Jersey Half Marathon

Though my main reason to go to Jersey (other than to have a jolly with my mate, Mike) was to get my ‘J’ parkrun for the Alphabet Challenge, the timing of the trip was chosen due to the fact that there was also the Jersey Half Marathon.

We could have flown back Saturday afternoon but neither of Mike or I had been to Jersey so wanted to make the most of going there by also doing the race. We stayed another night in our quaint little guest house and my alarm was set for the rather leisurely time of 7am. I had those packages oats you add hot water to for breakfast and a pot of tea before we left to walk to the bus station to catch our shuttle to the start. We didn’t have to pay as it was all organised by the race.The weather was rather muggy and humid. You could see the moisture in the air. It was nicely overcast though and misty which meant though we wouldn’t get the best views of the seafront that we’d run next to we wouldn’t get the sun beating down on us. Though the humidity was annoying.Nothing like being shuffled together with other runners to make you nervous I can tell you. Everyone talking about PB’s, training runs and injuries. Neither Mike or I were feeling very ready for the race. Mike had had some time off due to illness and his furthest run had been a while ago. I was feeling tired and my calves felt tight and one of them felt niggly. I just wasn’t feeling a fast race at all. Weeks before, on my marathon and 5k PB highs, I’d viewed this race as another possible PB-attempt. I don’t usually have big goal races like this as in general I hate the pressure and quite like to just ‘enjoy’ races. However, rarely have I ever been in such good shape. Or so I thought anyway. After a week of rubbish feeling running, I was now backtracking that goal (standard Anna).After 20 minutes or so we’d arrived at the race start area where there were some proper toilets and a few portable ones. We peed, milled around and then dropped our bag (easier to share one bag) at the bag drop and then headed to the start. There were about 700 runners and as the roads weren’t closed it was a bit chaotic getting everyone across the road, but otherwise it was very organised and easy.I wished Mike good luck and decided to head nearish to the front. I’d decided to just see what happened – but give myself the best shot. Start running, see how the legs felt and go with the flow. If I went fast so be it, if I went fast and then flagged so be it. I had my Aftershokz on lined up with some good tunes. Then we were off!
The first mile was pretty much downhill the entire way. It was fantastic but also terrifying. My watch was saying 6.30min/mile pace – FAR too fast. This is my (good) 5k speed!! But I thought “ah what the hell, it is downhill”. I had two really irritating guys next to me getting far too overexcited, jumping about the place and shouting which I wanted to get away from too. They were flying all over the road and yelling and just being a bit mental.

Several people flew past me – including a number of females. Previously when I was eyeing up this race as a possibility of a fast run I’d checked last year’s results. The first female had got a time of around 1:33. As my PB was 1:34:30 I’d wondered if I could place in the top three. There were prizes for 1st, 2nd, 3rd as well as age categories. But as I saw all these girls fly past me I decided to put that dream to bed, as well as the fact that considering how fast I was going on the FIRST mile I was likely to detonate at mile four.

The problem with downhills is that it feels so easy, so when you eventually get back to the flat or an uphill it feels horrendously hard. Like, yes Anna this is what a 6.45 mile really feels like, you idiot. Mile two continued in a similar vein but I managed to pull myself back a bit, as well as the downhill levelled out a bit. But then suddenly we went sharply uphill as we pushed our way up a windy hill. Ooof that felt awful.

As the roads weren’t closed off there were a number of cars that had to slowly creep by us or wait for us to pass. You had to be savvy and aware of what was going on (Aftershokz hugely help with this, allowing me to hear what’s going on). The marshals were great of course but I can imagine it was tricky at times for them. There weren’t a huge amount of supporters as it was a fairly low key event, but it was nice when you passed a bunch and they cheered.

Around mile three I was feeling a bit low. I  knew I’d gone out too fast and now I was dealing with the aftermath of that. I kept going back and forth in my mind of what I should do for the race. I saw some Jersey cows grazing at the side of the road. I realised I hadn’t taken any photos of them on this trip (Jersey cows are are something Jersey is famous for, with their milk and cream). So I vowed the next lot I saw I’d take my phone out and snap some pictures, and that would take the pressure of the run and I could just have an “enjoy the scenery” run. The scenery was beautiful. It was very rural – lots of greenery, rolling hills and the sea next to us. But it was very misty so didn’t showcase it as could as it could have.

By mile four we were running down a long straight road. I started to cheer up a bit as I found my groove and had mentally taken the umming and arr’ing about how to run the course. I decided to just go with whatever and see what happened. I saw a few females ahead and noticed I was catching them. I used that as a distraction, idly wondering what position they were in.This massively helped keep my pace up. Trying to reach the next female, it gave me something to focus on suddenly. What also helped were the small pockets of people (literally 3-4 people). I smiled and waved and enjoyed myself. One guy shouted “you’re my favourite runner so far! She’s smiling!” which made me laugh. I mean, it was random but nice.

The day before I’d spoken to a fellow parkrunner who’d told me a bit about the course. She said there was a killer hill around mile seven but there was some nice downhill after. She also said the final 5k was normally straight against the wind as it was right on the promenade. So when we turned round the corner and hit a horrendous hill I wasn’t surprised. I saw a girl half-way up and decided to do my damnedest to catch her. Unfortunately there was also a photographer up the hill too… great. I’m sure I was gurning away nicely for the shot.

The hill seemed to go on forever and when it finally ended I felt the energy had drained from my legs. Happily I’d overtaken the lady I’d spotted, but then I spotted another female ahead. I was also aware that I needed to maintain my position. I made it my next mission to catch her. It was a good way to get my focus back and crack on.And then it was the blissful downhill. I decided to just go for it. Leg my legs go a bit looser and just lose myself. My pace cranked up but I just went with it. I was running the course for what it was and decided that if I could make up some speed here then so be it. I might crash later but whatever, let’s go crazy. Suddenly the course seemed familiar. I recognised this packed sandy track… we were leading on to the parkrun route I’d run the day before. How cool. Instead of turning around though where we did yesterday we carried straight on down the railway path.

These were the best miles. I was absolutely flying and loving life. I mean, it was downhill so it was pretty good. And I was picking off people as I went. But then I hit mile 11 and suddenly we were back on the flat and life was hard again. I hit the promenade, the sea on my right looking all misty and grey, and the wind was boom against me. The graft was on.It was literally like focus on every single breath, focus on every single step getting my closer to the finish and focus on the miles ticking down. There were two things that hugely helped keep my pace going. Number one there was a girl I could see in the distance, and I could tell I was gaining on her. And number two was the memory of maintaining seven minute miles for the last three miles of the Brighton Marathon. If I could do that at the end of a marathon I could do faster at the end of a half. It gave me great confidence and belief in myself. I wasn’t going to combust, I wasn’t going to break, I could keep going.

What amazes me is that I ran a sub-21 minute for the final 5k! Faster than my parkrun the day before, which felt pretty tough to me at the time. The wind wasn’t behind me and it definitely felt like “oh my god this is hard”. Minimal smiles and larking about now, I tell you. But no one overtook me.I caught the girl and couldn’t see anyone ahead now. This was painful and mentally hard to maintain the pace with no one to catch now (the other runners too far ahead) but I only had a mile or so to go. Two songs. Come on. I finally saw the finish area but as I turned round the corner to get there I was confused about where to go and headed where I thought it was (there was no big arch or anything). As I ran across the grass I saw loads of people yelling and pointing at me, telling me I was going to the wrong way! I had to quickly change direction, leap over a flower bed and actually go the right way to the finishing funnel. Whew!

As I finished I was gasping for air and feeling absolutely pooped. I walked slowly to the medal and t-shirt collection bit and then stood bent over with my hands on my knees for about a minute catching my breath before looking up at the lady who was stood staring at me waiting for my name. She laughed though when I apologised for making her wait.My time was 1:31:06. The race director came over and asked for my name and race number. I asked him where I’d placed and he said second female! The first female time was an absolutely belting 1:23. I mean whaaaat. I’d never have caught her in a million years but I’m super pleased I caught all the other ladies up (and 44 seconds ahead of the third female!). I was 28th overall (out of 529). I will take that! And a PB by well over three minutes!!!The prize giving was to be 6pm that evening but we were catching our flight at 2.30pm so I spoke to the race director. He said sadly I wouldn’t be getting my bottle of champagne then but he’d post my trophy. How cool! Also, turns out I’ll get two trophies: one for second female and one for first senior female (the lady who came first was a +40!!).I waited for Mike to finish, chilling on the steps drinking much needed water, before realising I should probably collect our bag. He finished in 1:56 which he was pleased with, considering he hadn’t trained for it and wanted to take it easier (his PB is around 1:45). He was very happy with how it’d gone, though he had said he had probably gone too fast and would have preferred it to have been 10 miles not 13 😉Then we literally had to quick march back to our hotel, shower and find some lunch pronto. It was now 11am and our flight was 2.30pm. We were going to get to the bus stop for 1pm so we were pushing it. In quick time we got sorted and then hit the street looking for somewhere to eat… Only to find that Jersey turns into a ghost town on Sunday. Literally no where was open. After desperately hunting around we found one of the only pubs open and thankfully serving food. We sat outside as it was warm and noticed several other half marathoners around us proudly wearing their medals and t-shirts. A happy crowd indeed.
I wasn’t hugely hungry or fancying anything crazy so stuck with a simple meaty wrap. Crazy I know. Then we hot footed it to Costa to get a coffee before grabbing a bus to the airport. Easy peasy.

Our trip to Jersey was great! I’m so chuffed I got the ‘J’ parkrun done – that was the most important thing. But I’m also hugely pleased with my new PB. In my head I wondered if I could get close to a 1:32 time when I was ‘feeling’ it, but the week before and the day of I honestly didn’t think I’d break 1:40, that’s how rubbish I felt. So to exceed that beyond what I could imagine, I am over the moon. It’s given me such confidence. I think what helped was racing it for a place rather than a time. Having those females to try and overtake massively helped and took away thoughts about what pace I should be aiming for. I literally just wanted to get past each one and that pushed me on.

I do wonder about those downhills though… I think they definitely helped. So part of me wonders whether to take this time with a pinch of salt. I have two half marathons later in the year that are flat though I might aim for one of those…but then again, this is me we’re talking about 😉

Have you ever not felt a race only to then do well at it?

Do you like a race with downhills?

Have you ever raced a race for a position rather than a time?

The Romsey Beer Race 2018

The Romsey 5 Mile Beer Race is probably one of my favourite races of the year. I’ve done it three times before and it’s hands down always a good day.

It’s helped I’ve done well each time I’ve run it – and it hugely helps that at the end you get a slice (or three) of cake. Each time I’ve somehow managed to get a podium place each time. Actually this isn’t that much of a mystery as the three times I’ve previously run it there was another league race happening on the same day (the D Day 10k) and this attracts a lot of the local club runners, many of whom are super speedy and would almost certainly have beaten me had they been running at the Beer Race.

But anyway, after a couple of years not running, this year I’d entered and the league race was on a different day. My friend Sarah, who is also a second claim Southampton runner and runs at the track with me, was doing it and she’s super fast and won it last year. I knew straight away I wouldn’t be able to beat her (I’m not sandbagging here, she is literally minutes fast than me over all distances). But that was OK. I just wanted to give it a good crack and see where I was at fitness-wise and time-wise. I hate 10ks, but a quaint five mile race with cake at the end is far more my thing.

Happily I didn’t have to get up early for the race either. I got up at 8am, and herded my parents, like cats, to the car to leave for 8.40am…only ten minutes later than planned. My dad, who was driving, apparently knew how to get there, having driven there three times before. Hmmm. Despite this I found myself immensely stressed when he started getting confused and lost. He won’t admit he was lost, but we were lost. It’s times like this when observe how my parents do things and it gives me a great understanding of how I end up in a pickle in so many areas of my life. We are not an organised bunch. We have no contingencies. We do not think before we leap ahead. We’re fairly happy-go-lucky people. And this has been my downfall many times in life. It’s a fun but chaotic way to live, I can tell you.

[Side note:  I spotted that Romsey was twinned with the German town of Battenberg…ironic really considering this race is all about the cake to me.]Thankfully we were only ten minutes later than planned and actually I had plenty of time to pick up my bib and queue for a wee. I spotted a number of Hedgies and did a nice one(ish) mile warm up with my Hedgie friend, Jim. I have to say, he did crack the pace a bit on the warm-up though. I was surprised to find us running 7.30 pace! This is neither of our easy paces! I had a second wee as the portable loo toilet queues were fast moving, it being a small race, and the run director even came over to say he wouldn’t start without us. Very nice of him.It was hot though. No cloud in the sky, sun beaming down, sticky hot. After my warm-up I was sweating already and a little thirsty. I looked enviously at other people’s water bottles but convinced myself I’d be alright. I was also heavily suffering from hay fever. I’d taken tablets, had eye drops and my nose thing but I was still sneezing and struggling. Not a great omen!

My parents wandered off to where they were going to stand (my dad a pro, having supported three times before, had a few different positions he’d be moving around to during the race. My mum, after seeing me once, would then wander off to a café. The difference between my parent’s support levels is stark I tell you). I headed to the start.Since the last time I ran this race it’s upgraded significantly. Now we had a proper blow-up start arch thing. The race was also chip-timed. Things were very fancy. I found myself lining up fairly near the front. This concerned me greatly and I attempted to inch back a bit. I should not be near these people! I saw my friend Sarah and decided to put myself a couple of line behind her.

The race runs around the lovely quintessentially British village of Braishfield. It’s undulating, but there are some nice downhills to help compensate. You start with a lap around the cricket field, then onto the country roads. It’s a lovely scenic route, but it is not flat. As we got going I tried desperately not to get carried away trying to keep up with people I most certainly should not.Having refreshed my memory that morning of the course elevation and my previous paces from the last time I ran it, I knew the first mile would be the steepest and where my pace (if all went to plan) would be the most slow. I was prepared, but it was still tough going. I knew my pace for the first mile last time was 7 minutes. I kept pushing up the hill and my watch beeped 6:50 and I was off on a lovely downhill. Amazing. I was on track to doing better than last time.It was hot but surprisingly I felt OK. I knew Sarah was far ahead and I could see another girl just ahead. I was pretty sure she was second. My pace was good. The second mile is very deceptive though because it’s basically all downhill, so you should feel pretty good.Then the next hill hit and it was a fairly sharp one, though thankfully not as long. At this point I’d managed to catch up to the second female and as I overtook her she said “I thought you’d get me as some point, Anna”. She was actually a girl from my club but as she wasn’t wearing a Hedgie vest I hadn’t recognised her. For the rest of the race I imagined she was right behind me. Whether this is accurate or not, it was a good motivator to keep me going.I saw my dad as I came back round past the finish area (not time to finish yet though) and lots of people cheered me on which was nice. I smiled but inside I was starting to fade. I told my dad, as I ran past, I wasn’t having a good race. I like to keep him updated so he knows not to expect anything magical at the end. I had some water (paper cups, excellent) and then was told by a marshal there was a sprinkler round the corner if I wanted to run through it. I replied, “hell yes!”. It was blissful.I was now hot, tired and struggling. The way the course goes, looping onto one section twice, means that you get to see the 4 mile marker when you’re around 3ish miles in. I remember this being demoralising the other times I’ve run it and it was equally so this time. To think I’ll eventually be back here and then I’ll have a mile to go shouldn’t be as disheartening as it was to me.

The marshals, as always, were super supportive and cheered us on. I was told I was second female and I started passing people on their first lap of that loop as I came back round to the four mile marker. I tried to cheer people on as I passed but it got harder and harder as I began struggling more and more. I found I was getting a stitch on and off and my breathing was becoming harder. My chest felt like it was restricted and my sports bra felt far too tight weirdly.A lovely Lordshill runner, Ben, started running next me and he helped push me along. I told him I wasn’t aiming to speed up or a sprint finish, I was now just aiming to maintain my second place position. I was on the pain train and I was not happy. I was so hot and my breathing so laboured. As we came back round to the finish area I couldn’t even raise a smile to anyone cheering me on. I hate ignoring people but I honestly couldn’t. I was just desperate to finish and desperate to breathe properly again. I don’t think I’ve ever felt anything like that before. I was literally gasping and grunting to breathe. It wasn’t like I was running super duper fast, I just couldn’t seem to get oxygen inside my lunges quick enough.The final stretch is a lap round (another) cricket pitch. At this point I honestly thought I was going to have to walk.
I had a sneaky look back to see if the third female was about but she wasn’t but decided to save face I couldn’t walk the final stretch. I kept going. I saw my mum and dad and they cheered me on and then FINALLY I finished. My mum said later she’d never seen me so laboured during a race and was genuinely worried.I literally had to sit down straight away after I finished. I was not in a good way immediately after the race. A lovely lady rushed over and made sure I was OK and handed me some water. I just needed to sit and breathe in the shade for a few minutes.
Blimey that was tough. I checked my watch… 33:47.Great, four seconds off my PB. But, on the plus side, second female. Another podium finish for the Beer Race! A happy streak to maintain. And then, of course, I took my cake and beer tokens straight to the cake and beer tents and got myself a happy reward.
The memory of the hard race quickly disappeared as I surveyed the selection. I imagine this is what child birth is like…Again, it was clear that things had upgraded with proper branded plastic glasses.I gave my beer to my dad (he deserved it with his stellar support as always) and then perused the cake selection. I had a MINT millionaire shortbread which was delicious.The beer was provided by the cool guys at a local brewery called Flack Manor.I also managed to find another cake token on the floor! Can you even believe that?? Only me eh! Ha! I got myself a beetroot brownie (gluten free apparently), which was very tasty. I also went back and donated some money to get a cookie as well… in for a penny, eh!

We also cheered the lovely Rebecca in, who was running this for the first time and the furthest she’s ever run! She smashed it. I’m so proud of her. She really is a legend.I then got to collect my second place prize. I’m very pleased to add another tankers to the collection. I’ve given them to my dad so he now has four – a lovely even number!It was a lovely day. Hard and hot but always a good atmosphere and a lovely set up. I even got a free sports massage at the end. Happy days! Definitely be doing this race again next year 🙂

Are there races you like to do every year?

Do you suffer from hay fever?

Do you like a race without a medal but something quirky like this?

Revenge of the Fifth Half Marathon

I won’t lie, I’m definitely more of a road runner than a trail runner. That said, I do really enjoy running on trails and doing beautiful scenic runs. I think my main preference for road is just that I like the predictability and control of road running compared to the often craziness of the trails.

Saying this, I was excited about doing this half marathon as it looked to be so different to what I’d been doing recently. It was in a beautiful part of the UK (Church Stretton in Shropshire) and I had absolutely zero goals. It was supposed to be ridiculously hilly (run by the guys at How Hard Can it Be… case and point) and I wasn’t after anything more than an enjoyable run round a pretty place. It was called Revenge of the Fifth as it was May 5th, and the day before they’d had a half and a marathon called May the Forth. I do like a theme!James and I arrived at 9am, an hour before the half would begin. It was beautifully sunny and clear. But yes, starting to get warm. We collected our bibs and headed to the loos in the tearoom a short walk away. To pass the time we did this twice. As runners before a race I think you just live in a cycle of waiting to pee and peeing.The medals were really funky, all Star Wars themed of course. Everyone was super friendly and it very much had the vibe of “trailer running” rather than “road racing”. Super chilled. Lots of sturdy legged bearded men and hydration belts all over the shop. I’m making sweeping generalisations of course but you get the idea.As well as the half marathon the marathon would be starting at the same time. It wasn’t a huge race (just over 100 for the half and 40 or so for the full). Probably good because the trail was quite narrow and windy at points and over-taking people had to be navigated carefully.We lined up and got ready to go. I wasn’t really sure what I was fancying running. I thought I’d just see how I felt (I mean, let’s be honest this is mostly how I approach all races…). I didn’t want to kill myself, I quite fancied an enjoyable “sight-seeing” run but at the same time not go completely easy. One of James’ friends had done the race the day before (it was the same course) and had gotten 2.5 hours and he was roughly around my speed so I thought that was a good gauge of pace. And to give you an idea of the elevation…The first part of the run was TOUGH. I set off at a run and within a few minutes we were uphill and it felt hard. I had the crushing thought of “only two and half hours left of this”. It was a bit soul destroying. As we got onto the start of the incline basically everyone ground to a halt and started walking. Of course, so did I. I spotted a few females ahead of me and decided to see if I could pick them off eventually. I passed one girl but then she very quickly ran ahead of me again up the hill – someone saying to her “you should probably save your energy” and she happily replied “where’s the fun in that!”. To be fair, she did well! She headed off in to the distance and finished first female.

As I plodded as quickly as I could walking up the steep hill (I want to say mountain because honestly that’s what it was like) I decided to snap a few pics. It was so pretty I just had to!It never looks that steep in a photo does it? But it was.There’s a the first female dashing off into the distance ahead. She looked so much like Chrissie Wellington it was bizarre. We wondered if she was somehow related!

So anyway we finally got to the top and it was a relief to start running again. There was a nice bit of flat and downhill and I made the most of it to speed up as much as I could to make up for the previous walking. I was flying downhill and couldn’t believe I was seeing 7 min/mile pace on my watch. I wondered if by having these downhill moments I could make up for the uphills and try and even out my pace to be 9min/miles overall. This was quite a faraway thought in my mind as I knew my target was 2.5 hours anyway and I didn’t want to be too ambitious.I did a bit of over-taking and being over-taken by the second female ahead of me and we joked that this might happen for a while. As we got onto some seriously fun downhill action (we’re talking jumping over little streams, craggy bits of rock and fun little trails) and I followed her closely. We gained another person to our crew and all three of us had a whale of a time. It really was such good fun and certainly made up for the slog of the uphill earlier.The three of us stuck together for a couple of miles before the guy, his name was Dexter I found out later, and I peeled off ahead. It was nice to run with someone and chat though I was worried I was holding him back. It definitely helped pass the miles to run alongside him.We ran through a caravan park and were helpfully directed the right way by some campers as we momentarily were puzzles where to go. There weren’t any marshals on the course but they’d used signs where they could or hung strips of ribbon on branches to help guide. It was mostly easy to navigate and it helped that I had the course on my watch. Though this suddenly made me a guru of directions to others around me, not a good position to be in for someone like me…Then we almost got taken out by some sheep dashing away from us… there were a lot of sheep on the course! But otherwise it was relatively event-less. My legs felt good, I felt good… I was enjoying myself. The constant variations of the trail, the elevation and the surroundings meant you never got board. I didn’t miss listening to music, I was having a great time.

Eventually Dexter’s calves began to feel the burn and I was running on my own again. It was now time for the final uphill. I was quite thirsty at this point. It was warm, not unbearably hot, but I hadn’t taken any water and thought I’d be OK with the two water stations on the course. I spotted a man ahead walking slower than me with a hydration bag on. I decided to make it my mission to get to him and ask him for some water.

It took some time but I made it and asked if he’d mind sharing a tiny bit. He was very friendly and offered the tube to drink from. What was somewhat awkward was how short the tube was. It meant I had to walk very close to him to him and try not to fall over while navigating over the bumpy trail. Happily he wasn’t too bothered and I was super grateful for the water!Eventually I made it to the last water station and stopped to chug down three cups of water. I was gently chastised by the marshal for not asking for a single cup to be refilled rather than just take three separate cups and create more waste. I literally hadn’t even thought! I apologised – they were very nice but I still feel a bit stupid.

Then I headed off. I managed to overtake a few more people and found myself with no one ahead of me. Always a huge concern for someone not gifted with a sense of direction or common sense. Thankfully I had my watch to help guide me but I did have to shout back to other runners to double check where to go – they were a bit confused too. The sheep apparently like to eat the ribbons (we had been pre-warned of this).

Mile 12 was a crazy and scary downhill section. It was actually my least favourite mile because it felt so mental. You wanted to continually stop yourself and the pounding on your feet wasn’t pleasant. It felt ridiculous scary and hard. Then there was one cheeky nasty uphill left and then finally to the finish. Whew.My time was 2:03:46, 2nd female and 6th overall. So pleased!I felt really strong during this race and at no point felt like I was flagging (asides from slogging the uphills but I think this is natural). The variation in the course and changing in pace definitely helped with this I think. I’m mostly really happy that I beat my target so significantly. I would have loved a sub two hour time and had the course been a bit shorter I guess I would have achieved that but I’m super happy regardless.James did really well too. He also came second place and his time was a super speedy 1:47:33. So an awesome result for us both. James’ friend Lee also smashed the marathon coming first with a ridiculous time of 4:18:19. He finished and literally walked straight past the medal table and straight into the river behind where he laid himself out flat in it. It was quite funny.

The event was really well organised and good fun. There was a good spread of cakes at the end as well. Always a winner!It was a really nice day. James and I chilled in the finish area, laying out on the grass chatting to the other runners who’d finished. It was such a friendly affair. I chatted to the first and third lady and they seemed super strong runners. The first lady had a half PB of 1:25 so I mean she is FAST.

We grabbed some food from the tearoom while we chilled and I got a cheese scone…And the most insanely tasty cheese and chutney toasty. It literally rocked my world. Such a good combo.Unfortunately neither of us had put on sun scream and went home with some very nasty tan lines (sports bra tan lines for the win eh).So a lovely but challenging trail half! Fully recommend.

Do you prefer road or trails?

How do you tackle downhills?

Do you walk hills or try and run them?

The last long run

So after being in Bristol and then Cheltenham on Friday night and Saturday I then drove to Birmingham.

The plan for the Sunday morning was to get around 9-10 miles before doing James’ running club’s local Grand Prix 5 miles. This race was one of several of the 5 mile series but I hadn’t done any of the others and this was the last one. It was just a nice way to break up a longer run and make things interesting.

As the Grand Prix didn’t start until 11 this gave us plenty of time to have an easy morning (James, a serial tea drinker, probably had about 19 teas in that time) and then head down to the race HQ to register, pay (a mere £6!) and collect our bibs. As we were leaving our bag there to collect later and wouldn’t be back after our long run I needed to tuck my bib in my Flipbelt along with the pins rather than put the bib on beforehand and look like a numpty running the streets of Birmingham.

We set off at a nice easy pace (very easy for super fast James) and the miles ticked by. Running round Birmingham is becoming more familiar to me now I’ve run there a few times…though I’m still clueless really where we were (I’d say to James “we’ve definitely been here before haven’t we?” and he would be like “er no, Anna”. Right. Well it all looks the same to me…Anyway the route was good, the pace felt easy and before we knew it we were in the park where the race would be starting and where the junior 2k race was already underway. It’s a weird thing being in a completely different area in a different running club’s “territory”. I knew a couple of people from meeting them briefly before in my times in Birmingham (and the lovely Helen and Andy Lane who I know through Marathon Talk) but essentially I felt a bit like a foreigner! I mean I know this is the same at a lot of races in that respect, but when it’s a very small and running club focused race it felt very strange. Not bad strange, just different.The field was very small with 68 people running (a combination of it generally being a small event and other bigger events happening on the same day). James mentioned that there were prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd – actual cash prizes! You’d basically get your money back from the race entry which I thought was a fantastic idea for a smaller race. Anyway I lined up where I thought best and solidly decided the most sensible decision would be to go no faster than 7.50min/miles. This would be sensible considering I had run hard the day before and had the marathon the next week.

As the horn blew we were off and I was running 6.30min/mile pace. What an idiot. I quickly realised there was a very speedy female far ahead of me but only one other female just ahead. Hmmm interesting, interesting. I mean, realistically I should have slowed down and taking it easy but the Stupid Anna side of my brain (quite a large portion of my brain I suppose – and probably a very big factor in my constant injury cycle) decided to see if I could scrape a podium finish. I’d get my £6 back! (And then straight away berated myself that I should have bought that £6 Daim Cadbury’s Easter egg the day before…what a lost opportunity).

So I pushed on. I didn’t maintain the ridiculous 6.30min/mile pace of course but eased back into the more comfortable (though still sustained level of effort) of 7min/mile pace. I managed to catch up to the second female and overtake her. OK that was good. I was solidly on the podium even if she caught me back up later.The route basically ran on nice flat paths around a pretty lake. The marshals were lovely and friendly and gave good encouragement. I was fully on the “focus and keep going” mental repeat in my head. I had no music (no headphones allowed) so I distracted myself with giving myself milestones to get to (the kid’s play area, the bridge, the metal fences…things like that) as it was three laps.Miles two and three were tough going. I felt like an idiot pushing the pace so much and spent the entire time worrying I was ruining Brighton and dicing with injury. But Stupid Anna couldn’t bare to drop the pace so dramatically to 8 min/mile and risk people overtaking me and thinking I’d gone out too fast (er, you had Anna). I’ve been very good recently to not let my ego dictate things like this but it’s hard when you’re in a new place and don’t want to look slow in front of new people (I’m well aware that this is a ridiculous argument. I deserve every niggle I pick up really).
My pace dropped to 7.15s but I felt comfortable and I could see two men ahead and decided to keep them I my sight. It’s always easier to run with people – like an invisible lasso helping to pull you along. Ehh five miles was a long way to go in what was basically my fast parkrun pace not so long ago so I needed every help I could get. I told myself repeatedly I could run all easy runs until the marathon and that helped somewhat.

Somehow though I managed to quicken it up on the last couple of miles. I kept the milestones in my head. Knowing I only have two miles to go helped – and basically one lap left of the lake. I managed to pass the two men ahead of me but then I was left with no one ahead to reel in or hold onto. It was tough going. Somehow I managed to hold on and finished strong in 35:05, a very solid performance for me!A solid but stupid performance is probably more accurate. My legs were pooped. Easy days indeed ahead. James got himself another PB (of course he did…not a week goes by eh ;)) and I’d managed to get second female, so happy days all round.We jogged back to the HQ, which got the total mileage of the day up to 15 miles which I was happy with. The week before a marathon I like my long run to be around 13 miles. I know some people do a lot less but for me it helps with my confidence and feeling good in myself.

We got to the sports hall and I had a nice cup of tea with two apples to tide me over until I could get back to something more substantial. Another nice touch of these races is that you’re entered into the small raffle as well. Lots of Easter eggs, wine and chocolate on offer! James won himself a box of Lindt chocolate balls and I won my prize money of £15! So I made myself a nice £9 for the day hehe.The rest of the day including lots of refueling and chilling out.To top the weekend off we enjoyed fajitas and then a healthy slice of a white chocolate and raspberry cookie pie thing. Delicious!

Do you ever do stupid training when you know it’s probably not the best but you just can’t help yourself?

Does your running club have any races like this?

What’s your ideal longer run distance before a race?

Brueton parkrun and so much food

Surprise surprise I was in Birmingham again this Easter weekend. Just can’t keep me away I guess…

I drove up there on Thursday after work. I had a really good dinner of chili in a tortilla bowl. If you’ve never done this, make it immediately. It’s a very tasty way of eating chili. As someone not hugely fond of rice, using a tortilla as a bowl it’s a nice way to get some carbs in (we had cauliflower rice instead, how fancy).Friday James and I went on a run together. Ooooof it was tough. I wasn’t going to be running Sunday as I was going to support James’ 10k race and so would do my long run the next day to parkrun, so it seemed like a good idea to try a little tempo run. Normally I’d have pushed it at parkrun so this was a good switch-up. James was the one suggested it – like I said, he’s good with this proper training malarkey and I probably wouldn’t have gone out and done this on my own (or at least not as fast anyway).

We headed out for a one mile warm-up and then it was pedal to the metal with three miles of tempo effort. I was really dreading this as running fast is just not my bag. We started on a nice downhill so that helped but then headed to a gentle incline. Afterwards though it was just flat. The miles sloooowly ticked by as I tried to focus on keeping my legs turning over and essentially not dying. It’s hard for me to do these sorts of efforts when I’m not in a race or parkrun, or I don’t have music so it helped James was there to push me along. Eventually I finished and had a nice gentle mile cool down. Ehhhh that was tough. It’s nice to see that my miles got quicker… and a 6:19min/mile! I do think there was a downhill that helped speed me up but still I will take that confidence booster!

Saturday was another new-to-me parkrun, Brueton parkrun. I needed to get my long run in so James planned me a route to run there (as he obviously knows the area and how to get to that parkrun) and then I’d do a few more miles afterwards to make it up to 17 miles in total. I mean I could have run all the miles I needed beforehand but I wanted a bit more sleep.

James put the route on my watch so I didn’t have to memorise anything – this was so new to me, having my watch tell me where to go! Very handy as he wasn’t going to be running with me due to his 10k the next day, but he’d meet me there and then drive me back.

But I think there was still a strong level of concern from both of us about where I’d actually end up… the Anna’isms are strong to overcome. I headed out just after 7am into the cold and wet weather. It was pretty miserable. I got my watch going and was fascinated when the little arrows appeared telling me where to turn. It was relatively straightforward but I did manage to go the wrong way WITHIN TWO MILES. I mean, come on Anna get it together. I just couldn’t see the way I was supposed to go as it looked like a dead-end. So I went back on myself and then found a route that followed the little map line as close as I could so I knew I was at least heading in the right vague direction. My watch told me I was off course but when I eventually found my way back onto the planned route it told me I was back on it, which was handy.After that there were no major issues, aside from my hands being rather cold and having to dodge out of the way of cars flying through large puddles in the road and almost splashing me. I took a quick photo on a pretty bridge crossing a canal but otherwise ploughed on to the park and found James warming up. Woohoo! Disaster averted.My legs however were feeling heavy and tired. parkrun was going to be a grind.I plodded round as best as I could and faded majorly in the middle…my legs just seemed to go “nope” before I eventually managed to claw my speed slightly back up as I could see the end was in sight.
The course was a two lapper and split nicely into a loop round the park bit and then a loop next to the pretty lake. It was a flat course and I’m sure it would have been a nice one to have tried some speed on had I felt any oomph in my legs and not run 11 miles there.My time was 24.32 but definitely felt a lot slower. Honestly it felt like a terrible run.After finishing parkrun we went for another three mile run to get my long run up to 17 miles. If I felt tired during parkrun it was nothing compared to this awful crawling grind. I just felt empty and flat. I felt bad for James as I was properly slogging along and dragging my feet.My hands were SO cold. I’d made the mistake of using my Nike gloves which are basically just material and because it had been wet they were soaked and this made my hands colder. Taking them off actually felt a lot better than leaving them on! I enjoyed a very nice hot bath (somewhat of a luxury for this shower-loving girl) when I got back which helped me warm up as I felt cold and damp to my bones.

That evening we went to the cinema and saw Ready Player One, which was so good. The music, the characters and the cool pop culture references throughout were really good. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and will check the book out now. I even managed to not buy any pick ‘n’ mix in efforts to save a bit of money and try and be a little healthier in the lead-up to all the chocolate that would inevitably happen the next day.Sunday the tables were turned as I was supporting and not running running at James’ 10k race. I wasn’t really sure how it would be on the other side but actually it was really good fun. The race was the Massey Ferguson RC Easter Tractor 10k, which was a flat three lapper. Having three laps made supporting a lot more interesting as I got to see James and the other runners three times. It was also nice not having to run a 10k race, which I personally detest and nice not running because I was injured. I’d done my running for the week so I could chill.James did amazingly, smashing his PB and getting 37:04…I mean whaaaat. Makes me feel ill it’s so fast. I did get a little annoyed at a fellow supporter who was near the finish while I was cheering. I was clapping and yelling generic supportive things, as you do, like “final push” and “keep going”, that kind of thing. He turned round to me and said “don’t say that, he was miles ahead of the person behind so just needs to cruise into the finish and not push anymore”. Erm, huh? What if he was after a certain time or wanted to smash his PB? Also, don’t tell me what I can and can’t cheer, buddy. What a knob.That afternoon saw me almost completely demolish my extra thick Daim Cadbury’s Easter egg (good god it was good). I was in a very happy place. I did have a moment of panic when I hurt my jaw though. I think I bit into the chocolate a bit too hard and something clicked making chewing really painful. I had a painkiller and it pretty much disappeared after about 10 minutes, thank god. Honestly, can you imagine that?? During Easter of all times! (Probably karma for my greediness I suppose).That evening to fully concrete my greedy person status, we went to an amazing restaurant called Hickory’s Smokehouse in Castle Bromwich. It’s a BBQ restaurant serving American-style food which just completely rocks my world.I went for the full rack of Kansas ribs while James had a BBQ platter and we both shared some chicken wings. Ahhh heavenly. I even managed to swap my fries for some frickles.Sadly though for once in my life it just got the better of me. I was UNABLE to finish the ribs. I think I’d overdone the chocolate earlier if I’m honest. My ego was very much dented and I felt like a failure 😉 After a pause of eating we did go for some pudding though as I feel like that’s an entirely different stomach.I went for the s’mores…which was a buttery biscuit base with melted chocolate and toasted marshmallows. Ahh soo good. And luckily not hugely rich or stodgy so could fit quite nicely into my already stuffed tummy. Happy days 😀

Did you eat a lot of chocolate over Easter?

Do you like to saviour your egg or eat it quickly? I wish I could but I’m far too greedy.

Have you ever run a route using your watch?