fairweatherrunner

running blog


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Bupa London 10K

On Monday I ran the Bupa London 10,000m for the 6th time. I’m very pleased with myself, even though it wasn’t a PB, because I ran with my head and it was one of my better races.

I think I’ve finally grown up (running wise) and learned from my countless mistakes. Like following an 11-year-old round a parkrun. (Flat out sprint which gradually slows to a plod and leaves your lungs on the first corner!)

Last week’s 10K race was a good practice run where I ran a too fast first mile and then struggled by half way. So older and wiser, on Monday I was determined to run a more measured race. I wanted to enjoy it and not struggle with ‘mind over-matter’ during the last miles after trying too hard at the start.

My friend, and usual Bupa 10K running buddy, had been unwell the previous week so planned an easy run/walk strategy and left me to go off on my own. She has paced me and encouraged me in the past (and is responsible for my PB in this race in 2010) so I was given strict instructions not to go off too fast (she knows me well). And I did, (do what I was told). I knew from last weeks race and from my fitness and training (what training?) exactly what I was capable of and told friends at the start that I would probably finish (all being well!) in about 53 mins (same as last week).

So I set off. It was busy and I maintained a steady pace aiming for around 8.30 min miles. It become a little slower than that and I worried about starting too slow but I was moving with the crowd and determined not to over tire myself by dodging in and out of the pack to try to run a slightly faster pace. We all slowed slightly around 3km to cheer on Mo, Scott and the front-runners passing in the other direction and then went though the congested water station where, although I didn’t stop, had to take care because of discarded bottles all over the road.

After half way I started to make myself pick off runners ahead to hold pace. My new Garmin 210 gives a lot less information than my old 450cx model and I am finding this is a good thing! I was less distracted by it, looking at it only occasionally to see average pace and check that was falling but otherwise I am getting better at running by feel. For the rest of the race I just concentrated on holding pace. I was comfortable and happy to see my average pace slowly drop back to 8.30 and then below. The fact that I didn’t have a flat-out sprint left in me for the end suggests I paced it about right and hadn’t taken it too comfortably. I felt strong the whole race and enjoyed it.

My prediction was spot on! With a very good negative split to boot. I’ve finally got smart and learned how to run a good race. Now if I can just add in some smarter training and put in the miles….

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As always the race was impeccably organised and well staffed with volunteers/marshalls . Other race organisers should see how this race works and take note! The baggage drop always impresses me with no queues on the walk through system with 11,000 runners. It is a busy race, but if you’re in the right start pen (and hopefully so are most other people) you don’t get held up too much. Plus you really can’t beat running through the streets of London on a sunny Bank Holiday Monday.

This is what makes it my favourite race. See you all next year!

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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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I have been reviewing the situation

and have made a grown up decision… I am not running my second marathon at Milton Keynes on 6th May this year.

I am just not prepared enough. Several small niggles and silly injuries have made an impact on my mileage since Christmas and although now back into training properly, I realised this week that my plans to increase my long runs in time to be marathon ready are too optimistic.  I was pulled up sharply with ITB pain on Tuesday after my long run this weekend. Too much too soon without a solid base of a couple of months good running behind me. Just comparing recent mileage with my monthly totals in the 4 months before I ran Rutland Marathon last Autumn is enough to show me what’s missing. Cross training has kept up my fitness levels and started to improve my all over strength but neither can help me go from 0 to 30 miles running a week quickly without getting even more injuries.

I will continue with my planned build-up races, dropping back to the 16 mile option at the Hyde Park 20 and look forward to racing the East London Half in April and then move on to some 10K races after that. I will also be continuing with my TRX training and plyometric exercises which I’m learning with my PT and really enjoying, especially as I can see the start of some noticeable toning effects!

I suppose I could, having already entered the race and with no deferral option, still go ahead and run it with less training and a get round run-walk strategy. I would however like to go into number 2 marathon at least as well-trained as I was for the first. I’m not such a seasoned marathoner to be able to take part for the ‘fun of it’ or ‘on a whim’ without any impact on my body not to mention the fact it would take a bloody long time!

In addition I now discover that race day is the day before my Son’s first GCSE exam. Not that I’m much use to him revision wise (he’s been educating me about 20th century european history) nor nagging! But there are times, as the parent of a teenager, when you just need to be boringly there, available, in the background, doing nothing much.

Marathon not quit, just postponed.


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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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