With a Week to Go, I’m crossing my Toes

It’s odd. I have spent my summer oddly ricocheting between disasters, punctuated by some moments of running clarity. So far I’ve gone to every race seemingly well prepared only for disaster to strike at the last moment. I am so hoping that pattern doesn’t repeat itself this week!

I missed a short run last week because of too many things going on and was a bit worried that I just wasn’t maintaining mileage. I worry too much! On Monday I set off in cloudy and cool conditions with the dog to do a steady 5 mile run looping north of the village. It’s that route I know well, the route that’s quiet and a good mixture of hills and flat running.

After the first quarter of a mile (which is always tough, full of asthmatic wheezing until my breathing has settled) the running came easy. I was bang on pace despite running the first mile uphill. The dog was less happy. In the time we’d taken to warm up and cover then first mile (maybe 15 minutes) the sun had broken through and the temperature had started to soar. Couple that with a loose chipping road and he was struggling to keep up, spending a lot of the time running at my heel where I couldn’t see him. Now and again he would run in the middle of the road, thankfully when there was nothing on the road! Considering the heat, he ran well. I just wish that he would drink water more often!

I’d decided to run 4:1 ratios, the run:walk ratio I used to run, the one I did my best half marathon time in. It felt good, was easy going and that’s lifted my spirits. Running 4:1 makes achieving under 11 min/mile pace within my reach again. I feel pretty strong just now.

I finished my 5 miles in just over 55 minutes. Perfect long easy run time.

Yesterday I treated myself to a full body massage. Well actually my brother-and-sister-in-law did, thanks to a voucher they sent me for my 50th. It was a really good idea and I think I’m going to book a massage before every race!

I’ve got two short runs left and then some relaxation time. Carb-loading isn’t something I do well, although I had pasta today! I will make an effort to eat carb-high foods and I’ll buy the gels I know work well. And then it’s the moment of truth – Sunday’s Great Cumbrian Run starting from Carlisle Castle. I feel I should wrap myself in cotton wool, just in case!

wrapping-kids-in-cotton-wool

New Kicks for a New Day

My last post was a bit down. I don’t apologise for that; it’s a reality that life dishes out downers and we need to deal with these and carry on. So I’m carrying on.

Yesterday I crossed the border, left Scotland and went to Carlisle in England’s county of Cumbria. Carlisle is just under 30 miles away, quite close by our standards, and a much larger place than our local town of Dumfries. I hadn’t intended to go to a running shop, but my chores led me in that direction. Honest they did!

I ended up gazing longingly at nice new trainers in Chivers Sports. I tried on about half a dozen different pairs, mostly Asics and Brooks – the two trainers I’ve bought in the past, and ran up and down the shop under the watchful eye of one of the salesman. He knew his stuff! I explained that I had been told that I was a neutral runner, but that I’d had Plantar Fasciitis and had the start of bunions on each big toe (requiring a wider fit). He wasn’t put off by my peculiar running style (flicking my twisted right leg so that I landed well) but noticed that my left foot rolled in slightly. I needed some support, but not the excessive support of the Asics I’d worn previous to owning my Brooks Ghost 5s.

Choices, choices.
Choices, choices.

In the end we were choosing between the Ghost 6 and the Defyance 7. I noticed that the Ghost  dipped away at the left big toe, making me want to roll more in that direction, but the Defyance had me landing square. It was a no-brainer: I choose the Defyance.

IMG_2494

Brooks state that the Defyance has…

..that same amazing balance of the GTS…smoothly infused in the Neutral construction of this hybrid ride. From the reliable transition of the segmented crash pad to the adaptability of anatomical Brooks DNA and the adjustable eye row, this versatile shoe wins the all-around award every run.

After choosing, my salesman disappeared with my kicks for quite some time. It transpired that they keep records of every shoe sale to every customer and note down any issues that the customer has. My poor salesman had an essay to write! I eventually left with new shoes, at a discounted price and a discount card for future purchases.

So far as my running is concerned, well I’m almost ready to restart my half marathon training. I’ve been treading water a bit since Christmas, not wanting to put any undue strain on my left foot and re-spark my PF. I’ve done mostly short trail runs (up to 3 miles) and treadmill running. I’m enjoying trail running again, as is my dog!

Murphy in sniff-mode.
Murphy in sniff-mode.
The trail is great at this end! Wish it was all like this!!
The trail is great at this end! Wish it was all like this!!

The excessive rain we’ve been ‘enjoying’ has made parts of this route very, very muddy, but it doesn’t bother me other than obviously slowing me down! My old Nike Alvords are looking really manky these days, but they dust off when the mud dries and they are still  comfortable. I’ve even started leaving my Garmin at home and not timing my running. It’s quite liberating really!

My half training starts next week, so I’ll have to dust off my Jeff Galloway training app. I’ve set it for 11 minute mile pace, which I know I can more than handle, and will adjust the walk:run intervals as I feel fit. I’m feeling really positive about things just now so let’s just hope that I can stay injury free!

X Border Challenge 10k

This is a race to see if I can write up this report before my laptop battery fails as I’m  currently typing this sitting in the comfort of my garden hammock and I’m loathed to get out and fetch my charger.

15% charge left…

Yesterday my semi silent coach and I headed across the border into England for the finish of the X Border Challenge 10k. Read on. All will become apparent. We were confused as well.

At the finish, located at Kingmoor Park Estate, was the event registration area and baggage drop as well as a series of buses to take the competitors to the start line back across the border at Gretna! It sounded crazy, it seemed crazy, but it worked.

9%…this battery is naff…

There was ample room for parking, loads of appropriate signage and well informed staff handing out timing chips and numbers. It was one of the smoothest operations I’ve seen. Once I’d collected my number, safety pins and chip I went back to the car to sort myself out with sunscreen and plenty of drink. I’d elected, given the high temperatures, to take an electrolyte replacing drink with me in my Camelbak hydration back pack. It would save me worrying about getting dehydrated and having to carry water. I took 500ml of isotonic lemon and lime from Morrisons. A couple of puffs on my inhaler, a squirt of sunscreen and I was good to go.

7%…I’m now running on reserve battery power! I think I’d better go and get my charger…there, sorted. OK, where was I?

Ah yes, I kissed SSC and got on the waiting bus. It soon filled up and we were on our way down the motorway service road, back to Gretna. The guy I sat next to on the bus had done the race twice before and so knew the routine. Apparently we would be dropped off at the Garden House Hotel from where we’d start and could use their facilities. Proper toilets! Imagine that people!

I nervously started talking to people I didn’t know, probably coming across as a total loon! I saw a couple of runners wearing Crook AC shirts and randomly asked them if they knew a friend of mine who ran in the club only to be assured that “everyone knows Paul!” That’s quite a reputation you have Lord Smythe! I asked them to tell Paul that they’d met the Queen (long story short – Paul thinks I look like Helen Mirren – I don’t, but it’s nice of him to think so and I don’t argue with him!)

I also got talking to a couple of trail runners who convinced me to have a go at a trail race and finally to my friend Nicola who I’d only discovered was running the race the night before. We chatted until the runners were called to the line.

On the word go I immediately lost sight of Nicola – she just disappeared and I just ran on at a slowish pace (so I thought). I was determined, given the heat (it was getting on for 20ºC as we left Gretna) to stick rigidly to my run:walk system until the last mile. It meant I was running faster, but I was getting a proper walk break in between where I could refuel and recover.

I must have passed Nicola on the first hill up out of Gretna because on my first walk break I saw her run past me. I hadn’t seen her, but there were 550 entries, so I guess I’m allowed to miss one person! I apologised as I passed Nicola on my next run break, saying that I was going to start annoying her with my yoyo running style, but that was the last time I saw her.

My first mile came in at 9:17, which was pretty fast. It didn’t feel that fast.

The course ran alongside of the north bound M6 motorway. It was reasonably flat, just a couple of hills and a couple of long rises to contend with. I found myself yoyoing with a group of women who called themselves “Plodders and Proud” amongst a few others who just seemed to accept that I would be running and walking. I kept right out of the way when I was walking, looking over my shoulder at each change in pace. I hate it when folk just stop in front of me so I wouldn’t dream of doing that to anyone else!

As we ran it got hotter. The clouds that we’d had at the start quickly gave way to unbridled sunshine and the breeze that wafted across the Solway soon got blocked by hills. It was like running in a furnace.

I tried to keep to my LoLo beatpace – my songs were telling me when to plant my feet although one or two songs were difficult to fathom. I found that I was running ahead of schedule, which lifted my spirits. My second mile came in at 10:04.

After that the heat and lack of breeze started to wear me down a little. I still ran with commitment to the end of each run segment, but my miles started to slow down. Mile 3: 10:41, mile 4: 10:57 and my slowest mile, mile 5: 11:09. It was still good enough though to put me within spitting distance of my best 10k time of 62 minutes. I saw that at 55 minutes I was under a mile to the finish so I just ran it as best I could.

As I turned into the industrial estate I could see my husband’s smiling face. He shouted me on “Not far to go, you’re nearly there!” and I ran on. I expected to just turn into the car park, but the course led us agonisingly around the back of the estate, out of the breeze and in full glare of the sun, for an extra 4/10 of a mile. However, along that extra bit were members of the RunGeek team, finished runners, their families and, I’m guessing, some people who just like to be nice. They clapped and cheered us on for that last wee bit and as I approached the line I was called across it by the commentator.

Officially my chip says that I did the hottest 10k ever in 64:57 and finished 340th. I’m actually very pleased with that. I’m not sweating the time because I did plenty of sweating to get it! I got a very nice medal and a goody bag full of things I could actually eat (save the 10p bag of Haribos that SSC got).

Now, brace yourselves…the obligatory pictures…

Me and the Bling!
Me and the Bling!
Said Bling
Said Bling
Yon Goodie Bag!
Yon Goodie Bag!

All in all, despite the heat, this was a great race to be part of. The organisation was second to none and the entire experience was positive. I’ll definitely be back next year, although next year I’ll be cuter with my application and make sure that I enter this and the Great Cumbrian Run on the same day so that I can get my £11 discount. I’m still smarting from not being allowed a discount, despite missing the start of the deal by a day.

Today I’m a bit sore. My left heel is bruised, I think, and my quads are aching from the effort. Going down the stairs in the shops this morning was a painful reminder of what I had achieved yesterday! A bath will fix that later. My heel pain though is more of a concern. At about mile 4 I noticed that my heel was hurting and tried to transfer my weight more to the front of my foot as I landed. This may have been down to tiredness, maybe my posture and gait had altered as I started to falter, but I am seriously considering retiring my Ghosts after 350 miles in favour of a new pair of somethings. In the meantime I might just try longer runs in my Skechers, having only done 4 miles in them at the moment. The fact that they make me run more mid foot might help.

PB at CRUK’s RFL

I hate acronyms; their only function in life is to make people feel out of the loop, so I apologise for my title. I was just too excited to type the whole thing!

Today I ran the Race for Life in Carlisle for Cancer Research UK. I ran the same race last year, my first race since Nineteen Canteen when I was schoolgirl who could probably run much better than I can now. In fact I still have the school report that glamourised my cross-country prowess and suggested that I was a “promising 800m runner”. If only I’d kept it up. No, scratch that – I’d probably in line for a knee replacement or two by now!

A little more complacent than last year, hubbie and I arrived slightly later this time. We were greeted by the sight of the nearest car park filling up quickly and so chose to park a little further away and walk in. The walk gave me time to warm up properly and meant that we could escape at the end without waiting in queues of traffic.

When we eventually arrived at Sheepmount Stadium (we have the BEST named places round here!) I was one of around 3000 women, most dressed in pink, some dressed in tutus, feathers and hats! I felt slightly underdressed. Here you are meant to see a photo of me before the race, but it hit the cutting room floor when I saw too many podgy bits. Just imagine me.

Yes, well done – that’s exactly what I looked like. *Cough*

I missed the warm up as I was queuing for the loo, not that it bothered me too much; I never warm up like I’m doing a bootcamp, so why start just before a race? As I watched people doing stretches and lunges I could just about hear hamstrings twanging. It’s not for me.

My supporters!

The organisers have this down to a fine art. Runners headed for a blue banner, labelled ‘Runners’ unsurprisingly, joggers and walkers to two other banners and those with wheels had their own starting gate. I was in the middle of the runners. The starting horn blasted at exactly 11am and we jogged off towards the start tunnel. I hit my Garmin and my Easy 5k app as I crossed the line.

My plans for starting easy and gradually cranking things up went quickly awry. I had forgotten just how much of the course is on grass. In my memory I remember running across the field from the start, circling to a path and then eventually returning the same way. What I omitted was the three other fields we ran through. Gulp!

My target pace was 9 minute miles. On the path, what little there was, this was a cinch. On the grass, soft, bouncy, rutted grass it was difficult. At times I could feel my footing giving way and I was fighting gravity. I was determined to run my full 4 minutes at a faster pace and then ‘rest’ on the minutes in-between. My plan was to take walk breaks to the last mile and then run to the finish, hopefully bringing my overall pace up. My only thought as to break my 30 minute 5k target.

That’s me with the hat!
My first mile passed in 9:19. So long as I was under 10, that was fine. By mile 2 the grass running had taken it’s toll and I managed that one in 10:05. By the time Jeff told me that I had just once mile left my earphones were off and I was just running as fast as I could across the grass to the finish. 
Heading for the finish!


I forgive the two girls who caught up with me in the finishing straight and overtook me at the line because I think I might be old enough to be their grandmother. Legally even. Sad, but true. 
Holding them off…briefly!
I finished my last mile in 10:15, crossing the line in 28:16.6. The clock above the finish line said 28:11, but as my Garmin showed the course as just short of five kilometres I’d rather go with my data than theirs! I’m not quibbling over a few metres or a few seconds.
Bling and Awesomeness!
So there we are! My time last year over the same course was 30:12. I knocked almost a full two minutes off that time, which is great. 
 On Monday I get back to my Great North training, with only a 10k in September between now and then. I am happy that what I am doing is making a difference. My only big worry is my kit. I seriously need to find some more flattering running tops!