Spring is in the air..

I forgot item six on my list of things that I like about the gym.

6. My programme card tells me to run between 6-7mph – this is clearly evidence that I WON the argument about 6mph being 10min/mile. Ha.

Despite the benefits of walls and a roof, the gym certainly doesn’t compare to the glory of being outdoors when spring is in the air. On Sunday morning, I did a relaxed six miles around the village and down to the lodge, taking in the warmth of the sunshine and the bone-chilling cold of the shady bits. I can only apologise to any passing drivers who saw me squatting in the undergrowth, trying to take photos of snowdrops – I dread to think what that looked like…

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.

Juneathon day 19: Canal adventure #12 – Maghull to Halsall

Back on the west side of the canal running today – this wasn’t on the official plan, but events conspired to make it a logistically viable plan. On Friday I ran and ate alone because Ginge went out for food and beers with work. Being the law-abiding souls that we are, he left his car at work and I did a 50 mile round trip through the wilds of Merseyside to retrieve him at the end of the night. A contributing factor to my poor sleep and reluctance to run on Saturday may have been the cement mixer-like snoring that I endured on Friday night, but I couldn’t possibly prove that. With Sunday came the prospect of another 50 mile round trip to collect Ginge’s car. After a bit of head scratching and map consultation, we decided that if I was going to drive that close to the Liverpool end of the canal, we might as well run a bit. Unfortunately, he actually had to do some work, so I sat around and did some work stuff and some knitting (it took me right back to being small and sitting around in hospital staff rooms waiting for my mum to finish being on-call. There was often watery vending machine hot chocolate and colouring-in in those days).

When he’d done what he had to do, we hopped into separate cars and did a convoluted there and back to the beginning and end of the canal route, dropping cars off as we went. Eventually we were assembled at Maghull train station and ready to set off from Bridge 11b.

Bridge 11B

First stop for a photo was Maghull cricket club, where some of the towpath benches face the ground so you can sit and do a sneaky bit of spectating.

Insert weak cricketing pun here

It was a bit warm today, but luckily there was a lot of shady greenery. This didn’t stop me complaining mind you.

Another lovely bridge

We spotted some Day of the Triffids style giant hogweed, which we steered well clear of. Giant hogweed was one of my more leftfield childhood fears.

Evil Giant Hogweed

There was a bit of a reminder that we’re in spitting distance of finishing the west side of the project…

So near!

…swing bridges both closed…

Closed swing bridge

and open…

Open swing bridge

…a field of sheep treading their own path of desire…

Sheep: clearly up to something

…and, two miles earlier than we expected (it makes up for my under-estimating last week), Bridge 21A.

Bridge 21A - welcome back to Lancashire

(but I actually had a double caramel Magnum)

Miles run = 5.1
Canal miles completed = 5.1
Total canal miles = 72.1/127*
Bridges = 11B – 21A

Feeling hot, hot, hot

Now that the nausea and delirium have passed fully, I have been pondering on my two overheating runs and trying to work out what I can do to resolve or improve this situation. The run itself has provided some inspiration, as have the lovely people on twitter, and these are some of the solutions I’ve come up with.

The Fisherman’s Approach
This week we passed some more anglers, but this lot were a lot more casual – none of your thousand pound kit here. Umbrellas and cans of lager were the order of the day. This would solve the issue of hydration, but might be a bit gassy.

Despite it being after midday (I know, this won’t help my situation) a lot of the ducks and swans had opted out of the sunshine and were settled and asleep with their heads under their wings. This idea appeals to me a lot, but defeats the purpose of going out for a run.

It was a day of family strolls and many of the little people were being pushed along with blankets draped over the front of their pushchairs. Again this appeals to me, but I can’t see Ginge warming to the idea of pushing me down the towpath and running with a blanket over my head is likely to end in tears. Or a bloody great splash.

Boys in boats
We ran past two amazing sights of boys in boats. I say boats, the first ones were in an actual boat. But it was a leaky boat. And they were paddling with a plank. The second ones had a proper oar, but had crafted their vessel out of a piece of chipboard and two milk crates. This doesn’t solve any of my running issues, but made me grin hugely and took my mind off feeling rubbish.

Dressing appropriately
I was wearing 3/4 length tights and a t-shirt. This is the minimum I can wear without either burning to a crisp or running the gauntlet of decency laws. As I was sweltering along, we were passed by two people who can only be described as weirdos. The first was a lady running along in a sequined Burnley FC t-shirt and full make up. When I say full make up, I mean full make up in a “Before” on Snog, Marry, Avoid (I saw a bit channel hopping once…) – thick foundation, big eyes, blusher, sparkly lippy and probably a million other products I’ve never heard of – it made my face feel heavy just looking at her. The second person who passed us was a young man in shorts and a hoody. I have no idea what was going through his head as he got dressed “Oh, it’s a lovely day, sun’s shining, what shall I wear? I know, fleece”. He was going a lot faster than us, so clearly it worked for him.  I don’t think make-up and layers will help me, but I have toyed with the idea of some shorts (Long shorts. Long, long shorts. Maybe down to my calf…) and bought a hat that makes me look even more ridiculous than normal (every time I think I can’t look more daft, I find something that can).

I have been banned from eating jelly babies as I seem to flag more after I’ve eaten one. I’ve had a think about this, and I suspect that it’s salt that I need, rather than sugar. Yes, I’m getting tired but I think that’s part of my heat issues rather than simply running out of energy. This week I started to flag at seven miles and that distance isn’t usually a problem for me. Thanks to the magic of Twitter, @robjcameron (who ran this year’s London Marathon and knows about stuff)  responded to my pitiful response to @people_run’s request for sun running tips and gave me some hints involving pretzels and isotonic drinks. I have always thought that my mileage was too embarrassingly pitiful to warrant such things (the drinks, not pretzels, I love pretzels), but maybe the time has come for me to investigate them. (EDIT: PeopleRun – Hot Stuff! Top Tips for Running In Warm Weather)

So there we have it – hat, magic drinks and pretzels, as well not going out too late in the day if it can be avoided. If anyone has any more suggestions, they would be more than welcome.

Speed = distance/time

I can remember that much from GCSE physics. Unfortunately I can’t apply this to tonight’s run as I was Garmin-free.

Not through forgetting it, not charging it or lacking a signal, but rather because of the watch amnesty at tonight’s club session.  On a Thursday it’s an hour’s run, usually out and back, so obviously the speedy ones at the front go further than us at the back, but we should all still end up together at the end. However, apparently some people have been a bit fixated on their garmins recently and although they’re doing their hour, they’re not going any further or faster. So to break free of the shackles of time and distance, we ran out and back on a route that covers 5 1/4 miles and just enjoyed running at a natural, comfortable speed.

Despite feeling a bit naked without it, it was quite nice just enjoying the sunshine, running through the park and having a natter. Thinking about it now, I probably wasn’t the target audience for doing this kind of run – I’d be better if someone followed me with a cattle prod shouting “FASTER! FASTER!” – but it’s still 5 miles even if I don’t have the stats to prove it. You’ll just have to take my word for it mind…