Sunday, 12 March 2017

Larmer Tree Marathon

Today was a lesson in respecting the marathon distance.  I may have run a few now, but there is no place for becoming complacent about what is, by any stretch of the imagination, quite a long way to run.  I've had a few tough runs recently, culminating in the aptly named 'Plod' two weeks ago, but I was quite excited about today.  As excited as you can be when you are exhausted and overworked and still trying to sort out the house you moved into a few weeks ago.

I'd run the 20 mile race at Larmer Three Gardens last year.  And while I was running that I seem to remember thinking that it was silly to run 20 miles when there was a 26 mile option available, so that is what I signed up for, fool that I am.  The weather forecast was not promising, so we arrived with loads of layers, waterproofs. hats etc.  Numbers were collected.  Mine was so wrong it was almost right.

It is quite a long time since the last White Star Running event down in Bovington, so it was lovely to see all the regular characters.  We chatted away as we waited for the start.  I was on the look out for peacocks, while at the same time realising that the peacock leggings I was wearing were not the same, very comfortable, Tikiboo pair that I wore last year.  I have no idea where they were from, but they will not be worn again.  One of the many things you are told when you start training for marathons is that you should not wear something during a marathon that you have not road tested for a good few miles beforehand.  This oversight would come to bite me on the bum a few miles into the run.

The start was lovely, apart from the weather!  Damp and drizzly.  It was down hill and on tarmac, this was going to be ok.  I got to the first water station at about 6 miles feeling relatively confident and making fairly good time.  Within 2 miles that had all changed.  It was tough going, but not unrunable at this stage, the ground was either very slippery or very sticky.  At times it was like running over a huge tube of Prit Stick, it took lots of effort to even life feet off the ground.

By 8 miles I was walking along a totally flat path, sobbing.  Really sobbing, and just feeling a huge sense of despair.  And that was before I saw The Hill.  At least this was a reason to walk!  Or stagger...  From then on I think I did more walking than running.  To be fair, there were loads and loads of people walking.  It was hard to motivate myself to run when there were so many people walking all around me.  I had blisters on my insoles, from trainers that have never rubbed before and chaffing where no one ever wants chaffing from the evil leggings, which only added to my misery!  I chatted with lots of lovely people, who made the whole day bearable - bizarre conversations about conspiracy theories not withstanding.

The route was varied, we ran though pretty villages, lovely woods and across fields with stunning views, the marshals and aid stations were supportive and enthusiastic.  The Love Station was fantastic as always - a much needed hug and dose of MTFU was administered here, along with handfuls of mini sausages, pretzels and jelly babies!  From here it was 'just' 6 long miles to the finish.  One hair raising descent and a long slog uphill were involved, but the end was in sight.. almost.  The trademark '400ish yards to go' sign came and went and all that was left was a nasty gravelly path, past a folly to the finish.  I managed to overtake a fair few people as my desperation to get this ordeal over and done with manifested itself.  I crossed the line and was given a medal and a hug, by one of the regular WSR team.  She has been at every event I have done, and always greets me with a smile and a hug- I really wish I knew her name!

After sitting down on a conveniently placed chair and getting my breath back, I went to get my lunch (included in the entry price) while the three of us who had travelled down together reassembled and rehydrated before the journey home.

Thank you to the team from WSR for an excellently organised event.  I promise to be in a better mood next time...

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Meon Valley Plod. There's a clue in the name.

All shiny shoes and big smiles at the start.
'plod, verb, to walk doggedly and slowly with heavy steps. ' -  Oxford English Dictionary.

When I signed up for this race it was for one reason, somehow I didn't have a single race booked for February!  Not sure how that happened, but something had to be done!  And because misery loves company I persuaded Husbando and a couple of friends to come along too.  After all, it was 'only 21 miles' and it would fit in well with the alleged training plan for a marathon that we are doing in a couple of weeks.  

Things were going pretty well before we started. We had the warmest run briefing ever inside East Meon Village Hall before making our way to the start line.  Spirits were high, it wasn't raining and we spent the first couple of miles running with friends.  I say running, but within the first mile we hit the first hill, so there was a fair amount of walking involved!  Pretty soon the group splintered, not by design but due to the stop start nature of a large number of people trying to get through a narrow kissing gate.  Husbando and were quite happy on our own, occasionally chatting with other runners as they passed us or we passed them.   

The first few miles were not too muddy, but soon we were experiencing epic levels of muddiness!   It was tricky enough to stay upright while trying to run on the flat bits - my legs were going everywhere and m feet felt like they had medicine balls due to all the mud!  Running, OK let's be honest, walking uphill was often a case of one step forward then slide two steps back!   My race plan of walking the ups and running the downs went out of the window for a lot of the time.  As we looked at the decents the thought that went through my mind was 'There's no such thing as a green stick fracture when you're in your late forties!'  

At some point I had managed to pause my Garmin, I probably knocked it when going over a stile, which meant that I didn't really have any firm idea of how far into the route we were.  This wasn't helped by one of the marshals who told us we were 'half way there' when, in retrospect, I reckon we were 7.5 miles in!   At one point, when we were holding onto overhanging trees in an attempt to stay upright as we skittered down a hill, Husbando asked if we would manage to finish in under 5hours - it was looking doubtful!  Soon after this however we came across a bit of tarmac which made running a bit easier and then  to the top of a hill where the wind was so intense that we had to run because we didn't want to stay exposed to if for a minute longer than we had to!  This helped us make up a bit of time, and we even overtook a few people!  We did have to slow down just before the end as the mud behind in the church was so deep and so intent on trying to remove our shoes that we had no option but to walk!  

Coming up to the finish line I looked in disbelieve at the timing clock.  The first number was a 4 - I couldn't see the rest of the numbers, but figured that it was worth a bit of a sprint to see we could do it... And we did!  Tea and cake in the village hall were most welcome afterwards, but we got cold very quickly as we waited for our friends to finish - thank heavens for space blankets!  They keep you warm and protect the car from some of the mud!

Thanks to all the marshals and race organisers.  I have apologised to my friends for subjecting them to such an arduous day out and told them to shoot me if I suggest doing it next year!

Monday, 30 January 2017

Chilly Hilly rebooted

The weather couldn't possibly be as biblical as last year could it?  The rain last January came down pretty much for the whole time we were running and, as we drove towards QECP this morning it looked as though we were on for a repeat performance.   It was a relief to get out of the car to find that the rain had eased off and there was barely a spit of rain while we were running.

But, oh my word, the conditions under foot were... interesting!  I knew it was going to be hilly (there's a clue in the name) and I knew, from our Wednesday evening runs in QECP, that it would be muddy, but this was mud on another level.  Slippery, slidey mud that had only 2 objectives; to try to steal your trainers and to make you look silly when you fell over!

As to my run... my snazzy Garmin has a 'performance condition indicator.'  This pops up in the first few minutes of an activity with a number that rates my current performance relative to my general fitness levels (or something like that).  Normally it varies between 0, when I feel rough, and +5.  Today the number that popped up was -9.   Minus 9!  Maybe the cold I had been suffering form all week had taken its toll.... Given that I was halfway up the first hill by then it made very little difference - I had to go on.

There were loads of marshals on the course - so lots of encouragement and warnings about taking care on the sharp bends.  Lots of banter amongst the runners, we all agreed that it felt a lot more challenging than last year.  Part of this was due to the paths being churned up by logging vehicles, in fact part of the course had to be rerouted due to logging activity.  This was nice because it meant we had an out and back - so more opportunities for banter!

Just after half way I confidently planted my foot on what looked like solid ground, only to have the ground vanish from under me!  I ended up sitting cross-legged in the mud - I think it  must have been quite a graceful tumble, but there was no one there to see!  I took it even easier after that, I just kept going with the thought of a steaming bowl of chilli keeping me going.

The chilli was great, as was the cup of tea I had with it.  This is a lovely race, with the added benefit of a raffle.  I'll be back for more next year, but will be hoping that we have dry weather!

(My Garmin also gives me a recovery time at the end of each run.  The longest I have seen so far is 48hrs after a marathon.  Today is told me I should wait 3.5 days before exercising again!  I think my cold may actually have been man 'flu!)
Best sign of the day!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Make a plan and then stick to it!

Today was my first visit to Hayling Island.  It is always slightly worrying not to be able to see anything at the other end of a bridge, and this was exactly what happened as I drove onto the bridge over to Hayling Island.  It wasn't even a long bridge - but all I could see in front of me was mist!  I hadn't thought too much about where this race was located when I booked it.  The guys at On the Whistle put on great events, and that is all I really need to know, this meant that I didn't realise that it was to be a trip to the seaside!  The run was on the Billy Line, consisting of out and backs, as many or as few as you fancied completing.

My training plan, aimed at the Paris marathon, required me to run 9 miles today, which would have been a smidge over 2 laps, so obviously a new plan was required.  I decided that I would run 9 miles and then adopt a run/walk strategy until I felt like giving up.  The tough thing was to stop running at 9 miles when I still felt as though I could go on for ever!  But I did.  I also managed to stay relatively on track with my run/walk breaks - they sometimes varied a bit when I stopped or slowed down to talk to another runner.  I think I finished in about 4hrs 30mins, maybe 4hrs 3mins - I was feeling so ropey that I was concentrating on staying upright rather than important things like stopping my Garmin!

The run itself was much tougher than I'd anticipated!  This was a very flat course, but also, due to the rain, very muddy.  We ran the first couple of laps with very limited visibility, the mist and/or rain ensured that we were pretty soggy pretty quickly, and the lack of obvious landmarks on the route made it somewhat soul destroying!  The fact that I was pleased to see a white fertiliser bag in a puddle is an indication of how desperate I was for familiar points to judge how far I had to go!  The visibility remained poor throughout the time I was running - I didn't get to see the sea!   Who'd of thought that I might actually welcome a couple of hills to break up the monotony?! And I decided very early on that a marathon distance would be enough for today.  The idea of setting out for a 7th lap made me want to weep!  During my 5th and 6th laps it was only the thought of McDonalds that kept me going.  I can only have McDs if I have run a full marathon, so I had to keep on going!

It was lovely to see old friends and speak to new people, but the weather was a huge negative today.  Not epically bad enough to inspire a blitz spirit, just a constant drizzle and limited visibility.  I can't fault the organisation, or the enthusiasm of the On The Whistle team - it isn't every race you go to where one of the organisers comes up to you with your own personal bag of Tangfastics -surely the crack cocaine of the sweetie world!   The medals and aid station were fabulous, the marshals friendly and enthusiastic, I just wasn't enjoying the rain! Still as a training run for Paris and London, it is all good! Hoping to get to my Treloar's Trust/London fundraising total before I run the race!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Doing the double.

My New Year's resolution is not to run while hungover or drunk in 2017.  There is a subsidiary resolution, that might not be practical, and that is that I will not enter races while under the influence of alcohol.  Not sure how long these resolutions will last, but so far at 7.10pm on 1st January everything is going well!  I've do two parkruns without even a wiff of a hangover.  

I did have tired legs.... legs that were so tired (after yesterday's Gutbuster 10miles) that I was really quite happy with our decision to stay in, plans for an early night were scuppered by teenage children phoning to say 'Happy New Year' and 'Can you send me some cash?' at midnight!   

Husbando and I had been plotting which two parkruns we'd run.  At first we thought Basingstoke and Alice Holt, but Basingstoke quite often start a little after 9am, which meant that we could be cutting it fine to get to Alice Holt, so we decided to go to Rushmoor instead.  As we drove over I complained that we wouldn't know anyone, only to park our car, walk to the start and bump into a parkrun friend from Abingdon who I hadn't seen for ages.  He was there with a group from Abingdon and Didcot who were planning to go on to Frimley Lodge, but we persuaded them to come with us instead!  

So, to the running part of parkrun.... my legs felt heavy, and I couldn't be bothered to warm up as I had no great expectations, Husbando and I were aiming to 'just get round.'  Turned out that my tired legs wanted to move a bit faster than I'd anticipated.  Husbando and I jogged around chatting away until I realised that I was on for a PB - which happened as we got to the finish straight - I was thrilled to go home with a 45second PB!  

Then it was into the car and off to Alice Holt.  Whereas Rushmoor is flat and fast, Alice Holt most definitely is not!  We arrived in plenty of time, which was lovely as it meant we got to see loads of people I hadn't expected to see.  There was a huge contingent from Basingstoke and more from Guildford, including my ex head of department - who I hadn't seen for ages.   Alice Holt is a lovely run, but it is not one that you can do quickly on tired legs, so I was happy to plod around.
parkrun is really all about the people, the volunteers, the other runners - the whole community aspect is why parkrun is so successful, so it was wonderful to sit in the cafe drinking coffee, eating bacon rolls and chatting with friends.  I'm looking forward to many more in 2017!  

I hope you all have a fantastic 2017 and that I'll see some of you in parkrun land soon.  In the meantime, if anyone fees like sponsoring me for the London Marathon, which I am running for a local charity, Treloars, please click on THIS LINK

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.