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