fairweatherrunner

running blog


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Ealing Eagles 10K

Sometimes, even when you know you’re not on PB form, you just can’t help having a punt at it. Seeing that Xempo were offering pacers at yesterdays race I couldn’t resist having a go at keeping up with the 50 min pace makers.

And so I found myself rattling off a sub 8 min mile at the start of the race until my head caught up with me and, always the party pooper, started telling my body that it was under trained for a 10K at this pace, had just got over a cold, and this was not a bloomin’ 5K! I eased off and the 50 min pacers pulled away from me and I worried about being caught by the 55 min team. By halfway I was regretting my fast start and feeling a bit weary so was very happy to be rescued by someone who I’d chatted to before the race and joined her and another girl to keep up a decent steady pace for the next mile or so.

It’s a funny thing about runners, that you share the camaraderie of the race, chat and know that someone is contemplating a first marathon and their 10K PB but not their name. After 4 miles my head finally got with the flow, helped by thinking about Abradypus 3 hours into her 50 mile ultra. ‘A bit tired halfway round a 10K? Man up!’ I then found a good rhythm and a steady 8.30 pace and pulled away from my rescuers as we started the last lap of the park and managed a decent sprint finish to duck under the line just as the clock (gun time) clicked 53 minutes.

52.48 (garmin time). Not a PB but I was very happy to discover that it was my second fastest 10K by a whisker!

After finding and thanking my rescuer, I grabbed my bag and a drink before I made my way out of the park. Walking the last part of the course in reverse I joined with the marshalls to encourage the last runners coming through. A Marshall offering her water to one runner, others congratulating me on having already finished and the back cyclist sharing a joke with the last 3 runners summed up this race nicely for me.

Well done and thanks to Ealing Eagles for a great race. Small, well organised and marshalled race with no queues. Run on the paths and grass of the Gunnersbury parkrun course. It was friendly and supportive to all runners from the front-runners to the first time 10Kers at the back.

And you can’t beat a great bit of bling!

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East London Half Marathon

A race in two halves. A race I didn’t enjoy.

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The first half (and lap one of the two lap course).

I started a little fast but then, although slowing with the increasing heat, was working well to maintain an overall average pace below 8.50. I found the course convoluted and a little dull. Much of it was on a cycle track the Greenway. This was the part I liked least. It wasn’t very green, all I remember is concrete and discarded water bottles. We started in the middle and did an ‘out and back’ in each direction with runners going both ways next to each other on the narrow course. At one end there was an extra out and back on a bit of dual carriageway (right next to a queue of buses and cars) and under a flyover.

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Back to West Ham Park and on to the second lap.

Can’t I just take the 10K finish funnel and call it a day? I can’t face running that over again. My mind is weakening and I’m sure I’m not feeling at all great. Is there anyone else running this race feeling the same? Fancy a trip to the pub instead?

But I had got up at 6am and travelled across London. I had to finish what I’d started and get the damn medal. If I left it as unfinished business I’d have to come back and do it again. That would be far worse than a second lap! I forced myself on but once the mind has lost its determination, holding pace is impossible and all the niggles surface. I stopped looking at my watch, it was hot and I was thirsty but drinking water made my stomach ache and my left calf and knee were cramping badly. I dragged myself to the end and for the first time ever didn’t raise a little sprint to the finish.

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The race, organised by the Tessa Sanderson foundation had some organisational issues. Most were due to the increased scale of the new Half Marathon this year. We queued for 30 mins to put our bags into the baggage drop and then more than 30 mins to retrieve them. The Marshalls were friendly and willing but it was obvious that those manning some of the water stations had no experience of what works and what doesn’t. A little briefing could have made a big difference.

On balance I had a bad day which I contributed to myself. I was probably too optimistic in my starting pace for the warmest day in over 6 months and for my recent training. In hindsight I wore the wrong shoes which had made the outside of my knee and calf a little tight when I wore them over Easter so it’s not surprising I suffered over 13 miles. I also got my hydration and fuelling wrong for the hot day.

On the day there just wasn’t the atmosphere or environment to help me push through regardless. I won’t be back for another run of this race, mainly because I didn’t enjoy the course, but I suppose I’m glad I tried it once.

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West Wight 3 Hills

West Wight 3 Hills

The second Easter race from Ryde Harriers on Easter Monday was the West Wight 3 Hills. I expected the race to be the more challenging of the two however because I was mentally prepared for it I actually found it easier in a ‘this is tough but I’m still doing it’ sort of way and was relieved to have hills and not the leg sapping ankle-deep mud.

The first two miles were a small loop up a hill and back into Freshwater, lulling me into a ‘I can do these hills’ state of mind. If only I knew! From there the course began to climb, and climb. At first on small country roads, then out onto footpaths and Headon Warren. We climbed up and up and eventually I walked (I realised I was faster walking than a few runners around me) where I could admire the view back over the Solent to Hurst Castle. Towards the top I tore myself away from the view and got running again on sandy trails through the gorse brining us out right above the Needles park, its cable car and a view of Alumn Bay and the Needles before we dropped down to road level.

I could then see a line of runners up to the downs in the near distance in front of me climbing up a pretty much vertical bank. There were actually footsteps worn into the grass almost like steps up the bank and at the steepest point I resorted to four-wheel drive. Thanks to all those bunny hops, bear crawls and squats recently my legs only felt like jelly by the top rather than being actually turned to jelly.

Once I regained my composure we ran across the downs battered by the cold wind and on to the last climb up Tennyson Down to the Tennyson monument. At this stage all I could see was cloud and grass as we were above everything else and thought that maybe I should recite a bit of Tennyson poetry if I could remember (knew) any.

Then came the best bit with a fast decent from the top of the downs into Freshwater bay before the last mile or so home. It wasn’t too steep and on nice soft grass so I stopped myself from holding back and went for it passing a few people on the way down and seeing my garmin show a decent bit of pace similar to some of my best interval miles.

Another small, well organised friendly race with 110 finishers. Possibly one of the most challenging races I’ve run and certainly the most scenic. I am surprised that more people haven’t found these two great multi terrain Easter races which at 7 and (just under) 8 miles can give you a couple of shiny new PBs and not affect your 10K/10mile/HM stats. They are certainly worth combining with an Easter break on the Island. Ryde Harriers put on a very good race and the Isle of Wight supplies some stunning scenery.

7.82 miles in 1.16.01. Elevation 820ft gain… 784ft loss. (garmin stats here)


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Newport to Ryde 7

Was it anything like I expected? No. Was it fun? Yes, once I got really stuck into the lovely mud in the woods!

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Yesterday I ran the first of the two Easter races organised by Ryde Harriers here on the Isle of Wight. It’s described as a multi terrain race and I expected that the off-road bits would probably be mainly on cycle paths and hard trails. However we were warned at the start to expect ‘everything and anything’ from marshes to mud plus fallen trees across the path. They were right. At this stage I regretted forgetting to put on my trail shoes and wondered how much grip my adizero adios would have in the mud, although I felt more sorry for the man standing next to me in brand new bright white running shoes.

The race starts from a small huddle in the middle of a road at the edge of Newport then heads out under an underpass into a dull housing estate before cutting through an alley over a stile up into a muddy field. Someone in front of me didn’t take the ‘hope you’ve got your shoe laces done up well’ seriously as he was digging his shoe out of the ankle deep mud by mile 2. From there it was on up through a farm out onto open grassy fields (marsh) with some great views back across the Solent before we climbed a serious of stiles leading us into the woods and muddy tracks where we found the fallen tree we’d been warned about.

My shoes were surprisingly ok in the mud as long as I used the slip sliding as forward movement. At least they were light for tip-toeing across the boggy sections and picking out the dryer patches along the edge of the ruts and puddles. They also didn’t pick up a load of mud on the bottom to weigh me down which my trail shoes often do.

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Then on, the race had a good variety of hard trails, small country roads, footpaths and pavement, undulating with some sharp ups and one nice long downhill. A cut right through the woods at Firestone Copse reminded me of Thunder Run and just when my feet were drying out we were treated to more churned up mud on a grassy downhill before a short killer climb to the last few hundred metres towards the finish.

A small friendly race, with 87 finishers. I was 12th out of 23 women and 5th in my age category! (ok so there were only 6 of us). Well organised with chip timing on race numbers (which to keep down costs are given back and re-used). It was very well marshalled with encouragement and directions at all the important junctions and stopping the traffic at road crossings plus a half way water station and a jelly baby from the marshal who sent us up a bank into the woods. No medal but we did get the useful yellow kit bag as a memento.

All in all a challenging (made more so because of wet conditions in the past few months), varied, fun (if you like running around the woods in the mud) small and friendly multi terrain race with some good scenery. Definitely worth a go if you are visiting IOW for Easter and at 7 miles it can give you a shiny new pb

7.09 miles in 67.21. Elevation, 516ft gain… 363ft loss

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Bath Half Marathon

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I had a great trip away in Bath with Alma this weekend.  Bath is a lovely city and the Half Marathon was well organised and friendly. It’s a mass participation event that didn’t feel too big and the race is run on wide roads which were not over congested. It’s not a hilly or undulating course but there are some changes in gradient, probably best described as ‘Bath flat!’

Our experience was enhanced by the fact that we were staying in a hotel within walking distance from the station and only 5 minutes from the race start. There are not many race mornings when there is no rude early alarm and you can be sitting under a duvet, drinking tea and eating breakfast whilst watching the TV at 8.30 in the morning.

In the days before the race I was chewing over what sort of pace to run at. What pace could I realistically keep up for 13 miles? I knew because of injury and only 2 weeks training with a longest run of 10 miles (longest since my marathon in November! Tut Tut) that PB pace was out of the question (could maybe manage 3 or 4 miles at that!)  So was matching recent HM paces and even sub 2 (that might get me to half way?). I also considered marathon pace, whatever that should be, as this was really a training run.

In the end I decided to stop thinking too much and just relax and enjoy it and see how my legs and recently recovered glutes coped with the distance.  So I plugged in my race playlist, started my garmin and pulled my sleeve down over it to cover it up and just ran.  I tried to hold a steady pace which maintained a consistent effort, which was not too easy but also not enough to make me breathless or raise my heart rate which I felt I could keep up for the whole race.

When I downloaded my splits last night I was rather proud of my consistent pacing.  I don’t think I could have done any better watching my Garmin all the way round.  Being free just to run and take in the course without worrying about pace and time was wonderful.

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Rutland Water Marathon

Thanks to Jovial Gnome for his support and the photographs.

The clue was in the name. Water. Not just running around a scenic reservoir (if we’d seen it through the morning mist or rain) but copious amounts of water under foot and overhead.

  • The good…

Teamwork… I ran with Louise (abradypus) again. Between us we kept to a steady 10 minute mile average pace to start with, where some faster splits on the downhills compensated for the slower ups. We subconsciously kept each other going through tough points working to pull back our pace and the miles passed. The route was very varied and scenic with plenty of changes in gradient and surface and twists and turns so never monotonous or boring even on the second lap of the peninsular where the wind on the side exposed to the lake froze our wet hands and feet. It was certainly challenging. Although mostly on hard trails and tarmac many of the paths were awash with water and running around the growing puddles on the grass meant slip sliding in the mud. Cattle grids meant tip toeing across slippery metal or going round and pulling open the gate with numb arms. There was some great good-humoured marshalling from the Cadets who manned the frequent water stations plus mile markers every 3 miles to remind us it was ‘gel time’ and as usual a great bunch of other runners around us.

  • The bad…

The rain, the mud, the cold, the ankle deep puddles. We knew there was a sting in this race’s tail and were expecting a hill at 20 miles… as we relaxed past the 21 mile marker it struck and I’m afraid to say that I caved first and apologised that I was going to walk. I told Louise to carry on. She joined me in a power march as the hill turned a tight corner and rose up in front of us. We picked it up again encouraged by the passing of 23 miles and only a parkrun to go. It was the steep downhill just before mile 24 that killed my legs. I don’t know if they were frozen solid or cramped but the impact on the downhill was painful and I had to limp. I fell back from Louise and told her to carry on thinking she might make sub 4.30. A bit of a hobble/walk/limp later I pulled myself together had two blasts of Pink Floyd ‘Wish you were here’ on my emergency iPod and carried on for the last couple of miles walking the downs and jogging along the rest, even managing to pass a few people in the process, as my legs bucked up with the end in sight. It might have been the weather but the finish was a bit of a of a cold damp squib. No medal, handed a poor goody bag with only a cardboard certificate (to fill in yourself), generic Fat-feet running vest, oat bar and a couple of gels. No foil blankets or directions where to find our warm layers from the start. Not much for your entrance fee.

  • My first marathon experience?

Positive. Once I defrosted and stopped shaking. I probably won’t be back for this one again but if anything a tough race has given me a brilliant sense of pride that I finished and in a good time. And I enjoyed it. We had a few laughs and I had a fair few bad moments but I didn’t hate it.

I have run a marathon. I will run another.

  • The Stats. For those remotely interested my garmin splits which are too long to paste into my blog, you can see them here.

My brain and hands were so numb with cold that it took me a full minute to manage to stop my garmin at the end as my chip time and garmin times show!


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Kingston Run Challenge 24

Last Sunday was yet another Sunday morning, third in a row, when I questioned my sanity as I sat eating my breakfast at 6am and was de-fogging the car in the cold and dark to leave at 6.30. My third Autumn race in the build up to my marathon in 3 weeks time, only one more race before the BIG one.

The Kingston Run Challenge is a 8 mile course where runners complete 1, 2 or 3 laps or complete the 24 miles as a team relay.  Having to do a 20 mile long run we signed up for the 24 thinking that the extra mileage would give us confidence for the marathon, or me worrying that I’d bitten off more than I could chew!  Alma, not running an Autumn marathon sensibly moved down to the 16m distance so it was just Louise and I running the 24miles ‘3 short little laps’.  Well it really did feel like that when we lined up at the start, there was a distinct lack of enthusiasts nutters wearing the distinctive green bib numbers!

Louise is training for her second marathon and has done some really good focussed training from a personal plan from online running coaches. I’ve been a little more casual, for my first, using 2 training plans as a guide but have kept a beady eye on Louise’s training runs and recently she has been more than happy to share her schedule!  So I said I’d go along with her plan for this race to start out at 10.15 pace and work it down to an overall average pace of 10 min miles and target finish time of 4 hours.

My Runnersworld smart coach plan said 20 miles at 10.13 pace. Having run my long runs, over 15 miles, at between 10.10 and 10.30 pace I had in mind a finish time for me of about 4 hours 10 for this race which was so much further than I’ve ever run before, so thought I’d probably have to fall back from Louise’s pace at some stage.

We started off into the cold morning mist over Kingston bridge with the 8 milers and even starting at the back we were pulled along with their pace having to work hard to hold back but enjoying overtaking the slower 8 mile racers!  A busy first lap with the 8 mile race followed by a second lap being overtaken by the fast 16 mile racers who started 30 mins behind us.

During the second lap my calf muscles, which had been tight and given me heel pain the week before, began to hurt as well as with my heel.  After starting our 3rd lap (we knew this would be the hard point) every bit of my legs and glutes were getting increasingly painful.  I decided that I

  • a, wanted to be able to walk this week,
  • b, had to recover and complete the last 3 weeks of my training,
  • c, didn’t want to do any damage and
  • d, had to save my full effort for my marathon!

So between the 17 and 18 mile markers I decided to ease off and told Louise to go on and hold her pace.  Mile 18 was tough.  Two passing runners asked about the race and how far I’d run and told me I was looking good which really helped!  I told myself I had to keep running (slowly) until 20 miles and then I could walk.  I found a slower pace which was more comfortable and made it to 20 miles.  All alone on a nondescript pavement I couldn’t face 4 miles walking and carried on to the fuel station before mile 21.  I briefly tried a walk then but walking was actually more painful on my hips than plodding on. Next I caught up with and overtook a walker and checked he was OK. He had run the first lap fast with the 8 mile race (that’s youth for you!) and was now cramped up. He joined me in a shuffle and we chatted along together to the end.

Great to see Louise and Alma shouting me over the line! but very disappointed not to get a medal. (We got a mug).  I’d just run 24 blooming miles and I wanted a great BIG medal with 24 on in great big numbers!

Louise ran a brilliant race holding pace to the end finishing in 3.59. I wasn’t disappointed about having had to slow down when I saw my average pace… bang on 10.13 min miles… Just what the plan said with 4 extra miles to boot!  Many thanks to Louise for such a good run, just shows the power of having a good running buddy for pacing.