Ugh, a new PB and cake

dsfI’m pretty sure that the three of us came away with food poisoning last weekend. We’d taken Oscar out to a large indoor play area on Sunday afternoon. He was having so much fun, and we were having so much fun watching him enjoy himself that we completely didn’t realise how quickly the afternoon had flown by until Oscar started to whine that he was hungry, and we realised restaurant feeding options were minimal in the area.
It was a quick trip to the nearest one we could find, where Oscar sleepily, but thoroughly enjoyed chicken skewers with sweet potato fries and corn on the cob. Dan also went for chicken, and I demolished a mushroom burger.
Oscar with cornBecause Oscar was so tired he left quite a bit of his meal, which is unheard of for him, so we got it boxed up to take home for his lunch the following day.

The next morning, Dan groggily appeared downstairs for breakfast. By that point Oscar had already been through two nappies, and was about to fill his third. Dan managed to force some cereal down but Oscar just moved his breakfast around his tray looking rather sorry for himself.
Fast forward to lunch and, having not yet sussed out the link between the meal from the previous night and our poorly household, I pulled out the remainder of Oscar’s meal for him to have for lunch. When he once again, did not seem too fussed about eating any of it, I placed it onto my plate instead. Sweet potato fries are my favourite!

Ugh.

They are not my favourite any more. And neither is chicken.  :(

I spent the start of last week feeling rough, with a painful crampy stomach and zero energy. I sensibly decided to take a few days off from running until I fully recovered.  It was frustrating not getting out to run during the first week of the Summer holidays, but I knew that there was a good chance that I wouldn’t be able to hit any of my training paces, and would feel rubbish for attempting to do so in the first place.

The Thursday before had been our club’s annual Pre-Welly 5 BBQ run.  Always held 10 days before our club 5 mile road race, the idea is to check over the course, practice our marshaling and to give everybody a chance to run the event who might not be able to on the day if they were marshaling instead.

After a couple of rubbish BBQ runs in previous years I had a great run last year and set a new 5 mile PB of 45:55.  Although it’s not an official race – but instead more of a social event for our club, it is run on the race route, so I’m counting it as a PB!

Having run really strongly since starting my training using the Hanson’s Marathon Method, and having already achieved PBs in 6 mile and 10k events over recent weeks, I was hoping for another PB this year.

It didn’t start well when I arrived feeling knackered and hungry though.  I instantly had doubts for the run and began to talk myself out of it.

When we first set off I looked around and instantly felt like I had placed myself way too far forward, with runners usually much faster than me.  But my heart rate monitor told me that I could run faster, so I carried on.

Pre Welly 5 BBQ run

I chatted to a couple of people early on in the first mile.  Again, projecting my doubts about a decent time to them.  Kev came alongside me and commented on how well I had been running just lately.  I told him that I was hoping for a good time again that day – perhaps something around 9 minute mile pace.  I could see him trying to work out the math!  We spent several minutes talking before he nipped into a bush following the pre-run pint of Guinness he’d enjoyed in the bar before setting off!

I had sat behind the same people for the whole run until we hit the slight hill at mile 3.5.  Here, still feeling strong, I managed to gradually pull past other runners one by one.  I probably wouldn’t have been able to hold a full on conversation any more, and this ended up being my slowest mile at 9:07.  (So happy that I can say a mile at this pace was my slowest mile now!)

In fact, I ran really consistently for the whole run.  My mile splits were 9:01, 9:06, 8:49, 9:07, 8:50 and then 7:20mm pace for the final 0.09 recorded on my Garmin.

I overtook a couple more runners who I never would have been able to overtake normally in the final mile and then opened up my stride to power through to the finish.  As I headed towards the finish line I struggled to remember my exact PB time, but knew I was in with a shot of hitting it, and so commented to the Group 4 running coach as I came alongside him, who then insisted we run through the finish holding hands.

Pre Welly 5 finish line pic

Watch stopped, 45:33.  A full 24 seconds faster than my previous best!

Despite not really looking it in this pic, I was completely comfortable and was barely breathing heavily at all, able to chat and laugh with other runners whilst heading down the finishing chute.  I guess this picture must have been taken literally as I pulled back from a run to a walk.  You can see the official finish line drawn on the floor just behind me.

Although initially disappointed that I didn’t come very close to 45 minutes, having set myself a rough target of 9 minute miling, I soon cheered up when I checked my watch to discover that with the slight over-distance run I had actually ran an average of 8:57 minute miling!  Hanson’s is definitely doing me some good!

For the first time since the BBQ run has been taking place, we didn’t actually have any BBQs.  Instead, a pizza van.  So I waited in line for my turn to demolish a hot, veggie pizza and sit nursing a drink at the bar.  Very satisfying mid-week and with just one day left of the school term.

So that was last week – poorly sick following a good 5 mile race.  This weekend was a little different again.

I started off this weekend by running Kettering parkrun with Laura whilst pushing Oscar in the buggy.

Kettering parkrun start(Picture taken as a still from a video which was shared with the Kettering Facebook page)

This was parkrun #87 for me and I completed it in 34:25.  I should really count the amount of parkruns Oscar has been to.  He must be coming up to 20 now?
{Position: 196/255 Gender position: 67/108 Age category position: 10/12 }

Kettering parkrun midrun

(Picture taken as a still from a video which was shared with the Kettering Facebook page)

Having come right from the very back of the run and Kettering being a very difficult course to overtake with a buggy, I’m fine with that.  Oscar stayed wide awake for the whole run, gripping onto his Sophie giraffe toy.  Good job, because I didn’t really want to have to keep stopping to pick her up along the way!

I’m hoping that at some point during August I will be able to run a parkrun hard and see what time I am currently capable of.  It’s been a while since I raced a parkrun and I’d like to think I’m a little quicker now.

In the afternoon I headed over to The Garden Deli with Laura and Steph for cake and a catch up.  The cake there is a good.  I went for this lemon and ginger sponge.  I don’t even really like lemon flavoured things.  I can’t stand it when bartenders add a lemon slice in your drink when you go out, but this looked too good not to try.

Lemon and ginger sponge cake

The drinks are also amazing!  I went for a strawberry and vanilla fruit crush and was not disappointed!

Strawberry and vanilla fruit crush

Then yesterday was the actual Wellingborough 5 race.

For the last few years my role at the race has been to direct cars down the driveway and onto the car park before the race begins.  I then take photos of the runners along the first 100 metres of the race, again in the final 200m as well as ensure runners turn safely into the final section along the field at the very end of the race.  There were a couple of other marshals with me at the end this year, which meant that I could take pictures without worrying about where runners were headed.

I love taking photos of the event.

Last year a runner suffered a cardiac arrest during the race and was air lifted to hospital, so it was a sigh of relief when all runners were back safe and sound this year.  The club invited Tom, the runner who had been hospitalised following the race last year to our BBQ run the other week, and he finished at a run/walk along with his wife and one of our members who happened to be a doctor who had stopped and helped him on the day.  He finally got the chance to finish the race route!

Wellingborough 5 trophies

This year I also took pictures of all of the prize winners.  Prize giving always seems to go on for ages.  I couldn’t even dream of ever being good enough to receive a prize at a race.

Welly 5 winnersHow did you spend your weekend?

The final races of the EMGP and a new PB

So, I wrote a post a little while back about entering the East Midlands Grand Prix weeknight series of races which took place during the final half term of school (very inconveniently timed with my return to work!)  There are eight races in total.  I wrote about the Silverstone 10k, Blisworth 5m and the Rugby 6m (PB) in my first post about the series.  I’ll jot down some notes about the second half of the series below.

I wish I’d had a chance to blog about the events sooner though, as I always find it hard to go back and write about a race later on, especially if I race several events in quite quick succession.  I’ll do my best to remember as much as I can about each race, but if you want the events summed up in a few bullet points, see below.

* There were eight races, of which I ran six.

* I PBd twice during the series (at 6 miles and 10k).

* I nearly missed the start of every event bar one due to traffic/leaving late/getting lost.

* Once my watch died before the beginning and once I forgot my heart rate monitor.

Those four bullet points pretty much sum up my last six races!  But if you are after a little more detail, then read on…

Corby 5m

What sort of sadistic Race Director starts a 5 mile road race on a steep hill, and then finishes the race on that same hill too?

The Race Director at the Corby 5 race, that’s who!

If a race starts with a steep uphill, you can usually fairly safely assume that you will be finishing on a downhill, in order to get back to the same spot.  However, the Corby 5 runs up a steep uphill at the start, then has a nice, fairly flat/slight downhill couple of miles, before throwing in a couple of hills and ends by running back up that same steep hill that featured at the start of the race before running through into the car park and across to the finish.

I had only run the race once before – in 2012 before I began blogging – but I still remembered those hills!

Nevertheless I planned on giving it my best shot.  There is a nice downhill section into the village in mile 2, and I took advantage of this, knowing that my legs wouldn’t enjoy the steep climb back up to the finish for the final quarter of a mile!

Corby 5m

Towards the end of mile 4 I hit a hill and couldn’t maintain my heart rate, so decided to walk a short portion of the race.  I chatted to another runner as I broke back into a run again.  The other runner hadn’t run the event before so was quizzing me on whether there were any more hills.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that final hill is tough so close to the end!

As always, my club was super supportive and were all there crowded around the finish cheering everybody in.  It’s much easier to produce a finishing kick when you have everybody in front of you screaming your name!

Official time: 48:14
Garmin time: 48:13
Position: 319/360
Gender position: 96/129
Category position: 24/33

More than a minute faster than when I had run it back in 2012.

Banbury 5m

The Banbury 5m event fell the day after I returned to work full time (I had been in for odd days only before the half term holiday).  Oscar had started full time at nursery the day before and, unsure yet of what time I needed to get up each morning to ensure that I was round and ready to leave Oscar in a state suitable for nursery and me fed, showered, and looking presentable with food for the day meant that I was getting up at 4:15am.  Two days in – by the Tuesday evening – I was already absolutely exhausted from lack of sleep.  Oscar gets up once during the night, and I had been going to bed late to try and get my work complete before morning.  It left me without much sleep and within minutes of arriving home from work on Tuesday I announced to Dan that I would not be driving the 55 miles to Banbury (the furthest distance to travel of all the races) and promptly fell asleep on the sofa, where Dan woke me several hours later!

Harborough 5m

This was a new-to-me event, as both times I’ve raced the series in the past I believe it has fallen on parent’s evening.

For some reason Oscar was super tired when I collected him from nursery.  He whinged and whined every time I tried to put him down so that I could get changed or go to the toilet.  Dan arrived home from work at about 6:20pm and I madly dashed around trying to collect everything I needed for the race and get out of the door.

Unhelpfully, as well as leaving late, one of the roads the satnav sent me down to get to the race start was shut and the satnav wasn’t picking up any alternatives, with the diversion signs being no help whatsoever.  I am so reliant on the satnav when it comes to getting anywhere, so I rang Dan and got him to quickly talk me through what alternative route I needed to take.  Luckily, as navigationally-challenged as I am, Dan is the opposite, so he managed to get me to the car park for the race with three minutes to spare.  I dashed out of the car desperate for the toilet, pinning my race number on as I ran over to the mob of green vests I could see by the start.  Somebody called out to welcome me and I screeched back “Where are the loos?!” before rushing in the direction I was pointed towards!  What a welcome Mary!

Quickest wee in the world (only possible because so many people abandoned the line fearing they were going to miss the race) and I managed to make it to the back of the pack just in time to hear the starting shout.

Not so lucky when it came to my watch though.  I had switched it on to find signal as I arrived, only to see this screen…

Harborough 5 Garmin time…it never even made the start line.  :(

The aim for the race had been to run to heart rate (170bpm) but now I would have to go entirely on feel alone, something which I still haven’t been able to judge very accurately since returning from pregnancy.

In actual fact, I think the first three miles of the race were run at parkrun PB pace (8:35mm ish).  It resulted in a really bad stitch, meaning I had to break into a walk, and then even slow that walk down for perhaps quarter of a mile!  That fourth mile would definitely have been nothing to shout about so perhaps it’s a good thing I don’t have any Garmin evidence of it!  My last mile was strong though.  There was a fairly long, drawn-out gradual hill in the final section, and playing it sensible, I was able to pass several of the runners who had zoomed past me during my feeling-sorry-for-myself walk.  I haven’t had a stitch in years, and it was so, so very painful!

Both the start and the finish of the race were a lap around the grassy field – always difficult to remain strong when your legs are tired, you go from road to thick, long grass and you have everybody watching, but somehow I managed to overtake three runners during the lap to finish in 47m 32s.

Position: 280/312
Gender position: 84/107
Category position: 16/21

Weedon 10k

The one and only event where I made it with plenty of time to spare!  Although as I stood waiting to go, somebody asked if I needed to collect my number, as I wasn’t wearing it!  Quick jog back to my car to find it required!

I hadn’t been able to find my heart rate monitor anywhere in the mad rush before leaving the house.  I normally hang it over the bed post at the bottom of the bed, and when I arrived home that evening I discovered that it had fallen off and gotten tucked under the bottom of the bed annoyingly.  I threw my old heart rate monitor in to my kit bag in a hopeful attempt to be able to have some sort of data to base my pace on, but it is my old heart rate monitor for a reason, and it refused to pick up on my Garmin at all, so I ended up offloading it to another club runner’s husband at the start instead of running with it and annoying me the whole way round.

It was another hot day and it wasn’t until we were stood on the start line receiving the race briefing that the Race Director told us all there would be no water station on the course, as there had been a few marshaling problems.  It didn’t really affect me, as I wouldn’t take any water on for less than 10 miles anyway, but there were a few restless runners around me despairing and wishing they had brought water with them for the race.

Weedon is a race known for it’s tough hills, with a large hill at both 2 miles and 4.5 miles.

Weedon 10k hillsThe first hill always seems short and sharp, and there are people stood at the top cheering, so it’s hard to slow down too much as you have an audience!  I find the second one tougher mentally though – perhaps because it’s getting towards the end of the race by that point.

Weedon 10k(Photo by Barry Cornelius)

A few of the runners around me seemed to struggle a lot with the hills, and one guy asked me after the first hill if there were any more hills on the race.  I told him there was another tough one, although I couldn’t remember if it was at mile 4 or mile 4.5 at that point.  Two marshals stood up by the water tower were also asked by a nearby runner if there were any more hills, to which they responded “See the water tower?  That’s the highest point on the course!”  Although the top of the tower might have been fairly high, we didn’t run up there, and there was still a pretty tough hill to come!

Weedon 10k(Photo by Barry Cornelius)

The end of the race is all downhill though, and once you hit the downhill it’s easy running until the last 200 metres, which head up a steep hill towards the finish funnel.

Weedon 10k

Poor form in this downhill shot though…

Weedon 10k 3

…but clearly I perfected my spot-the-race-photographer smile during this race!Weedon 10k

Official time: 61:22
Garmin time: 61:20
Position: 290/324
Gender position: 73/97
Category position: 18/24

My initial plan had been to run to heart rate (170bpm) but unable to do that I was then happy on a hilly course, on a hot day to come away with a sub 10mm pace time, which I achieved.  It was also a time more than 3 minutes faster than the previous time I had run the event back in 2014.

Weedon 10k 2014 recap

Milton Keynes 10k

This was a stepping stone ‘target’ race for me.  Milton Keynes 10k was where I had achieved my previous 10k PB (58:27) and where I knew I had the best shot of improving my 10k time this year.  The course is fairly flat (if you don’t count the numerous redways) and is not overly crowded with a fast, flat, open finish.  I knew that I was in with a shot of coming away with a PB if I ran a smart race and didn’t get carried away at the start.

It was back to my usual problem of getting there on time though.

Leaving late, combined with a bad road traffic accident on the way meant that once again I arrived with just minutes to spare(!)  The start line is a short walk from the race HQ, and I arrived with just enough time to nip into an empty loo as I passed and tag along with a group from my club who were then walking over to the start.  One of the runners hoping to get under an hour asked me what time I was aiming for and I admitted that I was hoping to PB, but that my current time was 58 minutes.  I got the impression that they planned on staying with me, and I secretly hoped nobody would try chatting to me during the run – I wanted to focus and run strong!  I started chatting to one of the club’s membership secretaries and all of a sudden everyone started running forwards.  The race had begun, without our knowledge and so we hurriedly pressed buttons on Garmins and leapt into action.

Like several of the races, the start line is on a field, and so a wide path of runners set out, before narrowing as we came out onto the road.

I counted steps and also kept checking the numbers flashing up on my Garmin, trying my hardest to ensure they stayed between 165-170bpm.  I was struggling to run fast enough to bring my heart rate up to 170bpm, so decided to aim for 165, and reassess at the halfway point if needs be.

Mile 1: 8:45 – 146bpm
Mile 2:
8:51 – 168bpm
Mile 3:
9:08 – 167bpm

Milton Keynes 10k

(Photo by Barry Cornelius)

I was still feeling strong.  I passed a few runners from my running club who have finished other races in the series ahead of me.  I knew I was on target for a good race, and really did not want to spoil it.  My head kept trying to work out the sums over and over, but I can never work out timing math when I’m trying to run!  At least it kept my mind busy!

At mile 4 a bus drove past quickly through a deep puddle and soaked me and another lady that was running alongside me.

Milton Keynes 10k

(Photo by Barry Cornelius)

Mile 4: 9:20 – 168bpm
Mile 5:
9:06 – 164bpm
Mile 6:
9:12 – 165bpm

As my watch ticked over to 6 miles, I pulled alongside Margaret and puffed out that I was heading towards a new PB, as way of explaining why I was overtaking a runner from the same club.  She pushed the pace up a notch to challenge me further and I managed to keep with her, pushing past just before hitting the final field and managing to finish six seconds in front of her.

Milton Keynes 10k

Nubbin (0.27m): 8:11mm pace – 170bpm

I was obviously super happy and crossed the finish line beaming!  It was several minutes before the crowd I normally finish with began to trickle over the line.  I had PBd by nearly two minutes!

Official time: 56:40
Garmin time: 56:36
Position: 394/456
Gender position: 96/136
Category position: 28/35

My watch shows that I ran an average of 9:01mm pacing over the whole distance, so the obvious challenge to set myself for MK10k next year in 2018 will be to get the pace down to something starting with an 8:xx!

A great way to finish the series!

MK 10k 2014 recap
MK 10k 2015 recap

Overall standings:

11th senior lady (out of 16) with 105 points.

To score, runners must take part in at least 5 events out of the eight.  You are given scores relating to your age category for each race.  So, the first Senior lady is given one point, the next two points, and so on.  At the end of the series, each runner’s lowest five scores count and the lower your total score, the better.  (The winner of the series actually only scored 5 points, as they won all races they entered within their age category.)

EMGP resultsBecause I ran six events, my highest score (Silverstone) was disregarded when working out my total.

When was the last time you PBd?  Was it by much?
What is your favourite race distance?
Have you ever missed the start of a race before?

Weeks 3 and 4 of the Hanson’s Marathon Method

Last week was my fourth week following the Hanson’s Marathon Method* training plan.  Although I’m trying to slot in my runs as best as possible I haven’t stuck strictly to the plan, tweaking it in a few places from time to time as required.  My return to work with a young baby and house improvements still to be made has meant that these first few weeks of the plan needed to be fairly flexible to fit around my schedule.  Once school finishes for me at the end of July then training should become a little easier to slot in though.  (Hopefully!)

The main structure of my training week comes from the book, and I try to follow all advice given from within the pages, with all my paces based on a 4h 15m marathon finish time.  (I am aiming for a sub 4h 30m marathon in October.)

Week 3 planned: (5 runs)
Monday – Off (extra rest day as racing the following day)
Tuesday – Weedon 10k (run to heart rate – 170bpm)
Wednesday – 6m trail run with friends
Thursday – 6x 800m with 400m recovery
Friday – Off
Saturday – 3m easy, followed by parkrun (10:50-11:40mm)
Sunday – 8m easy (10:50-11:40mm)

Week 3 actual: (3 runs)
Monday – Off
Tuesday – Weedon 10k
I accidentally picked up my old heart rate monitor as I madly rushed out of the door.  Old, as in it no longer sends my heart rate data to my watch and so, despite planning to run to heart rate for the race I ended up needing to run on feel once again.  Weedon 10k is a ridiculously hilly course, with two particularly big hills at miles 2.5 and 4.5.  Luckily the race finishes with a long downhill, but the first proper hill of the event really took it out of me for the rest of the run!
Total time: 61:22, which I was happy with on such a hilly course!

Weedon 10k(Photo by Barry Cornelius of Oxon Races.)

Wednesday – 6.19m trail run (12:43mm)
Pace includes all stops and stile climbs!
Thursday – Off
I just did not have the energy or drive to get out for speedwork on Thursday evening.  I replaced speedwork with a two hour nap once Dan returned home from work.  That nap did me wonders.
Friday – Off
Saturday – 2.07m easy (10:45mm), followed by parkrun (28m 53s), then 0.69m easy (10:59mm)
I headed to Huntingdon parkrun on the Saturday, slotted in a warmup and then a cooldown to try and get in some extra miles.
I really want to continue attending parkrun throughout marathon training, but I really struggle to keep the pace consistently easy at parkrun at the moment unless I have somebody to chat to.  I feel like I am constantly battling with myself to not end up racing against previous times I’ve run.  This week I ran parkrun at 9:10mm pace, which is way too fast for my prescribed easy pace of 10:50-11:40mm, and definitely wouldn’t have done my legs any favours.
Sunday – Off
On Sunday I headed to Norfolk for the day with Dan and Oscar to see my parents.  We ended up setting off from Norfolk to return home again a little later than originally planned.  That, combined with a diversion on the way home meant that we didn’t arrive back in Northamptonshire until fairly late, with washing still to be washed and bags still to be packed for the following day.  I felt like I’d already had a fairly rubbish week of training, and so skipped the workout.  (Which I obviously immediately regretted as soon as I got into bed.)
Next week is another week…

Week 4 planned: (5 runs)
Monday – Off (extra rest day as targeting a race the following day)
Tuesday – Milton Keynes 10k (run to heart rate – 165bpm)
Wednesday – 7m trail run with friends
Thursday – 5x 1k with 400m recovery
Friday – Off
Saturday – 3m easy, followed by parkrun (10:50-11:40mm)
Sunday – 12m long (10:29mm)

Week 4 actual: (5 runs)
Monday – 5.19m (11:24mm)
Tuesday – Milton Keynes 10k (run to heart rate – 163bpm average)
PB, PB, PB!!!  I didn’t want to all out announce it beforehand, but I was fairly confident that I would be capable of PBing at Milton Keynes on the Tuesday night.  All the recent extra runs I’ve been fitting in and base building at slower paces has seen my running improve.  My running was set at 8:xx pace for quite a lot of the time that I stuck to my 165bpm goal.  I would never have believed how easy 8:30-9mm pace could feel over a 10k distance this time last year!  My previous 10k PB had also been set at Milton Keynes 10k, two years earlier.  That time I had PBd by 8 seconds, and was ecstatic on the night.  So – imagine my beaming smile last Tuesday evening when I crossed the line in 56m 40s – giving me a PB of nearly two minutes!

MK 10k with Margaret Wednesday – 6.93m trail run (11:48mm)
Thursday – Off
I start off with such good intentions at the beginning of the week, but by the time Thursday rolls round often all I want to do is curl up on the couch and sleep.  This Thursday involved housework until 11pm though.  Boo. :(
Friday – Off
Saturday – Off – we headed to Dan’s parents in Wolverhampton on the Saturday and so it ended up being a rush in the morning to get round in time.  Dan had left his car in Northampton following a work night out on the Friday, so I had to load Oscar up and drop Dan off to pick his car back up again before we headed to the Midlands.  Had Northampton parkrun been on in the morning, all would be fine and I could have slotted my run in, but as it was, the Racecourse where Northampton parkrun is held was being used for something else, so no run was had. :(
Sunday – 5.86m with Oscar in the buggy (12:46mm) AM, 8.05m (11:02mm) PM
The AM run was a substitute for missing the Saturday run, and the PM run was a shortened version of Sunday’s run.  Although annoyingly, heading out in a rush I didn’t check my training plan properly and missed that it was supposed to be run as a ‘long run’ rather than an ‘easy run’, and I should have run at a pace 30 seconds quicker per mile than I did.  Never mind, – can’t win them all!

How was it this sunny already at 7:30am on my run this morning?! #buggyrunning #stanwicklakes #10k

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So weeks 3 and 4 complete now.  My biggest challenge is keeping the momentum going by a Thursday evening, especially as that is a speedwork night and one that I should not really be missing.  I have been racing for the past few weeks though which luckily does keep my legs ticking over, but the East Midlands Grand Prix series has finished now, with Milton Keynes being the last race of the series, so I am on my own again!

My second biggest challenge is keeping the pace slow and steady at parkruns.  It is so, so easy to get carried away and drawn along by everybody else at parkrun.  I can easily zone out and happily run my easy runs at 10:50-11:40mm on my own back at home, but when there are people around, it instantly becomes so much more difficult to do and I end up running too hard on what should be an easy run day.  I plan on getting some parkrun tourism in over the Summer and hopefully I will feel less pressured to run hard on unknown courses with people around who I do not know.

My easy runs are definitely paying off, and are absolutely not ‘junk miles’ as proven by this week’s PB!  Whenever I think about how much effort it is to get out late at night (when my runs so often are nowadays – seriously, if you follow me on Strava you will see that the majority of my runs are 9-10pm!) I look at how much my running has improved and how much easier it is to hit faster paces than it initially was and it gives me that extra little bit of incentive to get out there.

Do you find it difficult to run ‘easy’ runs as slowly as prescribed?
What time of day do you tend to head out for a run?

The East Midlands Grand Prix

The East Midlands Grand Prix is a running series over here in the Midlands consisting of eight short-distance races over the course of nine weeks (there’s a break during the May half term week).  Races are all 10k distance or less (3x 10km, 1x 6mile and 4x 5mile events) and take place on weeknights (usually a Tuesday or Wednesday evening).

Having not really focused on any kind of speedwork since Oscar, and the only tempo-based sessions I’d attempted being the Magic Mile events on the first Saturday of each month, I decided to enter the EMGP series this year to force my legs into remembering how to turn over a little quicker again.

The whole series costs just £53, and I’ve entered twice before; back in 2014 and in 2012.  The fact that the races fall mid-week is great, as it means you can still feel part of the racing game, without having to dedicate a whole day at the weekend to each event.  Races start at 7:45pm, and in the past the mid-week dates have clashed with year 8 parents’ evening.  Also, the first race (Silverstone 10k) has always fallen either just one or two days after I’ve run a marathon, so I’ve given it a miss in the past.  This year, it turns out that as I hadn’t run a particularly strenuous marathon on the last Saturday in April, I didn’t worry too much about trotting round the racetrack at Silverstone for a 10k a couple of days later on the Tuesday evening.

Race #1: Silverstone 10k

For some reason, Silverstone starts 15 minutes earlier than the other seven events, at 7:30pm.  Because it was the first event in the series, it also meant that I needed to arrive in plenty of time, allowing myself to find where I needed to be and to collect my race number for the rest of the series.  I just need to rock up with time to queue for the loo at the rest of the events now!

Although I hadn’t run the Silverstone 10k before, I had run the half marathon there back in 2012.  I hadn’t been running for too long at the time, and I turned up cocky and sure of myself that I was going to run a fast race.  It ended up a ridiculously hot day, I ran the first mile in about 9 minutes.  It felt easy, – I had burnt out and was run-walking by mile 5.  Lesson learnt!  Luckily the race photos from that event have long since come down from the photographer’s website, because there were some particularly rough shots of me sweating my way round the course that year.  I’ve run hilly trail half marathons as fast as I ran the flat Silverstone track in 2012!

My main memories of the half were that it was incredibly dull for somebody not at all interested in cars, and just how long I queued to get out of the car park at the end.  (It took me more than 90 minutes to get out!)  But, with a shorter race distance and much less people running, I assumed that neither would be an issue this time round.

I was a little nervous before the race began.  I wasn’t sure where I should place myself.  I’ve been a year out of the local race scene, so although there were several faces I recognised on the start line, there were also plenty I did not, and I wasn’t sure of my own abilities now having not run a 10k distance hard in a long while.

I settled myself somewhere near to the back, although still far enough forward to soak in a bit of the atmosphere.  There were more than 1000 people at this 10k, – making it the largest in our local area for sure.

Not knowing my current race pace, the plan was to run to heart rate.  Between 165-170bpm – and then to pick things up for the end if I still felt comfortable.  I quickly settled into a pace which displayed in the region of 165-170bpm on my Garmin.  It felt comfortable but at the same time I felt like I was working to be where I was.

Silverstone 10k

I overtook a fair number of people but remained consistent in my pace.  A few people had mentioned to me that I would be able to run with Oscar in the buggy at Silverstone.  Although I was initially tempted, it would have made for a very late bedtime for him, and I kind of wanted to give myself a starting point to progress from at the 10k distance for this year.  The race welcomes buggies and wheelchair competitors, as well as able-bodied runners.  I do feel that the wheelchair competitors should either have a different start time, or a lane solely for their use.  The event is two laps around the famous track to make up the 10k, and as wheelchairs were coming through past other runners they would shout out (for example) “Keep left!” or “On your left!”  It made it very stressful as a runner to know which side they wanted you to be, especially if you had just caught the word ‘left’, as I did a couple of times.  At mile 4, one of the women running just in front of me was knocked into from behind and then struck to the ground as she struggled to move out of the way of a wheelchair in time.  I questioned that she was alright, along with a couple of other people, but she was up and running again within a matter of seconds, despite looking a little shaken.

Silverstone 10k

Ugh.  My form in these pictures is terrible.  Really high shoulders and feet slumping into the ground.  But, I do look happy in these shots at least.  I seem to have learnt that there’s no harm in smiling for the camera!

I kept checking my watch to ensure that I was still within the correct heart rate zone, and had a feeling that my pace would see me achieve a new PB if my watch data matched the distance of the course.

The course measured slightly over distance, at 6.33 miles, (probably due to the wide tarmac surface and repeated turns).  Had I stopped my watch at 6.2 miles exactly, it would have been at 57minutes and 47seconds after the start, which would have been a new PB.

Silverstone 10k

As it was though, I was still more than happy with my time, having not run a 10k for so long.  It will be a great starting point to measure my progress across the series.

Silverstone 10k medal

Official (chip) time: 58:44
Garmin time: 58:56
Position: 955/1219
Gender position: 273/455
Category position: 91/162

I waited until the last of our club runners were over the finish line before turning and heading back to my car for home.  Frustratingly, I then queued for nearly 45 minutes before I was even able to get out of the car park and back onto the road!

Silverstone 10k queuing in the car park

All race photos from Mick Hall.

Race #2: Blisworth 5m

Although I am still on maternity leave (only until Friday! :( ) I agreed to mark six classes of year 11 coursework from home during my leave for some extra pennies.  The deadline for entering marks was last Monday and so the previous week had been spent with very little sleep.  Oscar goes down to bed at 8pm, which would then serve as my start time for marking.  I tried to get 7-8 hours of marking in every night before Oscar woke again at 6am the following morning.
I was not fun to be around that week!

Hence, when Friday night rolled around and I felt completely exhausted and fed up I decided that it would probably be best to give Blisworth a miss, even though the race is one of my favourites.  I undoubtedly would have had a rubbish race, which would have left me in a miserable mood.  So I passed that day, and ticked off some more marking that night instead.
Blisworth 2015 recap

Race #3: Rugby 6m

6 miles is a really random race distance, one I’ve only ever seen as part of the East Midlands Grand Prix series.  I’ve run the Rugby 6 race twice before, and also Bedford 6, another 6 mile race which used to be part of the series a few years ago.

Going by my time for the Silverstone 10k a few weeks earlier, I knew that I should be in with a good chance of beating my 6 mile PB (58m 31s from 2012) last Wednesday evening.  The Rugby 6 is set on a hilly course though.  It starts off on a long, rolling downhill, before several short, sharp uphills appear, the worst of which is a long hill only a mile before the finish.

Once again, I aimed to keep my heartrate at around 170bpm throughout the race, including during the hills.  I’ve fallen into the habit of counting to 100 over and over again during races to keep my mind focused, and it seems to be working and helps to keep the turnover of my feet consistent.

I did find it hard to keep myself from running off at a tougher-than-170bpm pace.  Whenever I try to bring my effort levels back down I always find my form suffers.  I end up putting more emphasis on landing on my feet and my hips then twist out to the side.

Previously there hasn’t really been anyone at the same level as me during targeted club races, – other runners have either been much faster or much slower.  However this year it seems I am the same speed as a couple of the others, and three of us finished the 2017 Rugby race within 18 seconds of each other.

Official time: 56:27
Garmin time: 56:25
Position: 301/319
Gender position: 90/102
Category position: 19/21

A new PB of more than 2 minutes.  I was very chuffed with that!

Rugby 6 2015 recap

This week is the Corby 5 mile race.  I haven’t run this event since 2012, and all I can remember from it is the fact that it finishes on a very steep hill!  Why do race organisers do that?!

Have you taken part in any races where wheelchairs also compete?
What random race distances have you raced?
Any tips on putting in less effort but retaining form?