Long run Sunday with the Victory 5 Mile

After my rather calorific Saturday in London, I felt fairly well-fuelled for my long run on Sunday. I didn’t fancy dinner and settled instead for some fruit (because #health) and a hot chocolate.

I was signed up to do the Victory 5 Mile race, which is run by the City of Portsmouth AC and it part of the Hampshire Road Race League. As such it’s quite a popular one for the local running clubs, Hedge End included. When I went to sign up I found it was sold out but luckily (for me) I managed to acquire a place from someone who could no longer run it (not lucky for him though of course). I’ve been finding going out for a long run on my own quite dull so having a race as part of a long run really helps.

In terms of convenience, the race actually takes place on the grounds of where I work so wasn’t too far away. In terms of excitement, this meant it was going to be a fairly dull race as I regularly run around that area. But the company of other runners would be nice and it was flat. I found that I could get 11 miles beforehand if I ran there, totaling up my long run to 16 miles for the day. Ideal. Happily as well the race didn’t start until 11am so this meant I didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn.

In fact I had a rather leisurely wake-up time of 8.15am, walked Alfie and then headed out at 9am. The route was thankfully the same route I drive in order to get to work, so I couldn’t get lost. Hurrah! The weather wasn’t as cold as it has been so I was grateful for that too.My run was quite uneventful but it did feel somewhat sluggish. I guess this is to be expected due to poor nutrition the day before and a very fast parkrun. Mentally though it was OK because I knew I just needed to get to the race. Having a destination rather than just a loop made things tick by quite nicely. It was also a strange experience running to work. I had a couple of pain points on the route where I struggled to find the right way to go. Not because I was lost but because where you can drive and where you can run/walk can be different in certain areas. At one point I found myself stuck at a roundabout as I couldn’t get to the turning I needed to due to barriers… I headed off in one direction to find that it wasn’t going to bring me out where I thought and so had to turn around and head back to find another route. Eventually though I found my way through.11 milesI arrived at Lakeside, where the race was located, with enough time to pick up my bib (annoyingly my name was “Anne” not “Anna” for some reason…) and then chat to some fellow Hedgies and do a brief warm-up.I didn’t really need the warm-up but it was good to keep warm and chat to my friends.Then we lined up ready to go. I positioned myself further back than I would have had I been racing and then set off with the klaxon. Ooof my legs felt tired and heavy. Not a great start.
I took things nice and easy and listened to my podcast on my Aftershokz headphones to keep myself amused but it really was a slog. By mile two the thought of stopping was really strong in my mind. This is quite rare for me to want to stop, especially in a race where I’m not racing. It just felt like so much effort.
Victory 5 courseI was glad that the course was two loops because I’m not sure I could have managed three loops… just the thought of going round and round the lake was exhausting to me.

Photo Credit: Mike Gilmore

I found myself running a similar pace to a lady and we were in line as we ran. She told me to run ahead and catch my teammate up who we could see in front. But I politely told her I was OK. I wondered if she found it annoying me running alongside her? I didn’t want to increase my pace but I think she slightly decreased hers and I gradually stretched out in front (though I never caught my teammate).

Victory 5Photo Credit: Solent Sports Photography

I was really counting down the miles by the end and was grateful to see the end in sight. As I run this route so often I knew exactly how far we had to go. I managed to increase my pace somewhat and catch up with another Hedgie. Her partner was cheering her on with her adorable pug and the pug, Blue, was trying desperately to chase after her and barking away. It was very sweet.As we came round the final bend I saw my dad stood on a hill cheering away. As I ran there I needed to be picked up and it was nice that he’d arrived a bit early so he could see me finish. We’d agreed he wouldn’t come and support the entire race as he had a few jobs to do and it was going to be a slow plod for me, so not exactly a crucial one needing his support. That said though, I was grateful for his cheers at the end!
Victory 5 splitsI finish in 40:09, well away from my PB of course but a nice speedy few miles at the end of a long run. I quickly grabbed my medal, the water and we popped into the onsite Starbucks so I could grab a hot coffee before we headed home. I couldn’t hang around as I had a Christmas lunch to get to with my friends and had a very small window to get home and ready!As I headed home I didn’t feel “right”. I felt sluggish and just a bit off. My dad had been suffering from a bad cold and I wondered if I’d suddenly caught it too… That would be fairly typical. No injuries but taken down by an illness instead! I felt exhausted and just not great – and the run hadn’t felt my best either.

But anyway, I got home, showered and dressed and managed to get to the Christmas lunch for 1.30pm where I was in desperate need of a solid refuel. And thankfully I was at the right place 😉

We were at the King’s Head in Wickham which was lovely. I had the ham hock to start, followed by traditional turkey dinner (albeit with a limited portion of vegetables it must be said) and finished with cheesecake.I always find at Christmas meals that the puddings tend to be a bit lame. I’m not a fan of Christmas puddings at all and there’s usually a crème brûlée on the menu, of which I also don’t like. Occasionally you might get a rogue brownie but invariably it’s cheesecake which is alright but not my favourite. Ah well, it was tasty nonetheless.

Then we played some fun games, such as the celebrity on a post-it note stuck to your forehead game (I’m sure there’s a succinct name for it…) and Pictionary. I forgot how competitive I can get though. I get very into it and can be quite, well, let’s say over-enthusiastic about it.

The meal and company was just the ticket for making me feel better. Strangely enough after a solid night’s sleep that evening I felt absolutely fine the next day. I’m wondering if it was just the mileage having an effect on me and the fact that I ate pretty poorly the day before. Who knows! Touch wood, I feel fine right now.

One more long run before the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon… I’m off to Wales on Friday to visit my grandparents. The scenery will be far more exciting there and it’ll be lovely to relax and spend time with my family.

Have you ever run to a race before?

What’s your favourite part of a Christmas dinner?

What would be your pudding of choice, festive or otherwise?

On The Whistle – Festive Frolic race recap

The On The Whistle events are really lovely relaxed races. I mean, it actually feels weird calling them races because they really don’t feel like a race in the true sense of the word. Yes you put a bib on and are timed, but it’s not competitive… this is mainly because they’re lapped events with a 6 hour time limit. You can do as many laps as you like within that time and you only need to complete one lap to get a medal. So you don’t know who around you is doing how many laps; some people might be going for a half marathon, some a marathon and some an ultra – and everything in between.

I did one of these events in August just after I returned from the Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp. My knee was a bit battered and it niggled a lot during my first lap so I walked a second and called it a day. I was sad to have such a poor effort but it was the right thing to do on the day. This event, the Festive Frolic, was pretty much identical to the Why Not Run event I did in August – though it was A LOT colder. It was still laps of Staunton Country Park, in Havant, and each lap was just over 4.5 miles. As I’m marathon training it seemed like the perfect time to get in a solid long run, surrounded by other runners and have it catered (the single aid station where the laps begin and end is particularly well stocked with a variety of tasty food and drink).

I’ve been struggling to have any motivation to go on long runs solo so this was ideal to use for my longest marathon run. I was aiming for four laps, around 18 miles, or five laps, over 22.5 miles. What was nice was that I could make a judgement call at four laps and decide how I felt about doing another chunk of miles.

The event started at 9.30am (with the race briefing at 9.20am). Havant is about 30 minutes from where I live so it meant I could have a lie-in until 8am and leave at 8.30am. I vaguely knew where the country park was, having been there a few times, but I still put it into my Sat Nav because, hi I’m Anna and I’m a certified idiot.

When I got to my destination at 9am and realised I couldn’t actually see a country park anywhere I did somewhat panic. Obviously I don’t leave myself any sort of contingency time (ALWAYS ASSUME THE WORST, ANNA). Thankfully as I drove a little further I saw a sign for a car park and a suspiciously leafy area… After spying some other people who were clearly runners I parked up and paid the extortionate £2.50 (I’m joking, big shopping centres could learn a thing or two!).I arrived in good time (heaven knows how) and didn’t have to spend too long hanging about in the cold while everyone pointed at my pink bare legs in horror. I had been tempted by leggings but decided I wanted to wear compression socks (as I tend to do on long runs) so figured I’d be alright. I wore a thin base layer under my running club vest and a super warm sports bra (I quite like it when sports bra add that slight padding bit, not just because us less-gifted females get a bit of a vanity boost but also because it doesn’t half keep the ladies toasty).There were a few people from my running club but most of them were at the league road race, Hayling 10. A few were aiming to do a half-marathon and a few were aiming for the full marathon (which would actually be around 27 miles). I mentioned my goals and several stated that surely if I got to almost 23 miles I’d be far too tempted to bump it up to a marathon to stop. This thought had gone through my head, I must admit, but I didn’t want to set myself any unrealistic targets or put pressure on myself. We’ll see, I said.After a slight delay (we were waiting for the last few people in the portable loo line – the pressure of everyone waiting! How embarrassing!) we were off. Normally I would have had a wee before a race (even if it was just a Psychological Safety Wee) but the queue had been too long and I decided I could use the loo after finishing my first lap. I ran the first few miles with running club friends, Rich and Matt. Rich was aiming for a marathon and they were both testing out running using their heart rate (not going over 180-age). It was interesting hearing about it but it does sound a little faffy to me (and not just because I’m not a huge fan of wearing my heart rate monitor).

A sceenshot from a video (terrible quality sorry!) from the Facebook page

When they decided on a walking break (all part of the plan) I left them and headed off on my own. I had my headphones with me but decided on keeping the first lap “silent”. I tried not to look too much around me as well because I’d be seeing the route a number of times… I just kept my head down and focused on running a slower-than-normal pace. It was all rather pleasant but a little lonely now I was on my own. It’s not a huge race so there weren’t lots of people about, but I could see people ahead and as I was going a bit faster now I slowly overtook a number of runners over the course of the lap.

As I got to the third mile I really started needing a wee. I kept an eye out for a hidden bush but there were a number of dog walkers and considering I only had a mile to go before there would be the loo I decided to just not think about (ha! Easy right?). The course is completely off-road and on compacted dirt track. There were some areas of mud where the sun hadn’t dried up the moisture but otherwise it was easy underfoot. It was somewhat undulating at points, but not hilly.I reached the end of the first lap in about 45 minutes or so (I think it measured 4.6 miles) and ran quickly to the loo. Whew! I didn’t stop for any food as I didn’t need any but turned on BBC Radio 1 on my phone so I could have a bit of mindless music and chatting on my next lap. You can see from my splits where I stopped.I collected my wrist band (to mark a lap) and went on my way.

This lap went fairly quickly. I tried to keep my pace down but felt very comfortable running around 8.30s so just left it there. On the way out you pass runners behind you coming in to end their first lap so it was nice to encourage people on and wave (and also, when I was coming in to my first lap, seeing the speedy front runners heading out for their second lap). Now it was a bit less lonely because you passed a number of people throughout the lap. What was nice as well was that, as it was laps, you would continually pass the same people.I finished this lap and grabbed myself a couple of those chocolate Jazzie sweets. Well, they’re not Jazzies as they’re the bigger thicker ones (I actually Googled them and they appear to be called the “mother of all Jazzies”, which I’d concur). Very tasty. After a bit of stretching (my right hip was feeling a tiny bit tight) and a drink of water I headed off again. At this point I was aware I was third female. I knew there was a girl quite a bit ahead and another girl just slightly ahead. I wasn’t racing so didn’t intend to try and “beat them” but I wondered if I could eventually catch up. On this lap I put on a podcast to change things up. I was now heading towards the half marathon distance and feeling good. My only one slight worry was the tightness in my hip, but it wasn’t anything too concerning, just something that didn’t feel completely perfect.I caught up with the second female as I finished the third lap, hitting the half marathon distance badge that would be attached to my medal, and got some more Jazzies (mmmm so tasty) and more water. I did some more stretching, trying not to worry about my hip (I will hasten to add, it was not developing into a full-on injury, but just a tightness that I was becoming aware of). I didn’t mind stopping and collecting myself at the end of each lap as it kept it firmly in my mind that this was a training run and that all I was after was time on my feet. As long as my pace remained sensible I was happy.

I really like laps because mentally it helped break down the mileage for me. It wasn’t “ooh X more miles to go”, rather you thought about it in terms of number of laps, which is obviously a lot smaller a number. It was more manageable and you could just focus on the lap you were in. Though I did start to consider what my total mileage goal would be… I decided on five laps as I was still feeling good as I was nearing the end of my fourth lap. Like surprisingly good. I wasn’t breathing hard, I was very relaxed and I was finding it quite easy. I contemplated the idea of running to the full marathon… how cool would it be to randomly do a marathon? Unplanned! Just “hey I ran a marathon yesterday”. But as I finished the fourth lap I realised that despite how good I felt, my hip was rather tight and the jump in mileage would have a knock-on effect to my next week’s worth of running. I was only three weeks from the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon. I’m still Anna The Injury Prone Runner… I must never forget that or take things for granted. Over 4.5 miles over my planned distance wasn’t a walk in the park. It was still pounding on my legs, micro-tears on my muscles and ultimately would tire me out. Just because I’m in good shape does not mean I’m invincible.But as I knew it was going to be my final lap I decided to increase the pace a bit. I’d also overtaken the first female who had slowed down a bit. The demons in my head whispered I could be the first female for the marathon! But Sensible Anna shushed her away and carried on with the plan. I passed Rich and told him it was my last lap. I’d expecting him to say I should do another but he was lovely and cheered me on. He went on to do the full marathon distance (he’s a long distance pro), well done him! I tried to wave and smile to everyone I passed – it was nice getting those smiles back which boosted me along and it helped pass the time. I was back to listening to the radio again and was now feeling the buzz of the end of a race. Despite the pace increase, it still felt manageable, yes, harder but not awful. In the back of my mind I was somewhat concerned I was peaking too early in my training… A worry for another day!I finished strong, collecting my final wristband and rang the finishing bell before I could change my mind. I was done! No marathon for me. 23.3 miles (turns out each lap was just more than 4.5 miles…) in 3:21:57 and the first person for 5 laps (out of 9 of us – someone ran 8 laps!!) A solid and strong long run. I was very pleased. I did get a few people asking me why I didn’t do another lap, but honestly I was done. That speed increase on the final lap and shattered any doubt in my mind. Perhaps if I’d have gone slower it would have been more tempting. Who knows. I felt great though. Yes my hip was still tight and my brain was doing the full ANNA INJURY PANIC MODE but otherwise I was really pleased with the run. I chatted to a few ladies from my club who’d also stopped (one due to injury and two who’d done the half distance) before heading back to my car. Very weird for me to drive to and from a race on my own it must be said!For the rest of the day I did some foam rolling and walked Alfie – keeping my legs moving and the blood flowing. I didn’t feel that tired surprisingly. In fact, it really didn’t feel like I’d run 23.3 miles. This is a good sign (or a terrible one, who knows).I fully recommend the On The Whistle events. They’re very well run, great support and atmosphere, inexpensive (around £30) and a lovely goodie bag with a home-baked gingerbread man (matching the medal).  I’d definitely do another event.And, on the hip front because, let’s be honest, this is what was consuming my thoughts a little… The next day I went to the gym and did some more foam rolling, light cross-training (I find this helps flush out some nasties) and then did some hip abduction machine and honest to God it just DISAPPEARED. Like I left the gym with my hip feeling 99% better. I mean, WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL. The hip thing was quite deep in my bum/hip area and I found the hip abduction machine really worked that area so I’m wondering if getting lots of blood flowing there helped loosen it? Hey I’m no physio so I’m guessing here. But either way, it’s now completely gone! I ran on Tuesday and didn’t even feel an echo. Long may this last!

Have you ever done a lapped event?

Have you ever run a lot further than you intended to?

Has a niggly/tightness ever just disappeared for you?

A cold Whiteley parkrun

I was meant to go to Brighton this week but sadly my lovely friend wasn’t very well so we decided to give it a miss. It’s a shame but I’m seeing her the weekend after and I want her to get better so it was for the best. That left me with a strangely free Saturday – one I hadn’t had in a while!

I considered joining some running friends to Alice Holt for a bit of an adventure but ultimately decided I’d quite like a bit of a lie-in and a run to Whiteley parkrun when a bunch of my Hedgie run club friends would be whom I hadn’t seen in a while. It was only 4.5 miles to Whiteley and I wouldn’t have to leave until 8am so that was great. The lie-in until 7.30am was much needed as well as I went to the cinema on Friday night and didn’t get back until gone 11pm! A very late night for me (#grandmastatus). I went to see Battle of the Sexes which was brilliant. And ate about 600g of pick ‘n’ mix… whoops.IMG_0978But anyway, back to parkrun. So I was out of the door (amazingly for me on time) at 8am and into the cold wintery morning. I was very much glad I’d put my running gloves on (my handy eGloves which I can use my iPhone with) and a long-sleeve top. I was wearing shorts but my legs are, in general, never too cold (well, let’s see how that continues anyway). The sun was shining and it was very frosty. The route was a lovely one that went past lots of fields and along country lanes, so a photo stop was a must!IMG_0979The day before I’d planned out the route and about 60% I was fine with as I knew the way, but then the rest required looking at road names and not getting lost… I had a piece of paper with a few directions written down. I thought I was doing fine as I got to the right road names but clearly it’s never that simple for me as I felt like I was going further and further from the direction I needed to be going. As it was now 8.30am and I was still about 1.5 miles away I decided to stop and check my phone. Yes that’s right, I was going the wrong way. So I turned around, kept my phone out and headed in the RIGHT direction.

I arrived, happily, not to long after and saw my Hedgie friends assembling (Transformer-style) in the car park. It was lovely to see them all, but they were all very cold. I was nicely warmed-up due to my run but as we hung about hearing the briefing (which included a lovely Hedge End Running Club shout-out) I was soon shivering like everyone else.IMG_0982My friend Mark was there and he’s super duper fast and he, very nicely, decided to run with me. I knew in my head I wasn’t going to run as fast as I had the previous week. I wasn’t feeling in the right frame of mine and I’m not a huge fan of the Whiteley course. Despite it being very flat, it’s very windy and there are a couple of sharp turns and it just doesn’t feel like you can get a good amount of speed consistently going. But anyway, excuses aside, we started running and Mark was chatting away to me. I could chat back at the start but wondered how long I’d be able to maintain the conversation as we started at 7min/miles.

It’s a funny thing as you begin to get more fit, speeds that a few months ago were really tough and barely maintainable were now my “fast but not that fast” speed. It works the same with endurance. At the start of a marathon training cycle, running 4.6 miles to parkrun and then doing parkrun can be quite a feat, but after weeks of solid long runs it now feels like nothing (can I stress how much I love where I am right now with my running and how I know it won’t last forever and it might all disappear in the blink of an eye. I know this all too well).

That said, it was hard to go much faster that morning. My answers to Mark during our conversation became shorter and eventually left to just bursts of random words through gasps. He was breezing along nicely beside me chatting easily about races and things like that (this being his easy pace considering his PB is sub 18 minutes). It made me remember those times I’d had conversations with people I’d been pacing and they said “Just talk to me and don’t expect a reply”… Oh how the tables had turned.

Whiteley is three laps and as we got fully into the second lap I tried to push a bit harder because “it’s only three miles” (a statement reserved for only certain times during the training cycle). There was a precarious moment during the start of the third lap where I couldn’t quite get the turning right and almost careened into a lady. I apologised and carried on, she didn’t seem to bothered thankfully! As we head to the end, Mark went on ahead and I clung onto his heels as best as I could. Then LITERALLY right at the end where the Finish sign points straight on and he decides to veer off left directly in front of me to where the old finish area used to be, almost taking me out in the process. Luckily neither of us tripped up but it was a bit hairy for a moment. It was somewhat amusing after the event and actually as we stood cheering other runners in something not uncommon! It was clear it was confusing.

IMG_0988Awkward selfies for the win

My time was 21:13, a solid fast time for me lately! Considering I was feeling it at the beginning I’m really pleased with that, and first lady. Whiteley parkrun splitsHappy days.Then, after a brief catch-up with my running friends, my dad picked me up (yes, a fantastic perk of living at home).IMG_0993I got ready quickly as we were heading to Chichester for some Christmas shopping – a tradition we tend to do every year. Chichester is just so lovely at Christmas with their decorations and lights. First port of call was brunch though! None of us had had breakfast so we were all ready for something tasty. We headed to The Fat Fig, where I’ve been before and is just so lovely.IMG_0998My dad and me ordered the large English breakfast and my mum had the more reasonably sized poached eggs on toast with bacon. My dad did make the statement that he’d never imagined one of his daughters would be capable of eating the same large fry-up as him. He was proud, ha!IMG_1001I appreciated the separation of the beans from the rest of the meal (I hate bean contamination) but I was sad there was no black pudding. I also don’t like hash browns so they got left behind, but everything else was hoovered up.IMG_1003And then we were off for a spot of shopping!IMG_1008We tend to go to Chichester every year before Christmas as a family, a tradition I really enjoy. I know it’s only November but I do love how Christmassy everything was. And especially free Christmas snacks in shops!IMG_1005Mulled wine and mince pies! Lovely. I believe this was White Stuff (one of my mum’s favourite shops).

And we obviously had to go into Montezuma, the amazing chocolate shop. We were delighted to be offered a free sample as well. Hotel Chocolat however did not give out free samples (which is surprising as they normally do) so we were a bit disappointed 😉IMG_1013It was very cold walking about but nice that it was sunny rather than raining. And then we headed home, glad to be back in the warm car.

That evening I had a solid dinner and watched Bad Moms with my mum (free on Amazon). We wanted to see Bad Mom’s Christmas bit thought we should probably see the first one beforehand. It was alright – a good mum and daughter film, but honestly Mila Kunis looks FAR too perfect all the time to be playing a so-called busy and stressed out mum. It did annoy me a little…even when she was hung-over she looked amazing!

Then I was off to bed ready to get up the next day for a long, long run at the On The Whistle Festive Frolic event.

How was your weekend?

Are you feeling Christmassy yet?

Do you have any Christmas traditions for where you go shopping?

The Gosport Half Marathon 2017

The Gosport Half Marathon… the elusive half marathon that I’ve entered no less than four times but have never run due to being injured. I entered it for the fifth time and hoped for the best.

Sunday arrived and I was, shock horror, fit and ready to go. And not only this but the weather was perfect. Still and dry. Cold, yes, but no wind. And as the half marathon goes up and down the coast of Lee-On-Solent, this was an absolute dream. Despite being sad I’ve never run this race before, there have been years when I’ve looked out the window at the roaring wind and rain and thought, “meh maybe I’m not missing out after all”.

My plan was not to aim for any sort of PB or fast run. I was instead going to add four miles beforehand to make it into 17 miles and run the race with a lovely friend of mine, Martin, who was aiming for a PB. His PB was around 1:44 so that would mean just under 8 minute miles which I felt like was a solid long run speed for me.

Despite the start of the race being up the road from me it was just that bit too far to run straight from home. Instead I was very grateful to get a lift from my lovely dad to drop me one mile from home so I could run exactly four miles to the race. The things fathers do for their daughters eh!

Happily the race didn’t start until 10am which meant I could wake up at the delightful time of 8.15am and leave the house just before 9am. This would give me a comfortable window to get to the race HQ (incidentally my old 6th form college, Bay House), pick up my bib and not have to stand around getting cold. Hurrah! I forwent breakfast as I wanted the extra sleep and do most of my long runs fasted anyway. Plus if you saw my last post and what I ate, you can probably see I was well fuelled.

So my dad dropped me off a mile up the road (bless his heart) and waved me off. He was going to support me but had time to go home and have breakfast before he needed to venture out (the race was, as I said, just up the road). I’d decided against wearing double layers, despite Alexa telling me it was 0 degrees C outside (good old Alexa). Instead I wore my running club vest, arm-warmers and gloves (funnily enough the last time I wore my arm warmers was also at another half marathon where Martin and I ran together. He said he hoped they were lucky as Southampton was where his original PB was from).

For my four miles, I aimed to keep the speed down. I listened to a podcast as I ran but found myself naturally getting faster (probably not helped by the fact that I was cold for two miles of the run and just wanted to get warmer!). I was also feeling anxious about getting to the race on time and worrying that I’d left it too late to pick my bib up. I hadn’t, but it’s always nerve wracking when you run to a race (or parkrun! A few times I’ve been late…).As I got about a mile away from Bay House I saw the road closures being put out, marshals getting ready and then the steady stream of runners heading to the HQ. I arrived just after 9.30am so I had more than enough time. And actually bumped straight into Martin and some fellow Hedgies as I hit 4 miles. Perfect timing.We headed into the Bay House grounds (which always reminds me of Harry Potter – it’s a lovely building) and collected our bibs super fast and easily. It was well organised and the volunteers all lovely and friendly. Hilariously Martin’s dog, Harvey, did the biggest, steamiest poo right in the middle of the playground amongst all the runners. Martin’s wife, Helen, was mortified. I mean, of all the places, right? It was quite amusing though.As Martin headed to the bag-drop (I had nothing with me, the luxury of running to an event) I headed to the loo. The queues though were massive for both of the more obvious loos. Side note: it was SO weird being back at Bay House. The last time I was there was collecting my A-Level results (*cough* 2006? Jeeeesus). Like a walk in the past! Anyway, I overhead two ladies commenting that they were so glad they’d found the loos in the changing room and I made a quick bee-line there to find no queues! Awesome.Then Martin and me reconvened and we headed to the start. Unfortunately there was around 15-20 minute delay. The lovely warmth I’d acquired from running to the start had disappeared and I began to get a bit cold. Apparently it was due to some traffic light issues and road closures… can’t be helped I guess. And then we were off.The Gosport Half Marathon is very flat and all on tarmac. There are a couple of inclines, but really nothing major. The only annoyance of this race is that if it’s windy there really isn’t any shelter. And the fact that it’s a two looper.

Gosport Half courseSource

The route runs along the coastline of Lee-On-Solent (where Lee-On-Solent parkrun happens) and I know it very well as it’s where a lot of my long runs happen. To run up and down twice was going to be mentally tough. I was very happy indeed to be running with Martin because the race doesn’t allow any sort of head/earphones at all. So Martin and me started around 8 min/miles quite comfortably chatting away.My dad was on the course as well and was planning on moving to another location, so would see us four times (because of the loops). Pretty good! Martin’s lovely wife and adorable pooch was also going to be on the course as well, amongst lots of local supporters (and the legend that is Rebecca – the Lee-On-Solent RD, otherwise known as the nicest woman on the planet).The first stretch passed through the Lee café/shop area where there was lots of support and cheering and then headed down to Hill Head where my dad and me often go to walk our dogs. We then turned around and headed back – but this time along the promenade rather than the road.There were nice parts where you could see people coming the other way so you were able to shout over to people and cheer them on. There were lots of local runners and Hedgies doing it so there was always someone to wave to and cheer on. There was a great samba band which was cool as well. There were a number of water stations (I think at least two stations but we obviously went through them each twice due to the loop. They had those squeezy bladder things which took a bit of sorcery to get into (though far more safe underfoot as they just give way straight away).
We saw my dad several times on the course which was lovely. He’d told me at what miles he’d be at and he literally stood on the road markings for those miles. A man of his word. He cheered us on and took some photos. The perfect supporter 😉
At around 7 miles we reached back to where we’d started and we turned around to do the loop again. We were still chatting away and in a good place. Martin seemed to be alright and I was feeling quite good, despite the four miles beforehand. As we got closer to the turnaround bit near Hill Head (around 9-10 miles) I noticed Martin not talking as much. He told me to carry on chatting but not to expect much of a reply. He was struggling a little – nothing major but just needed to “regroup” and focus. I did what I do best: talk about fluff and nonsense and hoped he was OK.As we got back on the prom we started slowing down a bit. We crept near 9 min/miles. I wondered how this was going to go. Martin told me to go on without him and I told him not to be so silly. I wasn’t running the half for a time and wasn’t going to leave him behind. The tricky miles were 11-12 where our speed dropped.The hard part about this half is that you can see where you’ve got to run to, and it looked really far away. Mentally this is tough. Even though we had “less than a parkrun to go”, the distance still loomed out ahead of us, hugging the coastline.As we got to just one mile away Martin got back in the game and our pace bumped back up towards 8 min/miles. I ran ahead of him and kept checking behind to make sure I didn’t run too far away. I wanted him to use me as a target and almost like a pull to keep him going. After we’d seen my dad at mile 11 he shouted that he’d see me at the finish. Then as we got closer to the finish I saw him drive past us and then wait in the queue of traffic waiting to be let through due to the road closures. He beeped and shouted out the window which was fun. I jokingly said to Martin something along the lines of “BMW drivers, eh!” hehe. The crowds and excitement built nicely as we got closer to the finish and this spurred us on. We managed to finish strongly, just two minutes off his PB (my time was 1:46:40). I’m proud of Martin because despite wobbling a little, he came back strong, and considering he hadn’t been training for a half PB he did fantastically!
I really enjoyed this race. It was a fantastic course, well organised and the weather certainly helped. Though the conditions were ideal, I’m glad I didn’t attempt racing it. I’m not really in that frame of mind at the moment and I’m much more preferring a social long run. To be honest, I got a solid 17 miles in around 8 minute miles so I can’t complain at all! And I felt good and didn’t get injured, so happy days!Also, can we talk about just how good the goodie bag was? Not only did we get a very cool and colourful medal but we got a proper material bag, a juice drink, a banana, Mini Cheddars, a Lion Bar, a cereal bar AND a homemade chunk of cake! I was a little dismayed at first not to find water but actually there was a huge water stand right at the finish where you could grab a few cups. It must be said though, I did actually give the contents of the bag to the food bank when I went to Tesco a bit later (obviously not the homemade cake 😉). They’re not really the sort of things I’d snack on but I hate wasting food.

So the demons are GONE. Gosport Half Marathon done and dusted. Another race failure scrubbed out. Long may this good running continue…

What do you like to see in a goodie bag?

Have you ever run to a race?

Bottles, cups or squeezy water things for a race?

**Thank you Michelle, Hammy and Martin Lewis for the great photos (and my dad of course)**

The Great South Run 2017

I hadn’t planned on running the Great South Run (GSR) as I hadn’t entered. It’s another race I had bad feelings about.

I ran it in 2013 and aimed for a really ridiculous target time which set me up for high pressure and ultimately inevitable failure. I also became injured afterwards and subsequently didn’t run the first marathon I’d set my sights on (Portsmouth Coastal, which to do this day I’ve still not done). So, bad joujou.

The GSR is an expensive race (over £40) and it’s always very busy and very windy, being right along the coastal front of Portsmouth. So I didn’t sign up… but the week before I saw how many of my club and people I knew who were and I started to get that classic ‘fear of missing out’ feeling. The thought of running 10 miles on my own on Sunday sounded really unappealing. Since the marathon I’ve been a bit “meh” about long running because I don’t have any set training plan yet. Not an issue in itself but I kind of wanted to keep my long runs around 8-10 miles so I didn’t have to build back up in November (and I have a half mid-November).

So when a place became available by a lady in my running club who’d double-booked herself, I was there like a shot. I fancied a pressure-free, good atmosphere run with thousands of people to get the mojo going again – and nicely hit 10 miles again (and maybe get rid of the bad joujou). The GSR doesn’t allow bib transfers or deferrals (which, for the cost of the race, I think is very cheeky) so I would need to run as “Sarah”. It didn’t bother me as it wasn’t a goal race.

I asked my parents if they fancied supporting but my dad sadly was busy with work but my mum was up for it. My dad likes to pull my mum’s leg by saying he’s the better parent because he supports most of my races whereas she stays behind (her excuse always being to look after the dogs… sure, sure) so she was quite chuffed to have one over my dad on this occasion. I was just chuffed to have an adult supervise me.

As the GSR is over in Portsmouth, which is just up the road from us (but far enough away for us to be safe… ;-)), I didn’t think we needed to leave crazy early and I was rather relaxed about the whole race morning. My mum suggested that our 9am leaving time for my 10.38am start might be somewhat pushing it but I hand-waved her away saying as long as we got to Gunwharf Quays (where we’d be parking) by 9.30am we’d have loads of time to walk the 3 miles to the start. I’m sure long-term readers and anyone who knows me can see the problem already. Logistics and timings left in my incapable hands would only lead to disaster.My alarm was set for 8.20am… kit on (sadly not my usual HERC running vest due to my vest having “Anna” on the front which would look strange next to the bib with “Sarah” printed on), no breakfast, just a coffee and I was good to go. Well it didn’t take long at all to get into Portsmouth. Unfortunately that’s where we stopped… the traffic was horrendous. We crawled along and 9.30am came and went. I tried not to panic, because really there was nothing that could be done. It’s not like I could have jumped out of the car as we were still on the motorway. We saw the park and ride was completely chocka block and continued with our Gunwharf Quays plans. Only to find that road closed. In the end we parked in the Cascades car park – which, despite still being a good 3 miles away, was actually perfect. They opened the shopping mall just as we arrived and I dashed inside to use a PROPER loo. How fabulous.Then it was a quick march to the start. It was cold and windy and my mum, bless her, struggled to keep the pace. We spotted the lovely Rebecca ready to marshal and she gasped when I told her my wave. TRYING NOT TO PANIC. As we got about a mile away my mum said she just couldn’t continue at that pace and I should go on. What my mum really needed was a hot drink (she was, as she describes, “feeling woo”). I 100% didn’t want to de-layer at this point but felt terrible to force her on so reluctantly handed her my coat and bag that she was kindly going to look after. She knew my wave and vague timings. I told her to go and sit in a coffee shop and I’d see her around 12.Actually it was probably a good thing I headed off on my own because I was able to run to the start (I would have been far too cold to have walked). I got there at 10.35am and looked around for my wave. I had a little peep at the elite wave (tried to spot my super speedy blondie-making friend Michelle) and then walked down to my wave. I couldn’t see it but could see the orange wave who looked like they were about to get going. Well I was all warmed up and the thought of standing around and getting cold again sounded awful, plus this would mean I’d finish a bit earlier for my mum.

So within five minutes I was starting! This was somewhat stressful as I tried to get my headphones working, only to realise I hadn’t paired them with my old phone that I was using. So I now had a pair of useless headphones I had to wear for the entire race…wonderful. That said though I actually didn’t need them. The atmosphere of the race was enough and I found whenever I passed by any supporters playing music it boosted me up and really motivated me.The first few miles were crowded with people, as is always the case. The wind was gusty and blustering around us but generally OK. At this point you’re feeling fresh anyway so the wind isn’t an issue. My pace for the first mile was just under 8  minutes as I was weaving in and out of people. The crowds were fantastic, cheering us along, and I felt very relaxed.

As you head into Old Portsmouth you hit mile two and run through the Historic Dockyard. This is always a fun bit (a brief bit of cobbles, but over very quickly) as you get to see the HMS Victory and the Mary Rose museum (so many trips their as a child…). I chuckled at some of the Navy statues that were dressed up for Halloween.My pace increased and I continued to overtake people. There’s an out and back section mile 4-5 and I enjoyed spotted people I knew and shouting to them. As I wasn’t wearing my traditional HERC vest I wasn’t easy to spot so was able to creep up (well, run up) next to fellow Hedgies and say hi.

There were lots of water stations around the course and they had small bottles, which I always prefer as you can take them along with you for a bit, but one blew across the road and I turned my ankle on it which was quite painful and concerning. Luckily though after the initial turn it was fine, whew!! Apparently my ankles aren’t injury prone like the rest of me.

The GSR is very flat – barely any elevation changes – but it does change direction a few times and this can mean you’re suddenly battling the wind, or the wind is nicely pushing you along. There are so many crowds cheering you all along the course which helps buoy you along too. I spent a lot of time looking out for my mum wondering if she found a spot to stand, but I didn’t see her. I spotted a few people from work which was cool though.

I was feeling fantastic, despite my pace seeming ridiculous to me. I’m sure the wind definitely helped at points! I ran past Rebecca at her marshaling point around mile 5 but she didn’t notice me. I ended up hollering to her and her friend nudged her to spot me which made me laugh.

As I got to mile 6 the wind was really on our backs now and it felt fantastic, albeit annoying with my pony tail and flyaway hair bits getting in my face (I was happy to accept this tho with the benefits of the wind pushing us). Amazingly I saw my friend Sarah (not the Sarah I was running as) from my club around the same mile where I saw her the last time I ran. I was having a very bad time then and ran with her the rest of the way. This time I said a quick hello and carried on. She was listening to music and seemed very focused.

By mile 7 I felt my first “dig deep” moment where I would have quite liked to have had some music to keep me motivated. Instead I had a mash-up of Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic and Daft Punk Harder better Faster Stronger spinning round my head randomly. Miles 7-8 are away from the seafront and are a bit of a lull moment. I was also well aware that at mile 8 we’d be turning onto the seafront and heading straight at the wind with no shelter. It would be tough. Someone from the crowd shouted it was almost time for the final sprint and a few people chuckled wryly; two miles is not time to sprint! A lady next to me muttered that it was the worst two miles as well. Yep!

As we turned the corner the wind did indeed push against us, but surprisingly not as bad as I remembered. It was hard, yes, but not horrific. I played the game of chasing bibs ahead of me and slowly reeled people in. I saw my pace was sub seven minute miles and had no idea how I was doing it, or if I could maintain it. But I kept going.

A novelty about a 10 mile race is you are running to the mile, not the 0.2 or the 0.1 like in most other races. There was no great ambiguity of how far you’d have left to run like there sometimes is in the other distances. Just get to that beep on the Garmin! I knew I’d added a bit more mileage due to all my weaving but not a huge amount. I could see the finish ahead and I sprinted to it, giving it my all.I checked my time, 1:13:23! I couldn’t remember exactly what my PB was as I hadn’t checked beforehand (I didn’t think I was aiming for it as I’d had a rough goal of sub 1:18). I was pretty sure it was 1:15 something though so was fairly certain I had it in the bag. Either way I was OVER THE MOON. Such a comfortable race (not easy, but not a lung-busting omg I’m going to be sick feeling – comfortably in control of a good effort feeling), with no music and just a general sense of happiness all the way round. No niggles. No issues. Just a fantastic race. On a quick check of my blog (so handy to have my PBs stored there) I found I had indeed got a PB of 1min 50 seconds. Not too shabby! And FINALLY a decent 10 mile race. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a good one before.
I saw some of my club volunteering and had a quick natter and a hug before heading over to pick up my medal and goodie bag. I was really pleased to see that there was a technical t-shirt in the bag as well – it always used to be a cotton t-shirt! Though it’s still rather large despite being a small.I saw some of my club who’d run and we chatted away – all seeming to have had a good run. A few selfies and I rang my mum to find out where she was. Apparently she’d seen me around mile 5 which was nice.After meeting up we started the long 3 mile walk back to the car. I was glad to put my jacket back on, but with my medal prominently out of course.We stopped in Starbucks on our meanders back, now that my hunger was kicking in (I did’t fancy the giant protein bar in the goodie bag. Almost 300 calories! That’s a meal). A hot coffee though would tide me over. I would be back-loading my calories in a big way, so don’t worry I wasn’t going to go hungry all day!

We made it home substantially quicker than it took to get there and I wolfed down a solid lunch before showering and getting ready for my friend Sarah’s (ANOTHER Sarah would you believe!) baby shower. It took place in the very lovely Tea Room in Lee-On-Solent (of which I’ve been to many, many times).Sarah had no idea so when she walked in with her husband, Ant (who, by the way has recently stepped over from a non-running friend to a running friend), and she was so surprised. We’d hired out the entire place so it was a really lovely afternoon. I’m not really one for baby-related stuff but it was great. Lots of fun games and laughter.

The waitresses then brought round afternoon teas for everyone. I immediately bagged myself a fruit scone and a slice of red velvet (you gotta be in it to win it when it comes to food…). I humoured myself by having a couple of token chicken sandwiches before slathering the delicious scone with jam (first of course) and then clotted cream. OH SO DIVINE.There were boxes provided to take cake home but this was highly unnecessary for me. In for a penny, in for a pound and all that. I was apparently the only person to do the full afternoon hog of sandwiches, scone and full slice of cake. I’m not even sorry. I even had a little bit of the chocolate cake that someone had sliced in half (sliced in half? I don’t understand this). I know, I know. I’m far too greedy for my own good. The sugar coma I fell promptly into was fully deserved. But I tell you what, it was worth it.Can you manage a whole afternoon tea?

Have you ever done one of the Great Run series before?

Do you like a 10 mile race?