Race To The Stones

Hello everyone and I hope that you’ve all had a good week.  This has been my second week on my marathon training plan and I have run 21 miles in total.  I did three treadmill sessions, under the air-conditioning, and two outside sessions.  The first outside was 3.8 miles on Monday which was a good run at a steady pace and the second was this morning, 5.9 miles.  Hot and a bit tough but I made it round and I’ve crossed off my second week with all sessions completed.  That’s my week, I’m happy I completed it but not very interesting so I thought I’d write about what David’s been up to.

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Route of Race to the Stones

Last year we did the Cotswolds Challenge, walking 100km from Bath to Cheltenham over two days, camping over night.  Although we took the two-day option of walking, many others were running it in one go.  Since then David has wanted to do an Ultra marathon, which technically is anything over a marathon distance.  He had signed up to do the Green Man in March which is a 45 mile loop of the Community Path around Bristol, starting and finishing at the Green Man statue in Ashton Court.  Unfortunately this was cancelled due to the bad whether, though it will take place for those who still want to do it in September.  So he signed up for the Race to the Stones.  100km along the Ridegway (the oldest recognised path in the UK) from Lewknor in Oxfordshire to the neolithic stone circle at Avebury.

His training the last couple of months had not been ideal as he kept getting niggles that needed managing.  Big races he has signed up to before have had to be missed due to injury and he was determined that this wasn’t going to happen this time,  He has spent quite a bit of time running with me.  This has been nice for me to have someone to run with and has also helped David to slow down his pace, this was one race he was not going to be able to wing. He kept his training up as much as possible, whilst managing his niggles and did his last long run two weeks ago, Portishead to Bath (52km) running a total of 100km that week.thumbnail-9

This week he’s done very little, then Friday we went off to stay the night in Stokenchurch.  Up at 6am for a bit of porridge and then off to the startline.  There were different waves of start between 7.30am and 9.00am.  David started at 8am.  We didn’t have to wait very long, parked up, bought a t-shirt, visit to the portaloos and it was time to go.  An abolsutely beautiful morning, a hawk circling on the thermals above the corn field, and much too warm already to be running 100km. There were pitstops on the course every 10km or so for the runners, but because of the nature of the route it made it difficult for supports to get to many of these.  I had arranged to meet David at the halfway pitstop, near Wantage,  where supporters were able to gather.

thumbnail-5I spent a lovely 2 hours lying in a field in the sun listening to music and flicking through a magazine.  Not sure David was enjoying his time quite so much.  He came into the pitstop at approximately 2pm, 6 hours to cover the first 50km and he looked surprisingly good given the heat.  He said the heat was making it tough and he walked some, but all in all everything was holding together OK.  The second 50km however would be slower.  After a reapplication of sunscreen, topping up the water bottles, and some snacks he set off again and I’d see him at the finish.

After a brief stop back home to pick up two of the daughters we headed off to the finish line.  It was a lovely atmosphere as the sun was starting to go down, lots of families there to support their loved ones coming in and cheering and clapping as each runner came home.  David came into view and I was able to get in front of the finish to take a great picture of him crossing the line, and they let me put the medal round his neck.  His final finish time was 13 hours 5 minutes, coming in 94th out of 892 100km non-stoppers.thumbnail-8

Well done David, that was an amazing achievement.  You have worked very hard to make it to that finish line and we are all very proud of you.

I hope everyone else has an amazing week and get to achieve at least some of your goals.

Heather

We Do Like To Be Beside the Seaside

I hope everyone has had a good week, enjoying the beautiful weather and met at least some of their running goals.  As it turns out I didn’t spend last week attacking week one of my marathon training plan, instead I repeated the previous week.  That meant two short 3 mile runs during the week and then another Half Marathon on Sunday.  David suggested the idea to me as I wanted to do another Half that was flat after the South Downs hill fest, and the Torbay Half Marathon still had places Sunday, so I signed up – fool.

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Torbay Half Marathon route

We went down to Paignton on Saturday and had a bit of fun along the sea front.  A round of mini golf, fish and chips and an ice cream.  Not exactly pre-race food, but very tasty nevertheless.  We found a lovely little place to stay, the Devon House Guest House, a mere 5 minute walk to the start line on Paignton seafront.  Richard and Clare, the proprietors were very kind, they started breakfast slightly earlier for the runners and they allowed us to return to our room after the race for a quick shower.

We collected our numbers from Race HQ, a bit of a queue, but it moved quickly, and visited the facilities before lining up for the start.  The course was one lap of the green on the seafront, then run to the pavilion at Torquay turn and back to the pier on Paignton seafront, then repeat for a second lap. It was sunny and very warm, not my favourite running weather, but at least the course was going to be flat, or so I had been led to believe.  As it turns out, the road between

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Torbay Half Marathon elevation

Paignton and Torquay is not as flat as you might think.

David had decided that he was going to run with me rather than his usual much faster pace.  He has a long run (very long) coming up soon and wanted to practice a slower pace whilst trying not to pick up an injury just before it, which often happens.  Things weren’t too bad for the first 6 miles, but I struggled after that.  A mixture of the heat, hills and still being tired from the Half Marathon the week before, meant the second lap was another walk/run mixture to get to the finish line.  The hills were nowhere near as bad as the South Downs, but they were tough enough in the heat.  There were plenty of water stations provided and I mostly used the water offered to tip over my head and cool slightly.  A friendly garage employee washing cars also helped out with a spray of his hose pipe.

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Paignton Pier

My finish time was 2:35:26 so I managed to knock 11 minutes off my previous Half Marathon time but still not as good as I would like it to be.  The winner came in at 1:09:05 for the first man and 1:17:05 for the first female.  They also had a race going on between a group of American Marines and a group of the Royal Navy.  They were all near the front when they lapped me, but unfortunately I don’t know the outcome as the Marines were not listed as a club on the results page.

This was a lovely spot for the race and it was well run and well supported by friends, family and the people of the town.  The roads were closed for the race, at least for three hours, so there was no worry about traffic.  It is also clearly a quite popular event with some 1546 runners, I came in position 1365.

I need to work on my stamina at slightly higher mileage, if I am going to run more half marathons.  I have run a lot of 4-6 mile runs and so now I have no problem being able to run 10K, but I can count on my hands the number of times I’ve run 8 miles or more.  I need to  build my strength to be able to run 10 miles strongly to tackle half marathons.  Keep moving forward.IMG_1720.HEIC

After the race and a quick shower back at the guest house, we headed up the coast to Sidmouth and a long awaited visit to the Donkey Sanctuary.  Was lovely meeting the donkeys and walking the grounds and finished off with a much deserved ice cream.

Happy running, enjoy the sunshine.

Heather

Hills, Hills and More Hills

Well this was the week that I’ve been working towards, my first half marathon.  Hope you’ve all had successful weeks with your running. My training plan had three short three mile runs leading up to the race on Sunday, as my race was on Saturday I decided to do two three mile runs.  I did one on Tuesday and one Thursday, both times running the long route to Sainsburys, doing the shopping and walking back home.  Who says you can’t fit exercise into your day?

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Coming up to the start of the race

We had been invited out in a boat for the day on Friday, which was great fun but probably not the best preparation for my first half.  Still, it had the added affect that I was absolutely shattered Friday night from all the fresh sea air and slept quite well, something that rarely happens the night before a race.

We were up early as David had entered into the Marathon that started at Slindon College near Chichester, and followed the South Downs Way to finish at Queen Elizabeth Country Park near Petersfield.  He had to catch a bus from the finish to the startline at 7am.  My race didn’t start until 10am with the start and finish being at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park.  So I pottered about getting ready which gave me plenty of opportunity to visit the toilet.  I have nothing to eat or drink on the morning before a race because otherwise I need the toilet as soon as I start running.  This however does not prevent numerous visits before a race, I think there were at least ten, with three once I’d arrived at the race site.

It was a bit lonely going by myself, usually our races start in the same place, even if David and I then don’t see each other again until the race is over.  Parking was free and in the field at the start which was good because I could leave my bag in the car, and could sit in the car until the start as it was a bit blowy and damp.  I collected my number, which wasn’t the best organised as there was a long queue, and went back to the car to prepare.  I decided to wear my trail shoes, although my ordinary running trainers would have been fine.  I decided to run with a bottle that I’d put some still Lucozade in.  I don’t usually bother with this but after my experience of my long 12 mile training run in the hot sun I thought it might help.  I was worried I would get fed up carrying it, but it was OK and I was glad I had it even if I was a bit sticky by the end.

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Heading out of the Park

The race started with a short uphill at Butser (why not start how you mean to go on) before heading out through the park.  We hadn’t gone more than about two miles before the first steep hill, and that was pretty much how it continued for the whole thirteen miles.  When we turned out of Queen Elizabeth Country Park towards the village of Chalton, we had to queue to get over the stile, but once over it was gorgeous running down through the wheat fields.  From Chalton we headed along the Sussex Border Path, mostly up hill, until it met the South Downs Way, were we joined the marathon route.

Did the path level out here? Absolutely not, it was a continual up and down that was very hard going.  Two miles to go and we headed back into Queen Elizabeth Country Park up the most enormous hill.  This was tough, my glutes were hurting just walking up and I was tempted to even stop, but once at the top it was downhill back to the finish at the bottom of Butser Hill.  My target time had been 2 hours 40 minutes, and I was just outside this with an official finish time of 2:46:57 hours.  Considering that I walked up all the hills and ran the flats and downhills, this wasn’t too bad.  David came in from the marathon just behind me in a time of 4:09:51. fullsizeoutput_408

This was a really hard hilly course and probably not ideal for your first half marathon.  The hills was often steep and they were relentless, and some of the paths were very flinty which was hard underfoot.  I had no option but to walk the hills, I’m just not up to the standard of being able to run hills like that.  As such I found it a bit demoralising, walking after just two miles.  On a flat course I should have been able to run it all.  So I will try again and this time check out the elevation before I book.  Having said that it was a beautiful course running/walking through the Sussex/Hampshire countryside, most of it being off road.  The weather was good as it wasn’t too hot and the sun made occasional appearances.

My only injury seems to be a small blister on my left big toe.  Let’s hope it stays that way because I’ve just printed off my training plan for the York marathon in October – only 17 weeks away!  I’m using the same plan series as I used for the half marathon, Jane Tomlinson’s Marathon Training Plan for Beginners, as I found the half marathon plan straight forward and didn’t over load me.  So here we go again, and hopefully a flat half marathon will be added to the plan along the way.

Have a good week,

Heather

 

 

Hits and Misses

I’m sorry it’s been two weeks between blog posts.  I’ve been quite busy and therefore the training has been a bit hit and miss.  I’ve managed to do four out of the six scheduled runs in my half marathon training plan, and of those some were more successful than others.

A hit was my fartlek session last week.  As usual I did this in the gym to better control the pace.

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Interval session

The training plan said 6 miles fartlek, and the treadmill has a maximum setting of an hour, so I decided I’d just keep going for the hour and see how far I got.  Turned out to be 5.9 miles, close.  My last session had been 400m runs with 200m walks in between.  To increase my distance, this time I went for 600m runs with 200m walk intervals.  I used the same speed levels on the treadmill as last time; 11.0 for the runs and 6.0 for the walks.  I needed to get 12 repeats in if I was going to do the 6 miles in the hour.  I always find the first couple hard as the body warms up and the last couple because my head knows I’m nearly done.  The last couple though were quite exciting as I was trying to calculate if I’d make the 12 in the time left.  The 12th 600m run and the treadmill went into cool down with 300m to go, and dropped the pace from 11.0 to 7.2.  As fast as I could I upped the speed back up to 11.0 and just managed to get to the 600m point before it dropped again to 7.2 cool down.  600m was definitely harder than the 400m of the last session.  Next time I do it I might drop back to 400m run but reduce the recovery walk to 100m.  After a hot shower my legs were spent but I felt great.  Will certainly keep these sessions up.  They are great for helping to increase your top speed and lung capacity, and make running in the gym more interesting.

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Along the Tow Path

A miss was my long run session.  On my previous long run I’d managed 10.8 miles.  This session called for 11-12 miles, and so I decided to go for the 12.  David needed to run about 16 miles for his ultra training, but has been battling a chest infection so thought he’d take it slow and run with me, whilst introducing me to a new route along the tow path.  We were a bit late starting and the sun was already warm and bright, not ideal.  For the first 3 miles I felt quite strong, even running up the hills, but by the turn around point at 6 miles I was really struggling.  Whilst the first part of the tow path was shaded under the trees, it soon comes out into the open and the sun was beating down.  I’m not great in hot weather – even when I’m not running!  The path was very busy with cyclists and walkers and in some places was very narrow where the vegetation has exploded in the warm weather.  Miles 8-12 were a mixture of walking and jogging, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so grateful to see my front door.  My legs felt like they were running on empty, that along with the heat, the beating sun and my need of the toilet resulted in a hard and disappointing run.  Never mind, onwards and upwards, just hope I feel stronger in the actual race.

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And ‘The Hill’ begins

The biggest hit was this morning at the Chew Valley 10K, which I used as my 6 mile tempo session.  We were supposed to do this event last year, but we were both injured and had to miss it, so decided we’d try again. Car parking was straight forward, then a short walk to race HQ to pick up our numbers, a quick toilet stop (there were plenty of toilets) and then a few minutes to listen to a band of teenagers playing on the stage.  They had pens at the start to break up the runners.  I went to the 60-70 minute pen – I knew this wasn’t going to be a fast time for me.  The first 2.5 miles were straight forward with gently undulating country lanes.  There were plenty of supporters along the way, including a group of about 20 children and their conductor playing hand drums.  Just before the 5k point ‘The Hill’ began.

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Elevation of Chew Valley 10K

I had already decided I was going to walk up the hill, there didn’t seem much point in wasting my energy to get up the hill and then have nothing left once I was up there.  There were encouraging slogans on the hill to get everyone up and I think we were all relieved once we had made it.  Roads carried on relatively flat for a while and rounding a corner there was an all female choir singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, something you don’t often see on a country lane.  There was a final short hill before the last mile was all downhill, and a warm welcome into the finish.  A bottle of water and a banana and I was feeling good.  My finish time was 1:05:26, considering my walk up the hill I was happy with that.

I can understand why this is such a popular event.  The race was sold out in advance, so no on the day entries.  It was one of the best organised events I’ve been too, everything very straight forward and  there were plenty of marshals at the beginning, end and all around the course.  There were supporters out all around the course, from those standing at their garden gates offering words of encouragement, to three young people in chairs halfway up ‘The Hill’ with their music blaring.  The youngsters playing in the band at the beginning, the children playing the drums and the female choir along the way gave the whole event a real community feel.  This is definitely a race that I would recommend and would do again.

So this is my last week before my first half marathon next Saturday and I have a couple of short runs to keep the legs ticking over.  I hope your training is going well, I’d love to hear about it.

Have a good week.

Heather

A Full Week’s Training

This week I have actually managed to stick with the training schedule, albeit there were only three runs on it.

Again, I changed my long run from Sunday to Tuesday because Sunday I was doing the Boddington 10K.  Got up early to avoid the heat of the day, unfortunately that means an increase in traffic, pretty much whichever route I take.  The training plan called for 9-11 miles, the furthest I’ve ever run before in one go was last weeks long run of 8.5 miles.  Feeling optimistic I decided to aim for 11, but be happy if I only made the 9.  First mile was tough, as always, getting everything moving and for some stupid reason I decided to take the route where the first mile is uphill.  Wasn’t too bad until mile 8 after which it became a battle between my legs wanting to stop and my mind determined to make at least the 9 miles.  The mind won – woohoo!  Final mileage 10.82 miles.  I know, I should have done that little bit extra to get to 11, but I was at our front gate and the legs were having none of it.

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Keeping myself entertained at the gym

Second session on the plan was 4-5 miles fartlek.  If you’re not sure what that means (like me) it’s a Swedish word that means varying pace or intervals.  So with heavy legs I headed to the gym.  Still being new to this running lark, I find varying pace difficult.  As far as I’m concerned I have one pace which is the one I happen to be doing at any given time.  So trying to do intervals, I find it much easier to do it on the treadmill.  Using the 2-speed interval programme I set the low speed to 6.0 (10:00 mins/km) which is a brisk walking pace for me, and the high speed at 11.0 (roughly 5:27 mins/km) faster than I could sustain for any period of time.  I did 400m runs followed by 200m walks, fourteen times, with a short warm up and cool down, managing 5.3 miles.  Sounds boring, but I quite like watching the line go round the running track – you know what they say about little things amusing little minds.  I felt surprisingly good when I’d finished, though my legs certainly felt it.  I find it funny how you can feel really up for going for a run and have a terrible time, and other times not want to go at all and find it easy and enjoyable.  The mind/body connection is a complicated thing.

This week’s tempo (race pace) run was covered by Boddington 10K on Sunday.  I was supposed to do my first half marathon back in January (before I was injured), but they had to change the date due to some road works.  I couldn’t make the new date because of other commitments and so they offered us entry into an alternative race, and this was the one we had chosen.

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Start of the Boddington 10K

The weather forecast for the morning looked horrendous with heavy rain, thunder and lightning.  Luckily, the BBC weather app was proving as inaccurate as usual and as we headed up the M5 the sun was trying to shine through.  After parking in a field next to the church, we collected our numbers from Race HQ (a small gazebo in the field) and headed to the start, a brisk kilometre and half away.  It was only a small event of 64 runners, starting in a narrow lane by a man wielding a red plastic siren.

The route was 2.5 laps of a 3.537km loop on rural country lanes that were pretty flat, with just under a kilometre added on a different lane to the finish.  The roads weren’t closed, but in such a small community I don’t think it really caused many problems either to the runners or the few residents who live there.  The first lap was surprisingly good seeing as I always find the first mile or so hard going.  There were a few little raindrops along the way and I had hoped that they might be a bit more substantial as it was warm and humid, but they stopped before they really even got started. The second lap seemed to be longer than I remembered the first lap being, but once we turned for the third time onto the main road back into the village I was nearly there – or so I thought.  That last little bit that went to the finish seemed to be going on forever.  Each time I turned a corner, surely I would be able to see it.  Why were those runners that had finished and were walking back to their cars lying to me? Telling me I was nearly there, when clearly the finish was nowhere in sight.

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My beetroot look at the finish

Suddenly, to my relief it appeared, almost abruptly, and I had finished in 1:01:25 hours.  I still have a little way to go to get back to my PB, but I was happy, it was faster than I had expected it to be.

This was a very well organised event, the route was well signed and had marshals at all the main junction points.  There was a water station on the main lap just north of the start and just round from there, portaloos, toilets always being a concern when you’ve had four children and are about to spend the next hour jumping up and down.  The marshals were all very friendly and supportive, as were the other runners.  After the 10K there were marathon and 50K events on the same route, but with 11 and 14 laps respectively.  Two laps were OK, but I think I would have struggled doing that many, especially with the roads not being closed headphones were not allowed, so nothing to distract from the repetitiveness.  Nevertheless, a good 10K, with a small field, definitely one I would try again.

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Boddington 10K route

Anyone enjoy poetry? As part of the Skidrow Marathon screening, nursing student and poet Molly Case interviewed the runners about what running meant to them and used their answers to write the poem ‘I Run On‘.  It’s a great piece which you can find by clicking the link. There are some other great pieces on there including “Nursing the Nation’ about nursing in the NHS and ‘Women’s Work’ as part of the First World War Centenary.

I have a couple of busy weeks coming up, so hopefully I will be able to fit the training in. Not long now until my first half.

Have a good week everyone.

Heather

Get Set, Go!

Hi, I hope everyone has had a great week.  With a little tinkering, my training has gone quite well this week and, touch wood, injuries have stood up well.  One outside run in the sunshine and two treadmill sessions, very tedious but easier to control the pace.  I’m not yet up to the 8 mile long run called for on Sunday, but used the Bristol 10K as my long run instead.

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Ready to start

This is the second year I’ve completed the Bristol 10K, last year it was my first ever 10K race that I’d been training hard for.  With very little work done this year, I decided that I wasn’t going to race it and risk aggrevating my ankle.  My husband dropped out as he’d  picked up a niggle this week, and my daughter (who’s only run a 5K before) was grudgingly running, so I decided to jog around with her and get her to the finish line.

It was a beautiful sunny morning and we were in the last wave to start at 10:07, so we didn’t have to get up too early – bonus!  Took a few minutes to get over the start, but then we were off, with plenty of support through Hotwells, which was great. Under the suspension bridge and up the Portway to the turn around at the hot air balloon, before heading back towards the town.  It was really hot and the water station at 5K was much appreciated, not least by my daughter, who I think was starting to melt.

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Turn around on the Portway

She had managed to jog along to 5K, but struggled after that and headed to Spike Island with a mixture of fast walking and short bursts of jogging.  I tried to keep jogging beside her to practice slowing my pace right down.  My first half marathon is a trail race on the South Downs, being able to really slow my pace will help on the hilly course.

We had set ourselves the target of coming in under 1 hour 20 minutes.  Coming off Spike Island, the 1 hour 20 pacer caught up with us.  A bit of encouragement and promises of ice cream, got my daughter to put in a little extra effort and we crossed the finish line in 1:17:15, beating our target by nearly 3 minutes.

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Coming into the finish line

It was way outside my PB but nevertheless one of the most enjoyable races I have done.  Being able to jog round with my daughter in the sunshine, with the music and supporters all along the course was a very pleasurable way to spend the morning.  I’m not so sure my daughter felt the same, but I am super proud of her.  She struggled, but she kept going.  She got her medal and T-shirt and a cookie dough ice-cream, and Nuffield Health Centre have given her a free day pass on presentation of her medal, so she’s feeling quite proud of herself, and rightly so.

Wednesday evening we went to the cinema to watch the countrywide showing of the Skid Row Marathon documentary.  It’s about the Midnight Mission Running Group set up by Judge Craig Mitchell in Los Angeles. It documents how people at their lowest on skid row, have used running, with the help of the judge, to turn their lives around.  Totally inspirational and well worth a watch if you get the chance.

So far I’ve run 37.37km of the 100km I need to do before 31 August, to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK.  Please feel free to check out my giving page at Running Down Dementia.  Any donations would be much appreciated and definitely going to a worthy cause.

At last it looks as though the weather is improving.  I hope that you all have a great week.

Happy running.

Heather