This is how one of my runner friends referred to me today. I’ve been the queen for some time, apparently because in one photograph I looked slightly like Helen Mirren (from a distance and with a squint!) However today I was proud to be known as The Comeback Queen.
And the reason for that is very simple; today I ran my first 10k race in five years.
I chose the hardest of the 10k races I could. Why? Well I thought it would be a good gauge of how I am, fitness-wise. All of my training had been done on the flat, or fairly flat anyway. Running the many hills of Jedburgh was going to be a challenge and, if you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll understand that I don’t run from a challenge. Sometimes I run headlong towards it, ignoring all advice!
I won’t be sharing a blow by blow of the event. It was cold, windy, sunny and hilly (have I mentioned the hills enough yet?) It was actually perfect running weather, apart from the wind (and the hills).
I ran Run/Walk/Run intervals, which I altered as I ran – the first time I’ve done this more than once in a race. It kept me on target, right to the end. If anyone was at all snooty about the fact that I was walking at regular intervals, they soon got to see my backside as I went past them!
I completed my six point two miles in 74:07, which is just six minutes more than my slowest pre-op time. That is a great time! I am still overweight, carrying a stone more than I should be, so I’m looking forward to some faster running (although the recently consumed celebratory chocolate fudge cake might slow that accomplishment down a tad!)
Yesterday I spent the day with my husband, crossing something off our Couple’s Bucket List – travelling on the beautiful Carlisle to Settle railway. It was a lovely day and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. I had little contact with social media and so it wasn’t until we got home that I saw that it had also been a momentous day for about 40,000 runners as they took part in the Great North Run.
I’d vowed, after the first one I did, not to do the GNR again. I loved the race and did my best half marathon time so far doing it, but I hated the crowds and the getting there and the getting home. And the cost!
But yesterday, after seeing all those smiling folk clutching medals, my mind went straight back to 2012. It was my first half marathon race ever and I felt totally out of my depth. I was so nervous! This morning I decided to pay homage and wear my 2012 T-shirt, but I soon realised that since not being able to run lately my T-shirt is slightly too snug for comfort.
On the hip front, well I’m not further forward. I’m still taking my pills and I’m still able to walk further than I was in mid-August. I’ve even started cycling, albeit on a stationary bike, and can manage 10k at a time with no apparent adverse effects. When I started my left leg appeared much weaker than my right, so I’m gradually building that strength back up. I finish each session with 5-10 minutes of yoga stretches. I’m not cured. There are times when I walk too far and my hip screams its disapproval at me, bringing me to a painful full stop.
I haven’t heard from the doctor or the hospital. Getting a doctor’s appointment is really difficult and even phone appointments have to be booked a week ahead. So I haven’t tried. I know I should and I know I should be pushing this forward, but I’m getting tired of being poked and prodded and hummed and aahhhed over. I just want a nice, quick fix so I can get back to where I was, a runner running half marathons.
In the meantime I guess I’ll stick to my bike in the shed. And be grateful that I can, at least, cycle on the spot.
There was really no way that I was going to miss this event. I’m just hard wired to get on with it, regardless of how I feel and how much is stacked up against me. I’d also paid and I wasn’t going to be allowed a refund – what choice did I have?
We abandoned the idea of caravanning when we heard that we were going to have to endure a couple of pretty nasty storms. Towing the van up in slightly breezy conditions can be a bit dodgy; attempting it in up to 60 mph winds would be just plain stupid. Thankfully The Caravan Club agreed with me and I got a really nice and understanding email from them.
I booked our usual hotel on Leith waterfront for just £50 a room per night B&B. Total bargain, especially as they are happy to have Murphy there for no extra cost. We travelled up on Friday, had a nice lunch and dinner at the Ocean Terminal and caught a film in between. It was a nice start to the weekend.
On Saturday morning I took the dog out for his early morning walk. Thank God I had him on his lead; it was so windy he might have taken off, kite-like, if I hadn’t got a hold of him. On top of this it was also extremely cold and was trying to sleet. We decided to leave the dog in the comfort of his snuggly bed in the car and go to the event ourselves. He’s not a bad weather dog and would have been turning himself inside out trying to get away from the cold and wet.
I’d sorted out three possible buses to get us to the start in plenty of time. We aimed for the first one and missed that, faffing about with the dog, and so got the middle bus. Just as it drew up I realised that I didn’t have my gloves. “Never mind,” I said “I’ll wear my spare socks!” Cue raised eyebrows from hubbie.
We arrived at Holyrood Park with half an hour to spare. I immediately joined a queue for the portaloos (which had been tied to the ground!) I can’t believe how long it takes some people to pee!
The weather was closing in and the wind seemed to be funneling around Arthur’s Seat, the extinct volcano we were running up and around. This wasn’t going to be a pleasant jog in the park!
I was in the Green Wave and ended up right at the back of the corrall as there was only one entrance. I’d planned to be at the start of the corrall because usually what happens is that slow runners get to the front and then just clog up the hill section of the course, walking side by side and not allowing anyone to get past. It’s difficult enough, without having to run it at someone else’s pace. Hubbie lent me his gloves and I was off!
For some strange reason they had decided to narrow the start gate, meaning that we were walking across it, rather than the usual jog to get going. I don’t know what the thinking was for that.
I had decided to run 4:1 run/walk intervals as much as possible, although I knew from experience that I might be walking more on the uphill and running more on the downhill. I managed a couple of straight 4:1 intervals which, considering my fitness, wasn’t bad. I was, of course, hideously under-trained for this event and still carrying bursitis on my hip, with all its associated muscle pains. Funnily enough though, I don’t find running is as painful as walking and the uphill section of the course wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined. It was just under a 13 minute mile, but I was doing alright and I was still running.
I was still being caught behind slower runners and walkers. Hubbie told me that some runners held back at the start and went off ages after everyone else in an effort to get a good go at the hill. I can totally understand that.
The course undulates for the second mile, passing a loch nestled on the hillside, before climbing to the highest point of the road. I made up a bit of time, but the wind was really picking up and it had started to snow. We were exposed to the elements, with the summit towering above us, with no choice but to just get this part over. My second mile was just under 11 minutes, far slower than normal, but still OK. I was still running. In my head I was thinking “Just a few more metres and it’s downhill – that’ll be easier.”
How wrong I was.
As the road dropped away I started on my faster decent. Almost immediately I was hit by a blast of driven hail. People in front of me were running with their hands up to their faces, trying to gain some respite from the stinging ice. Luckily I’d worn a bandana as well as my woolly hat and managed to pull the bandana up over my nose. The hail was still stinging my eyes, but at least it was away from my face. I found it difficult to breathe through the material though and had to keep dropping the bandana and suffer the hail until I felt I could lift it again.
As the road levelled out I felt the effects of the weather and my lack of fitness. I couldn’t see the finish. Usually you can pick it out from way back but, with the weather being so bad, they couldn’t inflate the finish banner. I knew that I wasn’t going to get a PB or even a course PB, so I just went for a finish. My last mile was my fastest in ages at just over 9 minutes. I was really happy with that.
I crossed the line in 34:20, finishing (yes, finishing!) in 1528th place and 50th in my age/gender group. I’m actually quite pleased that I wasn’t way off pace. I did the same course last year in 32 minutes odd, so an extra two minutes is nothing, considering my injury. I’ll happily take that.
I did suffer a bit afterwards though. I was limping before we even left the field and struggled on and off the bus. I actually took a nap in the afternoon, wearing as much Biofreeze gel as I could! I’m still a bit sore today, mostly quads discomfort though and to be expected.
But look! It was worth it for this and my lovely new T-shirt!
My goodie bag was full of stuff I couldn’t eat (filled with either wheat, nuts or gelatine, or combinations of each!), but also contained some freeze gels which will be useful I’m sure!
All in all, I’m glad I went. The weather was atrocious, but I conquered Arthur’s Seat again and that’s done wonders for my self-esteem. It doesn’t matter how long it took me and one day I will go to Holyrood Park in the peak of fitness. This day I ran despite struggling to walk to and from the park and I think that I should be proud that I ran the best I could.
It’s Thursday. Today I went to see my chiropractor who was astonished by my progress since I last saw him just before Christmas. Clearly I not totally out of the woods; I’m still running short distances slowly and leaving two full days for recovery, but I’m much improved. I didn’t, for example, hit the roof when he applied pressure to my knee. He was able to work my IT Band without me swearing – those kind of small, but noticeable improvements.
I’ve worked hard, loosening off my IT Band and Sartorius using a combination of a wooden massager from The Body Shop and a battery operated hand held infra-red massager. Icing my lower back and hip has helped reduce the inflammation, but my revelation has been the drinking of Ginger Tea.
Ginger is a traditional natural treatment for inflammation, sickness, migraines, high blood pressure, asthma…the list was seemingly endless. Some scientific studies, especially into the effect of ginger on some cancer cells, is astonishing. However, I have been purely interested in using it to reduce inflammation around my hip. I bought some organic ginger and lemon tea bags and have used these in place of the tea I would normally drink during the day. It’s pleasant to drink and I’ve actually stopped having to take ibuprofen. I might just be ‘getting better’, but the coincidence is strong.
I’ve decided that I will run in Saturday’s Great Winter Run 5k. I will again struggle up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park, only to hurtle down the other side along with 5000 other mad runners. The weather forecast is chilly and breezy which, translated, means freezing and windy as hell. It’ll be half an hour of madness and I’m looking forward to it. I’ll make it round. It won’t be a startling time, but neither was last year’s with Plantar Fasciitis wreaking havoc. One year I’ll go to Edinburgh in January totally fit!
We had planned to caravan over the weekend, but the weather warnings have meant we’ve had to cancel our booking and find a hotel instead. Not quite what we were looking forward to, but at least I get a rest from cooking and washing up!
I’ve never felt more strongly that the old saying ‘one step forward, two steps back’ could apply more adeptly to my situation. From a post of near elation the other day, where I’d finally made tentative running steps on my trusty old treadmill after six weeks of inactivity, I struggled to walk any real distance the following day without that familiar searing pain in my left hip. It stops me dead, that’s how sore it is. I’ve been caught within sight of the car and unable to move any further towards it without several rests and tears streaming down my face. It’s no joke.
But today, after a few days of rest and recuperation, I feel well enough to give another short run a try. I’m nothing if not determined; I will get back on track. I’m actually thinking of a two mile trail run with my faithful running partner, Murphy Dog, and, if I can persuade him, my hubbie. Having hubbie there will restrict my speed and stop me from doing anything silly.
Last year I ran 473 miles. I had wanted to round that up to 500 by Hogmanay, but it wasn’t to be. 473 was my total and I’m proud of that. I’ve run further in a year and trained for less races, but it’s not the quantity that’s important anymore, it’s the quality.
2014 was a strange running year for me. I started the year with Plantar Fasciitis, which took an age to heal, and then picked up various injuries as I trained for three half marathons. I’d planned on a few more shorter races, but injuries and illnesses got in the way and I managed only a 5k and a 10k at either end of the season. I learned to listen to my body and opt out of races, missing two 10ks in mid-season. It took me a couple of frightening asthma attacks to start listening, but I got there. I finished the year with Bursitis on the hip, taking me into 2015 with a wince and a limp.
I’ve no idea what 2015 has in store for me, it’s probably better that I don’t know. I have decided to scale things down a bit though and just aim for one half marathon in October and concentrate more on improving my speed over shorter distances. I’ll be looking at more 5k and 10k races and I’m looking at some trail races too. Maybe I just overdid things last year and I’m paying the price now. I do vow to enjoy running in 2015, it’s the only resolution I’m making. Running with a smile has to be better than running with a grimace!
I’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.
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.
Inside 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.
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.
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.
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!
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…