Reigate Half Marathon recap

I was both excited and anxious about the Reigate Half Marathon. I was excited because I it was a switch-up from the usual long run grind I’ve been doing week after week, but I was anxious because my runs lately haven’t felt amazing.img_5066I had a terrible run on the Thursday evening before that made me seriously doubt the sub 1:40 goal I had in my mind. Running at 8 minute miles for 6 miles that evening was a struggle. It was a really warm evening so this probably had an effect but it mentally knocked me. The parkrun on Saturday helped relieve some of my nerves but I still didn’t like going into a race without a real plan of attack.

Reigate is about an hour and a half away from my parent’s house, where I was staying the night before. My dad had kindly offered to drive me and support me and we planned to make it into a fun day with Nando’s afterwards. We left at 7am and I had my porridge and black coffee en route.

We were actually a little close to the mark of timings as we arrived and parked at 8.45am (the race began at 9.15am). Parking was easy to find and there were loads of car parks – and only £3! We then walked the short distance and got momentarily distracted by a very cool looking McLaren car. This was the lead vehicle! (Though my dad pointed out what a terrible journey that would be for the driver going less than 10mph for just over an hour).img_5062We arrived at 9am at the race village. It was quite chilly that morning so I was glad to have on my new Brooks leggings over my shorts and the Brooks long-sleeved top but I started panicking as I realised how little time I had to get into my running gear (take leggings off, put compression socks on and attach bib to top).reigate-half-marathon-race-villageIt was fairly overcast for which I was grateful for. A nice cool run, I was hoping. The race village was really quite impressive and set in the lovely Priory Park.

I quickly got myself in gear and said goodbye to my dad, who was on a mission to find some good spots to stand and cheer at over the course.img_5069Now it was 9:05am and I wasn’t even in the right wave yet, argghh. I quickly squirrelled my way through people past the different Xempo paces (saw Susie Chan pacing 2 hours, she was very friendly) and then spotted my friend, Matt who was pacing 1:45. It was a very quick hello as I was still needing to get a bit further forward.img_5078I also managed to fan girl a bit about Kelly Holmes being on stage literally right next to us.img_5075She was giving lots of encouragements and advice (and had done the warm-up, of which I’d missed of course).

And breathe. I was in the right spot, my phone was tucked into my armband holder and my music was ready to play (my playlist was basically three albums I’m enjoying at the moment, picked purely for enjoyment rather than to get me to run fast as I wasn’t sure if I would be running fast but didn’t want to listen to nothing or a podcast).

The race started with a rather long incline that I wasn’t expecting. I suppose it helped stop me begin like a bat out of hell (which I do so often and shoot myself in the foot). After the incline (not really a hill, but definitely an incline) there was a nice decline and then I settled into a solid rhythm. I saw my dad within the first mile and he said he’d see me at mile 10.

And then realised I needed to pee. I HADN’T HAD MY PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY WEE. And it definitely wasn’t a psychological one either. I knew I’d left drinking my coffee too late. I tried not to think about it but realised I was inadvertently looking at bushes considering my options. I decided to forget it but if a loo appeared then I’d stop. Happily at the first water station (mile 3?) there were a row of loos and I dashed inside.

Honestly, I’m amazed at how fast I was in and out of there. I spotted the girl I was running next to up the road (bright pink shorts) and aimed to get back there – not by sprinting but by running probably 15 seconds faster than I had been. I just fixated on those pink shorts (not in a weird way…) and got back to my original area of people.

At this point I was consistently running around 7.30min/miles. It felt fishy. This was a pace I’d been running at parkrun lately (my best times being around 22 minutes at the moment). And yet 7.30s were feeling comfortable (not a breeze, but comfortable). I was
wearing my Fitbit (I wear both my Fitbit and my Garmin when I run) and checked my heart rate. It was 170 which I didn’t think was too bad. I decided to keep at the pace I was at as it felt fine but I’d monitor my heart rate. If it went up I’d slow down.splits

Actually I did have to keep slowing myself down a few times, reminding myself I had a long way to go. In the back of my mind I wondered if the pace I was at was too fast and that I’d pay for it later but I thought, “what the hell, just embrace it”.

The course runs through beautiful country roads. There are a few undulations, but after every incline there was always a decline. Along the way clusters of people were
standing on the sides cheering or handing out jelly babies and it felt very friendly. The marshals were all lovely and it just felt like a nice race, you know? A lovely run through the countryside ticking off the miles.

The sun did come out though and this made things all a bit sweaty but it wasn’t humid or overbearing. It also wasn’t crowded but there were enough people that you were usually running alongside two or three people at all times.splits2It was nice knowing my dad was at mile 10 so it broke the race up nicely.img_5103It’s always nice knowing where your supporters are roughly going to be as it meant from mile nine I could start looking around and this took my mind of running.img_5108I spotted him literally under the mile 10 sign and we smiled and waved and I shouted, “just a parkrun to go!”.img_5102I then switched my music to my parkrun/speed-workout playlist as I was ready to go-go-go. Sadly the course wasn’t quite optimal to put the hammer down as some rolling inclines increased in frequency and the most horrific hill appeared at mile 12.reigate-half-elevationIt was a BEAST. A few people walked it and fared the same as me running it (I say “running”, the motions were there but the speed was not). Then there was another equally sharp hill afterwards. A lovely marshal shouted “it’s a short one!” which really helped to know. Then a sign saying “Caution Steep Decline” appeared and it was like party-time for my legs to speed up and goooo!splits3(Well, in my head I was going speedy!) I kept pushing and finally reached the race village area and knew it would be over soon. A marshal shouted at me that I was in the top ten females and that pushed me on faster. I smiled all the way to the finish and was greeted by lots of people cheering and shouting us in. It was a fantastic finish line.img_5081My time was 1:37:45; I was not in fact in the top ten females ( was 14th (or possible 13th if Matthew made a mistake…) as it’s chip-timed of course so I might have been top ten gun time but not chip time – hey, I’ll take 14/13th position! I was SO pleased. Yes I’m like three minutes off my PB and over a minute off Weymouth Half earlier in the year but  honestly I was so chuffed. I felt in control of the race (besides the hill) and comfortable. I wasn’t dying at the end either. It really has given me a HUGE boost of confidence exactly when I needed it. I was floating along happily, getting my medal, water, banana and perfectly fitting technical t-shirt.img_5089Happy days indeed!reigateBy now it was very warm though! It gave me a good excuse to show off my lovely Brooks sports bra which by the way is fantastic. Do you know why? Because you can undo it from the back exactly like a normal bra. This means no sweaty-almost-getting-stuck-horrific sports bra removal process. It’s just a quick unclasp and boom, done. It’s also very comfy and supportive (though I’m hardly the most blessed in this department to be the best judge).

I also nipped into the massage tent and a truly fabulous 10 minute FREE massage as well.img_5090I was still sweating as I laid on the bed which was, erm, pleasant.

My dad and me had a wander round the village and saw loads of amazing food tents offering loads of different foods, like Indian cuisine, burgers, Italian food, etc.reigate-half-race-villageIt was a great atmosphere. I also bumped into fellow blogger,Beki (aka Miss Wheezy). She’d run the 10k earlier. We had a nice little natter and it was lovely to meet her in person!img_5097Then my dad and me headed off to refuel, Nando’s-style.img_5115Standard whole chicken with a side salad and endless Diet Coke. I was heaven.

I thoroughly enjoyed this race. It was well organised and good fun. It had the feels of a big half, like Reading, but with a better and more picturesque course (and not as crowded). I went away with a smile on my face.img_5119And what was lovely was that the design of the medal had been done by a clearly very talented five year old boy. Lovely touch!

What makes a race a good one for you?

How do you know a race is going well for you?

Do you like to travel out for races or prefer to stick to nearby ones? I love going to different and far-away places for races as I get to see other parts of the UK (and the world!).

**Full Disclaimer: I was given a free entry into the race as well as further products to help with my training and racing. All opinions are my own honest ones. I fully recommend this race and would happily enter it myself another year**

Fitbit Surge Review

Through being connected with Run Reigate (I’m running their half marathon and blogging for them), I’ve been given a Fitbit Surge to help with my training as they’re one of the Run Reigate sponsors. So I thought I’d do a little review of how I’m finding it and what I think.

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When the fitness trackers first started coming out I had an original Fitbit. It was fairly basic but it did what I wanted: counted my steps and monitored my sleep. Then when the Garmin Vivofit came out I decided to upgrade as I liked the idea of it also working as a watch (the original Fitbit didn’t have a screen) and I have a Garmin running watch so it seemed to make sense.

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Now I have the Fitbit Surge. I was really excited about this because I liked the idea of having a heart rate monitor on all the time. I’m a geek and love all the stats so this really appealed to me. Plus I liked that it looks a lot more like a watch that the Vivofit. A few of my non-running friends often laughed at my Vivofit saying it looked like I was wearing a prison tag device on my wrist *sighs*.

So what are the features of the Surge?

Activity Tracking

It tracks steps, distance, calories burned, floors climbed, active minutes, hourly activity and stationary time. And, using the Fitbit app, you can see cool graphs of your activities over the day and week:

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And you can delve into this further to see when those steps were accumulated over the day:

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This day had a run in the morning as you can see by the spikes at the beginning of the day.

Tracks Workouts

Unlike the Vivofit, you can track an actual workout.

FitBit spin

There are different exercise groups you can choose from, such as hiking, weights and spinning.

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This was a spinning session I did. It tracked my heart rate and calories burned. Not visible in the screenshot is, if you scroll down, it will tell you how many steps were taken during this workout and activity minutes – basically the “impact on your day”. So when I go to the gym and do weights I can see how many steps I take purely during that workout, which I think is quite interesting. And very handy as well with running as when you run it’s easy to get over 10,000 steps and maybe you want to hit 10,000 despite the run (basically not being an active couch potato Winking smile).

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You can then see what you’ve been up to during the week in terms of activities (that Thursday run went a bit wrong as I was just getting used to how to use the watch!).

Tracking Runs

The handy part of the Surge is that you can use it as a running watch. It has GPS so you can track a run exactly as you would using a Garmin.

Fitbit Surge

On the watch face you can choose what stats you see. So, average pace, heart rate and distance etc. It vibrates when you hit a mile (though you can change this to whatever increment and metric you like). I wore my Garmin watch with it as I still prefer my actual Garmin to run with but I liked that I could see my HR and the stats were very close between the two watches. If you were looking for a running watch and wanted an activity tracker then this would be ideal for you.

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Interestingly even when I didn’t select the running functionality and just used my Garmin (but still wore the Surge) when I synced it later to my phone it had picked up I’d run anyway (though contained no map as the GPS hadn’t been engaged). I love this! It means that I can still partition my steps away from a run but not waste battery on using GPS. Very clever. And yes, it does connect to Strava.

Tracking Sleep

Like other trackers, it monitors your sleep. You don’t have to click anything to say you’re going to sleep, you just sleep.

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Like the steps, you can hone into the detail of each night’s sleep and it will give you a graph displaying when you were awake, restless or asleep and for how long.

Notifications

It also picks up messages and incoming calls by gently vibrating and displaying it on the screen. You can read the messages on the screen which I think is quite handy. You can also control your music through your watch. This is amazing for me as when I go for a run and listen to music my phone will invariably be in a bag or armband and be tricky to get out. If a song comes on I don’t fancy it’s such an effort to get the phone out – but using my watch makes things a whole lot easier! The same goes for if I receive a message or a phone call – I can just click to read/answer it there and then.

Alarms

This is what I really missed about my old Fitbit when I moved to the Vivofit. I loved that there was an alarm functionality which was basically a gentle vibration of the device and this is the same for the Surge.

Heart Rate

This was the best part for me: seeing my heart rate through the day. Especially during marathon training, it’s important for me to monitor these things to make sure I can catch any early signs of illness or over-training. I check my heart rate in the morning as soon as I wake up (I always remember Steve Way telling us at the MT Run Camp that he checks his HR all the time and noticed that one morning he woke up and it was 10 beats higher than normal and felt a lot more tired and realised he was over-trained and needed a break before he crashed).

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It’s fairly accurate I think as I had my heart rate taken my a proper HR machine thing a few years ago and it’s always been around 50, which I guess is below average (probably why I feel dizzy when I stand up too quickly!).

The App

I love the app. I love the design of it, how easy it is to use and the sheer amount of data you can delve into. The Garmin Connect does have similar data but I just prefer the Fitbit app. It’s more intuitive and interesting.

IMG_4701The Dashboard

It also syncs really quickly and easily to it. You can connect with other Fitbit wearers and do different challengers as well to gain different badges. All very cool.

Other functionality I really liked was that the screen is touch screen and it’s very fluid and smooth moving. You can go back and forth through the different bits very easily. I disliked the Vivofit as it involved clicking a physical button and you had to click all the way through to get back to the time… and if you clicked one too many times you had to cycle through them all again.

I also really like how it has a backlight. This means I can tell the time in the middle of the night without looking at my phone (being short-sighted is an issue at bedtime). I hate looking at my phone in the middle of the night as it can sometimes distract me – “ooh a new notification on Facebook or Instagram…”.

But the one thing that I really don’t like though is the battery life. The Vivofit didn’t need charging, whereas the Surge needs to be charged once a week. For someone who’s used to wearing a watch now all the time, it’s hard to remember!

All in all, I really love it. I won’t be going back to my Vivofit!

Do you wear an activity tracker?

How many steps do you do on average in a day?

Do you like to track your workouts?

**I was given the Fitbit Surge for free by Run Reigate in exchange for my participation and blogging in the Reigate Half Marathon. All opinions are my own honest owns.**

Marathon Training and Reigate Half

So my next marathon is the Chester marathon. Obviously nothing is a given with my track record for injuries, but I’m hopeful as ever Winking smile

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Ideally I was going to really go for it and aim to get near my PB from Liverpool marathon (3:24:06) but after the hamstring debacle and only recently getting back into some normal running I think it might be wise to just give it my best with no pressures (I think this is my mantra for most races if I’m honest). I don’t want to plod around it easily but I don’t want to kill myself in training or in the race. So we’ll see.

In terms of the details of my training… Well, nothing much will really change compared to previous marathon cycles. Four days of running: one speed session (hills/fartleks/tempos/intervals), one easy run (for mental sanity), parkrun and a long run. Ideally I want to get to 18 miles and do that distance twice.

I also only have one race in the lead-up to the marathon, a half marathon (my second favourite distance to run). A half marathon race is usually quite standard in the lead-up to a marathon so I’m always happy to schedule one in. I’m taking part in the Reigate Half Marathon which is two weeks before Chester (18th September). So, depending on how my training is going, it will be a nice one to blast out some speed or test out my marathon pacing.

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The course is a good one in that it’s one lap of a fully closed route that goes through some nice rural countryside and picturesque country lanes and it’s relatively flat. It’s chip-timed with a technical t-shirt and medal. Yep, sounds good to me!

Intersport Run Reigate organise both a 10k and a half marathon and has raised over £150,000 for charity since 2014 which is pretty fantastic, right? It’s also achieved silver in the UK’s best half marathon category in The 2015 Running Awards. Pretty cool.

I’ll be running as part of the Run Reigate blogger team, which is fairly exciting as you can imagine. The half is about five weeks away which is nice as it means I can continue to get in some good solid training and be more than ready. As part of the blogger team I get a very nice goodie bag to help me with my training which includes:

  • A Fitbit Surge (super excited about this as I’ve previously had a Fitbit but they’ve since hugely upgraded them. I love that it has an in-built HR monitor and gives phone notifications)
  • Brooks running top and shorts
  • Brooks trainers
  • A spa day at Nutfield Priory (including spa treatment, use of facilities / gym / pool / sauna and lunch) – because that’d be very much needed during marathon training!

I also get to write a few blogs over on their blogging page.

This is obviously all amazing in itself but I’m actually really excited to have a half marathon in my diary as I haven’t done one in a while now, and especially one I’ve never done before. I’ll be about three weeks out from Chester so it’ll be really good to see where I’m at with my training and test out things like nutritional decisions (number of gels) and what I’m going to wear (i.e. avoid the dreaded chafe or over-heating).

I’ll continue to keep you guys updated with my training as always and also if you fancy reading my posts over at Run Reigate I’ll let you know when they’re up Open-mouthed smile

What’s your favourite distance to race?

Do you like to plan in certain races as part of your training?

Do you use a fitness tracker?

**Full disclosure: Run Reigate have offered me free entry into the race with the goodie bag in exchange for writing about my training on my blog and their blog. All opinions and training decisions are my own.**

Walking not running

Good morning and happy Monday.

Thank you for your lovely comments about my last post. Provided I’m no longer injured by the time the marathon comes about then I will run. Ideally I’d like to be able to run a good few runs before the marathon problem-free, perhaps even a 12 or 10 miler but we’ll see. The longer long runs are lost to me now sadly.

Ben and me have spoken at length about this and what we’ve sort of decided that I will run the Paris marathon with him. He was aiming for 9min/miles and I think that should be in theory do-able for me. But we’ve both agreed if one of us is really struggling, the other one can run on with no hard feelings. I know that sounds quite callous but I think it’s fairly pragmatic. Unless obviously we’re enjoying running together! I don’t want to hold Ben back if the wheels come off for me – he desperately wants to have a better marathon than his last.

Moving on to this weekend…despite feeling fairly pants about the whole running situation, it wasn’t too bad. We went over to my parents for an Indian takeaway. They have the best Indian. Sadly where we live it’s all very sub-par. I got my usual…

Indian takeaway Chicken tandoori starter and chicken tikka main, with lots of onion salad and regular salad. I know this sounds very boring but this is actually one of my favourite meals. I love the little pot of white sauce you get with it as well. I have no idea what’s in it and frankly don’t care. It rocks my world. And a few cheeky poppadoms as well of course 😉

Moving away from food, Ben and me have just treated ourselves to Fitbits [we bought them ourselves, I haven’t been asked to review them].Fitbit I used to have a pedometer but it was annoying to attach to my belt or trousers. But I love this! It has really encouraged me to walk more, I’m not even joking. It’s even become a little competition between Ben and me (though he’s winning by miles as he’s able to run and 18 miles is a lot of steps…). To the point that we’re fighting over who walks Alfie in the morning. OK we’re not fighting, but it encouraged me to give Alfie a huge walk yesterday morning while Ben was out running.Spring walk with AlfieThen when a friend came over we took Alfie for another long walk to catch up with our friend. In the end Sunday’s steps were over 20,000!

I sit a lot at work so this will definitely help remind me to get up a bit more and take a lunchtime walk, which I rarely do at the moment. The weather is getting nicer so this should be lovely.

As I can’t run at the moment I’ve been back at spin. Oh joy. On Saturday I did the 45 minute spin class followed by 20 minutes of rowing and then lots of strength work. Not nearly as exciting as Parkrun believe me (especially as it was the two year anniversary and it was a fancy dress one…onesies galore). But I just have to keep telling myself it won’t be long until I’m back again. Annoyingly though spin tends to aggravate my IT band and tightens it up. So instead this morning I went on the cross trainer, the rower and the stepper.

Am I the only person who’s never used the stepper before? I was quite confused what to do and had to creepily watch a woman using it to make sure I was doing it right. It was quite cool to see how many floors I’d climbed though. Silver linings and all that.

What machine do you always use at the gym? Which is your favourite?

Do you own a fitness tracker, like a Fitbit or a Nike Fuel band or a pedometer?

What’s your takeaway of choice?