My very first half marathon – 6th Folkestone Half

I have completed my first half marathon and lived to tell the tale.

SATURDAY
The weekend started with some last minute list crossing off and minor panicking before marvelling (again) at how easy it is to get from Wigan to London on the train. This was followed by a short mooch around St Pancras (posher than most shopping centres I’ve ever been to) then hopping on the high speed train down to Folkestone. Before we knew it, we were sitting outside the hotel in the sunshine drinking a pint (Ginge) and drinking squash but looking longingly at a pint (me). We had left grey, cloudy Lancashire behind and enjoyed the novelty of basking in unseasonal warmth. It was so sunny, I even showed a bit of ankle. After a spot of lunch with my aunt and uncle, we wandered into town, sized up The Hill (bloody big), wandered back to the hotel, neatly laid out all of my race gubbins (nothing had been forgotten, phew), had a bit of a snooze and met up for tea with Helsie, JogBlog, I like to count and Helsie’s mate Helen 1, where we gorged ourselves senseless on carbs (surely creme brulee counts? No? Really?).

SUNDAY
Race day. More carbs (including my shameful little bag of homemade muesli rather than hotel variety pack cereal). Plenty of fluids. Lots of nervous excitement. Emptying bladder. Sock knitting to take my mind off the nervous aspect of the excitement. Lots of tweeting – I really enjoyed being part of the nationwide pre-race nerves instead of just watching from the side lines. Emptying bladder again. Slight panic that I’d forgotten my socks, despite knowing full well that I had packed my socks. Looking out of the window trying to convince myself that it was about to cloud over. Attempting to empty already empty bladder. Race number pinned on. Jelly babies crammed in back pocket, despite the fact that my pocket suddenly seemed half the size it normally is. Off to the start line.

Best good luck message ever

It is a matter of public record that I do not like running in the heat. I live in the damp and mild north of England, we mainly get drizzle. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to account for the fact that I was running with Helen “Bring Me Sunshine” Tamblyn. It turns out that Hels’s superpower is the ability to make races unseasonably and uncomfortably sunny. If you’re getting married, I would suggest that you encourage her to race in the vicinity of the ceremony to guarantee that you have decent weather.

I do love a bandstand

Anyway, the race. I set off well… And then spent the first three miles wishing that I’d worn my hat. When I saw Ginge on the sidelines proffering my hat, it was snatched gratefully from him with a cry of “I think I love you…” over my shoulderas I lumbered past.
At 4.3 miles, I overtook a man on a mobility scooter. He wasn’t part of the race and I shouldn’t really have been as pleased as I was with this.
After an alarmingly short time had elapsed, the front runner passed us (he finished in a course record of 1:08:00, 8 min 55 sec before the second placed runner) and not long after that, Shaun (I like to count) also bounded past followed by Hels’s mate Jimmy.
Around 5 miles, I started to feel sick. I know the feeling from previous attempts to run in the heat and I realised that I was faced with a choice. Keep running, inevitably feeling worse (and increasingly miserable) and possibly not making it around the course, or walk for a bit, take it easy and – as everyone had told me to – just enjoy it. Who am I to ignore the advice of wiser, more experienced runners eh?

Despite the run-walking, it was still bloody hard work. I was immensely grateful to the applause and encouragement of all of the spectators (particularly the lad showering runners with a garden hose and Ginge who just threw water over me) and marshalls around the course  – I just hope they all realised that my response to their cheers was a smile and not a grimace. I also had some wonderful psychic Shuffle random playlist action – starting the race with my motivational tune (Trinity Roots, All We Be), being told Don’t Worry Be Happy at mile 10 and singing along to Jolene (in my head you’ll be relieved to know) with the blessed Dolly as I plodded up The Hill.

Beach huts around the ten mile mark

On another day, I may have managed to own The Hill, but it was not to be and I managed about 30 seconds before resorting to walking. After that, I was determined to finish on a run and with gritted teeth, I ploughed on to the finish where I was cheered over the line in a time of exactly 2:33:00 before collapsing on the grass.

Before the day, I had set three levels of goal in my head: It would be acceptable to get round but…I would be pleased with finishing under 2:30 but… I would be ecstatic with somewhere around 2:15.

So am I happy with that result? Yes and no. Given the conditions, I was pleased to finish and in an acceptable and not too shabby time. I knew that my training hadn’t been at its best, I did everything I could to enjoy the day and the sobering sight of a runner receiving ambulance treatment near mile 10 (I hope that he was ok) reminded me that it’s more than possible to come to grief. However… I know that I can do better.

In summary – I had a fantastic weekend and it was lovely to meet up with my Southern running mates (especially as Cathy brought us homemade jam). The race was well organised and friendly, but I was undone by the general heat and lack of shade throughout the course (there really was no respite from the sun along the sea front). However, I keep referring to Folkestone as my first half marathon – this suggests that there will be more of them, so I must have enjoyed myself.

Juneathon Day 6: Blimey Charlie!

Garmin, check. Shuffle, check. Clubcard, check. Monday night is big shop night in the Hopefully household and earlier Athons have taught me that the most effective use of time is to run home from Tesco (well I’m hardly going to get up at half five on a Monday morning am I?). I have long since run out of shame when it comes to going to supermarkets in my running kit (at least tonight I was there pre-run so I wasn’t red-faced, sweaty or muddy, which is a blessing for everyone) and I think more people (me included) were distracted by the sight of a woman who appeared to be wearing a pelmet as a skirt.

To get home, I have a choice of two routes. Both are three miles long. One is an undulating bypass between an industrial estate and a housing estate finishing with my old nemesis hill. The other is mainly flat and runs between fields full of sheep. Guess which one I picked? I know, I know, but don’t judge me just yet…

Yesterday on Twitter, JogBlog was extolling the virtues of owning a Garmin to Hels and the conversation turned to the fact that some let you run against a virtual training buddy (JogBlog’s is named Cedric). This lead to some discussion about training plans which reminded me that I should really get on with some proper training if I’m supposed to be running the Folkestone half in September and Cathy suggested I use a virtual partner. Instead, I used my actual partner (the ever reliable Ginge) to kick my arse as we ran along the canal – the result was that I managed to finish with an average pace of 10.03min/mile over 8 miles (the last 2 half mile splits came in at 9.35 and 9.24 – I have no idea how) and I never do that.

Ginge presented me with undeniable evidence that it’s my head that’s holding me back  from improving at the moment – when he told me that he’d deliberately gone a bit faster than normal, I checked my pace, fear set in and I immediately slowed down.

Unfortuately (and fortunately, I’m not an idiot) now that this particular Pandora’s box has been opened, the fact that I can go faster is fluttering out there like a malevolent moth. I can’t really keep slacking by running at my familiar pace, however comforting that is. And so it was with some trepidation that I pressed buttons randomly on my Garmin until I had managed to challenge it to a race at a 9.30min/mile pace all the way home from Tesco. The result?

It was a bit of a drubbing for the Garmin – I beat it with a minute to spare. Ha. Take that as-yet-unamed-GPS-watch-thingy.

Annoyingly, this doesn’t really affect my cornet count and I now have a higher benchmark than I expected. Arse.

 

Eat my goal!

Well last week’s lesson was “if you’re chuffed with what you’ve done, blog quickly before you have chance to devalue it and turn it into a negative”. Putting that lesson into practice, I’m quite pleased with yesterday’s run – upping my time from 1hr 20 to 1hr 30, which translated into 7.8ish miles. Once again it was a bit on the undulating side – I’m learning that that there’s no escaping hills round here, it’s not quite Wales, but we have plenty of mini valleys.

1staug

One new idea I have adopted/adapted was from Runners World (I buy it occasionally to feel like I’m a real runner…) – 101 Best Tips Ever in the August issue.

Number 33, from Joe Beer (author of Need to Know Triathlon)

‘Set “failure”, “adequate”, “success” and “dream” goals for all your races. This means you have an exact benchmark with which to rate your efforts rather than how you got on compared with someone else – or worse still, lowering a goal after a race to ensure you succeeded’.

Now, there’s not much chance of the latter; I’m much more likely to be disappointed that I didn’t achieve a goal that I didn’t actually set before I went out (didn’t go far/fast/long enough, even though I did the time/distance that I intended to).

So for me, setting these graded goals means that I can try to move away from my ‘all or nothing’ thinking – my success goal yesterday had 2 built in recovery walks of 30 seconds (see above to see if you can guess where they were). I was thinking about some arcane knowledge I picked up somewhere along the way which says that you should try to increase your distance by 10% each week. Technically this would have taken me up to 1hr 28, which I felt was perfectly acceptable, so even with my minute’s walk I ran for 1hr 29. And then added an extra minute at the end to round things up…

PS. Graceless plodding aside, I’m continuing in my spirit of Juneathon to try something new tomorrow. Anyone for racketball?

Living up to the name

Hmmm.  What have I learned in the last couple of months? Well, setting targets for major events is not a good idea for me. Since setting up this blog and planning to enter the Mersey Tunnel 10k, I have done the running equivalent of hiding under my duvet. I’ve probably run every week, but nowt particularly challenging and certainly nowhere near my target of 10k.

I’m very ashamed by this and what narks me the most is that I’ve no better excuse than just being lazy.

Of the runs I have done, I’ve enjoyed most of them; I’ve seen all sorts of nature (rabbits, ducks, goats, a heron, sheeps, cows, horses, geese, moorhens/coots…); I feel fitter and stronger when I run; I have more energy and, dammit, I’m dead proud of myself for doing it. I just need to do it more.

So it’s back to the drawing board for me. When I started to lollop along at more than a walking pace, I stuck to a routine and I need to get back to it and get my lazy arse outside. So… Forget about big targets, my new one is to go out at least three times a week by hook or by crook.

Failing that, I’ll just do another apologetic post in August.