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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10k, Race Review, Reviews, Running, Training

Race Review: York 10k 4.8.13

Sunday 4th August was my home town 10k, organised by the Jane Tomlinson charity.

Getting there

This is an easy one for me – just 10 minutes drive to the racecourse in York.  I do love organised runs, but I’m terrible with early starts so local events are always preferable.   I got up at 7am to eat porridge and a banana, that way I could make sure I’d done all my digesting before the run started.

Parking

There’s event parking at the racecourse itself.  We parked on a side street a few minutes walk away – the streets do seem to be getting busier and busier every year though.   I’ve heard lots of people say the traffic is bad getting to this run from further away, so make sure you’ve left plenty of time.

Facilities

We got the racecourse in plenty of time and spotted a MASSIVE queue for the portable toilets.  I didn’t even need a wee but the husband and I didn’t have much else to do so we joined the queue and stood around for 15 minutes.  By the time I got there, I did need a wee so all was well before the start of the race.  With an estimated 6000 runners, I think a few more loos would have been good.

The start

I’ve done this race in previous years and the start has been a bit of a mess – everyone penned in on Knavesmire Road and not able to hear the announcers.  This year there were pens for sub 45, sub 55, sub 60 minute runners to assemble in, to be followed by 60 minute + runners, joggers and walkers.  A huge improvement!  I set off with the sub-60 runners and was a bit surprised to see people walking within the first kilometre.  A bit ambitious in the group they stood with perhaps 🙂

The route

This run is billed as one of the most beautiful 10k’s in England and they’re right.  It goes past the river, York Minster…it’s lovely.  The route is mostly flat, with a few small inclines.  It does get narrow at some points though, so competitive types might find it a bit frustrating if they get stuck.

I had Harry Gration from Look North (our local news) running behind me for a while, he was getting so much attention from the spectators!  I sped up so he didn’t overtake me.

There were lots of people on the route cheering us on – thank you so much!

The finish

The finish came quite quickly for me.  Up to 7k I felt fine and like I was going fairly fast.  I didn’t dare look at my Garmin in case I was actually going really slowly!  The 8th and 9th kilometre felt harder but I had enough to get a sprint to the finish.

The goodies

A disappointing goodie bag, but I think I might have a got a defective one.  I got a medal, technical tee and small chocolate bar.  The husband got medal, tee, chocolate, lucozade and a stack of leaflets.  Oh well.

My time

56.41.  I’m delighted with that, another PB.  If it had been a little cooler I think I might have gone even faster too.

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Kit, Reviews, Running, Training

Kit Review: RooSport

Now I’ve worked out a rough strategy for gels for the York Marathon, I need a way to carry them.  I can hold a single gel and a water bottle quite comfortably, but four or five gels requires something a bit more formal.

I’ve seen runners wearing belts like the Spibelt that have holders for gels, but I’m not sure I will be comfortable running in a belt.  My skin is very sensitive, and anything that rubs against it when I’m running or sweating can lead to sore red irritations.  Even labels or a twisted bra strap have hurt me in the past.

While I was looking online for inspiration, I came across the RooSport.  This is an alternative to a belt, it’s a pocket with a magnetic tab.  The pocket slips into your shorts, and the magnetic tab folds over and holds it in place.

Alternative to the Spibelt

Alternative to the Spibelt?

The RooSport isn’t available from Amazon or other retailers, only directly via the RooSport website.  The ordering process was fairly seamless, but I was a bit nervous about the lack of detail about shipping – there are no lead times for international orders.  I did email to check, but didn’t get any reply.

That said, the delivery was very fast, my RooSport arrived in about 3 working days.  I’ve had UK Amazon orders that took longer than that 🙂

I’ve tried the RooSport on 2 long runs now.  The good points are:

  • It does feel totally secure and you do forget you’re wearing it
  • It is very easy to get gels out
  • It’s hand washable and dries quickly
  • The material is very comfortable

The not so good points are:

  • The more you put in it, the more noticeable it gets.  One gel and you can barely see it, but more than one gel and it starts to look like a huge lump
  • The website claims it has space for five gels, but this isn’t true for the SiS Go gels I’m using – it will take three at the most, any more and it doesn’t shut and feels quite ungainly

I was a bit worried about the zip on the back which is facing your skin as you wear it, but this hasn’t caused any rubbing or irritation so far.

Overall I’d give the RooSport 8/10.  It’s a great idea that has clearly come from a runner’s experience, but I’m not sure it’s big enough to get me through a marathon.  If all you’re carrying is car keys, then it’s ideal – I see from other blogs that people use it as a money belt substitute when they travel too.

I’m going to try a Spibelt as well, so I’ll let you know what I think when that arrives.

How do you carry your food?

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10k, Race Review, Reviews, Running, Weather

Race Review: Leeds 10k 14.7.13

Sunday 14th July was the Jane Tomlinson Leeds 10k.  The Jane Tomlinson events are always well organised and well attended, the entrance fees are steep but the atmosphere and the goodie bag are usually worth it 🙂

Getting there

Leeds isn’t too far from York so we had a leisurely breakfast (wholemeal bagels and honey, banana) and left the house at 7.45.  Traffic getting into Leeds isn’t bad and there is lots of parking, just make sure you read up on the road closures.  It was cloudy when we left York, but as we drove towards Leeds the sun really started to blaze.

Parking

There are lots of car parks in the centre of Leeds, and if you can find an on street space it’s free on a Sunday.

Facilities

My pre-race wee is always a concern for me – will I have to queue, how grotty will the toilets be?  There were lots of portaloos but the queues there were quite big.  What most runners don’t know is that there are public toilets in the corner of Millenium Square where the runners assemble, and the queue there wasn’t too bad.   It’s a little thing, but a clean toilet and toilet paper make for a great start to the day.

The start

My only real quibble with this race is how early they want the runners to assemble.  The race started at 9.30, but we were supposed to be assembled by 8.30 to be walked to the start at 8.50. There was a lot of hanging around listening to the DJ rambling and most people just wanted to get going.  We found a little patch of shade which was much better than 45 minutes standing in full sun.

The route

The route was new this year – fast and flat, and similar to the Abbey Dash route (another Leeds 10k).  It’s an ‘out and back’ route, so the road was split in two for the faster runners to return while I plodded on.  I know some people don’t like this type of route, but I love being able to see the elite athletes zoom by, and when I’m on my way back I like to see if there are still people behind me.

There was a little bit of congestion in places but overall it was okay.

The finish

Slightly uphill!  Just like every finish in Leeds seems to be 🙂  The 200 meters to go sign was very welcome, and I crossed the line in 57.32, a new personal best (PB) for me.  I was targeting sub-60, so I was very happy.  The husband got sub-50 so he was delighted too.

The goodies

Jane Tomlinson events always provide a great technical t-shirt.   There was water, Lucozade Sport and  a couple of little chocolate bars which I devoured in the car on the way home.   There was lots of water and sponges on the route, which were very welcome in the heat.

My time

57.32.  It’s York 10k next month, now I have a new target to beat!  I really feel like my training is making me stronger and more consistent.  I’m a bit faster too, but strength is my goal with an eye on the marathon…it’s getting closer!

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Diet, Kit, Reviews, Running, Training

Kit Review: Sis Go Isotonic Gel

Running can be an expensive sport once you start looking at all the kit and accessories available.  There is a whole industry built around offering more and more sophisticated options to runners, all with a price tag attached.

When I set off for a run with my Brooks trainers, Garmin watch, Nike capris etc…I’m probably wearing the most expensive outfit I own (just to sweat in it!).

One area I’m very sceptical about is runner’s nutrition.  I’ve seen people at 5k runs taking energy gels, clutching sports drinks, they are probably taking on more calories than the burn in the 30 or so minutes they’ll be running.

My rule of thumb is that I don’t need anything extra if I’m doing up to 70 minutes of exercise.  Beyond 70 minutes, I might need more fuel.  For up to 70 minutes, a piece of flapjack before I head out and a bottle of water are fine 🙂

When I’ve done half marathons in the past, I’ve faded at the 7/8 mile mark.  For the marathon, I’m working on strategy of taking on some fuel every hour, and I’m incorporating that into my long runs now so I don’t get any tummy related surprises on the big day.

I’ve been using SiS Go Gels.  The marketing blurb says “concentrated carbohydrate energy in a convenient fast-flow gel, Science in Sport (SiS) Go Gel is the world’s first and only isotonic energy gel with unique patent-pending formulation.

Each handy palm-sized Go Gel sachet contains 25g of isotonic carbohydrate energy, which is enough energy for 20 to 30 minutes of exercise, and because it’s isotonic, it will still deliver energy without the need for extra water.”

SiS Go Gel

SiS Go Gel

I say “they don’t taste too yucky, seem to hit the spot and don’t give me any digestive grief”.  Tropical is my favourite flavour, the blackcurrant isn’t too bad either.

There’s another version of the gel that contains a hit of caffeine as well, but I’m trying to avoid caffeine as part of my training regime, so I’ll be giving that one a miss – if you’ve tried it, let me know what you think in the comments.

The sales websites suggest 3 gels per 60 minutes of exercise.  I’ll go for 1 per hour in the marathon with one for an emergency, so I’ll be carrying 5 in total.  My next challenge is to find a way to transport them.  I don’t really like running with belts or backpacks but I’m going to have to try a few options, another kit review will follow when I find something I’m happy with.

How do you fuel your long runs?  Gels, jelly babies, just water?

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Kit, Reviews, Running

Kit Review: Sports Bras

Reading through Runner’s World this month I was highly amused to see there is a naturist friendly 5k in Pembrokeshire.  My immediate thought was ouch, my chest!  But looking at the picture, it seems most of the women runners chose to wear a sports bra, trainers and bare bottoms.

The sports bra is an essential piece of kit for women runners.  A lack of proper support can lead to long term droopiness, but short term I find it painful to run with my chest flapping about so it’s not good for my focus or my form.

Sports bras can be eye-wateringly expensive, so it’s important to choose the right one.  Some of them just don’t seem to work for me, but I have to spend a few minutes jumping up and down in a changing room before I can decide.

The brand I swear by is Shock Absorber.  I’m a D cup, so I need something fairly substantial – friends I know who have larger chests than me run in 2 sports bras at once to get the support they need.

The 2 bras that work best for me are the Shock Absorber Ultimate Run and the Shock Absorber Active Multisports.

Ultimate Run

This bra is great for running and really minimises bounce.  My only criticism is that I’ve never found a way to put it on single handedly and always need someone to fasten the back of it for me!

Ultimate Run

 

 

Active Multisports

This is a crop top style compression bra.  It’s got 2 fasteners on the back so it’s comfortable but very supportive.  I’ve had about 6 of these now, I have found the latest ones seem to be a bit softer and less supportive than the older ones so I’ll have to play around with sizing next time I buy.

Multisports

 

 

Sports Bras come in all sorts of pretty colours but to be frank I don’t care what they look like as long as they do the job 🙂

The other sports bras I’ve had some success with were Shock Absorber tennis bras.  They were on sale at my local Sweatshop so I grabbed a Ball and a Racket Sports bra.   They work great at minimising bounce, tennis players are probably experiencing similar forces to runners so they are worth a look too. (PS I’m not affiliated with Shock Absorber in any way….I just like their bras!)

Ball Racket Sports

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you’ve invested in your sports bras, remember they will only last so long before the elastic starts to give and you’ll notice you’re not getting the same support you used to.  I find mine last 18 months to 2 years and then they become ‘gym bras’ before being sent off to the great bra shop in the sky.

While they are expensive, they are a great investment and with some clever shopping you can find some bargains.  Shops like TK Maxx and Sports Direct get good sports bras sometimes, so it’s worth a check.

If you’ve got a recommendation for a great sports bra please do leave a comment.

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