Monday, 6 October 2014

Tissington Trail Half Marathon - I did it!!

Angry grey skies and the unforgiving wind and rain that assaulted me as I walked out of my door this morning made me appreciate how miraculous the sunshine, gentle breeze and slight chill in the crisp air were yesterday. The perfect weather for running.

Yesterday, I ran my first Half Marathon.

Despite my best intentions to train properly for this event, time got away from me. My training never took me over 7 miles. I had to keep reminding myself that I know I can walk 13 miles and I know I can do better than that. I did numerous calculations based on how fast and how far I'd run in the past to give myself a realistic target time to aim for but then decided to look at the time for the slowest person to finish at the same event. The bar was set at 2hrs 51minutes.

A gentle  reminder from Liberty's boyfriend back in May to start training

It was hard to imagine actually running for nearly 3hours.

The event I had signed up for was recommended by my daughter's boyfriend. It was the Tissington Trail Half Marathon in Derbyshire, about an hour drive from my home in Shropshire. The route follows the site of a former railway with an overall downhill gradient. You park at the finish and catch a bus to the start 13 miles away. I loved the idea that there were no laps and no loops, just a straight line from the start back to your car. Every step literally taking you a step closer to home.

I set off early with my husband, my daughter Liberty and her boyfriend armed with refuelling gels, glucose tablets, bananas and water. The bananas were eaten in the car along with enough water to leave Liberty desperate for a wee. This is where the stress began.

There was no designated parking for the event so we had to try and find a suitable space in an unfamiliar town being descended on by an army of people wearing high performance running gear and race numbers. Liberty was getting increasingly agitated so we dropped her off at the Sports Centre where the buses were leaving from. She then had her own personal drama of waiting in a long queue for the toilet with a bursting bladder whilst we continued the search for a parking space.

I am so glad it wasn't me driving. I would have been tempted to turn around and drive home, cursing and admonishing that the whole thing had been a stupid idea anyway. Luckily, my husband is not so easily rattled when it comes to parking. He managed to find a slightly dodgy space on a residential no through road and declared that it would do. And do it did. We still had the problem that Liberty, her bag and warm clothes that needed to be left in the car were at the Sports Centre with no idea where we'd parked, and time to catch the bus that would take us to the start was rapidly running out.

I shouldn't have panicked. It all worked out perfectly. We met up with Liberty. My husband ran back to the car with her things cheerfully saying it was a good warm up before the race. We caught the last bus. I started to relax.

The atmosphere at the start was wonderful with elite athletes and first timers milling around together keen to get going. We didn't have long to wait before the starting horn sounded. The runners were let through the start in waves. Liberty and I watched our men disappear from view from our position near the back. As the last wave was let through we began our journey into the unknown.

There were mile markers all along the route. I was amazed how quickly Mile 1 and Mile 2 came and went. The scenery was beautiful and the trail itself was easy to run on. I was loving it. We completed three miles in just over 30 minutes and I was surprised that at the six mile mark, my running watch registered a new record for that distance. We were soon at Mile 7 and about to run further than we ever had before.

Liberty had a strategy in mind to run a bit, walk a bit, run a bit more. I was happy to go along with this and kept the walking pace brisk with my 2hr 51minute goal in mind. We were remembering to refuel regularly with the energy gel I kept down my compression socks in the absence of a decent pocket in my shorts and with the goodies provided at the aid stations (never have jaffa cakes and coke tasted so good). Everything was going well apart from the fact that I was finding it more and more difficult to walk. When I stopped to walk it felt as if my legs were still running and I had no control over them. I was like a defective puppet being manipulated by an inebriated puppet master. I stayed with Liberty until around the ten mile mark then left her to her strategy while I kept running.

It was harder without Liberty for company but the trail was well populated with hikers and cyclists who offered friendly smiles and words of encouragement.

Sometime after I had passed the 11 Mile marker, I saw Liberty's boyfriend sat on a bridge. He had finished his race in an impressive 1hr 41min 40secs in 81st place. He had come back to run the last mile or so with Liberty who I knew would appreciate the support. Just ahead, I could see my husband running back to meet me. I was so proud of him for finishing in 2hrs 01min 30secs (218th) and delighted to see that he was feeling fit enough to run the end again.

I ran with a slightly renewed spring in my step for a while with my husband at my side then my tiredness overtook me. I slumped and despite gentle reminders to lift my head, for the first time I feared I might not make it.  I had less than a mile to go but it felt like I was running on stilts. It was time to walk. I'm not sure I would have had the confidence to stop and walk if my husband hadn't been there to catch me if it all went horribly wrong. I was staggering all over the place but slowly, my tight muscles loosened enough for me to run to the finish.

Just before the finish there was a short, steep downwards section followed by a matching upwards section. There were people at the top of the hill cheering and my husband urging me on. It was tough but I was starting to feel quite heroic and unstoppable. The finish line came in sight. I opened my stride and felt fantastic as I flew across the end and was presented with my medal.

I did have some objectives before the start of the race.

1) Don't die

This is really not a flippant comment. On Saturday, another member of the parkrun family died at the end of a parkrun event. I run to improve my quality of life, not to shorten it. It is stark reminder when I hear of tragedies such as Saturday's that the human body does have its limits.

2) Cross the finish line still standing

I did have concerns that I might not manage this and I know of at least two other runners that collapsed at the end. I have to admit that my legs did go out from under me shortly after my moment of glory. It was a case of sit down or fall down. I sat.

3) Finish in under 2hrs 51minutes

Smashed it! 2:40:35

(Liberty finished about four minutes later one place behind me at 332nd out of 340 and so began the slow process of recovery for us all.)

Friday, 3 October 2014

Shopping, books and brain shaped jelly

I've been thoroughly enjoying the unexpectedly warm, sunny days but the fallen leaves and the nip in the air this morning reminded me that we are now very definitely into October.

I went shopping with my daughter Ivy yesterday. I do enjoy buying new things but there is a very insistent voice in my head that holds tightly to the purse strings and convinces me that I don't really need the majority of the items that catch my eye. Luckily for my retail therapy (less luckily for my bank balance) Ivy's voice is louder and with her encouragement I came home with far more bags than I expected! I went a little bit mad in the underwear department and now own as many pretty, cleavage enhancing bras as I do shapeless sports ones designed to hold everything as flat and motionless as possible. My girlie side has been indulged.

With it being October, the influence of Hallowe'en is evident in the shops (alongside the expanding Christmas ranges). In Primark, I continued an annual tradition of buying Hallowe'en socks and found a must-have glow in the dark T shirt depicting the iconic Mickey Mouse silhouette constructed from three spider's webs. The Hallowe'en range in Asda was fun too. I loaded my basket with skull tableware, candles and the best thing EVER - a brain jelly mould. If my girlie nature was indulged by lingerie, my gothic side was leaping for joy with these few acquisitions.

The start of a new month also brought to mind my resolution to make 12 small changes for the better throughout the year. It has been far more effective than the traditional New Year's Resolution  approach that rarely lasts beyond January. Here we are rapidly approaching Christmas and I am still going strong.

My September change was simply to Read More Books which tied in beautifully with my mum discovering a new charity shop with extensive stocks of paperbacks and hardbacks for sale at 4 for £1. She freely admits that it has become something of an obsession to pop in, choose four books and add them to the pile that grows far quicker than she can ever hope to read them. Dad is a little despairing by the disparity between bookshelf space and books but mum keeps him sweet by going to the charity shop and searching out the books about trains or World War II for him. He can't complain then, can he she says, knowingly!

Every time my mum finishes a book, she passes it on to me, usually with the glowing review that it was  the best story she's ever read. She was taking a long time to read a particularly thick novel by Jilly Cooper. Rather than keep me waiting, she went to the charity shop and bought an identical copy for me (along with three more titles to qualify for the 4 for a £1 deal). You can almost hear my dad sighing with resigned defeat. As well as the books she has finished reading, she also brings me books I might like. I really am spoilt for choice and enjoying stories that I would never have picked for myself.

Once I finish a book, I give it back to mum to return to the charity shop... and while she's there it would be wrong not to look through and see if there are four more she could buy for a pound  (cue dad's exasperated eye rolling).

I love my never ending supply of 'lucky dip' reading material courtesy of mum's obsession but I do have to balance it against my own backlog of books that I want to make time for. It is not unusual any more for me to be part way through three books at any one time (four or five if you include non fiction). Right now I am reading: Overheard in a Dream by Torey Hayden (one mum thought I would like), the brilliant Game of Thrones series by George RR Martin (my choice on the Kindle) and The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets by Simon Singh (recommended by my daughter Taylor).

I can think of nothing nicer as the October evenings close in than to snuggle up (halloween socks keeping my feet warm) with a good book (and possibly a brain shaped jelly!)

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