My week 2 blog is up on the Tempo Pilates website – check it out!
I signed up for the Nike We Own the Night Women’s 10k way back in March. It’s no secret that I love the free Nike Training Club classes that Nike put on, and have had a great time at the Lunar Run, Flyknit experience, Run with Ellie Goulding and the Nike/Elle UK Monday night training runs. Of course, there have been some issues with their event organisation here and there, but no other company is consistently putting on events that are helping women get active and at the same time challenging us to push further.
Back in January I made a pledge to #makeitcount with my friends and when Leah started Team Naturally, Run to train for this race I was on board from the first day. From weekly newsletters, bespoke training classes, to an active Facebook group sharing our weekly runs it became a community of friends we could count on to work towards our own goals. [note: friends! Not 'internet friends'] Training with Team Naturally, Run was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had when it comes to running and just shows the power of social media and connecting to build friendships.
Ok, guess I should get to the actual race report now.
Having a race in my backyard was nice as there was no stress about getting there or unknowns. A quick bus there that progressively filled up with orange shirted women, and we were at the start area in Victoria Park with loads of time to check things out. More festival than running expo, there were tents providing manicures (the only appointment left was 43 minutes after the race started. Elite only need apply) and loads of food trucks serving up everything from meringues (?) to tea & crumpets. Even in the sea of orange it was easy to pick out friends from Nike training club and Boutique Sport and was really nice to see everyone excited to run.
The sign-up for the race included a question if you were a:
- Leader of the Pack (blue)
- Aiming for a PB (orange)
- Finishing your first 10k (pink)
Knowing Nike’s love for disorganized mass starts (the recent British 10k and Run to the Beat in London as examples) I signed up to lead the pack, an ambitious target but I figured it would pay off to be confident. As we walked into the race start they were handing out glowing wristbands to determine your start corral. Even though the sign up choice was arbitrary, the handing out of wrist bands was even more so. You could just pick whatever one you wanted with no check of your registration or any proof you could actually keep up any sort of pace. I’m not advocating for proper club style racing here, but a little more organisation from Nike could have avoided a lot of confusion and complaints later on. My friend Nova an I were given orange because the girl handing out the bracelets gave us a look and said only “the pros” get blues. *sigh*
After a quick bag drop and a decently clean porta-loo, we lingered near the start corrals during the warm up and made our way up to the front for the start. Some confusing instructions (stay in your lanes, merge into the other lane, use the whole path, stay on one side) and a start air horn that didn’t work, we were off with some fantastic support lining the first few kms. Nova casually mentioned right before we started that she has ran a 46 minute 10k before, and so I let her gallop off. With all the weaving at the beginning it just wasn’t the place to try to run with a group. I was keeping pace with the 50 minute pacers who were great and had awesome music playing from their speakers (Pitbull! Worldwide!). They were also constantly checking their pace to make sure it was exactly on track which I really appreciate in pacers (take your job seriously please).
Around the 2km mark there was a tight turn and we doubled back on the route and I realized how lucky I was to be out front. The mob of runners was packed and I saw tons of speedy girls “stuck” around behind the 60 minute pacer. At this point I even saw Paula Radcliffe behind me. If I’m beating the marathon world record holder there’s something amiss. (although at the time it was a huge confidence boost to my legs!). The course wove around Victoria Park, and as someone who runs that park almost every week, even I was L-O-S-T, but all the more mental energy to focus on my tired legs. I grabbed water at each stop and kept up with the 50 minute pacers thinking that even if I tire and lose them I’d still be on track to beat my 53:20 PB. The Run Dem Crew cheer zone just after the 3km/8km mark was insane. I’ve heard loads about their #mile23 support at marathons and could not have been more impressed with their signs, cheers and sheer number of supporters. The cheers were loudest for RDC runners, but they were supporting everyone who broke a smile and it seriously carried my tired legs on forward. Charlie Dark has seriously created a fabulous monster with all this #crewlove.
The rest of the race was a blur of inspirational signs (Dig Deep! You’ve walked further in heels on a night out!) and smiling husbands as I had the best personal cheer team of Alex and Nova’s husband Ed running around Victoria Park to see us 4 times! Since I usually run with Alex in this it was a nice to get the support from the sidelines.
At 9k I was done. At 9.5K I was seriously done, at 9.9k I saw the “sprint finish” sign and laughed, but as I crossed the finish line with the clock reading 49:something I was a mix of ecstatic and vomity. The first person I saw was poor Debs from Exposure who was so nice and said congrats and didn’t shrink back in horror when I gave her a sweaty high five and said I need to go and vomit. THAT my friends is how you get the attention of PRs
I grabbed the finishers glow stick (?) and bracelet with hair elastic (?) and avoided the vitacocoa to bee-line straight for the champagne. With a solid PB and my champagne hand full I was suddenly feeling less vomity and ready to celebrate. Nova and I grabbed our bags and the kleenex and headbands being given out by Elle (nice touch as I was sweaty with uncontrollable hair at that point – well predicted) and after a quick wander of the after party headed out.
Why would we leave so fast? Well in all the wonderful organisation of the expo Nike wasn’t letting in supporters, only people who raced. I get that they couldn’t have just anyone showing up, but in my opinion they should have let each runner have at least 1 plus-one guest to come in. The beer tent and food trucks would have made a killing with all our supporters and us sticking around for the after-party.
During a quick photo opp with Team Naturally, Run I saw a moment that summed up the whole night for me. Team Naturally, Run member Becki came up to give Charlie a big hug and a thank you for her support in her getting a PB at the race. Leah had put together such a great group of runners that we were not only looking to the team for support, but helping each other. *tears* I also got emosh when one of the last runners on the course ran past the crowds at the exit area and there was a cheer that blew Jessica Ennis’ super Saturday out of the water. The determination of this runner inspired everyone out there and I realized that even with the quirks and mistakes made in organisation, it was still a race that people were pushing their limits to reach goals for.
So, taken for what it was and the fact that Nike will always put on a good event first and actual run second, I had a stellar night and am so happy to be a part of Team Naturally, Run (and now a sub-50 10k runner! Eeeeekkkk!)
As I prepare for the #weownthenight Nike women’s 10k on Saturday I thought I’d take a look back to my first 10k race in March 2011. Check out my Greenwich Meridian 10k blog post and note how important a good post race meal was even at my first race.
“Do you know anyone going to this conference?”
“Yeah, all my friends are going”
“Well, at cat underscore simpson underscore and at lazy girl running will be there”
“So… they’re internet friends?
And that’s where I’ve usually lost people.
When I lived in Vancouver I had friends from school, friends from Girl Guides and friends from skiing. All of these people became friends on Facebook, but were always friends-from-something-else first. It was all pretty simple and easy to understand.
Now I have friends I know better by their twitter handle and profile picture than what high school they went too. I talk to them a couple of times a week and share similar interest to them, but when we attend the same events we still have that awkward in person meetings where we know what each other ate for breakfast but have to go through the, “nice to meet you” motions.
Last Sunday, I met a lot of friends at the UK’s first running bloggers conference Write This Run. Held out near the lovely Hampton Court the day was promised to be a chance to meet fellow running bloggers and learn a bit about blogging and running.
The day started off with a panel of experts on social media and PR. How to get noticed by brands and journalists is always a hot topic in the world of blogging, and the panel did a good job in presenting the basics. I’m not sure some of the information was at the right level though as the majority of the room gasped at the idea of 10,000 twitter followers and writing only on running, not diluting your blog with unnecessary topics (pies. what?). That said the panel ended with words of wisdom from Rhalou Allerhand, “If you count riches by experiences, places seen and loves met then running will make you rich.” (eek sorry Rhalou if I minced your words, I can’t remember your exact wording)
The second panel was inspiring stories. There is no shortage of inspiring stories when it comes to runners and marathoners, but Liz & Laura did a great job finding unique stories that were interesting and inspiring to even the hardest bloggers out there. From 52 Marathon Man who ran 52 marathons in a year to raise awareness about depression and mental illness so people will not suffer like his Father did, to Donna, a paratriathlete whose pledge to get stronger when faced with a Doctor telling her to stop has lead her to the highest levels of competition. We also heard from Mrs. Badass Ultra Runner Extraordinare Mimi Anderson. I’m not even going to try to put her experiences into words, just check out her blog before you attempt any world records, she’s probably already got it. It was from this panel that the motivation #whatwouldmimido came from.
After a stellar bbq lunch in the sun with Chobani that tasted JUST like cheesecake. We were back learning from bloggers themselves about how to tell stories. We all know the best blogs are the ones where you feel like you’re sitting in the pub with the writer, listening to their stories and Laura, Phillipa, and Stuart gave their tips to creating that vibe in your own way. A clear message that came from this panel was that you shouldn’t hide behind your blog or an online character. Be transparent and tell your story – people will like it and follow or not and (hopefully) leave you alone.
The last panel of the day were the experts. I loved the energetic talk that Karen gave. As a run coach she presented us with (seemingly) simple and easy techniques to work on that will improve our running efficiency. We heard from a sports scientist on how to fuel up for big races, although I thought this might be targeted a little too much towards elite athletes and not necessarily bloggers who are out for a jog or two and/or trying to maintain fitness rather than peak performance. Finally, Scott Overall, who runs really fast 5ks and competed for Team GB in the Olympic marathon, told us about his training from being a kid at camp with Mo Farah to suffering setbacks at the highest level. His story was inspiring but also realistic in that you can plan and train all you want for a goal, but sometimes it just doesn’t result.
Then we ran. We grabbed shoes to try from On Running and tried to keep up with Scott around the Hampton Court Park. The trails were lovely and the deer thought we were slightly insane. I clipped along at a quick pace trying to keep up with Cat and Karen and suddenly exhausted at 4k but having such a nice conversation I couldn’t drop back!
After the run we grabbed goody bags, which considering what some races consider goodies (a leaflet to 20% off a local running store? No thanks) this was epic in the truest sense of the word. SOCKS! WE GOT SOCKS! While the socks may have been the big-ticket item, the surprise of the bag was the mini banana loaf soren bars. Holy mother of god they are two-bite deliciousness that I cannot stop eating.
All in all it was a stellar day with even better company. The organisation of the conference was perfection by Liz & Laura and judging by the hints on the Write This Run website, they are more than capable to be organising some amazing getaways in the near future.
To add to my manic month of May, I’ve been working with Tempo Pilates as their X-press blogger trying out their new high-intensity interval training x-press reformer pilates classes (say that 3 times fast…). I saw the opportunity posted a few weeks ago on twitter and so I applied and got the job! Yay!
My “work” takes me to their WC2 studio in Gymbox Covent Garden three times a week for my muscles to be pushed to their limit in the seemingly short classes. If they were 46 minutes I would have quit by now. Trust me, 45 minutes is well enough.
The thing about reformer pilates is you are doing all these moves and exercises on a constantly moving machine. I’m used to holding a plank on the ground of some park in London. Avoiding bugs and worms has been my biggest worry until now. On the reformer machine you are constantly moving against the springs so every pose is amplified in difficulty and result.
I’ve loved the challenge of focusing on the 6 key principles of Pilates: concentration, control, centering, efficiency, precision, breathing. Last week I finally held the plank for 2 minutes and I was constantly cycling through these principles in my head checking I was doing each one to the best of my ability. The best part about the x-press classes though is it isn’t all boring concentration and slow movements. It combines Pilates method with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) so we’re usually mixing the Pilates moves up into tabata style workouts with steps and crunches and so so so many push-ups and shoulder raises that I am not sure I’ll ever be able to “push” open a door again.
If you want to see what I’ve been up to check out my weekly blog over on the Tempo Pilates website. Oh! I almost forgot, the X-press classes are set to the awesome soundtracks that Tempo Pilates are known for, check out a few of my favourites below.
What a lovely race.
I can’t stop saying it. Lovely! SheRuns Windsor was one of the most well organised, scenic and fun races I have ran in a long time.
Last week I was asked if I wanted to run the SheRuns Windsor 10k in one of the new Shock Absorber Ultimate Run Bras. They sent me a bra and paid for my entry into the race.
After a long walk from the train to the race start area (I can’t complain, it’s actually called the Long Walk) I grabbed my race package and tshirt with no problems and found fellow #teamnaturallyrun members Charlie & Leah by the Expotique (another branding issue. Expo is fine. Women runners understand these things without having to be feminized). I also ran into the lovely Cat who dropped by this race after coming in as the 3rd female in the Richmond Marathon the day before! Being caught a bit off guard by the reality of an actually sunny and hot day in the UK, we were worried we didn’t put enough sunscreen on. Alas, a trip through the expo didn’t find any samples so we were left hoping for the best with our runners tan lines. The toilet queues were fine if you went early enough. Annoyingly a lot of spectators were using the toilets right before the race. Come on guys! Bag drop, and a lot of the course marshals were lovely local Scout volunteers who were efficient and friendly all day.
The race started heading straight up the hill in Windsor Great Park for about 3km. It was a tough hill but I found my legs quickly and enjoyed the slightly slower pace than a normal start. Into the forest we ran flat for a while and there were loads of spectators all along the course which was probably due to the weather, but their smiles and cheers were much appreciated. The waterstops were really well organised and the only problem was the cups were plastic so you couldn’t pinch to drink. I did the safe thing and came to a full stop at each water stop.
At about 5k the hills started again and rolled up and down for basically the rest of the race. I actually enjoyed the uphill more as I kept getting a stitch on the downhill (thanks probably to the banana bagel scarfed on the train). Just past 8km there was some serious mirage magic going on as the castle looks like a 20 minute walk away, downhill. Cue the sprint legs…. FOR 1500m!!! At about 750m I almost let up but then I saw a girl in a running skirt ahead of me so I had to beat her, my legs hated me. My face was bright tomato red and I’m pretty sure there was actual sweat flying off my body.
This is also where most of the marathonfoto staff were positioned prime red face location. See illegal screen grab for an example below.
I finished right bang on my normal 10k time and was happy with it considering the hilly course and hot weather Top 11% of finishers too feels pretty good considering they can’t all be PBs! The finish line was well organised with medals, bananas, water, luna bars, vitacoco and crisps plentiful for our grazing.
There was an awesome band playing (Dolly Parton! Yes!) and we watched as the speedy top 3 ladies collected their wooden bowls from 80 year old fell trees in the Great Park while we rehydrated and took tons of photos. I obviously snuck into the Expo and grabbed a pair of the new Yurbuds range for Women and some Cliff shot blocks for the upcoming half marathon I have to come back to Windsor to run at the end of May. Gulp.
It was a great race, well organised, and whoever paid-off the weather forecast, it was money well spent. On the negatives, there was slightly too much Women-esq branding for me. I think a race can be Women-only and welcoming to all Women without having to make things too feminine. That’s my opinion though and it didn’t ruin a great day spent running with friends.
Now, the new bra. It really stresses me out that 40% of women don’t wear a sports bra when exercising. ESPECIALLY when running. I’ve seen women running that must get a good 30cm of “airtime” when they jog. OW. Not only does that hurt while running, but what goes down doesn’t always go up again… if you catch my drift. It’s not hard to get a bra that fits. Trust me. Like running shoes, take some time and get fitted.
In the no-new-stuff-on-race-day vein I wore the Shock Absorber bra out on my Saturday activities and found it to be snug and secure for all the biking, running, and bootcamp-ing I did. The only thing was the top clasp on the back got in the way when doing roll-ups and sit ups and stuff on the ground. Ouchy plastic bits.
The day of I felt comfortable in it from the second I put it on, to the second I got home. Even on the train after being super sweaty it was comfortable and didn’t bother my skin. Running in it was also a dream. Until recently I always ran in basic “squeeze and squish” sports bras, which given my size did the job fine. Switching to a higher performance bra like this one has it’s benefits but for someone with my less-than-ample chest it’s really a personal choice if you want to spend the money (and effort putting them on) on one. I would say yes. Do it. But seriously, to each their own. THAT said, if you’re a B-cup or over. Get this. Your boobs will thank you for every km you run in one.