The good, the bad and marshaling fun

*Touch wood* but the start of my marathon/ultra training has been going really well.

I was never a big fan of speed sessions when I used to run them with my running club.  That’s no criticism.  I know it must be difficult to try and arrange a session each week to suit 10 or more runners, all training for different events.  But, I am finding it so, so satisfying ticking off speedwork sessions on my own.  I find that I can really focus on each mile whilst I am running it and am buzzing by the time I arrive back home, eager to share my consistent split times with Dan.  (Who couldn’t care less!)

Last week I had a set of 400s on my marathon race plan.  A one mile warm up followed by 400 metres at 8:20-8:40mm pace, with a 400m recovery as part of each set (repeat 12 times) and then a one mile cool down.  I was chuffed with my splits, and the session felt very manageable. (Strava workout link)

400s speedwork pace chart

My splits read as 8:30, 8:34, 8:28, 8:30, 8:22, 8:37, 8:29, 8:28, 8:35, 8:35, 8:32, 8:30.  All within the range they should have been, and leaving me feeling me so excited about my training – I struggled to get to sleep that night.

Wednesday night was the club trail run and I ran out on a slightly soggy but enjoyable 10k run with friends.

The rough pattern my training is going to fall into over the coming weeks is as follows:

Monday – rest day (off the back of 2, possibly 3 nights of work a rest day is required!)
Tuesday – speedwork (session will vary each week).
Wednesday – buggy run during the day (To get Oscar to sleep.  O goes to an afternoon group I’d like him to stay awake for when he would normally nap, and he falls asleep during a buggy run!) and trail run in the evening.
Thursday – tempo run (hopefully at running club as often as I can manage).
Friday – long run (Oscar is in nursery all day).
Saturday – parkrun/easy run.
Sunday – mid-length run (10 miles +).

This should fit nicely into my schedule, the only times I might have to change things around being when Dan works away from home during the week, resulting in me being unable to get a speed session or tempo run in as I will have no break from Oscar.
I also intend to keep up with my core work and physio sessions during as many days of the week as I can manage/remember/make time for.

Last week my training was a little out of sync as we ended up in A&E with Oscar in the early hours of Wednesday morning.  Both Dan and Oscar had been rather poorly since the weekend and Dan and I woke to Oscar having convulsions in the middle of the night which was incredibly scary, for both us, and him.  We spoke to 111 who advised us to give Calpol, a drink and to strip O down to cool him off.  The convulsions did stop after half an hour and we were able to put him back to bed, but when they began again an hour later we made the decision to rush him into A&E for a check over.  The doctor who saw him put the seizures down to Oscar having picked up a virus and then no longer being able to regulate his temperature – severely overheating and causing his body to go into shock.  He prescribed a mix of Ibuprofen and Calpol throughout the following day to help keep his temperature low and for us to keep an eye on him over the next couple of days.
It did take a couple of days, but luckily Oscar is fully back to his usual cheeky self again now.

So last week I moved my planned buggy run from the Wednesday to the Thursday and ran Oscar down for a little play in the park to cheer him up.  He loved it and was desperate to climb up and slide down the slide over and over again.  He started to kick up a bit of a fuss when I went to put him back in the buggy for the return journey until he saw that we would be passing dogs along the way.  (Oscar is obsessed with dogs, ducks and cows at the moment!)

Running Oscar to the park

When I woke on Friday I knew that I had whatever it was that the boys had had earlier in the week.  My throat hurt and I couldn’t stop coughing.  I had a 13 mile run on the plan for the day, and with Fridays being my only child-free day I was desperate to get out and run those miles.  I should have stayed home and written off the run for the day but I didn’t.  I was too stubborn and went out anyway.

It was a horrible run.  Despite barely being able to touch my lunch, (leaving most of it plated up in the fridge for another day) I felt nauseous and needed the toilet from the end of mile one.  The route I had planned ran past a toilet at mile 3 so I continued, but I knew a fair while before I got there that I would only be running as far as the Visitor Centre at the local lakes and back that day.

Rubbish run

An awful, awful run, but I did actually feel better for getting out at least and added 6 miles to my total for the week.

I headed to bed early on Friday night, as Saturday was going to be a busy one for me.

At 6:40am on Saturday morning another runner from my club – James, arrived to pick me up for the drive down to Uxbridge where we were due to marshal at the Country to Capital ultra for Go Beyond, along with two other runners from our club who we collected along the way.

James has also signed up for the South Downs Way 100 this year, so there was lots of training talk going on during the drive down!

Cassiobury parkrun

(Picture from the Cassiobury parkrun facebook page)

A week earlier James had suggested that we set off for our checkpoint a little earlier so that we may take in a parkrun on the way down.  Both Sally and I jumped at the chance to add to our parkrun tourism total, even though Sally currently has her arm in a sling!

Sally and I at Cassiobury parkrun

The course at Cassiobury parkrun was lovely and flat.  It consisted of two and a half laps around the park.  Marshals were super vigilant about keeping runners out of the cycle lane, as the park was a busy one and there had been reports of runners/cyclists getting knocked during the event in the past.  Even so, there were several runners who insisted on staying in the cycle lane, despite being shouted at, which was a shame.

Cassiobury parkrun

(Picture from the Cassiobury parkrun facebook page)

I felt a fair bit better than I had done the previous afternoon but still hadn’t dared to eat anything before leaving that morning, just in case it made me a) sick b) need to rush to the loo or c) both of the above.  I decided to just jog my way around the parkrun and enjoy a new course.  In actual fact I was fine with food again by Saturday though.

Cassiobury parkrun

(Picture from the Cassiobury parkrun facebook page)

Official time: 28:26
Position: 192/421
Gender position: 38/177
Age category position: 8/17

I had decided to wear my Country to Capital top from 2016 seeing as I would be marshaling the event later on that morning and ended up running the parkrun just behind a man pushing a double buggy who was wearing a Country to Capital top from 2017!  After getting my barcode scanned, I made my way over for a chat about C2C and future races we both had planned for this year.  He told me of the ‘Last Man Standing’ race he had entered.  An event of laps where you must complete each lap within an hour, or be timed out from the race.  The laps continue until you are the ‘last man standing’, with all other entrants timed out.  It sounded good!

Cassiobury parkrun was the 20th different parkrun event I have run (Bedford, Blickling, Corby, Daventry, Huntingdon, Ketterin, Kings Lynn, Linford Wood, Ludlow, March, Market Harborough, Milton Keynes, Northampton, Peterborough, Rugby, Rushmere, Sheringham, Wimpole Estate and Wolverhampton being the other 19!)  This means that I am now officially on the parkrun tourism table of fame*!  :)
* not it’s official title!!!

Once James, myself and Sally had all finished the parkrun we collected Paul from the sidelines (who had decided to sit this one out) and drove over to checkpoint three of the Country to Capital.  Country to Capital is a 45 mile race run along trails and the canal path from Wendover to Little Venice.  Checkpoint three is the ‘feeding station’ and at about mile 25 on the course.

There were six runners from our running club out on the course, and plenty of names we all recognised on the start list this year.

With delays to the crew van, we were rather concerned that it was going to be a bit hit and miss when it came to setting up our checkpoint station in time, but luckily the crew van arrived armed with the famous Go Beyond cake and lots of other goodies with just enough time for us to set up our feeding station.  We were soon joined by the partner of the guy sat in first place through checkpoint two, who then kindly kept us informed with his location using her phone tracker.  I always enjoy chatting with the crew of fast ultra runners and usually come away having learnt something.  It’s always handy to know how different runners like the stations to be presented too.

Two of our runners came through within the first fifteen runners (eventually finishing in 7th and 8th position), and I also recognised Cat Simpson – who went on to place as second female in the race.

One of our female runners, Helen, came through as fifth lady – a position she remained in until the end.

As checkpoint lead, being that I still wasn’t feeling 100%, I decided to place myself away from the food and instead by the chip timing base, jotting down runner numbers along with clock times as they came through.  I had another member of our club alongside me helpfully shouting out runner numbers as they passed, and the other three crew that I had travelled down that morning with helped runners to fill their drinks bottles, unpacked food as necessary and generally kept the place fairly clear during the event.

Checkpoint three of Country to Capital

Even though we were at a point more than halfway into the race, there never really seemed to be much of a lull and the day went by really quickly.  Four runners withdrew at our checkpoint and a handful of runners just scraped through before cut-off.
We spent thirty minutes or so desperately trying to hunt down a lost runner, but it turns out they had already headed back to the finish, having pulled from the event at the previous checkpoint.  Please runners, – if you run a race, let a marshal have your chip back and tell them you are pulling.  Preferably pull at an actual checkpoint as well, rather than between marshal points.  It makes our job much easier and we can usually provide a nice warm car, food and blankets to keep you comfy until transport arrives to ferry you to the finish.

Luckily, I hadn’t been working on the Friday night, but was due to work Saturday night, so on my return home after wolfing down the chicken tea I had instructed Dan to make over the phone I made my way to bed where I managed to grab a couple of hours sleep before heading in for the night shift.
All good practice at no sleep ready for the 100 in June!  😀

Do you chat to spectators at events?
What food do you like to see on a checkpoint?
Do you enjoy running speed sessions on your own?

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?

Love for the Rio Olympics

I don’t know about everybody else but I have loved watching the Olympics over the past fortnight, and my mornings seem kind of empty now that I’m not refreshing the medal table on my phone as soon as I wake up.

Rio 2016

I missed the London 2012 Olympics – something I was rather gutted about.  Although I had great reason, – I took 20 year 11 students on a charity school trip to Malawi for a month that Summer.  The opening ceremony took place the day after we flew out so, without access to TV or the internet whilst over in Africa we missed the whole event.  I caught up with odd bits of the ceremony and highlights during the week after returning before school began again, but it wasn’t quite the same.

I’d applied for Olympic tickets months and months earlier, before agreeing to take on the Malawi trip at school, but like so many I was unsuccessful.  Is it just me, or did it seem to be that the same people got batches and batches of tickets for different events?!  A friend received multiple tickets for the Paralympic Dressage, so I was able to purchase a couple from her and my Mum and I headed down to watch that one day in the Autumn on my return from Africa.  I did also get a chance to see the Olympic torch being carried through Huntingdon early one Saturday morning, but that was as close as I got to the action for our home games.Dressage at the London 2012 Paralympics

This year, I was looking forward to catching a bit more of the action on TV.  When I was younger I would purely watch the equestrian events, not interested in any of the others.  This year I’ve found myself getting caught up in all of the sports, even those I’d never heard of before.  I don’t think I was the only person to not understand the omnium to start with!

I think Miranda Hart’s love letter to Team GB pretty much sums up how quite a lot of the country felt this year!

Of course, the equestrian events were still a big favourite of mine, although despite a gold in the dressage, we didn’t do as well as we have done in previous years, taking home two golds and one silver, with nothing from the eventing – a discipline we tend to do quite well at.  It was great to see Nick Skelton come home with an individual Showjumping gold though.  He’s been a big name on the scene since the days when I first started riding all those years ago.

Obviously athletics is something I’m interested in now as well since becoming a runner.  Frustratingly a lot of the shorter distance events were on at silly o’clock in the mornings, so I missed quite a lot of those – eagerly hunting down results the following day.  It is the longer distance events which appeal to me more though and I really enjoyed both Sundays when I could get lunch prepared and then just slob out in front of the iPad with marathon coverage showing in the background.  I had the best of intentions to get on with other things at the same time, but ended up getting too drawn in to both races – more so the men on the second week.

Firstly though, the course.  Paula (Radcliffe) and Brendan (Foster) both commented on how poorly the course was executed and I agree.  There seemed to be lots of little fiddly twists and turns and out and backs.  There also seemed to be issues with athletes collecting bottles from aid stations as they were all on one side of the road and very condensed.  It did make me appreciate just how well organised our London marathon is and how much thought and preparation must go in to preparing every single little detail beforehand.

It seemed like everything happened in the men’s race, starting with Callum Hawkins leading the front of the race for several miles from the get go.  Brendan constantly questioned Callum’s game plan in the commentary and seemed to get a fair few people riled up as a result.  As a side note though, how cool did Callum look with his cap on backwards?!  😉

Tsegai Tewelde (UK) dropped out with a foot injury and Meb Keflezighi (USA) looked uncomfortable the whole way round, before finally slipping just before the finish line and getting a few push-ups in!  (All part of the plan I’m sure!)  Fourth Olympics though, and at 41 years old.  Superstar!

Did you watch the Olympics this year?
Which events were your favourites?

GO TRI – Try a tri

Yesterday morning at 8am our club held a GO TRI event at Bannatyne’s Health Club in Wellingborough.  The idea was to give people that hadn’t experienced a triathlon before the chance to get to know a little more about the sport, practice having a go at each of the three disciplines and transitions without too much pressure or tiring them out over a long distance.

For the adult event competitors swam 200m followed by an 8km bike ride and then a 1.4km run before heading back through the finish gantry.  The children were split into different categories, but swam either 120m or 160m, followed by a 900m cycle for all, and then finished with either a 600m or 900m run dependent on age.

As I’d volunteered to help several weeks earlier, I was down to time with a team of three others and was given the job of timing the bike course.  All four of us grouped around the side doors to the swimming pool so that we could start our stopwatches at the same point before dispersing to our positions on the course which were all within 100 metres of the pool.

Go Tri timing sheet

I think I was more nervous about messing up the timing on the stopwatch than some of the entrants were at being in the event!

Stopwatch started and I ambled over to the ‘Bike Out’ section of the course.

Although the event was put on by our club, we were able to use a lot of the Go Beyond triathlon equipment, as Steve (the owner of Go Beyond) runs for WDAC.

WDAC Go Tri bike racks

Swimmers would head out from those doors at the front of the pool and along the red and white tape to the left, where the bike racks had been placed.  From there they needed to add their race number, get shoes on, hop on their bike and run past me over the line they had to cross before leaping on their bike for the cycle part of the course.  As they passed the flag I would note down the time on my clipboard sheet so that we would be able to relay to them once they had finished how long they had taken over each of the three disciplines and also how long they had spent in transition between each event.WDAC Go Tri Bike out flag

Because the swim was held across two of the lanes within the indoor pool, swimmers were set off two at a time (one in each lane) every 90 seconds which meant it gave me a chance to grab their numbers as they raced past me pushing their bikes.  One by one they all came rushing past, although it wasn’t long before the first of them were shooting back in from the other direction to rack their bikes back up and head out on the run.  I had to also jot down the time they passed me on their way back in too!

WDAC Go Tri start gantryOne of the other time keepers was noting the times that competitors went back out in their running shoes and overall times as runners headed off in the other direction under the start gantry for the final of the three parts, so this freed me up to cheer people coming over the line.

The event had just 19 adult entrants, which meant it was fairly easy to manage, and the last of the entrants was back across the line within 40 minutes, giving us enough time to set up for the junior event which was due to begin at 9am.Go Tri completed timing sheet

Because the direction the kids headed out on the bikes was different to the way they came back in, I was only able to record their bike out times and someone else caught them as they came back in again.  It was more confusing with the kids event though, as depending on their age, they ran a different number of laps around the leisure centre, which had been drilled into them before they set off!  (Mainly I think to help us when it came to timing…so we knew to record their time if they stopped when they came over the line!)  I’d slightly overestimated how long it would take the kids to finish, and they were all back within 8 minutes of starting!

Quick photo of the adult finishers with medals around their necks…

WDAC Go Tri finishersI had arranged to run with a friend after helping at the tri and had said I should be able to head back home again somewhere around 10:30am, but in actual fact we were done and all packed away before 9:30.  An efficient club, us!  😉

Although I’m not as clued up on triathlon rules as I am of the rules at pure running events, I always seem to learn something new each time I marshal at a tri and it makes me more enthusiastic about the sport.

Did you watch any of the Olympic triathlon at the weekend?
Does your club contain many triathletes?