MarathonTalk Austria Run Camp 2018 – part 2

So my blog has been offline for what seems like AGES due to virus issue I had. Thankfully I had some solid IT support (thanks Dad and Kyle) and it’s now back online. I’ve got so much to catch you up on…Firstly Part 2 of the now very delayed Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp recap. Catch up with Part 1 HERE.Thursday’s run was going to the epic run to Mariazell, the local town. Like most of the runs we did this week, it was very similar to last year. But this didn’t make it any less fun, or hard. We ran straight from the lodge, past our lake to basically up a mountain. It was a real tough slog. I remember it vividly from last year and I remember slacking behind the front guys and feeling a bit sorry for myself for not being as fit as them. This time I held my own and kept up with the lovely Sarah and Max, power couple extraordinaire who are super fast marathoners (FYI they CYCLED from Lyon to get to Austria for the camp, I mean WHAT – literally over 1,000 miles! They also have some cool World Records for doing marathons in fancy dress super fast).The hill did go on seemingly forever though…OK just a mile, but solidly uphill for an entire mile is quite a trek. There were some great downhills afterwards and it was nice to stretch the legs out again after the slog. The run was beautiful. As we ran downhill we went through a forest area which then suddenly opened out onto a quiet road with some traditional Austria looking houses (with some funky gnomes guarding the front).It was just so pretty. We then got onto a track that was used as one of the pilgrimage roads. Mariazell is a very popular pilgrimage destination and throughout the week we would often see streams of people hiking, some even carrying a giant cross. Along this path there were lots of those boxes containing religious photos, flowers and offerings. It was an interesting run.Eventually we got to the top of another climb and rested for a second. A few of the guys had (sensibly) brought hydration packs but a lot of us hadn’t and as it was a very warm day we were suffering. There looked like there was a tap next to a little hut but sadly it wasn’t working. One of the girls was on a bike (as she was suffering from a niggle) and she kindly gave round some of her water. Whew. Then it was decision time. Do I just run down to Marizell and then get the ski lift to the café at the top, or do I run up the very steep incline instead? Steep climb it was! I decided I’d run for as long as I could and then hike the rest.It became a bit of a battle of wills as to who would start walking first but I think I was probably that person. My legs were BURNING. But then I decided a run-walk strategy was probably the most sensible and I caught up with the two guys who were continuously running anyway. The real star of the show was Max who kept to a very slow but consistent run and managed to get past us all. Consistency seemed best! But I enjoyed my spurts of running and then walking as I method to get up. That said, the walking became less of a relief and it was just cycling through which muscles were burning the most towards the end.When we got to the top, over two miles of VERY steep climbs, I ran straight to the café and basically gasps “wasser, bitte, wasser”. Water was of the upmost necessity. I downed an ice cold pint of water before asking for another. The server was so nice and gave us all water. SO needed. Then we met up with the others who had decided to take it slower or take the ski lift and had a lovely ice cold lemon fizzy water (sparkling water with lemon juice – very zest and refreshing). Whew!!From there we ran the very downhill, steep mile to Mariazell. I was feeling quite tired by this point and decided to not run stupid speeds down the very precariously rocky downhill path. Unfortunately the lovely Tina who was on the bike took a tumble while she was biking downhill and cut up her knees. It was actually quite gruesome but she was very chipper about it all and went to the pharmacy for some bandages. Bless her.In Mariazell we all stopped for a light refreshment. I had a coffee and an apple – though I’d have loved an ice cream. But a few us were going to run back (about five miles or so) so I decided to give it a swerve. Some of the guys headed back in the mini-bus but a few us, with Martin, ran back. We were very much dependent on a route on John’s watch and it made for an interesting run. A few wrong turns and running up a pointless hill, but otherwise it was a fantastic run.Towards the end, about a mile and half to go, I got a second wind and found myself picking up the pace. I probably overcooked it too soon because I started fading towards the end as we got back to our lake. But it was a good finisher!

And then we all jumped into the lake as soon as we got our trainers off. Oh god it was SO good. I was so hot and tired and the lake was so cold and refreshing. I properly swam out and felt very at one with the world in that moment!In the end we’d run 16 miles in total for that day. It was a beast of a day and one I thoroughly enjoyed. We got back to the lodge and it was a case of how much food could I consume within the shortest amount of time, having not eaten since breakfast and it now pushing 4pm!! We were all a bit like wild animals at this point shoveling food down. It was fantastic.

That evening I had a massage with the lovely Karila (so needed) and I fell asleep during it! I was so relaxed and tired and she has a very soothing voice… Most evenings we also did a bit of yoga with Max leading us through a routine. I loved this! I don’t normally do yoga (though I do some stretching routines at the gym) and with all the running I found this super helpful to keep my legs feeling less like they’d been run over each day. It was very hard to not fall asleep again though in the end bit though…

That evening we had the quiz and, like last year, it was immensely fun. We had all nicely bonded and were having good banter 🙂 It was a great end to a really fantastic day.Unfortunately the next day we had the run I was least looking forward to. And almost foreshadowing my feelings the weather had taken a turn and it was a bit chilly and rainy. Ah well. This run was the last run and it was basically a 10k eliminator on a set course Martin had created. The idea being that we had to finish as close to 11am as possible in a set location. We just had to predict what time we’d do (max effort, no sandbagging) and start at that corresponding time. I gave myself a lot of headaches over this run.

I didn’t like the idea that I couldn’t run it how I wanted to….I didn’t like that I had to push myself when I didn’t really want to… I don’t like 10ks…. I wasn’t feeling in good enough shape to do a “good” time. Basically I was being a bit of a wet blanket about the whole affair. I’m very stubborn and only like to “try” at races when it suits me and get a bit grumpy if I’m forced to do something I’m not up for.Anyway, after much debate (with myself) I settled on 46 minutes. My PB is 42 minutes but I’d be nowhere near that but at the same time I didn’t want to say 50… I probably should have to take the unwanted pressure off so I could enjoy the run but ehhh.

We ran just under a mile to the starting place and everyone got ready for their respective starting times. It was drizzling and chilly. I was grumpy. I would be starting with Simon, Sarah (super speedster) and Tim. At 10:14am we headed off. Within a few minutes I was being left behind, despite sticking to a fairly even and (what I thought) was a reasonable pace to achieve 46 minutes. But everyone has their own pacing strategies of course. Soon I was lagging behind and feeling very miserable. Oh I know I was being a right pathetic piece of work. So many negative thoughts were spiraling around my head. By mile two I had pretty much given up. My legs were tired, my pace was slowing down and 46 minutes now sounded highly unrealistic. I decided to just give up on that goal and run however I wanted. Sod this stupid challenge <– throwing my toys out of the pram there.There was a very nasty hill that went on for about half a mile and I managed to catch Tim up as I seemed to be hit the incline with a renewed sense of vigor. Hmmm OK this wasn’t *so* bad. As I got to the downhill I decided to just let go. I could gain back some of the speed I lost at the beginning. In that sprint downhill I caught Simon up and managed to overtake him on the turnaround. This again bolstered my confidence. It wasn’t a race between us as we wanted to finish at the same time, but it made me feel more confident that I was back on track. Then we headed back to the start (it was an out-and-back route). I powered the uphill again and then powered the downhill. Now I was in the zone. I saw Sarah in the distance and made it my mission to catch her up. As I headed back I overtook the other guys who had stated before me. I wondered if I was overcooking it but I decided to hell with it. I’d rather push it now that I was feeling it again.As I raced towards the finish, having now overtaken Sarah just, about half a mile or so away, Martin, Connor and James thundered past me. I thought they’d over-cooked it as I was spot on with my timing (or so I thought). But then 6.1 miles ticked past (as did 46 minutes) and I realised I was going to have a long course. I finished in 46:36 at 6.3 miles. Turns out when I did the turnaround I went too far as most people turned before a barrier whereas I went on to the bridge a bit further on (personally I blame Martin’s poor instructions ;-)). But I was happy to have 46 minutes on my watch at least. What a turnaround from the sour puss mood I was in at the start eh! Everyone else did really well too. So a solid if challenging last run!To be honest, this recap could continue on and be even more long than it currently is. I could keep going on and on about how amazing this trip was (again) but I’ll leave it here. It was such a fun adventure full of fun and lovely people. I had a fabulous time. Martin, the organiser, is a cool and fun guy, he doesn’t crowd you or dictate what we should do. He’s very chilled and relaxed. I’m not sure how I’d get on at a “proper” training camp (the 10k eliminator run shows my willingness for that sort of thing eh) but this is perfect. Relaxed running, beautiful scenery and fun people. I thoroughly recommend!Have you ever been on a running holiday?

Do you like to be competitive with others or yourself?

Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp 2018 – part 1

After a morning in Geneva, James and I headed to the airport once again to then fly to Austria where we met up with fellow Marathon Talkers ready for the Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp.

I went to last year’s Austria Run Camp so I was at somewhat of an advantage, knowing what to expect. There were a few others returning as well so I was excited to see them and to meet the new people. As expected, everyone was absolutely lovely. So many different backgrounds and experience with running, it was just so interesting chatting to everyone. It was also lovely to see Rob, who looks after the lodge we stay in, and his now partner Fiona. They got together after the trip last year when she was one of the campers! How sweet is that? They’re both such lovely people, they’re very well suited.Anyway, so after a rather carsick-inducing minibus ride to the lodge (oh those winding roads…), we arrived in Styria.The accommodation is a beautiful former hunting lodge and still very much rocking those themes with antlers all over the place and old fashioned furniture and wood-everything. My room was gorgeous and had such a beautiful view out to the front. I even had my own bathroom which was great.After having some welcome drinks and meeting everyone properly, we then headed out for a gentle 5k run (two laps of the lake which was literally just outside the villa). It was a beautiful evening and everyone was in such good spirits. Beautiful views, lovely people and five days ahead of running to look forward to. What could be better?The next morning a few of us decided to get up a bit earlier, before breakfast, to have a quick dip in the lake. I mean, it was VERY quick. The temperature of the lake was absolutely baltic – far colder than last year. It seemed that Austria hadn’t quite been hit with the same heat wave as Britain had and while it was certainly warm and sunny, this hadn’t affected the lake that much.It was a fun experience nonetheless. Breakfast, like all the meals, were a communal affair in the big dining room.

The first run was a relatively gentle 7.5 miles to Annaberg, the nearby little town. This run was a steady uphill climb but it was lovely and relaxed and I felt strong and happy. The temperature was lovely and warm and it was sunny – I was glad to have remembered sun ran lotion! We stopped at a little spring to grab some water. It was cold and refreshing.This run was great because it allowed us to all chat and get to know each other. It was also nice to catch up with old running friends – some I made on last year’s Austria trip or other Marathon Talk meet-ups. Everyone was super friendly, the views were fantastic and it was just everything I love about running. No one caring about paces or minding to stop for photos. We eventually arrived at Annaberg (*cough* clearly my home town, eh). And we had a coffee and shared round some cake.Then we were back on the road to head back to the lodge. This was 6.4 miles, and started with a lovely downhill but then a fairly hilly climb. Basically most of the running we did was very lumpy! And while it was challenging, it was good fun.We had a great downhill section back to the lake which a few of us steamed off the front to stretch the legs a bit. I had the route on my watch (technology, eh!) and while I did stress to everyone I was probably the last person you’d want to trust with the navigation, we did manage to get back. I know, I’m as surprised as you. We got to the lake and immediately stripped off a few layers and got into the cold water. It was lovely!

And then it was a quick march back to the lodge for lunch. Lunch was always a buffet affair with mostly cold meats, cheeses, salads and garlic bread. It filled a hole! We also had a good rule that no phones were to be used at the dinner table. This made sure that we didn’t switch off from each other. It was a good reminder to put the screens away and enjoy each other’s company. At first I was a bit twitchy (the self-confessed phone addict that I am…) but afterwards it became more natural. Rather than checking out my Strava of the run or going onto Instagram pointlessly, I chatted more and appreciated the time away. Don’t get my wrong, I still Instagrammed the shit out of everything but just not when I was sat around other people in times of chatting and being social! 😉

In the mornings I got myself into a nice routine of waking up a bit earlier and doing a lap’s walk round the lake. It was about a half an hour walk and I found it helped loosen up my legs from the previous day’s run (something that became more needed as the week went on!) and it was a lovely peaceful time to listen to a podcast or music. I would often do an afternoon walk as well. As much as it’s lovely to be around interesting and like-minded people, it’s also nice to take some time out and just reflect on the day and have some “me time”. That sounds a bit “out there” but it’s something I really enjoy and why (amongst hundreds of other reasons) that I love having a dog.Anyway after my walk and breakfast, we headed out to Gemeindealpe where we caught a ski lift up to a half-way point of this very scenic mountain. Then we ran just over a mile basically straight up.I say run, there was lots of walking as well! And handily timed photo stops 😉Like many of the other runs we did this week, it was the same as last year, but this is no way made it any less beautiful or fun (/hard). It just meant I knew what was to come.We made it to the top, had a nice little break taking photos and having a drink in the café… and a bit of fun in the children’s park (possibly the most scenic children’s play area around) before heading off to then run across a ridge and then down the mountain.
It was SO much fun. This was possibly my favourite day (though it’s a tough call). The run downhill started on compacted stony tracks but then descended into a forest and it was all about tiny quick steps across stones and branches. You had to use so much concentration to focus on not missing a step, not tripping over and not twisting an ankle. I loved it! Again a few of us stretched out ahead – but it’s OK guys, I’ve got the route on my watch! No problem!Except we did in fact go the wrong way when we reached the bottom. In fairness, it wasn’t entirely clear which direction we were supposed to go… as we got closer to the lake that sat at the bottom of the mountain I realised we’d made the wrong decision (I say “we” to shift some blame but realistically we all know this was my fault). It was fiiine. All we had to do was wade across a river, climb over a precariously built tall fence and then hack our way through a forest of giant leafy (and stinging) plants. Totally fine. Our Strava Flybe was somewhat amusing it must be said….Anyway everyone arrived at the lake safe and sound in the end – a solid seven miles. We were all very hot. The lake looked very inviting. And so did the giant slide! OK it might have been for kids but this didn’t hold us back. A bunch of us (yes Martin included) headed immediately for the slide. Bloody fantastic! And this lake was a lot less cold than our lake (not warm! But definitely a few degrees higher). Then we chilled with ice cream and a cold drink. I mean, what better way to finish a run eh?That evening we chilled out watching the football with two giant bowls of crisps. Brilliant.The next day we had intervals planned. Now I know I’ve been on it with speed work fairly recently but with my calf being a bit sensitive and knowing that I would be doing so many miles on running over the week I decided it would be best if I didn’t do them. This might sound a little like I chickened out (and you’d probably be half right) but realistically it was me being a sensible runner. I know my body and I know when my calf is feeling sensitive the last thing to do is bosh out a load of sprinting. Plus I was in a certain frame of mind where I needed to get away from everyone for a bit and do a bit of solo running. Some escapism and Anna-only time.I ran with the guys to the spot where they’d be doing the intervals and then I headed out for a 10k run of my own. I was a bit dubious that I’d get lost on my own but I had a fairly simple out-and-back planned (if in doubt, Anna, always do an out-and-back). It was such a lovely run on my own. It was along a track under the trees and relatively flat until it got to a rather grueling hill. It didn’t go on for too long though thankfully and then there was a glorious stretch of downhill which I gently plodded down, rather than powering down as I had the day before. This run was about the chill and ‘clearing my mind’ factor. A very lovely and gentle run, far better for my mind and body than blasting out crazy sprints.Afterward I watched the end of the intervals and then we all headed to the nearby café (the only café within a short distance of the lodge) and had a cold drink and cake with everyone.That evening we had a fantastic BBQ (which included some locally roaming venison). We chilled, we chatted, and of course we ate 😀
What I love about the Austria Run Camp is that it’s very much not just about the running. Yes the running is important of course but realistically by lunchtime we’re usually done. It’s just nice to chat to other runners from all walks of life in a relaxed and beautiful environment. I would find myself taking an impromptu nap on the sofa in the living room or chatting to Martin and the others about the pros and cons of social media, or lounging in the sunshine on the terrace just watching the world go by (and a very slow-paced world so far away from the crazy busy world I normally live in).The running was done in a relaxed way, nothing set in stone, nothing dictated… no real structured training or seriousness. This is the kind of running I love. I’ll leave my recap there for now…

Have you ever been to Austria?

Do you enjoy more structured or relaxed training?

Have you ever been to a training camp?

Geneva and parkrun du Lac de Divonne

I am back from my holiday adventures! I have so much to talk about I don’t even know where to begin.

I’ll start with my little trip to Geneva. James and I arrived in Geneva Friday evening. Our hotel was actually in France though (Geneva is right next to the border). We got a taxi and headed for the nearest restaurant that would still be open (funnily enough, it was an America-style grill place) and then we had to lug our bags a mile to the hotel afterwards. It was a bit of a ball ache it must be said but hey ho. The little town we stayed in was very pretty and ridiculously French – like you definitely knew you were in France! It was gorgeous.

The next morning was the time time for me to execute my genius “get to parkrun” plan. The nearest one was the parkrun du Lac de Divonne (again located in France). There weren’t any buses that came near our hotel and went to the parkrun which caused some complications but I’d found that in Geneva you could hire bikes for free. Geneva was only four miles from our hotel so the plan was to run in, grab the bikes and then cycle the roughly 11 miles to parkrun. Eeeeeeasy. Simple!

The four miles (which I’d already planned out and put onto my watch before the trip – check me out being all organised) were super easy. A real novelty was running through a tunnel which went under the Geneva airport runway which was rather cool – and ran from France into Switzerland. One for the memories!

We passed the Place des Nations with all the flags lined up at the front. There was also the Broken Chair in front and the water fountain things.I didn’t realise but the Broken Chair was to commemorate the landmine victims and encourage countries to prohibit their use. Quite poignant.Because we were there so early there weren’t many people. It was nice to see some of the key touristy areas in the quieter times. And obviously get good photo opportunities! And then we got back to running to the bike hire place, which was about a mile or so away.The bike hire spot took a bit of time to actually find. And then we found it was closed and not open until 8am which was about 15 minutes away and meaning that suddenly 11 miles on a hired bike was going to be quite the ask. When we finally got inside the shop we were then informed that we’d need ID. Ah. We had money and our phones, but no ID. No bikes for us then.

I take the full responsibility for this idiotic planning because, let’s face it, it was my fault for not checking the website (standard Anna-ism). After some discussion we decided to just take the hit and call an Uber – annoyingly now to be more expensive than if we’d have just done that from the hotel as we were now further away. Oh well, the things you do for parkrun tourism eh (ironically a free 5k event…).We arrived in good time and had a wander around the lake and then a quick visit to the single public toilet. The toilet was very odd. When it flushed it apparently washed out the entire room… you needed to make sure that you weren’t in there when that happened basically.We then headed over to the start…to find that we were surrounded by quite a few fellow Brits. In fact, there were so many British people compared to the French locals that it felt like the Benidorm of parkrun. That said, it was interesting to have the parkrun course explained in both French and English. Very cool.Then we were off. The parkrun was super flat. It was basically an out and back along the tarmac road next to the lake. It was very pretty but completely out of any shade and, as it was a rather hot and sunny day, this was quite taxing. I wanted to try hard but I just couldn’t seem to get my legs to go particularly fast (relative to what I’ve previously been running). I felt a little bit demoralised and that I’d wasted a decent course. But then I told myself to get over myself and just enjoy running in a different country in a beautiful place. Perspective certainly helps!

So I whipped out my phone for some mid race snaps. I find this is a sure fire way to turn a hard run into an enjoyable experience. It takes the pressure off and I started enjoying myself a lot more.The finish line was a long straight strip of road which was great if you fancied yourself a sprint finish but reminded me horribly of the long and never-ending finish of the Dubai Marathon… *shudders*.Anyway I finished in 22:43 and first female. Though the field was very small – there were only 50 or so people actually running in total. I also came 6th as well which is definitely my best position ever.

From the parkrun website they’d mention a café and given some directions so James and I headed over there – which was quite a walk. When we got there we realised it was part of a small children’s adventure park thing. We could see a café inside but the whole place was locked until 10am. So we hung around until they opened up. We were hoping to get some food but, using my very limited French (i.e. “petit déjeuner?”), we found they were only serving drinks. Well, the server did offer me Tiramisu but I politely declined.

We then tried the second café that was given on the website… another long walk away. But we eventually arrived and found the only place to buy food was a bakery. We could buy something from there and then sit in the café next door with a coffee and eat it (apparently a very acceptable thing to do). Obviously I wasn’t expecting a greasy spoon but I did fancy something a bit more than a croissant or cake (shocking I know).

I managed to get myself a beef and cheese panini though and that helped tame the runger. Because we’d faffed so much with the different cafés we found the other parkrunners had since left. This was somewhat problematic for us later when we could have done with a bit of advice on how to get back…

Uber apparently did not want to pick us up from our location. To be fair, we were in a fairly quiet a remote French village. The thought of having problems getting back to our hotel hadn’t really crossed my mind. Now, as we started walking around the small town, it suddenly became apparent that this was a very real situation. Having previously checked for bus routes as a method to get to parkrun, I knew there would be no direct or easy route through public transport. And we certainly couldn’t find any bus stops with anything remotely near our destination. Right.

After getting not much help from two police men who spoke limited English (but were very nice) we felt a bit stuck. Two stupid Brits with no local knowledge or French… our own fault but frustrating nonetheless. We asked in a local café and the waiter, though friendly, wasn’t entirely helpful. He sort of shrugged in that very French way. He did eventually give me two numbers to try ringing for a taxi. Neither of which were any good – one couldn’t understand my request and the other laughed saying he wasn’t a taxi.

Panic now set in a little. It was over eight miles back and getting very hot. Sure we could run back but having run seven miles and feeling quite exhausted by the whole charade that morning, neither of us fancied it. Walking would be ridiculous too. Both our phone batteries were getting dangerous low and we decided to stop using them for anything other than emergency map use.

Finally we found a hotel and managed to beg the owner to ring us a taxi. She was super helpful and very apologetic when she told us it would be 50 Euros to get back. Well we had no choice! What a mess eh?

We did manage to arrive safely back at the hotel. Thank God. Another one for the Anna Book of Idiocy… but HEY I got a cool parkrun done!! Swings and roundabouts.For the rest of the day we spent walking round Geneva in the sunshine. Handily we’d gotten a decent piece of information from the taxi driver who told us about a place called Plainpalais where we could watch the football in a big outdoors area with food and drink.

I’ve been really enjoying the World Cup and as it was Argentina vs. France it was definitely a game to catch, being that we were right on the French border as well. The atmosphere was bound to be good.

We arrived luckily about 10 minutes before the match began and then queued to get in. I was highly affronted when the security guard told me I wasn’t allowed to take my apple in with me (no food and drink other than what you buy within apparently). I was so annoyed at having to throw a perfectly good apple away (I even offered to her but she didn’t fancy it. Hmm). Luckily though she was too concerned with the one apple in my hand she didn’t spot the other one hidden away in the depths of my handbag. Always good to have a safety apple 😉

James and I found ourselves two decent seats next to pop-up bar in the shade and settled in to watch the match.We had a few beers and enjoyed the atmosphere and cheering. It was good fun. By half time though we were both fairly hungry, having not eaten since ‘breakfast’ and it was now closing into the evening.We found ourselves a pizzeria (that happily had a TV) and continued watching there before moving on to a crêperie for some crêpes (when near France, eh). I had a delicious chocolate brownie one.
It was divine. By this point I was steadily becoming rather merry – being quite the lightweight and having being drinking on an empty stomach.

We watched the next match in the evening before calling it a day and heading back to a bus to take us back to the hotel. By the time we arrived back at the hotel (after passing through a weird carnival in the local town where our hotel was – very trippy in my tipsy state) we’d done over 42,000 steps. Jeeze. I was absolutely shattered!

Have you ever been to Geneva?

Would you have paid for a taxi to get to the parkrun?

Have you been enjoying the football?

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?

Jersey parkrun

I’m so chuffed I can finally say I’ve done the Jersey parkrun! Since I found out the parkrun Alphabet Challenge was a ‘thing’ I’ve been trying to do different parkruns hitting all the letters (apart from X – there isn’t one yet). It’s silly but I find it really good fun.

There are so many parkruns all over the UK (and the world) so it gets you to different places, meeting new people and just having a laugh really. Over this year I’ve managed to tick off quite a few letters. I’m strangely very proud of myself.Anyway this weekend saw my friend Mike and I getting a flight from Southampton to Jersey so I could tick off ‘J’. Mike loves parkrun too but isn’t quite as mad as me with the Alphabet Challenge – though he’s now becoming more persuaded!

I took a half day Friday so we could fly Friday afternoon. The flight was super easy and fast. We also both only packed hand luggage which made things even cheaper and easier. The plane was tiny and barely half full. We quickly arrived in Jersey and found a huge T-rex which was amusing!It even moved and roared! I love dinosaurs (weird I know) so this made my day straight away. We got out of the tiny airport and walked straight onto the number 15 bus. The buses in jersey are fantastic. It’s £2 for wherever you’re going. Handily one was going literally just then to St. Helier where we were staying. Twenty minutes later we arrived at Liberation Station, the main bus station. Super easy even for me! To be fair, neither Mike or I are the most savvy of people so it was highly likely something was going to go wrong on our little holiday… fingers crossed eh.We got two rooms at the Avoca Guest House, which was about a ten minute walk from the station.It was tiny and old school British quaint but it did the job and the owners were lovely and friendly. It was also cheap! It included breakfast but as we would be parkrunning Saturday and then half marathoning Sunday we wouldn’t be partaking.Bless Mike, he offered to take the smaller of the two rooms where the bathroom was shared with one of the other rooms (how weird) and I got the bigger room with an en suite. I was very grateful. Especially as I do always need a wee during the night.

We ditched our bags and then headed for a walk to see the local area and to find some dinner. Unfortunately it seemed like the rest of Jersey also had this idea and most places were rammed. We tried a great looking little Mexican, La Hacienda, but it was fully booked. St. Helier is a small seaside town – very British but also felt a little bit French, which would make sense considering it’s proximity to the country. And the weather was beautiful. Sunny and warm!

Eventually we found a place called the Canteen and Bar which looked reasonable enough. It wouldn’t have been our first choice but by this point we were super hungry and tired. We shared some falafels and chicken “cakes” and I had chilli beef and cheese on nachos (not my usual but after seeing someone with nachos in the Mexican I was now craving them) and it was very tasty.For pudding we decided to drop into a crêperie that we’d spotted on our meanderings. Mike had salted caramel and I had Belgium milk and white chocolate with honeycomb toffee crunch ice cream. Absolutely heavenly! Every bite was like an explosion of ‘to die for’ taste. I’m not usually a pancake or crêpe fan but this was just divine.Then we parted to our little rooms ready for parkrun in the morning. Through the night I was intermittently woken up by thunder and lightning. It went on pretty much the entire night and we woke up to it still carrying on and heavily raining. Uh oh. I’d only packed summer clothes and no coat! This had not been forecasted at all.Luckily I’d brought my umbrella and Mike was able to borrow one of the guest house’s umbrellas and we walked to the bus stop. We’d have gotten absolutely soaked had we not had umbrellas but it was still rather grim. I’d packed two options for that morning’s run (a strappy tank and my parkrun apricot t-shirt) and in the end wore both as I was cold. The bus journey took about 20 minutes and we picked up more parkrunners as we went. One of them told us that it might be cancelled due to the thunder and lightning and they were making a decision whether to go through with it or not. WHAT!!! Noooooo! Imagine coming all this way and not being able to get my ‘J’! Thankfully when we arrived I saw a Tweet that said it was to go ahead as long as the thunderstorm held off. Thank goodness.The parkrun was located next to the Les Quennevais sports centre. [Side note: check out Paul Jeffrey’s blog for some more good info on this parkrun]. We had a quick mosey about before heading back into the shelter of the sports centre. I had a quick wee and then eventually headed out for a mile warm-up. Absolutely necessary as I was quite chilly. The cycle track near the sports centre was exactly a mile which was perfect and gave us a good idea of what a section of the course would be like.We met lots of other lovely parkrunners as we waited about. There were a lot of tourists like us who had pretty much just come to do the parkrun (for the Alphabet Challenge like us) and some also doing the half the next day. There was one couple that had only flown in that morning and would be flying back out that afternoon. I mean that is mental! More mental that us…One woman, Marie, just had Jersey left to do for the challenge – which was super exciting. She also gave me lots of solid information about how to get ‘Z’ (Zary in Poland) and some tips on how to travel there and where to stay. Super helpful. She had a t-shirt made with all the letters she’d done. Very dedicated. Annoyingly I’d made the mistake of not bringing my cow cowl… everyone was wearing theirs!

The first timer’s brief was hilarious because it was pretty much 80% of the field who moved over to hear the briefing. The marshal had to grab the megaphone so everyone could hear. And then we lined up ready to go. Though I’d checked the results for last week and seen over 300 people had done it, this week there was definitely less than 200. The run director did an introduction and then said “three, two, parkrun!” and apparently we were off! It was mental. I started running and realised there weren’t too many females ahead of me and decided to be stupid and throw caution to the wind and try and get first female. Stupid because of the the half the next day but ehhh.

I’d had a fairly rubbish week of running, with every run feeling hard and lethargic, so I was pretty sure the half wouldn’t go to plan, which is why I decided to capitalise on feeling good then and getting something out of the parkrun in terms of placing.

The first mile ran round the sports centre area on tarmac and had a slight, brief incline but otherwise was flat. Then we headed off along the railway line path which was compacted sand/trail and easy to run on. It was also nice and flat but you did have to do some puddle dodging. I managed to overtake the females in front of me and was now first girl. I felt the run was comfortably tough and the gentle rain helped cool me down – wearing two tops had not been the right decision!

After the first turnaround I realised the wind had been behind us and now it was against us… ehhh. Eventually though we ran down a small slope and got to another turnaround. It made me think, what’s better running downhill against the wind or running uphill with the wind behind? It didn’t matter hugely as we were soon heading out from this path and back to the tarmac where the finish was on the grass. I was surprised to get my token and see I’d gotten 7th place! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten such a high placing before. My time was 20:55. Happy days!But yeah, probably not the wisest decision. And my calf, which had been feeling super tight all week, was niggling a little. Of course. I signed the guest book and chatted to the others while I waited for Mike who wasn’t too far behind me (24:09). He too was supposed to be taking it easy but had run a bit harder than planned.We then headed upstairs of the sports centre to have a hot drink with a few of the other tourists. We enjoyed a lovely cup of tea with them, swapping running and parkrun stories. It’s so nice to meet people as crazy as yourself 😉 One of them, Richard, had got a hire car and offered to drop us back at our guest house which was very nice of him.

At this point Mike and I were ready to eat our own arms as we hadn’t had breakfast yet. It was about 1pm by the time we’d showered and found ourselves a cafe to eat in! It was a lovely place called Nude Food Cafe, which was kind of a health food cafe I guess. Lots of Buddha bowls, raw desserts and smoothies. We went for a rather healthified fry-up… poached eggs, pancetta, spinach, mushrooms, sweet potato and sourdough toast. It was delicious but I hoovered it up very quickly.Afterwards we shared a raw caramel shortbread. It was made out of coconut sugar, almost butter and things like that. It wasn’t overly sweet but it was nice.Thankfully it had stopped raining and was starting to brighten up. From the cafe we decided to randomly head north on the bus to go to do a bit of exploring. To be honest, our decision was down to what sounded good on the map and what bus was available within the next twenty minutes. So we headed to Greve de Lecq. It was to be an adventure!It was definitely a good choice though. The sun was out and we were at a beautiful bay.The beach had barely a handful of people on it and yet the sun was beating down. It was so beautiful. We obviously had to dip our feet into the sea as well. Stupidly I did manage to put my hoodie in the only puddle of water on the rocks…what an idiot. But as the sun was out I thankfully didn’t need it anymore.From the beach we then did a two mile hike along a clifftop path. It was a very windy and narrow path and at times very steep – not exactly ideal the day before a half but it was so beautiful and peaceful we didn’t care.This was such a random little excursion. We were so proud of ourselves to have found such a gem of a location and something fun to do that afternoon. I mean we were really just there for parkrun and the race, so everything extra was a bonus. And this was a definite bonus!

Eventually we caught the bus back and headed straight to the Mexican from the previous night, determined to get ourselves seated. We literally rocked up as soon as it opened. Amazingly they had one tiny table available (apparently the restaurant is always booked up for two week’s in advance!).

I’m so glad we got this table because honestly this is one of the best tasting meals I’ve had in ages. Like literally every mouthful was an explosion of taste. It was incredible. I had chicken wings to start (I know, I know, always the same) and then ‘deconstructed’ lamb tacos for main. GOD it was good.Mike had a burger with slow cooked pork on it. Honestly the food was incredible. I never wanted it to end! I had churros for pudding which were delicious as well but really the tacos were the main event. Maybe not ideal food for the next day’s half but it was worth it!

I’ll save the half for another post…

Have you ever been to Jersey before?

What is your Mexican dish of choice? Normally I love fajitas.

What’s the furthest you’ve ever travelled for a race or run?