Bristol half marathon

So I actually wrote about the build up to the half marathon here, if you haven’t already read it.

wpid-IMAG1194.jpgOnce we had completed our 90 MINUTE PRE-RACE RUN(!) we used our passes to sneak through from the front into the pens and get lined up ready for the start.  I had a red race number, so should have been starting in wave 2 at 10:00am, but Phoebe had asked me to start at the back of the first wave, heading out at 9:00am so that she could see us altogether at the finish for interviews.  I wished the others good luck and continued towards the back.

With just five minutes to find my place in the pens I did have a little jog alongside the edge in a panic that I would miss my start!  The army guys directing people to pens were doing a great job and I had to flash my pass several times to be allowed through into the pens showing different colours to my race number.  Eventually I found my way to the back of ‘Yellow’, the last of the pens leaving at the earlier start time.

I was glad of the pass and being able to head to the start later on, only having to wait a few minutes before we started slowly trapsing forward towards the start line.  I moved forward with my arms crossed across my chest, hoping I wouldn’t get stopped for the colour of my number!  Once I was over the line things were fine and I started bristolStartto feel a little more relaxed.  I was at the back with the slower runners of the first wave, minor celebrities (of which I recognised none!) and fancy-dress costumes.  Spiderman and I passed each other several times along the course, and I was also followed by Shrek, Princess Fiona, The Gingerbread Man, Donkey, and Lord Farquaad for a large portion of the race!

The first four miles were on a lovely flat piece of road that headed out of town.  After about two and a half miles I could see the lead runners heading back towards me.  They had actually already completed nearly two miles before I had even crossed the start line, according to Nick, who was commentating on the race!

I like races that start with an out and back section and really enjoy being able to cheer on the lead runners as they pass.  The way the Milton Keynes course had been changed this year meant that I saw the lead runners a few times before the race really got underway there too.

After the lead runners and elites had passed there was a steady stream of the better club runners behind them.  I repeatedly scanned the runners and it took my mind off the fact that I’d already run more than 10 miles that morning!  I saw Neale, one of the Operation Ultra guys, and Anne Marie and Lynda, the Operation Ultra ladies.  I also kept my eyes open for anyone I might recognise through the blog world as I knew several bloggers were racing Bristol at the weekend.

It was rather disheartening being so close to the back of the pack, although I wasn’t the only one to sneak through into the wrong pen.  For a while I followed the footsteps of two older gentlemen who had had to rush off after the race so had used bin bags to cover the colour of their numbers up!  Being in the wrong pen is definitely not something I would plan to do again.  Not only is it a horrible situation for you to be in as a runner – right at the back, unable to keep up with those around you, but it is also not fair on everyone behind, weaving to overtake.  Although, as I placed myself at the very back of the wave, this wasn’t too much of an issue for this race as runners had spaced out a fair bit by the seven mile marker, where the front of wave two started to catch up.musclyLegs

As I was running out towards the turn-around I placed myself close to the central reservation so that I could clearly see the runners heading in the other direction.  It became clear that this was a rookie mistake soon on, a little like placing your tent at the bottom of a hill at Leeds festival!  Runners headed back in the other direction were gobbing across the central reservation and I had to dodge a few snot rockets that had made it over the barrier!

My aim for the race had been roughly 11mm and my first six miles went like this…

Mile 1: 10:45
Mile 2: 10:31
Mile 3: 10:09
Mile 4: 10:59
Mile 5: 10:59
Mile 6: 11:15

And then out of nowhere, I pulled a 9:23mm at Mile 7!  This would be approximately my normal half marathon pace.

I don’t know if anyone else noticed it, but I found the mile markers on the course out slightly.  In fact, when I passed the Mile 1 marker, my watch read 1.1miles.  In total, I ended up running 13.75 miles on the course.  Perhaps I just weaved a lot?!

After mile 7 I began to stop and stretch frequently.  Perhaps once each mile?  This obviously added a fair bit to my time and my next few miles went…

Mile 8: 10:43
Mile 9: 12:02
Mile 10: 11:20

I carried a Cherry Lite Lucozade bottle with me on my run as I knew there weren’t any planned sports drinks handouts on route.  Only water stations and High5 gels.  By mile 10 though I was sick of the sickly sweet flavour of the Lucozade, chucked my bottle and mugged some poor child for her Jelly Babies instead.  (I MUST remember to pack Jelly Babies at races!)

By this point I had runners all around me again and it was nice not to be so close to the back of the pack anymore.  Two marshals on two seperate occasions came over to check I was OK when I pulled alongside walls to stretch.  The support and marshalingleadRunners on the course was really superb.

I didn’t see Dan until mile 9(ish) where he took a picture of the lead three guys whilst he was waiting for me.
Rotich went on to win in 1:03:56, followed by Kiprotich a second later and then Kirui, less than a second behind him.

Dan had actually said he was going to be just before the 9 mile point, but with the markers being very different to my watch measurements it was closer to 9.6 by my watch when he came into view.  I was happy to see him!

shedHeadEven if he did take a picture of me with a Shed Head!

My whole right leg was beginning to ache by now and although the stopping to stretch was helping I could really feel it slowing me down further and making each mile more difficult than the last.

Around mile 10 there was such a flurry of activity and support though, there was no chance of stopping or pausing for a longer stretch.  Here, the route did another mini out-and-back and we passed other lines of runners a couple of times, including running around a small grassy square before heading off in a different direction.  Supporters lined the street and the crowd were fantastic – filled with energy.  Just what us runners needed at this point into the race and this definitely helped me to push through the final miles!

My final few miles went as follows…
Mile 11: 12:10
Mile 12: 11:25
Mile 13: 11:31
Nubbin (which was actually 0.75 miles!): 7:42

I actually kicked too early, but it was nice to know that even after running nearly 22 miles that morning I still had enough in me to kick for about 0.6 miles!

In the distance I could hear Nick on the loudspeaker, announcing runners as they came through.  There was a guy on the side of the road saying “Just 200 more metres to go.  Kick now!  Have a strong finish!” So I and all the runners around me did as he said.  At the time I can remember feeling confused, as I knew my watch had only just ticked over to 13miles, and I knew it was out by quite a large amount.  But I kicked anyway.  Most of those around me had fallen back again by the time we reached the finish line, but I finished strong, at an average pace of 10:58 for the distance.  My official time was 2:30:58, which over 13.1miles works out at 11:31mm.  Frustrating, as I know I wasn’t that slow because I’d travelled much further than the half marathon distance!

bristolFinishThrough the finish line and Dan was there waiting for me.  I knew I needed to keep walking in order for my legs to carry on functioning correctly for the remainder of the week so Dan walked with me through to collect my medal, a foil blanket (I was way too excited about receiving one of these.  I’ve never had one before!), some crisps and a goodie bag which contained the local paper, a water bottle, some sweets and a really nice flapjack.

By this point it was 12:30 and checkout from the hotel was 1pm so we walked straight through to the hotel to pack up our things and checkout before heading back to grab a word with Nick and Phoebe who were pleased that I had gotten around whilst managing to control the discomfort.  They were then finishing up and heading back to the hotel, so we returned too to find Lynda downing a glass of well-deserved wine in the bar.  She had achieved her second fastest half marathon time, and two of the boys had gotten PBs from the race.  We joined Lynda, but for food only and the real food could not come soon enough!

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I haven’t raced in months and have really missed the atmosphere and excitement that accompany the event on race day.  I can’t wait to get back out there and actually race some races!  In three weeks time, all being well I should be at Mablethorpe marathon, although I have not had instructions on how to run it yet.

Training plan for this week as follows…
MON: 30min easy cross train
TUES: 45min recovery run and core work
WED: 60min cross train and core work
THURS: 90min run with last 45mins to include 4x6mins at threshold pace (2min jog recoveries)
FRI: Rest
SAT: 30min recovery run and core workSUN AM: 3hours easy run
SUN PM: 45-60min run with last 30mins at marathon pace

I have just six weeks of training to go now.  The other ladies have just under three!  I can’t believe how close we are to the end of this experience…

Bristol half marathon build-up

Yesterday I ran the Bristol half marathon along with the rest of the Operation Ultra runners (Paul, Peter, Neale, Anne Marie and Lynda).wpid-IMAG1201.jpg This race was challenging for me for many reasons…
1) It was the first race where I have ever stayed over the night before and had to think through in advance just what items I wanted with me on race day.
2) I have just come back from three weeks of very little running following an injury so had no idea how my glute/hip would hold up.
3) We were instructed not to ‘race’ the race, but rather to run it at marathon pace.  I wasn’t really sure what this pace was anymore for me but I had a rough idea in my head that I was going to run it at 11mm.
4) We also had to run for 90minutes BEFORE the race began!

So I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the day!  Here’s my thoughts on the build up to the race starting on Saturday…

Dan offered to drive us both down to Bristol (as I’m rubbish at navigating in the car!) and we set off on Saturday afternoon.  The forecast wasn’t good for the weekend, with lots of rain and high winds heading our way and we wanted to avoid those if possible!

All Operation Ultra runners stayed in the Mercure hotel in Bristol, which was also where several elites were staying, along with the organisers, and the commentators Nick and Phoebe, who also happen to be our coaches!  Through them we were each given a free place for the half marathon at no cost to us as part of our Operation Ultra winnings.

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(Random picture of me getting ready in the hotel room!)

When we arrived on the Saturday evening, after settling into our room we all met down in the bar and managed to grab a quick catchup on how the last eleven weeks of training has gone for each of us.  It was so nice to sit and chat running to others who have been working towards similar goals to me.  We’ve all kept in touch over Twitter, but it’s just not the same!  A little after 6:30pm we were ushered upstairs where a buffet of pasta, salad, baked potatoes and bread (amongst other things!) had been laid on for all elite runners, Running With Us clients, race organisers and us six Ultra runners.  A few speeches were said, including one mentioning us, and after a quick bite of grapes and cake for dessert we took ourselves back down to the bar.  Phoebe and Nick joined us here to chat about our progress and expectations for the race the following day.  They bigged me up for plowing through the training, despite being injured and taking my training to the gym instead of giving up or slacking off and losing interest.  They really made me feel proud of my hard work!

They also brought over several more experienced ultra marathoners to talk to us, including Holly Rush, a 2:37 marathoner who has recently converted to ultras and Simon Freeman who has recently completed the UTMB CCC and who answered my questions about running through the night.  It was fantastic talking to so many people that have achieved so much and who clearly have so much interest in the sport.  We all had lots of questions to ask.  Even Dan, who was our honorary seventh Operation Ultra member for the weekend!

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Before bed we each received backstage passes for athletes and people of importance (of which I was neither really!) to enable us to sneak straight through to the start upon completing our pre-race run.  Dan was excited to pick one up too as he had the important task of transferring all of our nutrition/after clothing to the HQ and bringing us what we needed.  Pretty bulky and not the easiest to wear whilst running but in the end I managed by tucking it in between my running top and race vest.

I struggled to sleep the night before and woke up repeatedly to several variations of the same race-day nightmare from 2:30am onwards, and was rather glad when my alarm went off at 6:15 signalling that I could finally get up and ready for breakfast.

Before a run I usually grab a toasted bagel with peanut butter but that option wasn’t available at the hotel so I had to settle for the closest thing, which ended up being a hunk of french stick with Flora on top!  I was worried about over-eating and having the food sit on my stomach throughout what I estimated would probably be about 4 hours of running so didn’t want to take too much and instead, packed one of my favourite Maxifuel bars for after the 90 minute morning run and a gel incase I needed it on course.  Forgot completely about jelly babies.  These have become my staple race food and I have often been found to mug small children for the jelly babies they bear. (Including during yesterday’s race!)

After a quick photo shoot with the six of us outside the hotel (Photos to follow when I receive them!) we headed off with loose instructions on how to get to the start line (about 10mins away) and then to run very slowly the first four miles of the course and back, before queue-jumping and finding a spot in the first wave.

All but Lynda and I were due to run in the first wave anyway.  Lynda is a Sub 2hr half-marathoner so could hide amongst the faster runners with ease.  My predicted time for the race at 2:15-2:30 was a little more difficult to disguise in the wrong pen, but Phoebe told me to go ahead and do it anyway, as they wanted to interview us all together at the end of the race and wouldn’t be able to do so if the race not only took me 2h30, but I started half an hour after the rest of the group!

I really enjoyed the pre-run with the other Operation Ultra guys and girls.  We all jogged steadily to the start line together, with various banter between us.  Waiting for watches to find signal before Peter collected his number and we set out along the route.  I quickly fell back behind the others, but I could still see them in the distance and I wanted to stick to a comfortable pace.  It had been a long while since I ran anything near to four hours in one block before and although I knew I would get through it, I wanted to make it as pain-free as possible!

As the others sped off infront it gave me the chance to work through each area of my body and check that all was working OK as it should, and to take a picture of the suspension bridge on the route.

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Marshals were beginning to head out onto the course after their pre-race briefing and several stopped to talk to me on my run as I was already displaying my running club vest and race bib.  I also had several mutterings from passers-by that I was warming up too early, nearly two hours before my race start time.  I ignored these people.  One of the lovely marshals near my turn-around route asked several questions about why I was running so early and which ultra I was running.  Later, whilst out on the course she spotted me, pointed and shouted “Yay!  I’ve already seen you!  You’ve already done this super early this morning!”  I thought it was really nice of her to recognise and remember me!

Around the three-four mile point on the course, the other runners met up with me on their turn around and I ran with them for a little while before they grew tired of the slow pace and pushed forward.  It was nice to have the run broken up and someone to talk to for a while but I was genuinely happy running alone before the race.

It was easy enough to find Dan and where our stuff was stored upon arriving back to the commentators area.  I quickly nipped through to the loo.  First time I’ve not had to queue for the loo pre-race!  Then decided against nibbling on my Maxifuel bar before completing two more lengths of the road and back before finally finding my place in the pens at 9:25am ready for the 9:30am gun.

I shall write part 2 – the part with the actual race in in a new post, as this has gotten rather long already!  :)  …

ASICS Lightweight Running Backpack

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As part of Operation Ultra I was lucky enough to be sent a free ASICS Lightweight Running Backpack.  Having run with a running group for over two years now, and in a group that has several members involved in ultra-running I have seen several different running bags at races before, although never knew enough to actually pick one up in a store and buy one!

I had a 90 minute run on Thursday and it was pretty hot out so I decided to test out my bag then.  The bag was incredibly lightweight, even once the bladder was filled with water and once I had gotten used to the slushing noise of the water slopping around I forgot I actually had the bag on my back!

I can’t believe how small the bag actually was whilst still fitting 1.5litres of water inside.  Now, I just need to check out how to clean and dry out the bag before using again!

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I had an awful, awful run yesterday.  My plan said 2 hours in the morning; stopping every 20minutes to fully stretch to prevent feeling any discomfort in my right glute/hip area on the run.  I was then supposed to cross-train for 30 minutes later on in the evening.

I’ve struggled to eat properly this week, which I think is partly to do with beginning my new job.  For any other bride-to-be I’m sure they would be delighted to lose 5lbs over the course of seven days.  However, seeing that I have just been allowed to start running again, and that I am training for a 50 mile ultra, now’s not the ideal time for me to be losing large amounts in a week!
The unplanned weight loss left me feeling rather empty and energyless in the morning.  I headed out on my run regardless, vowing purely to complete the run at a slower pace and cover less miles if necessary.  The first hour went by as expected, but one hour in and I was in desperate need for the toilet.  I danced in and out of bushes for a little while, debating whether or not there were any toilets closer than the Visitor Centre I knew was a good 20 minutes away before finally deciding there wasn’t.  My bush visit left me feeling even more energyless though and the brief pause in my run made my glute seize and cause me a lot of pain.  I continued, but by run-walking and with long stretching breaks.  In total I completed just 9.5 miles in the 2 hours.  My worst ever 10 miler was completed 20 minutes faster than that!  I must remember that I am running again though.  That’s the important bit.  I clearly need to continue stretching more, and complete much more core work than I have been.  I’m going to increase my core work and add another 15mins each evening pre-tea.  And post-tea will see another 15minutes added of stretching and massage and I will see where I go from there.

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Anyway, onto the cross-training in the evening…I didn’t fancy the gym last night, so decided to stick a DVD workout on at home.  Bella decided to join me in the lounge.  This was great until she decided to crawl underneath my stomach whilst I was doing press-ups and pounce on my hands out in front.  Cue me launching to the side and twisting my back to the point I couldn’t continue the workout and had to rotate myself rather than twist to get into bed last night.  Another reason you shouldn’t get a cat.

Well, I’ve written yesterday off…today is another day…!

A half marathon swap

Months and months ago way back in March(?) I was awaiting three things…
1) To see whether or not I had got a new job
2) To see whether or not I had gotten into the Royal Parks half marathon
3) To see whether or not I had gotten into the Great North Run

I had a phone call later on the day of my actual interview to discover that I had not gotten the job, and an email to say that I also would not be running the Royal Parks half.  However, my email regarding the GNR said that I had a place!  I was happy with 1/3!

GNR was going to be my sub 2hr half marathon.  I’d not specifically trained for a half before, only really training for my two marathons and that was it!

I ran a 1h 34m 10miler last Winter, which translated into a 2h 5m half going by McMillan’s Running Calculator (a handy little tool!)  I thought, with a little more training I was sure to get a Sub 2h half by this Autumn.  And then I entered and won a place on Operation Ultra and I knew my target would go out of the window!

As part of Operation Ultra we have been given free entries to Bristol Half Marathon on the same day as the GNR.  Then I had a dilemma.  I was so excited about getting a place in GNR, and Dan was really excited for me too.  We had booked a hotel and planned a weekend away.  I actually didn’t even tell him for the first couple of weeks that I had a place at Bristol half.  We weren’t MADE to take the place, but I knew I would definitely be thankful of meeting up with the other Operation Ultra runners so far into our training to compare notes and discuss our training.

Dan left the decision completely up to me in the end and the day before I had to decide whether or not I was going to take up the offer of the Bristol half place I decided that I would run Bristol and defer GNR for another year.  As part of our place we have accommodation in the hotel with the elites, as Phoebe and Nick, our coaches are commentating at the race.

I deferred my place for the GNR to next year, although it has cost me £50 to do so!  I was sad to put my deferral form in the post but it had to be done.  GNR can be run another year.  The Operation Ultra Bristol experience would not be the same again.

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I haven’t had my training plan through for next week yet, as Phoebe is running a couple of days at a time for me at the moment following my injury.  From talking to the guys though, they all have to run 90 minutes before the race begins to fit in their training for the day!  No chance of a Sub 2h5m, let alone a Sub 2h after three weeks of not running and possible miles being added to my total!