coldham's Common parkrun

After a long week playing soldiers (let me tell you that night time temperatures below zero make time pass very slowly indeed) I made a last minute decision to dump all my filthy kit in the middle of the bedroom floor, repack quickly and jump on a train to Cambridge where Husbando was working at a book fair.  He had picked up a some tickets for Rebus: Long Shadows at the Cambridge Arts Theatre so I was looking forward to a night of culture and a couple of G&Ts, but at the back of my mind I was planning where I would parkrun on Saturday morning.

I've already run a couple of times at Cambridge parkrun, and have visited Huntingdon and Wimpole, so it was great to remember that there was a relatively new run at Coldham's Common parkrun which was very close to the Premier Inn we were staying in.  I was a little bit cross with myself for not having planned ahead and listened to the profiling of this parkrun on the excellent WithMeNow podcast - but a quick bit of googling tells me that Coldham's Common is one of the largest green areas in Cambridge.  There are sports pitches and a mixture of grassland, scrub and pockets of woodland.  In the 17th century it was the site of an isolation hospital for small pox patients.  In Victorian times the area was mined for coprolite (fossilised faeces - which was used to make jewellery, lovely).  I didn't see the famous rifle butt hill - but apparently this is the third highest point in Cambridge.  As I left the hotel I saw couple in running kit and what looked like a 50 shirt - I asked if they were going to parkrun and if they wanted a lift - but they were heading to Cambridge parkrun in Milton Country Park.  Parking was easy in the Abbey Leisure Centre carpark (where loos are also available), and a brief warm up jog revealed that I had made the right choice to wear trail shoes as the course is entirely on grass.

During the run brief I learnt that the parkrun was still in its 'trial period' - I didn't know such a thing existed, hopefully Cambridge City Council will realise that parker is a good thing and let it continue. I nearly missed the start as I was chatting with a man from Hackney Marshes and the person starting the run was quite quiet and then we were off.  The route was totally flat, around sport pitches and through the wilder part of the Common.  I hadn't run since Sunday, but my legs were still feeling the effects of a marathon last weekend and running around with a rifle and throwing myself over assault courses.  I intended to take it easy and in reality I didn't feel I was pushing myself.  Husbando joked that I would run a sub 24minute time - I told him that this was ridiculous, and then finished in 23:42.  Oops!

After the finish I chatted to a few people, but the coffee van has stopped showing up and I was desperate for a hot drink.  Such a shame that the van wasn't around.  I don't quite understand why such a business would allow a potentially lucrative source of income.  There were nearly 300 runners today, plus volunteers, many of them would buy a tea or coffee and maybe a cake while they chatted and prolonged the parkrun experience.  I do feel that the post parkrun coffee is an integral part of my parkrun morning experience and feel a bit sad when I can't chat to other runners over a hot drink.   On the plus side - I didn't parkfaff all morning and got back to my room with plenty of time to have a hot shower, laze around watching Saturday kitchen and drinking tea in bed before the 12noon check out time!

Thank you to all the volunteers - I particularly liked the big red bow on one of the gates!

Saturday, 9 February 2019

A shiny new PB my precious!

The training plan, which aims to get me race fit in time for   the Paris Marathon in April, called for 15 miles at 10 min/mile pace.  But I was booked into a multi lap, 6 hour event.  No problem, I thought, I'll run 15 miles at that pace and then drop down and run/walk the rest of the marathon distance, or stop as soon as I can after 15 miles depending on how I feel.  It would be safe to say that this has been a bit of a shit week!  Too much to do, too little time, lots of after school and family stuff to sort out, plus planning for me to be away and out of contact next week.  Let me just reassure all parents out there, no teacher likes missing classes.  The effort involved in planning cover lessons, then marking the work when you get back is far more onerous than showing up and teaching, when you get to adapt and improve your lessons as you teach them so that they work for the students.  I've also had my new member of staff lesson observation this week - on a Friday, so I had all week to get ridiculously stressed about it.  Which is daft, the member of SLT who was observing me is lovely, and I am quite good at this teaching lark by now.   Anyway, the last thing I wanted to do on Saturday morning was get out of bed at 6.30am and go out and run any distance at all, but having paid my money I thought I ought to show vaguely willing!

I do love a Phoenix event.  I must be a special kind of nutter who doesn't mind running up and down the same bit of the Thames towpath lots of times.  Even the blue bridge has a certain charm.  I got there in plenty of time to grab a pre race coffee and to chat with lots of friends.  Some of them were running their first Phoenix event.  As we made our way to the start it became clear just how windy it was - thanks to the tail end of Storm Erik!  At least it was an out and back route so we should get a little respite.  

We were soon under starters orders.  I hadn't been for a run since Tuesday evening, so my legs were raring to go, even if my brain had forgotten that you need to turn on your Garmin and acquire satellites before the race starts not as it starts! I've never been any judge of pace, or any good at running to a set pace, so I just went with it.  I had so many layers on that I couldn't see my watch anyway!  The wind was brutal, a headwind or cross wind all the way out there.   The section under Walton Bridge was so windy that I was nearly blown over, and there were several sections where I really struggled to maintain forward momentum!  

Just after the turn around on the second lap a small, black dog ran right in front of me.  I sort of swerved, jumped and skipped to avoid kicking the poor animal into the Thames.  It hurt.  I swore (sorry!) One lovely runner stopped to see if I was OK, the dog's owners just glared at me.  I chatted with the lovely runner for a while before our paces digressed. 

The recent rain (thanks again Storm Erik) meant that some sections of the towpath were really muddy and puddly (is that a word?).  Along with a lot of other runners, I took the decision to take the teeny bit longer, not guaranteed traffic free, tarmac route - which meant my feet stayed dry.  I ran the half marathon distance in 1hr54mins - my fastest half for over a year - and thought that any moment now my legs would give up and I'd have to slow down, I took a slightly longer break at the aid station (to get rid of some layers and a loo break) before setting off for the second half.  I won't lie, by lap 6 I was beginning to think that maybe I am not the special sort of nutter who likes running up and down the Thames tow path, and quite frankly that blue bridge could do one!  

What kept me going was all the friendly support from the other runners.  Special mentions must go to  lovely Amy who was smiley and encouraging every time I saw her, and Ivor - who I didn't realise was running his first Phoenix event - kept telling me that I looked strong and that I was running really well, there was also another runner (red jacket, black shorts, couldn't see his number who I know that I know but can't remember his name) who was unfailingly positive!  That, along with any number of conversations with loads of runners really kept me going.  OK, I did have a little sense of humour failure at about 18 miles.  In my defence I felt sick and was beginning to get a horribly tingly, almost but not quite pins and needles sensation in my hands.  

But I'd also worked out that a sub 4hr time might just be possible, it would be tight, I wouldn't be able to have any of the walk breaks I'd promised myself and even then I was aware that my pace had dropped off so it was going to take everything I could throw at it.  I told myself that, for every minute over 4hrs, I would have to run an extra lap tomorrow.  Oh yes, this nutter is back in Walton-On-Thames planning to run a lap or two at the Donut Dash.  I have a busy day tomorrow - hence only planning a couple of laps.  

The last lap was bloody hard work.  I was grateful for the tailwind.  When I had a mile to go I couldn't feel my hands.  I had a handheld water bottle in my hand and couldn't feel that either.  I kept glancing at my watch - trying to work out if I could still do it, I thought I could.  As I rounded the last corner I was pretty sure I had it in the bag, but was taking no chances.  I like to think it was a sprint to the line.  I called out to ring the bell as I passed the finish - mainly because I couldn't let go of the water bottle as my hands weren't playing - I did ask someone to stop my Garmin for me!  
I'd done it!  3hrs 58mins and 50 seconds!  I felt ghastly.  I think Rik may have been worried that I was about to vomit on his very well stocked aid station!  It took over half an hour to get rid of the tingles and regain the feeling in my hands and what felt like several hours to walk back to the car!  The medal is awesome, tomorrow's medal has a lot to live up to!  

I managed to finish before the rain started too - so that was a bonus!  I did leave my water bottle behind somewhere though so I decided to celebrate by buying a new one, and two new pairs of running socks.  Don't say that I don't know how to party!

Sunday update.

Do I have to get up and run?  I've got to pack for a week away... surely an extra hour in bed and a morning spent organising myself would be a better use of time?  And did I mention that my knee hurts?

Turns out that arguing with oneself doesn't mean one wins the argument.  The part of me that said 'Nonsense dear, you've paid good money to enter this race, and you need to loosen up your stiff legs anyway.  Plenty of time to panic pack later.'  So I found myself at the Xcel Leisure Centre for a second morning running - gratifying to have so many people congratulate me on yesterday and wonderful to see a friend I hadn't known was coming. My poorly knee, which had felt almost 100% better until yesterday, made walking uncomfortable (I've got tendonitis), but I thought I could probably manage a couple of laps.

Today's race was a battle run. 50% of the runners would turn left on the blue bridge route, the rest would head off to do their laps in the direction of Hampton Court, guess which route I got?  Yup, the blue bridge of doom!  Ah well, at least the wind had dropped a bit, but it had been replaced by grey skies and a persistently annoying drizzle.  There were fewer runners than yesterday and that, coupled with us going in both directions meant that the course was a lot less crowded.

My run didn't go well.  My knee hurt and I felt sick almost as soon as I started running.  I decided before I got to the blue bridge that I would be sensible and stop after one lap.  The week ahead is going to be physically demanding enough without crippling myself first.  Or crippling myself any further - a dodgy elbow from falling in the ice and tendonitis in the knee = almost entirely fit and healthy doesn't it?   So, just 3.3miles in 29 minutes, neither fast nor far, but finished and I have a fabulous medal to show for it!

The doughnuts looked fabulous! I'm not a fan so didn't partake, but there were boxes and boxes of them so this could be one of those races where you go home weighing more than you did when you arrived!  Well done Rik and crew!  If you are a doughnut fan then manning the aid station will be torture!  The medals are excellent - double sided too.

Right, now back to the packing....