Panic on the streets of London

It’s fair to say that I’m getting more nervous about tomorrow’s Royal Parks Half.

Already I have woken up an hour early, insistent that we were catching the 6.10 train. We never catch the 6.10 train. We always catch the 7.10 train, even today when we made the train with only a couple of minutes to spare (although we did have time to admire two teeny black dress and heels walk of shame outfits at the station. If they weren’t from last night, I admire their commitment to early morning weekend glamour).

So I am on the train. That’s the first worry sorted.

I am fairly convinced that I have my race number, safety pins and Miles in my bag. I know I have my trainers. If anything else is missing, I’ve been reliably informed that London has a few shops.

This has reminded me that I have forgotten my oats for the morning.
I hope that my insides aren’t so delicate that they rebel against unfamiliar muesli. I am already nervous about my insides and needing the loo tomorrow.

What else am I nervous about? People. Thousands and thousands of people. 12,449 other people in fact, and one of them is Ian Beale off of the telly. This is the biggest race I have done and the first time I have been penned by predicted time. I’m hoping that I will be both carried along with the excitement and slowed down enough that I don’t set off at a pace that I would be happy with for a 5k.

I am probably worried about lots of things that I haven’t thought of yet and we’re not even past the Midlands. The best advice I have had has come from people who have run previous Royal Parks – admire the scenery, be lifted by the spectators and most of all, enjoy it!

From Golden Gate Park to Royal Parks Half

It’s about this time of year that I like to write a post entitled “how not to prepare for a half marathon”. Last year, September’s Folkestone Half was preceded by a tight, grouchy ITB (and accompanying knee pain) which affected my training in July and August. This year, I have adopted an approach that I am calling “reverse tapering”.

How not to prepare for a half marathon 2012

Twang your back sitting on a sofa – this really doesn’t help the preparations in any way, shape or form.

Go on holiday to the other side of the world
Two weeks ago, we flew out to San Francisco. In itself this is a really, really good thing to do and I heartily recommend it, just not three weeks before race day.

That my friends is a blue sky and sunshine. Every day was like that. We returned home to flood warnings.

San Francisco is rubbish for greedy people. Alright, it’s actually brilliant for greedy people – I am a greedy person and I didn’t meet a meal that I didn’t like while we were away. Despite my concerns that I may have turned into what the cabin crew politely referred to as “one of our broader passengers”, I was relieved to not have to ask for a wider seat on the plane.

Breakfast. Sour dough French toast. Accompanied by me exclaiming excitedly “It’s basically pudding. Pudding for breakfast. It says breakfast on the menu, but it’s pudding”.

Having been lured in by thoughts of running through the Golden Gate Park and along the Embarcadero or joining a running tour, I did take my trainers with me. They seemed to enjoy the trip, but sadly they didn’t get to see any of the city, apparently preferring to remain in my suitcase for the whole week. Ooops. However, we did do lots and lots of walking and if San Francisco has one thing, it’s hills.

Lombard Street – zig zag zig zag

And steps. Two things, hills and steps.

This wasn’t the bottom of the steps to Coit Tower. I have another 3 photos of the steps that preceded this stage.

This seemed to offset most of the lard and hopefully did something towards me not losing the fitness that I had acquired previously (albeit a little erratically). Unfortunately, this positive was neuralised by the fact that the flight home/time difference threw out my normally clockwork sleep system meaning that I couldn’t sleep until the early hours and started dozing off at four in the afternoon. Which is a shame because I don’t finish work until five.

Oh and within 24 hours of landing back at Manchester, I had managed to twang my back again. This time getting up from a sofa – if nothing else, I shall be avoiding DFS in the near future. So that was another week of ice, ibuprofen and painful massage using a bouncy ball (don’t ask), but no running.

Finally, with just seven days until the start line I have hauled myself out for a not brilliant 10 miler (I was completed under-fuelled, so I have been carb-loading ever since. Mostly on Tunnocks caramel wafers admittedly, but the thought is there) and did a giddy 3 tonight just to remind my legs that they do know how to run.

2 days, 12 hours to go. Gulp.

My very first half marathon – 6th Folkestone Half

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

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?).

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.

Fears and lists

Anyone reading my blog late last night (hi Carla!) will have been treated to an untitled post that consisted of stuff that was in my head and I wanted to get rid of before bed. I was tired and could only paw randomly at my phone meaning that the following was published instead of being kept in a holding pattern overnight: –

  • Loo
  • Lost
  • Late
  • Breakfast

It’s a fairly self-explanatory list of all  (at the time) my fears and worries about Sunday.

I have solved two of them (loo and breakfast) and realised that the other two  (late and lost) are silly.

Our hotel is near the race start so I can nip back to the room for a sneaky wee if the race HQ and portaloos are too busy and I’ve read the race brochure enough times to have remembered where emergency loos are en route.

Breakfast has been packed.

I am not going to get lost. The directions for the race are comprehensive and a bit scary for someone who is (a) not local and (b) appalling with directions. I like my out and back routes to be from A to B and back to A. I do not like them to include twiddly little bits on each end to make them the necessary length. However, it is highly unlikely that I will be leading the race at any point and hopefully I will be able to keep someone in sight.

I am also not going to be late. I will undoubtably dream about being late over the next two nights (or possibly even on the train), but Ginge will not let me be late. And Hels is staying in the same hotel and I doubt she would let me be late either.

So the bag is packed, the lists ticked off (when things were located) and crossed off (when things went in the bag), the shuffle is full of happy tunes, gizmos are all fully charged, panic  has been tweeted about, positive messages have been read (thank you all!) and I’m running out of things to worry about. I am now trying to procrastinate for as long as I can so I don’t have to go to bed.

Yes. Well. Hmmmm.

How not to train for a half marathon

At the beginning of July I embarked on a half marathon training plan. The timing was perfect – 12 weeks between the end of Juneathon and race day. I was grumpy about following a plan, but optimistic that it would help me to do a half that I could be proud of. That was eleven weeks ago.

Today, the countdown on my phone tells me that the number of days before Folkestone is in single figures. My training can best be described as haphazard. Compare and contrast the training plans at Runner’s World and 2:09 Events (my plan was a Frankenstein’s monster of the two) with what has actually happened.

Week One – Broadly completed as prescribed. Apart from substituting the intervals for Audiofuel intervals. And doing the sessions back to front. And skipping a 3 mile run.

Week Two – Intervals, done (well I did 7 reps instead of 8 because I programmed Miles wrong). 6 miles, done. Two 3 mile sessions, done (including my first Parkrun). Little giddy dance that I’ve done a proper week’s training, done.

Week Three – The plan demanded an 8 mile easy run. I did a 10 mile (because I got my weeks mixed up) hellish nightmare of a run. My niggling knee and hip pain left me trotting along like a lame Shetland pony. A lame Shetland pony with a leg length discrepancy. Wearing a stiletto hoof. I did a 5 mile run that was equally hard and ordered a foam roller.

Week Four – After the nightmare of week three, I didn’t run for a week. I wanted to run, but wise blogging and tweeting people advised otherwise. I asked twitter to recommend me a physio and spent part of my friend’s wedding tweeting Andy from Summit Physio. An appointment was duly booked, attended and I went off with the instruction to roll my legs as much as possible (and as agonising pain allowed). I did manage a three mile run at the end of all this – woo hoo!

Week Five – Hills, 6 miles, fartlek session, 10 miler. Ha. I ran twice. For a total of 6 miles.

Week Six – It was my birthday! I celebrated with an undulating 6.5 mile canal adventure. Later that week, I did 3.5 miles and an 8 miles. The 8 miles boosted my confidence by want of me surviving it. Unfortunately, the plan asked for way more miles than that, a bit of fartleking, and some intervals. It did not mention canals or scones.

Week Seven – Should have been the same as week six, but with longer intervals (still no scones though). I nearly ran a half marathon distance, unfortunately there was a two day break between starting and finishing. Looking on the positive side, I did successfully run the ten mile route that heralded the beginning of my downfall.

Week Eight – I actually did more miles than I should have this week… Plan said 2 x 3 miles, 5 miles, 10 x 200m intervals. I did some lovely Audiofuel intervals, a 3 miler and, whisper it, 12 bloody miles! There was probably some technical reason why the mileage dropped this week, I will never know.

Week Nine – Incredibly complicated intervals, 6 miles and 4 miles or Audiofuel pyramid intervals, and a 5k? You guess correctly. The only thing I did right this week was doing a 10k race – I enjoyed this more than I expected.

Week Ten – Woke up with a scratchy throat the day after Blackpool, went home early from work the day after that, snuffled, sneezed, snotted, coughed and spluttered for the rest of the week. Dyed some wool. Could have run on Sunday, but chose to be lazy. No running was done.

Week Eleven – I stopped looking at the plan weeks ago. I am still snuffly. I’ve done 4.5 miles and 3 miles so far and we are planning to do a 9 mile canal adventure to Liverpool on Sunday. Having re-checked the plan tonight, I can say with some confidence that the plan does not include canals, taking photos of swans or eating baked goods this week.

Next week I am supposed to taper. How am I supposed to tell where the taper starts and my training ends?

Oh heck.