Saturday, 28 September 2019

Insanity runs in the family!

Today I should be focussing on a blog about Hazelwood parkrun and I will mention that later, but the last week has been somewhat tumultuous in our family!

At 2am on Monday morning my little sister (she may be in her 40s but she will forever be my little sister) got a WhatsApp message telling her not to come in to work.  She was a cabin manager for Thomas Cook, she had worked for them for 20 years since leaving university.  She gained a law degree from a Russel Group university but, on graduating, didn't really know what she wanted to do with her life, so opted to be a 'trolley dolly' for a couple of years.  She loved the life style and quickly progressed to roles with increasing responsibility, taking a short maternity break and returning to her globe trotting lifestyle with the support of her husband.

To date, nearly a week after the collapse of the company, she has not received any communication from either Thomas Cook or the receivers.  She is one of the 'lucky ones' in that her husband is not a Thomas Cook employee.  So many of her friends and colleagues married fellow employees (I guess it  helps when your partner understands the particular stresses and strains of your job) and now neither of them have a job.  The company collapsed a week before payday.  Three weeks of work and no sign of a pay check yet!

So what did my sister do?  Well, she mopped around the house for 24hrs and then she got cross.  Especially when she read about the bonuses the board had taken out of the company over the past few years.  She has spent the last 20 years being reminded that she is ultimately accountable for her actions when at work... but it seems that this doesn't apply to the bosses at Thomas Cook!

This made her a bit cross (actually - she was pretty livid!) and made her want to do something.  She decided to make a banner, put on her uniform and walk to Westminster to demand some answers.  Which doesn't sound that mad an idea until you realise she lives in Devon and that walk is about 200 miles!  I don't know about you, but I am all for mad exploits - but I like a bit of planning.... Rachel didn't have time for planning - she wants to try to meet up with other Thomas Cook employees for a protest so had no choice other than to go to her jobseeker's interview and then set straight off to walk to London from Newton Abbot!

She left at 12.30 yesterday arriving in Exeter at The Devon Hotel (where they looked after her and charged her a discounted rate) and has now finished her second day of walking (somewhere this side of Honiton) and has assured Husbando that she has somewhere safe to stay tonight.  Most people who set off to walk any distance longer than to the local pub and back spend a bit of time working out routes, where they will stay and what to do when things go wrong!  Rachel knows the route - having commuted from Devon to Gatwick for the last 7 or 8 years - but walking is very different to driving!  

I have shared her story pretty widely, and it has been mentioned on the BBC business news website, but what would be lovely would be if people could look out for her as she walks and maybe walk with her for a few miles.  There can't be that many people walking along in Thomas Cook cabin crew uniform - and I'm sure she'd welcome a bit of company and maybe a hot drink.   Or if you are feeling generous you can contribute to her fundraising page here.

I haven't told her yet but I am so proud of her that I am going to try to get her to come to our school to talk to our students about the whole experience... once she has had a chance to recover from her epic journey!

Here is her route for Sunday:

All this was milling around my head as we ran at Hazelwood parkrun today.  Chosen purely because it was on the way into London and JB had already done Homewood parkrun.  Hazelwood is the home of the London Irish rugby team, so the facilities were fab - toilets near the start, big screen TV showing the Ireland v. Japan rugby match, but I hadn't done my homework (it has been a pretty full on week) and had not done any research, so pitched up in road shoes for a course that was almost entirely on grass.  As it would be around rugby pitches!

The run director gave a great run brief before we walked to the start.  The course is one short lap followed by two long laps.  It is almost pancake flat and could be a very fast course, were it not for the incompatibility of road shoes and grass and the huge headwind on the second lap - I went from 7.15min/mile pace to just over 8min/mile pace along that outward stretch!  JB, major surgery last week not withstanding, ran on ahead.  I assumed Husbando was also ahead, so was surprised when he caught me up at about 4k!  We ran the last k 'together' with him pulling ahead just before the end... but I wasn't having that and overtook him just before we entered the finish funnel!  I was a mere 9 seconds slower than my all time parkrun PB!

Coffee (and bacon rolls for some) in the club house afterwards completed the morning nicely.  The marshals and volunteers made us feel very welcome - so big thank you to them all!

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Running in the House of Mouse.

Some time ago, and without my knowledge, Husbando wrote to my headteacher to ask for a day off for me.  I have long thought that teachers should be allowed to have a couple of days that they could take off, with prior agreement and ensuring that adequate cover work is left, each year so that they can attend important events that take place in term time. Like weddings.  On, in my case, races.  But that isn't the way it works, and I was thrilled when I found out a few days before the trip that Husbando had booked a long weekend at Disneyland Paris for the Run Disney weekend.   Even more excitingly we were going to travel over with a group of friends as part of the very prolonged celebration of my fast approaching significant birthday.

We had a few anxious days before the trip, as one of our friends ended up having surgery on Thursday to deal with some pesky kidney stones, but thankfully the surgeon gave him the all clear to run so long as he took it easy.  He was travelling with his (grown up) children so they were on hand to carry suitcases for him.  The journey over was uneventful and didn't even involve getting up too early, which was nice.

On arriving we went straight to the Expo to collect our bib numbers (A pen for most of us, E for elite for the super speedy family), a whole stack of race t-shirts, look at and purchase yet more running related stuff and sort out photopasses and all that sort of stuff.  We then checked into the hotel, Newport Bay, grabbed some food and then just relaxed before the first race.

The 5k
The 5k race starts at 8pm on the Friday evening.  We all decided to start in the same pen (A) and managed to work our way to near the front.  Our pen closed at 7.40pm and by this time pens B,C and D were filling up very quickly.  A few minutes before 8pm the wheelchair race started.  Now these weren't David Weir style wheelchair racers, a lot of the wheelchairs were pretty standard 'street' wheelchairs being pushed by companions, so they weren't likely to be setting off at a fast pace.  At 8pm the elite runners went off, followed by the 'invited runners' and then we were off.

We ran down a short hill to a very sharp right hand turn and into the back of walkers and wheelchairs!    Husbando and I planned to take this 5k easy, but wanted to 'peg it' to the first character so that we could avoid the queues and still get some photos.  We didn't recognise the first character, so didn't stop!  We carried on to the second, but the queue was huge, so we didn't stop... in fact we didn't stop for any of the characters... they were few and far between and nothing that we thought worth stopping for!  We finished in about 22 and a half minutes, collected our medals and made our way to the bar to wait for everyone else.  The bar was near the start and runners were still streaming past.  The last runners must have gone through the start close to 9pm!  And some of them had been waiting since about 7pm.

We toddled off to bed to try to get as much sleep as possible.

The 10k 
A 4.30am alarm is never welcome.  Especially when your first thought on waking is 'Oh my God!  I've got to do this again tomorrow!'  We pulled on our running kit and went down to get some breakfast and a cup of something almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea (as Douglas Adams so perfectly put it).  We were in the pen by 6am, shivering somewhat in the chilly early morning air.  It was the same set up at the start  as at the 5k (and would be at the half) with the same, inevitable, bunching of runners near the start.  Husbando wasn't feeling great, we knew that we had to run again the next day, so we took it easy.  We stopped for character photos and photos with firemen, but again the characters didn't really appeal if I am honest.  I think it was all princesses and lots of them were quite difficult to see from the route, so you'd see them after you had run past.

After the run we went back for second breakfast (surely the best meal of the day), a shower and a day spent in the parks and then an evening dodging the gilet jaunes in Paris to get to a restaurant where the second bottle of wine was possibly an error and the complimentary limoncellos were definitely a mistake!  I poured myself into bed at about 11pm, cursing the thought of yet another early start.

The half
Same drill as the day before!  But warmer this morning.  The first part of the route was around the service areas and then it weaved in, out and around around the park.  This was great as it allowed for loo stops (most welcome) and we stopped for character photos too.  I felt great (despite the hangover) and would have liked to run a wee bit faster, but Husbando was still feeling somewhat below par so we kept the pace down.  I am unusual in that I like the bits outside the park!  There is a nice section in a park that goes around a lake, there are some lovely gentle downhills and bastarding long slogs up the corresponding uphills.

More firemen during the half marathon
At about 15k Husbando stopped for a pee, I ran on slowly, he must have had the longest pee ever because I had almost given up on ever seeing him again when he appeared at my shoulder!  I had found it quite painful to slow down and now struggled to speed up again, but luckily there was a downhill section ahead which helped.  Husbando seemed to have had a miracle recovery and we were now upping the pace.  It felt great.  Until 19k, when we came into the Disney Village, past a MacDonalds and the smell of food hit me.  The smell of fast food is grim at the best of time, when running with a hangover it is the last thing I want to smell.  My stomach churned.  I thought I was going to lose my breakfast.  I told Husbando to run on as I slowed down in an attempt to calm my tummy.  A second wave of nausea hit me as I passed somewhere cooking hotdogs.  Who wants hotdogs before 9am on a Sunday morning?

Once passed the food smells I felt better.  And I was nearly at the end.  Less than 2000m to go.  Could I catch Husbando?  I sped up until I could just about see him ahead, then worked on closing the gap.  I kept pushing, working hard for the first time in the race, but couldn't quite do it.  I finished 26 seconds behind him.  It isn't a PB race, but this is the first time I have run it in less than 2 hours, even though it was 8minutes slower than my half marathon PB from 5 years ago!

After meeting up with friends we made out way back to the Expo to collect the 'challenge medals.'  In addition to the three races you can collect medals for running 31k and 36k (which we did), and if you are lucky enough to have run a Disney half or marathon in America in the same year you can claim the 'Castle to Chateau Challenge' medal.  We then had a mad dash back to the hotel for second breakfast, showers and an 11am checkout.  We mooched around the park for a few hours, ate some lunch etc. until it was time to catch our train home.

We had a great weekend.  I did feel that I didn't see quite enough of any of my friends, but we have all survived to run another day, so there will be many more opportunities for mad running exploits in the future...and the not too distant future at that.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Another PB!

If you have known me for any length of time you will be aware that I do not like to be late.  In fact I consider 5 minutes early to be a bit too close for comfort, so when I booked a 10k race at Brooklands I made sure I knew exactly how I would get there.  We were staying up in London on Saturday evening, but I knew I could get the 7.11am train from Waterloo to Weybridge and the Transport for London website told me that the underground would easily get me to the station on time.  Happy days!  I'd booked at 10k race, my first chip timed 10k since 2015, because my training plan said I only needed to run 10k and fortunately RunThrough Events were holding a Running Grand Prix at Mercedes Benz World.

Panic began to set in when I turned up at the tube station to find it still locked... as was the next nearest station.  I found a cab - not too many around at 6.20am on a Sunday morning and paid a small fortune to be sped to Waterloo.  At least I wasn't going to miss the train.

It was a beautifully clear morning, but very chilly.  I was beginning to regret my choice of shorts and a vest top.  A brisk walk from the station along paths clearly signposted by the event team, took the edge off the chill and as long as I stayed in the sunshine it was bearable!  Race number collected, it was just a matter of waiting for my race to start.  Most unusually I didn't see a single person I recognised amongst the waiting runners.

The half marathon race started half an hour before the 10k.  Watching the runners make their way around the track made it clear that this was quite a convoluted route!  They would be running 4 (and a bit) laps, with the 10k and 5k aces completing two and one lap respectively.  There were lots of 180 degree turns and many tight turns, it was quite hard to maintain a constant pace.  This was exacerbated when the 5k runners joined in too.  I spent a lot of time weaving around other runners.  At one point a marshal called 'keep right, faster runner coming through' so I moved over, only to realise that I was the faster runner he was referring to!  I hit 3 miles in 22minutes 36 but had no idea if I could keep up the pace for another lap.  I kept looking for the water station - noticing it only after I had run past it (it was on the outside edge of a curve we were running around) so had to double back a little to grab a bottle.  I was somewhat dehydrated, possibly due to attending a 50th birthday party the previous evening, but I probably didn't really need the water!

At about 7.5k into the race I heard a lady running up behind me.  She was breathing heavily, as she came along side me we chatted for a little while - but I was speeding up, I'd been coasting along quite easily and I thought that I might just be able to get a PB if I picked up the pace.  Until last night I'd thought my PB was 49minutes, but on investigation I discovered a flukey 47:59 back in 2015.  I had no idea if I could do it, my mental calculations were not helped by the fact that I stupidly got it into my head that 10k is 6.1k, could I do this?  I was overtaking people who had overtaken me earlier in the race and felt very comfortable.   I thought I might be amongst the top twenty females to finish, and my watch said 47:11 - so definitely a PB!  

Needing to get back into London so that I could have a shower and then check out of our hotel room meant that I couldn't investigate the Brooklands Museum or Mercedes Benz World, but it looks well worth a visit.  I just collected my medal, my t-shirt, a flap jack (yummy), a couple of energy bar things and a banana and headed back to the train.  I could hardly believe the official results!  8th female, 1st in my age category and 47th overall out of a field of 311!  It does make me wonder if I could run a 46:XX 10k.

In fact a couple of conversations recently make me wonder how fast I could run if I a)trained properly and b) pushed myself a bit harder on the day!  JB says he doesn't enjoy racing as it is just hard work, Husbando's face every time I saw him at a recent half marathon, was a picture of misery.  When I run I want to have fun, chat to people, thank the marshals and so on.  I think I am a little bit scared of pushing too hard because, well, it might hurt and it might not make all that much difference!  Maybe I should join a local running club so that I can run with people of a similar ability regularly...