Harewood House Half Marathon

So remember last year, my DNF at the Harewood House Half Marathon? I said I’d be back and today I was. I have been looking forward to it and I wasn’t really nervous until this morning when I suddenly started feeling really anxious about the whole thing. The course is tough, I’m not.

Anyway I had been thinking about the race and in particular how I would manage to stick to #MyRunMyRules. I knew from last year that my pace would put me at the back of the pack even on a good day. I therefore spent some time really thinking about how I would feel if I was last and how I would feel running last for a considerable chunk of the race. How would I keep myself motivated and moving forward with the tail marker right behind me and the feeling of people waiting for me. I don’t like to keep people waiting.

Honestly I am absolutely fine with actually coming last, what I think I’d find more difficult is having to run last for most of the race, particularly if I lost touch with the pack or runners in front and there was an obvious big gap that would mean I was holding people up. Maybe that’s where some of the anxiety came from this morning. But anyway, we had our porridge, got sorted and set off. We parked, went to the loo, picked up our t-shirts, went to the loo, met one of our fellow #Run1000Mile challengers, went to the loo (nothing like nervous peeing!) and then we were ready to start.

We set off. For the first few hundred metres all I really had was people streaming past me. I smiled. It is quite hard to keep smiling as everyone keeps over taking you. I tried not to mind and I tried not to speed up. Very soon I was last. I could hear the back marker on his bike behind me and I could hear the marshals’ radio conversations which were quite entertaining. Ok, I thought, well, I’ll be doing all of this right from the back. I felt surprisingly ok about that and settled in.

I hadn’t really looked at pace since an early glance which told me that at 11.20 minutes per mile I was going way way way too fast. I thought I’d slowed a fair bit but at the 1 mile beep I was at 12.08. Too fast. I tried to consciously slow down but already being last made that quite hard somehow. I was gaining on a woman in front of me who had been pulling away but by 1.5 miles she looked like she was struggling and I went past her. I hope she kept going – she must have done for quite a while at least because the back marker didn’t catch up to me and I didn’t see him again.

I was still trying to slow down as I saw deer on my left and red kites in the sky. I couldn’t help but smile. I actually saw loads of deer, loads of kites and tons of smaller birds and an odd squirrel or two. I am utterly rubbish at remembering the route or what was where on it so this may be in the wrong order, possibly totally jumbled. Anyway, I settled into what felt like a comfortable pace. I could see a woman in front of me running a stunningly smooth even pace and I tried to keep with her. I was fine on the flat but she had far more power up the hills. Eventually I stopped focusing on the pink of her jacket, did the sensible thing and let her go. She stayed in view for a long time but eventually she was gone. I was alone. It was bliss.

Coming up to 3 and a half miles I had the first walk as I made my way along the edge of a grassy field heading towards the first steep downhill. I sipped some Tailwind and I tried to keep marching and saw two women ahead of me. I was easily catching up with them. We had a quick chat just before the downhill and then I kept going carefully jogging down the uneven and quite steep track. The marshal sent me diagonally down the hill and that seemed like the route most people took judging by the muddy path. However, the actual route seemed to go straight down to hit the 4 miles marker and then turn left. This is probably the main reason the course measured short.

I think we next turned up into the woods and I walked the hills. I was feeling the too fast start and very briefly it crossed my mind that maybe I was totally screwed but that thought went as fast as it came. I saw some more deer and then at some point I saw some lovely looking Jacob sheep – they looked familiar and then I remembered that the flock we got ours from also had some going to the Harewood estate so it could well be the same blood line. That made me smile and reminisce for a while.

I enjoyed the course and I enjoyed being on my own for so much of it. Around mile 6 I realised I was falling in with the pace of two blokes in front. They were running slightly faster but walking more slowly. I caught up with them for a chat just after the mile 8 water station. We marched up the hill together and then met Susan who was struggling a little. Me and her walked and jogged together for a mile ish leaving the two blokes behind us but then I was walking faster again so I powered up the hill and jogged down the other side to the Mile 10 marker.

I felt ok. I slowly jogged along the track trying to stay out of the way of dog walkers. I was gaining on the aid station where I had called it a day last time and was smiling because I knew I was going beyond. I heard a runner coming at some considerable pace behind me. I wondered whether Susan had maybe found her running legs again but it wasn’t her. It was someone just out running I think and she was fast! As she came past me she touched my shoulder and told me I was amazing. It nearly made me cry but it also gave me a boost and I jogged on and turned left back into the woods. Less than 3 miles left. I slowly jogged most of those last miles with just a few little walks thrown in to reassure myself that I had enough left in the tank. As I plodded past the 11 mile marker I had the rest of my Tailwind feeling pretty happy about my fuelling. Although later on I wished I’d saved just a little bit for the last push.

I’m fairly sure the mile markers were out by quite a bit. Mile 13 was, if I got my numbers right, nearly 1.25 miles long and the Mile 13 sign was definitely more than .1 of a mile away from the finish. The last bit is brutal. It’s not a steep climb but it’s one hell of a pull. I walked up the track, passed another woman and tried to encourage her on, then I turned left into the field. I could see the finish now and willed my legs to start running again. They did, slowly and now feeling really heavy but run they did. I saw Kath coming towards me and she jogged a bit at the side of me when I got to her. She had finished in 2 hours 19 minutes and had nearly been taken out by some deer which had decided to split the runners and cross their path. She said she felt them come past behind her. Wowsers.

The nice thing about coming in at the end and in space is that the announcers at the finish have time to tell the world you’ve done it. Of course most of the world has already gone home but it was still nice to hear my name and a well done and a comment on my ‘big smile’ which was actually more a sort of Cheshire Cat grimace. I got my medal and bottle of water and a hug from Kath. We headed to the car and I stripped down to my bra to change out of my sweaty top and into something warm and dry. I felt awesome. Tired. But awesome. I sipped my tailwind recovery drink and nibbled a cheese sarnie in the car. My time: 3 hours and 58 seconds. So those 58 seconds are annoying. I’m going to have to go back and try again to conquer these rather ridiculous looking squiggles on a map!

Dopey 2019 Reflections: why I’m (probably) done with Dopey

Dopey 2019 has been awesome on a whole load of levels. I am loving having done it. I am loving walking around the Disney parks with the Dopey medal. I am loving pausing every now and again to remind myself that we did something pretty special a few days ago. I am excited that I improved my running and fitness levels to a point where even the marathon was not totally miserable. It has been great. However, I’m pretty sure I’m done with Dopey. Here’s why.

1. Training for Dopey is pretty tough. Not significantly worse than for a marathon actually but Dopey training happens as the nights draw in, days are short and daylight limited and then there’s Christmas towards the end of the training. It’s not a great time to be training for a multi day running event culminating in a marathon.

2. I’m really really not a marathon runner. I will have one more go for the London Marathon but I don’t have anything to prove here and I think there are other challenges out there for me that I will enjoy more. I want to get off road more. I want to be a more confident trail runner. I have said before that I like half marathon distance because it’s a serious distance but it doesn’t break me. That is absolutely true and I think with a marathon there is always a risk that it will break me and put me off running. I have learned never to say never when it comes to running but at the minute I feel like I have achieved what I wanted with Dopey 2019. There is no unfinished business. I am more than happy to take this Dopey and remember it as the marathon weekend that helped me believe that I can do the impossible.

3. Dopey is brutal in two unexpected ways. It’s not the running. The running I would do again in a flash notwithstanding the comments above. The first is the early morning starts. Even with the help of staying on U.K. time, getting up at 2.00am ish for 4 mornings in a row is tough and you get more and more tired and reluctant to get out of bed with each day. The second is the waiting around. There is no getting away from it really, at least none that I can see. Thousands of people have to get to the start line and then into the right corral etc so you have to set off early on the transport provided, then you have to wait. Waiting takes its toll. There is a lot of sitting around, standing around, just waiting and that actually makes running more difficult because even with a good warm up routine you end up standing around for at least another 30 minutes after that and most likely much longer. If you are a middle to back of the pack runner it can take another hour to cross the start line… I don’t think I want to do that again. Not for 4 days in a row.

4. Florida weather in January. It can be anything! So in terms of running gear you need to pack everything. It might not be warm. This year it wasn’t. It was cold, really cold for the 5k, the 10k was marginally warmer, the half was just nice and for the full, well it’s been the only really hot day we’ve been here so far. It was humid too and clearly I don’t function well in humidity. While dealing with whatever weather for one day is doable, having to run 4 races on consecutive days in potentially completely different conditions messes with my mind. Perhaps I don’t need that again.

5. Dopey is not to be underestimated. If you also want a Disney holiday and you want to play in the parks, it’s tough to do that during the race weekend. At least it is for me. We needed naps on each of the race days and we headed to bed early. We have a full week after the race weekend to do stuff which takes the pressure off and means we can still do our favourite Disney things. But we are tired. We had naps on Monday and yesterday, we have had a lot of downtime today and we are going to bed early. I’d like to combine a runDisney event with a holiday again but maybe with a half marathon, not with such a huge mileage challenge. Something that I can recover from more quickly and which means I don’t have to spend my holiday napping. I don’t feel like I am missing out because I’ve been here several times before and because we have prioritised our list of favourite things to do. I think if you combine Dopey with one of your first Disney trips you really need to be careful not to do too much and exhaust yourself. Disney can be full on and exhausting even without any running!

6. What are the chances of running three personal bests during the Dopey Weekend – one in all but the 5k race – again. Probably zero! I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead! For anyone else thinking about it though, it’s phenomenal, it’s magical and it is great to have done it. Just don’t rely on pixie dust alone! It’s a serious challenge and a serious achievement and I will wear my race shirt and my medal (and possibly the ears too) with pride!

Dopey 2019 Day 3: Half Marathon

Quick ish post about the half today: I am really tired so excuse typos etc and lack of real detail. Things step up a gear on half marathon day at the Walt Disney World marathon weekend. The number of participants about doubles to roughly 20000 people. Everything is just bigger. Anxiety was kicking my butt this morning. I didn’t sleep as well as I had previous nights.

Once sorted we got ourselves downstairs and onto the monorail to Epcot. This time we had a bag packed for after and we were heading to the Race Retreat – a large tent with somewhere to sit, food, loos and changing areas. I was not a happy bunny. Anxiety levels were through the roof and I was struggling to stem the rising panic. I did not want to be there and I didn’t feel like I belonged there. I was also really not looking forward to the crowds. The monorail was quiet though and because our bags we security checked as we got on it, we didn’t have to go through the main security check when we got to the race village. In fact we came into right next to the Race Retreat.

I settled eventually but not completely. We had a multi grain croissant, water and then a banana in the tent, multiple toilet visits and more toilet stops as we walked the half mile or so to the starting corrals. We were in F for this one. We got in there about 5.10am and watched as people were still streaming into the area, the crowds seemed endless. Eventually, after an even screechier version of the national anthem than yesterday, the first wave was off, people were still streaming in. Volunteers started turning people around and directing them to the last corral, including an elite runner who was less than happy. The instruction actually clearly say you must be in your corral by 5am so there’s no excuse.

Then we were off. We ran the first mile or so and then dropped into 2 minutes run and 30 second walk intervals. I didn’t feel too great. Ok but not as confident or strong as I had for the 5 or 10k. Still, mile one came and went as did mile 2. At just after mile two I realised I had settled and was beginning to feel fine. We kept to the intervals throughout except through water stations where we jogged until we had water and then walked to drink it. There were a few section where the course narrowed and the easiest thing to do was just to fall in step with those around so we skipped the walk breaks. Before I really knew it we passed 3 miles and then 4 and went past our hotel and turned left to enter the Magic Kingdom at just after 5 miles. We jogged through the park mostly. Running up towards the castle all lit up is quite stunning.

We had a toilet stop in the park – the toilets are much nicer than the porta potties along the way and the queues move faster. I felt more comfortable after that but the problem with sweaty running pants is that they don’t really pull up again very well and I couldn’t get them to sit right – chafing is a thing people! The rest of the park is a bit of a blur but I remember humming along to the songs being played and smiling lots. We left the park around half way.

The next stretch is quite narrow because they close just one lane of traffic (the other lane is open but I think only for official and emergency vehicles) and I felt like I was losing my rhythm completely. Instead of taking walk breaks I just slowed a little and kept running. A look at Kath confirmed that this was ok. she was responsible for pacing and keeping us sensible and getting us round. She was awesome, constantly talking to me, reassuring and encouraging. Between miles seven and eight there was a sudden call for a medic which and we saw a woman on the ground. she was being helped by others and it looked like a trip and fall rather than her collapsing so we kept going. I freaked out a little bit but managed to settle quickly.I was surprised to still be going as strong as I was at 8miles, and then 9 and then suddenly we only had a parkrun left. The last couple of miles were a little hard but I knew it would get hard at some point so I kept telling myself that this was going to happen and that it was awesome that it was only now happening. With a mile and a half to go I felt strong.

We entered the park and ran the Epcot loop and to the finish last little bit was tough. I was getting tired. I wasn’t pushing the pace or anything like that, I was being sensible but I was at the end of 13.1 miles, I was tired. I crossed the finish line and was a bit overwhelmed. My Garmin suggested we’d actually covered 13.38 miles in 2 hours 46 minutes and 27 seconds. Faster than almost the same distance at Toronto by a smidge over 2 minute sand my Garmin also informed me that I did in fact run 13.1 miles in under 2 hours 45. 2 minutes under apparently. That’s quite a huge personal best there. I’m excited about that. I knew I could go under 2 hours 45!

I was expecting to feel happy and proud to have done the half. I was expecting to not really massively enjoy the actual doing it. I have said before that I like half marathon distance because it is a proper challenge but it doesn’t break me. Well that’s absolutely still true but now I can honestly say that I can also enjoy running the distance. I had fun out there. I enjoyed seeing the characters out on course (again no photo stops, that’s just not me), soaking up the atmosphere and hearing the music. I should also say thank you to all the really enthusiastic staff and volunteers cheering us on and particularly to whoever was driving monorail red this morning – turns out the monorail horn makes a very encouraging noise!

The rest of the day has been about eating and sleeping. Tomorrow is simply Mind over matter. The is a weather advisory in place for warm and humid but we’re prepared, we can do this!

Dopey Logistics

In the busy-ness of the end of term and pre-Christmas and then the excitement of becoming a Run1000Miles Ambassador and then finding out that both Kath and I can run the London Marathon for Mind, the excitement of finding out the Dopey bib numbers and all that goes with that sort of got lost.

5km Course Map

The Dopey information was released last week. It seems people fixate on this. People spend a disproportionate amount of time worrying about which starting corral they will be in. I remember being very worried about this too when we did Dopey 2016. I was less concerned this time and actually would have been ok starting at the back. I’m more confident that I can do the marathon in the allowed time and I’m no longer concerned about coming last. The proof of time rules were not entirely clear – for anticipated finish times of 5 1/2 hours or less you had to submit a proof of time and it seemed that if your proof of time didn’t match that sort of time you’d be placed at the back.

Marathon Course Map

That’s a longwinded way of saying I was expecting to be at the back because our proof of time was just a few minutes outside what they asked for. I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. I was then pleasantly surprised to find out that we were in corral F with G and H still behind us. Corrals are massive with mini waves in each so there are likely still be thousands of people behind us and we’ll have a good time buffer. I’m hope I don’t need it, if things go to plan I won’t need it but it’s still nice to know it’s there.

I enjoyed scrolling through the information for the race days and looking at the course maps. I’m getting more excited about it and the expected emotions of anxiety, being scared, self-doubt aren’t… really there. Every now and again they pop up to say hi but they don’t linger – my favourite sort of Christmas guests. And here’s a reminder of my favourite dwarf expressing one of my favourite sentiments.

Day 4 of Dopey Simulation- Worrying about Ernie-Cat

So today was meant to be our 20 miler. Well that wasn’t to be but the drama wasn’t really about running. Neither of us slept very much because Ernie-cat was really struggling to breathe and was all wheezy and sneezy. We were worried about him. We know that he’s not getting better and that how long he’s still going to be with us can probably be counted in days or weeks rather than months so we had to wonder whether this was it, was this him suffering too much?

It was early, we had a cup of tea and porridge in bed and cuddles with the cats and then we got up. I felt a bit grotty – the beginnings of a cold which have been the beginnings of a cold since Thursday. I also felt emotional – it’s Rachel’s birthday today. It would have been her 40th. I miss her. And then there’s our Ernie-Cat. So getting out for a run was not a given –  it was tempting to curl up in bed and try and sleep or at least hide. We decided that we would change plans slightly – rather than running all the way to Skipton we’d run a little bit that way and then head back in the other way with lots of options for coming off the canal and finding other ways home if we needed them.

We made it out the door and kept plodding along mostly in silent togetherness as we ticked off the 2 minute run and 30 second walks. Occasionally we’d walk longer to have a drink but mostly it was just one foot in front of the other, lost in our own thoughts. Mile 5 came fairly quickly and then we hit the muddy path as we made our way through Silsden and towards Skipton.  I kept thinking that if I could just nudge us to 8ish miles in that direction …

Just after 7 miles comes a stretch of canal towpath that goes very close to the road and is noisy and not very nice to run along – we turned before that and headed back. The mud was zapping my energy but we kept moving. All the way my mind was all over the place. It pinged between Rachel, happy memories and things left unsaid, the random joy of moving, the effort, our Ernie-cat as a pot-bellied kitten, his operation and his journey back to fat cat status over the last weeks and that horrible noisy he made in the night trying to breathe. And then, at maybe mile 8 ish I blurted it out ‘ I don’t want Ernie to die’. We walked a bit.

We made our way to 10 miles. It was a relief to get off the mud at 9 miles. I just didn’t have the energy for it. At 10 miles we both gave up trying to be brave. We had a little cry and talked about our Ernie – like the first night him and Shackleton spent in our house, in the bedroom with door closed and we lost them. We spent about an hour looking for them until a bowl of food brought Ernie out from under/behind the bedside drawers which, it turned out, didn’t have drawers going all the way to the back leaving a kitten sized gap. Anyway, from 10 miles we just walked back home. Arriving 3 hours and 17 minutes and almost exactly half marathon distance after we left. We had some food and a bath (ouch – chafing) and are looking forward to a Sunday roast at Kath’s mum’s later today.

So it wasn’t 20 miles but there are lots of positives to take from that run:

  • We actually left the house and set off
  • 5 miles seemed like nothing
  • My Roclites were great on the mud
  • The 2 minute/30second intervals actually seem to work ok and I can see myself going far longer  – particularly if there’s no mud
  • There was no running meltdown or drama really – there were tears and struggling to control breathing and a bit of a meltdown but none of that was about running
  • We ran 10 miles yesterday and my legs weren’t really that tired today
  • We got home in time to call the vet and get an appointment for Ernie

Ernie cat went to see the vet. He got a thermometer up his butt and and an injection is his neck and we will try and help him clear his sinuses with steam. He’s not getting well again but he’s hanging on for now! After the indignity of the thermometer he came home, had a treat and fell asleep on Kath who fell asleep on the sofa. Isn’t that what Sundays are for?

What Sundays are for!