Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Marathons #7 and #8: Clarendon & Beachy Head

The start of October saw us running from Salisbury to Winchester along the Clarendon Way, a pilgrim route that links the two ancient cathedral cities by running over some very beautiful Chalk landscapes with very little in the way of roads to break up the countryside. It's a local race for us so there were lots of our friends out on the course, and the Hares also had a relay team entered so it was very social. 

I ran the marathon with my friend and fellow Hare Susie. It was her first marathon and as I'd written the training plan for her I felt I ought to give her some support on the day as well. In the end, we ended up doing the whole thing together and it was one of the most fun days I've had running. We joked afterwards that what we actually did was have a five hour chat with a marathon in the background :o).

Three weeks later and it was Beachy Head marathon. This necessitated a 4:30am start and a two hour drive up to Eastbourne mainly in the dark before we managed to find a parking space on the sea-front, a ten minute walk from the start.

The weather was a bit different for this one- it was blowing an absolute hoolie and rain was threatened for the afternoon. Two of our friends were getting married half-way round the marathon (in their running kit) so it was lovely to be able to see them at the start.

Beachy is a tough race, I found it harder than Snowdon marathon because the hills are constant right from the start. There isn't much flat land so you're either going up or coming down right from the get-go. It's a very popular marathon with 2000 people running it, mainly because there is a generous nine hour cut off. The downside to this was that I got stuck behind some much slower runners for the first thirteen miles and couldn't get into my stride at all. 

After the half marathon point many of them dropped off and my race got easier. By 16 miles I was feeling properly warmed up and had started enjoying myself. There was a fab aid station at 17 miles which had a band playing and food on offer, everyone there was very cheerful. Unfortunately, at around 18 miles my IT band (a sheaf of fascia that runs from your hip to your knee) started complaining at the constant steep descents and I spent the final eight miles alternating run with walk in an attempt to not stress it too much. This was fine as the final six miles are over the Seven Sisters- a group of hills which go from the Cuckmere valley (which was awash with flood water) all the way to Birling Gap: up, down, up, down. People around me were finding the relentless climbs and descents tough but, apart from my ITB, I was feeling OK. The wind got even stronger and actually blew me up three of the hills! Never had that happen before and it was a strange experience. I'm glad it was blowing inshore!

At Beachy Head I texted M to tell him I wasn't far from the finish (he'd whipped round in 3.5 hours) and I eventually crossed the line in 5:11- not bad given the hills, the weather, the underfoot conditions, the fact I'd done a marathon three weeks before and that this was my sixth in five months. It is a belter of a race. Now time for a bit of a rest before my next ultra at the end of December.

Hope all are well?


Monday, 23 September 2019

Solent Half Marathon

It's been six months since I ran a half marathon on the roads. After a summer spent doing longer distances on the trails I was in two minds whether to enter this one, but running shorter distances at a faster pace helps with endurance and strength on the long runs, plus lots of our friends were doing it. M was pacing Becky to a (hopefully) London marathon championship place- to qualify for this, ladies have to run a half in 1:30, men in 1:15. She's been working solidly at it all year after missing the qualifier at London last year by one minute.

It poured with rain and thundered and lighteninged during the night, effectively ending a run of late Summer warmth, and it was still raining when we arrived at the race. The sports hall HQ was muggy with lots of people milling about, but we found our RRR and OS Runners buddies and did a token warm up in the wind and rain.

Friend Vicki was RD (race director) and gave a race briefing that we couldn't hear over the noise of the rain and all the people, then we were off. I'd decided to treat the race as a training run, start off steady and see what I could do once I'd warmed up. Given that it takes me 6-10 miles to warm up I wasn't going to have long to work at a faster pace, but nevermind, it was all good training for the long stuff.

I spent the first half keeping to a steady pace, and then slowly started to make my way up the field in the second half. The route goes through the New Forest down to Exbury and then around the coastline where we had some lovely views of the Isle of Wight. It's undulating rather than hilly (about 100 metres elevation gain), and the last bit is on a rather boring main road. 

One of the advantages of running longer distances is it gives you lots of confidence on the shorter runs, because you know you're more than capable of doing them, so, as we reached the ten mile point I knew I had lots of energy left and decided to pick up the pace and try and get a new PB for the distance. All I had to do was not slip below 8:20 mins per mile and I'd be there. There were a couple of cheeky hills in the last three miles so I had to pick up the pace a bit on the flatter sections to keep the spread of speed even, but it worked OK. All the hill training continues to pay off!

Coming off the main road into the sports centre field where the finish was located I could hear a roar as my RRR buddies all shouted my name, which made me run faster! I crossed the line with a new PB, really pleased at the way the run had gone. M came over to congratulate me and tell me that Becky had got her championship place for London, coming in five minutes faster than the cut-off time. Amazing stuff. We also learnt later that she, Liz and I had got the third place ladies team prize, so all in all, a good morning's work.

Next up is Clarendon marathon, which I'm running with one of the Hampshire Hares who is doing her first marathon there. Exciting stuff!

Hope all are well?


Monday, 9 September 2019

marathon #6 Crafty Fox

This weekend was Crafty Fox weekend, with a marathon on Saturday for me, and a half mara on Sunday for M. We were up at 6 and out the door by 7 and arrived in the small Dorsetshire village of Ansty by 8, ready for the marathon start at 9. This was my fourth marathon in four months so I was interested to see how it would go. 

To be honest, there isn't a great deal to say about this one. The landscape was lovely, my fellow competitors were a great bunch, as always, and I enjoyed the climbs and the breathtaking scenery they afforded. I finished it feeling good, but it didn't give me the same sense of satisfaction I got after Snowdon or the Ultra last month and I was left with a vague feeling of anti-climax. I can only surmise that this is because I've got used to the distance and 26.2 miles isn't presenting enough of a challenge anymore. 

I went to bed not feeling especially tired and not remotely achy, got up at 6am the following morning after a good night's sleep feeling fine, spent a chunk of the day back at Ansty cheering on M and a couple of friends who were also running, came home, walked the dogs, did some gardening and housework, felt like going out for another run, but I didn't, because I was being sensible. This morning I have been out, a slow four miles with Pop round the lanes and over the fields and everything felt normal. So now I have to think about what to do next. I'm tempted to try some of the long distance trails we have here, take water and food with me and spend the day exploring and see how far I get. That sounds nice.

Hope all are well? 

CT :o).

Friday, 23 August 2019

Ultra #1 Salisbury 54321 50k

Scroll forward four weeks from Snowdonia and M and I arrived at a field on the outskirts of Salisbury one Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago ready for my first ultra marathon. An ultra marathon is any distance over the 26.2 miles of a marathon. This one was 50k, which is 31 miles. 

With only four weeks between Snowdon and Salisbury, and Yeovil having been only five weeks before Snowdon, most of my intervening time had been spent taking easy recovery runs and walking a lot, although I had done a pretty hot and hoofy 10k ish race with White Star- the Piggy Plod - a couple of weeks before. I therefore arrived at race morning feeling fit and rested and ready for a long run.

I had persuaded my running buddy Kate to come with me- this was to be her first ultra too - and we were both feeling a bit nervous when we met up at the start. It struck me straightaway how different the other competitors were to what I was used to. These guys looked lean, fit and tough: no messing about, no whinging, just get on with it. But they were also very down to earth and friendly.

The course was beautiful. It winds out of the city into woods and fields and high points in the Wiltshire countryside going past iron age hill forts, through country estates, past castles, through an ancient yew wood and over rivers. 

I loved it. I had one dicey mile, 16 miles in, when my stomach started complaining (not unusual on long distance runs). It was hot and I suspect the sweets I'd eaten weren't the right thing to have had. I knew what to do though, so I slowed to a walk and walked the next mile until it had passed and I was able to run on again. The advantage with these long runs is that your body goes through various cycles on them, so it is perfectly possible to feel absolutely rubbish at one point, recover and go on to run the rest of the miles feeling strong.

I learnt a lot on this run- most of all about what kinds of food to eat and when (different from a marathon), and how to pace it properly- lots of walking, lots of steady running, walk up all the hills, take your time, enjoy the experience and the land, don't let the thought of the distance unnerve you.

By mile 18 I had recovered completely and was now properly warmed up and feeling really good. Kate was finding it hard though and I was determined we'd finish the race together having run more than half of it side-by-side, so we took it easy, stopped to refuel at the fuel stations and walked when we needed to.

M was running the half marathon and we wondered whether we'd see him. Just before the ultra and half courses split he came charging past in third place. We were made up to have seen him and grinned to each other about it for the next mile or two.

The course eventually winds back into Salisbury through the Cathedral grounds. A chap had stopped and was limping under the old city gate so while I waited for Kate I stopped to ask him if he was ok. It's my hamstring, he said, it always goes a mile from home. I asked whether he'd brought any salt with him and his reply was the defining and funniest moment of the entire day for me- no, he said, I only take it for the long runs. I glanced at my watch, currently reading 30 miles, and burst out laughing. He grinned back. I explained it was my first ultra and we had a laugh about the way running long distances regularly normalises them. Ultra runners are a different breed I think :o).

Kate and I ran the last mile together through the town, past bemused shoppers and people sitting at cafe tables, along the river past where the Russian spy and his daughter were found and back to the field where we'd set off, six hours before, to cross the line together.

I felt brilliant- still had energy left, could have run on further and had thoroughly enjoyed myself. The chap with the sore hamstring came over to give me a hug and congratulate me on finishing my first ultra, which just shows how lovely ultra runners are, and my dear father in law was also there at the finish (see pic above) full of congratulations. It was really special to run my first ultra with Kate too - I'm really glad we did the whole thing together from start to finish. Thank you, Kate for coming with me - who knows what we'll book after the next pub dinner, eh?!

When we got back to the car, there was a bunch of yellow roses and an 'ultra congratulations' card from M, who'd done brilliantly in his half marathon. I went home feeling happy, not particularly tired or sore and able to get out of the car without hobbling too much either :o).

Hope all are well,