Royal Parks Foundation Half-Marathon

I’m not sure I should write this blog post right now because I can feel myself descending into the gloomiest post-race blueness ever – you train for ages and focus on something so closely that you feel a bit lost once it’s over. The fact that it didn’t go swimmingly doesn’t help either.

But enough of that! I was woken a bit earlier than I had hoped (6am) by Junior Coach and tried hard to keep him contained for another hour by hugging him really tightly and hoping he might go back to sleep, but was kept awake by the incessant chattering until we all just gave in and had our breakfast. It was grey out there, pouring with rain in fact and I felt a sense of foreboding at the thought of having to run 13.1 miles in the rain, my least favourite running conditions. I had been very organised and laid everything out on Saturday night, so simply had to put on my kit and go, but not before I had sat with Hector for a bit and listened to the Jacqueline Wilson ‘The Mummy Cat’ audio CD that was free in Saturday’s Guardian (Edward and Hector listened to the rest of it when I had gone and it was apparently very, very sad). As I walked briskly under an unloved cheap umbrella to the train station, I did a mental check of all my body parts to make sure they were in working order, things felt good apart from the still achy Zumba hip.

The journey was straightforward and I started to see runners once I got to London Bridge, always reassuring. The rain had stopped once I got to Hyde Park, so I dangled the umbrella on a railing for a spectator to make use of and headed to the loo queues. I stood there for ages, not moving at all and eventually gave up as the start time drew closer and joined another queue and then gave up and walked to the blue start. I chatted briefly with a friendly fellow runner and she said it was her first half-marathon and she was aiming for 2 hours 30 minutes, I had a time of 2 hours 10 in my head, having run a similar time at Cardiff last year. Eventually we were off, shuffling forward in our waves and being released onto the streets of London. I did forget to set my Garmin to search for satellites so ended up starting my clock a few metres past the start – oops, my first race with the new Garmin, I used to switch the old one on when I reached the race, knowing it took an age to get a signal!

It is a lovely route and I had a great feeling running with all these other people through the sights of London with a big smile on my face. My race high point was as we ran towards the Houses of Parliament. I watched the hands on the clock turn slowly and felt a rush of excitement as Big Ben struck ten, there was a collective ‘ahhhh’ around me as we all enjoyed this uplifting moment, what great timing! Everything felt good running along the Embankment, looking up and waving at spectators on the bridges, and feeling a little like a London Marathoner again. Here we started to see faster runners who had already turned around, but I was soon one of them heading back towards Hyde Park. I pondered for a moment on the mounted guards who sat, motionless as thousands of colourful runners rushed past them in a wave of excitement, how do they do it? After an enjoyable run up the Mall, we were soon weaving our way around Hyde Park on a route that, at times became slightly irritating, especially when I started to struggle. I can see why the road sections are at the beginning, so that roads can be re-opened quickly and normality resume, but it would be so much better to run the park first and have the sights of London to get you through the second half of the race.

This part of the race takes you through a beautiful autumnal scene with colourful leaves falling at your feet and huge crowds of supporters cheering everyone on. It does feel slightly disheartening to see faster runners looping back towards the finish line though and I had a moment of bewilderment when I saw JogBlog on the other side of the barrier and I couldn’t remember if I had already run that way or not. It was unfortunate that she saw me at that point, the point where things started to go downhill for me. I was guzzling water and attempting to suck a gel whilst walking for the first time in the race. It wasn’t a hot day really, not like last Sunday, but I felt hot and thirsty and found myself repeating my experience at London Marathon 2009, where I drank so much that I ended up collapsing in a heap with cramp. I managed not to collapse this time but, at one point I had such a painful stitch that was radiating over my chest, that I thought I was having a heart attack. I didn’t want to say anything though, because I didn’t want to get carted off in an ambulance! It’s interesting that I saw so many people being attended to by medics during this race, far more than at Brighton Marathon earlier this year, I wonder if it’s because some people take the training less seriously for a half rather than full marathon.

So, I had by now consumed both gels, guzzled a load of Lucozade Sport and topped that up with water but I was still struggling, time to plug my headphones in. Once again, Florence and the Machine came up with the goods and made me smile with these words from ‘Hurricane’:

‘I brace myself
Cause I know it’s going to hurt
But I like to think at least things can’t get any worse’

It worked for a while anyway. By this point I was walking regularly because the cramp was so bad that my toes were curling and making it hard to keep going. It was so frustrating, knowing how well my training had gone. Even though it all felt like agony, the miles did pass quickly and I was soon in front of the Albert Memorial, stretching my calf muscles (‘Are you alright ma’am? said a friendly marshal) ahead of the run to the finish. Here I passed the woman I had spoken to at the start and watched as she was cheered on by her family and how this support gave her enough of a boost to sprint towards the finish (I could have done with some of that myself) and I crossed the finish shortly after with a sense of relief and also happiness when I saw the beautiful medal, the nicest medal I have ever received.

There were quite a few of my fellow bloggers running the race as well (JogBlog, Helsbels, Fairweatherrunner, Fortnightflo, Abradypus and Plustenner – I hope I haven’t missed anybody out there!), and they had arranged a post-race pizza/beer/cake meet-up, but I had to rush/hobble home to a delicious roast dinner and friends, who had arrived before me -oops! I would say, it’s good to take you time recovering, I would like to have had a look around the food festival and refuelled straight away, but instead I jumped on the tube and felt slightly nauseous. Edward pointed out yesterday that things always go wrong for me in races, not in training (apart from Brighton Marathon, where I had a splendid time). I can see what happens now: during training I carry a small bottle of water or sports drink or nothing at all, and I sip this slowly throughout the run, but during a race there is water/sports drink everywhere and I feel the need to drink as much as I can, thus depleting all the salt in my body and becoming a wobbly mess. So I either stop going to races, or I put on water-station blinkers. Watch this space!

Here are the stats from my Garmin: http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/120260558

 

 

 

 

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Only three more sleeps

Until the Royal Parks Foundation Half-Marathon! Right now I have that silly pre-big-race thing going on, where you don’t feel like a runner, imagine that you will forget how to put one foot in front of the other and over-react to any little niggle or sniffle as if you might be incubating the plague. I am just fine, and I know I can run 13.1 miles on Sunday and I will aim to simply enjoy the route through the Royal Parks, enjoy the views, the atmosphere and that lovely feeling afterwards as I set off home to a delicious lunch prepared by Edward.

On Sunday I had intended running a 10k, but I was torn as Edward and Hector set off to the swimming pool, so decided to run alongside them and join them in the pool, then I ran home afterwards. Hector is really storming ahead with his swimming, ducking his head in the water, jumping off any available surface and even swimming a metre or two by himself, these are moments not to be missed. As I wrestled to put on my slightly sweaty running gear in the cubicle, I marvelled at triathletes who manage to morph themselves into three different sporting personas over the course of a race, taking in their stride the transitions between various sets of clothing. With my twisting and grunting and need to smooth out any wrinkles for fear of rubbing, I don’t think I’m cut out to do a triathlon!

Time: 42 minutes 3 seconds (with a swim break in the middle)

Distance: 4.31 miles

Average Pace: 9.45

Best Pace: 6.34

Calories: 84

This postponement of my longer run meant I had to fit it in on Monday morning after dropping Hector off at nursery. I headed towards Greenwich, enjoying the last drops of sunshine that October was squeezing out of the sky and a lovely view of the Cutty Sark, slowly emerging from the scaffolding and reaching out triumphantly towards the Thames.

Time: 58 minutes 16 seconds

Distance: 6.01 miles

Average Pace: 9.42

Best Pace: 2.10 (a blip, surely?!)

Calories: 113

On my return, I was greeted by a delivery man with a big box I wasn’t expecting, it turned out to be a bumper pack of Lucozade Sport products for me to try out. It’s a shame it didn’t come a few weeks ago, because it would have been great during my half-marathon training, but I will use some of the products on Sunday and in future runs. In the meantime, I grabbed a bottle of Lucozade Sport Lite on my way out to Zumba on Monday evening, feeling that I really needed the extra help at 7pm (I normally just take a bottle of water). When we got there I took a gulp, but the lemon and lime flavour was a bit sharp after just brushing my teeth! I’m not sure if the Lucozade can take any credit, but I really went for it, jiggling around and waving my arms like I just don’t care! I did overdo it on one move though, and have had an achy butt cheek and hip since then, I’m hoping it rights itself by Sunday. So, I’m not sure how much running I will fit in between now and Sunday, maybe just a couple of really short ones to test the butt and keep everything alert.

Not Quite Half

On Sunday I was supposed to be joining my running-blogging buddies down in Folkestone, a mere hour or so away from where I live. I enjoyed the Twitter build-up and the general sense of camaraderie and looked forward (mostly) to the after-race social bit, so was rather pissed off peeved when I realised I simply couldn’t get there. The training had gone ok, and I had managed to avoid injury, unlike some of the other runners, so not making it to the start line due to crappy travel challenges was very frustrating. However, I got over my sulking last week by taking myself off to the running track and gasping my way round a four mile circular run.

I was ridiculously excited by viewing this run on a map!

Time: 42 minutes

Distance: 4.35 miles

Average Pace: 9.40

Best Pace: 6.50

Calories: 63 (Garmin got back to me and suggested taking the battery out of the HRM then putting it back in to re-set, it doesn’t seem to have helped, any ideas?)

My average HR was 186 and my maximum HR was 200!

When Sunday arrived, I decided to try for a ten miler that would get me home in time to follow the Twitter excitement, beamed live from Folkestone by @richeginger. I set off down the Waterlink Way, planning to run down to Beckenham Place Park, fancying a change from the usual diverted Greenwich route. Early on in the run I was passed by two tall, athletic types who eased past me as if I were invisible, though I don’t know how they missed me in my bright green Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon t-shirt! Sometimes this sort of (lack of) encounter gives me a boost to run harder, try to catch them up (ha!), but today it just made me feel fat and slow and made me drag my feet. As I ran, my stomach started to play up again, something I am slightly concerned about ahead of the Royal Parks Half in just over a week. I lifted up my torso, breathed deeply and tried to ignore it, but I soon realised I wasn’t going to make it as far as Beckenham Place, so decided to turn at the two-mile point, head home and take it from there.

It was getting hot out there, even though it was still only about nine o’clock, so it was a relief to pop home, take a moment to think about whether I could carry on, wipe my face and head back out of the door, refreshed. From here it seemed logical to head Greenwich way – if I ran to the seven mile point then turned for home , it would make ten miles. I felt much better now, and pleased with myself for not ducking out. As I neared Greenwich I saw signs for the Run to the Beat half-marathon, which was taking place later that morning, and picked up on the buzz around the area as runners started to make their way over to the start. I reached the water and, just behind me, the clock on the old hospital struck ten. I thought about my fellow runners who would now be crossing the start line, and wished them luck as I took a sip of my juice/water/salt combo and looked at the sparkling Thames in front of me.

On my return, I eagerly checked the computer to see how things were going in Kent. I am proud to say that all of the Fearsome Folkestone Four made it up The Hill and struggled through the heat to cross the line with smiles on their faces. You can read about Cassie’s half-marathon debut here, how Helen overcame a painful foot and a heat aversion here, Shaun’s speedy PB chaser here and Cathy has some exciting news about her next big race here.

Time: 1 hour 42 minutes 6 seconds

Distance: 10 miles

Average Pace: 10.12

Best Pace: 5.31

Calories: 177

 

 

 

 

More puff, less wheeze

I was all set to go for a long run on Sunday morning, had my running kit on and everything, but my chest was so tight that I felt too uncomfortable to go anywhere. I have been a bad asthmatic. I know I should be taking preventer inhalers, and should probably have done so for years, but I bury my head in the sand and carry on puffing away on the blue inhaler, naively imagining that my asthma might one day go away of its own accord. Just recently I have been feeling tight-chested in the morning and again in the evening, so have been taking my inhaler more than usual, but it hasn’t stopped me running. On Sunday, however, I didn’t think it would be a good idea so I watched a bit of the Great North Run coverage instead. Yesterday I spent some time pressing the redial button, trying to get through to the doctor’s, and eventually got myself an appointment. I listened carefully to the advice I received and dutifully traded in my prescription for some nice little brown inhalers. Boo. It’s not going to just go away is it?

This does mean I am behind on my training for both the Folkestone Half-Marathon and the Royal Parks Foundation Half-Marathon, but I have been keeping up my daily routine of running alongside Hector while he tears around London on his lovely new bike.

When Hector was two we got him a Likeabike, a ‘balance’ bike that the child runs along with to gain a sense of balance, and he has ridden it pretty much every day since then, but just a few weeks ago he had a growth spurt and his beloved bike suddenly looked tiny. We did a bit of research and decided on an Isla Bike, which came in a big box just before we went camping. We knew he would take to a pedal bike quite quickly, but hadn’t reckoned on him going out on the pavement and riding off down the road first go! He was so happy. Now he goes so fast that I can’t keep up and we have been going on ‘proper’ family bike rides and I sometimes put on my running gear to do a circuit of the park with him. We have also set a trend, with a few of Hector’s friends looking forward to Isla Bike birthday presents!

Runner on diversion

I had a look at the Royal Parks Foundation Half-Marathon website yesterday and it said: ’25 days to go!’ (so that means 24 now) – eek! During the summer holiday I found it hard to be consistent with my training, trying to fit a run in either in the morning before Edward goes to work, or in the evening, but neither of those are really my first choice running moments. Now Hector is back at nursery I can pop out for a run after I drop him off in the morning, though I don’t know if I will ever really be able to relax on these runs, I might eventually get over the feeling of guilt at leaving him but, for now, I run along fretting. I have tried, as I always do when training for a big race, to keep building up the length of my long weekend run, so on Sunday I headed out in the sunshine for a ten-miler.

I do wish I could be a bit more organised ahead of a long run, but I found myself fumbling about in the kitchen for something to put a drink in, then realised I didn’t have anything to put in the bottle I found, so ended up mixing some apple and mango juice with water and a pinch of salt. I assembled all my bits and bobs about my person and waited for a signal. I decided an out-and-back run would do the trick, finding it all the more manageable when I can turn and head for home half-way through. I was forgetting that I had run along the Thames at Greenwich a few weeks ago (I’ve not blogged that run, an eight-miler) and found most of the path to be blocked off, and here I was again, weaving in and out, following little signs and recalling the grimness of it all. The initial run to Greenwich and through the centre is nice enough and quiet at this time on a Sunday, with people slowly emerging to browse antiques and eat the tasty-smelling food on offer. Once past the Cutty Sark pub,  you are sent out down residential streets and soon hit the busy dual carriageway that leads into the Blackwall Tunnel. Last time I turned round at the tunnel entrance, but this run was taking me further and I found myself ducking under heavy buddleia bushes and chatting to a moving cyclist about how rubbish it all is (he reckons it will be like this for another year). I traipsed over gravel at the cement works and enjoyed the freshness of the wind as I met the river again. This was short-lived though, as I had reached my turning point.

I suppose this run was a test, a way of seeing if my piddling amount of weekday runs have given me enough of what it takes to complete a longer run, and I was pleased to find that everything did what I asked it to. Next Sunday is the Folkestone Half-Marathon, a running bloggers’ get-together, consisting of a sprightly team made up of Jogblog, Highway Kind, Helbels, I Like to Count, Tom Roper and, making her half-marathon debut, Travelling Hopefully. This date was agreed some time ago now, all prompted by talk on Twitter of the various cakes we might bring and with a confidence only possible when something is months away. Now race day grows near, there are injuries and an air of quiet nervousness. I am yet to work out how I will get to Folkestone for the 10am start, but hope to be raring to go on the start line. I don’t really have a goal time in sight, I will treat it as a long run in training for the Royal Parks and enjoy the social side of it all.

Time: 1 hour 44 minutes 35 seconds

Distance: 10 miles

Average Pace: 10.27

Best Pace: 7.38

Calories: 166 (still not sure about this. I contacted Garmin, but reply)

Ruddy Cheek(s)

Some more holiday running (I really did want to make use of my running kit on this trip!). Just a few miles from our camp-site is the beautiful Studland: miles of sandy beach with National Trust-owned dunes billowing around its edges as it curves gently round towards Poole Harbour and Bournemouth beyond. After a little play with the boys and an attempt to shield ourselves slightly from the wind, I decided to saunter back to the car park and put on my running gear.

I suppose I could have been all beach-babe and just run barefoot across the sand, but beach-babe I am not, so it was full kit, including my almost glow-in-the-dark Royal Parks Foundation Half-Marathon T-shirt – no chance of me going missing in that little number! It wasn’t as hard as I thought to run on the sand, but the wind was challenging and it wasn’t much fun rubbing my gritty eyes every few moments. It was rather special though, to weave my way between families digging holes, heads peeping out and wondering when they might be released from their sandy pit, young groups attempting to catch frisbees, hit beach-tennis balls and stop a volley ball hitting the soft ground. I looked on as small children willed their kites to hang in the air, and listened carefully to the gasps of shock and joy as the cool water hit the bobbing bodies scattered across the shallow water.

A little of the way into my run the landscape changed suddenly as the beach became quieter and the general noise eased to give way to just the sound of crashing waves. I carved my path through the deep tyre marks of a National Trust Landrover, enjoying the sensation as my feet flattened the grooves beneath. I was now noticing heads in the dunes – I thought you couldn’t go up there – and gradually began to notice that these heads were atop naked bodies: I had wandered into the naturist zone. On I went, head down. Occasionally a (male) body would appear from the water and jiggle its way back to the dunes, but I now found myself heading straight towards a rather saggy and bare bottom. ‘Ooh, please don’t bend over, please don’t…!’ eek! I am guessing my pace and heart rate peaked about now.

My run continued towards a turning point at the edge of Poole Harbour where I could see various boats coming and going, some looking as if the wind might carry them away. Here I turned around and took myself back through the wrinkly zone and into the welcome bustle of the kite-flyers and hole diggers.

Time: 30 minutes 17 seconds

Distance: 3.01 miles

Average Pace: 10.02

Best Pace: 4.05 (!!)

Calories: 49 (any ideas? This is so out)

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/112641501

Three go mad in Dorset

I have got a bit behind on my blog posts; I’m sorry. I have been having fun in Dorset, camping with the boys. Our days were spent doing things like this:

Enjoying the slower pace of life between Corfe Castle and Swanage:

And getting to know the locals on our evening walks:

I also took along my running kit, keeping in mind that I am supposed to be running a couple of half-marathons in the next month or so. I often lug my running kit around with me on holiday, then carefully put away the clean items on my return, unworn. This time I was determined to get a couple of runs in, so asked Edward to drop me off part way to Durdle Door. We bobbed up and down through the rolling countryside and, when I felt I was a nice distance away from the beach, I jumped out: ‘See you there!’ I called. Edward estimated we were about four miles from our destination. I had been slightly apprehensive about running along the roads there, seeing how narrow they are and just how fast the drivers take each tight corner, so I ran cautiously, stopping to let people pass and even leaping up onto high verges when I felt the need. What should have been a relaxing run in the fresh air turned out to be more stressful than running in London during the recent riots! I did pause at a few points to enjoy the stunning views and breathe in the air, noticing along the way the hedgerows that were bursting with fat blackberries and what I decided must be sloes.

This part of the country is simply beautiful, but is oddly populated by rusty old army tanks and dirt paths carved through the gorse, with large ugly signs around stating which roads are open and which are closed due to MoD activity. I enjoyed the surreal air of it all. Our holiday had been planned at the last minute and, in the week leading up to our camping trip, we looked at the pouring rain and hoped for at least a few dry days. We were lucky, every day was sunny and warm, and this one was proving to be a hot one as I eased my way between the four-by-fours and John Deeres on my way to Durdle Door.

I have been to this area before and had a sense of where I was in relation to my end point, and my heart sank slightly as I saw a sign saying: ‘Lulworth Cove 1 1/2 miles’. Edward had underestimated the distance and it was turning into a slightly longer run than I had anticipated. I took a right turn and was stopped in my tracks by the biggest caterpillar I have ever seen, it was as big as my finger and was making its way across the pavement to become possibly the biggest butterfly in the world – I was so amazed I stopped a man who was walking his dog to show him; I felt I needed a witness. By this point I was looking for reasons to stop – I had no water, no phone and a vague hope that I might see Edward driving along to find me (no such luck!). I was now faced with a big, hot hill so walked and enjoyed the view of the cows in the next field, slowly dipping their heads and lifting those delicious lashes to glance at me. I knew that I would see my magical destination once I reached the top of the hill, but even this couldn’t make me run. Once I did reach the summit I picked up the pace and hopped, skipped and jumped towards the beach, pausing briefly to gasp as the most sprightly deer leapt over a hedge alongside me.

Durdle Door, I had made it. It felt further than just under seven miles, and I was relieved to sit down and gulp some juice, taking in the sparkling water and looking on as an excited Edward tore off his clothes to swim through the Door, something he’s wanted to do for a long time.

(here is a link to my Garmin data, is there a way of showing it as an image here?)

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/112641513