Monday 29 October 2012

Great South Run - Race Report

I entered this race some time in Spring, and I always intended for it to be one of my main goals for the year. It was my first 10 mile race, so I didn't have a PB to beat, but originally I wanted to run about 1 hour 30 minutes, which later became 1h25m - 1h30m as my training heated up.

I think I trained pretty well for this race. Over the summer I ran 10 miles several times, and most weeks I did a long run of 8 miles minimum, and this was all with the Great South Run in mind. I knew it was a very flat course, and that made me hope for a good time.

However, other parts of my preparation didn't go as smoothly. Last week I really didn't sleep well at all, and then Emma was sick on Thursday night, and up for a few hours. Then on Saturday we were staying with my in-laws before the race, and I just couldn't sleep at all. It was just one of those things, and I lay awake from about 10pm until 4am, until I finally got about 3 hours' sleep. (Lucky for me the clocks went back that night, otherwise it would have been 2 hours!).

Emma catching up on lost sleep
I knew I could run sub 90 mins, and having averaged 8.57 min/miles in March's Half marathon, I wanted to run a bit faster than that pace. From my training runs, I felt capable of around 1h 28m, and was really hoping for 1h27m something. But that was starting to look optimistic...

So we got to the start line early on Sunday morning and I was feeling tired and FREEZING cold. It was about 4 degrees Celsius, but there was a bitter wind which chilled me to the bone. Pete lent me his coat as the bin liner I had on just didn't cut it. I had to give his coat back though, and as I waited in the start corral, I nearly froze to death. I felt quite miserable, and decided to myself that I would never race one of these big events again. It's just so much easier to turn up shortly before the start, park near the startline, and not have to queue for ages before starting to run.

Wearing Pete's coat near start line
We did manage to see the elite women set off before the general race, and it was great to spot Jo Pavey (who won) and some other British athletes. Then I got into position and waited for the start. Eventually we crossed the line and were off. There were a lot of people around me (25,000 in total I think), and there was a bit of bumping and barging in the first mile. The course goes into the Naval Dockyard, and is quite narrow in places. Because of this my first mile was a slightly worrying 9m19s.

From that point I made a decision to run around crowds when I could, rather than getting stuck trying to go through them. I thought I'd lose less time by running round the outside of the main bunch in the middle. I don't know if that was the right choice or not, but it felt less frustrating than keep getting stuck behind people. Mile 2 was a better 8m58s, and I was amazed that I was quite warm, and able to remove my gloves at that point!

This race is advertised as having a lot of impressive sights, as you see a lot of famous buldings, the ship HMS Victory in the dockyard, and finish along the coastal path. However, I missed a lot of the sights, as I was watching out for other runners, trying not to trip anyone up or get tripped. While not as crowded as the Great North Run (which I did in 2010), it was busy all the way round.

I felt good though, and decided to go for it. My mile splits were looking better and better:

Mile 3 - 8m47s
Mile 4 - 8m46s
Mile 5 - 8m37s
Mile 6 - 8m33s
Mile 7 - 8m41s

This was the first time in such a long distance race, that I really felt I was racing the whole thing, rather than just running. It was a great feeling!

I was starting to feel tired around mile 8, and I developed a sciatic pain in my right buttock - I keep getting this on long runs. Towards the end I even felt like I had a blister on the sole of my foot, but my mental state was winning the battle against all of these things. I kept overtaking people, and that was the key to my speed really - a huge desire to beat all those around me!

From mile 8 onwards it was a long finishing straight along the coast, and the wind was in your face all the way to the end. It wasn't too strong though, and in fact it cooled me down quite nicely! The route seemed to be slightly downhill - or perhaps I was just running well. My last few miles were
impressive (for me):

Mile 8 - 8m35s
Mile 9 - 8m31s
Mile 10 - 8m25s

As I approached the finish, I had something left, and I gave it everything I could to sprint to the line. I overtook a lot of people in the last 200 metres! I paused my Garmin at 1h28m06s - which was also my official chip time.

I felt a little disheartened that I hadn't got under 88 minutes, but later, checking my Garmin details, I decided that I had run better than hoped, as I averaged 8.42 min miles overall. The problem was that I ran over 10.1 miles according to the Garmin (probably due to running all over the course to avoid people), and when I was planning my goals, I was assuming it would be 10 miles dead. I was only 7 seconds disappointed!

Afterwards I had to walk a long way to pick up finishers' pack, then go and meet Pete, and then we had to make our way back to the car. I got cold again very quickly, and started to feel quite rough. As well as aching, I felt a bit sick, and just generally exhausted.

So I really enjoyed the race, but the before and after were enough to put me off bigger races for a while! The medal and t-shirt were pretty cool though. Now I have a 10 mile PB to beat in the future!

Position 5638th (of about 25,000!), 1107th female, 216th in Age group.

Friday 26 October 2012

Race Goals

So on Sunday I'll be running my first ever 10-mile race, the Great South Run. It's in Portsmouth, which is about 65 miles from where we live, so we'll be driving over on Saturday. Pete's parents live nearby, and we're staying with them the night before the race.

As part of the Great Run series, this is a big race, 25,000 runners in fact. You can tell that this is a big event because it's live on National TV, it's expensive and gets full early,  there's a t-shirt for every finisher, and the race pack is rather large and detailed (including a magazine):

However, it's less than half the size of the Great North Run (a half-marathon) which I ran in 2010, and which consisted of 54,000 runners. It was an unsatisfying experience, partly because I hobbled round on an injured foot, and partly because it was just too big. The race was so crowded that it was often difficult to run at your own speed, and the congestion continued all the way to the finish.

I've heard that this race on Sunday could also be very congested in places, which is something I'm not looking forward to. However, the atmosphere should be good, there will be supporters all along the route, and it's supposed to be a scenic race, with the chance to view lots of local attractions.

So what time am I looking for? Well I'd like to get a decent time, as it's my first 10-miler. In March's Hlaf-marathon, I averaged 8.57 min/miles, so I'd hope for something similar or slightly faster here. However, the crowds may well hamper my 'speed'. I'm hoping that if I have to go slow at the start, I can pick it up in later miles. In addition, I've had a terrible week of sleep, culminating in being up for most of last night with Emma being sick! She kept throwing up, and is now off school for the day. I'm hoping she'll take a nap soon, and then I will too...

Anyway, I'll also have to wait and see what the weather is like, as it's a coastal route and could be very windy. Basically, I'm hoping to get under 90 minutes, and the the closer to 85 minutes I can get, the better.

Whatever time I run, I'm hoping to enjoy the atmosphere of a big race, and maybe spot some celebrities and elite runners. It'll be a PB anyway! I'm ready to enjoy my first 10-miler!

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Cross-training with the kids

We had a very active weekend which didn't include much running or biking (although my little 3-miler on Sunday took my weekly running mileage to a respectable 23 miles).

On Saturday we drove about 17 miles into the countryside to join a group of orienteers. We went orienteering a couple of times in Scotland, but since we moved over a year ago, we've never quite got round to it down here. At last we were lucky enough to find an event nearby, and on a morning when we had nothing planned - hooray!

We decided to do an 'Orange' course (no paths!), having previously tackled 'White' (shortest and easiest) and 'Yellow' (longer and more difficult). When we picked up our map and dibber (a peg with a chip in, which you punch into each checkpoint), we were told it was a challenging course, and it was certainly a lot tougher than ones we had done before. But that made it a lot more interesting and fun!
Emma's in charge of the dibber
It was extremely muddy, as although it was a dry day thank goodness, we've had constant rain for the last few weeks, and the ground was sodden. The kids wore wellies, but managed to splash mud all over their jeans and coats, and they both fell over a few times. Most of the course was in woodland, but we also went across a very wet open field, and over a stream. We really had to pay attention to where we trod, as a lot of the terrain was over tree roots, bracken and uneven ground. No wonder Robbie and Emma kept tripping over! The woodland was really beautiful though.

Unlike our previous experiences, we actually struggled to find some of the checkpoints, although we completed the course eventually. We saw a lot of serious racers on the course, but no young children, so I think Robbie and Emma must have been the youngest to tackle the orange course.

We got to the last checkpoint, and then the finish. We handed in the dibber, and were given a printout with our time - 82 minutes! I think we were the slowest on the Orange course, but I hadn't realised we'd been tramping about the woods for such a long time! On Sunday morning, my legs were aching, so it must have been from the hard-core walking in the country!

After my run on Sunday, we went swimming. Since the summer holidays, we've been going most weekends, and I've been improving each time! In July, I wouldn't put my head under the water, but since then, I've learned to overcome my fears, and am catching up with the kids. Pete has been teaching me to swim a proper breaststroke (which I've never done before), with my head in and out of the water. I've been practising my breathing, and finally on Sunday, I managed to swim a whole length (25m) of breaststroke!

It was scary and not easy, but after I'd done it, I did it again 7 more times! So I swam 200m altogether - allbeit with a rest between each length! It felt really good, and I'm really looking forward to going again and doing more proper swimming.

After swimming we went out for a late lunch. Both Robbie and Emma have been doing really well at school lately, and as they both achieved success last week, we decided to take them out for a treat. We had a big, long meal, including ice-cream, and then went home to watch the film 'Madagascar' on tv. Cuddling up under a blanket on the sofa was a great end to a busy weekend!

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Long Runs, Race Preparation and Rubbish Music

It's been a while since I've run further than 10 miles - about 7 months in fact - so it was with some trepidation that I planned a 12-mile run on Monday. Recently I find that I really have to psyche myself up for a long run. I think this has something to do with the amount of time it takes out of my day as well as the toughness of actually running it, and I feel like there's something hanging over my head before I do it. On Monday though, I was kind of relishing the challenge.

I found a route that I last ran in February as my last long run before a Half Marathon, and it had been a horrible run. I'd really struggled. On Monday's run, I changed the route a little (because I forgot a bit of it), but it was very similar, and included one really big hill, and a few undulating roads.

Anyway, I quite enjoyed it. I felt good most of the way, until about 10 miles. Then I had to stop to change something on my ipod, and when I started again, my legs felt really heavy. Then some terrible noise came on in my earphones. Pete had added some Iron Maiden to my playlist as a so-called 'joke'. It wasn't so bad at first, it was fast at least, but it was a live recording and the singer started talking to the audience. It was soooo boring and went on FOREVER. I didn't want to stop again as I thought I might never get back running, so I turned the sound right down. That was greatly preferable. However, it may have been the case that the nightmare music made me run faster, as I was so desperate to get home and switch off.

So I'm blaming that for the tough last 2 miles. I was delighted to have got those miles done though. The reason for the longer run was that I have a couple of races coming up. In fact I think I might have made a small error of judgement.

Ages ago I signed up for the Great South Run on 28th October. It's a 10-miler, and will in fact be my first 10 mile race. Then a few weeks ago after enjoying a 10K in Bexhill, I entered a Half Marathon in the same place. That race is on 11th November, which it turns out is only 2 weeks after the 10-miler.

Of course I should be able to run these distances comfortably, but I'm not sure I can race them both. As the GSR will be my first 10-miler, I'd like to get a good time, but the Half is my first since March's PB, and unlike that course, it should be pretty flat, so I'd like to aim for a good race there too.

Anyway, this also means juggling long training runs and tapers, so that run on Monday will be my last long run before both races. Next week I'll cut back leading up to the GSR race, and then I won't have time for a decent long run before the Half. Personally I find that a good taper is essential before a race, so I'm going to make sure I don't overdo it anywhere. No chance of that today, as I spent so long hoovering and tidying, I didn't have time for a bike ride. Oh well, I'm still basking in the smugness of having run 12 miles on Monday...!

Thursday 11 October 2012

Soggy Cycling

With both children at school, I've finally got the chance to get back on the bike for some decent longer rides. The trouble is, we've had so much rain in the last few weeks, it's been hard to go out for a cycle without getting soaked.

Last Wednesday I ventured up our local footpath / cyclepath / bridle way and went further along than I'd been before. I rode for about 6 miles, before realising that I was running out of time before school pick-up, and turning round to cycle back. I was lucky that it wasn't raining for most of it, although it started spitting and then pouring as I got back. The path was really wet though, and very muddy in places. I got splattered with mud all over - even on my face, and the bike was filthy when I got home.

Muddy water bottle

 Then on Saturday I had to work. It was training as part of my examining job. The weather forecast was quite good, and I decided to cycle there. The quickest route there is just over 3 miles, but I have to go up a really steep hill, so I decided to take a longer, but flatter and more scenic route. It was further than I thought at nearly 5 miles! Anyway, after Wednesday's ride, I knew the roads and paths would be wet, so I wore my running gear and took a change of clothes.

Muddy bum-bag
When I arrived, I went into the toilet to get changed, and realised that I had got soaking wet. I changed into my smart, dry clothes, but there was a problem - my knickers were wet too! My backside had been splashed by a lot of puddles, and it had rained a bit too. I hadn't brought a change of underwear, so there was no choice but to put my trousers on, and sit down on my soggy bum. We spent most of the day sitting on plastic chairs, and my pants never dried out. Lesson learned - bring a change of undies next time!

Muddy legs
I had another nice bike ride yesterday, and it was a glorious day. The sun was out, and the cycle path was busy - I came across a big group of walkers, 3 horses (with riders), and several dog-walkers and family groups. I cycled to the next town, where I got a bit lost, but found my way to the town centre and a coffee shop. I stopped for a big latte and a pastry before  a leisurely ride home. Very indulgent.

It's been great to have the time for some bike riding, but I really hope the weather dries up soon...

Friday 5 October 2012

September Rundown

Hey, what happened to September? That month absolutely flew by, perhaps because we were quite busy. We enjoyed the last of the summer...

Robbie returned to school and Emma went for the first time...

Robbie got a scooter for his 7th birthday and we rode the 'Dotto' train by the sea...

My parents came to visit and we had a great time battling wind and rain...

We said goodbye to warm sun and hello to loads of rain...

 And best of all, the kids and I took part in a race together...

Ran: 15x = 76.7 miles
Cycled 3x = 34.1 miles
1 Race (Bexhill 10K)
1 Children's Race (500 metres) with Robbie and Emma.

Not a huge month mileage wise, but we had some great fun with walks in the countryside, a picnic in the woods, days at the beach, Robbie's birthday, and the best running experience I can remember, encouraging Emma in her race and watching her go for it and enjoy it. I cannot overstate how much I LOVED running alongside her! I hope there'll be many more of those to come!

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Big 10K Race Report

On Sunday I did what felt like my first race for AGES! It was great and I really enjoyed racing after nearly 3 months off.

We arrived in Bexhill at about 9.45am in time to register Robbie and Emma for the kids' race. Their race was 500m and exactly the same as last year. Robbie ran by himself, while I stayed with Emma to make sure she was ok. It was great. Robbie ran off ahead, and Emma and I were a little distance behind. They had to run down a road, round a traffic cone, then back up to the start / finish. At the turnaround point, it was slightly uphill, and Emma really impressed me as she sped up and overtook some other kids who slowed down on the hill! She ran really well and I loved running alongside her!

This was actually before the races...
I don't know any of the results as unfortunately the race website has had some technical problems and they haven't posted the children's results yet. ETA - results now up! Robbie ran 2m34s (as opposed to 3m03s last year), and Emma ran 2m49s (3m40s last year). They came 9th and 11th out of 26 runners, and Emma was 1st 4-year-old! I'm so proud of them! Anyway, they got a medal each and both said they enjoyed it. I'll probably buy some official photos as there are some great ones, even though they are outrageously expensive as usual...

After a couple of other races for older kids, it was my 10K. The weather was perfect at the start - dry, overcast and cool. The route was a little different from last year, and we ran down to the seafront, West along by the beach, turned round and back to the start, then East along the beach, up a hill, then down and back again.

As I ran the first few kms, I could see my time was pretty good, and I was around a 50min pace at the first km markers. However, as the race went on, I lost a little speed. I was still around my PB time though, and then I got to the hill. It was short but steep, and slowed me down a bit. Finally, on the run back to the finish after the turnaround, the wind had got up and it was quite a blustery headwind on the last 2 km.

As I got to the final stretch, I kicked for all I could, and overtook a woman in front of me. I ran really hard to the finish, and felt like I'd had a great spurt of speed! I was really happy with my finish. When I checked my time though, I couldn't believe it. My last 10k and PB was 51m17s. This run was 51m18s. I didn't know whether to be pleased or gutted! I didn't think I'd get close to that time, taking the hill and wind into account, so I was really impressed by my speed, but then frustrated that I could have got a PB... Aaaargh!

Anyway, I'm pretty happy with it, and it's definitely a big improvement on last year's (injury-affected) time of 57m16s. In fact I was 102/246 runners overall; 9/80 females, and 2/14 in my age group! I'm really pleased with those numbers, although it's a pity there was only a prize for the 1st in each age group! I'm glad the kids had fun, and the t-shirt I got was pretty cool. Hopefully we'll all be back next year.