Tallinn Marathon: The one that wasn’t

  • At mile 8 I was still hopeful
  • But at mile 9 my right leg really wasn’t so sure
  • By mile 11 my jog had turned to a distinctive shuffle
  • At mile 12 I was walking…
  • …and at mile 13.1 I was well and truly OUT

Just 2 and a half hours after I had started the Tallinn Marathon, I was back in my hotel room, physically and emotionally broken, having only completed half of the course.  I wasn’t sure how much cider and wine I was going to need to deal with the situation.

It turned out to be a lot, luckily I had good company…

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It was never going to end well.  I was undertrained and injured.  But my head was in a different place to my body, in fact, it was so far away, it may as well have been on a different planet.  Through a combination of really not wanting to go running, being too busy, and carrying some kind of leg injury that quickly shut down my late attempt to get marathon ready, it really should have been the one I never started.

But I did start.

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Tallinn is actually a very beautiful city, and with the weather bright and sunny, and some Chaser buddies around me, it really could have been a lot worse.  After a lot of thinking, and trying to figure out how I felt about the situation, I realised that although I didn’t run the full marathon, and I didn’t get my BQ (which was the reason for signing up in the first place), I still ran half of it and had a really good weekend in a place I had never been before.

The marathon is part of a weekend of events that consists of a kids 5k on the Friday evening, a 10k on the Saturday, and the marathon and half on the Sunday.  The marathon is 2 laps of the half, which starts later in the day.

The kids 5k in full swing

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Beginning in Freedom Square, the route takes you around the city and heads out along the coastline for around 7 miles, before switching back to the city again.  It was actually better supported than I expected, I thought it would be quite low key with less than 2,000 runners in the full and around 3,000 in the half, but there were people cheering along the route and a few bands making some noise.

It’s pretty flat, and a great course for a PB, although it could get quite windy by the sea in different conditions.  There’s also a smell, a kind of putrid dead fish type of smell that gets worse as the day goes on and really puts you off your caramel macchiato caffeine gels.  Be warned.

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I was feeling OK for the first 8 or so miles, I was running slowly, but I felt OK and was even enjoying running again.  But somewhere on the way back to the city, my right leg started to hurt and my hip flexors felt tight, I was getting slower and slower.  It was frustrating, and I was trying to calculate how I could adopt a run-walk strategy to the finish but, by 12 miles run-walk was more walk-walk.  It wasn’t happening.

As Freedom Square got closer and closer, I had to make a decision.  And I knew what the decision needed to be, I just didn’t want to admit it.  I could have carried on and shuffled around, but I really didn’t see the point, I was injured, I was going to be painfully slow, and I was already back near the hotel.  As my watch hit 13.1 miles, I pulled out.

Tallinn is a well organised event, I can’t take that away from them, but I wasn’t impressed that they wouldn’t let me get off the course very easily, and they wouldn’t give me any water despite having run 13 miles in warm conditions.  It didn’t help my mood.  Plus, as I hadn’t officially downgraded to the half, I didn’t even get rewarded for my efforts despite having run the half course.

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Well yes actually, I do. And I deserved one. So I got one.  And I wore it allll night.  Thank you to Paul and Lorraine, who managed to sweet talk the Estonian medal police into letting me have one, it made my day!

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Although Mike unfortunately couldn’t run due to injury, the rest of the Chasers ran really well with a sub 3 PB for Paul, a sold BQ for Rob, a great run from Emma despite hurting her back 2 days before, and an awesome PB for Lorraine in the half.

What then followed were a lot of drinks, some dinner, some more drinks, some silliness and some music.

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There’ll be other marathons, and other opportunities to get a PB and a BQ but, right now, I’m a little bit over 26.2.  I’ll face up to the fact I’ve signed up to a mountainous marathon in Gran Canaria next year a little later…

Eye of the Tri-Ger: Thorpe Park Triathlon

It was 4:15am when the alarm went off on Sunday.  I ignored it.  The first thing you learn about triathlons is that they start early.  As in, you have to get up in the middle of the god damn night early.  It was the morning of the Thorpe Park Olympic Triathlon, our club champs, and I had decided I wanted to be part of a relay team.  At 4:15 in the morning I couldn’t tell you why.

By 4:38 I realised I absolutely had to get out of bed, throw on my race kit, get myself down to Thorpe Park for the briefing, and assure my teammates I was alive and kicking and ready to race.

The lake was ready and waiting

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I decided pretty late in the day I wanted to be part of the club champs, there were over 100 Chasers signed up and we were co-hosting with the Tri Project, so my FOMO got the better of me.  On the plus side, I figured if I managed to get in a team at this stage, I would be with other people late to the party so I would be in a ‘slower’ team.  Wrong. So very and frighteningly wrong.

When Rachael said she was looking for a cyclist and a runner to be part of a team I jumped at the chance.  The only problem is, Rachael is a very strong swimmer, she’s practically a fish. I tried not to worry about it.  Then Darren decided he wanted to join as the cyclist… I didn’t know how fast Darren was on the bike, but I knew how fast he was at running and given he’s spent the last year or so focusing mainly on the bike, I could only assume he was up there with the best.  Looks like I was the weakest link then.

We named ourselves the Eye of the Tri-Ger (see what we did there?!) and I quietly hoped they weren’t expecting us to win (OK, maybe not so quietly, in fact I was quite audible about it, especially as Darren had actually been in the winning relay team last year).

The swimmers are off

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It was 6:10 when I arrived, a little later than promised but I’ve never been a morning person (which may be why I’ve never got into this tri thing…) and it was heaving with friendly Chaser faces.  I found the team, we went to the race briefing and it was time to cheer on the swimmers.  Everyone was together, because there were so many of us, all Chasers, both solo and teams, were in Wave 1.  The water didn’t look as intimidating as I thought it might but we had been warned there were patches of weeds that could cause panic if you got caught up in them so I was glad I wasn’t in there.

After Rachael set off on the 1500m swim, the nerves kicked in.  There wasn’t anything left to do but hang around, go to the toilet 6 times and panic.  It wasn’t long before the swimmers came in, Rachael was, unsurprisingly, one of the first out, a little distressed from losing both her swim hats but otherwise OK, she had smashed it and Darren was off on the 40k cycle.

Darren and I hanging around in transition and Rachael coming back from the swim

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I still had about an hour to kill.  The swimmers were finished and chilling out whilst the runners were pacing around and wondering who would be back first.  We had a lot of quick cyclists out there so it could be a number of people.  The first was back in under an hour, it was one of our solo triathletes, quickly followed by 2 more.  It was really difficult to tell who was coming in off the bike because everyone was wearing Chaser kit, a helmet and sunnies.

The 4th cyclist came in.  It looked like Darren. Was it Darren?  Oh no, it was Darren, he was in 4th place and we were first in the relays!  After a brief helmet issue, the the timing chip was on my ankle and I was off on the 10k run…in 4th pace…whhhaaaaaa.

As I set off, with just 3 people in front of me, I tried to keep my cool and not panic.  I ran up the grass with cheers behind me and rounded the corner to a path.  It was empty.  How exactly do you set the pace on an empty road when you’re trying to race a 10k without burning out too early but still giving it your all?  I didn’t know.  I just ran.

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It was warm.  The sun was beaming down and bouncing off the ground creating a mugginess that’s unusual for 8:30 in the morning.  There wasn’t a breeze.  I tried to relax and enjoy the epic lead whilst it lasted.  The course was 3 laps so it wasn’t long before I saw the boys in front of me heading back in the opposite direction.  At 1k my watch beeped, I hadn’t started it properly, dammit!

On the switchback I saw Rich Bull from another relay team, he was about 1k behind so I knew he’d overtake me soon.  He did.  He flew past.  As did several more over the first lap.  I was expecting it to feel quite demoralising being overtaken at such speed, it was quite clear I had no business being in this end of the field, but it wasn’t, because I was surrounded by Chasers.

The course twisted round the park and past a few rollercoasters which was fun, or it would have been fun if my lungs weren’t burning and my legs were moving as quickly as I told them to.  Most of the marshalls were Chasers and at about 3k I saw one of my favourite Chasers (and running mentors) Mike.  He gave me a confidence boosting cheer and I was so happy to see him…I don’t think I smiled.

A smiley Mike

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Past a few more rollercaosters was another Chaser gem, Danny, he also gave me a big cheer…I don’t think I smiled.  Before I knew it I was running past the finish line and on lap 2.  By this point the course was busier as more people started the run leg.  I had no idea who was overtaking me and who was still on the first lap although Danny confirmed I was still 2nd woman.

It was still very warm.  On the 3rd lap I simply concentrated on reaching Mike.  He gave me another big cheer.  I still didn’t smile.  Then Danny.  He gave me a cheer.  May have managed a thumbs up.  I then started to speed up thinking the finish was round the corner, but my sense of distance was messed up after starting my watch late.  It went on. And on.  Finally I reached the finish line, a bit of a sweaty mess.

Eye of the Tri-Ger. 3rd place Chaser Relay Team

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I didn’t know what time I’d run but I knew it wasn’t very fast.  It turned out I’d started the run in 4th place and finished in 15th, of the Chasers at least, I’m not sure where we ended up when all the waves were accounted for (sorry guys!).  Only 2 women overtook me though so it could have been worse.

Chaser Domination

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Rachael and Darren found me, we got our medals and ate some cake.  It’s what all good Chasers do.  Despite my fear of letting the team down (completely unfounded fear, no one put any pressure on at all), I had a great time, it was fun to do something a bit different.

Huge thanks to my supportive teammates Rachael and Darren, it was a privilege to race with you, I enjoyed the feeling of being out there in the front for a change! Huge thanks to Mike and Danny, who I genuinely looked forward to seeing on every lap despite my poker face.  And huge thanks to everyone involved in organising such a logistically challenging event.  I may, very possibly, attempt to go solo next year.

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Chaser cakes!

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Green Belt Relay – Round 3!

Last weekend was the annual Green Belt Relay, it’s one of the Chasers favourite events of the year and never fails to be an awesome weekend away.

At the start line

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The Facts:

  • GBR is a 220 mile running relay around London’s scenic Green Belt
  • The race is made up of 22 stages over 2 days
  • Stages differ in length, terrain, elevation, and navigational difficulty to allow everyone to participate
  • Teams of 11 race 1 leg per day across the 2 days
  • A record 40 teams entered the GBR this year, Chasers made up 3 of them
  • Although the routes are marked, you are reliant on your own navigation to make sure you don’t get lost
  • The smooth running of the event relies on participation from all teams to help marshal each stage and provide water stations
  • It is not flat!

Marshaling duties – Chasers this way, Serpies, errr, that way…image

The Highs:

  • Chasers took 9 stage wins in total
  • Bryn smashed the leg 17 course record by over 3 whole minutes!
  • Leg 3 and Leg 14 were lovely routes
  • There was a pub right next to where Graham and I were marshaling (phew)
  • We got to stay at the high class Miami hotel in Essex again
  • I got to spend the whole weekend with Gemma
  • I didn’t crash a minibus!
  • It was Nathalie’s 30th birthday so there was lots and lots of cake
  • We rescued 2 injured runners from leg 10 and safely got them back to their friends and relations

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The Lows:

  • I had a bit of a breakdown on not just one, but both of my stages
  • My legs didn’t work
  • My lungs didn’t work
  • I was a little bit sick in a bush near the River Lea
  • We accidentally forgot to pick up the leg 10 runners at the end of their run – sorry 😦
  • Sleep. There was none
  • A Serpie on leg 17 rudely told our helpful marshals to ‘get out the way, I know where I’m going’ – Simon Barrett, shameful & unnecessary, you give Serpies a bad name

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The Learnings:

  • There’s a possibility I still haven’t fully recovered from the London Marathon
  • It’s easier to write the route on your hand than look at a map
  • No matter how many times Gemma tells you how pathetic you are, it won’t make your legs move faster
  • No matter how pathetic you actually are, Gemma will never leave you
  • It’s much more fun to cartwheel and pirouette at the finish line than run sensibly
  • No one can beat Bryn
  • You can always count on Ross to run an extra leg if there’s an injury
  • You can also always count on Ross to wear very tight shorts
  • No one enjoys Ross’s very tight shorts as much as our Barry. He even has a special dance
  • You can’t wash your hair with a bar of soap no matter how hard you try (and Jenn really did try)
  • The Green Belt Relay was, as it always has been, a very well organised, fun and all-round brilliant event

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Huge thanks to the Stragglers, and everyone else involved in organising the GBR, and Bryn for organising the Chasers.  Until next year!

The Finish Line

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The only real trouble with the Green Belt Relay is that there is no down time, no time for a drink, and definitely no time to pop into a cactus fair…

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London Marathon #4: The One That Got Away

I got the feeling early on I wasn’t going to hold the pace.  I just knew it.  By the time mile 18 rolled around I had reduced myself to a walking break and everything felt a little fuzzy.  Despite Chris telling me we could still make it, and quite literally pushing me along, I could feel the A plan, the B plan and the C plan slowly slipping away.  The London Marathon dream was over and all I could do was simply finish.

The thing with the marathon is that it is unpredictable, and no matter how experienced you are, and how prepared you are for every eventuality you can control, there is still a lot you can’t control and you have to be a little lucky on the day for everything to go your way.

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I’m not sure I could have been much more prepared for my 4th attempt at the London Marathon.  I got a lot of things right, I felt good, and I knew I was in good shape, but something just didn’t quite go my way.  Instead of bringing home a new shiny PB to be proud of, and the BQ I desperately wanted, I trundled over the finish line in 3 hours 53.  Not a bad time I know, but it wasn’t the day I wanted and it wasn’t the race I’d trained for.  It was, however, the race I got.

I met some of the Chasers at the tube station bright & early on Sunday morning but it wasn’t long before Alex had to leg it back home again to pick up his forgotten timing chip (ohhhh, Alex!!).  We arrived in good time and I met Chris who had once again offered to pace me, despite having just run both Manchester and Brighton marathons in the last 2 weeks! Due to my poor pacing skills and self-doubt, I lept at this chance and was really pleased to be able to avoid the official pace groups (which get very busy) and have someone I knew by my side.

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It was a perfect day for running, cool, dry and not too sunny.  I had 4 plans, the A plan was to finish in under 3:35, the B plan was a guaranteed BQ and the C plan was a GFA, and the D plan was to never run a marathon ever again.

The start was crowded as usual but, as we were in a start pen further back than we wanted, there was a lot of weaving in and out of people and the first mile was slow. I tried not to panic and Chris stopped me tearing off at a silly pace to make up the difference. We soon settled into a good pace around 8mm, the crowds lined the streets, I saw Barry screaming at me at mile 6, and I remembered why I love the London Marathon so much!

Without Chris I most definitely would have ran the first few miles too fast so I just concentrated on following him.  The weather stayed perfect and, apart from a brief spot of hail, it was dry and the sun wasn’t too warm when it did come out.  Around mile 9/10 I had the distinct feeling I wasn’t going to keep up, I voiced my concerns but Chris wasn’t having any of it and we cracked on.

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I saw Mum & Dad on the opposite side of the road around the half way point and my friends Rick & Merissa cheering very loudly.  The Chasers were at mile 14.5, I was really looking forward to seeing them but for some reason I didn’t know they were there until we’d past.

By the time we were around mile 18 I had to stop and walk, I felt dizzy and all I remember was Chris saying ‘you’re better than this, come on’.  I tried to negotiate some walking breaks and we agreed we’d have one at 20 miles but I didn’t even make it that far until I was walking again.

After that, everything is a bit hazy and it became a cycle of me stopping to walk, Chris giving me some tough love and pushing me on, and each mile rolling by.  The Chasers were just after the 20 mile mark and there was no missing them this time, it was just what I needed!  Run Dem Crew were at mile 21, who always deliver on support, and Mum & Dad at 22.5.  I know there were other people out there shouting at me, sorry if I missed you!

I wasn’t feeling at all good, I felt sick and a bit out of it but I really couldn’t tell you why.  Chris dutifully picked up water whenever I wanted it and offered non-stop encouragement, but I knew I wasn’t getting a BQ and was increasingly unlikely to get a PB.  I tried to soak in the atmosphere that only the London Marathon offers, look at the sites and do as I was told, the miles were still ticking by.

With just 1km to go I still found myself walking and bumped into fellow Chaser Dorcas, she saw me walking and came back for me.  We finished the Frankfurt Marathon in exactly the same time so she said we would finish this one together too! Plodding down the home straight, it was a 3:53 finish, a comfortable sub-4, but no where near what it should have been.  I had executed a perfect D plan (no more marathons).

No BQ, no GFA and no PB. Gutted.

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All I really wanted was to sit down, but sitting down on the finish line is often frowned upon, so, with Chris holding me up, I shuffled, and shuffled, and eventually made it to my bag and my parents.

Chris was, yet again, a total star. He said all the right things, pushed me when I needed it and was even the water boy!  I think I would have easily come in a lot slower without him there, but he didn’t take any of my babbling, nonsensical crap and made sure I didn’t give up, I was all ready to have a little sit down on the side of the road at one point.  I’m just sorry I couldn’t quite achieve this time, or do what I said I was going to do, sorry Chris!

I’m obviously disappointed with my performance, but I’m not nearly as upset as I thought I would be.  Maybe it’s because I still got to run the London Marathon, and the London Marathon truly is the greatest marathon on earth, and I even got to run it with Chris.

I don’t know what went wrong, I was ready and I was prepared, I even had a personal pacer, but it just wasn’t to be.  Right now I’m completely torn between:

  • Flying to Latvia in a couple of weeks to try again (perfect timing but I don’t speak the language)
  • Heading to Liverpool at the end of May (much closer, but not so perfect timing and I don’t speak the language)
  • Heading to Estonia in September for the last chance before Boston opens (more time to recover, but the thought of  another marathon season makes me want to throw all my trainers away)
  • Honestly never running another marathon again (the best idea I’ve ever had but I’m going to need some new friends)

Even I don’t know what I’m going to do next but I’m definitely looking forward to a summer of shorter races and post run ciders in the sunshine!

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Hampton Court Half & Project Boston

On Sunday I ran the Hampton Court Half Marathon.  I always think a half during marathon training gives you a real indication of how it’s going, it lets you know if you’re on track to hit your target, or if you need to re-evaluate your goal.  For this reason I was nervous, more nervous than I had been about a race for a while.

In October I ran a 1:50 and a 1:49 half but, according to the McMillan race calculator, I needed to be running 1:42:30 to get a comfortable BQ in the marathon.  It felt like a lot to shave off…

It was a pretty early start to get over to Esher for an 8:30am race start but I was pleased to bump into some other Chasers.  They operated a wave start system but, rather than using coloured zones and policing it, people could start where they wanted so it wasn’t ideal.  It also started late, 16 minutes late to be exact, which was quite frustrating when you’re stood in the cold in just a vest.  Apparently there were issues with the park & ride system where they wanted people to pay £6 and get on a bus to the start – I ignored this and parked near the start for free, looks like that was a good idea all round.  Definitely room for improvement on the organisational front.

I made the bold decision to start with the 1:40 pacer, or rather hang just behind the 1:40 pacer and see what happened.  The plan was to hang onto him for as long as I could, but I didn’t want to let go until at least 7 miles…ideally.

The route was on a lot of pavements along open roads which I think made it difficult for the pacer to keep an even pace, add in  weaving around people who had started in the wrong place and I felt like I was all over the place! Every time we sped up I thought I was going to lose him, then we settled down again and it felt comfortable.  This went on until around 6.5 miles when he started to disappear as we ran along the river.

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Annoyingly I had forgotten to turn the mile alerts back on my watch after my last track session so I didn’t really know how much time I was losing, but I felt like I was plodding.  Often during the back half of a race I mentally give up, I allow myself to slow down and tell myself I don’t care about the clock, but that didn’t happen, I just kept pushing as much as I could.

The last mile seemed to drag but eventually the crowds thickened and I crossed the line in 1:44:01…90 seconds off the pace but slightly better than I thought towards the end.  I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about it, I’m still not.

The route itself wasn’t particularly scenic, apart from a small section where we ran past Hampton Court, it was quite dull.  It was fast and flat with great PB potential, but it took you on a lot of pavements along open roads which wasn’t ideal, together with the disappointing start I think the only reason I would do it again would be for convenience rather than anything else.  That said, you got a  great medal and the goody bag was well stocked!

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In summary

The Good:

  • I’m pretty sure Hampton Court was my second fastest half marathon ever
  • I finished in the top 8% of women
  • I couldn’t have given it anymore.  I honestly never stopped pushing which shows my mental strength is back on track
  • It was windy in the 2nd half…that may have made me a bit slower…
  • There are still 9 whole weeks until the London Marathon
  • My Run Britain handicap is heading in the right direction
  • I’m not giving up yet and, if all else fails, I’m bang on track for a PB

The Bad:

  • The splits aren’t great – I fell off the pace and it hurt
  • I was about 90 seconds away from where I needed to be to be on track for a BQ.  That’s actually quite a lot
  • It’s only 7 weeks until the taper…

The Ugly:

  • The outlook for project Boston is looking distinctly grey and cloudy
  • I know I won’t be happy simply with a PB in London

Project Boston – to be continued…

On the plus side, I think I made back my race entry fee in Vita Coco, my favourite!

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CTS Dorset: The Wind Battle

It probably won’t surprise you that the thought of a DNS next to my name horrifies me.  It doesn’t really matter what the reason is, or how sensible it might be, I don’t cope well with the mental anguish of feeling like I failed before I’ve even started.  When I woke up on Saturday I felt dizzy, sick and completely drained, but, worse than the thought of dragging my arse out of bed and into the gale force winds, was the thought of a DNS, I couldn’t be a DNS in the motherland.

Saturday was the Dorset CTS, one of the races in the Endurance Life Coastal Trail Series.  There are 10 in total around the country, but Dorset is only one of 2 labelled ‘extreme’, meaning it’s utterly brutal on the heart, lungs, legs and, potentially, the soul.  Dorset also happens to be my home county, and World Heritage site Lulworth, on the Jurassic Coast, is one of the most stunning locations in the UK.

Durdle Door on a sunny day!

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Home to both Lulworth Cove, a remarkable landform that attracts swarms of tourists, and Durdle Door, a natural limestone arch that juts out in the sea, as well as rolling hills, coastal walks and cosy pubs, it’s a trail lovers dream.  As you know, I’m undecided on my love of the trails, but I do love Lulworth, Chaser weekends away and cosy pubs!

There are 4 choices of distance, a 10k, 16 miles (they call this a half), full marathon, 33 miles and a whopping 45 miles for the clinically insane (Russ did this one last year…)  I had entered the half but, having not run for 3 weeks due to a calf injury, I wasn’t sure how that would go…

I headed down with the usual suspects, Frankie, Albro, Russell and Lorraine, and the train journey was full of the usual banter, G&Ts and crisps.  Russ thoughtfully broke out the Scorpion Chilli Death Chocolate because, well, what else would you eat before an extreme trail race?

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On arrival in Wool, we dutifully headed to the pub to disturb the locals on a quiet Friday afternoon.  Frankie was running the marathon the next day but was still successfully sinking an impressive amount of beer!  However, after a pub dinner with the rest of the Chaser crew I started to feel really sick…

I’ll hold my hands up and say the alcohol probably didn’t help, but it usually takes a lot more than that to make me sick, and it certainly doesn’t make me shiver.  I sadly took myself home to bed whilst the others stayed in the pub of many ciders.

The next morning I truly felt dreadful and had zero energy, I had barely slept all night and could only manage a cup of tea and half a slice of toast.  I made a sensible decision to downgrade from the 16 miles to the 10k.  It’s one thing to push yourself through a few miles but 16 is actually quite a long way, the winds were crazy and the course was tough, as much as it hurt, 10k was more than enough today.

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Heading down to the start I realised just how windy it was, apparently the winds were up to 50+ mph when you got up to the exposed areas along the front.  I had made the right choice.  It was easy to downgrade at registration and, unsurprisingly, I wasn’t the only one and bumped into a fair few other Chasers doing the same!

I met Mum and Dad who had come along for spectating duties and we watched the start of the half, the Ultra and Marathon had already started so Cat and Frankie were long gone.  I spotted Chris at about 12 miles in his 33 mile race looking, err, windswept, but strong!

The 10k got started after a race briefing at at 11.30 and the course took us straight up a stoney hill of steps, I started off jogging but quickly dropped to a walk, as did everyone else.  It got windier and windier as we reached the top and I spotted Albro, Russell and Claire taking photos, not sure how they didn’t get blown away…

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At the top the view opened up over the sea and Durdle Door and you could see the hills that were to come!  The first 3 miles is made up of 4 hills but, although the descents are more than runable (even for me!) it was a real struggle against the winds and you had to throw a lot of force into carrying yourself forwards.

On one descent down towards the sea, the wind was so strong it was blowing all the gravel straight into my face, I couldn’t see but, hey, free facial?!  The battle against the wind became comically funny as it literally blew you across the course, I was too scared to take any photos in case my phone blew away!

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At the 3 mile point, the course turned around and headed back on a pretty much continual slow descent.  Slightly more inland than the completely exposed front, and with the wind behind us, it became much easier to actually run, in fact, it became pretty much impossible to walk as the wind threw you forward.  We ran through a caravan park and onto the final descent down to the finish line, it was quite steep in places which was a hairy experience in the wind!

I got a big cheer as I rounded to the finish line and was really pleased to have finished my first run in 3 weeks, albeit with a slightly sore calf and out of control hair!

The folks were glad I dragged them out on a blustery day!

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I was a little sad I hadn’t been able to do the 16 miler, but I really don’t think I would have got through it and there’s always next year right?!  We had the usual Chaser success with a win in the half and numerous top 10 finishes as well as Chris facing his previous Dorset CTS demons with an impressive 11th paces in the 33 mile ultra!

In the evening nearly 40 of us descended on a wonderful little pub in Wool for celebrations, unfortunately I was still feeling a little under the weather so I missed the after party but I heard it was a success!

Dorset CTS is a fantastic event, it really is worth it for the views alone, it’s a beautiful place.  If you get the chance to go I would definitely recommend it, just don’t underestimate the challenge, it’s a tough course so choose your distance wisely!

The next day a few of us attempted a cultural day out with a trip to Lulworth Castle, which we did, but Frankie, Albro, Russ and I accidentally ended up spending the next 12 hours in the pub.  In our defense, it was a really, really great pub…

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A summary of important run-related learnings

  • It’s probably best to avoid alcohol the day before a 16 mile extreme trail race
  • It’s probably best to avoid Albro, Russ & Frankie the day before a 16 mile extreme trail race
  • It’s wise to eat 3 proper meals before an event
  • It is not wise to sub one of those meals for G&T and Scorpion Death Chilli Chocolate
  • Beautiful locations make even the toughest runs worth it
  • You should laugh hysterically in the face of 50 mph winds as you scramble up and down hills
  • It doesn’t count as falling over if the wind knocks you off your feet
  • You cannot walk with stormy winds in your back, you can only fly
  • Chaser support is rivaled by nothing

A summary of non run-related learnings (bonus life lessons if you will)

  • If you spend 12 hours in the same pub, you will name the barman Bubble Butt and he will let you choose the music
  • When Albro is choosing the music everything gets a little bit punk and a little bit weird
  • When the bar closes at 10.30 but you’re still there at 12.30 Bubble Butt will drive you home
  • In fact, he will insist on it…
  • And let you take another drink for the journey
  • And give you half a pint of milk for your morning cuppa because there are no shops open in Lulworth, ever
  • And let you keep the best pint glass in the world with a dinosaur etched on it
  • Bubble Butt is the best barman in Dorset

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Bournemouth Marathon Festival: Just the Half

I was really excited when Bournemouth announced they were launching a ‘Marathon Festival’.  Since I moved to London, I haven’t been short of local races to participate in, of any distance, but there’s always something special about doing your favourite thing in the place you still kinda call home.  Especially when it looks like this.

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Although the first festival was in 2013, marathon clashes left me cheering on the sidelines so this was the first year I had the opportunity to take part.  There is a Bournemouth Bay half marathon in April, but the timing is no good for people running spring marathons, and it’s been plagued by bad reviews more recently.  A Bournemouth Marathon Festival is just what the town needed to compete with the likes of Brighton and Portsmouth for running events.

The Festival spans over the weekend with a ‘Supersonic 10k’, ‘Supernova 5k’ and  junior races on Saturday afternoon, and the Half and Full Marathons on the Sunday.  There’s something for the whole family…unless you hate running of course…but we all know the sun always shines in Bournemouth so it’s worth a trip for cheering duties anyway!

I was in for the Half and the weather was looking mighty fine – sunny, dry, and maybe even a little too warm later in the day but, with a, err, sociable 8am start for my race I didn’t have to worry too much.

Mum & Dad dropped me off at Kings Park bright and early and I bumped into Chaser buddy Ed.  Ed was in the elite start and, after a quick chat, I was in no doubt he would finish in the top 10.  I dropped off my bag, headed to the toilet and started to panic…the queue was reeeaaally long and I only had about half an hour!

I ran into my friend Rick, who I hadn’t seen for ages, but didn’t even get a chance to speak to him because of the disturbing queue situation.  By the time it got to 7.45 I had to give up as the start was a bit of a walk away, I was promised there were plenty more toilets there…  After a jog over, I got into another queue, there definitely were not ‘plenty’, why was everyone taking soooo long?!  Sensing my increasing stress, 4 lovely ladies let me go in front of them, I made my start pen with 2 minutes to spare so I’m hugely grateful they did (thank you kind ladies!!)

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It was dry and sunny as promised, but it was too early to be very warm.  The course headed through a residential street before turning onto Overcliffe Drive towards Bournemouth and switching back towards Southbourne at 3.5 miles.  We could see the leaders coming in the other direction and I spotted Ed in 6th place so gave him a cheer.

I was feeling surprisingly good, I’d had a cold earlier in the week so thought I might find it tough but my watch said I was running faster than I felt I was so I was obviously in race mode.  I knew I would slow at some point but I didn’t feel like I was pushing too hard so found it difficult to slow down deliberately.

At 6 miles we ran down onto the beach front and switched back towards Bournemouth again along the promenade.  It was getting warmer but it was nice to be beside the sea again, even if there wasn’t a welcome wind.  At about 8.5 miles we came off  the promenade and back up to Overcliffe Drive, this involved a fairly short but pretty sharp hill, I plodded on up but something made me give up half way and I walked (ohhh the shame!).

I totally lost momentum at this point, but a mile later we headed back down to the promenade near the finish line and the crowds thickened.  I spotted Rick’s girlfriend, who gave me a cheer, and I rounded the corner to see Mum, Dad and my brother.  I smiled and sped off (well, sort of).

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The next section was tough, the course took us away from the crowds and the finish area and back along the front towards Boscombe again, the route is basically a giant zig zag.  My pace had slowed and I felt a bit rubbish.  I needed sugar, why didn’t I stick a gel in my pocket?  Always stick a gel in your pocket!  They were actually handing gels out at some point, stupidly I didn’t take one.  I was stupid and gel-less and struggling.

We ran to Boscombe Pier, along the Pier, turned around and started to head back.  I still felt rubbish with only a mile to go and I had a minute walking break which seemed a little ridiculous so close to the finish.  Of course, at this point I saw Rick coming towards me, whilst walking…busted!

As we got closer to the crowds I tried to go a little faster, I saw my family again, headed up Bournemouth Pier, turned around and ran straight over the finish line.  It was a 1:50:41 finish.  It was OK but it could have, and probably should have, been a little better… As for Ed, he smashed it and finished in 7th place!

All in all though, I loved racing back home by the beach and the best bit was I got to have post run cuddles with my little niece and a homemade dinner from Mum!

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My thoughts on the Bournemouth Marathon Festival Half:

  • Amazing location (obvs)
  • Fab weather (again, obvs)
  • Plenty of smiley marshals (probs local, Bournemouth-ians are the best!)
  • Plenty of water stations & a gel stop
  • Not enough toilets at the start
  • A speed-zapping stupid hill will, erm, zap your speed, so be prepared!
  • The last 7 miles are exposed on the beach front so has potential to be windy
  • The baggage truck isn’t in an ideal location at the finish, I don’t want to fight through spectators to get my stuff!
  • Fab t-shirt in a great colour (at least it wasn’t another blue one!)
  • Fab chunky medal
  • Probably PB potential…you can counteract the hill with the downward slopes (if you don’t walk the stupid hill)

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