Leeds Half Marathon – 8th May 2016

On Sunday I took part it the Plusnet Leeds Half Marathon 

This was the first time I had run this race, and yet again my training had been slightly lacking, however my overall fitness felt good enough to go the distance. I was not expecting to get a PB, and I didn’t. 

I lived in Leeds for a few years, despite that I still had no idea where the course went, even when looking at the course map. I put that down to the fact that the years I lived in Leeds I was in fact drunk for much of the time – student life of course!

So the run was to be a mystery tour, luckily I didn’t need any nav skills!

Sunday was promising to be a scorcher, so I delved deep into my sports drawer and dug out my running vest and shorter running tights. As this was of course a road race I ditched the fell running shoes and relied on my faithful Mizuno Wave Rider 9s. I finished compiling my running playlist on Spotify and I even charged up my running watch! I felt nicely prepared equipment wise. 

A last minute puppy poo crisis meant that phill had to stay at home just in case Bob exploded, so I had no cheering squad – I was on my own as I knew the girls from work would have mega hangovers and not make it into town, and I don’t blame them – spectating can be pretty boring! 

I got there in plenty of time so killed time taking selfies and warming up. 


It was a lovely sunny morning, a little too hot for running 13.1 miles, but better sunny than rainy any day. 

I started well, if a little fast as usual. There were a few sneaky hills, but all runable and nothing like running on the fells. At the halfway point I was feeling good, if a little warm. Support along the course was great, with a few people out with hoses to cool the runners down, which was appreciated. 

By mile 10 I was starting to tire and get very hot. Especially my feet – my socks were a little too thick.

At this point you hit Kirkstall Abbey and whilst this road seems flat it has a slight incline and is a bit of a drag, then for good measure you have an incline to get back into town, and the finish line was also on a slope – cheeky. 

Secretly I’d hoped I could get close to 2hrs, but I finished in 2hrs 7mins (Strava link here). Initially I was a little disappointed, but I hadn’t trained properly and this was actually my 3rd fastest half marathon, so in the end I’m pretty chuffed. 

Phill thinks with decent training I should be able to do a 1hr 50mins half – we’ll see. 

This was a very well organised race, plenty of water stations (I was worried they may run out in the heat), good staggered starts and nice medal and finishers t-shirt. I’d give this one another bash!


Recovery was fine, even managed a nice walk out in the afternoon with the dogs. And of course a few celebratory beers. 

 

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How to boost your running confidence 1 month before a marathon!

This is not a scientific result, and has no research to back it up.
I simply ran a personal best at Paddock Wood half marathon yesterday, and now I feel epic!

I managed to shave 10 mins off last years time, and having looked back over my races just realised that’s how much I beat my PB by. I thought I’d done a half in 2hrs 2mins before but must have dreamt it. Go me!

This is a massive confidence boost for the Big Sur Marathon in 4 weeks, and with two 20 mile races under my belt I’m going to set myself a target for the marathon, despite the fact that the thought of going another 6miles is still daunting.
I’m putting it out there! I could be disappointed but I’m going to try and go sub 4hrs 45mins.

BRING IT ON!

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Surrey Spitfire 20 Review

As part of my Big Sur marathon training I took part in Events to Live’s Surrey Spitfire 20 race.
This was a 2 lap race starting at the Top Gear track at Dunsfold Aerodrome.

This was also only my second time running this distance, having attempted it the first time at the Thames Riverside 20 (race or pace), only two weeks earlier.

The day started with an early rise for a Sunday, and the 1hr 30min drive from Woolwich to Cranleigh.
Instructions supplied advised that our sat nav would bring us the wrong way and they weren’t wrong ;p . Luckily the man at the gate kindly let us in, and we had a cheeky blast of the M3 on a deserted bit of runway, unfortunately I was driving so hubby was disappointed!

Very well organised for parking and collecting our race numbers. No bag drop to be found though so we had to head back to the car to get ready – not a big deal.

The smell of bacon rolls from the Girl Guides had my stomach rumbling before the start, and I then started to panic that the one slice of toast would not be sufficient!

The weather was glorious as we set off and warmed up considerable as the race progressed.

My original plan was to try and run at a slower pace (10.30 min miles) having completed the TR20 bang on 10’s, and feeling rather pleased with myself, but struggling massively with the last three miles. I also wanted to plan in better race nutrition, and test how I would feel going slower and whether another 6.2 miles was doable.

Hubby’s advice was just to push myself to maintain the same pace, but I was worried about how I would eventually do a whole 26.2 miles.
Typically I went for it as I got caught up in the atmosphere, and I saw my first mile at 8.59!
I am so rubbish at pacing it’s untrue!
For the first half of the race I fluctuated between 9’s and 9.45’s – great! ;p I’m obviously not getting any better at pacing the more running I do.
But there were 4 pretty tough hills in the first lap, that I wasn’t looking forward to seeing the second time round, so a slight fluctuation can be forgiven.
I ran with a friendly chap who was race director for the Clair Park Parkrun, and his banter helped me maintain a steady pace for around 4 miles. Also waved on a couple of my DPR comrades as they steamed ahead in their VMLM training mode.

For the first lap I managed to run up all the hills. Given that the Big Sur has one hill that is 500ft this was good practice.

I was feeling good after 10 miles despite the speed and heat. Cracked open a gel and pushed on for the 2nd half. This was a much lonelier affair as the field spread out even more and I found no new running chums to chat with. I was dreading the 17 mile mark, as this was where I struggled on from at the TR20. So at mile 16 I took on another gel to see if that would help me through.
My pace started moving into the 10’s for a few of the miles in the second half, but with my deficit miles from the first half there was a possibility of going faster than the TR20, but I tried not to think about it.
The second to last hill I decided to walk a little, but when it came to the last hill at mile 18 I pushed on.
I was feeling the heaviness in my legs and my back was starting the ache, but I was feeling better than last time so this was a good sign.

As I reentered the aerodrome for the last quarter mile I sped up (but only a little!). Spotted my lap 1 chum as he clapped me in. Then I spotted hubby who had a surprised look as he cheered me in.

No wonder…I managed to finish in 3hrs 17min. Over 2 mins quicker than TR20. And I said I would go slower!

I felt a lot better than I did last time, so I’m feeling quietly confident about the 27th April D-day. Hubby is still in shock at how well I did. I’m still a little worried about the extra 6.2 miles

Only 5 weeks to go and one half marathon planned before the big day. Not sure if I should push for a longer than 20 mile run just to see….
Decisions, decisions!

20 Miles, my longest run – a review

On Sunday 2nd March 2014 I took part in the Thames Riverside 20, organised by Clapham Chasers

In preparation for the Big Sur Marathon in April this was to be my longest run to date. 

Now, the lack of blog updates on my marathon training are not an exact testament to how my training is going, but it’s not far off. Commitment to exercise has never been my forte even when I have something this massive to aim for. However, I have been steadily increasing my milage, it seems to be the short runs in between that are lacking.

To ensure I did the long runs I signed myself up to some 20 milers & a half marathon.

The Thames Riverside 20 (TR20) is a great little race as in order to gain permission to hold the race they have to have pacers. The slowest pacer was 10 minute miles, so I promptly went for this group. I am very conscious of the time limit on the Big Sur Marathon (6 hours = 13.45 min miles) so need to make sure I can run a majority of marathon distance at a faster pace than the limit, especially as it has some killer hills.

As this was the slowest group I was pleasantly surprised to see it had quite a number of runners in it, and I hoped I wouldn’t be trailing at the back.

Starting at Bishop’s Park at Putney Bridge, the race started at 8am (which meant a 6.30am set off from Woolwich – YAWN!), with each pace group setting off within 2 mins of each other. No chip timing so your start time was based on the start time of your pace group, so I guessed that some people could in effect cheat and start in an earlier group if they wanted??

The race route takes you over Putney Bridge to the south bank, past the posh college boat houses (hence the requirement for the pacer) and you then follow the riverside path all the way just past Richmond bridge, and then back again.

Drink stations were position approximately every 3 miles, offering water & Gatorade, and heaps of support!

My usual shorter distance race pace is around 9 – 9.30 min miles, so I found running at 10s pretty comfortable for the 1st half of the race. Some of the early miles were quite a bit quicker than 10s, but given how hard I find it to pace myself I can’t complain. It was good to be surrounded by people who just wanted to get round in a set time and not feel overly competitive, except with myself.

The path was quite muddy due to the recent flooding, and I was concerned what effect this would have on my feet after splashing through a few decent puddles when I got bored (tired) of leaping over them. 

Race nutrition is not something I usually consider but given this is a build to the big one I decided to strategically try planning in a gel and what drinks to have when. Usually I will just take whatever is offered to me at the time. I decided I would take Gatorade up until half way, then I would have my gel with water, then back to Gatorade.

I think I needed to really plan in two gels, as I was already getting tired by half way, and when I hit 17 miles I started to slow up quite a bit.

I started to fall back from the pace group at around mile 17 too, I wasn’t too concerned as most of my miles have been well under 10s up to this point, but I knew I couldn’t drop off too much. The route also got a lot busier on the way back.

I felt fine in terms of breathing, heart rate etc, it was just my legs and back that were starting to feel the 3hrs on my feet. The last mile was easily the worst I have ever felt, my legs were like lead weights. It felt like I was going so slow, so was pleasantly surprised when I realised I was still within 10.30 for the last mile.

As I entered the gate to the park and the last 100 meters I saw my husband waiting for me and cheering me in (he had joined the 7.30 pace group and had waited in the cold for me for an hour – bless him – and he then drove me home!), I started to get emotional and then found it hard to take a breath – need to sort that out for the marathon!

I crossed the line in 3hrs 19mins 34s – bang on pace at 9.59 I was pleased! I was broken, but pleased!

Every finisher received a goodie bag filled with drinks and snacks, I was a little disappointed there was no medal. But for £12 I did get an extremely well organised, fabulously supported and enjoyable training run for my next big challenge.

My walking style suffered a little yesterday, but stretching out my muscles helped. So did the muscle soak bath I had once I was home. We treated ourselves to a pub roast dinner, congratulatory beers & sticky toffee pudding. Asleep by 9pm with slightly achy knees today but overall feeling good & positive.

I’ve got the Spitfire 20 in two weeks to keep my mileage up. I’ve decided to stick to 10s or maybe even 10.30s to just get me through and let it help me plan my race nutrition better.

 

 

Where did the summer go? Three races recap!

I knew it would happen, so I shouldn’t beat myself up about it, but still I’ve let myself down and all of you who come back to (or stumble upon) this blog expecting up to date race reports and baking disasters.

The summer flew by, and I competed in some big races, here is a quick recap of what I’ve been up to.

Following having the mumps I got back into my training and at the beginning of September took part in the Run to the Beat half marathon. This had the promise, and price tag, of a great race, however it was severely lacking in all aspects. I am sure many runners will have heard about the debacle that was the Nike Run to the Beat, here is my summary:

  1. T-shirts with incorrect date printed on it, hastily covered up with a stripe.
  2. Delayed start. Over 30 minutes holding in my hydration to get going!
  3. Crowded course. Especially when trying to squeeze 15K people through a 6ft wide gate! The route took us through woolwich barracks at around mile 4. I stood still for 10 minutes! This only aggravated my full bladder, so a toilet stop was also required!
  4. Coconut water! Seriously? I can only liken it to the devils spit – yuck!
  5. DJ stations – errr more like an iPod being played out of a white van, wish I’d worn my headphones.
  6. Water in cups. Filled by dirty dunking hands – nice!
  7. Hills and switch backs. Let’s cram all those into the last mile to make the end memorable.
  8. Collapsing bag storage. Apparently it ended in a mass scrummage for bags!

Can’t say I enjoyed it, time wasn’t the best either, and I had a little cry at the end due to my own disappointment in myself.

On the positive side at least I finished uninjured, I got a nice big medal, they refunded us £10, and we received another ‘sorry’ by way of another Nike t-shirt.

I don’t think i’ll do this one again, the route wasn’t too bad apart from the end. And spookily I’ve now found myself living in Woolwich, so it must have been an omen.

In late October I found myself signed up to two 10 mile races within a week of each other…

Cabbage Patch 10 was a club championship run for my running club, Dulwich Park Runners, so we had quite a good turn out. I ended up running most of the race with Emma who helped push me on faster than I probably would have started had I ran on my own, and considering the last mile of this race was awful for me, that was probably a very good thing. The course is lovely, and even though not all the roads are closed, motorists are very considerate. This was my first 10 mile race and I hoped to finish in 90 minutes, managed to just sneak under with a time of 1hr 28mins & 28 secs, so was pleased. This year the free long sleeve t-shirt was actually made from technical material, unlike last year (hubby ran it), so this was a good improvement. Overall a very enjoyable run, especially as we had so many club members to compare the race with at the end.

A week later I ran in the Great South Run for Mind Charity. I found it quite difficult doing a run for charity as I run all the time, so I thought family and friends would be reluctant to sponsor me, but I have managed to raise almost £150, my target was £250 though, but I’m guessing they’ll still take donations http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/harleybeecroft

I love Great Run events, as although there are 1000’s of people running it is always so well organised. The race took place the day before the supposed ‘storm of 2013’, so it was quite ‘breezy’ and there was a slight chill in the air! I even had to resort to wearing a bin bag at the start. Glad I did, and didn’t wear another layer, as once we were out of the wind it was actually quite pleasant. I couldn’t see or hear the warm up, so this was mainly a half-arsed attempt at staying warm and stretching. Because of the wind I was half expecting my time to be effected, and so settled into a comfortable pace. I spotted hubby at two points as I was running round so this buoyed me and spurred me on.

Weirdly I completely missed the cheering station for Mind, but a fellow Mind runner did give me some words of encouragement so that was lovely. It was also nice running with my name on display and getting cheered on by the crowd (and laughing to myself when people misread it!). As we hit the seafront for the last mile the wind literally hit us, but despite this I tried to maintain a decent pace. There was camaraderie with other runners as we commented on the strength of the wind. Even with this obstacle I managed to beat my time from the week before by 1 minute, so I was extremely pleased with myself.

Like I said before Great Runs are so well organised, great goody bag, medal and general organisation. Their results page and photo service are also fab. Would definitely do more of their races in the future.

So, that was my summer/Autumn. As I mentioned above I’ve moved to Woolwich, so it’s unlikely that I will be doing any club running, as it’s quite a stretch to get over to Dulwich. It’s a shame as I really liked the tuesday night runs, but I am sure I’ll find a more local club near me to get me through the winter months, and the build up and training to my 1st marathon in April. STILL EXCITED!

 

Impromptu Half Trail Marathon

On Sunday 7th July I took part in the Lakeland Trails ½ Marathon in Coniston.

 

Originally I was just going to spectate whilst hubby took on the Marathon race, but I had been running over 10 miles in one outing comfortably for the past few weeks, and felt I could tackle my second half marathon.

Ok, so I completely forgot about the whole trail aspect of the run, and the fact that I would probably walk quite a bit of it, but I felt ready.

 

Trail running is difficult, ok we all know that, but what I mean it’s difficult to gauge how well you’ll do (or not, in some cases), as you can’t just compare your times to road running. This was my problem when I was trying to work out what time would be good for me to finish in, what was my target time and when did I have to get a wiggle on to make sure I wasn’t disappointed?

 

I had only done one trail run before and this was only 18km (Cartmel Sticky Toffee Trail), I had also only ever done one road half marathon before (Paddock Wood Half), so I decided to pluck a time out of thin air and guess that the trail half would take me at least an hour longer, so anything under 3hrs would be good. I had signed up for the Challenge rather than the race so there wasn’t too much pressure.

 

As the day approached we were conscious of how warm the weather was getting, and we weren’t relishing the thought of running through 24-degree midday heat. I hydrated myself well, and ate a lovely lunch at Jamie’s Italian in Manchester the day before. My lovely mother-in-law organised a BBQ for the evening before, but we weren’t convinced steak was the best pre-run meal, but we didn’t want to disappoint and ate it happily, plus there was cake. Cake’s ok right?

 

The Beecroft household was up early for the 2hr drive over to the lakes, and we arrived in plenty of time to register, hydrate & wee! (Toilet queues were massive!)

We worked out with the in-laws a spectating plan and where we would see them on the course.

 

We're Ready!

We’re Ready!

The set up for the race was fantastic and the location by the lake was great (I’m sure the lake will come in handy later!).

The marathon challenge had already set off at 7.30am as they had a longer period in which to complete, next off were Hubby and the marathon race. Loads of serious runners, and good to see some other southerners, including a couple of local rivals from Dulwich Runners.

Once the marathon had set off I had an hour to hang out before I started. Stretched, hydrated, checked GPS, chatted, checked GPS, tied laces, one last stretch and I was off…

The course was lovely, nowhere near as tough as my 1st trail run experience, mainly due to most of the course being on bridleways and decent paths. There was a decent spread of water stations. Although one was getting dangerously low when I went through and we still had the Half marathon racers to come through after us. There was also one feed station which was nice to have.

I didn’t find the climbs too bad, and managed to run up at least two of them. The lap around a tarn was a little monotonous, but a gorgeous setting that I just had to take a snap.

Gorgeous Views - Must remember to stop!

Gorgeous Views – Must remember to stop!

 

I was so lifted by my surroundings I went way too fast for the 1st half, which I did find easy, but really should have paced myself better.

Vrooommmmm!

Vrooommmmm!

 

I spotted MIL at 15KM, and bless her she got her spray mist out to cool me down, as at this point it was VERY hot. This spurred me on and I went for it through a forest section.

Then I hit a wall.

My GPS had stopped working half way round the tarn so had to restart my watch, so didn’t really have an idea of how long was left or how long I had taken – good or bad?

When I saw the 15KM marker I was quite confident as this meant only 6KM left and that shouldn’t take me long right? The last two miles were tough, which was sad because this was the relatively flat bit. I had to walk much of it! We then entered the area where we had started and then found they were making us do a loop of the campsite – ARGHH!

As I approached the finish line I gave a little sprint. They called out my name, it was wrong! Then I heard the Mother in Law correct them.

I finished with a flourish, but was it enough? Hell yeah 2hr 47mins!

I was pleased!

Yep my name is wrong!

Yep my name is wrong!

What was even more pleasing (or not depending on how you look at it) I did this time and they actually made us do a whole extra mile! The course was over 14 miles, so no need for that last lap around the camp site. No wonder the last 2 miles was tough, should have just been one! Glad my GPS stopped working. What you don’t know doesn’t hurt you right? Tell that to my thighs, still aching three days later!

I think my 1st half speed was due to the fact that I run a lot of 10k, so need to work on my longer distance, and of course my pacing is non existant and needs a lot of practice!

The trail half marathon was gruelling but fun and really glad I did it. It will make my half marathon in September seem like a walk in the park – can’t wait!