Jedburgh Festival of Running 10k

imageI’m sitting writing this sitting in the cosy comfort of our new old caravan, perched on a hillside in Jedburgh. Outside it’s howling a gale, as it has all day, but inside it’s just lovely. Jedburgh has lived up to its reputation of being a hilly, blowy place. We’re currently experiencing wind speeds of over 60mph. Today’s race was no exception; hills and wind, that’s the Jedburgh we all know and love!

We decided to make a weekend of it, primarily to test out our eBay bargain caravan, but also to make things more relaxed for me, as I’ve been suffering from a bit of anxiety lately. I worked yesterday and we drove up after I’d finished, arriving at the farm where our Certified Location site is after dark. However, we got settled quickly and made good use of the extra hour daylight saving gave us as we put the clocks back last night.

Being within a few miles of the town, this morning was a relaxed affair – in total contrast to our normal race morning experience. We rose naturally, reasonably early, had breakfast and headed into town at 9, knowing that the car parks soon filled up. Instead of having to hunt for a space, we drove straight into an almost empty car park, collected my race pack, went for a walk and had a coffee. The race wasn’t due to start until 11 and at ten to I wandered up to the start. I felt more relaxed for a race start than I ever have. There weren’t even any queues for the toilets. Total bliss.

The only fly in the ointment was the weather. I checked it last night on my phone and could only describe the symbol I saw as “squally”. It was just a few squiggly lines. I know now what it stood for…windy as ****.

Fortunately, as we started off the wind was mostly on our backs, but we all know what that means on a thee and back run! We ran up through the town centre to the sound of bagpipes and off through the town to greet the first hill, the first of many.

I had my walk:run ratio set to 4:1 which was fine to begin with. Once I’d got to the top of the first few hills I decided to up the ratio to 4:30s. I felt strong and I was running really well. I ignored people around me and ran my own race. Imagine my delight to see 5k appear in a personal best time on road of 29:10! I’ve struggled to get under 30 minutes for ages and here I was subbing that elusive time on the hilly start of a 10k race. The game was afoot!

Up until this point the wind hadn’t really played a part in the run, although I rarely notice it blowing me along! However, as we turned onto the Kelso road you could feel it hitting you sideways on, pushing against you. I knew that I needed to get some benefit of this because within a mile I would be turning straight into the wind. Sure enough, at the 10k turnaround, and in the words of ancient mariners, “Tha’ she blows!” The wind, gusting at around 60 mph, would just about stop us in our tracks. I tried tucking in behind someone, hoping to benefit from some shelter and save my legs a bit. I’m not sure if they enjoyed hearing asthmatic wheezing for half a mile, but I wasn’t overtaking!

I’d reduced my walk run ratio again at the turn, knowing that I would need that extra 30 second recovery and this tactic worked well. I must admit that having my phone on my arm helped me to easily adjust my ratios. I stuck to the ratios reasonably well, although as gusts hit me it was hard to keep going, especially uphill. Once I reached the last long hill, I knew I’d conquered the hills of Jedburgh.

I’d thought that I could use the subsequent downhills to gain back some time, but that wind was still there, blowing on me and holding me back. Usually I would hurtle down that hill, instead all I could do was run my fastest through jelly! I did make some time back and looked like being close to my course record and knocking 4 minutes off last year’s time.

Once I reached the flat I was tiring, but ran through walk breaks in an effort to get close to that elusive sub 60 minute time! I could have done with hubbie by my side at that point, saying little, but spurring me on with his presence. I’ll maybe suggest him brining his bike next year and meeting me on the flat. It’s at that point that I start to lose confidence and I know that he would help me keep it.

As it was I ran past him at the finish, shouted him twice as I passed by, only to see him gazing into the distance and completely miss me! Doh! Then came a dilemma; in front of me, at the finish area, were two mats, separated by about 10m. One of them was the finish, but which one? I ran over the first one and stopped my Garmin and slowed down for the next one. Like many others I had no idea which was the actual finish – a big mistake by the organisers, especially as my hubbie explained that the reason he hadn’t seen me was because he was watching a guy on the other side of the finishing straight shouting to runners that the first mat was the finish, when in actual fact it was the second. I’m sure I will not have been the only person caught out by that!

Having collected my medal, what a medal too, a banana, Lidl Mars Bar and water, I called my hubbie to ask if he was at all interested in seeing his wife finish! He couldn’t believe that I’d run past him.

My Garmin time was 64:49 and I’m taking that as my time. My chip time was 65:14, caused no doubt by the difference between the two mats. I ran my hardest between the start and mat number one and ran 6.17 miles. 64:49 will do nicely, thanks.

Of course, having run a good race, my thoughts immediately turned to ‘what next?’ Rather than having to think about bettering a poor performance, I was thinking that if I could run a sub 30 minute 5k, largely uphill on a windy day – what can I do on a calmer day over a flatter course; what am I capable of exactly? I feel as if I’m in better shape now than I have been for a couple of years. I’m still overweight and, if I lost a stone (which I could easily afford), I’d be a faster runner altogether, but I’m a UK size 12, happy to be so, and I don’t have the desire to lose more weight. I’ll do what I can with what I’ve got and continue to enjoy my wine, Guinness and curry, thank you very much!

I sent off my entry to the Great Winter Run 5k in January and booked the caravan into the local campsite. Last year I managed 31 minutes, so close! This year, who knows. Between then and now maybe I’ll see a 5k or 10k I fancy, although with the season of goodwill fast approaching getting time off to do one will be difficult.

We’ll see!

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Picking up the 10k baton

My feet have barely touched the ground and I’m already running headlong towards my next race, the 10k at Jedburgh Running Festival. The running festival takes place over the last weekend in October and now boasts a 10k,  half-marathon, an ultra-marathon and a canicross event! I’ve done the 10k for the last few years, amassing a colourful collection of t-shirts as a result!

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After my GCR half the other week I was feeling elated, but tired. It’s been a training-heavy summer. Last Monday I was meant to do an 8 mile run, but I was past caring and managed a reluctant three and a half miles on the treadmill. In fact, since the GCR I’ve only run nine miles and most of those indoors. So this week, with just a few days to go, I thought I should shake the dust off my trainers and do something purposeful!

If I’m totally honest, I’m not worried about my lack of miles at this point. I’ve trained and trained and trained all summer, with no let up. If I’m not able to run a mere six miles at the drop of a hat there must be something wrong! I’ve reinstalled LoLo’s iPhone app ‘Easy 10k with Jeff Galloway’ and set it for the ‘improve 10k’ training, for what that’s worth in the week before the event! I was set for a 5k race rehearsal today and, having wasted most of my day updating other blogs and watching junk TV, I decided to do it on the treadmill – surprise, surprise. I promise that I will do some trail running this week to make up for my slovenly treadmillness of late!

I ran a five minute warm up, followed by the 5k at race speed. I was really looking forward to seeing how fast my 5k was, not having bothered to clock it as I ran, but I was really disappointed to see that the app didn’t log it. It logs Magic Miles, storing them in the ‘History’ tab, but seemingly not anything else. I’ve been trying to work it; the run was 40:04 mins long, subtract 6 minutes for walking at the start and the end leaves 34 minutes, subtract a further 5 minutes for the warm up run and my 5k should be 29:04 minutes (approximately). That’ll have to do, I suppose. As a treadmill 5k that’s fine. I’m a bit peeved that the app didn’t do this though and, if I’d known, I’d have timed it myself.

I have two runs left before the race on Sunday, a 6.1km run made up of 1 mile easy, 2 miles at 10k pace and a 5 minutes warm down run and a 3.4km run made up of a 5 minute warm up and 4 x 400m intervals. My app is predicting a 63 minute 10k. I have managed this hilly course in 64 minutes, so with a bit of determination I’d like to be able to say this is perfectly possible. Last year I struggled with a foot injury to do it in 68 minutes and was just glad to get round, so this year, feeling fairly strong, I’d like to do it far faster.

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Race Report: The Great Cumbrian Run 2014

It’s the morning after and I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself. And for good reason. Yesterday I ran the best half marathon I’ve run for quite a while, despite running it over quite a challenging course.

In May, when I ran the EMF Half in Edinburgh – it was billed as one of the fastest half marathons in the UK. It was mostly downhill or flat and so I was looking forward to beating my PB of 2:22 achieved at the 2012 Great North Run. In reality I had a hard race, buffeted by head-on winds as I ran along the promenade that formed most of the route and psychologically hampered by the two way running lanes of the last three miles. I crossed the line in a disappointing 2:34. I buoyed myself by reminding my running ego that I had been injured for most of the preceding six months and that any finish was good, but I was embittered that I’d effectively squandered a chance to better that PB.

Training continued through what was one of the hottest summers on record, with almost constant great sunbathing weather and high humidity, with me having to resort to splitting long runs so that I could benefit from the cooler mornings and evenings. Training became inventive, with treadmill runs under electric fans – trying to make them as cool as possible. I stuck to a beginner’s programme in the belief that it was that which had helped me to my best finish and also that over-training could have contributed to my injury last year. I needed to start again.

My August half at Fleetwood was my biggest disaster yet, with me falling foul of two asthma attacks as I ran in high humidity and soaring temperatures. At least I finished.

So this, the Great Cumbrian Run, was my last chance for this year to prove to myself that I am worthy of the title ‘runner’. No big deal then.

I was cautiously optimistic in the weeks leading up to the event. Once the weather had started to cool down I no longer found the humidity a problem and I was no longer struggling to catch my breath. My last long, long runs of 12 and 14 miles were textbook, with no problems. Last Monday’s 5 miler was a breeze. I felt strong and comfortable. However, in the back of my mind, I felt sure some disaster would strike. Imagine how carefully I ran my last trail run, judging every loose stone as a possible source of injury! No wonder it was slow! I couldn’t even bring myself to run the trail on Friday, choosing the treadmill instead. I wasn’t prepared to take any chances.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not good at carb-loading prior to an event. I tend to eat carbohydrate rich foods anyway, so I just eat fairly normally leading up to an event. My last evening meal was a thrown together Linda McCartney Mozzarella Burger, a few chips and a massive salad, hardly designed to channel my inner Paula Radcliffe. My breakfast was better, it made up for everything, consisting of porridge, banana and acacia honey. That was rocket fuel. Paula would have approved, I’m sure.

We arrived at Carlisle at 8:45, parked up a good walk from the start and finish, and we went to the castle to collect my number and timing chip. It’s a great idea, starting the race from inside Carlisle Castle. There is no better feeling than running down the cobbles that have passed from Scottish to English ownership many times in their life, into Carlisle’s pedestrianised city centre past hundreds of supporters. Considering I’d signed up on New Year’s Day my number was still 634; it’s a popular race. I spotted numbers beyond 1400, so I’m guessing there were around 1500 competitors on the day.

Ready for action! Waiting for the off at the castle.
Ready for action! Waiting for the off at the castle.

IMG_3645Inside the castle’s quadrangle there were the usual line of unisex portaloos, possibly 20 of them lined up along one wall. It meant only a very short wait for toilets at any point in the lead up to the off. I went twice. You can never be too sure.

There was the usual warm up which about half the runners joined in with and the rest, like me, just did their own thing. It started to look like an outing of the Ministry of Silly Walks. John Cleese would be proud.

The route, through Carlisle city centre, out on the London Road and then through the villages of Cumwhinton, Wetheral, Scotby and Botcherby before heading home.
The route, through Carlisle city centre, out on the London Road and then through the villages of Cumwhinton, Wetheral, Scotby and Botcherby before heading home.

At 10.04 I crossed the line, keeping well back out of the way! My race strategy was just to run steady, keeping to a 4:1 run:walk ratio. I was on for 11 minute/mile pace and I knew, from experience, that I’d start faster than that and would speed up and slow down during the race, hills dependent! I tried not to worry, but wanted to try and keep my overall pace around 11 minutes per mile. My Garmin was set up so that I could see my average pace, my mileage and my time and then I locked it so that I couldn’t turn it on/off accidentally! I know myself too well. My pace was being aided by Jeff Galloway’s LoLo beat-synched music in his Half Marathon app I’d used throughout my training. I’d spent the evening before choosing my music carefully, with plenty of rock classics such as Iron Maiden’s ‘Run to the Hills’ and Bryan Adams ‘Run to You’ – I think you get the idea. There were some odd choices in there as well, a few Glam Rock classics to make me smile and OK Go’s ‘Here it Comes Again’ so that I could do the hand movements and cheer myself up mid run. The most important thing was though that every song I chose would be sped up or slowed down slightly so that the beat coincided with my foot fall. It is a perfect way to run, in my opinion, and has helped me learn how to pace myself.

I hit 3 miles at 31:27. Having got there mostly on the climb, I was happy at that. However I knew that after this point I would be climbing hard for some time. I wasn’t wrong and I was devastated when I realised that the one hill I’d remembered wasn’t one hill at all, it was a succession of hills between Carleton and Wetheral. Despite that I managed to hit 6 miles in 64 minutes. My quads were starting to ache a bit, but I felt good and the rest of the route would now take us mainly downhill.

Look at those hills!
Look at those hills!

At this point last year I was in dire straits, struggling with foot, knee and hip pain. This year I was running well and I felt as if I was just in over-taking mode, passing people I’d lost sight of earlier. This is one of the biggest advantages of run:walk – those walk breaks re-engergise you. I tried hard to only walk when I was told to, although a few climbs had us all walking up them!

After crossing the M6 for the second time I looked at my Garmin, surprised to see that we were at 9 miles. I was tired on hills, but I was running well on the flat, sometimes ignoring the call for a walk break and running on. The last two miles weren’t easy, but they were a lot easier than last year and I started to overtake a lot of tiring runners I’d been yo-yoing with for the last few miles. As I came out of Rickerby Park I knew I needed to lift my pace a bit if I was going to get close to my personal best. I passed two runners who were getting medical attention, one looked as if she’d simply conked out and another who had clearly fallen on uneven paving slabs and split the skin on his cheekbone. I was pleased to see him heading for the finish as I left the finish area – I’d have done the same.

I found running through Bitts Park a bit of a nightmare, mostly because of the runners who had finished and were leaving along the same route we were still running on with all of their families. We didn’t need much room, but I would have appreciated a cordoned off passage for us, clear of strollers! As I neared the end of the path a council van pulled up in front of me and someone opened the passenger door, completely obstructing my way! I could not believe it and I swore loudly as I passed the driver’s open window. The very last thing you want, having run 13 miles, is to have to dodge and weave your way to the finish line!

I did though and entered Sheepmount Stadium with my best half time of the year beckoning me to the finish line. I crossed it comfortably in 2:24. I was relieved and ultimately very pleased with myself. When I met up with my hubbie, having collected my lovely medal and almost empty goodie bag (honestly, if someone had just handed me the juice I’d have been less disappointed. A bag ‘full’ of leaflets was a bit of a let down) he remarked that I wasn’t even red in the face and that he’d watched me run across the bridge with ease. He even went as far as to wonder if I could have run it faster. Brave man.

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Post run I had learnt from bad experience and asked hubbie to bring some sustenance with him (I’m so pleased that didn’t rely on the contents of my goodie bag!) and so had a soya milkshake and some biscuits as I walked back to the car, quite slowly! Once home we had some cheesy beans on toast and I enjoyed a hot bubble bath, followed by the welcome application of BioFreeze gel. I was good to go. We celebrated at the local pub with several pints of real ale and the company of friends. After trying to watch TV we both ended up tucked up in bed at about half 9!

Worth it, just for that lovely medal!
Worth it, just for that lovely medal!

This morning there is a little stiffness in muscles, but not much and that will soon wear off. My shoulders are aching more than anything, but I have a full body scrub and a facial booked at my local salon in a couple of hours. What could be better? Considering the hilly nature of the route I’m really pleased with my time. I came home feeling that I’d done the best I could and still got within 2 minutes of my personal best on any half marathon route. I feel that a rest before picking up my training for my last planned race of the season would be appropriate.

Now, if I could just conquer those hills at the Jedburgh 10k at the end of the month…