Event 30 – Moors Valley 10k

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Another event that started in the evening. I’ve turned into a night owl!

I booked this event after receiving a flyer in my goody bag at Event Number Two, the one where there was torrential rain for the whole event.  Despite the rain I loved the run and thought it would be nice to come back in the summer in nicer weather.   I though it was in the same place….it wasn’t lol!  Totally different country park but in the same area.  It was almost the same weather, we had torrential downpours all the way on the drive to Dorset….but in the end it was perfect.

I had buddies on this event.  My sister had no choice, I just booked and paid for her entry, she was in.  But a few weeks ago after Heidi had a great parkrun we started a 10k chit chat…. “Heidi you did so well on your 5k, you should do a 10K”  “er…should I??”  “yes you should”   Heidi was in!  YAY!

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I was worried about the drive on a Friday night, the west country can be a bit crazy on a Friday especially with Glastonbury on,  but apart from the rain it was fine and we arrived in good time.  In fact Moors Valley Country Park was bathed in sunshine and looked like no rain had fallen all day.  Strange.  But very welcome as the whole route was on country trails.

We faffed about a bit, putting our bibs on and debating whether to wear shorts or capris…the things you worry about!  In the end we all opted for capris.  Adi regretted the  decision, Heidi seemed fine and I hadn’t actually brought any shorts so had no choice.  Then we all went to the loo 🙂

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Totem pole start line

I guess there were around 300 runners and at 6.50pm we headed over to the start which was at a totem pole. Heidi was quite tired after some gardening work this week.  Adi had been having some knee and hip pain and I was just worn out after my trip to Sweden and hadn’t run since my 10k at Cheddar two weeks before.  Fair to say we all were wondering what the hell we we doing there!

But then it started, and as we were very near the front we were immediate passed by a stampede of speedy runners!

I went off way too fast, especially considering the first two kms were uphill.  My watch was saying under 6min kms….TOO FAST !!!  I knew I couldn’t keep it up…and didn’t.   But I settled into a nice pace and the first 5km were fun.

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It was run along gravel paths and sandy tracks.  Sometimes they were a bit boggy and there were a few puddles, but given the recent weather it was great conditions.  A rainy day would have been a very different experience.  The whole event was bathed in evening sunshine and it was very pretty out there.

It wasn’t particularly well signed and at one point there were two paths, I saw a ribbon which I hope was part of the event and I had people to follow but I was slightly worried about Heidi and Adi behind me possibly not knowing which way to go.  The marshals …well, I’m always very grateful for anyone that gives up there time for me…but they weren’t very encouraging or helpful, which was a shame.

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I enjoyed the park and it was a pretty place to run.  Before long it it was half way and the water station.  Very welcome as it was a very warm evening.  They were mumbling about people needing too much water and in fact, as I learnt from Adi later they were having trouble providing for everybody and Adi said that some people had to wait while more water was got out of big water canisters.  Adi was fine, fortunately.

By about 7km I was feeling pretty cooked, my speedy start was paying back.  Wish I had set off slower.  3km seems a long way when you are tired.  After a few more undulations I turned a corner and saw the finish…or was it?   It really wasn’t clear.  There were just bunch of people there. Turned out the finish was somewhere else, but EVERYONE had gone wrong.  Some said “you’ve finished” and I stopped my watch.

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Heidi finsihing

I was lucky that I had done almost 10k, some went wrong enough to have only completed 7km!  This has happened to me and Adi before and it can be very disappointing.

I got my goody bag and medal went to wait for Heidi and Adi.  Heidi came in around four minuets later and Adi shortly after.  Heidi was on top of the world, her first 10k and she ran it all and Adi was pleased that despite being in pain she had got round, running all the way.  We were all very happy.

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Post race stretch

It was a great evening in a lovely park.  Probably wouldn’t do it again as the organisation was a bit hap hazard.  It was a charity event…but still, basic signage and directions were still required.

Thrilled to have down this with Adi and Heidi, very special

Event 30 done!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Event 29 – Vätternrundan 300km

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Lake Vättern

The Vätternrundan is a 300km bike ride round Lake Vättern in Sweden and starts and finishes in Motala.  23000 riders take part, setting off in small groups every two minutes from 7pm Friday evening until 5.30am Saturday morning.  Everyone gets until midnight on Saturday to finish.  Because of this there is quite a mixture of riders taking part, from elite level who usually leave at 5.30am to more leisurely riders who start early but may stop for a nap or two.

Ian had hoped to do this ride a few years ago but it’s quite hard to get into, selling out within two minutes of entries coming online.  This time we were prepared and registered our interest last September which gave us a higher chance of a successful entry.  Ian had his finger on the button on the 4th of November at 6pm Swedish time and boom we were in!   I remember feeling great excitement at getting a place, quickly followed by OMG 300KM!!!!

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Villa Hamra – our guest house

So after a long but straightforward journey (4 hour drive to Stanstead, overnight stay, flight to Skavsta, hire car to Motala) we arrived at our guest house sometime on Thursday afternoon.  Ian had stayed here before.  When he didn’t get his place in 300km race three years ago he did the half version and livened it by cycling to and from Stockholm.  We were greeted by Eva who runs the guest house with big hugs and tales of how wonderful Ian was and what a great cyclist he was.  She had been telling the other guests about him.

The guest house was perfect.  Eva is a huge cycling fan, her father had founded the Vätternrundan event 50 years ago.  The whole house was covered in cycling pictures and even the duvets had little bikes on them.  This weekend she would have 20 cyclists staying, I was the only female! There wasn’t really room but she had set up extra camp beds in her drawing room, piano room  and even a caravan in the garden. Her husband would be doing it for the first time too (he is 61) so everyone was very excited.

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Duvets for cyclists

Thursday afternoon we drove into Motala and registered.  The whole town was set up for the event, big marquees everywhere, a huge cycling expo and lots of food places.  Then it was back to the guest house to put our bikes together.

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Expo day down by the lake

On Friday morning we cycled into town to check our bikes were ok, check out where the start was and get some lunch.  We had a lovely ride alongside the lake to a great lunch spot.  Most of my pictures were taken here as the sun was out and the lake looked great.  On the ride, I didn’t stop much and funnily enough we didn’t see the lake that often!

When we got back to the guest house all the other cyclists had arrived and there were bikes everywhere.  Everyone had a different start time throughout the night so Eva would be feeding us our “breakfast” all through the night too.  We had ours at 7pm, special porridge with nuts and fruit and also a drink with quinine in to stop us getting cramps – she had thought of everything.

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Three pens – nearly time for us to start

At 8pm we cycled into Motala for the start.  It was buzzing with thousands of cyclists, but very well organised.  Three pens, with the start times flashing up when it was your time to go.  21.10 – our number came up, we got into our pen with about 40-50 other people.  It was all automated with a running clock.  Each pen went every two minutes with a countdown. So we only waited a couple of minutes, the rope came down and we were off for a 300km all night bike ride.  People cheered as we went through the town and there were lots of little groups out sitting in deckchairs clapping throughout the whole race.

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Pre race snap

Ian left me after about….. four minutes lol! But of course there were so many people that I was never alone.  Always someone to ride with.  Little groups formed which was useful for drafting and as it got dark was helpful for lighting up the road.

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21.08 …our two minute countdown…52 secs to go!

The roads were amazing…so smooth, so different from home.  I don’t think I saw a single pothole!  Surprisingly most of the roads were not actually near the lake.  It would appear every now and then but mainly we were surroundly by pretty fields and sometimes on more major roads.  But most roads were traffic free on our side and even when there was an odd car it was totally outnumbered.

The marshalling was exceptional, two or more people on every roundabout.  There were also nine feed stations and again well organised. Hot drinks, energy drinks, bananas, pickles and some lovely sweet rolls… which I didn’t think I would like but did and ended eating quite a few through the night – perfect bike food 🙂   Plus, plenty of loos, mechanics and space to park your bike.  I didn’t stop at all of them but it was good to know they were there.  I loved seeing the signs…5km to feed station (but in Swedish) …then 1km to feed station…. then feed station.

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Swedish countryside

The course was not flat but no crazy hills, just undulating.  I didn’t need to get out of my big chain ring for the whole ride.  Some people did seem to find the “hills”  harder than others and I saw a few people walking, but like I say it was quite a mixed group of riders.  Although most had road bikes, some were on mountain bikes and wearing trainers….and I did see a guy wearing clogs, with a basket on his bike and loud music blaring.  Eva had told me about him, he has done every Vätternrundan since the beginning.  I also saw a preacher at the top of another hill, he is quite famous for being there every year and preaching the gospel as riders go by.

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Riding at night

So we had set off at 21.10 and by 11pm it was starting to get quite dark.  I had left putting my lights on until the last minute as I wanted them to last the night.  Fortunately darkness only lasted a few hours and by 2.30am it was light again.  This certainly helped keep me awake.  I had been worried about cycling when I should have been asleep, especially after my F*cking Moonwalk experience!! But the light helped and so did the rain which came down at 3.30am in torrential form.  I got very wet very quickly.  I did have the wherewithal to take my arm warmers off and put a jacket on which was a good move as when it finally stopped I had something dry and warm to put back on,  I had also brought spare gloves too.

The rain lasted about an hour and then it was just cloudy with a little light drizzle.  We were lucky, some of the riders that started later got around five hours of rain.

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Jan-Erik at the feed station

I stopped at a feed station just after the rain stopped to put my dry stuff on and bumped into Jan-Erik, our host from the guest house!  What were the chances?? He had left 90 minutes before me and there were literally thousands of riders 🙂  He showed me his special gloves – yellow marigolds, which he wore underneath his  short fingered bike gloves lol!  Unusual but surprisingly effective.

300km is a long way and at times it was mentally tough.  The kms were counted down at the side of the road every 10kms  290, 280, 270….  At 180km to go I realised I still had an Ironman bike distance left and I had already been cycling for 4.5 hours – Crikey!  You know you are in a different kind of event when you pleased that there is “only” 100km to go 🙂

I tried as much as possible to stay with little groups to save energy and protect me from he wind.  This worked well although as I was often much faster up hills than my group  I would sometimes ride on and try and latch on to another group further up.  At just over ten hours I heard my phone ding…I knew it was Ian texting me to say he had finished.  I still had 60km to go!  But I was going well and further along than Ian had expected so he said he would wait for me at the end rather than go back to the guest house.

At 260km I had a slight wobble…I couldn’t see straight as I was so tired from lack of sleep.  My body felt fine but my head needed coffee and another sweet roll.  I stopped at the next feed station and felt much better afterwards.  The last 40km I was pretty much on my own, no groups my speed to ride with although I did have a guy who clung on to my back wheel for about 30km until I got so fed up with him not taking a turn in the front I put my foot down on a slightly steeper hill and left him.  He never caught me up.

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Happy with our medals

The very last part was along a road that we had cycled the day before so I knew where I was and that it was nearly over.  The last 10km marker was  good to see. I came over the finish line and could hear Ian cheering for me.  I got my medal and went off to get a big hug from my hubby.  He was really pleased with how well I had done.  He also had a great ride and was now hanging out at the end with his new buddy Neil who he had done much of the ride with.  Neil was happy to stay with Ian until I turned up as you are not allowed to drive for 6 hours after the finish of the race and the police do check.

We were cycling back to the guest house so were fine.  Just another 5km to go until I could have a nap, and that’s what we did.  Arrive at guest house, shower and nap.  After our nap Eva insisted that we got in a hot tub in the garden “for our muscles” then into the jacuzzi (a different tub) “to relax”  then gave us a cold beer “to help us sleep” 🙂   By now some of the other riders were back so it was all very jolly…and very Swedish.  Another nap and then pizza with everyone at the guest house.  Eva had arranged all this for us too, so kind.  Then back to bed for a good nights sleep 8pm – 7am.  We woke up Sunday with no idea what day it was but feeling pretty good and happy.

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Of course I had an ice cream
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Ian, Eva, Jan-Erik and me

We still had Sunday at the guest house and after packing up our bikes and a nice lunch in a nearby pretty town we headed off to the airport where we would stay over night before an early flight Monday morning.  It had a been a fantastic weekend, great hosts, an amazing ride plus hanging out with lots of cyclists, and then just when we thought it was all over the weekend got a little bit better…..

We were having a meal in the restaurant at the airport hotel when I saw a girl at a table with three guys, who seemed familiar.  I must have looked over at her many times and in the end said to Ian I think she is a famous cyclist.  It was, it was Olympic champion and all round elite cyclist Nicole Cooke.  The thing that made this slightly more special was that I happened to be reading her book this weekend!!! I dashed up to the room and got it and then went over to her.  She laughed so much when she saw me standing there with the book.  Here in a budget hotel in Sweden was a random lady who not only recognised her but had her book.   They had all done the Vätternrundan and we had a good chat, got my book signed and got a photo.  She was very lovely and it was the icing on the cake of a great weekend.

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Nicole Cooke

 

 

 

 

 

 

Event 28 – Cheddar Gorge 10k

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Cheddar Gorge

This race was the best fun – mud, drizzle, slipping and sliding…oh and running!

I realised a few weeks ago that I had nothing booked for this past  weekend – probably thought I deserved a rest 🙂     A quick scan of the Runner’s World events calendar and I saw this (fairly) local 10k – entries still open!  It was only an hours drive but still in Somerset and it was cheap – I booked it.

The day before I thought I should check the route – note to self – do this when booking!!!   Not only was it all on trails, there was a thirty minute hike uphill to the start.  My plans of turning up at the last minute, running and coming straight home where starting to fade.  I would now need to get there early enough to park, hike to the start and leave enough time to recover from the hike – WHAT!!!

Oh well.  The race didn’t start until 11am so it was still a fairly leisurely start to my morning.  Left home just after 8am and had a quiet drive to Cheddar – home of the cheese.

The route from the car park was well signed, just as well as it turned off the road and into a mass of trees.  There were steps cut out into the hillside.  It was muddy and quite slippery – wishing at this point that I had put my trail shoes on instead of my trainers and I hadn’t even reached the start.

At the top of the hill was the start area on a big grassy field.  I’m sure there would have been fantastic views but it was raining and very misty.  Everyone was very friendly and I spent the next 45 minutes or so chatting away with other runners, and most of them did seem to be runners – not triathletes and cyclists just doing a running event.

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Stone wall climbing

At 10.40 we watched the kids race – they charged round a 300m course on the wet grass which was surprisingly hilly, and got lots of cheers from the crowd.

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Rocky path

At 11am is was time for the 5km and 10km race to start.  There was also a half marathon race which I was very pleased that I wasn’t doing, they would start ten minutes after us.  The organiser gave us a quick race briefing – “it’s wet and very slippery” just about summed it up…oh and “you’re not actually at the top of the Gorge yet, the first 1km is uphill”  …oh yay.

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He blew a whistle and we were off.  The uphill was not too bad and my trainers seemed to cope on the wet grass.  Within minutes I realised I was loving this race.   As well as grassy sections, there was rocky trail, there was mud and gravel, there was up and down…there were cows!  There were little kissing gates to go through and later on stone walls to climb over! It was a proper trail race and very different from the road races I have done recently. It was also hard work, I could hear heavy breathing all around me.

At around 4km there was a lovely out and back section which was fairly flat and you got to see runners coming in the other direction.  At this point I was also being passed by the speedy the HM runners.  Even though there was often little space to pass especially of the down hill rocky bits, everyone was really patient and very encouraging.  I saw two of the guys that I had spoken to at the the start and they gave me a pat on the back as they passed.  It was so friendly.

Occasionally the mist would clear and there were spectacular view of the gorge and countryside for miles.

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At 8km we had to climb over a stone wall and then in front of us were the Hell Steps! Apparently 100 of them – I didn’t count – up up up – very steep and hard work at this point in the race.

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Hell Steps.

The last 1.5km went though some pretty woodland.  As I came out of the other side and I could see the finish although we still had to run round a field, negotiate a stile and another wall and climb a grassy hill before actually reaching it.

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I loved this race – I felt so grateful to be strong enough and fit enough to enjoy the experience.  I would have found this type of thing very hard a few years ago – it would have stressed my breathing too much.  I feel like I’ve come a long way 🙂  I felt like a proper runner – which doesn’t happen often.

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It’s getting to be a habit

28 done!

 

Event 26/27 – Peterborough parkrun and the Dragon Ride

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Two events this weekend!

Just before Christmas last year, travelling on a train from Edinburgh to London (a successful trip this time!) I got a call from Ian wanting to know if we were free the first weekend in June 2016.  He wanted to do a bike Time Trial in Peterborough.  Funnily enough my train was just passing through Peterborough as we spoke, so I knew exactly where it was.   It was on the opposite side of the country to the other event I had booked that June weekend.  The Dragon Ride in Wales.

Hmmm… “ok” I said.  Things seem different when they are six months away.  So this past weekend, as we tried to load three bikes and a lot of kit into the car, it wasn’t seeming such a great idea.

Our first drive was from Somerset to Peterborough.  It didn’t start off too well.  There was already a queue on the A303 at the end of our road, and the queues and heavy traffic continued on the M5 until after ninety minutes and only about thirty miles we deiced to ignore our satnav and go rogue.

I won’t bore you with all the details but the six and half hour drive was just about saved by a lovely pub meal in Stow on the Wold in the Cotswolds and Ian gamely playing the Plane Game (usually only played with Zoe and Heidi), which he won 4 – 0 by the end of the weekend 🙂

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parkrun barcode

So… as I was in Peterborough anyway I decided a parkrun was in order.  Ian wasn’t riding until just before midday so I had enough time to do my event and then get back and cheer him on.

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Wooden seats on my walk to parkrun – handy if I got tired on the way back.

Fortunately I could walk to the park, which was about and mile and half away, as all the surrounding roads were closed for the Time Trial.   The walk was along a very pretty trail, which soon brought me out at Ferry Meadows park.  The start was at a cafe – there were two cafes!!!  A nice lady saw my running gear and asked it I was going to parkrun and pointed me in the right direction.  I mentioned that there weren’t many runners around. “Give it ten minutes” she said.  Ten minutes later 400 people had appeared!

I chatted to another nice lady before the start, hoping she could tell me a bit about about the course.  Unfortunately I chose someone who was visiting from Scotland lol!  We had a chat about other parkruns and headed towards the start line.

It was a lovely two or maybe three lap course – I really couldn’t tell quite where I was at times, but I do remember passing a marshal in a wheel chair at least twice.  There was a pretty lake and the path was fairly flat.   The path was also quite narrow so it seemed very busy.  My time was under 30 minutes which I was pleased about.  I think I could have gone slightly faster but due to volume of people my first km was slower than I would have liked.

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A very enjoyable morning.  I was running out of time though, if I wanted to get a quick shower in. So I ran back along the trail to the hotel.  Ian was waiting in the room in his speed suit and pointy hat, TT bike at the ready.  He gave me twenty minutes to have a shower and start resembling a normal person instead of a hot sweaty mess.  My triathlon transition training certainly helps at times like this.  I can get ready very fast 🙂

The TT was great fun and apparently the biggest in the world.  It was a 16 mile course – longer than the usual ones that Ian does.  We met up with Ian’s friend Marco, they got their timing chips and queued for the start.  Usually TT’s are held on some random A road with the start in a layby, but today’s start was a big show off affair with music, man on a mike and a push down a ramp!  Fancy stuff.   Best of all it was on closed roads which Ian loved.

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Ian at the start of his TT

Then it was off to Wales for the Dragon ride.  A four hour drive.  I’m going to brush over our night in Swansea as I have nothing nice to say.  Fortunately the ride itself was fantastic.

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Me and my domestique

Ian had agreed to be my domestique for the day.  He would carry my spare water bottle, all my food, a pump and a light jacket.  He would also ride just in front of me if I needed sheltering from wind 🙂   We had 95 hilly hot miles in front of us so I was very grateful for his support.  It would also be really nice to ride together, something we rarely do due to him being so bloody fast!

There were 6000 riders doing various distances, from 100km to 300km!  Our’s was called the Medio Fondo and was 153km.  With 2500m of climbing that was far enough.   The start was very well organised.  We had all been given start times so although we had to wait in pens before setting off it wasn’t too long and it was all very jolly.  Loud music, man on a mike…..sounds familiar, no ramp though, just a countdown in French – the organisers are part of the Tour de France group – and the blast of a horn.

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Climbing

We set off at 9.30am and after about 10km or so of dual carriage way and small towns we started heading up into the Brecon Beacons and spectacular views …..of course to get the views you need to climb.  The first climb was around 7km long and a steady gradient of 5% up and up and up.   It was already very hot but I enjoyed it.    Half way up we passed my good friend Sarah who had started a short while before us.  She doesn’t really like climbing but was going well, and keeping a steady pace.  It wasn’t really the place to stop for a chat so we headed on.

A long descent followed, which was wonderful and cooled us down, but before long we were climbing again – similar kind of hill to last one but at the top of this one was an ice cream van 🙂 I couldn’t resist and also fancied a rest.  We had a lovely chat with some locals, enjoyed the view and then carried on.

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I deserved this!

The third big climb of the day was Devil’s Elbow – it was a timed closed road climb so I knew it would be tough.  They had all the King of Mountain flags out and drums beating at the top.    You could see it zig zagging up as you approached and I could already see people walking.  1.8km with an average gradient of 10%, the bends were around 16% and with the heat it was hard going.  But I made it!!! Passed quite a few people (not just the ones walking – in case you were wondering).   Ian with his heavy touring bike and little bag on the back sailed up making it look easy.  It wasn’t.

We then headed off along the bottom of the valley to the feed station. There were a couple of feed stations. At the first one, Domestique Ian stopped to get me some more water while I cycled on and he caught me up further down the road.  We had a wobbly moment while we swapped my empty bottle for a full one while on the move – glad no one was filming it lol! The second one we both stopped at.  Great food, lots of pasties and croissants and sandwiches as well as the usual gels and bars.  Very impressive.

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Although there were only three signature climbs the whole ride was actually very hilly, many of them kilometres long and it was on one of these other climbs that Ian’s bike which had been making a horrible noise from the beginning started to make a worse noise.  He hadn’t seem too concerned up until then so I didn’t worry about it, but now he was concerned and decided to call the bike shop in Taunton for some advice.   I watched from behind as he cycled along happily chatting away on the phone, at one point putting the phone by his wheel (so bike shop man could hear the noise) AT THE SAME TIME pedalling quickly past some poor guy who was obviously on his last legs, huffing and puffing and sweating up the hill. Oh dear.

After eight hours of cycling we were nearly back at Margam Park and the finish.  I still felt quite strong as we retraced our steps along the dual carriage ways and roundabouts into the park, but when we finally got off our bikes I was shattered.  The heat was very draining, not to mention the hills.  We sat down for a while in some nice deck chairs and had a cold drink and some food.

A great weekend.  Lots of driving, lots of lovely weather, lots of good company.  27 events done!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Event 25 – NOT the Edinburgh Half Marathon/10k

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Not Edinburgh Castle

The Crickleaze Half Marathon/10k

We had a great weekend planned.  Fly up to Edinburgh Friday evening, Adi run 10k Saturday morning, meet up with friends, nice food, a glass of wine or two, Paula run HM Sunday, cheer for Tara on her first Marathon, more friends, more food, more wine…. but it was not to be.

Easyjet flight 429 was cancelled and along with it our weekend away.

It started so well with a scenic drive to Bristol airport – we took a different route from usual, avoiding the horrors of the M5.  We had hand luggage for the first time, (deciding not pay the crazy money to check a bag)  so sailed through airport security and then to a restaurant for pre flight food and a drink or two.   We even got as far as going through the gate to board.

After hanging about a bit, a man looking suspiciously like the pilot, who was in fact…the pilot, came into the waiting area and spoke to everyone, informing us that the plane we were about to get on had just been struck by lightning on it’s approach into Bristol from Austria – some checks would be needed before we could board.  We saw them checking, with teeny tiny torches shone at the undercarriage, apparently they knew where the lightening had struck the plane but not where it had exited.  They were looking for loose rivets.

Time ticked by.  It was possible, they said, that we could take another aircraft on it’s way from Geneva, but in the end due to the storms it was diverted to Cardiff.

Roll on another hour and we hurled off to wait somewhere else, then finally, in a very Easyjet way they announced that the flight was cancelled and sorry for any inconvenience.  That was it.  No “We’ll get you on another flight” no “We’ll put you on a coach.”  Nothing.

There were actually a few flights cancelled and therefore hundreds of angry, upset, bewildered people milling around the airport not knowing what to do. Adi and I were pretty calm compared to others.  Long story short, there was no availability  on any other flight that weekend.  Possibly from London, in the morning, but as it was now 11pm and London was three hours away, and Adi’s race was at 9am his was not an option.  Plus my lovely pre flight drink meant I couldn’t drive anyway.  Easyjet mumbled about taxis and hotels but these all had to be paid for and claimed back…having now been on their website I’m glad I didn’t shell out any more money as claiming looks like the pain you would expect from a budget airline (in fact any airline).

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Adi through the bathroom window!

As it happened we still ended up in a hotel in Bristol overnight, as I couldn’t drive and was too tired anyway.  We had the best laugh of the evening when we found that the bathroom in our hotel had a window!!!!  A window into the room – with no curtain.  In our tired and slightly delirious state we laughed our heads off.

It was a strange weekend of mixed emotions.  Glad to be home with our families but missing our Scottish friends and our races.  The sun shone on Sunday – here and in Edinburgh, nice to hang out by the pool at home, but it would have been great running weather.  Good news from Edinburgh though, Tara completed her first (and she tells me last) marathon.  Well done Tara xxx

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Some deer sitting by our pond in the garden. Wouldn’t have seen that in Edinburgh 🙂

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So we had two bibs and no race.  Nothing for it but to run our own race…here at Crickleaze.   The Not the Edinburgh HM/10k  It would start at 8.30ish on Tuesday morning.  There would be a feed station, a supporter – Heidi and an official photographer – Ian.  And probably some cows and sheep.

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It was a casual start to the morning, quick photo by the front door,  a few snacks on a tray for the feed station and then a wander up the hill to the lane we would be running up and down.   I wanted to make it as flat as possible, hence the running up and down the same lane.  Everywhere else is pretty hilly.  We set off at 8.48….with a cheer from Official Photographer Ian.  Supporter Heidi was still in bed 🙂

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Official photographer Ian

Adi trained for many weeks for this 10k with the aim of running every step – and that’s exactly what she did.  Up and down the lane three and half times made up the 10k.  She kept a great even pace and looked strong throughout.  It was great for me to have someone to chat to, we had decided not to wear our headphones and listen to music so that it would feel more like a race.  We had to dodge out of the way of a tractor and a dustcart, but living here in the middle of nowhere that was pretty much it.  Oh wait, I saw the postman too 🙂   Busy morning lol!

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Feed station
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Supporter Heidi

On lap two we spotted Supporter Heidi, wearing pyjama shorts and her wellies – but somehow still looking very cool.  She had our water bottles which was very welcome as it was starting to get quite warm.  Ian had popped back home to do some work but came back to see Adi cross the finish line in a PB of 1.06.15 and of course the Crickleaze 10k course record.

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Post race stretch for Adi

I had to keep running, still 11km to go for me.  Up the lane, down the lane, up the lane ….. Fortunately it was beautiful and somewhere I run all the time, just slower.  Today, because it was a race I kept up a good pace.

Saw Adi and Supporter Heidi a few times, with drinks and snacks and encouragement and before long it was over.

By this point Heidi had gone back to bed, good job she kept her Pj’s on, and Ian hadn’t realised how speedy I was so I crossed the finish line on my own.  Adi had walked up the lane earlier with water so wasn’t far away.  2.22.20 and a course record for the Crickleaze 21k 🙂

A great event, and although we missed Edinburgh it was good to know that my friend Sarah and Edinburgh were behind us all the way.

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Good friend and supporter Sarah cheering from Edinburgh

 

 

Event 24 – Dartford parkrun

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The runners – Heidi, Natalie, Paula

Finally an event that would be over in 30 minutes – it’s been a while 🙂   and a trip to Dartford was the perfect destination for a parkrun.  Ian needed to be in the area for a bike TT, Heidi wanted to go London Saturday night, and Dartford is a short train ride away, my cousin-in-law Natalie was keen to run with me…..Oh and my Mum and Dad live there !

Heidi and I headed off in the car on Friday for yet another mini break together.  Ian was flying in from France so would meet us there.  The three hour journey took fours hours, but we were expecting that as it was Friday afternoon and we had to negotiate the delights of the M25.  After many recent car trips together we have silly games to play, one of which is the Plane game.  Basically shouting out “there’s a plane” when we see one.  Best played in a traffic jam somewhere near an airport 🙂

It was lovely to stay at Mum’s instead of a hotel, and we arrived to see Ian who I hadn’t seen for two weeks and a lovely home cooked meal.

Saturday morning we all headed off to Dartford park.  I lived in Dartford until my early 20’s and the town has changed a lot, but the park is still very similar to how I remember it, and all the changes are improvements.  A nice cafe and play area and an upgrade to the running track.  But the statue at the entrance and the bandstand are just the same.

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Bandstand
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Support crew

At the park we met up with my cousin Justin, his lovely wife Natalie and their adorable children Joshua and Isabelle.  Natalie only started running recently but already has six parkruns to her name.  This would be her 7th and a new location too.  Heidi and I have run Dartford once before.

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It was two laps of the park and multi terrain. Grass, gravel, a short uphill trail and some paved paths.  It’s a great course although the section along side of the football pitch might not be so nice on a wet day.  But we had perfect weather, dry and not too hot.

 

We set off after the usual briefing and kept a steady pace.  Volume of runners dictating the speed of the first km as there are a few narrow sections.  Natalie and I chatted away – we don’t see each other very often due to living on different sides of the country so it was lovely to catch up.   Heidi’s plan was to set an even pace and run the whole thing.  Last time she went off too fast and blew up after 3km.  She also likes running with headphones so didn’t join in the running chat.

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Go Heidi
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Pretty flowers in the park

 

The first lap went well. The small hill was steeper than Natalie was used to but she stormed up it and kept up a good pace. After the first lap, Natalie needed to slow a little and let me go on.  I was so pleased to be running 5km and not a marathon and still had quite a bit of energy so went ahead – but not by much.  The course has lots of twists and turn backs, so I could see that Natalie was not far behind 🙂

Another run past all the pretty flowers and the bandstand.  Past my Mum and Josh who were cheering and running along, and I could see the finish line.  A final sprint and it was over. 29.28.  A good time for me.

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Natalie finishing strong

Natalie was not far behind and got a PB – woohoo!!! Heidi just behind her, she had achieved her goal of running the whole course.  Three happy runners.

Then it was off for a coffee and more catching up, I don’t see my cousins nearly enough, but I see more running together in our future.

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Post run coffee

 

 

Event 23 – Swashbuckler Middle Distance Triathlon

 

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Buckler’s Hard at 5am

1.9km swim, 90km bike, 22km run

This was a big event for me and coming only one week after the crazy long duathlon was going to be a tough day out.  One that nearly ended badly…but didn’t 🙂

So, I booked this event ages ago with my friend Declan.  We are both doing IM Maastricht in July and thought this would be a good training race.  I did a similar thing the year I did IM Zurich.  The middle distance is half the distance of an Ironman.

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Buckler’s Hard on the Saturday
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Donkey going for a wander

 

The event was held at Buckler’s Hard in the New Forest, a stunning location and one that we were very fortunate to race in.  The Beaulieu Estate and even the river we swam in are owned by Lord Montague.  But RaceNewForest – the organisers seem to have a good relationship with the Estate as they hold quite a few events here.

Heidi came with me again, as Ian was off in Italy doing a cycle race with his buddies. Although it’s only a couple of hours away, the 6am start on the Sunday meant registration and race briefing were taking place on the Saturday afternoon so we would have to stay over in a hotel.   In fact I booked two nights so we didn’t have to drive home straight after the race – another mini break for me a Heidi 🙂

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IMG_5027We met up with Declan and his wife Annemarie at the race briefing.  It was the perfect afternoon for it – warm sunshine and a beautiful setting.  We all sat on the grass while the event director gave us the low down on what to expect the following day.  He told us the water was 16C which is pretty good for May but that it might be cold on the bike and we should take time to put on a layer or two.  It’s very easy to dash out of the water and onto your bike without realising how cold it is.  90km is a long way to be cold.  He wanted us to all enjoy the race and keep fit and healthy for our racing season ahead.

Sunday – Race Day

After fairly good night’s sleep, our hotel although lovely and in a great location was right next to a railway station,  we got up at 4am.  I felt quite lively and Heidi although sleepy was in good spirits.  It was only 5 miles to the race start and the drive was stunning.  The sun was coming up, there was a gentle mist which made it look even more pretty and then of course there were the animals – which are the main highlight of coming to the New Forest.  We saw a small herd of deer skip across the road, we saw donkeys wandering down the middle of the road, big cows and baby calves just on the edge of the road and of course the lovely New Forest ponies everywhere.  Delightful.

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Ready to swim – I didn’t wear the hat!

We got there just before 5am and I went off to rack my bike and set up my transition area. Bike shoes, socks, helmet, jersey, race belt, food for my ride and trainers for my run.  At 5.45 I got into my wetsuit.  Did I mention how cold it was…4C brrr. I left putting my wetsuit on until the last minute.  The race was actually delayed 15 minutes, not so much for the swim (the water was relatively warm) but so that the temperature would have risen a bit for our bike ride.

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Waiting for the swim start
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Swim start

At 6.15am the first wave set off with their red hats on and then five minutes later it was the second wave with yellow hats on.  I was in the second wave.  The water was  fine and calm although it was quite misty.  I enjoy the swim bit as it’s my favourite discipline and the one I’m best at, Declan was slightly more apprehensive as 1, his wetsuit was pretty near falling apart and 2, he hadn’t actually been in the water since IM Zurich…. nearly TWO YEARS ago!!!!  No pool swimming, no open water swimming…possibly a bath or two – he was fine though 🙂

I started swimming. We had to do two laps – up one side of a row of boats turn round, back the other side…and repeat.  There was quite a bit of jostling around at the beginning and the usual getting bashed in the head, but I don’t really mind all that as I feel confident in the water.  All was going well until….

I saw a yellow hat next to me start to turn by a big orange buoy and I could see people swimming the other side.  It was hard to see clearly but I assumed this was the turn around point so I turned.  But suddenly I seemed to be amongst red hats.  Uh oh!  I kept swimming trying to figure out what was happening.  I couldn’t turn around as I was surrounded by about fifty swimmers and there were boats to my right.  I carried on.  By the time I completed the second lap I realised that I must have turned slightly too early on the first lap.  I had no choice but to just get to end.  This would probably mean a DQ (disqualification).

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Run into T1

I was obviously a bit upset.  I ran out of the water where I saw Heidi and then into transition.  I made the decision that if I was to be DQ’d I might as well still do the bike ride and have a nice day out.

I didn’t want this to ruin my day so I figured out quickly what I would do and then put it to the back of my mind.  I would finish the bike, find the race referee, explain what had happened and then DNF (did not finish).   Shortly into the bike I heard “Go Paula Green”  it was Declan.  As he rode past I explained what had happened and that I was ok.  I know he was worried about me, but really I was fine.  Not saying anything and pretending I had just done a speedy swim would have made me feel much worse.

The bike course was beautiful and I’m so pleased I did it – pretty flat, not much wind and lots and lots of ponies, cattle and donkeys to keep me amused.  The marshals were wonderful and very encouraging.   I was keeping up a good speed.   I had been worried before the race about not meeting the cut offs but even if I had completed the whole swim I would have been fine.  This was a bit upsetting, but I had come to terms with the fact that I probably wouldn’t be running and actually I think I enjoyed the bike more because of this.   No pressure – enjoy the moment.  These things happen.

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Bike course

After just over three and half hours I was back at transition, I saw Annemarie standing by the timing mat  cheering then I saw my sister Adi and brother-in- law Antony (they had driven from Somerset that morning to catch me on the run), Heidi was with them and they were waving pompoms and ringing cowbells.  Adi could see from my face that all was not well and she looked concerned.

Fortunately I saw the race referee straight away and I even remembered her name from the race briefing 🙂  I called her and she came over to me.  “I mucked up the swim” I said.  She seemed to know that something had happened although she didn’t know that I was the swimmer – we all look the same in the water!  She asked if I was in a yellow hat – yep that was me.  Then, to my surprise she said it was ok, I could continue with my race.  I wouldn’t  get an official time for the swim but most importantly I wouldn’t be disqualified.  She said that she was pleased that I had let her know.  I found out later from other racers that I wasn’t the only one with problems in the swim and lots of people had difficulty working out the course – this made me feel little better.   I asked the referee if would still get a medal – YES!! – Hurrah!  I was not running 22km without getting my medal lol!

So within the space of a few minutes I went from thinking my race was over to getting my head round a 22km run.  I was so grateful for them being so reasonable.  I had only gained about seven minutes and lets face it I wasn’t going to be winning any prizes, I was definitely bringing up the rear.

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One more lap

So the run began – two 7 mile laps.  It was pretty hot by now but I didn’t find it as hard as the runs on the duathlon last week.  My legs felt reasonably good, and I was just so happy to be given the chance to run and complete the race.  I ran the first lap quite well, there was walking, but I kept it to a minimum.  Most of the lap was on country lanes, but the last couple of miles was through woodland and on trails – very pretty.

I got a big cheer at the end of the first lap from my family and Annemarie as it went back through Buckler’s Hard.  There were also lots of people here outside a pub clapping and me up the hill ready to start lap two.  Lap two was much harder.  I had now been racing for nearly six hours and was tired.  I was also mainly on my own as most people were finishing.   There were still a few people out there and everyone was very friendly, the marshals clapped and cheered us along and I even had people shouting out of their cars and from their gardens.  I quite enjoyed myself despite things starting to hurt.  My favourite bit was coming round a corner and seeing twenty (I counted them) ponies in the road.  I wish I’d had a camera with me – it was a lovely sight.

The final mile was tough, I was starting to fade.  I took a gel because I felt like I hadn’t eaten quite enough but then realised I needed some water, which I didn’t have.  However, at this point some walkers were near me and asked me how I was getting on and what I was doing.  They seemed impressed 🙂 and also gave me some water – thank you!

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Medal
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Support crew

The last bit of the run comes back along the river and back up a gravel hill, past the pub and the crowds to the finish.  Declan, who had finished ages ago was waiting for me at the bottom of the hill and walked with me round the corner.  It was so good to see him.  Then I heard, before I saw them, my sister and Heidi – wildly waving the pink pompoms and ringing the cow bells.  GO PAULA GREEN!!!!  Annemarie was there too “Come on Paula!” the crowd were trying to encourage me to run up the hill, but I didn’t have much left in me. I waited until I could see the finish before I  ran the last 100m or so over the line….and got my medal.

So happy to have finished another event.

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Our hotel right next to the pub

Back at the hotel I had a well earned shower and then met up with Adi and Antony for a well earned prosecco (my race day treat).   Later in the evening Heidi and I had dinner with Annemarie and Declan and chatted about the fabulous day we had.

23 Events done!

 

Event 22 – Leaky Freaky Duathlon

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Roadford Lake – early morning

5km run/45km bike/5km run/45km bike/5km run

This was  a tough one and the first event this year where I had a long internal dialogue about pulling out  of the race.  How I would write and explain it on the blog and how understanding you would all be….

But, in the end I finished.  Here’s how the day went.

The day started very early, around 4.45am.  I have been quite spoilt these past few weeks with the late marathon starts of 10am.  I don’t mind getting up early but it does make it harder to plan my nutrition.  I can’t stomach food first thing, so I made my porridge and put it in my little food flask.  I had over an hours drive to the venue so I would eat when I got there.

The drive was very quiet and I even got to see where Ian would be doing his own event at 8am that morning.  A ten mile bike time trial on the A30!  …. he did very well, coming second in his age group.

My satnav took me to a field, unfortunately not I field with an event in.  I had seen some cars with bikes on before I had turned off so I retraced my steps and headed in their direction.  It wasn’t far away and I got there in good time to register, get a coffee and eat my porridge.

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Me and Jo

It was a small race, around 90 people.  I saw my friend Jo from our tri club.  Until recently she was a pro triathlete and is super fit, I was not sure we should be in the same event.  I asked her a few questions about which shoes to wear – trail or normal trainers, and whether she was carrying her running shoes with her on the bike. I’ve not done a duathlon before and was a bit nervous.  This was also quite a tough one, with run/bike/run/bike/run sections and different locations.  Usually duathlons are just run/bike/run.

Anyhoo, all was explained in the race briefing, although it was hard to take in all the details.  The main thing that concerned me was the cut off times – there were none YAY!!! I had been worried about this, being a slower athlete, but they said that as this was the first time they had run this particular event there would be no cut off.  I could take all day, although Jo advised me not to stop at a cafe for coffee lol!

With my bike already in the transition area, and my race bib on,  I headed to the start line.

GO… it was a small race so no big gun or hooter.  The man said GO…. we went…and within less than a minute I was at the back where I stayed for the rest of the race 🙂

The run was 5km, made up of one and a bit laps, on a gravely trail through wooded area by the side of a lake, all very pretty…and hilly.  I was already starting to get quite warm and it seemed like a long day ahead.  I completed the 5km in around 32 minutes which given the hills was a good pace for me.  The guys at the front were literally twice as fast as me and I was lapped by quite a few of them.

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Trail

Easy to find my bike in transition as there weren’t many there.  A few people were still getting their bike gear on.  T1 (transition one) I changed into my bike shoes, put my helmet on and then put my trainers in a rucksack and on my back.  The next transition was 45km away.  We did have an option to send our trainers ahead in a bag but I was worried about possibly not getting them and then,  not getting them back.  In the end about half the racers carried their trainers and half took the bag option.  They were light and I was fine with them on my back.

45km on the bike.  I’m going to be kind and say it was undulating, up and down, up and down.  Only one short steep hill and given this was Devon and Cornwall it could have been much much worse. The wind was also favourable but I found it hard going, possibly due to the hilly run I had just done!

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First bike leg

I was at the back with another lady called Sharon.  We took turns being at the very back.  I would get ahead up the hills and she would come sailing past going down.  Just before we reached the end of the bike leg I decided to stop for a quick wee – basically I spotted a good hedge – I was quick but it meant that Sharon got ahead and I was at the back again.  I hadn’t noticed up until now but there was a a tail driver bringing up the rear of the race.  It was actually a man in an ambulance car.  As I appeared from behind my hedge he was waiting for me. I was a little embarrassed but mainly relieved that the official car I saw was an ambulance and not a police car lol!  He asked if I was ok and then followed me for the final 5km down to Tamar Lake and T2.

By now the fast people had already got to the lake, done their run and were heading back out on their bikes.  I racked my bike, got some water and headed out for my 5km run which was actually 6km – we had been warned that it was longer than advertised in the race briefing. That was all I needed!

I tried to run but my legs weren’t really working, and it was hot – I’m guessing around 24C and with no shade.   I was honestly a little worried about whether I would get round.  The lake however was beautiful and very quiet, only a few fisherman and a few walkers.  I could just about see Sharon up ahead and a couple of other ladies.

It was hard and my head, which is usually strong, wanted to give up, my legs were tired, I was hot and the trail although sort of flat was very gravely had little tiny uphills which seems huge in my fatigued state.  I started thinking about possibly stopping when I got back to my bike and getting into the support van, I really couldn’t imagine getting back on my bike and cycling again…oh and then running AGAIN!  I’d had enough.

I finally got back to T2 – just my bike there on it’s own.  They were starting to pack up and basically just waiting for me to come in.  But the support crew were awesome.  They rushed over to me with water and flapjacks and sweets, offered to fill my bike bottles and said encouraging things. “You got this” is the one I remember.  I’m so grateful for their positivity.  I changed into my bike gear, trainers back in the rucksack and headed off on my bike ……with my trusty ambulance man following me again 🙂 Nice to have your own personal support vehicle.

The bike course was the reverse of the one on the way there and headed straight up a long hill.  It had looked really steep coming down, but in the end wasn’t too bad.  I was just relieved to not be running any more and be back on my bike.   It was also much cooler on the bike.  After a short while I caught up with Sharon and she stayed just behind me all the way back, with the tail car just behind her.

The whole ride back was into a strong head wind which made even the downhills an effort.  But it was still better than running round a lake in the hot sun.  At one point I passed a police incident – a car smashed up in a hedge.  I found out later that the car had hit one of our cyclists – he is ok, but the driver was arrested at the scene.   Made me very pleased to have our friendly ambulance driver just behind us.

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Leaving transition for final 5km

Sharon caught me up at the end and we rode into T1 (T3?) together.  My spirits had lifted now as there was only 5km between me and getting this day over, and now I had a friend to run the last leg with.   Another gear change back into our running shoes.  A quick hello to Jo who had finished ages ago – she was 2nd lady!

Everyone was cheering us as we left transition.  I grabbed some more water and a few sweets – races are the only time you can eat sweets guilt free – and we headed off back onto the trails for the last time.

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Water station with sweets and helper

As we started the first lap a lady called Lisa joined us.  I had seen her near the end of the bike leg with her husband – he had decided not to do the final run, so she came along with us.  The poor lady was recovering from a recent illness and was still quite wheezy, we had to stop and help find her inhaler at one point, obviously something I understood.  She was great fun and the three of us staggered round the course together.  Running when we could, walking when we couldn’t, Sharon and I both finding the down hills painful with our dodgy knees – what a crew lol!

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Lisa and Sharon

On the final lap Lisa had a burst of energy and ran ahead.  Sharon and I were not far behind and crossed the finish line together.  We were last and finished in just under six and half hours, nearly three hours after the winner.  But happy.

What it is they say? What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  Let’s hope so.

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Finishing together!

22 done.

 

Event 21 – Milton Keynes Marathon

IMG_4936Another week, another marathon….

I booked this marathon a long time ago, shortly after the Bristol to Bath marathon in October last year and way before I got my London place.  I was looking for a flat, fast course where I could try to get a reasonable time. Bristol to Bath was very hilly and although I did well, I thought I had a better marathon in me.

Roll on a few months and I secured a place in the London marathon and decided to put Milton Keynes out of my mind.  Denial, I think they call it 🙂

My recovery this week from London had gone well.  Monday to Wednesday walking was… interesting, to say the least.  But by Thursday my legs felt fine and we even had a family day out to Tintagel Castle which involved steep hill climbs and numerous cliff edge steps.  I figured I would be fine to give MK a go – it was held on the bank holiday Monday so I had an extra day of rest lol!   This would also be a “no pressure” race.  I was so pleased with my time last week I was happy to plod around and just enjoy the experience.

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Step climbing at Tintagel – marathon preparation!!!

So… on Sunday afternoon, Heidi and I set off for Milton Keynes in the car.  I was a little tired as we had friends from Switzerland staying over the weekend, which meant a few late nights and some socialising 🙂  it was nice to have Heidi with me for the three hour journey.  Despite being a bank holiday the traffic was fine and we got to MK and our hotel in good time.

We were staying in a hotel at MK Dons Stadium which is right where the race started and finished.  Perfect.  I don’t know MK at all and was expecting the stadium to be in the middle of nowhere, but it was surrounded by big retail outlets and loads of restaurants.  Heidi and I hit one of them for pre-race steak and chips.

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In the stadium

I slept well and as the race wasn’t starting until 10am I didn’t need to get up until 7.30am for my porridge (which I brought with me).  In fact the race prep was the same as the week before… same outfit, apart from my singlet, same routine of body glide to stop chaffing and vicks vapour rub on my feet to stop blisters – this works a treat by the way and smells nice!  Hair in pigtails and sunglasses on head – keeps my hair off my face, maybe useful if the sun comes out and hey they are pink and look good.

We strolled down to the start at 9.30am.  I guess there were around 4000 people doing either the half marathon or the full marathon so it was busy but at such a big venue not crazy crowded.  I liked it.  I found my starting pen (Green pen at the back) and got in line.  Heidi stayed with me until the start to take my sweatshirt and as she was going spend the day with a friend I would see her at the end.

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Cool Heidi!
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Green start

It took around ten minutes to cross the line and I happily chatted to a girl next to me who was doing her first half marathon.  The HM and Marathon runners all started together which was nice as there were lots of runners my pace and it was all very jolly.

Then I started – Uh Oh…. nothing hurt but I felt tired…it was going to be a long day.  I was in good spirits though.  The weather was much better than predicted – turns out I needed my sunglasses for more than just looking good lol!   The first fews miles were through the streets of central Milton Keynes, the roads were closed and it felt like a big city marathon.  Quite a lot of support too although nothing like London obvioulsy.

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Running through the parks of MK

At 7 miles the route split and the HM runners (and the pace maker I was following) went one way and the marathon runners another way…out into the country side.  The paths were much narrower and the crowds pretty much disappeared although there were still people out clapping and I felt like the support was just enough to give a boost every now and then.  There were also people just wandering along the paths with buggys or cycling past.  Like I say, very different from London but I quite liked it and have certainly experienced races like this before.

 

The nice thing was that it was all traffic free, all parkland and very pretty.  Milton Keynes is very nice, although not quite as flat as I’d hoped.  No major hills but lots of twists and turns and little inclines over bridges.  We ran past bubbling streams, canals, big lakes and of course the famous concrete cows – at this point I knew my time would be nothing fancy so I stopped to take a picture.

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Concrete cows

From 17km to 21km I ran with a lovely guy called Richard.  He was running ten marathons over ten weeks.  We chatted about our London experience last week and all our crazy events.  He really helped keep my pace up at this point and I whizzed through half way in 2.16 – quicker than last week.  But I knew I couldn’t keep it up, I felt spent and things were starting to hurt…like my legs….and you need those!   I let Richard go and started my run/walk strategy and by strategy I mean I ran until everything hurt too much, then walked.  Then I ran until….. you get the picture.

I felt very happy though, just pleased to be out in nice surroundings in surprisingly nice weather and able to get round a 26 mile course.  I chatted with a few more people including a couple of young ladies on their third marathon in three weeks…see, there are lots of crazy people out there!!

There were also many people really struggling and pretty miserable, I heard a guy near me at twenty miles go over to a marshal “I can’t carry on, I’m stopping”  Race over.  I’m very grateful that I was in good spirits all day.  I knew I would finish and was happy to get there however I could.  Had a fabulous boost at 30km “Go Paula Green”  It was my friends Steve and Gill – hurrah!!  They had driven over from Coventry to cheer me on.  I had arranged to meet them at the end so it was a lovely surprise to see them now and it kept me going for ages.  I saw them again at 35km and by then it was not far to go.

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Final 200m
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Steve and Gill – great support at 30km and in the bar afterwards 🙂

As I came back to the stadium I saw Heidi and her friend Hugo – yay, more lovely support.  It seemed to take ages to get into the stadium and the finish.  Round lots of barriers, which might have been nice with cheering crowds but there weren’t any.  Then into the stadium.  There were more people here and it was a great place to finish.  Final run round the outside of the pitch and over the finish line. 5.08.24 – slower than last week but actually my second fastest marathon so pretty pleased with that.

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Best T-shirt ever!

Staggered over to Heidi, a few snaps, picked up my medal and cool t-shirt and then the very short walk to my hotel and a hot shower.  After a quick shower I met up with Steve and Gill for a lovely evening of prosecco and great company.

I am not doing a marathon next week.  21 events done!

Event 20 – Virgin Money London Marathon

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Got my bib number

I had the perfect day!  In fact the perfect weekend.

My perfect weekend started on Friday evening when Ian arrived from London…on his bike!  156 miles in case you are wondering. He’d had a great ride with his friend George and was in good spirits.  This meant my number one supporter was happy, good for me, there was a lot of supporting to be done this weekend.

Starting with the long drive to London and the marathon expo on Saturday morning. I was very nervous.  I don’t usually feel nerves before a race – the advantage of doing so many!  In fact the last time was IM Zurich two years ago.  But this was a big one.  I drove the first half just to keep my mind occupied and then Ian took over on the M3.  Due to heavy traffic on the M25 in the direction we wanted to go we followed the satnav as it took us right through central London….I think I could have run faster!  But at least London is good for sight seeing and I always had the option to jump out and get a tube.  We briefly saw the Changing of Guards at Buckingham Palace before doing a u-turn and trying another route.  I also managed a loo stop in a swanky restaurant…no dashing into McDonalds for me.  Langham’s and their finery.  A big smile and a tale about driving from Somerset for the London  Marathon and I was ushered upstairs to some posh loos with Molton Brown products 🙂

In the end we got to the Expo at ExCel in good time and parked easily.  The registration process was efficient and organised.  The line for my number group was very short and before long I had my bib number and in was another short queue to get my timing chip.  I had been worrying about registering… they send you a form about three weeks before, which you have to produce on the day with ID.  No form, no race.  I’ve been terrified of losing it, damaging it, accidentally throwing it away….

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Me and Martin Yelling

We wandered around the Expo with the crowds.  I didn’t really want to buy anything but I did want to see Martin Yelling from the Marathon Talk podcast do his speech on stage.  I love the podcast and was wearing my Marathon Talk t-shirt.  He was on after Paula Radcliffe who was taking questions from the audience.  She was just answering an asthma question as we got there.  Paula, asthma, running… so much in common lol!

A nice lunch with Ian and then we drove through the Blackwall Tunnel to our friend’s house in Blackheath.  Just over one mile from the start line.  Simon and Sam made us a cup of tea and fed us cake then we went off for a short recce of the start area and to time how long it would take to walk.  25 minutes at a gentle pace – perfect.

Race Day

After a lovely dinner with no running talk, Simon is one of Ian’s cycling buddies, I woke up on race day at 7.30am!  I’d slept for the best part of nine hours – WTF…seriously, who gets to sleep for nine hours before a big race …ME!!!  It was the perfect weekend.  Obviously I had the dream where I’d already run the race… and then woke up…but that’s normal for me.

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Last hug before the start

After a leisurely porridge we left Blackheath at 9am and wandered to the start.  The rain I heard first thing had now stopped and although it was a bit nippy it was a nice day.  I had a few layers on that I could throw away on the start line including some rather dashing arm warmers made out of a pair of  ladies tights.  At the start I had just enough time for a final loo stop – only a ten minute wait which given the volume of people was amazing.  Very organised.

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I’m in there somewhere – pen 8!

Ian was taking my stuff for the end so I didn’t have to leave any baggage with the baggage trucks, just needed to get to my start pen.  Pen number nine, one pen in front of extreme fancy dress!! In other words right at the back with the slow people 🙂   Ian though, who was on the spectator side of the barriers was at pen eight waiting for me….uh oh… I really wanted to see him before I started so while the marshals were checking other people’s numbers I snuck in and ran over to him.  I was at the very back of pen eight and still had a top on over my number.  I could blend in *shifty eyes*

Then I saw THE RHINOS!!!  For the last month I have been joking about being overtaken by a Rhino during the race….and here was a herd of them.  17 runners, dressed in really heavy Rhino outfits, running for their charity Save the Rhino.  They had their names on them and I did in fact run with Rhino Steve for a bit and got a nice picture with Rhino Andy at the end… Rhino Andy was exhausted and said “never again”

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Rhino Andy

Back to the start. So friendly, everyone I spoke to said it was their first marathon. I felt quite experienced 🙂

Ian stayed nearby, with reassuring waves, until I crossed the start line which took about 25 minutes.  I was at the back of the red start with the masses, the blue start has the fast runners, so I was expecting it to take quite a while.  I ditched my extra layers just before the timing mat and started the 2016 London Marathon.

What an experience. There are people cheering ALL the way round, often 3 or 4 deep and in some places much more.  Loud cheering, drums, bands, pubs blaring out loud music – I loved it.

I was expecting it to be really slow due to the volume of runners, but it really wasn’t and I progressed at a steady pace.  Although there were runners all around, it was easy to pass people.  Because I had started in the 4.45 (finish time) pen it was a good pace for me….and it was FLAT!!! I’ve done three previous marathons (well four if you include the shuffle at the end of an Ironman) and they have been hilly, or like Barcelona hilly AND hot.  This was cool, flat and well supported – perfect.

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I forgot I was running most of the time, I just loved the atmosphere.  Due to a slightly sore knee and other activities I hadn’t run properly for three weeks.  I’d been active but my running muscles were well rested..oh and don’t forget the nine hour sleep I had.  Nothing hurt which is unusual. My knees felt good, my feet felt good, my legs felt strong and even my upper body was well rested as I had no Max training sessions this week.  Wonderful!

In the early stages the best bit was round the Cutty Sark.  I felt quite emotional here. SO many people, so loud.  It was a moment.  Totally helped by running next to a huge dinosaur 🙂

At ten miles I started to look out for my family.  The whole crowd had come to London to support me.  Mum and Dad, Adi and Antony, Zoe and boyfriend Henry, Heidi and of course Ian who had to dash from the start to find the others.  Ten miles is a funny point in a marathon, you have already run a bloody long way but then realise you still have 16 miles to do!!!

I finally saw them at the 12 mile point – Oh Man!! I was so happy, I ran across and gave everyone a big hug.

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Tower Bridge

Shortly afterwards you go over Tower Bridge, what a sight.  More huge crowds and the Bridge looked stunning.  I took a moment here to remember my dear friend Clare (who passed last year), we had spent a great weekend in London together a couple of years ago and visited the Tower of London and walked on the bridge, now here I was running over it in a big city marathon.  But only half way…. mustn’t get carried away, a long way to go.

The run then heads out to less iconic sights but because of the support it was still awesome.  More drums, more bands, more cheering.

At this point I was starting to think a loo stop would be nice.  But where to go….so many people….so many cameras.  All the porta-loos had huge queues (right from mile one) and at this point I knew my time was going to be good, I didn’t have time to wait 15 minutes in line.  Previous runners had told me that the tunnels were a good place, but it still seemed a bit exposed to me.  Then I saw some bushes!!!  They were behind one of the huge Buxton water stations.  No pedestrians, no crowds, no cameras….I saw a gap…I dashed in.  Totally private and a moment to myself 🙂

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So happy to see everyone

Onward!  The next time I was expecting to see my family was at 22 miles.  We had had many team meetings in the run up to the race about where they would spectate from and all the logistics of getting round London when all the roads are closed.   I was getting tired now and walked a few water stations but generally still going strong.  I didn’t see them at 22 miles and because I didn’t want them to see me walk I had to keep running.  They were at 23 miles – yay!! Another mile done and my fabulous family cheering their heads off.  It means everything  to see your supporters.  I got quite emotional seeing other runners finally see their supporters…I knew how they felt.  More hugs and then the final three miles to the finish.

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Big hugs with my family at 23 miles

23-26 miles were tough. But I knew a sub five hour finish was on, even with short walking breaks.  I was very tired though and my chest was starting to hurt…my asthmatic cough doing it’s thing.  The legs were also hurting now, but I felt much better at this point than in any other marathon I have done.  The walking sections were short and the running sections much longer than normal for the end of a race.

Past Big Ben, nearly there.

The finish was a slight anti-climax.  It looks different on the TV because the cameras face towards Buckingham Palace.  I saw the gantry but was not sure if it was actually the end.  It didn’t say Finish…I had an experience at Barcelona marathon where there is a huge gantry that you run under 200m before the end…Grrr. Confusing and a little soul destroying.

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Well deserved medal for the rhino

Anyhoo!  It WAS  the end and my time was awesome (to me). 4.55, under five hours and a PB by 15 minutes.

I collected my huge medal and shed a little tear.  The finish area is just runners, no room for supporters.  Most runners wandering/staggering around aimlessly.  I was still tearful and now very cold.  A lovely St John’s Ambulance lady gave me a lovely soft fluffy blue blanket and a nice policeman helped me figure out where Pall Mall was.  Pall Mall was where I had arranged to meet my family.  Asthma UK had set up a little finish party at the Institute of Directors.

So excited to see everyone and get nice hot cup of tea.  We chatted for around half an hour and had a catch up on our day.  But it’s a long way from Somerset and the girls needed to get back .. that night.

We walked to Charing Cross station and jumped on a train.  My family going to Dartford  where my Mum and Dad live and the others would then drive back to the South West and Ian and I  back to our friend’s house and our car in Blackheath.  The train was super crowded but my finishers medal got me a seat 🙂

At Blackheath our lovely friend Sam was waiting to drive us back to the house where I got a hot shower and she made me tea and toast.

Then Ian and I drove to a hotel in  Basingstoke….yes really!  It was perfect.  Half way home.  I wouldn’t have far to drive in the morning and Ian could get a fast train back up to London and work.  Steak and chips and a couple of glasses of bubbly. The perfect weekend was over.  But what memories…..  the crowds, the sights, my awesome running lol!  and the most amazing support from my family.

Thank you for all your support for me and my charity.  I loved running for Asthma UK – there were 300 of us and saw quite a few out there.  A pat on the back when we saw each other and words of encouragement.  I will continue to raise funds for Asthma UK for the rest of the year.   30 events to go and some more big ones coming up.  Gulp!