Vitality Run Hackney Half-Marathon

I’m doing it, why don’t you sign up too?

I’m feeling inspired by my muddy 10k race yesterday (more to follow later in the week) and by friends who took on a half-marathon challenge over the weekend. The last half-marathon I ran was back in March, so it’s been a while – I guess I have been slightly distracted by various tri- and duathlons 😉 When I ran my last half, I was really chuffed to get a personal best time of 1 hour 53 minutes and 34 seconds, but commented that I would love to go sub-1:50. Now there’s a goal for my Spring half!

Image: Vitality Run Hackney

Image: Vitality Run Hackney

The race starts and finishes at Hackney Marshes (my old training route from back in the North London day), passing through closed roads and taking in some of the East End’s iconic landmarks such as the Hackney Empire and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The course is fast and flat (PB here I come!) and we are promised plenty of entertainment to keep us going/distract us from our pain along the way. Finishers are rewarded not only with the glow of achievement at completing their challenge, but also a chunky medal, a Brooks Running technical t-shirt and a goody bag.

Image: Vitality Run Hackney

Image: Vitality Run Hackney

Maybe you missed out on a place in the London Marathon and want something to work towards, or hope to tackle your first half-marathon or, maybe like me, you have a time you want to beat. Sign up now and secure a place for May 8th – 13,000 runners took part in 2015, but places sell out fast!

And just in case you’re not convinced:

– A single lap run through the heart of Hackney.
– Start/Finish in Hackney Marshes.
– Race starts at 9am.
– See Hackney! Hackney Empire, Broadway Market, London Fields.
– Follow in the footsteps of legends through Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park taking in the Stadium, Copper Box and Velodrome.

– A fantastic Brooks Technical T-shirt for all finishers.
– Incredible Hackney supporters.
– Fantastic live entertainment along the route and in the Race Village.
– Stay refreshed at regular drink stations.
– A great goody bag.
– Live race results and text message with your official time.
– Secure bag-drop and changing facilities.
– A much deserved FREE post-race massage.
– And don’t forget the bling… an EPIC medal to wear with pride!

Thank you to Vitality for giving me a place in this race, I’ll do you proud 😉

Hever Castle Triathlon, Olympic Distance

This was my first step into the world of the Olympic Distance triathlon; I was very nervous. The Olympic distance consists of a 1,500m swim (that’s about a mile), a 44km cycle and 10km run. At Hever Castle the swim was to be in a lake and river, a very cold lake and river. Brrrrr. In preparation for this, I took myself off to the Kings Cross Pond Club again last week and managed 30 lengths before I started shivering and had to get out, so I was a little bit nervous about having to be hauled out with hypothermia! But before I could attempt any of this we had to get there.

This was my birthday present from Edward and Hector (yes, I know my birthday is in December, but I do like to milk it!), so we were all set for a nice family day out in Kent. We hired a car (triathlon is an expensive business) and set off bright and early for my 9.45 wave start. Of course, along the way we realised we didn’t have any cash, so took a detour to find a cash machine in the countryside. We also had to pause briefly to deal with poor Hector’s travel sickness and off we went…to join a massive queue to the car park.

Jam

Jam

Due to the wet weather earlier in the week, the car parks were a slippery, muddy mess and there was a tailback of about two miles, with cars populated by twitchy triathletes, eager to get to transition. Eventually, as my start time got closer and closer, we decided to put my bike together and I would cycle down by myself. It’s a good job I did! By the time I reached transition I didn’t have any time to fret and quickly racked my bike, laid out my stuff and put on my wetsuit. The ground was muddy and squelched a bit between my toes as I headed to the water.

Lake

Lake

You see that? That’s where I swam, all the way to the last buoy (which isn’t showing in this photo, taken later in the day), sharp left, then into the river and back round! As we had all been delayed by the traffic situation, the waves were moved back fifteen minutes each (phew!) and we all gathered in our red swimming caps for the pre-race briefing, given by the race director. This was really good, with maps, and very clear but obviously a little scary. Again, this distraction stopped me getting worked up about the upcoming swim and we were soon heading away from the beautiful loggia and into the 14 degree water, gasp. It was an absolute stunner of a morning, with clear blue skies and a lovely golden glow over the water’s surface. I positioned myself near the back and let everybody else head off and do their thing before I eased forward into a tentative breaststroke, head out. I looked at the first buoy, deciding to break it all up into chunks: swim to the first buoy, count your strokes, enjoy the view, breathe out steadily. I chuckled to myself, imagining I would be last out of the water, but I soon passed other swimmers and caught up with those ahead of me, ticking off the buoys as I went. At the far end of the lake we turned towards the Japanese tea pavilion (yes, it’s a very fancy sort of a swim) and into the river Eden, under a bridge and around a bend. There was a lot of this around the bend thing in this section and I would approach each turning afresh and aim for the next corner. It was along here that I thought it might be nice to thank one of the marshals in a kayak, not a great idea when your chin has set frozen and you swallow a load of water. I overtook some more swimmers and started to hear the noise from the start/end point, I wondered if the boys had made it to the car park yet and looked out for them as I swam to the swim-out area. This was being assisted by some Speedo people, putting out a helping hand as you reached the edge. I made the mistake of putting my foot down and felt it sink into mud that was the texture of marshmallow! Climbing out, I reached for my zip and heard Edward and Hector cheering my name. I kissed Edward, feeling a great sense of relief at having completed this swim: ‘You’re so cold!’ he shouted as I ran to transition.

Relief

Relief

This was where I thought the otherwise excellent organisation was lacking, just a clear sign at the end of each row where you come in from the swim would make it so much easier. Luckily I had taken a look at what was at the end of my row, so located a big red flag at one of the stalls and tried to pick out my bike amongst the many others. I peeled off my wetsuit but couldn’t find anywhere to lay it, the bikes were all so close together, so I fumbled about for longer than I had hoped, guzzled a gel, downed some drink and ran along the exit and bike mount area, trying to stay upright in the mud. It took great concentration to exit safely, with the mud being covered by big plastic boards, which were tricky to negotiate on a road bike. Over some speed bumps, around a corner and out of the grounds to the bike leg.

Concentration

Concentration

From this point Edward and Hector had a fair bit of time to fill as I disappeared out into the Kentish countryside, so amused themselves with all the great stuff on offer…a bit of archery.

Archer

Archer

Some trampolining.

Boing!

Boing!

And even some bungee jumping 🙂

Happy

Happy

Meanwhile, I was getting my head round cycling in a race along open roads. Not that I go that fast, but you really have to have your wits about you when dealing with potholes, other cyclists (some overtaking at speed) and cars. The whole two-lap bike course was well sign-posted and marshalled and I didn’t have to stop and wait at road junctions at any point. Every so often I would pass residents who had come out to cheer (thank you) and was given a boost when we cycled past the in/out area each lap – there was a woman at the roadside who called out ‘come on lady!’ each time, I think she probably did this for every female competitor (I did feel we were very much outnumbered by the men). Before I knew it I was bobbing back over the speed bumps and into T2. Here I did a double-take as a woman’s voice reached my ears from the crowds along the edge. I had just swum a mile, cycled 40k and the thing she thought to call out was: ‘Oh, snotty face’. Yes, really. Thanks for appreciating my effort.

Racking the bike in T2 is always a wobbly sort of moment, the legs were still spinning, my toes were still numb and it was a very wobbly, hobbly affair. Edward and Hector called out some encouragement and I headed off into the woods, wishing I could feel my toes. I guzzled some more gel – yuck. I felt able to run steadily and enjoyed the setting, it really is quite a lovely race. Along the route there were water/gel stations and many of the volunteers were teenagers who were so incredibly enthusiastic, you couldn’t help but pick up the pace. Briefly. This was a two-lap course and each time we encountered an incredibly muddy down-hill section. I commented to a fellow runner here that I wished I had worn my trail shoes, he said he wished he had entered the sprint! A nice straight stretch towards the beautiful castle and around then up a hill, a steep and cruel hill. I had one of those moments where I wished I hadn’t noticed someone walking and walked myself 😦 I normally love a hill, but I really was knackered by now. Through the finish area and into lap two but not before going over a cheeky little footbridge that felt like Mount Snowdon. I knew I only had a few more kilometres to go, but had to guzzle gels and neck water to get me there, I really was struggling by now, none of the nasty cramp I had at the London Duathlon last week, just sheer tiredness. As I tackled the hill for the second time, I knew it wasn’t far, so sped up to cross the line with my hands in the air.

Finished

Finished

The finish area was excellent, like a bit of a food fest! There was coconut water, cola, water water, water melon, melon, oranges, Soreen, biscuits…pretty much something for everyone! I couldn’t get enough of the watermelon, so took some time to refuel before gathering my bike from transition. It had taken me three-and-a-half hours to complete the race, quite a lot longer than I had hoped, but I was so happy to have done that swim, probably the slowest swim I’ve ever done, but still! We spent some time afterwards enjoying the beautiful grounds and refuelling before heading home for steak and chips. I would definitely recommend this race, it’s rather wonderful, if challenging. Hector asked if we would go there again, saying ‘Maybe if we do, it will be because I’m doing a triathlon’. I think he’s tempted 😉

Hever Castle

Hever Castle

London Duathlon, 2015, I did it!

Do you remember last year, when I tried really, really hard, forgot to take on fuel, had a tough time, then threw up at the end? Well this year was going to be different. When you have such a very long time to work towards a goal, it’s motivating, but also seems so far away that you only really address any big issues as it gets nearer. I had all summer to train, but ‘all summer’ includes the school holidays, where training gets a little less intense due to lack of time. I felt fit and strong in the run up to this race, but was struck by a particularly nasty cold about a week and a half ago. This meant my last full week of training was cut short and taper week was spent drinking lemon and honey tea and blowing my nose. Somehow I managed to keep the cold away from my chest and rather nervously gathered together my stuff and re-read Chrissie Wellington’s autobiography to give me a little psychological boost (it’s very good).

Lasti-laces

Lasti-laces

So, when Sunday morning came round, I did the quietly-trying-to-get-dressed-and-have-breakfast-without-waking-anyone thing and swept out of the house while it was still dark. Last year my two-strong support crew did a splendid job of cheering me around the course but, due to an earlier start time, they decided to do junior parkrun and swimming instead 😦 By the time I got to Waterloo Station, there were a few slightly tired and nervous-looking people with bikes. I got chatting to a chap called Andrew who was taking on the Ultra distance. Respect. It was turning into a beautiful morning, with blue skies and pink-tinged vapour trails and, when we arrived at Richmond Park, things were really getting going.

To transition

To transition

Once I’d faffed about a little, racked my bike, said hello to a fellow Kent AC runner, David and pinned my number to my top, it was time to leg it to the loo before starting the 10k run. It was at this point that I really wished I’d gone sooner, there definitely need to be more loos next year, people were hopping about anxiously, though the entertainment was quite good, watching men wrestling with tri-suits as they entered/exited the urinal area (yes, I was trying to distract myself here). When I eventually left the portaloos I had to run over to the start which, by now, consisted of a rather long line of people waiting to be ushered through the staggered start area. This is all organised really well, minimising the chances of crowds of runners filling the road which, in places is shared with cyclists. I would like to have positioned myself a bit further forward though, to avoid waiting around, getting nervous!

To the start

To the start

A countdown of beeps sounded and off we went. I could feel from the start that this was going to be difficult – the couple of runs I had done in the week, to test my cold-stricken body were very laboured and wheezy, so I took it steady, feeling the need to warm up fully in the first couple of miles. I quickly found myself in a to and fro with another runner of a similar pace, she would overtake me, I would overtake back and so on, pulling each other along. She did apologise further into the run for using me as a pacer, no need to apologise, I was doing exactly the same! The temperature was rising and I reminded myself of my fuel plan to avoid a repeat of last year. In the last kilometre, the other runner pulled away as I slurped messily on an overly sweet gel (they really are quite disgusting). T1 involved a quick drink, shoe change, grab bike and helmet and go.

I loved the bike course, I always look so much happier in the bike photos than the run! The stretch of road out of transition is quite narrow, with runners coming in the opposite direction and faster cyclists overtaking with an ‘on your right!’. The course was familiar and I knew what to expect as we rounded a corner and started to ease upwards. This hill is tough-going, especially on the fourth lap! There was a timer van at this point and the little speed-bump type mats felt rather big! It was always a joy though, to hear the cheers from the little crowds that had positioned themselves here, really encouraging people on, even running alongside someone who was pushing her bike. Once up and over, there are some great downhill stretches where I really let myself fly, well by my standards anyway, I was still being overtaken by braver folk. Some very tight corners, complete with straw bales and onto the flat for a bit. It was here that I had one of my loveliest moments, when a magnificent stag stood feet away with his family, lifted his head, opened his mouth wide and sort of mooed/roared at me! Not something you see in many races!

I knew from my watch and from how my legs felt (cramp had set in as soon as I got on my bike) that I was coming up to transition time, but couldn’t find a chance to take on another gel. I had stuck to my plan and had plenty to drink on the bike, so had the second gel as I changed my shoes again. This is where things get really hard. Running from the bike is always difficult, but somehow more so in a duathlon where you have already completed a run. I kept it steady and worked my way through the nasty cramp that had hold of my quads. A little walk. A little jog and so on. I overtook a man I had talked to briefly at the start, he told me I was doing well. I kept going. Another gel. I passed the spot where I had stretched then crumpled slightly last year. Another walk. I grabbed some water from a volunteer and we both did a double-take – a fellow club runner! I was now doing the ‘I’ll walk to that cone, then jog’ thing. For the last two kilometres though I really wanted to run, I didn’t want to take any longer than last year, so kept it steady and encouraged other runners that I passed along the way – you see many people stopping with cramp in this run, it’s really hard work. The finish was in sight and I pushed on through, grabbing my medal, t-shirt, water and a banana. I had done it! I had hoped to get under three hours (last year was 3 hours 4 minutes), but I had no idea at this point if I had achieved that goal (I doubted it), but now my only goal was to refuel quickly without being sick. I managed half a banana and a Goodness Shake before I felt a bit bleurgh, so sat down and took the obligatory selfie 🙂

Bling

Bling

Duathletes continued to trickle through and lots of people stood around stretching and refuelling, it’s always a rather slow journey home! Feeling ok, I gathered up my stuff and headed to the station on my bike, a nice gentle ride to loosen my already stiff legs. I hadn’t hit my time goal, finishing in 3 hours 10 minutes 31 seconds – the time was lost by running a slower 10k and taking a bit longer on the bike. Having a stinking cold is not the best preparation, but I’m glad I managed to finish and not suffer too much! Once I’d got home, had big hugs from the boys, drank tea, bathed and had a little lie down, it was time to enjoy some good roast dinner to really refuel, I definitely got to eat the last roast potato this time!

Roasties

Roasties

Thank you to London Duathlon for giving me the place. If you want to enter next year’s race, register your interest here and check out the distances – you can take a shorter challenge, or even a longer one if you’re feeling epic! I’d love to race at the London Duathlon again, it’s an excellent course and really well supported and organised…and I really want to go under three hours!! For now I will rest and recover, massaging my aching muscles and fuelling my body for Sunday’s triathlon – eek!

Cabbage Patch 10

Those of you who have followed my running progress over the years will know that I have run many races over ten miles, but I’ve never run a ten mile race before. I was a bit nervous. Having had some uncomfortable post-race experiences recently, I was really on top of my hydration and fuelling on Saturday and, as I was travelling with friends over to Twickenham, I was reminded every so often to sip some water…I really think this helped. Fellow parkrunner Sally has run this race four times now and encouraged a few of us to enter months ago, but doesn’t a race come round quickly? We met chief cheerer Em at Waterloo and headed – with many lycra-clad types – towards the Cabbage Patch pub, which acts as race HQ. Really. I was under the impression everyone got a cabbage and was stupidly excited about this, but it seems you have to run very bloody fast to get one of these:

Cabbage and beer. Yum.

Cabbage and beer. Yum.

What was interesting about this race was the number of club vests on show. Groups of people gathered around, heads dipped in discussion about predicted times, tactics and so on; there was a real air of competition. We were also pleased to spot very many runners local to our parkrun in Hilly Fields, and hardly walked far before pausing to say hello. Soon people were heading towards the high street and gathering in a very random sort of way on a corner, wrists in the air, frantically trying to get a GPS signal. A horn was sounded and people edged out onto the road and started running. Our race numbers had a great big timing chip on the back, but there was no mat at the start, and it seems times are only really recorded as a gun time (this added more than a minute to my own time), I’m not sure why a mat couldn’t be added at the start for accuracy.

As I’ve not run this distance in a very long time (probably since I did the Royal Parks Half back in 2011), I had decided to try and go steady and not peel off as if I was running 5k. It was sunny and suddenly much warmer, and the pace of the people around me helped this. I was consistently around 5 minute KMs for a while and gradually slowed a little as time went on. I constantly did sums in my head to keep myself distracted: ‘If I run at such and such a pace, I will still finish at this time, and that’s ok…’ and so on. As promised, the course was flat, and I know I go on and on about how much I love hills and how flat equals boring, but actually it was quite nice to be able to go steady for a change.

After touring the residential streets for while, we crossed a bridge and passed under the shopping centre in Kingston where we headed to the river. The sun was out, the paths were smooth, rowers were gliding across the water, life was good. I had one dip at around maybe seven miles. In quick succession I had two runners on my shoulder with a grunting problem, grunt, huff, grunt, snort…It didn’t seem a temporary thing and I didn’t want them to be at my side for the whole race, so eased back and let them overtake. Phew. (Edward told me off for being intolerant, but really, it’s enough dealing with your own struggles without having to empathise with someone else’s agony on the move!). We also passed some kind of shooting range at this point, and were subjected to the repeated sound of gun-fire. Things improved when we ducked into beautiful parkland and headed home.

I had a moment of confusion shortly after. We negotiated some mud along the river and, when I looked left I could see runners on the opposite bank, but couldn’t see where we would cross to get there…I then realised they were behind me and there were no more river crossings, in fact we were just two miles from the finish. Once again, phew! Here I saw Em, who said:’ You’re flying!’ to my ‘I’m dying!’. A few residential roads with some good encouragement from local people, and a turn to what I thought was the finish, until I saw people turning again ahead. The relief when I took that turn myself and saw that the finish was right there, was overwhelming! A little sprint – of sorts – and over the line in 1 hour 23 minutes and something seconds. Wow! I hadn’t really had a clue how long it would take, but had hoped that I might get there in around 1.30, so this time was most welcome. We were given water and a good quality long-sleeved top instead of a medal/goodie bag. A banana might have been good, but the shirt is a great idea (women’s sizes would be lovely, why do we always have to be swamped my men’s sizes?!).

Woo-hoo!

Woo-hoo!

Now I jogged back along the course, cheering people on at the point where they need it most. I saw my friends coming in, gathered Em up, and we created a sort of friends relay along the last stretch to run Sally in to the finish. Back to the pub to collect our things, watch the presentation of cabbages and beer (and money, they give good prize money at this race) and to a lovely cafe for warming soup. All in all a great day out with friends. I will definitely be signing up again next year 🙂

Summer Round-up and Duathlon Nerves

After a summer of lots of this:

Mine!

Mine!

and enough running, swimming and riding to fend off ice-cream belly (just), I need to get myself back into a routine and back in action for some autumn race fun. I had hoped to keep to my routine, but holidays, chickenpox (Hector, not me) and a lack of time meant things went a bit off-course. I did plenty of running on holiday, with sand-dunes and rocky paths to keep me on my toes, and even squeezed in a parkrun in Barnstaple…

Hero

Hero

I was delighted to discover that one of my heroes, Chrissie Wellington, was running at Barnstaple, so we made an extra special effort to get there (which involved a very rushed sprint along the river to find a footbridge as cheers rose up on the opposite bank – eek!). I also climbed elegantly into a wetsuit to make the most of the Devonshire sea…

Tight fit

Tight fit

Erm, I found the wetsuit excellent insulation against the roaring Atlantic, but I am at a loss as to how people jump in and out of these at a triathlon. More practice needed I think! So, many Adventures in Open Water Swimming took place in the North Sea, the Atlantic and also the Bude Sea Pool. Brrrr.

Now, of course, I’m back in action and getting my head down for some serious training. How lovely to be back at the running club, grinding up and down hills at Hilly Fields parkrun and also heading out solo for a brick session.

Quick change

Quick change

Because on Sunday, I will be gathering together a collection of running and cycling attire, my bike and various drinks and snacks and heading over to Richmond Park for the London Duathlon. I’m very, very excited and maybe a little bit nervous about this! 10k run, 44k ride and 5k run. Gulp. My session at the weekend really helped my confidence. I rode out into Kent (avoiding almost being crushed by idiot drivers on two occasions 😦 ), rode 42k, parked my bike in the hall at home and swapped to my running shoes to head out for a quick 5k. My legs felt surprisingly good at first, with a nice spin to them from the bike leg, but I soon started to feel a cramp setting in…I wonder how things will feel with an additional 10k in my legs this Sunday. There will be various distances being covered on the day, from Super Sprint right up to Ultra. Richmond Park is a great place to spend a day admiring the athletic prowess passing by, ahem. Watch this space next week for a full report on my own experience of my first duathlon.

I am a Triathlete

I did it, my first triathlon! It was amazing. I want to do it again.

I felt good: I had trained well, with four runs a week, three or four swims a week and cycling when I could fit it in (this bit could have been more structured) and felt strong yesterday morning as I pulled on my tri-suit and headed over to Crystal Palace Park. Yesterday we shared the park with some Minis, who were heading out to Brighton, as we headed in…

Paris, London

Paris, London

I was arriving with my parkrun friends Stephen and Siggy and, during registration and set-up, bumped into Sally, Marie, Ian, David and Viv…that’s the nice thing about attending a local race! By this point I was really, really nervous, and quickly laid out my bike and all my race essentials in transition before grabbing my swimming cap and goggles and heading poolside. I commented to the people around me that the swim looked quite relaxed, there was something quite meditative about watching people zig-zagging up and down the 50m pool…until it came to my turn.

I had trained so well, swimming many hours up and down my local pool, trying out different pools on our travels and venturing over to the Olympic swimming pool to try the 5om distance, but this was different. I climbed down what seemed to be a really long ladder into cold water with nothing on the pool sides to grab hold of before a marshal called ‘Three, two, one, go!’ (this was repeated at fifteen second intervals). Suddenly I felt panic, I was breathing in, but not out and couldn’t put my face in the water. I did a feeble attempt at a breaststroke, with my head out, thinking: ‘Breathe, breathe, you can do this! You’ve done this so many times! Why now?!’ (afterwards Edward told me that he and Stephen were at poolside mouthing ‘Breaststroke?!’). But I stuck at it, there was no way, after all of this excellent training that I was going to stop. Things felt a bit easier as I went on, moving gradually across the pool. The sun shone on this section, making it feel nicer, brighter and warmer, the end was in sight and I dared to put my face in. I tried a front-crawl and overtook some swimmers ahead of me, I could do this. Soon enough I was in the final lane and could see Edward, Stephen and Hector cheering and waving, I smiled and took the lane.

Now to transition. I had been awake throughout the previous night, worrying about transition, but I needn’t have been concerned. I was told not to run, so waddled damply to my spot, talked through my planned routine, chatted to a fellow athlete and off I went. Easy! (I did forget my sunglasses though, and on a 25 degree day, it might have been more comfortable).

That's me in the middle

That’s me in the middle

It was such a relief to get out of the pool and onto my bike. Now this section was a bit of an unknown quantity to me, and I didn’t have a clue how long it might take, so I just went for it. It was my favourite part of the race, I LOVED it! The course is lovely: nine laps of the park, largely in the shade of the trees (phew), with one sharp hill as you leave transition and a superb down-hill section on your return. I love a hill, whether running or riding, so I would put my head down and take it on with determination each time. As I reached the flatter road, I changed gear, did a bit of overtaking and whooped my way down the hill (if I wasn’t clipped in, I would definitely have had my legs out).

Happy!

Happy!

I had been worried about keeping track of the laps, and that my Garmin might not have a signal during transition, so Edward had taped some masking tape to my frame to tear off at the end of each lap. All seemed to be going well, so I left the tape and used my Garmin and a steady chant of the lap number in my head. As the laps went on I thought I had another to go but, when I looked at the distance I saw 20k. Running into transition 2 my muddled head told me I had another lap, but the Garmin was pretty clear!

I wobbled through transition on an unsteady combination of cycle shoes and spinning legs, a quick change of footwear, an addition of my shades and a gulp of Lucozade Sport (bad move) and I was off again. Oh, it felt very odd. It was straight up the hill and I felt heavy and slow, though my Garmin showed a good pace considering. I looked sideways at the cyclists, thinking: ‘I wish I was still doing that’ but finding that, after nine laps of the park, the two and a bit laps of the run went very quickly and, before I knew it, I was heading into the stadium.

Edward's panoramic view

Edward’s panoramic view

I threw my arms in the air as I took to the track, such joy! I heard a whistle and the beat of a tambourine and saw my support crew of Edward and Hector in the stands waving and cheering 🙂 Just a lap and a half to go now. As I saw the finish line, I ran hard, a bounce in my step.

Look at that hair go!

Look at that hair go!

And there I was, a triathlete!

Gold?

Gold?

Despite the poor swim experience, I loved it. I am eagerly looking for another event, to keep up the momentum and will definitely be trying for a place at Crystal Palace again next year. It’s such a great event for a first timer in particular: super friendly marshals who even looked up your name on a list to call out encouragement, a delightful bike and run course, a course that is perfect for spectators, with many ways of navigating the different disciplines to make sure you see all of the action, and a perfectly placed transition for viewing from above – it was odd looking up during transition and seeing lots of peering faces – and you even get a print-out of your results shortly after crossing the finish line!

I’ve really enjoyed the build-up to this event and a big thank you to everyone who helped me to reach this point 🙂

1.37.59

 

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 🙂

Run-Bike-Run, London Duathlon

No, I didn’t, but Cathy Jogblog did, in the wind and rain, go Cathy! I have, however, agreed to get myself over to Richmond Park next year for the 2014 London Duathlon, really! I can hardly complain that I don’t have long enough to train, and maybe I can somehow get a better bike in that time, but I think this is a goal that could take my training in some interesting directions (and moving into another discipline means a whole new world of apparel geekiness).

Competitors heading off

Competitors heading off

Here is some text about what happened on Sunday, when determined run-bike-runners battled some horrid weather to achieve their race goal:

15 September 2013, London UK: Over 3,000 runners and cyclists gathered today in the stunning surroundings of Richmond Park to put their cycling and running abilities to the test at the 2013 London Duathlon – the world’s largest event of its kind.

From 8:30am, athletes of all levels and abilities took to the roads of Richmond Park to tackle one of the five sold out run-bike-run challenges, either the Ultra distance (20K run, 77K cycle, 10K run), Classic (10K run, 44K cycle, 5K run), Classic Relay (10K run, 44K cycle, 5K run) Sprint (10K run, 22K cycle, 5K run) or the Super Sprint (5K run, 11K cycle, 5K run) ideal for beginners.

To ensure duathletes were in tip top condition, returning race partner RG Active were helping competitors get race ready with ability-specific training programmes and training sessions in Richmond Park, as well as other venues across London. Also supporting athletes was Totally Bikes (www.totally-bikes.com) specialist bike hire firm, which offered bikes for hire to fit all race budgets.

As the race began, whistles and cheers from spectators filled the air and Official Charity Partner, Macmillan Cancer Support cheered on its dedicated athletes from the sidelines.

To celebrate their achievement every athlete received a medal and goody bag featuring a snood from Official Sportswear Partner, Crewroom (www.crewroom.biz).

Following the excitement of the race, duathletes and spectators tucked in to hot food and drink in the Event Village. The Village played host to a range of experts including Bikelab (www.bikelab.biz) to solve any last minute bike maintenance issues and Move Clinics (www.moveclinics.com) which provided complimentary massages for finishers to banish post-race niggles.

Athletes could also commemorate their success with official merchandise from Crewroom’s dedicated stand.

London Duathlon was supported by Official Media Partner, Dennis Publishing (www.dennis.co.uk).

NOTE! This year’s event SOLD OUT, so make sure you book your place for 2014 here: http://www.londonduathlon.com

Peckham 10k(haos)

It was a running/fun-filled Saturday morning. Out we all rushed to get to Hilly Fields on time for our Parkrun, Edward running, me on the barcode scanner and Hector doing a bit of everything in between. We continue to have more and more runners turning up every week, a combination of warmer weather, word-of-mouth and bikini diets(?). Amazingly, since we started the Hilly Fields Parkrun back in September, I have never taken on the role of barcode scanner. I can’t say it’s my favourite (this being Run Director, of course), too much concentration needed and, as the numbers increase, a line of tired runners wanting to get home/get to the cafe/flop on the ground – you do get to congratulate people on their achievement though. Edward ran, though didn’t feel great ahead of the run, but still managed to run within about ten seconds of his PB. Once we’d scanned in the last few runners, we ran down the hill to catch a bus over to Peckham Rye, where I was to run the Peckham 10k.

We were very early, underestimating the distance, so found ourselves sitting in the cafe (to keep warm, it had suddenly turned cold again!) chatting to two runners who had just run Hilly Fields and then to another regular HF runner, Parkrun is a very socially-enhancing event you know! I ran this race two years ago and, though I found it a bit disorganised and was upset to find they had run out of water at the end, I still came back for more, well it’s local, small and cheap! So off we headed to the start line.

Edward told me to do a running pose

Edward told me to do a running pose

Heading to the start

Heading to the start

It was a bit unclear as to where the actual start line was, I wasn’t entirely sure when to start my Garmin and couldn’t hear anything the race organiser was saying (a mega-fone might help in this situation). So we suddenly seemed to be running in a random direction (back to where we came from as it turned out).

Assembling at the start

Assembling at the start

I was now reminded of how chaotic this race is, as we ran through the Saturday morning footballers (who gave the best cheers!) and along narrow and uneven paths, to squeeze through a narrow gate at the top corner of the park. I do think the park is big enough and varied enough to avoid sending a group of runners through a gateway, along pavements and across the path of cars, it’s amazing we got to the finish line unscathed! While I narrowly avoided road traffic accidents, Edward and Hector enjoyed exploring the safer parts of the park and stumbled across this chap:

A turtle 'this big'!

A turtle ‘this big’!

When I finished, Hector ran up to me to tell me he had seen a turtle ‘this big’! I think it was probably someone’s tiny pet terrapin until they realised how big they grow, he also had a similar size friend who was teasing the ducks by sticking his nose out of the water.

I found the 10k distance a bit challenging as I hadn’t really trained towards it properly, so didn’t manage a PB – I looked down at my Garmin when it said ‘9k’, looked up at the loop of park still to go and knew a PB was out of my grasp this time. Oh well. I did, however, find it in me to sprint to the finish, especially when I saw the boys cheering me on, it really helps to see friendly faces as you go.

Sprint finish!

Sprint finish!

It is a lovely park, and I enjoyed meeting the ‘turtle’ after the race and also a restorative breakfast in the cafe afterwards, but there are quite a few flaws in the organisation that might put me off running it again. Here are my own stats, as I can’t yet see the results on the race website.

Distance: 6.17 miles

Time: 56 minutes 21 seconds

Average Pace: 9.08

Best Pace: 5.52

Calories: 755

I am a little back to front with my blog-writing at the moment, I will try and write about the London Marathon later this week.

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