Race Review: Surrey Half Marathon 2017!

Surrey Half is one of my favourite races, and luckily it’s right on my doorstep. I ran the first event back in 2012, and excluding last ear (when I was in Barcelona for the marathon), I’ve run it every year since. Rude not to, really! 😉

Yesterday, I woke up to rain and grey skies, and for some reason I just wasn’t feeling it. It wasn’t the weather though. I was nervous, anxious, and worried that I couldn’t handle the distance. This sounds a bit stupid, as I’m most of the way through my marathon training and ran a half in Brighton just the other week. But Brighton was one of my slowest half marathon times, and I’ve really struggled to find motivation for my other marathon training runs recently. I’ve been running far slower than before, and have struggled with a niggly hip over the past month or so, to boot!

But I forced myself out of bed, got my kit together and was on a train to Woking by 8am. Luckily it’s just 1 stop from Guildford, and then a nice downhill 10-minute walk to the start area in Woking park. As always, the event was brilliantly organised – I followed the crowds into the Liesure Centre, along sign-posted halls to the bag drop, and out the far side of the centre right into the corrals. I didn’t notice any portaloos, but I wasn’t really looking for them – and I did hear that there were plenty, with almost no queues. This was definitely the case in previous years.

However this year, for the first time EVER there was a huuuge queue to get into the bag drop. I think it was just the volume of runners! Despite the rain, runners in the queue were in high spirits. Once inside they got us sorted out pretty quickly, and luckily I still made it into my corral 10 minutes before the start.

As we crossed the start line, the heavens opened and the drizzle turned into pouring rain. But there were so many spectators along the course cheering us on, and the first 6 miles seemed to fly by, especially as the first half is mostly flat.

The second half was just as lively as the first – there were a few quieter stretches along some of the country roads, but so many locals were out and there was such a good atmosphere among the runners that I don’t really remember a lack of support at any point. This has been the case every year I’ve run this one, and it’s one of the reasons I love it so much!

Soaking up the crowd support (and the rain!) and digging in for the last .1

It also really helped that the route covered the same roads as my regular training runs – and my old run/cycle commute. It meant that I could break the run up a bit, and I knew which hills were coming, and could pace myself for them. I’d started in between the 2:20 and 2:30 pacer, and my only goal was to break 2:30 (as none of my road half marathons had been slower than that). But by about 8 or 9 miles my hip had started to really hurt, and I had begun to take regular walking breaks.

It was around 9 miles that a little boy shouted out ‘You’re in the race! Yay, you’re in the race!’ and it reminded me that my time wasn’t important. I just had to take in the atmosphere, push on and try to enjoy myself! Still, when I saw my pace creeping into the 12s, I made a deal with myself to only walk up the hills from then on. It seemed to work, and by the time we hit the big downhill towards Mayford at about 11 miles, I was starting to feel quite good – and had brought my pace up a bit!

There was one last short, sharp hill at about 12 miles, and after that the crowd support (having our names on our race numbers made this even better!) meant that any chances of walking in the last mile went out the window. It was still drizzling, I was soaked and could feel blisters and some chafing, but managed to block it out and pushed on past the 13m marker, over the last main road and back into the park. The finishing straight was on a slight downhill, which was brilliant for a sprint finish (8:20 – not as fast as Brighton, but still pretty speedy for me, and much faster than I expected – no tailwind for me this time!). I got a lot of cheers heading towards the finish line, and managed to overtake a few runners, which felt great 😀

The organisation at the finish is just as good. Carrying on past the finish line you collect your medal, a bottle of water and a snack, and then go back into the Leisure Centre to pick up your bags. No queuing, no getting lost, and we were in and out within 5 minutes (as opposed to the 15 minute queue before the race). The lady at the bag drop had mine waiting for me with a big smile before I’d even reached the desk!

The bling makes it all worth it 😉

I got changed in the Leisure Centre toilets, which took a while (everything was wet, and my hands were numb – lethal combo!) and then James and I went into Woking for a massive burger. All in all, despite the nerves that morning, I’m SO glad I went along. The minute I was in the corral, I was reminded just why I love these events so much – the camaraderie, the support, the celebration at the finish. Regardless of the pace, the weather, or the distance, days like yesterday remind me that running can be bloody awesome.

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Did you race this weekend? How did it go?

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Bluebells in the Chantries Woods

I’ve been itching to go and see the bluebells for a couple of weeks now (I live an exciting life, clearly!). Our neighbour recommended that we go and visit the Chantries Woods, and after looking it up we realised that it’s only a mile or so from our front door – handy! (Also, how have we not been there before now!?)

So this weekend we laced up our walking shoes, and set off for a wander.

Walking in the Chantries Woods

There are miles of footpaths to explore through the Chantries, and the North Downs Way actually goes through some of it, too – so it’s easy to pick up dozens of different routes. I can’t wait to get out there in my trail shoes for some long training runs 😀

Chantries North Downs Way

… Though we discovered at times that some of the footpaths we used weren’t actually on Google maps, so there’s a high chance I’ll get lost… But that’s part of the fun, right? 😉

Chantries Woods Bluebells

I even managed to get James to pose for a photo or two. He caught on pretty quickly, and stopped slowing down to wait for me after a while! And I learned to stop asking him to take my photo unless I wanted to hear him sniggering about how dumb it was 😉 Instagram Husband, he is not!

P.S. LOOOL, you have to watch that video. Absolute genius!

Chantries Bluebells

Isn’t this place stunning though!?

Chantries Woods

As well as the gorgeous woodland, if you fancy a bit of a climb there are some stunning views across the Surrey Hills.

They’re almost as good as the views you get on the Bacchus Half, which I still need to sign up for! (And so do you, if you haven’t already. It’s the most fun you’ll ever have on a run! Here’s last year’s review, if you need any convincing…)

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How was your weekend? Did you get out and enjoy the sunshine? 🙂

Barcelona Marathon Training: Stop! Taper Time!

With just 3 weeks to go until Barcelona Marathon, I had one more big challenge to conquer before I could settle in to the lovely taper: my last and longest training run.

As I peaked at 18 miles for my last 2 marathons, and I’ve been struggling with a niggly tendon through a lot of my training this year,  I hesitantly aimed for 18-20 miles. The route itself was 20, but I wasn’t at all confident that I could finish it.

20 Mile Run Route

I like seeing this route on the map – it looks super far and makes me feel a bit awesome. The splodge at Weybridge was where I got lost and ran around in circles for a while. That was a little less awesome.

Despite the doubts, I was up at 6h00 on Saturday morning and on a train to Hampton Court by 7am. My logic was that if I stranded myself 20 miles away, I would have no choice but to run home. Also, I figured I could treat it like a day out, and that the navigation would take my mind off the miles.

It actually kind of worked!

Without further ado, here’s my 20 (!!) mile run summed up in 20 thoughts that popped into my head along the way 😉

1 This is going to be SO MUCH FUN. I totally don’t want to get back on the train and go home. Though there iiis one leaving in about 6 minutes. NO. Bad Lucy.

2 Wow, that’s a strong headwind. And I’ve really cleverly picked a route that has me running in the exact same direction for 20 miles. The wind has got to change at some point, right? It’ll totally change direction.

3 Oooh, 2 people have said good morning now! People are so friendly around here! I’m going to see how many more I can get!

4 Ok, 2 people have ignored me now. That game was fun while it lasted.

5 It’s actually quite muddy along here. Maybe I should have worn my trail shoes. The river is preeetty close. I’ll just make sure I slip left. I do NOT want to fall in.

6 Yes! I found my way off the Thames path! I am a navigational genius! Now it’s just a quick detour through Weybridge to the Wey river path…

7 Ok, I’m not a navigational genius. In fact, I’m lost. How hard can it be to find a flipping big blue RIVER?

8 Phew! I found it! I’ll be in Woking before I know it!

9 Ok, the Wey path is longer than I remember. I’m pretty sure I was meant to come off and into Woking around 13 miles. Did I miss the turning?

10 Ah. I seem to have added 1.5 miles somewhere. I should probably let my friend know I’ll be late. Scratch that, I’m already late. I wonder how long it’ll take to get to Woking station now? Where am I?

11 Woking station! And company! And a banana I just remembered I had in my bag! I’m going to be completely spontaneous and eat this now. Training is all about trial and error, and besides, I only have 6 miles left to go. What could possibly go wrong?

12 I bet my friend’s legs are feeling way fresher than mine right now. But I’m not jealous. My legs are STEEL. I can do this! I am a machine!

13 Ouch, ok, note to self: you can’t sprint across roads after 16 miles. Slow-motion hobble-sprinting only. Turns out, that’s a thing.

14 I’m going to walk this big hill. It’ll be a nice treat. Pft, yeah – heading up a hill, in the rain and wind, after 18 miles of running. Some treat, Lucy! Plus, the hill is taking too long. I’m going to run up the rest of it.

15 I could totally stop right now. I’ve already passed 18 miles, so it’s officially my longest training run. But my house is still miles away. I should probably keep going. It’s too cold to walk that far. And why is there still a headwind!? I hate you, England.

16 Traffic lights, DON’T YOU DARE TURN RED! If you stay green, I can stop and stretch and I can pretend I’m just waiting for the lights. NO! YOU TRAITORS! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME!?

17 Whatever. I didn’t want to stretch anyway…

18 .2 miles to go. I’ve got this. No more walking. Hm, I think my Garmin is broken. Maybe I’m actually at 20 miles now, and it just hasn’t updated?

19 Nope, that now says .1. Maybe it’s delayed. Is that a thing? Then again, that fence over there doesn’t seem to be getting any closer. Am I moving? I’m definitely still moving forwards, right?

20 IT SAYS 20 MILES! Take THAT, legs! I WIN! But wait a second… I’m still 1.5 miles from home. Looks like I’m going to be getting a warm-down walk. I can totally just tell people I planned this…

End of 20 Mile Run

The lovely @Pandy_Cakes met me at 13 14.5 miles and whooped and cheered me through the rain and the wind to the finish. When she would totally have rather had a lie in. She’s an absolute legend. Thanks Amanda!

In summary, I surprised myself. My energy levels were pretty constant, I was cheery for almost the entire thing, and I felt like I had something left in the tank at the end. My legs ached, but I felt good. Yay!

And to make things even more awesome, according to my Garmin stats, I’m still on track for my sub-5!

Garmin Stats for 20 Mile Run

… Which makes my face do this:

After 20 Mile Run

20 miles DONE, and 7 minutes faster than my 3h45 target!

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How was your weekend? 🙂

Barcelona Marathon Training: 4 weeks to go!

Dude, how did this happen? How are there only 4 weeks left? How is there just 1 long run between me and the taper? (This week is a cut-back week, with Bramley 10 tomorrow).

I’m suddenly feeling super under prepared. I swear I had more miles under my belt at this point before Paris and Brighton. I’m probably just paranoid, right!?

However, despite last week’s minor freak-out, I did in fact manage my long run last weekend – 16 miles along the Downs Link and Wey Navigations river path. It was long, it was fairly flat, it was out-and-back and the scenery, whilst quite nice, was pretty repetitive. I thought it would be fairly easy going, but mentally it was quite difficult as there wasn’t much to break up the miles!

I felt like a bit of a wally when I set off, as I was wearing 2 watches to test out the Epson against my Garmin. It didn’t half make the Garmin look like a brick!

Garmin and Epson Watches for 16 Miler

The things I do for science.

I could probably have picked a better time of year to run this route. It was absolutely stunning on my cycle to Brighton last year!

But on a cold, grey morning in February, it was ever so slightly uninspiring. Peaceful, quiet, and more pleasant than main roads, but it all began to look the same after a while:

Downs Link and Wey Navigations Long Run

Trust me, it’s a dream in the summer. And I’ll definitely be back to run it again after the marathon!

To prove that I did enjoy it just a little bit, I took my first ever run selfie:

16 Mile Run Selfie

A bit blurred, but you get the gist. I also took a photo of my poor shoes, which saw more mud that day than in the 2 months beforehand! (Though I didn’t actually get a picture of the muddy bits. I was too busy trying not to faceplant and/or stumble into the river…)

Whilst I did still take quite a few breaks (the river path was quite hard going, it was muddy, it was early, I found it hard to zone out…) my average moving pace was 33 seconds/mile faster than the Kingston Breakfast Run last year, and only 3s/mile off the pace I did my last 16 miler. Result!

16 Mile Run Splits

Now I just need to man up and cut out some of the walking breaks. Oh, and add on another 10 miles.

Ah, marathons. I do love you really.

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Have you run/got a long run planned this weekend? What sort of route have you picked?

Barcelona Marathon Training: Week 8/16

Week 8 started off brilliantly. After last Sunday’s 14 miler I was straight into a Body Pump class on Tuesday evening (140 lunges and squats, amongst other things – that class is no joke!) and I even managed a treadmill run on Thursday. I was well and truly on a roll!

But my main session was, obviously, the Sunday long run. I decided to head to Virginia Water lake this time, for a change of scenery – and was surprised to see that it was white and snowing outside as I got my kit together. Given that we had a bit of a drive to get there, we decided to stay home a little longer to let things thaw out a bit. But whilst the roads might have been fine, it was still super icy and cold (and snow had settled in patches where the sun hadn’t got to it yet).

Virginia Water Lake Long Run

Slightly wishing I’d manned up and got out the day before!

The lake was ridiculously busy, with tons of families and dog walkers milling about. It was an absolute assault course out there, and I had to keep slowing down (or stopping) to let people get by. The kids on scooters and bikes were lethal, too!

But the views were lovely, and I did enjoy running by the water, despite the crowds!

Winter at Virginia Water Lake

Unfortunately, my luck ran out at about 5 miles, when a labrador coming the other way ran straight into me as I lifted my foot up, causing me to stumble onto the other leg (the one with the semi-healed tendon, boo). I landed pretty heavily and had to hop a couple of times to get my balance, and my leg was NOT happy. I shouted as the dog hit me, but the owner simply glanced back disinterestedly and then carried on walking without a word! Bloody cheek.

On the bright side, the dog seemed fine…

I toughed it out for another .1 of a mile, but my tendon was throbbing so I walked the mile back to the start to meet James and grab a hot drink.

Walking Around Virginia Water Lake

How could that face not make me smile?

When I caught up to James, we grabbed a couple of hot chocolates and then decided to do one more loop of the lake, which brought my total mileage to 10 (5 run, 5 walked). As we set off I linked arms with him, and when he asked me why I didn’t hold his hand, my response was pretty blunt:

Well, I’ve been wiping my nose with that glove for 5 miles, but I’ll hold your hand if you want!?

Us runners are a sexy lot, aren’t we!?

Unsurprisingly, he declined 😉

Hot Chocolate at Virginia Water Lake

All the hot chocolate! And layers. Many, many layers.

And an obligatory photo (James made me) of the ice in my hair:

Icy Hair at Virginia Water Lake

Turns out, this is what happens when you run in the cold!

So all in all, my week was a bit disappointing:

Tuesday: Body Pump class (1h15).

Thursday: 6m treadmill run @ 9:48 average.

Sunday: 5m @ 10:24 average, plus a 5m walk.

Luckily, I’ve still got time to build up my distance, and will give the 16 miler another shot this weekend. I’ll be taking a quieter route this time though!

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Have you ever had any training setbacks/injuries? How did you manage them?