Summer Breeze 10k Race Report

(Almost a week after the event, whoops!)

I was intrigued by the idea of running a race that starts at 4pm and it was a good job too, it took me ages to get to Wimbledon Common from SE London! The Summer Breeze Running Festival consists of a 10k, half-marathon and a crazy 12-hour, through-the-night relay (or solo, really!). As we arrived I glanced at the hardcore few who were sitting relaxing around their tents.

Sleep-run-relayers

Sleep-run-relayers

I had imagined, with it being such a long series of events, there might be more to it and had dragged Edward and Hector along for the ride. There were a couple of stalls, a yoga tent and some live music, but it was quite low-key – this was ok because Hector soon found a piece of cordon tape to jump over for about an hour, before he and Edward moved around the course to offer some support.

Hi-five!

Hi-five!

It was great getting a (low) hi-five early on, it really made me smile and pushed me to go a little faster…

Wimbledon Wombling

Wimbledon Wombling

The course is lovely, all trail and through the woods. It had been an overcast day, but the sun had come out good and proper just as the race started, but the trees offered shade, although it was humid and this made it hard work. The course was very well sign-posted, with arrows, km markers and little hi-viz markers on the ground every-so-often. The marshals were all very friendly and encouraging, with smiles and kind comments all round. I loved the variety on the course, with lots of tree roots to negotiate and some really tough hills. One hill was long, up and up and up and another seemed to loom out of nowhere as I turned a corner. It looked like a sand dune (and felt like it in the heat) so I gritted my teeth, part grin, part grimace and went for it. Puffing and panting for air, I scrambled down the other side and enjoyed the pull of gravity back into the shade of the trees. I soon started to see the front-runners from the half-marathon passing by in the opposite direction, looking strong, so gave a few nods and well dones. At this point, the humidity was getting to me so I grabbed a cup of water and took a little slurp – not something I normally do in a 10k. As the race neared the last few kilometres, it took some interesting twists and turns – at one point I wondered where everyone had gone, only to find they had taken a sharp left and then right! We were now in the field with the finish in sight 🙂 I saw the boys, Hector with his hand out for one last hi-five: “You’ll have to run with me! I’m not stopping!”. I could see a couple of women ahead of me and, out of nowhere, found it in me to give a sprint finish (no way!).

Bling shot

Bling shot

I was given a lovely medal, a t-shirt (hmmm, not sure about the colour though – men had blue, women had pink, but the *wrong* shade of pink, maybe something less pastel would be more suitable…please 😉 ), water, coconut water, a banana and a copy of Women’s Running magazine. Lovely! Once the results were out I had a look through and found that a small field leads to some pleasing stats: tenth woman (!) and third in age group. All the more reason to run smaller, challenging races!

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November Round-Up

Blimmin’ ‘eck, November went by in a flash and I got good and sweaty – and very, very muddy – in a few races along the way. First up was my second duathlon of the year, the Velopark Women’s Duathlon. I picked this one for a few reasons: another chance at a duathlon over a shorter distance, so a speedier event, women-only, so it might be interesting to see what this kind of event is like without the mix (this is not essential to me, just curious), small field, and the opportunity to whiz around the road track at the Olympic Park on my bike 🙂 As usual, I was itching to get out and to the start, so arrived stupidly early, which gave me enough time to get very excited about being at the Velopark, check out the lovely, smooth road and also begin to get very cold. Gradually, more and more women with bikes started arriving and nervously leant them up against the fence in the transition area (this is quite a relaxed affair!).

Velopark

Velopark

We were soon being talked through our pre-race briefing and applauding volunteers, organisers and a woman who was celebrating her birthday (she went on to win, nice birthday present!). Our first leg was two laps (so two miles) of running. Since I had allowed myself to get cold, my lungs decided to pack up at this point and I huffed and puffed my way round. I had imagined it to be flat, but there were lots of twists and turns and a few – small – hills. As always, I felt a rush of pure joy when I jumped on my bike for the ten miles of riding. Straight away I was overtaking and shouting: ‘On your right!’. It’s really very hard keeping track of how many laps you’ve done so, every time I crossed the line, I shouted out the number of the lap I had just completed, this didn’t stop me getting confused when I started to see faster women going into transition…’Better just do another lap, just in case then’.

When I was sure I had completed my ten, I jumped off, changed my shoes and did the transition run, ie wobble, wobble, ouch, drag…That last mile of running felt like hard work, but I really pushed myself because I wanted to finish in under an hour. My time by my Garmin was 57.36, so I was very pleased with that. Once all the women were in, it was time for the presentations. There was even a podium for the winning competitors to bask in the glory! I cheered as they took their places, then made my way home, trying hard to warm up again. Later on in the day, I found out that I had come third in my age group, but a different competitor had been called up to the podium by mistake, my moment of fame taken away! I’ll have to go back and try again, maybe go up a step on that podium next time 😉

Next up, I was invited to run through some mud by my friends Siggy and Stephen. They run with Petts Wood Runners (you may remember them from the Petts Wood 10k not so long ago) and take part in the Kent Fitness League series of events. They knew I would enjoy getting myself grubby over at Oxleas Wood. I hadn’t counted on it being quite so wet though, with flooding happening in Lewisham and a steady downpour leading up to and throughout the run. Yay! When we arrived, we huddled into the tent with the other PW runners and tried to keep warm until the start. As I was running as a ‘second claim’, Siggy kindly lent me a vest to wear (though white didn’t seem like a good idea given the conditions). It was lovely stepping out onto the grass and seeing a stream of coloured club vests heading towards the start, which took us straight up a hill. From here we headed across to the first part of the woods and immediately encountered deep brown pools of icy cold water. Some people ahead were trying to avoid these by scrambling up the sides of the path – never a good idea – but I just went for it and filled my shoes to the brim.

There was no room for sight-seeing on this course, with the ground ahead of you and over-hanging branches being the main concern for the next five miles. Parts of this section were narrow and I found myself walking for a while where slower runners struggled with a particularly steep hill. Before long we were running behind the cafe and into the next section of the woods. Now this was really, really muddy, with some puddles reaching over my knees and trying their best to pull me over. Once we had negotiated steep sections, some steps, tree roots and fallen branches, we were back over to the other side, to do it all again. Siggy and I were having a little unplanned race with each other: she would urge me up the hills then catch me on the flat or downhill, calling out: ‘You’ll catch me on the up hill!’. During the last jaunt around the deeply muddy second section, Siggy overtook me again and I knew I couldn’t quite catch her this time, as I tried my best to stay upright. As I came out into the open once more, I attempted to get a grip on the now slippery grass and pushed to the finish. By my watch, I got 48.16 and quickly wrapped up and grabbed a hot chocolate from the cafe. What a fantastic race! I hope to run again next year.

Mudfest

Mudfest

And finally – yes, it’s been a race-dense month again – I took part in the MoRunning 10k at Greenwich Park again on Saturday. I really enjoyed this last year and, as my friend Glenn was getting together as many runners as possible to join his Run Dem Crew team, I thought I’d give it another go this year. I hadn’t had a very good week leading up to it and felt so generally crap and unwell that I hadn’t run at all, not the best preparation for a hilly 10k! I pulled myself together, gave myself a good talking to, got on my bike and cycled over to Greenwich Park where I met lots of other people with dodgy moustaches.

Me and Roni

Me and Roni

After a big group photo we jogged over to the start and slowly made our way across the line. I somehow found my legs were picking up and I was overtaking slower runners, realising that maybe the rest had done me good. It’s a tough course, but it was a beautiful day and the support from the crowd – and especially the Run Dem Crew – was fantastic and really gave me a push. I had hoped to beat last year’s time (I secretly had a 50 minute figure in my head) and happily crossed the finish in 49.48, so three minutes faster than last year 🙂 So, November was a good month, another one filled with really varied races and goals achieved. I’m entering December with no races in the diary and an #adventrunning challenge to run 25 runs in 25 days…so far so good…and so much more hungry for mince pies 😉

Petts Wood 10k, 2014

Remember this time last year, when I ran my first race in a long, long time, splashed through mud and puddles and came home with a great big smile on my face? Well, I enjoyed it so much I went back for more. The weather had been pretty much the same as last year, with lots of rain in the week and a good soaking through the night but, travelling over to the race, I knew I would just have to contend with some good muddy bits and a few tree roots this time. Thankfully the trains were running as normal and my journey was quite straightforward. Now, these 10.30 starts are a bit of a funny one and I was wondering if this might be contributing to my poor race experiences recently. For parkrun, I am up at my usual time, eating breakfast as normal and ready to get going for the 9am start, but when things are shifted back a bit, I’m thinking that maybe I need to introduce an extra drink along the way…more of this later.

Getting off the train, I started chatting to another lycra-clad woman, who was running the Petts Wood 10k for the first time, and we sauntered towards the playing fields with further running types. I could hear music as we approached, and there was a general buzz in the Petts Wood air, how lovely then to find that the music was live and the field was filled with happy faces and a feeling of excitement. There’s a real local feel to this event, with lots of families turning out to cheer people on and residents coming out into their gardens to encourage you around the course. Once I was registered and had fixed my number in place, we were soon taking our positions in the starting pens. Based on recent runs, I put myself in the 45-50 minute section and bobbed up and down on the spot to keep warm. After a once round the field, we headed out onto the road and towards the woods with cheers all the way.

Musical encouragement

Musical encouragement

Last year I had embraced the rain and simply had some fun, leaping over and into puddles, but today, as it was dry, I felt a little pressure to push harder, but wasn’t really feeling the push. It’s quite a narrow course in places, and you could find yourself stuck behind a slower runner, but people were very polite about it all (and as I felt like the slow one at times, I was glad of this!). The lovely people of Petts Wood Runners had positioned marshals throughout and had very thoughtfully pointed out tree roots and obstacles using a sprinkling of flour to catch your eye. I found the KM markers were appearing quite quickly, but was really slowed down by a long muddy hill around the 7k mark. Head down, I slogged my way up but, on reaching the top, had to duck to the side and subject those around me to a moment of hideousness as I almost threw up (what is going on?!). A few deep breaths and I was back in action.

There had been rumblings at the start that the band might reappear in the woods, so what joy to hear their jolly tones as I struggled through the trees, and they were so well placed, just before a sharp turn and one last hill. Smiling supporters and encouraging marshals pushed us onwards: ‘Just 2k to go!’ and the road felt good and steady after the uneven ground we had trodden until now. I looked at my watch and clung to the hope that I might go sub-50, but it wasn’t to be, and I rolled in after 53 minutes of determined discomfort. Compared with recent 10k times, this was a little disappointing, but I will remind myself that it’s a tough course, I wasn’t feeling great and, on looking at last year’s results, I took around seven minutes off my previous time!

On crossing the line, I was handed a medal, water, a banana and had the option of a samosa, which looked lovely, but…I collected my bag from the perfectly organised baggage area and instead bought myself a cup of tea and a piece of walnut loaf. Perfect.

Refuel

Refuel

Heading home, I felt ok and met the boys – who had been swimming – when I reached Lewisham. Hector was starving so we went in search of beans (it had to be beans) and ended up in Lewisham Wimpy (!). Everything was so much better all round after a bit of food and we did some shopping and headed home. This was where I started to feel unwell (again). I felt exhausted and my stomach wasn’t right. I was nauseous and weak, as if I’d run a marathon, not a 10k. So, what’s going wrong here? I made sure I ate well on Saturday and had plenty to drink, I had porridge for breakfast and again, had plenty to drink ahead of the race. I ate and drank straight after finishing and had lunch not long after, but still I felt awful. I have a ten mile race on Sunday, and don’t feel super confident right now! Any thoughts on why this is happening and what I can do?

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!

Vitality British 10K London Run

…is this Sunday! It’s come round so quickly, as these things do: I always think, months ahead of the event, that I will focus and train hard and have the race of my dreams. I have been focussed and have certainly been training hard, but I’m not entirely sure if this has been 10k specific. My times over 5k have steadily got faster (another PB at Hilly Fields the other week, with a 23.52 finish), but I haven’t really focussed on running further – I know I can run 10k, but I can’t see myself achieving such times over the longer distance. My speed may be helped by these colourful shoes, that certainly give me some bounce…

Speedy

Speedy

You can find out all about the NB 1080v4 here. I have worn NB shoes before and really do like them, I would recommend going up a half-size though because I find the toe-box a little tight, so you need to give your toes a bit more space to spread. These shoes feel very light and the ‘no-sew’ construction means less potential for rub and therefore blisters. Oh, and they’re pretty aren’t they?!

Here is some information from New Balance about the New Balance Village at Sunday’s race:

Runners in the Vitality British 10K London Run will be welcomed to the exclusive ‘New Balance Village’ on Sunday 13th July. New Balance, which is an official sponsor of the race, is treating runners to special incentives including access to an interactive chill out area, as well as a free sports massage for runners wearing New Balance.

The ‘New Balance Village’ will be home to a host of activities including sports massage from YourPhysioPlan.com, a network of expert independent physiotherapy practices across the UK. Together with YourPhysioPlan.com, New Balance is offering runners wearing the brand a free sports massage in a space before or after the race. Those wearing the iconic brand will also receive a free New Balance T-shirt and an exclusive discount on a 12 month membership with YourPhysioPlan.com, the only physiotherapy, massage and conditioning monthly payment plan available in the UK.

All runners are invited to celebrate after the race in the ‘New Balance Village’ chill out area, where they can play crazy golf amongst London landmarks, feast on complimentary popcorn and pose for a picture in front of Westminster Abbey and Big Ben within the photo cut out boards. Visitors to the New Balance Village can also head to the New Balance market to pick up the latest New Balance technical trainers from sports retailer Sweatshop.

All participating runners will receive a free pair of exclusive New Balance union jack trainer laces and a discount voucher for Sweatshop at the bag drop areas at the end of the race.

Samantha Matthews, New Balance marketing manager, said: “British manufacturing is a rich part of our heritage, so we’re proud to support an iconic race like the Vitality British 10K London Run.

“We want to give all runners a taste of the New Balance experience, which is why we’ve created a fun interactive area for them to celebrate after the race, as well as giving away free New Balance laces and a Sweatshop discount for all runners. We also have some great incentives lined up for all runners wearing New Balance, including a free expert sports massage to help them unwind.”

The New Balance Village will all be located at Waterloo Place, London. Runners taking part in Vitality British 10K London Run who don’t want to miss out on the New Balance race day incentives can pick up an exclusive discount on a new pair New Balance trainers with Sweatshop. Head to http://www.sweatshop.co.uk and enter code NBB10K by31st July, 2014 to receive 20% OFF all New Balance footwear and apparel.

This year the Vitality British 10k London Run is supporting Help For Heroes as its lead charity partner and will honour the 100 years since the First World War with a host of activities.

Keep up-to-date with all of the latest New Balance news on Twitter @NewBalanceUK and newbalancerunninguk on Facebook.

 

 

British 10k London Run 2014

I’m running, are you? Maybe this little video will inspire you to sign up:

After my recent picking up of the pace, I’m wondering how fast I can go on a scenic, flat course…plenty of time to work towards it too 🙂

Autumn fun

Last time I wrote I was still crawling back from the depths of a cold, which seems such a long time ago now (sorry, I’ve been busy having fun!). I booked myself a place at the Petts Wood 10k ages ago, prompted by my Parkrun buddies Siggy and Stephen, who belong to the Petts Wood Runners, and were dutifully positioned around the course to shout out encouragement and generally say nice stuff to make you feel good and not like the wet, muddy mess you really were. Of course, in true FitArtist style, I had good intentions of training hard towards the 10k distance, but in reality I ran a few hills, did a few longer runs and succumbed to The Cold in the weeks leading up to the race. Race day dawned and it was absolutely chucking it down and had been all night. Not the light, refreshing sort of rain, but the heavy, sideways, not-going-to-let-up kind of rain. ‘Oh well’ I thought as I worked out a long-winded bus journey to get there during Sunday engineering work hell.

Eventually, I made my way onto the cricket ground that plays host to the start and finish of the race, and nodded knowingly to other hardy souls who ploughed on, heads down. I must say, I was immediately impressed by the slick organisation of the event, which was apparent even through the sheeting rain and across the slide of mud. Once registered and rid of bag, coat and umbrella, I huddled under a gazebo with a shivering group, who talked mostly about the weather and what might lie ahead, accompanied by the tempting smells wafting over from the bacon roll tent. Before long we edged reluctantly to the start line and cheered each wave as they set off (yes, this small race even has a wave start and chip timing!). This was where my smiles began. I couldn’t help but break into a wide grin as I splashed through puddles and avoided slipping all over the place as we made our way onto the residential road and out towards the woods. You might imagine that a 10k run in these conditions would be hell, but I would go as far as to say that the rain added to the fun: I had no time to think about how far I had run or how fast (or rather slow) I was going as I kept my eye on the deep, dark puddles beneath my feet and avoided tripping on tree roots and rocks.

A couple of years ago I did Grim in Aldershot with Grant and Tom, and I would say that this race was on a par with that, but on my doorstep and way cheaper to enter! I quickly realised that there was no point in trying to go round the mud and puddles, so leapt in them with abandon, often squealing with delight. Around the route were the friendliest marshals you are ever likely to encounter in the rain, and I thanked every one of them as I went. Lovely people. Before I knew it I was heading out of the woods and back towards the recreation ground, encouraged by a few determined locals, who happily urged us on from their driveways. I managed a sprint finish of sorts, my shoes heavy and full of water and, once across the line, I was handed a medal, a banana (by a gorilla, really) and a warm samosa (excellent post-race food) and I quickly joined the queue to retrieve my belongings so I could buy a steaming cup of tea to ward off blue lips. I will be entering this race again next year for sure, but only if they arrange rain for me.

I rode the bus home like this...

I rode the bus home like this…

I am loving this gorgeous Autumn weather (though I have got annoyingly wet pretty much every time I’ve left the house in the past few days), especially the leaves and the bright skies.

Coordinating with nature

Coordinating with nature

With half-term coming up next week, I will be making the most of the warm weather and glowing trees, pulling on my walking shoes and doing some conker-gathering and bat spotting (a cool Halloween event we’re looking forward to…).

Coming next: a return to club night.