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Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Ocean City Half Marathon & Eden Project Parlrun

I've just returned from my spring holiday, and what a fabulous time I had camping in Cornwall and Dorset with beautiful sunny, warm weather.

My first stop was in Cornwall so that I could visit my son and his family. Whilst I was there I was persuaded to take part in the parkrun at the Eden Project, which I wasn't intending to do as I was running a half marathon the following day. But I thought, what the heck, I can just take it easy and maybe a leg stretch would do me good. However it didn't quite turn out that way.

I ran this particular parkrun last December when I was visiting my son to deliver his Christmas presents, and I completed it in 25:57 which, considering the three zigzag hills on the course, I was pleased with. But this time I absolutely smashed that time, but also my own all time PB with a time of 25:10. Wow, where did that come from? To say that I was pleased was an understatement.

Wearing club colours at parkrun

The Plymouth Ocean City Half Marathon was taking place the next day, and with an 08:30 start, and an hours drive to get there, I was up at 5:45 and on the road by 6:30.

The sun was shining warmly and there was an on shore breeze as I walked from the car park along the road from the Barbican to the Hoe, where the race village and start was, and I had just enough time to use the loo and apply sun cream on my exposed skin before entering the starters pen, just behind the 2 hour 15 minute pace runners. I wasn't planning on taking that long though.

On the dot of 08:30 we were off and we headed downhill on a loop that would take us past the start again, along an uphill section there as we then headed towards the Barbican and east away from the city.

By mile 4 there was a long uphill climb for a little over a mile before we turned off the main road and along a country lane towards a wooded park. Up until now the sun had got pretty warm and so the shade of the trees was very welcome. But all too soon the park had been left behind and we were out into the hot sunshine again, and I was sweating profusely and grabbing a bottle of water from every water station.

The route took us back over a bridge and then there was an out and back section, roughly between miles 9 and 11 when we then headed back into the city the way we had come.

By this time the heat had got to me, but also probably the previous days parkrun had left me feeling more tired than I had thought also, and so the last two miles were pretty tough, and as you leave the Barbican, the road bends sharply right and you have the final ¼ mile with a tough uphill climb ahead and spectators clapping and cheering lining the road.

I didn't stop to walk, although I did feel like it, and I was pretty slow by this time. Another sharp right hand bend and the hill steepened a little more, followed by a sharp left hand bend and an even steeper ramp to negotiate before seeing the finish line about 400 metres away, and with only about 200 metres to go, I felt a sharp pain in my right calf and I wasn't sure if it was cramp or my old injury flaring up again, but I couldn't stop now and I managed a running hobble towards the line.

I had finished in 02:07, which considering the heat, I was reasonably happy with. Along the way I had seen St. Johns Ambulance staff seeing to runners who had collapsed, probably due to heat exhaustion and dehydration. I was told afterwards that the lead runner, having reached that final steep ramp in about 01:30 collapsed and had to be helped up so that he could finish.

All in all I enjoyed this race. It appeared to be well organised, the route wasn't bad at all, although I would like them to flatten out some of those hills, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a different race to take part in.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

ABP Newport Marathon Report

Sunday 29th April 2018 began as a bit of a chilly morning and a overcast, grey sky as I drove to my chosen parking spot only a few minutes walk from the start line.

On the Riverfront is a art structure known as "the Wave", which was where I had arranged to meet Michelle from Newport Live who, (as a EVERYbody competition winner), wanted to interview me on camera for a piece on the Newport Live website. This only took a couple of minutes and then I headed off to Friars Walk shopping centre where the guys and girls of Caerleon RC had arranged to meet to have a group photo taken.

The whole area was buzzing with people turning up from all over the UK to take part in this inaugural race. I spotted people from Plymouth in Devon, Stowmarket in Suffolk and Rugeley in Staffordshire.

This event was looking like it had been very well organised and there didn't appear to be huge queues for the toilets, but there were large queues to hand in our bags, the Friars Walk car park being the location for this, and what a great idea that was. All bags were being searched but once the organisers realised that they weren't going to be able to check every ones bags before the race was due to start, they speeded up the process by only checking random bags. Well done for this decision 👍

The race start was delayed by 30 minutes due to traffic holdups coming off the motorway for the Park & Ride bus service, caused by roadworks and the exceptionally large volume of traffic. Again, another good decision by the organisers. Imagine if they had gone ahead with a 9 AM start when hundreds of runners were still trying to reach the event. The downside of this was that thousands of runners had been standing around in their starting pens, in the cold, for probably about 45 minutes.

Awaiting the start in our pen
The race began and there were large crowds lining the start to see us off.
I quickly got into my race pace and I wouldn't be seeing Newport then for another 20 plus miles as the route took us out into open farm land as we headed towards the village of Magor, but I was surprised to see pockets of supporters waving and cheering in various places along the route. I thought that at best we wouldn't really see anyone, (other than the marshals), until we did reach Magor.
Passing my billboard picture

As I approached Magor, I could hear shouting and cheering, then, as I approached a sharp left hand bend, I could see large crowds lining the road with a bunch of hardcore Caerleon RC supporters whooping and hollering, which put a huge smile on my face. The route took us through the village in a loop and brought as out to where that group of Caerleon supporters were again, and they spurred me on through the halfway point.

13 - 18 miles were OK although by 18 miles I was really beginning to feel tired with a distinct lack of energy. So this was "the wall" that I had heard so much about. I had made a point of eating energy chews every 3 miles to try to replace some of the energy that I had used, but this strategy didn't seem to work for me.

The other thing was that my little toe on my left foot was feeling quite sore and I was also beginning to suffer from a few cramp twinges. I think my foot had swollen and my toe began to rub on the side wall of my trainer, and this was feeling very uncomfortable.

I was so happy to see the Transporter Bridge on Stephenson Street, but by this time my running pace wasn't that much quicker than my walking pace, or so it seemed, and I was having to walk a little and run a little by this time. I was keeping an eye on my watch which I had set up to show my estimated finishing time. Every time I walked the time dropped to about 5:08, and then when I burst into a trot again it dropped and I wouldn't stop to walk again until it reached 4:53. Once at the bridge end of Stephenson Street we doubled back towards Nash Rd where I saw others from Caerleon heading towards the bridge. Eddie, Sally, Jo, Shell, Yangi and others. Claire and Ann had already overtaken me ages before I got to the bridge.

25 miles done and a little bit of a hill as I ran over the SDR bridge, then we turned right into Usk Way and the final section to the finish line, and with just 200 metres to go Sally caught and overtook me, looking strong and fresh as a daisy. Curse you Sally 😁, but well done you, an awesome effort for someone who never thought that she would be able to complete a marathon. I remember when she told me that she had registered for the race and she said to me, "OMG, what have I done"? Well you done good girl!

No sooner had I crossed the line and grabbed a bottle of water, I heard a voice calling my name, it was Michelle from Newport Live who very quickly got me on camera to ask how my race had been, then I headed off to collect my medal and goody bag, meet up with C25K group friends Claire, Ceri and Cat and grab my bag so that I could change into a dry T shirt and change my trainers for flip flops before we headed off to grab a hot mug of coffee. Friend and Caerleon colleague Michelle Clabon phoned me to say that she was in the pub and did I want to join her for a beer? I didn't need to be asked twice and we all headed off to meet her and daughter Maddy.

Once home I was able to take a proper look at the damage to my toe, which was feeling a little sore and a lovely shade of purple.
I also had quite a large yellow bruise on my right calf, which I have no idea how I sustained, but that is the calf that has given me so much grief over the last 2 years, so I was just glad that it held out for this race.

I completed what I set out to achieve, which originally was one marathon but turned into two once the Newport race had been announced. Would I do another marathon? Hell no! Those last 6 miles were grueling on both races, not to mention the winter training in some of the worst weather conditions, and at night too. It also took up too much of my life with little time to do even the basics like housework. There were times when I was struggling to keep clean clothes on my back or eat a proper meal, the joys of living a single life eh.

So what next? Well, I am running in the Ocean City Half Marathon in Plymouth on the 20th May, I have a 10k trail race booked and I have been selected to run a leg of the RACK Raid, a 112 mile inter club relay race. I am also running the half marathon part of the Long Course Weekend in Tenby, which I ran last year and I fancied having another crack at this challenging, undulating route. I quite fancy doing more trail runs also and maybe even have a go at some fell running, but half marathon is as far a distance as I want to run now.

Check out the video below that Newport Live put together.

And here is the video that I produced using my GoPro camera.

Autumn Catch Up

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