Sunday, 1 January 2017

That There London...

April 2016 brings the London Marathon.
Before we visit London we need to visit the Devon coastline, however.

Neil - not looking enthusiastic
Picture a group of runners who think that they've done some hills because they've run in Dorset, and are about to get a bit of a shock. A bleak seafront in Exmouth, and a freezing cold coastal wind, and we're off on the Exe to Axe 20 (ish) mile coastal path race.

I suppose the small fact that this race is registered as a fell category race should have given something away but we were not fully prepared for the steepness of the hills that were in store for us.
Me, Neil and Jenny had spotted that there were some pretty serious looking runners on the start line, this also should have been a big clue!

half a km in and we are already going up, as we head off for Budleigh Salterton. In fact the section from Budleigh to Ladram bay (a distance of around 8km) turned out to be the 'flattest', only reaching 42m elevation in height but once we were past the holiday camp and headed for the aptly named 'high peak' it seemed that the terrain was only going either UP or DOWN and quite steeply at that, and nothing in between!

it was pretty much like this and steeper the whole way!
Total elevation was 1256m in the end, a lot of that crammed into the second half.

Having reached the halfway point around Sidmouth, we were told that we had just done the 'easy half' and we had the worst to come, a fact which Jenny was none too pleased to hear as the furthest she had run prior to this was about 14 miles, and she was fast running out of oomph, a fact that became apparent upon hitting approx 15 miles and we came to a grinding halt while she contemplated the meaning of life and whether in fact she was going to carry on. Top marks to Jenny though as she battled the demons and got going again, assisted by the dry wit and spare sports drink of the sweeper, Danny, who had caught us up by that point (we werent the slowest up till then, but a few people had dropped out).
He conjured up such gems as 'Are you looking for sympathy? If so i'll send out and see if we can get some brought in'. He was brilliant!

We finally overtook the last runner in the last couple of km (thus giving Danny the slip) and headed thankfully for the finish line on Seaton Seafront

it was all a bit emotional for some, well done Jenny!
Last long run over with, it was time to look forward to that there London, and start to taper training. We also had some birthdays to celebrate.
Each year we have a joint birthday party for myself, Kev, and my 2 daughters Stephanie and Hazel as all our birthdays are within a few weeks of each other. Coined by a friend of mine, its entitled P.O.T.Y or Party of the Year! and its always fancy dress.
This years theme was book characters. Kevin and I were dressed as Sam Vimes and Lady Sybil from Terry Pratchett's 'Guards, Guards'. I had the maddest red wig on!
I had promised a unicorn birthday cake to Steph so this is what I came up with

looking like a good party!
So, to Londinium. Saturday 23rd April
Thanks to my work having a Premier Inn account I had managed to book a room right inbetween the London Eye and Waterloo train station. I was due to meet some friends who were also running the marathon the next day, and join them along the south bank for a meal.
Eve was going to be running her first marathon at London and Graham her husband was supporting, and Steve was also running.
I had a lovely walk along the south bank, and took some great pictures, here are a couple of my favourites.

Forward to the next day we're up bright and early. I'm feeling nervous. My aim is to start and finish feeling OK. In addition to that I have decided it will be a bonus if i finish in under 5 hours.
Its flipping freezing, and I cant remember the start we were on but its a long wait on a drafty field, and we are struggling to keep warm. Steve is resplendent in green mohican wig, and union jack running tights and is living up to his nickname of 'media whore' because in the first 10 minutes of arriving on the start field he has managed to get himself interviewed and also for some reason japanese runners are keen to have their pictures taken with him! I have a dilemma about what to carry and wear. for some reason I dont want to wear the waist pack i bought with me so stuff gels in my pocket.
We start slowly, running together. Im eventually starting to warm up. We see Graham at a few points and he kindly takes my longsleeved top from me.

Waving to Graham, and Steve in his outfit!

Me and Eve have to stop for the loo at 8 miles and we tell Steve to go on, but he waits for us.
Just over halfway, Eve is struggling with an old injury, and Steve says he will stay with her, but they both urge me to go on. Im torn between staying with friends and running my best time, and it takes me a mile to leave them, feeling very guilty as I do so.
However, I manage to keep a decent pace up (for me anyway) and at around 21 - 22 miles I see all the nifty nanas and support crew at the side of the road, and so i stop for a quick chat and it really gives me a boost.
Weirdly just before Birdcage Walk, I suddenly think about my mum, and I think 'this is for you mum' and then im so choked up I cant breathe and am gasping like I have asthma, and have to walk for a little while.
Turning into the Mall though i suddenly realise 5 hours is fast approaching and I manage to pick it up and get to the finish in 4:59:29! Phew, half a minute to go, but I am ecstatic because i have finally broken 5 hours :-) Unbeknown to me my friend Luretta is in the stands and has managed to spot me among 1000's and take a picture!

I didnt realise though how horrible it would be finishing such a big event with no-one I knew to greet me after the medal/bag collection etc.
Bit sad really.
I had arranged to meet the others in a specific place, but i couldnt see anyone, and was quickly getting cold, so decided i needed to get changed. Having looked at the crowd between me and the changing tents, and not be able to cope with any more jostling, I snuck into a little quiet area between the corner of the first aid tent and a wall, and proceeded with the kind of changing routine you do at the beach under a towel. Luckily the surrounding area was so busy no one really took any notice!
Then i made my way over to the meeting areas again just in time to see the others arrive.
After many mutual pats on the back, we made our way out of the crowd and headed off to the underground station to start making our way to Graham and Eve's car and then home.
I was nice to get driven home and not have to take the train!

I'll finish on that happy note.
May brings a 36 mile ultra.....yep thats it, what more do you want?

Keep Marching on....

March arrives and with it my first bit of Grandma shopping - I could get used to this, its great fun :-) 
I only bought the one thing, dont want to overdo it but I could work up to overdoing it later...

This shirt is so cute!

Being a Grandma I hope will be awesome, but Mothers Day this year was once again a bittersweet affair with mixed emotions. I love my children and they spoil me again, but I also miss my own Mum.

My training for London and in the shorter term the Larmer 20 mile race was struggling a little with the Sinus problem hanging around a bit too long, and so the start of the month contained some pathetic attempts and some missed sessions, but hey at least i got out there!

I tried a (unintentional) kill or cure approach on one dark heath run, involving ending up calf deep in such churned up cloying mud I had to wash it off in a freezing stream before it dried. Maybe it worked as soon after that i managed 13 miles including parkrun.

I've never been one for winning things so was very surprised to win a cycling jersey from OSmapping on a Twitter competition. Even more suprising was that it fitted as well :-) My first bit of proper cycling kit.

The ideal time to test it out came up with an invite from Jenny to come along on an 8 mile bike ride round a local Try-a-Tri bike route (she was taking another friend along for a route recce who was doing the event). And then that was followed an hour later by a 7km run so I'm sure that was almost a 'Brick' session (although I'm sure my Tri friends would suggest that an hour between means it was not even close!).

There seems to have a been a few 'shuffling a bit and finding it hard' type runs in March interspersed with stuff like 'intervals in the rain' and a couple of short dark heath runs plus another 13 miler, but nothing too much to write home about, well apart from the following three exceptions:

Larmer Tree 20 miler on 13th March.
This started off OK, but ended up feeling like a really bad run. I had picked Jenny up in the morning and we headed for the Larmer Tree Gardens on the Rushmore Estate on the Dorset/Wiltshire Border.
If you have never been here I would suggest a visit. The Gardens are very beautiful and they hold other events there such as the Larmer Tree Music Festival.
Jenny was running the half and I was running the 20 mile race. We hoped that given the difference in start time and the fact that the routes converged at one point, we might spot each other on the way round, but this was not to be, mainly due to the fact that somewhere around mile 14 the wheels appeared to fall off and I struggled with energy levels and just had to slog on to the finish, where Jenny had already arrived some time ago! Fellow Rebel Scum member Dave was also doing the 20 miler, but he dissappeared ahead near the start and I didnt see him again till the finish either!
At the start I had been chatting to a lady called Kelly Lucas who is a much better runner than me and has completed among other things the Mont Blanc 80km for goodness sakes, and I think in unconsciously trying to keep up with her for the first few miles, I may have started off too fast instead of easing into it. Then at 3 miles came a blooming great hill which didnt help matters after a fastish start.

That Hill. With Kevin marshalling
not looking too bad at this point!
As you can see it was a bit of an energy sapper to be tackling when you've only just warmed up! We then had a slightly downhill road section towards what was camping field at the Ox races.
A left turn took us into the woods along a muddy track then left again through the woods of the Rushmore Estate.  Another 3 km or so which went through a large circular clearing in the woods called 'the roundabout' then saw us breaking out of the trees briefly to skirt the golf course, then back into the trees again for a long slow descent to an aid station and a sharp bend left to return back up the long slow hill we had just come down, albeit on a different path!
This was a tiring hill, not steep, but just went on for ever it seemed. Just before we hit the 'roundabout' clearing again we took another couple of right turns and downhill again, to exit by some houses. The route went around the houses and then took a nice little jaunt through some pretty woods to take us to an old path called 'The Shire Rack' which actually marks the boundary between Dorset and Wiltshire. We go up, once again through the pretty woods, then followed the edge of the trees. At this point which was about 13 miles I really felt the tiredness hit, and had to walk quite a bit. We then joined up with the half route and dropped down a nice hill to a junction and a gate.
The hill wasnt so nice heading up the other side to the Ox Drove path and Bigley Buildings (as the OS maps tell me), it was about a mile of slippy muddy track. Once onto the Ox Drove the wide flat gravel track seemed very monotonous and I was glad to get this bit over with.
Obviously now the half and the 20 mile were following the same route which is the one me and Jenny had practiced earlier in the year. And so I remembered the route from here on.
Just before the Ox Drove turns tarmac we doglegged onto a single track through some trees, the path was quite sticky mud by now due to loads of runners going through before me!
Pop out the trees, turn left, cross the road, and there was the LoveStation at which there appeared to be a party going on with no one in a hurry to leave!
luckily they also had a portaloo so i took advantage of the facilities and also the chance for a bit of a rest and a refuel.
The next bit was downhill for some time, across a field, then down a lovely grassy section along the edge of some trees, followed by a very steep hill down, and we were almost back to the bottom of the steep hill at mile 3.
This time however we turned sharp right and ended up going through a section that had sheep in it and up a steep hill that had been affectionately named 'Sheep Shit Hill' by Kevin!
the route took a wide horseshoe around the top of the hill then through some trees and a gate and down a very steep track towards Tollard Royal, where the Larmer Tree Lovestation had been last year. Just before the village green we were directed over a stile (How inconsiderate, having to lift legs high enough for a stile! Ow!), back up a muddy singletrack then across the top of the hill and back down where we rejoined and retraced the outward route for the final couple of miles, which of course cumulated in an uphill climb followed by the run to the finish past the folly within full view of the car park!
a right struggle to the finish

Not my finest hour of running, or certainly didnt feel like it, finishing in 4:38, which actually in hindsight was not a dreadful time, so perhaps I am being too hard on myself.

thank goodness thats over!
The following week I was attending a work event at Marwell Hotel, and managed to escape in the afternoon, while everyone else went Go Ape-ing or visiting the zoo, i went for a run. Interesting to run somewhere different for a change. As usual when running a strange route, an out and back is always recommended, and i managed to fit in a 10k in total.

I also was trying sections of a route exploring a new idea for a WSR race but can't say too much at the moment!

March ends with anticipation of next months big races - Exe to Axe 20 Mile with big hills and London Marathon.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Here we go Loop de Loop

No Races in February, just training runs.
Started out with a welcome back for my friend Chris as he returned to running on the heath with tales of The Spine Race, which he ran in January but sadly had to pull out of after 80 ish miles and a couple of days (correct me if it was more Chris!) due to injury. For those that don't know The Spine is a 268 mile non-stop challenge along the whole of the Pennine Way. In January.  To get 80 miles in the conditions the runners usually find themselves in is an achievement in itself. Never mind finishing it!
It had taken Chris a few weeks to recover sufficiently to run again, so luckily he was running slow and I was able to keep up with him! He had sure been in the wars though as no sooner than his leg injury was looking like recovering, his dog charlie headbutted him and took out several teeth!

just for you Chris!
Mileage was increasing and I had 2 x 20 milers to plan. The first one was to be the Larmer Tree 20 in March, the second I wasn't sure yet but was looking around, I find it better to do the really long training runs as events if possible as they seem so much easier than trying to find a route and then running it on your own.
Jenny was also booked into the Larmer Tree half race and was feeling a tad apprehensive as she had only done one half before and so as I had a 13 miler to do the first weekend in February we decided to take a Recce of the half route, taking it easy and walking the hills and just generally trying to kind of enjoy it!
Jenny had her own grand plans in operation and had booked into a half ironman in September so wanted to get some 13 mile practice! 
We dawdled, we opened and shut gates, avoided sheep with the dogs, stopped to take pictures, read the map, got the route a tiny bit wrong etc etc. and had quite a good run, although poor Jenny found the wheels fell off a bit with 2 miles to go and so was just following my feet towards the end as we found that due to the route going a tiny bit wrong, we had to do the 'run round the car park to make the distance up' run at the end. It did however help confidence in managing the hills.
Daisy was also pretty tired and couldn't wait to get in the car but Max the seasoned long distance runner just stood in the car park as if to say "is that it? only 13 miles, i thought we were going for a long run?"
We found a stray WSR sign on the way too.

we didnt go wrong on this bit!
The following week had 15 miles in the schedule and would be Daisy's first run at that distance so I decided to miss out the big hills and get in a little bit of tarmac practice interspersed with trails and do 'The Loop' a flexible circuit which is a good standby route, that goes from my house to, well, my house! The route takes in part of Canford Heath, Broadstone and Castleman trailway, Creekmoor heath, Upton park, and then Holes Bay and home.
By cutting out or adding in little offshoots on the off road sections I can make it 12 miles or I can make it 17 miles so its quite handy, and of course I don't have to drive anywhere to start with.
Jenny was going to join me partway as I went close to her house, and complete the last 9 miles with me all the way home.
We did have a good run but it seemed like a lot harder work than it should have done given that the previous year I did a slightly longer version in a quicker time!
Thankfully I had made Lemon Drizzle cake previously which made a great pick me up.
I found my second 20 mile event just after that, The Exe to Axe in Devon at the beginning of April running along the coastpath from Exmouth to Seaton. Sounds idyllic and lovely doesn't it? at least that's what we thought, surely it cant be as bad as our Dorset coast path, oh no siree.....
How wrong could we be. But more of that later. I mention 'we' as Neil had foolishly decided it sounded like a fun event too...Shortly after that there was the sound of a gauntlet hitting the floor as Neil said to Jenny 'why don't you join us'. Even though she had never done more than 13 miles before. And so with Kev roped in as support crew, we were to be '4 go mad in Devon'. What could possibly go wrong?
A full report on the effects of Murphy's Law on the unsuspecting will be featured in the full race report in April's post!

Meanwhile, back in February, we received the news that the grandbaby was in fact to be a grandson!
Hazel and Alex had decided they wanted to know what make they were expecting and found out at the latest scan. Here you can see the top of his head and his arms and hands.

The next long run was a 17 mile. So rather than try and work out another route I did a version of The Loop again, but this time, since I didn't want to take Daisy over 15 miles and it would have been unfair to take Max and not her, I did it without the dogs, but added a Chris instead.
Yes Chris had worked his way back up to some good mileage again so he met me shortly after the start and then we also picked Jenny up on the way too the same as last time although she was to turn for home at some point and not finish the whole thing.
Its surprising how much quicker you can be without having to stop every 5 or 10 minutes to chivvy dogs along, put on leads, take leads off, pick up doggy doo, etc etc, and so we managed a reasonable turn of speed along most of it, although it was my turn for the wheels to fall off a bit in the last couple of km, although in my defence they were mostly uphill!

Unfortunately though i may have overdone things somewhere along the line as in the final week of February I picked up a sinus infection of some kind and instead of a long run managed only a somewhat congested 5 miles. Cue a couple days off for recovery.

One thing I forgot to mention in January was that I felt very honoured with a request from a friend Anthony Clark (who is an incredible long distance runner) to write up a profile of myself about my nutrition and training tips for the Mont Blanc race, for the website of his new venture XMILES. In February my write up went online, see it here, have a laugh at me being next to some REAL athletes, and please take a look round the rest of Ant's website :-)

Next stop March, which includes a race report on the Larmer 20, a bit of cycling, I start grandma shopping, win something (not a race!), run somewhere different, and most importantly The Clocks Go Forward!

Thursday, 14 April 2016

River Deep, Mountain High..

So, January.
The official start of London Marathon training.
I had already decided that given the issues I had with road marathons before, that I would concentrate on:
A. getting to the start line in good shape and in one piece, and
B. getting to the finish line in good shape and in one piece!

A decent finish time was to take a back seat, and in my case as I am not a quick runner, a decent finish time would mean under 5 hours. If this happened it would be a bonus but I would not obsess over it.

In addition I also decided that I would take better notice of what my own body was telling me, and although I was following a training plan (I find it easier to do that than to think what I should be doing), I would make allowances for feeling tired, having an off day, having an especially good day etc and so hopefully avoid injury such as I got in the build up to Paris partially caused I think by sticking to a training plan too rigidly.

Of course also in January 2 new things in my life were announced.
One was of course the enormousness of the official announcement of Grandparentness, which is extremely exciting, I do hope I can be a good one. More about that later!

And the other was the start of Poole junior parkrun.
Jenny had been working on starting a junior parkrun for some time and the first event happened on January 3rd.  A 2km course for 4-14 year olds in Poole park on Sundays, and just like the main parkrun, at 9am.

I don't remember If this was the first one but there were 62 juniors running their little hearts out on the first day. I can really recommend volunteering at a junior parkrun, it is so much more rewarding even than the normal 5km version.

Oh and nearly forgot, I also started a 365 day (which turned into a 366 day when i realised it was leap year this year) photo a day blog. Its proving more difficult than I thought but if you would like a look its here

Anyway back to training, the plan I was following was one by Martin Yelling, available online, a lot of his training plans involve time rather than distance, except for the really long runs and I do like those as they make allowances for the times that you are feeling a bit off, you can do a bit less miles in the time. Or if you are feeling really good you can end up doing slightly more!

January's plan consisted of mainly 1 interval run a week, 3 or 4 shortish runs of up to an hour, and a longer run. Starting with a 6 mile, then an 8 mile, then an 11 mile which should have been 10 but 4 of us decided to do a run across Black Hill in Bere Regis which i had done before, and there seemed to be more of it than I remembered. Also poor Max had flashbacks to a time in the past when he disappeared under water as thanks to the rain one of the fields we had to go across looked like this

Yes although Daisy thought it was amazing and bounced like a gazelle through the water, Max decided he was having none of it "for goodness sake mum you cant see the bottom!" and stood his ground, so Neil had to carry him across!

Talking of the weather we seemed to have been through the mill with it in January, my training log records mud, torrential rain, cold, ice, wind, water, and more mud again. Testing to be sure.
The last longish run of the month was back down to an 8 mile but as the heath tracks had been chewed up by the Caterpillar tracks of 'heath maintenance' vehicles, we decided to run 8 miles of the Larmer Tree half route, firstly because Jenny would be running it in March and also because Kevin wanted us to check out some of the course as it had to be changed from last year. So from 4 go mad in Dorset, we were 4 go mad in Wiltshire!

No races in January which was a nice rest, although I did add another interesting one to the Calendar. The Snowdonia Trail marathon.
They have a road one which goes around Snowdon but this one goes over the top! Here is the route and profile.
looks a tad hilly!

Looks a bit tricky doesn't it? Why am I tackling this as well as the Coniston one this year? well I have it in my head that I would like to make at least one attempt on the Mont Blanc Marathon in the next couple of years and so i figured I needed the mountain practice!

See you in February's post.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

And the rest of the year went like this....

Yes, i know, incredibly lazy of me but conscious of the fact that it is now April (how did that happen?), I'm lumping the rest of the year into one post or I will never catch up!
September was a bit of a race fest as it happens. Full on Purbeck Trail Series (well most of it) with a mini triathlon thrown in for good measure.
week by week it looked like this:
Week 1 - few shorter runs followed by, on Sunday, the Beast race. Well named for sure. I first did this race last year and it was just as tough this year, although I did manage a small course PB.
Here's a reminder of one of the delights this course has to offer, although thankfully this year I managed not to trip over a blade of grass at the top and so completed it relatively unscathed. Not sure about the baby pink tshirts at the finish though.....

those lovely steps!
Week 2 - Well I say unscathed but I ended up with sore legs for a few days, and tackled a couple of 'ow, ow that hurt' runs at the beginning of the week. Conscious of the fact that I was due to do my first ever attempt at a triathlon (albeit a mini one) at the end of the week, I thought i ought to put in a bit of cycling too, even if it was only to work and back.
And thanks to me being stupid enough to let Max choose the route for Saturdays heath run (something he does like to do) I found myself in a section I had not run in before and soon found out why. Let's just say it's a good job nettle stings aren't serious, or I might have died out there!
Sunday dawns and im off to Dibden to the Rose Road min tri, with my run/swim gear and bike in the car. I am joining my work colleagues on this charity event. Even putting my bike on the stand it it clear I have no idea what i am doing, unlike the rest of my work mates! The only swimming I have done this year is on holiday in June, so after we are separated into fast med and extreme slow swimming groups (guess which one i am in...) I am surprised to find out that I am still not the last out of the pool among my little group! So glad to get that over with, I'm not good in the water and it was only 200m but I was happy to get on the bike! Next was 8 miles on a 2 loop course, then just a 2.5 mile run, but I didnt know about the jelly legs when you get off the bike so that was a nice surprise!
Some of my friends are regular triathletes so the greatest respect will be awarded to them from now on! I think i would rather run up a mountain its easier :-

I'm smiling but I dont know why!
Week 3 - certainly not feeling the love on the bike rides, I was sure it was getting more difficult, but next up in the running was the Purbeck marathon. We picked Nicola up in the morning and it's clear from our faces neither of us were 100% ready!

hope we cheer up!

It was my 3rd time of running it and in the end managed a few minutes PB on my course best. Glorious scenery as usual, can't be helped on the Jurassic coast though!

I'm here somewhere!
Week 4 - Mostly not a lot of running apart from Black Hill 10k. Plus, seeing as how I was helping organise again, we did a bit of mileage putting out and taking in signs. We had introduced a junior 3km trail run into Black Hill and I had a bit of running about to do while organising that, so when it came to starting the clock on the 5k and 10k and actually running it, I just relaxed and jogged the route! I think the part that stuck in a lot of runners minds was when the canicross runners were started 5 mins after the main pack and all you could hear while running to the top of the hill was baying hounds following!
I managed to put together a little video but due to lack of organisation I forgot to pick up the video camera from Kevin before the start so it only runs from about halfway after I passed his marshall position!

The following week it becomes obvious that the evenings are getting shorter and headtorches will be required soon. :-( Not that i mind headtorch runs but daylight is so much better!

October brings some post - Well, you know i don't really like road marathons? I seem to have got a place in rather a large one, whoops....
Yes, you're right I do have a lot of explaining to do, well its like this see....
Last time (and the only other time) I completed the London Marathon I didnt finish well. With Paris marathon I had an injury beforehand.... anyway lets just say me and road marathons dont seem to get on. So there was a bit of unfinished business going on and so I thought lets give it another try. Opting to let fate decide whether I got in or not, I entered the ballot and waited.
Imagine my surprise when the bumble bee magazine arrived! Game on :-)
Not fretting about it in October though as I wouldnt start training until January and had a couple of races to concentrate on first.
The first being Studland Stampede, and the second being the Stickler 2 weeks later.
I do like the Stampede, no idea why, its just a great race, even when you are going along the beach towards the end and every time you look up, the finish is no closer!
My Garmin says I had a small PB but the finish results say different, poor performance at 1:20:03, no idea what happened there. I hope to do a better time in 2016, as i will be back, cant keep me away from this one!
The Stickler however was a completely different affair, 10 miles of hills makes for a difficult race, I would recommend this for any Dorset local who wants some hill practice, but still I managed a course PB of 1:54:29.
Not only that, but just before the race I was completely surprised with a presentation ceremony of a Rebel Scum shirt and entry into this very exclusive running alliance (never a club!) :-)

I dub thee...the owner of a red tshirt :-)
Awesome! so a dual member of two unofficial running, erm, club type um things, alliances then, Nifty Nanas and Rebel Scum. I'm honoured to be in both :-)

Back on the heath and the nights are getting pretty dark now, back into headtorch territory, and Max is delirious to see his true love Abbie the border collie again as Chris joins us for a run.

A week later and just into November I am struck down by the cough and snot fairy and dont run for nearly a week, just about making it back into the land of the living to attend the first Moors Valley parkrun, in Verwood. Lovely route through the forest trails. Me and Jenny ran with the dogs and they loved it.
Took another couple of weeks before I was well again though, and in the middle of those weeks was the Wimborne 10. Heaven only knows why i decided to go ahead with this run, I certainly wasnt up to racing it, but I had promised Jenny I would run with her and so we did it together.
We had decided that to get through it we would add a swear word every mile and towards the end it was getting quite inventive. I cant remember what combination we had got to by the finish but I believe it got Jenny a 10 mile PB!

We had a bit of a restructure at home around this time as my Dad had decided that he wanted to venture out on his own and was looking at renting flats. He quickly found a great one not too far away in Sandbanks area in a lovely developement of retirement properties and moved in. I am very proud of him for doing this.

I'm puzzling over my training log next as to why I was doing intervals in November but it seems to have been part of the run up to the Round the Lakes 10k on Boxing Day. Looks like I might have actually been doing some training for it but for the life of me I cant think why as given the recent races I was not looking like I could get a PB.
For most of December I also signed up to the 'Marcothon', one of a few challenges where you run every day in December. The rules are you have to run 25 minutes minimum or 3 miles whichever comes first (in my case of course it was very clearly going to be the 25 mins!) On the days I normally didnt run I just did the barest minimum at a very easy pace.
So does running every day for a month have a detrimental effect? Well to general well being I would say no, at the end I felt slightly stronger than before, however for general speed I would say it does affect as I missed out on a fast time for the 10k.

However, all paled into insignificance with an important announcement just before the end of the year. My daughter Hazel invited us round to dinner and there gobsmacked us with the news that in 2016 we would be Grandparents :-) She didnt announce it in public until the New Year but we had the sneak preview!
What an amazing end to a packed year. I can only hope 2016 is as good
First Grandchild!!

Thursday, 31 December 2015

26.2 into 21 will go...

The Stur Half (AKA the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon) is not my favourite race, but it does hold my half marathon PB and the training program I was following in the lead up to the Purbeck Marathon in September had a 13 miler listed the same weekend, so it seemed reasonable to give it another bash. It’s a fairly hilly road half and I wasn’t expecting to do a better time, so wasn’t really disappointed when I didn’t!

The following week I was due to run a 20 miler so in a moment of madness had booked into the Salisbury ‘54321’ 33km race. The 54321 races which include a half, an 33k, a marathon and an ultra, start and finish at the Fire Station in Salisbury and the proceeds all go towards the Fire Station funds. They are also billed as a ‘multi terrain/trail race so seemed like a best of both worlds.

my ultra buddy Neil had decided to join me as well. We were just going to get round and finish it and no worry about time as it was pretty much a training run for me.  We were quite looking forward to it. Steve Way and Holly Rush were running the Ultra.

It turned out though the route and the terrain was not really what we expected. The start section which ran around Old Sarum was pretty nice, but in the remaining miles there seemed to be an awful lot of tarmac, and running alongside roads, and at one point through a housing estate. and in the end I found out that about half the race was on hard surface of some sort and so road shoes might have been better. We also found the signage a little confusing as where the routes split and joined again you would see distance markers in this sort of order “20km, 21km, 22km, 20km, 23km, 21km etc”  In addition, we wish we had known that all the aid stations bar 1 would only have water and squash. I guess we had been spoiled by white star running aid stations and were now being brought back down to earth!

I had only brought water with me, and a couple of gels and so ended up slightly under fuelled. (which was my own fault I guess as I should have enquired what the aid stations were supplying, or brought more gels or food!) I don’t know what make of squash it was as it just made us feel more thirsty and slightly sick so we didn’t have a lot of it! Consequently I had a serious fizzy coke craving at the end. The last couple of km to the finish were a little bizarre as we had to run through the crowds of tourists and shoppers in Salisbury's main shopping streets and then had to find our way back to the Fire Station with seemingly hardly any signage, so we tried to keep other runners in sight and hope they knew where they were going! .

When we got back Neils family had arrived again, and we also found out that Steve Way and Holly Rush had won the Ultra.
I think if you knew what to expect it would be quite a nice race and it definitely seemed to be extremely popular, indeed the whole event is a great favourite of many runners, and all seems very friendly and the pre event organisation was pretty good. So I would say give one of the events a go but take your choice of fuel and drink, a map, a garmin and your road shoes unless its really going to be muddy.

I was managing to cycle to work and back once or twice a week now I had the new bike so was hoping that this would be a good way to get some cross training in, even if I still couldn’t cycle faster than Steve Way runs! 

I was also looking through some old pics recently and was shocked by an old picture of me from about 4 years ago, looks like I might have lost a bit of weight since then, what do you reckon? See, there's hope for us all :-)

Now, poor Daisy was booked into the Vets to be spayed this month, but due to poor planning (by me) the operation was due to be done a few days before white star running's Bad Cow weekender so it was touch and go whether she would be well enough to be left with Kevin who was manning the ‘Lovestation’ or whether I would have to miss out on the marathon Day 2 which I was going to be running as a long training run with Nic and which I was possibly going to pull out of once I had reached approx. 21-22 miles (around 6.5-7 5km laps of this 8 lap marathon)

Daisy and I had a traumatic couple of days in which I couldn't pick her up, move her, or it seemed touch her without her yelping and apparently crying with pain. I did call the vets again and they said bring her down for a check up, I said I cant, as I cant pick her up to get her in the car without her crying!

In the end the following day was slightly better and by Sunday I was able to pick her up and put her in the car, so decided to risk taking her to Kev at the Bad Cow venue which was luckily not far down the road in the lovely Heathland reserve of Holton Lee, thinking that I could check on her every 5km lap and if she was distressed I could easily drop out and take her home.

I was not sure if I was looking forward to this race as I had not done a multi-lap marathon before and was convinced it was going to do my head in, but the route was quite varied and interesting and I had done 6 before I felt like I had had enough of the same scenery.

Despite it raining like a Monsoon in the first couple of laps, (who knew that technical fabric could hold so much water!) I ended up finishing the whole thing, getting the medal and in the process, Nic got a marathon PB, plus Daisy enjoyed her day in the sunshine (once the rain had stopped). Result all round! Seems 26.2 into 21 will go (hence also my strava record is entitled 'a 21 mile training run disguised as a marathon)

Mind you this lot probably helped - how can you fail to be encouraged with the likes of Clare, Ruth, Eve and Kevin every 5km! Bonkers the lot of em :-)

Big surprise next (I never win anything..) apparently sending a bit of a waffle about the Mont Blanc race and a nice pic gets you Star Letter in Trail Running magazine, and with it a free place in a Lakeland Trails race! 

After much deliberation and comparing of dates I decided on the Coniston Marathon (no point in travelling all that way for a half?, oh wait, Mont Blanc yeah.....) and the plan being to make a nice week of it with the doggies.

The only issue I can see is that it is 3 weeks before the Giants Head Marathon, oops! Going to have to factor in some serious rest afterwards to have any chance of recovery.

and to finish off the month, a bit of a mileage downgrade in the form of the first race of the Purbeck Trail Series, the Studland 5k. I do like this race, even though I appear to have reached my peak with it and never seem to get any faster! same time for the last 3 years, at least I am consistent i guess?

I also managed to complete one of my 55 before 55 tasks and make some apple wine from our own apple tree. I wasnt sure what it was going to turn out like but with 16 bottles I was sure some of them ought to be drinkable. At the time of publishing they have had a couple months rest and on trying a small glass, caused us both to make 'ooh that alcohol is strong' noises. (only slightly alcoholic it seems and a big hit!)

I am going to try and finish the year and do the next few months in quick succession so as to start the new year on a fresh page, but in case you would like a bit of a trailer, September brings The Beast, The Purbeck Marathon and the Black Hill 10k, I try a Tri, and we bemoan the coming of the dark. Best get writing!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Friends, Romans and Countryside....

Something told me (that would be my legs and my energy level...) that its probably not the best idea to have booked your first 50k 2 weeks after running around the alps, but that was what awaited me after returning from France, and suddenly it was all too close!

first though was another milestone, Dad's 80th birthday. Luckily at that age it seems a lot of fuss is not required and a special lunch out was all he wanted. Local pub, nice food, couple of beers and he was set for an afternoon nap!

So, cue 2 weeks of heavy legs that only eased off a few days before the race. I made sure to take 2 whole days off running and with only a bit of walking. A lot of people can run right up to a race but with a lot of trial and error I have found a 2 day rest is definitely required if i want to do my best.

We picked up Neil at the ungodly hour of around 4am or thereabouts as far as i remember, due to the fact that we had to be nearly at Wantage by 6am. Uuugghhhhh, it makes me tired just thinking about it, you may guess I am not good at mornings, and had to have several coffees, which was a decision I would regret later on. All i can say is, thank goodness for the portaloos at the aid stations!

I'm not really smiling its wind!
2 hours and one large wet cold field (full of tents) later we had our numbers and were posed on the start line ready to go. As Neil is a member of the running 'alliance' (not club, don't say club..) called the Rebel Scum, he insisted we did a 'scum start' for Kev's camera

Ready, Set, aaand... well just go when you feel like it.
Yes there are only 2 of us on the start, as it seemed day 2 of this event was a 'go when you feel like it' up to a certain time, so it was probably the most relaxed start line i had ever been on - "shall we start running then?" "well i guess we ought to jog for a bit...", 100 yards later followed by a short delay as i decided my race number would be more comfortable placed on my leg.

You can guess what Neil might be saying to Kev at this point...'women eh? or worse'
And then we were off. Kev left to take an extremely leisurely drive to the finish at Avebury with the dogs, and would have the unenviable task of hanging around for several hours waiting for us to come in (we were estimating 7 hours)
We had already agreed to pace pretty slowly, to stick together, and if an incline started to feel like a hill, we would walk it to save energy. This led to a quite a few 'hardly much more than flat' slopes being walked towards the very end! I can't remember a lot of the course (which followed the historical ridgeway path for most of the route), unfortunately because not a lot of it was truly memorable, apart for the wrong reasons like the section where we were running along the side of a road. There were some scenic bits don't get me wrong, but they were few and far between. By the time we had got to some of the better parts of it, just before Avebury we were at a level of hurt never before experienced, and didn't really notice, yes i know only 8k more than a marathon, but we didn't know it would make that much difference. On the way down the last hill to run through the Avebury Stone Circle (and then out again to head for the finish which was another couple of km away) we did agree that probably everything below around chest height was in pain. 
We pretty much decided to walk most of the last km and leave our remaining energy for running the last bit to the finish line. Unfortunately as we rounded the last corner to the finishing straight we realised that we would have to run all the way as everyone could see us! Longest finishing straight ever but first Ultra for both of us and only Neil's second marathon!

"Just a bit further, try and look like we are enjoying it..."
A nice surprise for Neil that became apparent as we got closer was that waiting for him at the finish line were his whole family and most of the rest of the Rebel Scum, and they were holding a banner....

a nice touch!
Why was it so much more difficult than a marathon? Was it psychological perhaps? An inability to pace such a long race due to inexperience? perhaps a seasoned ultra runner can enlighten me, or perhaps it will become clear if i ever do another.
I thought the event was expensive but pretty well organised, no problems with registration or start area (if you were doing the whole 100k you could be provided with a tent to sleep in). The aid stations were approx every 10km and were particularly well stocked (sandwiches, soup, tea, coffee, cake, hot chocolate, crisps, fruit, sweets, chocolate bars, flapjack etc etc), and they also had a few portaloos too, which was a welcome sight to someone who had consumed just a little too much coffee earlier...(too much information?)
You had to pay for a tshirt if you wanted one, but the medals were quite nice, although we both said, that since you could elect to enter just one of the days, it was a shame that they didn't have a separate medal to reflect that, as you felt a bit of a fraud with a 100k medal after doing 'only' 50k...
We were pleased to have got in under the 7 hours we predicted at 6:47 and I when I checked the results I had the added surprise of discovering I had come in first in my category (VF50) for the 50k even if you counted both days! No prize for that though, apart from plenty of pride :-)

I made sure i had a few days of total rest after that (well just dog walking anyway) as in a moment of stupidity I had already booked a place on the White Star Running 'Dorset Invader' half marathon just the following week, needless to say i was not planning on racing it (even if I had it wouldn't have been possible!) just getting round. I didn't want to miss this event as Kev was helping out there the whole weekend and to top it all the medals were EPIC, as most WSR medals are.
The truly enormous Dorset Invader half marathon medal! (not my photo)
Runners had been encouraged to embrace the wearing of themed costumes, and many people did indeed embrace this with open arms! The whole event was Roman themed as the farmland we were running on was once theirs and everyone got involved. There was well placed signage, no not the race direction signs, although they were good, but ones along the lines of 'What have the Romans ever done for us' and 'he's not the Messiah he's a very naughty boy'! Even the aid stations were themed and the famous 'lovestation' was renamed as 'Aphrodite's Temple' - This was Kev's get up for the weekend, understated as usual...

Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me...:-)
I was disappointed not to have had chance to get a costume ready, but it did turn out to be a pretty warm day so perhaps not such a bad thing after all! I certainly wouldn't have liked to have been poor Justin, who did the whole race in actual full metal jacket roman style

The Races were started by everyone being led in a charge down the hill by Rupert the farm owner in full roman costume on horseback!
The route was a nice mix of fields, gravel tracks, woodland etc and a lot of it went through Barley fields thus providing many an opportunity for people to channel their inner Gladiator by running fingers through it. I especially liked the sections of narrow paths which twisted and turned through woodland. Although one of the tree roots got me and I ended up on the floor, but nothing damaged except pride. Bonus points for me though as i managed to roll my shoulder and end up half on my back, which makes an improvement on the usual 'face first in the dirt' style.

In terms of venue it was great, there was a 'roman bath' for runners to cool off in, a Bar in a barn, camping, breakfast and a hog roast. To top off the weekend there was a bit of silliness in the guise of the charity 'Invader Chaos' race, a short race which started off with everyone having to throw their shoes in huge bags which were then taken up the hill and deposited on the ground, where runners would have to find and put on their shoes before the next section of the race. This led to the quote of the weekend, in a pause in the pre race brief we heard the radio announcement 'The shoes have been deployed, i repeat, the shoes have been deployed'....
Runners then had to run a short course before locating an item they would have to carry back to the finish with a partner who was only identified by the numbers pinned to the objects!
True to the race name, Chaos did ensue, I didn't run the race myself, but it was fun to watch. All proceeds went to Parkinsons Research charity

The 'Film my Run' guy Stephen was running the Invader Marathon and his film sums it up quite well.

Dorset Invader Marathon from Film My Run on Vimeo.

After 3 very different but difficult races in such quick succession and feeling really tired after the Invader I did have to admit that I had probably overdone it a bit and so elected to take a week off running.
After coming back from France I had luckily picked up my new bike as well (obtained via the bike to work scheme) and so just did a couple bike rides to and from work and a few dog walks.
The last week of July was just putting in a few steady runs, and looking forward to August which would bring, among other things, the Stur Half race, the Salisbury 54321 33km (which I was running once again with Neil) and hopefully most of the Bad Cow Day 2 Marathon as part of my training for the Purbeck Marathon in September.
Busy Busy time of year for Dorset trail running...