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

Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon Workshop

I think I might ache tomorrow. And the day after.

Thanks to the lovely Jogblog putting in a good word for me, I am now the proud owner of a media place in the Royal Parks Half Marathon in October (pizza and beer will come your way Cathy, don’t you worry). I was recently sent a very bright pre-race race top to try out and show off and last night seemed like a good time to give it a South East London debut. I am a big fan of green, and this is definitely green, a lovely shade of green that allowed me to be seen from all areas of the park, a good thing during an evening run I say. There is a great image on the back, showing a running tree and this seemed to suit my leafy Ladywell Fields jaunt perfectly. As I am embarking on a month of running – more on that later – I had earlier done a bit of a running-shelf-sort-out, putting things in piles called ‘bottoms’, ‘summer tops’, winter tops’, ‘feeling brave’ and ‘only for decorating’ and two race shirts went straight in the ‘only for decorating pile’. This Royal Parks t-shirt will definitely be worn on a regular basis: it’s good quality, a really nice fit and even has a lower back than front which is ever so flattering.

I seem to have fixed my poorly Garmin by letting it run down completely, then charging it up completely, but it’s struggling to pick up a signal so some of this run was a bit lacking in data.

Time: 31 minutes 9 seconds

Distance: 3.03 miles

Average Pace: 10.16

Best Pace: 7.14

Calories: 263

As part of my fabulous Royal Parks package, I was invited to take part in a workshop today, to help me pick up the pace for the race. I got up bright and early (as usual, that’s life with a four-year-old) and headed up to Mayfair and the swish Matt Roberts Personal Training. Gradually lots of women – mostly – in various shades of pink – mostly – trickled in and we were soon put into our groups to start the ‘Improve your time’ workshop. I was in the group that first of all went with a personal trainer and discussed strength training, something I always imagine will be a good idea but never actually get round to doing. We were shown a few important moves and told that it’s best to look at ‘functional’ moves, things that will help your running specifically, and to try to fit this sort of session in twice a week. We did a few squats and were shown how to add weights to intensify the moves.

We then moved on to the Mizuno area and were told all about the importance of correctly fitting shoes and how this can help prevent injury; the woman was incredibly knowledgable and really helpful, though not particularly pushing her own brand, which was refreshing. This session was supported by the next stage with a physio from Matt Roberts Personal Training who talked about gait analysis. She had various tools for looking at how we land and so on and used volunteers to demonstrate how she breaks down the activity of walking to work out where improvements can be made and to locate any problems when dealing with injury. We then went over to a Matt Roberts look-a-likie called Gareth who talked about intervals and tempo running and how we should think about following a schedule to get the best out of our training. I owned up to always printing out a schedule, but never actually sticking to it and Gareth suggested prioritising the intervals and adding to a session to maximise speed work, since it’s speed that I want to gain.

Following this session, we were given a talk by a chap from Lucozade, a sports nutritionist who works with elite athletes on their diets for training and competition. He had some great advice about race day strategies and the importance of starting a race already hydrated. I asked him about cramping, something that I have had problems with in past races, and he said I should stick to the sports drinks over gels in a race to replenish electrolytes and said I might like to try Nuun, which you can just pop in a bottle of water. We were also allowed to help ourselves to some Lucozade Sport, gels and jelly beans to try out in training, as this will be the drink around the course on race day.

The Lucozade Sport proved a necessity in the next section of the day, British Military Fitness.

We piled our bags into the British Military Fitness van and walked as a group over to Hyde Park Corner. It was super busy in Hyde Park, with a concert about to start and loads of young drunk people, just waiting to stare at us and shout abuse. Great. I have looked on these British Military Fitness nutters in the past and thought ‘fools’ as I plod around the park, and here I was subjecting myself to goodness knows what in broad daylight, for all to see. There were three instructors who, after giving us a thorough warming up, divided us into smaller groups and asked us if we were tired yet. Yes. There was a lot of squatting. I like a good squat and thought I had done pretty much every kind of squat going, but these guys are the kings of squat. We even did one in a circle, holding hands, on one leg – you stuck your leg out straight in front and lowered yourself right down, leg off the ground. You then lifted yourself back up again, keeping the leg straight. In theory. I did get the going down bit eventually, but I don’t think I looked pretty.

The thing I liked about the BritMilFit session was just how pleasant these chaps were about making us hurt. I had preconceived ideas about being shouted at and having mud kicked in my face, but they were smiley, encouraging and ever so polite: what they were making us do was tough, but they were not tough with us. One thing I found very useful was the interval session: we sprinted in a line to the first tree in a row then jogged back, sprinted to the second tree and jogged back and so on for five trees. This was hard, but I really pushed myself and got back with one other woman ahead of the others and I could easily replicate this in the park on my own. If I could afford it, I would definitely be signing up for BritMilFit because I loved it, but I will try to do some of the exercises on my own, though I doubt I could ever achieve the same level of effort I got from the group session.

I really enjoyed the workshop, and think it will give me a good boost for the start of my half marathon training. Things I will take away with me and try my hardest – really, I will – to implement in my weekly schedule are strength training and intervals. I think, if I am to run my dream of a two-hour half marathon, then I need to kick my own arse into gear and these chaps might just have helped me on my way. There are other workshops coming up and also training runs, and I would recommend them highly.

On my return journey I bumped into one of the other participants, who it turns out lives not very far from here. We talked about running clubs and how having children slows you down then went our separate ways to be with our families. I caught the tail end of the school summer fair with a happy Hector and Edward, and decided to run alongside them on the bike as we made our weary way home.

Time: 21 minutes 48 seconds

Distance: 2.12 miles

Average Pace: 10.18

Best Pace: 7.02

Calories: 222

Now to this running for a month lark. I totally missed out on Juneathon this year, I tried, but June was such a silly month for me that there was no chance I could keep up. July, however, is a different month entirely and I have decided to do my own little Julyathon. I will attempt to run and blog as with Juneathon/Janathon and, if anyone else wants to join in, then please do! One person who is definitely on board is Highway Kind, who is not only dedicating himself to another month, but the rest of the year, go HK!