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Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Race 4 of 4 - Stroud half marathon

Sunday morning was a bit chilly at 7 am as I got into my car to drive to Caerleon for my 4th half marathon in 4 weeks where I was meeting with Michelle C, her daughter Maddy and Chris. Michelle had offered to drive us to Stroud and, if we were good, home again also 😃

Upon our arrival in Stroud our usual final preparations took place and we walked up to the leisure centre to join the usual queues for the toilets and meet up with our fellow CRC club mates.
Chris, Michelle, Maddy & Me
Then before long it was time to make our way to the start line where I positioned myself just behind the 2 hour pace runner. This is the part of the race that I dislike the most, the standing around waiting for the start when I'm itching to go.

The start was a few minutes late but we did get on our way and as usual I just kept to my own plan and let everyone else follow theirs. I dare not try to keep up with others who hare off at a vast rate of knots or I'd burn myself out too early, but if I stick to my pace plan I'll be OK. Having said that, there were times when I glanced at my watch and I was running much faster than I should have been, and I overtook the 2 hour pace runner also but, I just found it so difficult to slow down when the pace felt comfortable, so I thought I'd just go with it and the pace would probably slow down naturally as the race progressed and I became more tired.

The half way mark was approaching as we ran along the A38 into the village of Whitminster and a gentle but longish climb up to the pub where we turned off the main road and back into the country lanes.

By 8 miles my legs were beginning to feel tired, which I guess wasn't surprising as I had completed 3 half marathons in the previous 3 weeks, and my pace had slowed a little, and the 2 hour pace runner had caught me but I pushed on as hard as I dare, keeping the pacer in easy sight. My PB at Stroud last year was 01:58:14 and I was looking at a similar time as long as my pace didn't slow but, I wasn't particularly after breaking this time but anything under 2 hours would be good.

We got back onto the main road into Stroud where I finally caught up with another couple of purple vests, but those last 3 miles were on very tired legs now and I just had to grit my teeth and not let the pacer get away from me.

We came to the final roundabout in the road where we turned right and ran up that final incline to the finish line and, with 200 metres to go, I made one final push, swinging my arms hard to help propel myself up that incline as hard as I could without my calf's cramping up and I crossed the line in 01:58:48.
The finish line just metres away

A well deserved roast lunch
That was hard work, but I did enjoy it and I did feel a great sense of achievement, but now it was time to relax and recover, which was beginning immediately as the 27 of us from Caerleon headed to the pub for a well deserved roast dinner. Yummy 😋

So what is next? Well, this Sunday I am running in the Royal British Legion Poppy Run, which isn't a timed event but more of a fun, cross country run with obstacles, mud and river crossings. Then on the 17th of November I'm running in my first trail half marathon near Carmarthen. I shall be writing a report on that one after the event and let you know how I got on.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Race 3 of 4 Palma de Majorca half marathon

Friday morning and storm Callum was blowing a hooli, but I was packed and ready to head off to the airport that afternoon to take part in race 3 of 4, the Palma de Majorca half marathon. I kept checking the weather forecast and the Ryanair app to see if there was going to be a change in my late afternoon flight departure. The morning flight had managed to get off so I was hopeful.

Michelle arrived at about 2 PM, we loaded up the car and off we went to Bristol airport. We got to the Silver Zone parking, parked the car and went into the office to check the car in but, whilst we were stood in the queue I received a text message from Ryanair saying that due to the storm our flight had been cancelled and they had given us the option of a full refund or re book onto another flight. I went onto the app and tried to get onto the Saturday morning flight, but alas it was full, but I did manage to get us two seats on the evening flight, 24 hours from now. This was going to be a bit of a rush as we probably wouldn't get to our hotel until about 10 PM and we were racing the next morning.

So here also was a couple of other things. A few days earlier I had received an email from our hotel, the Llaut Palace, a 5 star luxury hotel a few miles south of the city centre, which told me that they had over booked and were putting us up in another 5 star hotel, the Pure Salt Garonda until Sunday when we could move back to the Palace. Of course this now meant that due to the flight delay we would be there for one night only.

On Saturday it was still windy but it was slowly decreasing. We arrived at the airport and it was all systems go for us to fly, albeit with a bit of a delay. We arrived at the hotel at around 10:15 PM and enjoyed a welcome drink before heading to bed.

The other problem I had was that in the athletes running info, the half marathon race pack was available for collection on Friday and Saturday but not on Sunday, race day. Only the 10k bibs were available, so I had to email the organisers to explain my situation and hopefully they could make an exception? Fortunately that exception came but I had to be at race number collection no later than 07:30 which meant having to be up at 06:00 to get ready, have breakfast and grab a taxi to the race village. This we did and we were waiting for the village to open along with a few other athletes who had also got bib collection exceptions, and fortunately that all went smoothly and we then only had to bide our time until race time.

The sun was shining and the temperature was rising to about 25 degrees C but it was very humid.
There were athletes from just about every European country you could mention, but especially from Germany. Those running the marathon and half marathon were the first to go at 09:00 sharp, followed by the 10k runners at 09:40.

The atmosphere was incredible as we headed out along the sea front road to the far side of the Port where we turned around and headed back to the starting position and then carried on a little way before heading up into Palma old town, through narrow cobble stoned alleyways and into the new part of town. It was back into the old part again before heading to the finish line.

I do have to tell you about the water stations though.These were totally bizarre and utter chaos! Some stations had large bins with plastic cups, on others a person would hand you a plastic cup, then you had to queue to fill your cup from a tap. WTF!

As for my race? I wasn't looking for a time, I just wanted a comfortable run and to finish on my own two feet. Which was a good job really as I hadn't slept well that night and I felt tired, I was also feeling a bit stressed due to all the flight and hotel stuff, so I was just pleased that I finished in one piece in 02:08 and I wasn't feeling stiff or achy.

I met up with Michelle who had run her second 10k race in 01:10 which I thought was very respectable considering the heat, humidity and our transit/hotel situations. We sat in the glorious sunshine, enjoyed an alcohol free San Miguel and chatted about the race for a while before going to check into the Llaut Palace, grabbing a shower and then enjoy a large Sangria at the pool bar.

My first experience of an overseas race was a good one but would have been better if we hadn't had the flight delay because there was all sorts of race stuff happening on the Saturday which we missed out on. I'll definitely run another overseas race, possibly Valencia or Lanzaroti, maybe next year? We'll see.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Race 2 of 4 - Cardiff half marathon

I awoke on Sunday morning to perfect running conditions for the 15th Cardiff half marathon, a bright day, dry and cool, you can't ask for better race conditions.

My day began as usual with porridge for breakfast, a couple of cups of tea and make sure I had all my kit together before driving into Cardiff with Michelle and Sharon who were running their first ever half marathons. They began training for this a year ago as previously they had not run before and both took part in their first race, the Cardiff 10K just a few weeks ago. 

From there it was just a short walk to the race village which was buzzing by 9 AM and I met up with a few others from the club for a photo, and before I knew it, it was time to head off to my green starting pen. I wished Michelle and Sharon the best of luck and left them to go to their yellow pen. 

Standing in the pen with fellow club member David, we chatted whilst waiting for the start and then the lead group were on their way and our group walked forward to the start line, one minute later and we began moving again, and as the start line drew ever closer so the pace picked up and I crossed the line and burst into a good trot, trying not to go off too fast but also trying to keep in touch with David, but that plan failed and he went off too quickly for me so I let him go and kept to my own race plan.

What was my race plan you ask? Well, it had been my intention to go for a sub two hour race. Last year I also attempted this and was thoroughly disappointed with my 02:01 finish. After last weeks race at Cheltenham where I finished in 02:03 I was doubtful that a sub two hour finish would be on the cards but, no two races are ever the same and we can feel like pants one week and buzzing the next. So I had set up my watch as usual to show me my estimated finishing time and I was trying to keep that at around 01:55. At times in those first few miles it was showing times in the 01:40's and so I had to back off as I didn't want to burn myself out at this faster pace so early on.

The miles seemed to quickly go by and before I knew it I had completed five miles and was crossing the barrage down at the bay. My watch was pretty steady at about a 01:56 finish and my pace felt comfortable at that, being around the 08:50 minutes per mile, which I knew was where I needed to be for a sub two hour finish. 

I knew the crucial point was going to be the 10 mile mark heading up the eastern side of Roath Park and where the road takes us up a bit of an incline, (you can't really call it a hill, not as I know hills anyway). I reached the roundabout at the top of the park and I was still feeling OK. My pace on the incline had slowed, understandably, but the next mile was either flat or on a slight decent and my watch quickly had got back to showing 01:57. It was at this point that I began wondering if not only would I get my sub two finish but, was I on for a half marathon PB also? I couldn't remember exactly what it was but I thought it was about 01:58 which I got at Stroud last year. 

Then came a steepish hill at the mile 12 marker, then once over the brow I had that final push down Cathays Terrace and keeping 01:57 showing on my watch. I hit the hump on the penultimate turn, pushing my weary legs as hard as I could and as I was running down the hill on the other side I could hear the PA system commentary which spurred me on and I tried to accelerate, knowing that I only had a few hundred metres left to run but, I felt a cramp twinge in my right calf so I backed off the pace as the last thing I wanted was to have to pull up with cramp at this late stage in the race. 

Around that final left turn and the finish line was in sight and I was feeling good. My pace was good and I felt stronger at that point than I remembered I had been the year previously. I stopped my watch as I crossed the line and it showed 01:58:05. Was it a PB? I wouldn't know until I reclaimed my bag and could check my phone.

I stopped and chatted with fellow club mates who had already finished and those who came in after me before collecting my bag. I checked my phone and noted that my Stroud PB time was 01:58:14 so yes, I had managed to knock a few seconds of my PB. Shortly afterwards I received a text message giving me my official chip time as 01:58:01, so I was extremely happy with that.
My Polar watch time

I walked over to the race village where I had arranged to meet up with Michelle and Sharon who were both running for the NSPCC. First to come home was Sharon in 02:17 and then Michelle in 02:29, both great achievements considering that they only began running twelve months previously.

Sharon & Michelle
Next Sunday is race 3 of 4 in Palma Majorca, and I can't wait for a few days of warm temperatures. This race I am just going to treat as a fun run and I will probably make a video along the way. Michelle is coming with me and she will be running her 2nd 10K race whilst I run the half marathon. Then the following week is my final road half marathon for this year at Stroud, which is a PB course. Can I possibly improve my time and manage a 01:57 finish or less? We shall see.

Monday, 1 October 2018

C25K & Cheltenham Half Marathon reports

The latest Newport C45K course began three weeks ago, so every Saturday I have been at Tredegar House and Thursdays at Caerleon RC HQ to assist with this course. Last Saturday we completed day 1 on week 4 where the group tags on to the parkrun.

Group 3 beginning the session
Normally the groups wouldn't be completing the full parkrun route, (with a mixture of running and walking) until week 5 I think.
This week I was assisting with group 3 and as we came to the end of the planned schedule for this run, I asked the group if they were up for completing the course by doing 90 seconds running and 90 seconds walking consecutively until we finished, and they unanimously voted yes. I am very happy to say that they all completed the 5km route running into the finishing funnel. Hooray 😃

Sunday 30th September I took part in the Cheltenham half marathon, my first of four half marathons that I am running in four consecutive weeks.

Because I have had a niggly pelvis ligament injury, I haven't been able to get out and do any longer runs recently so I was going to have to wing this one and treat it as a training run before Cardiff next week, so I wasn't too bothered about my finishing time as long as I finished under 2 hours and 5 minutes but, I had also told myself that if my injury began to bother me then I would either have to walk some of it or not finish at all. I would prefer to be able to finish Cardiff than Cheltenham if it came to the crunch.

I had a terrible nights sleep on Saturday, it just seemed to take me ages to drop off and then I kept waking up. My alarm went off at 5:30 AM and I got into my usual pre race routine, shower, get dressed, porridge for breakfast, (C25K groups please note), a large cup of tea and make sure that I had everything in my bag that I needed, and that the baggage label was attached. One final trip to the toilet and I was off at 6:30.

I had to stop at Gloucester Services for a toilet stop, and I can't even say that it was down to pre race nerves because I wasn't at all nervous. My satnav guide me into Cheltenham city centre but then I began to find that the roads were closed and so I was trying desperately to find another way to the race course, but at every turn was another road closure. I saw another car who looked like he was heading to the race and trying also to find another route, so I followed him, like a lost sheep.  We came to another closed road but this time he decided to bypass the cones blocking the road by driving up onto the pavement and driving up the closed road. There was no one around so I thought, "what the hell", and I followed him. Bingo! Finally I saw a sign guiding me to a car park. Phew! I thought I was going to be driving around for hours.

I parked the car, grabbed my kit and headed towards the race village, which was a nice, warm theatre type room within the racecourse complex, and guess what? Yep, I needed the toilet again. There were proper toilets there, as well as extra portaloos and no queues loos for the guys either 😊.

Half an hour later I began to make my way to the start line, via the loo again, and had a warm up before entering my starting pen, and soon enough I was on my way.

The race began much as any other race with competitors bunched up, but it opened up after the first mile and we headed into Cheltenham city centre.

I kept an eye on my watch time and as usual for a race I had it set up to show me my estimated finishing time, a function I find very useful, and it was flitting back and forth between 1:55 to 2:02, but was on 2:02 more of the time. By mile 10 I was beginning to feel tired, probably due to the lack of longer training runs, possibly because of my lack of sleep the night before, but maybe also because I ran 6 miles on the club run on Thursday evening, which was more than I thought we would be doing and I hadn't recovered fully from that.

I left the road as I entered the racecourse again with just a couple of miles left to run around the course itself before coming into the finishing line just behind the grandstand, my final and official chip time was 02:03:26 .
Polar watch time

Did I enjoy the race? It was OK. Would I do it again? Probably not. But then I've now run so many road half marathons that I'm beginning to become a bit bored with them, which is why I'm looking to run more trail races next year and only run a few road races.
So next Sunday is the Cardiff half marathon where I was hoping I might break the 2 hour barrier, but I'm doubtful that will happen now, unless I have a seriously strong wind blowing me along and that hill going up the right side of Roath Park lake is leveled out 😂

I know lots of you will be there so I look forward to seeing you.

Autumn Catch Up

Hi all, it's been a little while since I posted so I thought I ought to tell you about what has been happening in my purple running worl...