Monday, 29 June 2009

My 60th Marathon

It was a bit warm for running this weekend. So I admit there was quite a bit of walking involved. Which explains why this was a new PW marathon time for me (that's Personal Worst). Still, it was a lovely day out in the Hertfordshire countryside in the sunshine, with some welcome shady wooded sections every now and then. And that's marathon number 60 completed. I got a certificate (it was another LDWA event - I've just joined LDWA as I seem to keep doing their lovely events recently) and there were strawberries to eat after. Mmmm.
I went on Haku and it was most refreshing to feel the breeze in my face as I rode along the motorway on the way home.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Doubling up on the trails

I took a train down to Petersfield on Friday evening. I was staying in a small B&B there with Naomi, the Fetchie whose idea it was to do a double marathon to celebrate her upcoming birthday. She promised us champagne, so how could we refuse?

In the morning, Allan (another lovely Fetchie) gave us a lift to the Queen Elizabeth Country Park, just a few miles along the A3, which was to be the finish of the South Downs Way Marathon. From there we took a coach up to the start. There were loads more Fetchies there, along with several other runners I knew from the 100 Club and elsewhere, so it was all very social. The marathon had two start times – 9am for the slowbos like me, 10am for the speed demons. It was a pretty trail course along the South Downs Way: hilly, some tough terrain but mostly along nice tracks and also through some pleasantly shady woods. I enjoyed seeing the faster runners overtake later in the race, including Adam (Fetchie and world record holder for the 'ten in ten', who eventually finished 11th out of the nearly 500 runners taking part). At one of the checkpoints I was cheered (by name) by a load of people I didn’t recognise – it turned out they were from Animal Aid (the charity I raised £15 000 for earlier this year) who’d put a team in the relay. At the finish they invited me to join their vegan picnic – very tasty!

We got some well stocked goody bags, including a medal and a proper wicky Salomon running shirt. A quick lift back to the station and then Naomi, Adam and I headed down to Weymouth. We had separate B&Bs here as I was meeting up with Jim. He’d had a productive day at the beach: after buying a rock hammer in Lyme Regis, he went fossil hunting and brought back a couple of fine ammonite specimens. We went for pizza with too much wine (for me – Jim isn’t such a lightweight), followed by a stumble along the beach.

In the morning, Allan again picked us up in his role as superb chauffeur. The sat nav sent us to a young offenders institute (?!), but we finally worked out where to go and made it to the leisure centre on Portland to meet the Bustinskin guys - the various servicemen who organised the Chesil Coastal Challenge. It was a hot morning but the route along the coast was beautiful. There were some tough hills before the turnaround point, but they were worth it for the stunning views. Chesil beach is a natural structure sitting out at sea just off the coast. I really enjoyed this one, despite the heat (I suspect the light breeze helped me) and finished 36 seconds faster than on Saturday. And in 4th place (female). So both marathons were fairly slow at just over 4 hours 40 minutes, but I really enjoyed them. Adam won the Chesil Coastal in an impressive 3:12. There was a great spread of food put on, plus we had use of the swimming pool – very welcome! As was the birthday champagne Naomi brought along…

Jim had spent the morning on another beach seeking out further fossilage, before riding back home (on Haku – a bit of a treat while waiting for Hellboy to have his MOT this week).

It was a top weekend all in all (though I wore old trail shoes that didn’t fit, resulting in blisters, plus I managed to turn an ankle on a bit of steep singletrack, so that's a bit sore today... hey ho).

Monday, 8 June 2009

Ooh, a trophy!

I ran the Northants Ultra yesterday. Officially 34 miles, though everyone had over 35 on their Garmins...

It was a nice course, about half road, half off road, running between several stately homes in the shires. Some of the terrain (but fortunately only a little bit) was that really cloying sort of mud, but mostly it was good. Some nice tracks and fields, punctuated with quite a few stiles.
I ran with Audrey, another great Fetchie. It was her first ultra and she was a little unsure about the navigation. As it turned out, the map was generally not too hard to follow, but there were places where we had to use the compass to convince ourselves we were going in the right direction. Which we were most of the time, thanks to a good team effort. The worst bits were where the map clearly showed a track (red dotted line) but in real life there was no sign of trackyness. So that slowed us down a bit, as did some of the steeper hills, but we were pleased to finish in under 7 hours. Even more pleasing was that we finished in joint 2nd place (female) and got trophies!

Monday, 1 June 2009

Edinburgh rocks!

We rounded off the half term holiday with a trip to Scotland's capital city. It was ridiculously hot (ok, so in the low twenties, but that's just not what you expect north of the border) and we both came home a little redder and with noticeably more freckles than we had last week.

We got an early train on Friday, arriving in Edinburgh for elevenses. We did some mooching around the shops, strolled up Calton Hill to get the fantastic view out across the Forth, wandered through the streets admiring the beautiful and varied architecture, went up to the castle and generally enjoyed the change of scenery.On the Saturday we did more of the same, plus a visit to the Whisky Experience, where we went on the 'barrel ride' to learn all about the Scotch whisky industry, smelled the difference between the products of the different regions and had to choose our favourite. We got to keep the glasses which came in handy for the wine on the hill (the one with the stunning views) with our picnic lunch. In the evening there was an event called 'The Nocturne', a cycling thing being held in Grassmarket. This involved a series of races around a 1.2km loop taking in a nasty cobbled hill. We watched the 'folding bikes' race, where competitors, dressed in their office attire, had to run 30 yards to their folded Bromptons, set them up to ride and then complete 3 laps of the course. Entertaining and with some surprisingly impressive speed at the front end. This was followed by the eilite race, won by David Millar, which was amazing to watch, as seeing this sport on telly just doesn't quite do justice to the huge amount of skill and speed involved.
On the Sunday was the Edinburgh Marathon. I'm not a fan of hot marathons and I prefer the smaller events to the big city ones, but this is a good course that goes out along the Forth and has great support. Plus I met up with several people I know so it was all rather sociable. I was relatively comfortable for the first 16 miles, but then felt a bit dodgy in the heat and put in several walking breaks after that. My final time was 4:23:14, so it could have been a lot worse. Jim had spent the morning taking a stroll up to Arthur's Seat - a challenge in itself as he was laden with his baggage including several kilos of camera equipment. We went for all-you-can-eat Chinese afterwards which was most welcome! The finishers T shirt is a good wicky one that I'll actually use and the medal is rather nice too.