Category Archives: running

run a mile in my shoes

“OK Listen up, Women come over here, let’s say sub-6 to the left. Come on, you’re going to race tonight so get moving a bit quicker”

80 or so Serpies gathered around our trusty Athletics committee member waiting to be sorted into groups of 12 or so to run a mile in the annual Club Championships. (There’s a sorting hat reference in here somewhere but, confession, I still haven’t read any HP books). Apparently there is a correlation between the faster men in the club and their ability to arrive to a race on time, so room was left in the A race for the tardy runners.

The track was closed to the public and set up to race. Volunteer officials and timekeepers out with their clipboards, the track lap counter & bell placed just so, and finish line marked (as if we’d miss it). Even though I’ve done hundreds, if not thousands, of laps around this track it felt like these 4 and a bit laps would special.

As the first few junior & men’s races started the rest of us were milling around the infield doing half-hearted warmups and snapchats (just me?). There’s something about racing a mile that fills everyone with dread and brings out the best in excuses. I personally had a stressful and busy week at work, was on my period with a surprising migraine, and was dealing with a bum/knee niggle picked up from cycling with my seat too high. Armed with all these excuses I still found myself stood around in my shorts and vest waiting for our race.

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Photo © Anne Bennet

The women’s B race was called to the start and the nerves peaked. As I lined up with 10 other friendly faces, some from our Monday night track sessions, we smiled as we fiddled with our watches and kept an eye on the start gun.

*bang*

I love starting a track race. The first few strides feel absolutely effortless like you are running on clouds. This took me to the front of the race for the first 100m which, wasn’t exactly my plan, but I quickly tucked in behind the second woman on the backstraight and focused on running strong.

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Photo © Anne Bennet

Around the last bend of the first lap my breathing started to catch up to me and the heavyness of running a mile set in to my whole body. I heard the first lap split and was right on pace for my planned PB and felt good.

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Photo © Anne Bennet

The goal of the second lap was to hang on. Not let the 2 women in front of me get too far ahead. They both looked strong so I wrapped that imaginary rope around them and held on for dear life. Each time we passed the start/finish everyone was cheering for us and it was great to have that support to push you into that next lap. The third lap was a predictable blur. Part pain part looking forward to just hearing the last lap bell. I snuck a quick look at my watch and wasn’t too happy with the time so knew I had to keep pushing right to the finish.

*ding ding ding ding*

The last lap bell is a godsend in a mile race, 400m to go. In a road mile this is where I pick up to my semi-sprint finish but 1 lap seems so much further on a track. I kept running pushing though and ran as strong as I could pushing the track away with each step.

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Rounding the last bend with 100m to go the sprint was well and truly on. It’s not a coincidence that on Monday nights we practice our strides along this exact stretch, it felt natural to run strong through the finish and double over to catch my breath.

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As I stopped my watch I caught a look at the numbers and they weren’t the PB I was hoping for but I also wasn’t wrecked. I had run about the same pace for 6 x 400 repeats the week before and could barely breathe after each one. This was an improvement and a confidence boost to run “comfortably uncomfortable” 6:52 mile.

All the runners in our race congratulated each other and after a few seconds everyone was smiling. The dreaded mile race over for another year, but actually, it wasn’t that bad….

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homeward round VII

Friends, hills, vistas, sheep, seaside, chips, and ice cream. Count me in.

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Rich kindly invited us all down to his place last weekend for a run to the seaside, Homeward Round VII as it’s called these days, was planned to take a scenic (read: hilly) route from Hassocks to Hove with the usual amounts of new friends, old friends, and haribo.

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As were waiting for our GPS signals it started to pour rain, even though we all had rain kit, we all chose to wait out the shower in the garage like sensible people.

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After winding up and around the town we hit the trails and open skies.

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I’m not going to lie, even at the social pace I wasn’t telling many long winded stories as we jogged up the hills (which is probably a good thing for everyone else) and used the trick “So, what was your last race like?” to keep the other people talking more than me. (seriously, runners love to talk about their past races and they wont notice you’re barely keeping up!) But overall it was a great run with lots of stops for stiles and bramble avoidance.

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At the top of the first hill we took a few photos and then everyone absolutely bombed it down the hill. I mean, I thought I’d have a hard time keeping up on the uphills but wow, these were the real mountain goat deals I was running with. We all let loose and just flew down the path thinking for 0.00000001 second where to put your foot before trusting it and moving on to the next. It. Was. Awesome.

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After some mud (it wouldn’t be the South Downs if there wasn’t) and a climb up Devil’s Dyke we could see the sea and headed straight for it.

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Rich is not only a wonderful route planner, but also gives every passing runner and cyclist a hello and thumbs up, which just melts my crusty London heart.

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A quick pitstop to say hello to Twitter friend Kurt at the Run Store, we spilled into Ramsbottoms making it just in time for the weekend happy hour fish special. Our table was quickly filled with fish, chips, mushy peas, buttered bread, tea, and fantas and we finally stopped talking for 30 seconds to take it all in.

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The perfect meal

The perfect meal

Part to help the massive meal settle, and part because it was such a nice day, we all walked down to the seaside for one more indulgence at Marrocco’s.

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With 3 scoops for £4.50 it wasn’t much of a question how much, just what 3 of the amazing flavours to have.

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Peanut Butter Banana and Chocolate was my personal winner and would 10/10 get it again.  Proof is in the blurry selfies I tried to take but couldn’t be bothered to wait long enough for it to focus since it was melting before I could eat it!

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Summer running for the win!

setting my standard

I have a few running PBs that I’m pretty proud of and can list off when required (not in my twitter bio thank you) but also started to wonder where I’m at right now with my running.

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I ran the Assembly League Battersea a few weeks ago to see what my 5k time was on a flat, fast and accurately measured course. It helped that it was a free race with my club and chock-a-block with speedy runners to pull me along. 23:51 later I was gasping for air in the finishers chute the 281st out of 307 finishers. Run with fast people and you will get faster.

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June 2016 5k: 23:51

Keen to set some more standards I went to my first T&F practice, also at Battersea, and got to try out some events and receive coaching on technique.

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First up was Steeplechase, my dream sport, and after a few climbs up and over the barriers, we were set off to practice hurdling them and techniques for the water pit. From there we went to the high jump and after a few jumps without the bar, cleared the bar at 105cm, which would at least get me a scorer point at our competitions. Our hammer and javelin practice had to be postponed due to thunder and lightning, but that just meant more jumping and steeplechase practice.

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June 2016 High Jump: 105cm

On Sunday I ran the London City Mile, always a favourite race since I always see a lot of running friends and non-running friends who want to “give a mile a go” with a medal at the end.

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I’ve been doing a bit of training specifically for the mile, and hope to set a PB at the Serpentine 1 mile championships later this summer. I didn’t do a long run on this weekend and decided to push hard at this road mile to see how close I was to my goal time.

Trying to avoid the guy who thought it was a good idea to wear a speaker backpack at the race (it’s never a good idea) I started near the back but weaved my way through the speedy starters who inevitably slowed down as we turned around the Bank roundabout. Hearing a few cheers for Canada (Thanks Mike!) kept me going and when the finish looked close but the sign said 400m, I knew I just had to keep pushing. Miles are hard yo. Finishing in 6:47 with a new PB and close enough to my goal that I think I’ll be able to hit it on the track later this summer.

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June 2016 Mile: 6:47

So, it’s been a fun June trying new things, setting some current standards, and getting a PB along the way. Most importantly, it’s been fun.

weekend laps

Laps get a bad rap. Everyone complains about races with laps, and no one thinks, “Wow I’m so excited to do 50+ laps of this 30yrd pool”

But my weekend was filled with laps and it was awesome.

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On Friday I did 1 lap of the Kings Cross Pond with Manda & Team Mermaids celebrating her last day of work before maternity leave!

On Saturday I stood in Lane 3 and watched Britain’s best 10,000m runners do 25 laps each in a few races culminating in the men & women’s Olympic Trials race. The men’s race was first and pretty exciting once the pacers dropped back, but none of them finished under the standard.

The main event of the night was the Women’s race with Jo Pavey wearing #1 and trying to qualify for her 5th (!!!) Olympics. As one tweeter put it, she was wearing her Exeter Harriers club vest that was probably older than some of her competitors! The race was full on from the beginning with an early breakaway group and then a few amazing moves in the last 1k by Jess Andrews. She looked SO strong through the finish it was such a great race to be right up there with my cowbell cheering them all on.

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Waking up with the sun on Sunday I jumped on my bike and glided the 8 minutes downhill to the West Reservoir for the first Splash race of the year. It’s my third year taking part in a Capital Tri race and I love them so much. They’re so well organised they seem effortless, but you know a lot of work has gone into them.

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Josie, Helen and I were signed up to the 1.5k Splash and suitably full of nerves and listing off a few excuses as we zipped up each other’s wetsuits we made our way to the dock and into the fresh 16*C water. Letting the cold water in through the neck really was the worst part as we quickly warmed up and after a quick wave we were off.

I then had the best start to a swim race I’ve ever had (including the pool trialthon last week!) Everything felt great and my breathing was spot on right from the start. I was even sighting well for the first few buoys! Within the first 100m I decided to do the full 2 laps of the 1.5k course (until then was still wavering on dropping down to 1 750m lap) and just kept riding the awesome swim rhythm I had going.

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The heats are well spaced out and not too busy (at least where I end up swimming) but I still got a few knocks and taps while people passed me, which was actually encouraging as it meant I was at least swimming on the race line! Halfway around the second lap I started to get tired and knew I should probably have trained a bit more for this one, but still finished in a good-for-me time of 41 minutes. WITH NO PANIC BREAKS!

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We hung around on the sunny patio for a few rounds of tea and to watch Alex off on his later 750m race. Seems the word is out and all the fast swimmers came out so he didn’t win this year, but we still got some extra snickers bars , therefore winners all around.

With all the cowbell ringing and swimming my arms are in pain writing this blog post, but am already looking forward to some more laps tonight at the Serpentine track session I help coach tonight.

 

running more of less

I love the big running races. Big expos, big events, the whole city out cheering you on… it’s my kind of fun.But this summer I’m changing gears a bit. I just did a triathlon, I’ve got a few open water swimming events planned, and I’m going to be running shorter distances in smaller races.

It’s something that just feels right to do right now. On my run commute in this morning I listened to the latest episode of the excellent Ask Lauren Fleshman series on Running On Om and in among some other amazing ideas that hit me like a ton of bricks, Lauren talked about the importance of pursuing ideas at the right time. Taking this into my own life, it’s not the right time to be pushing towards a big huge new running goal (like running an ultra last summer) and I don’t want to force it.

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The club 1 mile race last summer

Luckily, as a member of Serpentine Running Club, I have access to some great races and events over the summer. Our club membership fees to towards a lot of member benefits that include world class coaching, athlete development, social trips and entry into club leagues like the Assembly League. Fully run by volunteers from all the clubs involved the Assembly League (and the cross country leagues in the winter) is a great show of what races are without all the excessive sponsorship and mid race polar bear hugs.

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Along with the competitive 5km (ish) Assembly League each month I’m going to run some track races. !!! As a part of our club grand prix championship (to crown the club’s fastest runner at almost every distance for the year, age graded) there are 3000m and 1 mile races at our track in July and even if you aren’t competing for the win, there are heats for everyone to get their best time for the year. If I could get every runner to do one thing it would be to do a race on the track, so much fun and a whole new experience.

It feels like the right time for me (and my bank balance) to take a little step back from signing up for every event I see and like. Lauren Fleshman also mentions it’s OK to have great ideas and put them on the backburner for later when the time is right. I waited a couple of years to run what ended up being one of the best half marathons I’ve ever run, the Giulietta & Romeo Half Marathon. They’re not going anywhere and having a list of great events as my to do list isn’t the worst thing to look at!

Crystal Palace Triathlon

I definitely have an M.O. when it comes to triathlons: Once a year, London based, sprint distance, friends to do it with, sunny weather.

ITU World Triathlon London 2014: (Entered but DNS due to injury)

London Triathlon 2015

Yesterday: Crystal Palace Triathlon 2016!

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I had heard of the Crystal Palace Triathletes Triathlon for a few years now, gaining a reputation in the Serpentine running club as one of the best events to do in London. It sells out quickly every year and for good reason. Great venue, well organised, and the some of the friendliest volunteers on the course. It’s a good mix of beginners, returning regulars, and speedy AG’ers all mixed together to make the perfect triathlon soup.

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In the chaos of moving I didn’t have all the time in the world to get ready for this triathlon, but found some time on Saturday to throw my things in a pile and pack the basics.

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I took the Overground all the way from North London easy enough and arrived at the recommended hour before my start time and picked up my stickers and race pack by the beach volleyball court and had everything stuck on the right place before I got into transition to rack my bike and get ready.

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Everything laid out on my towel I headed into the Sports Centre to the pool to pick up my timing chip and line up for the swim start. I was pretty nervous as haven’t been swimming in a few (many many few) weeks and even though feel better in a pool than OW, was still a bit apprehensive of racing the swim.  We were seeded according to predicted 750m time but two people still passed me in the first 50m. A few more in the first 300m and then I passed 2 people and I think 1 passed me in the last 100. It was all very civilized though compared to a mass OW start.

*waves*

*waves*

As I was walking to T1 out of the sports centre and down some slippery stairs I took my time so much an official mentioned I could run if I wanted too. Oops, it was time to turn on some competitive spirit. Vest, helmet, shoes, race belt on and I was out of the transition and straight towards the hill. The bike & run courses at Crystal Palace are hilly and there is one sharp/steep hill that you do each lap and gets everyone. I was going right down in my gears to spin up it from the first lap. But as the amazing volutneer marshall half way up the hill kept saying, just spin it out, don’t fight the bike and save your big gears for the downhill. And wheeeeeeeeeeeee eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! I sure did. Flying down across the top of the lap and down the hill was so much fun that you’d almost forget about that hill coming up again, and again, and again.

hi-tec lap counting system

hi-tec lap counting system

I knew 9 laps was going to be hard to count, and my watch was in miles so couldn’t’ do the maths to = 20km. I ended up tying 9 hair ties (in Serpie colours obvs) on my handle bars to count the laps and tossed one each lap. I saw Laura F on the hill each lap and she was a great cheerleader and photographer, along with all the other amazing supporters on the course. A short aside: there are a million reasons to join a running club (ahem Serpentine) but a huge one is the amount of support you get at any race you enter. There were at least 10 people cheering me on each lap AND 3-4 of the marshals were Serpies so they were giving us extra cheers and motivation along the course. Even if it wasn’t Serpies, the other tri clubs that had their supporter tents set up were cheering everyone else in clubs on with “Come on Serpie!” and it just makes for such a great racing experience. I’ve noticed it at almost every race (even the Rome Marathon!) but it was just extra pronounced on Sunday.

photo by @lazygirlrunning

photo by @lazygirlrunning

After the final climb and final wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee downhill I turned into transition and took 3 minutes to do my hair apparently. The drama of hair not long enough for plaits but too long to leave loose. Pony tail sorted I set off on the run absolutely f*cking loving it. Nothing makes you love running more than swimming and cycling before it. I pranced up the hill (photos show more of a slog, but I felt like I was prancing!) and around the not-very-scenic out-and-back parking lot section and back down the hill and then did the same for my second lap. You don’t really know who is in front of you due to the way triathlons start, but I passed a few guys on the hills and felt like I was keeping a decent pace with wobbly legs.

Which brunette Serpentine am I?

Which brunette Serpentine am I?

It was starting to get quite warm as I ducked onto the track for the last 600m and finished with a smile on my face and headed straight for the water table. After a quick walk-by the cake and kit stalls I grabbed my stuff from transition, did a quick change, and met Alex, Laura, Phil, Helen, and friends for a much needed picnic. I was starving.

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I could write a whole other review of the picnic (it was delicious) but back to the triathlon. I can’t say enough good things about the Crystal Palace Triathletes for putting on such a great event that was both welcoming to beginners and a favourite of returning speedy triathletes who return year after year. We were given a travel coffee mug and a musette with our registration and I can see both coming in handy for carrying post-race picnics to my next event.

If you like friendly and fun triathlons make sure to get on the Crystal Palace Triathletes mailing list if you want to enter next year’s race. Sign up is usually a Sunday night so get it in your calender and before you order your takeaway, enter a triathlon.

Times Colonist 10k

This blog post was more painful to write than most marathon blogs because my shoulders hurt so much. While visiting family and friends on the West Coast I ran the Times Colonist 10k with my friend Julia, her husband and daughter Paige. We each took turns pushing the running stroller and even though I only ran with it for a few KM I pulled something in my shoulder and it hurt for almost a week.

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When we book a trip back to Vancouver to visit our families the first thing I do is check the local race calendar.  This year we went back during the Vancouver marathon weekend, but being a (surprisingly) sensible person I didn’t sign up for it since we were at a wedding the night before.

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I did see the Times Colonist 10k on the race schedule so messaged Julia, got a spot on her corporate team and got her planning our post race eats. The TC10k is the largest 10k event on Vancouver Island and attracts a lot of people to try their first race, get active and walk a 10k, or is their annual reminder to keep moving!

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The race starts in front of the BC Legislature and right on the waterfront. Being buggy runners we were seeded in the 1:40 pace pen, but that was all the way at the back and trying to get a buggy through thousands of people isn’t ideal. We waited on the sides for a break and then snuck in just before the start.

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We ran/walked the course all together and even had time to stop for cupcakes just before halfway! The wind was pretty cold during the last half along the coast, but it was so beautiful and I was enjoying every step even pushing the extra weight!

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After the race we were given a buffet of chocolate milk and cookies from Thrifty Foods, and I did my best to fill my pockets. Paige slept through the finish, a long 10k for her too!

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After the race we had a quick nap and then headed out to Tacofino for the best tacos I’ve had in years. One steak and one fish, I couldn’t decide.

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