A mixed run marking a milestone

Whenever I get in from a run, Ginge will ask me how it went. More often than not, my reply is “mixed”. Today was one of those days. My plan was to run 8 miles and I felt physically sick at the prospect. I feel like my long run training has hit the buffers a bit recently and although I know that the only way to get past this is to go out and run, I was dreading this morning.

My solution was to procrastinate until the point where Ginge was ready to hustle me out of the house with a broom. Off I went, setting off at my usual-probably-going-too-fast-but-can’t-seem-to-slow-it-down pace and lolloping along without having an actual route in mind. Despite my best efforts to distract it with The Infinite Monkey Cage podcast, my negative head was muttering away to itself and going up a hill around 2 miles I just stopped. All I wanted to do was turn around, waddle home and maybe have a little cry. Nothing hurt, I wasn’t injured, I just went very very mardy.

When I get like this, the recognised treatment is that I need putting in a bag and shaking, so I gave myself a stern talking to, had a little shimmy (in the absence of a big enough bag, I have to make do with an imaginary one) and ploughed on. At 4 miles I was going to turn round to do an out and back, but decided to carry on to the petrol station around the corner to get a bottle of water (forgetting that it’s actually a massive corner and much further away than I thought). Stocked up with water and a cheap bag of jelly babies, I made a rash decision and instead of turning around and running up a long and steady incline, I decided to go around the corner and down a massive hill.

This is despite the fact that I knew that I would have to return up the massive hill at some point. It’s basic geography and yet apparently I am an idiot. I got part of the way up the massive hill, walked a bit, ate some jelly babies, plodded for a bit, walked a bit, plodded, walked…until I got to the top and on the home straight. I did manage to pull off a fair bit of running until the last incline into the village – it isn’t actually that bad, but I seem to have a mental block about running up it. I pulled up to a walk and was immediately yelled at by a passing Ironman cyclist who told me to keep going. I did, but quite slowly. You might even say I was walking (because I most certainly was).

With home in sight, I realised that my change in route meant that I would hit 9.5miles pretty much opposite our front gate. Finishing on a fraction? Oh no, no, no… Looking longingly at the house, I tacked on an extra half mile to take me to a lovely round ten. Ten miles. Double figures for the first time in over two years (the last time was when I did the Blackpool Half when I was expecting Mini-Ginge). The little negative voice tells me that I walked a bit too much for it to really count, but my overall pace was pretty much where I would like it to be so I’m telling the little voice to shut its trap. I’m really really chuffed, it feels such a milestone to pass and makes longer distances seem a little less scary.

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After all this exertion, we walked to the pub for some lunch and to jangle our cowbells at the Ironman cyclists (who are amazing, I never fail to be in awe of them). This added on an extra 6.5 miles of walking to my day so I suspect that I will sleep well tonight.

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Running easy is hard

After my relative success at the Manchester 10k, I was waiting for my train home and started thinking about pace and training (and how I could politely eat a Waitrose chocolate mousse without a spoon). I had looked relatively presentable at the end of the race, which is great, but probably means that I had a bit more in the tank and that it’s my head letting me down (again) rather than my lungs or my legs.

Looking at a race pace/training pace calculator thing (the technical term for it obviously) I put in my 10k time and was told that I should be doing my long or easy runs at a pace between 12.55 and 14.27 minute/mile. Normally what I do is set off at what feels like a relatively comfortable pace and then start having a little walk after a few miles (that head of mine again). The problem is that I can’t get my head around training at a slower pace than the pace that I want to run on race day.

Don’t get me wrong, I keep reading the articles about it and I do kind of understand the science behind it, it’s just that a little voice in my head pipes up with “…yes, but I need to be able to go faster on race day and that makes no sense“. So I  decided that the time has come for me to make an effort with this. And you know what? It was flipping hard.

I think this was partly down to technology – my new TomTom (who is still nameless, I don’t think I can call him Miles like my old Garmin, it still feels a bit like I’m being unfaithful to old Miles) has a bit of a time lag when he is showing my current pace. I found that the speed that I felt I was doing and the numbers on my wrist really didn’t seem to add up. And I know that it’s not just that I’m hopelessly optimistic at judging my pace because at one point I was speeding up, but my alleged pace was slowing down.

With a bit of jiggery pokery, I could get him to recognise my running pace and then slowed down until I felt like I was doing a bad mime of “running” in a game of charades. My TomTom pace stuck determinedly at around 12 minute miles. I slowed down even more to a gentle ambling pace and then 14 min/mile… 15 min/mile… 16 min/mile… – then I’d speed up and get stuck at 12 min/mile again. When I was running at a slower pace, it actually felt much harder work than my familiar comfortable one.

There are two possibilities. Either I am physically incapable of running at my predicted easy pace or my TomTom is incapable of recognising paces between 12 and 14 minute/miles. Both of these possibilities seem a bit ridiculous. So my plan for the weekend is to concentrate on keeping it slow,  hope my average pace makes more sense and then I’m going to try to figure out the heart rate monitor that has remained boxed and ignored since it arrived.

Race report: We ♥ Manchester 10k

In my Hamstreet 10k report, I explained the careful thought and planning that goes into my decision about whether or not to do a race. With hindsight, I have realised that this is not entirely true. Sometimes I get giddy and enter a race without considering ANYTHING. The We ♥ Manchester 10K was one such race.

I knew that Ginge was working (removing both support crew and childcare) but I signed up anyway. I also failed to take into consideration that it is actually easier to build your own sedan chair and convince some strapping young men to carry you the 25 miles to Manchester than it is to get the train on the weekend. Now, Ginge is always incredibly supportive of my running (and I don’t give him enough credit for that in public) but it’s fair to say that I would not have been able to run today without him.

Mini-Ginge was presented to his grandparents at an ungodly hour of the morning and I cadged a lift into work with Ginge (who conveniently works a five minute walk from the  race), was given a security pass and hung out in their staffroom for an hour and a half before being walked off site and sent on my way to the startline.

My first impression of the race was via the toilets – this is a hugely important part of race day in my opinion. Using the loos on the Etihad Stadium concourse there wasn’t much of a queue and staff were keeping an eye out to make sure that there was enough paper in each cubicle. This was a thing of brilliance. Kudos too, to the chap who blindly joined the queue for the ladies (obviously in raceday = unisex portaloos mode) only to have it gently pointed out that there was a massive drawing of a person wearing a dress on the wall.

There was a pre-race warm up, but the outdoor PA system wasn’t brilliant and I managed to ignore any excess exercise and enforced jollity. Instead I entertained myself by people watching (there were a couple of very touching goodbye kisses that had my bottom lip wobbling) and trying to work out where I should lurk in the pack. I normally skulk at the back trying to surround myself with the aged (doesn’t always work, I often get my arse kicked by pensioners) and the infirm (two knee braces? I’m right there alongside you), but everyone looked very perky and athletic where I was, which did unnerve me slightly.

Right. Race plan. I felt that I should have some kind of plan, but couldn’t decide what to do. On the one hand, I wanted to stalk the hour pacer (even though this was completely unrealistic) and on the other hand, I thought about treating this like a long, slow run. I ummed, I ahhed, I set off and just ran. Round the track, out of the athletics stadium, past the Etihad and into…well, mostly industrial estates and housing. This was not a scenic run by any stretch of the imagination. This isn’t a criticism though, I really enjoyed the race. It was run on closed roads, meaning no hopping on and off pavements (I’m really nervous of this since my fall), it was well marshalled (including the most fabulous marshall just before 7k who was telling us all that we were AMAZING) and all the facilities were excellent (I’m gutted that I didn’t have cash on me to buy cakes in the marketplace).

The route looped round and back on itself a bit, which meant that between 7 and 8K, you were taken tantalisingly close to the finish. At first, I thought that I had missed a turning and accidentally lost a couple of kilometers, but soon realised that no, we had to run past the people finishing and keep going. Which is when I had my favourite part of the race.

At around 8K, I had given in to my nagging negative head and had started to have a bit of a walk when I was passed by a woman who yelled at me “Come on, you’ve been ahead of me all the way round, you can’t walk now”. Now you can’t turn down a challenge like that, so I picked it back up again, knocking about 30 seconds off my minute/mile pace. And then I walked again, but sure enough, along came Rachel to shout at me that I’d done it again. So I picked up the pace and had a nice chat as we ran the last 2k together. The whole thing made me marvel that (a) a stranger can make so much difference and (b) that someone had been clocking me during a race. Whilst I know that I spot people  and keep an eye on them for their pace (or occasionally to try and overtake them) I never once imagined that someone else would do the same to me.

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So a huge thank you goes out to Ginge (without him, I wouldn’t have even reached the start line) and Rachel (without her, I would have been much slower in crossing the finish).  Today’s race was 10 minutes faster than my last (hilly) 10k AND I have since realised that it was about 7 minutes faster than a flat road 10k that I ran last September, so I must be doing something right.

Race report – Hamstreet 10k

One of the nice things about venturing down south is that it gives me the chance to catch up with some of my favourite people. Yesterday, I spent the hottest day of the year so far sitting in a beer garden with Cathy, our great and illustrious Queen of the Athons. As it is July, we had no obligation to do some exercise (although Cathy had done a 5 mile walk beforehand). Sunday however was still June, which is why I found myself lining up at the start of the Hamstreet 10k alongside Helen (read her view of the race here) .

Now holidays must be the time to make out of character and unwise choices. Rather than getting a lopsided drunken tattoo at 3 in the morning, I signed up for this race. Had I been at home, I would never ever have said yes to it. Never. Ever. Ever. 

When I start looking for a race it goes in several stages. 

  1. Logistics – How long is it? When is it? Where is it? Do I have a child wrangler and/or cheerleader available? 
  2. Greed – Is there bling? Or goodies. Or bling and goodies? This is partly why I ran a race on holiday in San Francisco, I got a t-shirt, medal AND a Buster Posey bobble head. Amazing. 
  3. Fear – How scary is it? Is it a tough or fast course? How many people did it last time? How long did the final finisher take?

At this point, I stare fear in the face, distract it with something shiny and go and hide under the bed. I am petrified of finishing last. 

So why the hell did I sign up for a ‘challenging’ course with a tiny field (74 did the 10k and about 25 did the 5k) where last year’s final finisher took 1.09? Because I only knew the first one of these things and even then I didn’t know how challenging ‘challenging’ would actually be. 

At the start, I did my usual thing of looking around at other runners and it started to dawn on me that everyone looked quite gazelle like. But I reassured myself that it was a friendly race suitable for experienced runners and beginners alike (the blurb had said so).

And then we set off. 

Both Helen and I are struggling with pacing at the moment, so we had made a pact to set off at an easy pace. We set off at an easy pace and watched as everyone surged forward. Checking our technology, we realised that we weren’t actually taking it easy after all. At this point I convinced myself that the entire race had misjudged themselves and would quickly tire, allowing us to catch up and maybe even overtake a couple of them. 

Ha. No chance. The route was indeed challenging; hilly and rutted under foot. The former was dealt with by taking an ultrarunner’s approach and walking the inclines (that’s our excuse and we’re sticking to it), the latter was more of an issue. We are both accident prone. Since childhood I have been the sort who could knock over a glass of water in the middle of the Sahara; if I can fall on my arse, I probably will. 

As we reached halfway, I was feeling it. The sun had come out, I was getting a bit weary and the idea of writing off the full race and just doing 5k was sounding quite appealing. We didn’t, and after passing the 5k marker, I felt myself perk up a bit (it was all downhill from here, metaphorically speaking if nothing else). And then around 7k, the inevitable happened. Maybe an errant tree branch, maybe a rough bit of ground, we don’t know, but poor Helen did a spectacular nosedive onto the floor. 

Luckily there didn’t seemed to be any serious injuries, so we soldiered on and were overtaken by a chap who must have been behind us for the whole race. Eventually we reached the 9k marker and picked up a bit of speed. Back on the road, children cheered, traffic was stopped for us and the unwaveringly cheerful marshalls kept encouraging us on to the final lap of the playing field (stirring up some traumatic memories of PE lessons past) and towards the finish. At this point, Hels kicked in with some secret power of acceleration and I pootled in behind her. Last. 

I finished last. 

And you know what? No one laughed. I got my medal and my cake, and then everyone got on with doing what they were doing next. It really wasn’t so bad after all.

Will this see the end of me scouring the previous year’s results? Probably not. I enjoyed this race, the scenery was lovely, but a lot my enjoyment came from having lovely company to run with. However, now I know that the world won’t end if I do finish last, I might pull on my big girl pants, take a deep breath and be brave again in the future.