Sospan 10k

A full fortnight late, but finally written!

I meant to write this sooner. Ideally, I would’ve written it the day after, but since the race was in Llanelli, Alex and I decided to make a weekend of it and have a mini holiday.

The race was on a Saturday, so we drove over to Llanelli on the Friday morning. I’d had to borrow my mum’s Mazda 2 because my blue baby was in the garage having emergency work done on it, so because I was nervous and desperate to not prang the car, it wasn’t the quickest of journeys. I think Alex enjoyed not having to drive for once, though.

We got to Llanelli around lunchtime, but couldn’t check in to our luxury accommodation (Travelodge) until 3 o’clock, so we went in search of food. One seafood platter and one veggie burger later and we still had an hour to go. We decided to explore the town. I dragged Alex into a health food shop, where for the sake of my overdraft I resisted buying just about everything. I walked out with just a Panda red liquorice bar, because I hadn’t had one since I was in school.

We wandered around the market and found a gaming shop with arcade machines. Alex spotted Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles and had a go. He did pretty well, too!

Sospan 10k

The Travelodge was exactly as I expected, but it came as a surprise to me that Alex had never stayed in one before. I don’t think he was impressed. I could’ve done with it being several degrees cooler in the building and many degrees cooler in the room, but they did provide a fan, which helped a little.

We spent the afternoon with Liz (Lizitivity), her husband and their almost-7-month-old daughter (our goddaughter). I’d been warned that she would probably cry when she saw me, but she didn’t. I’m not good with babies, but Tabitha seemed happy enough to sit on my lap and we had quite a long raspberry blowing competition. She won. I’m rubbish at raspberries.

Since Liz and I had the 10k the following morning, we chilled out, ordered pizza and had a nice evening catching up. I say that as if we don’t speak every day…

Did I sleep well that night? No. I had difficulty getting to sleep and then staying asleep.

The morning came around, and as usual, I couldn’t get it together. I don’t do mornings. I’m rubbish at mornings. I’d taken breakfast supplies with me, so I forced down a cup of green tea, some strawberries, and a cereal bar. I panicked that I’d forgotten my trainers, when they were beside the bed all along.

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I don’t know what’s up with the time in those screenshots but it definitely wasn’t midnight. More like 8am.

Liz came to pick us up, and since the race started within walking distance of her house we used the loo ‘one last time’ at her house – anything to not use the portaloos – and then walked over to the start.

Being on the Millennium Costal Path in Llanelli, we knew it was going to be a breezy run. The plan had been for Liz and her husband to take turns pushing the baby in the buggy. Unfortunately, her husband had to work, so it was just the two of us running. I was happy to give pushing a go, but when we got to the race venue and it was so flipping windy, Alex volunteered to babysit so we could have an easier time of it for the 10k.

We registered, dutifully pinned on our race numbers and clipped the timing chips around our left ankles. I dithered over whether I wanted to join the portaloo queue, or whether it was just my brain playing tricks. I did not join the queue. I feel as though I’ve missed out on the full race experience really, having never used a portaloo before.

We lined up at the start, towards the back of the pack because we knew we would be doing run/walk intervals (remember how I didn’t train for this?) and I had time for one more wistful glance back at the portaloos before we were off and running.

We’d barely got around the first corner from the start line before the rain started. Freezing cold, driving rain. All I could do was laugh. It was a brief shower and stopped quite quickly, which I think everyone on the course was pleased about. We ran at a quickish pace (for me) and I felt good. I don’t know how far we ran before our first walk break. I wasn’t in it for a time, just to complete the distance. We walked for a bit, ran for a bit. Liz got a stitch, and despite having read a dozen articles over the years about how to run through and get past a stitch, I couldn’t remember a single one!

The sun came out, and on our walking breaks, I took some photos. It’s an absolutely stunning out and back route – I’m very jealous of the people who live nearby and get to run that path often!

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The leaders began coming past, and we played ‘spot the running club’ and ‘spot the race t-shirt’. As well as lots of clubs local to the area, I spotted a lot of runners from Parc Bryn Bach, which is near where I live. I also saw a few Liswerry and a couple of Islwyn vests, a familiar face or two, but no Pont-y-Pŵl runners. Lots of people proudly sported their Swansea Half Marathon shirts from the previous weekend, but I don’t remember any other race t-shirts standing out.
What? I like t-shirt spotting!

The runners heading back towards us cheered us slower runners on, and that was a great boost, although I felt I should have been the one saying ‘well done’ to them!

I was in a fantastic mood, and my positivity probably made Liz want to kill me. All the way through, I kept setting us goals and landmarks to run to, then suggesting we go a little further. I used terrible phrases like ‘we can do it’ and ‘not much further’. I said we should imagine Jillian Michaels was yelling at us to keep running.

At the hill (it’s not a big one, in comparison to where I run, but on a flat course and with no training it felt like a bloomin’ big one!) there were Teletubbies cheering for us all. Liz and I were very tempted to stop for a photo with them, but we carried on.

By about 3k, the chip timer around my ankle had really started to chafe. That’s my one and only gripe about this race, especially as I’m still sporting a scab from it. Had I known the chips were anklets, I would have worn ankle socks or wrapped a buff around to prevent the possibility of chafing. Alas, I didn’t find out until the day, when I was buff-less and wearing trainer socks.

The course turned around at about 4k, where there was a water station. Little bottles with sports caps – perfect! We stopped to walk for a bit after grabbing water, because I cannot run and drink at the same time.

After 5k, we did a lot more walking than running. A couple of times Liz suggested I go on ahead, as she was having some hip pain, but I refused. We signed up to do it together, so I wasn’t going to leave her. There was a photographer midway along the route, and we posed for him (“Look happy, he’s got a camera! Look like we’re having fun!”) but although he had looked like an official photographer, his photos didn’t seem to make it onto the website with the others.

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Honestly, the whole 10k seemed to me to take no time at all. I loved it. The walking breaks meant that I could take in the scenery, and it was so nice to just be out there together. We spoke to a few of the others who were at the back of the pack with us, and everyone seemed to be having a good time.

Around 2k from the finish, we saw Alex standing at the side of the path to cheer us on. We stopped for Liz to say hello to Tabitha and give her a kiss before we pressed on to the end. One more little out and back section, and we were almost there. I suggested we run from the top of the last rise down to the finish line, but Liz was hurting and urged me to go on ahead. I still felt as though I had energy, so this time I went for it despite the guilt of leaving her behind. As it turns out, I thought I had more in me than I did and went too fast. By the time I rounded the corner to the finish, I realised my mistake. Too late. People were cheering. A man with a microphone was announcing that I was just coming to the finish. Never mind that he misread my race number and thought I was someone called Nadine… There was a photographer. Couldn’t stop with all that going on.

I crossed the line, and a very nice lady put a medal around my neck. “Run into the medal!”
I pushed ‘stop’ on my watch, but the damn thing didn’t stop. I didn’t find that out until about 6 minutes later…
I accepted a bottle of water and a banana, then turned around to cheer Liz on as she came across the line. We drank our water, Liz ate my banana (I’m not a fan unless they’re in smoothies or cake) and we lay on the grass to take photos with our medals. I was a good girl and stretched because I didn’t want to be driving home the next day in pain.

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Fabulous medal!

Alex and I headed back to the hotel so I could shower and change. We drove over to meet up with Liz and her husband again and opted for a meal at the baby-friendly Brewer’s Fayre nearby. For the life of me I can’t remember what I had to eat, but I do remember the lovely glass of rosé that went with it.

The following day I looked up my chip time (nothing to get excited about, but nice to know, and an automatic PB since it was my first 10k) and looked at the official photos.

My finish line photos are awful. Worst photos ever. Not even the funny kind of bad.

Anyway. It was a great day, superbly organised by the Sospan Road Runners. The support from the marshals and spectators along the course was great. I will be back next year to run the whole distance.

Liz has also blogged about this and the Kolor Dash we did a few weeks ago – you can read her post and see her photos here.

Kolor Dash

I’ve never been so orange in my life…

I woke up yesterday morning, excited for my first running event, the 5k Kolor Dash in Newport. Not only was it my first event, but also a colour run organised by and in aid of a great charity, St David’s Hospice Care. And I was going to be running it with by best friend. What could be better?

Alex had agreed to come along and support us (not at all influenced by the promise of BBQ after the run), so after a healthyish breakfast of cereal, strawberries from our garden, and cocoa nibs, we set off for Tredegar Park in Newport.

We got there fairly early. Registration opened at 10 o’clock, and we knew parking was going to be tight so we wanted to make sure we were there in plenty of time. There was a little confusion for both us and Liz, because the park wasn’t signposted at all coming off the motorway, but we all made it there and headed over to the registration tent at about half past 10.

Everything was so well organised and efficient. We collected our numbers and then headed back to the park entrance to find a toilet. With that taken care of, it was time to meander over to the start, where the DJ was playing some energetic music to get people fired up. Alex left us to find a spot to spectate, while we tried to join in with the warmup. I don’t know about you, but I’m not so good at getting into things like that. The personal trainer and Bollywood dancers leading the warmup from the stage were fantastic, but I think Liz and I both felt a bit awkward.

We made a small error with our placement at the start. Because we knew we would be doing running and walking intervals, we decided to start near the back. We ended up a little too far back, behind quite a lot of children and people with buggies. That hampered our start, so our goal of running the first mile and then doing intervals for the rest sort of went out the window.

The course was 3 1-mile laps around the park. It was a little frustrating having to dodge and overtake, but as a lot of the slower runners and people with children dropped out after the first lap, the second two felt easier.

The volunteers showering runners with paint powder were brilliant. As you can see from my face, the team at the orange station were particularly enthusiastic! Sunglasses were encouraged, to keep paint out of runners’ eyes, but somehow the first cloud of orange went straight under my glasses and into my eyes anyway!

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Attempt at a running selfie
The music was fun – every time we came around to the start of a new lap we’d have a great song like Gina G or McFly.

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Better attempt at a post-run selfie
Afterwards, we claimed our medals, took a few photos, then headed back to our cars to clean up a bit. Thank goodness for baby wipes! We went back over to the park to get some food and coffee, and watched The Bollywoodettes perform while we sat on the grass to eat.

The whole day was well organised, with a lovely atmosphere. I love the engraving on the back of the medal – my first medal for a live event! I hope the Kolor Dash runs again next year – I’ll definitely be signing up! Huge thanks to St David’s Hospice Care for putting on the run, and to all the staff and volunteers who gave their time to make it a success!

It was great fun, and running with Liz was brilliant. I’m definitely looking forward to our 10k together next month, and I really hope we can run together more often, even though we live 50+ miles away from each other.

Running again

Finally!

What’s this? An actual blog post about running? No way!

I have, to put it mildly, been a bit crap these last few weeks. I ran twice last week. I ran once the week before, and the week before that. I haven’t been idle, I’ve walked and started back to strength training, but for several reasons I just haven’t run.

Last week was a good running week, though. I decided that since I was visiting my parents after work on Tuesday, I would take my running kit with me and go for a run along the canal path near their house. It’s one of the places I feel safe running alone, so that wouldn’t be an issue. Of course, after sitting in traffic, sweating like mad despite having the car windows open, I didn’t feel like running. It was only when my dad checked the traffic news and found that my route home was blocked by a collision that I decided I would go for the run after all.
I aimed for 2 miles, but my app had somehow reconfigured itself to kilometres. I’m not the greatest at maths on the fly, so I misjudged and came up short at 1.96 miles. I was thrilled to have run the whole distance, after such a lousy few weeks with no running time, and pretty pleased that I managed the first mile with a pace of 11:23, and the whole run with an average of 12:04.

Wednesday is the day I usually run with a group of ladies from work, but last Wednesday I was the only person up for it. I didn’t fancy running alone around the area I work, so I headed to my parents’ house to change and run the canal path again, determined to make it to 2 miles this time. I made it to 2.33 miles, and managed an average pace of 12:06.

Since then, I let things get in the way. The heat – I’m not used to it at all, let alone running in it. It’s aggravated my asthma, making things that much more difficult. Anxiety has played a large part in keeping me from running. More about that in a future post, but for now it’s enough to say that some days I just can’t get out of the front door to run because of it. My birthday on the weekend meant cake and booze, rather than exercise, and I just haven’t been able to get back into the mindset.

I left the house today with my running kit in my bag, and although I had to be somewhere after work so I couldn’t join my colleagues for a run, I once again changed at my parents’ house and went out, determined to get myself back into the habit.

The beautiful Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal
It was hard going. I promised myself that after the first mile I could stop and do run/walk intervals. I just had to get to the bridge that marked a mile… Then at the bridge I convinced myself to go to 1.5… I got there and saw a dog walker coming towards me, so told myself to just pass him and then I could stop. Then it was 2 miles. Then it was ‘go on, just beat that 2.33 you did last week’. But 2.33 is so close to 2.5… I made it, according to my Garmin, to 2.62 before I really did have to stop because my lungs were struggling to cope.

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Maybe don’t look at the pace there, yeah?
Since getting back home, a stinking, sweaty mess (who wants to look pristine after a workout, anyway?), I’ve caught up with social media and discovered that today is Best Friends Day. Knowing that, I can’t pass up a shout out to my best friend, Liz. We’ve known each other for almost 13 years, since meeting at university, and stuck together through thick and thin. Check out her blog, Lizitivity. It’s bloomin’ good.

In all our years of friendship, with both of us having an interest in fitness and running, we’ve never once worked out together. That’s going to change next weekend – we’re running together for the first time on Sunday at the Kolor Dash in Newport. This is my first event ever, and I can’t wait! We’ll be run/walking, as Liz has recently had a baby, and this is her first running event since.

We’re running for St David’s Foundation Hospice Care, a charity that’s very close to my heart, as they looked after my granddad in his last days. They do brilliant work supporting patients and families, so if you’d like to read more about their projects or sponsor us and contribute to the work they do, this is our fundraising link.

Now I think it’s time for me to relax with my newest Netflix obsession: Orange is the New Black. Despite thinking I wasn’t going to like it when I first put it on, I’m now halfway through the first series and hooked!

‘Enter a race’, they said.

‘It’ll give you motivation’, they said.

So I did. I entered four. Oops.

The first is the Kolor Dash at Tredegar Park in Newport. I signed up in January with my friend, Liz. I’ve always wanted to try a colour run, and
as the charity organising this one is very close to my heart, I decided to sign up. It’ll be my first running and fundraising event, and Liz’s first since having a baby. Although I did sign up so that it would motivate me to train, because it’s a fun event and not a timed one, there’s no pressure. If we want to run, we can run. If we want to walk some of it, we can walk. Plus there’s a BBQ at the end, which I’m already looking forward to!

colour run

A couple of days after signing up for the Kolor Dash, some friends asked if I wanted to join them for the Parc Bryn Bach Rainbow Run in July. Of course, I said yes! A couple of days later, we all signed up for a Pretty Muddy 5k run in the autumn. Two fun events ticked straight off my running wish list – a colour run and a mud run!

Then, a few weeks ago, Liz asked if I wanted to do the Sospan 10k in Llanelli. I’ve wanted to sign up for a 10k, but worried that I would be too slow or not able to finish. I decided to go for it. Liz and her husband will be running, and pushing their daughter in the buggy, so we’ll run together.

I’m looking forward to all four of these runs. I know that I can run the whole of the Kolor Dash, albeit slowly. Since the other two 5k runs are quite a long time after that, I know I’ll be ok for those. The 10k is the one I’m most apprehensive about. I think that if I hadn’t signed up with friends, I would struggle, but knowing they’ll be there not only gives me motivation to train but means that I won’t chicken out on the day and let them down.

What was your first organised event?
What races and events do you have coming up?

A bad run

Better than no run at all?

I’ve waited a few days to write this post, just to get a little distance and perspective.

I had a terrible run last Thursday.

I wanted to write a blog post as soon as I got through the door, but I was in such a terrible mood that it seemed inadvisable.

I hadn’t run at all since the previous Monday, which had been a fab run with a friend. I don’t know about you, but after a good run like that, I tend to put too much pressure on myself for the next one to be just as good. So I put off going again. I skipped my Wednesday run with work colleagues in favour of going to a Latino Fit class, which I missed because I got stuck in traffic. The universe conspired against me then, with a few days where everything went wrong. You know they say things come in threes? I think this household had three sets of threes…

So by the time I was ready to run again, it had been nine days. I spent all day in work thinking about the run, which, since I don’t like to run alone, Alex had agreed to join me for. I knew it wasn’t going to be a good run. It had been too long since the last one, and last week was so hot. Still, I was excited to get back out there and when I got home from work I squeezed into my running gear and off we went to the park.

And it was shit. Right from the start, it was a struggle. I can’t say how much of it was down to the gap between runs and how much was down to the weather, which made me feel as though there was no air. I couldn’t fill my lungs; I gasped and wheezed all the way around.

I’ve been trying to improve my mental attitude and become more positive. (Readers who know me are now laughing in disbelief.) I ran telling myself I could do it, and I was stronger than my negative thoughts. Still, at the half mile point, when I hit a small incline, I uttered the words “sod it” and walked. I started to run again when I caught some of my breath back, but stopped halfway up the only hill on the route, and resumed running on the way back down. It wasn’t so bad for the next half mile or so. Somehow, I kept going. But I was slow. So slow. I apologised countless times for how slow and crap I was. The worst of it was that Alex hadn’t run with me in a long time, and this first run together since I re-started running (for the umpteenth time) was so much worse than all the others I’d done recently. All the way around the course I compared it to previous efforts, and concluded that it had never felt so hard. Clearly, the positive mental attitude was working…

Running up the final incline, I had to stop and wrestle my inhaler out of my running belt. I walked up that hill, puffing on it, and in the distance saw my usual running buddy. She was with a friend and they seemed to be enjoying themselves. I envied them, and I was embarrassed at the fact that I was walking and not enjoying myself. I ran the final stretch, got to the end (we were running the parkrun course) and wanted to cry.

I looked at Runkeeper. 3.27 miles in 41:14. 12:38 min/mile.
I compared it to the excellent Monday run. 3.35 miles in 38:42. 11:34 min/mile.
Awful, awful, awful.

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I told Alex I wouldn’t make him go running with me again. After all, he’s a good runner, and fast.

I wasn’t a happy bunny all evening. My lungs hurt, my pride hurt, and between wheezes and attempts to cheer myself up, I spent a lot of time staring at Runkeeper.
I looked back over recent runs and concluded that it wasn’t as horrendously slow as I thought. My Wednesday runs after work are always slower than that. Most of the runs I do with my running buddy, including parkruns, are only a little quicker.

Now, having had more time to think about it, I can see why it felt so awful.
I was putting pressure on myself to be better than was reasonable, given the gap between runs and the fact that the weather was against me.
I pushed myself too hard. Normally, when I go with my running buddy, we chat during the run. On Thursday, I could barely get out a couple of words at a time. I wasn’t running at my comfortable pace. Whether that was because I was desperate to ‘do better’ or because I didn’t want to be too slow because I was with Alex, I don’t know. Maybe a little of both.
And I spent the whole time beating myself up about being slow and useless and unfit. Normally, even when it’s a difficult run, I focus on the positives. The lovely park I run in, the fact that I’m out there and doing it at all, that kind of thing.

So Thursday was a bad day. But it’s not the end of the world. I got through it, despite wanting to give up and walk, and despite wanting to burst into tears at several points. My next run will be better, and I’ve been reminded of a few things not to do when I go out there.

Do you think a bad run is better than no run at all?
What’s your strategy for getting over a disappointing, discouraging, or just plain bad run?

The difficult second post

Why I stopped running, and why I started again. And stopped again.

In December 2009 I experienced my first fitness setback. A sharp, awful pain in my left hip. I got out of bed one morning and found myself stuck, just holding on to the windowsill. It eased, and I drove to work. Or halfway to work, before pulling over into a car park, in tears of pain, ringing my boss and telling her I couldn’t come in.

I went to the doctor. No help. I went to my mum’s osteopath, who managed to ease the pain.

I started my fitness routine again. But the pain kept coming back. Every few months it would get too bad to continue, and it turned from just a sharp nerve pain to tingling in my leg. The doctor insisted it could be a tumour and I needed an x-ray. Thanks for that. That didn’t have me worried, panicked and crying at the drop of a hat for weeks. Yes, I’d have preferred if she had just not mentioned ‘tumour’ at all. Continue reading “The difficult second post”

The awkward first post

A VERY quick intro, and how I got into fitness.

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It’s an old photo, but this is a post about the past, after all.

I’m Laura. I’m 30 years old, from South Wales, and as of earlier this year I live in the Rhymney Valley with my fiancé and our three cats.

I always find introductions awkward, so I’m going to skim over that and invite you to check out my ‘about’ page to find out more about me and about this blog, including why it’s called Maximum Sloth.

This first post is going to focus on how I got into fitness in the first place.

Continue reading “The awkward first post”