Sunderland 10k

Me waving and running on the Sunderland City 10k
Heading out of Roker Park on the Sunderland City 10k - picture courtesy of Jeff Henderson

A week since my last blog? That’s a sign I’ve been busy and pretty happy about being busy. I’ve raced today, and I want to get to that bit, so here are the edited highlights.

  • 2 interval sessions where I didn’t hit the pace I was looking for but was glad I did
  • 1 swim session that I had to bully myself through
  • 1 killer spin class
  • 1 awesome PT session on the beach in the rain with a 12k kettlebell
  • 2 days rest (the hardest part)
  • 1 trip to Edinburgh in the sunshine to talk writing, running, biking, eat cake and hug my running buddy Al
  • 1 day volunteering at parkrun
  • 1 hot 10k race

Blimey, that’s pretty full on isn’t it?

Okay, so today was my greedy race. My last madcap 10k dash before I really do have to stop faffing around trying to go fast and settle into the ‘pace yourself, pace yourself’ rhythm of training for a half marathon.

I’d put it in my calendar on a bit of a whim after my PT challenged me to go sub 50 in a 10k by the end of June and I realised I didn’t have a race to do it in. And despite the fact that I’ve prepared and tapered for this one, I could feel myself beginning to talk myself out of it.

It wasn’t flat as I’d hoped, given the location. When I saw the route map I knew it would take in a hill in Roker Park. And the forecast today was scorchio. And, as I reminded myself at Blaydon, pushing too hard, wanting it too much can come at price. Missing by seconds and ending my favourite race in tears? Just daftness.

So, all bets are off. Just run what you’re given. An unknown course, an unknown field and a hot, hot day. I bumped into Mark and Davina as I got to the stadium and chatted to some parkrun regulars as I got set and decided on my strategy. With a large crowd of runners and a band playing, I started to feel I might just be up for this, even with the raising temperatures. So the plan was to go for a good 5k and see if I could hold on.

I was drenched through with sweat before I started and not very pleasant to stand next to. But I was glad I had my Fetch top on as it meant I finally got to meet Claire who I’ve been talking to on Fetch and twitter. Hello! Great to see you.

Bits of the race organisation were great, others could have done with some improvement – like starting around 10 mins late for no real reason. The poor girl trying to do a warm up on the stage that hardly anyone could see got a rather lack-lustre response.

It was chip timed, with the sensors being stuck on the back of the running number. I haven’t seen that before. It did mean we were just shuffled into the starting area with no sense of who would be speedy or slow though.

Eventually we were off and I employed my usual ducking and diving to find my way through the crowd, make some space and go. I had no idea of my pace at first, I just wanted to run and find some space.

Through the city centre there were patches of shade beside the buildings, but I had to keep my wits about me for kerbs and bollards and weaving runners. My chest felt tight and I kept having to clear my throat. But I’ve done that before in races and eventually it settles.

Peter came through and gave me a shout. For a moment I toyed with trying to keep him in my sights, but he was off, and I had a cramping left leg to deal with. Just settling in niggles, I told myself and then I began to feel a pull on my right shoulder.

I’m so glad that when I get these niggles they seem to be at the start of races, at the point at which it makes no sense to listen to them. I haven’t had the shoulder pain for a while though. I always associate that one with cold and wet conditions. Anyway, I’m writing them down because they were there, but they seemed to vanish before they took hold and I’d zoomed through the first km in 4:57. We’re on!

Just running, just feeling my way, just breathing, not thinking too much. Just keep picking my way forward, keeping my wits about me. At a switchback in the park, Peter calls to me again. I don’t see him, but I wave and keep up the pace.

Water, water everywhere. The lake in Mowbray park looks so inviting and further on I get a glimpse of fountains. I will take on water in this race, I’ve decided, it’s too hot not to. I’ve tried to make sure I’m well hydrated, drinking plenty of water as I usually do. But my race nervous bladder has been particularly twitchy this morning.

I’m not really taking in very much. Just running and being comfortable in my own skin. It’s hard, it’s hot, but I’m thinking, just run easy. My legs and breathing feel strong.

Out along by the marina, I’d hoped for some shade or a cooling breeze. But the white heat of the boats on the water reflects off the light coloured pavement and it’s relentless. I seem to recall there’s a water station somewhere around here and I start to watch out for it.

But as my brain forces those thoughts forward I become aware of another sensation that tells me I may already be risking dehydration. I had a rare headache on Friday evening in a localised spot over my left eye. Right now I can feel it throbbing again.

I reach out for one of the water sachets and rip into it, so eager for a gulp that I stumble through my breath and almost choke. I keep running and squeeze the cool liquid round my mouth, sipping it in little by little.

I never usually run this kind of distance with water. Even on other hot races, I’ve taken a gulp or two then ditched the bottle. But I hold onto the pack and gradually drink most of it. I tell myself it’s okay to slow down a bit to take on the water I so obviously need. And although I haven’t looked at my pace for a good kilometre or two, I decide then and there to let it go. It’s not quite 5k yet and I don’t care.

I haven’t blown up, run out of steam or baulked at the challenge. I could keep pushing, hard and weary, make it hurt. But it’s just not going to happen here on this day. Just ease back and enjoy it a little. Don’t burn yourself out for this one. Learn to race another day.

Just as I’ve thought this, Claire comes past me, looking cool and strong, running in the flow. And the fact I don’t try to keep up with her, reassures me I’ve done the right thing.

Now I start to take in a little more. Now I see the sea and the other runners and the welcome shade of the approaching park. There’ll be a hill here I know, but now it holds no threat. I encourage another runner on, little steps, little steps and overtake some who are walking. I know I’ll run every step of this race. Maybe not as fast as I’m able, but I’ll run it now I’ve let the pressure off.

And now it’s coming back to me, the lightness and ease and enjoyment of the run. I feel strong again. I pat another runner on the shoulder as I pass to spur them on. And by the top of the hill, by the time I see Jeff, spectating with his camera, I’m enjoying a good patch.

Winding around back through the city, this route still has its twists and turns. Sunderland and South Shields were my patch for a year as a reporter, more than 10 years ago, and lots of memories come flooding back. I’ve walked many of these paths looking for stories.

Today the tale is one of heat. And people running and stopping and trying to get going again. My pace may have slowed, but I am relentless now. I know I can keep on going.

As we finally turn back towards the stadium there’s a last gasp rise and a girl in a red club shirt lets out a wry remark about it. I spot a sign that says 800m to go and power on up the slope, overtaking her as we come back down towards the start line and archway of balloons. I’ve kicked into my usual ‘death or glory’sprint finish. But it’s not the end.

The route curves round the back of the stadium. There are still hundreds of metres to go and my legs just want to stop after I’ve pounded them into something stupid. “Come on,” she shouts, “It’s just around here. You can do it.” I stutter into another run. And then speed up a bit more and a bit more. “Come with me!” I yell as I start to pull away.

Another twist, another turn, I still cannot see the end and my legs are really stuttering. But bless her, she grabs me by the elbow as I try and put another spurt of speed on and we cross the finish line together. Thank you Emma. What a diamond!

The clock says 56:23, so definitely no PB for me today. As I pick up my goody bag in the stadium I compare notes with other runners, faster runners than me who have likewise had a slow race. It’s my slowest this year and almost exactly the same as my first ever 10k race which was on a pretty hot and breezy day back in 2009. And I really don’t mind at all.

I ran what I was given. I decided to ease off before I was forced to. I didn’t make myself battle time demons or stress or pressure. I didn’t collapse at the finish line of false hope like one poor unfortunate runner. I just ran and sort of enjoyed it, despite the heat.

On the way home from Edinburgh on Friday, I started reading ‘Born to Run’. I’d finished it by Saturday. Now I’m not about to ditch my shoes and transform myself into a barefoot runner, but I am intruiged and curious about some of the ideas, particularly the arguments about how we evolved to run.

What I didn’t expect was to hear so much about the simple enjoyment of the run. Through the story of Emil Zapotek (who I confess I hadn’t heard of) to other runners who seem to make no sense from the traditional scientific point of view, that came through very strongly for me.

Al reminded me of it too, on Friday, talking about his recent 10k for the Stroke Association and meeting people who ran it who had been told a year ago, they’d most likely never walk. Humbling stuff. And stuff that’s well worth remembering in the midst of all our challenges and goal setting.

As I logged the details today, I noticed that was my 49th race. That’s quite some going from the girl that struggled to do a mile without stopping. Three years in and I am still incredibly grateful for this unexpected gift.

Why do we run? We run because we can. And because we love it.

Stats and stuff:
10k 56:23 chip time
1) – 0.62m – 4:57(7:58/m) – 63cal
2) – 0.62m – 5:07(8:13/m) – 65cal
3) – 0.62m – 5:11(8:21/m) – 65cal
4) – 0.62m – 5:05(8:10/m) – 65cal
5) – 0.62m – 5:42(9:11/m) – 66cal
6) – 0.62m – 5:49(9:22/m) – 64cal
7) – 0.62m – 6:13(9:59/m) – 65cal
8) – 0.62m – 6:02(9:43/m) – 66cal
9) – 0.62m – 6:10(9:56/m) – 65cal
10) – 0.62m – 5:53(9:28/m) – 65cal
11) – 0.04m – 15(6:50/m) – 3cal

Clip on, clip off…

Whenever I’ve had a moment at home this week, I’ve been practising getting my shoes in and out of the pedals of my lovely new bike. As you would expect from little Miss Clumsy, there were some comedy moments. I did have to unvelcro my shoe to get my foot out and was reaching for the allen key to remove the cleats to detach it from the pedal, when it finally popped out.

Figuring I had to do it sooner or later, I plucked up the courage to try it on the move, cycling up and down the back lane behind my house, clipping in and clipping out. Result = one slightly bashed knee, but no major damage.

After a really enjoyable Saturday parkrun, running with Penny, I realised I don’t always have to push the limits even on a short run to enjoy it. The scheduled 5k turned into 10 when I decided on the spur of the moment to do another lap with the volunteers, finishing with a verse of Happy Birthday for Rob.

The confidence of the double run, chatting with my running buddies and a bit more time getting to know my bike convinced me to get out and and go for it today. And as the plan said ‘brick’, I set up a mini transition in my hallway, and set off into the brave new world of the clipped in pedaller.

Keeping it simple, out along the coastal route. Just a flat out and back, with the aim of seeing where I got to at 10km and making that the half way point. I kept it steady, eyes on the road, taking heed of the traffic, trying to make sure I gave myself as much time as I could to slow down and unclip for traffic lights and other hazards.

Petrified of potholes. Cursing the crumbling tarmac, I remembered on off road track that I’d found on my previous cycle adventures, but couldn’t remember if it was suitable for road bikes. The tarmac strip along the sand dunes was perfect, although I still had to keep my wits about me to avoid the walkers, runners, dogs and kids on scooters.

I was enjoying the freedom and the sense of speed and wanted to just keep going, to see how far the path would take me. But the half way beep brought me back to reality.

More confident? More downhill, More tailwind? Whatever the reason, I sailed back through the return journey, finding my way through the gears with ease and spending more time on the big ring. Nowhere near pushing my limits, just enjoying the ride and getting the feel of this wonderful machine.

Almost home and a chance to stop, hop off and practise a running transition up my street in my bike shoes. My calves threatened to cramp up, so I gave them a good old stamp as I racked my bike, ditched my helmet and jacket and eased into my trainers. By no means a speedy transition, but I didn’t hang around either.

Off again and out for the run. And that feeling of being dead legged and slow. I promised myself that if my legs really hurt I would cut the run short. After all, I’d done more than I planned yesterday. But I wanted to get at least a kilometre in and after that, I found I eased into it a little more. A bit of a niggle near my left knee (near where I bashed it) and a tightness in my right glute, but nothing that really yelled at me to stop.

It still felt hard work. I still felt slow. But a glimpse at my watch showed me 8:30min/mile pace, so I wasn’t and I stuck with it through to 5k.

As I ran I kept in my mind 3 miles. I know I can run 3 miles on tired legs. I’ve done it in two triathlons now and a few times in training. When it comes to September and the Great North Run those 3 miles could be very important.

Stats and stuff:

Bike: 13.24 miles 59:41
1) – 1m – 4:41(4:41/m) – 36cal
2) – 1m – 4:44(4:44/m) – 33cal
3) – 1m – 4:43(4:43/m) – 38cal
4) – 1m – 4:39(4:39/m) – 40cal
5) – 1m – 4:51(4:51/m) – 26cal
6) – 1m – 4:36(4:36/m) – 33cal
7) – 1m – 4:50(4:50/m) – 33cal
8 ) – 1m – 4:44(4:44/m) – 39cal
9) – 1m – 4:48(4:48/m) – 35cal
10) – 1m – 3:34(3:34/m) – 34cal
11) – 1m – 3:52(3:52/m) – 38cal
12) – 1m – 4:47(4:47/m) – 40cal
13) – 1m – 3:51(3:51/m) – 36cal
14) – 0.23m – 1:02(4:27/m) – 10cal

5k 26:40
1) – 0.62m – 5:12(8:23/m) – 64cal
2) – 0.62m – 5:20(8:34/m) – 65cal
3) – 0.62m – 5:24(8:42/m) – 64cal
4) – 0.62m – 5:29(8:49/m) – 65cal
5) – 0.62m – 5:09(8:17/m) – 64cal

Welcoming the aches

My forearms beg me not to turn the corner too sharply as I drive home and chide me for no longer driving a car with power steering. They are pumped as though I’d spent the day dangling from a rope on a tricky overhang. My shoulders creak as I change out of my work shirt, protesting at the tricky manoeuvre of raising my arms above my head.

My legs? Well they’re used to this kind of treatment, so they’re staying quiet at the moment. They’ve learned that nothing they say will make much of a difference anyway and they may as well just get on with it. But they remind me that they’ve not been idle today as I climb the stairs.

Most weekdays I get up around 6am. Today I have to make it a little earlier. The fine early morning mizzle turns to showers, plastering my hair to my head with a nice mixture of sand and water on the beach.

The shore is deserted, quiet. A lone seabird bobbing on the waves as the tide retreats from our marker on the sand. A series of simple motions, stretching, pushing, bending, jumping. Patterns and repeats then a rest and a chance to grab a gulp of water.

I lift nothing heavier than a ball. Move nothing more than my own body weight. But I’m glad of the rain keeping me cool. In that precious rest time, we compare notes, strategies, what’s working and why. Set our eyes on the goals.

Workout over and a return to reality. Up the slope to tackle the rest of a day whose patterns and rhythms are not always of my making. The physical efforts are at the other end of the scale. But sitting static and confined is far more wearing than the freedom of my morning’s exercise.

Tasks of the day done and my thoughts return to that early rising. To the rain and the effort. To the waves and the quiet reassurance of something well done. I’d do it all over again tomorrow if I could.

Here we go again

I got my T-shirt yesterday. The confirmation that I’ve guaranteed my place in the Great North Run up until 2013. Whether I run it for another 2 years is another question. But I am doing it again this year.

Me at the end of the Great North Run 2010
At the end of the Great North Run 2010

And I’ll be running for the same reason I ran last year. My baby sister Ava, who we never got to know, but who is much loved and remembered. So I’ll be raising funds and awareness for Sands, the neonatal and stillbirth charity. They help families like ours deal with the trauma of losing a baby and support research to try and reduce the number number of babies who die.

Through my fundraising last year, I met a number of families who have been through this, so I know Sands does some great work. It’s been my privilege to meet and become friends with some truly lovely people who have dealt with their own sad losses. It’s hard for people to talk about this. To share such sadness. But I think it’s important.

And that’s why I choose to remember and celebrate Ava, and all the other babies, on the Great North Run. Because it is a celebration. An achievement. A milestone.

My fundraising will be a bit more low key this year, but I’ve set up a page for donations:

The Great North Run is the biggest running event in my home town and it’s been a feature in my year even before I started running.

I love the crowds, the atmosphere, the stories. I love seeing the runners out on the streets through the summer and then the silent anticipation of the day before, when you cannot hear the pounding of rubber on tarmac.

It’s a marker for me as a runner too. When I first entered it, it seemed almost impossible. But as I trained and learned through that first year of running, I pulled it into my grasp. Still a challenge, still to be respected, but an amazing marker on my journey.

Last year the Blaydon Race marked the end of ‘short’ running and I made the move into the cycle of gently increasing the miles over the long weekend run to build up to the half marathon.

It’s a bit different this year. I still have a 10k in the mix and a triathlon in August, not to mention the Northumberland Coastal Run in July. But the Great North Run still looms large and gives me a reason to extend those weekend runs to 8 miles, 9 miles, 10… And I’m already looking forward to it.

An unexpected PB

It’s Saturday. It’s parkrun. My Fetch top has been through the wash and is ready to bring a splash of colour to a great and overcast Town Moor. I’ve switched my Garmin back to kilometres and I’m good to go. And today there are pacers.

Catching up with my friends before the start. Comparing race notes from Thursday night, checking on injuries, niggles and general well being. There’s a wee buzz about some Blaydon runners turning up. A runner’s been spotted wearing an Ethiopian top.

I strike out for a little warm up run and feel quite bouncy as I go through my heel kicks and knee lifts then jog down to the start. As the runners gather, I hear a familiar voice and turn to see Dave, just out for a short one today.

Ken from work comes and says hello and introduces me to his wife. It’s his daughter Justina who won the women’s Blaydon Race. He always asks after my running when he sees me and in turn I’ve heard a lot about how she’s getting on and how proud her dad is of her success. But it’s a complete surprise when they come through the pack to say hello and shake hands and I’m introduced to Tadele Geremew from Ethiopia.

As T-shirts are awarded at the front, the pacers are announced and at 25 mins, it’s Mark who I need to keep sight of. He’s off to one side, and would be easy to lose in the jostle to the first corner, but I find my way through and fall easily into a nice stride.

The wind is kind to us today as we surge out across the moor. And whether it’s falling into step with the pacer or just a smoother sense of pacing, but the first kilometre feels relaxed and unforced. I’ve actually pulled ahead of Mark just before the 1k mark, so check my watch to see that I’m not going too fast – 4:57 spot on.

I put a little spurt on to get past a couple of runners before the gate. Then out along the tree lined path and I pick up the pace a little, feeling comfortable, stretching out. I do like this bit of the course.

2k down and another glance at my watch. I’m sure I see 4:3x for the second kilometre and congratulate myself on picking up so much time, thinking I have some in the bag for the tough 3-4 section. Back onto the moor and the stony path. I pick my favourite side and run at the edge of the grass, feeling strong and relaxed.

Dave comes past and I manage a response to his cheery hello. I haven’t really been racing anyone today, just catching them as they come. So I try to keep his yellow shirt in sight and not let him get too far ahead. It’s a good distraction tactic as we make our way back round behind the museum.

Now it’s getting tough. The rocky path eats at my strides and the turns play with my mental focus. Just get through this I think. If you keep it going now, it’s yours. If you drop it, it’s gone. I cut the corner and head for the last gate.

As it approaches I hear Mark say “Well done all you 25 runners”. He’s caught me. I push on and try to stick with him. He gallantly lets me go through the gate first.

Onto the last section and he’s past me for a moment. But I’m digging in and lengthening out my stride and I keep with him a bit longer. A little spurt of pace every few lengths or so just keeps me going until the turn.

On the final straight, there’s always a question about when to go. Sometimes I pick a point. Sometimes I go too early. Sometimes I leave it too late. This time I sense another runner approaching on my right shoulder. Oh no you don’t not on this bit. There’s still a good 400m to go, but I start to put on the pressure. And she goes with me for a while, forcing me to find the next gear up.

It’s earlier than I like to sprint, but I manage to hold it. Maybe not quite top speed, but 98% of it. I overtake another couple of runners on the way to the line and stop my watch at 24:18. Get in!

There’s no doubt that’s smashed my previous PB on this course which was 24:58. But I’ve beaten my Edinburgh course time too by almost 30 seconds. So my Blaydon 30 seconds are more than avenged.

After the race, a few of us head to the cafe for more chat and hot drinks. Amazingly we’re served rather quickly for once, but not before I do a little Fetch promotion to Ken and his family who are already tucking into breakfast.

So how does a girl follow up a great morning like that? Well, by taking my new bike out on our first adventure. And she is a beauty. And very well behaved.

We had a nice ride out together, even though it was raining. We clicked along through the gears – even getting as far as the big ring as I built up confidence. And I rode the last mile home on the drops. Whee! I love my new bike.

Stats and stuff:
Parkrun 5k 24:20 (official time)
km splits:
1. 4:57
2. 4:56
3. 4:57
4. 5:12
5. 4:16

Blaydon Race – getting things straight

A gathering of Fetch runners at the start of Blaydon Race
A gathering of Fetch runners at the start of the Blaydon Race

I’ve loved this race. Last year it showed me my potential. It was that rare magic run where it all felt easy, even in the cold and the rain, I laughed and flew and totally surprised myself.

A few days ago, I announced in my cocky, confident way that I was ‘going for it’ in this one. Death or glory. 8 minute miles or bust. I didn’t do it. Not quite. But I was close. And I was disappointed. But I shouldn’t be.

A busy day in the office, but I’m all prepared with my bags packed full of racing gear. Only I decided to wear a different pair of work shoes that morning. And as I arrive in the office, I realise that means my orthotics are sitting at home. I hatch a plan to dash back at lunchtime or after work to collect them, but Gary comes to the rescue and drops them off for me, saving me a whole load of stress and hassle.

I’m shaking as I get changed at the end of the working day, fingers too fumbly to pin on my race number. Excited and nervous. Nervous because I’m looking forward to it and have set myself a goal. I leave my number until I arrive in the Bigg Market.

Fetch runners
The Fetch girls ready for a night out starting at the Bigg Market

Lots of friends to meet and greet. Bag to drop off on the bus. A couple of pictures and a quick warm up to calm my brain as much as anything. Then standing with Penny as close to the start line as I’ve ever been, just wanting to be off and away. Fighting the urge to dispense some of my nervous energy, looking forward to a good race.

Eventually we’re off and I start picking my way through the crowds, starting my watch when I see the Lord Mayor. I don’t remember it being this crowded as I dodge and weave between the pavements and round the corners, clipping heels and dodging elbows.

For a time I run with Scottish Fetchie IanS, who I’ve just met,  trying to talk to temper my pace. But it’s impossible to stay with anyone in this melee. I reassure him it gets easier once we’re on Scotswood Road. And that’s where I pick up my feet and find my stride. First mile in 08:10 – that’s okay – it’s busy. I spot and say hello to Davina and Lindsey. It’s great to be racing with so many friends.

Away along the Scotswood Road. More freedom, more space, only there’s something tickling at my foot. I think it’s the end of my lace trapped between my shoe and my ankle and try to kick it away. But it gets worse. Suffer it or sort it. I halt by the side of the road for a second to reach down, not even looking and retrieve my emergency money that I’ve forgotten I tucked into my shoe beneath the insole last time I was out on a long run.

Right – back on with the run. I feel good. Running free, finding space, breathing not exactly easy, but where it feels right. It’s warm, but there’s a cool breeze. The sun in my eyes makes me squint and frown, so I keep my head down and plough on.

Me and a crowd of runners on the Scotswood Road
Gannin' along the Scotswood Road (Picture courtesy of runnerwanderings on flickr)
Up and over the Scotswood bridge. In my mind a steeper incline than reality. I maintain my focus and overtake a couple of runners as I try to keep a look out for Jeff. I think of shouting ‘Fetchie’, but decide to save my breath. I miss him, but I know he’s there. The bottle neck down off the bridge slows me for a second, but I’m soon away and overtaking again.

Out along the river. Too focused on what’s coming up to watch the runners going the other way, I skip between the cones and try to find a way through. At the long awaited turn, someone pushes into my back. I cannot tell whether they’re saving themselves from falling or urging me onwards, but it unsettles me for a moment.

I’m trying to chase down runners, pick them off one by one. But the aggression isn’t quite there this time, and I sense I’m drifting off my target pace. I make a deal with myself to push on through the industrial estate and use a tall runner in white to pull me through, breathing heavily as my calves begin to protest.

I’m barely aware of where I am and what’s going on around me. I know this course, but still can’t get a feel for how far is left to go. Don’t leave it all to the last minute I tell myself. But I’m holding back knowing there’s a flyover ahead.

I shorten my stride as I head up and see a familiar form in a Wallsend Harriers shirt. ‘Dig in, Kathryn’ I shout as I spot one of my most supportive running buddies. Today she’s struggling with niggles and a chest infection. Normally, she’d outstrip me easily. I pass her with a smile and she shares a shout of encouragement back.

I’m round into Blaydon before I know it and still can’t seem to push on. Even when I check the Garmin and know there’s less than a mile to go. Even approaching the crowds with less than half that. I’m still holding back. Eventually my brain kicks in and I start to power through the twists and turns to the finish. But I don’t even have enough time to get up to full speed before I spy the clock and it says 50.

50 isn’t what I want to see. It was 49 something as I approached last year. And in that moment, before I stumble over the finish I know it’s gone. I stop my watch at 49:37 and try to catch my breath as I shuffle forward. And there’s nothing. No elation. No adrenaline high. I’m just flat.

And then a bit wibbly. In the finish funnel, I put a hand on the railing to steady myself. And once they’ve taken my number and I’m through, I find a space and crouch down on the ground. Is it mental or physical? I don’t know. But I need a few moments to get steady. Someone comes over and puts a hand on my shoulder to check I’m okay. Offers me first aid, somewhere to sit. But I’m okay, I say, just need a moment. I’m sorry I don’t even look up to see who you are. But thank you.

I go to collect my goodie bag and T-shirt still in a bit of a daze. It’s only 30 seconds or so slower than last year I tell myself, don’t be daft. I gee myself up a little when I see a gaggle of Fetchies beyond the finish line, but some of the pent up disappointment comes out. And I have another wibble and have to sit on the ground again.

I’m kind of embarrassed now. I just want to see my buddies and get out of here. But I don’t really trust my legs or my emotions just yet. My trusty Fetchies stand guard. Sorry, this sounds way more dramatic and downbeat than I mean it to be. But it’s kind of fuzzy and random in my head. And while I want to be true to what happened, I want to put things straight too.

Because I was annoyed with myself. Annoyed at missing an arbitrary time target by 30 seconds. And I knew that was totally ridiculous as I was feeling it. But I was also annoyed because that time target meant I didn’t take in much of the race. I wasn’t overly stressing or clock watching. I was just running but not getting everything out of this wonderful, characterful race.

And that really is daft. And I really do know that. But for a wee while I was down. And then some friends helped me pick myself back up and see sense. With a hug, with a text message, with some good old common sense. You know who you are – thank you again.

My fabulous Fetchie friends had some brilliant racing last night. And I don’t want anything I’ve said to detract from that. It was and always will be great to run with my buddies. I hope I celebrated your successes with you. If I didn’t, then I will next time I see you.

I just honestly can’t remember it all very clearly once I crossed the line. I think I got a bit swamped by everything swimming round in my head. This will, no doubt be familiar to those of you who downed your bottle of ale at the finish. But it’s a bit of a new one for this lightweight.

I’d started to think that I hadn’t run this as well as my last road 10k. That because it wasn’t hurting as much, I hadn’t tried hard enough. But looking at it rationally that’s nonsense. An average pace of 8:08 min/miles is fast for me. Faster than last road 10k. And tantalisingly close to my target pace.

My friend Kathryn summed it up when she said I’m running consistently. And yes – over these 5 and 10k distances I am more often running at that kind of pace. And no, it doesn’t hurt as much as it once did. So there is improvement there. I do just need to stop looking at the micro performance and look at the bigger picture.

So I’m fine. Although a bit perturbed that I’ve written a rather odd and down sounding blog. Obviously still trying to puzzle it out and for once my words aren’t quite reflecting my feelings. I hope to see some of you at parkrun in the morning and prove that. The rest of you will just have to take my word for it.

Stats and stuff
5.98 mile 49:37
1) – 1m – 8:09(8:09/m) – 109cal
2) – 1m – 7:44(7:44/m) – 106cal
3) – 1m – 7:55(7:55/m) – 106cal
4) – 1m – 8:26(8:26/m) – 105cal
5) – 1m – 8:22(8:22/m) – 104cal
6) – 0.98m – 8:01(8:12/m) – 101cal

Living in and loving every moment

You know how it was gloriously sunny and warm on Friday, and it felt like a waste of a day to be at work? I don’t care if the clouds were grey at the weekend, I’ve had another brilliant one.


Me in fancy dress for Newcastle parkrun
Bringing a touch of the tropical to the Town Moor

Saturday and a special parkrun, including an option for fancy dress. I picked out an outfit I last wore on the evening of my wedding day, to bring some sunny Aloha spirit to the blustery Town Moor. My training plan had a 3 mile run on Friday, so I shuffled it to Saturday to give me a chance to catch up with some of my buddies.

Fab to see Jeff although I’m sorry he’s had to break his parkrun streak due to injury. But he knows it’s the right thing to do and volunteering is good fun too.

There was our Sue, race director keeping us all in check with the clipboard and appointing Lesley and Finn Bobs as cake monitors for the end of race goodies. Thanks to Mark for returning my hoodie from the Pier to Pier (sorry didn’t get chance to chat). I did say hello to Mick again. And then caught up with the lovely Steve over from Liverpool for a visit. thank you for your very kind words about my training.

So to the start. I was a wee bit hyper. It feels like weeks since my last parkrun and I was chomping at the bit to be off and away. A bit too eager as it turned out. I bounced off, chasing down some runners dressed as school girls and off into a rather stiff headwind over the moor.

Lots of runners said afterwards that they struggled with that section of the course into the wind and so did I. But I was pushing on, working hard and struggling to catch my breath when I realised who I was running with. The thing about parkrun is that you start to recognise some of the regular runners. And I was up with those who are a good 2-3 minutes faster than I am.

But I shouldn’t have been there. The pace really was too fast for me, especially given the conditions. So I eased it back, told myself not to worry about PBs and to just enjoy the run. I think it worked as I settled into a more sustainable rhythm.

Little pocket rocket Pam nipped past me through the first gate as I said “Easy Tiger,” to Malcolm in his furry tiger suit. I managed to overtake her again out under the trees and then she nipped back through at Tove’s gate back onto the moor.

Pam kept me digging in and fighting all the way through to somewhere around the 3k marker. I caught her, she dropped back. Then pulled level and I pushed on. We kept cat and mousing like this, unspoken until she finally made it stick. But I kept her in sight as I turned at the back of the museum.

I caught up with another girl on the rough ground and gave her some encouragement as I passed. I felt good, running hard but not straining at my limits. Today was just about a good run, enjoying it.

Through the 4k gate and I could hear a jingling coming along behind. It was a runner dressed as Noddy who joked with me as he passed and pointed to another regular runner dressed as an American Indian today.

Into the last section and for me, the home run. Trying to ease out a little more from my legs, Pam just in focus a little ahead, but I know I have that sprint finish. At the last turn I passed a runner in an orange club vest – another one I recognise who normally overtakes me at around 3-4k. Today it was my turn. I could hear him and his mate encouraging each other on over the last few hundred metres or so, but I was determined they weren’t coming past me and I kicked on.

Powering down the final straight, not quite at my full sprint, but attacking from a lot further past, I sensed a couple of runners were trying to keep with me. But my focus was on the finish and a little dot in pale blue that was Pam. I overtook her in the last few metres and was able to give a traditional Hawaiian shaka wave over the finish line. I stopped my watch at 25:30 and suspected I was a bit slow in hitting the buttons.

The official line: 25:28 – so very consistent and I wasn’t absolutely going guns out. So I am very happy with that. I was 24th lady out of a field of 227 and 1st in my age category! And best of all there was a huge spread of cakes and goodies to enjoy afterwards.

Suitably refreshed and after a quick change in the car, I went back to Edinburgh Bikes. I spent over an hour and a half going over my choices and took a couple of the bikes out for a longer ride, trying to bear in mind all the advice my friends had given me. I had a three-way text conversation going on with Peter, Lesley and Al at one point.

That’s real friendship – when someone buts into your Saturday afternoon to ask about bikes and you answer. Thanks guys – you’ve been brilliant.

New bikeTo cut a lengthy process short – I bought the red one. The racier one. So there’s absolutely no truth in the rumour that I bought the one that matches my tri suit.

But she’s a beauty and road ready with clippy pedals. I just need to buy myself some clippy shoes to go with them. Oh and a very strong lock. Because she’s stolen my heart already and I’m just longing to take her on our first adventure.

Home and quick shower, change and turnaround before heading out to our friend’s farm for a farm supper. It was a bit of an event with customers from their organic box scheme getting a tour of the farm, to see the animals and learn a bit more about how our friends Lee and Beth raise them and the vegetable crops.

It was lovely to see the cows who were surprisingly chilled out at a field full of people. And I caught up with the little calf I saw take its first steps.

After Lee’s demo in the butchery, Beth dished out a fine feast of roast lamb pork red cabbage, new potatoes and salad. Followed by rhubarb and ginger cake with creme fraiche and homemade rhubarb jam. We eat very well in our house thanks to the hard work on this farm. And Gary just loves spending time there helping out and looking after the animals.


So to Sunday and two very important things to fit in today – going to see my first open water triathlon to cheer on some friends and a long run (the first on my plan as I build up to the Northumberland Coastal and Great North Run) .

It was cold, grey and overcast as I approached a busy field full of cars at the QE2 country park. Anyone competing would have been there way before me. I made my way to the lake to see a group in yellow swim caps about to enter the water, learning that this was the second wave of the swim and the first lot were already over the other side.

I felt that sense of trepidation and ‘oh my goodness, that looks cold’ as they got into the water and wondered how I’d feel if that was me. I’d like it to be one day. But step by step, little by little.

I wanted to see the start. Swimmers bobbing around between two gigantic buoys. A loud horn and they were off. It didn’t look too scrum-like from the banks as the swimmers were well spread out. But it was amazing how quickly and easily they got into the crawl.

On the other side of the lake I could see a line of swimmers in blue caps heading back, far more stretched out. So I walked over to see them starting to come out of the water and spotted a couple of faces I recognised, including my good friend and PT, Ian.

I watched a little longer, watching swimmers peeling off goggles, swim caps and reaching for wet suit zippers as they headed for transition. Then I moved around to see some of them coming out on their bikes. That’s when I caught site of Peter about to head off on his ride. It really helps when you can recognise tri suits!

This was a para-triathlon event too, so there were a couple of tandems and some hand bikes. And one amazing guy who was riding with one arm. Must have incredible balance.

The last lady out on her bike was nearly taken out by the first rider back through and then it was a flurry of activity and varying degrees of flying dismounts as the bikers returned. Clunk the pedals and shoes on the ground, rotate your legs like road runner and try your best not to fall over seemed to be the order of the day as some of them absolutely flew through.

A quick dash round to see riders turn to runners out of the transition area and around the lake for two laps. That gave me a good chance to take a few more photos and spot Stuart also out for the day.

It was cold and chilly to be a spectator, so goodness only knows what it felt like to get out of a cold lake, onto a bike and then head off on a 5k run. But everyone seemed to be enjoying it. There were lots of smiles and shout outs from the spectators and an enthusiastic MC calling out numbers and names as the triathletes came around to finish over the blue timing mats.

It was great to see Ian after his race. He is the reason I first started to consider this crazy sport and the person who’ll help me get in great shape to do it.

And then absolutely amazing to see Peter grinning after completing his first open water triathlon. Real demons battled and beaten today. I had no doubt you could do it. And I feel very privileged to have your support and encouragement for my own efforts.

Suitably inspired, I headed back home and got ready for my own run. The plan said 7 miles at 9 min mile pace and that’s what I did. Steady out on my old familiar route to the lighthouse and back. It was cool and breezy, but I felt quite relaxed and easy, just glancing at my watch to set the pace and checking to see I didn’t drift too far from it.

Once I turned at the half way point the wind seemed to die down and I felt like I had eased into my running groove. I still have more running to do next week and a race I really want to do well in. But today I told myself to keep it simple – just focus on the run I’m on.

And, I know this remark will come back and bite me, but when did it become so easy to breathe at 9 minute mile pace? Is that because I’m more commonly pushing for 8 minute pace over shorter distances? Or just because I was ramped up and ready to go after watching the triathlon? Whatever the reason, it was a lovely reminder of how far I have come and the longer term improvements I work for.

And on my run I had time to think about all my friends who do these amazing things. Wondering how you were getting on in Stirling, on the Hardmoors, at Allendale or just resting and getting well again.

I make no apologies for another epic blog. The dull old office drones may moan about a grey and damp weekend, but mine was full of colour, excitement, friendship (and chocolate brownies). Not a bad way to spend a couple of days.

Stats and stuff:
Parkrun 5k 25:28
1) – 1m – 8:31(8:31/m)
2) – 1m – 8:07(8:07/m)
3) – 1m – 8:23(8:23/m)
4) – 0.07m – 27(7:14/m)

7 mile run 1:02:43
1) – 1m – 9:06(9:06/m)
2) – 1m – 8:54(8:54/m)
3) – 1m – 9:10(9:10/m)
4) – 1m – 8:54(8:54/m)
5) – 1m – 8:47(8:47/m)
6) – 1m – 8:56(8:56/m)
7) – 1m – 8:53(8:53/m)