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Day 256/365 – Bristol Half Marathon

My first half marathon was the 25th Bristol Half in 2013, which I completed in 1:53:55. This year’s half marks my 5th race over this distance, the third time on this course. Last year I ran it in 1:49:43, coming back from a hamstring tear. This year I was aiming for 1:45:00 (or more accurately 1:44:59) after a good showing at Bath earlier in the year, lots of marathon training and weekly track sessions with Bristol & West. There were some other runners from the club also going for this time, so Alan agreed to pace us around and the 1:45 train set off in yellow pen of the first wave.

The target pace was 8:00 min/mile and the traffic wasn’t particularly bad, so we were able to hit, maintain, and exceed that pace pretty much from the start. We were overtaking more people than were overtaking us, engulfing them in a wave of red and white vests. As Alan was running well within his capability he was able to spot club members both ahead of us (most we caught and passed) and on the other side of the Portway or in the crowds lining the route. A popular and well-known local runner he also got a lot of shout outs which were great for the morale of the train.

No-one else was calling the ‘ogggies’ in the tunnel, which is something I like, so I did it on the way out (and Scott, another member of our train called it on the way back). The race itself was pretty uneventful. We kept to our pace, we encouraged other runners we knew, they and the crowd encouraged us, we waved at Rich taking photos from the bridge (not that bridge). We lost Scott around mile 9 to cramp and Dan was flagging in the last mile. My back didn’t hurt like it normally does in the last few miles, nor did my hip flexors, so maybe I’m getting stronger or my form is better or both. I didn’t quite have it to sprint over the line like Isie and Alan did (but did get blocked a little at that point anyway), but was very happy with my time.

Officially (and provisionally) my time was 01:42:45, putting me in 1,544th overall and 28th in my age category. And I got a medal and a t-shirt to go with my new pb.

Day 60/365 – Bath Half marathon

Sunday is long run day, but this one was pretty long. I got to Temple Meads by 09:30, plenty of time to get over to Bath for an 11:00 race start, but the platform was already packed and the trains were delayed. The train I ended up on was a stopping one, so I didn’t get into Bath until 10:15 – not enough time to do anything other than scoot over to the runner’s village, dump my bag and head to the start. In the slow plod to the start I saw Russell Howard (who I knew was running) and a lady dressed as a Singer sewing machine, but none of the other people I knew were running today.

The start didn’t quite go off as planned (I guess a false start, I had my headphones in already) and there was the usual shuffle towards the line, slow down to a walk as people bunched up, then jog, slow down, and finally over the line. My sister had said she would be near the start, so I was keeping an eye out and trying to go at a sensible pace for the first km, but that didn’t happen. The start is downhill and you get to see the mass of people in front of you, which is impressive, but with all of the jinking around into gaps it is easier to go a little faster than intended. My target time was 1:48:00, which meant completing 21km, each at 05:07 min/km. My first non-sub 05:00 min/km was in the 7th km (it was exactly 05:00 min) and I finally hit my target pace in the 14th km.

Around 17km Russell Howard went past me and I was damned if I was going to be beaten by a comedian, so spent the next couple of km slowly catching him up and then passing him. At this point I bumped into Fleur (I had already seen Fi and John out on the course) and as we were commiserating about what was hurting the Howard passed me and I had nothing in response. The final 1.3km were a bit of a grind, but I crossed the line in 1:46:42 according to my GPS. When I looked up the provisional results they awarded me a 1:46:40 and position 2955. Yay, new pb! In 2014 I finished in position 3214 with an official time of 1:49:24, so a good improvement.

A technical t-shirt in the goody bag this year, and an entire bar of chocolate. We did end up at a dead standstill for a few minutes in the finish area though, as everything started seizing up. Home in time for the rugby (just, after more train delays). If anyone wants to contribute to my justgiving page, I was running in my cancer research shirt, it can be found here: Just Giving.


Bristol Half Marathon – 21st September 2014

It was a glorious morning to go for a run, and after an amusing Chinese whispers form of warm up in college green where only the front row could see the instructor and everyone else had to work it out from what they were doing, I toddled off to the yellow pen for a wave 1 start. At this point I found that my ipod, which I had been careful to charge up, was completely out of power, so it got packed away and I had to hum seven nation army to myself as we gradually walked towards the start line, crossing it over 7 minutes after the gun had gone off.

As I was carrying an injury and had set my target at 1hr 55mins I set off at what I felt was a comfortable pace. I was aiming for 5:20min/km but each time I checked my Garmin I was significantly faster than that (oops). But it was feeling easy, so I went with it, taking in my surroundings and the sounds of the crowd. All too soon we were under the suspension bridge and this was the part that I wanted my ipod for. The course goes out along the portway all the way to Shirehampton, then turns you round and brings you all the way back again. Watching the faster runners coming towards you on the way out, and then the rest of the field on the way back (into bright sunshine) could have done with a bit of musical accompaniment.

I checked my time at 10km and it was under 51 minutes, so readjusted my target time to 1hr50. This meant I did have to push on a bit and try and keep my pace consistent. I wasn’t able to stop for the £10 note in the middle of the road at Hotwells, but did point it out to the people behind. Hopefully someone picked it up for their charity. I was still feeling good when I entered Queen’s Square, where there were a couple of hot air balloons tethered and a samba band was kicking it. I was in wave 2 last year and the tight corners of Queen’s Square were a bit of a bottleneck, but being in wave 1 meant that there was plenty of space for everyone to negotiate it safely.

Out of Queen’s Square and it was the 10 mile mark. Only 3 more miles or 5km to go. A quick watch check and I was still on for 1hr50mins. But I was slowing down. What had been easy to maintain was now less so and the terrain was getting more difficult. Sometimes I would like to run this race backwards even though it would mean there would be less support towards the end of the race. From 11 to 12 miles are a couple of nasty inclines and a shed load of cobbles to sap whatever remaining strength you have in your legs and by the time I popped back up by the fountains opposite the Hippodrome I was flagging. A slightly modified route here as they are building more student accommodation next to the road we normally take, and I almost stopped to walk at the 13 mile mark. A final GPS check and I thought I would be around the 1hr50 mark, maybe a little over and figured a pb was totally out (which I was thinking was 1hr49mins09secs, confusing it with my old 10k pb) so eased myself into the finish straight and across the line in a Garmin time of 1hr49mins42secs. This was only 18 seconds slower than the pb I set in Bath earlier in the year, so I probably could have got a pb but I’m pretty sure I would have thrown up at the finish line if I’d pushed for it, so just as well I didn’t know the right time.

I got a lovely medal and t-shirt to add to the collection

Bristol Half Marathon

but what would be really great is if people donated to my justgiving page for Cancer Research: Donate, you know you want to. Thank you to all of the organisers and volunteers.

UPDATE: the official results are in and my official time is 1hr49mins43secs and finishing position is 2823. This compares to last year’s time of 1hr53mins55secs and finishing position of 3824.

Ashton Court parkrun and run bristol training session – 30th August 2014

Another Saturday morning, another charge up the Ashton Court hill. This week there were pacers as there was a run bristol training session afterwards looking at the upcoming half marathon. There was a 24 minute pacer and given that this is my usual pace I decided to stay near him. Well I lost him on the first hill and he was about 20 seconds ahead of my at 1.25km so I kept to running my own pace and crossed the line sub 24 minutes (he must have been closer to sub 23).

I finished 78th out of 273 parkrunners, was 8th lady and first in my age category. I am still holding steady at 4th in the points table by now only 1 point behind Emma Withers.

After a quick change of shirt it was time for some stretching and being talked at (but not before grabbing some free t-shirts, water bottles and my own weight in jaffa cakes and chocolate rice cakes). I managed to get a 10 minute consultation with a physio who confirmed that whatever-I-did-at-Body-Pump was probably a pulled hamstring but that it was healing nicely and gave me a couple of exercises to strengthen it. It shouldn’t be a problem for the half marathon unless I re-injure it, so that is a worry off.

The training session was great, as always, and I left feeling very positive about the half which I hadn’t been before with my interrupted training. Hopefully day school next week for my psychology exam (just before the half) will have a similar effect. Revision starts in earnest on Monday (after I get my final assignment polished and submitted tomorrow).

Lacock Abbey 10km

I was woken at 5am by neighbours heading out to see the 6am mass balloon ascent, just the three hours before my alarm was due to go off. Not perfect preparation for an off-road 10km race (only a week after the off-road 10km race at Blaise Castle) but nevermind. I trundled along to Lacock Abbey via the back roads since it was so early, but had a bit of a panic at the car park where the price had risen to £3 from the advertised £2 and I had to run to a nearby pub to get some change. I headed straight to registration from the pub to find that my name was missing from the list, but they rustled up a number for me and I dashed to the car park and back, returning just in time for the start of the men’s race.

It was a narrow course with some pinch points going over stiles, so the men went off 10 minutes before the ladies to reduce the traffic through those points. It was particularly satisfying therefore when we started to pass some of the men, knowing that they had that head start. I tried to keep an even pace instead of my usual dash from the line and seemed to be in better condition than last week. This was backed up by my time which was faster (though the course was a little shorter according to my GPS). Official results aren’t in yet, but I think I finished 12th lady with a time of 50:34. Another bib and medal for the collection.

Lacock Abbey 10k

UPDATE: the results have me as 11th lady, 10th in my age category, out of 123 ladies with a time of 50:38.

Women’s Running 10k series – Blaise Castle

I will confess that I hadn’t had the best preparation for the Bristol leg of the Women’s Running 10k series at Blaise Castle. The last time I had run had been Monday 21st July and the only exercise I had done since then had been a Body Pump Express and a dynamic yoga class which had left my legs aching. The reason for the lack of activity was a nasty cold that I am still in the process of shaking off (and being in Ireland away from my usual classes). I had also taken the skin off the back of my heels by wearing a new pair of shoes to Tesco yesterday (I took them off and walked home barefoot) and had to use double layered plasters (though it was an added incentive to keep on my toes).

I figured I would still be OK though, and having finished last year’s race in 50:48 in baking hot conditions thought I should sneak under 50 minutes in cooler conditions under cloudy skies, so went to the front at the start. I was in the lead group as we set off and held 6th place for the first couple of km. My legs were heavy though and I gradually got overtaken over the next 8km, slipping down to what I thought was 15th when I finally crossed the line. There had been an unscheduled walking break at one point when we encountered a group of riders being led on horses along the path, and got shouted at (someone forgetting about transmitting emotions to horses and setting off the horse she was leading – clearly they hadn’t thought to check whether there was an event on that day before setting off).

The course was slightly longer than last year, taking a turn around a large yew tree instead of cutting across the side of the hill in the last 300m, and I didn’t make it round sub 50 minutes, but did manage sub 55 with an official time of 53:37 (texted to me at 11:02, less than 10 minutes after finishing). My official finishing position was 11th out of 383, though I was pretty sure I’d counted myself in at 15th, so that may change if it turns out some people in front of me didn’t get logged correctly.

Another t-shirt, race bib and medal to add to the collection.

Bristol 10k 2014 – 11th May 2014

The weather forecast for the Bristol 10k was not good. 20mph winds gusting up to 35mph, rain. Not ideal running conditions. The Ashton Court parkrun core team were out marshalling though, so a weather window of sorts opened up (apart from a nasty shower just before the start). The wind (which was my main concern) had died down a bit overnight, and the showers were mostly holding off as I walked in (to acclimatise). I caught a bit of Rastamouse as I returned from the bag drop and followed the pipers in to the red pen to huddle together with other runners.

After a false start (which is a new one for me) we were off and once again I was struck by how many people apparently lie about the time they are going to do and hold up people behind them dawdling along like Sunday drivers. I managed to weave my way through them though and my Ashton Court hill tackling stood me in good stead as I powered up the overpass and down onto the Portway.

I was still worried about the wind along the Portway as it can be a bit of a wind tunnel (not to mention the potential for rocks to drop from above) but it seemed pretty sheltered (or there were just enough people ahead of me to act as wind breaks). I was doing steady 4:30 min/km, which was faster than my 4:45 min/km plan, but it felt good so I tried to keep it going.

The lone wheelchair racer passed to applause, then the lead group (one of the benefits to being in the first wave). No spotting anyone dressed as a banana going faster than me this time (which didn’t mean there wasn’t one, runners can get awfully short-sighted). Some friendly faces marshalling along this section and it was the turnaround and back into town.

My Garmin decided that it had lost satellite reception just after 7km. The time seemed to keep running, but the pace function was no use and it ended up deciding I had only done 9.55km. It will have been at least 10km, probably more as no-one runs the shortest, tightest line, but that did screw up the timings of the final few kms and their pace readings. I corrected the Garmin entry manually to be a round 10km (I went 10.14km last year). I couldn’t be sure that the timing was correct as I was running, so I just kept pushing and when I came into the final 100m saw that I could get under 48 minutes on the clock if I kicked on, so I did. My pre-race target had been 48 minutes, but I was going to allow extra time if it was windy and wet.

The official time came in at 46:10 and placed me 1,322nd. My Garmin time was also 46:10. A pretty substantial pb over my 47:57 from last year at Castle Coombe, with traffic. I lost an earbud from my yurbuds disentangling myself in the finish area and now have two lefts and no rights from my two pairs. But I got a delightful yellow technical shirt and a medal for my troubles.


I was running in my Cancer Research vest and any donations can be made here: Just Giving

Bridgwater 10k 2014

A nice flat 10k (there’s a reason they are called the Somerset levels) on a Sunday morning to see what sort of condition I am in for the Bristol 10k in 5 weeks (which I don’t expect to pb in due to congestion, but am hoping to break last year’s time of 49:09). Mostly on roads but in some places the roads gave way to tracks which then gave way (literally) to mud. A pb was most definitely not on due to the muddy sections, and I had to peel off my jacket in the first km as the lanes were protected from the gusting winds. I did make it through 10km in under 50 minutes though, it was just that the race distance was a bit further. I had a shoulder monkey for the final 4km, but he got away from me at the finish. It was good company to have and kept me pushing on, as did having a target to chase down. I ran mostly on feel, just looking at the GPS for distances.

Official results won’t be final for a couple of days, but I did get a lovely medal (and a banana).

Provisionally I was 89th out of 290 with a chip time of 50:17, and 4th in my age category. So a bit like a parkrun, just longer.

Bath half marathon – 2nd March 2014

The Bath half was the proverbial tale of two halves.

It had already started raining when I got off the train and pootled over to the runner’s village, so I was worrying that my last minute decision to leave my lightweight running jacket and gloves at home so that I could take a recovery shake was going to bite me in the arse (it turned out that by the time the precipitation really started coming in I would have been too hot in a jacket and gloves anyway, though I didn’t end up drinking the shake after all). I’d brought along the hoodie that my roofer had left behind a couple of years ago and failed to pick up, paying it forwards to someone else after I discarded it at the start (they are collected for recycling). I also managed to weave myself quite a long way up in my starting pen (green, the second pen, so not that far from the start line).

It was the usual melee going across the start line with surprise barriers funnelling us away from the side of the road and over the timing mats. It was over 2 and a half minutes after the start that I finally crossed the line at a gentle jog (which is good for a mass start to a race if you’re not an elite athlete). The first kilometre or so is along quite a wide road and slightly downhill, so for once I found myself flying rather than stop-starting and having to duck and weave for space (which can be very tiring on the legs). Unfortunately I just couldn’t stop running at that speed. I was going far too fast, almost a minute per km faster than my target pace for the time I was aiming for (1 hr 50 minutes). But it felt good, and the road was clear with lots of supporters along the side (sorry Poggy, didn’t see you any of the times I went past the train station) and I was worried my GPS was looking a little low on battery power, so decided to see how long I could carry on at that sort of pace before aiming to drop back to my target pace.

I came through the 10k split at 51mins 25secs (my 10k pb is 47mins 57secs). I’d taken on a gel just beforehand in line with the fuelling strategy I had practised, but I had deviated from the fuelling plan a little by taking on some sports drink at around 7km as I’d not been able to pick up water from the previous station and it came before the next water station. The sports drink and gel didn’t play well and acted as a distraction for the rest of the race until my left glutei and ankle started vying for attention in the last 2 miles. I will stick to water next time if I am using gels – I know that works for me.

My back also started giving me some grief but I put on my big girl panties and zipped up my wo-man suit and set myself small targets to get through those last couple of miles. People were streaming past me at this stage (doing to ‘right’ thing and running a negative split, speeding up towards the end), and I knew that even if I went down to my easy pace that I should make it round in about my Bristol half time. So I found someone going at a similar pace to me and tried to keep with them. I told myself I’d just get to that next speed limit sign or traffic lights before I eased up. I kept high-fiving the little kids along the side of the road (the least you can do – standing out in the rain for three hours isn’t my kind of fun). I counted down the time left: 2 miles, well that’s 20 minutes tops I can last that long; 1 mile, only another 10 minutes; 1km, only 6 minutes max.

I didn’t notice the incline back up to the finish line (it has nothing on Ashton Court’s hill), but really hoped we were turning at the roundabout and not at Holbourne Museum. Alas it was not the case and the finish line looked a really long way away. I didn’t feel like a sprint finish as I had in Bristol, but there were a couple of guys about 20m ahead of me whipping up the crowd and they carried me home and over the line. The clock said 1:52:02, but my GPS said 1:49:22 and the official chip time was 1:49:24. So I made my target, but damn it hurt. I wouldn’t recommend going about it the way I did.

It was a long and slow procession back to the runner’s village, chatting with other runners. I got my photo taken and then headed over for ‘de-chipping’, going right down to the end of the line to the last lonely de-chippers, crouched on their stools in their rain ponchos, clipping off the wire ties that had attached the timing chips. Then it was off to retrieve my bag, get changed into some dry clothes and head back to the train station to stand on a platform, then stand on a train, then suffer the horrors of having to go down a flight of stairs then up another one to exit the station. Home for a very welcome hot shower, panda onesie and (later) pizza.

So yay, more bling, but done the hard way. At the end of the Bristol half marathon I wanted to do it again, at the end of the Bath half I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry. Donations as always gratefully received for Cancer Research: Donate here.

Castle Combe ‘Chilly’ 10k

I was aiming for a pb on this flat course around the Castle Combe race circuit, and spurred on by the news that another of my juggling friends had received a cancer diagnosis (I run to raise money for Cancer Research donate here) I went for it straight from the gun. I didn’t think I’d be able to maintain the pace, but I dug deep and my tunes kept me going, as did the supporters on the side of the track (dogs included).

I finished 78th out of 278, was 11th lady and 5th in my age category.

The event was very well organised, we got printouts of our splits as soon as we finished as well as a medal: