Thursday, 11 May 2017

Race Report: PPRC 5k Summer Series Part 1

My first proper race! I can't quite remember how I came across this series, probably Facebook, but after I signed up I found out that my new friends Ke and M were taking part, so I'd have a nice group to hang out with before and after the race. The day before race day, though, I made a terrible mistake: going to the beach with my flatmates. It was only about 15C, but apparently that's too hot for my skin! The back of my neck, arms and legs were pretty scorched, but somehow my face was okay. Upon trying on my race shorts I found that the hem rubbed on the worst part of the sunburn, and for a moment I thought I'd either have to not run or struggle through in itchy, crispy agony. I applied copious amounts of Sudocrem and moisturiser and hoped for the best. 

Miraculously the Sudocrem did its job, and by the time we left the flat the burn had mostly healed (or had just become considerably numbed). Hurray for evening races! The race venue was at the same place as the parkrun start, so it was only a fifteen-minute walk away, and the BF and I jogged about half the distance to warm up. We registered and collected our race numbers, and just as we were attaching them Ke and M arrived. After they registered we gathered in the cafe with Kr, another runner from the EDS run last week, and chatted until we were called to the start for a race briefing. Unfortunately, there was a group of women near me talking all the way through the briefing and I couldn't hear a word the race director was saying, but I knew the vague route and I could always just follow the person ahead of me. 

The route followed the seafront along the cycle path that stretched alongside the main road, around the back of the civic centre, city library and residential area, around a small playpark and back again. I ran with M until just after the library where she stopped to walk but urged me to keep going. The first mile felt like I had gone out a bit fast and my garmin confirmed that the first split was 9:50 min/mi, quite a bit faster than my usual 10:30. I kept pushing with the hope that I could go sub 30 for the first time! 
I saw Ke coming the other way shortly after entering the residential area, and the BF as I entered the lap of the park. Running with people I know of different paces is a big motivator for me, as I can concentrate on trying to spot them rather than how tired I am! I lapped the playpark and started up the small hill, looking out for M and Kr on the way back. At the 2 mile mark I was getting pretty worried that I hadn't seen M, but she suddenly popped up beside me and started pushing the pace harder. 

The wind from a few days ago had caused the path past the library to be covered in sand, and by this point I was pretty tired, but I checked the garmin and saw that a sub 30 was still achievable if I pushed myself. The finish was in sight and only about a kilometer away. The downhill from the civic centre to the main road gave us a boost, and I felt pretty strong despite my shoulder being a passenger on the pain train. We approached the finishing straight and I felt that I still had some energy left, so picked up the pace to pick off a few runners in front of me. I stopped my watch and saw that I had a time of 31:25, which I was a bit disappointed with, until I noticed the course was a little too long at 3.2 miles. 

I met Ke and the BF in the crowd and had a look through my goody bag, which consisted of some vouchers for gym trial periods, half price beach volleyball court hire and some aloe vera gel which was ideal for my sunburn! We regrouped with M and Kr and got our free burgers and beers, and called the photographer over to take a group photo.

The Team!

I was pretty interested to see whether I has gone sub 30 for the actual 5km distance, so I connected my garmin to Strava as soon as we got home. I had achieved a PB by a looong way, but sub 30 wasn't to be quite yet :(

I only need to cut 14 seconds off my time! Sub 30 is definitely in sight, and I'll be so happy when I finally achieve it. 

A bit of a funny thing though: when I went to find my results online, they'd put me down on the men's results instead of the women's; someone remind me to get a name that isn't gender neutral! Otherwise it was an awesome race and I'm totally taking part in the next race of the series too.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

May the Fourth Virtual Race & New PB!

This week has been pretty busy so far (although I seem to write that every week), especially over the last few days; on Wednesday I had to give a presentation, Thursday I had a 3-hour coursework online test, and Friday I handed in an essay. Between working and revising, I managed to get in a pretty good speed workout on Tuesday, which consisted of:

5 minutes out, come back faster (10:00 min/mi out, 8:20 min/mi back)
10 minutes out, come back faster (12:30 min/mi out, 10:05 min/mi back)
2 minutes at 70% effort (~7:40 min/mi)
1 minute 80% effort (~6:40 min/mi)
30 seconds 90% effort (~5:30 min/mi)

Speed workouts are so hard but also so fun and satisfying! Afterwards, we walked to the beach to cool our legs down.
Sea ice baths = the best ice baths

Remember the runner I met at Bideford parkrun? He got in contact with me through the media of Strava to invite me to go running with him and about 15 others as part of a virtual "May the Fourth" virtual race to raise money and awareness for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, to be run on the Swansea parkrun route on Thursday. I entered the race online, and even though I was convinced that I would be the slowest there, I was feeling pretty optimistic about how I would do. 

Once I got there, I found K (Bideford parkrun guy) and he introduced me to M, who had organised the gathering and had EDS herself. She held a briefing and explained that she wanted the evening to be about the running and the social, not about EDS, and some of the non-runners took some photos before we set off. I settled into pace with the BF, M, and another runner whose name I didn't catch but had a really nice Welsh accent. Most of the way around I listened to them talk about the races they had done in the past (including one where M ran a whole half marathon with a dislocated arm), and at the two-mile mark I felt pretty good considering the average pace was a little faster than I usually run a 5k.

 At about 2.5  miles I mentioned how if I could run the whole way round without walking it would be the first time on this route and I'd probably get a PB, and M replied that it was a plan and they'd help me achieve my goal. In the last 0.3 miles I was absolutely dying and really wanted to stop, but the finish was in sight and I knew walking wasn't an option. M and the other runner really encouraged me as I put on a burst of speed, and as I stopped my watch on the finish line I was astounded to see my time was about 32 minutes for 3.2 miles, meaning that I had beaten my PB by about a minute! Strava confirmed when I got home that my 5k time was 31:02, which I am so proud of and very grateful to my new friends for encouraging me- without them I definitely wouldn't have run the whole way.

Afterwards, everyone met in the cafe and we talked to a load of lovely people; I'd love to keep in touch with them all. I submitted my evidence to POW! Virtual Running and hopefully my medal should come in a week or two.

Saturday was parkrun day, and I completed it in 31:27 without walking, which proves I definitely am capable of running the whole distance now :) The first race of the PPRC Summer 5k Series is on Tuesday, and this will be our first proper race, and good race day practise before the big one in September. My goals are:

Achievable: run the whole way, don't die
Would be nice: Go sub 31:00
Would be incredible: Go sub 30:00

I'll write a race report and let you know how I did!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Moving House, South Devon Trails & Auto-Belaying

The past few weeks have been pretty busy for me, despite being the Easter holidays. I came home from uni on the 8th, which gave me five days to pack before moving house to an old village shop that my parents renovated themselves in the space of 12 weeks. When we moved in there was no shower, no kitchen lights and, worst of all, no wifi: until I traveled down to stay with the BF almost a week later I had almost total radio silence (first world problems, I know). But now I'm back in Swansea and can write a blog post in order to procrastinate writing my essays!

On the Saturday before last, me and mum visited Bideford parkrun, which is the closest one to the new house. It's a very fast and flat 3.5 loop course, and while walking to the run briefing we got talking to a parkrun tourist who is currently trying to run at every parkrun in the south west, having already run at every one in Wales. He also said that he'd signed up for the same 10k race that I've entered in September, so hopefully I'll spot him amongst the 3000 other people competing.

While visiting the BF, we went for a 2.6 mile trail run, following a river through some woods and into the town. The scenery was so beautiful that we had to stop every few hundred metres to take photos!

On the Thursday, we took the train to Exeter to go climbing at the Clip & Climb. This is the more "fun" area of the climbing centre, although no less challenging than the uni climbing walls, and instead of having a belay partner the climbers were attached to auto belay machines. I hated the auto belay machines. It took about half of the session for me to trust them, and you had to be clipped into and out of it by a member of staff, so there was a bit of waiting around between finishing one wall and going onto the next. But other than that, the wide variety of routes, as well as the difficulty points system, made it a pretty fun experience!

After climbing, we took another train back up to my house, and in the morning before we left for uni, me, mum and the BF attended Tamar Lakes parkrun on the Devon-Cornwall border, which was my home parkrun before my break from running last year. I was pretty pleased with myself because I ran the whole 3.1 miles without walking!

advantage of having a boyfriend who is faster than me: he can wait at the finish to take photos ;)
Since returning to Swansea we've done a handful of runs, including a 5k to the waterfront museum today, and yesterday I watched the London marathon coverage. Between Josh Griffiths beating all the British elite runners despite starting from the masses and Matthew Rees helping another runner to the finish, Swansea runners got a lot of attention on social media, which is weird since I can see where the Swansea harriers train from where I'm sitting now.

Hopefully now that I'm back at uni I can post more often, but for now I have an essay and a presentation to write :(

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Welsh Varsity, Microbiology and Stress Relief Running

So I haven't posted anything for over a week, which is bad of me, but honestly there hasn't really been anything to qualify a standalone blog post, so this is going to be a week review more than a real blog. Do let me know if you prefer/hate this format!

Saturday (01/04/17) parkrun PB! I managed to run the first 2.5 miles before taking a walk break, so progress. I got 33:01, about 30 seconds faster than last week.

Sunday (02/04/17) planned to go for a short run and failed. 

Monday (03/04/17) microbiology lab! I've recently become really interested in bacteria (as weird as that sounds) and I'm considering taking it as a career path, as its the module I've enjoyed the most so far. Yet again failed to go running.

Tuesday (04/04/17) empty day. Went food shopping, revised.

Wednesday (05/04/17) VARSITY! Me and 6000 other Swansea students descended on Cardiff for Welsh Varsity, the biggest inter-university sports event in the UK over than Cambridge v Oxford. I watched one of my flatmates compete in her badminton matches, walked through the beautiful Bute park to the Principality stadium to watch approximately half a rugby match. 
Me and the BF left at half time because I was feeling pretty bad watching my old team competing where I dreamed of competing before I quit the team for the sake of my mental state. It wasn't helping that one of my flatmates kept making comments like "I bet you're glad you're not on the team" and "if you were playing, you'd be the first to get injured". At this point I was just tired, and me and BF caught the train home.

Thursday (06/04/17) First run of the week! Pushed myself to run 4 miles with negative splits, and by the end I was exhausted. 

I evidently needed a good run, because I felt so much better after it, and we walked down the beach to soak our legs in the sea (the best kind of ice bath).

On Saturday I'm returning to Devon after parkrun, so over Easter there'll be less photos, but at least I'll get in more hill training in the absence of the lovely flat coast path.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Into New Territory

I've had a pretty good week, running-wise. After parkrun on Saturday my calves felt a bit tight so I made a mental note to stretch more and went for a short recovery run on Sunday. It felt like death, but the route passed through a lovely park with a lake (complete with ducks!) so we stopped to get some photos.

I also made an Instagram account if anyone wants to check that out! 

Tuesday's run was basically a test run for a slightly harder route I wanted to try later. Instead of running on the paths inside the park, I decided to leave the park gates halfway round and run down a road. On the map it looked like it would work out, but once I got onto the road I quickly discovered it was winding and had no pavements. Back home this isn't a problem as there is little to no traffic on the lanes, but it's a very different story in the city and I had to constantly keep on my toes to make sure I didn't get ran over. It's a shame that the road's a bit dangerous, because it would have been the 3rd side of an almost perfectly square hilly 5k.

Today we planned to run to a nearby ornamental gardens that we hadn't been to before that was about 1.5 miles down the coast path. Me and the BF calculated that if we ran there, up the drive, walked around and then back again it would be a good 5k overall.

 When the Garmin said we'd run 1.8 miles and the gardens were still nowhere in sight, we concluded that we had missed the turning into the drive on the other side of the road and decided that instead of the 5k we had planned, we'd just run home now and make it a 3.5 miler, which sounds like nothing but was our furthest run yet. 
On the run back, I remembered how before my burnout I used to be terrified of increasing the distance into new territory. If I planned a run that was further than I'd been before, I'd feel anxious or skip the run altogether. Now I'm excited to reach 4 miles or further, which goes to show how much healthier my approach to running is now I've gotten over my fears and data addiction!

Sunday: 1.3 miles, 14:17
Tuesday: 2.0 miles, 22:39
Thursday: 3.5 miles, 38:25

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Tunes Tuesday Link Up: Current Favourites

For the last Tuesday of Run Steff Run's Tunes Tuesday, I'd like to share some of my current favourite music. These two songs are both from the Eurovision song contest, which for my mostly American readers is exactly what it sounds like: a competition between all the European countries to find the best song. These are my two favourites this year!

In running related news, my mum messaged me to say my MNDA race shirt has arrived! I'll take it for a spin and take some photos when I'm back home for the holidays in a few weeks :)

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Swansea Bay Parkrun Review

Today me and the BF woke up at the horrendously early time of 7:30am to try out Swansea Bay Parkrun for the first time. The start is only a kilometer or so away from campus, so we left at 8:30 and walked along the seafront to get there.
Blue skies and sun for once!
My first thought upon arriving was "wow, there are a lot more people here than at my home parkrun", which was swiftly followed by "they all look fast, I'm going to come in last", and then "no you're not, and even if it did, it wouldn't matter". Even though it was only 5 kilometers, it was my longest run since coming back after six months of nothing, and BF's first 5k ever, so I set my target to around the 35 - 36 minutes mark.

The route is basically an out and back from the 360 cafe to Blackpill on the cycle path, and is almost entirely flat (garmin recorded an elevation of 54ft over the 3.1 miles). Because the path is open to the public and pretty popular we had to dodge some cyclists and non-parkrunners, but as the mass of runners thinned out we managed to stay on the 'pedestrian' side of the path and not over spill into the 'cyclist' side. 

The route, right by the beach :)

About a kilometer in I lost sight of the BF and carried on at my own merry pace. Usually I have to walk after only 0.5 miles of running, but this time I managed to reach the half way mark before taking a break. I was so proud of myself! On the way back I employed my run 0.5 miles/walk 1 minute strategy that had served me well for the past week, and found the energy to sprint to the finish when the cafe came back into view. I quickly found BF on the grass by the finish tunnel where he said he'd recorded a time of around 29 minutes according to the Strava app, and had only finished a few minutes before me. We went and got our bar codes scanned by the lovely volunteers, and decided to walk back to campus as a cool down.
Taken approximately 30 seconds after finishing!

Thanks to the wonderful volunteers I received my results email only an hour after we left, and I was pretty pleased with my time of 33:40, well under my prediction! The BF came in in 29:31, which is great especially as this was his first 5k ever. See the Strava activity here!

I found the event to be incredibly well organised and the marshals were very encouraging and supportive. I'm definitely going to try and get in the habit of waking up early on the weekends to get a parkrun in before most of my flatmates have even woken up!

Hope the weather where you are is as nice as it is here,