Whistler Parkrun – 5k personal best

On my holiday I decided I would do the local Parkrun for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it would be a good way to get to know the area and meet some people. Secondly I haven’t done one for a while and it’s also a short run so wouldn’t take up too much time but I could push hard to get some training benefits.

I didn’t know much about the course or its profile in advance just that it would be a cool thing to do. It turns out that it was by a lake which we wanted to check out called The Lost Lake. We got there early and had a little stroll before I headed to the start area. There was two Parkrun volunteers there to run the event and I had a nice little chat with them and another runner about the area and general Parkrun chat. As we were called for the brief briefing, about 20 of us (if that) wondered over. After asking how many people had done it before, it was soon revealed that we were all tourists. It was a quick explanation of the route which had also been coned to further guide us round. We were told about a couple of points that might confuse us: a u turn after 2k and a cut back after 4K. Good to know I thought and felt confident with the reassurances of it being marked out so put it to the back of my mind.

As we set off the weirdest thing happened – I was in the front! I had opened up a small gap to some people behind me and as I realised this, I had a slight panic that a) I might have gone the wrong way b) what if I go the wrong way and they follow me! After a couple of minutes there was a fork in the road and I instantly wished I had listened better to course info. I thought for a bit that I was meant to turn left but just in time I spotted a cone in the distance and carried on straight forwards. Phew. As it went on I stayed in the lead and even passed Dani who was walking the lake whilst I ran. Asked how I was doing I declared that I went off too fast and expected to be caught.

Not long after this I approached the u turn sign and had a second moment of doubt. Do I turn before the sign? Or do I turn before it? Do I come back on myself or up the slope back towards myself? After a brief pause to check the slope and with nobody around to check I decided it must mean run back on yourself. It turns out it did mean this. Phew!

Turning back I was able to see the gap I had which was more than I expected but I also still thought I’d be caught at some point. I then moved to go round alongside the lake. The views of the lake and the backdrop were an amazing view to have. I was glad that I would have time to go back round it afterwards and soak it in properly.

Passing the 4K marker I was still expecting someone to take me before the line so I tried to just maintain my pace. The slight decline towards the line helped me out. I got to the line and stopped my watch. Having not looked down the whole run I had no clue what it would say. It said 20:32. A new PB. Delightful. And on a slightly hilly course. I also managed to cross the line first. I know it is not a proper race and it depends on who turns up but it was a pretty cool and surreal feeling. I came first in a Parkrun. Not sure how many people can say that. I know I won’t repeat that again in any race for a very long time, if ever, so I will appreciate that feeling.

Training has been going well so a PB is good but I feel that on a flatter 5 k route I think I could manage a 19 and change. Something I will leave until after the marathon in 6 weeks time!


Bristol 10k: The race

Two weeks after completing the marathon and after not doing too much running, I made my way to the start line ready to take on the Bristol 10k. 

I was heading into it not really knowing how to approach it. Should I go and enjoy plodding round or should I try to continue my personal best quest. 

I had done some calculations in my head regards the possible pacing. I knew that my training would put me in a position for a PB bit tired legs would put me off the sub 40 I would like to get. 

Still, in classic form, when the time came to get going I went off chasing the PB. I tried to find a rhythm that I could manage with my breathing that was of a good pace. To help with this I saw a couple of runners moving through the crowds at a pace that was what I wanted to hit. So following them I made my way through the other runners knowing that if I lost them I would fall off the pace completely. 

I’m pretty sure I went through 3K in a really fast 12 minutes and then continued to 5k in just over 20 minutes. However, it was at 5k that I really began to suffer. I had taken a sip of water and it really didn’t agree with my belly but I tried to keep going. At 6k, after a few minutes fighting with my central governor I had to stop for a moment feeling like I needed to be sick. I then ploughed on for another KM but it still wasn’t great so I stopped and almost tried to encourage vomit but it didn’t happen. 

The last couple of KM were tough but I managed to keep the legs going and along with a couple of brief stops, I approached the finish. I couldn’t muster a sprint finish and as I hit the finish line I stopped for what is become a now regular custom of squatting down to catch my breath. 

I had finished in 41:56 with a new PB!

As I walked away I even got myself on their video footage looking horrific. 

Still, I got my PB and without really training for it or pacing it well. It is definitely not my favourite event but think I will try again before the year is out, post marathon as I want to get sub 40!

Bristol 10k: The event

Having volunteered at the Bristol Half in September and reading many reviews after previous years, I was confident that the event would be well run. I signed up fairly late as I wanted to make sure I could handle another race after completing A marathon before I committed to spending money on it. Even so, the race pack turned up really swiftly, I was plumped in the orange pen, and it gave me plenty of information regarding starting times for the event. 

On the morning we used our local knowledge to find a spot to park for free and so we could make a speedy getaway after the race. There were some busy queues in the city centre as we drove past so maybe it would have been better for people to use the park and ride. Something to think about if you were travelling from further afield. 

As we made our way to the start line the crowds were all heading the same direction and it was easy to find. Thinking I had plenty of time, I stopped before we got too near so that I could do some sort of warm up as I knew there would be very little space to do it in or near the pens. 

I then began to make my way to the pen and began getting nervous when I saw how far down the orange pen was. This meant I began to get a little jog on to make sure I was there on time. The crowds along the side were busy so it was not too easy. 

I didn’t have a bag to drop off so I do not really know what the set up was like for bag storage. 

Once in the pen they had a warm up for people to join in as the build up nears start time. Quite a large amount of people were joining in. There was good feedback over the tannoy system which kept us informed. 

As the race begins you go through the start line which is narrower than the pen itself. This means it can be a bit crowded initially. Along the course it is clearly signposted and marshalled with KM markers clearly visible. Leading away from the start line there were good crowds and as you reach the Portway they do decrease slightly but there is still small pockets of crowds. 

As you approach the finish there are good crowds to see you home. Crossing the line you make your way to get your goody bag and t shirt before you are expected to make a fairly long walk to get out of the runners only zone. The idea of this is to lead you back to the race village, I think. 

When you finish the race, it might be important to plan which way to head away from the race because the crossings took quite a while as they were busy due to it being the only one near the finish line. The marshals had it well organised though! 

The goody bag was good and I really like the t shirt. They gave us a medal and a Lindt chocolate bar too. 

All in all, it was a good well organised event and I would like to do it again. 

Southampton marathon: The race

My training had gone really well discounting my taper issues. I knew I hadn’t given it as much as I should have to get my real A goal but I had done what I could and felt that I would be able to get close to a PB at the very least. 

At the race I put some strides in as part of my warm up and went through my mobility/ dynamic warm up to get ready. I made my way to the pen ready to try and stay at a steady pace to go through half way at about 1:37 pace while being steady up the hills and pushing slightly down the hills by opening my legs up with minimum effort. 

As it started I got into my rhythm and found some people to tag on to to control my pace and HR as I was going to be keeping an eye on this to check my pace was possible. We went through the park and I was holding a good speed and as we approached the first hill at mile 4 ish, I was feeling okay but I slowed and went steady. Getting to the top I caught a couple of club runners, who I soon gathered were on for 3hr or 3:05 paced based on their chat about speed and splits. Unlike them, I’m not capable of holding a consistent pace all the way through so I knew would move away from them on the downhills, knowing full well they would probably get my by the end. I’m are I helped their motivation as someone to target but I had my own race plan. 

After this I really began to enjoy myself and felt really comfortable. Getting to Itchen bridge it was a tough climb but I felt I managed it well. I also got some strides in on the way down too on the out and the back leg of the bridge. As I came off I soon paired up with a runner called Tim. The crowd seemed to love shouting ‘go Tom… And Tim’. He helped me get to the half way point ahead of schedule and we soon met the 10k crowd. We tried follow each other through the crowds but the dodging really took a bit more out of me in the long term. As we split off onto the marathon route, he left me for another runner who was looking much stronger than I was. 

I plodded around on my own for quite a lot of the second lap but being able to overtake half marathon runners was a weirdly nice motivator. I also enjoyed seeing the efforts of all those at that end of a race which we don’t always see. I have massive respect for all runners out there giving it a go and taking it on. 

The hill climb was tougher the second time and the bridge was really hard. Like really hard as o was struggling. My quads seemed to go stiffer on the second leg and wouldn’t loosen up. My legs really slowed in the second lap and I was really struggling to keep my legs moving. The heat was beginning to take its toll it felt and I tried to gulp down water when I could along with my gels that I took. 

Once I was off the bridge the second time I knew I could make a PB and get back. I was determined this race not to walk and try to run it all but about a mile or two from the end I was really on the edge so had to walk. At one point I felt quite dizzy and was just trying to keep moving. 

Entering the finish straight I remember feeling lightheaded and closing my eyes to try and relax to get to the end. I soon opened them and tried to embrace the end of the race. There was no sprint finish as I would gain nothing from it. As I crossed the line I found the nearest barrier for a lean and moment to get my act together. But I was tired. And probably really dehydrated! 

I got myself a PB and I was really chuffed but it whet my appetite to go back harder and improve it further in the autumn. 

There are already some ideas on what I need to do in my training to make improvements and make me stronger. 

Southampton marathon: The event

After not being fortunate enough to get access to London marathon I looked for an alternative Spring marathon. There were a few possibilities but I plumped for the ABP Southampton Marathon. Part of my reasoning for this was that I went to university in Bournemouth and had some links with Southampton. I also thought it might be close enough to head down in the morning. It wasn’t. 

Before committing I checked the Facebook groups where I worked out that it was the first marathon in the city for quite a few years. They have had a half marathon going for a couple of years and has been growing so they pushed for a marathon. Fair play to the organisers for this as it would have been easy to just settle but I feel for the city it is a better way to show it off. As it was the first year it meant that the course was going to be 2 laps which I was slightly unsure of initially but over time I got used to the idea. 

In the build up to the race I got my information pack well in advance and I found that I had plenty of information to get me organised. We ended up using air B and B to secure somewhere to stay which was only a few miles from the start. As it turned out, I got free bus travel on the day which saved the legs and was really useful for all runners. This meant that getting to the start line was much easier then it may have been. Dani once again showed how valuable she is on these occasions as I get my blinkers on and she is able to just figure out bus time tables and routes. 

In the morning we arrived at the start area which is a short walk from the finish line and baggage drop. We arrived in good time and perched on the steps outside the guildhall which was to be the baggage drop zone for the race. After a bit of waiting around I committed to losing my bag and dropped it in to the drop zone which was reached by marching through a sea of deep heat! I then had the pleasant surprise of being able to use their toilets rather than trying to find the portaloos. So I can’t really comment on that but o know there were none to be seen in the start area.

There was an organised warm up before the marathon for those who want to get involved in those things but there was enough empty street to do your own thing and get some strides in. The starting pen had loose time guides and no barriers along the side of it meant there was no climbing over and squeezing in. They organised for the mayor to do something to start the race – not sure what as I couldn’t see or hear her from where I was. I just know we didn’t start bang on time according to my watch.  As you start you loop back on yourself and begin your race with nice crowds seeing you off as people arrived for the 10k and half marathon being run shortly after we set off. 

The route was clearly marked all the way round and there were good crowds on most of the route although there were some quiet spots, including the first hill that you climb at mile 4 ish. The water stations were well spread and marshalled too. Going through the football stadium was nice but it could be improved by maybe working it so we got to do a lap and if there were crowds aloud in along with music to add to the atmosphere. Still, I’m sure everyone got a nice picture. I really enjoyed Itchen bridge on the first lap as it provides some pretty cool views – particularly on a sunny day like we had. The second visit was a bit tougher and busier but still nice and it is the worse part as the rest is generally flat. 

The race changed on the second lap. Due to timings, as I approached the start of my second lap, there people doing the 10k were still setting off and we had to merge. This means that there was a lot of dodging by marathoners and there was a last minute shout by marshals to let us know when to move over to leave them to it. 

Then a bit further round the course I think we started catching the back sections of the half marathon which made the roads quite crowded – but nothing compared to London and it adds to the atmosphere. The only thing is it was clear that people were on different race speeds and therefore marshals had to keep shouting for half marathoners to keep left which I imagine was quite frustrating. 

At the end of the race, the finishing packs were not too far away and you get a little video of you crossing the line. As you got your finisher pack you also got offered a non alcoholic beer. I was not in the right state for that but I know a lot of people enjoyed it. As you exit the pen it gets a bit busy as it seemed some people were trying to come in as runners tried to leave. There was plenty of space to meet family by the guildhall and the steps were useful for those who couldn’t get down to the floor. There was also massages on offer if you wanted to join the long queue. 

I’m sure there was other things that I didn’t see in this area but my brother arrived and I hobbled off to get myself a burger! 

Overall I thought it was an enjoyable event and one I would consider again if I didn’t get into London. I would be interested to see what they do with regard the two lap situation and timings of different races to avoid overlaps. 

Did anyone else do it? What did you make of it?

Taper terrors

So my training had been going really consistently for most of my plan and just as I began to approach my taper my foot decides to give me pain. A diagnosis of plantar fasciatis meant that I had to lay off running heavily. I gave it a few days rest, stretching and rolling over a hockey ball. To say I was confident I would race after being diagnosed was be a lie. I was really nervous. 

After a few days rest I gave it a slow tester run, like you do, and it felt okay but it was really slow. The program of rest and rolling continued and I added in some cycles to keep me ticking over. 

This issue meant I missed my last long run. I know it may not have made much difference but I was really knocked by it. Especially as I had missed a few other sessions and my mileage had decreased gradually for a while. I can now look back and realise I should focus on what I have done more than what I haven’t. 

After a few massage sessions, it soon eased up and I was prepared to give it a go come race day. There was still some discomfort in the build from just walking around but it seems that what I was doing must have helped. I also had it taped up by physio but it didn’t seem to like my sweaty feet so soon came off. Because I didn’t want to risk it annoying me race day I made an early decision to just tape my Achilles rather than my sole. 

If you get a pain in the foot do go and see someone for a massage as it helps. Also, to prevent it try and add some self massage into your week with a hockey or tennis ball. I certainly will be from now on. 

Have you suffered some taper terrors? What have you done to get through?

Weymouth Half Marathon

This weekend I travelled down to Weymouth to take part in their 2017 half marathon. It was a really well run event with good marshalling and I managed to get myself a PB. 

The day started with a good amount of drizzle but it was not as windy as it could have been. I woke up at 645 to get some porridge down me but in hindsight I feel I could have had too much as I was trying to force it down near the end. We started our journey over at 7:15 to get to the 8:30 start time. 

I joined in the crowds walking towards the start and made my way to the start pen. There was a kind warning by one of the marshals explaining that the first bend is quite narrow so we should not race into it too much. As we started there was a short delay as I walked across the road and began the start of the race. 

The start of the race had a little loop round the pavilion before heading out along the sea front. I had a plan to keep my pace as close to 1:30 as possible which I knew would be a challenge for me. I found myself in a little group that were going at a good pace for me to stick with. I checked my watch and was a little off pace so began to move the pace up a little bit and picked a few people in front of me to gradually catch. 

As we got off the seafront I saw the 3 mile marker which was a bit disheartening as I was on the edge of my comfort zone. Soon we had to make a very sharp turn into a small trail section near the mini golf before heading back on to the seafront. 

On our return leg we passed the 7 mile marker and I spotted Dani and her mum in the crowd which was a nice boost. Although being told where I was in the placing a was not what I wanted as I hadn’t looked at the clock at all until then. (53rd apparently). 

The route is pitched as being a flat course and I had looked at it before hand noticing there were some inclines but nothing that looked too scary. However there was definitely more hills than I expected. The first couple were ok but then disaster struck. 

From nowhere I had a stabbing pain in my chest and I was finding it so hard to catch my breath. Basically I had to walk and although I tried to jog down the hill it was still hard to breath. I thought it was a stitch at the time but think it may have been more. It took me about a mile to get over this and I had to struggle through the hilly section.  

Once past this I managed to get back to some steady rhythm but I could not get it back to where it should have been. I then got to the downhill section, went in the underpass and headed back to the beach. The crowds as I approached the finish were really positive and I got many shouts which helped keep me going as my stomach was very tight. I then rounded a corner to see the finishing area and Dani waiting, only to realise I had to go past that point and do a short, but very frustrating, loop before returning to the finish line. 

The finish line was great as there was a brilliant selection of water and sweets for us to indulge in. Whilst scoffing my face I also bumped into Tony from Instagram who managed to get close to the 1:30 I was after. 

In the end I was pleased with a PB but frustrated that it was not quite what I hoped for. 

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