Tag Archives: race recap

Victoria Park Half 2018: New PB.

If I had to name my worst races ever, then the Victoria Park half in March 2016 would definitely be up there. I was on antibiotics at the time for an infected blister on my toe and they had really messed up my gut. I thought I was going to have to drop out for the majority of the race, there were many toilet stops and many negative thoughts but I somehow got round- I think it’s my slowest ever half though not including trail ones.

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So when I found out my brother was signed up to do the race this weekend, I have no idea why I was so keen to join. The race has no big pull being 6.5 laps, but maybe I felt I had a little unfinished business. I got to the start super early and it was utterly freezing so I was delighted to get moving after about 40 minutes of standing in the cold. The first mile clicked over in just over 8.30 pace which I was surprised at as I felt we were moving much slower and I felt very comfortable.

The half marathon started about 30 minutes before the 5k and 10k, so it was never crazy busy on the course but there was always plenty of others around on each lap especially the middle few. Having done the race before I knew to keep track of how many laps as I had done as it can get quite confusing especially if you don’t have a GPS to know how many miles you have done.

I ran with my brother and we spent the whole time chatting, spotting dogs (4 dachshunds!!) and looking out for our cheering crew who deserve medals for standing in the cold for 2 hours. I warmed up very quickly once we got going, and although it got a bit windier later on in the race I would say it was perfect running conditions.

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The miles were ticking over, and my miles seemed to hover consistently between 8.30-8.40, again I was surprised at how comfortable this felt, especially as I had had a heavy training week and my legs had felt pretty shit since being ill over New Year.

I had a medjool date between miles 7-9 for a little energy boost, and I had my hydration pack so I felt well hydrated the whole way. As a side note the amount of plastic bottles used in races is appalling, even a small race like this produced a horrifying amount of plastic waste. I wish more races would follow CenturionĀ  and get rid of plastic bottles/cups. Bringing your own cup to fill up on route or carrying your own flasks or hydration pack should be the rule and not the exception. Rant over.

I was surprised by how good I felt around mile 9 and I felt I was running well within myself and that I had never felt that strong towards the end of a race before. Usually I go out too hard and then the wheels come off at the end, but not today, I had a lot left in the tank.

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We had started to slow slightly from mile 9 onwards, and at mile 12 I realised I was quite close to PB and my brother wanted to slow down a bit, so I went off ahead and told him to stick behind me. The last 2 miles were my fastest of the day- I can’t believe I ran a sub 8 minute mile for the last mile and a bit of a half- and for the first time I actually felt like I was working hard. I finished in 1.53.09 which was surprisingly a PB of over a minute, which I was really chuffed with considering how easy it had felt and how much talking we had done the whole way round. It was also a 10k PB as I haven’t done one in about 4 years. It will be interesting to do a half when I actually have trained for one as I feel I can go a lot quicker and I’m still very early on in my long distance training for the year.

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I hung around for a little bit to chat and then I headed off on the canal for my extra 4 miles of my training run. I didn’t want to do the miles before and stand around in the cold getting stiff and I’m kind of glad I didn’t as I don’t think it would have been a PB either. I took the wrong canal path and ended up totally lost in Stratford and Bow, but discovered a new running path and eventually got to where I was going.

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This race has gone way up in my estimation after 2016. Yes it is still 6.5 laps, but I think if you have someone to do it with it ticks by pretty quickly. It’s great mental training too, if you can do 6+ laps of a course I think it prepares you for other challenges ahead and makes you a stronger runner mentally. It’s a fairly small but well organised set up, there were ample portaloos, race pack pick up was quick and easy and you get a decent medal for 20 quid too.

A PB is always a good place to start the year, hopefully onwards and upwards.

Val Nolasco Half Marathon O’ahu Hawaii 2017

I had arrived in San Francisco on the Thursday evening, spent two days there with the other half who had already been there for a few days for a work conference, and on Saturday we flew to O’ahu Hawaii. It seemed like a brilliant idea to sign up for a race which happened to be on while we there, and thankfully I was still jet lagged as hell and not on Pacific time as it made the 4am wake up call a lot less painful on our first full day in Hawaii.

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The night before we had arrived to an absolute monsoon, our mobiles kept getting emergency flash flood messages sent to them, which I’ve never experienced before. Anyway, it ruined our dinner plans, and we ended up in a ramen place where I can only describe the food as inedible- after picking at a bit of rice, we went to the supermarket and picked up some snacks for an in-room picnic, not the ideal half marathon prep.

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The start in Kapiolani park was about 15 mins walk from our hotel, so we set off in the dark to the start where we picked up our timing chips and waited for the race to get under way. Thank god the race started at 5.30am (an hour before sunrise) as it was already 23 degrees and extremely humid.

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This was Nick’s first race, and we ran it side by side, I let him set the pace and push when he felt good. It was completely dark for most of the first half, so we couldn’t actually see the ocean, or most of the scenic views. There were police officers marshaling and closing off the roads along the route. There were water stations every couple of miles, most of which we poured over our selves rather than drinking.

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There was a little more elevation than I expected as we wound round the outside of Diamond Head crater- thankfully not up it though. From about mile 3 onwards, Nick started to go a bit faster, and I was finding it really tough going but we stuck together. We maintained a steady pace as we headed into a long out and back on a highway between miles 5-9, this is where we ran past Zoe who I had no idea was in Hawaii, or running the same race as I had deleted social media for the trip- small world!

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This section was a bit of a soul sucker, though the occasional mizzle shower provided welcome relief and there was at least something to look at with the other runners heading the other way. It was light by this point, though the sights weren’t all that scenic most of the time. My personal highlight was seeing a wire-haired dachshund at mile 9, the same dog we have, they aren’t all that common so it made my day.

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We had to really start slowing down for the last 3 miles and just try and hold on for the finish. There was a little more incline and it was so hot by this point we just wanted to finish. We went past some very nice neighborhoods and properties and before long we were winding back round the park and towards the finish with a little kick at the end to make it in under 2.05. Not bad for a hot, hilly half and especially not for your first-and last-half marathon on your home island for Nick.

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Hawaii was an incredible trip, and this was a brilliant way to kick-start our holiday.

Richmond Runfest Marathon 2017

If you have read any of my recent posts you will know I have been following the Hanson’s marathon method beginner plan for the last few months in order to have a crack at running a sub-4, my goal race was Richmond marathon yesterday and this is how it went.

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Getting to Kew for an 8am start meant leaving at 6.20am so it was early morning, but the journey was fairly pain free, I arrived about 20 minutes before the start, and there were no queues for the ladies toilets and I was straight into the start pen. I think around 800 people finished the full marathon so even at the start it never felt too crowded, especially as the paths in Kew were nice and wide, by the end of the race we were thinly spread out though started to mix in with some of the half marathon runners towards the end who started an hour after us.

The first 4 miles looped around Kew Gardens which was pretty cool, I had never been inside before, so it was nice to have a look while running around. I settled into a comfortable pace wanting to keep my miles around 8.58-9.00mm pace, it’s hard not to get sucked in to the enthusiasm at the start though so some of my miles were probably a bit quicker than they should have been. I felt good, the weather conditions were perfect and I was just trying to focus on each hour individually.

After 4 miles we were out onto the towpath, I forgot how uneven the surface isĀ  so I really had to concentrate on where I was placing my feet. I had run quite a few parts of the race in previous races (Thames Meander marathon, Richmond half, London 2 Brighton ultra) so I was familiar with a lot of these sections as we wound round the towpath and towards Richmond bridge.

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After the first hour I had my first fuel- a 33shake chia gel- and I was trying to sip water every few miles from my hydration pack (clearly not enough though as when I got home I realised I had only drunk 500ml of fluid during the entire 4 hours- probably explains the fading later on).

I tried to focus on maintaining my pace during the second hour, I still felt comfortable and the miles were ticking by as we ran through Teddington and Kingston. After 12 miles we crossed a bridge over the river which I didn’t realise we were going to do, and we got onto probably the busiest section of the route, with a lot of bikes and people on the Thames Path as we headed towards the turn around point at Hampton Court Palace after 15 miles- this was another place I’ve never been so was cool to see. I had another 33shake gel and was still feeling good and the miles were still ticking by at just under 9.00mm pace. My hip was a little sore on this section which I think was due to the mixed terrain and unevenness of the towpath.

The next section was on a parallel part of the towpath to which we had headed out on, but it was really boggy and I spent most of the next few miles mud and puddle dodging, this is where my pace started to slow a bit but I was fine with it as I knew it was because of the conditions underfoot. I had a medjool date at this point for a little energy boost. After 18 miles we crossed back over the bridge into Kingston. For a race mostly along the towpath, it was definitely not flat- I think there was about 600ft+ of elevation which isn’t a crazy amount but I’ve certainly run flatter marathons.

In the next few miles there was a lot of little loopy parts and switch backs and by the end it was starting to do my head in as we kept looping past bits we had already done. From 19 miles on I really started to struggle, and though I was trying to maintain my pace, I was getting slower and slower, and I just had nothing in the tank. By mile 21 I had slowed to 9.26mm pace, and I couldn’t go any faster. I had a nakd bar through the next few miles, and tried to drink more as I was so thirsty, but I think it was too little too late.

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I could feel my sub-4 goal slipping through my fingers. My strava audio announcements had been pretty even with the mile markers the entire way, but by the time the mile 22 sign arrived, my strava was registering half a mile extra, meaning I had somehow run extra on the race course, and wasn’t likely to make my goal factoring in this extra distance. I started to feel a bit negative, which was then compounded as the sub-4 pacer came past me with 2.5 miles to go, and I had absolutely nothing left to be able to go with him.

I was really having to grit my teeth, and it took a lot not to stop and walk at this point. We wound through Ham towards the Old Deer Park, and when my Strava was on 26 miles before we had even got into the Old Deer Park I knew my goal was over. The last section was a horrible loopy bit on the fields, but near the finish straight I saw my other half and puppy Baxter and this killed any negativity, I took the dog and he ran me down the finish straight. Home to finish in 4.02.14. So close to my goal, but yet so far, though I did run 26.6m, so technically my 26.2 time was sub 4, but obviously I wouldn’t count it as such.

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The positives are that I ran a 13 minute PB, I had a great race up to about 20 miles, and considering I was so ill the week before I think it wasn’t a bad result. There are so many variables in marathon running, and a lot were on my side yesterday which I why I really felt like I had the sub-4 in me. Perhaps with better hydration, or on a flatter road course I would have nailed it, but it’s hard to say. Would the race have been different if I had gone out 5-10 seconds slower per mile in the first half, or drunk more fluid- who knows.

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The race was really well organised, there was a nice friendly atmosphere, a great medal/t-shirt and good finish zone area too. I’ll do a post on my final thought on Hanson’s plan, but now it’s time to recover, and eat all the food.

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.