Saturday, October 27, 2007

Half Marathon race report!

OK OK so what's a few weeks between friends? I know my race report is l-o-n-g overdue and where have I been... humm so my laptop which I thought was a little sick is in fact terminally ill. Actually it's past that - it's DEAD! So I've ordered a new one which for some reason (probably the yellow colour), Dell can't deliver for another couple of weeks. So I'm stuck on the upstairs PC. That's my excuse anyhow. I've got to go and pick up the old laptop from the PC medics and figure a way of getting out the old hard drive and backing up the files or all those training record from the last year have gone, and we all know how much I like graphs and reports and stuff ;o).. I have never done a backup on my laptop - yes v naughty!.

Anyhow - the race report (slightly abridged as memory has faded!)

Due to the post strike in the weeks before the race we all got emailed to come early to the venue to re-register and pick up numbers etc. I found out the week before that a friend was also running so we arranged to save on car parking spaces and travel down together, with the wonderful Kirsty-Dawn being the chauffeur for the day (lucky as driving back would have been interesting for me and my poor legs). So I left my house for the short car journey to Kirsty's at about 730am - the race wasn't starting till 10 but we knew carparking was limited and suspected it to be a bit manic with the whole registration thing. We got to Henley at about 8, a lovely day, blue skies, little wind and very fresh (read quite cold), pretty much perfect conditions! Got a parking space ok, and had little queues for registration. All that was left to do after that was to visit the porta-loo's several time for nervous bladder syndrome (NBS)! Once registration was done we headed over to the start/ finish area where we met up with another friend, Sarah, who was manning a charity tent. This is where we dumped bags, stuck on numbers and thought about warming up.This is the Thames Hospice "team" running either the half marathon of the 10k "fun run". Hadn't planned to be running for the Hospice and certainly didn't have any sponsorship but as they had a spare vest I put it on, better to have some advertising then none. Sarah - if you're reading this I've not washed the vest so you can have it back and also I'd like to give you some "sponsorship" money.... this is me pre-race... the nervous slouch in full view... do you think my thighs look big in those trackie bottoms?!?

Before we knew it (after the usual extremes of phaffing around), the race announcer was calling us to the start line, about 2000 competitors - exciting! Karen (my other friend who was running) and I had a little chat about not getting carried away and starting off to fast, but to take things nice and steady, she was hoping to go sub-2, I was hoping to survive and thought 2:15 was doable.... iPod on, Garmin on, and away we went!

Race Report:
So I started off around the field, grinning like a lunatic at the thought that the next time I do this distance it's likely to be after a 1.9k swim and 90k bike... I must be mad!!

The first mile saw us run back through Henley town centre which was really nice, first time I've seen a crowd like that on a race really. Really exciting, although everyone else did seem to be running past me! The cars in the town centre were stopped, so that was quite fun running past and around them. Over the Thames we went and turned left along a fairly narrow country lane. Now I had my Garmin on a run 10mins , walk 1 interval setting and honestly paid no attention to HR or speed... so it came as a bit of a surprise when I got to the first mile in sub 9mins!! Should have been at about the 10min marker! Thought "OOPS" so much for starting slow and not getting carried away! So I carried on until I got my count-down bleeps on the trusty Garmin when I stopped and stretched out hammies, quads and calf.... then walked a bit until the beeps again!

Miles 2-6:
This really was beautiful. We continued up the lane, which was slightly undulating and at times quite crowded, before at about mile 3 we dropped back on to the Thames tow-path and headed back towards Henley. It was great, running past some guys in canoes on the river by the weir, other people rowing down and up the river. Really really lovely. We couldn't have had clearer skies, no wind, just perfect. I carried on my run 10, rest 1... the format of the rest period was always a stop and stretch followed by short walk and start again, sometimes starting up before the rest was over. I found this really helped break up the run nicely. I hit the 10k marker in under an hour I think (haven't yet downloaded my garmin to know for sure), which I was pretty pleased with. This first 6miles felt good, fairly easy and very enjoyable! Once we got back down to Henley it was back over the bridge, around the one way system back towards the start. More crowds in Henley, including Kirsty who was the official photographer for us too!Here's the picture of me coming back through Henley... Kirsty obviously thought I was running faster then I was and snapped the man infront of me as I hadn't quite got to her yet! Hopefully you can see through that I was still enjoying myself!! :o).... Now do you think my thighs look big in this picture?

Miles 7-9.5: Oh the pain! After the relative flatness of the course for the first 7 to 7.5miles we were unprepared for the "hill".... OMG! Now I knew it was coming, and I knew it would probably be horrid... but it was completely NASTY! It'll be interesting to see exactly how slow I ran up the darn thing! It went up, gradually at first then progressively steeper for a-g-e-s. Alas my Garmin inspired rest interval did not coincide with the worst parts! At one point I did thing "sod it I'm going to have to walk", was just about to stop "running" and start to walk when this guy said it was only 100m more till the turn in the road - so I couldn't stop then could I... so I carried on running to find the bend wasn't quite the end, but at least I could see it when I hit the bend! Finally made it up to the sound of cow-bells... don't they usually have those in the tour-de-france?! Anyhow, it was a great gesture by the family who were ringing them as did make everyone know we were at the summit about to head down hill. I think one of the things which inspired me to get up the hill was the knowledge that at some point between miles 8 and 11 I'd see my Mum and Brother ... kept seeing people in the distance thinking it was them, getting there and realising it wasn't got me to carry on to the next set of people who were scattered on the course cheering.

Miles 9.5-11: So I thought the uphill was steep.... but nothing compared to the gradient of the down hill section! The choice here was to run against gravity (ie break on the hill), or lean forward and run with it. Most people were breaking, which I did try to begin with but figured this would jar my aching thighs too much and besides when gravity's on your side why not use it.... so off I went, like a child running down a hill for the first time my legs were in danger of not keeping up with the rate of descent - talk about almost out of control!!! But it was really really quite amusing and I did overtake a hell of a lot of people! So what that my toe nails were in tatters after! Lucky there was only one sharp bend to deal with, I just avoided running headlong into a hedge!
This is me approaching the water station at about 10.5 miles, I didn't realise but this is still slightly down hill. I saw Mum and Bro at the side of the road so came out of the crowd of runners to give them the opporunity for a photo and also the biggest sweatiest hug! It was fantastic to see them there! I had to run off quickly post-hug as I did come over all quite emotional!

Miles 11-13: This is where things become a little hazy and also where my right hammy was trying to cramp. I think I was now in the "let's just finish this" zone. We came out of the countryside onto a path which went down a dual carriageway back towards Henley and the finish. This bit of village/ road being called "The Fairmile", a very old road.... Well I have to say there was nothing "fair" about it, and as for a mile - huh! It was long, straight and went on for an eternity! Luckily one of the gym instructors and warned me about it, telling me you've just got to keep your head down and get it done. It was like something from a horror movie or nightmare - everytime I looked up I had got no closer to the town! Agghhhhhh! It was around mile 12 that Garmin told me to stop and stretch - which hammy certainly needed but in so doing I was risking a cramp starting up running again.... well a girl whom I had spent the whole of that hill leap-frogging (I was using a slow steady tortoise strategy, she was using a hare-stop-hare-stop strategy), anyhow as she passed me she yelled "this is no time to stop and stretch now!".. and I thought you know - she's right. So I lumbered on (which is what it felt like my now), with her about 15m ahead of me.... and it was then that my competitive spirit kicked in - I didn't want her to beat me!! So, inspired as I was, I managed to not get dropped off too badly... we finally (finally finally), reached the end of the not-so-fairmile and turned left heading back out of Henley towards the start/finish!

Mile 13 to 13.1: As we turned back towards the field and the finish tunnel I dug in deep and found a spurt, which turned into a sprint (well as fast as I could muster, and believe me I'm not fast even when I'm fresh)! Alas the girl also sprinted to the line and guess what - we crossed it at the exact same time.... I did look a bit of a mess:
I'm not sure I can thank Kirsty-Dawn enough for taking that one ;o) ... and quite frankly I'm not sure why I'm posting it. The girl that legged it in with me is off to the right and I'm sure looks worse then I do (yeah right!)... Still we're all friends here aren't we.... now be honest - my legs do look big in those tights don't they ;o)

So I gave it my all a the end and finished in 2:10:21... FLIPPIN BRILL! I was well stoked up with the time and didn't really expect that! And guess what - I beat that girl by 45secs per the chip time - turned out she was ahead of me when the race started! Not that I'm competitive - in fact thinking about it I needn't have sprinted at the end - damn!
I think that's Sarah's hand given me a pat on the back at the end! Boy was I knackered!

Well Karen finished in 1:57 something, which she was really pleased with - so we celebrated with a pot of jelly which they were handing out at the finish! Big thanks to Sarah who held my towel in the field as I got changed afterwards! Now that's a true sign of a caring friend if you're prepared to do that for someone!.... Although to be fair I'm not sure she'd do it again having discovered how sweaty and stinky someone gets after such an event! LOL! Big thanks to Kirsty "David Bailey" Dawn for the photos and transportation! Huge thanks for Mum and Bro for making it out to be on the course. My toes have recovered (in terms of pain), but am fully expecting to loose 4 nails in the coming months - I'll remember to blog that event when it happens ;o) This was a great and memorable event - I'm already hoping I'll be fit, willing and able to do it again next year. No longer a half-Mary virgin!

Monday, October 15, 2007


2:10:21 = yesterday's half mary time..... Happy!

But sore!

The race "plan" was to run 10mins then stretch, walk, run (upto 1min break) then run again. Figured I'd average a 11min mile doing this.... imagine my shock when I went through the 1mile marker sub 9mins... DOH! Still carried on and stopped at my alloted 10min intervals throughout.

I'll write a bigger blog about the event (currently having laptop issues - ie it seems to have blown up so am doing this from the ol' PC upstairs having dusted it down!), but suffice to say it was a wonderful wonderful event. Loved every minute (bar the 10mins it took me to climb that hill - which was incidently pure evil)..... and perhaps I didn't quite love the last mile as I was beginning to suffer a bit then (hydration strategy... whoops what's that again ... humm).

Oh how my toes suffered.....
Two black and two blue toe nails (the ones next to each big toe are black and the middle ones are blue)... but at least it was symmetrical (I know you enjoyed that picture didn't you?!?!!....oh ok... maybe not!)

And now the rest of me is sore today - pretty much all over - but I think I'm recovering ok... just a shame I've got a nightmare week at work this week. Into London today, perhaps Weds and Thurs and tomorrow I drive to Manchester via a meeting in Coventry... not sure how the hammies are going to like sitting in a car for 3+ hours each way.... hummm!

Still I am VERY PLEASED with the time :o)..... In fact so pleased I think I may go and get myself a beer - that is a good supplement to take to aid recovery isn't it?!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

What not to do.....

What not to do in the last 10 days before your first ever half marathon;

1. Run 10miles followed by a full game of hockey less then 24hours later.
Not to be recommended as legs take a bit of a battering (both from stick/ball/ oppo as well as from repeatitive motion on the ground). They will take more then 4 days (and counting) to feel normal again

2. Live in a country with a nationwide postal service who have two 48hour strikes during this period.
This leads to a rearrangement of registration information. Rather then numbers, chips etc arriving in the post all competitors (> 2000 for half marathon and fun run combined) are to report early on the day to register and get new numbers/ chips, sure to be chaos!

3. Attend a staff meeting, despite the fact it's your new bosses first one, where one (or more) of your colleagues evidently have a bad case of the dreaded lurgy.
This leads to the risk of potential infection - why do that to yourself - either arrange to dial in on conference call or ensure there are adequate isolation facilities in the meeting for lurgy carriers.

4. Decide it would be a good idea to attend the annual bike show in London the day before the race (this is a planned activity, obviously anticipated to happen this Saturday)
The danger here is not only one to the wallet but undue time on feet less then 24hours prior to the big one - see also point 1 above for stupidity of such type of activity.

At least I have not had the opportunity to get drunk (yet!) and thus have a hangover ;o)

Now in answer to some comments from my last blog;

Wes: Yes I am an official retired (just out of retirement for 2months only) field hockey player. Sort of hung up my stick prior to busting my hand in January, but have been drawn back into it for another final swan-song as a result of watching a few games since September.... and how do you like the pretty picture my garmin has drawn of my first half running around last Saturday? And just FYI I was playing sweeper infront of the back 3 defending the goal to the left. Obviously I got a bit carried away a few times trying to score ;o)

As for just cricket and football (good use of the word, glad you did not say soccer), I see you have managed to forget that little subject of RUGBY - would that be because the US did not make it!?! ;o) .... and yes we are all (at least I'm sure 95% of the nation) still a little stunned having seen off the Aussies in the quarter finals last Saturday. The French game on their home soil this Saturday is going to be a good 'un!

Chad: Field hockey, kinda like ice except less body contact, more players on each side on the pitch (11) and no barriers (oh or ice)... and a ball rather then a puk! Surface usually astro, preferably water based or more likely nasty old sand base (good example of which is above).... Oh yeah and the goals are bigger! Umm oh and you can rotate subs and you can get a sin bin type of punishment thing.

Best of luck in your race ....Cactus Cha Cha isn't going to know what's come past them..... I am so jealous of your run time!!

My northern, fake Scottish, friend..... ;o)..... oh and less of the "it's sunny in Glasgow" already - you've gotta get the sun once a year!! ... where was I... Oh yes thanks for the race info - think we all have got an email from the race director - but cheers anyhow. As for the course profile..... ummm... yes heard about the hill.... here's the course profile if you'd care to take a look;

A nice 1.5mile "steady" climb... .at the 8 mile mark... hummm my tactics for this will revolve around caffeine, music, the mantras "what doesn't kill you makes you strong", and "embrace the hill", and not looking up. Having said that I think I may try and drive the hill prior to Sunday just to see exactly how bad it is!

As for pacing/ plan target.... haven't finally decided on this yet. I don't want to go as slow as I went last Friday for my 10miler as that was, at times, uncomfortably slow although I never actually got out of work once until the last mile when I blatted it for home. In my mind I think I'm likely to still do a run/ walk strategy with running 1.5k and walking 1min (this will take me to a mile most likely)..... rather then setting a pace as such I think I'm going to go with something like my mid aerobic HR (at least what I assume that to be), making sure I keep to the lower side of the zone for the first 6 miles. There's no fuel on the race just water stops so am running with my little race belt with a bottle of hydration/ fuel in it and a couple of gels for good measure. Once I've done the first 1hr 15 I'll just suffer till the end, need to ensure I have good music on the iPod! As for time....... I expect to finish in less the 2hr 30 even with run/ walk. If I don't it will be because I've picked up an injury or something. I'll be really happy to come in under 2hrs 15.... eventually (but not this race) my aim is to get nearer the 2hr mark, but that is definitely not on the cards for Sunday (unless the course is about a mile or 2 short!!!!)

TJ - my house still stinks of paint - every time I open the front door and come in I get a right ol' wiff of it up the nose.... I'm hoping it'll go away soon!!!! ... Oh and great 5k ... WINNER!

.... Now there's something missing from this blog... Oh yes - training!... Now obviously I'm tapering - quite how you do this when you've not been building is beyond me ;o) ... anyhow... the week so far;
Monday (am): Gym swim - 1500m 45mins drills and easy. Followed by 15mins in hydro pool to try and heal my hurting legs ;o)
Tues (am): X-trainer - not wanting to punish my still weary legs by pounding the streets I decided a 30min x-trainer session was in order followed by 15mins of stretching. I think this was a good idea as got my legs moving again and the blood flowing and I certainly needed to stretch out.
Today (pm): 45min Body-balance course. This is part of the "what needs to be done" over the next few weeks. A great class, Tai-Chi, Yoga and Pilates... I didn't know I could stretch into those positions.... alas I think you're then supposed to balance... hummmm

Rest of the week plan is to have another x-training session and another swim, oh yes and visit the annual bike show up in London on Saturday!!! I'm not going to start my "light weights" until at least next week as I think, if I did start now, I'd be adding that to the list of "what not to do" ;o)...... Right "Heros" has started on TV and what better way to relax ....!!!!

Monday, October 08, 2007

How to spend your holiday....

Take 5 days off work and what could you do with your time?

- Jet off to a nice beach and sit in the sun for a week?
- Find a mountain retreat for fresh air and some r&r?
- Take a course in something you've always wanted to do?
- Find a Tri-camp to go to, meet some new friends whilst training away?


- Stay at home and paint your doors?


A week later and I'm asking myself "why didn't I take any of the options 1 through 4".... Yes I spent a week on the internal doors. They were a nasty deep dark stained brown wood and now they're lovely shiny and white! But talk about underestimating the job in hand, I didn't quite anticipate 5 coats of paint on the doors downstairs and 4 coats upstairs (which included the banister and skirting down the stairs). So all in all that was ... err 40 doors (sides) painted and stairs/ banister on top.... Is it any wonder that by the time I got to Friday I couldn't face another layer and slept (ok so the sleeping could have been down to being overcome with fumes!!! LOL)

Still - despite the fact that one day in I thought "why didn't I just get someone to take the doors away and dip them" - why do these ideas come too late - I am very pleased with the end result. The only thing remaining is to attach the new handles and take some "after" pictures. The house is a whole lot brighter as a result and I'm just wondering why on earth I haven't done this sooner!! So, ok not a terribly relaxing or inspiring week off work - but I'm pleased with the choice (although if you had asked me whilst I was applying layers 5/4 last Thursday I'd have probably just grunted!!)

Oh what else of that half-mary training I hear you cry.....

Well last Sunday (as in the end of Sept not the one just gone), I did decide to ditch the 10k race and did a LSR. Definitely the right decision as the half is more important then doing a haphazard 10k. Managed 15k in about 1hr35, started off easy HR at low aerobic then second half at a bit of a faster rate..... the last k hurt but still ticked of a 9ish miler which I wanted to do that week. That then set me up for the week just gone. Managed a short trot out Tuesday, just 4.3k, my legs were sore to begin with but they soon eased out. Then Friday night I convinced myself I needed to go longer and get 10miles in before the half mary... humm.. so off I went on a 6min walk/jog warm-up before 9*1mile reps (very easy, HR <148) with a 1min walk break. Upshot was lots of pain my about mile 7, binned the walk/ run thing and did the final mile about 2mins faster then the previous 8 just to get it all done!!! In total I clicked in just over 10miles (about 16k)..... Needless to say I and my legs were toast afterwards. Put this down to several things;
1. Only 5days since last LSR
2. Went for an hour long walk beforehand
3. It was late - didn't get out until 1915

And just like my legs hadn't had enough punishment the next day (Saturday just gone), I had agreed to play hockey (yeah I know I gave that up last December right? Wrong - more on that later). So Saturday lunch saw me (trying) to run around a hockey pitch with a stick in my hand!! Mad muppet!!! Have not been able to walk properly since! LOL.... so I have 6 days to completely recover before the half mary this sunday! OMG! At this stage I'm fully expecting it to hurt like hell and possibly I'll have to walk more then I intend - that's what comes of not sticking to a plan. Still I am looking forward to the event as it's my first half and in some sick sort of way I'm even beginning to enjoy the long runs - so roll on Sunday (well Sunday afternoon if I were to be honest and a nice hot bath post-event!!!)

So why this hockey thing then? Humm well I've watched a few games in September and figured I could play up to December and it won't get in the way of next seasons goal as prep-training isn't scheduled to start till December with Week 1 happening at the beginning of the New Year. So I'll count one game of hockey as a kind of speed/ fartlek session of running in my schedule.

Which takes me nicely to my "schedule" for the next couple of months. So obviously things are geared up for next Sunday, but subsequent to that the idea is to have two sessions a week of;
- swimming (club on Wednesday + one at gym)
- bike (one on Sunday + one other, turbo or gym spin)
- run (one Saturday (hockey) + one LSR during week)
then in addition 1 to 2 sessions of;
- body balance/ yogalates etc for core work
- strength training

So nothing too regimental but an outline of what I want to achieve. The idea being;
- I keep the swim ticking along (may get a endless pool/ camera session sorted for some more specific coaching/ correction)
- Keep my LSR up to a regular 1 to 1.5hrs
- Get back on biancha
- Get my core and general strength to a better place then it is now (won't be hard as both non-existent!)
All of this so when I hit the more structure prep phase in December I'm already in the swing of things! :o)

I think that sounds like a plan!

Oh and I've got that little thing of changing my blog name - can't exactly say I'm "starting to tri" anymore given I'm a season down :o) More on that one later, along with the before and after pics!!