Attitude, Race Review, Reviews

Race Review: Great North Run 07.09.14

I ran my first Great North Run in 2006.  It was my first half marathon and took me 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Since then, I’ve run every single one expect for 2012 which was the husband’s 40th birthday.  I’ve got my half marathon time down to 2 hours 15 although recently it’s stuck at around the 2 hours 20/25 mark.

I absolutely love the Great North Run.  It’s amazingly well organised, the atmosphere and the spectators are fantastic and I get a lump in my throat every time the Red Arrows go over.  I run with a good friend and we travel to Newcastle on the train together then she waits for me at the end and we go home.

This year we said would be our last GNR.  It’s getting expensive and to someone who trains in flat York the whole course feels like it’s uphill.  But I might have changed my mind on the finish line…we’ll see!

This year was astonishingly hot for September in the grim North East of England.  I knew as soon as I set off I would struggle with the heat so put any thoughts of a PB out the window and focused on enjoying the run. There are bands every mile, people in costumes and of course Bus Stop Elvis as mile 11 – love him!

Maybe I just wasn’t in a competitive mood but I felt like I’d had a nice day out.  I finished in 2 hours 28 and I’ll take that – anything over 2 hours 30 and I’ve have been gutted.

I wasn’t the millionth finisher (it looks like she was about an hour after me) but congratulations to her – and to GNR for being such an amazing event.

Happy running this week! 🙂

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Diet, Reviews

Product Review: High5 Race Pack

This year I’m training for my second marathon and the husband is training for his first one.  I got into the habit of taking gels with me on longer runs last year, but when I went to the cupboard this year it was pretty much bare.  Apart from one gel that expired in March this year, but I had it anyway.  I’m not dead yet.

Last year I used SiS Go Gels which were pretty good. They weren’t the gels given out on the York Marathon route so I set off with 5 of them tucked in my belt like the world’s worst cowboy. 

The husband also needs to start thinking about nutrition as he’s starting to flag on the longer runs, he doesn’t even take water normally let alone any food or gels.

I went to the site we normally use and found the High5 Race Pack.  What a great idea.  It’s cheap and has a stack of different gels, tablets and shakes to try.  There are different flavours, some have caffeine some don’t…perfect if you’re new to fuel on the go and need to try things out.

 High 5

I’ve tried the tablets to add to water and they’re great.  They’re zero calorie so I’m not entirely sure what they’re made of but they add a bit of salt and flavour which seems to help convince my body it’s not about to keel over.

I’ve tried one of the caffeinated gels but I’m not so sure about that, it gave me a massive headache while running.  Maybe I’ll try one more and see before I decide I definitely don’t like them.

My fuel strategy for this year will be similar to last year I think, some gels and some flapjack for on the route as well.  I might add some of the water tablets and some caffeine but I’ll see how they perform in training.  I definitely don’t want anything new to upset my stomach on the day!

Training this week – not bad.  I’m up to half marathon distance now and have a 17 miler planned in for this weekend. Happy running!

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10k, Race Review, Reviews, Uncategorized, Weather

Race Review – Leeds 10k 20th July 2014

The Leeds 10k is an old friend of mine – I’ve done the race on quite a few occasions now and I know the course pretty well.  It’s a fairly flat (and supposedly fast) out and back along Kirkstall Road.

It’s not the most exciting route, but I love watching the people who are ahead of me when I’m running out and those behind me when I’m running back.  It gives me something to focus on and takes my mind off the road.

Last year my time at Leeds was 57.31.  Could I break the magic 60 minutes again this year?  I hoped so, but the weather had other ideas.

We are in a HEATWAVE in the UK at the moment. I’m not complaining, but it’s killing my running 😦

Sunday morning was foggy, but the sort of fog that says “very soon it’s going to be toasty here”.  Sure enough, I was sweating on the start line before we’d even gone anywhere. I tucked my t-shirt up into my sports bra (apologies, those of you who had to watch my belly running) and off we went.

Up to 5k…not bad.  Post 5k…are these my legs??  I just couldn’t make my feet work!  I switched to 3 minutes running, 1 minute walking and then to 1 minute running, 1 minute walking.  The last mile was rubbish and I just wanted it all to be over.  It’s always nerve racking seeing other people collapsed by the roadside, particularly the man wearing the same running outfit as the husband.  Best wishes to you all, I hope you’re all okay.

Scores on the doors? 1.05.37.  Not good, but not terrible either.  York 10k is in 2 weeks so I have chance to redeem myself.

Even the husband was 6 minutes slower than last year – and he’s not impressed.

Route – 8/10

Goody bag – 8/10 – loved the Kitkat Chunky

Congratulations to our friend Richard who was completing an Ironman while we were complaining about the 10k.  Nice work!

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Race Review, Reviews

Race Review: York Marathon 20.10.13

20th October was the big day and the one I’ve been building up to for 6 long months of training.  It’s been particularly tough with all the building work we’re getting done and having no kitchen for 4 weeks, but I think my training has kept me sane in a way.

Here’s how my day with 6500 other runners went.

Getting there

Oh I do approve of local races!  The husband had been able to book a parking space for us a David Lloyd’s gym (thanks David Lloyd’s!) which was only a stones throw away from the start line.  I was able to get up at 6.45, have a porridge breakfast and still get there with plenty of time to spare.

Facilities

The start line seemed very quiet compared to some of the other runs I’ve done, but the baggage area looked well organised.  There were lots (and I mean lots) of portaloos for pre-race wees which I’m always happy about.

We were put into pens about an hour before the start and did a mass warm-up, the start then got away on time.  I was at the back in Zone 5 so I had that odd disconnected moment when you know the race has started but you personally won’t be going anywhere for a while.

The route

For a marathon, the route is very nice and mainly flat apart from one steepish hill.  The first 10k takes you into the centre of York and then you’re out into the countryside and through the villages.  The spectators were great and so were the marshalls, really buoyant and cheerful which helps.

There were 2 sections on the route where runners doubled back on themselves. I don’t mind these normally because it’s good to reassure yourself that there are people still behind you. The first one was quite short so not too bad, but the second one went on forever and I could have done without it.  There was no timing chip at the bottom either, so I wonder how many runners were tempted to just cross the path?

The marathon featured Runner’s World pacers who wore flags on their backs for the finish time they were pacing – what a great idea and what great people.  I stuck with the 4.45 guy for about 10 miles before I had a wobble and lost him.

The finish

The finish line was downhill, hoorah!  The announcer read people’s names out as they finished, and then runners were herded off to collect their goody bags.  My only criticism of the finish is it’s a real maze in the York Uni buildings – had the husband not found me I might not have found him.

The goodies

The goodie bag was very good – a medal and a t-shirt with FINISHER in massive letters on the front.  Also some food, including a packet of cheese and onion Seabrooks which were amazing for salt replacement.

My time

My goal for the marathon was anything under 5 hours, and I got 4.57.55 which I’m delighted with.  Maybe I could have done a bit faster, but I finished well and uninjured and happy.

See how happy I am 🙂

The finish line

The finish line

I’ll post some thoughts on marathon training in general next week and then decide what to do with my blog – maybe I’ll keep it going for my next run as it’s really helped me focus with my training.

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Attitude, Diet, Race Review, Reviews, Running, Weather

Race Review: Great North Run 15.9.13

Sunday 15th September was the Great North Run, the world’s second biggest half marathon.  56,000 people (including Mo Farah!) descend on Newcastle to run through to South Shields.  This year was my seventh Great North.  I ran it for the first time in 2006 and I’ve only missed one since.

The atmosphere is fantastic and even though this year was a bit of a disaster timing wise, it’s still an amazing day.

Getting there

Public transport is the best way for me to approach the GNR – we drove the first year and the traffic was HORRENDOUS.  The 7.10 train from York gets to Newcastle in plenty of time, and is full of people in running gear.  It’s a 10 minute walk from the train station to the start and don’t worry about getting lost, there are always plenty of people to follow.

Facilities

The GNR has to be well organised, it’s too big not to be.  There are lots of loos around the start, expect to queue but not for too long.  Runners put their bags onto numbered buses, and then you go meet your bus at the finish line.  The bag label on your bag and your race number are cross-checked when you collect your gear, so the security is good too.

The start

As with most big races, you’re put in a pen according to your estimated speed.  I was in my pen an hour before the start, but there are big screens with lots of stuff to watch and you can chat to fellow runners so I didn’t get bored.  We watched the elite and wheelchair races go on the big screen, and the Red Arrows did a fly over – brings a tear to my eye every time!

Once the front runners go you’ll be walked forward slowly – it took about half an hour for me to get to the start line but there’s no pushing or shoving.

It’s tradition for the person starting the race to try and high five every runner – I’m very proud to say I touched Christine Ohuruogu!

Top tip: it’s cold stood around, so grab a charity shop fleece to wear while you wait.  These are collected by another charity from the start line where they are all dumped.

The route

GNR isn’t a hilly route, but it’s not flat either.  There are lots of inclines which can creep up on you if you’ve not done any hills in your training (like me!).  There are bands every mile and the locals and supporters are flipping amazing, what other run do you get people handing out biscuits and ice pops on?

Watch out for bus stop Elvis at about 11 miles – he’s a GNR legend.

The last mile of the route is along the sea front at South Shields – it’s tempting to sprint as soon as you see it but it can feel like a very long mile…

The finish

Once you reach the finish, you collect your goodie bag and t-shirt and head off to your baggage bus.  There’s a changing area, and buses or the metro back to Newcastle if you need them.

The goodies

GNR has a great goodie bag – lots of snacks and some energy drink samples, and rather randomly a mini tube of toothpaste.  I do wish they’d include a technical tee rather than a cotton one though, as I don’t really train in cotton

My time

Well this is my tale of woe.  I was running fine until about 7 miles, when I became aware of some…rumblings…from my stomach.  I tried to ignore them, but a loo on the route at 8.5 miles saved my life!  I won’t go into detail but I was in there for some time, feeling so cross with myself.  After that whenever I tried to speed up, I got stomach cramps so the rest of the run was very patchy.

I crossed the line in 2 hours 27 minutes, a far cry from the 2.10 I was hoping for.  It was still a great day out but I was gutted about my time.  I’d had a pizza with lots of chillis 2 days before and that’s all I can think it was – an important lesson for the marathon anyway.  I wouldn’t mind so much if I’d self-sabotaged on a training run, but it’s gutting to do it on a day you only get once a year.

The weather on the route this year was supposed to be horrendous (the first ‘big storm’ of the autumn) but it wasn’t actually too bad – a bit rainy and windy but no worse than a normal September run.  I do wonder if the forecast had got my nerves going a bit too.

So, this week I’ve been focusing on re-building my confidence and getting my diet back on track.  It’s 4 and a half weeks to the marathon now and I don’t want any more disasters.

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Kit, Reviews

Kit: Trainers

Trainers are the most essential part of a runner’s kit.  Getting the right trainers can be the difference between an enjoyable run and a terrible run – there’s nothing worse than focusing on the tiny pains or niggles that bad trainers can cause.

Good trainers can also help you to recover faster from long runs, if you don’t have to wait for blisters or sore patches on your feet to heal.

When buying trainers for the first time, I’d strongly recommend visiting a proper runners shop like Sweatshop or Up and Running.  They’ll do a gait analysis and assess your feet, cutting down your shopping time by giving you options  that are more likely to work for you.   They’ll also let you run up and down the street in the trainers – it’s no good just trying them on in the shop, you need to feel them in action.

Buying trainers like this will always be more expensive, but you’re paying for the advice, not just the shoes.  Sweatshop even offer a 3 month return period in case the trainers aren’t right once you increase your distance in them.

Once I find a pair of trainers I like, I’ll buy the pair from the shop and then wait for them to turn up on the internet at a cheaper price – usually as the styles change.  If I love the trainers, I’ll stock up on a few pairs and then start to break in a new pair as an older pair wears out.

I know may runners think expensive trainers are nonsense, but my I can only speak from my experience.  When I have good trainers that fit properly, I’m happy.  When my trainers don’t fit well, I’m very sad!

For the York Marathon I’m training in Brooks Ghost 5 trainers.  They’re great!  I’m just starting to break my second pair in now.

Brooks Ghost 5

They are a neutral shoe with a broad toebox, perfect for my hobbit feet.  I still get some hard skin developing on the outside of the ball of my foot, but that happens to me whatever trainers I wear.  A Ped Egg is a runner’s best friend!

What trainers do you love?

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Kit, Reviews, Running

Kit Review: Spibelt and Sundog

It was my birthday last Saturday (that’s another year I have to drag round the marathon course with me 🙂 ).  I never know what to ask for when people ask me what presents I want, so this year I decided to trial some new running gear.

I selected a Spibelt energy gel carrier and some Sundog glasses.

Spibelt Energy Running Pouch

I’ve mentioned before on the blog that I’m looking for ways to transport the ridiculous amount of gels that I intend to consume during the marathon.  I tried a Roosport pouch (read the review here) but as my running distance increased I’ve found it’s really not practical for more than 2-3 gels.  Beyond that it feels very heavy, and unless I’m wearing really tight capris it drags my pants down as well – not a good feeling!

Spibelt

I’ve heard good things from triathlon friends about the Spibelt, so I thought I’d give that a go.  I went for the Energy Running Pouch which holds 6 gels and also has a handy little zip pouch.  It promises not to slip and shift around which I think is essential.

The belt has little loops that the gels slot into, it’s quite a tight fit but not impossible for standard size SiS gels.  I adjusted the Spibelt so it was on my hips as I’m not comfortable with things round my waist and headed off for my 19 miler.

I have to say, it was brilliant.  I had to adjust it a bit as one of the gels was scratching my back, but once I had it on it didn’t move and I really could forget it.  Getting the gels out was easy and quick, and the zip pouch is perfect for a key and other small items.

The only problem I had was feeling like a bit of a div running in it, like a cowboy with my holster belt on!  I pulled my t-shirt over it so just looked like I was a really odd shape rather than a gel addict 🙂

So in summary – Spibelt gets my recommendation for carrying gels on long runs, the Roosport is great when you don’t have to carry more than a couple of gels and your pants are tight.

Sundog Sunglasses

The other bit of running kit I’ve been after is some sunglasses for those days when it’s not really bright enough to wear the dark glasses I have.  I  had my eyes lasered a few years back and they are quite sensitive to light.  I’m also sensitive to wind in my eyes, which could be from being protected behind glasses for years.

Sundog

I chose the Sundog Lady 2 Golf Sunglasses, their full Amazon description is “Sundog Womens ‘Lady 2’ Golf Sunglasses, Silver TR90 Ultraflex Frame With Orange Polycarbonate Distortion Free, Scratch Resistant Lens With Full 100% UVA/B/C Protection” which all sounds very technical and impressive.

I wore these for my 19 mile run too (I know, brilliant idea, take loads of new kit on a long run!) and loved them.  They are lightweight, have rubber covered ear bits and I barely knew I was wearing them.   They cut down on glare without being too dark and I would certainly recommend them.

And the short version – loved them.

Stand by for more kit reviews, I’ll be doing socks next!

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