Magnificent March, A Round-Up

At the beginning of the month I decided to re-brand March as ‘Magnificent March’. I didn’t share this with anyone, it was just in my head. It wasn’t one of the ‘-Athons’ or ‘-Tastics’, just me and my challenges to overcome. When I was struggling with a run or tiring mid-swim, I would shout ‘Magnificent March!’ to myself and the pace would lighten and a little surge would happen.

It was a busy month, with two half-marathons and some of the longest swims I’ve ever done. After a PB at the Brighton Half, I went on to run a *tiny* bit faster at the Richmond Half, securing another PB. On a roll, I decided (prompted by Edward) to undertake another half-marathon to see if I could go that little bit faster and hit 1.50 mark. The next ‘local’ race was the Paddock Wood Half, but it was sold out. Luckily I was able to transfer a place from a friend of a friend who couldn’t run (why don’t more races do this?). Unfortunately the PB streak wasn’t going to continue, with the conditions (wind and rain and general grimness) not being in my favour and a hideous state of GI discomfort from the half-way point rendering me pretty useless (yes, I did have to duck behind a much-welcome wall at around the nine mile mark). Eek!

This was my first race wearing my Kent AC club vest (I’ve had the vest for about a year, but have never really thought about wearing it!). Sorry I didn’t do it justice, fellow club runners!

Clubbing

Clubbing

As I turned a corner into some serious head-wind at around mile eleven, I slowed to an uncomfortable walk, only to be picked up by a friendly ‘Come on Adele!’, a fellow parkrunner, who accompanied me to the finish line, thank you Ian! It was a great race and certainly does have PB potential, being flat (ish) and scenic. It’s very well organised, with efficient baggage storage, well marshalled and friendly support and even a marshal telling you which portaloo to go to. I’ll give it another go next year, maybe that’ll be the day for a super-PB.

Lovely Medal

Lovely Medal

In my post-race state of illness, I didn’t register how lovely the medal was, just felt happy to get home, into the bath and then to bed (very weird for me). You do see this scene all around the course, so it’s worth entering just to see a bit of Kentish countryside.

Alongside all this running, my swimming has been going from strength to strength, with the Swimathon just around the corner. I have been following the schedule closely, so closely in fact, that I noticed a discrepancy in a couple of the weeks’ distances. I like to scribble the lengths down on a piece of paper and seal them in a little waterproof bag to peruse poolside, but found the lengths didn’t add up, meaning a shorter distance. I got in touch with the Swimathon team and they sent me an amended schedule promptly 🙂 This week I have completed two swims of 2k and today I swam 3k. The furthest so far has been 4k – 4k!! I know! Only another 1k to go and that’s the full distance. I really didn’t think it was within my reach when I signed up, but I’m proving myself wrong <<<this is good.

“But what about the cycling?” you may ask. I did dust off my road bike and give the tyres a little pump a few weeks ago, when I was invited to meet the people of ashmei at their headquarters in the Hertfordshire countryside. I had been shortlisted, along with a fair few others, to possibly become an ambassador for the brand. The plan was to either join the others on a run or a ride and I decided it was the perfect chance to get out on my bike, and made my way up, all lycra-clad and eager. Getting off the train in Tring, I met a few other would-be-ambassadors and headed over on my bike, to be greeted by a gate that opened as I approached. Small pleasures. We were quickly mingling and exchanging Twitter names (I found I already ‘knew’ quite a lot of people already) and then listened intently as Stuart, ashmei’s founder, told us all about where they were coming from and where they were going. You might already know about ashmei’s (rather lovely) products, which are made from merino – super wicking, non-stinky, soft as – and have a distinctive colour-way and cut. We were all treated to a pair of socks to put on straight away and test on our ride or run.

Soft socks

Soft socks

People quickly gathered outside, next to the lovely AirshopPhoenix and off we went.

Runners

Runners

Having a look around at the other cyclists (and triathletes, I discovered) and their super-bikes and top-notch gear, I felt a little out of my league, but I’m not one to be put off by such things, so got chatting to a couple of people and set out to enjoy the ride. It was so good to be out pedalling again, but I soon found myself away from the pack with another cyclist, Cav (thankfully!), and well, lost! The group had pulled away and left us behind, turning a corner and going out of sight. Oh dear. We looked at a fork in the road and went on instinct. We may have lost the group, but we would enjoy our outing. After a few ‘this way, or that way?’s, we made it back to HQ just as the runners were tucking in to the post-exertion snacks (and a little ahead of the other riders 😉 ). The volume levels increased as people chatted, all glowing from a good, sociable run/ride. Photos were taken and off we headed.

Photo-taking

Photo-taking

I spent the return journey in the company of new friends, talking endlessly about running/riding/adventure (oh yes). Goodbyes were said and Twitter buzzed with the excitement of the day and a slight curiosity about what ashmei were looking for in an ambassador. I didn’t get selected, but you can read about the three people who did here, here and here. Maybe Google them too, they have done some interesting things!

And so into April I go. Awesome April maybe? My Swimathon is two weeks away and then I will be focussing on the Crystal Palace Triathlon. I can’t wait 🙂

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Fast and Hard

This getting faster is really, really hard work. A few weeks ago I took part in the British 10k London Run and was absolutely delighted to sneak under the 50 minute mark and get myself a PB. It had felt hard, and I thought I ought to fit in another 10k race before my duathlon in September, so signed up for the British Heart Foundation Victoria Park 10k, which took place yesterday. We decided to head over there by bike and overground, so we could ride around and the boys could enjoy the park while I ran, unfortunately Hector picked up a puncture as we arrived in Haggerston, so I headed along the canal to Victoria Park while they tried to sort out the puncture 😦

The atmosphere at the park was relaxed and friendly, with people milling around, collecting t-shirts, putting bags in the baggage area and taking selfies.

Chillin'

Chillin’

The junior race was started, then we were called over to join in the warm-up. Erm, I just swung my legs about at the edge and tried to look serious while people around me jumped around. We were then ushered into a very narrow funnel to face an arch that had ‘finish’ written on it. And we were off. This was a three lap race and very flat, with nice wide roads and paths to overtake the many walkers (yes, lots of people were walking. I did feel like calling cheerily ‘Give it a go!’ but didn’t have enough breath). I had really wanted to run under 50 minutes again and hoped to achieve a similar time to the other week, but I wasn’t feeling amazing and had to give myself little pep talks and work out how much longer it would take me to finish. My energy and enthusiasm was lifted when I saw Edward and Hector at the end of the first lap, smiling and waving: ‘I fixed my puncture Mum!’

The run was largely shaded by trees, but it did feel hot and my stomach was not feeling very happy, so it was push, push, push, head down and teeth gritted to get to the end. I had noticed that my Garmin was measuring short and, as I entered the finish funnel (as you did on each lap) I was confused about whether or not I had actually finished. Some runners had another lap to go and were heading left, spectators were blocking the way to the right and I walked right past the drinks and medals. I spoke to a marshal though and he kindly went to get a medal for me. When I pointed out that the course seemed short, he reassured me that they had measured it accurately with a wheel…

So, my official time is 46:42! This is getting silly!

I then got on my bike and headed over to the playground, where Hector had found something fun to entertain him:

Sand fun

Sand fun

The playground at Victoria Park really is great, even if you’re a bit bigger…

Post-race play

Post-race play

Chasing a PB at the British 10k London Run

It would be amazing to get a good, solid night’s sleep before a race, but I doubt many people do. I didn’t, and kept waking at every noise, so was ever so slightly grumpy when my alarm went off at 6.30. I had checked the TFL website on Saturday night to find that trains from my station wouldn’t be running early enough so, once I’d sneaked out of the house as quietly as I possibly could (this didn’t stop a small sleepy-head appearing at the top of the stairs…), I cycled over to Lewisham to catch a train. I hadn’t checked my entire planned route, so found myself crowded on a tube train with a mixture of sporty people and still-drunk people, all being kicked off at Waterloo. I might have been on my way to the New Balance VIP area, but I’m sure ‘real’ VIPs don’t find themselves legging it sweatily through a city to get to the start with stress levels set at number 10!

Perfect shoes for the day

Perfect shoes for the day

When I did eventually reach The Cavalry and Guards Club on Picadilly, I was delighted to be directed upstairs by a very smiley and enthusiastic concierge, taking in the sumptuous surroundings as I climbed the wide staircase. The people at New Balance had very kindly laid on a delicious-looking breakfast, but most runners were politely sipping tea or topping up their water levels, having already had their pre-race breakfast before setting off (the big breakfast was just what I needed after the race!). At this point I was thinking less about eating and more about needing the loo, that annoying ‘I’m sure I need the loo AGAIN’ thing you do pre-race. Being in such lovely surroundings, the loo visit was actually rather nice and certainly beats a portaloo any day!

For Ladies

For Ladies

Ahead of the race starting, there were a few special moments when a procession of war horses made their way along Picadilly, accompanied by poems written by soldiers and some beautiful singing by the Military Wives Choir. From our vantage point on the balcony, we could see the crowds of colourful runners waiting patiently to start. I believe the start at last year’s race had been quite congested, but this year everything seemed to have been considered thoroughly, with each wave being slowly guided into place before setting off. I headed down to the start line and rather inelegantly clambered over a barrier (I was told to do this, I wasn’t gate-crashing, honest) and found myself right at the front, with the elites and a couple of thousand Help For Heroes runners. It was at this moment that I realised my Garmin had switched itself off and I had to try and get a signal in the 20 seconds left…I crossed the start line looking at my watch and waiting for it to get itself into gear, not a great start!

The start

The start

The crowds at this point were great, lots of really good cheering from the friends and family along one side and the runners still waiting to set off along the other. I pushed hard and tried – for a while at least – to stay near the front 🙂 In November I ran the Movember 10k in Greenwich Park and managed a PB of 53.14 (whilst wearing a knitted moustache), so really wanted to try and beat this time, with a little goal in my head of going sub-50. This would mean consistently running 5 minute kms, but my Garmin was having trouble giving me an accurate pace, so I was going by how I felt and allowing myself to be swept along with the runners and with the enthusiasm of the crowd.

I have found, through running parkrun as much as I can, that I enjoy a familiar course and knowing where I can push and where to hold back. I had looked briefly at the map of the route for this race, and I know the roads on the course pretty well, but I was surprised at how quickly I reached the next landmark. There was plenty of twisting and turning, with a long stretch along the Embankment and a slight low-point going through Blackfriars Tunnel (where my Garmin went all silly on me). I remembered this from the London Marathon, about three miles from the end…

Now we had the treat of seeing the faster runners heading back towards Big Ben and I gave a little cheer to the front runners. In no time at all I was in the same position with thousands of other runners across the barriers, still to enjoy that turning point ahead. One thing I would suggest improving on next year is the size of the KM markers, I missed a few (this is a good thing!) and it might be nice to be able to spot them ahead to give you a little push (especially as my Garmin wasn’t giving me an accurate reading). Now I was beginning to tire a little, and the run over Westminster Bridge felt longer than it had looked on the map. As I had visualised the course ahead of the race, I had seen myself take a right turn after Big Ben and sprint towards the finish, but oh no, it was through Parliament Square and a long slog out to Victoria before I could even think about finishing! What a relief to see the finish arch and to hear the crowds. I looked up at the clock and could see that, if I legged it, I might just make it under 50 minutes. This effort involved me making a lot of noise and pumping my arms possibly more than I needed to, but I just sneaked under as the clock ticked on.

At this point, walking up towards Trafalgar Square, I realised that, when you are running this sort of distance and running hard, scenery is largely irrelevant – I saw runners ahead of me, passing through the square and really couldn’t remember having done so myself! That’s how hard I was focussing! By now I had contacted the boys and it turned out they were at the finish line, looking really hard for me at the 50 minute point. Oops! I picked up my bag and medal, drank lots of water, and hoped that the official time would show what I wanted it to show…

Obligatory medal shot

Obligatory medal shot

…it did. 49.52, 43rd lady out of 8518, 453rd overall. Chuffed.

I would like to wish a huge congratulations to my friend Helen who, five months after giving birth, was back out there yesterday and run/walking the whole course with her friend Jo. What an inspiration!

PB smashing

Oh my. A few months ago I had a streak of PB smashing runs up at my beloved Hilly Fields parkrun. I just had a look at my parkrun stats, and it seems that my best time in 2012 was 28.33, my best in 2013 was 27.17 and, until Saturday, my best time for 2014 was 25.01. I never, ever thought I’d run a 25 minute 5k (especially not up and down those hills), so am still slightly in shock that I have achieved a time of 24.09! People were asking what I’d had for breakfast, but I hadn’t done anything new, just my usual, but there are so many factors that can give you a good or bad run. I had trained hard during the week, even going for a 10k run and a swim the day before, and had fitted in five swims over five days, so I wasn’t exactly rested! Maybe it’s the swimming, the cross training and the core work I’ve been doing, all helping me power my arms to push me up the hills.

Whatever it is, it feels great to have an enjoyable run with friends and to feel I can push myself faster, a marked contrast to last Saturday’s run where I felt like I was dragging myself around the course in the hideous humidity! I will keep up the training, eat as I always eat, try and keep up my positive mindset and enjoy each run as it comes 🙂