Mo Running? No Problem! The Movember 10K (Greenwich)

Training this autumn has been fantastic. I joined the new season with Run Dem Crew in East London, got over my fear of Track (just), and shook it all up a bit with a muddy obstacle course or two for good measure. So what better way to to top it all off, than racing with over 100 fellow RDC members in the Mo Running 10K in Greenwich? YES!

This was to be my first race back from the ITB injury that has me on the bench all summer. Earlier this year I was guilty of making it all running and no strength training. Or stretching. Or rolling. Of course the inevitable happened and I found myself sobbing at my physio, AGAIN. Frustrated and fed up. I was doing the same old things and expecting different results. Definition of insanity right there.

This time I decided not to take my first race back race too seriously and just enjoy it. No stressing about negative splits and no worrying about the hills’ impact on my time. To get into the mood I bought six different comedy moustaches to remind me not to panic and have laugh.  And even *I* couldn’t take myself seriously in this get up. Stylin’ 

Nadia and I repping the MO: Serious Business
I arrived at Greenwich park around 9am to meet up with the rest of the crew. Registration was seamless, with very little queuing and we had our numbers and race chips pinned on, lopped through in no time at all. 
This left plenty of time to choose a respectable moustache (I went for Hulk Hogan), have a pre race dance (Disclosure, on repeat, standard). Remember its about 3 degrees here and we’re all wearing lycra. Brrrrrrr!
As we set off for the start line, I was introduced to Natalie who would be running her first 10K race, and we decided we’d take on this hilly, two lap course together. After almost losing each other at the start, (over 2,000 people!)  we found an acceptable pace and took on the race. 
We couldn’t have asked for better conditions. The course cleared shortly into the race so there wasn’t a huge amount of congestion, we warmed up really quickly and the views were just spectacular. 
What. A. Day. 
The Supreme Cheer Dem Crew, lead by motivational guru and running bad ass Chevy Rough, had positioned themselves on the trickiest part of the course – a very nasty hill –  and they gave it their all. Each and everyone of those whoops and high fives gave us the extra boost we needed to push through. In fact, you lot were so good, there were at least another three or four groups of people I over heard chatting on the train about ‘that massive group on the hill’ who gave each and everyone of them a lift. 
For all 10kms, Natalie was a total hero and soldiered through shin splints and my constant nattering with impressive resolve. That steely determination really came into play when we approached the finish line and we both upped the pace and flew over the line straight into the running paparazzi (looking forward to seeing if we made the FB page!).  Natalie clocked a great time of  1hr 8 mins for her first 10K and I was thrilled to get through without any injury niggles and a massive smile on my face. Winning!
Natalie and I showing off our new bling – well done Natalie!

That left us to get our bling on (my favourite medal so far), eat a bacon sandwich and collect as many cartons of Vita Coco as we could lay our hands on. What a way to start a Saturday!

A huge thank you to Glenn Hannock, all round legend and project manager extraordinaire, who not only motivated over 100 of us to get signed up ahead of the event, but sorted out training runs, meet up points, and also managed to set up RDC base complete with music, balloons and our own private bag drop! How lucky are we? Definitely IN for 2014.

Marvy Medal 

Survival of the Fittest: London Town

Four months ago, my crazy, mad, badass friend Christina, suggested a group of us equally badass, crazy girls form a team and get ourselves registered for Survival of the Fittest, in London. ‘Of course!’ we all said. ‘We’re really hardcore, we can totally take this’. We met once to discuss training and plans over dinner – and then, as with all best laid plans, life got a little bit in the way. There was work, and holidays, and injuries and well, it couldn’t be that hard could it?

A week before the event I went into flat panic. I knew I could manage the running. But the obstacles? What if I fell and broke something? Or worse? What if I couldn’t *do* any of them? Cue massive online crowd sourcing and googling – which put most of my anxiety to rest. Basic fitness should do. But only just. So that just left me time to paint my nails. Race day nails are a sacred tradition.

Saturday morning arrived and the day started with an alarm call at 6am, not my usual weekend routine (urg), and we were all more than a little bleary eyed in the cab ride from West London down to Battersea Power Station (thanks National Rail for your impeccably timed engineering works). But the cobwebs were briskly blown away by the Arctic temperatures we were greeted with when arriving at the site. It was BRASS MONKEYS cold. Even with five layers and a hoodie, at 7:30am the sun had made absolutely no impact whatsoever. My first thought was, how on earth were we going to manage an ice bath? And secondly what the actual f*ck was I thinking? No training! Freezing conditions! *meltdown*

But at least it wasn’t raining. It is November after all, miraculous weather!

Well hello there Battersea Power Station, looking all sunshine pretty!

By 8am we had signed our disclaimers (favourite phrase: ‘No Showboating on the obstacles’) and located the bag drop. Other than having to pay an additional £2 for the bag drop (remember – this race cost £65 to enter…) the whole process ran like clockwork. Bags sorted, race numbers picked up (with safety pins included and they provided pens, luxury) and we were ready to go.

Obstacles! Strategy! *actual fear of death* 

The Mud Honeys: (L-R) Christina, me, Matlida, Tina and Chris

Just after 9am, we were ushered to the start line, and after a very quick warm up and debrief on safety (‘Don’t play with the traffic on Queenstown Road’) we started at bang on 9:15, the allocated slot for Wave Two. We were right to pick an early start, thankfully very little mud at the beginning of the course and after clambering over the first obstacle of hay bales we were off to tackle the rest.

A bit of jumping, criss crossing, and clambering and we found ourselves at the Monkey Bars. Given I have very little upper body strength, I was dreading this one the most so was very pleased it came so early in the race. The actual bars happened to be rather high off the ground and I could not reach them without a jump off the base bars. My actual nightmare and while we were contemplating whether to jump and swing, the girl in front of us lost her grip, fell and and landed slightly askew on her ankle with a sickening ‘crack’. White with shock, she said, very calmly ‘I think I heard something crack’. We agreed. Again, the race was spectacularly catered for and huge kudos to the marshals, who got her off the course out of harm’s way. They got her looked after very quickly, and it looked like she was in safe hands, so we moved along.

Tina, Matilda and I decided risking it this early on, wasn’t good strategy, but props to Chris and Stina who missed the drama as they were already half way across!

Thankfully that was the only real drama we encountered for the rest of the race. We took a quick stretch break on the run in Battersea Park to support Christina who was soldering through with a leg injury (hero), and I need an extra boost (or three!) up some of the steeper walls.

The moment when I encountered what looked like a rather long drop off on obstacle –  and froze – wasn’t a highlight.  I over thought the issue and got completely paralysed with my fear of heights, not able to jump down (for fear of hearing *that* crack) but equally I couldn’t turn around and go back. This was when I was so thankful I was competing with a team. Tina calmly explained, while shouting up at me, that I just needed to turn around and lower myself backwards. Simples. It really was.

This issue comes up again and again with me, over analysing and then just getting stuck (sometimes literally, legs swinging off the top of a wall thinking the marshals would have to come lift me down after everyone else had finished). I am my own worst enemy, if I get out of my own way and just DO IT, the course goes so much smoother. These little epiphanies I have while covered in mud and sweat. Wish I could have them while sitting in my slippers on the sofa drinking green tea, but hey. I’ll take my inspiration where I can find it. I tend to find it while partaking in mad, crazy, and usually strenuous, activities.

Having climbed up and over countless walls, we finally got to the ice baths and mud tips. By that point we were pretty warm and the freezing water wasn’t nearly as bad as I had built it up to be in my head (at 3am this morning, debating my chances of survival). Another theme. It usually is never as bad as we make it out to be in our heads. But it was cold. My breathing went all weird.

This was followed by more water, climbing and clambering and finally we hit the last obstacle – the infamous Wall of Fame. This took some serious team work and bit of help from the general population, a boost up and then a pull over. Shout out to the large lovely ginger bloke who came to our rescue when we couldn’t get Chris over  (thanks mainly to my lack of upper body power!).

And that was that! I think we did it in 1hr 15mins or so, not bad considering we had a laugh, took a stretch break (or two) and we finished together as a team ‘Leave No Woman Behind!’. Heroes.

No photographic evidence as yet, but I’ll update the blog post when the official pics come through. My knees are bruised and battered beyond all recognition (that Over & Under obstacle that we had to do FOUR times is responsible for that. OUCH). But otherwise, we were all high enough on adrenalin to vogue out, post race. Check it.

Matlida’s face PRICELESS (2nd from right)

Bad Ass. And the sun is in my eye 

BLING!!

More for the collection

Royal Parks or …The Plan B Race

I finished it. Yes. I finished. This is what I keep repeating to myself while alternating ice packs and hot water bottles while recovering on my sofa post 13.1 miles this morning. What a race. But for very different reasons.

It was such a beautiful day, perfect weather, and everything was going incredibly smoothly, no delays, no queues, I was feeling relaxed and positive about the race. I had told myself that I wasn’t going for a PB, with my injury, I really just needed to get round. So no pressure.

But once I was there absorbing the atmosphere, all the buzz in the air, the anticipation, part of me really thought the universe may just conspire to deliver me a 2:15. It was sunny after all. In October. Crazier things have happened. Right?

Emily and I set off at a good pace and I honestly felt pretty awesome up until about mile 4 – so technically the very start of the race. Emily’s very uplifting chatter of, ‘we’re nearly a third of the way there!’ helped, for about another mile or so, and then I had to drop two more Nurofen to counteract the now, very painful ITB. And I stopped being able to keep to our pace.

Come mile 6, and my sunny disposition was starting to darken. I was already tired, how can this be? Well I can tell you, three weeks with just cross training is a very poor substitute for the real thing. I kind of knew this in the back of my head, but again my over positive mind frame pre-race, let me conveniently forget it.

Between miles 8 and 9 I thought it may just be over. Or at best I’d have to make peace with the fact I was going to hate every inch of the course left to run and may just cry my way through it. Nurofen helped a tad, but then the other ITB started to strain which threw me off my game plan completely. Both sides? Are YOU SERIOUS!?

At this point I felt a tap on my shoulder, ‘you alright love?’ says a woman wearing the same charity shirt as me. And for once I didn’t try and front it out. I’m not sure if it was the implicit camaraderie as we were running for the same charity, or the fact that at this point I thought I may vomit, but instead I said;  ‘Not really, having a pretty tough time, I’m injured blah erg, blah URG, blah *sob*’ And Julie just got it.

And by some minor miracle, Julie was in a pretty similar state to me, and more than happy to keep me company while I just got myself back together. Having torn her calf muscle running the London Marathon earlier this year (at mile 16, with another 10 miles to go – and she still finished!), she was looking at walk/ running the last 4 miles. Which sounded like a good Plan B to try and salvage the rest of the race, and possibly my ITB (and sanity).

And from that point my race improved dramatically. Julie’s fantastic demeanour and inspirational story helped distract from the pain, and well, we just had a laugh. I stopped taking it so seriously. I gave up the idea of getting anywhere near a PB. We talked to other runners. I managed to jump up and down enthusiastically when I saw my friends and family who came to support (ouch, but worth it). We helped first time half marathon runner Katie, manage a particularly nasty stitch. We waved at everyone. We made faces at the cameras.  We finished with a spectacular 800 metre dash (er, hobble really), in just over 2 hours 39 minutes, actually smiling. Plan B.

Now that’s nine minutes slower than my PB, but I’ll take that. Those nine minutes reminded me of something pretty core, that I had forgotten to have fun when training. It was all splits and miles logged and comparing schedules with other colleagues, desperately trying to achieve perfect form, and ultimately finding myself in a lot of pain on physio tables. Not fun really. At all.

So I’m going to take some time out to recover, sort out the injury slowly and properly and then take to the street again, when its healed,  without the expectation, or added pressure of an impending race. And just run, for fun. To feel good, and have a laugh.

Until Paris next year that is!

DONE. Badge to prove it 
Amazing to have my Mom here to see me run all the way from Sunny South Africa

The Big Day: Brighton Half Marathon 2012

Last week I was worried. My immune system wasn’t its usual stellar self and I was feeling decidedly Not OK. A benefit of running is that I just don’t get colds nearly as often as I used to, something I have been a tad too smug about. I suppose its only fitting that a week before the race I start feeling exhausted, headachey and just not 100%.

Panic starts to set in by Thursday. By this point I have cancelled all non essential activity and sought advice from friends, colleagues and via every social media platform and forum I could find. ‘Drink Green Juice!’ a good friend advised (celery, cucumber, ginger and garlic FYI), ‘Lots of Water!’ another suggested and ‘Sleep and Eat Loads’. Thankfully, this was not difficult.

Friday night I head to bed at 8pm and by Saturday I can just about drag myself out of bed, pack my bag and get myself ready to head down to Brighton. R feeds me a lot of homemade stew and tea. Perfect combination of carbo loading and comfort food. It works its magic (that and much pleading to various deities and positive mantras, on repeat!).

Sunday morning (race day!), I’m not feeling like a zombie and manage to put my trainers on without sobbing. We wake up to the most beautiful winter sunshine over the Brighton Marina and although its pretty cold, the scenery distracts from the bite in the wind.

View from the breakfast bar in the Seattle Hotel Brighton. Spring!

Our hotel is a 10 minute walk from the start of the race so we arrive in good time, along with 9,000 other competitors and the pre race buzz is electric. The start is a bit slow (lack of staggered starts usually has the effect I’m finding) but by 9:10 we’re over the start line and building up to a good pace.

The course is fantastic, through the town centre and then looping out past the golf course, with nothing but the sea to the right and then back along the sea front. Heading past 11 miles, there were no tears (unlike the Great Scottish Run!), but come the 12th mile my feet start feeling numb and my hip was niggling badly. That and the fact that my Nike+ was claiming I’d just hit 12.5 miles (and not just 12), made getting to the finish that much harder. Fair amount of chatter post race about the course being 13.6 so the finishing times are slightly out!

Very pleased with my 2:30:01 (for the 13.1, that’s a full 6 minutes faster than the GSR). That includes a 5 minute go slow, where R and I were ‘deciding’ whether or not I’d head off without him around the 10K mark when I wanted to up the pace and he needed to slow it down. He said go. I said no, I’d wait. Major argument ensues, much to the amusement of a Water Aid runner bumbling past us dressed as a toilet and a man dressed as a burlesque dancer.

We had discussed before the race that if either of us needed to take it slower the other should push on. But it was still really hard to actually do it. But with a likely PB to achieve, I did eventually pick up the pace (and over took the toilet). I’m sure it will be the other way around at some point.

Relief!
Very knackered R

But we did it!

Reunited at the finish line in our space blankets, I tell R that I had overtaken Katie Price (only just!), who still looked impeccable, not a smudged mascara line in sight, and her hair was salon perfect. I’d like to know the brand of her foundation immediately. Also very impressed she co-ordinated both her car and her running gear, fuchsia pink. I’m jealous of both, clearly. I very rarely manage match my nail polish to my pedicure.  Plus her coach seemed pretty awesome. I’d like one of those too please.

I very rarely spot celebrities, so here’s my first paparazzi attempt. I wont give up my day job!

The inevitable come down, from the endorphin rush after finishing the race, was eased slightly by indulging in a completely OTT Italian meal in the Brighton Marina. Guilt free! Post race meals deserve to be relished and laden with as many calories as possible. I hear a collective sigh from my nutritionist friends. Oh and there was pudding too. And then more pizza. One day I will learn.

Pana cotta @ Bella Napoli Brighton Marina

R’s chocolate profiteroles 

Back in London, I’m relishing my day off with more tea and a few ice packs for the old legs. I’ve already started looking into the next challenge. Paris is a bit soon, so thinking it may have to be further afield. Any suggestions very welcome!

Richmond Deer Park 10K: Sunday Race

I’m not used to relying on other people when preparing for a race, so in true control freak style, I sorted out the race numbers, my kit and set the alarm in good time. Bearing in mind R only just manages to fall out of bed around midday on the weekend I was a bit worried we would over sleep, so I was aiming for a 6:30 start – with a view to get out the house by 7:45. Just in case!
Pre Race Tension!
R doing his best De Niro impression and pretending not to be nervous 

I neglected to check that the alarm was set to the correct schedule. Cue mass hysteria when I wake up and see not only has the alarm not got off, but its already 7:30. I have never seen R get out of bed so quickly, possibly spurred into action by the number of expletives I’m shrieking while knocking over a bed room chair, stubbing a toe and losing my hair brush. Somehow, amid the chaos we manage to pull on our kit, find our race numbers and get on the tube by 8am. Just.

So here we are, Sunday morning. First thing. Its absolutely freezing and really foggy. So much so that the tube driver, is on a literal ‘go slow’ from Turnham Green all the way to Richmond as the visibility is so bad. We make it to Richmond Deer Park in good time. I’ve not read the best reviews on this particular race so I’m prepared for the worst. Thankfully it appears to have improved on last year and the race starts on time at 9:15am.

The 10K running route

Due to the fog and the cold, it wasn’t easy going early on, but we managed to get to 5K without incident. Besides seeing some poor girl run straight into a pole while not paying attention to the road, and, well the mist didn’t help!

I was looking forward to the stretch along the Thames, however the fog didn’t allow for much sight seeing at all, and so we were left with crazy people watching – and trying to dodge poor dog walkers and cyclists who hadn’t adhered to the race warnings.

All in all a really good race, and a possible personal best! My GPS and the Timex times are in slight dispute but either way its looking like around the 1hr 5mins 49secs mark. Which will do nicely bearing in mind we were off to a pretty slow start initially!

Done and Dusted!

By 10:30am we were headed back to Notting Hill, rainbow medals (?!) in hand. R was suitably chuffed with his first race and we’re all on track with our training for the February Brighton Half marathon.

So all that was left to do on a chilly Sunday was hit the Portobello road in search for warming (and massive!) Sunday Roast. Bring it!

Portobello Organic Kitchen roast chicken dinner

DONE and DUSTED! 2 hrs 36mins 8s

Thrilled to have finished my very first half marathon! In agony having injured my calf again (yes, that hill right at the beginning of St Vincent street has a lot to answer for) but otherwise feeling fantastic.

It was possibly one of the hardest things I have ever done (up there with kick boxing gradings, customer strategy meetings and maybe even quitting fags!) but very pleased to say that I managed it without stopping once, walking or passing out. I did nearly cry at 11 miles, but I don’t think anyone noticed and scoffing another jelly baby made me feel better.

I made the mistake of stating with a 5K pace, of around 6:15 per km which did me no favours, but thankfully managed to catch myself and slowed the pace right down to around 6:45/7 per km which I think may have saved me in the long run. Although seeing loads of people in my colour group sail on past was slightly disheartening, but I got my own back when I ran past some of the speed freaks, who were now walking at about 10 miles. HA!

The last 3 miles were absolutely killer, with the calf playing up and my exhaustion making itself felt. Legs were like lead, but seeing family and friends at around the 11 mile point helped immensely and somehow managed to find the extra energy needed to get through the last couple of miles. Wing and a prayer at that point! You can see my route here

But made it! Without stopping or walking! Although doubt very much I’ll be running for a few weeks at least. The calf is complaining up a storm and I need to rest it. So celebrating with cake and tea. And then to bed – for a day or two.

12 Hours and Counting – Carb up!

We made it to Scotland in one piece late last night! Phew!
By some small miracle I managed to pack everything I needed for the race in about 10 minutes flat, while vacuuming the flat, walking Stella and handing over flat keys to our infinitely saintly friend who stepped into dog sit at the very last minute (long story, thank you Miss P!) Never a dull moment when it comes to Stella. We even got our train with 5 minutes to spare. I  have no idea if I have enough socks for the rest of the time we are here, but I’m covered for tomorrow. Along with jelly babies for the tough times, lip balm, suncream (I’m an optimist) enough safety pins to make a convincing punk and a killer play list to carry me through.

I really didn’t think I would be this nervous, but I’m hoping the added anxiety turns into adrenalin and helps kick start the dreaded first 3kms. No matter how fit I am becoming, I still find the first 10 – 15 minutes really tough. Possibly as I am still getting my head around the fact that, yes I am actually running, and yes its not as terrible as I had thought it was 20 years ago, yes, I am going to carry on going, and I’ll enjoy it.

Part of my head is still stuck in the late 80’s when I always came last in athletics at school Although I’m unsure as to how anyone, no matter how sporty and talented, could actually run in those itchy acrylic dishwater brown PE kits we had. Or the humiliating short shorts that came later, in washed out navy. 

Tomorrow, at least, I get to choose what to wear, and although the vest is as bright orange as you can get (which less face it, suits no-one!), it’s for such a great charity I’m pleased I’m going to be very visible (probably from the moon!).

So it you happen to be watching the race and you see a vision of nuclear orange pass you pay, probably not in a flash, I’m in the slow coach group after all, that will be me. And check out the charity link on the top right hand corner of the blog. They truly are an inspiring lot.

But before that I’m digging into a superb carb crazy meal cooked up by my wonderful race weekend hostess (and also long suffering aunt!) Pasta, mushrooms, salmon a plenty – scrumptious (the equally food fussy other half agrees!


Wish me luck!