Thursday 29 December 2011

Buntingford Year End 10 miler - race report

On Tuesday, the day after Boxing Day (aka St Stephen's Day), my alarm went off at 6.30am to get me up in time to drive the 70 odd miles to my last race of the year, the Buntingford 10 miler.  I went through a real battle with myself before I actually made it out of bed - I was so close to not going to the race and I was cursing myself for signing up for one so far away!

However, I really wanted to get 12 races under my belt for the year, and I knew that if I didn't go, later in the day I'd be terribly disappointed in myself.  As it turns out, I'm really glad I went, and it was well worth the early start and the 3 hour round trip!

The race itself had quite a "clubby" feel, I suppose understandably because normal people don't need to be racing during the Christmas break, but it was very friendly and well organised.  I was really surprised to find a version of chip timing available (only measured from the gun to you crossing the finish line but definitely good enough!) and also to see just how many very enthusiastic marshals there were out around the course.

The course had a couple of frustrating loops around a housing estate to start, but after getting out to the countryside it was picturesque, with a few interesting hills and was generally very enjoyable.  I didn't get the Garmin watch I was hoping for from Father Christmas so didn't have a watch with me, and so had planned to just go out and run a comfortable slow race and not worry about my pace, particularly as I'd run a 14 miler on the Saturday and a 9 miler the day before, but with so many other club runners, it was difficult not to race with them.  I definitely tried to relax but my pace was faster than I'd planned, and by the top of some of those hills and in the last mile, I was definitely feeling it in my legs!

However, I was glad I had put in a bit more effort, as I was really pleased with my gun time - 83 mins 37secs - and felt I deserved the fantastic little shoe model that we all got as a race memento instead of a medal.  I'm really pleased with the shoe, and it'll end up on a shelf in the sitting room, in pride of place to show how proud I am of what I've achieved this year :)

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Keep on running....RWRunStreak & 1000 mile update

Today is day 35 of my Runner's World Holiday Run Streak - I've run at least 2 miles every day since Thanksgiving, and will have racked up 240 miles during the streak by the time I finish on New Year's Eve, which will be day 38, and I've also got in a couple of races during the streak too, to bring me up to 12 races completed during the year.  Woohoo! :D  Even as I write this, it seems crazy that I'm writing about myself - these are things I never thought I could achieve!  However, although I know that my fitness has really improved by running so much, and my times are better, my body is starting to feel a bit battered, and I'm in dire need of a decent sports massage, and am really looking forward to having a day off on New Year's Day!!

My mileage during the streak has been much higher than usual because as well as trying to keep the run streak going, my other challenge has been to complete my 1000 miles run in 2011...and although a few weeks ago I really couldn't see how I was going to manage it, with just a few days left until the end of 2011, I know that I'm going to get there.

I wont deny that the last few weeks have, at times, been a struggle, and a few times I've come close to throwing in the towel, but I'm really proud to be able to say that I stuck with it - mainly by considering the stupid things I'd done so far to keep the streak going, and knowing that to justify those, I had to complete it!  When I say stupid things, I mean like going to the office Christmas party after a full day at work, drinking (a very restricted amount!) and dancing, coming home, and then going out for a run at midnight - that was the evening I realised that running really has made me insane ;)

Another motivator has been the number of friends on twitter and dailymile who have also been following the Runner's World Run Streak, or have been trying to get to their 1000 miles (although most of them didn't leave it as late as I did to start getting the miles in!).  They have all really helped me to keep going when it's hard, and a particular shout-out to Jamie Ross (aka @lardyboy2011) who has a blog (here) and is on twitter, and who completed his 1000 miles last week.

So, all is well in the world, and I'm very proud of myself that I have kept on running, and hopefully I've set myself up well for marathon training which starts next week! No rest for the wicked...or for the marathon runner...and anyway,. who really wants to sit on the sofa when we could be out running! :P 

Monday 12 December 2011

Bedford Harriers Half Marathon race report

For some reason, I must have been unusually excited (or nervous) about Sunday's half marathon as I didn't sleep well at all on Saturday waking up at 3:40am and then 5:40am after twice dreaming I'd missed the race!  It's very rare I don't sleep before an event, but  luckily I managed to drift off again, and eventually rolled out of bed at 6.30am, to be welcomed by freezing temperatures but at least no rain, and headed off to my second Bedford Harriers Half Marathon. 

As I'm in the middle of my Runner's World Run Streak and am also running about 40 miles a week at the moment to try and achieve my 1000 miles in 2011 legs and feet are feeling pretty knackered and I'm in desperate need of a sports massage! As a result, I didn't hold out much hoping for running a PB (i.e sub 2hrs) but did want to get a better time than when I ran this course last year, which was 2hrs 4mins (you can read about my last attempt here) So, although I had a target in the back of my mind, I was just planning to enjoy the run and not to worry too much if I found I didn't really have any speed, as I had a great time last year, and knew it was going to be a fun morning.

The organisation at the Bedford Half Marathon is excellent, and they run buses from local, easy to find car parking to the race HQ, which always works absolutely seamlessly.  There were lots of marshals and they're all really enthusiastic and helpful, and I think there's generally a nice atmosphere throughout the race (although there weren't many clapping crowds lining the route this year, but I can forgive the locals as it was absolutely freezing!). Unfortunately though, I think the race is becoming a victim of its own success and the race HQ in a local school now feels too small for the event.  With so many people in such a small space, it all felt a bit chaotic when queuing up to collect my timing chip (which could have been posted), to drop my bag off and collect my race memento (a blue cagoule that I'll never wear...would have preferred a medal at the end!). It was just the general impression though and the actual time I spent in queues wasn't very long, I was able to get to the toilets, and everything was achieved efficiently and on time.

However, come the beginning of the race, there was a bit more evidence of actual overcrowding.  I stood around in the school gym for too long (trying not to get too cold) and didn't head over to line up for the race until 5 minutes before the whistle, so ended up quite a way back from the starting line with runners who were expecting to run slower than I hoped to. 
It took about 30 seconds to get to the start, and for the first mile or so I was desperately trying not to get tripped up by the other runners, or to trip them, as we were all so bunched up together - the roads were just not quite wide enough for so many of us to get through easily.  It felt like the first 10 miles of the London Marathon ;)

After a while, thankfully we did spread out, and once I got into my stride I had a fantastic race....

The route is pretty hilly, and as my favourite aspect of running is the downhills, I really enjoyed myself, and managed to get some speed up.  It always amazes me that people don't try and fly down the hills; rather than just lean forward a bit and let gravity take you everyone seems to run along at the same pace they run the flats.  I prefer my way - it's kinda like falling, and can be a bit scary as you're never quite sure if your legs will keep moving quickly enough to keep up with your body, but it's incredibly exhilarating, and it does wonders for your mile pace!! ;)  It's what I do, and it always makes me happy. 
Anyway, on average I stuck to about 9 minute miles for the first 9 miles and I was trying to buy a bit of time to cope with a massive hill that I thought was coming was only after about 10 miles that I realised the massive hill I was expecting was actually part of the Tunbridge Wells half, not this race...and pretty much the rest of the course was flat! 

Felt like an idiot, but at least it meant I didn't need to worry about holding anything in reserve and just went for it, with my legs still feeling pretty strong.  At about 12 miles someone jokingly called after me as I passed them to ask if I was in a rush for my Sunday roast ;) 

A mile away from the finish, I started to really push, as I could see an amazing PB was so close!  As it turned out, I started a bit too early, and found the end of the race pretty touch, but I kept going, and finished in an entirely unexpected 1hour 53 minutes!! Couldn't believe I had managed it, and a day on, I am still absolutely over the moon to have achieved my sub-2hr half marathon time before the end of 2011.

Friday 9 December 2011

Run streak to run happy!

Since my last post, my training has been going really well and it's all down to taking part in the  Runner's World Holiday Run Streak

I'm on day 16 now...and if I'm honest I never thought I'd get this far, but I have and I'm loving it.  Trying this run streak has given me a new found motivation for the days when I don't really fancy going out (which is good as the weather has been awful recently!) and my fitness is improving much more quickly than it would have been had I been training four times a week.

In fact, even in such a short space of time, I've found that my mentality has started changing - instead of thinking, "Oh no, I have to go for a run today, I don't know if I can fit in in, maybe I could reschedule it for tomorrow" now I think "Of course I'm going for a run...I run every day...why wouldn't I run?!"

I've also found that I've been enjoying the actual runs more too, have much more enthusiasm and (touch wood!!) haven't got injured, and so all round, it's been great.  If you've been running for a while, and have a good base, I woudl definitely recommend trying a run streak if you're struggling with your motivation!

Because I'm running every day, naturally my weekly mileage is much higher than I would normally run...since day 1 of the streak, I've covered 79 miles which is about from central London to Dover! This has made my 1,000 miles in 2011 a more achievable target, although it's still a big ask - I've got 141 miles left to run by the end of December!

At the rate I'm going though, I'm sure I can make it and to be perfectly honest, I'm going to be really proud of myself if I do! It'll just show that if I put my mind to something, I really can achieve anything! 

I've got a race on Sunday, the Bedford Harriers Half Marathon.  I ran it last year, so would love a PB, but not really able to taper at all as I have all of these miles to get in, so will see how I get on.  Will report back on Sunday :)

Happy running everyone