21 April 2015

The Longhorn Part One

About 2.5 weeks after the Belvoir Challenge marathon I spied a contest on PT Mollie's blog for an entry into Swim Bike Run Events inaugural race The Longhorn.  Several of my running club mates had already entered various distances for it and I was having race envy (read: medal envy!) because it looked like a gorgeous venue (trails! longhorn cattle! forest!). I figured might as well enter and see if I might luck out and actually win, the old cliché nothing ventured, nothing gained holds so true. As you have already guessed I did win that entry!

The Longhorn

My big decision was what distance to go for--10k, half marathon, or the full enchilada again, the 26.2.  After a couple of days debating it with my partner about which one I finally opted for the full.  My reasoning was despite the lacklustre performance at Belvoir I still felt fairly strong, there were no overuse injuries and once I got over the soreness of hyper-extending my right leg sliding about in the mud my training was back to normal. I figured that 1 or 2 long runs would keep me in good enough condition to get around the course around 4:15ish.  Of course that was before falling ill starting the day of the Easter 10k at Wollaton Hall and my planned 18-20 miler got cut down to 13.  Instead of doing the smart thing and emailing Amanda at SBR Events and asking if I could transfer to the half marathon I kept thinking I would get better...yeah, that didn't happen. 

The relief! 

The copious amounts of snot and chest congestion meant I ended up taking some heavy duty decongestants of the sort that the pharmacists give you a very STERN warning about before selling to you and one side effect of it is that you get extremely dehydrated. I simply couldn't get enough fluids and electrolytes into my system to counteract it and despite taking the last one on Friday evening the effects continued on through Sunday.  I lined up with the other marathoners fully expecting to get my first DNF (did not finish) which I was surprisingly at ease with.  As a matter of fact I was so ok with this that I managed to get an excellent night's sleep which is something I never do before a race!

This is turning into a far longer post than I intended so time to split it up, most already know the answer to the DNF but for the rest of you...Did I or did I not DNF????  Oh who cares about that, the important stuff is what was the race itself like! 

The Longhorn Part II

Onto the good stuff! The nitty-gritty details about The Longhorn

What was good:

-First off, the venue at Thoresby Hall is GORGEOUS!  I didn't take along a camera but here's a pic from the hotel website

Thoresby Hall

-Entry to the race car park area was fairly well-marked and it was FREE!

-It's a looped course that meanders through forest and farm land so the scenery changes enough to keep you from being bored.  Some people don't like running loops but I quite fancy them if it's an interesting course and this one certainly was that.  It was also reassuring to me that if I had to quit then I was never that far from the race village. The 10k was 1 loop, the half was 2, and the marathon was 4.

-The race was fully chip-timed, both start and finish plus each loop. They also handed out wrist bands to the marathoners for each loop to help keep track of which one they were on.

-Bag drop was provided 

-Portaloos had extra rolls of toilet paper and hand sanitiser

-The Sunshine Van was on-site selling coffee and yummies!

-Well marshalled and marked course, I never had any trouble finding my way around. The only confusion was at the very start when we weren't sure whether to go left or right. 

-Several water stops on the 6.55 mile loop with two of them having portaloos! Something that's quite unusual for smaller races.

-Water stops used cups instead of large bottles. This one I'm in the minority on preferring but to me the bottle causes far more waste

-Lots of interaction from the race director and volunteers before, during, and after the event

-Every mile was signposted

-No time limit on the races

-Mixed terrain so you weren't just running on pavement for the entire race

-The course was just hilly enough to keep your legs guessing but there weren't any monster climbs

Click to enlarge

-The medal! It's quite nice and unlike some that feel plasticky and cheap, it has a nice heft to it

-Banana in the goody bag (it's all about the bananas!)

The not so good:

-The chip timing company used the larger style chips that are meant to be worn on velcro bands around your ankle and the beaded zip ties provided in lieu of the bands weren't the most sturdy in my opinion.  I was remarking at the beginning that there would probably be a few of them falling off and mine ended up being one! Twist ties or regular zip ties would be much more reliable. 

-A few more portaloos at the start wouldn't have gone amiss

-Very limited to no phone service, totally out of their control but it is something to be aware of

-Mixed terrain. I know I listed this in the good section but there were a couple of areas that was very rocky and it killed my feet. That's partly my fault for wearing my lighter weight road shoes instead of the trail or the thicker soled road trainers but again something to keep in mind.  

-The medal was the same for all 3 distances (that's being nitpicky, I actually don't mind but some might).

-I didn't notice any electrolyte based drinks at the aid stations, doesn't mean they weren't there, I just didn't happen to see any. 

As you can see I had to struggle to find something bad. 

A recurring grumble I have about a handful of other runners is that they leave their empty gel packets on the ground instead of tucking them back away into a pocket or bag and carrying them to the next water station.  Clean up after yourself!!!!!!!!!!!!! Those packets are not biodegradable and the race volunteers are not your mums! 

The Longhorn Part III

So onto the last part of this race report--how did I actually get on?

As I wrote in the first part of this I was fully expecting to DNF. I wasn't even sad about it, the plan was to go out, do what I could for as long as my body would hold out and have fun with the day. There were a few things that could have ruined my attitude but I made the conscious decision to just laugh them off and keep on trucking.

The first thing was discovering that the elastic on the pants of the running skirt I was wearing decided to give up the ghost! I should have expected it because I have had that one for a few years I just didn't think it would do so yesterday! Apologies to all behind me who might have gotten flashed and had to deal with me constantly pulling the wedgie out from my bum cheeks!

MICHAEL ROWLANDS: Longhorn 2015 Marathon (Yellow Race Numbers) &emdash; Longhorn Thoresby
First lap!

The next was the tie holding my timing chip onto the shoe decided to come loose on one side within the first half mile necessitating a stop to try and fix it and then it coming all the way off just before the half marathon racers caught up to us! There was an extended stop to tie it through my shoe lace while noticing one of the ties had outright broken.  Once I finally got going again I'd been passed by a couple of the speedy women in our running club and had a chance to chat with one of the guys before he zoomed off as well.

The gear: GU, 9bar, amphipod, spibelt, Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem

My one goal yesterday was to do something different every time I spotted a photographer and I think I succeeded based on the proofs I have seen so far. One photographer even thanked me when I did something silly! I'm sure their jobs can be very monotonous with taking the same picture repeatedly. 

MICHAEL ROWLANDS: Longhorn 2015 Marathon (Yellow Race Numbers) &emdash; Longhorn Thoresby
Having fun on the 2nd lap

The scenery was top-notch and it never got boring. There were fields of sheep with baby lambs scampering about and baaing at us running by while their mums glowered making sure we kept our distance.  The longhorn cattle would stop their grazing and almost pose majestically. Beautiful waving fields of golden rapeseed. Huge trees with so many twists, turns, and knots. Uneven ground on occasion to remind you that it was a trail race and to mind the footing. A stream babbling under a stone bridge. There's more but I'm rambling a bit here.  

A somewhat late summary:
First lap--slight wardrobe malfunction, timer chip issue, a couple of miles that were too fast.

Second lap--Still feeling good, chatted with a half marathoner that had caught up to me around 5.5 miles, started on my bottle of perpetuem, emergency portaloo stop at the 2nd one on the course, constant nose blowing, chatting away to whomever crossed my path. Began flagging just before climbing the hill towards the race village but still running so continued on even though the rocky areas were starting to play hell with my feet.

Third lap--Worst. Stitch. Ever. One too many bites of a 9bar reduced me to a slow walk and gasping for air. Finally got lapped by a running club mate who was on his way to winning the marathon! Legs started cramping towards the end. Play race leap frog with the cutest couple ever. Other zip tie on the timing chip breaks. Flop, flop, flop against the top of my foot.

Fourth lap--aka the trudge. Yes, I decided to continue the slog. Dumped the belts over the fence  by the club banners (bottles were empty by this point) and kept moving forward in painfully slow motion. Cramps started in earnest and my nose was doing its level best to drown me in snot. Pick out a sign, run to it then walk to the next. Lather, rinse, repeat for 6.5 miles.  Smile and thank the volunteers. Nearly cry when I see Kerry, Andrew, and James who walked out on the course to cheer 
me in on the final mile.

MICHAEL ROWLANDS: Marathon (Yellow race numbers) &emdash;

Final stretch, I can finally see the finish line and all of a sudden there is the loudest, craziest, yell from across the race village field and there is a blond blur running towards me! Cathy had stayed to see the last of the club in too and her enthusiasm was so infectious that she got people who had nothing to do with the race cheering for me as well! Best. Cheerleader. EVER. I am still getting all kinds of teary-eyed thinking about it. 

We will not discuss my wobble towards the volunteer in charge of removing the chips nor how the EMT kept hovering around me after that wobble, lol. I also cannot condone running a marathon not being fully recovered from a cold that developed into bronchitis...However I can endorse The Longhorn as being a top-notch event (many thanks again to Amanda and Mollie!) and that the Ilkeston Running Club represented and then some with Andrew winning the marathon, Cathy was first overall female marathon finisher, and Melissa was the same for the half marathon.  Huge thank you for everyone that waited around for me to finish up, I didn't DNF and even though I tried I wasn't the last finisher (almost but not quite!). Somehow I even managed to get a personal best by a couple of minutes.  

MICHAEL ROWLANDS: Epic line Crossings, final sprints and happiness. (photographers choices. &emdash;
The end is near! 

15 April 2015

2015 Teversal BDL Recap

Short girl problems!

Last night was the first of our summer BDL races at Teversal (the race league series is free with our yearly club membership) and I was debating right up until 5pm whether to run it or not.  The illness that knocked me for a loop at the Easter 10k ended up putting my partner on the couch for most of a week and has settled into my chest. Combine that with my horrendous allergies and it's a bit of a struggle to breathe so I knew I wouldn't be able to match last year's time but I figured that a run would either kill me or make me feel better.  It didn't do either one so it's just as well I made the effort to get out!

The Teversal course is an interesting one in that we end up at the highest manmade point in Nottinghamshire around mile 3.3ish.  It's not a straight up-hill slog though, there are a series of wide switchbacks with ups, downs, and flats to break up the climb then it's mostly downhill for the last 1.6 miles.  Last year I felt great once the race started and put in a reasonable time of 38:45 (188th place overall) but I started at the very back this time with the only goal of just hanging on and finishing.  One of my running club mates (hi Paula!) asked if I felt well (no), should I be there (of course not) and was I going to pass out (probably)...paraphrasing the questions but I think my replies are mostly accurate.

The great thing about starting in the very back is that you don't get caught up in the mad rush at the start and jack rabbit your first mile, the bad thing is that the race isn't chip-timed (but it's free so I'm not complaining!) so you will lose several seconds.  The other good part about it is that the atmosphere is more relaxed so you are not as likely to get kicked, elbowed, or knocked down and there is a fair bit of laughing and chattering.

Since I wasn't placing a time goal on myself I decided to use some of the principles that I was telling the Nordic Walkers from the morning session to focus on--nice upright posture to keep the breathing easy and relaxed arms and shoulders.  A good result from doing so was that the pics taken there weren't outright horrible if you ignore the faces I was making!*  Another result? I ended up running faster and more consistent than I expected to and while I was 21 seconds slower than last year I gained four places (184th).

This is what it looks like when I'm on allergy meds and decongestant! Goofy face!

Random thoughts:

  • There was a girl who had a bloody nose during the race, while there was nothing I could do I did slow and ask if she was ok. It probably irritated her but I couldn't go by and say nothing in good conscience. 
  • This is the second year in a row I've not taken any notice of the humongous miner statue at the top, we need to make a road trip over on a clear day to walk up and take photos
  • Totally irritates me when runners don't throw their cups into a bin especially if there's one just a few steps away.  This was after the race by the way so no excuse for it. 
  • If you smile at the marshals then you get extra words of encouragement in return.
  • Faster runners who go back on the course to warm-down and don't give way to those still racing are jerks who deserve to get elbowed. And perhaps voodoo dolls made in their likeness.
  • Decongestants dehydrate you so be sure and drink extra fluids! 

*The finish line photos are just as terrible as ever, must learn to smile during a sprint to the finish

Tissue in hand, tissue in the bra and apparently I took a nap on the way

13 April 2015

Americanisms...or are they?

This list link was posted on a facebook group I'm part of this morning, I had to laugh because there are several I've gotten corrected on and it turns out they are originally English...or in the case of autumn, French!

Ben photobombing my trail pic
Even Ben thinks this is funny!

Guess (to suppose)/??? I'm not sure on this one unless it is 'to suppose'
Slain and slay/(another one I'm not sure about)
Loan (verb)/???
Draft (selection for service)/???

Gotten of course is just slagged off as poor grammar and mentioning that football used to be called soccer in the UK will cause a VERY animated discussion! Please comment and let me know what the UK versions are of the words that have question marks. 

08 April 2015

Getting lost and Notts Easter 10k

'Don't Follow Me, I'm Lost'

I don't think I will ever get my sense of direction to work right here in the UK. My head is just too used to the square grid roads and neighbourhoods of the states and trying to change 40 plus years of directional training is pretty much a lost cause (pun intended).  Yes, this is a lead-up to me talking about getting lost on a run again which usually isn't a problem because I am not on that much of a time crunch about having to be somewhere...however on Monday there was.  I had won entry into the Notts Easter 10k via a Run Nottingham facebook contest and since I'm not in 10k race shape I decided to make it into a long run with the race being a tempo at the end.  Good plan, right?

It would have been if I'd recce'd the route first instead of just mapping it out on the screen! I ended up making not one, but two wrong turns so the 20 minute cushion I'd built into the time I thought I'd need to get to Wollaton Hall got eaten up by having to dig my phone out of the rucksack and waiting on the gps to find me so I could figure out where I went wrong.  I was running up to the Hall for a much needed loo stop when they were announcing 10 minutes until race start (stress from being lost and it being much warmer than usual equalled GI distress) and by the time I got all that sorted I didn't get to the start line until 4 minutes 'til go time.  No time to catch my breath, change my shoes or take in the Perpetuem I'd prepared so I knew it was not going to be a good result.

To say I bonked (check out this article about what it means to bonk) would be an understatement, the last 2 miles were pure torture and it took every bit of willpower I had to not stop and walk even though I think a walking pace might have been faster.  Needless to say the plan to run home was scrubbed.

The Good:
  • Beautiful venue, Wollaton Hall is gorgeous
  • Plenty of loos, in addition to the toilets at the Hall the race organisers provided portaloos closer to the start/finish line
  • Well marshalled
  • Free parking pass
  • Coffee mug instead of a t-shirt
  • Bananas! Actually they went a step further and had apples as well
  • Other park users meant lots of cheering
  • Every kilometre was marked and they had timing clocks on the course and at the end
  • Additional food available for purchase
  • Announced the names of the runners as they entered the finishing chute
The Bad:
  • Not chip timed
  • Other park users that were very perturbed about the race being held there and a few chose very inopportune times to cross over the course. There were more than a few near collisions
  • Getting in and out of the car park was a bit of a hassle
  • The bibs are too large! Yes, that might be a silly thing to grumble about but I hate when I have a paper bib flapping about, it's irritating and distracting plus it's a waste of paper.
  • No water stop on the course. Normally not an issue but the temps had jumped from around 7C (45F) to 16-17C and was sunny so everyone was suffering because of not being acclimatised to the warmer temps
Would I do this race again? Yes, I would! Despite the snafu with the timing near the end which they corrected within 24 hours it was very well organised and under other circumstances (which were self-inflicted) I would have quite enjoyed it. Thank you again Run Nottingham for the race entry!

07 April 2015

Expat food cravings

No matter how well adjusted expats become to the food available in their current country of abode there are always a few cravings from back home (usually unhealthy) that just can't be ignored. Mine is mostly of the Tex-Mex variety but I do have to confess that one of the others is the packaged instant ramen noodles...yes, I know you don't get much more unhealthy than those but adding a handful of kale and not using the flavouring pack lessens the evil somewhat (right???).  After a bit of snooping around the local shops I have discovered that I can at least fulfil that particular urge.

After extensive research (hey, someone has to do it!) I've narrowed it down to these two options from Tesco and Aldi (in other words those two shops are the ones closest to me). The Aldi version is 100g for 18p, Tesco is 65g for 20p--I'm sure you can guess which one I buy most often! Ostensibly the former is 2 servings per packet but does anyone really believe that? That ranks up there with the suggested serving size of cereals.  With that settled, recommendations for GOOD Mexican or Tex-Mex in England would be very much appreciated!

03 April 2015

Holy Hotspot Hell

If I listened to music when I ran this would have been today's theme song for the last 5 miles

Today's run certainly did not go to plan. I was initially thinking that I would try and get in a 20 miler by running from mine to meet up with a couple of other friends for a 13-15 miler and then back but last night's designated driver's duties went a little later than I thought. Pair that with a very dodgy platter of nachos for after run re-fueling and things are going to go wrong! Upset stomach and over-sleeping meant that I ended up driving to the meeting place so 6 miles out the window there. Then at 8.5 miles I started getting a major hot spot on the bottom of my left foot--the insoles in the trainers I was wearing had started slipping about so I'd removed them 2 weeks ago but hadn't ran further than 7 miles in them since. Apparently anything over that is a no-go! Running hurt but walking hurt even more. Hey-ho, live and learn, that's what training runs are for is to find problems like this.

Of Runsound Mind

If you're on facebook please give Of Runsound Mind a like please, there's also a twitter account but as of right now it's just cross-posting the facebook stuff.  Thanks and I hope everyone has a great holiday weekend celebrating Easter in your preferred way and that you have a much better long run than I did today! 

01 April 2015

View from Breedon on the Hill

As a truckdriver back in the states there were many times I'd spot interesting things from the interstate (motorway) and think to myself that I should go see that up close.  The same thing happens quite often here only it's from the passenger seat of a car rather than behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler which makes it far easier to take little detours. One of those places happened to be a church atop a hill that can be seen from the A42 in Leicestershire in the village of Breedon on the Hill (sometime soon I need to write about the differences of villages, parishes, hamlets, towns, and cities but not today).

To delve into a bit of toponymy, Breedon is a combination of the Celtic and Old English words for hill so basically Breedon on the Hill is a bit repetitious! To be fair though, it is quite a hill and you can get some amazing views for miles in several directions so it's no surprise that it used to be an Iron Age hillfort. The church standing there now was preceded by a monastery (approx 676 AD) and a priory later on (1122), more of the history can be found here.

The quarry as viewed from just outside the Church grounds

The Jubilee Beacon

Interior of the church

A moss 'forest' on the stone wall

Manx Loaghtan sheep

The other thing we were fascinated by was the herd of the sheep that had 2 to 4 horns! Neither of us had ever seen these before and we spent quite a bit of time trying to get some decent pictures of them. As you can see from the photo above they weren't at all interested in our attention or posing.  Turns out they are Manx Loaghtan sheep and they are on the watch list of rare breeds.  

The mutts and I outside the roundhouse in the village

While Breedon on the Hill isn't exactly a tourist hot-spot, it does provide some interesting things to explore and very spectacular views.  After our visit I did more research on the church and I would like to make a return trip to look more closely at the artwork and carvings.