Sunday, 23 April 2017

London marathon, a tale of snot rockets, kittens and royalty.

You know that bit in any race instructions that says 'do not race if you feel unwell, have a flu type cold or an injury?'  Does anyone ever pay that any attention?   I nearly did.  At 7.50pm, having struggled to walk the length of Shaftesbury Avenue while wheezing and coughing, I sent out a desperate plea, via Facebook, asking if it was possible to defer a charity place... I had 9 minutes to make the decision, if a deferral was possible.  The responses I got were of the 'Man up, cupcake!' variety, with a side order of, 'No you can't defer charity places.'  So it was off to bed with a dose of paracetamol for me.

Husbando and I were staying in London so at least we wouldn't have to get up at sparrow fart in order  for me to get to Greenwich Park for the start.  As an added bonus, the hotel we stayed in had decided to start their breakfast service early so that the marathon runners could eat before heading off.  I felt grim, couldn't taste my breakfast and swallowing toast felt like swallowing razor blades, but the only option I had was to run.... A 10am start to the race made for a leisurely start to the day.  It felt odd travelling to the start by myself - but there were plenty of other runners to chat to.  The Red Start was enormous, but once I'd located the loos, the baggage wagons and the start pens I was much happier.  The loo queues were something else!  From the end of the queues the loos weren't even visible!

It took me 10 minutes to cross the line and a nice steady pace was enforced by the sheer volume of runners all around me.  From the start there were people lining the route and cheering us on.   The red starters don't merge with the blue runners until about 3 miles into the race.  I think the blue runners may have crossed the line faster than us, as suddenly I felt we were amongst runners who were at a slower pace, which added to the congestion.  It was good natured though, yes there were collisions between runners (I doubled up in agony after an elbow caught me awkwardly) but there was none of the ill mannered pushing and shoving that I experienced in Paris two weeks ago.  The weather was fabulous at the start, sunny but not too hot, but I had no expectations of running a good time.  For one, it was hugely busy, and for another thing I felt grim!  In my mind I planned to run the first half, hopefully see Husbando there for a quick chat, and then run 9mins and walk 1min for the rest of the race.

As it was, I saw Husbando with the Fetchpoint guys at around 14 miles, but there were on the other side of the road with the fast runners already coming back, so I plodded on!  At some point, I think about 16 miles, I did drop down to the 9/1 strategy, but got bored and managed to blast out two fast miles (8.02 and 9.09 minutes).  There was no way I could manage to run that fast for much longer today, but I wanted to see if I could manage it. Probably a silly thing to do, but it was fun.

I'd been anticipating that Canary Wharf would be quiet, and was quite looking forward to a respite, but there were crowds EVERYWHERE!  The noise was intense at times, the only quiet(ish) sections were in the tunnels.  I chatted to a few other runners, at one point telling everyone around me that I'd just had kittens!  It isn't often that you get a text with the single word KITTENS while you are running a marathon.  Another time, while talking, briefly, to a friend who was speeding ahead, a man said 'I just want to thank you for running for Treloar's - my son is starting there in September.'  He was running for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and (I think) wearing a cape.  There were very few of us running for Treloar's so the chances of the two of us bumping into each other were tiny.

At around 22 miles I was back at Fetchpoint to say hello to everyone, scarf down some cocktail sausages, hug Husbando and thank that Fetcheveryone community for the generous fundraising donation that made my run possible.  There was not far to go now, but after being virtually spot on for the first 9 miles, my Garmin was wildly out now,  it was reading up to half a mile more than the markers on the road said I'd run, and it seemed to me that the difference was just increasing as time went on.  I'd been hearing 'Toria' screamed at me almost constantly, so when I heard 'Victoria' shouted at around 25 miles I figured that it must be someone who actually knew me... I turned and saw a familiar face, ran back (not far - only a couple of metres) and gave him a hug.  I then realised that, yes I did know him, but possibly giving your Head of Year a hot and sweaty hug is not quite the done thing!  Sorry!  Still, it cheered me up no end to see him, and then another parkrun friend a few hundred yards later.

Suddenly we were running past the Houses of Parliament and the end was nearly here.  But, boy, Birdcage Walk is long!  I think it is longer than when I ran the Westminster  Mile there!  My impression is that I was overtaking more people than were overtaking me.  I certainly didn't give it my all today, I couldn't as I had a head full of snot and cotton wool, but the run did give me back a little of the confidence I have lost over recent races.  As we rounded the top of Birdcage Walk and ran past Buckingham Palace I picked up my pace a bit.  I could see the finish line.  And then it was over.  I'd done it.  Not my best marathon, by a long way, about half an hour slower than I wanted to be, but over 15 minutes faster than two weeks ago in Paris, without feeling as though I've worked anywhere near as hard!

I trundled through the process of getting medals, t-shirts and retrieving my kit bag.  I'd got my medal and walked (hobbled?) on when the woman behind me squealed.  I turned back and realised that the bloke handing out the medals, who had looked a little familiar, was Prince William!  Now that is a selfie opportunity I well and truly missed!  As I passed the baggage lorries I saw friends from my local running club - fabulous to say hello!

I made my way back to the hotel, Husbando had organised late check out, so I could have a shower and change before driving home.  What a brilliant idea that was!  All in all, a brilliant day out!

Huge thanks to everyone who has donated to Treloar's Trust, donations are still welcome...

Monday, 10 April 2017

April in Paris

I should have known the weekend would not go entirely to plan when there was no Haribo stand at the Expo!  I'm not saying that it was the highlight of last year's Paris trip - but it was a pretty good way to start the weekend.  I had the restraining presence of Husbando with me, which meant that I didn't spend too much money at the expo!

We arrived on Thursday, and checked into my first ever AirB&B apartment - that was a slightly stressful experience - I was half convinced that we would find that there was no such apartment and that we would have nowhere to sleep that evening.  As it was our apartment was there, just off av. Foch and ideally suited for our needs.  After dropping off our bags we headed to the expo and picked up our race numbers and t-shirts for the Breakfast Run.    Friday was spent hanging out with friends, walking about a bit and looking, anxiously, at the weather forecast.

Saturday morning was glorious!  We made our way to the new start for the Breakfast Run (in previous years it had started just outside our front door, but this year a short Metro journey to Palais Royal-Louvre was required).  The new route was stunning!  Through the courtyard at the Louvre, over the river, past the MuseĆ© d'Orsay and then along the bank of the Seine  before finishing right next to the Eiffel Tower.  The Breakfast Run is strictly a 5k fun run.  Husbando and I started at the middle of the 3,000 strong group of runners and ran together for the first couple of kilometres before he decided he needed to have a pee.  I carried on, comfortably at 9min/mile until I realised that I was catching up with the pace car.  From then on it was 10.15min/mile pace for the rest of the way.  It felt incredibly slow - but the irony of the fact that there would be times the next day when 10 min/miles would seem like a really fast time!  Coffee, croissants, bananas and bottled water were provided at the end.  It felt really fabulous to be running.  I was suddenly buoyed up with enthusiasm and confidence.  Despite my less than ideal training I though that I might just manage a halfway reasonable time at the marathon.  Maybe the two marathons and the couple of really long trail runs I'd already done this year would be enough to get me through.  

Husbando was running his first 'proper marathon.'  He'd run an accidental marathon at one of On The Whistle's events, but I have always thought that it is easier to run a lapped event, where you can stop for drinks, food, hugs, loo break, change of clothes every three or four miles than a traditional marathon.   After the heat last year, I'd decided to buy ourselves a little bit of extra time in the cooler early part of the day and put us down for a totally unrealistic (for me!) time of 3hr30min, with the hope that I might get sub 4, this meant we had a start time of 8.35am.  My friend, running her first ever marathon, put herself down for the 4hr30 plus pen, with a start time of 9.50am.  Husbando was so excited about his big race that he set his alarm for 5.30am .... we'd decided that the two of us would need to leave at 7.50am!  I set mine for 7.10am, and was ready to leave at 7.50.... Husbando was just getting dressed....We eventually left just before 8am.  We got 5 steps outside the apartment before he realised that he had the wrong glasses.  Argh!  No matter, we were close to the start, we had  enough time.  We tried to get into the start pen.  It was so full we couldn't get in as it was so full - it wasn't until they started moving the runners forward that we could get into the pen.  I wasn't panicking, not really, but it wasn't the least stressful start to a race!

Husbando and I ran the first few miles together, it was getting warm pretty quickly.  I think there may be a cheesy photo of us running and holding hands somewhere!  Husbando had a pace band for four hours, and I could hear him doing the maths to work out if we could still make it.  I knew we couldn't and any amount of maths on his part would not change that.  I knew that I was probably being pushed on too hard and that disaster lay ahead if I carried on running with Husbando.  I also didn't want to hamper his chances of getting a great marathon time.  I decided to take a tactical pee break in the woods.  We'd got to nearly 9 miles and we were already baking.

I decided that as sub 4, or even close to 4, was off the cards I would just get round.  It shouldn't be too hard... but it got hotter and hotter.   I've probably run in hotter weather, but not much and not out of the blue.  A friend informs me that the average temperature in the shade while I was running was 26 degrees with a maximum of 31 degrees.  And there is precious little shade on the Paris marathon route!  I don't think I've ever run a race where so many of the other runners were downright rude!  I know the route was crowded, that the course was very narrow at several places, but to push another runner out of the way is unacceptable.  And I'm not talking about the unintentional bashes that occur by accident, on several occasions I was pushed out of the way by another runner trying got get past.  The course does get narrow at times - because spectators crowd onto the road.

At some point I got it into my head that I needed to go to the loo.  Probably because every single portaloo I saw on the route was padlocked closed, apart from the one that I climbed over a concrete barricade to get to at about 16 miles.  That one was so disgusting that I couldn't even step inside it to use it.   Ah well, I soldiered on.  Then my foot started hurting.  My right foot.  It hurt every time I pushed off, a couple of mile later the fact that I was obviously 'running funny' meant that my hamstring was making its presence felt.  At 18 miles (ish) we ran under a pedestrian bridge that had a load of people touting trade for (I think) the Chicago marathon.  The noise there was phenomenal, and slightly scary.  I began to panic about my ability to run London if it was going to be this noisy.... and would my foot even work?   At this point I popped into a cafe and asked if I could use their toilet.  Amazingly they said yes, but that the toilet was upstairs.  I went up, locked the door and burst into tears.  I looked at my garmin, it said I'd done 19.69 miles, so I sent a text to the three friends who were with me in Paris, saying that I had 7 miles to go (overestimating the distance I thought) that I was in pain, and that I might have to walk the last 7 miles.  You can imagine how awful I felt when I'd been running a bit longer and got to the 19 mile marker!  (My watch at this point read 19.75miles!)

I did some maths, calculated that I was walking at about 15min/mile pace, and that I wasn't prepared to be out there for another hour and three quarters, so I was just going to have to suck it up and at least run part of the way.  So that's what I did.  More rude runners, very hot sunshine, minimal support where it was really needed in the last stages through the Bois de Boulogne made this a less than joyful experience.  I was just glad to finish.  Husbando had finished about 20 minutes ahead of me, having struggled in the heat too.

Having collected our medals we went back to the apartment, had a shower, got changed and had a quick snooze before heading back to the finish line to support my friend.  I was wearing flip flops and compression tights - an attractive combination!  The marathon website states that there is a 6 hour cut off from the time the last runners start.  I was getting concerned that we were getting close to the limit, so I told Husbando (jeans and trainers) and my friend's husband (t-shirt and cargo shorts) that I would head back along the route to find her (wearing my finisher's t-shirt, medal, compression tights and flip flops!)  I ran back about 2km, shouting encouragement at the runners coming toward the finish, until I found her.  We ran her last 2km overtaking people along the way as she upped her pace (probably to get away from my incessant and inane chatter) and got to the bottom of av. Foch just as they were starting to move a lories and fork lift truck across the bottom of the road to close the finish.  We legged it up to the finish, I had tears running down my face, with her husband joining us too.  Husbando, taking pictures, said that there were only about 10 more people who finished after us, so I am so glad that I made the decision to take my knackered legs back out there to chivvy her along!  She worked so hard to complete her marathon, the idea of not making the cut off does not bear thinking about.  I am so proud of her.  She was out there in the full heat of the day, while the people at the water stations were packing up the tables as she ran through them and she DID IT!

We took our medals out for supper - the best steak frites we've had in long time, before collapsing into bed.  Some of us will run another marathon, one of us says she won't but I doubt any of us will be in a hurry to enter Paris next year!

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Le blog

There will be other marathons.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

The one with a statue and a wedding!

The Easter holidays have started.  The six members of the family who are involved in education are all officially on holiday!  The seventh member of the family is NOT on holiday.  To celebrate the start of the holidays the family member not on holiday decided that a book fair in Bath was a good idea and, in a moment of madness, I said I'd go too.  I like Bath and I haven't been there for a while.  What I hadn't factored in was that we would be leaving home at 5 am.  FIVE AM!   To be fair, all I had to do was fall out of bed, then into the car and I slept all the way there, but still FIVE AM!  In the holidays - madness.

After unloading a car load of book at the Assembly Rooms I headed off to find a parkrun.  I'd run at Bath Skyline a couple of times, so thought that a bit of variety was called for... the choice was between Southwick Country Park and Pomphrey Hill, and as one of those has 'hill' in the title I decided to go to Southwick.  In my haste to get dressed I had put together a natty ensemble of my 250 top and the peacock leggings I should have worn at the Larmer Tree Marathon.  This winning combination proved quite a talking point.  I had several people ask if I'd done Larmer - because there can be no other reason for buying peacock leggings, and many comments about my 250 shirt.  That was quite a novelty, I think that in Hampshire/Surrey/London we see so many of them that we begin to forget that it takes quite a long time to earn one!

Anyway, to the run.  It was a special one today.  Two parkrun regulars were getting married.  The happy couple ran the first lap, then jumped into a car, along with friends and supporters, to go to the local register office, got married and then came back to run a freedom parkrun before retiring to the cafe for cake and celebrations.   Congratulations to Sarah & James!  

The course is two and three quarter laps, all on nice firm gravelly paths, I can imagine they get a bit puddly in the wet weather but this morning they were nice and dry - my trail shoes were not needed.  It was fairly flat, just 108ft of elevation, a welcome change from Alice Holt parkrun, with a downhill to the finish.  Because I am running like a pregnant donkey at the moment and a three legged one at that, I decided that I'd take it easy and just keep the 26 minute pacer in my sight. I kept pace with him most of the way, asking him where the statue I'd heard so much about was (I'd just run past it!), before deciding that the legs needed a wee bit of a stretch as I approached the finish.

This was a lovely, friendly, parkrun.  I didn't go to the cafe afterwards as I had to get back to Bath but I have no doubt that much fun would have been had there too!

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!