Rants and raves #21

**Disclaimer: I’m writing this blog post after spending the majority of the day surrounded by students with coughs and colds. I predict that by the time this is published I’ll have a cold. As always all rants and raves and moans and groans represent my own views. Other far, far superior and less opinionated running blogs are available.

If you check out the relevant section of The Running Awards site you’ll find loads of awesome running blogs listed. Please take the time to vote and support your favourite running blogger**

Rave: Autumn

I’m incredibly fickle. Some days I hate autumn – usually when I nearly step in a cunningly concealed pile of dog mess or an acorn lands on my head – other days I love autumn.AutumnMaking the most of the autumn sunshine. It’s hard to believe it’s almost November.

After an amazing walk in the sunshine earlier today, I’ve decided that I currently love autumn. I just wish we didn’t have to mess with the clocks.

Rant: Christmas in October

While I love autumn, I’m not so keen on seeing Christmas food and decorations in the shops in late September/early October. I think that Christmas should be ‘banned’ until we’ve got Halloween and Bonfire Night out of the way.Christmas SeptemberI took this photo in my local M&S at the end of September.

I personally quite enjoy Christmas, however, I’m aware that a lot of people really struggle during the festive period. I’ve already witnessed people arguing about how much to spend on Christmas presents. I think my brother probably has the right idea. He is going to be spending Christmas abroad again.

Rave: Blogging

This is a slightly strange one so please bear with me. I guess most bloggers love blogging because of the freebies. Actually, I’m only joking and I’m sure that the majority of bloggers enjoy blogging for other reasons. While I’m aware my series of weekly half marathon training updates weren’t very interesting, writing them has had a slightly unexpected benefit; photographs and memories.

London memoriesSo many amazing memories.

Thanks to my weekly updates I took loads of photos during my most recent trips down to London. Without this blog I wouldn’t have taken so many photos. Without this blog I wouldn’t have so many reminders of spending quality time with someone who is now seriously ill. So take shit loads of photos and irritate your non-blogger friends and family and ignore the slightly strange looks in pubs and restaurants. I’m pleased that I did!

Rant: Insomnia

A rather random rant but I’ve included it here as it’s having a huge impact on my life and the moment. I’ve never been very good at dealing with uncertainty and not knowing how long my friend has got left and not knowing when I’m going to start my new job – the latest estimate is sometime in January, is beginning to stress me out.Insomnia

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I go to bed at a sensible time; wakeup at 3/4am and then lie awake for what feels like hours over-thinking everything. I’ve been functioning on limited sleep for almost a month now and it’s not ideal.

Rave: Running

I may be struggling to sleep but I’m really enjoying my running at the moment. My right heel and left foot *touch wood* have been behaving themselves since the Great Birmingham Run, and I’m enjoying not following a rigid(ish) training plan. Hopefully my love affair with running will continue during the festive period. Although I don’t believe in counting calories and working out how many miles I need to run to burn off a mince pie, it will be good to keep reasonably active during the festive period.

I’ve entered the Run up to Christmas challenge and have set myself the target of running 50km in December.

Rant: Great Run events

I’ve already had a bit of a moan about the not so secure baggage buses at the recent Great Birmingham Run so I won’t repeat myself. Unfortunately, I’ve got a few other issues with Great Run events so if you love Great Run events, I’d skip this particular rant.GBR Goody BagI think the small bag of Fruit Pastilles was the highlight of this goody bag.

Given the high cost of entering events such as the Great North Run and the Great South Run, I think that runners should be able to officially transfer their entry to another runner or get a refund. Yes there should be a deadline for this, but I’m sure that offering official transfers and refunds would vastly reduce the amount of ‘illegal’ number swapping that takes place.

Finally, I’m not a fan of having to search for my medal in the bottom of a goody bag. Please take note Great Run!

Rave: Getting my work published in an academic journal

As I’ve done rather a lot of ranting in this post I’ve decided to finish with a bonus rave. After a lot of stress and tears, one of the papers I started writing when I was a research student has now been published.Baxter paper

Just another three papers to finish.

Let’s just ignore the fact that my masterpiece was published online on Friday 13th. I’m also ignoring the fact that another paper I’ve written needs to be formatted before I can submit it.

I was going to rant about trains and delays but I think I’ve written enough waffle for one blog. I also need to crack on with some work.

Once again, if you’ve reached the end of my latest selection of rants and raves then thank you!

Have you made a start on your Christmas shopping? My friend Kate has just informed me she’s done all of her Christmas shopping.

Do you have any tips for dealing with insomnia? I’m getting to the stage I’ll try almost anything. 

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Race Report: Great Birmingham Run

I’ll start this post with a bit of a disclaimer. This race report is likely to turn into a bit of an essay. I’ve now had a week to reflect on what happened so will hopefully avoid writing a load of negative waffle. Like last year, the race was reasonably well organised and very well supported – almost too well supported near the finish – I just had a bad day at the office.

Last Sunday I ran completed the Great Birmingham Run. Unfortunately, my race didn’t go to plan.

The night before the race was stress free. I made myself eat a huge portion of Spag Bol and ensured that I drank loads of water. I laid out my running gear and went to bed (alone) at a sensible time.

Running gear

The Great Birmingham Run didn’t start until 13:30 so I didn’t roll out of bed until 08:00. I ate a huge portion of Weetabix and a couple of bananas, drank several cups of tea and spent the next hour faffing around. I felt relaxed – almost too relaxed – and only started to feel my stress levels increase when I discovered that the race number magnets I’d bought were useless. After a couple of failed attempts, I used my ‘lucky’ safety pins and decided that I could live with a wonky race number. I had a shit, shower and (leg) shave, got dressed and packed my bag.

At 10:00 I ate another portion of Spag Bol, drank a large glass of orange nuun, went to the toilet again and was ready to go. I walked to the train station, boarded an extremely busy train, the 400 per cent increase in passenger numbers and lycra seemed to confuse the regular Sunday shoppers, and arrived in Birmingham with plenty of time to spare. I met up with Matt and his friend and after a quick ‘real toilet’ stop, we headed towards the race village.

To the start

Race Village[Source]

Apologies, this is already getting slightly lengthy. We watched a few marathon runners approach the finish, navigated our way through crowds of runners and their supporters to the baggage buses, dropped our gear and found and joined the queue for the portaloos. Fortunately, I timed my final portaloo visit to perfection this year and didn’t start the race needing a wee.

The start area wasn’t very well policed and was slightly chaotic. Like last year, the warm-up was a little farcical and the sun made an unwelcome appearance five minutes before the race started. Thanks to the late start time, I felt far too relaxed and not in what I call ‘race mode’. Judging by some of the conversations other runners were having, I wasn’t the only person feeling far too relaxed.

The race started and I spent the first 10 minutes telling myself I was about to run a half marathon while making a real effort to slow down. Last year I set out at an unsustainable pace and my race was over before it started. Guess what? This year, although my pace was far more sensible, I quickly realised there was no way I could sustain it for 13.1 miles. The first few miles of the Great race are not exactly what I would describe as scenic. Let’s just say, even in broad daylight, I’d avoid walking along some of the streets we ran along.

Although the route improved when we entered Cannon Hill Park, I was already struggling and decided to resort to running for four minutes and walking for a minute. I must have been sleep-running or slightly delirious as I failed to notice two different official race photographers. At least they didn’t capture me during one of my walking intervals!Cannon Hill ParkWe left Cannon Hill Park and completed a lap of Edgbaston Cricket Ground. As a cricket fan this sounded amazing, however, the reality was a little disappointing. We left Edgbaston and headed onto Pershore Road. The half marathon became more challenging here as the course was extremely crowded and we were running directly into the wind. By this stage I accepted that I was having a really bad day at the office, seriously considered dropping out, but decided to carry on. At least I’d get value for money…

At times I felt I was making very little progress. Last year the faster runners heading along Pershore Road in the opposite direction inspired me. This year, they just irritated me and I felt jealous that they’d completed the most of the 13.1 miles and were heading back towards the finish. Sorry faster runners.

The lowest point came when the route took me through an energy gel stop. For some reason, just thinking about consuming an energy gel made me feel incredibly nauseous. I’d just about recovered when the route took us away from Pershore Road and onto Mary Vale Road. The road was like a miniature Mount Everest and I found myself taking an extended walking break. The train waiting at the nearby station looked very enticing.

Mary Vale Road[Source]

Once I’d finished walking up Mary Vale Road I realised we were finally heading back towards the centre of Birmingham and the finish. Happy days. I increased my pace from ‘power walk’ to ‘slow shuffle’ and let gravity carry me past Cadbury Park (I don’t recall seeing Cadbury World) and back onto the main Pershore Road.

The next few miles were uneventful so I won’t go into too much detail. There was a slightly hazardous water station, another energy sapping hill, several collapsed runners receiving treatment at the side of the road – I heard a lot of sirens – and a lot of run walking. Definitely not an experience I want to repeat again.

The hills of Birmingham were alive with the sound of ambulance sirens.

Elevation

After what felt like a lifetime, I found myself back in the centre of Birmingham. The race organisers clearly don’t like runners much as the final mile was challenging. I power walked up the hill near Moor Street station (the official race photographer captured me at my best) and played dodge the spectators and Sunday afternoon shoppers. A couple of minutes later I spotted the ‘400m to go’ sign and made myself run.

There was no way I was walking in the final 400m.

Finish line

I spotted the finish line, increased my pace and attempted what felt like a sprint finish but was probably more of a hobble. I must have looked a little unwell as I was led towards the medical tent by a marshal. It was carnage inside the medical tent and some of the runners I saw looked seriously unwell. Let’s just say I was pleased I was allowed to leave after only 30 minutes. I rejoined the finish area, collected a goody bag, checked the bag contained the correct medal and navigated my way through crowds of supporters back to the baggage buses. Like last year, security was non-existent and I was pleased to see my bag.

The journey home by train was a nightmare as London Midland hadn’t put on any extra trains to cope with the increased number of passengers. The train was ridiculously busy, boiling hot and less than 10 minutes into the journey a runner collapsed. In the end the train was delayed for almost an hour while we waited for an ambulance. I got home 95 minutes after leaving Birmingham, removed my trainers and assessed my feet, collapsed on top of my bed and fell asleep wearing my stinky running kit. I didn’t even have the energy to investigate the contents of my goody bag.

Medal and tshirt

I’ve now had over a week to reflect on what happened and have stopped sulking about my performance. While I definitely wouldn’t enter the Great Birmingham Run again, I’ve already entered the Cambridge Half in March.

Have you ever had a really disappointing race? Reading feedback on farcebook made me realise I wasn’t the only runner to have a bad day at the office last Sunday.

How do you cope with fuelling for races that start in the afternoon? I have a feeling that the late start caught out a lot of runners.

Hunkemoller sports backpack review

Last month, I was given the opportunity to review a sports backpack manufactured by a brand I hadn’t come across before; Hunkemoller. The sports backpack is part of Hunkemoller’s limited edition Caro E collection and as I needed a new bag for the gym, I checked out the collection, loved what I saw and accepted the opportunity.

A couple of weeks later a gorgeous pink sports backpack arrived in the post.

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Now that the backpack has accompanied me on a couple of trips to the gym, my local tennis club and a half marathon, I feel that I’m in a position to produce a hopefully useful review.

An introduction to the Hunkemoller Caro E collection

Caro Einhoff is a German blogger with a huge passion for fashion and beauty. In collaboration with Hunkemoller, Caro recently designed her own sports collection featuring a pink colour scheme. Combined with black, this sports collection aims to have a feminine but powerful look and feel. The collection includes a variety of sports bras, leggings, tops and other accessories.

The review process

When I first unpacked the backpack, I must admit that the first thing I noticed was the quirky and slightly unusual design of the backpack. It is definitely far more eye-catching than my current sports bag.

After spending a few minutes trying to work out how the clip lock fastening worked, I was ready to fill the backpack with my gym gear. As I like to take a lot of ‘stuff’ with me when I go to the gym, I decided to see how much I could fit into the backpack. Thanks to the clever design of the backpack, I managed to squeeze in everything I needed and more. The zip and clip lock fastening which allows for expansion when required, means that the backpack is far, far roomier than it first appears.

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On Sunday, I decided to let my Hunkemoller sport backpack experience the organised chaos of a baggage bus at a major running event. Although my existing sports bag has more interior storage compartments and pockets, the Hunkemoller backpack is so distinctive; I was able to spot it as soon as I stepped on the baggage bus. As a runner who was feeling a little delirious after completing a half marathon, this was definitely a positive.

The Verdict

All in all, I was really impressed with the Hunkemoller sport backpack. The backpack has quilted fabric and looks quirky and stylish, almost too stylish for a 38 year old runner. The inside of the backpack is fully lined and contains a small zipped interior pocket which is just about large enough to keep some change, keys etc secure.

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The only aspect of the backpack I’m not so keen on – this is more down to my own personal taste – is the colour; pale pink, a colour I don’t think is very practical. Unfortunately, after a couple of train journeys, a trip to the gym and a few hours inside a baggage bus, the backpack already looks a little grubby in places.

I’m quite clumsy, and can guarantee that the backpack will end up ‘wearing’ my sports drink at some stage. Luckily the backpack can be washed on a standard 40 degree washing machine cycle. This is a massive positive as it means I can continue to use the sports backpack without worrying about it getting dirty. I just hope that it survives the washing machine!

So thanks again to Hunkemoller for the opportunity to review the sports backpack. The backpack is part of the limited edition Caro E collection, is available from Hunkemoller and has a RRP of £32.00.

**Full disclosure: I was sent a Hunkemoller sports backpack for free in return for a review. I did not receive any payment for this review. As always all opinions and photographs are my own**

Great Birmingham Run training week 16

I hope that everyone had an amazing weekend. I think the highlight of my weekend was managing to complete the Great Birmingham Run yesterday. It wasn’t fast, it wasn’t pretty – I got to see the inside of the medical tent at the finish – but I completed the 13.1 miles.Collage 39The final week of my 16-week beginners’ half marathon training plan – the ‘taper week and race’ – contained three training runs and ended with the Great Birmingham Run. I completed a 20 minute recovery run on Monday, a comfortable 40 minute run on Wednesday and an easy 15 minute run on Saturday. As my head finally started to feel ‘normal’ again, I made sure that I completed every training run.

I also did my best to avoid people with coughs and colds. Being unemployed definitely does have some advantages.

Monday – 20 mins easy jog

Although I definitely set my alarm for 05:30, I must have somehow managed to turn it off in my sleep as I didn’t wake up until 08:30. Returning to full-time work and working 39 hours a week is going to be such a shock to my system! As I didn’t want to start the final week of my training with a stressful run, I decided to spend some time through the PF stretches and exercises I’d been neglecting.

Once I was confident the school rush had ended I headed out on my run. Unfortunately, Geoffrey the Garmin was still broken so I used him as a stop watch rather than a GPS. My 20 minute run was probably a little faster than an ‘easy jog’ as I’m completely useless at pacing myself. I also tend to run slightly faster when I’m feeling good and nothing hurts. My suspicions were confirmed when I got home and worked out that I’d covered over 2 miles.

The final week of training had got off to a positive start.

Tuesday – Rest

Tuesday was a productive but incredibly restful rest day. After four consecutive days of pavement pounding, my legs definitely felt like they needed a day off. I spent the morning sorting through several boxes of junk and shredding loads of old paperwork and the afternoon reviewing an unpublished academic manuscript.

Wednesday – 40 mins comfortable

When my alarm woke me at 05:30 I turned it off and went back to sleep. For once I wasn’t being lazy; I was waiting for my second-hand replacement for Geoffrey the Garmin to arrive. After spending the morning waiting for the post to be delivered, my replacement Garmin finally arrived at lunchtime. Unfortunately, the battery was completely flat so I had to put Geoffrey II on charge before I could delete all the previous owners’ speedy data.

I didn’t head out on my run until almost 20:30. The run had the potential to be crap as it was dark, humid and incredibly windy. I was, however, so pleased to have a fully functioning Garmin, I ignored the less than ideal weather conditions (and a slight creepy taxi driver) and enjoyed my evening run.

Thursday – Rest

I got up at a respectable time, got changed into some gym gear and spent half an hour working my way through some of Jasyoga’s new Athletes for Yoga video series featuring Olympian Alysia Montano.  Although I’ve been subscribing to Jasyoga for almost two years, I realised that I’m still not very good at relaxing. Perhaps some people just aren’t very good at chilling out?

By the way, if you’d like to try Jasyoga, I was sent the promo code ‘AUTUMNRESET’ for one month’s free access.

The rest of Thursday was uneventful. I entered the Cambridge Half Marathon and spent a few more hours decluttering my PhD paperwork and text books. I spent the rest of the day writing an abstract for a paper and listing yet more junk on eBay. As I felt that I’d had a reasonably productive day, I treated myself to fish and chips and then spent an enjoyable couple of hours lying on my bed reading.

Friday – Rest

Friday was another reasonably restful but incredibly productive rest day. My paper on environmental flows was published in Progress in Physical Geography. Unfortunately, I can’t actually access the paper as I’m no longer affiliated to a university. After that bit of excitement my mentor phoned. Sometimes it’s just good to talk.

Saturday – Rest

I should have completed a 10-15 minute very easy paced jog, but I decided not to as I didn’t want to risk picking up a random, last minute injury. I spent the majority of the morning working on a couple of slightly overdue product reviews, stressing about the weather, getting my kit ready for the half marathon and answering a few blog-related emails.Collage 40After a reasonably productive morning, I headed across Birmingham to the university to return some slightly overdue library books. The trains to and from the university seemed to be full of people coughing and sneezing. I was paranoid I’d somehow manage to pick up a last minute bug. I got home, dumped my half marathon kit into a pile, made myself eat a huge plate of Spag Bol and went to bed at a reasonably sensible time.

Sunday – Great Birmingham Run

When I’ve had more time to reflect on what happened and what went wrong yesterday, I’ll write a separate race report. To summarise: running at 13:30 just felt ‘wrong’, it was warm and windy, my pacing was all over the place, I wanted to drop out after three miles, I had to run-walk from four miles, there were unexpected hills, my head started to really hurt, my vision went and I felt dizzy, I crossed the finish line and got escorted to the medical tent. Not my finest moment as a runner.

I’m pretty sure that I wrote something very similar 12 months ago, but I’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read and to comment on my weekly half marathon training updates. Your support really did help me probably more than you realised, especially when I started to doubt myself last month.

Training totals:

  • Runs: 46
  • Time: 23 hours 50 mins
  • Distance: 129.95 miles

Races/time trials:

  • 5 km: 32:49
  • 10 km: 66:52
  • Half Marathon: 02:43:32 (an epic fail but I’ll be back!)

Final niggleometer:

  • Right heel: 4/10
  • Right knee: 3/10
  • Left foot: 2/10

Great Birmingham Run training week 15

Once again, I hope that everyone had an awesome weekend. After witnessing a lot of London Marathon ballot angst last week, I’m looking forward to the online running community hopefully returning to normal. I know it’s easy for me to say this, but the London Marathon really isn’t the be-all and end-all.Collage 37The penultimate week of my half marathon training plan and the ‘beginning of taper’ should have started with a double rest day. It didn’t. The plan then recommended that I completed a steady 50 minute run on Wednesday, an easy 35 minute run on Thursday, an easy 15 minute jog on Saturday and a 60 minute run on Sunday.

The reality was unfortunately a little different and I ended up resting on four consecutive days and running on three consecutive days.

Monday – Rest

When I got out of bed on Monday, I discovered that I was experiencing the dreaded delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) for the first time in ages. Slightly worrying given that I’d failed to complete my longer run the previous morning. After spending what felt like ages packaging up yet more eBay sales – why does it always take one buyer ages to pay? – I decided I needed to get out of the house.

I spent ages walking around the top end of Sutton Park, weighing up the various pros and cons of accepting the job I’d been offered. Although I knew the pros outweighed the cons, I was still letting my anxiety rule me. I’ve genuinely got no idea how some people are brave enough to travel to places like Dubai to start a new job.

Tuesday – Rest

After spending ages discussing my main concerns and fears with my mentor, I decided to accept the job offer. I then had to overcome yet another everyday task which for some reason makes me incredibly anxious – phoning someone I don’t know. I took a deep breath, worked out exactly what I wanted to say and made the phone call. If everything goes to plan, I will start my new job on November 20th. I then spent the rest of the day worrying about finding somewhere to live, moving away from my friends and family, fitting into my smarter clothes (actually this is a genuine concern…) and remembering how to be a hydrologist. Just occasionally, I really hate being single and having to deal with all this sort of stuff on my own.

Wednesday – Rest

When my alarm woke me at 05:00 I discovered that my headache had made an unwelcome return. Like last week, when I stood up I felt nauseous and light-headed. I decided that if I felt better, I would attempt to complete my 50 minute run later on in the day. I switched my alarm off and slept for another three hours.Collage 38Fortunately, when I woke up again at 08:30, although I didn’t feel great, I felt well enough to reply to some slightly overdue emails and to complete and send off my reference request form. By the afternoon I started to go a little stir crazy so I headed out for another walk in Sutton Park. The walk left me feeling so knackered, I decided to be sensible and postponed my 50 minute run.

Thursday – Rest

I should have completed an easy-paced 35 minute run but thanks to my head I didn’t. As I’m aware that my blog is getting far too repetitive, I won’t bore you with the gory details! At least I got an early night and actually managed to sleep.

Friday – 50 mins steady

When my alarm woke me at 05:00, although I still didn’t feel great, I felt well enough to attempt the 50 minute run I should have completed earlier in the week. I promised myself that I’d run at a sensible pace and that I’d immediately stop running if I started to feel unwell. I got dressed, worked through some stretches, went to the loo, made myself drink a glass of water and then headed outside. Unfortunately, my trusty Garmin decided that it didn’t want to function as a GPS. After spending several minutes waiting for it to pick up a signal, I decided to run using it as a stopwatch.Medal and tshirtAlthough the run wasn’t fast or enjoyable, I managed to run for 50 minutes without stopping. According to GB Mapometer I covered about 4.25 miles; for some reason my legs felt like they had covered double that distance. Later on that afternoon I spotted a photo of this year’s Great Birmingham Run medal and t-shirt. It’s good to see that the medal features the Library of Birmingham.

Saturday – 15 mins easy jog

Although I completed a 15 minute jog, I’m not sure exactly how far I managed to run as my Garmin died five minutes into the run. I think I managed to cover roughly 1.3 miles. The rest of my Saturday was incredibly mundane. I spent a couple of hours catching up on housework and washing, please could someone invent a self-cleaning house and clothes? Once I’d completed my chores, I spent an entertaining hour attempting to work through a selection of Jasyoga 5-minute reset videos. I’m so useless at yoga, I felt less relaxed when I’d finished than when I’d started. I spent the evening watching the Berlin Marathon – yes I’m a few weeks behind – with an ice pack balanced on my knee. Not the most exciting Saturday night.

Sunday – 60 mins comfortable pace

When my alarm kindly woke me at 06:00, I was relieved that I finally felt normal again. I dragged myself out of bed, got dressed, went to the loo, drank a couple of glasses of water, left my Garmin searching for satellites on the door step and then spent 30 minutes working through a selection of PF stretches. I headed out the door and discovered that my Garmin was still trying to remember how to function as a GPS. After three failed attempts at GPSing, I think it’s time for me to accept that Geoffrey the Garmin may well have reached the end of his life.

I decided to use my Garmin as a stopwatch again and headed out into the dark. As the training plan recommended I ran at a comfortable pace, I made a concerted effort to maintain a sensible pace. I was reminded just how rubbish I am at pacing myself and how reliant I have become on my Garmin. Running without a GPS was quite tricky and I’m sure my pacing was erratic. I spent an enjoyable 60 minutes pounding the pavements of Four Oaks and felt pretty good when I reached the end of the run. I’m such a geek, as soon as I got home I worked out I’d covered approximately 5.35 miles.

So that’s the fifteenth week of my half marathon training not exactly completed. The excuses and reasons for not running started to get a little repetitive. While I don’t think it was a successful week, I’m over the moon I managed to run for 50 minutes on Friday morning and for an hour yesterday. I just hope that the training runs I missed don’t come back to haunt me during the half marathon.

Next week’s training schedule – the ‘taper and race week’ – contains three training runs and then the Great Birmingham Run on Sunday. I don’t feel ready! I’ve got to complete a 20 minute recovery run later on today. I’ve then got to complete a comfortable (whatever that means) 40 minute run on Wednesday and an easy 10-15 minute run on Saturday. The training plan recommends that I test out my race outfit on Saturday. As I don’t fancy starting my half marathon wearing smelly running gear, I’ll be ignoring this particular recommendation.

I’ve got everything crossed that I avoid picking up a delayed dose of Freshers’ Flu and that my head continues to behave itself.

Training totals

  • Runs: 44
  • Time 22 hours 50 mins
  • Distance: 124.24 miles

 Races/time trials

  • 5 km: 32:49
  • 10 km: 66:52

 Niggleometer

  • Right heel: 2/10
  • Right knee: 2/10
  • Left foot: 2/10

 

Great Birmingham Run training week 14

I hope that everyone had a good weekend and that Monday wasn’t too challenging. I also hope that you were successful in the ballot for the 2018 London Marathon. If you weren’t, there are plenty of alternative marathons. The highlight of my weekend was managing to avoid having an ‘incident’ during my long run on Sunday.Collage 35Week 14 was described as the ‘peak week’ and I should have completed for training runs. Unfortunately, my headaches and nausea persisted throughout the week, and I only managed to run (sort of) very slowly for 1 hr 45 minutes on Sunday. I was originally aiming to run for two hours, however, some issues with my stomach meant that I had to stop running and walk back home ASAP. I’m still constantly reminding myself that I’ve done a lot of training and that the longer runs are the most important, but I’m starting to feel more than a little concerned. At least my knee and heel feel great and I’ve lost weight.

Monday – Rest

My legs felt more than a little niggly after my 100 minute run the previous day, so I was relieved when I discovered that week 14 started with a rest day. Little did I realise that the majority of the week would be incredibly restful. So much for a peak week. After dropping another load of eBay parcels at the local Post Office, I spent a couple of hours working on a job application before I had to stop because I could feel another headache developing. The rest of Monday was more or less a complete write-off; I ended up going to bed at 19:00, such a waste of a day.

Tuesday – Rest

I should have completed a steady 50 minute run but I was unable to run. When my alarm woke me at 05:00, I quickly discovered that rather than getting better, my headache had got a lot worse. When I stood up I felt really light-headed and nauseous. There was no way I could run. I spent most of the morning lying in the dark trying and failing not to feel sorry for myself. By the afternoon I started to feel a little better and made myself go outside for a short walk around the top end of Sutton Park. I figured that some fresh air would make me feel better. While my head felt almost ‘normal’- no jokes please – I still felt quite light-headed and nauseous and had to ask my friend to come and rescue me. Not my finest moment! Rather predictably the rest of Tuesday wasn’t quite as productive as it should have been.

Wednesday – Rest

I actually felt much better when I woke up, perhaps my head knew that it was a rest day… I spent the morning completing yet another lengthy job application, catching up on my emails and blogmin and generally making the most of feeling better. My number and runners’ guide for the half marathon arrived and I discovered that I’d allocated a place in the ‘orange’ or fast start wave. I’ll definitely be relegating myself into one of the slightly slower, more realistic start waves. At lunchtime I met up with Kate for a chinwag, a pub lunch and a pint. I regretted this decision later on.Collage 36I’m not going to go into too much detail here but on Wednesday evening I got to travel in the back of an ambulance for the third time in my life. Although all of the NHS staff were amazing, it’s not an experience I want to repeat again any time soon.

Thursday – Rest

Once again, I should have completed a 50 minute run. However, after spending most of the night and early morning in hospital, running was completely out of the question. Although I was disappointed to miss yet another training run, I was more disappointed to have to miss the Decathlon Bloggers Community event in London. I did my best to follow the event on social media and look forward to hopefully attending the next one.

Friday – Rest

Friday was a day of completely mixed emotions. I received a rather unexpected phone call about last week’s job interview in the morning. Unfortunately, although I hadn’t quite been good enough to land a permanent position, they wanted to offer me a 12 month contract as a hydrologist in the same team. As my brain was in overdrive and I didn’t want to make any impulsive decisions, I asked if I could have the weekend to think about the job offer.

I then proceeded to spend most of the morning weighing up the positives and negatives. The positives definitely outweighed the negatives; I just wish I had more confidence. I also wish that I had someone sensible to discuss the job offer with. So much for being a mature independent woman.

Saturday – Rest

I think the highlight of my Saturday was seeing most of my family at my nephew Oliver’s train themed birthday party. The party was held at the Burton-on-Trent Model Engineering Society miniature railway, and although it unfortunately rained virtually the entire time, the children (and quite a few of the adults) seemed to enjoy the unlimited miniature train rides. My sister-in-law made the birthday cake and while I didn’t get to try a piece, it looked amazing.

Sunday – Minimum 100 mins aim for 120 mins

When my alarm woke me at 05:00 it became clear that my stomach wasn’t very happy at all. Without sharing too much information, I had a couple of very productive and quite lengthy loo visits. After the second visit I felt a little better and decided to risk heading out on a longer run. I told myself I could always return home if my stomach started to feel iffy. I got dressed, drank a couple of glasses of water, went to the loo a third time, did some stretches, turned on my Garmin and headed outside into the dark.

It took me less than ten minutes to accept my run was going to be a hard slog. I’d get very little energy and felt like I was quite literally running on empty. Although it was drizzling and quite windy in places, it was also pretty humid and I started to overheat. I decided to be sensible and made sure that I didn’t venture too far from my house. Rather worryingly, I don’t remember much of the run.

According to my Strava statistics I managed to run continuously for 75 minutes. Not ideal when I was aiming to run for a minimum of 100 minutes. Looking back, the final 30 minutes or so of the run are a complete blur. I remember my stomach really starting to play up and having to walk a lot to avoid an unfortunate mishap. I also remember nearly tripping over a wheelie bin. At least I just about managed to make it home without shitting myself in public.

So that’s the fourteenth and what should have been the most challenging week of my Great Birmingham Run training not completed. I can’t believe that *fingers crossed* this time in a fortnight I’ll have successfully completed the half marathon.

The training schedule for week 15 contains four runs, looks far more achievable and is described as the ‘start of taper’. It is possible for a runner to be too well tapered? I’m hoping that Monday, Tuesday and Friday are the only rest days I end up taking. I’ve also got everything crossed I manage to complete a steady 50 minute run on Wednesday, a 35 minute easy run on Thursday and a 60 minute run on Sunday.

Training totals

  • Runs: 41
  • Time 20 hours 45 mins
  • Distance: 113.34 miles

Races/time trials

  • 5 km: 32:49
  • 10 km: 66:52

Niggleometer

  • Right heel: 2/10
  • Right knee: 2/10
  • Left foot: 2/10

 

Race Report: Lichfield 10k

Thanks to my slightly temperamental head, I have to limit the amount of time I spend on my computer.  As I might not complete another race this year I decided to finish my somewhat belated review of the Lichfield 10k. Apologies if there are even more typos than normal. I’m having to type in a hurry.

I spent the evening before the race obsessively checking a selection of weather forecasts. Last year it was really warm and I made the mistake of not respecting the weather. Fortunately, this year the forecast was for cool and potentially wet conditions. As I knew that the majority of the course would be reasonably sheltered, I decided to ignore the wind.Lichfield weatherI woke early on the morning of the race and spent what felt like ages searching for four safety pins and attempting to pin my number to my t-shirt. As the race didn’t start until 10:30 I made myself eat two bowls of weetabix and a banana. I was reminded that I hate the feeling of ‘having’ to eat. I had a successful loo visit, a shower and got changed into my running gear, grabbed a bottle of energy drink and walked the short distance to the train station. So far so good.

A year ago, I got talking to a lovely lady called Ellen at the train station. This year, I bumped into Ellen and her family again. I quickly discovered that Ellen had been completely bitten by the running bug and was hoping to beat her 10k PB. I love it when people fall in love with running.

We walked the short distance from Lichfield City station to Race HQ and discovered we had enough time to collect our race t-shirts while the queues were reasonably short. I left my bag in the secure baggage area and went to find portaloos. The queue was massive and I estimate it took me 15-20 minutes to reach the front of the queue. Rather worryingly, one of the portaloos had been padlocked shut. I dread to think what had happened inside; luckily the portaloo I used was clean and pong-free.

Pre race faffingFeeling a lot lighter, I headed to the start area, positioned myself near the back of the crowd of runners and spotted Ellen. As we wanted similar times we decided to run together, and positioned ourselves a few metres behind the 65 minute pacer. We observed a minute’s applause for Bob Houghton, the starter sounded and we waited to start.

Although we had started near the back of the field, the first half mile or so mile was incredibly congested in places. The road surface was also incredibly uneven and I somehow managed to twist my temperamental right knee. Not the best start. The 65 minute pacer disappeared off into the distance and it seemed to take us a long time to get near her again. We made the most of the numerous downhill sections and maintained a sensible pace up the short inclines. Once I’d woken and warmed-up I found the first mile relatively easy and was quite impressed with myself for setting out at a sensible pace.

The second mile was a little more challenging. Once we’d finally escaped the main road and the rather irate drivers stuck in traffic in the opposite direction *toot toot*, we turned towards Whittington – an area of countryside that is going to be severely impacted by HS2. Last year I’d set out at such a ridiculously fast pace I was struggling after two miles. Fast forward twelve months and although I’d set out a much slower pace, I was still finding maintaining any sort of pace incredibly difficult.

When we reached the third mile – the start of Darnford Lane – I knew that one of the most challenging sections of the course was approaching and started to prepare myself mentally. I was aware I was working hard and the running related chat stopped temporarily. Last year, I walked most of this section of the course. This year I was determined to run up the most demanding part of the course without stopping. I completed mile three in 10:30, a definite improvement on last year!

Untitled6Mile four was a bit of a blur. We reached the water station and although Ellen was sensible and grabbed a bottle of water, for some reason I decided to carry on without taking on any water. We left the drinks station behind and started to approach the location of my mini-meltdown last year; the bridge over the A38. Although I managed to run over the bridge without slowing to a walk, by the time we reached the housing estate I was struggling and walked for five minutes in an attempt to stretch out my right knee and get my breathing under control. Sorry Ellen!

The fifth mile was challenging both mentally and physically. After I slowed to a walk the second time, I persuaded Ellen to carry on without me. I didn’t want to ruin both of our races and I was acutely aware that I tweaked my right knee. Ellen went on to smash her 10k PB so it was definitely the correct decision. I resorted to a slightly feeble run-walk-stretch-run routine until my knee started to feel a little better. The fifth mile was shockingly slow.

Official photos

The final mile and a bit was pretty uneventful and I hobbled the uphill sections and power walked the downhill sections. Thanks knee! I remember waving at the official on course photographer – why do photographers insist on taking photos near the end when I look terrible? – and running slowly back towards the start. Rather embarrassingly I to stop at the bottom of the approach to the final 100m to stretch out my right knee. Knee sort of sorted, I ‘powered’ my way up the grassy hill to the finish, stumbled over the finish line, collected my medal and a bottle of water and remembered to keep on moving.

Post run pose

The finish area was slightly chaotic and I couldn’t see Ellen so I decided to retrieve my bag and dry clothes from the baggage drop. Bag collected, I headed back out into the cold and more by luck than judgement found Ellen and her family. I got Ellen to take a photo of me with my medal – I’ve no idea why I decided to stand at such a quirky angle –we arranged to meet up for some training runs and then went our separate ways.

By the time I got on the train I realised that I was feeling really cold. So cold my lips had started to turn a lovely shade of blue.

Post Lichfield selfie

Although I was initially incredibly disappointed in my race, the back of the race t-shirt helped to put everything into perspective.

T shirt and medal

I’m not sure I’ll enter the Lichfield 10k again next year. Writing this review has made me realise that I don’t actually enjoy running along uneven road surfaces, over dual carriageways and through housing estates. I suspect I’m letting my own poor performance cloud my judgement.

Lichfield strava

I can’t fault the organisation in the lead up to the race, on the day of the race and after the race. I received my results by text the second I crossed the finish line and the official race photographs were available to purchase the morning after the race.

Finally, if you are reading this race report in 2018, please don’t let my negativity stop you entering the race!

Race Ratings:

  • Cost: 7/10 – £17 + £2 service fee as an unaffiliated runner
  • Course: 5/10 – challenging and not very scenic
  • Medal: 8/10
  • Race t-shirt: 10/10
  • Goody Bag: N/A