Shorts, the sunshine and a 10k race

When I started running in 2016, the Bristol 10k was my first ever event and I completed it on a hot day, in 93 minutes of triumph.  Last year, the Bristol 10k became a bit of an obsession and I got a bee in my bonnet about achieving a fast time, which I did helped by Merida, who paced me to 78 minutes and 56 seconds on another overly warm day. There was press interest, interviews in the run up and whilst I should have felt elated upon achieving my goal, I didn’t as I suffered an emotional crash after having run on adrenaline for the preceding weeks running up to the race.

Each year, the Bristol 10k brings me a new challenge and this year was no different. After having not really run for the month preceding the race and deciding only 4 days before to even attempt the run, I was going for a different type of finish this year. I needed to relax my expectations to simply finish in one piece rather than achieve a faster time than last year and not to jeopardise the triathlon which is scheduled for the Bank Holiday weekend. This seems very sensible doesn’t it? Surely only a complete idiot would deviate from this plan……

The problem is that following my Landmarks victory (which is what I am calling it), I really believed that I had cracked the mental battle with running. I CAN run faster than I think and I only need to tell myself this and not walk and I would get faster and faster and one day, who knows, perhaps I could achieve a “fast” time. Husband, who is my most enthusiastic cheerleader, is convinced that I am capable of a sub 70 minute 10k and I began to believe it myself. Genuinely, I do think that one day I will run a sub 70 minute 10k, but let’s be realistic here, it’s not going to be following a month of no real exercise apart from walking and swimming. Only a complete idiot would attempt something like that…

So the morning of the race arrived and I was feeling remarkably relaxed as I had no real or public goal. I told myself that all I needed to do was finish. One of the lovely TMR ladies, MacStar had messaged me a couple of days before to say that she hadn’t done as much running as she’d have liked in the run up to the race either and perhaps we could “meander” (her words) together. I made it very clear that she was not to pace me and could leave me at any point, but she was happy for the company and so I joyously agreed.

Hattie has been preparing for the Bristol 10k like a woman possessed and has been training very hard indeed. We travelled into town together as usual, but we had decided (for the first time ever) NOT to run the race together. I didn’t want to do anything to stop her achieving her desired time and if I had to withdraw for any reason during the race due to UGIDA, then I know she would have stopped to stay with me. This was unthinkable for me and so we agreed that she would run her race (fast) and I would complete mine, hopefully in one piece.

Arriving in the Athletes’ Village on Millenium Square is always exciting and as Husband ran off to join the other speedies in his starters pen, I went to the Mothership that is the “This Mum Runs” stand to meet up with my squad. It was brilliant. There were absolutely hundreds of us and we all completed the warm up together, all wearing our team colours and I was able to help a couple of the first timers try to keep calm and convince them that they CAN run 10k and just enjoy the day. Macstar, Merida, RubyRed (my super glamorous friend who always runs in red lipstick), Captain, everyone was there and it felt a bit like a Christmas party. But then it was time to join our pen and await our start. I had been planning to chase the 75 minute pacer for as long as possible and then hopefully stay ahead of the 80 minute pacer. MacStar could possibly see my brain buzzing and so suggested that we run on our own, which I suspected she thought would help to keep my speed sensible. I happily obliged and we walked on towards the front of the pen, with me keeping half an eye on the 75 minute pacer who was now 20 feet behind me. And then we were off. The most consistent thing I can say about all three 10k races that I have run over the years, is that they have ALL been absolutely boiling. The portway part in particular felt like a volcano and the heat bounced off the tarmac and the sun beat down mercilessly. It was like running in an oven and I am never a very successful runner in the heat. As MacStar and I crossed the start line, I knew that the first kilometre would be faster than it should be as you get swept along with the crowd, but then you need to slow your pace down, especially in hot temperatures. But as I have stated a few times, I am an idiot and this is not what I did. Instead of slowing down, I ramped the pace up, even though MacStar was doing her utmost to reign me in pleading that “you need to slow down” but I couldn’t or at least, I didn’t. I have not got within 90 seconds of my 2017 10k time since last May and yet I ran the first 3k on Sunday this week at a sub 72 minute 10k pace and it was BOILING. This would have been a stretch if I was fully fit, but I was not and so, as you know, I confirm my status as “idiot” once more as at 3k I ran out of steam and also worryingly, began to overheat. My core inside was very, very hot and I felt a bit sick and we still had 2k before the water station. We stopped for a breather (3 minutes worth of a breather) and I instantly knew that my time was not going to happen. I felt ok about it to be honest and all the self imposed pressure instantly evaporated. Whilst I was stopped Hattie ran past me, smacking my bum as she passed! She looked fast and I shouted at her to carry on as she slowed down to see what I was doing and was I ok? I reassured her I was fine and Macstar was with me and then she was gone again. Hattie took 5 minutes off her previous fastest 10k time and she is delighted. She worked hard and deserves it. Well done Hattie.

Suspension Bridge High res

As we moved towards the 4k mark, I whispered to MacStar that I needed to walk (else I would have fallen over) and so the walking started. Run a bit, walk a bit which continued for the rest of the race. I stripped off my head buff and yellow sweatband as whilst they help mop up sweat, they were also contributing to my heat problem. At the water station, Curly Sue and the LA Blond were Marshalling and so hugs and high fives occurred as MacStar poured an entire bottle of water over my head and neck (I suspect that if you’d been close enough you would have heard a hissing sound much like steam) whilst I drank another bottle. Still I was hot but I was feeling better. We took a further 2 bottles with us and set off for the final 5k. I simply could not run without walking and the heat from the sun was relentless as we trundled through kilometres 5 to 8. Macstar was fantastic and we did finally have the meander and chat we had promised each other as the kilometres went by. I was feeling stupid as I knew that I had caused this situation but nonetheless determined to finish as I wanted the medal and knew that my daughters would be waiting to cheer me at kilometre 9.

As the kilometres passed by the crowd cheered loudly as I had hoped that they would, but I also received some unforeseen support from readers of this blog. 3 people over the course of the race (who all passed me running fast) shouted to say hello and that they were readers of this very blog and they enjoyed it and it had helped them. I loved saying hello to these people and your support really helped me over those final tough miles. Thank you.

As we reached 9k I saw my daughters which always lifts me. Husband was with them and he asked if I was ok, knowing I was hot and almost certainly not, and then quickly communicated that he had been off his pace and had suffered with the heat too.

As we turned into the final straight, I quickly decided that I wanted this to be finished as quickly as possible and promised MacStar that we would go for a sprint finish which we did, but those final 600m were amongst the most painful and excruciating I have ever run.

Sprint finish HIGH res

My final time was 85 minutes, which does include 3 minutes of stopping at 3k so I guess I ran it in 82 minutes. Given that I hadn’t really trained properly and was reliant on my residual fitness built up over a couple of years now, I can’t really complain. I wasn’t sore the next day either which I am also taking as a big win. If I had gone off slower it might have been a different story, but I didn’t. I am an idiot, but an idiot that never stops trying. What I took from Sunday is that you can’t smash every race. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Sometimes there will be reasons for this (not properly training in the run up or a ludicrously hot day) and sometimes there won’t. But you must keep trying. Despite promising myself as I ran up the Cumberland basin that I was having next year off and MacStar and I laughing as we noted that the supporters looked like they were having a much better time than we were and promising each other that we wouldn’t torture ourselves like this again next year, within 24 hours of crossing the finish line, I had already signed up for next year and so had MacStar. Runners are all mad.

As we walked back to the TMR stand, which was where I was meeting Husband and daughters, my smile re-appeared as we were greeted by the TeamTMR. Some were ecstatic having got fast times and others were desolate and disappointed. I consoled and congratulated accordingly.

My most immediate feeling I had was not about my time, but of a more practical nature – I was soaking wet. Without even giving it a thought, I pulled my soaking wet T shirt off exposing my sports bra and put on the dry new T shirt that was in the finisher’s pack, which was slightly loose for the first time ever. I didn’t give any consideration to my tummy or bingo wings or being “beach body ready”. What a load of crap that is – if you’re on the beach and you have a body, then you ARE “beach body ready”! The more observant of you will also notice that I am wearing shorts for the first time. I have worried about wearing shorts in public to run in for some time now, but finally took the plunge after Perdita (she has dalmations) suggested that I try the Decathlon shorts as they are long, don’t ride up and so, hopefully, my thighs wouldn’t rub together resulting in the dreaded “chafing”. I don’t think any woman over the age of 13 actually has a real “thigh gap” and so the fear of chafing is a big problem for most normal sized women and is a reason why so many of us are scared to wear shorts. But I did try them and they worked and given the heat, I was very pleased I had freed my legs and was wearing shorts on Sunday. There is no going back for me now, I will be wearing shorts for evermore now. Don’t be afraid to join me.

Bank Holiday weekend I will be wearing a Tri Suit, which is essentially a skintight (genuinely, I can barely breathe in it) lycra all in one shorts and Tshirt suit that you swim, cycle and run in – so as you see, it goes from the sublime to the ridiculous!

I’m not really going to be “match fit” for the Tri either, but I will pace myself much better as this will be a completely different test. I have never cycled the full distance having I’ve only been out on my bike once for a proper ride and the only time I have ever transitioned (which is when you switch from one discipline to the next) from bike to run, my legs buckled underneath me, so it will be a challenge to say the least. But, I am looking forward to it, as ever.  I’m just hoping it won’t be too hot…..

Shiny Sheena and U.G.I.D.A

Following the Landmarks Half, I decided to treat myself to a week off as I was knackered and wanted a little break before Tri Training started. I ate what I wanted which seemed to include at least 4 pieces of congratulatory cake (any excuse) and relaxed. It was wonderful and just what I needed.

The following weekend, I went for an 8k running plod (just for fun with no mind of speed) and then the next day took “Shiny Sheena” (yes, I have named my road bike) out for a 13 mile spin. I had been so excited to get out and try my new bike for a couple of weeks and when I finally managed it, she didn’t disappoint. I really like cycling and was able to test the gear I had bought (“all the gear and no idea” describes me down to a tee!”). I went up the Bristol and Bath Cycle Path to the Warmley Tea rooms, (which has a toilet decorated to look like Doctor Who’s TARDIS), I had a cup of tea and then cycled back. Other cyclists waved to me and I felt like I was one of the gang.

Shiny Sheena

The “Tri Mums” (This Mum Runs ladies that do Triathlons) had been enormously supportive with my planned triathlon endeavours and were on hand to help offering advice on gear, outfits, shoes (hooray – yes we need new shoes) and training plans to myself and a couple of other newbie Triers. They recommended that to avoid “chafing” in the bottom area, it was best to wear no underwear under the cycle trousers at all.

Frankly I was horrified. Having just been through the whole underwear/runderwear debacle with the running, it seemed that underwear (or lack of) was now a new feature with cycling. It seems to exercise in 2018, one must be knickerless and enduring a cold tummy. But these ladies know more than me and so I trusted them and followed their advice for the bike ride. They were correct. The padded bum part of cycling trousers did not rub and so I was delighted. Unfortunately the razor like saddle did aggravate my bottom, significantly and I was uncomfortable for a few days.

I will stop now and tell you that my husband has begged me not to put the next bit in this blog as it’s a bit embarrassing and extremely personal. But my blog is a “warts and all” log of my exercise journal and so I must go against his wishes. (Sorry). On the Monday after the cycle, I was horrified to discover that I had an UGIDA . An “Uninvited Guest in the Downstairs Area” as my daughter named it, rather perfectly…..or a hemmaroid.  I was not happy and extremely uncomfortable. Over the counter medicine was doing nothing to rectify the situation and so after a week of panic about not being able to run (it was MUCH too painful) or cycle (absolutely unthinkable) I went to the Doctor. The Doctor was fantastic and, importantly, a runner. I was surprised to find myself in tears as I explained to her (and her two medical students in with her as they all had a good look at the “UGIDA”) that I was desperate to run as I had an upcoming triathlon and so my training plan demanded that I run. Let me tell you, I am not a fan of running, but not being able to run was absolutely hideous and I needed to get the “situation” sorted quickly. Unfortunately, the human body, and mine in particular, doesn’t give two hoots about triathlons or medals and so there was nothing to do but rest and try and recover. The Doctor impressed upon me, in earnest, the need for rest, stating that this is not uncommon in runners and athletes and she wished more people would go and get their “UGIDAs” checked etc.  So as I blinked back the tears, I tried to heed her words and resolved to rest in the hope that this would fix the problem. So I rested. And then rested a bit more. It didn’t get any worse and possibly improved a bit, but it was not happening quick enough for me. I am currently waiting for a referral to come through to have the little blighter removed. I resigned myself to not being able to do the triathlon or run the Bristol 10k, which as you may know, is what I refer to as my “Annual Nemesis” as I usually use this to test if I am improving as a runner. I was gutted about the triathlon but I think if I’d had a choice over which event I would do if I could only do one, I would have chosen the 10k. It’s been a dark couple of weeks and I have felt at times as though I should simply set up a direct debit from my own bank account to Boots as I have desperately tried numerous creams to try and alleviate the symptoms.

I have been very, very down. I have been surprised by how low I have felt to be honest. I have bored my Sisters with updates on “Asswatch” as they’ve tried to help and keep me sane, but not running has been hell.

Hattie has been training with Curly Sue without me and making fantastic progress but I have struggled to go along and watch as it made me feel quite upset not to be running alongside her, sweating as we run up hills or sprinting around Queens Square. One small glimmer of light however, has been that although you can’t run or cycle with an UGIDA, swimming is **virtually recommended** and so at least this was some form of a lifeline. I have practised my front crawl over and over again in the past few weeks and I am confident that it has improved. I can now swim 400m front crawl continously (at Christmas I couldn’t even swim two lengths), which is the required distance for the Sprint Tri, but I am significantly faster if I alternate breaststroke and front crawl. I’ve swum on average 2k a week and it has helped me a bit.

Then last week, in my desperation I went to Boots (again) to see if there was another type of cream that might offer some miracle. I was elated to discover that this new cream made an immediate difference and it was enough of an improvement that this last Wednesday (2 days ago) I felt ok to run home. I hadn’t run for 3 weeks and it felt AMAZING and more importantly, there was no pain. As I ran, the 10k flashed through my brain and so I decided to run for 60 minutes to see if I could. I could indeed run for an hour (imagine if I’d told myself that 2 and half years ago – that after a 3ish week break, I would be able to run for an hour!) and it was clear that although I wasn’t as fit as I had been after the half, (understatement) the swimming had preserved some of my fitness and so the 10k felt possible. I mean, it was going to hurt, but it was possible.

If the 10k is possible then the triathlon should be too if I put my old bike saddle on Sheena, as Merida had suggested….. I’m massively undertrained on the bike now and running out of time so there will be an element of “winging it” but what else is new?!

Therefore, as long as my referral with the hospital doesn’t come through in the next two weeks (highly unlikely) and as long as I am not in pain (most importantly) I have decided that I am going to run the Bristol 10k on Sunday and attempt the Westonbirt Sprint Triathlon in 2 weeks time.

I say this knowing that I might have to withdraw from one or both mid-race if things go wrong or anything “appears”….. but I think for the sake of my sanity that it is worth the risk. Plus…I have already bought a trisuit (well 2 actually…it’s a long story and I couldn’t decide between them) and I NEED the 10k medal to keep my annual collection consistent.

There is a 75 minute pacer at the Bristol 10k (TMR are providing official pacers in the Duracell uniforms this year at 75, 80 and 90 minutes after “Pacergate” in 2017) and 4 weeks ago I would have felt confident at giving this a bash for a sub 75 minute 10k. Sadly I don’t think it’s realistic anymore and so I intend to follow the lovely 75 minute pacer for as long as I can and then try my best to stay ahead of the 80 minute pacer, but I also know that this might not happen. I’ll do my best though and will hopefully have a shiny medal by lunchtime on Sunday. Wish me luck.

 

Disclaimer **virtually recommended**– not really recommended, more that I bullied the Doctor into admitting that I could swim as long as it didn’t hurt but running and cycling were absolutely prohibited.