Sunday, 9 April 2017

Don't Bring Me Down - Bruce!

Externalising the Negative Inner Voice

Self doubt - we've all had a portion of it from time to time.  It's that negative inner voice that periodically rears its head and could shatter our confidence if we let it.  It is probably more of an enemy than illness or injury.  Sometimes it can help to externalise the inner voice - it makes it easier to argue with!  It can also help to give it a name!

Do you know the ELO song, "Don't bring me down"?   The lyrics are actually, "Don't bring me down ..... grooss" - whatever the heck 'grooss' is (but actually click here to find out what grooss is!).  I prefer the misheard Lyric, "Don't bring me down - Bruce!" especially since hearing the song one day on a run with Cheryl and Jo Mo, when we sort of decided that the negative inner voice is someone called Bruce!

And then, of course, the song lends itself to a bit of modification .........

When I’m out runnin' you keep filling my mind
Some of the things you say are not very kind,
(Don't bring me down, no no no no no)
I'll tell you once more as I run out of the door
(Don't bring me down)

You said I’d never even run a mile
I’ve run much further and it makes me smile
(Don't bring me down, no no no no no)
I'll tell you once more as I run out of the door
(Don't bring me down)

Don't bring me down, Bruce!!
Don't bring me down, Bruce!!
Don't bring me down, Bruce!!
Don't bring me down

You said that running wouldn’t be my thing,
The last laugh’s on you ‘cause I’m running The Sting
(Don't bring me down, no no no no no)
I'll tell you once more as I run out of the door
(Don't bring me down)

I’ve now done 10ks and half marathons too
It’s just as well I didn’t listen to you
(Don't bring me down, no no no no no no no)
I'll tell you once more as I run out of the door
(Don't bring me down)

Don't bring me down, Bruce!!
Don't bring me down, Bruce!!
Don't bring me down, Bruce!!
Don't bring me down

It’s not about the speed - I’m running for fun
As well as flapjack and a cake and a bun,
(Don't bring me down, no no no no no no no)
I'll tell you once more as I run out of the door
(Don't bring me down)

You say my parkrun is a tortoise pace,
I’m telling you that it’s a run, not a race
(Don't bring me down, no no no no no)
I'll tell you once more as I run out of the door,
Don't bring me down, down, down

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

A Weekend of Two Halves

On the surface, this post is about 2 events. But actually it's more about two other running related subjects - Support / Friends and 'Head Stuff'.......

When Sarah suggested that we run
 Dukeries 10 (an 11 mile trail run) this year, I was up for it. After all, we ran Dukeries 30 last May (and have entered again for this year), so, yeah, why not. It will be good training.  How difficult could it be?

When she suggested we muster up a team of 4 for the Caythorpe Dash (half-marathon, mainly off-road), I was slightly more dubious as I've seen photos from previous years
 - mostly very muddy!  But I said yes.  Again, it would be another good training run for Dukeries.

Then Sarah just casually mentioned these two events are on the same weekend and that
 Mike said that back to back runs would be beneficial in preparing for Dukeries.  OK then.......

Dukeries 10 - Saturday 11th February 2017

As we approached the weekend, I was unusually unexcited and unusually apprehensive.  I know why.  I've had a couple or three weeks where every run has felt quite tough.  Even taking it steady, I've felt tired easily, unable to motivate myself to push hard on hill / interval sessions and struggling to get to the end of the long runs (I'm currently training for a spring marathon).  There could be a number of reasons for this - I generally lack energy at this time of year; I've had a gum infection and been on some hard core anti-biotics (the type they use for sepsis!) so I might be a little run down; I'm half a stone heavier than my most comfortable running weight.  But for whatever reason,  any running has felt difficult, so the prospect of 24 muddy miles over 2 days felt a bit daunting.

We had an early start, getting up before 6am to eat and get there before 8am to park and pick up our numbers.  It was dark, there were a few flurries of snow along the way.  When we arrived, it was very cold and we all wrapped up well for the start - not heading out of the hall until the last minute!

Despite my reservations, the run started well.  The four of us - Chris, Sarah, Emma and I set off at a nice steady pace.  Once we got away from the start and into the woods, I felt good. The smell of the woods brought back memories of Dukeries recces last year and of
 Dukeries 30, 2016. Emma and Chris were mainly running a few paces in front and Sarah and I were chatting along the way.  In the early miles, I was still feeling like it was a bit of a struggle - my legs felt heavy and I felt like my breathing was more puffy-panty than it should be for the pace.

Chris is running well since coming back from a broken bone in his foot last year and although he hasn't done much off road, he seems to have taken to it better than this time last year. Emma is a bit quicker than Sarah and I.  Sarah is the mud-queen and runs really well off road and enjoys it better than road running so I was in good company in terms of keeping jollied along.

I ate a couple of jelly sweets but forgot to take an energy gel - partly because it was in a belt inside my coat, so a bit out of sight, out of mind.  As we approached mile 6, I was really struggling.  It was really slippery underfoot and everywhere I put my feet they seemed to slide. There were areas where we were running on narrow bits of grass between ruts created by farm vehicle wheels but even the grass bits had become churned up. I only lost my footing completely once, and even then, managed to save myself from a total face-plant by getting my hands down.  

I admitted to Sarah that I was struggling and of course, she was an absolute diamond.  I hate to whinge, and I don't like to ask for help.  I'm more used to supporting other people than needing support myself, but it would have been pointless to say I felt OK when I didn't.  Sarah stayed with me, encouraging, chatting, reminding me I'm awesome

As we approached the 7 mile marker, another runner shouted to her friend, "come on - only a parkrun to go!"  I automatically let out a cheer just at the mention of parkrun (I'm a big fan) but at exactly the same time realised that we actually had 4 miles to go, not three. The other runner clearly didn't know about the bonus mile.** I think psychologically, this messed with my head a bit.  A parkrun to go, means 'not far' in my head, and yet 4 miles suddenly seemed a long way.  My legs felt like lead and even in my lungs I just felt really unfit.

we officially declared ourselves awesome after completing Dukeries 30 last year!
** I've learned that off-road runs are difficult to measure accurately so often an extra bit is added in order to make sure the course isn't short. Hence Dukeries 10 is about 11 miles.  Dukeries 30 is 31 miles (or, to put it another way, ten parkruns!) These little extras seem to be known as bonus miles - I'm not sure if that is a Mike-ism or whether it's a technical term!

With just over a mile to go, I told Sarah I just wanted her to go on ahead and I just needed to take a little minute. When I said it, I didn't know whether I would walk for a minute or for the rest of the route.  Sarah was having none of it.  "It's fine" she said. "We'll both take a little minute together...... we're in this together, remember. You walked this with me last year!" (she was injured)  So we just walked up the tiny slope and that gave me chance to recover.  I just didn't feel myself.  Not in a 'feeling ill' way.  Just that my usual determination, focus and motivation was eluding me.  

During the last mile, my head was filled with very negative thoughts:  if I'm struggling with 11 miles today, how on earth will I do 13 miles tomorrow; I'll let the others down (Sarah, Chris, Paul C and I entered as a team); I'm 'the weakest link';
is it better to not start or to start and not finish?; come on stop being such a wimp, you've only run 10 miles.  As I write this now, it seems ridiculous, but I'm sharing it because from what I have learned from speaking to other runners, these doubts can just get a hold on you from time to time.  It's the head stuff!  Cheryl and I call the negative inner voice Bruce! ....... Think of the Electric Light Orchestra Song, Don't Bring Me Down.  The lyrics to the chorus are, "Don't bring me down .... grrroooos" but often misheard as "Don't bring me down, Bruce!"  So when Cheryl has her doubts, we talk about telling Bruce to p*** off!   It's funny at the time - you probably had to be there!  It's difficult to fight Bruce on your own sometimes, but with the help and support of friends he cannot get the better of you - it's just a question of being prepared to ask for help - whatever that help might be.  I didn't share all of my negative thoughts with Sarah, but she said all the right things anyway - tomorrow is just another training run, time doesn't matter, we can walk as much as you need to, think of the apple crumble!

As we approached the finish-line, Mike was there with his phone at the ready to capture us coming in.  He had done parkrun and come over to cheer us in at the end and to pick Sarah up.
Thanks Mike for the finishing photo.
All smiles now. Thanks for this pic Emma (taken by Mike with Emma's phone.

Caythorpe Dash - Saturday 12th February 2017

What a difference a day makes.  The Caythorpe Dash HM was a different kettle of fish altogether.  For a start, it was a much more civilised start time – 11am, so we didn’t have to be up at the crack of dawn. Initially, when I woke up, I wasn’t quite feeling it.  However, I had Sarah’s pep talk in my ears from yesterday and didn’t feel under pressure.  I’d also had a message from Cheryl, telling me to remember all the things I say to encourage other people and say it to myself. Half marathon is my favourite distance so I kept reminding myself of that too.

We were running as a team, the only CRC team at the Dash this year, comprising Sarah, Chris, Paul C and me.  We arrived in good time and waited in the village hall to keep warm. Once again it was a very cold day, but not initially windy.  As we left the hall to go to the start-line, we could already smell the pudding cooking – this was something to look forward to on our return. 

As we set off, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself running on the flat and downhill for the first few miles.  There were muddy slippery bits, but I seemed to be keeping my feet much better than the day before.  I was much more relaxed and although I knew (let’s face facts) that I was the slowest of the 4 of us, I really didn’t mind, and certainly didn’t have that ‘weakest link’ feeling that kept plaguing me on Saturday.

I decided to run mindfully and just stay in the present, enjoy the current flats and down hills and not let myself think of what fresh hell might be ahead!  This run felt more like a normal run. I felt more myself.  I got a tight calf and it eased off after a few miles. Just normal stuff. 

I just want to pause here to take my hat off to the marshals and volunteers at both events.  It was a bitterly cold weekend and they were, without exception, cheerful and helpful.  I never cease to be grateful to the people who give their time to stand in the cold so that we can enjoy our events safely.

Inevitably, the hills made their appearance.  We were warned by a friendly marshal telling us that the really pretty hilly bit was ahead!  Well, the first big hill was bonkers!  Across a field, no real track to speak of and really sticky mud.  Seriously, it stuck and stuck and stuck.  We were all walking up – it was impossible to run as we were sinking ankle deep with every step!  I kept thinking that eventually no more mud would stick – it would have reached its mud volume maximum capacity!  But it just kept on gathering!  I had to knock it off a few times and start again, because it just got so heavy!  On Saturday, this would have probably finished me off, but on Sunday, I just found it hilarious.

I kept my energy up ok. I put my gels in my jacket pocket, remembered to take one after an hour and Sarah reminded me to take another a bit later. I also had jelly sweets whenever Chris had one.

The miles seemed to pass by and very soon there was ‘just a parkrun to go’ and then only a mile to go.  A mile to go seemed so much easier than the mile to go on Saturday!  There was another hill shortly before the finish, which looked innocent enough but had odd terraces rolling through it so our feet kept hitting the ground at different angles. It was harder than it looked and we soon declared another walk break.

I’m not saying it wasn’t challenging, because it was. The terrain constantly changed: sloppy mud, sticky mud, slightly firmer grassy mud, a few bits on road, up hill, down hill, flat, stiles to climb with legs that felt heavy.  Mud mud mud and mud .... it's a bit like Python's Spam sketch but with mud with everything instead of Spam with everything!  There was even a steep short down bit where the mud was so slippery we had to hang on to tree branches to prevent ourselves just sliding down on our bums. The weather was cold and there was a biting wind whenever we were on high ground.  But despite the challenges, it just didn’t seem as difficult as the Saturday run. 

Soon we were back in the village hall feasting on hot soup, sandwiches, cups of strong tea and the famous crumble. I felt tired in a good way. Sarah and Chris fared well too. Paul was suffering with his knee a bit from mile 10, perhaps partly because he was sliding about more than the rest of us, as he chose road shoes. 

We were all delighted to receive a medal at the finish.  Emma and Sarah had mentioned that it is usually a certificate, so a bit of bling was a welcome bonus.

I was in touch with Claire later in the evening talking about the contrast between these two events. She was saying that her brother says most of running is in the head so perhaps my outlook was different the second day.  It’s so true. I’d had a word with myself, listened to the support and encouragement from my friends and beaten Bruce! Among other things, one of my favourite sayings is, "The body achieves what the mind believes."  The body has its genuine ups and downs and therefore running can have ups and downs.  A whole load of factors can make a difference - rest / sleep, any life stresses, illness, medication, diet, alcohol, twinges.  Any or a combination of these can lead to a period where running feels tough.  Sometimes there's a tough phase with no apparent cause. But one of the most important things is attitude.  The head stuff. Very often a strong mind can keep your body going, even when it feels tired and would really just like to sit down!   

There is a lot of technical and detailed and complicated running advice out there, relating to the body and training and adaptations. It is all valid.  In addition my two main pieces of advice to anyone taking up running or stepping outside of their running comfort zone would be -

* Believe in yourself.  If you believe you can do it, you will do it.
* Value your running buddies. You'll be in good company and they will believe in you and encourage you when your self-belief is weakening.  You will also do the same for them.

Keep on Running.....

Friday, 16 December 2016

Now She Thinks She's a Song Writer :-D

I won't give up my day job!

Since my teens, I've occasionally amused myself by re-writing the words to popular songs.  I'm no lyricist; the words very often don't fit the tune easily or precisely but can usually be sung through with a bit of vocal juggling!

Caistor Lights. Photo by Chris Ramsay
Setting off on our run today 

I've spent much of last weekend, and will spend much of this weekend and some of Christmas weekend with runners and we have been, and will be dressed as a snowman or Santa or elves or fairies.  We had Christmas music on our run today and  When I heard Eartha Kitt singing 'Santa Baby' it got me to thinking....... we runners don't want a sable, or a yacht or a duplex or cheques.  We are much more easily pleased.  All we want is to run, with friends, possibly with some cake, breakfast a cup of tea or a beer follow.  And sometimes prosecco! 

No, we don't ask for much, us runners, do we?  Well, not very much!  I give you -

Santa Baby - For Runners

Santa baby, slip a Garmin under the tree for me
Really need to upgrade,
Santa baby, so hurry down to Wiggle tonight

Santa baby, an entry to the Dukeries 10, and then
I'll run the bonus mile too, 
Santa baby, so fill the entry form in tonight

Think of the late nights I've missed,
To volunteer at parkrun, sunshine rain or mist
Next year I will be just as good
And get my name up high on the volunteer list

Santa honey, I want sports socks and really I need a lot
Baliga or Karrimor
Santa baby, and get down to Sports Direct tonight

Santa cutie, a lovely jacket made by Pro-Viz, it’s bliss
So I’m seen in the dark
Santa cutie, and hurry down to Metres to Miles

Santa baby, fill my stocking with some sports bras, and jars
Of tasty energy gels
Santa baby, from Amazon or Wiggle tonight

Come and trim my Christmas tree
With the blingy medals that were, won by me
I really do believe in you
If you make sure I get my next PB

Santa baby, forgot to mention that I need shoes, in twos
Some for on and off road
Santa baby, so hurry back to Metres to Miles
Hurry to Sports Direct tonight
Hurry,..... tonight

All joking aside and stripping away all the stuff, it's the company of friends that keeps running fun.
Running with friends.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Everyone has the odd shit run!

I went for a run today.  The title was: 

1 mile w/u. 2 miles 9:09 pace. The rest just trotting along.        

Alternative name for this run would have been 

‘Voices inside my head’ –

I wasn’t planning to run today but just kept thinking about running and then I couldn’t settle so I thought the only way to stop thinking about running was to go for a run. Decided on my approx 10k route. 

Since just missing out on sub 2 hour HM at Isle of Axholme recently, I’ve set myself the challenge to include at least one 9:09 pace mile in every solo run to try to get that pace feeling more normal.  I only missed out by 1½ mins and the wind was horrendous -  most people were affected.  I maintained a sub 9:09 pace for much of the race, but it was bloody tough.   So this was #1 of my "Include a  9:09 mile in every solo run" plan .

Loved my warm up mile. Soon as I started to pick up the pace though, the voices start! Watch says 8:31. Too fast. But that’s because it’s always inaccurate at the start of the mile. Better slow down. Daren’t slow down. What if I slow down too much?  Remember to relax your shoulders.

After mile 1 at 9:09 I admit to self it’s hard work running at this pace. Why don’t you just forget about doing sub 2 hour HM?  Just enjoy your running. You love it running at endurance pace. Why don’t  you just do that?  Well, because that’s not going to make 9:09 feel any easier is it?!!

When will 9:09 feel easier?  You know what you tell beginners when they ask when it will get easier – wait til you get to week 5 and then see how easy it feels to run for one minute.  Each increase in pace or distance is a challenge, but look back to week one and see how far you’ve come.  9:09 will feel easier the more you do it.  

(Check watch) – Fuck! My HR is 181.  That’s ridiculous. I’ve only been running for 20 minutes! Oh well, you’re nearly at the end of two 9:09 miles you can walk home after that.  WALK???? Fuck off negative voices. What are you on about, WALK??? 

You could run but take the short cut.  You don’t need to do 10k.  Piss off.

Mile 4, slowing.  That feels better. Just get to Limber and then you could call in on Cheryl at work for a drink of water and a chat. Or even ask her to give you a lift home.  WHAT??? Where did that come from? 

Just take the short cut.  NO. Absolutely not.  When have I ever set out on a run and not done the distance I said I would do (bar injury)? It’s not happening.

Trogging on – I'm pleased to stop at the A18 for lots of traffic. Genuinely tired and throat hurts as I seem to have eventually picked up some of the bugs I’ve been managing to avoid. I cross the A18 and resist the temptation to take the short cut. Settle down into a gentle trot, bang some music on my phone and the next couple of miles pass without the voices having a dig at me.

Approaching home now at about 6.5 miles and I remember that my mileage this week so far has been 12.9 so if I could get to 7.1 I’d meet my weekly mileage target. But more importantly I’d have beaten the negative self talk.  So I run past my house and just trot anywhere.  Done.

No idea where those negative voices come from.  But they are not going to get the bloody better of me. I DO want to run a sub 2 hour HM again.  The only way to get there is to practice that pace. 

What I have learned from today’s run though is that if I’m setting myself a goal, I need to pick my time and consider it in the context of what else I’ve done (running) and other factors.  I did a hill run yesterday and some scary downhill off road fast (for me) running so perhaps trying to run at a pace I find difficult was not a good idea today. I am definitely coming down with something, so although i can run with a cold or similar bugs, it’s probably not the time to push myself.

I wouldn’t class this as a shit run exactly, but I must remember that everyone has the odd shit run, there are usually reasons for it, so just learn from it

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Cheryl's First Half Marathon – North Lincolnshire Half.

On Sunday 15th May 2016, all of the training, the practicing of fuel strategies, the good runs, the difficult runs and the blood sweat and tears came to a wonderful  triumph as Cheryl completed her first half marathon. This date was a special day for her, in that it is the 21st anniversary of her breast cancer surgery.  As noted in previous blog posts, this was the reason behind her raising money for the Pink Rose Suite.. 

CRC Improvers

Before I start, I just want to put a little note in here for any of the CRC Improvers who might be reading this.  If you’ve completed the beginners course you may be wondering where this could all lead and what you are capable of. You may think that 13.1 miles seems way out of reach, but just remember when you first started running 1 minute, resting 90 seconds x 8, you probably wondered how you would ever get to being able to run for 30 minutes without a break.  But you did it.  A little bit at a time. And that’s exactly how you build up to 10k, Half Marathon (13.1 miles) and beyond.

Cheryl is a perfect example. Just over 2 years ago, she didn’t think she could run. At all.  But in 2014, she joined the beginners course and she has now run a half marathon!  Her training is all recorded in this blog (among other stuff) so if you want to see how a beginner can progress, you might like to scroll back and have a quick look.  It might be a bit too much to try to read it all (I don’t half bang on once I get going) but a quick glance at some of the pictures and smiley faces will tell you a lot.  I would bet you’ll be inspired and if you begin to sow that little seed of ‘could I do that?’ you can be sure you’ll get all the support you could wish for from your CRC buddies – not least from Cheryl. Now she’s seen what she can do, she’s very keen to encourage others.

Extra Support

Photo by Rach
We've been accompanied on some of Cheryl’s HM training runs by a number of Caistor Running Club (CRC) buddies which has given extra support as well as adding variety to the long runs.  Rachel was one of the regulars and has can now run quite fast, but suffered an injury a few weeks ago and there was a doubt over whether she’d run this race at all.  However, as it’s her first HM too she decided to give it a go and run with us.  Just a few days before the race, I was talking to Jo-mo and she revealed to me that she entered NLHM last minute with a view to running with Cheryl to offer more support.  She’s not been very well so even a few days before, there was doubt as to whether she’d run so she told me not to mention it to Cheryl until the day.  I was really pleased to have them both on board; despite having done several training sessions to prepare for my Dukeries 30 on Saturday followed by HM Sunday, I wasn’t sure whether I’d be tired or just not as up-beat as I’d want to be if I was aching or fatigue.  With others along for the ride, I knew that there would be plenty of chat and encouragement for Cheryl.

Photo by Rach

Messages for the Day

In the week before the race, I canvassed some of Cheryl’s family for messages that I could jot down on a piece of paper to pull out of my pocket and read to her at any points along the way if a little extra inspiration or encouragement was needed.  In the event, they were mostly too emotive for me to read out in a race, but I passed them on afterwards..... except the one from her husband, Baz, which I thought was best delivered direct.

Early Morning Panic and Reassurance

I woke up at 4am on the day of the HM and got out of bed for the loo.  Aaagh – ouch – ooooh.  The bathroom is next door to my bedroom but it took ages to get there. Everything ached. My quads were throbbing, my calves were tight, my feet were hot.  I even ached around my upper rib cage.  I can’t say that doubt really set in because I’ve always been committed to run with Cheryl and only a proper injury would stop me, but I did start to wonder how I was going to persuade my legs to do another 13.1 miles today after 30.9 the day before!  I gave myself a good talking to, but I didn’t get back to sleep from that point onwards. I kept up the positive self-talk and on the drive to Scunthorpe, messaged Mike asking for any final hints and tips on how to sort my legs out. Reassuringly he reported that he too was aching (he had run the Dukeries 40 miles) to the point where he’d woken up for the loo and decided it wasn’t urgent enough to tolerate the pain it would cause!  He reassured me that I’d be fine and reminded me that I’m likely to struggle for the first 2 or 3 miles but just take it steady and I’ll get into a rhythm.

Cheryl was quite quiet on the way to Scunthorpe.  She had been very emotional for a few days as she started to receive lots of good luck messages and as the money had continued to roll in on her Just Giving page for the Pink Rose Suite at  Diana Princess of Wales Hospital.  The emotion came to a head when she saw me come in at the end of Dukeries.  I’d told her that only injury would stop me from running the HM with her, so I was very keen to tell her quickly that I’d come out of it OK!  On the day, she had a mixture of excitement and nerves, which I think is pretty healthy. I kept reminding her that she’s done all the hard work, the training is in the bag, she’s practiced her fuel strategy, now all she had to do was get out there and run the thing.

At the Stadium

We arrived at the stadium in good time and got into the loo queue.  I realised at that point that I’d forgotten my gels. I knew there would be some for sale in the race HQ, but that was upstairs at the stadium. Yep. Quite a long flight of stairs. I would have to go up (= slight discomfort) and then down (= agony). I decided to give it a miss. I’ve run HM without gels before – I didn’t even know about gels until I’d already done 4 HMs.  I had 2 bottles of home made sports drink with me and remembered that they have jelly babies on the route so I figured I’d be fine.

We soon started to meet up with other CRC runners and quickly hooked up with Rachel.  Then I saw Jo mo!  There she was in her running gear, ready to go. On her number, she’d written, ‘I’m with Cheryl’.  She explained to Cheryl that she was going to run with us too.  I felt really emotional at that.  How lovely our CRC friends are.

We’re doing it – we’re running  a half marathon.

Photo by Rach
We headed off down to the start line, which is a 10 minute walk – we walked quite briskly to warm up and when we reached the start area there was just time to wish everyone else a final ‘good luck’ and very quickly the start hooter went off.  A quick ‘conflab’ about when to start the Garmins, a brief walk before breaking into a trot just as we crossed the timing mats, Garmins were started and we were off.

We planned to set off nice and steady, but as often happens in the excitement of a race, we went off slightly too quick and adjusted pace once we settled.  I’m in miles, but Jo-mo has her phone set to km and a voice reads out the pace of the last km and previous km. This was helpful in keeping us consistent.  Rach announced that she was going to take photos at every mile – I welcomed this as it was another little distraction and mile marker.

Cheryl looked relaxed as soon as we got running.  We chatted about the training and about Lincoln and how she didn’t need to push herself to do that kind of pace today, it’s just about covering the distance. 

We were treated to our first ‘John Rainsforth’ moment at about 1½ miles and I love this picture (below) of us all looking really fresh.  I think Cheryl and Rach and Jo-mo were genuinely feeling fresh at that point .... as for me, I can always blag it for the camera. I particularly like that Cheryl and I are in our charity T-shirts and we’re with Jo and Rach in their CRC colours. We look great together.

Photo by John Rainsforth.
Hot, hot, hot!

Ask Cheryl what kind of weather she prefers to run in and she’ll tell you, cool, not too windy, overcast and don’t mind a bit of rain.  Today, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, it was very sunny and we were soon baking hot.

I have to say that the NLHM, run by Tape2Tape is one of the best organised HMs I’ve run and they really looked after us in terms of water stations and this year, a sponge station.  Just what we needed to try to cool off as well as breaking the run up a bit.

I was so pleased with how everything went.  For myself, Mike was right; after the first few miles, I was feeling much more like I’d get around OK and my legs just got into robot-mode.  Rach wasn’t having any trouble with her injury, Jo-mo, although a little unsure of herself, seemed to feel somewhat better after she and I ‘used the facilities’ along the way!  And Cheryl did brilliantly – there was absolutely no need to get the axe out – she just got a lovely rhythm going and cracked on with it.  She was hot and every time I asked if she was ok, she said she was fine, but just hot.  We all made sure we kept well hydrated, Cheryl used her shot-bloks before feeling she needed them as advised by Sarah. I took full advantage of the jelly baby stations - I was probably on the edge of greedy if the truth be told!

Photo by Rach
I think it was at about mile 10-ish that I started to pass on some of the family messages – Nicki, Cheryl’s sister, had sent a message to say,  think of all the women you are helping who are having treatment at the Pink Rose Suite. Also, to think of her little nephews who would be there for her at the finish line.  Unfortunately this just made her too emotional, so I abandoned that idea, except for the message from her mum; “Ooh Cheryl what do you want to go and run all that way for?”  That made us giggle!

With about 5k to go, Jo-mo announced that she was sure she was going to do it now! She’d set off with a view to seeing how far she got, but if she felt ill. Was going to either stop or just slow down and get back in her own time.  She had urged me before we set off, that if that happened, we were to carry on.  I was delighted to hear that at that point she gained a sudden certainty that she would do it.

From my point of view the miles seemed to pass by really quickly just as they had done the day before.  There’s the value of running with friends.  Before we knew it we were coming into the last long straight on the way to the stadium. This is about 1½ miles and for me, the least pleasant part of the race.  It’s on a main road, partly coned off from the traffic, but with one carriageway open,  it is very noisy.  Luckily there were more marshals on this section than I remember from previous years and despite them having been out on the course all morning, they were cheerful and encouraging.

Another fab photo by John Rainsforth.
Photo by John Rainsforth
As we came down that last straight, Jo-mo wasn’t feeling so good.  Just exhausted really. Although she was tiring, she kept pushing on and there was no way I was leaving her side at that point. She was such a star coming along to support Cheryl and with only a short distance to go, I just wanted us all in that stadium together.  Cheryl and Rach were just a few yards in front of us along the straight and I could see they were OK; not much chat going on, but I could just tell they’d got it nailed.

Fabulous Welcome into the Stadium

Check this out - Cheryl is out-show-boating me here! I have taught you well!
We entered the stadium together and the sea of blue that is the CRC supporters and fast-finishers and Robey the Panda greeted us bold and bright in one corner.  Wow.  A massive cheer went up and I could hear people shouting Cheryl’s name in particular.  Jo managed a little twirl despite feeling pretty rubbish at that point and I high-fived Robey the Panda. 

Thanks Laura for these Photographs of our finish.

Amazing you ladies. What a great finish!

Thanks CRC friends for flagging these up to me when I couldn't find the pic I was looking for.

Cheryl looked giddy with excitement by this point and she had got a sprint on, buoyed along by seeing husband Baz, daughter Katie, sister and brother in law, Nicki and Dave and their boys, and friend (CRC Improver) Suzanne and her partner.   I could hear her supporters shouting her on and then heard Katie shouting me for a photo.  I felt elated.   Rach was with Cheryl and they turned to see if Jo and I were going to get to them to cross the finish together, but I waved them on and we came across as two magnificent pairs – a pink one and a CRC one in each pair.

There we go - We did it. Thanks for the photo Laura
Once we’d all caught our breath, checked everyone was ok, had a group hug we headed off to pick up our goodie bags, medals and T-shirts.

T-shirts that fit, medals and Frankie and Benny's Muffins.
You have to hand it to Neil and Nicola (Tape2Tape), they know how to reward their finishers!

Time? Goals?

Unlike the Lincoln 10k, Cheryl hadn’t set any goals (unless there were secret goals she hadn’t told me about) other than to finish.  13.1 miles is not to be sniffed at and I remember my first HM – really just to complete it is an achievement.  In my mind, I had had a little guess at Cheryl’s time.  I sort of thought, take her Lincoln 10k time, double it, add another 10-12 mins for the extra mile and add another 10 minutes because you can’t expect to sustain your 10k pace for HM distance.  My guess came out at 02:40 / 02:45.  Forgive my smugness at being right – she finished in a very respectable time of 02:41:18.  I couldn’t be more proud. So pleased for my BFF, who has gone from struggling to run for a minute, to managing to run 13.1 miles. 

I was so made up for Cheryl, that it didn’t quite register with me that my achievement this weekend wasn't too shabby either, until I got with my CRC friends and was getting congratulated as much as Cheryl!  44 miles in 2 days. 

And then we went to the pub.

I think the smile says it all.

Prosecco in one hand, lager in the other. That's a balanced diet!

Recovery and more Celebrations.

At the point that I first found out that NLHM was going to be the day after Dukeries, I asked Cheryl if I could spend Monday in her hot tub.  And I did.  But more than that.  Cheryl invited Rachel and Sarah too (and Jo-Mo, but she was unable to come due to work) and we had bubbles in the tub, more sharing memories and celebrating.  Of course, the talk turned to what is next and it looks like Cheryl's next HM will be Worksop HM (unless she happen to be on holiday).  Should be a good one for her - the end of October, so it should be cooler.

Wearing our finishers's T-shirts, Vests and Medals for hot tub celebrations.

Rach forgot her sun glasses! No one forgot the prosecco glasses!

Well deserved chill out in the hot-tub .....(AKA the slow cooker)

Dynamic Duo - 2/5 of the Dukeries Fantastic Five

Prosecco streak!
I'd just like to say a final thank you to all who have supported and advised and shared in Cheryl's journey to 13.1 miles.  Also, thank you for the generous donations to the Pink Rose Suite.  I am not sure of the total raised as there have been some cash donations, but at the last update, she has raised over £200 (inc gift aid) on her Just Giving page.  I suspect the final total could crack £300.

Thank you again for your kindness and generosity.

2 days, 2 races, 44 miles, 2 medals, 1 vest, 1 t-shirt = Very Happy Fran

And I can't help feeling a little bit smug too.
At some point, I need to write briefly about how the
Smugfuckers brooch came into being..