Slow Running

I would have liked for this post to have had a different title. Maybe ‘Faster Running’ would have been good or ‘Really Fast Running’ might have been nice or I would have settled for ‘Better Than Last Week’. However none of these are true. I seem to be getting slower rather than faster. My little legs (and they do seem to be getting smaller, soon I’ll be running on my backside) are feeling very heavy and every step I take is laboured. I do wish I could get out of these physical doldrums.

I’m still following the 10k training programme in an effort to reduce my 10k race time, but I think I’m wasting my time. The last couple of weeks have seen me struggle to fit in both short runs, leaving me relying on improving my pace based on one long run and one short one. It ain’t happening folks! The long runs at the moment consist of a 10 minute warm up run, followed by between 40 and 60 minutes faster run and finishing with a 10 minute cool down run. Today I did 45 minutes for my long run which, with my 20 minutes of slow running, was meant to allow me to cover 6.75 miles. I didn’t even cover 6. On all of my training plans prior to this I’ve been bang on or ahead of time on the app, this time I’m struggling to keep pace and if I can’t do that I will be struggling to hit pace on my next race.

I could just say that this isn’t important, that I did 6 miles today and that’s 6 mile banked. I know that is exactly what I would say to a friend in my position. I know it because I say it all the time. Words come easy. I wish that running came as easy, but it doesn’t and I have to work bloody hard to achieve what I do. I just don’t feel like I’m working hard enough at the moment and I’m disappointed with myself for setting a target and falling short of it because of the easy excuses I’m making. I need to shape up and get this under control.

Firstly I need to be honest with myself. In my head I’m a sub 10 minute miler over 10k, but my legs and lungs are saying otherwise. On a good day I can do 10k in 62 minutes. That makes me a just over 10:00 minute miler. I think I need to change the settings on my app and start enjoying some success, instead of constantly beating myself up when I don’t finish as fast as I would like!

Success concept.

Tomorrow is the last day of school and after that my semi silent coach is whisking me away to northern climes for some R&R, which in my case will hopefully stand for Running & Relaxation. With the prospect of a nearby harbour for hubbie to stare at to keep him occupied, gazing longingly at boats he hasn’t a hope in hell of ever owning, I will be free to get my running back on track. That’s the plan.

On another note I’ve been looking longingly at charity places for the Great North Run and have to keep reminding myself that I’m not running for charity this year. It’s not fair on my lovely friends, asking them to keep digging deep just to satisfy my urge to run 13.1 miles between Newcastle and the coast. I am backing away from the magazines and websites…

I’m hoping that next time I write, which will be whilst I’m on holiday, I will be writing in a more positive frame of mind, extolling the virtues of running either a) whilst on holiday b) on the beach c) with more realistic aims in mind or d) naked (apparently there is a nearby nudist colony, so who knows!)

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Firsts, Lasts and A Loose Goose

That’s it! I’m done.

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Sunday saw me finishing my half marathon training programme with a nice, short 7 mile run. It was meant to be 8 miles, but I had a hissy fit a few nights before when checking my Jeff Galloway app.

I downloaded the app last year and followed the finisher’s plan. It worked really well and, without killing myself, I managed a 2:22 Great North Run. This year I opted to follow the improver’s plan. This meant doing lots of interval running, which near finished me off – especially the 12x800m ones! On the original plan my longest run was 14 miles; on the new plan it was 17 miles. I did all this and, at the end of the day, made no improvement at all. So last week I looked again at the finisher’s plan and discovered that when I input my pace (11 min/miles) the predicted result was exactly the same. I was killing myself for nothing.

I’ve decided that I’m happy being a finisher for the time being. I would rather enjoy my running than feel that it is a task. So instead of finishing on 8 miles I ran a paced 7 miles. I took my Camelbak and, once I’d worked out how it all fitted together, it was great. Nothing jiggling about my waist, nothing in my hand, just a back pack holding a small bottle of juice and my gloves (when the sun came out!)

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The following day I went for a sports massage. My first ever sports massage. Those of you who have experienced a sports massage will understand when I say that it was a mixture of pain, more pain and pleasure; the pleasure comes when the pain stops. It’s a necessity though. Over the last few weeks I’ve felt that my legs have become heavier and stiffer and no amount of stretching would alleviate that. I talked to my beauty therapist who told me that she was also trained in the heavier techniques, over and above a Swedish massage.

We concentrated on my gluteus, IT band and calves. I was prepared for pain because my chiropractor has offered it as part of my therapy with him; I knew what to expect! I won’t go into gruesome detail; I survived, albeit feeling a tad bruised two days later! I definitely feel looser. My calves and Achilles especially feel less tight. Had I not had a meeting tonight I would have tested those loosey, goosey legs on the trails! Tomorrow will have to do!

So, what now? I’m looking for another half marathon for sure. I have the bug. There are two on the horizon, one local, one in The Borders. I’m wondering about another in between then and now. 5ks and 10ks on Sundays or evenings are few and far between, but I’ll find something! What I would like to do, though, is make greater use of my GoRun minimal trainers. I want to see if running more naturally will help improve my running style and pace.

Reaching Unknown Territory

When I started my training programme for the Rock and Roll Half Marathon I opted to go along the improver route, looking to better the time I managed at the Great North Run. It’s not been an easy route and there have been times that I’ve struggled with my fitness and my reasoning. This weekend I ran into unknown territory; I ran 15 miles.

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Previously my longest distance had been 14 miles, which is longer than most half marathon programmes takes you. The plans devised by Jeff Galloway makes sense to me because they ask you to run further than you will have to in a race. That gives you additional endurance and the security of knowing that, yes, I can easily run 13.1 miles because I have run further. I like that.

With the threat of unsettled weather hanging over me I wasn’t sure if to run on Sunday or Monday or even which route to choose. My local loop floods with just a small amount of rain and that we’d had slightly more than a small amount, this being Scotland. I’m not keen on running half way and turning back but 15 miles would put me in the centre of Dumfries and possibly running through traffic. I decided to run on Sunday (unless I got up on Sunday to torrential rain) and run along the coast road.

I woke on Sunday to snow.

Luckily it was short lived and by the time I headed out we were being treated to light rain. My main problem though wasn’t the weather; it was technology. I had charged my Garmin Forerunner 405 in the morning to 100%, but when I disconnected it from its charger it went flat immediately. It’s done this before, about a year ago, and I almost returned it to Garmin. By a combination of research, friend’s advice and fiddling with buttons I managed to fix the issue, one that had apparently been caused by the compass services being switched on by accident. It’s possible that I had left the GPS switched on and this had caused the present issue, I don’t know for sure. When I checked nothing appeared to be on that shouldn’t have been. Reluctantly I left the watch recharging and took just my iPhone.

Usually I only rely on my phone for the Jeff Galloway app (including the beat synced music) and I have always had enough battery to complete a long run. Yesterday I had to also rely on the app’s GPS signal. I wasn’t sure whether I would have enough battery to last the entire run. It was unsettling. Without my phone I had no structure and I need that. Sad as that may sound. I’m happy to run without technology when it doesn’t matter, but it did matter. I had no idea how far 7.5 miles was away from my home. I didn’t know where along the road I needed to turn back.

I set off running in a vest, gloves and long tights. I could see the incredulous looks of passing motorists, but I was comfortable. I heat up quickly, possibly because of the amount of body fat I still carry, but my hands and thighs stay colder than the rest of me.

I was fueling on my homemade isotonic juice (I made a mental note to include less salt next time – my pinches are massive!) and dextrose tablets every mile or so. Nothing else. I’d breakfasted on porridge with millet and linseed, banana and honey. I didn’t pay much attention, though, to carb-loading before hand, although I did have polenta the night before. I need to think more carefully about what I’m eating leading up to a long run.

By mile 4 I was running comfortably. Before that I felt every muscle as it stretched and creaked! By mile 4, however, my iPhone battery was down to less than 50%. Running the app, my music and the GPS was just too much for it. I carried on in the vain hope that my battery would last until I got to 7.5 miles so at least I’d know when to turn back. At mile 6 I rang my husband. My Garmin had charged to just under 40% so I asked him to zero his mileometre and bring the watch out to me.

By the time he reached me I’d run 7.8 miles according to my phone GPS. Armed with a dying iPhone and a reluctant Garmin, I set off towards home. In order to save battery on my phone I turned off the app; I wanted some battery life in case of emergency. Not long after setting off I heard my watch beeping – it wasn’t happy and managed 2.1 miles before dying. To be fair it spent a mile or two dying and resurrecting until it finally kicked the bucket.

I’d made it to mile 10, but without my app or my phone telling me when to walk and run I was probably running less and walking more than I should have. It probably sounds silly, but without the music spurring me on and regulating my pace I was probably running too fast and wearing myself out too quickly. I was a bit of a mess.

I started to do something that Jeff Galloway suggested in his in app tips. I chose a tree or a fence or a building in the distance, ran to that and then walked for a count of 60 before choosing a new focus. It helped a little.

I finished my 15 miles in around 2 hours 50 minutes. Without my Garmin or my iPhone and having not noted a start or a finish time I can’t be exactly sure.

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After getting home I ate everything in the fridge! I started with a ready mixed soya milkshake, then I demolished some crackers and humous and finished with some Quorn chicken strips – basically what was close to hand. I had a very hot bath followed by several cups of hot tea. I was cold.

After several pints of restorative Guinness, I retired to bed, but not before covering my legs with BioFreeze Gel. It smells very strong, but it is a wonder gel. I used it after the Great North Run and it really helped to reduce any inflammation and aches. I’m still using free sachets from goodie bags, but I think that I need to buy some. Today I have no real pain, just a slight ache in my thighs.

I think I’ve fixed my Garmin. After resetting it and recharging it, I’m not letting the battery drain by running the stopwatch. So far it’s been going for 12 hours. Once it’s drained I’ll recharge it and hopefully that’ll be that.

Onwards and upwards!

 

What to Do, What to Do!

The cry of a woodland bird or a half marathon veteran? Well, they are pretty much the same sound. Having completed a 5k, a 10k and a half marathon, guess what? Yes, I am considering training for a full marathon. I know that I said that I didn’t have time. I know that I said that running a half was sufficient and that I could never see myself running a marathon. I know all of that, but last night it struck me – I need a focus. A new goal.

I blame Runner’s World. I was reading it last night and there, in front me, appeared an ‘easy’ marathon training programme for beginners, which didn’t actually look that bad. It only goes up to 20 miles, which does worry me, so I might look at other plans (Jeff Galloway’s especially) but it’s possibly achievable.

Whilst I make up my mind I’ve ramped up my half marathon app by LoLo and Jeff Galloway to the improve option and set it for 10 min/mile from the 11 it was set at for the GNR. Today I did Day 1 which involved attempting Acceleration Gliding for the first time. Gliding is meant to be done on a hill, accelerating down it and using the momentum gained to improve overall speed. It’s a gentle way of doing intervals. I did it on a treadmill which proved to be a bit tricky.

The makeup of the workout was as follows:

5 minute walk to warm up

3 min ‘jog’ at 10.3 kph

4 cadence drills (30s at 10.3 and 12.2)

4 acceleration gliders (10.3 gliding up to 11.5 and on to 12.2)

1 mile run at 12.2 kph

3 minute walk to cool down

Basically I did what I was told. The gliders went up in speed quickly, which was difficult for the treadmill to cope with, and had a minute walk in between them, which the treadmill had barely slowed down for before I was running again! I’ve tweeted Jeff to ask for advice on how to do the gliders on the treadmill; it would be nice if he or one of his minions replied, but in the meantime I will carry of anticipating the changes. It felt pretty good despite the clunkiness of the gliders; I think glider is maybe not the most appropriate noun for what I am doing at the moment!

So, there we are. Things to think about, new things to try!

12 miles later…

Well, what a joyful run that was! The weather was perfect for running; calm, cool and dry. I took no chances and took my inhaler before leaving and tucked it into my waist pack. I set off along a well known route, following the coast. It’s a fairly flat route, as they go. I was determined to take it easy from the off. No silly pace, just steady running, I just wanted 12 miles under my belt. That was all.

I was expecting to be a bit stiff and sore after the intervals I’d been doing this week, but instead I felt energised. I was running easy. As I ran it struck me that this was the first time since running the Great North Run that I’ve felt really good about a long run. I felt as if I could run another half, today. It was a great feeling, knowing that I am at that stage in my running that I could just do a half marathon whenever I wanted! It might not always be a fast race, but I know I can more than cover the distance.

Another difference today was that I was on my own. My husband had gone with friends to a car show, leaving early this morning and, at 7pm, he’s still to return. I’ve been able to choose when and what I’ve done today, without having to worry about what everyone else was doing and it’s a very liberating feeling! I had initially planned to do my run this morning and changed straight into my running gear after getting up. However, I faffed about getting the washing done and ended up having a light lunch before setting off. It didn’t really matter. I don’t often have this freedom.

My miles zipped past. I started off by dividing my run into quarters, effectively running four 5ks. It seemed no time at all before I was making the half way turn. By then the sun had emerged from behind some heavy looking clouds and it was warming up. The road was fairly busy today and, generally speaking, on-coming drivers acknowledge my wave of thanks when they pull across onto the other side of the road. Many happily wave, which is lovely. I get some stern stares occasionally, which says more the drivers than it does about my running and today I experienced a hot-head in a hot-hatch who thought it hilarious to cut as close to me as he could whilst blasting his horn. Clearly he was compensating for something and, apart from a two fingered salute, I let it go. A sad little boy who, in all likelihood, only gets his exercise when running for the bus, or from the police!

Apart from a couple of slower miles, when I was running uphill, my pace was fairly constant:

 

I’m happy with that. I hit 3.11 miles at 33.04 and 6.2 miles at 1:07:53.

My fueling also worked perfectly. I had sips of my drink alone after mile 3 up to mile 6. After that I started taking a dextrose tablet on every third walk break. At no time did I feel that I was lacking in energy. The Dextro tablets cost just 75p a packet and take up less room than a gel. Admittedly I took maybe 4 tablets, but on the Great North Run I took 3 gels! If dextrose is sufficient, it might be a good idea to stick with it.

My kit was perfect, although my waist pack felt back heavy initially. Once I’d started drinking it got lighter.

I’ll have a rest tomorrow, although I need to do my core exercises, and run again on Tuesday. I’m on holiday from school so hopefully it’ll be another outdoor, smile on my face run!

 

Experimentation

This week has been one of trying new things. Don’t panic, I’m not about to reveal anything unsavoury. In an effort to reduce my 10k times I’ve been following Jeff Galloway’s Easy 10k app, jumping in towards the end and syncing the whole thing with my upcoming race at Jedburgh. As I’ve said, Jedburgh is not a PB course, but I would like to beat last year’s time. And then some.

This week has seen me doing tempo runs and interval training, sorry people but, all on the treadmill. It’s dark here now by half 6 and I can rarely get out before that. Early morning runs are similarly marred and I don’t have any choice but to run on the road as we have no paths. The trails I run on would be treacherous in the dark. So the treadmill is my winter training friend.

The interval training was a bit of a revelation. I’d started this app before doing my Great North Run training and found the interval speeds hard going. Not so this week! Yes, it wasn’t easy, but I also wasn’t running myself into the ground and having to stop, like I was before. I had limited time so I only managed 12 of the 18 400m intervals on Thursday, finishing off the last 6 on Friday. All good stuff.

Today I’m down for a long run of 12 miles, rather excessive perhaps for 10k training, but I’m looking forward to it. I am wearing my Jedburgh kit, checking it out before the day (I have my sensible head on), I’m trying SIS electrolyte juice as it comes in dry powder form and is easier to carry than bottles of juice when I’m away from home and I’m putting my iPhone in my waistpack instead of on my arm (I’ve been suffering from friction burns and would like to avoid them). I have no gels! Instead I have Dextro tablets to take every 15 minutes after an hour and, if the worse comes to the worse, good old fashioned Kendal Mint Cake!

My bag of stuff; my SIS drink, a gel plaster, some paper towel, dextrose tablets, Kendal Mint Cake, my inhaler and my lucky ‘BOOM’ penny found on a previous run. I’m good to go.

I’m not aiming to do the fastest 12 miles ever. I’m going out for a nice run in the Autumn sunshine, once the sun decides to come back out from behind that massive cloud.

I’ll see you later and let you know how it went!

 

Race Nutrition; Old v New or Science v Nature

Something the Old RunningFox said about one of my earlier posts has got me thinking. I’d commented that I was using a combination of gels, dextrose tablets and isotonic drinks to fuel my long runs and he said, quite rightly, what would Ron Hill have made of that? In his day just a sip of water was enough to see him through a half marathon or even further. Quite true, I’m sure, and if I could run a half marathon in a hour or so I wouldn’t need all this extra fuel. But I can’t. Yet!

I’ve always gone by the rule that for runs up to 30 minutes I don’t need anything. Just a drink of water before I start and a drink of water when I’ve finished. Between 30 minutes and an hour, I carry water and sip it as I need it. Nothing more. Anything over an hour I take an isotonic sports drink with me and anything over two hours I take a gel half way round. I think that’s pretty standard thinking, although I’d be glad to hear if you think differently.

When I first started upping my distance I relied purely on water and jelly beans, not even fancy sport ones, just plain old jelly beans. Apart from the fact that they tend to merge into one huge jelly bean the longer I’m running, I’d probably be more inclined to take beans with me rather than gels or dextrose. What I’d really like to do though, is investigate some better, more natural, less scientific and ultimately cheaper ways of fuelling long runs.

I bought a bag of jelly beans the other day, purely for research purposes you understand. 100g (half the bag) contains 370 kcal, 0.3 g protein, 91.3g carbs (of which 52.9g are sugars), 0.1g fat (saturated), 0.1g fibre and not much else. In comparison the Dextrose tablets contain 1535 kcal, 0g protein, 88g carbs (79g sugars) and 0.3g fat per 100g. Not much difference energy wise. Costwise my bag of beans cost 89p for a 200g bag. A packet of 12 Dextro tablets cost 75p. Dextro Energy suggest popping a 3.4g tablet every 15 – 20 minutes. An equivalent amount of beans (approximately 12) would see me having to carry and consume, on a two hour run, almost 100 beans to every 8 tablets. I think I would be sick. I have no choice now but to eat my jelly beans to help fuel my search.  Yum.

The other issue, for me, is that a lot of sports fuel have nuts or gelatine in then and I can’t/won’t eat those. I hunted high and low and read the small print on many, many gels before settling on the MaxiFuel Viper Active ones. I took one at 7 miles on a half marathon distance run. Their spiel says to take 1 – 2 every hour of exercise, which would really mean me having to take four of them.  I tried the SIS gels on the Great North Run, opting to take three spaced out over 4, 7 and 11 miles as they suggested three per hour! Beforehand I thought this was excessive, but my Garmin data showed a definite boost about 10 – 15 minutes after consumption. The SIS gels are labelled as vegan. The MaxiFuel ones I will have checked as vegetarian, at least. On the run I find all gels difficult to open though; sweaty hands and wee rip off tops just don’t mix.

The problem is that gels and tablets tend to be more energy efficient per gram than anything else. That’s what they’re designed to be. So can I find something else, as compact and as nutritious?

 

 

The Post Run Blues

Ahh, this is them then, the post big race blues. I’ve not experienced this feeling before, having only done small races with very little hype. I find myself in the biggest set of doldrums I’ve been in for a very long time, not quite knowing how to get out.

I was so full of emotion after the Great North Run that I didn’t quite know how to express it. Some of it came out as anger against the crowds that caused my husband to miss my finish and kept me waiting for him for over an hour after the race. Some of it was despondency – how can I put myself through that again. And some of it was just delight at having been there at the largest ever biggest half marathon in the world.

The race itself, the joy that was the race, was getting lost beneath all these all negative emotions and I had to step back and deal with that. I found myself sending ranting tweets to celebrities who dared to tweet how wonderfully organised the event was. I was pretty wound up at the way I was left feeling after the race but, apart from the people who called for the buses to be emptied too early, I have no beef with the event organisers. Everything else was caused by the sheer volume of people attending. And the only way they can deal with that is to further cap entries.

I enjoyed running with Murphy on Tuesday, totally naked of technology and just running as I wanted. Slowly and without breaking into a sweat was what I needed. Today it’s very wet and the light isn’t good. I won’t chance running on the road or running through the woods – I will be hopping onto the treadmill and making the best of a rotten day.

I am now looking at what to do next. I’ve promised that I will do the Rock and Roll Half Marathon in Edinburgh next April. I think I will make that my big event of the year. I can always put my name down for the GNR 2013 ballot and let fate decide if I am to do the event next September.

In the meantime there is the Jedburgh Running Festival at the end of October and I have a choice of a 10k and a half marathon there. There are some other options available, I just need to work round the rest of my life.

And stop stressing. Life is too short for stressing.

The Great North Run 2012

I wrote the title carefully, adding 2012 afterwards in case I needed to identify it as the 2012 report in the future.

I’m trying hard now to remember as many details as I can for you, but also for me because the whole day blurred into an experience, rather than a race. The Great North Run compares with nothing I’ve ever done before. If I’m honest, I’m sitting here watching the race on TV, which my son recorded for me. If nothing else it’s sparking memories that might make this a better post.

I’ll start at the beginning, at 7am when my alarm woke me. I was already awake, of course, waiting for the alarm to sound. I’d slept well and knew that I had everything ready so that I could breakfast, dress and go. I followed advice and ditched my porridge for toast and jam. We’d decided to catch the Metro from Whitley Bay. It’s the furthest point from Newcastle no matter which way you go so chances were that it would be quietest so far as passengers go. We also knew that it had a reasonable car park. Right enough the car park was only half full when we go there at just after 8. There were around 30 other runners at the station waiting. We boarded the anti-clockwise train and easily got a seat. So far, so good.

Runners embarked at every stop, until there was standing room only. We soon reached Haymarket, the station identified as the closest to the start, and followed the crowds. We had no idea where we were going; our recky run the day before hadn’t taken us further than the station. We passed the university and on the other side of the campus found ourselves in crowds I’ve never seen the like of, despite being a city born girl. Murphy had to be carried for fear of him being trodden on.

We found the baggage buses, all thirty of them, lined up parallel to the start. The green starters buses were right at the back so it was some walk to the bus and back. Once I’d deposited my bag I thought it best to visit the loo. It was now 9:45 and we were to be in our starting pens by 10:30 at the latest. No bother then.

What I hadn’t anticipated was how long it takes for people to pee. We joined a queue thinking it was one queue for the entire toilet block. It turned out to be the queue for the last toilet in the block and as we reached the corner we could see smaller queues for the others. Time wasted there! It was now 10:00. I eventually reached the end of the toilet queue at 10:15. Grant was panicking that I’d miss my pen time. So was I. We went straight down to the start.

The race starts on the A167 motorway, using both sides of the motorway. As we walked we went further and further from the starting line, trying to find my section. Eventually we found the green section, but no way into it. It turned out that the sections were merging and there was no clearly identifiable ‘I’ section within the green. I kissed Grant and Murphy goodbye and I queued up with hundreds of others outside of the pens, trying to move into them. Grant and Murphy planned to catch the Metro across to South Shields in time to see me cross the finish line some two and half hours later. As we waited the gun fired and the pens started to move forward, very slowly. It was obvious that as the people already in the pens moved forward we’d not be able to edge into our section. I couldn’t take it and jumped the fence along with a few others. I wasn’t going to be left behind, sorry!

It was way after 11 when I crossed the line. I had stuck to the right hand side of the road with the thought in my head that I needed to stay out of people’s way when I was on a walk break. When I looked across there was Mo Farah high fiving the starters on the left. Damn. An opportunity missed. I wasn’t about to race across the road for a taste of fame though. Whilst we were waiting for the start it had started to rain quite heavily. I managed to grab an Asics raincoat that someone had stuffed in the fence and wore that until we got close to the start. The rain had slowed by then and was reduced to a gentle and refreshing shower.

I had Jeff Galloway and his wonderful half marathon app on my iPhone, giving me a consistent pace to run to and I set off steadily, as planned. To begin with I was running with plenty of space around me. I didn’t take a lot of notice of people around me so I can’t say if they left me behind, or if I left them, but what I do remember is that just up from the start was a row of trees and a set of toilets; I couldn’t believe how many men headed for the trees and women headed for the loos! We ran along the motorway into Newcastle centre. As we went through the first tunnel there were shouts of “Oggy, Oggy, Oggy!” Spectators were lining the bridges and streets, which was amazing to see. I don’t think I’ve ever run for so far smiling!

I won’t do a step by step analysis of the run. To begin with I was running around about a 10 min/mile pace. Mile 1 came in at 9:34, mile 2 at 9:55 and mile 3 at 10:08, giving me an official 5k split of 31:01. I was really happy to see that. There was a time, not so long ago, when I couldn’t crack the 30 minute 5k and now I’m not far off that whilst carrying on to run a half marathon!

Crossing the iconic Tyne Bridge was the next amazing point. My husband loves bridges and I thought about how much he would like this as I crossed it. The amount of charity runners out there was astonishing. Thousands and thousands of them, for more charities than I knew existed. I spotted three other Dogs Trust runners on the way round and got a couple of pats on the back from other runners acknowledging what a great charity Dogs Trust is.

As well as spectators there were bands playing, the local radio station had presenters positioned along the course and ordinary folk were there handing out sweeties, oranges, ice pops – even Jaffa Cakes! It was hugely motivating, hugely so. I think the crowds, more than anything, spurred me on. There were frustrating times when we were running on narrower roads and I was dodging people trying to overtake them, weaving in and out and feeling as if I was running an extra mile on top of the 13.1!

I reached 10k in 64:52 which isn’t far off my ordinary 10k time. It’s certainly faster than I could do 10k last year! I’d been under the misapprehension that the course would be fairly flat, heading gently down to the coast. How wrong I was. It seemed to be hill after hill after hill. It shows on my Garmin data that the uphill miles 4 and 5 were much slower at 10:47 and 11:07. I managed to pick up my pace on the next two miles (10:14 and 10:35) and the fact that I managed to do so many faster miles meant that I could afford to be a bit slower on some miles and still be under my 11 min/mile target pace.

My nutrition was spot on. I had my Lucozade Isotonic drink for all the way round. I didn’t take any water or Powerade offered at the roadside wanting to stick to what I knew worked. I had my gels at miles 4, 7 and 11, although getting the tops off the gels was a nightmare with sweaty fingers! I had to stop and ask a fireman to help me open my last one!

Just before the drop down into South Shields there is a hill that just seems to go on forever! People around me were walking, but I was determined to only walk when Jeff told me to. At mile 12 the ground just dropped away in front of us revealing the sea. At last!

The last mile was nothing short of a killer. It was a long mile, but I tried to lift my pace. I did the last mile in 10:35, even managing to speed up at the end! The sight of the 800m sign spurred me on. I looked along the spectators for Grant and Murphy, expecting them to be somewhere along the finish straight. The Red Arrows did a fabulous display as I ran along the finish straight, finishing with a huge heart. They’d started us off at Newcastle and were helping us finish at South Shields.

I crossed the line in 2:22:13 in 27,766th place. It was a half marathon PB by 2 minutes which, considering the course and the amount of people in my way most of the time, was brilliant. My Garmin data is here.

I was spent by the time I crossed the line, I have to admit. I struggled to walk from the finish line to the chip deposit section. I managed to stretch out just beyond this and went to collect my goodie bag, complete with T-shirt and medal. The organisation at this point was spot on. Beyond the finish was a section for families to reunite. I rang Grant to tell him that I was heading up to the section for H and would wait under the flag, but only got his voicemail. Unbeknownst to me Grant had been held up in Newcastle, struggling to get a train to the coast. I waited and waited, getting colder and colder, not wanting to move in case I missed Grant. There was nothing in my goody bag that I could eat, everything had nuts or wheat in. All I had was the Powerade to sip.

An hour passed and still there was no sign of Grant. I kept trying to call, but my calls just went to voicemail. I sent texts to say where I was and eventually I got a reply. For some reason he had not received any of my voicemails and only knew that I’d finished when he started to get texts. When we finally found each other I needed my kitbag and the milk shakes and Mars Bar. We headed for the baggage buses.

I couldn’t find my bus! There was the sign saying bus 23, but no bus! When I asked an official he said the buses were being unloaded, despite the fact that the buses couldn’t leave and there were people still running! I was sent to a small marquee, loaded with bags, with a massive crowd leading from it. I joined the throng and patiently waited. There was no queue. It was a bit like a jumble sale. It was a good twenty minutes before I got to the front, a full two hours after I’d finished. Had I realised that Grant was so severely delayed I’d have gone straight to the baggage bus. I had something to eat and drink, although there wasn’t anything other than chips for me on the stalls. Sadly the risotto had run out! I settled for some hastily and undercooked chips and a hot chocolate.

We walked into South Shields town centre, following many others along the route, reaching the end of the Metro queue far too quickly. It stretched for the length of the High Street. I was tired and hungry. I wasn’t relishing the wait. We had initially planned to take the ferry across to North Shields and then two stops on the Metro to Whitley Bay. If I had been alone I think I would have chanced it and headed for the ferry, but together we are useless decision makers, neither wanting to upset the other! Instead we waited in the queue for a good hour or so. By the time we reached the platform I was shot. I started to feel sick and went to sit down. The train was fully packed and all the seats were taken before we could get on. I was carrying Murphy so I had no hands free to hold onto the straps or poles. Almost immediately I started to feel ill. My temperature started to climb and I felt weak. Apparently the colour drained from my face and I eventually took Grant’s advice to sit down on the floor. I sat on my bag with Murphy on my lap for the remainder of the journey into Newcastle, only really feeling better when we’d changed trains and reached Whitley Bay and I had my curry and Guinness  in my hand!

People have been asking if I’ll do it next year and I’m still unsure. If I could be transported to the start and beamed home at the finish I’d say yes, like a shot. Getting there wasn’t too bad, but getting away was awful. Everyone, especially catered for elites and celebrities, has been tweeting about how wonderful the event was and, yes, it is a great race. I loved running it. The logistics of getting away spoilt it for me. What I’ve learnt is that I need to go through the finish and head for my bag. Forget meeting anyone – just go. After that I can relax, knowing that I have my food and drink. Then we need to look more closely at the ferry and how much easier that might be or for Grant to take the car straight to the finish and park up there.

Today I went for a recovery run. Just a slow trail run with Murphy, free of iPhone, music and Garmin. I walked when I wanted and ran when I wanted, working out the stiffness in my legs. It was bloody hard for the first half a mile, almost as if my feet had forgotten what “to run” meant! After that I just went with my easy pace and enjoyed it, hardly breaking sweat.

Next on the calendar? I’m not sure at the moment. Give me a few days and I’ll let you know!

Down at the Quayside with Mo and Greg

Just sat down to write this pre-GNR blog post, when the Red Arrows flew past the caravan. That sort of sums up our day; a mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous. We caught the Metro train into the city this morning, rehearsing tomorrow’s route to the start. It seems easy enough without fifty odd thousand other people trying to do the same!

We made our way down from Haymarket to the Quayside, only to be greeted by a sea of people. Everyone and their granny had come down to see The GNR Games and celebrity spot. We’d planned to meet friends at the Pitcher and Piano, which was mobbed. I’m not quite sure how I managed it, but I spotted Zoë’s mum, Joan, sitting outside having only ever seen her in a Facebook photograph! Prior to today I’d met none of my Facebook running friends in person. Ours was a virtual relationship and I said to Zoë when she arrived that it was like online dating!

It was far too busy for us, with Murphy, to venture across the Millenium Bridge so our viewing was restricted to watching the large screen across the river, although I did mosey on down to the end of the bridge to watch Mo Farah racing. I took a couple of photos, one blurry one of Mo in the distance and an excellent one of a bald spectator’s shiny bonce! The route was packed and, unfortunately, just as we all positioned our cameras, a TV camera arrived on the back of motorbike and parked right in front of us. I did get to see long jumper Greg Rutherford closer up, but didn’t get my camera out in time! Useless!

I briefly met a longstanding Facebook friend and supporter, Paul Smith, whose tales of his Ron Hill inspired run streak (which now runs into the 2000s) entertain us on FB daily. He is chaperoning celebrity Olympic sprinter Iwan Thomas tomorrow and I think it’ll be a fast race for him! Unfortunately it was just too busy and there was too much going on for us to properly catch up. That’ll have to wait for another time.

So, how do I feel? I have just over 12 hours before the start and I’m actually quite calm. I’ve eaten sensibly, cooking a meal in our little caravan which sits on the cliffs overlooking the North Sea. I made a Quorn, chickpea, potato and pea curry and served it with with Thai rice. Nothing too spicy, just very mild. We’re sitting here watching Strictly Come Dancing. I’m that relaxed!

Tomorrow morning I plan to have toast and jam. I’ve bought Lucozade Sport Isotonic drink for the race, despite the fact that there will be Powerade available. I know that I’m ok with Lucozade so I’m sticking with it. One bottle should see me through. On top of that I have SIF gels to take at miles 4, 7 and 11 and Dextro tablets if I need them. Post-race I have soya milkshakes and a Mars Bar in my bag; I’m taking no chances!

I’ll sign off now and check my kit bag for tomorrow. I just need to know that everything is there, my Garmin and iPhone are charged and that there is nothing left to do. Adios amigos!