Monday, 29 October 2012

Great South Run Race Report

The weekend just gone might well have been the busiest in the race season for runners. I know of at least 5 races that went on over the weekend including the Fleet 10k, the Guildford Night Fright, Run To The Beat Half Marathon in London and the Great South Run down in Portsmouth which I took part in. 

For those not in the know, GSR is a ten mile race around Portsmouth and is just about the flattest race I've ever run. It's affordable, well attended and a real highlight in the calendar. Even though I've run several half marathons in my time it was the first time I'd run the event, and that particular distance. I chose it because I didn't feel up to running a whole half marathon this year but still wanted something bigger than a 10k. So this was my "big race" of the year, my highlight, the one I put in all the training for.

I only live about 45 minutes drive from Portsmouth and thanks to the clocks going back it meant I didn't have to be up quite as early as I'd feared. In fact if it wasn't for wanting to get parked I could have left later than 7:30am as I wasn't due to cross the start line until 10:48 in the white (middle) wave. My parents and OH came along to cheer and support me, which given the bitter conditions that morning I'm even more grateful for! My OH knows Portsmouth really well so managed to find us free parking and get us out of the city fairly quickly afterwards. Given about 25,000 people took part I was incredibly impressed by how easy it was to get in and out of the city and with the organisation in general, especially at the finish when there's a tendency to get bunched up and lost at big races.

The course was really well marked with loads of marshals, plenty of cheering stations and spectators along almost every inch of the sidelines. The water stations were long and well managed (with bottles! so much easier than cups) and the Bupa Boost station at mile nine was a nice touch with jelly babies and vaseline for those who wanted them. I went with Nectarfuel gels (one summer fruits, one blackcurrant) which certainly didn't do me any harm, although I'm still to determine how much they help. It felt good to take something on anyway.

The staggered start made a huge difference and I didn't suffer from having to dodge people too much at the outset. I made the decision to run with music (just one ear), even though there were bands on the course, really to help me pace myself more than anything. I used Audiofuel's Feelin' Free DJ mix on loop which got me round in my  target time. I got a bit of a twinge in my right knee half way round which didn't get any worse but didn't go away either, so I'm wearing a support for a day or two, and my posture was awful at the end so more core work is in order! There was a fantastic atmosphere all the way around the course; I had one girl clap me on the shoulder as she passed around mile 8 and say "well done Farnham" (I was wearing my club vest). My supporters took up residence around the 6.5 mile mark and on the final 100m stretch. I only just heard them shouting at me above everyone else and found enough energy to pump a fist in the air as I ran a bit faster towards the finish line (I couldn't call it a sprint finish). In the past dad's commented that although I *say* I enjoy running I never look as though I do but this time he said I looked pretty relaxed and strong even at the end.

And my finish time was... 1:40:00... I was thrilled, absolutely thrilled. I ran the whole thing without stopping, all be it with positive splits. It made all the training feel worthwhile and gave me a huge confidence boost. We got funneled very effectively through the finish area to collect our goody bags containing a medal, t-shirt, foil blanket, and an assortment of edibles. I'm now going to take a week off to let my knee recover, then get a couple more runs in before the Brutal 10k in November. No more serious training until December though, just enough to keep on ticking over.

On a side note, Powerade were one of the sponsors and had a stand where you could get your sweat loss measured. They weighed you before and after the race, took into account how much you drank and how many loo trips you made and then tell you how much you sweat and how much liquid you should take on as a result (about 1.6 times the amount you lose within 4 hours). I always thought I lost a lot through sweat but apparently I had one of the lowest sweat rates the guy had seen that day. Very interesting!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Tough Mudder Update

This week I received an email from the Tough Mudder team with the announcement that the location for next year's event, that I'm taking part in, has been decided.

It's about 120 miles and 2.5 hours drive away from me so I'm glad I decided to start in a later wave, to give myself time to get there. That said the course will be seriously churned up by that point too! You can check out the course details here.

I've made the mistake of reading up on the obstacles I can expect to encounter. Sure it means I should be able to target my training a little better but it's terrifying. It's resulted in me thinking that I'll be spending a lot of my time in muddy pits or cold water as I fall off of monkey bars and balance beams or fail to make the jumps. Oh and I'm not fantastic with heights so any walking the plank is going to freak me out big time. I think this challenge is even more scary than the marathon!!

If anyone wants to come along and give me some moral support you have no idea how much I'd appreciate it. That is if you can recognise me under the coating of mud I'll no doubt have acquired. You can register to spectate here.

And just in case you haven't seen it yet... this is what I'm letting myself in for...

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Paris Je T'aime... peut-être

Yesterday I secured my place in the Paris Half Marathon! I was quite nervous about whether or not I’d get a spot, not knowing how popular the race is or how quickly places sell out. I was also nervous that I'd mis-interpret something incorrectly, miss out an important part of the process or do something to get disqualified before I even got to the start line, mostly because of the language barrier; despite the website offering an English translation my experience is that these are sometimes muddled.

I realise that announcing my challenge before having all the events booked was slightly risky but I was too excited to hold back once I had my London Marathon place confirmed.

So at 9am I loaded the Paris Half website, saw it wasn't open for registration until 11am so went off and made some tea (and did some work). I got the time differences wrong and got a bit panicked thinking I'd miss out but aside from probably spending 5 euros on insurance I wasn't sure I needed everything else seems to have gone smoothly. I already know my bib number and have printed off the medical certificate template for my doctor to sign. That's the major difference I've found so far with races outside of the UK, you need a medical certificate. 

Anyway, t'is done! In my usual impatient fashion I've downloaded the route and start maps and a bit nearer the time I'll have to arrange travel, accommodation and book the time off work. My godmother and her husband live in France, in the Loire Valley, and have already said that they'll come and spend the time in Paris with us (me, OH, mum and dad) which will make the whole thing even more of an event and mean I have loads of support on the day. I really can't wait.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Wanted: a training plan!

In my last post I wrote in a bit more detail about the events I’ll be doing and why. Now my immediate concern, aside from how to raise my target of £3000, is how to train for them.

I’m not very good with training plans. I get a bit daunted by them, question my ability to improve at the rate they prescribe and generally get all of a fluster. I am just coming to the end of a training plan that I decided to try and follow for the Great South Run which I’m running on the 28th and actually it’s been ok. I’ve skipped a few runs and run slower than prescribed in some cases but I’ve stuck to it for the most part and to the frustration of my boyfriend (who doesn’t understand how a run can take priority over anything else).

I’ve rooted around in my “Training” file on my laptop and found a sprint distance triathlon training plan from Sportsister and Tough Mudder have their own suggested plan so that’s helpful. I figure the triathlon training will get me most of the way towards the mile distance for the Great London Swim so that just leaves the running. There are any number of marathon training plans out there for all sorts of abilities and desired finishing times but the thing that I was struggling with was the amount of time these require from you. Because of the proximity of my events to each other I will have to start training for the Tri, swim and Tough Mudder before I finish training for the marathon and I just couldn’t see a way of fitting that around 5 runs a week with a regular training plan. I put out a bit of a call on twitter a while ago, asking if anyone could help me draw up a plan and MorningOfMagicians pointed me to the Finish With FIRST training plan which trains you for a marathon on 3 quality sessions a week. This is perfect as it leaves me time to fit in other disciplines.

So I’ve been proactive and amalgamated these three plans into one. The plan covers 24 weeks starting in December. It’s a little daunting when I look at it all in one go so I’m trying not to. I’m easing in with just one “Tuff” circuit a week (as I’ve dubbed them) for the first 10 weeks then introducing swimming and cycling about a month before the marathon (by which point I should be well into my stride).  The upside is that I’ll be doing a lot of brick sessions (two disciplines back to back) so transitions should be second nature by the time I get to triathlon day.

From December at the end of each week I’ll be posting what I should have done and what I actually did in terms of training.

Do you think I’m taking the right approach? How would you tackle this training challenge? Got any tips to see me through the winter months?

Saturday, 13 October 2012

What Would You Do If Money Were No Object?

This is a question I often ask people in the early stages of conversation. I find it's a great talking point and gives you a very good sense of what that person is all about. It's a question I ask myself quite frequently too.

It maybe a feature of my generation that we are encouraged to be discontent with what is seen as the routine, that we are encouraged to break the mould. I'm not sure if this is a good or sensible thing but I know that I for one am inclined to optimism and big thinking.

And as such, this video appeals to me.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Events: more details

Why, you may ask, have I chosen to do many events rather than just one? Well, in part, it’s an excuse to do several things that had been on my “one day” list for a while. I also reason that any of these on their own would be worthy of a strong fundraising target and so by doing them all I hope to raise more than by doing one alone, not least because they cover a range of aspects of fitness, meaning I’ll stretch not only my running abilities but also my currently almost non-existent cycling, swimming and strength abilities.
More specifically my reasons for choosing these events are as follows:
1.       Paris Half Marathon (March 3rd) – Although I’ve completed several half marathons in my time I’ve never competed abroad and would like to break my PB of 2:10.
2.       London Marathon (April 21st) – I’ve never completed a marathon and would love to complete at least one in my life time. This feels like the right time.
3.       Tough Mudder (May 4th) - This will be horrible. I signed up for Tough Guy once and pulled out. These events look amazing and testing in a whole new way to the normal races I do but they do scare me. I’ve been coerced into this by a colleague and a few of us will be taking part and once again, this feels like a good event to add to the challenge.
4.       Eton Sprint Triathlon (May 19th) - I’ve wanted to do a triathlon for about three years. Again, this feels like the right time. 
5.       Great London Swim (May TBC) - The only event I’ve completed before. I took part this year but I would like to be able to complete this using front crawl rather than breaststroke or to at least improve my time.

So there you have it. I think it’s a good variety of challenges but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. What do you think about the timings? Should I have been more ambitious? What sort of thing would you choose if you were going to raise money for charity?