Toronto Half Marathon

It’s about 7pm and I am sprawled on our hotel bed reflecting on the Toronto trip so far. The running part, well rather the official running part, is now over and soon I will have to get my head into work mode – but not yet. I have a couple of days.

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Today we ran the TorontoMarathon half marathon. It was great but let’s start at the beginning. We left home Friday morning – we were meant to go for our final little run on Thursday evening but by the time I got home we were both tired so we got up early on Friday instead and went for a little plod. My hay fever was bad so I actually only did about 2 miles but it felt good to stretch the legs. The flight to Heathrow was uneventful, as was the wait at Heathrow – it was just long. As we boarded the flight we were upgraded to World Traveller Plus (that’s British Airway’s version of premium economy)

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From Local News site

which was nice because it meant we had a bit more space and it was just us to on a row. The flight was also uneventful. Apparently though things were not so uneventful in Toronto and Ontario generally. Storms and high winds cause lots of damage and power outages and lots of flights were delayed and/or cancelled. The knock on effect was that we spent an hour sitting on the plane on the tarmac while we waited for a place to park at the terminal so we could get off. We abandoned plans of trains to downtown and took a taxi. The hotel lobby was busy and huge and disorientating as we came in but we got checked in and crashed into bed.

Saturday morning we woke up early and after a cuppa in bed (yes I have become that woman who packs Yorkshire tea bags…) headed out to find some breakfast. We walked to the Hilton Hotel where the free shuttle buses to the marathon expo were leaving from and found a Tim Horton’s almost opposite – well when I say found, it’s hard not to find them, they’re everywhere. We had coffee and porridge with maple syrup – which of

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Lovely! Probably essential on school buses though

course I loved and Kath found too sweet. Then we waited for the bus for a little while –  they were using the classic yellow north american school buses which was kinda fun. The expo was my sort of expo – small and manageable and not too busy. It was also well organised so we got our race numbers, activated the timing chip, picked up our t-shirts (I have issues with race t-shirt manufacturers. I ordered a women’s large t-shirt. Their definition of large and mine are different. It’s so tight I don’t think I need a bra! Unfortunately they couldn’t swap shirts so it’ll go into the ‘wear underneath stuff if it’s really cold or wait for a miracle’ pile). Then we thought we’d just have a quick look around. A good hour or so later and with our wallets a good bit lighter we left and got a shuttle back. Back at the hotel we rested and I dozed off a bit I think. Then we met our friend Heather IMG_9139and her family for dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory which was really fun. The food was good too and I decided I would once again run a half on lasagne! That worked for me before so it should work again. Back at the hotel we got all our kits sorted and bag packed and got an early night. I slept really well until about 1am. After that not so much and at about 4.30 am we gave up really. We had a cup of tea and a porridge pot, I made up our tailwind drinks bottles, did a final check on our bag and got dressed.

At around 31543012_10156905177670476_3560889679249145856_n6am we left the hotel. The shuttle bus to the start left from the Hilton again and we just got on one as we arrived and were off. Nerves finally set in during the drive across and I suddenly started worrying about everything. Once there we found some loos and had a little wander round. We ended up sitting in the foyer to the Douglas Snow Aquatic Centre for most of our wait and chatting to a lovely lady called Patricia. She took this photo of us and another lady we were talking to before we headed out to the start line.

I loved the low key approach of this event. There was no over enthusiastic calling to the start line. We didn’t have to spend ages in the start area. About 10 minutes before we setIMG_9147 off we wondered out, found the area where we were meant to start  – it was all based on an honour system of course so the elites were at the front and then it was by time so anyone over 2 hours was at the back. We saw a 2 hours 30 pacer and lined up a little way behind him. Then, just like that and without any fuss or drama we were off. We ran the first bit without walk breaks as always. I think we took 3 or 4 out and then dropped into 2 minute runs/30 seconds walk. The course is described as flat or downhill. That’s not entirely true – there is a hill and there are a few slopes but I think it is probably considered a fast course and that makes sense.

I took a fair few walk breaks out on downhill sections and I went strong to over half way. I had a wobble for miles 9 and 10 where I suddenly panicked about the distance and being in unchartered territory – which is nonsense because it’s not unchartered, I’ve done this a few times now, and because I felt physically fine! I think it was just the knowledge that at the last attempt over this distance I was physically gone by 9 miles and pulled out at 10. I got going again for mile 11 and I’m not sure what happened for mile 12 – fasted mile of the day and much faster than I usually run even on short distances! In the final mile my right hip flexor was making itself known and my calves were getting a bit crampy and I was also really emotional. I was actually going to finish a half marathon! And that I did. Chip time 2 hours 48 minutes 40 seconds. That’s 7 minutes and 9 seconds off my previous best. Sub 2.45 I’m coming for ya!

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IMG_9126The course is basically  a north to south route and for much of it you can keep your eyes on the CN Tower (picture below taken from shuttle pick up point rather than actually on the run). I missed it when I couldn’t see it! It’s obviously a city run and whether you find the route interesting or not rather depends on what you find interesting. I liked running through different areas of Toronto – starting with what seemed like a pretty wealthy neighbourhood with family houses rather than high rises. I also kept chuckling because the streets are soooooooooooo long. We spent a long time running along Yonge Street for example which would have taken us all the way downtown. We turned off eventually though and went through an area which seemed to have wooded areas on either side of the road before turning again and heading towards the CN Tower again and then past it and the Rogers Centre where the Toronto Blue Jays play. With around 1km to go we saw Patricia again. She’d finished and was walking home but stopped to cheer us on and take a couple of pictures. I was struggling now so it was a great boost to see her.

After crossing the finish line we collected our bag, sat down and had our tailwind recovery drinks (chocolate apparently ok, vanilla tastes marginally better than it smells – which is awful), pulled our tracksuit bottoms and long sleeved tops on and then went and collected some honey water and an apple (there were bananas too but they looked very green still and there was some bread like thing which neither of us liked the look of). Then we went to a fenced off area to pick up our Moosehead Brewery can of Cracked Canoe  – we didn’t actually manage a full can each. I don’t know how people can drink alcohol immediately after running.

The organisation of the race was really good and the marshals and police looking after the junctions were fantastic. They were so good at reading the traffic, the pedestrian crossings and the runners to make everything very smooth. We saw one altercation between a cop and a motorist. The cop had told him to stop which the driver had misinterpreted as a wave for him to come through and he nearly ran the cop over as a result. He was still arguing with the cop long after we’d passed them and eventually their voices faded into the distance. All the staff and volunteers, from bus drivers to water stations to finish area via marshals and everyone else, were just fab. Thank you.

We found the shuttle bus stop and headed back to the IMG_9182hotel. From the Hilton we walked a route that would take us past some food options and in the end we opted for a salad box, crisps and a grilled veggie sarnie from a little market. We had that in our room, had a bath and rested a little while. Then we decided we would need some proper food.

We consulted our little travel guide and realised that one of the Pubs featured in there isIMG_9185 pretty much opposite our hotel. It seemed a bit odd going to a British themed pub but it was convenient and the bar menu looked good. We both had burger and chips – classic post-race food for us – and a beer and then were pretty much in danger of falling asleep there and then.

We have no further plans today! My half marathon demons have been put to rest. It’s once again my favourite distance  – it challenges me on all sorts of levels but it doesn’t break me. It’s been a good day. Night night!

 

 

Monday Meander

IMG_9083Ok well it wasn’t really a meander but I needed something with an M. I didn’t run yesterday and I felt a bit irritated by that but I have no reason to. It was the sensible thing. I was tired. In fact I slept for 2.5 hours in the afternoon. Anyway, today was one of those days where it could go either way. I was tired after work. I couldn’t really be bothered but I also wanted to get out today. I could have not bothered, it was tempting to postpone and run tomorrow. But I didn’t.

So after work I got my gear on and headed out. I had no real plan other than to just do the sheep loop as a relatively short route while the jacket spuds cooked in the oven. I set off and immediately thought ‘bloody hell, bloody pollen, can’t breathe’ and then I forgot that it was meant to be hard and just plodded along. The first hill was a bit annoying but soon over. I kept plodding. I went past our old sheep fields and it was lovely to see some sheep and lambs in there. All the lambs were laid out in the sun basking. I briefly thought about stopping to get a picture but wanted to keep moving. Soon after there was the 1 mile beep. I glanced at my watch. ‘Fuck, slow down you crazy woman’  – first mile in under 12 minutes.  Well the next would be slower – I’m always slower on the next mile – too much downhill (yes I know – weird). I made my way up the slope to the wood and so wanted to walk but didn’t. I kept running downhill through the old golf course and eventually turned left onto the canal towpath. I glanced at my watch and suddenly realised that I was still going quite fast. I decided to push and try and finish the second mile in under 12 minutes too.

I almost laughed as I thought that. The thing is, my legs don’t really know what that feelsIMG_27168D2698BE-1 like and my brain doesn’t have a clue. My legs have occasionally run faster by accident but my brain just doesn’t know I can do that. My brain is more a 13 minute mile kind of a girl. I started to really feel it at 1.78 miles – but probably only because I had decided to run to 2 miles and then enjoy the towpath. I suspect that if I hadn’t decided that I could have gone further at a not too much slower pace. Anyway, the 2 mile beep came. Well within 12 minute pace. I was a bit stunned.

I walked from there having a little chat with a goose and stopping to watch some ducklings (I took photos – you can’t see them!). As I marched up the big hill home I thought about how important the #myrunmyrules is to me at the moment. It’s helping me be positive about running rather than beating myself up about not going faster or further or walking or whatever. I pushed for 2 miles and then enjoyed a positive walk (with some lovely little stops) and it was a great 3.21 miles of head clearing time! All of this means that this April I have recorded the highest ever monthly mileage for me ever at 88.15 miles which takes me to 233.42 miles year to date. And I feel pretty good. I needed my rest day yesterday and I need an easy week this week to be ready for the Toronto Half Marathon next Sunday but April has been a really really good running month. Both Kath and I are on track and enjoying our running and at the end of April  the 2018 Guth/Self mileage total stands at a pretty awesome 525.96 miles. We’re celebrating in style.

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#FinishForMatt

IMG_9064For those of you who don’t know what the #FinishForMatt title is all about, Matt Campbell collapsed at mile 22.5 of the London Marathon and died. Almost immediately after, the #FinishForMatt hashtag sprung up and people started running the 3.7 miles that were left of his marathon. I didn’t know him. I didn’t know that he was a chef or that he had appeared on TV, on Master Chef the Professionals, not until I saw the news stories anyway. In many ways he is nobody at all to me and it took me a little while to realise that his story was pulling at my heartstrings. It’s hard to explain.

Initially #FinishForMatt seemed a little bit like a gimmick. Like something people do for effect on social media. I didn’t really want to be IMG_9067anywhere near that. But as the week went on and I saw more posts, mainly from people in groups I am already part of my perception of what the hashtag means began to change. Sure, for some it’s a way to get social media attention but mostly it’s the running community coming together to honour and remember Matt Campbell, a runner, one of us. It’s about running because we can, for all those who can’t. It’s about not taking running, anything, for granted and to show solidarity to all those who knew him. So over the course of the last week I began to want to do it.

Before lunch today we pulled on our running gear. I had to borrow Kath’s London IMG_9071Marathon T-shirt because mine is in my gym bag at work and we set off – me in the (rather snug) finisher’s t-shirt and Kath in the #OneInAMillion T-shirt. I really wanted to run the 3.7 miles without a walk break. I did. Steadily but comfortably and easily. The run was quiet and I think we were both lost in our own thoughts most of the way. The different shades of green are coming out more and more strongly, the goslings seemed a bright lime green almost, the yellow on the ducklings we saw seemed to stand out and the squirrel on a gate post we passed seemed to bow it’s head in acknowledgement of the symbolic gesture of our efforts. I guess in the end it is meaningless really but today we did finish for Matt and for our own reasons and we didn’t take the run for granted, or our ability to move along the canal bank at pace or each other because although mostly silent, the run was definitely a together sort of run, in comfortable silence with just the odd words of encouragement. It’s alway always worth remembering that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, make today count.

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Bolton Abbey to Burnsall – well nearly!

Kath had a day off today so after spending some time sorting the most urgent emails and planning my conference paper for our Toronto trip we headed over to Bolton Abbey. We were planning to run from there to Burnsall and back – roughly 12 miles. I was a little apprehensive. Not quite sure why but I think maybe because it’s a sort of milestone route in my running journey. The first time we tried I couldn’t do it and had probably my most dramatic running meltdown where I actually had to sit down by the river for a few minutes to stop sobbing. That route has always been a big deal. I was so anxious about it  and wrote about that the day before we tried again. Then we did it.

So the last time I struggled quite a lot. While the route is stunning I struggled to take it in and I added in additional walks and was in quite a lot of pain at the end of the 11 miles that we did that day. So we got to Bolton Abbey and the weather was looking pretty good. It was colder than it has been and I had dressed accordingly but the sun had come out and I wondered whether I was going to be too warm. We used 1 minute run/30 second walk intervals and started, as we did last time, at the top of the first slope. It took a little while to settle in and I’m still having some hay fever issues but it wasn’t too bad. We saw some wagtails and dippers as well as blue tits, great tits and a couple of wrens early on and before I knew it really we’d reached the Strid, made our way up the ‘steps’ and onwards to the aqueduct and then Barden bridge. It started raining.

We crossed Barden bridge, made our way along a footpath alongside a short stretch of road and then into the first of many fields. The route is part of the Dales Way and runs through fields and on paths running at the side fields and the edge of the river Wharfe. For most of it I was just following Kath letting her pick the route through and trying to mimic her bounciness and confidence (fake it until you make it, right?) but in one rare moment of sensible decision making I decided not to follow her through a really boggy bit and changed direction just as she disappeared knee deep into what had vaguely looked like solid ground. For most of the way we kept to the run/walk intervals exactly. There were a couple more technical sections where we picked our way through more carefully and then a set of steep steps which we walked on both the up and down!

The rain was constant now and heavy. At the top of the steps Kath said we should stop because I wasn’t enjoying it. That pissed me off a bit. I was fine and actually not miserable. I was still going pretty well  – I’d just made a comment about remembering these steps from last time, I think I nearly cried when we got to them on the way back last time. We got back on the same page and continued. About a mile later, with the rain whipping in our faces and the wind making it feel really quite cold, we decided to turn back. Being miserable is not part of the running plan!

It instantly felt less wet with the rain coming from behind (well until my rain jacket was soaked through and everything was just sticking to my back). We took a few walk breaks out and made good progress and before we knew it we were at 7 miles. I can’t remember exactly where but in one of the fields we came across a lamb that didn’t look too good. Kath checked it. It was dead – no obvious reason but clearly dead. It felt awful just continuing on. Obviously if there had been anything at all we could have done for it we would have stopped but there was nothing there to even try and revive. We had an extra little walk to pull ourselves together and then carried on lost in our own memories of lambing and lambs.

After a bit of quiet time we refocused on the beauty of our surroundings. It was still raining but there was lots of gorgeousness – watching the swifts/sand martins play over the river and fields for example, the lambs bouncing, the ewes grazing and watching, the different shades of greens, the moor and Simon’s Seat in the distance. If you’re missing photos – sorry it was too wet to even think about getting my phone out. I started to listen more to the river. Somehow it was talkative today. On the out run it had sounded grumpy to me. It was like it was cross with us or the world in general. It was a slightly unnerving noise when I was aware of it anyway. On the way back it didn’t seem like that. It seemed to be roaring us on through the loud sections and the quieter ones were a mix of friendly chatter, calm reflection and happy gurgling.

Kath managed to avoid the bog on the way back and before I knew it we were through 8 miles and back on very familiar territory. I still felt quite strong. The last mile was more of a struggle and I was getting tired. 10 and a quarter miles done today. We got soaked to our knickers but it was good and we did get a mile and a bit at the end without rain to help us dry off a little. By the end my hips were a bit tight and my ankles tired and as the day has gone on my glutes are saying ‘hi’ but it’s all good and I’m really happy with how I managed to keep moving through the muddy puddles and slightly more tricky terrain. So while it wasn’t the 12 mines we had planned it was good and we’re ready for the half marathon on 6th May. I never really feel prepared for races, ever, but I’m not terrified and that is as good as it gets!

I had more tailwind (reviewed here) today and my two little bottles over the distance today were plenty – it wasn’t hot so if it gets hotter I probably need more  – or the same amount in more water. The new order arrived today too and includes some stick packs of their recovery drink to try so I’ll let you know about those once I’ve had chance to test one.

And just for the record: Happiness is dry socks!

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Tailwind: Tummy Friendly Fuel

Right, rest day today. Just as well really. My legs felt quite tired walking up to the office this morning and back up the hill this afternoon. So I thought I’d catch up on some the the things I’ve been meaning to write. First on the list is a review of Tailwind Nutrition.

I have tried various things for fuelling on long runs. It’s odd. I have a pretty cast iron stomach generally but that does not carry through to running. When it comes to running I have the most ridiculously sensitive tummy. So any sort of gels and blocs are out unless I am actually sitting on a toilet. I also really can’t stand the artificial taste and the texture just freaks me out. I tried some cliff bars for fuel and for recovery – apart from the pretty artificial taste, they didn’t do anything for recovery other than pile on calories and fuelling is pointless when the only place the fuel makes you run is to the loo.

I tried porridge bars which I do like but they’re quite dry and I can only eat a little bit and need water with them and they’re just a bit of a pain to carry and then repack if you’ve had a little bit and also I probably need more than one bar if I’m doing over half marathon distance and it was all getting complicated. That said, Stoats porridge bars are awesome and I love them for long walks, picnics or a well needed boost at work. They powered me round two marathons but the downside is having to stop and walk for quite a bit to eat, drink some water, wait till it’s all settled…. It was sort of fine for what I’ve done and the lots of walking approach to long distance but I don’t think it works well for trying to run a bit more or at least keep the walking intervals consistently short.

Then we tried some torq energy drink which was used at an event we volunteered at. That just gave me horrible tummy cramps – I mentioned it here. Kath’s experiences are similar. We get on best with home made things and real food like dried apricots and nuts but they’re not always easy to carry on a run unless carrying a pack and not practical to take/make if we’re travelling abroad for a run/race (and we do always have half an eye in the Dopey Challenge!). So we’d pretty much given up on finding something easy, convenient and effective that would travel well. Then we kept seeing comments about tailwind. Lots of people were saying that it really worked for them and that it was nice to tummies.

We ordered a starter pack. It can contain 1 stick pack of each of their flavours  – 7 packs in total – but we decided not to get any of their caffeine containing flavours  (Green Tea Buzz, Raspberry Buzz and Tropical Buzz) because Kath is really sensitive to caffeine.

So the stick packs are dead simple to make up – just add water, give it a stir and/or a shake. Done. I tried it on a couple of short runs – you can never be too careful! First the lemon flavour and then the naked unflavoured one. On both occasions there was no ill effect on my tummy at all. From those runs I can’t really say whether the fuelling is good or not because I didn’t go far enough. They were just a tummy test. I then used another lemon one at the Lakeland Trails event where I was out for 2 hours and taking little sips throughout did I think help. I had some more the day after on a longer run and it definitely helped there – maybe I felt it more because I already had tired legs. I tried the mandarin orange flavour on the 10 mile adventure to Haworth last weekend and from that experience I think I can say it works – when I was feeling really flakey I had a good few sips and then kept sipping at more regular intervals and felt better and then fine for the rest of the run. I don’t think just water would have done that.

According to the instructions though I am possibly not actually having enough (which is presumably why I went flakey in the first place) – they suggest one stick pack in 500-700 ml of water to sip over an hour. I don’t drink that much when running, ever. I made up 500 ml and had about 2/3 of that over the two hours we were out on Haworth Moor. I’m still experimenting with what really works over the longer distances/durations and in different conditions but I am really excited to have found something to fuel with that is easy, convenient, seemingly effective and that is nice to my tummy. I’m sure I’ll get the mix right for me over time.

Here’s what’s in tailwind for those science, nutrition, whatever geeks among you (from their website)

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The flavours are all quite nice – they’re subtle and not in your face artificial. They don’t leave an aftertaste and I found all them refreshing. I think I actually most like the naked one. Kath’s favourite is the berry flavour and we’ve just ordered a multi-serving bag of that (they come in 30 or 50 serving bags). In addition we’ve ordered more stick packs to take with us on our travels – we’ve ordered lemon, berry and naked ones; too much of a risk having the mandarin ones because it’s really just a matter of time before we get water bottles mixed up and it all goes horribly wrong (Kath is allergic).

So tailwind gets a big thumbs up from me for ease, for taste, for effectiveness and also for non stickiness and non messiness. Water bottles just rinse out easily and there’s no residue or aftertaste or anything. There’s no gooey or sticky consistency that you feel like you can’t wash off your hands or out of your bottle. Really it’s all just as it should be.

It’s not the cheapest but it doesn’t compare badly at all to other products out there  and honestly, I’d rather pay a pound or two more (on a 50 serving bag for example) for something that doesn’t give me tummy cramps! There’s something else though. It’s a gimmick in a way but my sort of gimmick and it feels like a genuine gimmick (yes yes I know). The customer service is lovely. There’s always a personal touch and if you tell them what your next event is, they may just email you to say well done. Here’s what I got from Tracy at Tailwind checking on me after the weekend she thought I was running in the Lakes

Hi Jessica,

I cannot find your results on line 😦  How did you get on?

As it turned out – she was a week early and after we’d had a little email exchange and she checked my Hawkshead 10k result I got another one:

Hello!!! Congratulations you were not last on the list 😉 as you suspected!!!  Well done you!

Now maybe I am just a sucker for marketing gimmicks but that really did make me smile!

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