Sunday, 7 November 2010

Half Stevenage Half

Getting up this morning I knew today wasn't going to be a good day. I had to drag myself out of bed, force myself to eat, I felt nauseous all the way to the race, realised I hadn't taken my medication before leaving the house, and when I got there I was told the car park was full, then it wasn't. I finally got parked, grabbed my spare meds out of my bag and then it started to rain. I seriously debated whether or not I should just start my car and disappear! Instead I just added a base layer to my outfit and walked the 15mins to the start.

It was a good start, I'd arrived early enough to warm up properly and did a couple of gentle jogs around the track and some stretches to get the muscles moving. My bag was in the baggage tent, I'd used the loo (v. important) and I was ready to start. Even once we were off I still wasn't really in the mood; something wasn't right, but I didn't know what. I felt fine and I happy to keep running, but my heart wasn't really in it. The first km beeped on my Garmin, but I didn't even acknowledge it. I figured I could get through the race at a pace that was comfortable, but not too hard; no PB, just a finish! A little after the 1st mile marker I started to get a pain behind my right knee. It wasn't anything worth noting, just annoying, I figured the muscle had tightened up and I needed to stretch it out or something. I continued on without thinking too much about it, but the course was undulating and whilst the pain wasn't bad on the flat, when the hills it it became progressively worse. After 5 miles I could no longer run up hill and had to walk those stretches. The course consisted of two laps and the amount of pain I was in made my decision to drop out after the first lap very easy. I did injury back in March and struggled to finish the Reading half marathon, I wasn't going to do it again I figured the quicker I stopped running the less damage I was doing. 

As soon as the course looped back to the start I dropped out and found the nearest St John's Ambulance for treatment. A bit of rest, elevation, ice and a tubigrip later and I back on my feet trying to minimise the hobbling (street cred lol!). I handed my timing chip back in and collected my goody bag and t-shirt. I must say I am supremely disappointed as the race was advertised as awarding all runners with a medal and technical shirt, but instead we only got shirt. So I'm not disappointed I didn't complete, just annoyed my knee still hurts all these hours later (yes I was hoping I'd faked it...). Walking's not too bad right now, but seeing stairs makes me cry! Coming down is almost barable, but going up is a nightmare. I've figured out that it hurts more when I bend my knee so I've been trying to get up and down the stairs without bending my knee. I see a physio appointment very soon in my future and not a whole lot of running!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Ten Halves in 2010

So I've done it! I've completed my personal challenge and run 10 half marathons in 2010; all for Scope! Scope have been brilliant along the way, sending me good luck cards and congratulations certificates and even post race massages and snacks! It's been a tremendous journey from my first half of the year; the Roding Valley Half where I ran 2:10:38, to my longest; the Reading Half where I had the ligament injury that kept me away from the London Marathon, to my PB, which I achieved at the Royal Parks Foundation Half in Hyde Park just days before my 30th birthday! I was really hoping to get a sub 2:00 time, but I pushed as hard as I could and came out with 2:01:39; shaving nearly SIX minutes of my previous PB! So that was none too shabby!

Before this year I had only run one half marathon; Run To The Beat in September 2009, and that was purely by chance! It had never been my intention to get into half marathons, just like it had never been my intention to get into running! In 2009 I had been working up to running 10k, and I had even entered a 10k race in Watford for the April with my bff, come the day though it was rainy and I hadn't done adequate training so it was an easy decision to give it a miss. I did still meet up with my friend later that day and her father-in-law made a comment that made me want to take my running more seriously. That year was the first year I actually made a plan about what races I was going to run and set myself real workable goals in terms of finish times. I got a PB at the Women's 5k Challenge that year and went on to run the Bananaman 10k Chase in Willen Lake, my first 10k race and setting myself a PB of 53:53 that I am still yet to beat! It was this race that lead me to my first half marathon. Leukaemia Research as they were known then are the official charity of RTTB and they had extra places going for the race in just two weeks! As it was such short notice they didn't even want any money; they were just giving the places away and I could hardly say no! I had an 8k race the day before, which I completed and my plan for the day was just to enjoy the atmosphere and get around the course! Leukaemia Research were going for a world record for the number of people dressed as bananas before the race and I was eager to take part in that! I put on my banana suit and warmed up with my fellow bananas, had a photoshoot, signed the register and decided to run the whole 13.1miles wearing the suit! It was such a fantastic experience that I knew I just had to do it again! It's funny how you can be so afraid of something only to realise there's nothing to be scared of at all!

The idea to run 10 in 2010 came to me after my injury, I had just been using the 21.1km distance as preparation for the London Marathon. After my marathon dreams were smashed I wanted to think of a challenge I could do that would be worthy of the kind of support I would expect for the London Marathon. I wasn't particularly enjoying the 13.1 mile race, but I knew that I could recover and train an get back into it. It would be hard work, but not as much hard work as the marathon and if I could maintain that level of fitness for the whole year I knew it would have lots of other benefits for me. I decided to choose my runs carefully as running four halves in four weekends had caused my injury. I laid them out trying not to do two in two weekend, always giving myself a break in between to recover. I also had the London Triathlon in my diary so there was serious cross training to be done as well! It been a hectic year, I've had two respiratory infections that have kept me in bed for weeks and yet I've kept pushing for these halves. They've really kept me going!

Now 13.1 miles is my race; I own it. When I look for races I look for half marathons, there's the odd 10k, 10mile and 5k in my diary too, but 13.1 is where I live; that's me; it's got my name on it and it calls me Mommy! This is the distance that really pushes me, where I can prove something to myself; where I separate the girl from the woman; where I find my own. And to prove the point; I'm not happy with 2:01:39 as a PB I need to get sub 2:00 and as such I'm going to keep running half marathons until I hit a figure that I'm happy with. And yes all you runners out there know that this is just the start; once I hit my goal, I'll simply move the goal post and keep on running. So if you see me out there, come along and run with me; life is for the taking and I'm running with it!

Monday, 25 October 2010

Birmingham Half

What a day! I won't go into all the drama I had with my car breaking down before the race, but I'll stick to the event and the run itself! 

Another early start! Kick off was 09:00, which meant I had to get up at 05:30 to get up to Brum on time. For some reason they closed the baggage drop at 08:30, which didn't help, so I decided to forget the baggage drop completely and just head to the start straight from the car park. I'm really against such early starts when its so cold, at this temperature you should only run when the sun is high in the sky!

The start was really messy, there were signs displaying the colour coded pens, but they were small and everyone seemed a little confused as to where they should be. It took me a while to find my place and I had to climb over the barriers to get a space in the pens. Luckily there were a couple of nice young men in the pen who helped me over, which was a good start. It was a slow start; I was close to the start line, but didn't get across until 09:10. That was a bit of a farce as well as once we got over the finish line we had to walk for the first 200m! I think the problem was because the course narrowed suddenly so the was just no room to run ahead. Either way it  added valuable seconds to my time.

I started without my usual fuel drink, as I forgot to take it out of the fridge, so I decided to put my faith in the organisers and go with whatever was available on the course. Luckily the water stations were all n the right places and I managed to get water at 5km, Lucozade at 6km and well after that I wasn't exactly worried! Luckily I had spent the week training without taking fuel or water on up to 11km, so it didn't put me out too much. The cruelest part of the race was when we went past Cadbury World and I could smell all the lovely chocolate! The aroma just filled the street, I've never been to Cadbury World, but a trip is now in order!

The thing I enjoy most about my running is my innate ability in the run up to a race to forget things like 'undulating', or 'hilly' in the race description... Nonetheless, it wasn't long before I remembered... Considering how hard I found the inclines I did really well time wise. It was a serious struggle, I went into this race certain of a PB and I had hit just under 11km at the half way point so I was certain I would make it. Unfortunately the last 5 miles of the course were the hilliest points and it was a serious struggle on tired legs; even my usual mantras couldn't keep me going for long.

I eventually finished in 2:02:23 on a slightly long course of 21.3km and received a text confirmation of my time (always nice). The rest of the finish line was yet another joke! The finish was so congested that you had to push your way forward to get on the mat to register your chip time. It then took 15mins to walk through the congestion and get to where they were handing out space blankets and goody bags. The one good thing is that the goody bags contained sized t-shirts in ladies and mens styles and sizes and I was able to get a shirt that fits for once! The medal is nice and shiny too, but I wasn't hugely impressed! All in all it was a good and challenging race, there were however too many organisational issues that really let it down. Would I do it again? Yes, just maybe not next year...

Splits - in km as I find it works better for me as I'm running!
1km - 5:18.4
2km - 5:28.68
3km - 5:42.43
4km - 5:35.2
5km - 5:53.4
6km - 5:52.16
7km - 5:45.66
8km - 5:54.44
9km - 6:04.29
10km - 5:11.16
11km - 5:42.62
12km - 5:34.2
13km - 5:39.86
14km - 5:56.68
15km - 5:50.7
16km - 5:41.2
17km - 5:34.37
18km - 6:54.53
19km - 6:20.84
20km - 5:57.06
21km - 4:57.95
0.3km - 1:27.56

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Royal Parks Foundation Half

Wow! What an amazing race, maybe it was just the date; 10-10-10 has real significance for me, maybe because it's a few days before my birthday, maybe its just the symmetry of it. Either way I always knew this race was going to be special and that I would get a PB here. 

It was another early start for me; the race start time was 09:30 and I was setting off from home so my alarm sounded at 06:00... I may or may not have actually gotten out of bed at that time... After getting a bowl of porridge I got out the house at 07:30 and then spent 20 mins driving around Milton Keynes to find a petrol station that was open. Not being able to use my debit card at the pump is becoming a problem! Luckily being early the motorway was quite clear and even though I set off late I still made good time and got to Hyde Park before 09:00.

I had been on a course during the week and met a lovely woman who was also running today and planned to meet her before, but being so late I just went straight to the the baggage area, the toilets and then the start. In my pen I notice pacers for 2:00 and decided to try to stick with them, my ultimate goal for 2010 is to get a sub 2:00 half marathon and I was feeling so great today I thought it was worth a shot! My personal best (PB) up to this point was 2:07:21. My last race was 2:17:11, which is even worst! But hey; I'm a chancer! At it was there were two 02:00 pacer and annoyingly they ran on either edge of the runners then one of them kept running to the other to chat even so often, which made it hard to follow! After the first three miles I lost sight of them and actually it made for a more enjoyable run.

The other 'problem' I encountered along the way was with my Garmin. I had checked that it was in running mode, but forgotten to take it from metric to statute. So I was a bit shocked when it buzzed 1km and I had barely started running. Luckily I didn't panic; if this had happened when I first started running half marathons I would have panicked, but I quickly decided to work in kms and aim for 21.09 instead. This also made it easier as I knew I needed to get under 6:00 per km to hit my target. This was the hard part! I already knew I could run under 5:00 per km, but only for short distances, keeping it up over 21km was going to be a challenge! 

At first I thought the route was remarkable quiet, but then it did start at 09:30 on a Sunday morning! Getting into it though it livened up a lot and I heard many people calling out "Well done Sheryl!", "Keep going Sheryl!". I would seem wearing Sheryne on my shirt doesn't work well, I think I'll stick to Ms Sweets in future! lol The Scope cheer spots were great as always; they were around the 6.5 & 8.5 mile points and gave you a real push, just when you needed it. One of the great things about this race is they had a halfway point marker with a timing chip pad too - so no cheating! The great thing about that point is that my Garmin buzzed to mark 1hr complete; great just another hour of hard running to do!

I'd been hitting 9min miles at the mile markers all the way through, but at 9miles I started to fall behind. Only by 10secs to start, but it could have been the beginning of the end. At 10miles I had to pick it up and found a new mantra! "I refuse to lose!" I repeated it over and over in my head, and I think I may have said it out loud once or twice! It kept me going through the last few miles and when I hit the 12mile marker I threw down my Lucozade and the sweets I had in my hand and just made a break for it! That last mile took a hell of a long time to come to an end and it really felt like it was going on forever and ever! It finished where it had started and both me and my Garmin agree that it was much longer than 13.1 miles. In fact it was 13.25!

Hyde Park is one of my favourite places to race and the route didn't disappoint. It encompassed parts of the Bupa 10,000, the British 10k and the start line of the Women's Challenge. It made for a very familiar run that I really enjoyed. The medal was pretty unique too; it was actually made out of wood, apparently from the parks we'd been running in! The festival of food afterwards was really interesting; there were lessons on how to fillet fish, all types of food on sale (I had my my favourite crepes), Army training teams were there stretching the runners out and there were even two obstacle courses for the kids (that looked pretty fun!). All in all it was a great day out and I can't wait to come back next year for a new sub 2:00 PB!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Bananaman Chase 10k

This is the second time I have ran this race and I have to say it was much better last year! Last year it was held in September, a week after the Women's Challenge if I remember rightly, and I was all psyched up from the PB I got there by the time race day came along. More importantly last year the sun was shining and it was a great day out, today, however, it rained. I must admit it was kind enough to stop raining during the run and it conveniently started raining again as I crossed the finish line, so yes I am thanking God for the small mercies!

I went out for a run yesterday, just 6k to get the legs warm as my training has gone out the window this week due to the weather and my hiding out inside as much as possible to avoid it... Yesterday was glorious however so I had to get out and enjoy it! My Garmin wasn't charged and died in the middle of my run, so I popped it on the charger so it was nice and ready for todays run. It worked perfectly whilst I was out running, but when I  got back and tried to sync it, it lost all my data and only recorded a zero run for yesterday! ARGH!!!! Never mind, I checked all the details before I sync and luckily I have a photographic memory so it's all in my head...

The race is run by Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research and ten people dressed as bananas set out around the course at different paces 5 mins before the runners start. The aim of the run is to chase the bananas around the course and try to overtake as many as possible. It's great fun and when your time is recorded at the end they tell you just how many bananas you managed to beat! Last year was fantastic, I had been training well and managed to get around in 53:53! I haven't even come close to that time since that race! This year I know my training has been slack, but I was still determined to do my best and whilst I didn't think I could get anywhere near that PB I wanted to get my best time for this year, which so far stands at 57:20; set way back in February.

This year the race really felt like a bit of a mess; it didn't start on time, which isn't a problem as we had some entertainment from a young girl who danced to Michael Jackson for us, then and interesting Zumba warmup. But as I made my way around the course Bananas 9 & 10 were running together, some of the bananas didn't have numbers on their backs which made it difficult to know who you were overtaking and I managed to pass Banana 3 (50 mins pace); who I was aiming to catch at 5km? That didn't impress me. He was walking, so he may have had an injury, which is in no way his fault, but it does take some of the fun out of it. 

Another disadvantage of this race it that they use timing chips that are attached to your race number and read by a wand at the end. So timings are not accurate as there is not record of the time you passed the start line and then you have to wait in line after passing the finish line to have your number read! As I passed the finish the clock read 54:30, which is great, but it's exactly a minute out from what my watch read: 55:30? Not sure what happened there, I'll have to wait until the results are published, but either way I'm pleased with the run. It's a nice course around Willen Lake, I do like running there, and there were plenty of water stations and marshalls around the course all in all a good day out, it just the rain that had me running for my car the second I crossed the finish line!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Great North Run

I was really slack on the training going into this, in fact it was pretty much non existent! I think I did around 1-2 runs a week in the month running up to the race; going no further than 11km, and that distance I only did maybe twice. A far cry from my usual 55km per week! Needless to say a PB was not a probability today!
I drove up to Middlesbrough the night before the race and checked into the Marton Hotel & Country Club. It sounds a lot grander than it is and it looks a lot more dilapidated than it did in the photos... I was most unimpressed to find out when I checked in that it was undergoing renovations and as such the showers had been removed from most rooms! I'm not a bath person at the best of times and the thought of getting into one after a run when I just wanted to get home was not what I wanted. I had a free transfer service with my hotel booking and checking the details I realised I had to drive to a car park 10 miles away to join the coach! The pickup was at 07:00, so that meant me leaving the hotel at 06:30 to be there 15 mins before. Not brilliant when a) the race was 45 mins away; b) didn't start until 10:40! I tried to get an early night the night before, but went to bed at 21:00 only to toss and turn all night. It seems staying in a strange bed the night before a race does not bode well for me. Thinking of it I've never performed well when I've slept away from home...
My alarm went off at 04:45 much to my disgust and I hit the snooze button a few times before dragging myself out of bed. Breakfast was kindly put on at 05:00 for the runners and consisted of cold meats, toast, cereal and luckily for me porridge! It was the plain kind and there wasn't any honey to sweeten it so I added marmalade instead which was an interesting combination! After breakfast I had a little time to kill as I'd done most of the prep the night before and strangely enough I'm quicker in the bath than I am in in the shower in the morning so I took a quick nap for 30 mins. At 06:30 I went to make my way to meet the coach only to find two parked up outside the hotel waiting! That's another half hour I could have had in bed! Sitting on the bus I realised I didn't need my car keys and ran upstairs to put them in my room, I got back to the bus and decided to set up my iPhone with the correct playlist only to realise my last sync must have deleted all the music! Another trip upstairs to collect my iPod and I was ready!
Arriving at the start area at 08:00 with Claire, a lady I had met at the hotel the night before, we decided to kill time by taking a long slow walk around the park adjacent to the start. 2 hours and 40 minutes is way to early to arrive! The rain was coming down pretty hard as well so it was all we could do to stay warm, amazingly about an hour before the start the rain stopped and I was able to get rid of my outer clothes and drop my bag on the luggage bus. The ace itself started on time, but being so far back in pen F I didn't get started until nearly 11:00! Within the first mile I knew it was going to be hard work, my legs didn't want to move at the 08:28 pace I was setting., an it was all own hill from there....
Head through the many tunnels it was all "Oly, oly, oly!", "Oi, oi, oi!"; I've never heard so many olys and ois in my life! And yes, that includes Napa. Usually in a race you find that after the first couple of miles the runners thin out and it gets easier to run at your natural pace rather than around and in between people. That did not happen today, it felt 10 deep each side the whole way through and even worse at the end, not that I had the energy to run fast a clear streak might have motivated me a little... My toes had been feeling numb from the cold start, but became painful after 5km. I had a long way to go and I was determined to get through so I bit my lip and dealt with it; flexing my toes as much as I could in my shoes!
The best part of the race was the Bupa Boost area around the 10 mile point where you could get a massage, a handful of jelly babies, or a wedge of Vaseline. The support around the race from spectators was great; there were servings of sweets, ice pops, oranges. Kids giving high fives and teenagers using the free water to spray the runners! This didn't impress me much and seemed more malicious than helpful, one runner decided to squirt the kids back and that impressed me!
All in all, I can see what draws people to this race, but I do not think I will be back to do it again. There are so many races that I have enjoyed far more a lot closer to home that I would not drive 3.5 hours each way again to only run 2:17:14!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Adidas Women's 5k Challenge

What an amazing day! This is my favourite race of the year; possibly because it's the first race I ever ran way back in 2007! This is where I caught the running bug; back then the race was sponsored by Lucozade and I made it through by running 3km twice a week and a half marathon wasn't even a pipe dream!

I always aim to do better than I did the previous year at this race and normally succeed by setting a new PB for the year. This year, however, I had already set a new 5k PB back in February at the Milton Keynes parkrun of 26:05. Whilst my ultimate goal for 2010 was to get a sub 25:00 5k, and I really wanted to do it at this race, I wasn't hopeful as my training had been lax and I was and am seriously stressed at the moment!

I met up with my bff in the park before the race and we headed down to the start together. She had the bright idea of getting into the sub 25min section (for club runners, which I am lol). Something I probably wouldn't have done, even though that was what I was hoping, I was realistic and hoping to just do a sub 26min race; I would be happy with 25:xx! We didn't have a lot of time before the start and soon after we got into the pen they closed the gates and told newcomers to go to the back to run the race. I didn't get to warm up properly so just stretched and bounced around in the pen, my anxiety was enough of a warm up! My hero Jessica Ennis was on the podium and I was torn between taking a pic of her and getting my music started. When I checked my watch is was 10:59 so, sorry Jess, but the music won out and before I knew it the gun went off! I didn't even have a chance to say good luck to my bff before heading off with the crowd. Luckily we had already decided where to meet after the race before heading off to meet our other halves!

I didn't rush off as the gun went, but took my time walking to the line and making sure my watch matched exactly the start line. Setting off I decided not to distract myself by check my watch at every km marker. I needed to check that my watch matched up with the markers on the course, but not check my time. I know the course off by heart now and mapped out in my head the start with the 1st left bend then the part where you double back on yourself where, for the first time in four years I was fast to see the elites running ahead! After that you hit the first km and it's pretty much like any other course until you hit the police station towards the end with the little elevation which really takes it out of you if your not expecting it, but after you turn the corner the finish line is there and that is pretty much that! For the life of me I couldn't figure out if I was on track for my target time or not. I tried to pick someone out in the crowd to match on speed, but couldn't; there were a lot of club runners as expected and whilst I was maintaining speed with them I couldn't out run them and kind of fell in the middle to back of the pack. At the 3km I allowed myself a look at my watch; 15:01. At first I couldn't work out what that meant I was so shocked! But I was on target to get 25:00mins! I just needed to maintain my pace and hoped that my watch and the course continued to match at every marker! 

There were a few moments when I really didn't think I could keep the momentum up, but I kept my usual mantra in my head; just 10 mins and it will all be over, and if you don't collapse at the finish line, you're not running hard enough! As the finish line came in sight I checked the time; 24:xx; I was under 25mins! That really pushed me, I wanted to sprint to the finish, but as hard as I pushed I couldn't sprint, but I hope my speed picked up a little! As I crossed the finish line I pushed the stop button on my watch and felt it buzz. I didn't look at it, I just concentrated on the time on the clock, I didn't cross the line at the gun (the elites did), but it still read 24:25 as I crossed; I'd made it in under 25 minutes; I'd made it in under 24:30 and under 24:25! I was amazed! Luckily I did not collapse at the finish line, I started walking through the funnel and checked the time on my watch realising it hadn't stopped when I hit the button; the vibration I had felt was it clocking 5km, duh! I hit the button at 25:50 and  soon heard my bff calling my name. My bff managed 25:07 a PB for her too so it was a good day all round. We finished up with some time in the park chilling out, checking out the adidas tent and I even saw Jessica Ennis up close and was too star struck to speak to her!

My splits were:
1km - 4:35.56
2km - 4:57.15
3km - 5:06.29
4km - 4:59.34
5km - 4:39.45
Total for 5km: 24:17.79

Sunday, 22 August 2010

London Tri:ed

I've really struggled to write this, in fact I've been avoiding it for days. After missing the London Marathon due to injury, completing the London Triathlon meant the world to me. So to fail at the first hurdle was hard. To be fair I really shouldn't have even made it to the ExCel centre (where the event was being held) at all.

Around 10 days before London I began feeling dizzy and a little nauseous, not enough to say I was ill, but just enough to make me want to sit down more than stand up. I was feeling lethargic as well and my training all but disappeared as a result. When I had a dizzy spell at work I decided it was time to take some time off work and rest. This didn't help so I went to the Doc the following week who said I had a 'respiratory virus', which I think is code for "I don't know what it is, but you don't look so good"... So I started a course of antibiotics and went home where my symptoms got worse. I was exhausted, lost my appetite (yes me!), had a dull ache all down my spine and when my head wasn't hurting it was just cloudy. I tired to give myself little tasks to do each day to make sure I got out of bed like; put the washing on, cook dinner. On the Docs advice, even though I wasn't hungry, I made sure I ate at least one meal each day and tried to keep up with my friends on Twitter if nothing else. After a week in bed I decided I was well (I mean I'd popped loads of those pills, they must be doing something right?) and went down to London on the Saturday to get ready for the London Tri.

Saturday was manic, I had a friend coming over from France to stay with me and watch the Tri and I had to met him at Kings Cross St Pancreas. I jumped on the train to meet him and we drove my bike down to Excel to get a head start in the morning. The atmosphere there was great, we went around the Expo, grabbed a couple of goody bags and I spoke to some of the other competitors. The fact that so many women had my bike, Specialized Dolce 24 2010, was a good conversation starter! I left the Expo and Dolly excited and ready to race the following day!

I spent that night at my Mum's house in Wembley, with my brothers new cat. I went to sleep really late about 01:00 as I just couldn't shut my body down and get into sleep mode. When I finally did get into bed I couldn't drop off as I could hear my brother talking to my cousin in his room. I got them to be quiet and then the little cat sat outside my bedroom door crying and trying to get in! I thought she'd eventually give up, but no, as I checked the time at 03:23, 04:05, and then I got up at 05:00 after having virtually no sleep! Like a trouper though I still headed down to the ExCel determined to get through the challenge.

The first challenge was getting in my wetsuit, which I brought when I was 3kg lighter... Wetsuits are so unforgiving!

Needless to say I squashed myself in and headed down to the water. Everyone else had already headed over to the briefing, there must have been a tannoy announcement or something. Unfortunately I was adjusting my wetsuit in the toilets and must have missed it! Needless to say I had to rush to transition to put my bits down and then run over to the Swim start. Luckily there was another lady in the same predicament and we ran over together. This photo was taken just before I got to the swim; I was still out of breath from running!

Once we got to the water it was straight in and doggy paddle till the horn sounded. It was my first open water swim - big mistake. My own fault as I hadn't been able to make any of the team lake swims and the one time I had tried I ended up driving around for an hour unable to find the lake - doh! I panicked a little, but took a few deep breaths and calmed myself enough to talk a little to the people around me. The water was cold and murky, just as I expected, but I didn't realise how disorientated I would feel by not being able to see through the water. The horn went off and I got started and soon feel behind the other swimmers. I didn't feel at all in control and floundered in the water. A lifeguard came over in a kayak and I told him that I didn't feel confident at all, but wanted to continue. At this point I felt exhausted as if I had finished the race already and I couldn't understand why. I knew I needed to get a rhythm going but I needed to catch my breath also. I grabbed a hold of the kayak for a minute and then started off on my journey.

At first I could only make maybe 150m a time; they gave me my own allocated lifeguard and he stayed close to me while I swam allowing me to rest when needed. I stopped three times to catch my breath, but on the third stop I could see the orange buoy that marked the turning point and decided to swim as far as that, rest then do the run back in one. Only problem was once I got there it wasn't a straight turn around and head back, I had to swim across to another buoy, then turn back! Rather than rest, I decided to keep on and once I reached the other buoy I decided to still keep going. Another wave of swimmers started and I hoped they wouldn't catch up with me and swim over me, but let's be honest it was highly likely! It was too long before I started to see the strong swimmers going past me. I swam out to the left a little and the kayak moved to my right side to put a barrier between me and the other swimmers. Which gave me some relief as only three swimmers came up behind me. The waves created by the swarm of swimmers made it difficult to swim at times, but I kept going as the end was in sight. I kept focussing on the next orange buoy I could see and my lifeguard kept talking to me the whole way through saying motivational things like "keep going", "that's it, you're doing well". I was not however impressed when it told me to start heading towards the buoy, which I thought I was doing, but in fact the buoy I needed to head towards was another few hundred meters ahead! I didn't stop though, I'd come this far and I kept going and eventually turned the corner and arrived back at the dock. 

At the dock there were two female lifeguards there to help you out of the water. They grabbed my hands to help me onto my feet, but when they let go I collapsed and before I knew it I was descended upon by numerous people towelling me dry, ripping my wetsuit from my body and feed me Gatorade. I could hear my friends calling out to me from the sidelines and I tried to keep a smile on my face so they didn't worry too much about me. My whole body felt like jelly and I'd been in the water for 1 hour and 22 minutes! Not good in the Thames! The bad news was I couldn't complete the bike as the roads were due to reopen shortly. To be honest I hadn't got to the point of thinking about the next step, I was just looking to get back to transition! I did still want to keep even though my energy levels were severely lacking!  I was wrapped up in a blanket and walked back to my bike by one of the ladies who had taken care of me on the dock. She kept a hold of all my bits and said to just attempt the run if I wanted to keep going.

In transition I pulled myself together, ate a nutrition bar and decided to give the run a go. I still felt wobbly, but I wanted to try and do what I could. I made my way to the run section and was stopped by another steward who advised me to just do what I could and try to complete at least 5km. The run was four loops of 2.5km and I managed two. I was tired and exhausted and decided not to push myself any further. The crowd was great; lots of people screaming out "Go Ms Sweets!", "Come on Ms Sweets!". I was seriously disappointed to not complete, but I would rather stop running then have to walk parts and there were a few times on my last lap where I really had to force myself to pick up my feet and keep going. All in all I was gutted I didn't make it all the way through, but I did my best and tri:ed!

Monday, 19 July 2010


There was a lot of build up to today. Getting ready last night I realised my usual race gear was in the wash basket, so I did a last minute wash and managed to get my gear out to dry before bed. Then realised I was planning to wear my Scope running gear to an NSPCC event. Deciding I didn't want to be politically incorrect I changed my outfit last minute and went for something that didn't advertise my charity! 

Best thing about today was meeting @Claire0, we've been chatting for ages on Twitter and it was nice to see the woman behind the wetsuit! lol. We met up before the race, put our bags in, and did the usual pre race stuff and warm up. I forgot my Lucozade in my bag so had to run back just before the start time, not sure if was a good or bad thing that I didn't get to start with Claire since she did 1:37!

Coming into the race I really wanted to get a PB, my last PB was set in March at the other MK Half and well MK is my home so I should know the area! Setting off I felt quite good, the first mile was congested as the lane was narrow, but I was able to run on the embankment to get ahead of the slower runners. The course itself was deceiving, it started off on a gentle uphill gradient that wasn't really any bother, so I waited for it to level out... and I waited and I waited. I don't know why, but for some reason I had it in my head that this was meant to be a flat course... We went down redways, bridle paths (very smelly!), canal paths and even past a field of sheep! It was up, up, up, and hardly ever down at all! Not what I was expecting at all it's a wonder I got through!

Once I'd settled in to the race and found my pace I clocked a couple of runners that were running slightly faster than me and decided to try to keep up with them. There was one woman in particular who had long purple pants who was just in front and constantly checking her watch - obviously looking for a PB too! I got ahead of her, she got ahead of me, and we went on like that for the first six miles. After that I really couldn't keep up and thought I was going to loose it. There was one point where I was running so slowly I thought I was walking! I took a gel just after 6 miles and kept pushing through, I had no competition to guide me any more and I knew my speed was fading fast! I was checking my watch and kept telling myself that I needed to pick up the pace if I wanted to make that PB, but it didn't translate to my legs. I was trying to calculate my finish time, but my brain is foggy when I run and even though maths is my strong point sometimes you need to stop to think properly and that was not an option!

Reaching 10 miles was a blessing - the end was in sight, now I knew I could do it! My watch read 1:38 and I knew the last 5km would take me a maximum of 30min, my PB for 5km is 26mins so at a push I could still come in under 2:08! I told myself I'd just got out of bed to do a 5k run and I could hit 26mins on fresh legs. I put a mantra in my head; 5k Fresh Legs, 5k Fresh Legs! Staying focussed the pain in my legs eased and they did feel fresh, well for a bit anyway. I kept pushing through past 11miles, past 12... On the approach to 13 I saw the purple pants lady and thought about staying on her shoulder for a bit so she wouldn't have time to push past me, but the decided I needed to just keep going. I mean, if I could catch up with her she must be tired to have dropped her pace or I was just running that fast that I could still beat her anyway! So I ran past her and I don't know if she picked up my pace, but once she was out of sight I focussed on the finish line and pushed through to complete in 2:07:21!

Amazing, absolutely amazing! Only problem was I didn't have time to enjoy the moment I had to rush off to go to London for my little brother 18th birthday. All in all a great day, even though my legs ache and my nephew broke my medal! Gotta love kids!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Asics British London 10k

Wow it's been ages since I raced! I have to say I've missed it, but enjoyed the rest! I was actually due to run a 10k Race For Life in Milton Keynes a while back, but changed my mind on the day - just wasn't in the mood! Today wasn't like that though, today was a good day!

I went out for a long run last weekend and my ankle really twinged, so I stayed off it all week (running wise anyway). Which is a good thing as I never taper so I guess I was forced too and with the NSPCC MK Half coming up next weekend I wasn't about to take any risks!

I hadn't really thought too much about a plan for today, but I met up with a nice young gentleman called Darren at Wembley Park station and we traveled together so target were discussed as always! My basic plan was just to do what I could and whatever my ankle allowed me to do... Luckily it allowed me to do really well! My last 10k was the Bupa 10,000, which I completed in just over an hour (1:00:40), I had really hoped to come in under an hour and was quite disappointed with my time. If I could get under an hour I would be happy, but would my ankle hold out under the pressure?

The journey this week wasn't too disrupted by Transport for London's engineering works and the tension started to build in me as I saw more and more runners getting on at various stops. Not having run all week, I was a mass of nerves, Would I make it, would I do okay, Would I get under an hour, would I be carried home on a stretcher? Far fetched I know, but I was seriously anxious for some unknown reason! Talking to Darren helped to keep me focussed and we made our way to the baggage area which was quite easy to find, but could have done with some signs once we exited the tube. From the baggage area to the start was a complete mess - people everywhere and no sense of organisation whatsoever. The toilets were so few, which such big queues that we decided to give them a miss and apparently there was a 50p charge! I didn't even see the start line until 30mins after the race started. It was actually located on the opposite side of the road from where we were all queuing, I can see the logic in it given that there was a parade that went past us whilst we waited, but at the time I just wanted to see the start line! Given that we started after 10:00, official start was 09:35, the elites would have been done and dusted before my trainers even got sweaty!

I took my time at the start, got my iPhone playlist ready, made sure my earphones were in properly; I was still nervous and I needed the ritual before I got going. I started well and after the first 1km checked my pace 06:00, slow start, but I could still get under an hour. Because I started so far at the back I had a lot of people to run around for the whole race! I spent a lot of time running up on the 40cm pavements that ran alongside the underpasses! The atmosphere was really good, lots of people calling your name or charity out. There was a Scope cheering point so I got a good cheer and gave them a wave on the way round too, which was nice. The underpasses, well the one underpass that we ran through twice, really shook my Garmin up, lost reception then jumped to the next km once it returned. Jumped to 5km then 6km in mere minutes, wish I could run that fast really!

The toughest part was 7-9km, I couldn't rely on my Garmin anymore as it was way out and there wasn't a 8km marker so I felt like I was running forever! Didn't have much left to sprint at the end, but I did what I could to pick the pace up once I could (finally) see the finish. Finish did feel a bit strange though as I'm used to people giving out goody bags and water etc. We got given water and Gatorade, but had to make our way back to the baggage claim to get our sparse goody bags with our bags. The BG was unimpressive, as was the medal, consisted of a asics pen, asics wrist band, my fav granola bar, those herb sweets and some menthol chewing gum... 

The route was great, much better than Bupa 10,000 and it didn't feel so hard, less climbs I think. The crowd and atmosphere were great too, I would have like more signage and guiding people to the baggage area and start, pens based on finish time and much more goodies please! All in all a good race and I will be back next year!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Southend Half

Just getting to this race was a challenge in itself! What is it with Transport for London and weekend tube closures? To get the 08:10 train to Shoeburyness for Fenchurch Street I had to be on a 06:30 bus from Wembley Park to Golders Green, catch a train from Golder Green to Bank and then walk 18mins to Fenchurch Street. To be honest I knew it said 06:30, but buses run so frequently in London I didn't even aim to get there on time! My mistake; the next bus wasn't for 30 mins - early morning on a Sunday doh! I wasn't too worried, but to make matters worse there was a power failure on the northern line so I had to get off the tube one stop early and get a rail replacement bus from Moorgate to Aldgate and then walk to Fenchurch street...n I eventually arrived at Fenchurch Street at 08:17, just a tad too late for the train. I did manage to get the 08:40 train which got me in to Shoeburyness at 09:48 - giving me 12 mins to find the start line, drop my bag, warm up and get going. Oh dear! 

As it turns out all the worry was for nothing, the start was just across the road from the train station and I walk over with a comrade I met on the train who had been caught out by the power failure like me. We dropped our bags and joined the mass of assembled people. 10:00 came and 10:00 went, but no sign of starting. Gave us a little more time to warm up, stretch and generally calm down - I checked my heart rate at this point, it was around 110bpm! (resting heart rate is normally 70bpm) At 10:20ish I decided I may as well use the loo whilst we were waiting. As luck would have it the race started off as I walked into the cubicle, I did think about not going, but decided I'd only need to go on route if I did that so rushed and still managed to start just short of the back of the group.

If you follow me on you'll know I've had a really crappy week training wise. I did 10km on Monday and 5km on Wednesday and Thursday. I've been feeling really sluggish running around, almost as if someone had locked up my battery cell and given me a most inferior one. I knew I wanted to run faster, I just couldn't find it in me to do so. Anyway, by Thursday I started getting out on my bike more and ditched the running in preparation for today. Even the bike was killing me though; every pedal stroke hurt! Saturday, I had a complete rest day - stayed in bed really late before heading down to London and grabbing dinner and Sex and the City with my two bff. It was meant to be and early night, but the movie didn't finish till after 23:00 and it was nearly midnight by the time I got back to my Mum's! Even so I still didn't get to bed till about 01:30 - yes I should know better! So thinking about times today I was really unsure; I want every race to be about beating my PB, but I was still getting my fitness levels back after injury, this would be my first race without support on my ankle as per my physio's wishes, I had had only four hours sleep, my last half had been 2:14 and if this week was anything to go by I was probably on my running death bed! The guy I met on the train asked me what I was aiming for and I had to say I didn't have a clue, when I told him I was coming back off injury he said take it easy, but then I don't want to! What's a girl to do?

So on to the race, it was a good, flat, fast race, it looped back on itself AND lapped, which I hate, but it was a very accurate course; my Garmin read 13.13. The good thing about loops and laps it that I saw the front runner going back as I was going down and then going down again as did my first run back! And of course he then passed me at 9.5 miles (for him) as I was still getting to 6 miles! 75mins I think he finished in! I did also see my speedy guy I met on the train three times too, we spent 45mins chatting and I never did ask him his name... But at around 10 miles he was going really strong so I'm sure today was a PB for him too. There were plenty of water stations along route, much more than I've ever seen on a race and sponges at every station too. I never normally take a sponge, but even though it was overcast it was still a warm day so I got to grips with them - very nice! 

I refused to look at my watch and check my pace; I wanted to run naturally and see what I could do since I'd had such a bad week. I did allow my self intervals though; I check after the first mile to see if I'd set the right pace, then at 7 miles to see how I was doing at the halfwayish point, and again at 10 miles since I knew there was only 5km to go from there. At mile 1 I was doing 9:33pm, a good pace so I felt confident I would complete in a decent time. At 7 miles I had done 1:09, which meant I was in range of a PB; I was a little shocked, but decided to go for it; my legs felt good, I was sure I could squeeze a little more out of them! At 10 miles I calculated I would have to run the last 5km in 28mins, normally quite achievable, but I had just ran 10 miles! Then on the second loop back around 10.5 miles we took a sharp left turn uphill back to the start. I couldn't keep the pace going uphill, so I did what I could and got back on track when we reached the top. I kept hoping for a bit of downhill to balance it out, but no such luck, it was all twists and turns from there! The finish was within sight a about 600m away, just. I was running along a sea wall at the time - and admiring the ocean?, sea?, I don't know! and couldn't quite work out how to get to it since is was inland. Well a left turn and a right turn later and I figured out where it was. There was a lady in front of me who must've had her whole family out to support her the noise they made! Unfortunately she was one of the people running at my pace who I'd decided to overtake at the end. I sprinted past her and a few other to the finish and to be honest I was quite disappointed. Had ti been a straight line to the finish I would have been confident enough to start sprinting earlier, but the twists and turns meant I thought the end was never coming so I held back a little at the end - everything had started hurting and I needed to finish! 

I came in with a respectable time of 2:09:32, just a tad short of my PB of 2:08:38, but at least now I know I can beat it a few days ago I was wondering if it was time to hang my running shoes up! The best bit about this race was running along the sea front - I could see boats in the water and a few of them were dragged across our path as we ran as well! The smell of the sea air whilst your running is great; something I'll never forget and in the last 1/2 mile the sun came out from behind the clouds and shined now - not so great as I was still running, but at least I made the rest of the day worth it!

Monday, 31 May 2010

Bupa 10,000

If I start from the top I'm going to have to tell you about my night out on the town with my bf & bff (boyfriend and best friend forever). Well let's just say it was a good night and even though we left early (02:30), by the time we'd stopped at Bagel Bites and grabbed something to eat it was after 03:00 when we returned to our hotel. I got up around 07:30, so a severe lack of sleep! Luckily I don't drink so alcohol wasn't contaminating my system! I ended up having a cooked breakfast around 08:30, which is late for me - I like to eat 2 hours before I run. Couldn't be helped so I jumped on the train and made my way down to St. James' Park.

The park was bustling and luckily well signposted. I headed over to the baggage tent then picked up my free Lucozade Sport Lite. I was hoping to meet up with Kate, but I hadn't heard from her so made my way to my pen solo. It was really well organised and and the various waves went off smoothly. I was in the blue wave group A, the red wave was elites and celebrities, blue wave I assumed was club runners and the green wave behind me probably walkers, again an assumption, because on my way back I saw them all walking at the 2-3km stage! My wave got going at 10:10 only 10 mins passed the official start, I had anticipated waiting around a lot longer!

The route was great, the finish was in front of Buckingham Palace, we ran up and down Victoria Embankment into the city turning around into Fenchurch Street and coming back down. I'm glad I brought my own fuel as there was only one water station carefully positioned after 2km and before 8km to feed both runners starting out on one side and returning on the other side. There was also two 'shower stations' sprinkling cool water on runners just after the 5km and 8km points. This was welcomed relief as even though it wasn't a hot, sunny day, it was hard work and I was working up a heat!

I had warmed up quite well, but still started off slowly in the crowds. A good thing as I don't think I would have coped had I gone off at the gun. Even though I drive these streets regularly, I wasn't prepared for the 'peaks and trofs' along the course. In fact I had driven the route just that morning on my way back from the club so I guess I should have been paying attention! The plan was to take the first 5km easy, but still faster then my training times. At the 5km mark I planned to pretend I was running a 5km and see how I got on... Unfortunately at the 5km mark I got a stitch in my side that had me contemplating stopping for a breather, but I refused to slow down and decided to keep going. It was painful, but I reminded myself of why I was there what I wanted to achieve and obviously the lovely medal I would be walking home with! At 7km as my stitch was fading in intensity, I got another one on the other side! I was sooooo glad to see 8km then 9km and stepped up the tempo as much as I could endure. By the time I returned to the park and saw the 400m to go sign I wasn't sure I had much more in me. I wanted to sprint the rest, but whilst my heart was in it my legs were just not getting the message! I did manage to make it the quickest km of the race at 5:12, but I still didn't get in as fast as I wanted. My goal was to get in under 1:00:00 and although I recorded slightly more than 10km at 10.19km, my Garmin time was 1:00:46, 47 seconds more than what I wanted! ARGH!!! One consolation is I know I tried my best and really couldn't have pushed any harder if I tried.

The plan was to have a picnic in the park after the race with my family and my sister and her brood were at the finish when I passed through the 'runners walk'. There was still loads of people finishing when I finally met up with Mum, Gran and my Aunt and the kids and word is its my own fault for being so fast! Had I been slower they would have been able to see me finish, I guess I should have run around again to helped them out! We did have a great day in the end even if my Aunt's idea of making a picnic is calling the local pizza parlour and requesting a delivery! Everyone decided they wanted to race and we ended up having little sprints in the park. My 17 year old cousin and brother both beat me - no surprise there, they are both tall, one's stocky, one's lanky and they didn't just run 10km! I did manage to beat my Mum and my sister who ran in her heels! Minor victories, but we had fun. There was a wonderful Pelican who decided to join us and ran around the green as if he owned the place! Beautiful bird, the kids were scared to feed him, I guess he was a little big for a bird! lol

The one downside to the day was the disappointment of London Underground. The Jubilee line was down so I travelled on the Bakerloo line to Embankment then jumped two stops to St James' Park station. On the way home however, we went back to Embankment to discover there had been a train failure and the Bakerloo line was part suspended to Paddington. So we jumped on the train back past St James' Park to Paddington. Only when we got to Paddington there had been a fire on the line and no trains were running! Needless to say we ended up taking a long walk and jumping on the bus! Despite that it was a great fun day out with the family and oh the medal isn't half bad too!

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Hairy Haggis Relay - 23rd May 2010

One of my goals for 2010 was to run in a relay. I tried to pull a couple together last year, but my contact lists of runners was not that long at the time. Luckily I've made a few new runner friends this year (thank God for Twitter!), and when I mentioned that I wanted to run in a relay  Kate piped up and said she had a space on a relay she'd planned in Edinburgh. Two of the other things on my list of goals for 2010 are to run in either Scotland, Ireland or Wales and to go to Edinburgh, tick, tick!

The whole experience was great, we went up on Friday night and arrived around midnight. Saturday we went down to the beach and had lunch at a quaint little pub. After a brief respite in the afternoon we did a bit of reconnaissance and checked out the shuttle bus and start line points and saw a little of the sights of Edinburgh. Not enough time to really enjoy the city, but it did whet my appetite!

The relay was four sections over the 26.2 miles; Kate ran the first leg of 8.1 miles, Nicole ran the second leg of 5.4 miles, I ran the third leg of 8.0 miles and Michele ran the last leg of 4.7 miles. It was unbelievably hot at 26C and boy did we feel it! When I got up that morning it was raining outside. I had dressed in shorts and a shimmel to run, but watching the rain at breakfast I changed into capris and a t-shirt. Big mistake, the rain soon cleared up and the sun came out in full force! Who knew Scotland could be so hot!

My pen was next to Michele's, so we got the shuttle bus together at 10:30 and waited anxiously for Nicole to turn up, texting Kate to find out how she got on. We had examined the maps carefully the night before and it showed a fuel station just after the pens, so I left my fuel at home - one less thing to carry. Unfortunately the fuel station was just in front of the handover point so I had to grab one of the Lucozade bottles meant for the returning runners to keep me going; mistake number two. 

I took my time in transition, which may have cost the team precious seconds as there wasn't a sensor mat as I left the pen as promised in the race details. There should have been a mat going in to stop the clock and going out to start it again :-(. Oh well! 

The run felt a lot harder in the heat, but we had a lot of good support along the way. Well, except for that bit that went through what must have been a farm. The smell in the heat was potent to say the least... Every water station I came to was a blessing and I drank a whole bottle of water from each station along the way, which is a lot for me and indicative of the temperature! As I hit my 8 miles and returned to the next pen I went past local residents on their front lawns with hoses. Would have been great along the course but when I knew I had only seconds till the finish all I was thinking is I'm gonna be walking around dripping wet! I've never been so glad to see a finish line in my life albeit a partial finish line! The heat was murderous and unexpected and I ended up with a great tan line outlining my Garmin!

I must admit it did feel strange having to wait around for someone else to collect my medal; I'm used to be rewarded as soon as I finish running! Running a relay is completely different, the anxiousness you feel for your team members; I found it really hard trying to guess where everyone was and who they were doing, but it was great to feel I had achieve something with the help of three others! Just in case you were wondering here's a pic of the team!

Monday, 10 May 2010

Quintiles Bracknell Half

I'm feeling on top of the world! I was seriously apprehensive coming up to this race. For the most part I tried to ignore it; just an innocuous date in my diary. Saturday arrived however and I left it to the last possible moment before getting my race gear ready for the morning ahead. It was an early start to get to Bracknell; I was up at 06:00 and on the road before 07:00. The race was due to start at 09:00 and I had a 1.5 hour journey ahead of me!

I was seriously falling asleep behind the wheel on the way down there and just wanted to get there early enough to snooze for 20mins beforehand! As I got there it was way too busy for me to cat nap and I got myself ready slowly to race, going back to the car a couple of times - nerves! 

As the race got started I really wondered if I was gonna make it the whole way round, I gave myself goals; I know I can do 3 miles, lets see how I go after that. Once I got past 6 miles and hit the half way point (that wasn't marked btw; poor form I know) it occurred to me that the last time I'd done a half my ankle went after 8 miles. The 9 mile marker was now my goal. I remember people calling my name, little kids with sweets and "Have a sweet, Ms Sweets!". So glad I put my name on my shirt! Sooner than I thought mile 9 came around, then 10, 11, 12 and I tried to pick up the pace for the final mile making it my third fastest mile for the whole race! As soon as the end was in sight I picked up the pace even further and sprinted the last 200m overtaking five people within yards of the finish! Having the crowds cheer me on really helped and I amazed myself that my ankle held up all the way through! I came in at 2:14:57 which is great considering I'm just off injury!

It was an amazing day, even if I did go home hit the shower and crash in bed afterwards. So much for date night! Sorry KG... The race organisation was great - I received a booklet in the post with all the details and a full list of all the runners. The medal is gorgeous, there was a gym bag, water bottle and t-shirt, and the entry fee was only £16! The only downside is that there was only water on offer on the course, am I spoiled with my visions of energy drinks now?