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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ˜‰ ). 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 πŸ™‚

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Richmond Half Marathon…PB Potential

Yup, another half-marathon PB in the bag!

As always, the journey to the start of a Sunday morning race in London is as challenging as the race itself, so I found myself on a freezing cold platform – thankfully with a friend – at silly o’clock with an epic journey ahead. The heat of the tube is always sleep inducing, so a brisk walk to the start of the Richmond Half-Marathon was welcome! As we were cutting it fine, I didn’t really have time to take in all the things on offer, focussing instead on the queue for the loos and the sign for the baggage tent. Hurry, hurry, hurry! Having volunteered recently in the baggage tent at the Winter Run, all future baggage tents will seem pale in comparison…this one was a bit DIY: show your number to a (very smiley) marshall, find a table/area with your number above it, leave bag. It worked though, but I certainly wouldn’t leave anything of value!

After a few more last minute nervous adjustments, Jacqui and I looked for the 1.50 pacer flags, having a brief chat and ‘good luck!’ with another friend Ronnie who was pacing the 2 hour group (well done to the pacers, it must be hard work running with a great big flag bobbing around). I was feeling a little nervous and also uncertain about how this would go, after my uncomfortable and slightly unhappy race in Brighton a month ago, so decided I would just see how I felt and, if things felt good, I would aim to beat my Brighton time. The pacers headed off quite fast, faster than 1.50 pace and I soon lost sight of them (and Jacqui!). This race has a very varied course and the roads are not closed (though carefully marshalled), so you do find yourself negotiating kerbs, shop signs, bus-stops and so on and the first section is not exactly scenic. We skirted around the high wall of Kew Gardens and passed by Kew Bridge then took to the Thames path. It hadn’t occurred to me to wear trail shoes, but this whole section was pretty rough under foot, with gravel and the odd raised rock, so my imagined views of rowers gliding across the water were forgotten as I concentrated hard on the path ahead. It did become quite congested here and I saw the first of the four falls I witnessed throughout the race.

I was feeling good, and my pace was steady, it was quiet, with everyone concentrating hard, just a thud thud and the heavy breathing of other runners. There were whole sections where friends and family had come out to cheer and the support was great, I also found the marshals very friendly and encouraging. I had decided to stick to the same fuel strategy as Brighton Half, and had two gels stashed in my pocket, one for the 10k point and one for the ten mile point, if I needed it. The water stations were frequent enough, but the water had been poured into cups, not so great! It’s so much better if you can grab a small bottle and sip as you go, washing down a gel if you need to, but the cup means you either drop it, squish it into the air or throw it at your face (I did a combination of the above). I got through though, but could have done with being a bit more hydrated later on as the sun came out. There were some nice wooded areas and some running on grass, which I think some people around me struggled with – it’s a good idea to include this kind of running in your training for this race, so you don’t find yourself stumbling as you get tired and lose form.

As always, I had missed a few mile markers along the way, so was delighted as the miles seemed to tick away nicely and we were soon enough heading for the Old Deer Park and the finish. I picked up my feet and kept the pace steady, trying to catch up with a woman ahead as a goal. All of a sudden we found ourselves running through a working car park to a little tunnel under the road, then onto the grass of the park and a ‘400m to go!’ sign. Thinking this sounded really short, I picked up the pace then noticed the course looped and turned and the finish looked miles away! Here the crowds were excellent, really pushing us along to the finish, one last push and I was pausing the Garmin at 1 hour 53 minutes and 34 seconds, so three minutes off my Brighton time πŸ™‚

I had had a feeling the goodies might be good, and was chuffed with my medal, t-shirt (fitted, one that you can actually run in!), buff and a Whole Foods bag with a selection of snacks and not one but three drinks: water, juice and coconut water! Perfect to sip and snack on as you stretch and recover.

I’m really pleased with my time, but mostly pleased that I actually enjoyed it and have recovered really well – I do think I was coming down with a nasty cold before I started running at Brighton, so not the ideal situation. Now, of course, I’m wondering if I can get under the 1.50 mark, now that would be amazing!

PB Face

PB Face

New Year’s Resolution!

Really, that’s what a parent at the school gate had the cheek to call out the other day as I ran past. She clearly doesn’t know me!

Happy New Year and good luck to any of you who are trying to stick to new year’s resolutions, I don’t have anything against them, I just think January is a crap time of year to deprive yourself! It’s the perfect time to try something new and commit to getting fitter though and, with so many group initiatives to help you along, you won’t be alone. This year I’m logging my activities on Jantastic as part of the Hilly Fields parkrun group. I did this last year and found it gave me a real focus and helped me commit to a set number of runs/swims a week. Another group endeavour I’ve taken part in previously is Janathon, where you jog, blog and log every day for the month. It’s a great way to receive some support and encouragement to get you out there (and there are prizes too!).

I thought this might be a good time to look back over some achievements in 2014 and look forward to some new challenges in 2015. Last year was a fantastic year for my running, with a new direction and a new pace. My regular involvement with Hilly Fields parkrun helped me make lots of new running friends and encouraged me to become a regular at Kent Athletic Club, which inevitably helped me to get a bit faster, at last ducking under the 25 minute mark for 5k, something I had been aiming towards for a long time. This sense of camaraderie also saw me entering more races and smashing my 10k PB along the way. 2014 was also the year I tried triathlon, with a local race at Crystal Palace really giving me the bug. This new interest made me realise just how much I love cycling and led to me competing almost to the point of collapse at the London Duathlon in September (it hasn’t put me off wanting to do it again!). I also took part in my first sportive, hopefully the first of many.

It was a good, consistent year, giving me a strong base to move forward with this year. First up is the Brighton Half-Marathon in just a few weeks. I haven’t run this distance in a very long time, with the Cabbage Patch 10 being the longest recent race, so I’m steadily building up towards the 13.1 miles. This is going to be a very sociable one, with a group of us heading down from Hilly Fields, and Edward and Hector coming to cheer us on. A month later I’ll be facing the distance again, with the Salamon City Trail Richmond Half-Marathon – I enjoyed Richmond Park so much in the duathlon, that I wanted more! There are still places available, and you can also enter the 10k race alongside it. I’m hoping to get a place in the Crystal Palace Triathlon again, it was such good fun last year and, for my birthday, I was given entry to a triathlon, so went for the Hever Tri in September. I decided to set myself a greater challenge by entering the Olympic distance race, so that’s a 1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run. I’ll definitely need to work towards this one, especially the swim, which is in open water, expect lots of posts about tentative dips in slimy ponds…

For now I’m ticking off my four runs and three swims a week on Jantastic, and keeping it interesting by visiting some lovely locations. Good luck with all your running/swimming/riding adventures in 2015!

Aquatics Centre Mile

Aquatics Centre Mile