Tag Archives: race recap

Salomon Richmond Half 2017

Having got my long run out of the way the day before, I was free to take it easy on race morning, and not worry about running miles before/after which was a nice relief. Sunday was my birthday and what better way to spend it than running a race- although last year ended in a DNF at CTS Sussex, so I was hoping for a more enjoyable run this time around. I realised in the week that the race had quite an early start time with waves going off from 8.30am, and with no trains running to the area that weekend-standard- it meant a pretty early start to get from East to West.

The race village was a 5 minute walk from Richmond station which was ideal, what was less than ideal was the enormous bag drop queue- luckily I wasn’t dropping a bag off- and the even bigger toilet queues. Unfortunately the toilet queue was running across the back of the pens, and as they started to fill up, those of us who had been waiting for quite a long time saw the queue disintegrate into a crowd in front of us, after persevering, I did manage to get to have a quick wee before running to the start, to go off with the sub 1.55 wave.

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The first 2-3 miles were on very narrow pavements, it was difficult to get into a rhythm, and it was very congested. I had somewhat mistakenly gone for trail shoes, but there were a lot of road sections, and the trails were very dry and hard packed, so road shoes would have been fine. After three miles we were onto the tow paths and trails, and though still narrow, the field did slightly begin to thin out. I was feeling pretty good, although by mile 4 was totally ravenous, I think I was hungry after the 24 miles the day before, but I only had a Nakd bar on me and I wanted to save it for later on. Some of the course was similar to the marathon from last weekend, so I was used to the bits along the river, which are lovely and scenic.

We completed the first loop up to Kew and headed south towards Teddington for the second loop of the run. The first couple of miles here were an out and back, so when we reached mile 5, I could see the mile 11 poster facing the other way, and gave Tom Payn a little cheer as he bombed past in the opposite direction. I was still feeling decent up to the half way point, and continued to run comfortably. I was running near the 1.55 pacers, so knew I was running strongly, I was surprised at this given the run yesterday.

At mile 8 I was starting to feel out of gas, and a little low on energy, so I had a bite of nakd bar to keep me going. The wind was making the running somewhat of a challenge, and my pace significantly dropped here as we hit a big headwind, and it just sapped me of energy. I felt like the whole race was into a headwind, it was tough out there. I knew at this point, I was running quite close to my PB, so I decided to just try and hang on to the pace I was running as long as possible. After mile 9 we headed towards home, along the river, and I knew I had to push to hold onto my pace and was counting down the miles and minutes.

I had my camelbak with me, so didn’t need to take any water, but there was 4 well stocked stations along the way. The amount of plastic cups that were just thrown onto the floor was ridiculous though, if you pick up a cup, don’t just throw it on the floor, there were plenty of bins to chuck it into.

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There was a few people cheering along the last few miles which was a nice boost. There was a little out and back and we finally ran under an underpass through to what can only be described as the longest finishing straight I’ve ever seen, it went round so many corners that I couldn’t see where the finish line was. I was so close to my PB, but unfortunately the finish was a bit further than estimated, and with my Garmin reading 13.2 my maths had been slightly off in my head. I finished in 1.54.35 (about 18s off my PB) which I was astounded with considering the 24 miles the day before and though it was hard, I never felt like I was going hell for leather, and I didn’t feel horrendous at the end, so I think I can potentially go a lot faster.

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I grabbed my medal, some water, and an excellent whole foods goody bag, as well as a t-shirt before heading out of the race village and home to celebrate my birthday. The times were released that afternoon with some very strange numbers- my chip time was 1.19, and it seems everyone chip times were well off- not entirely sure what happened but they were sorted out later on that day. The organisation in general wasn’t amazing, but this was a good training run, and I was delighted with my efforts.

Maverick Race Sussex

Little did I know after completing Centurion’s SDW50 last April, it would turn out to be my last race for nearly a year. Long gone are the days of running all of the races, and even training year round. I’ve really benefited from taking an extended break from running, and though it was bloody hard at first to get back into it, I’m actually at a point where I’m really enjoying it again.

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Last weekend marked my first race back, I’ve got a few upcoming and I am using them all as training for the NDW50 in May, so I won’t be going hell for leather on them, just getting the miles in and enjoying the day, scenery and atmosphere.

I liked the idea of the Maverick Sussex, as in theory it was relatively easy to get to from London. However, at 7.35am on Saturday morning, my scheduled 7.33am train was cancelled, with the next one not for another hour, it left me no time to get my connecting train and get to the race on time. What followed was frantic, stressful and not really the way you want to head into a race. I managed to get an Uber to East Croydon, a train to Horsham, and then a taxi to the start in Amberley- all of this was bloody expensive, thanks Southern Rail. However, I did make it to the race on time, slightly frazzled.

The registration was pain free, and toilet queues for ladies short (though none of them were flushing). We had a quick race briefing, with a cacophony of barking in the background (I’ve never seen so many dogs at a race and I love how dog friendly the event is) and we were under way. There were a few familiar faces in the crowd who it was good to see, and the atmosphere as always at these kind of events was great. There were three events: short 7k, medium 14k and the long which I was doing which was 23km. All routes were signposted clearly and turn off points were easy to navigate.

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They set us off on a pretty brutal climb for the first two miles, which was one way to reunite with the trails. They don’t have climbs like that in London! The race was undulating with a few steeper sections after the first climb, but nothing too extended, and there was lots and lots of flat runnable sections.

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For February the downs were surprisingly dry, the chalk was a little slippy in places, but not until the last few miles was there any really thick ankle deep mud to navigate. What was more challenging was the wind, Doris seemed to be lingering, and some of the exposed sections were fairly brutal, in particular the headwind near the end, which made the flat sections feel as bad as the opening hill! There also didn’t feel like there was that many downhills, I was really looking forward to one near the end, but it turned out to be a severely steep set of steps which I tip toed down in fear of falling.

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It was a bit of a mizzly overcast day so the views weren’t amazing, but I do love running on the downs, there really is nothing like it.

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The finish was a bit bizarre, running round the car park, and through the Amberley museum, before crossing the line and being rewarded with a much needed trail ale. I would definitely recommend the Maverick series, it was really well organized, nice course and theoretically should have been easy to get to as well. I was really pleased with my effort for the day, and it was really good to get out and run on some proper hills and trail conditions.

Next race up is the Thames Meander Marathon next weekend, I did it in 2015 and it’s where I set my PB, although I don’t expect to get close to that this time, as it is a training run. I haven’t run a marathon “race” since 2015, which is bizarre, I’ve done 2 ultras since then, and quite a few marathon distance or more training runs but no actual races. I’ll report back next weekend.

 

SDW50

Race week had been a long time coming, I’d spend 4 months training, the last 6 weeks of which hadn’t gone to plan and after a long 3 week taper and a fairy disastrous encounter with the South Downs at CTS Sussex doubts were beginning to surface.

This race and the Cardiff half were the first ones where I’ve really felt that nervous/excited feeling on the build up to race week that has been missing for such a long time, it was a good sign, it meant I was ready to take on whatever lay ahead.

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The weather was horrendous early morning the wind and rain actually woke me up at 4.45 battering on my Worthing B&B window. However by the time we gathered for the race brief at just before 9 the rain had stopped, and I made the right decision to take off my rain coat and carry it in my pack.

The first few miles are not on the South Downs way and due to the rather wet weather we’ve had over the last week were incredibly muddy. I had only wore my Inov8 ultra 290s on two 7 mile runs having made a last minute decision to try a shoe with a wider toe box after the Salomon Speedcross destroyed my feet so badly at CTS Sussex I had to drop out at half way.

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I hadn’t run on wet or muddy trail in them and I quickly realised they had absolutely no grip whatsoever, I was frustratingly moving sideways, slipping backwards and teetering throughout, although I somehow didn’t manage to fall over the entire race despite a few near misses- thanks core.

My goal in the race was to break it down into mini races between the checkpoints and the first one was after 11 miles at Botolphs, most of the aid stations had lovely runnable flat and downhill segments before them which meant big climbs after. I saw Steph at this checkpoint which was a nice boost, and I was quickly in for a handful of fruit/nuts and hiking up the first big hill.

I tried to run everything that was flat or downhill and then hike up the hills, the serious big ones are located after every aid station so I tended to grab some food and walk up while eating and updating the other half of my progress. I sipped water every 15 mins and had a bite of something whenever I needed, although I don’t feel like I ate much during the whole race!

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I actually can’t remember much of the race now- it seems to have blurred into one undulating muddy memory! The hills are very very long, just when you think you are at the top they keep going up further but it means there is actually a lot of runnable sections on the course.

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I made it to checkpoint 2 at 16 miles in good spirits and refilled my camelbak here as I knew the next stop was not for another 10 or so miles. The problem with my UD Jenny pack is that it is so small it’s a real squeeze to get everything in, so I had to unpack everything to get the bladder out which was then too full to go back in- bladders are not time efficient, but it’s not like I was trying to win the race! This checkpoint was wonderfully stocked, I had some more nuts/fruit and some melon which was delicious.

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The next stretch was a long one, but it was one that saw us past the half way point and I was pleased with my progress. It was turning into a beautiful day and the views were just something else- you don’t get that in London, neither do you get those hills. My training involved less than a handful of off road runs and some hills in Greenwich park, the South Downs way it is not.

I had heard the second half was tougher than the first and would probably agree, there are some really steep sharp climbs which were a struggle to get up in the mud, as well as the long undulating ones. The weather turned quite quickly and we had a pretty torrential downpour when I was around 27 miles in for about 10 mins, I quickly got my jacket on and kept it on for the rest of the race as it got very breezy on the more exposed segments. I had packed some cooked potatoes and sweet potatoes smeared with almond butter which I am glad I did as it totally hit the spot and was a change from the sweeter stuff on offer.

At the next checkpoint I had a quick pit stop and found a toilet in a cafe which I sneaked in. I washed my face and felt all refreshed. I then loaded up on some mini peanut butter wraps- best snack all day- and was off up another undulating hill. I did feel like we were constantly going up and up and up, although this might be because I had to take the downhills very slowly as I was wary of my toes and recently blackened toenails which had caused me to drop out of CTS Sussex. I also knew I should have stopped and put plasters on some hot spots on my heels, which were pretty bad by the end of the day.

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I was enjoying chatting to lots of incredible people, and hearing tales of their races past and future- I felt like there was such a good vibe at this event which starts with the staff and volunteers and is reflected all the way through to the runners, you find yourself passing and being passed by the same people all day exchanging a few friendly words which propels you forward.

At checkpoint 4 it become a bit more manageable to think about distance with 16 miles to go, I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. The next checkpoint after this was about 7 miles away, I just broke it down into time to eat/drink, and started to count down the miles.

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I had a total emotional breakdown at mile 40, I guess you kind of strip back all the layers in ultras and emotions are raw. All day we had been running through fields of calves, piglets and lambs and this one little lamb and the way it was snuggled up to to its mum just struck me to the core, how can we be so cruel and incompassionate, it really got me.

On arrival at checkpoint 5 I was informed that all the cider and prosecco to fill your bladders up with had already gone- need to be faster I guess! I had another lengthy stop to fill my bladder again-and grabbed some clementines and coke. I left the CP and immediately regretted not using the bathroom there, luckily I could walk the long hill and my stomach settled down although I started to suffer with nausea with about 12 miles to go. I knew I needed to get to the next checkpoint and was hoping there would be a toilet!

There was again a lot of very runnable sections here although by runnable I’m talking 12 min miles as it was all the legs had by this point. As I got to the final CP I was delighted to find there was a toilet for a final pit stop, I had some melon and was on my way- hoping to get off the downs before dark.

As we rounded the final hill at sunset we reached the much talked about trig point and were guided safely down the correct route, this next segment was probably the hardest of the day, narrow, rutted, muddy chalk, I could barely stay upright and tip toed down it trying to hold onto anything- I was so glad to be off this section before dark.

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The next section was absolutely never ending I had watched the video on the road section but it seemed so long in real life. I started running with Victoria and we ran the last few miles together which really got me to the finish. As we neared the bright lights of the sports ground, we realised we had to run round the track to finish and so commenced a slow shuffle for personal victory and just finishing before it was totally dark, collecting out medal from the inspiring Mimi Anderson.

I cannot put into words how good this event was, it was so well organized, the checkpoints were great, volunteers were amazing, course well marked and we were very well looked after all day. It has a very good vibe about it which they have worked hard to cultivate and it’s such a welcoming community.

I had such doubts when I had to drop out of CTS Sussex, and the days following it I actually considering pulling out of this race- was the love there, why was I doing it, but I’ve laid that all to rest now- it’s the set backs that make us stronger and make the good days all the more worthwhile and the SDW50, well, that was a good day.

Cardiff2016: Run the Worlds

My 2015 in racing does not read well: Rubbish half marathon, DNS, DNF, DNS. If I’m honest it’s been a big blow to my confidence, and heading into the SDW in a few weeks time I don’t think mentally or physically this had left me in a good place. Then came Cardiff.

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I had signed up for the Cardiff world half marathon championships ages ago, excited that such a big event was coming to my hometown, and keen not to miss out on the party. With 2 weeks until SDW50, it was not ideal timing, but I just felt like I needed to get out there, and enjoy myself and put the last 6 weeks or so behind me. It was important going into the race not to carry the baggage of the last few months, to move on, and try to redeem myself-in my own mind.

I hadn’t been feeling great in the week or two before, struggling with hayfever- tiredness, heavy legs and difficulty breathing, but luckily race day conditions meant that wasn’t an issue. The forecast was pretty horrendous for the 2.10pm start- torrential rain and 40mph wind, although to be fair considering this it could have been a lot worse.

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Pre-race, I felt like I had the excitement back, I hadn’t felt that way in any race for a very long time. I actually wanted to and was ready to run, I’m not sure if it was the occasion, being back in Wales, or just luck that day but everything seemed to click into place again, where I had been fighting against my body recently, everything seemed to click into place and it felt easy again.

I decided as I wanted to enjoy the race, to record it on my garmin but switch it onto mapmode and not check it at any point, this meant I ran completely on feel, it felt like such an intuitive way to run, I wasn’t going for any particular time goal, and I wasn’t pushing extremely hard, but I was going at a pace I felt was comfortable and that I could maintain- although I had no idea what this was.

Having ran the Cardiff half twice before, I was well familiar with the route, so I knew all the lumps and bumps, and twists and turns of the course. The course was well marshaled throughout- even telling you to watch out for speed bumps- and the support in the most abysmal conditions was amazing, the tunnels especially created such an amazing cacophony of noise, it massively helped on the day.

The rain started just before we started, and didn’t let up for the entire race, although it was only when I got to about 5.5m that it really came down. I couldn’t have been in a worse place for it, right alongside the bay, and as the hail fell, the rain slanted horizontally and the wind whipped up the water off the bay, you could only laugh. It was undoubtedly the most ridiculous few minutes of running I’ve ever experienced, and everyone was so wet it looked like we had been swimming. Ironically the race photographers were well placed here, and some of my photos are so hilarious I might have to buy them. I was incredibly lucky that my poor feet which had been so battered in recent weeks managed to cope alright despite being waterlogged!

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I felt pretty comfortable the whole way round, I had a tiny bit of Nakd bar along the route (1/4 or so) but that was all, and I felt stronger than I had felt in a long time. After the incline at mile 12, I decided to have a cheeky look at the watch just in-case I was close to any times I might want to dip under. My watch read 1.46 at 12.25m, I was pretty amazed given that I hadn’t had the best of months in training, was at the end of a very long ultra training period, ran 5 hilly trail miles the previous day and have been doing pretty much no speedwork- sometimes everything goes right! It proved to me once again that running higher mileage does effect speed!

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The last few miles were a push, but as I edged closer to the finish I realized I could dip under 1.55, and so was determined to do that. I finished in 1.54.17 which was a 3 min PB, but what meant more was running the race on my terms, feeling strong throughout, and enjoying it. I haven’t enjoyed a road race in a long time, so this meant a lot, and heading into SDW in 2 weeks time, it was just what I needed. Obviously a flat-ish road half is not comparable to 50 trail miles, but the feelings, emotions and mental strength were what I was looking for, and I feel mentally back in the game, and ready to leave everything out on the downs in 2 weeks time.

 

Run Hackney 5k

I only signed up for this race because it was free and promised a medal, and I thought it might be a good easy shake out for the legs the day before the half. I’ve been suffering with knee/calf pain so wasn’t sure I was going to run it at all, but thankfully on the day the left leg felt OK.

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I feel like this event was a bit of an afterthought by the organizers and as such there was much confusion and lack of communication. I wasn’t even sure where the start/finish were, but presuming they were the same place as the half I headed there. Having tweeted earlier in the day to ask if there would be a bag drop I was pretty dismayed when on arrival (with my bag) I was told by the info desk that there was no bag drop, although they kindly said they would look after my bag if I came back before the start.

I wasn’t sure how many people were running the race, but when I arrived there was about 3 people in a field so perhaps not as many as they had hoped for? I would say there was a few hundred maybe, it felt like a Parkrun really. I thought I had read somewhere about it being chip timed, but it wasn’t- not that it mattered as it was more of a fun run than anything.

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Credit to Sharon

The course wasn’t marked out, but everyone followed each other round, and it was actually a really enjoyable course if a little hot- starting a run at 3pm in summer is not ideal! I met Mollie and Leah beforehand and we chatted away as we ran around the paths of the fields, across the grass and past the canal. I was really glad that the run was mostly on grass as it really helped with my calf/knee to be running on a softer surface.

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Credit to Leah

The course unsurprisingly given the amount of disorganisation for the run was a little short, although considering the heat we weren’t too bothered! It was 2.9 miles and I finished in 28.07. We grabbed our medal and some water, and had a picture in front of this giant statue.

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Credit to Leah

The event was designed to inspire those in Hackney to get more active, but I’m not sure really how many of the runners were actually locals and how many were regular runners. It was great that they put the race on for free and despite its faults it was quite an enjoyable fun run, and a good way to shake out the legs before the half the next day. Can’t really argue with a free race and a free medal right?!